The Sufficiency of Christ

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Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

”For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.” Colossians 2:9-10 

What I’ve been learning about God lately is that He longs to be The Fulfiller of Our Needs. The only thing is, He doesn’t always meet our needs with the antidote we anticipate; often, He simply meets our needs with Himself, the Lord Jesus Christ. The problem—the conflict, the low income, the loss of a loved one—may still be there, but our heart and mindset are transformed.

Because the reality is—though it is a reality that our flesh has quite the difficulty grasping—Jesus Christ Himself is the only thing we need. If we are in need of comfort, He provides that. If we are in need of love, He provides that. Even for the tenderest hearts who need repeated reassurances of love, God provides. He meets us where we’re at!

The Lord goes out of His way to give of Himself, because He is what we truly need whether we know it or not. He is so sweet and gentle to the most sensitive of us. And when the weakest of us open our hearts to the incredible tenderness of our Lord, we become strong and able to lavishly pour out love onto other people.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.“ – Romans 5:5

Our God is a God of Sufficiency, and the only thing that keeps us from experiencing the depth of His love and provision is our own restraint and doubt. Breathe deep into the sweet love of Christ, for the riches of His mercy are evidenced on that bloody cross at Calvary.

He is truly all we need.

This truth becomes a reality to us as soon as we accept that He is able and eager to be our Total Sufficiency! How could a God of power be incapable of anything? How could a God of grace be unwilling to draw our open hearts nearer to Himself?

Our dear Savior is more than able and more than eager to fill us with delight in His presence. Abandoning all else in life to simply be with Him and surrendering my will to His will brings me a soul-contentment that nothing in this world can offer. 

This song captures the more-than-sufficient, reckless love of God!

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The Gospel, The Light: 6 Things God Has Done For Humanity

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(Photo by Samantha Lynch on Unsplash)

I blind myself to the truth, do you? Am I the only one who runs from the Light, preferring the safety of darkness? 

When the Light pierces through the darkness, it hurts. It hurts when I see I’ve been trying to fill the void inside me with my passions, dreams, ego, or self-pity. It hurts to see that me, you, and the whole human race sin every day without realizing it.

Or maybe we do realize our weakness, but we’re too afraid to do anything about it.

Woe to those who go to great depths
to hide their plans from the Lord,
who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?” – Isaiah 29:15

Without this Light, I feel so empty. I’m in constant pain, letting insecurity rule and darkness overshadow any good that’s left in me.

I’m blind to my own weakness.

Why are we like this? It’s my fault. It’s yours. It’s Adam and Eve’s fault for eating that fruit in the garden. Their sin began a chain reaction that spread to every generation of humans who have lived since.

Doubts come: Come on, I’m good enough. God wouldn’t send a nice person like me to hell. I’ve done enough good things to outweigh the bad.

But God doesn’t weigh the good versus the bad; no, He measures us up to a stick, and we have to reach the top to enter heaven—He requires us to be 100 % perfect.

And we’re not.

And God is truly sad about that: “[God] wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:4)

So, how did God provide a way for us to escape hell and to enter His heavenly presence, now and forever?

1. He sent a perfect man.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to live on this earth perfectly following God’s laws, like no human ever had before. He was the one person in history’s existence who actually deserved heaven.

Only God is 100% perfect all the time. And that’s exactly who Jesus was, and still is to this very day.

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” – Hebrews 1:3

Jesus is the one perfect Light, the one true fulfiller of our souls. He spoke out against lies and injustice; He uplifted the outsiders in society. He was filled with deep compassion for people, healing the sick and preaching about the Kingdom of God, a place where hearts are free, a place their souls had been longing to hear about.

2. He sacrificed this man, His Only Son, for us.

What’s terribly ironic, is that the One person who deserved heaven went to hell in place of everyone else who deserved hell. Jesus was nailed to a cross to purify us from our sins, dying in our place so we wouldn’t have to eternally bleed.

“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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” – John 3:16-21

3. He, in the form of a man, came back to life.

But it doesn’t end at the cross. Three days later, Jesus Christ rose from the tomb, alive and well, and witnessed by hundreds of astonished people. He went up to heaven where He now sits at the right hand of the throne of God.

4. He saves us not by any goodness in ourselves, but by His amazing grace.

This is the most crucial point I have, even though it’s number four (number 4 is a good number, right? ;)) So pay attention here.

The thing is, Jesus did NOT die so we would follow rules, He died so we would place our faith in Him and come to know Him. It is only by faith in Christ that we are saved.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Christianity is NOT a religion. It is a beautiful, everlasting, soul-fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

5. He shines His Light into our everyday lives.

Today, in the 21st century, Jesus offers this hope as we battle against anxiety, depression, temptations, grief, and feelings of emptiness: He is the Light.

Let those words sink in for a minute.

After Jesus left this earth, His Holy Spirit came to convict this world of sin.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” – 1 John 1:9

Wow! What an amazing truth that is. Throughout our Christian lives, we must bring our dark deeds into God’s glorious light, so that He may completely and totally outshine this darkness within us. His forgiveness is real, and He is waiting for you to simply cry out to Him with a repentant heart.

Once we believe in Jesus’ power to overcome death and sin on the cross, the Holy Spirit illuminates through our pitch black souls and guides us into more and more victories over our sin and failures, and more and more into the love and peace of walking in His ways.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” – John 14:16

6. He fills us with joy—now and forever.

With God’s Light inside of me, I’ve found the absolute freedom of His grace. I am no longer empty. I am truly, definitely, totally forgiven, as far as the east is from the west. When I place my surrendered trust in Jesus, my heart bursts with this Light.

As Christians, we face hardship. But through it all, our joy is made complete through Christ.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” – Psalm 16:11

I am free.

I am not floundering in darkness, but I am running out into the open arms of my Father, whose eyes ignite with unspeakable joy when He sees me. Without Jesus, I don’t know where I’d be. I don’t know how I’d bear the fires of this raw, miserable life.

But with Him, the sword of truth has attacked my old self. Now I am new like a polished ring, waiting like a Bride for her Groom, until the day He returns.

Please, when He comes back, don’t let it be your first time to bow.

“[Jesus], being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.” – Philippians 2:6-11

(All Scripture taken from NIV.)

 

J15: Waiting For Him to Come

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(Photo by Paola Chaaya on Unsplash)

Today I will tell you about a particular Christmas tradition my family has and what it means to me. 

The carols. The lights. The greenery. The smiles. The joy. The gifts. The hot chocolate. The birth of one life-altering baby boy.

These are some most of the things that I love about Christmas.

Lately it’s hard for me to appreciate Christmas like I used to when I was a little kid—with Santa and his reindeer and all the magic they brought to the holiday. Now all of those illusions are gone.

What’s left is the reality. That the Son of God descended to a lowly manger to bring us eternal joy and a relationship with our Heavenly Father is something I will never fully appreciate until perhaps heaven.

My family has a tradition, called the Jesse Tree, which is named after King David’s father. The idea is that Jesse is an ancestor in a long line of ancestors leading up to Jesus.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” — Isaiah 11:1

Every day in December you hang a new ornament on the Jesse tree, each ornament representing a different event in the history of Jesus’ ancestors, leading up to the birth of Jesus. For example, the first ornament is a little globe, and this is when you are supposed to read about the creation of the world. The advent of ornaments continues on to symbolize different events in the Bible, especially highlighting the characters in Jesus’ genealogy.

The Israelites waited for a long time for the Messiah to come, just as my family waits for Christmas day by decorating the Jesse Tree. Placing one ornament on the tree each day in December is sort of like waiting for Jesus to come. Imagine the excitement. The anticipation. The uncertainty. Will He ever come at this rate? Before Jesus came, the Israelites probably doubted that their Savior would ever come and rescue them from sin and death.

Before He came, the Israelites were running out of hope.

But today we have an advantage: we know that He came! We know that He was born, He died, and He rose again. We know that He performed miracles, told parables, spoke against the legalistic Pharisees, and even was put to death on the cross so we might live, symbolizing His humility. Now we have hope of an everlasting relationship with our Heavenly Father.

If the holy, worthy, powerful Lord of the Universe descended to a filthy manger and even a criminal’s death, how can we begin to complain to God that something is too “demeaning” or “hard” for us, if it’s His will for us to do?

Christmas, as we all know, is not about the getting. It’s about the giving. Give your heart and life to Jesus, and in return pour out His love into anyone you come across with.

We don’t have to wait as long as the Israelites did. But when we experience the waiting for our Messiah by hanging up symbols of the past on the Jesse Tree, perhaps whenever we accept that the Son of God came to earth for our eternal reconciliation with God, Jesus will mean more to us than just a baby in a manger. Maybe the magic of Santa is nothing but a fantasy, but Jesus is the ultimate reality.

May God truly be with us this Christmas. May He be the carol on our tongue, the Christmas tree in our spirit, and the steaming hot cocoa of our weary hearts.

Because Christmas isn’t about magic, it’s about miracles.

J2: Comfort Me

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Reflections on my favorite verses in Psalm 119.

“My eyes fail, looking for your promise; I say, ‘When will you comfort me?’ Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke, I do not forget your decrees.” Psalm 119:82-83
Some nights I feel overwhelmed with Your goodness and tender love, but there are nights of sorrow, too; nights where restlessness sets in, nipping the edges of my soul, a little at a time, slowly destroying me. I look in the dim light of this valley, but the fog covers You from my view. Where are you? Why can’t I feel Your presence soothing my soul? Just as a wineskin in the smoke will spoil, so will my heart and my flesh fail me. And yet here You are beside me; You will never fail me. Tonight, my eyes cannot see you, but I reach out for you in the darkness—comfort me, Lord, for I will never forget Your precious word.

The King’s Armor

The chains clamped around my wrists as cold and hard as stones. I stared ahead into the darkness, waiting for the young guard, who was not much more than a year older than I, to open the door to the arena. I had come here not because I had stolen treasure, attacked a servant, or murdered an innocent peasant. I had come for the same reason as the ones before me: because I existed.

I had dreaded this day since I was a young child who finally understood the laws of the land—since that day my mother and father had gone before me. But there was no reason for fear. My parents had taken places of honor at the king’s table, and I visited them on every full moon. Soon I would see them and the king every day.

The metal door creaked open. The guard gestured for me to hurry up and get out the door. As I passed him, he whispered, “Friend, the beast won’t hurt ya if you be quick about it.”

I nodded my thanks and strode forward into the empty arena. My sweaty tuffs of copper hair clung to the nape of my neck as I gazed around. Not only was there no lion, but there was not a human being in sight besides the king in his royal box. The only other beings interested in my Transition seemed the mobs of hornets buzzing about and pecking at me arms every now and then.

I had heard audiences had been small lately, but I hadn’t expected to meet such a crude pair of eyes blinking lazily in my direction and not much else. King Maximus sipped his wine from the glamorous throne decked with gold and sapphire. Good for him, to be in that box with a canopy and attentive servants waving long, feathery fans to keep out the heat and the insects. Would I only end up fanning him as well?

But now the emptiness of the arena glared into my face. Where was Pa? Mum? My brother, Marcus? I had witnessed many Transitions, but most had mobs of blood-thirsty citizens, yearning for a fight. I supposed people had tired of telling their neighbors that all that had happened was the same old surrendering to the king’s will instead of slaying the lion. Not that it was an unpleasant decision to take a seat at the king’s table—by all means, it was the best choice my parents ever made. They didn’t have a clue about killing wild creatures, anyhow. Neither did I, so they didn’t bother coming, I guess, since they knew they would surely be feasting with me tonight.

King Maximus, from high up in the royal box, ushered me forward. “Just say the word, lad, and I won’t even bother bringing the lion out.”

I bowed before the lofty ruler. “Thank you, sir, but I haven’t made the decision yet.”

He narrowed his eyes down upon me. “So… you want to end up with the first of the rebels? Those fools that died—let’s see—about eight years ago?” He scoffed. “I thought my dear citizens had learned their lesson by now.”

I kept my head down in practiced humility. “No, sir, and I truly would be honored to sit at your table and eat with you.”

“Then that settles it.” King Maximus commanded his servants with a wave of his hand.

I glanced at the armor laid out on the dirt that awaited anyone fool enough to try. Dust had gathered on it during those long eight years. I didn’t know why I considered it—maybe for my dignity or my pride—or perhaps because the lion, if killed, would set us free from the “honor” of feasting with the king for the rest of our days. I didn’t want that honor. That was meaningless. Maybe those rash young men all those years ago had died, but they had died knowing that when all were free to live ordinary lives outside the palace, they could use their freedom to care for the poor or the sick or the imprisoned, to pursue righteousness without the king suppressing them with gold and jewels.

The servants unchained me with smiles on their faces and urged me toward a door on the other side of the arena, opposite of the door I had come from. One strolled on ahead and the other followed suit behind me. Their confidence swept me away along with them, until I couldn’t go any further. How could I miss this chance? How could I stand the eternal burden of regret? Continue reading

“Little” Things

The little things I think of–

they’ve got to be said.

They can’t just hang in my head

like I’m already dead.

 

I’ve got to speak out;

I’ve got to come free.

I can’t carry on like this

without an identity.

 

Deep in my mind, I’m already up there

But when I open my mouth

I’m right back down here.

 

The things that I say–

they don’t mean anything

I’m just crumbling into pieces

In front of everybody.

 

I’m living it inside,

but am I living it out?

When I step in the room

do they know what I’m about?

 

Do they know I’m forgiven

even though I’m so small?

Do they know the Lord gives mercy,

once and for all?

 

You see, the little things I think of–

they’ve got to be said

Because here I am

Not dead

With these words

That bear meaning

Hanging in my head.

 

Then, Now, and Forever

What do goals do? Move you through or out of something? Do they confound you in the present or do they promise a place of wonder in the near future?

The process is arduous at times. So often do we long for the end, for that better place, for that ideal perfection and unity that we envision to be the only way to be satisfied.

Yet does it not exist now? Doesn’t fulfillment come when we fall on our knees before Jesus, who saves us from our persistence to do what we ought not to do?

We cannot complain that life doesn’t please us. The precious end exists, somewhere in the near future, but now we ought to live for the One who is worthy of our undivided attention. We as believers should stand side by side for the One who can fill us with peace, if we fully believe it–a peace which no one can experience without the Lord. Continue reading

(Truly) For Our Greater Good

I’m sure we’ve all probably heard or asked this question before:

“Why would a loving God let bad things happen to us?”

To dig through the surface of such a mystery, we need to look more closely at God Himself. All over the Bible, God reveals Himself behind the foundations of the earth. Not only is God loving, but He is a Mighty God who is bigger than the loudest storm, the greatest earthquake, and our doubts that trickle through the cracks inside us. What we call a problem, He calls a slight worm that can be smashed in His hand. What we call a tragedy, He calls a raindrop that can be overcome by His ocean of grace.

No matter our situation, God loves us, so He waits upon us till we wait upon Him.

He waits for us to accept His power–the glorious news that His Son Jesus came to carry our burdens, to endure God’s wrath for us, to set our turbulent hearts secure in an unfathomable peace. The Lord Jesus came down to earth to offer us peace in the midst of chaos, to understand the depth of God’s love, holiness, and eternal joy in the midst of fear and confusion and despair.

We can experience Him even if our own circumstances don’t reflect His goodness. Continue reading

When Words Hurt

Sometimes I gossip. Sometimes I take pleasure in tearing others down just so I can make a tighter connection with the people who gossip right along with me. It’s such an easy, seemingly harmless thing to do, and a lot of times it brings laughter.

But it’s wrong.

One way of gossiping I often fall into is the “funny” kind. I believe humor is a tool the devil can use to ease us into an idea, ease us into hurting others. Not all humor is utterly evil, of course, but the gossiping humor that tears people down is simply wrong.

And yet in the moment of a fun or even outright disdainful conversation about a person’s weird ways it can be so hard for us to stand firm in the truth.

What is the truth? Well, if we look in the Bible, God’s truth is plain: Gossiping is wrong.

“A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends.” – Proverbs 16:28 (NIV)

I believe He would go so far as to say that putting someone down is, in fact, despising them in your heart. Perhaps it’s not full-out hate, but it certainly leans way more on the side of hating a person more than loving them.

It’s not loving at all.

In fact, it’s not even loving the person you are gossiping with! It’s bringing that person along with you the road of judgement, when God wants us on the road of mercy, loving people whether or not they look or act weird, loving people even if they’re doing something wrong–because that’s the way He loves us. Continue reading

Approaching God (And People… and Life) Like a Child

Let me just say this: the reason God gave you the gift of His Son Jesus was so instead of being separate from Him (in hell) you could be in a relationship with Him (in heaven), now and for all eternity. Wow. That’s something I’ve come to realize, and it’s the greatest blessing if we choose to receive it. So how do we do have a relationship with Him? How do we approach the living God who is incredibly huge and beyond our minds?

After all, James 4:8 (NIV) says, “Come near to God and He will come near to you.”

Imagine that–the living God of all the universe coming near to us!

So how do we come near to Him? Continue reading