Tag Archives: heaven

Cairns

cairnsWhen I was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park and other places like it, I noticed stones stacked up into little towers along the way. I now know that those collections of rocks are called cairns and they are placed there by hikers to guide future hikers along the path to show them where to go. Over the centuries, cairns have also been used as landmarks and memorials.

I got to thinking that cairns of sorts were used in the Bible by Abraham, Moses and Jacob as altars. Check out these verses:

When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. —Genesis 22:9

Abraham built this altar to acknowledge that God is God on his journey through his life, and he was saying through this cairn that he would obey God’s will. Of course, God would send an angel to stop Abraham from sacrificing his son. But later, God would sacrifice his own Son, Jesus, on the altar, the cairn, if you will, of the cross, which was erected on a rock hill called Golgotha.

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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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The Face of Christ

face of ChristIn the May 2017 issue of Living Lutheran, the cover included 16 images of the face of Christ from different artists. Editor Jennifer Younker noted, “When I look at the cover I’m amazed that, even though all the images are very different, I instantly recognize them as the face of Christ. Although each individual visual is influenced by its regional, ethnic and cultural lenses, the cover evokes the freedom and salvation we receive from Jesus Christ and shows that Christ’s love transcends all perceived physical differences” (Editor’s Note, Living Lutheran, May 2017, p. 4).

This cover and these comments got me to thinking about how I personally envision the face of Christ. For me, I picture a warm, loving, kind face smiling back at me with a look that says everything will be fine because he loves me.

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Victim and Victor

victorSt. Augustine famously said of Jesus on the cross: “Victor quia victima!” which means “victor because victim.” On the cross, Jesus turns the ancient thinking of battle on its head. Usually in war, the defeated is the victim and the executioner is the victor. But as the victim on the cross, Jesus became the victor over the enemies of sin, death and the devil. St. Paul points out this amazing reversal:

Death has been swallowed up in victory. Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” —1 Corinthians 15:54-55

Then in Hebrews 2:14-15, St. Paul describes the divine combination of Christ’s being victim and victor this way:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.

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Butterflies

butterflyTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

The company logo of Creative Communications is the butterfly. I see it so much that I take it for granted, but on this Easter Day, I look at it with fresh eyes and see the miracle it represents.

The butterfly is truly a “new creation” that comes out of a cocoon (a tomb of sorts) after a period of time. What once was a scrawny, wormy like creature that was only able to crawl on the ground is now a colorful, beautiful, glorious creation that can fly to great heights.

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Saint and Sinner

saint

Look at it this way and it says SAINT.

sinner

Look at the same image this way and it says SINNER.

In 2017, we are celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, so I will be focusing on some of the major themes of that monumental event in Church history throughout the year.

One concept that was highlighted on All Saints Day last year in my congregation was the emphasis that Martin Luther put on the fact that as Christians we are living both as saint and sinner. In the Latin, the term is “simul justus et peculator.”

My church used the images shown above to help us understand that duality. Looking at the image one way, and you see the word saint. Look at the same image upside down and you see the word sinner. But it is still a single image with both words present within it.

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Number Our Days

calendarOne of our Creative Communications contributing writers, Michelle Van Loon, recently had her newest book, Moments and Days: How Our Holy Celebrations Shape Our Faith, excerpted in the September 2016 issue of Christianity Today. Bravo, Michelle! Way to go!

Her words about how we order and structure our time resonate well during these weeks when a a new academic year begins.

Van Loon reveals in her book that in early pagan cultures time was seen as a wheel that kept going around and around. It was only the ancient Jews who began looking at time as a journey with a purpose.

We need to keep that in mind ourselves as we “get back on the hamster wheel” of routine again after the summer months.

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De-Cling Sin

shampoo bottleDo you have the problem of trying to get the last vestiges of soap or shampoo that clings to the inside of a bottle so that you can recycle it? Well, you may be in luck! Researchers at Ohio State University have developed “a microscopically thin coating, that applied to the inside of bottles, lets soapy products slide right off” (“Getting the Last Drop,” World Magazine, August 6, 2016).

When I read this article, the following verse came to mind:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. —Hebrews 12:1

We have a problem with sin clinging to the inside of ourselves and, like the soap and shampoo bottles, we need something that can “de-cling” the sin from our lives and let the last vestiges of it slide from us.

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Exodus or Exile?

Mark Labberton, in The Dangerous Act of Worship, outlines two paradigms that the Christian church lives under: The paradigm of exodus and the paradigm of exile.

shipThe exodus paradigm has had an enormous impact on the American Christian church in that “the United States was established by those who were leaving various kinds of bondage to pursue religious and spiritual freedom” (The Dangerous Act of Worship, p. 135).

And Scripture does indeed support the exodus paradigm. As Paul states,

I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:14).

The concept of the exodus paradigm is that we are passing through this earth on the way to our real home in heaven.

The exile paradigm, on the other hand, is about settling as strangers in a strange land and doing all we can to live out our calling in the midst of a culture that is not in line with our belief system. In this paradigm, we realize that we are “to be signposts, to be salt, to be light in the world. Exile allows us to hold on the the slow and steady path toward God’s re-creation” (The Dangerous Act of Worship, p. 146).

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The Day of Small Things

For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice. Zechariah 4:10a

I ran across this verse recently and it spoke to me somehow. Maybe it is because I feel like I am immersed in day after day of “small things,” the mundane tasks that need to get done.

doing laundryEngaging in the “small things” of life over and over again like doing laundry, paying bills, cooking meals, mowing the lawn, opening the garage, gassing up the car, running errands can wear me down sometimes.

So I find solace in the fact that the book of Zechariah acknowledges that there are those who have “despised the day of small things.” I am not alone!

Yet Zechariah assures us that we despisers of small things will rejoice. Why? Because the eyes of the Lord will “range through the whole earth“ (Zechariah 4:10b).

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