If The Jesus Fits

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                I sat in church on Palm Sunday and I imagined the scene of Jesus on a colt, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. I imagine the people yelling “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” I imagine seeing all of the people praising the Savior and also remembered that there were many plotting to arrest Him. There were many who did not believe He was the foretold Messiah. I couldn’t imagine how people who knew about His miracles, about all of the prophecies He fulfilled, and still could not accept Him. I see things have not changed even today.

                I wonder why people don’t believe in God. I can’t understand how they can think all of the things of this world are here by luck and chance. Then there are people that do believe in God, but look for any way to get to Him other than Jesus. I see all of these world religions that seek to please and earn their god(s) through deeds. They follow gods who show human emotions and react in accordance with those emotions. They cannot comprehend a god that is beyond their comprehension. They cannot worship a god that they cannot fit into a box they understand and can then manipulate.

                Christians follow a God who is too large to understand with a human mind, too almighty to react emotionally toward His people, too great to change with the times, and loving enough to seek His children through the sacrifice of His only son. These concepts are difficult to a heart that isn’t enlightened with the Holy Spirit. Just like the people who denied Christ as He entered into Jerusalem to give His life so that we might be reunited with the Father, people still deny Him for similar reasons.

                The people that rejected Jesus during His life expected a warrior king who would defeat their enemies through battle. They could not comprehend a king that would defeat human depravity and sinfulness through the ways of God in Heaven. They wanted a king that fit into their human minded box, that did exactly what they expected, and matched their brokenness. People expected a strong king and rejected a powerful king. No person who isn’t full of the Holy Spirit can understand overcoming strength with weakness, pride with humility, anger with kindness, heartlessness with compassion and hatred with love. In the same way, people today reject Jesus because it requires selflessness, faith, humility, and other ideas that don’t allow them to serve their own purposes. They want to have a manipulatable God that allows them to do what they want with Him in their personal box. They settle for what’s good and miss what is best. This concept falls in line with entitled and easily offended culture we live in.

                Live a life that reaches out to the lost as an example of the God we follow. Let your life reflect the light of Christ and show the power that our King has over this dark world. Show them the power of a God that cannot be put into a box, the love of a God that is unconditional, and the heart of a God that would come to earth and die to pay for our salvation. Imitate our King as the world around is rejects the one that thankfully is beyond comprehension of this world’s darkness.

Softened Heart of Conviction

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Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher (Master), this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test (tempt) him, that they might have some charge to bring against (accuse) him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, (being convicted by their own conscience) they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:2-11

                The stirring behind this post started when my pastor mentioned these verses in church and then grew to many things as I saw how many lessons Jesus had for us in one interaction. Read the passage above. I have added the King James wording in parenthesis into the ESV translation. The use of multiple translations adds so much depth and character to these moments.

                I see the concept of conviction brought up and the way Jesus not only handles the situation but also the example our Savior gives us. He shows how we are to face our society, which is strikingly similar to this situation. We live in a world that is more concerned with finger pointing than solutions. We are surrounded by people that build up their own position by taring down the position of their neighbor. Conviction is a tricky concept. Self-conviction is exponentially more powerful and heart changing than conviction from others. Self-conviction also includes the work of the Holy Spirit on a heart that has wandered from God’s path. People get so caught up in driving a point deeper, trying to hurt the person doing wrong or build a higher personal position from the mis-step, that the concept of reconciliation and healing have no place to develop. People get so caught up in personal vindication and gain from the pain and wrong doing of others that relationships suffer. Not only the relationship between the people involved but their relationships with everyone else who sees the situation.

                If you read carefully, we see men using the sin of a woman to try and “test (tempt)” Jesus into walking into their planned “accusation.” The men did not care about what she had done as much as they wanted to build up their positions held in Old Testament Law. Their position/ power was held in people’s reliance on the Law. They are attacking the connection to God through His Son, founded on love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and kindness. Also see Fruits of the Spirit. Sit for a moment and recognize the motive here. They even call Jesus “teacher (master)” to give him a platform that they can kick out from under Him.

                Of course, Jesus shows us exactly what the heart of God looks like. He allows the conviction in the woman’s heart to grow as her accusers attack Him. He then offers to allow the men to escalate the situation and expose their motive. If you look at the KJV version of verse 8 you will see “(He)”, let that soak in. “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Think about who has the authority to cast the stone, the only stone. Capital ‘h’ – He – “who is without sin” = Jesus himself.

                Now that we see that Jesus is the only one who has the authority to cast the stone of conviction, and we see the conviction of the scribes and Pharisees drives them away empty handed in terms of bringing accusation against Jesus; we look for the lesson Jesus has for His followers. A single conviction softens a heart, a repeated conviction hardens that same heart. He could have scolded her with metaphorical stones. He could have explained her sin to her. There was no need. Her conviction was the heart softening kind. The kind of conviction that, when exposed to love and forgiveness, adds one more ray of light to this dark world.

            How many parents take a child who admits fault and scolds them again to prove a point or establish superiority? They falsely believe that their position is held by the ability to point out, correct and punish. They wonder why the child drifts from them and hardens their heart toward them. Why hearts drift from God when attacked by self-righteous Christians. Once convicted, the heart of any person is left vulnerable to any heart that will accept and love it in its brokenness. That’s what our Savior does, and that is what we are called to do; as Christians and parents. Conviction is not yours to provide as a Christian, that’s the Holy Spirit. Conviction is not yours to amplify as a parent. Your place is to love that brokenness and don’t use that instant to define them, even for a moment. A smile and a hug given to a convicted heart wins hearts for Jesus. It wins the hearts of our children. This concept will not fit into the dynamic of this fallen world, but we are not called to conform. We are called to shine in the darkness, to reflect the light of God. To magnify and learn from the light we see in Jesus.

He Loved Them

 

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One of my favorite bible verses is John 13:1. I read it one time and it was different from many of the other times I read it. It was that translation that drew me to it. The verse means one thing taken alone and another when taken in context. Both ways are powerful so let’s take a look at both.

when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (he now showed them the full extent of his love) John 13:1

       In context after the verse, we see Jesus wash the feet of his disciples showing that even the Son of God was a servant and showed humility as an example of how we are to live. If this world were to set pride aside and love each other with a servant’s heart, we would live in a much better place. A place that is one step closer to Heaven and the presence of God. This verse, in context, showed that Christ wanted his disciples to understand a very important lesson about his followers having a servant attitude and heart.

       The verse that first caught my attention and stirred my spirit had the words shown in prenthesis above. Instead of focusing on what comes after, my heart reach toward the beginning of the verse. Jesus knew that his time to go to the Father had come. It was time for him to be betrayed and crucified. Knowing that time had come, he was now going to show the full extent of his love to his diciples by dying for them even though they were not ready to fully understand his sacrifice. Imagine the love it takes to go to the cross when his disciples, and many people today, still don’t understand or accept his sacrifice. Imagine as a parent you sacrificing your well being and happiness to a child who may never understand or acknowledge your sacrifice. Although that is supposed to be our job as parents, the selfishness of this world draws parents away from the love our Father showed us by allowing His son to die for us.

       Neither understanding of God’s living word is incorrect. The lessons Jesus came to teach us are so numerous that his words live forever and grow in the hearts of his followers through the help of the Holy Spirit, the helper that Jesus promised us as he joined the Father in Heaven.

       Read this verse and see that Jesus loved his disciples to the end of his life and he continues to love us until the end of time. Don’t miss his perfect life and sacrifice for your sin, and don’t miss the servent’s heart we are called to have as we follow Jesus.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends – John 15:13

       Sometimes laying down your life means putting the well being of other before yours. Laying down your life could be death it could also be humility. Both require sacrifice, the laying down of your own self-interest and ambition.

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Walk on Water or Struggle to Swim

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We all know people whose fire for The Lord doesn’t burn as hot as it once did. The bright light that was such an inspiration, such a beacon for Christ, struggles to even be visible. Maybe you are that person. You remember the joy of walking so closely to your Savior and now find the world smothering your passion.

                As I sat in a bible study the Lord laid an image on my heart that was so clear it filled my mind and sparked my imagination. Living a worldly life is comparable to drowning. When we try to find our peace, joy, or purpose in earthly things we end up empty and alone. The lack of fulfillment causes us to struggle harder and to seek greater extremes to find the joy we remember. We can recall what we found in Christ but struggle to find the foothold we want to stop struggling against drowning in our sinfulness, pride, self-focus, and earthly desire. I imagine the panic and hopelessness of drowning and the inability to overcome the desperation, unable to remember what solid ground felt like. It’s kicking and fighting to stay afloat as hope sinks below the surface. We look up from under the water trying to remember what fresh air in our lungs felt like. It was this kind of feeling that caused the image the Spirit gave me to flourish in my struggling heart.

                We struggle but our Savior walks on water and commands the seas to be calm. When Peter focused on Jesus he was able to walk on water too. It’s in a Christ focused existence that we can walk on top of the turbulent seas of worldliness, and that Christ can command those waves to be calm or show us how to let the water roll off our back as He leads us by example. When we take the right hand of God and allow Him to lead again, the water we once allowed to cover us becomes a mist, noticeable but harmless.

                We are called to seek first the kingdom of God, focused on Christ, walking on the water with Him. We can be sure that even when we fall away and lose our focus on Him, His focus never leaves us. His hand is always outstretched and waiting for us to take it again. The world and all of the temporary things in it will quit on us and leave us alone and empty. We have a promise that our eternal God will never leave nor forsake us. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5 quoting Deuteronomy 31:6)

I found the picture above, it’s the closest one to the personal picture the Spirit gave me. I hope it helps make these words more real and reignites the hope in your heart that will fuel your fire.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)

Walk the Lord’s Path

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  Many of us as believers find ourselves at odds with the secular world as we grow deeper in the Lord and walk in submission to the Spirit. The things that use to bring us happiness now grow cold when compared to the joy found in our Savior. I came across a few passages in 2 Corinthians that made some amazing points. Let’s look at the background and then make God’s word through Paul applicable to us today.
         Paul was originally a persecutor of the faith. So not only was his message looked down upon as he spread the gospel, but the people also used his previous position to question his character and authenticity. Imagine the difficulty Paul faced being rejected personally and then having his message rejected as he traveled to share the good news. We all face the same issue after we find our value in the Lord. Not only are our beliefs questioned but the life Jesus turned us from stays with us as a stigma. People think we are hypocrites because they don’t yet understand the power in the blood of Christ. Let’s look at three passages that pulled at my heart and see how Paul walked in this. Let’s learn for him.

For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. (2 Corinthians 1:12)
          This is beautiful. People can question what you believe, but when you are walking in and led by the Spirit you are without fault in what you present. You bring the simplicity and godly sincerity of God’s Word and the good news of Jesus. The goal is not to rely on earthly wisdom (watered down Christ) to draw people but to let God be God while you plant His seeds. The harvest belongs to the Lord. It is because of this that Paul can have a clear ‘testimony of conscience’ when people question what he professes to the lost.
Therefore, when I was planning this, did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? (2 Corinthians 1:17)
          Here we find Paul explaining his presentation of the gospel and innocence in seeking acceptance from his actions. He makes the people aware that his explanation of the Gospel isn’t intended to gratify his flesh through praise for him. It is from the Spirit and focuses the glory to God. The reactions of the listeners is not a priority to a believer. We are called to be an example in a dark world. Our light should not dim when the environment we walk in stays dark. We reflect the light of God without apology and should accept the same rejection that our Savior received if that’s the result of our walk.
Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead (2 Corinthians 1:9)
         This passage came before the others in the Word, but was kept until last as a summation which says it all. As children of the living God we can present His word and represent Him in our actions without worry. His Word is true, everlasting and unchanging. The reaction of the lost belongs to them and the transformation of their hearts belongs to the Lord. We should reflect God’s light through the guidance of His Word and Spirit never using our own wisdom which waters down His perfect power. His power is manifest in our weakness and submission. Your walk is with your Lord and the opinions that walk incites are the fuel that glorifies God and makes Him shine brighter. You be the vessel and let God be God! In that there is no fault.

Blessed in the Walk

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As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:27-28)

          During a quiet time this verse opened up to me and I’d like to share what I feel this verse is saying. Let’s put ourselves in the position of this woman. She sees Jesus in the flesh professing the truths of God and healing people. She has no doubt He is a great man and great teacher. I hear people that are like minded today believing that a great teacher with a great life philosophy walked around teaching 2000 years ago. They see the truth in His wisdom but can’t move into what He truly brought to earth.

          Then there are those who believe in who Jesus was but neglect the relationship with the Father that His death provided. The Bible says that even the demons believe in who Jesus is. In the gospels they refer to Him as the Son of God before He casts them out. Believing that He existed as a great teacher or even believing He was the Son of God doesn’t provide the salvation His blood offers. The woman in the passage above admired and believed in His. She blessed the woman that gave Him life and was grateful for Him. She professed in front of a crowd her admiration for Him.

          But let’s look at Jesus’ response. He explains that the true blessing is in the Word He brought to earth. The blessing is in Him as the Word and not a man. Jesus wants us to experience all that is available through Him, not just admire the miracles. Not just who He is, but the fullness of God’s Word manifest through Him. The true blessing comes in walking with the Lord and not just seeing Him walk by. The greatness of God is seen when we follow His lead, submitted to Him, instead of walking ahead and asking Him to catch up when we need Him. While His existence as God in the flesh is important to believe, it’s in the grace and love showed to us through His death that must be experienced to see God’s blessing. Hear God’s word spoken through the lips of the Savior. Follow His example of love and compassion for the lost. Submit to the Father just as the Son did and be filled with the same Spirit that brought Christ out of the grave.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (James 1:22-25)