Reframing (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

The Lord created and shaped and formed Israel – the people God affectionately nicknamed “Jacob.” Now this is what the Lord says: “Do not be afraid, because I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the deep waters and are in over your head, I will be right there with you. When you go through the raging rivers, they will not overwhelm you by sweeping over you and taking you all the way down. When you walk through blazing fire you will not be scorched, and the fierce flame will not set you ablaze. Why? Because I am the Lord your personal God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior….” (Isaiah 43:1-3a)

What happens to us is significant. Our perspective about what happens to us is even more significant in the long run. A “frame” or a “frame of reference” is a way we describe how we look at life or the things of this life. When we “re-frame” something, we decide to begin looking at the same reality in a different way or in a different light or from a different perspective. For example, how are Kansas City Chiefs fans reframing the word “quarterback” these days? Why? We can reframe a problem as an opportunity. We can reframe a weakness as a strength. We can reframe a tragedy as….

On October 1, 2017 Oshia Collins-Waters and Todd Wienke attended a concert in Las Vegas. During the concert a human monster shot hundreds of people, killing 58 people. Todd took three bullets while using his body to shield Oshia and others from harm. Today Todd is in constant pain because of bullet fragments doctors could not remove. Today Oshia is in therapy from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. But they refuse to let that unimaginably horrific event define their lives. On October 1, 2018, Oshia and Todd returned to Las Vegas, to the scene of the massacre, and got married. That’s reframing!

According to Isaiah 43:1-3a, who is God in our lives and where is God in our lives?

What are some examples of “raging rivers” and “blazing fires” in your life?

How are the raging river and the blazing fire similar? How are the raging river and the blazing fire different?

How do the raging river and the blazing fire feel?

What does God promise to people who are in the raging river or in the blazing fire?

How did you see life / God / faith BEFORE the raging river or the blazing fire?

How do you see life / God / faith IN the raging river or the blazing fire?

How do you see life / God / faith AFTER the raging river or the blazing fire?

What perspective shift or reframing movement is emerging in you? How can you cooperate with the reframing shift this week?

What prayer rises up in you from Isaiah 43:1-3a? What does your heart want to say to God or ask God?

Grace and peace,

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

 

God Inside the Broken Heart (Psalm 34:18)

The Lord moves in so close to people whose hearts have burst open that God is actually present with them inside the broken heart. God rescues people whose spirits are crushed, rescuing them not by taking them out of it but by bringing them through it.

This is Psalm 34:18, based on several translations and Hebrew language word studies. What I hear God’s Spirit saying in this verse is that when we have troubles God has us, which means God also has our troubles.

Grace and peace,

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

 

Productive Suffering (Psalm 116:10)

I believed in You and I trusted You, so I said, “I am deeply troubled, Lord.” (Psalm 116:10)

The best news from Psalm 116:10 is the fact that this anonymous psalmist expresses it in the past tense. In fact, please take time to read the entire psalm and observe the psalmist moving effortlessly between past tense, present tense, and future tense. But verse 10 stands alone in the psalm as evidence that faith and suffering are not mutually exclusive. People who trust in God suffer, but people who trust in God do not have to pretend it’s all good when it isn’t. God knows us inside and out, knows us far better than we know ourselves. God knows what we are thinking and feeling, but it is still vital to the relationship that we say to God what we are thinking and feeling. Once we are willing to speak our hearts and our minds, then the content is “out.” We can choose to be in God’s presence with holy honesty which leads to productive suffering. Because God has total access to us, God can start doing what God alone can do – wasting nothing and shaping us in the image of our suffering Servant Savior, Jesus Christ.

What does your hurting heart need to say to God right now?

Grace and peace,

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

 

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)