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Missing God

Jews have been waiting for a Messiah for thousands of years. Jesus’ messiahship was regularly challenged. Many Jews formulated their own concept of what the Messiah should do and missed the One reconciling man to God and inaugurating His Kingdom.

John 2:18-22 reveals misunderstanding the nature of Christ can cause someone to miss God’s eternal work.

god

Photo credit: heyadam (cc)

John 2:18

But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.”

The Messiah

Jews were questioning the rightness of Jesus’ action of cleansing the temple. They wanted a miraculous sign to authenticate this Messianic act.

A shallow understanding of God and lack of faith cause people to demand proof. I have known people who asked God to show them a sign in order to believe in Him. That is not faith. The writer of Hebrews states,

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1).

John 2:19

“All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

A gospel sign

The ultimate sign Jesus gave to the Jewish leaders was His death and resurrection. He knew they would destroy the temple (Jesus) and three days later God would raise Him up.

The religious authorities wanted a sign, but not the one Jesus ultimately gave. God works in people lives, but this often takes shape in ways different than they anticipate. His ultimate desire is for everyone to become right with Him through Jesus Christ.

John 2:20-22

“What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?”
But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.

A spiritual temple

Commentators argue for a double meaning in His words, one referring to His death and resurrection and the other referring to the abolition of the Temple and sacrifices. Both occurred by Jesus dying on the cross and being raised from the dead.

Jesus was handed over for crucifixion by Jewish religious authorities and three days later raised from the dead. The rebuilt Temple is the New Covenant put into effect by the cross and empty tomb, a spiritual Temple.

God is greater

Isaiah shares, “For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9). God is at work. It is better to align yourself with His perfect plan than be consumed with questions about actions or motives. People need to come into line with what God is doing, not seeking self-rightness by challenging His plans.

The challenge

Avoid coming to God with preconceived ideas of what He desires for your life. Passionately pursue Him knowing His ways and thoughts are not of your measure or standard.

Have there been times when you have missed God? Share your comments below.

Faith, Hope, and Love Abide

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor. 13:13)

Jerusalem

Jerusalem is a city of many faiths: Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Orthodoxy. This creates an interesting environment to live and work. As part of a Jesus-centered community, people who believe differently frequently wonder about us. Some have remarked,

You are from different parts of the United States, yet there is a spirit that unites your group. You seem to really love each other.”

An authentic display of God’s love is attractive to the world.

Love the greatest

The virtues of faith, hope, and love embrace life in the Spirit and the return of Christ. In some ways faith and hope give more attention to the individual while love addresses the wider community. People are saved by faith and hope but the kingdom of God depends on love. Love unites.

Faith

Believers have faith in God and trust Him to forgive and accept them through Christ. They cannot visibly see Him yet trust in His goodness and grace.

In eternity the trust in God that began in this life continues. Faith becomes sight.

Hope

Believers also have hope for a future guaranteed through Jesus. By His resurrection they are future-oriented people. They know the present is on its way out. They are on a journey to a place in the presence of God, seeing Him face to face.

In eternity hope becomes realized.

Love

Love is the greatest because love unites believers with God.

In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins…We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:10,19)

Through God’s love followers of Jesus are able to love one another. By loving one another they display God’s love to the world.

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:35)

In eternity love becomes fully actualized.

The challenge

Have great faith in God, profound hope in the future, and a deep love for Jesus and the church. May the love you show others reflect Christ to the world!

In what ways can you grow your faith, hope, and love? Share your comments below.

Loving People While Hating Tolerance

Our culture strongly endorses tolerance. Is it healthy for the church to embrace this trait? Is tolerance equal to love?
tolerance

“Kind people go to heaven!”

The note pictured above was on a cafe counter in Jerusalem. The pervading thought of “kind people go to heaven” is deeply ingrained in many cultures. Not offending others has become top priority today. Tolerance seems to reflect kindness. This has led many to think tolerance is love.

Love God, Love people

Jesus said the greatest commandments are to,

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (and) love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37, 39)

We align with God and ask the Spirit’s fruit to increase in our life – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control.

We experience more of His transforming power and naturally start wanting to tell others about Jesus. We love neighbors and even enemies. We want them to experience life to the fullest.

An eternal concern

To not express concern for a person’s eternal welfare is not love but passivity.

Love does not include blind tolerance for unwholesome lifestyles that separate people from God.

Bringing a sword

The message of salvation can bring division. Jesus states,

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matt. 10:34)

Social norms support people with unbiased tolerance for any lifestyle. Expect conflict when upholding biblical values.

Love and division

When lovingly talking with others about God, the message may not be appreciated. This should not change your God-given burden to see them rescued from eternal separation with the Creator. Oswald Chambers encourages,

Never be diplomatic and careful with the treasure God gives you.”

Defining love

Tolerance is easy, love is hard. As someone who follows the One bringing meaning to life and hope for the future, choose love. Real love leads people to a relationship with God. We have a treasure to give and tolerance will not save people from hell.

Please excuse my intolerance

If you do not follow Jesus, please excuse me for refusing to passively walk through life, ignoring a lifestyle not exhibiting a meaningful relationship with God.

I cannot idly stand by and watch you live a life displeasing to God, keeping you separate from Him.

Excuse my intolerance but accept my love and concern for your eternal destiny. John 3:16,

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”

The challenge

Genuinely love! Be bold! Share your faith! Do not let tolerance stand in the way of telling others what God will do for them, about the forgiveness and freedom experienced when following Jesus.

What are some ways you can express love to your neighbor? 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.

Redefining Faith

A lifestyle of sharing Jesus

Lion of Judah - redefiner of faith

Lion of Judah – redefiner of faith

In my opinion some of the scariest verses in the Bible are Matthew 7:22-23,

On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

Makes you think twice about your relationship with Jesus, doesn’t it? These verses contributed to the “Redefining Faith” name on my website.

Faith as a motivating belief

One definition of faith is a “system of religious belief”. Faith is important and necessary yet James takes it a step further by stating, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless” (James 2:17). Genuine faith should motivate you to love God and love people; should motivate you to action.

Verse 21 declares, “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter (emphasis added).”

Life in Jesus involves “doing.”

When Zacchaeus encountered Jesus he was motivated to give half of his possessions to the poor and pay back four times as much from anything wrongful gain. Jesus declared, “Salvation has come to this home today” (Luke 19:9). His actions were not necessary for salvation but they were evidence of a life changed by encountering Jesus.

Knowing Jesus

Weekly attendance at church, reading daily a chapter in the Bible, and saying grace before dinner may better represent familial habits than a genuine relationship with Jesus.

Ask yourself this question: Do your conversations about Jesus match your lifestyle? Maybe you should start with, are you telling others about Jesus at all? If you know Jesus, if you have genuinely encountered Him, you cannot help but talk about Him. The better your relationship with Jesus, the more you love people and the more you want others to have this incredible gift you have been given.

May you redefine faith as you pursue Jesus. There is no better way to obey Christ’s command then to “make disciples”.

The challenge

Begin today to live out a faith motivated by pure love for God, a faith that requires more than taking up space on a pew or saying a prayer before dinner, a faith that brings real meaning and hope for the future.

In what ways has your faith motivated you to action? What are you doing to display the love of Jesus to those you know?

To (s)Hell and Back

The Power of God Revealed in a Storm

We spent 4 months “camping out” in our house in Sudan; sleeping on air mattresses, using a single knife, pot and pan, borrowing a table and chairs from friends. Our container had not yet arrived. We were dealing daily with intense heat (around 115 degrees) and trying to learn Arabic to simply buy food.

Photo credit: shannonkringen (Creative Commons)

While traveling home from a meeting in Khartoum I drove past a Shell station. I thought to myself, “If they just drop the ‘S’ from the sign, they would have it right.” I felt like we were experiencing the worst place known to man.

A storm on Galilee

Mark chapter 4:35-41 records a story of Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee with his disciples and encountering a storm. Did Jesus know the storm was coming?  Did He actually lead the disciples into a storm? What does this say about Him?  Does this reveal that Jesus desires to make Himself known more than make our lives comfortable?

Jesus spoke to the multitudes, separated his disciples from the crowd and directed them to cross to the other side.  While the disciples are crossing the sea a violent storm threatened their lives but for a reason. They were going to gain a greater awareness of Jesus’ divine nature.  In the midst of the storm the disciples pursued Jesus and the sea became calm.

The Lord faithfully points believers in the direction they should go. Do you listen? God sometimes separates His followers in order to reveal the fullness of His nature. In the midst of life’s storm He often reveals His supernatural power.

Are you presently facing adversity?  Are you looking to Jesus for help?

Who can calm a storm?

After the sea became calm, the disciples asked

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The friend and teacher Jesus was not being revealed but rather the Son of God. The disciples regularly listened to His teachings but this storm revealed who He is.  He spoke and creation responded.

The greatest part of the story happens in chapter 5:1,

They came to the other side of the sea…”

Jesus instructed His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side”. They faced a storm between the two shores but Jesus kept his promise; they crossed to the other side.

The challenge

When facing life’s storms, pursue Jesus!  He will make Himself powerfully known to you. As Jesus brought my family and I through our storm in Sudan, He will bring you to the other side of your storm.

Visit me on Vimeo for a video bible teaching on this topic entitled “Unveiling Jesus” captured from the shores of Galilee.

What kinds of challenges are you facing right now?  In what ways have you seen God powerfully work through adversity in your past?

From Routine to Radical

How God can transform your life

In the spring of 2006, my wife and I resigned our teaching jobs in the Chicago area, sold our home and furnishings, and crossed the Atlantic with our one-year-old son to work in an international school in Khartoum, Sudan.  We moved from routine to radical.

Radical

A desert experience

From head to heart

While residing in Sudan Jesus began to reveal Himself in an overwhelming way.  By facing adversity in a challenging environment we spent extravagant time reading the Bible, praying, and worshipping.  Our life in Jesus shifted from a mind to heart experience.

Carl Meadearis in his book Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism wrote,

“The kingdom of Jesus has somehow become a religion of the mind rather than a spiritual response of the heart.  We focus on psychological compliance rather than spiritual dependence upon the teachings of Jesus and the guidance of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.”

We experienced Jesus in profound ways as we engaged in His plan and spent time in His Word.  One of my favorite Scriptures (that I’m sure will become a video teaching in the future) is from Luke 24:32.  Jesus leaves the men on the Emmaus road and they say to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”  These two travelers say it best; Jesus can captivate the heart in radical ways, when given the right opportunity.

We removed ourselves from comfortable surroundings and gained a better awareness of Jesus.  Our hearts began to burn “within us” and Scripture became alive.

Francis Chan in his book Crazy Love had a similar experience and gave a greater heart response to the gospel; a crazy love for God.  He wrote,

“Until just a few years ago I was quite happy with how God was working in me and in the church.  Then God began changing my heart.”

He wrote this happened through Scripture reading and third-world country experiences.

The goal

This website is created to bring you closer to Jesus.  I hope to challenge, inspire, and inform you of how to fulfill the purpose of God.  My family and I are currently involved at a school in Jerusalem. I will be blogging and video blogging my way through Biblical sites in the Holy Land.  My hope is for Jesus to move you into a passionate pursuit of Him and His plan.

Oswald Chambers in his devotional, My Utmost for His Highest wrote,

“Being saved and seeing Jesus is not the same thing.  Many are partakers of God’s grace who have never seen Jesus. When once you have seen Jesus, you can never be the same; other things do not appeal as they used to do.”

The challenge

May you see Jesus, move out of a routine type of life, and experience Him in radical ways.

In what ways have you seen Jesus in your life?  How has scripture burned within you?