Faith As Understanding

 

Hebrews 11 tells us that “by faith we understand…” A paraphrase might say, “by faith we THINK.”  But the modern perception is that Christian’s don’t think, that they would rather just accept what they are told and blindly believe. In this message we discuss the fact that not only is being a Christian compatible with thinking, but it requires, demands, and constitutes the most profound thinking in the world. We discuss that thinking leads to faith, how thinking leads to faith, and why thinking leads to faith, all of which will always lead us to Jesus Christ.

 

The Ministry of the Mundane

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Do you ever feel like your days run endlessly together? Wake up, go to work, come home to innumerable chores, go to bed, repeat. Where is the abundant life God promised? Are you missing it? Is it possible to find purpose in the predictable and meaning in the mundane?

I (Jarrett) found this article earlier in the week, and I had to rewrite and repost it, because I think that every believer will be built up and edified through it!

If we are followers of Christ, the answer to the above questions are “yes,” for nothing done in surrendered obedience is ever wasted. At each moment, God uses our mundane, earthly experiences to train and equip us for something greater, to center our thoughts on the eternal, and to be active participants in his outpouring of love and grace. Living God’s great adventure is not a matter of location or vocation, but rather, a continual process of heart and mind transformation.

Continue reading

Six Key Benefits of the Necessary Evangelism Component in Discipleship

Yes. I am afraid. Every time I begin to share about Jesus with someone, millions of thoughts run through my head about how I may offend or be received wrongly. Have you ever felt the same?

This is the log jam in the discipleship process and to fulfilling the Great Commission: evangelism. Sharing our faith. Why? Often times it is because we haven’t seen it modeled, or haven’t been taught “how.” Even in our rigorous attempts at discipleship have not fixed the problem, because discipleship has come to be regarded as a practice without the necessary component of evangelism training or practice. However, treating evangelism as a necessary part of discipleship helps to grow mature disciples, and is absolutely necessary. I read a great article recently highlighting 6 reasons why. Here they are: Continue reading

Coming to the Blood of Jesus -Spurgeon

and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.”    – Hebrews 12:24

Reader, have you come to the blood of sprinkling? The question is not whether you have come to a knowledge of doctrine, or an observance of ceremonies, or to a certain form of experience, but have you come to the blood of Jesus?
The blood of Jesus is the life of all vital godliness. If you have truly come to Jesus, we know how you came–the Holy Spirit sweetly brought you there. You came to the blood of sprinkling with no merits of your own. Guilty, lost, and helpless, you came to take that blood, and that blood alone, as your everlasting hope. You came to the cross of Christ, with a trembling and an aching heart; and oh! what a precious sound it was to you to hear the voice of the blood of Jesus! Continue reading

An Example of Praying Without Ceasing- Sir Thomas Browne

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Despite a time where England was passing through a period of national convulsion and political excitement, men and women of God found comfort and strength through prayer. One beloved English physician, named Sir Thomas Browne, is one of these men. He wrote in his journal,”I have resolved to pray more and pray always, to pray in all places where quietness invites, in the house, on the highway and on the street; and to know no street or passage in this city that may not witness that I have not forgotten God.”

Do we witness that we have not forgotten God in all places?

Browne adds, “I purpose to take occasion of praying upon the sight of any church which I may pass, that God may be worshiped there in spirit, and that souls may be saved there; to pray daily for my sick patients and for the patients of other physicians; at my entrance into any home to say, “May the peace of God abide here;” after hearing a sermon, to pray for a blessing on God’s truth, and upon the messenger; upon the sight of a beautiful person to bless God for His creatures, to pray for the beauty of such an one’s soul, that God may enrich her with inward graces, and that the outward and inward may correspond; upon the sight of a deformed person, to pray God to give them wholeness of soul, and by and but to give them the beauty of the resurrection.”

May adding constant daily patterns of prayer give us comfort and strength through our hard times?

Discovering The True Jesus (pt. 5)- The Dirty God

As I was driving to school in my truck this morning, I was thinking about what intrigues me the most about Jesus. What necessarily draws me to Him, what makes His character so different from any other religious leader or teacher? I came to one conclusion, and instead of diving into another biblical story this post, I simply want to share with you why Jesus is so attractive to me:

Jesus gets His hands dirty.

Does that sound odd to you? Jesus was NEVER afraid to get His hands dirty. He not only left heaven to come to earth, but He was born in a dirty feeding trough. He not only taught, He also healed. Not only did He preach, but He raised people from the dead. Not only did He teach His disciples, but He cast out demons in front of them. Not only did He eat with sinners, but He fasted and prayed for 40 days. Not only did He live a perfect life, but He gave Himself to be brutally beaten, humiliated, and nailed to a cross. Jesus got dirty.

One of my favorite examples of this is the story of Jesus healing a man with leprosy in Mark 1:40-42. Now to gain an understanding of what Jesus does here, we need a little background information. Leprosy is a disease that causes flesh to rot and flake off, eventually leading to one’s death. Eyes rot, limbs deteriorate, and bones usually begin to show. In the religious laws of Jesus’ time, one would become “unclean” just by being near a leper- and have to go “wash” to be spiritually cleansed- from just being in the leper’s presence! Also, people with leprosy were cast out of society, left to die and rot on their own. Families disowned them, and whenever they were seen, shouts of “unclean!” would often resound. Here is a photo of an Indian man with a case of leprosy:

ICII-brings-joy-to-the-poorest-people-of-new-LifeThis is the type of person that comes up and talks to Jesus, the teacher who is growing in popularity and who has enormous demands to teach, preach, and heal. What does Jesus do? He gets dirty. Mark 1:40-42 reads,

And a leper came to him, imploring him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.

The thing that amazes me about this story is what Jesus does to the man. Do you notice it? We covered earlier that even to be in the presence of a leper would make one “unclean.” To touch one would be downright abominable. But Jesus, “moved with pity,” reaches out and touches the man. Notice Jesus touches him before He cleanses Him. This man most likely did not have physical contact with a human for years, and the first person that touches him is….Jesus. Can you imagine how this must have made the man feel? Jesus does not only heal him, but he touches him. He goes a great length to show the man love and compassion, almost as to say, “You’re not too dirty for me,” and He does that for you and me, too. No one is too dirty for Him to cleanse. But to clean us, He had to get really dirty.

The Bible describes our hearts as leprous- dying, rotting, and unclean. Yet Jesus gave himself over to a bloody death on a cross and took on God’s wrath that was meant for us, so that we might be cleansed forever, and have our leprous hearts made new. If we ask Him to heal our hearts, His response is a warm, “I will, be clean,” and He will reach and touch us, too, as He makes us a part of His family.

This is one of the many reasons why Jesus is so attractive and amazing to me. What other faith or belief system in the world has a God who comes to save His creation through serving them and getting dirty? There are none. Jesus stands out from all of the rest. He alone is the only one who can save.

And I hope you will place your trust in Him, because He is the ONLY one who can make you new. Will you trust Him?

Jesus got dirty…for You.

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.3)- The Birth of a Savior

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”   Luke 2:11-12

The virgin birth. In America, most of us hear this story every year during the Christmas season, so much so that I believe we have become calloused to the extraordinary way that Jesus entered into our world. The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Often times, we think of Jesus starting His whole life as an infant, but the Bible also teaches that He existed with the Father for all of eternity past. In the book of John, the author describes Jesus as the “Word,” stating that He was with God the Father in the beginning, and that God created all things through Him (John 1:1-3). God says before He creates man, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). So, lets think briefly about the transition from Jesus’ life in heaven to His “birth” on earth….what do you think it was like?

Hard to think about, isn’t it? Thankfully, in Philippians, the author lays out for us what Jesus did when He chose to come to earth:”Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7). Jesus completely humbled himself in leaving his heavenly throne to come live as one of us….to ultimately die for us and save us. He was born in the likeness of men, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for men.

Speaking of Jesus’ humbling himself, look at where He was born! In our first text in Luke, we saw that it was said that Jesus would be found lying in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough used to feed farm animals. It was in the center of the holding houses and likely the dirtiest part of the barn. When animals eat…they often relieve themselves in the same spot. This is likely what the scene actually looked like:

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Jesus, the Son of God, came into the earth and spent His first few minutes on earth in one of the dirtiest environments. Why? Humility. Jesus humbled Himself, remember? Is this the way for an earthly King to enter the world? Certainly not. But we will learn of Jesus throughout our study, that He does nothing like an earthly king would do. “My kingdom is not of this world” Jesus says in John 18:36. But I also believe that this was God’s way of showing that Jesus was the real deal. Jesus was humble and a servant from the get-go. He was willing to do whatever it takes to complete His purpose, and in this case-that meant being born in a dirty manger.

The last piece of this story that I want to unfold is: why was it necessary for Jesus to be born of a virgin?

All throughout the Bible, God required a perfect sacrifice to be made before Him to pay for sin committed. In the Old Testament, God’s law required His people to sacrifice “unblemished” lambs, bulls, and goats. If the sacrifice wasn’t perfect before God, it was unacceptable. In the same way, for Jesus to be the perfect and final sacrifice, He must be perfect and unblemished before God. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, every human being has been born into sin, and the Bible depicts sin nature passing down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12,17,19). It was critical Jesus not to be “born in sin” so that He could fulfill His role as the perfect sacrifice. This is why the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus could circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and become a perfect man.

This little story has more depth than you thought, didn’t it? Its read every year at Christmas, but certainly worth celebrating the entire year. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth, and is absolutely crucial to the fulfillment of the rest of His mission. Jesus wasn’t only born in a dirty manger, but He would die on a bloody cross.

Tune in next week for part 4 of this series.

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.1)

For one of my Marketing classes this fall, I am required to write ten different blogs about anything that I am passionate about to practice gaining a presence on the web and to better “market” myself to employers/network associates/etc. So…I had to choose what to write on that would have a consistent theme throughout the semester. After much thought, I decided to write about….Jesus. Instead of marketing myself, why not market Him? Most of what I do in my life is based off of who He is and what He did- so why not share that with my peers and fellow students?

In order to do this, I plan on analyzing ten major events, stories from, or teachings about Jesus from the Bible, so that I can paint an overall picture of who the true Jesus is, and what He came to accomplish on earth. I hope that you will join me regularly on this journey, and comment and interact with me as I seek to unveil the truth about the most influential human being that ever walked the earth!

So, for my first post, I will simply introduce Jesus from a historical perspective, and how He is viewed by the world. Most credible historians agree that a man named Jesus did live 2000 years ago, and quickly gained a following that changed the course of the future forever. Josephus and Tacitus are some of the main secular historians who wrote about Jesus as they recorded events in Jerusalem and Rome near Jesus’ lifetime. However, there are countless hundreds of individuals who wrote about Jesus’ life, relaying information that they heard from eyewitnesses, within 100-200 years after His death. Any argument that Jesus never existed is not very credible, and goes against the grain of many leading (even secular) scholars. So then, if Jesus existed, what do people believe that He actually did? Who was He?

People of Jewish descent believe that Jesus was a man who claimed to be a messiah (a savior for the nation of Israel) but that He was a false messiah. Muslims believe that Jesus was just another prophet in a line of prophets before Muhammad. Secular historians believe that Jesus was just another religious individual who gained popularity after His death and started a new world religion. Christians believe that He is the Savior of the world, the Son of God who ransoms mankind. But most would refer to Jesus simply as a “good teacher” or a man with many helpful and wise teachings.

However, if Jesus is only a “good teacher,” what must we do with the fact that He claimed to be God’s Son? That He said He was the Messiah? That He said He would raise from the dead? Would “good teachers” say these things about themselves? I think not! Jesus, then, must either be a liar, a lunatic, or who He said He was. He cannot be just a good teacher, or even a prophet (because good teachers or prophets would not make false, incorrect claims about their identities and still be considered “good”). He is either intentionally lying (trying to deceive others), or He is crazy (He thinks He’s God’s Son!) or He is who He said He was (He was telling the truth!). These are the only three options for who Jesus can actually be.

So….who is He? What evidence is their to back up some of the world’s major views of Him? Is He who He claimed to be? Or was He disiluusioned? To learn about anyone’s life, we must go to the people that knew them best: their family members, their friends, their colleagues. Thankfully, Jesus’ closest friends wrote about His life in four distinct books called the Gospels. We will take a look at one story in the next blog and try to come a little farther in answering the question, “Who is the REAL Jesus?”

Seeing the Goodness of Our God

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The more closely we study ourselves, the more beneficent our Creator becomes. Look at the highest of God’s earthly creatures-man. We have plenty of reasons to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that I know full well” (Psalm 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attest to the goodness of our Maker. How suited are our hands to perform work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh our wearied bodies! How benevolent His provision to give to the eyes lids and brows for their protection! We could continue indefinitely!*

The goodness of God is also seen in the variety of natural pleasures that He has provided for his creatures. God could have decided to satisfy our hunger without allowing us to really enjoy the taste of it- yet how good is He that he gave us such flavors as those in meat, vegetables, and fruits! He has not only given us senses, but also things that will gratify our senses, and this too reveals His goodness. The earth could have been fertile as it is without its surface being so delightfully multicolored. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to please our eyes with their colors, and our nostrils with their sweet perfumes. We might have walked outside without hearing the music of birds. Why then, is all of this loveliness so freely diffused over the face of nature? Because the tender mercies of the Lord “are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).*

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same (C.H. Spurgeon).

Gratitude and thankfulness is the return justly required from us, the objects of His goodness. Yet we often do not give it to God because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it!* We must labor to not allow this to be so!

Praise the Lord for His Goodness!!

*My translation from A.W. Pink’s “Old” English language (Attributes of God, Ch. 11, The Goodness of God)