Category: Jesus (page 1 of 45)

More Than Enough Power

98.6 is your normal sitting body temperature. It is also our youngest daughter Carley’s four-year cumulative GPA at Canyon High School. Carley was recognized last week for the fourth straight year as a Superintendent’s Scholar, awarded to all students who finish a school year with at least a 95 grade point average. They gave her another cord to wear at this Friday’s graduation. That makes almost a dozen. Her posture will be out of whack and her neck will be super sore after Friday night.

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We’re in the beginning stages of a sermon series from Galatians in which we are stressing that the Good News of salvation from God is “Christ Alone” — nothing more, nothing less. And we made the argument last week that Christ Alone is about his power.

Our salvation from God in Christ is about the power and the authority to create and restore, his power to save, his power to move us from one state of being to another, to move us from this present evil age to the eternal age of salvation and life, from the control of the world and its structures to the merciful control of our good and faithful God.

Galatians shows us that we are moved by Christ out from under the control of the enemy into the loving control of God’s Spirit. We are rescued from slavery and moved by Christ into a state of freedom. It’s not about when one age ends and the other begins — they both exist at the same time. It’s about control. It’s about the power. Who’s running things for you and your world?

“Through the Law I died to the Law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (2:19-20)

“Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed… Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law.” (3:23-25)

“We were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under Law, to redeem those under Law, that we might receive the full rights of sons… So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir… Now that you know God — or, rather, are known by God — how is it that you are turning back to those weak and miserable principles? Do you wish to be enslaved by them all over again? (4:3-5, 7, 9)

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free! Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” (5:1)

“May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation!” (6:14-15)

Maybe you feel trapped. Maybe you feel like a powerless pawn in a cosmic game of chess or chance that you don’t have any control over. It feels like something’s got you. Maybe it’s an external force, maybe it’s an internal compulsion — something’s got you. And you’re in a cycle. A bad cycle that just keeps repeating over and over, around and around. These patterns can only be broken when the ultimate authority and power steps in to pull you off that awful treadmill. Christ alone has that power. His death and resurrection pulls off the ultimate rescue and sets us free. So not only does Jesus deal with your past, but we’re all under a gracious control that empowers us for the present and the future.

“Christ Jesus gave himself for our sins” (1:4). Can you begin to comprehend the extraordinary radical thing that is?

Jesus has stepped in and taken our place. He has assumed our responsibility. He’s taken on our failures. We don’t have to languish in our guilt, we don’t have to suffer with remorse. Christ died for your sins and you don’t need to hang onto them anymore. Christ alone gives us the grace and the power to live in freedom and eternal life today!

Christ Alone — nothing more, nothing less. Nothing subtracted from that and nothing added to it. Christ Alone — to the glory of God the Father for ever and ever. Amen.

Peace,

Allan

On a Donkey

“See, your King comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey.” ~Matthew 19:5

In some ways, and maybe in ways we don’t fully understand, we act like Jesus is going to serve our national or political or economic hopes and dreams. We wave our palm branches and behave like Jesus has come to establish a really great worldly kingdom that reflects all my beliefs and convictions.

Several years ago a gay lobbyist in the Presbyterian church  was fighting for the ordination of gay priests. And this was his main argument: Jesus loved everyone and today he would stand with the gay community, affirming its rights in society and the church; anyone who does not stand with us stands against Jesus.

My blood boils when I hear stuff like that: the use of a political movement or a political agenda to judge another’s discipleship to Jesus. Now, it’s really easy to use that illustration and condemn it as a sinful misuse of the name of our Lord and the Kingdom of God. But can we consider for just a minute how we might do the same things?

All Christians have to vote Republican because Jesus is against the gay marriage position of the Democrats.
All Christians have to vote Democrat because Jesus is against the war policies of the Republicans.
No, the Church has to support Republicans because of Jesus’ teachings on the abortion issue.
No, the Church has to support Democrats because of Jesus’ teachings on the gap between the rich and poor.

If we’re going to think and talk like this, we may as well pull the palm branches out and start waving them. This kind of thinking and acting and talking forces God’s people to choose between the lesser of two worldly evils. Jesus did not come so we could create a better version of the kingdom of the world, he came so we could be part of an entirely new and eternal Kingdom of God. Jesus is not a way for us to get our way nationally or politically or socially or economically. He won’t be used that way.

The Holy One who comes to Jerusalem comes as the King of the entire world and he suffers and dies for all people. His people are not tied to any one nation. His love and salvation reaches beyond all borders of nation and language, culture and race.

Jesus is not going to be President of the USA. One, he’s not running. Two, you wouldn’t vote for him if he did.

Think about Jesus’ platform. Sell all that you have and give to the poor. Love your enemies. If Jesus had bumper stickers on the back of his donkey, they would say, “Be Last!” “Vote for Me and Die!”

Jesus doesn’t come with T-shirts and stickers and buttons and a hundred million dollar campaign. He doesn’t save the world with armies and markets and policies. He saves the world through sacrificial love and suffering and service and grace.

He rules with a towel, not a sword.

And when we finally decide to follow him, we find ourselves descending to greatness. It’s a Kingdom of downward mobility, where those who give up their lives find them. Where the last are first. Where those who die, live forever.

Peace,

Allan

Word and Table

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” ~Acts 2:42

The Greek word koinonea means fellowship. Communion. Sharing. Having things in common. Luke describes it in the above verse as eating together and praying together. That’s what makes a Christian assembly, those are the worship habits: Teaching and Fellowship. Scripture and Communion. Word and Table. That’s the time and place where everybody ministers together, everybody participates, everybody’s heard, everybody shares. God meets us, Jesus is present with us, and the Holy Spirit shapes us in our regular gatherings around Word and Table.

That two-thousand-year-old pattern, I believe, is based on the habits of Jesus during his ministry.

When Jesus taught, he generally did it in the context of a meal. He opened up the Scriptures and ministered to others around a common table. The Word is proclaimed and then the reality of the Word is practiced and experienced around the meal.

In Luke 14, Jesus is eating a Sabbath meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee and, as we would expect, he starts teaching: “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

At the banquet at Levi’s house, Jesus gives us the Word: “I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” And he’s sitting around a table with tax collectors and prostitutes. The Table is the tangible experience of the Word.

With five-thousand hungry people in the wilderness, Jesus tells his apostles, “You give them something to eat. You engage the mission. You participate in serving others.” And then he empowers them to do just that. Then they all ate together, as much as they wanted.

At Zacchaeus’ house, the Word, the teaching: “The Son of Man came to seek and save the lost!” And around the meal, the hospitality and community of the Table: “Salvation has come to this house! This man is a son of Abraham!”

In John 13, on that last night before he was crucified, Jesus shared a meal with his disciples. And some teaching. The evening meal was being served, the Bible says, and Jesus got up and washed everyone’s feet. A tremendous act of humble service. Jesus made himself the least important person in the room in order to serve others.

“Do you understand what I have done for you? You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.”

Our habits together around Word and Table shape how we think and act. It shapes us into a people who think and act like our Lord. Jesus gets up from the table during the meal to say to each of his followers to say, “I am your servant.” And he tells us to do the same for each other.

Some of us view our worship gatherings as a legal duty and everything has to be done exactly right. Some of us see our worship assemblies as an experience; it’s all about how it makes me feel, so there aren’t really any rules to follow. Some of us have grown up with no real understanding about community worship, so we don’t really think about it at all.

Our worship assemblies are the time and place where our living God meets us, where we all meet in the presence of God together. We are gathered by God’s Spirit around the Word. The Word of God reminds us who God is and what he’s doing and who we are and to whom we belong. The Word has to the power to teach us, train us, and transform us to continue the Kingdom work Jesus has already begun. The Word reorients us away from the shadows of this world’s fading kingdoms and toward the eternal realities of the Kingdom that has come and is coming.

And we experience those realities around the Table. The Holy Spirit brings us together around a meal where we actually experience God’s mercy, acceptance, wholeness, equality, compassion, and peace.

But we can get so wrapped up and bogged down in the details of our worship practices and the finer points of our traditions and our methods, that we don’t give much thought at all to the main point of our assemblies. We worry about how we do church and what we can and cannot do in church, forgetting this a Holy Spirit endeavor. All of this takes place in and by the Spirit.

We worship God in Spirit. It’s the Holy Spirit who mediates God’s grace and the presence of Christ to us around Word and Table. God gathers us together. God initiates and enables our praise. God eats with us, the Holy Spirit prays with us and for us with groans we can never comprehend, Jesus intercedes for us. God gives us the words to say in our worship. God speaks to us through his Word and then places that Word into each heart in exactly the way he wants it to go. We are brought together in the presence of God and he’s the One doing everything!

We should relax about our rules and stop worrying about our methods and submit to what God’s Spirit wants to do. Instead of fretting about how we do church or how somebody else does church, we should pay more attention to how God does church.

Peace,

Allan

 

His Presence is the Proof: Part 4

“Jesus himself stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.'” ~Luke 24:36

It’s a greeting of comfort. Peace be with you. It’s a blessing from the risen Lord to all the people gathered around the table. The presence of Jesus ends our anxiety about what’s happened to Jesus and whether God’s plan for our salvation is still going. Well, guess what? Jesus is alive and God’s plan is on!

The disciples are almost paralyzed by the realization that Jesus really is risen from the dead. Everything written about Jesus has been fulfilled! Everything Jesus said would happen has! There’s great joy and amazement around the table because the disciples are experiencing what Scripture promised and what the angels and prophets had longed to see.

The presence of Jesus at the resurrection meal provides the proof that there’s a direct continuity between who we are today and who we’re going to be on that great day. Suffering is not an unfortunate detour, it’s the designated path. Death is not the end, it’s the transition to the new creation. Jesus is with us at the meal to prove to us that what he’s saying is right.

And his presence makes all of us first generation disciples. It places all of our meals together on the table at Emmaus. The risen Lord is with us when we eat with his disciples in his name. It’s not just the people he appeared to during those 40 days after he rose. We don’t have to keep our faith alive on a think diet of two-thousand-year old reports of the people who saw him back then. We’re not second-hand Christians removed by time and space from those powerful events in the Gospel. Jesus is with us. The risen Lord is really present.

Now, I don’t know what’s going on with you. You might be in the same spot as those two disciples on the way to Emmaus. You might be in a place of despair. You might be experiencing grief. Maybe some dreams have been dashed. Maybe you’ve been numb for so long you’re used to it. You’re living in a fog. You’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and bad circumstances. You’ve given in. You’ve almost given up.

Accept  the invitation to the Lord’s Table. Take your place and participate in the supper. Listen for his voice. Be open to his leading. Be comforted in the warmth of his presence. Experience the meal. The meal explains what it is about Christianity that grabs us and holds us in the middle of everything that’s so wrong with our world and with ourselves. Jesus is alive and I’m going to be, too! God’s promises are real and they’re coming true!

Peace,

Allan

His Presence is the Proof: Part 3

I asked Valerie last night if she did anything special for her 21st birthday. She told me that she and one of her good friends, Paige, had gone to Chick-Fil-A for lunch and Valerie had a Dr Pepper for the first time in over a month. See, Valerie is trying to eat healthier, she’s trying to exercise more — just like her old man, she’s really good at it during January and February. She ordered a water with her lunch, but Paige told her, “No, you’re getting a Dr Pepper.” Valerie replied, “I want water.” Paige insisted, “No. You want a Dr Pepper.” So, she got one. And it was amazing. I told Val, “You know, a lot of dads worry about their daughter turning 21 and looking for beer. You’re just craving a Dr Pepper.” She answered, “I love the burn.” Good kid.

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“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus acted as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, ‘Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.’ So he went in to stay with them. When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:25-31

Jesus calls these followers on the way to Emmaus foolish and slow of heart to believe the Scriptures. “This is God’s design,” he says. “This is how it has to be!” And when he opens the Scriptures, it’s not just a couple of isolated passages or a few random texts. He explains all of Scripture to them, it says — the whole story! He tells them that salvation can only be found when God’s anointed Son takes on our suffering, when he takes the whole world’s suffering into himself, when he dies under the crushing weight of that sin and suffering, and rises again as the beginning of God’s new creation, God’s brand new eternal people. This is what had to happen, and now it has!

At the Lord’s Meal, Friday turns into Sunday.

Their eyes are opened when Jesus breaks the bread. They recognize Jesus at the table.

Now, allow me to say this about that:

Knowing the information is one thing. Getting the correct content into our brains, understanding the logic, engaging the truth with our minds — that’s very important. We shouldn’t neglect that. But let’s also nurture the emotional experience at the table. Let’s pay more attention to the tangible, touchable, tasteable proof we experience in the Church’s Meal.

The future reality of resurrection of us is experienced in the present reality of the risen Lord around the table. He’s here! He’s with us at the table!

Some days it can feel like our sin or the devil has more power than we do. Some years it can feel that way, I know. But we have direct access to the Holy One of God who has already overcome whatever Satan throws your way. He has already defeated everything the devil might possibly use against you. And we have direct access to him! We eat and drink with him all the time!

Peace,

Allan

His Presence is the Proof: Part 2

Valerie Nicole is 21 today! Happy Birthday to our Little Middle! I wish I were there in OKC with you today, Sweetie.  Hopefully Aunt Rhonda is taking you to Ted’s for dinner!

We’re so proud of you, Val, and so blessed by God by your love for others and your joy for life. Have a wonderful day, daughter. We love you!

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If the story of the Prodigal Son is the greatest story Jesus ever told, the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus is the finest scene Luke ever penned. It’s got everything: sorrow, suspense, mystery, a little bit of humor, a gradual dawning of light, unexpected actions, and a flurry of excitement. This is such a great story. And it is so about us.

The story is found in Luke 24:13-35. And it opens with the two disciples walking and talking together on the way from Jerusalem to Emmaus. It’s Sunday, Resurrection Day. The tomb has been found empty, the women have seen some angels, but nobody has seen Jesus.

But the focus of this story, at least here in the beginning, is on these two Jesus-followers. They’re in despair. They’re experiencing grief. There’s been a death and it’s ended their dreams. They feel hopelessness. For the past three days they’ve been in this place between dashed hopes and maybe possibly daring to hope again. There’s maybe a tiny fraction of a glimmer of expectation. But mostly it’s bad. For three days it’s been terrible. And these two disciples have adjusted to the numbness. They’ve accepted the reality of the situation and now they’re moving on. They’re in a haze, but they’ve accepted it and they’ve got to live with it. They’re resigned to the bad news, the bad feelings, and the bad circumstances. They haven’t given up, but they’ve certainly given in.

And they’re talking about these things with each other. Serious things. Life things. They’re not talking about their golf game or the dry weather or if anybody can ever beat the Patriots. This is a raw human conversation about important things, things that matter. And Jesus says, “That’s a conversation I want to be a part of!”

He asked them, “What are you discussing as you walk along?”
They stood still, their faces downcast.

It was difficult to articulate everything that had happened, how horrible everything was, the despair they were feeling. They couldn’t talk about it. It’s almost like they didn’t want to talk about it.

But Jesus forces the tough conversation. And then he opens up the Scriptures to them: “Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?”

They arrive in Emmaus and the two disciples invite him into their home for dinner. And that’s where everything changes.

“When he was reclined at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him.” ~Luke 24:30-31

The story of the resurrection meal in Luke 24 perfectly mirrors our experience as Christians. We go through seasons of sad dismay at the failure of our human hopes. We endure periods of frustration and doubt, depression and despair. Let’s face it, sometimes we can get into a dark place where we question where all this is headed. We wonder if God really is in control, if Jesus really is alive and reigning at the Father’s right hand, if things really are going to work out for me at the end.

Then we take our places at the table and we realize that Christ Jesus himself is with us. He warms our hearts with his truth, he comforts us with his presence, he assures us with his peace.

The realities of the Christian experience are revealed during our meals with the risen Lord. His presence with us at the table is proof that humility leads to victory, that suffering leads to glory, and that, through God in Christ, death leads to eternal life.

Peace,

Allan

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