“I Don’t Want to…”

Some days, I just don’t feel like dealing with stuff.  Big, scary stuff, like confrontations, difficult people, stressful issues, major projects.

To be honest, some days (not many, and not often) I just don’t feel like dealing with little stuff.  Like basic life in general.  Let alone handling tough stuff, or pressing on.

But sometimes in life, you have to do things that you don’t want to do.  Sometimes, life is hard, and you just have to deal.  Sometimes you just put on your big-boy pants (or big-girl pants, as the case may be!) and do what needs to be done even though you don’t want to.  Even though it’s tough.  Because that’s life, and that’s what adults do.

That’s what mature people do.

And that’s what followers of Jesus do.

The words from our reading today always challenge me – and always encourage me:

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.  Hebrews 12:1b-3 (NIV)

Let us run our race with perseverance – let’s stick with it, even in adversity.  Never give up.

As we run our race, let’s keep our fixed on Jesus – He’s our goal, the center of our lives.  He is our motivation, our prize that we keep our eyes on.

And as we run, let’s remember how Jesus ran – for the joy set before Him, he endured the cross, He endured shame, and He endured the opposition of sinners.  Let’s remember how He ran His race, because that will keep us from growing weary and losing heart.

Jesus ran the race “for the joy set before Him.”  He knew the rewards.  He knew that the outcome was worth the price that had to paid.

I think sometimes that’s why we become weary, why we have days where we don’t want to face life – we forget the end result.  We get our eyes off of Jesus.  We forget Who waits for us at the finish line.

And we forget that joy comes from obedience.

If Jesus had not obeyed, He would not have experienced the “joy set before Him.”

You see, when we think of joy, obedience is probably one of the last words that come to mind.

When we think of obedience, we tend to think of words like “difficult.”

“Duty.”

“Work.”

“Serious.”

“Not fun.”  (Okay, that was two words.  But you get my point.)

But when Jesus speaks of obedience, different words come out.

Words like “joy.”

And “fruit.”

And “reward.”

And “abiding.”

And “whatever you ask for.”  (Way more than a word.  But you get the idea.)

So all that to say this – as the week draws to a close, as you try to just get through Friday so you breathe a little – get your eyes off of what you have to do, or what you don’t want to do, or what you dread doing.

Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Run your race – or your day – like Jesus did.

Remember that the price you pay today will be worth, because Jesus rose.  Jesus conquered.

Remember that obedience doesn’t lead to drudgery – it leads to joy.

Whatever comes your way today; whatever is on your to-do list (and I don’t know about yours, but mine’s pretty long); whatever you’ve got coming up that you wish you could just put off or delegate or ignore or just not deal with – remember!

Jesus endured all that He did for the joy set before Him.

And you and I can, too.

One last thing – the joy set before Jesus?

You.

For God so loved that world that He gave His one and only son…why?  So that you could have eternal life.  So that Jesus could get to enjoy your presence with Him in heaven.  You are part of His joy – part of His reward.

Wow.

Amazing grace.

Some Thoughts on Whining…

“That’s not fair!”

Every one of us has probably said those words at one point or another in our lives.  Probably more than once.  And probably most often while we were in Middle School or High School.

Every one of us probably heard the same response at some point, too – “Life ISN’T fair.  So get over it!”

You know, if there was one person who could ever honestly complain that life wasn’t fair to Him, it would have been Jesus.

Existing eternally in heavenly perfection, never sinned, never had to experience pain, hunger, separation, loneliness, abuse…

Existing eternally in heavenly perfection.

Until the day came when He, according to His Father’s will, humbled Himself and began a long journey that would end with His own physical suffering and death on a cross – a journey that began in a teenage girl’s womb.

God in the belly of a girl.

God being born in Bethlehem, not in a palace, but in a cave or a stable.

Jesus had every right to protest.  Every right to shout “this is not fair!”  Because it was OUR sins that led to this journey.  He did nothing to cause any of this – except to love, and to obey His Father.

Here is what Hebrews says about it:

During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him… Hebrews 5:7-9 (NIV)

Jesus learned obedience.

I have to learn obedience.  So do you.

Listen, I’ll be honest.  I can whine and complain with the best of them.

So can some of you.  I’ve heard you; seen you do it on Facebook.

But I’m a follower of Jesus.  I’ve got to cut that out.

And so do you.

“Reverent submission.”  To what?  To His Father’s will.  Even when that will meant He would suffer and die unjustly.

Why do we think God owes us a privileged life with no suffering, no trials, no hardships?

“He learned obedience from what He suffered.”

Why do we think God owes us a life of no suffering?  Why do we think that if we do suffer, somehow God has changed and is no longer good.

He is always good.  No matter what I am experiencing.

Jesus joyfully went through His life’s journey, not complaining, not whining – praying, yes; crying out, yes; with tears at times, yes; but with no drama.

What would happen if we would do that?

Last night, I noticed some friends posting a short Andy Stanley video clip on Facebook.  It rocked me.  I hope it will rock you, too.  To close this devotional, let me invite you to watch this and to think about it.

What Would Jesus Do?

What would Jesus do?

That question was first posed publicly in a Christian novel by Charles Sheldon – In His Steps – published in 1896.

I remember reading the novel for the first time while I was in college, and at the time, it had a profound effect on my life.

Later, in the late ’90’s or so (not my late 90’s – I know some of you think I’m getter older, but I’m not that old yet!) it became a popular Christian slogan.  The initials “WWJD” were plastered all over T-shirts, bumper stickers, keychains, Bible covers, books, journals, bracelets, pencil sharpeners, pens, rubber balls, stickers, and anywhere else that Christian publishers could conceive of selling it.  It went from a thought-provoking question to an evangelical pop-slogan that was more a fashion statement than an actual concern.

Every once in a while, I hear the question posed seriously again (the bracelets and trinkets seem to fallen out of style).  Every once in a while, I confess I ask that question in a  sermon or in a teaching.

Why?

Because, properly considered, it is still a powerful question.  To me, it’s one of the most important questions I can answer – other than “What is Jesus telling me to do?”

So – What Would Jesus Do?

Here are some clues:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.  In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,

did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;

rather, he made himself nothing

by taking the very nature of a servant,

being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man,

he humbled himself

by becoming obedient to death—

even death on a cross!

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place

and gave him the name that is above every name,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,

to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2:3-11 (NIV)

Go back and read that passage through one more time.  Slowly.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Read it again?  Okay.

So what would Jesus do?

He would do things like this:

  • He would do nothing that was selfish;
  • He would always humble Himself;
  • He would value others above Himself;
  • He would look to the interests of others;
  • All of which tells me he would love unconditionally, forgive unconditionally, initiate unconditionally, serve unconditionally, and never complain about any of it.
  • He would not use His position or possessions to His advantage;
  • He would deliberately serve, even when He deserved to be served;
  • He would humble Himself (I think it’s mentioned twice because it’s so important – and so hard for all of us to do);
  • He would obey His Father, even to the death;
  • He would trust His Father to reward Him for all the sacrifices;
  • All of which tells me that He would do the hard thing, the right thing, without pause, without selfishness, without concern for the outcome.  He would always take the risk of active love.  He would always choose relationship over rules, relationship over risk of rejection, relationship over risk of pain, relationship over His own rights.

So the next time you hear that question – “What Would Jesus Do?” – remember the passage, and the list, above.

And as you go through this day and this week, and as you encounter imperfect people and difficult people and people who have hurt you and let you down and betrayed you; as you encounter needs and difficult situations and stress and hard issues and challenges –

Ask yourself:  “What would Jesus do?”

Really.

  • In light of what He DID;
  • In light of how He lived;
  • In light of Philippians 2:3-11;

What WOULD Jesus do?

Answer that question honestly – and act on it – and you and I will be well on our way to Walking With Jesus.

The Challenge of Obedience

Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.  On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”  He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed,  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”  An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.  And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.  Luke 22:39-44 (NIV)

“This is for your own good.”

“This will hurt me more than it will hurt you.”

Those would fall under the heading of “things my parents told me that I swore I’d never say but then I became a parent myself.”  Or something like that.

(My personal favorite was always, “Eat your liver.  It’s good for you.”  I hated liver.  Still do.  The funny thing is that once my brother and I grew up and moved out, my parents never ate liver again. NEVER.  I am still convinced that they only had it to torture us.  True story.  Guess I need inner healing.  But that’s a subject for another day!)

When you’re a son or a daughter, you have to trust your parents.  If your parents are good and wise like mine are (except for that whole liver thing!), then trusting them turns out well.  Even if, at times, it’s painful in the process.

Jesus had to trust His Father that night in Gethsemane.

I doubt any of us can completely understand what Jesus was going through in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knew the plan; had known since before the world was created.  He was in on the plan.

He knew the plan was for Him to suffer terribly, and then die.

He also knew that He would rise again after dying.

And He knew all of the glory that awaited – the reunion with His disciples, the ascension back to His Father, pouring out the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, being seated at His Father’s right hand in majesty and glory, His imminent return to the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and the ultimate celebration of everything that He had purchased at Calvary.

But as the moment approached when it would all be set into motion, when He was faced with the imminent pain, separation, suffering, and death, His humanity cried out.  He knew what had to be done; He knew what His Father’s will was.  But He had to ask – “Father!  Is there no other way?  Must I go through with this?  Please!  I beg You!  Take this cup from Me!  Make another way!  But if it must be…then I will do Your will.  I will submit and obey.”

Jesus trusted His Father enough to say yes – even knowing what saying yes would mean.

Why?  There were many reasons, I think:

  • He was an obedient Son.
  • He knew the necessity of obedience.
  • He knew that there was no other way to provide salvation.
  • He knew He could trust His Father.
  • He knew we needed a Savior.
  • And many other reasons.

But the greatest reason of all, I think, was love.

He loved His Father.

And He loved you and me.

He endured the loss, the separation, the pain, the suffering, all of it – not just for the end result.  Not just for the prize at the end, although that was important.

But because He loved.

He loved His Father and wanted to please Him.

He love you, and He loved me, so much that He couldn’t bear the thought of eternity without us.

He obeyed because He loved.

Which leads us to this – why do you obey our Father?  Why do I?

Is it because of fear?

Fear of judgment; fear of damnation; fear of loss and separation?

Is it desperation?

Is it out of a sense of guilt?  Or of duty?

Or is it love?

He loved us first.  He chose us first.  While we were yet sinners.

We can never repay that love.  We can never outdo that love.

All that we can do is respond with gratitude.

And with our own love.

That’s another part of following Jesus – loving like Jesus loved.

Do you?  Do you love?

Do I?

Counting the Cost

As we begin Week 4 of Walking With Jesus, our focus will be Following Jesus and Counting the Cost.

The truth is that while salvation is free – a grace-gift from God, given through Jesus – it is still costly.

It cost Jesus His life.

And it will cost us our lives.  Not to pay the penalty for our sins; only Jesus could do that.

But in order to follow Jesus, it will cost us everything.

Because He isn’t just our Savior – He is also our Lord.

He demands – and deserves – our complete loyalty.  And our complete obedience.

Not because He’s insecure, or because He’s looking for mindless robots.

But because He knows what is best for us.

And because He set an example of submission and obedience for us.

Jesus completely submitted to His Father’s will.  And He completely obeyed His Father.

As we read through this week’s passages, ask yourself these questions each day:

  • In this passage, what did Jesus give up – or what price did He pay?
  • What was Jesus’ attitude as He did this?
  • What can I learn from Jesus about submission and obedience?

Today’s reading – John 5:16-30 – tells us of the incredible trusting relationship between the Father and Jesus:  Jesus does nothing by Himself, and in fact only does what His Father shows Him to do; and in exchange, the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He (the Father) does.  As you read (and re-read) this passage, consider the mutual love and trust between the Father and Son.

Consider how far the Son was willing to go to obey His Father – from heaven’s glory to earth’s manger – and then, eventually, the cross.

Consider the victory and the good that the Father brought out of Jesus’ obedience.

And consider what God might do in you and through you – and me – if we obey as willingly and as completely as Jesus did.

What do you think?

Jesus…Rejoices???

“However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”  At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.  “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”  Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.  For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”  Luke 10:20-24 (NIV)

Interesting words – “Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit…”

Have you ever thought about Jesus being full of joy?

What about the Holy Spirit being full of joy?

How about Father God being full of joy?

That thought has been foreign to me for a significant part of my life.

For the longest time, I thought of Jesus as a very somber, serious person.  My inner picture of Him was of someone who never smiled, was always either stoic, sad, or sometimes angry.  If He ever did smile, it was no doubt a sad, wistful smile because of how badly everyone had fallen short of perfection.  He always walked – slowly, deliberately.  He walked in a way that was “holy” – which to me, as a young person in school meant “never running.”  So I assumed Jesus was very deliberate and careful and even…boring.

That image was formed by a number of things – viewing Jesus through an Old Testament lens as opposed to vice versa; overly concentrating on some passages about Jesus (Isaiah 53 – the man of sorrows; the sermon on the mount; His apparent frustration with the disciples and the scribes and Pharisees; His arrest, trial, and death – those are the primary examples) while ignoring or just not paying much attention to His compassion, His kindness, His care for broken and isolated people, and many other actions as well as prophecies about Him.

I mean, honestly – how much fun to be around can a guy who says “blessed are those who mourn” actually be?????!!!!!

I didn’t see Jesus as real person – I saw Him as a hyper-religious man, some kind of holy weirdo who never had fun or smiled or laughed.  He was certainly never joyful.

As I went through a period in my life where I read Scripture voraciously, began to learn more about Jewish culture, including humor, and began to study Jesus’ life more intently, I realized that I had missed seeing some important things about Jesus.

I missed seeing His sarcastic sense of humor.

I missed His compassion.

I missed His love in His moments of frustration with the disciples and the Pharisees.

I missed His physical activities – a carpenter’s son who hung out with fishermen and hiked and walked long distances.

I had no imagination, either – I didn’t think about Him laughing with His family and friends, being the life of the party wherever He went.

I didn’t pay attention to the fact that sinners loved to be with Him.

So as I grew and matured and learned and studied, my perceptions of Jesus began to change.

They are still changing today, to be honest.

I can remember how shocked I was when my wife bought me a picture of “Laughing Jesus.”  I had never imagined it.  But I loved it!

And now, as I learn more and more about Him, as I learn more about His culture and understand His words more clearly, and – more importantly – as I hear His voice more often and more clearly – I realize how good and how much He really is.

As Bill Johnson is fond of saying, “He is good.  He is better than we imagine.”

He is serious, yes.  But He smiles.  He laughs.  He rejoices.

He probably played with the disciples – whatever the first-century version of Jewish football and baseball were, I imagine He probably participated at times!

(He probably even played “pull my finger” with His nieces and nephews.  Does that thought shock you?  Good!  He was fully God – but also fully Man.  He never sinned.  But He had all the same bodily functions as a normal man.  The thought of Jesus sitting on a toilet will enrage some of you as I mention this – but it’s an important reality.  That’s how much He was willing to humble Himself, how far He was willing to lower Himself to leave heaven and become one of us so that He could die and rise again for us.  So that we could believe on Him and have eternal life.  But I digress.)

Jesus rejoices.

And He rejoices over YOU.

He rejoices over YOU.

Here’s an amazing verse to meditate on for the rest of the day:

“The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves.  He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17 (NIV)

Here’s a challenge – every few hours today, pause and re-read that verse.  Imagine Jesus in heaven, seated at His Father’s right hand.  Imagine Him pointing you out to His Father.  Imagine Him rejoicing over you – yes, you – today.  With singing.

Because that’s what He does!

Jesus Sees You! Yes, You!

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.  Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:35-38 (NIV)

“When He saw the crowds, He had compassion.”

Another emotion reveals itself in Jesus – He had compassion.

2 quick thoughts on this:

  • First, Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them.  I’m sure that Jesus was moved by the sheer size of the crowds and the numbers of needs that were represented – the number of people who were sick, hurting, harassed and helpless.  But I also know this – Jesus consistently moved through crowds, and as He did so, He noted and interacted with individuals.  So when Jesus saw the crowds, I don’t think He was just seeing masses of people – I think He was seeing many, many, many individuals with individual pains and needs, individuals who needed to receive compassion.  So remember that.  You’re not just a face in the crowd to God – just because He loves the entire crowd, and just because Jesus was sent to die for the sins of “the world” doesn’t lessen your value to God in any way.  You are important to God.  You matter to Him.  He sees you with compassion – you, an individual person with all your quirks, gifts, talents, abilities, stresses, inner pains, needs, desires, hurts, even sicknesses.  He sees you with compassion.
  • Second, Jesus and the Father are one.  Jesus testified to that on many occasions, and the apostle Paul and other New Testament authors testified to that.  Why is that important?  Because when you see Jesus moved with compassion, it tells us that our Father is the same way.  Jesus was the actual, physical embodiment of the Father – and of the Father’s heart towards all people.  So don’t fall for our culture’s lies about God – that He’s an angry old man, and Jesus is the cool one.  That God is the vengeful, lightning-hurling, temper-tantrum-throwing, earthquake-making, famine-sending God, the one who sends random “acts of God” to destroy property and people.  God is just and God is righteous.  But God also views you and me and all of humanity with compassion.  (If you want to try something interesting that may help you understand our Father better, give this a try – read through the gospels and everywhere you see the name “Jesus” substitute “our Father” for it.  After all, Jesus only did what He saw His Father do, and only said what His Father told Him to do.  He was the exact image and representation of His Father!)  So don’t fall for the trap of loving Jesus and being terrified of our Father.  They are one and the same, as is the Holy Spirit.  Father, Son, Holy Spirit – 3 distinct persons, but one nature – one God, revealed in 3 ways.  All 3 equally compassionate, moved by your needs and distresses, moved by my needs and distresses, and moved by our neighbors’ needs and distresses.

As you go through your day today – as you struggle with an issue that arises; as you face a difficult situation; as you wonder if God really cares, if He really notices – remember that He sees you, and He views you with compassion.

He really cares about you.

He really loves you.

He really likes you.

And He really will come through for You.

Just trust in Him; trust His compassionate heart for you.

Tossing the Temple

The story of Jesus cleansing the temple is an interesting one.  There is an account of it in all 4 gospels, although it seems likely that there were actually 2 occasions on which Jesus cleansed the temple – one at the beginning of his ministry, described in John 2:13-17, and then again at the end of his ministry (described in Matthew 21:12-17, Mark 11:15-19, and Luke 19:45-48).

I’m not sure how you picture this happening.  I think some of us have an inward image of Jesus walking into the temple courts, looking around, becoming enraged, and throwing a holy fit.  Some of us probably see Him acting a little more deliberately – not a “holy temper tantrum” (“temple tantrum” maybe?  Leonard Sweet calls it that!), but still, angry.

I don’t really know what His state of mind was.  I know we have a few clues:

  • In John’s account, we are told that Jesus fashioned a whip out of cords – something that would have taken a little bit of time, and seems to indicate that Jesus was quite deliberate in what He did.  In other words, on that first occasion, it seems clear that it wasn’t a case of Jesus simply losing His temper.  He saw something that wasn’t right – profiteering in the temple, and restrictions that were keeping poor people from connecting with God – and He took purposeful action to deal with it.  He was passionate – His disciples were reminded of an Old Testament quote about “zeal for Your house” by His actions – but He was not throwing a tantrum.
  • In the accounts in the synoptic gospels, which take place at the end of Jesus’ ministry, we are told that Jesus was teaching in the temple daily after cleansing the temple.  Again, these don’t seem to be the actions of someone who has lost His temper or who has an anger problem.  Jesus’ problem wasn’t His own emotions – His problem was the injustice and arrogance of the religious, and the fact that the temple was being used to proclaim the opposite of His kingdom message (repent, the kingdom of God is at hand.)
  • Jesus was a man who demonstrated anger on a number of occasions, but He was not an angry man.  He did not take His anger out on people.  He seems to have been angered by hard hearts, unmerciful actions, rules being valued above relationships, and people being kept away from encountering His Father.

When I think of Jesus being angry, I don’t think of Him as being abusive in any way, I don’t think of Him as being someone whose anger inspired fear for one’s personal safety, and I don’t think of Him as being angry about how He was personally being treated.  (In fact, the opposite was quite true.  When He was mistreated, He grieved for Jerusalem.  When He was arrested and tried and convicted and tortured and crucified, He wasn’t angry at those who were mistreating Him – instead, He prayed for them and asked His Father to forgive them.  Wow, is that convicting.  I know I’m supposed to pray for my enemies; and I suppose that I do that, albeit pretty grudgingly.  But ask the Father to forgive them?  Usually I’m too busy praying fire and brimstone on them and the Lord’s vengeance.  Maybe I’m doing that wrong…)

When I think of Jesus being angry, I think of someone who unselfish; who is perhaps saddened by what He sees taking place; who wants to take action at injustice and who wants to make a positive difference in the lives of hurting people.

It kind of reminds me of Ephesians 4:26 – “In your anger, do not sin.”

It doesn’t tell us to never, ever be angry.  Because sometimes anger is a good and powerful tool.

But it DOES tell us that in our anger, we need to be careful not to be pulled into sin.

Jesus never was.

Sometimes, I am.

How about you?

Jesus Wept

“Jesus wept.” – John 11:35

The shortest verse in the entire Bible.

Also, if you’re a child who has to memorize a certain number of Bible verses, probably the greatest verse in the whole Bible!

(You can read it in context here.)

This verse has haunted me for several years now.

I’ve read it so many times.  But it wasn’t until I was doing a funeral service for a friend that the context of the verse really spoke to me.

Jesus wept.

No big deal.  People do that all the time at funerals and at wakes.

I’ve done it myself.

Most of you reading this probably have as well.

But it finally struck me – we weep because of our loss, and the separation that it brings – a separation that may last decades – until heaven.

But Jesus knew differently at Lazarus’ gravesite.

He knew what was coming.

In verse 23, He tells Martha, “your brother will rise again.”

He knew.

He knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead.

He knew.

Do you get that?  Are you sure?

(If not, please go back and read the 7 lines above this one.)

Jesus knew that He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead…and He still wept.

Do you see what I’m saying?

Jesus wasn’t grieving that He wouldn’t see his friend again, this side of heaven.

He wasn’t grieving that it would be a long time until He saw Lazarus again.

He wasn’t grieving that He would have to go on with His life without Lazarus’ friendship.  After all, He was about to raise Lazarus from the dead.  He was about to see Lazarus walk out of the grave.  He was about to restore Lazarus to his sisters.

So why did Jesus weep?

None of us know for sure.  We can make some educated guesses, though.

I think that Jesus wept because His heart was broken.

His heart was broken over the grief that His friends were experiencing – and the knowledge that they would soon be grieving His death.

His heart was broken over death – even though Lazarus was about to be resurrected, he would die again one day.

Jesus’ heart was broken over the pain, the loss, the destruction, the death, the fear, the ruined lives – all the effects that sin had brought into the world.  All the losses that He had come to redeem and restore.  All the lives throughout the ages that had been broken, damaged, even destroyed by sin.  All the relationships that had suffered because of sin.  And most of all – the intimacy with Abba Father that everyone had lost.

Jesus wept.

But Jesus won.

On that day – He defeated death in a battle over Lazarus.

And on another day shortly after that?

Jesus didn’t just win the battle – He won the war.  He defeated death.  In fact, He destroyed death.

Death still happens.  But it is a defeated enemy, waiting for its death sentence to be implemented.  Delicious irony, isn’t it?!!!

And one day (soon, I think), Jesus will return.  And when He does, He will enforce the sentence that He passed on death.

Death will be ended.  Finally, and completely.

Jesus wept.

But the story didn’t end there.

We weep.

But our story won’t end there, either.

The day is coming when there will be no more weeping.  When our Father will dry every tear from our eyes.  When all the former things will pass away.

And when the summary of That Day is written?

I think that maybe…just maybe…it could be…

Jesus rejoiced!

Anger and Sin

This week, as we continue our journey of Walking with Jesus, we focus in on an aspect of Jesus’ life that can sometimes be ignored – His emotions.

Jesus was fully God – but He was also fully Man.  And so He experienced a range of emotions.

And, He expressed those emotions.

But He never sinned.

So there’s a great deal we can learn from Jesus about emotional health, and about expressing outwardly the reality of what is happening inside of us.  As you read each day’s story, watch and note Jesus’ emotions – what emotions He expresses, how He expresses them, what stirs His emotions, etc.

Here is our first story from the gospels this week:

Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there.  Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.  Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”  Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.  He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.   Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus. Mark 3:1-6 (NIV)

For this first devotional of the week, I want to just pose a few specific questions for you to consider about this passage:

  • What made Jesus angry in this instance?
  • Did He “take His anger out” on anyone?
  • Did His anger result in something redemptive or positive happening?  If so, what? (I know, these are easy questions – the answer’s right there above them.  But bear with me!)
  • Was Jesus anger sinful in any way?

Now ask yourself these questions:

  • What generally makes me angry?
  • When I become angry, do I “take my anger out” on other people?
  • Does my anger generally result in something redemptive or positive happening?  If so, what?
  • Is my anger generally sinful in any way?

Wow.  I don’t know about you, but those are convicting to me.

Sometimes, I get angry for the right reasons.  Sometimes I’m angry because someone is being treated unjustly, or because someone is suffering, or because someone is using rules and legalism to keep someone else from a blessing.  Or some other just, right reason.  Sometimes I truly am “righteously indignant.”

But more often, I’m angry because I’ve been misunderstood, or I haven’t gotten my own way, or I have no control, or I’ve been hurt, or I’ve been accused of something that hits a little too close to home, or a host of other reasons that have more to do with my own pride and selfishness than they do with helping someone else or bringing about something positive.

I’ve got some work to do.  And I’ve got some areas of my life that I still need to fully surrender to the Lord Jesus – some areas of my life that He still wants to transform.  Areas of my life that I need Him to transform.

I’ve got a ways to go before I am truly following Jesus in how I experience and express anger.

How about you?