This Blew My Mind- 6/18/21

I learned something recently that blew my mind. To explain it, I’d ask you to please read this beautiful passage about Jesus. Take your time through it… 

“He grew up like a small plant before the Lord. He was like a root growing in dry land. He had no special beauty or form to make us notice him. There was nothing in his appearance to make us desire him. He was hated and rejected by people. He had much pain and suffering. People would not even look at him. He was hated, and we didn’t even notice him. But he took our suffering on him and felt our pain for us. We saw his suffering. We thought God was punishing him. But he was pierced for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for the evil things we did. The punishment, which made us well, was given to him. And we are healed because of his wounds. We all have wandered away like sheep. Each of us has gone his own way. But the Lord has put on him the punishment for all the evil we have done. He was beaten down and punished. But he didn’t say a word. He was like a lamb being led to the slaughter He was quiet, as a sheep is quiet while its wool is being cut. He never opened his mouth. Men took him away roughly and unfairly. He died without children to continue his family. He was put to death. He was punished for the sins of my people. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death. He had done nothing wrong. He had never lied. But it was the Lord who decided to crush him and make him suffer. So the Lord made his life a penalty offering. But he will see his descendants and live a long life. He will complete the things the Lord wants him to do. He will suffer many things in his soul. But then he will see life and be satisfied. My good servant will make people right with God. He carried away their sins. For this reason I will make him a great man among people. He will share in all things with those who are strong. He willingly gave his life. He was treated like a criminal. But he carried away the sins of many people. And he asked forgiveness for those who sinned.”

Ready for the stunner?  That was written 700 years before Jesus was born.  That’s Isaiah 53 from the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s the major Jewish prophet Isaiah predicting the coming Messiah who would save the world.

Let that sink in. Jesus said he came not to abolish but to fulfill Old Testament prophecies. Here we have an Old Testament prophecy written 7 centuries before his birth, yet it reads like it could be Jesus’ biography!

Mind… blown. The more I re-read it, the more the level of specificity amazes. God sure didn’t leave any room for doubt about who this is referring to. That’s our Savior! The Messiah. The King of kings. The Lord of lords. Jesus Christ.

Dog Lovers Will Understand…. 6/4/21

My wife and I got our first dog, Gregory, in 2009. We purchased a doggy bed and were firm that he would NOT be sleeping on our bed…

Yea, that lasted about a week. 

We can’t help it. We love him! Our bed is the most comfortable place in the house, and we’re happy to share it with him. Of course, there is an important rule: he needs to be clean to sleep on our bed. Unfortunately, bulldogs have a tendency to roll around outside in the dirt. They also sometimes end up getting bit by ticks. As much as we want him to be with us, we obviously can’t allow mud or ticks to be carried into our bed. 

The good news for Gregory is that I want to be with him, so much so that I’m willing to clean him up when he inevitably makes a huge mess of himself. Now there are a few ways it can play out when I call him in for a bath: 

1. He can ignore me. He can continue playing, acting as if I don’t even exist. He can do this even though he’s living in my house. Maybe he thinks the cozy roof over his head somehow made itself. 
2. He can try to handle it himself. Rather than coming in to take a bath, he can do his best to avoid mud and shake off whatever dust he does come into contact with.  
3. He can come running when he hears the sound of my voice. 

Spoiler alert: there is only one scenario that ends with Gregory sleeping on our bed. If he ignores me or rejects my offer for a bath, it’s a no-go. He needs to come running when he hears my call! Sure, he made a mess of himself. Bulldogs always do. But no matter how dirty he gets, I can wash him completely clean, and he’s clear to enjoy the most comfortable spot in the house with us.

Moral of the story? My bed is a clean, peaceful place that I share with my bride. Gregory, by nature, rolls around in dirt and picks up ticks. He doesn’t have the capacity to remain clean. I want him to enjoy the bed with us, but that can only happen if he answers my call so I can wash him completely clean. 

The Bible teaches that God shares heaven with His bride, the church. God is perfectly Holy and therefore cannot tolerate sin, shame, or guilt in his presence. Humans, by nature, are sinners. Every one of us carries some measure of guilt and shame. We don’t have the capacity to live in perfection. God wants us to join him in heaven, but that can only happen if we answer His call so he can wash us completely clean by the blood of Jesus. 

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” -1 John 1:7

Can we really trust the Bible? 05/21/2021

Do you ever sit at home and think… “I need to be able to prove that my spouse exists. I’m going to put a bit of thought into it to make sure I can clearly explain that they exist and they’re not some figment of my imagination.” 

When you have a personal relationship with someone, the idea of needing to prove they exist is absurd. 

Do you see where I’m going with this? As Christians, we have a personal relationship with Jesus! We know He’s real because we know Him. Likewise, anyone who has read and experienced the Bible knows “the word of God is active and alive, sharper than any double-edged sword.” 

The idea that we’d need to “prove” that Jesus is Lord or that the Bible is the word of God is absurd. That said, learning why we believe is a critical skill to both strengthen your own faith and help you to share the good news with others. 

Consider this quote from Dr. Bart Ehrman speaking about the Bible:

“What good is it to say that the originals were inspired? We don’t have the originals! We have only error-ridden copies, and the vast majority of these are centuries removed from the originals and different from them, evidently, in thousands of ways.”

Because we don’t feel compelled to “prove” what we know to be true, these type of objections can sometimes catch Christians off-guard. I bet you’ve heard some variation of this sentiment from skeptical friends or loved ones. 

Heres the thing: I’m going to go out on a limb and assume that your skeptical friends are not experts in ancient textual criticism. I think it’s a much safer bet to assume they’re just spitting out a tagline in hopes that it will stop the conversation in its tracks. 

If you’ll learn some Christian Apologetics, you’ll be equipped to defend your faith and continue the discussion. In this case, Dr. Ehrman’s objection doesn’t even make logical sense. He says that we can’t trust the Bible because it has errors. How can you say something has errors unless you know what it’s supposed to say in the first place? 

My book goes further into the details, but the bottom line is that if the Bible could have been falsified by a series of errors, it would have happened a long time ago. It didn’t happen then and it will never happen because the Bible is the word of God. 

Remember: we can move with absolute confidence because of the Good News of Jesus Christ is absolutely true. We’re already on the “right” side of this issue. We’re not trying to win an argument, we’re trying to win souls for Christ. 

There is absolutely nothing more loving you can do for someone than to share Jesus with them.  

House Rules- 05/07/2021

Most people understand the concept of “house rules” by about the age of 7. When you’re a guest in someone else’s “house,” they, as the authority, set the rules.

Imagine losing a hand of blackjack at a casino. As the dealer shuffles away your money, you explain to him that you and your buddies typically play by a different set of rules. Those are the rules you prefer, and they seem the best to your group. 

Are you expecting to get your money back? Of course not. When you’re in their house, you play by their house rules. 

Now consider this: I’ve been driving on the right side of the road since I got my driver’s license. It’s how it’s done here in America. But if I found myself in the UK tomorrow, what’s going to happen if I continue driving on the right side of the road? It’s going to be a disaster. 

Can you imagine if I thought I had the authority to change their house rules? “Listen, I’m too open-minded to drive on the left side of the road. As far as I’m concerned, driving on the right side of the road is the best way to do it. In fact, if you disagree that driving on the right side of the road is appropriate, you’re intolerant. Because science.”

That sounds ridiculous, I know. And yet, it feels on par with the “woke” ideology floating around our country. 

I believe that many of our differences can be summed up by looking at who’s House Rules we’re playing by.

As a Christian, I believe that the God of the Bible created our universe and everything inside of it, including you and me. Therefore, I’m playing by God’s house rules, which are prescribed in the Bible. Under those house rules, I fail daily. I’m not perfect. That’s why I need a Savior named Jesus.

For those who reject the Bible as their standard for morality, who’s house rules are you playing by? Without the absolute truth of the Bible as their standard, there are countless good-hearted people out there whose house rules are dictated by other people. Have you noticed that what is right and wrong is a constantly moving target under this ideology? That’s what happens when humans attempt to re-write rules that they have zero authority over. 

Consider this parable that Jesus told: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.” -Matthew 7:24-27

The storms of life will inevitably come. If you’re wise, you’ll build your house on the absolute truth, the stable rock that is Jesus Christ. If you’re woke, you’ll build your house on constantly changing quicksand constructed by people. 

Who’s House Rules will you play by?

Fix your Focus- 04/23/2021

Like clockwork, every April this tree gives me a reminder to fix my focus. More specifically: 

A life devoted to things is a dead life, a stump; a God-shaped life is a flourishing tree.”  -Proverbs 11:28

I am all for focused intensity and striving for excellence in every facet of our lives; but if we’re not serving Christ, we have nothing. 

If I’m crushing it in my career but I’m not serving Christ, I have nothing. If I’ve got wonderful friends but I’m not serving Christ, I have nothing. If I’m a devoted parent but I don’t teach my kids to know Christ, I have nothing. If I enjoy the pleasures of this world but I’m not serving Christ, I have nothing. My life is like a dead stump. 

It’s only through serving God that we can truly lead open, free, spacious, flourishing, fulfilled lives! 

I’m not saying all those other things are worthless; not at all. What I’m saying is that true fulfillment only comes when those things are in their proper position, which is secondary to our relationship with God. If we make anythingelse #1 in our lives, we’re out of alignment. 

Are you antsy about something in your life? Does something seem off or out of place? Don’t look inside yourself to try and figure it out, look to Him

Stressful Week- 04/16/2021

Anyone else deal with some stress this week? I know I did, and there were times when fear and anxiety weighed on my mind. What a waste! Consider this story from the Gospel of Mark: 

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be Still!” Then the wind died down and was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” -Mark 4:36-40

I have to think I would’ve done the exact same thing if I were on that boat: run to the Son of God for safety and peace! Wouldn’t you?

So the question is: is He not in our boat at all times? 

We know He is! So when stress hits, why would we try to take it all on ourselves?  It makes no sense, yet I do it, and I doubt I’m the only one. I encourage you today, if you have something weighing on you, bring it to the King of Kings! He’s already in your boat and He is your strength. 

James

A High-Flying “Good News Only Friday” 04/09/2021

Have you ever felt the need to defend your faith in God? Maybe you’ve even been mocked for being a Christian. In certain circles you could be considered gullible, closed-minded, anti-intellectual, or worse. 

Think of it like this George Orwell quote: “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more they’ll despise it when they hear it.” 

The absolute truth of Jesus Christ is offensive to unbelievers. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised when their reaction is to attack your faith and/or mock you as a believer. 

Here’s the beautiful thing. Do you know what the Bible tells us to do when that happens? 

Celebrate! Jump for joy!

“Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.” -Luke 6:22-23

As I watched my kids jump on their new trampoline, I couldn’t help but think that this is what our reaction should be to pushback from unbelievers. It’s easier said than done, I know, but take this as encouragement when you face this. And remember, these people are not your enemy, they’re the mission field!

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord? 04/02/2021

It is indisputable that Jesus of Nazareth, the man, existed. Even atheist scholars know and agree with this. The real issue is whether He was simply a man, or if He is God in the flesh as Christians believe. There is a popular belief in our culture that Jesus was a wise moral teacher. Essentially, that he was an enlightened wonderful man… but just a man. I would respectfully and lovingly explain to proponents of this belief that they can’t have it both ways. The reason why is very simple, and it’s something we can point to when asked what makes Jesus different from any other wise moral teacher— i.e. Moses, Muhammad, Dalai Llama, Buddha, Confucius, etc. Jesus didn’t just claim to hear from God, he claimed to BE God. In other words;Wise moral teachers don’t claim to have existed before the world began — God does. Wise moral teachers don’t claim to have the ability to forgive sins — God does. Wise moral teachers don’t say they intend to come back to judge the world at the end of time — God does. Wise moral teachers don’t say the things Jesus said. So the question must be asked.. was He a liar, a lunatic, or LORD?
PS- if the liar/lunatic/Lord principle resonates with you, you can google “CS Lewis trilemma” to read a version that is roughly 6,000 times more eloquent. 

Who Would Die for a Lie? 03/26/2021

Do you know where Jesus’ closest followers were when he was crucified?

Hiding. 

Their teacher, the God-man they’d seen perform miracles like giving sight to the blind and walking on water, had just been executed in the most shameful way possible. They thought He was their long-awaited Messiah, but now He was dead. Their beliefs were shattered and they, by association, were in danger. If it could happen to Jesus, it could happen to them. They were scared, scattered, and in hiding. They didn’t even give Him a proper burial. One of His closest followers (Peter) denied Him three times in one day. If the story ended there, it would inevitably have faded into history long ago.

But something changed… 

In the coming days and weeks, Jesus’ followers (called apostles), reappeared in public. They began publicly and boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ. They claimed He had risen on the third day, just as He said He would. They claimed they had eaten with Him and touched Him. They claimed He was the Son of God indeed.

Now here is the most curious part. Do you know what these claims about interacting with Jesus got them? Money, fame, sex, power? Quite the opposite, actually. They were persecuted, tortured, and many were killed. In fact, eleven out of twelve of Jesus’ closest followers were martyred because they would not deny that they’d been with the risen Christ.

It makes no sense that these men who were scared and hiding would all have a change of heart and decide to endure persecution, torture, and death for a lie. Not a single one ever recanted their testimony, and it was common knowledge that Jesus’ tomb was found empty on the third day, with the guards there terrified. This fact pattern only makes sense if it’s true. 

It’s important we make one important distinction here, because dying for a belief doesn’t automatically make that belief true. Even the 9/11 terrorists died for something they believed in. But here is the critical difference: Jesus’ followers didn’t choose to die because they believed something that had been passed down and taught to them by other people. They died for something that they themselves were direct witnesses to. In other words, if they hadn’t actually interacted with the risen Jesus, obviously they would know they were lying about it! So we have to ask ourselves this…

Who would die for something that they knew to be a lie? 

It’s undeniable that something changed in the days following Jesus’ crucifixion. Something caused these followers to proclaim Jesus even unto their deaths. Something caused 10,000 people to be converted under the most hostile of circumstances in the weeks following the crucifixion. And all along, the enemies of Christianity could have squashed the entire movement if they did one simple thing, which is to produce the dead body of Jesus. But they couldn’t do it then and they never could, because His body wasn’t in that tomb. 

He is risen, indeed.

Good News Only Friday- 03/19/2021

Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi’s house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the teachers of the religious law (Pharisees) saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to his disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:15-17

This story is nothing short of remarkable. Jesus, the Son of God, chose to eat with tax collectors and sinners. In other words, He chose to eat with the dregs of society. Tax collectors were considered traitors and scum during Biblical times. They were Jews who betrayed their own people by collecting taxes on behalf of the Roman Empire. They each had a yearly quota to pay the Romans. Anything they collected above and beyond that quota was theirs to keep. So you can imagine that they basically extorted their own people in order to become wealthy. This made them outcasts amongst Jewish society, so they spent their time with other outcasts (sinners) such as prostitutes. It’s no surprise, then, that the religious teachers (called Pharisees) were shocked Jesus would eat with this crowd. To share a meal during those days was an act of honor and acceptance. Pharisees would only eat with other Pharisees. Why would Jesus give the time of day to these unclean sinners? His response? “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I’ve not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”BOOM! As someone who has not yet had a perfectly sinless minute let alone a perfectly sinless life, this scripture brings me so much joy. Jesus didn’t come for the so-called righteous, He came for sinners. And since every single person walking this planet is a sinner, He came for us all! If that doesn’t get you fired up, I don’t know what to tell you. If you’ll put your trust in Jesus, He’ll remove your sins from you as far as the east is from the west. God is so good. There’s one more important point to be made here. Jesus wasn’t endorsing the sin. He wasn’t giving them a license to continue living a rotten lifestyle. His message was simple: repent and believe the Gospel. To repent is to CHANGE. He’s saying, I hate your sin but I love you. Change, turn away from your path, and instead put your trust in Me. Believe the good news. The next time you’re beating yourself up over a mistake, I want you to remember this story. Jesus didn’t come for those who think they’re good enough. He came for those who realize they’re sinners and they need a savior. Repent, and believe the Good News.