Christians still killing Jesus

I read an article today that has been gnawing at my brain stem for most of the day.  I found myself filled with an anger I didn’t know how to categorize.  Was it righteous?  What exactly am I angry at?  So I have been gnawing on it with the Holy Spirit, talking to the Lord about what exactly has me so riled in spirit.  I am not used to my spirit being so riled.  My feelings, my pride, or my want to be right is often the source of my riling.  This felt new and different.  And it has taken me most of the day to figure out what has upset me.  As I talked it out with H.G. (aka the Holy Ghost) I came to realize that I am upset because we—meaning us Christians—are still killing Jesus.

I know I have probably just offended you if you are Christian reading this.  I offended myself when I realized I was complicit in the continued murder of my Savior.  But H.G. walked me through this offense and I hope some of you will walk along with me.

So my journey started when I read an article about how multi-site churches are from Satan.  I am a member of Mars Hill Church, a multi-site church, and so I was offended that someone said I basically am a member of satanic gathering.  I have also been a member of a small church of maybe 150 people.  Both Pastor Dan and Pastor Mark Driscoll love Jesus, preach Jesus, and have taught me a great deal.  I am not biased one way or another.  I think both styles of churches are needed to suit the countless styles of God’s children.  I belong to a non-denominational Church, and I have belonged to a Baptist church.  Again, I am not biased on denominations as long as they teach the Bible and preach the good news of Jesus Christ.  This isn’t about what type of church is best, or what style of church you prefer, or the personality of the Pastor you learn the Bible the best from.  That is between you and H.G.

What bothered me is that this article was written by a Christian and was posted for a Christian blog/magazine/website thing.  I don’t know how to categorize it anymore, but I am sure you get the point.   Now I would understand the point of this article if it said that these multi-site Pastors were not teaching the Bible, were not proclaiming the saving grace of Jesus Christ, and that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the church at all.  Then yes I would understand the article.  But that’s not what the article said.  Instead it went on about how these Pastors are guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  But guess what …every single person is guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  It doesn’t matter if you Pastor a large flock or a small flock.  I am guilty of the sins of pride and idolatry.  So if a church is ‘from Satan’ because the Pastors sinners, then all churches must be from Satan.

10 I appeal to you, brothers,[a] by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:10-13)

The Bible teaches against this.  I don’t go to Mars Hill because I believe it will save me, or because I idolize Pastor Mark’s teaching ability.  I go to Mars Hill because I learn the Bible there.  Jesus is who saves me.  Do some people idolize Pastor Mark?  Sure.  But people idolize their small church Pastor’s too.   If I idolized Pastor Mark it wouldn’t be Pastor Mark’s fault.  It would be my fault.  It would be my sin to deal with and my heart issue.  As Christians we need to stop saying ‘my way of doing church is better and more holy than your way of doing church’.  If Jesus is proclaimed and the Bible is taught, PRAISE THE LORD!  Be grateful and thankful that God’s work is being done.  The world and potential-Christians criticizes us enough, we don’t need to give them fuel for their fire.

When I was a pagan this was a major problem I had with Christianity.  Churches and professing believers tore each other apart, slandered one another up and down the internet, and generally acted like middle-school kids.  And that is how I saw you treat people who were a part of the ‘family of God’.  Why would I want to be a part of that family?  Why would I voluntarily skip into the middle?  When you, as a Christian, come out and call a style of Church satanic…why would any non-believer then go to that Church?  How many people have we just cut off from the saving grace of the gospel because we disagree with how things should be done?  Is it really worth that person’s soul?  Is your opinion of how Church should be done so important that it is worth this cost?  Are you really that prideful?

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

The article talks about how sinful multi-site church Pastors are.  So I am going to let you in on a not-so-secret secret about Pastor Mark Driscoll.  He is not perfect.  He is a sinner.  He gets things wrong.  He says things wrong.  He gets angry.  He needs Jesus’ grace.  He needs forgiveness.  He is just like me.  Imagine that.  Pastor Mark Driscoll isn’t Jesus.  He says that often.  Want to know something else about Pastor Mark Driscoll that so many people tend to overlook?  He repents.  He repents publicly, in front of cameras, to thousands of people.  He apologizes to thousands of people.  He talks about his failures and his sins in front of thousands of people.  Unlike me.  I sometimes have a hard time talking about my failures with just my community group.  I don’t have to eat humble pie every Sunday in front of everyone.  I do it privately with my husband and H.G.

So yay, my Pastor isn’t perfect, but neither am I.  He shows me what repentance looks like.  He leads me in how to be humble, how to swallow my pride, and how to talk frankly about my sin.  And guess what …your Pastor should do this too.  I find it completely comforting to know that my Pastor gets it, and is willing to be humbled before the world so that I learn how to be more like Jesus.  The only perfect Pastor is Jesus Christ who happens to be in heaven right now.  All Pastors have sinned and all Pastors fall short of the glory of God.  We, as Christians, need to let this sink in and we need to stop crucifying them for being as imperfect as we are.

“And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)

Stop throwing stones at my Pastor.  Stop throwing stones at Pastors who teach the Bible and preach the saving grace of God.  Just.  Stop.

“One’s pride will bring him low, but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor.” (Proverbs 29:23)

The article then goes on to say that as a member of a multi-site church I cannot hold Pastor Mark Driscoll accountable.  As if I should be able to be the accountability partner in my teaching Pastor’s life.  That right there is a huge ego and pride check.  Pastor Mark teaches me the Bible, and preaches the saving grace of God.  Pastor Mark is not my accountability partner.  Pastor Mark is not my friend.  If I had a pressing issue in my life I wouldn’t run to Pastor Mark for the answers.  And guess what ….when I belonged to a small church it was the same way.  Why?  Because they aren’t my personal and close friends.  I don’t hang out with them.  I don’t have them over for dinner.  I am not against becoming friends, but I don’t demand that be a requirement for me to sit beneath their teaching.  The same way I wouldn’t demand a college professor to be my friend before I take his class.

Pastor Mark Driscoll has an amazing gift for teaching the Bible, as do other multi-site church Pastors.  I learn so much from Pastor Matt Chandler, Pastor James MacDonald, Pastor Rick Warren, and many others.  I don’t know any of them.  And I hardly think I need to nitpick my way through their lives and demand they explain everything to me.  If you need that close relationship to your Pastor, then by all means go to a small church where that is possible.  I don’t begrudge you that need, but please don’t call me a Satanist because I don’t share that need.

Pastor Mark Driscoll is my teaching Pastor at my church.  He isn’t my personal Pastor.  Pastor Dave Bruskus is a fatherly Pastor for me.  He is a Pastor I would reach out to for big questions as I have seen his wisdom and love for God’s children.  Pastor Sutton Turner is a warrior Pastor for me.  I see him on the front lines for God’s glory, working to spread the good news of Jesus Christ far and wide.  These two men are accountability partners for Pastor Mark Driscoll …and I completely trust them to do that job.  I don’t feel the need to do it myself.  Now my personal Pastor is actually at my Church at Mars Hill Downtown Seattle.  For a while it was Pastor Joel Brown, who is completely amazing at speaking the truth in God’s love.  He was the Pastor I went to when I needed a Pastor.  God has called him away to Mars Hill Tacoma.  So now my personal Pastor is Pastor Matthias.  I am still getting to know him, but I trust him already with knowing he is a man of God’s heart and would give wise counsel.

Why am I telling you this?  Because I am a member of a multi-site church, and I want people to know that I do have a Shepherd (Pastor) and I’m not just some consumer/groupie who stares at Pastor Mark on a screen.  I go to watch Pastor Mark on a screen because he teaches the Bible in a way I understand.  I do the same with the other Pastor’s above whom I mentioned.  But if that’s not for you, I get it.  We are all called to understand Scripture in different ways; just as all Pastors are called by the Holy Spirit to serve the spreading of Scripture in different ways.

31 “So I tell you, every sin and blasphemy can be forgiven—except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which will never be forgiven. 32 Anyone who speaks against the Son of Man can be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven, either in this world or in the world to come.” (Matthew 12:31-32)

The last point that really rankled me in this article was the critique against the pastors who served these Multi-site churches.  A man needs to be called by the Holy Spirit to become a Pastor.  The Holy Spirit then usually calls a Pastor to a certain church for a certain ministry.  That calling is between that Pastor and the Holy Spirit.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus warns us very poignantly against calling the works of the Holy Spirit as something evil or from Satan.  We are really not supposed to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.  Which is what we are doing if we are saying what the Holy Spirit has called these men to do is from Satan.  Who am I, and who are you, to judge what exactly the calling of the Holy Spirit is on anyone else?  The will of the Holy Spirit cannot be held in check by anyone’s will, design, or church style.  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a small church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a mega church, yay Jesus!  If the Holy Spirit calls a Pastor to a multi-site church, yay Jesus!  We should be rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit to still stir up the affections of men’s heart to serve the LORD rather than trying to dictate how that service should look like.  We, as Christians, really need to stop trying to shame one another into worshipping God as we see fit.  Otherwise we are exactly like the Pharisees.

Jesus did not teach like the Rabbis of the Pharisees.  Jesus did not follow their traditions or man-made rules and laws of what worshipping God should look like.  The gospels are full of this battle of wills, of these demands the Pharisees made that Jesus conform to how they thought synagogue should look, sound like, and be lived out.  They were so outraged by Jesus’ nonconformity that they failed to see people drawing closer to God, repenting, and living a new life.  They murdered Jesus for this.  And we are still doing it today.

Church is about Jesus.  As Christians we need to be about Jesus.  And when we lobby accusations and insults at other Christians who are worshiping Jesus in a different way ….we become a Pharisee.  We put our preferences, our traditions, and our own opinions about how serving the LORD should look before the fact that this is really supposed to be all about Jesus.  When we do this we kill Jesus for the non-believer.  When we do this we kill Jesus to the skeptic watching on.  The world around us is killing Jesus enough on its own ….the children of God shouldn’t be helping them.  Stop throwing stones.  Stop giving the LORD a bad reputation by our own preferences.  Enough already.

Is the Pastor teaching the Bible?  Is the Church preaching the saving grace of Jesus Christ?  Is the Holy Spirit moving the people toward God?  If the answer is yes …then shut up about how you think things should be done.  Go to a church that suits your needs and worship and praise the LORD for providing us with so many ways to glorify Him!  Put your stones down.

If you don’t like a Pastor, then don’t like that Pastor.  Don’t help the world tear a servant of the LORD down by adding fuel.  Don’t go on various social media’s and spread contempt for the servants of the LORD.  You aren’t serving Jesus by doing this.  You aren’t glorifying God by doing this.  We need to put our feelings and opinions (our pride) aside and seek after the glory of the LORD first ….not the glory of ourselves and our opinions.  As Christians, we need to stop killing Jesus before the world who is definitely watching us crucifying our own.

“In the multitude of words sin is not lacking, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” (Proverbs 10:19)

 

“He who guards his mouth preserves his life, but he who opens wide his lips shall have destruction.” (Proverbs 13:3)

 

“Whoever guards his mouth and tongue keeps his soul from troubles.” (Proverbs 21:23)

“The heart of the righteous studies how to answer, but the mouth of the wicked pours forth evil.” (Proverbs 15:28)

“A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. “ (Proverbs 18:7)

“The discretion of a man makes him slow to anger, and his glory is to overlook a transgression.” (Proverbs 19:11)

“A fool vents all his feelings, but a wise man holds them back.” (Proverbs 29:11)

Eternal Manna

Last night I was feeling the tempting, and sinful pull of my various distractions.  I was feeling frustrated and despondent.  I wanted to sleep, but I knew I wouldn’t.  I didn’t want to take a sleeping pill.  I want to get out of the rut of depending on sleeping pills to sleep.  So my mind was coming up with all sorts of ways to ‘pass the time’ until I felt tired.  The passing of time is mostly just me escaping my life until my life is suitable and agreeable again … i.e. until I can go to sleep.  In the middle of one of my distractions I wasn’t feeling any better, any more sleepy and tired.  So I closed my eyes and prayed for help.  And in that moment I realized I just wanted Jesus.  So I went to the book of John and began to read.  Jesus helped soothe my mind by chapter 5 and I slept beautifully, soundly.

So when I got up this morning I felt well rested.  Rather than get up immediately I just spent some time talking with God.  I opened up the book of John to read chapter 6.  There is a section in this chapter that I have always struggled with.  So I can easily imagine the struggles the people who heard Jesus say these things had.  But as I read the passage this morning the Holy Spirit opened my heart and my mind … and I finally got it.  I finally understood what Jesus was saying.  So I want to write it down, to remember.  Who knows, it might help others who have struggled with this same passage.  Or you could completely disagree with me and the Holy Spirit can be working some other thoughts in your heart and mind.  Either way, considering the words of Jesus is never time ill spent.  So here is the handful of verses in John 6:25-59

                “When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”

Jesus answered them. “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.  For on him God the Father has set his seal.”

Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of god?”

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven.  For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world

They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.  And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believe in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.”  They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?  How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?”

Jesus answered hem, “Do not grumble among yourselves.  No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day.  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’  Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me—not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.  I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down from heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man gives us his flesh to eat?”

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Now I did not grow up as a devote Jew, but I still know that cannibalism is bad.  But the crowd of Jewish people who heard this had Scripture to guide them.  There are several places in the Old Testament where God gives commands not do eat the flesh of man.  God also gives a command never to eat meat that still has life’s blood in it.  That’s not to say we can’t eat rare steaks.  But we can’t eat meat that still has living blood in it, like eating the meat off of a living animal.  The Lord expressly forbids the drinking of blood, or the consumption of life’s blood in any way.  So if I, a dumb gentile, has stumbled through this teaching of Jesus …how much more did the Jews there stumble?  The disciples themselves say that this is a hard word to understand.

Then the Holy Spirit brought to my mind the beginning of John’s book.  John calls Jesus the Word of God.  Jesus is the living, breathing, incarnate Word of God.  Jesus himself says the only reason He lives is because of the Father.  Jesus emphatically and repeatedly says He is here to do the will of the Father.  His actions, His words, and His life are nothing more than the reflected will of God.  Which brings me back to Genesis, where the Lord says we are created in His image, to be His image bearers.  God the Father does not have a human form or body.  He is wholly spirit.  And if Jesus perfectly reflects that, He is not teaching about flesh and worldly things.  He is teaching about spirit things.

So how, and why, do I spiritually feed on Jesus’ flesh?  Jesus knew He was going to go to the cross.  He knew he would be beaten, scourged, and crucified.  His body, His flesh, would atone for every sin that everything and everyone has ever committed against God since the beginning of time until the end of time.  John the baptizer calls Jesus God’s atoning Lamb.  Jesus is a burnt offering to the LORD.  The perfect sacrifice.  Jesus repeatedly says this is the reason He came.  This is the very reason for His flesh.  This is the very reason He took on human form.  The only reason Jesus needed to have flesh for us to feast on is to atone for our trespasses.  So when he taught, “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.”  He was not telling me to actually eat his flesh, He was telling me to spiritually feast on the only reason He had flesh.  I am to spiritually consume, daily, His perfect atoning sacrifice on the cross.  I will get to why I know He tells me to do this daily in a moment.  I want to talk through the drinking of His blood.

The Old Testament was taught to the Jews from birth.  They knew that the Lord required blood as the payment of sin.  God said in the garden of Eden that sin would lead to death.  And God repeatedly teaches that life is in the blood.  So the only way to cover the death created by our sin is to cover it in life, to cover it with blood.  The life in the blood would wash away the stain of death.  And as I mentioned above Jesus is the perfect, sinless, spotless sacrifice.  Therefore His blood is perfect and everlasting.  Jesus calls himself the living sacrifice, which means He lives through His sacrifice.  His blood will never stop flowing, because only death can stop blood from flowing.  Jesus’ blood covers my sin.  I must continually wash myself with His blood.  The body of Christ covers my body on the outside, my flesh, in His righteousness.  The blood of Christ covers me inside, for my own blood is inside me.  His skin is my skin.  His blood is my blood.  I cannot live without either my skin or my blood.  I cannot hope to live eternally without Jesus’ skin and Jesus’ blood.

So why daily?  Because Jesus teaches me this by comparing Himself to manna.  When God brought Israel out of the land of Egypt, across the Red Sea, they had no food to eat.  They feared they would starve to death.  So they cried out to the Lord and God provided.  God gives them manna from heaven.  It dusts everything around them.  The Jews were to gather it to make bread.  Good commands them to only gather as much as they need for the day.  When a few of the Jews try to gather more than what they needed that day …the manna rotted.  God was teaching the Jews how to depend on Him daily for the very basic necessity of food.  The Lord will provide.  Yet all those Jews who ate this life giving bread in the wilderness still died.  None of them are still walking around today.  That’s because the manna was a gift of bread and life.  It was not an everlasting gift of bread that would lead to an everlasting gift of life.  Manna would rot after only a day.  The Jews could not depend on manna to live.  They needed to depend on the LORD.

That is why Jesus taught, “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”

Manna was never living.  It was a powder like substance that could be molded by human hands and turned into bread.  Eternal things are of God.  We cannot create eternal things.  We cannot alter, mold, or shape eternal things.  We are not little gods.  Jesus is saying that the Father is living, eternal, undying.  Jesus lives as the Father lives because the Father is in Him and He is in the Father.  Jesus is eternal.  Jesus died, but He did not stay dead.  That is why we do not know where He was buried.  Jesus isn’t there any more.  Jesus is the true manna from heaven, the ever living, ever eternal manna.  And just as the Jews at the manna to live in the wilderness … I must daily consume Jesus’ atonement for me in the wilderness of this world.

I know this might be a ‘no duh’ moment for some of you.  While these are things I have known, I have never really connected them to this very hard word.  I couldn’t see past the cannibalism I thought Jesus was calling these people to do.  This was one of those passages where I thought Jesus to be a little mean by giving such a hard word to the people.  But these were supposed to be godly Jews, who went to Synagogue every week.  They were to memorize the Old Testament.  These should have been things they knew.  They just didn’t have proper teachers.  Then there is the fact that Jesus is the perfect teacher.  He does not wish me to be a parrot of facts.  He does not want me to simply remember that  1+1 = 2.   He wants me to know why, and how that addition works so that I can apply the same idea to  2+2 to come up with the answer of 4.

So this was my ah-ha moment.  I no longer stumble over this piece of Scripture.  For that I am eternally grateful that the Holy Spirit took the time to teach me this morning.  And I find myself content, and at peace.  In this moment I feel completely loved by the LORD (Father, Son, and Holy Ghost).  And I am so grateful that They take the time to come spend a morning with me for a little Bible study.  I am no one doing nothing in the middle of nowhere.  But to God I am His daughter, and Jesus has time for all His children, and there is never a place the Holy Spirit cannot go or find.  Which makes me perfectly special to the LORD.  And that is a miracle I would like to never get over.

Heavenly Father and earthly father

In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name.” (Matthew 6:9)

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12)

                Talking to my earthly father is awkward at best.  We don’t have a bad relationship, but we don’t have a very good relationship.  I am trying to work on it, and I believe my father is too in his own way.  It is just that our ‘ways’ are so completely different.  It’s hard, and sometimes I get frustrated in sadness.  I want our relationship to be so great.  I want it to be like the relationship I hear my Pastor talk about having with his daughters.  But it’s not.  I am beginning to understand this yearning I feel for a wonderful relationship with my father is a fraction of the yearning my Heavenly Father must feel for me.

I am a pretty crappy daughter to my Heavenly Father.  Again, His ways and my ways are completely different.  He is holy and righteous and pure love … and I … well I rebel against Him, defy Him, and continually break His heart with my sin.  I cringe with this truth as I sit pretty on the thought that I am a pretty good daughter to my earthly father.  God hasn’t lied to me or about me.  God hasn’t betrayed me.  God has never hurt me.  God has never given up on me.  God always wants me around Him.  I am sitting here typing this out and I am completely at a loss why I don’t show as much devotion to the LORD as I do for my father who has done all those things.

I know it is easier to have a ‘good’ relationship with a father I am passingly involved with.  There is no real intimacy between my dad and me.  I seek intimacy with God.  As surreal as this sounds I actually think I know God better than my father; which isn’t saying a lot I know.  So I would like to ‘comfort’ myself with the idea that this somehow excuses all my failures.  It’s not true.  I know that.  I have a lot of sin when it comes to having God be Abba, Father.  And just sitting here now writing this I have to shamefully admit I actually have a lot of sin when it comes to my earthly father as well.

As confusing and frustrating as this all sounds to me I can take true comfort in one fact.  As a child of my father, and as a child of God, this will never change.  I will always be the daughter of my father, and the daughter of my God.  And, at least, in the relationship between Abba and myself He is perfect and not going to mess anything up.  My dad and I are good at that in our relationship.  I know I really need to try harder, and put more effort into our relationship.  Into both my relationships.  It is just so easy to be lazy with a dad who is equally lazy; and lazy with a Father who won’t ever leave, give up, or stop loving me.  And I really hate that I have to admit that.  But it is true.

“Jesus said to her, ‘Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17)

 “(16) And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God.  As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them.  I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’

(17) Therefore ‘Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.’  (18) ‘I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.’” (2 Corinthians 6: 16-18)

                Jesus is the only  One who can redeem both of my relationships.  For God could not receive me as I was: I was unclean.  Through the blood of Christ I am made clean.  Because of the blood of Christ I am a living temple that the Holy Spirit can live within.  Thus Abba, Father will always draw me near.  I can be separate from the world on my life journey of sanctification.  Since Jesus has ascended I can cling to Him.  I need to cling to Him.  I need to bury myself so deep inside of Him so that I can do a better job of reflecting the glory of God.  This is perfect hope for an imperfect sinner.

With my earthly father things aren’t so much like that.  He will hurt me.  I will hurt him.  He will ignore me.  I will ignore him.  We will skirt around each other in a dance of acquaintances.  I don’t want that.  I don’t think he wants that.  Jesus is the only way to get closer to my dad.  Learning about Christ, how He related to God as His Father, will help mold me a path to follow to my dad.  Learning to love and forgive like Christ can continue to change me into a new creation so that I can better love and forgive my father.  I just can’t be lazy.  I don’t want to be lazy.  I really need to be in continually prayer for the Holy Spirit to take away this laziness.

Loved by God; Loving God

“I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people.” (Leviticus 26:12)

“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. ‘“ (Revelation 21:3)

                I heard this verse today listening to a CD by Ghost Ship, a Christian band.  It stuck with me and I began to think about all the times God has spoken these words.  You will be MY people.  I will be your God.  I have heard this saying often enough so I assumed I fully understood its meaning.  I mean of course God will be our God.  He is the only God, so it naturally makes sense.  So instead I always pondered on what it means to be His people.  I have made up lists in my head of all the things I should be doing as a possession of God.  But it wasn’t until today that I was sort of struck dumb by the second half of that statement.  God will be my God.

What does that mean?  And how super huge is that meaning?  When I was a pagan I chose my god.  Since I chose my god it was more of a bartering relationship.  I would pray/worship to my god in return for blessings, protection, healing, strength, love, knowledge, foresight … “fill in the blank”.  Then there was the whole other aspect that this god was lucky enough for me to allow him/her into the story of my life.  I decided their worth and importance.  Yahweh, however, is not like that.  My relationship with the LORD is completely different.  I knew this on the surface, but the Holy Spirit really struck me with a deeper understanding of what this means.

First off, I didn’t chose the Great “I AM”.  I did not hunt down the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.  The LORD chose me.  The Almighty God hunted me down.  And I can promise you it was a long hunt.   This very simple statement completely blows my mind.  I mean who am I that the Creator of the heavens and the earth would diligently and personally seek me out?  The God of the Bible wanted me.  He desired me and loved me before I was ever born.  Even though He knew of everything I would do against Him, and in spite of my efforts to defy Him, He didn’t give up on me.  I was chosen to be His daughter.  I am pretty sure the old me would have viewed this all with a great deal of pride.  But now, knowing I deserve wrath, hell, and damnation, I am struck to my heart with bewildered awe.  I feel so deeply humbled by His grace.

That grace is limitless and all consuming.  The LORD doesn’t barter; the LORD loves.  He told me He would be my God.  He told He would be my Father.  There is so much responsibility wrapped up in those two words.  I don’t have kids; I only have cats, and so that is all I can knowingly compare it too.  I get to feed my pets, shelter them, and care for them when they are sick.  I also get to play with my pets.  I get to spoil them with loving affection.  I get to hold them, snuggle them, and shower them with kisses.  The concept that God gets to do all these things with me is mind blowing.  And He loves me in a much more fantastically perfect way.  Sure there are times when my cats need to be squirted with water, or given a light swat; but just because I do either of these things doesn’t mean I love them any less.  Which means God doesn’t love me any less.  My cats are my babies, my treasures.  And I feel uncomfortably undeserving to know and better understand that I am a better, more important treasure to my Heavenly Father.

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37)

I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world.  They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.” (John 17:6)

                God gave me as a gift to Jesus.  As Pastor Dave Bruskus said, “I am God’s gift to God.”  Which is pretty WOW.  I know I have never really looked at myself as anyone’s gift to anyone.  God, however, has deemed me so important to Him.  Not only was I a gift to Jesus, Jesus promises to never cast me out.  I will never be put in a garage sell, re-gifted, or taken back to the store.  Jesus is going to keep me.  I am that important to Him.  I am that loved by Him.  The LORD has consumed the story of my life into His story.  Being held by Jesus completely drenches me in His plans and purposes.  If I couple that with the responsibility God has already taken for me I come to realize how much He already engulfed me if I just let Him carry me along.  Saying all this, typing this all out, it baffles me why I resist my LORD so stubbornly and continually.  It’s not my life any more.  I have been purchased, and given as a gift, to Christ by the blood of Christ.  Again, WOW!

“Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.’” (John 14:23)

                I am just so amazed right now.  I am completely in love with the LORD.  To be loved so thoroughly, cherished so deeply, treasured so fully, and esteemed so highly by the very Creator of well everything … it is just … UGH!  So wonderfully much blissfully heaven!  I don’t know how to put it into words.  And when someone understands this about the LORD, gets that this is how our Almighty Father feels about each of His children … how can you not fall completely in love with Him?  How can I not worship Him?  This makes my heart ache so deliciously.  I love God the Father.  I love God the Son.  I love God the Holy Spirit.

God loves me so much He wants to live in me.  God the Holy Spirit has taken root in me.  I am never forgotten nor abandoned nor forsaken because the LORD lives in me.  He is always with me.  They say home is where the heart is, and the LORD has told me His home will be with me.  His heart is in me, with me.  I understand a little better now when the Bible speaks of the believer living in Christ.  Because Christ is my home; Jesus is where my heart is.  So being a daughter in the people of God actually has nothing to do with the lists I make up in my head.  It is about a loving, covenantal  relationship with my God.  I knew that before, but I understand it a little deeper now.  Thank you, LORD, for sharing Yourself with me!

The Good Shepherd

“(7) Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (8) All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. (9) I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.  (10) The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy.  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.

(11) I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. (12) But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them.  (13) The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.  (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. (17) Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.  This command I have received from My Father.” (John 10:7-18)

 

Today is Palm Sunday, a day I only half sort of got and understood growing up as a child.  I have been a Christian for about four years now and I really didn’t get the significance of it until this year.  Today is the day Jesus road into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey.  This day was predicted hundreds of years before it happened.  It was predicted that it would occur on the very day it did occur which is why the people were waiting for the Messiah to show up.  And there Jesus of Nazareth was, on the back of a donkey.  Which is the exact way it was predicted He would enter.

It was a big deal.  The crowd was huge.  People were laying down palm branches for Jesus’ donkey to walk upon—which is where you get Palm Sunday from—as well as their cloaks.  And people only had one cloak.  So they put down their one and only cloak to get trampled on, caked and embedded with dirt and urine and animal waste.  This wasn’t a light gesture……but it would prove to be a heartless and thoughtless one in a few days.  But today throngs of people were gathering and singing out to the Lord, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  The King of Israle!”  The people were pumped and excited.  They had all just declared Jesus God, something He had been saying Himself for a while now.

Ne part of the story I had always heard, but hadn’t understood, until today was that the Pharisees were very upset.  They told Jesus to tell the people to stop saying these things.  Then Jesus told the Pharisees that even if the people were to stop the very rocks would declare it.  So in my mind I never understood why Jesus didn’t tell the people to shut up so the rocks would declare it.  How much more of a miracle would that be?  That would be awesome!  Creation itself would acknowledge God before man.  So I just always thought that God didn’t want to perform on command for the Pharisees another miracle they wouldn’t believe.  I didn’t get what Jesus was saying or showing.  It went right over my head until today when Pastor Phil spoke about it.

The rocks are the lesser miracle.  Creation, in all its glory, is always glorifying God and acknowledging Him as Lord and Christ.  The bigger miracle is when a sinner, fallen, enemy of God can turn away from himself and from Satan….repent….and look toward the Good Shepherd….and say You are Christ!  You are God!  You are my Savior, my Hope, and my Salvation!  My witness, my testimony, my voice crying out to Jesus as Savior is more of a miracle than a rock.  Because it wasn’t a rock that was crying out “CRUCIFY HIM!”  It was me.  The rocks already know who Christ is.  I am the one who stumbles and has troubles.  I am the one who had to be sought, bought, and saved.  I am the one in need of a Shepherd.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He did seek me out among the crags in the wilderness when I was lost, alone, hurt, and broken.  He picked me up and He is still carrying me home.  And He is carrying me with scarred hands, and walking on scarred feet.  And so when I read this passage today with the Our Daily Bread meditation I was struck by another thought.  Jesus knew He would die.  He spoke of it more than once.  He spoke of it here.   He said He would lay down His life for the sheep in His flock.  But He also said He was laying down His life for the sheep that weren’t yet in His flock…….but sheep that still belonged to Him.  Sheep like me.  Jesus said that no one would force Him to lay down His life, but that He would do it of His own accord.  He would lay it down because He wanted to, and then He would take it back up.  All because the Father commanded Him.  Jesus had the power and authority granted to Him by the Father; by my Heavenly Father.

So that means as I road in on that donkey, listening to the crowd He knew that in about 5 days He would be struggling to walk that street.  People who were throwing down palm branches and cloaks to cover the ground so the hooves of the donkey He road wouldn’t be dirty….soon would be spitting on His raw back as He left a trickled blood trail toward Calvary.  I can’t imagine what that donkey ride was like for Him.  I can’t imagine what it was like to witness the miracle of testimony of faith, knowing it was greater than rocks singing……..and knowing it was empty and meaningless.  I don’t know how Jesus smiled that day.  I don’t know how He hugged children, prayed for people.  I wonder if He shuddered, even just once, when He crossed over the spot where He would fall face first in the dirt with the cross across His shoulders….at the place where Simon would then have to carry it.

I don’t know how He did it.  On Palm Sunday Jesus was still the Good Shepherd looking for lost sheep.  On the last few days between Palm Sunday and Good Friday Jesus was still out there, calling out for His sheep.  We do know His voice.  He didn’t lie about that.  I have heard it; and trust me I wasn’t listening for it.  But I did know it when I heard it.  Jesus is still searching.  I was still found.  I am still being carried.  I can still touch scarred hands and kissed scarred feet.

And on Good Friday Jesus wasn’t dragged to the cross, or forced into the wolf’s den.  Jesus boldly walked up to the wolf.  Jesus followed the wolf home without fear or hesitation.  He approached the wolf without weapons, without defenses, and without armies.  Jesus sought out the wolf on his home territory, stood right in his face, and essentially said……give me your best shot.  Do your worst.  I dare you.  I can take it.

And the wolf was confused at first, put on a trial, waiting to see if Jesus would lash out.  Would Jesus bring down Holy fire from the heavens to wipe him out?  Would Christ fight back?  So the attack began, slowly at first.  But it built, and as it built it became more brutal.  Jesus took it.  He stood there.  He didn’t lash out.  He didn’t defend Himself.  He didn’t call down a heavenly host of angels.  He didn’t wipe the wolf from existence.  He let the wolf do his very worst unto Jesus’ death.  And the wolf danced away, believing he had won.  That the Messiah hadn’t been prepared for that kind of ‘worst’.

Three days later the stone was rolled away.  The tomb was empty.  And Jesus was alive.  And the wolf had to face the bitter truth that he wasn’t the one who took Jesus’ life…….Jesus was the one who gave it up.  And Jesus is the one who gave it back.  That the wolf’s most powerful tool…….that the wolf’s most destructive force…….death…..has no power what so ever over Christ.  The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost rule and reign over death as well.  So in bitter defeat the wolf slunk away.  Now he just lashes out more viciously……..trying to rip as many of us from God as he can.

You see Satan doesn’t care if you miss heaven by an inch….or by a mile.  Just as long as you miss out on being shepherded into the flock of Christ.  I had never thought of the wolf in that way before today.  There are a lot of first thoughts for me today.  But of all my thoughts I am very glad that the one to remain true and fast in my mind is that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd.  He knows my name, and I know His voice

Truth

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

I have this quote beneath my profile picture on Facebook. I have put it there in the hopes that when people read it, it might plant a seed somewhere in their hearts and souls. This quotes points out a very harsh truth. It is a truth I have tried to bend, twist, break, and downright ignore at different points in my life. And just so you will stop guessing, the bitter truth this quote points out is that there is Truth. There is Truth in this world; a divine Truth that Jesus spent his life teaching, and a truth that Jesus was tortured to give to us. And I am completely, shamefully, humbled by how often I pass by the magnitude of this one simple fact that we all strive so hard to complicate. There is Truth. Jesus is that truth. Our Christ is the way, the Truth, and the life.

This world is literally hell bent on trying to convince us, and itself, that there is no such thing as truth. I once bought into that; I had a ticket on that train and enjoyed all the wines it provided in first class. I have told people that truth is completely subjective. That my truth is not the same truth as anyone else’s because it is my own. I had convinced myself, and therefore tried to convince others that truth is based on your own perception and life experiences. I cringe at how deeply I bought into that lie. I shudder to think of the hearts and souls I might have convinced of my own bull pucky.

I was wrong. I was very, very wrong. I don’t care what the world says. I don’t care what I used to say. I am coming to a point in my life where I can no longer excuse the lies and hope for the best. And I am ready to stand with my Lord and Savior. I am finally comfortable with the way people rail at me. I no longer feel the urge to rail back. I am ready, and willing, to stand with only the most powerful written words in all of history – The Holy Bible – at my back. I don’t need this worlds sciences and man’s discoveries to tell me that what is written in the Bible is True. Jesus told me that. Jesus told me He is the truth.

There is only one True God and He is the Great I Am. He is the God of Abraham and Isaac. He created the world in seven days. God did not create the world millions and billions of years ago. God created man first, in His image. Woman was created to be man’s companion. We are all decedents of Adam and Eve. The Almighty wiped out all the world, save for Noah’s family, in a flood that covered the entire planet. Our God produced the plagues of Egypt. My God parted the Red Sea and gave manna from the heavens. I do believe Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to my Savior. I do believe Jesus is the Son of God. I do believe in every miracle Jesus performed. And I know, without a doubt, that I was in Christ’s heart when He was up there on that cross. He died for my sins. He allowed himself to be tortured, beaten, and crucified for me. And for you. He knew we would be alive one day and He did this for us. For all of us. For me. And I believe the only way, the only way, to get into Heaven to be with God for all eternity is through Jesus Christ.

I believe these things because Jesus is the Truth. I do not believe Jesus lies. He taught the multitudes the Old Testament. If Jesus is the Truth I do not believe He would teach out of a book that was false. Christ Jesus is the Son of God and God does not make mistakes. I know this. In my heart and soul I know this is Truth. I know Jesus is Truth.

The knowing is a struggle at times, but the consequences for me are much harder. In knowing that my Lord and Savior is Truth; and that all He says is true, terrifies me. I know too many people who think their good works will earn them God’s favor. I know too many people who say, “I’m a good person. If there is a heaven God will let me in because I’ve lived a good life.” I was once one of those people. I was once convinced that as long as a person lived a good life, did good things, and was generally a good person that they would find their way into heaven. I want to believe that so I will see them in heaven.

The Truth is you have to have a ‘ticket’ to get into Heaven. To be with the Father. And we can’t buy those tickets. No amount of money, no amount of good works, no amount of shallow obedience and false worship will buy you that ticket. The Truth is Christ’s blood bought those tickets. You can only get a ticket into Heaven through the blood of Christ. Jesus repeatedly tells us this. He says it plainly in the quote above. No one goes to the Father unless they know Christ. And you can’t know Christ if you haven’t accepted the Truth of who He is. And that terrifies me.

It terrifies me because if you do not spend eternity in Heaven that leaves only one other place. Hell. If you are not with God the Father, Christ the Son, and the Holy Ghost you are really only with one other person. And that is the Truth. Jesus came down to this world to spread the Truth to save us for the next life, not this earthly life. He came to give us the Truth of eternity, to save us from ourselves so when everything comes to an end we will have a home in Heaven.

And that is the Truth because that is what Jesus has taught us. Anyone and everyone can argue, rail, and curse at the Truth all the want. It doesn’t change the fact it is Truth. Nothing I can do or say changes the Truth. Nothing anyone can do or say can change the Truth. And if for your multitude of reasons you turn your back on the Truth, choose not to believe the Truth; that doesn’t make the Truth any less real nor does it excuse you from being held accountable for the Truth. It is True whether or not you believe it.

Christ did not come to this world to allow for variations or perceptions. He did not come down and suffer all that He suffered to have a wishy washy line of what is needed to spend all eternity with Him. Christ came to this world, and suffered all the stench of sinful humanity to save us from ourselves. He said it multiple times. He has stated it clearly in so many places in the Gospel. But none more simply and succinctly than in that quote above. If you believe in Christ, and know Jesus is not a liar. We therefore have to accept His truth. No one gets into Heaven unless they pass through the blood Christ Jesus spilled for us.

We can’t make up excuses to bend that truth. I can’t make up perceptions and alternatives for what my Savior has told me is true. It shatters my heart to know I will not see many of the people I know in Heaven with me. Unless I do something about it. Unless I stop making excuses to make the Will of my Savior ‘nicer’ or ‘prettier’ or more ‘pc’. Jesus did not come down to indulge our selfish ways. He came down to show us a better way. A way that will lead to everlasting life in Heaven.

So if I just sit here, sheltered in the blood of Christ, mourning the loss of those I love …do I really hold the Truth of Christ in my heart? Will I be able to stand before God and say I did my best? If I met my Holy Father today could I honestly do anything than fall on my face in shame?

I want you to know the Truth of Christ. I want you to know I am a horrific sinner just like you. I want you to be washed clean every second of every day because Jesus bought you a ticket. He bought you a ticket with a seat right beside mine. And I want you to be on this train. I want you to know the Truth. This Truth reaches beyond this world, beyond our skin, beyond the marrow of our bones to resonate in the deepest places of ourselves. I want you to share in this feast for the soul.

I can’t care what the world says or feels. I can’t be timid or afraid of your rage and hatred of me because of this Truth. I can’t fear your offense. Too much is at stake. Jesus spoke the Truth. He is the way, the Truth, and the life. And you cannot meet the Father, or spend forever with me in Heaven, unless I tell you this Truth. Unless I bring the Truth of Christ right to you. Because I love you.

I am ready to walk in the light of Truth. I’ll probably screw it up now and again. But I know it’s okay. Because you are worth the effort. All of you are worth the effort. Christ, the living Truth and Light of this world, was not above serving you and laying down His life for you. What kind of Saint and Disciple would I be if I only wrote about His Truth, and did not live it as well? Not a very good one I assure you.

So please. I know what the world says. I know what society says. I know what my own selfish heart has said in the past. There is a Truth. There is One True God. He is the Creator of everything. He gave you a manual on how to live your life. He gave you His only Son as the perfect Teacher who lived as one of us. Don’t believe the Truth because I say it is True. Pick up a Bible. Read the Holy Words with an open heart. The Holy Spirit will do the rest. And I’ll try much harder to offer all that I can to help you reach His Truth.