Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Crux of the Matter: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #15

Number 15 on our hit parade of quotes about Jesus comes to us from the well-known pen of Oswald Chambers. His book, My Utmost for His Highest, was first published in 1927 (ten years after his death), has never been out of print, and remains a top-seller in devotional literature.

The thought being featured today is this:
"The center of salvation is the Cross of Jesus, and the reason it is so easy to obtain salvation is because it cost God so much."

Don't misunderstand. To say that salvation is easy to obtain is certainly true, but it doesn't mean that fleshing that out on a day-by-day basis is a stroll in the park. There's probably a good reason Paul tells us to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." (Philippians 2:12)

In fact, in the very next verse, Paul is kind enough to tell us that good reason. It's because "it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose."

The creator of all that exists is working within me to accomplish His purpose. Just as He was working through Jesus Christ by sending Him to the cross. If that doesn't fill me with a fearsome sense of awe and enough wonder to set my knees to knocking, what will?

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is..."Never forget what Jesus did for you. Never take lightly what it cost Him. And never assume that if it cost Him His very life, that it won't also cost you yours." (Rich Mullins)

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Acts 2: 25-27 With Footnotes

David said about Jesus,
     "I saw the Lord before me at all times;
       he is by my right side, so that I will
       not be troubled.
     Because of this my heart is glad
       and my words are full of joy;
     and I, mortal though I am,
       will rest assured in hope,
     because you will not abandon my soul in
       the world of the dead"

Mile after mile
I am walking and holding to the One who
Cares, really cares
And who calls me His own
Life is a highway
We don't have to walk alone
Just give Him a try, maybe
You'll sing like me

With Jesus I'm stayin'
With Jesus I'm goin'
In Jesus I'm livin'
Each and every day of my life
With Jesus I'm stayin'
With Jesus I'm goin'
And Jesus is teachin' me love each day

Trial after trial
He is drawing me closer to the One who
Loves, really loves
More than my mind can know
Love one another
Is what He has clearly shown
Just call someone brother
And then you will see

"With Jesus"
©1974 Latter Rain Music and Word Music, Inc.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...Jesus wasn't just puttin' on the Ritz when He said he would be with us always...even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20). And if that doesn't have an effect on how I'm staying and going and living each and every day of my life, that's on me...not Him.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I Never Got What I Wanted

I find it very difficult to believe that the following poem was written by a 14-year-old boy, but that is apparently the case, according to where it is excerpted from: the book Calm My Anxious Heart by Linda Dillow, originally from Who Gets the Glory? by Dr. Charles R. Swindoll. (Thanks to blogger Kara @ Just1Step for giving proper credit.)

It was spring but it was summer I wanted;
the warm days and great outdoors.

It was summer but it was fall I wanted;
the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.

It was fall but it was winter I wanted;
the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.

It was winter but it was spring I wanted;
the warmth and the blossoming of nature.

I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted;
the freedom and the respect.

I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted;
to be mature and sophisticated.

I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted;
the youth and the free spirit.

I was retired but it was middle-aged I wanted;
the presence of a mind without limitations.

My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...This gives added weight to the almost-flippant phrase, "Wherever you go in life, be there."

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Truth by the Bald Guy: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #16

In the last several years, Tony Campolo has ruffled a few conservative feathers with some of his liberal-leaning views about hot-button topics, but in the times I've personally heard him speak (back in my youth ministry days), he never failed to wake me from my complacency, point me in the right direction, and give me a firm shove.

This quote of his that comes in 16th on azquotes.com's list of top 25 quotes about Jesus carries on the tradition.

Jesus never says to the poor: "come find the church," but he says to those of us in the church: "go into the world and find the poor, hungry, homeless, imprisoned."

Truth is...You can read the whole story in Matthew 25:31-46, but Jesus' punch line (and it packs quite a punch) is, "I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me."

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Acts 2: 22-24 With Footnotes

Listen to these words, men of Israel! Jesus of Nazareth was a man whose divine mission was clearly shown to you by the miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through him; you yourselves know this, for it took place here among you.

I fall in love so easy
With everything that I see
That comes through the light of His love
Sets my soul to flight
As He woos me and makes me new
I hope you're falling in love, too
'Cause Jesus loves you, too

Let the Son keep shinin'
Let the Son keep shinin'
Let the Son keep shinin' through
Let the Son keep shinin'
Let the Son keep shinin'
Let the Son keep shinin' through

Lookin' at the Son don't bother me now
The darkness is gone out of me somehow
There's a brighter Light within me
I'll stand in the presence of my Lord
Knowin' I'm not guilty anymore
His Son took away my fears today
There's been a change done in me by Jesus
There's been a change done in me somehow
There's been a change done in me by Jesus
There's been a change done in me

Let the change come
Let it come, let it come
Let the change come

Lookin' at the Son don't bother me now
The darkness is gone out of me somehow

There's a brighter Light within
I'm free from sin, I'm clean within
The darkness has gone out of me now

"I fall in Love/Change"
©1974 Latter Rain Music and Word Music, Inc.

God, in his own will and knowledge, had already decided that Jesus would be handed over to you; and you killed him, by letting sinful men nail him to the cross. (At this point, the liner notes for 2nd Chapter of Acts' album, With Footnotes, put a footnote pointing readers to "Easter Song." But since we've already covered Keith Green's version of that song, let's move on.) But God raised him from the dead; he set him free from the pains of death, because it was impossible that death should hold him prisoner.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

Truth is...I'm not really sure why this song is referenced at this place in the chapter, other than giving a celebratory commentary on "it took place here among you." But you know what? I'm also not really sure why Jesus chooses to set me free and shine through me and makes me all that I can be.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Failure Is Not Optional, It's Expected

A musical group with one of the strangest names in recorded history (Chumbawamba) sang one of the most-oddly-named songs ever written ("Tubthumping"). It was the group's biggest hit, even though it reached Number 12 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 20 Most-Annoying Songs.

Having just read the complete lyric, I'm glad that all anybody really remembers is the endlessly repeated "I get knocked down, but I get up again." It's an empowering, energetic anthem of personal triumph.

It's also the normal turn of events when trying to do or learn anything. "If at first you don't succeed" is Standard Operating Procedure for humanity.

And I'm not the only one who thinks so:

  • The semi-official mantra of the engineering department at Franklin Institute's nationally-recognized Science Leadership Academy is "Fail early. Fail often."
  • "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."  -  Henry Ford
  • "Each time you fail, you have eliminated another wrong option."  -  Thomas A. Edison
  • "The awesome thing about failure is that it is only temporary. Embrace it, learn the lesson and come back blazing."  -  Joel Brown
  • "Failure is another steppingstone to greatness."  -  Oprah Winfrey

Truth is...even the apostle Paul, who wrote a large chunk of the New Testament, can be added to the list. "Yet, my brothers, I do not consider myself to have 'arrived', spiritually, nor do I consider myself already perfect. But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ grasped me. My brothers, I do not consider myself to have fully grasped it even now. But I do concentrate on this: I leave the past behind and with hands outstretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal"  -  Philippians 3:12-14 (Phillips)

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Gandhi on Jesus: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #17

Mahatma Gandhi, though raised as a Hindu, spent significant time comparing religions. Today's Jesus quote was, no doubt, born of Gandhi's spiritual searching and may be the most discouraging quote on the list:

I like your Christ.
I do not like your Christians.
Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.

Truth is...the disparity between professing faith in Christ and living in a Christ-like manner has always stood as one of the greatest barriers between seeking Truth and falling in love with Jesus.

Lord, empower me to love like Jesus, pray like Jesus...indeed, to live like Jesus. May my life lift up Jesus so that all people will be drawn to Him.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Acts 2:14-21 With Footnotes

Then Peter stood up with the other eleven apostles, and in a loud voice began to speak to the crowd, "Fellow Jews, and all of you who live in Jerusalem, listen to me and let me tell you what this means. These men are not drunk, as you suppose; it is only nine o'clock in the morning. Rather, this is what the prophet Joel spoke about,

'This is what I will do in the last days, God says: I will pour out my Spirit upon all men. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy; your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. Yes, even on my slaves, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will perform miracles in the sky above, and marvels on the earth below. There will be blood, fire, and thick smoke, the sun will become dark, and the moon red as blood, before the great and glorious Day of the Lord arrives. And then, whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved'."

I heard the ocean say
I started so long ago
I received my first wave
From the hand of God I flow
And the Son comes over the hill
The Son comes over the hill

I heard the breeze at night
Saying I receive my flight
From the turning of His eyes
As they moved across the sky
And the Son comes over the hill
The Son comes over the hill

I heard the Word at night
Speak to darkness with His light
Not a shadow will return
For all darkness shall be burned
When the Son comes over the hill
When the Son comes over the hill
When the Son comes over the hill

"The Son Comes Over the Hill"
©1974 Latter Rain Music and Word Music, Inc.

Truth is...From that Pentecost through today, the Lord has been pouring out His Spirit on all men, and whoever calls on the name of the Lord has been saved, and we've been anticipating the Son coming over the hill.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Demonic Comic

Today's lesson on how temptation works is courtesy of Baby Blues, by Rick Kirkman and Jerry Scott. (© Baby Blues Bros, LLC)

It begins by whetting the victim's appetite.

And then, a stretching of the truth.

Followed by a preposterous lie.

With the payoff of trying to reverse the sin by committing it even more.

Truth is..."Each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." (James 1:14-15)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Fame and Faith: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #18

Born in India in 1940, Harry Webb became a British rock star at the age of 18, recording what John Lennon called "the first British rock record."

With the stage name of Cliff Richard, Webb went on to become the United Kingdom's third-best-selling musical artist in history, behind the Beatles and Elvis.

From Wikipedia: "Over a career spanning 60 years, more than 130 of his singles, albums, and EPs have reached the UK Top 20, more than any other artist. Richard holds the record (with Elvis) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades (1950s–2000s). He has achieved 14 UK number-one singles, and is the only singer to have had a number-one single in the UK in five consecutive decades."

Somewhere along the way, his popularity and success took second place to his relationship with the living God through Jesus Christ, even though the one never seems to have held back the other, as witnessed to by today's Jesus quote.

What other people think of me is becoming less and less important; what they think of Jesus because of me is critical.

Truth is...Fame and faith do not have to be enemies, as long as a person knows which one to grasp firmly.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Acts 2:1-13 With Footnotes

In this blog's ongoing effort to expose the masses to some of the seminal works of Jesus Music pioneers, we come to the first album by siblings Annie Herring, Nelly Greisen, and Matthew Ward...collectively known as 2nd Chapter of Acts.

Their tight, intricate harmonies and Annie's unique song-writing made 2nd Chapter stand out as originals in a sea of "if you like this secular artist, you might like this Christian artist."

Their debut album, With Footnotes, was released in 1974 and had a back cover that featured the text of the actual second chapter of Acts (from Today's English Version ©American Bible Society 1966, 70, 71) with footnotes referencing the different songs on the album.

I always wanted to (but never did) read the text and play the songs where they show up as footnotes (a different order for the songs than just putting the needle in the groove), so that's how we're going to experience the album here.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *

When the day of Pentecost arrived, all the believers were gathered together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from the sky which sounded like a strong wind blowing, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then they saw what looked like tongues of fire spreading out, and each person there was touched by a tongue. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to talk in other languages, as the Spirit enabled them to speak.

There were Jews living in Jerusalem, religious men who had come from every country in the world. When they heard this noise, a large crowd gathered. They were all excited because each one of them heard the believers talking in his own language. In amazement and wonder, they exclaimed, "These men who are talking like this  -  they are all Galileans! How is it, then, that all of us hear them speaking in our own native language? We are from Parthia, Media, and Elam; from Mesopotamia, Judea, and Cappadocia; from Pontus and Asia, from Phrygia and Pamphylia, from Egypt and the regions of Libya near Cyrene; some of us are from Rome, both Jews and Gentiles converted to Judaism; and some of us are from Crete and Arabia  -  yet all of us hear them speaking in our own languages of the great things that God has done!" Amazed and confused they all kept asking each other, "What does this mean?"

But others made fun of the believers, saying, "These men are drunk!" (Acts 2:1-13)

Feel a feeling
Say a saying
But you'll still be lonely
If you think life is only for this moment

Do a doing
Mourn a mourning
Still won't get you off your sorrow
So go ahead and cry, but you
Can't pry a look at tomorrow

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Run a running
Hide a hiding
Whenever you hear the truth
And when you ask for the proof
You won't listen

Praise a praising
Build a building
Trying to get peace into your life
And you don't even know wrong from right
Oh, where's your wisdom?

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

Die a dying
By believing and receiving
Forgiveness from Jesus
Who took the sin from sinning

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
Jesus knows which way the wind blows
So give Him your tomorrow

Believe and receive

You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow
You don't know which way the wind blows
So how can you plan tomorrow

"Which Way the Wind Blows"
©1974 Latter Rain Music and Word Music, Inc.

Truth is...we all come from our own separate backgrounds and, without Yahweh's help, are just as clueless as the crowds who heard the sound of the wind but didn't grasp that it came from God and was ushering in His Kingdom in a new, fresh way.

I believe. Help me receive.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

You Have Heard That It Was Said...

This may be the riskiest piece I've ever written for this blog. It is sure to meet with widespread disagreement, perhaps even anger.

And for that, I apologize.

But, with National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday approaching this coming weekend, it's time for me to point out an inconsistency I see among many folks who purport to be "pro-life."

No, I'm not talking about the well-earned stereotype of folks being on picket lines against abortion and for capital punishment. That's a cognitive dissonance that is easily seen (and has been mentioned here before). Today's topic is a little more subtle, but just as life-and-death. It's a view held on to firmly, which is what will get me in hot water for coming out as being in disagreement with it.

Here's what I'm getting at.

You have heard that it was said, "I'm opposed to abortion except in cases of rape or incest," but I say to you, "Murder is murder, no matter who the victim's father is."

I know, I know...

...that sounds so harsh and uncaring toward women who have had to suffer the trauma of sexual violation. Please know that my intention is not to impose any privileged-white-male dominance over anyone. My intention is to be consistent in my stance on the serious nature of ending a human life (which you can review by clicking here).

Truth is...if I found out that your father had raped someone, that would not give me the right to kill you. In the same way, if it came to light that your mother is also your half-sister, it would not negate your right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Abortion is the ending of a human life, no matter the origin of that life.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Faith That Makes a Difference: Top 25 Jesus Quotes: #19

It's practically become a cliche'.

Not that I've done the research, but I'm pretty sure if someone took a poll asking non-believers why they don't believe or non-church-goers why they don't "go to church," the overwhelming majority of responses would hang the blame on that sizable swarm of scapegoats called "hypocrites".

Two things about that:

     1.  If there's a hypocrite standing between you and God, guess who's closer to God?
     2.  From Rich Mullins: "I hear people say, 'Why do you want to go to church? They are all just hypocrites.' I never understood why going to church made you a hypocrite because nobody goes to church because they’re perfect. If you’ve got it all together, you don’t need to go. You can go jogging with all the other perfect people on Sunday morning."

But having said those two things, I don't mean to let believers and church-goers off the hook. Playacting at faith (the original meaning of hypocrisy) poses a real challenge for people on the outside looking in.

Which leads us to Number 19 on our countdown of the top 25 quotes about Jesus from azquotes.com. It is attributed to the Syrian saint, Ignatius of Antioch, and gives us a clue to what causes hypocrisy:
"Do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart."

Another quote from Ignatius really brings it home:
"We recognize a tree by its fruit, and we ought to be able to recognize a Christian by his action.  The fruit of faith should be evident in our lives, for being a Christian is more than making sound professions of faith.  It should reveal itself in practical and visible ways.  Indeed it is better to keep quiet about our beliefs, and live them out, than to talk eloquently about what we believe, but fail to live by it."

Truth is...In the words of Brennan Manning, "The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable."