Tag Archives: lutheran via de cristo

Piety Part 2 – by Jim Edgel

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Here is the second installment in the series on Piety from Jim Edgel:

 

Authentic or true piety comes from a dynamic, personal relationship with God that is conscious, growing and shared.  Piety is living a life that responds to God’s amazing gift of grace in His son Jesus.  Conscious of the personal value of God’s grace and consciously choosing a life with Him.  This life in Christ must be continually growing.  We either grow or decline.  We cannot remain still.  As we live this life of grace, we must share it with others and be willing to accept people where they are, listen to them and share our most precious gift – our time.  As we become more self-giving, we grow in our potential as human beings and understand we are God’s channel of grace to others and ourselves…  Christ must remain at the center of all aspects of our life, every action, every decision we make. We can’t say I love Jesus but this is business, work or vacation; or I am having a difficult time right now, I must take care of myself.  God’s word tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” … What is Authentic or true piety? Authentic piety is directing our whole life to God.   When we leave God out of certain areas of our life, we leave a huge space for Satan to slip in.  Directing our whole life to God is not about a long list of things we are forbidden to do.  It is about consciously sharing a growing Christ-centered life, which comes from the response of a grateful heart.  When we give our life over to God and have a willingness to be changed by the Holy Spirit, we begin to discover the true purpose and plan God has created us for.  We start the most amazing adventure we could ever imagine… For our whole life to be directed to God;

The three elements of every act – ones knowing, wanting and doing have to be directed to God.  We should know God and know what He teaches.  When our knowledge centers on God, God directs our knowing.  Wanting is the emotions that drive our actions.  Wanting becomes loving when our love for God drives our actions.  We strive to act according to God’s will.  Piety is directing our whole life to God by knowing who God is and what He taught.  Loving God with our whole heart and striving to carry out His will is the full response to the gift of grace.

Piety is an Ideal.  Living in a relationship with God is the Christian Ideal.  This is a lifelong process that brings us to a personal relationship with God.  And is nurtured in the same way as other intimate relationships we pursue in life.

With God at the center of our life, the Holy Spirit will help us maintain the goal of emulating the character of Jesus and His approach to dealing with people and problems.  All of us, no matter how capable we become in our Christian walk, will make mistakes.  I personally make many mistakes and at times need correction.  None of us ever get it all right … Except for Jesus, of course.  One of the greatest marks of maturity as human beings and to reveal the level of our spiritual maturity is the ability to receive correction.  Other things that reveal our level of spiritual maturity are:

Characteristics of authentic piety.  Courage,  Naturalness, and  Vibrant and joyful life.  Courage is not foolishness; it is the mark of one who will do what is right because it is the right thing to do.  It takes courage to step out of our “comfort zone” and accept new challenges that God may bring into our life.  It also takes courage to forgive someone who has hurt us.  Remember, we can do all things through Him who strengthens us … It is vital that everything we do as Christians be natural.  Our actions should be a natural response to a grateful heart.  People living a life of authentic piety should stand out only because of the love they have for God and others.  Jesus said “By this all people will know you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  An ordinary life lived to the fullest is not dull, it is exciting and rich.  As our faith deepens, we sense a new meaning to each part of life.  We grasp new potential and realize new talents that God has created in us.  As we direct our whole life to God our personal relationship with Him impacts every area of our lives.   The practices of piety are those things we do that nourish our relationship with God.  Practices of piety are not piety in themselves; they are our concrete, visible responses to God’s love for us.  Practices of piety such as worship, prayer and Christian service to others flow out of our relationship with God and nourish it.  Life must be approached from the perspective that all we do is part of our response to God’s call.  Some may only know who God is by being around Christians.  The outcome of authentic piety is the peace of God.  As we are directing our whole life to God, we are conscious of being in a relationship with the Triune God.  We are:  Children of the Father, brothers of Christ and temples of the Holy Spirit.

 

To be continued…

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Piety Part 1- by Jim Edgel

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The following are excerpts from a talk on Piety given by Jim Edgel – They have been reprinted with his permission:

Piety is a word we rarely use and may think of it in a negative way such as the “pious” ways of the Pharisees.  But authentic Christian piety is a very good thing.  In fact, if we explain the life Jesus led, it was a life of true piety.  Brothers, as we become filled with the Holy Spirit, God calls each one of us to a new life, and this involves a radical change from within.  This change alters our relationship with:  Our self, with God, with other people, and with the world, we live in together.  We see ourselves differently, knowing that no matter how broken we may be, we are forgiven and very valuable to God.  We have a new direction for our lives as children of God, full of marvelous capabilities.  We begin to see other people through God’s eyes, loving them as brothers and sisters who were created with the same potential that God has given to us.  And as we continue to transform; we see our world, as messed up as it may be, as God’s gift to us, given for our enjoyment and care.  When we speak of piety, we are speaking of a full response in all areas of our life to God’s amazing love and grace. We must seek a personal relationship with God, not just knowing about God … But knowing who God is.  Being Christian, not just doing Christian things.  How can we discover our God-given potential and be the complete person that God calls us to be as we live a life of grace?  This consists of balancing three key dimensions of our lives.  All three are equally important and it takes all three, working together, giving equal stability and balance in order to support us as we live in a close relationship with God.  To better understand the importance of Piety in our daily walks as Christians; which includes taking the Good News of Jesus Christ and Him crucified for you and me to the world, we must understand the difference between authentic piety and false piety. Authentic piety is an intimate, revitalizing deepening relationship with God. Jesus explains this to us.  You may remember reading in the Gospel of Matthew when the Pharisees gathered to question Jesus and one of the group asked Him which was the greatest commandment in the law.  And Jesus using His words with great precision, as always, not only answers their question, He explains authentic piety and sums up all the commandments in three sentences.  22nd chapter of Matthew verses 37, 38, 39 – And Jesus said to him “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it:  You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”False piety is a superficial, inaccurate or deceptive practice that appears to be Christian.  False piety is destructive.  It distracts and diverts people from seeking and knowing God.  It prevents them from finding and living the fulfilled life God has planned for them.  Friends … any of us can respond to God’s call in either of two ways.  We can follow a path of faith and commitment as Paul described in his letter to the Colossians “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Or we can devote ourselves to religious, regulations and practices that mark us as “A good Christian” who does “Christian” things.  Those who take this path do not understand the role of God’s grace in the lives of those who are in a relationship with Him.

More to follow

 

Seek Ye First

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On a Via de Cristo weekend, one of the talks is entitled “Piety.”  We learn that piety is part of a balanced Christian life, which also includes study and apostolic action.  True piety means directing your entire life toward God;  doing His will, understanding His purposes.  The song, “Seek Ye First” is a good reminder to do this every day.

Mountaintop Blessings

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Most Christians have had what they describe as a “mountaintop” experience… a time when they felt especially close to God and keenly aware of His presence and blessings.  Some people may associate that time with their conversion;  others with a special time away on a Via de Cristo or other sort of retreat.  At these times, we feel on fire for God.  We are energized and ready to do anything and everything required of us to lead an authentic Christian life.

My devotional reading this morning focused on how mountaintop times, wonderful and blessed as they are do not last.  We can’t recapture them, but we can continue to use them.

“We must learn to live in the ordinary ‘gray’ day according to what we saw on the mountain.”

My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chamber

How were you blessed on the mountaintop?  Were things clearer, brighter?  Did you feel loved and called for a special purpose?  Did you experience the joy of Christian fellowship or the peace that passes understanding? Even Jesus and the disciples experienced this:

And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. (Mark 9:2-3 ESV)

Yet, they still had the valley of Calvary ahead of them.  I’ve found that continuing in the spiritual disciplines of worship, prayer, study and fellowship (even when the day is gray and I don’t really want to) help keep the mountaintop feelings alive and fresh in my life.  These are the daily blessings that keep us growing in the valley.

 

Informal Spiritual Direction

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In my experience, spiritual direction often occurs informally.  For many years my friend, Nancy, has been a spiritual companion.  Nancy and I were college roommates.  When we first met, she was a firm Christian and I was claiming to be an atheist!  Actually, I think this was a way of daring God to show up in my life, which He did.  Over the years Nancy and I have remained friends and grown in faith together.  We don’t get together in person very often, so we correspond by letter and email.  Nancy is someone to whom I can pour out my heart and know she will listen without judging.  Sometimes she asks hard questions I don’t really want to think about or answer.  Although we have never “decided” to become spiritual guides to one another, the spiritual dimension of life is always an important part of our “conversations.”  We discuss family and congregational life, important transitions, insights from our study, our prayer life and struggles and more, always from the perspective of discerning God’s presence and will for our lives.  We also pray for one another.  I did an earlier post about every Christian needing a Paul, a Barnabas and a Timothy in their lives …Nancy has been my Barnabas, walking alongside, encouraging and sharing.  I hope I have been a Barnabas friend to her as well.

Nancy was the person who sponsored me on my Via de Cristo weekend, certainly one of the milestones in my faith journey.  Via de Cristo encourages participants to form “reunion groups” and when this is done properly, these groups also become a form of  spiritual direction.  Stay tuned for an upcoming post about mutual spiritual direction in my reunion group…

 

Music as a Dynamic

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In one of Michele’s previous posts, she asked about the songs that “move” us.  It’s a fact, music can move us into a different place mentally.  Calm music soothes;  boisterous music ramps us up;  patriotic or spiritual music inspires and uplifts.  Music affects our mood and our spirit, and singing together gives a sense of unity.

 

On a Via de Cristo weekend, music is used consciously, as a dynamic, to move the retreat weekend along.  Thursday evening, people don’t know one another and many are a little nervous.  What’s going to happen?  Why did I agree to do this?  The musicians select light, well known songs such as “This Little Light of Mine” or “Rise and Shine” so that people can easily participate and feel comfortable.

As the weekend progresses, the speakers choose songs that mirror the theme of their talk.  The weekend becomes more intensely spiritual and so do the songs.  Songs like “As the Deer,” “Abba, Father” and “Just As I Am” become part of the repertoire.

By Saturday night, the group is feeling excited and at ease with one another.  A community has been created.  It’s time for joyous, upbeat music like “Shake a Friend’s Hand” and “Dancing Heart.”  These songs involve participants in a physical way, encouraging moving around, and even touching one another.

“De Colores” is the theme song of the weekend.  It’s sung over and over on the way to meals.  This Spanish folk song rejoices in God’s creation and reflects the inner joy of the retreatants as they bask in the presence of God’s love.  I’m including it here at the end, and hope others who have been on a weekend (some of our authors are even weekend musicians) will share the songs that have become meaningful to them through Via de Cristo.

 

Work — Nourishment for the Soul?

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I just finished another chapter of the book I’ve been reading for my morning devotional, Awake My Soul, by Timothy Jones.  He poses an interesting question — Can work not only feed the body, but nourish the soul?  It’s a chapter about the idea of vocation, or calling.  Martin Luther, of course, argued that not only priests and nuns, but milkmaids, blacksmiths and housewives shared in God’s work in the world.  The work we do becomes holy if reverently approached.  Our work can serve others and influence others for Christ.

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Just recently I was talking to a friend about her Via de Cristo retreat (I was the leader of her weekend).  I shared with her how I felt that God had called me to train the team for that retreat, and she said, “Joan, you trained the team just for me.”  One of the big surprises that happened for my friend, was an opportunity to reconnect with another woman named Karen, someone she hadn’t seen since she was a girl.  Karen became Beth Ann’s spiritual mentor for a time.  I knew Karen through my workplace;  I was working at a job I was not eager to take, yet it led to an amazing experience for somebody else. No doubt there were other plans of God at work that I’ll never even know about.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was where I needed to be, and where God placed me at that time.  Knowing that has nourished my soul.

Often we are called to do what we enjoy, even if it involves financial sacrifice.  After retirement, I started work for the local library, only to find myself feeling unsettled.  I liked the job;  I like the people, so what was the problem?  I just had the continual, nagging feeling that it was taking me away from what God wanted me to do.  So I quit and now find myself blogging and working as a volunteer for my church.  These activities have fed my soul, and maybe to the souls of a few others.

Of course, it’s a constant challenge to discern God’s will, and we’ll make wrong turns.  We won’t always get it right.  We must pray, ask advice from Godly friends, and pay attention to our circumstances and how God is using our gifts and talents.

As Jones says in his book,

“We spend too much time at work for it not to be a setting for daily seeking and experiencing God.  …..CONCENTRATE ON WORK, BUT MAKE ROOM FOR GOD…”

 

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner #2

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Since I blogged about table prayers on a previous post, I thought I would include this prayer we sing before meals at our Vineyard Via de Cristo retreat weekends.  Once again, we are inviting Jesus to take part in the meal with us.

Not By Bread Alone

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A previous post I did reminded me of this song, Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God.  I first heard it on my Lutheran Via de Cristo retreat weekend in 1990 and it has been a favorite ever since.  If it’s new to you, I hope it will become one of your favorites as well.  It speaks to our need for spiritual, as well as physical bread.

 

 

What is a Cha?

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“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you?  You call me Teacher and Lord and you are right, for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also out to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.” John 13:12-15

If you go on a Via de Cristo (or other type of Cursillo) retreat, you will find a group of people who are there just to serve you for the weekend.  They bring you drinks, supply any need you many have (tissues, snacks, aspirin, etc.), run errands for you, and so on.  In Via De Cristo we call them the chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in action.  Everybody loves their cha, and often say they wish they could take their cha home with them!

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Well, guess what?  You don’t have to be on a retreat weekend to be a cha.  Of course, it’s true, we all have many responsibilities and we cannot dedicate all of our time to fetching and carrying.  We can, however, be Christ’s hand and feet and voice in the world every day to the people with whom we interact.  We can help a neighbor carry her groceries, we can give up our place in line to a harried parent, we can say “have a blessed day” to the cashier who rings up our order, we can serve dinner to our family with words that are kind instead of complaining.  Jesus gave us an example when he washed the feet of his disciples — he didn’t have to do that.  It wasn’t expected, and it wasn’t his “job.”  He did it to show us that good stewardship means using our time, our bodies and our minds to serve others.

Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all became chas?