Who is Jesus?

Have you ever heard people talking about Jesus and wondered to yourself “Who is he? What’s the big deal?”

That’s ok. You’re not alone in that by any stretch of the imagination. When you hear people talking about the “gospel”, here’s the basic gist of what that means:

In the beginning, God created everything in the universe, including the earth and all that inhabits the earth. Adam and Eve were the first humans created by God and ultimately disobeyed God by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This is significant because it introduced sin into the world.

Because of that, everyone after that had to deal with sin. In order to live a perfect life and avoid the punishment of sin, which is death and exile from God, one would have to live a flawless life in accordance with God’s Law. However, no human ever could or will be able to do that.

That’s a pretty big problem, huh?

That’s where Jesus enters into the equation. He came to earth and was born in Bethlehem to a virgin named Mary. The Holy Spirit moved in her and Jesus was born. That’s what is celebrated at Christmas time.

Jesus came and lived a perfect life. He performed many miracles, including raising people from the dead, healing the sick, restoring sight to the blind and walking on water. He was the epitome of righteousness. He is the Son of God and he ultimately was betrayed by one of his disciples named Judas Iscariot to the Sanhedrin and was given to the Romans to be crucified on a cross.

He had done nothing wrong but willingly sacrificed himself after living a perfect life. Because of that, he took the place on the cross for you and I and died for our sins. Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice. He lived a life you and I could never live and because of his sacrifice, he provided a way for us to have a real relationship with God through him.

And because he is Lord, he rose from the dead three days later and came back to life. Shortly after that, Jesus ascended into heaven and he will come back to earth one day!

If you put your faith in Jesus and admit to and repent from your sins and confess them and your need for Christ, believe that he died for your sins and was raised from the dead and is Lord of all, you will be saved.

That means you will be a child of God and will be able to serve his will while you’re on earth and take the gospel to all nations. You will not be separated from God when your life is over in a place called Hell. You will spend eternity with him in heaven! It doesn’t get any better than that.

So hopefully this has helped some of you discover who Jesus is and why Christians believe what they believe. The most popular verse in the Bible, John 3:16, reads:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

What does it mean to have true faith?

What does it mean to have true faith and trust in God?

This question came to mind for me when I was reading in the Gospel of Mark. Let’s start with a little background information for context in Mark 11 and we’ll pick up with Jesus’ comments on having true belief:

As Jesus was leaving the town of Bethany to head back into the city of Jerusalem, which was nearby, he was hungry. He saw a fig tree in leaf off in the distance and went to find out if it had any fruit.

When Jesus got there, he found nothing but leaves because it was not in season for figs. He said to the tree, within earshot of the disciples, in Mark 11:14: “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.”

The very next morning, after Jesus had overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves in the previous day, he and his disciples were walking along and saw that same fig tree withered from the roots.

Peter said to Jesus: “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”

That’s where we will pick up in Mark 11:22-25 with Jesus’ response:

“Have faith in God.” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive your sins.”

That’s a powerful illustration of what true faith in Jesus can do in your life. Jesus said that if you truly believe that you have received what you’ve asked for in prayer, and do not have doubt in your heart, that it will be yours.

When you really study and analyze that, it should completely change the way that we view prayer. I think most of us view prayer, particularly when we are asking something of God, as something we HOPE that He will do rather than BELIEVING that he will do something.

There’s a major difference in those two thoughts. How many of you have prayed for something and hoped that God would respond? What kind of a difference would it make in our lives if we had the kind of faith to truly believe that God will supply us with what we need and what we ask for?

As followers of Jesus Christ, faith is really the name of the game for us. When you made a decision to follow Jesus, you put your faith in him and believed that he was the son of the living God who lived a perfect life, died for the sins of all, rose from the dead and will return one day.

From the world’s perspective, that probably doesn’t make a ton of sense. But from our perspective, it’s about faith and trusting in the Lord and believing that he is who he says he is.

Sometimes I think we all, myself included, unintentionally put limits on what we think God can do in our lives because our human brains simply can’t wrap our minds around how great his power truly is. But if we truly believe the same God who created the entire universe and everything in it and has performed countless miracles is who he says he is, shouldn’t it stand to reason that we can fully have faith to trust in him and watch him work in our lives?

I think we should all strive to get to the point in our prayer lives where we present our concerns and requests before God and truly believe that he’s going to take care of us and direct our lives to what we truly need.

Putting all of your faith in God means putting all of your trust in him also. The more we can adopt that all-in mindset to God and what he commands us to do, the more fruit we’ll see in our lives.

Love is always the way

Bullying is something that has gone on for ages, but it just seems like it’s more prevalent nowadays.

That may or may not be true, but I do know that social media has certainly made it more visible to the general public. Social media itself can sometimes be a cesspool where bullying is at the most extreme.

It breaks my heart to see some of these videos that are floating around out there of kids, or even adults, being bullied and harassed.

My first thought is always “How could somebody do this to someone?” And not only how can they do it, but how can they do it AND record it while it’s happening?

Here recently, though, I’ve been having a follow-up thought as well:

“Surely I didn’t participate in this kind of behavior when I was growing up……right?”

The fact is that I don’t specifically remember a time where I bullied someone mercilessly and intentionally, but I’m also sure there were times where I was bullying someone, maybe without even knowing what I was doing. Maybe sometimes when I even did know what I was doing.

Lately, when I hear of these instances or see these videos, I just can’t help but try to think about what that must feel like….To wake up and just dread going somewhere or being around a specific group of people because you’re either afraid of what they might do or say to you or that you’re unable to do anything about it. To feel like you’re all alone.

Like I said before, it’s just heartbreaking.

Admittedly, bullying has never really been something I’ve had to deal with or work through. It happened from time to time growing up through school, but for me they were isolated incidents and I usually dealt with them there in the moment. As old as this may make me seem, it was a different time.

I’m not naive enough to think that’s how it is for everyone. Bullying exists and it’s a problem. And it’s not just a problem that kids deal with either. There are adults around us all, maybe even some of you who are reading this, that have to deal with a form of bullying every day.

It’s one thing to recognize what bullying is and that it’s an issue. But what can we do about it?

I’d like to address three groups of people in order to try and answer that question.

If you are the one being a bully or are a part of a group being a bully……why? That’s probably the first thing you need to ask yourself. Why am I doing this? What purpose does it serve? Is it really worth making another human being feel this way?

Particularly if you claim to be a follower of Jesus and you are bullying someone, which does happen……why? In 1 John 2:9 it says: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness.”

Jesus was all about love and kindness. If you profess to be a follower of him, it would stand to reason that you should strive to be the same way.

Secondly, if you witness somebody being bullied, lend a helping hand. That doesn’t necessarily mean go flying in there and physically fight off the bully, but it does mean that you can do what you can to stop them.

More importantly, it means making sure that the victim knows that they aren’t alone. That there are people out there who do care about them and who do value them. Sometimes standing up to a bully on behalf of someone else or befriending someone who is “uncool” isn’t the popular thing to do, but it’s always the right thing to do.

Jesus wasn’t about popularity. He did what was right. He healed the sick, ministered to the lost and hung around tax collectors, included women (which was abnormal at the time), gave his time to the poor and unclean. The least we can do is to be a friend, which is easy. And it could end up being one of the most rewarding things you ever do.

Finally, I want to speak to those who are being bullied. The simplest comfort I can give is that no matter how much it may seem like it, you are not alone.

There are people who care. There are people who you can reach out to. But most importantly, there is a Heavenly Father who knows you, loves you and created you.

There’s a passage in the New Testament that we call “The Great Commission” where Jesus said his final words before ascending into heaven after his resurrection.

It can be found in Matthew 28:18-20:

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Those final words are just so encouraging to me. “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is always with you and will not leave you.

Bottom line…..respect those around you and treat them according to that respect. It’s easy to be a follower and give in to peer pressure and be a bully. Sometimes it’s hard to be a leader and stand up for and stand with somebody else.

Do the hard thing.

Quick hits: Enter into the peace of God

Just some food for thought heading into this weekend….maybe you’ve got some stressful issues going on in your life right now and you need some encouragement.

Take a look at this passage written by Paul from Philippians 4:4-9:

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Jesus is counter-cultural….and we should be too

Our world today teaches us to be spiteful, negative and many times just downright hateful. That’s why being a follower of Christ is so counter-cultural.

Jesus teaches us to be loving and accepting of all people. That can oftentimes be the hardest thing to do, particularly when those people are not being kind to us in return.

I’ve been going through the gospel of Luke lately, and it’s always interesting to me how different passages that you’ve read before seem to connect with you in ways they previously never had when you read them again.

One passage of particular interest to me of late has been Luke 6:27-38 where Jesus is speaking to a large crowd who had come to hear him speak and to be healed. During that teaching, Jesus spelled out to us how to love our enemies and how that makes us more like God.

“But I say to you who listen: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone hits you on the cheek, offer the other also. And if anyone takes away your coat, don’t hold back your shirt either. Give to everyone who asks from you, and from one who takes away your things, don’t ask for them back. Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. If you do what is good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do what is good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father is also merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you; a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over—will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”

Pretty much everything about what Jesus said in this passage goes against what our everyday norm in today’s world has turned into.

How often do you see cordial conversation, much less compassion, being shown between two people who disagree with each other politically? Have you read a comment section of pretty much any news article on Facebook lately? It’s a horrifying place to be. Imagine how difficult it would be to show love toward someone who is bullying you or mistreating you on a daily basis?

Yet, that is one of the many things that makes Jesus so incredible. Following him and putting his ways into practice is rarely the easy thing to do. But it’s always the right thing to do.

It’s not difficult to love the people who love you. As Jesus said, anybody can do that. But it is difficult to show love and compassion for people who treat you poorly.

At the end of the day, if you have accepted Jesus as your savior and walk with the Holy Spirit, we all have the ability to learn from what Jesus has taught us in this passage and watch how it will transform our lives.

Do not judge. Do not condemn. Just love. That’s what we’re taught to do, and that’s how we can change the world around us on a daily basis.

Quick hits: Don’t grumble about Monday

Here’s a quick little reminder on your Monday to help get you in the right mindset for this week!

It comes from Philippians 2:12-18, written by the apostle Paul:

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘Children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.”

Don’t underestimate what God can do

Too often we fail to grasp or remember the power of the God we serve and what He can do in our lives.

What we have to remember is when there are circumstances that seem like they’re too big for us to handle, that doesn’t mean that those circumstances are too big for God to handle.

Jesus was explaining to a wealthy man the pathway to having eternal life in Matthew 19. The man, who was deeply concerned about his earthly possessions and wealth, became discouraged when Jesus said “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 

Jesus then talked about how it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. When his disciples asked who would then be able to be saved, Jesus replied in Matthew 19:26:

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

All things are possible. When you are having trouble finding a job and can’t seem to find anything that works, trust in the Lord. When you’ve been given a terrible diagnosis at the doctor’s office, trust in the Lord. When your life seems like it’s in shambles, trust in the Lord.

We serve a God who gave each of us life and created the entire universe and everything in it. We serve a God who cared for us so deeply that he sent his Son to die on the cross for our sins and then raised him from the dead three days later.

If God can do all of that, just imagine what he can do in your life. Whatever problems you have that you think are too big, God can handle. Whatever daily stresses or concerns you have, God can help. You just have to let him.

But it’s going to take faith from you to Him in order to make that happen. If you trust in the Lord and truly believe that He can guide you through any obstacle, no matter how daunting, then He will be with you.

Jesus healed a boy in Matthew 17 who was possessed by a demon and was suffering from seizures. The boy’s father had originally brought his son to the disciples, but they were unable to heal him.

When they came to Jesus to ask him why they couldn’t drive the demon out of the boy, Jesus replied in Matthew 17:20:

“Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

Sometimes all it takes in life is to have a little faith. If you’ve been struggling with your faith, reach out to God and ask him to help you today. Trust in Him fully and see how He moves in your life.

Don’t underestimate the power of God.

Forgiveness knows no bounds

Perhaps the easiest thing in the world to do is to take what you have, and who you have, for granted.

We don’t mean to do it. We don’t wake up every day with the intention of taking our loved ones for granted, but oftentimes that’s exactly what we do.

If you’re someone like me who has two loving parents, two wonderful siblings, four gracious grandparents and reliable friends in your life, you are more blessed than you probably realize.

There are so many people who would give anything to have one more conversation with a parent or child who has passed away. Yet there are so many people who go months, even years, without speaking to some of their immediate family members or former close friends.

Some of you have been wronged by people who were once closest to you. There have been unfaithful partners in marriage, disputes over money, arguments over disagreements that seem minor now but have led to an estranged relationship between you and somebody you once cared deeply for.

Today is the day for you to cast all of those feelings aside and do what can sometimes be the hardest thing to do for someone who has wronged you….forgive them.

I know what some of you are saying. “You have know idea what that person has put me through or how terribly they’ve treated me.”

You’re right. I have no idea. But I do know there is no limit on the forgiveness that has been given to you. And because of that, there should be no limit on the forgiveness that you show to other people.

Paul wrote in Colossians 3:13:

“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Think about some of the things you’ve done in your life that you deeply regret. Think about how many times you’ve lied or stolen or sinned.

If you’re a believer in Jesus, you have been forgiven of those sins. There hasn’t been a point of no return where you lose your salvation or are no longer forgiven by God because you’ve done something so terrible. Jesus knows all, and yet he still forgives.

Should we not also forgive others just as we have been forgiven?

Holding grudges against other people doesn’t accomplish anything. There’s no good that comes from it for you, and it becomes more a weight on your mind that it ever did for the person who wronged you in the first place.

I challenge you today to forgive those who have wronged you. Try to reach out and repair those estranged relationships. Cherish those who you have in your life because there will come a day when they are no longer there.

God’s forgiveness knows no bounds in your own life. Try to extend that same sort of forgiveness to other people.

Jesus said in Mark 25:11:

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

News too good not to share

Think back to when you were a kid and you aced a big test at school or hit a game-winning home run in Little League.

Or maybe think about your adult life. That moment when you landed your first job out of college or got engaged. What was the first thing you wanted to do? Tell somebody else all about it!

Yet we all, as followers of Christ, have literally the best news in the history of the world available to share with other people around us and too often we don’t say or do anything. I’ve been guilty of this for years.

Sometimes I think we forget, or maybe even take for granted, the sheer magnitude of what Jesus has done and continues to do for us.

We were all destined for an eternity apart from God. Your sin and my sin causes us to fall short of the glory of God and the requirements to be in his presence. And because of that, we were all destined to be in hell apart from him with continuous suffering. Forever.

Think about the magnitude of that for a second. An ETERNITY of hell.

But Jesus came to earth and lived a perfect life that you and I could never live. He performed miracles. He healed the sick. He comforted the weak. He raised the dead. He walked on water. And ultimately, after living a perfect life, died on a cross for our sin and then rose again three days later.

We have hope through Jesus, and we have salvation through Jesus. Whoever believes that Jesus is the Son of God and admits their sin and repents from it is saved and gets to spend eternity with God in heaven.

Friends, you can search far and wide for the rest of your life. The truth of the matter is you’ll never find anything that’s better than that. Not anywhere close. And yet too often we don’t share that truth with the people around us.

Think about your own life and the people you come into contact with on a daily basis. How many people at work, school, football practice or even the people who live with you or are in your family…..how many of those people don’t know Jesus or don’t have a relationship with Jesus? How many of those people don’t know the hope of salvation? How many of those people don’t know the power of what Jesus can do?

Now ask yourself this……what can you do to help them?  We’ve always got a million things going on and commitments pulling us in different directions. But remember this: Nothing will ever be more important than sharing the gospel and the hope Jesus provides with lost people and unbelievers. Nothing.

I challenge all of us to make more of an effort to share the good news of Jesus with those people around us. When that happens, you’d be amazed at what God can do.

Jesus said in Matthew 28:18-20:

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Don’t be afraid to share what Jesus has done for you in your life. And if you don’t have a relationship with Jesus and want to know what it’s like to have that hope, ask him to come into your life today. You will never regret it.

Why is it important to joyfully give to God?

Talking about finances and the allocation of our money can sometimes be an uncomfortable topic. If you’re anything like me, there are times when money can be tight and you’re not looking to spend it anywhere that’s not absolutely necessary.

But I think you’ll find that giving to your church that you attend is not only necessary but also very rewarding. Giving with a joyful heart will help facilitate missions, supplies, programs (etc.) both locally and around the world for the advancement of the gospel…….and I think you’ll find God will be faithful to you and your giving as well.

In my own life, I have seen his faithfulness firsthand. Some of you may know that I work in the sports journalism field. While the job certainly has its perks and it’s difficult to complain about getting paid be around sports, the pay isn’t great.

A couple of months ago I felt a calling to begin giving to my church, Long Hollow Baptist in Hendersonville. My parents have been faithful in their giving for years and I’ve seen the difference it’s made in their lives. At the time, I was searching for another job to go along with my current one at the NHL because I didn’t have any steady money coming in after the season was done, but I wasn’t having much luck in finding one.

One day in late June I just made the decision to give and give joyfully and let God do with that money what he saw fit. I wasn’t in a good spot financially, but it didn’t matter to me. I decided to put my trust in the Lord and just do it. It’s funny how God provides. A couple weeks later I found another job as a groundskeeper at a property management company, and the best part about it is that it’s a job that I can still do even when hockey season returns in a couple of weeks.

I’m not saying to give to the Lord just because you’re expecting him to return the favor to you and provide. I believe your heart has to be in the right place when you give. It can’t be a burden for you to do so. But I also believe that if you give with the right heart and with the right intention, God will provide for you.

Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but store up for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” 

Jesus is not against you having money or being wealthy or earning a comfortable living. However, I do believe Jesus is against money consuming you and being what drives you. Jesus says in Matthew 6:24 says “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Again, that’s not saying you can’t have money and still serve God. It’s saying you can’t be consumed by money and greed but also by God at the same time. It’s just not how it works.

The bottom line is this: Whether you want to admit it or not, nothing you have is truly yours. It belongs to God. So why not give back to God some of what he’s given to you and trust that he will use that money better than you ever could.

Give consistently. Give with no reservations. Don’t let it be a burden. If you tithe 10%, or whatever your percentage is, trust that you can do more through God with 90% of your money than you can do on your own with 100%. If you do this, you’ll find that God is faithful and that He provides.

If you don’t give at all, consider starting today. Whatever amount you decide to give, do so joyfully and see what God can do with it. Giving is a form of worship. Here’s a link to a video from Robby Gallaty at Long Hollow discussing this topic more at length:

https://longhollow.com/media/an-investment-plan-that-is-recession-proof/