• Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Seekers' ClassBible, open

    Sundays, 10:30 in the parlor. Please join us!

    For more information click here.

  • Hurricane Relief

    Donate

    Partner with UMCOR in responding to the needs of communities and individuals impacted by recent hurricanes and other disasters.

  • Messiah Resources

    **Right Now Media

    More Information

It’s Not Enough

Although he had performed so many signs (miracles) in their presence, they did not believe in him. -John 12:37

“Seeing is believing” is a statement so universally accepted that it seems to be self- authenticating. Yet in this remarkable statement, we find a situation directly contradictory to that idea. And it is not unique in the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ ministry. In John’s gospel it is a very common reaction.

If we were not so used to it, it would astound us.  They saw the lame healed, the deaf given speech, the blind sight and the dead given life AND THEY DID NOT BELIEVE! Many signs equaled few disciples.

On closer study it becomes clear that John and the New Testament distinguish between simply believing facts about Jesus and as it is put here, “believing in him.”  It is the difference in believing something to be true and acting on that belief. It is not just agreeing with him, but trusting him enough to follow him.

And make no mistake about it; that is the difference between salvation and lostness, life and death, heaven and hell. Jesus really wants followers, not just admirers. click here to begin.

 

A Week Like No Other

Christ died for our sins,
He was buried,
he was raised to life -I Corinthians 15:3 & 4

This week is different than any other time in the Christian calendar. It is the only time when several specific events are directly connected to form a whole.

There are seasons in which the emphasis looks to a specific event in the God story. Advent looks ahead to the birth of Jesus. Pentecost is a season where an event is celebrated. Even Easter has a season, Lent, connected to the actual event.

But this week is different. From the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (Palm Sunday), to the Last Supper (Maundy Thursday), the crucifixion (Good Friday) and the resurrection (Easter) historical events are uniquely joined. They are all components of The Passion. The events of that week in Jesus’ life clearly are the focus of God’s action for our salvation. Notice how much of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John) are dedicated to telling about that week. Beyond that think about how much of the rest of the New Testament is predicated on it. I don’t mean to imply that all history is not in some way the stage for God’s work. But this is where it all comes together.

I challenge you to read it this week. Then be “mindful” of it and all that includes. Think about it, absorb it and live in response to it.

What an amazing message—“He died for me (you) and my (your) salvation.” And He lives.

Spectator or Disciple

Luke 19:1-10 (CEV)
“Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today.” (v5b)

Discipleship Is Not a Spectator Sport*

There are certain Bible stories that we all have heard from our child-hood—Adam and Eve, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Daniel, a boy with loaves and fishes, Peter trying to walk on water, and so on. There is wisdom in the retelling of these stories, something about them that tugs at the cords of our better selves. Here are places we hear the greatest of all stories—people meet God.

One such story is Zacchaeus. Every child who has spent any time in Sunday school has heard the story. Most know the song about him. In just 10 short verses we learn a lot about this man.

Do you ever complain about paying taxes? Zacchaeus was a chief tax collector. Worse yet, he was working for a foreign government. So he was considered a traitor, a collaborator with the enemy. He was classed with the lowest, robbers, adulterers, cut-throats. He was hated and despised by most everyone. He had, in fact, gotten rich at their expense.

The day Zacchaeus heard the news that Jesus was coming and climbed up that sycamore tree, he had no inkling of what was about to happen. It is not hard for me to believe that he had no higher motive than the desire to see a celebrity, a famous man. He made no effort to meet Jesus. He didn’t go to hear him preach. He just wanted to see him. In the safety of that tree, he would be a spectator.

Now Zacchaeus knew what people have always believed, what most of us believe, what Scripture gives credibility to. A person can find God if she/he really looks for Him.

“You will find Him [God], if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.”(Deut 4:29)

BUT like many, he never knew that God seeks us out—that Jesus was looking for him. Were he not, Zacchaeus would have been content for the rest of his life to remain a spectator—seeing but not knowing.

How easy it is to be satisfied with being a religious spectator. Churches can be wonderful places to be spectators. You can be close to Jesus—observe, even be entertained. The spectator sits, looks, listens. It is safe—you can enjoy or criticize as suits you.

But sooner or later “once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide.”

Jesus stops under the sycamore tree, along the church pew, at our grandstand seat and says, “I want to go home with you. I want you to become involved with me.” He calls us from the grandstand to the playing field. Because He doesn’t want spectators, he wants disciples. He will not let us just watch.

Zacchaeus didn’t want very much from Jesus—just to see Him. A lot of us don’t want much from God—just assurance we’ve done our duty, gone to church. To know when we are in trouble, or we’re sick, we can call on him. We don’t really expect God to come, change us, and be part of our every-day-lives. Sundays, holidays, weddings, funerals, special occasions— that’s quite enough God, thank you. But Jesus says, “Let’s go to your house. I want to spend the day with you.”

Why Zacchaeus went to see Jesus, I don’t really know. What made him curious, I don’t really know. Who told him about Jesus, I don’t know. I only know he went to see a celebrity, a great figure passing through and there he met the son of God face to face. Zacchaeus could have said, “No.” But he didn’t. And to his credit and his benefit, to his own eternal joy, he took Jesus home with him.

And something wonderful, miraculous happened. The spectator became a disciple.

It’s the choice we all have to make. What about you—content to be a spectator, watch from the Sycamore tree? Interested? Even convinced? Jesus is saying “I want to go Home with you today.” Take Him up on it. Say, “yes.” Take Him home and where ever you go.

Want to know more? click here.

*This is an update of a previous post.

Jesus Wants To Make His Home With You

The fourteenth chapter of John is one of the best known and loved passages in the Bible. It has been one of the standard passages read at funerals. I don’t know that I ever did a funeral with reading from it.
The emphasis is usually on the comfort God provides and the promise of a home in heaven (“I go to prepare a place for you.“)

These are certainly wonderful promises. But, I am intrigued by this statement: “We (My Father and I) will come to him and make our home with him.” What a “breath-taking” idea. Someone has said, “There is no more precious verse in the whole Bible.” We can host God, not just as a visitor but living with us.
He knocks at the door, waiting for us to open it and invite Him in. And He will only stay as He is loved as demonstrated by our obedience to his word.

When someone lives with you, you really get to know them. You share the “nitty-gritty” of your life: the heat/cold, the sparse furnishings, whatever. In return, we have direct and familiar access to the creator’s power, and the redeemer’s love, forgiveness and companionship.

Who wouldn’t want to share your home with some one like that?

Starting Again

God’s kindness leads you toward repentance. -Romans 2:4b

            It happens all the time with children.  In the middle of some task they mess it up and you tell them to start over.  They’re telling you something and get it all confused.  So you say, “Just slow down and start at the beginning.”

Haven’t we all wanted to start over?  I wish I had it to do over.  But in life, we don’t get that opportunity do we?  To go back to square one is not an option is it?

            The Bible says it is.  God calls us, offers us an opportunity to start over, to start with a clean slate.

            It begins with something called repentance which means to change one’s mind, heart, life.  In the historic Christian communion service, participation is invited for those who “truly and earnestly repent of your sins and intend to lead a new life.”

            The trouble is that repentance doesn’t come easily.  Then President Bill Clinton, speaking to a Prayer Breakfast in 1998 put it in perspective.  He said, “I don’t think there is a fancy way to say that I have sinned.…For us, turning does not come so easily. It takes an act of will for us to make a turn. It means breaking old habits. It means admitting that we have been wrong, and this is never easy. It means losing face. It means starting all over again. And this is always painful. It means saying I am sorry. It means recognizing that we have the ability to change. These things are terribly hard to do. But unless we turn, we will be trapped forever in yesterday’s ways.” ^^Clinton’s quote ended with this prayer: “Lord help us to turn, from callousness to sensitivity, from hostility to love, from pettiness to purpose, from envy to contentment, from carelessness to discipline, from fear to faith. Turn us around, O Lord, and bring us back toward you. Revive our lives as at the beginning and turn us toward each other, Lord, for in isolation there is no life.”-Q

Repentance means “coming to self,” “turning”, or returning (from the OT).  In the NT it is to change one’s mind for the better, have a better mind.

            It not only is at the beginning of the Christian Journey but is an on-going necessity of the Christian life.  Matthew Henry wrote, “Repentance is a daily duty.”

            I am told in the St. Louis airport there is a large watch with hands that run backward.  Beneath it are the words, “Make Time Run Backward!”  If it were possible to do this and start again what a difference it would make.

           There is good news!  You can start again!  Turn toward God.

The Power of the Cross

heart-cross-thumb12673094the message of the cross…is the power of God. -I Corinthians 1:18, also Mark   15:22-39; Romans 5:6-10

The Cross is the power of God.  The NT says there is power in Jesus’ death!  Let me repeat that.  Maybe I need to say it a third time.  But no matter how many times it is repeated, there is dissonance, an incongruity. 

It is not that the words Death/power don’t belong together.  Death has power.  It is pervasive, it is inevitable, it is unavoidable.  In fact I think Saul Bellow was right when he expressed the philosophy of this generation by saying, “Death is God.  This generation thinks—and this is its thought of thoughts—that nothing faithful, vulnerable, fragile can be durable or have any true power.  Death waits for these things as a cement floor waits for a dropping light bulb.”1

The New Testament denies that.  It is says that God took the enemy’s biggest weapon, his most powerful and most destructive act and not only experienced it but used it to accomplish his own purpose.  It is through death that      Jesus entered Satan’s stronghold.  Jesus’ dying, the event, the act, has power to effect you, me, all of creation, then, now and for all time.

We are inclined to minimize the cross, the death in order to magnify, the resurrection, Easter.  In the gospels, in contrast, the “spotlight is on the passion”.  The New Testament exalts the cross as the central act of our salvation.  Malcome Muggeridge called the cross the intersection of time and eternity.  Paul, the apostle makes explicit what all the New Testament breathes: “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (I Cor 2:2).

The good news is that Jesus died for you.  His death has power and it becomes effective when we, by faith, surrender our lives to Jesus.  John Wesley, founder of the Methodist movement, struggling with faith and life found that true one night. He described what happened:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while the leader was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

            “I did trust in Christ” is the telling fact.  That is how you can experience the power of the cross.  For help click here or contact me.         

 

1Christianity Today, 9/18/87, 20).

The Awful Gift

I have set before you life and death….Now choose life. –Deuteronomy 30:19

We all probably have received a gift of something which we didn’t really want.  That ugly picture which Aunt Sally gave us, she expects to see hanging on a wall every time she visits.  Some gifts, ugly or useless in themselves we cherish because our son or daughter (or grandchild) made it.  Usually, a gift is appreciated, valuable or not, if we know the motivation is one of love or care for us.

Did you know the most awful gift you’ve ever received came from God and was motivated by pure and perfect love.  It was also incredibly expensive.  That’s crazy you say.  We know “every good and perfect gift comes from God.”  God doesn’t give bad gifts.  However, awful is not the same as bad.  In fact, the awful gift is also  a wonderful gift.

What is this awful but wonderful gift?  It is the freedom to choose against God, to reject God, to choose not to believe God, to trust God, to love God.  In fact, it is the freedom to choose death.  It is wonderful because it means we can also choose for God, to love and serve God.  You can’t have one without the other.  To freely choose God is greatest of all choices, but that means it is possible to make the awful decision to “go it” without God.

And make no mistake, ultimately it is always a choice.  What’s your choice?  Click here for help on choosing.

Too Good to Be True

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ,…The people were all so amazed.  Mark 1:1, 22a

A computer lease we were looking at “seemed too good to be true.”  It was.

We all know the feeling—something is so wondrous so great, so joyful,  that it just couldn’t be true.

Such things just don’t happen in a mixed-up, disappointing, sin and sorrow-filled world.  And that is exactly the feeling created in anyone who really begins to “breathe” the atmosphere of the New Testament.  The news about Jesus seems almost too good to be true.

To be sure, the watered-down version that many have heard from their youth up and which the church too often seems to teach isn’t so hard to believe.  This collection of religious sentiments somehow  (we’re not quite sure how) built around the person of Jesus who was a very good man, is not hard to believe and creates no feeling of wonder and amazement and certainly had little power to transform lives.  But the unedited biblical version is a different story.

Get this—Jesus is the Son of God.  Even the demons recognized they were not dealing with just another human being, exclaiming, “You are the holy one of God!”  As Jesus came to John for baptism in the Jordan river, there is an accreditation, an approval expressed by God the Father: “You are my son, and I am delighted in you.”  God among mortals!  And we think, “That’s too good to be true.”

But notice the impact Jesus had on those who heard him, those who walked with him, those outside as well as within his circle.  As they heard his teaching, saw him in action, it seems Mark “ransacked” the Greek dictionary trying to express their amazement, astonishment, wonder, awe in the presence of this person.  It’s too good to be true!

In what is said to be representative of a typical day in the life of Jesus, he casts out demons, heals Peter’s mother-in-law who was sick with a fever, reaches out to touch one legally untouchable and cures the incurable leper.  His loving compassion and power which heals, and his wisdom which enlightens are amazing.

Then it begins to dawn on us what the NT is trying to say, “that is what God is really like.”  This Jesus, whom the whole world looks to as the epitome, example of love, concern, the best in human kind, is what God is like!  He is not just a man but God among men!  It’s all too good to be true!

Just like the man who saw Jesus heal his son of a spirit which caused him to fall into the fire and go through horrible agony, when Jesus asks, “Do you believe?” responds, “I believe, help my unbelief.”  We begin to understand a little of what the man was trying to express.  I do believe! I want to believe! But it’s too good to be true!

While we’re trying to catch our breath, get our minds around the idea, “God is like this,” we are brought to our knees by the this: Jesus is one of us.  His life becomes a pattern for me/you.  As surely as Mark will not let us forget that this is God’s own son, so likewise he will not let us escape the fact that He was a real human being.

He sets the pattern for every true disciple (Jesus follower).  A decision to trust God, acceptance of a calling/mission and dedication to it, set the boundaries of life.  And with that, there is the equipment, power of the Holy Spirit descending on Him, to give Him the ability to perform the mission.  So, we make our choice, dedicate ourselves, and God fills us with His spirit and empowers us.  But we think, “it’s too good to be true.

In his powerful book, A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken tell how he and his wife, became Christians.

They considered themselves pagans.  They began by believing the Christian gospel had nothing to say to them. Over a period of time, Vanauken and his wife began to consider the meaning of the gospel.  Not taking that way easily, He said,

“we discovered much more than we had expected: The personality of Jesus emerged from the Gospels with astonishing consistency.  Whenever they were written, they were written in the shadow of a personality so tremendous that Christians who may never have seen him knew him utterly: that strange mixture of unbearable sternness and heartbreaking tenderness.

What was happening seemed to happening against his will.  But as he read and thought and talked with these Christians what seemed almost too good to be true was becoming harder and harder to escape.  Vanauken saw the issue and saw it clearly:

Christianity had come to seem to us probable.  It all hinged on this Jesus.  Was he, in fact, the Lord Messiah, the Holy one of Israel, the Christ?  Was he, indeed, the incarnate God?  Very God of very God?  This was the heart of the matter.  [Did] he rise from the dead?  The Apostles, the Evangelists, Paul believed it with utter conviction.  Could we believe on their belief?  Believe in a miracle?

He goes on to describe his growing excitement. As he began to think that it all might really be true, it began to dawn on him that the highest aspirations and deepest longings of his life came together at the person of Jesus Christ and the gospel.  And almost against his will he is driven to Jesus.

As he read the New Testament, the incredibly good news broke through—and hoping against hope, for it was just too good to be true: Vanauken them came to a turning point: “I could not go back….I had encountered Jesus….It was a question whether I was to accept Him—or reject.  (When I saw that) I could not reject Jesus.”

When you really meet the Christ in the pages  of the NT, the sheer excitement of it all makes it seem too good to be true.  Mark’s whole gospel is predicated on the conviction that once he tells you what Jesus did and said you will know who He is—God’s own son, but also one of us;  our savior but also our example.

HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT JESUS?
IT IS TRUE, YOU KNOW!

If you do not know Him, you can invite Him into you life now. click here for how.

We have found him

We have found the one -John 1:45

“The     Exciting Discovery—“We Have Found Him”

             Have you ever tried to tell someone of something that is so unusual, so different from the normal or expected that you knew when you told it you wouldn’t be believed.

Try to imagine John’s task—to tell of something so wonderful, so absolutely unique as to be unbelievable.  Then read and watch as he lays the groundwork, then builds his case to prove that the creator becomes flesh and blood and lives on this earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth (John 1:19-51).

He begins by calling some eye witnesses.  First, he calls the most prominent and influential religious leader of his time—John The Baptist (called simply John by writer). 

The Baptist has raised quite a stir with his preaching, baptizing and a group from the religious establishment has been sent to find out what he’s all about?  Who could he be?  Is he the one to look for? The one God has promised?  Are you he? 

To John’s credit, he makes sure they are pointed to Christ and not a substitute (himself).  Do you know hard that would be.  John is the most popular person around, with all the acclaim and success which goes with that.  And he must now begin to point the crowds away from himself.  He immediately begins to fade into the background.  I am a voice only.  He is greater than I am.  Can you imagine a politician, a great religious leader downplaying his importance?
He tells his own disciples, the time has come, he has come.  You are not to follow me but him.   The faithfulness of John in doing his job is now clearly seen—“they followed Jesus.”

And immediately they become evangelists, that is, they began to tell others.  “We have found him.”  So the cycle begins all over.  Those who find Jesus want to…must, tell others about Him.

“Hallelujah, I have found Him who my soul so long has craved!   Jesus satisfies my longings; through his blood I now am saved.”  (From the hymn, “Satisfied” by C.T. Williams)

Americans connect to Jesus

We hear much about how Americans are turning away from the church and organized religion.  But there is another side to this story.  A recent study by the Barna group shows that Americans relate to Jesus in significant numbers and perhaps surprising ways.

Read about it.