Category: Jesus (page 1 of 49)

Virus Peace

In the John 9 story of Jesus and the healing of the man born blind, he tells his disciples he is doing the work of the Father. Then he says, “I am the light of the world.” I think in the middle of this virus crisis, we and our churches should let the words and the work of Jesus reassure our peace.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Jesus goes to the town of Sychar and meets a very lonely woman at a well and creates community. He goes to the town of Tiberias and sails with his disciples into the middle of the sea in the middle of a storm and he reveals who he is and turns their great fear into deep faith. He goes to the Gerasenes and finds a man who’s being tormented inside and out and Jesus drives away the man’s demons and makes him completely whole. He goes to the town of Nain and raises the widow’s son, turning her devastation and grief into exhilaration and joy. Jesus goes to the town of Jericho and comes across a rejected and ostracized tax collector in a tree and calls him a beloved son of Abraham. He goes to the town of Capernaum and turns a sinful, paralyzed man lying on his cot into a totally forgiven man leaping and dancing and celebrating in the streets. Jesus goes to the town of Bethany and gave new life to his friend who had been dead in a dark tomb for four days.

Time and time again, constantly, our Lord Jesus walks into anxious circumstances and encounters stressed out, burned out, and broken-down people and he restores order. He creates calm. He provides peace. Over and over, Jesus reveals his identity as the Son of God, he proves his presence with a word and a touch, and he restores your plight and reassures your peace. He says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”

I don’t know exactly where your anxiety is with this Coronavirus. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I don’t know where you are. Some of you have told me. I’ve heard some things over the past couple of weeks:

“I’ve got my dad in home hospice – how am I supposed to handle this?”
“I’m a server in a restaurant and for the first time in my life I don’t have a job.”
“I have a job but my kids are out of school and I don’t know what to do.”
“My 401k is in a free fall, I’ve lost nearly 40% of my retirement – I’m nervous.”
“I’ve got heart disease and my daughter has asthma – I’m worried.”

Here’s the best thing I can say. And I believe this with everything in me. God is good. And he is near. God is good and compassionate and loving and kind. And he loves you. And he is with you. His Son, Jesus our Lord, came into this world to suffer with you. He doesn’t bless you from above, he doesn’t save you from afar. He came here to experience everything you experience with you. He is familiar with suffering. He was born in the middle of the night, he was crucified on a day the sun disappeared, and he was raised to eternal life in the dark of the beginning of a brand new age. For you.

He creates peace in your anxiety. He turns your fear into faith. He provides forgiveness for your sins. And he brings life out of death.

He is in your town. And he’s got a handle on this virus.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Purpose

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

We have a tremendous opportunity to point to our Lord Jesus in the ways we behave during this virus crisis. Our perspective is reframed by Christ. We don’t complain or criticize, we don’t point fingers and blame. Like our Lord, we share and sacrifice and serve for the sake of others. There is such an opportunity right now to really stand out as generous and kind.

Whether you go to Wal-Mart eight times a day or once a week, you could knock three or four doors on your street before you go. Ask your neighbors, “Can I get anything for you? I’m going to the store, what do you need?” Maybe you could give toilet paper away on your street. There’s a Seinfeld episode about not being able to spare a square. Maybe you can start a trend by sharing a square, sharing a whole bunch of squares!

The point is: When this thing is over, do we want to be known as greedy hoarders or as generous sharers? At the end of this crisis, we don’t want people to remember that the Christians were the ones buying up all the toilet paper and hamburger meat. We want people to think, “You know, I may not agree with their position on abortion or divorce or whatever, I may not fully understand everything they do on Sundays and why they do it, but those Christians are so kind. They’re so generous. They kept checking up on me. They shared valuable resources with me. They really care about others.”

That’s what brings glory to God. That’s what displays our God’s work in the world.

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We dropped another podcast here at Central yesterday afternoon: a 15-minute conversation with one of our home-school moms, Danna Lagan. She provides helpful tips and encouragement for everyone who became home-school parents for the first time this week. With our schools shut down across the country,  many folks are now stuck at home with the kids and trying to help them with their online learning. An increasing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are now trying to figure out how to help a grandchild with 6th grade math! Danna addresses these things, as well as schedules, power struggles, and outside resources on this podcast. You can access it by clicking here.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Priorities

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

When the grocery store shelves are empty, when your work hours have been cut in half, when the banquet has been canceled, and you don’t even want to look at your 401k — when the news is always breaking, always urgent, and always bad — it’s easy to think only of yourself. It’s tempting to concentrate on your safety, your security, your possessions, and your lifestyle. But Jesus resets your priorities.

Jesus walks into Jerusalem and gives this blind man his sight and brings glory to God. Jesus repairs what is messed up and points to God’s work in the world. Fixing what is broken, making right what has gone wrong — that brings glory to God. Notice how this man’s healing, his circumstance, becomes a display for God’s work. The man publicly testifies that Jesus is from God. He confesses his faith: “Lord, I believe.” The Pharisees accuse and criticize this man. “Give glory to God!” they say. And the healed man responds, “I am! Look what Jesus did for me! I was blind, but now I see!”

Our elders at Central made the decision nine days ago: No matter what happens with this virus, our priority is to love our neighbors, to protect the vulnerable and those at risk, and to minister to the marginalized. That’s the Christian thing to do. That what our Lord Jesus does and that’s what brings glory to God.

Not meeting together as a church right now is a way to love our neighbors. Even if you’re in your 20s and you run a half-marathon twice a month, even if you’re young and completely healthy and you think the national and state response is a bit overblown, not meeting for a while is a faithful attempt during this uncertain time to love neighbors you don’t know and protect vulnerable people you may never meet.

It’s like getting a flu shot. You don’t get a flu shot just for you. You get the shot so you won’t get the flu and pass it on to somebody who might not be able to handle it. If you get the flu, it may only knock you out for a couple of days; but you could then pass it on to somebody it might kill. So you get your flu shot because you love those vulnerable people. You do whatever you can to keep from getting it and spreading it to others.

That’s what we’re doing as a church right now. We are joining our community in trying to flatten the curve. We want to work together so that the peak of the infections will be smaller and more spread out. I’m not sure it’s ultimately going to keep people from getting the disease. But it might slow it down long enough to save more lives.

So we’re not meeting as a group right now. Our Sticky Buddy event for this Sunday night has been canceled (that was a no-brainer; it was at the bowling alley, probably not the most sanitary place in Amarillo). The Evening of Chocolate for tonight has been postponed (there’s a whole bunch of chocolate in this building somewhere; I just haven’t been able to find it). But that doesn’t mean we are not still the Church.

Church is not a building we use once a week on Sunday mornings. Our gatherings are suspended, but our ministries are not. We’re still providing dinner at Martha’s Home and studying and praying and encouraging our sisters there. Loaves and Fishes looks a lot different, but we are still handing out a bunch of groceries on Thursdays. The procedures for Snack Pack for Kids has been modified, but we’re still getting food to the students at Bivins Elementary. Our Sunday morning prayer breakfast was tweaked, but everybody who showed up got a free meal. Our Care Central process is not the same, but we’re still paying water bills and getting state I.D.s and giving out gas cards and praying for everybody who walks through the doors.

We made the decision last Monday. The rule of thumb for us is if it protects the vulnerable, if it comforts the grieving, if it ministers to the marginalized, we’re going to keep doing it. Absolutely. “We must do the work of him who sent me.”

Peace,

Allan

Virus Perspective

I’m not sure any of us knows exactly what’s happening right now or what’s driving it. I spent over two hours last Sunday going to more than twenty stores looking for toilet paper and I couldn’t find a square! Carrie-Anne actually ordered toilet paper online. I’m not kidding. That’s actually a thing. And we did it.

My daughter’s college graduation has been postponed, March Madness has been canceled, and the Whataburger’s closed! We were two people away from me singing soprano on the praise team yesterday! What kind of a world are we living in?

Now, I do believe that everybody’s doing the very best they can. I really do. I believe everybody who’s making decisions for us are doing so with pure motives and in the best interests of the most people. But, still. I don’t feel like I actually know anything. Do you know anything for sure?

Is it just the older people who are suffering or are younger people beginning to get sick? How exactly is this thing transmitted? Do we have testing kits or not? Is this going to be a two-week thing or a two-year thing? Is all of this virus scare and the shutdowns and closings overblown or underappreciated? Is the government doing too much or not enough? Am I going to have any money left when this is over? And what about this tickle in my throat? What’s that all about? You know? These are anxious times. Things are unstable at best, and maybe even chaotic. People are frustrated. And nervous. And scared.

There’s a lot we don’t know for sure. A lot. But I believe our Lord Jesus gives us the proper perspective for dealing with this outbreak.

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man born blind. When the disciples see this guy, they view his situation in a certain way. What’s their perspective? They want to blame somebody. They want to point fingers. They want to turn this guy into a theological case study. Who sinned? Whose fault is this? This is a bad thing that’s happened here — who messed up? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s get after it!

And while the apostles are pulling out their commentaries and word studies and their grandfather’s lectureship notes, Jesus completely reframes the whole conversation. Jesus says nobody sinned. Nobody did anything wrong. That’s not why this man is blind.

“It happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” ~John 9:3

Jesus says this man born blind is going to be a banner, a display, a huge billboard for the glory of God and everybody’s going to see it! God is going to work through this man’s particular circumstances and God’s name is going to be praised!

The disciples are asking the wrong questions. They’re looking to point fingers and to lay blame. Their instinct is to criticize and complain. But Jesus refocuses their perspective. He reframes how he wants his followers to see a crisis. What can God do with this? What is God going to do with this? Those are the right questions. That’s the proper perspective.

I know every five minutes it seems like more places are closing down, more events are being cancelled, and more activities are being suspended. But the Gospel is not suspended. Jesus Christ has not been stopped. The Church has not shut down and the mission has not been slowed down. Our God is still very much at work and his name is still to be glorified and praised.

Do you see God at work in this virus? Have you seen evidence of his love and grace in the middle of this mess? Are you looking for the proof of his presence in this crisis? Are you looking for it?

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While we’re not physically meeting together right now, we’re doing everything we can to keep connected as a church family at Central. We’ve started a weekly podcast of Central people talking about Central things and each morning we’re livestreaming our church staff’s regular Word and Prayer time. We’re making lots of phone calls and producing lots of videos and resources on the fly. Most of this is new, some of it is quite challenging, and all of it is being used by God’s Spirit to draw his people closer to him and closer to one another in a really strange time.

Peace,

Allan

You Can’t Beat the Devil

The stuff we’ve been talking about here for the past two posts are things you’re going to be dealing with at some level for most of your life. The seeds of doubt, the questions about your own worth and salvation, the lack of assurance — you can’t defeat the devil. But Jesus defeats the devil for you. That’s the really good news: Jesus is your Savior and he defeats the devil for you.

“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work!” ~1 John 3:8

Look at how Jesus does this during that face-to-face in the desert. Jesus counters the devil from his solid position as God’s beloved Son and he uses the blessings and the promises of Scripture to defeat the devil for you.

Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 8. I live on every word that comes from the mouth of God. I live and thrive on who God says I am, not in who you say I am. I believe what God says about me, not what you’re saying about me.

Then Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6. Do not put the Lord your God to the test. Don’t question my identity in God. If he says he loves me and that I belong to him and that he’s well pleased with me, don’t you doubt that for a second.

Then Jesus says, “Away from me! I’m done with this! There’s only one God, the One who loves me and accepts me, the One whose image I share!”

“We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:15-16

We don’t just have the Word of the Lord, we also have the Lord of the Word. We don’t just have the book, as beautiful and as powerful as it is, we also have Jesus, the Holy Son of God himself.

Jesus is the One who crushes the head of the serpent. He’s the Savior lifted up on the stake, the One we look to for healing from the viper’s bites. He’s the One who throws the dragon into the fiery abyss.

Jesus Christ is not just a good man who shows us how to live. He’s also not just a King who destroys all evil in one mighty stroke. Evil is all around us, it’s inside us, we’re all infected. If Jesus came here to destroy all evil on the spot, he would have ended all of us, too. No, Jesus is a King who came to a cross.

Jesus’ death on the cross and his resurrection from the grave vindicates God’s blessing and validates God’s promises and destroys forever the work of the devil and his lies. Jesus tells us to pray, “Deliver us from the evil one.” And Jesus is the One who delivers.

If Jesus is who he says he is, you should believe him when he says who you are. What he says about you is true. What he’s placed in you is true. He wants you to view yourself and understand yourself, not through your past or even your present, but through his promise.

“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true — even in his Son Jesus Christ.” ~1 John 5:19-20

Peace,

Allan

The Devil’s Scheme

“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment, heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.'” ~Matthew 3:16-17

Jesus is a 30-year-old man making his first independent appearance in the Gospel at the Jordan River. He’s being baptized. In Matthew, this is the very first thing Jesus does. And right out of the gate, right out of the water, God blesses Jesus. Jesus is blessed by God.

Jesus hasn’t healed anybody, he hasn’t fed anybody, he hasn’t taught anybody, and he hasn’t raised anybody from the dead. Jesus hasn’t preached a single sermon, hugged a single child, or rebuked a single Pharisee. As far as we can tell, Jesus hasn’t done anything yet. But he is blessed by God.

This is my Son. He belongs to me. He is part of me.
I love him. I am committed to him. I cherish him.
I am proud of him. I’m happy with him. I approve of him.

Jesus is blessed by God before he can do anything to earn it or deserve it. God’s blessing is not predicated on Jesus’ performance or on Jesus’ abilities to live a good life or on Jesus’ works on behalf of the Kingdom. God blessed Jesus because he is his Son. God loves Jesus because he is his Son. He commits to Jesus and he publicly affirms Jesus because he is his Son.

“This is my Son, whom I love” is a quote from Psalm 2, which is about God’s messianic King who’s going to put down all rebellion in the world and destroy all evil. “With him I am well pleased” is from Isaiah 53, which is about God’s suffering servant, the one who will die for the sins of the people. God gives Jesus his great blessing, he declares his eternal love and his deep approval of Jesus before Jesus does any of this. God’s love for Jesus and Jesus’ identity as God’s precious child is not tied to what Jesus does or accomplishes. Jesus is first and foremost blessed by God.

And the devil attacks that blessing.

In the very next verse, the opening of Matthew 4, Jesus is dripping wet from his baptism and led by the Spirit into the desert for a face-to-face meeting with the devil. And the very first words out of the devil’s mouth are, “IF you are the Son of God…”

He says it in verse three and he repeats it in verse six: “IF you are the Son of God…”

IF you are really loved by God… IF you really belong to God… IF you are really who God says you are… IF God is really pleased with you…

This is how the devil operates. This is his strategy.

God has just assured Jesus that he is God’s beloved child. God has just promised Jesus that he loves him and that he accepts him. And the devil immediately and directly attacks Jesus at that very spot.

Turn these stones to bread! Let’s see if you REALLY belong to God!
Jump off this building! Let’s see if God REALLY loves you!

The devil is asking Jesus to make God prove he really loves him and he’s really pleased with him. But you don’t need to ask God for demonstrations or proof unless you doubt. And that is the devil’s main goal. He wants Jesus to doubt the certainty of God’s unconditional love. He wants Jesus to lose the assurance of God’s eternal blessing and his approval. He wants Jesus to question it.

Do you see how the devil works?

It’s brilliant. And evil.

Peace,

Allan

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