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Daily Devotional

Grace Is Enough

He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

Paul faces down his false self (the good in himself that he's tempted to overemphasize to others) and his shadow self (the bad in himself that he's tempted to hide, deny and deride) only be doing the deeper work of allowing his true self to be embraced by God. That's the key. It's not just white-knuckling your way forward - it's an immersion in grace.

Paul truly, deeply believes he is beloved by God. Paul experienced grace and was marked by it - to such a degree that he could surrender his false self and expose his shadow self. Only people who are rooted and secure in divine love can make that move. 

Today is your day. Will you allow yourself to be loved? Will you allow God's grace to be enough for you? Birth, life, teaching, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus wasn't just for the world - that was for YOU, so that YOU could know how loved you are. So that grace could be enough for you. Immerse yourself into that grace today!

You might start by a simple prayer: "God, it's hard for me to believe and experience that I am loved by you. Help me. Pour grace over me today, and help me to know it"

Will You Show Your Real Self?

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Or do we need, like some people, letters of recommendation to you or from you? You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.... Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 2 Corinthians 3:1-5

The "super apostles" who showed up at Corinth after Paul planted the church there had fancy letters of commendation saying how great they were. Paul is not willing to play that game. Instead, he encourages his friends in Corinth to remember two things - first, to remember their relationship with Paul and second, to remember that God's approval is enough.

You see, the "super apostles" were touting what Brenna called on Sunday the "False Self" - that part of ourselves that we like and we think is presentable and which, therefore, we exaggerate. The "super apostles" were overcompensating for their weakness and trying to impress others with their virtues. Paul reminds his friends in Corinth to look at the real, lived-out experience of relationship that they had with Paul to know who Paul is. It's not what people present to the world that is their real self, it's who shows up in real life relationships - and it's who God says we are.

Where do you find yourself trying to present a better image of yourself than is really true? What are the ways you're tempted to give in to the false self by overemphasizing your strengths just to make people like you or to convince yourself you're good enough for God? (HERE is a good summary sheet of how we often do that - it's the vices and virtues list for the different Enneagram types)

Talk with God about what you're learning about yourself and how you need his grace to embrace your true self.

Revealing the Shadow Self

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 2 Corinthians 1:8-9

The letter of 2 Corinthians is Paul's magnum opus on facing down the shadow self. Over and over again in this little letter he faces the reality that there are parts to ourselves and, specifically, parts of himself, that are not very pretty. I wonder if he focuses so much on the shadow self in this book because the "super apostles" were such an influence in Corinth. Chapters 10-13 are his direct  confrontation with the "super apostles," but Paul takes the same approach throughout the letter.

Paul's main approach is to out himself. To expose his failures. To name his weakness. To acknowledge his need of God and his need of others. 

Revealing the shadow self is the surest way to defeat it. We often try to hide it, to deny it, to protect it, or to minimize it. Paul doesn't. He just puts it out there, freely admiring that he doesn't have it all together. And like the proverbial monster in the closet, once the door is open and the light is on, the monster no longer is so frightening. 

Paul can expose himself for one crucial reason. He knows he's loved by God. We'll look at that more the next couple of days, but take time today to really wrestle with this question: If you really, truly knew you were deeply loved by God, what kind of freedom would that give you to acknowledge your sins, weaknesses, and failures?

Neither False Self nor Shadow Self

I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn? If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. - 2 Corinthians 11:27-30

This is a strange section of scripture, where Paul is listing off some of his weaknesses, some of the ways he's faced hardship (a.k.a., the ways God didn't immediately come through for him), and how he struggles with sin. The context is that some "super-apostles" have come to the city of Corinth after Paul left and they were boasting about how they had it all together, how God always blessed them, and how the people should follow them instead of the Jesus that Paul preached.

Paul will have none of it.

Just as Brenna preached on Sunday, so many times we engage in splitting, where we hide what we think of as the 'bad' parts of ourselves (that becomes the shadow self) and we exaggerate what we think of as the 'good' parts of ourselves (that becomes the false self). Paul cuts through the false self (the over-emphasized 'good') of these "super-apostles" earlier in this chapter and here he freely exposes his own shadow self (the so-called 'bad' parts we're supposed to hide). He's willing to name his weakness bluntly, because he knows that he is beloved of God, that Jesus sees him and cares for him, and that people aren't really fooled for that long anyway!

Can you distinguish your false self and your shadow self? Name both to God and invite God's healing in your life by extending you grace and love for all of yourself.

The Light Comes through the Cracks

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 2 Corinthians 4:7

In Brenna's message yesterday she quoted that verse from 2 Corinthians, where Paul emphasizes that in our weakness and brokenness, God shines through. She also quoted the legendary musician Leonard Cohen: “Forget your perfect offering - There’s a crack in everything - that’s how the light gets in…”

How articulate are you of the cracks in your own heart and soul - and can you see the light coming through? Perhaps one simple step in allowing more light to come through is to share your cracks with someone else, and to receive grace from them. Ponder what it might look like to share your weaknesses, failures, and sins with another person - basically, to take off the mask and to be human with them, allowing them to see the cracks in you. May God shine through the grace they give you in that moment.

*Brenna Rubio shared this video on Kintsugi, the art of repairing broken pottery with 24k gold. It's a beautiful 3 minutes to reflect on how God is doing the same work in you. 

Stripped Down

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
     - 2 Corinthians 3:18

Reflect today on what God is saying to you through this verse through the lens of this poem.

STRIPPED DOWN
Sarah MacDonald

Sculptor God,
I’m uncut stone: all rough
            edges, broken corners,
    grainy surfaces,
                grey.
But you, Artist God—
    you see the masterpiece
    buried in this block,
the gleaming planes
and lines so smooth they’ll make
    your fingers ache to touch them.
You catch the eloquence of curves
    And whorls and polished joints,
            hidden still.

The art I am
        you will lay bare.
You strike; chips fly.
The blade of your chisel cuts deep,
        and I want to run.
I do not know
    the grand design behind
    each scrape and blow. 
You chip away so much
    that I would cling to.
Hewn and hurting now—
    Help me believe
        your work is love
    And someday I will stand
            revealed,
                complete,
            engraved with grace,
    and free to gleam with glory.

Start exploring your Enneagram type now:  As part of our sermon series, we're encouraging people to learn about their Enneagram type, to better understand the ways God made you and is calling you to become more yourself. It's part personality test, part spiritual inventory, and it can be very helpful. There's a test that costs $12 HERE or a free version HERE.  Poke around the type descriptions, too.

Lay Down Your Masks

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
     - 2 Corinthians 3:18

In this passage Paul is writing about unveiling our face - taking off the masks that we use to protect ourselves from others. We don't show our true selves because we don't want people to reject us. Instead we show them what we think they want to see. But that's not how we grow "into his image with ever-increasing glory." To grow, we need to take off the masks. 

Author Brene Brown describes this kind of unveiling as the journey towards authenticity. Take a few moments to reflect on her insights and on what it would mean for you to choose to unveil yourself today. 

Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we're supposed to be and embracing who we are. Choosing authenticity means:

  • Cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
  • Exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle
  • Nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.

     - Brene Brown

Start exploring your Enneagram type now:  As part of our sermon series, we're encouraging people to learn about their Enneagram type, to better understand the ways God made you and is calling you to become more yourself. It's part personality test, part spiritual inventory, and it can be very helpful. There's a test that costs $12 HERE or a free version HERE.  Poke around the type descriptions, too.

Refusing to Grow Is a Sin

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
     - 2 Corinthians 3:18

The word "transformed" is the Greek word metamorphosis. It means to change, to grow, to emerge, like a butterfly from a cocoon. This sounds so beautiful. But for anyone who has taken steps on the spiritual journey, you know it's just so, so hard. We tend to prefer stability, security, and success - which usually don't help us become more like Christ.

We want predictability. God prefers us to trust. We live for comfort. God prizes character. God seems to always be inviting us to grow, even though we so often resist that invitation. As one of the old saints, Gregory of Nyssa, said back in the fourth century, “Sin happens whenever we refuse to keep growing.”

Will you let yourself be transformed today? Will you surrender your character? How you use your time? What you do with your money? What you give your heart to? The more you turn these things over, the more you will be transformed.

Start exploring your Enneagram type now:  As part of our sermon series, we're encouraging people to learn about their Enneagram type, to better understand the ways God made you and is calling you to become more yourself. It's part personality test, part spiritual inventory, and it can be very helpful. There's a test that costs $12 HERE or a free version HERE.  Poke around the type descriptions, too.

Uniquely You

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
     - 2 Corinthians 3:18

Jesus himself is called "the image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1:15). So as we are being "transformed into his image," what Paul is talking about is becoming more like Christ. But that doesn't mean we all become carpenters, or speak Aramaic, or don't get married! It does mean that we are called to become more human because Jesus was the perfect human being, and he's the one who imaged God the Father perfectly. And becoming more human leads to endless, creative diversity in who we become! As the great spiritual leader Henri Nouwen said:

When the imitation of Christ does not mean to live a life like Christ, but to live your life as authentically as Christ lived his, then there are many ways and forms in which a person can be a Christian.

In fact, Saint Paul himself write, "By the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Corinthians 15:10), highlighting his own personal journey to grow into who God made him to be uniquely.

What if you are not called to be generically kind or good, but kind and good in ways that only you can uniquely be? Take some time today to reflect on God's call on your life to truly, abundantly flourish.

Start exploring your Enneagram type now:  As part of our sermon series, we're encouraging people to learn about their Enneagram type, to better understand the ways God made you and is calling you to become more yourself. It's part personality test, part spiritual inventory, and it can be very helpful. There's a test that costs $12 HERE or a free version HERE.  Poke around the type descriptions, too.

Made in God's Image

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
     - 2 Corinthians 3:18

(This week we'll be looking closely at this verse. It could be a healthy spiritual practice to memorize it and reflect on it a few times during your day.  Meditation on scripture like that is an ancient tool that Christians use to grow in awareness of God)

The goal for Paul (who wrote this) was always to know Christ and to become like him. That's what it means to be "transformed into his image." The word "image" in 2 Cor 3:18 is the same word used in Genesis in the original creation story when God created humankind in his "image" and pronounced them "very good." What Paul is writing about is re-creation - getting back to our original design.

Of course, that design is different for each of us, but the perfection of it remains the same. While we each become more like Jesus Christ (who was the perfect human, after all), that also means we each become more like our individual selves. Our own personalities, interests, and gifts don't get wiped away in the process - they get accentuated. You become MORE you on this journey. Jesus isn't looking for clones; he's looking for human beings who are fully themselves, fully alive, and fully developed into the wonderful, unique persons we were meant to be. As the Turkish saint Irenaeus said over 1800 years ago, "The glory of God is a human being fully alive."

Take some time and meditate on what it means that you, yes YOU, are made in God's image. Ask God for the grace to grow more and more into that image this day.

Start exploring your Enneagram type now:  As part of our sermon series, we're encouraging people to learn about their Enneagram type, to better understand the ways God made you and is calling you to become more yourself. It's part personality test, part spiritual inventory, and it can be very helpful. There's a test that costs $12 HERE or a free version HERE.  Poke around the type descriptions, too.

 

Detonating the Gospel

Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. John 20:17-18

Mary grabs onto Jesus, so thrilled she can hold him again. And yet, he wants so much more. He ascends into the spiritual realm so that now, not only one person can hold him in her arms, but that each of us can hold him in our hearts. The ascension detonates the gospel, exploding it into the world. And notice who the very first missionary is… Mary.

Jesus's last word to Mary, the messy one, is “Go…” That makes her, the original witness and the first Christian, also the apostle to the apostles and the world’s missionary prototype! Mary’s job is pretty simple: to tell what she’s experienced - first of all to those disoriented friends of Jesus who need to reconnect with the living Christ. 

How might God be speaking to you today through Mary? What story do you have to tell others?

The One Who Called Stars by Name

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out. John 20:16

Jesus, the one who called stars by name (Psalm 147:4), awakes a universe of hope within Mary just by calling her by name. There’s something about that tender voice, that gentle and strong and hopeful voice, that brings a person back to their center. 

Jesus has a habit of calling people by name. Sometimes changing their names to one he deems more suitable, sometimes not. But always reminding us that he is not just “the Big Man Upstairs” or some generic higher power. Jesus is a real person, even now, after the resurrection. And he interacts with real people, and he does so personally. Individuals, who have names and stories and dreams and heartaches, matter.

Today would you take a few minutes to rest in silence? Perhaps find a quiet space at home or go to a park or close your eyes where you are right now. Breath deeply a few times and then ask Jesus to meet you personally in some way. Listen for him.

On the Lookout

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.

He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” John 20:14-15

How many times each day do we turn around, pricked by some realization or thought or noise or person, and not realize that it’s Jesus who is speaking to us? That’s what happened to Mary on that first Easter morning. I wonder if the real issue for her was the same as it is for us: she wasn’t expecting to see Jesus. Or, perhaps to say it more clearly (for us too!), she wasn’t expecting him to be more than an old idea or a dead body. 

What if you went through your hours and your days expecting Jesus to show up? There might be more disappointments - more weeping - at the harshness of the world. And yet, there might be a lot more hope, too. And I mean hope in the sense of a very real and palpable experience of connection with the world beyond, with the living Lord, who is reaching into the mess and muck of our mundane world to remind us of our belovedness and our mission. (I suspect there may be more guidance as well, but that’s over sold in the Christian world; Jesus is less interested in you getting each step of your day right because he’s far more interested in you getting it right about being loved and loving others).

Is there a practical way you could be on the lookout for the risen Lord this day? Perhaps start by practicing just a little bit of silence to let all the busyness of your mind and heart and body slow down so that you can pay more attention this day.

Willing to Weep

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. - John 20:11

On Sunday Brenna talked about how weeping is often a prerequisite to hope. Until we face reality, we can’t have a hope that’s real - instead we’re just stuck with wishful thinking. Too often we’re content with this kind of flimsy hope because it’s such hard work to face reality. 

To look at the world as it really is evokes a lot of sadness. The poverty, racism, oppression, ignorance, and despair can overwhelm us. And then there’s looking at the reality inside of our own hearts: our loneliness, selfishness, roundedness, insecurities and deception. 

No wonder Mary wept outside the tomb - without Jesus, who had saved her from her own demons and who had begun setting the word to rights, there was plenty to weep over. But those tears and that willingness to show up at the tomb were what got her close to Jesus and ready to embrace him. 

What causes you to weep? Is there away to connect with your deep sadness, and to do it with Jesus, so that he can be the one who brings true hope into your life?

Jesus Shows Up to Messy People

Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 

At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
     - John 20:11-14

This Mary was called Magdalene (see John 20:1). She's the one who had seven demons cast out of her by Jesus (see Luke 8:1-2). What a great gift that Jesus shows up to Mary first out of all the people he could have chosen. Author and pastor Timothy Keller puts it this way:

Now, is this an accident? I don’t believe so... He chose her. And that means Jesus Christ specifically chose a woman, not a man; chose a reformed mental patient, not a pillar of the community; chose one of the support team, not one of the leaders, to be the first Christian. How much clearer can he be? He is saying, “It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. My salvation is not based on pedigree, it’s not based on moral attainments, raw talent, level of effort, or track record. I have come not to call those who are strong, but to call those who are weak. And I am not mainly your teacher but your savior. I’m here to save you not by your work, but by my work.” And the minute you understand that, the minute you see yourself in Mary Magdalene’s place, something will change forever in you.
     - Timothy Keller, Encounters with Jesus

Take some time and ponder what it means for you that Jesus came for messy people. Talk with him about what comes to your heart and mind.

It Is Finished

Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
     - John 19:30

There are a few ways to translate Jesus's last word, the Greek word telos. They are each worth pondering.

It is finished. All his suffering is over. He made it to the very end of the pain and messiness of this life and it never has to be done again. Perhaps most important for us personally, we never have to face our brokenness alone now because he finished the race and thereby knows our pain.

It is complete. All the work he set out to do is done. All the sin of the world has been sucked into his heart and soul and mind and body, and then supernaturally dealt with. So we are free, not having to figure out what to do with our sin any more.

It is perfect. Although few would think of that moment as perfection, "perfect" certainly described the life he lived and the love he showed, all the way to the bitter, final end. Apparently perfection didn't mean a lack of suffering or some sort of isolation from the crud of this world. Perfection had everything to do with true love being on display for everyone to see and for everyone to have access to.

Ponder these last words of Jesus today, and give him thanks.

Tonight: Join us for Good Friday service at 6pm at Bill and Katy White's home, 2490 Maine Ave, followed by a 7pm potluck dinner.

Sunday: Celebrate Easter at City Church at 10:30 am - bring a friend! We'll have an Easter Egg hunt immediately following. 

A New Command

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. - John 13:34-35

On the final Thursday night of his life, Jesus gathered together his twelve closest friends for a final dinner. He washed their feet. He sat with them. He shared a loaf of bread with them. He passed around a cup of wine. And then he let them in on his plan for changing the world.

Jesus was banking on us experiencing his love and then being able to replicate that love towards others. Just think about this: Jesus staked the entire future of his legacy on us loving each other well. That's how the world will know that you're Christians is what he said. It wasn't by our good theology, our hip worship music, our moral uprightness, or our political clout. It was, and is, and always will be, by our love for one another.

Pray today for greater love for other people in the church, both here at City Church and across the world. And love well today!!!

Turning the Tables

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’ Mark 11:15-17

Just because Jesus is kind to those in need and heals the sick doesn't mean that he's incapable of feeling anger or rage. Plenty of times the scriptures record him as being angry, and here we see what real congruence looks like - when emotions, thoughts, and actions all match perfectly. This is what that kind of internal health looks like - throwing some tables around! 

This scene is the first thing Jesus did on Holy Week. After riding in to Jerusalem in great humility (on a donkey fit for a peasant instead of a stallion fit for a king), Jesus shows another side of himself. He is enraged by the religious industrial complex that grinds up people like they are numbers or cogs in a machine. He will not stand for it when we treat people that way... and that includes when we treat ourselves that way. 

How might Jesus be confronting you this Holy Week, inviting you to clean house, to make room for your true self? And are you willing to make room for people of 'all nations,' to make room for the broken and the needy - by radically welcoming them into your community, your church, your home and your life?

Holy Week Begins with Tears

As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” Luke 19:41-44

Sunday we talked about congruence as aligning your feelings, thoughts and actions. Too often, as we saw in the story of Joseph yesterday, we are not very aligned. We feel one way but act another (that's the essence of being passive aggressive - you're actually angry but you are saying things that suggest you aren't). 

Jesus is remarkably congruent. He freely weeps because of his sadness over Jerusalem's unwillingness to turn towards him. His thoughts are very much the same, and he says as much - that they are missing out on a great rescue and he's so disappointed by that. And his actions line up as well - in his grief, he still moves towards Jerusalem, riding in on a donkey in great humility and love.

In the Christian year, this week is called Holy Week. It starts off with Jesus heading into Jerusalem in sadness, preparing to die in order to enable people to know the lengths to which God is willing to enter into their pain and lostness. Take a few moments to read over the bible passage above again, asking Jesus what he might be wanting to say to you today through it.

The Tug of War of Repairing Relationships

They said to one another, “Surely we are being punished because of our brother.We saw how distressed he was when he pleaded with us for his life, but we would not listen; that’s why this distress has come on us.” Reuben replied, “Didn’t I tell you not to sin against the boy? But you wouldn’t listen! Now we must give an accounting for his blood.” They did not realize that Joseph could understand them, since he was using an interpreter.

He turned away from them and began to weep, but then came back and spoke to them again. He had Simeon taken from them and bound before their eyes.

Joseph gave orders to fill their bags with grain, to put each man’s silver back in his sack, and to give them provisions for their journey. After this was done for them, they loaded their grain on their donkeys and left. - Genesis 42:21-26

The setting is this - Joseph's brothers have just come down to Egypt because there's a huge famine and only Egypt has food. They had sold Joseph into slavery, and he ended up in Egypt and rose to power, so although they don't know it, they are talking to their long lost brother (who they tried to kill) and asking for his help.

Joseph shows the tug of war of repairing relationships. Just before these verses he's very angry, then here be begins to weep and face his sadness, then he gets vindictive and has one of his brothers thrown into prison, and then he's really generous with them by giving them extra provisions and extra money. 

It's good to be reminded that relationships are complicated and that we go through a roller coaster of emotions when dealing with the pain of our childhood. The key thing to remember here is that God is at work in all of this, and even though it takes several years, Joseph does mature and get to the point of repairing those relationships. 

Talk with God right now about one of the messy relationships you have. Express to him all of your emotions and commit to allowing him to grow and change and heal you (and others).