My thoughts on faith, books, and life in general
Category Archives: Jesus
Johnnie Moore’s Dirty God had a lot of potential, but didn’t seem to quite live up to what I had expected. I agree with the core message of the book, that grace is for everyone, and Jesus is God who gets His hands dirty and comes down to a human level in order to bring us into a relationship with Him.
This week I shared with my team about Forgiveness.
I also made a book recommendation. I recommended The Traveler’s Gift: Seven Decisions that Determine Personal Success by Andy Andrews.
I’ve enjoyed his books and this was the first of his that I read. Andy Andrews has a powerful personal story – one of tragedy and hardship. His parents both died when he was a young adult, and he ended up homeless and living under a pier in Orange Beach, Alabama. He began reading about the lives of great men and women and learned from their example, how to live a life of success. Now, years later he is a bestselling author and successful speaker.
One of the Seven Decisions that he discusses is what he calls “the compassionate decision.” This is the decision that says, “I will greet the day with a forgiving spirit.”
It’s often been said that Sin is rebellion against God, but Lucado does a great job at illustrating that point from the teachings of Jesus.
Read Jesus’ one-paragraph definition of sin.
A nobleman was called away to a distant empire to be crowned king and then return. Before he left, he called together ten servants and gave them ten pounds of silver to invest for him while he was gone. But his people hated him and sent a delegation after him to say they did not want him to be their king. (Luke 19:12-14 NLT)
To sin is to state, “God, I do not want you to be my king. I prefer a kingless kingdom. Or, better still, a kingdom in which I am king.”
Imagine if someone did the same to you. Suppose you go on a long trip and leave your residence under the supervision of a caretaker. You trust him will all your possessions. While you’re away, he moves into your house and claims it for his own…He claims your authority and send you this message: “Don’t come back. I’m running things now.”
It’s a shocking picture, but Lucado is right in using this picture to illustrate how God sees sin. You and I think it’s minor, but to God, who is creator and rightful ruler–it’s open rebellion.
If you tell someone that they aren’t going to be run over by a train, it doesn’t seem like good news to them unless they recognize that they were actually going to be run over by the train.
As Christians, so often our message – the gospel, or “good news” – doesn’t really seem like good news to those around us. We try to tell those around us that God loves them and offers grace and salvation to them. The fact is that most people around you and me today don’t see the need for salvation.
The Bible says in Isaiah 53:6:
“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way;and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
And inRomans 3:10-11:
As it is written:“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.”
Then in John 3:36:
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
These verses and others like them help give context to the good news that Jesus Christ has taken the punishment for our sins. We must recognize our own sinfulness before we can ever appreciate the fact that Jesus Christ comes between us and the judgment of God that is coming at us.
There are people who don’t believe in God, nor do they recognize His judgment (yet). These are the ones who don’t know the train is barreling down the tracks, so they can’t appreciate the fact that someone could save them from being run over by it.
You and I cannot always change minds, but we do have an obligation to tell the whole Gospel. And telling people that Jesus saves is fine, but it doesn’t seem like good news unless we also share why we need saving and what we’re being saved from.
What do you think? Have you heard someone share this news well?
For more on this, check out my recent post: The Miracle of God’s Judgment and Forgiveness.
Like many other people, I am currently reading through the Bible. I started in the middle of last year, and have been trying to finish. (You’ll recall, one of my goals for this year is to be a finisher). One of my favorite bloggers is Jon Acuff, who has recently discussed his journey through the Bible and how some parts of the Bible are harder to read through than others. That is so true, and I’m in one of those parts now.
I’m reading through the major prophets (so-called because they’re the longer books of the prophets in the Old Testament – the shorter ones are the minor prophets). The greater part of these books are discussions of God’s judgment upon the nation of Israel. Time and again, God’s prophets expose the idolatry and wickedness of the Israelites, pronouncing His judgment upon them.
As I read this, I wonder, “Why is so much of the Bible dedicated to the judgment of God?” After all, we don’t talk about that much today. Does it really matter to us today?
Christmas is about worship. Believe it or not, most Americans (and perhaps a large portion of the western world) get caught up in the act of worship at Christmastime. Christmas presents us with a myriad of opportunities for worship, and let’s face it, worship is what we as humans do. It’s what God created us for.
God made us with a built-in desire, even a need, to worship. We were created by God to worship Him. Yet we rebelled and, instead of worshiping the God who made us, we often give our worship to other things.
Our culture thinks that Christmas is just a holiday, but it isn’t. In Christmas, we find a perfect opportunity for worship. The question is: whom or what will we worship?
It’s exciting to see a man like Mr Harvey using his influence to point to Jesus. Here Steve Harvey introduces Jesus:
I just recently finished reading UnChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons. You can check out the website for a free preview of the book.
David Kinnaman is the president of the Barna Group. They do a lot of surveys and polling for churches. This book includes a lot of the statistical and anecdotal information that they’ve gathered over the last few years.
The book endeavors to explore and explain some of the ideas that people outside the Christian church have about Christians and the church. The authors assert that many of these ideas that these “outsiders” have about Christians stem from the unChristian activity of people who call themselves Christians.
For many readers young readers in the church, a lot of these concepts and solutions may not be groundbreaking, however the authors do a great job at articulating important solutions. If you’ve wondered why so many young Americans are turned off by church, this is a great book to read. The authors list a handful of criticisms that “outsiders” have of Christians, and how we might respond to these criticisms. In fact, most of these criticisms have some validity. Many people don’t like the church or Christianity because they see a lot of “church folks” living differently from how Jesus would live. The solution, then, involves Christians replacing these “unChristian” actions, views, and behaviors with Christ-like ones.
I really like how Kinnaman and Lyons talk through these issues. I like how they articulate both the criticisms of Christianity, and some proposed solutions. I do recommend this book, and give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Anne Jackson just put up a post about things people feel like they can’t say in church. The responses to her post were certainly eye opening. It’s true, isn’t it, that too often we tend to discourage plain talk at church in favor of “church talk.”
While we could certainly say that there are things which have no business being spoken anytime or anyplace, but why do we feel like we have to have a special language in church? I’ll tell you what I think it is. We create an environment in our churches where we encourage fake-ness. Oh, we say we want people to be real, but I’m not convinced that we always are ready to hear what might come out of their mouths if they were real.
People have got real issues, and are dealing with things that they don’t talk about at church. How do we encourage honesty and openness? Well someone has to be open and honest — it may (and should) have to start with leaders. We’ve got to admit we’re not perfect (a fact most people already know), and stop acting like we don’t have any faults or flaws — maybe at some point people expected their pastors to be perfect, but today they’ve seen enough to know that even pastors and church leaders aren’t without faults.
Another thing we’ve got to do is to show that we’re willing to love (and maybe even accept) people, even knowing that they’ve got problems. One of the major criticisms that people have about church is that we don’t love people like Jesus did.
But just wait, there’s more. I believe that as a church we should be willing to love and accept anyone. ANYONE. (yikes – just wait–God’s going to make live that out now. It’s easier said than done, because some people are really difficult, and hard to love). Don’t stop here, this is where it gets harder. Jesus did love everyone, and showed love especially to sinners and outcasts, but He didn’t just accept them — that wasn’t the end of it. He loved them too much to leave them where He found them. You see, Jesus demanded that people change. He accepted them, but then He told them to stop sinning.
As Church people, too often we want to accept people after they’ve changed and gotten it all together — hence the facade of “I’m ok, you’re ok.” That’s not how we should be.
As sinners, too often we want people to love us and accept us unconditionally, and let us do what we want. We don’t want to hear that we need to change. That’s not how we should be.
Love is hard, it takes work. So does life change. As a church we’ve got to be real, but we’ve got to help people make the necessary changes in their lives — and that means a big commitment.
Love is in the air! It’s Valentine’s Day and everyone (well most people) is talking about it, trying to show their love and affection through gifts, romantic acts, fancy dinners, flowers, cards, etc. My wife and I have romantic plans as well. It’s Valentine’s Day and everyone is thinking about love.
As I was contemplating love, I remember a discussion that I’ve been having with a friend of mine who is also a fellow teacher of my bible study class. He has been working on a study of John 13:34-35. These verses say:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
Recently Nathan (my fellow teacher) and I were discussing the issue of this commandment’s “newness.” What exactly makes it a “new” commandment. That’s what I want to write about here today.
You see, this is not the first time that Jesus has talked about commandments that involve loving. In fact, He quotes the Greatest Commandment and the second in all three synoptic Gospels (Matthew 22, Mark 12, Luke 10). The Greatest Commandment, Jesus says in Matthew’s Gospel is “”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
These commandments are not new; in fact, they are old ones. So what is different about the new commandment Jesus gives? We were already told to love God. That commandment is not affected. The old commandment to love others as ourselves is affected by the new command.
The way we were to love before –the way of the Golden Rule — is good. This command compels us to act as the Good Samaritan acted (Luke 10), caring for others just as we would care for ourselves. Those who follow this command are truly good people. However, Jesus raises the bar. He commands His disciples not only to love others as they love themselves, but even to love others as He loves them.
Here’s the difference: I can love others as myself without too much difficulty most times. Loving others this way involves giving, being considerate, generous, kind, etc. However, under this command, if my own interests come into conflict with those of my neighbor I can still put me first. For instance, if I have a choice between providing for myself or someone else, I can come first because the standard for my love for others is based upon my own love for myself (which is assumed). The new commandment goes beyond that. Christ’s love is a love that sacrifices. He loves us enough that He gave up His own life! He now calls upon His followers to love others in the same way. This kind of love is described in John 15:13:
Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.
In the next few verses He goes on to say that we (His followers) are His friends. So to love like Jesus now involves sacrifice. No longer do we get to put ourselves first. Now when our interests come into conflict with those of others, they come first because the basis is Christ’s example. This means that even (or especially) when it hurts us to love others, that is what we are called to do. That’s a big calling. Don’t you think so?