my books: friends & counselors #10

John W. Frye’s poetic reflection on relating to God as we relate to others made “in his image” speaks deeply to me every time I read it. The wonder of relationship!

Wrinkles at the corner of the eyes,
a softening inflection of the voice,
a sigh, a slight turn of the head,
a friend speaks to me.
A sacred entity in wearied body
bearing the Image –
priceless, deep imprint of the Other.
Gesturing, fumbling hands,
awkward silences and jump-start
phrase
coming from inside a being,
from a silence unknown to me
except for this series of sounds.
Conversation is a miracle,
a treasure hunt
for meaning, acceptance;
an audio map
Out of the complex wilderness
for two simple, broken wanderers
who drink hot coffee.
Are those wrinkles in the corner of the eyes
or are they branches of the burning bush?
What is this space, other than holy ground?
How is it that our feeble, speaking voices
usher us into the Eternal Silence
where words cannot convey this exact moment?
Holy, holy, holy is this moment almighty!
Two brings, coffee on their breathes,
with puffs of air exchange their souls
on wispy sounds, from very deep to deep!
I walk away from the moment
with a new limp
and
with a new hope,
for I have wrestled with God
in another whom I call
“friend.”

Liberate Your Praying Heart by John W. Frye (Credo House Publishers, 2017); p.42

sum of the sermon – love is a battlefield: being strong in the Lord (4)

In the ancient world as described in Scripture, it was a common thing for rulers or kings to erect an image or statute of themselves in the distant realms of their domain. Rather than merely feeding the ruler’s vanity, these images served important purposes. They were erected to remind the people there, most of whom would never see him in the flesh, who it was who provided for them and protected them. The image reflected his likeness and depicted some of the qualities that he not only saw himself embodying, but those who wished to see imitated by his people (i.e. – confidence, strength, looking to the future, etc.).

This image/statue – an obvious, constant, physical combination of reminder and reflection – stood out to all who encountered it as a representation of the ruler/king. He was not to be forgotten and his representation was statement of his “presence” over, and among, his people. He had expectations for them to live up to – and he to them – and these expectations were rock-solid, like the image/statute itself. His rule concerned things important to his people’s well-being and his people were to support him well in the way they represented him with all their actions.

And so, when the story of how the living God made humankind and set them in the midst of his creation, it is revealing to see God use this very same language of imagery. Literally.

“… God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1.27)

God made humans as a representation of himself. Being a reflection of the Creator’s character and abilities, their role in creation was to function as reminders of the Creator and his ongoing work; though we do not see him, he is here. Humans were to represent the Creator and Sustainer God well in their dealings with all that is creation, as well as in their dealings with each other.

We know the story, though, don’t we? Quite personally! We did the unthinkable – we rebelled against our God and in so doing, we defaced his image in us. As we filled creation with violence and selfishness, our ways did little to remind people of the only good and benevolent God. Since our ways did not reflect his ways, our representation of him was warped and twisted; we gave people the wrong impression of what God is like.

But, good and merciful God came into our midst and, rather than wiping us out, he came to rescue us from ourselves. In doing so, he, in effect, delivered us and created a new humanity – a new representation of himself – through the work of his Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

What an awesome God!

And so, this is where we stand today. We who follow Christ today are the new humanity, created in Christ to represent God afresh to all of creation. This work of his in us as humans is more wondrous than his first work, for we know our reflection of him now represents his redemptive work of grace and mercy on a whole new scale.

To be sure, it’s still a battle. Our false expectations all too often remain with us. As does our temptation. And on ears hard-of-hearing, his instruction comes. But, in Christ Jesus – as Christians – we set our face to the task at hand – to belong to our God and to represent our God like never before. We are determined to do so, and enabled to do so, in our spirit and ways:

As … God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. (Colossians 3.12 J.B. Phillips)

As he spoke us into being in the beginning – and afresh in Christ – we pray that our very words reflect God’s good character and timing:

Pray that I’ll know what to say and have the courage to say it at the right time, telling the mystery to one and all, the Message that I … am responsible for getting out. (Ephesians 6.19)

For we now know who and what we are in Christ – as one of God’s special messengers to us put it succinctly:

… we are ambassadors who represent Christ. (2 Cor. 5.20a)

And this we shall not forget again – nor shall we let the world fail to see – Christ living in us.

So go, and be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power!

Amen!

LIFE group guide: love is a battlefield – being strong in the Lord (4)

NOTE: Following is the discussion guide we’ll use tomorrow (Sept. 14) in our LIFE groups at MoSt Church. This guide will enable your follow-up of my sermon that morning. To find previous group discussion guides, look under the category title “LIFE group guides” and you’ll find an archive of previous issues.

Reason

Stated in a single sentence, this is the purpose of this morning’s sermon.

To explore the meaning of, preparation for, and engagement in spiritual warfare.

Revelation

These Scriptures form some of the foundation of this sermon.

• Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1.26-27 NLT)

• … from this point on we won’t recognize people by human standards. Even though we used to know Christ by human standards, that isn’t how we know him now. So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived! All of these new things are from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and who gave us the ministry of reconciliation. In other words, God was reconciling the world to himself through Christ, by not counting people’s sins against them. He has trusted us with this message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors who represent Christ. God is negotiating with you through us. We beg you as Christ’s representatives, “Be reconciled to God!” God caused the one who didn’t know sin to be sin for our sake so that through him we could become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5.16-21 CEB)

• Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood … And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearlessly, as I should. (Ephesians 6.10-12,18-20 NRSV)

• As, therefore, God’s picked representatives of the new humanity, purified and beloved of God himself, be merciful in action, kindly in heart, humble in mind. Accept life, and be most patient and tolerant with one another, always ready to forgive if you have a difference with anyone. Forgive as freely as the Lord has forgiven you. And, above everything else, be truly loving, for love is the golden chain of all the virtues.  (Colossians 3.12-14 J.B. Phillips)

Relation

Use one of the following icebreaker questions to prime the pump, to help the conversation begin. Choose one to discuss.

1. Pull out some cash or currency. Who’s likeness is depicted on it? How exactly did they represent our nation?

2. Have you served as an official representative of a group/organization? Tell us about the experience.

Research

These exercises/questions are meant to help us grapple with the Scripture(s) related to this sermon.

1. Compare 2 Corinthians 5.16-20 and Ephesians 6.10-18. How can a Christian be an “ambassador” and a “soldier?”

2. Compare the wording of Colossians 3.12a in several English translations with the Phillips edition above.

Reflection

These questions assist our sharing what we sense God’s Spirit is doing with us in our encounter with God’s word.

1. As a Christian, you are an ambassador representing King Jesus. How does that make you feel?

2. What does being Christ’s ambassador , his representative, have to do with spiritual warfare?

3. What does an “ambassador” seek to accomplish? What abilities and skills suit an ambassador well?

4. As the personal messenger (ambassador) of King Jesus, what is the message we carry and deliver?

5. “What we are when we aren’t consciously trying to represent Christ might influence most of all.” How?

Response

These ideas/suggestions are for your use beyond the group meeting; to aid in living out today’s message in the coming days.

1. Consider well the message of Christ you can share with someone who is yet to believe. Write it down so it can be said in 20 seconds.

2. Pursue God’s peace in your life. Do this for the sake of others, so that you can share the Prince of Peace.

links: this went thru my mind (on violence)

 

V-for-violenceCrime prevention, intelligence, police, terrorism & violence: G.K. Chesterton’s Nightmare

“Thirty years ago, a British newspaper took an unscientific survey of current and former intelligence agents, asking them which fictional work best captured the realities of their profession. Would it be John Le Carré, Ian Fleming, Robert Ludlum? To the amazement of most readers, the book that won easily was G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, published in 1908.

“This was so surprising because of the book’s early date, but also its powerful mystical and Christian content: Chesterton subtitled it ‘a nightmare.’ But perhaps the choice was not so startling. Looking at the problems Western intelligence agencies confront fighting terrorism today, Chesterton’s fantasy looks more relevant than ever, and more like a practical how-to guide.”

Drones: Despite Administration Promises, Few Signs of Change in Drone Wars

“More than two months after President Obama signaled a sharp shift in America’s targeted-killing operations, there is little public evidence of change in a strategy that has come to define the administration’s approach to combating terrorism.”

Inspiration, interpretation, Scripture & violence: The Cross and the Witness of Violent Portraits of God

“… since the ultimate author of Scripture is God, any given passage may have a number of meanings that go beyond what the human author intended. (This “surplus” of divinely-intended meaning is traditionally referred to as the “sensus plenoir” of Scripture). …

“So the question I’ve been wrestling with for the last several weeks is, how [such might] … help us discern how portraits of Yahweh causing parents to cannibalize their children (e.g. Lev. 26:28-29; Jer. 19:9; Ezek.5:10 ) or commanding genocide (Deut. 7:2) point us to the enemy-embracing, non-violent, self-sacrificial love of God revealed on the cross?”

Value of human life: Why Should We Value Human Relationships?

“As God’s image bearers we are all equal. We are equal in dignity and worth. We are created equally in His image. We are also fallen equally (Romans 3:23). Genesis 1:26 explains that God created man in His image. Of all of God’s creation, we are the only ones created in His very image, we have dominion over the rest (Genesis 1:28). It is a profound mystery (God is spirit so we do not bear His physical image, John 4:24) and yet a great privilege. Understanding our equality as image bearers changes everything we think about as it relates to our human relationships. As image bearers we should view others as God views them.”

this went thru my mind

 

Chronic illness & encouragement: Talking to Someone With a Chronic Illness

“Here are some tips to keep in mind when talking to a friend living with an invisible illness.”

Comments & words: Hurtado’s Rules for Fruitful Comments on Blogs

“… with two years experience at this … I want to set some ground-rules …”

Culture: Average US Neighborhood [required reading]

“The above Infographic … depicts statistics of the average American neighborhood of 100 people.”

Culture, idolatry & the United States: America’s Two Golden Calves by Paul Smith [required reading]

“Militarism and capitalism. The two golden calves of Americanism. If you doubt my analysis, simply try to remove one or both of these idols from any political campaign. See how far you get.”

Image of God: So What Does the Image Mean? by Marc Cortez

“…  the image is basically about ‘representation.’ In other words, human beings represent God because (for some reason) he’s decided to manifest his glorious presence in creation through us.”

Leadership: 20 Commitments that Enhance Leadership by Dan Rockwell

“Commitments are decisions you don’t reconsider. Top leadership commitments include …”