Archives For April 2012

Life Without Worry

April 21, 2012 — 3 Comments

Jesus used small words that were easy for simple people like me to understand.

 Life Without Worry

Life Without Worry

Matthew 6:34 is a perfect example:

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

I wish these words were more convoluted, more complicated. They’re not. They’s just straight-forward, simple words that I cannot possibly dodge. As is often the case with Jesus’ words, they smack me right between the eyes. If I didn’t know the One who spoke them, and His heart, they might even offend me. Let’s face it, they often do.

“Therefore…”

Go back and read Matthew 6:25-34. Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we have to stop and ask what it’s “there for”. That’s old and cheesy. I know. But it’s true. That said, in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus presented a revolutionary new way of life that would someday soon become attainable for His followers. Being God who became man, He knew exactly what made us tick. He knew all of our anxieties, our fears and our worries, and He addressed them here. Instead of fretting about how we will make it through each day, Jesus asks us to make an exchange, giving up our useless efforts.

The summary of His words are…

“…do not worry about tomorrow,”

Why should we worry about what hasn’t happened yet? We cannot control it! Sure, we have to be responsible, doing our best to with what we’ve been entrusted with. Beyond that, however, we cannot control the future. Jesus, being both finite and infinite at once, knew of what He spoke. He never advocated irresponsibility, telling us to throw up our hands and say, “Well, what can I do? I might as well just sit here and do nothing.” Instead, He recommended trust in the One who holds the future in His hands.

I’d like to ask you these questions about your life:

  • How much time and energy do you spend worrying about the future?

For me, it’s more than I’d care to admit. Be honest. What does it look like for you?

  • What would happen today if you could replace all of your worries with trust of your Father in Heaven?

I would feel 20 pounds lighter, like a burden had been lifted off of my shoulders. It would dramatically improve the quality of my life. I know this, yet I find the temptation to worry about tomorrow a daily, moment-by-moment choice. I am growing in this discipline of constantly choosing Jesus’ “new and living way”, but I’ve got a long way to go. That’s why I’m glad His Word is in written form. I can go back to it again and again.

  • How often are Jesus’ words offending you?

I would suggest that if they’re not, you’re not paying attention. His words were, and still are, revolutionary. Perhaps it’s time to pause, to reflect on Jesus’ life-disturbing, life-giving words. Start by picking a Gospel, maybe even a reading plan, then make your way through it one phrase, one verse at a time, contemplating what the Savior of the world is saying about life, death, and the resurrection power He promises.

If you do, you’ll be able to live a life without worry, lust, hate, and all the other things that bog you down.

 When Jesus is dead: How to Live in the In Between

Why Did Jesus Die?

Have you ever felt like God has left you? Like He’s just too hard to find? You’re not alone.

Good Friday services at New Life were profound. I have never had more of an appreciation for the sacrifice Christ made to reconcile a lost and hurting world to the Father.

I’m also left wondering, “What must have the disciples felt in the hours after the crucifixion and before the resurrection?”

We all suffer through times of darkness, doubt and trouble. We, like the disciples, are often left wondering, “Is God really alive? Is He still hearing us? Are we cut off from Him? Does He still care for us? Will He return for us? Or are we forever stuck in our current situation?”

We have to answer the question:  “When God seems far off, how are we to respond?”

In Luke 24 we read of the disciples’ encounter with Jesus. He had been resurrected, met the women at the tomb, and walked with disciples on the road to Emmaus. Now He reveals Himself to them where they are gathered:

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,“Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

  • “Peace be with you.”

The first words out of Jesus’ mouth are often the most difficult for us to accept. Our worries, doubts and fears monopolize our attention. Many of us love to savor our self-pity and anxiety, clinging to them as though we couldn’t live without them. Jesus, having defeated death and sin, says, “Peace be with you.” No longer do we need to cozy up to our own insufficiencies. We now welcome the peace of our Savior.

Welcome Peace into your presence. Sit and learn from the Prince of Peace, the one who has returned for you. You will grow to find His presence transforming as you discover His life-giving ways.

  • “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

Jesus had lived with these men for three years. He constantly confronted their inability to “get it” regarding what He was so consistently saying. Now He appears to them alive, returned from the dead. His bodily resurrection now testifies to every spiritual promise He made. He is the Christ, the son of the Living God. The days of uncertainty now lie in the past. The Kingdom of God is now being ushered in. No longer do we have to wait for the fulfillment of God’s promises. They can be made real within every heart who accepts Him!

  • Looking back, do you see the promises God has made to you, and to every believer?
  • Looking forward, do you believe that God has a plan for your future?
  • Are you in the process of exchanging your worries, fears and insecurities for the hope of new life?

Christ died for our forgiveness. He rose to give us new life. Ask Him to lead you into new life today. He will.

Did you see this week’s posts about “Why Jesus Died”?

Why Jesus Died Part 1:  Crazy Talk          Why Jesus Died Part 2:  He Meant To

Hundreds of years before His birth, the coming of the Messiah was foretold by the prophet Isaiah.

6 For to us a child is born, 
   to us a son is given, 
   and the government will be on his shoulders. 
And he will be called 
   Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, 
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 
7 Of the greatness of his government and peace 
   there will be no end. 
He will reign on David’s throne 
   and over his kingdom, 
establishing and upholding it 
   with justice and righteousness 
   from that time on and forever.

(Isaiah 9)

What must this Messiah look like, act like, and do in order for us to call Him “Wonderful…Mighty…Everlasting…Prince”?

Not what was expected. No one would have dreamed that this great ruler, come to earth, would die as a criminal.

The Christ. Emmanuel, God with us.

This unique individual, unlike any who had ever come before Him, stepped away from His heavenly throne to fulfill His Father’s will. Out of paradise, into the stable. The Savior of the world set aside all that was rightfully His in order to ransom and rescue a lost and dying world.

His example was so compelling, His work so complete, Paul recommended we shape our life around His.

 5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

 6 Who, being in very nature God, 
   did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 
7 rather, he made himself nothing 
   by taking the very nature of a servant, 
   being made in human likeness. 
8 And being found in appearance as a man, 
   he humbled himself 
   by becoming obedient to death— 
      even death on a cross!

(Philippians 2)

Jesus didn’t die by accident. He willingly laid down His own life as a ransom for yours.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, 
   he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, 
   and by his wounds we are healed.

(Isaiah 53)

Allow this truth to sink down into the core of your being. Consider the cost He paid to endure your guilt and shame. Then add mine, and consider how overwhelming the load must have been.

Out of these depths of sacrifice spring the relief and salvation this world has longed for since the Fall of Man. Allow His generosity, His forgiveness and His peace to wash over you. Be filled to overflowing with the gratitude and joy that comes from receiving the most beautiful gift. God in man, giving His body and blood for you.

This is why Jesus died.

Why did Jesus Die?

April 4, 2012 — 1 Comment
 Why did Jesus Die?

Why Did Jesus Die?

 

On Good Friday I gather with family and friends at church. On this peculiar evening, we’ll remember, even celebrate, the death of a man who lived 2,000 years ago, half a world away. Weird.

Why would millions of people gather to celebrate the death of a blue-collar carpenter’s son from a backwater town in a tiny Middle-Eastern nation? The answer, of course, is that Jesus of Nazareth was no ordinary man.

Why did Jesus die? The answer is found in the claims He made about his own identity. In short, Jesus claimed to be God. He said so in crystal clear language, in context that every Jew would easily understand.

There is a great deal of confusion, even misinformation, surrounding just who Jesus was.

I’ve heard people say Jesus was:

  • a good man
  • a teacher
  • a healer
  • a prophet

Some even go so far as to claim he was an antagonistic troublemaker, misleading people.

How can we know for sure who Jesus was?

There’s no better way to discover who someone is than by examining what they said about themselves. Jesus’ claims about Himself are either 100% ludicrous or 100% true. Either way, our opinions of who Jesus was have to be reconciled with his own statements of identity.

In the Gospel of John, Jesus said:
  1. “I am the bread of life.” (John 6:35)
  2. “I am the light of the world.” (John 8:12)
  3. “I am the gate” (John 10:9)
  4. “I am the good shepherd.” (John 10:11)
  5. “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25-26)
  6. “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6)
  7. “I am the vine” (John 15:5)

No sane person would make these claims about themselves.

Each of these statements begins with “I am“, the very words God used to describe Himself to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Using these particular words for “I am” made Jesus’ claims unmistakably God-sized. Seven separate times he claimed, “I am ________”, and then filled in the blank with another depiction of His deity.

Each of these statements were loaded with meaning. They reached back to the depths of Israel’s storied past, pointed forward to the ultimate fulfillment of the promises God had made, and located themselves presently in the person of Jesus, son of Joseph. This teacher, healer, prophet of no account would be ushered into Jerusalem, hailed as the coming king, riding on the praise of men and a humble donkey. Days later he would suffer indescribable pain, crucified among criminals.

Why did Jesus die? He never committed a crime. He never incited a riot. He refused to speak out against the government. He didn’t even answer his accusers. He laid down his perfect, sinless life, as God laying Himself down for sinful people. He died to take the punishment that was coming to me. He didn’t deserve it. I did. But he took it.

Jesus died because of what He said about Himself. His words incited such passionate reactions from some of His hearers that they tried to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:29).

Bottom line:  Jesus’ words were so revolutionary, so outrageous, they got him killed.

If He wanted to, he could have laid low, flying under the radar of the religious and civil leaders of the day. Why did this man of peace insist on being noticed? Why did He go to Jerusalem at all? Why didn’t He use his following, his apparent influence, to make Himself comfortable and secure? Why did He walk right into the heart of the lion’s den?

Jesus’ message was more compelling than the miracles he performed. His mission went far beyond filling the bellies of 4 or 5,000 people. He was the Messiah, the coming Savior of the world, and He would be heard.

  • To those who truly understood Him, Jesus’ words were the fulfillment of all of God’s promises. They still are.
  • To those who misunderstood Him, Jesus’ words were crazy talk, and could not go unpunished. They still are.

Either Jesus was right, and He was God, or He was wrong, and He was nuts.

There is no middle ground.

Who do you say Jesus was?