Tag Archives: life

Death, the Path to Life

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

Picture this: You and a couple of your closest friends are on a journey together. I mean these are close friends. In fact you’ve pretty much spent all of the last three years with them in one long adventure. One of these friends, the leader and mentor to all, opens up and tells you he’s about to be captured, that he will endure tremendous suffering and eventually be killed.

What would your reaction be? I’d imagine you would object and assure your leader that as long as you have something to say about it, this wouldn’t happen. Maybe you resolve to fight for your friend. After all, having the man you look up to suffer and be taken away from you is not acceptable. It’s not the way life’s supposed to work. Right?

Bringing this story home, see yourself as Peter in the following scene:

First Jesus asks you, “But who do you say that I am?”  And you say, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

At your response, Jesus blesses you and tells you that God has revealed this to you. He tells you that upon the truth of your saying his church will be built and that the gates of Hades will not overpower it. On top of that, he gives you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, the ability to handcuff or bind the activities of Satan and release or loose those held captive.

About now you’re feeling pretty good. But then Jesus begins to talk to you all about  his  pending suffering and death.

This rocks your world and you argue, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall not happen to you.”[1]

Jesus’ response is stark and jolting,  “Get behind Me Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.”[2]

Jesus was talking to Peter, but he spoke to Satan, exposing his desire to keep us thinking about our own welfare.

So evidently Satan’s strategy is deeper than just getting us to do evil deeds. All he really has to do is keep us thinking about what’s best for us. What he doesn’t want is for us to think about God.

If we focus only on our desires for comfort, smooth circumstances, and a life free of pain, we’re not free to seek God’s desire for our lives.

Days later, it would happen to Peter again. Mindful of his own safety, he would deny even knowing his Lord on the day of his crucifixion.

But Peter would eventually get it.  See what he wrote decades later concerning our life in Christ,  In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ;  and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls.” I Peter 1:6-9

What changed Peter?

Only a few verses after Jesus let Peter know he was speaking the words of Satan, he said  “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses His life for my sake will find it.”[3]

After Peter’s encounter with the Risen Lord, the above words would guide his life. History tells us he was crucified upside down for his faith, not considering himself worthy to die in the same manner as his Lord.

“Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”[4]

 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.[5]

The path of following Jesus is the path of dying to what we want and embracing what Jesus wants for us.

Challenge: In what ways are you embracing the ‘things of man’? It could be an obvious besetting sin, or more subtle sins of living only for comfort and ease of circumstances.

Bring these things to the cross of Christ where Jesus died for you and all that needs to die in you. Out of each death to self, you will experience his life.

Lord, may we respond as Peter with great rejoicing and joy inexpressible and full of glory to your work in our lives, knowing your purposes are for our ultimate good. Teach us to die to what we want and live our lives fully mindful of what you want. Amen

[1] Matthew 16:15-22 (NASB unless otherwise noted)

[2] Matthew 16:23 NKJV

[3] Matthew 16:24-25

[4] Romans 6:11

[5] Galatians 2:20

Taking the Death out of Deadlines

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10

 Deadlines create stress even in the most joyous of occasions.  “Deadline” is a negative word which first appeared in a Georgia Confederate prison camp. Confederates built a rail around the stockade where they held the Union soldiers. The deadline loomed twenty feet from that railing. Death awaited any prisoners caught beyond that line.

Though today’s deadlines rarely result in actual death, the word speaks to inner turmoil. A fixed point in time, when all work must be completed, can evoke serious stressful feelings. Nobody wants to fail in any responsibility.

A while back I was the best man in my son’s wedding. Granted, the success of the wedding didn’t depend upon me, but I felt stress as the deadline approached. The house needed cleaning for out of town guests. I had to produce a bride and groom video for the rehearsal dinner. I had to plan the bachelor party. I had to prepare speeches … and …. and ….

The wedding ended up being a joyous occasion, but leading up to it I fought to stay in the present moment and embrace life rather than duty.

As believers, Christ is our life. When we embrace Him as our value and our source, He becomes our lifeline, turning deadlines into joy because of His presence and life.

Value  One reason I dread deadlines is my fear of failure. I struggle seeing my value in what I do. In the wedding I didn’t want to let my son down, but I also didn’t want others to see me as a failure in my roles of best man and father of the groom. Truth: My true value has nothing to do with what I do, but with what Christ has done.[1] It’s by Christ’s life that I’m righteous, not by my own success.[2] My greatest value is being a child of God.[3] Failure has been nailed to the cross. [4]

Source  When I strive to succeed in my own strength, I become very dutiful, and allow my work to steal my joy. I believe the familiar lie that “it is all up to me”. Truth: As a believer, I was crucified with Christ. By His Spirit, He now indwells me. My life is now a moment by moment dependence upon His life in me. Apart from this yielding to Him, I can produce nothing of eternal value.[5] [6]

Lord, I’m sorry for seeking value apart from you and striving on my own. You are my value and my source of strength. When I see you as my life, the stress of deadlines are turned into the joy of your life in me. You have done it all, please help me to continue to rest in your finished work.

 Challenge: Think of a deadline you have coming up. Determine to work for God’s glory and not your own. Ask Christ to be your strength by His Indwelling Spirit and rest in His finished work.

 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9

[2] 2nd Corinthians 5:21

[3] Ephesians 1:5

[4] Galatians 2:20

[5] Galatians 2:20

[6] John 15:5

Choosing Life Over Work

Of his mentor, missionary to China Margaret Barber, Watchmen Nee wrote, “She cared for nothing but life… [and to pay] more attention to life than work.”[1]

 I long for this mindset, but too often the opposite is true. Consider what occurred only a few days ago.

On my to-do list was to get the name of diabetic test strips which would be covered under our new health insurance plan. My pharmacy told me to call my provider. My provider told me to call my insurance company. My insurance company referred me to a third party which handled pharmacy issues.

After several tries, I finally found myself talking to a person. His name was John. His voice was slow and shaky. I had the phone on speaker and my wife and I could both tell he was elderly, probably in his 70s.

John didn’t seem to know the answer to my question and suggested I call my pharmacy. When I told him I'd tried that, he told me to call my insurance company. I told him my insurance company had referred me to him. I tried to keep my voice from sounding as frustrated as I was feeling. This "to-do" was taking much longer than I'd hoped.

That's the sad thing. At that moment I wasn't thinking about John at all, other than the fact that he was blocking  me from marking this nagging duty off my list.

When John realized I wasn't going to go away, he  put me on hold.

"I bet people laugh at the way he talks all the time," my wife offered, feeling compassion for him. This unsolicited comment began to shift my heart and my thoughts moved slightly towards John. I emphasize slightly, because my goal was still resolution, not encouragement. I hate to admit this, but it's true.

When John got back on the line, he had an answer for me. In fact, he seemed empowered now that he had information.

During our exchange, my wife caught my eye and mouthed, "Pray for him."

Not yet being fully focused on John, this hadn't even occurred to me and I was a bit reluctant. However, when  John was done giving me my answer, I asked, “Is there anything I can pray for you about?”

"Yes," John said without hesitation.

“What can I pray for you about,” I repeated.

“My salvation,” John cried out.

Wow. I wasn't expecting that at all, but it thrilled me that he would be so honest.

I went on to pray that John would recognize God's loves for him, that he would accept Christ's willingness to die on a cross for his sins.  I prayed that John would believe by faith the fact that Jesus' death was out of love for him and that by receiving Christ's finished work, it would secured the salvation of his soul.

John listened and when I was done we ended our call with the normal protocols. But before we hang up, we could hear John gasp loudly and sob softly. What if he really did surrender his life to Christ? We pray that he did.

When we value life over work, this changes everything.

I recently heard of a man who was an elder serving on a particular church committee for 45 years. He said the experience was totally empty, but that he considered it his duty to God. He said his life was a series of dutiful activities hoping to please God.

But two years ago he finally understood grace. Though he'd heard the word for years, the amazing truth of God's unmerited favor passed from head knowledge to his heart.

Since then, his life has been totally different.  Now, when he wakes up in the morning, he doesn't think about all he has to do. Two simple thoughts have replaced his thoughts of work:

  • Oh, how he loves me
  • I wonder who he will bring into my life today to love through me?

Prayer: Most gracious, heavenly Father. I’m sorry I so easily get caught up in the swirl of duties and work that life becomes secondary. You are life. I see you all around me in your creation and in the people you bring my way. Please help me trust you that the work you want to accomplish will get done. I’m asking you to change the paradigm of my day to care less about accomplishments and more about people, to pay more attention to life than work.

Thank you for loving me so much.  Please work this unsearchable truth more and more into the fabric of my heart.

Who do you want to bring into my life today so that you can love them through me?

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)  but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

[1] Watchman Nee, Witness Lee

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Turning Deadlines into Lifelines

And if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Romans 8:10

 Deadlines create stress even in the most joyous of occasions.  “Deadline” is a negative word which first appeared in a Georgia Confederate prison camp. Confederates built a rail around the stockade where they held the Union soldiers. The deadline loomed twenty feet from that railing. Death awaited any prisoners caught beyond that line.

Though today’s deadlines rarely result in actual death, the word speaks to the inner turmoil. A fixed point in time, when all work must be completed, can evoke serious stressful feelings. Nobody wants to fail in any responsibility.

Recently I was the best man in my son’s wedding. Granted, the success of the wedding didn’t depend upon me, but I felt stress as deadline approached. The house needed cleaning for out of town guests. I had to produce a bride and groom video for the rehearsal dinner. I had to plan the bachelor party. I had to prepare speeches … and …. and ….

The wedding ended up being a joyous occasion, but leading up to it I fought to stay in the present moment and embrace life rather than duty.

As believers, Christ is our life. When we embrace Him as our value and our source, He becomes our lifeline, turning deadlines into joy because of His presence and life.

Value  One reason I dread deadlines is my fear of failure. I struggle seeing my value in what I do. In the wedding I didn’t want to let my son down, but I also didn’t want others to see me as a failure in my roles of best man and father of the groom. Truth: My true value has nothing to do with what I do, but with what Christ has done.[1] It’s by Christ’s life that I’m righteous, not by my own success.[2] My greatest value is being a child of God.[3] Failure has been nailed to the cross. [4]

Source  When I strive to succeed in my own strength, I become very dutiful, and allow my work to steal my joy. I believe the familiar lie that it is all up to me. Truth: As a believer, I was crucified with Christ. By His Spirit, He now indwells me. My life is now a moment by moment dependence upon His life in me. Apart from this yielding to Him, I can produce nothing of eternal value.[5] [6]

Lord, I’m sorry for seeking value apart from you and striving on my own. You are my value and my source of strength. When I see you as my life, the stress of deadlines are turned into the joy of your life in me. You have done it all, please help me to continue to rest in your finished work.

 Challenge: Think of a deadline you have coming up. Determine to work for God’s glory and not your own. Ask Christ to be your strength by His Indwelling Spirit and rest in His finished work.

 

 

[1] Ephesians 2:8-9

[2] 2nd Corinthians 5:21

[3] Ephesians 1:5

[4] Galatians 2:20

[5] Galatians 2:20

[6] John 15:5