Archive for the ‘father’ Tag

Our Father’s Hope For All: In The Resurrection Relationship! pt 4

Part 4A:

Part 4B:

Full Message:


Main Bible Verse: 1 Corinthians 15: 1-34


Introduction:

God The Father so loved the world that He gave His Son to us as Jesus (God in the flesh) that whoever believes in Jesus (The God Man) by the power of The Holy Spirit will not perish but will have eternal life. God’s life – the Life He talks about by which we will not perish but live and thrive – is life knowing The Father, and Son intimately in The Holy Spirit. That is Who and what Life and Resurrection is and is about.

Theological Theme:

All truly are included in God’s [Father, Son and Spirit] love and life. It doesn’t have so much to do with a decision we make but has something to do with a decision God made prior to any decision we can make and which is the basis for our decision. That decision is the Person of Jesus Christ, Who is God for us from within our humanity. The gospel is not primarily about us receiving God into our life. The gospel is primarily about the tremendous grace of God, through Jesus, receiving us into His life.

Largely it is relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit by Whom you are guided about how you think about life, what you do, what you receive, and what you reject.

Christ Connection:

Resurrection means relationship with Christ and being reconciled to the Father in and through Jesus Christ. Being reconciled means being in relationship with The Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Forgiveness means reconciliation with God and it means the restoration of relationship with God. Forgiveness of sin doesn’t just mean that sin ends but salvation means that we are saved INTO the restoration of relationship with God, where new relationship begins!

Missional Application:

God the Father Himself IS your Salvation. Sharing with Jesus in His relationship with His Father IS Salvation. Sharing friendship with Jesus IS Salvation. Intimacy with The Holy Spirit IS Salvation. The Holy Spirit comes upon you to reveal Christ to you, to mediate Christ to you. You respond by receiving and believing what The Holy Spirit has to say and, as God directs, witnessing to others about Him.

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Lessons From The Storm!

Full Message:


Main Bible Verses: Matthew 8: 23-27


Introduction:

During the storm,

  • have you allowed the Spirit to shake you out of your spiritual lethargy and comfort?
  • have you dared to live a life of real faith and real hope?
  • have you learned to hear the voice of a loving Lord and Savior say “Look at Me, Look at Me!”

Lessons 1:

When we’re in the storms of life we must follow Jesus. To do this, we must get to know Jesus. The disciples knew who Jesus was. Jeremiah 9: 23-24 In the middle of the storm, Jesus is able to find rest because he knows who his Father is. When we follow Jesus, we find rest.

Lesson 2:

In the storm we have to call on Jesus. Psalm 91: 14-16

Lesson 3:

In the storm we have to have faith in Jesus – Build our house of faith on the rock (Jesus) who gives us our faith. Matthew 7: 24-27

“In the storm, Jesus is giving us His faith and He is nurturing His faith within us.” ―Richard Andrews

Lesson 4:

In the storm, we have to be amazed at who Jesus is and what he can do.

Theological Theme:

We have to read the word of God-Father-Son-and-Holy Spirit to know who Jesus is. If we want to know what Jesus did, if we want to know what Jesus taught, if we want to know what Jesus proclaims, if we want to know what Jesus pointed to, we have to read the word of God. We have to listen for Him with intention. We have to reflect and meditate on what God has done and is doing in our lives.

Christ Connection:

Whatever the storm may be, we must remember it’s not about the storm, it’s about Jesus. We follow Him in the storm, we call upon His name in the storm, we have faith in Him in the storm and we should always remain in awe of Him in the storm.  This is the only way we will have a relationship with Him in the storm.

Missional Application:

“Jesus is Lord of the ages and is always with his own, even when things are difficult, and will abide with us, ―through The Holy Spirit; ―that is our comfort. If tribulation and anxiety come upon us, Jesus is with us and leads us over into God’s eternal kingdom.”
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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Marriage: Profound Mystery About Christ And The Church! pt. 3

Part 3A:

Part 3B:

Full Message:


Main Bible Verses: John 14: 6 Ephesians 5 I Corinthians 6: 17


This Message Series:

Living Into This Challenging Christian Life With Jesus! #14

Introduction:

Your life is challenging because of Jesus Christ. Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you realize it or not, The Son of God in flesh affected the whole world and set everyone and everything on a whole new basis.

Marriage is really something about God in Christ in union with His Church. Marriage is not our idea. It is God’s. Marriage is the profound mystery of The Father’s great will that we know Him and she in union and communion with Him, through Jesus and The Holy Spirit.

Foundational Scriptures to understand the mystery of marriage:

  1. John 14: 6 – Jesus is the Way, Truth and Life of our humanity, and therefore also of marriage. We are encouraged to believe, receive and be renewed in Him as men and women.
  2. 1 Cor 6: 17 – Union with Christ. Anyone who is joined to Christ is one spirit with Him. In the Spirit we participate with Jesus in the way HE lives life and share in what He is being and doing to glorify His Father.
  3. Ephesians 5: 31-32 – Marriage is primarily something about Jesus Christ and His own marriage which is going to take place in the new creation. If we don’t allow Christ to remain at the center of our lives, to teach us what marriage is, then we cannot really understand what our marriage is about.

Theological Theme:

Our marriages/relationships are made to live in alignment with Who God-Father-Son-and-Holy Spirit is. If you are in union with The Lord then it is actually the Lord submitting to your spouse as you yield to Him. Col 3: 18.

The insight for what’s going on in marriage relationships can be seen in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Luke 9: 28). Jesus Christ revealed in His Transfiguration what was hidden for all of us, even on this side. The gospel is about something that is not only future but something that is going on right now, real and present though hidden.

Those united to Jesus are actually the fiancé of Jesus Christ and, even though you can’t see it, there is something that is taking place in Jesus Christ on your behalf as He represents you before the Father so that what the Father sees about your marriage is more glorious and beautiful than you can conceive!

Christ Connection:

In His person and vicarious substitution and representation of our human nature, Jesus is our ethical behavior! The way He is living life toward his neighbor and continues to live it is what it means for us to live responsibly ethical toward our neighbors and our spouse, as He directs us by the Spirit and from His Father,. HE is our righteousness, HE is our wisdom, HE is our sanctification.

We are called to participate in Jesus’ spiritual union with His Father as His bride and to be in marital union with Him whether we are young or old, male or female, single or married. As we begin to look away from ourselves and only to Jesus, in the power of the Spirit we become His bride through spiritual union.

There is no ideal marriage. Our marriages are only signs of the real true marriage we will someday have with Christ. The ultimate marital union is coming as we join Jesus as His bride. Our Father has worked it all out in Christ. Jesus has entered the flesh and Jesus has been transfigured in the flesh so there is hope for all marriages. There is also hope in remaining single here because when you are in union with Him you are still headed toward the best marriage ever as the Bride of Christ, participating in His wedding feast!

Missional Application:

“Marriage is a gift given by God. Its special purpose is to reflect God’s covenant relationship with humanity, which in turn reflects the internal and eternal relationship of love among the members of the Trinity. Human marriage grounded in covenant love witnesses to the truth of the relationship of God through Jesus Christ to his bride, the church. Through it we are directed in a unique way to God’s covenant relationship with all humanity. Covenant marriage between a man and woman has a unique moral and spiritual meaning by which we can glorify the Triune God. The special form of agape (holy or covenant love) exhibited in marriage is to be life-long because it is to bear witness to God’s unbreakable covenant love and faithfulness to humanity.- Dr. Gary Deddo titled “What Christian Revelation Understands About Reality and Relationships (that secular culture does not).”

Conclusion:

“ God can no more than an earthly parent be content to have only children: he must have sons and daughters—children of his soul, of his spirit, of his love—not merely in the sense that he loves them, or even that they love him, but in the sense that they love like him, love as he loves. For this he does not adopt them; he dies to give them himself, thereby to raise his own to his heart; he gives them a birth from above; they are born again out of himself and into himself.” ― George MacDonald, Unspoken Sermons, Series I., II., and III.

Photo Compliments: https://dailyverse.knowing-jesus.com

Marriage: Profound Mystery About Christ And The Church! pt.1

Part 1A:

Part 1B:

Full message:


Scripture: John 14:6 1 Cor 6:17 Ephesians 5:31-32


This Message Series:

Living Into This Challenging Christian Life With Jesus! #12

Introduction:

 “Paul’s governing insight was that all relationships between persons or groups of persons are to be informed, moved and regulated and so disciplined by God’s agapē love, provided as a gift of grace to his people. This love purifies and cleanses and repurposes the natural loves: family love, marital love and friendships. That love is first demonstrated in the relationship between the Triune Persons, seen concretely in Jesus in his relationship with the Father. Secondly, it is seen in Jesus’ words and deeds towards all he came in contact with. That love culminated in Jesus giving his life for us in his crucifixion and resurrection, ascension and promised return. So, every word and act of the members of his body in relationship to each other are to be moved and measured by conformity to and even sharing in God’s kind of love……it is only as we share in and live out of our relationship to Christ and his love that we are able to relate to one another in ways that bring about a fruitful unity and diversity in loving relationship, fellowship and communion.” —Gary Deddo

Theological Theme:

“Christian marriage is grounded in God‘s [Father, Son and Holy Spirit] own creative activity. The basic unit of creation is not the individual human being, male or female, but Man and Woman as one Man, one flesh. ln marriage God completes His creative act. in making man and woman one flesh and through them creating new life. When a man and woman marry they partake of God‘s creative completion of their being. and so in marriage man and woman do not have to do only with one another, but have to do with their Creator. “—T. F. Torrance

Christ connection:

“Jesus Christ is the one Word of God in, by and for whom humanity is constituted. He alone reveals God’s will for human life and flourishing. Consequently, marriage ought primarily to be understood christologically. The Church therefore rejects as false all efforts to ground its doctrine and ethics in sources apart from and besides this one Word of God. Such efforts threaten to turn an institution or relationship into an idol, an anti-Christ.”Jason Goroncy

When it comes to identity, you are not the sinful acts you perform. Your identity is firmly grounded in Christ. In Christ, you are a true person and human being. That is who you REALLY are. The attacks we experience in our day are not just on us and our family, on nature, on creation, on the universe or on the church. It is an attack on Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth. When we have received the Spirit of God, we’re in union with Jesus Christ and have been sealed with the Holy Spirit so, by nature of that union, that attack is coming at us too.

Therefore, when we talk about ANY challenge of life, Jesus is the answer and because HE is also the LIGHT, and the WAY, we MUST talk about ALL subjects, more specifically, Marriage, Singleness and Sexuality only in the light of HIM. 

Missional Application:

As Christians we worship the Father, through the Son, in the power of the Spirit. We then witness to him that all may turn to Him, receive his Spirit and live in union and communion with Him. We seek in His power to glorify Him in every part of our nature and in every relationship!

“This ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit is essential for our participation in relationship with God on the basis of Christ’s ministry. The Spirit is the one who, in the proclamation and our hearing of the Word, gives us freedom to respond, who delivers to us the desire and willingness to repent, believe and trust Christ, and thus to receive the forgiveness God has, in Christ, already extended to us, and to receive the power to become and live as the adopted children of God that believers are….

Most particularly, life in the Spirit of Christ looks like a joyful, free “obedience of faith” in God through Christ that works itself out in following the many commands, imperatives and exhortations and correctives addressed to the church found throughout the New Testament. It involves a deliberate and purposeful participation in ministry as worship and witness that follows the patterns and priorities set out in the New Testament as enabled and gifted by the Holy Spirit. We can summarize all this under the heading of the Great Commandments of love for God (with all we are and have) and love for our neighbors (as God’s representatives)” —Gary Deddo

Conclusion:

1) Christian Marriage has to do with both people worshipping The Lord in a covenant.

2) A marriage is not just about the marriage itself- “the happening”.

In the Bible, marriage is placed within the structure of the Covenant between God and man in which God revealed the inner basis and purpose of the creation. Marriage involves people in a way of life that is rooted beyond itself in the eternal Will and Truth of God and because in the sexual union of man and woman in marriage they are concerned with God‘s act, sexual acts outside that union are a sin against the Lord. Those who indulge in them are playing with God, and prostituting to their own selfish ends God’s creative act which constitutes the basic unity of man.” – T.F. Torrance

Psalm 51: 4 “Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.”

Sin is sin against The Lord who created it the way HE wanted it to run, as a mirror image of HIM. If you indulge in something against the way of The Lord you are adhering to your own selfish ends and going against God’s creative acts which constitute the basic unity of man.

The way God designed creation it is what brings people together and holds us together and makes us whole. To do anything contrary to that is to destroy one another and to destroy the unity which we are seeking to have in Christ.

Photo Compliments: Faithlife Sermons

Toward Faithfulness In The Gospel!

Audio – Part A: 

Audio – Part B: 

Full Message:


Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21 Romans 6: 4   Isaiah 55 Matthew 18


Introduction:

Are you living life well in Christ so that people know who Christ is by how you are living?

As a part of his ministry to the church, the apostle Paul wrote letters to churches to teach, encourage, and rebuke. In a rebuke to the Galatian churches, he shared how he confronted the apostle Peter for being two-faced, or hypocritical. Peter acted one way with one group of Christians and another way with a different group. Peter’s hypocrisy wasn’t a small problem though. When he chose to separate himself from Gentile believers, he implicitly denied the truth of the gospel by his actions. This was why Paul had to step in and challenge Peter to reflect the truth of the gospel to others through his actions. Paul’s challenge reminds us that our salvation rests in our faith in Christ alone. Christ’s death in our place, followed by His resurrection, is the basis of our salvation, not our own works.

Theological Theme:

It matters how we live this life in Christ because it matters to God —[Father, Son and Holy Spirit]. We have been called to a new life, we have been called to live a faithful life in the gospel because it is the only way to live out this challenging life. When we’re not immersed in the gospel, other things can become our truth therefore when the truth of the gospel is at stake, we must take a strong stand.

1) Faithful living in the gospel requires us to speak the truth in love to one another in line with the gospel!

Christ Connection:

When Peter chose to separate himself from Gentile believers, he implicitly denied the truth of the gospel by his actions. Paul’s challenge reminds us that Christ alone is the source of our salvation and faith is the sign of it. Christ’s death in our place is the basis of our salvation, not our own works.

2) Faithful living in the gospel means we’re justified by faith in Christ and not by any actions of our own!

“The gospel is the good news, that the privilege of getting right with God (what Justification means) was purchased when Christ died for our sins and rose again and that the only way to enjoy this privilege is to live by faith IN The Son of God who loves us and gave himself for us.” —Pastor Richard Andrews

“The gospel of justifying faith means that while Christians are, in themselves still sinful and sinning, yet in Christ, in God’s sight, they are accepted and righteous. So we can say that we are more wicked than we ever dared believe, but more loved and accepted in Christ than we ever dared hope—at the very same time. This creates a radical new dynamic for personal growth. It means that the more you see your own flaws and sins, the more precious, electrifying, and amazing God’s grace appears to you. But on the other hand, the more aware you are of God’s grace and acceptance in Christ, the more able you are to drop your denials and self-defenses and admit the true dimensions and character of your sin.” –Timothy Keller

Missional Application:

Worries about our image and people-pleasing can create conflict when we have to choose between pleasing ourselves or someone else instead of pleasing God. Relationships matter. Scripture teaches that. But when the truth of the gospel is at stake, we must take a strong stand.

God, through His Holy Spirit, calls us to stand our ground and refuse to compromise when the truth of the gospel is at stake.

“Self-image, the concept we have of ourselves, must begin not by looking in the mirror but by looking into the face of God.”  –Sam Storms

Conclusion:

3) Faithful living in the gospel is only possible when we are in Christ!

Peter’s hypocrisy in withdrawing from eating with Gentile believers in Antioch probably didn’t seem to be that big of a problem, but Paul saw it for what it really was—a threat to the gospel proclaimed and lived. For this reason, Paul was quick to confront Peter and remind him of the gospel—the gospel that has brought all who trust in Christ into one family of faith.

When we reflect on Paul’s rebuke of Peter, we need to see ourselves in the shoes of each one. Has God placed us as a “Paul” to help correct and guide someone else to live out and declare the gospel faithfully? Are we willing to take a bold and firm stand for truth because of our love for God and that person? Will we act on that?

But at the same time, we need to look deeply within ourselves and see if we are living like Peter in any way. Are we asking the Holy Spirit to give us sight to see our blind spots, any prejudices or wrong views of others and any ways we are not declaring and living the gospel faithfully? Do we have people in our lives who will confront us in grace and truth when we succumb to hypocrisy, and are we listening to them?

May we be faithful Pauls and humble Peters as we strive to live holy lives in faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God’s Grace Expressed Through Jesus’ Love!

Part A: Pastor Tony Marra:

Part B: Pastor Dave Stonesifer

Part C: Pastor Ann Vinson

Part D: Pastor Timothy Brassell

Part E: Full Message: NLF Pastoral Team


Bible Verses: Mark 1: 14-16 Ephesians 1 2 Cor 12: 19 Numbers 6: 24 – 26


Introduction:

“God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualized his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.” —(T. F. Torrance, “The Mediation of Christ,” 94)

Theological Theme:

“The gospel announces that salvation is available by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, and not through additional obligations and works.”

The gospel is the Good News of God, that we are included in the life and love of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit by grace. It is nothing we have earned or deserve but rather something given as a free gift to us. We have to remember that Jesus is THE Savior of the world. The struggle in believing this good news is that it sounds really good but it is not easy to receive and can only be received by the grace of God; That means GOD working in us to WILL and to DO and to BELIEVE that it is actually the truth of our lives in Jesus, in our place and on our behalf!

“Grace is the hardest thing for us to be reconciled to, because it implies the renouncing of our pretensions, our power, our pomp and circumstance. It is opposite of everything our ‘religious’ sentiments are looking for.” —Jacques Ellul

Christ Connection:

Salvation is a Revelation, something God has to lead us to. Since Jesus Christ is the center-point of God, then Salvation is actually the Person Jesus Christ. But this is something only God can reveal, and through Jesus Christ. That means from beginning to end, Jesus Christ is the only one who pulls off what God wanted done with us.

The primary message of the gospel is NOT that you need to receive the gospel, but rather the gospel HAS RECEIVED YOU! The Father HAS RECEIVED YOU in Jesus Christ, by The Holy Spirit; but the good news always proclaims REPENT! When we say Jesus Christ lives IN US, we mean Jesus lives inside our human nature hence He made “human nature” capable of being able to receive that He did good for us. However the Father-Son-and-Spirit-God is NOT a substance but a relationship. God IN us means us having an INTIMATE RELATIONSHIP with God, Father, Son and Spirit!

Because Jesus is our Salvation, Salvation is a proclamation not just in Word but also in Deed.

“God came in Christ, in our place and on our behalf, to actually undo what we had done (Eph. 1:10). In that undoing, a real relationship (via the hypostatic union) between God and mankind was forged in the Son of God’s own person.”—Clarifying Our Theological Vision, by Gary Deddo

Missional Application:

Salvation is a Proclamation and that proclamation is— Repent and receive Jesus as your Salvation! Salvation as a RELATIONSHIP with Jesus Christ. It is relying on Jesus Christ. It is praying to God The Father through Jesus Christ in The Holy Spirit, and this is what we witness to others about that they may share in this relationship with us! All of humanity is encouraged to turn from what they were thinking and doing by turning to Jesus Christ! The Father calls His humanity to turn from turning away from Jesus and begin to relate with and trust Jesus in union with the Holy Spirit! God-Father-Son-and-Spirit loves and includes all of mankind in relationship with Himself through Jesus, the Son of God made human..

 “Grace is to be understood as the impartation not just of something from God but of God Himself. In Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit God freely gives to us in such a way that the Gift and the Giver are one and the same in the wholeness and indivisibility of His grace…”—(Thomas F. Torrance, Reality and Evangelical Theology. Westminster Press. 1981. pgs 14,15).

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Did God forsake Jesus?

Did God ever Forsake Jesus? Consider these words of Jesus on the Cross, “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” These words translated are “My God, my God why have you forsaken me?” Did God the Father abandon or forsake Jesus on the Cross? Did the Eternal Father of the Eternal Son really pronounce him accursed? Is it possible that the same Father who declared, “This is my beloved Son in whom my soul delights.” really turned his back on Jesus so that he suffered alone and isolated in his hour of greatest need? Much has been written about this subject so let me throw in on the matter. Let’s look at what the Bible has to say and let our minds be conformed to the mind of Christ .

If we begin with the character and nature of God we will see a clear answer to this question.

Is it possible that the Father forsook Jesus?

Is it possible that the Father forsook Jesus?

In John 1:1 we read; “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was God and the Word was with God.” The Greek word for with in this passage indicates a face-to-face, personal, and intimate relationship. Jesus and his Father have eternally been in this intimate face-to-face relationship in the communion of the Holy Spirit. There has never been a time when the Father, Son, and Spirit have not been in intimate loving relationship. The Triune God exists as relationship and is Love. The Father, Son, and Spirit know no other way to be toward one another than to be as Love.

On the Cross Jesus is executing a rabbinic exercise where the teacher begins to quote a Psalm and the congregants there finish it. Jesus is quoting Psalm 22 which begins “My God my God why have you forsaken me?” The Psalm does not end in defeat it ends in victory. The point made by Jesus is victory not defeat or having been forsaken.

Also who is Jesus’ God? What God does Jesus worship? Well Jesus does not have a God he is God with the Father and the Spirit so just on that point alone the idea that Jesus is literally telling us that the Father has forsaken him cannot be accurate.  In I Corinthians 12:3 Paul says, “Therefore, I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says, ‘Let Jesus be cursed!” I would hazard a guess that God the Father speaks by the Spirit. It is not the Father who put Jesus to death on the Cross… it was us. (Heb. 12:3) Consider II Corinthians 5:19 “…that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself…” The word for in there really means in. In John 14:20 Jesus says, “In that day you will know that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you.” Jesus and the Father mutually indwell one another and the Holy Spirit is facilitating this relationship at all times.

Some argue that because Jesus took on our sin God the Father had to turn his back on him because God cannot have any part with sin. Let us never forget that Jesus is God- co-equal with the Father and the Spirit.  If God can have no fellowship with sin how did Jesus eat with sinners, become human, and finally take on all of our sin!

Also ponder this… there is a politician I know of that is on his third marriage. When he married wife number one he said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” Then he cheated on wife number one with the woman who would become wife number two. When he married wife number two he said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” Then he cheated on wife number two with the woman who would become wife number three. When he married wife number three he said, “I’ll never leave you nor forsake you.” Well neither wife number two nor three have any basis on which to believe him because of what he has actually done. He has proven that he will in fact leave and forsake. So if the Eternal Father of Jesus would leave and forsake him in his hour of greatest need how can we ever believe that he will never leave nor forsake us?

Let me say with clarity and determination… God the Father most certainly did not forsake Jesus on the Cross and Jesus did not say that he did. This Father’s Day as we celebrate all that is good about our dads let us put away in our hearts, minds, and in our Faith the blasphemous notion that Jesus’ Father ever turned his back on him and let us celebrate that he will never turn his back on us!

~ Bill Winn

Jesus, God’s Christmas Gift To Us All

12.10.23 Jesus, God’s Christmas Gift To Us All (Luke 1.27-38) – TAH

As quoted in this Message of God’s Good News: “When announced to us, the gospel tells us that, long before we can do anything about it, even before we can know about it, ‘God has set his love upon us and chosen us in Jesus Christ to be His own.’” To see and embrace that as the Truth is to KNOW by God’s shared grace that Jesus REALLY is God’s Christmas Gift to You and All Humanity!

Encounter with a Beacon

If Tinkerbell could somehow become human, that’s what she would be like.

I was on a plane from Seattle to Detroit, traveling on business. She first caught my attention as the friendly young girl in the seat across from mine and a couple rows over. She was seated in the middle, between an older lady with white hair and a middle-aged man in the aisle seat. The lady needed to use the restroom (as did seemingly everyone else on the plane, twice, but I digress). So the man stood up and made room for the girl, let’s call her Tink, and the older lady. When the lady made her way down the aisle to the restroom, Tink stayed behind and stood in the aisle. The man, who had a little trouble with English, offered to let her back in. After a couple exchanges, Tink successfully explained she would just wait for the lady to come back, so he wouldn’t have to get up to let her in, and out again, and back in. Well that’s really nice, I thought.

Later, I was looking around the plane, probably with an unconscious scowl because this particular jet was full of people and I was tired of playing aisle-seat bumper-cars with every one of the aforementioned loo-seekers. (I have to laugh at myself — when I catch myself in the mirror, my expression is more of a scowl than a smile, though I didn’t really think I was scowling. So I fix it for the mirror, then walk away. I’m sure 5 seconds later my facial muscles return to their default position.) So when I caught the eye of Tink, what did she do? She gave me a polite, friendly, energetic smile. Wow. That was uncalled-for, yet so welcome! I realized I hadn’t smiled at her, but she paid it forward! When’s the last time you saw that happen on a crowded plane, bus, or train?

These people fascinate me. I always wanted to be that positive; that friendly and happy. But I can barely ever pull it off, for more than 20 seconds or so. It used to be that my ego’s first line of self-defense was to feign omniscience and create reasons why this person could do that, and manufacture excuses for why I’m not that way. Here’s how the discussion usually goes in my head:

She’s had a really great life, so she has no reason to be unhappy.

Sure, she has dodged ever having a problem of any kind. Nice try. Next?

She had a really positive upbringing.

Yeah, so did I. What’s my excuse? Next?

She’s a girl, and girls can pull that off. Guys can’t be that happy and nice all the time. It’s not manly.

Right. I’m sure Jesus walked around with a scowl, and with body language that said “leave me alone.”

She just doesn’t have the kind of stress most of the rest of us have.

You think so, Einstein? Have you ever met someone who claims to have zero stress?

I don’t really care to go on. As I said, that used to be my ego’s self-defense routine, so I wouldn’t feel like a failure as an Ambassador for Jesus. But now I just waive the white flag and surrender. I don’t want to detract from the stunning beauty that is selfless behavior. I don’t want to pretend to know why someone else can do it but I can’t. I don’t want to make excuses for why I’m not the same way they are. I just want to see love in action. I kept thinking she must be Tinkerbell, incarnated, since she seemed permanently harmless, happy, and friendly. But really she was a stunning example of the love of Jesus. When you see something like that, it’s a bit like a crack in the fabric of the world. The infinitely bright, warm light of Heaven shines through into our darkened world for a brief moment in time.

Most of us have met this kind of person from time to time. In my experience, they are few and far between. Sad, isn’t it? Looks like living life more abundantly to me. I have met others like Tink, and found out they weren’t Christian. Whoa! How did that happen? How can someone show the love of Jesus and not know the man?

Could it be that Jesus is working with everyone, and he doesn’t just work with the people who call themselves disciples? Could it be that some people more easily channel the love of God, which permeates every living thing in the first place, and just don’t realize its source? Could it be that those of us who aren’t so positive and friendly are loved just as much? And that, as Paul Young would say, our Father is “especially fond” of each of us, despite our scowls, complaints, and negativity? I think so. And I think Jesus just wishes for our own sake we could unload some of that stress on him and enjoy the ride a bit more. Or a LOT more.

Some people have a talent for speaking. Others have a talent for sports. Others have a talent for singing, or listening, or serving. I think others have a talent for loving. They naturally are good at expressing God’s love for us. Maybe this girl, Tinkerbell, was a Christian. Maybe she wasn’t. It doesn’t matter, because I saw Jesus on that plane.

At the end of the flight, as we were “deplaning,” (yes, as in Fantasy Island) I had the chance to let Tink go in front of me. I waited for her to exit first, as my ridiculously little way of saying, “Thank you for your service to humanity” (yes, I tend to be a little melodramatic when I’m touched). You know what was the icing on the cake? She just grinned and said, “Thanks.” That’s all. Nothing more. If she had gone overboard and said, “Oh! Thank you so much! How sweet! You have a nice day!” that would have killed it. Oh, she’s just insane. I would have thought. She’s lost all contact with reality and is completely, overly positive and emotive about everything. Nope, she just said thanks. Well, that proves it, she’s a real person, I thought. No “inappropriate affect disorder” here. No excuses. A real person with real gifts. The gift of God’s love, and the gift of expressing it.

Now the wrong way to end this little story would be to encourage you, the reader, to be like Tinkerbell (if you aren’t already). I might as well try to will my wisdom teeth back into existence. Chances are, it ain’t gonna happen. Can you and I have more moments of being like Jesus as we mature in our relationship with the Father, Son, and Spirit? Absolutely. Can we live life more abundantly as we find the passion God has put in each of our hearts to do whatever it is he plans for us? Absolutely. Can we focus on what’s really important, that we are eternally adopted into the Family of God, by the grace of the Father, through the faith of Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit? You betcha. But a complete personality overhaul is usually not possible. Am I an ogre? No, despite the probable sound of it. Are you? I seriously doubt it. Chances are, you and I are somewhere in between Attila the Hun and Tinkerbell. We can move a bit one way or the other, but we have a personality that is fairly stable. But as we mature in Jesus, we will have more moments when his light shines through. We will have more moments when we don’t get in his way. We will realize it’s not about improving ourselves — it’s about letting the Spirit shine through us. It’s about being more like Jesus. And the best part is Jesus is already in us. And we are in him. He’ll work out the kinks and the dark spots for us. Over time, more and more of his light will shine through. And it won’t be up to us to try to be more loving or more kind. His loving-kindness is already there. The Holy Spirit will just teach us to get out of the way.

~ Steve Solari

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