Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

One of the great tragedies of the modern church is the belief that many hold that Christ followers have it all together. There is almost a stigma attached to those who are stuck within the grief cycle. There are well-meaning believers who look at others who are struggling and place judgement on them because they perceive that Christ’s joy is not in their brother or sister’s life. This drives many who are struggling into a life of make believe. They create a persona of joy and happiness that not only fails to mirror their soul but is an outright lie of where they truly are. They then often question their own spirituality secretly believing that what they feel or don’t feel is directly attached to their lack of spirituality.

We must divorce ourselves of these two mindsets.
The mindset that says, others must be wearing a happy face if they truly are a Christian is one that is removed far from reality. It paints an unhealthy and unbiblical expectation that is unfairly placed upon those who are experiencing grief. It forces many to unnecessarily live underneath the watchful eye of judgement. Quite frankly this bizarre view that seeks to force others to live as though they are untouched by the painful realities of life is a big reason many won’t get near organized religion and often label Christians as hypocrites. Let’s face it, who can blame them. If Jesus came for the sick, why are the sick and grief stricken often treated by Christ-followers as though they are spawn’s of Satan? Sounds pretty hypocritical to me.

The mindset that is created due to being victimized by other’s views is a dangerous one. It declares that I do not measure up because I am stuck in the cycle of grief. It says, I am not spiritual because I do not appear to be joyful. The problem is that while one chooses to live underneath the microscope of other’s judgements they rarely heal properly. Rather, they live to present the appearance of healing to those who judge them. They walk around as wounded souls all the while wearing a mask that declares I am ok knowing full well that they are living a lie.

So what do we do to overcome these two mindsets?

I would propose that those who find themselves within Christian circles must begin by validating grief. Grief is not abnormal. It is not something to be feared. It most certainly does not warrant condescension. Grief is not sinful. It is natural.

Part of the reason grief makes us so uncomfortable and it is often not dealt with properly is because all grief is unique to it’s own circumstance. Therefore, one rarely knows how to handle the grief another. It is not just birthed from a unique circumstance but grief is also manifested uniquely by all individuals. Therefore we cannot treat all individuals the same and cannot expect them to all handle grief in the same manner. The most comprehensive workbook on grief is guaranteed to fall short because of the unique way all individuals respond to grief.

If the uniqueness of grief is indeed a true statement then one must not begin by pointing to a solution but rather begin by accepting the reality of the grief. Grief must be validated.

One Scripture that validates grief and the many manifestations of grief is found in the 102nd Psalm. The first eleven verses say this:

1Hear my prayer, O Lord!

And let my cry for help come to You.

2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my distress;

Incline Your ear to me;

In the day when I call answer me quickly.

3 For my days have been consumed in smoke,

And my bones have been scorched like a hearth.

4 My heart has been smitten like grass and has withered away,

Indeed, I forget to eat my bread.

5 Because of the loudness of my groaning

My bones cling to my flesh.

6 I resemble a pelican of the wilderness;

I have become like an owl of the waste places.

7 I lie awake,

I have become like a lonely bird on a housetop.

8 My enemies have reproached me all day long;

Those who deride me have used my name as a curse.

9 For I have eaten ashes like bread

And mingled my drink with weeping

10 Because of Your indignation and Your wrath,

For You have lifted me up and cast me away.

11 My days are like a lengthened shadow,

And I wither away like grass.

One has to believe that if the inspired word of God acknowledges the reality of grief without condemning it that we too can do the same. Consider the eleven verses that a mentioned here. (1) The author desires to be heard. (2) He feels like he can’t see God. It is as though God’s face is hidden. (3) Feels like he is living in a dirty cloud that hurts his sight and feels consuming. Smoke overwhelms all the senses. (4) Feels like his soul is dying a slow death and times does not even remember to eat. (5) Groaning flesh clinging.  He is no longer living but rather is dwelling in survival mode. (6) He looks like a starving bird. In other words, his grief is worn. Others can see the affects of grief in his appearance. (7) Is within a cycle of sleeplessness where he is often consumed with a deep sense of loneliness. (8) He feels like the whole world is against him. (9) Food no longer brings him joy or comfort. (10) Feels like God has forgotten him and is angry at him. (11) Feels as though his days are clouded from anything that is good and feels as though he is dying slowly inside.

This is a depressing chunk of Scripture but points out a valuable truth. Before the author of this Psalm can ever deal with the truth of who God is he must first deal with where he is. He devotes a large portion of his writing to the painful grief filled existence that he is living within. He does not put on the Sunday morning smile and tell everyone he is blessed simply say “I’m well” when asked how he is doing.

I would submit that if one is ever to truly deal with the reality of grief that they must first start by embracing it’s reality. Grief must be validated. It is real therefore it must not be ignored. Playing pretend will never foster an environment where healing can be promoted or can happen. Healing does not happen by accident.

It is ok to admit that healing is required. We read of many who cried out to Jesus declaring their need of a healer. What we never read is of Jesus silencing them. He encouraged those who cried out and discouraged their discouragers.

Cry out to Jesus. Crying out to Jesus was not relegated to those who were blind, mute and in need of physical healing. It was made available to all. The model prayer of the blind man, Bartimaeus, who said, “Jesus have mercy on me” (Luke 18.38) is a prayer that does not need to end in the Gospels but is a prayer that should still be prayed by the dispirited, the grieving and the hurting hearts. Make that your prayer today. Shed the facade that declares I am ok. If you hurt, cry out to Jesus.


The Messy Gospel

Posted: September 23, 2014 in Uncategorized
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I have become more and more convinced that the healthier a church becomes the messier it will appear. I get very concerned with the “perfect” churches that exist. If our goal is to look nice then we are missing the point of church.

The church that runs out of problems is no longer functioning as it should. When was the last time you saw a hospital that was not full of sick people? When was the last time you saw an emergency room that did not have a line?

I am not referring to Christians creating issues within their church. Rather I am talking about a constant influx of people who are hurting. Effectiveness in regards to sharing the Gospel will attract the sick, hurting and dying. Wherever Jesus went, He had people following Him. Why? For some they wanted to see Him do something neat. For others, they wished to be wowed by His oratory skills. Yet, there was always another group. It was those who were sick. It was those who were dying. It was those who had loved ones hovering at death’s door. Why were they there? Jesus had the ability to heal. He loved them. He saw them. He really saw them. He looked at them and was overwhelmed with compassion. He could not help Himself but to help them and offer hope. In fact His heart broke for these people.

The day, everybody is wearing only really nice dress clothes and there are no longer cigarette butts in our parking lots and no ripped jeans in our pews, we are in trouble. If the hurting never show up to our church we must ask why that is the case. Have we deterred the hurting people from coming into our churches.

It would unimaginable if a bunch of hospital employees got together for the sole purpose of heckling the sick and the dying when they showed up to a hospital. Imagine if you will that as people walked into the hospital these hecklers said things like, “you don’t fit in here”, “stop acting that way”, “you are too sick”, or “we don’t have time for you”. That would be irresponsible at best. Why? Well the hospital is where these people belong. The hospital exists to serve them.

Scripture tells us that Christ came to heal the sick. He tells us that it is the sick who need the help and not the healthy. We actually find His followers hindering children from coming to Him. Christ rebukes them sharply and then blesses the children. Another time we find a blind man crying out to Jesus only to be silenced by people who wanted an encounter with Jesus. In this case, Jesus called the blind man to Himself and healed him. There are countless stories like this in Scripture where the religious leaders of the day or Christ followers hindered people from coming to Jesus. It happened then and it happens now. Have we become like those hospital employees that heckle the sick and the dying? Have we treated people as if we and Jesus are too busy for them? Are their sins too repulsive? Jesus is never too busy and nothing is ever to repulsive that it will overwhelm grace.

In John 13.34-35 Jesus says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.  By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

After reading this passage of Scripture I asked myself, if I am to love others as Christ loved, what does that look like?  My mind immediately went to the cross and thought of the great sacrifice Christ made for each of us.  Yet then I thought; when His disciples were given this command, Christ had not died on the cross yet.  They would not have made that connection.  This caused me read all of John prior to the this verse and here is what I came up with.

If we are to love Christ as He loved then we must know what Christ did and how He ministered.  Here is what we can learn from the first thirteen chapters of John on how on what Christ did to show His love.

Chapter 1: Christ calls the unlikely. -If I had to recruit twelve men to start a movement that would transform the world, I would not have picked the same guys Jesus did.

Chapter 2: Christ has brutal honesty. -Jesus purged the temple.  He clearly was not as concerned as being liked by others as I am some days.  Rather, He was concerned about the purity of His Father’s house.

Chapter 3: Christ shares a message of hope. -Jesus explains salvation to a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  Pharisees and Jesus were not exactly best of friends.  Yet Jesus offers hope to all!

Chapter 4: Christ steps beyond the barriers. -Jesus offers salvation to a lady who is a Samaritan.  A woman that was immoral and had nothing to offer.  She had a past that would make most of us cringe.  Jesus did not care she was a woman in a man’s word. Jesus did not care she was relationally challenged.  He did not care that she was a Samaritan and therefore was hated by the Jews for political reasons, religious reasons and cultural issues.

Chapter 5: Christ broke the rules to serve the needy. -Jesus healed on the Sabbath even though it was unacceptable in the world He lived in.  Serving others in the name of God was more important that pleasing man.

Chapter 6: Christ Fed the hungry. -Jesus saw the need of the people and met the need.  Not because He had to, but rather because He wanted to.

Chapter 7: Christ taught the truth even when it was unpopular. -Jesus taught truth.  At times truth will divide rather than unify.  Yet, personal accolades were not the reason Jesus taught.  Truth was always presented.

Chapter 8: Christ offers a fresh start. -Jesus extends grace rather than condemnation to a woman who is caught in sin.

Chapter 9: Christ gives sight to the blind. -Jesus healed a man who was blind.  The man never even asked for healing.  Yet, Jesus saw a need and met it.

Chapter 10: Christ promises to provide and protect those who follow Him. -Jesus promises to provide and protect in a world that is hostile.

Chapter 11: Christ weeps for the loss of a friend. -Jesus experienced moments of heartache.  He is not one that cannot be identified with.  He gets our pain and has experienced it as well.

Chapter 12: Christ defends an easy target. -Jesus sticks up for a lady that anoints His.  He challenges those that would attack to check their priorities and motives.

Chapter 13: Christ humbly serves others. -Jesus serves His disciples by washing their feet.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of how Christ loved others.  Yet, it is a starting point for each of us.  Let’s commit to love like Christ loves.  People need to see the love of Christ.  Let’s show them what it looks like!

In Mark 5 we read a narrative that is perhaps one of the best stories in Scripture to tell right near Halloween.  It is about a man that is certifiably nuts.  This guy lives in a graveyard among the tombs and is completely out of control.

We are told that this man ran around screaming day and night.  In fact he was such a disturbance that the people from the village nearby sought to chain him up.  They were even successful at times.  They placed chains on him and with incredible strength this man just destroyed the chains.  He snapped them off and ran away.  Nobody could control him.  He was in a fact a lost cause.  I believe, after a while the people gave up on the man.  They realized that he could not be controlled.  He was violent, strong and scary.  They just left him alone.  He was destined to die alone in his home by the tombs.

Then Jesus showed up.  He saw this man not as a lost cause.  He saw this man who had real issues.  He saw this man as someone that had real concerns.  He saw this as a man that did not need to be chained up but needed to be released from his own personal bondage.  He saw a man that needed someone to look at him and recognize him as a person who had real value rather than someone that was just a bother.  He was not screaming just to annoy but was screaming out of a very real agony from internal torment that could not be seen.  Jesus saw the real story.  The story that others had failed to see.

We find a very odd thing occur when Jesus entered into conversation with this man.  The man was demon possessed and the demons had a conversation with Jesus.  They made a request of Jesus and Jesus agreed to their request.  These demons asked that Jesus upon casting them out of the crazy man, would allow them to go into a local herd of pigs.

Well, Jesus said, be my guest.  At that moment the demons that indwelt the man left.  They entered into the pigs.  Immediately a stampede occurred.  The pigs ran off the edge of a cliff and fell to their death.  We are told that the total number of pigs that fell of the cliff and died numbered 2,000.  This is often the part of the story that confuses me.  I understand Jesus freeing a man from demon possession but why follow requests from demons?  How does this glorify God?

Something happened after the pigs all died.  The man who was supposed to be watching the herd of pigs panics.  He ran as fast as he could to the nearby village and tells them what has occurred.  The villagers cannot believe their ears.  We are told the entire village showed up to the scene of this mass pig tragedy (no they didn’t bring a hambulance).  They showed up to see the pig carnage.  They showed up to see a calm man that was known for screaming and intense strength.  Even more importantly, they showed up to see Jesus; the man responsible.  So why did Jesus agree to the request of demons?  Well, I think that the demons may have viewed it as an opportunity to ruin the livelihood of some (the pig farmers).  Yet Jesus saw it as an opportunity for free press.  If the pigs had never died.  The entire village never would have showed up to to witness the power of Jesus.  Unbeknownst to him, the caretaker of the herd became a missionary.

While, I would love to say that the villagers encounter with Jesus led to a hillside revival, I cannot.  The people actually begged Jesus to leave.  Yet this was not until after some witnesses told them how Jesus had rescued the demon possessed man.

Well, once again, Jesus agreed.  He did not stay to preach.  He decided to leave.  Before he left the man he had freed begged Jesus to let him go with him.  Jesus told him no.  He wanted him to go back to the village and tell people how his life had been changed.

I imagine this must have been a frustrating moment for the man.  Jesus had freed him from internal chains and the people he had been told to go home to had put real chains on him.  They had viewed him as a man who had no value and had given up on him.  Yet Jesus said, that is your mission field.  Why?  Because a changed life demands attention!  This man had the opportunity to use his changed life as a platform to proclaim the grace of Christ!

Let us not forget, that man represents us.  We had nothing to offer but Christ freely extended His grace and changed our lives.  Now we have a story.  The power of a changed life is undeniable.  Yet as a believer my message is not to be, look how I changed but rather look what Christ did for me!

Another Monday is here.  For me, Monday’s are a day when new to-do lists are written out and a successful Monday will set the tempo for my entire week.  It will frame what I accomplish and often will frame how I accomplish it.  Part of my Monday practice includes a time of deep contemplation.  It could be on a variety of things but usually settles on a ministry methodology, a scriptural passage or future planning.

Today I find myself contemplating the significance of a verse that the Apostle Paul penned.  He wrote in Philippians 1.21 “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  I am not sure why it has become stuck in my head but it is there stuck nonetheless.  Besides the obvious question: is this verse a reality in my life? I find myself contemplating what this verse actually looks like in our society and what it’s implications are.

I believe when evaluating  modern society  the verse could sound something more like this: For to me, to live is all about me, and to die is failure.  As a whole, humanity has defined living to be all about us.  We seek to cram as much as we can into our lives and enjoy our life to it’s fullest as if that is all there is.  Yet as society has nosedived away from accepting God-given principles as the normative way of living there too has been a cascade affect within the walls of the church.

I read articles nearly everyday written by men who I believe truly desire to make an impact but they are inherently flawed in their approach.  They ask the wrong question.  The question should not be be how can I please the masses rather it must be how I can please the Master.  At some point I wonder if those of us in leadership have forgotten that seeking blessing from God does not always mean pleasing and appeasing.

After all when you consider the life of Christ, it was one that was marked by hardship yet coupled with effectiveness.  He faced rejection everyday yet approached His ministry with a posture of prayer.  Yes, the masses followed Him yet the masses also rejected Him.  That did not make Him ineffective rather it showed the dichotomy that exists between a life that is focused on Christ and a life that is focused on self.

I wonder what you think…How do we fix the me-focused society?  How do we fix me-centered husbands?  How do we fix me-centered wives?  How do we fix me centered children?  How do we fix me centered churches?  How do we fix me-centered _________________(fill in the blank)?

Not a theological dissertation rather the musings of someone trying to make a difference…

Lord help me to maintain an eternal focus.  Please remove the temporal focus that so ofter pervades my thinking.  Allow me to model what a life lived for you truly is to look like to all who cross my path.

Consider The Slaves

Slavery is dark stain on the history of our nation.  It is an incredible evil that involved the kidnapping and oppression of millions.  It was a despicable practice that involved forced labor and often came with physical, sexual and extreme emotional abuse.  Human beings were forcibly removed from friends and family so somebody else could make money.  Those who were forced into or born into slavery were viewed as people that were not even human.  They had less value or worse: had no value.  For many property owners, they were just another farm implement that was used to harvest crops.  When they outlived their use, they could easily be disposed of.  It truly was a disgusting practice that our country allowed for years.   

Consider The Jews

Most people know Adolf Hitler as the most evil man to ever live.  He did things that are so grotesque that words will never be able to shed light on how evil he truly was.  From 1941 until 1945 Hilter and his followers are responsible for murdering 6,000,000 people.  The purpose of these murders: Hitler did not like Jews.  He was driven by a hatred that is beyond comprehension.  The fact that one person can call for the persecution of an entire people group because of their own personal whim is astounding.  This time period in the 1940’s does not just mark a lapse in judgment by Germany and their leader but shows the shortfall of humanity as a whole.  After all, how does one man and one nation get away with murdering 6,000,000 people before they are stopped?  Shouldn’t someone have stepped in and stopped the murders sooner?

The stories of abused and mistreated of people are abundant.  Nelson Mandela, ethnic cleansing, the civil rights era and hundreds of other examples prove to us that we live in a world that is dominated by evil.  Yet within stories of oppression and social injustice another story often rises to the surface.  It is the story of hope.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison in a country that proudly practiced the public oppression of blacks.  He also is the man who helped destroy the racial divide and led the country that once had imprisoned him into a place of unity.  What kept him going?  Why would he not give up?  How could ever think that he, a black prisoner in a country that hated blacks, could ever bring forth change much less become the president of that nation?  One word: Hope.

Within the historical accounts of slavery and the homicidal reign of Hitler come stories of beauty.  We find men and women who make the decision to run and escape to freedom.  Yet once they are free they became seized by the vision to help others experience freedom as well.  It is not enough they have freedom, they wished others to experience it as well.  Why?  They have a hope that the world will become a better place.  They had a hope that they could be the agents of change.  They had a hope that they could be the change in the world that they desired so intensely to see.

Hope is a powerful tool.  One that does not allow people to give up even while they are in the most dire of circumstances.  Hope allows people to live with integrity because they know that giving in is not an option.  Hope gives them a mission because not only will life get better but they will help it get better for others.

Here is a definition of hope:  the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.

Hope is the reason we can rejoice on the vilest of days!  Hope is why we can get up in the morning when yesterday was extremely painful!  Hope is why we can find joy in every situation!  Hope is why can answer the question “Is this really as good as it gets?” with a resounding no!  Why, because we can believe that it will get better!

For those who have placed their trust in Christ as their Savior hope is an amazing thing.  Two days ago my grandmother passed away.  Yet I know she loved Jesus.  I know she is heaven.  I know she is free from pain.  I know I will see her again.  Hope is my comfort and my promise. 

Consider the following verses:

1 Thessalonians 4.13-18

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive [d]and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

Titus 3.7

So that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

If you are living a life that is devoid of hope please stop!  Recognize that hope can be had and can be experienced.

If you wish to know more about this hope that I have found in Christ Jesus please message me so we can discuss further the hope that comes in knowing Jesus. 

I would challenge you not to become overcome with the evil of this world when you have opportunity to become overcome with the Hope of Christ Jesus!  Make a choice…Make the right choice.

This morning I did some reading on Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth.  I walked away from this narrative doing a lot of contemplation on an oft overlooked character in the story: Joseph.

What a confusing role this guy played in the whole story.  While I am not going to do an in depth explanation of Joe’s role in Scripture I am going to share what I was challenged with after reading Matthew 2.  It is this: Obedience is not contingent upon understanding.  Joseph had more than one dream where an angel appeared to him and he acted in obedience every time.  Consider the midnight dream telling Joseph to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt in the middle of the night.  Joseph did not consult his bank account, read the papers, check the weather or ask friends what to do.  In fact he did not even wait for morning to come.  He simply grabbed his belongings and family and left.  You can’t tell me he fully understood all the facts but you can tell me he fully obeyed.

I struggle with acting when I do not understand and I know I am not alone in this.  I research things I do not understand.  I have hundreds of books and spend hours researching and reading every week.  Yet sometimes God just wants me to listen and do what He is calling me to do.  I fear that to often I strive for understanding when God just wants me to strive for obedience.

So I shall say it again…Obedience is not contingent upon understanding.

In Luke 17 we find a narrative regarding 10 lepers that Jesus healed.  We find the story begins by telling us that Jesus was traveling on His way to Jerusalem when these lepers from far off cried out to Him and asked Him to heal them.  Jesus responded by telling these men to go and see the priests who would examine them and determine whether or not these men were truly healed. 

In the past when I had read this story I failed to notice a key statement that is found in Luke 17.14.  It says “And as they were going, they were cleansed.”  Meaning: the healing did not occur right away. 

These men possessed the faith to cry out to Jesus.  To implore Him to heal their malady that would ultimately lead to their deaths.  Jesus possessed the power to heal these men.  In fact the reason these men knew to cry to Jesus was probably due to the fact that they had heard stories of His great healings and miracles.  Yet the healing wasn’t instantaneous.  Jesus did not go lay hands on them.  He told them to leave and go see the priests. 

You see the point I have almost always overlooked when reading this chunk of Scripture was not that these men had faith or that Jesus had power but what I missed was a simple fact:  ACTION WAS REQUIRED!

These men did not get healed until they began their journey to see the priests.  Then and only then did they realize healing had occured.

I have to wonder how many times in my life have I asked a question out of great faith, knowing that my God had the power to answer my prayers.  Yet the reason they went unaswered was because I lacked action. 

So the question I would pose to you today is this: what action does God require of you?  I have to wonder as I evaluate my life, how many blessings have missed out on that God wanted to give me;  all because I failed to act.

This past Sunday was Palm Sunday.  My family and I worshipped at the church that my wife grew up in and that we shared our wedding vows in.  We enjoyed a beautiful Palm Sunday service along with a rather convicting message.

I did what I normally do during a service.  I took meticulous notes of the message and kept an extra piece of paper handy for notes that had nothing to do with the sermon.  I am constantly scribbling thoughts to myself regarding the passage of Scripture that I hear read and preached about on any given Sunday.  Sometimes these random thoughts spring into full fledged ideas that will be birthed into a sermon or a lesson for a later date.

In order to properly convey the thought process I headed down, during the message, and that I am headed down now I must first lay down the context of the Scripture that Pastor White read prior to his sermon.   The Scripture read was Luke 19.28-47.  It is often referred to as the triumphal entry.  Jesus enters Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  Palm branches are laid down and praises are sung.  He is at an all time high in His popularity.  The people love Him and they praise Him.  This is followed by Jesus crying over the city and dialoguing with the Pharisees.  The chapter ends with Jesus (once again) driving the money changers and profiteers out of the temple courtyard.

Typically the message one will hear in regards to this chapter has to do with worshipping Jesus.  Yet Pastor White instead preached on verse 45 and 46 and talked about the need for purity both in the temple of Jerusalem but in the purity of the Holy Spirit’s temple.

My brain traveled down another path.  It travelled down the path of leadership.  I am nearly always reading a book on leadership; I am currently pursuing a graduate degree in leadership, and quite often write articles about leadership for my own personal development. 

Here is the thought that hit me.  It is nothing new.  In fact it can be found in almost all literature that deals with the how to’s of effective leadership.  It was this: maximize your influence.  Jesus had the perfect opportunity here to build an even larger following.  The masses were praising Him.  They were proclaiming His greatness to all who would hear.  He held in His hand the perfect opportunity to build a positive view of Himself that could radically influence all who were in the city of Jerusalem at that time. 

In a corporate setting a strategic meeting would have been called.  Perhaps something like this would have been asked.  Now that we have effectively gained a large group of constituents how are we going continue to (1) keep their faithfulness to Jesus and at the same time continue to (2) increase our sphere of influence?  These are two reasonable questions that should be asked by non-profit and for profit organizations alike.  Simply put, all organizations want to keep what they have and at the same time expand their boundaries.  In and of itself, there are is nothing wrong with that concept.  Yet this is not the methodology that Jesus followed.

 Several years ago Bill Hybels wrote a little book entitled “When Leadership and Discipleship Collide”.  This is a prime example of what one of these collisions look like.  There will come a time for all who are in leadership when they must make the hard choice.  I can guarantee that there will come a day when all who lead will be asked in some form the following question: What is more important, purity or popularity?

At the height of His popularity Jesus chose to rebuke sin rather than embrace praise.  He stormed into the temple and drove people out like cattle.  Scripture does not say that Jesus acted calmly and submitted a request.  He did not hold a meeting with His advisors about what to do.  In fact the Greek word used here means that He literally expelled them from the temple court.  It is same word used in Acts 13.50 when Paul and Barnabas were kicked out the city of Antioch by an irate mob. 

Jesus sends a profound message to all who are in leadership in the end of Luke 19.  Purity should always take precedence to popularity and praise!  If sin is in the camp, Jesus is not happy! 

I would like to end with simple thought that we all need hear on a regular basis.  Pursue truth: not pats on the back!

Every year when the months of February, March and April come around the discussion of Lent comes up.  Without fail I will enter into a conversation with somebody about the topic of what they gave up for lent.  Sometimes I will hear junk food, steak or even tv.  Yet chocolate seems to be one of the number one things that I hear in this giving up discussion.

I have often asked people why they have given things up only to be told, “It is Lent.”  Sorry that is not a good enough answer.  If I am going to give something up I need my reason to be more than “just because” or it’s a tradition.  Perhaps in my simple mind I just don’t get it.  Maybe giving up chocolate or American Idol truly does make one more like Christ.  Then again maybe not.   I for one am pretty sure that Christ never watched American Idol and He probably did not consume much chocolate.

So why do so many give something up?

Well I suppose to answer this question, we must first define what Lent is.  The most simple definition that I can give is that it is the forty days preceding Easter.  It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Easter Sunday or Resurrection Sunday (depending on your convictions).  It is known by some as the season of repentance or the season of discipline and due to the nature of these 40 days it is often seen as a somber time period.

According to one source I read, there are at least 3 things that are to be accomplished by abstaining from something during the Lenten period.  1.  It is used as a discipline for learning self-control, to free our minds from chasing after material things and to tell ourselves ‘no’ and make it stick.  2.  To identify with Christ’s sufferings, and to remember what the true pleasures are for followers of Christ.  3.  Finally it serves as an act of sorrow over our wrongdoings and our state of sin.

We now have a simple definition of Lent and a basic understanding of the need for a fast during the Lenten season.  Now let’s examine what Scripture says about the early church and how they spend the 40 days preceding the resurrection.

Well that was easy.  Scripture does not utter one word about what the early church did in the days leading up to the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.  It is not there.  The period of time that we know as Lent is not found in the Bible.

Giving  something up is a Scriptural concept.  In fact we are told as Christians that we should lay our lives down daily.  Daily sacrifice is required by believer’s if they are to live lives that conform to God’s expectations.  Their conduct should change.  Their desires should change.  Their thought process should change.  Their relationships should change.  I could go on, but I am sure you get the point.  The point is we must daily pursue Christ and give Him our all and not just give Him our chocolate during lent.

I mean come on.  Do you really think that giving up chocolate identifies with Christ’s sufferings?  HE WAS TORTURED TO DEATH!!!  What it does prove is that most religions fail to understand the magnitude of what Christ did.

So in closing I would say, give Christ your life not your chocolate.  He is more than willing to fill  your spiritual walk and let you fill your sweet tooth.