Jesus’s lasting Imprint

A big part of who we are as comes from the people that came before us. They have left imprints on our lives. Whether good or bad. Their legacy is with us. Today, I was reminded that as believers, we have been given a lasting imprint on our lives from Jesus Himself.

Over the last month, our Friday small group has been studying the book of Mark. It’s a very fast paced book with many short snippets of Jesus’s life here on this earth. Today we were in Mark 5.

As we were reading and discussing today, I was just struck by the lasting impact of Jesus. How he changes and impacts lives, and how those lives are forever impacted. For example, in Mark chapter five, a man is healed from a demon possession, a woman with a blood disease for 12 years was healed, and then a 12 year old girl was raised from the dead.

Each short story was a reminder that God was God over life and death, over the body, over the demons. They represented His authority. His grace. His power. His love.

Each time one of these people were healed, Jesus usually didn’t stick around too long. He usually left and moved on to the next group of people. Even though Jesus physically left, there was a piece of Him left behind. An imprint.

For instance, the demon possessed man. The man that was feared greatly. Inhabited by AT LEAST 2,000 demons. So powerful that he would break the chains and shackles that bound him. He was an outcast. Abandoned. Controlled. Overtaken. That man now had been freed. His body. His mind. He was once again, himself. Because of Jesus.

Think what his life would be after (this is all speculation as it doesn’t allude to any of this in the text). People passing by maybe one day soon after would be like “hey isn’t that the same dude that was insane? Why does he seem normal?” That kind of change gets people’s attention. Maybe one person came. And then maybe a few more. And then maybe a few more. Til the entire town adjacent to him were able to see the change visibly with their own eyes. He wasn’t feared anymore. He was maybe invited back. Able to come back and live a normal life. That is wild! That only happened because Jesus freed him. Even though Jesus was not physically there, that imprint of Jesus would be felt throughout. Almost like a tattoo or a mark that the once demon possessed man could be reminded of daily. He’d remember that day that Jesus is His grace, authority, power, and love stopped by to set him free.

Or think about the woman who had suffered from a rare blood disease for 12 years! She had been to every doctor imaginable, and those doctors treated her unsuccessfully. It was more like torture, as there was no cure that they could find. She had spent all that she had. Not only had her disease not gotten better, but it also worsened! Just imagine the hopelessness she felt. The depression that was probably evident. In that culture, she would even be considered “unclean” and not be able to take part in any religious matters. Feel the weight of all this. Put yourself in her shoes.

Then one day, she hears of this guy Jesus who has been healing people, and that he’s going to be in her area. So she ventures out, pain and all, and finds Jesus, and He’s in a crowd. Her thought process is this: “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” What faith. So she reaches through the crowd, probably blood showing through her clothes, and touches his garment, and IMMEDIATELY she is healed. She is 100 percent healed automatically just by touching Jesus’s clothes. Wild! She was healed of a disease that could not be figured out by any doctor that she had seen. Jesus did not even touch her, but just her touching his clothes, she was healed. And Jesus said so Himself that her faith had healed her.

She was probably like “What??! No way. How in the world am I healed???? How is this possible?” She would probably just stand there as the crowds passed by her, maybe falling to her knees, weeping, literally just sitting in the dust in unbelief of what had just happened. She would return home, and the pain, the discomfort of it all, it just wasn’t there anymore. It would probably be such a weird feeling. She’d probably have more energy now. She would go visit some friends. Get back into the things that she loved. I’m sure she had passions and things that she loved that she was finally able to enjoy. She was able to rest well at night. She was able to finally live for the first time in 12 years I’m sure.

Maybe as she got close to dying, hopefully years later, she would be sitting in her chair, and just pondering on her life. And she would always come back to that moment. The moment when she was healed by this miracle worker. How her life had changed after that. What she was able to do and accomplish. Granted, this is all speculation, but who knows. The only thing we do know is that moment of Jesus was imprinted on her for the rest of her life.

Lastly, what about that ruler of the synagogue, Jairus, whose daughter was deathly ill. Who came to Jesus because he also knew Jesus’s power: “Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” So he leads Jesus to his home, but upon arrival, his daughter has been pronounced dead. The response to Jesus was that they didn’t want to trouble him for anything else, and basically thanks for trying to get here in time. Jesus responds “Do not fear, only believe.” Jesus heads into the house, and there are many people there, crying and weeping, and he says basically why are you freaking out? This girl is not dead, but asleep. They in turn laugh at him. This guy must be nuts. Can’t tell a dead girl from a sleeping girl. This girl is definitely dead.

Jesus though proceeds into the house, leaving the mockers outside. He brings with him the girl’s mother and father, and his disciples. Purposeful. “I want y’all here to see what I’m about to do.” So they go in, and Jesus tells the girl to get up. And she gets up! And they were immediately overcome with amazement. Jesus tells the parents to feed the girl, and to not tell anyone and he leaves.

Can you imagine? The little girl being like “what happened?” And the parents being like you were dead, but Jesus brought you back to life. That girl was probably like wait, what? Just imagine the joy of these parents. Their 12 year old was dead, and now she was alive, and they were making her something to eat. As she’s eating, they are probably looking at her, tears rolling down their face. How is this even possible? The mom and dad got their daughter back. They got years back with their daughter that they would have lost. Maybe this encouraged the parents to be more present with their daughter. Maybe the daughter grew up, and shared many amazing memories with her family that she would not have shared otherwise.

Jesus was purposeful in bringing the mother and father into the room to witness. The mother, father, daughter, and disciples would be great impacted by what they saw. Jesus was continuing to pull back the curtain on who He was and what He came to do. This family, however long they were together, would be reminded of that day when Jesus changed their lives. They would have an imprint of Jesus, a reminder of His love, hope, and grace towards them.

While most of this post was speculative, I do truly believe we get to see actual evidences of how God has truly imprinted Himself onto our very lives. Just look at the whole of the Bible. We have stories of people who encountered God and were changed forever. In our world today, we all have people that we know who have been saved and changed. Who have encountered God and how that has changed their lives forever. I have had friends that were saved from drugs, saved from doubts, saved from addictions, saved from hurts, and saved from idols.

Me and my family have Jesus imprinted on our stories as well. Meeting us in the darkness and bringing us hope. Saving me from the hopelessness and despair that I experienced on January 6th, 2012, and changing me fully and completely. The reverberating affect that that had on my family, and the families around us. The ways in which God has allowed me to be apart of the imprints of Him on others.

I think what we do with our imprints is important. God met us in powerful ways. In darkness. In hopelessness. In fears. In doubts. In our wanderings. He brought us to Himself.

So how will we respond to that? How will we live our lives in response to how Jesus has imprinted and impacted us?

I think first we must respond in worship. Adoration. Humility. We must realize, that just like the others in that crowd on that day, that not everyone was chosen to be healed and to be saved. If we were, we must rejoice, for God ultimately brought us to Himself, and opened our eyes to our need for Himself and for the Gospel. He initiated the work of salvation in us.

We must also be ambassadors of the imprint Jesus has placed on us. We were chosen, and imprinted by Jesus for a reason. To tell others. To share our stories. Our before and after. Our ins and outs. How Jesus has changed us, and how He is leading us closer to Him.

If we are believers, a true miracle of the heart has happened. A miracle of changing a rebel into a son. A foreigner into an heir. Let us rejoice in the ways that Jesus has dwelt in our lives to show us what true life is really all about. Thank Jesus that He has left an imprint on our lives. May we rejoice in this and be glad!

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Blessings.

For I am Convinced

Convincing. It takes a lot in this day and age to convince us. Maybe this is because there are so many things in this world that are not actually real. There are so many illusions out there. We see this in our own lives. People that seem real and genuine, but then burn us. Feel good stories that end up being staged. Pictures are filtered and edited. And so on and so forth. With so many illusions out there, it’s difficult to believe in anything, and to not have doubts. Today though, I want to talk to us about how we can truly be convinced of the reality of the gospel through Jesus Christ.

I am truly in a season of doubts. Doubts about literally everything. Doubts about my gifts and talents. My worth. My hope. Even my faith in Jesus has come under fire. All these doubts and questions have produced crazy anxiety.

The last several days I have felt the anxiety and doubts just overwhelming me. They have pounded on me. So many questions and so many thoughts just flooding my mind. How can I sit in church and worship Jesus when I feel so far from Him? I’m practicing these habits of grace, but nothing is changing. Or if anything is changing then it’s not changing fast enough. You are a fraud. You are a loser. You have no control and you are fading fast. Where are you God? Why have you left me to my anxieties? My cravings? My doubts? I don’t “feel” you. I don’t “see” you. These were the thoughts and questions that just bombarded me.

It left me depressed. So depressed that I just stared into empty space for most of my day. Wishing that I could just be numb to it all. Wishing that something would change. Someone would show up. I just couldn’t take it. To make matters worse, my therapist canceled our session for this afternoon. I was just feeling pretty down and lost.

Eventually though, as it usually does, my anxiety and depression passed, and I was able to think clearly again. I had been messaging with a friend, and they really encouraged me to remember that God is my helper, and that my therapist wasn’t going to solve my problems. As I arrived home this evening, a verse popped in my head that backed up that sentiment.

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).

In 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul is penning his final letter. He writes from a jail cell to a young believer named Timothy to encourage him as a spiritual son. He has seen Timothy’s faith in Jesus (a faith that was passed onto him by his faithful mother and grandmother, Eunice and Lois), and he is encouraging him to “fan into flame the gift of God” (6). In a sense, Paul is now passing on the mantle to his young men-tee.

Paul continued in chapter one to share with Timothy that suffering would accompany being a believer, but that he was to not be ashamed of him nor Jesus, for the Lord had not given him a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and self control (7). This gospel was powerful, and it was by grace that he and Timothy were partaking in it, and being called to be messengers of it. It was this reality that Paul had experienced many times throughout his trials, and currently as he sat behind the bars of this jail cell as he penned this very letter. Paul was glad to suffer for the sake of the gospel. He knew whence he had been called, and therefore, he was not ashamed to suffer for the sake of God’s truth.

Now we come back to our main verse. It’s as if Paul leans in close to Timothy at this point and says “if you don’t get anything else I’m saying in this letter, get this. This will change things for you. This is the main point.” He writes“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me” (2 Timothy 1:12).

While others would look at Paul’s situation and say your God has abandoned you, Paul was convinced. He knew the God who had met him on the road to Damascus, and who had been with him everyday since. In shipwrecks. In jail cells. In floggings. In his sufferings. He knew he had never been alone. And therefore he was convinced. He was convinced that not only had God kept him until the end, but also that He would do the same with Timothy.

So many times, I forget. I forget what I know. What I deep down know. Outside of feelings. And stress. And heartache. And confusion. Outside of my doubts. Outside of my questions. What I deep down know is this, that God loves me, and is for me. I have known that since God rescued me January 6th, 2012. I have known that since I saw Him change my life in front of my eyes. As I was brought in to His kingdom as a son. This wretched dirty prodigal who ran and ran and ran could never outrun the loving arms of His Father. I have known this since he changed everything about me. The brightness of my eyes. The words from my mouth. The posture of my back. The joy and peace in my life. I have known all this.

And I’m convinced. I’m convinced that outside of anything I do, He will bring me through this life, faithful, holy, and pleasing to His sight. Yes, I know, this doesn’t mean we can sit around and do nothing. But at the end of the day, I can trust, whole heartedly that God has a hold of me. That He will never let me go. Even in the seasons of doubts and questions. Even in my failures and faults. Even in my groaning and pain. Even in the times where I am distant. He will always be there. I can be convinced of this.

I like that this verse doesn’t say that I am convinced that myself, or my Christian counselor, or my parents, or my friends, or my pastor, or my knowledge, or my dreams, or my brother, or my skills can guard what has been entrusted to me. No, it says I am convinced that GOD IS ABLE to guard what has been entrusted to me. HE IS ABLE, not me. HE IS ABLE to give me understanding in the confusion and chaos, not my Christian counselor. HE IS ABLE to provide me with love that I need, not a relationship or a family or future family. HE IS ABLE to provide me with hope and peace, not my job, or my skills, or my dreams.

Paul’s encouragement to Timothy was that He had lived this. He had experienced this. His reality of God’s holding Him was trustworthy. That Timothy could lean into, onto Jesus. Fully. He was good. He was loving. He would be with Him wherever He would go. And He would keep Timothy until the end. No matter what. No matter where. No matter how. He would keep Him until the end.

The hardest part for me, in this season of life, is to believe that. To believe by faith that not only do I know Jesus, and that He knows me, but also that what I have in Jesus is stable. It’s stable and concrete outside of my doubts, questions, concerns, anger, and frustrations. That what I have cannot be taken from me, or that I cannot lose it. That’s such a difficult thing for me to fathom.

Tonight my prayer for my own life is that I would trust that. That I would believe that. That I would have faith in that! That reality. That understanding. That truth. Because if I could, if I could know, and have faith that I’m known, and held, and kept by Jesus, that would change everything. It would change the way I wake up in the morning. It would change my outlook on the day. It would change my actions. It would change my thoughts. It would change literally everything. So my prayer tonight is that you, Father God, would help me to know, trust, and believe that this reality that Paul, Timothy, and so many others have lived and walked in, is a reality I can walk and trust in as well.

May I be convinced that I know whom I have believed, and that whom I have believed in, will bring me through faithfully to the end.

Blessings.

Unbridled Affections: The Danger of Chasing after the Desires of Our Hearts

Affections. We all have them. We all have things that we love that connect to the inner recesses of our hearts. We have desires that go deep. Are all our desires good though? Should we allow our thoughts to run rampant without guidance? Should we accept all the things our hearts tell us to love? Today I want to talk about the danger of chasing after the unbridled affections of our hearts.

As human beings, we were created by God with desires and loves. We were created to have hopes and dreams. To have things that we are passionate about. That’s what makes us human.

For me, I love to write. To take pictures. To talk about and play sports. I love to be around people. To hear their stories, and to tell mine. I love to teach.

I have dreams. Dreams of being married. Having kids. Being a dad. Dreams of making a difference in the lives of others.

Dreams and Affections are great. They are God given. We have to be careful though that everything we think or feel or conjure up in our hearts and minds do not dictate to us a false reality outside of God’s Kingdom.

Jeremiah writes in Jeremiah 17:9: The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

We live in a world that leans heavily on the things of the heart. If we feel a certain way, then this is reality. If we believe a certain thing, then this is fact.

In this culture, we are allowed to be whoever we want to be, and do whatever we want to do. We are made to believe that we are held accountable to nobody. We are not allowed to question other’s “truth”. We are told to follow our hearts.

But what if our hearts, the things that we lean heavily on to make decisions, to plan out our futures, to give us our hopes and dreams, are innately wicked, deceitful, and sick?

This is a difficult reality, and a hard pill to swallow because I’m sure that your thoughts are similar to mine. I’m a pretty good person. I don’t murder. I don’t steal. I don’t commit the “big” sins. How can my heart truly be full of wicked and deceitful thoughts? But outside of Jesus, it is.

Our hearts lie to us. They tell us to chase after things we don’t need in place of things that we do. They tell us that we are the center of our world and that we control our lives, when we don’t. They tell us that our lives can be fulfilled outside of God, in riches, in likes, in friends, when it can’t. It tells us so many things, but it lies.

So if this is our true reality, how can we trust the desires of our hearts? And if we can’t trust our own hearts, where do we put our trust?

Well here’s the bad news: Your heart is not trustworthy. Your desires outside of Jesus are self centered, self motivated, and self loving. This is the truth.

The good news though is this: “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds” (Jeremiah 17:10).

While our hearts may be full of deceit and wickedness, and are sick, our Father God knows our hearts. He knows us to our core. He knows what’s best for us. He knows His plans for us. And He wants to change us. To change our hearts. That is the good news of the Gospel.

So how must we respond to this true reality?

We must trust in the God who knows our heart. Who sees us. Who loves us. Fully. He only wants what is best.

Even though God knows best, we act similar to the child who wants to touch a hot stove. Their parent keeps telling them time and time again to stop, and that it will hurt them. They don’t listen though. They want to touch the stove, but they honestly don’t know what the consequences of doing that will be. The parent does. The parent wants to protect the child and keep them from harm.

This is us with God. We have a desire. A desire that burns within us. And we think that we need and want it, but we really don’t know what the consequences of giving into these desires will be. God does. He is guiding us and giving us rules to protect. He wants us to have our best life, and we would, if we would just listen. If we would just trust. If we would just submit. If we stopped clenching our fists and holding onto life so tightly, we might actually live the life that we were meant to live.

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Jeremiah points out in Jeremiah 17:5-8 that we have two choices of where to put our trust, and he gives us the consequences of both:

“Thus says the Lord:
“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
    and makes flesh his strength,
    whose heart turns away from the Lord.
He is like a shrub in the desert,
    and shall not see any good come.
He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,
    in an uninhabited salt land” (Jeremiah 17:5-6)
.

The first place where we can put trust our trust is in ourselves. In our own hearts. Our own desires. This leads to destruction. We are cursed because have chosen to trust in man, make our flesh our strength, and our heart is turned away from the Lord. We are like a shrub in the desert. We have no life source, and we have no stability. Thus, we shall not prosper. We will live life parched, starving, in isolation, for we have exchanged the truths of God for a lie because we have looked for life in places of destruction.

Jeremiah writes about a second reality in Jeremiah 17:7-8:

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

The second place we can put our trust is in the Lord. The man who does this is blessed. This does not mean necessarily physically or earthly riches, but we are blessed because we are known by God. We are like a tree that is planted by streams of water. We have life through Jesus and we are constantly connected to our source of life. We will grow and be continually changed. Through our growth and change, we will be able to extend our source of life to others, and our roots through Jesus will be able to impact the lives of others. Our lives are not marked by fear, or anxiety, because we are stable, supported, and nourished by Jesus. Because of all of this, we will continually bear fruit.

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Our desires were created by God for God. They were created to be connected to our relationship with Jesus, and to flow from this union. Apart from Him though, our desires can become wonky. They can become self centered, and self motivated. If we are connected to Jesus, our desires, and our hearts can portray beautiful things. They can bleed and break for what breaks His heart. They can love what He loves, and despise what He despises. Our hearts can become like His if we allow Him to change us to be more like Him.

God in his love will not force us to follow or trust Him. Instead, He gives us a choice. A choice between two paths. The life of trust, or distrust. The life of the shrub or the tree. The life of the nourishment, or the life of the parchment. Which will you choose?

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Blessings.