Monthly Archives: February 2012

Bread of Life

“…I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

You are what you eat.

It’s a common statement.

And it holds true for both what you feed yourself physically and spiritually.

I’ve been brushing myself up on the nutritious needs I have physically the last couple of years…and especially lately. I’m focusing more on what goes into my body to get the results I want. I wouldn’t call it a diet…it’s actually the opposite: an anti-diet. I’m not depriving myself of any one food group; dieting does just that. I’m simply choosing to eat healthier foods like organic or locally grown fruits and veggies and proteins and omega 3s like fish and eggs; choosing to go for the turkey burger rather than a steak…or in some cases, choosing to go veggie over anything else. Those choices lead to a lifestyle I can live with…not a diet that deprives me of life…and the benefits are finally starting to pay off (this paired with a regular workout).

You are what you eat.

Just as we have a physical hunger, we have a deep soul hunger. It cannot be filled by what we take in physically…or even attempt to mentally or emotionally. Things cannot fill that void. This hunger was placed in us by our Creator when He knit us together in our mother’s womb. It was designed to only be filled by Him.

What are you taking in spiritually?

Jesus Christ is the Bread of Life. Without Him, no one will ever experience true fulfillment. To all who believe and follow Him, He promises that they will never hunger or thirst again. Just as God provided bread for Israel in the desert, He also provided Christ for His children in their sinfulness; to sustain them in this life until they come home. Without Him, there is no hope for those who are starving.

This doesn’t happen overnight. It takes effort on your part (all relationships do). Your spiritual “diet” must consist of reading His Word daily and spending time with Him in conversation (prayer). Don’t just learn all you can about Him. Actually take the time to know Him. I write/journal or sit at behind my Yamaha and let the words and/or music flow…that’s when I feel closest to the Lover of my soul; the One who truly sustains me.

Because Jesus is the Bread of Life, your soul is nourished, your mind is renewed, and your heart is revived. Because He is the Bread of Life, your ears are captivated by the Voice of Truth, your eyes are focused on the redemptive activity of God, and your mouth is filled with the words of Life. Because He is the Bread of Life, your hands are transformed into the compassionate hands of Jesus. Because He is the Bread of Life, your feet are fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace and grounded in the firm foundation of God’s infallible, inerrant, and unchanging Word.

Pursue Him and you will be filled.

O taste and see that the Lord is good. How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him. Psalm 34:8

Week 51, Part I: Chaos

Twelve days.

Twelve days.

Twelve.

That thought ran through my mind multiple times last night as we set up and tore down our equipment twice last night at our current home location for The Vine.

We launch in twelve days.

Time’s going to fly.

My schedule has gotten fuller and more hectic the last couple of weeks. I went from leisurely (although it was a struggle at first) enjoying my free time…the most I’ve had in over a decade…to instant chaos. It took a couple of days to adjust to the screaming insanity in my head. What happened? I love being busy…or at least I thought I did.

Three days into my first chaotic week, I finally was able to breathe. The chaos and insanity hadn’t lessened, but God had calmed me.

I was flipping through Jeremiah this morning and once again read through chapter 29:

‘For I know the plans I have you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.’ V. 11-13

God knows what He has in store for this church; this body of believers who are gathering in His name to proclaim His gospel in an unchurched part of Minneapolis. In seeking Him, I find stillness in the midst of my current chaos and the chaos that is to come. In seeking Him, He will bring forth the plans He has for us individually as well as for His body; the church.

The Living Water

“If only you know the gift God has for you and who you are speaking to, you would ask me, and I would give you living water” – Jesus, John 4:10

Living water is something that all of us need to survive. A lack of it can cause symptoms of “spiritual deadness.” Jesus first mentions “Living Water” in His encounter of the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4):

… Jesus left the Judean countryside and went back to Galilee.
To get there, he had to pass through Samaria. He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.
A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)
The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)
Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”
The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”
Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”
The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”
“I have no husband,” she said.
 “That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”
“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”
“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.
“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”
“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”
Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves. (v. 3b-30, MSG)

Jesus took time to build a relationship with this woman. She was a Samaritan, and in His day, men didn’t converse with women in public, much less have anything to with Samaritans…period.

Notice that throughout the story, there wasn’t condemnation for her actions; just concern.  She was living a life of sin; filling her need with worldly things which had become addictions.

Rather than condemn her for those actions, Jesus chose to give her life.

Jesus shows us that offering hope to the lost is a better choice than our comfort level. Rather than point out her lifestyle, Jesus opted to show her that there is a better way; how she could achieve eternal life. He offered hope; He offered life rather than death.

Have you ever read the KJV version of the recollection? In verse 7, Jesus states, “Give Me to drink.” KJV is the only translation that reads it this way. Think about that with me a moment.

“Give Me to drink.”

What does it mean, in the light of Living Water, to give Jesus to drink?

Although Jesus was physically weary and thirsty, He wasn’t asking her for something to drink. He was telling the woman what she should do after meeting Him and hearing the good news. She was being called to share the Living Water, Jesus Christ, with others by preaching the gospel that Jesus came to share.

Jesus gave her life. He gave her living water.

Jeremiah 17:7-8 captures what happens when we plant ourselves near the stream of Living Water; root ourselves in Christ: Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes, but its leaf will be green, and it will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will is cease from yielding fruit.

Like the Samaritan woman, those in this world try to meet their inner spiritual thirst through external means that do not satisfy like food, alcohol, drugs, gambling, entertainment, and many other forms of unhealthy and addictive behaviors. These earthly things do no and will not truly satisfy the need that God has given all of humankind for a Savior. They may give a temporary fix; only Jesus can fully and completely satisfy.

He already paid the price on Calvary; we have the well-spring of the Holy Spirit living within us, giving us fresh water day in and day out. The Holy Spirit is constantly cleansing us from all unrighteousness so that we are viewed as clean in the eyes of God. Isn’t that worth sharing with others? Won’t you “give Him to drink?”

The Door

Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved..I came to give life..life that is full and good. John 10:9a, 10

That verse reminds me of a song by Leeland Mooring called The Door. The chorus leads with these words:

Jesus, You’re the only One for me
There’s no way I’m leaving You
You’re the Love, the way, the life, the truth
You’re the Door I’m walking through

Doesn’t that just make your heart sing?

He’s the Door we’re walking through!

High Priest

Jesus has already gone in there for us. He has become our eternal High Priest…Hebrews 6:20

Most of evangelical Christians in today’s modern world don’t get the idea of high priest. I know I truly don’t. We tend to nod in agreement at the mention of it, but we don’t truly get it.

Other forms of religion with persons in place who are higher to God than themselves (the pope, bishops, the holy mother, etc.) may have a better understanding. Jews definitely do.

Prior to the coming of Christ, the high priest was the only way to God for Israel. The high priest was the only one who could make the sin offering; the only one who could enter the most holy place; the only one who could meet with God. Even this high priest had to complete a series of cleansing rituals before he could enter into the presence of God. Once he was there, he would then intercede for all of Israel.

What’s amazing about Jesus is the fact that He was clean. He didn’t need the ceremonial cleansing required of the high priest. He is the High Priest for all of humanity; not just one nation. He came to intercede for the world. He stands in the throne room of God and intercedes for us. He claims and calls us cleansed by His sacrifice. His permanent sacrifice on the cross paid the penalty once and for all. He ushers us into the presence of God and, because we are cleansed by His blood, we can stand in His presence. The very idea floors me and leaves me standing in speechless awe.

hrough our high priest, Jesus, we can approach God’s throne with confidence. We don’t have to be afraid, because our high priest made a way for us. Look at what we are supposed to come confidently to God’s throne for: mercy and grace to help us in our need.

How often in our need do we ask for mercy and grace? Most often we ask for health, money, or things. Instead God wants us to confidently ask for mercy and grace. I don’t often know what form God’s mercy and grace will take, but I do know that His mercy and grace are worth more than financial gain or health. His plan is deeper and better and His mercy and grace are more than enough to help us in our need.

Jesus, our high priest…may we be in awe of You now and always.

The Rock

There are multiple verses referring to God/Jesus as our Rock:

And all of them drank the same spiritual water. For they drank from the spiritual rock that traveled with them, and that rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4

Does that verse encourage you to recall a time when water sprang from the rock for Israel? Read through Exodus 17:1-7 for the story.  

No one is holy like the Lord, for there is none beside You, nor is there any rock like our God. 1 Samuel 2:2

Does the Lord ever bring to your attention a word or an idea, and you keep being reminded of it? What catches your attention in that verse?  For me, it was “nor is there any rock like our God”!

Several years ago, I took a trip out to Colorado with my grandmother and captured the image you see here. Looking at it then (and looking at it now), I can’t help but feel God’s presence here…with me. Those words are in a worship song that I grew up singing at church but I did not realize that the words were directly from God’s Word until my early twenties. David said “the Lord is my rock” (2 Samuel 22:2) and “who is a rock, except our God” (2 Samuel 22:32). There is no Rock except God. 

Can you remember times in your life when it was only the solid rock, Jesus, who kept your feet firm?  Perhaps when your child died; your marriage failed; you suffered from depression; you or a loved one faced imprisonment; you face financial hardship; your “church” let you down; even the everyday busyness of life & life!

Even when all around us seems to be falling apart, God is the foundation, the Rock that keeps us. At times in my life when I have had struggles, it has only been having Jesus as my solid foundation that has kept me from despair.  In our times today, it may be difficult to wonder what is happening.  But HE IS THE ROCK!   2 Samuel 22:47 “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let God be exalted. The Rock of my salvation!”  

Can you think of a time in your life recently when you had struggles?  Did you find Jesus, the Rock, to be helpful to you at that time?  Have you ever depended upon something else or someone else to be your rock?  Did that fail you?

Know that He will never fail you and rely on Him.

The Faithful and True Witness

Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginningof God’s new creation… Revelation 3:14

Jesus is the faithful and true witness, who gives us the reliable truth that we must have in order to find life and live life as God intended. “Jesus Christ, the faithful witness…the Faithful and True Witness…And He…was called Faithful and True.” Faith toward Him develops in our lives, as we see His faithful and true character. His word is a vital part of this process, since it has the same character that He has (faithful and true). “Write, for these words are true and faithful… These words are faithful and true.”

When people humbly receive the word of God, the Scriptures change their lives. This is how we started out with God: “Having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” We were born again into the family of God in conjunction with the incorruptible, living, eternal word of God being planted like a seed into our lives. This occurred when we heard the gospel. We then believed the good news of Jesus Christ, and this gospel seed germinated within us unto life eternal.

After being born again by grace through faith in Christ, God’s plan was that we continue to respond to His word (like those in Thessalonica did). “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” These saints welcomed the Scriptures into their lives. They knew that it was not a mere human message. They knew it was from the Lord. They were eager to hear it and to rely upon its life-nurturing message. Therefore, it effectively worked in their hearts, as they believed in the truths they were hearing. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” Initially and continually, faith comes by hearing the faithful and true words of God, and that faith accesses grace.

My Master

Then one of the teachers of the religious law said to Jesus, “Master, I will follow you where you go.” Matthew 8:19

Is Jesus your Master? The word itself gives me pause and brings to mind the words from My Master by Christy Nockels. The chorus reads I love my Master, I will not go free…I take Your name and live in liberty. My life is Yours forever. I’ll serve You faithfully. I love my Master, I will not go free..

Do you believe that? Do you live that out in your own life?

Jesus is Lord! He has authority over everything! He is the Master and Commander of all things. His word, His teaching, and the way He lived His life are the basis of truth. God allowed Himself to become our ultimate example. Will you follow His lead? Will you tether yourself to Him, day in and day out?

Week 50: The Great Architect

I had plugged my iPod into the radio converter I purchased a few months back in an attempt to save money and space on burning multiple CDs, opting to listen to a steady stream of music without the ads, news or other tidbits of sometimes useless information during a brief 30 minute trip back to downtown from Blaine, Minnesota. I rounded a curve on I-94S and the skyline of downtown Minneapolis came into view, leaving me breathless, as it usually does. The road lay before me, leading into this man-made wonder.

Just as I approached the fourth street exit, a song by Owl City came on…a one man band from this very part of the state: Designer Skyline. I couldn’t help but smile and be awed by the ideas and level of creativity that God has given man.

Affection, the gifted architect
Is making a draft and beautiful design
The options and possibilities
Are endless when we connect and re-align…
Until I’m convinced these plans are picturesque
Like the mountains in the Midwest…

A city sparkles in the night
How can it glow so bright?
The neighborhoods surround the soft florescent light
Designer skyline in my head
Abstract and still well-read
You went from numbered lines to buildings overhead.

I sometimes wonder if Adam Young (the voice behind Owl City) wrote that last part about the Minneapolis skyline. Granted, the skylines of San Francisco and New York City are gorgeous too…but it pales in comparison to Minneapolis (at least in my humble opinion).

God created all that we see. He created you and… He created me. On His creation, enabled through Christ, He bestows His unfailing love affectionately. God is the Great Architect. He started with Creation, followed it up with the flood (I firmly believe that this is where the mountains and the Grand Canyon came from – just to name a few wonders on this terrestrial planet) and He continues, with each changing season. He gives ideas to men, who then work to create such wonderful masterpieces, from David by Michelangelo to the art at the Walker Art Museum, the works in the Sculpture Garden to the downtown skyline, the Statue of Liberty to the monument in DC…the list is endless.

We serve an amazing, creative God. How majestic is He!

Psalm 8 NLT

O LORD, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!
Your glory is higher than the heavens.
You have taught children and infants
to tell of Your strength,
silencing Your enemies
and all who oppose You.

When I look at the night sky and see the works of Your fingers –
the moon and the stars You set in place –
what are mere mortals that You should think about them,
human beings that You should care for them?
Yet You made them only a little lower than God
and crowned them with glory and honor.
You gave them charge of everything You made,
putting all things under their authority –
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds of the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims in the ocean currents.

O LORD, our Lord, Your majestic name fills the earth!

 

The Head of the Church

Christ is also head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. Colossians 1:18-20

Paul pictured the church as one body that consists of many parts (see 1 Corinthians 12). A body made entirely of ears wouldn’t be able to walk. A body made entirely of legs wouldn’t be able to eat. A body made entirely of hands wouldn’t be able to see. In the same way, a diversity of people and spiritual gifts is exactly what the church needs to thrive. The key, of course, is a head. Without a head to run the show, a body is just a corpse. In the case of the church, the Head is Christ. He’s the One in charge!

Christ’s headship over the church is yet another facet of His greatness and glory (v. 18). He is also “the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead.” Just as He rose from the dead with a glorified body, so also will we (see 1 Corinthians 15). Because of Him, death has lost its sting and the gift of eternal life is ours. This has been God’s plan all along: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be  the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29). In everything Christ has the supremacy.

Christ’s identity and mission are closely intertwined. His identity is fully God, that is, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him” (v. 19). In His humanity, Christ’s mission on earth was redemption and reconciliation. Why reconciliation? Because of sin, we were God’s enemies. We were in a state of war with the Almighty, and peace needed to be made. But we were enslaved in the “dominion of darkness” and incapable of rescuing ourselves. So God reached out to us and made “peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (v. 20). The state of war ended, thanks to the sacrifice of the Victor Himself.

Paul celebrated the identity and mission of Christ in order to remind the Colossians of the Person and truth who had transformed their lives, and to call them (and us) to worship and live worthy of Him.

Every believer has one or more spiritual gifts that are to be used in service to the body of Christ, the church. These gifts are given and cultivated by the Holy Spirit. A variety of gifts is necessary for the health of the church (see 1 Cor. 12:6–7). Are we using our gifts to participate in the life of the church? Just as our gift of salvation should prompt us to live in gratitude, so also our spiritual gifts should encourage us to live in service to God and others.

Christ is head. Whom will you follow?