My Friend, Jesus

Let me introduce you to my friend Jesus. Have you ever felt an instant connection with someone your best friend introduced you to? Simply because your friend knows them, loves them, and cares about them, you have the desire to get to know the person better. It is even more true when Jesus is the best friend we are introducing to our friends. When they see how much we love Him and the difference He has made in our lives, hopefully they will have the desire to know Him as well.

This is also true when Jesus introduces us to one of His friends by crossing our paths. When we see they also know Jesus, it gives us an instant connection, a bond, and desire to get to know them better because Jesus loves and cares about them. The truth is Jesus loves and cares about everyone. Because Jesus is our best friend, we need to love everyone too. If they do not know Jesus yet, it is a great opportunity to introduce them.

I read something this week that resonated with me and provided a framework for what it means to be in a relationship with God and to believe in Jesus. It is not just to know about him in the intellectual sense, and believe He exists, but to fully know Him in our heart. To believe in the power of his saving grace, rooted deep, anchored, steadfast.

We can accept Him and believe with our whole heart, repent, and ask for forgiveness of our sins and enjoy a relationship with Christ. He is a mighty King who takes care of and protects His sons and daughters, so that we can live with Him in eternity, not because we deserve it, but because Jesus is worthy, and He went to the cross for us.

Have you ever stopped to ask God what he wants for you? It is a life changing question. I will tell you what He wants. He wants the best…ALWAYS! He wants to be in an intimate relationship with you. When you ask this question in sincerity, the weight shifts from your shoulders to God’s shoulders. If I had known it would be like this, I would have done it so much sooner. If you do not know Jesus as your friend and protector, what are you waiting for? Jesus saves. We cannot just say we believe in God and go on about our business. Jesus is the best friend we will ever have. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. Jesus is the only way to the Father.

Now more than ever we need to tell everyone we know about our friend Jesus. Sadly, there are people in this world who call themselves Christians who do not reflect the biblical image of Christ at all. It has put a bad taste in some people’s mouths. We cannot group them together with true Christ followers. God will handle those people in due time. But we are still to love and pray for them even when they seem unlovable. I pray that God opens their eyes, minds, and hearts to His truth. I boldly and proudly call myself a Christ follower. For those of you who have a bad taste in your mouth or have been hurt by the church, first let me say how sorry I am for that, and I pray you will see the difference and not give up on God. There is much joy in a true and intimate relationship with Jesus.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6 ESV)

“Vengeance is mine, and recompense (I will repay), for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly.” (Deuteronomy 32:35)

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Heart Condition

Have you ever heard someone ask the rhetorical question, ‘why do bad things happen to good people?’ I propose, to get the answer, one must first understand the falsity of the question. According to Romans 3:10 no one is righteous, not even one. In other words, none of us are ‘good’. The bad things that happen are the result of sin and a broken world. Thankfully, one’s salvation does not hinge on one’s good or bad behavior, but rests solely on the finished work of Christ.

It is the work of the Holy Sprit within one’s heart that changes their desires as they seek to be a better person according to God’s will. This is called regeneration. It is an important factor in becoming a Christ follower. We are all born with heart condition and the only remedy is through a relationship with the Ultimate Physician. When we surrender and ask what God wants for us, we no longer want to follow the things of this world but do that which pleases our Father.

For me, I remember being as far down as I could possibly get; I exhausted all my own options before I finally looked up to ask the most important question of my life, “God, what do you want?” At this point, I relinquished control and surrendered my way for God’s way. The change that occurred was gradual, not immediate, but none the less obvious. We are justified (forgiven) immediately and forever, because of Jesus, but the work of sanctification is a life-long journey and will not be complete or perfect until we are with God in our eternal home. But we can ask for the Holy Spirit’s help to be more like Jesus every day until one day it will be so.

No Pain, No Gain

You have heard this phrase many times. It was probably derived from a new exercise plan, but I want to take it to the next level.

Any woman who has given birth can tell you, the pain is all worth it once they hold the baby in their arms. When the birthing process is complete. new life is received as the miracle and gift from God that it is. It brings much joy, and the mom can put the pain behind her.

I can relate this to the pain from my past that God saved me from. I went through a re-birth when Christ entered my heart and I surrendered to Him. I was able to put the pain from the self-inflicted wounds of my past behind me to receive the new life which brings pure joy in the rarest form because of Christ.

All the pain is behind me and I have everything to gain. God wants the same for all of us. His grace is enough.

Romans 3:10 says “No one is righteous- not even one.” Verse 12 continues: “No one does good, not a single one.” But His grace covers all of us. Allow His seed to take root in your heart and grow into the beautiful bloom that you are. Soak up the “Son” in all its radiance and celebrate this new life.

A mascaraed party masks the lies; but a celebration of life reveals the truth and uncovers the lies for ultimate joy and peace and true freedom is revealed.

This means that everyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17

In the Know

Do you feel special when you are one of the first to know something? You have the privilege (if it is good news) and maybe the responsibility (if it is bad news) to be the one who informs others. This can bring a sense of importance like carrying a torch.

Sometimes when we are not in the know we feel left out or insignificant when we finally hear the news from another source other than the person, we thought would have told us first. Could this be another form of jealousy? For that answer we must dig deeper and ask the One who knows our heart to reveal anything we need to discard to make more room for God. We need to get over ourselves.

Maybe this is how we feel when we do not know what God is working on. We think we need to be in the know with everything He is doing; but the truth is we could not handle it. God knows how much to give us and at just the right time. If we rush that process, we will not be ready. He is always working and knows the bigger picture and plan. But He also prepares us for the outcome- that is the journey we can enjoy along the way, until He reveals the final picture and brings it all together.

When we rush it, we are controlling it; even if we think we are not. If we can truly let go and wait for God to do His job then the outcome will be so much better. We cannot imagine the half of what He is doing-our minds are too small and our vision too narrow. But God has a higher view over our lives and can direct us on the right path for what lies ahead.

The times I have been able to see if from this perspective and truly let Him have the reins-there is an indescribable freedom. The weight is lifted off my shoulders and put squarely on the Father who knows best.

Form this view I can safely carry on about my day waiting for Him to drop a crumb to show me the path He is laying before me, one step at a time. I can enjoy this God-given journey without fear or worry about what is next. This requires staying in communion with Him, aligned to His will, not mine, being in tune to His presence. He has it under control.

“You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21

Grand Central Station

Central Park

Have you ever been to Grand Central Station? Was it a hurried trip to get to another destination or was it a leisurely excursion that allowed you to take in all the intricate details of the architecture and explore each nook and cranny where even a whisper can be heard across the hallways?

Most people who travel through this area are not taking the time to slow down and admire the artwork, design, or listen for anything much less the echo of a whisper. They are rushing through with only their destination in mind. Such is life.

When is the last time you slowed down to admire the handy work of God’s architecture? His landscapes? Have you put much thought into the colors He used to accentuate the astonishing design of each season or take in the wonder of a snowflake? To listen for the echo of His whisper as you take it all in and meditate on the power and thought that went into every detail that was woven into the fabric of the world around us. It leaves me breathless.

This should be enough to cause every person to pause and take notice of the God who created us. But that is not always the case. Despite overwhelming evidence and obvious visible architectural surroundings there are those who refuse to believe it and instead make up foolish ideas that only make their minds dark and confused (Romans 1:19-21). These things only condemn them. According to Paul in 1:20, “they have no excuse for not knowing God.” In many cases, we trade the truth for a lie. “…they worshiped and served things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise!” (Romans 1:25) Anything we place above our Creator is an idol.

But God still uses *natural revelation to awaken people to the reality of the one true God. When coupled with the empowering work of grace, beauty, and intricacy of the world, it can encourage someone to search for the Creator, the one true God, who offers salvation through Jesus Christ. By reading of Scripture and meditating on His word, one can receive **special revelation to know and experience His salvation. Believe. Accept. Redeemed. Eternal joy.

“The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” (Psalm 19:1-4 )

*when God speaks to people indirectly through the world of nature, he has created

**when God speaks to people directly through his word

What Do You Believe?

What we believe matters. It determines what we think and how we act. If we believe Jesus is who the Bible says He is, it changes everything. But if the Bible is a lie and Jesus is not real, we are in big trouble.

If it is true and Jesus died for our sins, if we really believe it, and accept Him as our Savior…it truly does change everything. It gives us hope for the future. I do not know about you, but I rejoice in the fact that this life is temporary and that we can have hope for eternity – a better home to look forward to.

I know I cannot save myself or anyone else. This world is broken. But God…gave us a remedy to our sinful nature…his name is Jesus. He died on a cross so we could live.

What know that what we eat and choose to feed ourselves will determine our overall health. In the same way, what we feed our minds will determine our mental health. That is why it is so important to be in God’s word everyday. I have had to eat my own words so many times- they are hard to digest. What the world wants to feed us is like poison to our minds. But God’s word is like honey for our souls.

There is a filter found in Scripture that we can use to determine if it something we should think about. Philippians 4:8-9 gives us a list that we use as a guide. “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me- practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (bold added for emphasis) According to the ESV study Bible, “the Philippians are to fill their minds with things that will inspire worship of God and service to others. Beyond having a proper spiritual outlook, the Philippians are to practice what they have seen Paul doing. As they make progress in this way, they will find that it is not simply the peace of God but the God of peace himself who will be with them.” As we see in other areas of Scripture, Paul’s life follows the example of Christ.

If we are thinking about such things that are not true, honorable, just, pure lovely, and commendable, let us choose to not think about them. Let us believe in the truth of God’s word and meditate on them instead of the lies and sinful things the enemy wants us to think about and believe. When we wake up each morning, knowing God is with us, and He is still in control and wants what is best for us, our hearts can be full of joy- no matter the circumstances around us. Believe the only One who is worthy of our praise. The One who created us and loves us and wants a relationship with us.

If we diminish what Jesus did for us on the cross or make Him smaller or less than in our lives- we also diminish our hope of salvation. I for one want to believe it is TRUE. May we see others the way God sees us, through the lens of love. Look in the mirror- it starts with that person…you and me. Do not believe in just anything….believe in the saving grace of Jesus!

When we change our thoughts and what we believe – it changes how we act and our character. To change the world, we need to change the way we think and what we believe. Share the Good News. Jesus is real. God is in control. The Holy Spirit lives in us. Do not let anyone rob you of that truth. Start today. Begin again. Believe in someone higher than yourself. Believe in the truth of God’s word; speak truth with grace and love; let our actions show it by loving God and loving others. That is not just a catchy phrase or bumper sticker…it is a command. The most important command.

Do you believe Jesus died for you? Are you living like you believe it is true?

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” John 14:1

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Roman 8:1

Mind of Christ

Sometimes we do not recognize the bad things in our lives until we have something better to compare it to. I alternate running in two pairs of shoes. The other day when running, I noticed my right leg was a little more fatigued than usual. I stopped to stretch it out and continued my run. This week as I was running in the other pair, I noticed how great both legs felt. I realized, after running in the better pair, that the issue was the other shoes. If I had not had a better pair to compare it to, I might still be running in ones that caused the stress and never know it was the shoe causing it.

The best person we can compare everything in our lives to is Jesus. If we try our best to model after the example He set while on this earth in human form, we can know we are living our best lives. It is not always an easy task, but that is why staying in prayerful communication and thankfulness to God is so important. Last week was an emotional week, in a good way. My classes started again, and I am reading a book for class by Gutierrez, 2015, entitled, “Thinking Like Jesus: Understanding the Mind of Christ,” that focuses on Philippians 2:2-4. It has really touched me and given me yet another new perspective on being more like Jesus.

It encourages us to share with our friends and family- so here goes.

In a very relatable, practical application, that simplifies how to live out the mind of Christ within these passages. We sometimes may think that we are not capable or apt enough to apply and explain it, but this book has turned these verses into a simple checklist that we can measure in our own lives to see if we are living out the mind of Christ and if not, how to do just that.

Living out the mind of Christ is a three-fold mind-set: unity, humility, and selflessness. The word ‘mind’ in these passages means attitude or thinking. Which implies ‘action’ is needed. We must change our thinking to have the Mind of Christ. Circumstances never change a heart. They can only provide the environment in which a change of heart takes place.

The checklist:

Unity:

  • Affection
    • Love one another (reflecting the mind and example of Christ)
  • Spirit
    • In one accord (A deep commitment of love and know others)
  • Purpose
    • Keeping our focus on the reason why we are serving (Christ-centered, God-filled work)

Humility:

  • Not promoting self or stealing the Glory of God; The enemy of humility is pride- it is wise to acknowledge the daily safeguards that we must implement to protect us from our flesh.
  • It is not our words that reflect the attitude of humility rather the heart behind the words

Selflessness:

  • Not just one action but a continual/intentional action of support to others through spiritual and physical needs.

I realize I cannot put every great point in this one little blog post, but I hope you are able to take something away that helps you live out the Mind of Christ in your life. I encourage you to take time to meditate on these verses and ask God to reveal any areas in your life that could use some change of attitude towards others and help you think more like Jesus. We can begin by asking for forgiveness of our sins, so we can have a heart that acknowledges our need for Jesus, so we can experience true, God-honoring praise.

“Fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, [being] of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind we in you which was also in Christ Jesus” Philippians 2:2-5

Is Negative Thinking a Choice?

I am an optimist; in case you did not know. I believe the best in people, until I am proven wrong. Even when people have bad intentions, I have seen God change their heart or bring good out of the situation.

I have experienced firsthand God’s mighty power and transforming my lemons into lemonade, time and time again. So, I can have faith that He will do it again, in any circumstance. It brings me peace to be positive. Does that make me naïve? For a very large portion of my life, I would agree. I was very naïve. But, God…you know the rest. Today is a very different story. I came through the fire and I am still positive. I know there are people I cannot trust as far as I can throw them- which is not very far; but I do not dwell on that.

When I see others who lean on the side of negative thinking and pessimistic views, I wonder- is that a choice? Is it in their DNA? Have they genuinely tried (with God’s help) to choose another path? The path of peace. Can they envision the concept of making lemonade? What if they were able to intentionally push out negative thoughts every day and choose to think positive? Would that be a life changer? I am truly curious and ask out of sincerity.

For any pessimists out there- please do not take this personal and respond too quickly without taking time for thoughtful reflection. I do know that I have times of doubt and fear- I do not linger there. I ask God to help me push it out so I can return to a place of peace. I guess I choose to think positive in that way. So as a natural optimist- is it easier for me? Probably. But does that mean it is not possible for a pessimist to do the same thing? It may be more difficult – but I think it is possible. What do you think?

Big ‘G’ or Little ‘g’

I thought I would expand on the Scripture I used in last week’s blog to dive a little deeper into Joshua’s challenge in 24:15 to ‘choose this day whom you will serve’. By this time in Joshua’s journey, he was in the last stages of his life, and he had seen many people be disobedient and the consequences that came from it.

As an assistant to Moses, he saw firsthand the idols and gods the previous generation worshiped in disobedience to God’s commands. He also had the opportunity, as a faithful servant, to succeed Moses to lead the people of Israel into the Promised Land.

We can relate the gods and idols of that generation to ours today. Anything we place ahead of GOD is an idol and a god (little ‘g’). I would venture to say we have many gods, although not in the form of a golden calf, but still just as detrimental to our lives if we place them before God and allow them to become the ultimate thing in our life instead of putting Jesus at the forefront.

Joshua was challenging the generation whose fathers had been disobedient. He was setting an example and asking them to choose if they were going to fall back into the patterns of the generation before them or serve the one true God. They continued to choose to serve God as they had seen what He did for them as they overcame many obstacles, saw miracles when God parted the water for them to pass, when the walls of Jericho fell after circling it for seven days, as God instructed, and the land given to them that God had promised, not to mention the many battles that were conquered with God’s help due to their obedience and putting God in His rightful place in their lives.

We may not have the same circumstances, obstacles, and challenges that generation had, but there is still a lesson to be learned. Just as we see the promises fulfilled in the OT in Moses and Joshua’s day, we can trust God to fulfill His promises through eternity by way of Jesus. Joshua and Jesus are the same name in Hebrew- symbolically, by faith and obedience to God, Joshua led Israel into physical salvation in Canaan, and Jesus leads all who believe him into eternal salvation.

The importance of Joshua’s challenge to the people of Israel is still relevant to us yet today- “choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)  

But God…

Today, many of us are reflecting on the past year as we all want a fresh start, a do-over, and an end to the virus, hate, and injustices seen the last few months. In my reflection this morning, I was reminded of all the great things God has done this year. Even during a pandemic, God showed up in a big way to bring good to many. We can rest assured He is with us and still in control.

At this time last year, I had no idea I would be in school, working from home, and getting ready to welcome a new daughter (in law) to our little family. I sit in gratefulness and awe of an amazing God and Father who loves us and wants good for us. I am reminded of Ephesians 2:4-10 when Paul makes what the ESV study Bible calls, “the greatest short phrase in history of human speech”. “But God!” (emphasis added) Just before this, Paul paints a bleak picture of our sinful nature. We are hopeless and helpless on our own, following the devil and his sinful nature that we, as descendants of Adam, inherited at birth. Just when things are the darkest and all hope is lost…God steps in with mercy, kindness, and love; for those who are joined to Jesus Christ are saved from the terrible consequences of their sin and enjoy the benefits of Christ’s resurrection.

Have you ever loved something or someone so much that you set it free? You did not want to keep it, control, or manipulate it into staying with you just because you wanted it to so much. That is the picture of true love. You want to offer a choice to be with you because of love for you. God does that for us. He gave us the free will to choose Him. He sent His Son to die on our behalf so we could have eternal life, but He also asks us to choose whom we will serve. (Joshua 24:15) Do you want to choose this broken world and our sinful nature or the Father who loves us and wants the best for us for eternity?

I look forward to a new year, to see what God will do, what surprises He has in store, as I rest in the knowledge of His love, truth, mercy, and goodness. I invite you to join me in celebration of that truth, not fearing what is next because God is with us. Let us stand on a firm foundation, rooted deep in faith, serving and loving others as He loves us. I choose God. I choose joy. I encourage you to read and reflect on Ephesians 2:4-10 and just what that means for us.

I pray for restoration of relationships, and that God will close the gaps on the many divisions occurring among Christians and family members, the enemy is trying to destroy. But most of all, I pray that you will welcome the intimate relationship God is offering you today.

Happy New Year to all!  May the God of peace be with you in the coming year and beyond.