The Incarnation

Abstract Painting of Jesus BirthAs we enter December and, what I guess is the start of the Christmas season, I often struggle with “getting in the mood.” I’m not sure why but I’m always glad when I finally get there. Christmas stands as a glorious picture of God’s desire to connect with us on the most intimate of levels. It’s about Him choosing to enter our world and become forever one of us. That alone should give us pause and cause us to wonder in amazement and humility. Our God loves us more than we can imagine.

If you’re finding it difficult to latch on to that Christmas spirit, give this article I came across on the incarnation a read and spend some time reflecting on the greatness of God’s love. He became flesh and dwelt among us sot that we could forever dwell with Him.

“And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

from me to you

Good Thoughts on the Incarnation Here.

You’ve Gotta Die if You Want to Live

You’ve Gotta Die if You Want to Live

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” When Jesus spoke these words, He laid out a prerequisite for being one of His followers. Those who lived in first century Palestine were quite familiar with crucifixion. Criminals were regularly hung on crosses erected along busy thoroughfares to die a painful death in the sight of all. Just as Jesus carried His own cross, those who were condemned to death did so as well. The imagery couldn’t be clearer – if we wish to follow Jesus, we must be willing to die.

Die how? You might ask. The answer lies in the phrase “he must deny himself.” Christ’s expectation is that the one who wishes to follow Him will make a choice every day to put aside his or her own hopes, dreams, aspirations, and desires and live their life for the will of God. We must choose what God would choose and want what God would want. Jesus set the example. “Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something

He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner’” (John 5:19).

There are two steps necessary to follow Christ by following His example. First, we must choose to let go of our own stuff. That’s dying to self, taking up our cross, and losing our lives. And second, we must seek direction from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as to what our desires and actions should be. We replace one with the other.

Think about what the cross meant to Jesus. “No one has taken it (His life) away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father” (John 10:18). Even for Jesus, death was the path to life. The power of the Christian life lies in the resurrection!

When we lose our life, we find it. When we choose to live for Jesus, or more accurately, to allow Jesus to live through us, we find the life we were meant to have, a life full of meaning and purpose and power, a life that does good and brings good into the world. Paul echoes these thoughts when he proclaims his highest aspiration to be, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). And again when he urges us to make this choice by saying, “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship” (Romans 12:1). This is the normal Christian life. Unfortunately it’s not the normal life of the Christian. We each have the power to change that. We simply must choose to do so.

My friend, Dezi Baker, is known to say, “The Christian life is nothing if not an exercise in willingness.” I think He’s absolutely right. Let’s choose to put our lives in the hands of our loving heavenly Father and trust that the life He will give us in return will be far more beautiful and fruitful than the life we would make for ourselves. Follow Jesus! Choose it or lose it!

Listen Closely!

Listen Closely!

 

Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow Me.”

It is a blessed truth that the life we have in Christ is at its core life with Christ. This wonderful gift of an everlasting relationship with our ever present Savior is the reality to which we’ve been called. The creator and sustainer of the universe and all it contains, knows you. Yes, you, personally!  How awesome is that?

Because we’re created in the image of God, we are relational beings. Our lives in this world are largely defined by our connections to others. Those we touch and those who touch us shape our perceptions of ourselves and the world and fill our lives with joy, purpose and sometimes pain. The pain is there because of sin and selfishness and will one day be done away with but the laughter, the hope, the love and the joy, it’s these things that make life worthwhile. I think it would be enough if life was simply defined by our human relationships but it doesn’t stop there. Our Creator made us not only to relate to each other but to relate to Him as well.

Consider these statements made by Jesus. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” and “I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you and your joy might be made full.” And consider these made by others. “In Your presence is fullness of joy” and “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ and “we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.”

Jesus knows us. We must seek to know Him. The life He offers is not just a life of duration but a life of elation, a life through which our personal knowledge of the God who loves us is ever increasing.

Jesus is calling. He’s calling to you. Do you hear His voice? Will you follow Him? Listen closely and align your heart with the heart of the psalmist. “When you said to me, seek My face; my heart said to you, Your face, Lord, will I seek.

From me to you…

Where Do We Go from Here?

Where Do We Go from Here?

I watched last nights’ election returns with a pit in my stomach and, even now, I admit to feeling a deep sadness for the country I love. I am very aware that not everyone feels as I do. In fact, some probably feel excited and optimistic. I sincerely hope my sadness turns to joy and your optimism proves itself well deserved.

No matter how you see the election results, there are some truths we do well to remind ourselves of…

  • Our citizenship is in Heaven from which we have a Savior and King, Jesus the Messiah
  • Our Savior has promised to never leave or forsake us and to be with us always
  • We have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s Son
  • We receive a kingdom that cannot be shaken by anything
  • We await the return of Jesus who will rule this world in righteousness and glory
  • We have an inheritance reserved in heaven and protected by the power of God
  • We are sojourners and aliens in this present world
  • We look forward to an eternal city whose designer and builder is God
  • We are right now His children and His people and nothing can separate us from His love
  • Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces in the heavenly places
  • We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which He prepared ahead of time for us to do
  • And I could go on and on…

Regardless of the circumstances we find ourselves in (good, bad or indifferent) we are here for a purpose. We are the chosen instruments of Almighty God to bring His grace and love to a lost and dying world. His commandment remains; “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and strength… and your neighbor as yourself.” And our commission hasn’t changed either; “Make disciples… teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you.” The world may be changing around us but God still wants to use us to change the world. We do this one life at a time by helping them learn to follow Jesus.

So, where do we go from here?

  • Pray without ceasing
  • Love without compromise
  • Always speak the truth in love
  • Continually seek direction from Jesus and do what He tells you
  • Present your body as a living sacrifice to God on a moment by moment basis
  • Abide in Christ as a branch abides in the vine so that you will bear much fruit for the kingdom of God
  • Remember that apart from Him you can do nothing

As we rely on Christ and offer ourselves to Him and His will, we will see hearts changed and God’s rule in this world increased. After all, “Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

And don’t forget the words of Micah…

 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?

 From me to you

 

Elections, Taxes, and Personal Responsibility

Elections, Taxes, and Personal Responsibility

Earlier today I heard Dennis Prager make the point that many people vote for the government to help the poor and others in need because they want those folks to get help and they also want to feel good about themselves. When they vote this way, they feel good about themselves because they’ve demonstrated a concern for people in need. The irony he pointed out is that when they do this, they are really voting that someone else (i.e. the government) take care of those in need. When you think about it, it’s the lazy way out. They are voting that someone else do the job and, at the same time, taking credit for the job being done.

Many church goers operate in a similar way. They drop their donation in the plate and go away feeling good about themselves all the while expecting someone else to take their offering and put it to good use. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not down on offerings. Churches have real needs and often do work that is essential in the world. The issue I have is that, for many, once they’ve made their offering, they think their work is done. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The apostle John put it like this. “Whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?”

If God is to love the world through us, then we will have to offer Him all that we are, our money and our selves. “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

As Christians, we should commit to personally seizing each opportunity God puts in our path to be agents of His endless love.

From me to you

 

Are You a Christ Follower?

Are You a Christ Follower?

It has become commonplace to hear believers refer to themselves as Christ-followers. What does following Christ actually entail? For many, following Christ means following those they see as His designated leaders. It’s as though Christ has delegated His authority to others and all one must do to follow Him is follow the direction these other leaders provide. Since Jesus made it clear that His kingdom doesn’t operate that way, why do we let people go on thinking this is right?  To be a Christ-follower, one must follow Christ. Seems simple enough doesn’t it?  But simple it is not.

Many understand following Jesus to be synonymous with knowing His Word. In many churches the one who knows the most about theology is considered to be the best disciple. The knowledge of the scriptures is a necessary ingredient in the discipleship process but to equate knowledge with discipleship is a huge mistake. When we do this, we forget that Jesus did not command us to teach them all He has commanded us but to teach them to obey all that He has commanded us. Most dedicated Christians are educated way beyond their obedience. Any form of discipleship that doesn’t focus on helping others to live out their faith in real terms is not discipleship at all. Even those who seem to understand this truth, sometimes fall into the trap of acquiring the requisite obedience by using outside pressure. This too results in producing an anemic follower of Jesus.

The temptation is to teach people to look to the scriptures for instructions on how to live a good life. The Bible is the truth, the inerrant and infallible word of God, but when people search the scriptures for rules to live by they settle for a life that is much less than it could be.

It’s clear from the gospel accounts that Jesus lived His life for the will of His Father. You will find Him saying things like, “I only do the things I see the Father doing” and “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak… the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me.”  And again, “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but the will of Him who sent me.”  Jesus lived His life in constant connection with His Father. “I and the Father are one.”  He was perpetually obedient, even to the point of death on a cross. Jesus came to fulfill a specific mission. How is it that we seem to think that a life of generic good works is all God wants from us?

1 Corinthians 12 further supports this thinking. “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. And each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  Isn’t it obvious that this infinite variety of gifts, ministries, and results is indicative of an infinite variety of works God intends to accomplish through His children?  Leaders often take it upon themselves to prescribe the work to be done by each individual and most individuals are happy to let them?  Jesus is the Head of His Body and He must be allowed to direct each member as He sees fit.

The scriptures have much to say about God, life, and the principles they contain. When these principles are observed and practiced can be of infinite value. But to substitute a relationship with the Bible for a relationship with Jesus is a fatal mistake. Paul makes it clear in his letter to the churches of Galatia that to live by an outside standard or set of rules is to seek a gospel other than the grace of Christ. Jesus, in a comment to the religious leaders of His day agrees, “You search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life but it’s these that testify of me.” The scriptures are meant to bring us to Jesus so that He can write His words on our hearts.

The essence of discipleship is a vital personal relationship with Christ. This personal ongoing encounter with the Creator is the cornerstone of what it means to be a Christ-follower. Commit yourself to following Jesus and helping others to do the same. If you make this the cornerstone of your life, you will find that God will use you to further the fulfillment of the great commission.

Recipes for Life!

Recipes for Life!

I like to cook. It’s one of those things that lets me focus my mind away from daily struggles and enjoy the creative process. Plus… I like to eat too.

When I’m cooking, I like to experiment with various ingredients to see how they impact the taste and texture of whatever dish I’m preparing. Sometimes I like the result and sometimes I don’t but every time I gain more insight and knowledge into the nature of the ingredients and how they mix and mingle to create the tastes and textures I’m looking for. It’s important that I accurately assess th faculties of each ingredient so that when I use them in varying amounts, I get the desired results.

Life is much the same. As we live each day, we experience the moments, meditate on the possibilities and gain insight and knowledge about ourselves, those we have relationship with, the world around us and the God who made it all. As these ingredients mix together, they form in us a view of the world that will impact the way we live our lives. This worldview will have a profound effect on our thoughts, our feelings, our actions and our relationships. This is true for all of us. There are no exceptions. Because of this, it is vitally important that we assess things accurately, truthfully. If we don’t see things as they really are, the tastes and textures of our lives will be adversely affected and the resulting thoughts, feelings and behaviors will end up giving us indigestion.

My goal with this blog is to raise issues that are relevant to life and offer up insights into the truth of things that have aided me on my journey and will hopefully help you too.

I am painfully aware that the discovery of truth and how that truth applies to everyday life is a daily process and that missteps and mistakes are sometimes made but our God is ever present and has promised to lead us into all truth. We don’t discover truth on our own but as He reveals it to us. If we mess things up, He is more than able to instruct and correct us. Our goal is to let the truths He teaches us mix together in ways that produce ever increasing wisdom and love.

Jesus said, “I came that they might have life and have it abundantly.” I believe the abundant life Christ offers is deliciously tasty and fulfilling. As the psalmist says, “taste and see that the Lord is good.” My hope is that we can learn together how to live our lives in the most abundant way possible.

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