Friday, October 23, 2009

The Mind of Christ, Part 1

When you think about it, what an amazing promise and an amazing gift…the mind of Christ! I have been reading through the gospels over and over for the last 12 years, and I so much want to be like Jesus. I want his compassion and his love and his wisdom. And I know how far away I am from being like him. But then, Paul writes to the Corinthians that we, that I, have his mind!

A few years ago there was a lot of attention given to the question “What would Jesus Do?” Of course, often it is not clear what he would do because he lived 2000 years ago when the world was very different. I recall seeing a article in the paper during the WWJD phenomenon entitled “What Would Jesus Drive?” I don’t see the issue of the kind of car Jesus would drive addressed in the gospels: compact, environmentally friendly car…a rugged SUV… American made or Japanese? Jesus didn’t live in our time when we face these kinds of questions, and many, more important ones. And yet, he is living in these times, in his followers, and we have his mind!

I admit to wearing a WWJD bracelet back then. I discovered that not only was it not always clear what he would do, but there where times when I knew exactly what he would do and I decided to do something different. Knowing what Jesus would do, and then actually doing it are not the same thing.

We have the mind of Christ. The mind directs the body (recall the Church is called the Body of Christ- he is the head). As I continued to reflect on this, I began to picture his mind being totally available to me, 24/7. And I wondered, what if I set about to intentionally direct all of my sensory data and experiences to his mind? Everything of course would come first to my mind, but in a split-second I could raise the question, what about your mind, Jesus? How are you experiencing and seeing this situation. In a sense, I would attempt to unplug my sensory input from my mind and plug it into to his mind. (By the way, I know this is probably not the theologically correct to understand what is meant by the mind of Christ, but my theological correctness has not consistently produced the Christ-likeness I desire).

So here is the experiment. I would wake up each day and begin by remembering that I have the mind of Christ, and I would thank God for this. I would attempt to keep that thought close by all day. And then, as I experienced my day, I would consciously re-direct my sensory data to his mind. For example, as I would see things, I would ask Jesus, “what are you seeing?” As I would hear things, I would ask Jesus, “what are you hearing?”

As I write these words, I am not entirely sure how they are different from the WWJD question. But they feel different to me. I am not reaching back 2000 years ago to someone I respect and asking the theoretical question of what he would do. He is with me- his mind is present and accessible to me in the here and now circumstances. I am not accessing the body of teaching of Jesus recorded for us by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I am in conversation with Jesus himself, fully present now- the mind of Christ.

Just to be clear (and probably redundant), the process is to live remembering that I have his mind. Then, as I experience life, I consciously direct my experience to his mind. Then I listen. Then I act.

In the first few days of this experiment, I happened to be invited to a talk given in Harlem by former pastor and author Ed Dobson. His book “The Year of Living Like Jesus” had just been published. If I was looking for God to confirm that I was on the right track, I got it that morning.

Ed began his talk with the words: Christians are into what you believe more than how you live. Guilty. The test of faith for me has always been more about belief than behavior, which is such an unbiblical idea (think Matt 25- I never knew you.). It’s not either or. The two cannot be separated.

In the introduction to his book, Dobson writes:

“One of the desires of a disciple is the desire to be just like the rabbi. The disciple wants to walk like the rabbi, talk like the rabbi, live like the rabbi, move like the rabbi, respond like the rabbi…I want to be like Jesus. I too want to walk like him, talk like him, live like him, move like him, respond like him.”

I have his mind. Should not my body then be able to follow him, and to be like him?

I have probably now exceeded the attention span of anyone who has read this far, so I am going to report on what actually happened as I attempted to live by the mind of Christ in my next blog entry. Plus, I want to give it a bit more time.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Mind of Craig

Tuesday mornings begin early for me as I hook up with about 8 guys at 7 AM at a Starbucks on NYU’s campus in Greenwich Village. They say that New York is the city that never sleeps- not quite true. New Yorkers stay up late- and consequently, the morning rush doesn’t begin until at about 8 AM. So a 7 AM meeting can be challenging for New Yorkers.

My commute begins at 6:30 with a 1/3 mile walk, followed by a subway ride, and then another 1/3 mile walk. Still adjusting to life without a car. They are just unlocking the doors to the Starbucks when I arrive. Most of us stayed up too late the night before. One of my friends told me that he often sits down to dinner around 11:00 PM. So coffee is indispensible as we sit around the table and dive into our discussion of 1 Corinthians.

We have only been at this for a month, but it has been very enriching. We take a passage every week, all commit to reading it each day and taking some time to reflect on it We are also all reading the same commentary. By the time we get together, there is a lot to share. I realize that in many respects, learning the Bible in this way is so much more powerful and potentially life-changing than listening to someone give a message, no matter how great the teacher is. The ability to interact about a portion of Scripture as we have each wrestled with it personally, struggled to personalize and apply it, and placed ourselves in a position each day to be taught by God’s Spirit creates a dynamic learning environment. So far each week, when I listen to my friends describe their encounter with the text and with God, I learn things that I did not see in my own study. It’s definitely been worth getting up “early”.

This past week, a phrase at the end of 1 Corinthians 2 really penetrated my heart deeply. After contrasting worldly wisdom and wisdom that comes from God, Paul makes the assertion that “we have the mind of Christ”. What does it mean for me to have the mind of Christ? Here are some of my thoughts so far in answer to that question.

I know the mind of Craig. That mind directs what I do. I experience the world through my senses, evaluate what I experience, and filter it all through my values and beliefs. My mind has been formed by thousands of life experiences as well- good and bad. And then there’s the reality of my fallen condition. The Bible is clear that there still exists in my forgiven and redeemed person a thing called my “flesh”. All of these things are somehow mysteriously involved as my mind directs how I respond. Evil forces are also at work, exerting an influence on my mind. So…in any given moment, my behavior, my attitudes, my emotions are the product of all these things processed through my mind. This helps explain why I, like Paul (see 1 Cor 7have the repeated experience of doing the things I do not want to do, and not doing the things I do want to do. Sounds schizophrenic. Is there a way out? Paul’s answer to that questions is…Jesus.

What about the mind of Christ? Can my sensory experiences and thoughts be filtered through his mind, thus directing a different set of behaviors? I may have the mind of Christ, but knowing that as a fact hasn’t eliminated the mind of Craig from influencing and directing a whole lot of bad thoughts and behaviors. How do I access Christ’s mind?

As I thought about this, I came up with a little experiment. I am in the midst of trying it out, and so will wrap this up for now. In my next blog I will write about my experience as I attempt to not just have, but to access or utilize the mind of Christ.

Monday, October 5, 2009

This Sunday we eased into our new digs for our Sunday gathering. I say eased because even though the venue was different, and we had a band for the first time (yeah!), so much of the day felt the same as it has each Sunday for the past year. I realized that God has graciously allowed us to build a community of friends and friendship, with Jesus as our center.

We started at 8:00 AM at the school, hauling equipment up from the basement. Then tech and non tech people alike worked side by side and assembled the stuff necessary to make a joyful noise. Another group worked diligently to provide a welcoming environment, which of course included coffee and bagels. It was a beehive of activity leading up to the 10:30 start.

When 10:30 came, there was no one in the auditorium- ok- maybe a couple of people. It wasn't that no one came- they were out in the lobby and on the sidewalk enjoying conversation and enjoying being together...catching up with each other and meeting some new people. Just like it has been every week- we had to herd them into the meeting place.

When the gathering was over, people did not head for the doors- they stayed and hung out. In fact- after all the stuff was put away, we finally had to ask people to leave so the custodian could do his work and go home.

I share all this rather than the specific aspects of what went on in our time together because it is the most important thing to celebrate...the building of community. Last week a few of my friends e-mailed or texted me about the "launch" that was happening on Oct 4. I had to remind them that we launched the church in the Summer of 2008 when 18 people moved here from Michigan and began to meet and serve and love in Jesus' name. Oct 4 is simply one expression of how Jesus is growing his work among us.

In the past year we have served in over 100 serving projects, and Communitas people have spontaneously served in this city thousands of times. Each week 40-50 people meet in one kind of small group or another to learn together what it means to live as a follower of Jesus. All of this did not start Oct 4. In fact, we see our gathering time on Sunday as a time for us who have the been the church scattered all over NYC all week long to come together to celebrate the presence and work of Jesus in our lives and our community.

Having said that, Sunday was great! I have missed the chance to be lead in worship by people gifted by God to do so. Throughout the morning I looked at faces of people that I did not know a year ago whom God has touched this year in a significant way through Communitas. It really was a celebration of what God has already done.

If you'd like to hear the message from Sunday, we have attempted to put it on our website ( We are having a few technical bugs- so if this week's message is not available, or clear, tune in again as we straighten things out.

Friday, October 2, 2009

No Ordinary Moments

In his book, Reaching for the Invisible God, author Philip Yancey writes (and this is a paraphrase) that there are no ordinary moments in life. Truthfully, my reality seems to be the opposite. Most of life is far from extraordinary. Days are filled with errands, commuting from one place to another, chores, shopping, casual conversations, etc. Seems to be pretty mundane stuff that fills most of my hours and weeks and months between the occasional significant events. However, Yancey suggests that to think of life in this way is to miss out on a great deal that is happening right under my nose. Truth is, says Yancey, every moment I live, and particularly every interaction of any sort that I have with another human being, is pregnant with amazing potential. Just like a plot in a movie, Yancey writes, it can be the smallest things, the “chance encounters”, which can turn things in a dramatic or unexpected direction.

I remember seven years ago after reading these words that my eyes were opened to see many things in a new light. I was more fully present, particularly in what I perceived as the mundane and unspectacular. I was attentive and open, and almost daily there seemed to be divine encounters and unexpected situations which were far form mundane. But it didn't last. I slipped back into the routine of life and switched on the autopilot.

Yesterday, something happened that has awakened my desire to live again more fully aware. It was a simple event that had “ordinary” written all over it. We got a call in the early afternoon about a copy machine that a business on the west side was disposing of, and we needed to let them know right away if we were interested. It wasn’t a planned trip, but a free copy machine for our office was too good to pass up. So Dave and I jumped on the M34 bus and headed across town. Seemed like a routine matter- check out the machine, and arrange for a time to pick it up.

The machine was great- worth $1000s, and immediately available. We just had to haul it back across town. We arranged to come back on Friday. That could have been it. Nothing too significant about this situation. Then Dave asked one question of the office manager before we left: “Are you ok?” A simple question- and one that had nothing to do with why we were there… (or, was getting a free copy machine all that this moment was about)?

Dave asked the question because it was clear from her face and her body language that everything was not okay. In response, she said “no”, and started to weep, as she steadied herself against her desk as if she was about to fall under the weight of grief. I can’t reveal specifics of what was going on, but when asked if we could pray for her, she welcomed it. We (who were strangers 5 minutes earlier) ended up with our arms around each other, praying as she sobbed. I stood with the $1000 copy machine on my right and my left arm draped across her shoulders- a woman who matters so much to God that no price could be affixed to her.

As I reflect on this, I realize that this was potentially a very ordinary event, just an errand concerning a piece of office equipment, But it was pregnant with potential that was unleashed because Dave was paying attention, saw something (someone) that mattered much more than the equipment, and asked one simple three word question. In one moment the plot of the story changed dramatically from "machine pick up" to "caring for an office manager".

Is it really possible to live my life always aware, always seeing beyond the routine? Probably not. But today reminded me again that Yancey was right. Life itself is extraordinary. People are extraordinary. And every in situation there is more going on for the person who knows what to look for.