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It’s Not Enough

Although he had performed so many signs (miracles) in their presence, they did not believe in him. -John 12:37

“Seeing is believing” is a statement so universally accepted that it seems to be self- authenticating. Yet in this remarkable statement, we find a situation directly contradictory to that idea. And it is not unique in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry. In John’s gospel it is a very common reaction.

If we were not so used to it, it would astound us.  They saw the lame healed, the deaf given speech, the blind sight and the dead given life AND THEY DID NOT BELIEVE! Many signs equaled few disciples.

On closer study it becomes clear that John and the New Testament distinguish between simply believing facts about Jesus and as it is put here, “believing in him.”  It is the difference in believing something to be true and acting on that belief. It is not just agreeing with him, but trusting him enough to follow him.

And make no mistake about it; that is the difference between salvation and lostness, life and death, heaven and hell. Jesus really wants followers, not just admirers. click here to begin.

 

A Week Like No Other

Christ died for our sins,
He was buried,
he was raised to life -I Corinthians 15:3 & 4

This week is different than any other time in the Christian calendar. It is the only time when several specific events are directly connected to form a whole.

There are seasons in which the emphasis looks to a specific event in the God story. Advent looks ahead to the birth of Jesus. Pentecost is a season where an event is celebrated. Even Easter has a season, Lent, connected to the actual event.

But this week is different. From the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), to the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday), the crucifixion (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter) historical events are uniquely joined. They are all components of The Passion. The events of that week in Jesus’ life clearly are the focus of God’s action for our salvation. Notice how much of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are dedicated to telling about that week. Beyond that think about how much of the rest of the New Testament is predicated on it. I don’t mean to imply that all history is not in some way the stage for God’s work. But this is where it all comes together.

I challenge you to read it this week. Then be “mindful” of it and all that includes. Think about it, absorb it and live in response to it.

What an amazing message—“He died for me (you) and my (your) salvation.” And He lives.

Spectator or Disciple

Luke 19:1-10 (CEV)
“Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” (v5b)

Discipleship Is Not a Spectator Sport*

There are certain Bible stories that we all have heard from our child-hood—Adam and Eve, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, a boy with loaves and fishes, Peter trying to walk on water, and so on. There is wisdom in the retelling of these stories, something about them that tugs at the cords of our better selves. Here are places we hear the greatest of all stories—people meet God.

One such story is Zacchaeus. Every child who has spent any time in Sunday school has heard the story. Most know the song about him. In just 10 short verses we learn a lot about this man.

Do you ever complain about paying taxes? Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Worse yet, he was working for a foreign government. So he was considered a traitor, a collaborator with the enemy. He was classed with the lowest, robbers, adulterers, cut-throats. He was hated and despised by most everyone. He had, in fact, gotten rich at their expense.

The day Zacchaeus heard the news that Jesus was coming and climbed up that sycamore tree, he had no inkling of what was about to happen. It is not hard for me to believe that he had no higher motive than the desire to see a celebrity, a famous man. He made no effort to meet Jesus. He didn’t go to hear him preach. He just wanted to see him. In the safety of that tree, he would be a spectator.

Now Zacchaeus knew what people have always believed, what most of us believe, what Scripture gives credibility to. A person can find God if she/he really looks for Him.

“You will find Him [God], if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”(Deut 4:29)

BUT like many, he never knew that God seeks us out—that Jesus was looking for him. Were he not, Zacchaeus would have been content for the rest of his life to remain a spectator—seeing but not knowing.

How easy it is to be satisfied with being a religious spectator. Churches can be wonderful places to be spectators. You can be close to Jesus—observe, even be entertained. The spectator sits, looks, listens. It is safe—you can enjoy or criticize as suits you.

But sooner or later “once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.”

Jesus stops under the sycamore tree, along the church pew, at our grandstand seat and says, “I want to go home with you. I want you to become involved with me.” He calls us from the grandstand to the playing field. Because He doesn’t want spectators, he wants disciples. He will not let us just watch.

Zacchaeus didn’t want very much from Jesus—just to see Him. A lot of us don’t want much from God—just assurance we’ve done our duty, gone to church. To know when we are in trouble, or we’re sick, we can call on him. We don’t really expect God to come, change us, and be part of our every-day-lives. Sundays, holidays, weddings, funerals, special occasions— that’s quite enough God, thank you. But Jesus says, “Let’s go to your house. I want to spend the day with you.”

Why Zacchaeus went to see Jesus, I don’t really know. What made him curious, I don’t really know. Who told him about Jesus, I don’t know. I only know he went to see a celebrity, a great figure passing through and there he met the son of God face to face. Zacchaeus could have said, “No.” But he didn’t. And to his credit and his benefit, to his own eternal joy, he took Jesus home with him.

And something wonderful, miraculous happened. The spectator became a disciple.

It’s the choice we all have to make. What about you—content to be a spectator, watch from the Sycamore tree? Interested? Even convinced? Jesus is saying “I want to go Home with you today.” Take Him up on it. Say, “yes.” Take Him home and where ever you go.

Want to know more? click here.

*This is an update of a previous post.

Jesus Wants To Make His Home With You

The fourteenth chapter of John is one of the best known and loved passages in the Bible. It has been one of the standard passages read at funerals. I don’t know that I ever did a funeral with reading from it.
The emphasis is usually on the comfort God provides and the promise of a home in heaven (“I go to prepare a place for you.“)

These are certainly wonderful promises. But, I am intrigued by this statement: “We (My Father and I) will come to him and make our home with him.” What a “breath-taking” idea. Someone has said, “There is no more precious verse in the whole Bible.” We can host God, not just as a visitor but living with us.
He knocks at the door, waiting for us to open it and invite Him in. And He will only stay as He is loved as demonstrated by our obedience to his word.

When someone lives with you, you really get to know them. You share the “nitty-gritty” of your life: the heat/cold, the sparse furnishings, whatever. In return, we have direct and familiar access to the creator’s power, and the redeemer’s love, forgiveness and companionship.

Who wouldn’t want to share your home with some one like that?

Starting Again

God’s kindness leads you toward repentance. -Romans 2:4b

            It happens all the time with children.  In the middle of some task they mess it up and you tell them to start over.  They’re telling you something and get it all confused.  So you say, “Just slow down and start at the beginning.”

Haven’t we all wanted to start over?  I wish I had it to do over.  But in life, we don’t get that opportunity do we?  To go back to square one is not an option is it?

            The Bible says it is.  God calls us, offers us an opportunity to start over, to start with a clean slate.

            It begins with something called repentance which means to change one’s mind, heart, life.  In the historic Christian communion service, participation is invited for those who “truly and earnestly repent of your sins and intend to lead a new life.”

            The trouble is that repentance doesn’t come easily.  Then President Bill Clinton, speaking to a Prayer Breakfast in 1998 put it in perspective.  He said, “I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.…For us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday’s ways.” ^^Clinton’s quote ended with this prayer: “Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.”-Q

Repentance means “coming to self,” “turning”, or returning (from the OT).  In the NT it is to change one’s mind for the better, have a better mind.

            It not only is at the beginning of the Christian Journey but is an on-going necessity of the Christian life.  Matthew Henry wrote, “Repentance is a daily duty.”

            I am told in the St. Louis airport there is a large watch with hands that run backward.  Beneath it are the words, “Make Time Run Backward!”  If it were possible to do this and start again what a difference it would make.

           There is good news!  You can start again!  Turn toward God.

The Power of the Cross

heart-cross-thumb12673094the message of the cross…is the power of God. -I Corinthians 1:18, also Mark   15:22-39; Romans 5:6-10

The Cross is the power of God.  The NT says there is power in Jesus’ death!  Let me repeat that.  Maybe I need to say it a third time.  But no matter how many times it is repeated, there is dissonance, an incongruity. 

It is not that the words Death/power don’t belong together.  Death has power.  It is pervasive, it is inevitable, it is unavoidable.  In fact I think Saul Bellow was right when he expressed the philosophy of this generation by saying, “Death is God.  This generation thinks—and this is its thought of thoughts—that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power.  Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb.”1

The New Testament denies that.  It is says that God took the enemy’s biggest weapon, his most powerful and most destructive act and not only experienced it but used it to accomplish his own purpose.  It is through death that      Jesus entered Satan’s stronghold.  Jesus’ dying, the event, the act, has power to effect you, me, all of creation, then, now and for all time.

We are inclined to minimize the cross, the death in order to magnify, the resurrection, Easter.  In the gospels, in contrast, the “spotlight is on the passion”.  The New Testament exalts the cross as the central act of our salvation.  Malcome Muggeridge called the cross the intersection of time and eternity.  Paul, the apostle makes explicit what all the New Testament breathes: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

The good news is that Jesus died for you.  His death has power and it becomes effective when we, by faith, surrender our lives to Jesus.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, struggling with faith and life found that true one night. He described what happened:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

            “I did trust in Christ” is the telling fact.  That is how you can experience the power of the cross.  For help click here or contact me.         

 

1Christianity Today, 9/18/87, 20).

The Awful Gift

I have set before you life and death….Now choose life. –Deuteronomy 30:19

We all probably have received a gift of something which we didn’t really want.  That ugly picture which Aunt Sally gave us, she expects to see hanging on a wall every time she visits.  Some gifts, ugly or useless in themselves we cherish because our son or daughter (or grandchild) made it.  Usually, a gift is appreciated, valuable or not, if we know the motivation is one of love or care for us.

Did you know the most awful gift you’ve ever received came from God and was motivated by pure and perfect love.  It was also incredibly expensive.  That’s crazy you say.  We know “every good and perfect gift comes from God.”  God doesn’t give bad gifts.  However, awful is not the same as bad.  In fact, the awful gift is also  a wonderful gift.

What is this awful but wonderful gift?  It is the freedom to choose against God, to reject God, to choose not to believe God, to trust God, to love God.  In fact, it is the freedom to choose death.  It is wonderful because it means we can also choose for God, to love and serve God.  You can’t have one without the other.  To freely choose God is greatest of all choices, but that means it is possible to make the awful decision to “go it” without God.

And make no mistake, ultimately it is always a choice.  What’s your choice?  Click here for help on choosing.