Posts Tagged ‘to live is Christ’

The goal is the prize but it’s not the finish line. In human terms, that may seem illogical, but it’s important to remember that God doesn’t operate on our human terms. Our “template” for the ultimate prize is revealed in the Christ.

Philippians 3:13b-14a
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me. . .

One of my favorite movies is Forrest Gump. At one point in the early part of the movie, he is chased by bullies and his little friend, Jenny, tells him to “run, Forrest, run.” And as he does run, the braces come off and he becomes stronger and stronger with each step. And soon, running becomes a testament or symbol of who he is and who he can be throughout the film.

Paul is telling us the same thing: to run, to run the race with perseverance, and to keep our eyes on the future, for tomorrow is full to the brim of prizes and surprises.

Part of running the race is developing a sensitivity to the paradoxes of life in Christ. In Christ’s universe, the tortoise can beat the hare, the weak can outlast the strong [II Cor 12:10], and the barren can have more children than the Duggars [Isaiah 54:1]. The rule of perfection is a different measurement. It all happens within.

Of course, my outside behaviors and decisions are imbued by the presence of the Holy Spirit, but the prize is not there. Like the voice of God that Elijah sought on the mountain, it was not in the wind, the earthquake, or the fire, but in the stillness.

Life is not just a carousel where we strain to pluck the brass ring to get the prize. It’s a life in conjunction with the Holy Spirit who is perfection. [Matthew 5:48]

The goal/prize is captured in these loaded phrases: to live IN Christ, to live IS Christ, to be found IN Christ, and to know Christ.

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Easy, peasy. Just live by the Spirit and all shall be well. Why? Because the Spirit can crowd out my desire for all the other stuff. The Spirit is big, a consuming fire, a powerhouse, a counselor, a wise and holy One. So what’s the problem? Apparently, the Spirit is also a bit finicky about the conditions of its dwelling place.

Galatians 5:16-17a
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature.

Photo by Cherie Stangis

If I were to compare my inner habitat to a house with many rooms, I think, most of the rooms would be considered pig pens while the Spirit is hanging out in one of the closets. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen this closet. I’ve even been in there. It’s immaculate, orderly, clean, and full of light and color. Additionally, it’s not unlike the Tardis from Dr. Who: once I step in there, it’s a lot bigger on the inside than it looks from the outside.

All right, it might not be quite as bad as that. I mean, there have been seasons of my life, when the Spirit had an expanded domicile into some of the other rooms, but I haven’t been very cooperative and a lot of those rooms have gone back to their original condition. You know how it is, the Spirit wants to paint a room yellow and I’m in the mood for red. So what does polite Spirit do? Lets me have a red room with all that goes with it. One difference, the Spirit doesn’t hang in there with me. My choice. My free will. My loss.

Intellectually I understand all of this. If I just let the Spirit re-decorate the whole place, without my interference, it would look and feel so much different. And the more I consider and study, I’m sure a wholly Spirit-run establishment would become a miracle-working address (mountain moving and so forth).

Face it. I still want to be in control (Harumph! As though I have “interior” decorating experience). I’m not that different from the original Sarah (you know the story: “let me show you how to make God’s promise happen with little Hagar here”). [Genesis 16]

Red, green, and black rooms, all stuffed with furniture while windows are covered with heavy blinds, and electronic gizmos sit in every corner. You know, of course, every room has a refrigerator and a pantry too. There’s one room that has nothing in it but disappointments. Another room has chalk boards filled with all the things I’ve said to hurt others. Another room has pictures of people in my past plastered everywhere; I go in there for target practice. But undoubtedly, the biggest room of all is the courtroom. I have my own dais and gavel and when the memories float by, I pound out my judgments. It’s quite crowded and noisy in there.

How do I begin to tackle all of this? Mind boggling. Frightening. HUGE.

Does this sound possible? First, I find my way back to the Spirit Closet and call that “home base” (need to be sure I can get there from anywhere). Then, from there, with the closet light shining out, I will start on the immediate area near the closet. One square foot at a time.

In the organization business, there are only three choices: throw it away, file it, or act on it. Although I know that courtroom is the biggest and hardest room to clean up, I won’t jump in there just yet. I will start smaller and get a little experience behind me, particularly the “throwing away” choice.

If I give over each of these rooms to the Spirit, I know, most of the stuff I’ll find is junk. I’ve been hoarding. I know it. But, confession, I’m pretty sure, when I get to those really messy rooms, I’ll probably need some help. That’s where community comes in. Can I count on you to help?

It’s time for a little Light housekeeping.

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Prepositions are funny things. They are so small and yet so full of meaning. They establish relationship between two things or people. Here is a verse that establishes God as the source (of all light) and the Christ as the prism through which that light shines.

I Corinthians 8:6
. . . yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Mike and I had a throwback experience yesterday and showed the old movie, Pollyanna with Hayley Mills, to our daughter. I’d forgotten about the lovely scenes with the prisms and how that simple act gave hope to a couple of grumpies.

But the symbol is perfect. We cannot actually see light. We see a reflection or, in the case of a prism, a refraction and a spectrum of color.

Jesus is our prism and through him, we see God.

Consider the phrase, “to live is Christ” [Philippians 1:21] and what that might mean in conjunction with the prism image. If we are in Christ and Christ is in us, then we, too, become a prism. The more transparent and translucent we can become, the more likely the Light can be seen in us, the spectrum of God’s love.

Over the years, I have wanted to manifest the gifts of the Holy Spirit [I Cor 12:8-13], but today, I understand this essential manifestation must come first. Those other gifts are by-products of the Light, they are merely one color in the spectrum.

Oh God, may the spectrum of your Light shine through Christ and may I be a vessel clear enough, transparent enough, that others would be able to see You. Forgive me for covering myself with bushels [Matthew 5:14-15] and closed doors and closets.

You are my truth.

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