Tag Archives: Jesus

Putting Jesus front and center

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

When I first got out of college and graduate school, I thought I was ready to take on the world.  I had a few years of schooling under my belt and God had done some pretty wild things in and through me.  They were ‘wild’ good and I was wanting to share them with anyone I could.  The funny thing was that no one seemed to care.  They weren’t running up to me asking me how much I knew, wanting to know what God had done in my life, all the places I had been…

I’ve always said that the maturity path is: in your twenties you think you know everything, in your thirties you don’t think you know anything, and then after that you have a pretty good sifting of what you do and don’t know.  BUT, I’ve missed the point.  At least according to Philippians 3:8.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.  It never was.  Maybe somebody should have told me that back in my twenties, and maybe they tried and I couldn’t hear it.  It should have been about Jesus all along.

Paul said it in Philippians 3:  I used to brag on myself all of the time.  If anyone could do anything, I could do it better.  But now I count it as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.    I started to figure this out a few years ago after reading a cool old book called They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edmonds (1960, Zondervan).  He was the President of Wheaton College and he compiled stories of famous Christians from the early to mid 1900’s.  They were people who knew God and who did things for Him.

There is the story of one guy that really changed my thinking about just waiting to tell people about myself and what God has done in me–and turning that around to just talking about Jesus.  His name is Ian Thomas.  He said that he learned, Only as I related situations to Jesus did I find that He undertook.  As soon as I related a situation to myself, He retired into the background…That is the secret; it is so simple!  Just to relate everything to the Lord Jesus, and take our hands off–to stand back and say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, this is Thy situation! (page 140)

Picture it:  Jesus is with you and you’re talking about Him.  He stays front and center and He’s free to work, and stuff happens.  People are drawn to Him, lives are changed, and the things you are trying to do actually go ten times smoother than usual.  You don’t draw attention to yourself, just to others and point to Jesus whenever you can.  But then you start talking about yourself and Jesus withdraws into the background.  He isn’t free to work, and the opposite is true.  Things don’t go as smoothly, the cult of “you” is formed, and you’re the only member.

Ian Thomas had said earlier in his testimony, I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power (page 137).  The less we put our confidence in Christ, and the more we put it in ourselves, the more we need the “noise.”  We may be seeking effectiveness and power, but looking for it through the noise of our personality, skills, technology, loud music, or whatever else we take pride in other than Jesus.

So I’m better than I used to be.  I don’t try to jump in with stories about myself, or ‘one garbage-can-1260832__340.jpgup’ someone else’s story.  In fact, if people ask me about myself, I’m quick to try to bring it around to what Jesus has done or to get out of the limelight.  Maybe I’m in the ‘Paul club’ now, where I count all my stuff as rubbish just so I may gain Christ and be found in Him. At least I hope so.

 


What do you want Me to do for you? I want to be healed

The blind beggar called out, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus said to him, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  And the blind man said to him, Rabbi, let me blind man.jpgrecover my sight.”  And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.”  And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.  Mark 10:48-52

Have you had weeks and months that just kind of blur together and not much big goes on, and then ‘Boom!’ big stuff happens?  Well, this last week was one of those weeks.  Let me back up.  For about the last four or five months, my left shoulder has been hurting, like bad. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t even open up my car door without extreme pain kicking in.  I suppose it was a pinched nerve or a herniated disc.  For most of the last two or three weeks my arm was numb and cold when I woke up in the morning.

I began going to the chiropractor in June two to three times a week.  I knew I should have attended to it sooner, just too busy.  In early July the chiro said, “I can’t do anything more.  You’ve got to go to the doctor.  You’ve probably got to get an MRI.”  I nodded, but thought: “No way.  I’m not going to get an MRI.  I’m not going through all of that.”

Second strand of the story:  Over the last year, my husband and I have gotten to know a Christian brother better.  He’s the kind of guy that’s full of Holy Spirit energy.  He’s into dreams and interpreting them, so we like to talk about how God speaks to us.  He went on a missions trip to Haiti about a year and a half ago.  While there, whoever was leading the group told Brian to take charge of a line of locals who were there for healing. He was to pray for them to be healed.  Brian was thrown into just doing it, and God met him.  By the end of the day, almost all of the people were healed that he had prayed for.

He came back home thinking, “If God could work through me in Haiti, why can’t he work through me here to pray for people and see them healed?”  So he began to pray for people to be healed and things began to happen.  Brian began a small group Bible study in our area.  He has been inviting us to join us, but it hasn’t been until the last month or so that we have begun to go.

Another guy has been at the small group who also has the gift of healing, Barry.  And I sit there with a shoulder that hurts so much I can’t open my car door…I’ve been reading through the Gospels and ‘faith’ seems to be the thing that just keeps jumping out over and over.  So after the chiropractor said, “Yup, your shoulder is messed up,” I guess I knew it was time to actually apply faith and open my mouth.

So I did.  At the end of the small group, when it was time to pray, Brian asked if anyone needed any prayer.  Someone else said something first.  And then  I finally said, “My shoulder has been really bad lately.  I need prayer for it.”  So Brian said, “Okay, let’s pray for it.”  He prayed for God to heal it, then asked me to move it around.  “Nothing.”  He prayed for it again.  Still nothing.  Then another gal said, “Stand up.”  Then she had me raise my right arm.    She said, “I can feel and see the knot.  It’s huge.”

He prayed again.  Then he said, “Move it around.”  The loudest snap and crack sounded and the gal standing to my right yelled, “The knot is moving!  It’s gone!”  I moved my arm, and the knot and pinching and pain was gone.  That was five days ago.  It’s still gone.

There’s more to the story.  My husband struggles with anxiety a lot.  Like my shoulder pain, it has become more and more distinct and debilitating.  He has resisted going to the small group because he’s anxious about having to go to work the next day.  My reply is that we all have to go to work the next day, but that doesn’t change anything.  He wasn’t going to go this week because of it.

There were guest missionaries there from Albania.  They had become Christians through Barry.  As Brian was praying for me, the missionary wife was singing quietly over the whole while.  I thought it was pretty, but didn’t make much of it.  Wayne left as soon as prayer was over.  We drove separately so he could do that, our compromise.  When I got home, he said:  “I wished everyone would have stopped talking when that lady sang.  It was like a wave of peace washed over me.  I wanted her to sing over me for my anxiety.”

I asked why he didn’t stay then, but his anxiety had gotten the best of him.  But he called Barry’s the next day, in an act of faith, and asked if he could come and have them pray for his anxiety.  This was even bigger than my shoulder!  This anxiety has gripped him all of his life.

So Wayne went, and Barry and his wife and the missionaries prayed over him.  The wife sang.  Another miracle happened this week.  When Wayne left, it was like a load was taken off of him.  Peace that he hasn’t known swept over him.

I am not saying that this is a once and for all deal, because fear keeps knocking.  As we processed that freedom, we talked about how Jesus is the way and the truth–Satan is a liar.  Jesus is all about faith–Satan is all about fear.  James 4:7 says to “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”  I say he must flee from us when we take authority in Jesus’ name.  I rebuke you fear and anxiety in Jesus’ name.

That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!


No grumbling

When Jesus saw Zacchaeus, He looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.”  So he hurried and came down and received Jesus joyful.  And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”  Luke 19:5-7

One of the things that catches me as I read through the Gospels is the different responses to Jesus.  Typically they can be boiled down to three base emotions: mad, sad and glad.

  • Mad–In Luke 4:16-30 there is the account of Jesus going back to His hometown just after His baptism.  He picked up the scroll and read the Messianic text from Isaiah 61, and then said: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”  In other words, “I’m here.”  By the end of their discourse they get so enraged that they drive him out to the brow of the hill and try to throw him down the cliff.  When we try to talk to some people today about Jesus, they get that mad too.  They might not try to push us over a cliff, but they might threaten us with a lawsuit if we ever pray in public again, ending the prayer “in Jesus’ name.”  Oh, that makes them mad.
  • Sad–In Luke 18:18-24 there is the account of the ‘Rich Young Ruler.’  He came to Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus told him one thing that he lacked to be really good, since that was what they young man was going for, was to sell all that he had.  Verse 23 tells us “When he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich.”  I have seen many people walk away from Jesus sad because they love other things more than Jesus.  It’s usually men, because it’s women that I work with primarily.  They get involved in relationships that they know aren’t pleasing to Jesus, and they pick that guy over Jesus.  They would rather have a guy by their side, even if he’s not a good guy, than to wait for God’s best.  For others, they pick sports.  A friend’s son got more involved in hockey, so she quit coming to church because hockey tournaments took them away every weekend.  They drifted away from pursuing a relationship with Jesus.
  • Glad–In Luke 19:1-10, we see that Zacchaeus received Jesus joyfully.  He didn’t come up with excuses why Jesus couldn’t come to his house, he gladly welcomed Him in.  And then Zacc repented, telling Jesus how he was going to repay everyone that he defrauded.  What a joy it is to see someone receive the good news of the Gospel with gladness, and to see his or her life turned around by Jesus.

But there is another emotion in the Zacchaeus account that grabbed me today.  It’s in the grumbling.pngverses that are printed above.  Luke 19:7 tells us when they saw that Jesus was going to Zacchaeus’ house they grumbled.  We don’t know who the they’s are, but I can guess.  It’s the people who have resisted Jesus all along–the establishment, the Pharisees, the religious leaders.  I’m sorry it doesn’t rhyme with mad, sad and glad.

They grumbled.  Was it the whine of the self righteous, judgy, I’m so good I don’t need Jesus religious onlookers?  They are onlookers because they will never get involved, but only stand off from a distance and criticize.  Grumbling looks like it wouldn’t be as bad as the guys in Jesus’ hometown that tried to push Him off the cliff, but let’s look at Psalm 78:17-21 to see what God thought about the grumblers in the wilderness:

Yet they sinned still more against Him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert.  They tested God in their heart by demanding the food they craved.  They spoke against God, saying, “Can God spread a table in the wilderness?”

God’s response: Therefore, when the Lord heard, He was full of wrath; a fire was kindled against Jacob, His anger rose against Israel.

We might not look at grumbling as rebelling against God, testing God in our hearts, demanding things of Him and speaking against Him, but it is.  And it stirs up His anger, which never is a good idea.

In Matthew 23 Jesus delivered a series of woes to the Pharisees and religious leaders, telling them exactly what He thought about their self righteous ways.  He said they preached but didn’t practice it, and that they shut the kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces.  They wouldn’t enter themselves and they weren’t allowing others to enter either.  They were full of greed and self indulgence, appearing righteous, but inside were full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

I want to have the same reaction to people that Jesus has.  And I want to grumble at the things He grumbles at, not the other way around.  The way I get Jesus’ heart is to spend time with Him, lots more of it than I spend on the influence of the world.  It’s too easy to pick up that grumbly, judgy attitude about people and think things like, “They should just get a job,” or, “Who do they think they are?”

There is no end to the wrong attitudes I can have and I can end up being just like the Pharisees.  Jesus said in Matthew 7 to take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of your brother’s eye.  That pretty much knocks me out of opening a speck picking business.

The people that grumbled when Jesus went to Zacchaeus’ house had a heart that resisted Jesus.  I don’t want a heart that resists Jesus.  Don’t you think it’s easiest to pick out other people’s faults when you’re trying to avoid your own?  That’s one way to resist Jesus–deflecting to other people’s stuff.

So, no grumbling, speck picking, or resisting Jesus’ work in my heart.  Not today, not ever.


Is that a shovel in your hand?

For My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water. Jeremiah 2:13

holes shovelsOne of my favorite kids’ movies is the movie “Holes” from the book by Louis Sachar.  The kids at the juvenile detention camp, “Camp Green Lake” have to dig holes in the desert day in and day out.  The warden  is in search of a generations old treasure and the teens are the forced labor.  The song that plays as they dig has the line of “Keep digging those holes, diggin’.”

As we hew cisterns for ourselves that are broken and can hold no water, that song might has well be playing in the background.  “But wait a minute,” you cry, “I’m a Jesus lover.  I have not forsaken Him, nor have I dug my own well that can hold no water.”  Really?

I am reading a challenging book by Brad Bigney called, Gospel Treason: Betraying the Gospel With Hidden Idols (P&R Publishing).  In it he talks about how we can give our hearts and our affections, our first love, over to something else.  That thing becomes our driving force to what we do.  Then we become idolaters.

I often read through the Old Testament and wonder how they could have altars to Baal or Asherah poles in their back yards or high hills and not connect the dots.  Like someone should have said: “Wake up!  How did we fall so far?  Get rid of these idols!”  Yet when someone looks back on our culture, they might see the things that we’ve allowed and  there will be certain idols that will be so clear to them that aren’t clear to us.

If we move away from the Bible, from Jesus, from what Romans 1:21 describes as essential: knowing God, honoring Him as God and giving thanks to Him–then we engage in the ‘Great Exchange.’  The ‘Great Exchange’ of Romans 1 is exchanging the truth of God for a lie, worshiping the created things instead of God the creator, exchanging  natural pleasures for unnatural ones.  Turn on the television or the computer and you see it and hear it.  Again, that’s not us!  Or is it?

I don’t have a shovel in my hands.   Or do I?  When the Israelites fashioned the golden calf at Mt. Sinai, again, I judge.  How could they?  God had just parted the Red Sea.  Do they have amnesia?  God was too slow–Moses was up on that mountain too long.  How often do I turn to something I can control, instead of waiting on God, even though it serves me poorly?  It’s a broken cistern, an idol, sin, rebellion–whatever you want to call it.  I’ve got a shovel in my hand and gold dust on my clothes.

My broken cisterns cost me.  They might be more predictable than God is, and they might keep me in the driver’s seat, but they cannot hold water.  They don’t deliver.  I might have pride if I succeeded in some plan, but there is fear lurking around the next corner about ‘what happens if I blow it next time?’ Or if I don’t get what I want and can’t conjure it up, there are things like depression and defeat to contend with.

I’m pretty good at spotting other people’s golden calves.  I can see them running around with their kids to all kinds of sporting events, or their preoccupation with keeping up with cultural norms.  I’m not so good at spotting my own.  Even if I am, I’m not so good at calling them what they are.    When I first set out in my 20’s after college, I was determined not to own any more things than what I could fit in my car.  I thought people who were tied down to mortgages, jobs and responsibilities were “sell out’s.”  It kept them from being all-in for the Kingdom.

Well, now I’m one of those sell out’s.  I stand on the edge of breaking away from it, contemplating an early retirement to go back to my radical lifestyle of my 20’s.  I didn’t know how God was going to provide then, but I knew He was.  I was ‘about my Father’s business,’ and I loved it.  Now I have much more to give up, but so much more to gain.  Is my job and  my position my broken cistern?  Is money my golden calf?  Is the control that the good salary offers, the self sufficiency, the power, and the me-time, standing in the way?

Brad Bigney:  “When you’re craving something other than God, even something good, God takes it very seriously.  In that moment, He’s coming after you.  He’s coming after you for His glory and your own good, because life for us is better without idols.  Life for us is better when we’re delighting in the gospel and living Christ as our highest treasure.  Life for us is better when we’re focused on God and free from idols.” p. 26

Search me, O God, and know my heart!  Try me and know my thoughts!  And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!  Psalm 139: 23-24


The Power of the Cross

the cross.pngFor Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.  For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:17-18

Oh how we try to rely on everything but the simple message of the cross to get by and to get ahead in life!  We rely on eloquent wisdom, fancy words, glitzy images, good looks, muscle, craftiness, slick tricks, sometimes manipulation…anything but the simple message of the cross.  It’s a fitting Easter thought–the cross.  I need to return to it again and again.

In reading through Isaiah 53, and back through the corresponding Gospel passages, I am struck with the basic message:

  • Jesus was sinless.  Pilate said he found no fault in Jesus (Luke 23:4).   Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  In other words, Jesus never sinned.  That’s why He was able to be the sacrifice for our sins.
  • The sinless one took our sins.  Back to Isaiah 53:4-5,  we find that Jesus bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  That’s the good news of Easter.  Jesus paid the price for sin so we don’t have to pay it, if we allow Him to.
  • Jesus gave up His life willing for us. Sin brings death and demands that a price be paid.  We’ve all sinned, and we all deserve death.   Isaiah 53:6 says, All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned–every one–to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  Jesus said in John 10:18 No one takes (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord.  Jesus willingly gave up His life to pay the price for our sin.
  • This is where true love and peace are found.  Romans 5:8 proclaims, But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  And 1 John 4:10: In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the wrath satisfier (my word) for our sins.  And Romans 5:1 so marvelously declares, Since we have justified by faith, we have peace with God.  There is no other way to find peace deep down inside than to get this straight.

This is the message of the cross.  1 Corinthians 1 goes on to say that God entrusted the foolish, the weak, the low and despised to carry this message to shame the strong, the wise and the mighty so that none might boast in the presence of God.  God picked me, and for that I am eternally grateful.  And I get to tell others this simple, yet powerful message, not with eloquent words of wisdom lest I empty the cross of its power.

Jesus, use me.

*Image by ‘Faithlife Sermons’


The Heart of Darkness (My thoughts on school shootings as an Elementary Principal)

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?  Jeremiah 17:9 ESV

This is a big topic.  It has so many facets with no easy answers, otherwise we would have come up with them soon after the Columbine shootings in 1999.  This hits close to home for me as a school principal.  Sandy Hook was especially unraveling, since it was an elementary school and the principal and school psychologist were two of the victims on that dark day.  Each time there is a tragedy, school safety procedures change, and Parkland, Florida’s will bring more changes.

Our staff met for over an hour this last Friday talking through our procedures and there will be more drills in the coming weeks with students as young as four years old.  What I have been thinking about is that it seems that we have a much deeper problem than just too easy of access to guns.   I’ve been working with youth since I was one myself, so that’s almost 40 years now.  We are products of our culture, which has certainly taken a turn south in those 40 years.  I am disturbed by many things.

One is the disintegration of the family structure.   When I first began to work as a school counselor, I would have students draw out their families as a beginning point.  It showed me who they were, who was important to them, who lived in their home with them…It became such a point of confusion that I soon abandoned it.  So did our culture.  You can say it doesn’t matter if you get married or not, if you get divorced or not, who you marry, how many times, etc. but it fragments kids in a million different pieces.  And then you wonder why their mental health suffers.

Which leads to the next issue, which is mental health.  If I began to really talk about the dire mental health conditions that I really see on a daily basis in my small elementary school, you would push the red button.  I went with a group of teachers to a conference on setting a school wide behavior system a few years back.  There were probably thirty schools there from across Wisconsin.  Every school said they were there because they didn’t know what to do with their out of control mental health needs.  It is a national crisis.

We have consciously taken God out of our country in our drive toward total secular humanism, or whatever you want to call it.  Aristotle said, “Nature abhors a vacuum,” meaning that nature requires every space to filled with something.  If you take God out, that means evil takes its place.  In our area, which is not unique, drugs have taken over.  We are inundated with meth and heroine.  Alcohol seems like child’s play, a relief if that’s all that people do is to drink themselves to death.

Families, that aren’t families anymore, stop going to church, and they start going to bars. I can’t tell you how many funerals I have attended in bars over the last few years.  Fifteen to twenty years ago that would have been unthinkable.   The other place they go on Sundays instead of to church is to sporting events.  The number of youth tournaments on Sundays has taken over.  Sunday is just another day.  ‘Sport’ is the new religion.

The parents’ spiritual health, calling it what it is, is not good, so the child’s spiritual health is totally spinning.  They have suffered the affects of abuse, trauma, neglect and have added in video games that are just waiting to fill that hole in their heart.  Along comes games that are created to addict people from an early age.  “Five Nights of Freddy”  “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” are not games that seven year olds should be addicted to, but they are.

The topic I’m supposed to be on is school shootings, so I’ll get back to it.  Suppose you have a child who is: a) from a fragmented family, b) whose parent may or may not be addicted to some sort of drug and c) has either the child or the parent has mental health issues because of it,  d) the child has been addicted to some violent video game that programs his muscle memory and goes for “high kill” numbers, and e) they haven’t ever been to church (so no moral compass).  Where do you think that child is headed?

Not every family fits into this category.  But if you look at the profiles of the individuals that have been involved in shootings over the years, they usually have those above mentioned indicators in common.

What is the real solution?  Certainly not allowing automatic weapons into the hands of someone who fits that description is a beginning point, but it doesn’t end there.  How do we even begin to go “Back to the Future” on restoring our families, getting a moral compass from the absolute truth that comes from the Bible and God, and stopping the insanity of violent video games that program minds at an early age?  Revival comes to mind.

As you read through the book of Judges in the Old Testament, there are some pretty crazy things that take place.  There is a phrase that is repeated several times:  “In those days, everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”  It was the explanation to why everything was off kilter.  What will our explanation be?

We all have a heart of darkness without Jesus.  The heart if deceitful and desperately wicked.  “We all like sheep have gone astray, and have gone our own way,” as Isaiah 53:6 states.  The only answer that I know is Jesus.  My only hope is Jesus.  Your only hope is Jesus.  “And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  That is the rest of Isaiah 53:6.

 


Gospel Fluency

Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.  Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves…instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow up in every way into Him who is the head, that is, Christ.  Ephesians 4:13-15

JD Greear talked about growing in our knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate Gospel Fluencywith the Spirit in his book, Jesus Continued.  His intent is to call us to grow deeper in our knowledge of the gospel to experience the fullness of the Spirit.    Almost four years ago I watched a series of videos on Vimeo by Jeff Vanderstelt that takes JD Greear’s thoughts about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to another level.  Vanderstelt’s videos were on “Gospel Fluency.”  Finally in 2017 he put out a book with that title.  The videos are much better than the book.  I’ll put a link at the bottom of my post to his videos.

I’ve been thinking about Vanderstelt’s thoughts on ‘Gospel Fluency’ since I read the chapter about growing in the knowledge of the gospel to become more intimate and full in the Spirit.  I will summarize some of Vanderstelt’s thoughts because he puts things in ways I have not heard them before I watched his videos, or since:

  • Gospel fluency is speaking the truths of Jesus into the everyday stuff of life, so that we are changed in our marriages, relationships, spending and living because Jesus is in our life.
  • ‘Speaking the truth in love’ is more than just saying hard words to each other, like addressing character flaws or sin issues.  It is speaking the knowledge of the faith that builds people into maturity in Christ.
  • Ephesians 4: 21 tells us what the truth is that we’re supposed to be speaking: “the truth is in Jesus.”  Speak Jesus to one another.  Another way to say it is, ‘Speak the gospel, or the good news, to one another.’  You don’t just share the gospel to nonbelievers and then stop once they become Christians.  We should keep speaking the good news of Jesus to each other all the time to grow each other up to maturity.
  • Don’t ever drift away from Jesus to something else!  Jesus is what grows us up.  Don’t get to like our Bibles or our Bible studies better than Jesus.  Don’t lead people to church rather than leading them to Jesus.  Don’t just ask for prayer requests, ask for Jesus to work.   **Our prayer lives are about getting Jesus to live His life through us to empower us to live a new life.  The goal of our prayer time is that the Spirit would reveal the truths of God through Jesus and that we would cling to  Jesus as we pray.

**Make Jesus the solution, the everything!!  We lead people to Jesus and then we take them to something else.  We get to Jesus and then move on to something else.  Don’t do that.

So we must keep proclaiming Christ, the good news, the gospel.  We must be resolved to let nothing else be our good news.  We must become so versed in the gospel that we realize that it does answer everything in our existence.  This involves getting a bigger view of the gospel and letting it sink into more areas of our life.

How do you grow in gospel fluency?

  1.  Part of it has to do with making Jesus the center of everything in your life and the rest will fall into place.
  2. Being a part of a fellowship of believers where you are around others that live that out certainly helps.  It’s like getting better at bowling–it’s best worked out at a bowling alley and in a league.  Same thing with a church.
  3. For me, studying the Bible has been a big part of growing in learning more about this life of following Jesus.  But, as Vanderstelt so aptly put it: I can’t love studying the Bible, or my Bible, more than I love Jesus.  My quiet time has to lead me to Jesus each and every day.
  4. Sharing the good news with myself and those around me, applying it to the stuff of life, is the guts of growing up into maturity in Christ.   I need to ask myself “so what?” at the end of my quiet time, and let the Holy Spirit apply His convicting and probing work in my heart.  And then I need to do it.  As the Spirit leads, I also must share with those around me the good news of grace and freedom that applies to the everyday things of life.

Here is the link to Jeff Vanderstelt’s video’s:  Take the time to watch them.  They are well worth your time!

https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/jeff-vanderstelt-on-gospel-fluency/

 


The Word Became Flesh

word-became-flesh.jpg

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

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  1 Timothy 3:16

I was looking back in one of my old journals, and read this entry from July of 2015.  It captures the Christmas message in such a poignant way, that I thought it fitting to share it again today:

I was up at the County jail for a Bible study, which I host 2-3 times a month with whatever women will come.  Sometimes they come just to get out of their cell, but I’ll take that.  As long as they’re not disruptive, they get a chance to hear the Gospel.  Romans 10:17 says that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”

Anyway, this particular evening in July brought out three Native American women.  Though they are from my community, they have a world view that is miles apart from my own.  I’ve learned that from the years of jail ministry.  I was to learn more this evening.  Two out of the three were women that I had known for years.  The third had come one other time, maybe a year before.  She seemed agitated from the start.  She sat flipping through another book until we got switched out of the library to another room.

My Bible study was on three different responses to Jesus–mad, sad and glad.  Mad, the people from Nazareth that tried to push Jesus off the cliff (furious); Sad, the rich young ruler in Luke 18; and I didn’t even get to glad and Zacchaeus in Luke 19.  I was still explaining what sin was.  I had already gone into a bit of detail about who Jesus was, that He was God himself who came from Heaven and took on human form as a baby and grew up and began His public ministry and then began His public ministry, doing miracles, announcing that He was the Promised One who came to save them from their sin.

I could see the one gal’s face get more and more angry, read to launch into an argument.  Wait for it, wait for it.  It was right around the sin explanation that she jumped in.  She said that Natives don’t have sin and Hell.  She said she knew a Catholic who just did what she wanted and then went to confessional and she thought that was lame.  I explained that that’s not repentance, which is turning from your sin.  “I get why you think that’s lame.”

I told her the Zacchaeus story was a good example of repentance.  We just started to read it when she yelled, “I would never place my trust in someone who put on a meat suit.”  I quietly said, “Come again?”  I wanted to make sure I heard that right.  She said firmly, “A dude that would take on a human form.  I would never let him be my God.”

I quickly answered, “That’s exactly what He had to do to pay the price for our sins, otherwise we would all face the death penalty and be sentenced an eternity in Hell.”  She countered, “We don’t have a Hell.”  I came back, “Oh yes, we all face that.”  I picked up my Bible and said, “This is the truth and Jesus declared, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life–no one comes to the Father, except through Me.’  One day we will all stand before this Jesus to give an account of what we have done.”

Her answer was, “That’s disrespectful.  That’s hateful.”  I answered, “Actually, in me telling you that, it’s the most loving thing I could do so you could have a chance to hear it and to ponder it.  The choice is then up to you.”  Then she backed down.

We both took a breath, and I said, “I like that ‘dude in a meat suit’ thing.  You’ve hit the nail on the head.  We went off on to a different point and kind of relaxed to move away from the intensity.  At the end of the night I said to her, “I hope I see you again some place, just not here.”  We both smiled in mutual respect.  I haven’t seen her since, but I still pray for her.

 


Extravagant generosity compels an extravagant response

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to the barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome, for I am not ashamed of the gospel.  Romans 1:14-16

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair.  The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  John 12:3

I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.  2 Samuel 24:24

Paul realized that he owed a great debt to God.  He often called himself a servant, a slave, or a bondservant.  In the Greek, it is “doulos”: somebody who is forced to work for somebody else for no payment and is regarded as the property of that person.” (Encarta Dictionary)

If grace is free, why should we operate from the concept of owing God, or of being His slave?  There is a difference between a slave of God, and a bondservant.  A bondservant served out his or her time as a slave and could go free, but instead chose to stay with his or her master and to serve for the rest of his or her life.  It is done willingly.  So we are God’s bondservants.  We serve Him willingly.

As for sharing the gospel eagerly like Paul, we should do it out of obedience, out of love, and out  of understanding the gospel.  This involves grasping the depth of our own sin and the depth of the love of God displayed by Jesus on the cross.

perfumeSomehow the two women that washed Jesus’ feet with their hair, tears, and perfume got this while the onlookers didn’t.  In the Luke 7:36-50 account, it was the Pharisees who scoffed while the “sinner” poured out her extravagant response to Jesus.  In John 12:1-7 it was Judas who sneered at Mary that the expensive perfume could be used for the poor.  What catches me with Mary was that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.  Mary’s generous sacrifice wasn’t just a beautiful odor to Jesus, but to everyone there.

  • Am I willing to pour out my most expensive possession to wash Jesus’ feet because He washed me with His blood?
  • What is my most expensive possession that I need to hold on to more loosely to give to Jesus as a thank offering?

JD Greear: “God wants us to be consumed with His glory and filled with compassion, just as He is, moving instinctively to a world of need around us.” (Jesus Continued, pg. 89)

When Jesus said “Follow Me,” He bids us first to come and die, like in Romans 12:1-2 and John 12:24, Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains alone.  But if it dies, it bears much fruit.

No one wants to die.  They want their cake–

I want to be near my family…I want cute kids…I want a comfortable job…I want a nice husband…I want a 9-5 job…I want a good income with money to spare…I want good neighbors…I, I, I

It is the death of “I”: The Village of Me: Population 1    Welcome to ME

When I chop down that sign, then that’s when God really begins to work.  I surrender, God takes over and He moves my heart with gratitude just like the two women with hair and perfume.  I think gratitude triggers compassion

I sat across the table this week from a dad at school.  His hands were dirty from trying to start his car in almost below zero weather for two days and the car wouldn’t cooperate.  He was early for the meeting, so we had time to talk.  I made him coffee and we chatted.  I’ve known him for years.

His wife died at her own hands several years before, leaving him to raise three boys on his own.  He was severely burned in a welding accident since then, leaving him with just a knob of a nose and no eye lids.  He explained how he should have asked them to give him eyelids because when he goes out in the sun it’s like rivers of water, but he wasn’t complaining.

My heart wells up with compassion for him and his boys, thinking about Christmas, about what life looks like for them, telling him that I was sorry to hear that his dad died just a couple of weeks ago.  How can I bring Jesus into his world?  Oh God, tell me.

Use my life, Lord, to the greatest extent, to bring salvation to those around me.  You used great people to pour the gospel into me, so use me to pour the gospel into others.  I am obligated because of what You have done for me, I am eager because the great news of Jesus, and I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God unto salvation for whoever hears it.

 

 

 


The Heart of Rebellion


Joseph Conrad wrote a book called,
The Heart of Darkness about going into the heart of Africa in the late 1800’s.  It was pretty much unexplored and treacherous to travel to the interior of Africa, hence a great darkness in many people’s eyes.

In the Bible, Jeremiah 17:9 describes the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick (wicked KJV); who can understand it?”  In Romans 3:10-18, Paul elaborates, saying that without God, no one seeks after Him.  We use our tongues to deceive, our lips have venom like asps, our mouths are full of curses and bitterness, our feet are swift to shed blood, and the way of peace we have not known.  In reading this passage at a jail Bible study, one gal said, “that pretty much describes everyone I know, myself included.”

Not a pretty picture.  It’s the heart of darkness.  But what grabbed me in reading through the New Testament, as I’m now into Acts, are the motives of the people that rejected Jesus.  They had a chance to accept Him, they heard the truth, but they flat out rejected it all for some base reasons that are common to all of us.  This is the heart of rebellion.  Let me highlight a few:

  • Mark 15:10.  Pilate perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priest had delivered Jesus up.  The chief priests were jealous of Jesus.  This jealousy theme is repeated again in Acts 5:17.
  • Mark 15:15.  So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them for them Barabbas.  Pilate wanted the people to like him.
  • John 12:42.  Nevertheless, many of the authorities believed in Jesus, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.  They were vainglorious, or in today’s slang: a glory hound or a glory hog.  
  • John 19:38.  Joseph of Arimathea asked to bury Jesus secretly because he feared the Jews.  He was a follower of Jesus, had not consented to the council’s decisions (though a prominent member) and was himself waiting for the kingdom of God.  He was afraid so he acted secretly.  At least he acted.
  • Acts 7:25.  Stephen was preaching about how the Jews’ forefathers rejected Jesus, so it was no surprise that they did too.  Moses thought that the Jews would understand that he was to be their deliverer but they did not understand so they rejected him; Acts 7:35 saying, “Who made you a ruler and a judge?”  They didn’t get it but with an edge, like ‘go away.’
  • Acts 7:39 “So they refused to obey Moses, but thrust him aside and in their hearts they turned away saying to Aaron, ‘make us gods to go before us.’”  7:42  So God turned away and gave them over to worship the ‘host of heaven,’ the stars and images that they made.”  They made fake gods instead of obeying the One and only God.  So God gave them over to their fake gods.
  • Acts 7:51 “You stiff necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.”  Any time we are confronted with the truth and say no to it, we are resisting the Holy Spirit.
  • Romans 1:21.  “For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  When you know the truth but reject it, you become foolish.  It sends you down a dark path.
  • Romans 1:24.  “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”  Romans 1:25.  “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped the created things rather than the Creator.”  When you reject God and choose a lie, you live out the consequences of that lie.

The Great Turn Around

Isaiah 55:6-7  “Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near; Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, that He may have compassion on him, And to our God for He will abundantly pardon.”

In the midst of our rebellion, of our turning away from God and going our own way, God still calls us back.  God  loves us, He wants a relationship with us and sent His Son Jesus to redeem us from our heart of rebellion.

Call upon God while He is near, return to the Lord and He will have compassion and  will abundantly pardon.

rebellion
*Image from Quotefancy