WHO WE ARE

This past Sunday, we learned that no matter what we believe about God, He created us in His image. Technology and image–believe it or not–are connected. Technology can give us the tools and power to make ourselves into the image we want to portray. We can shape how others see us. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget who we really are–the person God created.

We have value because God created us. Consider your identity. Who are you–really? In what do you find your true identity and sense of worth? In other words, what makes you, you? Are the sources of your self-worth healthy or unhealthy?

Read this passage slowly, but mouth the words of the verses as you read. What does this say about your identity? What is Christ’s role in shaping your identity? How does this picture of your identity compare to those first thoughts?

Ephesians 1:11-19 (The Message) It’s in Christ that we found out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ and got our hopes up, he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone. It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free–signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life.

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you–every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask–ask the God of our Master, Jesus, the God of glory–to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him–endless energy, boundless strength!

Paul includes several elements in his prayers for the church of Ephesus. It is full of thanksgiving, petitions for intimacy with the Father, clarity for direction, knowledge of a life lived with Christ, and strength.

Make Paul’s prayer in verses 15-19 your own. Ask God to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally. Ask God to bring to mind a person who needs prayer. Come before God and pray these verses for that person’s current circumstance, situation, and overall life. Pray for his or her identity.

God’s image is in you and on you, and it isn’t going away. So, who are you–really? Who does God say that you are? Who has God determined you to be? What image are you trusting in? What image are you putting your confidence in? Take some time today to reflect on those questions. You are who your Creator intended you to be.

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Do you have a friend like that?

Submitted by Alison Scott

A week ago I found myself sitting outside on the deck of Applebee’s in Broad Ripple.  It was a nice spring evening and surrounded by friends.  As I looked around the table into the faces of some of the most beautiful people I know, joy filled my heart.  We had all just shared in a moving worship service at Common Ground Christian Church earlier that evening and I have to say there is no greater bond between friends then Christ Himself.

To my left was my aunt Cindy.  I believe everyone has told me at one point or another how beautiful my aunt is and she truly is – inside and out.  She is witty, smart, shares from her heart, and can be a stereotypical blonde which makes me laugh.  Cindy and I have a special bond because she is my mother’s sister.  Some of you might know my mom died of cancer when I was 16 years old.  We have shared many tears, laughter, and prayers throughout the years.

Sitting next to Cindy is one of my dearest friends, Lesley.  We have known each other all of our lives, seriously.  Our moms were friends and had us in the same church nursery then the same youth group as teens.  Lesley and I have had so many shared experiences – sleep-overs, church camp, prom, summer jobs, youth sponsors, etc.  God has continued to build our friendship over the years.

I’m sure all of you know my next friend at the table, Andrea Koehler.  She and I have been in the same small group since I moved to Chapel Rock.  Being in the same life stage – single, working women – we find and or make time to hang out as well as listen and encourage one another.

My friend Laura sat to the left of Andrea.  Laura served in my children’s ministry at my last church and we were youth sponsors together.  A much deeper bond we share is being motherless daughters.  Laura’s mom also died of cancer, so she can understand my hurt and pain at times when no one else can.

Then my most recent friend, sitting to my right was Stephanie, who is a dear friend of Anne Wilson’s.  Stephanie is your best friend in your first meeting.  She clearly loves the Lord and has a heart for people.

That night at Applebee’s while we shared, laughed, and yes even cried, I was reminded of the virtue of friendship.  My heart was full last Sunday because God has blessed me with an abundance of Christian friends.  The table at Applebee’s was just a small hint of the friendships I’ve developed over the years and a promise of the friendships I will continue to have and will have in the days to come.  Melanie Williams from rethink Group says…

“Who are your true friends?  You know the one you trust with your closest secrets.  The one who’ll tell you the truth, even if you don’t particularly want to hear it.  The one you can call in the middle of the night.  Do you have a friend like that?  Sure, we’ve all got neighbors, acquaintances, teammates, associates, co-workers, and maybe even pals and cronies.  But how many can you count as true friends…

…the mate who’s there for you when the going gets tough?

…the ally in your corner who has your best interests at heart?

…the companion who genuinely enjoys your company?

…the comrade who seriously is a BFF?”

Most of you probably already know or have figured out “friends come and friends go,” but do you know “a true friend sticks by you like family” (Proverbs 18:24, The Message)?  Do you know what a true friend is all about?  There is no better friend (or model of a friend) than Jesus.

A true friend will love you no matter what.

A true friend will help you believe.

A true friend will make time for you.

A true friend will always be your friend.

So, who are your friends?  And just as importantly, who are you being a friend to?

2-Dimensional Life

Submitted by Anne Wilson

Way back at the ripe age of fourteen, I was a moldable, naive, passionate, and highly emotional teenage girl. I realize that statement is redundant within itself–because, honestly–is there such thing as a lowly emotional teenage girl? 😉 Anyway, I used to have this “no-delete-policy” when it came to blogging back then–or, live-journaling. If I wrote something “too vulnerable,” or just plain whack, it stayed. Plus, no one really cared about blogging back then, so I had much less to worry about. Hardly anyone saw the need to read about my thoughts besides my other 14 year old emotionally charged friends.

However, now that Facebook is the new “LiveJournal,” I have began to ponder this insane phenomenon of feeling the need to broadcast every-single-thought-that-goes-through-your-mind for the internet-land to see. I’m by no means against technology; how ironic would that be. I update my Facebook every so often, I have a blog, I even think my MySpace still exists (although I haven’t checked it in a very long time). But sometimes, I can’t help but think to myself, “Why are we doing this?” Or, “Are we using this as a way to avoid face-to-face relationships?” All of these were legitimate questions I asked while in the process of many geographical transitions. 2-dimensional friendships are easier. There is no risk involved. If I don’t like something, I can exit out of it and walk away.

In a face-to-face relationship, we can’t do that. Even if we say we can, we know better. No one’s heart just cuts and runs. And along with that, there is this large part of me that wonders what friendships will look like as our technology land grows bigger and bigger. Will we know what it means to confront people? Will we know what it looks like to have a conversation about things that matter? Will we be able to express clear, well-thought out conclusions about things happening in the world around us? Or, over time, will we continually be consumed by this obsessive need to let everyone know what we are doing at the precise moment we are doing it (even if it means we are eating a really good sandwich)?

Again I say–I am not against technology! I just worry that we are getting so used to a computer screen/television/texting/etc. that in turn, we forget how to have real relationships with people. We have grown so accustomed to typing our feelings for the world to see that we don’t know how to express them to our closest friends. And this… well, I can’t deny it, it worries me. What will our generation look like in years to come? Will we know how to verbally communicate with people, or will we have our closest relationship with a 2-dimensional screen in front of us?

What do you think?

Learning to See

Posted by Nick Wilkes

I learned to walk when I was around one-year-old. It was a huge accomplishment for me at the time. After all, I had only started a couple of months earlier with rolling over, then scooting, then my much admired and often mimicked crawling technique that involved keeping my knees off of the ground while my hind end was way up in the air. It’s hard to describe in words, but it resembled an inch worm that didn’t touch the ground in the middle. I know, to many it looked awkward, but for me it was efficient and paved the way toward getting up on my feet.

After a time of wobbling and toddling about, my gait became much more efficient, but I didn’t stop there. I continued improving on my walking fundamentals as I learned to skip, gallop, dance, run, and jump. I’m thankful for the people in my life that helped me learn and master these foundational aspects of life that I still use every day. After all, it would just be awkward for everyone if I had been content to stay with my crawling technique for the last 28 years and continued to crawl into the office each day, hind end up in the air to save my knees.

We learn early on to walk because it’s so much more efficient than an awkward crawl. We learn to interpret the sounds around us as speech or music out of a desire to communicate or to really appreciate a piece of music. We pretty quickly through our sense of taste that we don’t especially like prunes, but that we do enjoy a good piece of apple pie. We learn through our sense of touch why it’s not a good idea to lick a frosty metal flag pole in the winter, or how much we appreciate a hug from dad or mom. We learn by our sense of smell to appreciate the unmistakable fragrance of a hyacinth, and we also learn about pungent odors that send us running.

We’ve probably continue to give a thought or two to what to touch or not touch. We know what we like the taste of, or the foods that we absolutely refuse to eat. We’ve learned the smells that bring us pleasure, and those that we don’t love so much. We’ve probably thought about the kind of music that we like to listen to, and that which drives us nuts. But how do we learn to see? How do we learn to not just look at things, pr people, or ideas, but to really see them.

How I’ve learned to see isn’t something that throughout my life I’ve stopped to think  a lot about.  However I recognize without a doubt that of all the other senses God has given me, how I see the things that I see all around me and what I do because of what I see has a lot of influence on what I do and how I live.

Learning to walk has been a pretty useful skill, but it’s something I haven’t really been working on a lot lately.  Learning to see, however, although it has been something I’ve been doing longer than I’ve been walking, is a skill I’m still continuing to try to improve.

Learning to see, like learning to walk, is a difficult process. Sometimes I think I see things the way they are, only to find out I was completely wrong. Other times I see right through the way something at first appears, to what’s really going on underneath. Sometimes I don’t know how to even begin to interpret or act on what I see.

C.S. Lewis gives me some perspective on seeing. He said,

“You can’t go on seeing through things forever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden below is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? It is no use trying to “see through” first principles. If you see through everything then everything is transparent. But a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”

C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man (New York: Macmillan, 1974), 91.

May we all have eyes to see the things that matter most as day by day we work on seeing well.

2 Corinthians 4:18

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (NIV)

Thoughts on creativity

Submitted by Anne Wilson

Taking Thursdays as a day of rest/relaxation/reflection/etc., I get to enjoy doing whatever and still have Friday to play “catch-up.” Therefore, I usually take that day to literally unwind and get re-inspired… whether my inspiration comes from Eagle Creek Park, my couch, or the Indianapolis Museum of Art, it’s inspiration nonetheless.

This past week, I chose the IMA. Kyle and I went through the exhibits together, and the entire time I drooled over what people were capable of with their hands. Seriously, my creative spirit grew greens horns of envy. Interestingly enough, today I came across a speech by Elizabeth Gilbert that expresses oh-so-eloquently some of my very thoughts yesterday. All of us as–as children of God–hold the power of creativity. After all, we bear HIS image (Genesis 1:26). And because I believe in a God bigger than I could ever possibly understand, I also believe that God shows us glimpses of the Himself through creativity. Art, music, writing, sculpture, nature, colors, graphic design, film, whatever. I look around at the world God made and am thankful He gives us a peek sometimes.

Francis Schaeffer wrote, “No work of art is more important than the Christian’s own life, and every Christian is called upon to be an artist in this sense. He may have no gift of writing, no gift of composing or singing, but each man has the gift of creativity in terms of the way he lives his life. In this sense, the Christian’s life is to be an art work. The Christian’s life is to be a thing of truth and also a thing of beauty in the midst of a lost and despairing world.” How beautiful and true… and yet also how tragic when we all keep our inner-artist locked up inside of us instead of drawing people near to the God we know and love.

I pray and hope that all of us live lives that could one day be expressed as a work of ART. How can you be a work of art to the world around you today? Do you know people who live lives that could truly be expressed as works of Art?

Babel?

When we went over this upcoming series with some of the youth leaders, I could almost hear the look on their faces, “Babel? Seriously?” And if I were them, I would’ve thought the same thing.

But… yes, seriously.

Look around you, right now. What are you staring at? If you’re being honest, you’re looking at a 2-Dimensional screen. “Anne, are you saying that technology is a useful tool? That even though the youth leaders judge me for texting so much, I can do good things with technology? That… even though I may get arthritis in my hands, the arthritis is done for the good Lord Himself?” Why yes, yes I am.

Back in the day–and really… back in the day, the Israelites had this grand plan to use bricks for something not-so-useful. Check it all out in Genesis 11:1-9.. It goes like this.

At one time all the people in the world spoke the same language and used the same words. As the people migrated to the east, they found a plain in the land of Babylonia and settled there. They began saying to each other, “Let’s make bricks and harden them with fire.” (In this region, people used bricks instead of stone, and tar for mortar.) Then they said, “Come let’s build a great city for ourselves with a tower that reaches into the sky. This will make us famous and keep us from being scattered all over the world.”

But the LORD came down to look at the city and the tower that the people were building. “Look!” he said. “The people are united, and they all speak the same language. After this, nothing they set out to do will be impossible for them! Come, let’s go down and confuse the people with different languages. Then they won’t be able to understand each other.”

In that way, the LORD scattered them all over the world, and they stopped building the city. That is why the city was called Babel, because that is where the LORD confused the people with different languages. In this way he scattered them all over the world.

The thing is, although the tower of Babel, bricks, and cell phones don’t seemingly have anything in common–the intent of the people is certainly similar with our intents today. Yes, the tools are different. Yes, the “same language” thing was different. But, humans haven’t really changed all that much.

And some of you are thinking (or maybe not, but let’s just pretend like you are), “The Bible doesn’t say anything about technology. If you are about to twist something and make it about technology, I’m out of here.” And… you’re right. The Bible does not say, “Thou shall not text,” or “take up your technology and follow me.” Nope. Sure doesn’t.

If we were talking about technology from the 1980s (most of you weren’t even born then… weird), we’d be referring to car-mounted mobile phones or cable TV or boom boxes with CD and cassette players. Fax machines may have even been a “big” subject. If we were talking about technology from the 1990s, we would have conversations about internet, cell phones and email. If we just looked at technology from the 2000s, it’s smart phones, Wii, and Facebook. Even today as I mention those, it seems like technology is becoming obsolete, making room for what’s next.

I digress.

The point is, God provided Israel with materials: bricks. Then He gave people the knowledge to know how to make them. And the people used these bricks to do lots of good things–build houses, buildings, and things that were useful and helpful. But–in the story, they also used bricks to do something God was not on board with. They used them to build a tower–to show their strength and their power–to try to show up God. So were these bricks bad? No. Were these eeeevil bricks? No. So what about these bricks caused God to create confusion among the–uh–Babel-ers?

What does a brick have in common with your cell phone?

A lot more than you might think.

Think through all the things you can do with your cell phone. Let’s even say that you have one of those retro-Nokia phones that only makes calls (can you imagine?). Think about the power you hold in your hands just by having that. With your Nokia phone, you have the power to break up, hurt, destroy, encourage, supply, demand, and retaliate. You can call anyone in the country (or world if you pay 15.99 extra). You can text someone (maybe). There’s a lot you can do with your phone.

And although you probably won’t build a tower with it, you can do a lot of things. Did God make this phone? No, but God gave us the materials to make it and even the components of man-made materials. God didn’t make the bricks in Babel, either, but like He did then, and like He does now, He gives men and women the ability to create, and He gives them intelligence and creativity to design this phone or that brick and make it work.

And here is how we are just like the people of Babel. We have a choice. We can use our tools for something useful, or we can use them for something meaningless. We can let technology motivate, or God motivate. No matter what relationship we have with technology, all of us have to ask ourselves that question. What will we do with what we’ve been given? Use it for great good? Or use it to destroy?

Over the next few weeks, hopefully, we will purposefully use it for GOOD. What do you think? What are some ways you can use technology for good?