Tuesday, June 22, 2010

How's Your Oxygen Level?

A few weeks ago, i was discussing with a friend what it takes to be a good Christian witness in the workplace - the importance of genuine love, the golden rule, solid work ethics, etc. After that conversation, i kept picturing one of those oxygen masks that flight attendants tell you, during their safety presentation, will drop down from overhead as needed - i felt the "message" in that image was, "make sure you put your own mask on first before trying to help others..."

A series of questions seemed to naturally follow: "are you breathing the pure spiritual air of heaven?" The Greek word for "spirit" (pneuma) means "breath." Are you reading & meditating on the Word, are you feeding on spiritual truth? Are you connected to the Source? (relationship with God) Is the oxygen flowing? (any hindrances in that relationship) The atmosphere of the world can make us weak, unless we are "breathing" spiritual oxygen from a heavenly source. Then we are better able to help others to connect with God and breathe freely also.

When our identity in Christ is strong and healthy, we are free to be who we are in any "atmosphere." Our example, Jesus, ministered as freely in the marketplace as in the synagogue. How did He stay connected with the Father, unhindered and unweakened by the world around Him? First, He was secure in who He was: before He ever did a single act of public ministry, the Father spoke over Him, "This is My Beloved Son, in Whom I am well-pleased." [Mt 3:17; Mk 1:11] Knowing we are loved by God anchors us securely in the Love we need, and keeps us from being unduly swayed by either praise or criticism from others. We are able to love other people to the degree that we have experienced Father's Love for ourselves; and, as we grow in our awareness of each person's unique value in His sight (including our own), we are less inclined to strive or compete for affection and approval.

Jesus stayed connected with the Father by making prayer His priority, and walking in the light of guidance and instructions He received through that relationship. "In the morning, long before sunrise, Jesus went to a place where he could be alone to pray." [Mark 1:35] Based on communication and intimacy with the Father, Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing, and spoke what the Father gave Him to say [John 8:28, 14:10]. He didn't claim to have any goodness apart from the Father, but gave Him all the glory, saying, "only God is good" [Mk 10:18, Lk 18:19]. His knowledge of God's Word from a young age caused others to marvel at His wisdom & authority [Mt 7:28-29, Mk 1:22, Lk 2:47], and enabled Him to overcome the temptations of the enemy [Mt 4:1-11, Lk 4:1-13].

Pursuing an intimate love relationship with God is a lot more effective than trying to "fight sin" or follow a list of rules for good behavior. Most Christians know what it is to struggle with some degree of "worldliness" - should i have watched that movie/TV show, laughed at that joke, expressed frustration in that situation...? Deeper degrees of entanglement or compromise can have serious consequences: Samson was defeated by the Philistines through his relationship with Delilah [Judges 16]; and David lost everything at Ziklag, after he camped too close to the enemy's border - although he was able to "recover all" when he inquired of the Lord and obeyed fully [1 Samuel 30]. Who or what are we in love with? As a friend recently posted on Facebook, "it's not how close we can walk to the world without falling in, it's how close do you want to be with Jesus?"

St. Paul wrote, "Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." [Galatians 5:16 NKJV] "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit." [Romans 8:1-2 NKJV] As we focus on God and breathe in the atmosphere of His Spirit, the temptations of the world and the flesh grow weak and pale by comparison. Consider these verses about nourishing our spirits with His Love & beauty: "How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your rivers of delight. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see." [Psalm 36:7-9 NLT] "Now, like infants at the breast, drink deep of God's pure kindness. Then you'll grow up mature and whole in God." [I Peter 2:2 The Message] What can we expect as we walk close to Him? "You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." [Psalm 16:11 NKJV]

So... how's your oxygen level?

"as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" I Peter 2:2 NKJV

"And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God." Romans 12:2 NKJV

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