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March 30, 2015, 9:44 AM

Who is it about?


Jesus.  

If our desires are not set on Jesus, we need to adjust. 

If our complaints are not about bringing us closer to Jesus, we need to adjust. 

If our worship is not about glorifying Jesus, we need to adjust. 

If our opinions vary from those of Jesus, we need to adjust.  

Its not God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit who needs to move for our comfort's sake, its us.  Always us.  

As a body of believers, we cannot expect to figure things out ourselves then expect Jesus to meet those needs or fill those roles.  Our job is to find Christ, model him in our own lives, and help others to seek him out.  That is the purpose of "Easter" weekend and all the events that come with it.  Sure, they dont look traditional, but through the process the goal is to help people find Jesus.  Organizationally, we need to be seeking Jesus.  If we do that, the how and what will fall in to place and not need the scrutiny of the past (meaning we can look ahead at the awesomeness of what we can become, not be chained by "thats how we've always done it).  

This season is about an empty tomb, not what we think about the empty tomb, or even how much we think we should think about the empty tomb.  Its about the fact of the Resurrection, which gives us hope.  If we cant find Jesus in this season, He is not the one who needs to adjust.  Its always us.  

 

 




March 23, 2015, 9:23 AM

Ultimately, Everything Jesus Did.......


Was out of love.  

That was his motivator.  God's love began his journey (John 3:16); and God's love completed his journey (Luke 23: 34; 43; 24: 50 -51). 

What motivates us?  We speak of wanting to follow Jesus, and we sing of Surrendering All...  But why?  Heaven.  We live this way to gain a reward.  We establish boundaries so we don't stray too far from the center, which we assume keeps us in God's grace, therefore allowing us into Heaven.  So even within the most Christ-like actions we squeeze into our schedules, we are seeking benefit.  (I'm writing this with eyes turned inward, just a heads up so there is no confusion or accusation inferred).   

If eternity was no longer in the picture, would we still live this way?  That question cuts down to the very core of our souls and into the decision we've made to follow Christ.  In asking that question we have to understand the reality of Jesus' motivation:  He loved us so much that he died on the cross for our sins.  That means when we forget, he still died.  When we bank on grace and give in to temptation and sin, he still died.  When we are wrecked with guilt after falling off the wagon again, and again, and again, he still died for us.  When we simply ignore the commands and guidelines set before us and choose to live for worldly gain and wealth, he still died for us.  

His motivation was love.  No matter what our motivation is, has been, or will be.  That means he died for Barabbas, who was freed from death row in Roman prison and was never heard from again.  That means he died for thieves, scoundrels, and the nastiest sorts of people.  Because he loves us.  

If I want to do what Jesus did, then I have to figure out what motivates me.  Its a hard question to ask and its an even harder change to make. We're told from nearly day one to look out for #1 (me, myself, and I).  Do well in school, get good grades so you can get into a good college, so you can work hard and get a good job, so you can put enough away into retirement, so you can be comfortable until you die.  If one of those steps is ignored or prioritized poorly, that person is identified as trouble, or a slacker.  The American Dream is all about us, and leaves very little room for Love, Mercy, Forgiveness, and Compassion.  

I cannot imagine any of the stories of Jesus even existing without those four components being in play long before he was born in Bethlehem.  The shift needs to happen where Christ-Followers and Churches take the desire for reward out of the equation and take up the mantle of doing What Jesus Did because we are motivated by the same thing:  Love.   

 




March 16, 2015, 9:29 AM

Recognizing Jesus


There have always been conversations or questions about what Jesus would look like if he were to show up right here, right now.  Would we recognize him?  Would he be in our church?  If no, where would we find him?  Who would Jesus be drawn to in today's culture and society?  I'd really, really, really, really, really like to say that Jesus would make an appointment to meet me in my office and gently discuss the things that are important to him and how they mesh with the things that are important to me.  Then we'd hug and he would say "keep up the good work!"

I think thats everyone's hope when it comes to imagining what a visit from Jesus would feel/look like.  We would want a pat on the back, an understanding nod, and perhaps a "grant me whatever I desire" moment like James and John tried in Mark 10:35.  

Here's the problem with that.  I have to come to grips that I would most likely have to go searching for Jesus, and might not recognize him when and if I found him.  When Jesus was walking through Jericho on his way back to Jerusalem and the most intense week of his life, he stopped in for the night with an outcast and lowest of the low: Zacchaeus.  When Jesus was in Judea he could be found in lodging and dining with unmarried women without prestige or power in Mary and Martha, not to mention Lazarus was always hanging around, seemingly without a family himself.  We're not going to spend time talking about his time in Samaria, or Leper colonies, or with Roman officials.  

Then we find Jesus in Mark 5.  In the unlikeliest place, meeting the unlikeliest person...  He's walking near some burial caves (a cemetery, in the ancient sense) and is approached by a man who for all intents and purposes wasn't just outcast, he was exiled because of the demons he had.  And this is where we find Jesus, and this is where we find beings that not only recognize him but bow to him.  I'm assuming bowing to Jesus was against their will......because they're demons.  We don't have to create a back story for them, they're the bad guys.  They recognize him, honor him, and bow before him. 

When he walked through Jericho, everyone was there to honor him.  But many were not only surprised by his choice to dine with Zacchaeus, they were offended, angry, and scathing about that choice.  They did not recognize the mission of the Messiah, nor did his mission match their expectations.  

Does my mission match the mission of Jesus?  Do the goals, plans, and foundation of our church match the mission of Jesus?  Are we finding ourselves in the places where Jesus would be recognized immediately?  Or are we left wondering why he hasn't made an appearance in our perfectly sculpted and tended houses/offices/buildings?  I'm afraid that we wouldn't recognize him, because I'm afraid we would not be looking in the right places.  




March 9, 2015, 10:58 AM

Coming to Jesus with a Loaded Question...


We are experts at asking loaded questions.  "Can I ask you a favor?"  We like to put an innocent smile with that one, then drop the bomb of needing help carrying a 900 lb treadmill down a flight of rickety stairs.  We always approach those situations by trying to paint it with bright, cheery colors.  The reality though is far from bright and cheery.  Its usually when we have the hardest tasks ahead that we mask the request in guilt or false joy.  The same goes with a child asking for something they know they wont get, like a cookie right before dinner.  The request is loaded, and sometimes they've even got well thought out research and statistics as to why a cookie does no harm right before dinner. They're all loaded questions though, loaded with guilt, manipulation, or just outright selfishness.  

And we're really good as asking them.  We do the research and know exactly which angles to approach from when we want to manipulate or gain favor.  We have a fear (which is often justified) that if rejected, the door is closed permanently to that idea.  Which is why, when its a subject of faith or blessing, we run to those moments where Jesus responded with a "Yes."  When Jesus says "No" we tend to either run away, or try and find the exact reasons why.  Sometimes the question isn't a matter of Yes or No, sometimes its a matter of "you already know the answer to this one."  Which we interpret as a "no."  

Even when Jesus turned someone down or rejected their idea, he left the door open for something good to happen.  When we run to the Gospels to find inspiration, or confirmation of our own ideas we find ourselves seeking out those moments when Jesus granted someone's wish like a finely tuned genie.  "Jesus, heal my servant."  "My daughter is sick." "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us!"  Which we (naturally) interpret as Jesus wanting to grant every wish and request WE ask of him.  If he doesn't, we assume we've either been abandoned, or have done something to cause him ilk or disappointment with us. ("I got stuck at every red light on the way to work, what did I do to deserve this God??"). 

Sometimes though, God says "No."  There were people who wanted to be a part of what Jesus was doing, and he denied their requests.  If it were me, I'd be happy to have as much support as I could muster.  But Jesus turned them away, telling them he doesn't have a warm place for them to sleep, or that they need to sort out their priorities first (even when it comes to funerals, etc...), and the worst:  that they would have to sell everything they own and give it to the poor before being a true disciple.  

I really think these requests of Jesus were made with hidden agendas or selfish intent.  Therefore they were denied.  And on the flip side, the pleas for Jesus to heal a loved one were met with an immediate, positive response.  Historically (looking through the O.T.) there are some other famous denials from God:  David was told not to rebuild the Temple; Moses was denied entry into Canaan; etc...  

The first point I'm trying to get to here is that sometimes we need to hear "No", even when we're on our knees with nowhere else to go.  If we only ever heard affirmation, we would become spoiled and entitled.  Looking at some of the trends in the Prosperity movement, some have already arrived at the entitlement and spoiled stage, expecting God to bless us unequivocally.  When Jesus denied someone's request, they were encouraged to sit down and figure out what needs addressed before he could affirm them.  For some it was a shift in priority, for others it was a drastic lifestyle change.  For all it was a call to self examine.  

Secondly, things aren't always going to go our way.  At Church, decisions will be made that we don't immediately agree with.  At work, our bosses may install a policy that frustrates us.  At school, our children are going to witness bullying, secular teaching, and be isolated if they publicly exercise their faith.  Does any of that mean we're abandoned or no longer blessed by God?  Absolutely not!  These are not instances where God has denied our request.  These moments are not about a Yes or No.  They are about discovering the passions we have inside us to either live for Christ, or for the world.  If all the obstacles are stacking up in front of us, maybe we're on the wrong path and seeking the wrong end.  But be warned, sometimes the right path has all the obstacles stacked up in front of us as well.  Asking Jesus to remove all the hard stuff will probably result in a "No."  

When we already know what we're supposed to be doing (Matt 22: 37 - 40) maybe the best thing to do is stop asking questions, and start loving.  




March 2, 2015, 9:41 AM

Whats the worst thing that could happen?


Nothing. 

 

That's the worst that could happen.  Because if nothing changes, then nothing changes.  Yes, I'm being intentionally alliterative and cryptic here.  I have two plants in my office, both of which came into my possession one year ago.  I monitor them regularly for one thing:  growth.  If they stop growing, or discontinue to show signs of growth I must address all the factors that I believe are causing it.  The worst thing I could do for my plants, which I have an attachment to, is nothing. If I ignored them, they would die.  If I neglected them, they would die.  

So goes your soul; your faith; your belief; your church.  The worst thing that can happen is nothing.  Neglect, or a lack of being proactive will wither a soul.  What am I proposing?  Simple: read your Bible.  Often, and regularly.  Engage the story of Jesus, and then emulate that story in your own life.  The ONE thing that NEVER happened after an encounter with Christ:  nothing.  Every person who had interaction with Jesus responded somehow, and most of the time it was positive.  (At the top of the negative list is that one time the rich young man walked away downtrodden because of his encounter with Jesus).  

The one thing that didn't happen was nothing.  If we engage with that story regularly, something will happen... growth.  If we turn our attention inward first to our belief, our faith, and our souls, we will discover plants that need tended.  That is essential to the life of all believers.  It is synonymous with the most important commandment:  Love God....and that's pretty cool!  Because when we discover the needs of our souls, we discover the need for God and the desire and passion for God in all the dark and empty places.  We will love him more.

When we tend to our souls, faith, and belief we will then naturally begin tending to those aspects of our lives outside ourselves.  No longer will we struggle trying to fit in service or selflessness, because Loving People is the natural extension of internal spiritual growth.   The cycle of growth moves us in the natural circle of Loving God and Loving People...  Which in turn brings others into that cycle (that's the whole: make disciples command from Matt 28).  

So what's happening in your soul?  Something?  or Nothing...  Because what's happening in there is a clear indicator of what will (or wont) happen out here.  


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