Richard Foster, wrote several Christian Classics, The Celebration of Disciplines and Streams of Living Water. Maybe you’ve read these gems but if not, they are definitely worth a read.
In Streams of Living Water, Foster identifies six dimensions of faith and practice that define the Christian tradition. In the history of the Church, there was a flowering (or emphasis) of one spiritual stream for a period of time, while at other times the emphasis shifted and other streams flowered.
Some of us depending how we were raised, feel more comfortable in one stream rather than the others. Now some of us may be okay and see the value in the other streams and some streams may make so weary, we don’t trust them. And of course, along the way like anything else, any streams can pick up bits of contamination or distortion.
But, the most important point to remember is this:
Jesus had all six streams flowing through his life.
The excerpt below is taken from Renovare Institute by Richard Foster. Enjoy!!
Nothing less than life in the steps of Christ is adequate to the human soul or the needs of our world.
Jesus gave us a complete picture of God, and demonstrated how we can experience vitality and fullness in our life with God (Col. 2:9, Jn. 10:10). The historical Church (Christians), despite its divisions and differences, has upheld the core characteristics of Christ’s life through what we now call traditions.
Taken together, these traditions help us envision a balanced spiritual life. They serve as a guide to help us take on the life of Jesus – to become like Jesus ourselves – and as a result to be transformed from the inside out.
Stream 1. Prayer-Filled Life: Our heart’s steady attention on God
The Contemplative Tradition continually draws us into love for God, reminding us that the Christian life is less like a rule book and more like falling in love. It stresses the value of silence, solitude, and prayer as ways we engage with God’s presence, whether we take a silent walk in the early morning, ride the bus to work, wash dishes while the kids nap, or even take a nap ourselves. As Teresa of Avila described, contemplation is “an intimate sharing between friends,” in the time or manner that works best for you and God.
Put simply, the contemplative life is the steady gaze of the soul upon the God who loves us.
—Richard Foster, Streams of Living Water
(Additional quotations on this page from same source.)
Stream 2. Virtuous Life: Responding with integrity
The Holiness Tradition emphasizes the re-formation of our hearts so that we are able to respond appropriately to the challenges of life. The word “holiness” has some negative connotations today, but the original Greek meaning of the word virtue is simply “to function well.” Virtuous Life is not about rules or judgement, perfectionism, or some kind of merit gained by good deeds. It encourages us to the ultimate goal: not to “get us into heaven, but to get heaven into us.” It is attentiveness to the source of our actions, to the condition and motives of the heart, and taking on new patterns of life that flow naturally from within.
We see Jesus consistently doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. We see in him such deeply ingrained “holy habits” that he is always “reponse-able,” always able to respond appropriately. This is purity of heart. This is the virtuous life.
Stream 3. Spirit-Empowered Life: Fueling our lives from the presence and power of God
The Charismatic Tradition focuses on the power of God’s Spirit moving in and through us. Just as a car requires fuel to run, and our bodies require food for survival, so our souls rely upon the Spirit of God for spiritual energy. Through the Spirit, we are able to do more than we could on our own steam, and these abilities not only remind us of God’s presence, but equip us to build up our communities in love.
Frankly, there are no ’noncharismatic Christians’ … the Christian life is by definition a life in and through the Spirit.
Stream 4. Compassionate Life: Extending compassion in every sphere of life
The Social Justice Tradition expresses the themes of justice, compassion, and peace. It emphasizes wisdom and lovingkindness to bring relationships into harmony, unity, and balance, even within our relationship to nature. Compassionate Life takes place in all arenas of life, from personal to social to global. As with the other traditions, the actions we take are not the end goal. True compassion is motivated by a genuine heart, is empowered by the love of God, and embraces the possibility of positive change.
Love of God makes love of neighbor possible.
Stream 5. Word-Centered Life: Living the life-giving message
The Evangelical Tradition encompasses much more than simply converting people. The evangel – the “good news” – is God’s great message to humanity: that all can be redeemed and restored to its intended design. This is the message embodied in Jesus himself, rooted in the word of God, and ultimately expressed through the lives of those who follow Christ. It is a living tale of grace spoken in and through word and action.
This faith stream addresses the crying need for people to see the good news lived and hear the good news proclaimed.
Stream 6. Sacramental Life: Encountering the invisible God in the visible world
The Incarnational Tradition focuses on the relationship between the invisible spirit and physical reality, helping us to see God’s divine presence in the material world in which we live. God manifests himself in his creation, even in the midst of mundane activities, whenever and wherever we acknowledge God.
Far from being evil, the physical is meant to be inhabited by the spiritual.
Do you ever give someone a blessing? I usually sign by emails with the words God bless you! You can pray a blessing upon anyone. The Aaronic or Priestly blessing is one of the most ancient benedictions in the world (Numbers 6:24-26). It has been spoken over the people of God for millennia. And in many churches every Sunday, it concludes the worship service.
The Lord bless you and keep you.
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord lift up his countenance upon
you and give you peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26
There are a total of six (6) actions that God performs: he blesses and keeps; shines and is gracious; lifts up and gives peace. And the “and” between each blessing brings about a result. That is God blesses us so that we are kept safe; he shines his face on us so that we receive his grace, he lifts up his countenance on us so we will his shalom.
And what is the end result of this blessing? God tells us: “So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Num. 6:27). The threefold speaking of the divine name puts that name upon us. God’s name is his presence, his grace and power and mercy. Much like baptism, it is the same name spoken over us when we enter the waters of baptism—the threefold name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The three-fold name of God attaches itself to the water and the water is poured over us and we are made one with Jesus Christ.
God’s words hold power. God’s words do something. When God blesses, when God pours out his blessing upon you, you are blessed. End of discussion. The Lord isn’t waiting for you to do your part. There is no “part” for you to do. Some might say, “Well, but we have to believe it.” Yes, by faith we receive divine blessings, but faith is simply the empty hand into which the Lord puts blessing.
We can do no more than claim faith as a “work we do” or a “part we play” any more than a newborn child can boast about it’s birth. Faith is a gift, as is life itself.
How wonderful it is to speak a blessing, to speak God’s holy presence on someone. Who among those we know or don’t know yet needs a blessing? Use this ancient blessing. Bless someone and allow them to feel the presence of God in the power these words hold!
The Lord bless each of you with his favor and shalom!
by Chad Bird Scholar in Residence 1517.org Christ for You
So, how’d it go?” a wife asked her husband when he returned from a weekend away with his friends. “You guys have fun?”
He replied, “Oh, yeah, we did. Had a blast.”
“Great!” said his wife. “You needed that break.”
“Yes, I did,” he replied. Then he added, “By the way, you should be proud of me. I was 95% faithful to you while I was gone.”
Now, 95% may be an excellent score on a chemistry exam. Or, if you hit the target 95% of the time at the shooting range, you’ve got great aim. But that husband who was 95% faithful to his wife, needless to say, he failed in a huge way.
In a marriage, anything less than 100% fidelity is infidelity. As it is with the bond between husband and wife, so it was between Yahweh and his bride Israel (and so it is between us and Christ). If Israel faithfully worshipped the Lord 364 days a year, but once a year had a festival in Jerusalem to Baal and Asherah, God would not have said, “I’m proud of you, my people. Except for that one day annually, you are faithful to me.”
Why? Because, as we read in Exodus, “You shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God” (34:14).
As we discussed in today’s Unveiling Mercy devotion, the Hebrew word qanna (נאַקָּ ), usually translated as “jealous,” means that God is intensely, passionately devoted to his people. As he gives himself wholly to them, so he wants them to give themselves wholly to him. As the Shema says, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might” (Deut. 6:5). All...all...all. Not some.
But that is The Problem, isn’t it? We are as prone to spiritual infidelity as pigs are prone to rolling in the mud or dogs to eating their vomit. Strive to be faithful, yes. Pray for fidelity to our King.
And when you fail—and fail you will, all the time—then repent, confess, and cast yourself upon his mercy. For as he is jealous, so he is also merciful. In fact, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). He is faithful to hear our confession, faithful to forgive, faithful always to bear us up in our weakness and lift us up when we fall.
If you ever wonder just how faithful Jesus is, look at the scars in his hands, feet, and side. Those are his wedding ring, emblazoned upon his very flesh, as the living pledge of his undying commitment to you.
And I would like to add this:
God expects us to have the same 100% fidelity to Christ’s Church as we have with our spouses. Christ is the groom waiting to return for His bride—the Church.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
27 so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.”
So until Christ returns for His Church, followers of Jesus Christ are to commit themselves to His Church, investing themselves, valuing and caring for her even when they find the Church in error. Thus, we pledge fidelity to Christ’s Church. And like any marriage, we practice daily the rites of confession, repentance and forgiveness with each other and restore (reconcile if possible) each other in our relationships to God and one another. Amen.
~ Pastor Dona
Call it a rhythm or a daily rule of life, we all love our routines. This morning at 7 a.m. after my quiet time, I was peeling carrots for tonight’s dinner and I was thanking God for the gift of the morning. Through the window, I saw the snow falling on Elephant Rock and a warm feeling of gratitude came over me. So, I began thanking God for everything. I thanked him for the gift of being able to peel carrots and for having carrots to peel. I thanked him for the gift of another day, for his Word still echoing in my mind from Sunday’s message, for GracePointe, my friends and for his loving presence. Do you ever have moments like this? When you feel overwhelmed by God’s goodness? God is everything!
Though your life may seem full, does it at times feel empty? Do you have these unfulfilled longings that never seem to be satisfied? Do you yearn to hear the voice of God louder or clearer? Whatever your life situation, God is calling you to himself, every hour of every day God is gifting you for service and preparing you live an abundant life.
Romans 12:1-2 (MSG) So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life —and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
All of us have an unwritten personal rule of life. We wake at certain times, get ready for our days in particular ways, use our free time for a variety of purposes and practice rhythms of work, hobbies, and worship. But maybe its time to prayerfully look at your life to see how closely it aligns with the heartbeat of God?
What is a rule of life? A rule of life is like a trellis, a structure that supports say a grapevine. A trellis holds up the vines so they are more likely to catch sunlight, they grow better lifted off the ground and are easier to prune. Your personal rule of life is a holistic description of the Spirit-empowered rhythms and relationships in your life that create, redeem, sustain and transform the life God invites you to humbly fulfill for Christ's glory.
In every 24-hour period, how often do you stop all business and performance and take a little time to bask in God’s presence? How deep is your listening? Jesus is speaking to us through everything—even conflict—but do we hear his voice?
A rule of life may include prayer, reading the Scriptures, tending relationships, sleep, care of your body and sabbath time (no work or performance). Do you take time from all the distractions in life to listen for Life? To listen for those longings to surface. To listen for new learnings—about God and your relationships with others. By being attentive to the daily rhythms of life, by looking for God’s presence in everything you are on your way to crafting a well-tended life. Taking time each day to connect with God whether it is peeling carrots, driving, reading a daily devotional or sipping that first cup of hot coffee (tea for some) in the morning, God is in everything! And his deepest desire for you is that you craft a life that you truly love.
In his book, Crafting A Rule of Life, Stephen Macchia suggests following the Rule of St. Benedict of which listening and humility are so essential. Here are few ways to think about your life.
1. Rule of life is holistic: consider your entire life—take an inventory: your life with God, your home life, relationships, ministry, caring for your body, sleep, recreation, sabbath...and just to name a few. Is God there?
2. Rule of life is Spirit-empowered like the ancient church in Acts 1-4. Is the Spirit alive in you, convicting you, encouraging you, challenging you and growing you?
3. Rule of life Includes rhythms and relationships (Gen 37-50). Who do you have solid, trusting relationships with—are you tending them, investing in them?
4. Rule of life is to humbly fulfill Christ’s glory (Hebrew 11). Are you fulfilling the call of Christ with the utmost humility and sense of privilege in serving him?
5. Jesus is the ideal embodiment of a Spirit-empowered life. Is Jesus in speaking to your heart throughout the day? Where, when and what is he saying.
God is both at work in the ordinary and extraordinary of daily living. J.I. Packer says it best: “The healthy Christian is not necessarily the extrovert, ebullient (full of energy) Christian, but the Christian who has a sense of God's presence stamped deep on his soul, who trembles at God's word, who lets it dwell in him richly by constant meditation upon it, and who tests and reforms his life daily in response to it.”
― J.I. Packer
On the heels of Martin Luther King Day, come words from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount—love your enemy, pray for them and go the extra mile. The Sermon on The Mount, Matthew Chapters 5-7 is known as the Compendium of Christ’s Doctrine or the Magna Carta of the Kingdom. This sermon is considered the capstone of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus gathered his disciples and the crowd led them up a hillside in the region of Galilee. Although it is only three chapters long, the sermon probably lasted all day.
The Jews in Jesus’ day were living in hard times. They were facing a national crisis. Roman rulers controlled their land, took their money, and raped their women. Many of the Jewish priests and local leaders were assassinated and replaced by handpicked appointments from Rome or Herod. Thousands of Jews who tried to resist Roman rule quickly paid the severe price of death.
So, in the midst of all this trauma and chaos, Jesus in his sermon gives quite a revolutionary command—"love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven….if you love those who love you what reward with you get...And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others” (Matt 5:44,46-47)?
Being a Christian is not for the faint of heart. And where the rubber meets the road for many of us is our ability or inability to love our neighbor, let alone love our enemy. It is so easy to love, forgive and pray for people in our families or people we genuinely like or people who contribute to our success. But to love and forgive those who hurt us or wrong us or oppose our views, sometimes, it literally seems like an impossible task. Especially right now, as we are still in the heat of a long battle with COVID, where living in uncertainty has become the constant for us—we feel powerless.
Coupled with increasing anxiety about the economic and political landscape, the last thing we need to hear from God is that we need to love and pray for our enemies—we have enough failed attempts and guilt to wade through. But, what’s the risk if we don’t love our enemy? We carry the hurt and resentment with us. We become fused to it. Nelson Mandela said, “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
So how do we love our enemies? Show your enemies the genuine respect that every human being deserves. Each of us are made in God’s image. Allow yourself to feel compassion and mercy for them. Like you, they too have a backstory of fears, hurts, concerns and aspirations—don’t take your enemy so seriously. Make an effort to explore where your anger comes from, you may be projecting some of your unresolved issues into the situation. And lastly, if you can’t love someone, do no harm to them.
Howard Thurman, sums it up well, in an excerpt from Jesus and the Disinherited. “You must abandon your fear of each other and fear only God. You must not indulge in any deception and dishonesty, even to save your lives. Your words must be Yea-Nea; anything else is evil. Hatred is destructive to hated and hater alike. Love your enemy, that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven.”
Rev. Dona Johnson GracePointe of Sedona
The earliest Christian monks inhabited the desert land of the Middle East starting at
the end of the second century AD. Known as the “Desert Fathers”, they left everything in search of knowing Jesus Christ by making the Gospels absolutely integral to their daily lives.
In our current pop culture, one might frown upon these Desert Fathers, thinking their words are a bit archaic and irrelevant. But nothing can be further from the truth. In the desert, these early followers of Christ moved away from materialism and worldly pleasures and sought solitude in the desert. Away from crowds and distractions, they more clearly heard the voice of God. The solitary life of the desert helped them to talk less and listen more. They were not ashamed or embarrassed about their brokenness but learned from it and openly express their struggles.
So, what nuggets can we glean from these wise sages and take with us into the new year?
Never stop starting over. Every day is an opportunity to start over. Failure is not the end, it’s the beginning. You don’t have to wait for a new year to start over. Abba Poemen said, “That every day he made a new beginning. My God do not abandon me. I have done nothing good before Thee, but grant me, in Thy compassion, the power to start new” (Abba Poemen, 5th century).
Live intentionally, not aimlessly. Without a purpose, many people don’t feel joy or much fulfillment in life. In this new year, even in the midst of this pandemic, find a purpose, a purpose with eternal significance. Invest your life (time, talent and treasure) in someone or something other than yourself. "Think nothing and do nothing without a purpose directed to God. For to journey without direction is wasted effort" (St. Mark the Ascetic, 5th century).
Stop judging others: “This is what it means not to judge. Do not have hostile feelings towards anyone and do not let dislike dominate your heart; do not hate those who hate their neighbors (Abba Moses The Black).” In our current culture, political disagreements and racial differences have reached a fever pitch—finger pointing and blame. In the new year, may each of us focus on our own faults rather focusing on the sins of others.
Brokenness is Universal. "The person who has come to know the weakness of human nature has gained experience of divine power. Such a person never belittles anyone…He knows that God is like a good and loving physician who heals with individual treatment each of those who are trying to make progress" (St. Maximos the Confessor, 7th century). We are broken to some degree. In fact, it is our brokenness that often binds us together. When we recognize our own hurt in the brokenness of others—we are more able to move towards them in empathy. Everyone goes through the desert—illness, emotional despair and spiritual emptiness. In the new year, don’t be afraid to explore your brokenness, share it with others and ask for help. That is where true healing and growth begin.
Listen More Speak Less. According to Abba Poemen, ‘Silence is a way of waiting, a way of watching, and a way of listening.” In the new year, remember that silence too is a language.
Pray. Prayer brings us into the very heart of God. Some brothers asked Abba Macarius of Egypt, a 4th century Coptic Christian, ‘How should we pray?’ He said, ‘There is no need to talk much in prayer. Reach out your hands often, and say, “Lord have mercy on me, as you will and as you know.” But if conflict troubles you, say, “Lord, help me.” He knows what is best for us, and has mercy.’
In this new year, may each of us live intentionally with a purpose beyond ourselves—to love our neighbor, to seriously work at forgiving each other and may each of us see the brokenness in others as our own.
Rev. Dona Johnson GracePointe of Sedona