buildingbodies4christ

building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Disciple of Jesus”

Broken Walls

Hand me the hammer, please. It’s time to break down the walls. Walls need to be broken down that keep us from others. I am the world’s worst about keeping to myself; I don’t really like to let people in because then they would know the real me. I was convicted over the weekend that it’s time to be real. I do feel that time is moving quickly to that point – whether Jesus comes back or something else huge that will occur – that will change everything. I don’t know what God has in store, but something major is brewing. God is giving us warnings that are escalating beyond a normal pattern. God frequently works in cycles, and I believe we are coming to another major end of a cycle. With conviction, I realized that the book that God called me to write needs to be done very soon. In it, I share my testimony. As I was writing it over the last few years, I had to come to grips with many issues that had been hidden from my view. I had some blind spots that needed to be revealed. In sharing my testimony, I am letting others see things as they are (or were).

Walls do nothing but keep others out and ourselves in. There is no communication between walls. As I have observed the Body of Christ, as we gather during our worship times, we have isolated ourselves from those who really need to see Jesus. We have built walls that show the world a different picture than what the Bible has given to us as an example. The first believers were living life together as a family – day in and day out. Like most families, they saw each others mess. Yet, they loved one another no matter the mess. They showed love to those around them. Outsiders took notice that the Jesus followers were different. They were overpowering non-believers with love and that love grew the church body. Jesus followers were giving all they had to take care of others. They were on mission to be a disciple who made other disciples.

Paul had to call out one church that wasn’t living as they should as followers of Jesus. Paul wrote to the Body in Corinth about a problem. The people of God in that area were not acting in love, and it was an issue that needed to be addressed (1 Corinthians 6:8-11). We all have sins of our past. Some of those sins keep us in a place of shame. However, when we have been forgiven, those sins are no longer remembered – they are forgotten by a gracious God. We cannot hold the past against anyone. We all have fallen short of living a life of righteousness. We as the Body have an obligation to break down the walls that separate us from the outside world. We are told to go out in the world, but don’t become like the world. We are supposed to be different; we would rather be like everyone else. We are told to love one another so that we can show the world the difference in our “family.”

I have often wondered what it would have been like to live in the time of great revivals; where record numbers were coming to Christ. I wondered what it was like for those early disciples who were so eager to share the story of how Jesus died, but then three days later, he arose from the grave! People saw Him and touched Him. They were eyewitnesses to the greatest event in history. I wonder now, what this next event that God has in mind. We may be in for a time of another great revival. Maybe God wants to use us to lead the way. But it’s going to take a hammer to break down those walls that keep us from reaching out. It’s time to be more like the first century church – taking care of one another and showing love to those outside the family. It’s time to meet the needs of those around us and tell others what Jesus has done for us. It’s time to be real and authentic. We will need to be the light to those who are still experiencing the darkness. When the walls are broken down, the light can finally be seen!

No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father. Matthew 5:15-16 (NLT)

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Beginning Again

I thought it would be different. I thought I would be walking into a new ministry. For the last few months, I have been searching for the right position. The door of opportunity came through an insignificant encounter at a small group meeting. It was a small opportunity; not in a ministry of great significance. I thought it would be different. But God reminds me every time I question this opportunity: ministry happens wherever He places us. We are to be His light in whatever opportunity we’re given. I don’t know where this opportunity will lead. The position may only last a few months – it happened one other time in my career life – or it may last many years. I don’t know what will happen.

Whatever door He opens, we are to walk through it. It’s a matter of following Him. It always looks different from what we think. I guess the disciples were in the same boat (so to speak). They dropped their nets and decided to go where this new fellow was taking them. They had no idea where He was going or where they would end up. But they kept following – even when everyone else stopped. They were offered the opportunity to leave when the crowds did, but Peter said no “Who else has the words of eternal life?” (My paraphrase of John 6:67). They did desert Jesus on that last night. They thought it was the end, but it was only a new beginning. Once Jesus arose, the movement started with a few sparks through the Holy Spirit’s igniting in a large gathering. The sparks were spread as the gathering was disbursed throughout the world. And eventually the movement became a fire that has lasted through thousands of generations.

It always looks different when we are in the first steps of beginning again. We just don’t know what’s on the other side of the beginning. It could be a movement that needs a few sparks to ignite for a new generation. Our job is to make sure the sparks aren’t extinguished. Can you imagine if it’s our generation that lets that spark die? We need to fan the flame wherever God has placed us. I completely fail in this regard. I know I need to be better about sharing with others. It’s really the only job that counts these days. Nothing will be credited to my account except the good works that will be stored in heaven for that day when we have to give an account of how we have lived on this earth. Nothing else matters. The fire has to be fanned – if not us – then who? For those who are seeking, they have to see something in us to make them question what we have that they don’t. We have to be different. It’s not easy being different. But we are told to be light in the darkness. The world loves the dark. If our light is diminished or extinguished, the world continues in the darkness and will not find their way to the cross.

So I begin again. I take the mantle that is offered to me. I take the opportunities as they come. I follow Jesus. I stay true to His word. I watch God at work and join Him to fan the flames. Sounds easy enough, right? Let’s do this thing. I want to hear at the end of all this, “well done!” And I want it all to count for something greater than what I thought was possible. I don’t understand it or foresee it now. God’s ways are different and His thoughts are greater. I have to trust it all to Him: for His glory! Let it be as He says and let my ways be obedient to His.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)

Getting It

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating the cross. It’s Easter time after all. It should be relatively easy to consider these things since devotional material inspires contemplation. I really don’t like to think about it though. It is a cruel way to die. And flogging? A whip with metal or glass shards given to someone for thirty-nine lashes because forty would kill someone? It makes me wonder what mind created such torture devices. How can we be that cruel? Yet, we are all capable of cruelty. Maybe not in that severity, but cruelty can be given in many ways. If I had been in the crowd watching Jesus, what would have been my reaction? Would I have been a follower of Jesus? Would I have been like the women looking on in great sorrow? These are the things I am considering.

But there is one other thing I am considering as well. Love. It is the basis of everything concerning God and Jesus’ actions throughout His ministry. Jesus said “if you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9, my paraphrase). Jesus lived out the love that God has for each of us. John 3:16 says that God so loved the world that He gave us His Son. Do I really get it? Do you? Paul said in Ephesians 3 “to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” It’s more than head knowledge. It’s heart knowledge. It was his prayer that we would understand this love. I want to. I desire it with all my heart. I want my eyes to be open to it.

Jesus had a moment in the garden when He knelt down to His Father and cried out to take the cup of wrath from Him – but only if it was God’s will. God’s will was for blood to be shed so that we could have a new life. Jesus said that: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:13). Greater love. In His last talk with the disciples, He emphasizes love. His command: love each other. It’s hard to love others. I have someone in my life that is hard to love. Yet, I am commanded by my Lord to love. The only way I can accomplish this Jesus says is to abide in Him. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). He knew we couldn’t do it by ourselves. He is the only one who can do it. We are to stay connected to Him like a branch is connected to a vine. When His love is in us, we are enabled to share it with others.

When I consider the cross, I don’t consider the horror of it. I consider the love of it – what Jesus did for me. For you. At any moment, He could have opted out and called legions of angels to His rescue. He could have called fire down to consume those who were doing these cruel acts. He could have stayed the hand of those whipping Him. He could have taken the priests out with a single word. He could have done so many things to stop this, but He said nothing. He did nothing. He stayed connected to the cross for me. For you. So that we could love one another as He first loved us. That’s the power of the cross. That’s the power of the love that He showed us even when we were still sinners. Even for those who whipped Him; nailed Him on the cross – He asked His Father to not hold it against them, because of their ignorance of what they were doing. They just didn’t get it.

When we finally get it, it will change everything! Love. There’s power in it. When we grasp, how wide and long and high and deep is that love, it will change everything. Do you get it? I am finally starting to.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. 1 John 3:16-18

Are you stuck?

That was the question I posed to my newsletter readers this month. I have been contemplating that myself this week. I have a routine that I follow pretty closely every day and every week. I work out three days a week – usually. I go to church every Sunday morning at the same time. I go to my small group every Tuesday night. I sit down at my computer every morning and look at emails before I get my morning smoothie. I have my quiet time at the same time every morning. That’s my usual week. Since last Wednesday, I had to rearrange a few things.

I hurt my shoulder a few months back and did not stop working out to rest it. I went to the chiropractor last Wednesday, and she got my shoulder back in working order. But instead of going to work out on Friday or Saturday or even Sunday, I decided to take a break. I also, started writing the book (PRAISE to the Lord for the inspiration that finally came!). So my days have been focused on getting words on the screen. I even decided to write in a different room to get my inspirational juices flowing.

But am I stuck spiritually? That’s what I am wrestling with this morning. In my quiet time for the last two mornings, I have been reading in Revelation 3. The church in Ephesus had been doing things well. They had been serving the Lord and doing all that they were supposed to be doing, yet they had forgotten their first priority was to love. One of the things that God has pressed upon me is to demonstrative love toward Him by helping others. We are to “do good” but we are called first to love. The Ephesians church forgot the love part. I wrote in the newsletter last month that “being a disciple of Jesus means that we will demonstrate our love for Him. We don’t earn His favor or earn our heavenly home by doing good works. It comes by belief in the grace of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus says that we are to love God with all our hearts, soul and strength. We are to love others as we love ourselves. These are the two greatest commandments stated in the Bible – so Jesus says.”

We are told if we are His disciples that we will obey His teachings. In order to obey, we have to know what He teaches us in the Gospels. The central theme in His teachings is: loving others. There really is no other message that we should take away except the way Jesus demonstrated love toward everyone He meet. He even loved the Pharisees – they just didn’t understand though. He wept over Jerusalem when He knew they were going to be battered and scattered for generations because of their lack of love for God and Him. They just didn’t get it. Sometimes I think we don’t either. We – the people of God – could be viewed as the church at Ephesus in this time and place. We are all about helping others, but are we too busy to love God? There are too many things that keep us from devotion to God and to Jesus. We don’t make time to get in His word and learn what we need to be the people we need to be. The weather is turning for the better here in the US (or at least in the south) so that will mean that outdoor activities may keep us from going to church.

Andy Stanley said in a recent sermon “Devotion to God is authenticated by love for others.” In First Corinthians 13, in the famous love speech, “if there’s no love in our action, then it means nothing but devotion to me.” People in the world understand selfishness and it’s “all about me.” But we are to be different. We are to live differently. God said in His word that He created good works for us to do. Before the foundation of the world, He thought of us and gave us a hope and a future. The way life was supposed to be was in an intimate relationship with Him. That’s what He desires. When we finally understand that we are to Love Him and show love toward others, we will finally shake off the Pharisee robe and live as a follower of Jesus!

God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. Hebrews 6:10-12

The Question

The question was asked last Sunday morning from a guest speaker at a church I was attending. Are you a fan or a follower? What does a fan really look like? A fan is more of a cheerleader – ready to cheer Jesus to become famous in my city, state, nation and world! Yea, Jesus! Go Jesus! It’s really no commitment from me. A fan is in it for the entertainment value. The fan can be as involved as they want to be without risking too much. I can spur Jesus on from the sidelines and not really be involved on the playing field. We have a lot of “followers” in our social media but we should really call them fans instead. The ones who “follow” us are just on the sidelines checking out what we do or what we say. They aren’t involved in our lives following along behind us as we move throughout life. Jesus had followers while He walked this earth. He had people who listened to His every word. They lived with Him and ate with Him.

My inclination in answering this question was to say I am a follower. I really did believe that was my answer that Sunday morning. Last night, I heard a different message that fell right along these same thoughts. The message was from Andy Stanley on the “Brand New” message that Jesus delivered that was radically different in His day and time. The message is still radical today. Jesus came to bring an end to the “all about me” religion to the “others beside you” model. The New Testament can be described as the “doing to others as you would have them do unto you” example. This is how we honor and love God through our demonstration of love toward others. When I consider the difference between a fan and a follower, the follower gets this mentality of loving others just as Jesus loved us. The follower will do what Jesus did.

The New Testament is full of Jesus’ example of loving others everywhere, even from the cross. Pastor Stanley’s question was “What does love require of me?” I think this is really the essence of being a follower. All the commands that are reflected in the Bible relate to the “otherness” of Jesus. It’s how we relate to others. When we demonstrate love, it shows our love for Jesus. This is how we know when we are following Jesus. Demonstrating love cost God His Son. Demonstrating love demands more than of us but is pretty simple in application. This is how we should be known as Christians. Jesus said when we do for others then we are doing it for Him. Matthew 25:35-39 gives a list of ways to help others and in the end Jesus said when you do it for the least of these then you are doing it for Me. Pretty practical stuff that is easy to do but will cost us something.

I want to be a follower. I want to keep my eyes on the prize. I want to be on the field playing my heart out. I was a manager on the women’s basketball team in college. I know what it means to be on the sidelines every game. I didn’t have to commit to the hard times to become great on the field. I could be a supporter for those who were playing. I would rather have played, but I didn’t have game. Following Jesus means being committed to His game – His plan. The speaker on Sunday said Jesus really doesn’t need any more fans. Every knee – EVERY knee will bow before Him one day. It’s not a matter of having fans, but having committed followers who want to be in the game. He is the winning side; He has already given us the victory! He wants more players committed to the game. We are called to surrender, sacrifice and serve – that’s what it means to follow by giving our lives to loving others as Jesus first loved us.

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Mark 8:34-36

Sweet Spot

Recently, I heard a message which contained a few statistics on churchgoers. The research indicated that there were four categories of churchgoers. We all start out in the first category as people far from God. We may know about Him but do not have a relationship with Jesus. The second category is ones who have a relationship with Jesus – we understand we have received grace by the blood of Jesus, but still working out what this relationship really means. The third category is people who have a close relationship with Jesus. They depend on Jesus daily for guidance. The fourth category is the ones who have Jesus fully in the center of their lives. They have totally surrendered everything to Him. It’s the most important relationship they have. It guides everything that they do. Of those in the fourth category, the teacher said his research focused on the thirteen percent of the “elite” Christ-centered folks.

The thirteen percent are the ones who love Jesus with all their hearts. They willingly share their love of Jesus with others. They serve Him completely. There is nothing that stops them from sharing everything they have for the love and sake of the Gospel. One out of seven or eight people in the church have this type of commitment. I wish I could say that I was in the thirteen percent. This is my goal though. The church’s mission is really about getting us all to this category. We are to become disciples who make disciples. Disciples have a heart for people – we are supposed to love one another. This is our trademark as a disciple – that’s how others will know we are disciples of Jesus. The relationship with Jesus is the key to loving others. We can’t do it on our own. It’s impossible to love others first. Sometimes though, I have found it’s easier to focus on the vertical relationship than to focus on other relationships.

The church is in the business of moving us from one category to the next. However, we may have a wall that gets in the way of moving from one category to the next. This was really a “ah-ha” moment for me. I definitely have built a wall around my heart. I have gotten hurt in the pass, and it’s just easier to keep people at a distance. I haven’t loved others as I should because it’s a vulnerability that I just don’t want to risk. But the wall is keeping me from living in the sweet spot with Jesus. The sweet spot is the place where everything changes. It’s the place of being in the center of God’s will. We are living with purpose and contentment that God is in control of our circumstances for our good and His glory. The sweet spot is where I become one with Jesus. I always thought it was the marriage ceremony to come in the new Kingdom, but I believe now that is the true place where God wants us right here, right now. To be married to the heart of Jesus – to be one – united in His desires and united as the body of Christ. Living in the sweet spot is a great joy to Jesus. When we’re all in, He can do more through us than what we could ever ask or imagine!

What if this was the goal of everyone in the church body? What if it was no longer thirteen percent of the church but more like fifty percent or sixty-five percent? How would that change our communities? How would that change the perception of “church” today? Would we make a difference in our cities or nation? This takes a different mindset. It takes commitment to the relationship with Jesus. It takes more than just going to church every Sunday and checking a box for the week. It’s a dedication to develop more understanding, more time with Him, more opportunities to serve Him – it’s more cost to us. It’s called a surrendered life. It’s about giving up control. And who actually likes giving up control?! Control needs to be in the hands of the One who can handle it. To become spiritually mature, we need to become more intimate with Jesus. It’s the only way to move from one category to the next. Let’s grow the percentage of those who are in love with Jesus, live in the sweet spot, and make a difference in the world around us!

Note: The teaching message was from Oak Hill Church by Greg Hawkins “The Goal” and “The Plan”

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. John 15:9-12

The Suggestion

The great commission challenges us to go and make disciples. Last year, my church started a school to teach us how to be the solution to meeting the needs of the community and put the great commission into practice. We were learning how to disciple others; how to teach the Word. The school was teaching us to get outside our four walls and have relationships with others. I was all about learning these principles, but I was having a hard time putting it into practice. Forming relationships is tough business in this crazy world we live in today. It’s much easier to have community on-line. But I don’t think this is what we’re really supposed to do. It’s a good start, but nothing takes the place of one on one relationships.

If I look at the Bible for examples, Jesus and His followers did life together. They ate meals together and walked around together. They were all up in each others business. There was no “private” space. Much of the world around us (except in western culture) live in this way as well. In other cultures, neighbors are expected to come and go. There really isn’t much “personal” space. Single people don’t have privacy; they don’t live alone. Families live with other families. They all do life together. This is just not the case in western culture. We like our privacy. We like the fact that we have two thousand square feet of living space – not just for one family, but maybe for just one person alone! If we had to share our stuff we someone else, we might actually freak out.

I was listening to a forum on discipleship which brought out the fact that in order to disciple others we have to be in community; we have to have relationships. One of the speakers talked about a young man coming to live with him and his family. The young man was a new believer. He lived with the speaker for a year. Then the young man got engaged then married. When they married, they moved in with the speaker and his family to learn how to live as a couple – how to fight, how to ask for forgiveness, how to live as a married couple. This just sounds crazy, doesn’t it? But isn’t that the biblical way? I am reminded that we are not to do life alone. We are not meant to isolate ourselves. We are meant to have community that exists in the everyday life. Daily life is where we need the influence of one who has walked the road we’re on. Daily life is where the real life happens.

Jesus set the tone for us. He is our mentor on how to mentor others. It’s more than a one-on-one time with someone else; it’s many mentors speaking the truth into a person’s life in the community. The forum emphasized relationship building as the way to disciple others – the same emphasis that the school attempted to convey and multiplying the efforts – disciples disciple others. And the movement continues. It’s all good in theory! Relationship building is HARD. It takes time and effort. It will cost me something. Am I willing to pay the price? Are you? Is it time for the western church body to change its way of “doing church?”

Do we sit in church every week and absorb what the preacher is saying, but never apply what is heard? Do put he Bible down on the table when we get home and only pick it up to take the next Sunday? Is this really what Jesus had in mind when He said to go and disciple others in what is now known as the great suggestion? I feel like we have it all wrong. We are no longer seeing growing spiritually mature believers. We are in dangerous times spiritually speaking. One day we’re going to be in front of Jesus, and He will send those away who He doesn’t know. Someone will say, “I was in church every Sunday morning.” He will end up saying “I never knew you.” It’s sad to contemplate that thousands upon thousands will be turned away from an everlasting life with Jesus. They knew about Jesus, but they never surrendered to His Lordship. It’s all about the relationship! He can fix the mess!

Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 2 Timothy 4:2-3

Rules or Follow

Rules. I tried my best to follow them, but I usually failed. “Don’t do that. Don’t say that.” You have to do this because that’s the way it’s supposed to be done. You have to be a good girl in order to get to heaven. I was never really bent toward being good. I failed to live up to the standards set by my parents and by God. I just couldn’t do it. But then I found out no one else could either. My parents made mistakes. My sisters made mistakes. My friends made mistakes. So if everyone makes mistakes, who can live up to the standards of all the rules? No one.

When I started reading the Bible, I noticed Jesus didn’t say anything about following the rules. He said to follow Him. He asked the disciples one by one to follow Him. Yes, when we follow Him, we will actually follow the rules because He would never lead us into something that went against what God says. God placed rules or laws for us to follow so that we would know when we sinned – when we went against what God says. The law was not abolished when Jesus came; He came to fulfill them. He broke the rules by communing with sinners. He went against what the religious men said to do. Religion was made by man; but a relationship was made by Jesus. For many years, I didn’t understand that Jesus wanted a relationship. I thought it was always about the rules.

No, I couldn’t follow the rules. But I can follow one who breaks the rules in order to have a relationship. Jesus said to follow Him. I started that by reading what He said and read about His actions. The Holy Spirit seals us with the promise that we are His and teaches us how to follow Jesus. It’s by grace that we are given the presence of His Spirit. Yes, I believe I can follow this person who gives grace and mercy. I can have a relationship with the one who died for my sins. I can love the one who loved me first. I can be mindful of His laws because I have His presence within me. He teaches me as we walk the path – the Way. This is the way to eternal life with Jesus. One step at a time. Will I do it perfectly? No. But when I get off the path, I know His presence will gently remind me where I need to be. He will instruct me on how to return.

Is it really that easy? Yes and no. Yes, it’s just a simple command to follow Him. The hard part is laying down my own selfish desires – the “my way.” The hard part is to give up the things that keep me from hearing His voice – the things that distract me from His will; things that keep me from His best. It’s easy to follow when my heart is right and my focus is right. But the distractions, the other voices keep pulling me from the path. I am like Peter who starts out of the boat with the right focus, but somewhere along the way, I get distracted by the storms. Jesus never leaves us to drown though. He is always just one call away. Lord, save me! And He always does. No matter what. That’s because of the relationship with Jesus.

It’s not about religion. It’s about Jesus, my Shepherd. I am just a dumb sheep, who tends to wander. But I have a Good Shepherd that will not leave me in a place where the wolves are waiting. He searches for me because sometimes I don’t even know that I am off the path. Religion says that we search for God. But God says “I searched for you and found you and did not leave you where you were. I claimed you as my own.” That’s the God I follow. Jesus says to follow Him. Yes, I will follow Him to my eternal life with God through Jesus’ death and resurrection. This I confess and believe with all my heart. Jesus is Lord of all – King of kings; Lord of lords. For there is no other.

Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. Romans 6:16-18

Paul’s Walk

When I was first started studying the Word, I had a difficult time understanding Paul’s writings; Romans in particular. It was just deep stuff! This past week I listened to a sermon concerning Paul’s (or Saul at the time) conversion. He was a religious man, zealous for God’s law. He thought he was doing God a favor by killing or persecuting those who walked in the Way (aka the followers of Jesus). Paul was a brilliant man; very passionate about religious law. He had been taught by one of the masters of the Law. He knew the Law; memorized the Law. However, his focus was wrong. He didn’t understand the truth of the Law. He didn’t understand Jesus was the one who would fulfill the Law. He had the book knowledge, but did not have the heart knowledge. His heart was hardened to the truth.

His conversion is known as the Damascus Road conversion. It was pretty drastic. Paul (Saul) had a letter from the ones in charge to go about the countryside clearing the land of those who proclaimed the name of Jesus. He was willing to travel miles upon miles to stamp out this rebellion. Along the way, Paul was confronted by Jesus in a supernatural way. When Christ’s church is hurt, He is also hurt. If the church didn’t survive, the message of Good News would not reach the ends of the earth as it was intended. We wouldn’t know it today. The church would not have survived if Paul had continued his quest. But Jesus stopped Paul in his path, and changed Paul’s focus. Paul was blinded physically so that his spiritual eyes could be opened. When his eyes were opened to the truth, his whole focus changed. However, his determination didn’t. He was still zealous, but zealous for Jesus and His message. He was still willing to walk mile upon mile to reach the ends of the earth for a new purpose; not to kill the message, but to give a life-giving message.

As I have grown in my spiritual maturity, I have developed a deeper understanding of Paul’s writings. The Holy Spirit did a major work in Paul and used his brilliant mind to bring us wisdom in the written word. Sitting under Paul’s teaching now is still difficult if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit guiding me to the truth. But learning from Paul is part of my process of growing to maturity. I don’t want to stop learning. Like I wrote last week, I want my hunger and thirst to be even greater. However, what I am most concerned about today is my willingness to go mile upon mile for a cause greater than me.

The preacher asked his audience “what are you willing to walk 20 miles for?” That was usually the amount of miles walked by Paul on any given day. Ever since I heard that, I wondered. What am I passionate about? Passion is about suffering for a cause. Can I actually say I am suffering for anything right now? Tough questions; with little answers. God is looking for those who are willing to go the extra mile. He is searching for those who want what He wants. I want to want it. Paul had a message to share. His testimony is powerful; but so is each and every one of us who know Jesus’ salvation. We all have a decision to make. Will we use what God has given us for His glory or will we try to kill the message by our disobedience? Each decision made for God’s glory will bring us closer to a passion that cannot be extinguished. Paul had it; I want it too, don’t you?

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Titus 2:11-14 (ESV)

Table Turner

How did it go so wrong? The week started out with a triumphant entry into Jerusalem. People were lined up along the road shouting praise – shouting save us (Hosanna). In order for Jesus to save them, He had to die for them. Their expectations were different from God’s way. God says His ways are higher than ours. On the way into the city, Jesus saw the walls of the city and knew the walls would not protect the people from the destruction that was coming. Jesus wept for the people who were inside those walls. The people were shouting praises with their mouths but their hearts were not turned toward Him. What they wanted was a physical savior and a physical protector. They wanted a king. But they had no idea that Jesus was (is) The Savior; He was (is) The Protector; He was (is) the King of Kings.

The week started with praise but ended in crucifixion. Jesus didn’t meet the expectations of the people. He wasn’t there to save them from the government. He didn’t come to make their lives better physically. Yes, they were oppressed. But it was not God’s way. He didn’t take the people out of their circumstances. He walked with them through it. Jesus walked along roads encountering many along the way. Some recognized Jesus and asked for what they needed. Many didn’t know what they needed, but Jesus did. He looked into their hearts and gave them exactly what they needed – grace. In the end, Jesus knew what people need.

The week had a few last teachings. The fig tree was not producing fruit. The money changers were affecting worship and prayers. Jesus came to shake things up. He turned the tables on the religious people. The people’s hearts were not turned over to God. So Jesus turned the tables on them. The fig tree was cursed because there was no fruit. The disciples’ feet needed washing and no one was willing to do it. Jesus bent low to teach the disciples this is what it means to follow me. Bend low and I will raise you up. Jesus bent low once more on a deadly cross so that ultimately we would be lifted up. The cross was the ultimate table turner. Those who turn their hearts toward Jesus are no longer lost in sin, but given a new life through Jesus’ death. No, it’s not our way. We would never have chosen a cross to save someone.

Did the week really go wrong or did it really go right? Jesus knew when He walked into the city that He would be walking out of it to die a gruesome death for everyone who shouted praise and for those who shouted to crucify Him. He also washed the feet of Judas, the one who betrayed Him. God’s ways are not our ways for sure. It’s a good thing too. I needed to be saved. I needed the body broken and bruised. I needed the blood spilled because I too am a sinner who shouts praise one minute and crucifies my brothers and sisters the next. As I contemplate all Jesus did during His last week, I want to walk differently. I want to bend low. And I want the tables turned so that my heart is truly changed for good.

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:24-37

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