Category: Jesus (Page 1 of 57)

Leading Lavishly

“How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” ~1 John 3:1

Our God does not measure his love out to us. He doesn’t weigh it on scales or scoop it out with a spoon. He doesn’t give just enough of his love to get us by or just as much of his love as we might deserve. He floods us with his love. We have more of his love than we could ever ask for or imagine. That’s the one thing you can ask God to do that’s impossible: God, will you love me more? Nope. Can’t. Impossible. He lavishes us with his love. We are his children. That is what we are.

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” ~Ephesians 1:7-8

Our Father lavishes us with his grace. We sing about it. God’s amazing grace. Matchless grace. God’s grace that reaches even me! God’s forgiveness is over the top. It’s not that you’re forgiven of some of your sins or most of your sins or all the little sins or every sin except that one sin. It’s not that you’re forgiven is you do this one thing or keep this set of rules or follow this particular creed. In Jesus Christ, every single one of your sins — all of ’em; name em! — are all gone forever! God’s forgiveness is total and complete! Your sins are removed from you as far as the east is from the west! They are all hurled to the bottom of the sea, never to be dredged up again! God doesn’t put your sins up on the top shelf in the corner of a dark closet just so he can pull them out again and hold them against you at the worst possible time. God’s grace is lavish and complete.

“I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” ~John 10:10

This is not an incidental or isolated remark from our Lord. This comes right between “I am the gate” and “I am the good shepherd.” Jesus is our doorway to salvation and the shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. And in the middle is the key contrast between his purpose and mission and that of the thieves and robbers: They come to take, Jesus comes to give. They seek destruction, Jesus seeks abundance.

From the fullness of his grace we have all  received one blessing after another. God gives the Spirit without limit. The water he gives will become a spring of water welling up to eternal life. Rivers of living water for all to drink. You will bear much fruit and your joy will be made complete. You will  do greater works than me. The Gospels are full of Jesus’ lavish life-giving abundance. If we wrote them all down, all the books in the world wouldn’t hold them!

The apostle Peter says we shepherd like our Chief Shepherd. We treat those in our flocks the same way Jesus does. With lavish love. With limitless grace. With inexhaustible forgiveness. With unmerited favor. We give everybody in our church life to the full.



Choosing the Way

The Bible confronts us with two ways. A choice. Not where you’re going to live, not what career you’re going to pursue, not who you’re going to marry, nor where you’re going to lunch. The choice we have certainly encompasses and impacts all those other decisions you make. But there’s only one choice in Scripture: the way of life or the way of death, the way of blessing or the way of curse, the way of God or the way of the world.

Jesus says, “I am the Way.” I am the Way you get to God and I am the Way God comes to you. I am the Way.

So we choose Jesus. We choose the Way of life, the way of blessing, and the way of God when we choose Jesus. And when we choose Jesus as the Way, when we choose the way of Jesus, what is it exactly that we’ve chosen? When we choose Jesus, what are we signing up for?

The very first recorded words of Jesus are in Mark 1. If Mark is the earliest of the four Gospels – almost everyone concludes it is – these are the earliest and first words of our Lord we have recorded and preserved. A radical inaugural announcement and then three commands.

“The time has come! The Kingdom of God is near! Repent and believe the Good News! Come, follow me!” ~Mark 1:15-17

A dramatic declaration. The Kingdom of God is near. Right now. Present tense. And then three primary commands. Three imperatives. These come first.

Repent: Leave your current way of life and start out on another way. Repent means to change your mind and heart. It’s a reverse-course. A change of direction.

Believe: See it. Experience it. Get into it. Live into a personal, relational, trusting involvement in the realities of the Kingdom of God.

Follow me: Live your life obediently in a way that matches up with the lordship of Jesus. What you do and why you do it and the way you do it – all of that submitted to Jesus. Follow me. It’s a direct command.

This isn’t a signup sheet like for small groups leaders or the women’s retreat. Jesus isn’t posting office hours so he can discuss the Kingdom with you if you’re interested. He commands it. “You! Follow me!”

You sitting in a church building on Sunday doesn’t make you a disciple anymore than sitting in a chicken coop makes you a chicken. You’ve got to get behind Jesus and follow him in his way. As a church, maintaining a status quo is not the same thing as following Jesus. Being a member in good standing or being a good middle-of-the-road church is not the same as following Jesus. Being a disciple means we make the call to give it all for the sake of others. We choose to lose our rights and refuse to use our might for the sake of his great name. We obey and we do things his way. The Jesus Way.



The Two-Way Way

“The way up and the way down is the same way.” ~Heraclitus, 502 BC

Jesus is our Way to God, but at the same time Jesus is God’s Way to us. The Way we come to God is the same Way God comes to us. God comes to us in Jesus; we come to God in Jesus.

God comes to us in Jesus speaking the words of salvation, healing our infirmities, promising the Holy Spirit, teaching us how to live in the Kingdom. It is in and through this same Jesus that we pray to and believe, hear and obey, love and praise God. Jesus is the Way God comes to us. Jesus is the Way we come to God.

On earth, Jesus is the Way of faith and obedience and prayer to God. From heaven, Jesus is the Way of God’s revelation and salvation and blessing to us.

Jesus is the Way of salvation. So we follow his Way. He is the Way of eternal life. So we follow his Way. The Way Jesus does it is the Way we do it. Period. End of discussion.

Heraclitus was more right than he ever knew.

~ from Eugene Peterson’s The Jesus Way, 2007

Don’t Be Afraid

When Jesus walks across the water in Mark 6, it’s not like he’s performing a card trick to amaze his friends. He’s not showing off. And it’s not something he did all the time. Jesus walks across the surface of the sea in order to communicate something very specific to his followers in this particular moment. In the middle of their struggle to obey his command to go across the lake to the other side, in the middle of their fear of the storm and their frustration at being blown off course, Jesus comes to them as only he can. He walks on the water and calms the winds to say clearly to them, “I am God.” And “I am with you.”

“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” ~Mark 6:50

Actually, Jesus doesn’t say, “It is I.” The original Greek words in this verse are eigo eimi — “I AM.”

Only God, the Creator of heaven and earth, walks on the water and treads the sea. Only God Almighty calls himself “I AM.” Jesus comes to his disciples in the middle of their fear to say, “You’re not following a great prophet like Elijah, you’re not following a scriptural superhero like Moses. I am God.”

And he climbs into the boat with them.

“I am God. And I am with you. I’m right here. I’m in your boat with you. We’re doing this together.”

It’s important to notice that Jesus doesn’t rescue his followers out of the sea. He gets in the boat with them. And he takes them to the other side. What he commanded them to do, he did with them. For them.

Jesus is saying, “I’m doing this with you. We’re together. I have dominion over heaven and earth, I’m in charge of the skies and seas, I have authority over the earthly powers and the demons in hell — and I am with you. I will carry you through this.”

He who began a good work in you will  carry it through to completion.

The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

“Take courage. I AM. Don’t be afraid.”



The Way

“Jesus has many who love his heavenly Kingdom, but few who carry his cross; many who yearn for comfort, few who long for distress. Plenty of people he finds to share his banquet, few to share his fast. Everyone desires to take part in his rejoicing, but few are willing to suffer anything for his sake. There are many who follow Jesus as far as the breaking of the bread, few as far as drinking the cup of suffering; many who revere his morality, few who follow him in the indignity of his cross.”

~Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

Hearing God in Holy Relationship

Hearing God happens in holy relationship. If you’re not in a close, personal, and dynamic relationship with God in Christ, you’re going to have trouble hearing his voice.

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep… the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” ~John 10:2-4

This whole passage in John 10:1-18 is about relationship. The sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice because he owns them; they belong to him. He calls his own sheep by name. That’s a big part of it – this belonging. But it’s much more about relationship. Notice that Jesus doesn’t use his voice to lead all the sheep; he speaks to his own. Jesus knows his sheep. His sheep belong to him. He calls them by name. They’re always together and they’re listening and they hear his voice and they follow.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” ~John 10:14-15

The sheep who hear the shepherd’s voice are in a close, tight relationship with the shepherd. And it’s not just mutual – it’s comprehensive! It’s total! Jesus and his followers have an intimate relationship, the same relationship, he says, that Jesus has with God the Father. That’s staggering! That’s mind-blowing! Jesus is willing to die for you not just out of obedience to God, but also because of the close relationship he has with you. And in this mutual relationship, this committed and devoted relationship with Jesus, is where we hear his voice.

“The one who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” ~John 8:47

If you have a hearing problem, it might be that you have a relationship problem.


My dear friend Valerie Gooch was asked to preach Sunday at Messiah’s House Church in Amarillo and, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside her, she knocked it out of the park.

Valerie is the founder and Executive Director of The Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center, or PARC. It was her God-ordained vision to convert the old Route 66 strip club on 6th Street in Amarillo into a day center for those experiencing homelessness. And it is thriving today as a unique Christ-centered  sanctuary of love and grace where lives are being changed. Valerie was one of my biggest encouragers during our ten years at the Central Church in Amarillo – we were blessed to partner together in ministry in that downtown space and I was blessed by her pep talks and prayers for me. I still am. She encourages me a couple of times a week by her PARC email updates and with a text every few months when I seem to need it most.

You can watch her sermon here. It begins at the 56-minute mark.

The story about smelling marijuana made me laugh.

Valerie’s illustration about the eyeball and how wonderfully made we all are in the image of God and how we have to look for that in others, even when, especially when, it’s not always easy to see – I’m stealing that.

God doesn’t call us to fix people, he calls us to love people – I’m stealing that, too.

And the story about Reggie made me cry.

God bless Valerie and Royce and every person who walks through the doors at The PARC.

And Go Stars. Huge game tonight.



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