Expanding Our Image of Christ

This blog written by D.C. Svenson

What Jesus do you see? This might seem like a silly question. Maybe it seems so obvious to you, because you have your “go to” image of Jesus readily at hand, but this is a serious question with serious implications. You see, we are made in God’s image! Jesus was God made manifest in flesh and we are being made more and more into that likeness each day.

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth." (John 1:14, ESV)

Consequently, the Jesus we see in our mind often impacts how we respond to him. I believe that too often we fail to remember crucial aspects of Jesus when we think of him. Jesus is unchanging in his character, but there are very different images of Him that the gospels present us with. And culture altogether misses the mark in the way they present Jesus and these images have overwhelmed even the images we get from the gospels at times. This is a major problem!

Here is an example of what I am talking about. Jesus has been whitewashed so that those of us in the majority white culture, when thinking of our neighbor and who we ought to love, don’t think they look that different from us. Or, we will see people who look different from us as charity cases and pity them. You might be realizing all of a sudden that you have been guilty of this. Fear not! Becoming aware is half the battle. This whitewashed image of Jesus can be even worse for those who don’t belong to the majority, because it can reinforce the lies of inferiority that they often believe as they grow up. I’ve heard this from many non-white individuals growing up among a white majority that has been guilty (often subconsciously) of promoting every aspect of our culture and identity as superior. Let’s be clear, Jesus probably looked more like someone that xenophobes (people afraid of anything foreign) would suspect to be a Muslim terrorist than the depictions we’ve seen in paintings on church walls or religious movies and children’s cartoons.

What if the image we see is the true Jesus? How could that be a problem?! Well, the image we see of him reflects our relationship with him. When we go to him in prayer, who are we seeing? Are we seeing him up on the cross, beaten and bloodied? I know when I have that image, I feel the guilt of putting my sin on him and I am afraid to even look him in the face. The imminent presence of death lingers in my thoughts and I become very mournful. Is it wrong to see that image of Christ? No! But I do think it is very harmful to stick there. I know that I did for a long time and I was too ashamed to actually approach him, rather I kept my distance. When we look away from the Lord, it often leads our minds to be focused in the wrong direction. Just like King David, when he found himself lusting after Bathsheba.

What other image’s are there of Jesus? First of all, he was born, like all men, as a baby. He was helpless in many ways, but also so pure and innocent. He often spoke positively of children and talked about how we ought to treat others just like Jesus, so that when any one is needy and we have the means, we help them. Infants are the ultimate example of needy beings and so seeing Jesus as a helpless babe brings out a tender compassion for the helpless around me and a desire to help them. I don’t pity them, rather I see them affectionately as if they were my niece or nephew who I am trying to show God’s love to. Jesus was not only a man, he was fully God and the bible makes it clear of the truly awesome nature of his appearance to be seen at his second coming. When I read of this appearance in Revelation, I am fearful in a truly reverent way, but I also can’t fully turn away. It may be too awesome to understand fully right now, but I want to know more. I am drawn to him and eager to be at his side. That’s another helpful image.

These are just a couple examples. Allow me to name a few different images that can stir up very different emotions and actions in us very briefly: the Jesus who chased money changers out of the temple and flipped over tables, the Jesus who called and trained the 12 (and other) disciples along the way, the Jesus who wept with Mary and Martha as they grieved Lazarus whom they believed to be dead, the Jesus who slept calmly on a boat in the middle of a storm, the Jesus who walked on water to meet his disciples on a boat, the resurrected Jesus who appeared to those who followed him, the Jesus who met the Samaritan woman at the well and the Jesus who loved to challenge the hypocrisy of the religious leaders. If you are familiar with those images, then you likely just had a whirlwind of emotions flash through your mind and were inspired in different ways.

So, I return to the Jesus on the cross. Before, when I felt like I was struggling to keep my head above the waters of sin, I could not bear to look Jesus in the face, and I kept struggling all the worse. But, the more I realized the comprehensive character of Jesus that included so many aspects I was leaving out, I began to really turn to look him in the face. And all of a sudden, in areas where it felt like I was drowning, I can truly say that I’ve been pulled out of the murky depths and it feels like I’ve begun to “walk on water”. Jesus did this for Peter, and if we let him, he can do this for us. I’ve been freed from many sins that I no longer turn to. Do I let my guard down? No! But I do not constantly struggle with those temptations.

So, what Jesus do you see? The important thing is, remember him and all that he’s done and think of whatever aspects of his you need to in order to look him in the eye and keep your focus on him. If you are downtrodden, seek his hope. If you feel defeated, look at the conquering ruler. If you feel unloved, look at the compassionate friend. If you feel as though you are forgetting the needy, see the helpless babe in everyone who comes to you with true needs. I could go on, but I think you get the point. See the unlimited as you imagine Jesus!

Dying to Be Done

This Blog was written by Lynda Glasgow

Is there something in your life right now that you are dying to have behind you? Maybe this last month-ish of school?! Or writing a paper that's going on forever? Or just needing the refreshment of summer sun? Ohhh do I get how you feel. 

Some of you may know that my husband and I have been renovating a house. All school year. It's now gone on two months past our longest estimate. I'm dying to be done. We're so close too! But I'm tired, I'm missing people, my brain can't hold any more information, and I just want summer! 

The other day, I went to the house, and despite needing to work double time, I was a snail. No motivation. No clarity on how to move forward. Frankly, I've been having a few too many of those days lately... 

My usual solution? To literally get down on my knees and pray til I find myself back in His presence. Up until now this has cleared the fog and set the train back on track. Not the other day. 

It was so bad I couldn't get focused enough to pray. Pea-soup-fog brain. I tried multiple times. I walked around the house after every prayer attempt, hoping my next project would jump out at me. Then I went on a chocolate run. And a futile attempt to pick up some supplies. They were out of stock. Sigh. 

By the time I was back to the house, I'd lost over an hour of work. I was at an impasse, and something had to change. In my best effort to pray I just said: "Jesus, I can't do this!" And suddenly into my mind popped a visual of me calling a friend of mine. So I did it, despite feeling concerned because I knew she was busy. 

But what do you know, it turns out I called at the perfect time. Ha! I told her what was up and how I was struggling, in need of a prayer jump-start. She was more than happy to pray with me. And we ended up having an incredible power-packed 5 or 10 minutes of prayer time. 

The most powerful part, though, was when she prayed in Jesus' name against the powers of spiritual darkness. (See Eph 6:12) The fog lifted. I felt relaxed and back in His presence, and after that I was getting work done right and left! 

Jesus says He is our rest when we are weary (See Mt 11:28ff). But sometimes we have to fight to come into that rest because we have a very real enemy who wants to cut us off from that rest. And when we can't muster the needed fight to pray on our own, oftentimes the answer is to reach out to someone else for prayer. 

“Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 18:19 NASB)

It turns out my friend was having a bit of an off day herself, and she ended up feeling rewarded and refueled after praying for me. Amazing how God works. 

I could have given up and just fumbled my way through the day, hating every minute of it, but by fighting to be in His presence, the course of my whole day was dramatically changed. And I fully enjoyed my time. 

It's like I was one decision away from a freedom outcome. Fight for His presence? Or turn away from trying because that's easier? The fight was hard, and quite honestly, annoying, but I'm glad I hung in there and didn't give up. 

When we're dying to be done with something, we usually just need a shift in perspective - a Kingdom perspective that remembers Jesus is there, faithful, and wants our freedom. Fight for THAT, and the worldly junk doesn't feel so overwhelming anymore. 

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,"  (Ephesians 1:3 NASB)

Identity in Christ Alone

Our next post in the identity series is from Sarah Lewan

I accepted Christ as my Savior when I was four, in the dining room with my mom with the “Good News” brochure. I grew up knowing Jesus, and at least half of my life, if not more, has been spent at church or doing church-related things.

Growing up my identity was most often found in being a Jesus-freak-nerd-people-pleaser. I was the “goody two shoes” and getting straight A’s became my identity to the point that somewhere along the line my identity became synonymous with the letter A. Before every test - before I would even write my name on the test - I prayed that Jesus would help me get an A. That would have been a great practice if I applied it to every other area of my life as well, but sometimes it got to the point where the only time I would talk to Jesus was before a test.

In addition to that, my identity was definitely found in what I could do for God, a works-based faith. I felt that as I had to earn my A’s in school, I had to earn God’s love. I had to be as perfect as possible and that is how He would love me and I could get to know Him. If someone asked me to do something or volunteer for something, the answer was always yes because I felt that I was earning God’s love and the more good works I could do the better.

I knew intellectually that I could never earn God’s love but that didn’t stop me from trying. I knew a whole lot about God but I didn’t really understand my relationship with God.

My last two years of high school and into college I had a serious boyfriend who would fall under the Biblical definition of being “unequally yoked”. On the outside I was still the Jesus-freak-nerd, but on the inside I was falling further and further away from God as I allowed more and more of my life to be fully consumed with pleasing my boyfriend and getting straight A’s.

In my first semester of college I was still trying to please everyone, please God, and keep up the impression that my life was perfect while internally I was struggling. I picture this stage of my life as those whitewashed tombs to which Jesus compared the Pharisees - pretty on the outside and full of decay on the inside.

God faithfully pursued me through all of this and after ignoring God’s obvious direction and conviction for eight months, I finally surrendered at my first college retreat with my campus church the mess of a life I had gotten myself into.

Within the hour of surrendering my life over to God again, I received a text out of the blue from my boyfriend breaking up with me - and then everything started changing for the better. I walked around the camp that night and God was telling me to stop working so hard to create the perfect life and to look up at Him and see the life that He had waiting for me. He reminded me that my identity was found in Him and Him alone.

The Bridge of Communion and Suffering

This post is written by D.C. Svenson

There’s an old joke that I’ve heard at bachelor parties, in toasts at secular weddings and by men who have been disillusioned by failures in marriage as advice to their newly engaged friends. While I can’t say definitively that it is exclusively told by men, I would say that men are more guilty of telling and believing this joke in my experience. It goes something like this:

Every marriage involves three rings: The engagement ring, the wedding ring and suffering.

Get it, “suffe-ring?” Yeah, while it may be clever, I don’t find it that funny. I don’t want to judge you if you laughed, because there is some truth to it. No marriage is perfect. But, what’s a single guy doing blogging about suffering and marriage you ask? Well, both Paul and Peter teach us about our relationship with Christ in an illustration from marriage. For some examples on this, you could read Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 or 1 Peter 3. I would encourage you to read any of those epistles in their entirety, but I would especially challenge you to read the entire book of 1 Peter, when you’ve finished reading this blog of course! While Peter doesn’t spell out as clearly how marriage is like our relationship to Christ, he immediately goes on from talking about marriage to talking about suffering. You could potentially argue that Peter was the first person to tell that joke in its original form and it has evolved along the way. You see, both Paul and Peter encouraged wives to submit to their husbands, which we as the body of Christ ought to do in our relationship to Christ. For Christ showed his love for us by suffering the crucifixion and dying on the cross, bearing the weight of our sin. Then he conquered death and resurrected on the third day. To prepare us for this and help us remember it, he instituted communion, the Lord’s supper, as a memorial practice. That is, we practice it to reflect upon that moment and bond with Christ in unity with fellow members of Christ's body looking forward to his second coming.

While Christ protected us and took on that extreme suffering in the flesh, we know that we too experience moments of suffering in our life. The suffering we experience in the flesh has nothing to do with our sin. However, as someone with a chronic illness, I can tell you that the suffering I have experienced has enhanced my experience with Communion and deepened my relationship with Christ. In my greatest moments of suffering, I have turned to the Lord and experienced a great refreshing in my soul. I can’t say I’m always able to do that, but I know when I do, I feel peace and receive strength to do what I need to do at the time. I experience his touch in those instances by the power of the Holy Spirit and also through the word. Reading, reflecting and praying on it have been powerful and transforming in those moments. Now, every time that I experience communion, I draw on that suffering to get a glimpse into that moment for Christ.

I am not trying to imply that my experience with suffering is equal to Christ's experience on that day, from the beatings to the crucifixion where he bore the weight of our sin and the judgment due it all in that moment. However, my illness came on suddenly around August of 2012, and I lived in chaos and confusion (without health insurance) until I experienced the Lord’s provision (to help with receiving care) and was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in March of 2013. Since then, I have tried medications (one of which would cost about $32000 each year without any kind of coverage or help, and the Lord found a way for me to get access to it), went through a surgery to have nearly six inches of my intestines removed and discovered other complications and issues that I have had to try and adjust to. I dropped more than 50 pounds in less than a year from many nasty symptoms. Most of that has been from violent reactions to food causing me to throw it back up. I will spare you images, but many of you know how terrible it can be to go through this. I have literally emptied myself at times in such a violent way that I could barely move or even see when I was finished. I have had many messes to clean up and have had to turn to my family, by blood and in Christ, at times to humble myself and seek help. But, God has also shown me some powerful revelations and I have grown in my relationship with Christ. I have experienced beautiful moments of encouragement and connection with other members of the body of Christ and have been able to witness in new and unique ways.

I want to return to the example of suffering in marriage for a final moment. Remember, we are the bride of Christ who ought to submit to him. Take that moment in communion to remember the way he died for us as a loving and devoted groom. But, I want to challenge us to take that one step further. As you persevere through suffering, the bible tells us in Romans 5 that this process builds character that leads to an unstoppable hope. Draw on that strength as you go through suffering and remember that we as believers are now ambassadors of Christ. That is, we represent him, as the groom to those of the world who do not know him. Remind yourself of that image you bear in those moments of communion not just for yourself, but so that you can take that out into the world and let your light shine brightly. Just imagine the witness you send to others when you walk through your suffering with joy and put all complaining and negativity aside to show love and persevere in the presence of those who do not know Him!


Who is DC?

Our second blogger in the Identity Series is David-Chad Svenson

Having joined the leadership team for Mosaic, you may be wondering: "who is this DC guy?" Together, we're working to answer that question with each other. In other words, we all are working together to figure out who we are. So, who am I? This question can haunt us, make us despair or distort our reality.

For most of my life, this was the truth. I was haunted by an identity that I was unloved and had no value. I was desperate to be someone else and it shaped my reality negatively. I saw the world as dim, cold and Godless. My constant depression was agonizing and I was one step away from the edge…

I teetered on the brink for so long and took for granted all of the blessings. All I saw was the negative, but I called myself a realist. Though I had spent my younger years in the church, my parents divorced when I was in the first grade. Our time in the church seemed simply to fulfill our religious duty. It seemed phony. Unreal. On top of the divorce, I had an increasingly cruel older brother and the depression began to overwhelm me. The last straw before I stopped believing and really clung to my identity of worthlessness was when my aunt passed away from breast cancer. I can remember praying for her, because if the God I had heard about existed he would save her. Well, she passed away, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t saved. I didn’t know that at the time and nobody explained it to me. I spent the next six or so years diving headfirst into the darkness and feeling my way blindly through it. It’s hard to walk through the darkness without stumbling, without painful collisions and overwhelming doubt.

So, this question can obviously be soul-crushing if you live in that kind of reality...

Or, it can encourage us, bring us hope or challenge our worldview.

After about a decade of living in the darkness, a ray of light shined in and shifted my worldview. During my high school years, I was one of the 25 students in my district to go to a school with advanced Math and Science courses and there was a lot of pressure to perform. We had just been given a new group assignment and my partner, one of the only people I considered to be a friend at the time, told me that he would never work with me again if I messed up. I was a notorious slacker, but I felt the pressure. I was overwhelmed with stress and as I was driving home from school, my blood sugar dropped and I rolled my car into a power line pole. One of those big wooden poles running on the side of the road. How is this a burst of light? Well, I had a dream while I was unconscious and it challenged my perception of life. I awoke for a moment to see the reality of the inside of the vehicle and passed out right after. When I came to next, I was outside the vehicle spitting up dirt and in complete peace. I saw my car and knew that I survived a miracle. And so I realized there was a God. I didn’t know who he was yet. However, I began to realize I had a purpose and my true identity was bound in that.

Several years later, my older brother had came to Christ through a campus ministry at OU and he began to reach out to the family. He gave some of us bibles and invited us to study them with him and more. As I was finally in college myself, he invited me to one of his meetings on the campus and I went reluctantly. I wanted to know God, but I still struggled with my brother. I am so thankful for my brother’s persistence and the way that group showed me the love of Jesus Christ. I realized then that Jesus was the God who saved me in that car wreck and I came to realize later that he saved me from all of my sin and the hopeless identity I had.

So, who did I become? I realized that I am a beloved son of God and I have a greater purpose to serve with my time on earth. How appropriate that my first name, David-Chad, means “beloved warrior.” I am loved and I am so grateful. My purpose is to fight as a spiritual warrior, to battle the enemy by helping others learn and know the truth more deeply and to encourage those who fight alongside me. I see the world as a spiritual battleground and my mind is set on God’s kingdom. Do you know the truth about yourself and this world we live in? Our time here is limited, but we can walk together in eternity. If you aren’t sure who you are or don’t know what truth even is, I would love to help you discover it. You too are his beloved and you mean so much more to him than we can fathom without the power of the Holy Spirit. As Paul prays this for the church in Ephesus, I pray that you too would be able to “grasp how wide and long and high deep is the love of Christ,” a love that “surpasses all knowledge. (Eph. 3:17-19)

Who am I?

Our first blogger will be by one of our adult leaders Lynda Glasgow on the topic of identity.


Who are you?

For me, my "me's" have changed much over the years.

Being a student for so long, I wasn't sure who I was for a year or two after college. After I finally settled into acting regularly, I was an actor! Identity again! I was a wife. Then a divorced wife. A Chicagoan enjoying her Irish roots. A depressed sufferer of chronic fatigue syndrome. An "enlightened" new age follower. A practitioner of "white" magic (yes, I know how that sounds, but I got me some Jesus now...) Successful business owner and painter. Wife again, fearful of another divorce and becoming "that woman." New mom. Casualty in a failing economy (losing home and business)... Will the list just go on, ‘til death do us part? 

Life was good as long as I knew who I was. Except when I wasn't who I wanted to be. But then, I wasn't a Christ follower yet. 

Can I tell you what I've learned since then? Knowing who we are in Christ is absolutely key to living out our faith and experiencing His promises. No substitutes. 

Hopefully you're regularly hearing that your true identity is in Christ. But do you believe it? Do you live it like it's true? And what does that really mean, practically speaking?

There are so many good discussions on that last question, and people write whole books on it. Read one. Or five. But for right here, right now, let me share one significant transformation in my life, simply from having my identity in Him.

If you spend any time around me, you will come to realize I love Galatians 5:1:

"It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery." (NASB)

I've made a lot of messes in my life, experienced a lot of pain and shame and fear. So much so that, when I first came across Gal. 5:1, I knew the Holy Spirit was speaking right to my heart. And from that day on, I made it my mission to seek Him for real so I could experience this freedom He wanted me to have, freedom from my own thoughts and emotions and the flaming arrows of the enemy. 

In Him I have found release from my old prison. Day after day. No matter what junk flies into my life. And it definitely flies in. 

The degree of freedom I experience, however, relates directly to how willing I am to trust Him in every situation that arises. Will I let fear grip me or will I look past it to His hand reaching out for me? Will I be haunted by my past mistakes, or will I believe I am forgiven and new. Will I focus on all I have not accomplished in my life, or will I let my pursuit of Him be enough? Will I live in guilt when the path I'm on doesn't live up to others' expectations of me, or will I believe He is sovereign and has a good plan for my life?

Do I experience fear? Yes. Do I feel a sense of failure or guilt at times? Absolutely. But I'm not marked by those things anymore. I'm marked instead by how quickly I'm willing to turn around and believe His promises and His truths about me. And when I do that, I always find freedom.

If my identity is not in Him, my happiness will always be tied to what I do or don't do. That's a pressure I just can't live under.

While people can still label me as many different things, the list of who I am no longer goes on for me. I am a Christ follower. Period. 

Everything I am has become bendable in view of what Jesus wants of me. I could tell you how I'm currently a homeschooling mom, a feisty redhead, a house rehabber. Yes, I am these things, loosely speaking. For now. But these things are all subject to change based on how He sees fit to direct my life. My primary desire is to be used by Him, no matter where I find myself, because first and foremost I am a child of God, grateful for the riches I've been given in Christ. 

Yet by default, I am also now a fighter. Every day this world tries to take away who I am in Christ. But I fight, because in the end, I love the freedom He offers far more than the counterfeit feel-good the world offers.


Who am I? His. Are you?