Thursday, August 20, 2015

Jesus left. Now what?

If you could travel back in time, where would you go?

I would either go back to 1985, seeing that I am a Chicago Bears fan, or I would go back to the dinosaur age.   Just kidding, sort of. 

Where I would really like to go back is to the days of Jesus, when his disciples literally "walked in the dust of the Rabbi". I want to get his nuance, observe his tone, to watch him.  I also have a lot of questions that come up, questions I would like him to be available to answer. I want to walk in his dust and hear his commands.  However, I can't.  He is gone.  He is with the Father for now, so I have to wait.  So now what? How do we follow his command to follow him, when he doesn't leave footprints?

There seem to be a few ways that people respond to this question.

1. "Go fishing." In John 21:3, right after the resurrected Jesus appeared to his students, Peter said, "I'm going fishing.". He went back to his trade, what he was doing before Jesus came.  He went back to life as usual.  I am sure he was an emotional hot mess, so he went back to what was safe. 
Many choose to "go fishing" or just live life as if he did not exist.  They do what is comfortable and known. 

2. Legalism-some formulate a system/religion of rules-a law to follow while Jesus is away.
The Judaisers, whom Paul came against, did this by implying that trusting Christ as savior was not enough.  They taught that you also had to follow his "commands" or the Law.  After all, Jesus/God wrote these commands and in John 14:15, Jesus said, "If you love me you will keep my commandments.". They taught that the 633 Laws (Mosaic Law) and the traditions were an umbrella in which we needed to live under and observe if we wanted to continue in God's favor.

The early church under Constantine developed a very rigid system.  It was a new "law" or a new code to live by.  In reality, all of these laws appeal to the weak flesh, but they are a good way to measure how holy someone is.  The problem is, this is not the measurement God uses.  Baptismal salvation, worshipping on Sunday only, taking the Lord's Supper, paying tithe, and the like became an additional means of grace and a rule to live by.

Today we have this same approach.  There are Christians who fight (these leaving what Jesus taught) over things like carpet colors, where the clock should be in the sanctuary, how long a sermon shall be, whether a preacher should wear a robe or not, style of worship music, alcohol vs. no drinking, whether it is godly to dance, what translation to use, and a whole host of other odd foci. 

We can get so bogged down and draw so many rules up that Jesus most likely would not be welcome if he did show up.  Like in our passage that I am about to dig into.

3. Those who follow Jesus today- And this is what I want to focus on and dig into for myself.  It is something Jesus taught in John 10. 

The Pharisees (Legalists par excellence) said, "What, are we blind too?".

1. Listen to the Shepherd's Voice!
Jesus said, "Very truly I tell you Pharisees... anyone who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber.  The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.  The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice.  He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out..."

...hang on.  The sheep listen to his voice.
When I was at Moody Bible Institute, Dr. Marvin Pate told us a story of him observing two flocks of sheep grazing together.  When the shepherd made the call, the red tagged sheep headed toward the shepherd, while the green tagged sheep continued doing what sheep do.

Question- How do you suppose a sheep gets to KNOW the voice of the shepherd?
1) It takes time LISTENING to the shepherd (Jesus even wrote down what he said in a book called the Bible), getting to know his tone, his character.  It takes time to become familiar with his voice. 

An illustration from McDonald's- when I was in high school I worked at McDonald's.  Occasionally I worked the register.  The McDonald's I worked at was fast-paced so you had to be quick and accurate.  One day I was counting through a handful of bills, and noticed that one felt different.  I looked at it and quickly discovered it was a counterfeit. 

The point here is that I was so familiar with the real, from spending so much time with it, that I could quickly recognize the false.  As we spend time with Jesus, listening to Him, we will be able to better discern what is His voice and what is false.

Our problem in getting familiar with the Shepherd's voice is similar to the problem sheep have.
A. Bleating- some let the sound of others bleating block out the sound of the Shepherd.
Things such as drama, politics (this election year especially), news, TV, iPod, texting, etc. All are not bad necessarily, but we need to be skilled at tuning the influence of these things off at times in order to hear what Jesus says. 
B. Grazing- some sheep, like us, get so busy with activity, the grind of life, that we eventually completely lose the ability to hear the Shepherd.  Work, sports, kids, kids programs, caring for sick family members, volunteering, doing things. While none of these is inherently bad, if we don't pick our heads up to look and listen to the Shepherd, we will never learn or hear His voice. This will require some tough boundaries.  Jesus was always getting away to pray, we need to have regular "get away" times too.  I would recommend starting at 1/2 an hour a day.  1 day a month.  2 weekends a year of focus time on the Shepherd, where you seek Him and get to know Him.
C. Stubbornness- Some sheep are stubborn in nature and want to do their own thing.  They don't care what a Shepherd says.  A couple of songs that come to mind are Frank Sinatra's "I did it my way" and Bon Jovi's "It's my life."
D. Prone to wander- I call these "wolf fodder" sheep.  These are the sheep that have been hurt by some of the flock or feel such a strong pull from the flesh, that they go off on their own.  Separated, they are easy targets for the wolf.  Instead of staying near, they go at it on their own. 

So how do we do this?  How do we listen to someone who can't be heard? 
1. We spend time reading what He said through digging into the Scriptures.  Those who did hear him wrote down specifically what he said, so that we can know what he said. 
2. We spend time listening to his word through listening to sermons on it, through biblical music, through Bible studies, through being involved in a small group of believers.
3. Right before the Shepherd left, he told us that it was better for him to leave.  He said that he would send another helper that would remind us of his words and lead us into all truth (John 15-16). Later Paul told us that we will be led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14).  Are you?

2.  Be in the flock!
Jesus goes on, "Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.  All who have come before me are thieves and robbers (I bet this made the Pharisees mad), but the sheep (his followers) have not listened to them.
I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 
The thief comes only to kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

Not only is Jesus the good shepherd, he is also the gate.  He is the way into a relationship with God.  To hear his voice you have to be in the flock of Jesus. 
Here he is giving the Pharisees a choice-come to me and live.  Enter through me and live. 
What about you?  Will you enter the gate?

"I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  (Jesus is going to reveal the selfish hearts of the Pharisees). The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep.  So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away.  Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.  The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.  I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me-just as the Father knows me and I know the Father-and I lay down my life for the sheep."

Stop for a moment... so far, his hearers were thinking of Jewish followers.  Israel.
How many of you are Jewish here? Probably not too many. In the following verse, Jesus is going to connect His lesson to the Pharisees to reveal to them that He is the Messiah, the savior of the world they have been waiting for (Isaiah 49:6). 

"I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd."

For me, a gentile, this is exciting!  He is including us in his plan.  He is gathering us into his flock.  What a privilege, what an honor, we are included in His plan of redemption and relationship!  He wants to be your shepherd, gentile.  He doesn't want you to be abandoned.  He wants you to follow him, to be in his flock, forever.  And as John 15 and this passage teaches, he wants a close, intimate relationship with you.

I have a friend who is atheistic.  He doesn't want anything to do with religion.  For years I have been sharing with him that Christianity is not about religion, it is about a relationship... and he doesn't really get it.

I have told him that for me.... it isn't about following a culture or a set of rules.  It isn't about some kind of duty, appease the gods checklist.  I know I cannot earn God's favor or a way into Heaven.  I cannot make a gate, because Jesus is the gate into the sheepfold.

For me, it is about an intimate relationship with Jesus, though shrouded by sin now, some day will be face to face.  It is about listening to and reading Jesus' voice.  It is a joy to get up and read his word.  It is a privilege to pray and to trust my life and my soul to this capable, Good Shepherd.

So for the Christian who is trying to figure out God's will for their life, or whether they should change careers and wants an answer, I say, get to know Jesus' voice through enjoying time with him, then make a choice.

For the young Christian man considering whether God wants him to marry Suzie, I say, get into God's word and seek his wisdom.  He is your Shepherd, your leader, your rock, your protector, your adoptive father, your Heavenly Father, your friend.  Develop an intimate knowledge of what he says.  Commit your ways to follow his voice, and seek his face and you will make the right decision.

People, how is your time with the Shepherd?  What kind of sheep best represents you?  Are you too distracted, too busy, too stubborn, too bitter to live in close proximity to the Good Shepherd, who has given you the honor of having a relationship with him?

Some see Christianity as another religion, with a bunch of duties, codes, and rules.  To Jesus, nothing could be further from the truth!  To be a Christian is to trust Jesus as your savior and to enjoy the honor and privilege of a deep personal walk with the Good Shepherd.

How to start
You are busy.  Here are some resources to get you going:
7. Pick up a study guide to a book of the Bible, like this one from Warren Wiersbe-

Teens- ask your parents/youth pastor

Deeper steps
1. Proverbs has 31 chapters-read one a day
2. Read one of the gospels.
3. Commit to reading a chapter of the Bible or even half a chapter per day. Then challenge yourself to live it out. (some books to start with- John, Matthew, James, 1 John, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippine, Romans)
4. Begin with 10 minutes a day.  Morning, lunch break, before bad, in the restroom, it doesn't much matter.  Then challenge yourself to trust Jesus and live it out.
5. Read Psalm 23, and study the intimate relationship between David & the Good Shepherd

You got it, now get at it.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Perspective on Other Sinners

I have had this conversation more than a half dozen times in the last couple of months.  It has been at the forefront of my mind, especially with me being in management.

Here it is- If I want to, I can nit pick any person alive.  I can point out faults about anyone.  In fact, there isn't a single co-worker who I couldn't pick apart & find plenty of fault with.  Even more, there isn't a single employee of mine who hasn't done something that they could be fired over.  Even my best employees make mistakes, get into bad moods, and sometimes cost the company money.

BUT, they could say the exact same thing about me too.  I make mistakes daily.  I cost the company money sometimes.  I too get moody, do things that aren't "employee of the year" worthy.

The fact is that people make mistakes.  People miss the mark.  People sin.  Speaking of sin, The Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of God's glorious standard (Romans 3:23).  The Lord, who sees what we do in public and private, could surely nitpick us to pieces.  In fact, He even knows our diabolical, self-serving, and fearful motives.  He could instantly destroy any of us at any time, because we are always screwing something up.

Here is the rub, so how come I don't fire people who make mistakes?  How come I don't knit pick people?  And on the other hand, why is it that some people, who have been continually forgiven by the Lord, so quick to criticize and devour others?  Why is it that some shred people while others seem to see the good side of people?

A couple examples-
1. Terrible Terry- Before I even met this co-worker (identity changed), he disliked me.  I could feel his eye upon me.  Watching, nitpicking, judging, condemning.  No matter what I did to win his perspective, it was futile.  I was hosed!  Unless HE changed his attitude toward me, nothing-not angels, nor demons, neither gold, lattes, or silver could change this graceless attitude.  I tried to change it, but I ended up wasting six years of effort (sarcasm- it wasn't wasted, they were burning coals to this person, I did my part, before the Lord to live at peace).

2. Cruddy Curly- This person did not get along with one of my relatives.  Is my relative perfect?  Heck no.  They have more issues than a magazine.  BUT, they also have redeemable qualities, just as Cruddy Curly has.  Does she see people through eyes of grace?  Yes, but only those who she "connects" with.  She has just enough friends and is just nice enough to a select few, in order to feel justified in her critical actions toward others who deserve it.

So, how do we get past nitpicking and become a person of love and grace?  After all, love covers over a multitude of sins.

Here is what I do as a manager:
1. I believe that ALL of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
2. There is only one person who is perfect, and it isn't me.  It is Jesus.
3. Understand that we are all in process.
4. Understand that people are in different places in this journey of life.  For example- some are children of God, some are not yet.  Some are mature in their faith, some are not. Some are dealing with things, some are dealing with other things.  Some have baggage to work through, some have great baggage to work through.
5. Understand that we are all fearfully & wonderfully made (Psalm 139).  God has wired us uniquely.  I need to learn to appreciate the diversity of personality.
6. I know there is an enemy out there who is battling the Lord for the souls of people.
7. I choose to keep focused on the big picture.
8. If someone has a major issue, that is affecting the workplace & bringing disharmony, I come alongside to help them develop.  I give them room to grow.  However, after several conversations, I still may need to have a formal meeting with them.  But it is NEVER over something preferential or small.  The issue has to be significant enough to affect even  the big picture.
9. I pray for people who have major things they are working through.
10. Because of all these things that I practice daily, I seldom get frustrated with others, unless it is a BIG thing.

So, how about you?  Do you, when you are frustrated with someone, choose to see only the negatives?  Do you put them on your dart board?  Do you become the eye of Sauron search to tear them to pieces?  And if so, why?  Why, when God has overlooked your huge amount of grievances?  Let's keep the big picture in mind and enjoy harmony.  Let's learn to see the good in people, and if absolutely necessary, only confront big destructive things.

Jesus loves you too.

Further reading- Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18:21-35

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What is "belief"?

"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." -Acts 16:31

οι δε ειπαν πιστευσον επι τον κυριον ιησουν και σωθηση συ και ο οικος σου

The word of focus here is: πιστευσον

The word here is in the AORIST, ACTIVE, IMPERATIVE
Here is what that means- it is a punctiliar action done NOW.
The word means to believe, to entrust, to place your trust in.

So what is this belief and what isn't this belief?
1. It is not to only believe facts or information about.  For example, if you believe that Jesus is the Lord, God, the only savior, died on the cross, and rose again- that belief, while accurate, will not save you.

James 2:19- "You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder." So a mere believe in say that these things are true....they don't amount to you being saved. 

2. Belief is TRUST.  The Greek word pisteuo has to do with belief in, having faith in, trusting in.  
No doubt, in this scene in Acts 16, the jailer believed that there was something about Jesus.  He realized that something more had to happen though.  He was convinced that Jesus was Lord, and that Jesus was sovereign.  But now what?  The context is one that begs to come under Jesus.  

John 3:16- "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever BELIEVES in him will not perish but have everlasting life."

Believes here is the same Greek word- but is in the present active- you are the one doing the work of believing and it is a current and ongoing process.

One example from daily life is a chair.  You can believe all day long that it can hold you up.  But until you sit in that chair you are not trusting that chair.  So it is with Jesus.  You can believe facts about him all day long, but you are not safe until you trust in him by placing your life and hope in him.

3. Belief is ACTIVE. 
Someone just asked me if you need to repent to be saved.  While that is true, it is hard to answer that question, because of the possible ways they may understand the word repent.  Do they mean that they just believe in facts about Jesus and continue in their sin?  Do they mean that they need to trust Jesus and then not trust him with their lives and hope?  The second makes no sense.  The first is what most unredeemed people do anyhow.

Well Jesus said in Mark 1:15- "The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is at hand; therefore repent and believe the good news."

So, seeing that belief is active trust in Jesus and since we are called to repent by Jesus, then YES repentance is necessary for salvation.  Someone cannot place their trust in Jesus yet not trust him.  This is not a biblical understanding of faith, belief, trust.  This is a secular view of those words.
Repentance happens to someone who places their trust from one thing into the hands of another.  In fact, the word for repentance means to turn.  You are turning from sitting in one chair (say the Joe chair), getting up, turning, and placing your weight in the Jesus chair instead.  

To say, I believe in this chair but I will not, I don't have to sit in it....what good is that belief?  What does that belief get you?  Nothing.

Back to the original verse-
"Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."

Believe (to place your trust in) is active (you are believing, you are moving your trust) it includes repentance (a change of direction, a new dependence, a new direction), and continues.  

So, have you gotten to a point where you have said, I have had enough.  This isn't getting me anywhere.  My life, to this point, has been pretty empty. And if I were to die, what would happen to me?  Where would I go?
Have you looked at Jesus and thought, you died on the cross for me, you are the Lord, you are obviously my only hope.  
Have you said, "Jesus I want you to save me.  I am placing my hope, placing my trust in you. You are my rock, my safety.  I will trust you."?
And have you finally quit trusting in your own efforts and have decided to trust His very capable hands?  Have you taken him as your savior?  

I hope you will sit in him.  He is your only hope for salvation and for wisdom in life.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Passover Lamb

The Passover Illustration

The Passover is a time to celebrate the Hebrews exit from enslavement in Egypt.  It is a deeply symbolic time.  Exodus 1-14 explains the scene. 

-Hebrews (Hiksos- as understood by archaeologists today) were put into an incubator in Egypt for 400 years.  Eventually they were treated harshly.  They cried out to the Lord for help.
-Exodus 3- The Lord raises up Moses, and anoints him to deliver God's chosen people group.
-Exodus 4-10- Moses nervously, yet faithfully confronts Pharaoh with The Lord's messages.  Pharaoh hardens his heart & eventually The Lord hardens Pharaoh's heart.
Exodus 11-13 The Passover/Plague of the Firstborn and release of the Hebrew people. 

Requirements of the Passover-
1. New calendar- this is now the first month, a new life.
2. Take a lamb for each household, if too small for a lamb, you can share with a neighbor.
3. The lamb must be a year old, without defect (from the sheep or goats)
4. Take care of the lambs until the 14th of the month & then, with your whole household, slaughter the lamb at twilight
5. Take some of the lamb's blood and put it on your doorframe.
6. Eat the lamb meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast.
7. Do not eat the lamb meat raw or boiled in water, but roast the lamb over a fire-with the head, legs, and internal organs.
8. Do not leave any of it until morning; if some is left over until morning, you must burn it.
9. Eat it with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.
10. Eat the lamb in haste; it is the Lord's Passover.

This is a festival to the Lord that is to be celebrated as a lasting ordinance. 

What happened 12:12-13
"On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn of both people and animals, and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt.  I am the LORD.  The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are, and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will tough you when I strike Egypt."

The blood of the lamb
The blood of the lamb was a sign of their faith.  That they were God's people. 
And whoever put the blood of the lamb on the door was passed over (Passover) and saved from the wrath of The Lord.

This brings me to another Passover lamb.  John the Baptist calls Jesus, "THE Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29)
Jesus is God's perfect Passover lamb, who was also an unblemished male. He shed His blood upon   two wood beams.  Anyone who accepts His sacrifice, accepts the blood on his/her account; anyone who "puts the blood" over the entrance to their heart will also be saved, spiritually. 
God's judgment, His wrath, will pass over you. 

Will you say to Jesus, "Jesus, I want you to protect me from God's judgment that is coming.  I take your blood and put it on the door of my heart, so that I may be saved, cleansed, washed, freed, protected.  Like the Hebrews, I want to be free spiritually.  Free to worship and enjoy eternal life with you."?  If you do this, Jesus will gladly spiritually apply His blood on the doorposts of your heart on your behalf.  And you will be saved. 

In street terms-
God knows you sin.
God loves you very much.
God's judgment will come.
He wants you to advert this.
And that is why He sent Jesus,  That anyone who takes Jesus as savior and lord may be saved.
Are you covered by the blood of the lamb?

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Discipleship Brainstorm

Here is a quick discipleship brainstorm/information dump:

1. When I think of "discipleship" I think Talmidim.  I look at the Hebrew way of education.  Particularly, I look to Jesus.  How he did things.
2. I think of the command of The Cause in Matthew 28.  We are called not to "Evangelize" but to "make disciples".  Not that we don't evangelize in this, we most certainly do.  But discipleship is the goal.  The master says, "Go and make disciples of all nations.  Baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you."
3. The word disciple means student/follower. 
4. The goal of discipleship is to become like your rabbi. 
5. Discipleship cannot be done in a classroom alone.  In fact, a classroom is a worst case scenario, in my opinion.  Especially todays lecture classrooms.  Lectures are boring and do not inspire.  We are not computers.  So let's not make our disciples lecturers.
6. It is a program, but it is also organic.
7. I have always prayed about who the Lord would want me to disciple.
8. I always have an end date for discipleship (sometimes this comes later and not initially).
9. The goal of discipleship is to glorify God. This is done by passing the torch of God's word, my life, and them grabbing the call to make other disciples and keep passing the torch.
10. My discipleship has phases: 1)relational & learning, 2)go & reporting, 3)go & ask for help as needed, 4)then gone.  I am permanently available to disciples.
11. Must reads:

12. Typically this takes 2-3 years. 
13. I have done this with men, students, family, co-workers, and church leaders.  I do it differently each time.  Some places I have done this are: at someone's kitchen table, in my office, at Taco Bell, at a coffee shop, at work, in my living room, around my kitchen table, in the middle of an event, out in the woods, camping, fishing, during airsoft, shooting, laying in bed. This is done best while serving/ministering together....actually this is only done while serving/ministering together.

14. I could go into great detail, or write a book on curriculum.  Typically curriculum is done as I get to know them, see where they are, and see where the Lord wants them to go (ie, become holy & use their gifts to serve him).

Saturday, January 3, 2015


 I read Jesus' teaching on fear this morning, Luke 12:4-7.  it says,

"philois mou may, phobathate...may oun phobeisthe pollon strouthion diapserete."

Literally, "Friends of mine, fear not...fear not you carry more weight than all the sparrows."

Some thoughts-
1. Sparrows are significant to God.  Not one falls to the ground without Him knowing it.  Yes, common, brown sparrows.  Those little birds that are barely noticed by man....those ones.  They are significant to God.

2.  Who is the audience in this passage?  philois mou may - which means my friends, or friends of Jesus.  Are you his friend?

Note- Friendship with Jesus is seen through partnership in his mission, obedience to him, and trusting him for your salvation.  Are you his friend?  Do you at least strive to trust Jesus to save you, strive to obey Him, strive to partner with him in his mission of saving souls?  Is this your hearts desire?

3. His friends should not fear people who can, at worst, kill them.  If they want someone to fear, then fear God.  He has the power to both kill & send someone to Gehenna for eternity.  After all the fear of God is the beginning of wise living & thought.

4. If sparrows are significant to God, and Jesus' friends are worth the weight of all the sparrows, then you are very important, and significant, and valuable to God.  If you have nothing else in this world, at least you have that.

So be of good cheer, be a friend of Jesus. And refuse to fear.