Archives For Jesus

Pastors, how do we keep people close to Jesus when there are so many alternatives in the world? Some people try to build fences made of rules and standards that keep the “good” people in and the “bad” people out. The other option is to dig wells. What will you do?

Nazareth_Village_well,_tb052704174

Here’s a parable I borrowed from Deb Hirsch,

(It takes place)…between a farmer and a Japanese tourist in the Australian outback. The tourist is taken aback with the sheer vastness of the outback and comments to the farmer that as far as he can see, he can’t see any fences. The tourist asks the farmer how he can possibly keep his sheep in without fences. The farmer replies that they don’t need to build fences, they just dig wells and the sheep don’t wander very far. (Redeeming Sex: Naked Conversations About Sexuality and Spirituality)

There’s never been a greater need for followers of Jesus to dig wells with the true Gospel of Jesus.  It’s the only thing that will quench the thirst of the people in our city.

If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. – Jesus (John 7:37)

…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life. – Jesus (John 4:14)

Good Friday

The event of the crucifixion is called “the Passion”.  Used in this context it refers to the suffering of Christ. We most often use the word “passion” to express a powerful emotion, especially associated with love. Good Friday reminds us that the Cross is the place where Jesus’ love was ultimately expressed through immense suffering for our sake.

In a culture focused on the end result, it’s easy to skip over the price that our Savior paid for us. When we forget the price that Jesus paid, we are susceptible to forgetting that it has been paid. On Good Friday we remember the death that came before the Resurrection.

Because Jesus rose from the grave, we have eternal life. But because He died, our sins are forgiven and the hostility between man and God is forever ended. Jesus didn’t simply acknowledge our sins and forgive them; He took them upon Himself, and paid the price with His own death. Good Friday is good because it means the end of our guilt, shame, and punishment.

Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong,
because he poured out his soul to death
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Isaiah 53:12 (ESV)

24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25 For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

1 Peter 2:24–25 (ESV)

Good Friday Service at Living Water in Olympia, Washington.

Easter at Living Water 2014

Easter at Living Water 2014

“I always thought Easter was all about the bunny and eggs.  Now that I know Jesus, I can’t wait to celebrate His resurrection on Easter!”  Those were the words spoken to me by a brother that radically met Jesus not long ago.  If this is your first Easter as a Jesus follower, it’s not hard to be excited for what we celebrate!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the most pivotal moment in all of human history, all of the Christian faith rests on its veracity.  Consider these words as we prepare to celebrate the risen Jesus, Savior of the world.

“Jesus’s resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project not to snatch people away from earth to heaven but to colonize earth with the life of heaven. That, after all, is what the Lord’s Prayer is about.”
― N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
“The resurrection completes the inauguration of God’s kingdom. . . . It is the decisive event demonstrating thet God’s kingdom really has been launched on earth as it is in heaven.””The message of Easter is that God’s new world has been unveiled in Jesus Christ and that you’re now invited to belong to it.”
― N.T. Wright
“The resurrection is the revelation to chosen witnesses of the fact that Jesus who died on the cross is indeed king – conqueror of death and sin, Lord and Savior of all. The resurrection is not the reversal of a defeat but the proclamation of a victory. The King reigns from the tree. The reign of God has indeed come upon us, and its sign is not a golden throne but a wooden cross.”
― Lesslie Newbigin, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Culture

The heart is the center of human emotion.  It is the seat of our soul.  It is often what we talk about when we are referring to our innermost being, our true identity or our most private thoughts and feelings.  We feel the most deeply connected to others on a “heart-level.”  Our deepest desires and most treasured hopes are “hidden in the heart.”  When we are deeply happy or satisfied, we say we our “hearts are full.”  If we are honest, it’s often where the ugly things are stored as well.  It can be the place where we hope we might hide the shameful things, the needful things, the unutterable doubts and deeds of our lives.  I don’t always fully understand the leanings of my heart.  I’ll bet you sometimes find yourselves caught off-guard by the things you think or feel in your hearts as well.

The human heart is fickle, deceptive even.  It disguises our sinful nature like no other thing.  We come in to this world with an astonishing propensity for iniquity; the unfortunate outcome of a charming serpent and two people who chose to believe a lie over God’s sheltering truth. But the beautiful and redemptive grace of God’s never-changing love for us is his plan to redeem us from our own sinful nature.

The solution for your inharmonious heart starts with a question.  Who rules your heart?  Are you trying to go it alone by determining a course of action to redeem your own soul with good works and religious striving?  Stop it!  Let God have it.  Give him your plans, your efforts, your hidden heart – all of it.  It’s only by being connected to your Creator in His continuous course of grace that you’ll find the loving acceptance and careful guidance you are looking for.  If it seems impossible to imagine your heart finding contentment in Jesus, you’re on the right track!  Remember, what is impossible for you, is possible with God!

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  Ezekiel 36:26–27 (ESV)

Don’t throw rocks!  Do we all know this is a bad thing to do?  Good.  We learned this when we were two, right?  You throw a rock, somebody might get hit in the head.  Getting hit in the head doesn’t feel good.  Do you like getting hit in the head with rocks?  Oh, you don’t?  Phew!  Me either.  We all get this.  It’s toddler logic.  The metaphorical rocks are a little trickier, though.  We don’t always realize when we are throwing them.

Here’s another thing we learn when we are very small.  This one is a little more sophisticated.  Maybe we learn this when we are at the mature age of ten.  If I draw “lines in the sand” within my social circles I can manipulate the behavior of other people.  If I tell that kid who sits across from me during reading group that he smells funny, or that he has stupid, dirty socks, which he has to change if he EVER wants to play basketball with me at recess time, I can manipulate him in to modifying his behavior in a way that is more pleasing to me.  Maybe I think I’m helping that stinky kid.  But I didn’t really do that in a very compassionate way, did I?  The way I went about that belies my true motive which is likely, to feel powerful and in control – it’s self-seeking gratification.  It isn’t the kind of tender, compelling, sympathetic, get-straight-to-the-heart kind of motivation that Jesus used, is it?

One of the most powerful examples in the Bible of grace-laden forgiveness, with life-altering results is found in the account of the woman caught in adultery, from the Gospel of John.  A woman who was caught openly engaging in an undeniably scandalous act, is brought to Jesus on the Mount of Olives as he was teaching his followers, with the purpose to trap him in a public quandary, and to threaten, humiliate and degrade the worth, and even the very life, of the woman.  They were, in fact, ready to execute her by stoning.  How would I have responded in a situation like this?  Would I be compelled to protect the poor woman whose life was being threatened, or would I be more concerned with sending the “wrong message” to those who were following my life and words closely?  What Jesus did was remarkable.  He responds in a very simple, yet very profound way.  He reaches down to the dust and writes something in the sand.  What he writes is uncertain, but the way these words or “lines in the sand” impact their receivers is undeniably poignant.  So much so, that those previously bent on the destruction and demise of both Jesus and the woman, have no recourse but to drop their stones and walk away. The woman, then, is reassured of her safety and sent, in love, to continue to live her life, but to live it with a new purpose. Do you see what happened?  Jesus did not condemn.  There was no brow-beating or shaming here.  But there WAS a heart-piercing result.

Do you know that Jesus does the same for us?  He defends you from your accusers.  Jesus draws lines in the sand, and He stands on your side!  He is gracious to you in your suffering, even when that suffering is self-imposed.  Be like Jesus for other people.  Don’t stand on the other side of that line, like the Pharisees did, and throw rocks.  Cross that line!  Stand with those people on the other side of it, even in the midst of their mess.  BUT – this is important – please recognize what else Jesus DIDN’T do?  He didn’t placate her in her destructive behavior.  He didn’t pat her on the head and send her on her way with useless platitudes like “Hang in there!” or “It gets better,” or “You’ll be okay honey.”  He says, “Go and leave your sinful life.”  He demonstrates a belief in her that is beyond her belief in herself.  He demonstrates confidence in her to overcome the things which brought her low and made her contemptible.  Please, do that for other people!  Sit with them in their sorrow.  Walk alongside them on their way to sanctification.  Be patient with them in their process of recovery.  Don’t normalize their destructive behaviors, but DO be an instrument of restoration and blessing.

 

Jesus did not pick the kind of people I would have picked to instigate the most subversive religious reformation the world has ever seen.  Jesus challenged the status quo by choosing some very unlikely candidates to be a part of His inner circle as He changed the world.  Consider these words from Larry Osborne’s “Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith”

The religious elite weren’t opposed to Jesus being a messiah or a king.  They were opposed to the kind of people he included in his kingdom.  They fought with him because he kept ignoring their definition of committed spirituality.  He refused to let them pick and choose who was going to be invited into the kingdom – and on what basis they would be allowed to come in.  So they wrote him off and tried to kill him. (Chapter 8: The Reason Jesus Came)

We’ll be talking about how Jesus challenged the status quo this summer.  Join us, you’ll never see Jesus the same.

What to do you think?  How does this “Contradiction” change the way you see the crowd passing you by? Let me know in the comments and share with a friend. See you next week.

…God’s love is the source, not the consequence, of the atonement.  – J. Stott

The atonement did not procure grace, it flowed from grace. – P.T. Forsyth

Reflections on the Cross

‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood;
I nailed Him to the tree;
I crucified the Christ of God;
I joined the mockery.

Of all the shouting multitude
I feel that I am one;
And in that din of voices rude
I recognize my own.

Around the cross the throng I see;
Mocking the Sufferer’s groan;
Yet still my voice it seems to be,
As if I mocked alone.

-Horatius Bonar (1808-89)

In the Christian theology of history, the death of Christ is the central point of history; here all the roads of the past converge; hence all the roads of the future diverge. – Stephen Neill

Reflections on the Cross (Quote)

Powerful words from Charles Spurgeon about our single desire.

“To whom be glory for ever. Amen” 

— Romans 11:36

“To whom be glory for ever.” This should be the single desire of the Christian. All other wishes must be subservient and tributary to this one. The Christian may wish for prosperity in his business, but only so far as it may help him to promote this—“To him be glory for ever.” He may desire to attain more gifts and more graces, but it should only be that “To him may be glory for ever.” You are not acting as you ought to do when you are moved by any other motive than a single eye to your Lord’s glory. As a Christian, you are “of God, and through God,” then live “to God.” Let nothing ever set your heart beating so mightily as love to him. Let this ambition fire your soul; be this the foundation of every enterprise upon which you enter, and this your sustaining motive whenever your zeal would grow chill; make God your only object. Depend upon it, where self begins sorrow begins; but if God be my supreme delight and only object, Continue Reading…