Tag Archives: Jesus

Is Jesus enough?

In the quest to know God’s will for our lives, I think we sometimes blend together the typical secular goals with our faith.  But I’ve been wondering:  what if we don’t achieve our goals?  What if we don’t land that dream job?  What if the person you’ve been pursuing isn’t interested?  What if you’ve felt called to do a certain type of ministry and it never seems to work out?

Is Jesus enough?

What do I mean by that question?  I’m not saying we shouldn’t have goals.  I’m not saying we shouldn’t put forth effort and go for it.  I’m saying that our faith needs to be grounded in such a way that Jesus is enough to satisfy.

When I was younger, I felt called to full-time pastoral ministry.  Others I knew affirmed it.  I was a volunteer youth pastor and began preaching and working with the youth in our church.  I went back to school to study ministry full-time and got my degree in church ministry.  I studied theology, leadership, preaching and counseling.  I worked on staff at a few different churches and ultimately left the ministry after two back-to-back bad experiences, the last one being quite abusive and demoralizing.  Since then I’ve only ever volunteered.  It was a challenge to trust again after being burned.  Even as a volunteer, I’ve experienced several churches where it seems difficult to get connected for whatever reason.  What’s the message there from God?  I thought I was called?  At one point I felt recovered enough and tried to look for ministry positions again but by then I had gaps in my ministry resume and didn’t have the connections.  Ultimately I followed the career path that was in front of me to pay the bills and provide for my family.

I’ve had to let go of what I think my life should look like and follow the path God has set before me.  Because if you take away the job, the ministry, the connections or friends or whatever else we hang our hats on, we are still Christ followers living out our faith.

So if the dream job doesn’t materialize, is Jesus enough to carry you?

If you lose the house in the suburbs or your standing in the community, is your faith enough?

If the person you thought would love you is no longer in your life, can you carry on?

I think about people in the Bible who had it all and then faced tragedy or obstacles.  Moses never got to see the promised land.  David never got to see the temple built.  The prophets never got to meet their Messiah.  Peter was shamed by denying Jesus.  Paul was imprisoned for preaching.  You hear stories of missionaries who don’t see the fruit of their ministry but after they pass the seeds they planted took hold.

Is our faith in Jesus enough to carry us through life?  Trusting in Him, following His will and allowing Him to order our steps?

In the movie City Slickers, the main character talks about having one thing that means everything.  Think about that “one thing” in your life besides God.  If that one thing were taken away, how would your faith in Christ be affected?

Is Jesus enough?

Philippians 3:7-11

7 But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in[a] Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. 10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.


Looking for answers in a world of tragedy and hatred

Every generation looks at the news and changing values around them and believes the end must be coming soon.  Each generation believes things are getting worse and it’s only a matter of time.  The early Christians felt there could be no greater evils than what they faced:  a corrupt Roman rule that sought to torture and execute them, feed them to lions for sport and drive them underground.  Every generation believes that things are so bad, Jesus must be coming back soon.

We see awful stories in the news that shock and outrage us.  School shootings, terrorist bombings, domestic violence, acts of discrimination and hatred, families torn apart and treating each other horribly.  We look from afar and judge and wonder how people could act such a way.

The Bible discusses the sinful condition of humans repeatedly.  It began with the original sin that ended utopia in Eden and brought brokenness to the world.  It continued with religious people that ridiculed, imprisoned and killed  God’s prophets, even mocking, torturing and killing the Son of God who brought the hopeful message of the Kingdom of God.  History has seen horrible dictators, genocide, murder, terrorism and evils that shock and sicken us.  In the Bible, Paul wrote the following phrases in his letter to the Romans:

“all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23)

“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature” (Rom 7:18)

Writing about sinful people he said they will “invent ways of doing evil” (Rom 1:30)

It’s not all bad news.  Because we are made in God’s own image and likeness humans have the capacity to do good, but because of our sin we have the capacity to do evil.  Paul writes extensively about this dichotomy throughout Romans.  In chapter 7 he notes that he knows the good he should do and the evil he should avoid, but the good and evil inside him constantly do battle.

We all have that battle within us.  When things are going well, most of the time the good side wins.  We may fall into some sinful habits here and there but keep them in check.  Other times, we give into our darker side and allow ourselves to be tempted into sin.  At some points in our lives – and for some people most of their lives – we can become broken, worn out, depressed and decay deeper into sin.

We see awful stories in the news that shock and outrage us.  School shootings, terrorist bombings, domestic violence, acts of discrimination and hatred, families torn apart and treating each other horribly.  We look from afar and judge and wonder how people could act such a way.

And then we look in the mirror.  And we contemplate the hatred we have in our heart for someone that hurt us, the strained relationship with a person we’ve refused to speak to for a long time, the habit that no one knows about and we keep hidden in a dark place, or whatever sin is weighing heavily on our hearts.

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At the end of Romans chapter 7 Paul writes “What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death?”

Now this is coming from a man who was an Apostle of the early church, who wrote most of the letters of the New Testament and did many great things for God.  To some people, this kind of writing dwells too much on the negative.  Many people just want to talk about happy thoughts and focus on the good things that humans do and are capable of.  And we should do that.  We should celebrate great human achievement, acts of love and kindness and unselfish behavior.  It’s true there is enough bad news out there, we need more positivity.

At the same time, when tragedy strikes or when we have those moments where we feel like we’ve hit rock bottom or are in a bad way, we need to realize the struggle within us.

Some would say we are getting more sinful each generation as morals change.  There are also ways that our morals improve by shedding off ignorant or judgmental attitudes of the past.  But at the same time, stories come along that remind us that for all of our progress, people are still broken and sinful people.

We will never conquer this ourselves.  We will never see peace, healing and love on our own.  Yes, humans are capable of it because of the imprint of God He’s put in us.  But real change comes from real change of heart, a change that only God can bring. In Romans chapter 7, Paul asked “Who will rescue me from this body of death?”  And then he answered his own question:

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

People can put their faith, energy and hope in things like political candidates or parties, in social justice initiatives, in communities bound together by common interests and even deep love for each other…and those can be good things but ultimately lacking full potential without the answer Paul points us to:

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

We know that we will never see perfection this side of heaven.  There will always be sin, there will always be tragedy, there will always be people using their free will to commit crimes and horrible acts.  And if we’re honest with ourselves we realize we will always struggle with that same area of sin, we’ll gossip about someone behind their back from time to time, we’ll say something we don’t really mean, we’ll hurt people we love with our words or actions.  We aren’t perfect.  At the same time, we can do good.  We can help people, we can stand for truth and justice and help our communities.

We can do good things because our Creator made us in His image and likeness.  We can access the love and charity in our hearts and do good, even great things.  To truly combat evil, we’ll need more than what we’re able to achieve ourselves.  We’ll need a powerful ally.

“Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord!”


Jesus and ‘Merica

Independence Day, the 4th of July:  American flags, BBQs, fireworks and lots of patriotic displays.  You’ll see the American flag on bathing suits, beach towels, cooking aprons, paper plates and napkins, tattoos, you name it.

But nothing is greater than when churches remind us that Jesus did not exist before America, and that Jesus is himself an American who loves America.  And he loves ‘Merica the most.

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I’ll bet you didn’t know that Jesus carried a copy of the Declaration of Independence to the Liberty Bell (don’t worry, it was just a copy not the original).  Jesus wept but he could not repair the crack.

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This photoshop job goes double ‘Merica on us:  Jesus wrapped in an American flag inside another American flag.

 

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“Jesus never said He was the Son of God.”

There is a popular argument made by some skeptics that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God.  They say He was a good teacher and that only generations later did the Church make up that He was divine.

First we have to realize that the earliest available manuscripts of the New Testament have not been edited and changed over time as some claim.  While there have been various translations of those manuscripts, the documents in the ancient languages themselves have not been altered.   But if the only source we have documenting Jesus’ moral teaching are the Gospels, we need to consider the other content of those Gospels.

Jesus declared himself in John 14:6 “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  The skeptics say this statement by Jesus refers to his example of living a good life; as in following His way, His truth and his sacrificial life as the path to God.

However when Jesus famously asked his disciples who they think He is, Peter spoke up and said that He is the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus didn’t correct him, He affirmed him:  (Matthew 16:17) “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.”

When put on trial with the threat of death, Jesus did not deny this claim to save himself.  Mark 14:61-62:

“Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Not good enough?  The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus wrote about Jesus and His followers in his “Jewish Antiquities”:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ.  And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.”

When you also consider that Jesus’ followers suffered and died for their belief in Jesus being the Christ, the claim doesn’t make sense:  they made up those facts about Jesus’ divinity so they could be put to death?  That doesn’t hold up.

The message of Jesus has endured generations of attacks, skepticism, controversy and claims that it’s false.  And yet, He endures.

John wrote in his first letter to address early claims of falsehood.  1 John 1:1 states:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”


What did Jesus really say about judging others?

There are a few Bible stories or passages that just about everyone seems to know, whether they are religious or not.  And whenever the subject of morality comes up, you’ll hear people note that Jesus said not to judge others.  They even know where it is, in Matthew chapter 7.  This is everyone’s favorite Bible verse when any attention is given to something they are doing wrong.  Some might say phrases like “Jesus didn’t judge” or “Jesus said not to judge others.”  Others point out the difference between accepting people for who they are, and letting them stay that way.  They say Jesus held people to a moral standard and told them “go and sin no more.”

Often with issues like this, people tend to fall into extremes:  too accepting or too hypocritical. But how should we handle moral behavior?  Should there be any accountability?  Should we really sit back and let people do what they want so no one can accuse us of judging?

What did Jesus really say about judging others?  The verse people most often reference comes from Matthew 7:1-5:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

First, it’s important to realize the setting and context:  Jesus was speaking to a mostly Jewish crowd who knew the laws of their religion very well.  He wasn’t speaking to non-religious people.  The people were often under the oppression of pious religious leaders who seemed to be more focused on recording wrongs instead of changing hearts; handing out guilt instead of grace.  Sadly, this happens in any religious organization in any generation.  Many scholars and commentaries discuss this as an issue of having compassion on others and realizing that we all sin.  Not that we excuse or allow sin, but that we not treat people harshly for their sin because if we look at our own lives we will find our own sin to deal with.

Second, Jesus actually does tell us to hold other believers accountable.  Let’s look at Matthew 18:15-17.  Here, Jesus tells us what to do when someone is in sin:

“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses. If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

Jesus tells us how to confront a brother or sister in sin to hold them accountable.  And when you look at the context, in both passages Jesus was talking about dealing with fellow religious people.  We need to realize that people who are not Christians, who have not had their hearts changed by an encounter with Jesus, shouldn’t be expected to follow Biblical morality.  We only make ourselves look like jerks and hypocrites when we point fingers and judge people outside the Church.  Why should they be expected to follow any moral code they don’t believe in?  Our job is to present the Good News of Jesus Christ and when people find God’s grace He will then begin to change their hearts.  We also need to be focused on removing the plank from our own eyes before we harp on the splinter in someone else’s eye.

God shows us mercy and grace every day.  The Bible says that we are all sinners, and even the great Apostle Paul realized his need to die daily to his sin.  It is with that measure of receiving grace that we should package our dealings with others.  Those outside the church, we can’t throw fiery darts at them about their behavior.  We need to show them the love and grace of God.  Those in the church, we do need to hold accountable but our hearts need to be ruled by love, mercy and forgiveness.  With the same measure we’re judged by God, that is how we should judge others.  Stop and think for a moment how God treats us despite all of our sins and shortcomings.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I can’t see very well; I have a few planks to remove from my eye.


The Art of the Spoken Word

The following 2 clips are making their way around the internet and you may have seen at least one of them.  I like to share artistry when I come across it.  Especially when it has both style and substance, a balance that is often elusive in the Church.

Enjoy!

 

You’ll want to watch this full screen and turn up your volume.

 

 


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