Cared For #likeJesus

Never, ever doubt that you are loved by God.  When that doubt begins to creep in, know that it is a lie straight from the pit of hell, spoken by the lips of the Deceiver.

Perhaps the most beloved image of Jesus is found in John 10 where He is pictured as the Good Shepherd.  It’s an image that conjures up ideas of belonging, protection, provision…  the feelings of being cared for and loved by God.

“He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.”

“He goes before them; He leads them out, for they know His voice.”

“I am the door.  If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved.”

“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”

“I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”

“I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep.”

“Other sheep I have which are not of this fold.”  (a reference to Gentiles)

“I lay down My life that I may take it up again.”

Reading over these words again, meditating on them, I’m filled with gratitude and I’m affirmed by the love of my Father.   How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called the children of God.

  • I feel affirmed in His love because I am known.
  • I feel affirmed in His love because He knows my name.
  • I feel affirmed in His love because He leads me.
  • I feel affirmed in His love because He gives life abundantly.
  • I feel affirmed in His love because He laid down His life for me.
  • I feel affirmed in His love because He chose me, including me among His own.

Deep in my heart, I know.  I am loved by God!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Loving Children #likeJesus

Was Simon Peter a father?   That thought never crossed my mind until today.  We know he was married.  Jesus healed his mother-in-law.  But did he have children?  And if Peter did have children, how does that knowledge affect the way I read the words Jesus spoke to him.

In Matthew 17-18, Mark 9 and Luke 9, we find Jesus back at His home base in Capernaum with His disciples.  Those who collected the temple tax asked Peter why his Teacher did not pay the temple tax.  This was a tax on all males 20 years of age or older for the upkeep of the temple (Exodus 30:13).

Then we read that Peter came “into the house” to speak with Jesus.  Whose house was this?  Peter lived in Capernaum.  Did Jesus stay at Peter’s home when they were in Capernaum?

After Jesus sends Peter down to the lake to catch a fish that had a coin in its mouth, enough to pay the temple tax for both of them, we read that the other disciples came into the house and asked Jesus, “Who then is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

At this point, Jesus took a little child, picked him up in His arms, and told them, “Unless you are converted and become as little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me…”

Then Jesus continued teaching, “But whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin….”  And again, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father….”  And yet again, “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”

I’d always imagined that Jesus just plucked a child from the crowd for this teaching.  But if they are in a house in Capernaum, possibly Simon Peter’s home, isn’t there the very real possibility that Jesus called over Peter’s own toddler?  At the very least, being in this home, the child was likely known by or related to one of the disciples.

The context gives the words more weight, more depth.  Imagine the emotion Peter would have felt seeing Jesus hold his child as he speaks these words.   If Peter was a father, as I am, he would have understood childlike faith in a much deeper way.  And Jesus’ words about not causing one of these little ones to stumble?    Peter would have taken that as a personal challenge.  I think he also would have imagined someone doing that to his child and felt anger as well.

But thinking of Peter as a father, it also makes me look more carefully at other things Jesus said to Peter and how he would have heard Jesus’ words.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters- yes, even his own life- such a person cannot be My disciple.”  
Luke 14:26

If Peter was a father, this depth of commitment, this level of sacrifice, would have been even more costly.  Leaving his nets, leaving everything, to follow Jesus would have been no small sacrifice.  As a husband and father, your priorities and commitments don’t just impact you.  Everyone sacrifices.  Everyone feels the impact.

As a father, I get excited about looking back at Peter’s relationship with Jesus and seeing it through a new lens.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Unmistakable #likeJesus

If we lived then, in that place and time, how differently would we have heard Jesus’ words?

In John 7:37-52, Jesus declares on the last, great day of the feast, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

What feast was this, and does the timing of Jesus’ words add any greater significance for his listeners?

John 7:2 tells us this was the Feast of Tabernacles.  Here’s what John MacArthur writes about this feast in One Perfect Life:

The Feast of Tabernacles was connected in the OT with the harvest of grapes and olives.  The feast lasted a full week from the 15th to the 21st of Tishri (Sept-Oct).  Josephus indicates that of Israel’s 3 major feasts (Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles), this one was the most popular.  In order to commemorate the Israelites’ trek through the wilderness, the people built makeshift shelters out of leaves and branches (hence, “booths” or “tabernacles” Lev. 23:42).  Featured at the feast were both a water-drawing and a lamp-lighting ceremony. 

Jesus’ teaching in John 7:37-52 about “living water” and John 8:12-30 about the “light of the world” would have greater significance for His listeners at the Feast because of these ceremonies.

What did that water ceremony look like, and what was its significance?

Again from MacArthur:

A golden vessel containing water from the Pool of Siloam was transported in a priestly procession back to the temple.  As it came to the Water Gate, three trumpet blasts sounded to mark the joy of the occasion and the people recited Isa. 12:3, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.”  At the temple, as the people watched, the priests would march around the altar carrying the water container while the temple choir sang Hallel (Ps. 113-118).  The water was then offered as a sacrifice to God.  The use of the water symbolized the blessing of adequate rainfall for crops.

Listening to this, it’s clear to me that the people would hear these words as an invitation to come to Jesus to find salvation.

The water-pouring ceremony also foreshadowed the millennial rivers of living water described in Ezekiel. 47:1-9 and Zech. 13:1.  Jesus declares through this simple invitation that He is the fulfillment of all the Feast of Tabernacles anticipated.

This is why many responded to Jesus invitation, “This is the Christ.”  The significance of His words, delivered in this way in that moment, made that bold declaration unmistakable.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

A True Friend #likeJesus

Hell is for real.

Jesus speaks of it often.  It can be argued that He actually speaks more about eternal judgement than He does about eternal life.

In Luke 12:35-48, Jesus tells a parable about a faithful and wise servant who is prepared for his master’s return.  Jesus concludes this teaching by saying that the servant who knows the master’s will but doesn’t do it will be beat with many stripes, while the servant who unknowingly disobeys his master will be beaten with few stripes.

Is Jesus saying that there will be varying degrees of punishment in hell?

In Matthew 10:15, he says, “I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgement than for that town.”

Then in Matthew 11:22, “But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgement than for you.” And Matthew 11:24, “But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgement than for you.”

Hebrews 10:29 says, “How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot…”

So apparently the answer is “yes.”  There will be varying degrees of punishment in hell.  From worse than we could ever imagine…  to even worse still.

Often Jesus speaks these words to unbelievers.  It’s a warning.  Don’t die separated from God, facing judgement.

But he also speaks these words to his disciples.  It’s motivation.  Don’t neglect your responsibility to tell others the Good News.

William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, once told his students, “If I had my choice, I wouldn’t send you to school.  I’d send you to hell for five minutes, and you’d come back real soul winners.”

Do you remember the old commercial, “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.”  Jesus was accused of being “a friend of sinner.”  I think His warning of hell’s horrors are His way of telling us, “Friends don’t let friends die, destined for an eternity in hell, without telling them the Good News.”

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Dying Daily #likeJesus

Committed.  All in.  Sold out.  What does that really look like?

Peter had just declared, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

At that point, Jesus began to tell His disciples over and over, “The Son of Man must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.”

Peter didn’t like the sound of that. He wouldn’t stand for it. “This shall not happen to you.”

Jesus rebukes Peter.  “Get behind me, Satan!”

Jesus makes it clear.  “This is the path I’m on.  If you follow Me, then it’s your path too.”

“If anyone desires to follow Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will find it.”

Reading these words in context adds even greater depth to them.  I’ve generally just read them from the perspective of what they mean to me now.  Put Christ first.  Be willing to sacrifice for Him.  Deny myself what I want to give Christ my all.

But read them in context.  Jesus just declared that he will go to Jerusalem and die, and then He rebuked Peter for wanting to stop it.   In context, I hear these words with new ears.

How would Peter and the others have heard these words at that exact moment?  How would they have reflected on these words during the crucifixion?  How would they have understood them after the resurrection?

I don’t think they would have viewed them figuratively as I always have.  I’m certain they would have taken them quite  literally.  His disciples would have understood that following Jesus meant they must be willing to and likely would die for the sake of the gospel.  We know from history that all but John did die for the gospel, and that John himself was tortured with the intent of killing him, but survived.

Christ-followers in other parts of the world- India, China, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Russia- understand what it means to literally “take up your cross” and be willing to “lose your life for my sake and the gospel’s.”

I’m sure these believers read Jesus’ words with much greater seriousness and conviction than we in the West do.  I’m humbled when I think of their commitment to follow Christ, knowing it would likely cost them everything.

The disciples understood the value of the gospel, the value of knowing Christ, in a way that I could only hope to one day understand this side of heaven.  That value was determined not only by what they were willing to sacrifice for Christ, but by what they actually did  sacrifice for Christ.

Father, I want to value your Son and the gospel like Peter and the other disciples did…  like our modern day persecuted church disciples do.  Teach me what it means to “take up my cross daily.”

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Misunderstood #likeJesus

Of all that is recorded about Jesus in the gospels, of everything He said and did, this story stands out as one of the most difficult for me to accept.

Matthew 15 and Mark 7 each record Jesus’ encounter with a Greek Syro-Phoenician woman who came to him in the region of Tyre and Sidon pleading with Him to heal her daughter.

The encounter is pretty straight forward.  It’s just that I don’t like it. I don’t like what Jesus says to this woman.

“Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

Did Jesus just call this woman and her daughter little dogs?  Wow.  That doesn’t sound like something Jesus would say, especially about a woman in need.  Maybe He would be harsh like this with the Pharisees.  That I could accept.  But this woman?

She was a Gentile.  Jews referred to Gentiles as dogs, mangy mongrels.  Jews despised Gentiles.  In the presence of his disciples, isn’t Jesus just feeding into this hatred and prejudice?

The woman continues to plead.  “Even the little dogs under the table eat from the children’s crumbs which fall from the Master’s table.”

She shows great faith. Persistent faith.  Jesus praises her for it and chooses to heal her daughter.

So the story ends up where I want it to.  It just doesn’t go how I want it to, at least on the surface.

The word Jesus uses here is not the same name Jews would call Gentiles.  Instead of the word for dog referring to mangy, vicious mongrels, Jesus uses the word “little dog.”  This would be an affectionate term for a domesticated dog, a pet, one that you allow in the house.  It’s the difference between our dog, Gizmo, and the mangy disease infested mutts I see roaming the streets in Haiti.

So that’s a little better, right?  But Jesus still calls her a dog!  When I look more closely, I see something else though.

Jesus says “let the children be filled first.”  Children refers to Israel, the Jews.  But the fact that he uses the term “first” means that there also must be a “second.”  This is actually good news.  The Jewish Messiah would also be for the Gentiles.  While other Jews referred to them as mangy street dogs, Jesus gives them a place in the house.  They’ll be included in his kingdom.

Jesus’ words for this woman and His message through this encounter for his disciples are profound.

What would they hear?  Compassion.  Jesus sees this woman differently than other Jews do.  Jesus will treat her differently than other Jews would.  And His disciples need to know that He did come for the Jew first, but He will also include the Gentiles.

This principle is illustrated once again as they leave Tyre and Sidon for the Decapolis, a Gentile region, where Jesus teaches, heals, casts out demons, and ultimately feeds the 4000.  First, he feeds 5000 Jews up in Bethsaida.  Now, he feeds 4000 Gentiles.

God is always at work. Maybe I don’t always see it, or maybe I wish He would work differently, the way I wanted Him to.  But God is at work.  His time.  His ways.  His will.

Father, forgive me for those times I look at how You’re at work, like with the Syro-Phoenician woman, and think You should have done it differently.  Who am I to tell You how to do Your job 🙂

Father, I trust you!

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM

Challenge #likeJesus

What does God do to prepare us so that we can be used by Him?

Before Jesus commissions the Twelve in Matthew 9, Mark 6 and Luke 9, several events happen that prepare the disciples before they are sent out.

When we read Jesus’ words to the Twelve as he commissions them, their meaning is amplified by what the disciples had just experienced through these events.  Jesus challenges the disciples in at least five ways.

1.  Jesus challenged the disciples’ Priorities.

Jesus tells the disciples they must “go to the other side.”  This was the Gadarenes, in the Decapolis, a Gentile area.  Going there would mean a shift in ministry, beginning to include the Gentiles, something the Twelve would never do without His nudge.

2.  Jesus challenged the disciples’ Faith.

En route, they encounter a severe storm that threatens to capsize the boat.  Jesus is asleep.  When awakened, He challenges their faith and calms the storm.  Actually, it says he “rebuked the wind.”   Biblically, rebuke is generally used in a spiritual context.  Was there something spiritual about this storm?  Was Jesus being opposed by demonic forces?  After the storm subsides, Jesus says, “How is it that you have so little faith?”

3.  Jesus challenged the disciples with Spiritual Authority.

On the other side, they encounter two demon possessed men. They live in the tombs.  They scream through the night.  The one cuts himself with rocks.  When they shackle him, he breaks the chains.  Everyone is afraid of them.  Everyone, that is, except Jesus.  The demons identify themselves.  They are Legion, many.  A Roman Legion was made up of 5120 soldiers.  With this many demons, it’s no wonder shackles couldn’t hold him.  Could this be the spiritual force behind the wind, trying to prevent Jesus from coming to the other side?  Jesus casts the demons into a herd of 2000 pigs (so there’s at least 2000 demons), which then run off a cliff to their death.

4.  Jesus challenged the disciples to move beyond their excuses.

The disciples had multiple reasons for not wanting to go to the other side.  It was a Gentile region.  Jews didn’t associate with Gentiles.  They would become spiritually unclean.  There were tombs over there.  Jews didn’t come in contact with dead things.  They would become spiritually unclean.  There were pigs over there.  Jews didn’t come in contact with swine.  They would become spiritually unclean.  All of this, not to mention, there were crazy demon possessed guys over there.  But is there ever an excuse for saying “no” to Jesus?

5.  Jesus challenged the disciples’ understanding of whom God can use.

I like what my friend Benjamin Francis says. “If you want to see things you have never seen before, you have to do things you have never done before!”  So what happened with the crazy man?  Now in his right mind, Jesus sends him back to tell everyone what he’s done for him.  And a few months later, when Jesus is back in that region, there are over 4000 people there to hear Him teach.  How did they get there?  Who told them about Jesus?  Could it have been this demon possessed man, now delivered, whom Jesus sent to tell everyone in the Ten Cities?

Jesus accomplishes so much… in just 24 hours.  He challenges their priorities, their faith, their authority, their motivation, their perspective.  He’ll soon send them out 2 by 2, and all they learned through this experience will be needed to accomplish the work they’ll be sent out to do.

Jesus doesn’t waste an experience. He’s always preparing us.

 

To learn more about Walking As Jesus Walked and Discipling As Jesus Discipled, visit:  SONLIFE.COM