What does it mean to feast on Jesus?
Please check out my post, Snacking on Jesus (Part I), on my other blog.
What does it mean to feast on Jesus?
Please check out my post, Snacking on Jesus (Part I), on my other blog.
I know that I promised another post about Christmas, but life got busy again. It is hard to find time to write things that are outside of my current experiences and lessons learned. That is why I have decided to take a hiatus from this blog and start a new blog to chronicle my current struggles and lessons. I will be easier to add posts because I am reflecting on my journeys constantly. I am on the path of letting the old self die and allowing the new self, in Christ, to live. Overeating is one my major struggles, so I am calling the new blog, Death to the Inner Fatman. Please check it out and join me on this journey of new life.
This Christmas post is going to be a little different. There is going to be a lot about Jesus, of course, but there will also be what I am going to call Theological Physics. A little science mixed in with knowlege about God…hey, it’s Christmas! Don’t worry, it won’t be too bad. I hope. This is part one. I will save the physics and theology for part two.
For the last couple of years, a friend of mine has been telling me about Andrew Peterson’s Christmas Concert. Andrew Peterson is a Contemporary Christian Music Artist and he has been doing a Christmas tour since 1999 where he goes through the story of Christmas but starts in the Old Testament and works his way through to the birth of Christ and its significance. My friend said that there is an amazing song in this called, “A Labor of Love,” that talks about the birth of Christ in a very real way. It was, afterall, an actual birth with everything that comes with that.
The tour and CD is called Behold the Lamb of God. I knew we were going to be doing a lot of driving this year to our various Christmas gatherings and I wanted some new Christmas music to listen to besides the same songs they always play on the radio. I remembered my friend talking about Andrew Peterson and that song, so we got the whole CD…I am a big fan of how the Christmas story fits into the “whole story” of the Bible, so I figured it would probably be pretty good. It is.
We gave it a listen on one of our long drives to a family Christmas party. I was completely enthralled with how they were able to weave the story of the Bible in such a cool way. The songs about the Old Testament were amazing. He wrapped the gest of Israel’s Biblical history into just a few songs, but it was done beautifully. He built it up to the birth of Christ. Then the song “Labor of Love” came on. It was everything my friend said it was. Graphic yet beautiful. Then suddenly a line was sung that I was not prepared for…I didn’t see it coming and I don’t know that I will ever be theologically or philosophically the same. A very simple string of words that left me in tears at the wonder of the gospel and amazing love of God.
I would encourage you to get the CD, listen to all the songs up to this one, and then hear these lyrics in context, but I am going to share the lines that rocked my little world. It is a simple thought, but such a huge effect on me. The context within the song is that Mary is giving birth on the ground of a dirty stable with no family except her new husband. Joseph is there with her being as brave as he can given the earthy and heavenly circumstances.
So he held her and he prayed, shafts of moonlight on his face
But the baby in her womb, he was the maker of the moon
He was the Author of the Faith that could make the mountains move
This thought…I almost don’t have words to convey how God sent shockwaves through me with it. You have a poor family in a stable. A birth happening in the worst of situations. We would call this horrible in our time. Think about it. A baby being born in a dirty, fifthy stable. A place were dusty animals eat and use the bathroom. No professionals around. Just a man with rough hands from carpentry who probably did not know much about childbirth. And there is Joseph trying to have enough faith to believe that an angel really did come to him and tell him that his wife is going to have a baby that is not his but was the work of the Holy Spirit. Mary is going through the real pain of child birth. No family. No help. Just Joseph. She was probably trying her hardest to believe that he truly believed that all of this was really the work of God.
And then there is the baby. The real son of God. God in flesh. The very Word of God that created the created everything was now a part of creation. Get ready, because here is the thought that blew me away…Joseph had moonlight/starlight on his face as he mustered up the faith needed to guide this baby into the world as Mary gave birth…and this baby was the one who made the moon, and the stars, and gives us the ability to have faith in him. He came up with the birthing process and was now experiencing it. His hands molded the first man, Adam, and now one of Adam’s decendents was using his hands to guide the creator into creation.
Wow. Do you get the contradictiction here?
I am going to let this one sink in. Take some time to meditate on the thought of the maker of the moon being brought into the world to have the moonlight on his face.
Father, Jesus, Spirit, please fill us with the starking contrast of the reality that Jesus made the world and then was born into it. You gave up the glory of the role of Creator to become part of creation. More than that is why you did it. You did it because we needed you to. Only you could unravel the curse of sin by taking on a body that has the curse. Then you lived a life that went against the curse…then you died to kill the curse. Halellujah, what a savior. Jesus, make yourself real to us today. We pray this in your name. I love you. your son, joe
I am back among the blogger living. At least for another week or so. It has been a busy school year as a teacher and a father of a now almost one year-old and almost four year-old. But, I have finally found some time (winter break) to do a little writing. So now it is time for the final installment of what God has taught me about the sinner’s prayer.
Are you back? Great! Here we go.
Quick summary (in case you did not go read):
In other words, I am a destable sinner in utter need of the saving, life changing gracce that is found in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. And that circle me back around to the original thought that sparked the start of this series of posts. The sinner’s prayer and what it means for my life today.
The basics of the sinners prayer is communicating this to God:
Some of us were lead through prescribed prayers that cover all of this, some of us were given the basics and encouraged to pray from our heart, and others may even have just been lead to pray without any leading at all. But the gest of it is that we acknowledge that we are sinners separated from God, Jesus paid the price for our sin before God, and that we will live in trust of this and follow where he leads our lives. The sinner’s prayer. Basic and simple. Proof of a change of heart.
“CupofJoe Guy, we get it. What’s your point?”
Well, my getting irrated with the comment I mentioned that I read on Facebook (mentioned in Part II), led God to work on my heart. Why did the overemphasis on the prayer itself bother me so much? What was wrong with my heart that this was such a big deal?
God started to burn in my heart and mind the idea of the simplicity of the sinner’s prayer. If the evidence of my salvation is a marked life with change and not a momentary prayer, how am I doing with that? What does my life look like? Am I characterized by this change of heart and life?
Slowly, the fact was impressed upon me that the sinner’s prayer is for me. It is about me. It is about my relationship with God. Not the time I said it when I was six, but it is about my daily relationship with him. Do I start each day with an admittance of my sinfulness and separation, a renewal of trust in Jesus sacrafice and resurrection, and a commitment to follow and trust him?
I don’t. I live many days without any thoughts in this direction. I am so focused on my day-to-day life that my relationship with God is mostly an afterthought if I give it any thought at all. God gave me the realization that I need to begin each morning with the sinner’s prayer. I need to start each day fresh. I need to live each day in trust of Jesus. I need to remind myself of that. I need to preach the gospel to myself, accept it, and pray to admit and commit that day to follow God.
Have I lived each day this way since these revelations? No. But I have somewhere to start from each day, and I pray that it will become a daily instinct to one day start each day this way.
I know it has taken a long time to finish this thought, blogwise, but hopefully God will use the lesson God taught me to help you in your daily relationship with him.
Father, Jesus, Spirit, I am a sinner. I am sperated from you based on anything I do or offer of myself. Only Jesus was able to live a life that did not deserve death. I know that his death on the cross allowed him to take my sin and your wrath. I believe that he really died and was truly raised again. I commit to you today. Help me follow you today. Please lead me and help me to obey. I love you. your son, joe
Okay, finally the long awaited sequel to my last post…okay, there is probably no one waiting on pins and needles, but here it is. It has taken me much longer to find the time to write than I hoped. If you haven’t read the original post, go read the sinner’s prayer and then come back.
Parenthood has taught me that trust is the key. My son does not want to trust that my wife and I actually care and are out for his better good. He can only see what he wants or thinks that he needs. This leads to a lot of headaches. However, if I remember that trust is the key to his heart, it makes the conversations and decisions that need to be had and made so much easier.
The stuggles with this combined with a personal soapbox of mine a month or so ago…and God used this to start a little revolution in my heart.
A friend on Facebook shared about an event at church or a camp (I don’t remember which), during which a large group of people “accepted” Christ and “prayed the sinner’s prayer.” I don’t put these in quotes to belittle these two things, but I do it to emphasize what my issue is that has become a soapbox.
I grew up in a chruch tradition where getting people to “accept Christ” and “pray the prayer” was the ultimate goal. There was acknowlegement of the need to disciple people, but the practice was that “coming to faith” was the greater goal. Not that there is anything wrong with this. But, I have come to having a growing uneasiness about the concentration on the “moment” of becoming a Christian that his leads to.
There are two by-products that can come from this, that I know can cause some major issues. One is that some people think that if they go through the action of praying the sinner’s prayer, and even follow it up with a short time of religious zeal, that this is enough evidence that they are right with God and have secured their ticket to Heaven. What is done the rest of their lives does not matter as long as they can look back to that one moment or short span of time. They can live the rest of their lives however they want, as long as they know that at one point they “accepted Christ into their heart.” They can go on living or thinking how they did before, as long as they have their Heaven pass and maybe go to church ever once in a while. There are a lot of people that think that this is okay, and even people who really are Christians that look to this for comfort about loved ones that may not truly be.
I know I am asking for backlash as I get into this, but hear me out…please.
I do not think the Bible supports this. There is eobviously going to be a moment in time when someone truly believes and the Spirit comes to live in his or her heart. This is clear. I just don’t think that the emphasis needs to be on that moment in time, but on the evidence that this change brings. Jesus, in the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-23), talked about the idea that not every heart that hears his message and accepts it will truly take hold of it. There is the group of people that will hear it and not accept it and three groups that will accept it, but there was only one group that held on to it and changed. The evidence was in the growth.
Now listen to the explanation of the parable about the farmer planting seeds: The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message about the Kingdom and don’t understand it. Then the evil one comes and snatches away the seed that was planted in their hearts. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents those who hear God’s word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life and the lure of wealth, so no fruit is produced. The seed that fell on good soil represents those who truly hear and understand God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!
The last sentence sums it all up…those who truly believe are those that produce a harvest. The harvest, I believe, is the heart change that proves a new life in Christ…and when someone is truly changed, it will spread to others…and this spreading is when there is a harvest bigger than the seed that was planted. One heart changed, and I mean really changed, will lead to the heart change of others.
Now, let me just do a quick side note. I am not saying that what we do (good or bad) can change our standing with God. We can never be good enough. So when a person continues living the way they did before they “prayed the prayer”…what they are doing is not what keeps them from Heaven. Going to church every time the doors are open and living a “Christian lifesyle” does not guarantee a right standing with God. Only Jesus sacrafice on the cross can do this. Jesus lived the life that we couldn’t…never breaking God’s law and living out of total trust in the Father…and then he died on the cross. Jesus did not have to die. He was not under the curse of death because he never broke the law that death is the penalty for…so dying at all was not in the cards for him. This freed him up to die in our place. To take our punishment…our curse on himself.
More than that, he died a gruesome death. A torturous death. He did this because he not only took our curse, but he also took the wrath of God in our place. This was because we, as humans, have come up with a lot of ways to pervert God’s creation and the life he has given us. This has led to God’s anger on top of separating us from him. Jesus dying the way that he did, on the cross, took on the wrath of God for even the vilest of offenses. There is nothing that we can do that is so bad that Jesus sacrafice can not covered. He took the wrath and scorn for even the worst of things that humans can come up with.
And God accepted this sacrafice. Jesus’s death was accepted as our. His tortured murder fulfilled the wrath we deserve. We know this because three days later, he came back from death. The price was paid. The jail time was served. Once jail time is served, the prisoners are set free. Jesus walked out of the prison, and it crumbled behind him. For more on this, read Action Hero Jesus.
I said all of this to bold face the point that it is not what we do that saves us…but if we are brought back from the dead through what Jesus did, we will not be the same. Our heart will change. If we truly believe, the Holy Spirit…the Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead…lives in our heart. If the one whose power raises from the dead lives inside of us, we will not be the same. We will love more, put others needs before ours, and start to live life differently. This change is the first hint at the harvest. It is the first few apples on the tree. Then as you change, this will cause others to want to change. They will want what you have. They will want to go to Christ and be changed…which will lead to them having a harvest, causing Jesus’s harvest in you to grow and grow.
There has to be a change. The change is the evidence. Not the prayer you prayed. Not the pastor’s hand that you shook. Not the moment you came to faith. It is the change that others can see. You do not cause this change. It is organic. It happens because you can not be the same when you truly trust Jesus as your savior.
The second major problem with the focus on the moment and prayer is that those who grow up in church and a Christian family can confuse the values they grow up with is the change that being a true believer brings. You prayed the prayer and live a Christian lifestyle, so you assume you are right with God. BUT, again, it is about what you do. This is my story. I was not a Christian for most of my life, but I thought I was. I never truly looked to Christ’s sacrafice as my saving grace. My only evidence was the things that I did. I did not have heart change. Because I have gone long again, if you want to read about my story of life change go check out My Time Travel Testimony.
Once again, it is not about the prayer. It is about the change in your heart, mind, and life.
Here I go again…never got to the lesson about the sinner’s prayer. So I have to do a part three. I promise. The lesson is good.
Father, Jesus, Spirit, please continue to teach me and help me trust in you alone. your son, joe
As the parent of a three year-old, I have learned an awful lot more aboout myself than how to be a good parent. And I guess that is how it goes. Being a parent teaches us how selfish, stubborn, deceitful, and self-seeking we are…or at least that has been the case for me. Now, my friends without kids, hang on and keep reading. I share all of this because of a realization God has brought me to recently.
It is so hard for NB, my son, to trust my wife and I. He doesn’t want to listen or obey because he trusts more in what he wants or understands for himself. He doesn’t seem to get that “no” or “don’t” is usually for the purpose of safety or something better. I love him so much that I am willing to put off his “happiness” for the sake of something better. “No” and discipline come from a deep love and the want for him to have something greater down the road. He just sees it all as a denial of what he wants and perceives that he needs. There is a fustration on both sides…NB gets frustrated with us because we are not working within his realm of self, and we, as parents, get frustrated with his lack of trust that we are really working towards his good (especially when this is lived out over and over again and he sees that we do know what we are talking about sometimes).
Even while I type this, it is amazing to me how long it took me to get the lesson God is teaching me through the struggles of parenting. God is my Father. He loves me more than I will ever be able to comprehend on either side of Heaven. He is truly out for my good. In good times and bad, in times of plenty or in need, in closeness when I am obedient, or in distance and hard times of discipline…God is always after one thing: my heart. He wants me to love and trust him completely. And he is overwelmingly patient with me…even when I have to learn the same lesson over and over and over. God is out for my good. Always. Even when life isn’t working like I feel that it should.
“Okay, CoffeeJoe, that is a great story and lesson, but what in the world does it have to do with the sinner’s prayer?”
Don’t worry,the tie-in is huge…and it has even grown a bit since I hace started writing this post (it has taken me a couple of days to find the time to write completely). And for this reason, you will have to wait for part two. 🙂
I do want to leave you with some scripture, though. 1 John 3:1-3:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
Father, Jesus, Spirit, please help me to trust you. Please help me to see your great love for me and just trust you. I love you. your son, joe
I am not much of a runner. I have tried many times in the past to become one, but I am not one. I don’t know if it is my attention span or out-of-shapeness, but I just can’t stick with it very long. All I can think about while I am running is the fact that I do not want to be running. My one and only goal during a run is to not be running when it is over. I think that mindset has a lot to do with why I am not much of a runner.
Unfortunately, that mindset is not confined to running and exercise. I sometimes view parts of life that way. Sometimes my job is that way…all I think about is not working. Sometimes my homelife is that way…all I can think about is the chores being done so I don’t have to do them. Sometimes I view parenting that way…all I can think about with parts of our newborn’s life at present (crying and constant diaper changes) is the time when that will be over. Sometimes I even view my relationship with God that way…I think about being done with reading the Bible while reading it…not praying while praying…or lunch during worship at church.
As I sit here now, I have three days left with my students at school until the end of the year. I can’t help but thinking about when this year will be over. I am not concentrated on the time I have left with them. All I can see is how hard this year has been and how ready I am for it to be done.
Not that doing something with the end in sight is necessarily wrong, but what am I missing when I live this way? What joy in the moments could I be missing?
I know that it is cliche, but life is a marathon and not a sprint. When I live only thinking about when something is over I am trying to sprint 26 miles. I am not a runner, which has been established, so that will never work. I can’t run that way…I would die. I can’t live that way either. God does not intend that. When we view life this way, we are taking control back from God and we are missing what he is using in the here and now to grow us and give himself glory. Everything is God’s…even every little moment that we live and breathe. God intends to use them to grow us, others, and show who he is.
The Bible is full of examples of times God has given promises but waits to fulfill them. People take matters in their own hands and try to make the promises happen now. God had a reason for waiting. People are impatient…and the consequences are usually dire and they are normally natural consequences for what was done or not done.
I live my life that way. I miss the things that God want to use for me or use me through for other people. As I start this third-to-last day with my students, I pray that I view every moment as an opportunity for God. I pray that my focus is on him and that this allows the moments to change me and change others through me. It is a big goal, but God is a big God.
I know it is only loosely connected to what I posted, but I leave you with Hebrews 12:1-4:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joyawaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people;then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
We are running the race of life. It is a marathon. We have a stadium full of those who have gone before us that have made it through. If we keep our eyes on Jesus, who lived every moment for his Father, we can also see every moment as God’s and live each one for him.
Father, Jesus, Spirit, you want me to view every moment as an opportunity for you. Please help me live my life slowly today. Please help me to not waste the moments with my students and family this week. Please help me to seek your glory in all that I do and say. Please slow me down. I love you. Please help me to try. your son, joe