Posts Tagged ‘ Jesus ’

My Re-Birthday

On this day 12 years ago, at 6:46 PM CST, I began consciously following Jesus Christ as my Savior (arguably, it was another six months and 17 days before I consciously made Him my Lord).

I call it my Re-Birthday, because, at least in the Evangelical world, it is said you become born again when you believe in the saving work of Jesus Christ through His life, death, and resurrection. Therefore, I am re-12!

I like calling it my Re-Birthday, also, because it is fun!

12 years ago today, I began to willfully choose to at least try to listen to God and believe that He saved me through Jesus Christ. I like to celebrate this day as a special reminder (kind of like Christmas or Easter/Resurrection Sunday, but slightly more personal), and I encourage all followers of Christ to do the same. If you are not sure what day you truly believed, you can go off of your baptism, as most churches keep a record of that day. If you do not know what day you were baptized or were baptized as an infant, just use your actual birthday.

Honestly, this is something that should be done continually and every day, but it is also fun as well as one more way to share your faith.

Also, please join me in wishing my wonderful mother-in-law a happy birthday. It is her actual birthday today, and without her I would not have my amazing wife!

God bless you, and remember that Jesus Christ is the reason we live and move and breathe and have meaning!

Savior or Friend?

Is Jesus your Savior?

Is Jesus your Friend?

A recent (in terms of all of Church history) fad is “Jesus is my homeboy” and things like that, in which God is our friend. This is based on Jesus’ words “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:15)

I have no qualms with calling Jesus our friend. I enjoy singing along with “I Am a Friend of God” both on the radio/at a concert and in church. I like singing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” when I have the opportunity.

It just seems we have lost respect of the Savior in most circles.

I think the focus is just misplaced. Am I friends with Jesus because He is my Savior? Do I love Him because of what He has done?

The meaning behind these questions is one of “why I have decided.” This is all well and good, but the focus should always start with Jesus.

1 John 4:19 says “We love because He first loved us.” We are friends of Jesus, because Jesus calls us friends. I do not want to limit the importance of us choosing to love Him in return, but it is because of God we even have a choice. It is by God’s grace that we are free to choose.

I wrote this poem on Sunday (01/01/12) that I think might help understand what I am saying:

My Savior is my Friend

My Savior is my Friend.
He became a friend of mine
through being my Savior.
Yet He paid my sinful fine
by wanting to be my Friend.

My Lord is my Savior.
He became the Lord of me
through being my Friend.
Yet He deserved my loyalty
long before He was my Savior.

My Creator is my Lord.
He is the Creator
having created everything.
I love and serve Him more;
my Creator, Friend, Savior, and Lord.

Why do you love God? What are you willing to do for Him?

You should ask yourself everyday these questions and “what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4) Put another way, “who am I that You are mindful of me?”

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 12/25/2011

How about a new one! This past Sunday, 12/18, I wrote a poem that was inspired by “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and, of course, Jesus Christ.

May we remember on this particular day (and everyday) that Jesus Christ was born to bring peace, salvation, and fellowship between God and humanity. He was born to die, but He was also born to live again! The real meaning of this season is not to celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, instead it is to celebrate our God loving us so much that He willingly limited Himself to be with us.

I love you so much, because He loves you so much and before I ever even conceived of loving you!

Merry Christmas, and may your next year be a blessing (however that may look) that brings you into deeper fellowship with our Lord and Savior.

Bells Have Been Ringing

Bells have been ringing from churches
for several centuries
Proclaiming Christ is alive
and ruling from eternity
Bells have been ringing from churches
declaring the birth of Christ
Ringing to remind us of our sin
and that He had to die
Bells have been ringing from churches
calling mourners to mourn
Calling others to pray for families
of lost daughters and sons
Bells have been ringing from churches
calling the faithful to prayer
Reminding everyone who hears
that the Savior still cares
Bells have been ringing from churches
joining a girl with a boy
Bringing of their loved ones together
to share in the loving joy
Bells have been ringing from churches
to declare the returning Son
Whom at the sound of trumpets blown
will unite with us as One

Responses to Christmas: God’s Parents

It is time for a special series … THIS WEEK ONLY!

Yeah, I kind of gave into some of the materialistic hype. This special is only available the week leading up to this Christmas.

I have a seen a few similar series going around, but mine is better because … uhhh … I am doing it this week? This series is about how people responded to the birth of Jesus.

God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
Luke 1:26-38

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus,because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”—which means, “God with us.”

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25

God clearly chose these two to raise the boy Jesus for a reason. Other than being descendents of David, they also were kinda righteous, as humans go.

Take Mary:

  1. She was presented with something impossible: pregnancy without … the fun part. Her reaction to hearing this: “Help me understand how this is possible!”
  2. With a response that would make most humans say “Yeah, okay. Whatever that means!” she replies “I do not really get it, but I will follow You and see what amazing things you can do!”

Now Joseph:

  1. His first response to the unknown was to protect the girl he loved yet bow out gracefully. He wanted to protect himself (not bad) and the girl who apparently had been unfaithful, someone who apparently had sinned rather egregiously. He was a pretty cool dude, man!
  2. He has a dream telling him that the baby will be God and save people from their sins, therefore he should still marry Mary. Based on that dream, he complies. This is really all we know about Joseph (other than he and Mary forgot Jesus at the age of 12, and he also looked for Him). Personally, I see there is more than enough information here to understand his character: awesome!

What can we learn from these two?

  1. It is okay to have doubts, provided you are willing to listen to God (or His messengers).
  2. It is okay to question God, provided you are honestly seeking answers and not trying to justify yourself or simply asking rhetorically from disbelief.
  3. Sometimes, perhaps many or most times, we will not fully understand (if at all) what God is doing, but that is okay provided we continue to follow His leading.
  4. Enduring something inconvenient can lead to amazing blessings!

What about you? When you have doubts do you listen for God’s leading? Do you ask God any of the who, what, when, where, why, or how questions expecting a reply and being open to the answer? Are you willing to move forward in your confusion and lack of understanding? Do you trust God? If you do, amazing blessings await. To be fair, the blessings may not appear until eternity, but a lifetime of worries and pain is worth an eternity of peace and joy. (Think of a road trip someplace, like Disneyland or to family you have not seen in a while. It may be uncomfortable getting there, but the joy and experience of getting there almost help you forget it or even make it worth it.)

When half-empty is a good thing

The Christmas season is called the most wonderful time of the year, the season of joy, and a time of love and giving.

Many people look at the figurative glass as half-full during this time of the year (unless, of course, they are standing in a line that stretches half-way around the Super Wal-Mart in which they have been shopping for that last gift).

As my pastor said this past Sunday (in the beginning of his message about Joseph, second only to Pharoah in Egypt, forgave and loved his brothers who sold him into slavery), for many people the Christmas season is not wonderful or joyful. The Christmas season for these people (I am sure some are reading this message) instead reminds them of broken marriages, lost spouses and/or children, being alone, or being close to death.

For these people, their glass looks half-empty.

Is half-empty always a bad thing, though?

When we have to take medicine that tastes disgusting, we would rather the cup be half-empty than half-full.

When someone puts food in front of us that we think tastes horrible (but we are being polite and eating it), we would prefer the plate be half-empty than half-full.

When riding on a city bus while feeling nauseous, other people are happy when the bus is half-empty rather than completely full!

In terms of our times of pain and longing, grief and loss, feeling like we are half-empty can be a good thing (though I know it does not feel like it).

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:3-5

We have a promise from our Lord that we will be with Him and comforted. The question remains, what do we have for now? It may seem selfish, but knowing we can receive comfort later does not always help in the meantime.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.
2 Corinthians 1:3-7

God does comfort us in our times of need. He does not always do it immediately, and sometimes He waits until after our trials … sometimes for years.

However, we also have the promise that God will indeed comfort us so that we may comfort others in His name.

God can save us from troubles, but God often blesses us with the opportunity to help others by sharing His comfort and strength with them.

We could also say that God empties us through our troubles that we might be filled with Him to the point of overflowing.

Half-empty becomes good when we are re-filled with God.

I am not saying we need to get to a point of enjoying our pain and loss; that is masochism. Instead, we rejoice in our suffering, because we know that we are being used for God.

Christmas is a reminder that our God did not leave us alone to suffer. In his grace, He came to us, suffered with us, and suffered for us. He understands our pain and our loss and has overcome them. He alone can give us comfort and peace, but He also allows us to suffer that He may work through us to bring comfort and peace to others.

Misplaced Thankfulness

This is a period of the year when happy stories gain prominence in the public sphere. This past week was Thanksgiving, that time when we express our thankfulness for what we have.

Unfortunately, there are still stories abounding that are less than happy (downright sad most of the time). On Wednesday night (11/23), I read a news story that was less than happy. If you do not have time to read through the article, here is a brief synopsis:

A South Korean couple wanted a baby, and they gave birth to a girl a few months ago. She was born prematurely, and they did not have jobs. This led them to feel inadequate for the job of raising a child, therefore they would spend many hours a day at internet cafes playing a game called “Prius Online” (a lot like The Sims and Second Life, if you know what that is). In this game, they began to raise a virtual baby named Anima. They would go home every so often to feed their real baby powdered milk (I am assuming they added water so that it was not just powder). This past September they came home from a 12-hour session of their game to find their daughter had died from malnourishment. The father said, “I am sorry for what I did and hope that my daughter does not suffer any more in heaven.”

Here is my take on this situation: the parents had a misplaced thankfulness.

We see this kind of thing all the time. People have something great or even perfect for them in their possession, yet all they think about are the things they can get. They are not focused on what they do not have, just what they can get. We know this is the case with these people, because they do not complain about not having something. In fact, this kind of people brag about what they do have and want to have (and plan on getting).

In the case of this child’s death, we can see that the parents wanted a child. We can see that they wanted to care for a child. Their problem was that they were not able to cope with their situation. While they wanted a child, to care for a child, they felt they were inadequate given their circumstances. Therefore, they shifted their thinking from being focused on their real child to being focused on their virtual baby. They misplaced their thankfulness.

  • It is just like the man who works 80 hours per week to provide for his family.
  • It is just like the child at school who bullies others because he does not know how to show affection.
  • It is just like the woman who gives gifts she can not afford to find acceptance.
  • It is just like the church who focuses on programs instead of people while trying to be hip and inviting.
  • It is just like the Christian who avoids “sinners” because of the desire for purity.

In all of these scenarios, people substitute something in place of real relationships. They want people around and to have things “perfect,” but they do not connect with others (at least not in a way that is good).

There is really only one answer for all people: Jesus Christ.

As I posted last week, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:15-16)

Also, read Hebrews 12 and 13 … and the rest of the Bible!

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 11/27/2011

My Thanksgiving Day post was about why I am thankful, so today’s poem is a reminder of that.

 

 

here is why
daniel m  klem

why were there screams
and all of the cries
that the Son of Man
should be crucified
the senseless violence that
could have been stayed
was acted through
on that horrible day

why did God allow it
if His Son had to die
it happened so you
could keep your life
Christ died to set
our souls completely free
and wash sin from everyone
including you and me

 

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 116.

Back from the Dead

Today is All Saints Day, Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos, All Hallows, or Hallowmas. No matter what it is called, today is a day that celebrates those who have come before and moved on to the next life. No matter the history of today and Halloween (All Hallows Eve, the day before All Hallows/Hallowmas … think what Christmas Eve is to Christmas), there is a rich history all over the world of honoring or venerating the dead.

I will not get into whether or not it is okay or even good to do such things or celebrate holidays here. That is for later.

I want to discuss death.

The picture I have above is from the website zombiejesus.com, and it is definitely satirical but not theologically sound. They quote two verses from the Bible:

1) He came back from the dead
Acts 2:24
But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him

2) He encourages zombie like behavior
John 6:53
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have  no life in you”

As someone said elsewhere, “While precocious PKs (Pastor’s Kids) may try to pull off the Zombie Jesus costume, passionately asserting that Jesus did rise from the dead, a quick-witted parent will counter that He did NOT, however, rise from the UNdead.” The point: A zombie is the walking dead; Jesus defeated death. Zombies are in a state of perpetual death, never satisfied and never resting; Jesus was freed “from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him” and satisfies all our needs and gives us rest.

I have to point out that it should be “zombie-like,” with a hyphen. Other than nitpicking grammar, zombies do not drink blood. That is vampires. Therefore, they would have to include that Jesus is a Vampire. However, they are both undead creatures.

Ooh! There is a good point. These things are still creatures – CREATED THINGS! Jesus is not created, He is “begotten” or comes directly from God and IS GOD!

Moving on, I actually agree with this point for the humor-value (after fixing the small grammar issue), especially seeing as this very point is what kept many from becoming Christians in the first few centuries of the Church’s temporal existence. Though it is misguided, since we eat bread as Christ’s body and drink wine/juice/water as Christ’s blood.

Jesus is not a Zombie.

You might still here me (if you know me personally) occasionally refer to Christian Zombies, but it is slightly different (but only slightly).

Also, do not worship the dead or pray to them in the sense that you expect them to actually help you. They might hear you ask them to speak to God on your behalf, but if they do hear prayers (pray essentially means “ask”) I must confess to not thinking it matters much (sorry Catholic friends and family, but I have a point). We have a mediator: Jesus Christ. As I said above, He is God and is our connection to God through the Holy Spirit.

Weekend Words & Sunday Stanzas – 07/24/2011

It is time for a poem about getting along!

friends
daniel m  klem

my best Friend lives in heaven
but at the same time lives in me
He could live in you if you believe
that He died for your sins on a tree
understand that He loves everyone
even if they say something against He
who saved the souls of all mankind
and if they do not believe we are free
because my Friend knows all people
He wants to be friends with everybody
especially the people who talk against
He who came to help you and me

Taken from simple words for God from a simple man of God by daniel m  klem, page 110.

God’s Conditional Love

Yep. God’s conditional love.

Perhaps you have heard the arguments:

Deuteronomy 7:12-13 shows that God only loves the people who follow His laws!”
John 14:21 clearly states that Jesus only loves those who obey his commands!”

For the record, here are those respective verses (NIV):

If you pay attention to these laws and are careful to follow them, then the LORD your God will keep his covenant of love with you, as he swore to your forefathers. He will love you and bless you and increase your numbers. He will bless the fruit of your womb, the crops of your land—your grain, new wine and oil—the calves of your herds and the lambs of your flocks in the land that he swore to your forefathers to give you.

… and …

Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.

What if, however, these verses do not actually show conditional love? What if “God will keep his covenant of love with you” does not mean “if you do this, I will love you” but “if you keep my covenant you will see the benefits of my love. If you do not keep my covenant you will not see the benefits, but I still love you!” What if “He who loves me will be loved by my Father . . .” falls in the same vein. How do we know this is more likely?

Jesus Christ.

Do you want some Scripture to back that up? Okay:

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.
Romans 5:6-11, NIV

I am pretty sure not all people will be saved in the end. Sorry universalists. I just see too much biblical evidence against that. However, it does not mean God does not love all people (these arguments are all for other posts!).

I do think God’s love is conditional, however. How can I say this?

For God to love us, He must exist. God exists. God is love. Therefore, He loves all people. Easy condition to meet. It is not dependent on human behavior or faithfulness.

I could argue this all day and night, but I think others should be involved. In case you are wondering, I kept this simple and relatively short to try to inspire further dialogue.

What do you think? Is God’s love conditional in any way? When have you felt God’s love when you were certain you least deserved it?