Tag Archives: Christ

Repurposing

coffee table crateThere is a lot of interest and energy lately around the concept of repurposing. I confess that I watch a lot of home improvement shows and they are always repurposing old crates into rustic coffee tables or making bookshelves out of old school lockers, and things like that. In the art world, there are many artists who create interesting art pieces from old-fashioned kitchen utensils, tins, banks and toys found at flea markets or antique stores.

The concept of repurposing came to my mind recently when read again the story in Scripture of the conversion of St. Paul. Here was a man  was zealous in his persecution of Christians. But God repurposed this man’s zealousness to promote the Christian message instead. The story of the repurposing of Saul to Paul makes us realize that God can do dramatic things with what is put before him. Like a craftsperson at a workbench with various pieces laid out, God can create something beautiful and unexpected from the most random of things.

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Let Your Song Go On

song birdWhen I was worshiping recently at the Chapel of the Resurrection at my alma mater, Valparaiso University, we sang this verse from “All Creatures, Worship God Most High”:

All who for love of God forgive,
all who in pain or sorrow grieve;
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Christ bears your burdens and your fears;
still make your song amid the tears:
Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia, alleluia!

The line “still make your song amid the tears” struck me. Our song of love for our Lord that our God has given us to sing is never drowned out by the sadnesses of our lives. That is not to say that the sorrows of our lives are not deep and sore and real. They are. But they are not the final refrain. I am moved by the fact that the word tears in this verse is followed immediately by 5 alleluias! The alleluias have the last word.

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Hidden with Christ

hidden Jesus faceIn the article “Grace Alone” in the September 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, theology professor John F. Hoffmeyer pointed readers to Colossians 3:3: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” “We can be assured that, in Christ, God refuses to live without us,” Hoffmeyer says. “Our lives are bound to Christ’s life—regardless. God regards us with the same unbounded love with which God regards Jesus” (Living Lutheran, September 2017, p. 45).

Something in those precious words clicked with me in a profound way, like with Martin Luther in his Tower Experience after reading Romans 1:17. Like Luther before me, I felt reborn in my faith.

It struck me that when God sees me, he doesn’t see just me, he sees Christ first, and then me, hidden with him. The concept of being hidden with Christ is compelling to me. I am part of him now because of his death and resurrection for me. I am forgiven, free and forever loved. I am embedded within him. No longer is my face the face people see first. It is now the face of Christ. And my life is behind that face of Christ.

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A Lightning Rod

lightning rodAt a conference at Concordia Seminary last February, professor Chuck Arand compared the cross to a lightning rod, something that takes on all the destructive force of nature and dissipates it.

I rather like that image because it captures so clearly the power that the cross has over the ferociousness of this world. We still jump when we see a flash of lightning. And we still are shaken up when we see the presence of evil in front of us in various forms. But we as Christians do not need to stay unsettled.

I think it is significant, therefore, to remember that at the time of the crucifixion, the sky turned dark, the earth shook and rocks were split apart. This sinful world itself was raging against Christ and the cross, but the cross and Christ himself withstood the terrible tumult. Nothing that the world tried to throw at him could stop the mission of Christ.

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Cultivating Eulogy Virtues

virturesIn a recent article in Christianity Today on the increasing threat of automation in the workforce, authors Kevin Brown and Steven McMullen highlighted an expression from author and columnist David Brooks, who has talked about the difference between résumé virtues (marketplace skills) vs. eulogy virtues (human goodness and character) (“Hope in the Humanless Economy,” Christianity Today, July/August 2017, 36).

We as Christians are not to put all of our thoughts and energy regarding our lives and livelihood into the résumé virtues basket. Jobs change, skill sets become obsolete and our careers need not define who are at our very core. As followers of Christ, we, instead, need to focus on the eulogy virtues, those things that we have learned from our Savior about showing unconditional love to others, serving in humility those around us and being respectful and genuine toward one another.

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Greater Than or Less Than

greater thanWe all remember those “greater than” or “less than” symbols we used in math class: 1 < 3, 5 > 4, etc. It’s a principle we can apply to our Christian lives as well. On 99.1 Joy FM in St. Louis during their Moment in the Word on June 9, 2017, they pointed to the following verse:

He must become greater; I must become less. —John 3:30

Spoken by John the Baptist, these words remind us that we must always allow Christ to be greater than ourselves. We must recognize that we are always less than him. In everything we do, we must apply the “greater than/less less” equation to it.

Is this activity making God greater or making me greater?

Is this approach to something making God less than ourselves?

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Secular Humanism and the Church

globeProbably one of the most rampant worldviews in conflict with the Church today is secular humanism. This is the belief that there is no God, no spiritual direction, no afterlife. This world and this life is all there is to the secular humanist. There is no room for or need for God. Secular humanists rely solely on human reason.

The prevalence of secular humanism leads to a kind of elevation of humanity and a quest to live life to satisfy your own personal needs to the fullest, since this is all there is.

What can the Church do in the midst of secular humanism? One way is to gently point people to the Bible’s statements of the involvement of God in the world.

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Functional Atheism

functional atheistFunctional atheism is a term that is being used in theological circles that refers to the practice of those who profess to believe in Christ, but behave as if he does not exist.

One problem with this practice, of course, is that it does not acknowledge the very real impact that Christ has on our everyday lives.

The other problem is that it perpetuates the falsehood that we are in control of our lives and we can do what we want apart from Christ and our beliefs.

I am reminded of the verse,

Not to us, LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. —Psalm 115:1

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Speaking Out

MosesIn the May 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, President of Bread for the World David Beckmann talked about the role of the Church in combating hunger.

In the article he noted, “God did not send Moses to Pharaoh to take up a collection of canned goods, but rather to insist that he let the slaves go free” (Living Lutheran, May 2017, p. 12).

I found that interesting and motivating. Sometimes we as the Church are called to stand up for the rights of the hungry, the thirsty, the downtrodden. We must do what we can to get to the root of the problem and not just put a Band-Aid on it.

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Freedom

freedomAs we celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation this year, it is important for us to remember some of the key statements of Martin Luther. One of those statements is on the concept of freedom. Luther said in his most famous treatise On the Freedom of the Christian, in 1520: “The Christian individual is a completely free lord of all, subject to none. The Christian individual is a completely dutiful servant of all, subject to all.“

These two statements may seem to contradict one another, but, in fact, they encapsulate the complete picture of what we as Christians call freedom.

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