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.

Desire Changes Slowly…a post by Tom with David Brooks

All of us want change…just not the painful transition.  There is so much I would love to change about myself immediately, yet spiritual progress seems glacially slow at best.  If I know what needs to be changed now, then what is the hold up?  My desires.  A lessor desire can only be dethroned by a greater one.  That is the issue.  Cognitively I may want to change but affectively my desires are still held in check by lessor loves.  It seems that the way forward is to contemplatively steep my desires in love for God, which is more of a crock pot affair than a microwave one.  Check out the following quote from David Brooks “The Road to Character” and see if it encourages you.

“as people rise up and seek to meet God, their desires slowly change.  In prayer, people gradually reform their desires so that more and more they want the things they believe will delight God than the things they used to think would delight themselves.

The ultimate conquest of self, in this view, is not won by self-discipline, or and awful battle within self. It is won by going out of self, by establishing a communion with God and by doing the things that feel natural and in order to return God’s love.

This is the process that produces an inner transformation.  One day you turn around and notice that everything inside has been realigned.  The old loves no longer thrill.  You love different things and are oriented in different directions.  You have become a different sort of person.  You didn’t get this way simply by following this or that moral code, or adopting a drill sergeant’s discipline or certain habits. You did it instead because you reordered your loves, and as Augustine says again and again, you become what you love.” 

Perfectly imperfekt…a post by Tom

Why can’t anything or anyone be perfect? Why can’t this thing go the way it is supposed to? The long answer involves all the flaws, shortcomings, mistakes, sins, errors, and imperfections in every given person and situation. The short answer is because that every person or thing is not God. Seems like God put Himself in a bind by creating anything because anything created would always fall short of the Creator. After all only God is good. Even without sin entering the picture everything still falls short of the full glory of God!

It is refreshing to know that Jesus, humanly speaking, had to learn about perfection too. Scripture clearly says this in Luke 2:52 and the Hebrews text below. What is more startling is that He learned about perfection through suffering. Suffering what? Everything that wasn’t perfect! Jesus was made perfect through suffering the imperfect thereby revealing His Divine nature, which was that of a suffering God!

This has colossal ramifications for us in that real perfection isn’t a static moral category but a dynamic inclusive one. Perfection is more about being able to include and accept all that is not perfect rather than rooting out and excluding the nefarious negative fly in the ointment. Perfection seems more about relationality flowing from a generous and gracious source rather than measuring up to impossible standards (see first paragraph). Perfection is more about connectivity than ‘correctivity’ (I think I just made up a word). Perfection not about witch hunts but grace hunts. How will I learn this? Through the same way Jesus did. Suffering.

Are you miserable today? You probably are a perfectionist. Is your marriage miserable? Which one of you is the perfectionist and which one has to live with you? What are you demanding in life, in others, and most importantly yourself? Nothing and nobody will ever measure up. Let’s forgive everything and everyone for not being God and then maybe we will actually be like God. Perfect.

“Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” – Hebrews 5:8–9 (ESV)

“Spare me perfection. Give me instead the wholeness that comes from embracing the full reality of who I am, just as I am. Paradoxically, it is this whole self that is most perfect.” –David G. Benner

“The greatest enemy of ordinary daily goodness and joy is not imperfection, but the demand for some supposed perfection or order.”- Richard Rohr

God Paid Attention To Me…a post by Joy

God paid attention to me this morning in a way that He knew I would love! I opened the blinds of the window in the bedroom. Immediately I saw a bright red cardinal sitting on top of a tall weed in the field of swaying grasses behind our house. I smiled and whispered a prayer of thankfulness. The beauty of the red bird always reminds me that “God is with me.” He shows up at the most amazing times. He may be flying across my pathway as I’m driving, arriving at the bird feeder on our snow-clad deck in December, or even singing as he lands on the top of my wreath hanging on the front door of our home. The latter has happened at least 3 times this year. The last time it happened, I first heard the close sound of his chirping before seeing him. I walked quickly to the living room to see if he had landed on the wreath again. Sure enough, he had!

I felt that Christ was being playful with me by sending the cardinal to my front door. It delighted my child’s heart within. Intentionally entering into every moment when God’s little messenger comes “flying by,” I am reminded that He loves me unconditionally with my own particularity with no strings attached.

 

Ephesians 3:18-19

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

Thanks be to God!

 

Olympic Pressure … Olympic Love…a post by Jim

I’ve never competed at a high level. I felt the weight of spelling competitions in elementary school. And the pressure of going 14 and 0 on our middle school softball team. And the strain of getting sermons ready week in and week out for many years. But I’ve never felt anything like the Olympic pressure of putting everything on the line after years of preparation for that one chance.

For the swimming events, the difference between gold and bronze is often just a few tenths of a second. And then there are the women gymnasts on the balance beam. They do things on those 4 inches that I couldn’t begin to do with 4 feet. The pressure they feel just to avoid a broken leg is huge, much less a win.

Most of the athletes who put everything on the line after years of sacrifice will win only a sense of satisfaction that they had a chance to compete. Few get medals. But still they welcome the chance to compete. It is as if they don’t care what others might think as long as they can have the chance to give their all.

This morning I read the story of the blind man in Luke 18. When he heard the crowd he wanted to know what was happening. On hearing that Jesus was passing by he put everything he had on the line in order to get Jesus’ attention. He ‘won’ his event. He got his sight. And he did because he didn’t stop shouting at Jesus. It was his one chance.

I’m glad that for most of life we get more than one chance. I’m thankful we don’t live under the strong pressure of putting everything on the line every moment of the day. But I am struck with the love of the game that motivates the Olympic athletes. What do I love that motivates me to put everything on the line?

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

Christ, the Doting Father…a post by Joy

This past week-end we have been celebrating the 1st birthday of our grandson, Hayden. Having never been in this position before, we entered the occasion with delight! Travel plans to fly across the country were made, bags were packed, the camera and phones were charged to take lots of pictures and video clips and of course, a birthday gift was chosen, purchased and wrapped.

While participating in the preparations for the party, Jim and I were told that Hayden needed a playmate. We, or course, obliged! Watching him explore while crawling from place to place reminded me how far he has come since he first began. Stacking cups of different sizes, throwing and retrieving balls, knowing how to turn the pages of his baby books, taking stronger steps one at a time while holding onto someone’s fingers.

I couldn’t take my eyes off of him! It’s true that as a grandmother, I have “fallen in love” with him! I held him as often as I could, laughed with him, played with him, sang to him, and helped with the other activities of carrying for a baby.

I kept thinking that Christ must dote over us the way that I am “foolishly” and crazily happy to be around my little grandson! It brings joy to me to just watch him in his process of constantly playing to learn new things and to keep going, especially in the crawling stage and now as he is exploring and trying to walk on his own 2 feet.

Christ loves each of us with this doting insatiable fondness. Sometimes we may think He doesn’t really love us that much in our day to day lives when we may feel shamed, or guilty, fearful, or angry. Yet, He Does! He loves us with that doting love right where we are in our journey……even when we are just beginning to crawl!

Two of my favorite verses are Ephesians 3:17-19.

“May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love.

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide,

how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will

never fully understand it.

Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. “

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.

Grounded in Being Loved

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Being loved grounds us. When we are loved we have an essential experience of belonging. An infant in the experience of being loved forms a relational attachment with mom and dad. This relation attachment is essential for physical survival and all future psychological and spiritual development. Without this primitive experience of belonging, of being grounded in love, life will unravel for the child as his or her sense of self begins to fragment. The essential psychological and spiritual need of an infant child is to be loved. Our soul’s deepest sense of being grounded is always anchored relationally!

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