Christ is Life

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Have you ever uttered the phrase, “my children are my life,” or “my spouse is my life,” my work, my music, etc.  What are we truly saying?  A part of us put something in the place of honor that does not deserve such esteem.

Read this with me…

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:2-4

Let those words sit on your heart for a moment.

Feel the gravity of them as they sink into your soul.

Sermons have been spoken about the first part, “set your minds on things above,” and I am sure you’ve seen merchandise with the words stamped on the side.  Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of power in this verse.  However, we will turn our attention to the “why” over the next few weeks.  The reason, Paul writes here, Christ is your life.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines life as, “the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body; a principle or force that is considered to underlie the distinctive quality of animate being; an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.”

Stop right there.

Vital and functional.

Did you pick up those words too?  What makes a life vital and functional?

The blood running through our veins, the air we breathe, the water we need, the food we consume, are necessities that make our life vital and functional.  Biologically, cell reproduction and organ function is the source of a vital and functional life, yet any biological function down to cell replication requires a source; oxygen, water, chemical reactions from the food we ingest, and blood cells to carry those life-giving nutrients.

I am sure most of you by now are wondering what does this have to do with Jesus, bear with me.  First, let’s look at the words of Jesus, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).

Wait a minute, Jesus says that Scripture bears witness about Him, that in Him and through Him we have life.  Shall we dig a little deeper?

I think we shall.

We know Greek is the original language of the New Testament, so to understand the message Paul and John were trying to convey, we need to know the Greek.  Two words are vital to our understanding; the first word “life” in both Colossians and the Gospel of John are the same Greek word, zoe, defined as, “the condition of living or the state of being alive; especially healthiness, happiness, exuberance, energy, vitality, and the like;” the second word is translated bear witness, martyrousai; to offer first hand authentication in favor or in affirmation of someone.  (Catch the word martyr?)

The Scriptures affirm, with first hand authentication, that Jesus is the only way to have a life that is truly vital and functional while on the earth.  What does it look like exactly, I will provide a hint – it is all connected to what is required for humanity to be vital and functional.  The truth is our very lives are deeply connected to Christ in such a way that without Him we are dust.

I am so passionate about this subject because it changed me from the inside. I hope and pray that by sharing this message with you, lives will begin to change too.  In this turbulent world, we need to know that our lives are tangibly connected to the author and perfecter of our faith.

This five-part series, Jesus is Life, will walk with you through the Scriptures and how they testify to Jesus as the source and giver of all life.

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Next week’s topic; How long can you hold your breath?

 

 

 

Photo cred: joshtinpowers  https://www.flickr.com/photos/49030844@N05/

 

Give Me Your Heart

Have you ever found yourself in a situation and/or conflict where you had to ask yourself should I follow my “heart” or my “head”?  I have certainly found myself in many of those situations in my short-time here on earth.  In recent weeks though, I’ve pondered why?  Why do we ask ourselves such questions for any decision, let alone major life-altering moments?  Have we become a culture that separates intellectual thought (head) from feelings (heart), to such an extent that we live ruled by one or the other?  I find in my observations, that we are generally ruled by our “feelings.”  Exam some of these statements with me:

I feel angry

I feel not loved

I feel in love

I feel inadequate

I feel happy

I feel…… (you complete the sentence)

The list goes on and on.  What we feel is how we live.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating pure intellectualism here, but just pondering how our world became so absorbed with personal feelings over wisdom, discernment, and intelligent thought.

The truth is, we (humankind) are created in the image of God.  As such, our bodies are made to glorify God’s image not our own.  That includes, our speech, our actions, our thoughts, and yes, even our feelings.  Everything reflects His image to the world.  And when we live ruled by our personal feelings we can walk into some morally questionable circumstances that is anything but Christ-like.

So, what is the answer then – feelings or intellectual thought?

I want to purpose something that is so far counter-culture it may shock you a bit.  Are you ready?  As image bearers of the All-Mighty God, we are designed to follow our heart that is solely connected to the Father. 

Don’t take my word for it, let’s examine some Scripture.  As we study the Scriptures it is important to first acknowledge that the English translation of our Old Testament often uses the English word “mind” for the Hebrew word leb, which translates as heart, mind, conscious. The heart is the center of reasoning, meant to understand, discern, to give insight.  The word “heart” interestingly occurs nearly 1000 times in Scripture, “the most common anthropological term in Scripture.”  The Hebrew never differentiated emotion from intelligence or wisdom.

The first example for this Hebrew word comes in Exodus 14:5, “When the king of Egypt was told that the people had fled, the mind of Pharaoh and his servants was changed toward the people.”  We could also translate this passage as, “Pharaoh had a change of heart.”  Let’s think about this for a moment, Pharaoh is said to have changed his heart toward the Israelites after they left Egypt, he didn’t want them to leave as he initially allowed.  We know from the story that Pharaoh chases after the Israelites only to have many of his soldiers drown.  How often do we find ourselves leading with our feelings only to end up in disaster?

Our second example comes from 1 Kings 3:9, “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”   Again, our Hebrew word leb is used here for “mind,” emphasizing Solomon’s desire to lead the people of Israel with an understanding (wise) heart.  We see from Scripture that Solomon’s Israel was the center of the known world.  Although, it is difficult to see how wisdom is connected to our hearts, how would life change if we sought God for a wise heart?

Finally, let’s examine another of Solomon’s writings, which I believe may provide us with a bit of clarity to some of our questions, “whoever trusts in his own mind (leb) is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered” (Prov. 28:26).  Is Solomon saying here that we should not trust our heart?  Absolutely not!  Solomon compares a heart that trusts fully in the Lord (Prov. 28:25) to a heart that trusts in only himself.  The one that trusts in his own heart (in himself) is a fool.

The message that we continually find, as we examine Scripture and ask questions, is our heart can only be trusted based upon our position with God.  If our heart is not connected to the Father, our feelings will mislead us every. single. time.

Take a moment to examine your personal position with the Lord right now.  Is your heart truly connected to Him?  Can you trust that your feelings are leading you in His direction not your own?  If you believe that your heart (feeling) is not connected to Jesus, take a moment to confess and repent.  His promise to true, “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you.  And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26). The world may want you to “Think with your head not your heart” but, I believe that God wants us to use our hearts.

 

Salvation Comes Today

Today, I want to reach out across this wonderful web to those seeking answers that your hearts yearn to know, we are all hard-wired to seek the answers to the hardest question: Why are we here?

The answer to this question has driven the most controversial debates.  Most people are in one of three camps: they undeniably believe in evolution, that we came from some cosmic ooze and developed into what we see today; they believe we were created by an ultimate Creator that created this entire universe for our benefit, or they don’t really know either way.  Either way, I believe it is ingrained inside of our souls to want to know the answer.  We can look through ancient cultures and see the effects religion had on their communities.  Many were built around centers of worship.  Once we acknowledged that there is something within us driving to answer these questions – I believe the answer is quite easy.

The answers often come linked with our ability to trust and our sense of control.  If we are driven by evolution then control is ours, we own it, no else does. We are individuals capable of making our own choices.  We control our fate.

If we are driven by creation, then our trust and sense of control may appear like it’s ours to own, but it really is in the hands of our Creator. We may even struggle with thoughts of choice and power.  Our personal sense of control is tied in with our overall belief system.

Let me be completely real here – we were Created by a divine Creator, to live in a world created by Him for us to steward.  I know that may be hard for some to hear.  And this blog post is not about proving or disproving this statement.

I want you to be able to settle with this truth for just one moment: God, our Creator, took the time to create you for stewarding His Creation.  You were not an accident.  You were not randomly put together.

God breathed life into your lungs.  You are here for a purpose.

Let’s see if I can explain for the few minutes we have here today.  Your story began as my story did, God created the heavens, the earth, the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the great animals of the ocean.  He also created the first man to become stewards of His personal creation.

Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God and His Creation, there was a deep connection with the Creator, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed…and they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Gen2:25,3:8). I cannot imagine a relationship so deep that I walked within the presence of God.  God loved His creation so much that He couldn’t stand being apart from them. Adam and Eve did not question how they were formed or why they were there, they knew it because they were that close with God.

We are not told how much time passed between Creation and sin, but we do know that it began with a serpent, enticing Eve to eat where she was told not to, “Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden…You will not surely die.  For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:1,4).  Most of us focus on the sin of eating the apple, however, in a book I recently read, the author made a valid point, the serpent got Eve to focus on her restrictions. Adam and Eve lived in abundance, but the thoughts of the one restriction controlled her mind to the point of sin.  We may be in the same situation, so focused on our restrictions that we miss our abundance.

The story of the first sin ultimately focuses on Adam and Eve, yet the curse didn’t just land on them alone, all creation is effected in some way.  We live in a world far removed from God’s perfect design and it yearns for the day of restoration.

So, one may ask, If God wanted such a deep relationship, why did He remove Adam and Eve?

Just as light and dark cannot occupy the same space, God and sin cannot dwell together, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear” (Isa 59:2).

The Good News is this – despite our rebellion, God is always faithful.

From the moment of the first sin, God began to work in various ways with humanity throughout time for one purpose – to bring them back into His presence.

Humanity spent a lot of time rebelling, turning their backs on God, all the while He simply desired for us to be with Him.  I can relate to those feelings.  I’ve spent much of my life rebelling against any type of restriction placed upon me.  Ultimately, I felt lost, confused, and alone.

We are all like Adam and Eve, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  But God in all His loving kindness sent His Son to redeem us from our sin and bring us back into right relationship with Him, “and our justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23).   Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus came to redeem us from our sin so that we can reconnect with the Creator as it was meant to be.  The only way we can do that is through acceptance of our sin nature and repentance, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

I know what you may be thinking right now, I am a good person, I am kind, I give to the poor, I do not break the law, etc., etc., here is the thing though, we are all prone to sin because this crazy, whacked out earth is not as it should be because of the curse of sin.  So as much as you may work on being a good person, we always have this innate desire (sin) to live contrary to our real purpose.  And the struggle manifest itself in so many different areas of our lives.  Paul the one we attribute most of the New Testament writes near the end of his life, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy…”  He saved us not because of our deeds, but because He loved us so much He wanted us near Him again.

If you desire to end the chaos, confusion, and rebellion, then place your trust in Jesus Christ.  You don’t have to change who you are to trust in Him.   Simply reach out to Him, “Jesus I need you in my life.  I trust in You to restore my heart.  I believe you are the Son of the Living God.  I believe that you have come to save me from my sin.”  Now, in your own space, repent of your sin and acknowledge that He will be there with you.

If you have taken this time to confess and place your trust in Jesus Christ, please comment below.  I want to pray with you and connect you with a local community of believers to help you navigate this new-found freedom.

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