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.

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.

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!

Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us…a post by Joy

For two mornings this week I have awakened to this verse going through my mind.

Psalm 90:17 (KJV)  

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us.

Establish Thou the work of our hands;

Establish Thou the work of our hands.

It’s a familiar verse that is quoted in the Midday prayer that we have often quoted through the years for the Deeper Journey retreats.  I also have it in song form by the Northumbria Community in England.  Actually, the song is what awakened me from my dreams both of those mornings.

I’ve often been struck by this verse in contemplating the meaning of it or what it has for me as I pay attention to God’s beckoning through it. Besides the enjoyment of appreciating beauty for it’s own sake, beauty has also been important to me as a container for peace.  Nine years ago as we prepared to move, our home was in disarray as we packed. I intentionally lit a candle and set it on the kitchen counter as a reminder that the Holy Spirit, the light of Christ, was with us on this journey. It was an encounter with the beauty of Christ being “upon us.”  This reminder brought peace along with the beauty as I continued to pack, therefore, “establishing the work of my hands!”

A couple of other translations describe “beauty” as the “favor of the Lord” (NIV) or the “approval of God.” (NLT).  Having the favor of Christ on our lives is definitely something that we all may receive from His atoning work on the cross.  I’m imagining that having “favor” or “approval” or “beauty” upon us from God is also going to look different for each of us because we are all created with different gifts, ways of being in the world, and perceiving the world.  It seems, that part of His spiritual transformational work of beauty upon us is “to establish the work of our hands” in whatever way He has designed and allow it to be integrated with the desire He has given us in the first place for that kind of work.

Thanks be to God!

I Lift My Eyes To The Mountains…a post by Joy

 

PSALM 121: 1-2

I lift up my eyes to the mountains–

where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord,

the Maker of heaven and earth.

 

Psalm 121 has always been one of my favorites. My father had all 4 of us children memorize the entire Psalm when we were young. It’s amazing that these verses have come to my heart and mind at different times in my life, even after having not read the Psalm for a very long time. Today, as I look at the mountains in front of me and all the different kinds of mountains that we have seen in our travels over the last few weeks, I’m amazed at God’s handiwork. Even while the mountain is “sitting still” there is life being lived on it’s surface and down below in the depths of the earth. Beautiful waterfalls trailing down the mountain, prolific colorful flowers, and sheep that graze on the side of the mountain remind me of God’s gracious gifts. These elements are all a part of the help He provides for us in that there is beauty to nourish our souls and a reminder that He provides our every need.

Imaginatively, I wonder if the mountains are ever amazed at God’s handiwork in us as human beings. I know this is a crazy question to ask yet I can’t resist the thought of it!

Part of the handiwork of God in us through Christian spiritual formation is knowing when to stop to rest. Discernment about preparation for the next step or not taking the next step simply takes time of “looking unto the mountains for God’s help.” For me, mountains represent a place of stillness. While resting during this discernment process, His reply may simply be to “stay”; “wait”; “sleep”; “ponder”; “sit still”; “take just one step” or “it’s time to play.”

Whatever His answer may be, we can rest assured that while we are in the process of living life as we look for His help, “….the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth, (including the mountains) will not slumber, neither will He sleep.” (Psalm 121:4)

Beacon of Light…a post by Joy

As a child I remember that my mother loved to light candles for many of our evening meals. For me, it made the meal time extra inviting along with the delicious food served, and the ordinary conversations of daily life. Time permitting, my father would tell a favorite story using the candles as a prop that we as children, and even as adults, loved to hear.

As a college student returning home for a visit, and when Jim and I were first married, I remember the candle light in the window welcoming us home.  It was as though it was a beacon of light guiding our way back into the open arms of family life lived there.

January is the month that my mother passed away 31 years ago.  I am especially mindful during this time of what I learned from her about living, loving, and dying. She loved Jesus Christ with a tender hearted passion.  She reflected the light of Christ to all who knew her.

Through the years, lighting a candle often makes me think of my mother and the tradition that I have integrated into my own family’s life. Yet, for almost 15 years now, I am also reminded of the presence of the Holy Spirit who lives within us as believers.   Christ, as the Light of the World, beckons us to reflect His light to others in every way that we can. Part of the journey of Christian Spiritual formation is to notice or pay attention to how Christ “shows up” for us in ordinary every day life. This simple act of lighting a candle is one such “noticing” for me.

Christ is the One who is the beacon of light for us daily. Thank goodness He will also welcome us home for that particular time when it is our turn to cross the divide between earth and heaven receiving us into “family life lived there.”

The River of Healing…a post by Joy

Having driven yesterday to the site of the Ohio River at Leavenworth, Indiana, we stopped for a few moments to gaze upon its beauty. While the sun glistened on the water, the view became even more restful and inviting to just “be in the moment.” It was life-giving to watch it move gently down the way.

Interestingly enough, the Scripture reading for this morning was on the passage of the River of Healing in Ezekiel 47: 1-12. Verse 9 states that “everything that touches the water of this river will live.” Then….”Wherever this water flows, everything will live. “

The passage reminds me of what Jesus said in John 7:38. Once we believe in Him , He gives us the “living water” of His Holy Spirit.

Christian spiritual formation may be peaceful or raging during our journey within yet He is constantly with us as the “river of healing” as transformation takes place.

Frances Ridley Havergal, the hymn writer put it this way:

Like a river glorious is God’s perfect peace;

Over all victorious in its bright increase;

Perfect, yet it floweth, Fuller ev’ry day,

Perfect, yet it groweth, Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Jehovah, hearts are fully blessed.

Finding as He promised perfect peace and rest.

Let the Gospels Define Us…a post by Rich

 

A recent discussion with a pastor led to us considering the question, what do the gospel writers emphasize as the message of Jesus? Did the gospel writers emphasize that Jesus brought a message about life or was it about sin. Our perspective at CrossPoint is that the gospel writers believed that Jesus in inaugurating and establishing the new creation through his life, death, resurrection and ascension was bringing a message of life. Perhaps John is most explicit when he records these words of Jesus, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Jn. 11:25-26 (Jn.3:17,4:13,5:24,6:27,7:38,8:34,10:27-30).

It is true the cross of Christ is Jesus addressing through his substitutionary death our enslavement to sin and God the Father’s judgement of our sin. The truth is all who believe in Jesus are now justified by faith and made children of God. (Rom. 5, Gal. 4) As a result the believer’s life is now hidden in Christ with God (Col.3:3, see also Rom. 6). We can never be separated from the love of God in Christ. (Rom. 8). Our primary attention is now to love God with our whole heart. For some their understanding of loving God has turned into a preoccupation with sin and the naming and repenting of idols. The pastor mentioned above came to realize in light of his preoccupation with sin and repentance that over time he developed a critical and judgmental spirit and was only experiencing more and more anxiety. Inordinate self-preoccupation especially if it is about sin will always prove over time to morph into severe soul-sickness.

We believe at CrossPoint our attention should be on gratitude and joy for the gift of participatory communion in the life of the Trinitarian God, which is eternal life. We believe that if we pursue with all our hearts what is true, good and beautiful God’s Spirit will make clear to us the sin in need of repentance. We see our self most clearly by seeing ourselves more fully in Christ. Our heart’s attention is on our love of the Trinitarian God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In fact, a lover of God will make regular times for confession of sin. But our liturgy does not end with confession of sin and endless idol hunting but with the assurance of pardon, which reminds us we are free to love our Lord and neighbor as best we can. The gospel of Christ is liberating and so sets our hearts on a spiritual journey of thanksgiving, praise, joy and wonder at the fullness of God’s goodness to us in Christ. Yes we live in a world that has lost consciousness of sin, but are we to have our life in Christ defined by the deficiencies of a secularized age or by the words of life and hope in the Gospel? We at CrossPoint say we allow the Gospels to define who we are.

Laughter, Laughter, Laughter…a post by Tom

Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
  I will tell you.
  In the heart of the Trinity the Father laughs and gives birth to the Son.
  The Son laughs back at the Father and gives birth to the Spirit.  The whole Trinity laughs and gives birth to us.

When God laughs at the soul and the soul laughs back at God, the persons of the Trinity are begotten.   
When the Father laughs at the Son and the Son laughs back at the Father, that laughter gives pleasure, 
that pleasure gives joy, that joy gives love, and that is the Holy Spirit.

-Meister Eckhart

Being In Christ

In my last blog post I (Rich) wrote of our being grounded in the love of God. It is not our loving that is the essential thing, but our being love by the Trinitarian God. We long to belong and our deepest sense of belonging is in Christ. Our longing for our truest place is satisfied not by something we create or achieve but it is a gift from God. The gift of eternal life is ours by faith. This eternal life is nothing less than God’s life in us (the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit) and our life in him (our life is now hidden in Christ with God). Our belonging is then our participating in the life of the Trinitarian God.

Continue Reading