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]

Jesus Christ Exiled From Most Christians

Take Jesus seriously

The title of this post is a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Bonhoeffer came from a family of geniuses. His father was a professor of psychiatry and neurology. His brother Karl Friedrich was a professor of physical chemistry and discovered the spin isomers of the hydrogen molecule.

In college Dietrich was known for disagreeing with his professors, most of whom didn’t accept the Bible as revelation from God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his family were German citizens but they opposed the Nazis. His brother Klaus was executed for Continue reading

Why Is That Christian So Appalling?

Why are Christians soToday I read about a Christian man who claims to have the ability to teleport, cure cancer, and repair avionics problems in flying airplanes–while he’s standing on the ground. He was eventually convicted of fraud for taking money from the relatives of deceased people with the promise that he would resurrect them. Wow. That’s a Christian for you. (At least I think he claims to be a Christian.)

There was this firefighter I worked with and I found him to be obnoxious–and he called himself a Christian. And I said to myself the words, “Man, how can this guy call himself a Christian.” (We’ll talk more about him a little later.) Maybe you’ve never encountered someone like the guy who says he can teleport, but I know you’ve experienced obnoxious Christians before. I know you have because I have. And I know you have because I’ve overheard people talking. People saying things like, “I just can’t believe she said that–and she’s a Christian!” Or, “Man that dude was obnoxious–and he’s a Christian!” Or, “That guy is such an idiot–and he calls himself a Christian!”

So why? Why do they behave that way, these Christians?

How Can He Call Himself A Christian?

When I read this one certain passage of scripture a certain part of me cries out: “Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

It’s the passage where Continue reading

How He Loves Us

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way…

He loves us

David Crowder, How He Loves Us

 

So You’re Hurting

Sad Man by Andy Bullock - Creative Commons

So you’re hurting. You’re struggling. Every day you wake up in the morning wondering how you’re going to make it through. It’s so bad sometimes you can feel it, physically. You get that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach, or that intense ache in your chest, or that lump in your throat. When you’re around others you fake it as best you can, but the faking gets more and more difficult every day this thing drags on. And you wonder how long you can hang on.

Been there.

Here’s what turned it around for me. Continue reading

I Am Twice as Bad (And How God Used Skunks to Tell Me So)

Why do I sinLast Sunday I heard one of my heroes of the faith say he has offered opinions on topics that have compromised his effectiveness at reflecting the nature of Christ. Sometimes the topics were political, sometimes they were about what other churches are teaching, but what really struck me was that this guy–who I consider to be one of the best people on the planet at communicating Christ–sees himself as a failure in this way. I felt horrible after hearing that sermon, because I had to ask myself,

Where does that leave me?

I’m as nothing compared to this man. I remember him telling a story a long time ago about how he encountered a skunk walking next to him, and how he took it as a message from the Lord that he stunk.

A similar thing happened to me on October 7, 2013. I was angry that day, so I did what I often do when I’m angry Continue reading

Is Time Alone with God a Waste of Time?

alone with God

Alone with God

I was in church recently and heard this teaching:

Young Esther was to be presented to the king, king Xerxes, a great king who reigned from India to Ethiopia at the time. (If you look at a map you’ll see that’s a huge amount of territory.)

But before Esther could be in the company of King Xerxes, she had to “soak” for 12 months, 6 months with oil of myrrh and 6 with perfumes. (Esther 2:12)

Our God loves the smell of sacrifice. Beginning with Noah’s sacrifice after the flood we often see in scripture how sacrifice is pleasing to Him. (Genesis 8:18-22) So even as Esther sacrificed a year to soak, to prepare herself for her king, we can soak in Jesus, in prayer, in praise, in His word, to prepare ourselves for our King with a capital K. Soaking in this way is never a waste of time. Continue reading

Bad Christian Examples (and what that has to do with Blazers’ point guard Damian Lillard)

I’ve been watching the NBA playoffs lately. Mostly Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers. Lillard knocked down an amazing three point shot at the buzzer at the end of the sixth game, to win the series against the Houston Rockets. It was epic. I’ve heard that Lillard has, heroes. Heroes who inspire him. Tony Parker, Jason Kidd, and Brandon Roy just to name a few. And obviously, studying these successful NBA guards produced results in Damian Lillard. It’s a big part of what makes him great today.

Occasionally I’ll come across an article about the worst draft busts in NBA history, or the worst NBA players ever to set foot on the court. You know I never hear anything about any up and coming young NBA players studying those guys. I don’t hear about Damian Lillard studying bad examples of NBA point guards. He’s focused on the Parkers, Kidds, and Roys of the league. It’s part of what makes him a successful basketball player.

So here’s my question: Continue reading

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

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)

 

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References:

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