Posts Tagged John 10: 10

Life and Peace

Romans 8: 6        NIV

The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.

I am sure we all want life and peace. Jesus said he came to the earth to give us abundant life (John 10: 10) and I certainly do not want to frustrate his purpose in my life. I am equally convinced that you want the peace of Christ flowing through your life along with the abundant life he brings. I wish, sometimes, there was nothing I had to do to position myself for all the blessings of the Father. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Our Father has blessed us with every blessing in the heavenly realm (Ephesians 1: 3). How, though, do we have all that blessing manifest upon us routinely? As to peace and life, Paul answers that question for us today in this verse from Romans. Our minds must dwell on the things of the Spirit rather than on the things of the body or of the world.

You’ve all heard this verse before, but I wonder how well we hear it. This makes sense, of course, but it is much easier said, and agreed upon, than actually done. The world and all its pleasures are before us daily. We live in the world and must interact with it. It can be a challenge to live in the world and yet not be part of it. It is hard to interact with the world all day and at the same time keep our minds on the Spirit. None the less, that is the way to peace and life.

One hears a great deal of talk these days about intentionality. It means to be purposeful about the minutes of our day rather than blowing about with the wind. It means to make some determined choices and let those guide our day rather than just bumping along from one stimulus to another.

If, when we awaken in the morning, we immediately turn our thoughts and hearts to the Lord, it is much easier to stay in that place with him and with the Spirit all day. You can actually stay linked with the Spirit all day, even when you have to go to work, do the shopping, pick up the kids, etc. All the tasks of life are easier when you stay connected with God’s Spirit.

Notice that the mind is governed, or ruled, either by the flesh or the Spirit. What are the things of the flesh that attract us? Well, it is all the things of the world, isn’t it and things our body wants. It could be sleep, food, television, wine, social activity and more. None of these things are bad, are they? God is not trying to deny us these things, but it can be a question of priority. Are these things which gratify the flesh the focus of our attention? Are they more important to us than the things of the Spirit? The verse says that when our minds are ruled by these things, it is death. When our minds are governed by the Spirit, we are always led to life and peace. That sounds nice. So, we need to learn the skill of focusing our minds on the things of the Spirit and then staying connected there even as we travel through the world. The Spirit will always lead us into blessing. He will always show us the way of peace and life. We have only to fix our minds on him and he will bring us love, joy, peace, life and the blessing of God. That is a good plan. So what are you thinking about today?

No More Pain

Psalm 30: 1, 5               God’s Word

Verses 7 – 8, 10 – 11    Passion Translation

I will honor you highly, O Lord, because you have pulled me out of the pit. Weeping may last for the night, but there is a song of joy in the morning. I was panic-stricken and became depressed. Still I cried out to you, Lord God. I shouted out for mercy. So hear me now, Lord; show me your famous mercy. O God, be my Savior and rescue me! Then he broke through and transformed all my wailing into a whirling dance of ecstatic praise! He has torn the veil and lifted from me the sad heaviness of mourning. He wrapped me in the glory garments of gladness.

This psalm is full of praise, but it also reveals the intense mourning and emotional torment that David endured. One side of the coin may be praise but often the other side is tumultuous challenge and seemingly insurmountable problems. Reading it immediately made me think of all the hurting people in the world, people who are depressed and even suicidal and my heart, like yours, grieves for these people. I want to say, “Fear not, joy comes in the morning.” The NASB version of verse 5 says that a shout of joy comes in the morning. That’s big. Though the night may be spent in tears, there is hope, there is salvation and the situation will improve.

We sometimes limit Jesus’ scope of salvation to deliverance from sin and hell. Salvation means so much more to Jesus than simply eternal life with him. He is our savior in every single situation in this life. When you comprehend the richness of salvation and eternal life you understand that you are living your eternal life now. It isn’t that we will die and be reborn to eternal life. You are there now, we all are. So, this salvation of which David writes is the deliverance from grief, the release from mourning. It is the hope of a new day, a day which is full of promise and even resurrection. Each day is so new that it truly is a beginning and one thing we know about life, things constantly change. Life is not static. Therefore, though there are huge problems now, ultimately things will alter. For every problem, there is a solution. For every grief there is joy. That seems impossible when one is overwhelmed by grief, but it really is true. David could tell you it’s true and many other people as well.

Why did Jesus tell us to go and share the good news of the gospel? I believe the core of that answer is so that he could save people from the hopelessness of their present situations. We know that God gave his only son so that none should perish but rather that all should pertain to eternal life in paradise with Him (John 3: 16). God took care of eternal life. He has already done what needed doing in order to save us all from eternal damnation. God did that. It was His job. Now, we have a job to do. Jesus told us to go into all the world and share the good news of the gospel. To me that means sharing a lot more than one verse. Sure, tell all people about John 3: 16 and how the Father sacrificed His son and sent him to hell so that we would be spared. Just don’t stop there. Jesus said of himself that he came into the earth to give us life and that more abundantly (John 10: 10). He came to give us a full life, to save us from the train wreck that many of us have made of our lives here on earth. What I am trying to get you to see is that salvation and the good news of the gospel is so much bigger than a singular event, extraordinary though it is.

Jesus wants to save us in our frustrations, from our anger, he wants to heal the emotional scars we carry around, save us from our deepest depression and restore us to joy. Jesus is the joy of the earth. You cannot be in him and with him and depressed. He is glory itself. He is the lifter of our heads. That is good news. He is the lover of our souls. He lifts us even when it feels like the sun won’t rise in the morning. There is no problem which he cannot overcome.

I think our job is to go out and tell people the good news about God and Jesus and how much they love us so that they will not face hopelessness and so they will know they are never alone. Everyone needs to be loved by a love that is so sublime that it is breath to our lungs and health to all our bodies. Jesus is life, there is no life without him (John 14: 6). He has given a piece of himself to every human being so that they might have love, life, and hope. If we will go into the world and simply tell them the good news about a benevolent being who loves them and is powerful enough to save them from whatever torment they encounter, then I pray and believe there will be no suicide in the earth. We have the antidote for depression. God loves us, each and every one. He gave His only son as a sacrificial lamb. That has to stand for something. He didn’t do that because He is ambivalent towards us. Furthermore, He did that for a people who did not know Him, who did not love Him.

Please, send this to anyone you know who needs to hear the good news about being devoutly loved. Share the love and joy of the Holy One, not just so you can get them into heaven, but so they can have some relief right here and right now. There is no reason people have to suffer. Jesus is their saving grace for today, for tonight, for the dark times and the dark places. He is the light, the light of hope. And, say a prayer for everyone who is hurting. Ask the Lord of grace to shine his light more brightly through each one of us so that all, and I do mean all, may know there is a God and that He loves them immensely.

Salvation is for Today

Luke 4: 18 – 19

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.”

Stop for a moment today and consider this passage. This is from the book of Isaiah and it is what Jesus read in the synagogue.  His speaking of this passage marked the beginning of his public ministry. If God sent Jesus only to die on a cross bearing the sin of the world, then why this scripture? If eternal life was the only thing on God’s mind, why did Yahweh anoint Jesus to do all these other things? My point is that we have narrowed our focus as to Jesus’ purpose and in so doing have missed the greater blessing.

John 3: 16 reads, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” I suppose there is no other scripture in the whole of the Bible that is more well known than this one. We make our children memorize it in Bible School, put it on bumper stickers and even billboards. It is a wonderful passage, but it is not the whole story. Jesus didn’t stand up in the synagogue and say, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me so that none shall perish but instead have eternal life.” Why? Because that was not his singular purpose nor his anointing. It explains God’s love but not Jesus’ purpose. If you want to know the reason God sent Jesus you must read 1 John 3: 8, “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.” This scripture discloses Jesus’ purpose. Let us go further, though, to see what Jesus, himself, says about his purpose in the earth. John 10: 10 reads, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Abundant life, free from the works of the devil, is the gift Jesus came to give us. Yes, eternal life is part of that package but that is the end game, not the whole thing. God made the earth for us to live in and enjoy. He gave us this planet to be our home, not heaven. He didn’t create earth as a testing ground but rather as a home. The point is, the time we spend here is not simply a waystation. Life here isn’t just passing time until we get to heaven. We are supposed to have abundant life here and now. Look again at today’s passage. Clearly that has nothing to do with heaven. Those conditions do not exist in heaven. Adam’s job was to make earth look like heaven so that we would have a heavenly home right here. Jesus prayed, “Let your kingdom come. Let your will be done on earth as it is done in heaven,” (Matthew 6: 10). Earth is to reflect heaven.

Jesus came to restore our original purpose to us and to return the earth to us as our heavenly home, a home made in the image of heaven. Then God will come here and live with us. We’ve got to stop waiting to get to heaven to start fulfilling our purpose. We’ve got to stop waiting until heaven to start living, especially living in the fullness of God’s intent for us.

Redemption? Yes, it’s a big deal, but it is not the end of the story. It is the means by which God put us back on track. We could not have the abundant life Jesus came to give us until we were cleansed of the sin which stained us and our existence. Furthermore, I do not think eternal life is the evangelical message; it is not the salvation message. The word salvation means, rescue or safety, deliver, health, victory, prosperity, help, and welfare, (Strong’s 3444 & 4991). It does not only mean deliverance from sin. The savior came to give deliverance, health, victory, prosperity, help and welfare. In other words, he came to give us an abundant life right here, right now. This is why I think evangelism is important, but it also points out why our evangelistic message is presently off target. We are trying to get people into heaven while Jesus is trying to save them from their current peril and give them a great life now and forever.

Eternity is now. It began a long time ago. God has plans to get us into heaven but the good news that Jesus shared is that our freedom and victory begins now. This is not the good news we have been carrying to the world, however. God wants people to know they can be free now. Jesus came to set the captives free. Amen? The good news of the gospel is that God wants to bless you now, in this life. He wants to free people from torment and hurt. He wants to mend their hurts and restore them to good life. People need God now, not just in heaven. The message of the gospel is that God loves you now. Salvation emphatically is not, buy your ticket to heaven and then suffer until you die. That is not God. If you know God at all, you know that is not His heart.

To be clear, the evangelical message, the message that all the world needs to hear is that God wants to be your savior today. He wants to move into our lives and improve them. He longs to give us perfect peace and joy in this world, right now. Yahweh is a now God. Jesus came to give us abundant life. Abundant life is that life which in intertwined with our beloved, our Father, Yahweh. He who loves us has sent His son to restore us back to health, welfare, liberty, prosperity and joy. This is the good news of the gospel. Tell that to someone. Heaven is here and now for all who live in Christ. Now is the salvation of the gospel. Now is life and love in the Son. Jesus is here now to give you a good life. “For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope,” (Jeremiah 29: 11). Tell someone the good news. Jesus has come, and he has life and healing in his hands. This is his salvation, and ours. Amen.

Who is Your God?

Ruth 1: 13, 21         GW

My bitterness is much worse than yours because the Lord has sent me so much trouble. I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi when the Lord has tormented me and the Almighty has done evil to me?

This is classic Old Testament confession. The people of those times didn’t have the years of history we now have, nor did they have the written Word. They are the history we read. They didn’t know about Satan. They actually knew very little about the Holy Spirit. Of course, they didn’t know Jesus. How different their experience is than ours. When something happened, either for good or for ill, the only cause had to be God.

It chagrins me more than I can express to tell you the whole truth in this regard for I have found that we are not that far removed from our ancestral roots. Despite the years of experience of the saints, the coming of Jesus, the sending of the Holy Spirit, page upon page of revelatory writing by the prophets, disciples and apostles, we still hold very close to Naomi’s confession.

Recently, I attended a prayer breakfast for the National Day of Prayer. It was a great event. One of my friends, though, said something that bothers me. He told me about a gentleman with cancer then followed up by saying that He thought God used disease to help us grow. After all, he told me, we don’t grow in the mountain top experiences but in times of trouble.

Well, first of all, I don’t believe that is true for me. I find my greatest extensions on the mountain top communing with Jesus. Under intense stress, I withdraw and that is not where I find growth. His statement really hurt my heart and I pointedly did not agree with him. I told him that I believe God is good and that He is good all the time. Moreover, God doesn’t have cancer in heaven to give us. To which he remarked, “Yeah, there are no tears in heaven.” There is a revelation in there. We agreed that regardless of the cause, we know he who is the answer.

I am still bothered by this dynamic though because I hear it more frequently than I hear statements of faith and belief in a loving God. Or are people saying that God loves them so much that He gave them cancer so they would grow? That seems ludicrous to me. After thousands of years, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit, we still sound like Old Testament people who knew no better. We are Old Testament believers when we should be thinkers who have been renewed by the gracious good news gospel of Jesus Christ. Will someone give me an Amen!?

There is death and doubt in our churches and if that doesn’t pain you perhaps we should be asking why. Why are we claiming calamity in the name of God Almighty, the merciful? We are no longer ignorant. Are we? We know there is a devil out there and that his full intent is to rob, kill and destroy (John 10: 10). How is it, then, that when we see destruction, death and robbery we attribute it to God?

Somewhere along the line, each of us needs to decide; do we believe in a good God, one who is merciful and full of lovingkindness or do we believe in a cruel task master? Who is your God? That is the question. Let me introduce you to mine. He is love – all the time. He wants to protect and keep you. He said He has good plans for you, plans for your well-being rather than calamity, a plan for hope and for a future (Jeremiah 29: 10). That verse cannot be reconciled with a God who gives you cancer. So decide. Who is your God?

Unfair

Romans 12: 17 – 18

Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

There are some verses in the Bible that, frankly, it would be more comfortable and convenient if God would remove them. And that is the problem with being a Bible person, you must deal with the uncomfortable one’s and you must do so honestly. This verse is one of those unpleasant scriptures.

Face it, there are times in life when someone just does you wrong. It is bewildering. Perhaps you have always been nice to that person. Maybe you are the only one who does treat them well but then they act out to you. You deserve better but this is what you get, a rude, ugly person who seems intent on making your life miserable. Well, join the club and be in good company because we have all had to deal with these unlovely folks.

When you encounter one of these people, just look to Jesus. He certainly had to deal with persecution. All he wanted to do was to love people and help them. He said that he came to earth to give us a good life (see John 10: 10 Amp.). Look how people hated him and how they treated him. Even his own family called him crazy and wanted to have him put away as a lunatic. And yet, in the midst of being hated, in the midst of being ill-treated he gave up his life for those people. When we didn’t love him, when we loved our sin rather than him, he laid down his life for us. Can you hear that truth at a deeper level today? While you hated God and didn’t love Jesus, they gave all they had for you.

So how are we to treat the ugly people in our lives? Now you understand why I don’t like this verse. God has called me to love them in an active (rather than passive) way even when they are being mean and ugly to me. It’s not fair God!!! No, it isn’t fair but it wasn’t fair when He put His son on a cross for us either. We must do our best to love these folks into the kingdom of God.

Look, Christianity isn’t easy, who said it was? And it is not a religion. It is a lifestyle, a way of being but that doesn’t even begin to say it all. It really is like our DNA gets changed when we give our lives over to God. We are aliens in this world. This is not our home. We are different and we are supposed to behave differently than the world. We are called to love those who revile us rather than fight them or have our revenge. We are supposed to perform acts of love to those who maltreat us. Does that make sense? Not if you think as the world thinks but if you will turn your face to God and let Him minister to you and through you, you will find that He will give you the strength to love the unlovely. He will even give you joy in the doing. I don’t know how He does it, but it is true. Once you quit fighting with Him about the fairness of the thing and complaining about how they treated you, then He can begin to show you His way of thinking. And He will reward you for your obedience. I think obedience is its own reward, but that is not His way. He likes to pour out a blessing on you. It is just His nature.

I know that what I am proposing to you today is difficult and I know all of the arguments about why it’s not fair and doesn’t feel right. I have felt all of the emotions, made all the claims, but now I know the truth. The only way these unlovely people are going to change is through the love of God. It is the most powerful force in the universe and you have been given the right to wield this power. So when you feel like calling down fire from heaven on someone remember what Jesus said to James and John in the same circumstance. “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of” (Luke 9: 55). In other words, you are of the spirit of love, so we move by and through love. Jesus could have French fried those soldiers that drove nails through his hands and feet but instead he prayed for them. He asked God to forgive them. So, pray for those people who are mistreating you. Bake them a cake. Go out of your way to love on them. Speak to them in kindness and forgiveness. I know they don’t deserve it but do something nice for them in Jesus’ name. Make it a gift to him for his kindness. Just pour your love for him onto them. You are going to be amazed at the results. Then write me and let me and let me hear your praise report.

Life – Chai

John 14: 6

I am . . . the life.

My friend told me that the number 18 in Hebrew means “life” so, since today is the eighteenth, it is the day of life. The word “chai” means life, or alive. I like to think it means “fully alive.” Let’s celebrate life today.

Jesus is the life, he is who gives us life. When we were dead in our trespasses, he came and gave us life, his life. This Jewish concept of Chai, then, is very significant to Christians. Of course, let us not forget that Jesus is Jewish. For that matter, so are you because you have been adopted into the family of Abraham.

Jesus also said he is the truth. The truth is, there is no life without Jesus. When we were Gentiles, we thought otherwise, but life and the fullness thereof, is only found in the life devoted to and in Christ. As you have undoubtedly noticed, this ministry’s slogan is “Intertwined with Jesus.” The reason is that everything to do with life is tied up in Jesus. We have a mission to go into all the world and tell people the good news about Jesus, that he came to bring us abundant life (John 10: 10). The thing which concerns me, though, is that many of us are not living the life Jesus came here to give us, the life he won for us.

Life should be full. It embraces physical health, financial solvency, rewarding relationships, spiritual nourishment and meaningful work. It means adventure and fulfillment in the Spirit and joy unspeakable. All good things are in Christ and it is this fullness of life that he came to give us. Anything less than everything is a debit in the life column. My heart is with Jesus in this. I want you to have fulness of life. Today is a good day to reach out for all Jesus has for you. It is a great day to receive fulness of life and the perfect day to thank our God for sending life to us.

Lift your glass and celebrate with me. L’chaim – To life.

Pinocchio

Philippians 2: 12

Work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Do you remember the Disney movie Pinocchio? I had it on last week and was struck, as never before, with the commonality between that little wooden headed boy and Christians.

The story goes that Geppetto, a wood carver by trade, made the little wooden puppet. He wished, though, that this little puppet could be a real boy. The blue fairy heard Geppetto’s wish and because he had given so much joy to other people she visited his house to grant his wish. She waved her magic wand and the puppet came to life. Hallelujah!

Do you see the parallel there with us and Jesus? When we were dead, nothing but inanimate wooden heads, he came and gave us life (John 10: 10). But wait, there is more to the story. The blue fairy explained to Pinocchio that it was because Geppetto wished for a real boy that she came to give him life. Upon hearing this, Pinocchio asked, “Am I a real boy?” The blue fairy told him, “No,” that becoming a real boy would depend upon him. He had to prove himself truthful, brave and unselfish, and to learn right from wrong to become a real boy. Interestingly, she didn’t say that he had to “do” right rather than “wrong”. That is implied. The key was in learning the right way from the wrong way. It is not instinctive. We, like Pinocchio, have to learn.

Pinocchio’s task was monumental, almost insurmountable, but the fairy didn’t leave him on his own to learn all of these important lessons. He would have been destined to fail. She gave him a helper. His name was Jiminy Cricket. We too have been given a helper. Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever (John 14: 6). We have been told to be transformed (Romans 12: 2) but like Pinocchio, our task would be impossible if not for the Holy Spirit, our helper.

We have another similarity with Pinocchio. Jesus came and gave us life but it is up to us to become real Christians. We have the life, but we have to be transformed into “real boys” through our own walk with our helper. When we do not listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we end up in the same kind of trouble that Pinocchio found when he did not heed the advice of Jiminy Cricket. Because of his own actions, Pinocchio was being transformed into a jackass. I am afraid that comparison is far too close for comfort.

Many of us have thought that once we accepted Jesus as Lord, we were done. We concluded we could go on living like Pinocchio’s worldly friend, Lampley, without reaping the consequences. Wrong! The salvation prayer is akin to what happened when the blue fairy gave Pinocchio life. From there we should have received advice like she gave Pinocchio. It is up to you to become a real boy. Prove yourself truthful, brave and unselfish; learn right from wrong and you will be transformed into the very image that Geppetto, the Father, has for you.

We must work out our own salvation with fear and trembling but we are not alone in this or any other endeavor. God didn’t tell us to be transformed and then we would be saved. No! He saved us, gave us life and then gave us His very own Spirit to be our guide, our conscience, if you will. We will never be transformed without his help. We cannot do this work in our own strength or else we would have created a prettier version of ourselves long ago. But here’s the rub, he cannot do it without us either. This is always a cooperative effort.

I hope you take your own transformation seriously. I hope you seek the heart and mind of God to discover where He wishes to lead you. The road is far better when we follow the advice and leading of the Holy Spirit. If you don’t believe me, go watch Pinocchio and see how it turns out. Spoiler Alert: the secret is in learning to be unselfish.