Jesus Has Prepared a Place for You

When we’re trying to get somewhere, we need to ask and answer a few questions…

Where we are now?

Where do we want to be?

What is the way to get from one to the other?

As Christians, we know that we live in a broken world (where we are) and long to get to our eternal home in heaven (where we want to be).
The way to get there is the remaining question. In the answer there is no road map, no turn-by-turn directions, just Jesus Himself.

“In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am.”

John 14:2-3 (NIV)


When a wagon train of pioneers wasn’t sure what lay ahead or what direction to go, they would send scouts ahead to test out the available routes and determine the best way to reach the next destination point. When the scouts returned, they would lead the entire group on the way they had chosen. Jesus went ahead for us by suffering and dying on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins, and then rising from the dead and ascending to heaven. Jesus promised to come back and take us to where He had gone, just as a good scout would. But Jesus was not playing the role of a good scout here. He was doing something quite different. I don’t know about you, but I’m not particularly interested in taking the path Jesus took. Thankfully, we don’t have to. Jesus’ going ahead in His suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension and His coming back was not intended to show us the way. It was intended to show us that He was the way (John 14:6). Because He travelled this path, we don’t have to! And it’s a good thing too. We are not qualified to travel that path. Any attempt on our part to travel that path on our own would be met with failure and separation from God. (read “For God So Loves You” for more about this.) When Jesus comes back, He will not take us down the path he chose, but will take us on a route that bypasses His path altogether.

Isn’t it amazing to know that when the time comes for us to go to be in His Father’s house, Jesus Himself will usher us through the front door?! Let’s look at the questions that usually come up about that moment.

When will it be?
Jesus emphatically taught that no one knows when He will return (Matthew 24:36). So the question is un-answerable. But there are key points in time that we know are critical:

1. Now!
Since we don’t know when Jesus will return, every second the clock ticks is an eligible candidate. Treat each moment as though it might be the one! Be ready!

2. When we die
When our life on earth is over, our opportunities to accept Him as Savior and Lord will have passed. If we have chosen Him, He will come back and take us to His Father’s house so we can be there with Him forever!

3. When He returns at His second coming

Some of humankind will be alive on this earth when Jesus returns to usher in the new age. At this time, if we have chosen Him, rather than taking us to His Father’s house, He will bring His Father’s house to us!

What will His Father’s house be like? There have been a few prophets over the course of history that have been allowed to see the Father’s house and return to tell us about it. Their collective descriptions make one thing clear – it is beyond description. These men dazzle us with imagery, numbers, creatures, and signs to try to put what they’ve seen into words. The terms are so ‘out of this world’ that they can be some of the most confusing passages in all of scripture. What we can derive from them is that the Father’s house is a place of amazing power, beauty, worship, light, and peace. While we struggle to grasp just what it will be like, it might be helpful to remember the most important part of it all – Jesus will be there with us and we will be there with Him forever. When you get right down to it, everything else really isn’t that important, is it? That’s the truth.

In My Father’s house are many rooms. I am going ahead to prepare one of those rooms especially for you. When the time is right, I will come back and you and I will go together to this wonderful place. You need not travel any other way, for I AM The Way for you.

That’s the YouTruth – Jesus Has Prepared a Place For You.

Martin, Jesus, Love and Hate

Quoteweaving-banner-art1-300x63Weaving together the quote of a famous one
and The Famous One


Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

Jesus said it this way in Matthew 5: 43-45: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven.”


God does not want us to hate others. Period. And yet, there is a lot of hate in the world. Martin Luther King, Jr. encountered it in his day. We encounter it in ours. But the truth still remains—even those we love to hate and hate to love should be loved by us. But how do we do it?

At the Core: Forgiveness
In order to love, you must be able to forgive. In order to love your enemy, you must be very good at forgiveness. Forgiveness is vital to loving in a broken world. There are simply no perfect people to love, therefore without forgiveness, you will simply be unable to love anybody for very long, if at all. We find a clue to the importance of forgiveness from one of Jesus’ most familiar teachings. He was responding to the question, “how do we pray?” But Jesus’ answer, the Lord’s Prayer, had much to say about the importance of forgiveness. In fact, Jesus taught that it is so important that God simply will not forgive those who don’t forgive others. Why this emphasis on forgiveness?
Because un-forgiveness is an incredible burden. Here’s how it works. When someone wrongs you and you fail to forgive, you carry bitterness, resentment, anger, hurt feelings, all heavy burdens that God does not intend for you to carry. The struggle to carry these burdens, if attempted for very long, gives rise to hate. The magic ingredient that reverses this process is forgiveness.

Can we do it?
We may say, “I can’t do this!” and we’re right. That’s the whole point. Only God can forgive in every situation. So when we say, “I can’t do this!” God says, “But I can!” When we claim Christ as our Savior and make Him Lord of our lives, we receive the free gift of forgiveness that His grace provides. This is not human forgiveness, but the eternal forgiveness of God Himself. Once we have received this gift we can share it with others. All others. It never runs out. Our ability to forgive, particularly in severe cases, reveals to the world whether we have received God’s forgiveness or not.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had many opportunities to hate those that opposed him. He had countless enemies and persecutors. Yet he remembered that he had the forgiveness of His Father in heaven, and thus had what he needed to love those that opposed him and persecuted him. His Savior had commanded Him and equipped him to do so. He commands and equips us to do so as well.

 

The YouTruth in John 10:10 – Jesus Came That You May Have Life

“I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10b (NASB)

As we celebrate Christmas and commemorate Jesus coming to earth, it is right for us to ask and answer a very basic question – why did He come? Fortunately, Jesus Himself answered this question, and in His answer, we can find the greatest reason of all to celebrate this Christmas – He came that we may have abundant life. Let’s explore what Jesus did in relation to the abundance that is promised.

Jesus’ story doesn’t begin with His birth. In fact, Jesus’ story has no beginning or end. Jesus has, for all eternity, been together with God (John 1:1). He left this position of utmost abundance to be born into the world in human form. In so doing, he entered into quite the opposite situation. He was born in a stable because there was not a more suitable place available in Bethlehem (Luke 2:7). His earthly family was poor enough that when they went to the Temple after He was born, they gave an offering of two turtledoves which was specified for those who could not afford to offer a lamb (Luke 2:24, Leviticus 5:11). Soon after He was born, his family had to seek refuge in a land unfamiliar to them (Matthew 2:13). Once they were able to return to Israel, they located in Nazareth in Galilee, which was widely considered a place of second-class status (John 1:46). What a contrast from His heavenly abundance!

The contrast swings as strongly in the opposite direction for us. We are born into an earthly life that contains sin and its deadly effects, pain, suffering, despair, illness that will ultimately lead to death and eternal separation from God. The life that Jesus made possible by His saving work, of which His birth is just a part (See “Jesus Was Born For You” for more on this), has much different attributes:

  • Hope – an eternity spent together with God is assured! (Titus 3:7)
  • Joy – an everlasting happiness that can penetrate even the toughest of times (Isaiah 61:7)
  • Peace – hearts free from anxiety and filled with gratitude (Phillipians 4:7).
  • Love – an eternal, unconditional love of God that will never change (Psalm 136:2).

Jesus came from the highest abundance and was born into this world in the most ‘un-abundant’ of ways. Because He did, we can exchange the ‘un-abundant’, cheap imitation of life that exists in this world for an abundant life filled with Hope, Joy, Peace, and Love. That’s why He came. That’s the truth.

Jesus can that you may have life; that you may have a life filled with hope; that you may have a life filled with joy; that you may have a life filled with peace; that you may have a life filled with love; that you may have a truly abundant life!

 That’s the YouTruth. Jesus Came That You May Have Life.

The YouTruth in Luke 2:11 – Jesus Was Born For You

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:11 (KJV)

The Christmas holiday season is the most observed, most significant period on most family calendars in our country. For weeks we prepare, many times in all-consuming ways, for the biggest holiday of the year. While there is nothing wrong with devoting so much time and energy remembering and celebrating Jesus’ birth, it is easy to assign undue significance to the event. Of the events that reveal Jesus’ nature as the Messiah, the Savior, His birth may be one of the least significant!  In fact, there would be nothing about His birth to celebrate, were it not for three other events that truly define Jesus Messianic nature. Let’s devote some time to understanding these events and then return to our birthday celebration and truly celebrate!

Event #1  Jesus’ Conception

The Bible tells us that Jesus was born to a woman who was a virgin. Jesus was not conceived through natural means, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, by God Himself (Luke 1:31-35). Jesus was thus conceived with a divine nature and a human nature, getting His divine nature from His heavenly Father, God, and His human nature from His human mother Mary. Only a Savior conceived in this manner would have the dual nature required to provide the way to salvation. If either the human or divine component were to be missing, salvation would be impossible. Were it not for God’s direct involvement in Jesus’ conception, His birth would have been meaningless. Let’s continue on to see why this is so.

Event #2 Jesus’ Life

The Bible tells us that Jesus led a life that was without sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the most significant truth about His life on earth, yet it usually takes a back seat to His teaching, healing the sick, calming storms, walking on water and bringing dead people back to life. While all of these acts revealed that Jesus possessed divine power, they would all be meaningless, if they were accompanied in Jesus’ life by even one sin. Only Jesus, because He was conceived with both divine and human nature, could accomplish living a sinless human life. Since we have not been so conceived, sin is a part of our life. Let’s continue on, to tie this all together.

Event #3 Jesus’ death on the cross

The Bible tells us that the penalty of sin is death (Romans 6:23). There’s no way out. Because we sin, we will die. Because Jesus did not sin, death was not part of His future. But He chose to die anyway! He paid a penalty that was not due. What does He do with this ‘excess’ payment? He offers it to each of us! Because Jesus suffered a human death, he can offer His payment in place of ours! Because Jesus had a divine nature, the payment made by His death has an infinite value! He can continue to offer payments and He will always have a remaining balance to offer more payments! (If you haven’t accepted Jesus’ offer or aren’t sure how to, please see “For God So Loves You” right now!)

Now let’s return to Jesus’ birthday celebration. Because He was conceived as He was, lived as He lived, and died as He died, we truly have something to celebrate each Christmas! That’s the truth.

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit for you, so He could live a sinless life for you, so He could pay a penalty of death not required of Him, so that He could offer His death payment to you. This Savior is Christ the Lord. He has done this all for you!

 

 That’s the YouTruth.  Jesus Was Born For You.

Clothe Yourselves As Chosen People – The YouTruth in Colossians 3:12

col 3-12 image“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

I’m sure you’ve faced your share of mean, insensitive, hurtful stuff in your life. Harsh, condemning words can pierce you like a knife and the wounds they leave can cause pain for long periods of time as they heal. Some of these wounds can cause permanent injuries that leave you limping for the rest of your life.

If only we had some kind of protective covering! How about a bullet-proof vest to stop the incoming bullets and sharp objects aimed at you? Well, God has it. His protective clothing is made of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. What is amazing about God’s protective clothing is that it defends you against more than just the attacks you face from others. It guards against those attacks you might inflict upon others as well.

Here’s how God’s protective vest works. Direct attacks of insensitivity and harm, are deflected by compassion and kindness, freeing you from the desire to respond in kind. If you are clothed in humility, the pride of others does not require a prideful rebuttal, but allows you to be gentle and patient in return. Remember, treating someone harshly hurts both the deliverer and the receiver. God, in his infinite wisdom, has created this garment with this glorious twofold purpose—to protect each of us from the harm of both outgoing and incoming nastiness.

So dress up today! Put on the protective clothing of His compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Love, Perseverance, Direction – The YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

2Thess3-5 imageThe YouTruth in 2 Thessalonians 3:5

“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”

The old Beatles song told us, “Love, love, love, all you need is love.” Well, they got it wrong. It takes much more than that. You see, love without perseverance will wither quickly in the face of an unloving world, not matter how love-love-loving it is. That’s not to say that love is not needed, it certainly is. Perseverance without love always results in horrible outcomes. The work of [enter evil dictator’s name here] is resounding testimony to this fact. Love and perseverance must work together in order to be effective.

But that’s not all. Love, is an action. Actions take motion. Motion requires direction. For you, as a lover of Christ, direction requires that two things come together—God and your heart. While your hands and feet may set you in motion, your heart provides the direction. Allowing God to point your heart to the loving work He has for you is the final piece to the puzzle. Now, and only now, will you have all the necessary ingredients to love, love, love God’s way.

Your heart—provides the direction.

God’s direction—points your heart into God’s love.

God’s love—draw upon it. It is the love so deep that He sent His Son to the cross to save you.

Christ’s perseverance—for when the going gets tough. Tap into the perseverance of Christ, the very same perseverance that carried Him all the way through the pain and suffering at Golgotha.

Now you’ve got “all you need.” Go out into the world, and get after it!

Grace – This is Not From Yourselves

a-Eph 2-8 imageThe YouTruth in Ephesians 2: 8

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.”

There are so many areas of life that are tied to performance. Your job or career is certainly that way. If you perform well, you are compensated well. If you don’t, you may not be compensated at all. If you have children, you can face a lot of performance-related feedback as a parent. If your kids behave well, you may get praises. If they don’t, you may face judgment. Just about every area of life in the world can be pressure-packed by the need to perform well. Much of the stress you may face in life can flow from this phenomenon.

There is great news. Your relationship with God is in no way based on your performance. Let me restate that: You do not have to perform for God in order to secure a personal, eternal relationship with Him. The measure of God’s love that flows to you through your relationship Him is always turned on full strength. If you make mistakes, it still flows full strength.  If you fail Him at times, it still flows full strength. Even in moments when you are acting purely in His will, it flows just the same. Nothing you can do can affect His love for you. It is a gift. All you have to do is receive it through faith in Jesus as your Lord and Savior. Nothing else is required.

There is more great news. You can carry this gift into every corner of your life in the world. This gift has great power to dissolve away the performance-related stresses you will face. If you have a bad day at work, God is still pouring out His love, full strength. If you lose your temper with someone close to you, God is still pouring. If your child acts out at the grocery store, you guessed it, God’s gift is unaffected.

Blessing, Keeping and Face Turning – The Lord’s Grace and Peace

a-Numbers imageThe YouTruth in Numbers 6:24-26

“The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

What a powerful prayer this is! It is filled with so many good things, it’s hard to know where to begin!

You may recognize this as a benediction prayer used in many worship services to send the congregation forth after worship. It has been used in this way for thousands of years!

The imagery of God’s face in this prayer is powerful and is key to understanding how you can harness the stated blessings of grace and peace. In Old Testament times, the quality of your relationship with God was illustrated by whether God’s face was turned toward you or away from you. “Why have You turned Your face from me?” is a common cry in the Psalms. It is important to understand God’s perfect, unchanging nature in order to properly understand what was really happening. God would be right to  respond to such a psalmist’s lament with the same question, “No, why have you turned away from Me?”

This illustration can work for you today, too. When you seek after a closeness with God, He promises that you will find yourself in His light, face-to-face with Him. And when you do, you will be in prime position to receive the grace and peace He so longs to give you.

Seek His face today and receive the grace and peace He promises for doing so. (Don’t forget to pass on His bright-shining grace and peace to others, too!)

Yes, You Heard That Right – Love Your Enemies

a-Matt 5-43 imageThe YouTruth in Matthew 5:43

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’”

Loving enemies. Now that’s a hard one. Don’t you wish Jesus would quit teaching us to do all this hard stuff? And yet, here it is, plain and simple. So let’s see how we can pull this off.

Two shifts in perspective will be helpful:

Who is the enemy, really?

When we are dealing with enemies, it is important to understand that enemies are not who they seem to be. The Apostle Paul taught powerfully on this subject when he wrote in Ephesians 6:12:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

If we focus on people we may consider enemies, it is virtually impossible to love them. But if we understand that the true enemy is Satan, who has lured a person into the behavior of an enemy, then it is much easier.  This doesn’t mean that you have to put yourself in harm’s way, or that you have to consider the person a close friend. It just means that you pray for the person, extend kindness when there is a safe opportunity to do so.

What makes an enemy?

Conflict makes enemies of people. Without conflict, people cannot truly be enemies.  If your response to an “enemy’s” unkindness, is more unkindness, then you’ve made an enemy indeed. But if your response to an enemy’s mean-spirited action is forgiveness and love, the condition of conflict vaporizes. Just like it takes two to fight, it takes two to be enemies. If only one “enemy” is participating, then love can find its way into the situation, and perhaps, head off the whole enemy thing at the pass.

The Birthright – Seeing the Kingdom

a-John 3-3 imageThe YouTruth in John 3:3

“Jesus replied, ‘Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.'”

Nicodemus, a wise religious man, saw that Jesus was someone special, even if the ruling council, of which Nicodemus was a part, didn’t think much of Him. So Nicodemus came to Jesus alone, at night, to talk to Him. Before Nicodemus could even ask his first question, Jesus issued the statement above. Nicodemus was understandably confused. None of Nicodemus’ extensive religious training had prepared him to deal with such a profound paradox. We can only assume that Nicodemus left his conversation with Jesus with much to think about, paradigms to change, and new ways of understanding God’s Kingdom to process. Later in the book of John, we find out that Nicodemus, despite the ruling council’s severe objections to Jesus’ message, became a believer and follower.

We are all “Nicodemuses” in some way. And we can find great hope in Nicodemus’ story.

We live in a world that doesn’t entirely agree with Jesus’ message of grace and hope. It can beat us down at times. But we can know that we can come to Jesus, in the night if we have to, and ask Him about the Kingdom. And He will tell us profound, sometimes confusing, but always amazing things about eternal life.

We are all wise in our own way, and some of that wisdom will be off-target from the eternal perspective. But we can know that we can come to Jesus and ask Him which parts of our wisdom work, and which parts don’t. And He will tell us.

We may come away from these encounters confused or uncertain. But, as with Nicodemus, if we come to Him, with a yearning to understand, Jesus will leave that yearning intact and active, exactly what is needed to become deeper believers and truer followers of Him.

Oh, and by the way, Jesus wrapped up His explanation of the whole “born again” thing to Nicodemus in this way:

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”