Beyond Me

Thoughts on Life and Faith

Archive for the tag “Jesus”

Broken On the Cornerstone

Matthew 21:42-44

Jesus is speaking to the Pharisees when he quotes Psalm 118:22. The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone, or cornerstone. Jesus, though rejected by the religious, is the foundation from which God’s grace will be built in the world. He is the cornerstone. But then he says something interesting…in vs. 44 he says that those who fall on the cornerstone are broken to pieces, and those who it falls on are crushed. Admittedly, the story goes on and the Pharisees knew Jesus was talking about them. They plotted to have him arrested and killed.

But it got me thinking…why did Jesus say it two different ways? Broken and crushed? Maybe there is more to glean.

It’s obvious to me the part about being crushed. The stone falls on you, you are crushed. End of story. Those who reject Jesus will find judgement in the end. If he’s the cornerstone then you either build off of him or you end up crushed underneath the capstone.

But what about falling on the stone? It could be argued Jesus is double emphasizing the judgement, but maybe there’s more here. Maybe the point is to fall on the stone and be broken. We all carry pride, sin, selfishness, and the like. No one wants to believe they can’t do it on their own. But to begin this new life, we must be broken. We surrender our old life and build it upon the cornerstone. We break the old, shatter it, and allow the chief builder to rebuild us new on the cornerstone. The Pharisees couldn’t see that. They couldn’t hear anything but their own pride and power. Let us not make the same mistake as them.

Today I want to fall on the cornerstone, being broken, and allowing my Father to build me back up on that same stone…Jesus. I hope you will join me.

The Manger and The Cross

Christmas time is most people’s favorite time of year. I feel like we all miss the point and too much emphasis is given. And not just because of the material nature of Christmas. While it’s true we have an unhealthy focus in this country on the gift giving side of Christmas, I think the major emphasis on the holiday itself is as big a deal. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe it is important and great. The hope Christ, as represents, the new beginning, God entering this world to begin his final act of salvation…these are great. But it needs to be understood in its proper place.  The truth is, without the cross, the manger would mean nothing.

The cross is the work of Jesus that gives Christmas significance. Otherwise it was just another miraculous birth. Unique in that a baby was born to a virgin, but there are plenty of miracle births in Scripture. Yes it is the cross that brings us Christmas and not the other way around. We must realize this. And it would do us we’ll to correct our understanding. We spend basically two months now (and move the date up every year) celebrating this event, yet barely spend a weekend remembering the single most important event history has ever known.

I just finished reading John’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion and it’s powerful. Jesus followed through with God’s will to the letter and redeemed this world. I’ve never read the crucifixion story at Christmas, but it’s powerful and brings new perspective to the season. This Christmas I want to celebrate Jesus’ coming in light of his death. I want to be focused on the reason that coming was important. I want to realize the reason God had to intervene in this world was because I was too sinful and He couldn’t just stand for that. I don’t want to celebrate Christmas (which was a pagan holiday to begin with anyway) but celebrate a Savior who died for me. I want to remember that Jesus was laid in a manger, but by the end of his life that manger was broken down and turned into cross. For that I am humbled, broken, and eternally grateful.

Obedience

I was reading in the book of John last week Jesus’ prayer in the Garden.  I’ve read this prayer countless times.  I have always enjoyed it and feel it really gives us a peek into the heart and mind of Christ.  This time, something jumped out at me that never had before.  In John 17:6, Jesus, when praying for his disciples, says they obeyed God’s word.  Then, down in verse 8, says they knew Jesus came from God.  I can’t help but think back through the Gospel’s and think about this ragtag group of disciples and say to myself, “Really?”  They obeyed?  They believed?  These guys who, at multiple points, had no clue what Jesus meant when he spoke.  The same disciples who still expected Jesus, at some point, to lead a revolution against the Romans.  Peter, who just hours before this prayer tried to tell Jesus what to do, and then just hours after this would deny Jesus.  Peter, whom we often think of as aloof obeyed and believed?  Doubting Thomas?  James and John who were concerned about who would sit at Jesus right and left were obedient and believed?  These same disciples who couldn’t perform healings at times or cast out demons because of their lack of faith were obedient and believed?  This seems a strange thing for Jesus to say, considering the multiple recorded accounts of the disciples’ failings.

I believe this is something that can speak incredible grace into our lives today.  With all of those failings, Jesus still said they obeyed and believed.  Even with all of these moments where they clearly did not obey and did not believe, Jesus still said they were obedient and believers.  Moments of unbelief do not separate us from Christ.  Moments of disobedience do not disqualify us from the Kingdom.  They are just that, moments.  They are fleeting.  They pass.  We move on from them.  Clearly the disciples did, because we sit here today as believers.  Clearly we can as well.

I can be hard on myself and allow my moments of disbelief and disobedience separate me from Christ.  It is never Christ who does this, only me and my own guilt.  Christ still sees me as an obedient believer, even in those moments. Jesus still believes in me, still loves, and is still going to use me.  Jesus still believes in you, still loves, and is still going to use you.  Look no further than this moment of prayer, when despite the clear shortcomings of these first disciples, Jesus still had faith and love for them.  Obedience and belief are a journey.  They can’t be figured out in one moment, and neither can they be undone in one moment.  This is what Jesus believed about the first disciples, and what he believes about us today.

Re-Election

There is so much I want to write.  In the wake of last nights Presidential results, and the reactions I have seen to them, there are a lot of things that I could and would like to say.  However, I feel that much of what I would want to say would come across as political, and that’s not what this blog is about.  This blog is about encouraging the believers in faith.  And that’s what I want to speak to.

Church, God did not lose last night.  Contrary to what Franklin Graham and other vocal Christian leaders may think, voting for Governor Romney over President Obama last night would not have been repentance.  It  would have been a transfer of political power, which can happen every four years.  Plain and simple.

We have a divided nation, almost right down the middle.  We also have a tendency to tie Christianity to the political process.  We somehow think that by placing our efforts in fighting for the “right” candidate we are somehow taking up the cause of the Kingdom.  But the Kingdom is so much more than this.  The Gospel of Christ deserves so much more devotion than this.

Now we can lament, and rightfully so, about the moral decline of our nation.  Divorce is at an all time high.  Teen pregnancy is at an all time high.  Addictions ruin the lives of people.  We are confused on the definition of marriage.  I could go on and on about the negatives.  Many of us feel that we have completely turned our back on God as a nation.  But let’s pause before we jump off the cliff.

I would like to think that I know history, especially biblical history, fairly well.  Let’s go back to the first and second century, right as the Church was beginning.  Ancient Rome, the most powerful nation in the world, was the epitome of immorality.  Prostitution was not only legal, but it was an accepted form of worship.  There was open worship of multiple gods.  The “Pax Romana” was used to brutally keep people in line all in the name of peace.  Caesar’s, who thought themselves to be gods, ruled in the only interest of increasing their territory and power.  Many were far more inherently evil than our newly re-elected President and other politicians of our day.  And Christianity was not just despised but persecuted mercilessly.  To the point where, in his Roman palace, Nero burned Christians alive to light his garden parties.  I know we have our issues, but our world is nowhere near that.  But guess what happened?  The church THRIVED.  Christians won their neighbors over because the love of Christ was so compelling.  And this was done through living life as Jesus commanded, regardless of the law of the land, and it spoke to a nation.  It wasn’t done in the chamber of the Roman Senate or in Caesar’s court, but in the lives and hearts of the people.  Amidst that climate, the church exploded.  It can happen today, too.

I know many are angry, sick, upset, and feel like the world is going to end.  It may today, but not because President Obama was re-elected.  If it ends, it will be because the Sovereign God who knew the results of last night’s election long before we did says it is time.  I encourage you today though, followers of Christ, to take heart for He has already overcome all things of this world.  Maybe one day the moral fiber of this country will be woven back together stronger than it ever was.  That would be a great thing. But maybe it will continue to decline.  That will be fine also, because the darker the world gets the brighter the light of Jesus can shine.  Church we have done our best work in history when the world is at its darkest.  Today, the sun came up.  Let’s move together, taking the revolution of grace and love Jesus started, giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, respecting the God-given authority of our leaders, and in doing so win this world.  Last night was not the end of anything, but only the beginning of continuing the good work of Jesus and his Gospel.  Let’s unite together and act like it.

Pastor Tebow

Tim Tebow is the number one pastor in the US right now.

Seriously.  And he gets being a pastor even more than I do, I think.

I just read an article by ESPN’s Rick Reilly, and it really opened my eyes further to just how good this guy is and to the fact that he gets it.  Tim Tebow is not the typical athlete who thanks God, is not the guy just trying to do some good.  Tim Tebow is being the hands and feet of Jesus, and in the process is bringing millions of people to church on Sunday who otherwise would not hear the Gospel.  There is this genuine nature about this guy that you cannot help but like.  I knew he was good, I admired him as a person before today, but then I read this quote from him and it made me realize…this guy is a pastor.  Reilly talks about how Tebow flies a different person out to each game that is either sick, hurting, or dying.  He puts them up in a nice hotel, dinner out the day before, rents them a car, sideline passes, nice seats, and then hangs out with them after for up to an hour.  Win or lose this is his routine.  When asked about this, Tebow says, “The game doesn’t really matter. I mean, I’ll give 100 percent of my heart to win it, but in the end, the thing I most want to do is not win championships or make a lot of money, it’s to invest in people’s lives, to make a difference.”

Who is this guy?

I’ll tell you who…an unashamed pastor for Jesus Christ who shares the Gospel in a way that most of us wish we could.  In the biggest sport in America, playing the most difficult position in sports, Tebow says the most important thing is to invest in the lives of people.  That’s the Gospel folks.  To genuinely care for people, to invest in their lives, and to make a difference.  And to make no apologies for it.  Tebow does this, with great humility, to the point where I no longer see Tim Tebow or hear him talk but I see Jesus.  I wish people could say that about me all the time.

So if you ask me, Tim Tebow has the biggest pulpit in America right now, and he doesn’t even have the most contemporary service in the land (dude was singing Our God is an Awesome God and Lord I Lift Your Name on High…old school).  What does he do with that pulpit?  He speaks hope into the lives of people and turns every Sunday into a day of pastoral care and hospital visits.  He just lives his life to love people.

Is he the greatest quarterback in the league?  Not even close.  Will he ever be?  Possibly, but not likely.  Does it matter?  Not one little bit.  Because as of right now he is one of the greatest preachers I hear and I can’t wait hear him bring the Gospel Saturday night.

Why do we always have to get something?

I’m re-reading Crazy Love by Francis Chan for something called Spiritual Happening Week for our high school students. It is already a challenging book, and at Christmas time especially it stirs my soul. I do not like the words Francis Chan writes, nor the words of Jesus, but they have to be confronted.

Why do we always have to get something? I do not understand. Every Christmas, every birthday, I go around this with my family. I truly mean it when I say that I do not need nor want anything. I feel a lot of times that I have too much as it is and would rather people give their money to a more worthy cause. No one ever listens to me and I’m always told that I have to get something. It is a never-ending frustration for me. Francis Chan makes me sick to my stomach when he places the world of our culture against the words of Jesus. I think however you slice it we are missing the boat in our world today.

But even in Scripture, in a book as challenging and radical as Crazy Love, are we still missing it. Jesus says in Luke 18 to the rich young ruler, “Sell all you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” Francis Chan writes this in a chapter about serving leftovers to God after a chapter on being lukewarm that he believes keeps us out of heaven. Why do we always have to get something?

Maybe Jesus had to put it this way because he knew that we are selfish people and that there has to be something in it for us. What if that verse omitted “you will have treasure in heaven” and simply said “Sell everything you have and give to the poor. The come follow me.” What if there was nothing in it for us? As my professor Dr. Hooks once asked us, “If there were no heaven would you still be a Christian?”

If our giving, even if done in secret, is done with a purpose other than we have an insatiable love for Jesus and others it inevitably can cause us to sin in the end. I do things for people, and then find myself upset if they do not receive it the way I believe that they should.  I grow frustrated if I give my time, money, energy, and wisdom to people and then feel that I do not receive some sort of return or that it does not make others do the same.   I do it to store up treasure in heaven, rather than just because I love Jesus and people. Even if I were to sell all that I owned and give it away I feel most of the time it would be out of guilt and it would be to store up treasure in heaven…not because I love Jesus. This is a problem.  Why do we always have to get something?

We miss the point because we need to feel good about ourselves. This I do not believe it is wrong because it is in our nature as human beings. But Jesus so often calls us to transcend the culture and even what is not necessarily wrong for what is more right. This is where we have to acknowledge that we are spiritually poor. We cannot achieve this on our own. It is only through the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit can we become a people who do not need anything in return, even the promise of heaven and the treasures there. Jesus gave his all to achieve a purpose regardless of what the cost was to him and with no promise it would ever be accepted. We cannot afford to do any less.

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