Dear Jesus

Writing with pen

One of our Life University classes on Sunday night this semester was a class entitled “Walk with Christ.” It was taught by Paul Smeltzer and was an in depth study of the last three days of Jesus’ life. I can tell you, though I’ve studied the Gospels extensively, it was eye opening.

Last Sunday’s class wrapped up Jesus’ actual death along with the last three hours of his life. At the conclusion of the class we were asked to write  a letter to Jesus in order to tell Him how his last three days impacted us. It was difficult to begin, actually. Where do you start in writing such a letter to such a person? But, once I got started….. We were given a limited amount of time to write it. For me, that was probably a good thing. But, I felt my emotions welling up as I reflected upon what Jesus had done, not just on the cross, but through His determination that brought Him there. So, here’s my short letter to Jesus:

Dear Jesus,
I noticed many things about your walk to the cross and what it said about you. Here are some of the things that have great impact upon me. First, that you were deliberate. I’ve never witnessed a person live such a deliberate life. You came with a purpose and plan and never let anything distract you from it. The most amazing thing is that your plan, of which you were so incredibly deliberate, included me. 
Second was the cost you were willing to pay. I will never understand the price because I’m unable, in my humanity, to pay it. Yet, through my inability you chose to pay it for me anyway. 
Third was your sacrifice. You came, completely settled in your own mind to sacrifice yourself and not require anyone else to do that with you. And you sacrificed yourself for me! How can I not live for you?
Finally, I’m amazed by your resurrection. You left no doubt that your substitution and sacrifice were enough. You have given me such amazing reason to place my faith in you as you have demonstrated such amazing grace and power! How can I not live for you?
I love you because you first loved me. Your child,

What would you say to Jesus today?

The Complaint Department

images (1)

You may know the two Muppets in the above picture. They spent all their time complaining about what everyone was doing. I thought it was  a good image for this post.

I recently saw an interview with former college basketball coach Bobby Knight about his new book, “The Power of Negative Thinking.” Obviously, it’s a little bit of a play on words. Of course I remember some the “negative” results that came about by his actions late in his career and I’m not sure I want to try the principles he has to offer. (I just saw the news headline this morning of a college basketball coach who was fired for this type of conduct.)

Be that as it may, I can certainly demonstrate the implication of negative thinking and how quickly it can spread throughout an assembly of people, and it never begins innocently.

There is truth to Bobby Knight’s book title; there is power in negative thinking. It is very powerful.

Let me demonstrate from Numbers 11 the negative progression that results in the spewing of quail out the nose. (And you thought the Bible was boring!)

Though they’ve been led out of slavery, there are some in the multitude of people who are completely captivated by the difficulties of the journey. The book of Numbers records it this way, “the people complained…about their misfortunes.” I wonder if you asked any slave this question what their answer would be: is freedom in the desert better than slavery in a place of prosperity? Yes! But how easy is it to forget that!

Grumbling and complaining begins in those who have forgotten the truth of their liberty. I’m sure you wonder as I do how Israel, though God set them free from horrible slavery could possibly complain about their freedom. But they did. And it was destructive. (I’ll let you read Numbers 11 to see how destructive it was.)

Here’s some truths about complaining and negativity:

  1. Complaining and negativity tricks people into believing they’re captive when they’re actually free.
  2. Complaining and negativity is very, very contagious.
    • What started with “the rabble” became “weeping [of the people] throughout their clans.” It’s that contagious!
  3. Complaining and negativity is in the end, poisonous and destructive.
    • this is true for two reasons: first, it will render a person unable to see the truth and the good. Secondly, it will destructively divide a congregation of people. It’s that destructive!

So, how do we protect ourselves from the poison of complaining and negativity?

  1. First, remember that God is not in the business of negativity, He’s in the business of setting people free. (Negativity always leads to bondage.)
  2. Second, when someone wants to approach you just to complain, ask them not to do it. Don’t listen to complaining, nothing good comes from it.
  3. Third, remember. Remember that God is at work and listen to His Spirit. He never leads by complaining and does not divide with it.
    • That means if there is division, it’s not a work of God.
  4. Lastly, commit. Commit your life to the truth of the Gospel and glory of God. When you do that, complaining will have no place in your heart.

God’s Work

God at work

I preached a sermon yesterday from Psalm 96 celebrating the works of God. In this song of celebration I made a list of works that are found in the Bible. This list just scratches the surface of what God is doing, but remember this, God is doing a work and in His plan that work includes you. Let that be your song!

Here’s the list that I found just scanning my mind, heart and the pages of my Bible. Feel free to add to this list. I’d love to hear the work God is doing in your life today:

He’s our refuge, strength ever present help in the time of trouble (Ps. 46:1)

He’s faithful, even when we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13)

He’s in the process of making all things new, including me. (Rev. 21:5)

He makes all things good for those who love Him. (Rom. 8:28)

He makes this present suffering pale in comparison to the glory that will be revealed (Rom. 8:18)

He causes us to be more than conquerers through Him (Rom. 8:37)

His gives gifts and a calling that is irrevocable. (Rom. 11:29)

He give us reason to rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation and constant in prayer. (Rom. 12:12)

He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 15:57)

He has given us hope to have good courage. (2 Cor. 5:6)

He has called us His workmanship (masterpiece) (Eph. 2:10)

He is making us into a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17)

He’s made it possible for us to be filled with the knowledge of His will. (Col. 1:9)

He cancelled the record of debt against us and nailed it to the cross. (Col. 2:14)

He delivers those who are subject to the lifelong slavery of fear and death. (Heb. 2:15)

He’s a help to those who are tempted. (Heb. 2:18)

He give full assurance of hope until the end. (Heb. 6:11)

He has promised an eternal inheritance and given full assurance of faith. (Heb. 9:15; 10:22)

He will bring a complete end to sorrow, pain, tears and death! (Rev. 21:4)

He invites everyone who will hear to drink freely from the living water and never thirst again. (Rev. 22:17)

Let the song of your life resonate in your world today. God is doing a work and His work means all the difference!

Sunny Reminder


“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Ps. 119:1)

I love how this verse just reminds me that the creation around us speaks of God and that Someone did create all that is. I was outside in the beautiful and unusually warm weather today washing and waxing my car. (It’s rare that I take the time to do that.) I was standing in my driveway and the sun was shining and felt so warm. The sky was blue and there was barely a breeze. God’s creation reminded me of a passage of Scripture which sent to a moment of Spiritual comfort.

Here’s the passage that came to mind:

Matthew recorded Jesus’ words: “For [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

I was reminded of this passage by the warm sun today that I will experience sunny days and rainy ones, both good days and difficult ones. And that’s ok. Because of who God is and who I am in Him, I know, just as Paul knew that “I can call all things good” in this life. (Romans 8:28)

I have two thoughts from this:

1. I can count all things good in my life because God is good. Because He loved and pursued me, I love Him and I am called to His purpose.

2. We will decide, when it’s sunny, how we will respond to the rain. I’m reminded during the sunny day that God is just as good and still at work bringing about His purpose in my life during the rainy day.

Maybe it’s best to remember, when the sun is shining, that no matter what happens in life, because God is good and loves us, we can call it all good. It brings new meaning to the cliche; “it’s all good!”

Thank you Lord for the sunny day…..and the rainy one!

What’s a Christian? (Part 3)


This is part three of the series, how many parts there will be I don’t know. But, it’s fun just to continue to write though I’m confident the subject will never be exhausted.

My desire is to find, Scripturally, what a Christ follower is and what one isn’t. I’m positive that I’m growing in my understanding that what we in the American Christian culture call Christianity, in ways, does not measure up to what Jesus would call it. So, I continue my pursuit to find out what Jesus wants me to be, in Him.

I preached a sermon last Sunday from the book of Ephesians, and the text in chapter 4 brought me to what I think is a pretty major conclusion. (My text was Ephesians 4:17-24)

The point that jumps out at me the most is when Paul writes to, “put on the new self” in verse 24. This after a lot of language explaining that our old life, old thoughts, old drives and old wisdom are worthless for the pursuit of this new life in Christ. Worse than that, the old life is actually a major rub, a stark contrast, against the new, Spiritual life.

Here’s the problem. Widely in Christianity, and I think in my own life too, we’ve reduced our faith in Christ to learning a set of principles and trying to apply or live up to them.

Please know this truth. Jesus cannot be reduced down to a set of rules to follow or reduced down to some kind of philosophical salve that’s used as a momentary relief to the pain of life. He’s much more than that! Christianity that defines itself as a new principle to learn and then to apply which continues like the instructions on the back of the shampoo bottle; lather, rinse and repeat, is a painful substitute for real faith and a true relationship with Christ.

So what is Paul’s “put on the new life?” He speaks of this “putting on” also in Romans “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” (Romans 13:14)

Paul’s statement isn’t that we would have Jesus as a proverbial monkey on our back but that we’d have the connection to Him that He desires. In my estimation, Paul’s “put on Jesus” is equivalent to Jesus’ “I am the Vine, you are the branches.” (See John 15:1-5) The key to this new life is not leaning and applying new principles, it’s simply about abiding in the Vine; in Jesus. That is the very thing Jesus said we must do. He never said, “learn and apply principles from my word,” He said, “Abide in me!”

What is a Christian?

A Christian is not someone who is trying learn something about Jesus that my help out in this life, though learning Jesus’ principles certainly do. A Christian is a person who is learning Jesus and learning by the Word and by His Spirit how to truly, fully abide in Him.