Keeping Your Relationship with Christ Fresh
Christ's mercies are fresh every morning, but what are we doing to tap into that abundant mercy? Too many times we expect our relationship with Jesus to just happen, but like any relationship, it takes some effort.
Nothing will ever replace reading scripture, but sometimes reading someone else's perspective, and hearing how God spoke to them can help us experience those mercies with the freshness our Father intends.
Below you'll find some of the "aha" moments I've had with Christ, and I pray they refresh you as much as they did me!
Titles You'll Find On This Page
No More Cracks
Nazareth or Capernaum
The Rest of the Story
The Power of Words
The Wall of My Faith
No More Cracks
The light has come into the world,
and people loved darkness rather than the light
because their deeds were evil.
I was doing a bit of mudding recently, and as I did the finish work, I was reminded of scripture. Before I tell you about the scripture, though, I should probably tell you what mudding is just in case you haven’t done much construction. Mudding is the process of putting dry wall plaster (ie: mud) on the walls to hide the seams. In my case I was getting rid of the ridges in paneling.
The final step is sanding it smooth, making sure all the ridges are filled and there aren’t any bumps. Before you quit, the best thing to do is sit a light almost parallel to the wall and let it shine. And just like that, I thought I was done and the light showed all the flaws in the plaster.
Four times in John Jesus calls Himself “The Light of the World.” Two more times John describes the Savior as such. As that bright light revealed all of my plaster faux pas, I thought about how Jesus does the same thing.
Most people aren’t “evil,” not in the way we think of the word. Even before I began walking with Christ I don’t think anyone would have used that adjective to describe me. I was always a goody-two-shoes. If you’d have asked me what I needed to change before I gave my life to Jesus, I’d have mentioned a couple of tiny flaws so I didn’t appear conceited, but in general I was a good person. People liked me, and I tried to help others.
But that’s what it looked like before I turned the light on.
When we begin to walk with Jesus, we are in the light, and like the walls I was working on, when the light shines on us we begin to see things that didn’t show up in the darkness. Flaws and mistakes, things that might be described as evil by a perfect and holy God are revealed. I think it’s one of the reasons some folks never get very far in their walk with Christ. It’s easier to walk out of the light, “love the darkness,” than to let Him sand off the rough edges and fill in the tiny ridges.
But easier is almost never better.
Jesus wants us to have the best life possible. He said He came to give us abundant life. But it comes when we walk in His light. 1 John 1:7 says “If we walk in the light as Jesus is in the light . . . His blood purifies us from all sin.” Jesus came to get rid of the cracks, the ridges and the bumps! Sometimes the purification process is a little tough. It’s our nature to want easy, but I’ve decided, I don’t want easy, I want better!
So I pray today you are walking in the Light, letting Him highlight every ridge, crack and bump; so Jesus Christ can finish you to perfection, and you can live the most abundant life possible!
6 Then they gathered around him and asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Human nature seems to be pretty consistent. Even after walking with Jesus for nearly three years, eating with Him, hearing Him teach and watching Him suffer, the eleven still had only one thing on their mind. Their only concern was Israel restored to the glory she had when David was king.
In their defense, it had been ingrained in them since childhood. All of Judea expected a conquering Messiah. Like most of us, they probably only studied the parts of scripture that confirmed their beliefs. The suffering servant of Isaiah 52 and 53 probably didn’t make the cut. Those prophecies probably didn’t make sense.
The whole scenario reminds me of how often my prayers focus on my own interests. It’s not that God doesn’t want to hear my heart. But like the disciples, when I focus on my little world, I’m missing the bigger picture of the restoration Jesus came to bring.
For instance, if we skip over to Acts 3 we see Peter’s famous, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you,” and the lame beggar walks. When we read this we focus on Peter’s ability to do miracles and the restoration of a man’s ability to walk. But read on. What if the healing was merely a way for Peter to begin to spread the good news of Jesus. Would any of the folks in that town have listened to him had he not first healed a man who’d never taken a step in his life? We stop at the headings and chapter division in the newer versions of scripture, and overlook the true miracle. And by doing so we miss these words deep into chapter four, “the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.”
The lame man rejoiced, and so he should! What a blessing! What a wonderful personal story of restoration. And while God was equally excited for the man, that healing was just a drop in the bucket, because God’s man goal is the Kingdom. Jesus came to restore the original Kingdom, Eden, all of humankind.
God does give us individual blessings. I never want to be ungrateful for those. But I also don’t want to be like those first eleven followers prior to the Holy Spirit. I never want to be so concerned with what’s going on in my little world that I miss the fact God is orchestrating a million scenarios all at once to advance His glory and to restore my true home, the Kingdom of Heaven.
Nazareth or Capernaum
22 All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked.
23 Jesus said to them, “Surely you will quote this proverb to me: ‘Physician, heal yourself!’ And you will tell me, ‘Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’”
24 “Truly I tell you,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown. 25 I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. 26 Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.”
28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him off the cliff.
Everyone in Nazareth spoke well of Him. The town thought it was cool that Joseph’s son could speak with such grace. At first glance it seems like Jesus is being a bit tough on His hometown. But when we read their reaction, we know right away He was right again.
Mary’s neighbors could have easily responded with, “We’re different than our ancestors, we can see you’ve been sent from God.” Any of those leaders could have stepped up and recognized their friend’s authority like the folks from Capernaum did just a few verses later. Any inkling of recognition that those folks Elijah and Elisha had to deal with were in the wrong might have been the difference.
But Nazareth was only in it for the miracles. I think they spoke well of Him just to get a cut of what they looked at as Jesus’ lottery ticket. And when He didn’t give them what they thought they deserved, they kicked Him out of town.
They’d watched Him grow up. Surely they’d noticed He was a little different than all the rest of the kids in town. But even they had, they didn’t want what made Him different, they certainly didn’t want changed lives.
It’s the same today. Churches are full of folks from Nazareth. They don’t want to change, they just want the blessings Jesus has to offer. I wonder if that’s why the institution is so unattractive to newcomers. If the people who call themselves the body of Christ aren’t more like Christ than the rest of the world, then why bother? If we’re just clamoring after miracles that don’t make life more abundant, what’s the point? After all, what good is a healing or deliverance if the heart is still bitter and the spirit discouraged?
Every day is a day to choose. We can choose to be like the people of Nazareth, the kind who just want Jesus for the external things He can provide. Or we can be like the people of Capernaum, a forty mile walk from Jesus’ hometown by land, but just an 18 inch difference from head to heart in attitude.
The people of Capernaum recognized Jesus’ authority. They weren’t just impressed by His teaching, they were amazed by it. People of Capernaum took notes, they passed along what they’d learned and they planted it in their hearts so folks could see the change. And because they recognized Jesus was more than just the carpenter’s son, bigger than just a miracle maker, the village of Capernaum witnessed deliverance and healing.
So where do you live? Do you reside in a land of appreciation of Jesus’ words or amazement? Is He simply a respected member of the community or have you embraced His authority? He wants to be your friend, but have you kept Him only as friend and neglected to recognize Him as Lord.
I’ll ask you again . . . where do you live? Why don’t you come with me . . . I’m moving to Capernaum.
If these five short meditations have given you inspiration, you may enjoy this book. These forty five devotions are each just a few pages long so they're easy to read with your coffee in the morning. Short and inspirational, each has a Bible verse to reflect on, and all will give you something to think about for the rest of your day so you can continue to focus on Christ even when you feel like life is too busy!
The Rest of the Story
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God,
who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ,
not counting people’s sins against them.
And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors,
as though God were making his appeal through us.
We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-20
Have you ever read a book, reached the end and were surprised to discover it was book one of a series? Or perhaps it was a movie or a TV show. The cliffhanger kept you in suspense until the next release. You knew there was more, probably something even better than you’d seen or read in the first installment, and you were chomping at the bit waiting for the rest of the story.
Paul Harvey used to have a radio broadcast called “The Rest of the Story.” He shared a true story about an ordinary person or incident, and then he’d tell us he’d be right back with “the rest of the story.” After a commercial or three, we’d hear a heartwarming or inspiring ending to give a nation hope and restore our faith in humanity.
I think Second Corinthians 5 is like that. It’s “the rest of the story.”
As a Christian, I can never be too appreciative of the fact Jesus left the beauty and perfection of heaven to walk on this earth and experience life as a human so we can be sure He understands us. His death and suffering on my behalf leaves me speechless, and the resurrection is too marvelous for words. When we share the gospel, we generally tell our friends these extraordinary truths along with the message of Christ’s astonishing gifts of love and forgiveness. But too often, we leave it there, and we don’t even end the conversation with a hint that there’s more.
And while that’s enough, it’s not the end. For a long time I lived in the incomplete truth of the gospel of forgiveness. And I never want to take away from the importance of that truth; however, there’s more. When we never move past forgiveness, we tend to think of it from a more human perspective. I understand that just because I forgive someone it doesn’t mean they will receive my forgiveness or want to ever be my friend again. In our world forgiveness doesn’t always equal reconciliation. So it’s imperative we share the ministry of reconciliation when we share the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You see, I’m not just forgiven. I’m more than made new. My relationship with the One who created me is restored. Christ calls me friend (John 15:15). The Sovereign Ruler of the Universe walks me with in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8). His Spirit speaks to my heart. My tears of regret become laughter, my sorrow becomes joy, and Jesus invites me to dance with Him. (Jeremiah 31:13) My Savior and Redeemer, the One who paid the price for my ransom, the Father I hurt beyond measure when I wasted the treasures He gave me anxiously waited for my return, and not only did He forgive me, He ran out to meet me, brought me back into the Garden of His Estate and gave me a huge share of the inheritance just as if I’d never left.
The Power of Our Words
Do they Hurt or Heal,
Build or Destroy
2 Kings 2:23-25
From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!"  He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.  And he went on to Mount Carmel and from there returned to Samaria.
This is a really hard piece of scripture. It reminds me of Numbers 16:28-35 and the family of Korah, who got swallowed up because they rebelled against the leadership of Moses, and Acts 5:1-11, when Ananias and Sapphira lied to Peter and the Holy Spirit about gifts they gave to God. For a time as I read this story of Elisha, I prayed, "why?" In fact, because this happened so soon after Elisha took over Elijah's ministry, my first thought was, "He really thinks a lot of himself." Some kids call him a name, so he calls down curses from God. I wasn't too impressed by the fact God actually answered his prayer.
But the more I thought about it, the more I considered perhaps God is trying to show us the seriousness of our words. Our Father often used extremes to give us a glimpse of how he feels about certain situations. Korah, for example, helped us see that it's unacceptable to rebel against God's chosen leader. Ananias and Sapphira set the stage for the rest of Christianity so we would understand that God didn't want our gifts if they were given to make us look good or contributed as a lie.
In his work, "Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl," N.D. Wilson talks a lot about the power of the spoken word. After all, everything we can see and touch was brought into being by the mere mention of it by our Creator. Likewise, our words hold power . . . more power than we can imagine. The things we say have the power to build up and tear down. They can create or destroy. What if God allowed these young men to die so that we might truly understand the power of our words?
I think God wants Christians to have fun. There's nothing worse than a boring gospel or dry, pious Christians. However, it's often easy to allow our "fun" to turn into bullying. Even Christians enjoy a bit of teasing and sarcasm, and often it's harmless, but unfortunately, more often, our words hurt and tear down. Sometimes we mean well. We're just having a good time. We think that the person we're teasing understands we love them and don't want to hurt them. They laugh, too! Other times, our teasing is really sarcasm. We mean what we say. The tone we use sounds like teasing, and we laugh after we say it. The one who is the focus of our "joke" laughs, too. So, it must be OK. But in these times, we are more like the young men calling out "baldhead" than the image of the living Christ.
Joking can alleviate tension and help get conversation started. Levity can be healthy for relationships. Laughing is good for our health. But does all of our laughing, joking and levity bring glory to God? Could any of our powerful words be construed as "bullying," even if the subject of our jokes laughs too? As Christians it's important that even our light-hearted speech is holy.
Ephesians 4:29 says: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
This week consider every word that comes out of your mouth. Evaluate them according to the power they have and their potential to "build others up." After all, you don't want to be mauled by a bear!
The Wall of my Faith
. . . a flimsy wall is built, and they cover it with whitewash.
Tell those who cover it with whitewash it is going to fall.
If a carpenter built a flimsy wall and painted it up to look pretty, his reputation would be shot in no time. The first time a heavy wind came through or someone leaned a bit on that wall, it would be gone and so would the carpenter’s career. A few years ago, my husband and I passed an ongoing construction project daily for weeks. They cleared the land for the home and then began laying the block. They laid the first course and then the second. Slowly but steadily, row by row those block began to grow. However, it was while the first row was being laid that my husband said, “That wall will never stand.” You see they put that first course of block right on the ground. There was no foundation. So when the rain came the first time (after the freestanding basement had all 10 courses complete), the entire structure fell. To the untrained eye, the wall looked fine, but to those who knew about construction, it was flimsy.
The real tragedy is that all across America, and perhaps throughout the entire world, flimsy walls are being built every week. Yes, some are structural and lead to the collapse of construction projects and careers. But many are spiritual. These spiritually flimsy walls collapse under the strain of life. Some begin the rebuilding process immediately, while others flounder for years before they find someone who can help them put the blocks back together. For a few, they’ll give up on the process all together and never reach their full potential in life.
You see every day there are spiritual walls being built with weak foundations. These are the walls built on the foundation of good works, rules and rituals. They are being constructed with self-help books, motivational speeches and world values. They look beautiful, like the whitewashed walls of Ezekiel’s time, but the first strong storm that comes, the wall begins to crumble. Some may even withstand the first few torrents, but eventually, without the foundational bedrock of salvation in Jesus Christ, those spiritual walls will cave in, and many will never be able to rebuild.
It’s not just an Old Testament concept, in 1 Corinthians 3, Paul dealt with the matter, too. He said that some Christian leaders were building with sticks and straw, materials that would burn when they went through the fire of life.
So my question for you today is this, “How is your wall?” Do you have a strong foundation? Is your faith built on the foundational love and knowledge of Jesus Christ or have you been trying to be “good enough?” Are you putting things that will last on that foundation? You can choose building tools like God’s Word, Bible Study, Christian Fellowship and the like. Or you can use books other than the Bible, ignoring God’s commands and trusting in your own goodness to build your wall.
In Ezekiel’s day the prophets and leaders were building flimsy walls of faith. During the time of Paul, in the early days of Christianity, it was still a problem. Today is no different. I pray that each of us will look at our lives daily. I hope we’ll look at our foundation to be sure we are building on nothing other than the truth of Jesus Christ. And once that foundation is solidly laid, may we only build using gold, silver and costly stones, not material possessions of the world, but precious nuggets of truth from God’s Word. So when those storms come that Jesus predicted in Matthew 7, our house will stand strong and firm on the Rock of our foundation, Jesus Christ.