Rock the Boat!

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When I read in the Scriptures about the early church, I’m jealous. They had such an incredible experience witnessing “many wonders and miraculous signs” (Acts 2:43).  I long for the sense of purpose and community that they had: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (v.42). They met daily and “broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God (v. 46). And He blessed them greatly: “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (v. 47). What an exciting, fulfilling time to “belong to the Way” (9:2). Even the community outside of the faith appreciated them, “they enjoyed the favor of all the people” (47).

Well maybe not everyone.

After healing a man who had been crippled from birth, Peter and John proclaimed the gospel to the astonished crowd.  A great number of people believed and that angered the Jewish authorities. They questioned the apostles who then boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus to them. They commanded Peter and John to stop teaching in His name. Their response? “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (4:19-20). Later they arrested and flogged them. Remarkably, they rejoiced at their mistreatment “because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name” (5:17-41)

How very different from our modern, western culture, where religion is regarded as a personal preference and not a life-giving entity. In the US the battle cry is “separation of church and state,” and in our workplaces, schools, the public square, even among our peers, we are told to keep our religion to ourselves. Unlike the bold apostles, we do it because we don’t want to rock the boat. But true Christianity is all-or-nothing. It spills over into every aspect of our lives because “we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” We’ll gladly take the scorn of the world for the Name. Besides, it’s only going to get worse, not better. Beloved, if you are a follower of Jesus Christ, it’s time to not only rock the boat but get out of it and walk on the water.

This is The Way

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Ask a group of kids, “Who’s your hero?” and you’ll get as many different answers as you have kids. “Batman.” “Tim Tebow.” “My Dad.” “The police.” I have many heroes, some from the Bible – like Deborah, Ezra, and Stephen,  some from history – Perpetua, Corrie Ten Boom, and Elisabeth Elliott, and some from my own life – my mom, my high-school writing teacher, and Mike Shockley. Then there is Roger Easton, Ivan Getting, Bradford Parkinson, and Dr. Gladys West. Who are these heroes of mine? The creative minds behind the  Global Positioning System. Oh, how I thank God for my GPS.

I am directionally challenged. My mom used to say that you could take me to the backyard, spin me around twice, and I couldn’t find my way back to the house. My husband would agree. His favorite thing to do is take me on unfamiliar roads and ask – “Do you know where you are?” And I never do. I depend on my GPS like a drowning man depends on a life preserver.  No matter where I am, I can punch in where I need to go and this magical device not only shows me the way but tells me what lane to get in and says, “Turn left.” Thank you, Roger, Ivan, Bradford, and Gladys!

Yet there is One who goes even farther to help this lost child. Jesus said, “I am the Way . . .” (John 14:6). He didn’t say I will give you a map so you can find the way. He didn’t say I will point to the way. He didn’t even say I will make a way.

He said, “I AM the Way . . .”

He is the way to the Father.

He is the way to everlasting life.

He is the way to peace.

He is the way to hope.

He is the way to Joy.

He is the way to love.

He is the way to God’s promises.

He is the way to everything that truly matters.

As much as I love my GPS, it can never get me to heaven. But Jesus can. He not only gets me to my destination, He takes me into the throne room of His Father and says, “Abba, Your daughter is home.” I am never lost with Jesus. He is my eternal GPS – God Positioning System.

What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?

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The world has many different views of what a “Christian” is.  In fact, the church is pretty confused about what it means as well. The title “Christian” was not coined by the Lord Himself or by His disciples. “Christian” was a designation given to the “Followers of the Way” – the first believers – by those outside the church (see Acts 11:26). It meant, “little Christs” because these people were keenly identified with Jesus by their words and actions. Not so much today.

To the culture, a Christian is someone who is filled with hate and intolerance. Strangely enough, the only ones the tolerant culture will not tolerate are true Christians.  In many churches today, a Christian is someone who shows up semi-regularly for church and throws a couple of bucks in the plate.  Oh, and they must not speak out against anything anyone chooses to do or be all for the sake of “love.”  Individually, a Christian is someone who posts Jesus memes on social media, right after posting something laced with profanity. They know just enough Scripture to prove themselves right in their own eyes.

Saying “I am a Christian” does not get you into God’s heaven. Paul said the key to heaven is a profession of faith. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

There is an important distinction between saying “I’m a Christian” and saying “Jesus is Lord.” What we are to confess with our mouth is the Name, the identity, and the Lordship of Jesus. And it’s not just words we spout, it must be a confession of our heart. I tried an experiment with this when I had to interview several non-believers for my Apologetics class. I asked each one to say, “Jesus is Lord,” and every one of them refused because they said, “I don’t believe it.” Remember what Jesus said – “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). And the heart that believes that Jesus is Lord will lead the mind and body to act like it.

Claiming to be a Christian has no saving power. Professing the Name and Lordship of Jesus Christ does. The true confession of faith is not what I am, but what Jesus is.

I Believe

The elders of Israel were invited up the mountain to worship God. The scripture twice says they saw God, even eating and drinking with Him (Exodus 24:10,11). The disciples saw the risen Jesus. They touched the marks of their salvation. We count them as remarkably blessed. We somehow think we would have greater faith and confidence if we could only see Him with our physical eyes. Yet when the elders came down from their mountaintop experience, after waiting forty days for Moses to return, they gave up the glorious vision and pressed Aaron to make them a god they could see and touch. And Luke reports that despite seeing Him in the room with them and even after touching His hands and feet, “they still did not believe.”

Jesus said, “blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:21). I’ve never seen God physically. I’ve never seen nor touched Jesus. But I believe. I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Resurrected Savior, the KING OF KINGS, and the LORD OF LORDS. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. He is the second member of the Trinity, the Alpha and the Omega, the One who was and is and is to come. And He is my Redeemer, my Savior and my Lord.

No, I don’t have the advantage these men had. But I don’t need to see Him with my eyes to believe. I’ve already seen Him with my heart. #Ibelieve

To Know, Know, Know Him

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”  Matthew 22:37

To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him

Just to see him smile make my life worthwhile

To know, know, know him is to love, love, love him

And I do.

Written by Phil Spector and first recorded by “The Teddy Bears,” this song hit the number one spot in 1958.  Through the years it was covered by many other artists and I bet as you read those lyrics, you were singing the melody.  I know I did as I typed them.  Do you remember those early days of love, when you just couldn’t get enough of your beloved?    You wanted to spend every moment together, learning all you could about one another.  What is her favorite flower? What is his favorite song?  What makes her happy? What makes him laugh?   Her fragrance was intoxicating. You hung on his every word.  You became “a student” of the one you love, trying to discover all the wonderful things about them, like hunting for hidden treasures.  It seemed that the more you knew about each other, the deeper your affection went.

Do you have the same desire to know God?

He is the greatest lover you will ever have, and He offers you the deepest love relationship you can ever know.  What pleases Him? What is His favorite song? What gives Him joy?  Perhaps it never occurred to you that you can know God, but over and over His Word expresses His desire for us to know Him.  The apostle Paul said God wants us to “seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him” (Acts 17:27) The same principle in our earthly relationships holds true in our relationship with God.  The more we know Him, the more we seek to discover all the wonderful things about Him, the more we will love Him.  By engaging our minds to know Him, our hearts are filled with wonder and love for Him.

But how do we get to know the God of the universe?  The Lord reveals Himself in many ways.

He reveals Himself through His creation. Psalm 19:1-2 says “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.” And Paul said “What may be known about God is plain…because God has made it plain. (Romans 1:19) Look at the stars in the sky, the majestic mountains, and the delicate flowers.  Watch the wind blow and the rain fall as lightning illuminates all of creation.  Hold a tiny newborn in your arms and study her delicate features.  God first revealed Himself through His creative works, and nature still praises her Creator.

God revealed Himself through His Son, Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:15 says that Christ “is the visible image of the invisible God (New Living Translation) and Hebrews 1:3 declares “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being.”  Jesus Himself said to one of His disciples, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)” Jesus is God.  If you want to know God, you will find Him in Jesus.  Jesus was God in human flesh.  He came to save us and to show us that God is real, and we can know Him.  It is only through Jesus Christ that we can know to God. He is “The Way (John 14:6)” to God because He is God.

The Bible is the best way that we can know God.  The Bible is God’s Word to man.  It is His revelation of Himself, His ways, His thoughts, words and actions.  God had given us the Bible so that we might know Him, trust Him, believe Him and love Him.   The Bible gives us those intimate, personal details that are so vital to a love relationship. Remember the questions we asked earlier?  What pleases God? – the Bible tells us that faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).  What is His favorite song?  Praise songs! “I will praise You among the nations, O Lord; I will sing praises to Your name. (Psalm 18:49)”  What gives God joy? We do – “To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence with great joy – to the only God, our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! (Jude 1:24)” Does God have a favorite flower? Well, I don’t know for sure, but Jesus Christ is called “The Rose of Sharon, a Lily of the valleys. (Song of Songs 2:1) If you truly desire to know God, you must invest yourself in studying His Word.

God calls us to know Him – and He promises to make Himself available to us.  “You will seek me and find me when you see me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, (Jeremiah 29:13-14)” Through His created world, His Son and His Word, God has invited you and me into an intimate knowledge of Him.  I have found that the more I come to know Him, the more I love Him and the more I love Him the more I want to know Him. I have this thought that when I see Him in glory, once I have gotten up off my face before Him; I will see something about Him and I will exclaim – “I knew that about You!”

Can there be any better pursuit for our lives than to seek to know God?  I have committed myself to the life-long journey of knowing Him.  Will you come along?

Holy Father, My heart says of You, “Seek His face!”  Your face Lord, I will seek. (Psalm 27:8)  Amen.