I recently mentioned in a focus group at my church that too often we live our faith within our own heads. Being a church where doctrinal beliefs are one of our key differentiators probably leads us down this path. And, I’m sure there are a host of other reasons. The problem is that good ideas don’t get implemented and people with quiet needs don’t get served.
Enlivening our imaginations should be the result of hearing and experiencing Jesus and biblical truth. When we hear how Jesus listened to cries for help, we should ask ourselves to do the same. It’s right to think about how I can listen like Jesus. Asking any number of questions about how my life can reflect the doctrines or beliefs that are taught in the Bible is a great exercise. The problem comes when those great ideas stay there!
Living and implementing my faith is critical to increasing the Kingdom of God, growing in maturity myself and seeing community flourish. How do we do that?
1) Recognize we are on a common journey and ask for others to help us. Being in a fellowship or small group where there is “heart level” sharing and no fear of being embarrassed by sharing a weakness or struggle is necessary for growth and maturity.
2) Find some time for solitude to share with God your desire to change and live more like Jesus in all of your relationships. There simply is no substitute for time alone with our Maker and Sustainer. If we want to live a Jesus-actualized life, then we don’t have to look very far at his pattern of activity to see that times of solitude were foundational for every day of Jesus’ journey.
3) Surprise one of your friends, neighbors or relatives and share something you’ve been thinking about. It is critical to begin releasing the imaginations of your heart and mind so that they don’t stay in your head. If you have been thinking about reaching out to one of your neighbors or co-workers, next time you see them start a conversation with them. Find out what’s going on in their world and try to shake their hand, give them a hug or pat them on the shoulder. That’s what Jesus would do.
I’ve recently reflected on Isaiah’s vision for how God desires for us to live. This is from Isaiah 58:
6 Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? 8 Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, “Here I am.” If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
10 if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. 11 The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
There are some amazing realities that Isaiah paints for us in this picture of shalom. We will be given light, access to God’s heart – “Here I am,” strength for our bones and water for the gardens of our lives. And it seems to all get rolling as we release our minds from the thoughts and fears that bind up our lives and act. Realizing that God prefers a “fast” that serves others and doesn’t focus on my sacrifice should also be a clue for us.