All posts by tunemyheart

Mark Browning lives on 60 wooded acres in the Greater Bates City, Missouri metropolitan area. For over a quarter of a century he has been wed to the lovely Penny with whom he shares four children and four grandchildren. In his spare time, he teaches English at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas.

Let’s Die with Him

John 11:16

Rethink your doubts.

At the end of the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, the two main characters, cornered and wounded by a far superior force, burst out of a place of temporary safety, determined to go out in a blaze of bravado. The picture freezes with the pair, each holding a pair of revolvers, desperately rushing against impossible odds. The sound continues as we hear a Bolivian commander shout “fuego!” and the sound of a volley of rifle shots. We don’t have to see the result to understand.

These against-all-odds moments of defiance are a set piece in action films. “I may go down,” the heroes seem to say. “But at least I’ll go down fighting!” That’s the sort of feeling I get from Thomas in the verse quoted here. “We have to die sometime,” he suggests. “So we might as well go die with Jesus now.”

This sort of brave resignation–“It’s a good day to die!”–makes for good movies, but there’s a faulty theology behind it. Thomas, you see, was right, but he didn’t know it.

Following Jesus, over the centuries, has been a splendidly dangerous occupation. Thousands of followers have been martyred in all corners of the world. We might forget this, since persecution in America is, at least currently, fairly trivial.

But we do have to die sometime. If we’re going to die, then we might as well die with Jesus. What better way to go out? I have no confidence that Jesus will deliver me from every scrape possible in the flesh, but my confidence in Him goes far beyond the flesh.

Let’s ditch our doubts and resolve, if need be, to go and die with Him.

  • What form do your spiritual doubts take?
  • When you examine your life, do the choices you make reveal any further doubts, further places where you don’t rely on God?
  • Will you pray each day this week that God will build on the belief in you to help you with your unbelief?

Change or Exchange

Exodus 6:6-7

Jesus came to show us the true purpose of our lives.

After church Sunday, Penny and I came home before engaging in the fabulous adventure of taking our grandkids thrift-store shopping. Both of us decided to change our clothes before the expedition.

For me, the process was simple. I had on my Kid City t-shirt topped the a warmup jacket that I left open. Slipping out of the jacket, I pulled on a short-sleeve button-up shirt.

Penny, on the other hand, shed all of the outer clothes she had on and went with an entirely new set. Even her shoes were changed out.

In reality, I changed my clothes; Penny exchanged hers. My change was fairly minor, but hers was very thorough. When it comes to clothing, I don’t know that one is in any way better than the other, but when it comes to our life in Christ, there is a difference.

Jesus did not offer us a changed life. He offered an exchanged life. A changed life would be one in which we agree to stop cussing or start attending church in response to the fulfillment of the promises Jesus made at that last Passover with his disciples. Essentially, those changes, even when they’re good things, are the equivalent of accessorizing our lives. They’re window dressing.

The huge and effective sacrifice of Jesus on our behalf calls not for some change. It calls for a wholesale substitution: our will replaced by His.

  • What elements of your life changed when you came to know Christ?
  • Are there parts of your “old wardrobe” that you need to swap out?
  • Will you pray earnestly that Jesus will continue to exchange your desires and priorities for His?

Emancipation Realized

Exodus 6:6-7

Jesus came to deliver us from bondage to sin–not just in word but in reality.

With all due respect to my pastor, he erred this weekend when he spoke about Abraham Lincoln and the Emancipation Proclamation. When Lincoln, in 1863, issued that executive order, he didn’t really free anyone. Why do I say that? The Emancipation Proclamation supposedly freed the slaves in all of the Confederate-held territories. That would sort of be like the United States today giving the vote to everyone in North Korea. We could say it easily enough, but to actually achieve it, we’d have to face some struggle.

Had Lincoln made his proclamation and then the Union forces lost the Civil War, those supposedly free slaves would have been no better off. When you make a bold declaration–such as the Declaration of Independence in 1776–you have to be able to back up your words with power. That’s what Lincoln had to do after January 1, 1863.

At that last Passover dinner with his disciples, Jesus made some pretty bold claims. He promised more abundant life and freedom from bondage to sin and the law. And Jesus had to go through a struggle to prove that He had the right to fulfill those promises.

It took Abraham Lincoln and his armies about sixteen months to prove their authority to free the slaves–and even then, the process was imperfect, lingering to the present day. It took Jesus just a few hours to forever win the battle against sin’s mastery over human beings and a few days to prove, on Sunday morning, that his victory was absolute.

  • What has the freedom from sin’s bondage meant in your life? If you don’t know, you need to consider this question thoroughly.
  • How do you live out the freedom into which Christ has delivered you?
  • Do you live a life worthy of a freed person? Can others see your liberty clearly?

Not in Part, But the Whole

Exodus 6:6-7

Jesus came to give us freedom from sin–permanently.

Toward the end of last month, I renewed my Costco membership. Now, when I need enormous bales of toilet paper or a package holding three dozen eggs, I can walk through the door of that store, smugly hold up my card, and stroll on into the land of endless excess. My only complaint with having that Costco membership is that I have to pay for it each year. Next March, once again, I’ll be reminded that renewal is once again due. And next year the price will be a few dollars higher.

It’s marvelous that Jesus came to forgive us of our sins, but the real marvel of it is that He didn’t just forgive the sins I had committed when I first trusted Him. Instead, He forgave the continued stream of sins that has followed in my wake over the years. He forgave the sins from today, and He’s already forgiven the ones for tomorrow.

As I reflect on that, I’m reminded of the lines from “It Is Well with My Soul”:

My sin–Oh the bliss of this glorious thought!–My sin, not in part but the whole.

That first Passover cup, the cup of sanctification, would be amazing if it just cleared the ledger up until the time of salvation, but it makes the ledger incapable of ever recording another negative item. That’s pretty incredible.

Sure, Costco might have Jelly Bellies in huge containers for a low price, but until they offer things for free and forever, they’re not even in the ballpark of this Savior of ours.

  • How often do you take stock of the sins in your life? How regularly do you sincerely thank Jesus for His forgiveness?
  • Does your awareness of sin’s price on Jesus cause you to live differently? How?
  • What habitual sin would God want you to work on eliminating from your life this week?

 

Using God’s Keychain

Mark 11:22

Make Your Faith Like God’s Faith

Somebody who knows Greek better than me–which would be knowing it at all if I’m honest–explained that when Jesus said, “Have faith in God,” that could more accurately be translated, “Have a God-like type of faith.”

I have to admit that it struck me as odd to consider God having faith. What would God have faith in? God is supposed to be the object of our faith. Faith in anything else would seem rather pointless. Or maybe not.

This morning, in the two hours I have been awake, I have demonstrated faith–a sort of expectant dependance–in a number of things: my alarm, the water in the sink, the lights, my car, my driving ability, the key in my office lock, this computer.

You’ve probably trusted each of those things in the past as well. How do you know you trusted or had faith in them? You were surprised when they failed. Have you ever put a key in a lock and been confused when it wouldn’t turn?

God doesn’t have those moments of confusion, because God doesn’t pick the  wrong key. He could turn the wrong key into the right one. We don’t have that level of control, but we can exercise God-like faith when we recognize that all of the power of the One who designed and created the universe is at our disposal–all for the price of a tiny speck of faith.

  • Do you trust in the power of God as much as you trust in the power of the physical things in your life?
  • Do you actions and choices suggest that you actually trust things more than God?
  • Pray this week that God will help you develop God-like faith as you strive to follow His will.