This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:16 (NIV)
Jesus did it first. He set aside heaven’s glory to enter our human experience. Jesus never focused on Himself but constantly healed, taught, touched, and served others. He was tired when the crowds pressed in, but still compassionately healed and taught. Ultimately Jesus willingly took up the cross and laid down His life for you and me. But prior to His death on the cross, Jesus called believers to take up their crosses, too.
Then He called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34 NIV)
Our medical professionals are doing it. Grocery store employees are doing it. Those sheltering in place and those producing protective gear are doing it. Our military personnel do it all the time.
Taking up our cross means dying to our ‘self’ on behalf of others, willingly giving up plans, conveniences, freedoms, supplies, money, and time. Your cross might be selflessly staying home. It might also mean eagerly seeking opportunities to wisely but generously give of ourselves – deliver groceries, order take-out, tip generously, and more ideas below:
Let the isolated and vulnerable know they aren’t forgotten:
Woods Mullen for Women 794 Massachusetts Ave, Boston 02118
Southampton Shelter for Men 112 Southampton St, Boston 02118
Thomas Upham House 519 Main St, Medfield, MA 02052
And pray. Thank God for every person treating or preventing the spread of the virus. Pray for who are ill, grieving, or under financial stress. Plead with God to impress on every heart the importance of obeying the authorities. And listen for His guidance for your response. Let’s do this together.
I’d love to hear your ideas:
How are you taking up your cross in response to the Coronavirus?
If you need encouragement, check this posts about hope.
In every nation He accepts those who fear Him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel – that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. Acts 10:35-36 (NLT)
Perhaps social distancing presents an opportunity for deeper Lenten reflection.
Nearly half way through our 40 days of spiritual preparation for Easter, Covid-19 forces us to reduce our contact with one another. Could this be an opportunity to increase our contact with God?
With hectic schedules halted, we have space for the Spirit.(tweet this)
During Lent, many people give up something they value in order to share in Christ’s self-sacrifice (TV, social media, meat, alcohol, etc). Through sacrifice they draw closer to God in prayer and depend on His strength. Some people sacrifice by adopting new Christ-like habits like serving others, reading Scripture daily, or donating items to charity. They intentionally shift their focus away from themselves and toward loving God and loving others.
This national emergency requires sacrifice from all, both by giving up normal habits and by increasing concern for others. It also provides an unexpected Lenten opportunity for self-reflection.
In this unique world-wide pause let’s ask ourselves:
How is my relationship with God?
Am I following Jesus’ way or defining my own way?
Where do I fall short of the self-giving life God intends for me?
Is Jesus the Lord of my life or am I in charge?
Sin is not so much our individual misdeeds as our underlying attitude that we’re in control and we can live without God. We ‘edge God out’ (e.g.o.) by seeking purpose apart from Him. With self-giving love, Jesus sacrificed everything to make our relationship right with God. We are accepted and loved. Jesus will rescue us from ourselves if only we recognize our need for Him.
Let’s talk about it: What does life look like when Jesus is Lord?
Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people… Be strong and very courageous… Meditate on [the scriptures] day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:6-9(NIV excerpt)
Under an umbrella, toes in the sand, watching people, and chatting with a friend describes my ideal beach day. Getting wet leaves a sticky, yet itchy, dried salt water residue. While jumping over waves looks fun, it isn’t worth the discomfort.
On this day a storm brewing offshore creates an angry ocean and massive waves. My brother exuberantly rides wave after wave, calling me to join him. I debate internally. Waves slam swimmers to the bottom, but body surfing looks like a blast. Salt water is sticky, but these waves are once-in-a-lifetime.
Safely on shore, I nearly missed a fabulously fun frolic.
We stay safe when it comes to spiritual conversations too, even among our church friends and family. We compare our busy schedules instead of comparing sermon insights. We repost cat gifs but don’t repost scriptural memes. Expressing a personal opinion requires vulnerability. We fear rejection and confrontation.
We’re missing moments for meaning relationships.
God says “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” (Isa 41:10) Immersing ourselves in His Word and following His way, let’s courageously dare to dip our toes into respectful conversations about faith, trust, doubt, and hope. We’ll discover a new depth of intimacy within our existing relationships that we don’t want to miss. Be strong and courageous!
“The time has come,” [Jesus] said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
According to Mark, Jesus begins His ministry by proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom. He’s not just talking about eternity. Jesus is alive and about to flip the world upside down.
God’s kingdom is life on earth with Jesus as King. (tweet this)
Jesus upsets the entire structure of society, the “Empire” all around us. Craig Greenfield, author of Subversive Jesus, writes:
Where Empire comes on a white military horse wielding weapons of shock and awe, the Upside-Down Kingdom comes on a donkey’s back and says love your enemy, even if he crucifies you.
Where Empire consolidates power and says my way or the highway, the Upside-Down Kingdom kneels with a towel and washes feet, saying I come to serve.
Where Empire honors the influential and celebrates the celebrity, the Upside-Down Kingdom welcomes little children and gives food to the hungry.
Where Empire is about power and status and tax breaks for the rich, the Upside-Down Kingdom is comprised of a handful of unemployed fishermen, rejected bureaucrats, a prostitute, and some failed revolutionaries.
Where Empire is a rat race to the top, the Upside-Down Kingdom says the last should be first, losers are winners, and the most important among us will do the dishes.
In this Kingdom, our King lays down His life even for those who hate and reject Him. It’s a place of radical enemy love in the midst of a world of violence.
This Kingdom might be Good News to the poor but uncomfortable for those who want to maintain the status quo. (tweet this)
How can followers of Jesus bring the Kingdom to our circle of influence?
What must we do to shift from Empire building to Kingdom building?
Those who plan evil go down the wrong path. But those who plan good find love and truth. Proverbs 14:22 (NIRV)
I don’t often plan to do evil, but sometimes I slip into it.
Like when the small internal voice says “They won’t notice if you take just a little.” as I splash milk into my coffee from someone’s pint in the shared fridge. Checking that no one’s looking proves I’m aware of my offense. I taste a hint of guilt in my first sip but by the second sip I’m in the clear. It’s not a big deal. I needed it.
Is this stealing? You might say no, but my conscience says yes. By definition, taking another person’s property without permission is stealing.
Did I plan to steal? Of course not! Then again, my quick check for witnesses betrays my plan to be quick and just take a little (of what wasn’t mine). So yes, I planned it. My stealing was not accidental.
Is this evil? Not really, but thieves start with CVS candy, not the Bank of America. My quick splash was an offense against a fellow student. It was wrong. Unchecked, it could lead to regularly assuming someone will have milk. After all, isn’t a pint stored in the shared fridge available for use?
Suddenly I’m just using milk, not someone’s personal property. It doesn’t feel like an offense and yet I am planning to do wrong. We might not call this evil, but in God’s eyes wrong is wrong. We all fall short.
Fortunately, the proverb follows the warning with the goal: Plan good to find love and truth. Plan good, my friends, plan good.
Does your small internal voice warn you to stop?
When have you ignored the voice and done something you knew was wrong?
Here is what love is. It is not that we loved God. It is that He loved us and sent His Son to give His life to pay for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (NIRV)
I used to think my mistakes were too big, too many, and too deliberate for God to forgive. My shame told me God couldn’t love be because I’d turned my back on Him.
But I wanted God in my life so I tried to make up for my past by getting involved in church, attending regularly, taking Bible study. I tried to earn His love by following Jesus’ teaching. But I could never be sure I’d done enough to compensate for my mistakes. Did He love me yet? Am I in? Had I earned my ticket to heaven?
That’s where I stumbled. It’s never enough. Ever since Adam and Eve rebelled against God, we too have been trying to do things our own way instead of God’s way. As much as we try, we can’t ever do enough to get right with God. The crazy thing is that we’re already right with God because Jesus made us right by His death on the cross. All we have to do is believe it and claim God’s love. The ticket to heaven is free. Even so, letting go of my shame and accepting God’s view of me took time.
I love God because He loved me first. He accepted me in spite of myself.(tweet this)
The‘stumbling block’ is that we receive God’s love by faith. We can’t earn His love by good deeds. Following Jesus doesn’t make us right with God. Until we stop focusing on our own efforts to please God we miss the point. We’re only right with God by believing that Jesus died on the cross in order to remove our sins. We follow Jesus in response to His love for us.
In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind. We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love. We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us imposters. 2 Corinthians 6:4,6,8 (NLT)
I used to drive aggressively, swerving around cars cautiously turning right, using the shoulder to pass cars turning left, groaning when drivers slowed for yellow lights. Although I never honked my horn, my thoughts blared.
In an attempt to live my faith, I began showing kindness, inviting cars to go ahead, waiting for turning cars, and pulling over to let tailgaters speed along their way.
Amazingly, I still get where I’m going and I feel calm.
When the church was just starting, patience set Christians apart from others in society. Patience meant waiting well, but also encompassed endurance, non-violence, and trust. They didn’t pounce on debtors who paid late and sometimes forgave loans. When insulted, they didn’t retaliate but responded with kindness. They loved their enemies and wore their oppressors out with patience. Impatience showed a lack of faith.
He does not compel belief, but patiently hopes to draw us close. Jesus epitomized patience. He kept a low profile, shouldered criticism and challenges to his authority, forced no one, ate with anyone, and rejected violence. His accusers mocked and spat on Him, but He did not call down angels in defense.
Patience is grounded in trust, a certainty that God will make everything right. We need not retaliate. God will judge. We need not worry. God will provide. We need not argue with critics. God will illuminate the truth. We can wait and trust God’s timing.
Would you be attracted to such a community?
How can we stand apart from the mainstream by exhibiting more patience?
But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV)
Have you ever wondered how the Old Testament God could be the same as the New Testament God? You’re not alone. (tweet this)
The Old Testament God seems so angry, yet Jesus teaches us to love our neighbor and our enemy. If God loves people, why is the Old Testament so violent? It’s disturbing and confusing and I don’t have an answer. But I will plant a few Seeds.
We probably all agree that love is one of God’s fundamental characteristics. God is also unchanging. Even when we don’t understand (or agree with) His ways, God is always holy, loving, just and merciful.
Combining God’s love with His justice creates a problem. He deeply loves us, but we are sinful. As hard as we try, we cannot avoid unloving thoughts and self-centered behaviors.
Only God can resolve this grave discrepancy. In His love and mercy, God provided a way for us to reside in His presence in spite of our sinful nature. Jesus. We survive God’s justice because Jesus suffered our punishment.
These few words scatter full Seed packets. Instead of sprinkling Bible references throughout, the colored phrases link to scriptural claims. Click to dig deep and plant!
What are your thoughts? Leave a comment or email me.
But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV)
We remember life’s fragility when someone dies tragically.
Human life is beautiful and fragile. Eventually, we all die and death does not always wait until our lives feel complete. A long life is not guaranteed. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
I don’t want to die anytime soon. I love my life, this place, and my people. I grieve the thought of leaving loved ones. Departing with meaningful goodbyes might help, but that opportunity is not guaranteed.
Yet as significant as this life appears, it’s merely a brief stop.
We are foreigners on earth, just passing through. Heaven is our real home. Our lifelong efforts to spread God’s kingdom on earth are crucial, but in view of eternity we are like grass or flowers, briefly beautiful and quickly gone (1 Peter 1:24).
Heaven, however, is magnificently superior. The Bible describes a place of healing, peace, joy, and beauty. We anticipate reuniting with loved ones. But we sometimes forget the best part: God will dwell with us (Rev 21:3)!
But God’s presence presents a problem. God is holy and nothing imperfect can live in His presence. So Jesus shed His blood in order to remove the sins of those who believe His blood has this power. The blood of the Lamb permits entry to heaven.
Do you believe Jesus’ blood has the power to forgiven sin?
I believe. I am a sinner in need of Jesus.
This concept can be difficult to grasp. If you’d like to know more, please email me ([email protected]) or explore these other posts: