A lot of people love Jesus but some are madly in love. - A friend of mine
Oh this sentence! Those twelve words spur me on to more action than some entire books written on the topic of Christian living!
A lot of people love Jesus. That is true. A lot love Him, some think He is a great man, others view Him as a man of wisdom and works. Christians aspire to be like Him and even atheists who admit there was a historical Jesus respect Him. But I do not want to merely love Him. I want to be madly in love with Him. I want Him to form the reason I live, to be the absolute center of my universe, the entire world in which I dwell, the reason for my hope, peace, life, and my very existence.
Merely loving Jesus is not enough! I must love Him more! More than my hopes, more than my dreams, more than my family, more than my friends, more than myself. I must love Him more than life, more than the blessings He has bestowed upon me. He must be the One upon which I bestow all affection, absolute trust, my wholly-merited service, my worship, respect, and fear. I do not want to merely love Him; I want to be madly in love with Him. I want to hold Him closer than my very breath, closer than my beating heart. It must be my aim to abandon everything I am and all He has given me to His plans, His will, and things of His choosing. My greatest thought should be to dwell in His presence, soak up His words, see Him work, hear His voice, and see Him move.
Jesus is deserving of more than our petty conditional love. He deserves our absolute, utter, all-consuming passion and service and self-denying love. He deserves every single little absolute minute particle of our beings. He deserves to have us fall madly in love.
In this life, we face many different circumstances. Changes, excitement, joys, pain, trials, heartache, the list goes on. Often, the one thing we seek as we follow the Lord is wisdom, guidance, and direction as we go through each one of those circumstances. Every Christian seeks wisdom, asks friends and pastors to pray that the Lord would grant it to them, and beseeches the Lord themselves for this gift worth more than rubies. We are promised that He will give it to those who ask and only do right in so asking.
One mistake I think every single one of us makes during times of question marks and confusion is to mistake the silence of God for the thought that He isn't there. This simply couldn't be farther from the truth! We know, can claim, and are able to live by the Biblical principle, call it a Biblical "law" if you will, that all things will work together for the good of them who are the called according to His purpose. This, we know. All things WILL work together. Period. End of sentence, close the book. If we can keep our thoughts here, on the fact that this has been promised to us, how much more will the rest of our lives and perspectives fall into place? How much more will we be able to apply yet another principle - that of not worrying about tomorrow, not even about what we will eat, drink, or wear? Too often, we view that verse as a nice platitude or suggestion, but it's a command! Do not worry! When we keep our eyes on the fact that everything, no matter how hard or painful or good or joyous, will work for our good, we can then take up such a command, not worry, and leave it all in His hands!
A friend of mine often remarks that this principle - trusting Him because it all works out - is one of the easiest and simplest, yet hardest things to do. Because we, in our human frailty do not, or maybe often choose not, to do the one thing we all should - rest and trust in the One who has not only pulled our lives from the pit, but created the very heavens and earth which we so thoroughly enjoy. We are talking about God! The maker of all we know. How can we NOT trust this One so worthy of every bit of it? It is a choice we must make, dear friends, a choice to trust Him, a choice to give everything to Him, and a choice to believe that even in the silence, He is there, He is active, and He is working all things together for our good.
Do not mistake the silence of God for the thought that God isn't there.
We are twelve days into the new year. Just a few days ago now, everyone was talking resolutions, renewed focus, and refreshed outlook. One of the suggestions I heard go around was the idea of choosing a specific word to make "yours" for the year. In many ways I think this is a great idea. It's simple, concise, and can be an instant reminder to keep focused on something the Lord desires you to work on. Just fifteen minutes after the turn of the new year, inspired by something a friend said to me, I decided to do this and I had my word.
In the midst of wishing people a happy new year, a friend and I were conversing about the need to live for Christ ever more as the days go by and the need to encourage those around us to do the same. It was during this discussion at 12:15am that my friend remarked, "Let's make sure others see Christ undeniably in us." I wholeheartedly agreed and that was it, 'undeniable' became my word for this year.
It's such a perfect word that contains so much meaning. We, those who are following Christ and living for Him, should be doing so in a way that is absolutely undeniable to those around us. 'Undeniably' should be the response when people wonder if we follow Jesus. 'Undeniably' should be the answer when people ask if we love the Lord. 'Undeniably' should be the way we live for the Lord and cling to His Word, seek His will, and obey His commands. Undeniably - without any doubt or question whatsoever.
There should be no aspect of this life that is not touched by Christ. Our desires, motivations, actions, thoughts, and the sum total of our purpose should be totally Christ-centered, Christ-focused, and undeniably dedicated to Him. It doesn't matter who we are, what job we hold, whether we are single, married, have five kids or one, our lives belong to Christ. As such, we should live in a way that is undeniably dedicated to Him. That is my focus for this New Year. What is yours?
Often times in our churches it seems as though the majority of those who walk through the doors forget they were once a sinner in need of redemption and that they are, in fact, still sinners albeit cleansed by the blood and set free from the law of sin and death. For some reason church does not become a place where people wounded, broken, and hurting can come for healing and restoration but rather is often a thing which presents a glossy and shiny exterior of what life is like instead of the reality. We see moms who seem to have it all together and fathers who are hip and into the latest techno gadgets. Kids are dressed in Gap and teens post youth group selfies. When I see a building full of people like this, I look around and find myself asking, 'Where are the redeemed?'
Where are the sinners saved by grace? We all fall into that category, absolutely every single one of us, but how many keep living with that fact in mind beyond year one or two of salvation? In our culture, looking good has come to replace sanctification. I can have issues in my marriage or a much to be desired personal walk with Christ as long as I look like I have it all together. How have we gotten this way? How has looking put together replaced falling apart at the feet of Jesus surrounded by those who love us as a brother or sister? What has happened to our church culture that we no longer function like a church but a club?
Yesterday I shook the hand of a man who was once the leader of one of the worst gangs in Los Angeles. Until he got saved. He went from gang leader to holding open the door for me as I exited the building. There is the redeemed. But what would you do if he entered your church, tattoos still visible, a rough exterior not yet smoothed away by Christ's refining hand? Would you welcome him in and exult over the work of Christ? Or would he be told to cover the tattoos and put on a suit because his current style is not how a Christian is supposed to dress? I'm afraid in many places it would be the later. It is as if we have forgotten we are all in the sanctification process and that none of us has arrived. Or that we have forgotten the fact that Christ's transforming work in a person's life is a process, one that takes time, and that suits with ties are not the only thing necessary to enter a worship service with a heart right towards God. Let us love the redeemed, dear brethren, for as such are some of them, such were some of you.
This is officially the first day of the brand new year. Everyone has reflected on the past 365 days, many have set resolutions for the upcoming 365, some are thankful to see the year leave, most are excited to usher in the new. The new year can be an exciting time of fresh starts and things to look forward to but it can also be a difficult time when some are struggling to fight the battle for contentment, hope, and peace.
Despite the many posts, updates, and one-liners about excitement for the new year I see all across the world of social media, there is one type of status update that remains lacking - posts from those who are struggling. 'Well, of course' you say. 'Because who posts a status update that says, "Tonight as I counted down to the New Year my heart ached and I felt lonely?" or "I'm really struggling financially this new year?" Who is going to like that?' But I wonder how many might have written something along those lines if they were brave enough to do so. It doesn't matter where you are or what time of the year it may be. The struggle and fight for contentment, to claim and live out what we know to be true in the Christian life, is real and ongoing. But let me encourage you. It is worth fighting for!
Finances will fluctuate. New Years resolutions may or may not be kept. People will come and go in our lives. Circumstances will change, jobs may become non-existent, financial status could shift drastically. The exciting Disneyland plans or vacation ideas to which you look forward for this new year may never materialize. Such are a few of the many areas in which we fight for contentment. And while all of that sounds rather bleak, I want to encourage you with something I know without a shadow of doubt will happen for the good! This time next year, Christ will still be with you. He will never leave; He will not be outsourced, changed, or made non-existent in your life. So when you find yourself in a time of trial or difficulty, when you find your heart wanting what God has not ordained, seek His face and cling to Him all the more. Because He is the only one who will be there when all else is not.