Praying through the picture window (1 Peter 4:7)

Praying through the Picture Window (1 Peter 4:7)

Carla and I recently traveled to Hannibal, Missouri to visit with Carla’s charming and delightful aunt Betty. Uncle Charlie and aunt Betty are the best of the best. They don’t come any better. Charlie passed away a few years ago. Betty turns 93 in a few months. She lives where they have lived for years, only now it’s Betty and a full-bodied cat with a disproportionately tiny head. I think this cat is Tiger the 3rd or 4th.

The living room furniture sits where it has always been. Charlie’s recliner is the most comfortable chair and the couch is nice and soft, but we’re fairly sure Betty never sits on the couch or in the recliner. Betty’s chair is upright, does not recline, and doesn’t look very soft, but a small table next to the chair displays evidence that Betty spends most of her time sitting right there. She sat right there during our visit. Betty’s chair is strategically positioned so that Betty can watch the world outside her picture window, “the world” consisting of a front yard, a stretch of street, and the houses across the street. While we were visiting with her, Betty commented on what was happening outside – two neighborhood kids playing, Carla’s cousin Cindy arriving to say hi. Sometimes it didn’t look like she was watching, but Betty missed nothing.

She wakes up every morning, eats breakfast, turns on the TV, and sits in her chair. Except for when she nods off, Betty invests her days showing up and noticing.

The lesson escaped me until Carla pointed it out later that evening. Aunt Betty is more productively engaged in the world than many of us who are juggling and managing life in larger contexts. Betty taught us with her life that day. She taught us about the power of prayer.

First Peter 5:7 says this, “Since we are approaching the end of all things, be intentional, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer.”                                                                                                 

The clock is ticking. We don’t know how much time we have left. The most valuable thing we can do is position ourselves so that we miss nothing. Peter calls this being GIVEN to prayer, and it does not happen accidentally. We must strategically locate ourselves for the sake of perspective over comfort. Being “given to prayer” is momentous. It’s more than just saying prayers. Being given to prayer means showing up for our lives in a conscious awareness of God’s presence and joining the Divine-human conversation in progress. Like Betty talking with us about what she was seeing through the living room window, through prayer we take notice and we talk to God about what we are noticing. We pray the news, our families, our friendships, our concerns – whatever or whoever goes by. After all, God is on high alert even when we nod off. Prayer is how we join God in what God is doing in the world. And the secret sauce is that Almighty God chooses to listen to us and respond to us!

Deuteronomy 4:39 says, “You just need to know with every fiber of your being that the Eternal Lord, and no one else, is God up in heaven and down here on earth.”

We become people given to prayer when we take responsibility for our little piece of “down here on earth” action, noticing it and offering it to God. Or as Jesus expressed perfectly in the Model Prayer, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

What new step can you take in your life of prayer? What would it look like for you to be intentional, purposeful, and self-controlled so that you can be given to prayer?

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

 

When Life Becomes Moment-by-Moment (Psalm 31:14-15)

In the Model Prayer, Jesus prays, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

In Lamentations 3, Jeremiah affirms that God’s mercies are new every morning.

These passages help us live in a day-to-day reliance on God in Christ. But what about those seasons in life when we are simply trying to somehow make it moment-by-moment?

In Psalm 31:14-15 David says this. “But I trust in you, Lord; I say, ‘You are my God. My times are in your hands….’”

My times are in Your hands.

No matter what time increment best fits our journey, God’s immediate presence is available. Day-to-day or hour-to-hour or minute-to-minute or second-to-second…God has us. God has us when we are clinging. God has us when we have let go for a while.

God, our times are in Your Hands.

God, this moment is in Your Hands.

God, this breath is in Your Hands.

God, I choose to be in Your Hands.

Grace and peace,

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

 

About the music God has given me…

Hi! Over the years, God has given me a variety of songs. Some are worship songs or songs inspired by specific Biblical passages. Other songs are simply observations about life.

I am available for church concerts, church events, social events, clubs, etc., on a donation or love offering basis.

I am scheduling living room concerts, which are ideal for small groups or informal get-togethers with family and friends. I come on a donation or love offering basis.

If you know of a venue (like a coffeehouse or an establishment) that would be receptive to a 59 year-old songwriter with a guitar, feel free to let me know.

Carla and I are praying daily for open doors.

My YouTube channel is https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfmKSgzM6LKsI2wAqH8R_ZA. Clicking “like” on a video (if you do like it) helps me with the good people at YouTube. Right now I have 56 subscribers to the channel. Once I reach 100 subscribers, YouTube will let me become creative with the appearance and the presentation of the channel.

You can contact me through Facebook or email (rickjordankcmo@gmail.com).

We will gratefully receive all the prayer we can get! Thank you very much for considering these requests and for sharing this post with other people who may be interested.

Grace and peace to you,

Rick Jordan

 

Solid Rocks and Crumbly Rocks

In the ancient world, cornerstones were the ultimate load-bearing stones. Builders started with the cornerstone. Builders laid out the entire structure using the cornerstone as a reference point for all of their measuring and leveling. Frequently the cornerstones were boulders that the builders could not move, so they squared them up and built on them. The boulder was in the way, so that boulder became the way to build something lasting. Their theory was that if the cornerstone couldn’t be moved then neither could the building, because the building had been constructed on and into and around that cornerstone.

In the Hebrew Scriptures and in the New Testament, Biblical writers identified God in Christ as The Cornerstone. Consider these passages.

  • You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You. I will trust in You, Lord, always – for You, Lord God, are my eternal Rock – strong, stable, trustworthy, and lasting. (Isaiah 26:3-4)
  • But the Master, God, has something to say…“Watch closely. I’m laying a foundation in Zion, a solid granite foundation, a precious cornerstone, tested and squared and true. And this is the meaning of the stone: a trusting life won’t topple.” Isaiah 28:16 (New Revised Standard Version and The Message)
  • So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are God’s house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus Himself. We are carefully joined together in Christ, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through Christ you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by God’s Spirit. (Ephesians 2:19-22)

What does it mean that God in Christ is our Cornerstone?

  • Jesus is our absolute, constant, indispensable, solid, immovable, strong, reliable, stable, trustworthy, secure, foundational Rock.
  • We build our individual lives ON relationship with Jesus and INTO relationship with Jesus and AROUND relationship with Jesus.
  • Jesus is our starting point and our reference point for everything.
  • Relationship with Jesus provides perspective about everything.
  • We measure everything from our relationship with Jesus.
  • Jesus supports our lives better than anybody or anything else.
  • The church builds its life ON relationship with Jesus and INTO relationship with Jesus and AROUND relationship with Jesus.
  • When we are joined together in relationship with Jesus, Jesus joins us to each other.
  • Jesus holds us together like ancient cornerstones held entire structures together.
  • When we are built on relationship with Jesus we cannot topple because Jesus does not topple.
  • We BASE our lives on relationship with Jesus.

In the 21st century construction industry, cornerstones are not what they used to be. Cornerstones have become ornamental or ceremonial. Cornerstones are inscribed with the name and date of the building, but that’s as far as the influence goes. Cornerstones are no longer load bearing.

“Ornamental” and “ceremonial” are adjectives that accurately describe much of what passes for Christianity these days. And yes, I hated typing that sentence.

What does life look like when relationship with Jesus is merely ornamental or ceremonial – part of our lives but not foundational? What does church look like when relationship with Jesus is merely ornamental or ceremonial – part of our life together but not foundational?

What does LIFE look like when Jesus is our Cornerstone?

What does CHURCH look like when Jesus is our Cornerstone?

As long as we are thinking about rocks – what “rocks” have crumbled beneath you? Examples of crumbling rocks include relationships, expectations, career, approval, fantasies, paradigms, self-worth, dreams, bad religion, health, ambitions, happiness, finances, goals, perspectives, systems, pedestalized leaders, assumptions, beliefs – anything we base our lives on instead of Jesus or anybody we base our lives on instead of Jesus.

What happens when those “rocks” crumble?

I’ve officiated many funerals alongside grieving people who referred to their deceased loved on as “my rock.” My wife is like a rock to me. I have no idea what I would do without Carla. I firmly believe God wants us to be in relationship with people who are so reliable and so solid that we can count on them. When death claims those people, it is devastating. God understands the intensity of that grief. In the previous paragraph, I wasn’t referring to rock-like people God places in our lives. I was referring more to Rock substitutes – people or places or things we stand on instead of Jesus.

I’ll use another example from my own life. As a recovering people pleaser, only recently have I grasped how thoroughly I was basing my life on people’s approval. That “rock’ has crumbled beneath me many times over the years, but the crumbling has not stopped me from counting on people’s approval all over again. In my people-pleasing, I am like Charlie Brown running toward the football Lucy is holding for me to kick, but Lucy has earnestly promised that this time she won’t jerk the football back at the precise moment I am beyond the point of no return in my kicking motion (like she has every other time)….

Splat.

Good grief.

I am finally getting tired of being Charlie Brown.

On whom or on what are you basing and building your life?

Grace and peace,

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

 

The Jesus Who will put us through whatever it takes (John 9)

Reading the Gospel of John chapter 9, I am stunned as I watch everything Jesus put that blind beggar through.

Jesus spat on the ground next to the man, which was something Jewish people commonly did to disabled beggars to convey their disgust and to communicate their opinion that God had cursed the person with the affliction because of something the beggar’s parents did or something the beggar did. In the case of this man born blind, we would be talking about prenatal sin – like perhaps the embryonic baby had a porn stash in his mother’s womb.

THEN Jesus smeared muddy spit paste over the man’s blind eyes and told him to grope his way to the pool of Siloam. Jesus didn’t even guide him there! What abuse must the man have endured from people as he crawled or stumbled to the pool?

After the beggar’s eyes were opened, Jesus vanished from the scene, leaving the man to tell his story repeatedly to religious leaders whose interrogation intensified until finally those leaders barred him from the synagogue because he had the audacity to let some controversial Rabbi miraculously heal him on the Sabbath, committing two code violations the leaders had added to the laws in the Hebrew Scriptures.

But by the end of John’s Gospel chapter 9, the formerly blind former beggar could physically AND spiritually see! Notice how the man’s courage grew and his perceptions about Jesus brightened each time he repeated his story.

Is it possible Jesus knows what He is doing? Can it be that Jesus will stop at nothing to open our eyes and develop our faith? Can it be that Jesus will put us through whatever it takes to open our eyes and develop our faith?

I emphatically believe so.

When I measure these truths about Jesus alongside my prayer life, I wonder how often I ask God to take me the easy way through (or give me the easy way out). That path-of-least-resistance praying comes up short when compared to the formidable dimensions of John 9. God must know that, if God took us the easy way through, we might arrive sooner. However, that version of ourselves showing up at the destination would not be up to the challenge or that version of ourselves would not see clearly enough with the eyes of faith to trust and obey vigorously. So maybe our prayer lives need a new gear. The new gear might sound like this – “God, please put me through whatever it takes to open my eyes and develop my faith. Thank You for not taking me the easy way. Thank you for loving me enough and dignifying my journey enough to be as hard on me as you were on that guy back in John 9.”

I am reading an article from the Sojourner’s website about Dr. Bennet Omalu, the forensic pathologist and neuropathologist who discovered chronic traumatic encephalopathy (a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head). He discovered CTE while examining Mike Webster, the NFL center whose life ended tragically because of multiple concussions. In the interview with Sojourner’s Bradford William Davis, Omalu says this – “I let the Spirit of God percolate into my being. Everything I do, I do through the eyes of faith.”

WOW.

May you and I become people who let God’s Spirit percolate into our beings so thoroughly that we do everything through the eyes of faith – no matter what it takes.

In Jesus’ name,

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

 

An Inductive Study Guide for John 9

We don’t see things the way they are as much as we see things the way we are.

We don’t see people the way they are as much as we see people the way we are.

We can have physical or spiritual or social or emotional blind spots. John chapter 9 is full of eyes that are opening and eyes that are closing. It contrasts light and darkness.

Bible study questions:

  • How did the disciples see the blind man?
  • What was wrong with the disciples’ questions about the blind man? In what direction did their questions take the conversation?
  • How did Jesus change the direction of their thinking? What is the difference between “why?” and “so that?”
  • Because poor blind beggars were considered cursed, Jewish people walking by them would sometimes spit on the ground beside the beggars to shame them and communicate their disgust with them. This man born blind would be conditioned to the sound of human spit splashing the ground and he would know what it meant. Why did Jesus choose to use a mixture of spit and mud on the man? How did Jesus change the act of spitting on the ground from a curse to a blessing?
  • Why did Jesus require this man to grope his way to the pool of Siloam with muddy spit paste all over his face? How would the people he walked by react to him? Why didn’t Jesus just zap him like He zapped others? What does this teach us about God’s role and our role in relationship?
  • Where do you see evidence that Jesus not only set the man free from his condition but also set him free from what he used to do because of his condition?
  • This newly healed man had to tell his story several times, mostly under the duress of interrogation. How do you see his view of Jesus expanding with each narration? What does this teach us about the potency of our faith story? How much expertise do we need about Jesus in order to start telling our story?
  • How did the religious leaders view the man?
  • How did the religious leaders view God?
  • Legalism is the elevation of rules and regulations over God. How did the religious legalism of the Pharisees cause them to bury the lead? What were they unwilling to see and appreciate?
  • How do you interpret the response of the parents to the religious leaders’ questions? Why would they throw their son under the bus? What does this say about the power of legalism?
  • Verse 34 indicates the religious leaders still viewed the man as cursed even though he had been miraculously healed. What does that tell you about the way religious rigidity affects how we see other people?
  • How do you interpret Jesus’ disappearance? Why didn’t Jesus stick with the man during the interrogations or at least show His face so the man would know what his new Eye Doctor looked like? Why did Jesus wait until the man had been kicked out of Jewish worship life before finding him? Does their encounter at the end of the chapter give you any clues about Jesus’ curious behavior? What do you think of the idea that Jesus is faithful but not predictable?
  • The fact remains, Jesus DID look him up. What does this teach us about God’s heart?
  • Jesus was the only One who viewed and treated this man like a human being and like a child of God. What are the evidences of this in the chapter?                                                                   
  • This man experienced two miracles in one day, and he got to participate in both of them. What was the second miracle?
  • How could you use this man’s story to help somebody understand what it looks like to follow Jesus?
  • How did Jesus view the religious leaders? What does this teach us about God’s heart?

C.S. Lewis “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen; not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.” (from The Weight of Glory)

Application questions:

  • Scotosis is the technical name for a hardening of the mind or heart against unwanted wisdom. Scotosis is an unwillingness to see. There are four forms of scotosis in this chapter. Where do you see the blindness of desensitization to the plight of other people? Where do you see the blindness of legalism? Where do you see the blindness of prejudice? Where do you see the blindness of self-preservation?
  • What is the role of Jesus in your story?
  • What is your version of the two most important words in John 9 (v.1 – “He saw…”)? How does Jesus see you differently than anybody else sees you?
  • What is your version of Jesus changing a curse into a blessing, sometimes using the same physical or emotional or relational material?
  • When in your journey have you experienced Jesus being faithful not NOT predictable? When have you thought Jesus was being too hard on you? Have you reached the end of that story yet? If you are in the middle of that story, what keeps you going?
  • When / how has God in Christ opened your eyes? What is your version of the man’s “so I went there” statement of obedience in verse 11?
  • What is your story of how you used to be one way and now you are becoming another way (v. 25)?
  • What is your version of the statement “When Jesus found the man” in verse 35? When/where/how has Jesus intentionally found you in order to open your faith-eyes and change your identity?
  • To whom are you telling your story?
  • The Pharisees were blind to Jesus’ identity because He did not do things their way. What are some current examples of this same form of blindness, a blindness that says God can only be God if God does things our way?
  • In what ways are your eyes still closed, especially when it comes to how you view certain individuals or people groups? What are your blind spots and how did you acquire those blind spots?
  • Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have your eyes opened by Jesus?
  • When Jesus heals us from forms of blindness He also sets us free from whatever lifestyles we engaged in because of that condition. Are you willing for Jesus to set you free not only from your blindness but also from what you have been doing because of your blindness?
  • How is the Holy Spirit using John 9 to give you new reality checks or insights about the life of faith? Are you willing to let Jesus do whatever it takes to grow your faith?

God in Christ – Please open our eyes to see what You see. Please open our ears to hear what You hear. Please open our minds to receive what You know. Please open our hearts to trust where You lead, especially when You are being faithful and unpredictable. Please transform us into people who love like You love. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Grace and peace,

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

 

The story behind the song “Grace Has Become Your New Home”

We live in a transitional neighborhood. Several years ago, on the evening before a bulky trash pick-up, we set out on the curb a variety of items we could no longer use. Most of these items were broken. An hour later, everything was gone! People had driven by and picked everything up. Since then, I have tested this phenomenon several times. A broken aquarium…GONE. A vacuum cleaner that no longer sucked…GONE. A rusted out shower caddy…GONE. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure!

A song lyric came to me as I was staring at our empty front yard after the latest round – “When the curb you’ve been kicked to is where Jesus grabs you, then grace has become your new home.”

Here is how Paul puts it. “Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus. God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:1-10 New Living Translation)

Blessings,

Rick Jordan (one of Jesus’ ongoing reclamation projects)

https://youtu.be/dguOy_d55j8