Tag Archives: Gospel

Now That Changes Everything

Everyone wants the good life. But what if the good life isn’t good enough? What if God’s best is different than our ideal dreams?

I wrestled with this today while listening to Pastor Charlie Hill’s message at Steamboat Christian Center. What if it isn’t that our desires are too strong, but they are directed toward the wrong things? What if our desires are trully too weak?

I am reminded of this famous quote by author and theologian, C.S. Lewis. He wrote in the Weight of Glory, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

The forces of darkness want us to run after things that are a lot like Chinese food. These things may taste good in the moment, but they leave us feeling hungry in less than 30 minutes.

I live in a vacation paradise. It is beautiful in Steamboat. But this town also has a dark secret. This county has fairly high suicide rate. I first discovered this reality when I moved to town and talked with a friend who works with the local hospital. He is called in to help counsel and minister to those who are suspected of trying to commit suicide. He told me that he gets more calls than you would imagine.

People come to the Boat expecting this vacation mecca to solve their problems. But funny thing, after a while the world-class skiing, biking and fishing doesn’t seem to satisfy. Many people have pinned their hopes on the  wrong things. Sure, those activities are fun and fulfilling. But I believe that God designed us all to have deep connections both with Him and with others.

Pastor Charlie preached on John 14:6 where Jesus made a pretty radical statement. He said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This seems like a pretty exclusive statement. What about those who have not known or believed in Jesus? And what do you have to believe to realize this blessing? Is this just a creed you must believe? Or is it an invitation to something more?

Back during Jesus’ earthly ministry, many people wanted to know the way to eternal life. This was a question sometimes asked of rabbis and teachers. Jesus made it clear that other paths lacked something critical — a personal relationship with God through Jesus. This statement wasn’t about keeping people out. Its purpose is to clarify what works. It is found in a passage where Jesus is going to add rooms onto His house so that more people can stay there with Him forever. This is an invitation to deep intimacy. The kind of love that says, “Come move in forever.” Now that is love.

Jesus was making it clear that lives apart from God will never be enough. There will always be emptiness and brokenness. The good life we seek is not found in stuff, other people or experiences apart from God. It can only be found in a deep relationship with God where He makes all those things more enjoyable. You can’t truly have forever fun until you find your for real freedom.

This news Jesus spoke may seem exclusive. But it is open to all. It may only seem restrictive if you rebuff his invitation. Jesus said, “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

If you want peace and purpose, there is no better place than the arms of Jesus. Please go to a Christian friend or a godly church in your area and chat with a minister or member who can help you. If you have tried everything else, why not try Jesus? You may just discover like I did that He truly changes everything.

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Knowing Jesus Changes Everything

I just got joy bombed, or at least that is what I call it after listening to Joy Dawson speak on the subject of following Jesus and the glory of God. Dawson is an internationally known speaker and evangelist. But the real important thing is that she listens to the Holy Spirit and seeks to promote Jesus as the model for how we should live.

Dawson said, “We don’t know Jesus yet. We don’t understand what we are asking when we ask to see God’s glory.” This hit me like a ton of bricks. The apostle John spent years walking and living with Jesus during His earthly ministry. But when he received a revelation of the glory of Christ while exiled on the island of Patmos, he fell down as dead before the One he had known so well. This was Jesus in holiness and in fire. This was God in just part of His glory, and John was undone.

Have I ever experienced God like this? The answer is no. Few of us have. The apostle John received a great revelation that day. We still study it today in the book of Revelation – the unveiling of the glory of God. John received this great revelation while on a prison island – a dark place meant to isolate John could not keep him from what God wanted to reveal. This gives me hope.

Dawson said, “We can go through anything if we focus on Jesus, but it is a choice.” That is so true. The apostle John could have let his circumstances cloud out his heart for Christ. But that didn’t happen, because he chose to seek God even in the midst of darkness and isolation. Do you really want to have a deep, loving relationship with God? It is possible. But it does come at a great price. Jesus paid that price on the cross. And we have to pay a price to follow Him, but it is worth the cost.

Dawson said that Jesus came down to the earth for five basic reasons. These were to 1.) Show us what the Father is like, 2.) Die on a cross to atone for the sins of the world, 3.) Defeat satan and demonic powers, 4.) Show us how to live, and 5.) To be our life.
And Dawson asked what does the Lord require of His followers. She said, “Obedience is all that Jesus wants at any one time.”

The message of Jesus was simple. He put little children in front of the disciples as an example of the kind of faith they should have. Dawson added that Jesus called His followers to repent from sin, believe in Jesus and to obey Him, and to go do and tell what was commanded. It really is quite simple as long as you stay close to God and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

This brought to mind a question that I have struggled with for most of my adult life. Can Jesus be your savior if He is not your Lord? Dawson suggested that obedience is a prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ. We spend too much time playing church and not enough of our lives being the Church. She said, “Satan doesn’t care how much that you sing to God in a church building if you do not get radical and go out and what Jesus did.”

Jesus preached the Gospel. Why don’t we? Jesus fed the poor? Why don’t we? Jesus comforted the broken hearted. Why don’t we? Jesus healed the sick. Why don’t we? Jesus challenged dead religion. Why don’t we? Jesus spoke in power and under the prompting of the Holy Spirit. Why don’t we?

Sure, some Christians do some of these things. But many of us don’t follow Christ’s example as much as we should in our daily lives.

As Dawson finished speaking this morning, the Holy Spirit prompted me to read I John 2:1-6. I particularly noticed a connection with what Dawson said and verses 3-6. The apostle John wrote, “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”

The apostle John clearly stated that those who know Christ should live as He did and obey His commands. Jesus gave a commission to His followers to spread His message and make disciples. Jesus has called us to preach to the lost and pray for the sick. Jesus declared that those who come after Him would do greater things than He did because He was leaving the work of the Church to us. While we will never be God nor ransom the world from sin and death, we do have the awesome privilege of caring the influence of Christ around the globe.

So do you really know Jesus? One true encounter with Him changes everything.

What’s Your Story?

Asking the above question is a good way to find out what makes other people tick. It can also be the start to a very long and frequently interesting discussion. I thought a lot about story today after watching a video on sharing the Christian Gospel with other people. The video was by Caesar Kalinowski of the GCM Collective, a group focused on developing communities based on the Gospel. You can view the video at http://www.gcmcollective.org/article/story-training-videos/

Anyway, I love what Caesar said about the power of story when it comes to sharing the Gospel. Too many times we treat the Gospel as a bunch of facts or religious creeds that need to be memorized and then spouted off on cue. Sure, the Gospel contains information and doctrine. But it is much more than that. Caesar made the point that if you present a bunch of facts about the plight of orphans around the world it is not as easy to remember as telling a story about a particular orphan and then wrapping some general statistics up in the narrative of the story. The point is that we better remember key principles through stories and pictures than we do through lots of mere facts or creeds.

When you get right down to it, the Gospel is a story. While it contains truth and is the path to life, it is also a story. It is not a fictional story. And it does pertain to our lives today even though it began long ago. The Gospel is a story that has been going on for thousands of years and continues to be written today. It is the story of God and His relationship with mankind. And we are part of that story.

Too often people think of the life of Jesus as something separate from their everyday existence. But Scripture is clear that Jesus lives through His followers today. The story of Jesus was propelled into significance for us when He died and rose again. Yet, it didn’t stop there. It continues today as we carry on the work, life and Spirit that He gave us. 

And that my friends is a game changer. When you realize that you are part of a cosmic story that has echoed through ages passed to our world… right now. That is amazing. Telling a story is not hard, especially when it is our story. We just have to find the courage to open our hearts and speak what we know is true. Others may reject it. But that’s not the point. The most important thing is to be true to what we believe and have experienced. And I believe the story of Jesus is the most liberating, awe inspiring thing I have ever heard. And the Good News is that I get to share it.

What is the Gospel?

I wonder if I have at times become “so familiar” with the Bible and especially the Christian Gospel that I lose sight of its epic, boundless quality. Can you have heard so many sermons that you begin to think there isn’t much new to be learned about God? Or does this reveal a faulty mindset that has lost its way? If God is beyond description, why do we look at His Word as something less than supernatural, epic, and majestic? The Bible (God’s book) is beyond whatever else we might read on a daily basis. I was thinking about this tonight after Pastor Tim Matthews spoke on the parable of the sower and the seed from Matthew 13. He challenged the youth group to dare to study the Scriptures, soak in it and live it. Beyond looking for good principles to apply, Pastor Tim encouraged us to seek to be transformed. He challenged us to be good ground that would produce fruit in God’s Kingdom.

The Bible is not a self-help book. I admit that on many occasions I have taken the “I already knew that” attitude toward something found in Scripture. But the strange thing is I may not have been living by the light of that knowledge. Many times I needed to hear something again that I already supposedly knew.

So I feel led to revisit the basic Christian message, commonly known as the Gospel. What is it really? Is the Gospel just ten basic beliefs about God and His relationship with mankind? Is the Gospel merely about statements of faith? Or is it something more — an ethic, a call to become like Christ? Is the Gospel something that ever changes? Or is it something that only changes us? Is the Gospel fully realized now or a forward looking hope for a better world? Is the Gospel even really about mankind? Or is its core preoccupation mainly God and His glory revealed to humanity?

These questions have led me to develop what I am calling the Gospel Challenge. I am encouraging anybody who has a relationship with God through Jesus to take 30 days to wrestle with what the Gospel is based on Scripture and your own reflection as you pray and listen for the guidance of the Holy Spirit. May you look to see how the Gospel is lived out in your world. Specifically, I am encouraging other Christians who know me to take up this challenge.

It starts with reading the Bible daily while looking to see what your reading reveals about the basic Christian message. You should ask questions like, “What does this story show us about God? or How does this passage depict God’s Kingdom?

Second, you develop a list of key beliefs explaining what the Gospel is and how it should function in our daily lives. What really is this Good News that we are called to share with the world? I am starting with a simple computer document that says, “The Christian Gospel is….”

Third, refine your list and share some insights with others to see what they think. I intend to ask other believers, “If you had to explain the Christian message in 3-5 minutes, what would you say?”

Fourth, wrestle some more with the concepts that arise as you study, pray about the Christian message and discuss the Gospel with others. The last part of the challenge is to come up with a basic Gospel statement or creed and attempt to live according to these beliefs on daily basis.

So who is with me? What does the Gospel really mean to you? I welcome others to post on my blog their thoughts on what the Christian Gospel is and how it functions in the world.

The Gospel IS…

The gospel is…

The power of God for salvation (Romans 1:16), God judging the secrets of men by Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16), veiled to those who are perishing (2 Corinthians 4:3), light that shows the glory of Christ who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4), not another gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4), is not man’s gospel (Galatians 1:11), to be proclaimed among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2), justification by faith (Galatians 3:8), the word of truth and a sealing of believers with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), standing firm in one spirit with one mind (Philippians 1:27), the hope laid up for you in heaven (Colossians 1:5),  proclaimed in all creation under heaven (Colossians 1:23), come in power and in the Holy Spirit with full conviction (1 Thessalonians 1:5), preached with boldness in the midst of much conflict (1 Thessalonians 2:2), sharing ourselves to others not just words (1 Thessalonians 2:8), the infliction of vengeance on those who do not know or obey God (2 Thessalonians 1:8), the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light (2 Timothy 1:10), Jesus Christ risen from the dead (2 Timothy 2:8),  preached to those who are dead (1 Peter 4:6), is to be obeyed (1 Peter 4:17), proclaimed to every nation and tribe and language and people (Revelation 14:6).

Struggling to Understand the Present Reality of God’s Grace

Tonight The Stars Speak by The Glorious Unseen

Tonight the stars speak of your infinite love
And it serves to remind me
That what I have means nothing at all
Compared to your glory, Oh lord

How long till your voice speaks clearly?
How long till your arms envelope me?
I cry be my strength when I am weak
Oh Lord have mercy on me please

My spirit is willing but my flesh is so weak
I cry in your arms now
God grant me the strength to rest in you
I lift my hands and cry

http://www.myspace.com/thegloriousunseen

The above is a song of yearning. It captures the heart cry of a sinner who is coming to grips with  the reality of his or her brokenness. It reminds us that we have to look to a power beyond ourselves. I had the pleasure of attending a worship service tonight where the Glorious Unseen played this song.

It really seemed to capture the depth of my sense of isolation from God. At times, I feel so far away even though I know that God is closer than I can ever imagine. At times, it feels like I have to beg God for love and mercy when He has already given me everything I need in Christ.

The Holy Spirit spoke to me while singing this song tonight. He said, “You don’t need to beg for my mercy. I have already provided it to you. All you need to do is walk in what I have placed before you. Get up and get going in the reality that I died to secure.”

This was swift kick in the gut. I started to realize that I struggle to believe the basics of the Christian Gospel. Although I know it  to be true, I seem to forget the impractical reality of God’s grace in my live. It seems too good to be true. And it is. That is what makes the Gospel the greatest reality in human history. That is why it is the source of all hope. I am reminded of the lyrics from this other Glorious Unseen song.

Forever Holy
God, You stand when all has fallen
You embrace the long forgotten
I guess it’s just hard to believe
The Grace You’ve poured out on me
I guess I’m just starting to see
How You’re working in me

This is what makes my head spin
You’re forever Holy
God of all creation
Pour Your life into me
This is so overwhelming
You’re forever Holy
God of my Salvation
Clothe me in Your Glory

Awestruck by God

Have you ever looked at the sky or a mountain scene and been blown away by the grandeur of what you saw? I know that I sure have. I will never forget standing at artist point between Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan. The view is incredible. Here is a sample of what I mean…

Mount Baker Artist Point

Mount Baker Artist Point

Mountains are gigantic. They seem to transcend time and remind us of the power pent up under the surface. We feel so small compared to these behemoths.

But that is nothing compared to the majesty and might of God. Scripture tells us that God measures the universe within the span of His hand. That’s one big hand.

Pastor Tim from the Hanger spoke at The Mix last night. He delivered the essence of the Gospel in a very raw and in-your-face fashion. It was awesome. He said one of the big problems is that we don’t understand how incredible the cross really is. We think that a mountain scene shows us the power of God when the most incredible thing that God has ever done is send Jesus to die on the cross. While God speaking all things into existence is amazing, it is far less stunning than Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

It is the cross that has restored a broken relationship and redeemed creation. It is the cross that reveals the depth of God’s love. When people asked for a sign, Jesus said that no sign will be given them except his death and resurrection. The cross is the pinnacle of human history. It is mas grande!

No mountain. No ocean. No prehistoric dinosaur bone should seem more significant. It is the empty tomb where we find everlasting life.

Are you awestruck by Jesus? I know that I sometimes let the Gospel lose its impact. I become deceived by material things and fail to keep the cross in its proper perspective. There is nothing bigger than a God who gave it all to save me and you.

Jesus' death on the cross is mas grande!
Jesus

 This is love…