Gut Check for Christians

Christianity gut check:

Let’s say that Christ is coming back today!  What is your immediate reaction?  Excitement?  Fear?  Questions?  Concerns?  Need a moment?

Today’s homework is to ponder that simple question.  What is your reaction if you were told, today is THE day?  And its quite easy to determine where your relationship is with God based on your immediate response (not the one after you think about it for a few minutes… but the knee-jerk, instant, first response).

Is your response, “huzzah, I’m ready!”… or are you hoping that there is an essay portion to explain your current status?  Don’t read into this a doomsday, better hurry, you aren’t right with God, etc. post.  This is merely something you can do on your own, and your own response might surprise you.

If you reflect properly, you might catch some patterns that need tweaking.  When you constantly ask the question, would God approve?  your outlook changes.

Some of us get stuck in ruts and it takes someone shaking our shoulders and smacking us around a bit before we realize that life on autopilot is not the life God called us to live.  I’m not even going to try and presuppose your position in life right now.  But you can.  Is God on your mind’s speed dial?  Does your heart belong to Him during the good AND bad times?  Are you excited at the thought of His perfect plan completing with the triumphant return of our King where eternity finally begins?

Be honest… you only have yourself to fool.  Are you where you need to be today?  If not… save yourself the panic, save you from desperation, prevent the cries for more time and the begging for another chance.  Today is a chance… use that.

Dear Devil, I’ve Missed You, Welcome Back!

When I first found my faith, you were there.  I remember it.  At first, it was questionable, but every day as I grew firmer in grace you came closer.  When my heart was wholly in God’s hands you had become a regular addition to my life.  You were even a little predictable.  When temptations didn’t work, you moved on to family and friends.  When they wouldn’t waiver you worked outside the box.  Illness, stress, relationships, even loss of loved ones.

You liked to work on my temper, my social issues, and how hard it was for me to say no.  I loved it when I found you in the middle of my mess.  Like a baby deer in headlights you leapt away knowing the name of Jesus was just behind my lips.  But, to your credit, you never came back with an old trick… at least not the same way.  You are the king of subtlety and calling audibles.  Slinking back before I could finish laughing at your escape, I barely noticed how you changed your advances.

When we were constantly at odds life felt complete.  Everything made sense.  Good versus evil, good always wins, it just felt right.  Like Wile E. Coyote you would scamper away, the victim of your own disobedience, while my Savior protected, healed, and loved me.

True to your name, I never even saw how you did it…  That day, when I stopped turning to God for help.  It was so casual and uneventful.  Life calmed down and that rut felt like a comfortable groove.  Church days brought extra rest, Bible time became TV hour, and Prayers were things I did to make myself feel better.  They were more like checklists and observations than any semblance of conversation.  And since I didn’t care to really converse, He didn’t choose to answer.  Days turned to weeks and weeks stole away months before years finally ravaged a significant portion of my life away.

You did it.  I let my guard down, I guess.  I thought I had you all figured out.  But your trickery dismantled my dreams, my hopes, my life, and my heart.  Kudos on how slow and methodical you approached the situation.  A violent attack would have been deflected and I always saw those coming.  But you pulled the long con.  Years and years passed while the pot slowly boiled beneath me.  And to be honest, there were a few times where I actually noticed things weren’t quite right, but I preferred the new sauna I was simmering in.  I was certain of my full downfall when I saw the truth in it all and reasoned that it would be tomorrow’s problem.  ‘Tomorrow’… the battle cry of the defeated.

I did learn something that I somehow always knew.  Once you had everything you wanted out of me… you didn’t want me anymore.  All the drama, all the fights, all the cruelty of life diminished. Living just became a gentle sunny day.  Sure, I was in quick sand, but it was slow and breezy and warm.  It felt like being at the beach.   Your absence was noted as much as His.  With my soul no longer aligned with the Savior’s your time was better spent on someone else.  We spent so many nights fighting.  Battling.  Maneuvering each other.  And then, poof!  You have better things to do.

This isn’t the first time you turned your back at the worst possible moment.  Do you remember the cross?  You turned your back on Jesus with a smug grin on your face.  And you left Him to rot in that tomb for 3 days before you realized that you blew it.  Not just literally, but eternally.  And now you turn your back on me before your work is fully done.  The man that blew away that stone has grabbed my hand again.  I’ve found His footsteps.  And His grace was fully prepared to accept one such as I back again.  He doesn’t care where I come from or what you and I were up to.  He just welcomes me back with open arms.  I must say, coming back is different than the first meeting.  This time… I ran to Him.

Have you ever hugged Jesus?  I guess not, or you wouldn’t hate Him like you do.  It’s incredible.  And it reminded me of something.  And I think it reminded you too.  Because once we embraced, you shrieked.  You showed back up in my life again.  Years of your absence while I floated through life in a waste of inevitable doom and now I finally have something you want again.  Forgiveness, hope, love, a Friend, a Father, a Lord, a God.  You want those things, don’t you.  Because here you are.

When I say, “I’ve missed you”.  I mean that I noticed your absence.  I observed how you only show up to take, destroy, ruin, and then move on.  And here you are.  I see you in the shadows.  I see that hate and fuming regret drizzling from your teeth.  I see resolve in your eyes.  You want this bad.  Just like Jesus, you had me… but you couldn’t hang on.  I don’t want you back in my life, but I welcome what your interference means.  If I didn’t have something good for you to take, you wouldn’t be here.

As evil as you are, you have a good tell.  You don’t waste time on people who aren’t a threat to you.  So now I know two things.  I know that Jesus has taken me back and I know that you want me.  You don’t want me back.  You want me away from Him.  I’ve become a threat again.  A target for your cause.  Where once I was afraid, now I can grin safely in my Savior’s arms.  You want what you can’t have.  Jesus won.  You can’t ever undo what happened on the cross or in the tomb.  While my soul may still be ‘in play’, I’m telling you that you can’t have that either.  Because to take it, you have to go through Him… and we both know how that will end.

I know this won’t stop you, and we will be seeing a lot more of each other as I choose the light of the world.  But one thing is different this time.  I’m not just trying to save myself.  Because I have already been saved, I will be trying to save others.  I’m not ashamed to say His name anymore.  I’ll speak it freely.  The timid boy you once knew has a sword and shield.  Where once I hid behind religion I now stand tall behind THE God.

I know better than to taunt you or tease you.  No insults or threats here.  I just wanted you to know that I see you have returned.  And to be honest, it feels good.  The world is right again.  I am by my Savior’s side and you work tirelessly to pull me away.  What a compliment you give.  That I might be a threat to you.  I know its not me you fear… but you know what even most Christians won’t acknowledge… That Jesus works through those that allow Him to.  He isn’t bound.  He just chooses to work were welcomed.  And He is MOST WELCOMED here!

I never chose you, but you tricked me once.  I do not welcome you in my life, but now I understand why you try so hard.  You know given the choice between a hateful, spiteful, selfish, evil, demon and a loving, saving, forgiving God you wouldn’t have any volunteers.  So you pervert the game.  You obscure the rules, and you confuse the players.  You corrupt and rot because you don’t have the ability to compete fairly.  God creates and heals.   You make the valley of dry bones and God resurrects.  You spread disease and God cures.  You dismantle families and God reunites.  You cheapen and God restores.

Who would choose you?  Not me.  Not again.  I’m taking the narrow path.  The one you have hidden behind lies, manipulation, and coercion.  And until I go, I’ll be showing it to others.  Signs, lights, markers, whatever I have to do.  I’m not worried about me any more.  It’s them that need saving.  So stay with me.  Send your worst.  I can’t handle it, but my God can.  And while you piddle around with bad days, corrupt governments, illness, money issues, and any other obstacles you can conjure up, I’ll be too busy carrying the lost away from you to notice.  I’ll take your temporary misfortunes and hurtful accusations.  I’ll take poverty and loneliness too.  I’m just not interested in this world anymore.  And that is all you’ve got.  You can’t offer ANYTHING that won’t burn away.

I’m going home… and I’m taking them with me!

‘A Mighty God Seeks Weak Prayers’ – The Devil.

If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. – ‘The Circle Maker’

Consider a few scenarios:

Someone in a wheelchair approaches and asks if you could open a door for them.  No problem, right?  Most of us would be happy to.  What if a healthy adult man stopped short of the door and asked for the same help?

What if a child asked for help tying their shoes?  No problem, right?  What if they keep asking when they are 16 years old?

How about when a beggar asks for money?  While this may not be as black and white of an issue, lets contrast that to someone who clearly doesn’t need money.  If the man on the street corner wore a suit, held a briefcase, cell phone attached to one hip and designer sunglasses snugly donned across the bridge of his nose.  Would you give your money to the second man?

We don’t mind helping people who can’t help themselves.  In fact, for many of us, we enjoy helping them.  But all that changes when people ask for things they can do for themselves.  Consider your prayers to God.  The almighty God.  The maker of the world.  The creator of mankind.  The superior being who allowed His Son to die on the cross.  God.  You have His attention.  You have approached His throne and He allows you to ask for your heart’s desire.  What would you ask?

Perhaps lets look at it from another direction.  What miracles did Jesus perform?  Were any of them trivial?  Did Jesus change deserved test scores?  Did He snap His fingers and change His clothes?  Did money grow from trees?  Jesus didn’t conjure up mediocrity.  He didn’t see fit to perform underwhelming miracles.  No flying and no light shows.  Jesus fed, healed, restored, resurrected, and created faith with hope.  He did the impossible.  At least for us.

We don’t have that power.  But God does.  My favorite conversation between God and man in our Bible can be found in Genesis 18:  16 – 33.  God informs Abraham that He is going to destroy the evil and corrupt towns of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Abraham asks God, essentially, if He thought this through:  “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?  What if there are fifty righteous people in the city?”  God agrees to spare the entire city if only 50 good people are found.  But Abraham doesn’t stop.  He wants to know how specific God is being.  ‘what if only 45 righteous are found…. would you kill all those people for just being 5 short?’  6 times, Abraham asks God to reduce the number down to 10.

And God agrees that if only 10 righteous people are found, that He will spare the entire city.  Abraham approached God, spoke boldly, and changed the thoughts of our maker.  This is how we should pray.  We are to pray with faith.  Faith isn’t found in the easy or the common.  Faith is born in the impossible.  Faith is knowing God can make things happen that His creation isn’t capable of doing.  When you combine creation’s faith with the creator’s love… impossible happens.

There are many reasons why prayers go unanswered.  Asking God for something that He already blessed you with the ability to obtain is one of them.  Look at our examples in the Bible.  Consider Abraham.  Remember Jesus, His son, with whom He was pleased!  Pray big!  Pray bold!  The fight isn’t over yet.  The war for souls wages on.  God is listening.  What would you ask of Him?

The Greatest Cliffhanger

The new TV seasons are slowly cropping up to finally deliver on that promise they left us all with so many months ago… What will happen next!!!!????!??!

As I’ve been pondering some of the more clever (and cruel) cliffhangers we have been left dangling with… Who shot JR?, Ross saying ‘Rachel’ at his wedding, ‘not Penny’s boat’…  I wonder how we would be affected if we binge-watched the life of Jesus.

He’s born… lots of gifts…teaches in the temple… makes some enemies… heals, prays, travels, yada yada yada… He dies.

“It is finished” he speaks out loud, as it actually is… finished.

Well, it can’t end there.  There wouldn’t be another season.  The cameras are still rolling.  My wife will look at the clock and see there is still time remaining in the final episode of the series.  That just wouldn’t make for good TV anyway.  The cliffhanger is an art.  You have to leave the viewer wanting more, but “wanting” is not accurate.  The viewer must crave.  The proper cliffhanger creates enough anger (yet not so much the viewer will quit the show) mixed with enough emotion and stirred in with the proper amount of enthusiasm, so that when the time comes to pick up the story… you can’t be found anywhere else but glued to the TV soaking in what happens next.

Killing off Jesus is a mixed bag.  Some were devastated, some cheered.  The line in the sand didn’t move, it was erased.  Victory, defeat… depends where you stood, but it doesn’t matter because the story is over if its truly finished.  So they put Jesus in a tomb.  Still no plot twist.  Oh, I hate it when they do this.  They killed off the main character and then for 3 more episodes they go on some side plot that no one cared about.  They know, each week, we are going to tune in to check on the main character only to find out, yet again, they decided to put a pin in it.  Not just 3 shows, but it was during the super bowl, so you go like 5 weeks salivating at where the plot could possibly be going.

Then you happen to see the camera pan by that familiar tomb.  They alluded to it for months, but we didn’t think much of it.  Just another sad reminder of what they did to our hero.  Wait, why is the big stone gone?  Don’t they know that… hold on!  The garments are neatly folded on the…. !!!!  and then it happens.

… To be continued

That is not the end.  That is a cliffhanger.  The story isn’t over.  Jesus’ part of it is mostly done.  But now comes the payoff.  The big reveal.  The final moment where we take over in our own lives and decide what it all means to us.  The credits won’t roll because we haven’t all decided yet.  It’s not “finished” because WE STILL HAVE A CHANCE!  Can you fathom that?  The writers have collected their checks.  The producer has left the set.  The crew is packing up cameras and props while loose script pages are being swept away.  Yet… the show isn’t over folks.  One thing still remains.  Our part is yet to be decided.

The stone was rolled away… queue the person reading blogs on the internet, its time for them to make a decision.  Can you step up under the heat of the stage lights and respond to the story laid before you?

The stone was rolled away.  The burial garments folded and left behind.  The tomb is empty…. “ACTION!!!”

Let me ask one final question.  When Jesus does return, where will you be?  Will you still be trying to learn your lines?  Or, will you be glued to the Bible, waiting on the return, so you can finally be a part of what happens next?

Are you Gonna be Brocoli?

If life were a plate, what food would you be?  Going by the age old adage, you get to pick.  After all… we are what we eat.  So eating in life, one bite at a time, what food are you?  Bacon?  Mashed potatoes?  oh!  Mashed potatoes with bacon… and CHEESE!

Or would you consider the salad?  You can eat more of that.  So we might enjoy more of life, although it may not taste as good.  Or is life more about what we put out into the world and not so much what we take in?  I’m glad you asked that because, what just walked up behind you, is a dinosaur.  And he sees you on his plate of life.  One gulp and you are gone.

In roll the questions.  What type of snack were you?  Were you tasty?  Nutritious?  Spoiled?  Toxic?  Did you improve someone’s life?  Were you healthy for them?  Was your outer wrapper misleading?  Were you so invigorating that the freshly fed dino will hunt more just like you?  Or, are you perhaps the reason they are now extinct?  Are you toxic to those around you?

I get the impression, from far too many people, that we still don’t understand how important our time is here and now.  It’s not just the TV or the video game system, its how we spend our time together.  It’s what gets us angry.  Its what motivates us.  It’s how we choose to identify ourselves.  If the answer isn’t God, God, God, God and more God, then we have already started the souring process.

Instead of living for God’s will and sharing your testimony, and spreading love, and speaking the good news… in place of good works, we are passing yesterday’s potatoes off as our self worth.  Can we step away from the podiums of pop culture and pick up our Bibles?  Are we able to drop the flags of politics and carry the banner of Christ?  What if we scrubbed off our favorite sports teams and carried the cross on the back of our sweaters?

Jesus said that He is the bread that we need to sustain us.  Dare we take a bite?  What would happen if we filled ourselves with the Holy Spirit?  What impact what our lives have on this buffet of personality and choice we call the world around us?  If Jesus was the bread of life… and we fill ourselves with Him… and He lives in us… could others feed from us?  We are made in the image of God, we are given His Spirit, we are called to walk in His footsteps… why?  So others don’t starve trying to live on garbage.  As corny as it sounds, we need to be offering a taste to our neighbors.  A bite of something good.  No more TV dinners!

We can throw an arm around the shoulder of someone needing love.  We can offer a smile and an ear to someone on hard times.  We can certainly give a meal, a real one, to someone hungry.  But most importantly, and this is key, we can share a story about who we really are.  Where we come from, and why we can offer the best meal in town.  And there you have it.  Another choice made.  Another influence on what you are in this world.  Something tasteful that builds up and points to God… or something bland, stale, unappetizing, and spat back out after the first taste.  We are what we eat…. let’s be Jesus.

—————–

[if this is confusing, the analogy comes from Matthew 26:26 where Jesus instructed His disciples through what we often call the Lord’s Supper.  He broke bread and symbolically called it His body.  And the wine, He called His blood.  Because He told them to eat and drink of His body and blood, many confused them with cannibalistic practices.  In reality it was a very powerful moment in the final hours of Jesus’s life on earth and why Christians still observe this ‘meal’ today.  While it usually consists of Saltines and grape juice, the symbolism still holds its true value.  It’s a memorial feast and its a symbolic process of the choices we make in our life… to take on the sacrifice of Jesus]

Go Long, or You’ll Miss it

Consider these stats about an average NFL game.  It takes over 3 hours to watch the game.  The game clock, and any true game play will last for only 1 hour (4, 15 minute quarters).  The actual time where real football is being played (this is the time between the snap and the whistle at the end of the play is 11 minutes.  That is 11 minutes total for the entire game.  Each play lasts an average of 4 seconds.  This means, on average, there are 165 plays in the game.  But this counts punts, kick offs, field goals, extra points, offense and defense.

We sit for over 3 hours to see 11 minutes of payoff.  The rest is commercials (roughly 100 of those), instant replays, huddling, snap counts (thank Peyton Manning for that… OMAHA!), injuries, and penalty discussions/instant replays.

So the question is… who would do this?  Who would trade 3 hours of their lives for 11 minutes?  Well, anyone who thought the payoff was worth it, of course.  Consider God’s plan for the salvation of humanity.  Who would give their Son to be tortured and killed to save the souls of a bunch of sinners?  I think it stands to reason the answer is the same… because He thought the payoff was worth it.

Consider how much you matter to God.  You were worth it.

That said, perhaps when we catch the next game, we spend some of that spare time giving back to Him.  Pray.  Reflect.  Share.  History is made in 4 seconds.  It’s why we watch.  The first play gets stuffed.  The next play goes out of bounds.  And then… amazing happens.  So goes our walk with God.  4 seconds.  A kind word.  A gentle gesture.  Giving God credit.  Invitations to church, or maybe just lunch.  You will be told no.  You may be laughed at.  You will be told no again.  But then… a miracle happens.  We only have so many opportunities to share how much we matter to God.  How much He loves us.  How much He has done.

When the game is over and the sponsors are counting their piles of ad revenue, nothing we do matters after that.  11 minutes, 4 seconds at a time.  How can we not give it our best shot?

 

 

 

Average NFL Game stats

Ducks, the Parable

I noticed something interesting when I brought bread for the ducks.

Some of them came right to the fence and received as much bread as they wanted (after all, bread crumbs don’t throw that far, no matter how strong you are).

Some swam across the pond and waded near the edge of the land.  They got the scraps that bounced down the bank.

Some did not trust this strange looking meat eater hurling bread at them and remained in shelter across the pond.  They did not get any bread at all.  (I’m not good at panorama yet, so I’ll just describe that there were about 10 ducks that actually came on land, a few dozen circling in the water, and far too many to count on the far bank.  If you view the image full size you can see some from each group.)

Does this sound familiar?  It feels like a parable right out of the Bible, doesn’t it?   Jesus calls all people to come to Him.  We typically see 3 responses:

Some of us walk right up to Him and touch His robe to receive healing (Matthew 9:20), wash His feat (Luke 7:38), or just follow Him (Matthew 4:19).

Others get close, but not too close.  We keep a safe distance so we have room to run if need be.  Simply put, these are called lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).

The last group doesn’t even bother getting up.  Be careful in interpreting this one.  Its not who you think.  These aren’t atheists, agnostics, or that “other” religion that seems to beat you to lunch every Sunday.  Lets assume for a moment that all ducks are Christians.  These would be the ones that know better and yet disobey anyway.  These are the ones that sit back in judgement.  These are the Pharisees and many, many, far too many of those are counted among Christians today. (2 Timothy 3:5)

Yes, there is risk in getting close to the fence.  Dangerous predators, tricky humans, and being outside of your comfort zone.  It could easily be the last mistake those ducks ever make.  But if they could talk, I believe they would claim its worth it.  They got their daily bread.  Take a quick glance at Jesus who fed the multitudes.  Who were the multitudes?  They were the people who followed Him.  He wasn’t beating down their doors and dragging them along.  They chose to follow.  And then He fed them.

This might not be the most theological nor deep reading you’ve ever encountered.  But I hope, in your life, you can see how important it is to be at the feet of the true bread giver.  Unlike myself with the ducks, Jesus can provide safety, love, and bread for life.  Me, I just give stale bread (and a little love, the pants ducks are cute… the ones that look like Dockers logos).  When Jesus says, “Come to me all who are weary…”  that requires a response.  You can’t just sit back in your comfort zone and receive the rest that is promised after.

Think of it as a transaction.  If you come to me, then I will give you bread.  If you stay there, someone else will get your bread.  We always get caught up in the works/grace confusion.  And I think this helps explain quite a bit.  If “YOU” will do your part (going to the Lord), then He will fulfill His promises (so many wonderful promises).  Who is doing it?  God.  Why is He doing it?  Because you accepted it by following Him closely.  Think of your getting up and following Him as a “YES!” answer to His question.  And, conversely, when you do nothing you are responding, “Meh”.  Gifts require accepting.  We must reach out and take the gift.  We must waddle over to the master and receive His blessings.

It’s scary to answer the call of Jesus.  A fair portion of the world hates us (Mark 13:13), We operate by faith rather than sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and we stand out awkwardly from the rest of the world (Romans 12:2).  But the reward is absolutely worth it.  Being near is reward enough.  But much more awaits those that follow.

My favorite part about feeding the ducks?  After a few days, they recognize me… and when I round the corner to head for the pond, they start running towards the fence yelling.  That’s right, its noisy!  I assume they are yelling, “BREAD!!!!!”  Quite honestly, this is how I picture Christians.  Simply put, they are only group number 1 mentioned above.  They run to the Savior, singing His praise.  There is no doubt, no hesitation, and no care for the risks because the risks are so worth it.

One final thought.  Once enough ducks find out that the bread is good, eventually more ducks start coming closer, over time.  The trust grows as the duck peers see more and more of those around seeking out the bread.  This is where you come in.  Step one is to follow Christ.  But once you’ve tasted the sweet bread of life… its time to share.  The call of Jesus is to ALL.  Some of our brothers and sisters need some help to get across the pond.

Jesus Take the Wheel… Please!

It happened yet again.  Driving home last night I noticed a car behind me, but I couldn’t see his headlights or even most of his hood.  According to all of my mirrors, the driver was in my back seat.  When this happens, I slow down.  Not for the sole purpose of being rude, but for safety first.  There were barely inches between us while driving 50 MPH.  If I had even tapped, ever so gently tapped, the brakes for a pedestrian, deer, someone turning, an active crosswalk, or any of the countless issues that would require a break tap, this guy would have hit me.

Slowing down generally solves 2 issues.  It makes the eminent wreck safer (if he hits me, it will be at a slower speed) and second, it usually causes them to realize they were tailgating and they will back off.  Once they back off, I resume normal speed.  Yesterday, I let off the break and cringed as I’ve never seen anyone THAT close to me without actually hitting me.  His reaction… BEEP!  Followed by flashing lights and hands thrown in the air.  I continued to slow until I got around 20 MPH.  Then he started swerving.  Left and right, lights flashing, hands waving, horn blaring.  For 2 miles he did this.  Never once did he back off.  He was so close, he didn’t hit me, but I would be surprised if an index card could have fit between our cars.  I finally turned and he whipped around gesturing and flew off.

The last thing I saw was his Jesus fish on the trunk.  Some of you are thinking, he probably borrowed (or in this case stole 😉 ) the car.  Unfortunately, I’ve been in the passenger seat of other Christians who drive the same way.  And this is yet another, of many, reminders to me how important it is that Christians understand that if we don’t look like Christ… we aren’t IN Christ.

Consider the following statements in lieu of such a silly thing (like driving styles) and then make sure to expound them across all areas of your life as often as possible:

  • The Bible spends extremely small amounts of time on Jesus while he was in ‘church’.  I call it the Bible camera.  While Jesus did go to the temple to learn and even preach, the action was mostly outside of the religious walls.  So the camera was mostly tuned in when Jesus was living among the real world.  The story we see of a man who sets a Godly example to EVERYONE.  strangers, dinner parties, while traveling, interrupting public conflict, even while sleeping in a boat.  The examples we have of how to act like Christ (in order to be Christ-ians) are while He lived his normal life.  This extends to us.  Crowded airplanes, sporting events, kid’s baseball, restaurants, DRIVING, and how we handle politics (mmmhmmmm!  zing to almost all of us on those last 2).
  • Entitlement and Christianity are polar opposites.  Come on.  You know the verses.  Turn the other cheek.  Go the extra mile.  And many other examples let us know that picking up the cross of Christ means dropping the expectation of equality and fairness.  The cross wasn’t fair.  Jesus didn’t deserve that.  Most of life won’t be fair.  We aren’t here to experience fairness.  That shouldn’t be our fight.  We are here to show the world that Jesus loves them.  Somehow, some “Christians” have convinced themselves that they can show love and the finger at the same time.   (notice the quotes?)  The Bible could not be more clear.  Love is the greatest command.  Sacrifice is required to love.  Elitism is the opposite of love.
  • The right thing requires effort.  How easy are your decisions?  Its so easy for me to get mad at the jerk acting like a jerk from jerkville.  Its much more difficult to try and understand where he is coming from.  Why was he in such a hurry?  Was his life filled with turmoil?  The hard option is understanding and forgiveness.  If we aren’t facing difficult decisions in our lives, perhaps we aren’t making very good choices?  This rule isn’t meant to be 100% universal, but think about it.  We have eleventy billion cliches explaining the road less traveled, the merit of all things lies in their difficulty, problems are opportunities in work clothes, etc. etc. etc.  We aren’t even talking Christian logic here.  This is worldly universal.  Ask any athlete.  Ask any philosopher.  Talk to any doctor, lawyer, or architect.  Life, in and of itself, isn’t easy.  Living a good, honest life is doubly difficult.

Prayers and peace to each of you.  May we all learn to lose more and more of ourselves while we take on the lifestyle of Jesus Christ.  The more we look like Him, the more His message will reach those who need to hear the story of love, forgiveness, and redemption.

Christ didn’t gamble on us

Perhaps it may help to understand the mind of Christ when He came to earth.  Or, to be more precise, where His mind wasn’t.  A quick glance in Isaiah 53 can clear this up for us.

“He was despised and rejected by others; a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity; and as one from whom others hide their faces he was despised, and we held him of no account.  Surely he has borne our infirmities and carried our diseases; yet we counted him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This was written in scripture quite some time before Jesus came to earth.  In fact, this was the scripture He came to fulfill.  The point i want to make today is very basic.  Jesus didn’t come to us on a bet.  It was NOT a gamble.  He and God didn’t have a disagreement about mankind.  Jesus didn’t leave heaven exclaiming, “You’ll see!, they will change!”.  He didn’t come to earth, first with a goal of saving us, and the cross was merely His backup plan.  The sin had already been committed.  The cross was already the ONLY plan Jesus had.  And if you are sitting there thinking, “Well, duh!”.  Let that sink in for a minute.  Jesus still came.

We sing about Him on the cross and how he could have called 10,000 angels to set Him free from his torture and death.  But we rarely realize that this was not Jesus’ first introduction to the plan.  The cross wasn’t an ‘uh-oh’ moment for Jesus.  The cross was His destination all along.  He knew, from before birth in the manger, that His life here was about pain, humiliation, backstabbing, manipulation, and death.  All from the folks He loved and wanted to save.

He still came.  In other words… humanity did not disappoint.  God knew blood had to be paid, and who better to handle that?  Like clockwork, we found out Jesus was better.  He was holy, he was pure, he was unwavering in His faith.  And we knew very quickly He had to die so we could get on with our corrupt lives.  We all performed God’s plan to perfection that day.  Jesus showed up, prepared to die.  And the sinners showed up, prepared to kill the innocent Savior.

This isn’t revolutionary, but I hope a change in perspective might help with the magnitude of what Jesus did for us.  His trip to earth wasn’t a mission gone south.  The cross wasn’t the result of poor timing, missed opportunities, or misinformed planning.  The cross is EXACTLY what was planned in response to our refusal to honor God.  And we made it possible.  In fact, we carried it out.  He knew.  He knew our hatred, our greed, our corruption, our pride, and He still came.  He also knew God.  He knew God didn’t bluff.  He knew God loved mankind in spite of our actions.  He knew God wouldn’t send him here with a hidden agenda or with a secret plan B.  He knew His mission was the cross.  He knew when He carried it on His bloody back, He knew when He was adored by cattle and wise men in the barn.

So my question for today is… now that we KNOW what He did for us and what we did to Him.  What will we do today in response?

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