Posts Tagged ‘Jesus Creed’

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Despite the simplicity of the command, there is still quibbling: Who is my neighbor? What is love? What if I don’t love myself? Who am I? What is my purpose? And the next thing we know, the focus is back on me and not about my neighbor at all.

Galatians 5:14
The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” [Leviticus 19:18].

Some people have found some peace and revelation by asking the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” By asking this to themselves, they are able to adjust their responses, their behaviors, and so forth. Personally, I don’t really know what Jesus would do, I mean, not really. But I do know, without a doubt, whether or I not I want someone to say or behave toward me as I have done to them.

Here’s what I do for myself out of self-care. I keep myself clean, fed, clothed, and sheltered. I work to earn enough money to provide for my needs as well as several non-essential desires. I choose how to use my time. I entertain myself with people, books, technology, music, daydreams, and outings. On good days, I take care of my body through exercise. I sleep to ensure I am rested. I spend time with my young adult children, relatives, and friends, but pretty much on my terms and time table. These are the outward benefits.

Internally, I am usually kind to myself, I give myself encouragement and pep talks, I pray for my circumstances, friends, and family, I soothe myself, and I forgive myself (although I’m not very good at it).

Nonetheless, is there any reason to withhold any of these things from others? Where is the stumbling block? I think it goes back to judging. I look at others and instead of seeing the “sacred,” I see differences that separate us. I imagine that the same things that comfort me may not comfort them. Or, there’s another voice that complains about their abuse of whatever I might give: money spent on something frivolous, junk food instead of “nutritious” food, alcohol instead of milk, and so forth. I judge before the gift is out of my hands.

Forgive me for putting a silo around myself.

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Tim Keller, in the book Counterfeit Gods, writes that idolatry is anything that isn’t God and yet, put in the place of God. That gives me pause.

I Corinthians 10:7
Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: “The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry.”

The author goes on to say that one of the central principles of the Bible is rejection of idols.

Makes sense. It also puts more light on another verse that appears to come out of nowhere in I John 5:21, the last verse of the book, “Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.” With some thought, I realize it’s an amazing summation. And, like, Keller, I’m seeing the simple truth of this idea.

How many times do I say I don’t have “time” to do this or that for the building up my faith, you know, things like prayer, study, meditation, contemplation, service to others. Oh yeah, and why don’t I have time? Because other things are “more important.” Other things have taken place, taken root, in my calendar and my heart.

Our culture offers a plethora of idols. Take your pick: they all do the job. They all have the power (which we endow them) to suck up our time and our energy.

I used to think some of my post-millennial friends (or were they pre-millenial?), were being ridiculous as they identified things in our culture as a “Beast” from revelation–things like television. But, are they so off? I’m not talking about that kind of literalness, but doesn’t a lot of entertainment become addictive and consuming? How many people order their lives around watching a particular television show? (Apparently, they have not found TIVO yet.)

So what is my time suck? And why do I need it?

Internet. Facebook. Over-committed volunteerism. Hobbies. Old movies. Re-runs. Yard sales. Lattes. Reading. Work.

None of these things are inherently bad or necessarily “idols.” But I do fill up my day. I fill up my mind with planning.

There are 330,000 gods in India. How about me? How many do I have?

I have a friend who married an African man and recently, had his child here in the United States. However, in a few days, they will be returning to Namibia, with no real jobs waiting for them (they used to work at an orphanage we support which is how we met them). So, she will be entering into a much more rustic lifestyle, she will be living, truly, more closely to the norm of African families in small cities: a new simplicity. She will be confronting her personal “idols” soon.

Why do we need idols? I think it’s part of our culture. To let go of many of them would mean stepping back from the lifestyle to which we have become accustomed.

“. . . let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus . . . [Hebrews 12:1b-2a]

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The simplicity and power of loving my neighbor as I love myself is staggering. But I don’t do it. I’m not just talking about the people who live next door of course. I mean that more challenging neighbor, the one typified in the parable of the good Samaritan [Luke 10:25-37], possibly even an enemy.

Romans 13:9b-10
You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. Love does no wrong to one’s neighbor [it never hurts anybody]. Therefore love meets all the requirements and is the fulfilling of the Law.

I know, people roll their eyes when I start talking about the force of love. It all sounds so “cheesy” and “new-agey” or maybe it’s those memories of “flower power” and “free love” from the 60’s. But I keep running into this command as I study the scriptures and I think the repetition is worth noting.

Scot McKnight has it right when he espouses what he has coined the Jesus Creed, that basic tenet captured by Jesus when he was asked by the Pharisees, “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” [Matthew 22:35-39]

Is my trouble in my inability to love myself? I know a lot of teaching has turned in on itself and somehow, the emphasis has shifted to loving self. Pretty funny, really. There are folks who can’t seem to get away from it “being all about them.” As though this practice of loving self would teach us to love another. I don’t think so.

Or is the problem in my definitions of love? Certainly Webster’s Dictionary doesn’t help much as there is so much emphasis on romantic and sexual love and that’s not the love that is meant for my neighbor (unless it’s “Housewives of Orange County” or whatever is the new “Peyton Place”).

Truthfully, I know enough about the love of scriptures to practice it if I really wanted to do it. Agape love is the term used here and it’s more sacrificial in nature. Agape love means I must step outside my comfort zone. And in the end, that’s the main reason I don’t practice it regularly. I don’t like being outside my comfort zone.

God forgive me.

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This post could have the heading, Protestants and Catholics, or Shi’ite and Sunni, or Orthodox and Reform, that’s how little monotheistic believers have changed over the centuries. One God… and yet, they become divided over the details.

Acts 23:7
When he [Paul] said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided.

Paul used his knowledge of these differences between the sects to show the Roman commander how easily religious fervor could end in violence. The commander had assumed there was something much more sinister behind the attack on Paul and wouldn’t have believed that differences in faith practices could come to blows.

Nothing much has changed. Catholics and Protestants still kill each other in Ireland. Sunnis and Shi’ites kill each other in the Middle East. Orthodox and Reform basically ignore each other but there is plenty of hostile rhetoric.

Who has the truth? Which way is the absolute right way? The Christians will say the Bible is our authority and truth is there. I believe that. And yet, there are more than forty denominations who use the same Bible and interpret it differently. Islam has the Koran and Jews the Torah. But it is not enough to keep them together either.

For a season, everyone is united when there is a common enemy, but as soon as that “enemy” is vanquished, the in-fighting begins anew. Is this the true inheritance of the “tower of babel?” [Genesis 11:9]

Jesus was neither Pharisee nor Sadducee. He was a Jew. He brought to the world the simplicity of two truths: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself. [Luke 10:27] There is no faith, no denomination, no sect, that cannot live by these two truths. They defy interpretations, unless someone wants to split hairs on what love means. But, as humans, born to love, I believe we know how to love. We simply choose not to do it.

This is a good day to love. I can choose to love. Unconditional love does not split hairs. God blesses those who love.

Oh Lord, bless me this day. Teach me. Remind me throughout the day to love.

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Acts 13:21b-22a
Then they [Paul and Barnabas] returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith.

There were no Bibles for the new Christ-followers in Asia Minor, particularly the gentile converts. There were no “new believers’ kit” and there were no pamphlets. There were no “4 Spiritual Laws” and there were no welcome packets or prayer cards. There were no mentors nearby and no “big sisters or big brothers.” There were no pastors or Jesus-believing rabbi’s.

They had each other.

They had what they could remember from the introductory teachings of Paul and Barnabas. And, if they were lucky, they might have access to a free-spirited Jew who might share with them what he (or she… maybe) knew of the Law or perhaps there was someone who had memorized portions of the psalms and would sing/speak them. Only later, did they have the letters. And still much later, they had a few visits from other believers who trusted Paul and Barnabas and were willing to teach the message of Christ to the gentile converts.

They had prayer, their first and most vital connection to their faith. They had the Holy Spirit.

Their ability to “remain true to the faith” was under girded by the Holy Spirit. And I believe the message was a simple one. They were not dissecting the written word. They had the witness of Paul, Barnabas, and the resonance of truth within.

When I first asked Christ to guide my life, I was alone. I had had the witness of one fallible man, Tom, who had tricked me into reading the New Testament. And on the night I finished reading that Gideon edition of the New Testament, I could not call the essential message a lie. And if it was not a lie, then I had to reckon with the truths.

It is the essential messages that reach the heart: God loves human beings so much that God sent his son-self as a human to teach and show people the nature of the kingdom of God. Jesus proved himself and the kingdom over and over again. He loved and he served and he died (by choice). That sacrificial act made it possible for people to commune directly with God. Jesus then arose from the dead by the power of the Spirit. And that same Spirit manifests the kingdom of God within those who believe to this day. This is how faith operates. This is why we can commune (pray) with God.

But people want to codify the faith. They write, they translate, they extrapolate, they simplify, they complicate, they erase, they add, they emphasize, they minimize, they err, they correct, they change, they rearrange, they chisel, they smooth, they broadcast, they whisper, they blog, they twitter, the IM, they sing, they proclaim, they conceal.

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ [Luke 10:27]

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John 8:54b-55
“…My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word.”

I claim the Father as my God. I seek to know Him. But knowing God, the Father, is to keep his word. And there’s the rub.

If I could keep God’s word in my own power, I wouldn’t need a savior.

And when we talk about his word… what exactly do we mean? The 10 commandments? I’m dead in the water there. And what about the Great Commandment from Jesus (coined by Scot McKnight as the Jesus Creed) [Mark 12:29-31]:

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no commandment greater than these.

How are we doing on that one? Of course, in the end, the entire New Testament was written to help us work out what these two commandments mean and demand of us as followers of God, as disciples (students) in the way of Jesus.

I have no strength. I fail daily. I confess daily. I call on the grace of Christ Jesus. And that’s THE way.

Grace is the whole point. So now, whenever I see the phrase, “keep His Word,” I replace it with the truth, I “keep the Grace” and for that grace, I give thanks to Jesus who offers it freely.

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Ephesians 2:8
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…

I am currently reading The Jesus Creed by Scot McKnight who made this comparison between views of salvation.

So often, people think of salvation as a “birth certificate” and once they’re born again, the work is done and they have their “pass” into heaven. But his Jesus Creed, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. [Luke 10:27] takes more than just a “pass.” Hence, the idea of a Driver’s License in which we learn and become better at the skill.

Love is a skill. Love is conscious. Love is intentional. Love is risk. Love is trust. Love is kind. Love is patient. Love is other-oriented. Therefore, love is also humility.

These do not come naturally to us. I think it’s interesting that I Corinthians 13, the great “love” chapter, actually highlights all the things that love is NOT more so than what love is. Perhaps this is because we more familiar with the “nots” of love.

I have two teenagers who have put off learning to drive a car for almost 2 years. They have plenty of friends, a brother, and parents, who have been hauling them around. They have not seen a “need” for a driver’s license. A driver’s license is a scary business. How many of us remember that first day we got behind a wheel? When did we really start getting comfortable as drivers? So often, we take the whole process for granted.

I can see this applying to a lot of Christians (including me). As long as we remain in our safe environments, go to church every Sunday, drop a buck or two in the offering plate, attend a workshop or a covered dish, we’re good. The driver’s license form of salvation requires more of us… of me. I mean, I’ve had my Jesus license for 30 years. Isn’t it time to start driving into some unfamiliar roads and places?

My daughter has finally started driving practices. She is fearful of all the other drivers. She still drives very slowly. She is very cautious. When we start using our Jesus license, we will be the same way. But, in the end, we must build up our speed. We must trust what we know. We must integrate all the rules with the pleasure of it. We must teach others to drive. And that’s the scariest part of all.

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