Laurie Coombs is a follower of Christ, wife, mommy, author, public speaker, and the founding director of A New Song International. She is the author of Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness, an incredible true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God. Her story was featured in Billy Graham’s film, Heaven, as well as on many other national and regional radio and television programs. She is a contributor to Zondervan’s NIV Bible for Women and writes at LaurieCoombs.org. Laurie and her husband, Travis, make their home in Nevada along with their three daughters.
I addressed the question, "Who do you say that Jesus is?" in my most recent article. This was a question Jesus, Himself, asked His disciples after spending some time with them during His earthly ministry. In this article, I wrote of the importance of this question. How your very life hinges on the answer you give to this question. And that if your response is that Jesus is who He said He was in scripture. That He is the Messiah. Immanuel, God with us. The living God. Our Savior. Our Shepherd. Our Counselor. Our Comforter. Our Healer. Our Peace. Our only Hope. Our very life. If this who you define Jesus to be, then it demands every bit of us.
We're to be all in. Not wishy-washy. Not lukewarm. But all in.
Shortly after Jesus posed this question to His disciples, we read, "From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Matthew 16:21).
Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord! This shall never happen to You" (16:22).
To which Jesus replied, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are a hinderance to Me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man" (16:23).
Peter rightly confessed Jesus as the Christ a few short verses before this. But like the rest of the Jews of his day, and perhaps you and I, they still had many misconception about what that meant. This is the first of three times that Jesus told the disciples He would suffer, die, and rise again, dispelling the worldly notions of who the Christ or the Messiah would be. You see, the ways of God don't often make sense to our earthly, fleshly way of thinking. First Corinthians 1:18 tells us, "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing..." The cross didn't make sense to the people of Jesus' day nor does it make sense to many today. But as the second half of 1 Corinthians 1:18 tells us, "...but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."
The Cross is the power of God.
Understanding who the Christ was and why He had to come is humbling. It requires us to understand the depth of our own need. As John Piper once said, Christ coming to die for the sins of man, “...means I'm cursed and need a savior. Lost and need a shepherd. Sick and need a physician. I’m a rebel, and I need a reconciler. Dirty and need a purifier” (sermon title unknown).
This is who we are. Both you and I stand in desperate need of a Savior. In desperate need of Jesus. He is our Greatest Treasure. Our Pearl of Great Value.
And it is only when we take Jesus for who He really is and understand the implications of what He has done for us and what that means about who we truly are apart from Him that we can truly be saved. These difficult truths lead to repentance and forgiveness of sins. They lead to humility and surrender, which is the foundation of the abundant life promised to us. These truths are messy, yes. But this is the incredibly messy, amazingly wonderful redemption of God. Redemption looks like God taking a bunch of dirty, cursed, lost, sick, rebels and turning them into His redeemed people who are His chosen, precious possession (1 Peter 2:4, 9).
By grace we have been saved! And how thankful I am for that.
"For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord'" (1 Corinthians 1:26-31, emphasis mine).
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy" (1 Peter 2:9-10).
I'd love to hear your thoughts! Share them in the comments.
“Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven….'” (Matthew 16:13-17, emphasis mine).
All of life hinges on that one question asked by Jesus–“Who do you say that I am?” Jesus says, never mind what others say about Me. Who do YOU say that I am?
This question was asked of the disciples at just the right time. If we go back to the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew, we see that Jesus is born. He is baptized. He’s tempted by the devil. And then He enters into public ministry. He calls His first disciples, and from that time forth, Jesus begins to turn the world on its head as He teaches the ways of the Kingdom. Things people thought they knew crumbled in light of His teaching.
The first are the last.
The greatest are the least.
The rich are the poor.
Life is found in death.
Strength is found in weakness.
And then we see that Jesus not only taught the ways of the kingdom, but He brought the Kingdom as well.
He cleanses lepers. Heals the centurion’s servant. Calms storms. Casts out demons. Makes the paralyzed walk, the blind see, and the mute talk. He brings the dead back to life. Walks on water. Heals many of every sickness and disease. He challenges the religious culture of the day and its leaders. Feeds the 5,000 and the 4,000. And He calls His disciples, saying, “Come, follow Me…”
He claims deity. Claims authority only held by God. Says He is the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), says He is the only way back to the Father, rejecting the popular notion held even today that there are many ways to heaven. And He tells us He came that we may have a full or abundant life (John 10:10).
But do we believe it? Do we believe Him?
Who do YOU say Jesus is?
I heard a quote once that said the most important thing about a person is who they say Jesus is, and I believe this to be true with every part of my being. From the time of His death and resurrection, people have wrestled with this very question. Some claim Jesus was simply a good moral teacher. But I love what C.S. Lewis had to say about that. He said:
“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 patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.” (Mere Christianity, 55-56)
If we continue to define Jesus as a great moral teacher, we reduce His teachings, namely all of the New Testament, to a moral guide that we can subjectively embrace or reject.
But if you have come to define Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah. As Immanuel, God with us. As the living God. As our Savior. Our Shepherd. Our Counselor. Our Comforter. Our Healer. Our Peace. Our only Hope. Our very life. If this is the answer you give when Jesus asks you, “Who do you say that I am?” then it demands all of us. If you and I say that Jesus is who He says He is, then we must lay down our lives and be all in.
Being all in means we surrender to Jesus, giving Him control over every part of our lives, not part of it. It means we live a life of repentance, turning from sin to Jesus on a daily basis. It means we choose to seek and do His will over our own. It means we receive the Bible as the infallible Word of God and submit to its authority. It means we receive Christ for who He really is, not who we’d like to make Him out to be. It means we actually do the Word of God and obey God’s commands. And though this is a far cry from an exhaustive compilation of what it looks like to be all in, it means both you and I follow Jesus on His terms, not our own.
So, what do you say? Want to be all in with me? Let’s do it. Let’s jump in together and see where Jesus takes us.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share them in the comments.
Some of you have been with me for a long time and others are just tuning in, but regardless of where you fall in that spectrum, I’d like to invite you all to join me in the work God has recently called my family and me into. But before I do that, I’d like to give some context.
As I’ve mentioned before, we brought our little girl home from Uganda in April 2016 after a five and a half year long wait. Baby girl’s name is Joy, and she lives up to every bit of her name. She has not only brought joy to our family, but quite honestly, she spreads her little light to just about everyone who sees her.
Prior to coming home, Joy was loved and cared for by the people at Happy Times Childcare Initiative, an incredible institution run by Ugandans who have a heart to help not only orphans but those in need within their community as well.
We spent a lot of time at Happy Times while in Uganda. We came to know the people there. To see their mission and vision and the love they continually provide to every child who comes into their care.
David Platt once wrote, “We learned that orphans are easier to ignore before you know their names. They are easier to ignore before you see their faces. It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms. But once you do, everything changes” (David Platt, Radical). I cannot even begin to explain how true this statement is. We have held and played with and loved on the beautiful children of Happy Times, and they have stolen our hearts. Their names and stories will never be forgotten.
There’s Ndaula (pronounced Nawla), a three year old little boy who stole my heart with his great big smile. A boy who grabbed my hand the moment I stepped out of the car at Happy Times and rarely left my side. A boy whose mother died of HIV when he was one and a half and his brother was three, and whose father left the boys at a neighbor’s house and just disappeared.
There’s Trevour, a fourteen year old boy who just might be the most humble, hard-working boy I’ve ever met. A boy who was born to a teen mother and is “not welcome” in his step-father’s home simply because he was born prior to his mother’s marriage.
There’s Florence, a two year old little girl who my daughters and I nicknamed “banana girl” after we saw her sitting on the curb outside the babies home munching on a banana. A beautiful little one with scars all over her body who was tortured from the time she was only a few months old by her mother and father. A girl who was found in a pool of her own blood after her parents tried to kill her and successfully murdered her brother.
There’s Jane, the fifteen year old girl who chose to care for our little Joy as her own until we came for her. A girl who took the role of mother at the age of ten to her six sisters when their mother died suddenly. A girl who used to spend her days digging for enough food to fill seven empty bellies while her father drank alcohol and tried to sexually abuse her at night. A girl who bravely fought for she and her sisters by approaching the authorities to escape their father.
There are children with HIV like Ruth and Nassanga, both five years old, who lost their mother to HIV a couple years ago and lost their father this month to the same disease after having been bedridden for some time. Girls who were rejected by other family members who fear the girls will transmit HIV to them. Girls who lived on the streets, alone with no one to care for them, before they were brought to Happy Times.
And then there are all the babies––Abigail, Lylah, Reno, and others––who have joined the Happy Times family this past year after being abandoned. One was found naked in a swamp. One in a drainage ditch filled with human sewage. Another left on the side of the road.
There are so many stories. These are just a few of the children of Happy Times, and there are more to come. Happy Times has become a safe haven for children in need within the Luwero district.
Beauty and tragedy intertwine somehow in Uganda. Despite countless heart-wrenching stories, Uganda is a beautiful place with beautiful hardworking people. People who know things we don’t. People who never ask for a handout, who have no sense of entitlement. People who have faith like I’ve never seen before. People who don’t always know when or where their next meal will come from, and yet I’ve had these people look me in the eye and say with sincere faith, “God is good. He always provides.”
And He does. Continually.
Quite honestly, we have fallen in love with this country, and its people. It has changed my family and me forever. We will never be the same. It wrecked us in ways we cannot put words to. But this is truly a good thing. We’re broken for the very things that break God’s heart.
In fall of 2016, just about six months after we arrived home with Joy, I awoke to a message from Happy Times. They sent a picture of a one year old little boy named Joshua, a little boy the same age as our baby Joy, who had died that morning of malaria. They said they tried all night to find a doctor for little Joshua but found none. In the morning, they gave Joshua a bath and fixed a bottle for him, but Joshua took his last breath as his caretaker returned with the bottle. Joshua was buried that day in a local dump, the only plot of land available. And this was the last straw for me. It was simply too much. This could have been our Joy. This was a preventable death. And I knew in that moment that it was time to do something.
Happy Times asked us to partner with them shortly after Joshua died, and after prayerful consideration, we said yes. This was clearly God’s leading. A couple of our closest friends have joined our mission, and A New Song International was born.
The needs of Happy Times are many. And if there’s one thing we know, it’s that we can’t do this alone. We need others to catch our vision and join our mission. People who would like to make a real difference in the life of a child. People who would like to share the love of Jesus with “the least of these.” People who want to combat poverty and help provide sustainable solutions to the problems Ugandans continually face.
We need people to join our team. People willing to use their gifts and talents to further our mission. People willing to spread the word about what we do. People who are willing to give financially–businesses or individuals who would like to partner with us by giving a one time or a reoccurring donation or by sponsoring a child.
Let’s see what Jesus can do in and through us as we serve the children of Uganda. Together, we can make a difference!
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” – James 1:27
I’d love to hear your thoughts! Share in the comments.