The Humanity of Jesus

Jesus in the GardenJesus.

Son of God. Messiah. Savior and Lord.

We often think of Jesus as divine, special and perfect. Rightly so–He is all of those things.

But today–the Thursday of Holy Week–is the day that we see Jesus’ humanity in full display also.

After all, we know that Jesus knew what was coming. He knew this would be the last day with His disciples, He knew that He would be betrayed by Judas, and He knew that the next day, He would be rejected by His own people and crucified by the Romans. In spite of that knowledge, He continued moving toward His goal–carrying out the divine assignment He’d been given.

At this last supper, He continued teaching–among other things, teaching the ‘New Commandment’ to “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you should love one another.” (John 13:34). He spoke of the New Covenant–based on His body and blood now (not based on Old Covenant sacrifice).

All of these things–the relentless drive toward fulfillment of His mission in spite of the knowledge of what was coming–are things we attribute to His divine nature. After all, this is SUPERNATURAL love…not ‘normal‘.

Yet, it was later–after the ‘last supper’ together,  that we see Jesus’ humanity coming out.

We read about it in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, and in those passages, we see that Jesus was struggling.

“And He *said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might [o]pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” (Mark 14:34-36). Jesus is calling out to His Father, asking Him to take it from Him–to do it another way, if possible. Yet even then, He affirmed His willingness to obey God’s will.

In Luke 22, we read that, in response, the Father sent an Angel to minister to Him. An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:43-44)

Then, in Matthew 26, we read, “He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

Here’s my point: We forget sometimes that Jesus was fully God and fully Man. For Him to go to His own crucifixion was gut-wrenchingly hard–even though He knew it had to be done, and He knew why. Jesus was a human being, and He had a self-preservation instinct as we all do.

YET, in spite of that, He willingly followed His Father’s will and plan.

Why? Because of Love. Love for the Father, and love for us.

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6-8)

Jesus’ love for all was powerful enough to enable Him to overcome His own anxieties, fears, and desires…and to submit Himself to the Father’s divine, perfect will, so that we could have forgiveness in His name, and eternal life with him.

“And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!” (Philippians 4:8)

What, then, is our correct response toward Jesus:?

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 4:9-11)

Let us praise and thank Jesus even more, because we remember that He overcame his own human struggles–including life-and-death struggles–and willingly died for us on the cross.

Let us praise Him as THE One and Only one who is worthy of our praise.

And let us ‘bow our knees’ and use our tongues to confess and proclaim that JESUS CHRIST IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father!

It is JESUS!

The Name above ALL!

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Courage

Courage-Wallpaper-1100x1467Courage.

One of the characteristics that all of us would love to say we possess…

But in moments of darkness, peril, or when confronting evil, courage can be hard to come by.

It is in those moments that we realize that courage, if it’s going to be resilient, must come from somewhere deep, deep within–somewhere in our heart and mind that cannot be effected by mere circumstance on the outside. Courage must be deeper–in the bedrock of our souls.

That kind of courage is impossible to simply ‘muster up’ on my own. This kind of courage cannot be ‘faked’. Many people–who think they are courageous and brave crumble when things get really tough.

Some, however, have it…courage to face the onslaught. Courage to stand against the crowd. Courage to remain faithful when everyone else seems to be giving in.

Courage to call others to follow you as you face the darkness…now, that is special!

That kind of courage is what is called for today…and God is the One calling us to show it.

He is also the One who gives it.

In ancient Israel, Joshua was called on to take the people into the land of promise. Moses, their leader, had died and now God was calling Joshua to lead.

It was a daunting task, to say the least! Joshua would need courage…but not the kind of courage he could manufacture on his own!

He needed it from the Lord.

“Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left,that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)

Joshua’s courage would be guided by God’s Word, but it would come from God’s presence. God promised to be with Joshua as he led…and that gave him courage!

We are sometimes called to a journey in which we need courage.

In C.S.Lewis’ book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, the crew is headed into the dark and unfamiliar waters near the island ‘Where Dreams Come True’. Not nice, fluffy dreams, but nightmares and harrowing dreams. As soon as they realize this, they attempt to turn the ship around and sail out, but realize that they are not making any headway. Panic and fear begin to close in…

“Lucy leant her head on the edge of the fighting top and whispered, “Aslan, Aslan, if ever you loved us at all, send us help now.” The darkness did not grow any less, but she began to feel a little–a very, very little–better.”

Lucy cries out to Aslan, The Source of comfort and hope.

She sees a beam of light shining toward them…

“Lucy looked along the beam and presently saw something in it. At first it looked like a cross, then it looked like an aeroplane, then it looked like a kite, and at last with a whirring of wings it was right overhead and was an albatross. It circled three times round the mast and then perched for an instant on the crest of the gilded dragon at the prow. It called out in a strong sweet voice what seemed to be words though no one understood them. After that it spread its wings, rose, and began to fly slowly ahead, bearing a little to starboard. Drinian steered after it not doubting that it offered good guidance. But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, “Courage, dear heart,” and the voice, she felt sure, as Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face.”

“Courage, Dear Heart”

The courage would come from Aslan–the One who she knew would come to rescue them. He was the One over all of it…the One with the power, the wisdom, and the strength to impart courage.

With the courage came hope, and a tiny hint of joy in her heart, which grew as she knew that Aslan would lead them forward.

Today, we need courage.

Not ‘bravado’, but real, genuine COURAGE.

Courage to stand on the Word of God.

Courage to love all–and to point them to the Source of love.

Courage to remain faithful to Jesus as Lord and Savior, when the entire culture seems to be turning against Him.

The Apostle Paul foresaw a time like this, and even in his day, he knew that it would take courage to remain faithful. He instructs his protege, Timothy…

“Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry. (2 Timothy 4:2-5)

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today…this time…is a time for Courage. This is a time to gain strength, faithfulness, boldness and tenacity from the Lord! Now is the day! This is the hour to determine what you stand for.

Do not let it be for temporary, worldly pursuits. Stand for the Gospel. Stand for the Kingdom of God…but STAND!

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. Do everything in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13-14)

Can We Be Reasonable?

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” (1st Peter 2:12)

Today’s culture is a tough place.

So many people are ‘offended’ by so much.

People are governed more by their feelings and emotions than by rational, logical thought. Therefore, anytime someone else says something that offends me, I may immediately protest…loudly…that ‘It’s not Fair’! ‘You can’t do that!’ ‘You can’t say that!’

Rather than have a discussion about our disagreements, even if we eventually ‘agree to disagree’, we end up ‘Unfriending’ people. Sometimes it’s even those we love–family, friends, neighbors, coworkers…and it’s usually over trivial things!

“The enemy comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have Life, and have it To The Full!” (John 10:10, emphasis mine). 

Do you think the enemy is busy in our culture? I do!–and this is one of the ways he succeeds!

We blame each other, we accuse each other, we attack each other and we ‘unfriend’ each other…while the enemy just laughs at us.

Most people who read my Blog are Christians, so let me ask you:

Is that how you think the Lord would have you react? Would the Lord want you to be so easily offended–about everything from Sports teams to Politics, Fashion choices to Diet…and even Religion, that you end up severing relationships over it?

‘Wait, just a minute!’, you say, ‘I only get offended and sever relationships at important stuff!’ 

If you don’t already see the folly in that mindset , I’m not sure you will get my point.

Let me try to approach it this way:

Let’s say, just hypothetically, that EVERYTHING you said was factually correct.

Not ‘interpreted’ as so, but actually true…and let’s say–again, hypothetically–that you were somehow able to get everyone–literally everyone--in your Social Media circles–Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, etc.–to agree with you (remember, this is hypothetical. We both know it would never happen this way).

Then what?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, what would be the ‘benefit’?

If EVERYONE agreed with you and you won EVERY debate and argument, What difference would it make?

As a Believer, you and I know that God’s principles matter. The Kingdom of God matters. Eternity matters.

Does it really ‘matter’ if Donald Trump is right–or if he is a profane bully? Does it really ‘matter’ if Barack Obama started this petulant, immature presidential behavior? Does it really matter if CNN is correct–or if Fox News is?

There are millions of people out there–your friends and family–who think that ‘Yes, as a matter of fact, that does matter!’…and that’s all they have to go on! If we allow ourselves to get ‘sucked into the vortex’ of argument, we will have very little eternal impact. We may, in fact, lose relationships.

At the same time, they may be totally missing what REALLY matters–for now, and in eternity: Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord!

Remember what He, Himself said? For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17)

What are you and I doing to spread THAT message?

If, instead, we get ‘sucked into the argument’ about these things, we may miss the opportunity to share Christ with them, and point them toward Him. THAT, after all, is what we are to be ‘about’.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (1st Peter 3:15-16)

Let’s keep eternal priorities in their rightful place…

Run Through the Tape!

If you’ve ever been in a race, you know the importance of the Finish Line.

If it’s a sprint, then you can see it from the start. If it’s a distance race, you have to visualize it in your mind for most of the race…until the very end.

In either case, it’s important that you keep that Finish Line in sight. You have to ‘run through the tape’–you have to finish strong! (In some races, there is literally a piece of tape or string at the Finish Line which must be broken to determine who actually wins.) Many people have led the race with just a few yards to go, but have looked around, or slowed ever so slightly, and been overtaken by a competitor–one who was ‘running through the tape’. Run through the tape

Well, I’ve never been fast enough to compete in any form of sprint, but one thing I have done the last few years is run the Kalamazoo Mud Run. It’s a 5k trail and obstacle race in which (you guessed it), we get muddy. It’s a challenging and fun race, but it is crucial–even in a 5K (3.1 miles) to keep the end in mind…to visualize the Finish Line and to run through the tape.

‘This is all well and good’, you might be saying, ‘but I’m not a runner, and I don’t care about races…so why should I read further?’

Because life is like a race...and you have to ‘run through the tape’.

As we’re running the ‘race’ of life, we need to determine what it actually means–for us–to ‘finish strong’. Each of us has a life that is filled with activities. Some are important and significant; others are, quite frankly, a waste of time. Some are even destructive–to us or other around us.

So, what is the race you’re running?

The Apostle Paul had a life that was all about a Grand Purpose–in his case, to bear witness to Jesus, the risen Lord and Savior. He knew that’s what he was about, and he used every breath he had to share that message.

He wrote, Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.” (1 Corinthians 9:24)

Later, as his life was nearing its end, he wrote,

“I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace…I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.” (Acts 20:24-27)

Paul was all about the message about Jesus, and he ‘ran the race’ with that in mind! His ‘Finish Line’ was to proclaim that message faithfully, consistently, and continually…because he knew that this is the only message that pays eternal dividends!

Later, at the end, he could say this: I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:6-8)

Paul knew the right ‘race’ to be involved with, and he gave himself to it every day.

As I consider my own ‘race’, I know there are a lot of things–many of which are legit–to concern myself with. I know, for example, that part of my ‘race’ is my marriage and family–and I want to be the best husband and father I can be. I know my work at Kalamazoo Community Church, and I want to lead it faithfully.

However, I also know, like Paul did, that all of us who are Believers in Jesus Christ have the privilege and opportunity to share the Eternal Message of Jesus…and that is the race that is worth running!

If you’re a Believer, let me encourage you: Run that race! Finish strong!

RUN THROUGH THE TAPE!