7 items tagged "Jesus"

  • But then enters Jesus...

    Where people are at their lowest, and where hope is most dismal, in the margins, you will always find Jesus.  Jesus wasn't found eating at the finest restaurants, with the most influential people of his day. He was found willingly touching lepers, eating with messed up people, and breaking all sorts of religious rules. That's our Jesus. He has a niche in finding people who most need acceptance, significance, and hope.

    A few weeks ago 12 students and adults went on a mission trip to Guatemala, to minister to children and prostitutes working on what is called, "The Line". This was probably the most evil place I have ever witnessed. There appeared to be nothing but shame, lust, depression and ultimately, hopelessness. For the majority of these women, they were stuck in this environment with little hope of ever escaping. But then enters Jesus. In the midst of this dark place, a ministry was born called, "El Oasis". Every week, for the past 15 years, a group of people minister to these ladies by simply sharing just how much Jesus loves them. By the power of God, planting seed by seed, lives are being transformed. What was once broken is now being made whole!

    Our hearts, in a lot of ways, are similar to these ladies'. We too, have areas in our hearts we have pushed to the margins. We’ve accumulated shrapnel from broken relationships, disappointment, shame, regret, bitterness, crippling doubt, and hopelessness…all symptoms of a heart beaten back to the margins. Remind yourself of this. Jesus is against all of it. The same way he approaches these ladies, is the same way He approaches you and I. Not with more pain or condemnation…His approach is healing. It's love. And He will never stop pursuing you.

  • Do you recognize Me?

    “So it was, while they conversed and reasoned, that Jesus Himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were restrained, so that they did not know Him.” Luke 24:15-16

    Cleopas and his companion were lost and directionless on their way back home. The events that occurred on that long and violent Friday left them wounded, confused, and hopeless. They knew Jesus, they witnessed his miracles, and they believed He was the Messiah, God’s promised one. That’s why this story is interesting, how could they not recognize someone they knew and observed very closely?

    Pain has a way of reducing our ability to see clearly and make our choices based on reality. Perhaps that is what these two men were experiencing. Their focus was only on their pain and a future that was no longer hopeful. Scripture doesn’t give us the whole picture on their temporary “blindness,” but it’s not that difficult to put yourself in their shoes and understand why they didn’t recognize Jesus. We’ve all experienced a sudden loss, seasons of pain, confusion, worry, and frustration when things are not working out like we hoped. When in these moments, we can become unaware or even may experience some temporary blindness that hinders us from finding the hope, comfort, and strength that is found in Jesus.

    Perhaps this was Cleopas’s experience; why Jesus appeared as a stranger to him. But, as we’re about to find out, ones’ heart cannot help but recognize when Jesus is near. Luke 24:32 says, "...Did not our hearts burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and when he opened the Scriptures to us?" There’s just something special about Jesus. It’s too difficult to even attempt putting it into words. Even in moments we feel lost, hopeless or perhaps even angry at God, He still knows what it takes to warm and ignite our hearts. Our hearts can always recognize when Jesus is near.

    As we move through this week in preparation for Easter, let’s not forget to slow down and steady our hearts to recognize Him. When circumstances and experiences are creating temporary blindness, know that only the living and powerful Jesus can get to those places in your heart that need Him. No heart is too far off or too cold to be warmed again by the presence of Jesus!

  • How's Your Heart?

    This one little verse has me thinking alot lately: "When your words came, I ate them; they were my joyand my heart's delight, for I bear your name, LORD God Almighty." (Jer. 15:16)

    This is quite the statement to make.  The prophet Jeremiah was so ready to hear from God, that when he received His Words, he took it like a hungry man would take his dinner! He cheerfully received them, treasured them up in his memory, digested them in his mind, and carefully retained them.  Let's not forget too, things were not always easy for Jeremiah, he is often referred to as the "Weeping Prohpet".  To say he was pursecuted would be an understatement!  Here is the point, if anyone had reason to lose heart and joy it would be Jeremiah.  The circumstances seemed to never be in his favor...yet, when it came to hearing from the Lord, there was no circumstance or crisis that would keep him from being nourished

    When was the last time you can honestly say you were hungry to hear from the Lord?  When was the last time that just being with Jesus was the highlight of your day, the goal of your day?  When is the last time you were nourishedby His Word?  Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty." (John 6:35)  Lose your joy?  What's your heart finding it's "delight" in lately?  Take Jesus at His word.  Be all about Him, let Him nourish that place in you that aches, and watch what He does in your life. 

     

    Lord, put a fire back in our bones for more of You!

    Amen.

     

  • Jesus + "something else"

    To be complete in Christ, as Paul puts it in Colossians 2:9-10, encompasses every single facet of our life. The blessings of Jesus should be changing us not only in the most difficult of moments, but maybe even more so in the little moments of life. The little moments tell us a lot about where our hearts really are. The little moments reveal the honest condition of what’s happening in our private lives! What’s your response when someone offends you? When someone else at work receives the admiration or promotion, how do you handle that? You’ve been diligently trying to improve your livelihood but never seem to find contentment; why is that? It’s in the little moments we answer a critical question, “Is Jesus enough?”

    Do you need Jesus, plus something else, to have peace, joy, or comfort? The “something else” is typically tied to enslaving sin we have not allowed the Lord to handle. When it comes to being complete or full in Christ, we don’t need something else. He is enough and has broken the power of sin and condemnation that weigh on us.

    In Colossians 2:14-15, Christ makes his victory public by subjecting these powers to open ridicule. Here is how one commentator puts it:

    “The Roman triumphal procession was the best way to bring home to people, that their returning generals had been winning genuine victories. No one in town that day could possibly be ignorant of what had happened as hundreds of weary prisoners of war were paraded, straggling behind the conquering army. Shamed and exposed to public gaze, everyone could see that there is nothing to fear from these once-proud soldiers…Paul is intent on showing that true spiritual freedom was won for all God’s people through the cross of Christ. It is impossible for anyone to know this King and to not know his glorious victory.”

    Jesus has conquered the enemy! Whatever forces used to intimidate or agonize you, have now been exposed and paraded in defeat. Even more so, our King’s glorious victory is not just for what we may consider significant issues, but also in the everyday, little moments that affect our hearts! If Jesus is enough, then certainly we can experience victory in any of our moments!

  • Keep Your Heart

    “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23

    We must be watchful, vigilant and ready to fight for our hearts. The heart is mentioned hundreds of times in the Bible, over 200 times the heart is referred to things that motivate, mold, and impact our life. To put it simply, the heart is a big deal! Though the Bible makes it clear that it’s of the upmost importance to look after, without intentional guardianship, it prefers to drift. It doesn’t always stay where you tell it to stay! As you may have already experienced, a drifting heart will never drift in a good direction. So, let us not take this lightly, we must know what it means to be diligent over our hearts. All of life is going to flow from our hearts and when we lose a grip on it, there will be some symptoms that will flare up. Below are some examples of a drifting heart:

    · You’ve lost passion

    · Your view of God is small

    · Your living offended

    · You no longer share your faith with others

    · Diminished interest in prayer

    Hearts that are full of God are surging with love, faith, and passion! When life flows from a heart like this, nothing in your world (relationships, workplace, school, etc.) is left untouched by God! Will there be times of heartache, dryness, and disappointment? Most likely, yes. These are the moments in which we MUST be vigilant of our hearts! Rather than allowing these circumstances to dry us up, let’s press into Jesus, receiving the water that will not leave us thirsty. God is entirely faithful, He knows exactly what your heart is in need of and will not hold back on us. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:14

  • Shame off you

    Shame comes in many different colors. It’s a silent killer with the capability of even justifying its own existence. It creeps into how we see ourselves, our relationships, marriage, parenting, work life, etc. The terrible thing about shame is that it seems so right. It seems reasonable to doubt our abilities, to be cautious, to kick ourselves bloody when falling short. We always seem to fall short. So we try harder to do better, be better, win more, get ahead...But the inevitable will always happen. We will fall short. And, when we fall short, that feeling once again rises up from our gut and seems to cover us. "Why am I not good enough?" "Why can't things just work out for me?" "What am I doing wrong?" "If I could only be like him or her." "I can’t believe I thought I could do this." "I will never let myself get hurt again."

    Sound familiar? Sure it does. It's the whisper of shame. It never introduces itself as shame, but it  always plays its hand early. We've just never paid enough attention to see it. We don’t know a whole lot about the woman in the story above. We don’t know what her childhood or what her family-life was like. But I can guarantee you this, she was suffering under the reign of shame. We know she was caught in adultery, and the religious elite were ready to do what they do best - reminding people of just how short they always seem to fall.

    But then enters Jesus. Jesus challenges these religious elite to go ahead and stone her, but not unless they too are free from sin. Religious people hate introspection. So, one by one, they drop their stones and leave. I love this scene. It's just Jesus and the woman now, and a bunch of stones. No condemners. No one pouring the heaviness of shame. Then, Jesus says something significant. "Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more." Jesus has a great opportunity to modify her behavior, by telling her to try harder and be better...but he doesn’t. The first thing He wanted to assure her, was that this reign of shame was over. Even though the accusers were gone, certainly her past continued to whisper the lies of shame. But Jesus would not tolerate such nonsense. He would end it. "It's not if you try 'harder' and act 'better,' then I won’t condemn you."

    It's grace first. Jesus will never motivate you to change by using shame. "Go and sin no more" is important and necessary. But that is the fruit of experiencing this type of grace. You see, our response to ourselves, and others, when we fail is always," do better and then receive acceptance." With Jesus, it's acceptance first. Because of that, there will be fruit that will be better. Grace will always produce good fruit. Get that shame off you and let this grace take its place.

  • The Convenient Jesus

    The American culture boasts in its convenience.  Everything is better when done more simply and less time consuming.  We've become the impatient nation.  We like our fast food.  We use the self-checkout lanes in grocery stores.  Pay extra for overnight shipping.  We want fast answers to complex issues such as the economy, relationships, social justice issues, etc.  We even prefer to speak in half sentences and use emoticons to share how we are feeling! 

    We're busy people (another topic for some other day), so convenience is not all that bad.  It has it's pros, but are there any boundaries?  How would you feel if we can create a church experience that is super convenient to your schedule, pleases your short attention span, requires very little participation, and will make sure God doesn't do something crazy like, you know, show up?  Sounds like a radical way to follow Jesus, right? 

    Let's just get to it.  Convenience needs its boundaries and we've probably allowed things to bleed into the Church for to long.  Our desire to "win" people by making Jesus convenient has backfired.  We've created "converts" with no fire in their hearts and who avoid the risk of faith at all costs. There is nothing in the New Testament that is safe.  Jesus is anything but safe.  Jesus isn't looking for cheerleaders, He is seeking men and women who will follow Him into the game.  Convenience is all about you, but following Jesus is ALL about Him! 

    Convenient based Christians are focused on their own interests, worries, fears, priorities, and lifestyles.  Disciples are focused on Jesus.  Period.

    Convenient Christians are comfortable.  Disciples make sacrifices

    Convenient Christians prefer just to hear the word of God.  Disciples are about livingit.

    Convenient Christians are occasionally involved in the mission of Jesus.  Disciples are committed to it. 

    Convenient Christians will rationalize sin.  Disciples will repent

     

    There is so much more to following Jesus then just merely putting Him on your weekly calendar.  How about we take the restraints of comfort and convenience off of us and begin trusting that He actually can do exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think!  When we start to do that, buckle up, your about to encounter an adventure that is well worth everythingthat you are and have!

     

     

     

     

     

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