There are many things that our parents and grandparents taught us that have never ceased to be important. There is a such thing as transcendent truths. What was good for society a hundred years ago still holds strong today.
One of those lessons that seems to be getting shoved to the back is the quality of follow through. In an ever-changing society we see people dabbling and not committing. When relationships get tough more and more people want to bail. When perfection can’t easily be achieved, giving up seems like the best option. Try this for a little bit then when you’re tired of it, move on. But where is the staying power? Where is fortitude? Is perseverance no longer a quality to strive for?
I am not much for ranting. I’d rather spend my time encouraging and empowering. That’s how real change can occur. I implore you, brothers and sisters, set an example of endurance. Let’s be a people that do what we say we will do. As believers in Christ, our commitments can not be empty promises. Just think, if Jesus would have quit when things weren’t easy, the world would have been lost in sin. If God had no follow through, we would be lost in darkness. God’s faithfulness is our example.
In James chapter 5, God tells us to let our yes be yes and our no be no. Failed follow through is the same as a bold faced lie. If our word means nothing, we cannot be trusted in anything. If we make a commitment, we must make a way to see it done. Haven’t we spent enough of our lives with unfinished chapters? Lord help us be people of our word, to the smallest detail.
“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
In your frustrations and disappointments, let Jesus fill your need. He is our hope in the times where hope seems lost. Our problems can be consumed by the eternal fire that God breathes into our souls. Much of life can feel like groaning and yearning for greater things, or even for difficult things to pass. It is both to the future and the past that we must look. Look first at the fact that you are known and cherished and created with a purpose. Look next to the unthwarted pursuit of God in the lives of His creation. Then gaze upon a hill, where a blood-stained cross displays a love far greater than any of us deserves. But that love did not stop there. There is also a tomb…an empty tomb that shows our destinies are not surrendered to death. Our future is written with love’s ink. Glory awaits. Freedom awaits. There will be a day when the pain ceases and joy will be the only emotion we know. Because of Jesus, our hearts do not need to remain downcast. The victory is won and an even greater victory is coming. Hold strong brothers and sisters. Pray for me as I pray for you also. God is good and He has always been for you.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
Why is it the radical faith and obedience to Jesus is criticized so much in the church? The last I checked, we are supposed to die to ourselves and live to Christ. I’m pretty sure the Bible says that we have been crucified in the life we now live we live by faith in the one who died for us. I believe that the Bible also says to be a living daily sacrifice. Doesn’t the scripture also read that we are supposed to keep our minds and hearts set on the things of heaven and not the things of earth? Didn’t Jesus commission his followers to go to the ends of the earth spreading the good news? Aren’t we to walk as he walked?
It’s an inescapable fact that Jesus didn’t sugarcoat what it means to follow him. We are supposed to be all in. We all have a cross to pick up and carry daily. Perhaps the reason why that is met with so much criticism is that complacency and comfort have exceeded conviction and our commission in the hearts and minds of so many. I feel it weighing me down so often as well. I have to fight the urge to just go about living my life, as crazy and hectic as it is, and not put the mission of Jesus at the forefront.
The Bible says that Christ is our life, nothing else. When we see people who actually live like that, we should be motivated to do the same. Paul told people in the first century to follow him as he followed Christ. Was he perfect? Not at all. But he lived sold out for the faith. Jesus was the end all for his purpose in life. That’s what being a Christian should look like. All the times I fall drastically short of this, I draw off of the examples of so many extraordinary men and women of the faith, past and present.
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4 ESV
Does the unknown deter you or invite you? The heart for adventure and exploration is divine. It requires faith. Abraham went to a place God would show him before he knew any details. Noah built a giant ark in a world that had never seen rain. Joseph endured many hardships on his way to save nations. David faced down a giant when few believed in him. Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, Isaiah, and all the prophets walked a path against the grain of culture to try and steer a nation back to the Lord. Mary accepted a calling unlike any human has ever been given. Followers of Jesus sold all they had to support one another and the mission of spreading the Gospel. And that’s just dipping our toes in the water when looking at all the amazing stories of adventure and faith in the Bible.
So much of life is unknown. Does that energize you or depress you? Jesus went so far as to tell His followers to go out to the nations with little to no provisions. God took an entire nation through the wilderness. And in both examples, the Lord proved faithful in providing all their needs. Christians are a people built for the unknown, for there faith abounds.
We need to stop living such a controlled and precise lifestyle and get our hands and feet dirty. We need walk into whatever God calls us to without all the answers. We need to stop hiding behind the mantra of “I don’t think I’m called to that.” Our desire to be faithful to God needs to outweigh our fear of failure. We need to be ok with things not being perfect and calculated. A life we attempt to control will be frustrating and so much emptier than the one God intended for us. That life is full of His wonders and there’s no telling what may lie ahead.
His adventure awaits brothers and sisters!
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT
Candles lit, hands washed, and shofar blown, I sit down to a Sabbath meal with my family. It all goes perfectly. Not exactly. It’s always fun trying to explain to my 6 and 4 year old daughters the idea of rest and peace that the Sabbath brings, especially when my one year old son is tossing food from his high chair. Or trying to have a good chat with them about who Jesus is while they are making a mess with their soy sauce and their cherries. Or reading a few verses from the Bible while my son is seemingly trying to outmatch my voice. But it’s all worth while when we bow our heads and my girls pray their beautiful childlike prayers thanking Jesus for being their hero, teacher, and savior. Brings a tear to a dad’s eyes. Bring on the wild sabbath dinners any time. Thank you Jesus for your rest, even in the wildness of life.
I am a teacher by profession. I am also a parent, a friend, a husband, a coworker, and a member of a community. my greatest lessons are not the ones I do in front of a classroom or behind a pulpit. My classroom is everywhere… Your classroom is everywhere. Whether you get paid to teach or not you are teaching others, every day. People are always watching, observing, and possibly seeking to emulate our words and actions. If we want to help people grow and mature and become the people that God made them to be, then we need to be the people that God made us to be. Words are empty if they are not backed up by our actions. Others are more likely to behave like you rather than to do the things that you say. Let’s teach the World love by being loving. Let’s teach the World generosity by being generous. Let’s show the world who their Savior is by acting like Him.
“whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:6 ESV
“”For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 ESV
Perhaps the most well known Bible verse of all time. Athletes proclaim it. Many have it memorized, even if they aren’t sure they believe it or not. It is the quintessential message of God’s pursuit of a fallen humanity. But it doesn’t end with our salvation, it begins a new creation. God’s mission is not to simply save our souls but to remake what mankind has destroyed. Part of that mission is fulfilled through those who put their faith in Him. Later in the Bible there is another book that John wrote. Interestingly, chapter three and verse 16 of that book parallels our opening verse.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:16-18 ESV
It’s almost like these passages should’ve been right next to each other. God’s great display of love creates a people who live by the same mission and the same standard. Generosity and sacrifice become the banner of a new people who’s hearts have been remade by their creator.
For those of us who proclaim allegiance to Christ, our hands should open to the world around us. Our lives should be spent on a higher calling. God’s love moves us to love. Not because we’re supposed to but because we want to.
Recently I gave a message at the church I attend and I wanted to share it with you all. I hope it is an encouragement to you all. Blessings!
In 2019 a movie came out that would go on to be the highest grossing movie of all time. Any guesses? Avengers Endgame is the culmination of 22 Marvel Universe films over an 11 year period. All of those films built up to one peak moment. The villain, Thanos, was attempting to reset the universe by eliminating a third of all living creatures. His methods weren’t based on merit or the salvation of the righteous but solely on mass destruction to preserve those left behind.
Besides what some of us may think, we don’t live in a superhero universe. But we do have an endgame that all of life is building up to. So what’s the endgame? As believers in Jesus, what is all of this leading up to?Is it heaven? Is it something else? For all of my childhood and much of my adult life, I was under the impression that heaven was the goal. After all, we’re told that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and that Jesus went away to prepare a place for us (John 14:2). But none of those things speak of our final destination. You see, heaven is just another temporary stop on our way home. To understand the end, we have to go back to the beginning.
“then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:7-15 ESV
The garden was created as a place for Man and God to coexist. It was a place where heaven and earth overlapped. God and His creation could experience and intimacy unhindered by brokenness and death. It was a place filled with beauty and purpose. The entire salvation narrative is imaged in these few verses. God forms us, He gives us life, and then he takes us to a home prepared for us. But it wasn’t to last for Adam and Eve. After an unknown number of years, they messed up and the result was exile. Refer to Genesis 3:23-24. Ever since we’ve been living in exile with a longing to get back to the garden. Throughout the remainder of the Bible our attention is constantly drawn to the Garden.
The tabernacle and the temple both contained illusions to the garden. The Gold and onyx, the lampstand, the flowers And vines, the olive oil used, etc. It was a place where God’s holiness resided. A place where a certain few could come and meet with Him. The promised land is also a picture of God bringing us back to Eden (Num 13 the fruit that the spies brought back). It was a land flowing with milk and honey. A place between the Great rivers.
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:1-5 ESV
Tell me that doesn’t sound like a garden. Earth will be renewed. We are coming back with our Savior King. The Holy City will descend and Heaven and Earth will be one. Intimacy with God will be final and glorious.
Understanding our origins and our destiny helps us to know our purpose here and now.
Our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19 and 2 Cor 6:16). So what does that mean? We have the garden living inside of us. Our hearts desire new things, eternal things. God resides within us. If the tabernacle and the temple were meant to be sanctuaries of God’s peace and love and truth, then that’s what we’re supposed to be. Christ’s sacrifice opened up a whole new intimate relationship with our God that hadn’t been enjoyed since the Garden. Even the tabernacle and the temple had a veil, but Jesus tore that down. So what does that mean for our purpose?
“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.'”” John 7:38 ESV
Our role is to water the soil of our surroundings and work to bring the kingdom of heaven to our place on earth. We are springs of living water and we are called to help perpetuate new life. Not that we can give life ourselves but that we show people the source of living water within us. The believer is a Gardner. Our homes should be a garden. Our area of the workplace should be a garden. Our relationships should be a gardens. Think of all the words Jesus spoke comparing us to the branches and Him the vine and how we need to remain connected to Him to bear fruit. Or later when Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit that all believers should be hearing. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness should all be growing within us and spring forth into our homes and relationships.
Our words, prayers, and actions can bring about healing, encouragement, and hope. Our life should point others to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. The only way that’s going to happen is if our spring isn’t stopped up. My hope for you and me is that the springs of living water would break free within us.
We can stand against injustice and stand with our brothers and sisters in blue who put their lives on the line every day to do the same. Cops aren’t the enemy, hatred is. Hatred only produces more hatred. Solidarity means moving forward together. Love is the weapon. Jesus is our hope. The way forward is by seeing the intrinsic value of every person who is created in God’s image and loving them as such. That goes for all those wearing a badge and all of us who don’t. The call to seek justice, love mercy, and to walk humbly before our God is the same for every human who has ever walked this earth. Peace in Christ to you all.
Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for living and dying for a greater cause. Thank you for the freedom you have won and upheld for me. Today I honor you.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 ESV
For me, and my family, Memorial Day is about remembering and honoring great sacrifice. It is a sacred day. For soldiers all over the world who have paid the ultimate price, we are more than grateful.
Today we also pay homage to all our brothers and sisters who have gone before us and who still lay their lives down for the great faith in Christ Jesus.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4 ESV
Most of all, we reflect on the greatest sacrifice that won us the greatest freedom. We honor our Savior who’s love lead Him to a cross. May His sacrifice change us. May we learn what it means to love others more than ourselves. After all, the value of our lives is determine by the means in which we spend it, Lord help us to not waste our lives on selfish ambition but give it away out of love for our neighbors.
“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