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Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up

If we learn anything from history, the Bible, culture, we are, by and large, an idolatrous people. Wars have been fought for lands, possessions, people. Helen of Troy is said to have had a face that launched a thousand ships. The litany goes on and on.

Point is, we’ll make an idol of anyhting: beauty, our cars, our T.V.s, our summer homes, what have you. Sure, we’re much too enlightened for that these days–we don’t call them idols anymore.

But idols they are. Come on: we idolize celebrities, needing to know every minute detail of their lives, while decrying the presence of those rags at all the supermarket checkstands. Fact is, if we didn’t buy them, if there weren’t demand, those magazines wouldn’t be there. The publishers just give us what we want. So, too, Hollywood with its movies and T.V. shows: whatever sells tickets, and generates ad revenue, is what it will keep churning out. Ad nauseum.

It’s all fine and dandy to lay the blame at another’s feet–when the problem lies about eight inches beneath the head, and in the center of the human chest.

It’s a heart condition.

And the worst of all the idols we put before God is the one we fashion in our likeness. (Look no further than our iconography: every people group wants to claim Jesus as their own. There’s white Jesus, brown Jesus, black Jesus, yellow Jesus, etc. When all we know for sure was that He was a Semitic man, “without form or comeliness”). Instead of letting Him claim as His own…

Just as the God who hates everything/everyone we hate is likely one who we have created in our likeness, so, too, is the God who approves of everything we do. Who likes everything we like.

If God (if Jesus) we serve doesn’t offend our sensibilities, He’s a poseur, an impostor.  A fake. Because the real one is an iconoclast: someone who defies labels, will not be pigeonholed.

Just like nobody puts baby in a corner, so, too, no one puts God in a box. Oh, we try. How we try:

There’s conservative God, who wants to close the borders, and doesn’t care about the aliens and strangers among us. There’s the gay God, who wants to just tastefully redecorate our souls (and His son is coming back clad in rainbowed-colored robes, bestride a unicorn). There’s also the social justice God, who only cares about hot button issues, about righting this world’s ills, about making a heaven on earth. But from Him one never hears the Gospel, of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. Cause he’s too busy trying to make a heaven on earth now. When the real God says nothing about doing that; rather, He says He’s going to make a new heaven and a new earth. (This is not to say that there are not worthy causes–there are. But the Gospel is the cause).

Lest we forget, in addition to the Gods, the Jesuses, detailed above, there’s also Focus on the Family God–whose focus is indeed upon the family. Families are good, for sure.

But can you imagine that God saying:

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household.” ( Matthew 10:34-36 ESV).

That’s not very family friendly, folks.

The point of all of this, in case you hadn’t guessed, is to simply state this:

It’s a slippery slope, folks, when the God we serve shares all of our values. And not the reverse.”

Jesus didn’t die just to tastefully redecorate, but rather to knock the whole building down, pour a new foundation (Himself), and start afresh.

He came not to make us nice people, but rather new people. People fashioned after His image and likeness. Anything less, or else, is idolatry. It’s Jesus-and–which, as we know from Galatians, is not the Gospel. He tells us come as we are, but he doesn’t leave us there.

Because an encounter with the real Jesus will always leave us fundamentally changed.

Always.

So, which God–which Jesus–do you serve?

The Chill Winds of Mortality

When someone so well-loved, widely regarded, respected, and talented as Robin Williams was passes on it’s like losing a friend. Or a family member. This is someone who came into our homes week after week, who we visited at the cineplex, who was in the news.

So it hits hard.

Doubly so, and especially for those of is who grew up watching Mr. Williams’s work, because it reminds us of stark naked reality: if someone so rich, successful, and nearly universally loved as Williams was can die, so can we all.

We are not immune to death’s call. So far as I know there’s but one way to enter this world (birth), and though it take a myriad forms, one way to leave it:

Death.

As the story of Williams’s death broke we all felt you chill winds of mortality blow over our souls. Wealth, success, fame, power, regard are no antidote. While wealth may buy us extra time, it’s no guarantee. The late Steve Jobs was a billionaire, was able to extemd his life by a few years, yet still he had to pay the boatman.

Death, as Shakespeare said, is the “undiscovered country, from whose borne no traveler returns.” Even those of us who are Christians don’t know what awaits us on the other side. We have the Bible, and we have hope. But none of, despite claims to the contrary, has actually crossed over, seen what lies in that far country, and come back to report our findings.

It doesn’t work that way. God generally does not, as much as we wish it, gives us foreknowledge of our own ends. He teaches is instead to number our days, to live as if He were coming back, indeed to live as if each day was our last.

Because we never know. It could be a car accident, a plane crash, a heart attack, a tumor, or any number of things which could lay each one of us low. The only think I know that is sure, upon which I have staked my life, is this:

“He that believes in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. He that lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

That’s what it comes down to, friends:

Faith, and

Trust

Where are you placing yours? Knowing that this one life you’ve been given here upon this earth will end, where–in whom–are you placing your faith, your trust?

Your (eternal) life depends upon it.

Changes

I’m not one to do things by half measures. I’m, like most men, sort of binary like that. I either don’t workout at all, or (like now) I’ve joined a gym, and am working out days per week.

It’s all about changes, really. I see my body changing, my energy flagging, and my waistline expanding. Time was, I didn’t have to do anything about it. I could eat what I wanted.

But the carefree days of youth are gone–replaced by sobering reality:

Things cannot continue as they have been. It’s time that childish ways were put behind me (while simultaneously keeping my childlike sense of wonder intact). I think about the future, about being there for my family…

It’s about far more than just exercise–as important as that is. It’s about setting an example, about leaving a legacy. To that end, while I’m exercising the self-discipline to condition my body, I’m also involved in counseling. Because I want to discipline my soul. I want to free myself from the wrong ways I’ve handled things.

I want to set an example for my family that continues long after I’m gone.

I want to finish strong.

So I work, and strive, now to build not just a better body, but a better soul. For it was for freedom that Christ set us free. I don’t want to continue to be entangled in the negative influences, and patterns, that have shaped me until now. It’s time to let that go.

I’ve learned something along the way I’d like to pass onto you:

It’s not enough to just let something (bad, negative, hurtful, sinful) go; no, else we risk leaving a void.

We have to replace those former things with something good, uplifting, holy.

You see, I’m making a lot of changes lately. I’m tearing down one house in order to build it upon a better foundation.

Changes.

Are there any you need to make?

The Simple Gospel

I’ve spilled a lot of (digital) ink here on this blog over the years about life, struggles, pain, joys, needs, etc.

But I find I may not have shared the single most important thing I believe. Oh, I’ve talked about it–about Him–to be sure. But I don’t think I’ve shared the simple Gospel.

I saw this image on Facebook, and it so beautifully encapsulates the Gospel, what Jesus did, I had to share it:

image

He took my sin, your sin, everyone’s sin, so that we could become the righteousness of God in Him.

Now what is sin? The term, as used in the Bible, means “missing the mark.” What is the mark?

Perfection.

God is perfect (“Be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect,” said Jesus), and we are most decidedly not. Not by a long shot.

Which is why He sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice. Now you may say to yourself, “Self, I’m not so bad. I haven’t killed, committed adultery… I’m no Jeffrey Dahmer.”

But have you ever lied? Even a little white lie? If so, you’ve broken God’s law: “You shall not lie.” And we know from the Bible that to transgress in one part of the law is to transgress all. In fact, Jesus upped the ante when He said that:

Lust = adultery

Hated = murder

Have you ever hated? Looked at someone with lust?

Chances are, you have. So have I–so have we all. Or maybe you haven’t, but you have taken something (no matter how small) that wasn’t yours.

That’s stealing.

So if a holy God, whose standard is perfection, were to ask you upon what basis He should let you into heaven? What would you say? Would you appeal to your assertion that you’re not such a bad person (even though we’re all lying, thieving adulterers at heart), or would you–like Hebrew National–appeal to a higher authority?

Like Jesus? He who knew no sin became sin for:

You

Me

Everybody

Everyone who would believe.

DO YOU BELIEVE?

We Can’t Avoid Pain

I’ve recently been reading the most excellent Dresden Files series (by Jim Butcher), and was gobsmacked by the following:

“Everyone is down on pain, because they forget something important about it: Pain is for the living, only the dead don’t feel it.”

I read this only hours after sitting in church hearing the pastor teach on the true vine, branches, and pruning. It dawned on me that I’d spent an inordinate amount of my life trying to avoid the inevitable: pain. There are times in the past year, or so, where God was simply trying to do what all vinedressers do: prune.

And I tried to avoid it, tried to run from it. Tried to cover it with other things.

It didn’t work out so well. In fact, in trying to avoid pain, I only created more pain for myself and those around me. By avoiding, I only made things worse. Conflict is inevitable, and must be, well, confronted. There’s no way around it. By avoiding the uncomfortable, I set myself up for all kinds of failure.

I’m not saying pain is fun–it hurts!–but it’s a privilege when we consider the alternative: the dead don’t feel it. In point of fact: I don’t want to leave this world with regrets. Things undone, words unsaid, love withheld because it was scary and hard.

Love is pain, my friends. If we are going to love, we will hurt. If we are going to be loved, it will hurt. To shut ourselves off from pain, we (however unintentionally) shut ourselves off from the one thing we all need:

Love.

In Hebrews, it says that the Lord Jesus “learned obedience through those things which he suffered.” If that was true of Him, how much more so of us?

My question to you is:

Is there some pain in your life you’ve been trying to avoid? Trying to cover? What are you going to do to confront it, embrace it, learn from it?

Challenge yourself. You must find that, in your weakness, you are strong.

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