Archive for the ‘Jesus’ category

Why God Whispers

June 2, 2014

When you’re as big as God, its easy to overwhelm people. Everyone who ever caught a glimpse of His power or glory, fell to the ground.

whisper

I’ve had believers ask me why God isn’t more obvious or direct. Why all the guess work?

Pudding or people:

If He wanted to turn us into puddles of pudding, He’d just have to peel back the curtain and let us see Him. A loud voice from heaven would do it for most of us.

When he arrived, Jesus laid aside the full display of his glory to establish a new way of relating to mankind.

Jesus is God’s whisper to humanity.

Two reasons God whispers:

First, God wants us to walk by faith. Faith requires uncertainty and ambiguity. You might think you want God to tell you more, but, too much clarity undermines daily dependence.

Ask yourself, why God wants you to depend on Him. Is He needy? Or is there something more?

Second, God wants meaningful relationship. Human dignity and volition are essential. Meaningful relationship ends when God starts yelling from heaven, and so, He whispers.

You may feel close to God when His voice seems loud and His presence feels obvious, but, you’ll know him best in a whisper – Jesus.

Why Have you Forsaken Me

April 7, 2014

dark

During his darkest hours, Jesus craved connection.

Matthew 27:45–46 (ESV)

Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

In the darkness Jesus kept crying out to God, “Why have you forsaken me?”

Craving

We crave connection when things are the darkest.

Being alone makes everything worse.

Jesus nearly died the night before the crucifixion.

Matthew 26:38 (ESV)

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”

“… watch with me.” Do you feel his desire for connection?

Jesus desire for connection is scattered through the New Testament.

  • “I am the vine. You are the branches.” Jn. 15:5
  • “I in them and You in me.” – Jn. 17:23
  • “Remember me.” – Lk. 22:19 (Lit. “In remembrance of me)

The human craving for connection finds it’s roots in a God who embraces and looks for connection.

“Where are you Adam.” Gen. 3:9

Connecting factors:

  • We only connect with those we trust.
  • Transparency and vulnerability fuel connection. Fakers can’t connect.
  • Connection suggests acceptance.
  • Judging others destroys connection.

Stop Making it Difficult

March 17, 2014

The first church fight addressed issues we grapple with today.

Who can be part of us?

What do you have to do to belong?

don't make it difficult

The issue, back then, was do you have to keep the law to be/become a Christian?

The fight is recorded in Acts 15. After the fight, James summarizes the key principle in verse 19 (NIV):

It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

In other words, make it easy. The rule applies to those who have and those who are turning.

Make it easy:

  1. Invite people to turn TO God. It’s easy to point out what’s bad. Turn away from drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll, for example. But, the gospel is good news, not bad.
  2. Forget about fixing people. Let God fix.
  3. Err on the side of grace. When in doubt choose compassion over confrontation.
  4. Avoid arguments on peripheral issues. Trusting Jesus is THE issue. Nothing else matters until that issue is resolved.

Four rules:

The four rules James gave gentile believers in Acts 15:20 (NIV) illustrate the “make it easy” rule.

Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

  1. No “idol” food.
  2. No sexual immorality.
  3. No strangled animals.
  4. Drain the blood.

Why these rules? Acts 15:21 (NIV):

For Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.

James says the principle of “don’t make it difficult,” applies both ways. Jewish believers in Jerusalem are working to make it easy for Gentiles to turn to God. Gentile believers should be concerned for the Jews in their communities. Make it easy for them to turn to God, too. Avoid offensive behaviors for the sake of the Gospel. 

How to be a Friend of “Sinners”

February 10, 2014

friends

It’s a great compliment to have self-righteous Christians complain that you’re too friendly with non-Christians. The religious elite made a similar complaint about Jesus – the friend of sinners (Lk. 7:34).

But there’s another side to this issue.

1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) “Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” Our friends predict our future.

How can you be a friend to “sinners”?

The inner circle:

Cultivate and develop an inner circle of three deeply committed believers. One of them should be a visionary like Peter. One should be a doer like James. And the other, should be a lover like John.

Questions to ask before becoming a “friend of sinners”:

  1. Do you know who you are?
  2. Where do you look for approval? Or, who are you trying to please?
  3. Are you deeply connected to committed believers?
  4. Can you explain the gospel quickly, simply, and clearly. (The best way to do that is tell your own story of trusting Jesus.”
  5. Do you deeply love “sinners”? If God loved the world, so can you.

Three attitudes:

Every believer who aspires to be a friend of sinners knows they are:

  1. “One of” not “one above.” Christianity isn’t morality. Christianity is Jesus. Everyone is in the “falling short” bucket. The fact that you may sin less doesn’t make you sinless.
  2. Not trying to change or reform “sinners”. Your job is sharing Jesus. Changes are his business. Getting people to sin less, might make life better, but it doesn’t help in the long-term.
  3. Dedicated to serve others, not be served. Jesus came as one who serves and you aren’t above Him. The path to influence is the path of service. Solve a problem. Meet a need.

Embrace these attitudes or you’re doing more damage than good.

Be a friend of sinners. But, fasten your spiritual seat-belt. You’re in for a challenging ride.

The Long Holy Nose

January 22, 2014

nose

Christians, under the guise of holiness, judge and condemn “sinners.” When we do, we condemn ourselves.

What makes you better than others?

  • You don’t murder. But, you hate.
  • You don’t rob banks. But, you steal another’s reputation with gossip.
  • You aren’t a drunk. But, you disobey your parents.

I’m not trying to make you feel bad. I’m trying to help you see that Christians aren’t above others.

Stop looking down your long holy nose at people God loves.

The long holy nose makes us ugly. I’m convinced that the ugliest people in the world are self-righteous, good-living, religious people. The truth is, “We” need God’s love as much as “they” do.

Holy living is not an excuse from compassion, respect, or kindness.

Holiness:

Lets call fellow believers to holiness. The issue isn’t should we live holy lives. The issue is how we grow in grace by faith.

Inviting Christians to holiness requires transparent connection. Apart from connection, calling fellow believers to holiness is self-righteous and arrogant. When you call someone to holiness, get in it with them.

Faith:

Lets call people who aren’t believers, to trust in Jesus. The issue isn’t moral reform. It’s Jesus.

Inviting people to trust in Jesus requires connection. Connection empowers the call. Disconnection makes us look like arrogant fools.

Let’s call fellow believers to trust God in new ways. We need to trust Jesus today like we did when we trusted Jesus for the first time.

The people “out there” didn’t make Jesus dirty when he rubbed elbows with them. They won’t make you dirty when you connect with them, either.

Love:

Love is not rude or arrogant. Love is kind, patient, hopeful. Love endures. You have permission to live a holy life and treat people who don’t know Jesus with Love.

No Outsiders Allowed

January 11, 2014

keep out

Casually read the life of Jesus and you’ll see Him persistently extending grace to outsiders. He’s an outsider-focused individual, living an outsider-focused life. Even the training of the 12 occurs within an outsider focused context.

On the other hand, a casual review of church programs reveals a decidedly insider slant. Churches typically expend their time, energy, and resources on themselves. Frequently these activities don’t enhance believer integration into the community. Rather, they are segregated or limited to a small, comfortable number of outsiders. In brief, these activities are barriers not channels to extending grace to others.

Note on Integration.

I was taught that good Christians lived separated lives. Separation meant isolation. However, Jesus never lived in isolation, nor should we. Graceful living drives us toward integration. In this case, separation is demonstrated by distinctions like love and compassion not isolation.

What if?

What would happen if churches did fewer insider facing programs and decided to integrate into community programs that already exist? Could Christian fellowship occur in an outsider context? Could spiritual growth take place while participating in a YMCA program?

On the other hand.

Jesus spent time alone with His disciples. Churches should have alone time, where shared values dominate conversations and the freedom of sameness is fully embraced and enjoyed.

Now what?

Since it’s comfortable and natural to build programs for ourselves, I suggest grace-oriented Churches resist the drift inward by intentionally limiting exclusive insider-only activities.

*****

What’s hindering believers from living outsider focused lives?

How can graceful believers live outsider focused lives?

Acceptable Service

December 13, 2013

bowing flower

The “why” of service matters more than the service itself.

Christian service is an expression of love and gratitude, nothing more, nothing less, nothing else.

Ungrateful service is arrogance in disguise.

Arrogant servants think:

  1. I deserve better.
  2. I’m not appreciated.
  3. What about them?
  4. Whose serving me?

Ungrateful servants whine and complain. Grateful service, on the other hand, frees us.

Service as response is privilege and opportunity.

Service as obligation is a burden.

Focus:

The focus of grateful service is Jesus, not the people you serve.

Arrogant service focuses more on results than response. Results matter. Serve where you have impact. But, results come second to response.

Engaged:

Those who aren’t serving haven’t seen grace. Law may pressure into service. But, law never produces acceptable service.

Perfect gratefulness:

How grateful is grateful enough?

We all always falling short. Sometimes you serve out of obligation, other times out of love and gratitude.

When you see the signs of arrogance I listed above, don’t try to be humble. Instead, refocus on Jesus. Remember his grace.

Give yourself space to respond.

Gratitude can’t be demanded or manipulated. But, you can let it happen. When it’s absent, keep on serving. But at the same time acknowledge your brokenness and believe in his grace.

Let gratitude rise in you. If it doesn’t, know you have forgotten how Jesus served you.