Posts Tagged ‘follower of Christ’

follower of ChristBecoming a follower of Christ was a choice. I did not choose under a haze of emotion or outside pressures or a well-meaning but overly enthusiastic “witness,” but upon completing my first cover to cover reading of the New Testament. The question that came to my mind was simple: Is Jesus the truth or a lie? And despite all my arguments, this one belief found root. Jesus is and was and is to come, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end [Revelation 22:13]. And when the chapter (and the book) ends with these words, “Even so, come Lord Jesus,” I accepted this Way. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord. [Joshua 24:14b-15, CEB] I cannot convince anyone of anything. I cannot “make” you or anyone believe what I believe. I can only speak of this core of Spirit that was born that day and has blossomed into an integral part of myself. Are there things I don’t understand? Of course. Do I ask for clarification? I do. And one day, I believe, though I “see through a glass darkly” still, I will have the fullness of wisdom. But for now, I will hold fast to my God, my Jesus. One of my beloved and venerated church mystics is Julian of Norwich. Some of her sayings capture my meaning today:

Julian of Norwich and her cat

Julian of Norwich and her cat

See that I am God. See that I am in everything. See that I do everything. See that I have never stopped ordering my works, nor ever shall, eternally. See that I lead everything on to the conclusion I ordained for it before time began, by the same power, wisdom and love with which I made it. How can anything be amiss?” and

“Truth sees God, and wisdom contemplates God, and from these two comes a third, a holy and wonderful delight in God, who is love.” [from Revelations of Divine Love]
and most well known of all,
 “And all shall be well. And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be exceeding well.”
So, as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

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Start here.

To be faith-full is to believe. . . . in something or someone.

What do I believe? Or you?

Essentially, there is always something people fall back on. For some folks, it’s an amorphous universe while for others, it’s ego alone, and for still others, it’s God or Allah or Buddha. In any these cases, there is still prayer and there is communication that materializes out of a core of understanding or a set of assumptions about the created world and/or the spirit realm.

Through scripture, those who follow and believe in the One God and ultimately, in the Christ who came from that God to complete a covenant/contract, we are given some ways to discover where we land on the continuum of faith and belief. For instance:

FaithLove must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. [Romans 12:9-18, NIV]

Prayer manifests more readily out of one of these practices or attitudes. In fact, prayer comes naturally as a by-product of these behaviors. But if this is not our characteristic way, then we may have to be more intentional and more conscious of choosing to pray, of asking for transformation into a man or woman of faith.

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stone altarThe erecting of pillars and altars and memorials was prevalent throughout the journeys of the ancients. Their milestones marked an event in their journeys that was valued, a testimony to the moment. And today, although we have statues and tributes of buildings, walls, and waterfalls to the wars and losses to be revered, there are no remembrances anymore for a life-changing experience with God.

Genesis 35:14-15
Jacob set up a stone pillar at the place where God had talked with him, and he poured out a drink offering on it; he also poured oil on it. Jacob called the place where God had talked with him Bethel [House of God].

In fact, if anything, most of us forget that moment when we cried out to God, “See me, hear me, oh Lord, help me!” And the cry was heard and our circumstances changed.

I am probably being harsh here. I suppose, if I had to recount some key moments when I was touched by God, I could recount them. But I built no memorial, nothing permanent.

Except the words.

I understood today, that these are where I have built my milestones. These are a memorial to my growth as a believer, a follower of Christ. These are the memories collected in digital ink, to help me remember.

It may be time to take this all a little more seriously. For this season, for this time in my life, this milestone, feels important. Perhaps it’s all the talk of apocalypse (even though we joked through the end of the Mayan calendar), there is a sense within me that challenges will come. This is a time of gathering: my thoughts, my devotion, my surrender, my commitment, my disciplines.

Today, God spoke: Remember who I am and where I dwell. Remember who fights the battles. Remember your promise.

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The two witnesses, as depicted in the Bamberg Apocalypse, an 11th century illuminated manuscript.

I really am trying to plow my way through these final chapters of Revelation, but it’s slow going. Not that I don’t understand what I am reading or appreciate the wonderful images and symbolism. I simply don’t know where the application for me, right now, might be hidden.

Revelation 11:3-5
And I will appoint my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth.” They are “the two olive trees” and the two lampstands, and “they stand before the Lord of the earth.” If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die.

I have always liked the story of the two witnesses in its seeming detail and yet, mysterious exclusions. After all, no one really knows who these two are or might be. Some claim they are Moses and Elijah (both seen at Christ’s transfiguration [Mark 9:2-9]) while others say they are two new characters in the end times story. In any case, they stand around for three and a half years prophesying and doing battle with anyone who tries to interfere with them. They are not depicted as particularly benevolent or nice. They are clearly on a mission.

And why just two? Are they symbols for two people groups or two types of ideas? Who knows? I don’t know. But based on the remaining events after their time, they do seem to represent a turning point, a kind of last chance to hear the message. After they finish their business, evil in the world brings out the “big guns,” that is, the Beast from the Abyss. Whoever or whatever this might be, it has the power to destroy the two witnesses and they remain dead for three and a half days. Then, miraculously, they are revived and ascend (or disappear). With their disappearance, there is a great catastrophic earthquake and 7000 people are numbered as dying. The survivors, even at this late hour in the long experiences of woes and angels and death and destruction, “give glory to God in heaven” [Revelation 11:13]. Go figure.

There are many examples in scripture about the number two: Noah’s ark animals two by two [Genesis 7:9] while Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs [Mark 6:7] and of course, there are a number of well known couples like Adam and Eve, Joseph and Mary, Jacob and Rachel. And we cannot forget the friendship pairs either: Ruth and Naomi or Jonathan and David. And like the yin and yang of Chinese tradition, the Judeo-Christians have their alpha and omega (the beginning and the end), light and dark, good and evil, heaven and earth, two witnesses are required to confirm a crime [Numbers 35:30], two lamp stands, two fish, and many more.

Who are the two witnesses in me? Do they speak the same message or are they opposites? Does one begin and the other finish? Is it the good cop/bad cop routine? Is it Abbot and Costello? Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin? The Smothers Brothers? Some duos are opposites while others are the same. Some compliment one another while others grind. Some war against each other while others make love and peace.

Is it possible the two within me are the old self and the new? Or my spirit and the Holy Spirit?

Part of the mission of becoming a follower a Christ is melding the two’s into one. The human model for that is supposed to be marriage where two become one.

I can well imagine that these two Revelation witnesses, once resurrected, also united. The work was finished.

And so, that is my application: two become one . . . eventually. Life is the process. Faith is the process. We don’t experience “one” until we have lived out the fullness of “two.”

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If I am afraid of being abandoned (or forsaken), I will begin looking for signs of it. Although I want that person to remain close, I will put him under the microscope and scrutinize every action and word. My fear morphs into expectation and soon, it’s just a matter of time before he is gone.

Psalm 9:10
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.

Throughout scripture, God speaks promise and comfort particularly in the area of abandonment. God promises to remain with us, to stand behind us, to live within us [Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:5b; I Chronicles 28:20; Psalm 94:14; Hebrews 13:5]. Over and over again, one promise after another about forgoing abandonment. It’s not God’s way. So, why must these affirmations be repeated so much? Because we don’t believe it.

There are any number of reasons we expect God to abandon us. In my case, it began with my father’s death when I was nine years old. As a child I could not really understand the circumstances. I only knew or felt that he had left me. And then there was the string of boyfriends who came and went. They, too, added to the pattern, not to mention a dearth of friends when I was young.

As a believer, things got a little better and early on, I gravitated to those verses that promised the steadfastness of God. But even those declarations were chipped away over the years by deep disappointments and failures. Later, depression itself threatened my peace of mind and trust in God. A cloud of loneliness, even in the midst of family and activity, became another secret menace to my heart. And then the inner voices became the same kind of microscope I had used in relationships. “If God really loved you, would He allow you to be in this marriage? If God really loved you, wouldn’t you be able to have children? If God really loved you, wouldn’t you be more successful as an actress, director, playwright, realtor, salesman, manager?” On and on and on.

It can be a slow slog back to faith: a daily choice to believe despite circumstances; a commitment to read and contemplate the promises; a time of quiet and meditation; a courage to confront what appears with what can be.

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We tend to forget that our behaviors are being scrutinized. Not so much by casual acquaintances and co-workers (although somewhat), but mostly by the children and teenagers in our lives. They don’t look like they are even paying attention. Don’t be fooled.

II Chronicles 34:3
In the eighth year of his reign, while he [Josiah] was still young [16 years old], he began to seek the God of his father David. In his twelfth year he began to purge Judah and Jerusalem of high places, Asherah poles and idols.

Josiah was the grandson of Manasseh, one of the most notorious kings to rule Judah. Manasseh ruled for 55 years and up until his last years, played havoc with the country doing everything he could to destroy the foundations of faith through mockery, idol worship, and decadent priests and priestesses who proselytized for other gods. He even sacrificed his own children to these gods. But in his last years, Manasseh was overthrown and taken to Babylon with a ring in his nose. He was humbled. In that place, he sought out his one true God who heard him and restored his to throne. This was an abrupt about face, a transformation.

Who was watching? A little boy named Josiah who was just old enough to understand, just old enough to absorb the impact, just old enough to remember.

There was another who saw the change, Manasseh’s son Amon who became king after him. But Amon did not believe in the change in his father and he pushed Judah back toward the pagan gods for two years before he was assassinated. Apparently, there were others who had watched Manasseh’s metamorphosis and believed.

When young kings come to power (Josiah was only eight when he was crowned), there is usually a regent who handles the daily affairs and instruction of the boy-king. This person is not named but we can extrapolate his presence. Whoever he was, he set a standard that set Josiah on a different path, that gave him a thirst for knowing the God of his forefathers.

My children never knew me before I walked with God. They never saw those years of transition from living a degenerate life to living in God through the Holy Spirit. But I know many people whose children and grandchildren have seen the adults in their lives take a shift for good.

It is never too late to change. The children are watching.

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What is a promise? I know what it should be. I know that it should be binding and carries with it an expectation. If I promise to do something, the person expects me to follow through. A covenant is the next step up and just below law. Our culture has never mastered covenant.

II Chronicles 15:12
They [Asa and the people of Judah] entered into a covenant to seek the LORD, the God of their ancestors, with all their heart and soul.

Covenant is harder. Despite the promises and the expectations and outward signs of agreeing to a covenant, it can be broken with no apparent ill effects. At least that’s what people seem to think. The most controversial covenant is the marriage. Couples stand before witnesses and make vows, they agree, they promise, they share ritual, and yet, divorce statistics range near 50% for first time marriages and higher for second and third marriages.

I am one of those statistics. I married for the first time at eighteen. And although I was “in love,” I also had this reasoning in the back of my mind: if it doesn’t work out, I’ll just get a divorce. It’s not a good start to a promise.

As a parent, I have tried to avoid the “I promise” phrase because I know how easy it is for things to go awry, for circumstances to change, for promises to be broken.

But today, as I traverse then Lenten time, I feel compelled to make and hold to some promises. I have committed time to God in prayer, meditation, and writing. I have promised to seek God throughout this journey. And I feel the weightiness of this agreement in a way I never have before.

When I was twelve, my mother had tried to find a new spouse by answering personal ads in the Latvian newspaper. One of those men invited us to visit him in Niagara Falls, Canada. I didn’t like this man at all and one night, when the two of them had gone out on a date and stayed out very late, I prayed fervently and made many deals with God if would break up this couple. I believe this was a girl’s version of a foxhole conversion. My mother never remarried, but I didn’t follow through either. Or did I? Was my rediscovered faith at 28, a consequence after all? Did my promise bear fruit?

Sometimes, I think it does work out that way.

The things we say, the words we speak, have power, particularly if they are heartfelt. In that other world, inhabited by spirits and angels and so forth, what happens to the promises we make?

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