Tag Archives: purpose

It Is Not About Going to Heaven

Cross & Crown

Not only is Easter not about the Easter bunny, colored eggs, jellybeans or chocolate, but Easter is also not about having our sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. It’s not about us. It’s about reconciliation. It is not about religion. It’s about a relationship.

In an attempt to evangelize and convince people to become a Christian, some Christians have been taught to use the tactic that asks a non-Christian, “If you died today, would you go to heaven?” as if that is the goal and the Gospel itself. I understand that people are generally more interested in getting to heaven than in having a relationship with a God they don’t know or of Whom they have a skewed perception. Most people are at least vaguely aware of the concept of heaven and hell, and most would like to avoid hell if at all possible.

But even paradise isn’t really paradise without someone to share it with.

I understand why some Christians use the tactic to gain an audience, but I have also heard from people who have been offended by Christians who tell them if they don’t accept Christ, they are going to hell. Yeah, like that wins them over. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember Jesus ever doing that, and if we are supposedly following Him as His disciples, aren’t we supposed to be following in His footsteps? Sure Jesus talked more about hell than He did about heaven, but He was full of grace and love when dealing with those He was trying to reach.

One of the things Jesus said to the disciples in the upper room, during the Last Supper before His crucifixion, was meant to give comfort and hope. Although it was about heaven, it was more than that. He said:

“’Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.’” —John 14:1-3

Jesus didn’t die on the cross for our sins so we could go to heaven.

He died so that we can be reconciled to God.

He died to break the curse of sin and separation.

He died so that we can be adopted as sons and daughters and

live forever

with Him.

D.A. Carson said:

“We go to heaven, not to be saved, but to see Jesus’ glory, because God has determined, because of His love for His Son from before the foundation of the world, that His Son’s glory would be displayed. Now, I know that’s bound up with our salvation… but unless you see that this is not simply so that we will be saved, but so that we will see Jesus’ glory, then even heaven itself becomes slightly domesticated by some assumptions that we are at the center of everything, when it’s Jesus who is at the center of everything.”

When we try to convince someone that Jesus is the way to get to heaven and make heaven the focus over a restored relationship with the God who loves us, we do a disservice.

It is not about going to heaven. It is about getting to spend an eternity with the One who is love.

 

If you liked this, you might also like… Happy Resurrection Day!


Standing on a Stepping Stone

“A stepping stone will do no good if you decide to stand on it.”  —Max Tardie

“A stepping stone will do no good if you decide to stand on it.” —Max Tardie

As many of us do at the end of each year, I have been looking back over the past year to consider where I was a year ago, what has impacted me, and what direction I want to take. Although I may not be exactly where I had hoped to be at this time last year, I am grateful for the things I have accomplished and experienced and have learned along the way.

One of the best quotes on the subject of change I have come across this year is this:

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” —Socrates, a character in Way of the Peaceful Warrior: A Book That Changes Lives by Dan Millman

One of the things I feel really good about accomplishing is something I had wanted to do for years. In May of this year, I started a series on my blog called ‘Wisdom Wednesday’. Not only has it helped me deepen my understanding and added to my collection of wisdom, but it seems to have been a blessing to others as well.

There is one thing I haven’t yet solidified. When we pay attention and look for ways to overcome obstacles in this journey through life, sometimes we’ll come across stepping stones or bridges to help us navigate through rough or uncertain places. Max Tardie said, “A stepping stone will do no good if you decide to stand on it.” In some ways I feel like that’s what I’ve done in one or two areas of my life while trying to decide what to do. I don’t want to go back, but neither do I have any desire to remain standing on a stepping stone in the middle of a bog.

One of the things that made an impression on me this past year is a quote from the movie The Last Samurai.

“They are an intriguing people. From the moment they wake they devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue. I have never seen such discipline. I am surprised to learn that the word Samurai means, ‘to serve’…” —Algren

Being sort of a ‘Jill-of-many-trades-and-master-of-none’, I tried to decide to which of my many interests I could devote myself in order to perfect it. I love photography, and although I have devoted a little more time to learning the craft and have changed direction a bit, I am far from mastering it. I also love typography and have played around with that a bit more as well in conjunction with photography. I have dabbled in making jewelry, learning to knit, I sometimes draw and paint, and, of course, I am a blogger, so I have tried to become a better writer, too. I also love Jesus and I want to be more like Him— loving, serving, winsome, meek, humble, wise, and faithful— so I have devoted time to studying the Bible, reading books, and listening to teachings, not to mention communing with Him as well. I am grateful for my daughter who has more opportunities to read and has recommended a few books, and I am grateful for all the personal and tangible ways in which He has communicated His love for me. I think, though, that striving to be more like Jesus is different than pursuing the perfection of a skill, a talent that He Himself has given, don’t you?

So here I am.

I feel like I’m standing on a stepping stone still trying to decide what to do. Should I continue to pursue photography and typography combining them, along with my pursuit of Jesus, with blogging? Or should I give up one in order to devote more time to another? I think I need to finish reading the book I’m currently reading called Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will by Kevin DeYoung.


Feeling Ill-Equipped?

ImageHave you ever felt ill-equipped for something?  My daughter is preparing for a once-in-a-lifetime trip with some friends.  Part of her adventure will include hiking in Nepal, and the friend who invited her, gave a mandatory assignment— a book to read called Trekking in the Everest Region.  Having gone on only one other fairly significant hiking trip, and nothing like Everest, and after reading part way through the book, she remarked at how very grateful she is and how much more equipped she feels with the knowledge she’s been given.

I was reminded of how so many of today’s Christians feel ill-equipped, and I think it’s partly the church’s fault.  Yes, we, as individuals, are responsible, too, to read the Book and equip ourselves with knowledge, especially if we live in a country in which we are free to own a Bible and freely worship.  But the purpose of Christ’s gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers is to equip “the saints for the work of the ministry and for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).  (Some translations use the word perfecting rather than equipping, but the sense of the Greek word is to make a person complete or adequate for what is required.  2 Timothy 3:17 uses the same root word when it says, “That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works”.)

I have often heard Christians say, “Why haven’t I ever heard that taught before?” or “I didn’t know that was in the Bible.”  A few people have even said, “You’ve helped me understand more in a short of amount of time than all the years I’ve been in church.”  On one such occasion we were discussing the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man— not a simple subject and one I don’t fully understand myself.  So hearing a number of pastors and teachers over the years say, “People just don’t want to hear the Word of God anymore,” —a comment invariably made when attendance begins to dwindle, hearing it is discouraging, because blame is being laid squarely on the people.  While I think the assertion may be true to some degree, when I consider people I’ve talked with and some of the churches whose leaders are breaking away from three-points-and-a-prayer sermons and doing more teaching than preaching, as well as practicing and encouraging discipleship as part of the Great Commission, rather than primarily encouraging church attendees to be a witness and invite people to church to hear the gospel and get saved— when I consider these things, I have observed people who do want to hear the Word of God and become better equipped, effective and more confident to walk and journey through life.

If you’ve been feeling ill-equipped, don’t wait for someone to equip you.  Read the Book.  And if you have questions or there’s something you don’t understand, ask the Holy Spirit and find someone who has already been there, like my daughter’s friend.


A Family Is Like a Ship

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Years ago I read an article that compared a family to a ship.  Although I don’t agree with everything he teaches, I found the article Jumping Ship (Part 2):  Stagnant and Unpromising  by Michael Pearl very intriguing.  He likens the family to a ship with a captain and a crew.  Each ship may be different, but in order to keep its crew, it needs to have a clear purpose with each member involved in fulfilling its mission and reaching its destination.  And it must provide some source of entertainment along with rewarding labor.  If the crew sees other ships passing by that appear to be going somewhere while they just float along or remain stagnant… or if they notice the crews on other ships having fun while they seem to just work or have nothing to do, the captain risks having them jump overboard to join other ships that actually appear to be enjoyably going somewhere.  I realized this could apply to church families as well.

How’s your crew?  Are they looking to book passage on a different ship, or do they have the confidence to believe their ship is going somewhere and doing something worthwhile?

Just Checking In

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Hey!  We’re halfway through January.  How are you doing on those New Year’s resolutions?  Are you using the bucket strategy?  I am, and so far it’s working.  I’m even doing a bit better in other areas as well, but I can feel the temptation to allow things to slip.  If you’re still hanging in there, way to go!!  But if you have abandoned your goals, it’s not too late to get back on track.

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What causes us to sometimes give up or lose sight of our goals?  Could it possibly be we just don’t want them bad enough, or do we get distracted by something else that gives us temporary satisfaction?  Care to share your experiences or observations?


Reflections and Musings

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Purpose.

Being transformed by the renewing of the mind.

Breathing.

As so many often do at this time of year, I have been reflecting on this past year, the events and people who have impacted me, and the things I have learned.  Purpose, being transformed by the renewing of the mind, and breathing have been more recent topics that have been at the forefront.  While I cannot list everything that has impacted me this past year, I thought I would list the top ones.

Motivation.  What really motivates me?  What motivates you?  Not what you or I think motivates us, but what really does?  How can we tell?  The top quote for me this year was by Matt Chandler, pastor of The Village Church.  In his sermon Fig Leaves, Lies and the Grace of God he said, “Whether you understand the motivations of your heart or not, really what’s driving your actions, and what’s driving your life and how you fill your day, actually comes back to what you believe is actually going to bring about the most fullness of life possible for you.”  So… how do you fill your days?

Attitude.  Attitude reflects leadership.  In a team, company, organization, or family, the attitudes of those being led will generally reflect the attitudes of those leading.  If there is mistrust at the top, there will tend to be mistrust all around.  If there is enthusiasm and a team spirit, it will be reflected with lots of positive attitudes, energy, and respect.  I want to reflect a good attitude for those who look to me for any type of leadership, and I never want to automatically blame others if their attitude is less than what I am hoping for.

Purpose.  Another blogger wrote she didn’t think we necessarily need to have a purpose, that maybe our purpose is just being here and enjoying what we have, and that life doesn’t need a goal; it is a goal itself.  I disagree.  The Bible says without vision (or guidance), the people perish (Proverbs 29:18).  Without vision or purpose, life is either chaotic or stationary.  My daughter once related an article she had read, which listed reasons Okinawans tend to be, not only the longest lived, but also with a better quality of life.  One of those reasons is they have a deep sense of purpose and responsibility, and it makes them feel like an important part of the larger community.  Having purpose is life-giving.

Being transformed by the renewing of the mind.  The outside won’t truly change until the inside is first renewed.  If you find yourself unable to change, you probably need to change what you believe is true.  Change what and how you think, and the rest will take care of itself.

Breathe.  Don’t forget to breathe.  It feels good, and it is good for you.

Balance.  Balance is something we all try to maintain.  This year I’ve been trying to balance between taking care of myself and not becoming selfish.  When I was a young woman, I remember seeing older women deserting their families.  They said, “I’ve taken care of everyone else for so many years, and now it’s time for me to take care of me!”  I don’t want to be that woman.  I know it’s important that we take care of ourselves and not neglect our own needs, but I never want to go so far that I would abandon my family just to please myself.

Blessing.  I can’t remember who said it, but the basic idea was when you bless someone, you add or reveal the value of another person.  When we bless someone by giving them a gift, spending time with them, or serving them in some way, or even if we look them in the eye and smile, it says, “You are valuable.  You are worth it.”

Stand fast.  Don’t let anyone talk you out of what you know is true or into what you know is false.  Don’t even waver.  Just stand your ground, or you will eventually find yourself on the ground and in the mud.

Become better, not bitter.  We can allow situations to make us become either better or bitter.  The Bible says that a root of bitterness can cause many to become defiled (Hebrews 12:15).  Misery loves company, and complaining can become contagious and promote negativity.  Not only that, but if our bitterness becomes too obnoxious, it can cause others to become bitter toward us.  Becoming better is so much more advantageous and attractive.

Perspective.  “We don’t see things the way they are.  We see things the way we are.”  —The Talmud.

Don’t give up!  I was able to volunteer this past summer at Union Rescue Mission, one of the largest homeless missions in the country, located on Skid Row.  When I talked to Jenny Kershner, who is in charge of their Learning Center, about people relapsing, a statement she made surprised me.  She said, “Sometimes relapsing is a good thing to help a person solidify the decision to change and fully rely on God.”  Steve Cobb, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, NC told a crack addicted friend, “Never, ever give up!”  And he didn’t.

I am grateful for Evan Sanders, author of The Better Man Project, for his inspirational and motivational posts.  If it were not for his post entitled What I’ve Learned, I would be composing this tomorrow, or not at all, because I might have waited too long without writing anything down, allowing the inspirational juices to drain.  Thank you, Evan!


This Is Love: A Conversation With a Modern-Day Roman

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Yeah, I know it’s almost Christmas, but we would have no Resurrection Day apart from the birth of our Savior.  So I thought this would be an appropriate time to share a conversation I had almost five years ago with a skeptical, modern-day Roman in response to the photo above.

sara y tzunky:  Why this is love????? To die is love? To be beaten is love? Not try to save itself is love? To walk around with a cross on his shoulder is love? Why this need of the blood to demonstrate love? Why this need of shoving the worst and not the wonderful of this world to give love? I never understood.

Me:  sara y tzunky, is there anyone you love so much you would be willing to give your life to save theirs?

The Bible says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Sin is ‘lawlessness’ (1 John 3:4); it is any violation of the law or character of God. It is basically saying to God, “I don’t like Your rules, so I’m going to do what I want to do.” The penalty is death.

The Bible says that all have sinned and have come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all deserve death because none of us have lived up to God’s law. We have a difficult time just keeping ten of them, much less the two greatest: Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-39).

The only One who could pay the price… the penalty… for our sin was the perfect Son of God, Jesus Christ, the Messiah. Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Not only did Jesus teach about love, but He demonstrated His love by being willing to suffer under the sinful, violent hands of mankind to save those who would accept His sacrifice as a gift of eternal life. He did that for you.

sara y tzunky:  Thanks for your answer, dear SweetCapture.
I am sorry but I believe you don’t understand.
The penalty of sin is death. In which sense? Following the Bible’s standards I am a sinner. I am writing to you so you can observe that I am not still death. So what?
You said: Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” This is exactly the point! For yours believes God and his son Jesus are omnipotent so they had the possibility to choice the way to forgive your past sins. So why they don’t choose something more happy and positive? Like I don’t know, transport all of us another time in the Garden of Haven or for example give a big party inviting every man and woman and explaining to them that is better to live in a life of love and peace. Why blood blood blood blood and blood?
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13). Perfect I agree. And better is a God that created sin, that eliminates sin (or you believe that there is something that God actually had not created?). Big amount of love in this case! So why Jesus doesn’t lay down his life not to die but to work hard doing something like eliminate from this planet materially sin forever and ever? Why all this publicity for hate and death? Why all this publicity for the cruel Romans? Why not to show something of peaceful, just to explain like the thing should go? Why blood blood blood murders crosses, studs, swords, armies, power and poverty? Why not life love peace, prosperity, food, happiness eternal life, freedom, beauty of nature, speaking with birds etc etc? I repeat they are God and they can do whatever they want.
Thanks for your attention

Me:  sara y tzunky, I understand the confusion since Adam and Eve did not immediately die a physical death. Death means ‘separation’, whether it is a physical separation of the body and spirit, or whether it is a relational separation of people and people, or people and God. Before Adam and Eve sinned, they had personal and close fellowship with God, and they could have lived forever, because they had the tree of life. After they sinned, because they separated themselves from God out of guilt and fear, and because of God’s holiness, they lost that close fellowship. The literal translation of Genesis 2:17 is “dying you shall die”, so while they didn’t die immediately, they were in the process of dying until they eventually died. They no longer had the Tree of Life and close fellowship with God to sustain them.

God had given them only one commandment. Just one. He had provided everything they needed in a beautiful garden… everything was good. The only thing forbidden to them was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They ate its fruit because they wanted to become gods… equal with their Creator, rather than trust that He knew what was best. They wanted to do what they wanted to do. God had warned them of the consequences, but they chose to believe the serpent rather than God. They rebelled and brought evil and death into the world. God did not create sin. God’s character is one of law and order. Remember, the Bible says that sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4). A God of law and order cannot act contrary to His nature. Sin is the absence of law and order, so it is not something that is ‘created’ but something (law and order) that is taken away or disregarded.

If you tell a child not to touch fire, and they touch it, the consequence is not happy and positive. They get burned… sometimes badly. It doesn’t matter how much the child is sorry for disobeying, s(he) will still suffer for making that wrong choice.

Why the publicity for hate and death? Because mankind, even to this day, believes we can choose or evolve to become better. Jesus was peaceful and taught about love, obedience, peace… yet the violence within men’s hearts brutally killed Him. It revealed the true nature of mankind. And because God could offer forgiveness for such a horrible act, it reveals God’s matchless love and mercy. All other religious effort is man seeking God…only Biblical Christianity reveals a loving God seeking after fallen Mankind. Those who choose to believe what He has said about Himself and accept His gift of eternal life, will live a life of love, peace, prosperity, happiness, freedom, and beauty with Him in Heaven.

sara y tzunky:  Dear SweetCapture,
How it is nice to discuss with you about Love on a Flickr page. For me Love or love is LOVE not Death. And Death is Death not separation or something else. The word “death” was used in every time to scare simple peoples. If you or the ones who wrote your Bible want to mean separation why they didn’t use the word separation? They use death, blood, fire, eternal pain and other pleasantness to scare and bend people. Another thing: if Jesus comes to erase yours sins why in the sense of your Holy text you are still doomed to die? Something didn’t work well or what?
I think that you continue not to understand what I have said. But this is surely the fault of my English. I sorry I am from Italy, Rome: I am a Roman. So I will use the word of a great ancient philosopher, Epicurus: “Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent –and he is not a God-. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?”. So we came back to the first point: if it exists a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, if there is blood death and destruction, if there is a bad nature of mankind is because God want it -supposing naturally that God exists and he is like the Bible depict him-. So if there is a man dying nailed to a cross is because God want it. For this reason I believe that this is not love, this wickedness. This is wickedness even because you believe that actually Jesus is God.
Best Regards, A Roman

Me:  sara y tzunky, first, your English is good. I understand what you mean, because I have also had questions like yours.

God does not use death, blood, fire, eternal pain, and unpleasantness to scare and bend people for His own purposes. He warns us of things, because He has given us a certain level of freedom to choose, and He desires we would trust Him and choose good. False teachers and leaders use those things to bend and scare people for their own gain.

If you do not want your child to harm himself or others, you warn them about bad things… unpleasant things. Yes, you hope to scare them enough to avoid the bad things, but you are not simply trying to bend them for your own purposes. It is for their good.

Jesus’ death erases the penalty of eternal separation from God. It does not erase the consequences of a physical death. God has promised that those who have accepted Jesus as Lord and believe that He was raised from the dead, when we die a physical death, He will give us new heavenly bodies that will live forever with Him in Heaven. As long as we live in our physical bodies and in this ‘dying’ universe, we will continue to experience that physical death… UNLESS we are still alive when Jesus returns once more, not as a suffering servant, but as a victorious King.

God said, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9), and “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God…” (Deuteronomy 29:29). There are some things that are beyond our understanding because God is too big for our limited minds to understand or because He simply has not revealed those things to us. God will eventually abolish evil. Why didn’t He prevent it from happening? Unless a person has a choice as to whether or not they will love and trust you, then it is not love at all. God gave Adam and Eve two choices: trust me and do not eat the fruit and you will live in this garden forever… or eat the fruit and experience death. They both chose to trust the serpent and their own judgment more than God, and they chose the consequence of the curse. God never wanted it, but since He allowed Adam and Eve the choice, He also provided a way to be redeemed from the curse… because He still loves us… but He will not force anyone to love Him back. To me… that is true love.


Are You a Princess?

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While standing in the checkout line at Walmart on Father’s Day a couple of weeks ago, a young family was checking out in front of me.  A baby girl sat in the shopping cart seat; she had the most beautiful blue eyes I’ve ever seen.  She was peeking around her mother to see me, so I began to play peek-a-boo with her.  Her father stood in front of the shopping cart, putting items on the conveyor belt, while her older brother stood inside the cart.  The father told him to sit down, which he did immediately, but then he half stood, looked at me and asked, “Are you a princess?”

I was so surprised, I softly laughed, and said, “No… but thank you.”

Me?  A princess?  I wondered why he thought I might be a princess.  I was dressed in jeans, a white ribbed tank, a summery sweater, and my hair was pulled back into a messy bun.  Could it have been my coppery necklace and earrings?  Or was it something else?  I couldn’t help briefly mentioning the incident on Facebook, and I was reminded by a couple of friends that I am, indeed, a princess of the Most High God.  I am a part of His royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).  And you are too, if you have become His child.

No one had ever called me a princess before, so I couldn’t get the little boy’s question out of my mind.  Almost every girl wants to be a princess to someone, especially to her daddy, and then a queen and co-regent with her husband.  As I thought about it, I felt a humbling responsibility, and the Spirit uses the little boy’s question to remind and convict me when I feel inclined to do something I shouldn’t.  Isn’t it cool how God uses different means to speak to His people, even in unexpected, unorthodox ways?  Even though my Daddy never called me a princess, I realize my Heavenly Father did that day in a very personal way.


The Danger of Dying to Self

You’ve probably heard teachings on how we, as Christians, are called to ‘die to self’, but have you ever considered that ‘dying to self’ could actually be selfish?  My niece, Jaki, encouraged me to read C.S. Lewis’ The Eternal Weight of Glory, and in it he says, “The negative ideal of unselfishness carries with it the suggestion not primarily of securing good things for others, but of going without them ourselves, as if our abstinence and not their happiness was the important point.  I do not think this is the Christian virtue of love.”

People often quote Paul from 1 Cor. 15:31 when he says, “I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily,” but they fail to keep it in context.  Paul often speaks of facing death due to persecution, and in Romans 8:36, he quotes Psalm 44:22, “For your sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  So what Paul is saying is he knows he’s risking his life and he’s willing to risk his life in order to do the will of God.

What did Jesus mean when He said, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”?  He had just begun to teach his disciples that the Son of man would have to suffer, then He admonished them that if they tried to save their lives, they would lose it, but if they were willing to lose their lives for His sake and the Gospel’s, they would save it.  Again, Jesus is talking about persecution and being willing to risk your life in order to do the will of God.  God’s will for Christ was to be born into this world, reveal the Father through miracles and teachings, suffer at the hands of man and bear all the sins for all time, be crucified in the most humiliating fashion paying our penalty for sin, be buried and rise again on the third day so we can be declared righteous and be reconciled to God.  Christ’s cross was to do the will of God, even though in His humanity He asked that it be taken from Him, that He wouldn’t have to go through with it, but He loved the Father so much, and He loves us so much, that He was willing.  Our cross is the same as His–to do the will of God wherever that may lead.  Will we do it perfectly like Jesus did?  Probably not, but praise God He doesn’t give up on us and cast us aside!

The obvious danger of dying to self is the risk of facing ridicule, loss, and even death, but the obscure danger of dying to self comes when the focus is still on self.  Scott, a good friend of mine and resident theologian for a large Christian ministry said, “One doesn’t pick and choose the topics, the moments or actions for which one ‘dies to self’–it is an abiding attitude.  Otherwise it is simply a legalistic act in the flesh to achieve recognition for pseudo-righteousness.”

Those whose focus is on self often think of themselves as martyrs.  That’s almost like wearing a ‘I am humble’ button!

As my pastor often points out, it is the heart that counts.  And one of the things I appreciate about his teachings on dying to self is he focuses less on dying and more on living for Christ and others.  Isn’t that what it’s really all about?  Steve Cobb, pastor of Temple Baptist Church in New Bern, NC said this, “You’ve given up your life without Christ in order to embrace your life with Him.”


You Invite Us In

Has God ever spoken to you through a dream?  I had a dream a few nights ago, and while I don’t remember every detail, I do remember the instruction given.  “Go and read what came before the High Priestly prayer.”

I’ve never received a message so clear and direct, so I got up and read the verse before Jesus begins to pray, but since it begins with, “These things I have spoken unto you,” I asked, “What things?” and started further back to Chapter 16, verse 1.  But it, too, starts with, “These things have I spoken unto you,” so I went back further to the beginning of Chapter 15 and read all the way through to the end of the High Priestly prayer in Chapter 17.  What was God trying to tell me?  It seemed to be a confirmation of the Spirit’s still small voice reminding me a few days earlier that I cannot bear good and lasting fruit on my own.  Only the Spirit can produce the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life.   But I sensed there must be more, so I continued to read and study over the next couple of days.

While browsing some posts in a social network, I happened upon a message by D.A. Carson entitled The Supremacy of Christ and Love in a Postmodern World, which centered around Jesus’ High Priestly prayer!  Coincidence?  I think not.  Interestingly as well, the subject of ‘glory’ had come up on another occasion, and it is one of the subjects Carson touched on.  I wish I could share his whole message in a nutshell, but I’ll simply share a few highlights that pertain to what I believe God wanted to communicate to me as a reminder and encouragement of His love and work in my life.

I love Him, because He first loved me.  (1 John 4:19)

Jesus wants us to be one as He and the Father are one.  “That all of them may be one, Father, just as You are in Me and I am in You.  May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.”  –D.A. Carson paraphrasing parts of verses 20-23

Jesus is not only one with God and is Himself God, but He is also not the Son of God through DNA, despite what some sects may teach.  Besides being the only begotten Son of God because He came from the Godhead and added humanity to His deity, He loves the Father and does whatever He sees His Father doing, because He is the Son of God and no man has ever seen the Father except the Son.  We become children of God when we accept Jesus’ work on the cross, and we ‘prove’ our sonship by loving Him and doing what we see Him doing, when we do the work He has given us to do, just as Jesus did the work the Father gave Him to do.  Compare what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees in John 8:38-45.

“You are not what you think you are, but what you think, you are,” a quote by Norman Vincent Peale that parallels Proverbs 23:7a, “For as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he…”  “In terms of social interaction we’re pretty nice people, reasonably disciplined, don’t blow up too often.  But would you really like everybody… to see a transcript of every thought you have thought today?”  –D.A. Carson

Jesus wants the full measure of His joy to be in us.  He wants us to be with Him forever and to see the glory He had from before the foundation of the world.  When Moses asked to see God’s glory, God said, “I will make all my goodness pass before thee…”  (Exodus 33:19a)

While I was walking the treadmill at the gym last night, Criminal Minds was playing on the monitor in front of me.  Although I am fascinated with human behavior, watching evil being portrayed and knowing it actually exists is very disturbing.  Oh!  To be where Jesus is, to experience the full measure of His joy, to see His glory and be in the midst of goodness and be one with God who is love!  As Juba says in Gladiator, “Not yet,” at least not in its fullness, but we can catch a glimpse of it when we do what we have been created to do.  But unless we open our eyes and ears, we may miss seeing and hearing what the Father is doing and miss His invitation when He invites us in.  Do you understand that?  If we can only grasp what we have available through the Lord Jesus — perfect communion with the Father, perfect reconciliation — we can rest in grace.  He has invited us in.  We don’t have to knock down the door.  We don’t have to beg, plead, clean ourselves up, or offer bribes.  Jesus Christ has already provided the perfect offering, and He invites us in.

It’s funny, but I have another post I’ve been contemplating, and as I was trying to decide which to do first, I thought, “Duh!  Where do you see God working?”  Thank you, Father, for inviting me in.


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