Jesus Who?

“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

— Romans 8:29 (NIV)

Paul used these words to tell the Roman church how they were to be…conformed to the image of Christ; but what is the image of Christ?

We see throughout the Gospels that Jesus is the son of God…Jesus is the incarnation of God…Jesus is God.  From his birth to the last days he spent on earth…one thing is evident…Jesus was about his Father’s will.  Throughout the life of Jesus we see the example that he lived for us to follow…an example that is to be lived out daily in the lives of those who call themselves Christians.

Take a look at his birth – Jesus was born just as we are…to an earthly mother.  This wasn’t just any other birth, however, as Jesus was born of a virgin.  God found a pure heart and a pure body to bring his son into this world.  Jesus was born to Mary, a young girl who found favor with the Most High God, enough so that He entrusted her with the birth and responsibility of raising His child.  Mary was to be married to a man named Joseph…who wanted to secretly slip away when he found out of her pregnancy, but proved to be the man for the job when he was approached by an angel and told to stick it out…that God was in control.

We see it in the garden – when Jesus was praying for God to let His will be done.  Jesus was obedient to the call God had on his life.  Jesus knew the cost he was to pay, but he also knew that God’s plan was greater than his own…enough so, that he went to a cross to die for our sins.  Jesus knew what obedience to the call was all about…from his birth and the obedience of his earthly parents…to the cross where he showed the greatest obedience of all in the giving of his life.  Jesus understood.

But go back with me for a minute to probably one of the most important times in the life of Christ…not his ministry, not his birth…not even the cross…lets go to the temple…

“ 41Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. 42When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. 43After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”
49
“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.
51
Then he went down to
Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)

Mary and Joseph had to go to Jerusalem each year for the Passover…it was a custom…it was tradition; and it is here that we see the keys of Jesus’ life coming to fruition.  The feast was over and it was time to leave…so Mary and Joseph started their trek back to Nazareth – thinking Jesus was with the family, but then realizing he wasn’t…Jesus had stayed behind – Jesus was learning…and in some ways, Jesus was teaching the teachers.

Did Jesus need to learn?  Probably not, he was there at the start, he was God; he had the inside track, he was a step ahead, he understood.  Jesus was in some ways opening the minds of the teachers…for three days Mary and Joseph searched frantically for Jesus (just as many of us do for years, searching for our savior).  They found him in the midst of his Father’s work, in his Father’s house (just as we do, when we are searching for the answers…think about it – Jesus knew the path to reach his Father).

Look with me if you will at the last verse of this section…

52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:52 (NIV)

There are four keys to becoming like Christ in this verse…smarter, stronger, deeper and cooler.

Smarter – First, Jesus grew in wisdom – what this means is Jesus learned and applied what he learned in his life.  Think about school…we go/went to class to learn, to grow in wisdom…to become knowledgeable in the things around us.  In the Jewish society it was customary for a child to learn his father’s work so that he would be able to take over the business of the family…this means that Jesus learned carpentry.  Joseph was a carpenter and had taught Jesus the ways of a carpenter…look at Luke 2:40 – ”And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him.” Jesus grew and became strong…and was filled with wisdom.

This wisdom was not just wisdom of being a carpenter, but also wisdom of who God was…because God’s grace had been bestowed on him…Jesus knew right from wrong.  As a child grows, they learn what is right and what is wrong, they never have to be shown what is wrong; because that is something that is learned by learning what is right.  A teller who is working at a bank doesn’t learn the difference between a counterfeit bill and a real bill by studying the fake…they learn by becoming familiar with the real thing.  They learn by studying the truth, because knowing the truth will help them spot a fake.  The same is true in the life of Christ, as in our own, we learn the truth and by knowing the truth we can spot the lies because of the composition being a little different.

Jesus grew in wisdom because Jesus asked questions…

“After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.”

— Luke 2:46 (NIV)

Stronger – Second, Jesus grew in stature. Jesus lived a life that would make him stronger, both physically and mentally.  Jesus believed in being clean…Jewish customs lead us to this conclusion, where we see that cleanliness was a way of life for the Jewish people, and we are told that Jesus was raised according to Jewish custom.  Hygiene was key to the Jewish people…and Jesus was sinless and blameless…so we can see that Jesus was most likely clean inside and out.

Jesus was also a very well dressed man.  We get this from John 19:23 where we see that Jesus wore a garment that was seamless.  In the Jewish society a seamless garment was the best you could get…almost like our suit and tie are today; a seamless robe was reserved for the special occasions…it was presentable.  Although he dressed well, he did warn against those who would overdress though…in his description of the Pharisees in Matthew 23…

2“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. 3So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. 4They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them.
5
“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’
8
“But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one Master and you are all brothers. 9And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one Teacher, the Christ. 11The greatest among you will be your servant. 12For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.”

— Matthew 23:2-12 (NIV)

Jesus states that the Pharisees “do not practice what they preach”…in other words, they put on a show, they’re not willing to serve in the way that they expect others to serve; and then, probably the central point of this speech Jesus gives is this… Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; 6they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; 7they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’” In the Jewish Tradition the phylacteries were two small leather boxes that were worn by the men containing scripture and were worn on the forehead and left arm during the morning prayers.

Jesus stated that they make their phylacteries wide, meaning that they would make them larger, making it more visible, and in their minds establish their status in the society.  Jesus then explains that they loved to be the center of attention…praying on the corners and taking the place of honor at social events…they wanted to take all the glory…leaving none for God; and Jesus is warning them of this.

The third thing we see about Jesus’ stature is that he was likely in shape…meaning he took care of his body.  He was a carpenter, so Jesus was likely a strong man, because the work he did would have built muscle and kept him active.  Jesus didn’t let this phase him when leaving his trade either, as Jesus then continued in his exercise by walking everywhere that he went…very rarely in scripture do we see Jesus hitching a ride.  He even walked across the water rather than taking the boat with the disciples (Matthew 14).  Jesus was an active man, he was in shape…physically Jesus cared for his body, after all it is a temple.

Deeper Jesus grew in favor with God. Jesus earned his Father’s respect…because he gave his Father respect.  Jesus knew what it took to grow in a relationship with God…Jesus showed us how to grow as well.  All through Jesus ministry we see that he was constantly in prayer about everything…we also see that his example was noticed by his followers because they came to him and said, “Teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1)…he must’ve had it down for them to ask his advice.  His favor with God would have come from his obedience as well…being obedient to the call God had on his life.  Jesus questioned the teachers, and in return they were astonished at the understanding that a youth would have on the topics they were discussing.  Jesus also adhered to the laws of God, showing the world the love that his Father showed him.

One key we can see from Luke 2:49 is this…“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” When Mary asked Jesus why he had treated his parents in this manner, causing them to search, that was Jesus response…Didn’t you know I HAD TO BE in my Father’s house?  He had to be where his Father was…yes Joseph was his earthly father, but God was his true Father, and Jesus understood that.  The interesting fact of it all is that though his mother didn’t fully understand what Jesus was saying, she treasured the fact that her child wanted to be in the temple…doing his Father’s work…fellowshipping with God; and we are to conform to the image of Christ.

Cooler – Jesus grew in favor with men. Three aspects of Jesus life that developed his social standing and made him “cool” were his respect for family, community, and conversation.

Jesus knew what family meant to the Jewish society, and even what it means to us today.  Jesus respected and obeyed his parents…and taught others to do the same.  After making the statement to his mother about doing his Father’s will, Jesus then went with his parents and obeyed them…which is another thing his mother treasured in her heart…a child who was obedient.  Jesus’ respect for his mother is most evident in his last moments of life as well…looking down from the cross, a dying man made arrangements for his mother to be taken care of.

He was very involved in the community.  Think about it, Jesus at the age of twelve wanted to be part of the community by sitting in the temple and talking with the teachers.  Jesus also made many of his sermons a public event…he wanted to involve everyone.  He gave to the poor, healed the sick, and took time to care for everyone he came in contact with…Jesus was a socialite.  His first miracle was at a wedding, he healed a man who was lowered in to a house while he was speaking…Jesus fed 5,000 and 4,000…Jesus spent time with those around him…giving back to the community.

Along with Family and Community, Jesus also enjoyed a good conversation…we know that Jesus was familiar with the Old Testament scriptures, because he was constantly quoting them…which means he would have known the Proverbs showing him how to treat others and live a Godly life.  Jesus was a listener, he was compassionate, and he took time for everyone…

Jesus lived his life perfectly so that he could die for the sins that each of us have committed, and even those we’ve yet to commit.  Jesus understood the ways of God…and he wanted us to get it too.  Jesus was showing us all how to live…he was showing us what we were to become…he was being the example.  Jesus knew what Paul shared, “For those God foreknew He predestined to be conformed to the likeness of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”  We were and are known by God, we are loved by God…and he has chosen us to be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

What does this mean for you and me?  It means that we, because of the grace and mercy shown us on the cross, are seen by God as holy and just because of the blood that Christ shed on the cross…Jesus died to make us like him.  Jesus died so that we could conform to his likeness…Jesus gave it all, so that we could have it all…and to think, at twelve, Jesus likely already knew the plan…and yet took the time to teach the teachers about the heart of a child…A child of God.

“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”

— Luke 2:52 (NIV)

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Identity

Identity…

When you hear or see this word, what does it mean to you?  For many, it is who you are, which could include your name, address, livelihood, etc.  There are many things that identify you today.  How you look, act, carry yourself, or your personality…all of those could be used to identify you.

Your family…

Your friends…

Your job…

There are many things that people use to identify you, but the question is this, “How do you identify yourself?”

What sparked this thought process in me is the realization that everyone that you come in contact with on a daily basis knows a different version of you. Your parents know you in one way, while a sibling may know you differently, and your friends may have another viewpoint.

As I thought about this, it became clear to me that many times we get lost in translation, because we begin to try and become all of the things that others identify us as…or even worse, we are the different identities, depending on the situation, circumstance, or present company.

This is a dangerous way to be. I believe that we can find our true identity and it comes through our personal relationship with Christ.  When we center ourselves in Him, he begins to form our identity as it relates to the Kingdom of God…and through that molding and forming us into His identity.

Romans 8:28-30 says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, so that he would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; and those he called, he also justified; and those he justified, he also glorified.”

We are created to be conformed to the image of Christ…and that can only come through a developed relationship with Him…personally. Through this identification process, God will pick up the broken pieces of our lives, and he will call us to a greater path, justifying us and offering grace for our sins, and glorifying us for His kingdom!

So maybe, instead of trying to identify as all the things we think the world around us will like, we should work on developing our relationship with Christ; through that, allowing Him to create an identity in us that will develop us into the instrument He can use for His glory.  Find who you are in Him, not who you want Him to be in you.

Letter to American Youth

The Lord has laid this on my heart, and before you dismiss it as not being for you, I encourage you to please read it…

Dear Young Person,

We owe you an apology.  We have failed you.  We have let you down, and now, we don’t know how to handle our failures.  We were supposed to be the example for you to follow.  We were supposed to show you the way to handle life’s difficult circumstances and situations….we were supposed to help you grow and mature…

It breaks my heart to have to write this to you, knowing that we let you down by not being there as your parent, mentor, or friend…it pains me to have to admit that we have failed you and are now blaming you for the situations that you find yourself in because of our lack of guidance.

See, the Bible says in Proverbs 22:6 to “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  This is where we have failed you, because we have not trained you to look to God for answers.  We have failed you by teaching you that being destructive and divisive is okay.  We have shown you that attacking others, calling them names, treating them with disrespect, and blaming them for our own shortcomings is the proper way to handle life.

We owe you an apology for not showing you the value of the family, for not being there when you needed us the most…for teaching you that we stand for family values, but only when it pertains to something we agree with, while showing you that it is acceptable to tear our own families apart because we only value the idea of a “Good, Christian home” while allowing alcohol and lust to tear apart our own family.  We haven’t shown you what it looks like to seek God in all issues and allow Him to direct our steps…no, instead we have shown you that leaving when you do not agree with someone is ok….we have shown you to take a stand for what you believe in….but not to listen to others and work toward a solution, just to yell and scream until you get your way….That is not what we were supposed to do….

We were supposed to show you the Love of God…the love that is God….love in general…

We were supposed to be the example…not show you how problems shouldn’t be handled…

Maybe, if we hadn’t been so selfish, you wouldn’t have felt that you needed to act out in many of the ways that you have…

Please forgive us….can we start over? I hope it isn’t too late…

Remember, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in ALL your ways, acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.”

In God’s Love,

Someone who Let you Down

Eating Crow

If you’ve ever heard or used the term “Eat Crow” then you likely know where this is going, but it may not be exactly what you’re thinking…

That being said, I must first start off giving an apology to any, and every, one that I have ever offended by spouting off out of frustration before allowing God to form my thoughts into encouraging and worthwhile statements; meaning, I realize, and have come to realize that I have said a number of things that have caused regret in my life; saying things I have heard or reacting before giving myself time to even assess a situation, or if I have said something that wasn’t intended the way it was taken,  I am quite sorry.

This apology is extended to anyone who I have caused any type of heartache and difficulty to…no matter what it is or why…I ask for your forgiveness…

I say this, because for us to move forward in life we must find redemption…and over the past few weeks I have come to realize a need for myself to self-evaluate and truly examine the heart of the issue…my heart in the issue.

That being said…I also realize that we need not beat ourselves up over things that we realize were mistakes once the moment is passed…and believe me…we have all done this…we have all eaten crow at some point in our lives.

We are not unlike some of the closest to Jesus, however; just look at the story of Peter…How much Crow did he have to eat after telling Jesus that he would not deny him?

Take a lesson from Peter, or Paul…Or maybe look at Job, David, Noah, Adam and Eve…in fact, many of the Biblical accounts of those who we consider saints of the Scripture made mistakes, but it was through those mistakes that God developed them into who they became.

It is with this in mind that I have been thinking and praying on three verses out of the book of Ephesians:

“Therefore I, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to live worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3, CSB)”

We must bear burdens, not cause them.  We must take account in our own lives for our own actions.  Live worthy of the calling you have received…or, as the KJV puts it, the vocation to which you are called. The only way we can move forward in life is with a unity of the Spirit, bonded in peace…let’s face it….Crow really doesn’t taste that good, so what do you say we remove it from our diets?

No Worries, No Problems

I know many have heard the old song, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”  That song popped in my mind as I sat down to write this because I have been thinking about the topic of worry for the past few weeks.  I know that scripture tells us not to worry, as many of us know, in the book of Matthew we see Jesus say, “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (6:34, KJV)”

Don’t worry about the things that will come tomorrow, because you might miss out on the opportunities of today.  In Psalm 3 we see David mention this type of thought:

“Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people, that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. (KJV)”

In verses 4-6, David lays out this beautiful schematic for living without worry.  He states that he cried to the Lord, and that he was heard.  David then does what we all must do when we cry to the Lord and trust in His power…David lets it go.  David then lies down and rests, resting in the knowledge that God had taken care of his situation.

We all need to have the same mentality as David when it comes to giving our problems to the Lord, if we have asked God to take care of it, we must trust God to take care of it.  Too many times we find ourselves continuing to worry about things that we have, “given to God,” and it is keeping us from experiencing the true joy that God intends us to have in our lives.

David then follows up by saying that he will not be afraid of the “ten-thousands” that have set themselves against him…No worries!  David knew that no matter what would come his way, he had given it all over to God, and he was safe from defeat…He would be saved because of God’s promises.

We all have this same promise today if we have given our lives to Christ…we can all rest in the knowledge that God has our problems handled and we can move on to enjoying the day that He has set before us while He is working on us.  Praise God that He doesn’t leave us alone during our times of need, Thank Him today for helping you find joy in times of trouble.  I challenge you today, if you have turned it over to God…leave it there; let Him do what He has promised you today.

Dark Days

I have become more aware lately of Dark Days that we all tend to face…the reality is that we are either entering dark days, living in them, or coming out of them…but for the most part, we are all facing them or leaving them behind, but we all tend to have them.

These days can come in many forms, disappointment, despair, distress, doubt, depression…no matter the description, dark days can truly break us down and cause us to question a lot of things.  We feel that we are alone in our battle…maybe it didn’t go the way that we had quite hoped.  Just speaking Biblically there are many stories in scripture that we see similar stories.

Job, obviously had some dark days…he lost everything, but in the end he realized that God had always been working on his behalf. When the world came against him, Job trusted and praised God.

Peter didn’t plan to deny Christ, even when he was told he would, yet, when the time came, Peter denied Christ three times and found himself in some of the darkest of days.

Uncertainty, doubt, depression can overcome us and leave us feeling less than stellar on many days, and if we begin to rest in those days we find ourselves even deeper than we could have ever imagined.  I don’t think that Mary thought that her bringing a baby boy who was God’s own son into the world would happen in a stable, but yet it did; and the reality is, no matter our circumstances, light can still pierce the darkness.

That light…Jesus.  Jesus is the light that has already pierced the darkness for us, but we many times allow things to cast shadows and leave us in a false darkness, not realizing that He is right there with us.  Today, remove those shades, and allow the light of Christ to crash the darkness in your life. No matter how difficult the struggle that you face, God can and will work through the circumstances to bring you out of those dark days.

The light at the end of the tunnel isn’t always the train.

Distracted Living

Let’s face it…almost all of us have a cell phone.

Lately I have been noticing something more and more in my own life, and honestly, I have seen evidence of it around also…that is the increased usage of cell phones, more specifically, smart phones.  They’re all the rage…they’re in just about everyone’s hands from 10 to 90, and the reality of it is that it has our attention.

Many of us (myself included) feel lost without our phone attached to us in some way…we almost can’t function without our phone.  We spend more than 4 hours a day focused on that small screen looking up news, texting, calling, browsing social media, and more.  A recent study showed that the average American adult uses the cell phone 4-5 hours a day and sends and receives around 1,000 text messages daily…

Where this really started to hit home for me is that I have realized that my phone usage has begun to be such a part of my daily routine that even my prayer life has taken a hit because of this modern marvel.  This began to bother me, because Prayer should be something that we are focused continually on.  In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Paul tells us that God’s will for us in Jesus is to, “Rejoice always, Pray continually, and be thankful in all circumstances.”

When we begin replacing these things, they begin to suffer…we begin to allow these things to take a back seat to posting that new Facebook status or Instagram post. No matter how many times we post something and say, “#Blessed” or “#Thankful”, it isn’t the same.  We must rejoice always and be in constant conversation with God…that is His will for us in Christ.

It also tells us to be thankful IN, not for, all circumstances…that means we may be going through a difficult time, but that isn’t time for us to take it to Facebook and let everyone know how awful our neighbor is or how bad we have it…it is a time to hit our knees and pray, being grateful and rejoicing that God has given us an opportunity to see Him work in our lives.

Let’s drop the distracted living, put down our phones, and turn to Christ.  If we want to see things improve in this world, we must take steps to remove the distractions that take our focus off of Him and allow Him to lead us….it’s hard to see where He is leading you with your head down in your phone.

“I am the way, the truth, and the life…no one comes to the Father except by me.” – Jesus (John 14:6)