When I was first a Christian, all the world was a curiosity to me since I was “seeing” and “knowing” for the first time. The music of Keith Green had a major effect upon me, and while I don’t now agree with all of his songs lyrics, still they were incredibly real, raw, meaningful and passionate. I was transfixed by how genuine he was—not selling anything—and that has marked me since. Here’s one of my favorites, “Your Love Broke Through” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h89-3_kIRDA), even though it isn’t his famous and timely “Easter Song” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z3kc1jDahU4).
Happy Easter, everyone!
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
The Jesus that I know seems relatively unconcerned and rarely talks with me about “my baggage,” the stuff that stumbles and plagues me concerning how I want to be and what I want to do. You know, my frustrated desire for self-righteousness, my work on getting myself right, so that I’ll finally make myself work right. That. Obviously, He sees and knows another way and another me, the real me, the me that He made a new creation and focuses His attention right there. Perhaps today I will look there, too, and let Him handle the baggage. He seems pretty good with it.
Do you let Jesus handle your baggage, or are you still too caught up in it to let it go? Are you not done working on it yet? He really is perfect with our junk and sin and baggage that sticks with us because we insist upon handling it and doing something with it—at best, moving it around, from here to there.
But Jesus picked you, baggage and all, because He has a plan to be great with you—to handle your junk and baggage and sin, and the stuff that plagues you. So whether it’s drinking too much, sexing too much, swearing too much, being mean too much, or WHATEVER too much, Jesus is really good right there—with you and for you, so you can let it go, look away from it, and look at Him.
He knows all about it anyway. He has been an expert baggage-handler for a long time. It’s part of His plan. Writing to the baggage-overloaded Corinthians, the apostle Paul wrote:
1 Corinthians 1:26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him.
Reading it now, does this reveal a little bit of why you are so appealing to God and His choice? Do you ever look around at your junk and stuff and baggage and think, “What am I gonna do with this?!” Well, that’s part of His plan to look good in what He does for you. See?
1 Corinthians 1:30 It is because of him that you and I are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, He has become your righteousness and mine, He has become your holiness and mine, and He has become your redemption and mine. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
And why wouldn’t you boast in what He has become for you so you don’t have to try? See? It’s all a set up for Jesus. Have you thought of your baggage, your particular brand of junk or sin or fleshly stuff in that way, that it’s something for Him to deal with and to carry so you can do something else? It is.
So look at Jesus and how He is for you and with you, and let go of controlling your baggage. He can handle it. He can carry it for the rest of your days.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Jesus & My Baggage,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click https://youtu.be/D7gh3pPbsDo, or scroll down this blog page.)
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Got 4 minutes? If you’re bothered and burdened with problems and the troubling baggage of bad habits and sin, has it occurred to you that you’re probably working way harder than Jesus is? It’s time you gave Him something to do for you. He’s been waiting and He’s ready.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
Got 2.5 minutes? If you’d like a four-day event that focuses upon knowing Jesus as your deepest satisfaction, best counselor, most trusted confidant and perfect lover, this is it. I hope you’ll share this video with friends who would benefit, as well.
Helpful links: thegraceconference.com
Helpful links: thegraceconference.com
Saturday, March 12, 2016
I suggest that if someone is acting crazy, the best thing you can do is not to correct his behavior with a scolding, but to help awaken his faith in God, who has made him a son. Instead of giving him restrictions, assist him toward revival. When our faith is dormant or sickly, who looks particularly good? You know how that feels, you know how that goes, right? Well, what revived you? What’s needed is the truth about the mercy, grace and goodness of God.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God-- this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will. (Italics mine.)
Without the proper “view of God’s mercy,” nobody rightly offers his body and nobody has any particular reason to worship, no matter how we might scold him. Build him up! Give him reasons to worship by giving him a new view of God’s mercy. In other words, put some wood on the inside fireplace of his heart. Tell him what Jesus did to him and for him in making him holy, pure, forgiven, cleansed, secure and safe in God, no matter his crazy behavior, and watch his mind begin to turn toward the truth that revives and away from the lies that have been crippling him and affecting his behavior. Hang in there, because it might take a little while. In my experience, crazy creeps up on us, and takes a while to creep away.
Help him, help your friend to see again by assisting him to the truth that renews. He will come to his senses through your care, and rest again in the good, pleasing and perfect will of God.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “How to Cure the Crazies,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video and more than 100 others, go to my YouTube channel: https://youtu.be/IkLZm-wi9RU.)
Friday, March 11, 2016
Thursday, March 10, 2016
“Delight yourself in the Lord” (Psalm 37:4) is not a command to dance about and make merry as though the appearance of delight fulfills the command. It’s a directive for our own enjoyment. When we find God to be our greatest joy and pleasure, the presumed pleasures of drink and sex and ambition and covetousness are exposed as the comparatively empty pretenders they are, and their grip upon us is loosened.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
Many of us make tremendous efforts to smooth out any and all bumps we might see ahead, thinking proper smoothing techniques measure our Christian maturity. It isn't so. Christ in us is our measure, which means we're doing rather well, no matter the bumps. Think of the apostle Paul's bumpy-life ride, and ours in comparison seems fairly tame. Enjoy Jesus today, and He will provide through the bumps.
Thursday, March 03, 2016
It is very common that we do not see ourselves as “in Christ,” but as separate from Him. Maybe walking alongside of Him. That’s a problem. The New Covenant speaks far more of our being “in Christ” than it does of Him being in us, so it’s a problem if we don’t think about it very much. It’s actually going to hurt us in some way. Because we don’t think about where we are, in Christ, many people become fairly terrified about “suffering for Jesus,” and I don’t blame them. Seeing it that way—as though we were separate from Jesus—I would be nervous, too.
Much of my book has to do with what God thinks He did for us and to us through the cross and resurrection, not the least of which is that He brought us into Christ, forever secure there, in Him. We have a new location, a new address that’s out of this world, and frankly, it’s astounding. He is in us and we are in Him.
Suffering that God permits (and even brings) is NOT directed at us, as though we will somehow become better for the suffering. Suffering is not a penalty, suffering is not a goal, nor is suffering something that God hopes we’ll get through and by which we will get better. The sufferings of Christ at the cross have already had much to do with making us as good as we can get! But something happens to us through suffering, something is produced in us and through us that shows something very important: it shows where God is—In us! He is in you. He is in me. And it shows how good He is where He is. We are together by design in suffering.
The target, the bull’s eye of undeserved suffering is Jesus, and that happens to be your location; it’s where you are—in Him. He is the target. Suffering is directed at Him. And what does He plan to do? Well, He plans to be Himself—what He is like—because of where He is, in you.
While we will grow in confidence about who we are and where we are (in Jesus), the purpose and hope for suffering is that Christ in us may be made evident—to us and to others—and that He will be exposed as living in us and affecting life through us. Wouldn’t that be great? Well, that’s the plan. Suffering gets at Christ in us, who is perfect for every need that suffering might put upon us.
I’m thrilled to find Christ in me any way I can, even through suffering—maybe especially through suffering, since the life and grace of Christ in me redeems an otherwise ugly and traumatic situation. Who doesn’t like finding Christ on the inside? What a pleasure. It’s my favorite. Especially in suffering.
This is why Paul wrote in Romans 8:18 “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Who is in us? Jesus. His plan is to show up and to be revealed in us in suffering.
Consider the following: 1 Peter 4:12 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.
Where is His glory going to be revealed? In you. In me. Whose sufferings were the people of God enduring? Well, not their own sufferings, but Christ’s. Did they probably feel like it was their sufferings? Yes, but because these Christians knew where they were—in Christ—they knew better than to rob Jesus of His sufferings and His opportunities.
Where were the sufferings directed? At Jesus. And where would the evidence and glory of God be revealed? In and through His people. What a plan. That’s why they were going to be “overjoyed”. They weren’t going to be “overjoyed” because they were obeying a command: “Look here, my sons and daughters. Be overjoyed when bad stuff happens.” No. They were going to find “Christ in me, the hope of glory” (see Colossians 1:27). And the onlookers, the fans gathered in the stadium seats to watch the Supernatural Bowl that was happening in the Christians, were going to see Jesus. It’s the same for us today.
1 Peter 4:14 If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. (He’s going to do something!) 15 If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. (Well, that makes sense, because He’s not involved in that stuff.) 16 However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name… 19 So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator (Where is He? Inside of us.) and continue to do good. (Italics mine.)
This suffering “according to God’s will” attracts us not to a performance that we’re supposed to work up and carry out, but to God, who lives in us and who works through us. He is exposed, both to us and to our audience. We look for Jesus in us—inside and happy and capable. Perfectly. Of course! That’s how He is. That’s the plan.
This is what the apostle Paul wrote about to the Colossian Christians. It’s an otherwise odd verse: “Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body (or the benefit of His body), which is the church” (Colossians 1:24, italics mine).
Why, Paul, would you rejoice in suffering? Because he knew who the target was, Jesus, and Paul was in Him. “Hey! I’m involved with God in suffering!” he might have said. And he knew that while the target was Jesus, Paul was the vessel, the pouring out place for God’s great display to everyone in view; Jesus was in Paul. That was the plan. That was why he rejoiced. Paul saw God!
Think of the benefits that came from that. Prison guards and their families became Christians. People were healed. Paul wrote the prison epistles—Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon—under the terrible suffering and pressures of confinement. Jesus was the target of the suffering, and Jesus in Paul was the evidence for which God had planned all along. The evidence of God came out of Paul, and Paul rejoiced at it. In suffering, we are together—Literally!
(This explains what’s happening in 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, where the Christians are sharing in the sufferings of Jesus, and the comfort of Jesus is overflowing from within them to others. It will help you to take a look at that chapter, and 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 as well. It’s terrific.)
In suffering, I’m going to see Jesus, and you are, too. All over the world, we are the gates for Jesus, the pouring out places for Him in us. How brilliant is that? That means I get Him, and so do you, and so do others—Jesus, all over the world. We will see the suffering, and then we will see the glory of God in us and around us.
I hope this helps you today.
(This is a transcript of yesterday’s video, “Suffering Isn’t For You,” and is for those who might rather read than watch. To see the video, click https://youtu.be/zc79_hWrQqw, or scroll down this blog page.)
Wednesday, March 02, 2016
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
The trauma of treading the waters of my country’s political system has taken a toll upon them. Today they will choose and vote for a candidate (which is a good thing to do), even though they know the person they choose has no chance of fixing people. “I have no chance of fixing anyone!” has not been the rallying cry of a single political candidate, yet my godly friends know it’s true. Still, they’ve been reading and listening and gathering the wisdom of this world in order to “make an informed decision” about someone who isn’t telling “the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me, God.” And my godly friends are worn out in the gathering, having been stuffed-full and abused by the pretended nourishment of this world.
To them and to those of us who will vote in the coming elections, let your conflicted and malnourished souls usher you to the Spirit, who will form Christ in you—your life and your hope and your joy. You are in Him and He is in you, though that sometimes seems impractical until fatigue and conflict have gotten your attention. So let fatigue and conflict remind you that you are fit with Jesus. Remembering that and taking advantage of His plan to be life for you today will revive you and remind you of who you are: the sons of God.