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Experiencing Jesus

Many decide to follow Jesus because they incorrectly think He will give them a trouble free life. They desire to experience life without pain. The abundant life Jesus promises does not mean no difficulties. Rather, Jesus becomes the rock people build their life upon. Without Him life is built on shifting sand.

Jesus wants you to know the real blessing of abiding in Him.

Photo: Valley where Jesus met the Samaritan woman

Photo: Valley where Jesus met the Samaritan woman

John 4:15

“Please, sir,” the woman said, “give me this water! Then I’ll never be thirsty again, and I won’t have to come here to get water.”

Personal Convenience

The woman took the words of Jesus literally, similar to Nicodemus taking the discussion about new birth literally.

The woman’s concern at this point was personal convenience. Wouldn’t it be nice to avoid frequent trips to a well and the regular hassle of drawing water?

Many want Jesus in their life as a matter of personal convenience. They hope Jesus will reduce the hassle of life, making inconvenience and trouble go away. This is not what Jesus offers.

John 4:16-18

“Go and get your husband,” Jesus told her. “I don’t have a husband,” the woman replied.

Jesus said, “You’re right! You don’t have a husband—for you have had five husbands, and you aren’t even married to the man you’re living with now. You certainly spoke the truth!”

Jesus confronts sin and offers wholeness

Jesus decides to bring the woman’s situation into the open. In only a few words she attempts to quickly stop the dangerous subject. Jesus’ reply is humbling, showing He knows all about her relational issues. Jesus cuts to the core of the problem.

Things left in the dark are not resolved until brought into the light.”

Jesus wants to see this woman fully restored, not possible until light is brought upon her unwholesome lifestyle choices.

John 4:19

“Sir,” the woman said, “you must be a prophet.”

The Messiah

Samaritans acknowledged no prophet after Moses other than one mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:18, “I will raise up a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him.” This coming prophet was considered the Messiah. For the woman to speak of Jesus as a prophet was to assign him this special designation.

The challenge

Step into the light and seek God’s forgiveness. Desire to experience the full measure of divine grace. Come to Jesus – the Rock of Ages.

How has Jesus made Himself known to you? Share your comments below.

Powerful Control

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matt. 5:5

meek

Photo Credit: charlottes333 (Creative Commons)

The blessed meek

Instead of the powerful, influential, and wealthy, Jesus says the meek are blessed. This goes against modern-day thinking that measures blessing by popularity and influence.

Defining a meek person

The Old Testament meek person was fully submitted to God. When things went well the person blessed God, and if things were going poorly they still blessed God.

Aristotle said meekness lays somewhere between excessive anger and angerlessness.

Plato considered someone meek if they attempted to right wrong and challenge injustice. He saw a wrongdoer as sick, in need of healing.

The New Testament translates meek as gentle, modest, unselfish, teachable, and cooperative.

Being truly meek

Four things define someone who is meek: power, control, willfulness, and purpose. Meekness is power under willful submission, being genuinely strong without needing to express it. Someone meek uses power correctly.

Meekness is the quality Jesus modeled by humbly becoming a man. He clearly displayed this attitude when washing the disciple’s feet. Out of meekness His life is a portrait of carrying a shepherds rod, a king’s scepter, wearing a prophets mantel, and yet He used a towel serving others.

The Helper

One expression of Holy Spirit fruit is gentleness, an outward form of meekness. This display of spiritual formation is not something personally produced, the Holy Spirit produces this quality.

Inheriting the earth

Jesus declared the meek inherit the land; land serving as a symbol of all God’s promises fulfilled. The meek, therefore, inherit the promises of God.

God desires to grant the full right of citizenship in His Kingdom to those under His rule. When He rules, the meek are God-controlled and live a more disciplined life. God can then give what He promised.

The Serenity Prayer

Reinhold Niebuhr wrote the Serenity Prayer, displaying meekness:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”

People are to live one day at a time, enjoy one moment at a time, and accept hardship as a pathway to peace. Take, as Jesus did, the world as it is, not as you would have it. Trust that He will make all things right, if you surrender to His will. In so doing, you can be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy in the next.

The challenge

Ask the Holy Spirit to develop greater gentleness in your life. Have courage to change the things which can be changed, and willingly surrender to His will when change is impossible. Make Him ruler of your life and experience full citizenship in the Kingdom.

How have you seen powerful control displayed in others? Share your comments below.

Joyous Mourning

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4

mourning

Photo credit: Herbsttag88 (Creative Commons)

Seeing sin through God’s eyes

There is a blessing for those who mourn over sin and feel toward sin as God does – a heart-breaking sorrow, an unhidden sadness.

The cross

Sin, a product of waywardness and rebellion, came with dire consequences; namely, eternal separation from God and the Son of God dying a sacrificial death. The cross reveals the gravity of sin.

Responses to sin

Citizens of the Kingdom of God mourn over sin. Non-citizens respond to sin in multiple ways:

  • deny it
  • justify it
  • laugh at it
  • hide it
  • are apathetic toward it
  • are angry only if stopped
  • are sorry only if caught

Godly repentance and mourning over sin are reflected in Kingdom people.

Hating sin

Misers spend money. Like everyone else, they need food, clothing, and shelter. Misers, however, hate to spend money.
Similarly, believers are miserly about sin. Paul wrote,

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23).

Believers occasionally act waywardly, transgress, makes mistakes, stumble, willfully rebel. What is your response when this occurs in your life? Do you mourn? Do you hate sinning?

Citizens of the Kingdom of God recognize personal sin is offensive to Him.

Finding joy

Followers of Jesus possess a joy because of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised, “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7)

The word “Helper” is from the Greek word “parakletos,” signifying one who consoles or comforts, encourages or uplifts. The Holy Spirit helps citizens of the Kingdom wholesomely address their sin.

Joy in the morning

Mourning over sin is not joyful but opens the doorway to joy.

Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5)

The greater the grief, the greater the joy and the greater the blessing.

Defining Joy

Joy is peace, contentment, and satisfaction, no matter life’s circumstance. Happiness is conditional on events, whereas joy is a fuller expression of inward happiness based on Jesus.

The mourning of Jesus

He wept over Jerusalem, “And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.” (Luke 19:41) When crucified He cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)

People were blind to His identity, the long-awaited Deliverer that was revealing the Kingdom. He mourned, ascended to the right hand of God and was comforted (Acts 2:33).

His mourning is a model you can follow.

The challenge

Mourn over sin. Feel the gravity and sorrow demonstrated by Jesus, then experience unspeakable joy by obediently following Him.

How have you experienced joy by living rightly? Share your comments below.

Blessed to be a Blessing

The role of God’s children

A common thread throughout the Bible is God’s people being blessed to be a blessing. The covenant with Abraham was, “And I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing.” (Genesis 12:2) God intended Abraham’s descendants to bless the nations.

Blessed

The Blessing of Family

The call

Psalm 67:1 reads,

God be gracious to us and bless us, and cause His face to shine upon us – that Your way may be known on the earth, Your salvation among all nations.”

Not only have God’s people been blessed to be a blessing, but they are blessed as they respond to His divine purpose for their lives.

Faith, Hope, and Love

Shellie and I have found this to be especially true in our lives.  We have seen tremendous blessings according to the three Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love.

Encountering hardships

As Shellie and I attempt to bless others we are blessed. We have experienced a tremendous growth in faith.  When living in Sudan we faced numerous challenges. We encountered daily hardships in an oppressive society, was confined for a day at a police station following a car accident, rebels from Darfur fought government troops across the Nile River from our home, experienced demonstrations in Kenya, and vacated Madagascar during a government overthrow while visiting friends to relieve stress. When we returned to the States we were exhausted.

The blessing of faith

In the States we gave extra time to reading the Bible, praying and singing songs of worship. We began to realize our hardships had developed a profound faith in an omniscient God.  We better understood James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” Adversity is uncomfortable but is a blessing when viewed from a right perspective. Faith is the greatest of all blessings. The next two blessings grow out of the blessing of faith.

The blessing of hope

When Shellie and I decided to pursue overseas work we were public school teachers in the Chicago area. One reason for not serving in the Middle East was college loans.  Seeking to pursue God’s heart for the nations, we made applications for international work. We put our house on the market. In six days we had a contract on the place. Twenty-five days later the sale was complete.  The education loans were paid and we were able to fulfill our desire to work overseas.

Returning from Sudan our family went for a dental check-up. The bill came to $786.  Four months later we received a gift in the amount of $790.  A pastor friend says our walk with the Lord should be constantly amazing but never surprising. We were amazed the check had been sent but not surprised because of our great God.

The blessing of love

After a few years of marriage, we learned medical intervention was needed to have children.  After a prolonged period and miscarriage Shellie became pregnant with Nathaniel. His name means “gift of God.”

While living in Sudan Shellie used fertility medicine once again but to no avail. We decided to simply trust God. Within six months she was pregnant with Haley. Her name means “unexpected gift”.

A month ago we welcomed the latest addition to the family, Lucas. His name means “bringer of light.” In six years we have been blessed with children and, most of all, with the light of an unfolding faith journey. What doctors thought impossible without medicine, God made possible.

The challenge

God desires to bless you while being a blessing to the nations. Participate in what God is doing by praying, giving, and even going.

Listen to my podcast message “Blessed to be a Blessing.” The podcast shares how my family has been blessed as we have desired to be a blessing.

In what ways can you intentionally bless others? Share your comments below.

A Blessed Life

Abundance found in following Jesus

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Jesus promised an abundant life but too often a person’s definition does not match what Jesus intended. Many think of abundance in cultural terms. By American standards it may be defined as a nice house, a great car, a beautiful family, and a stress-free, well-paying job. Is this what Jesus means?

sunset in Greece

Sell all that you have

The gospel writer Mark records an incident where a rich man asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life. Jesus responded to obey the commandments. The man felt he was fulfilling this obligation. Jesus then said, “Sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21).

This counters the thinking of abundance. Is not life measured by possessions?

Take up your cross

The gospels also record an event where Jesus was speaking to a crowd and explaining the way of salvation. “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Matt. 8:34-35).

Take up a cross and follow Jesus? Pick up a torturous instrument in order to experience abundance? This does not make sense. Or does it?

Redefining abundance

Could abundance be better defined as a life with an eternal hope and with an everyday confidence? Jesus gave His followers instructions to experience abundance just before ascending to heaven.

The Greatest Commandment

Jesus commissioned His followers to “go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit … and low, I am with you always.” (Matt. 28:19-20).

The abundant life is connected to pursuing His desires. The meaning of life and a hope for the future is found as you purpose yourself to reach the nations for Him.

The rich man held back from a genuine relationship with God on account of material possessions. Jesus is more important. The abundance He talks about cannot be found unless fully devoted to Him.

Jesus said to deny yourself and carry a cross. Life will not be without struggle. Everyday challenges give the greatest opportunity to develop Christ-like character. When carrying a cross you identify with Jesus and become more like Him.

An abundant life

My family is experiencing “life to the full” by letting go of cultural definitions of abundance. We decided to reprioritize our lives and have faced some hardships along the way. We are richer, however, for it.

Our children are gaining a clearer worldview and learning two different languages. My wife and I have a rich sense of meaning through our work and a great hope for the future, as we experience His unfolding plan.

The challenge

The challenge is to let go of possessions, any plans that exclude God and unrealistic expectations that keep you from experiencing the abundant life promised by Jesus.

Should hardships come Jesus will use them to shape you and to develop His nature in you.

What holds you back from experiencing His abundance?