Vital Practices

February 2, 2018

 

 

     Hi Everyone, I pray that you, at this very moment, are experiencing the presence of God in your day. Now is a good time to be still for a few moments and let God speak to your heart. 

 

The Way of the Word (Part Seven)

 

        Over the past ten weeks we have considered much theology regarding the Word of God. We have considered the Word prior to the beginning of creation, without beginning or end. We have considered the Word at the beginning of creation, the Word in the world prior to the Incarnation; the self-emptying Word and the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. We have considered the resurrected Word and the ascended Word, and last week we considered the Indwelling Word. I have stated that I believe a faithful new understanding, reception and response to what is often called the Jesus paradox, by the Christian community in general, is a way toward unity and healing for the current decidedly dis-unified state of the Christian church. In the midst of our current state we need to take a new look at what it means to live and breathe and have our being in Christ Jesus. By stepping back from our differences, (this speaks to disunity within ourselves, as individuals, as well) allowing ourselves to rest with a new awareness and new fervency, knowing ourselves as those who are “in Christ” and as members of a community of people with Christ in us. If we will step back from that which divides us and rest in Jesus Christ, the theandros, where humanity and divinity are inextricably united, we begin to see through the eyes of God. Dualistic, black and white, either or thinking becomes one loving gaze through the eyes of Love, where both/and is possible.

 

“The Christian is one who regards themselves as linked to every person, though always seeing themselves in each.”

                                                              Adapted from Evagrius Ponticus, “On Prayer” 125

 

When we embrace the Jesus paradox, which is the great paradox, then all other paradox melts always. In this unified state even in the midst of our disagreements we remain one “in Christ.” Failure to rest in the midst of the Jesus paradox invariably means   movement toward a lopsided and untrue understanding of who Jesus Christ is. As we then have a tendency to move to camps that focus solely, or predominantly, on a human Christ Jesus, or we take up residence with those who focus solely or predominantly on the divinity of Christ Jesus. It is this divide that stands at the center of the problem between, what we refer to as, liberal/progressive and conservative/traditional Christianity. We must find a balance because Jesus Christ is both/and, and neither simultaneously. A great paradox is our Lord Jesus Christ, who is all in all. Our call and desire is to rest in Jesus Christ at the core of who Jesus Christ truly is, which is fully and perfect human and divine simultaneously, without any diminishment of either. By placing the truth of who Jesus Christ is at the very center of all we think say and do, we find rest in the Jesus paradox. In so doing, we not only greatly increase our chances of physical unity and fellowship, but we guarantee unity regardless of location, ideology, religious or doctrinal differences. Love reigns regardless of any outer circumstance.

     That being said I think that a few suggestions beyond the theology as to how we might move toward a truer life “in Christ” are in order. I have found the following holy habits quite valuable in both my personal devotional time and within community settings. I will be brief due to the space constraints of the newsletter, however, each of these practices are available for deeper exploration at The Awakening Institute and I would be happy to send, free of charge, further information to anyone who is interested.1  

 

Prayer

 

     Prayer for the believing Christian has been referred to as the only necessary thing after salvation, as it in the context and practice of prayer that our relationship with Jesus Christ is strengthened and deepened and we are drawn closer to unity in Christ. In prayer we practice the essential spiritual disciplines of stillness, solitude and surrender that lead to

action in accordance with God’s will. As such prayer is an avenue toward increasing sensitivity to the needs of other people. It is through prayer that we become more deeply aware of God’s presence, and who we are as God’s beloved.

 

Silence

 

     Silence is the inner position of the soul peacefully resting before God. Silence is the atmosphere from which God’s Word flows into us and creates us anew. It is the realm of true righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, in whom our hearts/spirits are immersed. In silence we become keenly aware of God’s grace pouring over us, bringing the grace of faith to ever deepening levels, allowing us to surrender to God’s presence. In silence all spiritual disciplines become holy habits thus making them exponentially more effective, predisposing us to become open, non-defensive and in the moment before God.  Silence is imperative as it leads to holy listening and the healing of our souls. Silence predisposes us to an awareness of God at the deeper levels of the journey that we call illumination, union, the mystery of the unknown, the high faith of holy assurance and finally the kenotic life where God’s love is, without resistance, poured out through us into all of God’s beloved creation.

 

Holy Listening

 

Holy listening is listening in such a manner that one is set apart by the one to which they are listening. By this I mean that all our faculties and senses are focused on the one we wish to encounter leading us to a fuller experience of God’s presence. Holy listening and purity of heart go hand in hand, which is significant, as Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God (Mat. 5:8).

 

Immersion into God’s Word

 

     A. Inductive Bible Study

 

Inductive Bible Study is an exegetical approach to God’s Word designed to bring out the original meaning of the Scripture as it was understood by the original hearers and then to bridge the gap from that original context so we may hear God speak to us today. The method consists of four steps: Observation, Interpretation, Questions and Application.

B. Lectio Divina:

 

Lectio divina, as taught at the Awakening Institute consists of seven steps.

 

1. Preparation (silence)

2. Lectio: reading without an agenda. Simply listening

3. Meditatio: chewing on what the Lord has presented to our heart and mind.

4. Oratio: praying over what the Lord has given us and offering it back to God.

5. Contemplatio (Cataphatic): imaginatively living into the Word of God with all our senses.

6. Contemplatio (Apophatic): resting in imageless, silence before God.

7. Action: exploring what the experience is calling us to become in the world for the benefit of

    the world and for the glory of God.

 

Spiritual Direction/Companionship

 

    Spiritual direction is a one on one, or group experience, in which the director (sometimes called a companion or friend) seeks sacred space for both the director and the directee to listen to and be guided by the Holy Spirit, who is the real director.  A trained Spiritual Director is a person who has honed their God given gifts to become more adept in the ability to listen to the person (directee) before them, while simultaneously being fully open and responsive to the movement of the Holy Spirit in both the directee and themselves. The purpose of Spiritual Direction is to help us move toward a deeper experience and a more fervent response to God's gentle, yet powerful, voice in our lives. The heart of the Spiritual Direction relationship is prayer, thus the spiritual director must be a person of prayer. William Barry and William Connolly in their book "The Practice of Spiritual Direction" define spiritual direction "as help by one Christian to another which enables that person to pay attention to God's personal communication to him or her, to respond to this personally communicating God, to grow in intimacy with God, and to live the consequences of the relationship." 

 

1 Please visit our website www.theawkeninginstitute.com or send your request for more information to theawakeninginstitute@gmail.com

 

May God Bless you All, Gene Yotka

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