Years ago my wife and I rented a house out in the country in Manassas, VA. It was our first house together. We lived on a commuter road, which means that there was heavy traffic in the morning as folks drove to work and heavy traffic in the evening as folks went home from work. One day shortly after we moved in as I was watching all the cars drive by our house, I felt a strong conviction to put a sign out by the road that said something about God. Then I thought, that’s crazy. I prayed about it for a couple days and said, “Lord are you wanting me to put a sign out by the road about you?” I told the Lord, “I tell you what, if you want me to put a sign out by the road about you I need you to provide a sheet of plywood and the paint.”
Later that week as I was push mowing the tall grass in my new back yard, I heard a thump sound as the mower went over the grass. I backed up the mower to see what made the sound and it was half a sheet of plywood. I thought well that’s funny. All I need now is some paint.
I picked up the half sheet of plywood and decided it to put it in the unfinished basement of our new rental home. This would be the first time I went to the basement. As I began to walk downstairs with the plywood, I noticed several shelves of paint. What?!
Well Lord in just a few short days you provided the wood and the paint. What message do you want me to write? The only message that kept coming to mind was simple. The message was, “Jesus Loves You!”
I painted it that night and put it out by our mailbox late on a Sunday night. As I stood back to read it I noticed I had painted the letters too small to read if cars went flying by. I said, “Lord, the only way people are going to be able to read this sign is if they are driving very slowly.
The next morning I woke up and there was about six inches of snow on the ground. A surprise snowstorm hit our area. Cars were driving very slowly past our house and more importantly past the sign. I could not believe it. There was no snow in the forecast.
I decided every Sunday night I would repaint the sign white and put a new message on it.
About six months after the first sign went out I received a note on my car windshield in my church’s parking lot one Sunday after church. Our church was about thirty to forty minutes away from our house.
The note was from a man who attended our church. He wrote about how six months ago his world was turned upside down. His wife left him and he lost his job all in the same week. He felt depressed and worthless. He decided he was going to end it all and take his life. As he left his house one morning, he told God that he did not want to live any more and he blamed God for all his trouble. He did not believe God loved him. He prayed and said, “God if you are real and if you love me and don’t want to take my life, please give me a sign.”
As he turned down my road, moments later, he saw a sign that read, “JESUS LOVES YOU!” He burst into tears. He prayed for a sign and he got a literal sign. He decided because of that sign he was not going to take his life.
As he was going through the church directory one night he saw that a couple from church lived near him. When he saw the address, he realized that was the address of the house where he saw the sign.
As I read the letter I began to weep. I could not believe that our little sign was used in such a powerful way.
Are you thinking about suicide? Have you been asking God for a sign of His love for you? The Bible says in Romans 5:8, “but God shows His love for us in that while we are still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus Christ is the ultimate sign that God loves you. One of my favorite Bible verses is 1 John 5:12 which states, “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” The life referred to here is eternal life.
Do you have the Son?
When New City Church’s Community Pastor Charlie Colgan prayed and asked God to provide a Soap Box Derby Car for this year’s Magnolia Street Soap Box Derby he had no idea the answer to his prayers would come from a fellow pastor in the church. “For a couple months, I had been praying and searching the Internet for a Soap Box Derby Car for us to race in the derby this year for New City Church.” said Pastor Colgan. Then this past Monday night at a leaders' meeting he shared his prayer request with fellow leaders. Colgan said, “After I shared my prayer request, one of our pastors, Family Pastor Greg Wood said, ‘I know where we can get one.’” Wood then explained that he used to race them when he was thirteen years old and his mom saved his car in her shed since his racing days in 1992. Pastor Wood said, “If you want a car, you can use my old car.” After praising God for His provision of a car, Pastors Colgan and Wood wasted no time. The very next morning they met in Colgan’s garage in North Macon to begin to transform their 1992 time capsule into their 2014 race car. Pastor Wood said, “The last time I sat in this car, I was thirteen years old.” Colgan said, “It was like the car was frozen in time, it was in perfect condition.” They prayed for a car and now they are praying they can beat reigning champs Bearfoot Tavern. When asked if they hope to win. Colgan replied, “Bearfoot Taven as won two years in a row. They are going to be tough to beat, but it would be a great ending to a great story to win the derby for New City Church.”
The Magnolia Street Soap Box Derby is Saturday, April 12, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. at Washington Park on Magnolia St. in Macon, GA. For more information please visit http://www.maconderby.com. Members of New City Church will receive a free t-shirt to show their support of the New City Church Race Team on Race Day.
"Discipleship" seems to often take one of two directions, either the Bible study and knowledge path or the "practical life application" and How To list path. In the Bible study and knowledge path we believe that spiritual maturity is the result of knowing more of the Bible and moving deeper into study. This path often fills heads with more and more knowledge and leads those taking it to be less and less interested in anything that isn't new, deep, and exciting. Those who take the Practical Life Application/How To approach often reduce the Bible's teachings to lists for self help and improvement. Along this path are signs that read, "7 Ways to a Happier You," 6 ways to Be a Better ______________ "(you fill in the blank: dad, mom, friend, boss, Christian...).
While we need both - Bible study and practical application for life neither of these is the end that we really need - in fact, even the combination is not the end that we really need. What we really need is to know Jesus. Peter says it this way,
3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence (II Peter 1:3)
All that we need for life and all that we need for godliness has been given to us - NOT through more knowledge about the Bible and NOT through more practical life application of biblical principles - but through the knowledge of Jesus and specifically the knowledge of Jesus and the Good News of the Gospel. The Gospel isn't just for unbelievers! It isn't Good News only for those who don't know Jesus - it is really incredible news for believers as well!
How you ask? How does the Gospel help me with being a better husband? That's a great question! When we want to know how to be a better husband wee need look no further than the life, death and resurrection of Jesus (the gospel = the life, death, resurrection of Jesus).
- Life: Take a look at Ephesians 5:25-33. Jesus shows us what real love for a spouse looks like. The life of Jesus is our example for good, godly, pure love. If I can love like Jesus I will be a great husband. In I Corinthians 13:4-12 the Apostle Paul tells us what love looks like - patient and kind, does not envy or boast, is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way... If we read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John we see in the life of Jesus those very qualities - even in the midst of suffering and persecution!
- Death: In the Ephesians 5 passage we see that the ultimate love of Jesus was to sacrifice Himself for His bride - the church. Likewise the ultimate picture of a husbands love is to be in his sacrifice for his bride. Most likely that won't include death! But it is a daily call to sacrifice SELF for the good of her, to sacrifice your wants for her wants (all of course in keeping with God's wants!). John tells us in I John 3:16, By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us... John then calls on us to love in the same way. Another beautiful thing that His death reminds us of is forgiveness (Eph 1:7). Even when we fail to love like Jesus, His blood, through faith covers our sins! We are forgiven. This moment is a new moment to try again. In fact, in that we see another glimpse of His great love for us - that He would be so kind, merciful and full of grace with us! That should remind us to do likewise with our spouse - be kind, merciful, and full of grace.
- Resurrection: The resurrection is His victory over Satan, sin and death! It is also OUR Victory over Satan, sin and death. Just as God promised throughout the Scripture, starting in Genesis 3:15, the enemy would be defeated and he would redeem His people and restore all things as He intends. The resurrection not only reminds us that because we are in Christ, His victory is ours and we are no longer held captive by the enemy or by sin and death, it also reminds us that God will fulfill all of His promises to us. Promises to protect us, to keep us, to watch over us, to strengthen us, to empower us, to transform us, to shape us into the image of Jesus, to work all things together for good, to lead us, to convict us, to redeem us, to save us... and on and on and on we could go. Jesus is victorious! And because he is, all of the promises of God find their YES in Him! (II Cor 1:20). It is the power of the Spirit of the resurrection that now indwells me, shapes me, encourages me, strengthens me, enables me... to see Jesus and follow Jesus to love like He loves.
The Failure of Bible Study or Life Application/ How To lists comes because they are powerless to do what Jesus, through the Spirit can do - transform my very identity. The Apostle Paul makes clear in II Corinthians 5:17 that when we believe and are found in Christ, we are made new creations - the old is passed away and ALL is made new. I am now a Son of God. I am now sealed with His very Spirit. He has softened my Heart. He has opened my eyes. He has started a good work in me that He will complete (Phil 1:6) and I will be shaped into the very image of Jesus (Romans 8:29). This is good news! And I know that it is true because of the victory of Jesus in the Gospel. Knowing more about the Bible and creating "How to" lists at best produce self-saving, self-righteous Pharisees and at worst lead us to terrible despair because in our own strength we cannot be what we want to be - we cannot be sons and daughters. We cannot accomplish what we want to accomplish - being good, being loved, being somebody. But Jesus never fails! In Him we have all of that because He has made it so. All that we need for life and godliness we have - in Him.
One More for Good Measure For those who may still be doubting I offer one more passage, II Corinthians 3:18:
18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
The way of transformation may include learning more Scripture and studying the Bible - these are good things! It may also include making some simple lists to help us remember things - this too can be good, but ultimately if we are not looking at Jesus - beholding His glory in His life, death, and Resurrection, change will almost always fall short and there will be no real and lasting transformation.