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A Prayer for the People of Walmart A Prayer for the People of Walmart

A Prayer for the People of Walmart – by Joe Wickman

Three children are screaming at the top of their lungs. And I mean scream-ing!

Believe me. I have 4 kids. They have screamed in stores. It happens. I get it.

But here, in the checkout line of our local Walmart, I’m bombarded with these cries of frustration. So is everyone around me. I can feel the tension building in our collective shoulders.

  • One mother (Is she the mother? Dear God, I hope not.) lashes out in frustration.
  • Another family ignores their little guy. “Maybe the kid would stop screaming if they acknowledged his existence.”
  • The third screamer? I can’t even see them. But oh, I can hear them.

The cashier laments, “My head is killing me!” (I wonder why.)

I try to be compassionate, telling her I hope she feels better. She’s so sweet and helpful. But really I just want to get out of there. I feel like my own head’s going to explode, and I’ve only been there a half an hour.

In the parking lot, people are cutting each other off, much like they were in the store, just now with cars, not carts. The collective angst spills out of the doors, past the smiley-face price tags, and into the world at large.

“I’ve got to get to my vehicle.”

There’s that angry mom again. Now she’s angrily buckling her toddler into the seat. I can’t quite make out her words. They’re somewhere between a curse and a grunt. My stomach turns.

  • Do I step in?
  • What would I even say?
  • How does a man, by himself, approach an angry Mom in a parking lot?

All this rushes through my head in 5 seconds as I walk toward my car.

Too late. She drives away first. Gone. Now I wonder what life is like for the little girl in her care.

I drive away.

I’m stunned. I can’t escape the thought, “That was awful!”

I’m not trying to be all “emo” here. But my heart is heavy. What was intended to be a casual stop at the store to pick up a few things turned into a deeply disturbing experience. I’m actually sad.

“What the heck just happened?”

It’s not Walmart’s fault.

As a pastor, I deal with broken people on a daily basis. I’m one of them.

But it seems like here, in the aisles of the discount store, we come face to face with the reality of who we are. At our modern day market, where prices are low enough to lure us in from every corner of our community, we come face-to-face with the unvarnished “us”.

A lot of times we don’t like what we see.

As a people, big picture, we are broken.

People don’t treat each other poorly for no reason. It’s a sign of a deep brokenness within that person. As the old saying goes, “Hurt people hurt people.”

As I drive away from this brief encounter with the hurting people of my community, I think:

  • “How does Jesus love people like that?”
  • “Wait. That’s exactly what I’m like without Him.”
  • “Jesus, how can I love people like you do?”

As I pray, a Scripture flashes to my mind, a fragment of a verse.

“harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd”

I look it up. It’s Matthew 9.

Jesus’ attitude toward deep brokenness is laid out here. Let’s see what we can learn:

Matthew 9:35 Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom.

When Jesus came to earth, He immersed Himself in the everyday. He descended into our brokenness and brought Good News!

35 And he healed every kind of disease and illness.

He didn’t just preach. He got his hands dirty. He healed. He reached into broken lives and changed them for the better. Jesus is capable. He is willing. He is able. Am I? Are you?

36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

This is how Jesus sees the broken people. What right do I have to see people any differently?

37 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. 38 So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”

Jesus came to earth. He laid down His life for broken us. Then He left. He returned to Heaven. Why?

Jesus wanted us, broken us, healed by Him, to carry on His work until He returns.

He sent His Holy Spirit to fill us, to equip us to love like He loved. He calls us to touch broken lives with the “Good News of the Kingdom”!

If you are a Christ follower…

  • How do you respond to brokenness when you see it?
  • Are you part of the solution?
  • Are you stepping into the harvest field?
  • Are you praying for the Lord of the harvest to send more workers?

Don’t let brokenness repulse you. Let it propel you.

Jesus sent His followers into this world to love people. So let’s get to it.

Compassion must be followed by action. It can start with a prayer.

Here is a prayer for the people of Walmart:

Lord, my heart is heavy when I encounter the ugliness of brokenness.

Help me understand that all people are broken, and in need of Your repair (including me).

Open my eyes so I can see like Jesus, instead of judging and complaining.

Turn my anger and sadness into deep compassion. Help me love like You do.

May the light of Christ shine through me, overcoming darkness wherever I go.

Make me a part of Jesus’ healing, transforming ministry in my home, through my church, and in my community.

In Jesus’ brilliant, healing, life-changing name I pray. Amen.

Logos 5 Final New Wine > Old Water   Logos Part 5

Jesus made some pretty great wine at the wedding feast at Cana.

I’ve seen people do back-flips trying to explain all the different ways that Jesus couldn’t have possibly made actual wine (with alcohol). All I can say to that is this: The master of the banquet thought it was pretty dang good. (John 2:10)

This post isn’t about alcohol.

This post is about how Jesus, fully God and fully man, stepped into a world filled to the brim with the same-old same-old. He offered something undeniably better than what we had tasted before.

When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us an accurate view of our Father in Heaven. Being God himself, Jesus was called the “logos“, the word. He was the representation of God in flesh. His first miracle, at the wedding feast in Cana, “was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory…” (John 2:11)

Jesus’ first miracle started with a problem at a party.

The wine ran out at a wedding reception. In this culture, running out of wine for wedding guests would be a crushing embarrassment to the hosts.

Mary, Jesus mother, was somehow involved in the arrangements for this feast. Given the fact that she pointed to Jesus and ordered the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5), it is presumed that Mary may have been doing the catering for the wedding.

Whatever the case, Mary knew two things:

1) There was no more wine.

2) Jesus could fix this problem.

Jesus didn’t really want to do what she was asking. He said, “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) But like any good son, he did what his mother wanted him to do.

Old Water = the Old Covenant

Sitting nearby were six empty stone jars, each able to hold between 20 and 30 gallons. Without running water, people would store their water supplies in these tall jars.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The water in these jars would have been used for the Jewish purification practices. The guests at the party would have washed their hands with this water. Their dishes would have been ceremonially washed as well. All this kept the Jewish laws of the Old Testament.

But the water had run out.

These empty vessels, now exhausted of their usefulness, sat there, waiting to be filled.

Jesus ordered the men to fill these jars with water. They did.

New Wine = the New Covenant

All the servants had to fill these jars with was water. But Jesus’ intervention made a whole new product.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:8-10)

Wine. New wine. Brand new wine. Wine so good the master of the banquet questioned why it hadn’t been put out yet.

Jesus stepped into this world to bring the new, the better, the best. All that had been poured out prior was good, but its usefulness had run its course. Now, in the fullness of time, the Savior stepped onto the scene. He came to fulfill the Old Covenant, where animals were offered as a temporary sacrifice for sins. He came to usher in the New Covenant, in which He would offer Himself as a poured out offering.

New Wine > Old Water

New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce says, of Jesus’ first miracle:

Christ has come into the world to fulfill and terminate the old order, and to replace it by a new worship ‘in spirit and in truth’ which surpasses the old as much as wine surpasses water. (The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes pg. 72)

Jesus offers us something completely better than what we could ever attain on our own.

Would you like a drink?

 

Want to know more about Jesus?

Check out the other 4 parts of this “Logos” series.

1) “In the Beginning”

2) “Unworthy”

3) “Come and See”

4) “Go and Tell”

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

Logos 4 Final Logos Part 4: Go and Tell

Logos Part 4: “Go and Tell”

Jesus’ first followers couldn’t not GO and TELL others about Him.

This Jesus, our Savior from Heaven, was called the “Logos” (word). He was the self-expression of God Himself. Looking at Jesus gives us a clear representation of what His Father is like. Looking at how Jesus’ followers responded to Him gives us great insight on how to live.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he recognized who He was and pointed Him out.

36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

Andrew was within earshot of John’s declaration about the Messiah. And as soon as he heard it, he decided to follow Jesus.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus.

What!? Just like that? He didn’t require Jesus to do anything, to jump through any hoops, or do a magic trick, a sign, to make it plain that He was God?

Nope. Andrew heard John’s word about who Jesus was, and followed. What a faith-filled guy!

What Andrew did next should be a lesson to us all.

When Andrew realized who Jesus was…

 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

Today we might think, “Well, maybe I should wait a while before I tell someone about Jesus.” We’ll go to great lengths to keep our mouths shut about Jesus.

Our list of cop-outs is never-ending:

  • “I don’t know enough about Jesus to go and tell someone else.” (If you know Jesus, you know enough)
  • “I can’t go and tell anyone because they might reject me.” (Jesus was rejected on earth. Are you too good to be rejected?)
  • “I don’t want to offend anybody who doesn’t believe the same way.” (You didn’t believe at one point. How can others have faith if you don’t go and tell them?)

Evangelism isn’t a program. At least it shouldn’t be.

Evangelism, telling those disconnected from God about how they can be in relationship with Him through Jesus, should be a natural outflow of our own relationship with Him. If you fall in love, you don’t need a class to learn how to go and tell other people about how much you love that person. You just do. You can’t contain it.

When we follow Jesus, we enter into a life-altering relationship that transforms us from the inside out. When we experience His love, joy, and peace bubbling up from our hearts, we can’t NOT go and tell others about this One who is transforming us.

Andrew’s simple example should make us bold.

  • He heard.
  • He followed.
  • He decided to go and tell his brother.

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. (John 1:40-42)

Andrew could not have known that this introduction would alter the course of history.

Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

This Simon, now Peter, changed the world. Peter became the anchor of Jesus’ movement on earth. God used him to establish the Church in the years following His death and resurrection.

So, are you willing to go and tell?

  • Have you decided to follow Jesus?
  • Who is God calling you to go and tell about Him?
  • What might God do with the life of the person you go and tell?

You’ll never know what God will do until you’re willing to step out in faith.

Meet Jesus. Follow Him. Go and tell others. It’s that simple.

 

Here’s the post that started this series:  Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…”

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(This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.)

 

Logos 3 Final 2 Logos Part 3   Come and see.

Logos 3: “Come and See”

Jesus calls followers.

He doesn’t call observers, critics or competitors. Jesus calls followers.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

No, I didn’t ask you if you go to church. Lots of people go to church. What I want to know is this:  Have you responded, are you responding, to Jesus’ call?

Jesus, referred to by the Apostle John as the “Logos” (the Word) is the self-expression of God Almighty!

So, God the Father’s heart, His mind, His character and purposes were clearly defined through the life of His Son.

Jesus began his public ministry by being baptized and tempted, identifying with us. Then He called his first followers. John records it this way:

35 The next day John [the Baptizer] was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Jesus calls followers. Have you responded to His call?

Maybe you’ve never responded to Jesus’ call because you know He’s asking too much. You’re right. And you’re wise to hesitate. Jesus doesn’t call us to just nod in acceptance, recognizing He is God. No, His call is all-encompassing. This One who came to earth, completely identified with sinful man, lived a perfect life, then died to make us right with the Father, is the One who calls us to a no-holds-barred commitment to Himself.

That kind of commitment should cause you to pause. You know that Jesus isn’t asking you to just check a box. He wants all of you. And if you commit to Him, He’ll expect you to follow Him. And if you follow Him, you’re going to have to leave behind a lot. Everything.

Jesus calls us to love Him so much that our allegiance to anything in the world pales in comparison. We all know love is risky. It’s not a neat investment. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Jesus calls us to leave behind what’s dead. The old life. The old habits. The old toxins that once consumed us must now be left once we set out on this new course, walking in our Master’s footsteps. This means we separate ourselves both in heart, and physically, from the things we once found familiar, if not debilitating.

That’s hard. It’s a process. But it’s for our best. The more we let go of, the more free we become in Christ. And the more freely we grow.

Jesus invites us into a bright new future. Once we commit to follow Him, inviting Him to reside in our hearts, washing us clean, we experience new life, new power, and new purpose. What was once dead now comes to life! Where darkness once ruled, there is now light radiating from a new Source! The God we could never reach is now accessible for us who are re-born by the power of His Son, our Savior. And if you can wrap your brain around it, you understand that the very Holy Spirit of God now inhabits us.

But for those who set out to become Jesus followers, the immediate future is also full of uncertainty.

  • How will He lead you?
  • Where will you go?
  • What will you do?

This new direction, this path, this commitment to your Savior, is not for the faint of heart.

Surrendering complete control of your life to Jesus is at once the most safe and most risky decision you can ever make.

This decision secures your eternal destiny. If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you are heaven-bound. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. (See Romans 8)

However, once you become a Jesus follower, your life is now not your own. (See 1 Corinthians 6)

This radical commitment to Christ…

What’s Holding You Back?

Jesus is calling you. He is inviting you into an adventure that will radically shape the course of your life. Don’t believe me? Just look at the lives of His disciples. Ordinary men, living ordinary lives, were called by Him. Within a matter of years they were turning the world upside down.

Jesus is calling you into this same level of commitment. He would like to walk with you in relationship. But you’ve got to go. You’ve got to step out. You’ve got to say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you with all I am, all I have, all my ways and all my days.”

What will happen if you follow Christ?

I won’t make you any guarantees for your safety or your comfort. His first disciples didn’t get any.

But I will tell you that whatever happens as a result of you following Christ, it’s worth it.

What will happen if you follow Jesus? I offer you His words to the disciples He first called:

 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Take the step. See the new future He has in store for you.

 

Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…”

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

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This post also appeared on the Blog of New Vine Media.

 

Logos 2 Final Logos Part 2   Unworthy?

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

John the Baptist was the greatest man that ever lived.

You’re thinking, “WHAT??”

Yep. Jesus said so.

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist… (Matthew 11:11a)

Let that one sink in for just a moment.

Can you think of a higher compliment?

Jesus was called the “logos“, the “word” or “self-expression” of God (John 1:1). This Son of God, one with the Father, perfect in every way, says, essentially, that John is the best person to ever be born. Not David? Not Solomon? Not even Moses? That’s quite a statement. What could make Jesus say such a thing?

Today we’re told that the path to greatness is found by making yourself the center of the universe. Go out and grab fame, fortune and everything that comes with it. If nothing else, our culture values the star. Go on a show, sing a song, and you’re an instant success. Your life is made. What more could you want?

Jesus’ attachment of great value to John should cause us to do a double-take, questioning our worldly assumptions.

  • How do we determine the value of people?
  • How much do position, possessions and popularity really matter?
  • Am I seeking God’s approval, or the world’s?
  • Is it possible for us to live a life that God values highly?

Let’s pause for a moment and see why Jesus regarded John so highly. Then we’ll be able to see our lives more clearly.

John’s greatness wasn’t derived from his position.

John’s birth was miraculous, his mother and father being very old when they had him. But his upbringing was simple.

“he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” (Luke 1:80)

If Israel had a “Podunk”, this was it. John grew up far removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the Jewish people. He would not have run in the same circles as the “movers and shakers” of Jesus’ day. Growing up in the wild, away from the public eye, is not how people typically achieve notoriety.

God called John to a prophetic ministry. He was to call people to repent of their sins and prepare themselves for the coming of the long-promised Messiah.

When John’s ministry became popular, he didn’t exactly let it go to his head.

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

John wasn’t in this to make his own name great. He never changed his message in order to broaden its appeal. He was not interested in advancing himself.

John’s greatness wasn’t attached to his possessions.

Even as an adult, John lived a simple life in the wilderness of Judea. People came out to see him, and noted,

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

This was the dress and diet of a man who rejected the world’s view of success. My study Bible notes say, “John’s simple food, clothing and life-style were a visual protest against self-indulgence.”

John didn’t get into ministry to get comfortable.

John’s greatness wasn’t measured by his popularity.

He spent his time denying that he was someone great. He was so charismatic, and drew such a following, that people were puzzled. “Who could this guy be?” When the spiritual leaders of the day finally came to investigate, they had this interesting exchange:

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:19-23)

How could someone who had such a powerful personal ministry not jump at the chance to make his own name great?

That’s not what John was all about.

John’s greatness was rooted in his recognition that Jesus was the Christ.

It really is that simple.

John accepted and responded to what God had asked of him. He was one of the few unique figures in history that truly kept his focus on the task at hand. When faced with success, he did not sell out. He kept his eyes clearly focused on the mission God had put him on, to make a way for the coming Messiah.

John had this to say about the coming Messiah:

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26,27)

In Jesus’ day, a host would cater to the needs of their honored guest. But even the best host would not untie the sandals of his guest. This was a job for a house servant, a slave. John says that he is not worthy to complete even this menial task for this coming Savior of the world!

“unworthy”

  • unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals
  • unworthy to be mistaken as The One
  • unworthy to be called “The Man”

What humility. What focus. What a heart.

John’s entire attitude was summed up by this statement:

30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Are you now beginning to see why Jesus’ opinion of John was so high?

John did not consider himself unworthy because Jesus’ opinion of him was low. He counted himself unworthy because his opinion of Jesus was so high. I wonder what would happen in my life if I lived with the same kind of abandon of self that John did.

Are you willing to give up your position, possessions and popularity?

I’ve got to be honest with you. I wouldn’t mind an increase of any of those.

But is that where my heart is set? I think that’s the real question.

  • Are you ready to live your life for the glory of Jesus’ name?
  • Are you prepared to trade your position, your possessions, even your own popularity, so that Jesus’ name can be made great through you?

Let’s take one last look at Matthew 11:11. Jesus continues speaking about greatness:

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

That’s right. If you are in the Kingdom of God, if you have been re-born into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then you are considered greater than even John the Baptist. You are worthy of Jesus’ blood. You are worthy of a new status. You are now called a child of God, and the bride of Christ.

Jesus says you are greater than John because you have received Christ into your heart. This Savior is alive inside of you, and you are called to live a life that makes His name great. Are you ready to live as one who has been made worthy?

 

Want Part 1 of this Series? Check out Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…” 

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This post also appeared on The Blog of New Vine Media.

Logos 1 Final Logos Part 1: In the Beginning...

Logos Part 1 “In the Beginning”

“In the beginning…”

We all know the story. In fact, I’m afraid it’s become all too familiar.

“In the beginning…God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Hold on. Back up for a minute. Let’s click delete on all the flannel-graph illustrations, all the mental images of a cute little creation story. Let’s step way back from whatever has sapped our sense of reverence, holy fear, from this universe-originating event.

If we can read these words without gasping for breath, we’re letting familiarity dampen what should be an awe-inspiring experience. I don’t want us to miss out on the creative potential that’s dripping from every word.

So let’s step through this verse with a renewed sense of the violence and force in which it was originally penned.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

God spoke, and what had never been conceived of came hurtling out of His mouth and into existence. This event was anything but serene. In a breath, God created light that rips through the universe at 186,000 miles per second! He formed stars that dwarf our little sun in numbers so profoundly great that we cannot even count them. The complexities and mysteries of this universe, barely understood even today, were spoken into being by Him.

Just the scope of creation is mind-boggling. With all our advancements in technology, with all the billions of light years worth of galaxies we have observed, we still must call this realm, “the known universe”, because each time we gain the ability to look farther out, there is more to see. We haven’t found its limits.

God spoke all of this into creation. And now this creation speaks back, shouting the majesty of God 24 hours a day.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

(Psalm 19)

“In the beginning, God…”

God. He preceded the existence of our universe. He exists outside of it. He is not constrained to the limitations of His creation. This God who is Omni, who is all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing, was not in any way exhausted by the exertion of His force. His ocean of all-ness was not diminished by a drop when He spoke all into existence.

“In the beginning…”

There was a time when time was not. Wrap your brain around that for just a second. Before the earth existed, before billions of galaxies were flung farther than we can imagine, there was God. And as far as we cal tell, this beginning began in order to provide a context for us, created beings, to enter into a relationship with the One who created it.

This God who spoke this universe into existence cannot be contained by His own creation.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said this when He dedicated the temple God told him to build: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

This God of creation, when He spoke to Job, asked Him this:

31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars—
binding the cluster of the Pleiades
or loosening the cords of Orion?
32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
33 Do you know the laws of the universe?
Can you use them to regulate the earth?

(Job 38:31-33)

Wow!!

These first words of Genesis resound in our hearts and minds as the opening of the story of God and man. At creation God displayed His ultimate power, and opened up creation to relationship with Him.

So, who is this God, and what is He like? Can we know more?

Yes. This God of creation, who spoke into existence the wonders of the heavens and the earth, did not hide Himself. Throughout the record of humanity He has taken great pains to make Himself known. He has revealed Himself, step-by-step, to man. He made Himself known plainly to Adam & Eve. Think about that for a second. Before sin entered the world, these two experienced face-to-face relationship with God.

But then they gave it all away when the chose to disobey Him. They chose to run the show, and so they hid when God came looking for them.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8)

You and I can only dream of what this must have been like. For God to just come strolling into our home… we can hardly imagine. That marked the last day Adam & Even would reside in paradise. Curses entered the world along with sin. This is the world you and I were born into. Because of sin we’ve been separated from this God of the Universe. No longer does He walk up to us face-to-face. Or does He?

I have good news. There is a second beginning.

“In the beginning…” (John 1:1)

Just as original life began long ago with “In the beginning”, so did NEW life.

The apostle John opened up his gospel account by echoing the creation story. He calls on the words of Genesis to mark the opening of an ancient and continuing narrative. He calls on the original account of creation to usher in his telling of this new creation through Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus is described as the “Logos”, the self-expression of God! It is through this God-man that our Father closed the gap between sinful man and His holiness. This new creation is no less energetic than the first. The movement of God to earth was no less significant than what God did when He spoke all creation into being.

And He did this all for you and me.

Jesus was the representation of God on earth.

  • Would you like to get to know this God of creation personally?
  • Are you ready to undergo the violent transformation His Word is capable of?
  • Get ready to experience creative power like you’ve never known.

This Jesus, made known to us, is waiting for you to discover Him in all His fullness.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-3)

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This post also appeared on the blog of “New Vine Media”.

Son of God Movie

February 7, 2014 — Leave a comment

“Son of God” – The Movie

In Theaters February 28

There will be critics.

I am sure the “Son of God” movie will be blasted by people (modern day Pharisees) who want to pick it apart. Instead of seeing this for what it is, a movie, they’ll try to make it the Bible. It’s not.

My thought is this: If a movie captures our imagination, sticks to the major points of Scripture, and causes people to open up the Bible, then it’s a win.

What about you? Will you go see it?

Here’s an endorsement from Pastor Rick Warren:

“THE BEST I’VE EVER SEEN.”
“I’ve probably seen most, if not all, of the films about Jesus produced in the past 50 years. This one stands alone, in a class by itself, as the best I’ve ever seen. Brilliantly produced with stunning cinematography, a Hans Zimmer score and academy-worthy acting, it stands head-and-shoulder above the rest.

Son of God draws you into the story from the start. Not since the release of “The Passion of The Christ” ten years ago have I been this excited about a movie…Son of God brings to the Big screen the Story of Jesus. Here we see the wonder of His birth, The power of His mission, The loving sacrifice of His death but most importantly, we see The Eternal Hope of His resurrection. I am thrilled that 20th century Fox are distributing this film and know it will be a blessing to millions when it opens in theaters all across America this Spring.”

-Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church, Author of “A Purpose Driven Life”

Check out the Official Site for “The Son of God” Movie.

Microphone Final Voice Part 1:  Watch Your Mouth

Voice Part 1 – Watch Your Mouth

I’m often surprised by what comes out of my mouth.

I speak for a living. So if you count the number of words I say in public, add the fatigue that comes from raising four daughters, and multiply that by my goofy sense of humor, it’s just a matter of time before I say something really embarrassing.

For example:  Session 5 of a 6 week Marriage Workshop left me scrambling to get enough words out of my mouth in order to squeeze in all the content that these couples needed. Pressed for time, with much content to spew, I greeted the attendees, saying, (I am not kidding) “Good morning folks! We’ve got a lot to cover today, so I’m going to talk fast. We have 6 pages of material to get through, so let’s knock ‘em up and set ‘em down!”

If you missed it, go back and read it again.

There was a 3 second pause as 20 stunned couples sat, processing what they just heard. And a moment later we were all gasping for air, laughing uncontrollably at my gaffe. I’ve got a dozen stories like that.

Sometimes the wrong words come out of our mouths.

Sometimes it’s just an innocent mistake, a slip of the tongue. But other times it’s not. Sometimes the words we say represent what’s really going on in our heart. And if we’re honest, sometimes that’s not pretty.

We live in a day and age where everybody’s got something to say. But is everything worth saying?

If social media is any judge of what’s actually happening in people’s lives, (God, help us if it is) then a popular New Year’s Resolution was, “I’m going to be true to myself and say what I really want to this year!”

Really? Oh good. That’s just what the world needs.

What I know about being “true to myself” is that sometimes words spill out of my mouth that are not helpful. In fact, they’re hurtful. Ugly. Disrespectful. Damaging. Why is it that gossip and jealousy and spite roll out of the same mouth that speaks words of love and affirmation to the most important people in our lives?

Has this ever bothered you? Have you ever had an insult leap out of your mouth, only to think, “Where did that come from?” You’re not alone.

This problem is not unique to today. But today we seem to have lost touch with the reality of the impact of our words. We live in a culture that tells us, “Let it fly! Don’t hold back. Just say whatever comes out!” Never mind whether or not it hurts someone.

To make matters worse, today everyone has a platform. Thanks to the proliferation of technology, our voices can reach farther than ever. Facebook, Twitter, even this blog, provide an opportunity for connection across countries, cultures and contexts. It’s a beautiful time to have something to say.

It’s also a tragedy to have the means to say something, and have nothing worth saying.

Maybe it’s time for our generation, whose voices are amplified than any other time in history, to pause and look at the content of what we’re saying.

  • How can we be sure that what we have to say is worth saying?

Jesus had a way of saying things in a way no one else could. After hearing him speak, his hearers would often fall silent. His words cut through the clutter and hit home, opening up new understanding.

When Jesus spoke of the mouth, he connected it directly to the heart. He put it this way:

43 “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers.45 A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. (Luke 6:43-45)

What’s coming out of our mouths is coming from our hearts. They are as connected as a tree and its fruit. So if we don’t like the words that are spilling out of our mouths, it’s time to look at what’s “stored up” in our hearts.

So what about you?

  • Do you have something to say? Is it worth saying?
  • Are your relationships helped or hurt by your words?
  • Are you connecting the dots between your heart and your mouth?
  • Judging by what comes out of your mouth, does your heart need some work?

Maybe it’s time to take a look at at the words coming out of your mouth as an indicator of what’s in your heart.

Do you want to be heard? Do you want to make an impact in this world? Then slow down. Take a minute to examine what’s below the surface. Because what’s inside of you cannot be contained. It will be revealed, often when you least expect it.

This month on the blog we’ll be taking a look at the voice God has given us, and how to make the most of it.

Want to be heard?

Watch your mouth. It’s attached to your heart.

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

New Vine Media spreads the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the development of effective media, music, and communications.

Want to Change a Life?

December 27, 2013 — Leave a comment
photo 6 1024x887 Want to Change a Life?

Want to Change a Life?

Want to Change A Life?

Me too.

I mean, who doesn’t, right? What kind of a dud would you have to be to say, “Nah, I think everybody in this world is ok”?

But I digress.

So, assuming that you’re not apathetic to all the hurts and harms of this world, and that you actually want your life to have a positive effect on those around you, let’s ask a better question.

How does a life change?

We can all point to symptoms in need of a cure. Help comes in many forms:

  • Is the problem hunger? They can be fed.
  • Is the person homeless? They can be housed.
  • Is your friend lonely or hurting? You friendship can be an immediate and powerful help.

We should all do these things, and more.

But help doesn’t always equal change. This should bother us.

How is it that a life is really, actually changed?

  • Help heals the body.
  • Education illuminates the mind.
  • Inspiration infuses the heart.

But if we peer into the deeper, root problems of humanity, we find a common denominator that threatens to overwhelm and frustrate all our earthly efforts to bring change into the world. There is a brokenness, a fatal flaw, that exists in every person. For all of the advances of technology, for all the curing of diseases, for all the dissemination of information and the multiplication of wealth, the problem of the brokenness of human hearts still persists today.

Evil exists, and it lives within the human heart.

For those of us who care to change a life, to do more than temporary good, is there any hope?

How do we fix what is actually broken deep down inside each and every individual?

We cannot. At least, we cannot do it in and of ourselves.

However, there is a great hope.

Thousands of years ago, the people of Israel were promised a Messiah who would come to heal what was truly broken.

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.

For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.”

(Isaiah 9:2)

This bright hope was made known to us 2,000 years ago. The baby born King ushered in a new era of possibility. What was once impossible was now made available by God. Jesus bridged the gap between a holy God and a dying world. Him entering into our broken world,

So how do we change a life?

We introduce people to the One who can change them from the inside out.

Remember impetuous Peter, the disciple who bumbled through many things? He also walked on water, identified Jesus as the Christ, and was instrumental in founding the Church. His life is one that was undeniably transformed by his relationship with Jesus.

Did you know that it was his brother, Andrew, who introduced Peter to Jesus?

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

The instant that Peter encounters Jesus, the Messiah changes His name. Who does that? Well, apparently, God in flesh does that. I have always been fascinated by the process of transformation Peter underwent. (For a great view of this process, read the Gospel of John.)

F.F. Bruce, New Testament Scholar, has this to say about the life-changing act of Andrew bringing his brother Simon to Jesus.

Andrew, then, brought his brother to Jesus; and in later years, when Simon Peter performed such mighty works in the name of Jesus – in Jerusalem at the first Christian Pentecost, in Caesarea when the Gentiles first heard and believed the gospel, and in places much farther afield – Andrew must have recalled with deep satisfaction that day when he brought his brother and their Master together.

(The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes pg. 57)

Have you yourself come to Jesus?

Have you come close enough to know His name, His ways, and to allow Him to speak into your life? If you have, you know that the net result of giving yourself to Jesus is that you experience newness of life that is more than addition. It is more than the difference than you + Jesus. The difference Jesus makes is only described in absolutes. Dark to light. Death to life.

It is my sincere hope that you have experienced this regenerative relationship with Jesus, the Christ.

Have you then experienced the joy of introducing someone else to Him?

Bruce goes on to say, and I think we should all lean in with great anticipation…

No one can foresee, when he brings a man or woman to Jesus, what Jesus will make of that person.

(The Gospel of John: Introduction, Exposition and Notes pg. 58)

None of Peter’s friends could have predicted that this brash, intemperate fisherman would become “the rock”, the man used by God to found His church in this world. But this God of ours is in the business of resurrection and redemption. He is able to cause new life to spring forth from the most unlikely places.

Want to change a life? Introduce someone to Jesus, and watch what happens.

Freedom in Christ

July 4, 2013 — 1 Comment
1309604 chain against green Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ

Freedom in Christ = True Freedom

What is true freedom?

It’s more than the breaking of physical or political bonds. Men and women who throw off the chains of tyrants are to be celebrated. But those I admire most also understand and live in the true liberty that is internal.

Is your heart free? Your mind? Your soul?

They can be.

They key to that freedom is held by the One who gave His life to pay for your freedom.

How do we FIND freedom in Christ?

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” (Luke 4:18)

  • Jesus’ words indicate that his mission was to come and free those who were slaves. But did he mean those who were literally bought and sold, or those who were spiritually bound?
  • Are you a slave? Or are you completely free in your heart? Are your attitudes, actions and patterns of thought and living completely free? Or do you need to be set free?

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)

  • And we could say that where the Spirit of the Lord is not, there is not freedom.
  • So, is the Spirit of the Lord in you? Are you living in and experiencing the kind of freedom that comes only from having God live within you? You can have freedom in Christ.

“In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:12)

  • Jesus Christ gained our freedom when He laid down His life on the cross. The devil thought that by killing the son of God that he was winning the ultimate victory. The fact of the matter is that Jesus was winning by dying.
  • How? Jesus Christ, the son of God, sacrificed his perfect life in order to secure our freedom. His sinless life provided the ultimate sacrifice to end a cycle of sacrifices that had gone on for thousands of years.
  • Now all we need to approach God is faith in Christ. It really is that simple.

What do we DO with freedom in Christ?

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)

  • Once you are free, you will be tempted to go back to the old, familiar ways of slavery to self, to sin and to the ways you once knew. Don’t do it! Christ has set you free by sacrificing His life. Don’t ignore that high price that was paid for you. Embrace the supernatural gift of liberty that you have been given. Make freedom in Christ your new normal. Don’t look back.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (1 Corinthians 9:19)

  • Now we’re getting ridiculous. Paul had freedom in Christ. His life had been a train wreck, but now he was living free. The chains that once made his heart hard and his life a mess had been been broken. He was a new man. What did he do next?
  • Paul took Christ’s example of laying down his life for others and decided to live out that life. Finding true freedom in Christ, he chose to make his life a living sacrifice. Instead of living for his own comfort or glory, he decided to live out the rest of his days as God’s servant.
  • Now that you have discovered freedom in Christ, what will you do with it? Will you turn around and make your life a sacrifice for others? Will you dedicate yourself to sharing the freedom you have found? Your answer to this question will determine whether or not you will embark on the most amazing adventure you could ever imagine.

How do we KEEP our freedom in Christ?

“I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts.” (Psalm 119:45)

  • Freedom in Christ is found by faith. Freedom in Christ grows and flourishes as we seek God’s ways, not our own. Now that we are free, we get to pursue this relationship with Him further. We enter into a constant process of growth. This lifelong journey will transform us with each step we take.
  • Seek His teaching daily. Make His Word your spiritual food, and you’ll find new levels of freedom in Christ you never thought possible.

“But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James 1:25)

  • Keep looking to God. Keep responding to God. He will lead you daily.

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