By Your Light We See Light…a post by Rich

Aquinas the great theologian of the of the 13the century relied upon Psalm 36:9 to guide him in his great theological endeavors. “For with You is the fountain of life: in Your light do we see light.” C.S. Lewis was a follower of Christ because he held that Jesus enabled him to see what was most real and true. God’s light enables us to see.

My recent times of mediation have me reflecting on the significance of the fruits of the Spirit. Paul encourages believers to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16). Walking by the Spirit arms us to steer clear of the desires of the flesh. Then after making clear what desires of the flesh look like (Gal. 5: 17-21), Paul informs us of the fruit of the Spirit. When God’s presence is being manifest in our lives as people of faith, we express love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22).

Our ability to see what is most true and most real relies upon the formation of a particular character. The presence of God living in us forms a moral character that facilitates our seeing well. The virtues of the faith are not just about our establishing a certain moral rectitude. Although having moral rectitude is a good thing! An honest person is better than being a liar. However, we don’t practice and live Christian virtues solely for the purpose of being morally righteous people. If that is our aim, we will most likely end up in the same legalistic pettiness of the Pharisees. We affirm wholeheartedly that our righteousness in every way is a gift from God through faith in Christ. Even our ability to practice the virtues that cultivate a morally upright life is a gift from God. All good things come from our Lord.

My point is that we seek after God and give ourselves to live out the fruits of the Spirit because this is not only a sure indicator of God being in us, but the fruits of Spirit enables us to see through the lens of our Lord’s light. The benefit of living out our “in Christ life” through the fruit of the Spirit each day is that over time it leads to wisdom. That is to say, we can see our world as God’s sees our world. We can see our circumstances as God sees them. We can see our neighbor as God’s sees our neighbor. And we can see ourselves as God sees us. We participate in God’s life more fully by participating in God’s way of knowing. The Psalmist says it succinctly “in your light we see light.” We, by grace through the fruits of the Spirt, see more clearly God’s truth. One of the great gifts of our Christian faith is that it leads us to see what is good, true, and beautiful in our world.

I raise these thoughts against the background of the political atmosphere in which we now live. I think persons living in the Kingdom of God need to be more preoccupied with attending to the fruit of the Spirit than whether we are on the political right or left. Governments of the world come and go. Remember the Assyrians? The Kingdom of God endures forever. Let us then be persons of the Kingdom keeping in step with the Spirit as we live out the fruits of the Spirit before both friend and enemy. Only then shall we avoid the the darkness. Here is a truth, one we shall never fully know this side of heaven: “in Your light Oh God, do we see light.” Thanks be to God for his Light even Christ our Lord.

Real Butter…a post by Tom

Recently I journeyed with a 100-year-old woman as she neared death. When she died the family shared memories and reflections on her storied life. I find it fascinating how people focus in and remember the small things over the big. One of the grandchildren, of whom she was particularly fond, recalled going over to her grandma’s small apartment for movie night to eat popcorn made with REAL BUTTER. The grandmother did not have much materially speaking. She lived alone and worked as a waitress. However, when her grandkids came over she used REAL BUTTER! The children were accustomed to margarine at home but with grandma there was REAL BUTTER and this was astonishingly good and decadent.  The granddaughter, a successful professional on the West Coast, flew in and couldn’t stop talking about butter.  Among other things her candy dish was also exquisitely stocked with very good hard candies, the kind with fancy crinkly wrappers. These are the small lavish touches that can change everything. What are the ways we can reflect God extravagance towards us for others? How can we be lavish toward loved ones in small simple ways? Do we have to let a scarcity mentality dominate even our popcorn? It is in the small things that our lavishness or stinginess can shine. When it comes to us, God uses REAL GRACE lavishly.

Ephesians 1:7

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which He lavished on us.

What are you exploring?…a post by Tom

We shall not cease from exploration

And the end of all our exploring

Will be to arrive where we started

And know the place for the first time.

– T.S. Eliot

 

What are you looking for? A better sense of self? A better home and garden? More knowledge about the Divine or your divinely inspired pursuits? An idealized Christianity or church to validate a privatized salvation project? To figure out your dysfunctional family system? Untie some knotty existential shoelaces tightened by primal repression so that you no longer trip over fear, guilt, and shame? A well balanced portfolio? Some peace and quiet.

Augustine said somewhere that the heart is restless until it rests in God. We come out of the womb kicking and screaming and often we go out that way. Kickers and screamers in this world seem to be the majority populace and unfortunately dominate the airwaves.  Unless, we happen to come home to God and our true self rooted in endless Love.   This doesn’t seem to happen until we explore and to explore means to fail. We can’t explore without risk or uncertainty. “Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. The very cave you are afraid to enter turns out to be the source of what you are looking for. The damned thing in the cave, that was so dreaded, has become the center.” -Joseph Campbell.

It’s all there in the story of prodigal son, which surprisingly is really about the Father. The son sets out to explore the far country and ends up right where he began, at home but this time knowing himself as the beloved son home for the first time. We come from God and we are returning to God. Jesus said I know where I came from and I know where I am going. His invitation and gift to us is to KNOW this place within us called the kingdom of God for the first time.   The sooner the better for us and the planet.  Still kicking and screaming? Not sure if you have arrived at your arrival? Then go out and explore! And wherever you go, God will be eagerly waiting for your arrival.

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!

The Thrill of Overcoming…a post by Jim

When I was in High School part of the requirement for our 11th grade Physical Education class was to wrestle other students in the class. I hated it. On a mat in front of the entire class with someone who was stronger than me. My record was pretty pathetic until the one time that I somehow got my opponent in a full-Nelson hold. He went limp and I pinned him for the three second count (never mind that the hold was illegal … I didn’t know that and had no idea how I wound up getting him in such a hold!). It was one of the few times in HS athletics that I felt like I was an overcomer. I still remember the feeling! I won. I defeated my opponent.

In Romans 12 Paul ends the great chapter by saying, “Don’t be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.” In a world of great evil (including times when we sin and times when we are wounded by the sins of others) we need the challenge of being an overcomer. How do we live victoriously over our attitudes and actions that are an affront to who we are in Christ? And how do we not let our wounding at the hands of others get the best of us?

The answer Paul offers is to overcome evil with good. In other words, our focus needs to be on what it means to keep in step with the Spirit and live the life of Christ in our ordinary lives. It is tempting to focus on what we need to stop or on our pain that comes from the actions of others. But we are told to concentrate on the good, the true, and the beautiful of the fruits of the Spirit.

Today I encourage you to have a clear and compelling vision of what it would look like to live as if the Spirit had complete control of your attitudes and actions. Have an image of what will most honor Christ in every situation you face. And live toward that. Paul promises that we will overcome whatever it is that keeps us from living our truest identity in Christ.

Say anything…a post by Tom

Job spoke, saying:
Is not man’s life on earth a drudgery?
Are not his days those of hirelings?
He is a slave who longs for the shade,
a hireling who waits for his wages.
So I have been assigned months of misery,
and troubled nights have been allotted to me.
If in bed I say, “When shall I arise?”
then the night drags on;
I am filled with restlessness until the dawn.
My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle;
they come to an end without hope.
Remember that my life is like the wind;
I shall not see happiness again.

-Job 7:1-4, 6-7

 

Are these the words of a believer? Thankfully yes! These are words spoken by a man described in chapter one verse one as blameless and upright, fearing God and shunning evil. How refreshing it is to know that even the best experience these low lows and can sometimes exegete life experiences just as well as an atheistic deadbeat poet. Yesterday I visited a friend dying of cancer. He has six months to live and is anxious to meet the Lord. He is a man of faith, hope, and love. At one point in the conversation he expressed that he was afraid his positivity and hope would run dry. He was afraid his witness would be compromised and so he asked me to tell him if I ever thought he was faking it. I gave him permission not to fake it and not to be cheery in the face of death. I gave him permission to say anything. Job gives us this permission. How refreshing to know that our relationship with God does not depend on us. When death calls, our Savior will carry us across the threshold regardless of how we think or feel. I suppose it is like me carrying my kids to bed. Sometimes they are kicking and screaming and other times they are peaceful and calm, neither case changes my love for them. How refreshing to know that when it comes to God I can say anything. What do you need to say today?

Accept the anxiety of 2018…a post by Tom

Happy New Year! I hope it is a slow, unstable, gradual, and anxious one for you.   Could you imagine getting a card with this in it?  Well, the following words from Teilhard shed light on what this spiritual formation process feels like. The ending part on “accepting the anxiety” has ministered to me greatly.   I thought them worthy of reflection for 2018.

“Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.”

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Ornaments of Christ…a post by Joy

One of our family traditions when we are able to be together at Thanksgiving is to go to a Christmas tree farm the following day, go on the “hayride” tractor to choose the tree, then 1-2 members of the family collaborate to cut down the tree.

Hot apple cider is usually served at the farm, then we head home to “trim the tree.” Hanging the ornaments on the tree is a reminder of life that we have lived together for each has a particular meaning or memory attached to it.   Glass ornaments that are from one of our grandparents’ tree reminds me that this is a celebration passed on from generation to generation. Handmade ornaments made by our children when they were young exhibit how Christ loves us at all of our stages of spiritual transformation. Those ornaments made by their young hands and hearts are priceless to me. I’m reminded that Christ loves the ornament of “my gift” of whatever I am able to offer of myself to Him at different stages of my life.

This tradition is not just about decorating the tree. It’s about honoring each person: family member or friend, and a memory of how God brought our paths together. This is a tradition that helps prepare my heart through the Advent Season of reflecting on the goodness of God.

God valued us as human beings enough to send His ONLY SON, to become a human being.   As ornaments of Christ, or reflections of who He is fully in the Godhead, some may sparkle; some “just hang” onto the limb; some may lie on the branch; some of us may just blend in with the tree and not really want to stand out. All of us have a purpose to reflect His gifts of peacemaking, helping, loving, showing mercy, creating, advocating for others, joyfulness, loyalty, being organized and efficient with abilities of creating order, and discerning with wisdom.

All of these ornamental gifts are able to be reflected by the presence and working of the Holy Spirit in us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. May you each have a blessed Christmas filled with the joy of noticing His presence!

Advent and the Particularity of God’s Love…a post by Rich

The season of Advent is upon us and as Christians we turn our hearts in preparation for the coming celebration of the birth of the Messiah, our Savior. A theme we often attended to here at CrossPoint is the particularity of God’s love. Thomas Oden considered the incarnation the “scandal of particularity.” God in his wisdom makes himself know to us in and through a very particular Jewish man. But there is more to the scandal than God simply making himself know in Jesus. The crux of the scandal is that this Jewish man, with a real family history -hence the gospel genealogies- is in fact the Son of God! God is now made know to us and is with us in Jesus. As Jesus put it, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. . . “ (John 14:9) And as the writer of Hebrews makes clear, “but in these last days he has spoken to us in his Son . . . He, (Jesus) is the radiance of the glory of God (the Father) and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Heb. 1:3)  Scandalous it is, to say the least. God loves us in this very particular person, Jesus!

There is endless mystery and beauty within the story of our Savior’s birth. The humble and yet truly beautiful response of Mary to the Angelic announcement. The Angelic confirmation for the anxious Joseph that comes to him in the quiet dark mystery of a dream while sleeping. The notoriously dishonest Shepherds are the first to herald the good news- ah, God’s ways are not our ways. And the deep longing of the wise men compelling them to follow a star surrounded by the heaven’s darkness. And there is much more that is filled with beauty and wonder. But that which is most beautiful and for sure the grandest of all mysteries is that in this particular Jewish man, this Son of God, has come to show us the love of God and in so doing loves each one of us particularly.

The particularity of God’s acts in Christ manifests the particularity of God’s love. God’s love is not a generic love but it is a specific particular love of individuals. It is a love that greets individual men the likes of Andrew, Peter, James and John. It is a love that reaches out to the woman at the well. He touches deeply the lives of Mary and Martha. It is the love that notices the woman in the crowd who suffered so long and touched him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. The blind man crying out for mercy, and Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” There is the widow of Nain whose only son died. Jesus notices and raises him from the dead. The gospel narratives tell us again and again of the wonder of the love of Christ that is specific and particular. A love that greets each person in the depths of their soul. And it is no less true for you and for me! What wondrous beauty what glorious mystery that we should be loved in Christ so deeply and lavishly by our Heavenly Father.

The humility that blankets the entire gospel narrative of the birth of Jesus points ahead to the great humiliation of the Cross. Here the love of God shines forth in its fullest glory for “while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” (Rom 5:8) The love of God is this particular! God’s love addresses the specifics of our individual and corporate sin. It enters the darkest places of any and every individual’s soul and brings “the light of life.” (Jn.8:12) And all of this love comes to us as a gift of grace, even more beauty and mystery. Who can truly comprehend this love? We need only to surrender and trust.

Our Savior has come! Immanuel, God with us. So then, we rejoice! We give thanks. And we rest in him. May it be so for each and every one of us in this Advent season. May we again receive afresh the love of God who sent his Son as our Savior and the Savior of the world!

Thank God for God in you…a post by Tom

This Sunday kicks off the first week of advent.   It seems like we just downed the last of the leftover turkey and now we are wading into Christmastide! This holiday season there are ample opportunities to be thankful. We can be thankful for all kinds of things such as material possessions, health, relationships, and the simple pleasures of life. However, the Apostle Paul begins his letter with a hearty thanks for God’s operative work of grace in the lives of those he cares about in Corinth. Paul is thankful for the God he sees at work in his loved ones.  In an oppressive and negative world, thankfully God is at work in others enriching them with Christ. When I see Christ in you then I can better experience the Christ in me! What else is there? Thank God for people like you who make Christ real and incarnate.

 

1 Cor 1:3-9

Brothers and sisters:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always on your account
for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus,
that in him you were enriched in every way,
with all discourse and all knowledge,
as the testimony to Christ was confirmed among you,
so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift
as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He will keep you firm to the end,
irreproachable on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful,
and by him you were called to fellowship with his Son,
Jesus Christ our Lord.