Stranger or Lord?

The setting – Three days had passed. Jesus had just been crucified. Two men were on the road to a village called Emmaus. The story unfolds in Luke 24:13-35

On the road to Emmaus, the men were grieved. They were reasoning and conversing when Jesus drew near to them. Jesus draws near in suffering and sadness and searching, but in this grief they couldn’t recognize him. Jesus was a stranger to them. We often are clouded by our own feelings. As a result, we cannot see the reality and truth.

The stranger asked “What are you discussing?” They explained, are you the only one who doesn’t know these things that have happened; the tragedy, the grief? He answers “What things?” Jesus presents the questions so they can talk it out and search it out and be responsible for what they believe. Where is our perspective? Are we focused on the feeling and clouded by a feeling? It might be the very thing keeping us from seeing Jesus.

They explained all the events that had transpired over the past 3 days. They explained that Jesus was a prophet and that they had hoped that he would be the One but he was betrayed captured and crucified, and now they are saying there is an empty tomb but Where is Jesus? Suffering and sacrifice was not in their plan of how it was all suppoesed to happen.
The stanger said, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Don’t you see the Messaiah had to suffer and only then enter into his glory?” The stranger began to show them everything in scripture.
Jesus was standing in flesh and blood and yet they didn’t even know and recognize him as he was walking and talking with them. This is a clear indication that you can know a lot about Jesus and think you know him but if you don’t acknowledge the cross and our need and own brokenness we won’t be able to see Jesus.
Our foolishness comes out when we trust our own ways and not His. “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

The men pressed the stranger to stay and have dinner with them. They felt a pressing need for him. And so the stranger stayed. He sat at the table. “Taking the bread, he blessed and broke and gave it to them.” The two men immediately recognized him! Its Jesus! They were able to then place correctly the feelings that they had.
That great need they felt drew Jesus in and when he broke bread as a symbol of his body being broken for us they saw Jesus!
We recognize Jesus at the cross. There is no other way to see him. His body was broken for us because of our sinfulness. We must be crucified with him. Our old self must be put to death so that Jesus can live in us and through us.

Where are you on the raod? What mile are you on?

Are you in deep grief? Are you asking questions?  Are you confused? Do you see the empty tomb but you don’t see Jesus? Do you feel the need for Jesus? Have you broken bread with Jesus? Have you been to the foot of the cross? Have you been crucified with Christ? Is you heart burning as you search and seek?

Bad? Me? Naah. 

Compared to him, I’m a saint. Compared to her, I really have it together. What about all the good I’ve done, doesn’t that count for something?

The Bible says, “there is no one good, no not one”

Do we really believe this? I have a hard time believing it sometimes. Proverbs 21:2 says, “man’s ways are right in his own eyes, but God looks at the heart.” I want to only look at the good or find the good within myself. It’s a weights and balances right? I’m not all that bad. The good outweighs the bad right? The truth is God doesn’t operate this way. He doesn’t keep points on our goodness. He also doesn’t keep points on the badness. We have all missed the mark. None of us could do enough good to meet God’s standard. We are all sinful in need of redemption. Jesus is our redeemer. All he asks is for us to accept the gift of salvation offered through his grace.

What would ever posses us to not accept this amazing free gift?! Idols. Idol of pride. Idol of power. Idol of control. Idol of success. Idol of money. Idol of approval. We have to lose the idols and admit our nothingness and our need before the free gift seems of any value to us. Some people claim they have received the free gift but I think maybe they are carrying around a gift card that needs to be cashed in. They are carrying around the gift card as an option but they are still holding on to the precious idols. They like having the “Jesus gift card” with them, but they aren’t fully convinced of its real value.

Oh dear Lord help those that are struggling with being a “card holding Christian.” Help them cash that card in. Go all in, holding nothing back. Give up the idols. They will do nothing but devour you inch by inch and rob you blind of all the eternal riches, fullness, and joy that only comes through Jesus.   Don’t let your idols be your demise.

Lord help me to seek you and you alone casting all else aside that would hinder the work of your Spirit.

CS Lewis said,

When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him. When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.

My Soul Cries Out, “At Last I’m Whole!”

My soul cries out
lack of self,
redeem myself.
It cries again,
heal this pain
just love to gain.
And still again
full of wonder
as strong as thunder.
And once again
take my heart
a brand new start.
Release my soul
that I may fly.
Let not thy wonder
pass me by.
Much to gain
and naught to lose.
My self desires
I bid goodbye.
My soul sings out
a brand new story;
full of love, full of joy.
It sings again
with not a word
yet still is heard.
And still again
I can feel.
I know He’s real.
At last I’m whole
just ask my soul.

Original poem by Johanna Russell

Where is the church going wrong?

I am having my struggles with “the church.”(The Universal church) I am searching scripture for truth and searching my heart for error. Take my words as a genuine outcry of concern that is burning within me.
These are my struggles. We are living in a post modern era where the views favor tolerance and political correctness above all else. Is this biblical and is this something Jesus would want us to do?
I see a sleeping church(“the church”) that is desensitized by sin and more absorbed by self and self-fulfillment.
Truth in love trumps tolerance and political correctness. How will any one really understand love and grace unless they are convicted and see how desperately wicked they are. I fear since we are so desensitized, it’s not clear enough to just gloss over and say “repent of your sins and be forgiven.” This phrase is doing nothing to convict hearts. Do we want false converts or do we want to see genuine transformed lives? Do we want to fill pews or do we want to do the will of God? I think more than ever people are making licenses and compromise to take pleasure in sin since “God is love and His grace abounds.” People want their cake and eat it too.
Are we afraid to tell the truth? Are we watering down the gospel to massage the intellect or to warm the heart? The gospel is good news no doubt, but I’m a firm believer that this good news is not much more than fluff and a “feel good” anecdote without the convicting realization of the bad news that precedes it.

Every day I am confronted with my own sinful nature whether it be with my struggles of pride or envy or just the moment that I let my tongue loose and say something that is not Christ-like. I know the motives of my own heart and that in itself makes me cry out for mercy even though I haven’t acted on it.

I sense a pride in “the church” that wants to be the one that is more right with God. This is across denominations. “Our church is packed and blessed so we must be doing it right.” “Our church may not have as many people so this is proof that we are doing something right, in the world not of the world right?” “Our church is more doctrinally sound, this pleases God more.” “Our church is not as stiff so it must be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
I could go on and on. What is all this doing but being a dividing force.
I believe the enemy works really hard to keep “the church” bickering and arguing over who is more right with God and who has really screwed up. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make judgments on the church when by scripture we are compelled to. If I meant that, then what I’m writing would be a contradiction. I am, however, convinced that pride is a very real thing in our hearts and it’s presence is not exempt behind church walls.
I see division more and more politically, culturally, and I see it among “the church”.
I believe we need to test our motivations of judgment within the church. Does my judgment do anything to further the advancement of the kingdom? Is my judgment within the will of God? Or does my judgment stroke my ego or elevate me? When I say “me” I also mean the church. Does this elevate God or does it elevate a denomination?

I close with this. Truth is not in any one denomination, truth is in Jesus. If we are motivated to lift up Jesus then He will be lifted up. If we are motivated by pride and ego to elevate “the church” God help us.

I’m so deeply concerned by this, Lord help me to lift you up.

Any comments or thoughts on this subject are most welcome.

“Thy Word Have I Hid In My Heart

Why do we put precious valuables in safes? Why do we put alarms on our houses? Why do we lock our cars? We do all these things to keep from harm or danger; for protection.

When I make efforts to read scripture and study it, memorize it, I’m hiding His word in my heart. I’m locking it in a safe with a standing guard. We make great efforts to guard our material things, how much more do we guard our hearts?

Who/what are we guarding against? We have 3 enemies of the soul: the world, the flesh, and the devil.

The world –We are instructed not to love the things of this world 1John 2:15. Worldly wisdom is contradictory to heavenly wisdom. When we become Christians we are to leave these worldly idols behind and follow Christ.

The flesh– The bible says, “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9. Our flesh desires what is contrary to the spirit and the spirit what is contrary to the flesh. Galatians 5:17. It’s in opposition.

The devil– Scripture says, “Stay alert! Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8

We know the enemies and we are given a way to protect against this danger. After we have repented and first trusted in Jesus we must continue to guard our hearts lest we fall.
We took the first step when we trusted Jesus and he gave us living water. Now we must continue to hide his word in our hearts by reading what he has revealed in his word and through prayer.

Today and everyday “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23 Lock his word in your heart and make Jesus the standing guard of your life. If God is for us who can be against us!

The Crave. The Experience. The Joy.

I have often thought, why do some people who by outward appearance follow Jesus, not have a strong desire for him–by outward appearance I mean, church goers, religious exercisers of the sorts. I grew up in church. I was a religious exerciser. I had plenty of head knowledge of the things of God, and I am very thankful for that because I believe that was the seed being planted, but this alone is not enough. Like in the parable of the sower, the seed can be planted but if it does not take root it will fall away, it will be choked by the thorns of this world. A seed craves water and sunlight to thrive and grow and not be choked by the weeds. You could give the plant gatorade but it will not grow. You could give a seed many things but there is only one way it will grow.

The crave is in every man. This yearning inside that just won’t stop is in everyone. We crave the only source that will satisfy, and that is Jesus. One way and one truth is not a far fetched thing. Our whole universe is operated around a system of a one way organization; just like plants will not grow properly but through one way. It seems more far fetched that we could all be satisfied by different ways and systems.  We all crave one way through Jesus, but some choose another way, and then another way, and another. The crave is never satisfied and we end up a restless soul. St. Augustine said, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until it rests in you.”

The experience is Jesus. We could know a lot about him, even respect him, even call ourselves followers of his teaching, but have we experienced him? Knowing about him and respecting him, and even following his teachings in and of themselves won’t satisfy. We have to experience him. We do what he says because we love him not because we think thats the moral thing to do. Our desire for him will grow as we experience the person of Jesus. The devil in hell knows more things about God than most people but this does not mean he desires him or loves him. How do we get to experience Jesus? We first experience him when we see ourselves for who we really are, wretched soul, empty, dying, deprived of the One who fulfills. We continue experiencing him when our chief goal is to give all glory to God, and when we continue to ask as the apostle Paul said, “What do I have that I did not receive?” God reveals himself when we let him have his way, and we put to death our own way. There is only one way.

The gift is Joy. We have to fight our carnal desires every day, and with the grace of God enabling us  to fight the good fight, we will know what it means to have fullness of Joy. Jesus warned, “the thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I have come that they may have life and and have it to the full.”John 10:10 What does the enemy want to do? He wants to kill the craving for Jesus, steal the experience, of Jesus and destroy the joy of Jesus. Don’t let him have his way! Fight! Fight! Fight! Put on the armor of God and seek only Him. “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. AMEN!” Philippians 4:19,20