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Confidence in Christ

Many people find their identity in family, work, religion, hobbies, sports or recreation. This reminds me of Jesus’ teaching on house building in Matthew 7:24-27. If someone’s identity is built upon temporal things, they build on faulty foundations. When troubles come there is no firm footing. If identity is found in Christ, He provides strength to stand in the midst of a changing world.

confidence

Photo credit: U.S. Coast Guard (cc)

John 2:23

Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him.

A forming faith

Miraculous signs caused people within Jerusalem to be attracted to Jesus but did not cause them to have profound faith in Him.

Faith, by definition, is not acquired “by sight.” Faith is found by acknowledging Him the Lord of your life and believing God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9).

John 2:24

But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature.

Genuine transformation

Many who witnessed Jesus perform miracles were willing to make Him a national leader but Jesus would not entrust Himself to them. His desire is for people to experience genuine transformation, not just enthusiasm for something spectacular.

There was an eternal purpose behind the miracles of Jesus.

Although He desired to address physical needs, Jesus wanted to open people’s eyes to eternity.

John 2:25

No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.

A faulty heart

God fully knows the hearts of men. First Kings 8:39 states, “Give your people what their actions deserve, for you alone know each human heart.”

People were impressed with Jesus’ miracles, but He knew many would not fully devote their lives to Him.

Identity in Jesus

Jesus did not need human approval to stand firm in who He was, is, and forever will be. He knew Himself to be of divine origin. His confidence came from His relationship with the Heavenly Father.

As a follower of Jesus, our identity is found in Him. If you have made Jesus Lord of your life you are a child of the King. Paul relates from 2 Samuel 7:14, “I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).

People will have varying opinions of who you are, but Jesus sees you as a child of God.

If your confidence is in a relationship, a job title, social standing, or anything else, insecurity and fear will constantly be part of your life. Placing confidence in Christ enables you to stand on a firm foundation.

The challenge

As a follower of Jesus, confidence comes from Christ. Stand firm in faith and do not allow circumstances or people to overwhelm you.

In what ways have circumstances or people kept you from claiming an identity in Christ? Share your comments below.

The Veil of Freedom

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” 2 Corinthians 3:17

freedom

Freedom in Christ

Freedom can be deceiving. You find yourself veiled by perceived freedoms, when in reality you are bound by obligation and fear. You may think you are free but genuine freedom is in Christ and in fulfilling the purposes He has determined for you.

Bound by false freedom

You are free to visit many places. You are free to buy whatever your money or credit will allow. You are free to love and marry whomever you choose. You are free to do whatever job you desire.

Yet, how many people are veiled by perceived freedoms and are still bound by situations, circumstances, debt, obligations and responsibility?

Zach and I were committed to moving overseas but until the last bill was paid we were not free to go. We were trapped. When we cleared all our debts, we were free.

Finding freedom

Feeling free and being free are very different. Ask God to unveil you from any perceived freedoms and to show you where you may be bound. May He remove the veil of perceived freedom and lead you into full freedom.

The unveiling

You can be free. Freedom is found in Christ. In Christ you are free from sin and gain freedom from bondage. By reading Scripture you discover inward freedom. He gives freedom as you live according to His plan. Free up your schedule, debts and everything else restraining you from fully following Him. Seek God and be unveiled of any perceived freedom.

How has the veil of freedom affected you? Share your comments below.

An Encouraging Word

Hope in the Word

Throughout my life Scripture has encouraged and spoken to me. While living in Sudan I could identify with David crying out to God in the Psalms.

I cry out to the Lord; I plead for the Lord’s mercy. I pour out my complaints before him and tell him all my troubles. When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” (Psalm 142: 1-3)

Living and working in challenging locations has given me a greater understanding of his thoughts and feelings.

The Word

Photo credit: jimforest

Christ fulfills scripture

Paul in Romans 15:4 encourages believers to find hope in Scripture,

Such things were written in the Scriptures long ago to teach us. And the Scriptures give us hope and encouragement as we wait patiently for God’s promises to be fulfilled.”

The 66 books of the Bible, one Author with 40 writers, spans 1500 years and includes history, poetry, and wisdom. The Book describes God’s dramatic interaction with people.

The Old Testament prophets point to events that would occur hundreds of years later:

  • Daniel 2 and 8 – the rise of Alexander the Great and the Roman Empire.
  • Zechariah 12:10-13:1 – a description of the crucifixion of Christ.
  • Isaiah 53 – the sufferings of Jesus.

Prophecies express the supernatural inspiration of the Bible. When people examine Scripture, taking into account the miraculous and historical elements, they discover an authenticity that points to one, perfect person – Jesus Christ.

The authenticity of scripture

Bruce Metzger wrote in Chapters In The History of New Testament Textual Criticism that the New Testament is 99.5% textually accurate. No other ancient manuscript has this kind of accuracy. Over 5400 New Testament manuscripts point to its authenticity.

Our hope is in Christ

Since Christ fulfills Scripture and promises eternal life to those who believe in Him, our confidence and hope rest in Him. As followers of Jesus hope is not in homes, jobs, friendships, or anything offered by this world. Hope is in Christ.

The challenge

Place your hope in the person of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of Scripture. He is the unchanging, everlasting promise you can hold onto.

In what ways have you struggled to put your hope in Jesus? Share your comments below.

A Joyful World

Christ is coming again

My family and I love the various holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. Whether celebrated in Chicago, Missouri, Sudan, or Jerusalem, we love decorating, reflecting on the goodness of God and giving gifts, as modeled by the Father’s gift of the Son and the Magi bringing presents to Jesus.

joy

Photo credit: mmwm (Creative Commons)

Christmas music

We also love listening to Christmas music, especially songs bringing glory to God. The next few articles will give attention to some of the best known Christmas carols.

A Joyful World

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!

Let earth receive her King;

Let every heart prepare Him room,

And Heaven and nature sing,

Prepare Him room

God sending His Son is joyful, defeating the works of the devil and providing the way of salvation. Will the world receive the King this holiday season? Will every heart prepare Him room?

Psalm 98

Issac Watts wrote the song, based on Psalm 98. Verses 4-6 read:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth; break forth into joyous song and sing praises! Sing praises to the Lord with the lyre, with the lyre and the sound of melody! With trumpets and the sound of the horn make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord!”

His second coming

This song is sung to celebrate the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem yet Watts wrote “Joy to the World” to celebrate His second coming, when He gives lasting peace.

A coming judgement

Psalm 98: 7-9 reads:

Let the sea roar, and all that fills it; the world and those who dwell in it! Let the rivers clap their hands; let the hills sing for joy together before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity.”

Will you be ready?

Jesus came two centuries ago to the shouts of “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” He will come again for the church (His bride), and will rightfully and fairly judge the world.

The challenge

Prepare room for Jesus this Christmas. Allow the Greatest King to joyfully enthrone your heart. Experience the divine peace lacking in the world, coming from the Ruler of peace.

How do you express joy during the holiday season? Share your comments below.

Live Dead for Jesus

Bringing glory to God with your life

We often come to Christ in prayer with an agenda. He has his own list of items and we have to decide, do we yield to His or demand our own? To die to our plans and trust God is best. Bringing glory to God requires living-dead.

LiveDead

John 12:24-25

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

The triumphant entry

Days before speaking these words to His disciples Jesus entered Jerusalem with shouts of “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

People were hoping for an earthly ruler. They assumed He would quickly establish His kingdom.

A different kind of glory

Instead Jesus tells the crowd the time has come for Him to be glorified but not in a manner they expect. Glory through death!

Jesus says,

This is how it is going to work. I am going to bless people by dying.”

We think so differently

This did not make sense to the disciples. They thought the best thing would be for His ministry to continue. Things were finally coming together. He started out with a few and now had a multitude. Momentum was in His favor. The ministry was growing. Why die?

Death then life

The way of fruitfulness, however, lies through death. Unless the wheat falls into the ground and “dies” it will not bear fruit. Through death the way of fruitfulness is activated.

Trusting God

Shorty after moving to Jerusalem our kids began to experience difficulties. The worst was our daughter experiencing spiking fevers, causing febrile seizures. I watched our beautiful 2-year old seizing on the floor one morning and heard God speak to my heart, “Can you trust me with your daughter? Can you trust me with your kids, your wife, your entire life?”

I wanted to say “no” but knew the answer was “yes.” The Creator of heaven and earth gave Shellie and me three kids and was able to be trusted, no matter what.

Challenge then victory

Shortly afterwards we began seeing the Spirit of God move in powerful ways among the people we work with. Praise God we were able to participate in His life work by living-dead to selfish ambition and personal preference.

The challenge

Live dead for Jesus. The question is not whether we will die but whether we will die in ways that bears much fruit.

Listen to my podcast message “LiveDead.” The podcast shares how to live dead for Jesus.

What are some practical ways you can start living dead today? Share your comments below.

To Live is Christ

Living as though you don’t have tomorrow

Cross of Christ

Our work overseas limits our ability to form concrete relationships. We make friends fast and have deep conversations. We never know when we will see each other again.

Some people quickly make an impression on you when you meet them. This summer I met such a man, Stan, a man that loves his wife, his family and his work.

Sad news

I received a message from Stan. He stated he has Stage 4 cancer. Even with chemotherapy, he only has a few months to live.

I do not know what to think about the email. I hope to catch up with him and his family, but am not sure that will be possible.

I wept for his family, prayed for healing and struggled with what this meant for his work.

Living with conviction

Paul wrote in Phillipians 1:21-24,

For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.”

God’s gain is our loss

I know God will be pleased when Stan is in His presence. I know Stan will be blessed being in the presence of the Lord. We, however, will experience a sense of loss.

Stan has dedicated his life to and lives for Jesus. He loves his wife, his two kids, and the work God has given him.

How to pray

The email is asking for prayer. He wants wisdom about doing chemotherapy. If the treatment will add some months to tell others about Jesus, he wants strength. If it will take away his ability to work for God, he would rather skip the treatment.

How can someone make that kind of request?

When you spend time in the presence of Jesus, singing songs of praise, meditating on Scripture, and talking with Him, you gain a desire to serve Him and spend eternity with Him.

Stan has no regrets. His life has been well-lived. His prayer request aligns with a desire to have his remaining days filled with opportunities for Jesus.

The challenge

Live in such a way to bring glory to God. Pursue Him and tell others about Him. Fulfill the words of Paul, “Living for Christ.” Live in a way that makes your life a testimony of Jesus.

Comment, if you would like, but my preference is for you to take a moment and pray for Stan. Pray God will give him wisdom and peace in the coming months.

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?