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!

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

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.

All Christians are not created equal

When you hear the word Christian being used to describe someone, what is the first thing that comes to mind?  I need to be honest, prior to beginning my walk with Christ, when I visualized a “Christian” it looked something like this:

An individual(s) going door to door asking if you have been saved.  Those people who approach random people they see at the mall and ask them to follow Jesus.  Those intolerant people who damn you for your sin and seemingly threaten you with hell if you do not follow Jesus today.

Oh my, I had NO desire to be one of “those people.”  I fully admit, I had formed a stereotype in my head without creditable any information to base it on.  I made assumptions based on the attitudes and opinions of those around me, without gathering the facts.

Your Christian Personality

The reality:  Some Christians are similar to the stereotype, but thankfully most are not.  There are several different “personalities” when it comes to being Christian, which is a good thing in more ways than one.

When started going to Church regularly, and I began my journey, I took the time to do some proper research.  I found out being a Christian and a follower of Christ has nothing to do with going door to door in the attempt to save people.  I can honestly say I was relieved, running up to random people is not my style!  More power to those Christians who can share their faith that way!  You truly have a gift.  But God did not make me that way, and He did it on purpose.

Each of us has a special function

Romans 12:4-5(NLT)

4 Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, 5 so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other.

Not every Christian can, or should, be the same.  God did not intend us to be that way.  If all of us were the hands of Christ we would get nowhere without the feet to take us there.  If all of us were the voice of Christ, we could not act on the spoken words.  All of us are special God’s eyes, each in our own way.  I think that is why he made such a wide variety of us.  What a waste it would be if all of mankind were the same!

We all belong to each other

Another part of this Scripture that stands out to me is in Verse 5 – “and we all belong to each other.”  God does not intend for us to go through this life on our own.  You can find this theme in all kinds of sayings and clichés:  opposites attract, two peas in a pod, you complete me, two are better than one, the three amigos, etc.  While I don’t think one person can “complete” another person, I do believe that God put people in our lives to balance each other out.

I have a fiery personality…I tend to be sensitive over-react, and do it quickly.  I get anxious about things that are not a big deal, and I tend to be fussy about things.  My husband on the other hand generally stays as cool as a cucumber in most situations.  It takes a lot to get him mad, I know…I’ve tried.

I think God brought the two of us together because we balance each other out.  I flip out, he stays calm.  I yell and carry on, he is calm and collected.  There are areas I help him out in too.  He prefers to be a home body, I help him get out and socialize.  It’s all about finding that healthy balance, sometimes we need help to do that.

God made each one of us with a special gift he wants us to use to spread his Word and share it with other people.  Sometimes, and probably most of the time, we will need to work with fellow Christians to do this.  I believe I have found the way he wants me to share the message of Jesus.  Have you found yours?

God’s Chisel

If you haven’t seen the God’s Chisel video by The Skit Guys, get ready…and you may want to grab a tissue.

I don’t know about you, but that hit home hard for me.  Every time I watch it I tear up…God doesn’t make junk, we are God’s master piece.

Ephesians 2:10(NLT)

10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

There are some days, even weeks, that I feel I am far from God’s masterpiece.  I know full well I am not doing what God planned for me, I’m doing what I planned for me.

You know that feeling, when you know you are letting someone down, but you are choosing to pretend you don’t realize what you are doing….maybe they won’t notice.  God notices, we can’t fool him as easily as we think we can.  But, as luck would have it, we cannot let God down because we are not holding him up.  In our relationship with God, he holds us up because he loves us.

Here’s how I like to think about it:  God is like the parent, and we are the children…and I think we are the equivalent of toddlers or preschoolers.  Most of the time we listen, but we still push those boundaries to see how far we can get. No matter what we do God is going to love us, but at the same time He is going to bring us back to where we belong.

But like all good parents, God only disciplines the ones he loves.  When we are not listening, He is going to teach us a lesson so we know not to repeat the same mistakes…like disciplining a child.  I don’t know about you, but there are days I really deserve God’s discipline.  And sometimes I’m really not listening, so God has to give me a jolt to bring me back to His path.

Don’t give up when the going gets tough, look up.  Look up to God and ask Him to give you the grace and clarity you need to see His reason, because there is always a reason.  He is shaping us into His original masterpiece, chiseling away, “creating us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planed for us.”  We may not be able to see the reason in the moment, but take a look back…what was He trying to tell you in those hard times?  I bet you can see it if you try.

Remember, you are God’s masterpiece…not junk…God doesn’t take the time to make junk.