Category: Jesus (Page 2 of 52)

The Goal of Forgiveness

Your forgiveness is a redemptive gift of God’s limitless love and amazing grace for the purpose of relationship with God. That’s the goal of forgiveness: To remove what stands between you and God so you can be a member of God’s family and eat and drink with him at his table.

The woman in Luke 7 kind of barges into Simon’s house to eat and drink with Jesus, and Simon doesn’t think she belongs. But Jesus says, no, she does belong at the table with me because her sins have been forgiven. Jesus sees her as forgiven. He regards her as righteous. There’s nothing to judge here – no sin. Jesus sees this woman as pure and clean and whole. Jesus makes the point clear when he asks Simon, “Do you see this woman?”

Do you see her the way I see her? As forgiven. Do you see what I see?

Jesus tells Simon that he sees kindness in this woman. He sees a tender heart, he sees love. He sees generosity and service. He sees sorrow for sin and gratitude for forgiveness. He sees her faith. He sees her as a restored daughter of God.

Forgiveness restores the relationship and places you at the table with the Messiah and with all of God’s people right now today and forever. In Luke 13, Jesus heals a woman, he delivers her from a crippling disease, and calls her a daughter of Abraham who’s been freed from Satan. In Luke 19, Jesus yanks Zacchaeus out of the tree and forgives his sins so he can eat and drink with him in Zacchaeus’ house. Why? Jesus says because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. Forgiveness restores the relationship.

In Luke 15, Jesus gives us the story of the prodigal son to show us that God’s love and forgiveness can take care of every kind of sin and can restore every kind of broken relationship. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done, the Father says, “I’m not going to wait for you to pay your debt – you can’t! You’re not going to have to earn your way back into the family – I’m just going to take you back! I’m going to cover you completely with the glorious robes of my love and forgiveness!”

And the story ends with the forgiven son inside the Father’s house, at the Father’s table, eating and drinking to the sounds of music and dancing. Why? The Father says, “Because this son of mine was dead, but now he’s alive; he was lost, but now he is found.”

Sin destroys relationship with God. So God took care of it. God made his Son, who had no sin, to be sin for us. And our sin – this includes all of your sin – died with Jesus on the cross. So you are welcome to sit at Christ’s table with all of God’s people right now today and forever.

Peace,

Allan

Your Sins are Forgiven

We are all in want of forgiveness. Big forgiveness. It’s the universal need. Regardless of whatever factor or circumstance you want to claim for your life; whatever your blurry past, your uncertain present, or the preconceptions you have about your future; the views you have about yourself and your world, no matter how accurate or distorted; you must have forgiveness. Nothing else matters. Nothing else will fill the void or right the wrongs or give you satisfaction. Not even justice or fairness or all the other things we seek – only forgiveness truly fixes what’s wrong and brings lasting peace to our messed up times and lives.

In Luke 7, Jesus is confronted by a sinful woman inside a Pharisee’s house. And he looks right at her and says the four most important words ever said in any language: Your sins are forgiven.

Jesus is the Savior who came here to say those four words. It’s his purpose, it’s his mission. It’s who he is and what he does. Forgiveness. Jesus left his home in glory at the Father’s side to make it plain to you that your sins are forgiven.

But how do you know God can really do it? How do you know God forgives all your sins? You look at Jesus. If you want to understand God, you look at Jesus. Our Lord says it himself: If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.

Look how he loves this woman at Simon the Pharisee’s house and says to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Look how he saves the woman caught in adultery and tells her, “I don’t consider you guilty.” Look how he forgives the tax collector in the tree and the best friend who betrayed him three times. Look how Jesus prays from the cross for his accusers and executioners, how with his dying breath he prays for his killers, “Father, forgive them!”

God will forgive you. He already has. Your sins are forgiven. How do you know? Look at Jesus.

Peace,

Allan

A Week Late & 50 Degrees Warmer

Due to COVID restrictions and our desire to try something completely different, we had planned an Ash Wednesday Drive-Thru event in our church parking lot. But on Ash Wednesday last week in Amarillo, it was four-degrees and there were nine inches of snow on the ground. So we postponed the event until last night when it was 50 degrees warmer and 100-percent drier.

As a church family last night we joined our Lord on his way to the cross. We participated with Jesus, we walked (drove) with our Christ as he willingly traveled to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of all humanity. It was a come-and-go event with four different stops or stations to remember and reflect on Christ’s baptism, his triumphal entry into the Holy City, the supper he shared with his followers on that last night, and his crucifixion. We read the biblical texts and prayed focused prayers at each stop. We had meaningful conversations.

 

 

 

 

 

Last night we remembered that, while he was in the water, God publicly declared his eternal love for Jesus. In the same way, our heavenly Father acknowledges us as his precious children and commissions us for service in his Kingdom. We looked each other in the eyes last night and said, “You are loved by God and he is well pleased with you.”

 

 

 

 

We waved palm branches outside our car windows and shouted “Hosannah!” as we drove our vehicles over other palm branches and robes and coats. That’s where our people did some double-takes. “You want me to drive OVER the robes?” We discussed the differences between the way Jesus rules and the way worldly kings rule. We told each other, “God saves you.”

We shared the communion meal together last night. We thanked God for meeting our deepest needs in Jesus. We thanked God for washing away our sins in the blood of Christ.

And then we parked our cars facing the floodlit cross Leon Wood and Tom Grant had built and erected in front of our ancient chapel. Our shepherds met each car with words of blessing and prayers for peace. Holy moments. Sacred conversations. Nobody was in a hurry. Blessings were being given and received. God’s Spirit was comforting and transforming all of us. As the cars departed the event, our elders painted a gray cross on the window of each driver and passenger, reminding us that we are human – we are made of dust and to dust we will return – and that we need God and each other. The ash-colored crosses on our car windows acknowledged that the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus far surpasses in glory the burnt offerings made by the priests.

 

 

 

 

 

That’s the essence of the Gospel. God created us out of his great love, we have sinned and fallen short of his glory, we are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation, he forgives us and restores us through Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

 

 

 

I am so grateful for our ministers and shepherds, for our church staff, and every member of this wonderful Central congregation. We have found creative ways to remain connected over the past year and we have seen our Lord at work in everything and everybody around us. May our faithful God continue to bless us during the days and weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. May we remember. May we walk with Christ. And may his will be done in and through this church and our city just as it is in heaven.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Relationship

“Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” ~Luke 5:30

Jesus broke in to the tax collector’s world so he could eat and drink with Levi and his friends. This is God’s great goal through Christ: relationship with you expressed and experienced around a table. Eating and drinking with Jesus communicates relationship. Everybody around the same table, eating the same food, sharing the same drink; community and acceptance, nothing between us, no barriers or animosity. Perfect face-to-face, elbow-to-elbow, feet under the same table, please pass the mashed potatoes relationship. This is how our Lord communicates the new realities in the Kingdom of God.

It’s not that people are in two different categories so you’re either righteous or you’re a sinner, you’re either healthy or you’re sick. It’s that we are all sinners, we are all terminally ill and racing towards eternal death, but Christ Jesus has come to us and changed everything! Jesus totally blows up all our categories and classifications. His table is for everybody! The table says God’s mercy and forgiveness is alive and active, there is healing and celebrating, there is the creation of a brand new world, and all are invited to receive it.

If this is the mission of Jesus – and it is – then it is also the mission of Jesus’ Church. We initiate with others. We go to the sick and dying, we invite the lonely and lost, we go out and we bring in, we make room for others at the table.

Jesus went to Levi’s workplace, he went to Levi’s house. Jesus is always looking for lost people and, when he sees them, he runs to them. We’re not always like that. We typically run away from people who don’t have it all together like we do. We think it’s going to be too messy. They’re going to have issues. It’ll be awkward.

See, there are two strategies on sick people. The Pharisees say quarantine. Isolate. Keep them at a distance. But Jesus says herd immunity all the way! Everybody together around my table at the same time! In my grace! In my presence! That’s how we heal the sick!

There are lots of women and men out there who have negative feelings about Jesus. They’ve had bad experiences with the Church. They’ve been ignored or neglected, judged and condemned. But if we will show a steady, regular, consistent, and persistent expression of Christ’s love and grace and invitation to his table, or to yours, they will see Jesus. They will experience the Great Physician, the promised Messiah who came here to shoulder our sins and to die our death so we can be forgiven and saved and healed.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Redemption

“I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” ~Luke 5:32

When you are in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, there finally comes that moment when they call your name. You put your magazine down or your phone away, you stand up and walk over to the door, and the nurse always addresses you this way: “How are you doing today?” And my instinct is always to reply, “How do you think I’m doing today? If I were okay, I wouldn’t be standing here talking to you! If things were good, if I were well, we wouldn’t be having this conversation!”

When I go to the doctor, I know three things: I am sick, I need to be healed, and I cannot heal myself.

That’s what Jesus is saying in Luke 5. “I’m coming for people who realize they need help, people who know they’re in trouble, people who know they don’t have all the answers.”

But Jesus doesn’t come to give you a placebo. Jesus doesn’t make this house call to give you a pep talk or good advice. He calls you to a radical life of repentance. I have not come to call the righteous, he says, or the people who think they are righteous. I’ve come to call the sinners, the women and men who know they need help. I’ve come to offer them repentance.

The word “repent” literally means to change directions, to go the other way, to get on a different path and head toward another destination, to change your mind and your actions and commit to living differently.

In Luke 3, John the Baptist is preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins and the people in the crowd question him about what it means practically. Of course, he answers them plainly. He tells those who have two coats to share with those who have none, and to do the same thing with their food. He tells the tax collectors to stop collecting more than they are supposed to and to be fair with everybody. He tells the soldiers to stop extorting money and lying about people, stop using power and position for your own good. Here in Luke 5, Jesus is reaching out to Levi because he sees the potential for Levi’s repentance and redemption.

And he says just two words to Levi: Follow me.

That’s the radical call. This is the Great Physician’s prescription for redemption: Follow me.

And only Jesus can say stuff like this. Look at the great power of his Word. So far in Luke, we’ve seen that Jesus’ Word drives the devil away in the wilderness. His Word drives evil spirits away from the demon-possessed. His Word drives a million fish into Peter’s nets. Jesus’ Word heals the paralyzed and the lepers and all kinds of sickness, Luke says. His Word forgives sin and proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God. And his Word invites Levi into healing repentance and eternal redemption. “Follow me.”

Levi is a very wealthy man with lots of power and many friends and he is confronted by the Word of Jesus inviting him to a completely different life. Why don’t we talk to the rich and powerful about Jesus? Somehow we’ve decided that rich and powerful people won’t listen to Jesus, so we don’t even bother. We wait for something bad to happen to rich people, we wait for them to fall and hit rock bottom, we wait for their fortunes to reverse before we think they’ll be open to Christ. But notice how these two words from Jesus actually create that reversal!

“Levi got up, left everything, and followed him.” ~Luke 5:28

Next thing you know, Jesus is inside Levi’s house at Levi’s table, eating and drinking with Levi and his friends. Levi has repented and now he is in intimate relationship with the Lord. There’s only one way to explain how something like that happens: Jesus knows who he is calling and his radical invitation is life-changing.

Peace,

Allan

House Call: Revelation

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” ~Luke 5:31

There is so much revealed about Jesus in the very short story of the great banquet at Levi’s house. Who Jesus is and what Jesus came here to do and why and how he came to do it is revealed in his answer to the Pharisees who are questioning the sort of company he keeps. He is a doctor who has come to heal the sick. Those are his words. It sounds kind of like a mission statement, doesn’t it? I am a doctor and I have come to heal the sick. Why?

Because he knows. Jesus knows the world is sick. He knows God’s creation is sick. Men and women and children are sick. Families are sick. Communities and cities are sick. People are hurting, people are suffering, people are in pain and dying. And Jesus says I am the doctor!

The old prophet Jeremiah uses this kind of language as he is proclaiming the miseries of God’s people:

“We had hoped for peace, but no good has come; for a time of healing, but there was only terror… My heart is faint within me. Listen to the cry of my people… My people are crushed, I am crushed. I mourn and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?” ~Jeremiah 8:15-22

God’s people cry out, “Is there a doctor in the house?” And Jesus Christ, the holy Son of God answers, “I Am! It’s Me!”

I am bringing to you the new age of the Kingdom of God. I am bringing to you new power and new possibilities and new hope that’s never been there before. I’ve got complete forgiveness for you and full holiness and total righteousness. Everything that’s making you sick and tired and weak, everything that’s keeping you from being who and what God created you to be, everything that’s killing you – I’ve got the cure!

You know, a doctor like that – you probably can’t just show up to see him without an appointment. He’s probably booked for six or seven months or more. And a person like you – you probably couldn’t even get an appointment with a doctor like this. A doctor this good probably isn’t taking new patients.

Except, no! Praise God the Great Physician makes house calls! He comes to you and knocks on your door! He comes to you and it doesn’t matter who you are. It doesn’t matter where you are, he meets you right there. Jesus goes to the tax collector’s booth and then he shows up at the tax collector’s house, at his table!

In Revelation 3, Jesus says, “Here I am. I’m right here. I stand at the door and knock.” It’s a house call. Always. “I am standing right here and I’m knocking. And if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in. And I will eat and drink with you and you will eat and drink with me.”

Peace,

Allan

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