Power Source

Power.

One thing we all need, and it’s the key to progress.

If you have ‘power’, you can make improvements, invent new things, have comfortable environments, light up dark spaces, etc. When the power goes out, however, you’re stuck.

There seems to be a continual quest to invent/discover new ways of making power go further, or even new ways to get power–the wind and sun, for example.

The idea is that, if we could harness the power of nature, then it would be virtually limitless (and probably cheaper in the long run).

Power is attractive. It is interesting. Think of the stories you’ve read–whether fact or fiction. Very often, there’s a ‘power struggle’ in those stories.

The wildly-popular Avengers case in point. Avengers

In every Avenger’s story is a unique source of power–whether through discovery or accident, each one has a Power Source that makes them special. That’s part of the reason that we love ‘superhero’ movies so much–each has a unique and ‘special’ talent and source of power, and that makes us think that maybe WE have a unique source of power!

If you know me at all, you know that I really do believe that there is A SOURCE of real power–power for life,  power for meaning and purpose, power for eternity, etc. That Source of power is, of course, God.

To those who acknowledge and accept Him, God gives the power to live life the way it was designed to be lived–in submission to Him, in worship of Him, in following Him–for His glory and for our good!

The thing that many of us–even sincere, committed believers–miss, is that the Power comes from GOD, not from us. Not from ‘religion’, not from ‘church’, not from a ‘program’, not from a ‘strategy’…the power is in the RELATIONSHIP with God, through faith in Jesus! This ‘faith’ in Jesus–and the relationship it brings–is THE SOURCE of our Power to change.

Romans 1:16-17:

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

If you are a ‘believer’, but are struggling hard to ‘make it work’, it could be because you’ve put the ‘product’–the ‘victorious Christian life’ before the ‘process’–knowing God more and more, through Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

There IS Power to live in healing, forgiveness, victory,  and freedom…and that all comes from walking closely with Jesus.

That’s why we talk at Kalamazoo Community Church about “Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God”. This is the key to “Life to the full” (John 10:10) that Jesus promised!

Start TODAY to invest in the ‘relational’ aspects of faith–pray, worship, talk with God. These will help you learn not only ‘What’ to do, but the ‘Why’ as well–because of God’s love for you, and yours for Him.

There’s POWER…in the name of JESUS!

 

Thirsty?

My buddies and I loved to play basketball in the summer. We’d spend hours at each others’ houses playing in driveways or on backyard courts. We had no other agenda in 7th and 8th grade…before we got jobs…and loved hanging out.

After hours playing ball in the summer sun at my friend Rob’s house, we’d always do the same thing: We’d go in to his basement (it was nice and cool) and drink ice cold Mountain Dew (the ‘classic’ version). Nothing better…went down fast and smooth. The key was that it was cold, and we were THIRSTY!

Most of you have had that kind of thirst before. Perhaps your drink of choice was ice cold water (maybe even from a hose) or Gatorade, or something like that…but you know that refreshment.

I wonder: Do you have that kind of thirst, spiritually?

Are you ‘thirsty’ for more in your relationship with God?

Think of it this way: If you’re really hot and thirsty, and someone holds an ice cold drink up to you, what do you do? You grab it and chug it!

You would probably not sit down politely and look at it, talk about the condensation on the outside of the cup, discuss how nice it will be to drink it some day…that would be madness! Instead, you’d DRINK IT!

Many of us, when it comes to God, however, simply sit down and politely discuss it…reflect on it…and contemplate it. That’s part of the problem: We look at God as an ‘it’–a force or a concept.

God is an individual. God is a ‘person’. 

He wants us to ‘thirst’ for Him and to want to know Him!

In fact, this is what you and I are designed for! We’re literally created to know Him…if we don’t, life cannot work the way it was designed.

Come, all you who are thirsty,                                                                                                                  come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    without money and without cost.” (Isaiah 55:1-2)

So…are you ‘thirsty’ for more of Him?

If not, you should be…I encourage you to spend some time asking ‘God, if I believe you’re real, WHY do I not desire you more?’

Spend some time praying about that.

If you are a Believer already, you might think, ‘I’m good; I’m in…already going to heaven.’

However, that’s not what I asked about. I asked, ‘Are you Thirsty for more?’ 

If not, you should be.

You need to spend time in prayer asking God to renew your thirst again also!

This thirst is much more important than a physical thirst!

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Let yourself be ‘thirsty’ again…and go to The Source for refreshment!

“All Who are Thirsty”…are YOU one?

Deeper and Higher!

If you are a Believer in Jesus Christ, you know that God loves you.

That, after all, is the main reason that He sent His son into the world!

“God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His son in to the world to condemn the world, but to save the world, through Him.” (John 3:16-17)

Many of us have experienced the love of God–at least, at the ‘introductory’ level. That is, we’ve experienced the power of the Holy Spirit drawing us in to feel His love for us, our conviction of sin, our realization of our need for Him, and helping us to be willing to repent of our sin’open up’ in faith to Him.

That is huge! That is the point where we’ve crossed over from death to life!

At that point, the Holy Spirit changes His approach–from working ‘on’ us to working ‘within’ us. He begins to make us more and more like Christ, transforming our character so that we no longer ‘want’ to sin–rather, we now ‘want’ to follow God. We want to be more like Jesus. We want to say ‘no’ to worldliness and sin, and say ‘yes’ to godliness and obedience.

Yet, for far too many of us, that is where it stops. Our Christian life goes from ‘religious obedience to law’ to ‘desire to change’, but it stops there…we don’t actually see much change!

Is that as good as it gets?

Can we experience more?

At Kalamazoo Community Church (http://www.mykcc.org), we’ve been considering an important teaching of Jesus. He said (John 10:10), ‘The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy; I have come that they (His followers) might have life and have it to the full.”

Question: As a Believer, are you experiencing ‘Life…to the full’?

Life–in abundance?

To me, this simply means ‘life the way that God designed it. Life–with Him as the Source, the Director and the Leader?

It is living ALL AREAS OF MY LIFE in willing subjection to Him…not out of fear, but out of faith. Out of love.

The Love of God is the ‘stream’ that the Christian life ‘flows’ from. If your Christian life is apathetic, stuck in ‘neutral’ or powerless, it’s probably because you’re not ‘in the flow’ of God’s love. You probably believe–with your mind–that God loves you and wants the best for you, but you haven’t really embraced it–with your heart.

…and therefore, you’re not going any ‘higher’ or ‘deeper’ anytime soon.

Around here we talk about ‘Relentlessly pursuing an ever-deepening relationship with God.’

This is what we’re talking about.

It is clear that none of us have gotten so close to Him that His character has ‘rubbed off on us’ sufficiently. This is not because He doesn’t want that closeness and intimacy with us, but because we may not really want it with Him–not if it means real change of lifestyle.

In many ways, it comes down to THIS DECISION (and I’m talking to the Believers):

Do you believe that this world–it’s philosophies and its stuff–holds the key to life and living? OR do you believe that the Love of God holds that key?

Which characterizes our lives more?

Which would other people–who don’t know you, except by how you live–identify for you?

If you think that This world has anything to offer, you’re sadly mistaken and have to do some serious reflection and consideration. In fact, it might just be time for Repentance!

After all, if–as a Believer in Jesus Christ–you (or I) have adopted a lifestyle which says ‘I love the stuff of this world more than Jesus’, or ‘I’m living for this world more than I’m living for God’s glory’, then here’s the hard, cold, truth: You have been unfaithful to God!


1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

James 4:4: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.”

This MATTERS to God!

He wants (and deserves) His children to love Him, worship Him, obey Him and willingly walk with Him! He’s certainly gone ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ to show His love for us…and His grace…but we, far too often, take that for granted.

Hence, our need to Repent of our ways and come to Him humbly, ready to ask Him to move in us, change us, and refine us…for His glory!

This is what James means, as he continues… Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:7-10).

This is certainly not ‘light and fluffy’ teaching, but James is (of course) correct!

Here’s the bottom line: God LOVES you and I with a passion!

He truly wants the best for us–now, and in eternity!

He genuinely wants to bless us with that ‘best’…in James’ words, to “Come near to us” and to “lift us up”.

…and He will do so!

However, He will not share His rightful place on the throne of our lives.

YOUR ASSIGNMENT:

Pray about this. Get in a quiet place and ask God, ‘Lord, do I love this world more than I love You?’

Listen to what He says. Let Him take you through the areas of your life and ‘evaluate’ you…then respond in repentance (if necessary) and renewed worship and obedience.

Know this: Bringing our lives into conformity to His will is ALWAYS the best thing to do!

Surrender to God always leads to blessing!

Fear–a Good Motivator?

Fear.

We’ve all felt it.

We’ve all experienced it.

Something goes ‘bump’ in the night and wakes us up.

Someone threatens us.

Opposition arises to a cause, a belief, a person we hold dear.

Fear can be complex.

It can drive us to a ‘fight or flight’ response.

But we often get it wrong.

Some of the things we should ‘fight’ we choose to flee from.

Others we should flee from, we stubbornly stand and fight.

Think of Temptation, for example: There are many times we should simply flee the situation when we’re tempted, but we sometimes tell ourselves that ‘we can handle it’, and we stay near. Oftentimes, that is when we become most vulnerable to falling.

Other times, we should fight…for example, when opposition to our faith arises. A stand we’re taking, a belief we have may be entirely consistent with our faith…yet, opposition arises. In fact, opposition is increasing to many of the Scriptural teachings, which not long ago, were respected and widely held.

So, what should we do in those cases?

We stand…strong…and fight!

“Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19-20); “We must obey God, rather than men!” (Acts 5:29).

In those cases, it was more important to Peter that he please God, rather than taking the easier way out and pleasing men–even, in this case, men who had some degree of influence over their immediate future.

In fact, there are many times in the life of an average believer in Jesus that it becomes difficult to stand with Him.

In that case, it’s not a question of ‘whether’ you let ‘fear’ guide you, but rather ‘Which fear’?

Do you ‘fear’ men? Do you ‘fear’ your friends, the ‘popular’ kids, the ‘bullies’, or even the terrorists?

OR…do you ‘fear’ God, and disappointing Him. Do you ‘fear’ letting Him down? Do you ‘fear’ compromising and causing His name to be maligned in some way?

Proverbs 1:7: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

I, for one, do not want to give in to the fear of others’ opinions. If any ‘fear’ should drive me, it’s being ‘afraid’ of compromise and hurting the heart of my loving heavenly Father.

So, by all means: Allow FEAR to motivate you: Just make sure it’s the right ‘fear’!

You are a Child Of God! You need not fear anything!

 

Prayer: God’s Love Language

I was thinking the other day that, if God had a ‘primary’ love language, it would probably be Prayer.

Many of you have heard about and/or read Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages. The idea behind this book is that we all have a primary ‘love language’ that resonates with us, and therefore, if I want to show someone love, I should do it in a way which ‘connects’ with them. If someone is an ‘acts of service’ person and all I give them is ‘words of affirmation’, those words may fail to fully communicate my love, no matter how sincere they are.

Now, I realize that, as the Scriptures say, “God is Love”. (1 John 4:8). He does not ‘lack’ any of the ‘love languages’, and He is able to communicate His love fully, completely and without our help.

However, God–as a ‘relational’ being–wants to communicate with us. The perfect Heavenly Father wants to connect with us as His children. He wants to communicate His love for us, and He loves when we communicate our love for Him.

This is the way with any good, intimate, growing and vibrant relationship–there is frequent, authentic, and honest communication as a major part of it.

So, how do we communicate with God?

There are many ways–

Worshiping Him–His character, His attributes;

Thanking Him–His actions, His goodness toward us;

Enjoying Him–His beauty, His blessings…

In all of these–and so many more, PRAYER is a major part of it.

Praying is, in essence, communication with our Father. It involves real, honest sharing of what’s on my heart and mind, what my concerns are, what my desires are, etc.

However, real ‘prayer’ also involves listening to God. It involves quieting myself and asking God to clarify His heart, His desire and His will.

Very often, it brings me to a specific Scripture, or a Truth that He wants to emphasize in my life.

Recently, it’s been a lot about the Fatherhood of God, and enjoying that relationship. Father and child praying

As a dad myself, I remember how wonderful and beautiful it was, when my kids were little, to have them snuggle up next to me and pray. Often, I would lead them, but increasingly as they got older, they would express their own thoughts. How wonderful it was for me to hear their young hearts, and hear them praying for their relatives and friends, their concerns, and expressing their love to God.

This childlike communication–innocent, real, and genuine–was beautiful…and that’s exactly what God is looking for from us.

We need not ‘dress it up’ or make it more ‘formal’. We can come to Him without notice, and go freely into His presence* when needed.

The Scriptures say, after all, that For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” (Romans 8:14-17)

and again,“Because you are his [children], God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” (Galatians 4:6)

The point is that God, in His love and mercy, has adopted us as His children. He wants us to be close to Him.

He wants to knock the walls down between us and Himself. He’s been doing that through Jesus. Hebrews 4: 15-16: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one [Jesus] who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Because of His love and grace, God sent Jesus to pay for our sin.

Because of Jesus we have been forgiven and adopted by faith into God’s family.

Because He is risen and interceding for us, we have access to God.

Let us keep that access going by regular, authentic, honest and deep communication. Your Heavenly Father will love that!

 

 

*I’m aware–we’re alwaysin His presence, since God is omnipresent.

You and You Alone!

You, and You Alone are Holy.

You, and You Alone are Good.

You, and You Alone, Lord, are Righteous.

You, and You Alone are True.

You, and You Alone are Perfect.

You, and You Alone are Love.

You, and You Alone are Gracious, Merciful and Patient.

You, and You Alone sent Your Son, my Lord, Jesus.

You, and You Alone accepted His sacrifice on my behalf.

You, and You Alone gave me…LIFE!

You, and You Alone show me Grace and Mercy.

You and You Alone sent Your Spirit upon me.

You, and You Alone give me gifts for your glory, and the good of Your Church.

You, and You Alone lead me and guide me in Transformation.

You, and You Alone give me Power, Courage and Strength to do whatever You, and You Alone have called me to do.

You, and You Alone deserve all worship and all praise.

You, and You Alone, deserve glory, honor, and power.

You, and You Alone are high, and lifted up.

You , an You Alone are exalted above the Earth.

You, and You Alone are exalted above the heavens, and the entire universe praises You, and You Alone.

You and You Alone are the Creator of all these!

You, and You Alone are worthy of my praise, my service, my devotion, my surrender.

You, and You Alone, Lord.

I love you!

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.

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)

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