Beneficial Scarring

And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. Philippians 1:12-14 (NLT)

There is a song that I’ve been thinking about lately called Scars by I Am They. The chorus goes like this:

So I'm thankful for the scars
'Cause without them I wouldn't know your heart
And I know they'll always tell of who you are
So forever I am thankful for the scars

Later in the song, the chorus changes to:

I'm thankful for your scars
'Cause without them I wouldn't know your heart
And with my life, I'll tell of who you are
So forever I am thankful

Notice the subtle shift? Paul understood this so well. Whenever he suffered, he knew his suffering would produce two things. One, he would see more of who God was through his suffering. He would learn of his character and of his grace. Two, he would be pointed back to the cross. Through Jesus suffering we also learn of his character and love for us.

There are many days I wish that I didn’t have to walk through some of the things I walk through but when I look back, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have grown closer to Jesus through it. I know I’ve learned who my God is and to trust him.

So, I too, am thankful for the scars. I am thankful for them because without them I would know Jesus a little less. I wouldn’t trade my scars for anything because that would mean less of him in my life.

I Know You!

But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Matthew 7:23 (NLT)

There are a few places in the New Testament that Jesus says things like today’s text. Sometimes like in the parable of the 10 virgins, they weren’t ready and he said it. There are other places where people say “But, we did this for you and that for you.” Almost like they deserve to go to heaven for their actions.

When I read these texts and hear Jesus say “Go away, I never knew you.” I shudder. It makes me determined to “know him.” And in my humanness, I then try to do more because that is how I am wired. I’m thinking I am not alone in this line of thinking.

Don’t get me wrong. The Bible is full of things we are supposed to do. We are supposed to go, serve and love. There are a lot more. Being a Christian is not an idle task. It’s a way of life that is full of activity. What gets us hung up is the motive behind the activity. We cannot earn our way to heaven. That is a done deal sealed with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. What God wants is a relationship with us.

What does that look like? It looks like communicating with him in prayer. It looks like spending time in the Bible and listening for his voice. It looks like lingering in his presence. It also looks like doing (obedience). Obedience to what he is telling you to do. And, it looks like surrender. Letting go of our stuff to have more of his stuff.

This weekend, I started looking at this text in a slightly different way. I imagined coming up to Jesus and having him point at me and say in a really loud voice “I KNOW YOU!” I imagined running to him and jumping into his arms and sobbing with joy at the sound of those three words.

Can you imagine it? There would be nothing better. Ever.

The Church Alive And Well

And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had. They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. Acts 2:44-47 (NLT)

  • People filled the room as the family mourned the loss of their loved one. Each person did what they could to share love and ease the burden.

  • The group met together to sort through the details of the new church plant. Every person contributed according to their gifts and together they hashed out the details, working together to sort through the different opinions to come to decisions.

  • Everyone banded together and met at the widow’s house. She had recently lost her husband and her house was in desperate need of yard work, painting and repair.

  • The woman noticed the family standing on the corner in the frigid weather without the proper winter gear. They didn’t have coats, hats or gloves or proper shoes for that matter. She went to the local Wal-Mart and bought them things to help keep them warm.

  • The man walked by the homeless man sitting on the street. As he passed he paused, turned around and offered to buy him food.

  • Her best friend’s marriage fell apart. She sat with her and listened. She offered no advice. Just a shoulder to cry on.

Each of these scenarios represents the church - alive and well. We may not be acting like the early church in the exact same way but we are still acting like a church. God’s Body sharing God’s grace and love in any way possible. How are you acting like the body of Christ today?

Where I Need To Be

When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” Mark 2:17 (NLT)

I hate being sick. I guess every body probably does. Right? Well recently, I got sick. I had a terrible cough and ear ache. The ear ache pushed me to go to the walk-in clinic. After I checked in and sat down, a couple came through the door. The woman walked to the counter and signed in. Her husband started to move toward the section of chairs where I was sitting.

She said “Frank, don’t sit there. Sit over there.” and she pointed to a section of chairs in a different part of the room. After they sat down, I heard him say “Why do you want to sit over here?” “Because she’s coughing.” she replied.

Now granted, I was coughing. And I know people don’t want to get sick. But the way she said it made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I started thinking to myself “Aren’t we in a clinic? Aren’t people supposed to come here that are sick? And maybe even coughing?”

Then, I remembered what Jesus said in today’s verse. My mind wandered to our churches and how we make people feel like this lady made me feel. We treat people who come in with problems or sins like they shouldn’t be there or like we can’t hang out with them because well, they are sinning.

Jesus said we are all sinners. We all need him. The problem is in that some people think they are righteous, they think they don’t need him. They think they are fine. They are thinking wrong. We all are sick. We all sin. We all desperately need Jesus.

As I thought through all this I looked up at the woman and smiled. I was in the right place. I knew where I needed to be. I needed to be in the clinic getting help for my cough and ear ache and my heart needed to sit at the feet of Jesus so I could love everyone….even the people who make me feel like I don’t belong.

You Want Me To Do What?

“Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied.” Acts 9:10 (NLT)

Ananias was a Jesus follower. One day he was minding his own business sitting in his house and God spoke to him. When Ananias heard God call his name he replied with a “Yes, Lord!” The Lord then instructed him to go to help Saul.

Wait. What? Saul as in THE Saul that killed people who love you? The SAME Saul that was there when Stephen was stoned? The very Saul who has shouted threats against your people and is making it his life mission to go around killing us. That Saul?

Yes, that Saul.

Right at this point Ananias had a choice to make. He could take everything he knew about this guy and decide it’s too risky and obviously the Lord wouldn’t call him to do something so dangerous because God loved him and wouldn’t want him to put himself in such a risky position. Or, he could go.

Ananias must have really trusted God. Because in spite of the reality before him, in spite of knowing he could be arrested, thrown into prison and die, he went. He went because he trusted God. He went because he knew the Person behind the voice and he knew that no matter what was going to happen, God’s plan would be better. God’s purpose for his life would be fulfilled even in his death and that was what he lived for.

He got up, went to Saul, He laid his hands on him and prayed for him. He commissioned the man that would further the Christian faith like no other. Of course, he didn’t know all this at the time. Afterward, he went home and felt good that he did what God said (and he didn’t die.)

What about you? What is God asking you to do that you are afraid to do? Maybe, like Ananias, you should remember the God you know and follow his lead. Maybe there will be a kingdom impact beyond what seems humanly possible. You see, when we follow God and say “Yes, Lord!” the kingdom impact is always more than is humanly possible. It is God ordained.

A Minute In It - What Do You Hold On To?

A minute in God’s Word will change your life. Take a moment to read the text below and then answer the questions at the bottom of the post.

54 So they arrested him and led him to the high priest’s home. And Peter followed at a distance. 55 The guards lit a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat around it, and Peter joined them there. 56 A servant girl noticed him in the firelight and began staring at him. Finally she said, “This man was one of Jesus’ followers!”

57 But Peter denied it. “Woman,” he said, “I don’t even know him!”

58 After a while someone else looked at him and said, “You must be one of them!”

“No, man, I’m not!” Peter retorted.

59 About an hour later someone else insisted, “This must be one of them, because he is a Galilean, too.”

60 But Peter said, “Man, I don’t know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.

61 At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” 62 And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly. Luke 22:54-61 (NLT)

Why did Peter deny Jesus?
What was he protecting?
What is it in your life that you are protecting?
Are you denying Jesus by holding on to what you have?

How To Describe God

Did you know that Psalm 119 has a section for every letter of the Hebrew alphabet? I thought it would be fun to do something like that in English. So, for every letter of the alphabet, choose a word that describes God. I've filled in my thoughts. Now you try. Share some of your answers!

A - Awesome
B - Big
C - Creative
D - Dangerous
E - Exciting
F - Funny
G - Giving
H - Healing
I - Intentional
J - Jealous
K - Kingly
L - Loving
M - Mighty
N - Nailed
O - Omnipotent
P - Patient
Q - Quiet
R - Redeemer
S - Savior
T - Trustworthy
U - Unfailing
V - Vivacious
W - Willing
X - Xtreme
Y - Young at Heart
Z - Zealous

He's Still King

John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’” Luke 7:20 (NLT)

John was in prison. Can you imagine it? The prisons then were damp, dark cells in the bowels of some structure. While there, his disciples came to visit and told him of all the things Jesus was doing. Jesus was healing tons of people. He was casting out demons; he was raising people from the dead. Miraculous things.

John sent them to Jesus to ask him if he was really the Messiah. Wait. What?

John’s whole ministry was about declaring that Jesus was the Messiah. He said it over and over again. Early in his journey he saw Jesus coming and declared “Behold, the Lamb of God!” When he baptized him he saw the Holy Spirit descend on him. John knew Jesus was the Messiah.

So what happened? John knew his end was near. He knew he was going to be put to death. And I bet he was afraid. I wonder if as he sat in his cell and contemplated what was coming if he began to wonder why Jesus wasn’t helping him out of this. Do you think he reasoned that if Jesus was the Messiah, why didn’t he free him?. After all, John had served him faithfully all these years. Maybe the thought crossed his mind that Jesus was not the Messiah. After all, if he was, he could do something.

Ever happen to you? Have you ever been in the thick of it (whatever it is) and you have prayed and prayed and prayed. And no relief. No answer. It is so tempting to believe that if God were God he would fix the problem. Maybe he’s not. Satan loves to put that lie in our heads.

Jesus did answer John. He told John to look at everything that was happening; not just at his cell. Look broader. God is moving. Refocus and you will see it.

Jesus did not save John. There was a purpose and plan for John’s life. Jesus did not interfere with that. Even though John was beheaded, Jesus was still the Messiah. And he is still the Messiah today. No matter what your life looks like right now, Jesus is still King. He still died for you. He loves you. Even if you don’t get the answers to the prayers you are praying.