Tag Archives: cross

A Biblical Memorial Day

22281

This coming Monday is Memorial Day, a day in which we, as a nation, stop to remember those who have given their lives so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have in this country. It is an honorable day whether or not you believe in what the government is fighting for.

Did you know that the Bible actually recommends that every day be memorial day in our lives as Christians? Look at Hebrews 11. This chapter is full of names of people and examples of how they lived and died to bring about examples of righteous living and spiritual success. Towards the end of the chapter it even talks of those who have died as examples to us that we should learn from their dedication to the gospel of Christ.

The greatest memorial is mentioned in chapter 12, however, as the writer of Hebrews talks about Jesus. It is because Jesus died that we have freedom. Jesus serves as a reminder that we have not yet resisted temptation or persecution to the point of shedding our blood for the gospel.

I cannot help but think on this week about Christ, though. He lived his life perfectly and was killed anyway. He died a cruel and unjust death after an illegal trial. Then he rose from the dead on the third day. All of this, he says, is to bring us forgiveness and real life here and in heaven beyond. But most of all, it says he did this to set us free.

Galatians 3:22 declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin. If you’ve sinned (and you have) then you are in bondage to the consequences and continuation of a life in bondage where the warden is the evil one. Romans 6:23 says that once you sinned, you deserved death. Such a life is no life at all.

But then, the passage in Romans says that through Jesus, we can have eternal life. This picture is not a life in bondage, but a life of joy and freedom in Christ. So many people think that Christianity is a religion that restricts its adherents from being able to have fun and live life to the fullest. On the contrary, Jesus said that he had come so that we might have life to the fullest..abundant life. In fact, in Galatians 5:1, we are encouraged with these words:

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

When I understand the extent to which God sacrificed his love and very self for me, then I want to give my life in return to him. I do not live in bondage in Christ, I am free. There are actually only two laws in Christianity: Love God with everything you are and have, and love your neighbor as yourself. By the way, that is WAY fewer laws than we have here in the US.

If you truly want to have a life of freedom, it should be found in Christ as you see what true freedom really is.

So remember all the soldiers who have died…we all know so many personally and honor their lives and deaths this week. But don’t forget the One who gave you the truest freedom: Christ. And remember that you truly are free to live life to the fullest in Him.

If you don’t have that life of freedom from sin yet, then please contact me. I would love to tell you more about how you can be rid of the sin that holds you captive and separated from God.

Advertisements

Cake and Roses and Fluffy Puppies

20140226-094322.jpg

I’ve written before about my love for mountain climbing or just climbing in general. The feeling of standing on the top of a high place and seeing the world from above is breathtaking. However, the top isn’t the only part of the journey worth talking about.

When you set out to climb a mountain there are a lot of undesirable issues you must deal with to get there. There is the hassle of camping and gear if you choose to make it an overnight trip. There is the issue of sustenance, for you will surely need the energy to make it to the top. Because you must have sustenance you will have to carry that weight on your back. This creates more weight for you to have to haul up the mountain.

Then there’s the sheer feat of climbing the mountain. No mountain is “easy”. Some are less difficult than others, but your body does strange things above 10,000 feet of elevation. As you climb there are rocks that you trip on. There is often snow to be traversed. There are aching muscles from the constant upward motion. Then there’s the dreaded issue of having to go to the bathroom above tree line (embarassing).

Climbing a mountain is fun and rewarding, but it is also difficult and painful.

When you listen to many preachers talk about life in Christ you hear about love, joy, peace, kindness and other such beautiful ideas. You hear about grace and forgiveness. Who wouldn’t want those things? Christianity sounds awesome, right?!

What they don’t tell you is that Christianity is like climbing up the mountain. The summit experience is awesome, but you have to go through the climb of life to get there. It isn’t all cake and roses and fluffy puppies. Sometimes Christianity is tears and pain and division and struggle.

Jesus was very clear that the Kingdom of Heaven – the kingdom that is here and now in those allowing Christ to rule in their hearts – is much more desirable than the kingdoms of this world with their selfishness and tyranny. However he also made a couple of statements that aren’t so popular.

“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.”

“Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

He also promises this:

“In this world you will have trouble.”

Well, that’s not very happy. It doesn’t seem like Jesus is doing the best job marketing this new kingdom life.

Think about it though. Have you ever made a decision you knew was right, yet everyone around you was angry with you for the decision you made? Have you ever loved someone even though they hurt you? Have you ever risked your life for someone else? Then you know what Jesus is talking about.

We choose to live for Christ because He is teaching us the way of love, but not everyone likes this way. Some people even hate this way of life because our living this way exposes the darkness within them. They revile against it, and division is created, and relationships are damaged.

In Luke 14 Jesus encourages us to count the cost of being his disciple. It will be a struggle, and you will have to be wiling to sacrifice everything for him, but what you gain is so worth it. Forgiveness, grace, eternal life, relationship with the Creator, purpose in this life. Those things cannot be given a value.

After Jesus promised that we will have trouble in this world, he said “but take heart because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus doesn’t leave us alone to deal with these struggles ourselves. He has promised to never leave or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5). He has promised to take every circumstance and bring good out of it (Romans 8:28). He has promised to love you, and he showed it by dying for you. He gave his life for you. Are you willing to go through a little bit of struggle for him?

One more thing.
In Jesus there is a new perspective that I learn day by day as I follow him. The more I live like Jesus the less concerned I am with myself because I am learning to love others more. This brings pain at times when I am rejected, but this also brings hope in all things because of the resurrection. I now have a choice on how I look at the hard times. I choose to look at them as learning experiences and refining fire that makes me stronger. I choose this because I know that this life is not all there is for me. My eternal life began when I gave my life to Jesus, and it reaches its fullness once this physical life reaches its limits. Death is not the end, so I live this life with joy and hope whatever the situation.

Count the cost before you come to Christ, but know that the cost is well worth it for the joy of knowing the Creator and living in His presence. And if you’re already in Christ, live with the perspective of hope in all circumstances. Jesus is with you. His Spirit lives inside you. You are eternal – your pain doesn’t have to be.


It’s Mine! You can’t have it!

20140220-155152.jpg

Grace. Christians talk about it a lot, but what is it? It is NOT simply a prayer. Though a prayer can be said with grace. It is not flawless elegance. It is not even that lady that died 30 years ago in “Christmas Vacation”. So what is grace?

Grace is one of the most beloved concepts in all of Christianity because it truly is what we all want. Grace is getting what we don’t deserve.

It is not getting something worse than we deserve. We wouldn’t use the term “grace” to refer to the times when we got in trouble for something we didn’t do. No, grace is getting something better than we deserve.

Imagine you were driving down the highway – speeding – and got pulled over by a highway patrol officer. What you deserve is a ticket. Grace is like that officer coming to your window and handing you a $100 bill and wishing you a nice day. You deserved punishment but got a gift instead.

We love this because this is the central idea behind the death and resurrection of Jesus. We deserve death because of our sins (Romans 6:23), but instead of death, we not only get forgiveness, but we get righteousness and life in the presence of God forever. We deserve death, but we get life. We deserve prison, but we get freedom. That is grace.

Wouldn’t you want that? Have you received that? It is exactly what Jesus offers.

When you become a Christian – putting off the old self by connecting with Jesus in his death and resurrection through baptism – you receive the grace of God. That grace is never ending. Even when you sin in the future you will still receive grace and forgiveness.

We all want to receive grace, and we praise God for the grace we have received, but do we give it like we’ve received it?

The last time you went to a sit-down restaurant how did the waiter or waitress do? Did you pay him or her what they deserved or did you give them grace?

When someone asked you for assistance on the street corner, did you drive on by or give them grace?

When your husband or wife made you angry did you lash out or love them anyway showing them grace?

We are called to love God and love others. God loves us by giving us grace. Should we give any less to those around us?

“But you don’t understand. They’re so annoying! They keep doing the same stupid thing over and over again. Surely I am justified in my frustration with them. Surely I don’t have to always treat them that way. Shouldn’t I be treated well?”

I have to wonder if God feels the same way about us when we continually sin against him and against others. Yet, he still gives us grace. He still loves us immeasurably. His love never fails. He never gives up on us.

So I challenge you. Love others like God loves you. Don’t keep all the grace for yourself. Give them grace. Be like Jesus. Even when they were crucifying Him He prayed for their forgiveness. May your attitude be the same as His.


Fear is easy; Love is hard

20140213-160131.jpg

You may be reading this article before Valentines Day. You may be reading it on or after Valentines Day. In any case, this article is NOT about Valentines Day. But it is about love.

When we talk about what it means to be a Christian, the most basic answer is love. The two laws of Christianity are love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). When mentioning faith, hope, and love, the apostle, Paul, said that the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13).

The problem with love is that we aren’t very good at it, and therefore we aren’t very good at the one thing that should define us as Christians. Sure, we love people. We have deep feelings for those we love, but love is not actually those feelings. In fact, you can love without any feeling at all. Love is not an emotion. Love is a choice.

The reason we aren’t very good at love is that we are raised in a culture that teaches us that the world really should revolve around us. Every thing should cater to our whim, so we invent microwaves and fast food restaurants because we deserve to have what we want when we want it. As children we are given things we want because others love us, but the constant showering of love creates a type of narcissism that places us at the center of our own universe. We aren’t very good at love because we are selfish.

We also aren’t very good at love because we are afraid. There is much hurt and betrayal in our culture, and we don’t want to fall victim to that hurt. Maybe you’ve been hurt in your past so you’ve built up walls of protection out of fear of being hurt again. Jason Gray sings a song with the lyrics “Fear is easy. Love is hard.” I tend to agree.

So, we are supposed to love, but we find that love is difficult. How can we overcome that? It begins with an understanding of what love is and isn’t. Love is a choice. It is not an emotion. 1 Corinthians 13 says love is patient, kind, not envious, not proud, doesn’t boast, not rude, not hot tempered, doesn’t hold a grudge, doesn’t gloat, looks for truth, is long suffering, is trusting, finds hope in all circumstances, and is not fleeting or fickle.

Oh, and I forgot one. Love isn’t selfish.

I’m selfish, and so until I die to the idea that my desires come first I cannot love anyone – not even my wife. When we are afraid it is because of our self focus. That is what causes us to retaliate and feel the need for anger and frustration. Love is none of those things because love has no needs for itself. Love is selfless.

Look at Jesus. He is the perfect example of love. What did he ever do that was self-seeking? Nothing. He took the role of a servant though he was ruler and creator of all. He died for you although you had done nothing for him. He offers you sinless perfection while all you can offer in return is broken sinfulness. His love for you is not dependent on you. His love for you comes from a choice, as your creator, to love you selflessly despite all you have done to reject him.

If we love like that we will be hurt. We will be cheated. We will be taken advantage of. But if we love like that non of it will matter because we will have died to self, so there’s nothing left for them to kill.

Fear is easy. Love is hard. But it is totally worth it. Love is how we will change the world. Love is how God intends to bring us peace and joy and hope and forgiveness and all the things we truly long for in ourselves.

Choose love.


It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

20120403-144040.jpg

It was a dark and stormy night, but the storms on this night weren’t in the atmosphere, they were in his spirit. Jesus was there, in the garden, wrestling in prayer for you and for me. The sin of all mankind had been laid upon him, and he was exhausted.

His friends were exhausted too, and they showed it by their inability to stay awake in watch as their rabbi prayed in distress. So many storms.

As he prayed his body trembled from the hematidrosis – an exhausting condition where the stress is so great that the capillaries in one’s skin burst and the blood mixes with sweat so that one literally “sweats blood”. Why was he so stressed? He had just taken on not just the sin, but the guilt of every sin ever committed past, present, and future. He felt guilty for everything that had ever been done and everything that would ever be done. It was crushing him, and he was sweating blood as he cried in anguish and trepidation.

“Let this cup pass from me” was his prayer. Why? Because the God of the universe was about to make Jesus drink the cup of punishment that had been filled with the sins of the masses. Jesus was about to die, and he knew it.

Even though there was such a storm brewing in his spirit that night, it was clear what the choice needed to be. “Not my will but Yours be done.”

Soon after there was the sound of heavy footsteps and the flash of the moon glinting off metal. Soldiers were coming. A whole squad of soldiers and religious leaders were coming armed with swords and clubs and spears. Here is Jesus, unarmed and with a rag-tag bunch of nobodies. Why did they feel the need to come at him so fully armed?

As Jesus and the disciples heard the oncoming ruckus, they stood up with Jesus at the forefront of the group. The leader of the army sent to arrest him? Judas – one of Jesus’ trusted twelve – the traitor.

Jesus calmly asked the group, “who is it you are looking for?”

“Jesus of Nazareth” was their reply.

What happens next can only be explained in context of a previous conversation Jesus had with the religious leaders of the day. They were trying to trap Jesus in blasphemy, and Jesus was accusing them of always getting rid of the prophets. Jesus was trying to get them to see that Abraham prophesied about Jesus, but they wouldn’t listen. Jesus, then, called them out.

He told them they weren’t children of Abraham. In fact, he went further to say that they were children of the devil. Then, he said something even more blasphemous: “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” Their reaction was swift and harsh as they picked up stones to kill Jesus because they remembered another conversation many, many years before.

Moses is watching his flock when he notices a bush on the mountain called Sinai. This bush is burning, but there is no charring – the bush never burns up. Moses approaches and God proceeds to talk to him from the bush. As God calls Moses to a major mission, Moses asks who he should say sent him. God replies, “I Am who I Am. Tell them I Am sent you.”

They had said they were looking for Jesus of Nazareth.

“I Am.”

How he said it is not as important as the implication of what was just said. Jesus just used the same terminology as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Jesus just said He is God.

As this statement sinks in quickly through the ranks of the soldiers they fall to the ground – stunned.

Jesus had rendered the mob defenseless with two words, “I Am.”

He knew he was going to die. He knew he needed to die so that all those billions of people who ever lived and ever would live could truly have life, but he was going down on his terms.

Peter got excited and took a swing with his sword but missed his mark. Instead, an ear was cut off, but Jesus healed that too. It was then that Jesus explained things to Peter. “This sword is not our way of doing things. If I wanted to fight they would have no defense against the legions of angels at my disposal.”

Previously, Jesus had said (John 10) that no one would take His life from Him. Jesus had the power to lay his life down, and he was going to raise it back up.

Judas, the traitor finally came up and kissed Jesus on the cheek to signify the betrayal. Judas had just earned his 30 pieces of silver. This betrayal was not necessary. Jesus had already given himself over to them.

Jesus was bound and tried and beaten, and beaten, and mocked, and beaten some more, and eventually crucified. As he was hanging on that cross sin after sin was being dealt with. The justice of God was being appeased through this one act. When every sin had been taken care of Jesus cried out, “It is finished.”

Isaiah 53:4-5
Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

What happened next is the power of Jesus. No one dies quickly on a cross. It could take up to 48 hours for a person to die this way. Jesus gave up his spirit and died voluntarily.

He died for you and me – on purpose – of his own will.

Then, that glorious Sunday morning so long ago, he rose from the dead to prove that he really is God, your sins really are forgiven, and you really can have eternal life through him. The one who laid down a mob with two words raised from the dead. He is the glorious first fruits of those who raise from the dead – and that can include you and me.

This is the good news of Easter. May you celebrate this Sunday and every day that the God of the universe cares enough about you to give up everything to save you. May you see where your life is disconnected from God and come back. Jesus has already made the way for you.


No Matter What: Unity must come first.

20121023-102034.jpg

I was born in South Texas. Before I was born, my mother became friends with another lady from their church who had a son a few months before I was born. From the day I was born we have been friends. I only see him on a rare occasion any more, but when we have seen each other over the years, we have picked up where we left off and had a great time.

In fact, it’s wonderful to know that he is still my friend. When we were boys I gave him a black eye, and when we were teenagers I knocked out his front tooth while playing basketball in my driveway.

Does he believe the same things as me on certain hot-button issues? I don’t know, and I don’t really care. I find peace in knowing that he is simply my friend – no matter what.

Isn’t it great to have friends like that? Do you have friends like that? Do you have friends that it doesn’t matter what they do or what they believe because you’ll be friends with them no matter what?

In our churches and in society today we are very opinionated on what is truth and what is not. We hold our guns to what we believe, and we are proud to do so. In election years we make sure everyone knows who we are voting for, and we treat those who are voting the other way like they are mere morons.

Is that friendship? Is that unity?

As Christians, I can’t find anyone who would argue against the idea that we are called to love one another. It’s one of the two greatest commands. In that, however, we are called to unity.

Jesus said that all people will know if you are a disciple of his if you love one another.

Here’s how Paul puts it in Romans 15:1-7:

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

We are not called to make sure the other person completely agrees with us before we will accept them as a friend and love them. We are called to unity first. We are called to love first. Then, as we grow in love for them we have the freedom to express our differences in the safety of that love relationship.

You may completely disagree with the social stances of your brother or sister in Christ, but you better not disown them. You may not agree with the doctrinal conclusions of a certain denomination, but you have no right on this earth to condemn them. You are called to love them, and show others your Christ-likeness by your love for them.

Sure, you can disagree. It is good to disagree. If we always agreed on everything then someone in this relationship isn’t thinking for themselves. But when we place ourselves on the seat of judgment in condemnation of another person because they disagree with us on some issue, then we take God off that seat in order to do so. My friends, that is idolatry, and the god you are worshipping is yourself.

Jesus said that if someone isn’t against Him then they are for Him (Mark 9:38-40).

The next time you feel the urge to condemn someone for their views remember what Jesus says. Remember what Paul said. Act accordingly. When we bear with one another and love them regardless – no matter what – we will find that we are much happier…and they are too.

So, lets be people of peace and unity. May we find ways to encourage one another and build one another up in the faith. And, in all things, let us love one another deeply as Christ has loved us. Remember, He didn’t die for you once you finally got your life right; He died for you while you were still a rank, heathen, sinner also known as an “enemy of God” (Romans 5:10). Let us treat one another in like manner – no matter what.

If you’d like to discuss this further, then feel free to comment on this article at http://www.mrdobbs.org or shoot me an email at jddobbs@verizon.net. Blessings to you as you seek unity no matter what.


I Hereby Declare War on all Mosquitos…and other things

20120821-203337.jpg

I read in the news today that two more people in the Houston area have died as a result of West Nile Virus. I’m praying for their families.

It’s summer time, and I’ve been waiting all summer to start hearing stories around the nation of people infected with this horrible illness. The other day I saw an article where ten people have died in the Dallas area. This week’s news is the second such story of two people dying from the dreaded virus in the Houston area.

How do we deal with it? We declare all out war on the mosquito.

Have you ever seen a family declare war on mosquitos? They go to the store and buy Cutter and spray their yard. They invest into some sort of glowing blue light that joyously zaps the wretched critters as they fly. They douse their children with liquid bug repellent immediately upon entering the outdoor spaces. Their evening time outside is severely limited.

Cities get into the fight as well as they roam the streets with their trucks spraying noxious fumes out the back in hopes of eradicating these blood sucking annoyances. The city of Houston is going to do some aerial spraying specifically for west nile in the upcoming days. It’s all out war not just on the disease but on the cause of the disease.

Let me set something straight…I hate mosquitos. I champion the war against the critters and even have a Facebook page entitled “I Hereby Declare War on all Mosquitos”.

I also hate sin.

Sin also leads to death, and the statistics surrounding the mortality rate of sin are alarmingly more severe than that of those bit by mosquitos. If I’m bit by a mosquito I’ll probably live, statistically. But if I sin then there’s a 100% chance I’ll die.

The problem is, however, that we don’t treat sin like the lowly mosquito. We don’t put things in place to prevent its occurrence in our lives. We don’t stay out of areas where sin is more rampant. Frankly, we just don’t see it as that big of a deal.

But let me warn you; it is a huge deal.

You were created in the image of God to live for and with Him in a perfect, sinless life. When you sin you are cut off from God. Your world becomes broken, and the great plans that would have been set in place if you’d have remained pure are skewed. Your sin also tragically influences and affects the lives of those around you.

What’s worse? We are cut off from God when we sin. The first time you ever sinned you were cut off, and that sin stained you such that you can never get back to God on your own. You don’t have a detergent strong enough to get rid of that stain. But God does.

God loves you so much that he wants to remove that sin. So he sent Jesus. And for all who come to him and receive His grace and forgiveness, He cleanses their sin. It’s a pretty great deal.

Sadly, most people choose to keep their sin. Even people who have “given their life to Christ” often continue to treat sin like its no big deal. They not only continue to sin but approve of those who do so (Romans 1:32).

You are called beyond that. You are called to hate sin more than you hate mosquitos. Imagine what kind of world we would live in if people attacked sin in their lives like they attack that minuscule bug. When we treat sin with apathy we dishonor the cross of Christ where He willingly suffered for those sins we are so eager to commit.

Brothers and sisters let’s take up a new cause and allow the Spirit of Christ to truly eradicate sin in all areas of our lives. May we hate sin in our lives (Romans 6:1-7). May we be changed and allow the righteousness of Christ to shine in us (2 Corinthians 5:21). May we give honor to the sacrifice that was made, once for all, by the Son of God Himself.

If you want to know more about allowing Christ to rid you of your sin, please feel free to contact me at jddobbs@verizon,net or via my blog at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God will bless you – He already has.


%d bloggers like this: