Category Archives: Jesus

Getting Out of the Boat


Walk on Water 2

“Failure is not an event; it’s a judgment about an event.”

~ John Ortberg

One of the most amazing stories of faith and courage occurs in Matthew 14:22-33.  Recognizing Jesus walking across the Sea of Galilee, Peter asked to join Him.  Jesus gave the invitation, and Peter got out of the boat and walked on water….and then he sank.

Peter remembered the wind and the waves, took his eyes off of Jesus and sank into the sea.  Fortunately, the Lord reached out his hand and caught Peter before he drowned.  “You of little faith,” Jesus said, “why did you doubt?”

You might think Peter was a failure.  True enough, he had such little faith that he doubted Jesus’ ability to overcome the wind and the waves.  But let’s not forget that he did walk on water!  Who else has ever done that? And remember, there were eleven other witnesses to the event.  What were they doing?  They were hugging the boat.

I’m sure they were afraid of the risks of getting out of the boat.  They might drown.  Even if they didn’t, they might lose face in front of all their friends by trying to do something impossible.  Their friends might have been offended that they acted like they were better than the rest. Their friends might have thought they were showing off for Jesus.  Jesus might have scolded them for asking to do something that was His job.  There were probably one hundred reasons for staying in the boat, but Peter didn’t.  So, let’s give him some credit.

On your team, which would you prefer – Boat Huggers or Water Walkers?  If you want Water Walkers who take risks, who innovate, who get out of their comfort zone and find new ways to solve problems, you are going to have to redefine the meaning of the word failure.  Making a mistake while trying something new is not failure.  Missing the target while challenging yourself to try a new skill is not failure.  Offering an idea that no one likes is not failure.  Getting bad feedback about a new way of doing things is not failure.

Failure is hugging the boat.  It’s playing it safe.  It’s staying in your comfort zone and refusing to take risks.  It’s sticking with old, ineffective methods.  It’s waiting for someone else to be the first to step out of the boat.

Getting out of the boat means your team members are going to get wet sometimes when they sink.  Your role is to catch them when they fall and celebrate with them when they walk on water.

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Filed under comfort zone, Courage, growth, innovation, Jesus, Peter, Risk

Inside-Out


My youngest son often puts his shirts on inside-out. Not a big deal. I’ve done it when I was in a rush to get somewhere. But even when I tell him he is inside-out, he doesn’t care. He’s content to go around all day with his shirt tag announcing that he can’t dress himself.

I was thinking about my son as I read Matthew 23 this morning, because Jesus also liked to turn things inside-out. In the passage, He is dealing out the “seven woes” to the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, and He criticizes them for “cleaning the outside of the cup or dish” while the inside is full of nastiness. To drive home His point, He compares them to freshly painted tombs filled with dead men’s bones. They look good on the outside, but they reek of death inside.

He challenges them to clean up their insides first, because when the inside is clean, the outside will become clean, too. Jesus is saying that if they will change their character, their behavior will follow. If they change their WHO, their DO will soon match.

I’m guilty of making the same mistakes as the Pharisees sometimes. I clean up my behaviors, because I want to be seen as a godly Christian. I want people to think highly of me for the way I follow God. But the problem is that it’s difficult to keep the act going when I’m not on stage. Behind the curtains with my family and even more in private moments or times of stress, I step out of character, and I find myself leading two lives. A “hypocrite” (the Greek word for “actor” that Jesus used to label false spiritual leaders) like the Pharisees.

I’ve tried outside-in for years, and it doesn’t work. Who I am has to change first, and this means changing my heart. It’s got to happen from the inside-out.

I find this clean-up project to be exhausting, but the great news is that I don’t have to do it alone. Jesus is ready to roll-up His sleeves if I invite Him to join me. And honestly, I can’t do it without Him. Jesus is the Project Manager. He plans the work and works the plan. I’m just the assistant, and I have two main roles: invite Him onto the worksite each day and follow His directions.

Inside-out work is exceedingly slow and exceedingly difficult. It never goes as fast as I want it to, and it always requires lots of challenging situations that Jesus uses as a tool to shape my character and a test to reveal the quality of my heart. It’s a project that won’t be done until I join the Project Manager in heaven, but I’m encouraged by this Scripture:

“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

Maybe my son is the one who has got it right. Pay less attention to how you look on the outside and more attention to being the right person on the inside. Wear your shirt inside-out every once in awhile, and you will find that life is a lot more fun when you don’t pretend to be someone you are not.

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Filed under Attitude, Authenticity, Change, character, Christ, christianity, comfort zone, comparison, deception, discipleship, discipline, growth, heart, Jesus, modeling, obedience, performance, Religion, righteousness, rules, sanctification, spiritual disciplines, Spiritual Growth

Restoration


A man walked into a pawnshop and went straight to a worn down piece of furniture hidden in the back of the store.  He moved several other items that had been stacked against it and stepped back to take a look.

The piece of furniture was once a beautiful writing desk made with fine craftsmanship, but the former beauty had been worn away through years of use as it served first one family and then another.  These years were followed by even more years of disuse after it had been left out on the curb and salvaged by the pawnshop owner.

It was no longer beautiful.  Its drawers were broken, its roll-top in splinters, its feet uneven and wobbly, its stain faded and surface scratched and dented.  Looking at it, it was hard to imagine what the piece had looked originally.  You certainly wouldn’t want it in your home.  It was a real eyesore.

Even so, the man pulled out the desk and told the shop owner that he wanted to buy it.  The shop owner named a price – a surprisingly high price considering the condition of the desk – but the man was willing to pay it, and the transaction was made.

The man loaded the desk in his truck and took it home, where he placed it in his garage.  He turned on the overhead light and gave the desk a thorough inspection.  He took note of the broken drawers, the splintered roll-top, the wobbly feet and the scarred surface.  Nothing escaped his trained eye.

Having completed his assessment, he mentally planned what repairs and improvements would need to be done.  Then, he turned off the light and headed to bed.  Tomorrow would be soon enough to begin the work.

The next day, the man arrived late in the afternoon with new lumber and a collection of well-worn tools.  He was a carpenter, and these were the tools of his trade.  He had begun and finished many projects before this one, and he would begin and finish many more.  The work thrilled him.  It was a labor of love, and he thoroughly enjoyed taking something discarded and bringing out its true value.

With a smile of anticipation and a clear vision of the finished product, the man turned the desk on its side and sawed a heart-shaped piece from the bottom panel.  He then replaced it with a custom-made heart piece – golden in color with intricate etchings and made from a fine wood.  It was on the bottom panel, where it was unlikely that anyone would see it but him, but it was his trademark and showed the love and care he put into refurbishing the piece.  Those familiar with his work knew where to look for his signature.

He turned the desk back up and began with structural repairs.  He replaced one of the feet, repaired the broken drawers and built a new roll-top.   Before long, evening arrived.  The man put away his tools and retired for the night.

The next day, he returned to his work.  Using a sanding block, he began working on the inner parts of the desk that no one typically saw.  This might have seemed like a waste to most, but again, this was his trademark.  He always began from the inside and worked his way out.

After a week, an observer might not have seen much difference, but the man knew how smooth the inner boards had become, how silently the drawers slid in and out, how strong the joints and the frame had become.  It was a work of quality he was engaged in – not a work of speed.  He was not concerned about turning a quick profit; he wanted the finished product to be a blessing to some family who needed it.  He wanted it to bring them joy for years and years to come.  He thought about the children and the grandchildren who would live life around this desk, and he wanted the changes he made to bless generations.

And so, he worked, slowly but deliberately – never leaving off a task until it was done to his exacting standards.  Then, he moved on to the next area that needed repair, and then the next…

When he was done with the inner parts, he began work on the outer, and the piece began to really transform.  Each board was smoothed to take away the abuses of the past.  But he didn’t remove every dent or every scar.  Some, he knew, added value to the piece and gave it character.  Still, even these blemishes received his painstaking attention.  In fact, he spent more time on them than he did on the smoother parts, and when he was done, they became the most interesting parts of the whole piece.  What was ugly became beautiful and interesting, and those who saw them would want to know more.

When everything was prepared and the dust and grit and stains of past years had been removed, the man applied a covering.  It was a deep, reddish stain that soaked into the wood and provided a protective finish.  It was such a unique color that those who knew recognized it as the work of the man whenever they saw it.

The man then sealed the piece with a clear, protective coat, installed new hardware to the drawers and roll-top and finally stood back to admire his work.  The piece was impressive and made you want to come closer to look.  Its wood was so smooth that the man could literally see his reflection in it.  He smiled and said a quick, “well done!” to himself.  It was good.

In fact, it looked even better now than the day he originally created it.  You see, the pawnshop owner thought he was taking advantage of the man when he sold the desk at such a high price, but the man always knew the quality of the workmanship, because he had made it himself many years before.  Years of abuse and neglect had all but ruined the desk, but the man trusted in his own unique ability to restore the piece – even to make it better than before.  So he paid the high price, and he had no regrets.

Looking at the restored work, he knew exactly who he was going to give it to – a gift for a family that he dearly loved.

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Filed under Christ, christianity, Covering, grace, Jesus, mercy, Protection, sacrifice, Salvation, sanctification, Savior, self-image, self-worth, unconditional love

Son of the High Chief


A friend of mine shared this story recently.  My friend is part Samoan and part Hawaiian.  He was born in Hawaii but moved to Samoa during his childhood.  Adjusting to the new cultures in this high-context society was difficult for his brother and him, but they made a friend in one of the locals.

Their friend, as it turns out, was the son of the High Chief.  We might expect the son of a high-class family in power to be arrogant and dismissive of foreign-born, mixed race kids who were new to the area, but he was anything but.  He was friendly and took a personal interest in helping my friend and his brother adjust.

He taught them local customs, like cooking the family meal on hot stones outdoors every Sunday.  He taught them local culture, like the need to show respect for elders.  He taught them the local language, and he helped them to fit in.  He was a good and faithful friend.

One day, the town drunk appeared as the three boys were playing outdoors.  Children knew him to be a violent and abusive man, and they avoided him whenever possible, but today, he caught the boys by surprise.  My friend could tell he was drunk again, and he could see the rage in his eyes.  This day, he had come for the two foreign-born boys.

But just as he moved to attack them, the son of the High Chief stepped between his friends and the man.  The man’s anger snapped, and he began to beat the boy mercilessly.  Several times, he knocked the boy to the ground, but each time, the boy would stand again, blocking the way to his friends.

My friend and his brother asked each time he fell if they should go for help.  Should they go to get the townspeople, who would come and rescue their friend, the son of their High Chief?  The townspeople wouldn’t allow such a crime to happen to their leader’s family.  In fact, they might have even killed the drunken man for what he had done.  But each time, the answer was, ‘No,’ and the boy would stand again to take the beating.

When the man’s anger had been spent, he left them alone, and the boy was taken to the hospital to treat his wounds.  My friend and his brother visited him the next day.  His face was unrecognizable under the bruising, the cuts and the swelling, but he was alive, and he would recover.  The boys looked at their bandaged friend and asked him to solve the mystery that troubled their hearts, “Why wouldn’t you let us go for help?”

He looked at them as the teacher who patiently tries to birth a new way of thinking in the minds and hearts of his students.  “I have taught you so much… This is what it means to be the son of the High Chief.”

The boys couldn’t have asked for a clearer picture.  Their friend, knowingly or not, had shown them an image of what Jesus Christ did for each of us when He went to the cross.  He stood between us and the evil one, who wanted to hurt us.  He took the beating that was meant for us.

Had Jesus wanted, legions of angels would have come to His rescue, yet he refused to call for them.  Each insult, each beating, each whip of the lash, each thorn of the crown He accepted as an act of love for us.  And each time He fell on the road to Golgotha, He stood again.  His purpose was set; His mind was determined; no matter the cost, He would stand in the gap for us, because This is what it means to be the Son of the High Chief.

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Filed under agape love, Christ, christianity, grace, Jesus, sacrifice, Salvation, Savior, Substitution

Volunteer Donor


I was developing a game for our church’s Christmas celebration, and I needed some photos for the game cards.  In my search, I came across the one pictured above and noticed that the label says, “Volunteer Donor.”  I wonder if that is an important designation.  Are there non-volunteer donors?  How do you get selected for that assignment?

But being the Christmas season, I think it’s appropriate for us to remember that there was an ultimate “Volunteer Donor.”  His name is Jesus Christ, and He volunteered to donate His blood a few thousand years ago so that we might be reunited with our Lord and Creator.

But why blood?  It seems so creepy!  All those Christian songs about the blood washing us clean and making us white as snow…  It seems really weird.  Why couldn’t Jesus just give us a “Get Out of Jail Free” card?

I’ll admit, it’s a hard concept to get our 21st century minds around.  Most of us don’t come in contact with blood on a daily basis unless we are avid fans of CSI, Law and Order, Dexter or Bones.  Even so, we all know that it’s precious…that without it, there is no life.  We take it for granted until the day we are in a serious accident or when a friend is in the hospital.  Then, we begin to grasp how essential it is.

God set the standard in the Garden of Eden.  After Adam and Eve sinned by eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they tried to cover their shame with fig leaves.  God replaced their itchy undergarments with animal skins, because they were a more perfect covering and because He was illustrating that only a blood sacrifice would cover their sin.

It’s why Cain’s sacrifice of produce wasn’t acceptable to God and why Abel’s animal sacrifice was.  It’s why God required daily animal sacrifices from the Hebrews.  It’s why He also required an annual atonement sacrifice where the high priest would sprinkle animal blood over the cover of the ark of the covenant.  Only a blood sacrifice covers sin.

The Bible says that “the wages of sin is death.”  This means that when you sin, you earn death.  The debt of death has to be paid.  Blood has to be spilled.  In the Old Testament, God allowed men to pay their debt by killing certain animals.  Killing other humans wouldn’t work, because they had their own sin debt deserving of death.  We know this from Romans 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

The death had to be of someone/something innocent.  No humans were innocent – not even babies, because they were born with a sin nature.  In other words, they inherited sinfulness from their parents.  It can be hard to see in a precious infant, but it’s there.  It just takes a little while for the infant to be able to communicate his or her selfishness.

Animals are always innocent, because they don’t have free will.  They can’t choose to sin, because they don’t know the difference between moral right and wrong.  They can learn consequences, but they can’t learn to modify their behavior based on a moral code.  So, animal blood is always innocent.  It can pay the debt that men earn by sinning.

The problem is that animal blood only pays the debt for a short time.  Eventually, you have to sacrifice another animal, and then another, and then another…  It never ends.  Unless…. Unless there could be a perfect sacrifice – one that wouldn’t wear out – one that would pay the debt for all time.  That’s where Jesus comes in.

God gave the Hebrews the animal sacrifice as a model to point them toward the perfect sacrifice that Christ would make on the cross.  He was demonstrating that we needed a Savior, one that would end the need for daily and annual sacrifices of innocent blood.

But why is Jesus’ blood perfect?  Because He is the only man who has ever lived without sin.  He didn’t inherit sinfulness from His parents, because He was conceived from the Holy Spirit.  He lived His entire life without giving in to temptation.  At the end of His life, He had no sin debt to pay for Himself, so He was able to offer His payment (the innocent shedding of blood) for those He loved – namely you and me.

Blood is life.  Without it, your physical body could no longer sustain itself.  But the blood of Jesus is Life!  Spiritual Life!  It doesn’t sustain the physical body; it sustains the spirit and gives us the hope of new Life here on earth and everlasting Life in heaven after our physical bodies give out.  The blood of our Volunteer Donor pays our sin debt.  It IS our “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

That should give you a very Merry Christmas, indeed!

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Filed under christianity, Christmas, Covering, heaven, Jesus, sacrifice, Substitution

Tru Dat!


Poster for Watchmen movie.

Had to Be a Sacrifice

It’s true.  For the world to be at peace, there had to be a sacrifice, but I don’t think this guy would be able to save us from ourselves.  Only one Superhero could do that, and His name is Jesus, the Christ.  When He returns, we will have the peace that so many promise.

Superhero stories are all based, at least in part, on the story of Jesus Christ.  They can’t help it.  You can’t tell a story about saving the world or selfless sacrifice without borrowing from what Jesus did for us.  We love these stories, because they resonate with that part of our heart that longs for a Savior.  It’s okay for us to enjoy most of them, but we should always remember where they came from.

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Filed under Christ, christianity, Jesus, sacrifice, Salvation, Savior, Serving Others, superhero