Jesus Standing for You

Before you read this you may want to take a look at Acts 7 especially verses 55-60.

So here we have Stephen being martyred – pretty dramatic – and my favorite part is when he sees Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father! Wow! Jesus was resurrected and seated at the right hand of God but here Stephen actually sees Jesus standing – as if what is going on can’t be watched from a sitting position because He’s so excited.

I can just hear Jesus saying, “That’s my boy! Oh Stephen, you have ravished my heart! Oh Stephen, you make me so proud! Come on! I can’t wait to hold you in my embrace! Come on! You’re so close – keep going! I’m giving you the love you need for this moment. Just keep looking at Me! Do you see the tears in My eyes? They are tears of joy for you and tears of love for your killers. Oh Stephen, I’m so proud of you! Thank you for loving them! How I love you!”

Here’s where it gets tough: Can you imagine Jesus saying this about you? Can you picture Jesus standing up in joy over you?

My thoughts have always been, “Well, I’m not being martyred so probably not. But I know Jesus loves me.” There was something in me that still thought I had to earn God’s love – or at least His stand up, applauding kind of love.

But here’s the truth. I think Jesus stands up for everyone of His kids like He did for Stephen.

When He looks at you does He see all your faults? Or does He say, “You are so lovely”? (Song of Songs 1:5).

I don’t have to earn God’s love or do something in my eyes to make Him proud of me! Just being His son or daughter qualifies you to bring His heart joy! Letting Him love me, believing He loves me, and releasing His love to others is my only call and the only thing we can do that makes Him proud. His delight isn’t in your money, influence,  success, or works – His delight is in you!

Luke 19 talks about some servants that got a decent amount of money. There was one servant who didn’t bring pleasure to his master and why was that? Because he saw his master as harsh, impossible to please, and strict. He disconnected himself from God’s love. It’s when I disconnect myself from God’s love that I ruin my life. It’s when I stop the flow of love and reject His acceptance of me that I destroy my life. It’s when I take my eyes off of His eyes of pleasure for me and look at my pain, short comings, and trials that I forget who I really am to Him.

We have to see ourselves the way He sees us because we can’t move forward in love until we do. When we know we are flawless in God’s sight we become unoffendable and able to release forgiveness to those killing us.

It is your own shame that causes you to take offense, point fingers, and judge your brother. Shame makes you feel the need to hold a grudge because you are holding a grudge against yourself. Shame makes you point the finger at your brother because you are pointing the finger at yourself. Shame makes you see God as an angry judge who counts all your faults so that’s what you do to those around you.

You have to love yourself before you can love others. You can’t have shame and be Jesus to people. I have to let Jesus free me, love me, and accept me before I can truly love. I have to let Jesus destory my blanket of shame so I can love the people throwing stones at me.

So let’s both do something. Let’s close our eyes and pierce through our misconceptions and wrong ideas of God. Let’s pierce through the shame and works mentality. Let’s pierce through and see Jesus standing beside the Father gazing at you with love. Ask Him how He sees you. Ask Him if He is proud of you. Ask Him if He finds joys out of your life. And then live out of that place of being loved!

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Longest Ride of My Life! – Short Story

 

This has been the longest ride of my life. My legs feel restless and I’m hot and sweaty from the sun beating down on my poor little head.

“Are you sure we are headed in the right direction?” I finally ask, knowing something has to be wrong for it to take this long.

AutomotivesNeither mom nor dad respond immediately but I can tell they heard me. From the back seat where I’m sitting, I can’t see the expression on their face but I imagine they are both worried.

“I promise you,” dad finally says. “We will get there.”

“Yes, but are you sure we didn’t take a wrong turn?”

“Yes, son, I know where we are going and we are right on track.”

I sigh. My dad seems really calm which can either mean he knows what he is doing or he is lost and doesn’t want to scare me.

I look to my right and see my sister is fast asleep, drooling on her pillow. How in the world can she sleep so long? This trip is wearing me out and she’s fast asleep enjoying the ride.

Actually, that’s a good idea. Long trips always go by faster when you sleep through them. I decide to follow my sister’s example (all except for the drooling) and lay my head against the car door. My mind feels like it’s in disarray but I finally make myself fall asleep.

Suddenly the car swerves and I’m jolted awake.

“Oh my gosh!!!” I scream. “We almost wrecked!”

“You jolted yourself awake,” my mom assures, laughing as she looks back at me. “We didn’t almost wreck, honey.”

“How long was I asleep?” I ask my heart still pounding from the near-death wreck I had imagined. “It looks like the sun has moved a lot since I fell asleep,” I notice, looking out my window.

“You slept a few minutes,” my mom replies.

“You’re kidding?!” I ask in shock. “Only for a few minutes?! Are we not almost there yet?”

“We are about two minutes closer than when you asked the first time.”

I lay my head back against in the seat in dismay. Out of the corner of my eye I see a map tucked behind the seat in front of my sister (who is still sleeping). I pull out the map and begin trying to figure out where we are. I need to wrap my head around this or I fear a mental breakdown is coming.

“Can you even read that?” my dad asks, looking at me through the rearview mirror.

“Not really, dad,” I say, beginning to feel my voice rise and fall. “I just . . .” I feel the sobs coming up my throat and I’m not able to hold them back. “I just feel lost and like we’ll never get there. It’s been a really long day and my head hurts from the sun. I’m feeling car sick like I’m going to throw up. I don’t think I can do this anymore, it is just too hard!”

I let my emotions pour out of me. The tears flow down my cheeks as I let it all loose. My dad doesn’t say anything. He just listens patiently as I have my emotional meltdown.

“I’m sick of people saying we’re almost there,” I continue, “And yet we never get there! I’m just not sure I can handle the stress and the trauma of this trip!”

A few minutes pass and my sobbing begins to transition into whimpers. My dad just keeps driving.

“How fast are we going anyway?” I finally ask. “I’ve noticed that red van has been in front of us forever. Are they even going the speed limit?!!”

Dad still doesn’t answer nor does my mom say anything. Finally I come to my senses.

“Dad, you’re right I’m just being a pill! I’m just being impatient and selfish. I surrender everything! All my hopes and dreams of finally getting out of this car,” I say with passion – hoping this was the real purpose my dad was taking so long. Surely, now that I have surrendered everything we will arrive. “I know I acted like a little brat just now,” I add. “And if I was you I would have spanked me but you didn’t and for that I’m thankful.”

A few more minutes pass in silence and I begin to wonder if my dad is still awake. Maybe he can’t hear me.

“Dad?”

“Yes?” he wonders.

“I want you to know I trust you. From my perspective it seems impossible that we would arrive and get out of this car. To me these doors seem so closed and the metal ceiling seems to be caving in on me but I’m going to trust you.”

“I appreciate your faith in me,” my dad answers back, with a smile written on his face. “And it’s a good thing these doors seem closed considering that we’re driving. Look, I know you’re worn out and tired and feeling like this will never end but guess what?”

“What?”

“I’ll get you there. I’ll get you out of this car and I’ll pick you up out of your car seat and I’ll set you free.”

I smile. “I believe you.”

I hate to make myself look bad but this emotional rollercoaster repeats itself three times. I have three more emotional meltdowns, three more reassuring words from my dad, and three more moments of silence before we finally reach our destination.

Just like dad promised, he gets out and opens my door, unbuckles me, then picks me up out of the car into his arms. Finally I have arrived! Finally I am free!

Ocean

My eyes are blinded by the bright light reflecting off the white sand but they soon adjust and I take in the deep green and blue of the ocean. My heart pounds with excitement.

I can smell the salty breeze mixed with the distinct scent of sunscreen lotion. I can hear the waves crashing on the shore and cry of sea gulls searching for a place to land. In moments I’m going to be running into those waves, feeling the cool water crash around me, tasting that salt on my lips and basking in the glorious sun light!

“We made it! We actually made it! I thought it was impossible but I never doubted you, dad. I just kept believing you.”

“Good for you,” he laughs as he sets me down on the sand. “Now go enjoy the water while we unpack the car.”

“I think our son just went through the longest 20 minute drive of his life,” my dad comments to my mom.

“I think it’s safe to say we have a very dramatic four-year-old,” she responds and they both laugh.

 

The End.

Author’s notes:

  • Maybe you’re going through a long season of waiting on the Lord – Don’t quit! Don’t get discouraged! You have a heavenly Father in the driver’s seat and he will get you to your destination.
  • Maybe you’re pushing for a breakthrough or contending for your destiny – Your daddy has you in his hands and he won’t let you miss out on the great plans he has for your life. Don’t give up hope!
  • Maybe you’re trying to read the map and figure it all out – Don’t worry, he knows every turn and he isn’t lost. Just trust him. He has good for you!
  • Maybe you feel like it’s impossible that God can turn your situation around – Don’t lose faith. He is so much more in control than you can fathom.
  • Here is the reality: Our life is a 20 minute drive compared to eternity! And when we get to heaven it is going to be so much better than any beach!! We’re going to see God face to face!!! Every bit of fear and pain will be forgotten as we embrace the savior of the world! Love we can’t even comprehend will overwhelm our emotions. Joy surpassing anything we’ve ever experienced here on earth will fill us. He will be the fulfillment of every desire you have ever had!!! And believe me, it will totally be worth the wait!

My Ministry – Short Story

The place is a buzz. Everyone is trying to talk at once as the crowd listens intently to what we are saying. Each disciple is sharing how he had cast out demons, healed sick people, and preached to this city and that. The atmosphere is electric with excitement and I haven’t even fully shared all my stories yet – which are frankly the most amazing in my opinion.

Jesus

“Jesus, one guy started screaming while I was preaching,” Peter exclaimed, “and I told the spirit to be silent and leave him and it did!”

“That’s amazing Peter,” I whisper to myself. “Let’s not get too cocky about it.”

In my humility and wisdom, I keep relatively silent as the others fight for a chance to share their own stories. How childish. Finally Jesus has had enough, I can tell, of their immature noise and motions for us disciples to gather around.

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile. I know you’re all tired,” Jesus suggests.

“That’s a great idea! I haven’t even got a chance to eat we’ve been so busy with this ministry,” I agree.

Without saying much more all of us disciples pile into the boats with Jesus. There’s no need for us to discuss where we should go. Everyone knows the perfect resting place. It is a place on the other side of the lake, far away from people, noise, and all the daily drama associated with big time ministries like ours.

“You’ve got to be kidding,” Andrew mutters as we approach the other side of the lake near our destination. We all look in the direction Andrew is pointing and see crowds streaming over the hills.

“Should we turn around?” Peter wonders. “I doubt we’ll rest with crowds like this!”

We all look at Jesus for direction and we can see compassion has flooded his face. I even notice a few tears in his eyes as he looks at all the people pouring forth to meet us as we approach land.

Well, I think to myself, so what for resting.

We land our boats and Jesus dives right into teaching the crowds. The day wears on hour by hour as we sit and listen (or half-listen) to what Jesus is saying. Honestly, I don’t listen much to what Jesus is saying because it’s mainly basic stuff. I’m at the point where I’m ready for more in-depth teachings. I’ve been through the basics. Actually I just finished preaching to crowds and healing the sick and casting out demons – something the people in this multitude only dream of doing one day.

The sun is getting nearer and nearer the western horizon. Oh my goodness this is the longest day ever! Some of the other disciples agree with me and suggest I help Jesus end his teachings.

“You do it. Jesus won’t rebuke you if you do it,” they encourage.

“You’re just afraid to interrupt him,” I laugh. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

I stand up and slowly make my way close to Jesus. He is just finishing a teaching when he looks at me. He is smiling and I see energy exuding from him. Strange. Here he is, teaching all day long, and he has more energy than me!

“Do you want something?” Jesus asks, smiling as if he knows what I am about to say.

I clear my throat. “We are a long way out here in the middle of nowhere,” I begin. “And it’s very late in the day. Pronounce your benediction and send this crowd away so they can eat some supper.”

I didn’t really care about the crowd eating supper I was just tired and wanted to rest.

Jesus laughs at my suggestion. “You do it. You fix them supper,” he replies.

“Are you serious?” I ask in disbelief. “You want us to go spend a fortune so these people can eat?”

“How much bread do you have? Find out.” he answers.

I turn to the disciples to get the answer before coming back to Jesus. “We have five loaves of bread plus two fish.”

I watch as Jesus tells the crowd to sit down in groups. He then takes our two fish and five loaves of bread and lifts them up in the sky and blesses them.

“Thank you, Father, that you take what little we have and multiple it to feed the multitudes.”

Great. I’m tired from a hard week of ministry, a long day of teaching, and now I’m going to go to bed starving as Jesus gives away our supper to these crowds. I’m having a hard time thinking loving thoughts about the people in the crowd right now. Don’t they realize how much of an inconvenience they are? If only I could let them see how tired and irritated they make me sometimes.

Bread“Here, take these,” Jesus says, handing me the food he just blessed. “And start handing them to the crowds.”

What a chore! We’re tired and now we have to pass out free food to a bunch of leeches.

The sun is already halfway disappeared before we get to sit down and eat supper.

“Do you realize how many people we just fed with only a small amount of food to begin with!” Peter exclaims. “God just multiplied the food!”

“I couldn’t believe it! We just kept passing it out one loaf after another and it never ran out!” John adds.

“Praise God for his miraculous supply!” the others chime in.

I hadn’t even noticed the miracle. It just now dawns on me how amazing this accomplishment is. When I had been passing out the food I guess I just assumed there would be enough and didn’t really pay attention.

“I guess I’ve just been so accustomed to miracles,” I say out loud, “that I didn’t even notice until now.”

The disciples laugh.

“Alright,” Jesus says, coming over to where we are sitting. “When you finish eating you can go ahead and get into the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake. I’ll take care of sending the crowds home.”

“Are you sure?” John asks. “We don’t want you to have to do all that work!”

“I insist. I know how tired everyone is anyway.”

I don’t argue with Jesus’ suggestion. Shortly after we finish supper, we all climb back into the boats and head for a more peaceful location to sleep. The night is closing in but it won’t be long before we make it to the other side.

Seven hours later we are still in the middle of the lake! Tired, worn out, and rowing with all our might against the harsh wind, we keep pressing on toward that other side.

I am beginning to think I am living in a nightmare. Either that or I’m on my way to having a mental breakdown. Will I ever find rest!!?

“Ahhhh! A ghost!” Thomas screams.

I’m not sure why, probably because we’re so tired, but we all believe that there really is a ghost. We strain hard and see a figure walking on the water.

“Row harder!” Peter shouts. “Before it gets here!”

“Courage!” Jesus calls out. “It’s me. Don’t be afraid!’

We hardly believe our eyes as Jesus walks on the water to our boat and gets in. He is peaceful, calm, and looks refreshed. How on earth does Jesus look so rested?

Suddenly it seems to set in. This whole day was a lesson. Jesus was trying to teach us that our ministry was not about us and  that rest was found when we stopped striving. He had taught us that by giving away our last bit (whether that be food or strength or time) our Father would multiply it back to us.

Jesus went through the same circumstances but he was refreshed as he gave to the multitudes, flowing in the energy and miraculous power from God. We became tired and more tired as we focused on our own needs all day long and kept striving to get away from them. There is nothing more tiring then being focused on yourself all day. Focused on my tiredness, focused on my ministry, focused on my stories, focused on my pain, focused on my hunger.

In reality, the crowd was a gift from God to refresh us. Jesus had already known they would follow us to the other side. Maybe if we had given to them we would have found an energy we didn’t know existed. Maybe we would have tapped into a spiritual vitality flowing from God.

I am seeing now that my strength fails. It couldn’t heal a single body, cast out a single spirit, or even row across a stupid lake. Jesus was showing me that my strength isn’t worth relying on. Refreshment and rest comes from entering God’s rest and strength.

As I’m pondering this, I look up and our boat hits the lake shore. Funny how easy it was after Jesus came into our boat.

The Dreaded Night – Luke 7:36-50

The dreaded night has finally arrived. I still can’t quite believe the mess I got myself into. When I had asked Jesus to my home for supper it had been a spur of the moment invitation and not at all thought through. At the time of the invite I had just heard him share an exceptional parable with the crowds and I had been impressed. That was the last time I would ever let my emotions get the best of me!

All week I had been suffering repercussions. First my family wanted to know why I had invited the revolutionist into my home. Then my colleagues wanted to know why I, a devote Pharisee, had invited an uneducated self-proclaimed teacher for supper. And then I began to question myself as to why I had done this ludicrous thing.

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see Jesus and his rough looking disciples standing at my door. Not about to greet them myself, I catch the attention of Joseph, my head servant.

“Go show Jesus to his place,” I say in a low tone with my back to Jesus.

Joseph looks at me with a puzzled expression. “Do you not want to greet . . .”

“No!” I argue with as much force as I can muster. “And make sure you seat him away from the head of the table. Keep those places reserved for my friends when they arrive.”

Joseph doesn’t respond as he obeys my orders. Jesus and his disciples are brought inside and seated. I try very hard to avoid making eye contact with any of them. The awkward moments that follow seem like an eternity. When are my friends going to get here?

At last I see Caleb and Cleopas approaching my front door followed by a few others of my close acquaintances.

“Welcome!” I greet with as large a smile as I can manage. “I’m glad you could make it!”

“It’s always a pleasure to be in your company,” Caleb laughs coming inside.

“The sunlight is fading fast,” Cleopas points out.

“Yes, and you all must be hungry!” I say. “Come and sit down! I’ll have my servants bring some water for your feet and some refreshments while we wait for the first course to be served.”

Jesus and his disciples watch as my friends are carefully looked after by my servants.  I want Jesus to know I don’t see him as my equal in society. I want Jesus to see that he is the one honored to be in my home.

“Joseph, we are ready for the first course,” I say when I see that my friends have been prepared for the meal.

With the arrival of food and with the conversation among my friends rising, I am able to totally ignore that Jesus was in my home and at my table. This is just what I was hoping for: He is here but isn’t the center of attention.

Remainders of the second course are just being taken away when our dinner is interrupted. My friends gasp and I look up to see Sharon, our neighborhood harlot, standing in front of Jesus. She knows better than to come to my house when I have company! What on earth is she doing here?!

Silence fills the room and I can hear weeping. The weeping is coming from Sharon who lets her tears fall down on Jesus’ feet. Jesus remains composed when the woman suddenly falls upon his feet, wiping them with her hair, kissing them with her lips, and weeping all the more.

I am not only disgusted by this lady’s outburst of emotions but by Jesus’ response to her! He sits, looking at her with eyes that show compassion as if he understands what she is doing.

Things go from bad to worse. Sharon pulls out an alabaster flask of perfume and begins pouring the contents over Jesus’ feet. The fragrance takes over the room and drowns out the smell of the meal.

I can’t look anymore. I can’t watch this parade of sin. I know that Jesus isn’t from here but if he was a prophet, if he was anywhere close to God, he’d know this woman was unclean and a convicted sinner!

“Simon,” Jesus’ voice says splitting through the silence and invading my thoughts. “I have something to say to you.”

Disgusted I reply, “Oh really? What could you possibly have to say?”

Jesus doesn’t miss a beat. “Two men were in debt to a banker. One owed five hundred pieces of silver and the other only owed fifty. Now neither of them could make payments on their debt any longer so the banker decided to forgive them both. He completely wiped their slate clean. Tell me, which of the two would be more grateful?”

“I suppose,” I start to say, “Well, I suppose the one whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right.” Jesus turns to the woman yet he continues to speak to me. “Look at this woman here at my feet. I came to your home; you provided me no water for my feet, but she washed them with her tears. You gave me no greeting, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet. You didn’t give me anything to freshen up, but she has soothed my feet with perfume. Impressive, isn’t it?”

Jesus pauses to look around the room. We are all silent.

“She was forgiven many, many sins and so she is very, very grateful. If the forgiveness is minimal, the gratitude is minimal. I forgive your sins,” Jesus says, looking at the woman. “Your faith has saved you.”

At these words the woman seemed to have been released of a million ton load. Joy, peace, and relief seem to sweep over her. And at these words, I suddenly feel like the burden she carried has been placed on me. I now understand why I invited Jesus into my home.

I invited Jesus because deep down inside I had sin that I wanted free from. Deep down, underneath my mask, I had things I wanted Jesus to forgive. Something told me he could do it. Something told me he had the keys to freedom. Something had told me he could forgive – even though it didn’t make sense to my brain.

But my pride has been holding me back. This woman threw herself upon Jesus. I reserved myself, afraid to be seen too close in public. This woman wept upon his feet. I had remained proud, unable to humble myself to repentance. This woman gave her best perfume, probably her life’s savings, and I couldn’t even give him the best place at my table. This woman saw her sin as a heavy debt she could not pay. I had thought of my sin as minimal compared to most, but in reality my sin is greater than this woman’s for she will be leaving the room free.

The night is still young. Jesus is still in my house. Will I get the courage to humble myself before him? I take in a deep breath.

Living Sacrifice

“I beseech you therefore, brethern, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice . . .” – Romans 12:1

I was reading this scripture just last night and something stuck out to me. In the Old Testament a sacrifice was always killed or given up. Most of the time it was an animal that died in order to cleanse someone from sin.

When Paul said present your bodies as a living sacrifice, he was saying something totally new. Unlike in the Old Testament, our sacrifice is not in dying. In fact the Bible clearly says that Christ made us alive when we were once dead in our trespasses.

So what am I getting at? In the Old Testament a living animal became a dead sacrifice. In the New Testament we, once dead, become a living sacrifice to God. We don’t dedicate our lives by simply dying – that was the old covenant and the new is so much better! We dedicate our lives by living for God! Another example of how the new covenant brings life where the old brought death.

Just like death causes complete surrender so our lives are to be in complete surrender. Just like a dead sacrifice no longer gets back up to serve itself so we must remain faithful to our cause – the Lord Jesus.

This is a voluntary sacrifice but it is a “rational” one. It is our “reasonable” duty. And most importantly it is our joy!

Not My Job!

                “And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever.” – 1 Samuel 13:14

As Christians we sometimes get confused with what exactly we are supposed to be doing. Sure, we know that we are to obey God and that we are to “seek first the kingdom” but what about everything else in our lives?

The world says build a career, become famous, enjoy riches and the church says build your ministry, enlarge your crowds, broadcast yourself on TV. But is that really what God wants taking up our time? Should that be our focus?  Is that really seeking the kingdom of God first? I don’t think so.

So are those things evil? No. It is the pursuit of these things that detours us from what God wants. Our goal should not be to seek out a great job, career, or ministry. Our goal should be to seek God’s kingdom.

Yeah, yeah, I already know all this, you might say. I thought I knew it too. I always tried to put God first. I learned how to pray about things before doing them. I learned how to set time apart to be with God. But, something inside me still felt like I had to make myself successful.

I wanted to have an awesome career and I wanted to be famous in what I did. I wanted to be successful and rich. I wanted to be the best, the top, the important person. These desires were all underlying and I didn’t realize they were totally there. I loved God with all my heart and I wanted to glorify him but I felt an instinct or obligation to make myself successful. It sounds terrible when I put it down on paper but I believe many Christians have those motives hidden and muffled

One day God spoke to me and said, “Ethan, your job is to obey. My job is to take care of your future and your destiny.”

Those words drastically changed my perception on life. I suddenly realized that God would build my career – whatever it was. I suddenly understood that all I needed to worry about was getting up each day, listening to His voice, and obeying. What peace comes with this revelation! It isn’t my job to survive or provide for myself – it’s God’s. He will take care of everything if we just obey.

So many Christians worry about getting food on the table or perhaps getting a job promotion. Why do we worry when it isn’t our job to do so? God will feed you and God will promote you. God will bring about the change and God will bring about the success.

Looking through scripture there are so many examples. One is Saul who sacrificed unlawfully because the enemy was all around him. It wasn’t Saul’s job to sacrifice just like it isn’t your job to build a career. Saul might have thought he was doing a good thing by sacrificing just like you might think you are doing a good thing by building your ministry. But the problem was Saul disobeyed. He didn’t think Samuel would come in time. He became fearful. This too is the root of our problem; we aren’t comfortable letting God be in control, we don’t think He is actually good enough to care, we don’t think He will come in time, and we become fearful.

Let go of your fear and let God take control of your destiny and your future. It isn’t your job to make it big. It isn’t your job to plan out your life. Let it go! Obey His voice. He holds your future in His hands and He won’t let you drop. He cares. Oh how He cares so much for you! Rest and obey.