worship

A Little Heaven on Earth

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By Linda Rex

Here I am in palm-tree laden Orlando, Florida where water and sunbathers can be found just about anywhere. The beauty of fellowship between people of a multitude of nations and backgrounds can be seen and experienced at this gathering I am attending of Grace Communion International.

Yesterday I was in a workshop session, and a pastor from Bermuda introduced himself to me. I ate breakfast this morning with people from California and West Virginia, while yesterday had breakfast with a friend from Wisconsin. I have lost track of all the places the people I have talked with have been from—Canada, Wyoming, Illinois, places in Africa, Europe and even Asia.

I have seen classmates from my elementary school, college, and Grace Communion Seminary where I finished my master’s degree. I have listened to and seen young people from Florida and elsewhere share their heart for Jesus through music and art, and a lovely lady from the Carolinas share the love of God in Christ through a devotional.

What is so beautiful to watch is the way people from clear across the world from each other will embrace and with excited voices share with their delight in seeing one another. Yesterday we watched videos and looked at pictures of the ministry which is being done now in Africa, and today we will learn about other work God is doing in this world to bring healing, renewal and grace to people’s lives.

As I sat in the rear of the room (I have sensitive ears), I bore witness to this wonderful sight of a wide variety of people all worshiping together, and participating in the joy of the Lord through praise. The presence of God in the Spirit was very near, as I could sense Abba’s delight in the praises of his people in which we participate with Jesus in giving.

Indeed, if there were a picture of the perichoretic life of God with his people, this would be as close as we can get to it in this life. To me, this is what God has in mind for all of us—to love God and love one another deeply and whole-heartedly, as equals yet uniquely ourselves in a unity and harmony of the grace and love of Abba, Jesus and the Spirit. All of life is centered in Christ and is lived in worship and praise to our Creator and Redeemer. Our sharing in Christ by the Spirit and with one another demonstrates to all those around us we are God’s beloved children.

Yes, as God has shown me, we have our struggles to live in the truth of this love and grace. We rub up against one another in our everyday life in ways which can cause irritation, frustration and even anger. But if we are open to it, God can use these situations and experiences to refine us and heal us and transform us. The Spirit, when we respond to his leading and prompting can use these conflicts to actually build stronger, healthier and more real bonds between us. As we grow up in Christ, we become more and more bound together in a oneness which can only be divine in its origin and reality.

As I listened to Cathy Deddo speak this morning, I was reminded again all our lives are held in the midst of this relationship with God in Christ, and we awaken each new day in the reality we are fully and necessarily dependent upon God for everything. And our purpose here on earth is to point one another to, and to share in the truth of, this reality—we are Christ’s and he is ours. Our life, truly and in its entirety, is in him in and by his Spirit, and not in anything else.

This day of grace, which through Jesus is ours, is a day of joy, peace, and fellowship through the Holy Spirit. May we all enjoy every one of the blessings of life in Christ Jesus by responding to this work of harmony, oneness and unity the Spirit is calling us into to be lived out both now and forever in the presence of Abba, Jesus and the Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, that in you, all this is real and possible by your Spirit.

Dearest Abba, thank you. Thank you for all you’ve done particularly in our fellowship to bring healing, renewal and growth in spite of, rather in the midst of, our failures, struggles and losses. May you finish the marvelous thing you are doing in Grace Communion International and through us in the world around us, through Jesus our Lord and by your Spirit. Amen.

“…that they may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. …I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:21, 23 NASB

The Foolish Wisdom of Christmas

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by Linda Rex

One of the things I can’t help but reflect on as I go through the Christmas season is how at one point in my life I totally misunderstood the celebration of Christmas. It did not make sense to me why everyone made such a big deal about a baby being born and laid in a manger. Sure, he was the Lord of all, but why worship him as a baby? He was human after all.

I believe a lot of people go through the holidays and do not have any foundation for the celebration of them. This, obviously, may be why Thanksgiving has lost its luster, and Christmas has become a major marketing tool rather than the celebration it was meant to be. We can celebrate the solstice if we wish, we can light candles for Hanukkah if we wish, and observe whatever festival we wish. But there is no reason to celebrate Christmas if we remove Christ from it. Why?

The celebration of the “Christ mass” (Christmas) was set at the same time as an old pagan holiday, because of the Christian tradition of replacing the pagan with Christ. Replacing the pagan with Christ is fundamental to the whole Christmas story and the Christ child.

In the Christian Scriptures the apostle Paul talks about the foolishness of God that is in reality wiser than any human wisdom. This wisdom, or foolishness, however you wish to look at it, is found in the Person of Jesus Christ. For in him, God has made possible and real the perfection, redemption, and restoration of each and every one of us. For Christ has taken our place: he stands in for us, being our goodness, holiness and purity, in our place. (Gal. 2:20) It is Christ who makes us new creatures.

He did this, as the apostle John wrote, by coming as the Word of God, God’s one and unique Son, and taking on our human flesh. (Jn. 1:14; 3:16) The baby in the manger we read about in the Christmas story was God and yet was at the same time fully human. It seems foolish that God would put himself at risk in this way—but in order to bring us as humans in with the union and communion of the Father, Son and Spirit, he sent his only Son to live in human flesh—to go through all the human experiences we go through, living in the Spirit as we are called to do, dying a horrific death in our place—so that one day we could dwell with God.

God risked it all for us—even the eternal fellowship of Father, Son and Spirit—the love that God lives in. As Jesus hung on the cross and cried out in pain, feeling the separation caused by the evil we as humans embrace, all of that oneness and love hung in the balance. All of us and our relationship with God hung in the balance at that moment—as God said ‘No!’ to evil and ‘Yes!’ to us being with him forever. It is in Christ’s life, death and resurrection that we have hope. For Jesus did in our place what none of us could do. His perfect response to the Father on our behalf in the Spirit made possible a future that otherwise could never have happened.

So the foolishness of a little baby in a manger which we celebrate at Christmas actually shows God’s tremendous and loving wisdom. Reject it, ridicule it, mock it if we wish. But it is still true. It is still there for us. The perfect gift, from a perfect God—a life filled with love in his presence forever. It is through the miracle of Christmas and the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who once was a baby in a manger, that we enter into a new day—the Lord’s Day—and a new life in fellowship with God forever.

May you find comfort, peace and healing as you believe and receive God’s perfect ‘foolish’ gift of Jesus Christ, his Son, to stand in your place. And may God bless you with his hope, peace, joy and love throughout this New Year!

Thank you so much, Lord, that you are so much wiser than we are, and that you were willing to be ‘foolish’ so that we can participate in your holy fellowship of love and eternal life. Thank you for giving us a place at your table. We celebrate you and thank you for your precious gift. Bless us throughout this New Year with a deeper appreciation for all you have given and do give, as you pour out on us every heavenly blessing in Christ Jesus, in whose name we pray. Amen.

“But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, ‘let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’” 1 Cor. 1:30-31 (NASB)