Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Amazing Love of Jesus

            You can learn a lot about people by simply noticing how they impact the lives of those around them! Jesus was the most amazing person who has ever lived and you do not have to look far to find his impact in the lives of people. Love was what people noticed about Jesus! Listen for the echo of Jesus’ love in the words of these friends…

Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ - Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart. (1 Peter 1:22)

John, apostle of Jesus Christ - This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

Jude, brother of Jesus - But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. (Jude 1:20-21)

James, brother of Jesus - If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8)

Paul, apostle of Jesus Christ - Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)

            Love deeply. Love sacrificially. Love with God’s love. Love others like you love yourself. Love never fails. All these things were taught and lived by Jesus! And the world is just as desperate for love right now as it was at the time Jesus showed love to all the above writers. Jesus still loves the world and he wants to show his love through your life!

            Receive the love of Jesus, trust the love of Jesus, share the love of Jesus.

                                                                                                                        - Kenny Payne




Thursday, March 20, 2014

Redemptive Suffering?!

            Peter tells us some rather interesting things about suffering. First, he says that we can bear up under the pain of unjust suffering because we are conscious of God. Then he claims that if we deserve our suffering we should not be surprised that it comes, however, if we are suffering for doing good then this receives God’s attention and commendation. Finally he teaches us that our suffering – following in the steps of Jesus – can actually turn out to be redemptive – bringing help and healing to others.

            None of that sounds like good news to us, because our preference would be to avoid any suffering at all costs. Our idea of God’s faithfulness is that he should prevent any pain or sorrow from coming into our lives, rather than walking with us in the pain and using our suffering to benefit ourselves or others. Yet as we experience more life, we come to understand that suffering is inevitable. It is helpful to know that it can also be beneficial.

            Jesus is the prime example of “helpful suffering.” While he did not want to suffer arrest, trial, beating and death, he was willing to pray “not my will, but yours be done.” After praying that dangerous prayer, he got up and faced the cup that he did not want to drink! It seemed like such a miscarriage of justice, for Jesus had committed no sin, yet was punished as if he were a criminal. It’s only when you understand that “by his wounds you have been healed” that the cross begins to make sense.

            Jesus did not die pointlessly. He did not die from a desire to end it all. He died resisting sin – but not his own sin – he died fighting the evil one. It was an ironic moment because at the death of Jesus the evil one thought he had achieved victory over God! But it was Jesus’ willingness to offer himself for the sake of others that doomed Satan and brought life to all people.

            “By his wounds you are healed!” Redemptive suffering. And when we follow Jesus in that path we will find that our suffering brings healing, too. We can allow God to use our wounds – our refusal to protect ourselves, our refusal to retaliate, our refusal to avoid suffering – to be the change that brings healing to others.

            I think it is safe to say that Jesus did not want to suffer. But he wanted to save you more than he wanted to avoid suffering. So he offered himself for us. By his wounds we are healed. Praise the God of grace and mercy. Praise the God who makes suffering redemptive.

- Kenny Payne

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Finding God's Will

            Among Christians there is a lot of talk about God’s will. Parents wonder what God wants them to do in certain situations with their children; young adults question what God is calling them to do in their vocational lives; those in their retirement years wonder if God has a plan for them beyond just playing golf and sitting home. “What does God want to do in my life?” is an important question for all people.

            Interestingly, God’s will is not some hidden mystery that we must learn to decipher for our lives. God plainly states his will for us in many places in Scripture. Peter shares this jewel with us: “For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.” (1 Peter 2:15) It is God’s will that we do good!

            When I think about silencing the ignorant talk of foolish men, I must admit that my first option is not to simply go around doing good. Rather I think I must return fire for fire and set them straight, which upon reflection probably only increases the total amount of “ignorant talk of foolish men” in the world! If my full on verbal assault fails, then I am tempted to try to start some type of “boycott” of said foolish men until they learn the error of their ways and come around to my way of thinking. This rarely works either. In the end I try to act like the ignorant talk of foolish men does not bother me, and I seek to avoid said men as much as possible. One thing I have noticed is that none of these approaches actually succeed in silencing their ignorant talk.

            The one thing that rarely gets tried in our world, despite the large number of people who claim to follow Jesus, is the commitment to simply go around doing good all the while those foolish men are spewing their ignorant talk. Rather than confronting them, arguing with them, boycotting them or any other method of “dealing” with them, Jesus just wants me to do good to them and everyone else. It was also Peter who summed up the life of Jesus with these wonderful words: Jesus “went around doing good!” (Acts 10:38) When all who claim to follow Jesus will simply “go around doing good” then the world will notice and the mouths of those who disparage Christians will be shut. Not by the violent power of might, but by the overwhelming power of love!

           Do you want to know God’s will for you right now? It is God’s will that you practice goodness! All the time! Everywhere! Until it truly is all good!

                        - Kenny Payne

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Living Stone and the Living Stones

            There was a day Simon, son of Jonah, was given a new name by Jesus – that name was Peter. In Greek peter means rock, stone or even pebble. I’m sure the other apostles laughed, at least inwardly, as they tried to imagine Peter being a rock, especially a rock of faith that anything could be built upon. The name – we might say “Rocky” today – did seem to be an ill fit. But Peter was growing…

            Around 30 years later, Peter writes to Christians living scattered throughout, not the Holy Land, but Asia Minor (modern Turkey today). Who could have imagined that the little band of disciples would become part of a world wide spiritual movement that would change the earth forever? (Jesus, of course, it the answer to that question!) Listen to Peter’s amazing words: “As you come to him, the living Stone – rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him – you also, like living stones are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5 NIV)   

            Peter identifies Jesus as the living stone! When Peter told people to have faith, he pointed them, not to himself, but to Jesus. Peter is very straightforward concerning the primacy of Jesus and the derivative nature of our standing as stones. If Peter were saying this today he might say that all Christians are simply chips off the old block! Because Jesus is the living stone, we are also living stones.

            Peter points out that the status believers have as “elect exiles” is a mirror image of Jesus’ status as the Stone “rejected by humans but chosen by God!” God is not calling us to live in a way different from how Jesus lived, rather we are called to live in solidarity with Jesus. Jesus was focused on living his live in a way that honored God and served people, and he would not be distracted from that course by Satan’s schemes, worldly distractions or even religious devotion. Jesus’ faith is indeed a mighty rock that all people who follow Jesus stand upon today.

            Peter’s name change turned out to be, not a joke, but a precious gift. The same is true for us as well. We are living stones because Jesus is the Living Stone! And Jesus is building us into a spiritual house – a temple if you will – where God will dwell. Peter accepted the name that Jesus gave him and then he lived in such a manner as to grow into it. We should follow him in that path.

- Kenny Payne