Building Your Own Jesus.

Recently a good friend of mine shared an illustration during a Sunday sermon that stirred up some creative juices that inspired me to start writing in my blog again. While this mouthwatering illustration has been simmering in my mind for the past couple of days, I just had to share it with you.

Burger King introduced the world to the Whopper in 1957 along with a revolutionary concept that changed the way we order fast food. For the first time you could customize your burger to fit your personal taste. Don’t like pickles, no problem, like a little extra ketchup or mustard, of course. Aptly named, the whopper was a big hit, especially because it outsized any of the competitors burgers and you could order it just the way you wanted. Burger Kings mantra continues to ring out as, “have it your way”. 

Today this might not seem like a big deal as we tend to customize everything, burgers, pizzas, computers, cars, ringtones, music playlists, water bottles, watch bands and so much more. Over the passage of time our mantra has become “have it our way” While I am sure you can come up with a long list of things that you can customize, have you ever considered how this tendency to tailor things to our own taste/needs may intersect with our relationship with Jesus? 

Admittedly, like my friend, I have over time “customized” my relationship with Jesus to suit my own needs or wants. I have ordered off the “menu” choosing what I need or want and leaving out the rest of who he is. As we all face a multitude of different circumstances in life we sometimes slip into a false sense of who Jesus is thinking we can “have him our way”. 

Sometimes in life we choose to create a Jesus that works for us. We like the idea that Jesus loves us and watches out for us, that he leads, guides and protects us. And then on the flip side there are things we don’t like. It might be something he taught that stands in the face of a lifestyle choice we are living comfortably in or something that we want to do. We want to live life our way and fit Jesus into that life. As we check out the menu and build our own Jesus, we might like my friend order the following:

“A super-sized Jesus with extra grace, double forgiveness, hold the truth, with an order of don’t make me feel bad about anything that I want to do on the side.”

Throughout the ages individuals and groups of people have viewed Jesus through their particular lenses, building a version of him for themselves. Even his closest followers, the twelve disciples, didn’t fully understand who he was. The truth of God’s word holds the keys to truly knowing who Jesus is. The grand narrative of scripture reveals to us bit by bit the incredible truth of hope we can have in Jesus as we draw closer to him. 

When the disciples asked Jesus about which is the greatest commandment he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” When we invite Jesus to be the Lord of our lives, we must commit to the “full meal deal”, every aspect of our heart, soul and mind must be given over to him. It’s not “have it your way”, “have it our way” or “have him our way”. In life and in death, Jesus is the way, the truth and the life that we must follow. 

To listen to message that inspired this blog entry click here

High-Beam Headlights

Have you ever been driving at night and found your eyes momentarily blinded by the piercing stream of light from the high-beam headlights of an oncoming vehicle? Many of you have. What’s your first reaction? Do you give a quick courtesy flash of your lights back to the driver coming your way in hopes that they dim their lights and pass you by? Or, do you return fire with fire and burn your halogen bulbs at full candlepower until the other person gives in and relents to your stunning retaliation?

The apostle Paul has received word about a “high-beam” situation infiltrating the church in Corinth. Various groups within the church were beginning to “flash their lights at each other” over who they were following along with reports of sexual immortality, lawsuits and other troubling activities. Paul deals with the first issue of divisiveness before the others in chapters 1:20-4:21. He describes the problem in 1:12, “What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another “I follow Cephas”, still another, “I follow Christ.” 

The opening of Paul’s letter “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people” was a call to unity where disarray was brewing. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you.” What was Paul’s plan? How in the midst of disagreement can the church come together in love for one another? 

Paul outlines four methods for us to “dim the lights” and foster an attitude and environment where unity can flourish. 

First and foremost, Paul instructs the people to focus on the cross of Christ. (1:18-2:5) Simply put, the Corinthians have lost sight of the cross, their “high-beam” focus on other leaders for power and authority has to be refocused, the need to return to the truth of the gospel message. It is not about them but all about Christ. 

Second, He speaks to the truth of spiritual wisdom. (2:6-16) Without the leading and guiding of the Spirit in all matters of faith in life as believers we will fail in our own weaknesses. He reminds us of God’s wisdom as revealed by the Spirit. “The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God.” (2:10b)

Third, he speaks to the true equality of all believers. (3:1-23) Paul uses two metaphors, one of farmers in a field and another of construction workers building together. He stresses in verse 9 that we are “co-workers” (working together) in God’s service. 

Lastly, Paul speaks to the true nature of leadership. (4:1-21) Called by God, the leaders are his faithful servants; “This then is how you ought to regard us: as servants of Christ and those entrusted with the mysteries God has revealed.” (4:1) In short, Paul highlights the truth that Christ is to be exalted over his chosen leaders (servants), while at the same time given the respect they deserve because of their calling. 

Having been momentarily “blinded” by the powerful lights of an oncoming car I will admit I’ve responded to the situation with both a quick courtesy flash and more aggressive retaliation. For all of us, whether sitting in the driver’s seat or walking through other events in life, Paul’s timeless reminder to “dim the lights” and focus on the cross and listen to the leading and guiding of the Spirit will do us well.  

The Great _ommission

An omission is defined as “the action of excluding or leaving out someone or something”. Today, I have purposely left something out in my title, did it catch your attention? I feel it is befitting of the mysterious tendency that creeps into the ordinary day-to-day pattern of life we as believers can sometimes drift into. The exclusion or omission of clear instruction in our spiritual life has an impact on our mission as followers of Jesus Christ. We all tend to drift without continuous reminders of who we are called to be and what our mission is as believers. 

Like the disciples, we have been given a clear and concise mandate as believers, it is recorded for us in Matthew chapter 28: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” This is the mission we chose to accept when we entered into a personal relationship with the Son of God. His words to us, his clear instructions are central to the life we are to live as his disciples.  We are called to be disciple making disciples. So, what does this look like for us today, in what context are we to “go”?

The first thing that we must consider as we walk in obedience to this command today is the promise that follows it; something that we often forget when we begin to slip into that mysterious tendency I mentioned earlier, Jesus says: “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” There should be incredible encouragement found for each one of us in this promise, not just in the beginning as we are fired up and ready to go, but right through till the end. He is with us, (think about that for a minute). “Go” in this passage refers to the act of going in a particular direction. Figuratively, it refers to taking a particular course of action, and in this case has an effect on someone becoming a disciple (a follower of Christ). The Great Commission is not only meant to cross borders (all nations) but is a call for all believers to be active in their own little parts of the world. This means we are to actively influence those who are close to us, family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, community members by living out our faith in a way that brings about change (transformational change) in their lives. 

Have you been living in omission to the Great Commission? Has life shifted your focus to a different mission? One of the best ways to build your confidence in sharing your faith so that you can fulfill your God given mission, is to immerse yourself in His word. The Bible is full of incredible testimonies of God’s amazing mercy and grace. His word has been inspiring believers for centuries to be on task, to be ready for action and to go out into the world on mission for him. It is my prayer for you that you are a disciple making disciple. 

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth

This blog is a reflection and study on the Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith

“Straight from the horse’s mouth” is a phrase that describes information that has been received straight from a source of authority and has not been constructed or distorted by a third party. When we want to make a statement or persuade someone that the information we have to share comes from a trustworthy source, the author himself, we often use this idiom to make our point. 

Paul, in his letter to the church of the Thessalonians makes an incredible declaration of truth that points us to the authority and source of the words given to the people through the ministry of Silas, Timothy and himself. He writes, “…when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thes. 2:13). “But as it actually is”, fast forward a couple millennia and we have a different way of saying these words. 

I “believe the Holy Bible to be that collection of sixty-six books from Genesis to Revelation which, as originally written, was objectively the very Word of God” *. The writer of Hebrews says, “For the word of God is alive and active”, a statement that I believe is as true today as the moment it was written. As a believer, I hold fast to the truth of the promises found in the scriptures and have experienced the work which is indeed a part of my life. The Bible, filled with the words of God, communicate to us who he is; he reveals himself to us and leads and guides us into a closer relationship with him through his son Jesus (the word of life). 

Have you ever taken someone’s word as true? Have you trusted their words and been let down? I imagine we have all been there. The word of God is the ultimate truth, one that will never let us down. These written words, through the work of Holy Spirit awaken our desire to live like Christ, they become a part of who we are. God directed the lives of some incredible men and women whose stories fill the pages of the Bible. As we remain faithful to and live out the words and instruction found in these sixty-six books, we are to accept them not as human word, but as it actually is, the word of God. Like Silas, Timothy and Paul we have received these words it is now our responsibility to share them with others. 

*Fellowship Pacific Statement of Faith Article 1 – Scripture.

Strength (integrity)

A quick online search for “strongest material on earth” results in a storm of websites listing Graphene as number one. Graphene is a one-atom-thick sheet of carbon 200 times stronger than steel. One engineer said that It would take an elephant balancing on a pencil to break a sheet as thin as Saran wrap. Incredible when you think about it isn’t it? 

When I think about the strongest man in the Bible my first instinct is to think of the mighty Sampson. Called and gifted by God, Sampson displayed some miraculous feats of physical strength. Yet for me, another man jumps to my mind when it comes to a different picture of strength, and that is Job. Job’s integrity as a faithful servant of God withstood some of the most painful personal hardships that one man could ever face.  

Job 1:1 (NIV): “This man (Job) was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil”. The whole book deals with the realities of suffering and righteousness, something many christians continue to struggle with today. Verse one of chapter one describes Job as “blameless”, not necessarily sinless. Romans 3:8 reminds us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of the Lord.” Job’s integrity and devotion to God was tested through the unfathomable loss of his family; his good health was stripped from him and every material thing he had was taken away. In the midst of all these things Job utters these words, “he tests me — I shall come out like gold” (23:10)…“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. (42:5). 

We are given a picture of Job’s integrity in heart, soul and mind as we read his story. There is no doubt in my mind that Job struggled with sin in his life, he was human just like you and me.  His story tells us that his suffering was not because of any sin that he may have committed (despite what his “friends” try to tell him). Job’s integrity came out of his fear of God, it was an attitude of respect, obedience and upmost trust that guarded his integrity of heart from failure.

Job’s life, his experiences, should not drag us down, it should build us up with hope as we continue to live in a world filled with suffering and injustice. It has the power to encourage and inspire each of us in our own lives. This life of integrity lived by one man is and has been a model for many generations of believers. 

Like Minded

Like-minded people tend to share the same opinions, ideas, or interests. You might say that when two like-minded people get together there is a “meeting of the minds”. There are many constructs in this type of relationship where like-mindedness can help build healthy relationships with others. 

In Psalm 101 David describes many qualities that contribute to what might sound like a tall order to live by when it comes to living a life of Integrity. Verse six highlights one in particular that caught my attention, “My eyes will be on the faithful in the Lord, that they may dwell with me; the ones whose walk is blameless will minister to me.” This is a statement of character and ultimately a guide for building ourselves a line of defense against the evils and temptations of this world. David is giving us some incredibly wise relationship counselling through these words. As king, David knows that if he surrounds himself with like-minded people, (persons who share in his devotion to live a life of integrity under the call of the Lord) both himself and his reign will prosper. David’s words describe a plan to have people in his life who will hold him accountable, people who minister or speak into his life when trial or temptation come along; and as a king who could do as he wishes, these things could (and in some cases did) happen. David’s integrity was constantly challenged as a king. The bible records many of David’s failures but at the same time gives us a picture of heartfelt confession and repentance of what he had done. 

The lives that we live are influenced greatly by those around us. No matter where we are in this world there will always someone or something that will try and break past the walls of integrity that we work so hard to maintain. 

As a parent, I try to give wise counsel to my children much the same way David prescribes when it comes to the friends that they surround themselves with. I work diligently to try to live by this same counsel. 

Like David, I have received the promise of forgiveness when I call on the name of the Lord. Through the amazing gift of grace that is freely given to me today through Christ, I am forgiven. You and I fall short of perfection and integrity as we live, but if we live and share life together in Christ we may not fall so far. 

If/Else

In computer programming the if/else statement executes a block of code if a specified condition is true. If the condition is false, another block of code can be executed. The if/else statement is part of coding’s “conditional” statements, which are used to perform different actions based on different conditions. What happens if we apply this conditional coding format to 1 Kings 9:1-9?

Here is the setting: Solomon had finished building the temple of the Lord and the royal palace when God speaks to him and says “[if] you walk faithfully with integrity of heart and uprightness, as David your father did, and do all I command… I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever.” (vs 4-5) The flipside or [else] component to this conditional statement reads like this, “[But] [if] you or your descendants turn away from me… then I will cut off Israel from the land that I have given them.” There is a definite conditional statement here that requires our attention.

This passage reminds us of David’s integrity of heart and uprightness as king and servant of God. David’s obedience to God serves as the standard measure that all future kings are compared. The incredible truth and hope that we can draw from this fact is that we know that David was not a perfect person and yet he was considered a man after God’s own heart. He failed miserably at times as a man and as a king. His integrity of heart and uprightness is represented by his repentance, his deep and ultimate love for God. David, like Noah, Abraham, Job and others all help us see a faithful commitment to a standard of values that define integrity; values like goodness, honesty, graciousness, compassion and truth. As we walk in the presence of God today we need to be aware of how we are measuring up to this ancient but relevant measure of integrity.

Hang On…

I was having a conversation with a friend the other day and he mentioned that he was contemplating the possibilities of jumping head first off a perfectly safe solid steel bridge 150 feet down towards a glacier fed icy cold river while attached to a massive elastic rope.  Consider for a moment the faith and trust that you have to have in the one thing separating you from life and death… an elastic rope.

John, in chapter 15 of his gospel records the words of Jesus as he and his disciples begin their journey from the upper room where they shared their last meal together to the garden of Gethsemane. Along the way Jesus uses an illustration of the vine and the branches to describe their relationship with him and his father. He is the vine, we are the branches and his Father is the gardener. This illustration or allegory has some incredibly deep and profound truths that give us a glimpse into the Christian life. God, our father in heaven through his Son Jesus Christ plays an active role in our lives; “pruning” or acting on our behalf to lead and guide us through life so that we can continue to be used as his disciples to effectively carry on his mission to bring the good news of salvation to others.

Our world has many different “vines” to hold onto in life. Some hold onto the “vines” of selfishness, wealth, pride, stubbornness or false gods; and while the vine may continue to grow its roots have not been set firmly into the garden that our heavenly father first planted. Jesus tells us that he is the “true vine”, he is stronger than the “elastic rope”. He is our life-line that continues to give us strength today and until that day when he returns to be with us in eternity. Being attached to the true vine (through a personal relationship with Jesus) is to be under the care and love of the master gardener of life, God. Will you take a leap of faith and be one of the many who have put their hope and trust in the strength and power of the one true vine, Jesus Christ? It is not one that you will ever regret.

BOOM…

IMG_0524Have you ever had something “hit” you in a way that mere words cannot explain? Have you ever experienced a sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia? (aka, brain freeze or ice cream headache). Have you ever been exposed to the icy cold sensation of a negative thirty-five degree temperature on your bare face in the morning? In each instance the best way for someone to understand these events is to feel these for themselves.

John records a “triple whammy” of Jesus’s “I am statements in chapter 14:6 of his Gospel: I am the way, and the truth, and the life”.

Did it hit you? These are the words of Jesus; go back and read them again with authority; read them out loud; take a minute to hear what they are saying. (it’s ok, I’ll wait while you take a minute)

Jesus is responding to questions from Thomas and Philip, two of his disciples that have been following him for some time. He is reassuring them of who he is; that if they know who he is they know his Father in heaven.

When Jesus refers to himself as The Way, he reminds us of his betrayal, suffering, death and resurrection that opened up the way for us to be in relationship with his father:

“No one comes to the Father except through me”.

The Truth is a picture of reality, Jesus as God in flesh. The disciples lived in the presence of the truth of who Christ is, our One True Redeemer. The Life, another sketch of what Jesus has to offer us; his life was given so that we may live – we are talking everlasting life with him in the house of the Lord!

BOOM… let that hit you like a blast of cold air or an ice cream headache.

Do you Believe This?

IMG_0523Our culture today is fascinated by the unbelievable and the virtually impossible. For example, Guinness Book of Records holds the record for being the book most often stolen from Public Libraries. Robert L. Ripley (Ripley’s Believe it or Not), a cartoonist, explorer, reporter, adventurer, and collector, traveled to 201 countries in 35 years seeking the odd, the unusual, and the unexplained.  

Scripture makes some pretty incredible claims, some of which reach beyond the scope of our finite human minds. Jesus made a claim that no other being on earth could ever make, He said, “I am the resurrection and the life”. (John 11:25) This incredible statement is foundational to the faith that hundreds of millions of people like you and I have put our hope and trust in; centuries of time have passed before us having been shaped and influenced by this statement. Jesus makes the declaration that he is the source and the power that will bring all those who believe in Him into everlasting life in the presence of his father.

Consider for a moment the person that Jesus speaks these incredible words to; Martha of Bethany, sister to Lazarus, who was raised from the dead. Martha is not new to the life and work of Jesus, she has seen and experienced the life transforming power of Messiah. This is an incredible reminder to those who live to bring honour and glory to the name of Jesus to remain confident in His power to overcome sin and death. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” What is your answer? Can you and will you stand faithful in front of the supreme judge when he returns again and say to him, Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who has come to save the world.