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“A Curiouser Life” (an original song by Rick Jordan)

We posted another song, called “A Curiouser Life,” on our YouTube channel. Thanks in advance for clicking on the “Like” icon below the video (if you do like it of course) and thank you for subscribing to the channel – subscribing really helps! Here is the song. https://youtu.be/vQCoQWbYgbM

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When God Flips Us (Isaiah 61)

I am intrigued by people who flip houses, for two reasons.

  1. Flippers see what I cannot see. When I look at a broken down house I see nothing but a dump, but Flippers can see all kinds of potential. Flippers see a fine fixer-upper (cue the Rock Trolls from “Frozen”).
  2. Flippers get to call themselves Flippers, which sounds quite cool.

Flippers are able to deconstruct and then reconstruct a house that not only becomes habitable again but becomes valuable and desirable.

God is the consummate Flipper.

Isaiah wrote the section of Scripture we call Isaiah 61 to people who had been conquered, deported and enslaved. Their world had been blown to pieces. Their lives were in shambles. From their humiliated and defeated perspective, they were beyond salvage. But God specializes in flipping lost causes. Where we see irreparable ruin, God sees promise. Where we see a pile of manure, God sees compost.

Here is Isaiah 61 in The New Living Translation, with a few parenthetical notes I have added. In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus applies the first section of this passage to Himself and to His kingdom agenda, which is why the pronouns are capitalized.

On behalf of God, the prophet announces liberation, recovery, and restoration.

v.1) The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort (heal) the brokenhearted  and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

v.2) He has sent Me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies. (In Luke 4:18-21 Jesus intentionally closes the scroll before reading this last statement, which means Jesus did not come to condemn us!)

v.3) To all who mourn in Israel, He will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory (deeply rooted, strong, stable).

v.4) They will rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago. They will revive them, though they have been deserted for many generations (a return to productivity).

v.5) Foreigners will be your servants. They will feed your flocks and plow your fields and tend your vineyards.

v.6) You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God. You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.

v.7) Instead of shame and dishonor, you will enjoy a double share of honor. You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

God directly reinforces this liberation, recovery, and restoration.

v.8) “For I, the Lord, love justice. I hate robbery and wrongdoing. I will faithfully reward My people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them.

v.9) Their descendants will be recognized and honored among the nations. Everyone will realize that they are a people the Lord has blessed.”                                              

The prophet expresses the transcendent and irrepressible joy and hope of the liberated, recovering, restored people of God.

v.10-11) I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God! For He has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding or a bride with her jewels. The Sovereign Lord will show His justice to the nations of the world. Everyone will praise Him! His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.

There are ten upgrading exchanges in this passage, all fulfilled in Christ:

  1. We exchange poverty and oppression for the good news of God’s intervention (v.1).
  2. We exchange brokenheartedness for God’s healing comfort (v.1).
  3. We exchange captivity and bondage for God’s liberation (v.1).
  4. We exchange debilitating and exhausting grief for God’s favor and grace (v.2).
  5. We exchange wretched doom (ashes) for God’s approving crown of beauty (v.3).
  6. We exchange despondent heaviness for God’s joyful blessing (v.3).
  7. We exchange devastating despair for God’s festive praise (v.3).
  8. We exchange ruined failure and waste for God’s new start (vv.4-5).
  9. We exchange humiliating shame for God’s double share of honor (v.7).
  10. We exchange suffered consequences for God’s justice and faithfulness (v.8-9).

No wonder the prophet erupts in joyful and hopeful praise at the end of this chapter! In the Christ-following life, joy and hope are not pursuits or objectives. Joy and hope are results. They are effects. They are outcomes. When we begin upgrading our lives for Christ’s life in us, all of the joy and hope we could ever need begins bubbling up through our union with Christ.

In light of these ten upgrading exchanges, please read verses 10 and 11 again. This rendering combines the New Living Translation, New International Version, The Voice, The Common English Bible, and The New English Translation.

I am overwhelmed with joy and my soul vibrates with exuberant hope, because of the Eternal Lord my God! For God has dressed me with the garments of deliverance and has wrapped me in a robe of His righteousness. I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit, or a bride adorned in her jewelry. For just as the ground produces its crops and a garden yields its produce, so the sovereign Lord will cause deliverance to grow, and give His people reason to praise God in the sight of all the nations.”         

Faith exercise questions:

  • Do you know anybody who has been “flipped” by God? What was their response?
  • When has God “flipped” you? What was your response?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges have you experienced?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges are you currently experiencing?
  • Which of these upgrading exchanges do you want or need to experience?
  • From the passage, what is the next faith-step for you? Which of God’s promises do you need to claim? Do you need to be flipped?
  • What if Isaiah 61:10-11 can be our “new normal?” What if God WANTS to bring us into a joy-full and hope-full life that lifts us above hardships and attacks? Are you in?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com) 

 

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Removing What Does Not Fit and Does Not Work (Matthew 11:28-30 and 1st Samuel 17)

“Come to Me, you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus extended an invitation to people who were weary and heavy laden because of an oppressive pietistic system the religious leaders had made them carry. The trend didn’t stop in the 1st Century A.D. We can be worn out and worn down by the grind of performance-based religion, the kind where we must constantly prove ourselves to God or earn God’s favor or prove ourselves to religious leaders or earn their favor. Religion that is characterized by the imposition of imperatives (must / ought / should / must not / ought not / should not) is performance-based religion.

We can be worn out and worn down because we are carrying the weight of unrealistic expectations. “Be perfect.” “Be pleasing.” “Be strong.” “Try harder.” “Hurry up.”

We can be worn out and worn down because we are carrying the weight of pressures. “You should be like….” “You should be this way….”

We can be worn out and worn down because we constantly need approval.

We can be worn out and worn down by the weight of our addictions or obsessions.

1st Samuel 17 is one of the most widely recognized accounts in Scripture. The boy-shepherd and errand-boy David volunteered to fight Goliath the undefeated and massively armored giant. King Saul (an uncommonly large man himself and the one who should have been out there facing the giant) put his own heavy armor on David, which was quite an honor. The armor did not fit. It was too heavy and too cumbersome. At the risk of offending his king, David removed Saul’s armor. He advanced against Goliath in his shepherd’s garb, with his shepherd’s staff, a sling, and five smooth stones. This was a perfect fit. David was fighting God’s battle, not anybody else’s. David might have been the only relaxed person in the valley that day, because he was attired in relationship with the living God. He was unencumbered.

What version of Saul’s armor are you wearing or carrying? Are you worn out or worn down because of something a person or people or a system or an organization has loaded onto you? Are you worn out or worn down because of something you have loaded onto yourself? Jesus invites you to take off what does not fit and does not work for you and put on what does fit and what does work for you.

Relationship with Jesus fits you perfectly. Relationship with Jesus is comparatively lightweight because it is made out of grace and love. Jesus calls it a yoke, which was a sort of harness that attached oxen together. As a carpenter, Jesus would have built these yokes, so He would know how to build one to custom fit each animal just right.

Attachment to Jesus in yielded companionship is custom made to fit us perfectly. Coming to Jesus redistributes our load, with most of it unloaded because Jesus never meant for us to carry it. Relationship with Jesus is rest.

David had to remove Saul’s armor. Are you willing to remove your version of Saul’s armor, even when it disappoints somebody? Are you fighting the wrong battles, or every battle, or the right battles but in your strength?

Remove Saul’s armor. Risk disappointing the people who think you should keep it on. Let Jesus clothe and equip You in relationship with Him. It fits and it works.

Blessings,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

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Encouragement to Slow Down

Back on April 16, the devotional message from First Baptist Church of Lee’s Summit’s pastor Blake McKinney reminded readers of Ephesians 4:2 – “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”

Part of the devotional message read, “God sees us rushing around, skimming life as we live in a constant hurry, and he urges us to be patient. He sees us losing our temper with the people around us when they don’t meet our expectations, and he urges us to be patient.”  

Blake’s observations really resonated with me. God must have known from the beginning how focusing on what we want rather than looking for ways to bless and give mercy to those around us would damage us on the inside.

Of course God knows best. He wants the best for me and you. He knows that if I slow down just a bit and take time to actually see the people around me, experience life with those in my path, it will bless me and it might somehow bless them, too. I’m so thankful that He’s patient with me in this.

Carla Jordan
https://rickcarlajordan.com/

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Can Faith Say OUCH? (2 Corinthians 4:6-10)

A few months ago I had the honor of officiating a memorial service for an Air Force Major. His widow is a woman of tenacious and vibrant faith, and yet I watched powerful spasms of grief slam into her and physically shake her. I arrived home from that Monday funeral and read a Facebook message from a friend I used to pastor. The year had been a succession of unanticipated and ferocious crises. His faith is alive, and yet he was staggering from this ruthless pummeling.

In my interactions with both of these people, I experienced the raw honesty of their faith as holy and humbling, because that authentically rough texture of faith is too rare these days. Most of us prefer our faith to appear smooth and unruffled.

It’s a shame when faith becomes stoic. We are pestered by this illusion that we always have to project a veneer of implacable fortitude, like nothing ever gets to us because we follow Christ. When spiritual formation deteriorates into appearance management, God’s people do neither themselves nor God any favors.

I highly regard what Paul said in 2nd Corinthians 4:6-10. “For it is the God who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in fragile and broken clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.”

In verse 6, Paul reaches all the way back to Genesis 1:3, where God spoke light into being. Paul then informs us that this exact same God indwells us in the person of Christ, the Light of the world (John 8:12). Paul uses the word “face” to describe the light, which means it could not be more personal. What we have here is internal face-time with Jesus. That’s how close Paul tells us we can be with the indwelling Christ, the eternal One Who spoke light into existence.

In verse 7, Paul makes an abrupt turn, attested in the New Revised Standard Version by the conjunction “but.” Paul and his companions were in the heat of the battle, and they had no time or energy for appearance management. Paul was letting his readers see them sweat. In order to communicate the intensity of their trials and to place those trials in perspective, Paul uses the analogy of an ordinary household pot. That’s what we are. The Light of the world shines through common vessels, chips and all..

We discover that the same God Who caused light to pierce the darkness at the dawn of creation lights us up from the inside out, and then we discover that we are crackpots.

Oh well.

Here’s the thing. When we refuse to accept our fragility and our brokenness, it’s as if we are scotch taping together the cracks in our human vessels. People cannot see Jesus, the Light of the World, as clearly in us. Or they can see the shoddy scotch tape work and they decide we are hypocrites. So Paul proposes a God-induced balancing act. We are afflicted like everybody else is, BUT NOT crushed. We become perplexed like everybody else does, BUT NOT driven to despair. We may be persecuted, BUT NOT forsaken by God. We are sometimes struck down by life like everybody else is, BUT NOT destroyed.

This “BUT NOT” life of faith is a product of how we carry ourselves. Paul says we carry in our bodies the death of Jesus, which sounds so weird it needs an explanation. Saying “yes” to Jesus with our lives involves a daily choice to deny ourselves (we aren’t in charge anymore), take up the cross of Christ (His love as our way of life is in charge), and follow Him (we aspire to live as He lived in this world). We become more identified with Christ than we are identified with ourselves, anything, or anybody else. When we are suffering, or when we are at our wit’s end, or when we are being bullied, or when we are knocked down by life, we deal with these adversities as people whose lives are in solidarity with the Man of sorrows who was acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3). So everything that happens to us happens in the larger context of who we are in union with Christ. He is our derived identity.

The indwelling Christ can be a closer reality than our adversity, whatever that adversity is and however savagely the adversity affects us.

What better way to keep our hardships and issues in perspective? Regardless of what happens to us, we will never have to endure even a tiny fraction of what Jesus willingly endured on our behalf. Intentionally carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus is the ultimate attitude adjustment. It pulls us out of self pity or drama about our circumstances, and it puts us in a self-giving mode, like Jesus was during His incarnation.

Did you catch the cause-and-effect in verse 10? We are always carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus SO THAT the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies. Grammatically speaking, “so that” is a purpose clause. It tells us Christ can fulfill His purpose in us through everything we encounter. Nothing is wasted.

When we are carrying in our bodies the death of Jesus, we are no longer the main characters in the stories of our lives. No matter how shaken we are, we can be rock solid about the reality that Christ has overcome it all and Christ indwells us, which means indestructible and irrepressible Life is abundantly and eternally ours.

When we live this way, people cannot help but see the Light of the world shining through the cracks. This is no less true of us when we are struggling, sobbing, confused, battered, or aching. The surprise is that living this way takes a load off. It’s a relief. We do not have to pretend. Having a “but-not so-that” faith means we can trust Jesus Christ and be real at the same time, like my two friends were on that Monday. That’s what the people around us need from us.

In his song “Anthem,” Leonard Cohen wrote these lyrics. “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.” In 2 Corinthians 4:6 Paul says the opposite. There is a crack in everything. That’s how The Light shines out.

Yes, faith can say ouch. Sometimes it must say ouch.

  • Have you invited the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, to indwell you and to bring Light into your darkness?
  • What are the names of the cracks in your vessel (your life)? Write them down.
  • In this passage, honest faith means we can say so when we are afflicted (under pressure) or perplexed (confused) or persecuted (mistreated) or struck down (in crisis). On a scale of 0-10, with 0 being the lowest and 10 being the highest, how honest is your faith these days? Why did you assign a particular number to yourself? Ask God to reveal to you how to move up to the next number on the scale this week, so that your faith is more honest. Do you have a faith brother or a faith sister or a group, somebody who can be safe or some place that can be safe? The Christ following life thrives in redeemed community.
  • Study the four “but not” phrases in verses 8 and 9. 1) “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;” 2) we are “perplexed, but not driven to despair;” 3) we are “persecuted, but not forsaken;” 4) we are “struck down, but not destroyed…” In each of the four, circle or mark which one describes you.
  • Study verse 10 – “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.” Remember from the article above that verse 10 tells us to say “YES” to Jesus with our lives, so much so that the indwelling Christ is a closer reality than the adversity. How would you say this ultimate attitude adjustment strengthens us to not be crushed or driven to despair or forsaken or destroyed?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (rickjordankcmo@gmail.com, www.rickcarlajordan.com)

 

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“Powering Up God’s Way” (Isaiah 40:27-31)

What kinds of strength or power does the world recognize and reward?

  • Physical power
  • Military power
  • Athletic power
  • Persuasive power
  • Glamorous power
  • Attractive power
  • Prestigious power
  • Seductive power
  • Intimidating power
  • Charismatic power
  • Racial/ ethnic power
  • Sizable power
  • Political power
  • Financial power
  • Intellectual power
  • Social power
  • Manipulative power
  • ???

Some of these powers are intrinsically good and helpful. Some of these powers are intrinsically evil and harmful. Some of these powers are neutral – the way we use them determines their morality.

God’s power is incomparably greater than every conceivable form of human power, but human powers are more tangible and more sensory, aren’t  they? Because God’s power functions subversively we can miss it, especially when we feel powerless in this world.

Isaiah wrote this prophecy to exiles, people whose nation had been swallowed up by the dominant empire of that day – Babylon. From Israel’s desolate and conquered perspective God was disregarding their troubles and ignoring their rights (Isaiah 40:27).

It’s easy to read God that way when our faith is in a weakened condition.

In the passage, God argues otherwise. Isaiah 40:28 says God is Almighty whether we see it or not. God’s resources are never exhausted. God’s perceptiveness never dims.

Isaiah 40:29 is one of the most encouraging verses in the Bible. According to this verse, we qualify for God’s strength when we own our weakness! This reminds me of the first three steps in the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous:

  1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
  3. We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

BRILLIANT!!! We own our weakness, we choose to believe in God, and we entrust ourselves to God.

Isaiah 40:30 gives us valuable information about people who epitomize humanity at its dynamic peak. That strength eventually declines. At our very best and even with our technologically advanced powers, we cannot compete with God’s power.

Isaiah 40:31 continues that line of reasoning by presenting the alternative. “But those who wait on (hope in, trust in) the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not get weary. They will walk and not faint.”

What does it mean to wait on the Lord? We identify primarily with passive waiting, like standing in line or being put on hold. But “wait” in verse 31 refers to active waiting. We entrust ourselves to God moment by moment, wrapping ourselves around God and tenaciously leaning against the wind into the solid hope that God is still faithful to His promises and is still capable, no matter what powers in this life have destabilized us or enfeebled us.

People who live in such intentional and trusting hope “gain new strength.” This means far more than God supplying a boost or a power surge to what we already have going for us. Rather, we come to an end of ourselves and we exchange our failing strength for God’s sustainable power (verses 29 and 30).

God’s strength manifests itself in three scenarios. In the first scenario we soar high on wings like eagles. There are seasons in life when we are effortlessly and transcendently gliding. In this scenario it is all good.

In the second scenario we run without getting weary. There are seasons when life is challenging and there is resistance (like hills during a marathon), but we are making progress. We hit our pace and keep moving. In this scenario it is not all good but we are okay.

In the third scenario we walk without fainting. There are seasons when life stinks, when faith wobbles, when we are disillusioned or discouraged or deflated, and the best we can manage is to shuffle one 5,000 pound leg forward and then move the other leg in generally the same direction or in no direction we can detect. In this scenario it is not all good and we are not okay but by God’s grace we are still standing. Success is defined as not totally shutting down and giving up.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could choose which scenario or season characterizes us? The faith journey does not work that way. We do, however, get to choose the source of our strength. We do not have to settle for human strength or power that is ultimately inadequate. We can own our weakness and exchange our ebbing strength for God’s strength.

God most emphatically demonstrates divine strength in the weakness of the crucified Christ. On the cross, worldly powers were broken from the top down and humble love secured our redemption from the bottom up. God offers us that kind of strength.

Are you soaring? Are you running? Are you walking? Are you collapsing? In the grace of the Gospel we come as we are, not as we should be.

May you and I exchange our powerlessness for God’s enduring and adaptable strength.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

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“When God Says NO in Light of a Better YES” (2 Corinthians 12:2-10)

Parents in every culture can relate to this common sequence…

  1. The child makes an urgent and impassioned request.
  2. Due to the experience and perspective gained by higher mileage on planet earth, the parent knows that what the child is requesting is not in the child’s best interest.
  3. The parent says NO to the request, disappointing and frustrating the child.
  4. The child pushes back.
  5. If the relationship is functional, the parent uses this NO to guide the child into a better alternative, a better YES. In effect, the parent is saying, “No, but….”
  6. The child usually cannot appreciate the wisdom of this “No, but…” response until the child becomes a parent and must dance to the same tune.

God goes through this sequence with us all the time.

2 Corinthians 12:2-10 finds Paul the apostle defending himself. Paul spent years of his life traveling throughout the Roman Empire, introducing Christ to a diverse mixture of  people who had no exposure to the Gospel. They also were not Jewish. During these journeys Paul was at odds with a group of people called legalists. Legalism is the name for any brand of Christianity that decides God’s grace and our faith are not enough, that a surplus of do’s and don’ts must be added to the life of faith in order for that life to pass inspection. The legalists, of course, are the self-appointed inspectors.

A pack of these legalists (called Judaizers) followed Paul from place to place. When the Judaizers entered a town or city Paul had just left, they would locate the brand new Christians and ask them what Paul had taught them. When the brand new Christians answered by describing the breathtaking simplicity of relationship with Jesus, the Judaizers would sadly shake their heads and tell them Paul had left out some important information. In order to follow Christ, these brand new Christian also had to start living by Jewish laws. Grace and faith were not enough. The Judaizers tried to convince these new Christ-followers that Paul was a fake and that Paul had no authority to be doing what he was doing. These legalistic Judaizers had come in the nick of time. They had come, in fact, to help the new Christians become more like Jesus AND become more like them.

Yikes.

In 2 Corinthians chapters 10 through 12, Paul defended himself and his calling from these opponents. Toward the end of this defense, Paul enhanced his credibility by recalling an ecstatic spiritual experience. Years earlier Paul found himself swept into the highest heaven, in the very presence of Almighty God. During this heavenly encounter, God confided in Paul! In order to counterbalance this ecstatic experience and in order to prevent Paul from developing an over-inflated ego, Paul wrote that he was given what he called “a thorn in the flesh,” a chronic and harassing attack from Satan. It might have been poor eyesight. It might have been recurring malaria or epilepsy. It might have been the residual effects of being stoned to death and surviving. The passage’s context tells us it most certainly included the people problems referenced earlier.

God would not remove this thorn even though Paul begged God on three occasions to remove it. In essence, God responded by saying, “No, but….” The chronic condition (the thorn) was going to remain in Paul’s life because God had something better than relief in mind. God’s grace was more than enough for Paul. In fact, God’s power would show up best in and would even be fulfilled in Paul’s chronic weaknesses.

The Wuest translation renders 2 Corinthians 12:8 this way – “My grace is enough for you, for My power is moment by moment coming to its full energy and complete operation in the sphere of weakness.”

Ever the extremist, Paul reacted to this answer from God by becoming a fan of his chronic condition, boasting that when he was weak he was actually strong. Carla showed me 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 in The Voice Translation, which says, “So ask me about my thorn, inquire about my weaknesses, and I will gladly go on and on – I would rather stake my claim in these weaknesses and have the power of the Anointed One (Jesus) at home within me. I am at peace and even take pleasure in any weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and afflictions for the sake of the Anointed (Jesus) because when I am at my weakest, He makes me strong.”

Many of us contend with something I call a theology of evacuation. We come to believe God’s primary role in our lives is relief, that God is obligated to always say YES to us by getting us out of unpleasantries or by getting unpleasantries out of us. Eavesdrop in on your prayer life and you may catch yourself in the act. But with God, evacuation is more the exception than the rule. God loves us too much to give in to our emotionally charged appeals for relief. Instead of removing the hardship, God may leave the hardship in us or God may leave us in the hardship. Why? Because it is the ideal environment for God to become our strength. The sufficiency of God’s grace is the BETTER YES. With the thorn still imbedded, we discover that God’s grace is more than enough.

Isn’t Jesus Himself the ultimate example of this truth? In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus writhed on the ground praying for evacuation three times. The Father said “NO, but….” Jesus emerged from the garden strong and proceeded to become vulnerable and helpless, all the way to an unspeakably brutal death.

God’s power was more than enough to raise Jesus from the dead. That being the case, is there any chance God might have what it takes to be more than enough for us in our area of greatest weakness?

Catholic author and speaker Brennan Manning (1934-2013) once said, “Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and the weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.” (The NIV Ragamuffin Bible, page 1330)

Brennan Manning also said, “…the question no longer is: Can I do it? Am I able? Can I overcome my moodiness, my laziness, my sensuality, my grudges and my resentments? The only question is: Is Jesus Christ able? Can my Savior, the Lord of my life, revive my drooping spirit and transform me?” (The NIV Ragamuffin Bible, page 1331)

What are your strengths?

What are your weaknesses (or challenges)?

How do you typically handle a “no” answer?

What is your “thorn in the flesh?” Do you have more than one “thorn in the flesh?”

When has God answered your prayer with “no” in favor of a better “yes?”

What would it look like for Christ to show up strong in your greatest weakness?

What would it look like for Christ’s grace to be perfected (fulfilled) in your weaknesses?

Are you willing to embrace the miracle you were not seeking, the miracle where God gives you more grace instead of less discomfort?

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)  

 

 

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About Faith and Courage and Letting Go

Consider these Scripture passages. What do they have in common?

  • Then Jesus told them what they could expect for themselves: “Any of you who want to be My follower must deny yourselves (set aside your own self-interests), take up your cross daily (take up My self-giving way of life), and follow Me (let Me lead). For if you choose self-sacrifice, giving up your soul-lives for My glory, you will embark on a discovery of more and more true life. But if you choose to keep your soul-lives for yourselves, you will lose what you try to keep.” (Luke 9:23-24)
  • Therefore, in response to all of these mercies God has shown you, I beg you, brothers and sisters, to make a decisive once-and-for-all dedication of your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and devoted and acceptable to God. This response to all of these mercies God has shown you is your only reasonable act of worship. (Romans 12:1)
  • Throw yourselves wholeheartedly and full-time—remember, you’ve been raised from the dead!—into God’s way of doing things. Sin can’t tell you how to live. After all, you’re not living under that old tyranny any longer. You’re living in the freedom of God. (Romans 6:13-14 in The Message)
  • For it is Christ’s love that fuels our passion and motivates us, because we are absolutely convinced that He has given His life for all of us. This means all died with Him, so that those who live should no longer live self-absorbed lives but lives that are poured out for Him—the One who died for us and now lives again. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 in The Passion Translation)
  • “My old identity has been co-crucified with Messiah and no longer lives; for the nails of His cross crucified me with Him. And now the essence of this new life is no longer mine, for the Anointed One lives His life through me—we live in union as one! My new life is empowered by the faith of the Son of God Who loves me so much that He gave Himself for me, and dispenses His life into mine! (Galatians 2:20 in The Passion Translation)

Now consider these imaginary scenes.

  • Scene #1 – Imagine that you are standing on the bank of a river. You have a glass in your hand. You kneel at the river, place the glass in the river, and then draw the glass out, full of river water. It would now be accurate to say you have the river (or at least some river water). You can take the river with you wherever you go. The river water is static and safe. You have the river water contained and controlled. You can go anywhere you want to go with it.
  • Scene #2 – Imagine that you are standing on the bank of a river. You have a glass in your hand. You place the glass on the ground next to you, take a deep breath, and jump into the river. It would now be accurate to say the river has you. The river’s current can take you wherever it is going. The river is wild and dynamic and risky and you are not in control, but you certainly are being taken somewhere.
  • Scene #3 – Imagine that you are standing on the bank of a river. You have a glass in your hand. You place the glass on the ground next to you and you tentatively approach the river. You step in just enough that your feet are in the water. After a while, you move a little deeper into the river, so that the water is up to your knees. This process continues, back and forth. Sometimes more of you is wet than dry. Sometimes more of you is dry than wet.

Questions:

  • Which scene best describes your relationship with Christ right now?
  • Which scene do you want describing your relationship with Christ?
  • How confident is your trust in Christ?
  • What is your next step?

Blessings,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

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Romans 12:1-2 Part 2

Here is Romans 12:1-2 from The Message. “So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for God. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what God wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.”

What is one area in your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—that most obviously needs to be placed before God as an offering?

Clue #1 – Look for that part of you that is unmanageable or out of control. It might be something in your thoughts. It might be a behavior. It might be words. It might be a habit. It might be an irresistible urge. No matter how hard you try to control or manage this part of you, it keeps squirming free. Every day for seven days, offer this resistant part of your self to God as a living sacrifice.

Clue #2 – Look for that part of you that easily caves into cultural pressure, that part of you that comfortably gives into self-indulgent or self-gratifying influences around you. It’s that part of you that conforms to the world because – let’s face it – it’s easier to live from the outside-in than from the inside-out. Every day for seven days, offer that part of you to God as a living sacrifice.

If sacrifices could speak, they would tell us that becoming a sacrifice is a 100% proposition. So why is Romans 12:1-2 worth it? Why is this self-sacrificing life such a good idea? My answer is that the One calling you into this self-sacrificing life…

…is the same One Who made you,

…is the same One Who knows what is best for you,

…is the same One Who loves you more than anybody else ever does or ever could love you,

…is the same One Who willingly gave ALL for you.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

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Romans 12:1-2 Part 1

“Therefore, in response to all of these mercies God has shown you, I beg you, brothers and sisters, to make a decisive once-and-for-all dedication of your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and devoted and acceptable to God. This response is your only reasonable act of worship. Stop mindlessly living in conformity to the customs of the prevailing culture around you, but by the new ideals that shape your minds continue to let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will find and follow God’s good, well-pleasing, and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Have you ever found yourself on both sides of a conflict or a competition, where it became necessary for you to once-and-for-all declare which side you are on? We can be guilty of dual spiritual allegiance. We try to follow Christ while also pleasing the world, which is like trying to take off in two directions at once. In Romans 12:1-2, God is telling us to decisively choose the One Who pours out mercy on us constantly. We know verse one contains a decisive command because the image in verse one has us climbing onto a sacrificial altar AND STAYING THERE.

There is no getting around the reality that faith in Christ is radical and extreme, but relationship with Christ is worth whatever our faith costs us. If we are spiritually climbing onto this altar and staying there, it can only mean we have FOR SURE chosen Christ, the same Christ Who in the ultimate act of mercy sacrificed Himself all the way for us.

When we stay on the altar of devotion to Christ, peer pressure loses its power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

When we stay on this altar of devotion to Christ, materialism loses its power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

When we stay on this altar of devotion to Christ, obsession and addiction lose their power over us because what’s happening up there on the altar is a better life in every way.

Faith exercises:

  1. How has God had mercy on you? How does God have mercy on you? Make a list. See if you can come up with at least a dozen ways God has been merciful to you. Examples – Did God wake you up this morning? Did God keep your heart beating all day? Did God provide food for you to eat, clothing for you to wear, shelter, transportation, friends, oxygen? Acts 17:28 says, “In Him we live and move and have our being.” Fact is, God does sustain us. Every moment we have is a gift.
  2. What are we doing with these gifts of mercy? In light of God’s mercies, we are given three commands. 1) We offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. Because we are so grateful to Jesus for having mercy on us, we offer everything about ourselves to Jesus, letting Him be completely in charge of us. 2) We stop going along with whatever the world says and we stop letting the world around us drag us down. 3) We allow God to miraculously replace our stinking thinking with a renewed mind that willingly gravitates toward God thoughts. These thoughts help us love people around us and be a blessing to people around us. When we are obeying these three commands, we are making ourselves available for God to bring out God’s very best in us, which beats anything we can come up with on our own. Only God knows who your best “you” is, and only God knows how to get you there.

Grace and peace to you as you study these verses, pray these verses, and obey these verses.

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com, rickjordankcmo@gmail.com)

 

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Why I Believe, in 2018, that Jesus is Alive

For the first time in decades, I am not employed as a professional religious person during the Easter season. I am taking full advantage of the opportunity to journey with Jesus from this new (for me) vantage point. I find that now, more than ever, I believe what the New Testament says about Jesus of Nazareth. Now, more than ever, I know that Jesus is alive from the dead. There is nobody like Jesus. Nobody can do what Jesus can do.

Paul put it this way in 1st Corinthians 15:3-8. “I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him.”

You may recall Paul’s story. This ascending Jewish leader was given legal authority to arrest and severely punish Christ’s followers wherever he could find them. He was credentialed and empowered to wipe out the Jesus movement before it got out of hand, and it was working like gangbusters until he ran into Jesus. On the road to Damascus, a bright light shut him down. He was blinded by this light but he heard a voice speaking to him, a voice self-identifying as the very Jesus he was persecuting. Days later, the pugnacious troubleshooter was actively converting people to the same Jesus whose following he had been trying to exterminate. The rest of Paul’s life was made quite difficult because of his insuppressible faith in Jesus Christ, but those difficulties did not deter him. Christ was alive in Paul, and Paul had to advance the cause of this Christ.

Centuries later, I believe what the New Testament says about Jesus because little derivative resurrections continue popping up all over the place. I believe Jesus is alive from the dead because those New Testament stories are consistent with my own story. Somebody even wilder than me has been unleashed in me. The character and the behavior of this Somebody resonates with the Jesus we read about in the New Testament. This crucified and risen One keeps delivering me from my greatest enemy – myself. This crucified and risen One keeps lighting up my darknesses. This crucified and risen One keeps killing my self-destructive nature and producing extraordinary new life where that old nature used to wreak havoc. This crucified and risen One keeps loving the hell out of me. There is no other viable explanation for my ongoing miraculous transformation. I know who I was and what I was capable of before I started saying “yes” to this crucified and risen One.

I also believe Jesus is alive from the dead because those New Testament stories are consistent with the stories of other people I know, people whose stories I trust because I’ve had a front row seat. There is no other viable explanation for their ongoing miraculous transformations.

The Jesus we read about in the New Testament is worth trusting and following today. The old hymn entitled “He Lives” says it well. “You ask me how I know He lives. He lives within my heart.”

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)

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“You Could Have” (A Good Friday song of thanks to Jesus)

I wrote this song of thanks to Jesus on the occasion of Good Friday in 2014. I was reflecting on the truth that Jesus (God the Son) could have aborted torture and crucifixion at any time. Love (Romans 5:8) and joy (Hebrews 12:2) kept Jesus moving toward suffering. Jesus chose impossibly horrific agony for us, a reality that blows my heart wide open in gratitude and confident trust. I hope the atoning death of Jesus similarly affects and transforms you.

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Letting Go (Philippians 3:5-14)

In the Bible, we constantly encounter people who choose to let go so that God can securely hold them and include them in what God is doing. This “letting go” thrusts God’s people into the undefined, the unknown, the uncertain, and the unbelievable, all of which are ideal contexts for vigorous faith development in the Christ-following life. Here are examples:

Noah let go of his pride and his worldview, spending more than a hundred years building something nobody had ever seen before in anticipation of something that had never happened before, all because God spoke to him.

Abraham let go of comfort and security and everything familiar, packing up and moving before he had a clue where God was taking them.

Jacob let go of his innate ability to get his way by deceiving people, instead trusting God to grant him favor.

Moses let go of his insecurities and his inadequacies and his many other fears, following God’s lead into one impossible situation after another.

Joshua and Caleb let go of their human inferiority against gigantically overwhelming odds, comparing their enemies to God instead of comparing their enemies to themselves.

David let go of his desire for revenge against the homicidally paranoid king Saul, repeatedly taking the high road.

David also let go of his ego, which meant the greatest Monarchy represented in the Hebrew Scriptures featured Jehovah as the Senior Partner and king David as the junior partner.

The prophet Elijah let go of his self-sufficiency and his freedom, allowing God to say dangerous things to powerful people through him, to feed him by whatever birds brought him or by what a starving widow fixed him, and to pit him against 850 false prophets in a showdown that became a shutout.

King Jehoshaphat let go of his pride and his panic, advancing against a coalition of three frothing armies by introducing the offbeat weaponry of a choir and a praise band.

The prophet Isaiah let go of his clothing for three years because God told him to.

Yes, that happened.

In His incarnation, Jesus let go of the benefits package that comes with being God, humbling Himself beyond our comprehension for our sakes.

Mary and Joseph let go of their expectations about marriage and about how babies are made and about parenting, moving with God’s Spirit into scandal, peril, and refugee status.

The disciples let go of their occupations and, in some cases, their families, in order to follow Jesus.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus let go of His human desire to avoid the agony of bearing our sins and feeling separated from Abba, staying the course to the cross because we were helpless without Him.

At Pentecost, the earliest believers let go of any notions about being in control of themselves or their lives, because the exact same Jesus they had walked with for three years had suddenly filled them beyond overflow in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

Once persecution broke out, the earliest believers let go of any notions about being safe, confessing Jesus as Lord in the face of torturous death sentences.

On a roof in Joppa, Peter let go of “insider” and “outsider” categories, risking rejection in order to welcome Gentiles (“THOSE people”) into the body of Christ.

Paul let go of his admirable pedigree, his successful career, his dignity, his health, and his future in order to follow Jesus – even though he was promised suffering from the start.

In Philippians 3:5-14, Paul articulates the dynamics and the rewards of a relinquished life. Here is his autobiography in The Voice translation.

“I was circumcised on the eighth day—as the law prescribes—born of the nation of Israel, descended from the tribe of Benjamin. I am a Hebrew born of Hebrews; I have observed the law according to the strict piety of the Pharisees, separate from those embracing a less rigorous kind of Judaism. Zealous? Yes. I ruthlessly pursued and persecuted the church. And when it comes to the righteousness required by the law, my record is spotless. But whatever I used to count as my greatest accomplishments, I’ve written them off as a loss because of the Anointed One. And more so, I now realize that all I gained and thought was important was nothing but yesterday’s garbage compared to knowing the Anointed Jesus my Lord. For Him I have thrown everything aside—it’s nothing but a pile of waste—so that I may gain Him. When it counts, I want to be found belonging to Him, not clinging to my own righteousness based on law, but actively relying on the faithfulness of the Anointed One. This is true righteousness, supplied by God, acquired by faith. I want to know Him inside and out. I want to experience the power of His resurrection and join in His suffering, shaped by His death, so that I may arrive safely at the resurrection from the dead. I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. Brothers and sisters, as I said, I know I have not arrived; but there’s one thing I am doing: I’m leaving my old life behind, putting everything on the line for this mission. I am sprinting toward the only goal that counts: to cross the line, to win the prize, and to hear God’s call to resurrection life found exclusively in Jesus the Anointed.”

Paul let go of his life so that Christ Jesus could grab hold of Paul and never let him go. What do you need to let go of so that Christ Jesus can thoroughly grab hold of you and bring you into His Life?

…Pride?

…Your past?

…Your future?

…Security?

…Addiction?

…Fear?

…Approval seeking?

…Materialism?

…Technology?

…Cynicism?

…Self-indulgence?

…Instant gratification?

…Hyperactive emotional sensitivity?

…Religion?

…Nosiness?

…Manipulation of others?

…A relationship?

…Narcissism?

…Control?

…Morbid introspection?

…Comfort?

…Anxiety?

…Anger?

…Bitterness?

…Doubt?

…_________?

May you and I live into our own versions of Philippians 3:12. “I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go.”

In Jesus’ name,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

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“Too Much in Touch with Our Feelings?” (Psalm 61:1-2)

My dad is tough, by anybody’s standards. In 1967, when he was working construction glass in South Carolina, he fell off of a building and landed on his back on a steel beam. Surgeons put him back together, and he didn’t even miss that much work.

Dad is 86 now, and still old-school tough. However, a couple of years ago he met his pain management match. Dad had shingles. He said it felt like all of his nerve endings relocated outside his skin. Air was excruciating, and everything beyond air was worse.

People don’t have shingles. Shingles have them.

It is possible for us to have emotional shingles, where instead of us having feelings, feelings have us. It’s like our emotions relocate outside us, and we over-feel everything. It’s all TOO BIG.

A few evenings ago, Carla and I were listening to a teaching by Brian Johnson from Bethel Church. He was talking about how he’s not characteristically a man in touch with his feelings, and as almost a throwaway line he said, “Some of you are way too much in touch with your feelings.” He’s right. Emotional oversensitivity is prevalent in our culture today. We can be so massively in touch with our feelings that our emotions take on more credibility than their pay grade. We become led by our feelings. We think and we decide with our feelings.

King David (somebody who was sometimes morbidly in touch with his feelings), wrote this Psalm. “Hear my cry, O God. Pay attention to my prayer. From the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me up onto the rock that is higher than I.” (Psalm 61 Evangelical Heritage Version)

Our hearts can be legitimately overwhelmed by the extremely hard knocks of this life. But our hearts can also be overwhelmed because we self-load our hearts by being way too much in touch with our feelings. Our overactive emotions can convince us we are at the end of the earth, or at the end of our wits, or at the end of our rope, or at the end of our options.

Notice what David asks from God. “Lead me onto the rock that is higher than I.” If you study the Biblical imagery of God as our Rock, you discover that God promises to be our secure relational place of stability, a place that is higher and more solid than our anger, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, etc. When we are trusting ON God like this, God has a way of placing us ON a new and much better perspective than the hyperventilating perspective our charged up emotions give us.

I offer you this prayer. “God in Christ, please cause me to be far more in touch with You than I am with my feelings, because when I am deeply in touch with You, then I can let You be in touch with my feelings and even in charge of my feelings. Thank You for hearing my cry, for paying attention to my prayer. Thank You for knowing where I am when I am emotionally at the end, for meeting me in that remote place, for pulling me up, and for guiding me back. Thank You for taking my overwhelmed heart seriously and for leading me to the Rock that is higher than I am. On Christ the solid Rock I stand. Amen.”

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)

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However much you think God loves you… (Zephaniah 3:17)

I am being held captive, but if you try to set me free I will fight you.

Her name is Sylvia, and she is our brand new granddaughter.

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We have three grandchildren in heaven, so Sylvia is our fourth one, and she made it. Sometimes I wonder if her parents and grandparents are lavishing her with all of the love we had stored up for the other three babies, in addition to the love we have for her.

When I am with Sylvia, time stands still. My entranced heart memorizes every sight, sound, touch, and smell (yes, smell). There is no area on the top of her head I have not kissed. I hum spontaneous songs of devotion to her. I am holding her but she has me tightly in her grip, spellbound and captive. I adore this kid so much I would have to lapse into heavenly languages to articulate it adequately.

Our daughter and son-in-law love her more than Carla and I love her.

And God loves her MUCH more than they love her.

God, in fact, loves every one of us more than parents love their kids and more than grandparents love their grandchildren.

Zephaniah 3:17 is part of a prophecy about God loving His people back into geographical and relational restoration. It says this:

“The Lord your God in your midst,
The Mighty One, will save.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
He will quiet you with His love, calming all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful singing.”

Because we are able to think in pictures, I invite you to read that verse slowly and let your imagination create a scene for you. What does it look like for you to be loved by God in the ways this verse describes? Imagine God lovingly delivering you, lovingly delighting in you, lovingly calming you, and lovingly singing over you with unrestrained joy.

Make sure your imagination has all of the necessary information – that in the context of the passage God’s people are not exactly delightful or even loveable. God loves us as much when we are at our very worst as God does when we are at our very best.

What do you see in the verse? Go with it. Take it in. Accept God’s acceptance of you.

One of the phrases in that verse says God is the Mighty One who will save. If it became necessary for Sylvia’s parents or grandparents to give our lives for her, we would do that without hesitation. And in the person of Jesus Christ, God did that – loved us to death and back in order to save us.

I hope and pray you become avidly receptive to God’s love for you. Nobody on earth will ever love you like God in Christ does and nobody on earth can do for you what God in Christ can do for you.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)  

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Remembering to Notice

This is certainly not an original thought, but it occurred to me again recently that my perspective can make a big difference in how I view the big and small parts of daily life. On the one hand, it can be so easy to take kindness and blessings for granted. But if I am plugged in to what God is up to, there are so many good things to notice and for which to be thankful.  

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

A recent example was a tiny (and I do mean tiny) addition to the wall of the ladies restroom/shower area at the indoor track where I walk. A screw had been strategically added so the blow dryer had a place to hang while not in use. I didn’t realize what big feelings I had about a home for that blow dryer(!), but I was so thankful when I saw that little addition, I took a picture!   

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The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Psalm 37: 23

Reflecting on what a difference our perspective makes also caused me to think about the words of a song Rick wrote several years ago titled “I Saw.” I think of it as a song not about people-watching really, but about people-noticing and how paying attention can help us be more aware of the world around us and the people in our path.

I highly recommend watching out for what God is up to in your life. When I do, I am reminded of how very good He is.  

Carla Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

 

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Song – “I Saw”

I posted another original song on my YouTube channel. The song is called “I Saw.” You can find it here – https://youtu.be/nCBqzd0sWuU .

You can also check out my YouTube channel for more songs here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA/featured.

I am booking living room concerts, church concerts, or concerts in other venues. Please contact me at rickjordankcmo@gmail.com.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)

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“Beyond”

I posted another original song on my YouTube channel. The song is based on Psalm 121 and is called “Beyond.” You can find it here – https://youtu.be/_9fGb0mOZd8.

You can also check out my YouTube channel for more songs here – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA/featured.

I am booking living room concerts, church concerts, or concerts in other venues. Please contact me at rickjordankcmo@gmail.com. 

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan (www.rickcarlajordan.com)

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Thanking Up (Psalm 100)

“Thanking Up” (Psalm 100)

The year Carla and I got married, we registered for stoneware place settings (matching plates, bowls, etc). That was 1979, and yes people ate off of plates back then. A few mornings ago I reached into a cabinet for a medium size plate. It touched something on the way out and exploded into shards, covering my hands with cuts. In that moment I learned that, after nearly four decades, stoneware becomes brittle. I was grabbing little pieces of plate before the dog walked on the floor while bleeding on the floor at the same time because multi-tasking has always been second nature to me.

Later that day I was scheduled to play guitar and sing in a church setting. As I examined my hands I realized every cut was located in an area of my hands that wouldn’t impede my ability to play guitar. I immediately thanked God.

Here’s where the slope becomes slippery for people who apply faith to life. Was God involved in that early morning kitchen episode? If so, in what way? Did God guide those jagged airborne pieces of plate so that they would only cut me where the damage couldn’t hinder my guitar playing? If so, what about all of the other faith-living people around the world who suffered cuts at around the same time? How many of them wound up in emergency rooms with serious injuries?

I am not among those who would insist God favorably directed the pieces of plate that morning, although I am definitely among those who believe God is capable of that and much more. Thanking God that morning was not about my fortuitously sliced hands; it was about my heart. Gratitude epitomizes who I aspire to be in Christ. Gratitude elevates my perspective and, ironically, strengthens my faith. I cannot explain where faith ends and gratitude begins any more than I can explain where the egg yolk ends and the egg white begins in scrambled eggs. I just know it works when I work it.

Psalm 100 animatedly describes this life of gratitude and praise. 




Lift up a great shout of joy to the Lord!

Go ahead and do it—everyone, everywhere!

As you serve him, be glad and worship him.

Sing your way into his presence with joy!

And realize what this really means—

we have the privilege of worshiping the Lord our God.

For he is our Creator and we belong to him.

We are the people of his pleasure.

You can pass through his open gates with the password of praise.

Come right into his presence with thanksgiving.

Come bring your thank offering to him

and affectionately bless his beautiful name!

For the Lord is always good and ready to receive you.

He’s so loving that it will amaze you—

so kind that it will astound you!

And he is famous for his faithfulness toward all.

Everyone knows our God can be trusted,

for he keeps his promises to every generation!

(The Passion Translation)



Psalm 100 is about, among other things, thanking up. When I thank up I am not practicing superstitious or presumptuous faith. I am putting into practice a Biblical command and I am following the example of Jesus. When I thank up, I am recognizing that everything comes from God and exists by God’s power and is intended for God’s glory (Romans 11:36). When I thank up, I am being true to my belief, reinforced by my experience, that God in Christ is over all and in all and through all (Ephesians 4:6). When I thank up, that vertical momentum pulls my head out of my flawed thought life (and out of other places). When I thank up, I allow God to deliver me, once again, from my narcissistic inclinations. When I thank up, it simplifies my hopelessly complicated inner life. When I thank up, I am more in alignment with who I am and Who God is.

Singing and playing guitar later that day in a worshiping community, I didn’t explain the bandages; I was too busy worshiping.

Keep Psalm 100 close to you for a week, and let it induce you to thank up. Monitor the effect it has on you, how it changes your heart. I hope you find, like I have, that it makes you measurably and sustainably better.

Oh - and be careful with old stoneware.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com
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“What is that Color?” (John 9:25 and James 1:17)

People started realizing I was color blind when I was a small child. I was already wearing glasses, the thick horn rimmed ones that were standard issue back then. All of us kids were coloring with well used crayons. Go to any children’s Sunday school class or any preschool and look inside the crayon box. You will discover that many of the crayons have shed their wrapping (with help). That’s the way it was when we kids were coloring. I was grabbing what I thought were the correct colors and I was quite proud of my creation, with sky and grass and sun exhibiting the hues of perhaps some exotic planet elsewhere in the galaxy (or in a Steven Spielberg movie) but certainly not planet earth.

I was so color blind that, on my first day as senior pastor at one church, I was walking through the fellowship hall at my typical fast clip and slammed head first into a floor-to-ceiling pole in the middle of the room. The pole was invisible to me because of my color blindness, but the huge bump on my forehead was not invisible to anyone. It looked like the church had called a cyclops to be their new pastor.

On January 15, 2015 I was in an automobile accident and suffered multiple concussions. At the time I was senior pastor at Susquehanna Baptist Church in Independence, Missouri. On May 13, 2015 I was sitting in the Susquehanna Baptist Church sanctuary during a preschool graduation ceremony. The preschool kids were singing “The Color Song,” the one where they all have sticks with red or blue or green or yellow cardboard circles on the top of the sticks. In previous years there was a fun running gag. They would call me up there and hand me a stick. I would not know which color it was, of course, so I had no idea when to stand up or sit down. But I could not participate in the gag that year because I was still recovering from the concussions.

As I sat there watching and listening to the color song, I realized the room had changed. I was seeing colors. This is not a joke. I did not know WHAT colors I was seeing, but it did not take me long to learn the first four colors because the kids with each of the four colors kept standing up when cued by the song lyrics.

I am no longer color blind. What happened? There is absolutely no medical explanation. It is not humanly possible to suffer a concussion that changes the optics in your eyes. Here is what I know. 1) When I take online color tests, I now score very high. 2) Burnt orange is the best color ever. 3) After I announced to the church that I was seeing colors, a couple of people at Susquehanna Baptist Church told me they had been asking God to let me see colors before I die, because they thought it would be sad for their pastor to see colors for the first time in heaven. They had been praying that way since long before the accident. Neither of them was aware that the other was requesting this from God.

John 9 is an account of Jesus healing a man born blind. The religious leaders heard about it and began interrogating the man because Jesus had the nerve to make him better on the Sabbath. They kept quizzing him, trying to pressure him into saying Jesus was a sinner, until finally he blurted out, “I don’t know whether he is a sinner, but I know this: once I was blind, but now I can see.” (John 9:25)

The man used to be one way, and then he became another way, and all he knew to do was to point to Jesus as the reason for this change.

I cannot explain how or why I see colors. What I know is that I was colorblind and now I can see colors. I choose to thank God in Christ, because “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (James 1:17)

What I love most about seeing colors is that now I have many more reasons every day to give thanks to God. Like the blind man in John 9, I used to be one way, and then I became another way, and all I know to do is to point to Jesus as the reason for this change. To me, that is easily the best thing about being able to see colors.

What is your version of the blind man’s story? “Once I was ____________ but now I can _____________.”

Do you have an ultimate Somebody to thank? If you are looking for One, I recommend Jesus.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

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Just Like the Sparrows

I have loved the melody and the message of “His Eye is on the Sparrow” since childhood. My earliest memories of it are George Beverly Shea singing it during Billy Graham services.

The lyrics point me to Matthew 10:29-31 where the Bible does speak of sparrows, that if God watches over each of them (and He does), I can be sure that He watches over me, too, not in a critical way, but because He loves and cares for me. How He watches over me when there are several billion of us is way beyond me, but He’s God and that’s one of the many reasons we can be in awe of Him.

Rick and I recently got to lead a group of residents at a nearby care center in singing some familiar hymns including “His Eye is on the Sparrow.” As they joined in, it was clear that many of them also have good memories of that song and find comfort and assurance in its message.

Thanks be to God for His never-ending love and care.

Carla

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Stillness in Motion (Psalm 46:10)

Years ago a friend invited me to join him in a day trip to Chicago so we could watch our Kansas City Royals play the Chicago Cubs. Early that morning we flew from Kansas City to Midway International Airport in Chicago, where we took the L-Train to Wrigley Field. We watched the game, reversed the trip, and we were home by early evening.

I had never ridden a subway before. All of the seats were taken, both ways, so we had to stand. On the trip to Wrigley, every little move of the train moved me. I looked like somebody who was being continuously tased on a low setting, but the other passengers were not affected like that. They stood with the casual slouch of the experienced, some not even holding onto a pole. Their minds and bodies were probably making countless unconscious adjustments during the trip, but the commuters were strangely quiescent. I marveled at their stillness in motion and I tried to emulate their relaxed stability, with pathetic results.

The Royals lost, but Mark and I won because we ate some unbelievable Chicago hot dogs. Toward the end of the subway trip back to Midway, I had made so much progress that I now looked like I was dancing on a floor of old Jello, the kind with a little crust on top.

Psalm 46:10, says “Be still and know that I am God.” The Hebrew word often translated by our phrase “be still” means, at its root, to become slack or to relax. Gathering up all of the layers of meaning, this one little verse says: “Calm down, let go, relax your grip, cease striving, be still, and KNOW THAT I AM GOD.”

Everything else in Psalm 46 is chaos and frenzied pandemonium. I appreciate the Holy Spirit inspiring the sons of Korah to write this Psalm with all of that cosmic bedlam, so that we 21st Century readers can realize we didn’t invent commotion.

About the only still people I see these days are people who have become one with their mobile devices. We are compulsively busy on the outside and on the inside. Many of us live just like I looked on that Chicago subway train.                

We are in desperate need of stillness.

Start simple. Pick a time of day or night that affords you the best chance to become still in God’s presence. Begin with five minutes a day, and then increase. Some people use music. Some people use a candle or a cross. I use a Bible, and I make sure my mobile device is elsewhere. Meditating on a Scripture passage calms me and centers me.

Spiritual disciplines develop slowly. The 4,592 times you lose focus or drift away, don’t worry about it and do not give up. God knows you, loves you, wants this for you more than you do, and has divine patience.

When we discipline ourselves into stillness in God’s presence, the benefits easily outweigh whatever it costs us to do it. Once we can regularly become still in environments conducive to stillness, it becomes possible for us to become internally still in environments conducive to clamor. This stillness in motion enables us to know that God is, in fact, God, even in the surging chaos of this life.

Grace and peace,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

rickjordankcmo@gmail.com

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Everyone is living their life

I can’t even remember when I first thought this thought, but I was still young, probably preteen. It dawned on me that as deeply involved as I was in my own day-to-day life, the people around me were just as involved in their own. I had struggles, preoccupations, hopes and dreams, and so did everybody else, only it was their own version.

This evening after gathering our mail from the mailbox just outside our front door, I faintly heard an audible voice. After looking up, I realized it was our mail carrier walking down the street, talking on the phone in his ear.

That familiar thought returned to me. That mail carrier brought our mail to us in the freezing cold, and then moved on to repeat the task at our neighbor’s house while carrying on a conversation with someone in his life on the other end of the phone. He would continue working his way down the road until he got back to his mail truck, and he’s living his life just like I’m living mine.

I want to live a Galatians 2:20 life. Not me living my life, but Christ living His life in me… “So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” So be it.

Carla

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“Hope for People Who Have Tried Everything” (Mark 5:25-34)

Mark 5:25-34 chronicles an account about a woman who had been bleeding internally for twelve years. She was afflicted with a beastly medical condition for which she had tried everything, but she kept worsening for reasons that were not her fault. This disorder was a chronic physical drain, a financial disaster, a social disease, an identity assault, and a shaming pile-on. She was shunned, and who knows what else, because mean people have always preferred stationary targets.

Jesus was in the area, so she somehow summoned another round of spunk, snuck through the crowd she wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near, squirmed through all of the bodies, and brushed the edge of His robe or tassel.

In a crowd like this all manners of people would have been bumping into Jesus, but He experienced a power drain from her negligible touch and the woman felt her bleeding instantly dry up and stop. After twelve years, what was that like? Was it an electric jolt, or maybe a delicious stab of healing pain?

She began reversing course out of the crowd. Then Jesus halted everything and insisted on looking for her. Was this another vicious disappointment? Was He going to take the healing back because she wasn’t supposed to be in the crowd? Was He like the others she had tried?

After twelve years the woman would have become an expert at avoiding eye contact, at being invisible. But she could not dodge His gaze. She fell down in front of Jesus and her story spilled out of her. Jesus responded, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace, and be healed of your affliction.” (Mark 5:34)

What? She had already been healed, and Jesus knew it because He had felt it happen. What did she receive during the second encounter that she had not received during the first encounter? Initially she was healed physically, but she had not been healed from everything the sickness did to her socially and emotionally. Face to face now, Jesus called her by a family name and gave her credit for trusting Him and healed her shame and made her whole.

Don’t you love it that Jesus could sense the faith in her puny touch of His garment? Don’t you love it that Jesus insisted on looking for her and continuing what had begun a few moments earlier? Welcome to the heart of our crucified and risen Christ. He has not changed. God in Christ always has more for us than we are experiencing. Jesus seeks you out because He has so much to offer you. Like He felt her brush of desperate faith against His clothing that day, Christ picks up on your faintest cry for help. And He responds.

The best thing you can ever do is move toward Him in prayer, placing your own story between you and Jesus so that He can demonstrate, face to face, how fond He is of you and how ready, willing, and able He is to liberate you. I do not know what it will feel like, or what form it will take. But I know your hope is in good hands with Jesus, because I too have been indescribably jolted by His wild love in response to my despairing and grasping prayer.

May you and I know the grace that is definitely not out of reach,

Rick Jordan

www.rickcarlajordan.com

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