Archive for the 'encouragement' Category

Jesus was a man.

Cross

One of my struggles is to remember that Jesus was a man who walked the earth and lived His life. The way I remind myself of such a basic truth is to make Jesus personal. This all probably sounds very fundamental, but I think a lot of people are missing this.

Let’s start with some Scripture:

Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped;
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

Let’s think about this. I walk up to you and I say, “I’m the Son of God.” You’d either laugh at me or think, “He is out of his mind.” And then I say, “Come follow me.” You’d probably think to yourself, “Um… No thanks. I don’t follow crazy people.”

Ok. So now that we’ve established that I’m crazy, imagine some random dude walking up to you and saying, “I’m the Son of God.” You’d either laugh at him or think, “He is out of his mind.” And then he says, “Come follow me.” You’d probably think to yourself, “Um… No thanks. I don’t follow crazy people.” See a pattern here?

So you may be thinking, “Well since Jesus has already come, I have no reason to believe you or this random dude.” Well, ok. But why would you have believed Jesus?

“When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.'” Mark 3:21 Timeout. Jesus’ family just said, “He is out of his mind.” See a pattern here?

Does this make sense?
He was crazy (John 10:20). He was blasphemous (John 10:33). He was counter-cultural (Mark 2:17). He was miraculous (John 12:37). He was hanging out with “sinners” (Mark 2:15). He told the religious folks that the prostitutes were entering the kingdom of God ahead of them (Matt 21:31)! This is not the guy we invite to speak at our church.

“He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” John 1:10,11

It’s easy to look at the people around Jesus and wonder how they completely missed it. But if you can break Jesus down in this frame of mind, I would bet there would be a lot of Christians saying, “Wait. I’m following this guy? I’m trusting in what this guy said? I’m a ‘disciple’ of this guy? When did I agree to that?” (Matthew 7:21-23)

I have had so many guys tell me that they have always been a Christian or have always believed in God. If that’s you, I’d like to stop you right here — You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder (James 2:19). If a belief in God leads to salvation, the demons are more saved than most of us – because they actually know the character of God to the point that they shudder.

We have separated Jesus from God. Everyone says “God bless you” when you sneeze and “God bless America” on the 4th of July. Change that to “Jesus” and you will get some strange looks. A belief in God is culturally acceptable. What makes a person crazy is when they claim that Jesus the Christ is this God.

Is casual faith acceptable? Can you believe in the Jesus of the Bible and still fit into this world? I think we’ve missed it, because Jesus didn’t come begging for you to ask Him into your heart. He came offering His righteousness in exchange for every ounce of your being. You can’t claim to follow Jesus and still be of this world. You just can’t. Jesus said some pretty crazy stuff that doesn’t exactly increase our comfort and definitely doesn’t sit well with the world.

“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” (2 Timothy 3:12). This is the one thing that moved me from a belief in God to following Jesus (the topic of suffering to be exact, as I heard it taught in Secret Church: The Cross and Suffering).

If you are a truly a Christian… you are crazy… so live like it. You’re placing your faith in a man who walked the earth and claimed to be the Son of God. You’re not normal. Quit trying to fit into this world… because you can’t.

use words.

Quotes, quotes, quotes.

People love quotes. I love quotes. To me, a good quote is like a slab of meat that you can just keep on chomping and it just keeps on tasting good.

“A good quote is like a slab of meat that you can just keep on chomping and it just keeps on tasting good.” -Anonymous

See what I did there? People love words between quotation marks. Give it some italics and a huge quotation mark and whatever you said now has validity. Sadly, there are many quotes, expressions, and proverbs that people attribute to Scripture or to Christianity that are complete garbage (see featured image). They come out of mouths quicker than Scripture and are spoken with the authority of Scripture. My favorite is…

“God helps those who help themselves.” -Not Jesus

I mean… come on! There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs… It’s gotta be in there somewhere. And actually, through the power of Google, I found a verse that is very similar:

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” -Qur’an 13:11

Oh… whoops. Wrong book.

The next quote (which I intended to be the only one I brought up) has an interesting history in my life:

“Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” -St. Francis of Assisi

I remember the first time I heard it. I gave it a hearty, Christian “Mmm.” There’s some meat right there. How powerful. Seriously. Think about it. Live your life in such a way that you communicate that Jesus lived, died, and was resurrected without speaking a single word. Um… Not even Jesus did that.
I loved this quote. How great is it that you can communicate Christ to people without even speaking a word? That right there cuts your chances of awkwardness and persecution down to a very manageable level. Thankfully, a friend opened my eyes to how untrue this really is.

“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? … Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.” Romans 10:14,17

If you want people to see Jesus through your good deeds, serving, and unnatural living and loving, then point them to Jesus (Matthew 5:16, 1 Peter 2:12). The easiest way to do that is to speak Jesus’ name. I can ask to pray for or with someone, but if I don’t tell them who I’m praying to, I could be praying to anything or anybody. I can unnaturally love a unlovable person, but people would probably attribute it to a good heart or a good momma before they tie it to Jesus. You may even presume that people in the South assume you’re a Christian, but that isn’t the case these days. Even if it was the case, that’s a lot of doctrine you’re trying to nonverbally communicate.

SPEAK Jesus’ name! “Gospel” means “good news.” People share news, especially when it’s good. Don’t get caught in the trap of assuming your actions are enough to lead someone to Christ. If you can think back and directly attribute your actions to someone’s salvation, then please share your story with me. Our actions may lead others to see something different in us, but people won’t walk away saved. Don’t be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord (2 Timothy 1:8). Christ must be spoken.

Fun fact: Up until I sat down to write this post, I attributed this quote to St. Francis of Assisi. I know nothing of St. Francis of Assisi, anyway… well, besides that quote. There actually isn’t any record of St. Francis of Assisi ever saying those words and he was actually theologically sound. Who knew?

maintenance vs sustenance

Maintenance vs. sustenance.
I don’t know if this is a new idea or something that has been brought up to me in that past that I’m just now recalling… but it’s just about to consume me.

I have spent the last several weeks becoming more and more aware of the fruitless pursuits of my life. My intentions are to pursue Jesus with everything, but I’m still continuing in worldly pursuits. Hopefully some familiar imagery of Peter walking on water can help illustrate my point. Peter looks at Jesus walking on the water, sees the impossibility of the entire situation, and is then called to step out. Peter is obedient and steps out. He’s standing on water. In my life, I’m standing on the water, staying afloat, but I’m wearing a life jacket. Jesus isn’t going to look at me and say, “Now that’s faith and obedience right there. You’re standing on the water!” He’d probably shake His head at me as I boast to my friends about the miracle I just performed.

So let me translate this to real life. I know Christ, I understand His calling for all of His followers to go, I go on mission trips to make His Name known, I seek Him to be the first in my life. Yay! I’m walking on water! All of these things truly are miracles and the work of Christ in my life. But what bothers me is this horseshoe life jacket that is kind of itchy and scratches against my neck (you’ve worn one). I’m working an 8am to 5pm job that usually requires me to work 7am to 9pm or 10pm. I have a house. I have a car. I have a wife. I have things.

John 6:26
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.”

(This post originated a month or so ago. Thankfully I was presented with the above Scripture tonight and was able to draw the parallel to my maintenance vs. sustenance postulate.)
These people had their temporary needs met and they wanted more. Their food digested and they were hungry again… so they went back to the one that met that need. Maintenance.

My car, my clothes, my status, my job, my home, my friends, my salary. All of these things have standards set by someone, somewhere. And I have to meet these standards…. and believe it or not, they’re not easy to meet or maintain. The car breaks, the clothes stain, the weeds grow. Our lives are centered around maintenance… Maintaining an appearance… Maintaining the American Dream.

John 6:27
“Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

Jesus said to these people, ‘Look. I’ve got a bread that will satisfy your hunger for eternity. Quit pursuing this earthly bread that doesn’t last and pursue me.’ He didn’t say, ‘Lay back and I’ll give you my bread.’ He said, “Work… for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.” Sustenance.

I want to be sustained. Maintaining the things of this life is tiring… and futile. Jesus said that He is the source of food that endures to eternal life. That’s what I want. Don’t give me any of this temporary bread that meets my temporary needs. Give me a bread that ultimately satisfies all of my hunger for eternity. Sustain me with who You are.

 

If you are spending your time or efforts on anything that you can’t take with you when you die… then what is the point? Measure your life up against eternity and you’ll realize that you don’t have any time to waste. Don’t maintain your life, your status, and your possessions. Be sustained… by pursuing Christ and receiving His gift that meets every need and every desire.




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