Family Photos

Tell me if this is you: Friends invite you to their house for the evening and, before the night is over, you’ve perused the pictures that rest on their shelves and pondered and portraits that hang from their walls. For while an open door welcomes you into their house, it is the family photos that draw you into their life.

Even in our own home, family in frame calls us to pause and remembrance. Wooden edges encase memories of loving and living, of taking and giving; golden perimeters surround stories of coming and going, of aging and growing. We smile at goofy glasses and toothy grins, and we laugh at paisley polyesters and passé plaids. Some images return us to moments of joy, while some summon a lump to the throat, and still others remind us to forgive yet again.

The Bible tells us that Jesus “dwells in [our] hearts by faith.”1 We are His home, for He resides in all who believe in Him and welcome Him in. No lens has captured His image, of course, but even as He lives with us and in us, we have a very special way to pause, remember what He has done, and take in all that He was and is and always will be: it’s called communion. When we break bread and partake of the wine together, we remember the One who instituted this outward sign of an inner grace. For as He held up the bread and lifted the cup, He declared His covenant with us and His presence in us until He comes again.

Then in renewed confidence, we go forth in the perpetual assurance that He goes in us. In fresh humility, we serve others in the knowledge it is He who works through us. In unity of the Spirit, we remember none of us lives alone, for He has made us to be one with each other—children of the same Father, united in His Son, all included in one family picture.

Father, thank you for sending us your Son. Grace us to live and serve as one, always remembering Jesus, who united us forever in Him. In His name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is life.

1 Ephesians 3:17

Read Paul’s teaching on the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23-26.

The Glow of the Soul

I had an acquaintance who openly professed himself to be “not a religious man.” So, it was fascinating to hear him tell of the time when, as a college student, he visited the campus of a Christian university. Whether it was for scholastic competition or a conference, I do not recall, but whatever his reason for being there, the experience was for him a bit unsettling. “They were too happy!” he exclaimed. Though his grin acknowledged the irony in his statement, he nevertheless remained as bemused by—and seemingly skeptical of—this outer glow of inner joy as when he originally encountered it decades prior.

There is indeed a joy that fills us who are in Christ. We discover His promises to be true, His love to be free, and His presence to be real. Our life changes in an instant, and we blossom over time. But to think life in Christ is free of problems and disappointments is [trigger warning!] no more realistic for us than in the fairy tales that conjure up the “they-all-lived-happily-ever-after” specter in the first place. Even blessed lives have their difficulties. Take Isaac, for instance. This chosen son of Abraham planted crops and reaped a hundredfold “because the Lord blessed him,” so much so, it turns out, that his rival Philistines “envied him” to the point of stopping up his wells and “filling them with earth” (Genesis 26:12-15). Even in blessing, evil lay close at hand. (We can relate, Isaac, we can relate.)

Christian joy is not the goofy grin of naiveté, as some might suspect, rather it is the glow of the overcomer—the one who perseveres through the struggles of this life with face set on Christ and the eternal victory that is found in Him. Then in this hope, she assures sojourners of this hope; in great blessing, he becomes great blessing to others. This is the smile of the soul, the manifestation of the Spirit, the beaming beacon of joy. This is new life in Christ.

Father, you are good; in your goodness, deliver me from evil. You bless me, so grace me to bless others. Your Spirit burns in me, so let Him shine from me in great joy, the joy of an overcomer. Thank you. In Jesus’ name and by the power of your Spirit, I pray. Amen.

Christ in me is confidence.

Rejecting Rejection

The older I get, the more I appreciate “throw away the mold” kinds of people. You know, the ones who are unlike anyone else you’ve ever met. They seem refreshingly unfettered by conformity, living instead in the uniqueness of who they are. If the opinions of others matter to them, it certainly doesn’t show through personal constraint! No, these gems stand out like pearls in a jeweler’s tray of rubies.

Most of us are more conventional, bending our appearance, our actions, and our speech to the unspoken expectations of others. Our desire for approval tempers our expression of individuality. For the Christian, the divide between who we are and the norms of society is even greater, for we have come to exalt God’s ways that are so different than our own. We are, as Peter observed, “strangers in the world.”1 Sadly, in order to “fit in,” then, we stifle our identity, in part concealing Christ who lives in us, which is a shame because, in so doing, we miss amazing opportunities to impact the world around us in profound and eternal ways. Deep down, it is not more sameness people want, but authenticity—they want “real.” People search for liberty in life and certainty in truth. They seek light in their darkness; they crave water for their dryness.

Aren’t all of these things found in Christ? Haven’t we discovered in Him the treasures we all dream about—goodness and kindness, fullness and hope, forgiveness and faithfulness, and mercy and grace? There is no “same old, same old” about Jesus, only fulfillment ever fresh.

How tragic it is when we, in faintness of heart, obscure Jesus before a people longing to behold Him in an unencumbered view. He lives in us not as one to be constrained in our weakness of character, but as one to be proclaimed in the freedom of rebirth in Christ.

When it comes down to it, binding ourselves to the expectations of others is one of the greatest obstacles to our effectiveness as Jesus’ followers. We are accepted, loved, and treasured by the God who knows everything there is to know about us, free to “shine like stars in the universe as [we] hold out the word of life.”2 Then overflowing in this grace, let us exude the life, truth, and love of Christ, not defensively or fearfully, but eagerly and gladly. Let us leave behind our timid pursuit of conditional approval and, instead, strive to show people the full and eternal acceptance they will find in Christ.

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe. (Proverbs 29:25)

1 1 Peter 1:1
2 Philippians 2:15, 16

Today’s post is an excerpt from Christ in Me. Copyright © 2016 Paul Nordman. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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See today’s Scripture in John 15:18-37.