Saturday, March 28, 2015

Radical Love Produces Radical Abandonment

Jesus' encounter with a rich ruler in the 10th chapter of the Gospel of Mark has, in too many sermons, been wrongly used to condemn wealth.  The young ruler did not have a wealth problem.  He had a "loving God" problem.  His attachment to material things was merely a symptom.  The root issue was his devotion to good morals and ethics without experiencing, first, the radical love found in God's presence.

God's radical standards are always proportionate to His radical love.  In other words, moral behavior is intended to be a fruit of radical love not a substitute for it. Before Jesus tells the rich ruler to sell everything and give to the poor, a radical request of abandonment indeed, Mark tells us that "Jesus looked at the rich ruler and loved him."  In Jesus, the motivation for sacrifice is not found in fear or coercion but in love.  We end up living a life of abandonment because it is the supreme response to His love.

Obedience, when rightly lived out, is more theological than behavioral.  Our relationship with a loving Father leads us to say "no" to things that, prior to knowing His love, we thought were necessary; and, without experiencing His love, make no sense.  It is not likely that we will walk in radical abandonment without a profound, continual encounter with the living God.

Jesus does not want to be another command we follow but the source of our life-giving center.  He did not come to simply repackage religious obligation.  He came to bring a life that we never thought possible.  He came to forever change us if we submit to His transformational love.  His death and resurrection, which the Church will celebrate over the next week, is a constant reminder of that which is available to us.

So let's not merely draw near to Jesus or hang around people who follow Jesus. Let's bring Him into the life-giving center He desires to be. Let's walk out abandonment, not to become "super-Christians" but because of His "super love."

"All things are possible with God (Mark 10:27)."

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden  

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Encountering or Exploiting Jesus?

With frustration Jesus said to the royal official and the crowd gathered around Him in John 4, "Unless you people see signs and will never believe."

Jesus saw a tendency in the people of His day that is similar to us.  As long as He was doing fabulous and phenomenal miracles that entertained them, He was a welcomed hero. But when He transitioned from wonders to His Word, they resisted and lost interest.  

There is a difference between encountering and exploiting.  To encounter Jesus is to be with Him to discover His purposes for you.  To exploit Jesus is to use Him to get your purposes for you.  People who exploit Jesus chase His miraculous power with little interest in His message.  For them, Jesus is only as good as His latest wonder. And once the excitement is gone, they move on to find their next enchantment fix.

Jesus did not come to be a traveling roadshow, He came so that we might encounter Him. He came so that we might receive revelation of the Father's love and bring glory to the Father.  He came so we might walk in His purposes for our life rather than the way of the world.  His miracles and wonders are graciously orchestrated to inspire us along the way but not intended to be the essence of our relationship with Him.  Faith, not miracles, is the foundation of our walk with Jesus.

Spiritual maturity includes a number of characteristics, not the least of which, is trusting Jesus between miracles.  Sometimes that is a short period of time, but more often than not, it is quite long. In those long stretches, our faith and trust in Him is tested with great intensity.  We wonder, "Am I crazy for believing in that which I cannot see?  Did I miss something?  Where is He?"

There is a kind of spiritual growth that occurs only between miracles.  It cannot occur any other way though I wish it could.  We cannot bypass those periods and expect to grow far beyond spiritual infancy.  God accomplishes more by being with us during those times than removing us from them.

See you this weekend at one our worship gatherings.  Looking forward to encountering Jesus again together.

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden


Saturday, March 7, 2015


I am preaching a message this evening on being valuable.  As I sit here finalizing the preparations, my thoughts are on people who, for whatever reason, are feeling invaluable.  Sadly, it's easier in our world to identify more with the clearance rack in the back than the nice stuff in the display window. We believe the lie that we are out of style, rejected, or damaged goods.  Why would we be valuable to anyone let alone God?

Value is connected to the designer as well as how much one is willing to pay.  A name brand is more expensive than an off-brand.  A consumer's willingness to pay a given price sets the value.  This is good news for us, not from an economic perspective, but a spiritual one.  God designed us in his image/likeness, and He paid the highest price for us.  We are valuable.  Our value is connected to God and His actions on our behalf.  Nothing else.

Other people, our thoughts, and satan are responsible for convincing us that we lack value.  In most cases all three are working together like a well-oiled machine.  The power of this trifecta feels stronger than our ability to deflect their distorting affect. In fact, they are stronger than us but not stronger than God. A divine infusion is the only remedy that will reverse a pattern of self-devaluation.  With that infusion, we discover that God not only brings value to our lives, He also makes us valuable.

A principle in making money is to buy low and sell high.  To do the opposite is to risk bankruptcy. But we worship the God who does the complete opposite and takes it one step further.  God does not buy high and sell low.  He buys high and never sells.  We are His treasured possession.

So to Him who is able to do exceedingly more than we think or imagine, according to His power at work in us, to Him be the glory both in the Church and Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen (Ephesians).

Ex nihilo,

R.J. Rhoden