Tag Archives: Jesus

The Point of Kindness – A Second Look II

What I am about to tell you is a true story. It happened in a school in which I worked.  A young woman, who was a frequent substitute at the school, applied for an interim job teaching Spanish. She had taken a course in high school and several courses in college. She could read basic Spanish especially if she had access to a dictionary, and she was able to speak in a limited manner. So she felt confident in her ability to teach basic Spanish at the middle school level.

As part of the interview she was engaged in a conversation in Spanish by one of the teachers on the panel of interviewers. In addition she had to translate a passage from a book. Imagine her shock and embarrassment when she realized her knowledge was not broad enough or deep enough to qualify her for the teaching position.

In a some sense, I could apply this to my knowledge of Jesus. Maybe I need to think again about what I really know about Jesus, and how I apply that knowledge to my relationship with Jesus.

Why a Second Look at Jesus
In the previous post, “A Second Look,” we explored taking a deeper look into the truths about Jesus, who He is and what we have in Him. It is important for us to keep growing in our knowledge and understanding of Jesus.

In Phil.3:7-8a, Paul says this knowing of Jesus is so important to him that he considers everything else as a waste in comparison to knowing Him: “But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.”

Paul put a high value on growing in his relationship with Jesus, in his understanding of who Jesus is and what Jesus has done for us. We should have this same hunger and thirst to know Jesus more, to know Him beyond the boundaries of the routine ways we look at Him. It is my quest to look at the scriptures that talk about Jesus and the blessings we have in Him, so that I might fully know Him, understand what He has accomplished for me, and more truly honor Him.

Jesus Manifests the Kindness of God
Life has its trials and troubles. Sometimes, when I am going through a difficult situation like dealing with financial pressures, sickness, death of a loved one, a consistently difficult relationship or any number of problems, I am tempted to think that God has some type of bad intention towards me, to hurt me or harm me. Have you ever thought that?

This type of thinking is far from the truth. Ephesians 2:6-7, clearly shows God’s kind intentions towards us and His kindness is shown to us “in Jesus.”

“And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

 God’s kindness towards us is manifested “in Jesus.” This reference Ephesians 2:7 about the kindness of God in Jesus is sandwiched within a context of God’s outpouring of love and grace for us in Jesus. We see how He has made us alive in Jesus when we were dead in sins; and, how He has raised us up and seated us with Jesus (Ephesians 2:4-8). This passage enumerates many ways God worked in and through Jesus, and then the writer sums it up by saying all these things show us God’s good and kind intentions to us “in Jesus.” It is important to note that apart from Jesus we would never experience God’s kindness.

I don’t know about you, but the very thought of me being the recipient of kindness from the God who creates and sustains all life is an amazing thought.

So the next time I am feeling discouraged about my circumstances in life and am questioning God’s intentions towards me, I will remember this passage and set my thinking right. I will choose to thank God for His kindness to me in Jesus, my Savior, rather than to blame God for any discomfort I feel in this life. What about you?

“For at one time we too were foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to all sorts of desires and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not by the righteous deeds we had done, but according to His mercy, through the washing of new birth
and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Titus 3:3-6

 Special Post:
At this time I would like to share a link with you. I have a friend who loves to thank God and praise God in song for His many blessings in Jesus. She is making an album of praise songs. For more information on this check out the following link: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1440539986/morgan-minsks-solo-album-praise

 

 

A Second Look

In the early 1970’s, I remember driving around in my VW Beetle listening to a song by Johnny Cash in which were the words “I see men as trees walking.” This song told the story of the encounter of a blind man with Jesus in Mark 8:22-25. This passage relates how Jesus spit on the man’s eyes, put His hands on him and asked him what he saw. The man said,” I see people, they look like trees walking.”  Jesus touched the man a second time and the man saw clearly.

Do you ever feel that way, like you need a second touch? Like you need to read it again or take a second look at it? I do!

Routine Obscures the View
I think I can get busy with life and busy doing the activities associated with a “walk with God” that my sight of Jesus gets off. My sense of wonder and awe become veiled. Sometimes things begin to become more of a routine performance than heart relationship.

That is when I need a second touch, a second look into Jesus. The story in Mark 8:22-26 reminds us that true sight comes from God, so I start with prayer, asking God to show me Jesus, to take me deeper into knowing Him. As I progress in “knowing Jesus” I am sure I will need more of these second looks.

I started this quest by looking at what we have “in” Jesus and “through” Jesus. These are little words that open up another dimension to knowing Jesus.

Created In Jesus For
In the letter to the Ephesians in chapter 2 and verse 10, Paul reveals an eye opening truth about Jesus. It reads:

“For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Three important truths come from this passage.  I am God’s handiwork. That word is also translated workmanship. I am His workmanship. When I think of “workmanship,” I think of a carpenter or a violin maker holding the wood,maybe even caressing it as he cuts, bends, shapes, shaves,  joins and engraves it. God enthroned above is actually involved in forming something in and through me and my life. This truth should dispel any doubt about my value or His love for me.

This working of God is happening in me as I am “in Jesus;” and this creative action is towards the purpose of my doing good works.

A Truth to Sustain
So in Jesus, I am given value and purpose for life. In the more mundane or ho-hum moments in life I can be tempted to think, “What am I doing here? What is my meaning or value here?”

This passage gives me meaning and purpose “in Christ Jesus.” I learn what the “works prepared in advance for me” are as I read more of His Word, and as I participate in the community of believers, the body of Christ, His church.

Encounter God Through Jesus
It is an amazing thought to think we can be near to the One who creates and sustains all life. Yet we can do this “through Jesus,” and only through Him. Salvation through Jesus brings us into the presence of God.

In the context of the letter of Hebrews to the Hebraic disciples the writer is explaining how Jesus is the true high priest and what He has done before God on our behalf. We read:

“The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:23-25

This thought is associated with understanding of the system of priesthood and atonement recorded in the Old Testament. But, the truth remains that because of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus and His eternal priesthood, we can draw near to God through Jesus based on His merits, not ours. Through Jesus we can approach God, actually through Jesus we have consent to come near God.

This is an amazing thought to me, especially when I am plagued with self-doubt and feelings of not being good enough. The truth is that I, in and of myself, am not “good enough.” I cannot come into the presence of God, or achieve a close relationship with God through my performance and achievement.  Jesus, through His atoning blood and resurrections from the dead can bring me into the throne room of God.

Jesus Prays for Me
Another amazing truth in this passage in verse 25 is the fact that Jesus intercedes for me. He, so to speak, prays for me.  Jesus presents me and my case to God the Father.

Jesus, God in the flesh (John 1:14) came to earth, showed us the character and heart of God, died as the atoning sacrifice for our sins, was raised from death to live eternally, is seated at the right hand of God, and continually intercedes on our behalf. Amazing and true!

Jesus always lives to make intercession for me. His sacrifice on the cross was a one-time event, but Jesus continues to work on my behalf. His approaching the Father on my behalf is one such way I am blessed through Him.

There are times when darkness obscures light and truth in my life; when I am discouraged; confused, tempted or worn down. At times like these, I bring this truth to my mind, remembering that Jesus is bringing me before God and speaking on my behalf to our Father, gives me hope.

And There Is More
There are so many blessings that we have within our salvation in Jesus. Sometimes we just need to take a second look into Jesus. We have much in Him, with Him, by Him and through Him. He truly is our all in all.

 

Picture This

Picture This
I have always wanted to see God. I am sure I am not alone in this desire. We know in the scriptures that Moses asked to see God, Exodus 33:18.  Actually, Moses entreated God with a craving that begged for a favorable response. When reading this account today it seems a brazen request, after all, Moses had quiet the amazing experience with God in the “burning bush,” and in meeting with God amidst thunder and lightning atop Mount Sinai, how could he imagine more.  Yet in Exodus 33:18 Moses puts forth this entreaty, “Please show me Your glory.” God does not think it vain or out of order. God actually draws close to Moses and answers that request. From the description in Exodus 33:17-23, God showed His glory to Moses.

Jesus Reveals God
Our deep yearning to see God with spiritual eyes, to plumb the depths of His character and nature is available through  word pictures God has scattered throughout scripture. Many of these word pictures are seen in Jesus.

In Hebrews 1:3, the scripture clearly states that Jesus “is the radiance of His (God’s) glory, the exact representation of His (God’s) nature.” So if I want to see God then I need to look more intently at Jesus.

A Place to Meet God
A very revealing image of Jesus starts back in the Old Testament in Exodus 25. God gave Israel specific instructions for building the Tabernacle which was a portable dwelling place for God and a house for worship which later would be replaced with the temple.  Within that “dwelling” was a specific place where sins would be atoned for and where God would meet with man.

This separated area of the tabernacle/temple is known as the “Holy of Holies.”  The Ark of the Covenant was placed in the Holy of Holies.  The “Ark of the Covenant was a gold covered chest that contained the rod of Aaron, the tablets of the Law, and a jar of manna. These items represented the covenant of God with Israel. Placed atop this chest was a covering, a seat made of gold with two golden cherubim (angels) on each end of the seat. This covering is referred to as “the mercy seat.”

In Exodus 25: 22 God states that this is the place where he will meet with Moses and speak to him from above the mercy seat. (“There I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony; I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”)

Each year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest entered the Holy of Holies and sprinkled the blood of an animal for the atonement of the sins of God’s people (Lev 16:1-17).  Earlier it was noted that the mercy seat was the covering for the ark in which was the tablet of the Law, or the commandments.  The blood of a sacrificed animal was sprinkled on the mercy seat by the high priest before God as atonement for the sins of the people.  Therefore, the mercy seat, which covered the demands of the law, was the place of atonement where God and man could meet; they could be together in fellowship.

Jesus –Our Mercy Seat
In Hebrews 9:5, the writer talks about the Holy of Holies and the mercy seat. The Greek word hilasterion is translated mercy seat. Hilasterion was used in the Greek Old Testament as the equivalent of the Hebrew word (kapporet) for mercy seat. In Romans 3:25, this word hilasterion is translated propitiation or atonement, and it is used to describe Jesus.

“… for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a       gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” Romans 3:23-25

A form of the word hilasmos, with the same meaning as hilasterion is used in reference to Jesus in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (Also see 1 John 2:2).

I believe the Holy Spirit specifically selected a word for the covering on the ark to identify what Jesus is to us. Jesus is the true, living – mercy seat. He is the mercy seat sprinkled with His own blood. You and I can come into the presence of the most Holy God in Jesus our mercy seat. Jesus is the place we can meet with God. Through our faith in Jesus and His atoning sacrifice, He opens the door for us to come into the presence of God.

I don’t know about you, but this is good news to me, because ever since I was a young girl I had a longing to know God, to see Him, to be with Him. I used to sit in a sanctuary amidst candles and incense, staring at the statutes and pictures of God thinking if I just sit quiet enough and meditate enough maybe He will come and meet with me and talk to me. I did not understand much about a Holy God and sinful man back then, but this picture of the mercy seat and its fulfillment in Jesus opens the way for this to be true for me. I see myself standing with Jesus before the throne of God enjoying fellowship with Him. Picture that!

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

Simple but Profound Truths about Jesus

Not too long ago I read John 5:23b which says, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father.” These words were spoken by Jesus about Himself and His Father. Being someone who wants to know God and honor Him, I took this seriously and began looking more closely at Jesus, in particular His sacrifice on the cross. I want to honor and value Him in truth rather than in rote or in an unthinking or shallow manner. I am still learning many truths about Jesus, but here are a few.

Jesus, Immanuel, God in the flesh, had a body. Many people think Jesus had a body so that He would be more relatable to us. It is true, that Jesus having a body makes Him more relatable to us. He was able to show us who God is and what He is like in a more visual way. However, the fact that He had a body like us has more to do with salvation truths than anything else.

 Jesus Had a Body for the Explicit Purpose of Dying
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me…” Hebrews 4:4-5.

This is a partial quote from Ps. 40:6 and other Old Testament passages. It is used to indicate that a spirit of obeying God is more important to Him than all the ritual sacrifices that people offered unto God. But, there is a deeper meaning in the expression “a body you prepared for me.”

A body was prepared for God in Jesus, because it is that very body that would be the one true sacrifice that atoned for the sins of the world. A physical body was necessary for Jesus to have not just to relate to us, but actually to be able to die for us.

Phil. 2:7-8,  states that Jesus being in very nature God put on the form of a man, took on the appearance and qualities of man in the flesh. He did this, humbling Himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. I find this very compelling that Jesus literally became a “man, a human” so that He could die for our sins.

A Flesh and Blood Body Provided Atoning Blood
Hebrews 9: 11-12 – “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things to come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.” (NASB)

Jesus took on a flesh and blood body so that His actual blood was poured out for our sins. Isolating this truth and thinking about it makes it more real and meaningful to me.  Think about this -before Jesus came to earth He knew He would give His earthly body to be killed and His blood would bring spiritual life to us who believe in Him. Romans 3:25 emphasizes this truth, “God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.”

A Physical Body – Resurrected
Jesus had a physical body so that He could suffer and die on our behalf, but also so that He could be resurrected. This resurrection is crucial to our life.

In Luke 24:39  we read  what Jesus said about Himself to the disciples after His resurrection, “See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”

Acts 1:3 emphasizes the truth of this resurrection. “To these He also presented Himself alive after His suffering, by many convincing proofs, appearing to them over a period of forty days and speaking of the things concerning the kingdom of God.”

John in the book of Revelations states the most powerful truth about Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus, Himself, tells us who He is and what His resurrection has accomplished, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and now look, I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.”

Jesus, because He had a body that was resurrected, holds the keys to death for us. He is truly, the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The Resurrection of Jesus’ Body Leads to My Resurrection
The resurrection of the body that God prepared for Jesus is crucial to our spiritual life, to our freedom from sin. Paul notes this in 1 Corinthians 15:17 – “and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.”

As a result of Jesus’ resurrection I can be resurrected from death, because He was the “firstborn” from the dead. (Col.1:18- “He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.”)

The power of Jesus’ physical resurrection brings about both physical resurrection from the dead for me, but also a spiritual resurrection in me through His Spirit in me. As a result of Jesus’ resurrection, I can die to my fleshly self and be resurrected as a new creation in Jesus.

Romans 6:4- 7 describe this resurrection process: “Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin.

Who does not want this? How many times have you asked yourself, “How can I be different? How can I change? How can I do this better or do this over?”  We have hope in these things through the resurrection of Jesus.

Basic Gospel
Paul describes these truths that I wrote about as being the Gospel, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures…” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

As for me, I see nothing simple in these truths. They are rich with meaning and complex with implication for us in our relationship to Jesus. My sense of honoring Jesus is deeper, and more entrenched in truth than ever before.  I encourage you to look deeper into the truths you know about Jesus. Let your faith be encouraged.

“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16

Miracle Lessons

I found hope and power in the story of Jesus at a wedding feast (John 2:1-11). Jesus is at a wedding feast for a friend of the family. In the middle of the feast, the host runs out of wine. Jesus’ mother asks Him to do something about this. We then read that Jesus took plain ordinary water and changed it into the best quality wine. Reading this story sent a surge of hope through me.

The text states that Jesus did this miracle to reveal His glory to the disciples. (John 2:11-“What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which He revealed

His glory; and his disciples believed in him.”)  In other words He was being open and vulnerable and He was revealing to them who He really was, that is, God in the flesh. He was building into their faith.

Miracles Reveal Jesus
So every time I read about a miracle of Jesus, He is revealing Himself to me. Not only is He revealing His divine nature and His power, but He is revealing His heart for me and how He will help me. He reveals His nature and how He interacts in our relationship with Him.

Think about it. At the wedding in Cana those years ago, Jesus did not have to do anything concerning the supply of wine for the wedding guests, yet He did. The inspired word of God tells me He did it to begin revealing His true identity as the Son of God to the disciples. This is a truth. But, I also believe it shows His understanding of us as human beings. The supply of wine was important to the host of the wedding. It was an embarrassment that he ran out of wine to serve his guests.

His Power and Heart Are Involved
So when I read this story, I feel extremely hopeful to know that Jesus has the power to help me change, and He has the tender compassion to want to help me. I have character weaknesses that I think are impossible for me to change. Sometimes I think that is just me. I have been that way for years, but this miracle shows me that my situation is not hopeless. Jesus can change me, and help me change.

Recently, I struggled with losing weight. I tried various diets and exercise routines, but I continued to have difficulty. I began seriously praying about it. God led me to read some research that helped me to understand my problem, and that helped me find the right eating plan for me. I lost weight, and I thank God. But after 3 years, I still find myself struggling with food, craving different foods, and eating when I am not hungry.

From the Inside Out
My problem was not just one on the surface to be solved by diet and exercise. I realized that I was eating because food is comforting to me. I was eating as a way to be fulfilled. At a deep inner level, I was seeking comfort in food instead of in God. I was finding fulfillment in food instead of in God, not totally or all the time, but often. I need a change in the way I think about God and the way I value food.

Jesus changed the nature of the water. The chemical formula for water is H2O. The basic formula for wine is CH3CH2OH.  The truth in this miracle for us is that Jesus can change us from the inside out. He changes our very heart and nature as we walk along with Him.

I believe the whole struggle with my weight was to help me see this deeper faith and heart issue. Jesus helped me to change at the water to wine level.

This story of Jesus helps me embrace change instead of dreading or fearing it. To read about what Jesus did, and what it revealed about Himself at a simple wedding feast years ago gives me faith and hope about the changes I need to make.  It encourages me to read more miracles to see what I can learn about Jesus.

What about you? What do you need to change? What will you bring to Jesus to change?

“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
2 Corinthians 3:18

Would Jesus Trust You? Questions for the Heart

Searing Insight
At the end of John 2 there are two very cutting statements. Verses 24-25 say this about Jesus: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people.  He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person.” Jesus knew what was in the heart/mind of each person, and based on that knowledge He would not entrust Himself to any human being.  He made this statement within a highly “religious” context. It immediately follows the account of Jesus cleansing the temple, the ‘house of God,” the place where people went to worship God.

It is true that God knows what is in our heart. There are many references to this in scripture, such as  Psalm. 44:20-22, “If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, would not God discover this? For He knows the secrets of the heart.” (ESV)

Again, we see this truth about God in the book of Acts1:24 when the apostles are praying for a replacement for Judas, “Then they prayed, “Lord, you know everyone’s heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen.” (See other references: Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Kings 8:39; 1 Chronicles 28:9).

Jesus knows what is in the heart of every man and woman. For, it was He who said that the heart is the source of sin,  “ …For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders,” Mt. 15:19.  Jesus knows that sin abides within the heart of mankind, and yes He knows what sins and sin tendencies abide in my heart and yours.

Dare to Look Inside! Dare to Ask!
As I read John 2:24-25, questions leap into my mind, “What does Jesus see in my heart, and would Jesus entrust Himself to me?”

According to our calendar, we are beginning a new year.  During this first month we will look back on the previous year at the many events in the world and the happenings in our own life. It is traditional for people to make resolutions and goals for themselves for the coming year. These may include things we want to do, achieve, overcome, or obtain.

Let’s take a real look today, sort of an internal examination. I encourage us to look not only at the physical, financial, or personal goals we may set, but look deeper into your heart, the realm or center that rules your life.  Dare you look deeply? Do you have a clean heart, a pure heart, a heart devoted only to the will of God?

Do I even know what is inside my heart? When was the last time I looked into my heart? When was the last time I asked God to show me what is in my heart?  What is at the core of my Heart? As a disciple of Christ, I may take for granted that I have a new heart and it is all well and good? Really? Does the spirit of this world or darkness have any hold on my heart? Where am I in the process of being made holy by God? Do I make it easy for Him to “clean out my temple?”

How often do I ask God to reveal my heart, to go down deep and unearth my motives and or my sin? How often do I ask God to shine His light in my heart, or am I content to live in the surface of religious practice and routine of “church” going? What are on the altars of my heart? What idols are in my temple? Could it be that I am the biggest idol in my life?  Who am I really worshiping? Whose will am I really pursuing?  Does my life worship God, or even in my “religious” lifestyle am I really worshiping myself?

These are heavy questions that require time to consider and time to pray about. I am challenging myself with these questions and ask you to prayerfully consider them today and this week as you begin this New Year. Consider then not as legalistic, fearful judgements, but consider them from your personal faith relationship with God through His son Jesus.

Would Jesus, after looking into my heart, entrust Himself to me?