Christ our All in All

Before I start my post today I wanted to preface it with the following quote:

I do not write entirely alone. As Pascal
reminds us in Pensees, "Some authors, when
talking of their works say, my book,
my commentary, my history, etc. I recommend them
to say, our book, because in general they contain much more
of what belongs to other people than to themselves."
(from Journey of Desire by John Eldredge pg vii)

The following post has been inspired once again by the life and words of Bonhoeffer as expressed by Eric Metaxas. I went back to find the quote I wanted to use and I reread much of what Bonhoeffer said and the explanations by Eric and I began to realize many of "my thoughts" for this post were direct out workings of what was written. The line became very blurred that I could no longer distinguish my own ideas from theirs. The good news is that I hope it has transferred from merely head knowledge to something I am living out of the heart. The hard part, however, is to write and give correct acknowledgements. Hence the need for the quote above, the following post is "our commentary."

The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one's bread, on the contrary,
it is the bread or it is nothing. People should at least
understand and concede this if they call themselves Christians.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (69)

I have been reflecting on this concept ever since I read it a month ago. The following is what I wrote in my journal on Sunday:

God is not an additive.
Religion adds God to life; fits Him in.
Christ, however, is the all in all,
the Beginning and the End (Revelation 1:8).
He is in everything (Acts 17:27-29).
Our acts of faith are not
to repay God for Jesus' death
but rather they should be
an outward expression
of an inner existence.
He, Christ, causes a strengthening and solidifying of our heart and faith,
and a drawing closer to Him which in turn makes us whole
and connects us to others.

If you've been around Christianity for awhile you will see a lot of "religion;" people being driven by guilt of never doing enough for God. People frustrated of never being holy enough for God. I think this is a result of a fundamental misunderstanding of who Christ is and what it means to have Him in our lives.

How do you become holy?
Did you say by you trying not sin, by you trying to become like Jesus?

Or did you say through Jesus?

Hebrews 2:11
Jesus, who makes people holy.

I understand that it is confusing because the end goal, to be holy, is the same in both methods. But the starting point is entirely different. Is your Christianity driven by you and your efforts or is it Jesus living through you in everything?

Hebrews 2:10
God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory.
He wanted to have many children share His glory,
so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.

The Father wants to share His glory with us. He wants to do this through our daily lives. He didn't ask us to do it by our own strength or efforts but instead He invited us to follow Jesus Christ. Finally, He invites us to walk it out through Him in joy not guilt (Philippians 4:12).

I can doubtless live with or without Jesus as a religious genius,
as an ethicist, as a gentleman... Should, however, there be something in Christ
that claims my life entirely... then Christ has not only relative but absolute
urgent significance with me.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (83)

In Christ,

Death in the light of the goodness of God

I wrote in my journal the other day,

What you believe about God, effects how you fight.

On Monday, April 26, 2010 it will be exactly one year since Nevaeh passed away. Her life was something that I fought for in the place of prayer for 19 months. Her death was not what I prayed for, believed for or fought for. This past year has given many moments to reflect and consider if what I believed about God was true. The temptation has often been to change what I believe about God in order to make sense of what happened to Nevaeh. But no matter how hard I try, I can't do that and I won't. Even though I now know the outcome of her life I wouldn't change one prayer that I prayed or one tear that I shed in asking for her life. She was worth the fight, and I fought the way I did because of what I believed and still believe about God.

I have heard many peoples' thoughts and conclusions, including my own, of what it means about God because she is gone. I often walk away completely frustrated because in ones' conclusion there is often a complete denial of another aspect/attribute of God. Last night I read something that for me brought together the conflict in my heart and mind to a place where I believe truth is accurately being represented. The following is from Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas; it is from a letter Bonhoeffer wrote to members of the Confessing Church as he announced yet another death of the pastoral community:

To be sure, God shall call you, and us, only at the hour that God has chosen.
Until that hour, which lies in God's hand alone, we shall all be protected even
in greatest danger; and from our gratitude for such protection ever new readiness surely arises for the final call.

Who can comprehend how those whom God takes so early are chosen? Does
not the early death of young Christians appear to us as if God were
plundering his own best instruments in a time in which they are most needed?
Yet the Lord makes no mistakes. Might God need our brothers for some
hidden service on our behalf in the heavenly world? We should put
an end to our human thoughts, which always wish to know more than they
can, and cling to that which is certain. Whomever God calls home is someone
God has loved. "For their souls were pleasing to the Lord, therefore he took them
quickly from the midst of wickedness" (Wisdom of Solomon 4).

We know, of course, that God and the devil are engaged in battle in the world and
that the devil also has a say in death. In the face of death we cannot simply speak in some fatalistic way, "God wills it"; but we must juxtapose it with the other reality, "God does not will it." Death reveals that the world is not as it should be but that it stands in need of redemption. Christ alone is the conquering of death. Here the sharp antitheses between "God wills it" and "God does not will it" comes to head and also finds its resolution. God accedes to that which God does not will, and from now on death itself must serve God. From now on, the "God wills it" encompasses even the "God does not will it." God wills the conquering of death through the death of Jesus Christ. Only in the cross and Resurrection of Jesus Christ has death been drawn into God's power, and it must serve God's own aims. It is not some fatalistic surrender but rather a living faith in Jesus Christ, who died and rose for us, that is able to cope profoundly with death. (pg 383-384)

His Eyes Never Close

I want to share the lyrics with you to a song that I love. The song is called His Eyes Never Close by Sherri Youngward. If you click on the link you can hear a snippet of the song; it's song 10.

When your race is reduced to a crawl
And your hands are weak from holding on
Keep your eyes fixed straight ahead
To the one who walked this way before you

Child stop weeping
God already knows
Even while you are sleeping
His eyes never close
Though the clouds may hide
The stars at night
Still I know, they haven’t lost their shine
Though the rains will come
So will the sun, God’s faithfulness
Is sure as the dawn


So close you eyes
And rest a while
Don’t be afraid
Jesus has walked this way
Before you

My favorite part of the song is the line "though the clouds may hide the stars at night, still I know they haven't lost their shine." I think this line paints a beautiful picture. Life definitely brings dark times and in those times of suffering it is easy to forget that God is there and that He cares. This song reminds me to keep leaning into Him, for He is Faithful and True.

I read the following verses today and I think that they go along well with the lyrics from the song.
Since Jesus went through everything you're going through
and more, learn to think like Him. Think of you sufferings
as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting
to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days
free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by
what you want.
I Peter 4:1-2 The Message

I pray these words meet you where you are at in this moment in time. That you will be able to fall into His arms even during the hard moments. And know that He walked this way before you and He invites you to continue to walk with Him.

And the winner is...

The winner of the $50 gift card is Kristi!

Thank you all for your support and participation.

Christian Maturity

I have been thinking about “maturity” in Christ lately; the concept has been coming up in my Bible readings, a sermon and conversation with a friend. I think one of the traps that Christian maturity can produce is the idea that works will earn you greater love from God. The measurement we often use to determine the "mature in Christ" is
  1. The mature in Christ have their lives all together
  2. They do a greater quantity of "holy things "than you
If they meet this measurement we then believe that because of these things God must love them more than He loves you. This idea that their works earned them a place of greater love from God can have 2 possible effects on your walk with Christ: One effect is that you increase your works to the Lord because you believe that it will make Him love you more. If you choose this route and operate out of works as your motivation to be holy you will burn out. Another possible effect it can have is that it causes you to sit on your hands and do nothing. If you have to earn His favor by works, then you'd rather not do anything at all.

For me, the Lord has been stripping away this misconception about maturity in Christ. God does call us to grow in greater maturity in Him but the motivation for our growth should be because we understand His great love for us not the idea that we are trying to earn His love through the things we do. Here are some thoughts I have about Christian maturity:

God's love is our only foundation and it will lead us to places of greater maturity:

Ephesians 3:17-19
And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love,
may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp
how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ,
and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

When I read these verses I always think of an ocean. God's love is like a vast ocean. His love is available to everyone, the exact same amount. We will never be able to grasp all of it at one time, we will never “arrive” and we will all experience different aspects of it depending on how we engage with it. Sometimes we can sit on the shore and just observe it, or we can go in and play around in it. Finally, as we fall more in love with the ocean we begin to go scuba diving and exploring it even more. In regards to God's love: He loves you PERIOD. As you grow in Christian maturity you will have the opportunity to explore the depth and meaning of that love more and more.

We are ALL children of God, so like children we will ALL go through a process of growth.

One of my favorite quotes is by John Eldredge and it states:

What father would be displeased by the first steps of a teetering baby, and what father would be satisfied with anything less than the strong, sure steps of a full grown man?

For me this quote captures the picture of what Christian maturity should be all about. The Father does not remove His love from you in your journey of faith and the times you trip and fall. He enjoys watching you grow and mature, just as a parent enjoys watching their children grow through the process of maturity. However, we as parents do want our children to grow and be all that they can be and so does God. It doesn't mean He loves us less now, and will love us more when we finally “arrive.” He loves us each step of the way and when we fall down and trip, He want us to allow Him to pick us back up, kiss us and tell us to try again.

Christian maturity should lead you to a place of humility and accessibility to others

As you grow in your faith, love should always come first. Knowledge has the potential of puffing you up and producing a gap between you and others. If your knowledge of God is causing you to set yourself above others then there is an error in it. As I said last time, I am reading Bonehoeffer's biography. One of the things that stands out to me is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer truly lived out the fact that God's love in us was for others and that this held more importance than his knowledge of God. He was a great theologian, who diligently studied the Word of God with the best theologians of his time. He, however, loved children and he believed that if he was not able to bring his knowledge to a place where children could understand God then all his knowledge was in vain. As you become more mature in Christ it should cause you to want to love and serve others more not to sit in judgment of them and their weaknesses.

Our comparison of our “maturity”in Christ should be in comparison to ourselves and not in comparison to our neighbor

Galatians 6:3-4
If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing,
he deceives himself. Each one should test his own actions.
Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else,
for each one should carry his own load.

When you measure your growth in comparison to where you've been it gets rid of the picture of viewing Christian maturity as an idea where the “mature” are closer to God and the less mature are farther away. When you are measuring the growth of your child you don't mark his line and then say, “Look at where your brother was at this age, why aren't you this tall?” We all grow and mature in our faith at different rates. One person's maturity level isn't better than the others. Be who God created you to be and grow in that because He loves you!

To conclude I hope this post encourages you to continue exploring the depth of God's love. May this exploration lead you to greater depths and knowledge of His great love for you and for others. Finally, may we learn to love others right where they are at and never get to the place where we think “we've arrived” in comparison to others.

Truth of God

I currently am reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas for a book review. I haven't finished the book yet (since it is 542 pages long) but I'm having a hard time being quiet about it until I reach the end of the book!

It is an excellent book full of beautiful nuggets for our Christian faith. I read the following quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer last night and I had to share it today:

Do not try to make the Bible relevant.
Its relevance is axiomatic (self-evident)....
Do not defend God's word, but testify to it...
Trust to the Word. (pg 261)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Be reminded this day of the foundational strength of God's Word. Our society has tried to shame us for being Christians and make us out to be fools for our beliefs. We do not need to cower or hold our heads down in embarrassment for what we believe. Testify to the Word, Jesus Christ:

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For by him all things were created:
things in heaven and on earth,
visible and invisible,
whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities;
all things were created by him and for him.
He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
And he is the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning and the firstborn
from among the dead, so that in everything
he might have the supremacy.
(Colossians 1:15-18)

Sanctified Together

You can find me today in the newsletter Sanctified Together. My article is entitled The Substance of Life. For those of you who have been following me since this summer it will seem familiar since it is a revised and hopefully improved version of a former post. All the articles in this newsletter are based on the same subject: Life is a Vapor. If you have some time, check out the other authors.

Finally, I added a new song to my playlist. So if you have a minute click to my site and take a minute to listen.

Have a blessed day,

Learning to Love Others

A couple weeks ago, I was reading Romans 14 and the following passage jumped out to me and I've been chewing on it ever since:

verse 9
For this very reason, Christ died
and returned to life so that he might be the
Lord of both the dead and the living.

Just coming off of Easter many of us having been reflecting on the fact that Jesus is Lord of the physical living and dead. But if you read Romans 14 you realize that Paul is talking about more than physical life and death. The very next verses state:
verse 10,12
You, then, why do you judge your brother?
Or why do you look down on your brother?
For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.
Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.

All of Romans 14 is dealing with how we as Christians walk out our faith and freedom and how one Christian's "freedom" in one area can cause a stumbling block for a "weaker" brother in Christ. The differences between where we are at cause us often times to judge one another. So based on the context of this chapter I believe that verse 9 is not only referring to the fact that Jesus is Lord of all of us our physical state of life and death but also in our spiritual state of living and dying.

I have come to a place in my Christianity where for the most part, I understand how God feels about me, no matter where I am at and how He is willing to meet me in that place. However, I have struggled with an inability to extend that same grace to where my brothers and sisters in Christ are at. Instead, I often find myself wanting them to be "in a certain place" in order for me to be comfortable with them and fully accepting of them. To be honest, many of my prayers had been, "Lord, bring so and so to 'this place' so they can understand you better." However, ever since I read Romans 14:9, the Lord has been chipping away at my perspective and showing me His perspective.

Jesus Christ is Lord of both the living and the dead. Wherever my brother or sister in Christ is at, He is Lord over them right now. Now this might seem obvious, but when I put that truth up next to how I was treating my brother and sister in Christ I wasn't treating them according to that reality. I was treating them in this way: that they needed to get to point X in order to prove to me that the Lord was Lord over them.

I haven't fully gotten on grasp on what this new perspective all means but it has been changing how I view others and especially how I pray. As I said earlier, I used to pray "Lord get them to this spot." Like somehow I knew what spot they needed to be at and that at this "spot" they would somehow be able to know and receive Him more. Since reading Romans 14:9, I have started releasing my "expectations" of what needs to be done and instead have been declaring what is true over people's lives when I pray for them.

"Jesus, you are Lord over the living and the dead. No matter where this person is at right now, you love this person there, right now. Because of your death on the cross and your resurrection You have authority over them in this place. I speak the truth of who you are over them right now, and I pray that they will experience the depth of Your great love right now where they are at."

1 Corinthians 8:1-3 sums what I've been experiencing:

We know that we all possess knowledge.
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
The man who thinks he knows something does not
yet know as he ought to know.
But the man who loves God is known by God.

I do believe that I have let my "knowledge" of God puff me up to a place that it becomes a barrier between myself and others. But the grace of God keeps taking me back to what Jesus asked of us: that we are to love the Lord our God with all of our hearts, soul, mind and strength and to love others. In this place is a freedom to be known by God and a freedom to love others no matter where they are at.

In Christ,

Daily Prayer

Disqus for For His Glory Alone


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...