Two fish sticks and a Sprite…a post by Joy

Two Fish Sticks and a green bottle of Sprite is what I ate and drank on Fridays for lunch in the the 7th grade during Lent Season. Although, we were having fish because there were lots of people giving up meat for the season, the fish sticks and Sprite were a treat for me. This was my first realization of the Lent season and even then I did not really know what it meant. I’m sure there must have been other food served with this delicacy such as French fries and slaw and maybe even a bread roll. Yet, for me, the two fish sticks and the cold green bottle of Sprite is all I can remember. Interestingly enough, during this Lent season, this visual has come to my mind at least 3 times.  I’ve actually asked Christ what invitation in my Spiritual Formation is He bringing to me with this memory.  What is it that I am supposed to pay attention to?

As I sat with it these last 2 weeks in particular, the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 men plus women and children kept coming to my mind. When the disciples noticed how late it was getting they suggested to Jesus that He send them home or to the villages to buy their own food.  Jesus told them that the people did not need to go away. He instructed them to give the people something to eat. Matthew 14: 17 states that the disciples told Jesus they only had 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. He requested that it be brought to Him. We all know the rest of the story of how Jesus miraculously fed all of these people until they were satisfied. And there were still 12 baskets left over.

In reading this story in Matthew 14: 14-21 and Mark 6: 34-44, the phrase that kept standing out to me was that “Jesus had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd…. (Mark 6:34). Matt. 14:14 says “….He saw a great crowd, and He had compassion on them and healed their sick. “  During this Lent season, with my own illustration of “two fish and a Sprite”, I am compelled to receive the compassion of Christ as we are now in the Holy Week working up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Somber Saturday, and Glorious Easter Sunday. We remember and celebrate His greatest work of compassion for us all this week. I am also compelled to show compassion to others and to myself in a way that is honoring of how Christ is working in me. May you each have a blessed Easter celebrating His compassion for us all!

Who knew?…a post by Tom

The spiritual life is not easy. Our false self does not go down without a fight, and one to the death. This is a really inconvenient battle to wage when it is challenging enough to just live life.  Who really knew what we were signing up for in following Jesus and taking this journey seriously? Who really knew that the path would evolve and feel more like death and descent? The One Who guides us knows. Others who have gone before know. Be encouraged by the following quote from Joseph Benner an American Protestant mystic who seems to know.

You, My Beloved, who have consecrated yourself to Me, and are bending every effort to find union with Me, but instead have found apparently that every prop of the World’s support has been withdrawn or is being withdrawn, and that you are without money and without friends, and know not where to turn for human help.

Learn, My Blessed One, that you are very, very, close now, and that if you will only continue to abide in Me, letting my Word abide in you and guide you, resting and trusting absolutely in My Promise, I will very soon bring to you a Joy, a Fulfillment, a Peace, that human words and human minds cannot possibly picture.

For you have obeyed My Commands, and have trusted Me, and have sought first My Kingdom and My Righteousness, and therefore will I add all other things unto you, even those the World has denied you.

-Joseph Benner, The Impersonal Life

Greetings!…a post by Tom

Matthew 28:9 (ESV)

And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him.

The first word of Jesus after his resurrection is hello. He has been betrayed, beaten, abandoned, crucified, and buried. When He rises from the dead and meets the scared and disoriented women He says…hello! The Greek word for greetings is pregnant with joy and energy. Jesus has no victim mentality or revenge seeking mindset. His mindset is one of greetings and joy.  His second words are “do not be afraid.”

A recent study has shown that people who say hello to others live longer. Somehow the simple act of reaching outside one’s insulated self for connection is beneficial. It is a way of being open instead of closed. The open tomb shows us that in Christ we have nothing to fear. Jesus’ resurrection has triumphed over sin, death and evil. Our attitude toward Life can be that of openness and hello regardless of how confused and disoriented we feel. Greetings when we are unsettled, greetings when we are weak, greetings when we are imperfect, greetings when we fail, greetings when we are ordinary, greetings when we feel useless, greetings when we are an outsider, greetings when we are suffering, greetings when we feel stupid. God comes to us disguised as our life, and in Christ we can say…”hello!”

Never a Monday Like Today…a post by Jim

Easter weekend is over. It is Monday. Now what?

I can only imagine the despair that the crucifixion brought to those who loved and followed Jesus. Saturday did nothing to change their shock, anger, and sorrow. But an empty tomb, appearances to the women and the followers on the road to Emmaus changed everything. Jesus was alive! His resurrection re-energized their lives in an unbelievable way to do unbelievable things.

In her wonderful book, A Theology of the Ordinary, Julie Canlis highlights the ‘culture (and cult) of the extraordinary’ in American and many churches. The point she makes is that “without an equal emphasis on discipleship in ‘normal life’ where our energy is less than infinite, the gospel can become imbalanced and undeveloped” (p. 2). As the Message translates the first verses of Romans 12, “So take your everyday, ordinary life … and place it before God as an offering.

How do we balance the miracles and revivals of the Apostles and the call to “aspire to live quietly, and to mind (y)our own affairs, and to work with (y)our hands” (1 Thess 4:11)? Are ‘ordinary’ Christians somehow missing something ‘extraordinary’ that God wants to do through us? Are we reacting in exhaustion to living ‘radical’ lives by being lazy stewards of our life and calling?

The answer is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. He became human to turn humanity back to the Father. In his death Jesus is our atonement, bringing us back into communion with God. In his resurrection Christ is re-birthing, sanctifying, and making EVERYTHING holy and new. In short, the radical has already happened in Christ. Because of Him ALL of life is now exceptional. There is no sacred/secular distinction. There is no ordinary/extraordinary bifurcation. ALL of life is ALIVE and INFUSED with His Spirit.  

It is good to know on this Monday after Easter that we are radical as we live our ordinary lives IN CHRIST. By His Spirit we are united to Christ, placed in Christ, living the very life of Christ in our ordinariness of life. The Spirit is not taking us out of creation (with all its ordinariness) but bringing heaven to earth, bringing creation under the Lordship of Christ to the glory of the Father.

Blessed Monday!

Scars…a post by Tom

This past Sunday was the second Sunday of Eastertide. The church calendar has shocked my evangelical sentiments into seeing that the season of Easter is not just one Sunday but a tidal surge of weeks leading through Pentecost and then the Ascension. Part of the Scripture reading was from the gospel of John chapter 20…

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord.

The disciples are in lockdown and fearful because the man they put all their chips on was crucified. However, wonderfully disturbing reports have been circulating about a resurrection. Jesus mysteriously appears to them and says “Peace”.   He does not say let’s get them back, carpet bomb the perpetrators, or woe is me look what happened. No victim mentality and no revenge, only a deep sense of shalom. After saying this he shows them the marks of the violence meant to end Him. Somehow his resurrection body includes the marks of His story.

Are you able to show the marks of the things that happened to you in life that should have ended it? Your divorce, illness, betrayals, death of loved ones, abuse, mistreatment, and so it goes. Are you able to say to others, “look this should have killed my optimism, my faith, my life but here I stand offering peace because of the resurrected Christ.” Nothing can separate you from the love of God. Nothing. And come to think of it, God is no thing.   Let’s empty ourselves and become no thing and then find our Life sourced in Christ. Peace.

Seasons of Life…a post by Joy

Seasons of life come to us whether we want them to or not. It’s interesting that this is the way God organized and planned the rhythm of life from the beginning. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8;11 states:

There is a time for everything,

a season for every activity under heaven.

A time to be born and time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

A time to kill and a time to heal

A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.

A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

A time to search and a time to lose.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.

A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace….

God has made everything beautiful for its own time.….

The great thing about the change of seasons or a “time for everything” is the simple truth that it really IS “for a season” . When our appointed time comes to leave this earth, our season here in this life is complete.

In our journeys of Christian spiritual formation, there are seasons that are joyful, ambivalent, or sad even to the point of grieving the loss of the old season to make room for the birth of what’s coming with the new season. It’s a way that we are able to pay attention with our finite minds and hearts to the grief and the blessing of what we have just experienced through the season of Lent, Good Friday and the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. There is always going to be the cycle of endings (“death”) and beginnings (“resurrection”) as Christ transforms us day by day in His time.   May we be mindful of the presence of Christ in our lives all the times.

A Risen and Resilient Life … Thanks be to God

Our life is in union with Christ. Our lives our hidden in Christ with God (Colossians 3), and the life of Christ dwells in us. Our truest life is the life we have in communion with Christ. All the benefits of the gospel flow from our union with Christ!

Lent reminded us of our union with Christ in his death. The resurrection of Christ on Easter morning reminds us that we participate in Christ’s resurrection. His resurrection is our resurrection! The Apostle Paul puts it succinctly when he writes, “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:5). The life we have in Christ is an eternal life, a life of participating in communion with the Father, Son and Spirit. Continue Reading

Unconditional But NOT Uninterested

Easter is before us–the most compelling three days of human history. Here we see God’s honor inseperable from God’s goodness, God’s justice being fulfilled in God’s mercy, God’s righteousness that condemns being the love that restores by surmounting even the obstacle of human disobedience. Easter is God’s resolution to God’s twin decrees that humanity will share in divine life (2 Peter 1:4) and that death must fall on transgressors of God’s holy law (Romans 6:23).

It would be monstrous were God’s decree that sin shall merit death prove to be false. Justice must prevail for God to be God. But it would be unworthy of God’s goodness were God to let his handiwork, his crowning creation come to nothing. Mercy must prevail for God to be God. So Christ enters our story and accomplishes what we cannot accomplish on our own.

Love (which includes both justice and mercy) is the motivation for Easter (John 3:16). It is a love which is unconditional but not uninterested. Love which gives without reserve but without desire of return can never be anything but the energy of an absolute debt. Love that is inseparable from an interest in the other is truly selfless because it delights in the splendor of the other.

Simply put, God loves us because God delights in us (Song of Songs 7:10 “I am my beloved’s, and his desire is toward me”). God’s love is one of recognition and delight, desiring all and giving all at the same time, giving to received and receiving to give.

A ‘uninterested’ love reduces the other to a mere formality. But Easter is a love entreating us to be loved and to love in return. It is a love which liberates us from debt because love must, in the divine economy, be returned. This is the love of the Trinity into which we are brought by Easter. We love because God first loved us!

Blessed Easter to you from all of us here at CrossPoint.