Tag Archives: Christ

An Artist’s Journey

artist

Vietnam veteran Roger Blum served as a combat artist. He remembers “painting combat scenes was not relaxing. It was intense and personal.” His job required him to look hard at the results of combat. He fights back tears even today when he thinks of those who died. He admits that his trust in God at the time amounted to making sure to stand next to someone with a machine gun.

Then he met another combat artist who was a Christian. Blum was amazed at the Christian’s visible happiness and freedom in Christ. The encounter with the Christian artist led him to examine his own faith. After the war, he attended a neighbor’s Church and fell in love with Christ. He now paints wildlife and landscapes that show God’s creative glory (Dierberger, Sharon, “Portrait of a Christian Artist,” World Magazine, April 27, 2019, 61).

The story of Roger Blum serves as a blueprint for the transformation that we experience when we encounter Christ. Without Christ, the world and our own perspective focus on the tragedies, the battles, the hardships of life. That is what we picture most in our minds. But with Christ, those tough things are not our focus. Instead, we look to what is beautiful around us. We picture most in our minds what brings God glory. Take time to examine the world through the eyes of Christ to find compassion, grace, love and hope. Share the vision of Christ with others and put it on full display for all to see. That is the art of the Christian perspective.

Wholely Healthy

wholely healthy

In the article “The Integrated Pastor,” in the Spring 2019 CT Pastors Special Issue, author Todd Wilson identifies three areas a pastor needs to take seriously to stay wholely healthy. While meant for pastors, the principles can apply to us all. Here are the three areas to focus on:

  1. Take the body more seriously. Eat healthy and regularly. Exercise. Get good sleep. Take care of your body when it is sick or hurting. You are your best self and the person God created you to be when your body is functioning at its best.
  2. Take the brain more seriously. Think positively. Don’t wallow in negative thought. Think about those things that are pleasing to God. I am always going back to Philippians 4:8: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Thinking on these things keeps our brains stronger and healthier in faith and closer to the mind of God.
  3. Take interpersonal communion more seriously. God has created us to be in community with others. We need to make time to be with others, to learn from them, to grow in our understanding of our place in the Body of Christ. “Encourage one another and build each other up,” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says. The mutual support of one another goes a long way to keep our relationships with others and with Christ healthy and strong.

Let these three principles guide your life as you live your best life in the Lord.

Spiritual Parenting

spiritual parenting

In the book Discipling in a Multicultural World, author Ajith Fernando introduces the idea of one type of discipling being like spiritual parenting. He defines spiritual parenting as “a long-term and highly relational ministry in which disciplers assume indefinite responsibility for their disciplees’ spiritual growth” (“Discipleship That Travels,” Christianity Today, 68). He cites such examples from the Bible as Paul and Timothy and Peter and Mark.

This model encourages a more one-on-one approach and highlights meeting people where they are at in their spiritual journey without overwhelming them with knowledge-based rhetoric. Spiritual parenting involves loving and caring and guiding and not so much preaching and teaching and telling. “Like earthly parents, spiritual parents take primary responsibility for their children’s growth, but they realize that their growth requires relationships and insights beyond what they alone can offer” (“Discipleship That Travels,” Christianity Today, 68). The ultimate goal is to reach spiritual growth and maturity through the power of the Holy Spirit. The role of the spiritual parent then is get the ball rolling, so to speak, to help to “present everyone fully mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28-29). Consider today someone you can be a spiritual parent to. Perhaps you can establish a weekly or monthly time to meet or talk on the phone. It is certain you will grow in the your spiritual life in the process as well.

Our Sustaining Force

gospelIn the Editor’s Note of the December 2016 Christianity Today, Richard Clark says,

“I’ve always thought it odd that we gospel people so easily fall prey to the false gospels of moralism. Sometimes moralism is directed at myself; sometimes it’s directed at others. In the wake of the right kind of mishap, I can spiral into self-doubt and self-accusation about my own pitiable nature. Yet just as quickly, I can start casting aspersions on those who’ve made similar mistakes. Only the grace of the gospel can pull me out of the pendulum swing” (9).

Though this was written several years ago, it seems more true than ever to me. We can so easily be swayed by outside forces. We are so quick to judge others, to judge ourselves, to shake our heads in disgust or shame and leave it at that. But that is when we need to pull everything back into the context of the gospel, the context of grace, the reality of forgiveness for every sin, won for us and the whole world through the cross of Christ and through his resurrection.

It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that is our sustaining force. It has the power to put right side up every apple cart sin has overturned in our lives and in our world. No sin, no evil, no misdeed is beyond the gospel’s scope of reversing when we come to Christ confessing our waywardness. How so? Only through the undeserved favor of God through the sacrifice of his Son. That is grace. And that is why we call it amazing.

Entertaining Worship

entertaining worshipA recent survey from Ligonier Ministries asked the question, “Must churches provide entertaining worship services if they want to be effective?” The results were a bit surprising. About 4 in 10 believe “effective” churches must offer “entertaining” worship, through only 1 in 10 believe this strongly. Those who attend worship weekly agreed more strongly (14%) than those who attend only on holidays, rarely or never (8%) (“Come, Now Is the Time to Entertain,” Christianity Today, January/February 2019, 17).

The results of the survey are interesting to me because they indicate that providing entertaining worship is not as desired by parishioners as much as it is perceived to be by church leaders and the public in general.

The conventional wisdom seems to be that we in the church need to wow parishioners in worship with rock-style music and bands, lights and flash. But the data here shows that it is actually not as powerful of a draw as we may think it is.

We do not need to put all our eggs in the “entertainment basket,” these numbers seems to reveal. While the entertainment factor can still be a part of a worship experience, we continue to need to include and emphasize the Word and Sacrament, the fellowship with those in the congregation and a grounding in Christ-centered messages.

The joy and excitement of worship remains on the Good News that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus, our crucified and risen Lord. Let that be what brings the most entertainment to our souls.

 

Take His Yoke

yokeDan Shepmann, one of the keynote speakers at Best Practices in Phoenix in February, talked about these verses:

 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. —Matthew 11:29-30

Shepmann brought an actual yoke to show. It does not look easy or light at first glance, but in the hands of our Master, it is.

Yokes put on oxen are controlled by the farmer, the Master of the ox.The ox yoked to the Master cannot go anywhere without the Master guiding and directing. This makes the work easier for the ox. With Christ as our guide, we learn how to maneuver through the treacherous portions of life, as he did on the way to the cross for our salvation.

One translation of these verses says that the Master’s yoke “fits well.” It is not a “one size fits all” sort of approach. Our weight, our mission, that is placed upon us by our Lord is custom designed for us. So being yoked to our Savior is not something to struggle with, but something to hold on to and to celebrate the gifts God has given you to be the bearer of this yoke.

And our Savior promises to be gentle. His gentle hands on the reigns make our work for him manageable and doable and pleasing to him and to ourselves. In this light, what a privilege it is to “take his yoke upon us.”

 

Making a House a Christian Home

home sweet homeSome friends of mine recently moved to a new house and posted this on on their Facebook page when they closed on the deal: A house is made of walls and beams. A home is made of love and dreams.

What a beautiful sentiment to ponder as they embark on a new adventure in a new dwelling place.

This got me to thinking: What makes a house a Christian home?

A Christian home is a place where there is genuine love for one another and for Christ.

A Christian home is a place where the Word of God is shared and perhaps even displayed through plaques with favorite verses.

A Christian home is a place where forgiveness flows from one to another.

A Christian home is a place where prayers are said over meals and at bedtime and at anytime.

A Christian home is a place where all our hopes and dreams are grounded in the good news from Jesus who comforts us with these words, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (John 14:2).

We know as Christians that our homes here on earth are only temporary, but our eternal dwelling place is in heaven, where we will join with all the saints in praising the name of our Savior, Jesus. May our homes here on earth give us glimpses of our home yet to come.

 

 

Cope With Hope

cope with hopeWhen I was worshiping at Praise and Worship Lutheran Church in Branson, MO, this past fall, Pastor Mark Hunsaker prayed that we would “cope with hope.” I liked that turn of phrase and it made me realize what a wonderful coping mechanism we have in the hope that we have in our crucified and risen Lord. No matter how bad things get in life, we have hope that Christ has conquered sin, trouble and all our frustrations. We have hope that this trial too (no matter how awful) will pass and we will one day be in paradise with our Lord, where there will be no more tears or pain or suffering.

St. Paul makes it clear: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us (Romans 8:18).

There is truly light at the end of the tunnel, as St. Peter tells us, “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast” (1 Peter 5:10).

A few things jump out for me in that verse.

• A little while. Though the suffering may seem endless to us now, this really will in the long run be a short period of time of hardship before the glorious joy to come.

• Restore you and make you strong. When the suffering ends, you will not be a shell of a person or a weak shadow of yourself. You will be renewed, re-energized and strong in the Lord. You will be fully you!

• Firm and steadfast. That is how we shall be and what we should be along the way: confident and sure in our trust in Christ to carry us through. No doubts, no questions, no confusion. Just faith in his power and grace to get us to the other side.

That is how we can cope with hope this week.

 

Sinking Down

air mattressI recently slept on an air mattress on a trip with some friends. Unfortunately there was a leak somewhere in the mattress, and by the time I woke up the next morning, I had sunk down into the middle with the two sides of the mattress enfolding me like a taco, which brought peals of laughter from my friends when they saw me “sunken down.”

The experience called to mind for me these words of the hymn “What Wondrous Love is This”:

When I was sinking down, sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down, sinking down,
When I was sinking down
Beneath God’s righteous frown,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul for my soul,
Christ laid aside his crown for my soul.

When I was literally “sunken down” on the air mattress, it was hard for me to get out. It is impossible when I am sunken down in sin. Only Christ can lift me out.

Another thing I noticed when I was “down low” was that there was still a little bit of air left in the mattress so that I was not sleeping directly on the floor. When I think I have reached rock bottom in my life, I must always remember that the the wind, the air, the breath of the Holy Spirit still lifts me up and sustains me in the faith and keeps me from the very bottom of despair.

And when I was low in the mattress, the sides of air were, I realized, like a warm hug wrapping their arms around me, like a loving Father, who only hates the sin, saying to me, “Don’t worry. I’ve got you. You will not be sucked away by sin.”

The next night I slept on a full-pumped air mattress with no leaks, and all was right with the world.

 

An Anchor

anchorWe have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. —Hebrews 6:19

Recently I went boating with some friends on a nearby lake. At one point our boat driver took us to a secluded clove, where he heaved a very heavy anchor over the bow until it hit bottom many feet below. This would keep the boat steady while we swam and floated on noodles and rafts behind the boat.

What struck me was that even though the boat was anchored, it still did a lot of moving around because of the prevailing winds, the waves from other boats and currents from the lake. There were times when I had to swim quite a ways to stay close to the back of the boat to stay safe. I had always imagined that once a boat was anchored, it stayed put. That is not the case, I discovered.

Which made me think about this verse from Hebrews about our hope in Christ being an anchor for the soul. Though the anchor is firm and secure, we who are tethered to it are not always still. We are pushed around by doubts, fears, the advice and messages of others who say that God does not matter or that Christianity has become passé. It is not always easy up here on the surface. The waters of life can be rough.

But we who have our hope and faith in Christ have the confidence that though we may be tossed about for a little while, our God will never let us go too far adrift. He keeps us firmly planted in the depths of his love and care and compassion for us to keep us on course in our faith. He will always keep us safe in his forgiveness and grace. That is our hope. That is our anchor. That is our salvation.