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Hopelessly Devoted: Colossians Chapter Three Verse Three

This brief but powerful reflection comes to us from JAZ himself. 

For you have died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. (Colossians 3:3, NIV)

goblin-king-sarahImagine that you suddenly find yourself, without any preparation, standing on a stage and being watched by an enormous audience. How would wearing a mask over your face affect your level of comfort? If you’re like me, the answer is: immensely. It’s like being able to tell someone something that you’ve always wished someone would say to them, but without them knowing that it was you who said it. Wearing a mask enables you to feel either detached from or, at least, less associated with anything of yourself that you might regret exposing.

When we are given security that is not contingent upon our own intrinsic abilities, fruit is born, as if by reflex. It is life lived in the absence of condemnation.

As far as today is concerned, there is no rehearsal, but the performance must go on. In a very real sense, God has already covered your life with His Holy Spirit. “Your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

Some Very Helpful Words from RFC

I was on duty for the 7am chapel service at my church this morning and wasn’t quite sure what to say, especially since the Gospel reading contained Jesus’ famously opaque words about “salt of the earth” (Mt 5.13). I had a copy of Robert Farrar Capon’s Kingdom, Grace, Judgment on my desk, and looked to see what wisdom he might offer. As usual, RFC was enormously helpful, both for those of us who are feeling like “winners” and “losers” today, who feel “dead” and “alive.”

Consider the imagery. Salt seasons and salt preserves, but in any significant quantity, it is not of itself edible, nourishing,…

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The Captain of the Storm – by Sally Lloyd Jones

The Captain of the Storm – by Sally Lloyd Jones

A wonderful little passage on Mark 4/Matthew 8 from Sally Lloyd Jones‘ Jesus Storybook Bible, with illustrations by Jago.

The sun was going down. The air was warm and still.

“Let’s go across the lake,” Jesus said to his friends.

Jesus had been helping people all day and now he was tired. So they left the crowds at the shore and set out in a small fishing boat.

Jesus climbed into the boat to take a nap. As soon as his head touched the pillow, he fell fast asleep.

It was a beautiful evening. A gentle breeze rustled the sails. The friends were chatting happily…

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The Prayers of the Red Light District

The Prayers of the Red Light District

Another gem from Margaret Pope. 

I am very slowly working my way through Eric Metaxas’s biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the German theologian who adamantly opposed Hitler’s Third Reich and helped plot Hitler’s assassination. As I read this weekend, one section of the book stood out to me. Bonhoeffer is recounting attending a church in Paris, wherein he is given a picture of grace:

On Sunday afternoon I attended an extremely festive high mass in Sacré Coeur. The people in church were almost exclusively from Montmartre; prostitutes and their men went to mass, submitted to all the ceremonies; it was an enormously impressive picture, and once again…

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Printable up to 6"x8".

Hopelessly Devoted: First Peter Chapter One Verses Three Through Seven

This post comes to us from our friend, Jim McNeely.

My friend Mike Rehmet once told a story about his wife, Gina, who likes plants but apparently doesn’t have the greenest of thumbs. She brought home a new potted plant and set it on the front porch. As they were going out, he noticed the plant there, and said, “So–this is where you’re gonna do it?”

I was thinking about that story as I read this passage recently:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a…

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Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

Valorized Intelligence and Less Profitable Truths of the Heart

In recent news, CBS doubles down on eccentric male geniuses for its fall television lineup. One show, Pure Genius, treats us to an inside view of a Silicon Valley billionaire’s game-changing medical innovation; another, Bull, features the “brilliant, brash, and charming” titular consultant. And the MacGyver reboot, in addition to featuring an actor ten years younger than did the former series (!), snazzes up the clever factor, viz.,

electronics! What differentiates this slate from earlier hit shows (e.g., NCIS, Bluebloods) is its emphasis on intellect as the protagonist’s defining trait. Sure, our hero may commit the occasional social gaffe, exhibit some…

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Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Eight Verses Twenty Eight Through Thirty Nine

This morning’s devotion comes to us from Laurel Marr.

O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.

O Love That Will Not Let Me Go, George Matheson, 1882

Paul, the chief of sinners, tells us God’s answer when he pleads with God to remove a thorn in his flesh. “My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12: 7-10). Paul makes it known to us that this thorn is given to him. In ancient…

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The Magnetic Power of a Proxy Marriage

The Magnetic Power of a Proxy Marriage

My late father-in-law, a pastor, used to say he would rather officiate a funeral than a wedding. It shocked my young ears at the time, but after I became a pastor I could see his reasoning. Weddings, at their worst, have a kind of dramatic tension that completely overwhelms its sacramental significance. Not all brides and their mothers live up to their stereotypes, but some do. In those cases, give me a simple funeral of a God-fearin’ woman or man.

But weddings at their best are animated by a sweetness and beauty that are hard to find anywhere else on a…

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Hopelessly Devoted: 1 Corinthians Chapter Three Verses Six and Seven

This morning’s devotion comes to us from none other than the President of the Mockingboard, Aaron Zimmerman.

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. (1 Corinthians 3:6-7, ESV)

Here again we see Paul addressing the bickering problems among the Corinthians. But rather than addressing the external behavior, Paul realizes the real problem is internal and theological.

dwight-schrute-the-office-fan-artPaul knows that there are two approaches to life for all human beings. The first approach is human-centered. Men and women in this camp see themselves as in control of their lives. This is like The Office’s Dwight Schrute quoting Billy Zane’s character in Titanic: “A man makes his own luck.” In other words, human beings have the ability to judge people and events, map out their lives, and control their destiny. Students at elite colleges positively ooze with this kind of thinking. This is the human-centered view of life. In the spiritual realm, this view is called justification by works: making oneself acceptable to God through good behavior.

The second approach to life is God-centered. In this view, people are seen as they are, flawed and broken, prone to compulsive acting-out. Like the Harvard student who plays a video game for 10 hours straight, despite the fact that he has a paper due and is already on academic probation. Or like the suburban mother who regularly spends thousands of dollars on clothes she doesn’t need. Or the executive who is a furtive alcoholic. Or the high-achieving honor-roll student who is anorexic and cuts herself. Or the Bible study leader who obsesses over pornography. Thus, unlike in the human-centered view, the clear thinking God-centered man or woman no longer places the burden of “getting better” on the ones who are ill. The God-centered view knows that people need a divine rescuer—like sick people need a doctor—and that this never stops being true, even for “serious” Christians.

The Corinthians are decidedly human-centered. As a result, as we see in this passage, they quarrel about their spiritual leaders. Since they believe their personal growth is their responsibility, they know they better pick the right guru! Paul attacks this view. He steers them back to reality: God is the one who calls, redeems, saves, and continues to heal. Paul says that he and his co-pastor Apollos are nothing. An amazing thing to say! Can you imagine TV preachers saying that? But Paul says conclusively: only God gives the growth.

Do you feel like you control your closeness to God? Is your “walk with Christ,” your “spiritual journey,” all up to you? Paul says only God gives the growth. See the illustration Paul uses to close the argument: God is the gardener, and you are simply a plant in the field. So don’t do something, just sit there!

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Two Verses One Through Twelve

Hopelessly Devoted: Mark Chapter Two Verses One Through Twelve

Another stellar devotion coming to us from Mockingtern, Margaret Pope. 

When I was ten years old, I wrote in an email to my grandparents an analogy that I came up with. The email read something like this (copied directly from the original because of course they saved it):

The other day I thought of an analogy related to God’s love. I thought you might like it: Our hearts are like sponges. When God enters our life, we soak up his love like a sponge soaks up water. When the Devil enters your life, he rings out the sponge. Like he takes over…

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The Devil’s Whore

The Devil’s Whore

This post comes to us from our friend Laurel Marr.

Though with a scornful wonder
Men see her sore oppressed,
By schisms rent asunder,
By heresies distressed:
Yet saints their watch are keeping,
Their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping
Shall be the morn of song!

(The Church’s One Foundation, v. 3)

Can the right amount of faith remove the suffering and sickness that interferes with our daily lives and our ability to faithfully serve our neighbor?  Francis MacNutt, a pioneer and a well-respected expert in the revival of the “ministry of healing,” suggests in his book Healing that by exercising faith, we can work…

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The Strangest Symbol: A Fellowship in Suffering

The Strangest Symbol: A Fellowship in Suffering

This reflection comes to us from our friend and esteemed magician, Jim McNeely. 

1 Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was the Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment, and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick. 3 So the sisters sent word to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.” 4 But when Jesus heard this, He said, “This sickness is not to end in death, but for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by…

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