Archive for the Jesus Category

Freedom

Posted in Community, Discipleship, Jesus on March 21, 2012 by nmpreach

Have we redefined freedom?  As Americans, we appreciate our freedom – especially during the month of July or when reminded of the sacrifice soldiers have made on our behalf.  But I ask again, have we redefined freedom?

Once outside the patriotic theme, freedom is defined subjectively.  Freedom has come to mean one is free to do whatever they want.  Postmodern thought tells us “If it feels good, do it.  You’re free to make your own choices.  Don’t be hemmed in by what society tells you is right or wrong.”

But is that freedom?  Civilized societies believe (no time/space for debate here) that if one uses his/her freedom to the detriment of others, they forego their right to freedom.  They’re kept away from society and their freedom is greatly limited.  In the worst cases, the chance for freedom is taken away for the balance of their physical life.

Paul wrote to the Galatians, For you were called to freedom, brothers.  Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (5:13)

If freedom is about me and only me, it’s not freedom at all.  It’s self-serving and leads to what Paul calls to consuming one another.  Freedom is about sacrifice – sacrifice for others.

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. – Jesus

 

Come and See (4)

Posted in Come And See, Jesus on January 26, 2012 by nmpreach

I love the gospel of John.  Too often, I’ve claimed it to be my favorite gospel.  I say too often because I like things about Matthew.  I like Mark’s servant aspect.  And Luke is great when I’m looking for details.  But John is still my favorite.  This time preaching through John’s version of the gospel has been no less than awesome.  Today, we’ll look at a text in John’s sixth chapter.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.  It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.  The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.  But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’  Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.  (vs 16-21 ESV)

It’s no coincidence that this text follows John’s version of Jesus feeding the 5000.  He is steadily setting out the evidence that Jesus was more than a Jewish carpenter.  It’s also no coincidence that John records this event happening in the dark.  Have you ever been in the dark places?  Darkness carries a sense of uneasiness, of wondering, and in many cases, despair.  Most of the time, we think of bad things happening in the dark.

In this instance, a storm rose on the sea.  The disciples had reached the middle.  Therefore, there was no going back now.  Things looked grim.  After recognizing their challenge, John records the disciples “…saw Jesus walking…and coming near…and they were frightened.”  Why is it that they were frightened?

I don’t know about you.  But when I’m in the dark places, when chaos is all around and things seem to be hopeless, I want to see Jesus.  But they were frightened.  Let’s not be too quick to judge.  Most people didn’t walk on water.  Most people didn’t just show up in the middle of the “sea.”  But Jesus did!  Jesus did things that no one else could do.  And how could He just walk seemingly without effort?  There was a storm happening!  Jesus turned normal on its head.  Chances are, we’d be deathly afraid too.

May I suggest they were afraid because they recognized divinity?  It’s not unlike Isaiah receiving his commission (Is. 6).  Woe to me.  I am a man of unclean lips.  You see, when you recognize you’re in the presence of God, you should recognize the wonder, power, and awe.  It also makes one recognize their own limits.  I can’t.  But God can.

It’s only then that Jesus reassures.  Do not be afraid.  It’s me.  There’s reassurance that we all need right?  Despite all you see, God is with you.  And catch what John says next.  I love this.  Then they were glad to take him into the boat.  Uh…YEAH!  Hugs.  Kisses.  Grief turned to joy.  Trouble to peace.  Jesus is here!

Maybe you’re going through a storm in your own life right now.  Maybe you know it’s too late to return to “shore”.  That the quicker way now is straight ahead.  But you’ve been on this path for a while.  You’re in the middle of the sea.  And the storm has gotten stronger.  It’s dark.  It’s windy and wet.  And you’d love to just have some peace and quiet.  Look around.  Jesus can walk on water in the storm and bring peace to a dire situation.  Maybe you need to hear, “Don’t be afraid.  It’s me.”  Now rejoice.  And let him in the boat!

 

 

So What’s It Take?

Posted in Discipleship, Jesus, Priorities, Scripture on December 20, 2011 by nmpreach

What would it take for you to change your life – how you view things, how you react to challenges, what your priorities are, how you live? Don’t answer too quickly. What has to happen today, so that tomorrow and the rest of your life is lived much differently?

Last time, we spoke about the phrase “to all who received him.” (Jn 1:12). But what does it mean to receive Jesus?  What does it mean to believe?  In John 3, Jesus uses the phrase “born again.”  No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.  I’ll say more about the John 3 text in future posts.  But for now, let’s focus on the two words “born again.”  What does that mean?  Nicodemus surely didn’t understand it.  Jesus spoke about being born of the Spirit or being born from above.  Wouldn’t this change your life?  Wouldn’t that make you different?

Notice Jesus didn’t say, “You must say the sinner’s prayer.”  He didn’t say, “You must walk down the aisle at a church.”  Not, “You must be dunked in a large tub of water.”  “You have to be religious.”  Nope!  Jesus said, “You must be born again.”  And when you are born again, you will no longer be the same.  That’s what it would take for you to change.

The Pharisees were religious.  But they were also called “white-washed tombs.”  The apostles interacted with Jesus yet were amazed when Jesus calmed the wind (Mk 4:41).  Thomas knew what Jesus had said.  But Thomas declared, “Unless I see and touch…”  Peter followed all the way to the Garden and then denied Jesus three times.  You must be born again.

Something has to happen in our life that we’re no longer who we once were.  Read Acts 9 and Paul’s conversion experience.  He was no longer the same.  So what’s it take for you?  Maybe you’ve convinced yourself that you’re saved.  Why?  Because you walked down the aisle, said a prayer, or got dunked.  You must be born again.

Maybe you’ve made a deal with God.  If you’ll just get me out of this Lord, I’ll serve you, love you, tell others about you, etc.  And after the “passion” waned, you found yourself back in a rut.  You must be born again.

Will you hear me for a sec?  In Matthew 25, there’s a section about the final judgment.  The grades have been turned in and no extra work will be accepted.  A parable of ten virgins opens the chapter and the premise is to be ready for Christ’s return at any time.  Next, Jesus speaks about being good stewards of what you’ve been given.  If you know the truth, don’t continue to live by old ways.  And then a text on sheep and goats.  The goats represent people who didn’t put others before themselves.  Summary:  You must be born again.

Look long and hard in the mirror.  Have you changed?  I didn’t say, “Are you good.”  HAVE YOU CHANGED?  Have you allowed God to be the Lord of your life?  Or are you still holding on to control?  You must be born again.  There’s no better time than when we celebrate the birth of God in the flesh.

 

Come and See (1)

Posted in Come And See, Jesus, Scripture on December 2, 2011 by nmpreach

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life… John 1:1-4a NIV

The word “zoe” is used thirty-six times in the Gospel of John.  Life is a theme throughout John’s writing.  However, we should note this isn’t just the ability to breathe or to have a heartbeat.  The life John refers to is much greater.

Life refers to something only given by God.  It is what He intended at creation.  And to be separate from God equals the absence of life.  Sin separates us from what God intended – a relationship between Creator and created.  Because all are disobedient (Rom. 3:23), there is a great chasm between the unrighteous and a holy God.

It is for this reason that Jesus had to come and provide a way back to the original – when things were “good” or “very good” (Gen. 1; Jn 3:16, 10:10).  In other words, it’s only through Jesus that life can take shape (Jn 14:6).

Tired of searching for answers that never come?  Interested in a peace that is often times hard to explain?  Want more than a heartbeat or a breath?  The Gospel is going to point to the One who can provide all that you need – The answer, The Peace, The Life – Jesus.  Come and See!

Torture and Jesus

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 24, 2011 by nmpreach

Methods of punishment and/or torture have changed much over the last few centuries.  But in some ways, they’ve stayed the same.  Whether one believes in water boarding or not, it’s been in the news the last several years.  Is this particular practice torture?  Is it simply data gathering?  What about obtaining information from the enemy?  Isn’t anything “fair game”?  What exactly is torture?  What does the Geneva Convention have to say about these things?  And what does this have to do with Moltmann’s Christ for today?

Moltmann points out that there have been many motives for torture.  Judicial motives are used to punish for a deterrent.  Secular motives of punishment worry more about the end justifying the means.  Personal motives point to the selfish core of each and every man.

So what about the torture of Christ?  Does this in any way mean Christians should condone torture?  Should they be willing to accept torture simply because they follow Christ?

Pilate had Jesus flogged (Mt 27:26; Is 53:5).  Other translations record “scourged”.  Historians tell us torture by scourging was a brutal beating.  The purpose was to break one’s will and motive to live before they were crucified.  Jesus cried out from the cross, “My God, My God…”  Paul writes that “he (Jesus) emptied himself” (Phil 2:7).  Can you imagine?  God in the flesh.  Jesus Christ.  Allowing Himself to experience torture.  But why?

Of course, the first that comes to mind is the martyrs – those who died for their faith and beliefs.  “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” (Rev 6:10)  Scripture also tells us that Jesus faced every temptation (including those that come with torture) and yet never sinned (Heb 2:14, 4:15).  Therefore, in torture or persecution, Jesus is our brother.  He has been there and done that.

Often, we in the Western world, forget there are Christian martyrs even today.  What of those who profess Christianity in the Sudan, in China, Indonesia, etc.?  And Christ stands with them as well.  Christ is their brother.

Secondly, torture/persecution once took place in public view.  People were burned at the stake (in the center of town).  Jews in Nazi Germany were forced to sew the “Star of David” on their clothing.  Witches in Salem were hanged in public.  But times have now changed.  Executions take place behind closed doors.  Edicts or orders are simply carried out.  Names disappear from the rolls of the living.  And everyone goes about their business.

Moltmann quips that one part of judgment will be the time that those murdered/persecuted/tortured return and have the opportunity to face their tormenters.  “Victims…have a long memory, for they still carry the unforgettable scars of their suffering.  Those who caused that suffering have short memories.”  That is, until judgment day.  Christ will return and restore all things.  Those tortured or persecuted for the sake of Christ will be honored as victors.  After all, Christ is our brother!

 

 

Suffering = Fear or Hope?

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 9, 2011 by nmpreach

The last week or so, we’ve been looking at Jurgen Moltmann’s Jesus Christ For Today’s World and looking specifically at “pictures” of Jesus.  Today’s picture is found in the phrase “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46; Mk 15:34; Psalm 22:1 NIV)  What exactly does this mean?  For years, scholars have debated the meaning of what Jesus has to say.  Was it the sin of mankind?  Was it the torment and pain of the cross?  Was it something else?

Could it be that Jesus voiced those words from the cross, knowing of the impending separation from the Father?  Moltmann maintains, “All human anxiety and fear is fundamentally – which means from birth onwards – fear of separation.”  However, circumstances that cause anxiety can also be seen as opportunities for hope – hope for victory, for peace, for deliverance.  Again, I refer to Moltmann.  “If we believe in Christ, fear does not isolate us from God.  On the contrary, it leads us deeper into community with him… In our anxiety we participate in Christ’s anxiety; for in his suffering Christ went through the very fears and anxieties which men and women encounter too.”

Too often, when trouble comes our way, we’re tempted to turn our focus inward.  We convince ourselves no one knows our pain, grief, or suffering.  We cry out to God, “Why me?  How could you?  It’s just not fair?”  Although we know the Word says, God/Jesus would “never leave us or forsake us,” (Heb 13:5; Deut 31:6), there are times we feel alone.  And anxiety and fear causes us to become immobile.  We get stuck.

This, you may realize, is a picture that has to do with perspective.  Depending on which angle you view the picture from, you see fear or you see hope.  You see torment, suffering, and despair.  Or you see an opportunity to grow, a place of victory, and God’s perfect love.

I would offer (as Moltmann does) that Christ chose the latter.  Although He knew the cross was not easy, He perceived the final outcome.  Let me encourage you to see conflict as Christ did.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!  Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  (Phil 2:8-11 NIV)

Why God Why?

Posted in Book, Jesus, Moltmann on August 6, 2011 by nmpreach

Perhaps you’ve asked this question about something in your life.  Maybe you’ve heard others around you ask this question or something similar.  It seems to come up during trouble, turmoil, and need I say the “S” word suffering?  Maybe our problem is not the trouble itself.  Maybe our biggest issue is the question(s) we ask.

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to lead a group through a study on grief.  Together, we read Philip Yancey’s Disappointment With God and looked at what God’s Word had to say of suffering.  Most of the group knew what James wrote.  Consider it pure joy my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds…  But no one in the group could honestly say they were grateful for trouble in their lives, even if it was supposed to bring about spiritual growth.  What’s a Christian to do?

Would you consider another picture of Jesus today?  In our suffering, pain, and trouble, Moltmann reminds us to look back at the suffering of Christ on the cross.  This picture begins in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Mark records Jesus took Peter, James, and John with Him and asked them to pray.  He was “greatly distressed and troubled” (14:33).  In fact, Jesus said to them, My soul is very sorrowful, even to death.  Remain here and watch (14:34 ESV).  It’s obvious that Jesus is suffering.  He asked His friends to pray and then began to pray Himself.  Abba, Father…Remove this cup from me.  Yet not what I will, but what you will (14:36 ESV).  The Father remains silent.  And Jesus moves closer to the cross.  His suffering must include His humanity – the pain He would endure, the separation from the Father, and the relying on mankind to affect change in the world.  Secondly, it shouldn’t be overlooked that after asking His friends to pray, Jesus finds them sleeping.  Most likely, this added to His suffering.  Have you ever felt alone in your trouble?  Sometimes the silence of God is deafening.

The picture continues at a place called “The Skull” or Golgotha.  Jesus is on the cross and speaks again to The Father.  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mark 15:34; Psalm 22:1)  And then He died.  Notice, at the beginning the picture, Jesus addresses His Father in an intimate way.  At the end, it is simply, My God, my God.

This picture is called “The Passion”.  From beginning to end, it is clear that Jesus had one thing in mind – to fulfill the will of the Father.  Paul tells us that Christ just didn’t bear sin.  He became sin (2 Cor 5:21)!  And because of sin, He suffered.  God loved us so much that He sent His son (Jn 3:16).  Christ loved us so much that He humbled Himself and became a servant, even to the point of dying on the cross (Phil 2:8).  That’s the picture of The Passion.  That’s the love that God has for all of mankind.  This is a picture that we must all see and embrace.