What you can expect from Jesus in 2015

 

A group of men come to Jesus. One of them is disabled. The men know Jesus can heal people. Because the last time Jesus was in their town he healed everyone that came to him. Unfortunately the disabled man and his friends weren’t around. They missed out.

But not this time.

Jesus is back in town. The crowd at his house is so large no one else can get in. But this doesn’t stop the group of men. Together they haul their disabled companion up the exterior house stairs. Then they rip through the roof in order to lower their friend down to Jesus.  No time to worry about the damage to the house. They’ll take care of that later.

For now, they have one concern. Get our disabled friend to Jesus.

It works.

They lower the man right it front of Jesus. Jesus sees the man. Jesus sees that the man is disabled.

The men look down from the roof, hope fills their hearts. They did what they set out to accomplish.

A hush falls over the crowd inside the house. Everyone is expecting Jesus to do one thing. The same thing Jesus did the last time he was in town. Heal someone.

But Jesus doesn’t meet their expectations. At least not right away. Instead with compassion in his eyes, Jesus says to the disabled man, “Son your sins are forgiven.”

The words catch everyone off guard.

In particular, the words of Jesus irritate the religious experts in the room. They know that only God can forgive sins. Jesus knows what they are thinking. And he knows that they are right.

But what they don’t know yet is that Jesus is God. So Jesus shows them.

He says to the disabled man, “get up, take your mat, and go home.” The disabled man stands up, picks up his mat, and goes home. Everyone is amazed. They break out in worship, praising God saying, “we have never seen anything like this!”

Now there are new expectations.

John MacArthur once asked, what is the one thing that makes Jesus different from every other religious leader and Christianity different than any other religion?

His answer, only Jesus can forgive sins. Only Christianity offers (through Jesus) the forgiveness of sins.

This is significant.

Other people can heal our physical needs (and other similar needs –financial, relational, emotional etc.)

But only God can heal our spiritual need. The need to be freed from the guilt and eternal consequences of all our wrong doings. The need to be forgiven.

Jesus healed the disabled man to prove that he has the authority to forgive sins. But Jesus doesn’t heal everyone. Not then. And not now.

I was reminded of this harsh reality when I was guest preaching last week. In the front row of a few hundred people sat a young  girl in a wheelchair.

Why doesn’t Jesus heal her?

Jesus cares for all that he has made. But to heal the body is a temporary fix. And every other need outside the need for God to forgive our sins is temporary.

Jesus came to provide us more than just a temporary fix.  He came to give us something that would last forever and could never be taken away.

A status change.

From enemy of God to adopted son or daughter of God. From sinner to saint. From slave to sin to slave to righteousness. From recipient of God’s wrath to recipient of God’s grace. From worshiper of gods to the worshiper of God. From the hopeless to the hopeful. From a seeker of love to one that is loved unconditionally.

All such status changes (and more) come from receiving the forgiveness of sins.

In 2015 you and I will be needy. We will have physical needs, relational needs, emotional needs, financial needs. We should takes all these needs to Jesus.

But let us come expecting that Jesus wants to do something more than just provide us with temporary fixes. The disabled man and his friends were drawn to Jesus because of a physical need. But Jesus used the opportunity to heal the man’s greater need.  We should expect that Jesus will do the same with each of us.

 

 

 

 

Missions Trip Update

A big THANK YOU to each of you who prayed for our team this last week. We had a great week up in “the Soo“.

Our trip started out a  little rocky. Forty minuets from home our church van broke down.  But thankfully after a few calls, and the arrival of help and a new vehicle, we were back on our way (in case you’re wondering the van is now fixed and back at Fellowship). This was really the only hiccup in our week.

The rest of our mission went surprisingly well.  At our home base in “the Soo” we met our fellow workers,  a church group from upstate New York. They were great. And our teams bonded easily.

During the week our groups combined and broke up into four ministry teams. These teams served together at the church where we stayed and out in the community.

My prayer, among other things, was that as a team we would make Christ known. I really feel like that prayer was answered.

Here are just a few ways Christ was made known this last week:

  • At Kid’s Club we made Christ known to about 40 students through sharing the story of God’s love via skits, story time, crafts, and a memory verse. We also built relationships with them through games, hanging out time, and by just listening to their stories.
  • On the Farm we made Christ known through our team’s work ethic. That crew cheerfully cared for and cleaned up after the animals, and  put up 1,000 feet of fence to make a new goat pen. The owner of the farm commented that she was amazed at their ability to do whatever was needed, work with no supervision, and accomplish exactly what she needed done that week.
  • At the Fairgrounds Christ was made known through the positive attitudes of those who cleaned, painted, and repaired a community building. It was a lot of grunt work, but the team never complained.  And those in the community noticed. Even though the work wasn’t glamorous (or likely even fun) the team served without complaining. And the community leaders expressed over and over again how grateful they were for the help.
  • At the Assisted Living Facility Christ was made known through time spent with the elderly. Most of it was just listening to their stories and joining them in playing leisurely games. But the team also took part in a car wash to help raise funds for the facility. Again their presence was greatly appreciated.

Overall every team member both on our team and from the NY church represented Jesus Christ well. Not only in the community but with each other and with themselves. Honestly, it was one of the greatest ministry groups I have ever had the privilege to be a part of.

And I know that it was not a coincidence.

It happened because God called amazing people to his mission. It happened because God called our amazing church to support us. And it happened because God called you to support us in prayer.

And because of all that, we were able to join with the mission of Jesus Christ already happening in “the Soo”, and, along with others, make Christ known.

Of course this is just an overview of the week. If you want to hear more details (and you definitely should) then please take some time to connect with a student or adult from our team. I’m sure they’d be happy to share with you how God used them and others to make Christ known.

Thanks again for all your support!

 

I don’t think that means what you think it means…

In the last post I wrote about overcoming the comparison trap.  I said that when we understand that in God’s eyes we are blessed, we will be freed from temptation to compare ourselves with others.

But there was one problem with that post.

I never actually defined what it means to be “blessed”.

And the idea of being “blessed” is kind of abstract. We throw around the term in a variety of ways. We say things like:

“I feel blessed…”

“Bless you…”

“What a blessing that is…”

“I pray that God would bless…”

But what are we thinking when we speak of being blessed? What should we be thinking when we think of Christian blessings?

The truth is, “being blessed” likely doesn’t mean what you (and I) think it means.

In the BibleIsaac_Blessing_Jacob_-_Govert_Flinck

God blesses people when he gives them some kind of physical or spiritual gifts (Gen. 1:22; 24:35; Job 42:12; Ps. 45:2; 104:24, 35). A person blesses God when he shows God gratitude (Ps. 103:1, 2; 145:1, 2). A person blesses himself  when he rejoices in God’s goodness to him (Deut. 29:19; Ps. 49:18). And one person blesses another person when he expresses good wishes or prays to God for the welfare of the other person (Gen. 24:60; 31:55; 1 Sam. 2:20). [1]

So far this sounds like what we’d expect.

But in the New testament things get a little more interesting. The most common Greek word for “blessed” is makarios (see The Beatitudes). This word means “happy”.

But this is not the  Pharrell Williams kind of happy (nothing against the song). Being “blessed” is not based on a feeling. Rather makarios (“being blessed”) is based on a person’s status from the point of view of others. [2] In other words a person is “blessed” when they are favored by someone else. And it is the knowledge of that favor which brings about the person’s happiness.

This is the key to understanding being “blessed” in the Christian worldview. 

Being blessed is not something that comes from inside of us. Nor is it based on anything we do or have in and of ourselves. To be blessed is to be favored by someone else. When Jesus calls people “blessed” (again, see The Beatitudes) he is telling them they are favored by the greatest someone else— God himself.

This is the good news: through Jesus Christ any person can receive the favor of God!

Having the favor of God trumps all other favor. It’s the favor that levels the playing field. It is not about what a person has been given in relation to someone else. One gift from God is not better than another. The only thing that matters is that a person has the favor of God. For the favor of God is the blessing, not just the manifestations of that favor.

This is hard for us in the United States. We often equate being “blessed” with our allotment of physical goods — money, beauty, health, or other material things.

But God’s primary concern is not our financial and material well-being. The example of Paul in Phil 4:12-13 shows us that much.  Sometimes God blesses us with material resources and sometimes he doesn’t. So then, what is the big deal about God’s favor?

What good is God’s favor in our world?

Romans 8:31-35 answers that question well:

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?

Despite who we are or what we have done. Despite our social-economic condition or family’s colored past. Despite our failures, or sins. Despite our insecurities or weakness.

If we have the favor of God,  we are free from all condemnation. We have a new social status. We are members of a new family. We have a new inheritance waiting for us. We have been made into a new creation. We have been forgiven. We have the Spirit of God within us, and are able to draw on his security and strength.

To have the favor of God is to know, despite our external circumstances, that God is always for us. That He is always working things out for our good according to his purpose. That our story is (because of our relationship to God) always significant.

To have the favor of God is to know that the perfect, unconditional, eternal, incomprehensible love of God displayed through Jesus Christ is yours forever.

And the more we understand what that means we will understand what it means to be “blessed”.

 

 

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[1] Easton, M. G. (1893). Easton’s Bible dictionary. New York: Harper & Brothers.

[2] Carson, D. A. (1984). Matthew. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8: Matthew, Mark, Luke (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.) (131). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.