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Six lessons on harmony with God and the WAY things work! based upon, abook by E. S. Jones.
Jesus Said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. --John 14:6

Our study of "The Way." consists of six lessons. We will be looking at the way things are, the way they were created to be, and the way we either live within "The Way" or continually bump up against it.
E. Stanley Jones

These six lessons were inspired by, and based upon, a book written by E. Stanley Jones who was a Christian missionary genius of the mid-2Oth century. The book called simply "The Way," was copyrighted in 1946 (Stone and Pierce publishers) and is now out of print. However, several of E. Stanley Jones' other works have been reprinted recently. If you'd like to know more about Jones, or look at the new and used books which are available by him, you may follow this link.
Jones wrote 365 great lessons to cover this topic. It is our desire to give a taste of his genius in this brief review of his teaching. If you find this review tempting, we hope you will be able to obtain a complete copy of the 365 lessons which Jones presented.

God created all that is seen and unseen!

The Nicene Creed, adopted in 325 AD, begins with this statement:
"We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen."

In this statement our Christian predecessors proclaimed the truth that God created not only the world and all that is in it, but the whole of reality which is not visible as well.

The primary thesis with which we shall begin our study can be stated like this:

The created world has intrinsic order which is built into the very nature of everything and everyone. There are ways that work and ways that do not! We cannot circumvent, avoid, or ignore the physical universe or the spiritual universe. They are of one fabric, masterfully designed by the One and only Creator of Heaven and earth. We must live life within this context and manage ourselves within the context of these immutable laws of nature. Attempts to do otherwise lead us to dead ends which serve to redirect us. Ultimately there is only one way that is not a dead end. It is the way of the Creator which is built into the nature of things and into our nature as well. This is not doctrine! It is the inescapable design of the universe!

We might conclude that the "the way" is not just about what is "right" and what is "wrong," but more specifically about what works and what does not work. God did not create just things. He created an entire interactive harmonious system. The creation is "all that is seen and unseen." It includes gravity and inertia, and all the laws of physics which we are just beginning to understand. It includes a whole spectrum of light and sound which we cannot see or hear. There is a life after this life, the existence of angels and demons, and a whole spiritual realm which is not visible to us. Who knows the secrets of the planetary universe, or of the sub-microscopic universe?

Job 38-40 is a powerful reflection on all that we do not know about the created world:
"Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?

On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-
while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?

"Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb,
when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness,
when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place,
when I said, `This far you may come and no farther;
here is where your proud waves halt'?

"Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place,
that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?
(Job 38:4-13 NIV)

This is only a glimpse at the last several chapters of the book of Job which are some of the most beautifully written passages in all of scripture. They call us to understand that the universe is the sum of countless details and complexity which we have not begun to comprehend. God, however has called it all into being and provided the eternal structure by which it is maintained and renewed. Who are we to imagine that we could determine a way that is better than the way things are?

This is the challenge of life at every turn. Will we accept and follow the way things are, or will we attempt to circumvent, avoid, or change reality?

The truth is, we are given many choices in life. We may choose to follow the way or depart from it. It is the nature of life to redirect us when we follow a path which is "not-the-way." There are consequences to attempts to circumvent or manipulate reality. And there are dead ends when we attempt to exceed the limits. For example: A ten year old boy may believe or wish that he can fly from his tree house to the ground by attaching a large pieces of fabric to each arm and flapping his "wings" as he flings himself down. But he will discover the limits and the consequences when he hits the ground. Some 10 year old boys learn after only one attempt and some need to try the limits more than once! Creativity comes when we accept the way things are and learn to fly using the laws of physics to our advantage safely within the limits of the system which God created.

Likewise many have believed they could spring through life doing what they please in order to get what they want, only to find that they have reaped a harvest of broken relationships, unfulfilled appetites, and hollow victories. Eventually they awaken to the sober truth that they are out of step with life, and lost on a path that leads somewhere they do not want to go. Some of us learn after only one such excursion and others it seems, need to try every detour and side road that comes along! We have choices. We may choose how we will interact with this complex and amazing structure which God has created, "all that is seen, and unseen," but we cannot change the structure. It is the way God created it. When we speak about the way in this study, we mean to encompass the whole of this God-given system which we shall call the "eternal structure" or "the way".

Discovering the Way

We learn our first lessons about the way through experience. We learn elementary lessons about heat and cold, comfort and discomfort, noise and silence and much more, as infants. We experience the world and experiment with its elements. A child's job is to discover the world and become aware of himself as he interacts with it. Science is a natural extension of this process. Honest science is always the search for the truth about the way things are and the way they work. We should never feel threatened by a search for the truth.

Beyond that experience of the physical world, we also experience the spiritual dimension of life from the very beginning of our life. We react to our surroundings in emotional ways. We perceive the presence of love, or the absence of it. We build relationships, and we develop an inner dialog. We talk to ourselves and reflect upon our experience of life. This inner dialog is the place where we will ultimately experience the presence of God and open ourselves to it, or where we will reject God's call and isolate ourselves from much of the spiritual dimension of our potential. Our inner conversation then becomes a monologue.

We develop an understanding of how things work as we reflect upon the experiences of life. Sometimes we misunderstand and operate from erroneous conclusions. If we do so we, we find ourselves uncomfortable, out of step or frustrated in one way or another. This discomfort usually serves to redirect us. We find it necessary to re-examine our assumptions and draw new conclusions. This is a natural human process which we often call learning. Throughout the history of humankind we have discovered that learning can be excellerated by the sharing of information and experiences. We can in fact teach one another. When we share the truth, growth is increased, but we can also perpetuate erroneous conclusions by teaching them to one another. So each generation must test and verify the teachings that have come to them.

There is One who was, in himself, the full expression of the way. Scripture says of Him: "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word..."(Hebrews 1:3). John wrote: "In him was life, and that life was the light of men." (John 1:4). Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life." (John 14:6). This man Jesus was the fullest expression of our human potential because he was the author of our human nature. "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made" (John 1:3). He said of himself "I and the Father are One." (John 10:30) He is the one we can trust to teach us. His teachings have been tried and found to be true generation after generation.

We do not have to trust only the report of others concerning the teaching of Jesus because He was not silenced by the grave. He returned from the dead with the Good news that God is available to each and every one of us, personally. That is the good news. The source of life lives among us and takes away every barrier so that we can know the truth know the way! This is not a different way than science seeks. This is not a different truth than our experience demonstrates. He is just a more direct and reliable access to the truth. He is the master teacher because He is the inventor genius!

So when we say that Jesus is the way, we are still speaking about the "eternal structure," and "the way" things are. We will look more closely at this truth in lesson 2.

Lesson Two:

In the previous lesson we talked about "the way," which is the eternal structure of the universe. It is the way the universe functions, both seen and unseen, the natural and spiritual law of the universe. Jesus Christ is the personification of "the way" for He is the source and creator of the entire perfect system.

Now let us look at the reasons to choose "the way" instead of "not the way" and the consequences of our choices.

Only One Way

First, and most important, we must understand that there is only one Way. It is the Way which God created. There are a multitude of directions which we may choose which are consistent with God's way. But even if we make decisions or go in directions which do not acknowledge or affirm God's Way, we are still making those decision within the Way because it is "in Him we live and move and have our being," (Acts 17:28). There is no other way.

We may choose to follow or not to follow the rules of the universe, but we cannot change the universe or the One who created all that is in it. We may choose to believe the truth or disbelieve it, but the truth remains true in spite of our response to it.

Likewise we might believe that we choose to live or die, and in a sense our choices may affect our eternal outcome. Yet if we die, we will not do so on our terms but on Gods. None of us chose, in our present state of consciousness, to be born, and none of us knows at what state of consciousness we shall arrive in the moment after we pass from this mortal plane. One who commits suicide has no assurance that he will not awaken into a life which is even more vivid than the one he tried to leave. Whether we will live or not is in God's hands, for "in Him is life."

When Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life," He spoke literally. There is no way outside of the Way created for us by God. There is no truth except that which is the created Way, and there is no life or death outside the will of God. Jesus is the perfect expression of life. Only as we abide in Him and draw our strength and motivation from Him will we be in tune with life.

Not the Way

We have all tried to do things in ways that do not work. We have discovered that there are approaches to practically anything which are "not the way." Such approaches are like trying to swim or paddle upstream as a strong current carries us down stream. We might put up a sign by the river that says "One Way" but the sign is not the law. It only describes the law. The current is the law!

This is true of the Mosaic Law, the laws of physics, and all moral law. The written principles of the law are really descriptive and cautionary notices. If you follow these laws, things will go well with you. If you do not follow them, then you will find yourself at odds with the structure of the universe. If you murder then someone is going to be looking to murder you, and you will have condemned yourself to a life of guilt, and the re-living of that violent desperate conflict. All the principles that are behind the law are expressed in the commandment "thou shalt not kill." But there is no real power in the commandment. It is not a matter of enforcing the written law. Rather the written law tells us how to avoid that which is true about murder, whether we have the law or not.

The problem is that written laws are insufficient to describe the entire system. There are ways out.. even gravity can be escaped if we understand more of the structure behind it. Laws about killing have to be adapted and interpreted to take in account the killing of animals for food, warfare, self defense, and the difference between causing a death and allowing death to take place. Is the removal from life support killing? Is the slaughter of cows for food forbidden? What about the accidental death of raccoons on the highways or the intentional killing of pests or diseased animals? All of these things require interpretation of the law. Yet we must remember it is not really the written law that we are interpreting. It is the nature of the created order with which we must come to grips. That is why "the law made nothing perfect." (Hebrews 7:19).

We cannot depend upon a written code, for it is inflexible and requires wisdom that we do not have unless we have recourse to the intent of the Author. The contemporary availability of the Spirit of Almighty God is essential to our ability to function in the world, and Jesus is our point of access to the Holy Spirit.

Though there is only one truth and one way, there are an infinite number of passages within the way. God is a God of contingencies who is able to encompass our variableness and our wrong choices, and to envelop the consequences in an equation for the future at any given moment. God is personal not generic. There is only one God, but He is not characterized by "one size fits all." He has created an infinitely diverse system, and populated it with such a diversity of life that our minds cannot comprehend.

The earth and all that is in it is an environment given by God as our habitation. And our bodies serve to filter the input which comes to us. Only certain sounds get through to us, only certain kinds of light are visible to us, and our behaviors are limited by boundaries of space and time. Yet we must understand that the whole of God's creation and plan is much more expansive.

As the scripture says:
“All human beings are like grass,
and all their glory is like wild flowers.
The grass withers, and the flowers fall,
but the word of the Lord remains for ever. (I Peter 1:24)

We are but a minute part of His plan, and yet God cares for us individually
and has provided a means of access to His Spirit.'

“What are human beings, O God, that you should think of them;
mere human beings, that you should care for them?
You made them for a little while lower than the angels;
you crowned them with glory and honor, "(Hebrews 2:6-7)

Disharmony and Sin

When we step outside of the way of God, we disrupt the harmony of the system. We affect more than ourselves, and the ripples go out from that violation in ways that we often do not understand. The full effects of our actions may not be evident for several generations. Only by trusting in God's omniscient guidance could we avoid such downfalls. Did Eve understand that the future of all humankind would be changed by her willingness to listen to the serpent and eat of the forbidden fruit? Did Mary understand the fantastic graces that would flow from her willingness to say: "Be it done unto me according to your will." (Luke 1:38)? If we truly understood the ramifications and outcomes of our decisions we might frequently choose differently.

Some of the undesirable outcomes that we reap when we try to circumvent, manipulate, or ignore the way of God are disease, disorder and destroyed relationships. Our ecological system has suffered enormous violence at the hands of human greed and apathy. Our bodies are attacked by cancers and disease and our minds are subject to depression, dysfunction, and disorientation. Thus, attempts to subvert or disrupt the eternal structure are "anti-life," unproductive, and destructive. They disrupt the harmony of our relationship with life and with the One who is the source of life. That is what sin is. It is not the mere breaking of a rule. Rules are only descriptive of the way things are. Rather Sin is that which disrupts life and causes disharmony within the eternal structure and with the Creator.

Only when we are able to surrender our resistance and seek the way of life are we able to find rest in our humanity. Only when we accept Jesus as the way, know in him the truth, and live in him fully, will we begin to set aside our disruptive sinful behaviors and begin to express the harmony of God in our relationships and our motivations.

In the next lesson we will examine 10 practical ways to draw close to God and to live within the way of God so that we might not sin against Him.

Lord, If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. (Exodus 33:13)

Lesson Three:Practical Steps on the Way

In our first two lessons we talked about what "The Way" is, and what happens when we try to ignore or circumvent the eternal structure. We have focused on Jesus who is the way and the truth and the life, and noted that there is no written code that can adequately govern our lives. Only in Christ can we be at peace with life.

Now we will deal with what E. Stanley Jones called "Ten steps to victory." There is nothing in this lesson which is difficult to comprehend. But there is a lifetime of work in the practice of these principles. Dr. Jones has formulated the principles around ten words that begin with "C." We shall offer the titles which he established.

1. Consider Your Ways

First, it is import to consider carefully how your life is going right now. Are you at peace? What are you doing with the hours and days and years of your life? Are you just getting through each day or are you growing? Does what you do with your time have value? Are you changing in positive directions or just drifting? What about goals: Are they self-seeking or God-seeking? Questions like these aren't difficult to formulate, but they sometimes require real courage to answer honestly.

It is necessary to stop from time to time to look at who you are and where you are going. The questions you ask will change depending upon where you are in your life, and what kind of decisions you may have made the last time you took such a look! Initially you may be unable to answer some of these questions. As we go along through our study, we hope you will become more equipped to take inventory in your life and make the changes necessary to move to a better place.

Ultimately considering your ways must become a day-by-day and moment by moment attentiveness. Are you growing in soberness, in the image of Christ, and in fellowship with the Lord? Peter writes:

Make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with God.

2. Change Your Direction

Having taken a serious look at our lives, it is likely that we have found some things which are "not the way." Some of them we were already aware of, and may have been intending to change for some time. Some of them we know to be problem areas, but we have no desire to make the changes which we know would be beneficial. Some things are minor adjustments which we can make easily.

What is important is to focus not just on behaviors but on attitudes and motivations. We cannot just stick a band aid on a life problem to cover it up and hope no one else will notice. This is about our relationship with God. He sees us as we really are. We cannot hide.

Psalm 139:1-12 (NIV)
O LORD, you have searched me and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD.

You hem me in--behind and before;
you have laid your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

God already knows you more intimately than you know yourself, and loves you better than you love yourself. It doesn't matter where you have been. What matters is the direction you decide to go right now. Perhaps you have become disheartened in your efforts to change. This is not a journey that you must make alone. Jesus said "Lo I am with you always." (Matthew 28:20)

What is required here is a decision. There are many excuses for not changing as we know we should. But Jesus who knows our heart is able to change our motives and calm our fears if we ask Him.

3. Connect with Christ

Change requires motivation and a plan, energy, and vigilance, as well as a goal or a role model. We need to know what success will look like. We need to know how we are going to get from here to there. What will we use for fuel? and what will we do if we get lost along the way?

Christ is the answer! He is the perfection. Only He is the source of strength and only He is able to change us from within, weaning our motives from the worldly and drawing them to Him. God alone is able to overcome influences of evil and heal our spiritual selves. Will power is just another way of saying we can do it ourselves. In fact we must come to cast our cares upon the Lord.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

4. Consent to Surrender

We must surrender the control of our life to the Lord and give up the steering wheel. This is a difficult process which we need to repeat daily. We have a tendency to give it all to Jesus and then take it back one piece at a time. We often try to give it all up except... Except the cigarettes, except the affair, except the ice cream... Whatever your exception is, that is the most important thing to surrender! That is the idol in your life.

If we are not genuinely ready to surrender, pretending to do so will gain nothing. We must ask the Lord to change us, take our dependencies, our bad habits, and our addictions. God will not take them from us against our will, but he will change our will if that is what we sincerely seek.

5. Cease from Struggle

It's sometimes difficult to stop struggling, especially when we have been loosing the battle. But we can have confidence that God does not need our assistance in overcoming the disharmony in our lives. What He requires is our surrender, our attention, and our obedience.

We have to get our eyes off the enemy and focus on the Lord. If we focus our attention on the piece of pie we are trying not to eat, we will surely eat it in the end! But if we turn our attention from the pie and focus on the Lord, He will draw us to Him.

We will stumble on the way to be sure, as a baby learning to walk. Yet the child learns, not by focusing on the walking, but because she wants to get to her mothers open arms. To a toddler on his way, a couple of stops to pick himself up are hardly worth noticing!

We have long established habits which must be demolished so that new habits can be born. Let the Lord care for the demolition of that which is "anti-life." We must turn our attention to that which is new.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! (2 Cor 5:17)

6. Concentrate on Acceptance

It is important to accept and celebrate changes when they come. We must not assume that the victories of the Lord are fragile like those occasionally attained through our own will power. God makes real change within us if we will allow it. And when those changes come we must be careful to give the credit to the Lord. The victory belongs to the Lord. If we try to claim it for ourselves without giving God the Glory, our progress will surely crumble.

Temptations to go back to old habits, "just for old times sake" must be regarded as absolutely off limits. We cannot allow ourselves to entertain the thought that the old self was "more fun" or "more cool."

A serious, Christ-centered life is more precious than wealth or popularity or power or pleasure.

Choose my instruction instead of silver, knowledge rather than choice gold, for wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire can compare with her. (Prov 8:10-11)

7. Cleanse Your Past

Most of us learned from our parents that when we make a mess, we should clean it up. And so it is with life relationships. Much more important than a spot on the rug or sticky jelly on the kitchen counter, our relationships need to be cleaned up from time to time as well.

Some of us have bailed out of relationships when the going got rough. We may have left hurt feelings or unpaid bills or broken hearts. Maybe we left children unattended or injured someone. Maybe we stole something, neglected or abused someone or just left in anger.

Whatever the mess, it's worth an attempt to make it right. Relationships which have been violated may not ever be completely repaired, but we must do our part. Offer the apology, seek forgiveness, make restitution if possible, forgive the debt or transgression and give up the grudge!

We must not allow the poison from the past to continue to seep into the present.

8. Christianize Your Relationships

Learning to take the Spirit of Christ into every relationship and every situation should be our priority. The hallmark of Christ's presence is love, and when that love shines out in our interactions with others then Christ is glorified and relationships are maintained and strengthened. If we are to be at peace with life, then we must be at peace with people.

Surrounding ourselves with sober Godly people is also helpful in our journey. If we want to live in the way we must wean ourselves from destructive, frivolous and chaotic relationships or activities. If we pray "lead us not into temptation" then we must not make decisions which do lead us into temptation.

9. Cultivate a Quiet Time

There is no substitute for time spent alone with the Lord. Like any relationship, our relationship with God requires attention and commitment. If we are serious about our relationship with the Lord, we must make a regular time to meet with Him. Ideally this should be 30 minutes to an hour but if you haven't ever developed this habit even 10 minutes to start is better than nothing at all!

This should be a time when you won't be disturbed. Don't answer the phone or the doorbell. Answer only to the Lord during your time away with the Lord. Talk to the Lord. Read the scriptures. Think about your life and your spiritual needs. Ask God for the help you need to grow in spiritual strength and Thank Him for the goodness you have received.

10. Create Outlets and Activities

The living water that flows into our lives will become stale if we do not find an outlet to express it. Jesus told the disciples "as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give." (Matt 10:7-8)

We might not feel immediately equipped to cleanse the lepers and raise the dead or cast out devils, but we must find ways to minister to those in need and tell others about the good news that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. Perhaps we will visit lonely people or help feed the hungry, gather food for the poor or distribute bibles to public places.

Fellowship groups that study the scriptures together are good places to learn to talk about the Lord, and share ideas for personal ministry. Worship with a Church family should be a priority. If you're not part of a local church you should visit some churches regularly until you find one where you are comfortable and challenged to grow.

All of these suggestions will help you to grow in "The Way" of the Lord. We hope you'll find them helpful in nurturing your spiritual growth.

In Lesson four we will look at the other side of the coin: Dead End Roads! We'll offer some practical help about avoiding pitfalls and overcoming barriers on the road to abundant life.

Lesson four: Dead End Roads.

Today we will look at some of the dead-end roads that are readily accessible, but totally unfullfilling. These are definitely "not the way." But because these detours are common in our culture, we must look at them squarely and overcome them if they have become habitual in our lives. Again we draw much of our outline from the work of E. Stanley Jones.
Fears and Worries

FEAR NOT: Scripture say it 63 times! In the New International Version it is translated "Do not be afraid!"

         God said it to Abraham in Genesis 15:1 and to Jacob in Genesis 46:3
         Moses said it to the people in Exodus 14:13 and God said it to Moses in Numbers 21:34
         God said it to Joshua in Joshua 8:1 and Elijah in II Kings 1:15.
         David said it to Solomon in II Chronicles 21:15
         God said it to Ezekiel 3 times in one sentence at Ezekiel 2:6
         The angel said it to Joseph in Matthew 1:20, and to Mary in Luke 1:30
         The angel said it to Zechariah in Luke 1:13, and to the Shepherds in Luke 2:10
         Jesus said Fear not to the Disciples at Luke 12:4, Luke 12:32 and John 14:27
         The Lord said it to Paul in Acts 18:9 and Paul said it to the Sailors in Acts 27:24
         Christ said it to John and to the Church in Revelation 1:17 and 2:10

"Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades."

Fear is paralyzing to our efforts to grow, and it is disease producing in our bodies. Don't just keep your fear under control. Disown them. Give them to Jesus. When you find your self worrying or fearful, turn immediately to the Lord and ask Him to take your fears and restore your peace. Have confidence that God is able to sustain you within His perfect plan no matter what may come.

"But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips." (Colossians 3:8)

There are three levels on which you may choose to respond to frustration in your life.
         1. You can return evil for good - This is demonic.
         2. You can return evil for evil - This is legalistic and very human.
         3. You can return good for evil - This is the reflection of Christ.
Do not let the actions and attitudes of others determine your behavior and attitudes! Be an actor not a reactor!

         Know when to walk away in love: "Shake the dust off of your feet" (Luke 9:5)
         Pray for and bless everyone: "Pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5:44).                    This was not a suggestion. It is the command of the Lord!
         Do not fight resentments. Surrender them immediately to the Lord.
         Leave justice and discipline to the perfect judge of heaven and earth!

Approaching every situation in life as an unpleasant problem tends to make it so. But life should not be considered a problem. When God created he saw that it was good. Life is a good adventure! If we find ourselves suffering through life, we need to get a new attitude. Christ should be our first source for attitude adjustment. Only He can bring us into step with life.

We had the good fortune at one time to work with a young man who said every morning he depended on Christ to get him out of bed. When he would awaken he would imagine that he could hear a mighty army marching as they approached his home. It was the army of Christ, and those who were willing to get up and go with Him today. Our friend said that every day they would march right into his bedroom! Then he would have to make the decision to get up and go with them or to be left behind. Every morning he got up and went with Christ. What a powerful image. How could we ever have a bad day knowing that even if we got lost or fell behind, Jesus would be coming by to pick us up again in the morning!

How much of what you do is measured by what you want or how you feel rather than what is wise, what is needed, or what another person wants? How often do you allow the Lord to redirect your path? Do you manipulate people and situations to get what you want? Self-centeredness is not easy to admit. Yet we must be vigilant to avoid the pitfalls and frustrations which come as it's companion.

When every outcome is measured on the basis of how it felt to you, and every plan is made based on your preference, then the work of Christ is compromised. Not every person has the same preferences or needs as you do. Only Christ is able to lead us in wisdom for the best outcomes. Will we allow Him to direct us, or will we continue to prefer the way that feels right to us?

Another dead-end which is similar to negativism and self-centeredness is criticism. People are often tempted to criticize:

         1. When things do not go well.
         2. When things go well, but not the way they wanted.
         3. When things go the way they wanted, but they don't want to admit that someone else was successful.

Not much more needs to be said: except that in each situation it would be better to pray than to criticize. While criticism may gain an audience, it will not lead us to inner peace or loving relationships.

The other side of criticism is over-sensitivity. The perception that we are being criticized at every turn is not healthy either. This problem is akin to worry and fear. It will make us sick and ruin our inner peace.

Even if others are criticizing us we must have confidence in the work of Christ in our lives. If we seek Christ in all that we do and make every decision in love, then we never have to look back with regret. We have done the best we can. If the outcome is less than we had hoped we need not be defensive or beat ourselves up. In humbleness we can acknowledge that we are a work in progress, but we did the best we could. God is not finished with us yet!

Some of us work in areas where the stakes are very high. We are parents, doctors, nurses, teachers, military leader, or we do any one of a thousand other vital jobs where lives are on the line and bad outcomes can mean real disaster. If we make our decisions based on fear of criticism we will almost surely make some wrong choices. The higher the stakes, the more important it is to depend upon the Lord and pray daily to be kept from error. Then we will know that even in a disaster our conscience is clear.

We cannot allow fear of failure to paralyze us. We must accept with every decision that we are taking responsibility for having made that choice. In a crisis, a decision which we know was not made prayerfully and soberly will come back to haunt us.

Most of our choices are less critical. Will we take the stairs or the elevator and will we eat soup or salad with lunch are not life threatening matters, but they are daily opportunities to practice our decision making skills. Maybe there are consequences we have not considered. Perhaps God will teach us something here if we invite Him to do so.

Suppose we decide to listen before we choose today. Will God direct us by another route so that we can intersect with a need that we might have missed otherwise? Let us not be indecisive, but rather practice making our decisions in consultation with the Lord. It takes only a fraction of a second to turn our attention to Christ and then go on.

It doesn't require much examination of the facts to discern that addictions are "anti-life." Addiction to alcohol, tobacco, prescription pain killers, and street drugs are killing people prematurely at an unprecedented rate. New addictive substances are discovered every year, and new avenues of availability have emerged with the advent of the internet and wireless communication.

In addition we have begun to see that there are other behaviors which can be very addictive as well. Many people have addictive habits of food consumption and sexual behaviors. There are compulsive molesters of children, rapists, and murderers. There are workaholics and gambling addicts.

Dealing with this thorny problem is way beyond the scope of this study except to say two things.

         1. Christ can conquer the addiction in your life. Pray for guidance and seek His strength.
         2. You will probably need some hands on Christian help in order to claim this victory. James calls us to confess our sin to one another so that others can pray with us and for us. You may want to seek further information at some of these helpful websites:

Undedicated Time or Money

We should beware of "wasting" time or squandering money. When there is no good use to put our time and money to, we are in danger of finding a use that is not good! So we must have a plan for the good use of all our money and time.

We may want to begin by committing a percentage of all our time and all our money to the work of the Lord. That is a tithe of our income and 2.4 hours of our time each day (16 hours and 48 minutes each week). By committing a dime out of every dollar and six minutes out of every hour to the Lord we consecrate the whole of the day and the whole of our income to Him from whom all blessings flow.

If there is money left after we have paid our bills we should have a plan for that as well. Saving is a reasonable use of our money as long as we have a clear idea of what we are saving for, not just the building up of wealth without purpose. What is our plan for the money saved and how will it ultimately be used. Are there special projects we want to contribute to, are there ministries that need our help or individuals in whom we should invest. Whatever the plan let us arrive at it prayerfully, not haphazardly or frivolously.

Perfectionism is just another way of hanging on to control. The message here is "I want it exactly the way that I want it!" Whether it be due to fear of failure or just plain self-centeredness, the need to have every thing perfect drains ones energies, consumes unnecessary time, and pushes other people away.

Learning to let go is ultimately the only way that we will become perfected in God's plan. Allowing Christ to smooth off our rough edges often takes us outside of our comfort zone. But growth requires change, and perfectionism is a trait that we must allow the Lord to take from us.

Jealousy also must go. Our heavenly Father wants to give us every good and perfect gift. He loves us perfectly with a love that never ends. How can we be wanting in anything!

The feeling that others are getting attention that we need or own items that we ought to have is the epitome of focusing on things which are worldly. We must refocus. Christ is the one in whom happiness is found. How we under-estimate God's abundance if we think that God does not have enough to give every person all that he or she needs.

Even if we gain all the worldly things that we have wanted, we can be sure we will still be unhappy if we do not seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Fastening on an Idol

Our last note today is about Idolatry. Idols are those things which matter to us more than our attentiveness to God's will. They are the things that we are jealous for and the things that we are addicted to. The most common idols today are wealth, popularity, power and pleasure. There are others as well. For some the concept of freedom is God. Or maybe being productive is most important.

How many people have said that when they are no longer productive they want to die. Or when the are no longer able to be independent we should put them out of their misery! These sentiments are serious rejections of God's sovereignty. They express a blasphemous lack of trust in the Lord's plan for our lives. Some of us may never learn to rest in the Lord until we are immobilized by disease. We may never have the opportunity to learn the grace of patience until our dying days. There is much to learn even in the process of dying. And much to be learned for by sharing the experience of death with another. We must not avoid any of the experience which God has made a part of life, for life is that to which we are seeking to attune ourselves.

This brings us to the end of this lesson. Lesson five will look at some of the important disciplines within the way of Christ.
Lesson Five: Ways within the Way

We have been looking at what E. Stanley Jones wrote in his book "The Way" (Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1946). In the latter part of his book Jones talks about Ways within the way. He mentions among them:
         Grace which produces goodness
         Prayer which works in us revision, relaxation, release and rejoicing
         Discipline of our habits and behaviors
         Suffering, grief and sorrow
         Power, energy and healing

Many of these topics are addressed in a more contemporary book which is still in print by Richard J. Foster. You may follow the link below to get the book if you are interested. The title is "Celebration of Discipline"

Today we are going to look at what Foster calls "the classical disciplines of the Christian faith." I believe these are what E. Stanley Jones was leading us to when he talked about "the way's within the way!"

Foster Outlines 12 Classical Disciplines grouped in three categories as follows:
         1. The Inward Disciplines
                   * Meditation
                   * Prayer
                   * Fasting
         * Study
         2. The Outward Disciplines
                   * Simplicity
                   * Solitude
                   * Submission
                   * Service
         3. The Corporate Disciplines
                   * Confession
                   * Worship
                   * Guidance
                   * Celebration

The Inward Disciplines

It is important to understand that spiritual disciplines are not means of bribing God to care for us. God loves us and cares for us no matter what. These are not works that make us appear righteous. Righteousness only comes through claiming the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are counted as righteous through the mercy of God.

Foster says that we can think of spiritual disciplines as the way we put ourselves in God's path so that His Grace will run over us. They are means of associating with God so that His radiance will shine full on us. They are things we do to get through our days "gracefully." And so the spiritual disciplines are a "way within the way."

Prayer and meditation are the first disciplines we should look at. Seldom can a relationship grow without communication, and prayer is the lifeline of our communication with God. We speak to God, pour out our hearts desires and our needs, our Love for God and our disappointing failures. Then we must listen for God's response to us. The perception of His presence, the comfort of His love, and the understanding of His will, come to us in subtle and sometimes unexpected ways. If we are quiet and open to His presence we will grow in our ability to perceive His guidance.

Meditation is an extension of prayer. It is listening for God without an agenda and requires that we sit quietly and wait. We must attempt to empty our minds of all except Christ, inviting only Him to occupy us. We may focus on something benign to assist us. For example if we focus on our breathing we might think of our exhaling as getting rid of all that would distract us, and our inhaling as receiving all the good that God would have us receive. This quietness and focus on God will reap the joy and blessed assurance of His presence, helping us to grow more faithful to His guidance.

Fasting is an action, which expresses and exercises our commitment to that which we seek in prayer. It exercises our willingness to say no to lesser needs in order to commit our energies and resources to the will of our Lord. It is not starving! It is a decision, made in prayer, to forgo some simple pleasure for a period of time as an expression of our commitment to a particular petition.

Study is an expression of our desire to know the Lord. The study of scripture opens us to the living Word of God. Paul told Timothy:

"You have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." (2 Timothy 3:15-17)

Yet Scripture is not the only appropriate object of our study. Many godly men and women have written down the fruits of their meditations and experience. We can gain much from those saints who have gone before us. Likewise, each day scientists discover new details about the wonders of God's creation. These too deserver our attention.

"Stop and consider God's wonders. Do you know how God controls the clouds and makes his lightning flash? 16Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who is perfect in knowledge?" (Job 37:14-16)

Paul exhorts us " whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things" (Philippians 4:8).

The Outward Disciplines

Simplicity is the means by which we unclutter our lives and our time to make more room for the work of the Lord. The long list of things which encumber our time, attention, and money, can be cut to a minimum in order to make room for more Christ-centered and God-directed life.

Do we need 3 televisions, 2 cars, six pairs of shoes, and a host of collectibles? Must we be involved in 4 committees, 2 support groups and 2 jobs? Is our entertainment expense higher than our food budget? Does our allotment of time and energy each day reflect our real priorities or are we majoring in minors? Only you can answer these questions, and only the Lord can lead you to a healthy balance in your life. Removing the clutter from our schedules, our surroundings, and our minds almost always helps us to live a more peaceful, Christ-centered life.

Solitude, like meditation and simplicity makes room for God in our lives. Our constant availability to people is nurtured by the cell phone, e-mail, instant messaging and invitations to just drop by. Social entertainment opportunities abound and Media forms bombard us during every hour of the day. Today many people sleep with the TV, radio or stereo on, thus completing the full 24 hour cycle without a moment of silence. How will we hear the "still small voice" that came to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:12?

"And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore into the mountains and broke the rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a still small voice.

So it was, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood in the entrance of the cave. Suddenly a voice came to him, and said, What are you doing here, Elijah? "

Sometimes we need to ask ourselves that question? What are you doing here? Too frequently our doing is more distraction than action. We must learn to be alone with our thoughts, to turn off all the sound devices, and get away from the phone for at least a few minutes every day. It is in the silent solitude that we hear only the Lord. It is in this silence that our inner self is opened up by the stripping away of our defenses. The importance of these times of solitude in our relationship with God cannot be overstated!

Submission and Service are quite under rated in Western Culture. We are taught to take care of ourselves and be true to ourselves. We go to class to learn assertiveness! The standard approaches to resolving differences are compromise or litigation. And "Giving-in" without getting something in return is seen as weakness. But that is not what Jesus taught. He told us if someone wants to take our shirt we should give them our coat as well.
"Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you." (Matthew 5:42)

Jesus also said "whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all." (Matthew 10:43)

The call of the gospel is to "serve one another," "comfort one another," "bear one another's burdens" and "clothe yourselves with humility toward one another"

We are to "submit to one another," "submit to God," and "submit to the authorities," whether that be our government, our boss, our spouse or our parent! This is a testimony if independence. We are no longer dependent on our circumstance, or on getting our way. Our Joy and strength can come from the Lord alone.

Clearly, growing in the Lord means growing in our ability to joyfully and lovingly set aside our own will to accomplish the will of another.
The Corporate Disciplines

Joining with others in worship and celebration is also important to our spiritual growth. Jesus said "For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20)

Public prayer and scripture study are as important as private prayer and study. These bring us in touch with the needs and wisdom of others. The sharing of ideas, and experiences works to strengthen the entire group. Jesus himself made it His custom to attend the public gatherings of believers.

In addition, public worship is a witness to unbelievers and an affirmation of our commitment to the work of the Lord. By our attendance at public worship we make a stand for the Lord. This may seem minimal in the current American culture, but there are nations where standing with other Christian believers requires great courage and commitment.

No Christian should try to "go it alone." We are on a journey toward God and we should remain aware of the multitude of others who travel with us. God's work is in the whole world and His vineyard encompasses not just individuals, but all the nations of the earth and all the galaxies of the universe. When we join His work we must stretch our selves and expand our concerns. We will need to work with the others with whom we share this journey. And in doing so we will learn to trust the people of God.

The disciplines of Confession and Guidance grow out of the trust which develops between believers. We need the prayers and guidance of others in our weakness. James reminds us of these things:

"Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective." (James 5:13-16)

There are sins which will not give way to victory until we are willing to humbly admit them, and bury our pride. Yet with a humble heart and the prayers of the church the chains fall away. Confession is not about public humiliation, it is about our need for prayer and the power of the church united.

I am not suggesting that every sin should be confessed before the whole church, or that every decision should be taken up by the church for guidance. What I do believe is that these are additional ways that we may seek the grace of God in our lives.

We must not shy away from full participation with other Christians. We are called to be a community of believers who will worship together, celebrate together, grieve together, pray together, learn together, and move together for the purposes of the Almighty.

So, with that we end our mini-study on the classic disciplines of the Christian life which are the "way's within the Way."

In Our last lesson in the series. We will be talking more about the Church and it's place in the Way of God.
Lesson Six: Christ's Way and the Church

The Marks of those on the Way

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another."
John 13:34-35

Love is the hallmark of Christ's presence, and those who are in the way can be identified by it. The work of being a Christian is the work of Love. We are not invited to love our enemies, our neighbors, our brethren, ourselves and our God. We are commanded to do so. Love is never optional for the Christian and there is no excuse or reason for not loving... not ever!

1 Corinthians 13:4-8
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." This is not an easy command when we look at Paul's definition of love. It is many faceted and demands much. None of us have arrived! We are all on the journey. Never the less, if we have found the Way we can be assured that love has begun to shine from our lives.

Dr. Jones reminds us that the insignificant are made significant by the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It does not matter how humble, how damaged, how downtrodden, or how bad you were before you decided to follow Jesus. Once you stepped into the Way of the Lord you became royalty!

People on the Way are in tune with life. They become instruments of the plan of God and citizens of eternal life. Peter was an uneducated fisherman until the Holy Spirit filled his life. But empowered by the Holy Spirit Peter was a man of wisdom and influence whom God used in mighty ways.

Paul was not a strong man physically and he was deeply committed to the wrong cause until the Lord changed his direction and used him for a mighty purpose.

1 Corinthians 1:26-29
"Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things-and the things that are not-to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him."

Yet the secrets of the Kingdom of heaven have been revealed to us. We have become Sons and Daughters of the most high God by adoption, and we have been made co workers with God in His vineyard. The insignificant are made significant by the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

Grace is the free and undeserved gift of God's favor. It not only shines into the life of the believer, but it shines out as well.

Those who live by grace have an inner peace and confidence that cannot be imitated. The knowledge that "all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28) can sustain the believer in times of darkness or doubt.

Those who are in the Way are gracious in their acceptance of what ever their circumstance, and gracious in their interactions with others.

"The righteous will live by faith."(Romans 1:17)

It is not rules that should govern our lives, but faith in the Lord's ability to lead us in the Way, which is His will. Christians live by relationship, not by regulations. There is great privilege and liberation in that!

There is no substitute for fellowship with the Lord in our daily life. Prayer is essential to a growing relationship with God, and listening for His guidance keeps us from error. The more we are attentive to building our relationship with the Lord, the more confidence we will have that "He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..."(Philippians 1:6).

With these wonderful gifts of love, empowerment, grace and faith, the life of a Christian is a joyful celebration of God's presence. Life is never an experience of purposeless survival, but always an affirmation of purpose and humble adoration. God is very good. He has made us heirs of eternity and has poured upon us a spiritual richness which sustains us even in the most austere conditions.
The Marks of the Christian Church

With such blessing poured out in the lives of believers, the union of believers in the Church should always be a powerhouse of dynamic goodness. Unfortunately it has not always seemed so. There is a visible Church which has often been divided, rigid, weak and distorted by political motives. But behind the visible is that which is invincible! There is an invisible union of those Godly empowered people which are the reality of Christ's presence continuing to work in the world.

The visible institution is often tainted by worldly distortions, but the true church is the "Body of Christ" of which Paul says:

"You are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In Him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit." (Ephesians 2:19-22)

Of this invincible union of believers Jesus said, "The gates of hell will not over come it." (Matthew 16:18)

E. Stanley Jones makes these four statements about the nature of the church.

1. The Church is the Dynamic Corporal union of those whom Christ has called and prepared.
2. The Church is an international, inter-cultural, world-healing vision.
3. The Church is a center for reconciliation and affirmation of individuals and diversity.
4. The Church is characterized by Creative Contagion, Evangelism, and the proclamation of the Good news to everyone.

This is what the church is called to be. If your local church is missing the mark, you must pray fervently for the power of God to be made manifest in the work of your Church.
One Kingdom over All

Let us not leave the impression that God is at work only in the church, for that is not true. In fact God is at work in all the affairs of men and women and of nations. There is only One who is sovereign over all!

When we read the prophecy of Isaiah, or Ezekiel we cannot deny the stunning revelation of God's work in of the fate of nations. It is He who raises leaders to positions of power and He who deposes kings from their thrones. God has worked through all of History, in the actions of men and women and the wars of warning nations.

         "He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
         he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
         He has brought down rulers from their thrones
         but has lifted up the humble.
         He as filled the hungry with good things
         but has sent the rich away empty." (Luke 1:51-53)

There is only one Way and it is the Way of God who is sovereign. The Way that God ordained from the beginning is changeless and perfect. That Way leads ultimately to eternal wholeness and harmony for all of life. All the activities of men and nations lead ultimately to the perfect will of God.

We may walk in disharmony, but ultimately harmony will prevail. We may make bad decisions, but God is able to weave even bad decisions in to the tapestry of his perfect plan.
Is the Christian Way the only Way?

So, our final lesson has come to this. Is the way of Christ the only way? Absolutely! There is only one truth and Christ embodies the truth fully! There is only one God and Jesus is the perfect personification of the Almighty. He is "the radiance of God's glory an the exact representation of His being" (Hebrews 1:3).

Acts 4:12 tells us that "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." and Jesus himself said "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:7)

The Christian is exalted in the knowledge of Christ Jesus. In Him we see and experience a living relationship with the personification of almighty God. Yet God is one God. If we have met Christ, we have met God. If we have dwelt in the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have known the Living God. And if we have entrusted ourselves to the gracious care of the Father then Jesus died for us whether we know it or not. If we have found the truth we have found Christ. If we have found the way, we have found Christ.

This is not to say that it is not important to recognize, confess and proclaim Christ to the world. Rather it is only to open our minds to the breath and depth of God's love and the multi-dimensional revelation of God in the world.

The question is not whether Christ is the only way. Of course He is. The real question is whether people can be on that way without knowing the name of Jesus. I believe that one who has trusted in God with all his heart and soul and mind and strength will be saved by Christ. The Grace of Christ is sufficient! If a person has known the father has he not know the Son? Will he not recognize the personification of God when He comes in judgment? Will he not throw himself thankfully in to the arms of the one who has sealed his salvation even though he unfortunately never met him in this life.

I do not wish to go down the slippery slope to an impression that anything one believes is OK. It is not. It is not the strength of our belief that matters. It is the object of our belief that is important. There is only one God. Yahweh is His name. Allah is His name. Jesus is His name. I am is His name. Jehovah is His name. Alpha and Omega is His name. Glorious and Awesome is His name. Generations of people in every part of His kingdom have called upon him and trusted in his ability to keep that which they have committed unto Him against the day of judgment. And in Jesus Christ God made the way.

He is the Way whether we have know about Him or not. He is the only means of salvation whether we have heard about Him or not. Just as the tulips exist even though there are many who have never seen one, and the world rotated before we understood the concept of planetary movement. There is one God who is over all and in all and through all. He has provided for every one who puts his trust in Him. Jesus said. "In my Father's house there are many mansions." But there is only one way and that is God's way.
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