The Control Freak And Jesus

Control Freak

There’s This Thirty-Something

There’s this thirty-something in my life who is always asking me these great questions about the Bible: provocative questions, hard questions, but very interesting questions. And it’s caused me to look at the Bible differently. I read and hear so much about how the Bible is restrictive. But this person with the questions has got me thinking about the freedom God has given us. Freedom to make our own choices. Have you ever considered what’s not illegal in the Old Testament? For instance, prostitution is not illegal in the Old Testament, and neither is polygamy. I’m not saying that either of those are good, I’m just saying neither of those is illegal in the civic code given to Israel in the Old Testament. People are free to engage in these activities without legal repercussions, though the spiritual ramifications and life consequences are still there.

God is radical when it comes to our freedom. He wants us to have the freedom to do what we want, even when it’s wrong. And it’s really made me look at my own ideas about what God wants me to do concerning the behavior of others. Because sometimes I want other people to do what I want them to do, and I can get frustrated when they don’t.

Maybe you’ve been there. Maybe you are there. Maybe you want to spend money a certain way but your wife wants to do it her way. Or maybe you want more time to recreate with the guys, but she has other ideas. Or maybe it’s just deciding what to do for dinner (not that this question would ever result in a disagreement). Whatever it is, our perspective changes when we see the enormous respect Jesus demonstrated for the free will of others.

How Jesus Loved People: He Asked

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked the blind man sitting by the road near Jericho. (Luke 18:38-41)

“Do you want to get well?” Jesus asked the invalid at the pool of Bethesda. (John 5:6)

“Shall I come to heal him?” Jesus asked the centurion with the paralyzed servant. (Matthew 8:7)

“Will you give me a drink?” Jesus asked the Samaritan woman at the well. (John 4:7)

He asked. He asked people what it was that they wanted, or even if they wanted. He left the choice up to them.

He Let People Choose

Ever notice that Jesus never went out looking for individual Pharisees to engage? Nicodemus had to come to Jesus. (John 3:1-21)

And then there’s the guy driving demons out in Jesus’ name: “Master,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.”

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. (Luke 9:50)

And there’s the synagogue official who told the people not to come on the Sabbath to be healed. But Jesus said, No! Let them come! (Luke 13:14-17)

Even his own disciples tried to constrain the will of certain people. They refused to let the little children come to Jesus. And when Jesus saw this, he was indignant. No! He said, Let them come! (Mark 10:14)

Finally there’s Judas objecting to Mary pouring her perfume out onto Jesus’ feet. How did Jesus respond? He said, Leave her alone! (John 12:3-7)

Even when it broke cultural convention, Jesus let people do what they wanted to.

Even Hostile People Were Given The Freedom To Choose

When the prodigal son (adult son) demanded his inheritance his tone was more bitter and cold toward his father than most people realize. In that culture, in that time, when a son demanded his inheritance in that way, what he was saying to his father was, “I wish you were dead. You’re being alive, your very existence, is getting in the way of my inheritance.” But what does the father, who represents God in the parable, what does he do? Amazingly, he lets the prodigal do what he wishes. (Luke 15:11-32)

How To Love Like Jesus

There are exceptions of course. With a stern countenance Jesus imposed his will on the demons he cast out of people. (Luke 4:35) And when Peter cut off an ear with his sword Jesus said, “No more of this!” (Luke 22:51) Nevertheless the general pattern we see from Jesus is to allow people to do as they wish. Even when Judas came to betray him Jesus didn’t try to talk him out of it. He simply said, “Do what you came for, friend.” (Matthew 26:50)

So for me, and for you, to love like Jesus, we need to rethink our expectations of others. Jesus demonstrated a radical respect for the freedom of others to choose to do what they want to do. To love like Jesus we also have to show that same radical respect for people’s freedom.

Jesus did.

You can too.

After he finished a parable or a teaching Jesus would often say, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 8:8) In other words, Whoever hears hears, and whoever doesn’t hear doesn’t hear.

The choice is yours.

[Image via Matthijs - Creative Commons]

Fame vs. Greatness

I was on Russell Okung’s Twitter site today (Okung plays left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks) and came across this from Tera Carissa Hodges.

God told Abraham I will make your name GREAT, while in Matthew 4, satan didn’t offer Jesus greatness, he offered Him fame.

You know, I just never thought about it that way, but it’s true. What a difference there is between fame and greatness. And it just struck me. It struck me as one of the most on target statements I’ve heard in a long time. It’s on target for a culture that craves fame.

Jesus didn’t seek fame. Many times after a miracle he gave strict instructions to the person healed, not to tell anyone. He lost many followers when he gave his teaching on eating his body, the bread of life, and drinking his blood. (Mark 7:36, Matthew 8:4John Chapter 6)

Jesus’ focus was on loving his Father and loving people. And Jesus’ priority was pleasing his Father, without regard for the opinions of people, and without regard for fame.

And he was truly great. The greatest we’ll ever see.

A dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. Luke 22:24-27

Extreme Forgiveness

forgive

Tunnel 13

A thirty-something friend of mine, Harold Cunningham, recently asked me about a problem he had. He shared this in confidence but after he told me what he did, I found it to be so radical, I asked his permission to write about it. Continue reading

Love Like Jesus–Don’t Give ‘Til It Hurts (and what that has to do with your inner circle)

give till it hurts

Inner Circle

Loving and Giving Until It Hurts

Carol is a single mother with a heart as big as the moon. She loves strays of all kinds: stray dogs, stray cats, stray iguanas (today she informed me there’s a local herpetological society that will contribute toward your care of a stray iguana). She also loves stray people. But early in life she thought she could help a stray person who was struggling. She was sure that with enough love she could bring out the good person she knew lived inside him. She loved him, and loved, him, and loved him. But no matter how much love she gave, she couldn’t compete with his addiction. He spent his money (and hers) on his habit. He neglected her. He neglected his job. He neglected his kids. Finally he left. Not to be deterred, she found another stray. Surely with enough love she would turn this person around. But the pattern repeated until he finally left too. Now and again she would surround herself with several stray people at a time, each one was in a dark place, and that too sent her life into a destructive spin.

So she asked me today, How does this work? We’re supposed to love people like Jesus loved people, but how do we do that without our good efforts deteriorating into something self destructive? Continue reading

Go Measure the Heavens

Why is Christianity so restrictive

Bow Shock Around LL Orionis (spans trillions of kilometers) – Hubble Telescope Image

 

Go measure the heavens, go weigh the mountains on a scale, go take the ocean’s water and number each drop, go count the sand on the sea’s wide shore, and when you have accomplished this, you still won’t know how much God loves you. (Spurgeon)

 

[You might also like Why is Christianity So Restrictive]

References:

C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons on Jesus and the Holy Spirit, 2006, Hendrickson Publishers, p. 399

Love Like Jesus and the Resurrected Christian–How a Man Came Down From Mount St. Helens, “Died,” and “Rose Again”

resurrected Christian

Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you. Ephesians 5:14

A Man Came Down From Mount St. Helens and was “Resurrected”

It was March of 1980. Mount St. Helens was showing signs of an imminent eruption. Bryan Flora, a firefighter in Medford, Oregon was curious about the volcanic activity. His jeep wasn’t running at the time so he borrowed his father’s car and drove to the volcano in Washington. For months before the big eruption there were earthquakes and steam venting from the North face of the mountain. USGS scientists felt it was too dangerous for the general public and convinced the local authorities to close the area. So when Bryan arrived, a Skamania county sheriff was there to greet him. He was denied entry into the park. But Bryan knew the country. And the perimeter is so large it was impossible for law enforcement to cover it all. It wasn’t long before Bryan found a way in. He parked and hiked to the timberline where he spent the night. During his time on the mountain he could feel the earthquakes and hear the mountain making popping noises. But he managed to survive.

However the next day Continue reading

What God Wants

What does God want

Jesus’ Last Moments

Jesus hung there on the cross between the two criminals. The sign Pilot ordered, hung over Jesus’ head, it said, This is the King of the Jews. The bible says the Jewish rulers were “sneering” at him. “He saved others,” they said. “Let him save himself if he’s God’s Messiah.”

One of the criminals who hung there with him also sneered. He said, “You’re supposed to be the Messiah? Save yourself and save us too.”

Darkness came across the land.

The curtain of the temple was torn in two.

Then Jesus called out loudly, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

And then he died.

(Luke 23)

How God Said It

In the story of Jesus’ death we see him mocked and sneered at while he hung there to die. Before that we feel his pain as we see him falsely accused, and whipped, and crowned with thorns, and nailed to the cross. We see it, we feel it, we experience it. That’s the way the bible is written. Have you ever noticed that? Have you ever noticed all the sensory experiential language in the bible?

  • Jesus’ first miracle had to do with tasting. He turned the water into wine. And the master of the wedding feast tasted it and said, This is the best tasting wine of the feast.
  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” Psalm 34:8 says.
  • Jesus said, I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. (John 6:35) In fact most of John chapter 6 is about Jesus explaining how we must eat and drink of him.

And there’s also all the talk about Jesus our bridegroom, and how we’re his bride.

  • Jesus said, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” (Matthew 9:15)
  • The bible says in Revelation, “The marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready…” (Revelation 19:7-9, see also Revelation 21:2, 21:9-11)
  • And Jesus tells the parable of the virgins and the bridegroom in Matthew 25.

And those are just a few examples. So why does the bible push all this sensory and experiential language on us? What is God saying to us?

What God Wants

What is he saying to us? What does God want? Here’s what He’s saying to us: Continue reading

Love Like Jesus–Love the Unlovable

Love Like Jesus -- Socialize with Sinners Influence

(One of our most popular posts–from the archives)

When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Mark 2:16-17


How Jesus Loved People

Jesus loved people by spending time with them, in spite of their sinful lifestyle.


How to Love Like Jesus

There’s a blog I follow called Not Ashamed Of The GospelNot long ago, they posted a three part series about a ministry which reaches out to sex industry employees. I couldn’t help but notice there weren’t many comments offered on the last post in the series, An Insider’s Look — “Awkward!” I think for most people, that post was just too hot to handle.

Finally, one person posted and as best as I could tell he used scripture to infer this post about the sex industry ministry was an example of ungodly men perverting the grace of God.

I couldn’t help myself. I had to comment.

Continue reading

A Time to Die

Die to self Christian

It’s Time to Die

The last post was about how important it is not to die indiscriminately. In other words the last post was for people who can’t say no, as you might gather from the title: How Not to Become a Christian Doormat.

This post is probably more important and for a greater number because this post is for all of us who don’t want to die. And at some point everyone of us will have to. I’m not talking about the physical death of our bodies necessarily, but rather the time when the Holy Spirit will tell you, “Yes, it’s time. It’s your time to die now. It’s your time to submit to My will and not your own.”

You and I and every single one of us will encounter God in that way. Every single one of us will be called upon by God to die, and frequently.

Frequently because we’re commanded to love, and love so often demands that we die to our own will. And there are all kinds of ways to do that, there are all kinds of ways to die. You might be called to die by allowing that guy at work to take the choice assignment, or by agreeing to your wife buying a new pair of shoes, or even by simply turning off the TV and engaging with the kids.

Or, it could be something much harder.

A Tale of Two Fathers Continue reading

How Not to Become a Christian Doormat–How to know when to die

Human Doormat, pushover, Christian

Doormat

A Dormitory Door Mat

There are these two roommates Walter and Craig who live on the fifth floor of the Barnhart dormitory at the University of Oregon. Craig is on the football team. He’s pretty sure he’s one of the best athletes on campus. He’s really into his sport and his friends, like a lot of guys are during their college years. Two of his favorite hangouts are the weight room and wherever the current party happens to be. He’s a Grand Theft Auto and Madden NFL kind of guy.

But his roommate Walter is different. He’s kind of bookish, if you know what I mean. He’s a good student. He belongs to the college writing club. He’s watched all the Lord of the Rings movies multiple times—on Blue Ray. He’s an English major but he’s taking a physics class, just for fun. He’s more of a Minecraft kind of a guy.

Well one day Craig has a chance to move into an apartment off campus. The day the apartment comes open is the day before a home game, and he wants to move in right away so he can have a victory party after the game. He already invited a bunch of his friends. Getting people to come to his party was no problem. But getting people to help him move wasn’t working out. Not a single friend was available. So, even though he very much preferred not to, he asked Walter.

“Hey, I need you to help me move my stuff over to the apartment.”

“I’d like to but I can’t,” Walter said. “I have a midterm and a group project presentation tomorrow.” He also said yes to a request to give a presentation at his writer’s club right after the midterm. And his parents were arriving for a visit after writer’s club. But Walter was too embarrassed to disclose that to Craig.

“I don’t really see a problem,” Craig said. “I only need you for like, one hour.”

Walter didn’t respond but Craig could see the reluctance on his face.

“Come on Walter, don’t be selfish.”

For some reason every time Walter experienced a pang of guilt he thought of the dentist’s needle injecting lidocaine into his gums. Except instead of his gums, he imagined the needle penetrating his heart. And instead of pain followed by numbness, there was just pain. Craig had a knack for triggering that response in Walter. So did his dad. So did his mother. So did a lot of people.

And there was that word: selfish. A Christian can’t be selfish, can he? Continue reading