John 17: Lord, Make Us One

AMANDA PETERSON|GUEST “I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” John 17:23 John 17 is a glimpse into the heart of Christ as we get to see His final prayer to the Father the night of His arrest. He is burdened for His disciples and for all who would believe in Him through their word, which includes us, His people! Jesus repeatedly prays to the Father that His people would be one. He is not just praying for comradery, but He is praying for all believers to be perfectly one as a witness to the world of the love of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the oneness of His people was so heavy on His heart and mind, we then should seek to rightly understand how we can live as one Body to the watching world...

John 17: Lord, Make Us One2022-05-04T14:44:59+00:00

John 17: One with God and Others

SARAH JEFFERSON | GUEST “ … that they may be one even as we are one …” (John 17:22) Beginning in November of 2019 and in the 18 months that followed, a tsunami of hard, unexpected events crashed into our lives. My husband and I lost a very close friend as well as both of our mothers. As I sifted through the ashes of our lives, my father reached out to reconcile after ten years of our relationship being broken and estranged. Overwhelmed by it all, I wanted to blow the whistle in the game of life and scream, “Time out on the field! Unsportsman like conduct, Lord!” Wading through so much grief while trying to wrap my mind around the work of reconciliation felt like a hard “no.” But I never want to linger in resistance to God’s word and will. When suffering guts your life so deeply, to whom will you go? How will you respond when waves of hard threaten to steal your very breath? When obedience in the hard circumstances of life beckon, what will you do?

John 17: One with God and Others2022-05-04T00:21:02+00:00

The Freedom of Union With Christ

My grandparents remember exactly what they were doing when they received news of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. My parents have similarly sharp memories concerning the assassination of JFK. I still clearly remember where I was and what I was doing when I saw the footage of the Twin Towers collapsing. Our complex and beautiful brains have a way of remembering both the shocking and the deeply significant moments that shape our lives. Likewise, I will never forget the day that the theological concept of union with Christ trickled that long eighteen inches from my head to my heart. I remember the exact table at the coffee shop at which I was sitting. I remember the old, tattered book that God used to cement the concept in my soul. I remember that moment because it colored the way I experienced every moment after it! Having come to Christ from an unchurched background, I threw myself headfirst into the Christian life. My husband and I had been in full-time vocational ministry for many years and were in the early years of parenting two under two. On the surface, things were going well, but my soul hit a wall. I was tired and my faith, once vibrant, felt anemic. I was doing all the same things, but my heart felt simultaneously weary and restless. What was I missing? Sitting at a local coffee shop, I prayed that the Lord would restore unto me the joy of my salvation and grant me a willing heart to sustain me (Psalm 51:12). Then God used a little-known book, Bone of His Bone by F.J. Huegel, to open my eyes to the freedom and wonder of union with Christ. What Union with Christ Is Paul describes the mysterious wonder that is union with Christ when writing to the church at Colossae using the phrase, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). In his letter to the Galatian Church, he speaks further on this incredible reality....

The Freedom of Union With Christ2022-05-04T23:35:39+00:00

Our Light and Life: The “I Am” Statements of Christ

Some of my most treasured childhood memories are of the post-dinner stories my grandfather told. Most of the time he was a man of few words, but without fail, after he finished eating, his pushed his chair back, linked his fingers together, and rested his hands on top of his post-retirement pot belly. As a smile spread across his face, he looked at us and asked, “Did I ever tell you about the time . . .” Through his stories, he transported us back to 1940s Jackson Square, to the French Quarter beignet shop where men in tuxes and women in ballgowns dropped white sugar all over their carnival attire. He took us on grand adventures such as sleeping under picnic tables while hiking the rim of the Grand Canyon and working odd jobs on the home front while older family and friends fought across Europe and the Pacific. It’s been fifteen years since I heard him tell a story or seen his full-bellied laugh, but I can remember those precious moments like they were yesterday. Those stories taught me my family history, and later in life his stories helped me understand parts of who I am. Knowing Ourselves by Knowing God “Who am I?”  Is there a question more central or universal to the human experience? These three little words, this tiny question, can take a lifetime to unravel. For generations, poets, songwriters, sociologists, and anthropologists (just to name a few) have attempted to romanticize or research their way to a deeper understanding of human and personal identity. For those of us who are Christians, the question is also warranted. God invites His people to freely ask identity questions, knowing in His kindness He already gave us the answers in His Word. As we study God’s Word, as we begin to digest God’s divinity, His story and promises, we are invited to understand the fundamental truth: there is no real knowledge of self without a knowledge of God. And at the core we cannot truly answer the question “Who am I?” until we have answered, “Who is He?”...

Our Light and Life: The “I Am” Statements of Christ2022-05-05T00:23:36+00:00

Connecting with Jesus Through the Lord’s Supper

Last Christmas, I received a remarkable gift from my grandmother, who is an accomplished watercolorist. She painted a picture of the first hibiscus plant I had grown at my new house in St. Cloud, Florida. As I gazed at the painting, I could imagine her masterfully applying washes of reds and pinks to form the blossoms and mixing lush greens for the leaves. By creating this painting, she entered into my context to remind me of our connection with one another. She could have painted a magnificent waterscape at sunrise from her living room window on Holmes Beach, but she chose as her subject my little container garden with the funky 1970s stenciled porch floor in the background, all of which she carefully marked out in detail. Watercolor represents a connection between my grandmother and me; we have painted together for decades, since she taught me when I was eight. The image she gifted was a tangible expression of this connection we share. When you take the Lord’s Supper, Jesus presents you with a gift that does this very thing! Life Connection         In the Lord’s Supper, God enters into our context and affirms the unbreakable, covenantal, life-giving connection we share with him. He uses humble, earthly items to impart to us something heavenly. In John 6, Jesus teaches the that he is the Bread from Heaven, and what that means for us: “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he will also live because of me” (John 6:56-57, ESV). The life we receive as we feed on Jesus flows out of the life of God, grounded in the assurance of an eternal bond with him through Jesus Christ. In some mysterious way, as we take the Supper, the Holy Spirit joins us with Christ’s sustaining, assuring power in that moment (1 Cor. 10:16-17)...

Connecting with Jesus Through the Lord’s Supper2022-05-05T00:34:32+00:00

On Oneness, Lament, and Seeing with Compassion

A few years ago, the PCA Women’s Ministry hosted the One Conference in several cities around the country. I attended many of them, all but one in fact. My favorite moment was experiencing the beauty of a multi-ethnic choir at a Mississippi church singing “Heal Us Emmanuel.” It was a beautiful moment that I will never forget. The theme of the conference came from John 17:21, “that they all may be one.” Those words of oneness ring in my head now as brazen acts of violence in rapid succession exasperate racial tensions in our nation. In particular, I am deeply disturbed over the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, two African American males senselessly slain in broad daylight. The haunting images of the evil portrayed against these men plague my thoughts and are on constant repeat in my mind, mocking my heart’s cry for oneness. I will confess to you that I am often tempted to look away as I honestly don’t know how much more I can witness and continue to move towards hope. The biggest lesson I am learning in this season is the power of lament as a vehicle to hope. Lament as Movement Towards Hope Following the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, I did what I have learned to do way too well – I compartmentalized. I conveniently tucked feelings away so that I could accomplish the task before me and complete the work day. When I finally made it home, I watched the video that was cycling through the news, and I was undone. I couldn’t sleep. I poured out an assortment of complex feelings before the Lord and just wept. Every time I thought about it, I wept. I realized that day that lament is costly and disruptive. It disrupted my plans and made space for emotions I didn’t care to feel. It ultimately pushed me to the throne of the only Help I know. That Help is our only hope; His name is Jesus...

On Oneness, Lament, and Seeing with Compassion2022-05-05T00:39:42+00:00

Union with Christ in the Storms of Singleness

Recently I traveled alone between my two worlds: Philadelphia, my home and vocational base and the Midwest where I have decades-long friendships. Somewhere over Ohio I realized afresh that no one but the Lord really knew me in both worlds. Only Jesus had journeyed with me emotionally, relationally, and spiritually 24/7 in both places. I’ve had many of these heart-pang moments and yet realize that even if I had a traveling companion (friend or husband) who stood by my side, that person wouldn’t know me fully. There is only One who can: Jesus, the one in whom I am hidden in the intimate and unique home that I share with him alone. Our union with Christ is an important truth of the gospel, and therefore our identity as Christians. Whether if single or married, or if you face storms or sweet joys in your life station (most of us experience a combination of both!), the eternal fact of being united to Christ needs to be a primary lens through which we interpret and respond to our circumstances. Including when you’re thirty thousand feet above ground, feeling sad and unknown, and inching towards the downward slide of melancholy. What Union With Jesus Means Jesus helped his friends understand the idea of union with him through a metaphor of a vine and branches. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches, apart from me you can do nothing. (John 15:4-5) Paul talked about this spiritual concept in his pastoral letters. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20) For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  (Colossians 3:3) “Abiding” (or remaining, having a home) in Jesus, Christ “in us,” and our lives being “hidden” in him all speak to the spiritual reality of our connection to Jesus through faith in his accomplished work on the cross and resurrection. All that was ours (sin and eternal spiritual death) and all that is his (holiness, eternal life, a spiritual nature, identity as the beloved Son) are exchanged. At the cross, he united himself to our hopeless human state and opened the door for us to be grafted into him, gaining access to the riches of heaven!...

Union with Christ in the Storms of Singleness2022-05-07T22:43:15+00:00

The Secret to Contentment

My sister sent me pictures of her family’s new house. This was the first time they were home-owners, and I was ecstatic for them. As I scrolled through photos, I was astonished at the great work they did remodeling, decorating, and making the house their home. I was thankful with my sister for such a great blessing. Until I saw her sink. When I saw her sink, something happened inside of me. It was a large, farmhouse sink, and I found myself spending an excessive amount of time on the picture of the sink. I enlarged the sink; I looked at all of the sink’s details apparent in the photo; I drooled over the sink, and then I promptly texted my husband and informed him that we needed a new sink. “Why? Our sink is perfectly fine.” “Because. We need a new one.” “What kind of sink?” “A farmhouse one. I’ll send you a picture…” I literally pulled out the measuring tape and began measuring the countertops to see how complicated it was going to be to install my new sink. It wasn’t until later that evening, after googling over an hour “how to install a farmhouse sink,” that I had a convicting realization: I’m being ridiculous. But envy does this. It sneaks in deceptively, though often quickly, and entices us to want what we don’t have. Whether or not we actually need it becomes a moot point because our desire to have better – to have more – overtakes our ability to be content with what is right in front of us. It’s a beast that is difficult to overcome, but if we don’t fight against it, we hold contentment at bay and settle for a spirit of dissatisfaction...

The Secret to Contentment2022-05-07T23:01:49+00:00

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?

On June 6, one of the elders of our church died at the age of 58. This was an unexpected and painful loss and came only 18 months after the death of another elder from our church who was 62. Both men were beloved by their families, their church, and the Covenant College community where they worked. It was one of those situations that makes you ask, why? If God healed Epaphroditus and spared Paul grief upon grief (Phil 2:27), why couldn’t he have restored these men who were helping care for his flock? Our church prayed fervently for that kind of healing, yet God chose not to heal them.In a fallen world, we are well acquainted with grief, loss, and suffering. But that prompts the question, what difference does Jesus make in the daily trials and hardships of life? If the way I live my life is no different from those who don’t follow Jesus, then I have a problem. Am I basically a secular person who goes to church to socialize—or do my theological beliefs have a direct impact on my daily life? Beyond Sunday School Answers When I ask what difference Jesus makes, the Sunday School answer is “Jesus makes ALL the difference.” And I heartily agree. But what does that mean in the mess of our daily lives? Although I believe Jesus is important, I don’t always live in a way that reflects this confession. Sometimes I wonder whether Jesus can handle my disappointments, my frustrations, my worries. As I think about the difference Jesus makes in my life, several Scriptures stand out...

What Difference Does Jesus Make in our Hardships?2022-05-07T23:07:33+00:00

Hinged: Vitally Connected to Christ and His Church

My office shelves are lined with a colorful assortment of pictures and memories I have amassed over twenty-five years of ministry. There are pictures of mentors and friends who have profoundly shaped my life. A Japanese silk fan and a colorful teacup from the Dominican Republic remind me of connections with my international sisters in Christ. In the middle, sits a brass hinge in a small black frame. People often ask me to tell the stories behind these mementos. Without fail, everyone asks me about the hinge.I am a HingeI am a hinge. A utilitarian piece of hardware. Its job is to connect two pieces together so that they are made useful. When a hinge does its job, you rarely notice it unless it squeaks. My calling as a hinge gets me up every day. I connect people to people and churches to churches. My goal is to strengthen them both by connecting them to sound resources.I long to hinge in such a way that people don’t see me but see the Christ and the beautiful unity that occurs when things join for His glory. I am a fifty-one-year-old hinge. I have great delight when I get to stand in the gap and help women connect across differences: different generations, cultures, and contexts. But I have no greater joy than when I see them vitally connected to Christ and His Church. Have you ever wondered what difference it would make if we believed we were better when hinged together to Christ and one another? 

Hinged: Vitally Connected to Christ and His Church2022-05-07T23:42:28+00:00
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