Is Jesus Christ among you?

Test yourselves. If you cannot tell that Jesus Christ is among you, it means you have failed the test. 2 Corinthians 13:5

How do you tell if Jesus is among you? You look for Him. Is He here? Is He there? How do you tell? Do you see someone who acts like a spiritual giant and go, “Well certainly He’s over there?” Do you see someone being like Him? The answer is actually no to all of these because we are trying to “see” Him so we’re looking for character evidence or growth markers in a person. 

This is what has been wrong with Christianity in America for years. It’s all individual. We size up each other’s personal spiritual “evidence.” We are so competitive and bent on self-actualization. Walk into a Christian bookstore and look for how many books are all about being happy, successful, fulfilled, even purpose-driven. How many books are sold on the basis of what they will do for you? Is this the way we are going to pass the test of Jesus among us by being happy, successful, fulfilled, purpose-driven people?

No, I don’t think this is it. We don’t see Jesus by sizing up individual Christians in a spiritual “line-up.” We experience Jesus in relationships. 

You spend a few hours with someone. You bare your soul. You pray. You cry. You experience the love, acceptance and forgiveness. And you give it back. You walk away, and you can’t necessarily say you saw Jesus, but you know you’ve been with Jesus. That’s the way you know Jesus Christ is among you. You don’t “see” Him, you experience Him in relationships. 

You know you’ve been with Jesus. There was an unexplainable presence and power.  You add up the elements of who was there and it doesn’t add up. There was more than what you can account for. And things happen that defy explanation. “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst” (Matthew 18:20).

You can go to church these days and not see Jesus. You can be lead in worship and hear an inspiring talk from the word of God  and go home feeling as alone as when you came. Why? You were not in relationship with anyone. There was nothing in that service that put you in relationship with those around you. You experience Jesus in relationships. 

In the last few years I have gotten to know a friend who is just one of these folks who likes to get people together, and he has taken it upon himself to gather a few brothers together for a lunch, or once a year, it’s a 3-day event at a retreat center with no agenda but to get together and share lives. He started inviting me to these and for a while I did not attend. I couldn’t imagine what you could accomplish just sitting around talking, and I was a little threatened about the idea of no agenda. Finally I decided to go to one of the 1/2 day events and I have now been to three or four of these. And I’ll go again. Why? Because one thing is consistently true: when it’s over, I know I’ve been with Jesus.

Join us for church Sunday at 6pm on facebook.com/thecatch. It’s live and interactive and Jesus will be there among us!

Posted in relationships, worship | Tagged , | 2 Comments

Weakness on display

th-23

I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message. (2 Corinthians 12:6)

Upon further review, it has come to my attention that the interpretation of this statement in 2 Corinthians 12:6 I made yesterday may have led to some unintended conclusions. I want to be sure that is not the case. “I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message,” is what he wrote, and I took that to mean that Paul’s life backs up what He says. Well that’s true, but what Paul actually says here is that he should not be credited beyond what we can see or hear from him.  He knows he is weak and doesn’t want to be worshipped or thought of as larger-than-life; worship should turn only towards Christ, who is larger than all of our lives. This is not just the general principle of walking the talk — living what you preach. That can easily lead to legalism, deception and a show of spiritual superiority.

Continue reading

Posted in walk by faith | Tagged | 3 Comments

A pock on the skyline

th-22

I looked at my phone this morning and saw “Wednesday, September 11” right under the time, and thought, “Oh my goodness, it’s 9/11.” I guess I knew it was coming — I knew it was somewhere in the vicinity — I had heard rumors, but it hadn’t really registered. On the one hand, it’s just another beautiful September day; on the other hand, it’s a deep pockmark on the face of a nation. You can date the movie you are watching by the look of the New York skyline. It’s a permanent pock on our skyline to remind us of our weakness and vulnerability — how a mere handful of hate-filled people could cause so much damage, fear and loss of life.

At the same time, I read in 2 Corinthians 12 this morning where Paul is wishing to boast in his many visionary revelations from God or his religious pedigree, but he chose to boast instead about his weaknesses including a “thorn” in his flesh — “a messenger from Satan” to torment him — in order to keep him from getting proud. No one knows what this was, but it doesn’t really matter. It’s not what it was but what it did for him. It set off the power of Christ in his life. “I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10).

It’s all about power. Where does the power come from? Does it come from us — our personality strengths, our clever manipulation of events and outcomes, our superior knowledge, even our experiences, or does it come from God? The only way to really tell is when we are powerless. When we are weak and vulnerable. And what does God use to keep you and me on edge?

Next week in the Catch, we are kicking off a three-week Membership Campaign with the study of a passage in scripture I know better than any other, but I will be looking personally at it this time for something I know I don’t have. We’re going to be talking about power — power to live in the Spirit, power to change, power to go beyond our limits, and power to be the person God made us to be. So if you know all about that, feel free to sit out the next three weeks, but if you don’t (and I don’t think many do) then don’t miss a day of discovery, because, I promise you, I don’t even know at this point what I will be uncovering, I just know I won’t settle for anything less than the real thing. And on top of that, I have a wife who will insist on this being more than just a head trip.

The title for our series will be, “Where the Spirit is.” And what I will be seeking is the ability to say, along with Paul, “I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message” (2 Corinthians 12:6). In other words, if you walk alongside me and can’t see what I’m talking about, then unsubscribe.

So on 9/11/2019, what’s the pock on your landscape? What’s the thorn in your flesh? What are your weaknesses, and are you willing to boast about them? Why or why not?

Posted in Tragedy, walk by faith | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The only way to be without sin

th-21There is a section in the Book of Jeremiah in the Old Testament where God has the prophet Jeremiah proclaim destruction on the Babylonian empire. (Babylon was one of the great empires of the world, but as it turned out, their power came from God, who raised them up for the sole purpose of punishing His disobedient chosen people in the nations of Israel and Judah by conquering them and carrying them off into exile and captivity.) But Jeremiah also prophesied that God would preserve a remnant of His people who would remain true to Him, and He would bring them back home.

“In those days,” says the Lord, “no sin will be found in Israel or in Judah, for I will forgive the remnant I preserve” (Jeremiah 50:20).

Continue reading

Posted in grace, grace turned outward | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Grace is to give away

th-20

When you think about it, there is really no such thing as Grace alone without being Grace Turned Outward. I don’t think you can have it. It’s not like two stages of grace: you get one, and then sometime later, you get the other like some kind of “:second blessing.” When you receive Grace, it forever changes the playing field. It removes the competition. It erases “us” and “them” (there is just “us” — all of us). It’s basically game over on comparison, measurement and judgment.

Continue reading

Posted in grace, grace turned outward | Tagged , | 4 Comments

On the road again

th-18

It’s simple, really. Caring for people from creation to restoration is seeing the value and importance of every human being on this planet regardless. There is no one insignificant. No one who doesn’t count. No one who is an outcast as far as God is concerned. No one without worth or dignity. No leaving anyone out.

Continue reading

Posted in God's love, relationships | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Loving the whole person

th-16

Thank you to those who commented both publicly and privately to yesterday’s Catch. Bottom line is: I probably could have been better informed about what I was trying to say, but I do believe most of you got it anyway. I was simply trying to say that the whole person is important. People are important. The planet is important. Animals are important. Life is important. It’s all important. Care about it all if you love God, because God created it and He is in the process of restoring all that He made to its intended glory.

Continue reading

Posted in Friendship, relationships | Tagged , | 6 Comments

From Creation to Restoration

th-13

We’re going to spend some more time this week on “The rest of the gospel” that I spoke to last week because it is critical to what differentiates the true gospel from this phenomenon we have come to know at least in America as a cultural/political faction masked as Christian. Being committed to the whole gospel is different than that, and it connects us with the concerns of the millennials. We’re talking about the whole gospel that begins with Creation and continues on through to Restoration. It’s the whole gospel about the whole person and when we care about the whole gospel for the whole person, we can connect with people on so many different levels.

Continue reading

Posted in kingdom of God, Millennials, new frontier | Tagged , | 7 Comments