Monday Meditations 009: Build Hope

hope

Making people feel hopeless is not the prophetic anointing in either Old or New Covenants. God’s rebuke always contains hope for a different future for those who respond to God’s outstretched call to return.

~ Stephen Crosby in Healing: Hope or Hype?

As many Christians are becoming more vocal about the shortcomings of the institutional church, it is important that those voices also carry a constructive element as well.  If we become too stuck on seeing shortcomings and faults (which everyone has, no matter how correct one’s theology is), it is easy to become entangled in bitterness and tearing others down.

This is a dangerous place to be and is not the heart of God.

Only correcting someone does not provide them with a reason to change.  It is the hope beyond, the hope of something better that causes people to change and embrace a different paradigm.

And what is this hope?

It is not a system, a set of beliefs, or allegiance to a denomination, movement, or celebrity personality.

Our hope is simply Christ in us.

God decided to let his people know this rich and glorious secret which he has for all people. This secret is Christ himself, who is in you. He is our only hope for glory.  (Colossians 1:27)

May we also remember that the spirit of prophecy is to reveal Jesus Christ (Revelation 19:10).

The Lord and His body reveal both deviations from Christ, but also the path toward Him.

Build hope, and…

Follow the Life!

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Monday Meditations 008: True Freedom

freedomHappy Independence Day on this Monday, the 4th of July!  I’m very thankful to live in a free country where I am not persecuted for following Jesus.  (No, I don’t consider the current social disregard for Christ and Christians as persecution.)

I’d like to share something today that I wrote some time ago about our true freedom in Christ.  Just click below to read it.

What is Freedom in Christ?

Follow the Life!

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Monday Meditations 007: First Things First

friendsNow let me add one last word here that willhelp you in loving Jesus – doing things for God is not the same thing as loving God.

Jesus loved the poor – so, movements have arisen that make service to the poor the main thing.  Even though Jesus never said that being poor was more noble or even spiritual.  The lastest craze is justice – so we rush off to the corners of the globe to fight for justice… and often leave Jesus behind.  We actually come to think that service for Jesus is friendship with him.  That’s like a friend who washes your car and cleans your house but never goes anywhere with you – never comes to dinner, never wants to take a walk.  But they’re a “faithful” friend.  Though you never talk.

How many children have said, “My dad worked hard to provide for us – but all I ever really wanted was his love?”

This is – yet again – one more cunning ploy of the religious to keep us from the kind of intimacy with Jesus that will heal our lives.  And change the world.  We are not meant to merely love his teaching, or his morals, or his kindness or his social reforms.  We are meant to love the man himself, know him intimately; keep this as the first and foremost practice of our lives.  It is a fact that people most devoted to the work of the Lord actually spend the least amount of time with him.  First things first.  Love Jesus.

~ John Eldredge in Beautiful Outlaw

It’s easy to get caught up in doing activities for the Lord and miss the Person.  Even good activities.  This can happen in any relationship that loses the personal, relational aspect.

I imagine that if Jesus sat me down at the end of the year to review my “performance” (like they do where I work), He is going to be more concerned with whether or not I opened myself up to knowing Him more as a Person rather than how many “things” I accomplished for Him.

Not that we don’t want to accomplish things for the Lord, but when we set knowing Him intimately as our first priority, it is Him who leads us into the “things” He would have us do.  True divine activity in the world today is that which is initiated out from a vibrant relationship with Jesus.

The Apostle Paul counted all things as garbage compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).

Last month I and the folks at the 3rd Race blog all wrote about ways to create time with Jesus.

Some ideas for new ways to eat and drink the Lord:

  1. A Walk with God
  2. New Experiences With the Lord
  3. Date With the All in All
  4. Locked in a Box
  5. Creating with the Creator
  6. Tell Me About It
  7. Seeing Christ in the Courtyard
  8. Your Favorite Meals

Follow the Life!

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Monday Meditations 006: Is God Really at the Center of Your Life?

rp_175463074_f7b38e72bf_o-300x240.jpgSo much of what has caused mankind to stumble through the ages is that we have inappropriately placed ourselves at the center of life where God Himself desires to reside and function.

The following quote gets to the heart of this problem:

In this fallen way of life, people and things have worth only to the extent that they fill us.  Instead of simply ascribing unsurpassable worth to others because the Creator does, we ascribe limited worth to people depending on our judgment of them.  Do these people love me?  Do they please me?  Do they benefit me?  Do they affirm me?  Do they agree with my opinions?  We are the ones who declare that someone or something is good or evil, for we have set ourselves up as the center around which everything revolves, and therefore, the standard against which everything is measured.  “For man in the state of disunion,” Bonhoeffer says, “good consists in passing judgment, and the ultimate criterion is man himself.  Knowing good an evil, man is essentially judge.”

Every judgment we think, speak, or act upon presupposes that we are in a position of superiority over the person we judge.   It presupposes that we are “god” relative to the person or thing we judge.  The judgment is illegitimate because in reality we are not god to anyone.  We are not the center of anyone’s life.  Furthermore, the judgement is inaacurrate because in reality we are not wise like God.  We cannot know what God knows.  And the judgement is invariably self-serving, for we are using it to fill the God-shaped vacuum in our lives.

Our judgement cuts us off from our true source of life, and the person we judge becomes a source of life for us.  Our condemnation of that person, whether it be about a major lifestyle issue or a minor matter of appearance, gives us a momentary feeling of worth, of superiority, of fullness – of deity.  Though we are in fact empty, we can, at least in our own minds, stand over someone for a moment.  Though we ourselves are sinners, we can, at least for a moment, drink from the well of believing that at least we are not “like that person.”  However bad we may fell about ourselves, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil has something to feed us, at least for the moment.

If we are to live the life God intends for us, if we are to participate in the ecstatic love of the triune God, God must be restored as the center of our lives.  We must die to ourselves as center, die to our addiction to idols, and die to the perpetual judgments we entertain in our minds.  God can only be our source of life when he is the center of our lives.  So long as we thrust ourselves into the center, we will be forced to seek life from idols, juding good and evil, and thus be cut off from our source center.  We will live a life that is actually death.  The only way to discover true life is to die to the “life” of living as the center and be restored ot our true source center (Matt. 10:39; 16:25; cf. Gal. 2:19-20).

~ Greg Boyd in Repenting of Religion

Well, that’s something to think about this week…

Questions for discussion:

~ What part of this quote stands out the most to you?

~ What does this mean to you in practical daily life?

Follow the Life!

Quit Playing Religious Games

religious games

In 2008, Jon Foreman, the lead singer for Switchfoot, released a solo album that included a song titled Instead of a Show, based on Isaiah 1.  Here’s a video of the song:

When I first heard this, I was in a place of questioning many things about the organized church system, and this song became a sort of anthem in my head.  I pointed, aimed, and shot these lyrics directly at the church system, and I felt validated.

But over time, as I listened to the song, I realized that it wasn’t pointed at anyone else, or at least it wasn’t my job to point it at anyone… except myself.

It’s my own religious show that God detests.

It’s my own striving and struggling to prove that I’m good enough that God is fed up with.

Its the show that I put on to display that I (supposedly) have it all together that God can no longer stand.

It’s me who needs to realize that I can’t do God’s work for Him.  Spiritually speaking, I can’t do anything myself.

The problem is, I tend to pretend that I can.

How He hates all my show!

How frequently I need to remember my strength is found when I am weak, because when I acknowledge my weakness, Jesus can step in and work.

Thank goodness, He has done all the work and I can count it all finished in Christ.

This song has nothing to do with the church system; it is pointed inside at my own heart.

And instead of religious show, God asks that we show His love to ourselves and others.

How simple is that???

Follow the LIFE!

 

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Isaiah 1:11-20 (NLT)

11 “What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.
12 When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
13 Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
    and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.
    I want no more of your pious meetings.
14 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
    They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
15 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.
    Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
    for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
16 Wash yourselves and be clean!
    Get your sins out of my sight.
    Give up your evil ways.
17 Learn to do good.
    Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of orphans.
    Fight for the rights of widows.

18 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
    says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
    I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
    I will make them as white as wool.
19 If you will only obey me,
    you will have plenty to eat.
20 But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
    you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
    I, the Lord, have spoken!”

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A Walk with God

nature walkI have a new post this morning over at the good ‘ole 3rd Race Blog that I’m excited to share with you. 

The theme there this month is going on dates (spending time together) with the Lord. There are some great ideas and experiences being shared.

I wrote about a recent experience I had literally walking with Christ. 
The walk itself was a really rich experience, but the Lord showed some things to me afterwards that I summarize at the end of the post. 
Click here to read the article. 

Follow the Life!

What is love?

Love has become a clay word – it has been molded to mean many different things.  And if a word has too many meanings it means nothing.  In this article I take a deep dive into Who love is and the very nature of that love in its length, width, depth, and height, as God’s love is described in Ephesians.

Click to read this article on the 3rd Race Blog.  love

This is my first post with 3rd Race and I will continue contributing with the community of bloggers there on the fourth Tuesday of each month.  I know most of the contributors there personally and they are the salt of the earth, so I’m honored to join in with them.

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Follow the Life!

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Experiencing Christ as Our Satisfaction

Hello Jesus lovers!jesus christmas

I have a short reflection on Christ today posted over at Daniel Passini’s Faith-Marriage-Life blog.

It deals with something that I believe is an epidemic spiritual disease in our time, resulting in many people, including Christians, feeling lost and unsatisfied in life.

Daniel and his wife Amber have a heart to go deeper into Christ and to help people thrive in life and marriage.

It is an honor to be their online guest.  I hope you’ll check out some of their other material.

Click here to go to their site and read the article.

Follow the Life!

Peace, Joy, Hope and Love Have a Name

Whaaaaaat???  A new blog post from XP Christ???

I’ve been away for a while but have been working on getting back into the swing of blogging.

In the meantime, here’s a new Christmas song that just might bless your socks off.  It is a spoken word from Folk Angel, who release a new Christmas album each year.  They only release Christmas music and I look forward to the album at Christmas time.

Follow the Life!

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Can You Live Without Being Offended?

unoffended

Credit: Flickr user tind (CC)

The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  (James 1:20 ESV)

If you think you can judge others, you are wrong. When you judge them, you are really judging yourself guilty, because you do the same things they do. God judges those who do wrong things, and we know that his judging is right. You judge those who do wrong, but you do wrong yourselves. Do you think you will be able to escape the judgment of God?  (Rom. 2:1–3 NCV)

What’s more, for those who still want to make anger a nutritious part of their spiritual breakfasts: in the Bible’s “wisdom literature,” anger is always—not sometimes, always—associated with foolishness, not wisdom. The writer recognized that, yes, anger may visit us, but when it finds a residence, it’s “in the lap of fools” (Eccl. 7:9).

So what if—just dreaming out loud, here—Christians were known as the people you couldn’t offend?

~ Brant Hansen

Being angry and offended on behalf of God has become a sacred pastime for many Christians today.  As American culture becomes increasingly less interested in Christianity (to put it mildly), too many of Christ’s followers are, ironically, not following Christ in their response.

Instead of showing love and mercy, much of the church has become offended, which yields anger, bitterness, and separation.

However, the gospels reveal Jesus’ mercy towards those who appear to be the worst sinners, and he levels some pretty strong rebukes to those who think they are above sin.

But wasn’t Jesus angry at the religious Pharisees?  Perhaps, but it didn’t rule his heart.  In His last breaths on the cross, he asks God to forgive them even though they didn’t have a clue what they had done.

So what are we to do when we are offended, angry, and hurt?

Enter Brant Hansen’s book, Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better.

I don’t usually say, “Every Christian needs to read this book,” because it has become a bit overused and cliché, so I really mean this: every Christian needs to read this book.

Brant is a Christian radio DJ and also turns out to be a great writer.  He hits hard on a tough subject, but does it with love and good natured humor (check out the chapter titles alone to get an idea of the humor).  I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though it was very challenging.

But most importantly, I believe Brant has revealed the unoffendable nature of Jesus Christ.  This is a game changer for those who desire to let Jesus live through them.  You can’t be angry and love others.  It just doesn’t work.  God’s way is forgiveness, and any judgment belongs to Him.

Not only that, but I’ve found that one important, distinguishing factor in Christ-like maturity is the ability to overlook an offense and choose love.

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.  (Proverbs 19:11 ESV)

Here are some quotes directly from the book.  I highlighted a ton of this book, so it was hard to choose only a few quotes!

It’s true that sometimes people try to offend us, and they’re intentionally hurtful and spiteful. And yet, there Jesus is, on the cross, saying, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they’re doing.” A fair question, then: Is that same Jesus living in and through me, still saying that?

We should forfeit our right to be offended. That means forfeiting our right to hold on to anger. When we do this, we’ll be making a sacrifice that’s very pleasing to God. It strikes at our very pride. It forces us not only to think about humility, but to actually be humble. I used to think it was incumbent upon a Christian to take offense. I now think we should be the most refreshingly unoffendable people on a planet that seems to spin on an axis of offense.

Forfeiting our right to anger makes us deny ourselves, and makes us others-centered. When we start living this way, it changes everything. Actually, it’s not even “forfeiting” a right, because the right doesn’t exist. We’re told to forgive, and that means anger has to go, whether we’ve decided our own anger is “righteous” or not.

We won’t often admit this, but we like being angry. We don’t like what caused the anger, to be sure; we just like thinking we’ve “got” something on someone. So-and-so did something wrong, sometimes horribly wrong, and anger offers us a sense of moral superiority.

But inconveniently, there’s this proverb that says, “You may believe you are doing right, but the LORD will judge your reasons” (Prov. 16:2 NCV). So it’s not just me. We all, apparently, find ourselves pretty darn convincing. Of course my anger is righteous. It’s righteous because, clearly, I’m right, and they’re wrong. My ways seem pure to me. Always.

We humans are experts at casting ourselves as victims and rewriting narratives that put us in the center of injustices. (More on this in a bit.) And we can repaint our anger or hatred of someone—say, anyone who threatens us—into a righteous-looking work of art. And yet, remarkably, in Jesus’ teaching, there is no allowance for “Okay, well, if someone really is a jerk, then yeah—you need to be offended.” We’re flat-out told to forgive, even—especially!—the very stuff that’s understandably maddening and legitimately offensive.

The thing that you think makes your anger “righteous” is the very thing you are called to forgive.

Anger is extraordinarily easy. It’s our default setting. Love is very difficult. Love is a miracle.

Upon hearing my ideas on anger, a radio listener told me, “I don’t get it. Shouldn’t we be angry at those guys in the news who beat up homeless people?” Here’s what I think, given that we’re to “get rid of all anger”: Anger will happen; we’re human. But we can’t keep it. Like the Reverend King, we can recognize injustice, grieve it, and act against it—but without rage, without malice, and without anger. We have enough motivation, I hope, to defend the defenseless and protect the vulnerable, without needing anger. Seek justice; love mercy. You don’t have to be angry to do that. People say we have to get angry to fight injustice, but I’ve noticed that the best police officers don’t do their jobs in anger. The best soldiers don’t function out of anger. Anger does not enhance judgment.

Choosing not to take offense is not about simply ignoring wrongs. If someone, say, cuts in front of you in line, you can address the situation. You don’t have to simply accept it. But you can act without contempt, anger, and bitterness.

Yet another wrinkle: when there are two “sides” to a story, we tend to think the first one we hear is the right one. I learned this, of course, by watching The People’s Court after school every day. I always thought the plaintiff had a great case . . . until I heard the other side. This bias is universal. It’s not new, either. Check out Proverbs 18:17: “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him” (NKJV). Life is full of conflicts, disputes, differing perspectives . . . and in all of those, guess whose perspective I hear first? That’s easy: mine. I establish a story line, and I can get angry before I even hear the other side, which is yet another reason to be very suspicious of ourselves. So let’s have the guts—and the humility—to believe what the Bible says about us, and what the research shows us. We simply can’t trust ourselves in our judgments of others. We don’t know what they’re really thinking, or their background, or what really motivated whatever they did. And since we don’t know, let’s choose ahead of time: we’re just not going to get offended by people. If I don’t need to be right, I don’t have to reshape reality to fit “The Story of My Rightness.”

That person you find so offensive? Somehow, God sees something there. Something you don’t. Ask Him what it is. Maybe He’ll show you. I bet He wants to.

I actually sleep better when I’ve chosen to be unoffendable.

It finally occurred to me that we can’t be agents of healing in people’s lives unless we’re ready to bear their wounds for them and from them.

We decide to be unoffendable because that’s how love operates; it gives up its “status” entirely.

but the more we divest ourselves of ourselves, the better our lives get. Jesus told us as much. He said if we’d give up our lives, for His sake, we’d find real life.

Follow the Life!
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Jesus is the Essence and Source of the Church (and everything else, too)

essence source

Credit: Flickr user mxing-m

Everything draws its essence from him, and God gave him, him alone, to the assembly as the source of everything it needs. The assembly is, in fact, his body, and every individual contributes to bring his body to a state of completion.

(Ephesians 1:22-23, The Source NT, emphasis mine)

Um… wow.  I have to say that these verses in this translation have just blown me away as of late.

Jesus is the essence of the church.

Jesus is the source of the church.

Everything we need is in Him.

Everything draws its essence, its value, its fragrance, from Him.

And He loves to give all of this to us.

What is true about us because of our identity in Christ is permanent.  It is never untrue.  (Let that sink in for a minute.)  The essence, or nature, of Christ never changes.

Jesus is the real, ultimate essence of His body.  We are the essence of Christ, kind of like a portrait captures the essence of a person or a landscape, but so much more.

Because Jesus is our essence and source, our identity and our real life is found in Him.

The body is the fragrance of Christ in the world.

The body can hold the essence of Christ and also express that essence as we abide in Him.

Our most significant quality is Jesus being uniquely expressed through each member of His body.

Jesus is our source.  He is the origin of the River of Life that flows out from Him and in and through us.  The “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” in Ephesians 1 originate and flow from Him.  It is our union with Jesus as One New Man that gives us access to the blessings.  It is all in and from Him.

Saints, how can we be selfless?

How can we not be anxious about tomorrow?

How can Jesus’ body have one mind?

How can Jesus’ body have one Spirit?

How can we love others as Christ has loved us?

How can we live mutually submitted to each other?

How can we see past each others’ flaws and sins?

How do we not keep a record of wrongs?

How can we be slow to anger and abound in love?

How can we always see the best in each other?

The reality is… we can’t!

Only with Jesus as our essence and our source, our origin, can we accomplish anything of true worth.  Only in Him can we live and move in the divine.

You are the essence of Christ, and He is your Source.

We are the essence of Christ, and He is our Source.

No one else.  Nothing else.

Only Jesus.

This is the key to all spiritual life.

Follow the Life!

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If you would like to expand on the theme of Jesus as our Source and abiding in Him, check out the series going on at the 3rd Race blog.

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Psalm 23: Why Jesus Prepares a Table in the Midst of Our Enemies

psalm 23Rewriting Psalm 23… I’ve done this exercise many times and I’ve found so much life in it.  I’ve found that the Spirit will highlight different part of this brief chapter each time I reflect on it, and out flows a different version of the words.

Recently, two things were of special notice.

1. Jesus Himself is the green pasture!  He is leading us into Himself to experience his love and live by his own divine life.

2. It seems odd that Jesus would be preparing a feast for us while our enemies are closing in around us.  Unless of course, He has already defeated all our enemies and knows that they have no real power over us.  When we realize this, we need only to rest and feast at the Lord’s table, where He sustains us and feeds us with His life.  Taking on this posture of ignoring the enemy at our feet and resting peacefully at the Lord’s table shames the enemy and displays Jesus’ own character to the world.

Here’s my paraphrase with these two themes highlighted.

Psalm 23: Mark’s Paraphrase

Thank you Jesus that You are the Perfect Shepherd, and in Your life, we have everything that truly matters.  We only need to keep our eyes fixed on You, and You guide us into the greenest pastures – Your Life!  By Your Spirit, these pastures that are green and vibrant beyond all compare, are located inside of us.  In faith, we look within to find You and we rest in Your presence.  Your life in us gives a peace so that we can relax, like taking a long nap next to a bubbling stream.  We are healed and restored to our true selves as we sit with You.  From this place of rest and trust, we follow You anywhere You lead, and those who see us recognize You and call us by Your name.

Even when the path to Your green pastures winds through dark and dangerous valleys, we keep our eyes on You and fear nothing.  Your gentle and patient leading brings an inner contentment despite our circumstances.  Even when we are surrounded by enemies on all sides, You invite us to rest and feast in You, the Bread of Life.  While we have no power in ourselves, our resting and feasting in Your life in all things brings shame to any who stand against You, and renders them powerless against us.  True religion is on display to the world as we dine at your table in rest and joy.  Meanwhile Your Spirit, Your scent, Your being blooms inside of us so that we overflow with Your life.

We are joined together with You for all eternity, and we will live with Your family in Your house forever.

Follow the Life!

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Stephen Hawking Can’t Explain You

treasure stephen hawking

Credit: Flickr user bernatcg (CC)

Do you think we can ever know everything about Christ?

I believe we’ve barely scratched the surface of exploring the “unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8).

As John wrote at the end of his gospel:

Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.  (John 21:25)

And these were only the things He did while on the earth.

When the saints I’m pursuing Christ with gather together we often sing a song titled The Half Cannot Be Fancied. The first verse and chorus go like this:

To Jesus every day I find
My heart is closer drawn
You’re fairer than the sons of men
And fresher than the morn;
You’re all that I can say of You
And infinitely more,
And every day You’re dearer
Than You were the day before

The half (the half)
Cannot be fancied
Of such (of such)
A treasure store,
And every day You’re dearer
Than You were the day before

Scientists are still working to unveil the deep mysteries of the earth, nature, and the universe.  With such limited understanding and knowledge of these things, how can we expect to fully comprehend the One who created these things?

And these are but the outer fringe of his works; how faint the whisper we hear of him! Who then can understand the thunder of his power?  (Job 26:14)

And yet, it is God’s pleasure to reveal Himself to us.

All things have been delivered to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and he to whom the Son wills to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)

I recently heard a modern version of The Half Cannot Be Fancied on the radio in a song by Weezer called DaVinci.  While they may be singing about a woman, I believe the song echoes the unsearchable riches of our Christ, and that our finite minds are simply unable to grasp all of Him.  Thankfully, God has planted His Spirit in us so that even the weakest could begin to comprehend who Christ is, especially when they join together in expressing Him to each other.

God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.

Listen to some of the lyrics of DaVinci:

I tried describing you to all my friends
But they just told me to polish my lens
You’re sweet, generous, my sweetheart
I don’t even know where to start

Even Da Vinci couldn’t paint you
Stephen Hawking can’t explain you
Rosetta Stone could not translate you
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words
I couldn’t put it in a novel
I wrote a page, but it was awful
Now I just want to sing your gospel
I’m at a loss for words, I’m at a loss for words

Sorry DaVinci.  Sorry Stephen Hawking.  Sorry Rosetta Stone.

You haven’t even scratched the surface of describing, knowing, or translating the ultimate Truth.

Now I just want to sing His gospel…

Follow the Life!

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Introducing a New Blogger!

Have you ever wondered what was happening before creation?

creation

Credit: Flickr user k_putt (CC)

I’d like to introduce you to a sister in Christ, Joelle, who began a new blogging adventure this week and begins to peel back the layers of this question in her first post.  Her blog will be focused on the infinite ways that Christ reveals and expresses himself through creation.  Joelle is an ecologist, and now also a writer, so this is right up her alley.

I hope you’ll swing over there, check it out, and sign up to get her new posts!

Joelle’s Blog: Even The Rocks Will Cry Out

Here’s an excerpt from Joelle’s About This Blog page:

As we look around at the endless tapestry of creation, we see that the more we look, the more we find that all of it speaks of our Creator, Jesus Christ. The same is true when we read our story with Him that began ages ago in the garden…He appears as the constant thread throughout human history and has also surrounded us with what He has made.

This blog is meant to be an exploration of that: A venture to start viewing the world differently.

Every tree, gust of wind, deep river, and animal call is beautiful in its own right, but it also speaks of a deeper, infinite world in Jesus Christ. It tells us of His character. It tells us how He relates. It tells us what His perfect love looks like. It even tells us who we are in Him.

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Overlooked Christmas Treasures Part 2: Joy to the World

joy to the world

Credit: Flickr user derekbruff

Have you ever sung all of the lyrics to Joy to the World?

I’m continuing today with another overlooked Christmas treasure in one of the latter verses of the traditional Christmas hymn Joy to the World.

You can read part 1 of this series here.

The third verse of Joy to the World, which I’ve probably only sung a few times, though I’ve sung the beginning of the song many, many times, goes like this:

No more let sins and sorrows grow
Nor thorns infest the ground
He comes to make
His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found
Far as the curse is found
Far as, far as the curse is found

Read more: Christmas Carols – Joy To The World Lyrics | MetroLyrics

When I read or hear these words, I hear a beautiful expression of the new kingdom that Jesus established in the “here and now”.

When we partake of the life of Christ, we are touching this new kingdom.

When we live together in community, we are expressing this new kingdom.

When others see the joy and love of Christ in us, we are expanding this new kingdom.

But what happens in this new kingdom?  In the stanza above, the blessings of Christ flow and the curse is reversed!

Hallelujah, in this new kingdom, the effects of the curse are being reversed as Christ’s life flows through us in the Spirit.

What better news to share and sing about this Christmas!

Let every heart prepare Him room, and…

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Overlooked Christmas Treasures Part 1

nativity story christmas hidden treasure

Credit: Flickr user jeffweese

If you are anything like me, you know the lyrics to the first verse of lots of Christmas songs, but rarely the whole song.  What I’ve found in recent years is that by not really paying attention to the latter verses of traditional and popular Christmas songs, I’ve missed some of the most beautiful parts of those songs.

Silent Night

You’ve probably sung the lyrics to Silent Night with a group and only sung the first verse because most people don’t know the rest.  But look at the beauty of the second verse:

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, love’s pure light
Radiant beams from thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at thy birth
Jesus, Lord at thy birth.

Read more: Christmas Carols – Silent Night Lyrics | MetroLyrics

“Son of God, love’s pure light!”

Jesus is God’s expression of love to us.  It is His love that brings light to our spirit, and the light of God’s perfect love beamed from His holy face.

In Christ was the dawn of something new; not only a new birth for Him, but a new birth for us, and for all of creation!  In Him was the grace of God that redeems all things.

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Renewing Christmas Music

Here are three posts from last year with some Christmas music that you typically won’t hear on the radio or in stores this Christmas season.  The typical Christmas music is played so much that it gets old quick at Christmas time (at least it does for me).  The links below have some new songs and some fresh takes on the classic Christmas Hymns.

Enjoy!

Renewing Christmas Music Part 1

Renewing Christmas Music Part 2

Renewing Christmas Music Part 3: Folk Angel

 

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A Christmas Reminder

Christmas is a beautiful reminder of how Jesus wielded divine power:

Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (‭Philippians‬ ‭2‬:‭6-11‬ NLT)

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Jesus Has Friends in Low Places

jesus love friend in low placesA while back, I rewrote the lyrics to the popular Garth Brooks song, Friends in Low Places.  I was inspired by a prolonged encounter with someone who was being quite self-righteous, and it dawned on me how much time Jesus spent with those that were just “normal” people. In fact, He was so close to these folks that He was called a glutton and a drunk.  He was called the Friend of Sinners.

The blue-collar, rough around the edges, love to have a good time, hear a good story, and laugh hard a great joke kind of people.

The struggling to survive, worried about taking care of their family kind of people.

The sick, prostitute, destitute, demon possessed kind of people.

The low class fisherman and the hated “traitor” tax collector kind of people.

Jesus loved them all, and these people were found in His ranks as His closest followers.

Before I get into the song, here’s a few notes to consider:

  • This is not written to condemn any individual or group, but towards the religious, self-righteous mindset or spirit.  This is a mindset that relies on one’s own external performance to be counted as good and righteous before God.  The self-righteous spirit often assumes that anyone doing less than them is not worthy of love and respect.
  • The self-righteous spirit causes one to rely on our own power to please God, rather than resting in what Christ has done for us already.
  • We all may fall prey to this spirit at times.
  • “God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.”  (Matt 5:3, NLT)

Jesus Has Friends in Low Places

Blame it all on my roots
I don’t give two hoots
About your religious affair

Believe me I know
You’re all about show
It’s all about yourselves that you care

And I saw the surprise
And the fear in your eyes
When I healed that man of his pain

He looked at you
Said now your power is through
Now he is livin’ again

(Chorus)
‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places
Prostitutes and drunks
But My love chases their sins away
And they’ll be okay
Now they’re not in your social graces
But they know real heavenly places
Oh I’ve got friends
In low places

You say they are wrong
And just don’t belong
Like you’ve never been there before

Everything’s alright
Now they have new sight
It’s you who are truly poor

Hey I didn’t mean
To cause a big scene
Just give me the broken and then
We’ll step outside of these whitewashed tombs
That you’re livin’ in!

(Chorus 2x)

Here’s the music for the song.

 

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Growing Deeper in Christ By Living Simply- Comment Highlight

live simply simple simplicity wealth

Photo Credit: Flickr user Katie@! (CC)

The following comment was posted on an older post I wrote about wealth and living simply.  You can read that post here: The Myth of Wealth.

I really appreciated this comment and wanted to highlight it for others to read as well.  Ironically, I met together with a group of believers this weekend to share a meal and the Lord’s Supper together and this topic came up.  Two of the families that were there are in the process of selling just about all of their possessions to follow Christ in some new and exciting ways.  Both families will need to be flexible and mobile to follow Christ, and we shared together about the freedom of becoming less attached to the things of this world.

I have found that owning less makes me more available to Christ because those things no longer have any stronghold in my heart. I also learn to not place my trust in possessions.

Jesus wants our trust to be in Him.  Not that there is anything wrong with owning things; the crucial factor is whether or not these things take the place in our hearts above Christ Himself.  I would rather have Christ and nothing else than to have everything and no Christ.

Here’s the comment:

Thank you for this, Mark. Christ is infinitely more desirable than all the “things” one can try to acquire. Though it’s hard most days, I’m grateful that He is the only “wealth” I have. I’ve learned to live without a lot of things. My necessities are the bare necessities.

It may sound strange, but it really is a blessed life. It’s not better or somehow glamorous compared to having more income. I’m blessed not because Christ is all I have, but because He’s become all I WANT. Sure, I’d love to have an apartment that’s not in somebody’s basement, and a little extra to save for a rainy day, but I don’t, and somehow that’s ok. I want “inward mobility” – growing deeper into Christ, and Him into me. He is my one Treasure.

All that said, it’s really frustrating being around Christians who have much more than they need, and are blind to the poverty around them, especially that of their own brothers and sisters. I’m in a small group at a traditional church with some really sweet people, but none of them know any lack. They make sure the tithes get in (so God will continue to bless them) but they don’t share what they have. It’s very sad. Why would the poor want to join a church and follow a “Jesus” who doesn’t care about their need, where no one ever asks if they’re alright?

– Amanda
Amanda’s Blog (All and In All)

 

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