Perhaps You Have Been Cheated

Do you know Jesus as a person or a painting? Is he a perfectly carved, crafted statue with a beatific smile on his face or does he have flesh and blood that sweats, smells bad and bleeds when he cuts himself. Does your Jesus stub his toe; accidentally hit his thumb with his hammer and yell, “oh darn” or___________! Does he get tired and impatient with people always wanting something from him or is he always perfectly composed, gentle, kind, gracious, and happy to see them?

You may wonder why I am asking these questions. Because I believe we have been cheated. Many of us have a Jesus that is not really human, who lived his life in another world and is totally untouchable, unapproachable or out of touch with the reality we have to live with.

When you ask someone what Jesus is like you normally will hear the words loving and compassionate. Or they will talk about his humility and faith. But what about his playfulness, his wit, irreverence, exasperation and impatience? What about that which defines his humanity; his personality?

We are told in Scripture (John 8:29) that we will be conformed to the likeness of his Son. If that is going to happen here and I don’t have a realistic picture of Jesus, of how he really was as a flesh and blood man, than for me that scripture is unrealistic and unattainable.

A true knowledge of Jesus is our greatest need and our greatest happiness. To be mistaken about him is the saddest mistake of all.

In his book “Beautiful Outlaw,” John Eldridge writes,

“If you do not know Jesus as a person, know his remarkable personality—playful, cunning, fierce, impatient with all that is religious, kind, creative, irreverent, funny—you have been cheated.

If you do not experience Jesus intimately, daily, in these very ways, if you do not know the comfort of his actual presence, do not hear his voice speaking to you personally—you have been robbed.

If you do not know the power of his indwelling life in you, shaping your personality, healing your brokenness, enabling you to live as he did—you have been plundered.”

Cheated, robbed, plundered! Those are pretty strong words. As I read them and thought about my own personal feelings about Jesus, and how I saw him I realized that for much of my life I did not know him as a man with flesh and blood but as someone so holy, pure, and righteous that for me to even think of being in his presence was crazy. Because I do sweat and smell and bleed. I do say more than “oh darn” when I accidentally hit my thumb with a hammer. I do get tired and impatient with people and want to be left alone.

To try and be like Jesus for any length of time was so far out of my reach that it was for me unattainable. Sure, I could be like Jesus Sunday morning when at church or when around my “religious friends.” But what about when my teenager has just smarted off to me, or that driver in front of me is poking along talking on their cell phone?

But then all of that began to change. I did begin to know him intimately, hear his voice, and see him as a friend. I did see the side of him that is playful, irreverent, funny, impatient with all that is religious. I began to see his humanness and understood that through the power of his indwelling presence he was healing my brokenness and shaping my personality so I could live as he lived.

I don’t have to try and be perfect, sinless and always-in control. In fact, it’s not even possible. But I can be better and over time conformed and transformed so that people hopefully see more of Jesus and less of me. But most importantly I began to see Jesus as a human dealing with many of the same feelings and issues I’ve had. And I can fully know that he understands those contradictions in my life and yet in spite of them, loves me.

So the question is: what is your Jesus like? Have you been cheated, robbed, plundered? If so, you can change that by replacing that unreal Jesus with the one who has flesh and blood and is much like we are. Spend some time with him, get to know him as a friend. Get honest with him and you will discover he will be the best friend you ever had. He has a great personality and is fun to be with.

Sin, That’s The Only Thing I Know How To Do!

I was reading Brother Lawrence the other day and came across a statement he made regarding sin. When asked about sin he said, “That’s the only thing I know how to do!” As I read on it became clear that he was recognizing and accepting that sin was in his basic nature. We don’t have to be taught how to sin. From birth on we are being taught something. How to walk or read, hold our spoon, and drink from a cup. Basic skills we need to get along in this world. But nobody has to teach us how to sin. We know that from birth. We get angry, rebellious, and envious or display any number of behaviors that are sinful. We do this without any help from anybody. Yet, we have a difficult time accepting that we are by nature sinful creatures. We deny, hide, run from or make excuses for our sinful behavior. Finding it difficult to accept our humanness we put on masks that we wear before people and before God. We think that if He really knew us He would reject us. This inability to accept our basic nature keeps us from God. That is the tragedy. We think that because of our sinful nature, God will reject us.

Andrew Murray in his book Absolute Surrender wrote, “Why is a lamb always gentle? Because that is its nature. Does it cost the lamb any trouble to be gentle? No. Why not? Does a lamb study to be gentle? No. Why does that come so easy? It is its nature. And a wolf – why does it cost a wolf no trouble to be cruel? Because that is its nature. It doesn’t have to summon up its courage, the cruel nature is there.” You can be cruel to a lamb and it will remain gentle. Or, you can be gentle to a wolf and it will still be cruel. If God’s second greatest commandment is, “Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” don’t you think He understood we were sinful creatures and that we would always be sinful creatures? Do you think that knowledge keeps Him from loving us? Often, we cannot accept our own sinful nature and thus we find it difficult to love ourselves. If we cannot accept ourselves we cannot accept others. Even more tragic is that we cannot accept love from God. If I can understand and accept that it is in my nature to sin, then I begin to do those things that help deal with the sin. Instead of the sin keeping me from God, it drives me to God.

I have discovered that accepting my humanness and knowing that I am going to sin, make mistakes and fail, helps me to quickly deal with my sin and humbly go before my Father where I know there is acceptance and forgiveness. We did not need anyone to teach us how to sin, but we do need God to teach us how to love and accept ourselves. Let’s determine to not let our basic nature keep us from God but drive is to God.

It’s Easy To Fake Christianity!

“Our experience of Christianity must go beyond just being another interpretation of the Bible; it must expand until our faith in Jesus and our love for Him becomes a lightning rod for His Presence.” Francis Frangipane

A lightening rod attracts. It says throughout the Word that we will do the works that Jesus did. If we examine what Jesus did we clearly see that He walked in holiness and power. He spoke and people were transformed from death into life; he prayed and people were healed. People were attracted to Him. They saw what he did and they listened to what He said. The Truth that He spoke changed those who heard it. He didn’t have to fake anything; He was what He spoke, the Truth. His faith was extraordinary, His life was anything but normal. He did not have to make excuses for God, pretend He was something He was not, or pump up His faith. He was as real as it gets. He did not fake anything.

We however, can easily fake Christianity. Francis Farngipane wrote, “If we have been indoctrinated to believe that the Kingdom of God, and Christianity itself, does not really have to work, or if the absence of holiness and power fails to trouble us, something is seriously wrong with our concept of truth.”

If you are not drawn to holiness, if you do not see power manifest, if your prayers are not answered then it would seem logical to ask why things are not working for you. Perhaps it’s something as simple as being “normal.” Sadly, many Christians have no higher goal, no greater aspiration, than to become normal. Their desires are limited to measuring up to others. We like familiarity, we like routine, and we don’t like to step out of the boat and walk on the water because it’s scary and we might drown. Peter didn’t hesitate to step out of the boat, but once he realized where he was, he became afraid and wanted to get back in the boat because it was familiar, it was safe in the boat. There is nothing wrong with the familiar but the familiar is often too comfortable and by nature we like comfortable. Staying comfortable with those things that are normal and familiar keep us from experiencing that which is extraordinary.

So, rather than move into a place of faith, expectancy and obedience, a place where we are drawn closer, week by week to knowing and loving Jesus Christ we stop obeying and we start faking. Think about this; “If Christ is within us, we should be living holy, powerful lives. No excuses!” Christianity is not just accepting some doctrine, but is living daily in the reality of Christ’s presence in our homes, schools and jobs. Lets purpose to press in until we “…lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12) When we settle for anything less than the fullness of Christ in our lives we begin to fake Christianity.

Do You Want To Be Just Normal?

“You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?” (I Cor. 3:3)

How deep and how rich are the ways of God. Is there any limit to what He can do? The obvious answer to this question is no. Emphatically NO! The more important question is; is there any limit to how much He can do with us, in us and through us? The answer to this question is YES! We can limit God! He will not force us into relationship; He will not push us into unfamiliar territory if we stubbornly refuse to go. He will allow us to be “normal” Christians if that is what we want. Sadly, many have no higher goal, no greater aspiration, than to become “normal.” Their desires are limited to measuring up to others. We like familiarity, we like routine; we don’t like to step out of the boat and walk on the water because it’s risky and we might drown. In his book, Holiness, Truth & The Presence of God, Francis Frangipane writes, “We must understand: God does not want us “normal,” He wants us Christ like!” To become Christ like we must do the things that Christ did! That lifestyle is far different than our definition of normal.

In this journey God has taken me from the depths of anguish and despondency to the heights of excitement and wonder. From the place of defeat as I stood by the graveside of a dear friend, to a place of joy as I watched God heal people from pain they have suffered from for years. When I am able to reflect on the experiences God has walked me through and the challenges He has placed before me, I understand more clearly that indeed there is no end to this life of faith. God is so deep, so high, so wide, and so entirely unfathomable to my finite mind that I will always be challenged to move further away from being comfortable, satisfied and “normal.” My question to you is this; “do you want to be just be a normal believer?” There is nothing inherently wrong or sinful with the things that are familiar. But, they keep us from experiencing that which is extraordinary. “If He would expand us to receive the eternal, He must rescue us from the limitations of the temporal.” (Francis Frangipane) My challenge to you is to press in to God day by day until the extraordinary becomes normal.