CLOSER TO JESUS

Years ago my wife and I attended a couples Sunday school class.  A lesson from that class was illustrated by a triangle.  The three points of the triangle represented the wife, the husband and Jesus.  As the husband and wife moved up the triangle closer to Jesus, they became closer to each other.

I remember this teaching because I’ve found it to be true, and it works for other analogies.  For instance, if I want to be more effective in ministry I need to grow closer to Jesus.  The closer I get to Him the more useful I become.  This presents the question, “How do I get closer to Jesus?”

I have discovered that focusing on being a better person is not the way.  When I focus on being a better person, I’m basically focusing on me.  I’m looking inward.  The key is looking beyond me to Jesus.  Growing closer to Jesus happens when I keep company with Him.  I am a better husband, father, teacher, and person while my eyes are on Jesus. 

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PRECIOUS LIFE

I have often made statements like, “I’m ready to go as soon as God calls me home,” or “I wish I could go to heaven right now.”  However, the result of a recent doctor visit brought home the reality that life as I know it could end.  The vague idea that life will end came crashing down on the certainty that life will end.  I saw the above statements as flippant and poorly thought out utterances. A new perspective has inundated my soul.  This life is precious and should be cherished.

God gave me life, and I have experienced the delights of his natural world.  Yes, there is both good and evil here, but I have never failed to explore and enjoy this world’s beauty.  My wife, children, extended family, and friends have afforded me a life full of joy and love.  Tragedies and losses have come my way, but they serve to round out the experience.  This world is all I know.  Everything that defines life to me has happened here in this temporal existence.

When I die, I will leave all of this and go to a new place that is beyond my experience. Someday, I will leave here to go to a new place – I can only imagine.  Life as I know it will be over.

Faith now comes to the foreground.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).  Even though I will be going to an unknown place, I can trust God with the unknown.

So I will not take this life for granted, or belie its importance, but I will cherish it as a precious gift from God himself.

UNDENIABLE LOVE

Last week I worked full days and had church and family activities that occupied my time. I had a very busy week.  However, through the activities of the week I was awakened to Jesus’ undeniable love.

Maundy Thursday our church family got together to share dinner and communion.  Jesus ate his last supper meal with the disciples, and then he initiated the symbolic practice of communion.  We wanted to share in that remembrance in a meaningful way.  We sat down together and participated in what Jesus did those many years ago.

Good Friday my wife and I went to a local church that provides the Stations of the Cross.  If you’re not familiar with this presentation, it is a walk through the various experiences of Jesus’ day of crucifixion.  At each station, you read the scriptures that pertain, and take time to pray and meditate.  We’ve done this for several years, and each time is different.  The Holy Spirit always leads us into another perspective of what Jesus went through on that day.

The effect of last week’s undertakings left me overwhelmed.  As I walked through the gruesome abuses that Jesus endured, I encountered undeniable love.  What led Jesus to the cross and what kept him there was simply love.  I cannot say anything more definitive. I can only say I have now felt his love more deeply and personally than ever before.  He loved us, and he died for us.

I close with this exclamation: I praise you and thank you Jesus for your love expressed so undeniably!   

NEW LIFE

In the dark of night,

Filled with deep despair,

I sit here all alone.

I need to be rescued,

But who is there to rescue me?

 

Many of us represent God’s compassion by helping to rescue lost souls.  After all we are God’s ambassadors. Yet every lost soul needs to reconcile with God.  So to truly rescue the lost, we need to bring them to Christ Jesus.  Our comfort and encouragement are helpful, but only at the foot of the cross can they find new life.

JESUS AND NICODEMUS

 John 3:1-21

I am always delighted when I read a familiar section of scripture and find new insights.  As I read through John 3:1-21, I was amazed at what I hadn’t seen before.  I had never realized that Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus included the beloved and most memorize words in the Bible, John 3:16.  I had also not recognized with what compassion Jesus spoke to Nicodemus.

Jesus explained to Nicodemus exactly why he was here on earth and what he was doing.  The gospel was clearly laid out for him.  Jesus gave more direct information to this Pharisee than he did to any others in his recorded confrontation with the Pharisees.

Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not understanding him.  I believe skepticism and ingrained presuppositions hindered Nicodemus from comprehending Jesus’ words.  Jesus knew this, and he challenged him to clear his mind and see the truth in what he was telling him. He took time with Nicodemus.    He apparently wanted him to grasp what God was doing.  I’m sure Jesus knew that Nicodemus was to become one of his followers.

I read through John 3:1-21 a number of times in both the NIV and The Message.  The more I read the more I was touched.  I began to see love and beauty expressed in the words Jesus spoke.  He spoke to Nicodemus from his heart.  I believe he spoke with passion.  I encourage you to read this passage, and let it minister to your heart this coming week.

SURRENDER

What does the word surrender say to you?  Give up? Turn over control?  Quit?  This is not a word we humans like very much especially the turn over control part.  Quitter, coward, weakling these are a few of the words we used to label ones who surrender.  When a criminal surrenders to the police it usually means going to jail.  A defeated army that surrenders is at the mercy of the conquering army.  History contains a number of examples of the results of surrendering.  Unfortunately, humans’ surrendering to humans doesn’t always work out very well for the ones who surrender.  Surrendering is at best a risky business when we talk of surrendering to each other.  Surrendering to God is a different business.

God invites us to surrender, but he never demands it.  He promises that if we do surrender to him he will improve our lives.  In this case surrendering might not be so bad.

Jesus offers:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

I can personally attest that surrendering to Jesus is as he says.  I was in the pit of despair some time ago feeling useless and lost.  I finally sat down on a rock and said to God, “I can’t leave this rock without you.”  I surrendered.  From that moment my life changed.  I am now useful, happy, and at peace in my soul.  The longer I stay with him the more I realize these promises.  And, he also has promised me eternal life.  In my case surrendering has proven to be a good choice.

Meditate on the above scripture, and hear Jesus calling to you.  Find new life in Jesus our savior.

LOVE ONE ANOTHER

This week I have been examining what it means to love one another.  Jesus gave a new command to his disciples: “Love one another” (John 13:34).  This is repeated in John 15:17, “This is my command: Love each other.”  So I have always thought that this means be nice to each other, forgive each other, encourage one another.  I have seldom explored the aspect of love that involves surrendering to one another.

In 1 Corinthians 9:19 Paul says, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.”  Paul is willing to surrender himself to others that they might find Jesus.  This is love that puts aside self-concern for the sake of others.

The whole experience of life is how I exercise my free will.  I have free will.  This was given to all humans at the time of creation.  I can please myself, or I can please others.    

My closest relationship affords the opportunity to practice loving another.  This can be demonstrated simply. When I find that Bonnie, my wife and ministry partner, is annoyed with some habit of mine, do I surrender my will to her or insist on my way?   I love her by surrendering my right to continue the annoying habit.

Paul says in Philippians 2:3 “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  Putting someone else first is contrary to my self-centered nature.

Jesus’ command to love one another proves to be quite a challenge, but it is essential for his disciples.  In John 13:35 Jesus concludes, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”