Sunday, October 21, 2007

True Self/False Self

Colossians 3:8-11: But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.

Paul speaks in these verses of the old self and the new self. Some contemporary writers use the terms false self and true self to address this issue—which makes a good point. Ephesians 4:22 speaks of the old self having deceitful desires, so, yes, it is false, it is deceiving, it is misleading. But to the degree that we abide in Christ we are free of this old self, this false self, with its misleading desires and all the confusion and pain it brings. Achieving this freedom to be our new self, our true self, is not a quick process; it takes time and much spiritual experience to learn to live in communion with the Spirit, to be able to abide in Christ. But it is our calling—our promise—and as we persevere, we experience more and more the reality that truly “Christ is all, and is in all.”

-Rickey Cotton

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Spiritual Dialogue

Ephesians 4:2: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Spiritual dialogue means dialogue that is radically open to God and to one another. It is dialogue in which we do not try to get things done but instead seek to be fully present to one another and to God in the present moment, to the unfolding of his life in our lives in the present moment. While we should desire to bring this kind of dynamic more and more into our everyday lives, we need to set aside special times with one another for this practice, recognizing that much of life does require being task oriented and getting things done. Spiritual dialogue involves intentional, skillful humility and vulnerability.

-Rickey Cotton

Saturday, October 6, 2007

That All May Be One

John 17:20-21: "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

This is a startling section of scripture. I wonder how often we think about what it really means and ask what the practical implications are. Sadly it often seems we already have our ideas about God and the Christian life, and that what the Bible actually says or the way God actually operates doesn’t alter our preconceptions.

It matters where we think God is and what our position in regard to him actually is. This scripture states as fact that we are to be in God as the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father and that we are to be one as they are. It’s what Jesus prayed for. If we love God and are serious about our love, we need to make it a reality in our lives, to actualize it. Not in our own strength or time, but by cooperating with God’s presence and action in our lives. It’s a process, I think, a journey. But God is serious about it. And if we are serious about it, it will make a dramatic difference in the way we relate to God and to one another. We will seek more and more to love like God and actually live in and live as expressions of him.

-Rickey Cotton

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

Matthew 5:9: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Peacemakers are not much honored in contemporary American society. Americans too often honor assertiveness or even aggressiveness. But there is a tension, I think, between being an American and being a Christian, a certain paradox that we are called to live out. The words of Jesus have to matter to us. We need to struggle understanding and implementing them. It isn’t fully clear to me how to be a peacemaker in our time. These days it seems to me that we might say, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be shot at by both sides.” But this isn’t how Jesus saw it. He said, “…for they will be called children of God.” I want this—to be recognizable as a child of God. And I bet you do, too. So let’s try to help one another understand how Jesus wants us to be peacemakers in our time. And help one another find the strength and courage to do it, so that we too may be called children of God.

-Rickey Cotton

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A New Command

John 13:34—“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

The Golden Rule seems hard enough. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” That’s a difficult challenge. In fact, early in his ministry Jesus said it was like the greatest command, the one about loving God with all our being. But in John 13, late in his ministry, Jesus gives a new command in regard to love. No longer are his followers to love their neighbors as themselves. Now they have to love like Jesus did. To love like God does. That is, to love others more than you love yourself, to love them even at the expense of your own life. Let us pray for ourselves and one another that we will develop the maturity and skill to love in this way, to love like Jesus. It’s our calling.

-Rickey Cotton

Monday, October 1, 2007

Pray Without Ceasing

"Pray without ceasing"
- 1 Thes. 5:17

"... And prayer is more
Than an order of words, the
conscious occupation
of the praying mind"
- T.S. Eliot

"To saints, their very slumber is a prayer."
- St. John of the Cross

Paul's admonition to "Pray without ceasing" is impossible if one considers prayer as merely talking to God--laying out needs or desires or praises for him--and maybe stopping to listen for his response every now and then. This was in fact how I viewed prayer for a long time, feeling the need to constantly strive for longer and more emotionally fervent prayer times with God; but at some point, the intensity dies down and one inevitably is forced to attend to the duties of life--like going to class or eating dinner.

But the definition of prayer can be expanded to include not only words but communion; it should be seen as a continuous, abiding awareness of the presence of God that transcends our own "conscious occupation." In human relationships, there is often an initial desire to keep talking and avoid "awkward silences." As the relationship deepens, however, there is no longer this striving to always speak and the silences themselves often express emotions deeper than words could. The same holds true for our relationship with God.

Jesus himself already lives within our inner being (Eph. 3:17) and is interceding for us (Rom. 8:34), and it is to this prayer that we turn; there are so many other voices vying for our attention, and for this reason we practice "devotions" and discipline ourselves. But we can also cultivate this deep awareness of God through silence, prayerfully engaging Scripture, and public worship, as well as the mental actions of praise, intercession, etc. that are normally thought of as prayer. Let us cultivate lives of this prayer that goes beyond our words, that our entire lives might be in union with God and we might "pray without ceasing."

-John Orzechowski

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