Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Venomous Snakes

Have you ever wondered why Jesus’ death only covered those who believe he is the Son of God? If he was God’s sacrifice for mankind, why do we have to “confess and believe?”

John 3:16 is a very popular scripture - God loved the world, gave his only son, whoever believes will live forever. I’ve often reflected on the verses that follow – God sent Jesus to save, not condemn, the world. If you don’t believe you are already condemned. Light [Jesus] came into the world but people loved darkness instead of light because they could hide their evil deeds in the darkness. But those who live by truth allow the light to reveal God’s greatness.

Great stuff but I’m not sure it makes sense to someone who is not already a Christ follower.

This week I’ve taken a closer look at the verses leading up to John 3:16. The chapter begins with Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, coming to Jesus at night seeking understanding. Jesus introduces the concept of being “born again” to Nicodemus and continues with an explanation of flesh versus Spirit – visible versus invisible life.

Nicodemus isn’t getting it. Jesus’ words in verses 10 – 15 sound like my tone when I’m tired explaining something for the umpteenth time to my kids.

Jesus likens his crucifixion with the experience of Moses and the Israelites found in Numbers 21. This comparison gave me a new perspective of the cross.

God provided all the Israelites needed – protection, food, success in war. But when things got boring the Israelites got impatient and started complaining. God gave them something to really complain about - venomous snakes. The snakes “bit the people and many Israelites died.”

Yep, that straightened out their attitude but God didn’t send the snakes just as a punishment. He sent them as discipline. It was a tool for teaching the Israelites that the life he provides is more than what we can experience with our five senses. When the Israelites adjusted their attitude he gave them the opportunity to experience the power of the invisible God in a very personal way.

God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it on a pole. “Anyone who is bitten by a snake can look at it and live.” There was no power in the snake. The power was from the invisible God. That power changed their life.

Whether you realize it or not, you’ve been bitten by a venomous snake. The venom kills by creating a sense of self-dependency or pride. For others it clouds our view of hope.

God is the source of everything our senses can comprehend and more. Jesus was lifted up to give us something to see as we experience the power of the invisible God.

Looking at the cross may not change your circumstances but believing in the power of God will change your life forever in a way that is visible to all.

Will you confess your need for God and believe in his power to give you new life beyond the physical? The new life begins now - it’s not a reward presented at the physical death.

Pray with me: God of wonders beyond our imagination, I am your created. All that I am and all that I have is from you. I have taken your gifts and your love as a spoiled child. I have claimed control over a life you created and intended to nurture. I have been wise in my own eyes yet foolish in failing to recognize your ways are so far beyond my comprehension. Forgive me for thinking I was powerful enough to make right decisions without you. Thank you for making a way for me to see your power and to live a new life in that power. May I live each moment according to your truth allowing the light of the Holy Spirit to reveal your greatness.

If you prayed that prayer with me, tell someone – a Christian friend or pastor. Jesus’ body was broken so that we may receive a portion of his Spirit. We are the Body of Christ only when joined with other believers.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Church Attendance

"Those who attend a conventional church are generally content to show up and accept whatever their church has on the agenda; they place the responsibility for their spiritual growth on the shoulders of the church. We found that most conventional church goers have no desire to help improve their congregation’s ministry, nor do they feel a need to increase their personal spiritual responsibility.” January 8, 2006 The Barna Update House Churches Are More Satisfying to Attenders Than Are Conventional Churches

In another article, The Barna Group says, “American Christians are not as devoted to their faith as they like to believe. They have positive feelings about the importance of faith, but their faith is rarely the focal point of their life or a critical factor in their decision-making.”

Hmm, it’s easy for me to respond with “Boy, that sure is true in the churches I’ve been in.” But then I feel this little sting in my chest. If I see that, what am I doing to change it?

Do we, as a culture of professing Christians, fear God? I don’t think so. When is the last time you stepped into a church or gathering to worship God and experienced a physical alertness to the power of God. I am always amazed with the discussion of “fear God” among Christians. It always seems to come to a comfortable statement of “revere God.” We’ve made God a powerful and gentle human.

The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami gives a picture of the church. One website shows people who have been enjoying a day at the beach running for their lives. That is the fear of power.

How often do we go to worship God as we would go to the beach? We go to enjoy or receive something for ourselves – sometimes that “something” is a sense of satisfaction in doing even if we complain about it. I’m guilty of this. Maybe that’s why God has given me a full year to just be in his presence with little involvement in either of the two churches we’ve been attending.

Are you ready to see the power of God? That to me is what it means to fear God. We should always be aware of his overwhelming greatness and power. Yes, he loves us as his children. But he is not human. “God” is not his name. “God” is what he is. Just as I am a woman – a human being created by the infinite almighty being we call God.

Oh that our church gatherings would be filled with fear. Just imagine the worship.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

What Do Others See?

On the final and climactic day of the Feast, Jesus took his stand. He cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Rivers of living water will brim and spill out of the depths of anyone who believes in me this way, just as the Scripture says." (He said this in regard to the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were about to receive. The Spirit had not yet been given because Jesus had not yet been glorified.)

John 7:37-39 The Message

Two major points jump out for me in this passage.

  • When he satisfies our thirst, his refreshing water will overflow to those around us.

Are you thirsty? Worried? Exhausted? Need refreshing water? How are you attempting to satisfy your thirst?

Are others refreshed simply by being in your presence?

  • The living water is pure Holy Spirit.

Is your life artificially flavored by scripture? Or do you have 100% pure Holy Spirit flowing from within you?

Before Christ ascended into heaven, his disciples could only imitate his holiness as much as humanly possible - hence the laws of the Old Testament. After his ascension, he sent his Spirit to flow from within us.

Do others see you and me imitating holiness or does it flow naturally from within us?

the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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