Celebrities, Our Worldview, and Jesus

There have been a few things that our celebrities have said and done, of late, that has brought on much ado in the social media realm.  QBs taking a knee, actors lamenting our president-elect, celebs pleading with our electoral college to “vote their conscience”.  We as a people have either celebrated them or lambasted them for their public displays.  I’ve read often how these people have a responsibility to us, how they shouldn’t do or say these things, or shouldn’t be allowed to.  Huh?  Wha???

Sorry to say, but it’s their platform, not ours.  They can say or do anything within the law.  Sure, there might be consequences for their action.  People have been fired, etc.  But they won’t be going to jail for it.  At least not in our country.  At least not today.

And I am fascinated at how we as a people REACT to it!  We want them to shut up and just do what we pay them to say or do.  But we didn’t buy THEM.  We bought their services, their entertainment.  I may not agree with them – I very often don’t – but let ’em say and do what they are going to say and do.  It’s ok, really it is, if your favorite actor doesn’t agree with you on everything, or really – anything.  It’s ok if they do or say something stupid – that’s not a reflection of you.

I also find it fascinating, how we will use a celeb as “social media leverage”.  I’m guilty of this myself.  Sure, if Bono says something that resonates with me, often in a way much more eloquent than I could even think, I’m all about that.  I will probably re-post.  As will so many others.

Same goes for our celebrities opinions on Trump, Clinton. Obama, Planned Parenthood, gun control, bathrooms, on and on.  It’s as if someone I like says something I agree with, now I MUST be right!  And we’ll take that and turn it into a meme, so everyone can throw it around.  Sorta like when the cool guy says something cool that put the other guy in his place.  And we are the little weenie behind them, saying, “Yeah, take THAT!”

And what about what celebs think and say of Jesus?

So often we might hear about how Jesus was a good teacher, a pacifist, almost a zen Buddhist.  Not much different than so many of us, who don’t know Him personally.  Described in impersonal terms.  Described often in positive ways, but rarely or never with a deep reverence.  Described almost never as the One True God…

An example, although a bit older, is this.  In his post, John Fugelsang describes a Jesus that seems to threaten the Jesus many Christians claim to know.  Maybe for some.  I don’t know.

But what I do know is Mr. Fugelsang, like so many others who have shared these or similar thoughts, never referred to Jesus as God.  He describes Jesus, as if He was just a man, in history, like any other.  And I don’t know John, maybe that’s what he thinks?  If so – I’m sorry to say John Fugelsang, you do not know Jesus.  I could argue that from some of your descriptions – but my point isn’t to refute your descriptions or correct your misconceptions of Jesus.  But if you don’t think Jesus is God, you simply do not know Him…  And that is so sad…

So, given all this celeb opinion talk of late, I thought I’d spend some time re-posting some comments that Jesus Himself, the ultimate celebrity, made about Himself.  These are but a handful, there are so many more.  And there are so many descriptions of Jesus in the Gospels.  But these are a small handful of descriptions of Jesus, in His own words.

“I am the way and the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)

“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” (Revelation 22:13)

“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the One speaking to you—I am He.”  (John 4:25-26)

So these are just a few.  There are so many more.  I encourage you to read them for yourself.  I encourage you to get to know this God, who so loved YOU, that He gave His very life as a ransom for yours.  I don’t want you to read about, hear about, some hippie Jesus who may have said some nice things to say, who “never cared about the small stuff”, who “did not judge”.

Nor do I want you to be buried with a Jesus who tells you, “You must clean up your act”, or, “You aren’t good enough”, or, “Try harder”, or, “You know better”.  He did not say that.

I want you to know the Jesus who said He came to set the captives free,  who said He did not come to condemn the world, but to save it through Him, who says He has loved you with an everlasting love

We’ll likely be enthralled, or appalled, by the next celebrity speech, or tweet, or action.  It’s kinda what we do.  But the more we fix our eyes on the One True God, who He is, what He says, maybe – just maybe – the less we’ll focus on our worldly idols.

 

 

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Miracles…

Last week I was honored to attend my first graduation ceremony through the IFI program at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility.  I’ve been serving in some capacity there for a few years.  The IFI (Innerchange Freedom Initiative) is an affiliate of Prison Fellowship, designed to help inmates who are seeking a change, through the power and love of Christ.  It is voluntary, open to anyone who is interested.  Just as the Gospel is.

I have to tell you, seeing a room full of men singing praises to God, who a year or so earlier would never have dreamed of using the word “god” in any other way than a cuss word, is – well, a MIRACLE.  I’ve been blessed to witness this multiple times.  God is so good…

Last week, I got to hear a story of a young man who is now on fire for the Lord.  He has around 90 days left in his stay, then physical freedom.  He also has COMPLETE freedom, in Christ.

This young man lived a very rough life.  He did not grow up in a church family, or a religious family.   His “religion” was drugs and violence.  His mom was an addict, his father a hostile, violent man – and that was when he was around.

This young man first smoked crack at 10 years old.  TEN YEARS OLD!  Drugs and violence were all he knew.  His entire family was addicted to drugs and/or alcohol.  His mother sold her body to support her habit – and he had to get into selling drugs to try and support his.

He entered into prison at seventeen…

I did not catch how old he is now, or I cannot recall (I’m getting old…).  But he’s spent some time in prison.  A year ago, he got the opportunity to enter the IFI program.  He was an unbeliever, and honestly thought believers were “foolish”, “naive”, “crazy”.  But he saw this as an opportunity to get into medium security.  So he took it.

He described it this way:

  • The first three months we just went with the program, so he could come to and stay at Lino Lakes
  • The next thee months he thought, “I should try and apply what the Bible says to my life, so I can better it”.  That pretty much describes his relationship with God at the time.  Religious, trying to “gain favor”, or “improve self”
  • But around six months in – Jesus met him face to face.  This young man fell in love with his Lord and Savior.  He never looked back…
  • Over the course of six months, members of his family – including his mother – have accepted Christ, and through their salvation have themselves become sober!  A handful of miracles, all because Jesus met this young man in prison!  Woah…

“You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20)

And this was just one man’s story!

I left Lino Lakes that night last week, overjoyed, thrilled, excited, that I got to hear of and witness so many lives transformed.  Not just the men  – but their families as well!  You want to see a miracle?  Go talk to one of these young men, you will see one with your own eyes.

God is so good….

The Empty Tomb…

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.  So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb.  Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first.  He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in.  Then Simon Peter, who was behind him, arrived and went into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there,  as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.  Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.  (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

Even though Jesus had told his disciples more than once that he would be betrrayed, murdered, and rise again – they just didn’t get it.  Until they saw it with their own eyes.  Much like our faith in Christ.  We just don’t get it.  Until he opens our eyes.  I pray this Easter morning, that if the Lord hasn’t yet opened your eyes, he does today!  That you see the Risen King for what he is, and marvel in his glory!  That you open the door that he’s been knocking on, and let him in.  Oh what a glorious day indeed!

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

The Death of Jesus….

At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour.  And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”

One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Sonof God!”

Good Soil….

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” (From Luke 8:5-8)

I can recognize in my life, times when I fit into each of the four categories mentioned in the parable of the sower.

I know that there was a time where if anyone mentioned the word Jesus, or anything having to do with the Bible, I would sort of “tune out”. I always thought there must be some sort of God, and that Jesus must have existed. But that instead of him being the son of God, or God himself in flesh, I thought he was just some guy who had a lot of great ideas and did great things. And I, like so many, thought that the “one way to the father” stuff was all a bunch of malarky.  So hearing anyone preach, or even share what he’d done for them, sort of fell on deaf ears. At the time the seed was definitely falling along the path, to be trampled on or eaten by the birds.

I remember times also where I felt like “I’ll give this religion thing a shot”. I would go to church, for a week or two, and I was bound and determined to read the bible, even if it was just to say I did, and so that I could be “smart” when people would have “religious discussions”. But there wasn’t anything there, and it all sort of got dry or boring. And “God certainly wasn’t doing anything in my life”, so I gave it up. In those times, the seed was falling on the rocks, quickly withering due to no moisture.

Funny, thought, that is exactly where Jesus met me.  He used that time of pride and selfish ambition in my life, to reveal himself to me in a huge way.  And things started to change in my life……

I still have moments where I am so consumed by this world, and all its troubles. Or – when I seek pleasures of this world, instead of first seeking his kingdom and righteousness. Where I put things before God, and they become my idol. There are struggles I have yet today, that I must wrestle with, and that I often put before God. Lust, anger, gossip, jealousy, greed – I could go into on and on, but I’m sure I’m not alone here. You may be able to come up with your own list. This is definitely when the seed is falling on the thorns, and I allow the things of the world to choke anything the Holy Spirt is trying to do in and through me. I become ineffective for his kingdom, and tend to worry about myself.

Then there are those few moments, where I set myself aside. Where I seek his face. Where I lay my life down for my neighbor, putting their best interests before my desires. Where I am obedient to what the Lord has for me, and others through me. Oh – that I would embrace this fully, always! These are the wonderful moments where the seed falls on good soil, and produces a crop a hundred times more than was sown.

These are those amazing moments where the Holy Spirit does his wonderful work through me! And it’s not anything of me – it’s only when I empty myself of the desires and cares of the world, when I put myself last. When I seek no glory, no fame, no accolades. When I do what is right, for no other reason, for nobody to notice – just because it’s right. Oh, that there would be so many more of those in my life!

But the thing is – I don’t even know I’m doing it so often.  HE’s doing it!  While I do have a choice to make – to follow the Lord or not to follow – it’s the Holy Spirit in me that drives this.  I am powerless without him, and it’s only when I recognize that, and turn my life over, that he begins to work.  Free will – such an amazing gift!  Not the most amazing, but cool all the same….

Father, I thank you that you have sown seed on good, fertile soil in my life. Let me not quench what the Holy Spirit is doing in my life. Reveal to me daily what grieves you in my life, in my heart. I thank you that you have not overwhelmed me, but are constantly working me, transforming me into your image. Let me no longer conform to the things of this world. You gave me free will, because you love me – not because of anything I’ve done, but because of who you are – and you desire my love in return. I want to give that all back to you. Without you, I am nothing. With you in my heart, there is so much to offer! Use me Lord, as you have planned. I pray this in your Son Jesus’ name – name above all names!

Amen…..

“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”

Love Does Win, Part 3

Hello – yet another post on this…..

This should hopefully be the last one, and instead of spending so much time talking or debating about wrong theology, I want to concentrate hard on what I mean when I say “Love does win.  He’s already won”.

We all the know the story of Adam and Eve, no?  How God created man in his own image.  How he gave Adam (man) his wife.  How they lived in communion with God, and with each other.

Wait – let’s stop there.  They lived in communion with God!  Something I could never have grasped as a child, and even now have a difficult time grasping.  They were in the very presence of God ALL THE TIME!  What?!?  that is crazy!

But as with many of us, that’s just not enough is it?  The serpent  came in spewing lies, and suggesting lies (notice he even asks Eve a question, suggesting God said they could not eat ANYTHING in the garden, or they would die), and they fell for it.

Remember one big point here – God was there all along…..  So – WHY DIDN’T HE STOP SATAN???  That’s a very typical question we ask, no?  Why do you let that happen???

Love.  God loves us so much, he allows us to make very stupid choices.  In this case, separation from God.  Sound familiar?  We all do this – even those of us who know Jesus as Lord and Savior.  How much easier is it to separate yourself from God if you don’t know him?  I speak from my past experiences, when I say for me it was too easy…..  And it breaks his heart every time…

Seems satan has done a great job throughout history in helping to create this divide.  Be it idols, hardening our hearts, malice, hatred, bigotry, sexual sin, divorce, murder, slander, jealousy, rage, theft, slothfulness – you name it.  If you think you live for yourself alone, if you think what you are doing doesn’t hurt others – don’t you think for a moment that you might be thinking only OF yourself????  That is NOT what God wanted from us.  Or for us……

And that is not how he left us.  He provided a way to save all nations, through his Son Jesus Christ!  Where satan meant to steal, kill and destroy, God has rescuded and restored through Jesus Christ!  Where satan has corrupted our hearts, God has washed us clean through Jesus Christ!

We should all know that satan hates God, and everything he stands for.  But he’s powerless against him.  So he chose us to target – God’s glory.  And we basically gave him every right to destroy us, by turning away from God and to him – we gave him the keys to, or dominion over this earth, where God had given to us (Genesis 1:28).

But thanks be to God for his Son Jesus Christ, the lamb who takes away the sin of the world!  He came and took on all our sin, so that we might become righteous through him!  And all we need to to is recieve!  to believe!  And THIS is how much God loves us – that he DOESN’T turn us over to our sinful ways, but instead provided a way for us to be again in communion with him, and this time for eternity.

LOVE DOES WIN!  HE’S ALREADY WON!   PRAISE THE LORD!

I’ll leave you with these verses from Romans 5:

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die.  But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him!  For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!  Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

Love Does Win, Part 2

Last week, I discussed a popular belief that has been circulating, that “a loving God would never condemn anyone to hell”.  This is not by any means a new belief, though it’s gotten new attention lately.  This is also not the only thing you would find out there that questions or stands against biblical truth.  Today I read an article on Time Magazine’s website claiming that men erased from the Bible the “facts” that God had a wife named Asherah.

There is no “original text” to produce, which could prove this is to be an accurate, or even possible claim- but it’s so easy for us to maybe believe something such as this, no?  To make God more like us?  To show that maybe he has faults?  That he is not perfect?  That he’s either not all-powerful, or he’s not all-loving?  Then it would be easier for us to justify our own sinful lives.  And we can pick and choose those pieces of the Bible that please us, and toss out that which makes us uncomfortable.

2 Timothy 4:3 says “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.”  And that is exactly what we are doing.  And God will allow us to do just that .  That is how much he loves us – enough to risk rejection by us, so that we might choose to love him of our own free will!  Don’t think it doesn’t grieve him that we reject him.  Don’t think our complete rejection of him doesn’t break his heart.  Don’t think anyone who chooses hell, a complete separation from God, over eternal life with God the Father through his Son Jesus Christ, doesn’t matter to him, doesn’t crush him.

Revelation 3:20 says “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.”

Matthew 18:12-14 says “What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off.  In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.”

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Yes, God loves us so much that he sent his son to die in our place.  But why then doesn’t everyone get to go to heaven, if he sent his son for us?

A gift is only a gift if it is first given, second recieved.  If we choose not to recieve it, it’s not our gift……..

I beg you, if you haven’t yet recieved this gift, to consider what is really on your heart about this.  Why do you reject Jesus Christ?  Don’t just chime in with your same old reason or excuse – really check your heart on this.  Is it REALLY because you can’t find evidence to prove God exisits?  Or are you afraid of looking like a fool before your friends?  of what comes next – “do I have to change my entire life”?  Of “admitting I was wrong”?  Of <insert excuse here>?  I get that, really I do.  It’s humbling, scary, foreign – maybe even uncertain at first.  This is not something you need to share with me, or anyone right now – but be honest with yourself.  And you may just be surprised.  I pray for so many of you, that you consider just how wide and how deep and how high the love of God is for you.

Love does win.  He’s already won.  It was won when Jesus, who was without sin, took on our sins (all of them), died on the cross and rose again.  All glory, honor and prraise to the Lord Jesus Christ!