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Monday, December 16, 2013

Great Lines of 2013

I do a lot of research for every post, and frequently stumble across some awesome lines.  Sometimes I’m able to use them, sometimes they don’t fit—regardless, if it was a quote that I just loved, I added it to this list.  Some are powerful, some make you think, some are funny.  Not all were spoken and/or written this year, I just came across them this year.  With that, I present my 2013 list of great lines.
 
 

Francis Chan (in response to Matthew 7:13-14):  Can you find one place in the Bible where the majority was right?  When in history has the majority been right?  When has the right thing ever been popular?
 

Mark Driscoll: United States of America is not a church.  Thank God ’cause what a church that would be.
 

Mark Driscoll:  People don’t have an academic problem with the Bible.  They have a moral problem with the Bible.  It’s not that they don’t understand it.  It’s that they don’t like it.
 

Mark Driscoll:  All we need is Jesus.  Jesus plus anything ruins everything.
 

Mark Driscoll: There’s something worse than dying, and that’s a wasted life.
 

Mark Driscoll:  You need to know that from God’s perspective, religion is just a steaming pile of your own fleshly efforts at holiness.
 

Mark Driscoll: The truth is, we’re supposed to have freedom of religion, not freedom from religion, that we are to be able to worship God freely and publicly, and it was never intended that our faith would not have anything to do with our life.
 

Mark Driscoll: Tolerance used to mean being patient with someone you disagree with.  Tolerance now means accepting what they believe.
 

Mark Driscoll (admitting that he stole this from Rick Warren): Our job is not to win America.  Our job is to win Americans.
 

Mark Driscoll: The natural way to respond to evil is with evil…It takes more courage, strength, and dignity to be like Christ than to instigate further evil.
 

Mark Driscoll: We are at war, but people are not our enemy.  Satan is our enemy.  People are our goal.
 

Jerry Falwell: You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent, or his wealth, or his education.  You determine a man’s greatness by what it takes to discourage him.—Rick Warren adds: Extraordinary people are just ordinary people with great persistence. (I used this in light of the Washington tornado.)
 

Joe:  God inspires us to see who we are in Him so that we can display who He is to the world.
 

Greg Laurie: When you’re all alone, when no one is watching, and there’s no one around to impress, that is who you are.
 

Dan Lian:  One day, each and every one of us will find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus, and in that moment, nothing else will matter except for this: Did you live your life, did you love your world, did you serve the purposes of God in such a way as to render these words from Him—“Well done!”?
 

Crawford Loritts: God’s love is not just a feeling of sentiment.  It means He comes down in our times of need and says, “I’ve got this.  I’ve got this.  I’ve got this.”
 

Todd Nighswonger: God does some of His best work during times of sorrow, agony, and difficult.
 

Todd Nighswonger: You do not have to live in fear because your time will not come until God the Father decides your time has come.
 

Perry Noble: If you are going to follow Jesus, you are going to upset some people.
 

Perry Noble (discussing James 1:14): We can’t say that “the devil made me do it” when we loaded the gun and put it in his hands.
 

John Piper: Believing a life without prayer would result in an eternal life with Christ is like believing that you could spend as much time underwater as you could above it.
 

Judah Smith: No sooner do I conquer a bad habit than I become the biggest critic of anyone who still does what I just stopped doing.  I make up rules to fit my standard of living, then I judge you by them.  If you follow my rules, you are a good person.  If you break my rules, you are a bad person.  If you have stricter rules than me, you’re a prude who needs to lighten up.
 

Judah Smith: Rules attempt to force us to do the opposite of what we want.  Grace actually changes what we want.
 

Judah Smith (talking about grumpy-looking Christians): There is nothing more uncomfortable for people than a constipated Christian.
 

Judah Smith: I pray in light of President Mandela’s life and legacy that we might all consider forgiving those who have profoundly hurt us.
 

Judah Smith: Something is wrong when we call ourselves Christians but we practically have an aneurysm just trying to crack a smile.
 

Judah Smith: Sometimes it takes tragic circumstances to realize how real our faith is.
 

Judah Smith: Jesus is the ultimate zombie.  He was killed, then he came back from the dead, and now he’s coming for you.  Okay—some of you would do well do discover a sense of humor.  You’ll live longer.
 

Judah Smith: Sometimes Christians are the biggest doomsayers of all.  It’s not healthy.  Frankly, it’s not even Christian.  Fearfulness is an indictment against our God.
 

Steph: It’s not polite to smite your wife. (There’s no religious message here.  This was the end of the silly conversation we were having and I just found this line brilliantly phrased and funny.)
 

Lee Strobel: God took the very worst thing that has ever happened in the history of the universe — deicide, or the death of God on the cross — and turned it into the very best thing that has happened in history of universe: the opening up of heaven to all who follow Him.  So if God can take the very worst circumstance imaginable and turn it into the very best situation possible, can he not take the negative circumstances of your life and create something good from them?
 

Lee Strobel: So when tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: you’ll find peace to deal with the present, you’ll find courage to deal with your future, and you’ll find the incredible promise of eternal life in heaven.
 

Student in class (in response to me saying that one would need to draw pictures in order for our math teacher [whom I tease a lot] to understand): Is that why she makes us show our work?
 

Rick Warren: You lie to yourself more than you lie to anybody else…and you do it all the time.—Judah Smith adds: If we can’t be honest with ourselves, we’ll never be honest with God.
 

Rick Warren: You are not junk.  Jesus didn’t die for junk.  He was up on the cross with arms spread and nails in this hands saying, “I love you this much.  I love you so much, it hurts.  I love you so much that I’m willing to go through this pain and suffering in order to be with you forever.”  You are not junk.
 
 

Finally, my verse of the year.  This was picked back in August as a theme verse for Wyldlife.  Little did we know just how appropriate it would be when the tornado struck.


Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9

Monday, December 9, 2013

Jesus Is The Healer

“You will have suffering in this world.” – John 16:33 (Jesus talking, but the emphasis is mine)
 

As long as sin exists, there will be pain and suffering.  It doesn’t matter if you are a Christian or a non-believer, no one is exempt from trials.  As Francis Chan said, “Nearly every book of the New Testament discusses suffering, yet we’re surprised when it actually happens.”  That said, it’s very important for you to understand that God is not the cause of your pain and suffering.  Satan is.  When you’re sick, the doctor is not the cause of your illness, right?  The doctor is the person to whom you go for healing.  In the same light, we turn to God for healing.
 

Unfortunately, in order for there to be great healing, there must first be great pain.
 

Healing usually comes in one of three ways.  There’s the hands-on approach.  Medicine or sometimes surgery if needed.  There’s the hands-off approach.  We typically call this time and resting.  The third route of healing is the radical one.  In some situations, doctors are forced to cut off a person’s leg or arm in order to save the person’s life.  It’s gruesome.  It’s painful.  It sucks…but it works.  The person is healed.  Basically, an unpleasant approach is needed in order to do the greater job of saving.
 

In the Bible, Christ healed in these same ways.  Occasionally, He would touch someone, and they would be instantly cured.  Sometimes, He would simply talk to the person.  “Dude, you’re fine.  Get up.”  And they’d be instantly cured.  Then there’s the radical route, the unpleasant approach, and that’s the story of healing I want to write on today.
 

John 9:1-11:  As (Jesus) went along, he saw a man blind from birth.  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”  See…back then, it was believed that if you had some incurable disease or handicap, you—or your parents—had sinned, and this was God’s punishment.  This would be like if you were putting an entertainment center together, slammed the hammer on your thumb, and yelled, “Son of a—!!”  God would strike you and/or your future children blind.  Sounds stupid, but that’s what they believed at the time.
 

So Jesus answers, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”  Now, this is an important moment.  Jesus is saying that it’s no one’s fault that this guy is blind.  He was chosen.  We live in a fallen world of pain, suffering, and tragic circumstances.  Sometimes, bad things happen to us because we make bad choices.  Sometimes, bad things happen to us for no reason…and God uses those moments to show the world a great healing.
 

This particular healing miracle played out thusly:  John writes that Christ spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.  Now…these people have witnessed Jesus heal in some pretty awesome ways.  One time, He healed a kid from the next town over (John 4:46-54).  One time, a person reached out and touched Him in a crowd, and was healed (Mark 5:25-26).  So…imagine that you’ve witnessed countless miracles, and now you’re watching Jesus—the Son of God—hock a loogie.  Furthermore, it says that He made mud from His saliva.  How much spit had to come out of Jesus’s mouth to make mud?  Then…Jesus takes the mud and smears it on the dude’s eyes!!
 

“Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” – I can’t help but think that Jesus is messing with this guy now.  He tells a blind guy, “Go over there.”  The rest of the story goes, So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.  His neighbors and those who had formerly seen him begging asked, “Isn’t this the same man who used to sit and beg?”  Some claimed that he was.  Others said, “No, he only looks like him.”

But he himself insisted, “I am the man.”

“How then were your eyes opened?” they asked.

He replied, “The man they call Jesus made some mud and put it on my eyes.  He told me to go to Siloam and wash.  So I went and washed, and then I could see.”
 

Notice that no one bothered to tell him how Jesus made the mud?*
 

Unpleasant story, perhaps, but it has a powerful point:  Jesus is the healer—and He does it in a variety of ways.  Sometimes He’ll reach down and touch us.  Sometimes He’ll simply tell us that we’re better.  And unfortunately, sometimes He’ll spit in our face.
 

Nearly two years ago, my life was falling apart.  Steph and I had reached a point in our marriage where we were nothing more than roommates.  We never spent time with each other.  We never talked to each other.  Other than our living arrangements, we had practically no relationship with each other.  At school, I was beginning to hate my job.  I had stretched myself out too thin, trying to do too much.  I was spending more time worrying about every little issue outside of my room that I was no longer enjoying what was going on inside of my room.  To add on to that, my twenty-nine-year-old sister-in-law was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
 

Three weeks ago, our lives in Washington were ripped apart.  A monster tornado touched down and shredded neighborhood after neighborhood.  Hundreds of people lost their homes.  Those who were fortunate enough to have been out of the tornado’s path were still affected by it, as friends and/or family were hit.  Many people were at church and returned to find the destruction waiting for them.  Many were in the basements of their homes, and will never forget the agonizing terror of hearing and feeling the storm tear through their upstairs living room.
 

Here’s where life is hard, here’s the spit in the face.  When tragedy strikes, life gets worse before it gets better.  Less than a week after Christen was diagnosed with her brain tumor, she passed away, leaving my brother and their two children alone.  I have never witnessed such pain and suffering as I did from Joe during that time.  I had no desire to return to school—I only wanted to be there for him.  Steph was very close to Christen, but as we had drifted apart, I felt more compelled to comfort my brother than my own wife—leaving her to suffer alone—which naturally hurt our relationship even more over the next few months.
 

The devastation of the tornado is not going to be the worst part of this process.  Eventually, all of these people volunteering to help will have to return to their own lives.  The news will stop reporting on it.  Donations will stop coming in.  Those that lost their home will feel isolated.  Alone and forgotten.  Rebuilding these neighborhoods is not an overnight project.  One year from today, much of the wreckage will still be here.  It will take years—plural—before people begin to build and move back.  It might take as much as ten years before these neighborhoods look anything close to what they looked like a month ago.
 

Frightened, forgotten, and frustrated.  Afraid, alone, and angry.  It’s in these moments…these soul-crushing, spirit-breaking moments…that our miracles occur.  It’s in these lowest moments that we—through God’s grace—crawl from the emotional wreckage.  We climb out of our heart’s basement, look at the devastation around us, and see…hope.
 

Whatever you’re going through right now, understand that God always wins.  It’s going to get tough, but in the end, God always wins.  He does some of His best work during times of sorrow, agony, and difficult. – Todd Nighswonger

God’s love is not just a feeling of sentiment.  It means He comes down in our times of need and says, “I’ve got this.  I’ve got this.  I’ve got this.” – Crawford Loritts
 

When you scratch yourself, you bleed, but the blood clots and the skin returns.  Within a couple of days, the scrape is gone.  The worst cuts may leave a scar, but even then—the bleeding stops.  Nearly two years ago, my brother lost his wife suddenly.  This was no cut or scratch.  This was a gaping hole that had him emotionally bleeding out.  He could have been angry at God.  He could have turned his back to God.  Instead, he turned to God.  He asked Jesus to fill that void…and Jesus said, “I love you.  I’ve got this.”  He then healed Joe.  It wasn’t overnight.  It wasn’t a week later, or even a month later.  First—Christ showed Joe the love of others.  People were lining up to help him financially, help him with food, help him with his two children…whatever he needed.  Eventually, those people faded.  It’s not a knock against them, but they had their own lives to lead.  So God helped Joe learn how to balance his entire life and be a single father.  Once Joe had that down, Jesus said, “Okay…you’re ready,” and introduced him to someone new.  Soon, they were dating.  Now they’re engaged.  It’s not that Christen is forgotten.  She’s not being replaced.  Joe will have that scar with him the rest of his life.  But Jesus does heal.  He gives us a resiliency to bounce back when tragedy strikes.
 

I grew up in a Christian home.  I have been going to church my whole life.  I knew all the answers to all the important questions someone could ask me about my faith—and I believed that I was going to Heaven simply because I could recite memorized answers.  The bottom line is that for thirty-three years, I was living a lie.  I did not know Jesus.  I knew of Him, but I had no relationship with Him, and here I was—at the same age of Christ’s physical death—spiritually dying.  My marriage was falling apart.  I was beginning to hate my job.  My entire life was crumbling around me.  To top it off, my on-fire-for-Christ sister-in-law died suddenly.
 

I was wounded.  I was bleeding out.  I was dying.  At one point during Christen’s funeral, I closed my eyes, lifted my head to God and said one word: Help!!  Jesus came down and said, “I love you.  I’ve got this.”  Again—it didn’t happen overnight, but as time passed, my wounds began to close up.  I am once again crazy in love with Steph.  I am crazy in love with my job.  I am crazy in love with my life.  Now I am whole.  Now I am well.  Now I am healed.
 

When we understand that Jesus is here, we can make it through anything.  People who know that Jesus loves them, who know that Jesus is with them and for them—those people can not only endure pain and loss and difficulty, they can come out the other side stronger and better people. – Judah Smith
 

Right now, most of you are wounded in some way—whether it’s storm-related or something personal; whether physical, emotional, or spiritual.  You’re hurt.  You’re confused.  Your situation doesn’t make sense.  Jesus is the healer.  You just need to go to Him.  It may get better instantly.  It may get better over weeks and months like it did for me.  It may get better in a couple of years like it did for Joe.  But it will get better.  You will be whole again.  You will be well again.  You will be healed.  Washington is going to be left with a scar.  The mark of this tornado will always be here, but the wound will heal.  The bleeding will stop.
 

I know it’s hard to see that now.  I know it’s hard to see a loving and healing God with spit in your eyes.  I know that none of this brings your house back today.  It won’t prevent you from flinching the next time you hear thunder, or crying when the town’s siren goes off on the first Tuesday of every month.  What I’m saying is if you put your trust and faith in Jesus, He will bless you with the time and peace required to heal.  It may be next week, next month, next year, or even five years later, but Christ is going to blow your mind.  All you have to do is let Him.
 

When tragedy strikes, as it will; when suffering comes, as it will; when you’re wrestling with pain, as you will – and when you make the choice to run into His arms, here’s what you’re going to discover: You’ll find peace to deal with the present…(and) courage to deal with your future. – Lee Strobel

Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9
 

When we’re sick or injured, we see a doctor.  We don’t sit back and suffer silently.  We don’t sit in our room and wait for the broken bone to mend itself.  We put our trust in our doctors.  Oftentimes, they’ll hand us a pill and say, “Take this and you’ll get better.”  We don’t know what the pill is.  We don’t know what’s in it.  We don’t know how it works.  We just trust that if we take it, we will get better.  Not immediately—it usually takes a few days—but our health does return.
 

Yet in times of emotional or spiritual distress, we clam up.  We run away from friends, family, and God, and attempt to deal with the issues on our own.  This never heals the wound.  Never.  Jesus is the healer.  He was sent here to save all of us.  People walked for days in order to see Him and be healed by Him.  Christ continues to save today.  All we have to do is put our faith and trust in Him and ask.  My brother will marry his fiancĂ© (ironically also named Christen) on April 5 because in his time of great suffering, he sought the healing of Jesus.  I am here today, writing this post, because in my time of great suffering, I sought the healing of Jesus.
 

Through God’s grace, Washington has shown its strength as a community.  We have demonstrated our love for each other in countless ways, but the suffering is not over.  There will be continued hardships in the weeks, months, and possibly years to come.  In those times, seek the healing that only Jesus can offer.  Allow Him to come into your heart and say, “I love you.  I’ve got this.”

 

*A tip of the cap to Perry Noble, who inspired the humor throughout this passage.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Why Trusting God Is Important

On Sunday, November 17, an EF-4 tornado tore through our town of Washington (I understand that I live in Eureka, but as my school and kids are in Washington, I have always considered Washington my community).  While “only” one person lost their life and dozens injured (though no major injuries that I’ve heard), hundreds lost their home and thousands were terrorized by the events.  Pictures and the news cannot accurately capture the carnage this storm left behind.  Millions of dollars will be spent on cleanup and rebuilding.
 

The common question that arises from this level of wreckage is Why?  Why did this happen?
 

Jeremiah 29:11 is one of the most misinterpreted verses of the Bible.  It says, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord.  ‘They are for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”  Many incorrectly read this as God telling Christians that nothing bad will ever happen to them.
 

Wow, is that wrong.
 

As long as sin remains in this world, bad things are going to happen.  What we need to understand, however, is that God is not the cause of those bad things.  Satan is the root of all evil.  What the Lord is telling us in Jeremiah is that bad things were never part of the plan.  His plan was all good.  Since evil found its way into the plans, however, God uses it for good…and that good is Him.  Get this: God uses all things to drive people to Him.
 

Joshua Walker: Sometimes, your circumstances are the only way others are going to hear the good news of Jesus Christ.  Sometimes, that trial is meant to get through to your heart.  Sometimes, that trial has nothing to do with you—it has to do with that person that God wants to save.
 

Basically, when bad things happen, God will use it to bring people closer to Him.  The trial may be meant to bring you closer to Him, or it may be meant to bring those around you closer to Him.  Ultimately, it’s all about Jesus, and we just have to learn to trust Him.
 

I know that’s always easier said than done, but here’s why it’s so important: Our vision is limited.  Think of a really foggy day.  The kind of fog where you can barely see the house a block down the road.  That is how we see life.  We don’t know what the next minute will bring, let alone the next day, week, month, or year.  Last Sunday proved that.  Meanwhile, God has infinite vision.  He sees the entire future for the rest of time, so He knows exactly how it all plays out.  Now…take our vision and God’s…who do we want driving the car down that road?  No offense, but I don’t want to be in a car if you and your limited vision is driving—and you shouldn’t want to be in the car if I’m driving.  We need to hand the keys to God and allow Him to take us to the destination we can’t see.
 

Believe it or not, the next post in the Jesus Is… series was going to be Jesus Is the Healer regardless of the current events.  Here’s a quick preview in relation to this post: We are so quick to trust a doctor when he gives us some magic pill that we’ve never heard of.  The doctor says it’ll help, so we take the pill.  No questions asked.  While I believe in doctors and medicine, let’s be honest—doctors screw up frequently, yet we blindly trust them.  God never makes a mistake, yet we constantly question Him.  Doubt Him.  We have our trust all kinds of backwards here.
 

Todd Nighswonger: (We’re) not saying that there’s joy in the trial.  It’s in knowing that God always wins, so the outcome of your trial will be phenomenal.
 

Here’s why it’s so important to show your trust in what God is doing when tragedy strikes: How you respond in times of crisis shows your true faith.  It’s easy to be a Christian when times are good.  When life is going well, no one thinks twice about you praising God or your church or your youth group.  When life hits you with massive storms, however, how you react is how non-believers will see Jesus.  What do you want them to see?  How do you want them to view Christ?  Furthermore, when other Christians—silent Christians—see you react to tragedy with a strong trust in Jesus, they will be inspired to do the same, which just presents a more unified front against Satan and his attacks.
 

Don’t believe me?  Look at the community.  “Washington Strong”, right?  For the last week, the news has continually shown that slogan.  They’ve kept showing the community banding together.  Working together.  Healing together.  “Washington Strong” has become the battle cry of the area, the state, the nation.  The community’s amazing response to this tragedy has inspired people—Christians and non-believers alike—from Maine to California to overseas.  People in other countries are asking how they can help.  The inspiration we have stirred in people has led to such an abundance of donations that we’ve run out of room for them!!  When have you ever heard of a natural disaster hitting an area of the world, and within a week, that community is asking people to stop donating because they don’t have anywhere to put it all?
 

How you respond in times of tragedy will inspire the world around you.  So inspire.  Trust God.  Display your faith.  Show Jesus.
 

Be strong.
 

Washington Strong and Strong in Christ.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jesus Is Fun

Dan Kimball: (Quoting a non-believer) “Isn’t there more to living this life than to constantly be talking about death and suffering?  (Christians) seem to hate this world.”   Fair or not, to many non-believers, Christianity doesn’t look like a lot of fun.  Part of that is because many believe that only sin can equal fun, but another part of that is because—sadly—Christians can often appear as dull sticks-in-the-mud.  When non-believers think of Christians, they tend to picture Ned Flanders, not Stephen Colbert (a strong, practicing Catholic).  If we are serious about helping the world find Christ, then this is an image we need to correct—and we have a beautiful role model.
 
 

Jesus Laughed

There are zero verses in the Bible that mention Jesus laughing or even smiling.  Consequently, many people truly believe that He never did so.  Seriously!! (pun intended)  Just because the Bible doesn’t provide a verse on Jesus laughing doesn’t mean that He didn’t do it (John 21:25).  The Bible doesn’t say that Christ went to the bathroom, either, but I think it’s safe to say that He did.
 

When someone smiles at you, don’t you feel good?  Don’t they seem friendlier?  Isn’t it possible to change a person’s attitude with nothing more than a friendly smile?  Therefore, is it so outrageous to think that Christ frequently softened hardened hearts simply by smiling at them?  Elton Trueblood writes, “Christ laughed, and…he expected others to laugh.”
 

Father James Martin, S.J. adds, “Humor is very culture-bound.  If you know someone from a different culture then your own, you may find that their jokes are different.  If you look back at movies from the 1930s, you might see that the humor has changed over time.  So imagine how difficult it is for us in 21st Century America to understand the humor of 1st Century Palestine.  Scripture scholars tell us that some of Jesus’s stories and parables would have been seen as not only clever, but laugh-out-loud funny.”
 

For example, irony and hyperbole have been comedy staples forever, so Christ’s ironic “plank in the eye” story in Matthew 7 and the hyperbolic “camel through the eye of a needle” story in Matthew 19 would have likely been received by howls of stomach-holding laughter.  Let’s face it: It is human nature to avoid boring speakers, yet people piled up by the thousands to listen to Jesus.  This man knew how to entertain a crowd.
 

More than that, kids are some of the best judges of character, and they loved Jesus.  Loved Him.  When they saw Him coming, they ran to Him (Luke 18:15-17).   Have you ever seen a child sprint to someone who was boring?    If Jesus wasn’t fun to be around, kids would have hated His company.
 
 

Jesus Was Fun

Everyone liked Jesus and wanted to hang out with Him.  Children, tax collectors, prostitutes, the poor…the only people who didn’t like Him were the stuck up, full-of-pride religious leaders.  How’s that for irony?  You think all of these people would enjoy hanging around the mopey, solemn-faced Jesus that adorns every picture and stained-glass window at church?
 

Scholars agree that part of Jesus’s ministry came in the form of dinner parties.  Strangers frequently invited Jesus to dinner.  Sinners.  The kind of people society deemed evil men.  Would this happen if Jesus was a big, dull dud?  No.  Jesus knew how to party.  In fact, He spent so much time with these people that some accused Him of being a drunkard and a glutton (Matthew 11:19).  Obviously, He wasn’t, but He did party.
 

Where was Christ’s first recorded miracle?  At a party!!  We see in John 2 that Jesus is at a wedding…and not the twenty-minute version we have today.  In those days, a wedding was a massive celebration.  Think Mardi Gras without all the lewdness.  We see Jesus here.  He isn’t there to preach.  He isn’t there to scold about drinking or dancing or loud music.  He is there as a guest.  He is there to party!!
 

Let’s not take this miracle lightly either.  The Bible says that He made 6 firkins, which is roughly 150-180 gallons of wine.  That’s over 5,000 glasses of wine.  I played around on various wedding-planning sites.  If you are trying to plan how much alcohol will be consumed at your wedding, the average number that kept popping up was around 400 drinks.  That’s about 24 bottles of wine.  Jesus produced around 1,000 bottles!!  Jesus wasn’t promoting sin…He wasn’t promoting drunkenness…but there was definitely some drinking going on.  Jesus drank, and that’s okay.  Jesus did not get drunk.  Jesus was fun, but He did not sin.  Let us never forget that.
 
 

We Can Have Fun

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there’s “a time to laugh.”  Christ is love.  When love is present, so is joy.  When joy is present, so is laughter.  “As part of God’s command to rest and his freedom in the gospel to enjoy the good gifts he gives us, there is nothing wrong with having fun via hobbies, vacations, games, sports, arts, entertainment, good meals, and just plain being silly” – Jared Wilson.
 

I think it’s safe to say that those who know me know that I like to laugh.  I like to have a good time.  I like to clown around and have fun.  I make jokes—constantly.  I like to think that I’m enjoyable to be around.  Yet those that know me also know my faith.  I’ll put it this way: I have never been accused of being boring.  I have also never had anyone question or doubt my faith.
 

Mark Driscoll: The mark of a real Christian should be someone that is fun to hang out with.

Ray Turner: Laughter and joy always brings a crowd.  When unchurched people notice shouts of joy and laughter, they are drawn to it.  Being a Christian is the most joy-filled and lively experience we can have.  Others need to see that in us, at work and in society.
 

Throughout high school and college, I was the “fun guy” to work with.  At this age, every job you have sucks.  No one wants to be there.  However, when others saw that they were working with me—they perked up.  They knew it was going to be an entertaining time.  A fun time.  I didn’t need alcohol for that.  That doesn’t mean that I never drank.  I drank in college, and that’s okay.  The handful of times I got drunk weren’t (Ephesians 5:18), but there was nothing wrong with having a few drinks with friends.  In fact, one friend actually paid me a big complement one night when he said, “Josh, you’re unlike any Christian I’ve known.  You actually hang out with lowlifes like me, drinking, playing cards, and listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd.  If I ever have any God-questions, you’re the guy I’m coming to.”  And he did.  Frequently.  We discussed my faith a lot.  In the time that I knew him well, he never converted, but a lot of his perceptions about Jesus (specifically) and Christians (in general) changed simply because I spent Friday nights with him playing Spades and drinking a few beers.
 

Most non-Christians believe that they can have more fun in life than Christians.  I need that explained to me.  How do they think that they have more fun?  Truthfully, I think we may need to take a look at what “fun” is.  Is it playing in a basketball game or reading a book?  Different people will give different answers.  Just because the basketball game has a crowd and more action doesn’t mean that it is more fun.  Millions of people (non-believers as well, shockingly enough) receive pure joy out of sitting on a couch and looking at words on paper for hours-on-end.
 

Personally, I enjoy sports.  Is that “fun”?  (Well…I’m a Cubs fan…so no.)  I collect bottles of cologne.  Is that fun?  I love white-water rafting.  Is that fun?  I enjoy researching for topics such as this, and will spend days doing so.  Is that fun?  I like having the occasional glass of wine with dinner or bottle of beer on the weekend, but have never enjoyed going to a bar.  Does that mean I’m not fun?  So what is “fun” and how have Christians earned the reputation for being so dull?  Is it because we don’t find the idea of getting drunk fun?  Is it because we don’t find the idea of one-night stands fun (Romans 13:13)?
 

Remove faith from the equation here: If you need to get drunk to have fun…if you need drugs for fun…if you are on the constant prowl for random sex with strangers…if you are obsessed with dramatically violent movies and/or games…forget Christianity—most psychologists would tell you that you have some issues that need dealt with.
 

Criminals claim to have more fun than law-abiding citizens too.  Does that make them right?
 

Let’s be perfectly clear: What is fun for one person is boring to someone else and vice versa; therefore, the label of “fun” is dependent upon each individual person.  When non-believers say that they have more fun than Christians, what they’re saying is that they are fine with sinning.
 

Sin is not funny to God; it is detestable.  Christianity may seem boring to the non-believer, but we must not accept sin in our lives to prove them wrong.  Jesus was fun, but He did not sin.  We can be fun without sinning.  We can laugh without sinning.
 

Jesus says in John 15:11 “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”  The definition of joy is exultant happiness.  If you are full of joy, if you are experiencing exultant happiness, you’re going to laugh…a lot.  Christ was happy.  He was full of joy.  He laughed and had fun…a lot.
 

There is suffering in this world, we cannot deny that.  I know the world hardens us, but faith is supposed to free us.  Being a Christian should be fun…and it is fun.  Love is fun and we have the most powerful, most awesome love imaginable.  It’s just given to us.  That alone should make us giddy.
 

According to Jesus, we should have a childlike faith (Mark 10:15).  Children laugh around 400 times a day, while adults a mere 17 times each day.  Let’s return to this innocence.  Let’s return to this joy.  We are children of the Lord, after all.  Maybe if we smile, laugh, and enjoy life—maybe if the world sees us having fun…not sinning, but having fun…maybe we can convince them to flock to us.  Run to the Lord.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Jesus Is Compassionate

Jesus lived as a human (John 1:14).  As such, He experienced emotions.  He displayed these emotions frequently.  Just like us!!  We are emotional beings.  Love is the basis of our faith.  Love.  Love is an extreme emotion, and when we open ourselves up to one extreme, the opposite (anger and grief, for example) is also possible.  Not only did Jesus experience these same extreme emotions as us, but He showed us the proper way to handle them.  With that, I am spending a few weeks focusing on the human emotions of Christ and how they relate to us.

Compassion
Judah Smith: Jesus loves us right now, just as we are.  He isn’t standing aloof, yelling at us to climb out of our pits and clean ourselves up so we can be worthy of him.  He is wading waist-deep into the muck of life, weeping with the broken, rescuing the lost, and healing the sick.

Compassion is having a deep sympathy for someone in need and is usually tied with a strong desire to help that person.  It is also the emotion most frequently tied to Jesus, regardless of what else was going on in His life.

When Christ was angry, He managed to provide a wonderful example of compassion.  In the beginning of Mark 3, a man with a shriveled hand was being ignored by the Pharisees.  See…it was the Sabbath, so naturally that meant the Pharisees ignored the man who needed help.  Obviously this irritated Jesus, so He healed the man’s hand.  Christ’s message was simple: When someone is in need and we have the ability to help, we should do so.  We can respond in anger, but more often what is needed is compassion (Mark 15:31).

God does this for us every day.  He could be angry…you think He looks down on this earth and likes what He sees?  It’s a world full of sin…that’s not what He intended.  God hates sin.  He loves us, but He hates our sin.  He’s angry with it.  Frustrated with it.  He’s looking down saying, “I’ve given you all the answers!!  It’s an open-Book test!!”  Yet we insist on taking the test solo.  Frustrating.  It’s His compassion, however, that saves us (Lamentations 3:22).  Are you that quick to show compassion to those who have wronged you?

Even in His grief, Christ displayed compassion.  In Matthew 14, Jesus was hurting because John the Baptist had just been killed.  In His suffering, He withdrew for some private grieving, then showed compassion by healing and feeding a large crowd.  See…“his compassion for the people would always return him to his responsibility to care for their welfare.  He did not shut down.  He sacrificed his ‘need’ for being alone to serve others.  Even in the midst of his personal grief, he made life easier for the people near him.

Mark Driscoll: Unlike any other false god offered by any other religion, Jesus did not sit back in his heavenly ease and give us mere counsel for our suffering from a safe distance.  Instead, he entered into human history to identify with us.  He was tempted.  He was rejected by his family.  He was poor and homeless.  He was abandoned by his friends.  He was betrayed by his disciple.  He was falsely accused by his enemies.  He was falsely tried and condemned.  He was beaten beyond recognition.  He bled, suffered, and died in shame.

What other god in any other religion claims to have done this for us?  God loves us so much that He came down in human form so He could feel what we feel.  He experienced all range of emotions, including anger and grief—yet still managed to show us how to provide love and compassion to the world around us through it all.

In compassion, your suffering becomes my suffering (Luke 7:13).  Compassion goes further than sympathy or commiseration or pity.  It is more than a mere desire to help; it creates a determination, a decision to actually help, if only in a small wayThe difference between sympathy and compassion is that the one who sympathizes sees and feels, but does nothing.  The one who has compassion sees, feels, and then does something about the need.

In compassion, we do for those in need what they cannot do for themselves.

Perhaps the most common story of compassion shared in church comes to us in Mark 2:3-12.  Jesus came to town.  There was a paralyzed man whose friends realized that the only hope he had was Jesus.  Did they simply pray for their friend?  No.  They tried to get him to Jesus.  They acted.  When they found that the place was packed, they made an opening in the roof (verse 4).  They literally cut a hole in the roof in order to lower him into the room.  These guys were determined.  One way or another, their friend was scoring some face-time with Jesus.  This caused Jesus to be so moved by their faith in Him and compassion for their friend that He first forgave the man’s sins (the ultimate healing), then told him to get up and walk.

We need to be like the paralytic man’s friends.  Normally, we turn to God for His compassion when we have done something wrong or when we are hurting, yet find it so easy not to do the same for others.  We are so consumed with our lives…our feelings.  This is my anger.  This is my grief.  Where is your compassion?

Funny how that’s the one emotion we don’t selfishly hoard.

Know what some antonyms of compassion are?  Indifference.  Heartlessness.  Cruelty.  Hatred.  Do these words sound like the heart of a Christian?  One who follows Christ?  If you ask me, these words sound like the kinds of action that brought out Christ’s anger.  We are to be compassionate.  It is not a nice thing to do—it is a command.  Be compassionate.  It is not a state of mind.  It is not pity.  It is action.

How?

“We have to understand something about God: he isn’t intimidated by sin the way we are…he looks past (our) sin and just sees (us)” – Smith.  We know the “Let he who is without sin throw the first stone” story from John 8, but have we really paused to think about the scenario?  Those religious nuts didn’t know that woman at all—only her sin—yet they were so eager to kill this stranger.  The next time you see someone doing something that you don’t approve of, before you jump straight to judgmental accusations, stop and think.  What would Christ prefer you to do: Privately judge their actions or get to know them and help introduce Jesus into their lives?  Let’s start seeing people and not their sins (Matthew 9:36-38).  Let’s see them the way Christ sees them.  The way He sees us.

When life dumps its garbage on us, Jesus doesn’t see the filth.  He sees us, clean and showered.  The misperception, however, is that Christ provides us with that shower.  The reality is that Christ is the shower.  Jesus is compassionate.  Compassion is more than an emotion, it’s an action.  Jesus frequently showed compassion by healing those that society (and even religious leaders) deemed unclean and had turned their backs on—refusing to help.  Why?  Because He loved them.  Because He loves us.

And He wants us to do the same.

Love is the foundation for compassion, and “anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love” (1 John 4:8).  It’s time to get our hands dirty.  Wade waist-deep into the muck of life.  Weep with the broken.  Rescue the lost.  Direct them to the most beautiful shower they’ve ever experienced.