Exclusive Way to an Inclusive Kingdom

Jesus broke down barriers between male and female, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, young and old. And while he was a living example of inclusion, he also instructed us to follow him, exclusively:

I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, but by me. John 14:6

Christianity: All are invited to follow an exclusive God.

And while this “exclusivity” feels really counter to modern politics and modern religion, 2 John and 3 John show us it was also contrary even in the early church.

Today’s focus on tolerance, acceptance, understanding, and inclusion are some of the same focuses of the early church. How do we love everyone, include all people groups, and also maintain the truth of who Jesus is, what he did, and that he is the only way to the Father?

1 John 2:21-22 No one who denies the Son has the Father.

As a Christ-follower, have you ever been asked that question of “so you’re telling me that you believe that the millions of Hindus, Muslims, etc, aren’t going to heaven”?

How do we handle that, without sounding unloving, self-righteous, or intolerant? The same way we can handle all questions of Christianity:

      1. On the majors, have conviction.
      2. On the minors, have tolerance
      3. In all things, have love. (John 13:35)

A pastor shared this in a sermon years ago and it stuck with me. I’ve tried to apply this approach to tough questions, debating conversations, or discipling new believers. And wouldn’t you agree, that belief in the saving blood of Jesus is a major? So we can (should!) approach those questions with conviction, with passion, and most of all, with love.

Jesus is my only rescue and he brought me beautiful salvation! I want to shout it from the rooftops that HE is the way to God – the best way, and THE ONLY way!

My earliest memories of my Grandpa Jerry include him wearing this belt buckle – and still the one he wears today. It doesn’t proclaim Jesus to be a smart prophet, kind human, or a good person. HE SAVES! Jesus alone SAVES! Like my Grandpa, I pray my life can be one that demonstrates the saving power of Jesus!

I love to share some of these additional scriptures with those questioning the exclusivity of Christ:

Acts 4:12 There is no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, and whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

Matthew 7:13 Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Romans 3:22-26 The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe, for there is no distinction:for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,  whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 10:9 Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Romans 1:18-21 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.

We don’t have all the answers, but we do know that we must believe in Jesus as our only hope for salvation. God’s ways are far beyond ours, and He will reveal all things in his time. Until then, lets heed John’s warnings in 2 & 3 John –  letters to specific congregations and people, warning them to hold tight to the teaching of Christ.  Don’t be deceived. Support the missionaries that are preaching the name of Christ. Continue walking in the truth. John was addressing this in the early church, just like it needs to be addressed today. Yes, still today, the exclusivity of Jesus’s saving blood is under attack.

2 John 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

Holy Spirit, help us to be bold in proclaiming the name of Jesus! Give us opportunities to share your plan of salvation for all. Fill our hearts with an outpouring of love to cover our words. Thank you God, for including me and inviting me into an exclusive relationship with your Son. Amen.  

Superhero!

Last week, our church hosted kids 9-11 years old at a Superhero themed camp in the great outdoors. Truth be told, superheroes in modern culture aren’t my forte. While they’re all the rage right now, I could maybe identify two superheroes by name in a 3-man lineup. EEEEK – stick with me, all you Marvel fans out there – yes, I googled that.

 

So what’s a dork mom to do when she’s trying to hang with the cool kids all excited about superheroes? I don’t know, put on a mask and cape, and give yourself a cool super hero name! Double EEEEK! I couldn’t even think of a cool superpower!

But here was the cool thing about this camp – you know where this is going, right? JESUS is the ultimate, matchless, most powerful superhero EVER!!! And HE is a superhero I do know something about and has come to my rescue. I could write the never ending sequels to all the times He has saved the day and saved me.

 

While we swapped stories, sang songs, swam, hiked; we also learned about our Superhero Jesus! These kids just melted me and brought my heart to a much needed child-like place of faith. During one evening of devotions we shared in our small groups who some of the superheroes are in our life. I had one camper share that her parents were her superheroes because she was adopted from St. Jude Children’s Hospital, and born with medical problems. Her mom couldn’t take care of her, so her parents stepped in and adopted her and gave her a better life. Another one of my campers shared that her mom was a veteran and served in the military protecting people, and she was her superhero. These girls get it – they recognized at an early age how they had superheroes in their life. People that protected them, defended them, cared for them, even at their own risk or loss. These are people that are following Jesus and showing His sacrificial love. We learned an awesome song at camp with this verse: Jesus, You’re my Superhero, You swooped down and You rescued me”.

 

Jesus is our first and best Superhero, perfectly demonstrating how to love the unlovely, grace the sinner, and protect the weak. And while we can never perfectly mirror Jesus, we sure can strive for excellence! 1 Peter 1:16 encourages us to “Be Holy, for I am Holy”.

 

And as we open up to our reading for today – the entire book of Philemon (one chapter), we see Paul following in Jesus’ footsteps. He serves as a superhero to Onesimus, standing in the gap between Onesimus & Philemon, the recipient of this letter. Onesimus (I’ve heard it pronounced oh-NESS-i-muss) was a slave that ran away from Philemon, and while on the run he became a Christ follower, taught by Paul and loved by Paul. Paul sends him back to Philemon with this letter, vouching for Onesimus, building up his character, taking on his debt, and asking for him to be received how Philemon would receive Paul himself. He asks all these things in love, rather than requiring it from Philemon, as his superior in the early church.

 

This is a really cool letter to study with so many little glimpses of Jesus shining through. Paul humbles himself when he doesn’t have to. He has a heart for reconciliation between people he cares deeply for. Paul is willing to assume the debt or restitution of Onesimus – interceding for the people he is leading.

 

While we never know exactly how this situation ends, we do know that Paul was very confident that Philemon would respond favorable to Paul’s request of reconciliation (vs. 21). And at the very end of this letter we get one more little clue of reconciliation in Paul’s world. He sends greetings from Mark – who he was separated from in the ministry for a period of time due to a disagreement (Acts 13 & 15) and yet here we see that they have reconciled and Paul is sending greetings on Mark’s behalf. I love this picture of how the Holy Spirit leads people to reconciliation, and sometimes uses one another in the process.

 

Have you had someone stand in the gap for you, vouch for you, take on your debt when they weren’t responsible? Maybe someone backed you in the workplace, or stuck up for you in school. We are surrounded by superheroes that are following Jesus’ footsteps – from organ donors to foster parents, teachers and firemen. Take a moment and reflect on and thank God for the superheroes He has sent your way. These people are the gospel message in action – standing in the gap and interceding for us just like Jesus did at Calvary. Our perfect Superhero took on our sin debt, vouched for us, pleaded for our forgiveness, all while we were still sinners. Jesus is our Superhero!

Be On Guard

Last weekend, my husband and I discovered a beautiful trail outside of Nashville, at Percy Warner Park. The trail is called Mossy Ridge Trail, and it lives up to its name, with elevation changes, streams and mini waterfalls, and lots of moss covered limestone.

We followed the map of the 4.5 mile loop, the first day running it counter clockwise and having more of the steep climbs during the ascension. Temperatures were climbing up in the 80s and we were thankful for the forested shade during most of the trail. So much to see as we were running up and down, over and back, across the rocks, logs, and tree roots. It’s easy to get lost in your thoughts and prayers when you’re out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by such natural beauty. We had about 3/4 of a mile left when Tim warns “SNAKE”.

I freeze and see where he is pointing and back up a bit. Wow, he’s a big one! We guessed between 4-5 ft long, but it was hard to tell because he was so curled up. He looked mostly black and of course I asked Tim to dig his phone out and snap some pics of him (her?) so we could later identify him. There were some markings, but not as much as a bull snake usually has… so maybe he is a rat snake. He wasn’t in a hurry to move from the middle of the trail… so with a stick I was able to get him to slither off into the woods so I could pass.

The rest of the run, my eyes were much more wide open, my senses were more alert, and I was definitely looking for the next creature we may encounter. While I don’t have a huge snake phobia, I also don’t love their slithering sneaky creepy ways. Yuck! We live in the country and they are good for mice – I just prefer them to be out of sight in the woods 🙂

The next day we went back for another trail run, and it’s really cool how the opposite direction of the exact same trail can feel different. The climbs are from the opposite direction, the slick downhills are now easier to get up, and while it’s familiar from the day before, it has a newness to it when you experience it from a new vantage point. We are a mile in and I happen to be leading this section (we alternate) and it’s my turn to warn “SNAKE”. Same coloring, but not as big. Again, this guy came out of nowhere and was hard to see at first. He was half in the grassy edge and half on the trail – looking SO SIMILAR to the tree roots around him that were also sprawled across the trail. As soon as he heard me he darted off, and we went on our way.

The next couple of miles I thought about snakes. What makes them creepy, how camouflaged they can be to their surroundings, what they’re good for, why they freak us out, etc. I kept my eyes peeled the rest of the run looking out for more snakes. I was much more alert after seeing this second snake on the second day, than after the first snake on the first day. Every tree root sprawling across the path was the next snake 🙂

If snakes give you the heebie jeebies and freak you out, I am sorry!! I will get us to the scripture (stay with me).  In Mark 13, we find Jesus explaining to his disciples about end times and his return. One thing that really stands out to me is there are five different times that Jesus warns them to stay alert and be on guard (verses 5, 9, 26):

See that no one leads you astray, many will come in my name…And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, But be on guard.

After studying this chapter, I couldn’t help but think about our snake encounter, and how we almost ran right into him the first time, not expecting it. We ARE in the woods. We ARE in this snake’s home. Why was it a surprise? And Day Two? Don’t you think I would have been extra aware? But once again I’m running along, taking in the sights, and this snake looked so much like a dark tree root that I almost missed him. These snakes are no dummies… they know how to get a meal, and it’s not with a big flashing sign saying “SNAKE RIGHT HERE”… they’re trying to creep up on their lunch with the art of surprise. And while I know this about snakes, both times I was caught off guard.

The disciples were asking Jesus for a big sign of when these end days of tribulation will come. But Jesus tells them that no one knows the hour of when, but to stay alert and be on guard. He tells them how they will be persecuted and how to handle it. He tells them how there will be false prophets claiming to be coming in Jesus’ name and to not be fooled.

Who me? Fooled by a false prophet? After Jesus specifically warns me? Surely not!

Hello self, you just ran right into a snake, the day after encountering a snake in the same location. Ummm…

Leading up to this journal entry I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to show me false prophets in my life. Specifically, I’ve asked for a spirit of discernment of people, books, pastors, groups, studies, etc, all claiming to be in the name of Christ, but are deceiving and not aligned with the Lord. I need to be more aware, alert, on guard and ready! False prophets aren’t going to be easy to spot, they will be one tiny detail away from truth… or one shade off of white. False prophets will normalize sin, justify the unjust, and try to rationalize the irrational. If they were obvious to see and recognize, Jesus wouldn’t give such a strong warning.

Like I’ve said in many of my posts – I CAN’T WAIT for heaven!! Wonder if there will be snakes there?

Awestruck

Can you see the wonder across her face? The complete joy and splendor… about pancakes with sprinkles and candles? The flame flickering and twinkling in her eyes. Mesmerized by the beauty. Anticipating the deliciousness. Can you hear the squealing with delight? Absolutely awestruck.

Do you receive the kingdom of God like a child? Luke 18 commands this – and it’s left me pondering what exactly that would look like. What would it feel like if we approached our Creator and eternity, like a child?

Curiosity

        • Hey Mommy, how do birds fly?
        • Who teaches them to flap their wings?
        • Where do their parents take them?
        • Why do they fly south for the winter?
        • How do they know it’s warmer in the south?
        • What’s instinct mean?
        • But how do you just know?
        • Do you have any instincts, Mommy?

If you’ve spent any time with young children, you’ve probably found yourself in one of these never-ending question cycles of why, what, how, when, where, or who. A hunger for knowledge and understanding is part of childhood and maturing. It’s not just the hunger, but also the confidence to seek the answers. When I hear the term “child-like faith”, I don’t take it to mean blindly believing what you’ve been told, without asking questions.. I think it’s more of a willing and humble heart to explore who God is.

What questions do we have about God or salvation that we need to get to the bottom of? Are we ashamed to admit we don’t understand something? Are we so busy with our to-do lists that we haven’t allowed time for curiosity?

Reliance

From sun up to sun down children rely on their parents for so much. This chapter actually uses the word infants – and wow, babies require even more than children, to keep them alive. Feeding, bathing, clothing, diapers, transportation, safety, medical attention, etc. They cry to communicate and eventually we figure out what they are asking for. They learn that we will comfort them, feed them, help them, when they’re in distress.

God has never let me down, has never left me to figure it out alone. He has always comforted me, directed me, and loved me, through every distress. Yet each time I can see a storm coming, I begin to worry. And isn’t worrying a sign that I’m not trusting and willing to rely solely on the Lord? Complete surrender to God is so beautiful, and this level of trust comes from experiencing patterns of His faithfulness.

This weekend, let’s ask God to show us which qualities of children we need to embrace and emulate as we grow in our faith. I know I can approach the throne of God with an awestruck heart, more curiosity, or greater reliance and trust. What child-like qualities do you need more of in your life?

Show me Your Glory

A few years ago I was part of a women’s bible study called Seamless. This study guides you through the entire Bible, start to finish, showing the connections of God’s plan for us, from Creation to Jesus, to the Early Church, and everything in between. It showed the seamlessness of the Bible, and how it all fits together when you look at the bigger plan of salvation. I absolutely LOVED this study! For so many years I felt like the Old Testament was a bunch of separate Sunday School stories that were anything but seamless. I didn’t understand the timelines or eras, and while I knew some of the main characters and plots, I didn’t have it “mapped out” and how it all points to Jesus.

In the last month of Bible Journal entries we have moved from Kings to Prophets. Thanks for following along with us as we uncover these early leaders in the Old Testament. If you take a step back, you can see that God’s people have been led by Priests, Judges, Kings, and Prophets, each role spanning different time periods and for different reasons. God used the prophets to guide His people back to him. Stick with us – it really does all come together and point to Jesus!

Today I get to introduce you to Ezekiel. He (and other Israelites) have been living in exile for five years in Babylon, at the hand of King Jehoiachin. The next few days we will cover more scripture from Ezekiel – and heads up, it gets pretty interesting.

Chapter 1 he leads right off with a vision that God gave him, of the glory of God. Take a few minutes and read it. Do you need a pen and paper to draw out what he is describing, to keep it all straight? All the features, and body parts and animals? I’m not a bible scholar or dream interpreter…and it’s hard to know what to make of all of this! I read this several times and I thought and prayed… Okay Lord, what do you want me to learn from this?

I’d truly be guessing if I tried to share some big theological explanation of what his vision could symbolize and mean. When I was studying and digging deeper into this chapter, I found a lot of smart opinions and guesses out there. If you’re into that kind of stuff, your bible may have a lot of cool footnotes, or google and dig around the web. When I did an image search for ‘Ezekiel 1 Vision Picture of God’s Glory’ it was crazy to see all of the different ways artists interpreted Ezekiel’s description – the picture in my mind was completely different! I also found it fascinating how one source compared verse ten’s four faces (man, lion, ox, eagle) to Jesus. Jesus is fully man, he is king and victorious like a lion, he is a servant and sacrifice like an ox, and he transcends and is spiritually sovereign like the eagle. Chapters like this leave me curious and hungry to understand more – heaven, come quick!

There were also two things I learned about Ezekiel that really encouraged me:

First, Ezekiel is BOLD. And like I said – STAY TUNED – there’s more coming. He’s clearly being directed by the Lord, and has no qualms about telling the Israelites every detail of what he just saw. They’re living in exile, and God is using Ezekiel to share His message with His people. What message does God have for you to share? Maybe it’s not an indescribable being from a vision, maybe it’s your own life experiences. Maybe it’s not a message for a people group living in exile.. maybe it’s something God has for you to share with your family, a group of teens at your church, or some co-workers. I’m encouraged to be BOLD, even at the risk of sounding a little loony.

Second, Ezekiel is reverent. Verse 28 tells us that when he sees all of this he falls on his face. He didn’t run and hide in fear. He didn’t look the creature in the eye or give him a high five. He went to the ground, face down, to show his humility, awe, worship, and adoration. Have you had those fall to your knees or go face down moments in your faith journey? Those deeply spiritual moments you can always go back to, that can draw your heart to worship and praise? Whether the circumstances were tragic or triumphant – your only response was one of complete surrender?

I can go back to some of those moments in time in my life, like when I first made a commitment to follow Christ, or when my daughter came out of spinal cord surgery at five and a half months old. Remembering and reliving those moments of complete praise and surrender draw my heart closer to the Lord.  Third Day has a song called Show Me Your Glory, and I love this part of the chorus:

Show me your glory
Send down your presence
I wanna see your face
Show me your glory
Majesty shines about you
I can’t go on with you Lord

We don’t have to wait for heaven to experience the glory of God – what a gift! Let’s ask God to help us see His glory today!

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

What Could Be Better?

A few years ago, my daughter Gracie received a gift card for her birthday, and she knew EXACTLY what she planned to purchase. She had her sights set on a deluxe Lego set that would bring the Frozen castle to life. When we got to the toy store, they were completely sold out. And the sets they did have were half the size of the one she wanted, but not half the cost. I laid out her options: order the set she wanted online and wait 3-5 business days OR get one of the smaller sets that she could take home and play with that same day.

She really didn’t take much time deciding – she chose to wait. She wanted the bigger and better set and was willing to wait it out.

This choice, while small in the grand scheme of things, was huge in her world. This was one of those milestone moments that showed her maturity. And truth be told, I didn’t see it coming. I fully expected her to want the immediate, the now, the joy of a new toy in the moment. She really blew me away that day, and I can vividly remember my heart swelling – my five year old is practicing good decision making, good self-control. Good stewardship. She understood the pros and cons, and even with something small like Legos, she made a big decision.

As we approach John 16, Jesus didn’t give the disciples any choices. He laid out what’s coming for Him, and what that means for them. They don’t get it, and I don’t think they want to get it. Jesus proactively answers the questions they’re all thinking, but aren’t asking out loud – He is so good to us! If the disciples were given a choice, my guess is they would choose to have Jesus stay with them in the flesh. I am sure I would have too.

As Jesus continues with His farewell + next steps, He lets them know He will send someone EVEN BETTER for them! And if you’re anything like me, your eyebrows raise at verse 7 when Jesus outlines all of this – I mean, WHAT could be better than having Jesus with us, sitting next to us, right here, right now?!

My longing for Jesus to return leaves me with some questions:

  • Am I fully aware and tuned in to the Holy Spirit that is here, NOW, and LIVING inside of me?
  • Do I trust Jesus completely, and fully believe Him that it’s to my advantage that He goes for awhile, and the Holy Spirit is in His place?
  • How am I a witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in this world? Guiding, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus?
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit, that’s living in me, evident in my life?

Gracie was able to see that waiting for the deluxe Lego set that she wanted would be better.

Am I able to see that having the Holy Spirit live inside of me, is better right now than having Jesus walk beside me? And if so, am I relying on His power in my life – the same power that rose Jesus from the dead?

The Cure

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As I read the Bible I’d like to be able to compare myself and say I’m like some of the heroes of the Bible such as Abraham, Moses, Joseph, David, Paul, or even some of those in the New Testament who by faith believed that just by touching Jesus’ cloak or by Him saying the words they, or a member of their family, would be healed. Unfortunately, I find I’m much more like those in Luke 20 who try to challenge and question Jesus and have selfish, impure motives. Here in this chapter we have the chief priests and scribes who question Jesus’ authority to which Jesus tells the parable of the wicked tenants and later says is Luke 20:45-47 that they exalt themselves and take advantage of others. We also have in this chapter spies sent by the chief priests and scribes who try to test Jesus and ask if they should pay taxes or not, and we have the Sadducees asking Him an irrelevant question about whose wife someone will be in the afterlife.

Instead of just trusting in Him and having peace in the fact that he defeated Satan and sin through his resurrection and will permanently defeat Satan and sin through His second coming foretold in the book of Revelation, I find myself trying to figure out at times why God is letting certain things happen in my life and in the lives of others around me and why He lets the terrible things we see on the news in the world around us happen. This questioning of Him and asking why is clearly Satan impeding and getting us to focus on the problem, not the solution…Jesus!

In his book, The Grave Robber, Mark Batterson discusses how miracles are happening all around us, but we don’t focus on them, we focus on problems. He discusses that we may feel like we are sitting still right now but the Earth is spinning on its axis at 1,000 miles per hour and the Earth is hurtling through space at 67,108 miles per hour which is not only faster than a speeding bullet but is 87 times faster than the speed of sound. He jokes that even if you didn’t feel like you did much today you traveled 1,599,794 miles through space! He asks, when is the last time we thanked God for keeping us in orbit or said to God, “Lord, I wasn’t sure we would make the full rotation today, but You did it again!” He talks about how the biggest miracle we see daily is really our own life. There are chemical interactions that must take place perfectly in our body every moment for us to be alive and that our brain is performing 10 quadrillion (I didn’t even know that was a number!) calculations per second. We aren’t just surrounded by miracles each day he says, we are one. Just look in the mirror.

This helps us clearly see that when we lose sight of God in our lives, we focus on all the bad things happening and ask why. We focus on the irrelevant like those in Luke 20, as opposed to looking at the miracles he’s performing this very second. And most importantly, this keeps us from focusing on being thankful for the greatest miracle He performed which was sending His perfect Son to die on the cross and to be raised to life to permanently defeat Satan and our sin bringing us back together with Him and giving us eternal life which He didn’t have to do.

Help us focus on You. Jesus…you are the Cure!

Jesus is Tempted

In today’s scripture covering the words of Jesus, we look at Luke 4. This is a continuation from yesterday’s message in Luke 3, where John the Baptist taught about repentance, turning from sin, and being baptized. Luke 4 picks up after Jesus’ baptism and goes right into Jesus being tempted by Satan in the dessert. I love this picture of the human side of Jesus, and I’m going to look across the other gospels to show this full picture, because I love everything about this passage!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record different aspects of the temptation. Most bible scholars agree that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, during which time Satan was tempting him. At the end of the 40 days, Satan tempted him with three specific things that are recorded in detail (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-18).

The situation is intriguing from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit directs Jesus to go to the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus was sent there for a purpose! A lot of times I think we create and walk right into our own messes – we made choices that lead to the storm we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of… But there are other situations that truly pop up out of the blue, and we are left scratching our heads with questions like… Why am I here? How did this happen? What am I supposed to make of all of this? Just maybe we are led there for a reason. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into this temptation for a purpose. And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to places that have tempting situations. Why? Why would He do that? God uses victory over temptation as an example for others. What example is God using in your life for others? Is there an area you need to take a more black and white stand, as an example for others? Are you tempted to stay silent when you need to speak truth into a situation?

Next, we look at how Jesus was tempted. Sounds pretty familiar to the same types of things we are tempted by… physical needs and desires (bread), power (the world), and lastly, He was tempted to test God (throw Himself off the mountain).  Jesus was tempted in the same ways that Satan tries to tempt us today. It’s pretty cool that Jesus walked before us and showed us exactly what to watch for!  When you think of these three areas of temptation, is there one you need to take hold of today and claim victory?

How? How can we overcome? BAM – Jesus shows us! He responds to each temptation by reciting scripture (we find it in Deuteronomy) back to Satan. What an awesome example for us to keep the Word of God in our hearts and overcome Satan. Do you have some go-to scriptures that you can use when you’re feeling tempted? Here are a few of mine:

Keep thy tongue from evil. Psalm 34:13

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. Romans 12:19

Whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are lovely, think on THOSE things. Phil 4:8

Fear not, I am with thee. Isaiah 41:10

Depart from evil and do good. Psalm 34:14

My God will supply all your needs. Phil 4:19

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Luke 6:27

As cheesy as it sounds, I like to say them out loud. There’s power in verbally declaring victory over the enemy!

The last piece of Jesus’ temptation is His Father’s care and compassion. After Jesus endured the temptation, God sent help (His angels) to comfort and minister to Jesus. I really don’t know exactly what this means (not much is explained), but I’ve always envisioned some sort of angel cheerleading situation. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, GOOOOOO JESUS! Oh, and I also picture them carrying lots of bread. All the bread. As a grain-a-holic myself, my version of this story is with a satchel full of naan, baguettes, bagels, all of it. I mean, Jesus was fasting for awhile!!  In all seriousness, when we are in the middle of a temptation, we can look forward to being replenished by our Father. God will restore our weary souls. Can you look back and see this provision in your life?

God is so gracious to give us this fully-man Jesus to walk before us and show us how to do life on earth. It’s no coincidence that this temptation by Satan occurred right after Jesus’ baptism.  The enemy doesn’t want us to gain any ground in our faith walk. When we declare our commitment and belief in God, the enemy will work to shake us. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and be ready, armed with the Word of God!

Go into all the world…

Today’s Reading: Mark 16

As we finish reading through Mark focusing on the words of Jesus has been so many Holy Spirit filled words Jesus spoke that have been so timely and encouraging throughout Mark.  They have been great reminders to help get me back on track and stay focused on an eternal perspective instead of worldly.  Today, in Mark 16 we hear from an angel.  The angel tells Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, “Do not be alarmed… that He has risen, and will see Him again.  The three of them leave trembling and astonished.

According to later manuscripts verses 16:9-20 did not get included.  In the few bibles I reference, Mark 16:9-20 captures the essence of our calling as he reminds His disciples.

V 15 And he said to them, Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.

We all have opportunities to share the gospel.  Many times I have this opportunity and blow it.  Maybe it’s my own “self talk” that gets in the way of proclaiming His glory.  It could also being a mindset of bringing someone to Christ by use of the “just right” verses that roll off the tongue just the way I planned.  The truth is I have failed this many times.  A recent conversation I’m planning to continue is with a person that questioned stories found in the bible based on the belief that all you had to do was be good. This conversation could have started a few weeks ago but, I was waiting for that perfect moment. I had planned on asking a faith  We started talking about the bible and the truth behind it.  I quickly started to minimize the conversation as He shared his belief in the human Jesus but not in the spiritual context.  For me, I could really speak only in that moment what I had seen, heard, and felt in my own life.  I could talk of my old life and my new life with a relationship with Jesus.  That we have been made by Him and for Him. How will I finish conversation we started last week? I can share what I believe.  Telling this young man who I believe Jesus is  and what HE has done.  This can all lead into the grace God which can be shown through all of us and how this grace can be given to us all when we repent. Stephanie talked about the victory shown by Jesus when he overcame death.  That Jesus paid the price so that all who believe in Him can be forgiven and live an eternal life.

Here are a few verses to help encourage and support you in a conversation today

Colossians 1:23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation

Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

John 3:15 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.[b] The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling[c] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

 

So today an opportunity will come up to share the good news of Jesus. Jesus will be with you in this conversation. And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.  Be a brave ambassador and share your person story with others in lives.