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Rule of Life NLF Part 3 (with commentary)

Posted on June 29th, 2008

     I am in the process of re-reading John Cassian’s Conferences (c.365-c.435) and am so deeply affected by the depth and care with which his accounting of the desert father’s concern for purity of heart and for a life of unceasing prayer. What a contrast to the books and writings coming out of the church of today! I am both chagrined for I love the church and challenged to live free from the idols of power, money, approval, earthly security, etc.   Cassian encourages me to call both myself and the larger church to a level of “apartness” difficult to understand living in the wealthiest country in the world. But I am challenged to go forward to pressing in here at NLF to go outside the box of contemporary church life and be a community that learns from the riches of the monastic tradition. So here is the third (of four) sections of the NLF Rule of Life we have only recently begun to pilot. Enjoy. Relationships Love my neighbor as I love myself giving first priority to my spouse and children as my first neighbors, or embracing my singleness while bonding with others and bearing fruit for God.  Genesis 2:24-5; Matthew 19:1-12; I Cor. 7:25-38.  We recognize both marriage and singleness as valid vocations/callings.  For those who are married, bonding with and serving our spouse comes before all else but Christ.  For those who are single, voluntarily or involuntarily, we affirm our call to be the bride of Christ, bond in healthy ways to others, and serve as mothers and fathers who bear fruit for Christ. Walk in community while respecting each person’s uniqueness.  Prov. 27:17; I Cor. 12:17-31; Hebrews 10:24-5.  We hold a healthy tension at NLF.  On one hand, we place a high value on community, in walking out our faith together as a local church family.  The Scriptures make it clear that this is indispensable and part of our calling as Christ-followers.  At the same time, we also affirm the biblical emphasis on each person’s individuality, unique gifting, and calling in one’s journey with Christ. Apply emotionally healthy practices in order to love well.   Prov. 21:23; Matthew 22:36-40; I Cor. 13:1-3. Jesus made it clear that the second greatest commandment is to love others.  Part of our discipleship here at NLF includes life in the family of Jesus with new skills and ways of relating – speaking, listening, clarifying assumptions and expectations, clean fighting, etc.  These skills are called “practices” because they are easy to learn but a challenge to implement consistently, especially under stress. Listen more than I speak.  Proverbs 18:27-28; James 1:19, 26; James 3:1-12. Scripture is very clear that we are to be slow to speak and quick to listen, and that maturity is closely related to our ability to control our speech.  James goes so far as to say that if we are able to manage our tongues, we will be able to keep all our unhealthy passions in check.  We can learn something from Agatho, one of the Desert Fathers in Egypt in the 4th century, who for three years kept a stone in his mouth in order to teach himself silence! Live in truth, asking the hard questions.  Ps. 145:18; John 8:31-32, 44; Ephesians 4:14-16, 25. The emphasis here is that we ask ourselves the hard questions about truth first, not depending on others to do that for us.  The commitment to live in truth, i.e. reality, is painful and difficult.  The questions are hard.  But we affirm the kingdom of God can only come through truth in love, not through pretense, spins, or exaggeration. Bridge racial, cultural, economic and gender barriers for Christ.  Deut. 10:19; Galatians 3:28; Ephesians 2:11-22. At New Life, we recognize the power of the blood of Jesus in dissolving the divisions of race, culture, social class and gender in order to create a new family under His Lordship.  We no longer regard anyone from a worldly point of view (2 Cor. 5:16), but rather see people through the gospel where there is no longer anyone who is inferior or superior. As you read this, what might be an invitation of God to you? What do you think about applying the concept of a rule of life to the membership of other local, missional churches as I am attempting to do?

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