Monday, June 27, 2011

I AM...Who?

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He began asking His disciples, saying, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:13-16

“Who do you say that I am?”  It’s the ultimate question every human being will have to answer for themselves.  Just who is Jesus Christ?  In fact, our destiny hinges on our response to this question.

Of course, first, Jesus asked his disciples what others thought of him.  That warranted an easy response.  It’s always easier to answer for someone else.  Their answer didn’t surprise Jesus, he heard the rumblings.  I believe he wanted a lead in to the more personal question.  They rattled off the names of some fairly well-known, and highly revered folks…men with fire and intensity, good men, prophets.  Each of these men came preaching a highly-charged, volatile, message that was pretty hard for most people to swallow.  They were forerunners to the Messiah, but they were not the Messiah.  The Jews were waiting, had been waiting, for hundreds of years, for the one who would come as King, conquering deliverer, and essential High Priest.  To the crowds, Jesus was just another prophet to be tolerated.

“BUT,” Jesus asked.  “Who do you say that I am?”  By this time, the disciples had spent about 2 ½ years traveling, talking, and being taught by the Master.  The longer they were around him, the more evidence he gave them that he wasn’t just an ordinary prophet.  The more they observed his miracles, the more convinced they were that there was something of the divine about him.  His life attested to his Messiah-ship.  At the same time, there was something a bit confusing about Jesus.  He wasn’t using his divine powers to overthrow the Roman rule as they expected.  He talked about going away, and coming back.  He lived a life of servant hood, not that of one who would be King; and he discussed with them the idea of “being lifted up,” which they all understood to be crucifixion.  Would a Messiah subject himself to such shame?  So, there were doubts that they were all wrestling with at the time Jesus sought their allegiance.

I so love Peter.  He jumps right in, speaking for the group.  His head knew the answer, even if his heart didn’t necessarily go along with it.  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  This was the first step Jesus’ disciples took toward a confession of faith; and, Jesus blessed the answer, stating that this response held the keys to the eternal Kingdom of God.  Later, following Jesus’ death, each of the disciples wrestled with their belief, finally working their faith from their heads to their hearts.

What a reminder that we don’t have to have all the theological answers to come to Jesus and confess him as our Savior, finding salvation for our souls.  Like the disciples, there may be many times we come face to face with a crisis of belief, but in the end, “He who begins a good work in us, will complete that work in the day of Christ Jesus (Colossians 1:6).”  This, then, is our jumping off place, the point on the cliff where we dive into the ocean and begin our exploration.  “Who do you say that Jesus is?”  Is he your Savior? Or, is he just a good man with a hard message?  We can’t explore the depths, unless you jump.  I don’t have all the answers, but I do know this – I believe with all my heart, Jesus is who he says he is:  my deliverer, who sets me free.  I've jumped.  I hope to see more of him the deeper I go.  I highly recommend jumping off into the arms of Jesus – by faith and find the grace you need for your salvation.  Come on - the water is amazing!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Am...An Introduction

                I have to admit, beginning a series, such as the one on which we're about to embark, feels much like preparing to explore some deep oceanic waters.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the ocean, having been raised in a little sea-side community.  To this day, no place on earth brings me more of a sense of peace than sitting on a sandy shore.  However, to be honest, I have a healthy fear of deep water.  The vastness and dark depths overwhelm me and, sometimes, panic sets into my soul.  So, this is a bit how I feel in regards to submerging myself into the “I Am” statements of Jesus (overwhelmed by the limitlessness). 
                On the other hand, knowing our Lord, is critical to the Christian life.  If I don’t truly know him, I won’t trust him.  If I don’t know him, I won’t believe what he tells me.  If I don’t know him, I can’t really love him; and, it is love that drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).  Knowing is the hinge on which everything turns in regards to the Christian journey. 
                Recently, as I’ve saturated myself in the Psalms (particularly the ones King David wrote), I’ve noticed a pattern (simply read one Psalm a day for the next month and I think you’ll see the same pattern).  I love this man’s honesty – he shamelessly pours out the mess of his heart to God.  Sometimes, he brutally accuses his Lord.  Then, David starts talking to himself.  He reminds himself just who his God is and how faithful his God has been.  Before you realize that David has place a period at the end of a sentence, he’s going off in praise.  His attitude has changed and you read the words of a confident, courageous, content man (who is able to sleep in peace in spite of his situation).  In this fashion, I want to be just like David.
                So while sandy beaches are safe, the real beauty is beneath the surface of the water – out in the scary depths of the sea.  I might need a little practice learning to breathe (maybe in my bathtub first), but I’m ready to go diving!  Wanna come?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Storyline: Conclusion!

Time to wrap up the theme of Storyline!  As we say our farewells to some remarkable women from the Word, I want to recap what I’ve learned as I’ve pondered the STORYLINES of these amazing ladies...

·    Their stories are true stories – as sure as I live, so did they.  What they came through is a reminder that there is a season to everything I go through.
·    Their stories are stories of God’s grace at work...a reminder that His grace is at work in mine.
·    In each of their stories – God reveals His love in a myriad of ways:
Their stories remind me that He loves me no matter what I’ve done...
Their stories remind me that He could not love me more and He will never love me less.
·    In each of these stories, these women are the focus of God, the center of His attention.  He celebrates their lives! The same is true of my story.  I am the focus of His attention...I am His celebration.  Imagine!  God throws a party in heaven and, one day, I will be the guest of honor!

Write this final thought down in your Bible; and make this your final prayer!

I am a line in God’s story. 
May all that I write with my life bring Him glory!

Now...let’s start sharing our God-stories.  They are an essential part of our community of believers.
 If nothing else, from these women I’ve learned that stories build our faith! 

My story...your story...these will increase someone else’s capacity to believe God.

(Consequently, faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God – the stories of God at work!  Romans 10:17)

P.S.  A new series begins next week:  "I AM"

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Storyline: Queen Esther, #4

No matter the translation in which I read Esther 9:1, I find myself getting goose bumps.  Read this verse in several different versions below:
The order the king had commanded was to be done on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.  That was the day the enemies of the Jewish people had hoped to defeat them, but that was changed (NCV).
Now in the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar), on the thirteenth day when the king’s command and edict were about to be executed, on the day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the master over them, it was turned to the contrary…(NASB)
The thirteenth day of Adar came, the day on which the royal proclamation was to take effect, the day when the enemies of the Jews were hoping to take effect, the day when the enemies of the Jews were hoping to get them in their power.  But instead, the Jews triumphed over them (GNT).
On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the king’s order came into effect.  This was the very day that the enemies of the Jews had planned to overpower them, but the tables were now turned (MSG).
Four translations should suffice.  Did you feel it?  Did you sense the relief?  Hear the sighs?  Experience the joy?  Taste the sweetness of the words, “but the tables were turned…all that was changed…but instead…it was turned to the contrary?”  There would be no chapter 9, verse 1, except for an insignificant orphan girl from a defeated country, named Esther. 
I hope that sinks into the very depths of your soul.  Esther had no great qualities – she was simply God’s girl, in God’s place, during God’s time, fulfilling God’s dream for God’s people.  There was a need.  Esther stepped down (in humility), stepped up (in prayer and fasting), stepped out (of herself), and stepped forward (with courage).  As a result, everything changed.  The enemy was defeated.  Salvation was delivered.  Celebration was proclaimed.
We often find ourselves in situations where the tables need turning – wrongs need to be made right, children need to be protected, the unborn need to be fought for, the values we hold dear need to be embraced, marriages need help, and enemies need to be eliminated.  Sometimes those things that we are most passionate about are the very things that God puts in front of our eyes so that we might be the one to stand in the gap.  We might be his woman.  He might have us in this place, during this time, to fulfill his dream for his people in our day.  He doesn’t ever seem to use those who are qualified.  He only seems to use those who are available, surrendered, and willing to set self aside.  Will that be me?  Oh, I pray so!  I pray I’m trained to hear his sweet soft voice calling me forth.  Will that be you?