God’s Redeeming Love Part III: Abraham

As we work our way through the Old Testament, we’re looking at acts of God’s redemption towards broken humanity. I feel it important to address those claims that some (even Christians) have made about God being different in the Old Testament then he was in the New Testament. Because we believe that Jesus is the exact imprint and expression of God, we know that the life of Jesus shows the heart of God. Because we know that Jesus demonstrated love and sacrificed Himself for humanity, we can know that God is in all of that. Jesus is God in the flesh. Because of that, everything Jesus did, God did. We have to remember that it is God who redeemed the world, and He did so in many ways before coming to Earth in Jesus. Today’s story is still early in the book of Genesis.

Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

Genesis 12:1-3 (NKJV)

At the age of 75 Abram (Abraham) departed from his home, the only place he had ever known, to follow the Lord on a journey that would change the future of mankind. The place Abraham was leaving was in the heart of the Babylonian Empire. This empire was the origin of corrupt pagan tradition first established by Nimrod and his wife, the source of the modern false religions. It is truly amazing that God would look at this place and call out a remnant from among them, especially one that will be the patriarch of God’s people. Rather than allow mankind to remain subjugated to the rebellion of this land, God chose redemption. God chose to bring goodness out of evil and light out of darkness. God has made a way for us to escape the sin of this world out of His immense love for us. He will never leave us or forsake us but rather, He will call us out of the mess we’re in, and place us in a land of freedom.

And the Lord said to Abram… “Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever. And I will make your descendants as the dust of the earth; so that if a man could number the dust of the earth, then your descendants also could be numbered.

Genesis 13:14-16 (NKJV)

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Uplook vs. Outlook

Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 2:5

This post is inspired by a recent story I read from the Voice of the Martyrs. As usual, I read it at an opportune time. God ordained moments. I hope that this story inspires you as well.

We pick in Romania, many years ago, during an era of extreme persecution towards Christians. A man by the name of Florea had been arrested simply for his faith in Christ. As a follower of Jesus, it was important for him to honor the Sabbath. However, that was problematic, for prisoners did not get a day of rest. They were required to work, every day. Florea stood his ground on his convictions and refused to work. I would love to say that the prison guards honored his faith and passion and made an exception for him. But communism makes no room for Jesus or his followers. So a stand for Jesus meant extreme repercussions.

The Romanian prisoners were forced to labor every day, but each Sabbath Florea refused. For his refusal, the guards routinely beat him so bad he lost the use of his arms and legs. He could only move his head. Because he could no longer labor, Florea was forced to sit in his cell all day long. He had to rely on other prisoners to feed him. In spite of his situation, Florea was not downcast. When other prisoners would complain about their situation, Florea would encourage them. “If the outlook is bad,” he would say, “try the ‘uplook.’ When Stephen was stoned, he looked up and saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. This comforted Stephen’s heart, and it will comfort yours too.” He encouraged his fellow prisoners not to “look out” to their circumstances but to “look up” at Jesus. One of Florea’s fellow prisoners was Richard Wurmbrand, who was released from the prison and found Florea’s nine-year-old son. He told him what a blessing his father had been in prison. The boy smiled and replied, “I would like to become a sufferer and encourager for Christ as my father has been.”

Voice of the Martyrs

There are no guarantees of circumstances, even for the Christian. We are not promised a nice home, a perfect family, good health, or a living wage. Instead, a Christian is a person with a certain attitude toward any and all circumstances. A person’s attitude makes the difference, regardless of circumstances. A heavenly attitude focuses on God’s presence amid trials. Fixating on our hardships distracts us from a heavenly outlook. We feel burdened. Depressed. Hopeless. Fearful. In contrast, a godly outlook on our troubles brings confidence that God is at work. We relax in God’s presence, waiting to see how he will work out our concerns. Are you undergoing a trial right now? Are you focused on the waves crashing around you or Jesus walking on the water towards you? Let’s stop focusing on the outlook and give the uplook a try.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Live Ready

This is a look at the last public teaching that Jesus gave before going to the cross. He did this, like usual, through the use of parables. And in many cases, Jesus used multiple parables to teach the same principle. He did this with the parables of the lost coin, lost sheep, and the prodigal son. We see Him doing it again with another trifecta of parables. In your Bible they are probably labeled as the parables of the 10 virgins, the talents, and the sheep and goats. Before we start breaking these down, let’s take a little more look into the context of these teachings.

As I mentioned before, this is the last public message that Jesus taught before the last supper and his eventual betrayal in the Garden. Jesus delivers them following His return to Jerusalem. Starting back in chapter 21, Jesus goes into the temple and cleanses it from the ungodly practices of all the Passover vendors. After leaving, He would return to the temple in order to address the leaders and religious members of society. This is where He called out the hypocrisy of the teachers and pharisees of Israel and warned the people not to follow in their example. Once again, Jesus leaves the temple and begins His discourse on the end of the age. Also referred to as the “end times” or “second coming”. It is at this point that Jesus delivers these three connected stories.

In each illustration, Jesus divides people into one of two groups. There’s the Wise Virgins and the foolish virgins in the first parable He teaches. In the second, people are divided into the Good and Faithful Servants or the Wicked and Lazy Servant. And in the last parable He teaches the two divisions are the Sheep and the Goats. Let’s look at the distinction between them now.

1-Prepared vs unprepared: The wise virgins had enough oil. They were fully prepared and anticipated meeting the bridegroom. Same with the Good and Faithful Servants, who did the work and invested their effort to bring a profit to their existence that would please the master. For the sheep, Jesus provides specific examples of what it looks like to be prepared for His arrival, and how we can invest our faith to benefit others for His glory. They all included looking for the needs in others and doing our part to fill them. We have an abundance of hurting and broken people around us. We don’t have to look too far to find someone in need, physical or emotional. To be prepared is to live like Jesus did. To seek the lost and to give our lives away for the benefit of others. Oil is often used as a representation of the Holy Spirit. To be prepared then is to be filled with the Spirit and to live according to the spirit.

“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:5-6‬ ‭ESV‬‬

2-Active vs. inactive: One key distinction between those who are looking for the return of Christ is how active they are. Life can easily get in the way but Jesus doesn’t take that as an excuse. No matter how busy we are, we are meant to do “everything” unto the Lord. Whether in word or deed. Family, work, hobbies…they shouldn’t get in our way of doing the things of the Lord, they should be all about doing the things of the Lord. That doesn’t mean we have to all be preachers, but we should all be preaching the gospel through our way of life and our words. We display Jesus at home, at work, and at play.

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”
‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

3-Bigger mission vs. self-centered mission: The wicked and lazy servant operated out of fear. The foolish virgins cared more about the load they carried and their convenience rather than being prepared. The Goats were doing everything to promote their own religiosity. God knows when we do things for Him and when we do things to promote ourselves. Jesus said to let our lights shine before men so that they will see them and glorify God in heaven. But so many do things so that they themselves will be glorified on earth. Fear won’t be an excuse. Convenience won’t be an excuse. And self-glorification certainly won’t be an excuse.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭20:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

4-A knowledge of Jesus vs. not really knowing Him: Paul said to live as wise and not as unwise, knowing the things that are pleasing to the Lord. Jesus wants us to be watching for Him and investing our lives in the lives of others. He wants us to live in a manner that points others in His directions. We all need to live less for ourselves and more for Him. Jesus tells each of the people in the negative category that He does not know them. Those are fearful words that none of us should ever want to hear. We all need to live for the future hope by leaving the best possible legacy now. We all need to pick up our cross and follow Him. He has made it possible for us to know Him. The question is, are we walking full on into His invitation?

“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭5:15-17‬ ‭ESV‬‬

What is the overall purpose of these last few parables that Jesus teaches us? What is Jesus trying to get us to see? I believe He wants to leave us with a clear message of how to be prepared for His eventual return. These words are a gift to us. It’s His final reminder before He departs. It reminds me of the farewell address given by Moses at the conclusion of giving the law and before he went up the mountain with God to die. Laid before us is life and death. Jesus’ use of contrast imagery drives home the same message. The world’s only divided into two groups of people: those who know Him and those who don’t. In the end, that is all that will matter. Our socioeconomic status doesn’t matter. Nor does our bucket list. Our career path, net income, and accomplishments all fade away in light of what Jesus is really looking for in you and me. He wants to know us and be known by us.

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27-28 ESV

He entreats us all to take the time to listen. Hear His voice calling you by name, telling you that you are loved, inviting you into His pasture, into the abundant way of life. Listen to the good shepherd guide you to the life of love and legacy.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

God’s Redemptive Love Part II: Noah

“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord… Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.”

Genesis 6:5-9 (NKJV)

In part two of the series, we are taking a look at the person of Noah. The story is one usually thought of as an act of judgement, but it is also one that shows God’s extreme love for mankind. I have heard many people view this story as one of God’s wrath and leave it at that. But when we look closely at this story we see redemption.

Imagine the pure evil and absolute corruption of man at the time of Noah and then ask yourself, “how much love does God have that He still wanted to redeem humanity after their complete abandonment of Him?” Honestly, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a world that is so broken and corrupt and full of sin. We live in a world very much like that today. How could God still want humanity to find redemption? The answer is simple. His love is not human love but divine love. A love that is always trying to reconcile our hearts to His. A love that looks at an earth filled with total decay and depravity and does not give up. A love that would preserve a piece of His creation even when the creation wanted nothing to do with Him.

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you… Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-11 (NKJV)

Noah and his family were not perfect. It wouldn’t take long for them to be impacted by the mark of sin that we all carry. But God still called them out. He still saved them. We too are imperfect and broken and should find encouragement in this story. God is calling us out of the fallen world to be a part of His new beginnings. We just have to get on the boat.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

God’s Redemptive Love Part I: Adam and Eve

“Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.”

Genesis 3:21 (NKJV)

This is a new series that will highlight examples of God’s acts of redemption from the Old Testament. Many struggle with the view that God somehow changed once the New Testament period began. But as we know, this isn’t true. God has had a heart of compassion and love and a desire to redeem and save what is lost from the very beginning. Jesus is the greatest example of that. But the Bible is full of instances where God reached out to His creation in an act of grace. To begin, we start at the beginning.

The first recorded sacrifice for sin was made by God Himself. Once Adam and Even ate of the tree, once they had sinned and had become ashamed, once they had hidden themselves from God, The Lord intervened on their behalf. God made a sacrifice to cover their shame. They certainly didn’t deserve that, but neither do we.

From the moment of the first sinful act of mankind, God has been writing a story of redemption. God sees our sin, knows our brokenness, but seeks our hearts none the less. When we fall short, He comes through to save us. From the very beginning the Lord could’ve abandoned His fallen creation or left them to be ruled by darkness, but His love is too great for that. This marks only the beginning of God’s redemptive love. Even in our moments of our failure, God is intervening for us. Even when we attempt to hide ourselves or sin, God is seeking us out.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters, and His great love for us.

Feeling Strong Today?

What makes a person strong? What makes you feel strong? How do we even gauge strength? Is there only physical strength? How about emotional strength? Maybe even spiritual strength? I used to measure strength by bench-press numbers and will power. But as time goes on, I realize there are much more accurate ways of understanding the strength of a person.

The book of Nehemiah details the return of Jewish exiles to Israel. It is a story of a struggle. A temple is rebuilt and a wall has been reconstructed around Jerusalem. But there is a lot remaining before life can possibly resemble normal. In this midst of the rebuilding process, the scriptures are rediscovered. A man by the name of Ezra will stand before the people and read from it. As he comes to a conclusion he sends the people out with this message:

Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10 ESV

There it is. The answer. Our strength can be found in the joy that comes from the LORD. He is our strength. Being His, makes us strong. Being reminded of His goodness and favor throughout our lives makes us strong. We gain strength by knowing we aren’t abandoned, that we’re unconditionally loved, that we’re accepted and belong to a bigger story. Our strength comes in the joy we have in being free and cherished…always.

Uncertain times can’t shake us. Illness won’t destroy us. Financial struggles can’t break us. Discrimination won’t define us. The culture won’t alter us. We are His. There is no greater joy found in this life. And in that joy, we are strong to face the world. Are you walking in the joy of His salvation? Are you feeling strong today?

Peace and joy in Christ brothers and sister!

Time to Train

Growing up as an athlete, it was ingrained in me to train hard in order to achieve the goals I set to accomplish. I would lift, run, change my diet, get more rest, watch film, study my opponents, and more, in order to reach peak performance. It became a lifestyle. Sure, it intensified during seasons and built up to seasons, but there weren’t many days and weeks that fell outside that time period. It was devotion. And the level of devotion determined, in large part, how successful I was. All of that was for what? A title? Medals? Acknowledgment?

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.

1 Timothy 4:7-8 ESV

Eating healthy and physical training are good things. Athletics are beneficial. Pushing ourselves and being dedicated are great qualities. However, I think it would be safe to say that most people, even most Christians, don’t put in the same level of devotion to spiritual training that athletes put into physical training. I know I certainly don’t. And I am convicted of that. If I was willing to spend so much energy and change my life habits so much, in order to win a championship that doesn’t matter one lick in light of eternity, I should be far more willing to put in equal, if not greater, effort, in spiritual matters. And so should we all.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 3:12-14 ESV

Our spiritual lives deserve the attention that we fail to give it. Paul says it’s like straining towards the goal. It’s a battle against literally everything in life that seeks to distract us from Christ. How do we ‘press on’ as Paul said? How do we train ourselves spiritually? I believe it consists of setting up habits, much like an athlete, that commutatively, will help us reach the goal. So, what’s the goal? Paul says it’s the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. He is the prize. Our impact on the lives around us is the prize. A heart at peace is the prize. A beautiful legacy is the prize.

I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I am promoting earned salvation or works-based doctrine. Jesus already earned salvation for everyone who puts their faith in Him. But anyone who has tred the ground of the Christian life for long, knows that it takes work and consistency to maintain. There are so many ways to fall off the path. Just think about how differently we respond to things and treat people when we haven’t been tending our spiritual life. Our thoughts and words are even different depending on the amount of time we’ve put into building up our faith. To train spiritually can be summed up in the words that Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry.

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:4-5 ESV

All the things we do, the habits if you will, are meant to keep us in connection with Him. I know January is a time that a lot of people use to evaluate how they are spending their time and setting new goals for the coming years. So why not set the goal of creating more life-giving habits? Not as a checklist, but as an intentional training ground for the heart and mind. More habits of prayer, reading the bible, studying the bible, meditating on bible, meeting with other believers regularly, Christian counseling, regular acts of service, increased church attendance, becoming more involved in the church, giving more, etc…Spiritually, we are all somewhere. And we can all go deeper. We can all add new habits. We can all train harder. Not to the point of burnout, but to the point our cups are overflowing with God’s goodness and character and those streams of living water are pouring over everyone in our lives.

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 ESV

The spiritual habits of the Christians are not just part of their life, they are their life. To live, is to live for Jesus. To live, is to live with and in Jesus. If He is our prize, our daily habits should reflect that. For me, as a husband and father, my spiritual habits are not just about me, but about my wife and kids as well. Even for those who are single, people still need you to train…to abide in Jesus.

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my 8 year old daughter about being a light and having a positive impact on people. She has this little glow in the dark cross. The longer it is exposed to light, the longer and brighter it will glow. You can see the spiritual illustration. I was trying to help her see, understanding that she is only 8 (but habits start early), that the more we do to be close to Jesus, the more we’ll be like Jesus. The same simple illustration works for me and you. Time to train!

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

We need to need Him

One of the hardest things people have to learn is that we can’t, nor should we, make it through life on our own. This is especially hard for the independent sort (me among them) who have picked up self reliance and self motivation as the sources of making their way through the world. But everyone battles with this. It’s as old as the garden of Eden. The original sin itself was rooted in a desire to become like God…to take control of one’s life and make a way for oneself. No one likes to feel like they lack sufficiency. But we all do. And that is okay. In fact, we are designed that way.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”

‭‭John‬ ‭10:10-11‬ ‭ESV

Our lives are a mix of lies and truths that we believe and set out to construct our framework of viewing reality. There are two very real opposing forces that want to help in our journey to understand both our place in this world and our very identity as humans. On one hand, there is the message that we can make it on our own. We too can become like God. Life is about “getting mine” and pursuing my every desire, regardless of the wake I leave behind. It’s about me being whoever I choose to be and truth being subjective to whatever I want to believe. It’s a message that promotes the best life now, with a heavy focus on materialism and self promotion. Ultimately, its a message that leads to pain, stress, frustration, loss, and the actual death of who we were created to be.

There is another message. One that promotes surrender. One that says the source of life doesn’t begin and end with you. That joy and meaning aren’t found within us, they are bestowed to us. It’s a message that keeps us rooted in where we came from and where we’re headed. It’s a message that helps us rise above all the striving and self centeredness that the world promotes. It’s a message that says our life is meant to be spent in the betterment of those around us…that wealth and prosperity are not found in bank accounts but in the lives we touch.

It may not seem this simple to many. But it really is. Life is about making choices. And those choices lead to life or death, in us and those around us.

When we separate ourselves from our source of knowledge, peace, joy, love, grace, power, etc…we are going to feel hollow and empty. No matter how hard we work, or how much we make, or how many likes and followers we get, none of it will satisfy. It’s not meant to. The more we try and make it through life without needing anyone else, the more we’ll veer off course.

The Bible gives us a somewhat unflattering comparison. We are like sheep. Animals that are extremely dependent on both the guidance and protection of their shepherd. Those who don’t follow the shepherd end up getting lost and most likely consumed by predators. But we are sheep with a shepherd Who wants to give us the pastures with the greenest grass and purest water. And only He knows where they are. A problem enters when the sheep think they know where better pastures are and promote their interests above the rest of the flock.

“”For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord God. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”

Ezekiel 34:11-16 ESV

Not only is it okay to need Jesus, we actually need to need Him. He is the source of our life and the only place we will find true life. Even those of us who have ventured off course through self reliance, Jesus is pursuing us. Life is knocking at the door. And that life has a name. Some of us who have been following Jesus most of our lives can even fall susceptible to wandering away from their flock and their Shepherd.

“What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.”

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:12-13‬ ‭ESV

Life is too hard to try and make it on our own or in our own way. We need to learn to let go and allow our Good Shepherd to lead us to the good pastures and the still waters. Because in all of our striving, we will never find them apart from Him.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Why I switched trees

About 9 years ago my wife and I had an encounter with some new information that caused us to really evaluate how we celebrate God. Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while already know the faith journey I’ve been on.

Almost a month or so ago, I was sitting in my living room. My children, wife and I had just wrapped up a night of reading scripture, singing praises, and talking about what it meant for Jesus to be the light of the world. It was so good. Messy. But so good. Anyone who has tried to have quality devotion time with three little kids knows it can be an adventure to say the least. But it was so nice none the less. And the other cool part was, we had done the same thing the previous seven nights. And on this night, my wife snapped a really cool photo.

I used to lay by the Christmas tree and play with the ornaments. I loved decorating it even as a child. But I always wondered what it had to do with Jesus. I still think the Christmas tree is beautiful. But when my wife and I discovered the origins and meaning of the first Christmas trees, we just couldn’t look at them the same. I understand that a lot of people discount the origins of many of the Christmas traditions because it doesn’t mean the same to them. And honestly, that’s up to them. I don’t want to point fingers or ridicule anyone, I just want to share my journey with you.

For my wife and I, the Christmas tree’s origins (use in pagan idol worship and Baal worship) and the simple fact that it’s meaning and relevance towards Jesus was completely absent. To make any connection whatsoever would really be a figment of our imaginations. But there is a tree, given by God, used to honor and celebrate Him.

When the tabernacle was being instructed, God ordained a very important piece in the Golden Lamp stand. It would serve as the light that illuminated the entire tent of meeting and guided the priests towards the holy of holies. It was the representation of God’s own light. It also holds the significance as being the illustration of the tree of life seen in the garden and later in the new heaven and Earth. Gathering around this tree is far more than about celebrating the miracle for the Maccabees that Hanukkah is generally associated with. It’s about honoring the miracles of God. It’s about recognizing that He first brought light into the void. It’s about celebrating the entrance of the light of life entering the world in the form of a baby. It’s about commemorating the relationship between Jesus being the light of the world and Him passing on the mantle to His followers to be the same. My wife and I would never be able to say the same about a Christmas tree. In fact, the only mention of setting up trees and decorating them in the Bible is the instructions not to do so (Jeremiah 10).

So when it came down to it. My wife and I chose to switch trees because one was empty in meaning (at best) and the other was splendid and a beautiful picture of who Jesus is. One had suspect origins and the other came directly from God. One looks an awful lot like something we’re instructed not to do, and the other appears all throughout scripture as a picture of life and light. One could be lined with material gifts for us while the other points us to the ultimate gift. Because, in the grand scheme of things, we want to honor Him and point our children towards Him. And that’s why we chose to switch trees.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters!

Are we living the promise?

How are Christians meant to live? No, I don’t mean the outward expression of a believer’s life. I am talking about the source of life…the inward life…the how to sort of living. I’ve been contemplating a series of verses lately, and really trying to pray through them because I really want to understand them. Here they are:

This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.

1 John 4:9 NIV

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Galatians 2:20 NIV

When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

Colossians 3:4 ESV

In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

John 1:4 ESV

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

John 10:10 ESV

At first, my reaction is that these are speaking of eternal life. The reward or grace bestowed on all who cling to Christ and His perfection. I believe that this is very much the purpose behind each of these verses, and the central message of the Gospel. However, on a deeper look, there appears to be much more. You see, the life that comes from Jesus, is not simply a futuristic life of unimaginable joy, but a life in the here and now. I don’t know about you, but my life, at times, feels a long shot from eternal glory. But isn’t the life Jesus promised meant to be experienced here and now?

Paul said, in Galatians, that Christ is alive in him and his life has ceased as he knew it before his encounter with Him. There was a real change in him that altered how he lived life. Later in Colossians, Paul referred to Jesus as “our life”. Wait a minute. Is that how my life looks? Is my life defined by who Jesus is. Is His identity my identity? I can say that, but does my life show that. While Paul was flawed and broken, I truly believe that people could see Jesus in him. Can I say the same? Can you?

Jesus himself said that the life found in him was abundant. In my honestly, my life does not feel abundant at times. But that is certainly my own fault. I am out of focus if my life experience isn’t one of abundance. And I don’t think Jesus was in any way saying that our lives would be full of wealth and health and safety. His life wasn’t full of any of that. At nearly 40, I have already outlived the life of Jesus here on Earth. But how do they compare? Isn’t that the point? Live a life like Jesus? How much of my life has been wasted? How much am I wasting now with worldly concerns and seeking comfort? Am I alive in Jesus…here…now?

John said that Jesus came so we could live through Him. But what does that look like? To live through Jesus. It’s one thing to accept His atonement. To receive His forgiveness. To rejoice in mercy and grace. To look forward to eternity. But it’s more than all of those things. It’s everything we say and do. It’s our minds being radically transformed. Its our eyes viewing everything differently. It’s letting Jesus take control of everything. Not because we’ve become automatons, but because it is the only way we can truly live. It is the only way others will see Jesus alive in us. My job is not my life. My hobbies are not my life. My goals are not my life. My successes and failures are not my life. My family is not even my life. Jesus is my life. And therefore all that I am and all that I do is meant to for Him, to be done through Him, and to be experienced because of Him.

I can tell you, meditating on this has made me feel a whirlwind of emotions. I can both see how I fall so miserably short, and how so grateful I am that He is who He is and my life is ever changing because of Him. All I know is that I want more. I want His life to be my life. I want to be able to repeat the words of John and Paul, not because I am simply memorizing Bible verses, but because it defines who I am. Don’t you want that? Do you have that? Pray for me dear reader. And my prayers go out for all of you, that you too will experience that full, glory-revealing, joy-unshakable, transforming, amazing life through Jesus.

Peace and life in Christ brothers and sisters!