Lenten Reflection: On a Mission

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Scripture Reading: 

…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

…For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. It is shameful even to mention what the disobedient do in secret. But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light…Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Eph 4:30–5:2, 5:8-13, 5:15-20

Reflections:

Yesterday was our final message in our Lenten series through Ephesians. While I didn’t post the entire scripture passage above (due to space), feel free to read Ephesians 4:25–6:9. A large passage indeed, but we took a look from a distance and found three main ideas that pertain to a life of personal mission:

  1. Imitate Christ
  2. Live a life of character and integrity
  3. Make the most of your time

Continue reading

Lenten Reflection: Unique yet Unified

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Scripture Reading:

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.  Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.  For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.

 There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who is over all, in all, and living through all.

He has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. Eph 4:1-7


Reflections:

Right off the bat, here’s my confession… I wasn’t in church yesterday so this is not a reflection on our church’s sermon series in Ephesians… these are simply my own thoughts, musings and reflections…

I love the beautiful sway between individual giftings and corporate unity in this passage.

First, Paul is encouraging each of us in our unique gifts, to life a life worthy of our calling. The Message translates it like this:

I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!
—on the road God called you to travel. 

And it’s clear that each of us is given a special gift, a unique calling through the love, grace and mercy of a generous Savior! Every one of us has something unique to bring to the table, that only we can bring! If you are holding back your gift out of fear, insecurity or greed, then the table Jesus wants to set before us hasn’t been fully set! It’s incomplete without you!

On the other end of this pendulum sway is our unity. While our giftings and callings are individual, unique, and only ours, we cannot get caught up in thinking that our uniqueness is somehow better than someone else’s. Or if we are “further along” in figuring out and walking in our calling, that we are somehow better than another who isn’t quite as far along on the journey. We are to be bound together with peace, humbleness, gentleness, and patience. In our individualistic, have-it-my-way society and culture, that is quite a task, but possible through the work of the Holy Spirit living in and working through each of us and all of us!

The Voice translation also makes these notes about this passage:

Now that Paul has described the new world as God would have it, he urges believers to live out their callings with humility, patience, and love: to walk as Jesus walked. These are the ways of Jesus. Paul encourages them to do whatever it takes to hold onto the unity that binds people together in peace. He does not ask them to create that unity; this has already been accomplished through the work of the Rescuer and His Spirit. Rather, he calls believers to guard that unity—a more modest but no less significant task—because that unity is founded on God’s oneness and work in the world.

As we continue through Lent, I encourage you to walk the way that Jesus walked… with humility… with peace and unity… with patience. Consider the last days of Jesus here on earth… how he walked in complete humility… in complete obedience to the difficult calling of his life. Those around him were encouraging him to revolt against the Roman government, and he reacted with patience and understanding. And still… he walked the journey to Calvary with determination in obedience to the calling placed upon him.

The Message translation spurs us on to walk The Way of Jesus:

You were all called to travel on the same road
and in the same direction,
so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly.
You have one Master,
one faith,
one baptism,
one God and Father of all,
who rules over all,
works through all,
and is present in all.
Everything you are
and think
and do
is permeated with Oneness.

May we walk in our unique giftings and callings, and at the same time may we be united under Jesus—permeated with Oneness—through the power of the Holy Spirit! As a church we at Five Stones are being encouraged to walk in our unique personal missions. As we do so, we look to Jesus to also unify us as we each work to bring God’s kingdom here on earth as it is in heaven. May Christ be glorified as we do!

By the way, I have a very good reason for missing church yesterday: I am walking in my unique calling! I was setting up for a four day training I am leading on the effects of trauma on the brain and body and a therapeutic tool called Trauma Sensitive YogaFaith, a faith-based, Christ-centered approach to Trauma Sensitive Yoga. Won’t you pray for us that Jesus would meet us all in powerful ways during this time set aside to explore this healing tool? Are you uncertain how yoga can be used by Christians to help others? Only through the redeeming, reclaiming, resurrection power of Jesus Christ! Read more here.

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I hope you are also joining us on Wednesdays for the “7” series (the last 7 statements of Jesus from the cross in poetry, art and song) and on Fridays for the “Embodied” series as we move creatively through the Lenten season here at jodythomae.com. Previous posts in this Ephesians series can be found here:

Creative blessings, Jody

________________

(c) 2018 Jody Thomae
God's Creative Gift by Jody ThomaeJody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You, a devotional book with Bible studies to nurture the creative spirit within and to serve as a resource for creative Christians, artists, musicians and worshippers. She has been involved in worship arts ministry since 1997, coordinating artistic involvement in church services and regional worship events through dance, drama, poetry and fine arts. She performs, teaches, choreographs, preaches, coordinates and leads workshops in the area of creativity, spirituality and embodied prayer. JodyThomaeCDcoverart_FA_printShe has also recently released a devotional CD, Song of the Beloved. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the arts in church and formational ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. Life scriptures include Psalm 27; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Zephaniah 3:14-17.

Lenten Reflection: Reconciled for Reconciliation

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Scripture Reading: 

For it’s by God’s grace that you have been saved. You receive it through faith. It was not our plan or our effort. It is God’s gift, pure and simple. You didn’t earn it, not one of us did, so don’t go around bragging that you must have done something amazingFor we are the product of His hand, heaven’s poetry etched on lives, created in the Anointed, Jesus, to accomplish the good works God arranged long ago.

So never forget how you used to be. Those of you born as outsiders to Israel were outcasts, branded “the uncircumcised” by those who bore the sign of the covenant in their flesh, a sign made with human hands. You had absolutely no connection to the Anointed; you were strangers, separated from God’s people. You were aliens to the covenant they had with God; you were hopelessly stranded without God in a fractured world. But now, because of Jesus the Anointed and His sacrifice, all of that has changed. God gathered you who were so far away and brought you near to Him by the royal blood of the Anointed, our Liberating King.

He is the embodiment of our peace, sent once and for all to take down the great barrier of hatred and hostility that has divided us so that we can be one. He offered His body on the sacrificial altar to bring an end to the law’s ordinances and dictations that separated Jews from the outside nationsHis desire was to create in His body one new humanity from the two opposing groups, thus creating peace. Effectively the cross becomes God’s means to kill off the hostility once and for all so that He is able to reconcile them both to God in this one new body. The Great Preacher of peace and love came for you, and His voice found those of you who were near and those who were far away. By Him both have access to the Father in one Spirit. Eph 2:8-18 The VOICE

Reflections:

Our church is working through passages in Ephesians through the Lenten season, and yesterday our message was brought to us by ATS student Shauna Rushing. Shauna shared her testimony of answering an unexpected calling, revealing that sometimes our vision isn’t God’s vision. Paul is a perfect example of this. He was on a mission to eradicate all followers of the “The Way” (Christ-followers), but an encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus  left him answering an unexpected calling, but one that was God’s vision for Paul’s life—a vision that included the reconciliation of two groups that stood opposed to one another—Jews and Gentiles. Continue reading

Lenten Reflection: Spirit-Empowered

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Scripture Reading:

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.

Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness.  For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared.  In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil.  Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere. Eph 6:10-18

Reflections:

Our Lenten journey through Ephesians continued yesterday with Pastor John telling us that to live a Christ-Centered life, one that is rooted in love, is impossible

…save for God!
For with God all things are possible!

We cannot do this in our own power… we must be Spirit-empowered! During our prayer time Dr. Terry Wardle reminded us that the Holy Spirit is not just a theological concept, but the very real presence of God, and this presence of God dwells within us!

Think of this a moment: Jesus came and made his dwelling among us (John 1). But following his resurrection and before his ascension into heaven, he appeared before the disciples, breathed on them, and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20). And somewhere in this exchange of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and breath, the Holy Spirit came and made his dwelling within us. The disciples weren’t the first to be filled with the Spirit of God. John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit in the womb! And there are also several references in the Old Testament of people being filled with His Spirit (Moses, Bezalel, Micah). And before he ascended to heaven, Jesus Christ made this infilling available to all believers of The Way.

We breathe Him in
and breathe Him out!

In both the Hebrew and Greek the word for breath and Spirit are the same (ruah and pneuma). And we have often seen that things in the natural often reveal the work of God in the spiritual. The same is true of breath/Spirit in the natural, physical sense and in the spiritual realm:

  • We need to breathe the Spirit constantly (Eph 6:18)
  • We need a fresh supply of the Spirit (Eph 5:18)
  • Sometimes we need to breathe more—pant! (Ps 42:1)
  • Sometimes we need to catch our breath (I Kgs 19:3-5)
  • We never want to hold our breath (Jhn 15:6)

And this is even more true when we are in battle. And, believe me, life here on earth is a battle. We need to suit up in the armor of God and gird ourselves with the Word of God AND PRAYER! So often we read this passage and stop “suiting up” in God’s armor at the Sword of Truth—God’s Word, but notice that prayer is a weapon too! The Message translation says it this way:

Be prepared.
You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own.
Take all the help you can get,
every weapon God has issued,
so that when it’s all over but the shouting
you’ll still be on your feet.
Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words.
Learn how to apply them.
You’ll need them throughout your life.
God’s Word is an indispensable weapon.
In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare.

The tactics of the enemy are fought back by the Truth of God’s Word and the power of Spirit-empowered prayer! We are on our best offensive attack when we are armed with  Truth and Spirit (Jhn 4:24).  The Message goes on to say:

Pray hard and long.
Pray for your brothers and sisters.
Keep your eyes open.
Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Brothers and sisters, I pray for you! In the words of Paul,

I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources
he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. (Eph 3:16)
Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

Today I leave you with a breathwork exercise based on John 20. It is specifically designed as a Christ-centered breath awareness exercise for those who are working through complex trauma, but truthfully anyone can benefit from this scripture-based time of breath meditation.

During this Lenten season and always, may you live a Spirit-empowered life breathing in the presence of God at work in you!

Creative blessings, Jody

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(c) 2017 Jody Thomae
God's Creative Gift by Jody ThomaeJody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You, a devotional book with Bible studies to nurture the creative spirit within and to serve as a resource for creative Christians, artists, musicians and worshippers. She has been involved in worship arts ministry since 1997, coordinating artistic involvement in church services and regional worship events through dance, drama, poetry and fine arts. She performs, teaches, choreographs, preaches, coordinates and leads workshops in the area of creativity, spirituality and embodied prayer. JodyThomaeCDcoverart_FA_printShe has also recently released a devotional CD, Song of the Beloved. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the arts in church and formational ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. Life scriptures include Psalm 27; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Zephaniah 3:14-17.

EMBODIED :: Postures of Prayer & Praise, Day 3, Palms Up

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Postures of Prayer & Praise are
“outer representations of an inner reality”

Exploring: Hands Extended Palms up – Receiving

Ezra 9:5-6 – Then, at the evening sacrifice, I rose from my self-abasement, with my tunic and cloak torn, and fell on my knees with my hands spread out to the LORD my God and prayed: “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.”

Ezra is asking for grace and mercy from God. Verse 5a indicates that he is in mourning because of his sin. As we seek forgiveness, we receive forgiveness from God. With palms open before the Lord, we can fully expect to receive what God so lavishly pours out upon his people. We can also receive from others by allowing them to be the hands and feet of Christ when we are in need.

I Peter 5:7 – Cast all your cares upon him because he cares for you.

When someone offers us a gift, we open our palms and extend our hands in order to receive the gift they offer. We can’t receive a gift with clenched hands—we must open in order to receive. As we cast our cares upon Jesus, we empty our hands so they are open to receive strength out of the glorious riches by the power of the Holy Spirit (Eph 3:16).

Psalm 141:2 – May my prayer be set before you like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.

As we lay (set) down those things that God has asked us to give up, it frees our hands to lift them up again in worship—hands that are empty. Not worshiping because of what He’s done, but simply because He is worthy of our praise. As we let go, we are free to worship without worldly hindrance.

Putting It Into Practice 

Palms upThis posture can be done standing, seated or kneeling. With palms up, the backs of the hands can rest on your legs, lap, the floor, or a table in front of you. In this picture, my friend Krystal is kneeling before God. What a beautiful picture—emptying her hands of her burdens, she finds rest in the peace of his presence. Continue reading

Lenten Reflection: Rooted in Love

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Scripture Reading:

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. Eph 5:1-2

When I think of all this, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and on earth. I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen. Eph 3:14-19

Reflections:

Yesterday’s message (delivered by my ATS friend George Johnson) was brimming to the rim! And powerful! Of course, any time you preach about the love of God it’s kind of hard not to be. And there is so much “good stuff” in this passage. So let me hit just a few of the highlights for me:

  • The same power that resurrected Christ from the dead, is the same power that gives us strength. We have that same power within us.
  • God has “way more” for us than we could ever imagine, but we rarely tap into that.
  • In order to tap into the power of God we need to be rooted and established in the love of Jesus.
  • We take but one sip from an ocean of his unfathomable love for us.
  • God love is wide, long, deep and high and he wants us to grasp and know this love for ourselves.
  • You can’t love others without being rooted in the love of Jesus.
  • God’s love is perfected; ours is not.
  • We often try to hide the “messy” places in our lives from Jesus, but he has a way of breaking into those places to free us from the curse of sin over our lives.
  • Lenten idea: What if we “fasted” from loving others out of our own strength and instead let his love flow out of our rootedness in Him?
  • Lenten idea: Pray for a new understanding of his love.

L petal heart

Folks, a bullet point list doesn’t even begin to cover all we dug into in this passage. It really was one of those things you just had to be there to understand. (If you live around here, feel free to join us at 5 Stones. We meet at 10:30am at the Ashland University Chapel on the corner of College and King in Ashland, Ohio. We are a small group of folks who are diligently seeking: 1) the Lord as we worship together and 2) what the Lord has for us as a church and as individuals, as we live out his love through our personal missions and callings.)

So instead of me talking about the love of God, I’ll leave you with this soaking word from Graham Cooke. I pray as you listen you encounter the love of God in such a way that you experience, grasp and know his love in new and powerful depths, heights, widths and breadths.

You are BELOVED!! So be loved and be his love in this world!!

Creative blessings, Jody

________________

(c) 2018 Jody Thomae
God's Creative Gift by Jody ThomaeJody Thomae is the author of God’s Creative Gift—Unleashing the Artist in You, a devotional book with Bible studies to nurture the creative spirit within and to serve as a resource for creative Christians, artists, musicians and worshippers. She has been involved in worship arts ministry since 1997, coordinating artistic involvement in church services and regional worship events through dance, drama, poetry and fine arts. She performs, teaches, choreographs, preaches, coordinates and leads workshops in the area of creativity, spirituality and embodied prayer. JodyThomaeCDcoverart_FA_printShe has also recently released a devotional CD, Song of the Beloved. Her passion is for the revelation of God to be made more real through the prophetic use of the arts in church and formational ministry. It is her desire to portray the message of Christ’s desperate and unfailing love for His people to help sustain the hearts of the broken and weary. Life scriptures include Psalm 27; Isaiah 50:4-7; and Zephaniah 3:14-17.

EMBODIED :: Postures of Prayer & Praise, Day 2, Palms Down

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Postures of Prayer & Praise are
“outer representations of an inner reality”

Exploring: Hands Extended, Palms Down – Blessing

Leviticus 9:22-23 – Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down. Moses and Aaron then went into the Tent of Meeting. When they came out, they blessed the people; and the glory of the LORD appeared to all the people.

As God gives to us, we give to others—we extend our hands to give to and to bless others. As Moses and Aaron blessed the people, the glory of the Lord appeared—as we bless others, we reveal the glory of God through the generosity of our actions. We are the hands and feet of Christ.

Luke 24: 50-53 – When Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his Sacred Hearthands and blessed them. While he was blessing them, he left them and was taken up into heaven. Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. And they stayed continually at the temple, praising God.

As the resurrected Jesus ascended to heaven, where he was seated at the right hand of the Father to rule and reign over heaven and earth, he extended hands of blessings to his followers to bless them. This blessing brought them great joy—joy that kept them continually in the presence of God.

Putting It Into Practice

This posture can be done standing or seated. As you experiment with today’s posture, imagine someone you love or someone you have been interceding for in front of you. Extend your hand, as if they are right there with you and you can place your hand on their head. Offer a blessing over their lives. Pray for them. Praise God for them and all they mean to you. Continue reading