As the church loses its prominent place in American society, as we lose membership in many churches, we Christians need to examine what we are doing that contributes to the loss of stature of the church and the religion itself. It is not enough to blame contemporary culture for our reduced status. We Christians have also contributed to the decline of the place religion once held in our country.
Aside from the scandals in various churches and with TV evangelists, the main way we have contributed to the loss of stature of the Christian religion is the huge gap between believing in/preaching the Gospel and living it. Any one can preach about Jesus or believe in him, but how many will actually live the radical message of Jesus? When we only believe in him and preach the Gospel to others, we cling to our own and the world’s ways of thinking and acting. We do not choose which to worship: God or Mammon(the world). Jesus says that we can’t do both. Today we are more on the world side than on God’s side. How do I know? There’s more believing and preaching in us than love.
Here are some suggestions for how we might live the “Good News” in addition to knowing the Bible:
- Put deepening your relationship with God/Jesus/Christ/Holy Spirit above all else. Bring your whole self to the Lord! Seek a two-way, dynamic, co-creative relationship that is ever evolving. Don’t get complacent and think that you are “there.”
- Listen to God’s voice within guiding, comforting, challenging, transforming throughout your days. It’s an attunement that is required, a minute by minute attending to the Indwelling Spirit. A daily practice of silence is necessary in order to quiet our minds so that we can hear that “still, small voice.”
- Hold your beliefs lightly not rigidly; the relationship with God is more important than your beliefs. Beliefs are the gateway into the Life of the Spirit, the life lived in, with and for God, not the end-all and be-all. If you hold beliefs too rigidly, they will limit what you will allow God to do in your life. Let God himself show you who he is.
- Be vigilant about where you “miss the mark”(the meaning of the Hebrew word that is translated “sin” in the Bible). Seek always to lift up areas in your life—attitudes, actions, underlying assumptions and areas of guilt and shame—that are not based in love. Let God’s transforming Spirit heal and transform these areas. Be the same on the inside as you are on the outside; be transparent, not hidden. Let go of any attachments or walls that come between you and God or you and other people or you and your whole self.
- Do not preach the Gospel. Live it. Be love wherever you are. Your life will speak more powerfully of the Gospel than any words you can utter about it.
- Apply the listening skills that you’ve developed with God to the people God puts in your path. Listen deeply, lovingly, gently probe to understand them, walk some distance with them on their path. Take the time to be with them and to learn from them. Share yourself with them. Allow them to be exactly where they are. This is love. Let their encounter with love be what could change them, not any words you say.
- Discover your life’s agenda and purpose through God’s invitations to you. The agenda for your life is hidden in the soul until you’re ready to take it on. Do what you were created to do always with love, always led by God.
- Embrace all that you are—warts and all. Learn to love yourself. Include everything you’ve ever thought or done that embarrasses or shames you. Add in the things done to you that produced shame. Learn to look at yourself as a whole person. Learn to love yourself as God loves you.
These are the skills of love that we Christians need to develop to live the Life of the Spirit in the 21st century. As we develop these skills, then the words of the hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love, by our love,” will ring true in our lives, in our hearts and souls.
Questions to ponder over the week: Which of the eight suggestions needs to be in your life? Will you ask the Lord where to start? What do you know from your own experience of the “still, small voice” within? And do you do what it suggests?
Blessing for the week: May we be God’s people who put our relationship with God above all else. May we lean on God in the good times and the difficult ones. May we be brought to a deep relationship with God. In faith and love, Pat
If you’d like to see more of By the Waters, check these out:
–There’s a new video up on YouTube: “Why be a Contemplative” ”youtube.com/user/patsadams
–Check out my twitter feed at twitter.com/BTWwithPatAdams
–Check out the “Offerings” at bythewaters.net which links to a CD of guided meditations and a series of booklets on the Life of the Spirit.
 Matthew 6:24