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JesusWOD

Exits

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14

Everyone has traveled, or is traveling, through the wide gate and on the broad road. Age is irrelevant and Christians are not excluded.

Just because we are saved doesn’t mean we still won’t take the “on ramp” to the world’s highway. It’s a thoroughfare filled with promises of fun, happiness and great times without signaling what lies ahead.

The world’s road is like a playing field with no boundaries. Anything goes. No whistles blown. No penalty flags thrown. With no regulations, it must be more fun than a narrow path with guardrails and warnings? How many times have we become caught up in the chaos of the broad road? The focus is on us or keeping up with the Joneses. Everything must be bigger, stronger and faster. The promises it offers becomes a dizzying frustration leading to disappointment, discouragement or ultimate “destruction.”

Thank the Lord for exits. Exit sign

God promises in Deuteronomy 31:6 He will not “leave… nor forsake us.” As we “merrily” travel the world’s paths, exhausting ourselves along the way, God provides countless opportunities to exit back to the peace, joy and safety of His “narrow” road.

No matter how long we stay on the world’s path, an exit to paradise is always there. Ask the thief on the cross (arguably my favorite person, besides Jesus of course, in the Bible because we are all, in one way or another, a thief).

I think he would encourage us like this: “I was blessed to be dying on the cross that day. I could not have been in a better place. It brought me to my last exit ramp, Jesus.”

JesusWOD:

What road are we traveling on today, right this very moment? Do we need to exit to the road less traveled? The ramp is there. The choice is ours.

 

 

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Chains

“Remember my chains.”  – Colossians 4:18

In his letter to the Colossians, Paul ends it with a simple request – “Remember my chains.” Paul is under house arrest in Rome and will be so for two years. 

Though Colosse was hundreds of miles away, Paul knew the power of their prayers would sustain and strengthen him during this difficult time. 

Unfortunately, chains have not gone out of style. 

In different parts of the world, Christians suffer major persecution, and are slaughtered because they claim the name of Jesus. Others face the “normal” daily difficulties, troubles, hardships, worry and stress life constantly brings. 

Chains bind, create fear, stagnation and steal the joy and hope God promises to all his “kids”.  

As Paul did 2,000 years ago, brothers and sisters in CHRIST are crying out today – “Remember my chains.” These people are not just a world away. They are right beside us. At work, school, on our teams and even under our own roof. 

JesusWOD:

Who do we know being weighed down by the chains of life?  Will we take time to remember their chains and bear these burdens with them in prayer today?

JesusWOD

apart or a part

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.” – John 15:5

As a basketball coach, it’s not difficult to tell which players are about the team and which ones are about themselves. Do they want to play defense as much as they want the ball on the offensive end? Will they hustle, dive for the loose ball … do the dirty work? Does their body language affect the team in a positive or negative manner?

In John 15:5, Jesus basically said if you’re on My team, you “can do all things through” Me. Jesus is the lifeline. He is the life-giver. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4)

On God’s team, you are a segment, a piece of His divine plan that serves a special and specific purpose. “The body is a unit, though it is comprised of many parts. And although its parts are many, they all form one body. So it is with Christ…Now you are the body of Christ, and each of you is a member of it.” (I Corinthians 12:12, 27)

As Christ is “the vine”, we serve as an extension of Him to the world. Our every breath and heartbeat comes not from our greatness, but the simple fact we are attached to Jesus. 

Break a branch off from its main source and certain death will come. For non-Christians, being “…apart from” God doesn’t mean a successful life cannot be had, for it certainly can. The difference is when those individuals die, and we all will, they “can do nothing” to be a part of God’s team. Time has run out. The game is over. An eternity apart from the Father has been sealed.

JesusWOD:

God has a place for you on His team. Have you asked Jesus into your life as your Lord and Savior? 

If you’ve already accepted Jesus, is He asking you to be a part of something “special and specific”? 

 

JesusWOD

Team First

“…then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – Philippians 2:2-4

Teams come in various shapes and sizes. An entire football team could have 80 plus players on the sidelines while a basketball team might have 15 or so. Relay teams in track and swimming consists of four while two can make a team in tennis, beach volleyball, golf (best ball), figure skating and even professional wrestling (The Minnesota Wrecking Crew – those from the 80s will know).

As these teammates strive to improve personally, they must also work in coordination with each other to attain maximum success (whatever that might ultimately be – usually getting the most out of their potential).

Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden was an expert on team success. He guided the Bruins to 10 NCAA basketball national championships from 1964-1975. Of the many great insights on “team,” this might be his best:

“A player who makes a team great is more valuable than a great player. Losing yourself in the group for the good of the group, that’s teamwork.”

In 1978-79, the Los Angeles Lakers won 47 games and finished third in the NBA’s Pacific Division. Enter Ervin “Magic” Johnson, the NBA’s number one draft pick from Michigan State University. 

During his rookie season, the celebrated Johnson wasn’t the team’s leading scorer (3rd) nor its top assist man (2nd). He was, though, the ultimate team player and the contagious excitement from the 6’9” ball handling wizard immediately made everyone around him better. 

As a team, the Lakers improved in points per game, assists, team rebounds and field goal percentage. Individually, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Norm Nixon and Jamaal Wilkes saw their scoring averages go up. Even the attendance at the “Fabulous Forum” rose from 482,611 to 582,882. A team was solidified and “Showtime” was born.

More importantly, Los Angeles netted 60 victories, 13 more than the prior season, and won the 1980 NBA Championship. Why? Because the missing link chose not to make himself the most important one. 

The greatest team player in all of history is Jesus Christ! He was the first to wear a t-shirt with “TEAM” in large capital letters and “me” in the smallest of font sizes. 

Paul captured Christ’s essence when he wrote:  “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

The “Great I Am” had every reason to make it all about Him since He created it all in the first place. 

He didn’t.

After turning water into wine, Jesus didn’t pull a Sharpie from his robe and sign the miracle holding basin. He didn’t take a selfie with the blind man He gave sight to or go on Instagram live when raising Lazarus from the dead. After three days in the grave, Jesus didn’t Tweet, “I’m back!”

It wasn’t about Him; He is about us.

Knowing the coming carnage Calvary would offer, Jesus courageously put team in front of self. He spent His time in the garden praying to his Father “…that they may be one as we are one.” (John 17:22). For that to happen, Jesus had to “…continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.” (John 17:26).

So, Jesus “valued” us more … than Himself. 

He took the humiliation, the sharp crown of thorns, the brutal whipping and the nails – each with our names on them.  He took our sin. He took our death so we might live. 

Team. First.

JesusWOD:

Each of us are members of one or many teams that include family, spouses, friends, school or the workplace. Are we willing to humble ourselves, put aside our wants for the good of others and the glory of Christ?

The Obstinate Ones

“But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and stopped up their ears. They made their hearts as hard as flint and would not listen to the law or to the words that the Lord Almighty had sent by His Spirit through the earlier prophets.” Zechariah 7:11-12

How often do we choose to not pay attention to GOD’s calling? Whether it be large or small, it does not matter. This act of disobedience happens daily.

The word that stands out in this passage is “stubbornly.” The Israelites were not passively ignoring GOD, they were doing it with all they had. They were dogged, inflexible, relentless and tenacious in their desire to want it their way.  All their energy was put forth into opposing GOD and HIS best interests for them.

pull-donkey

The more we walk away from GOD, relishing in our season of sin (and those last longer than others), our heart hardens. The passage equates it to a flint rock. These are durable, and tough, fashioned into tools and weapons.

More times we choose to run from GOD, like Jonah did, our heart becomes a weapon we use against ourselves. This is exactly what satan desires. For then, he knows we are traveling the path to destruction. If you are a Christian, it can destroy your witness for JESUS; for the unbeliever, it can secure your place in hell beside the prince of darkness.

We are all the obstinate ones. Will it be to follow GOD’s plan for our life or not? The choice is ours.

 

 

 

 

Strength

In less than 48 hours, Jesus will kneel in the Garden of Gethsemane. “Overwhelmed with sorrow” and the knowledge of what is to come, He will make a plea to heaven.

“‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done’ An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” (Luke 22:42-43)

I’ve always focused on verse 42. Jesus shows his humanity. Just like us, He would rather not endure the forthcoming pain. There must be a better means to the end. Still, He was committed to His Father’s will being “done.”

In “anguish”, with “sweat…like drops of blood falling to the ground (Luke 22:44), God heard Jesus’s prayer, but He didn’t take the “cup”. Instead, He filled it with exactly what was needed at that moment…strength.

Just like us, Jesus was in the valley (though we can’t fathom the depth of His), and God prepared Him for the brutal journey to come. He is the Alpha and the Omega; the beginning and the end. He has already been where He is leading us.

As He did with Jesus, God will always provide us with the strength to complete His plan.

Refuge – Anywhere

Psalm 23 is the famous passage where GOD leads us beside “quiet” or “still” waters. It’s the type of refuge we all desire.

The soothing sounds of a brook as it meanders over rocks and between crevasses. Maybe it’s the ocean breeze that makes the palm trees sing their coastal tune or the stillness of a mountain range. In any case, our response renders a deep sigh, smile or the fleeting “feeling” of total relaxation. In our finite eyes, and minds, the desired refuge is another place. Another time.

As stated in verse 2, GOD “makes me lie down in green pastures.” It doesn’t say our refuge will be found in greener pastures. That’s what we often think, though. My situation will be better if, if, if … I can get over there. Why? Because “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” That’s where calm resides and the new beginning begins. If I can just get there, it will be…

But the “Great I AM”, HE is a different cat and even tells us such in Isaiah 55:8 (NLT) – “For MY thoughts are nothing like your thoughts. And MY ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.”

Who in their right mind would ever consider the cruel cross as a place to take refuge? As GOD’s love knows no bounds, neither do the places HE offers refuge. HE makes right out of wrong, good out of bad and beauty out of ashes.

Ask the thief that hung on the cross beside JESUS. On that day, he found “goodness and love” (v. 6), “right paths” (v. 5), and “comfort” (v. 4). He found…refuge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Refuge

Refuge. We all need it. That place to go in times of, as Webster’s dictionary puts it, “danger or distress.” It’s where we refuel, recharge, and reexamine what is happening in our world.  The results and answers sought after are often only as good as the chosen refuge.

Personally, my first choices would be working out, watching sports, or a few days at the beach. None of those are bad, but they only serve as a temporary band aid to lingering issues. The refuge that offers truth and peace comes from JESUS and HIS Word.

James 1:22-25 states:

“Don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.”

Going to the refuge, that is GOD, is the only way to experience the peace HE offers from the craziness of this life.  I must be more consistent in not just knowing it’s there, but taking root in that place.

HE DIED IN MY ARMS

HE died in my arms.  I felt HIS last breath; I heard HIS final, pleading cry.  When HE trembled from the pain coursing through every cell of HIS being, I also felt it.

It shook me to my foundation – every sudden jerk, each wrenching twist and turn from a body HE could no longer control.  And I could not put my arms around HIS bloodied frame and stop the hurt.  I could not help lift HIM up so a precious portion of oxygen could enter HIS failing and collapsing lungs.  HE tried so hard, several times to do so, but as the day wore on, HIS torn, beaten and ripped carcass of a body wore out.

How I wish I could have wiped the blood from HIS brow and stopped its downward stream into HIS blurred eyes.  Eyes with an eternal perspective.  Eyes which daily saw the prize HE always wants you to see.  Eyes that look into the sinful hearts of man and can still find some good.  Eyes filled with an unworldly gleam, a heavenly light.

This was replaced with pain, sorrow and bewilderment.  Eyes which asked the question “why?”, and knew the answer to that question.  But one thing remained.  As HE strained to raise HIS head, HE scanned across those who gathered, those who put HIM there – some mocking, some crying, others stone faced – the forgiveness was still there.

How I longed to bandage HIS back, which had been stripped of flesh, of form, and laid open to the elements.  HE could not even lean backwards upon me to gain a second of relief from the agony.

HIS back was a sea of blood – one massive wound torn and sheared from one side to the other.  Everyone who witnessed or those who have heard of this brutal event wince and cringe at the thought of the nails driven through HIS hands and feet.  But do not forget HIS back.  Unlike HE does each day for you, there was no one to watch HIS back because they had all turned theirs on HIM.

GoodFriday-Cross

Every time HE moved, pushed HIS body upwards for air or grazed against me, the pain was excruciating as exposed nerves were met with splinters of wood, which lodged themselves and moved deeper into the rawness bringing unbearable pain with the slightest breath.

There was no rest, not one moment of relaxation or comfort for HIM.

I would have done anything to pull the nails from HIS ravaged feet and hands.  Instead they were pinned to a board like the fur of an animal hung above a mantel.  A conquering prize of HIS enemies, hung in the open for all to see and admire.  The prey – hunted, cornered and finally caught.

Feet, which had traveled so many miles, so the hands could perform miracle upon miracle were no longer of use.  Feet that people had knelt to kiss and hands they longed to grasp instead were covered in crimson red of HIS precious blood.

Now, their only movement was of strain and clutching to a life, which was slowly fading toward eternity with HIS father.

I understand for I was with HIM every slow, exhausting, torturous step of the way.  Through the mockery, the insults, the slander and spitting of the crowds, HE carried me all the way to Calvary.  And at the same time, HE was also carrying you.  Beaten, whipped, bloodied and stumbling, the “Rock of Ages” would not crack under my weight and your sins.

Even as the filthy sins of this world invaded HIS Holy and perfect body, HE found and gave you victory in death – the final act of service from the ONE who came to serve.

Today, you are washed clean, as white as snow from the blood of the Father’s Son.  You continue, though, to scar yourself with sin, after sin, after sin and JESUS remains to wash you clean.  Still, you do not seem to fully understand what HE went through for you!

But I do.  All I have to do is look either way, up or down and I see the stains of HIS blood – stains that will forever remain as a reminder to those who have accepted HIM or who are seeking HIM.  I am soaked in the blood of the ONE who came to give you life!  Are you?  I heard HIS moaning.  I felt HIS quivering body.  I understand.  HE died in my arms.

GOD Bless you this Good Friday,

Robbie Burns

“…at a distance…”

With Good Friday less than 24 hours away, I started reading the 26th chapter of Matthew and its account of that fateful day.  In verse 58, three words hit me square between the eyes – “…at a distance…” 

As athletes, being “…at a distance…” whether mentally, physically or a combination of both will keep us from being sold out and fully engaged “in the game.”  Not only does it have an affect on our play, but on those around us.

The same is true in our walk with Christ.

The first part of verse 58 states, But Peter followed him at a distance…”  How often do we do the same? Christ has called us to “…take up our cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).  Now we can follow him “..at a distance…” but to truly follow, we must make the choice to be beside Him.

That cross isn’t going to carry itself. It cannot be carried from “a distance.” A batter cannot step into the batter’s box and expect to hit when the bat is still in the dugout.

Just as Jesus carried his cross upon his brutally beaten body, we (and I am speaking to me before anyone else) have to go pick up the cross first.  It cannot be done from a distance.

The second part of the verse said that Peter (it’s tough to be used as an example like this for thousands of years, but he made a great comeback!) “sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”

We are just like Peter…sitting down with the “world” to watch “the outcome.” We are believers but won’t proclaim it. We choose not to serve. We will not take the battle to the enemy in diligent prayer, in our own “War Room.”

We stay on the sidelines.

Thankfully, Jesus chose to meet the cross like two prize fighters do – nose to nose. He did not stay in his corner. He walked to the middle of the ring and courageously confronted the opponent – and won.

We can experience that too, but not “…at a distance.”

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