Making Jesus a Priority

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“In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.”
“When I am alone, give me Jesus.”
“When I come to die, give me Jesus.”

Jesus.

When I think, speak and sign His name, a harvest of emotions surface. I want to hold on to the power of His name. The greatest cataclysm in this life is the awareness of so many “Christians” existing in the world. Those who attend church week after week, those who have a general belief in God, yet sadly those same neighbors, friends, coworkers and family believe those factors are enough to identify themselves as a “Christian.” Where is the passion to live with Christ-like conviction and purpose? Where is the urgency of pursuit and refusal to walk through each day suppressing the joy of the Lord in your heart given to you by Christ when He made you new? We express our love for Him, but we are more satisfied in going about our day to day, loving only ourselves.

I’m learning more and more that the days I don’t start with Jesus and spend time with Him, my flesh suffers. He deserves the highest honor by the first fruits of my time, but it is more than what He yearns for me to do. It truly has become a deep tangible desire in my being, to place Him above all else and really know Him as a close intimate friend.

It is not merely enough to go to church once a week. It is not merely enough to say a prayer and be baptized. It is not merely enough to ask and hope your needs will be fulfilled. Would you eat only once a week? Would you bathe once a week? Would you talk to your best friend only once a week? In order for your body to remain healthy physically, we must eat appropriately and practice good hygiene. To grow in relationship with our family and friends, we must communicate and spend time together. To have a solid growing fruitful connection with Christ, He MUST become a priority. He must reign over all else.

The term “Christian” comes from the Greek word christianos, a word formed from the Roman style meaning, “an adherent of Jesus.” This literally means those “stuck to” Jesus.

This term was not commonly used until after His ascension. Are you “stuck to” Jesus? Do you believe He is with your every step, every word and every action whether minuscule or significant of every day?

2 Peter 1:10 urges us to consider our options. “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.” We can choose to follow Christ or not, but if you say “yes,” your daily growth should be exponential.

It is time to wear our “Christian” royal sash proudly. We have the richest gift by choosing to follow Him. His riches are unfolded every moment of the day if we seek and earnestly desire to walk close as a brother with Him.

In the gospel books of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, we meet the twelve disciples. Nearly all of the accounts of the calling of the disciples are similar in nature. Jesus chooses them, greets them in person commanding them to, “follow me,” and immediately these men stop what they are doing and abandon their post to be with Jesus. James and John even leave their father to follow Him. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed Him.” Matthew 4:22

Some other examples of obedient people in scripture are these:

In Genesis 6 we see one of the first examples of an obedient believer. Abraham was told in Genesis 6 to “leave your father and mother and go to the land I will show you.” He did not argue, He simply took his family and left.

The Apostle Paul said “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Jesus even spells out to a crowd in the book of Luke, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:26

I recall an instance in my life many years ago in which I knew God was calling me to walk away from a friendship. It was a difficult decision. This friend and I were very close, but every time I saw her, I was put in compromising situations. I knew the Lord was asking me to cut ties. I did and it was a lonely time in my post college years. After many months of absence from this friend, the Lord blessed me with friends who, to this day, continue to build up my life and consistently point me towards the Father. These friends did not ask me to choose between my faith convictions and the world. A true follower in the faith will come along side you, they will pour into you with truth and they will always point you to the One who holds tomorrow.

In closing, think about these three questions:

What would it take for you to live with reckless abandonment for Christ?

What are you willing to sacrifice to be His child?

What is holding you back?

DESIRES OF THE HEART

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Studying scripture as a whole is crucial for gaining true Christ like wisdom. Christians often end up traveling down a dangerous road, extrapolating a verse and molding it to mean something it really does not mean. Digging deep into scripture allows for God to enlighten our mind to truly see in His word for what He really means. Psalm 37:4 is a popular example. As a society, this verse is often misinterpreted to mean, “if I do good, good will come to me.” Nowhere in scripture does God promise this and it is certainly not the intended meaning for verse 4 either.

Verse 4 reads, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” According to Webster’s Dictionary, it defines “delight” as “a high degree of pleasure.” Essentially, live with the delight, pleasure or joy of the Lord at all times.

A true redeemed believer’s goal is to passionately know God, for who He is as the One True Creator God, for the sole purpose of delighting in Him. When we know God, His desires become our own desires. It may seem at that point we are getting what we want, but we are actually receiving what God has intended for us all along because we are walking in unison. Our hearts begin to beat to the same desires.

Pastor John Piper helps us understand this verse even better. He says, “When we enjoy God himself, the desires of our heart are shaped in accord with our delight in him.”

Then our dreams, goals and heart felt desires never oppose God’s desired plans for us. Actions of immortality are not of God and therefore not what He desires for you. Sin, remember is what causes separation between us and God until we come to the saving knowledge of what was done through His Son Jesus. By doing things apart from what scripture teaches us, even if we like it, is never God’s design for us.

Now that we have a clear understanding of what it means to delight in God, how can it be implemented in our lives day to day? First, you must establish a relationship with God. If you have not put your faith in Christ fully by asking forgiveness over your sins and deciding to follow Him, that must be your first step. It is only then can we look at how to actively delight in the Lord.

One of the biggest perks to becoming a believer in Christ is the way your mind begins to work. God begins to show you things you could not comprehend before. Learning His qualities and seeing His nature through one on one time with Him is not only essential, but exciting! The more we acquire knowledge through His word the more we see His divine nature in the Person of God.
Secondly, God is personal and intimate. He is not only ruler of the universe, but our Savior and dearest friend. We need to have both reverence for His high standing and confidence in building a friendship with Him.

Finally, we delight in God when we worship. One thing I love is the beauty of the ocean. I love to look at it and swim above and below it. When I am away from it, I long for it. (I could say the same about the Lord). When I got certified to SCUBA dive with my husband, I remember our first trip out sixty feet underwater. I was stunned by the beauty. The colorful coral reefs and varieties of fish. I was in constant awe thinking, “God you are amazing!” What we experience in the naturalness of His creation, He created it all for our enjoyment. He designed beautiful landscapes and creatures for us to be overwhelmed with thanksgiving, being led to worship Him.

Psalms 150 says, “Let everything that has breathe praise the lord.”

The Testimony of Jesus

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Jesus Christ has the ultimate testimony. The tendency to put Jesus in the category of the human testimony is interesting because He is both God and man. It is impossible for us to know everything which occurred during His human existence, but as we study Him it quickly becomes obvious what we can gain from His time on earth.

Jesus was God incarnate. This means God made Himself flesh and walked among us as a man. Although He was fully man, He was also fully God. His testimony gives us hope and is paramount in understanding our own.

The birth, life and death of Jesus Christ was revealed through hundreds of biblical prophecies recorded long before He was born. Here are just a few:

BIRTH:

Isaiah 7:14

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

LIFE:

Zechariah 9:9

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

DEATH:

Isaiah 53:5

“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His wounds we are healed.”

Even though the prophecies recorded were abundant and very clear, many doubted He truly was the Christ. Others firmly believed in His arrival.

Mary and Joseph were seen in God’s eyes as righteous and were chosen to be earthly parents to Jesus. On two separate occasions, Mary and Joseph were visited by Angels who foretold what would take place. (See Matthew Ch. 1)

After His birth, Wise Men traveled to visit and worship Him. Still others, like King Herod, sought to seek Him out to kill Him.

The only glimpse we have of Jesus in scripture before His adult ministry was when He was about twelve years old. He traveled to Jerusalem with His parents and for the Feast of the Passover they unknowingly left Him behind. After several days of traveling back and forth, Mary and Joseph finally found Him in the temple sitting among the Teachers. They were fully enthralled at His teaching and even astounded by His understanding and answers. (See Luke 2:41-52) After a reprimand from mom and dad expressing their worry and searching, Jesus’ reply is almost comical. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49)

As Jesus began His adult ministry, I want to point out a few key characteristics that strike me as phenomenal. I believe them to be paramount in understanding what He exemplified while on earth.

Jesus was a Selfless Servant:
He gave up His seat at the right hand of God. (Philippians 2:7)
He let John the Baptist, baptize Him. (Matthew 3:14)
He washed the disciple’s feet (John 13:1-20)
He forgave countless sinners (Luke 7:48, Acts 16:31)

Jesus was Sinless:
Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4)
He willingly went to the cross (Mark 10:45)
He was perfect (Matthew 5:45)

Jesus was Relational
Chose the disciples (John 1:35-51)
He taught crowds (Matthew 5-7)
Jesus preformed miracles (John 6)

Jesus was Mistreated
He was subjected to ruthless physical abuse (John 19:1-7)
He was mocked and faced rejection (John 18:39-40, Mark15:29-32)

Jesus was Obedient
He came to die. (John 19:16-30)

He. Came. To. Die.

Yes, He did incredible things and spoke with mind numbing righteous conviction while on earth, but the ultimate purpose for His coming to us was His own physical death. Physical Death, so He could take my dirt and wipe it on Himself and in doing so breathe into me Spiritual Life. The fullness of death is not something anyone has undergone and survived, except Jesus. It is because of Jesus, when our physical life ends, if we have been redeemed, we will glory with Christ in our eternal life.

Jesus led (John 16:33), called (Matthew 4:18-22), befriended (John 13:23), taught (John 13:1-17, Matthew ch. 5-7), healed (John 11), and sacrificed (John 19). He was fully God and fully man. He experienced acceptance, rejection, joy, emotional pain, physical pain and death. He walked on this earth like us, so when it came time for Him to die on the cross, His testimony would prove His true desire to be connected to us. He was willing to experience all the same earthly trials we do because of sin, except He did them without sinning. This gave us a perfect example to follow in hopes that our lives could have less sin once we decide to seek after Him.

He is Jesus. He is the Son of God. He is our Savior, friend, healer and redeemer. He is what we should aspire to be like.

A True Friend in Jesus

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I am honored this week to share another powerful devotional written by my friend Jeff Braunns. Jeff, thank you for seeking the Father’s guidance on what to share with others to help them grow closer to Christ. ~Lindsey

Devotional Author: Jeff Braunns
ASL translation provided by: Lindsey Berger

As you grow and mature in your faith you will find that the worldly things you use to find joy in will leave you.
You will start to see what is truly right from wrong. God will open your eyes and let you see the way this world is. You will no longer have the desire to live like you did.
Don’t get me wrong. You will be tempted!
Even Jesus was tempted.

Micah 6:8
“He has told you O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.”
When you come to know Christ and really start to follow what God has for you, people will notice.
At some point in your new life you may have to make hard decisions with the people you call your “friends.”

1 Peter 4:4
“They are surprised that you do not join them in their reckless, and wild living, and they will heap abuse on you.”
It’s hard to turn from the world. For many years you found so much comfort, and fun in it. The world fills you with that “feel good” feeling.
However, when you’re all alone and your “friends” all have left, you see this world for what it truly is!
Sacrifice is part of being a Christian. Following God, you will sacrifice much daily. Your body will start to get tired and you will feel like it would be a lot easier if you just gave in and just went back to the way things used to be!

It is easier to do that. I don’t know a true follower of Christ that wouldn’t tell you different.
Remember, you have found a new friend in Christ. God will bring great and wise people into your life that you can call a true friend.
Don’t ever feel alone when you are walking the path of Christ!

The Grip Strength of God

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To succeed in this Christian life, we must be tethered to our Heavenly Father’s side. Many of us claim Christ but live like the world. Recently, I asked myself this question, “If there was documented footage of your daily interactions with others, your habits and your internal thoughts, would your life point others to Christ?” I want you to ask yourself the same. Unfortunately, I could easily answer this question in complete honesty. It led me to a low place covered in embarrassment over how I allow my flesh to lead me at times.

Fortunately for those of us who are believers, we have an extremely loving God that desires relational intimacy with His sons and daughters who come after Him. In my shame, the Lord lead me to a quiet place to communicate with Him my faults, my fears and my current failings. I did not feel chastised, but rather, I felt a flood of His love and forgiveness.

In Philippians 1:6, Paul tells us:

“And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

God does not draw us to Himself for the purpose of abandonment. If you have accepted Christ and repented of your sins, your heart is no longer dead but alive. Christ has washed you white as snow.

Often, we give up on ourselves and we should for good reason. As people, we cannot be trusted, without Jesus, we will always be sinful. Temptation leads us to be swayed by the lies of the world and sometimes it can be easy to buy in. We trust the world to know our heart and judge us for our shortcomings, rather than looking inward to the one that lives inside us by trusting His perfect promises.

We accept this personal defeat and follow the lies Satan has shouted at us. We become bombarded, tempted to look for joy in other things. We wonder why we feel unfulfilled, sad and alone. TOO OFTEN we let Satan win. BUT WHY? What would happen if instead, we looked to heaven and asked God for rescue through His mighty power? What would happen if we used our knowledge of scripture to speak truth over the lies? We would push back the darkness. We would joyfully embrace our identity with confidence because of the One who created us and set us free. We would truly love God above all else.

R.C. Sproul said it best; “I like to look at it this way: I’m walking the Christian life with my hand in God’s hand. If my perseverance depended upon my holding tightly to God’s hand, I would surely fall away because at some point I would let go. But I believe that the Scriptures teach us that God is holding my hand, and because he is holding my hand, I don’t have to fear that I will fall ultimately and finally.”