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building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Jesus is the Way”

The Tree

In my small group time this week, we were challenged to tell our story. First, to write it down. Second to share it with someone. Statistics tell us that the majority of believers in Jesus Christ will not share with non-believers the story that changes everything. They will not share how they came to faith or what a difference Jesus has made in their lives. They will not lead others to the foot of the cross where Jesus died for everyone’s sin. It’s uncomfortable to share something that others might reject us because of it. However, rejection is all a part of the story. It’s all about the tree. The first tree, in the Garden of Eden, is where the story begins.

You might have heard the story of Adam and Eve and bite that changed everything for humankind. Adam and Eve took the forbidden fruit off the tree of good and evil. The bite was not the sin that was introduced to the world; it was taking the word of the serpent over the word of God. The tree of good and evil brought death. It brought spiritual death. Spiritual death was brought on by the broken relationship between God and Adam and Eve. When the “fruit” of sin became part of Adam and Eve, they passed it along through their DNA to each generation. It’s a natural part of us. And in our natural states, we are far from God. We are clothed in nakedness with guilt and shame; with no hope of a relationship with God. The fruit of sin does that to us. It makes us offensive to God.

However, God didn’t leave the story of humankind to that one bite or that one tree. He had another tree in mind. God created another tree that would one day become the place of death that would bring spiritual life. At God’s appointed time, and through His way, He brought the answer to our brokenness. Jesus. Jesus became the only way to right the relationship between God and us. Jesus is the bridge of hope for us all. It is by God’s design through Jesus’ death on a tree (also known as a cross). Jesus died so that we could have eternal life. This tree brings life – spiritual life.

I have heard Jesus’ story all my life. I was raised in a Christian home. So I knew about Jesus early. On Easter Sunday, 1973, on the front row of my small Baptist church, I heard a word to “Go” when the invitation was offered. I moved out of that seat to walk the small distance to the preacher who asked me if I wanted Jesus to be my Savior. I said yes. This wasn’t a life altering decision for me. I was almost eleven years old on that fateful day and had no clue that I was naked and covered in shame and guilt because of my sinful ways. I just heard the word go and I did.

I believe on that day, I had the covering of Jesus’ blood. I believe on that day, I became protected and His. My faith journey resembles the faith journey of Jesus’ disciples. They walked three years with Him to get to know Him but it wasn’t until the death and resurrection of Jesus when their eyes were truly opened. My faith walk took more like twenty years. It wasn’t until the death of my friend in 1993 when my eyes were truly opened to Jesus’ death and resurrection and what that meant for me. I recognized my sinful nature as it truly was; a broken relationship with God and no way out of my mess except through Jesus.

It has been a long process to come to the place where I can totally confess with my heart that Jesus is Lord of my life. I had already confessed that He was my Savior; but when He became my Lord, everything changed for me. I liked to think of my faith journey as a fishing analogy. Jesus is the fisherman. He caught me on His line in 73; He gave me a little line to wear me out so that He could finally reel me in. I fought the process for twenty plus years, but eventually He reeled me in. He got me in His boat, cleaned me up, and released me back into the waters. I was released to bring others to Jesus’ line, not to go back and live a life of sin. Like the disciple Philip where he finds Nathanael and tells him about Jesus; we are told that we are to testify about Jesus – to be a witness of Jesus’ work. Philip said to Nathanael “Come and see.” This is the purpose of our stories.

My story isn’t really that exciting. It’s the process of learning about Jesus, knowing Him fully as Savior and Lord, then experiencing His transforming work in me as He leads me each and every day. Two trees changed everything for all of us. The first tree took everything from us; the second tree restored it all through Jesus. It’s with this thought I leave with you – have you been changed by the second tree?

It’s the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—“Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” Romans 9-10 (MSG)

The Bridge

I had a strange dream last night. I was on a rocky shore looking inland. I needed to get inland; I couldn’t stay where I was. I started to make my way around a jetty, but it was too hard to cross. Someone came along in a boat and helped me get around it. As I looked inland, I noticed a bridge in the distance. I knew I needed to make my way to the bridge, but I didn’t know how I was going to do it. From the shore, I found a path up the rocks to a door. I crossed through the door and found myself on a high ledge overlooking a rapidly flowing river. Someone behind me wanted me to go up this ledge but the way was scary. There were rock footholds along the ledge that allowed movement upward. The rocks were not stable; one fell as I grabbed hold of it. The person behind me kept telling me to go faster but I couldn’t. I was making my way to the bridge when I woke up.

Don’t you hate it when you wake up before the dream is finished? As I was in that in between state of full wakefulness, I contemplated why I needed to cross the bridge. I think it represented safety. The river was too rapid and would be my sure demise. The place where I started wasn’t any safer either. I had to keep moving toward my goal.

The dream reminded me of a way to present the Gospel message. I was told to draw a picture of two cliffs. One side is where we stand. The other side is where God stands. There is a wide crevice between us with no way to cross to God on our own. God gave us Jesus to be the bridge between us and Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). It’s only through Him that we can cross to God. There are many along our path that will point us to Jesus – the bridge. But we all have to choose to follow the narrow path to His door. He is the door we go through to eternal life. The way is always narrow, and the way is always fought with obstacles to make us want to turn back. The bridge though is what we truly want – peace is just on the other side.

I have known about Jesus all my life. I grew up in church. I had a Bible on my nightstand since I was old enough to read – even though I didn’t really read it unless prompted to do so. My Mom and Dad pointed the way to Jesus, but it was my own choice to follow Him. I haven’t always followed the path perfectly. I have strayed far and wide from it at certain times of my life. Jesus, though, always came looking for me. He never let me stay off the path for long.

I know many would say that there are more ways to heaven than going through Jesus. Many think that their good works will get them there. However, good works will be burned upon entry. If the good we do stands it will be like silver or gold; the dross will rise out of the fire and what remains will be purified. The good that stands are eternal good works – done for the “least of these.” The good we attempt on our own is like straw or hay which will be burned up upon entry. It will amount to nothing. Jesus taught that if we do good works with impure motives or acknowledge our works to others, it will not stand. The ones who do the will of God are the ones whose work will be purified through the fire.

God sent His Son to us as a babe in swaddling clothes. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men (Luke 2:32). At the time of His anointing, He began to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, recover sight to the blind and to release the oppressed. He showed us the way to eternal life. Jesus calls us to follow Him. We are told to fix our eyes upon Him. When the way is rocky and the storms of life come, it’s only by His presence we will have peace to endure and finish well. Let’s not forget the reason for this season. Let’s keep our eyes focused on Jesus, our bridge to eternal life.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.

There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. John 3:16-18 (NLT)

Rain and Frogs

After hearing the messages from last week’s Code Orange Revival from Elevation Church, I want to reflect a bit on what I heard. As I sit here at my table this early morning, I hear the rain coming down. Levi Lesko said that rain was a symbol of God’s blessing. Rain is a precious commodity especially in a dry season. Elijah prayed for a drought because of the sinful condition of the nation of Israel. And God sent a drought for three and half years. At the end of the drought, Elijah sent for the people to gather at Mount Carmel to see the One true God. The message is found in 1 Kings 18:20-46.

The people watched as Elijah dug a trench around the altar that he repaired. The people were told to fill four large jars with water. Where did they get the water? Did they go to the sea to get it? Or did they use what they had brought with them? Whether they had to use what they had or they had to go a distance to find water, it cost them something to see a miracle happen. Elijah poured out the water jars on the altar and then asked the people to fill them a second time; then a third time. The water was running over the altar and into the trench. Elijah prayed and fire fell down on the altar and licked up every drop of that precious commodity.

The story didn’t end there. Drought was still on the land. Before there was a cloud formed, Elijah told the King Ahab to “go, eat and drink for there is the sound of a heavy rain.” Elijah went to the top of the mountain and prayed. Seven times he asked his servant to go and see if there was anything on the horizon. The seventh time the servant reported a small cloud rose from the sea. And with that small cloud, a blessing of rain came.

Elijah was persistent in praying. He continued in his efforts until a small cloud formed. He heard the sound of rain before the cloud appeared; actually before he started to pray. He knew that God would hear his prayer and knew that God would answer his prayer; he just didn’t know how long it would take. He kept praying until he received the answer. Persistence and belief go hand in hand to receive those answered prayers.

John Gray said that the sound of heaven brings things together for miracles to happen. God’s voice spoke creation into existence. Particles come together to form the earth and everything in it. God spoke and light separated darkness. The sound from heaven begins the process. Sometimes we just don’t hear the sound; sometimes we are too busy to hear the voice of God speak. But sometimes God sends a burning bush to get our attention.

Christine Caine spoke about the frog plague found in Exodus 8:1-14. God sent plagues on the land of Egypt in order to release Israel from the bondage of slavery. Moses was his instrument that He used to bring about these miracles. Dharius Daniels mentioned that the people cried out to God; God spoke to Moses. But the people didn’t know God was working on the problem. The people may have thought God didn’t hear their prayers cause nothing seemed to change. They were still in slavery, yet God was working on Moses. Moses had a few doubts about his ability to handle this God-sized task. We are never adequate for God-sized tasks; but God is, and He asks the most unlikely people to do the job so that He gets the glory.

So the frogs came and the people of Egypt had frogs everywhere – in their houses, in their kitchens, in their bedrooms and even in their beds. Yuck! Can you imagine? Pharaoh summons Moses to pray to remove the frogs. Moses told him to set the time of the removal. Pharaoh said tomorrow. God could have removed them immediately, but Pharaoh chose another night with the problem. When the prayer was answered, the people were left with the consequences of the plague. The people had to remove the dead frogs from their houses. The stench filled the air.

The plague of frogs is a bit like our sins. Sin is a stench to God. The only way we can remove the stench is to seek forgiveness from God. But we have to do it today, not tomorrow. Sin is removed immediately upon forgiveness, but we have to deal with the consequences of our sins. Whatever is causing our distress, our sin or someone else’s; when we cry out to God, He will hear our cries. An answer is coming but sometimes it may take a while to see the results. God may be dealing with another Moses to answer our prayers. In the meantime, God is working on our hearts.

Persistence and belief in our gracious Father brings about a change in our hearts not a circumstance, but ultimately God will answer according to His time and in His way. God will send the rain, and the dry season will end. Wait for it. Persist and believe!

Let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Hebrews 10:22-23 (NLT)

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