Jesus is Our Centerpiece

The Gospel of John describes a wonderful image of the vineyard— branches and vine. This illustrates our relationship with Jesus.  We must abide and remain in him to be fruitful.  He is the vine, and we, we are merely the branches. He is the sole source of everything.

Notice the clear implications of John 15. (Come to Me, remain in Me, stay connected to Me.)  He didn’t advise or suggest we attend a seminar, go to Bible school, or attend a prayer meeting.

He said,Come to ME.”  He, and He alone is the one we are to center on. He insists that He is to be our total focus. There is no other (Matthew 11:28.)

This is either an egotistical religious fanatic intoxicated with His power and self-importance, or He really is reality.  C.S. Lewis comments,

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.
He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

 

Jesus insists that we worship Him.  That much is clear.  I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life.  I am the only way to the Father.”  And of course, “He who believes in Me has eternal life, and he who doesn’t is condemned” (John 14:6.) We just breeze through these verses and never truly grasp the ramifications. A mere man could not say these things (at least not with straight face) and be considered sane.

He either was what He said He was, or a liar or lunatic.  And we must decide who He really is. 

As believers we need to realize Jesus’ His rightful position.  The One who sits on the throne is the center.  All things derive their life, meaning and essence from Him.  We must not forget that He is the Risen Lord.  We need to realize that He has asked us to worship Him.  Point blank.

Many of our struggles come when we try to reduce Jesus to something less than what is real. If He really is the only way to the Father, we had better pay attention.

“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

–D.L. Moody

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The Real Battle

Then it happened in the spring, at the time when kings go out to battle, that David sent Joab and his servants with him and all Israel, and they destroyed the sons of Ammon and besieged Rabbah. But David stayed at Jerusalem.
Now when evening came David arose from his bed and walked around on the roof of the king’s house, and from the roof he saw a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful in appearance. So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” David sent messengers and took her, and when she came to him, he lay with her; and when she had purified herself from her uncleanness, she returned to her house.

2 Samuel 11:1-4, NASB

Where was the real battle being fought? David walks the rooftop and engages the enemy; it was within his own heart. He puts himself right into sin.

Perhaps he couldn’t sleep. It was a warm spring night, and he needed air and to stretch his legs. His troops and his generals were out to war. Maybe he was anxious about how things were progressing. Perhaps he was not where he should be.

Little did he know but he would face his own battle up on his roof.

David was a seasoned veteran; a trained warrior with skill on the battlefield. But he was also king– with kingly perks. He had wives and concubines at his ‘beck and call.’ His “appetites” were sufficiently met. That is the prerogative of kings.

She was naked– and more beautiful than he had ever seen. A servant was near, and he wanted to know more about her. He began to plan how he could have this exceptionally beautiful woman.

She was also the wife of Uriah, one of his elite warriors and one of his “mighty men,” (2 Sam. 23:39).

But he burned for her, and wanted her now. He had lost the battle.

Even kings “reap what they sow,” (Galatians 6:7-8).

“Father, keep us in the battle and protect us from sin. We want to please you. Don’t let us walk in sin and disobedience. Amen.”

[Suggested reading: Proverbs 4]

 

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Learning to Walk, Again

“You will keep in perfect peace
all who trust in you,
all whose thoughts are fixed on you!
4 Trust in the Lord always,
for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, NLT

Life is chock full of mysteries, so much is unknown.  Early in my walk, over 40 years ago, I concluded that I would be able to acquire all the knowledge that I could ever want.  I was on the short track, going up of course.  It was a glorious thing, it took me some time to realize I was very ignorant of so much.

I think we need to work through this, for most it is a minor tweak.  For others who still think that their life consists in how smart they can become, it is trouble.  I believe that the Word of God, read and meditated on is an exceptional thing.  All scripture is God-breathed…”  The Bible communicates truth, not facts.

As I age, I start to understand that things are much more enigmatic and unfathomable than I ever dreamed they would be.  It is a step of faith to accept truth when their are still a lot of things that are still vague.  Mike Mason wrote, “You say you have faith to be healed, but what about the faith to be sick?”

That is a penetrating question, indeed.  “Why are some healed, and other are not?  Why do I have eternal life, and my friend does not?  Why should AIDS sweep through poor African villages when I live in a very comfortable suburb in the US?”  I have many other questions like this, but I won’t bore you with them.  (You probably have them too.) And there are thousands like this.

And I’m not making a whole lot of headway here.  Reasons and facts are not there. Life becomes more mysterious and inscrutable.  But there is a word we must know–it is the word “trust”.  It is a faith that assists us through the landscape of impossible questions.

As a struggling, mentally ill Christian, many (even in my own church) create more questions for me.  “Therapists, psychiatrists and daily medications are really good, but do you really need them?” or  “Did God create in you the need for lithium and Zoloft?” and ” How can you follow Jesus when you have all of these depression issues?” And here is a humdinger, “Where is your joy?”

But it is precisely these issues that help me be a disciple.  I’ve been slowly learning you see.  And my weaknesses are becoming my strengths.  They lead me to exercise my feeble faith.  I trust in Jesus; my faith helps me trust. I find it interesting to note  that the Book of Psalms for the most part, was written by “a broken believer” like David– a king and a rascal.

“People with their minds set on you,
    you keep completely whole,
Steady on their feet,
    because they keep at it and don’t quit.
Depend on God and keep at it
    because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Isaiah 26:3-4, The Message

These nebulous areas have only increased, but ironically my trust has only grown.  I have more questions then ever before, but my faith in him only gets stronger. I suppose I will never, ever be a gleefully upbeat, cheery person.  But I am learning “to trust and obey, there is no other way…”  He himself has taken up the chore of teaching me to walk, again. Just one thing, keep trusting.

 

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Superglue Your Crown On

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“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11 I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown.

Rev. 3:1o-11, NLT


The crown you wear is vulnerable.  Sorry.  But the truth is that the crown we wear can be snatched, and taken away from us.  The dark enemy would love to lift it up, and the hoards of evil would rejoice over their victory in a dark demonstration of their power over you.

Jesus has issued a command.  His instruction communicates to us an awareness of what evil is about to do.  He tells us that there is a testing, and that there is the need for endurance.  We can so easily be led into darkness, and the enemy is pressing us with all his might.

Our crowns can be taken.  They will not be returned, at least not without issues.  Evil will come from this failure to keep watch.  Our spiritual life has been harmed and weakened.  Our crown becomes Satan’s trophy, and he gloats as shows off his collection.  We will become destitute of spirit, and our life starts to reflect the darkness.  Evil repeatedly does this, and we should realize that this. We cannot give in to this intimidation.

Remember, the crown the Holy Spirit gave you is extremely important.  It has a significance.  We look at our crown, and we can draw conclusions.  First He has given us an authority, and a place in his kingdom which is secure. He meets our needs as we work out the kingdom in this world. He works hard to turn us into a ‘marvel’ of grace.  We are royalty; princes and princesses of the High King. We serve Him alone.

My dear brother or sister, you wear a crown that sets you apart.  Wear it, with a spiritual awareness that you are special.  You are of a kingly lineage.  Rub shoulders with all that is good.  Become a companion of all those who are friendly to the truth.  Walk humbly, yet boldly. You must hold on to everything that belongs to you.

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Walking With the Lord Jesus, [Humility]

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The subject and emphasis on is becoming obscure— “just like Jesus.” I suppose my main contention is this– our understanding of discipleship has too much “me, and not enough Him.” This can be a gentle error of a young believer.

When Jesus who was the fullness of God in bodily form came, He came as a lowly slave. We see Him stripping down, filling a basin, and scrubbing dirty feet. He actively made Himself a broken and humble servant. It was deliberate and conscious.

Read Philippians 2. It will blow you away!

I think we learn this from Him. The disciple never exceeds his master. He made it very clear that we were to follow Him in this. It’s processed by us when we are very firmly aware that the One who knows us. To be loved by Him is enough (or is it?)

Exceptional effort is made by the Holy Spirit to help us understand. There is a repeated thought given to us in various permutations. In one of my favorite verses King David, standing in front of God, and his people, declared,

“But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us! 15 We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

1 Chronicles 29:14-15, NLT

“We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.” This is the cheery assessment found in Ecclesiastes 1. This view irks us big time. Especially if we have invested so much in our wealth, gifts, experiences and accomplishments.

“Our days on earth are like grass;  like wildflowers, we bloom and die.  The wind blows, and we are gone— as though we had never been here.”

Psalm 103:15-16, NLT

In the New Testament, the emphasis is only stronger. Remember when James and John tried to get the corner on the authority and honor of being on “the right and left?” (My, but they were ambitious lads!)

“When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. 43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 10:41-45, NLT

There are two certain issues here:

  • The first is authentic discipleship.
  • The second is a decided and eager servanthood.

Both ideas are often missing in our churches, and in our teaching. Somehow we are not communicating the real transferable concepts. Their simplicity evades us.

I intend to return to this fairly soon. Again, I appreciate any constructive criticism, your own thinking on this, and your prayers.

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Ramblings of a Broken Believer [Weakness]

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“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”

2 Corinthians 12:9, NLT

“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”   

— C.S. Lewis

I think I am often a creature of habit, far more than I’d like to admit. I rather think we choose our habits, and inclinations.  They in turn decide our paths.  We give ourselves too much credit, to decide and direct.  Simply put, we are not that big. I honestly don’t think we have the power to steer our lives.

Somebody once told me, “The purpose of life is not to find your freedom; but to find your master.”  I don’t live that way, at least my inner propensity does not include God.  Did you ever think something like this?  “I wish God did not exist.  I want to be in charge, and I want to do what I want to do, when I want to do it!”  Living it all with no rules and no accountability! Somehow I still seem to find myself sitting on my throne.

But as we get older, our hair goes gray and we look in the mirror and see bags and wrinkles, we realize how vulnerable and how tenuous life really is.  If we are honest, and sufficiently self-aware, we find ourselves needing to understand that we will never be able to seize control of the known universe.

“Life is what happens while you are making other plans,” John Lennon observed.  It seems that reality is that it is something that springs on you, and you have an epiphany, shocked to the core.  Life has happened, and you didn’t even realize it.  We are quite undone, and we don’t really understand what it is all about. This is often the case.

I sometimes look at myself in the mirror, not in vanity, but in amazement.  The ugly tattoos, and the ‘track marks’ are from another life. I have scars on my wrists from a couple of suicide attempts.  There is an amazing surgical zipper scar from a brain tumor.  I walk with a cane.  I am learning how to be broken.  And everything that has happened has happened for a reason.

C.S. Lewis once said, “Experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn. My God, do you learn.”   I sense that he did learn, otherwise he couldn’t of said that.

Re-reading this I decided that I ramble a lot.  Forgive me.  Maybe there is a scrap or two in it for someone.

“I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.”

1 Corinthians 2:3

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A Towel, Not a Title

There are no shortcuts in discipleship
“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist.”  

John 13:3-4, NLT

Jesus was always constant.  Nothing could erode His place or position.  The authority had been His Fathers, and it had been given to Him.  He carried it as a special burden, treasured and separating Him.  Jesus had the freedom to act like the servant.  It didn’t bother or confuse Him, He understood perfectly who He was.

With the supreme authority given to him, he got down on His knees, and began to wash dirty feet.  I can offer no magic or flair to adjust this scene.  He washed off dirt, cleaned between toes, making filthy feet clean.  And all of this ‘as God in human flesh’.  This staggered the disciples, perhaps a baseball bat on the side of the head, would’ve been more compassionate.

This was revolutionary, it completely devastated the disciples.  They just couldn’t grasp what was happening.  Jesus, who was ‘God in flesh’, had decided, in a moment of time, to clean their feet.  Outrageous!  Not really happening!  No way! Never!

The reality.

This spun them around.  They tried as fast as possible to process what had just happened, and ‘who’ it had happened from.

Essentially, it buried them.  Jesus Christ, as Servant pounded them into the ground.  Servanthood was to take the supremacy from this point forward.  Becoming an indentured slave was now the way of Christlikeness.  This servanthood was to now guide us to a point of slavery.

Gone are the days of Zebedee, when one can ask for a position, on the right or the left.  We can ask, most certainly, but we haven’t been the first.  We can ask but the sheer weight is against us.  So very many have gone before us.  We must become a people who accept, and then presses into His grace, His specialness, His presence.

Today, more towels are what we need.

We have got to turn over our ‘need’ for recognition and pick up from the pile the rag of servanthood, we must ‘ask’ our brother/sister if we can scrub their feet.  We must get on our knees and do the unspeakable.  We must find a way to clean off their feet. This dear one, is what you’ve been told to do.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”   D.L. Moody

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