Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The World Hates Us

It was too much, over the top, whatever you want to call it. We were down by 30 points and it was halftime. My high school football coach was looking us in the eyes, and telling us it wasn't over. I looked to my right-one of my buddies was crying because he couldn't breathe; I look to my left and I was pretty sure one of my other buddies was now cross-eyed. I thought to myself, yes I'll play hard, but we are still going to lose. There is no way. They are already playing their backups. It was too hard.
I wish I could tell you we won that game, and from there on out people called me Rudy, but we didn't.
I think sometimes we as Christians think that the 'world' is too much. It will be too hard to turn this ship around. And to be clear-the 'world' are not people who slept in to watch the 10AM football games. The 'world' is any conduct or set of beliefs opposed to the one true God. But sadly, most of the time this conduct and belief are embodied by people. And yes, our priorities are our beliefs.
I like to call this the 'drawbridge' principle. Hurry!! Get everyone inside the church and lock the doors before the zombies come in, because we all know what happens when they get in!! We are accustomed to organizing Saved Groups of people that just get together on Sunday mornings.
So how do we get back on course? Listen to Jesus. John 15:18, 'If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.' It's not a matter of if-we will all be hated. If you love Jesus, you will be hated. But because our God loves us, He will send a Counselor to help us navigate through this life. The Spirit of truth! And if we go through John 16 we are encouraged by the words, 'I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!'
This does not sound timid. This sounds bold. These words don't make it sound that the 'world' is too hard. These words make me feel as if we are being led by someone victorious!

If my coach had told me that night in that smelly locker room that we had already won the game, I would have thrown the war paint on and Bravehearted it out of there. So why don't we do that with the gospel of Jesus? The battle has been fought and we are able to claim victory. Every trial and temptation the world throws at us CAN BE OVERCOME.
2 Corinthians 12:10, 'For Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.'


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The True Vine

John 15:5 (NRSV), 'I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from you me you can do nothing.'
The story is changing. Jesus has only hours before he will be murdered. The gospel of John is amazing because we spend chapters on the night before Jesus will be betrayed. He has washed the feet of his disciples, looked Judas in the eyes and fed him still, Jesus has confirmed that Peter will deny him (and so will the rest), he has promised his disciples this Holy Spirit, and now he will give them a metaphor that gives every Christ follower a purpose. We are to be fruitful branches.
As I was growing up in my faith, I took this verse to the fullest extent, as most of us do-saved souls for the kingdom of God. I felt that if I wasn't instrumental in bringing my friends to a knowledge and belief of Jesus I was not bearing fruit. It became a verse that troubled more than encouraged. So why would Jesus be doing this to his disciples? What was the reason for Jesus using this story hours before he would be killed and the story again changes?
I think Jesus uses this story to give confidence to his disciples-to tell them that they have been bearing fruit and that they need to abide/remain in him to continue to bear fruit. Jesus tells his disciples that he came to them and chose them, and then the disciples, some of them, dropped their fishing nets and chose to follow Jesus. Through that life changing decision fruit was apparent-and not just saved souls, but as indicated in this very chapter of John-joy, love, answered prayer.
Bearing fruit is not just for others, but can encourage the believer. Jesus wanted his disciples to know this. Have you struggled with bearing fruit? Jesus' story of the vine should give you hope that he can provide the nourishment you need to bear fruit. Ask the gardener today to wrap you around Jesus so that fruit can be produced. In this we find purpose for life. Not a life struggling with sin, but a life that is fruitful.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Accepting Comfort

When's the last time you were truly comforted? Not the, 'I heard about your situation, I hope things get better.' But the, 'I know what's going on, I know how you feel, but this is what will happen and everything will be alright.'
I was challenged last night in my men's Bible study as I heard from one of our men about a time where they were comforted by someone else and how it affected their view on a situation. It hit me like Kam Chancellor. So many times we exclaim we have a faith full of love and humility and that we care, but what do we DO???
When was the last time you cared for someone? I've come to understand that love and humility are not just a feeling, but an action. Thanksgiving is coming up and I'm not sure if you do this at your family gathering, but there is a popular custom of going around the table and saying, 'I'm thankful for....'. And its funny because someone every year will say that they are thankful for their friends and family. Do they know that?!?! Just because we say it in front of a turkey, does it mean we're done??
Last Sunday we chatted about this at our church gathering. Jesus in John chapter 14 does something for his disciples that was needed-he comforted them. I'm not sure if you knew but Jesus talked a TON at the last supper. John was probably in the corner crying because his hand was cramping up from taking so many notes-hoping Jesus would talk slower.
Jesus had just gotten through telling his disciples he was leaving, one of you is going to betray me, and oh yeah Peter-you'll deny me. And then in John 16 Jesus will tell them, 'You will leave me all alone.' I'm guessing all of the disciples were depressed in that moment. So what does Jesus do-he sets the example.
Don't let your hearts be troubled, peace be with you, I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you, and he repeats don't let your hearts be troubled.
When you follow Jesus, you follow someone who understands-someone who knows what's going on.
Hebrews 4:15, 'For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin.'
And so you need to accept the comfort he can give. TODAY. Don't wait. Stop enjoying your sorrowful attention. Stand up and declare what Jesus has done.
And then after that-go comfort someone. Scroll through your contacts on your phone and comfort someone! Jesus set the example-we must follow.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Troubled Spirit

John 13:21, 'After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, "I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me."'

We enjoy relationships. We were built to have friends, not Facebook friends, actual friends. Why? Because we don't want to be alone! We love sitting down for a hot coffee with a buddy and watching the leaves fall to the ground during this awesome season of Fall! And I believe God loves it when we get together with friends.
What happens when friends leave us? What happens when we feel as if we're alone? What happens when you know you have to have a difficult conversation with a friend about something you know is wrong? Are you still willing to have that conversation if it means they might leave you?
Jesus is sitting in a room eating a meal with 12 of his closest friends. One of them will be leaving the party early because he needs to betray him. The remaining 11 that are there will all abandon him when things become difficult.
John 16:32, 'A time is coming, and has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home. You will leave me all along.'
And yet he washes their feet and shares a meal with them. So yes, a troubled spirit seems obvious. His closest friends, his disciples will leave him.
I was given a head start growing up. I grew up in a church with Christian friends. Being a Christian and talking about God was a conversation that I had with a majority of my friends. It wasn't until high school that my faith was tested. And in many cases, I failed. I saw my friends going down a path that was not glorifying God and I sat on my hands. Why? Because I was fine. My spirit was not troubled. My heaven ticket was punched and I liked the thought of that.
That's not how God wants me to live. He wants my spirit to be troubled. Why? Because there are those that are around me who are denying Jesus. Do you have neighbors, co-workers, old high school friends, family members who know Jesus but have said no?

Then let your spirit be troubled, because in this story Jesus is staring at his closest allies knowing that they will leave him within 24 hours.

If you need encouragement, or someone to listen. Let me buy you a coffee, and prove to you that I want to walk with you on this journey.