How Many Paths Are There To The Top Of The Mountain?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

This week we are continuing the Sermon Series, Jesus {Who is this man?}.  The Scripture for the week is John 14:1-14, and was discussed by Pastor Paul Nynas of Hope Lutheran ChurchQuestion number two:  Is Jesus the Way?

Climbing that mountain.

Pastor Paul likened the trip to heaven to a mountain, with Heaven and God on top.  Is there really only one way up there (through Jesus)?  Logically it doesn’t make sense, look at all those paths: east, west, north, south, straight up, zig-zag…the options seem endless.  What if there is only one God, no matter what religion we practice, we are all worshiping the same God…different path, same result.

But Jesus says, “I am the way the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).  One way.  That mountain has only one correct path.  Am I even on it?  Are you on it?  We are basically good people right?  God just wants us to be good people…right?  Good people go to heaven…don’t they?

Actually, nowhere in the Bible does it say good people go to heaven.  Not even if you follow the 10 Commandments to a T.  The only way is through Jesus.  He died to wash away our sin, without Him and His infinite grace, we are just sinners.  With Him, we are children of God, on our way home to heaven.

How do we get to Heaven?

This week’s topic of discussing how we get to heaven was hard for me.  I do believe what John 14:6 says,

6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me. 

There is only one way, and that is through Jesus.  He died to wipe my sins away so that I could go to Heaven and enjoy eternal life.

You may be wondering why this is hard for me, sounds like I have it figured out.  It’s hard because I know what I believe, but I am uncertain what my loved ones believe.  What if they believe, as long as they are good people, they get the ticket to heaven?  Why do rapists and murders that repent get into heaven, but good people who haven’t accepted Jesus as their savior don’t get in?  Why?

For my loved ones who are still here, I know there is time to find out their answer to “Is Jesus the way?”  What I don’t like to think about is the ones who have already left this world, the ones I didn’t get to ask…one very specific person…my Mom.

Life is filled with questions, searching for answers.

15“But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?”
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”
Matthew 16:15-16 (NIV)

Today I am continuing to follow the Sermon Series:  Jesus {Who is this man?}.  You can find the recorded sermons on Hope Lutheran’s website, as well as the study materials I refer to.  I encourage you to download these resources and join in the discussion!  Welcome to the group!

Scripture:  Matthew 16:13-20

13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

14They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15“But what about you?” he asked.  “Who do you say I am?”

16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

Questions and answers

During this week’s sermon, Pastor Chuck talked about how life is filled with questions searching for answers.  Some of these questions are easy, some are hard, and some are destiny questions.  Life at times bring us to the place where we must answer these questions, and how we answer them determines our destiny.

In Matthew 16:13-20, Jesus is having a conversation with his disciples.  During this conversation, Jesus asks his disciples a destiny question.  As Pastor Chuck points out in the sermon, I don’t think they really understood how significant this conversation really was.

Question 1:  Who do you say that I am?

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” (Matthew 16:13)  Why?  Why would Jesus as this question to his disciples?  My thought is, Jesus wants to know the “popular” opinion regarding his identity.  That he is trying to get a feel for what the people think about the Son of Man.

Jesus then asks his disciples, “Who do say I am?” (Matthew 16:15)  When Jesus asks this question, their conversation turned into a destiny question.  Why would he ask his disciples point blank who they thought he is?  The answer to this question will direct the destiny of this “Jesus movement”, the destiny of the Church.  If the disciples answer in the same way as the crowd, what would happen to the Church?  This was a test by Jesus, to determine the faith these men had in him, to see if they knew who he truly was.

Peter’s response to Jesus, that he is “the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) has thus determined is destiny.  What are these life changing implications?  By answering this way, I believe Peter has committed his life to Jesus.  Jesus then says to Peter, “and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Matthew 16:18)  This tells me, Peter’s statement is as solid as a rock, and not even the devil can change it.

Seek knowledge, wisdom, and truth.

Pastor Chuck pointed out in his sermon that as Christians, we have a duty to seek knowledge, wisdom and truth about who God is and what it means for our life.  All of us, at one point, will need to answer Jesus’ question: “Who do YOU say I am?”  Our response to this destiny question will affect our lives.

When we answer, “Jesus, you are my savior and salvation. You are the Messiah.”  We then take on the challenge of his mission:  Pointing others towards God, and supporting the work of the church.

That mission will look different for each one of us.  God gives each of us different opportunities to reach out to our fellow human beings and share the good news of Jesus.

How will you respond?  Please post in the comments below.

What is Time?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

The introduction to my Church’s upcoming sermon series hit home this week.  The Pastor’s message was entitled, “It’s Time!”  He spoke about how time is the great equalizer, there is a finite amount of time…How are you spending yours?

What a question, how AM I spending my time?  Is what I’m doing really making a difference? Does it really matter?  If I take a look at my life, as a whole…beginning to end, does what I’m doing now on a daily basis truly matter?  I had to honestly answer, “No.”

What do you do with that?  I felt, well…yucky.  The life I am currently living, when I take an honest Christian look at it is not currently benefiting anyone, let alone Jesus.  How does one turn that around, how do I make my answer a “Yes”?

Moving dirt back and forth

The Pastor used the example of an Army private given the task of digging a hole, putting the dirt into sacs, then moving it to another location to dump it out, and repeating it over and over.  Once the hole was dug, he was told to go to the dirt pile, fill the sac, and empty it into the hole.  In the end he is just moving dirt back and forth.  The whole thing was meaningless.

Am I just moving dirt back and forth?  Perhaps a better question is:  Why AM I just moving dirt back and forth?  God put us on this earth for a purpose…I highly doubt that purpose is to move dirt back and forth!  As Christians it is our obligation to bring meaning to our time, to do the things that are important.

Time management

Psalm 90:1-12 talks about how important it is to live each day as if it is numbered.  It reminds us that our life is short:

“Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10, NIV)

How short 70 or 80 years are when compared to eternity.  We have such a short time to show God what we are really made of, what he put us on this earth to accomplish.  How do we spend it?  I know I am guilty of sitting in front of the television, computer, or smart phone.  Pinning away projects I will never accomplish, articles I will never read.

What meaning is that bringing to my time here on earth as a Christian?  What meaning is that bringing to my life as a mother?  I can tell you, not a whole lot.  And I know it is not what God put me here on earth to do.  I think all of us need to remember that life has no real fulfillment outside of Christ.  “It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

It is time to refocus

To me, the fall feels like the perfect time to reevaluate life and priorities.  Nature is getting rid of the old, and getting ready for the new.  The old leaves fall away, and over the winter the tree prepares itself for the new ones to grow. LifeLifeBeyondYourself

It is time for a refocus in my life.  To find the things that really matter in life, both to God and to me.  To find the things that make God and, in turn, me happy.  It is time for me to be a little more like Jesus, it’s time for me to reach out to others like Jesus, and it’s time to find out for myself who Jesus is to me.

Sermon Series: Jesus {Who is this man?}

My Church has begun a sermon series entitled:  Jesus {Who is this man?}.  Asking the question billions of people have asked themselves and others for thousands of years.  This is a question that each of us must answer for ourselves as we walk this earth.  Jesus himself has asked the question, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29).

I want to share this series with you and form an online “small group,” in order to go deeper into this question.  As a mother of two small children, I know that finding time in your schedule to attend small groups in person.  It is my hope that this blog can serve as a small group of sorts, helping those who want to be involved in the conversation do so.

There are study materials available at Hope Lutheran’s website.  There are also links to the sermons the Pastors will be preaching regarding the questions in the study materials.

It is my intention to post on this topic every Wednesday.  I hope you will join me for the conversation!

Find hope in the Lord

16 Turn to me and show me Your loving-kindness. For I am alone and in trouble. 17 The troubles of my heart have grown. Bring me out of my suffering. 18 Look upon my troubles and my pain, and forgive all my sins. 19 Look upon those who hate me, for they are many. And how very much they hate me! 20 Keep me safe, Lord, and set me free. Do not let me be put to shame for I put my trust in You. 21 Let what is good and what is right keep me safe, because I wait for You.

I have a very dear friend who is going through some feelings of being empty and alone.  This makes my heart ache, and I knew I must help them in any way I could.  Upon them sharing their feelings with me, I immediately began to pray by asking God to send the Holy Spirit down and fill my friend up with His love.  My next step was to be a listening ear.  In addition to feeling empty and alone, “God just feels so far away right now,” they said.  “You need to fill yourself up with God and the Holy Spirit,” I said.  When you have God, you are never truly lonely for he is always with you.

How do you fill yourself up when you are empty?

Patience is a Virtue, or is it?

“Patience is a virtue”…that I do not poses.  At least I didn’t prior to starting my walk with Christ.   I had no patience for anything, be it slow drivers, noisy kids, or “stupid” people…I rapidly became frustrated and usually exploded.

In the last few months, I do feel as if I have “developed” more patience.  I don’t react negatively to my kids nearly as often. When I do, I usually catch myself and attempt to take a proverbial chill-pill.  Instead of getting bent out of shape when things go wrong, I am attempting to find the humor in the situation.  Like when I was taking my petunias home from my Dad’s house, and ended up dumping them all over the back of his Tahoe as I coasted around a corner…sorry about that Dad!

Dumped flowers

Life seems to be so much easier, and much more enjoyable, when you don’t freak out about everything!  I tell you what, had I understood…really understood…how much less work it is to laugh at a situation than it is to get flustered, stress out and lash out.  I would have started such a long time ago!

As I was beginning to write this post, my intention was to talk about how patience is more like grace, and how grace is a virtue.  Think about this, when things don’t go the way you expected or someone screws up.  Being patient is the Godly thing to do, it is what Jesus would do.  He would give grace to that person/situation even though it wasn’t perfect.

But as I sit here and write, I am thinking it’s not realistic to expect perfection!  Nothing and no one is perfect, except Jesus.  So why on Earth do we expect our lives to be?  Maybe patience isn’t as much about grace, as it is changing our expectations to be more realistic.  Here is an example we have all seen and most likely experienced, the Toddler-Supermarket-Melt-Down:  It’s 5:30 pm, you stop at the grocery store with your 3-year-old.  You go through the cereal isle…and the tantrum starts.  You become embarrassed and frustrated, perhaps even lash out at the poor kid (been there done that).

Lets look at the whole picture and adjust our expectations…It’s been a long day, he hasn’t eaten since snack time at 3:00 pm, he is all played out.  Now we are making him go to a place with lots of food which he cannot eat.  If you were tired, hungry, and didn’t have control of your emotions…you would throw a fit to get that Co-Co Cereal too!  When I take a step back, put myself in someone else’s shoes, and change my expectations…I find patience.

Is patience a virtue?  I don’t think it is.  I think patience is taking the time to evaluate your expectations and bringing them back to reality.  I think patience is being able to accept your flaws and even laugh at yourself when you tip potted plants over while driving.  I don’t think patience is something you are born with, I think it is a skill you have to practice on a daily basis.  Just like keeping your muscles in shape, or keeping your brain sharp, patience must be practiced in order for it to be natural.

To all those people who seem to exude patience, I applaud you!  Your hard work and diligence has definitely paid off!  And to the rest of us who are not yet Patience Pros, keep your chin up and take it one day at a time.

Lord, help us to take a step back and re-evaluate our expectations when dealing with our daily lives.  Give us a moment of peace to regroup when necessary.  Help us to accept our flaws, and help us to remember you made us this way with a purpose.  Lord give us the clarity to understand that purpose, and guide us down your path.

In Jesus’ name I pray,
Amen

Exploring Alpha

After attending Church regularly for a few weeks, and feeling as though God was trying to tell me something, I decided I really should find out more.  But where does one go about finding out more??  I had no clue…and God knew it.  That very next Sunday it was announced they were going to put on another Alpha Course in a few weeks and the sign up table was in the lobby.  This course would be covering “the basics.”

“Ok God, I’m listening,” I thought.  After the service was done I stepped into the hall and signed up for Alpha…My first Bible Study, and I was going alone!  Oh the nerves!!

At my Church, we are lucky enough to have our Pastors lead the Alpha Course, however the weekly lessons are available on YouTube.  I think it is worth it to find a local Alpha Course.  Being able to discuss your thoughts and questions with fellow Christians in a small group setting is what it’s all about.

After week 3 ended, I was hooked, God had once again pointed me in the right direction.  Small Groups are not nearly as scary as they sound, it really will be a rewarding experience!  Since I completed my Alpha Course last fall, I have participated in 3 Church sponsored bible studies.  I am also taking the time to explore some studies on my own.

Please check out the Alpha Course information, and find one near you.  I will be attending my Church sponsored Alpha Course again in the fall of 2013.  I challenge you to do the same.

Why I need Jesus Christ in my life

Why do I need Jesus Christ in my life?  The sort answer, grace.

I need His Grace to get me through life.  The beauty of God’s grace?  YOU CAN’T EARN IT! And thank God for that!  The Skit Guys do an excellent skit on God’s Grace.

Right before I started down my Walk of Prayer, I was very close to bottoming out…again.  I was in a place where I was trying so hard to be everything for everyone, not taking any time for me.  This made me miserable, and I made sure everyone knew it.  Looking back, I think I probably wanted everyone to be miserable with me.   I was trying to keep too many plates spinning up in the air, I was barely hanging on.  I was a walking oxymoron…making sure everyone noticed how miserably unselfish I was being…but it was still all about me (which last time I checked is the definition of selfish).

I needed a break, some relief, someone to take these worries (my plates) and take care of them for me.  I wanted to be happy and I had no clue how to get there.  I was drowning in the hole I had dug and filled myself.  My misery was my own doing, but I was positive it had been put upon me by the universe.  This may sound over dramatic, but this really was the world I was “living in” at the time.

The funny thing is, half of those plates I had spinning up there, I really didn’t need to worry about spinning.  I was worried about the wrong things, worldly things.  I wanted everything to be perfect.  If it’s not perfect, it’s not good enough.  I held myself and others to such an unrealistically high standard no one ever got there, not even myself.  I was constantly beating my self down, and if I’m honest, everyone around me as well.

Do you know how exhausting it is to “always be perfect”?  I put it in quotes, because who is perfect?  Only God is perfect.  And he sent his Son to die for us so we don’t have to BE perfect….because we can’t.  That is grace, God’s Grace.  It’s not about us, it’s always about Jesus…what he did up there on the cross.  I don’t have to be perfect BECAUSE of God’s grace.  You can’t earn God’s grace…so stop trying!

Once I allowed myself to not be perfect, and to be OK with not being perfect; once I started to let Jesus take some of my worries, my plates, my baggage, and allowed His Grace to come into my life…everything in life became easier.  I didn’t deserve it, and that is the point.  We don’t deserve God’s grace because we can’t earn it…all we can do is accept it, and be thankful for it.

Thank you Jesus for your wonderful grace, thank you for giving me the grace I don’t deserve.  Amen.

Have you accepted God’s grace in your life?  I struggle to accept His grace daily…but every day I’m getting better.