Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Twenty-Four

24 years ago today, a 22 year old girl and a 28 year old guy were married.

Beth & John 1994

They weren’t going to have kids, and then they changed their mind.  They had two kids, they started a business, they had their ups and downs.  Lots of ups, but, boy, there were a lot of downs too.  From a temperament standpoint, she’s a melancholy “quitter” and he’s a choleric “commitment freak”.  Thank goodness he’s committed.  No matter how many times she wanted to give up on life, he kept her going.  But it certainly hasn’t been easy.

Thankfully, they kept up with date nights.  It helped to get out and unwind.  Six months ago, date night was a Switchfoot concert.

IMG_4571

And after that Switchfoot concert, they waited to see if Jon Foreman would play an after show.  Sitting in the car, refreshing Twitter, no updates, they decided to leave Meadowbrook and head home.  Jon must be spending time with his Michigan family tonight.  However, on the way home, one more Twitter refresh, and the after show was announced.  And this guy, he turned the car around.  What a guy!  🙂

They arrived in time to catch the last 2 songs out of 3.  And the third was “24”.  She grabbed her iPod and captured the moment.  The video and lyrics are posted below.

Today, on this 24th wedding anniversary, the words of this song are so perfect:

I am the second man now
And You’re raising the dead in me

Second man?  Who is that?  Well, Adam was the first man and Jesus was the second man.  Adam brought death, but Jesus brought life.  Like Adam, we are physically born into this world just once.  But we can be born again, a “second birth”, a spiritual birth.  This is raising the dead in us; Jesus Christ living inside us.  All we have to do is ask.

You see, Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good.  He came to make dead people LIVE.

The girl and the guy, they weren’t bad people.  But they were still people.  Human beings, born in the spiritual deadness of Adam, ruled by pride and selfishness.  Jon Foreman says it this way in “24”:

Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

Sounds like marriage to me.  I don’t think that girl and that guy would still be married today, 24 years later, if they hadn’t asked that Second Man to come live inside of them.

Is there dead inside that needs raising in you?

Ask Him.

He will.

That’s why He came.

That’s why He died and rose again.

To raise the dead in us.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.”
-The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8, Verse 11 (English Standard Version)

And if you’d like to read more about what happened between 24 years ago and now, check out this post:  Joshua the Prophet 

“Twenty-Four”

Twenty four oceans
Twenty four skies
Twenty four failures
Twenty four tries
Twenty four finds me
In twenty-fourth place
Twenty four drop outs
At the end of the day
Life is not what I thought it was
Twenty four hours ago

Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And I’m not who I thought I was twenty four hours ago
Still I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You

Twenty four reasons to admit that I’m wrong
With all my excuses still twenty four strong

See I’m not copping out not copping out not copping out
When You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now

And You’re raising these twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts
But I want to be one today
Centered and true

I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
You’re raising the dead in me
Oh, oh I am the second man
Oh, oh I am the second man now
Oh, oh I am the second man now
And You’re raising the dead in me

I want to see miracles, see the world change
Wrestled the angel, for more than a name
For more than a feeling
For more than a cause
I’m singing Spirit take me up in arms with You
And You’re raising the dead in me
Twenty four voices
With twenty four hearts
With all of my symphonies
In twenty four parts.
I’m not copping out. Not copping out. Not copping out.

-Switchfoot, from the album, The Beautiful Letdown

 

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What will you do?

I call myself a Christian because I want to live my life close to Jesus Christ.  I would love nothing more than to know that this blog helps you to live your life closer to him as well.  But I understand that the name “Jesus Christ” may make you want to scream and run the other direction.  Or you may feel that you would have to “check your brain at the door” before you could call yourself a Christian.  CS Lewis said, “I am not asking anyone to accept Christianity if his best reasoning tells him that the weight of evidence is against it.  That is not the point at which Faith comes in.”  I completely agree.

The Apostle Paul didn’t instruct us “to be transformed by the removal of your mind”,* but to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. (Rom. 12:2)  I believe that the weight of evidence is for Christianity and that Faith transformed me when God renewed my mind.    I know that God loves you and wants to transform you, but you have to want to be transformed.  I can pray for your transformation, but ultimately, God is the one responsible for drawing you to Him (John 6:44).

And when He does draw you, will you call Jesus your “Lord and Savior”?  Your “Ruler and Redeemer”?  Or is that all “Christianese”?  How about “Leader and Forgiver”?  Maybe that’s better, but it brings up another point.  What do I need to be forgiven of?  I haven’t done anything wrong.  I’m a good person.  That’s where I was almost 21 years ago.

You could say that the world’s largest religion is called “Good-personism”.*  Just make sure that, at the end of your life, your “good” outweighs your “bad”.  Sounds simple enough.  But how do you know when you’ve done enough? How much is enough?  And what if you’ve done something really horrible?  How much good do you have to do to make up for that?  And what if your definition of “really horrible” is vastly different from my definition of “really horrible”?  Maybe there’s a better way.  Maybe that way is called “Christianity”.

Christianity is the only religion where:*

1) Everyone is welcome
2) Everyone gets in the exact same way
3) Everyone can meet the requirement

So, how do you get in?  You turn to Jesus.  That’s it.  Sounds simple, right?  Well, if you’ve never done it, it’s probably the hardest thing you’ll ever do.  Why?  We don’t want anyone telling us what to do.  Especially not in America.  We have our rights, after all.  We should be able to do what we want.  We’ve got to look out for #1.  So, why would we, in our right minds, give control of our lives over to someone else?  We’ve got to be pretty darn sure that whoever we give control over to has our best interests in mind.

I can tell you, from my own personal experience, that Jesus does have our best interests in mind.  But that’s something you need to experience for yourself, if you are open and willing to ask for it.  And consider this.  Most people who reject Christianity still say that Jesus was a good teacher, a good moral leader. But consider what he said about himself.

Here’s a link to the Book of John in BibleGateway.com.  Jesus makes some pretty outlandish statements about himself: “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9); “I am in the Father and the Father is in me” (John 14:11); “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21).  Good teachers and good moral leaders don’t walk around claiming to be God, but Jesus did.

Jesus doesn’t give us the option to say that he’s a good, moral teacher.  Either he’s a liar or a lunatic or he’s the Lord.*  Those are our only options.

Here’s what Bono had to say about Jesus in an interview posted on Glenn Beck’s website on 3-31-15:

“It’s a defining question for Christian.  Who was Christ?  I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying he was a great thinker or great philosopher.  Because, actually, he went around saying he was the Messiah.  That’s why he was crucified.  He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God.  So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God or he was nuts.  Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes.  I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium.  And I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter.  I don’t believe it.”

Check out the 3 minute interview by clicking here.

But, really, here’s the bigger question to ask yourself:

If I became a Christian today, what would happen tomorrow?  What would the consequences be?  How would my life have to change if I were to believe this?*

So, we come back to the fact that we have to want to turn to Jesus.  And that’s what is so hard.  Humility is brutal.  Saying “no” to ourselves and “yes” to something better feels excruciating in the moment.  Do you know where the word “excruciating” came from?  That word was created to describe the act of being crucified.  That’s what was done for us. We have turned away from God, but Jesus died to pay for all of our “turning away“.

“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”
-Isaiah 53:6

What will you do with Jesus?

If you’d like to chat more, feel free to email me at jbjbac@gmail.com.

*Special thank you to Abdu Murray, Chris Zarbaugh and CS Lewis for this content.

In your anger…

So, I have a confession to make.  I have this issue.  I am easily offended.  Over and over again, all day long, I’m offended.  Because, after all, the world revolves around me, right?  Yep, it’s all about me.  And if you don’t give me the attention I think I deserve, or you respond more harshly than I thought necessary, or you didn’t memorize everything I just said, then I’m offended.  And my offense colors the rest of my day.  Kicks me right into a ditch.  And there I sit, paralyzed to do a darn thing.  And all for what?  Because I was offended.

I went to BibleGateway.com and looked up “offense”.  Over and over again, “offenses and sins” are referred to as one and the same.  And we’re told that if we repent and turn away from our offenses, we will surely live.  Could it be that, if “sin” is to miss the mark and turn away from God, “offense” could mean the same thing?  In Isaiah 44:22, God says: “I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist.  Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”  I love God’s remedy: repentance, turning around.  Simply turn back to Him.  He’s already paid the bill.

In Ephesians 4:26, the Apostle Paul says “In your anger do not sin” and continues in verse 27 with the reason why: “and do not give the devil a foothold.”  In our anger, if we turn away from God, we’re going to give the devil a foothold.  We’re going to do something destructive if we’re selfish and self-serving in our anger.  That’s the devil’s job description: to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10).  But that same verse says that Jesus came to give us abundant life.  Only two choices: abundant life or destructive life.  When I chose offense, I was choosing the destructive life, paralyzed in that ditch.

So, why doesn’t Paul just say “don’t get angry”?  Isn’t anger itself a sin?  Nope.  We’re humans and we’re going to get angry.  Jesus got angry and he was perfect.  Anger doesn’t have to be a bad thing.  A lot of good is done because someone, somewhere, got angry.  Anger motivates.  Children are saved from human trafficking because someone got angry.  Slaves are freed because someone got angry.  The hungry are fed because someone got angry.

We live in a war zone.  This world is not the way God intended it.  I think Matthew West says it best in his song, “Do Something“:

So, I shook my fist at Heaven
Said, “God, why don’t You do something?”
He said, “I did, I created you”

Instead of shaking our fists at Heaven, what would happen if we instead did what Jesus did when he got angry?  Jesus never sinned; he never turned away from God.  In his anger, he looked to his Father and said, “Dad, what should we do about this?”  That’s the kind of “sinless anger” that we’re called to.  Look to God and ask, “Dad, what should I do?”

Back to that issue of mine.  I am coming to believe that living in offense is living in sin, turned away from God, having my own pity party, all by myself.  I’m not looking to God saying, “Lord, I’m offended.  What should I do?”  I’m looking away from God, looking for an excuse to have that pity party.  I think that’s why we’re told over and over again to humble ourselves.  Pride is so destructive.  Like a two year old yanking away the broken toy protesting, “I do it myself.”

It takes humility to turn to God.  I don’t want to humble myself, but that’s exactly the right response.  Turn to God.  Get over myself.  Stop harboring that anger and hand my offense over to my Daddy in Heaven.  Realize how much grace I’ve been given and start handing out some of that grace.  I need to love that person the way I want to be loved.

“In your anger, do not sin”.  I believe that means, “You’re going to get angry, but don’t turn away from God.”  If in our anger we “sin” and turn away from God, taking up our own devices, really awful things can happen.  Instead, we can keep looking to God asking, “Lord, what do You want me to do with this anger?  How can we, together, transform this into something beautiful?” 

“A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.”
Proverbs 19:11  

Decide to Keep Deciding

I’ve had a lot of opportunities over the years to make a decision about something in my life.  I bet you have too.  Draw a line in the sand.  This is it.  I’m going to change ______.  And then what happens?  I go home.  I get distracted.  I get tired and worn out.  I forget.  Or I just don’t want to any more.  Kind of like the New Year’s Resolution that we chose to keep to ourselves “just in case” it didn’t work out.  Our intentions may have been good in the moment, but when the rubber meets the road, life is hard and the status quo is a whole lot easier than following through on the decisions we made.

Yep, life is hard.  Jesus never said, “Believe in me and your life will be a piece of cake.”  Nope.  Actually, he said just the opposite: “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).  Trouble?  That’s not what I signed up for.  But what if the trouble isn’t really our trouble?

In John 14:27, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Now that’s an interesting twist.  In this world we will have trouble, but how do we keep that trouble from invading our hearts?

In the first verse of John 16, Jesus says, “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.”  What “things” did he tell us?  Just two verses before that, Jesus said, “But I will send you the Advocate — the Spirit of truth. He will come to you from the Father and will testify all about me.”  (John 15:26)

Ok.  There’s our answer.  Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, so that we won’t abandon our faith.  And he spends most of John 14, 15 and 16 giving us more details about why he is sending the Holy Spirit and what his purpose will be.

John 14:26 summarizes his purpose: “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”  Why is it so important that we be reminded of what Jesus said?  Because “in this world we will have trouble,” but Jesus has given us his peace.  If we forget about his peace, that trouble will invade our hearts and we will live in fear instead of in his peace.  And that decision we made to change _______?  That will go right out the window.  Too much trouble.

I’m often reminded of a quote by Tim Keller based on 2 Peter 1:3-15.  Pastor Keller summed up that passage in that “we are always either remembering or forgetting what God has done.”   He’s absolutely right.  We could nail down every moment of life as either a “forgetting” moment (turning away from God) or a “remembering” moment (turning to Him).  God has sent us His Holy Spirit to remind us of what He has done, is doing and will continue to do.  And He did this so that we would not “abandon our faith” and turn away from Him, even in times of trouble or fear or weakness or struggle.

So, the next time we feel challenged to make a decision, big or small, to make a change in our lives, how about we decide to keep deciding?  We know that life will get hard.  We know we’ll get tired, distracted and irritated and we’ll turn away from God.  We may “abandon our faith” a zillion times each day, but He never abandons us.  He is always faithful.  He never turns away from us.

Our trouble is that we turn away from the only One who can really help us.  Thankfully, we can decide to turn around.  Decide again.  Decide anew.  We can keep the trouble of this world from invading our hearts by remembering God’s peace, His goodness and His love for us.  “His mercies are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.”  (Lamentations 3:23)

But don’t wait til morning.  We can turn around right now.  He’s waiting with open arms.

Don’t believe me?  Check this out: The Face of Grace

 

Jaya Sankar’s Story

I had the honor and privilege of meeting a man named Jaya Sankar in the year 2000, while I was on staff at Kensington Church.  Jaya was visiting the US, raising support for Christ’s Evangelical Mission (CEM), his ministry back home in Andhra Pradesh, India.

“In 2000, Jaya Sankar, an already successful pastor and church planter, started reaching out to the thousands of homeless children in the communities surrounding Rajahmundry – a city of over a million people in Andhra Pradesh, India.  What began as a small initiative to reach forty kids has grown to nearly two hundred in the Grace Children’s Home and expanded into a holistic ministry reaching a broad spectrum of forgotten people, including hundreds of widows and aging poor in Rajahmundry.” –  Impact India 360.org

Part of Jaya’s story was recorded on video back in 2000.  I don’t want you to miss a single word, so I transcribed the video below.  But don’t stop there.  Take another 5 minutes and let Jaya tell you his story, with his rich Indian accent, and watch his face light up as he shares the power of what he experienced.  Click here for Jaya Sankar’s Story.  

“When I become youth, growing, I got so many doubts in these Gods.  Who truly real God is.  Which God is powerful?  Which God is true God?  Because we have so many gods.  33 million gods are there.

So I approach my Hindu priests.  They also did not give a good answer to me.  Finally I approach the Hindu temple High Priest.  He told me and taught me a mantra, a chant, and told me, instructed me, to recite 100,000 times a day.  Like that, I had to continue it for 100 days.

So I went to the river at night time, at midnight, I have to go in the water to the neck (water comes to here).  I am standing in the water, having two rosaries in my hands, reciting this mantra 100,000 times before sunrise.  My temple High Priest told me when I do this ceremony, ritual, reciting 100,000 times every day for 100 days, the God of Light will appear to me and will set me free from the darkness and from the sin.  He will give me salvation.  I was after truth.  I want to see true God, this Light God.  So I made up my mind, whatever it may come to me, my body, I want to see God.  I want to see God.

So I continued, I fulfilled 100 days, but no Light God appeared to me after 100 days.  I was disappointed very, very much.  Then I decided there is no God.  These Hindu priests, temple priests, are simply deceiving people in the name of God.

Then I was in a great hopeless condition, misery, agony.  I was totally deceived.   A lot of struggle going in my heart and mind.  What is the meaning and purpose of the life living on this earth?  A rich man, a poor man has to die one day.  A young man, an old man, a child, has to die one day.  What is the meaning?  I also will die one day, so let me die.  Let me die today.  I don’t want to wait until death comes to me.  I want to die today and see what will be there happening after the death.

Then I went to the railroad track and I wanted to put an end my life under the train.  So I was waiting for the train in the midnight and a great light touched me, focused on me, then I thought the train is coming.  But I did not hear the sound of engines or train.  But instead of the sound of engines, I heard a voice, “I am the God of Light who you are seeking.”  And I’m surprised so much and I was not able to open my eyes because of the great light.  I was just rubbing and closing my eyes and I said, “Who are you?”

Then he told me, “I am Jesus”.  He told me he is the Lord God.  He shed his blood for me.  He paid the debt to the karma on the cross of Calvary and he made me free from my sin.

Jesus Christ promised me to be with me, to help me, to guide me throughout my life.  I never, never forget that day in my life.

Jesus Christ is living today.  He is powerful God.  He’s not only the ancient times, He’s God of Old Testament, the God of New Testament, he is alive today, right now in 21st century.  I am the living witness for him.”

If you enjoyed Jaya’s story, grab a copy of Jeff Petherick’s book “Wavelength: Tuning In To God’s Voice In A World Of Static”.  Jeff tells more of Jaya’s story in his book, published in 2007.  Here’s the synopsis of Jeff’s book from Amazon:

“Did God Stop Speaking?  Or Did We Stop Listening?  Hearing the voice of God is like listening to the radio if you re not dialed in to exactly the right frequency, you’ll get nothing but static.  Wavelength reveals what happens when a nonreligious businessman learns to tune in God s voice… then dares to obey it.  His unorthodox adventures in following Jesus will challenge your thinking, kick over a few sacred cows, and reveal how you can have your own two–way conversations with God.”

Jaya Sankar and one of his many children.  Photo courtesy of J Chris Cook Photography.com.
Jaya Sankar and one of the many children who call him Daddy.  James 1:27, living and breathing.  Photo courtesy of J Chris Cook Photography.com.

Redeemed – Part 1

Something amazing happened on September 13 & 14. I’ve been a Christian for 20 years, but nothing like this has ever happened before. I’m trying to piece it all together so that I can write about it here, but there is so much that I really need to do it in pieces.

My friend and I live-streamed Beth Moore’s “Living Proof Live” simulcast on Saturday, September 13th at my house.  During the simulcast, there were a few times where the live stream “stuck” and I had to refresh the screen. Beth was teaching us her “Identity Declaration” (click or see below) and she got to “I am a woman of God, redeemed by Jesus Christ” and the screen stuck. By the time I got it refreshed, she was on to the next point. “Redeemed” struck me and I knew I wanted to go back and watch that part again.  However, we were all headed to the Third Day/ MercyMe concert at DTE Energy later that afternoon, so “redeemed” would have to wait.

Even though I bought the concert tickets for all of us to see Third Day, we were blown away by MercyMe. Bart Millard, their lead singer, has been on an amazing road to transformation over the last couple years and it was exciting to hear his story. He spoke and sang a LOT about redemption and the word “redeemed” kept sinking further and further into my bones. Their music was upbeat and invigorating, their harmonies were beautiful, we loved every minute. It was late when we got home and I was ushering at church the next morning, so we had to get to bed to get up early.

I normally sit with John when I usher, but on this particular morning, the two seats next to John were taken by two other ushers. I’m new to this particular usher team, so they didn’t know they were sitting next to my husband. It was the 10:30 service, so it was crowded and most seats were already filled. I was trying to figure out where I was going to sit and found myself on the verge of a pity-party crying mess. Tears were starting to fill my eyes, but I told myself, “No, you’re not going to do this today. What a silly reason to be crying anyway!” I walked up to where John was sitting and realized that there was ONE seat right behind him and the two usher ladies and I grabbed it. The tears never materialized. 🙂 I sat down in my seat to listen to Chris Zarbaugh’s message, but God had other plans. I started writing and the first thing I wrote was “Jesus redeemed that.”

The next day I received an email survey from LifeWay, looking for feedback from Saturday’s simulcast. Beth Moore told us at the simulcast that she was praying that God would give a specific word to each of the 190,000+ women who were watching. She said that if 190,000 women heard from God and RESPONDED, we could certainly have a huge impact on this hurting world. Here’s what I wrote to LifeWay:

“God spoke! Beth’s prayers were answered in my life. He gave me a word and that word is “redeemed”. I have struggled with so many things for so long: depression, hopelessness, wanting to give up, and I’ve “tried” to do better and be better and I want Jesus to help me, but all of my “tricks” aren’t working anymore. I think wrong thoughts and then I feel guilty for thinking wrong thoughts and it just spirals downward. This weekend God told me “Jesus redeemed that”.

Every thought – Jesus redeemed that.

The guilt about the thought – Jesus redeemed that.

Not wanting to get up and do anything – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting up and doing something, puffing up my ego and pride – Jesus redeemed that.

Doing things to get attention – Jesus redeemed that.

Getting mad at my kids – Jesus redeemed that.

Feeling overwhelmed and anxious – Jesus redeemed that.

Scared to open an email, wondering if I can handle what I’m being asked to do – Jesus redeemed that.

Everything I’ve ever done or said or thought or will ever do or say or think – Jesus redeemed that.

So, I can hold my head up high and thank my Savior. Thank you, Beth. Thank you, Jesus. Glory to God.”

To be continued…

Click here for Part 2.

Identity Declaration from Beth Moore's 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast
“Identity Declaration” from Beth Moore’s 9-13-14 Living Proof Live Simulcast

An atheist singing a psalm

I believe it was back in 1985.  I was 13 years old and I was going to see U2 with my brother Rick.  “The Unforgettable Fire” tour had come to town.  I think I still have the t-shirt, even though it’s much too small now.  Why didn’t I buy a bigger size?

It was the first of several U2 concerts for Rick and me, but they always ended with the song “40”.  What I didn’t know at the time was that “40” was actually Psalm 40 from the Bible.  I probably wouldn’t have sung it if I knew that.  I was an atheist and I wanted nothing to do with God or Jesus or any of that nonsense.

Nonsense?  How could I predict that, 29 years later, having followed Jesus Christ to best of my ability for the last 20 years, my own son would be in our church’s Easter service so appropriately titled “Nonsense“.  You can read about that by clicking here.

Back to U2.  Rick and I loved U2.  Still do.  We don’t collect the albums like we used to.  We don’t memorize every word like we used to.  But that was a very special time in both of our lives.  Singing the songs, going to the concerts and films, learning what we could about the band members.  Special times.

And as I watched this film clip of U2 singing “40” and heard the crowd start singing again at the end, it brought me right back to us singing and singing as the house lights came up.  An atheist singing a psalm.  Who would have thought?

“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” (Ps. 40:1-3)