Posts tagged ‘Christianity’

April 17, 2009

favorite things: Jeff Warren’s paintings of Christ

Hanging in the foyer of my church’s Worship Center are two paintings of Jesus that astound me and move me and depict the very Christ that I hold dear. They are the masterful artistry of my very own Senior Pastor, Dr. Jeff Warren, and I am as awed by the workmanship as I am by the images. What could so easily be unsettling, due to the nature of the scene, is instead powerful and comforting. The sensitivity that binds me to my God, to my Savior, comes through in these paintings. The character of God is present on the canvas. Which consistently reminds me how God’s Hand is at work in every good thing. From paint on a canvas to the conversations I will have with people I meet in a grocery store. That my pastor’s gift can communicate the great love of our God, emotionally as much as visually, reminds me how much more God can use His people in voice and in service. I am thankful for Jeff’s artistry and for sharing it with us, his flock, and I am thankful for how God uses it to accomplish the Good News that Jesus came to save us all. These two paintings are truly some of the dearest things to me.

painting of Jesus Christ, depicted by Dr. Jeff Warren     painting of Jesus Christ, depicted by Dr. Jeff Warren
          click photos to enlarge

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April 16, 2009

consider the dancing Jesus

In my journey of faith I have come to discover Jesus on a very personal level, one of His humanity as much as (and sometimes more than) His divinity. For many Christians this is a challenge, seeing the humanity of Jesus beyond His Almighty character. We need a Savior, we need a powerful Redeemer whom we cannot equate with our own human selves. And though I, too, can wrap my arms around that vision of my Savior, I have learned that His character as he lived a human life is the best way for me to relate to God.

In His humanity, Jesus was challenged in every way that I am challenged. He had the same emotions, the same temptations, the same irritations and disappointments that I have in my own life. He did not always like the actions of the people around him, and He didn’t enjoy every single moment of every single day. His life was filled with the same human struggles and same opportunities that we face in our current age. He was acquainted with all the same grief. The Bible tells us that Jesus wept when a friend had died, wept at the despair of those he loved. He cried over Israel and how they would not listen to his message from God. But he also laughed and played and celebrated and danced. Yes, danced. And it is this man that I’ve found easiest to embrace as Savior. It is these qualities that make Him a friend to me.

I began exploring the human aspects of Jesus when my own pastor made the statement, “Consider the dancing Jesus.” He was pointing out that the Jewish heritage of Jesus’s human life would have brought him opportunities to celebrate, and He would not have chosen to do anything other than what was tradition. Like dancing at a wedding. In my mind, Jesus became more human than ever before. And I began to study some of the customs of the Hebrew nation to better understand just how Jesus lived in his 33 years on earth. Knowing these things about Him allows me to relate to Him. As a woman who struggles with her own humanity, I often feel far from God, that my failure to achieve the excellence He desires in me has kept me from being as close to God as I hope to be. But as I consider that Jesus was human, that He experienced the physical separation from His father, I am able to let myself off the hook and worship the God who accepts me as I am.

Though Jesus never gave in to the overwhelming emotions and situations that cause us to sin daily, I know that He can still relate to my humanity. And I love to consider the many aspects of my life that He also experienced. Like relationships with his friends, with his family, and most especially with his mother. And then I think on how those people considered Jesus. Mary, for one, treasured Him dearly from before his birth, even. Those relationships, which I understand fully, are key to my understanding of Jesus and the Sacrifice He made for us. To love those people so much, with a human love greater than we can ever comprehend, and then to watch them suffer while he was beaten and tortured and nailed upon a cross, must have been as painful for him as the physical wounds. To know, further, that He had my name and my face in His mind during the brutal ordeal makes His suffering all the more personal and His humanity all the more embraceable.

My friend Cerella sent me a video this week that speaks of this very humanity. Using images and a song from The Passion of the Christ, the video focuses entirely on Jesus’s awareness of his mother’s pain, of his friends’ despair. Consider His humanity as you watch the images and listen to the lyrcis. And consider the life He led before those final hours. He knows our struggles, He knows our joy, and He certainly knows our humiliation and our pain. And still He chose to die a brutal death so that His story would be written and His victory over death, His resurrection from the dead, would testify to all that has been written about the Most High God. He chose to become human so that I would know Him and through Him would come to know God. Without Jesus, I have no hope. But because of Him, because of a life I can understand and to which I can relate, I have embraced redemption through Him. I am assured that I will one day be in heaven standing before the Father. And on that day I will celebrate with Jesus. Probably even dance.

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

                        video created by True Faith Baptist … posted with vodpod

Read more about the customs of ancient
Jewish weddings and how they foretell of
our own lives with Christ.
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April 10, 2009

favorite things: the Cross of Christ

I used to think it so morbid to celebrate the Cross on which Jesus was crucified, that it was not the focus we should have but rather we should look to the Resurrection instead. And while the Resurrection is our victory touchpoint, I have come to understand that the Cross is key to seeing the significance of Jesus Himself. I can celebrate that dark day when Jesus allowed Himself to have all the evil of humanity heaped upon His shoulders by Almighty God. I can celebrate that Jesus submitted to a punishment that He did not deserve simply and only because He loved His father’s created beings so much that He wouldn’t allow us to suffer for all eternity when He could take our place. I can celebrate that Jesus, as a man on this earth, allowed Himself to be cast away from God’s presence, the presence of His own father, because the sight of the Son wearing all humanity’s sins required that He be removed from the presence of a Holy God. I can celebrate the Cross because Jesus took it on Himself, willingly, so that I would never have to be condemned.
 
God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die. (John 3:16, CEV)
 
When Jesus hung for hours and hours on the cross, He saw the faces of every single person who would ever live. He knew every single name. He knew my name. And He knew yours. And with our faces in mind, He stayed on a wooden cross, hanging between two thieves, accepting the punishment for the sins of the entire world, for the wrongs of all humanity, the wrongs of all time. He stayed on that cross in excruciating agony so we wouldn’t have to pay an eternal price. So that you and I could live forever in the heavenly realm. Without that sacrifice, we have no hope and no future. When we die, we suffer beyond anything we could ever imagine on this earth. Whether you believe it or not, the fact remains that without the sacrifice of Jesus, you and I have no hope for victory over the evil of the world. But because He stayed on that cross until the sacrifice was complete, we do have hope and we do have eternity and we do have victory in this earthly life and beyond. So I celebrate what my Savior did for me, and I celebrate that He did it for you, too. Whether you accept this sacrifice or not, He still did it for you.
 
“This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. — John 3:16-18 (The Message)
 

September 28, 2008

Jesus and my gender

There has always been a perceived disconnect between feminism and Christianity due to the Bible’s largely male perspective, and this has long troubled my spiritual sensibility. On the one hand, God makes all the difference in my life, having brought me through a deep, dark adolescence into a Life-giving relationship that transcends all the world can throw at me. But on the other, a tiny little portion of my willful mind has never been able to fully embrace the lack of feminine presence in the stories of God. Today, my eyes are opened: in a time when women were set apart and regarded as little more than property, Jesus embraced them as equals. And in allowing them to minister alongside His disciples, He set a precedent for acceptance of women in spiritual leadership and communion.

God used these words from Beth Moore to show me what I never understood before:

Appointing [Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women] as the first to share the news of Jesus’ resurrection was a definite “custom shaker.” Jesus knew the apostles wouldn’t believe them, but perhaps He felt that the pending discovery of their authenticity would breed a fresh respect. After all, at the first roll call in the post-ascension New Testament church, you’ll see women listed as part of the first New Testament cell group (see Acts 1:13-14).

For centuries the synagogue had kept men and women separate. Suddenly they would be working, praying, and worshiping shoulder-to-shoulder. Christ built His church on a foundation of mutual respect. Don’t misunderstand. Christ wasn’t prioritizing women over men. He simply took the ladder down to the basement where society had lowered women. And with His nail-scarred hands, He lifted them to a place of respect and credibility.

The last thing we women should want to do in the body of Christ is to take men’s places. But by all means, let’s take our places! We have also been called to be credible witnesses of the Lord Jesus Christ.
from Jesus: 90 Days with the One and Only, Day 87

“The last thing we women should want to do in the body of Christ is to take men’s places.” Women always seem to struggle with the word “submission”, but in reading this passage I am suddenly aware that I have a place. Not that I’ve been put into place but that a place has been prepared for me. It is in authority over some and in deference to others, but that is my place, designed for me by my God. These are words of FREEDOM for me! These words take such pressure off my spirit and my mind. I am relieved to know that I don’t have to fight for anything, that I don’t have to scratch or claw my way up to anything. What I do have to do is listen and follow the LORD, and He will make my path straight. I will be content as I journey to the place He designed for my life.

In this epiphany I also realize my responsibilty. Back in college, during my darkest days, I remember a similar revelation regarding the right to vote. What had been unimportant to me suddenly came to be the greatest responsibility to my gender. The struggles of women to gain the right to vote, the brutality they experienced in their fight, echoed within my heart and emblazoned in me the responsibility I had to never let their sacrifice be in vain. Though the candidates may not be appealing, I never want to diminish the women who fought so bravely and so tirelessly to give me the privilege of entering the polling place.

Similarly, Jesus sacrificed Himself to ensure that I, as a woman, have the freedom to worship and serve shoulder-to-shoulder with my brothers. That ultimate Sacrifice can never be in vain. I must follow the LORD; I must move to the place He has prepared. And I must take my position gladly, wherever that position places me in the order of things, and I should always remember that it is a privilege to serve my God. He has designed my life creatively, with so much imagination that I am constantly surprised and delighted. Now, when I read through the ancient stories of God’s people and see the names of women here and there, my heart soars with delight that God was using us to change His world. Just seeing the words “and all the women who were there” reminds me how precious we are to the Creator, how important is our role in this life, and how change has been effected throughout all time by Jesus’ willingness to disciple those whom society deemed unimportant.

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