Wait…Why Did Christ Come?

all-about-me-boyI was driving through town this week listening to Christmas music on a Christian radio station.  In the gap between the songs, a lady came on and said “Jesus comes to make us free from all the things that ruin our lives.  That’s what I try to remember this time of year.”  With that another Christmas song came on and I was left yelling at the inanimate radio.  (A problem that occasionally occurs in my vehicle!)

Is that true?  Did Jesus simply come to make us free from all the things that ruin our lives?  What did this woman mean by this statement?  It would seem she meant what many “me centered” Christians think:  Jesus came to make our lives better and happier.  He came to take away the yucky things that can foul up our lives.  However, could we have all the yucky things taken away that ruin our lives and still perish in Hell?  Absolutely.  Not only that, but if Jesus simply came to free us from that which ruins our lives, what does that mean if we live a life of hardship in which our life seems ruined?  What does it mean for the Christian in Iraq who lost their daughter and is permanently displaced.  Wouldn’t it mean Christ ultimately failed then?  Would the 10 Apostles who were killed affirm this woman’s statement?

Why did Jesus come?  This is a deeply important question and one we should ponder, especially as Christmas approaches.  The Bible is crystal clear on this point.  Paul states in I Timothy 1:15, “This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”  Jesus came to rescue us from eternal damnation and reconcile us to God the Father.  You see, our biggest problem wasn’t and isn’t things that ruin our lives.  That is contemporary “me-centered” Christianity.  Our biggest problem is that we are dead in sin and enemies of God who rebel against God.  Yet, because Christ came, we can be made alive and our rebellion can be forgiven.  We can be reconciled to the God who made us and loves us!  “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:6, 8-10)

The reason Jesus came is far greater and more grand than to make our lives easier and take away things that ruin our lives.  He came to rescue us so that we can be spared the judgment of God and spend eternity with Him!  How can one experience this reconciliation with God?  Romans 10:9-10 states, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.  For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Now that’s good news!  That is a reason for celebrating Christmas, even in the midst of heartache and pain, suffering and grief!  So, this Christmas, let’s biblically reflect on why Jesus came and praise God for this marvelous, undeserved gift!

King Forever

Simple-gold-crown-collection-for-women-wearI was coming down a mountain last year during hunting season and was starting to get a little concerned.  I was alone and in an area I had never hunted before.  I was waiting for the timber to open up so I could see exactly where I was, but it just didn’t seem to be happening!  In my mind, I began to second guess myself.  “Maybe I had gotten myself turned around?”, I questioned.  Yet, I was pretty sure I was going the right direction.  I was reminded of my handy new app on my phone that had a forest service map on it.  The app told me exactly where I was on the map.  I pulled it out, found my exact location, and realized I was indeed going the right direction.  I just hadn’t gotten as far as I assumed I had.

So often we need a quick reminder of what we already know.  Sometimes we need a perspective check.  We need to be reminded of the truth that guides us.  Psalm 29:10-11 is a great reminder of truth we already know.  It is a great perspective check.  It states:  “The Lord sat enthroned at the Flood, and the Lord sits as King forever.  The Lord will give strength to His people; The Lord will bless His people with peace.”

What a great reminder!  Sometimes life can feel like such a roller coaster ride and leave us feeling tossed to and fro.  We need to be reminded:  “Oh yeah!  God sat enthroned at the Flood”  Even when the world was at the height of chaos and destruction, God sat enthroned.  He sat as the King then and He sits as the King now.

So, be reminded this day.  God sat as King before, He sits as King now, and He will sit as King forever.  What does this mean?  Look at verse 11.  He will give you strength.  He will give you peace.  He can do give you these things regardless of what is going on in your life because He is the eternal King who forever will reign!

An Ordinary Life?

Tree“I’m just trying to prove that maybe, just maybe, I can do more than what I was built for.”  This is a line spoken by a little crop dusting plane named “Dusty” from the hit Pixar Movie “Planes”.  This theme is developed and expanded upon throughout the movie.

How should Christians think about such things?  What is the biblical approach to how one lives life?  There is much truth in what Dusty says.  Unfortunately, as the movie develops, it becomes clear that to live a life doing menial tasks, such as dusting crops, is unacceptable.  The movie seems to end teaching that if you aren’t following your dreams and doing amazing things, you are living a dull and boxed in ordinary life.  The person making parts for a car is not as important as the person driving a race car.  The farmer working in his field is not as important as the 5 star chef.  This mentality is disastrous to a society.  In this mentality, one’s identity is tied not to their motivation and effort, but the glory of what they do.

While it seems the movie takes the theme far beyond what is wise and biblical, it is helpful for us to consider what it means to not just live an ordinary life.  The first question that would need to be answered is what are we called to?  Ephesians 1:4 states, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace.”  What are we called to?  To live for the glory of God.

The second question that needs to be answered is how does the Bible define an extraordinary life?  It is clear from the Bible that ordinary is not defined by task.  In other words, a farmer is not less ordinary than a 5 star chef.  A slave is not less ordinary than a wealthy master.  Biblically, ordinary is defined as living for self.  Wow!  That is a twist on our society’s way of thinking isn’t it!  When speaking to slaves, Paul writes, “Whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ.”(Colossians 3:23-34).

The final question is how do we live an extraordinary life?  Psalm 1 states that blessed is the man whose “Delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He shall be like a tree planted by rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.”  How do we move beyond an ordinary life?  Pursuing God through His Word and living in accordance with His Word.

So, in conclusion, how do you escape living the ordinary life?  You live a sacrificial life pursing God, living in service to Christ, for the glory of God, regardless of your task or career.  Are you a secretary?  A janitor?  A business executive?  A stay-at-home mom?  A manager?  Whatever task you have been called to, you can live an extraordinary life by pursuing God and living for the glory of God.

Casting Crowns captures this well in their new song “Thrive”.  The chorus states “Its time for us to more than just survive…we were made to thrive!”  They define thriving as pursuing God through His Word and living for His glory instead of our own.  Give it a listen and examine your life!  Are you living an ordinary life?

Cry Out!

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Every parent experiences this moment.  The moment when their infant finds their lungs and attains a new level of crying.  They move beyond the soft and somewhat cute little cry to the rattle the windows and shake the doors cry.  It seems as if they are crying from the tips of their toes as they produce noise that immediately grabs the attention of the parent!

In Psalm 119:145, we read, “I cry out with my whole heart; Hear me, O LORD!  I will keep Your statutes.”  This is a fascinating verse to ponder!  Just as an infant cries out with all of their being, so we are to cry out to God with all of our being.  Yet, so often, we only cry out when we reach a trial in life we don’t feel we can handle on our own.  The rest of the time, we offer up a token prayer to God as we go on living our lives with our heart fixed on other things.

What would our lives look like if we lived crying out to God with our whole hearts?  How much more peace and joy would we have?  How much less pride and selfishness would we have?  How much more effective would we be in Gospel ministry?

Notice also how this cry is coupled with keeping God’s Word.  What we see here in this verse is a rejection of self-reliance and instead a humble dependence upon God.  The psalmist strives to keep God’s Word because he realizes that they are the words of life from the Author of life.

Let’s be people who cry out to God with our whole being and keep His Word because we humbly depend upon Him and reject living self-reliant lives!

Consider the Implications

TombEverything has implications!  Some implications are quite small while others are quite large.  Sometimes, we fail to consider the implications of things and it can lead to heartache & disaster!  Unfortunately, many Christians fail to consider the implications of the resurrection.  They think about it at Easter, but then don’t really consider them the remaining portion of the year.  Yet, it is vitally important for us to consider the implications of the resurrection!

The implications of the resurrection are massive and huge!  From I Corinthians 15, we see six important implications of the resurrection.  The first implication is that the resurrection makes the Gospel true and effective.  Or, to put it another way…it authenticates the Gospel.  In verses 13-14, we read “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.  And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty.”  If Christ is not risen, then He could not endure the penalty for sin and therefore we are still carrying our sins.  Our entire confidence in Christ is because He is alive!

The second implication of the resurrection is that our faith is valid and well-founded.  We read in verse 14, “If Christ is not risen…you faith is also empty.”  It is valid to believe in Christ because of the resurrection! It is not a blind leap in the dark!  Our faith is full and based upon truth.

The third implication of the resurrection is that we will also be resurrected as Christ was (verses 42-49).  We are united to Christ and because Christ arose bodily from the grave, we will as well!  We will have glorified bodies that will still be us, except without the effects of sin!  Jesus didn’t rise from the grave with some crazy, unrecognizable body!  Although He had a glorified body, people still recognized Him as Jesus.

The fourth implication of the resurrection is that death will be abolished.  Verse 26 states, “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death.”  The penalty for sin is death and yet death will be abolished because sin will be no more!  We will live with Christ where there will be no more death!  What a glorious thought!

The fifth implication of the resurrection is that Christ now reigns and will triumphantly deliver the Kingdom to God (verses 24, 28).  Jesus is reigning in glory, majesty, and power, working to bring about the Kingdom of God.  He is working to defeat Satan and permanently destroy sin and evil.  He is working to rescue the children of God and deliver them safely to God the Father.

The final implication of the resurrection is that we can serve the Lord with confidence.  At the conclusion of this amazing chapter on the resurrection of Jesus, we read, “Therefore, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.”  We can stand firm and abound in the serving the Lord, all because Jesus is alive and reigning.  Not only can we be abounding in serving the Lord, what we do for Him is not in vain!  Therefore, we need to ask ourselves the question, “Whose kingdom am I most concerned about serving?  Mine or God’s…and does my life support my answer?”

The implications of the resurrection are HUGE!  Certainly, this is not an exhaustive list!  But, now that Easter is over, let us continue to reflect upon these implications and in them find joy and peace!

The Snow Fort

snow fortThe legendary snow fort.  Who in their right mind would possibly ever think of even attempting to come against a 10 year old who sought refuge in a snow fort filled with snow balls?  Or so the 10 year old thinks as they craft their fortress with visions of winter dominance in their minds.

One of my favorite cartoons is Calvin & Hobbes.  In one cartoon strip, Calvin & Hobbes eagerly go outside to build the most intimidating and dominant snow fort in the history of snow forts.  They stand in the yard and state where the entrance will be, where the towers will be, where the armory will be, and where the walls will be.  In their minds, the fort will span much of the yard and be filled with enough snow balls to support 5 winter’s worth of war.  They eagerly begin their massive project, only to discover the snow isn’t that deep and it isn’t packing at all.  They begin to be overwhelmed by the immensity of their vision.  Then, they begin to get cold.  The final panel shows them sitting in the house in front of the fire drawing the snow fort while drinking hot cocoa.  Calvin says something along the lines of “Sometimes its better to dream about something to actually do it!”

I wonder if we are like that sometimes in how we rest in the strength of God.  You see, God has promised to be significantly better than a snow fort that will melt when the season changes!  In Psalm 46:1, we read “God is our refuge and strength.  A very present help in trouble.”  God is both our place of refuge, but He is also our strength!  Just ponder that for a few moments!  Only God has the strength to bring us through any situation.  Only God has complete control of all things that surround us.  Only God can deliver us from death.  Only God has the wisdom we need for the situations of life.  Only God is present with us wherever we go and wherever we are.

Yet, I fear perhaps we dream about resting in God more than we actually do it.  Perhaps we talk about it more than actually live relying upon God.  Let us be people who rest in God!  Let us be people who run to God and seek His strength.  What is the result of living like this?  Well, the Psalmist states in verse 2, “Therefore we will not fear, even though the earth be removed.”

 

 

 

 

 

Thankful….for All Things

Child-playing-with-toysAnother Thanksgiving is upon us.  I am not sure how that happened so quickly!  But, here I sit, watching the black night slowly turn gray as the sun is creeping West, bringing light upon a new Thanksgiving Day.  I am compelled to consider that perhaps we need to think of Thanksgiving a little differently than we do!

I fear we often view Thanksgiving the same way a child sits in a playroom with their toys.  They gather their toys to themselves, dividing them from the rest of the children.  The child will then be grateful for all of their toys as they protectively guard them from all the other children.  “I am thankful for MY truck.  I am thankful for MY play set.  I am thankful for MY doll.”  

I wonder if we often do the same thing, just in a “grown-up” way.  “I am thankful for MY home.  I am thankful for MY family.  I am thankful for MY vehicles.”  It is good to be thankful for what we have been blessed with.  Don’t get me wrong!  But, should we not also be thankful for what we don’t have?  Should we not also be thankful for that which does not go our way?  Should we not also be thankful for what others have?  Should we not also be thankful for the trials that come our way?

Job provides us with a stunning example.  After Job had lost everything, his wealth, possessions, children, and health, his wife tells him to basically give up on God, curse God, and die.  Yet, Job’s response is “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”  

Job’s statement stings us today because we are thankful for what God has given us and we hoard it to ourselves.  Yet, when a trial comes or we lose something, we are quickly found in despair, maybe even shaking our fist heavenward, crying out “Why God?  How could You let this happen?  Don’t you love me?”  Our attitude of thanksgiving is often intimately tied to the amount we have hoarded to ourselves and the happiness we have received from them.

Yet, the Bible calls us to a much deeper level of Thanksgiving.  Paul writes in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  This is the level of thanksgiving the Bible calls us to:  Thankfulness for everything.  Thankful for financial hardship?  Thankful for poor health?  Thankful for a difficult trial?  Why be thankful for things such as these?  Because God is at work in all things (that’s right….all things) for our ultimate good and His glory (Romans 8:28, 11:36).

So, this Thanksgiving, let’s be thankful for all things, even the things that are not as we wish they were.  Let us be thankful for both the good and the adversity.  Let us be thankful because we have a good, wise, loving, and sovereign God who works all things for our ultimate good and His glory.  Let’s be thankful for everything, because this is God’s will for us!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Scary!

imagesI am not one who really equates scary with fun.  I don’t like scary movies.  I don’t like being scared.  I don’t like doing something scary and calling it recreation!  Perhaps life is scary enough on its own without my adding to it?  Or maybe I am just a pansy!  However, there is one scary thing I feel compelled to do.  I don’t necessarily want to do it because it is scary.  Yet, I fear I must.  Do you know what it is?  It is a prayer.  It is one of the scariest prayers you will ever pray.

“Cleanse me from secret faults…Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and see if there is any wicked way in me.” (Psalm 19:12; 139:23)  Now that’s scary!  David is admitting that there is sin in his life he has no idea is there!  Deep in the recesses of his heart lies sin that David is unaware of.  There is wickedness in David’s heart that hinders his love for God and his love for others.  He begs of God to reveal these sins to him and to cleanse him from them.  David does not want sin to have dominion in his life and so he prays for it to be exposed.  Why?  So he can have deeper joy and deeper peace and deeper love for God, as well as deeper love for others.

Do you want to do something scary?  Stop focusing on the sins of other people and ask God to expose the sin in your life so that you can grow in Him.  What would our church look like if this was a regular prayer among all of us?  What would your life look like if this was a regular prayer of yours?

Oh God, I know the depth of my sin is beyond even my comprehension.  I praise You that in Your grace, You have reached down and rescued me from My sin through Jesus Christ’s life, death, and resurrection.  I am trusting in Jesus as my only hope for my sins!  I know that even now, sin still lurks in my heart in depths that I cannot even see.  God, would you please search my heart and reveal my sin to me?  My heart is desperately sinful and only You can deliver me from these sins.  Keep me humble Lord that I may grow in You so as to better glorify You and love others.  Cleanse me from the sins that I cannot even see.  Keep working in my heart for my good and your glory!  Thank you for the hope that is found in you and thank you that you are faithful to forgive my sin and cleanse me from my unrighteousness.

Now that is scary!  But….it is a scary that is well worth it!  

Vomit? Yuck!

Vomit

I am no stranger to vomit.  I wish I was.  I suppose this is a small price to pay for having children.  Last year, the stomach flu went through our home, not once, but twice and all within a few weeks.  Twice, we have all gotten the stomach flu within hours of each other.  Everyone laying around throwing up at the same time.  Great fun!  There is nothing like cleaning up a child’s vomit and then having to go throw up yourself.  While I am no stranger to vomit, I must admit I despise it.  Vomit is not pleasant, no matter how you look at it!

Clearly vomit has been a subject of disgust for centuries.  In Revelation 3, as Jesus speaks of the church of Laodicea, He states, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot, I would wish you were cold or hot.  So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.”  Hmmmmm….I don’t think we are supposed to think that is a good thing!

What was the problem with the Laodiceans?  They were saying they were Christians, but they were not growing in the Lord.  Later, Jesus says to them “Be zealous and repent!”  In other words, live wholeheartedly for Christ!  Be zealous for the Lord!  Don’t be content with the status quo!  Constantly repent over sin and continually pursue Christ!

You see, the Christian life is a life of transformation.  We are not to be stagnant, but growing in the Lord!  We are to be growing to love God more and growing to love others more.  We are to be constantly putting away sin through repentance and deepening our trust in the Lord.  Jesus wants all of us.  Does He have all of you?

How do you grow in the Lord?  How can you be zealous for the Lord?  How can you change?  How can you grow out of anger, depression, anxiety, pride, impure thoughts, materialism, etc.?  These are big questions and important ones!  Romans 12:1-2 states we are to live our lives as a sacrifice to God and “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  How can our mind be transformed?  By applying God’s Word to our lives in every area and living out of the truth of the Gospel.

We will spend the next several months discussing this process on the first Wednesday of each month at The Journey.  The title of this series is “Its Time to Change!”  We will be looking at what it takes to be zealous for the Lord so as to not be the content of vomit!

Take Another Step

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Take another step.  One foot in front of the other.  Take another step.  Those words rang in my mind as we climbed a mountain this summer.  The 3.5 miles were constant uphill with no break.  It was hot and my legs were getting tired. Take another step.  It would have been easy to slow down and eventually stop.  Press on.  As I crested the top of the mountain, it was worth the climb.  The view was spectacular!

Sometimes this is the perspective we need to have in life.  Quite frankly, there are times when life is down right hard!  Being a Christian doesn’t remove one from life’s hardships and struggles and those who claim it does have not read much of the Bible.

Jesus experienced great hardship.  He said that even foxes have places to sleep but He did not (Luke 9:58).  All of the Apostles experienced great hardship and they all lost their lives for the sake of the Gospel, with the exception of John who was exiled to an island.  Paul went into great detail in his hardships, yet he gives us amazing perspective in them!

“We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed-always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.”  He then went on to say, “Therefore we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.  For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen.  For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”  (2 Corinthians 4:8-10, 16-18)

Wow!  What an important lesson we learn here!  Yes, life can be difficult, but keep our eyes on Jesus and make our purpose be living for His glory!  In light of eternity, our time here is short!  Therefore, we must always live with an eye on eternity.

The temptation for us is to look away from Jesus and begin looking at our circumstances and how we feel in our circumstances.  Then, we respond to our feelings instead of responding to the truths of God’s Word!  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2), and keep pressing on.  Take another step.  Paul said it this way in Philippians 3:13-14:

“Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

So, take another step!  Press on!  One foot in front of the other, fixing our eyes on Jesus and trusting in God, who is infinite in wisdom, completely sovereign, perfect in love, and in all ways good!

Steven Curtis Chapman, on his latest album, captures this well in his song “Take Another Step”.  May it encourage you!