Here is one last question for you to consider this week. Perhaps it is the most important one of all! Jesus asked his disciples and he asks it of us as well.

18One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 19“Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.” 20Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Luke 9:18-20

Who do you say he is? A great teacher? A compassionate man? A prophet? The Messiah? Lord? Savior? Friend? There is a quote from C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity, that challenges me to the core, causing me to step back and examine closely what I am believing and saying about Jesus.

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

In John the Apostle’s first letter, he writes concerning anti-christs – those who are against Jesus and say he is not the son of God. He uses strong language as he commends the truth to the young believers. Here are his words:

22And who is a liar? Anyone who says that Jesus is not the Christ. Anyone who denies the Father and the Son is an antichrist. 23Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also.

1 John 2:22-23

On more than one occasion, Jesus said he was God, was equal with God, came from God, that he was I AM. Prior to this, only Yahweh identified himself as I AM.

Again I ask, who do you say he is? Will you accept Jesus’ testimony about himself? Acknowledge him as God? Because there is nothing else left for us to do.

There are times in my life when I’ve known something isn’t right. At one time it was my emotional well-being, other times it was my physical health requiring attention and sometimes I was in a bad spot spiritually. In every one of these situations, there was a juncture. Would I continue in a state of dis-ease or seek healing? It was a choice I had to acknowledge and make.

Jesus knew the importance of making that choice. He didn’t push his will or desire on anyone, even if it would be for their best.

1Afterward Jesus returned to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish holy days. 2Inside the city, near the Sheep Gate, was the pool of Bethesda, with five covered porches. 3Crowds of sick people—blind, lame, or paralyzed—lay on the porches. 5One of the men lying there had been sick for thirty-eight years. 6When Jesus saw him and knew he had been ill for a long time, he asked him, “Would you like to get well?”

John 5:1-6

Sometimes a person chooses to stay in her state of dis-ease. The road to health and wholeness seems long and riddled with complexity. The man at the pool of Bethesda certainly felt his healing was completely impossible. Yet, Jesus saw beyond the process to the end possibility. He was willing to do the impossible, if the man desired to get well.

I think he regularly asks us the same question. “Would you like to get well?” So how about it, do you want to be better? Are you tired of the dis-ease in your life? Ready for something better?

We all have the choice to make. What will you say?

29As Jesus and the disciples left the town of Jericho, a large crowd followed behind. 30Two blind men were sitting beside the road. When they heard that Jesus was coming that way, they began shouting, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 31“Be quiet!” the crowd yelled at them. But they only shouted louder, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on us!” 32When Jesus heard them, he stopped and called, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Matthew 20:29-32

Do you think the blind men were tempted to answer Jesus’ question with a question? Something like, “Well, what do you think we want you to do for us? We are blind after all!”

I have a friend who is a quadraplegic. She was in a car accident when she was only 17 months old so she doesn’t remember ever walking. It has happened that well-meaning individuals, assuming they know what she desires, lift her from her wheel chair while praying for her healing and the restoration of her legs.

While it may be difficult for me to understand, she doesn’t yearn for strong legs as much as I think she might. She is a talented, independent woman who gives of her time, energies and resources in ways that amaze me. Her willingness to go to difficult places is inspiring.

Perhaps Jesus’ question isn’t that odd. Perhaps he knew something we don’t. Perhaps giving these men an opportunity to articulate what they wanted from him was more important than I realize.

What do you want him to do for you? Is it healing that you need? Or is there a deeper need unobservable from the outside? Give it some thought and then join these two men in crying out, “Lord, son of David, have mercy on me!”

Anyone with children experiences a time when they encounter a mess – perhaps it’s a shattered dish on the floor, a bag of flour emptied in the pantry or a small child in the living room covered in baby powder. My favorite was the day I found my toddler son in the bathroom surrounded by feminine products that he had sytematically taken apart.

Most likely these findings spurred a question on the part of the mother (or father) that went something like this, “Son (or daughter), where are you?” “Why are you hiding?” “What did you do?” None of these questions required an answer because you, as the omnipotent one in the family, knew what happened. You didn’t need the child to answer the question for your sake. The child needed to answer the question for his/her sake. It’s a part of the healing process.

In Genesis, Adam and Eve have this same type of encounter with their Father God.

25Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame….7At that moment their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. 8When the cool evening breezes were blowing, the man and his wife heard the Lord God walking about in the garden. So they hid from the Lord God among the trees. 9Then the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10He replied, “I heard you walking in the garden, so I hid. I was afraid because I was naked.” 11“Who told you that you were naked?” the Lord God asked.

Genesis 2:25; 3:7-10

I always marvel at this passage. God clearly asks Adam and Eve questions for which he already knows the answers. And yet, there is an important lesson to be learned. This is what I immediately notice in this passage.

God created us free from shame. Adam and Eve stood in a completely vulnerable state before God and did not know shame. Notice how their disobedience affected their relationship with Father God — they hid because they felt shame.

God still wanted relationship with them even though they chose autonomy over obedience to him. He sought them out, he gave them opportunity to come clean, he initiated an ongoing relationship even when Adam and Eve chose hiding.

His question, “who told you that you were naked?” reveals something about God. In essence he says, “I don’t condemn you. So who is doing this?”

It is human nature to hide when we choose our own way over obedience to parents or others in authority, including God. Shame comes along and encourages us to hide, telling us we are no longer safe. It tells us that we are a mistake rather than that we made a mistake. There is a huge difference.

Jesus does the same thing with the woman caught in adultery. Listen to his questions for her.

10Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11“No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”

John 8:10-11

It’s the same scenario just a few thousand years later. Jesus asks the woman, “Isn’t anyone condemning you? Well, neither do I!”

Perhaps you are hearing the Lord call your name from the hiding place where you huddle down. Shame at your nakedness overwhelms you, so you’re afraid to answer. Be assured, he’s just going to remind you that he has already taken care of your guilt. He isn’t condemning you; he needs you to see who is. Go ahead! Answer his call. Take his questions. It will be the best thing you do today!

9If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, 10even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me.

Psalm 139:9-10

She was a daughter of the King. Her crown was in place, maybe just a bit crooked. The last few months had been tough so she took a rest by the sea. After all, He said even if she goes to the farthest ocean he would guide and support her. So she took Him at His word and set out.

One afternoon, while sitting by the sea, she wandered into the water. The day hadn’t been a good shelling day and she did love shells. So she prayed, “Jesus, can’t you send me just ONE conch shell?” After all, this beach often provided dozens!

Reaching down into the water, lifting out whatever came to her feet, she drew up a handful of shells. In her hand, there lay a conch shell. But it wasn’t colorful or shiny, rather worn white and dull by years of exposure to the salt, sand and sun. She immediately thought, “Well, you could have sent a pretty one!”

Just that quickly she heard His reply, “You didn’t ask for a pretty one.”

How often have I asked for something and, after receiving it, thought the very same thing … wishing for something different, wishing I had been more specific?

What does this say to you? How does Jesus want you to be more specific in what you ask for in prayer?

4Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.

Psalm 37:4

14And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. 15And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.

1 John 5:14-15

Jesus often asked questions that seemed obvious. Yet he still asked the question. Join me this week as we explore the questions of Jesus. What do they teach you? How do his questions expose what is truly in my heart?

4“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Luke `15:4-7

Have you ever been celebrated? Twice in my life, someone managed to surprise me on my birthday. The first was on my 18th birthday. Mom made a cake in advance (I know this because it was still partially frozen – it is still my favorite cake to this day!), decorated it and brought it to the place I worked. I was in a different office at the time and I couldn’t have been more surprised when I walked in to see my mom there with the cake.

The second was during a time when I lived far away from home. The office staff where I worked always celebrated birthdays but I was pretty sure they had forgotten mine. During a short trip to the restroom, the staff all came into the main office area and when I returned, they broke into shouts of “Happy Birthday,” singing and celebrating just for me.

Some people don’t like to be the center of attention and I certainly understand that. But there is something about being celebrated, noticed, affirmed that is really special.

There are very few events celebrated in scripture, but a lost soul coming home makes the news! All the angels and inhabitants of heaven throw off the fetters and celebrate wildly when one person comes to Jesus. They don’t do it for the 99 that haven’t wandered away; just for the one who comes back home.

I think if heaven does, we ought to as well. So, get out the dancing shoes, hang up some streamers and get ready to celebrate the ones he is drawing to himself! Be ready ’cause it’s going to happen!

On Tuesday, I shared a song from way back in the archives entitled, “Father, I Place into your Hands.” There is one verse of that song that particularly hit home with me.

Father, I want to be with you
And do the things you do.
Father, I want to speak the words
That you are speaking too.
Father, I want to love the ones
That you will draw to you,
For I know that I am one with you.

There is a parable in Luke 15 that Jesus tells to the Pharisees and religious people because they are upset with him for hanging out with “sinners.” He even ATE with them!

3So Jesus told them this story: 4“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? 5And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. 6When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

Luke 15:4-7

People are not projects. I don’t want to be a project. No one wants to be a project. At times it’s been hard to know how to reach out to those who don’t know Jesus without it feeling like a task to check off the list.

If I follow Jesus example, and I believe that is what he invites, I’m going to go to dinner with them and hang out playing cards. Even if someone criticizes me for it. That’s what I love about the last verse of the song. It isn’t about accomplishing a to do list or earning some kind of good Christian merit badge. It’s about loving people.

It is really as simple as that. Love those whom Jesus is drawing to himself. If I’m not quite there yet – that’s okay. He’ll get me there.

Because I am one with him!

How about you? Are you concerned about the one that wandered off? Or is your concern mostly for the 99 who are in the fold who might point and criticize if you go after the one?

Go ahead! Be like Jesus and take someone to dinner!

1The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3and provide for those who grieve in Zion—to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

Isaiah 61:1-3

It seems this is a “Throw Back Thursday” week for me. The old songs keep coming to mind and speak deeply to my heart.

As I think on the things in my life that hold me back – the chains, if you will – I keep hearing the lyrics from a song by the Imperials. It goes like this: “the chains that seem to bind you serve only to remind you they fall powerless behind you when you praise the Lord!”

Recently I was in a strategic planning meeting and a couple of the participants shared their stories. It was powerful to hear how the Lord brought deliverance into their lives, setting them free from the chains of addiction. Both testimonies highlighted the importance of praise to combat the pull of the enemy to unhealthy habits.

Today if your past, the lies of the enemy, doubt, discouragement, fear or hopelessness are trying to find a foothold in your life, start praising. Use the truth of scripture as a weapon against the enemy. Sing out at the top of your lungs — new songs, old songs, any songs!

Today I was reminded of an old song that was a part of my childhood. The tune is one borrowed from another song, a simple melody easy to pick up on. But the thing that really knocked me over is the words.

Father, I place into your hands
The things I cannot do,
Father, I place into your hands
The things that I’ve been through.
Father, I place into your hands
The way that I should go,
For I know I always can trust you. 

Father, I place into your hands
My friends and family.
Father, I place into your hands
The things that trouble me.
Father, I place into your hands
The person I would be,
For I know I always can trust you. 

Father, we love to see your face,
We love to hear your voice.
Father, we love to sing your praise
And in your name rejoice.
Father, we love to walk with you
And in your presence rest,
For we know we always can trust you. 

Father, I want to be with you
And do the things you do.
Father, I want to speak the words
That you are speaking too.
Father, I want to love the ones
That you will draw to you,
For I know that I am one with you.

This is a beautiful, powerful and simple, reminder that I don’t have to do anything on my own. There is nothing this song leaves out, nothing for me to do but trust deeply.

1O Lord, I give my life to you. . . . 4Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. 5Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Psalm 25:1, 4-5

If the chains seem to bind you, remember you aren’t doing this life alone. Make this song the cry of your heart!

Saturday, Dave and I worked in our landscaping trimming shrubs. Our dog loves to be outside with us but he gets bored with what we are doing. If we don’t keep a careful eye on him, he runs over the river and through the woods to someone else’s house! We don’t like that so I have taken to putting him on a long leash so he can wander within reason. It’s safer for him and it allows me to work without wondering if he is on the road.

Throughout the day, I moved Oliver around the yard so he could be close to where we were working. The final time I moved him, I didn’t attach the leash to anything. He was free to roam but he didn’t know it because the leash was still attached to his collar. As we were doing a final clean up and putting tools away, he stood up by the house, where he thought he was tied, and barked at us. He didn’t like to be so far away.

I laughed as I thought about how often I act just like my dog. He assumed that since the leash was still attached to his collar, the other end must be attached to something immovable. He didn’t even try to come to us; he stayed where he was.

I thought about behaviors or lifestyle choices that have chained me up. Even after I confess my wandering, am forgiven and set free, I act like I am chained to that “thing” whatever it is — like this old habit has the power to define the parameters of my life. I don’t embrace the freedom I have in Jesus and stay tied to old ways of thinking or doing.

 6We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. We are no longer slaves to sin. 7For when we died with Christ we were set free from the power of sin.

Romans 6:6-7

12Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. 

Romans 8:12

Paul is clear in his letter to the Romans, sin has lost it’s power over us when we say yes to Jesus. There might still be remnants (leash on Oliver’s collar), but we are no longer chained to that behavior.

What is keeping you from cavorting in the freedom Jesus gives? You are not obligated to stay chained there; you have no obligation to do the things from your old life! Run free!!