Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Jesus and the woman at the well

Jesus teaches about the true nature of WORSHIP and reveals who He really is.

John 4: 5-26
So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.

The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, "Give Me a drink", you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." She said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? You are not greater than out father Jacob, are You, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and His cattle?"

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

The woman said to Him, "Sir give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw. "He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."

The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."

The woman said to Him. "Sir I perceive that You are a prophet. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

Jesus said to her. "Woman, believe Me, and hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

The woman said to Him, "I know the Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

I am fascinated by this story.

The Samaritans were looked down on by the Jews and the Jews had nothing to do with them. They wouldn't ever step foot in Samaria. That is what makes this story so unique. This was not a coincidence or an accident. Jesus planned this encounter with the Samaritan woman, and all along had in mind that He would use this encounter to bring her and the people of her village to an understanding of who He was, and the hope that they would find in Him.

Jesus begins the encounter with a simple request, "Give Me a drink." But He was never really interested in water. It was all about opening the door to Her coming to the realization that He was the Messiah.

Her response was amazement that a Jewish man would ask a Samaritan woman for a drink. "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" Jesus uses her response as the opening into the deeper things He is most interested in leading her into. "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that says to you, "Give Me a drink", you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water."

She is still thinking He is talking about literal water and she said to Him, "Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water? 

Jesus continues to lead her into the truth He wants to reveal to her:

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."

She responds: "Sir give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw.

Jesus then reveals He is more than just a man by revealing He knows more about her than should be possible if He is just a Jewish man asking for a drink. He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here."

The woman explains that she has no husband, and Jesus responds by telling her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."

She is now realizing that He  is something more. "Sir I perceive that You are a prophet. "Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship."

She asks Him a question regarding the differences in Jewish beliefs and Samaritan beliefs about worship.

Jesus answers her question with a very revealing insight into what is true worship.

"Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

True worship has nothing to do with location, but has everything to do with the attitude of the heart and an accurate understanding of who God is and who His Son is. True worship is spiritual and grounded in the truth of God the Father and His Son Jesus - the Messiah! Those who worship Him must worship in SPIRIT - the outflowing of God's Spirit within us, and TRUTH - in the full knowledge of who God is and His love if us demonstrated in His Son - JESUS the Christ!

The woman is still oblivious to who He is and responds, "I know the Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."

She is aware of and hoping for the coming of the promised Messiah and is waiting for the day when He will reveal and explain all things. This is the faith Jesus is looking for and now He tells her what He had told no one else except His disciples:

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He."

In essence He is saying -  "I am right here."

Now she realizes that He is more. He is in fact - The Messiah! She runs back to her village and tells them all that she has found the Messiah. (In fact - He found her). They all come to see Him. They cannot help it - if this is the Messiah - they must see Him and be with Him.

That is WORSHIP!

It is the most reasonable response to being in the presence of God. As I worship I often have the picture of Jesus standing right in front of me and He knows everything - my pain, my shame, my fears, my grief, my doubts and on and on. He looks in my eyes and says - "I am right here, and I will never leave you or forsake you. Give it all to me and let me carry it. You don't have to do this alone anymore. That is why I came and the gift I give. I can set you free so you can know abundant life free from all the things that keep you from me."

With that picture in my heart I find myself worshipping with thanksgiving and a freedom that comes from knowing and being in the presence of Christ - the Son of God, my Savior! I worship with abandon and with my eyes turned to Him, my heart overflowing with adoration and love, and humble thanksgiving to the Father who would send His Son, and for His Son who chose to give His life for mine. That is worshipping in Spirit and Truth.

WORSHIP HIM! He is worthy, and it is what we were made to do, and because of what Jesus did on the cross and continues to do in leading me into all truth, I can worship with nothing standing between us or holding me back. I am living out of who I am in Christ.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This is the Gospel - the Good News.

The story of salvation, the Gospel, has been told for hundreds of years all over the world. It is a simple and beautiful story, and one that when believed, has changed the lives of millions of people.
It is the central theme of the Bible from beginning to end.

The story begins with a simple but profound truth - God loves us!  (Jn. 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.) He loves every man, woman, and child on the planet. This simple verse has been written on billboards, banners at football games, and bumper stickers to the point that people who see it have become immune to it because without a context for what they are reading or hearing they dismiss it, and worse become desensitized to this life changing truth.

The truth really is that simple - "God loves us!" 
1John 4:8 "God is Love". 

     Love is the process of meeting needs, and God is committed to meeting my greatest need - redemption and salvation. The Bible is the story of God's commitment to redeem mankind from slavery to sin and death. The focus of the story is Jesus!

What is too often missing in the presentation of the Gospel is the lack of an explanation of Why?
     - Why did Jesus have to die?
     - Why did He have to die on a cross, and did He really rise again, and why is that important?
     - Why is it so important that we believe this?

If it is true that God loves us, then Why are we not experiencing His love? Why is the world so messed up? The answer is described in one word - SIN! Mankind in denying God would like to purge this word from our language. In choosing to deny God they look to outside influences to explain the corruption of man and all the things that are wrong in the world. Those who deny God would have us believe that we are not responsible. They will explain away sin in any way they can to avoid personal responsibility and accountability to their creator. But it is sin that is destroying man and the world we live in. God clearly states that we are all sinners, separated from His love. We were born in sin: 
  "... in sin my mother conceived me." Psalm 51:5
              and we are all guilty of personal sin:
  "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God". Romans 3:23

We are all guilty before God. There are no exceptions. Every human that has ever lived or will live is guilty of sin before God.

What is SIN?
     Sin is not just the things we do - lying, cheating, stealing, adultery, murder, etc. Those are all sins, but they are merely symptoms of a greater problem called SIN. Sin is an attitude of the heart that each of us is born with. It's an attitude of selfishness that declares "It's my life and I will do what I want to. I don't want anyone else telling me how I should live. I will do what I want, when I want, and I will not answer to anyone else, especially God. (The truth is that you are answering to someone - the evil one who is the Father of lies and has deceived you into believing you are not responsible for your sin and have no need of God. You are a slave to Satan as long as you choose to deny God and His Son, the only one who can save you from sin and eternal destruction.) This mindset expresses itself in the things we do which we call sins (those listed above). Sometimes it is the arrogance of claiming we don't need Him. It is also expressed in our indifference and denying He exists. All of this is evidence and proof of the attitude of sin we are all born with and guilty of.

It is very important that we understand this next truth:
     God is a holy and righteous God!
          Psalm 11:7 "For the LORD is righteous; He loves righteousness..."
In His very essence He is perfect and pure. He cannot tolerate sin. It must be paid for. It can't be excused or overlooked. It must be dealt with. The Bible makes it very clear how God deals with sin.
         Rom. 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death..."
What our sin earns us is death. It is the natural result of the attitude of heart called sin. The death that is spoken of is more than just our physical death. It's so much more than that. It means being totally, completely, separated from God forever. This is HELL. It is total, eternal separation from the living God, your creator, who is the only hope for each of us as well as mankind which is hopelessly lost and broken without God.

In a very real way, sin is it's own punishment. The attitude of heart that says I don't want anything to do with God will render that very result - eternal separation from God. This is the answer to those who say they can't believe in a God who would send anyone to Hell. He doesn't. You choose it of your own free will and God will not violate your free will. He will give you what you want!
           If you want Him - you get Him.            
           If you want to live apart from Him - He will give you that.

But God is also a loving and a merciful God.
     Psalm 145:8 "The Lord is gracious and merciful".
     1John 4:8 "God is love".
He is determined to provide a way home for us so we don't have to suffer the consequences of our sin. He wants to give us the life we forfeited when, in the garden, Adam and Eve disobeyed God. His greatest desire is that we would know real life again and a relationship with Him that we were created to have unhindered by sin. That brings us to the first question:

- Why did Jesus have to die?
     God was faced with a dilemma because of our sin and unbelief:
His holiness and righteousness demands that sin be paid for. There is no other way. Payment must be made to satisfy His holiness and righteousness. Sin must be paid for. But God is also a loving and a merciful God and is determined to find a way to pay for sin, but set us free, redeem us, from it's power so we can once again have the relationship with Him that He designed us to have. This has been His plan from the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed Him in the garden and brought death into our reality.

God solves the dilemma in the way that only He could. God Himself (in the form of His Son Jesus) became a man and entered our world. The only begotten Son of God - JESUS. Jesus was fully man and fully God and He would pay for our sin in His death for us and satisfy God's holiness and righteousness. He could do this because He never sinned and so He didn't have to pay for His own sin. God the Father, could accept His Son's death for us because He was sinless and perfect. In paying for the sin of all mankind by His Son's voluntary death, God's holiness and righteousness were satisfied completely.

- Why did He have to die on a cross, and did He really rise again? And why is that important?
      The cross was the form of execution in the time. It was reserved for criminals and subversives. The Jewish leaders wanted Him killed because He claimed to be God, which to them was blasphemy. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross for all to see. He wanted His followers and all men to know the cost of their sin and also His willingness to lay down His life for us of His own free will. No one took His life from Him. John 10:18* “No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.” In dying on the cross He also changed the image of the cross from a horrible instrument of death into a symbol of life to all believe in Him and choose to follow Him. 

But the miracle of miracles was that Jesus didn't remain dead. HE REALLY DID RISE FROM THE DEAD three days later! He came back and in doing so - defeated death. No other religion can claim this. Jesus came back from the dead and was seen by many of His followers. God raised His Son from the dead and broke the power of death.

- Why is it so important that we believe this?
     Only as I, in faith, choose to trust in Jesus as the Son of God, my Savior, and God's sacrifice for my sin, can I experience salvation and redemption from my sin and all of it's consequences. When I choose to believe (TRUST) that He died for my sin and was raised from the dead, God applies Christ's sacrifice to my account and I am ushered into new life in Christ. In Him I am raised to a new life.

In Christ's substitutionary death - we are forgiven and God accepts Christ's payment for us. We can now be free of sin and it's consequences. But each of us much choose to trust Him as our Savior, and believe in His death on the cross and His resurrection for us, for the transaction to be made complete.

You can know Him right now by simply acknowledging in prayer to Him that you are a sinner separated from God and His love, and humbly accept His payment for your sin, and trust His work on the cross for your sin, and His resurrection to new life. His death paid for you and erased your debt if you choose to submit to Him, believe in Him, and trust His love for you. His resurrection is proof that you can have eternal life in Him. You can begin your life over right now, with all your sins forgiven. No more guilt, shame, and hopelessness. You can begin the greatest adventure you will ever know!
 NEW LIFE - ABUNDANT LIFE! Christ living in you!
    Isa 1:18 ..."Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be white as snow."
He does the rest! - This is the promise of the Gospel! 
This is the GOSPEL - the Good News!

Friday, August 12, 2011


In following Christ on this journey there is something else we need to think about:

What are the things that are weighing us down and have the potential of keeping us from finishing the journey?
I read this quote somewhere years ago 
"It isn't the mountain ahead of you that will wear you out, it's the rock in your shoe".

We all know the experience of starting a hike or walk and within minutes we become aware of something in our shoe that is irritating our foot and the longer we go without addressing it, the more irritating it becomes until it becomes all consuming. At some point we are forced to stop and clean out the shoe so we can proceed without the irritation. 

So, what is the rock in your shoe? What is it that is hindering you? What is weighing you down and consuming your attention? What do each of us need to be free of so we can focus on Jesus and the journey He has prepared for us?

A principle we teach at my church and at our marriage retreats is the power of 
"Unresolved Issues"
These are the sins done against us in the past and the ongoing power they continue to have in our lives because they never get resolved. "Someone hurt you. Someone lied to you. Trust has been broken by something some one did to you or said about you. The closer the person is to you and the more you trusted them or cared about them, the deeper the wound and the more powerful the betrayal".
       Left unresolved, the ongoing effects of the sin done against us can be far more destructive than the original sin. We stay captive to the sin and to the person who did it to us and we are unable to experience freedom and the abundant, uninhibited joyous life that Jesus paid so dearly to provide us. It clouds everything. We loose objectivity. We become sensitized to the sin in we see in others, but because we are still captive to the sin done to us, we can only judge others and are helpless to be used to free others from the sin that is enslaving them. Our captivity to the the sin done to us does some other very significant things:
- It robs us of the ability to believe who we really are in Christ.
- We see ourselves as unlovable, and unworthy of God's love and the gifts He wants to give us.
- We are robbed of our true identity in Christ, and can't see ourselves as God sees us and this  
         makes the captivity even worse.
- We live in shame.

It will lead us to even darker places if not resolved.  Alcoholism, drug addiction, food addictions, materialism, anger, bitterness, shame, etc. These are all in an attempt to avoid the pain. We pull away from the ones who love us most. Maybe the worst thing we do is hide our stuff, and Hiddenness allows the power of the sin to grow even more and keeps us captive. It's all a reaction to unresolved sin done to us that keeps us captive to the enemy and unable to experience the life Jesus has for us.

We isolate and become defensive when others try to address our issues because the shame has robbed us of the ability to see clearly and to trust anyone with us and our stuff because, we believe the lie that if they knew the worst about me they would abandon me.

So, what is the solution?
The most important thing to understand about forgiveness is this:
                                                                                                    it is first and foremost for me!
By choosing to forgive the one who sinned against me I am choosing to be free from the power of that person, and the sin they did against me and it's ongoing effects and influence. I am choosing to let God deal with them and what they did. He is the only one who can do that, and He does it very well. I am only responsible for me and my relationship with God, and no one else's relationship with Him. By forgiving I am trusting Him with me and my stuff, and He is fully trustworthy.
        By forgiving them in prayer to God, I am breaking the power of the hurt, anger, resentment, and bitterness that is only hurting and destroying me and sadly, those around me. Whether the person I am forgiving ever knows it or not isn't important. It is only important that I do it for me, to be free from the destructive effects of holding on to it.
       By forgiving I am choosing to live as I was meant to live in Christ, and Christ in me, and experience my walk with Christ with nothing distracting me. If I choose not to forgive I will remain captive and weighed down by this junk, and I will stay broken.
         Even Jesus, while taking His last breaths on the cross chose to forgive. Lu 23:34* But Jesus was saying, Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”
         ..."they do not know what they are doing". It is true. They thought they were crucifying a man who claimed to be God. That was blasphemy to them. They did not know that they were actually crucifying the Son of God - God in the flesh, and in doing so they were providing the final sacrifice for their sin and brokenness and their hopeless condition. Jesus was asking His Father to forgive us because that was the very reason he had come to earth and He was choosing to die for us because it was the only hope we had. His death would bring about forgiveness for all of us, and the chance for a new life if we choose to trust Jesus. He was doing this for the very ones crucifying Him.
        Understanding the truth that forgiveness is for me, I sometimes wondered if the other reason Jesus prayed this prayer was because Jesus understood this same truth. He knew that He was going to suffer Hell for us, and the abandonment of His Father so our sin could be atoned for, and He was not going to go through this carrying the weight of the sin done against Him. He forgave us so He could be free of the power of what was being done to Him. He would not carry this weight in addition to what He was about to endure for us.
This journey is too important and precious to let anything rob me of the beauty of the experience of walking with Jesus on this amazing adventure.
I don't need other voices in my head keeping me from hearing truth from the One who is the Truth. I only want to hear His voice as He continually tells me who I am in Him, and what awaits me around the next bend, and ultimately at the end of my journey as a citizen of His Kingdom and an alien in this foreign place called the world.
All I need to know is:
- He loves me!
- He knows me!
- He cherishes me just the way I am, and will always be with me no matter what!
- I am forgiven and I am a new creature in Christ!
- The work He began in me He will finish and I will be transformed!
          If I am sure of those things then nothing else matters. When I am secure in those truths then I am free to love and be loved and give myself away. I can live sacrificially because my needs are already provided for both here and forever. He has given me abundant life here and eternity with Him - my Glorious Savior. I can be free of guilt and shame, anger, hurt and all the other consequences of anything that was done to me in the past.
        So, as we set out on this journey with Christ, we must be honest and look at what we are still trying to carry that we don't need anymore. Then we must take those things to God in prayer and give them to Him once and for all, and forgive those who sinned against us, whoever they are and whatever they did. We may need to do this over and over until the power is broken and we stand free in the light of God's truth - JESUS! Then we can get on with the journey FREE from the burden and weight of the unresolved issues.
Christ's yoke is easy and His burden light. 
It's everything else we are trying to carry that will wear us out and keep us from finishing the Great Adventure Jesus has called us on.
        I have recently gone through some very painful and confusing things in my life, and I could easily have fallen into the trap of holding on to them and rehearsing them over and over in my head and heart. But I Won't! It is a fruitless and debilitating exercise. I will choose to believe what God says is true about me and live in the light of that truth. I will forgive and live free in the knowledge that Jesus lives in me and I can do all things through Him - the One who strengthens me. He knows my heart. I will leave Him to do in others what only He can do and I will keep my eyes on Him and following Him to my final goal. I will be transformed into the image of His Son and I will settle for nothing less, both here and in the forever that awaits me.
Forgiveness is one of the greatest gifts God has given us, but it is a wholly unnatural act in and of ourselves. Therefore we must depend on Him for the strength and humility to do it and the ability to trust Him with the results. It is the only way we can do it, and it was designed this way so that we would depend on God and not ourselves. God has designed us to be dependent on Him. When we try and operate any other way, we suffer in brokenness. We miss the wonder and the beauty of life in Christ.
So, I encourage you as I do myself!
Then keep your eyes on Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, and keep trusting that He will get us home and we will be free from the power of sin, both now and forever in His glorious Kingdom - the goal of our journey with Him.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

His Kingdom - our current reality and goal of our Journey!

God's Kingdom is our current reality as well as the goal of the Journey.
Jesus continually talked about the Kingdom. It was the subject of many of His parables, and the conscious setting and context for all He did and said. It is important to understand why He spoke about it so often and why it was such an emphasis of His teaching.
I believe that being Kingdom minded is what Christ is determined to build into us and how He intends us to live everyday. I serve the King of this new kingdom and my ultimate hope is found in that kingdom and His ever present glory. Whatever I have here on earth is only a dim image of heavens reality. It can't begin to compare to heaven. I want the real thing!
It is important to know this because His goal was to redeem us from this fallen, broken world, and make us new creatures that are fit for His glorious Kingdom. We must understand that God is not interested in fixing our brokenness. He doesn't want to just patch us up. He wants to recreate us, and to do this we must die so we can be reborn. We must let go of our selfish ambitions, our fleshly temptations and desires, our small dreams, and earthly affections that distract us from this new life we now have in Christ. That is what Paul was talking about in Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me, and delivered Himself up for me."
Jesus also taught this truth as He taught the disciples about the new life. He asked the disciples in Matt. 16:13-16 "Who do men say that I am?" One by one they answered and Jesus listened to their answers and then asked, "But who do you say that I Am". His true interest was what they thought, not everyone else. He is asking each of us the same question. Our response has to be what we believe, not what someone else says or believes. Peter then responded "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God".
Then Jesus continued sharing His plans to build the church on such faith. He also told them He was going to have to die. He also made it clear that there was a cost to following Him.
Mt. 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after me, let Him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me". 
It must be remembered that when Jesus spoke these words, the disciples knew nothing of the cross that awaited Jesus. Their only image of the cross was a horrible instrument of death reserved for criminals and enemies of Rome. That is exactly what Jesus had in mind. The picture was clear. To follow Jesus they would have to die to themselves and only then could they know the new, abundant life He promised. Nothing less would do. That was their cross and He was making sure they knew that allegiance to Him meant death to self.
The new life - the recreation of us, is also what Jesus was alluding to in the parable of the wineskins:
Matt. 9:17 "Nor do men put new wine in old wineskins, otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out, and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved."
He is talking about us when He mentions fresh wineskins. The new wine is the Holy Spirit.
I must die and be reborn as a new creature, one that has never existed prior to Christ's redemptive work in me, so that two very important things become possible:
The first being that Jesus can now live inside of me and allow me to live this new life.
The second being that I am now fit for heaven and can, in my new redeemed state, fully enjoy and abide the glory of God for eternity, starting now and going forward forever.
With our new nature and the transforming of our minds that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can now see this fallen world from His perspective and with His eyes and His motivations. Jesus made our new state of existence very clear on the night before He died as He prayed to His Father in the hearing of the disciples. He said this:
John 17:16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."
Why is it important that I know that I am not of this world, and what is the evidence that this transformation from this world to His Kingdom is really happening?
It is important that I know that I am a new creature and the citizen of His kingdom because as this new creature that He is creating me to be, I am becoming more aware everyday that I am an alien and a stranger on this planet. As this awareness grows it shapes how I see the world around me, how I look at life, money, things, my time, the people around me and on and on.
The evidence that the transformation is happening is that I find myself living out of my new nature as I respond from a God heart to the world around me. I am also more and more aware of how this must all look to God as He watches broken, lost men try to solve the problems of life apart from Him, knowing He alone is the answer, and this too is evidence of my transformed mind and heart. I am more and more aware that the things that break God's heart now are breaking mine. I also find myself thinking often "Father, this must break your heart to see what sin has done to Your perfect creation." That also tells me I am being transformed, and God is making me into the image of His Son.
I now carry His heart in me, the heart that constrained Him to come to set free what has been enslaved and broken - both men and His creation. It motivates me to tell the lost and broken I meet on this journey, the truth of the Good News in the hope of seeing others set free to new life and new hope. God left us here to be light and salt to a dark and tasteless world. He also gave each of us gifts that allow us to do what He commanded - Go into all the world. It starts at your door step and you never know where it will lead each day, but we know it ultimately leads us to the heart of God, and one day entrance into His presence where we will look on Jesus face and throw our crowns at His feet as we enter the fullness of His Kingdom.
I also know I am being transformed because I am homesick for Heaven. I am a new creature and was made for His Kingdom and there is in me a longing to be there when He decides the time is right. I believe that resides in all of His children. It should! He has promised that He will come again and the hope of that promise resides in all true followers of Jesus. Until the time when He will take me home I have the privilege and joy of carrying Christ to a lost and broken world and I am constrained by love to do that in whatever way God gives me opportunity.
This journey only makes sense in the light of His Kingdom, of which I am part here and now, also knowing the full experience awaits when He calls me HOME! That isn't just true of me. It is true of all who have given their lives to Christ and follow Him. Don't settle for a lesser journey of small dreams, earthly ambitions and fleshly desires. As those who follow Christ, we are made for so much more, and He has offered us all the riches of His glory and His presence every step of the way. We have what the world is looking for even though they don't know it. The beauty of the new life is that we only really experience it when we give ourselves away as Jesus did. That is what we are made for and He has given us all we need so we are fully capable of living sacrificially and we never have to worry about the cost. It's all covered in Christ - the risen Lord. He already payed for us, so live with abandon and sacrificially and you can't miss the blessings and the wonder of this incredible journey. He is with us every step of this amazing journey.

Monday, July 4, 2011

What We Need for the Journey

What we will need for the JOURNEY?
As with any journey - you have to determine what will be needed to complete the journey and deal with the unexpected along the way.
I will share with you the convictions that I have held fast to in my journey. 

God is good and can be trusted with me and my life, but:
James 1:2-4, 12
 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,
 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.
 And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
What is the joy when you encounter various trials?

The joy isn’t the trial - it is the opportunity the trial provides us to grow our faith.
Faith - Choosing to believe that what God has said to us in His word is true - even when everything around us tells us differently. TRUST!
Testing - not a pass or fail - but an opportunity to exercise our faith.  Faith is like a muscle and the more we use it - the more we can do, and the more we can endure as we follow Him on this journey. 
Result - endurance - the ability to stay faithful to what we know is true no matter what circumstances we 
That you may be perfect and complete - lacking in nothing. This isn’t so much about me - but the object of my faith - JESUS. As I trust Him, I am perfect and complete in HIM!
If this is not a firm conviction, then every trial that I encounter in life becomes a test of God’s goodness, rather than what it is - an opportunity to live by faith in Christ. This firm conviction
keeps me dependent on Him rather than myself. Otherwise I will start trying to run my own life and I do not have the ability to do that. I will quit and give up on the journey, and then I will miss the joy of having persevered and endured and stand at the end of all things knowing I finished well and held steadfast in my faith.
My trust of God will allow me to face life’s trials and walk in the faith that He allows all things for my ultimate benefit and good, and is growing me into completeness in Christ. 

What I do, I do for love of Christ, not the applause or the adoration of men.

There are many things that I have done both inside and outside of my family called Open Door Fellowship Church to serve and protect this body and to spread the good news of Jesus. Most people would never know. That is true of every one of the elders and the Pastors of ODF an many other churches. I could allow myself to be hurt by the lack of recognition, and at times I have found myself indulging the thoughts that no one knows and no one cares, so why do I keep doing this when no one even sees?
THE TRUTH - I am continually aware that someone does see. The only one that matters sees it all and He knows everything. I have to keep in front of me that it is for love of Christ that I do the things I do and out of that love I also choose to love the people I am a shepherd of. His love of me and my love of Him is what drives me, and empowers me and allows me to do it again, and again.
I know that one day I will, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, appear before Jesus and in that moment everything will become clear. In that moment Jesus will look into my eyes and after a pause for me to catch my breath He will say “I know. I know everything. I saw everything. I know what you did for me and what it cost you that no one else will ever know. Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
This conviction is what allows me to stay in the battle and remain faithful to the things that are set before me. Without that, I just get burnt out and cynical and live out of hurt and disappointment, rather than knowing that I stand shoulder to shoulder with Jesus as He sustains me. I also know that my fellow elders and close friends stand with me in all of this and I am not alone. It is critical that you develop this conviction and that you have those around you who hold the same conviction to the same degree. You will need to draw from it often on this journey.

I am a servant first and everything else comes after that.
I serve the risen Christ.
Mark 10:42-45
 42 And calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, “You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them.
 43 “But it is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant;
 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.
 45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
I have always seen myself as a servant first and a leader second. 
I have always believed that a leader must be a servant first because that is what Jesus modeled for us and He commanded that we love one another as He has loved us. It is the model Jesus gave us and we can do no less if we follow Him. A servant sees others as more important than himself and in living that way they gain the trust and loyalty of those they lead.
When I see others as more important than myself, I am demonstrating the most authentic evidence that Christ is changing me and that I am becoming more like Him, which is the ultimate goal - Romans 8:29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son,....
MOST IMPORTANTLY- the currency of this new Kingdom is LOVE. It is all there is that has any value in God’s kingdom. Because of LOVE Jesus laid aside His place in glory to come and display His Father’s LOVE to men who would deny him and kill Him. But He did it because LOVE could do no less and it was the only way that those who God had in mind from eternity could ever be saved and set free.
In His kingdom, of which I am now a citizen by birth, nothing is valued more than LOVE and nothing else can bring about the change from brokenness to completeness in Christ Jesus.
What ever we do in serving Jesus, if it is not done from LOVE it is of no value to Christ and His kingdom. His desire is to draw all men to Himself. It begins with His LOVE for us, which was why He came and suffered and died and then rose on the third day, Ro 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 
It is carried on when, because Christ lives in me,  I choose to LOVE out of the knowledge that I am loved by the only one that matters.
John 13:34-35
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”
He didn’t say “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love me”. They will know by how we love each other, and those around us who don’t know the God of LOVE, who sent His own Son as a demonstration of His infinite LOVE.
It isn’t just fellow believers, it includes the broken, the lost, the disenfranchised and the outcasts of this fallen world. That is what Jesus did, and what He has called us to do.
So, Jesus still extends the invitation - “Come follow Me”, to everyone of us. 
What will you do now that He has called you and me?
It will be the greatest and most demanding journey you will ever go on. It will cost you everything and in return you get eternity and all the riches of God’s Heaven and the chance to gaze upon His face forever, surrounded by all those who went before and now wait for our arrival home, and I long to hear the words - “well done my good and faithful servant”.
We have not arrived simply because we know and understand God’s grace and His love personally. We have not arrived at the finish line and we won’t on this planet. To act as though we have is to miss the journey and the great adventure and is to settle for less than what Jesus called us to do. The final goal, the finish line is Heaven and that is where my heart is drawn and why I run and endure all of the brokenness of this world. That is the adventure I wanted and nothing less, and it continues once I am in His kingdom. My eyes are fixed on Jesus! All I have come to understand and experience in an environment of grace and my identity in Christ is so that I can know Jesus authentically and intimately, and trust and follow Him and depend on Him on my journey, here and beyond.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Destination or the Journey?

It’s not just the destination 
but the JOURNEY that matters most.
I had a conversation with a friend the other day and as we talked he said he had been struggling with a lot of thoughts and it finally occurred to him that he was thinking about the destination and as he realized that, he came to the awareness that it was not so much the destination, but the journey that was really important. 
I have thought a lot about that in the last couple of days, and as I look back over my life I am aware of both the destination and the journey. If you read my newsletter on my website, you know what I am talking about. If you didn’t, click on my latest RTM Newsletter.
The destination - heaven and eternity with Christ is hard wired deep in the new creature that I became when I surrendered my life to Jesus. I am aware of it all the time. When I see the world around me and am so aware that it is broken and it isn’t right. It isn’t as it should be. It is twisted and corrupted. I know this because I have within my soul the echo - the resonance and the full picture of the world and reality as it should be, and the one I was created for, and the longing for what God intended all along. It’s called HOME. It is what we all long for and can’t put words to it, or express it fully, but it is constantly there and I cannot get away from it. I don’t want to get away from it. I want to get to it. It tells me I am made for something more. I am destined for something better. I am intended for another kingdom. I am a citizen of this other kingdom where everything is in order and as it was always meant to be. I also know it because I feel like an alien in this world. I am homesick and my heart longs to be with the one who made me new and whole. A place where there is no sin, no tears, no sorrow, no death, no unfulfilled dreams and unrealized hopes. It is where I know that so many of my family and friends are waiting for me. It is living in the light of truth every moment - the truth of the person of Jesus - God in flesh and the Son of the Living God. I want to be with Jesus in His kingdom and looking upon His face for all eternity. To come to know Him in ever deeper ways that I can only experience when I am there with Him.
The Journey - I agree with my friend that we can get obsessed with the destination and lose sight of the journey. Why is this journey so important? Because it is in the journey that we discover both who Jesus is and who we are. Jesus invited His disciples to “Come and follow me”. He told them that if they chose to follow Him that He had no place in this world to lay His head. He was inviting them on a journey of discovery. It was a discovery of Him and themselves in every new experience with Him. It was a journey that would try them, test them, reveal them and cause them to learn to trust Him for everything. On this journey they would be amazed, confused, scared, and in the midst of it all their faith would grow. Their dependance on Jesus would grow and their understanding would grow. The journey was important because it was in each new circumstance and new opportunity of seeing Jesus deal with the unexpected and the crisis of life He encountered daily, that they grew to understand that He was more than a mere man. This was in fact God in the flesh. God with us - Emmanuel. They came to know that He alone could meet their deepest needs. 
This is the same journey Jesus has called me on and anyone who would choose to come and follow Him. The beauty of the here and now journey is that not only does Jesus walk with me. He lives inside of me. He animates me when I choose to surrender my will to His and allow the things that move God’s heart to move mine. It is on this journey that His desires and hopes and dreams become my desires and hopes and dreams. It is life abundant and full and more satisfying than anything this world has to offer. 
The other wonder of this journey is that it continues into eternity. It is never ending. I will spend my eternity with Jesus. I will never finally arrive. I will always be arriving and will always discover new and beautiful things about the one who saved me and redeemed me and gave me this new life with all it’s facets and nuances. The destination is just another part of the journey and we are getting a taste of it now, but we will drink it’s fullness then and for always. 
I will endeavor every day to not miss this journey and all there is for me here and now as I follow Jesus. 
Paul said it very well in Rom. 12:1-2 “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
That is what the journey is about - 
being transformed into new creatures that are destined for, and can abide an eternity with Jesus in His glorious Kingdom - HOME!.
   As Jesus said - “Come follow me”.  
  Are you willing and ready? 
If so - The great adventure awaits.