Does Jesus Want Me to Suffer?

March 19, 2009

“…if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:17

“The single greatest cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle that is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” – Unknown

“The only way we avoid suffering is when we set up boundaries, because if we are following our mission for Jesus we will run into suffering.” – Francis Chan

I have been struggling as of late with my actions as one who proclaims to follow Jesus and calls myself a Christian. I have been wrestling with what Paul says “provided we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.” So how do I suffer with Jesus?

I heard Francis Chan preach on, avoid setting up boundaries. Avoid saying that I will only love this much, or give this much, or serve this much. Its following the example of Jesus dying to self and giving all for the Kingdom.

I am so thankful/proud of the fact that my church is not a church that preaches that Jesus = less suffering. Because that is simply not true, if you follow Jesus you will suffer for it. The Gospel of Jesus is not a message of Health, Wealth, and Happiness that is the American Gospel.

We as Christians, and myself in particular tend to lose sight of the Kingdom/Jesus mentality, we fall into this “I am saved, are you saved?” way of thinking. The focus is getting souls saved, ours and others, and we tend to forget about becoming more like Jesus and becoming consumed by Him.

you’ve got a vision of some far off day
beautiful and bright
a carrot hanging out of reach
but always in your sight
there’s an icon in your mind
that stands for happiness someday
a picture on the wall
of a kingdom far away

but oh, it’s closer than you think
oh, it’s breathing in between
oh, it’s closer than you think
oh, it’s right under your feet

– Fiction Family

My life is not reflecting suffering for Jesus and I repent of that. I have set up boundaries in my life where Jesus can’t go.

If life truly is as Annie Dillard puts it “the way we live our days is the way we live our lives” than I am failing. Jesus is not my focus every day. I want to be fixated on Him, to have every day of my life about Him.

My life needs to be consumed with excitement looking to that day I meet Jesus face to face. But in the meantime religion won’t do, morality won’t do, I need Jesus, I long for Him.

I sometimes feel Jesus singing this to my soul….

“Oh, and when will our heartbeats fall into two lines
And the click-clack of our boot heels beat out the same time
Oh, and when will your hand find itself in mine?
Oh, and when will your hand find itself in mine?”

– Noah and The Whale

I want Him to possess me in all I do. I am struggling and learning each day how to I become more like Him, totally wrapped up in the cause of His love, advancing it, recognizing it, and affirming it. I want to suffer, I invite suffering as I let down my boundaries and hope to die to myself.

Do you struggle with this?

How do you approach the way we should suffer for and with Jesus?

How are you living your days? Is that what you want your life to amount to?

“Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope” – Romans 5:2-4


The Stench of My Sin

September 18, 2008

“Create in me a clean heart Oh God!” – King David

“Oh me what have I done, Oh me what have I done?” – Madeline Adams

“Sin is not just disobeying a law, it’s a missed opportunity” – N.T. Wright

Last week my church put on this drama which I was honored to take part in. I started front and center on stage before the congregation in a white shirt, then a figure in black approaches and proceeds to blemish my shirt with black paint. During this assault I stood there and took it while words were playing on the screens saying: thief, stupid, dumb, ugly, I hate you, I wish you were different, what is wrong with you, etc. With each blow came a word or phrase. Then after the message was given I came back up on stage and all blotted and spotted when a white figure came and struggled to take my blemishes away but I refused until I eventually gave in. He ripped off the soiled shirt and underneath was a pure white one and then we walked off stage as One. It was a very powerful service and one I will not quickly forget.

“Oh Lord, I’m overcome in wanting what is wrong.” – Madeline Adams

I have always had in my mind the image of sin causing a cube in my heart to round into a sphere. Let me explain. My dad gave me this image when I was young, that if you don’t go to Jesus and talk to Him about the wrong you have done then your sin causes your heart to get numb. The effect of sin is that the cube knocks around in your heart with its edges and it hurts, that’s good because that means that you have a soft and sensitive heart. But if you don’t talk to Jesus and come broken and in need of fixing to Him, well then your cube wears down from knocking into the sides of your hard heart and turns slowly into a sphere that doesn’t knock against anything. The inside of your heart gets so calloused because of built up sin and then you have a hardened heart.

“Does God have Himself an X-Ray, to see inside me the stench of gin and whiskey?”

– Madeline Adams

Now my favorite words from God are these “We have no condemnation it Christ Jesus” I love and cherish that! But we need to keep our hearts SOFT. I know that I feel so very dirty and broken when I sin, but when I sin and don’t talk to Jesus about it, that is worse! My sin develops this stench that is overwhelming! I feel that as a Christ follower, when I sin it is worse than when someone who doesn’t know Jesus sins, because I know better and I have the Holy One inside me guiding me and telling me to do right. What excuse do I have? I have none but I have an Advocate in my “Beautiful Jesus” my “Beautiful Savior”.

One of my favorite songs is this; “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus”.

“What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

“What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

“Oh precious is the flow that makes me white as snow,

No other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

It is so very important that we talk to the Master about everything; we need to come to Him and worship Him in Spirit and Truth, He commands it and we should want it.

Romans 4:7-8

“Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.

Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

 

Grace and Peace in the Name of Jesus. Amen


Guns and Why the Right Wingers are NOT the Party of Jesus

July 3, 2008
I have had a very enlightening past three months listening to all the media garbage that is out there and finding where I stand in today’s political spectrum. I keep this in mind as I try to find my place; I do this standing on the foundation of an apprentice following the Way of Jesus and His Kingdom first and foremost.

 

I am a recovering Republican and talk radio listener, but I would still consider myself politically conservative. There are many reasons why the Republican Party and the Democrat Party do not represent the party of Jesus Christ. I want to address one of my problems with the Republican Party today, followed by a critique of the Democrats to come.

 

I recently read a story in the news where a man in Texas was just acquitted of any wrong doing in the slaying of two individuals in November of 2007. This man saw two individuals breaking into his neighbor’s house while they were not home at the time. He felt it was his responsibility to intervene in this situation where there was no individual in harms way. This man was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher who was pleading with him not to get involved. This man had a shotgun in hand and kept saying “I can’t let them get away with this” as he was prepping the shotgun to go out and confront the men, the 911 dispatcher was voicing what I believe Jesus would have been saying:

 

“Stay inside the house and don’t go out there, OK? I know you’re pissed off, I know what you’re feeling, but it’s not worth shooting somebody over this, OK?”

The Man said “I don’t want to, but I mean if I go out there, you know, to see what the hell is going on, what choice am I gonna have?

The Dispatcher said this in response, “That’s alright, property’s not something worth killing someone over. OK? Don’t go out of the house, don’t be shooting nobody. I know you’re pissed and you’re frustrated but don’t do it.”

More dialogue followed but this was the last thing the man said before he went to kill the two individuals,

“Well, here it goes buddy, you hear the shotgun clicking and I’m going.”

He walks out to confront the men at this neighbor’s home and the following takes place.

“Boom! You’re dead!” he shouts. A loud bang is heard, then a shotgun being cocked and fired again, and then again.

The two men died there on the scene.

Wow. What goes through your mind reading that as a follower of Jesus? I read this story yesterday in the news and I heard the talk radio hosts talking about it today and the reaction was cold hearted and calloused. They were defending the actions of this man, as if he was a hero that saved a bunch of children from being killed by two monsters. Talk about detached from reality; this was extreme in my opinion.

What is my reaction to all this? I am whole heartedly against what Rush or Sean Hanity have to say about this, because my heart breaks. How can it not? I love Jesus with all I am and I pray for things like this to happen, not the shooting but my heart breaking over this event involving people I don’t even know. I feel overwhelmed. How can we have a State in our Union that acquits a man of any wrong doing in a case like this? He confronted and killed two men who were NOT HARMING any one!

I am as outraged at this almost as much as I am about what the Democrats do in defense of “women’s rights” that leads to 3,000+ deaths of unborn babies each day. Where are we going in America? If the above scenario is what it means to have “gun rights” in America today where we feel it is more important to protect property than to think twice before we go shooting off a shotgun then I don’t want anyone to have any “gun rights”! And if that makes me a wimpy weak liberal to the conservatives then I am guilty as charged because Jesus tells me this “Love your enemies and pray for them” and the Word of God says this in Col. 3:1-3 “If you have been raised with Jesus, seek what is above where Jesus is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not what is on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Jesus in God.” Do you see what we are called to do here? Seek the things of the Kingdom, protecting life at all costs, even if that means letting two punks get away with some valuable property. But we don’t get that in America today and the Republican Party doesn’t get it when it comes to situations like this involving guns. By so fervently protecting the Second Amendment they have overlooked the devaluing of human life. Even if they break the law, these two men are still precious in the eyes of God and that life is still sacred to Jesus even if it is not sacred to those in the Republican Party.

A few scriptures come to mind in closing.

“Love your neighbor as your self”

“Seek first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.”

“For God so loved the (whole) World that He gave His one and only Son…”

“What you have done to the least of these you have done to ME”

Amen.

 


Last C.S. Lewis Post “God is on the Move”

June 14, 2008

It is frustrating sometimes, trying to “feel” God’s presence in your life. I have had my struggles in the past and still do even now through all He has shown me and done for me, I still want to see a miracle or hear a voice or see something “supernatural”. Then then the words “oh yea of little faith” come to my mind, I try but it feels sometimes that living in this media dominated world, that it is harder and harder to live on a strict diet of faith alone. Then I ground my self in the Word and realize the truths that God has reveled to us, summed up; we are not alone. God has sent the “Great Comforter” who is the Third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. Take this passage from “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis on the “movement of God” and the actions of the Trinity in the life of a Christ follower.

“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers. He is trying to get into touch with God. But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God; God, so to speak, inside him. But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God, that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him. You see what is happening. God is the thing to which he is praying, the goal he is trying to reach. God is also the thing inside him which is pushing him on, the motive power. God is also the road or bridge along which he is being pushed to that goal. The whole threefold life of the three-personal Being is actually going on in that ordinary little bedroom where an ordinary man is saying his prayers. The man is being caught up into the higher kind of life.”

Wow that makes me look at my relationship with God in a new way. Do you see what is happening here? God is on the move. He is working in the Christian’s life and moving in it even if he doesn’t “feel” it. Here are two experiences I have had with God in my past.

The first is when I was about fifteen years old when I found myself at an evening church service to prayerfully consider if our church would make my Dad an Elder. There then came a time for members of the church to go up to my dad and pray over him and speak words of encouragement to him. I was taking the time that night very seriously and I humbled myself in prayer to God, asking him to use me in any way he could. Then I felt something I had never felt before and only have felt rarely since then. My heart felt like it was full and ready to burst open, my soul was overwhelmed with this utter feeling to go, go, GO! And somehow I knew that meant to go to my Dad and speak to him. As I walked up to the front of the church I was wondering what in the world I would say to him, what was I doing? A “God thing” happened at that moment and you would think that at such an important point in my life I would remember every word I said but it was like someone else did the speaking for me. I know I said something like, “I am proud of you Dad and you can do this you have what it takes” but I truly believe the words I spoke were from God the Father to my Dad that night.

 The second experience has been an unfolding one. I have been following through with this “Challenge 21” my pastor put before our church two weeks ago, it is a challenge to go four weeks five days a week in the Word of God studying it daily and getting to know the heart of God. I have drawn closer to God through this challenge and I have developed a dependence upon this time with God to preserver through the day.

So what does this all mean? Well ironically enough as I write this blog entry I had a very similarly related study in the Word today with my “Challenge 21”. I studied Mark 8:1-13 and I want to share this passage from it Mark 8:11-12

“The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth; no sign will be given to it.”

From this passage I learned this, don’t test God, just believe in him, and don’t always be looking for signs and miracles. The world displays a “dog eat dog” mentality but that’s not the way of the Kingdom. The world needs proof to believe but the way of God and his Kingdom is faith without sight. Trust in him, that his motives are good. He loves it when you trust in him and have faith in him without sight or signs. We as Kingdom people need to show others that faith is to be valued and faith brings about life change. Faith is based in relationship with the Resurrected Christ.


C.S. Lewis, Apprenticeship in Christ, Getting filled UP

May 29, 2008

As I explore through the works of Lewis I find myself more and more drawn into his world of fantasy and theology. I look at this next work of his I find the perfect blending of the two genres. I love his portrayal of the “workings” of the fallen angels in “The Screwtape Letters”, he delves into the strategy of spiritual warfare from the standpoint of the evil ones.

Here is an excerpt from the book, remember this is a correspondence between a “lower demon” and his “superior overseer” concerning the temptation of man and the role God plays.

“One must face the fact that all the talk about His(God’s) love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself; creatures whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over.”

OH I LOVE THAT! “He wants servants who can finally become sons.” And that last line “He is full and flows over.” I love this direct comparison to what Jesus says in John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”

What God has instore for us is limitless, if we pursue Him and follow in his teachings. He has called us out, Jesus is inviting us along for the ride “to seek out life and boldly go where no one has gone before” (sorry habit of being a Trekkie). Are you going to be a “Christan” or an “Apprentice of Christ” as Dallas Willard might say. Do you have all your doctrine and “beliefs” lined up? Or are you seeking first the kingdom of God and His Rightness.


Watch your Tongue

May 6, 2008

I was watching ESPN the other day and they were talking about a basketball player a while back when he first joined the team and became the team captain. During an interview he was getting all excited and said that he wasn’t there to make lots of money, he just wanted to play ball and turn this team 360 degrees around. Oh how people say stupid things!

I have been there, where I have said foolish things! I say dumb things a lot, ask my wife (no don’t really, I was just kidding, she will give you a list the length of my whole body). We can get like that, caught up in the moment and let our tongues get the best of us. Remember the children’s song?

“Be careful little mouths what you say; for the Father up above is looking down with love so be careful little mouths what you say.”

Listen to what James has to say about the tongue:

“This is scary: You can tame a tiger, but you can’t tame a tongue—it’s never been done. The tongue runs wild, a wanton killer. With our tongues we bless God our Father; with the same tongues we curse the very men and women he made in his image. Curses and blessings out of the same mouth!”

“My friends, this can’t go on. A spring doesn’t gush fresh water one day and brackish the next, does it? Apple trees don’t bear strawberries, do they? Raspberry bushes don’t bear apples, do they? You’re not going to dip into a polluted mud hole and get a cup of clear, cool water, are you?” (James 3:9-12 The Message)

We have to watch what we say, not only to practice one of the greatest fruits of the Spirit, self control which is my toughest challenge, but to protect our witness. Now does that give us a license to be fake? Not at all. Don’t “put on Jesus” when you come to church, or when you are around other believers, it’s a change in the heart. The heart and the mouth are deeply connected. In fact it says in Romans “Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ is Lord and you will be saved.”

What do we gain by keeping a tamed tongue besides the self control? Wisdom, trust from others, and healing.

Proverbs 10:19 says “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise”

Proverbs 12:17-18 says “A truthful witness gives honest testimony, but a false witness tells lies. Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

One who has gained a tamed tongue may be considered a maker of peace and Jesus said “Blessed are the Peacemakers for they shall inherit the kingdom of Heaven.”

So what can we do with all of this? No one can have a perfect tongue; Christ was it, the only man ever. We are to strive for a tame and holy tongue that honors our Lord, to exalt His Holy name with praises, not to curse our brother with a wicked heart. Let these Scriptures guide you to taking a second, third or even a fourth look at what you say before you say it, does is honor God?


Walking with a Dangerous GOD

April 30, 2008

Many of you have read the books and seen the film of C.S. Lewis’s “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe”. There is a scene at the end of the film after the great battle to destroy the Evil Witch is over and the side of Good has come out victorious, where little Lucy the youngest of the children who the story centers around is talking to her beaver friend, and as they watch the Great Lion Aslan walk away along the beach she turns to Him and asks is he safe? And the beaver replies “Safe? Who said anything about safe? Of course he isn’t safe. But He’s good.”

The Scriptures refer to Jesus as The Lion of the Tribe of Judah for a reason; He is wild, fierce, unpredictable, and DANGEROUS. Also the Scriptures talk about Jesus being the Lamb of God, because He is kind, gentle, innocent, approachable, and GOOD. But somehow we have divorced these attributes of God from each other to mean that He is soft, tamable, and safe.

The God of the scriptures is Wild, Passionate, Jealous, and a Warrior. He doesn’t ask nicely to have His people set free. Remember in the story of Exodus? It went like this, speaking for God; Moses said “Pretty please, pleassssseeeee let my people go?” NO. It went like this, “Let my people GO! If you do not I will turn the Nile to blood!” And the Lord did turn the Nile to blood and the rest is history; plagues, afflictions, darkness, and death. Not the work of a nice and safe God.

King David, the great man after God’s own heart evoked a God of vengeance and battle, He said things like, “He is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, He is my shield, the Horn of my Salvation, I call to the Lord who is worthy of praise and I’m safe from my enemies.” He described the Lord as “The earth trembled and quaked and the foundations of the mountains shook they trembled because he was angry, Smoke arose from his nostrils consuming fire came from his mouth burning coals blazed out of it.” None of these words describe a soft and cuddly God, He is dangerous and fierce.

I love what Dorothy Sayers said: “To do them justice, the people who crucified Jesus did not do so because he was a bore. Quite the contrary; he was too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have declawed the lion of Judah and made him a housecat for pale priests and pious old ladies.”

Yes remember that we serve the God of mercy, grace and goodness, all true but God is dangerous and wild, these attributes can go hand in hand and not have a domesticated and tame Lord.

Look at Jesus’ walk with the Disciples, did He promise them that it would be a safe journey that it would be gentle? Did He lay out for them a plan that showed where they would be staying each night, how they would get all of their meals? NO. Jesus promised none of that. He just said “Rise and follow Me, Ill make you worthy, Rise and follow Me Ill make you fishers of Men.” It wasn’t a safe journey for them, many ended up killed for their devotion, but it was a good journey. That is what He promises us a good journey not a safe one.

So what does all of this mean? Is God not loving, kind, and faithful? NO, not at all.

But is your walk with Him safe?