Jesus Is a Treasure to Be Discovered

I still remember digging around in a treasure chest full of sand at the Browning Fair. I felt something like a rock and pulled it out – it was gold! Actually, it was a rock, spray-painted to look like gold. I traded it for a cheap plastic fire helmet which was probably the greater treasure to a little boy enamored with firefighters like his Dad and Granddaddy.

There are wonderful and amazing truths to be discovered about our Creator, about eternity, and about our own souls. Where did God hide all of this wisdom? In Jesus.

God has hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge in Christ.

– Colossians 2:3 (GW)

Jesus is a treasure worthy of discovery. In fact, He’s worth selling everything else to focus on the hunt with all of our heart and energy. And where do we begin digging? Our first clues are in the story of God inspired in the Scriptures. Grab a Bible. Start digging.

photo credit: ToNToN CoPT

Jesus Is Everything We Really Need

Jesus ReignsOur view of Jesus is usually positive, but also usually limited. We see Him as a good man, maybe even a great man, but perhaps not the Creator, Redeemer, and King that He is.

One of the characteristics of God is His self-sufficiency, which simply means that He exists independently of any of His creation. He doesn’t need anything or anyone in order to continue to be. He is complete and perfect. And Jesus, as God, is all of those things. The Bible gives us a pretty awesome picture of Him.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross.

– Colossians 1:15-20 (NLT)

In other words, Jesus is perfectly God, supreme over creation, Creator, Sustainer, Eternally existent, Head of the church and Reconciler. He is everything we could possibly need. He offers His love, His wisdom, His life, His call, His gifts, and His kindness to undeserving people like you and me.

Understanding life starts with knowing Jesus. It is in Him that you will find the answers you’re searching for.

When Police Pepper Spray Peaceful Protestors… There Is Hope

Police Pepper Spray Peaceful ProtestorsI just watched a video of police pepper spraying peaceful protestors at UC Davis, which led me to investigate further into why people are occupying Wall Street (and plenty of other streets too), which further led me to read some of the testimonies of people who are suffering in this present economic recession.

That last link is a collection of hand-written notes about where people are financially. Most are drowning in student loan or medical debt. Many work very hard for very little and struggle to make ends meet. One, however, that grabbed my heart was written by the kind of person we have a tendency to write off in our culture…

I have major depression, OCD, an eating disorder, and I cut myself. My parents can’t afford the treatment. I am the 99%.

What do you think? Is it real? Is it just drama? Is it just an attention-seeking person ranting about “the system?” Should we ignore it if any of those questions can be answered “yes”?

What is happening around us isn’t anything new. The videos I’ve seen remind me of early-1970’s era footage from Vietnam War protests. They remind me of what I’ve read about the Boxer Rebellion in China and the earliest rallies of the Nazi’s in Germany under a yet-to-be fuhrer named Hitler. I don’t have all the answers for cleaning up the present mess. But this much I do know… there is hope.

Things are broken. Whether you write off the above quote or not, it represents reality for thousands. Of the 7 billion people on the planet, 7 billion are broken. Society is broken. Governments are broken. Systems of trade are broken. Even nature itself is broken. But this much I do know… there is hope.

Humanity is being ravaged by a universal disease known as sin. It is present in every human being born into the world, and the mortality rate is 100%. We are all sick. We are all sinners. We all miss the mark. We are… broken. Sound harsh? Don’t stop reading… there is hope.

Jesus Christ is the Great Physician. And the same Bible that declares us all to be sick with sin and doomed with a broken world apart from Christ also declares exactly what He came to accomplish…

“The Spirit of the LORD is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the LORD’s favor has come.”
~ Luke 4:18-19

And He completed the mission. There is coming a day when all government will be completely submissive to Him. People will turn their weapons into farm implements because there won’t be anything to fight about. Protests and pepper spray will be unnecessary. I don’t fully understand how God will bring all of this to pass, but I rely on and trust completely in the Scriptures. There is hope.

There was a cross, and Jesus died on it to absorb the entirety of the wrath of God against my sin so that I could be reconciled to God, redeemed, and set free from sin’s penalty, power, and presence forever. He rose again as the absolute, guaranteeing assurance that He was exactly whom He had claimed Himself to be and that He would indeed fulfill all that He has ever promised.

I don’t trust in governments or systems, presidents or policies. I trust in Jesus Christ. I trust the ultimate Rebel who came to completely overthrow and destroy this broken, awful system. He began that work with His cross and resurrection, and He will complete it when He returns someday.

There is hope. Even for someone with severe depression, OCD, an eating disorder, and an addiction to cutting. There is hope. His name is Jesus. Trust Him.

What I Really Deserve

Nice FruitThis week, I’m staying in a nice hotel in Ocala, Florida, driving around in a rented Camaro, and eating fresh fruit – all sweet gifts from The Church at the Springs where Pastor Ron Sylvia and others are hosting Nuts & Bolts, a conference for church planters. I feel very blessed to be here. I don’t deserve it.

What I do deserve is the full weight of the wrath of God toward sin for my rebellion against God. I learned a huge lesson a long time ago from my friend, Bobby Conway. I walked into a nice hotel with Bobby where we were hosting him while he preached a revival at our church. He looked up at his beautiful surroundings and exclaimed, “I deserve hell, and I’m staying here?” That line deeply impacted me. I am not entitled to any of the good and gracious gifts of God.

I don’t deserve nice surroundings. I don’t deserve my awesome, loving wife. I don’t deserve my precious kids that make me smile daily. Life, for most of us, especially in America, is cushy. If we ever get the impression we deserve any of it, we’re sorely mistaken. Instead, we need to understand that each next breath is a gracious gift of a very forgiving God.

Not only have I been spared from ever seeing the wrath of God toward sin, I also get to enjoy the bounty of the goodness of God. Why? Because of what the prophet Isaiah foretold about Jesus: “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 NLT)

I’m not saying at all that we should refuse to enjoy good things. That would demonstrate ingratitude toward the Creator and Savior of the world. What I am saying is that every time we enjoy even the smallest of gifts, our hearts should be reminded of the price Jesus paid on the cross so that we might enjoy the freedom and promise of eternal, abundant life.

The old phrase is “never forget where you came from.” That’s a good starting place, but I like the way the apostle Paul put it even better…

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world… All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else… But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!

~ Ephesians 2:1-5 NLT

Look around, and be thankful. You and I deserve hell, but the offer is freely on the table for anyone in all the earth to receive complete forgiveness of sin because of the price Jesus paid for us when He died on the cross. If you aren’t sure what to make of that, let’s talk.

All Things… For Christ

Today, I’ll be preaching my final sermon to the wonderful people at Bethel Baptist Church. Tomorrow at 8:10 a.m., we’ll board a plane headed for Orange County, California. I’ve spent a long time thinking about my final words to my congregation.

Almost five years ago now, I preached in view of a call in October of 2005 and used as my main passage, Isaiah 45:22:

Look unto me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

Continue reading All Things… For Christ

What Exactly Do You Mean by Being “Saved?”

Sometimes, we speak Christianese, and people outside the faith may have difficulty understanding it. Paul Washer uses a few tough phrases in this clip, such as “city of refuge” (a place where accused criminals could go for asylum in the Old Testament), but it’s overall an excellent way to explain and invite people to salvation…

Start Your Family Well (What To Pray Over Your New Home)

Last night I had a pretty neat experience. A couple who have recently married and begun their new life together asked me to come and bless their home, something I’ve never been asked to do in almost 14 years of ministry. The short version – we talked about Jesus and prayed over their family’s future. The long version…

They showed me around each room and then we talked for a while about some friends of theirs whom they are praying for over various needs. Then we talked about the importance of dedicating our homes to God as houses of worship. As I prayed, I asked God for certain things to happen in this particular home, and it occurred to me that not only is this a great way to begin a family life together, but that it also reveals certain great principles about being a “Christian home.” Here are some prayer considerations…

  • May God bless this family with joy.
  • May there be laughter, joy, and fun in this home.
  • May this home be a refuge from the world – a safe haven, and a heaven on earth.
  • May all who enter here feel the presence of God.
  • May this home be a place of safety and security – may God protect it.
  • May this home be used for ministry to others.
  • May this home be filled with peace as a respite from the world’s turmoil.
  • May this home be a house of worship, an altar of prayer, and a place of discipleship.
  • May Christ always be the most honored guest.
  • May this home reflect God’s ideal for family leadership.
  • May this home be a lighthouse in this neighborhood – a witness to the lost all around.
  • May this home reflect righteousness in this and the the next generation.
  • May all children born here find a saving relationship with Jesus Christ.
  • May the marriage built here be a reflection of Christ’s love for His bride – His church.

I’m sure there are others – feel free to share your own in the comments. The experience has been a reminder that I’m the prayer leader of my home, responsible for praying for my wife and daughter (and right now, for more children) continually.