Category Archives: John

True Colors

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 ESV

My children have watched the new “Trolls” movie somewhere around fifty times. They enjoy it so much we purchased the soundtrack so that we could listen to the songs as we travel. One song in particular sticks out to me, the Justin Timberlake remake of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors”. One part of the song says, “I see your true colors and that’s why I love you”. I think of my wife when I hear this song. She sees my true colors. She sees me for who I really am, good and the bad. My wife knows me when I’m at my best and has seen me at my worst. Despite knowing the worst about me, she loves me. Her love for me is not a matter of what I am or am not doing, but our relationship is.  I can do things that put strain on our relationship and even though my wife loves me, she’s upset with me. On the flip side of that, I can do things to build our relationship. Her love for me isn’t necessarily growing, but our relationship is. In a way, this describes our relationship to God. While his love for us eternal, we can do things that build or destroy our relationship with him.

The bible says that even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Before we proclaim him as our Lord or trust in him as our savior, he loves us. While we are lost to our own sinfulness and busy making idols out of ourselves, God loves us. He loves us so much he sent his one and only son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place so that we could be reconciled to him and have eternal life. God sees our true colors and loves us anyway.

While God’s love for us is unconditional, our salvation is not. Our salvation requires us to have faith and trust in Christ (John 14:6). We have sinned against God and even though he loves us, without faith in Jesus we are lost and destined for hell. Heaven and hell is not a matter of being a “good person” or what your true colors are, it’s a matter of faith in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Hell is not for sinners, it is for those who reject Jesus.

This week is holy week, a time when we reflect on Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the last supper, his crucifixion, death, and finally his resurrection on Easter. It’s a time of celebration for believers, a time when we can rejoice in the gift of salvation and the eternal life to come. This is also a time that we should be reaching out to those who do not have the hope of Jesus in their life. A time of invitation. A time that despite what people’s true colors are, we would reach out and show them the love of Christ. If you don’t know Jesus, I pray that you would seek him with an open heart. God is not hiding like some decorated Easter egg, he’s waiting for you with open arms. God loves you, no matter what your true colors are.

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Back Row Believer

Growing up in the southeastern part of the United States, I heard the term “back row Baptist” more than a few times. It was said as an insult to people who either show up late to church and leave early or about someone who simply comes to church out of obligation instead of worship. For some reason this statement has been on my mind all morning, and the more I think about it, the more it bothers me.

As believers in Christ, we are called to spread the love of God to our brothers and sisters in the world. Our job as Christians is not to judge them because their timing is a little off or which pew they choose to sit in, but to be thankful that they came to church in the first place. To encourage them to grow in their knowledge of the bible and their understanding of the love of God.

I have so many friends and family members that desperately need to hear the gospel, yet refuse to set foot in a church. When I ask them why they don’t come, the answer is almost unanimous, they feel judged by the people in the church. They feel like they don’t measure up to the standard that we have put on what a Christian should look and act like. They feel like they don’t fit in. That’s not on them, that’s on us.

We are the true “back row believers”. We have, like the Pharisees, rejected the commandment of God in order to establish our own traditions (Mark 7:9). We have rejected the new commandment from Jesus to love one another (John 13:34). Jesus followed this new commandment with the statement, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:35). People will know us by our love. Not by the way we dress, the way we talk, or where we sit, but by our love for one another.

This Sunday when you walk into your church, take a seat in the back a have a look around. Does your congregation look like it would welcome people “from every nation, from all tribes”? (Revelation 7:9). Or is it a “cookie cutter” congregation, where everyone looks the same. Jesus has called us to reach the world. Not just the part of the world that looks and talks like us, the entire world.

“Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly,” (Romans 12:16 ESV).

We are called to live in unity through love in Christ Jesus to the glory of God. This is not an option. “For God shows no partiality, ” (Romans 2:11 ESV).

God shows no partiality, Jesus has no favorites, and neither can we. We must love all with the same love that was shown to us through Jesus Christ. Anything short of this is sin.

Today I encourage you to stop and look in the mirror. Take a good, hard, long look at yourself. Now, go find someone that looks completely different and tell them you love them. Tell them God loves them and Jesus died for their sins just as He did for yours. Then invite them to church. Because at the end of the day, “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.” (Romans 3:23-34 ESV).

“Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” (Psalm 133:1).

 

 

Chocolate Santa

There is a huge, half-eaten, chocolate Santa Claus in our kitchen cabinet left over from Christmas. It still tastes amazing, I know this because every so often I walk into the kitchen and break a piece off. I’ve also been reading through Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship” again. If you haven’t read it, you should. In the second section of the book he talks about Jesus’ sermon on the mound from Matthew 5.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6 ESV).

As I thought about hunger, the chocolate Santa came to mind. Many times instead of making a meal to satisfy my hunger I would just eat part of the Santa. I would fill up on junk food instead of getting proper nutrition. Then I thought about how often I tend to do the same thing in my spiritual life. Instead of feeding my spirit the bread of life that is Jesus Christ, I fill up on junk the world offers. How many times have I scrolled mindlessly through social media instead of spending time in God’s word? How many hours have I spent playing video games instead of praying for opportunities to share the Good News? When was the last time I was truly hungry for God’s word?

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” John 6:35 ESV

The problem with filling up on a chocolate Santa instead of a home cooked meal, is it doesn’t satisfy for very long. I get hungry again and go back for more. I catch myself in the same cycle with social media, TV, and video games. I binge “eat” thinking it will bring me joy and I’m left unsatisfied. I’m left wanting more. So today I’m taking a stand, I’m throwing out the chocolate Santa. And I encourage you to do the same. Take a break from social media and spend some time in God’s word. Skip tonight’s episode of whatever show you watch and pray. Fast from spiritual “junk food” that leaves you unsatisfied, and fill up on Jesus.

Judge not…

“Judge not, that you be not judged.” Matthew 7:1 ESV

 

I have heard the saying, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” a million times. Usually by non-Christians doing very non-Christian things. I’ve used it myself, before I was a Christian, whenever I would get called out for doing something I shouldn’t be doing. We use this verse to try and justify our actions or condemn those who don’t agree with our actions. If I’m honest, I really struggled with this verse for a while. We have one part of the bible saying to call out people in sin (1 Corinthians 5) and here we have Jesus saying not to judge people. So what do we do?

I think the root of this problem is our understanding of the word “judge.” We associate it with our opinion of someone when Jesus had a completely different idea in mind. We need to think of this type of “judging” as in a court room where a judge has the power to sentence you. Jesus is saying that we have no power or authority to cast judgment on a person in the sense of where they will spend eternity. In that case, yes, only God can judge you. BUT! That is not a pass to overlook sin.

If a brother or sister is caught in sin, we must deal with it. We must deal with it in love and gentleness. In the book of John, a woman is caught in the act of adultery and brought before Jesus for judgment.  She wasn’t rumored to be in adultery, she was CAUGHT in the VERY ACT of adultery. In this moment, the group of “religious” people surrounding her were ready to literally throw stones at her. But what does Jesus say? Jesus says in John 8:7, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Jesus knew that we are all guilty and deserving of this punishment. After the crowd leaves, Jesus looks at the woman and says, “Where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She says, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus looks at her and says, “Neither do I; go and sin no more.” This is beautiful. This is grace. This is love. This is Jesus.

We are all guilty of sin. We are all the woman in this story, caught in the very act of (insert sin here). And just like this woman, Jesus looks at us and says, “I don’t condemn you.” But He also says, “Go, and from now on sin no more.” Jesus doesn’t give her a pass to sin, He gives her a command to repent. To turn from this lifestyle of adultery and live righteously. This same call applies to us as well.

The great thing about our God is that He doesn’t say to clean up our lives then follow Him, no, He says follow me and then we’ll clean this up together. We have a God who truly loves us. A God who is mighty and able. A God who still works everyday miracles in people’s lives. If you are caught in sin, I beg you, repent and turn to Jesus.

What is Love

Baby, don’t hurt me! Sorry, I couldn’t help it. When we think of love, often a song or movie will pop into our heads. We may think of our spouse or children, our dogs and cats, or pizza. But what is love? The bible talks a great deal about love. 1 John 4 says that, “God IS love.” We think of love as in two people who love each other. I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family! But God’s love is different. His love is unconditional. Most people know John 3:16, even if you don’t believe in God or have any church background, you have probably seen it on a sign at a sporting event. John 3:16 NLT says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” This is a verse that I have heard and read so many times that I just tend to gloss over it. But here lately, God has been trying to open my eyes to what love truly is, His love. John 3:16 has a couple words that really stand out to me. It says, “God so loved the WORLD,” it also says, “EVERYONE”. WORLD, EVERYONE, those words are powerful when you think about it in the sense of God’s love. 1 John 4:10 NLT says, “It is not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” It’s not that we loved God, but He first loved us. Before we loved Him, He loved us. When we were still lost to sin, He loved us. Before we acknowledged Him as Lord, He loved us. When we didn’t even believe that He existed, He loved us. Even when we are actively rebelling against Him, He loves us. God loves the worst sinner just as much as the He loves the most evangelical preacher. Hates the sin, loves the sinner. That’s what the Good News is, God’s love. Before Jesus Christ, we were dead to sin. Doomed. But God loved us. He SO LOVED us that He sent His Son, Jesus, to take our place. Instead of us being nailed to a cross bleeding and humiliated, God sent His only Son so that we could have life and have it abundantly! He did this not only for the “good people” of the world, as if there were any, but He did this for EVERYONE. The drug addicts, the liars, the drunks, the sexually immoral, murderers, and thieves….everyone. God sent Jesus to die on the cross for our sins, not just the “acceptable” sins, all sins, so that we may have eternal life in Him. That is the Good News. God offers a gift, a gift of love, true love, all you have to do is accept it.

Say something….

“Many people, including some of the Jewish leaders, believed in Him. But they wouldn’t admit it to anyone because of their fear that the Pharisees would expel them from the synagogue. For they loved human praise more than the praise of God.”

John 12:42-43 NLT

As much as I hate to admit it, this passage rings just as true for me, and I’m sure many others, today just as much as it did back when it was written. No, I’m not worried that the Pharisees are going to throw me out of the synagogues. But I am worried that if I start speaking up about God or my beliefs in Jesus that many of the people, who’s opinions for some strange reason I strongly care about, are going to think less of me. Why? Why do we care so much for the opinions of man? So many times I will be hanging out with friends or loved ones and some kind of conversation about religion or church will pop up and I just remain silent. I can hear God telling me to say something, nudging me to speak up, and more often than I would like to admit, I just shrug my shoulders or shake my head. Why is it so hard to speak up and spread the Good News? I mean, that’s the whole reason we are here isn’t it? Jesus Himself said in John 13 after He had washed the disciples’ feet, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.” Jesus said to do as I have done to you, and I’m pretty sure He wasn’t scared to talk about God. I think most of us have the same problem as the Jewish leaders that were afraid to admit their belief when Jesus was still walking the earth, we love human praise more than the praise of God. We love to hear someone tell us we’re doing a good job or well done! And sadly, when we start witnessing to people about God, the chances are that we are not going to hear those words. Which brings me back to my original question, why do we care? Why do we care what people think? As true followers of Jesus Christ, we know where true blessing comes from. Jesus said in John 13:17, “You know these things-now do them! That is the path of blessing.” If we truly follow Jesus, truly believe Him and His word, we have to start saying something. We have to speak up for Jesus. I myself am tired of taking the easy road, looking back on past conversations and wishing I would have said something differently.  Think about the mess we would be in today if Jesus had chosen not to speak up. He knew what the outcome would be if He listened to God and He did it anyway. Knowing full well that His actions would ultimately lead to His own death, He chose to still speak up for God and die on the cross for our sins. Why? Because that was the very reason He came, to save our souls.

“All those who want to be my disciples must come and follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And if they follow me, the Father will honor them. Now my soul is deeply troubled. Should I pray, ‘Father, save me from what lies ahead’? But that is the very reason why I came! Father, bring glory to your name.” John 12:26-28 NLT

The passage says His soul was deeply troubled. I’m sure that if we knew that our actions were going to lead to beatings, torture, and a painful and humiliating death on the cross, most of us would probably not do them. But Jesus did. He knew the outcome and He did it anyway. He did it so that we may have eternal life. So that we could be saved. He did it, not just as a get out of hell card, but so we may have a truly joyful and abundant life. Jesus loves you, and if you will truly give your life over to Him you can experience the blessings that God intended for each and every one of us.