Terrorists, Movie Stars, Bullies…and Us

Nasim A

Nasim Aghdam was apparently upset with YouTube.

So, she went to the YouTube headquarters and shot 3 employees, before taking her own life.

What was she upset about? Apparently, she believed that YouTube was ‘censoring’ her posts, restricting the number of people who saw her.

Seriously?

Seriously!

Apparently she was so committed to becoming a ‘YouTube Star’ that, when she perceived interference with that goal, she resorted to violence and ultimately, suicide.

Suicide? For YouTube popularity?!

Now,  I’m not going to go to the Gun Control debate…that is for another day.

However, I do think we can learn something from her, as well as many of the other mass shooters in recent years.

Many of them have in common this phenomena: They are fixated on other people’s opinions of them. 

In fact, they are so fixed on others’ opinions, that it causes them to lash out when others do not accept them, agree with them, etc. In these cases, they’ve resorted to extreme and deadly means to lash out. (Ironically, that’s the only reason most of us have ever heard of them.)

However, I believe that we all have that within us…and we need to correct ourselves!

Anyone who’s ever written a blog that gets just a few views knows how defeating that can be.

On the other hand, anyone who’s made a post on Facebook or put a Tweet on Twitter that has been ‘liked’, ‘shared’ or ‘re-tweeted’ many people will know how intoxicating that can be.

It feels good to have our opinions ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ by others!

…but when we start to give the power to those ‘likes’, ‘shares’, ‘views’ and ‘retweets’ to define us and convince us that we are worth paying attention to, we’ve given the opinions of others way too much power over ourselves.

We hear a lot today about the devastating effects of bullying.

I agree, bullying is bad, and can be very harsh and difficult to deal with. As one who dealt with it in the past, I know it can be difficult.

But one part of the reason that ‘the bully’ has so much power over us is that we’ve given too much influence to other people over how we view ourselves. This is an unwinnable situation. After all, no one–whether a popular movie star, or ‘the Sexiest Man/Woman on Earth’, or the most popular Athlete, Politician, etc.–can ever stay that way forever.

That means that, at some point, their body is going to change, someone more popular will come along, or they’ll say something offensive to someone, and popular opinion will turn against them.

That’s when they become desperate.

Think of the tabloids: We see actors who ‘used to be’ very popular often doing desperate, degrading, and even dangerous things in order to be thrust back into the limelight. Apparently in their minds, Some’ attention–even negative–is better than ‘No’ attention. 

No matter whether we’re famous or living in relative anonymity, we cannot give ‘the power of my self-worth’ to the acceptance of the masses.

That is a big part of the reason I’m thankful that I know that my reason for existence, my purpose, and my worth lie in the fact that I am a creation of God!

As the Scriptures say,

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.
16 You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed.” (Psalm 139:13-16)

God made me! He is the One who gave me my very own fingerprints. He knows the uniqueness of my eyes…He knows me better than I know myself!

In addition, I am ‘adopted’ as His child because of my faith in Jesus!

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:15-16)

If we are going to get our ‘self-worth’ from anyone, it should be our Creator and God–who made us, loves us, and sent His son, Jesus, to pay for our sin, so that we could be ‘adopted’ by faith in Him!

His kind of love doesn’t change–no matter how many ‘likes’ or ‘views’ we get, no matter what happens to our waistline or hairline, no matter how ‘popular’ or well-known we are.

God created You! God loves You! God wants to give you eternal life, full life, and a life of meaning and purpose.

Jesus said “The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

We buy into the lies of the enemy when we believe that our ‘worth’ lies in the opinions of others. The Truth–which gives life–is this: Your WORTH comes from God, your heavenly Father!

He loves us more than we could possibly imagine!

No matter what.

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One-Legged Ladders and Easter

One-legged ladders: Ineffective and dangerous!

I admit that I’ve never tried to use a one-legged ladder–a ladder where a portion of one of the legs is missing. However, I have tried to use an uneven ladder, where one leg is on the ground, and the other leg is a few inches off the ground, because of a hill. Uneven ladder.jpgEven with pieces of wood underneath, it’s dangerous an un-advisable.

Everyone knows that using a ladder in this way is unwise. It would be even more foolish to try to use a ladder where the lower foot of one side is missing. That ladder would rightfully be called ‘broken’ and should be tossed out.

We recently celebrated what most call ‘Easter’–the day that celebrates the single most momentous occasion in the history of the world: The miraculous resurrection of Jesus!

Now, I’m aware that there are many who don’t celebrate this–for many reasons. Some believe in other religions, some believe that ‘miraculous’ things, by definition, can’t happen–and therefore, this event is simply folklore. Others believe that Jesus of Nazareth never really existed.

If you fit into one of those categories, this blog is not for you. Save yourself time, and stop reading.

Others fall into 2 groups: Group 1 believes it all–and celebrates accordingly; Group 2 believes that Jesus lived, did remarkable things, taught profound truth, and then died via crucifixion…but don’t believe in the resurrection.

If you fall into Group 2 I want to remind you of something.

Celebrating Good Friday without celebrating Resurrection Sunday is like using a one-legged ladder. It’s unbalanced, dangerous, and makes no sense!

This is the “Jesus Christ, Superstar” version of these events. Jesus Christ Superstar

Many of you may have watched the live version Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Musical on Sunday night. Although done with excellence and creativity, I was reminded, as it ended, that it presented Jesus as a conflicted, tormented man who died for a noble cause, but was misguided in doing so. The last scene in the musical shows Jesus on the Cross…an important scene but NOT the end!

It conspicuously avoids the resurrection.

Jesus, it must be said, was NOT ‘conflicted’. Human, to be sure…but He knew His Mission!

Jesus knew it was coming, and He knew why:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep… The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.” (John 10:11, 17-18)

Again…

“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28)

And…

“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Matthew 27:22-23)

Then, finally, after He’d died,

“Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?”  They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you:Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.” (Luke 24:36-48)

The point is this: If you’re going to tell the story of Jesus, you MUST tell the whole story–including the resurrection!

If Jesus isn’t raised, then none of this makes any sense. In that case, He died as a misguided man.

C.S. Lewis wrote,

 “You must make your choice.  Either this man was,Trilemma and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.

It is important to note, that IF Jesus merely died on the cross, but then stayed dead, then he was no different than many other self-deluded ‘messiah’s’ throughout history.

IF, on the other hand, He rose from the dead, then that shows that He was who He said He was, and His death did have the power to be the ‘atoning sacrifice’ (see Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2), and make forgiveness, and Eternal Life, possible for us who believe!

That is a HUGE difference!

The Cross is Mighty–but only because of the Resurrection!

 

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!

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)

Celebrate and Dream

Time.

It marches onward, whether we’re ready or not.

Here we are at the end of 2017, and headed into 2018.

For some, the very fact that you are still here today–in spite of what you’ve gone through in the past year–is a miracle!

For others, you are just ‘ready’ to flip that calendar, and have 2017 over with.

Still others had so much to celebrate in 2017 that you want to savor every last second, and you’re not all that sure that 2018 can measure up.

Whatever your perspective, I want to encourage you to do 2 things: Celebrate, and Dream.

Celebrate what happened in 2017. 

Sure, some of it may have been difficult…even excruciating…but you’re here, and there’s a great chance that you’re a better person today for having gone through it.

Besides…even in 2017 was tough, there were moments to celebrate. Moments of beauty. Moments of tenderness. Moments of elation and celebration.

So take time, today or over the next few days to celebrate those moments. Maybe you should look back through your Facebook, or through your calendar…you’ll remember.

…and when you do, thank God for His grace, His faithfulness, and His blessing!

“Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.                                                                          Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings!” (Psalm 36:5-7)

For some, God has been there…all year. He’s been calling to you, moving your heart to come to Him. For others, you know, by faith in Jesus, that He’s been there. You’ve felt His hands beneath you, you’ve known His faithfulness.

Now, as time marches forward and we get ready to flip that calendar, I also want to encourage you to Dream.

Dream about what 2018 could be. The promise it holds…the opportunities. 

This is as good a time as any to make the changes which could or should have been made earlier. Consider how you want to be different in 2018.

If you’ve never opened your life up to Jesus, I can’t stress it enough–OPEN UP TO HIM, in faith and repentance, TODAY! He is waiting to forgive, restore, love and lead you…but you must submit yourself to Him.

If you have done so, then you already know that today–like every day–is a new opportunity to grow. However, it might not be how it’s been before. It might be that the Lord wants to do something new in your life this year…that He’s been trying to stir your heart and wake you up more, so that you hear the leading of His Spirit more clearly. Maybe He’s been preparing you.

Rather than simply asking God to ‘bless you real good’ in 2018, do this: Dream forward, in the power of the Holy Spirit…what is it that God wants to do in your life? Ask Him for His heart and trust Him for His direction.

Could it be that there’s a ‘step of faith’ He’s been preparing you for? 

Maybe there’s a ‘stronghold’ in your life that has been holding you back, and He wants you to experience VICTORY in 2018!

Maybe there’s a new priority that He wants to lay on your heart and mind in 2018.

Dream forward, in the Spirit…what is He stirring up within you?

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, 
    and no mind has imagined
what God has prepared
    for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

Go ahead: Let God take you to a whole new level in 2018.

New levels of closeness to Him; new levels of faith; new levels of Spirit-driven Power within, new levels of love for those who are lost and blind to their lost-ness…

Celebrate the past, and Dream forward in the future.

God is moving!

He has never failed, and He hasn’t changed!