Because He said so

When you were a kid and your mother told you to do something you didn’t really want to do and you argued about it, what was her response? I bet it was something like, “Because I said so.” If Momma said to do something, there was no arguing allowed. You weren’t allowed to question motives or reasons why. She said so.

So why do we question Jesus? Should his word not be enough for us?

For some, seeing is believing. But that’s not what faith is about.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

How can we trust what Jesus says is true? How do we know his words will come to pass? Because he is the Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:1 (NIV)

We can take Jesus at his word because God sent him as His Word and He promised that His Word would accomplish the purpose for which it was sent (Isaiah 55:11).

We can take our example from the Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus spoke to her. He performed no miracle. But the truth of his words drew her to him.

And because of his words many more became believers.

John 4:41 (NIV)

The royal official, too, took Jesus at his word. He believed that his son would be well if Jesus would only say the words.

Jesus replied, “You may go. Your son will live.” The man took Jesus at his word and departed.

John 4:50 (NIV)

Words have become so cheap that we have devalued that which the Son of God spoke. We struggle to believe that what he said is really true. Yet, because God said so should be all the proof we need to believe. Even more than the Samaritan woman and the royal official, we have a long record of the lengths God will go to just to keep His Word. We can see, yet many still do not believe. What more should it take for people to see the truth of God’s Word? His Word should be enough simply because He said so.

Read: 2 Kings 6-8, John 4:31-54

Bandwagon

Every season, no matter what sport, the teams that make the playoffs always have an influx of fans. We call this jumping on the bandwagon. They may not watch the sport all season long, but if a certain team ends up in the postseason, suddenly, they’re superfans. The excitement draws all sorts of people out of the woodwork who act as though they’ve been fans all year long. The true test of these “fans” is the next season. Through the off-season, many of those who jumped on the postseason bandwagon will quietly slide right off, never to be seen again until the next time the team makes the playoffs. But there are a few who will continue to follow the team through their down time. When the season starts up again, those jerseys they bought at the end of the previous year get aired out, ready to be worn again through the year.

When Jesus began his ministry, he knew he would draw the bandwagoners right along with the truly faithful. Some followed because of what Jesus could do, but they never stuck around long. Others followed because of who Jesus was. Those people he discipled.

Now while he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs he was doing and believed in his name. But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.

John 2:23-25 (NIV)

Jesus is no dummy. He can tell his true followers from those who are just along for the ride. Just like wearing a team jersey doesn’t necessarily make a person a true fan, showing up at church on Sunday doesn’t necessarily make you a true believer. God looks at what is inside of us, not what we show everyone on the outside. Not only does God look, but we should be inviting Him to do so.

Test me, O Lord, and try me,
examine my heart and my mind.

Psalm 26:2 (NIV)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Psalm 51:10 (NIV)

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.

Psalm 139:23 (NIV)

We cannot hide who or what we are from God. He sees through every façade, every fake smile, every insincere word. But even if we are a bandwagon Christian, only showing up when things get exciting, it doesn’t mean that we can’t become true worshipers. The Psalms are filled with lyrics of insufficiency and defeat, treachery and deceit. Yet, if we turn our hearts fully toward God, He will be faithful to draw us in and to help us (not make us) become true believers, worshipers, followers.

God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24 (NIV)

Read: 1 Kings 19-20, John 2

True life

We’re all looking for something or someone. Everyone wants to find purpose or meaning in life. And most people go through their entire lives searching but never finding because they’ve been looking in all the wrong places.

The Sunday after Jesus died by way of crucifixion, the women who had been following him went to the tomb to anoint his body properly for burial. One would assume that the best place to look for someone who had died would be the tomb where their body had been placed, but when they arrived, there was no body to anoint. Just a couple of angels with a message.

“Why do you look for the living among the dead?”

Luke 24:5b (NIV)

In the entire account of the empty tomb, this one question stood out to me. In all of our searching for meaning and purpose in life, most often, we look for it among the dead. In John 14:6, Jesus declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” If there is life to be found, there is only one place to find it, and it’s not in the world.

The world, as hard as it may try, cannot replace or replicate the life that is found in Christ. Anything that is found outside of Christ can only mimic true life.

Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they make take hold of the life that is truly life.

1 Timothy 6:18-19 (NIV)

Meaning and purpose cannot be found just anywhere. Paul wrote to Timothy to tell the people to do good, be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. That is where true life begins. It is not a selfish search for ourselves, but a selfless search for Christ.

And if there is any doubt at all:

Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life.”

John 6:35a (NIV)

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.

John 6:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12 (NIV)

You may be breathing. Your heart may be beating. But are you alive? Are you truly alive?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Life is too short to waste looking for it among the dead. Life, true life, can only be found at the foot of the cross of Jesus.

Read: 1 Kings 10-11, Luke 24:1-35

Tainted love

Ask just about anyone on the street and they’ll tell you that you should be able to love whoever you want however you want. It doesn’t hurt anyone. Do what makes you feel good. Love is love.

In the course of time, Amnon, son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom, son of David.

2 Samuel 13:1 (NIV)

So what if Amnon loves Tamar? He should be able to love whoever he wants! Right? Well, if Tamar is the sister of a son of David and Amnon is a son of David, doesn’t that make Tamar, at the very least, his half sister? Not so lovely to love now, is it? But that didn’t matter to Amnon. He had to have Tamar no matter what. He loved her after all. He deserved to have her love him back.

So he came up with a plan to lure Tamar into his bedroom. Because Amnon was her brother, Tamar figured she was safe. Until Amnon made a completely inappropriate pass at her. She tried to fight him off.

But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.

Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”

2 Samuel 13:14-15 (NIV)

Amnon, in his obsession assumed that, by having what he wanted, his needs would be satisfied. Instead, his passions were reversed.

Aren’t we like that sometimes? We can obsess over something, love something, want something so bad that we are willing to do almost anything to get it. We should be able to love whoever or whatever we want, shouldn’t we? If it makes us happy, shouldn’t we do what we can to get it?

Just because we want something doesn’t mean we should have it. It doesn’t mean it’s good for us to have it. It doesn’t mean it’s ours to have. And it rarely means what we think it will mean.

During the hippie era, free love was the fad. In recent years it’s #LoveWins. We are constantly being told that if it feels good, do it. Love what you love. You can’t help who you love. In all of the noise, we as believers must remind ourselves of what love really is. We must recognise that the world, who has rejected Jesus and the God who is love, cannot really know or experience true love unless they acknowledge the single greatest act of love in the history of humankind.

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.

John 3:16 (NIV)

That is what love looks like. It certainly wasn’t the thing Jesus wanted most. It didn’t feel good. It didn’t cater to his wants or desires nor did it fulfill any fantasies.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a (NIV)

Amnon’s tainted idea of what love was fell short of nearly every point Paul made regarding love in his letter to the church at Corinth. His love for Tamar was all about himself. The love Christ calls us to has nothing to do with our own satisfaction, but is all about others.

Read: 2 Samuel 13-14, Luke 20:1-26

True love doesn’t wait

Back when I was a teenager, the True Love Waits movement took youth groups by storm. All over North America, teens were filling churches, halls, and stadiums making a commitment to stay pure (virgins—gasp!) until marriage. I have no issue at all with saving oneself for marriage. I myself have made the commitment—as countercultural and archaic as the idea may be. What I do have a bit of an issue with is the title given to the movement. It would imply that,you must wait in order to truly love someone. Nothing could be further from the truth!

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”

“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

Who is the neighbour in this situation? The original text refers to anyone who is nearby, not just those who live within physical proximity. In this case, anyone and everyone you come into contact with on a daily basis can, and should, be considered your neighbour. J.A. Findlay said that the question is not “Who is my neighbor?” but “To whom can I show myself a neighbor?”

But before we can love our neighbour, we must first love God.

No one will ever love God and his neighbour with any measure of pure, spiritual love, who is not made a partaker of converting grace.

Matthew Henry

It is impossible to truly love anyone without first loving God and allowing our hearts to be changed by Him.

What then does true love look like?

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trust, always hopes, always perseveres.

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NIV)

Jesus followed up is explanation to the expert in the law with the parable of the good Samaritan. In this case, his neighbour was his enemy. But that didn’t stop the Samaritan from showing love. There was nothing in it for him, and that is the foundation of true love. As soon as we make the offer of love expecting something in return, it is no longer true.

True love, the godly kind of love, the love that is patient and kind, does not wait. It should not wait. It should readily spring forth from a heart that is overflowing with love for and from God. The act of loving one another is not something for which we need a specific instruction from the Lord. It is something we’ve already been commanded to do. So don’t wait. Love. Love truly.

Read: Judges 18-19, Luke 10:25-42 

Hail the conquering hero

Though in the picture since before the dawn of creation, our hero made a pretty unremarkable entrance into this world. Born under circumstances that would have brought him scorn, he grew up as any other Jewish child and didn’t start to push the boundaries (much) until he was fully grown.

Rejoice greatly. O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt.

Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)

Believing he would overthrow the stifling Roman rule, Jews welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with open arms and shouts of hosanna! Yet only days later, they called for his crucifixion. He died the death of a convict between two thieves. Many thought that was the last they’d see of him. But, in a remarkable turn of events, he showed up again several days later. He spoke with many people in the 40 days he remained and they watched him ascend into the clouds and then began the wait for his return.

In his first appearance on earth, Jesus made a quiet entry. But when he comes again, there will be nothing calm about it.

Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there. And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True. For he judges fairly and then goes to war.

Revelation 19:11 (NLT)

From a donkey’s colt to a white horse. From an infant to a warrior. Jesus’ next entrance is depicted as a hero returning from battle. His clothes are stained in blood—either from his enemies or his own sacrifice, or both (verse 13). From his mouth comes a sword with which he struck down the nations (verse 15).

On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of lords.

Revelation 19:16 (NLT)

It is thought that this title was written in two places for a reason: on Jesus’ robes so that it can be read while he remains stationary, and on his thigh because once he begins to move, his robes will billow out behind him, revealing his thigh. No one will be able to question his title and the authority that goes with it.

In all the talk of beasts and monsters and blood and fire, we tend to skip over the final book in the Bible. And as a result, we never see this glorious depiction of our Savior. In artwork, we see him in a manger. We see him as a boy, challenging the priests in the temple. We see him as a carpenter. We see him as a teacher. We see him on the cross. And we see his ascension into heaven. But rarely to we see this great and mighty warrior, Faithful and True, The Word of God, King of kings and Lord of lords. No one and no thing can stand against the sword from his mouth and the iron rod in his hand.

Our Jesus isn’t merely the baby in a stable or the youth in the workshop. He is not just the teacher nor is he merely the man who gave his life for a fallen world. He is also the conquering hero. Our hero.

Daily Bible reading: Zechariah 7-9, Revelation 19

The same

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 (NLT)

No matter what translation you read, this verse is pretty much exactly the same in every one. The Amplified adds Jesus Christ is [eternally changeless, always] the same. The word same means just that. The same. Never changing. Unaltered. Never different. That is our Savior.

Think about that for a moment. The message that Jesus taught while he walked the earth is still valid today. Just because the world has changed and humanity has changed, doesn’t mean the Gospel changes.

So do not be attracted by strange, new ideas. Your spiritual strength comes from God’s special favor…

Hebrews 13:9b (NLT)

Too often, we try to complicate the message of Jesus. It can get watered down or it can be altered to seem more appealing. But the true message of Jesus can get lost in all the things we try to do to it. If Jesus never, ever changes,why do we try to change his word? If Jesus appealed to the masses two thousand years ago what makes us think that he won’t appeal the crowds now?

We have not been called to make the message of the Gospel appealing. We’ve been called simply to share it.

And now, may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, equip you with all you need for doing his will. May he produce in you, through the power of Jesus Christ, all that is pleasing to him.

Hebrews 13:20 (NLT)

God is most please with us when we do His will His way, and He has already given us all we need to accomplish it. We don’t need to try to make up new stories or rules or ways of doing things. Jesus already set the standard and, since he never changes, why would we try to change his message?

Jesus ministered to anyone and everyone with grace and love. We should do the same.

Daily Bible reading: Ezekiel 17-19, Hebrews 13

Real life

What is real?

REAL: Actually being or existing; not fictitious or imaginary. True; genuine, not artificial, counterfeit, or fictitious.

So what is real life?

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth. For you died when Christ died, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. And when Christ, who is your real life, is revealed to the whole world, you will share in all his glory.

Colossians 3:1-4 (NLT)

Your real life, your true life is hidden with Christ in God. Real life isn’t the daily grind. It isn’t your occupation, it isn’t your station in life, it isn’t even your earthly relationships. Real life is Jesus. So how do we even begin to live this life?

…for you have stripped off your old evil nature and all its wicked deeds. In its place you have clothed yourselves with a brand-new nature that is continually being renewed as you learn more and more about Christ, who created this new nature within you. In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.

Colossians 3:9-11 (NLT)

We make so much of what we do in our lives here on earth. We have to work. We have to get an education. We have to save for retirement. We have to get married. We have to have kids. We have to provide for our kids and make sure they have an education, a job, a retirement. It’s an endless cycle that plagues us and pulls our focus off of real life and toward a mere shadow of what is to come. Work, education, saving, relationships are all important things and we should have all of those things, but when they become our primary focus, it becomes a lot easier to pick up those things that we stripped off when we came to Christ. Christ is all that matters.

And the most important piece of clothing you must wear is love. Love is what binds us together in perfect harmony.

Colossians 3:14 (NLT)

Real life and real love go hand in hand. When we put on love, we put on real life. True life.

Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise. Use his words to teach and counsel each other. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

Colossians 3:16 (NLT)

Real life is real love which is real worship. When we live the new life that we found in Christ, we live a life of love and a life of worship. When our focus is on heavenly things, we can’t help but have thankful hearts because our focus is on the truth.

But the time is coming and is already here when true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for anyone who will worship him that way. For God is spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.

John 4:23-24 (NLT)

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 45-47, Colossians 3

New strength

As many of us age, we may find ourselves longing for the strength of our youth. Our bodies no longer recover like they used to. Definition and tone has been lost to obscurity and perhaps a spare tire around the midsection. Once, hefting an entire load of groceries from the trunk and into the house seemed to take minimal effort. Now three trips are needed to make the haul. We want our old strength back. But until someone finally finds the legendary Fountain of Youth, that’s just not going to happen.

But what if, instead of regaining our old strength, we could gain an entirely new strength?

But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.

Isaiah 40:31 (NLT)

I don’t think that Isaiah is talking about heading back to the gym with newfound energy, but when we wait on God, He will give us not only more strength, but new strength—one we never had before.

For I can do everything with the help of Christ, who gives me the strength I need.

Philippians 4:13 (NLT)

God doesn’t just give us the strength we want, He gives us the strength we need—the strength we need to accomplish His work and His will. He gives us the strength to put our focus on Him.

Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned from me and heard from me and saw me doing, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8b-9 (NLT)

This new strength that is found when we wait on the Lord gives us the ability to do the things that Paul talks about in these verses. Our new strength give us the ability to set our minds on the things of Christ and resist those things that are not of him.

Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 39-40, Philippians 4

Can’t beat the real thing.

In 1990, Coca-Cola launched a new ad campaign. All over North America we heard that you can’t beat the real thing. This, of course, was a bit (or a big) slap in the face to Pepsi who, through the 1980’s had resorted to celebrity endorsement claiming they were the choice of a new generation. But not even Michael Jackson could make Pepsi taste like Coke.

To loyal Coke drinkers, Pepsi is a cheap knockoff. A counterfeit of the Real Thing. Marketing campaigns and branding strategies won’t change the fact that Coca-Cola was and always will be first.

Yet long before there was Coca-Cola or Michael Jackson sang Pepsi Generation, there was another original. Jesus. For over two millennia, his name, his fame, his power has surged through generation after generation. No marketing ploy necessary. But like Coke, there are those who are out to make a copy of the original, make slight changes, and market it as a new and improved version.

If you order a Coke with your burger and fries and the waitress, thinking it’s the same thing, brings you a Pepsi, you know it as soon as you take the first sip. As easily as you can recognise your favourite cola, you should be able to recognise the real Jesus versus a counterfeit. Anything but the true power of the Holy Spirit should taste bitter and cheap. The more you partake of the real thing, the more obvious the fake becomes.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is really genuine. Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test.

2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)

If  you can’t tell the difference between Coke and Pepsi, you haven’t tasted enough of one or the other. You show your ignorance by saying they’re both just cola. The same goes for Jesus. If you can’t tell the difference between the power of the Holy Spirit and a cheap counterfeit, you haven’t spent enough time getting to know Jesus.

Our responsibility is never to oppose the truth, but to stand for the truth at all times.

2 Corinthians 13:8 (NLT)

Get to know the real thing. Get to know the Truth. Because when you know the Truth, he will set you free.

Daily Bible reading: Song of Solomon 4-5, 2 Corinthians 13