Yeshua Ha Mashiah

It has been a while since I wrote here. Why? Simply pressed for time. My writing has been directed towards necessity for our church and for seeking ways to raise money for it, and when not doing that towards the book.

Yesterday saw The Amazing Spiderman with my wife. While the movie credits were playing, a group asked me if I was Jewish because of my shirt. I honestly don’t know, and in the family we’ve wondered about it over the years. My grandmother’s parents were out of the picture when she was born. Her mother died, and her father was gone. We’ve thought she might be Jewish amongst other things based on evidence (Native American, etc). I could only answer them, “I don’t know.” When they pressed us, we told them how we studied Hebrew, were still learning it, and loved it. I was struck by the friendliness and warmth of the people who asked. They said they were from a Jewish camp in Three Rivers, MI. My wife and I both said afterwards we felt a longing to engage them more.

I remembered the words of Scripture, in Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” Unless you remember a Bar Mitzvah or are familiar with words like Schlamiel, you are probably not Jewish in tradition just as I am not. This strikes people as offensive, “to the Jew first.” But let me explain, and also offer a practical positive application.

First, explanation. It is at least a description of how Yeshua Ha Messiah came, clearly of Israel, a Jew Himself, and to His people. He even said, to one person who craved His healing, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (Matt 15:24), and sent his disciples out in Matthew 10 only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Then after Jesus was killed and rose again, and told His followers to tell everyone about Him dying and finishing all the righteous work required of them, and that all who believe in that work instead of their own are saved (whew, run on sentence?), He told Peter in Acts 10, “what God has called clean, do not call common.” In other words, God began to move to the Gentiles. Finally, getting back to Paul in Romans, in chapters 9-11 Paul (a Jew of Jews) discovers the resolution God designed to the great dilemma of Israel’s unfulfilled Messianic promises: after the Gentiles who are elect have responded to God’s grace, then Israel will repent on a national level and “thus all Israel will be saved,” (Romans 11. I would cite specific verses, but you gotta read it all. Heck, start in chapter 9, you can read it all during the commercial breaks).

Why did I give the quick zip summary there of Israel and Jesus Christ? (I know, I omitted things) Because it explains “to the Jew first” historically.

Second, after this explanation, how can both Jewish and Gentile believers do something about this? We can pray for our Jewish friends and family to know the Gospel, hope for it, and when given opportunity share the Gospel in relationship.

My wife and I are going to that Jewish camp one day soon. We want to get to know the people who are ethnic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, through whom God decided to be born as a man. We want to see them come to know their Yeshua Ha Messiah.

Nate

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Is a Non-Missional Church Still a Church? Part 2

Let’s get . . .

Picture this: you’re finished stuffing all the kids in the car and somewhere in the process you and your spouse began an argument. As you drive to the church you both realize that this argument has to end, and your attitude has to get better so you can worship together. Worship means drop the kids off as quickly as possible, which will be challenging now because you are running late and will barely make it in time for the service if you went straight into it.

You arrive and check in the kids, and two of the four cry when you drop them off, so that rends your heart. But you stay focused because the benefits of your personal worship time (corporately, that is) will make it worth while. This is what will get you through the week. You enter and smile, as the greeter greets you. (It is, of course, an unwritten rule to smile when smiled at especially at church gatherings). You collect a bulletin, a pen, the notes for the sermon, and you and your spouse chit chat with sound bytes to people you see every week. You find a seat near the back since your late, even though the usher is trying in vain to fill the empty front rows.

The music is a song you don’t know, but the style and beat are probably great for unbelievers you think. The next song is the same. Finally they play a song you know, and you sing it out, but not too loudly because you don’t want to bother anyone else. You sit through a prayer, trying to also pray. You see the sermon is about to start, and this is the part where you get fed once a week. You eagerly expect something that will be encouraging. In 20 minutes or less. Remember, it can only take an hour total. 45 minutes for you since you came late today.

Oh geez, he went over 5 minutes. He shows no signs of stopping. He ‘s joking about going over now. He has accepted the fact that he’s going 10 minutes over and he shows no signs of stopping. Now we’re singing too. Okay, okay, this is good for us spiritually. Final prayer. Exit. Swim quickly through the crowd and pickup kids, keeping spouse from getting cornered by anyone so you don’t have to wait, right?

Did I or did I not sum up the typical weekly worship experience in the Western Christian’s lifestyle? Honestly? I know, you can poke a hole in some details, add or subtract a thing or two, but overall, is this not an accurate snapshot for the history books?

Now let me ask a deeper question: Does this describe your experience?

Deeper: Is this all of your Christian experience, or do you participate more than this with your church family? Ministry? Small group? Use your gifts of lawn mowing or interior painting, or attending elder meetings?

Deeper still: Are you satisfied?

If you said yes, yes, and yes, you’re probably not a believer or follower of Jesus as He called us to be. Sorry to be so blunt. I may touch someone here, and offend them, but that is not my intent. My intent is to raise awareness for your sake, actually, to help you. Like the doctor who squirts fluid from his needle and flick taps it with his finger, I’m saying, “This might hurt a little. Okay?”

Jesus did not call us only to a one hour weekly worship gathering. If your Christian experience is only that one hour a week experience, then can you say with a clear conscience following Jesus 52 hours a year is sufficiently following Him?

I think you would agree not. Then how can a person change that?

Here is where we are like The Matrix, and you are offered a red pill and a blue pill. One will allow you to remain as you are, promises no change, and promises comfort. Ignore the fact that it isn’t reality. You get to keep everything the same and you can have control of a comfortable religious life.

But the other pill is what people commonly refer to as missional. It is defined by uncertainty, yet absolute peace because of trust in God. It is defined by adventure, high risk taking as people dare to take gigantic, huge leaps of faith. It is defined by following the teachings of the homeless Jewish rabbi from Nazareth Jesus Christ, and following His example. This is the beginning of the life you are itching for but afraid to commit to.

How do you get involved?

First, understand Jesus’ story, and how your story interacts with His. God’s story, more specifically Jesus Christ’s story, has been going on long before any of us. God the Son expressed the love of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by this: “He made Himself nothing,” (Philippians 2:7, ESV). He became a human being, lived perfectly, taught truthfully, suffered terribly, died physically, suffered spiritually for all sin, rose to life as the Conqueror, and sits in Heaven, serving as intermediate between us and the Father until the cue to return.

What’s your story? The Bible says all have sinned, so that’s in there somewhere. The Bible also says all continue to fall short of the glory of God, and what He demands for us to have salvation for our sin. The Bible says you don’t have to try to gain God’s favor, because, well, you can’t. Ever. But Jesus did, and He wants to take you in and let His victory count for you, which God said is okay.

I’m not dumbing this down, just trying to speak plainly. It’s an easy “pill” to swallow, Neo. Trust that Jesus did all the work, and if you accept Him and start to follow Him then you can dump the pack on your back and He’ll carry it. The Bible says in Acts 16:31, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

You then start to be transformed to look more like Him.

So then, all who follow Jesus are on the mission Jesus gave us. It’s just one mission. He said in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Getting back to what you are used to, that weekly hour. In a missional church we still gather weekly. We don’t stress about it though. We focus on being together, and we go through what it means. We see if we are being transformed to be like Jesus. He said, “if anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

We talk in what we call Gospel Community, at a person’s home (with food, drink, and merry hearts) about what we need to die to and repent/turn away from/make new habits about and then pray for one another. We remember the Gospel. We go through an edible section of Jesus’ teachings, understanding them, then discussing how they play out in our various life stories. We hold each other accountable with love, earnestly trying to come up with ways to help each other be more like Jesus. People have noticed, and not because we’re bragging about what we do and don’t do, but because they see we are imperfect people being transformed. We also are in our community trying to transform it with the love of Jesus. We also go to different countries—this year Rwanda and India—and help share the transforming love of Jesus through the power of the Gospel story.

I can tell you a few things that are challenging. We can’t tell you how much money we’ll have for retirement (if that ever happens). We can’t even tell you how much money we’ll have in 2 years. We can tell you that we’ve been in that financial uncertainty for 6 months now, and given more money to missions and church planting than the last 10 years combined. Truly, as Jesus said, “it is more blessed to give than to receive,” and you get blessed. Our focus is not “how to succeed,” though we always strive for excellence. Our focus is always “how will that help the Kingdom of God that Jesus is building—the Church?”

I’ll pick this up in the next entry more, but think and pray about this. Keep in mind, I’m not anti-any gathering of people that claims to follow Jesus. I’m for them, even if they fit the description at the beginning of this entry. Even if they want to stay in The Matrix and retain comfort and control. I’m burdened for them, and that’s why I write.

Where are you now? What will you do? Consider what Jesus offers. I guarantee though He is challenging to follow, He will scratch your deepest itch and fill your greatest hunger. He said, “Whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst.” He keeps His promises.

Nate

Is a Non-Missional Church Still a Church?

“If they shut down the churches where would you go, If they melted all the stain glass windows

replaced every sanctuary with a condo, where would you go, where would you go . . .

if they burned every Bible what would you know, if they tore your marked up pages how would you grow

and declared your devotion to be criminal, what would you know, what would you know

Gets you thinking, doesn’t it? These are some of the lyrics from one of my new favorite thought-provoking songs by Downhere, called “Cathedral Made of People.”

2 Corinthians 5 begins this way, “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling.”

Ephesians 2 also picks up on this idea, stating in verse 22, “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Downhere sings the chorus:

“we are the cathedral made of people, in a kingdom that the eye can’t see

we’re a house we are the bride, where God’s spirit lives inside

and nothing ever can stand against us”

 So again I ask the question, a little bit differently: If your church experience takes place on one solitary piece of real estate 52 hours a year, what kind of spiritual follower of Jesus are you?
One more question to followup, in case the connection isn’t there yet: What will you do one day if that real estate is removed and you can’t go there to do church? Downhere continues:

“when they throw you in prison, what will you do, when they hate you for the things that you know are true,

they can tear down this temple, they can’t touch you”

I know someone is caught here, because our nationalism and our Christianity seem inseparable. Isn’t God an American, after all? Wouldn’t Jesus appear in a suit, behind a pulpit, hands clasped in front as he bobbed on the balls of his feet inside his shiny black shoes, inviting everyone to come forward while a hymn played? You mean Nate you’re actually suggesting we can have a Christian experience outside of the walls of a church building, and that we can have a Christian experience outside of the hour on Sunday mornings?

Not only am I suggesting it is possible. I am trying to convince you it is necessary. Jesus taught us to go on the mission He was on. Matthew 28:19-20 says, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus taught us to go make disciples in Matthew 28:19-20, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all He commanded us, and promised He would be with us in this mission. What part of the above passage speaks of the centerpiece of our American Christian religious experience?

So, Nate, you’re telling me to stop going to church?

No, I’m telling you to consider start going to church. If Sundays is your only experience, and you “punch in” and “punch out,” you have yet to start doing church as Jesus intended it.

So are you telling me to spend more time in programs and ministries at church?

No, I’m telling you to consider spending your time differently, and emphasizing your time differently. Instead of hurrying to see fast results like a big crowd, or lots of tithes and offerings, or counting a higher percentage of hands raised than last time, try something different.

Look like Jesus. Here is a person who left what was comfortable for what was costly, whose decrescendo for the payment of sin began with hurling down into the womb of a young lady, experiencing humanity from conception to birth, to hunger, pain, thirst, who brought love and healing to those who needed it, who lived a perfect life, who obeyed His Father even when it meant ostracism, suffering, and death. Here is a person we should idolize, because He claimed to be God and then proved it by His resurrection from the dead. Here is a person who came humbly to serve, and “to give His life as a ransom for many.”

So how does this relate to being or not being missional? It takes a second to find out of you’re missional or not. It all comes down to whether or not you are willing to be uncomfortable like Jesus was and go where the lost people are (who are just like you, except you’re forgiven and they’re not).

Maybe you’re like the boy who decided he wanted to catch a big fish but didn’t want to get smelly and dirty. So he got the biggest bucket he could find and decided to stick his pole in the water. His father saw him sitting there with a fishing pole in a bucket of water and asked him, “Son, what are you doing?” He said, “I’m fishing, dad.” The father said to his son, “Son, there aren’t any fish in that bucket.” The son replied, “I know, but maybe if I keep the water in this bucket one of them will like it and jump in.”

Are you going out to where the lost people are like Jesus did, by His incarnation and making friends with “tax collectors and sinners,” to the point of being labeled as one of them by his enemies? Or are you sitting there waiting for people to come to you? Or are you coming up with ways to lure people in?

I wanted to put this out there so we could think about this. If we don’t do something different in our churches in America, and stop worrying and fearing, you can expect the words of Downhere to come true. We can kiss all that we take for granted goodbye if we hide inside our walls.

Here is an idea, in closing. What if you do whatever it takes to get into a “pool” of spiritual sojourners (we used to call them lost, or unbelievers, but try to keep up with the terminology)? What if we even were willing to quit our cushy jobs at established churches, take an enormous pay cut, and trust God to keep His Word and take care of our stuff if we take care of His stuff (read Luke 12:21 and following verses)? What if we made Sundays a day to fellowship, focus on celebrating what happened the week before, and concern ourselves with our hearts as we sang instead of the singers’ dresses or voices, or abilities or words on a screen? What if we gave up our time to focus on just discipling one person a year? Meet with them once a week? Imagine the multiplication factor (see Wikipedia on the Fibonacci principle if you’re not familiar with it)? What if our church life looked like this above?

At The Stand, we are attempting this. (No, this is not a promotional, because I’m not an attractional pastor). Let me tell you, we are seeing God work, as we share the Gospel, as relationships grow, as people ask “what’s going on at your house?” We are exercising more faith, enduring with more patience, sometimes suffering, but we are less stressed, more fulfilled, and are seeing God do more than when we tried it the attractional way. We are loving people, sharing our lives and everything with them, challenging each other to serve, going out locally and globally to fulfill Jesus’ prayer, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We are not alone.

In closing, let me challenge you to find the heart of the cathedral of people Jesus said He would build. Search deep to find the missional, going-out aspect of your local faith community. Talk to leaders. If you think it’s lacking, don’t mutiny! Start leading by being an example of what a true Jesus follower is. Be missional, on the mission of Jesus Christ, so we don’t see the words from Downhere come true in America.

– Nate

“March Comes in Like a Lion . . .” Repentance, pt 1

” . . . and goes out like a lamb.” Remember that? The people in southern Illinois probably do. Disaster teams and relief efforts are still trying to bring peace down there. On March 1, March had indeed come in like a lion.

I love lions, but wouldn’t want to be in front of their open jaws. Jesus displayed boldness like a lion, only in a positive way. Jesus’ example shows great boldness and sense of mission when He started preaching the good news. He did not back down when persecuted. What if He did? I’m glad He “endured the cross, despising the shame,” (Hebrews 12).

Do you want to follow Jesus? He commanded us to “teach them to obey all that I have commanded,” and what was His first command? Let’s see what Scripture says.

In Mark 1:15, What did Jesus teach? Go to church. No? Pray. No? Read the Bible. No? Get involved in a ministry. No? Read it. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Keep your finger there. Next, Jesus gave His one and only mission to his only small community of followers right before His ascension. What does Luke 24:46 tell us were His last words before flying? “thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

So at the beginning and the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, what action was a fundamental, necessary rhythm of His followers? If you said “repent” you guessed it. Pass Go, collect $200.

Did Jesus’ followers in the early church also teach this? Look at the first sermon ever preached in the new church at Pentecost, where the people felt convicted and asked, “What should we do?” and Peter said, “Repent.”

Does Acts close with repentance? Acts closes with Paul speaking to Jewish Romans who came to see him in prison, and what was he trying to get them to do? Repent of Judaism and trust in Jesus by faith.

So what does it mean to repent? It means to turn around, change course, go north instead of south, right instead of left, and up instead of down (nowadays check your easiest online dictionary or app). In our life of following Jesus we have cycles, not just a linear line on which we exist. One cycle is the cycle of repentance, where we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit in us to change something in our lifestyle that does not glorify God. If we respond to that grace, we must step out in faith that if we change course, God will take care of us. The comforting thing is that God always does, even if first we have to endure “dangers, toils, and snares.”

One recent example in my own life has to do with starting this new church, The Stand. I have never wrestled with worry like I’ve wrestled with it the last four months. There, I’m human too (just ask my wife). For lent I fasted perfection. Just kidding. I’m actually trying to fast worry this year. Why? Jesus said in Matthew 6 and Luke 12 “don’t worry.” Command. You’re sinning if you worry.

To stop here would be premature. We need to hold up worry in the light of the Gospel, as if you held an old projector foil made of plastic in front of the light to see it clearly. In repentance you have to ask “why” until you get to the root sin. So I asked the question “why do I worry?” For me, it was control. I worried “what if ___ happens? What will I do? Or what if _____ doesn’t work out? Or what will we do if we don’t have enough people?” I even found myself thinking “What will people think God if our attendance or financial support is not where they expected it to be?” which is something I never wrestled with! All because of planning and control. It’s embarrassing to admit it, so I hope someone is benefitting from this. But we’re not done yet. Stay with me.

Then keep digging. You have to find the root sin if you are going to repent of it, remember? Don’t treat the symptoms, don’t quit even if it is painful. Ask “why?” again. So I asked, “Why do I want control?” There she stood, a temptress in her sultry pose, back for a regular visit, trying to seduce me.

The awful sin of pride.

Gulp.

Did you follow the rhythm of repentance for worry? Why worry? Because I desired control. Why control? Control makes us feel like we did something, like it worked because of us, or like our reputation is secure, or like we accomplished God’s will. That is massaging our pride, in my case. In reality, when planting a church, it is Jesus accomplishing the Father’s will (remember, Jesus said, “I will build My Church,” Matthew 16). It all leads to pride for me. Not for everyone, which is why you need to pray and listen to the Spirit, search Scripture, and “be still and know that I am God,” (Psalm 46). Almost done. Stay with me.

Then I compared my worry-control-pride with the Gospel. You absolutely must do that or you’re not home yet. Why? Jesus followers are Gospel-centered, because the story of Jesus and Jesus Himself are inseparable (a discussion for another time). The Spirit spoke to me. If God in His great grace sent His Son Jesus to live the perfect, sinless life, die in the worst way cooked up by mankind, for mankind’s sin, and Jesus rose again, and my sin is paid for because of the awesome work Jesus my God did, then I can trust Him to take care of this day. He will take care of my marriage, family, the money we need, the people we are trying to recruit for the new church, my part-time tentmaking job, and everything. We still do our best, but trust Him.

So I repented of worrying, and have been everyday since then. Just last week we had an event and no one showed up (I’m learning that happens to every church planter. If you are a church planter and have never had a “no show,” you might be selling something besides the Gospel). I felt so much peace. I said to God, “I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do with this one. I’m glad you’re in charge.” I put away all the materials for that event, shut her down, and spent the night with my wife and children. We had a blast. I went prayer walking through our neighborhood before bed, and if we had people show up I never would have been able to do that. It wasn’t easy. I had to keep giving God worry, going back to the Gospel, as some say preach the Gospel to myself, and allow the peace that passes understanding (doesn’t make sense) to fill me. But God was faithful and honored the effort of repentance.

So what should you do? I strongly encourage you to spend some time praying about what you need to repent of, and asking the why question to God until you discover a root sin, so that you can be freed from its hold and experience the awesome joy of the grace of God.

Let me encourage you to pray this prayer: “Lord, is there anything in my life I need to repent of?” Wait five minutes for Him to speak to your heart. If you are a believer there will probably be something. Start asking “why?” until you arrive at the root sin, then compare it to the Gospel. Trust God. You do what you can, with what you have, then smile, wink, dance, cheer, and let the rest go into God’s gracious hands.

Final encouraging thought. In the same chapter in Luke 12, where Jesus commands “don’t worry,” He said, “Fear not little flock, it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Yes! God wants us to succeed in accomplishing His kingdom more than we do. Awesome! So for worry worts, get out of His way! For the rest, adopt the lifelong rhythm of repentance. Don’t put it off, start now.

Nate

What is a Church?

Would you mind taking this quick pop quiz, even if you find this blog in 20 years? I’m curious what people out there think of when they think “church.” If you can, please answer these three questions:

a What is a church?

b. How do you become a Christian?

c. How do you get to heaven? (if you believe in one)

If you have time, just give us your gut reaction. You can answer as many times as you need to explain. This will amount to either something or nothing (duh). If it amounts to something, I’ll followup with it here and in fb. Thanks,

Nate

What The World Needs Now

” . . . is love, sweet love . . .” Right? Think about it. What is your greatest desire? Before you answer, don’t settle for giving a response about a passing experience that is over in less than a day. What is your greatest desire, the one thing you want the most?

I would agree with the song, “love, sweet love.” I would add that the love we seek is not really romantic love, not really love of our mother or father. The love we all seek is love that is selfless, sacrificial, and will never stop.

Enter you and me. Is anyone here perfect? Good, I’m in the right company. I’m recovering from a lot of things: a disappointing Bears season, mistreatment from those I thought were friends, people who misunderstood us, my own failures and mistakes, and now have said negative things about us, and some behaviors that were religious but not based on God’s love.

How about you? What things are you recovering from? Addictions? Fears? Emptiness? You’ve chased what seemed fulfilling and it was a cup with a hole in it, or just an empty cup.

Enter God. I know, what does God have to do with you. But just humor me. What if God started everything? What if that’s the reason you’ve searched for something and have not quenched that thirst? What if the right place to look is in God? Why not?

Then what if you woke up in the middle of the night and realized you could never do anything to have God’s approval.

There’s bad news and good news.

The bad news is that you’re right. None of us can have God’s approval, because all of us have earned His anger. Our wrong doing towards each other, towards Him, towards ourselves, has all added up to the short end of the stick in the eyes of Holy God. He sits at court and judges, and sees us falling short. Not that He wants us to, but because He is the epitome of justice, His scales weigh accurately.

But wait. Then there’s the good news. It’s like we’re sitting there, terrified and scared, afraid to breathe because the greatest being ever to live has stated that we don’t deserve anything good. In fact we deserve Zeus’ lightning bolt. God can and should use it on us. Suddenly Jesus Christ steps forward in the court and reminds the court He is God. He reminds the court of His testimony, how He lived a perfect life, how He willingly was beat up, slashed, gashed, spit on by filthy mouths, how His body was torn by sharp jagged whips and thorns, and how He was left for dead. He reminds the court of how it felt to be cold, gasping for breath, and then it got worse. He tells of how they took his right hand and placed a stake against his wrist, then hammered it through, ignoring his screams and yells of terror. He reminds us of how they did the same with his left hand, as if he was no longer a person, but an animal being hung and gutted after a well-executed hunt. He tells of how he grew colder as the blood from his head and wrists leaked down, and he could not wipe it up because his hands were fixated to splintered wood. He could not see out of one eye. He tells of how the torture continued as he felt his feet spiked to the same splintered wood. He talks of the odd emotions as he watched people capable of giving medical assistance to their fellow wounded soldiers laughing at his pain, humiliating him, stripping him of his last garments. Then they ignored him, and fought over his clothes, throwing dice for them.

In the courtroom, you now feel like Jesus has something in common with you. You feel like he understands suffering. Then you whisper to someone next to you, “What did he do wrong?” The man next to you shakes his head signifying “nothing.”

Jesus continues, reminding the court that was only half of his pain. The worst was yet to come. In loneliness on a “T” of wood, Jesus reached out to God for comfort, as all of us can.

Jesus was the only person in history to reach out for God’s mercy and hear God say, “NO!”

This one time, never before, and never again after, God denied forgiveness. Here’s the kicker, it was denied to the one person who was absolutely perfect and sinless. He cried out, screaming in horror and agony as spiritual cold joined physical cold and he endured the full fury of God for sin. He can’t describe it because there is not language you could understand for such pain.

He passed through physical death, dying and breathing his last, and was under the full anger of every wrong that God would ever judge you for. For me too.

As I write this I have a tear, because Jesus did not have to do this. As He endured God’s merciless wrath, He at the same time created an opportunity for God’s mercy to be placed upon us.

He says this, and there is silence. Everyone is reminded that Jesus paid it all. A. L. L.

What if in that moment then all eyes were fixed on you, and you tried to figure out why. You sat with a full plate of terrible guilt and wrong, ashamed before God. Jesus stood across from you, having made a bottomless pit for that shame to disappear into. He extends his arms and invites you.

If that was true, would you take that free gift? The payment was already made, and the check written. Would you sign and cash it? Could you refuse God’s grace, offering you such an expensive gift you could not buy? I could not.

Here in 2012, we are among many hundreds of thousands in the Western world who are trying to tell this message to people who need to hear it. Many of you want to hear it. Unfortunately, the people saying it the loudest have many times used megaphones of pride, boasting of themselves, distorting the message, repulsing people. Or sometimes they have created long documents, a small addendum to what Jesus did on the cross, as if it wasn’t good enough and needed to be “Atonement 2.0.” I wish that were not true, but some of you reading this have endured such disappointments.

Or maybe you’ve been hit with making a one time decision, getting wet, and then it doesn’t matter how you live? That was a while ago and now you wonder if it had any substance. Only you would know, and I’m sorry you were misled.

So we arrive at what the world really needs. I submit to you that the mission Jesus sent His followers on is the love the world really needs. Jesus said for us to “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age,” (Matthew 28:19-20).

Jesus said to make disciples, not make decisions or make converts. He didn’t mean we should be Pharisees with apps that keep spiritual score and post on our blog who screwed up how, ranking everyone’s spirituality.

Jesus said to make disciples. Not religious people. This means we give up our lives. Not 52 hours a year (1hr/Sunday, no more). Jesus also said in Luke 9:23, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

We are planting a new church in the hope of having a community of Jesus followers who are on mission together for Jesus Christ. A few have joined us in the last 3 months since we relocated in faith. Our mission is simple, it is the only mission allowed by Jesus, because it is the only mission He gave. Matthew 28:19-20 above. Our way of getting there is Luke 9:23. Someone asked me recently “So what is your new church about?” My reply is always, “Simple. You just have to die.” Sometimes they ask, “What do you mean?” I repeat, “Die. D.I.E. Die to self, so you can live for Jesus.”

In closing, when you think of what the world needs, you might lean towards programs, events, music, improving your worship service, though I have chased those things and more, and they are empty. Or maybe you lean towards the perfect sermon, the perfect small group, the perfect discipleship program, more prayer time, more Bible study, helping the poor, a better economy, better government, success, accomplishment, cosmic romance with the special someone, or family, keeping rules like not drinking, smoking, or chewing, or many other things. All of these I have also chased, and they are empty.

If you want what lasts, what your heart desperately searches for, it can only be found in Jesus Christ and living a Gospel centered life on mission for Him.

Let’s return to where we left you in the courtroom. What if you’re in that courtroom and Jesus extended His hands and you took them, and found love.

I’m curious about what you will do, hoping you take Jesus’ hands and waiting with bated breath.  You changed from pursuing daily bread to pursuing what He has taught us about dying to self and living for Him. You received His forgiveness because He took your place when He suffered. You felt new life inside you, and suddenly had a purpose for living. You found light in the good news (otherwise known as the Gospel) of the story of Jesus and what He’s done for us. And it is filling today, filling when you sleep, filling when you wake up, filling the next day, and the next, and the next. Daily Jesus changes us as we encounter what He has done for us and God’s grace. It is glorifying to God and we feel it, as we make a big deal about Him and that light in us comes out to a hurting world.

Well, this is God’s plan to bring the world what it needs. I can’t imagine any other purpose in life.

If you have not already experienced these “what ifs” above, you can. It is not hypthetical. It is real. Scripture says it. Thousands of years of tradition say it. I have experienced it. Billions have. I invite you to leap in faith towards what will satisfy. It is what the world needs now. It is what you need now.

in Jesus,

Nate

email nswhiteside@gmail.com for more on The Stand, a church on mission for Jesus, or how you can live on mission for Jesus where you are.

“His Name Will Be Called . . . Mighty God”

I was working in my garage with my son, using my shoplight, and it was very helpful in an overcast day, as we cut wooden boards for a shelf. Then the radial arm saw got stuck on a board as I was feeding it through, and the resulting power surge tripped the breaker. Suddenly we were in the dark. Completely. My son said, “Dad, why don’t you turn the lights back on?” I tried explaining the concept of how I couldn’t and we would need to reset the breaker, but gave up after he asked, “Why don’t you turn the light back on?” a second time. I took him with me and we reset the breaker, and this time I cut the board more carefully so we would not be without light and power.

Lights are great, and we benefit greatly from their light. We depend on them nightly. But they are only good if they are connected to the power source. I’ll come back to this.

Is 9:6 tells us what about God? (Read it if you have time)

God is a Mighty God. The word for “mighty” is gibor hiyel a word that doesn’t just mean physical “strength, strong, powerful,” but “Hero, heroic force, Hero Who saves,” (HALOT, s.v.). It is like “valiant,” “Hero, champion.” In the Old Testament these types were Samson, David vs Goliath, Gideon and his men.

Sometimes as Christians we try to pretend we are mighty without God, consciously or unconsciously. Like my 18 month old son, who likes to touch his older brothers’ faces with his hardest wanna-be-punch and they play along, falling down on the floor. He feels mighty and laughs.

It is very important for us as Christians to understand that in God, the God of the Bible, we have a mighty God. He is indeed very powerful, and more powerful than any other person or thing in this universe.

GOD IS A MIGHTY CHAMPION GOD, POWERFUL ENOUGH FOR WHATEVER HIS PEOPLE NEED, TO DELIVER THEM. Look with me at some examples of God as Mighty God

God is the greatest of those champions in His character and His actions

It was Mighty God who delivered His people from the world superpower, Egypt using plagues, a pillar of fire, tidal waves in the Red Sea after dividing it. It was Mighty God who told Joshua and Israel to circle Jericho for 7 days and God finally brought down the defenses. It was Mighty God who whittled down Gideon’s army to a few hundred and gave them victory against Midian, as Isaiah 6:4 references.

This Mighty God is way bigger than any of your problems. 

But this passage isn’t just talking about Mighty God, Elohim, Yahweh of the OT

It is talking about the coming Messiah

(Read v. 1-6)

Who specifically is being described here? Isaiah 9 is prophesying the coming of Whom? It tells us that the Messiah will be the same Mighty God!

The Bible tells us God the Son became humanity for us, Jesus Christ is His Name.

This revelation of the Messiah’s divinity here adds a whole new layer to who He will be, in the minds of Isaiah’s audience. They read it like “What? God Himself will come and save us?” God exceeded His peoples’ expectations and prayers for a Messiah, by God Himself appearing as their Savior.

To get a picture of what this must have felt like, it would be like going to see your local high school boys team play basketball, and they announce 10 minutes before the game starts that the Chicago Bulls will be playing in their place. You would be so excited, you would be texting your friends, calling, reserving seats, taking pictures, and all because someone greater than who you expected was going to arrive!

Isaiah said it here, that this man, Messiah, will be, not mighty man, but mighty God!

“He has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles.”

Jesus of Nazareth, grew up in Galilee, Nazareth, and for 30 years everyone saw who they thought was Joseph’s boy helping out at the local Menards. Joseph and Mary of Galilee ran the carpenter shop, they were raising God’s only Son-the Mighty God. He was the greatest light that ever walked the face of the earth. John 5:39-40, Jesus said, “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

John 10:30, Jesus claimed to be God, “I and the Father are One,” and the Jews knew it because they picked up stones to stone him for blasphemy.

Many have said “Jesus was a good teacher.” Either He is a good teacher, and God, or a bad teacher, because He definitely claimed to be God.

Jesus proved He was not just 100% man, but 100% Mighty God, powerful in many ways.

Jesus as Mighty God healed people who were blind, people who were deaf, people who whose arms and legs were broken, handicapped people, a woman with severe psychological problems.

As Creator God, all things were made by Him and for Him, and He who made it all with His voice has authority to be Mighty in Your life today with just a word!

WATCH HOW MIGHTY HE IS, AS JESUS . . .

He Told the Storm “peace be still” and it was quiet;

told the fish to give Peter a coin when he hooked its mouth and Peter had his taxes paid because he went fishing with Jesus (this doesn’t always work)

told the fishermen where to throw their nets and they had so many fish that the nets were breaking;

told the crippled man to take up his mat and walk and he leaped to his feet!

Told Satan not to put Him to the test, and the Devil fled from His presence!

Told the demons to shut up, get up, and get out of the people they were torturing, and they obeyed, because of the Mighty God, Jesus Christ!

Jesus told Peter James and John who He was and revealed His glory on the Mount of Transfiguration!      They saw the same person and same glory Isaiah saw when he said, “Woe is me!”

Peter James and John, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel, Moses, they all were changed for the rest of their lives because they realized what you and I need to realize, that our God is a MIGHTY GOD!

Jesus has power over sickness, power over Satan, power over death, and power over poverty.

Jesus has power over death, He shut down the Jerusalem funeral home, because He was mighty God: Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s only son from the dead up in Galilee, raised Mary and Martha’s only brother Lazarus down by Jerusalem, and raised the Synagogue Ruler Jairus’ only little girl

Jesus has power to solver every welfare problem, He did it in Jerusalem, as he fed 5,000 men (total of probably 10-15,000 or more, counting women and children), and fed another 4,000 men (total of probably 10,000). After the resurrection, Jesus commanded His disciples to cast their nets and they caught 153 fish at once!

Jesus said “Let the children come to ME!” Jesus LOVES THE POOR!

Jesus was powerful enough to leave no child behind, and to make a change we could all believe in. This should give you hope! There is power available for all who will believe in and receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. That baby we’re celebrating is in fact Mighty and Powerful God.

HE WAS POWERFUL ENOUGH TO SAY, “DESTROY THIS TEMPLE AND IN THREE DAYS I WILL REBUILD IT!”

He fixed what was lost at the tree of Eden,

paid for all sin and God’s wrath on the tree of Calvary,

and one day with all power will create a new heaven and new earth, and reveal the tree of life whose leaves bring healing for all the nations.

Jesus is Mighty God.

WHAT’S MY MAIN POINT ? WHAT’S the main bag I’m trying to blow my hot air into, it’s this: If get nothing else, get this,

JESUS IS MIGHTY GOD, POWERFUL

God saw you were lonely, lost, hopeless, and worse than you realized, and the Bible says “God demonstrates His love for us in this, while we were sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Bible says “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”

Listen to the words of this awesome hymn, “The Power of the Cross”

“Oh, to see the dawn Of the darkest day: Christ on the road to Calvary. Tried by sinful men, Torn and beaten, then Nailed to a cross of wood. CHORUS: This, the pow’r of the cross: Christ became sin for us; Took the blame, bore the wrath—We stand forgiven at the cross. Oh, to see the pain Written on Your face,Bearing the awesome weight of sin. Ev’ry bitter thought, Ev’ry evil deed Crowning Your bloodstained brow. Now the daylight flees; Now the ground beneath Quakes as its Maker bows His head. Curtain torn in two, Dead are raised to life; “Finished!” the vict’ry cry. Oh, to see my name Written in the wounds, For through Your suffering I am free. Death is crushed to death; Life is mine to live, Won through Your selfless love. FINAL CHORUS:

This, the pow’r of the cross: Son of God—slain for us. What a love! What a cost! We stand forgiven at the cross.” 

So, getting back to the light, what are you going to do? Depend on Him and plug in? Or remain unplugged and powerless?

I have seen Jesus Christ as powerful in my own life. I know He saved me from a lot of sin. He saves me from sin. I am not the most righteous, holy, just, pure, Godly person I know. Many of you probably have more righteousness and good works than I’ll ever have, and I’ve been trying my best for a long time, serving faithfully as a pastor. But I have all the righteousness, holiness, justness, purity, and Godliness I will need for eternity in Jesus Christ, my Mighty God!

John Newton used to say, at the end of his life, when his memory was gone, he could not see anymore because he was blind, and people said he was too old to preach. He said, “I remember two things! I am a great sinner, but Jesus is a great Savior!”

He is mighty AND POWERFUL.

in My life I seek thrills, action, challenges, fast motors. One way I am seeking God as Mighty God is to find my passion for thrills and excitement in Him and the adventure of living by faith in Jesus Christ.

Jesus is my peace, my joy, has blessed me with a beautiful wife and 4 beautiful children and a beautiful family. He gives me power to have the fruit of the Spirit, and to let the Spirit live through me and bless others.

One problem sometimes is when Christians say He is Mighty, but don’t act like it. They don’t really believe it. Let’s act like we serve a God who is bigger than our problems.

Jesus said, “come to Me all who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jesus can bear your burdens

Jesus is the one Paul talked about when he said, “My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus,” Jesus is the Mighty God, He can bless your bills (Phil 4)

Jesus said in Luke 4, He came to “proclaim good news to the poor, liberty to the captives, recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed” Jesus can break your chains of addiction, anger, lust of the eyes, lust of the flesh

Jesus, Mighty God, is bigger and more powerful than all your problems.

We need to spend time with Him, in prayer and reading how to experience God and His power to find our fulfillment in Jesus Christ. Titus 2:11-12 tells me that God’s grace has given us power over death, and power over practicing the wrong things, “for the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people, training us to renounce all ungodliness and worldly passion, and to live self-controlled, just, and godly lives in the present age”

ACTS 13, Paul was preaching about Jesus, and said, “and by Him everyone who believes is freed from everything.” You don’t have to feel guilty about sin He has forgiven! Jesus is powerful enough to give freedom from sin.

You can live free without worry, because Jesus said God provides for birds and flowers, and you will have food and clothes if you just seek Jesus Christ’s kingdom!

Get on board with the Mighty God’s mission: He said, ““All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth, go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I have written a lot here about Mighty God, our Messiah, Jesus Christ. The question is, are you going to plug into Him Who is at the right hand of the throne of God and be a light? One day we will all stand before His throne, and see just how Mighty Jesus really is.

I urge you if you have not done so, reader, to repent and give Him everything, not holding back. No “partial plugging in.”

Some people object, asking, “If God is so mighty, why is there evil in the world?” I would reply, “Who said there was such a thing as evil if God did not say it?”

Then someone might ask, “But if God is good, and Mighty, how can a good God stand by and let all this evil happen?” I would respond, “God knows the world has evil, and that we live in a fallen universe. That’s why He did something about it and sent His only Son to die on the cross for all the evil and sin of mankind, so that all who believe in Him would experience His power as they are saved from their evil and sin.”

I hope this Christmas all who read this are plugged into our Mighty God, Jesus Christ.

Transitions

1 Corinthians 15:1-4 tells us that we stand on the Gospel, and by that Gospel we are being saved. Here we are, now residents of Shorewood Illinois! Emily and I are in shock at how within a few months, God spoke, laid out a path for us to walk on, has already brought us through trials, and has very firmly displayed His good pleasure and success as we have followed in a leap of faith. There is not word picture, illustration, or man-made way to communicate what it is like to be in the center of God’s will. It is not perfection, because we are not perfect. It is not stress free (definitely), nor is it sinlessness (because we are sinful creatures saved through Jesus Christ, not because of ourselves), nor is it a pattern or method of living one follows. If the Christian is praying, crying out to God to speak and guide him, saturating his day with the Bible (either morning or evening, and whenever in between), he is listening for God and can expect hear God.
In July, shortly after my last entry, we began the most daring leap of faith ever in either of our lives, at the time when we have the most to lose. This isn’t the first time we’ve responded to God’s call in a leap of faith. We moved from Chicago to Dallas 11 years ago, not having jobs there, not knowing anyone there, and saw God open up the doors for everything–far more than we prayed for. We learned that where God guides, He provides.
Now it’s not just the two of us, but our precious four little ones, ages 1-7, and we are answering God’s clear, loud call to plant a new church in Shorewood, IL, and to do that now. So October 1, we said goodbye to our church family in Darlington, WI, and moved to Shorewood.
God has provided financial supporters, pastors coming up to me and saying, like one pastor said, “Excuse me, are you going to plant a church in Joliet, IL?” Joliet and Shorewood hug each other on Joliet’s west side. I discovered he is a pastor here and they have been praying for a new church, and have people who have begun to work towards that in faith that God will answer their prayers. He and I will be having breakfast this week to strategize and pray together. That is one example of the new network God is adding on top of the existing network. Our former home church where Emily and I met and were married has already been very generous and is interested in a praying with us through this. Our relatives’ churches, and the church we are coming from in Darlington (FBC, praise God for you!) are praying with us–which means far more than any other kind of support.
God has brought us here to see missional community, centered around the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
We’ve received so much encouragement, and so many friends and family have supported us with confidence that God will do great things in this new adventure. There also might be one or two watching who are thinking, “Nate and Emily can’t plant a church. He’s not qualified.” You can’t have Jesus without the Pharisees, Paul without the Judaizers, or a Pastor without whispering doubters. I would answer, “Yep. You’re right. Good thing Jesus said He would build His church, and I’m the most recent in a long line of unqualified people God has been using since way back in Abraham’s day, when He decided to start a nation with two geriatrics–a medical impossibility.” Again, thanks so much much to the dozens and dozens who have gone out of your way to assure us God is with us. We deeply appreciate your encouragement! Thanks most of all to God who is gracious and kind to use worthless tools like me, and that I am created “to do good works,” which He decided long ago He would have me do.
From here we pray desperately together with family and friends, and ask that you pray with us to seek God’s face. We need God to continue what He started, bringing together the right core people who share the vision for Gospel centrality and missional community, prayer warriors, and financial support. God has already brought together 50% of our financial support, and opened the doors for me to work PT. If you’re reading this, please pray for the lost here in Shorewood, that we would find them and introduce them to Jesus. It isn’t about me, my wife, or you, dear reader. It is all about knowing Jesus Christ and letting Him and what He has done for us change us daily. It is about sharing that also with the world.
Jesus said in Matthew 5, “Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine among men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your father in heaven.” 1 Cor 15 says this Gospel is on which we stand.
Pray for this new church–“The Stand,” holding up the light of Jesus in Shorewood, and standing on the Gospel alone. I’ll update again soon,
in Jesus,
Nate

No Fear

Is that what you think about when you think “fearless”? (I know the ? outside the quotes is debated, but I fall on the side of having it outside the quotes. Someone can comment on what Turabian says if you feel led).

This was not my idea of “fearless” until this morning. I was explaining to my daughter why a dragonfly, similar to the one in this picture, felt comfortable perching himself on my laptop while I studied. He knows that the closer he gets to me, the safer he is from the birds flying around us, or other predators. As long as he can trust me he feels safe, secure, fearless.

I was reading Psalm 119:1, first in Hebrew, then in English to my daughter (teaching them English is hard enough, let alone Hebrew. But we try!). Roughly translated, it reads, “Blessed/Happy is the one whose walk is blameless, who walks in the law of Adonai.” Lord here is technically not “Adonai;” it is the covenant name, but we say “Adonai” out of respect for His Name. This verse teaches us that if someone obeys God’s law, which is His Scripture, that person is blessed. The dragonfly principle again. Walking closely with God leads to blessing. The closer we are to Him, the more blessed we are. How do you get closer to God? Learn His way and obey it. This includes, for example, doing the difficult things He commands, even when we don’t understand it. Even when it is not popular. Even when you are the only one doing it.

It’s like working out. Some days I hate getting up early and working out. My mind has not caught up to my body. But I must do what I hate, in order to do what I love. Pay now, play later; or play now, pay later. If I have no discipline, I will become fat (fatter) and lazy. This is true of time spent with God. Neglecting Him and His Word will affect my entire life negatively, my reactions to people and stressful events, and my sense of safety or fear. Yet, honestly, I, like you, go days sometimes in spiritual famine, even doing the things of God, but not getting near to God. Then we wonder why we feel afraid. We wonder why we are anxious, stressed, worried, and why life as a Christian has no meaning.

Believe it or not, the dragonfly principle is real. You can see it in fish too. As I am at a lake as I write this, daily my kids swim with the fish, not the Godfather way, either. Panfish come up and swarm you if you stand or sit still long enough in the clear water. Why? They won’t eat your food if you try to feed them, and you can’t catch them with a net (so I’ve heard). They, like the dragonfly, know that the closer they are to you, the safer they are from the bigger fish.

So what will you do? Take the easy route and don’t bother getting close to God? A predator may never attack you, but the slow advancement of fear might come over you. If you want to be bold and fearless, take the time to meet with the most bold, the most fearless, the Almighty God. Hebrews 12:2 tells us, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfector of faith, who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

That’s the kind of big God I want to get closer to. If He can do all of that, and is sitting next to God, and is, as He claimed, God Himself, I want to learn from that man. I want to learn how to overcome fear from Him, being a good husband, father, son, brother, son-in-law, brother-in-law, friend, pastor, leader, and man.

So land dragonfly. Stop the flutter of your wings, gently set down next to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Don’t think about your problems when you’re there. Fix your eyes and mind on Jesus Christ, and soon you, like the dragonfly, will feel safe and have no fear.

Stay on Target

A JEDI CAN SUCCEED IF HE STAYS FOCUSED ON THE TARGET
Remember the scene from the 1977 Star Wars movie, Episode IV: A New Hope, where the X-Wing fighters are attacking the Death Star? One of the Y-Wing fighter pilots is being attacked by an enemy fighter as he tries to launch missiles to destroy the Death Star. His comrade calmly reminds him, “Stay on target.” He again yells for help. The response is, “Stay on target.” Good guys are getting wiped out by the enemy, and the enemy is getting closer to destroying the good guys and all their fleet of ships. The phrase “Stay on target,” that target being the destruction of the Death Star and salvation of their comrades, is repeated. Finally Luke Skywalker flies in his X-Wing fighter and is attacked by enemies too. He hears his Jedi Master’s voice telling him, “Use the force, Luke,” and “let go.” Luke, in the face of enemies attacking him, time running out, and losing his wingmen, focuses on the target and succeeds in destroying it, thus defeating the enemy while saving his comrades.

Today we also need to stay on target, not wavering, in the face of very hard times. There are two commands in this passage, both warning us as Christians how not to let things of our culture knock us off target.

The first command is in Colossians 2:16. Paul commanded the Colossians not to let anyone judge them by what they ate or drank, their festivals (or lack thereof), New Moons, or Sabbaths. One person’s rules on eating and drinking do not necessarily apply to another’s. One person’s rules on festivals, celebrations, keeping the Sabbath do not necessarily apply to another’s. Max Lucado wrote “Legalism has no pity on people. Legalism makes my opinion your burden, makes my opinion your boundary, makes my opinion your obligation.”

We learn in 2:17 that those things were a mere shadow of the things to come, but “the substance belongs to Christ,” (NASB). Jesus Christ is the “body,” of the shadow that was cast in the Old Testament, and in the traditions of the Jewish people. He is the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. He said in Matthew 5, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them, but to fulfill them.” When you see a shadow, shadows never stand alone. There is always a body casting that shadow. The 2 dimensional shadow is nothing compared to the 3 D body that casts it. The shadow changes, varies, depending on the direction and angle of the light. The body never does, whether a tree, rock, chair, building, car, animal, or person. The nature of that body is the same.

So the good human ideas for applying what the Bible says are good for a specific time, place, and people group. But the main thing remains the main thing. The Bible remains the Bible, Gospel remains the Gospel, sinners still need to repent or risk Hell, and people who are saved by Jesus Christ are still saved by Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

 F. B. Meyer, famous preacher 100 years ago, once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are two things we do not know: First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin. And second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her. We also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.[1]

At a pastor’s conference in Spokane, Chuck Swindoll told of being at a California Christian camp. The first day there a man approached him and said how greatly he had looked forward to hearing Dr. Swindoll speak and his delight at now finally being able to realize that desire. That evening Swindoll noticed the man sitting near the front. But only a few minutes into the message the man was sound asleep. Swindoll thought to himself that perhaps he was tired after a long day’s drive and couldn’t help himself. But the same thing happened the next few nights, and Dr. Swindoll found his exasperation with the man growing. On the last night the man’s wife came up and apologized for her husband’s inattention to the messages. She then explained that he had recently been diagnosed as having terminal cancer and the medication he was taking to ease the pain made him extremely sleepy. But it had been one of his life-long ambitions to hear Dr. Swindoll speak before he died, and now he had fulfilled that goal.[2]

John Walvoord, last sermon at Dallas Theological Seminary. Teacher and president of the seminary for over 50 years, one of the people responsible for the great reputation that Dallas has today all over the world. He said to us, in his last chapel, “Whatever you do when you preach a sermon, include the Gospel. The Bible says the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation, but many churches today have great oratory messages without including the gospel.

If you want to hear the one message that will never change, and always reach deep into the heart of every listener, it is this story of Jesus Christ, the God who became man, the One who offered His perfect body for our sinful souls, so we might rise one day in perfect bodies with Him and spend eternity with Almighty God. You need to meet that truth and teach that truth whenever you teach the Bible, or you are teaching the shadow. Teach the Body–Jesus Christ, not the shadow.

You need to stop right now and make sure you have this salvation in Jesus Christ. It is NOT Jesus and baptism, Jesus and communion/eucharist, Jesus and confession, Jesus and giving, Jesus and penance, Jesus and hard work, Jesus starts it and I finish it, or Jesus plus anything added, or Jesus minus whatever you don’t like about Him. Colossians 2:6 says, “so then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him.”

It is all about Jesus Christ, accepting His life through accepting His death, and accepting His deity through accepting His resurrection. That is the target. Living like Jesus Christ.

So, are you on target?

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

Another disqualifier for the Colossian Christians were those who believed they were more spiritual than others. In 2:18, the Bible tells us the second command of this passage. They were not to let those in Colossae according to the false teaching disqualify them (strong word for an umpire or official to rob an athlete of the prize), which is the same as to condemn them. In John Calvin’s commentary on Colossians, he translates this “let no one take from you the palm.” There was a custom in races of that day that the winner would receive the prize, but there was a palm that was also given, for everyone who completed the race. If you got injured or distracted, and could not complete the race, you were deprived of that palm. So the Bible warns us, let no one rob you of the Lord’s reward for running the race to the end.

Characteristics of the false teachers in Colossae, according to this passage:

First, “humility” in this case “false humility” Paul writing tongue-in-cheek. The people believed they were actually humble. They looked down on others in their “humility.”

Second, “worship of angels” worship of angels. This means focusing on creatures of heaven is not worshipping God.

Third, “vision entering into” entering into a tale at length of what one has seen in a vision.

In Colossae and other cities, some people were depriving themselves of food and sleep in order to induce visions. This is why they emphasized fasting so much. Modern medicine shows us a lack of sleep combined with a lack of protein will increase your chances of hallucinating. People were doing this in order to see either the true God or have some experience that would give them the same authority as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or the prophets who saw visions.

Those who practiced these things were not connected to the Head, Who is Christ. So on the one hand, the Bible warns us here not to be knocked off course by those who worship the acts of godliness over God, and on the other hand, not to be knocked off course by those seeking spirituality on their own, disconnected from the Head.

What else? Fourth, these people were “having an exaggerated self-conception” by their “mind of the flesh.”

The difference is, the prophets did not seek visions, they sought God Himself. Once again, the shadow of God is not what you should look for. You should seek God Himself—seeking Jesus Christ!

This means that even if you find someone at some other church, in some other ministry, who does or has something you admire, don’t compare that to where God has you now. Don’t get discouraged. I met a man for lunch who is a minister in the circles that practice the manifestations of the spiritual gifts more than my circles of Christianity. I felt the condescension from him, so I asked him, “Do you think you are more spiritual than me because you practice these manifestations of the Spirit–as you call them–and I do not?” He paused, and said, “I would never say that.” But he did feel that, as he nodded his head yes. I didn’t let that man rob me of my palm. Neither should you. Continue in Jesus Christ. I asked that man “Can you prove from the Bible that you are more spiritual?” He said, “I don’t know.”

If it can’t be found in the Bible, it isn’t true. We who stay on target follow Jesus, and live according to the Word of God. If you have a great, popular church growth idea but it goes against Scripture, it is not a great church growth idea at all. Stay on the target–Jesus Christ.

YOU CAN SUCCEED IF YOU STAY FOCUSED ON THE TARGET

Are you on target? Have you gotten off target? The same thing Karl Barth had said decades earlier, when asked what his greatest theological thought was, “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

What is the target we need to stay focused on? Go back to v. 6, “so then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, so live in Him.”

Review: Jesus Christ is not the shadow of Jesus Christ, and He is not a teaching that sounds kind of like Jesus Christ, and He is not the man-made buildings, programs, or books that are tools to worship Jesus Christ. Jesus is not the angels who adore Him, or the visions people have of Him. He is a real person who dwells within all of us who receive Him as Savior.

Some of you have given up. Your X-Wing is out of fuel, you don’t feel like a Jedi. You don’t even know why you get up in the morning. Life has let you down.

Read this encouraging poem, if you feel like you’ve been knocked off course.

“I’ve dreamed many dreams that never came true. I’ve seen them vanish at dawn,

But I’ve realized enough of my dreams, thank God, to make me want to dream on,

I’ve prayed many prayers when no answer came, I’ve waited patient and long;

But answers have come to enough of my prayers, to make me keep praying on.

I’ve trusted many a friend who failed, and left me to weep alone;

But I’ve found enough of my friends true-blue, to make me keep trusting on.

I’ve sown many seeds that fell by the way, for the birds to feed upon;

But I’ve held enough golden sheaves in my hand, to make me keep sowing on.

I’ve drained the cup of disappointment and pain, I’ve gone many days without song;

But I’ve sipped enough nectar from the rose of life, to make me want to live on.”

Charles Allen, The Secret of Abundant Living.

Spend time with Jesus Christ, not His shadows that fill religion. Stay in the race, on target.

[1] Taken from http://www.bible.org/illus.php?topic_id=843, at 2:09pm on 2/10/07.

[2] Bible.org