Sunday, March 26, 2017

Seeking To Walk As #Jesus Walked #JesusFollowers

Does God wish us to live lives of disobedience and lawlessness, proclaiming His Name, Yahweh, with our lips, but our hearts remaining far from Him?

Will God reward with eternal life those who disobey and ignore His moral statutes and the one He sent to proclaim and live them as our example, Jesus?

If the Hebrew Scriptures and teachings of Jesus are right, it's easy to believe that God wishes us to not only pledge, but actually DO the Good Works Jesus said God wants us to perform every minute of every day upon this earth.

Jesus tells us that God doesn't want our empty words - vain cries of God's name, or the name of his chosen one, Jesus.

Jesus said, "Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me." (Mark 7:6; Isaiah 29:13.)

God does NOT want a human or animal sacrifice that "stands in for" and excuses our past and future failings.

God seeks only a humble spirit and a repentant heart (Psalm 51:17.)

He wants our joyful, enthusiastic love and this same love given to others. This love leads DIRECTLY to God's Kingdom here and now upon the earth, and to our eternal salvation.

Jesus teaches it is the person who DOES the will of the Father who is worthy of the Kingdom to which we are called to build, and to eternal life (Matt.  7:21-23).

And Jesus told us that only the one who does righteousness is righteous. Without the act of DOING, we are not entitled to call ourselves "righteous."

Simply professing with our lips the belief that Jesus actually lived and died, then went back to God, is a cold and sterile faith - a faith of bare facts and mere words, perhaps genuinely felt ones, and perhaps ones spoken with great emotion - but empty words, nonetheless.

Mere words, without accompanying them with active Good Works, is not enough (James 2:19.) Striving to obey God’s chosen spokesman, Jesus (John 8:51; 14:23) and wisely remaining true to his teachings and following them (Matthew 7:24; John 8:31) is what is required of us.

As John rightly says, if we say we love Jesus, but do not actively serve others, we are liars and our faith is a lie. (1 John 2:6.) Jesus clearly says that "anyone who loves me will obey my teachings." (John 14:23.)

Honest Jesus Followers, therefore, will seek to walk just as he walked.

We will seek other's needs above our own.

We will seek heavenly treasure above earthly treasure.

We will actively seek to clothe the naked, feed the hungry, house the homeless, and care for widows, orphans and others needing our love.

We will pray for our enemies, and return love for their hatred.

We will actively do Good Works as an example to others, but humbly, not just to receive praise from them.

In short, we will joyfully take his yoke of obedience upon us daily.

This is the path of the Narrow Gate, and not the wide path of belief divorced from action (Matt. 7:13-14.)

If we truly believe Jesus' actions and teachings represent the perfect way God wishes US to live, how can we do anything other than to model every day of our lives around his?

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Should We Avoid "Negative" People? #JesusFollowers

Should we avoid those who are not as positive or as moral as we are? What about those whose lives are "a mess?" Shouldn't we just avoid them?

There are many today who advocate doing just that. They argue that being around people who they believe are "negative" just brings US down. They're "downers" or even "toxic." And, they say, these kinds of people can bring US down, too, making us think negative thoughts.

And in a sense, this can be true. We've all had friends, colleagues and co-workers who are always "down," never happy, always complaining. Their negativity can seem to rub off on others, sometimes.

Perhaps, argue motivational speakers, personal coaches and other gurus, we should just associate with perpetually happy people - those who are always smiling, always positive, never acknowledging failures, sadness or defeat.

But if someone claims to follow Jesus, and claims him as their Master, then they ought to hear him out on this subject, too.

And, as usual, Jesus has a slightly different view than others do.

Jesus says, clearly: Reach out to, and hang out with, those who need your influence the most.

Of course how you take that answer depends on what you think Jesus' teachings represent, and who you think Jesus is. And whether Jesus' words carry any weight on this question with you.

If Jesus' words are ALL IMPORTANT, and if he is God's chosen, human example that WE are called to follow in all things (and one that we CAN follow) then his teachings are more important than anyone else's opinions.

Even at the start of his ministry, he started speaking clearly to answer our question:

"The Spirit of Yahweh is upon me, because He has chosen me to preach good news to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are being bruised." (Luke 4:8)

When asked why he was hanging out with sinners, prostitutes and even (gulp!) tax collectors, he didn't say "avoid them at all costs," but instead answered, "Those who are healthy don't need a physician, but those who are sick do." (Mark 2:17) If true, we need to actively seek out those who need help, not shun them.

Those whose spirits are sick are in need of us. Jesus calls us to cure those in need. We don't need to be doctors or mental health professionals to help others. We can cure the Spirits of the helpless, the hopeless, the homeless, and the heartbroken with our kind words and our gentle touch.

Jesus tells us that those who don't have their acts together most need the presence and influence of those who do. Those who exist in a dark world of quiet desperation need our light (Matt. 5:16)

In truth, those who are perpetually "down" need our companionship, love, and support most of all.

To encourage others and tell them that they are God's children is to BE the message they need to hear. To seek always to follow Jesus' example IS the light of Jesus they need to see.

And let's not assume that those who are always smiling aren't hurting, too, and that their smiles aren't hiding pain. Many people wear a mask, and that mask is shown in "negative" actions and words, or it may be a false facade.

Those "loners" some may speak of so contemptuously about are, by definition, lonely. They need our friendship and encouraging words.

And what about the immoral ones around us? While we definitely don't want to fall into their ditch, we are called to help them OUT of their ditches.

"Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a ditch?" (Luke 6:39) Those who see the light of Jesus aren't blinded by it. NO ONE ever was. We must not be morally blind.

And for all those who say WE cannot do what Jesus did, read the next line: "A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:39-40) Let us live in, and be trained by, Jesus' words.

As another put it, those who claim to "live in Jesus" must seek always to walk as he did. (1 John 2:6)

Jesus never tells us to treat him as a fragile idol to be worshiped from afar, and never says we can never be like him. Instead, Jesus clearly says he is the example God chose for us to show that we CAN walk in a more Godly way each day! (Matt. 14:12; John 13:15)

Our message and example to others, when it's expressed in this way, can change lives and bring light and spiritual healing to those who are hurting!

So, let's get to know our brothers and sisters so well, and let them know us, that it leads them into the light, and onto the path of Righteousness in which Jesus calls us all to walk.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Gospel Is Not A "Mystery" And Never Has Been #JesusFollowers

Our Master, Jesus, left us a legacy of hope with his words, his life, his teachings and his death. All remain an example to us of a life lived perfectly for God. In this, Jesus was clear that he was not hiding anything from his disciples. Nor is anything hidden from us, today.

Jesus said: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for EVERYTHING that I learned from my Father I have MADE KNOWN to you." (Matt. 15:15)

And Jesus said: "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven HAS BEEN GIVEN TO YOU." (Matt. 13:11) "Because whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open." (Mark 4:22)

This was not true for some religions of the ancient Roman world in which Jesus lived. For some, faith was built around a "mystery." Priests of these "mystery religions" were charged with revealing the secrets of the gods to those who had been initiated. Only then were these "mysteries" unfolded to the one who had committed to worship the deities that were the focus of those faiths.

But Jesus and HIS Gospel were different.

Jesus revealed ALL THINGS to the world during his lifetime, and did so openly, and to all.

There was nothing the remained hidden, nothing left out. There were no "mysteries" left to unfold or reveal after the ministry of Jesus ended.

Just as he spoke to his disciples, Jesus speaks to us today - through the simple, clear teachings in the Gospels. We follow Jesus and obey God with our eyes wide open, with our full understanding, as well as our hearts and minds.

Jesus calls us to repent of our sins, to seek to live righteously and in a Godly way, to forgive others, to love and pray for our enemies, to do Good Works (in humility) and to love God and serve others in God's name. He says we will be rewarded according to our deeds alone, judged by God alone: we are not to judge ourselves or each other. That, and nothing more, is the Gospel.

The Gospel Jesus gave us wasn't lacking in anything when his ministry finished with his death on the cross. We need no further explanations, no further revelations, and no interpretations, in order to determine what we must do to please God.

The clarity of Jesus' message is obvious to all who read it. The life, teachings and example of Jesus are a clear window onto the Will of God.

Jesus challenges us to do all that God asks of us, and has given us an example we can follow.

He points us to God, calling us to repent of our sinful acts, seek forgiveness, and live the way God wants us to live.

God continues to grant us all the strength, love and support we need to continue growing into Spiritual Completeness and maturity.

We are told by Jesus to "do as I have done" and to "follow my example." We are not to hide our good works under a bushel basket, but to Do Good, and do so in humility, not simply to be seen by others.

Accepting this knowledge of God's path which Jesus reveals to us, we are challenged to actively live out this Faith as friends and followers of Jesus.

Let us do so with faith, humility and joyful obedience to God, who sent us Jesus to reveal His will to us!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

#Jesus Taught God's Kingdom #JesusFollowers

The bad news is that our world can be unfair, unjust, and mean. The good news is that we're here to change it. And Jesus says WE CAN.

The Gospel that Jesus preached is a revolutionary call to action: a call to do Good, to serve others, and to love God.

Jesus calls us to a life of Good Works, of action, of radical love, and of service to others. He is our perfect example in all things, and calls us to do all that is in our power to perform Good Works, while we seek ever greater strength and wisdom from God to know and do what is right.

"Whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen." says Jesus (John 3:21)

This is the Gospel centered on bringing in the Kingdom of God  on earth as it is in Heaven. All of the teachings and parables of Jesus point to this Kingdom. And his central message is a Gospel of the Kingdom and our role in furthering it.

This Gospel is true, and we know it is true because Jesus left us an example that we can really follow, and has shown by his example that all of us are able to obey God.

The example of Jesus is our perfect example of obedience. His teachings, sufferings and death all show how we should interact with others. He provides a perfect template for our behavior, our attitude towards service, and our way of dealing with suffering, persecution, and even death.

Jesus was faithful to God in all things, and he assures us that we can do all that he did.

God granted us strong spirits, and gave us the example of Jesus, and continues to give ongoing strength and wisdom to all who ask him for more.

The Proverbs tell us: "Let the wise hear and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance." (Prov. 1:5)

Since we have been equipped in this way, we should seek out ways in which we can influence the world for Good with our actions, and bring in the Kingdom that Jesus calls us to build and to serve.

"For I was hungry, and you gave me food to eat, he says. I was thirsty and you gave me drink. I was a stranger and you took me in. I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me. I was in prison and you came to me." (Matt. 25:35-36)

Serving others selflessly with our Good Works is the way in which we make the Kingdom of God visible on this earth. And we learn this is true from the words of Jesus himself, which do not ever pass away.

Everyone who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who builds his house on a rock. (Matt. 7:24)

So let's rededicate ourselves to seeking after righteousness as we find it in Jesus  in his teachings, his life, and his Gospel message.