Mar 31

A Priest Who Prays

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“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great

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“Jesus completely finished the work of reconciliation, but that does not mean he is up in heaven taking a long nap. One of the most beautiful parts of the theology of the ascension is that Jesus is now praying for us. Jesus is our great High Priest who intercedes for us. Having been reconciled with us through his death, Jesus is now laboring for our healing through his prayer: “Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34 nrsv).

What does this mean for you and for me? It means that not only do we stand forever forgiven, but Jesus is also forever praying for us. And what is he praying for? He is praying that you and I would be completely new people, people in whom he can make his home.

When Paul asks the Colossians to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God,” he is urging them to reflect on the wonder of Jesus, the Lamb of God who took away the sins of the world (John 1:29), and the splendor of Jesus, the High Priest who now prays for us. This is how God is “making all things new.”

The glorious Trinity (Father, Son and Spirit) is on a mission to transform every one of us. That does not happen by anything we do of ourselves. Jesus did it all. And Jesus does it all—by continuing to pray for each of us. But we do participate in this transformation. We set our minds on these truths: we are forgiven, and Jesus is praying for us. And when Jesus prays, things happen. He will not stop until he has made us all new people.

Soul Training – Changing Narratives:

Make a small notecard today with the following 2 phrases; “I am forgiven” and “Jesus is praying for me”. Place the card in a place that you will see it over the next week. (Examples: Next to Computer Monitor, Refrigerator Door, Bathroom Mirror, Phone Screen Background or Coffee Table)


 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Apprenticeship, Kingdom of God, Narrative | Tags: / / / / / / / /

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Aug 25

One Thing from “Boyhood” That Can Transform Your Life (Whether you see the movie or not)

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“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”  —Boyhood Based on a recommendation from a friend, my wife and I caught the new(-ish) movie Boyhood, yesterday. The movie–no

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“You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment? I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”  —Boyhood

Based on a recommendation from a friend, my wife and I caught the new(-ish) movie Boyhood, yesterday.

The movie–no spoilers here–was filmed over the course of twelve years and follows the coming of age of Mason, from around 6 years old to his first days of freshman year in college (when the above quote takes place).

It’s a thoroughly candid look at coming of age in America, particularly in Texas. I could sing the movie’s praises–good acting, raw true to life storyline, etc.–but something caught my eye and ear afterward.

In conversation after the movie, Jill (my wife) and I kicked around reflections and takeaways.

The thing that stuck out to me about the movie was its normalcy. Major life transitions just seemed normal, everyday, mundane.

Mason’s family sings him an off-key “Happy Birthday,” just like millions of other families every single day.

Mason grows out his hair in middle school, is forced to cut it, grows it out again in high school.

Perhaps most tellingly, Mason’s high school graduation ceremony is followed by a party every bit as awkward as yours.

I’ve read other reflections on the movie that say it is overwhelming, so many life transitions in a three hour period. I’ll concede that, we watch a boy grow from 6 to 18 before our eyes, so I get where these folks are coming from.

But the thing I drove away from the theater thinking is how normal life is.

With the advent of social media (and before, I’m sure), we’re constantly afforded the opportunity to compare our lives to other peoples’.

Whether it’s a wedding, bachelor/bachelorette party, birthday party, graduation experience, vacation, gender reveal party, (even a baptism?) or any other of a number of events people post on social media about, we’re out on Pinterest or Google to find a better way to do it.

And if we’ve already done it ourselves, then we’re left comparing our experience to everyone else who has presumably done it better, or at least differently than us.

And if we’re not comparing to other people’s lives, then we’re comparing to our own future/past.

Past: While we lived in Durham, NC, Jill and I had some of the best experiences of community ever to that point. We may never have a community as complete again in our lives. It’s easy to compare life now to then, even though we’re surrounded by a wonderful community and family in Wichita.

Future: Jill is 33 weeks pregnant. It’s easy (especially for her, since she’s the one going through all the pain) to jump ahead to week 40 or whenever this baby decides to make an appearance. It’s easy to imagine what life will be like then and miss the moments and days of pregnancy.

What about your life?

  • Do you catch yourself looking ahead to the next “thing?”
  • The promotion that will transform your job?
  • The new job that will be so much better than your current job?
  • The guy or girl who will fulfill your wildest dreams and transform your life?
  • The paycheck amount that will finally free you to do what you want with your life?
  • The goal you’ve been training and planning for, that once you achieve it will make everything better, give you clarity of life and purpose?

The more we talked yesterday, the more I realized so much of life can be wished away in search of these “major event”s. And how we make such a big deal of events that, while great, are just another day.

Take our wedding, for instance, it was a great day, but it wasn’t a transformative day. The days before and the days after, that turned into weeks, months, and years, those have been transformative.

Photo: Bruce L Snell

**Photo: Bruce L Snell

But people hype weddings up to mythic status (if you’re not married or don’t believe me, substitute graduation/18th/21st birthday/college and see if it doesn’t work), as if it’s some life changing event.

And it is, and it isn’t.

Which is how so many of these life events are: normal, routine, beautiful.

When you don’t over-hype a transition or event (not that you shouldn’t have goals or dreams), you recognize the beauty of this moment. And when you are open to each moment, it just might seize you.

Because even in this life of trying to follow Jesus, we try to make things major. Your conversion should be a heart-palpitating tear filled, come to Jesus moment. A major transition should occur. You should be perfect and different.

But so often we don’t experience it. And worship is held to the same standard, heck, even God is held to the standard. You should experience and feel God, and often. If you don’t, maybe you’re doing it wrong.

And if you don’t have it all figured out, then enroll in a class, read a book, pray for hours, or do something so you can look forward to the moment of completion when you will have it figured out.

But unfortunately, life with God, is still just life. And life, in all its day-to-day normalcy is beautiful, I’m 99% sure, especially after I get that ________.

But seriously, who or what are you looking to for validation of your moment(s)?

Let go of the over-the-top and settle in for the long and beautiful haul that is life.

Because the more we let the moment seize us, the more we might notice the beauty of the moment. The beauty of the person we would have ignored on the way to our next big moment. The beauty of God’s still small voice we might have drowned out in the cries over wishing some event was more than it turned out to be.

And instead of wishing our lives away, we might just discover that all of life is in this moment, because it’s the only place we can be–however majestic or mundane.

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Aug 11

Kingdom Call and Response

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Lying in a hammock in my backyard, I could smell the newly bloomed columbines and could feel the gentle warmth from the sun, filtered through the leaves of a big maple tree. I could hear a small fountain trickle and an assortment of birds chirping

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Lying in a hammock in my backyard, I could smell the newly bloomed columbines and could feel the gentle warmth from the sun, filtered through the leaves of a big maple tree.

I could hear a small fountain trickle and an assortment of birds chirping as they fluttered from tree to tree.

Then I heard a song that I hadn’t heard before.

This particular bird song was elegant and melodic.

Not shrill or harsh.

Gentle and inviting.

I listened as its song was sung once. And after a long pause, it sung again. This time an even longer pause overtook me.Knowing that bird calls are often used to communicate to another individual of its species, I was waiting for the response.

A third time the bird called and still no response. I felt myself wondering and becoming uneasy that no response was accompanying the call.

The bird called again and waited. And again, I listened.

Then gently, without interrupting or disturbing the peaceful surroundings, a beautifully mirrored response came from across the yard. I laid there listening as these two birds exchanged their songs back and forth.

**ForestWander Nature Photography

**ForestWander Nature Photography

Call and response. Ebb and flow. Beauty begetting beauty. Each note more wonderful than the one before.

I was taken aback by the first bird. It sang with no guarantee of an answer. It sang, then waited. Patiently perched without angst or qualm. The bird confidently sang; whole-hearted and full-breathed.

I wonder if I could find courage like that–to live my life whole-hearted and full-breathed. Waiting with confidence that God will answer.

I think I shy away from calling to God or being authentic in prayer because I doubt there will be an answer. I doubt that my prayers or my thoughts, really matter to God.

It helps to remember the God that Jesus reveals. A God who is present and faithful. The response may not always sound the way I expect, but God will answer. He will respond with a gentle call, a response that evokes even more beauty from the world around me.

I want to be a person who sings unique beauty into this world, then waits for Abba to breathe unimaginable beauty in and through me. I want to live courageously and peacefully like this bird.

I’d like to have the confidence to trust our heavenly father’s timing and not feel the need to force results. I’d like to rest in knowing I will do all I can to the best of my ability, but it’s the Father that will truly make beauty beyond what I can fathom.

How wonderful would it be to live this peaceful ebb and flow, the melody and harmony of God and I sharing beauty upon beauty?

Posted in Blog, Spiritural Growth | Tags: / / / /

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Dec 01

Train the Body to Behave

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When I was fifteen I broke a small bone in my left hand and had to have it put in a stint that was tightly taped. The problem was that I was only six weeks from starting basketball practice, and to make matters worse, I

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When I was fifteen I broke a small bone in my left hand and had to have it put in a stint that was tightly taped. The problem was that I was only six weeks from starting basketball practice, and to make matters worse, I am left-handed. I was not ambidextrous in any way, but fully, dominantly, left handed. As such, I had always dribbled and shot with only my left hand (just as I always wrote, ate and brushed my teeth with my left hand). I wanted to play so badly that I went to the gym only able to use my right hand.

Every day, all by myself, I practiced dribbling. It was pretty awful at first. I bounced the ball off my foot several times and struggled to get the right rhythm. I dribbled it either too hard or too soft and was unable to maneuver well because I couldn’t control the ball as easily, as naturally as I could with my left hand. Each day I practiced dribbling in and out of orange cones, going back and forth, fast and slow, left and right. I probably dribbled the ball five thousand times with my right hand, something I had never done before.

Five weeks later the x-rays showed the bone had healed in my left hand, and I was cleared to play again using both hands. A week later practice started. At the end of practice we had a scrimmage. All of my teammates knew I was dominantly left handed and thus always dribbled to my left, which they cut off by standing to my left. On the first play I caught the ball, faked left and took off to my right, dribbling with my right hand, and shot a jump shot that swished in. Just then the coach blew his whistle. “Smith,” he yelled, “come here.” I did, and then he said to me privately, “When did you learn to go to your right?” I said, “Well, I broke my left hand a month ago and so for the last thirty days I have been using only my right hand when I practice. Now I guess I can use either hand.

Just as I trained my right hand to do something it had not done, so we can train our bodily members to behave as Christ-followers should behave. We can train our eyes to see beauty and to turn away from lust. We can train our tongues to tell the truth, to bless others with our words and to refrain from speaking ill of others. We can train our hands to serve others. We can train our feet to go to the least and the lost. Our bodies will not naturally be inclined this way, just as my right hand dribbled the ball off my foot for the first few weeks. But eventually it began to control the ball even without my conscious effort. That is what we are aiming for: doing the right things over and over, under the leading of the Spirit, until our bodies naturally do what is right.

So I encourage you today to give thanks for your body. It is good. Then I would encourage you to think of the ways in which your body has been trained under the ideas and ideals of the kingdom of this world, and prayerfully consider how it can be retrained to be your ally in your walk in the Spirit.

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

Posted in Blog, Soul Training | Tags: / / / / / / /

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