It was Saturday night and I took my laptop to a little café adjacent to the old motel where I was staying. Minding my own business, I was reviewing some needed updates for www.Pastorwoman.com, when a young couple came in and sat across from me. The guy said, 'Hey, are you really working-on Saturday night?' His question sparked an evening of back and forth conversation and continued camaraderie on a subsequent trip to old Flagstaff. And because my work is centered on my faith, matters of faith and philosophy became a topic of discussion, as is so often the case.
Craig was describing someone he knew as being really Christian, 'you know, the kind who actually reads his Bible-you know what I'm talking about?' he looked at me to see if I was tracking. I nodded. 'I mean, I consider myself a Christian, but I don't go that far, you know what I'm saying?' 'Oh yes, I get it,' I simply responded. 'I mean, do you-do you read the Bible?' he queried. I smiled and said, 'Well, as a matter of fact, I really do . . .'
It seems more often than not, folks describe themselves as spiritual. Truly, how many times have you heard the term, which is broad and vague and can mean anything a person wants.
Walking the sidewalks of Flagstaff and Sedona1, I see and sense the iterations of 'spiritual' all around me.
One might call herself Spiritual, because she visits a Native American medicine man
Or himself Spiritual, because he is a deep feeler, a soulful thinker
Or Spiritual, as in a wearer of crystals for various healing properties
Spiritual, as in more concerned with the human spirit or soul than material or physical things
Spiritual, as in belief in one's chakras - [centers of spiritual power in the human body]
Spiritual, as in a disciplined yoga practitioner
Spiritual, as in new age devotee
Spiritual, as in christian . . .
For that matter, people call themselves 'Christian' as in 'I'm not anything else, so I guess I'm Christian' . . .
Christian as in- 'well I'm not Jewish, so I'm Christian, right?'
Christian as in 'I used to go to the Methodist church with my gramma when I was little, so I guess that makes me Christian.'
Any or all of those things might have some value, but I am just not sure that they impress God too much. And that's where the rubber meets the road - what does the God of the Universe think of your spiritual life? And the fact is, no matter one's individual faith experience, it is of great value to understand just what beliefs about God one actually holds.
When Saul of Tarsus wished to wipe out the followers of the Way, he was, of course, staunchly Jewish. He rightly perceived Jesus' disciples as a huge threat to Judaism, the Torah and temple life as he knew it, studied it, and lived it. What influenced the man so greatly? As with so many of us,
The religion he was taught at home
was what influenced him most.
Consider his early life--born to a strict Pharisee father, Saul was trained as a "Hebrew of the Hebrews." Significantly, he also had Roman citizenship, which gave him political privilege and protection, which would come in handy later in his life. He was born in Tarsus2, a city that bustled with commerce and wealth. Since all Jewish men were expected to learn a trade, Saul learned the trade of tent making, one of the principal trades of Tarsus. However, it became clear early on that Saul's keen mind and serious disposition suited him well for training as a rabbi. The 'college' (yeshiva) to train young men for the ministry was in Jerusalem, so about age 13, Saul travelled to Jerusalem (2200+ miles by land), and began his studies under Rabbi Gamaliel. Saul was very well versed in Old Testament Scriptures, because of his rigorous study with Gamaliel, and was an articulate communicator.
No wonder he would not tolerate the rise and spread of what would soon come to be known as Christianity. Saul was a righteous, learned, devout Jew, plus he had power to do something about the growing threat. And obviously, though he knew the prophecies about the Messiah, he did not believe Jesus Christ was the long-awaited Messiah. He sanctioned the stoning of Stephen and the intense persecution of Jesus followers, but all because what he believed, he believed it wholeheartedly. So much that he risked his life for it ... and when Christ got ahold of him, when he saw the light, he similarly gave his all for Yeshua, the Messiah.
Are you and I so convinced, so sold out for our beliefs, our commitment to Jesus Christ, that we would give our all, or are we just spiritual? Hmmm.
1 - Flagstaff and Sedona - cities in Northern Arizona
2 - Tarsus is in southern Turkey, along the Mediterranean Ocean
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