“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.” Matthew 5:41
Roughly 2000 years ago in Judea, the mood was one of great tension. The Roman empire ruled the Jewish people with the usual Roman iron fist. Brutality and executions were the norm, and the subjugated people did what they were told or paid a horrible price. Even those who obeyed orders were forced into various further humiliations to remind them they were under Roman authority. One of these humiliations was the law of the mile.
By law, a Roman soldier could force a Jewish male to carry his load for one mile. There was to be no discussion. If you were told to do it, you did it. As you can imagine, the Jews despised this flaunting of power. Most all of the Jewish homes would have markers placed exactly one mile from their homes in all directions so that when forced to carry they wouldn’t go even an inch beyond what was required. It has been said that when the mile was completed the Jews would throw the Roman’s gear down and spit on the ground as a meager but useless protest.
It was in this context that Jesus, while preaching the amazing and famous Sermon on the Mount, said the words of Matthew 5:41. When you’re forced to go one mile, go two. This probably did not sit well initially with His audience. Seriously, Jesus? You want us to do more than is required for these brutal and pagan Romans?? I’m sure the indignant Jews stared back at Jesus incredulously. But Jesus was indeed quite serious. If we are to follow Him, we must become second mile people.
This second mile principal could be a game changer for all of us. Are we people who do the required mile but no more? If so, we are missing the joy of the second mile. You see, the first mile was one done under a certain type of slavery to the Romans, but the second mile was the free mile! No one made them do mile two. And that’s why it’s so special and so impactful. I can only guess the tremendous impact this had on the region as many men who heard Jesus’ words began to practice the second mile. Who knows, maybe they won over a few Roman soldiers!
If we are to be people of the Gospel, we must live in the shadow of it’s power and witness. Jesus most certainly went the second mile for us. What if we, in His name and power, began to live this way? What would our marriages and homes be like if we stopped only doing what is required and begin to go above and beyond? I believe it would transform our lives and those around us. Look, anyone can do the required mile! Wicked people will often do what is required when it benefits them. But the second mile requires not only feet, but hearts. May we all in the power of Christ become second mile people this year in every arena of our lives.
“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and JOY in the Holy Spirit” – Romans 14:17
The Christian life can be summed up in 3 words, one of which is joy. This means joy is no frivolous thing for which we should wish. Rather, it is an essential part of our experience with Christ. Joy is an emotion, but it’s no ordinary one. This is an emotion that is produced in your human spirit and is produced by the Holy Spirit. Being full of joy is a byproduct of being indwelled with the Spirit.
Christmas is supposed to be a time where our joy intensifies. Unfortunately, our modern version of Christmas often brings anything but comfort and joy. We run ourselves into the ground with the endless calendar commitments and gifts to buy. As we try to fill in the space under our tree we inevitably end up with an empty space in our hearts. Something is missing; Joy.
This Christmas I invite you to look beyond the lights and trees and instead look upon ancient texts. The Gospel of Luke records that angels appeared to a group of shepherds in a field and proclaimed GOOD NEWS that would lead to GREAT JOY. You see, true joy isn’t found in a mall but in a message. This message of good news was what we know as the Gospel. The message of the person and work of Jesus Christ leads us to great joy.
The Holy Spirit constantly points us to the Gospel with all of its earth shaking implications because it is there we find what our hearts so desperately long to have. As broken human beings our hearts have appetites for true joy but we have no idea where to find it. This leads us to walk an endless array of dead end roads in our frantic pursuit. Thankfully, Jesus came and shined light on the dark path and it led straight to Himself.
This Christmas, allow and even ask God to give you a new appetite for Him and His ways. He will give your soul a new set of taste buds!! He loves you so much that He will break your old tastes while giving you new ones. Instead of letting another December slip into the murky fog of materialism, stress, and exhaustion turn to your Heavenly Father and find righteousness, peace, and JOY.
Questions are powerful. The right question can lead to the right answers. As busy people living busy lives, we have a tendency to become insanely over busy. It is into this insanity that I would like to offer a couple of powerful questions that hopefully will help us all get to the heart of our issues with busyness. Now, as a warning, these are questions that will be hard for you to answer honestly, but I urge you to do so.
You see, unhealthy busyness isn’t just an exterior behavior to be managed or modified, but it is a symptom of deeper issues of the heart. That’s the point of the questions……to bore down through the layers of your image, walls, and veneer. It would seem that the fix to crazy busyness would be to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and change. This, unfortunately, is just a band aid for what is often a gaping wound. Human issues are rarely just skin deep. We are deeply complex creatures with deeply complex problems and tendencies. So, crank up the drill and start drilling. Here are the questions.
First, who are you serving with your serving? Are you truly serving people or God for His glory and their good? Or, are you really ultimately looking for your own glory. Before you blow this off, allow it to really sink in. As broken people, we tend to dress up our hidden narcissism with selflessness. We are masters at making caring about what people think about us look like we are really caring for them.
Secondly, are you doing good or trying to look good? Yeah, I know, it’s painful….very painful. I know how you feel. You see, I’m pretty good at doing things that look outwardly like they are for God’s glory and people’s good, but they are ultimately for my glory and for my good. I’m broken just like you. I’m not who I used to be….but I’m also not who I’m going to be!! I, like you, am a work in progress.
Here’s the deal. If you will allow these penetrating questions to shine light into the jagged crevices of your heart, the healing process can begin. If you live in denial, it will just get worse. If you are super busy because you’re trying to prove yourself and have a good looking outward image, you will walk this demanding trail to a potentially destructive end. It will wear you out and leave you insecure and empty. You will use people for your own good under the disguise of doing what’s best for them. It’s an issue of WHY instead of WHAT. It’s not just the things you’re doing, but it is the reason you are doing them in the first place. So, why are you so busy? What are you trying to prove?
The only answer to this issue is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He called us to “come to Him and find rest.” We must rest in the finished work of Jesus. The only way we can serve God for His glory and people for their good is to be complete and secure in Jesus. It is in and through Him that I find that I have nothing left to prove. My identity is nailed down in Jesus. It is a daily process of doing what we do underneath the shadow of the cross. It is in that shadow that the purest light can actually begin to shine out from our lives.
Hopefully these questions will lead you to where they’ve led me…….to a statement. I do what I do because of my identity in Jesus, not to find it. This has set me free. I hope it will for you.
In the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, Jesus was dining with a powerful group of Pharisees and teachers of the Law on the Sabbath when a very sick man showed up. Jesus healed the man, knowing He would be adding to the case the religious leaders were building to have Him executed. He then began teaching the men about the value of all people, and how they should treat others with more honor than themselves. I’m sure it was a tense time at the old dinner table!! Jesus always had a way of bravely speaking the truth. When one of the men tried to break the tension by basically making a presumptive statement about the group’s eventual joy in the Kingdom of God, Jesus told one of His most famous parables which was intended to teach them and us.
Parables were little stories that taught big ideas. Jesus was definitely teaching big ideas with this brilliantly told story. A good and generous master decides to host a feast and invite some folks to it. In Bible times, a feast was an enormous undertaking. There was no refrigeration, electric stoves or microwaves. A feast would entail killing, cleaning, and preparing an animal. Vegetables would need to be harvested and wine would be purchased. This was a big deal! A host would invite the guests first and when the feast was ready, the previously invited guests would be notified under the full assumption that they would attend. Well, in this story, they came up with horrible excuses to bail. The angry host, with the steaming hot feast prepared, sent his servants out again with the command to get people to the table. He said, “Make them come in so that my house will be full.”
Jesus was showing us the heart of the Father and the mission to which we are called. The feast is Jesus and the Gospel. The hard work was done and finished by Jesus on the cross. Blood was spilled to provide this feast. God went to unfathomable lengths to provide humanity with this feast. It is clear He wants guests at the table and the house to be full. He wants the lame, maimed, poor and blind at the table.
So what will you and I do this Easter season to “make them come in”. Will we invite? Are we willing to become uncomfortable for the sake of someone else’s eternity? What will we sacrifice to ensure God’s house is FULL? You see, God cares about the empty seats in our churches. Not the fabric and metal, but the person who isn’t sitting in it yet. We must align ourselves with the heart of our Heavenly Father. God loves people!! He sent His only Son on a mission to save people. Are you partnering with Him on this mission? My motivation comes from a powerful truth tucked away in this parable. You see, I am the poor, blind, maimed and lame. I came to Jesus with nothing to offer. I came to Him blind and in darkness. I showed up at the table maimed with wounds and scars from the past. I was lame and totally unable to help myself or move the needle of salvation in my life. I needed Jesus. I NEED Jesus. So, I must invite others like me to this table. Make them come in, so His house will be full.
Worship, and in particular
worship involving the creative arts, has been a huge part of my
life since my childhood. I grew up in an extremely musical and
creative church. I had a grandmother who was a pianist and oil
paint artist, and a grandfather who played guitar and mandolin. I
spent my Sunday mornings listening to who I thought were the
greatest singers and musicians in the world play and sing their
hearts out to God. It was powerful and inspiring. It completely
captured my young mind and heart. Unfortunately, worship has been a
point of contention in many churches and Christian circles. Many
have gone so far as to describe this tension as the “worship wars”.
What style of music is acceptable? What style of music is best? How
loud should it be? These are just a few examples of questions that
have turned in to battlegrounds between people who all claim to
love and serve Jesus. So, who is right? What kind of worship does
God desire from us? The answer to this important question is found
in John chapter 4. Jesus and men are walking through Samaria
when He sends them away to get supplies. He then goes to a well
where He meets a Samaritan woman. He surprisingly asks the woman
for a drink of water. This is surprising because she was a woman, a
Samaritan, and Jesus being a Jewish Rabbi would typically have not
even acknowledged her. But, of course, Jesus was no ordinary Jewish
Rabbi. He strikes up a conversation with her, and she asks Him a
“worship” question. She wants to know who is right between the Jews
and the Samaritans about where to worship God. The Jews worshipped
in the temple, and the Samaritans on a mountain. It was an ancient
worship war! Jesus’ answer to her question is in my opinion the
quintessential teaching on worship in all of scripture. Jesus tells
the lady that the time had come that it wouldn’t matter WHERE you
worshipped, but rather HOW you worshipped. In describing the “how,”
He never mentioned musical style, volume, or length even once. He
went, as usual, straight to the heart. He said that true
worshippers would worship Him in spirit and truth. This means that
to worship God fully, our worship must involve ALL of WHO we are.
That means our emotions and our intellect. Our bodies and our
minds. Our words and our hearts. We must have deep affection for
God that is born out of deep knowledge of Him. So, the worship wars
can stop. Unless, of course, you just really enjoy griping and
arguing over things that have already been settled. On any given
Sunday, people all over the world will worship God under the banner
of Jesus in a huge variety of styles, volumes, and length. The
Scriptures teach clearly that when those many varieties of worship
are offered from truth and spirit, they will please God and bring
Him glory. So find a Bible believing, God exalting church that
worships in a style that you relate well to, and call it home. Plug
in, worship your heart out, and be thankful that God is
This week we have been reminded once again that our world is not a safe one, and that there is a very real presence of evil in our midst. As the horrific images of the Boston tragedy came across all our tv, computer, and phone screens the reality of life on Earth crept in on millions of hearts and minds. I’m not going to attempt to answer all the questions in a quick blog post, because I simply don’t have all of the answers. I do want to offer a few thoughts that I hope will be both truthful and comforting.
First, we need Jesus. Events like the Boston tragedy are harsh reminders of the fallen nature and depravity of humanity. From the moment sin entered the picture in the Biblical book of Genesis, our world and our natures have been twisted and corrupted. We are born with a nature that is bent away from our loving God and towards evil and sin. Sometimes this nature can result in massive violence and destructive behavior as we have recently witnessed. The truth is, we need a savior. Apart from the saving and redeeming work of Christ, we are enemies of God and will act on our fallen nature.
Secondly, we should all remember that life is so very fragile. The victims at the Boston Marathon got up that morning and headed out to have a beautiful and memorable experience. As they laced up their running shoes and walked to the starting point, they had no idea that their lives would change forever in a matter of a few short hours. The fact is that we just don’t know what’s going to happen in our lives from one day to the next. We must live in a manner that reflects our knowledge of the fragility and the gift of life. Don’t take a minute for granted. Live fully, because there’s no guarantee that you’ll be living at all tomorrow.
Lastly, we can take shelter in the truth that although we have very little control over the events in our lives, we serve a God who is in complete control. He promises that He works ALL things together for His Glory and the good of those who follow Him. No matter what is going on in our crazy and fallen world, we have hope in our God. He has a plan. He is in control. He is not caught by surprise. It is in the darkness of events like those in Boston that the blinding light of the Gospel of Jesus shines so very bright. Yes this world is fallen and evil, but there is hope and redemption at the foot of the cross of Jesus. We need Jesus.
It’s all about Jesus. This is a very powerful statement that can usually be heard in pulpits and worship gatherings all over the world. I wonder, however, if we truly understand the depth and implications of this very true statement. I believe if we can wrap our minds more fully around this truth, it will be very helpful to every area of our spiritual lives.
First, the Bible and the Gospel are completely wrapped around the person of Jesus. Genesis to Revelation points to the Son of God. The Old Testament points forward to Him. The Gospels tell the accounts of His time on Earth. The rest of the New Testament points back at Him, while Revelation unveils a glorious future with Him. So, the Bible is all about Jesus.
The Gospel is the message of Jesus which is good news. The Bible describes this mighty Gospel in many ways, but I love how 2 Corinthians 5:18-21 sums it up as the “message of reconciliation.” In Jesus, God reconciled us to Himself. Jesus made things right. He evened the scales. The truth and reality of this message means that through faith in Jesus, we are made right with God. So, the Gospel is all about Jesus.
All of creation…..the Earth and the universe….it’s all about Jesus.
The Bible tells us that all things were created by Him and for Him, and that He holds all things together! During His earthly ministry Jesus said that if people didn’t worship Him the rocks would cry out their praises!! So, all of creation is about Jesus.
I could go on and on, but I want to make clear that even our mission is all about Jesus. In Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus gave his followers a massive mission. They would take His Gospel all over the globe beginning in their local area, but expanding to the region and ultimately the world. This mission was overwhelming to say the least. That’s why Jesus didn’t tell them to go on the mission first. He actually began by reminding them of WHO He was. “All authority” had been given to Him.
Jesus made it clear that even our mission is completely wrapped around Him. We can do what He has called us to do because He is who He says He is!! So, take heart today my friends. If you feel inadequate or unworthy and you don’t think you measure up, don’t worry. It was never about you anyway. It’s all about Jesus.
“There is therefore now no condemnation.” Romans 8:1
If you’re like me, you probably deal with feelings of guilt and condemnation in your life from time to time. For some, these feelings can become crippling and eventually detrimental to their walk with Jesus. I think one of the greatest weapons we have in our arsenal against this is the knowledge of all that Christ did for us through His life, death, and resurrection. I would like to remind us all of some of these wonderful truths today.
First, if you belong to Christ you have been totally cleared from guilt. You have been justified in Christ. You have been set free from the prison of guilt into which we are all born. You are free, and free indeed! This freedom in Jesus is staggering in it’s implications. We have freedom to boldly approach the throne of God. As we approach the throne, we don’t have to fear the wrath of God because there is no wrath for the innocent…..and in Christ you are innocent.
Before Jesus you were cut off from God and had no relationship with your creator, but now you are His child. You are invited to call Him Abbah (daddy). The reality of Hell was once a terrifying thought, but the fear of it should be gone for those in Christ because there is no punishment for the guiltless…..and in Christ you are guiltless.
Have you ever thought of what it would be like had you never sinned at all in your life? Well, in Christ, we actually experience this reality because in Him our sins have been covered. Because Jesus kept and fulfilled the Law, if you are in Him, His keeping of that Law counts for you. The love and blessings of perfect obedience are yours because Jesus was perfectly obedient in our place.
The Gospel is staggering, beautiful, transforming, and freeing in a way that should impact our lives every day. So today my friends, live and love as free men and women if you belong to Christ. In Him there is NO condemnation!! Let this truth encourage and strengthen you today.