{re}fresh

Month: April, 2013

Crucified With Christ

by Rob Dunne

churchsteeple“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

The door closed loudly behind me. I walked up the stairs and passed into the narthex. A muscular looking gentleman with glasses warmly greeted me and handed me a bulletin. Looking into the sanctuary, I noticed the bright red carpet and baby blue walls. I thought, “What have I gotten myself into?”

As the service started, we spent the next twenty minutes singing unfamiliar worship songs. Though the lyrics were repetitive, my recall was poor. In all the previous years that I had attended church, I was embarrassed to sing. Here, the congregation was singing with passion. It was so moving that I couldn’t resist joining in.

At the conclusion of worship, the assistant pastor encouraged us to greet those around us. Again, the greeting was warm. Following the announcements, the pastor got up to speak. Was this going to be business as usual or was I about to hear something engaging? Three points and forty-five short minutes later, I knew I was where I belonged. Never before had I heard the Bible taught in such a way. Now, Sunday service was not obligatory. Rather, it was something I looked forward to weekly.

Moments like this help define who we become. Coupled with our individual reading time, the Holy Spirit uses pastors to teach us what the Bible says. Ultimately, the goal is for us to be like Jesus. The hope is that He becomes so prevalent in us that we are no longer recognizable.

Becoming like Christ is a process and a long one at that. Every day, we must give place to Jesus on the throne of our lives. In those moments when we forget that we bear the image of our Maker, seek forgiveness and surrender control once again. Remember the time when you first fell in love with Jesus and allow that passion to rekindle the fire that always burns inside your heart. Allow the Holy Spirit to make you new.

The day I stepped into that little brick building with the white steeple, my life became new and I was radically changed. No longer do I live for myself. Rather, I live life for the One who gave Himself for me. Whom do you live life for?

To learn more about Rob Dunne, please visit our Contributors Page.

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Standing in My Mess

by ivyjonah

desparate-motherby Linda J. Maynard

“What strength do I have, that I should still hope? Job 6:11

Have you witnessed people continuing in their destructive behaviors simply because it was familiar? It doesn’t make sense, but it happens. I know. I’ve been there.

Living a lie, I desperately tried coping with life. I was a wife and mother of 2 young children and found myself standing in my mess, feeling like a failure in every way. I became a closet drinker and mixed prescription drugs, thinking I could stop any time I chose to. But I couldn’t.

As my addiction progressed, my family surmised something was terribly wrong, but what it was, they were at a loss. Is she having a nervous breakdown…planning a divorce?

In desperation, I hoped I would get arrested. I never forged a prescription nor went doctor shopping. In my muddled thinking, I concluded if they arrested me, the madness would end. Sadly, life became so painful that I wanted out. I would have gone through with the suicide,  but one thing held me back – the utter brokeness on my parents faces when my youngest brother, Kenny, died six months previously from an overdose. In that one lucid moment, their pain vividly imprinted on my mind, I knew I couldn’t cause them the that sort of pain again.

God saw my silent desperation and heard the cry of my heart.

Hospitalized for medical reasons other than my addictions, God placed me in a room with another alcoholic. As the substance abuse counselor interviewed my yellow-skinned roommate, she proceeded to explain the disease called alcoholism. I thought, “She is describing me. Help was available? I was not a bad person?”

Returning home, I made an appointment with this counselor and entered a detox treatment center where the Master Artist repainted my darkened world and gave me a new release on life. After thirty-three years,  I still remember how vibrant the deep greens of the  grass and trees appeared; so vibrant I knew that no lawn service could’ve created it. I’d been given a new release on life; a new begining.

Lord, I pray for those trapped in addictions, whether alcohol or drugs, pornography or gambling, shopping or overeating; set them free from themselves and from their addictions that they may be born anew. Lord, be their strength and give them life anew.

To learn more about Linda, please visit our Contributor’s Page.

When the Word Whispsers, “Let Go”

by Dawn Aldrich

rainydayinjulyWarm winter rain tap, taps against my window.

Tap tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Slow, melodic awakenings bid my drowsy mind’s attention.

Tap tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

They build, crescendo.

Tappity tap. Tappity tap. Tappity tap. Tappity tap. Tappity tap.

And slow.

Tap tap. Tap tap. Tap. Tap. Tap.

Nature’s untimely lullaby.

Winter disguised as early spring.

We live within these unpredictable, uncontrollable forces and yet we try to rein them in – east to west, north to south. We study them, predict their next move, realign our lives in hopes they’ll give in to our demands. And always, we stand bewildered against nature’s ways-powerless and silent.

Then out of nowhere, a soft zephyr blows – whispers, “Let go.”

Against our tugging hearts, we might concede, hand the ropes over to the One who whispered the words – the One known as the Word.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV).

The Word that spoke everything into being with his voice:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light…

And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water…

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation…

And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons and days and years, and let them be lights in the expanse of the sky to give light on the earth…”

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky…”

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds…

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image…

“And it was so” (excerpts from Genesis 1:1-30 NIV).

That Word who became flesh and lived among us still speaks, still whispers to our hearts, “Let go.” But the choice is ours. We can tighten our grip – pretend not to hear or we can let go and let the Word – let God – speak life and order and peace.

Is life’s unpredictability causing you to grip the reigns of your life tight? Can you hear the Word whispering, “Let go?” What will it take for you to loosen your grip on life and let God take control?

Dear God, search us and know our ways. Look deep into our souls and show us where we need to let go, where we need to loosen our grip. We freely give you control and pray your peace and calm and order in the midst of our chaos and storm. Create in us a new beginning. Amen.

(To learn more about Dawn or to access her personal blog, please visit our Contributors page).

The Eighth Day

by Mike McKinniss

In John’s account of the resurrection, he is very clear about just when Jesus emerged from the grave.  “On the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark” (Jn 20:1a).  In case the reader did not catch it, the point is reiterated later in the chapter.  “In the evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because of their fear of the Jews” (v. 19a).

Why is it so important to John to be sure we know that Jesus was raised on a Sunday?

The clue is in the opening words of the gospel: “In the beginning…”  This is the most famous opening line to any piece of literature and it launches two epic tales.  The first is the creation account in Genesis, in which the Creator dives into a whirlwind of activity ordering the cosmos, separating light and dark, sky and water, earth and sea, and filling those environments with the creatures that ought to govern them.  In that inaugural narrative, the author marks the very dawn of time.

Here, at the threshold of another epochal era, John gives his readers a scintillating hint at the story he’s about to tell.  The story of Jesus is also a creation story.  Throughout John’s account, then, he highlights a series of events–seven of them (wink, wink)–as signs of the Creator’s activity working through the hands of Jesus.  Water is turned to wine (Jn 2:1-11); a crippled man rises to walk (Jn 5:1-18); Lazarus is raised from the tomb (Jn 11:1-45).

Now John describes one final creative act and he emphasizes its significance by telling his audience the day on which it happened.  Jesus was raised on the first day, or rather, the eighth day.  This event, John says, marks a new creation.  A fresh set of seven days has begun with this empty grave.

And so it has been with every sunrise since that inaugural Sunday.  Side by side with the old ways of death and disease and brokenness has marched, steadily though quietly, a second reality of light and life, of healing and wholeness.  Although this new more glorious creation is often drowned out by the cacophony of the old bent world, it is no less real and certainly no less powerful.

When you awake tomorrow, remember this: you have opened your eyes in a new creation.  The old is washed away; the new has come.  Look for it and you’ll see it.

To learn more about Mike, please visit our Contributor’s page.

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