Tag Archives: Jesus

To Be Happy

Once again we have been reminded of the desperate need of the human heart to be happy.  The death of Robin Williams is a particularly tragic event in our culture.  There have been many others who have ended their own lives because of depression, addiction, or pain; but Williams was a man who seemed so widely accepted and loved.  For forty years he made us laugh.

By now we should understand that there are those who seek to find their own happiness in the happiness of others.  The comics among us have so often been tragic characters.  Perhaps they think that if they can make us laugh, they will find joy for themselves.  I won’t pretend to know Robin Williams or understand his demons, but I know that seeking health by making others laugh is a losing proposition.

I write about some negative things, particularly narcissism and legalism.  Both are attempts to find personal health by controlling or manipulating the feelings of others.  Both fail to satisfy the needs of the heart.  The narcissist, like the comic, can make those around him laugh, and the legalist can give sacrificially; but neither will find joy or freedom or peace from their efforts.  The darkness within is not overcome by their gifts.

There is a need for us to be accepted and loved for who we are, rather than for what we do.  There is nothing we can do or produce to fill this need.  That love and acceptance must come from the free choice of another, someone who knows the truth of our hearts and still chooses to love us.  Many have found that the love of the people around them, no matter how sincere, is still not enough.  I believe there is a core need for the love of God in our hearts.

It is a particular offense to the gospel of Jesus Christ to make it about sin and wrath and measuring up.  The real message of the gospel is exactly what the human heart needs—love.  Instead of telling people that they have sinned and must find the way to being accepted, we must tell them that they have sinned and God loves them.  We do not bring a message of rejection!  The gospel is a message of love and acceptance.

You have sinned and God loves you.  You cannot save yourself, but God—in Jesus—will save you.  You are broken and hurting and Jesus offers health and peace.  The darkness pulls you to addictions and despair; Jesus calls you to eternal love and freedom.

In your own dark days, remember the love of One who truly knows you.  He knows your doubts and fears and compromises and He finds great joy in knowing you.  No matter how bleak or depressing your life becomes, you can never fall further than His arms of love.

When a friend or family member is going through the dark days, love them and tell them of this greater love.  Tell them that Jesus loves them.  Whatever they have done, whatever thoughts have gone through their mind and heart, Jesus loves them.  He is quick to forgive, powerful enough to heal, and steadfast in His love.

The message of grace is that love is already there for you.  You don’t have to earn it or deserve it or even seek it.  The tiniest glimmer of faith is enough to begin welcoming and receiving that amazing love.  Just the desire, the willingness to take what is offered, is enough—and that’s already in you.  That longing finds its fulfillment in Jesus, the love of God.

The lie says that if you can make enough others happy, you will find happiness.  Parents look to find their happiness in the happiness of their children.  Givers look to the happiness of those who receive.  Workers look to those who are served.  And then there are those who take a broken route, the narcissists who manipulate the feelings of others to create their own peace or the legalists who seem to seek to destroy the happiness of others to make themselves feel better about their brokenness.  But it doesn’t work.  None of it works.  We cannot take our happiness from others.

My prayer for all of us is that we would no longer seek to find our happiness in the looks or lives of those around us; but that we would find our joy in Jesus.  May that always be the place and beginning of our health.


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The Firstborn

The firstborn Son of God. Those words defy meaning. Full of mystery and wonder. Yet, the Father calls Jesus “the Firstborn.”

The rightful heir of all things. Begotten, not made. Of the same substance as the Father. One with the Father.

The highest in authority and honor. The one who called creation into being and sits in the judgment seat. All creation lies at His feet.

The majestic Conqueror who rides in victory over sin and death, the greatest enemies of the people of God.

The One who overcame death in His own strength, proving to all creation that He stands in the power and authority of Eternal God.

And our Brother, who loves us and gave Himself for us. The one who saw us in our need, separated from the Father who made us, and came to give us His own life.

Jesus, the Firstborn of the children of God—of whom I am a part. My God, my King, my Lord, my Brother, and my Friend.

That’s who Jesus is!


For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Romans 8:29

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Colossians 1:15

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. Colossians 1:18

But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Hebrews 1:6

… and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, Revelation 1:5


Filed under Relationship, Theology and mystery

In the beginning was Jesus

“In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God.”

I know that’s not exactly how the gospel of John begins, but it is certainly what John means. Jesus is the Word that John talks about. There is a lot of deep theology here, mystery that we may never understand, but the truth is really quite simple: In the beginning was Jesus.

The theology can be confusing and can pull us away from the simplicity. Perhaps we should say that in the beginning there was the Son. Some would rather we said that in the beginning there was God in three Persons. But John says that the Word was there in the beginning and the Word was Jesus.

And when, exactly, was the beginning? We don’t even know that. Before the foundation of the world? Was there history before creation? These are the deep and wonderful mysteries, fun to think about, but the simple truth is still there: in the beginning was Jesus.

I write and speak a great deal about relationship with Jesus. He loves us and He is with us. He cares about our lives and He knows us. Yes, He knows the wanderings of our hearts, the doubts and temptations and compromises, and He still loves us just the same. Jesus is real—a real person, just like you and me, but even more.

Jesus was in the beginning.

When I walk with Jesus through my life, I connect with the One who loved me from the foundation of the world, from the beginning. I connect with the One who made the world and everything in it. The One who designed the intricacies of the atom and the immensities of space. The One who created the human soul and set it free. The One who watched as our first parents brought us all under subjection to the darkness. The One who set in motion a sacrificial plan where He would pay whatever it took to bring us home.

Jesus is not the afterthought of God. Jesus is not the creation of God. Jesus is not the means God came up with to save us when we had sinned. Jesus is God.

And He loved you and me from the beginning. Jesus didn’t decide to love us after we decided to accept Him into our hearts. He loved us before. He gave Himself for you and for me long before we lived and sinned. He called to us in love from the cross. When we believed, we found that He was already there, that He had always been there.

When you and I walk with Jesus, we walk with the Creator. He is the source of life. He is the One who was in the beginning and He is the One who is with us today.

That’s Jesus!

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I Am Not Afraid

Words of Grace

I am not afraid.

But I am!  I am afraid of lots of things: the future, driving, tests, failure as a parent, getting mugged, health problems, death.  Sometimes my fear stops me from doing anything.  Sometimes it just occupies my thoughts and takes away my joy.  But, to be honest, it’s almost always there.  How can I not be afraid?

When someone tells us not to be afraid, as though it were a simple thing to do, they either miss the point of what’s happening in our hearts or they don’t care.  Emotions are difficult to turn on and off, particularly negative ones.  It isn’t as though we want to be afraid.

I think this is why the Scripture talks so much about living in the light.  The darkness holds our fears.  Not knowing, or knowing just part of the truth or believing lies—those are the things that give strength to our fears.  When the light shines on our situation, we often find that there really was nothing to fear.

We all know that turning the light on in the room chases away the things that seem to lurk in the shadows.  But what if we turn on the light and something really scary is standing there?  We understand that many of the fears that trouble us are not real.  They are fantasies or misunderstandings or lies.  But not everything that frightens us is false.  We do face financial difficulties, health problems, relationship stresses, and more.  These things are real and challenging.  The pain and trouble they bring to us are things we would certainly like to avoid.

But do we need to be afraid of them?  That’s the question.

And the answer is, “No!”

Most of us have a healthy fear of pain, but we understand it and accept it as part of our lives.  The same is true with most of our minor fears.  But the biggest fear we face is damage or change to our identity.  “Will I be the same after x happens?”  Losing a job or a loved one or a home—what we fear most in these things is the change in us.  Will weakness steal my security or joy or confidence?  Will I have to become a different person?

That’s why I like to teach about identity.  As long as my identity is based on what I do or my life situation, then my identity is always at risk.  When my identity is secure in Jesus, it will not change.  I will not change because He who is my life will not change.  Minor changes will happen, of course, but who I am in Christ will never change.

Everything in this world is outside my relationship with Jesus.  Inside that relationship there is security and peace forever.  He is my strength.  He is my hope.  He is my peace.

I will not be afraid of what people can do to me or of what the world around me can do.  I will not be afraid of the changes time will bring.  I will not be afraid of my weaknesses.  I will look to Him and remember my peace.

Therefore we will not fear, Even though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though its waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling.  Psalm 46:2-3 (NKJV)


I am not afraid.

I know that He is with me.

I will look to Him and find my peace.

Nothing can change who I am in Him.

I am not afraid.


Filed under Words of Grace

The Anti-Narcissist

It’s Narcissist Friday!    

He left the comfort and glory of Heaven, which had rightfully been His for all eternity, to come to our world as a baby.  He humbled Himself, became dependent on others.  They were weak and untrustworthy and unkind.  They struggled to survive and didn’t know how to love.  But He trusted Himself into their hands.  He, who had made the worlds and sustained the Universe, made Himself weak and vulnerable. 

Even though He knew their hearts, He let them make decisions for Him.  They fed Him and cleaned Him and taught Him.  He, who was the King of kings and Lord of lords, grew among the people as one of them.  He knew that He could never trust them, but He gave Himself to them.

He walked among the people patiently and with kindness, no matter how their petty manipulations affected Him.  He listened to their concerns, valued them, and comforted them.  He taught them gently and graciously.  And when they decided they didn’t want to hear Him anymore, He yielded Himself to their will.

He loved them.  He did it all because of love.  The Master of empathy, He entered into our world and our lives.  He felt our limitations and weaknesses.  He experienced our temptations and our pain.  He set His life aside to enter ours.  Because of love.

Jesus is the anti-narcissist.  I don’t mean that He is against the narcissist, but that He is against narcissism and exhibited to us a life without narcissism.  Everything we know of Jesus is centered on His love for us.  The gift of love, given by God Himself, was a gift of understanding and empathy.

And He didn’t come just to understand, but to show us that He understands.  He didn’t come to live the perfect life in our world, but to give us that perfect life so we can live in our world and in His.  He didn’t come just to show us His love, but to let that love overcome our bondage and pain and give us victory.  He didn’t come to die, but to conquer death and set us free forever.

That’s what Christmas is all about.  The anti-narcissist.


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The Gift of Gifts


Grace 101

At our house on Christmas morning, the potential for chaos has always hung over our heads.  With ten people opening gifts, and we love gifts, we have to maintain a sense of order.  One simple rule is that you have to be sure the gift is for you before you open it.  In those rare times when the rule has accidentally been broken, someone is disappointed.

So how do you know this gift is for you?  Well, in our situation, the whole thing hinges on who the gift is from.  You and I have received this amazing gift because of the relationship we have with Jesus.  When you came to the Lord for salvation and expressed your need and the tiny spark of faith the Spirit had brought to life in your heart, God came to you and loved you in the Person of Jesus Christ.  At that moment, Jesus gave you His life.  Your old life died and His life rose in you.

I realize there is a lot of theology in that simple paragraph.  The point is that whatever God wants to give you comes because you are in Christ and Christ is in you.  The gift is yours only through Jesus and the gift is yours because of Jesus.  Call it “union” or “the exchange” or the “higher life” or whatever you want, but the life in you is His.

In fact, the real gift is Jesus Himself!  We who were enemies have now been reconciled (Col 1:21).  We who were lost have been found (Luke 15:32).  We who were dead have been given life (Col 2:13).  All of this has come to us packaged in a Person!

God’s grace, which is the substance of His giving to us, is manifested perfectly and completely in Jesus.  Jesus is God Himself, come to us in human flesh, to be our life and fill us forever with His love.  That’s what God has given us!

So the package we are going to unpack is filled with the blessings that are ours because of the relationship we have with Jesus.  In all honesty, I can’t imagine that we will ever begin to see or to understand much more than the things that lie on top of the box.  Eternity will be occupied with discovering the riches we have in Christ (Eph 2:7).

But what we find will be enough for us to be filled with wonder at His power and His love.

And remember: these are gifts, not things you and I earn.  These are the things that came to us when Christ came to us.  They are ours by inheritance, by marriage, by union, by blood.  The Scripture uses all kinds of great illustrations of the relationship we have with God in Jesus.  But my point is that these gifts are ours as gifts.  We didn’t earn them or deserve them, just like we didn’t earn or deserve our relationship with Jesus.  He came to us because He loved us—and He came bearing gifts!

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Whadja get?

Grace 101

“God has already given us all the things we need for life and godliness.”

What do you think when you read that statement?  Is it true?  All things?  Everything?  For life and godliness?  That seems like a lot.

Yes, this comes from 2 Peter 1:3.  I used it here before:

.. . His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 2 Peter 1:3

Now wouldn’t you like to unpack that a little?

Suppose you learn that someone has sent you a special gift.  They sent it through the mail and it has just arrived.  They want you to open it and enjoy it, but you decide just to let it sit in the living room.  That big box is filled with very special things, but you don’t enjoy any of them.  In fact, you don’t really know what they are.

Well, the Lord says that He has given you a gift.  The gift of eternal life.  The gift of salvation.  The gift of grace.  Isn’t it time to unpack that gift?

Over the next several weeks, the Grace 101 series will be about answering a simple question.  It’s the question we most often hear at Christmas and on birthdays:  “Whadja get?”  You know what I mean.  The birthday child slowly unwraps the present and all the other kids have wide eyes and are leaning forward in their seats.  Everyone has the same question.  They all want to know, “What did you get?”

The world around the Christian is wondering what the Christian has that they don’t have.  They want to know what we got in that gift from Jesus.  There are believers who have never opened their gift.  They still work as though they are earning their salvation.  They are still afraid like they were under the law.  They don’t know what they have in their gift, so they are watching you and me as we dig through ours.  So the world and the fearful believer have the same question: What did you get?

I think you will be amazed.  I really do.  I am beginning the study and I am already amazed.  What a wonderful God we have!  He loves us so much!  And what a wonderful gift He has given us!

One quick thing:  Beginning this week, I will be blogging only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  I hope to do some serious writing through the summer and this will help.  (Narcissist Fridays will continue as normal.)  But there is another reason for this schedule as well.  I hope you will take some time to think about each of these blessings we discover as we unpack the gift God has given.  Rather than just run through them quickly, let’s take a day or so to pray, to enjoy the wonder, and to be grateful.

When we unpack this amazing gift, I believe we will finally understand why Christians under grace walk in victory and live in joy and are filled with love.  Life with Jesus is the best of all possible lives!

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Love is a person inside

A couple of weeks ago I came across a phrase that intrigued me.  I think it was on Facebook.  You have to understand that I sort of collect titles.  I really don’t care what the book or article is about, I just like some of the titles.  A good title communicates the message long before anyone reads the text.

So I read, “Love is a person inside,” and I began to think.  It’s true.  If I want to know what love really is, there is a person who can tell me.  A person inside.

Now, you understand that I write from a Christian perspective.  I believe in Jesus.  I believe that He is alive and active.  I believe that He is with me and that He loves me.  I believe that, when I came to Him for salvation, He exchanged His perfect life for my broken life and now He lives in me and I in Him.  No, I don’t fully understand all of this, but it is what the Bible teaches and it is what I have personally experienced.

So, the person inside me is Jesus.  That means something, something very practical when it comes to love.

First, it means that love is inside me.  The Lord loved me so much that He gave me new life and marked me as His forever by living within me.  The life in me today is Jesus.  My goal for the rest of my earthly days is to live in and through that life within me, rather than in the pattern of the old life I used to have.

The truth of the Christian life is that you are loved.  You are acceptable and accepted in Jesus.  He will never reject you and His heart toward you is always positive.  He always wants the best for you and nothing will come between you and Him.  Even when you fail in some way, He is there and He accepts you.  His love is truly unconditional.

But there is something more.  In those times when I find it hard to love someone (and there are those times), there is Someone inside me who does love that person.  When I get past myself and my feelings, I realize that the life in me, Jesus, already loves that person.

Yes, I believe that Jesus loves all people, no matter who they are or what they have done.  I do not believe that all are saved, as some are saying.  I do not believe that all are going to be welcome in Heaven, as some are saying.  But I do believe that Jesus went to the cross to make salvation available to all people—because He loved all people.  I don’t care about skin color, language, culture, background, current religion, or time in history.  Jesus loves all people.

So that person who cut me off in traffic, that person who cost me my job, that person who hurt someone I care about, and that person who wants to hurt me—all are loved by Jesus.  That does affect how I think about them.

This has nothing to do with their behavior or whether they are loveable.  They are still accountable for their sins and still answerable to justice.  We have all seen the amazing situation where the family of a young person forgives their child’s killer.   But that forgiveness does not stop justice.  The murderer may still be executed and, perhaps, should still be executed.  But the family is free of hate and bitterness.  How is that possible?  For most, it’s because of a person inside.

If you belong to Jesus, let Him love that person you cannot love.  Don’t force yourself to do anything.  Just know that the Person inside you is loving, even when you struggle.  You will find your heart changing as you accept that Jesus loves the person you cannot.

No, I don’t think this is inconsistent or unreasonable.  I think this is the Christian love we all talk about, but rarely experience.  We think Christian love is something we are supposed to do from ourselves: our sacrifice, our kindness, our forgiveness.  But that isn’t right.

Christian love is not our love.  Christian love flows from the Person inside.

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More than Fire Insurance

We used to say that some people only accepted Jesus as “fire insurance,” the way to get out of hell.  They didn’t really want anything else He offered.

But escape from hell is not the only benefit of the cross.  In fact, escape from hell isn’t really the message of the cross at all.  The message of the cross is new life in Jesus.

We all have smoke detectors in our homes now.  What’s the job of the smoke detector?  It’s to tell you to get out of your house because there’s a fire.  It’s a warning device that may deliver you from a terrible death.  But I, like many others, have the strange fear that the smoke detector will go off in the night and we will all have to run outside in our pj’s to stand in the freezing cold.  I suppose we could stand close enough to the burning house to stay warm. 🙂

The point is that the smoke detector doesn’t protect us from any other danger.  We could freeze to death, but at least we wouldn’t burn.  We may have to live in our car or walk without shoes to the neighbor’s or try to get a motel without our credit cards.  The smoke detector doesn’t care.  It did its job.

Jesus is not a smoke detector.  Jesus offers us life abundant.  We were already dead in our sins, already separated from God, already on our way to eternal hell.  Jesus came with a message of life.  He offers forgiveness for sin, freedom from guilt, victory over evil in our lives, hope for a wonderful future, community with His people, and love and acceptance from His heart.  Coming to Jesus is about so much more than escape from hell.

Isn’t it interesting that those who talk about hell the most offer the least victory and hope in Jesus?  By focusing on hell, they rob their people of hope and freedom.  They don’t tell them how to live in Christ and enjoy a real relationship with Him.  They don’t tell them about resting in the Lord.  So, their people struggle against sin and fear and guilt—and try to keep others under the law with them.

What do you think?

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Who is Jesus?

This is the primary question of our faith.  The answer separates us from other religions.  The answer makes a difference.

Two thousand years of church history has centered on one fact: Jesus is God.  He has come to bring us to Himself.  Just because He took on Himself humanity does not lessen the fact that He is God.  This has been argued for centuries and the conclusion, in all Christian denominations, is that Jesus was God, is God and always will be God.

He told us Himself that He is one with the Father.  There is great mystery in that, but the truth of it is clear.  What you say about the Father is true about Jesus.  Today some speak of a kenosis, the teaching that Jesus gave up His divine attributes to become man.  Neither the Scriptures nor the Church have ever affirmed this.  Jesus, when He walked this earth, was fully God (Colossians 2:9).

Perhaps the best summary of Christian belief about Jesus comes from the Nicene Creed:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary,
and was made man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered death and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in accordance with the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end. 

The definition of Chalcedon took things further to address issues raised in the church of that day:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

But so what?  What does it mean to me in my life today that Jesus is God?  It means everything!  All that can be said about God is true about Jesus because Jesus is God.  Power, wisdom, majesty, love—all are His.  He is not some weak, but nice, guy.  He is not some teacher who sacrificed Himself for a good idea.  He is God in human flesh. 

I believe that one of the reasons God took on humanity was so that we would connect with Him.  He wants a relationship with us.  He created that opportunity and offers it to us in the person of Jesus.  When I think of how I am accountable to God for my sin, I remember that I come to God in Jesus and He loves me.  The Judge of all the earth is Jesus and He loves me.

The heart that sent Jesus to the cross to wash away my sin is the heart of Jesus for me today.  The power that raised Jesus from the dead is the power of Jesus for me today.  He is my Creator, Redeemer, Provider, Protector—and my Friend.  The almighty, all-knowing, ever-present God loves me. 

When I think of the old song, “Jesus Loves Me,” I remember that this is God Himself in human flesh.  Jesus loves us because the Father loves us (John 16:26), and He and the Father are One.  God loves me.  In spite of my sin and weakness, God loves me.  He loves me so much that He came to me when I could not, would not, come to Him.  He made the way. 

Jesus is everything to me.  Thomas looked at Him that day after the resurrection and said, “My Lord and my God!”  I don’t have to understand to believe and enjoy.


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