Monthly Archives: March 2013

Taking a Risk for Jesus

I’m sure you are well aware that today is Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus was crucified. The nailed Him to the cross around 9:00 AM and He hung there being ridiculed for six hours. Around 3:00 PM, He released His spirit and died. I’m not going to focus on that today though. What I am going to focus on is a verse in Mark 15. Verse 43 says, “Joseph of Arimathea took a risk and went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. (NLT)”

I was being interviewed for a position with the company I work for and the person doing the interview broke script. He said, “Chris, I really just want to know one thing. What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken?” My mind raced. Was he talking personally? Did he mean in business? Was he referring to helping a customer? I couldn’t think of anything right off the bat. If he was to have asked Joseph, this would have been his answer.

First of all, he approached Pilate who was ruthless and had no problem killing people. I’m sure Pilate was on edge because of the mob mentality that had gone on the night before. He was probably cranky from getting little to no sleep. Now, one of the Jewish leaders, a secret follower of Jesus, came in uninvited and was asking for the body of Jesus. Joseph’s mind was probably racing thinking of all the possible outcomes of this meeting. Only one had a positive outcome.

Pilate agreed to release the body to him. Joseph purchased a linen sheet to wrap jesus body. The book of John tells us that Nicodemus helped Joseph. Both men had been secret followers of Jesus up to this point. When all of Jesus’ outspoken followers were to scared to come out of the shadows, two men who could have lost their positions risked their lives, their income and their families in order to see to it that Jesus didn’t hang there through the Passover.

When’s the last time you took a risk for Jesus? Don’t just move on here. Think about that for a minute. Are you like I was in that interview? Is your mind racing trying to think of something? Anything? It’s tough. We are conditioned not to take big risks in our life and in our faith. We’re taught to look out for ourselves first, but that’s not what Jesus taught. Even the night before His crucifixion, He was teaching them to put others first as He washed their feet.

What risk can you take today for Him? I’m not asking you to put your life on the line, but I am asking you to put your foot in a door that has already been opened. You’ve just been too scared to say anything about your faith. You’ve been too afraid to invite them to church. What better time than this weekend? They’ll hear the true reason for Easter and that someone else risked their life for theirs. Isn’t eternity for someone else worth the risk? Jesus thought it was and we should too.

I wrote another post a couple of weeks ago that would be great to read today. It’s called Playing Pilate. Click here to check it out.

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The Passover Meal

If you know me, you know I love to eat. I always say, “If I’m not eating, I’m thinking about eating.” So it should come as no surprise that I have a particular interest in the Last Supper. It was Thursday night as Jesus and the disciples sat around a table sharing what would be their last meal together. If you’ve been in church any amount of time, you’ve no doubt experienced a service where this meal was celebrated.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 26:26-28 that Jesus broke the unleavened bread and blessed it. He gave it to the disciples and said, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” Then he took the cup of wine and gave thanks for it. He then gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people.”

The traditional meal at Passover has several parts to it, but Jesus called out these two particular parts on purpose. The unleavened bread was to remind the people how quickly they fled Egypt. They made bread, but didn’t have time to add yeast (leaven) to make the dough rise. It was a symbol that they had been released from bondage. Let’s think about that for a second.

Jesus just said that the bread was His body. His body was broken so that you and I could be set free from our bondage. Sin is something that binds each of us and makes us a slave to it. We are born into that bondage. Jesus is telling us that we don’t have to be bound to it any more. Because of His death on the cross we can be released from that bondage and set free. When we accept His death on the cross as payment for our sins, we cease to be slaves and become sons and daughters of the King. Heirs to all that is His.

After eating the unleavened bread, Jesus took a glass of wine, blessed it and passed it around. Again, wine was traditional for this meal. In fact, there were four glasses of wine used at this meal. They represented the four promises (covenants) of God given to Moses regarding His people. The four promises found in Exodus 6:6-7 are: I will bring you out of Egypt (sin), I will free you (from its bondage), I will redeem you (pay for your sins) and I will take you as my own people (make you a child of the King).

What I found interesting was in Luke 20:22. It says, “After supper He took another cup of wine and said, “This cup (fifth) is the new covenant (promise) between God and His people – an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you. (NLT)” Jesus fulfilled each of the four promises given to Moses and now He, as God, was making a new covenant with His people. He was sacrificing Himself once and for all for our sins and to tear down the wall that existed between God and man.

God was not content to leave us bound in our sin and separated from Him. He loves us too much to do that. He was willing to sacrifice what was most precious to Him in order that you and I could be made right with Him. He not only wanted to bring us out of sin, free us from its bondage, pay for our sins and make us His children; He wanted to enter into a new relationship where we didn’t need a mediator anymore. He wanted to talk with each one of us without having to go through someone else. He wanted a relationship with you and still does.

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Break Your Box

It was Wednesday of Holy Week and Jesus was a guest in the home of Simon the leper. While He was reclining at the table, a woman from the village silently walked in the room. Every eye was on her and the alabaster box she was carrying. The fragrance peeked through the box giving those around her a tease of the pure Nard that was inside. Suddenly, without warning, she broke the box and poured the perfume on Christ. The fragrance permeated the house. I imagine everyone closed their eyes and drank in the smell of this perfume with a slow, purposeful breath through their noses.

There was no undoing of this gesture. The box had been broken and all of the perfume purposefully poured out on Jesus. When others criticized her for her actions, Jesus said in Mark 14:8, “She has done what she could.” He accepted her offering and it was a sweet, savory smell to Him. No one else in the room had the will to do what she had done, though they all had the ability. We each have the ability to do great things for God, it’s having the will to do them that stops most of us.

Like the disciples and others in the room, we start adding up the cost of doing something for God and find all the reasons we can’t or shouldn’t do them. We allow our minds to tell us, “It’s not worth it. Your resources are better spent elsewhere.” All these excuses come in that keep us from being obedient. We also wonder what others might think if we do what God has called us to do. But not this lady. She didn’t care what the others thought, and neither did Jesus!

In fact, He said that wherever the Gospel would be preached, what she did will be told about. A single act of obedience has been told all over the world over a couple of thousand years. Why? Because she had the will, not just the ability. We wish we had her kind of will power to do something so extravagant, so costly for Christ. We all have the ability in us to do it. We just lack her will. We lack her recklessness.

I don’t know if she had doubts. I’m sure she did. She was probably even scared, but she didn’t let those things stop her. She knew once she broke the box, there was no turning back. Once she broke the box, she was committed. So she walked in and broke it immediately before doubt, the disciples or fear could stop her. She poured out this costly perfume on Jesus even though His own disciples criticized her. She wasn’t concerned about their approval. She was concerned about His.

What box have you been holding that has your precious gift in it? What’s keeping you from breaking it and using it for Christ? You have the ability to do what He called you to do. You have the strength to do it. It’s time to get the will to do it no matter what others say. If you are holding it back because of others, remember that it’s not their approval you seek. It’s His. Step out and break that box today. Let your story be told wherever the Gospel is preached.

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Cleaning Your Temple

One of the first things Jesus did after His triumphant entry into Jerusalem was to go to the temple. When He got there it was crowded with merchants who were buying and selling the items needed for sacrifices. There were even people there who would loan people money to buy what they needed for the sacrifices. The Message calls them loan sharks. Jesus became angry and kicked over the tables and threw them out of the temple.

As I read that, I’m reminded that I Corinthians 6:19 says that our bodies are the temple now. It got me to wondering, “What would Jesus kick over in my life? What things have I set up that make Him upset? What keeps me from being a ‘House of prayer?'” They’re tough questions to ask, but they need to be asked. None of us are perfect, nor will we ever be. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to do what’s right.

As Jesus was heading to the cross, He wanted to make sure that people understood what was important to Him. The first thing on His list was to clean out the temple. It was so full of other things that the poor and the crippled couldn’t get in. When we fill our lives with so many things that aren’t what God wants in them, we don’t have room for the things He wants to put in them. We miss out on blessings.

The options are clear. We can have Jesus come in, kick things over and make room, or we can make the adjustments ourselves. Personally, I prefer the latter. If we become people of prayer, we will hear God more. When we hear a God more, we will know more of what His will is for our lives. His will isn’t for us to live our lives for ourselves, but for others. The problem is that most of us don’t have room for others in our lives because we’re full of things for ourselves.

Hebrews 12:1 says that we are to cast aside and to strip off every weight that clings to us and entangles us. Verse two tells us how to do it. It says, “We do this by keeping our eye on Jesus.” He wasn’t concerned about Himself, He was concerned for others. His entire reason for coming here was to seek and to save the lost. He knew what kind of a price He would have to pay to build the bridge between us and God. He knew it meant sacrifice. Even when He got to Jerusalem for Holy Week, He told them what was about to happen.

Am I willing to make sacrifices in my life so others may know God? Is there room in my life for the emotionally, physically and spiritually poor and crippled? Am I concerned more with others eternity than my own temporary, physical comfort? What do I need to move out of my life in order to make room for what God wants to put in? These are tough questions that I’m asking myself. Hopefully, you’re asking yourself the same questions. It’s time we did a spring cleaning of our temples.

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Holy Week

I wasn’t raised to really celebrate Holy Week. In fact, I probably didn’t know it was called “Holy Week” until about a decade ago. We always celebrated Palm Sunday and Easter, but never did anything to celebrate Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. As we celebrated Palm Sunday yesterday, I got to thinking about how this week in Jesus’ life is a lot like many of ours. It’s one more proof that He understands our joys and our pains.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. As he entered the city, the people began to lay palm leaves on the road and they shouted, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of The Lord. Hosanna in the highest!” It was a parade for a Messiah from a people who thought He was there to deliver them from Roman rule.

He wasn’t there to deliver them from a temporary ruler. He was there to deliver them eternally from sin. They didn’t understand His true purpose. He wasn’t there to be lifted up as a magistrate so all would bow. He was there to be lifted up as a sacrifice for our sins. His purpose was to go there to die and He knew it riding in there that day. I often see pictures and adaptations of Him smiling and waving, but I wonder if that’s accurate. The day before, His face was set like a stone to go to Jerusalem. He was determined to complete His mission.

Somewhere between Sunday and Thursday the crowds turned on Him. The ones who had been yelling “Hosanna” now were yelling “Crucify Him!” Have you ever had life do that to you? One day you were on top of the world. Everything seemed to be going right and then, out of no where, it smacks you down? You’re left with questions, not answers. The ones who were your friends now act like your enemies. Your mind tries to process the information, but it doesn’t add up. “What just happened,” it tries to reason.

Jesus understands those thoughts and doubts. Even though He was determined, He still struggled with the pain and thought of what was going on. His human nature was very much alive. We don’t read about Satan tempting Him here, but you better believe he was working double time on Jesus’ mind during this week. Jesus understands what it’s like to have those closest to you turn their back on you and not even acknowledge that they know you. The difference is He loved them anyway.

Even though they turned on Him, He refused to turn on them. He came here so that we would have forgiveness of our sins. He came to show us that we can still overcome when the world turns its back on us. We can have victory because He was victorious. As you go through this week, don’t just let it be another normal week. Take time this week to read and think through what Jesus went through for you. Be amazed at the pain He endured to show you love and to bring you home. This is Holy Week. This is why He came.

I’m curious to know how others around the world celebrate this week. Let me know how you celebrate it in the comments section below.

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Training for Godliness (Pt 5)

This week, I’m doing a series on training for Godliness. Many Christians don’t look at the life they lead as a marathon and therefore don’t train their spirit to handle struggles that come. These lessons will provide you with the tools you need to keep your spirit strengthened for a lifetime. Our core scripture I Timothy 4:8. It says, “Physical Training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. (NLT)”

Links to previous parts: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

Training

Once you can do everything that we discussed this week, it’s time to really start training. Training is about pushing yourself beyond your limits. Jesse Owens, the Olympic sprinter, talked about how he learned to push beyond the pain. We must too. We can’t let life’s pains stop us from our training and running our race. We can’t let other people’s faults interrupt us from reaching our goal. It’s time to start really putting our faith into practice daily. Each day I ask God to allow me to be His hands and feet to at least one person. I ask that He would use me to speak His words to someone.

Training is hard work. Hebrews 12:2 in the Message says, “It means we better get on with it. Strip down, start running – and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed – that exhilarating finish in and with God – He could put up with anything.” Start running and never stop. Keep your mind on things above and look to what awaits those who finish the race.

Keep your mind on the prize. Paul said it like this in Philippians 3:14, “Friends, now don’t get me wrong; by no means do I consider myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus.” Just like in a marathon, you need to keep your mind on your goal of completing the race and hearing Jesus say, “Well done.” Hebrews 12:1 says that there is a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on! We aren’t alone in this race. We have others who are out there to help us complete it. Find a running buddy and challenge each other daily to keep going further than you ever thought possible.

Conclusion

There are many similarities in training for a marathon and training for godliness. Both require mental strength and endurance. One is for temporary gain and the other is for eternal gain. Set your mind on the things that are above and remember that this world is not our home. We should be working towards our eternal home. Spend time each day working on getting there. Philippians 2:12 says, “Work hard to show the results of your salvation.” Keep working. Keep pushing. Don’t let set backs discourage you. You are not running this race alone. You’re in it to win it!

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Training for Godliness (Pt 4)

This week, I’m doing a series on training for Godliness. Many Christians don’t look at the life they lead as a marathon and therefore don’t train their spirit to handle struggles that come. These lessons will provide you with the tools you need to keep your spirit strengthened for a lifetime. Our core scripture I Timothy 4:8. It says, “Physical Training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come. (NLT)”

Links to previous parts: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3

Avoiding Injury

The way to avoid or minimize injury in sports is to do all the right things. The same applies spiritually. One of the things you can do to prevent injury is stretching. When is the last time you stretched yourself spiritually? I’m not talking about a faith pledge financially. I’m talking about stepping out in faith and you really doing something positive for the Kingdom. It could be walking up to a stranger and just telling them, “God wanted me to tell you that He loves you.” It could be fasting for three days with water only to grow closer to God. It could be any number of things that you don’t think you can do for God.

Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” The same thing applies spiritually. If you don’t stretch yourself and think you can do more than you are right now, you’re right. You will stunt your growth and never do more than what you’re doing today. God wants us to step out of the boat like Peter did. When he saw Jesus walking on the water and asked Jesus to call him out of the boat, I’m sure his mind told him that he couldn’t do it. Thankfully his faith in God told him that he could. Have you asked jesus to call you out of your boat? Which voice are you listening to? Stretch yourself.

Pre-Training

So before you begin your in depth training for Godliness you need to be able to do some things first. You need to be able to read God’s Word without interruption. How much you read isn’t important in the beginning. It’s not about reading a chapter a day or at a time. God can speak to you with just one verse, but you need to be where you can hear Him speak to you through it. Get away from all distractions and the noise in your life. Jesus went away from others to hear God. You should too.

You also need to be in the habit of praying and listening. Prayer is important. I think contemplative prayer is even more so. I’ll do a post on this soon because it’s more than just praying what comes to mind. It’s purposefully thinking through your prayers. That’s something you work up to though. Beyond just praying, you need to learn to quiet your mind and give God time to speak to you. We, like Elijah in I Kings 19:11-14, think that God speaks loudly all the time. We want Him to speak to us audibly. Elijah saw a windstorm that tore rocks loose from the mountains, but God’s voice wasn’t there. He saw an earthquake, but God’s voice wasn’t there. He even saw fire, but God’s voice wasn’t there either. After the fire, there was a gentle whisper of God’s voice. That’s how God speaks to us. We need to get to where we can hear His voice, then quiet our mind and listen for it.

Tomorrow I’ll wrap this series up with some final thoughts and encouragement to continue your training for Godliness.

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