This week, I find myself tired, sad, and exhausted.
Maybe you are, too.
I’m tired of a divided world. I’m saddened how easily humanity dehumanizes each other. I’m exhausted by the competition for a kind of human power that seeks to bend people to another’s will.
The great news is that Jesus is always more.
Jesus is more than our tiredness, sadness, and exhaustion. He’s more than division, dehumanization, and competition for human power. Jesus is more.
I’m continuing to read through the Gospels personally, and on Wednesday, I stepped into Matthew 14. The political power struggle is palatable. The world is divided. Herod dehumanizes John the Baptist to the point that he wants him dead. And then, Herod gives away John the Baptist’s head as a door prize at his birthday party.
Then, as the word spread about what happened, we find Jesus and his disciples tired, sad, and exhausted that they all withdrew (v. 13). The crowds of people who are unloved by their leaders, heartbroken and crushed by the broken world around them - they follow Jesus with everything they had: literally on their own two feet (v. 13). And, because Jesus is always more, Jesus continues to have compassion on the crowds of people who gather around him who are unloved by so many (v. 14).
What follows is a fascinating chain of events.
With Jesus, there is always more.
Jesus’ love meets us in the middle of our divided world and heals us on His cross, with the proof being our promised empty grave. Why? So that God can use us to heal people divided by human power that seeks to bend people to another’s will.
Jesus’ compassion empathizes with our sadness and walks with us the extra mile. Why? So that God can use us to walk alongside each person, He places around us to be “good news,” not “fake news.”
Jesus’ grace interrupts our exhaustion and encourages us to keep going with His power. Why? So that God can use us to encourage us that His love is the only love that satisfies an unloved spirit.
For each of us, Jesus is always more. And, that's more than enough for today.
Love you more than you know.
“Make it stop”. Have you said those words lately? Though we may disagree on the causes, I think we would agree that life keeps on spinning – sometimes seemingly out of control. Make it stop!
Recently, I’ve been reading through the Gospels over and over again in my personal devotion time. In Matthew 16, Peter knows a little about a “make it stop” world.
As the great author Charles Dickens (p. 1) wrote, “It was the best of times. It was the worst of times”. At one moment, Jesus is telling Peter that his confession that “Jesus is the Messiah” will carry the church forward. And the next moment, Peter is listening to Jesus explain how he is going to die. Can you imagine? Make it stop.
And then, on top of everything, Peter is told by Jesus to “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns” (Matthew 16:23). Ouch. Make it stop.
The good news is that Jesus does make the world stop. The world stops as He dies on the cross and says, “it is finished”. The world stops as he places his life into the hands of God, our Father. The world stops as angels stand in awe on Easter morning when the dead Jesus is made alive.
Jesus doesn’t make anything stop in power, fear, force, or volume. Jesus doesn’t make anything stop in the destruction of people’s reputations, bending words, or burning bridges. Jesus makes it all stop when - as the song, O Praise the Name - Anastasis puts it: “I cast my mind to Calvary; where Jesus bled and died for me; I see His wounds, His hands, His feet; my Savior on that cursed tree” (Ussher, Sampson & Hastings, v. 1).
What to do in a “Make It Stop” Moment and World
Remember that You’re in God’s Hands.
Call it what it is. Admit reality. You’re in a “make it stop” moment. Embrace it. Admit that you’re also in God’s hands. Nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Lord (Romans 8:31-39).
Remember that we cannot make it stop. Only Jesus can do that.
Peter heard Jesus talk about how he has to die and rise again. Peter is not OK with what Jesus is saying or the idea of what Jesus has to do. Peter sees Jesus’ death and resurrection as failure. In other words, Jesus’ death and resurrection cannot make his swirling life and world in that moment, stop. Yet, Jesus’ death and resurrection does make everything stop. Sacrifice, grace, and love is the cure for evil. It’s the solution to hate. It’s the antidote for the sickness of sin and brokenness. It’s boldness to the insecure. It’s wealth to the poor. We cannot make all the wrongs around us stop - only Jesus can do that. And, He does.
Remember it’s not about me... it's about God.
Jesus doesn’t seek more. Jesus doesn’t seek a greater understanding. Jesus doesn’t acquire anything. Instead, Jesus says that it isn’t about him… it’s about His Father (I’ll be talking more about tis in this weekend’s message!). Or, in the words of the song, Be Thou My Vision: “Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise; Be Thou mine inheritance, now and always; Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart, O high King of heaven, my Treasure Thou art” (Forgaill, v. 4).
Did you notice what all three of these involve? Remembering. Jesus has already made the world stop once. He does it again and again when you’re reminded of who God has made you to be and what you are called to do in this moment as you love God, love people, and live like Jesus.
Love you more than you know. - pt
I have a lot on my mind these days.
OK… while those are very real things that I ask myself everyday, I have more serious things on my mind, too. Things like:
Real things. Real life. It might be easy for your mind to become overloaded, too.
Have you ever wondered what is on Jesus’ mind? Philippians 2:5-8 (NCV) gives us a good picture of what Jesus is thinking. It begins: “In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus…”.
We discover that Jesus is not thinking about his own contributions or glory. He’s not thinking about how best to prove his point. He’s not even thinking about his own life, comfort, or pleasure.
What is Jesus thinking about? Jesus is thinking about the glory of God the Father. He’s thinking about serving others. He’s thinking about being obedient to God the Father - even to death.
As we move into the fall, I wonder how each of us can think more like Jesus. More about God’s glory - not our own. More about serving others - not ourselves. Less about our life, comfort, and pleasure - more about what God is asking us to do with Him, each day.
After all, following Jesus is about a relationship. Maybe the only thing on his mind is being with me… which means the biggest thing that needs to be on my mind is being with him every moment of every day.
Many years ago, a friend of mine made some poor decisions and lived with the consequences. But, this fall will be the first time he will be able to vote. Earlier this week, he applied for his first passport. His life is more than just turning lemons into lemonade – it is a living story of grace and transformation.
I never really considered my friend a religious person. So, you can imagine how surprised I was when he asked me, “would ‘you Christians’ accept someone like me?”
The Rest of the Story
After a pregnant pause to process what I had just heard, I said, "I can't speak on behalf of all Christians, but this Christian - me, accepts you for you."
Silence. I could tell that he was getting emotional from the sniffles over the phone.
What he said next amazed me. "I know you accept me because you're my friend. I guess I just don't know if God accepts me."
If he could see my smile from ear to ear, I'd look like a kid by a sno-cone machine on a 100 degree day. "A friend told me that I did not choose him; He chose me. Do you know who that friend was?"
"Our friend, Jesus. Jesus, God's Son, was rejected and died in every way so that you and I can be accepted by God. He's done it for me. He's done it for you. I accept you because Jesus has accepted me."
I'll spare you the details, but that evening, he said - perhaps for the first time ever (I didn't ask), "I believe this."
When was the last time you had a spiritually-oriented conversation with someone? Whether you have them regularly or have never had one before, will you join me in learning how to have more and better spiritual conversations with others?
Three Ways to Begin a Spiritual Conversation
As we move into September, be encouraged that Jesus has spiritual conversations with you...
Love you more than you know. -pt
The OSLC ministry team is a growing collection of women and men who live as a family on mission, leading the OSLC family in connecting an unchanging God with a changing world by loving God, loving people, and living like Jesus.