Which Jesus

“The Christian does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us.”
– C.S. Lewis

Spot The Difference

I loved playing this game as a kid (and still do). Some can be quite easy, and some can be very difficult. Some people can identify the differences right away, but others may need hours to do so.

However, there is a Spot The Difference in our spiritual lives that can be more difficult than discovering a forgery from the original. This one is even deeper than discovering counterfeit money.

The question is: Which Jesus? Which Jesus is the correct Jesus to follow?

Did you realize there are two portraits of Jesus in our churches?

And the question is… Which Jesus are you following?

Portrait #1 of Jesus

The first portrait of Jesus at first is what you expect: born in a manger, died on a cross, rose from the dead, and we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. Nothing off at all about that, right?

However, the main structure may be the same in both portraits, but the devil is always in the details.

In this portrait you see Jesus giving keys to a heavenly mansion. He points to a door and mailbox with your name on it. He gives you a certificate reading: “Joe prayed to accept Jesus as his savior on June 14, 1987.” We see this image in churches, right? In fact, many of us may have that written in the front of our Bibles.

But the details do not end there…

You see a path behind Jesus leading to heaven. You see signs as you walk this path. One says, “Read your Bible everyday.” Another reads, “Attend church every Sunday.” One in bright lights says, “Do not be worldly!” Another with a picture of an offering plate states, “Make sure you give to God’s work.”

But, then you notice something else. At each sign is a gate. To unlock each gate, you must obey the sign.

We might find that to be an interesting way to describe faith in Jesus. But, isn’t that how we present it in our churches? We accept Jesus as our savior, but then we are handed a Bible reading plan, a list of things to do and not do. We wake up the next day focused on accomplishing each thing as we make our way to our mansion in heaven.

Portrait #2 of Jesus

The second portrait of Jesus still contains the same structure as the first: the incarnation, the death and resurrection of Jesus, and salvation by grace through faith in Jesus.

Both have the basic message.

However, the details in this portrait differ. We do not see Jesus point to Heaven. We do not see signs.

Instead, we see Jesus reaching towards us. His eyes aren’t looking to Heaven, but directly at you. He reaches to grab your hand. He holds nothing but the scars of the crucifixion. You do see a path behind him leading to somewhere over the landscape which we cannot see. The path has no signs. Jesus isn’t even holding a certificate with a name or date on it. Instead, you realize he is at the start of the path and he is wanting you to take his hand and follow him. No instructions or guide, there is only Jesus.

This portrait is quickly glanced over, and most of us return to the first.

The Forgery Exposed

When we look at the two portraits, which one is the forgery? Thinking about each portrait, we can see that the first one is the false one. We would say, “Yeah, that is works based salvation.”

But, isn’t that what we are preaching in our churches today?

Our churches have fallen into the thinking the pharisees had and the thinking Jesus condemned.

Matthew 23:1-7 states that the pharisees tied burdens on people that weighed the people down. Then the pharisees wouldn’t even do everything they would say. Instead, they would parade around with their religious actions to shout how good they are, and to illustrate how close they are to God while on their spiritual journey.

Jesus gives a woe to the pharisees in Matthew 23:25-26. Here, Jesus condemns an attitude of being focused on external actions. They made sure everything looked right. Aren’t we doing the same when we get saved: clothing must be like this, music and movie choices must be this, make sure you read your Bible everyday, make sure you attend this kind of church, and the list goes on and on. While these things may be good, they are only externals. They do not clean the inside. Sure, we may be saved. But, did Jesus call us to focus on cleaning our externals?

Jesus answers that in Matthew 23:23-24. He condemns the pharisees for perseverating over their externals while they forgot the things that matter to God: justice, mercy, faithfulness. Aren’t we doing the same?

The first portrait of Jesus is how we explain Jesus to others. We have them say a prayer to get their certificate and keys to a mansion, but each step of the way is burdened with a new task, and a new standard to set. It becomes our job to do and do. If we truly want that mansion, then we must take hold of the certificate of praying the prayer and do what we are told.

This is a lie. This is not Jesus.

The Christian’s roadmap to hell is belief that a date in your Bible saves you.

We are promoting this. We are just like Jesus described the pharisees, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you don’t go in, and you don’t allow those entering to go in.”
(Matthew 23:13)

Take Another Look

The first portrait is tempting to focus on. That portrait is all about us. We get to show off how good of a Christian we are.

However, take another look at the second. It is so simple. This is the true Jesus.

What was the phrase Jesus spoke to the disciples? “Follow me.” (Matthew 4:19) Did he require the disciples to do anything else besides follow him?

Jesus never said, “Come to me, and I will give you a list to get you to Heaven.” No. He said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Jesus reaches out to each of us. He looks at us in love wanting us to draw us close, and to lead us home. He says, “My grace is enough to lead you home (II Corinthians 12:9). He whispers to us not to worry about striving to bear fruit, because as we follow him the fruit of the Spirit will blossom (Psalm 1:3; Galatians 5:22-25). All we have to do is follow.

Jesus doesn’t want us to do a thing except follow. He doesn’t need us to look perfect. He wants us to look at him as we follow. He loved us to free us from sin and from the law. Why are we loading ourselves up with rules and standards when Jesus says just follow me?

A Change in Mindset; A Change in Heart

I once stared at and studied the first portrait in detail. I knew I was on my way to Heaven, but passing of the gates was difficult. Each day I woke up striving to do my best to live for God – do not sin, read my Bible, attend the right church, listen to the correct music, have the right friends, look a certain way, make sure I have a good testimony. Are these things wrong? No. They became wrong when they became more important than Jesus. Each day was a frustration as I focused on trying to get rid of sins and temptations out of my life. I had to become the image I saw, but it was the wrong image. I wasn’t trying to be like Jesus. I was trying to be a good Christian.

Then, God stepped in and showed me his love and how he draws me close like a father cradling his child close to his chest. I didn’t have to do anything. He loves me no matter what I do. All I had to do was rest in his lap. All I had to do was trust, grabbing his hand, and follow him. No list. No more frustration. Once I learned that, I rejected my former mindset. I wasn’t in love with Jesus. I was in love with myself being seen as a good Christian, and I was in love with an image.

After experiencing the love of God, all I could do was surrender my life to the Jesus who only wanted me to follow him as his grace changes me. The next day I woke up not worrying about pleasing God with my actions. Instead, I woke up knowing I was loved and all I had to do was follow. It was a change in mindset and heart.

Who Are You Following?

When we look at the two portraits, which Jesus are you following?

In reality, when we are following the first portrait we are only following ourselves. We trust in a date in our Bible, a list of tasks, and an image that is not what God wanted. Jesus condemned this thinking, yet we still preach it like it is gospel truth. It is not the Gospel.

Would you rather rest on the ink on a page that can burn or rest in the arms of a loving savior?

The Gospel has nothing to do with us. It has all to do with Jesus.

Which Jesus?

The Jesus who took on a human body, the Jesus who died on the cross and rose from the grave for us, the Jesus who calls us to follow him, the Jesus who says his grace will transform us and be enough for each step of the way.

Our task? Take his outreached hand and follow him.

Romans 12:1-2 is the classic passage on how to live the Christian life. However, we tend to put verse 2 before verse 1. We cannot do the things in verse 2 unless we are being verse 1. A living sacrifice is following Jesus. A living sacrifice lays down his image for the person who is in control. Jesus is in control, and he is the one we give up our image for. When we do that, he will change us.

We are not loved because we are good or following standards. We are good, because God love us. His love constrains us and guides us. We only have to follow the outstretched hand.

Can you spot the difference? When you do, are you willing to give up your way and follow him?

Amazing grace
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost
But now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace hath brought
Us safe thus far
And grace will lead us home

– John Newton “Amazing Grace”

Forgetting Rambo Embracing Brotherhood

“Every Christian community must realize that not only do the weak need the strong, but also that the strong cannot exist without the weak.”
– Dietrich Bonhoeffer

If you had to pick one movie character to be the ultimate man, who would it be? Rocky, Jason Bourne, Ethan Hunt, Captain America, Iron Man, Rambo? Who comes to mind?

Each of these characters are strong, masculine, and are confident as they trod down their path with their heads held high. And in the cinema seats, men sit there craving to be that kind of man. It seems like every man’s heart beats to that classic song “I’ll Make a Man Out of You.” “We must be swift as the coursing river/With all the force of a great typhoon/Mysterious as the dark side of the moon.” These lyrics have become a mantra for what a man should be.

So what do we, as men, do? We stick out our chest, take hold of courage, and become this bold man. Yet, as we begin to walk down the path God has called us to, we begin to look around. The trees seem to be getting thicker, the path twists, and we feel alone.

Is that what God has intended for men? Are we to be Rambo single-handedly slaying the enemy for our wives and kids to look up to us?

The Lone Wolf Myth

Doesn’t it seem like there are more women’s ministries than men’s ministries? Is it because women are more emotionally fragile and need all the help they can get? No! Is it because women have figured out something, and the church has embraced a myth of the man?

Our culture sculpts the man to be the alpha lion and the lone wolf. We don’t need anyone else. We are independent. Those who rely on others are weak. We see this in gyms, clothing ads, and anything else dedicated to men. We have our “buds,” but we can handle life on our own. We are men, right? So we strike down our path of life as the lone wolf. We can handle the Christian life as the lone wolf we are created to be.

What does Scripture say? I Corinthians 12:12-24 states that we are individuals walking our Christian life, and we need to counsel ourselves, pull ourselves up, and be the lone wolf. NO!! That is not biblical. God never intended for men to be lone wolves (he never intended anyone to be). The church is a body. We all work together. Just because you can bench press so many pounds, own an armory, and have a successful career does not mean you can do life alone.

The lone wolf mentality is not from God. It is a myth. Men cannot do life alone. Look through Scripture – Elijah and Elisha, David and Jonathan, Moses and Aaron, Jesus and the Disciples, Paul and Timothy/Titus, Daniel and his friends, David’s mighty men. The list could go on and on. Some were single and some were married, but the thing that connects them is they had men in their lives. They were not lone wolves.

More Than an Accountability Partner

When we think of men’s ministry, we think of guys getting together and sharing if they have been faithful in reading God’s Word and abstaining from pornography, then they pray, and eat. Are Christian men only accountability partners with each other?

No!

Scripture tells us differently. Titus 2:2-7 teaches us that men are to be in close relationship with each other. The older are to teach the younger. In verse 6, we see that Paul is connecting it back to verse 2. Just as the women are to do, so are the men. These relationships are more than about staying away from porn. It is learning how to live life in all aspects.

Men are to be more than accountability partners. In order to learn how to do life, men are to walk with each other through life. There is only so much you can learn from a book.

More Than a Bromance

When we look at men and their relationships with each other in our culture, we hear the term, “bromance.” A bromance is a close relationship between two men. But, what is it like? Can anyone actually give a full description of what a bromance is? Is it two guys chest bumping and sitting around drinking beer, watching football together each weekend? Is it that group of guys that go hunting with each other? What exactly is it?

Scripture actually does tell us, and it gives us a clue on what relationships are to be like between men. The classic verse used in every men’s group (and its so overdone, but so powerful) is Proverbs 27:17 – iron sharpening iron.

This passage reveals what Christian men are to be like. We have this great image of two iron blades sharpening each other. Usually, it only is said, “We need men in our lives to keep us accountable to God.” But, as we just saw men are more than accountability partners.

If a blade needs to be sharpened, it has to physically touch the other one. It must get close enough to be sharpened. Men need to let other men in their lives. Men are to be close to each other. A sword is not going be sharp if it hangs around other swords. It must be close and rubbing against another sword to become sharp. It is the same with men in the church. We need to be so close that we sharpen each other.

This means we need male intimacy in the church.

Clarifying the Forbidden Word

Intimacy.

What comes to mind when we hear that? Sex. We think of passionate sex. That’s one way the word can be used. Intimacy actually means a close familiarity or friendship; a closeness.

There are different types of intimacy. There is sexual intimacy. But what about emotional and spiritual intimacy? That is the act of being open with each other and knowing deeply the struggles, victories, and lives of others beyond the social media image. There is physical intimacy. This is being physically close to another. It is more than a handshake. It is a hug, a hold, a kiss.

Now, how does this apply to men?

Before the 1960’s we see men quite close and intimate in a non-sexual way with each other. Think about the photographs of World War II of men in the buff jumping off of submarines during R & R. Think about the movie Tolkien (watch the trailer here). J.R.R. Tolkien was apart of a brotherhood. They were a close group of men who did not go hunting, or paintballing. They wanted to change the world through art and language. They hugged each other and held each other. They went through war with each other.

Where has this idea gone? Has it gone with the wind?

Men today have forgotten the rich history of brotherhood. Think about David and Jonathan. I Samuel 18:1, I Samuel 19:1, I Samuel 20:41, I Samuel 23:16 all talk about this intimate relationship between these two men. They were both married. Yet, they were intimate with each other – emotionally, spiritually, physically.

II Samuel 1:26 is a curious verse, “I grieve for you, Jonathan, my brother. You were such a friend to me. Your love for me was more wondrous than the love of women.” Is it implying they were having sex with each other? I don’t believe so, because in I Samuel 23:16 Jonathan encourages David in their faith with God. God’s law in Leviticus says that sex between men is wrong. But, these two men were so intimate with each other on all the other levels that it was more wondrous then the love of women.

Men today are so worried about their image that we have forgotten the power of brotherhood. We have forgotten the power of physical touch, of emotional vulnerability, and spiritual openness. Even in the New Testament, four times Paul tells Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16; I Corinthians 16:20; II Corinthians 13:12; I Thessalonians 5:26). We might push back against that idea, but what is it communicating? It is communicating intimacy. God’s church is to be intimate like a family and like a body working together. Is there a difference between a kiss and making out? Yes. But, how are we as men showing this kind of intimacy in the church?

What are We Men Known For?

So let’s go back to the beginning question: If you had to pick one movie character to be the ultimate man, who would it be?

There may be good characteristics about the character you chose, but what is that character showing? Is it how to be the lone wolf? Is it how to be independent and strong on your own? If we look at the men in Scripture, we hardly see a man without another man beside him. Now, we don’t go against what God’s word says. But, why would he show us these examples of men in Scripture if they were not for our own lives today (Romans 15:4)?

What are we as Christian men known for? What characterizes our lives? Forget the image culture is pushing on us. Is it wrong to workout, go hunting, like sports? No. But it’s also not wrong to like the arts, languages, and aesthetics. Being Christian men is more than a song from Mulan. It is about being together, walking life together, being intimate with each other as we pursue the path God has given us.

We are more than Rambo or Captain America. We have been called by God out darkness into light in order to love each other, because that is how the world notices Christ in us. I Corinthians 13 is more than a passage to be read at weddings. It is the mantra for the church, and it is the mantra for men in the Church following Jesus who was the ultimate example of this.

Are we as men following a cultural image of manhood or a reaction to men in our culture? Or are we following Jesus’ example and being the men he called us to be?

“Simple Faith Bible” Review

“While all else may change, God’s promises remain firm.” – Jimmy Carter

How many of us wish faith and the living of our faith was a simple matter?

There are those days where we just do not know how to live. Yet, many people have come before us and are still living among us who showing us how a life founded on faith can be.

This is the idea behind the Simple Faith Bible with reflections from Jimmy Carter.

Learning From Those We Disagree With

Now, before you close this review… Please continue reading.

I know many of my readers see the name Jimmy Carter associated with a Bible, and they want to stop reading. However, pause for a moment.

Answer this: Is being a Republican a prerequisite for being a Christian? Can a Christian be a democrat? Before bringing up all the reason… are any of those the foundations for being saved? No. Salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It is not based on our political standing.

So, can we learn from people we disagree with? Yes. Jimmy Carter claims to have faith in Jesus, and he lives out that faith. In this Bible, President Carter reflects on how Scripture has spoken to him. Jesus said to us that if someone is not against us, then they are for us. So, I sat down and read through this Bible.

Good but Lacking

Overall, I loved the idea of this Bible. I found it interesting to take someone in the faith community and get their perspective on faith. The comments, the devotional thoughts, and prayers are thought provoking and push one closer to a relationship with God and an outworking of the faith with his those around him.

However, the comments, prayers, and devotional thoughts were quite sparse. I wish there were more included At the beginning of the Bible is an excellent index to find them all, but I wanted to see some more. For a Bible that costs $39.99 (hardcover), I would expect to find more.

Yet, the content of the material is good in helping us learn compassion and a fight for peace in such a trying time. Yet, I was looking for more of these things.

Layout and Translation

The layout of this Bible is good for the eyes and easy to use. The print is at a good size where you do not need to hold it so close to see. Layout is key for the use of a Bible, and this Bible is easy to page through to find each note.

The translation is NRSV (New Revised Standard Version). It can be clunky to read at times, but there is an artistic quality to the language used. However, I would not use this for a brand new believer. I would use the NIV or NLT.

A Contradictory Conundrum

I did appreciate all the comments, and a lot were thought provoking in taking the faith from the ideal to the practical. I enjoyed having my faith challenged in how I view people and their situations.

However, I did find a conundrum. The comments, prayers, and devotionals revealed a heart passionate for God and for His Word. Yet, Jimmy Carter once said, “When we go to the Bible we should keep in mind that the basic principles of the Bible are taught by God, but written down by human beings deprived of modern day knowledge. So there is some fallibility in the writings of the Bible. But the basic principles are applicable to my life and I don’t find any conflict among them.

From this quote, it seems Jimmy Carter holds the belief there is error in the Bible and we need to weed out what is truth and what is error. This I would disagree with. The Bible is clear that all of it comes from God, and all of Scripture is for our profit and growth.

Therefore, it was difficult to take some of the comments, prayers, and devotionals serious. I can still learn from them, and appreciate this man’s faith. However, I need to keep in mind this conundrum and check what he is saying with Scripture. Scripture should always come first before trusting any man’s or woman’s opinion or words about Scripture.

An Overall Opinion

After spending many hours with this Bible, I would give it 3 out of 5 stars. While I can learn from Jimmy Carter, I need to be careful in everything that I take from him. It is not his politics that stand in the way, but his view of Scripture.

Another aspect was the sparseness of the notes, comments, prayers, and devotional thoughts. I wish there were more. There were many times where it would be around 50 pages before the next one would appear.

The Simple Faith Bible with reflections from Jimmy Carter can be a good devotional or inspiring Bible tool to help us in our compassion with those around us. But, I would not use is as a daily study Bible. It is great to challenge our faith and to see it become more incarnational, but I would not use it to dig deep into the Word.

The Simple Faith Bible has some good points and some low points, but I do pray God uses it in the lives it comes into contact with as we live out our faith in simple and practical ways – including learning from those we disagree with.

Purchase the Simple Faith Bible here

*I received a free copy of this study Bible from BibleGateway to review as I am a member of their Blogger Grid.

Beautifully Broken

“God is looking for those with whom He can do the impossible — what a pity that we plan only the things that we can do by ourselves.”
– A.W. Tozer

How many times have you seen an “unpreached message” lived out in your church?

It is a message that may not be said out loud, but we all see it lived out before our eyes. Though there are many of these types of messages, one takes the cake or the gold: Christians are to have an image of perfection.

You probably just slammed on the breaks. “That is false. Christians are not perfect.” Yes, we all know this. But, do we live the opposite? Do we promote this image in our churches?

Think about it.

Is there a problem with being beautifully broken?

The Sting of Truth

Let’s face it. We are broken. We live in a broken world. It all started in Genesis 3. Sin entered the world and, like a bull in a china shop, wrecked everything. All the beauty God created smashed in the wake of sin.

We can still see the image of God. But, it is marred and broken. Like a plate that smashes to pieces on the floor. We can tell it was a plate, but in order to get back to its original form something must be done.

The truth is we are God’s smashed artwork. We can tell we are created in God’s image, but something is off. We are not whole. Our desires are wired to something God did not intend. Think about it, is it wrong to long for intimacy with another? No. However, can’t that be taken too far? Yes. See a godly and beautiful desire is there, but it is a smashed desire as it goes after sin.

When something breaks, we feel an emotional sting. That inherited vase that lays in pieces on the floor causes our hearts pain. This is the sting of brokenness. We feel it everyday – death, disease, disability, divorce, etc. Romans 8:22-23 states how we groan for a time for our brokenness to end (even creation groans with us).

This is who we are. We are broken, and our brokenness causes us pain.

The Incarnation and The Broken

We are not the only ones who feel the pain of brokenness. God does. He sees the world falling apart and wasting away like a fresco being eroded by time.

In the garden, God went searching for Adam and Eve. He already knew what happened. He called to them. Yes, he kicked them out of the garden. But, he gave them something to stand firm on – a promise (Genesis 3:15).

God fulfilled his word. He became flesh. He took on a human body. Jesus made his dwelling, rested his head, and lived in the broken world. He didn’t live above the brokenness. He was hungry, he wept tears, he experienced the pain of death, he endured shame, he was abandoned, and he died. Jesus, the King of kings, lived in our brokenness. (John 1:14; Philippians 2:5-11)

He did this to heal our brokenness. He did this for you. He saw how much of a mess we are. He knew how twisted and repulsive our thoughts can be. He knew the imperfections we hide in the dark. Yet, what does Jesus do? He fulfills his word (Luke 4:16-21). He comes to the broken, the outcast, the condemned, and the lonely to heal their brokenness. How many times do we read the Gospels but we miss the healing of the broken?

Jesus took on a broken human body to heal the broken. But that is not the end of it. He kept his body to show the scars of what brokenness does: trying to destroy the Creator who loves us.

He lifts those scarred hands to us, and he says, “Come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest. Go in peace, your sins are forgiven. Your faith has made you whole.” (Matthew 11:28; Matthew 9:22; Luke 5:20)

Living Broken

When we run into his arms and are touched by those scarred hands, we are healed. We experience the freedom of forgiveness from the Father.

Yet, we still live with the fact that the world is broken and we are broken. We still sin and mess up our lives (Romans 7:14-25). Paul, the apostle that is put on a pedestal, said he is a mess inside. He messed up and sinned. He claims it in this passage. Yet, do we believe that Paul sinned? We would say, “Yes!” But, we do not live like he did. We live like he was perfect. We live like the people we see in the Bible somehow had the silver bullet for defeating the werewolf inside.

Yet, time and time again we are reminded how broken Paul, Peter, and the others were. They did not have it all together. Therefore, it is ok for us not to have it all together. We can live as broken people just like Paul did. We do not need more self-discipline to be perfect. Otherwise, we do not need Jesus. Instead, we spread our broken shards before our savior and say, “I need you. Only your grace is enough for me.” (II Corinthians 12:9)

You may have fallen to porn this week, you may have lied, you may have exploded in anger, you may have been prideful. God knows this! He doesn’t call you to more self-discipline to cut sin out of your life. He calls you to walk by faith and not by sight, to be a broken vessel he can use. He calls you to live in the freedom of no condemnation, and come to the throne of grace to find forgiveness. (II Corinthians 5:7; II Corinthians 4:7-9; Romans 8:1; Romans 8:15; Hebrews 4:16)

You Haven’t Seen the Last of Me

Feeling broken? Barely holding on?

Have you ever been shamed by another Christian for your struggles and your brokenness? Yes, many of us have.

Many Christians today put down other Christians for “not being perfect.” We even do that to ourselves. Our churches are full of the message of perfection. Yet, from Scripture that is not what God wants. Yes, he wants us to live for him. But does he expect us to live perfect? No. We are to be perfect as the Father is perfect – perfect to love, perfect to forgive, perfect to show mercy. Perfection of a standard is what Christ pronounced a woe over the religious leaders.

Don’t we treat each others like the religious leader did? We define perfection by a standard. That is condemned by Christ. Our standard is the grace of God which transforms us from the inside out.

When other put us down for not “being perfect,” look at them and say, “You haven’t seen the last of me.” They can say that you will not make it, and you will fail. They clearly do not know you or your God and savior. God makes us stand tall. Our fulfillment of a standard does not. You are far from over. We haven’t seen the last of God’s work in your life.

Beautifully Broken

Have you ever realized what stained glass is? It is broken pieces of colored glass made into a gorgeous work of art. Think of the beautiful cathedrals in Europe. They are stunning. Ever seen a beautiful mosaic. What is it? It is broken pottery arranged to create beauty.

God is not our Creator who sees sin and runs away from the darkness. He pierced the darkness as we pierced his hands. He’s the artist who arranges our broken shards with his bleeding hands into a work of art that stuns the world.

A perfect image does not show beauty. Brokenness changed into art shouts beauty. It shows a message of an artist who does not give up in a world broken. He takes it and transforms it.

Jesus does that with our lives. We are broken. We mess up. We fall. Yet, what does Jesus do? Does he demand more self-discipline? No. He asks us to give our brokenness and marvel at the touch of the artist’s hands.

You are broken. Yet, to Jesus you are beautiful. You need to look at your life from Heaven’s eyes. You don’t need to try harder. You need an artist to show what is possible.

You are beautifully broken, and to Jesus you are a work of art. He uses you broken to tell his story of grace.

Will you allow him to?

When the Wind Changes

“Winds in the east, mist coming in, like somethin’ is brewin’ and bout to begin. Can’t put me finger on what lies in store, but I fear what’s to happen all happened before.”
Mary Poppins

Ever felt the change in the air when a storm is approaching? There is something in you that says something is going to happen. It is not a normal day. Your plans change, and the path you thought you would take when you awoke changes direction. You do all this, because the wind changed.

In our lives, we sense when the winds change. The wind changes directions and our path takes a different course. Where we thought we were going now changes to a direction we never thought we would dare to tread.

Most often we can’t see the end of the path. We can only see there is a curve that will take us in a direction we thought might be wrong because it isn’t following what others are doing.

How are we to think and live when the wind changes?

The Infamous Road

The road to Damascus

It is one of the most infamous roads in all of Scripture. Acts 9:1-9 describes the events that make this road a twist in an individual’s life. Saul desired nothing more than to arrest those who followed the way of Jesus, and to imprison them. However, the wind changed. Saul started a blinded journey on a path he never would have tread.

We see this change in direction as positive, and we romanticize this picture. But, stop for a moment. What did this do to Saul (now Paul)? He abandoned his whole belief system and actions in order to follow a different path. II Corinthians 11:24-27 lists a majority of things Paul endured while following this new path. This all happened because of that infamous road.

Do you remember where you were when the wind changed in your life? We look at that place almost as Paul sees the Damascus Road. This new path might be right before us, and we are fearful. Life will change. Where we stood will now be a road leading us towards somewhere we do not know. However, the wind has changed, and we follow the Spirit where he leads.

Stepping Away from the Crowd

When we feel the wind change in our lives, and we see a new path before us, there is a fear of us losing something. Sure, when someone is saved they step away from the wrong crowd towards the right crowd.

But, when the wind changes will we have to step away from the crowd we have been comfortable with?

In many houses you see, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” This is taken from Joshua 24:15. We love to claim sides, but what if this side meant separating from a church, a Christian movement, or a Christian institution? What if it meant leaving the group of Christians who are familiar to you?

When we personally take II Timothy 2:15 to heart, and study the Bible personally, there will be times we will need to step away from other Christians. We may see something in the Scripture that does not match what is going on in the group we associate with, and we see their path going down a place we feel the Spirit leading us away from. Are we still able to claim, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”?

If we look at the context of that phrase in Joshua 24:14-15, we find Joshua telling the people to choose which side they are on. This meant they may had to step away from the crowd, and follow God.

In Hebrews 11, we see many examples of faith in God leading people away from the crowd. This crowd may be the world, or it may be that church, that movement, or that belief system. Following God by studying his Word forces us to make that decision. What will you choose?

All Happened Before

I love the end of the quote from Mary Poppins found at the beginning of this post. The last part hints to us what is about to play out has happened before. The wind has changed, and another family has been healed.

The wind changes in our lives, and we feel like this has never happened before. We fear what will happen. Actually, we do not fear what will happen. We fear what others will say about us, and how they will treat us.

But, this has all happened before. Watch this

Moses had the winds change in his life. Exodus 3-4 records the amazing windstorm that changed Moses’ life. It came from a small voice from a burning bush calling Moses to free God’s people from slavery. But, have you ever noticed what his fear was? It was not a fear of the unknown. He was fearful of Pharaoh. He was fearful of what people people would say.

But, this was not the only instance of wind changing in Scripture.

Esther was chosen to be queen. The wind changed. Then she discovered a plot to kill her people. Fearful of what the king would do if she went to him, Mordecai reminded her that, “Perhaps you came to your position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Samuel felt the wind change twice in his life (1 Samuel 3; 1 Samuel 16:1-13).

The wind has changed before, and God led them down a different path than others. Yet, these individuals were blessed. What is happening to you has all happened before. God is the same today as he was in the burning bush (Hebrews 13:8).

Our First Step

The wind changes in our lives. We cannot deny it. We are fearful of what will happen. But, deep inside we are fearful of those around us and what will they think.

I have personally gone through this recently. I was comfortable where I was at. I had a great job, and to those around me said I had a good future if I stayed the course. However, in my personal Bible study I saw things did not match to what I was reading in Scripture. I was weighed down by fear of people. I was under pressure to pretend to be someone I am not. I had to pretend to be perfect; all while saying I wasn’t perfect. But, no one could know how I struggled. I saw people wearing masks as inside they fell apart. Spiritual I was choking on who was Jesus. Was he all about a standard, an image? Or was he really about love and grace and forgiveness and new beginnings? I had to side with Scripture. The wind changed. It led me down a path away from a crowd I knew for years. It led me away from friends. However, it led me to things I didn’t ever see coming. It led me to a church to grow in. It led me to swap life stories with a guy over burgers, and to develop deep friendships I am beyond grateful for. It led me to healing from my past. It led me to a deeper understanding of God’s grace. I was terrified when the wind changed. I did not know what people would think, but when I followed God’s Spirit he smiled. Following God’s path away from the culture of Fundamentalism was difficult, but I wouldn’t go back. The blessings outweigh the chains of the oppression I felt. Following God’s Spirit has led me to be me, and to be free to live in the grace of Jesus.

The change in the wind is not some mystical feeling. It is the Spirit moving in our lives. John 3:5-8 illustrates the Spirit like the wind. In fact, the Greek word used for “Spirit” is the same used for wind. When we are in tuned to God’s Word, the Spirit will lead us. We will have a change in the winds of our lives. We just need to take that first step. It is difficult, but we walk by faith, and not by sight, when we walk down the path where the Spirit is leading us (II Corinthians 5:7).

When we follow God’s path and we hear people say, “Wow, you have changed so much.” It usually means we are not following their plans for our lives (advice from a good friend).

“Everything is possible; even the impossible,” states Mary Poppins. Doesn’t that seem familiar? Luke 18:27 says, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

When the winds change in our lives, we should not fear of what people think. We are following God on the greatest journey ever. He personally placed this path in front of you to run after him (Hebrews 12:1).

Fear of people paralyzes us to follow the Spirit. Yet, instead of fearing people and their images they want of us, can we do something else? Have you ever thought about the possibilities of what the Creator of the world can do in your life? Think about Abraham, Moses, Esther, Daniel, Peter, and Paul. God can do the possible; even the impossible.

What, then, can God do in your life when the winds change?

Can you imagine that?

Two Ways to God

“The law works fear and wrath; grace works hope and mercy.” – Martin Luther

Ever seen The Wizard of Oz?

It is a classic. However, there is one scene to focus on – Watch here

Dorothy and her companions have travelled the Yellow Brick Road in hopes of getting their requests granted by the great and powerful Wizard of Oz. Their hopes are high as they are granted to see the Wizard. However, fear begins to take over as a booming voice, fire, and smoke shakes their very essence. Each step is carefully taken. When summoned, each member of the group states their request. Yet, in order to receive, Dorothy and her friends must perform a difficult task: obtaining the broomstick of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Even though we know how the story ends, this scene powerfully reflects our own spiritual lives. When we come before God, there are actually two ways.

However, which one is the correct path to God? Is one of them man made? And, which path are we showing others to go in order to approach God?

The Woman Who Approached

Luke 7:35-50 is one of my favorite stories in the Gospels. Jesus has been invited to the house of a pharisee named Simon. They are reclining at the table and enjoying a wonderful meal. Then, we are introduced to the party crasher; or a presumed party crasher.

A woman boldly approaches Jesus. The suspense in the room is tense. Everyone clearly knows who this woman is: a sinner. She is an outcast. Just her presence causes concern. But, it is her action that creates the heart attack.

She kneels at the feet of Jesus. Tears flow freely from her eyes. Her hands break open a jar of pricey perfume, and she anoints his feet with it. Then, she bows her head, kisses his feet, and wipes away her tears with her hair.

The scene shocked the pharisee. “If this man was truly from God, then he would stay away from her. She is a sinner. How could he allow her to touch him like that.” The disgust on his face was written as blunt as some politicians’ tweets. This pharisee didn’t even want “her kind” around. He was thinking of all the things she would need to do in order to stand in his presence.

However, Jesus didn’t say anything to the woman (at least not yet). Instead, he asked his host a question about forgiveness. Simon answered, but Jesus’ response floored him. The woman demonstrated a love for Jesus and honor over what the pharisee had done.

Then, Jesus lifted her eyes up to his. With their eyes locked, Jesus said, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace.”

We are like the woman. We know we need our sins dealt with. However, when we come to God there seems to be two paths. One is to do the right things, look the right way, and so on. The other is just to go to God, kneel at his feet, and weep as he forgives us.

The Torn Curtain

Each of us feels distant from God. We feel that separation. We want forgiveness. We want the love of God. We want his salvation. Yet, we come to him in fear that we will be doomed. That we won’t get it. We fear he really doesn’t love us.

Yet, we miss something when we read the Gospels. We know Jesus died to free us from sin. But something else happened at the death of Christ. The curtain in the temple was split in the middle (Luke 23:45). Do you know what this means? It isn’t just a decorative curtain. It was the curtain that separated the people from the presence of God in the holy of holies section of the temple. No one could approach this special area. Death was the punishment. An individual had to meet specific, special requirements in order to enter without fear.

When Jesus died, we now have personal access to God. Hebrews 10:19-22 promises us the curtain is torn, and we may approach God on our own without fear.

The Brick Wall

The curtain is torn, but sometimes we like to build a brick wall in front of God. We preach salvation is by grace, and then we make people climb our brick wall to approach God.

Just like the pharisee in the Luke 7, when someone does not fit our qualifications for approaching Christ, we have our opinions. “I can’t believe she would wear that to church.” “I can’t believe he is here worshipping when he struggles with that.” “You struggle with reading your Bible and praying, you must not be a good Christian.” “He spends his all his money on his family, yet can’t give anything to the church.” We may not say these things out loud, but we do think these about the other believers around us.

Jesus condemned this attitude (Matthew 23:13). The pharisees knew the truth to God’s kingdom, yet they made the people climb over their own brick wall. They put their traditions over God’s Word (Mark 7:1-13). The pharisees were all about making sure the right people were in the kingdom and looked right. They wanted five-star citizens in God’s kingdom. But, the people had to earn those stars (like a restaurant overworking itself in order to become the best).

Yet, Jesus didn’t come for the five-star Christians. He didn’t even come for the three-star Christian. He came for those without stars. He came to those who couldn’t even get half a star. He came to sinners who needed someone to rip the curtain in two for them in order to approach God (Mark 2:17).

Approaching With Boldness

In our churches, we preach two ways to God. We may say it is by grace, but after a quick sinner’s prayer we burden people with standards and lists of do’s and don’ts. God becomes just like the Wizard of Oz; how he deals with us is how well we fulfill some task or standard.

This isn’t the Gospel. There is only one way to God – grace. There is only one path to God after salvation – grace. In Christ there is no condemnation, and there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God – not even a missed day of Bible reading, a missed church service, wearing jeans to church, a Bible translation, or music style for worship (Romans 8:1; Romans 8:38-39). If these things could separate us from God and we had to work our way to God through standards and rules, then Jesus’s death and resurrection was never enough for us.

Instead, we have the promise of Hebrews 4:16. We can approach with boldness to God’s personal throne of grace. He is not like the Wizard of Oz. He is holy. But, the true image of God is seen in Jesus Christ. The incarnation is the perfect way God showed us who he really is (John 1:14).

It will be a bittersweet day when we realize that the way to Hell is paved with a collection of stars from Christian accomplishments and awards, and the road to Heaven is a mosaic of stories of grace from the most unlikely people.

When we make people conform to our standards in order to please God, we are preaching a second way to God. There is only one way to God, and that is through the arms of Jesus. We can boldly approach him, kneel at his feet, wipe our tears from his feet, and Jesus will look us in the eyes and forgive us.

Beat Again

“Leave the broken, irreversible past in God’s hands, and step out into the invincible future with Him.” – Oswald Chambers

Dead. No pulse. The heart has stopped. No beat. These are the marks of a dead person. The sheet is pulled over the head, and the death certificate filled out. An individual is no longer living among us.

However, there are dead people actually walking among us. No, I am not talking about zombies. They are people who have no heartbeat. They have no emotions. Inside they are cold and dead, yet they live feeling nothing and do not give what the heart should give… trust and love.

There are many of us that remember when our “death certificate” was filled out. We remember when we no longer loved and no longer trusted. We became the walking dead.

However, there is hope that our hearts can beat again.

Sanity Restored

When we live as dead, we feel insane. We feel the darkness close in. We feel the demons of our pasts tear at our flesh, and bind us to the tombs of the events that left us dead.

In fact, a man literally lived this out. He was possessed by demons. He was chained to tombs outside the city. He was tormented beyond belief. All around him was death and darkness. Yet, in Mark 5:1-20, Jesus steps in. Jesus confronts the man. The man says, “What have you to do with me?” He was known as the madman. No one wanted to be around him. Jesus wanted to be around him. He knew this man’s torment. He knew how this man cut himself to get away from the torment of the demons. And, Jesus wanted to be around this man.

The light and life of Jesus cast out the demons and were drowned out of this man’s life. Yet, something is said in Mark 5:15. The man’s sanity was restored. His heart began to beat again, and he could think and be calm because of Jesus. He came to Jesus naked and insane, and Jesus healed and clothed him.

He wants to do that for us. When we have experienced trauma and abuse we are dead inside facing the torments of the past. Yet, Jesus wants to heal us and restore our sanity.

Trust Restored

One of the worst things that happens to us is when trust is broken. We no longer trust people to get close to us. We push them away. If anyone tries to help, we hold them in suspicion waiting for them to hurt us; expecting them to.

A woman placed her trust in doctors. She spent all her money. She was an outcast because her condition. She was unclean. Nothing worked, and she felt hopeless. She couldn’t trust anyone to heal her. Yet, she heard about Jesus. A small spark of trust set a thought in her heart, “What if I could just touch the hem of his garment?” In Mark 5:25-24, we see what happens.

She trusts. She pushes her all to get through the crowd to just touch Jesus. There was something about Jesus she could trust. She touched him, and was immediately healed. When called to Jesus, she came out of the crowd afraid he would hurt her. Would her trust be broken again? Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you. Go in peace and be healed from your affliction.” He called her “daughter.” She was safe to trust him to heal her. Her heart began to beat again.

Our hurt causes us not to trust. We wall off our lives, build the mote, and ready the cannons in case someone gets too close. We won’t make that mistake again. Just like this woman, we have trusted time and time again only to be let down. Yet, with Jesus there is a spark of trust. We can trust and reach for him. He doesn’t reject us. He calls us “my son and my daughter.” He wants us to reach for him, because in that action our hearts begin to beat again, and trust can be restored.

Love Restored

Have you ever been vulnerable with someone and been broken into a million pieces? Have you ever loved someone and gave them your heart only to be used? After those experiences you feel dirty and untouchable. You feel like you have to avoid people, you can’t be apart of the community anymore. You are going to the well alone.

John 4:1-42 tells the story of a heartbroken woman going to the well alone. She had many husbands. She gave her heart into relationships only to be broken. Her value became about her body and how well she could please a man. Her heart wanted to love, but she didn’t allow her heart to beat with love. That is until she was offered living water. Jesus offered her living water that would spring up into a fountain to refresh her heart and let it beat again. She accepted it. She was healed and could love people again. She loved people so much that she didn’t offer her body, she offered to show the mended and beating heart of love that Jesus restored.

In our lives, we have been heartbroken. We have offered ourselves and only been betrayed. We don’t love people. Instead, we buy our friends, we offer pictures of our bodies or sexual experiences, we do anything to fit in and win the affections of people. But, in reality, Jesus sees this and offers us living water. We do not need those things, because we can be mended and our hearts can beat again. Love can be restored. Jesus loved you so much to have his heart beat ceased so your heart could beat again with his love.

Tell Your Heart To Beat Again

I remember when my death certificate was signed. I remember when my heart stopped. I remember when I swore I would not love or trust again. I remember those events too well – the guys who sexually took advantage of me, the jokes and mocking comments over my body, the ridicule of my interests, the degrading of me not being a man. I remember when I died. I lost my sanity, my trust, and my love. I was driven to think suicidal thoughts and actually try. I thought actual death could revive my dead heart.

But, my story follows another story in the Bible: Mark 2:1-12. I was just laying on my mat emotionally and spiritually a wreck. I gave my trust to many people to be betrayed. I gave my vulnerability only to be broken. On my death certificate there are many signatures. Yet, some men saw my state. They knew I couldn’t get to Jesus by myself. They knew my heart would not beat again without Jesus. And just like the paralytic, it is through the people God put in my life to cause my heart to beat again. In fact, I am able to say I forgive those who hurt me, abused me, laughed at me, mocked me, and betrayed me. Jesus did this through people.

Many times we go back to the people who hurt us trying to get what they should have given us, but refused. Instead, we need to turn to the people God has brought in our lives to help our hearts beat again. Who are the Tonys, the Rogers, the Sarahs, the Travis, the Lisas, the Tims, the Rachels, the Peters, the Helgas, the Berthas, the… whatever their name is. Are you willing to let them love you and trust they will carry you straight to the one who can heal you?

We can tell our hearts to beat again. We can breathe in the grace of Jesus, because he wants to heal us. He wants us to love and trust. It is difficult to let go of the past. But, are we willing to reach out to Jesus?

Do you like being dead? Do you like having a cold heart? How many people have you pushed away and lashed out at because of your dead heart?

The only way to tell your heart to beat again is to give it to the one who gives the blood to pump through your heart: Jesus. He gives you life, and he gives new life and a new heart. II Corinthians 5:17 promises all things are made new – including your broken and dead heart.

Jesus loves you so much that he gave his heartbeat to be ceased so your’s could beat with passionate love and trust. In Jesus, we are no longer where we were. We are never defined by are past. We are a new creation.

The past hurts. However, your death certificate can be torn up. You can be all that God wants you to be. You just have to reach out to where he is leading. He only offers healing to your broken heart.

Jesus healed you at the cross, and you can tell your heart to beat again.

Please listen after reading – Tell Your Heart To Beat Again by Danny Gokey

Killing Sin Killing Grace

“Your worst days are never so bad that you are beyond the reach of God’s grace. And your best days are never so good that you are beyond the need of God’s grace.” – Jerry Bridges

When was the last time you told someone you fell into that one sin you have been trying to overcome?

Didn’t you feel ashamed to admit that? What was their response? “Try harder.” “Do you have enough blocks up?” “Reach out to me if you need help.” “How are you keeping your mind on Christ and his Word?” The list could go on and on.

Isn’t it the worst when you have an amazing time reading God’s Word and praying; only to fall to sin within the next three hours? We struggle all the time and we determine to finally kill that sin in our lives. Our determination is to tattoo on ourselves John Owens’ famous quote: “Be killing sin or sin will be killing you.”

However, have we forgotten something? In our mission to kill sin, have we ended up killing grace?

Killing Sin

Colossians 3:5-10 is our battle cry as we march head on into killing the sin in our lives.

When you take aim, what appears in the scope? Lying, pornography, stealing, alcoholism, lust? What is that enemy you wish would bleed out and leave you alone?

We hear God’s Word telling us to put to death sin. Yet, how do we do that? Internet blockers? Accountability partners? Scripture memory? These are all good things.

When thinking of how we look at killing sin I came across this scene from Family Guy (watch here). This is how the world portrays people fighting “vices/evil/sins” in their lives. We may not do this whole musical number, but don’t we hear sermons about the evils of this certain sin or that certain sin? Is it wrong to preach on sins? No. However, what are the applications? Example: when we hear sermons on pornography, isn’t accountability partners and internet filters and Bible memory always mentioned?

However, are these things found in Ephesians 6:10-18? Are we really fighting against Jack Daniels, Porn Hub, crack dealers, and others? Our battle is with powers unseen. Therefore, since our battle is with the evil powers unseen, then we need weapons to fight with. An internet filter can help block inappropriate content, but can it truly defeat the sin in our lives? We cannot use the armor of man’s inventions. We need God’s armor. God’s armor does not originate from us or in things we can create. Instead, it is from him. We need to put on his way to fight sin in our lives. Our fight begins with realizing where the battle really lies – in the spiritual realm.

Killing sin is commanded in Scripture, but when taken too far we end up relying on our own methods and ultimately killing God’s greatest gift to us…

Killing Grace

Why did Jesus come to earth, die a horrific death, and rise again from the grave?

Was it to give you a certificate of authentic heavenly real estate?

Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us Jesus became one of us to destroy the power of sin and Satan for us to be set free from the fear and punishment of death. He set us free from the oppressive slavery of sin.

Mark 2:17 demonstrates Jesus’ own words claiming he came to bring repentance and healing to sinners. John 12:46 gives Jesus’s purpose of coming to bring people out of darkness into his marvelous light.

When we look at our own salvation, we need to start here. Jesus did not come for you to obtain a heavenly mansion just over the hilltop. Jesus came to set you free and to be with him forever. He came to give you grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 calmly teaches us grace is how we are saved. It is not of our own doing. Salvation is of grace. Amen? But, how do we live finishing out the context of Ephesians 2:8-9 as seen in verse 10? It is not only God’s grace that saves us, but God’s grace prepares the good for us to do.

God knows our hearts are more wicked and sinful than we could ever know. There is not one medical scan that could reveal all of it. He saw you for the thousandth time falling into sin, and he provided a way for you to be free: Jesus. He promised this in 1 John 2:1-2. Jesus is our advocate. This is why we can freely confess sins and come boldly to the throne of grace – not the throne of trying harder (I John 1:9; Hebrews 4:16)

When we try to kill sin without relying on the grace of God, we end up killing his work in our lives. Our sanctification becomes our boasting; not boasting in the grace of Jesus. If we can, honestly, kill sin in our lives by ourselves, then why did Jesus come?

Fighting Sin Through Grace

Fighting sin is never easy. It is a struggle everyday. We are tempted to use our own methods to fight. Yet, God tells us in Titus 2:11-12 his grace is what teaches us to resist sin. If we want to truly fight sin, then we need to learn God’s grace. It is not a grace of standards, rules, and trying harder. God’s grace is lovingly dying in our place so we can be truly forgiven. When we understand that the hold of sin on our lives begins to slip.

It’s easy to beat ourselves up when we fall into sin. But, that isn’t living in God’s grace. Living each day in God’s grace is learning to think what God thinks about you, seeing his redeeming riches in your life, and fully seeing that he has set you free. When we truly learn that, we live in a way that does not abuse grace, but honors the grace bestowed on us through Christ.

Yes, we are commanded to kill sin in our lives. We need to put sin to death. Yet, we cannot do it in our own determination. We need Jesus and we need his grace each step of the way. We will not stop sinning till we see Jesus face to face.

This is why John Newton wrote in “Amazing Grace”:

‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.

Living On A Prayer

“Heartache forces us to embrace God out of desperate, urgent need. God is never closer than when your heart is aching.”
– Joni Eareckson Tada

What makes you cry yourself to sleep? What struggle do you have deep within you hidden by a smiling mask?

Loss of a child? A sin struggle? Depression? Unable to conceive a child? The haunting of your past? What makes you shed a tear when no one else is around?

We all have our tearful moments. We all have those times when a topic is mentioned, and we turn our face or leave the room so no one can see how the dam is about to break. We feel alone. We feel like an outsider as we remember what pricks our hearts and causes the tears to trickle down.

“Just keep trusting God.” Good advice given, but feels more like a homeless man being rejected shelter from the bitter storm. What do we as those in pain and those trying to help. We need to understand how to truly help and how to receive help.

Hold on to What We’ve Got

The pain hurts. Our silence is given as people joke about what we go through even if they have no idea. We look at the happiness of others (genuinely wanting to celebrate), but we feel that stab of pain.

Then, all alone we fall on our bed crying grasping at the blankets finding nothing to hold onto. But, there is something we can grasp to – Hebrews 10:23.

We have a God who says he does everything for our good (Romans 8:28). We have a God who says his grace is enough (II Corinthians 12:9). We have a God who knows the fallen world, knows our tears are a result of a world slaughtered by sin, and yet he is going to create a new heaven and a new earth where tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:1-4).

It is difficult to grasp on to these things (and many others) when all we want to do is flip-off God and yell at him. It is difficult when we want to take our Bibles and rip out the pages, because they seem like trite Hallmark cards.

Guess what? It’s ok. God does not condemn questioning. He does not condemn us being frustrated. Habakkuk questioned God about all the evil in the world (Habakkuk 1:1-3). Hannah wailed to God and was mocked by a priest for her behavior as she cried out for a child (I Samuel 1:9-18).

It is ok to question God. But when words on a page are all we have to cling to, we need to hold so tight that our hands wrinkle those pages and our tears smear the ink.

Take my Hand and We’ll Make it I Swear

There is another thing we can do when we want to just fall down and cry. We need to reach out. We need to reach for the hands of our brothers and sisters. The church is called to be the body and to weep with those who weep (II Corinthians 12:26). This means we are to actually hurt with those who hurt. It is ok to cry in front of our community of believers.

However, when we do it seems all we get is, “Trust God.” Please stop saying this. James 2:15-16 tells us to stop. Telling someone to “Trust God” is the same as saying, “be well off and best wishes,” but not doing a thing. We can all do something to help. What about a listening ear? What about actually holding someone close to you and letting them cry? What about showing affection? What about simply getting them something you know will make them smile? What about just spending time with them doing some random activity?

The church is not made of individuals working on their individual lives. The church is made up of many people living together as a community. You do not have to have all the answers in order to offer your hand and walk side by side with them.

It Doesn’t Make a Difference if We Make it or Not

However, as we deal with our pain and our tears we need to stop one mindset: Image is Everything.

Image is not everything for the Christian. Making it or not is not the goal of the Christian. The goal of the Christian is to be like Christ (Romans 8:29). Our churches should not treat people who are suffering as poor, helpless people in need of pity. Instead, we need to realize that it is not the image, but the end result that matters. Our love for each other helps us fight to that end; not our pushing each other to have an image or be as good as they can be.

Also, if our prayers and suffering and pain is not relieved, we need to continue on. It should not make a difference to the church. If a couple is never able to have children, then the church needs to stop treating them as “having done something wrong.” If a person has been crying out for freedom from an addiction, then the church should not just give them the boot because they do not fit the image the church wants. Christ is the one who we trust, and he is the one who we give our lives to, and he is the one who will present us spotless before the Father (II Timothy 1:12; Jude 24-25).

It does not make a difference if we make it or not. It is not about our success or image. Christ is doing the work. We just need to stand with each other as that work is being accomplished.

Together Living on a Prayer

Bon Jovi’s song Livin’ on a Prayer does have truth to it. When life is falling apart, we need to live on a prayer. We need to hold on to what we got. We need to keep on going; even if we make it or not. We need to take each other’s hands and walk through it together.

Jesus came to be with people; not sit in a pew and be a “5-star Christian.” Jesus was there for the worst times of people’s lives and for the best. But, he continually escaped away to pray and to live on his prayers before the Father. If he is the image we are to be conformed to, then we need to do the same.

Let’s hold on to God’s Word. Let’s give each other our hands and walk with them. Let’s be willing to live on a prayer that engages our whole church.

Our pain and tears cry out for an embrace of God. He’s given that through the church.

If a rock song can perfectly sum up the image of the church, then why are we not living it out? Our hurt is real. Our tears are real. But, we can live on a prayer.

Returning to the Porch

“Where I found truth, there found I my God, who is the truth itself.” – Augustine

Secondhand Lions

Ever seen it? It is the story of Walter. He is a young man who has been dropped off by his mother on the porch of an old house. Here, he was to be raised by his great uncles till his mother returned.

Throughout the movie, Walter has many adventures (including a lion, a cornfield jungle, and a life story like none other). Walter learns many things from his great uncles. However, the words his mother left him with rang in his ears. His uncles, as the story goes, were loaded with millions stashed away in cash. She wanted Walter to find it while she was gone.

When his mother returns, he is taken away to live with her and her new man. Yet, he never revealed the location of the money. However, the money isn’t the climax of the movie. Walter makes a decision. He jumps out of the car, and he confront his mother. Watch the decision here.

In our lives, we follow various people: on social media, on the news, in politics, and even in church. We follow many people, but are they all good for us?

The One with the Words of Life

John 6:1-69

Remember what happens? Most of know the story of the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus has compassion on the crowd and he feeds them using only five loaves of bread and two fish.

Do you remember what happens next? What happens after the felt-board characters are placed away? Jesus walks on the water, but after that? Jesus tells the people what it means to truly follow him. He looks at the crowd who followed him after his miracle with the food seeking more. However, he knows that seeking more food won’t satisfy, and through his words many people leave.

John 6:60-69 reveals how many followers left Jesus that day. When he turned to the twelve asking them why they hadn’t abandoned him. Peter (Yes, Peter who sticks his foot into his mouth) says, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life.  We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Peter knew where the truth was. He knew who held the words of life. He saw Jesus as the Word (John 1:1). Peter saw Jesus as the Word in flesh (John 1:14). Though Peter fell, he knew Jesus was the one with the words of life. Even after denying Jesus, Peter knew who had the words of life (John 21:1-7). He dove into the water, and swam to Jesus.

The Ones who Bear the Words of Life

Once Jesus went to heaven, the apostles (including Paul) now had the words of life. They went out into all the world giving people this word. Paul (in particular) wrote two letters to Timothy and Titus. Paul was a torch bearer for Jesus. He continued giving the words of life. His two “sons in the faith” (specifically Timothy) did not stray, but kept the faith by returning to Paul to receive more of the words of life. Paul himself was not the word of life, but gave what Jesus told him (1 Corinthians 1:10-31).

He did not give his own rendition of the words of life. He preached Jesus. This is what Timothy and Titus looked to and clinged to.

The Ones who Change the Words of Life

However, we are warned in Scripture that not everyone will hold up the words of life as taught by Jesus. The whole book of Jude (only 25 verses) warns us that false teachers will arise. These teachers change the words of life and lead others astray. Romans 16:17-18 warns us these teachers will use smooth words to change us and lead us to a different “word of life.”

Just like in Secondhand Lions, Walter is promised a new life with his mom, whom he wants to be with the entire movie. However, he realizes where her path is leading. Her path was leading him into a life he did not want.

Even in our lives, there are those who want to lead us down a wrong road. They change the words of life in the Bible. They emphasize things Scripture does not emphasize. They feed us a culture of fear and image; while Jesus did not.

Teachers of the Word who put their own traditions and cultures above God’s life giving Words are false teachers. They would rather see their movement and their image live on rather than see people walking in the freedom Jesus offers.

Who in our lives is doing this to us? And do we see it?

Returning to the Porch

At the end of Secondhand Lions, Walter returns to the old house of his great uncles. He rests on their porch to continue hearing their life lessons. Walter knew he found where he belonged, and who really knew how to live (including flying through a barn upside down).

We are the same way. Many people pull at us. Many people try to force us down a road claiming to have the words of life. Instead, we need to jump out of the car, and return to the porch of those we know really do have the words of life as Jesus taught (and as the apostles taught). How do we know who to follow? The answer is found in II Timothy 2:15. We need to personally study out the Bible and test what is being said and taught. Everyone around us claims to know what is best for our lives, and we follow. This is not a good strategy when we disregard II Timothy 2:15.

In my own life I had to realize this. Many people were telling me which way to go with my life and how to live and walk with Jesus. I was given theologies and books and sermons. Yet, had I taken everything back to God’s Word? Once I did, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see the truth, because I went to where truth was found. Then, I realized I had to jump out of the car, and return to the porch of those who really gave me the words of life and by their actions showed me they really did have them. They were the ones who showed me what Jesus was all about – a relationship; not a label. I have to sit on their porch and learn from them. I thank God for showing me this lesson.

Each of us have people influencing our lives. Who is the person you need to sit down on their porch with a root beer and listen to? Who is really giving you the words of life?

Are you willing to jump out of the car, and return to their porch? When we do, we will be able to learn how to live out the words of life and really live.

Ending Scene to Secondhand Lions