Tag Archives: Christ

Our Aggressively Friendly God

David Wilkinson is a professor in the theology and religion department at St. John’s College, Durham University in the United Kingdom. He also holds a PhD in astrophysics. Then too, he’s a Methodist minister. The man’s got to be brilliant!

In an article of his I recently read he addresses the age-old question of just how we humans are made in God’s image. Is it our intelligence, our moral awareness, our creativity, or what? More and more we realize that none of these areas, or others like them, are only the domain of humans. What, then, is it that defines us as being in God’s image?

Wilkinson writes, “Bearing God’s image is about relationship with God more than any specific human attribute or pattern of behavior.” He concludes his article by stating, “To be human is to receive the gift of relationship, to love and be loved by the God who created you.” (Christianity Today Magazine, March 2013, p. 29)

Amazing! It was God’s original idea to have a relationship with us; that’s why He made us! He took the initiative to have a relationship with us by creating us in such a way that we could have a relationship with Him. The Gospel message of God coming to us in human form and going to a cross for us in the ultimate sacrificial, redemptive act is His going the second mile to establish all over again that connection!

This should turn topsy turvy how we think about God. We’re not the spiritual seeker, God is! He yearns to have a relationship with us far more than we could ever yearn to have one with Him. The prophet Jeremiah declared, “The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.'” (Jeremiah 31:3)

Ours is not to be primarily an intellectual belief in His existence but an embracing of Him in a relationship. It’s allowing our experience of God to move from the head to the heart. This is ultimately a friendly universe because the creator of it all seeks to be our Ultimate Friend! It seems to me that this provides a most wonderful perspective with which to face each day!

Our Portrait of Christ

Quotable Quote

“There is no literal portrait of Jesus,
there need not be;

we are to be His image in the world.”

author unknown

There are countless images of Christ, just “Google” the name “Jesus” or “Christ” and click images. I remember growing up with a familiar painting of Christ that hung at the front of our church in Parkersburg, Iowa. I currently have a charcoal drawing  done by a local amateur of a laughing Jesus hanging in my church office. They look very different! Some paintings are centuries old, many are icons, images that people would meditate upon. Others are contemporary, such as my laughing Jesus.  What did Jesus actually look like? We don’t know.

The only reference to Jesus’ appearance is by the prophet Isaiah who declared, “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.” (Isaiah 53:2) Apparently there was nothing about Jesus’ appearance that was outstanding. He undoubtedly could not have been picked out of a crowd, not necessarily wearing a white robe and certainly not sporting a halo!

On the other hand the image of Christ is to be all over this world of ours, not hung on walls in frames but worn on the faces of those who follow Him! This personal portrayal of Christ by us is not to be a mask of superficial religious sounding words and religious looking works but heart and soul deep.

Our goal as a follower of Jesus is to be authentically Christ-like. The best compliment we could receive from someone would be, “I’ve never seen Christ, but you remind me of Him.” The apostle John, who was a close disciple of Jesus, wrote, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6)

What kind of portrait am I painting of Christ with the brush strokes of my words and actions? The inward reality that will result in me looking Christ-like is for Him to be at the center of my being, the preeminent focus of my life.

“There is no literal portrait of Jesus, there need not be;
we are to be His image in the world.”

Christmas Poster

The “One Thing”

In the movie City Slickers, a city slicker played by Billy Crystal tries to sort out his life by going west and hanging around a crusty old cowboy named Curly, played by crusty old veteran actor Jack Palance. As they’re riding along on their horses, Palance asks Crystal, “You know what the secret of life is?”

Crystal says, “No; what?”

Palance holds up his index finger and says, “This.”

Crystal asks, “Your finger?”

Palance replies, “One thing. Just one thing. That’s the secret of life.”

Crystal asks, “What’s the one thing?”

Palance replies, “That’s what you got to figure out.”

There’s a familiar acronym, KISS. It stands for Keep It Simple, Stupid.

I like the way David Livingston, the Congregational missionary to Africa, put it: “I place no value on anything I possess, except in relation to the kingdom of God.” One of the core practices of Christians through the centuries — one of the spiritual disciplines practiced through the ages — is simplicity. So let’s Keep It Simple, Saints (I’d rather be called a saint than stupid, wouldn’t you?).

Jack Palance’s character told Billy Crystal’s character that he had to figure out what the “one thing” was for him. For Billy Crystal’s character, that seemed to be a formidable task. Jesus taught what that “one thing” is.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Jesus in Matthew 6:33)

Living Big

There’s a big difference between a cruise ship and a cruiser ship. A cruise ship is what you sign up for when you want to enjoy yourself, relax, and have a vacation, doing no work. A cruiser ship, on the other hand, is what you’re likely to end up on when you sign up to serve your country in the Navy. Your primary purpose is not to enjoy yourself, have others serve you, and take it easy as it is on a cruise ship. On the cruiser you’re there on behalf of your country, serving your country.

Being serious about God is not all about us and having our needs met by Him, though that’s part of it. A maturing relationship with God involves accepting His call to serve with Him and for Him. Realistically, this means it’s not always fun and relaxing. In fact, it can be a real sacrifice. On the other hand, it’s ultimately the most fulfilling and rewarding way to live. We’re living for something beyond ourselves, something bigger than ourselves, the biggest purpose for which we can live – God.

As infinitely great as God is, the remarkable fact is that we can be His hands, His feet, His voice, and His listening ear in this world. We are to, by being His person, bring His presence into our sphere of influence. Life just doesn’t get any more significant than that. It’s living big!

Jesus said, “Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” (John 12:26)

A Personal Copernican Revolution

The astronomer Copernicus rearranged the universe during his lifetime in the 1500s, or at least people’s perception of the universe. Everyone had assumed that the Earth was the center of the universe. Copernicus started people thinking that this wasn’t the case. He helped people see the reality that our solar system is not the center of the universe and that the sun is the center of the solar system. This changed perception of our universe and solar system is called the Copernican revolution. It was a paradigm shift as to how we look at our place in the cosmos.

There’s another paradigm shift that I’ve experienced in my life, as has anyone else who’s decided to be a follower of Jesus Christ. We who put our faith in Christ seek to view our world — and especially the little worlds that make up our individual existences — differently from the way people who aren’t serious about Jesus look at things. We’ve had our own personal Copernican revolution with Christ!

We no longer live from the perspective that we’re the center of our solar system of self. We don’t go through each day asking ourselves, “What do I want to do today? After all, it’s my life I’m living.” Instead, we pray, “Lord, what do you want me to do today? After all, it’s Your life I’m living!” We’ve made a paradigm shift and operate from the perspective that Jesus is at the center, and that everything about us revolves around the Son!

“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (the apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20)

Photovotional — “Continual Inner Refreshment”

The photo with this post is of a pump in a cemetery west of the small town of Leota, Minnesota. I love these old pumps. I pumped the handle vigorously a few strokes and the water flowed. I wonder from how deep it came?

Such an image reminds me of Jesus’ conversation with a woman at a well. He had asked her to draw some water from the well. A conversation followed.

Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’

‘Sir,’ the woman said, ‘you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?’

Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’” (John 4:10-14)

Water is refreshing and life-giving. Jesus used the image of water to communicate the amazing effect He can have within us. Jesus desires to be a continual inner refreshment for us. What a thought!

 

A PHOTOVOTIONAL: “The Old Rugged Cross”

On the land where our church’s future building is to be located we have a large wooden cross. It has been there for a decade and has taken quite a beating. Look closely and you’ll see the wood is weathered and the large nails (railroad spikes) are rusted. Birds use the cross as a perch and have stained it with their droppings. It has been used for target practice by those wielding paintball guns.

Look carefully in the upper right hand corner of the image. A vulture circles overhead!

Graffiti mars the cross with the word “DIE” sprayed on the side. The second image gives you a close-up of the graffiti. I doubt the vandals realized how theologically correct they were!

Jesus’ cross was no great work of art, just a utilitarian tool of execution. It bore the stain of His own blood, sweat, and tears. If sin could cause a physical stain on wood, then the cross of Christ would have been stained beyond measure by the sins of humanity that Christ bore while hanging on it.

Our cross on the land is certainly an old rugged cross and I’ve thought about having it cleaned up, but I’m thinking it’s more appropriate to leave it the way it is. Certainly this cross, with all of the abuse it’s taken, communicates the message of Christ’s cross better than any gilded cross ever could.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

Good Friday and Why It’s So Good!

The worst thing that ever happened, happened on this Friday.  An innocent, holy, man was sent to the cross, God in the flesh crucified!  Jesus dying on a cross. Yet, we call it GOOD Friday. Amazing! God’s in the business of turning bad into good!