Tagged: John

The Problem-Solving Disciple

Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do. John 6:5-6

Philip was stunned. Jesus was asking where to get the food for thousands of people. Immediately his mind didn’t go to where to get it, but to how much it will cost: “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little.

Overhearing Jesus’ question to Philip, Andrew added, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” Andrew’s mind went to available resources.

John, writing years later about the incident, describes Jesus’s question as a “test.” But what was the test?

  1. To see who could whip out their iPhone and locate the nearest market?
  2. To see who could most quickly calculate the cost?
  3. To see who could conduct a speedy inventory of personal resources and accounts?

Not even close.

Jesus has been preaching, teaching, and healing – both proclaiming the ruling power of God and demonstrating it – and sowing absolute truth into their minds. Now presented with an impossible situation, Philip must apply what he has been taught.

The test exposed the inner working of Philip’s thought life under stress. We say we are trusting Him, but our thoughts tell the real story. Under pressure and experiencing anxiety, Philip’s mind didn’t run to the Father who is the King of kings. He stopped at the walls erected by a worldview chained to the physical senses, but blind to an unseen, spiritual realm. He slid off into a mental pit of self-reliance, rather than rest in the unseen, almighty God.

The Old Testament is full of examples of kings who failed to trust God when confronted with vastly superior military threats. They ran and forged alliances with other nations, placing their faith in the popular, collective wisdom of their generation for deliverance. Over and over again, God allowed His people to discover the hard way that He is the rock, the hiding place, and the refuge in the midst of overwhelming problems. They were being tested.

The mature disciple doesn’t ignore a problem. He is intensely aware of the needs. He can see that his immediate resources are inadequate. But the distinct difference within the mature Christian mind is this: he seeks first the kingdom – or ruling power – of God. His mind escapes the confines of a Western worldview… and runs to the absolute authority and infinite resources of the one Jesus called “Father.”

Jesus simply took what was available, lifted it up to His Father, and said “thank you.” And everything changed.

When tested, the problem-solving disciple has disciplined his mind to go first to the Father. Only in His Presence can we see the truth about ourselves and our problems.

 The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10

Day 11: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

Hanging silhouetteFor God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.John 3:16-18

One year after Gail and I moved from California (1988), the Los Angeles Times reported that a young woman had been trapped in her car after falling asleep at the wheel just after midnight on a Saturday morning. The car had plunged through a guard rail and was dangling by its left rear wheel.  Several motorists stopped, grabbed some ropes from one of their vehicles, tied the ropes to the back of the woman’s car, and hung on until the fire units arrived.  A ladder was extended from below to help stabilize the car while firefighters tied the vehicle to tow trucks with cables and chains.

“Every time we would move the car,” said one of the rescuers, “she’d yell and scream.  She was in pain.”  It took almost three hours for the passers-by, California Highway Patrol officers, tow truck drivers, and firefighters – about 25 people in all — to secure the car and pull the woman to safety.

“It was kinda funny,”  fire captain Ross Marshall later recalled.  “She kept saying, ‘I’LL DO IT MYSELF!’”

Absurd, isn’t it? And yet, we’re all trapped in a world that is very much like that car. Doing life in a natural and social environment that is broken, damaged, corrupt, and condemned, we keep assuring ourselves that we “got this!” But we don’t. And we never did. If we could only see what God sees…

Created to live in relationship with Him, we have all run away. Designed to live with others by reflecting His love and mercy, we formulate our own ideas about how to live with people, leaving broken hearts and emotional debris in the wake of our selfishness. Endowed with a heart where God can come and commune with us, we have chosen to blockade the doors, denying God access to our hearts, darkening the windows of our souls, and becoming empty caricatures of humanity. Hanging from a very brief thread of physical existence, we disparage and disregard the only God out there who is listening. The result? There’s no hope in that scenario… we are condemned already.

But, in spite of everything we have become… everything we have said… and everything we have done… He loves you and me. What was the Jesus doing entering this world as a baby in Bethlehem? It was a rescue mission. He was coming after us. The goal? To keep you from perishing… to give you everlasting life.

We can keep reassuring ourselves and one another that we can do it ourselves. Or we can believe in Him, surrender control, and rely completely on Him and not ourselves for getting through this life.

Saved from certain disaster. Saved to be enveloped by His love and inhabited by His life. Not so bad… considering where you’re hanging from right now.

I thank God for rescuing me. He is my Christmas Revolution. Is He yours?

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 7: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

grumpyThen they said to Him, “We were not born of fornication; we have one Father–God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. . . . Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Then they took up stones to throw at HimJohn 8:41-42, 57-59

At the heart of the conflict described in John 8 was Jesus’ relationship to His Father. “I am not of this world,” He told them (verse 23). Jesus explains that He “came from God” and that God “sent Me” (verse 42). What did He teach? “I speak to the world those things which I heard from Him” (verse 26). Then and now, Jesus’ clear statements about Himself are reinvented, restated, reinterpreted, or rejected, but rarely are they taken at face value. They are revolutionary, and for most people, they are unacceptable.

Individuals will go to great lengths to reject the truth about God and avoid a relationship to Him. As these religious leaders challenged Jesus, they stumbled down the pathway of rejection:

  • they challenged His truthfulness – “You bear witness of Yourself; Your witness is not true” (verse 13);
  • they challenged His origins – “Where is Your Father?” (verse 19);
  • they challenged His identity – “Who are You?” (verse 25);
  • they challenged His message – “We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, ‘You will be made free’?” (verse 33);
  • they challenged His spirituality – “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (verse 48); and
  • they challenged His authority – “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Whom do You make Yourself out to be?” (verses 52-53).

But religious debate turned into attempted murder when Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58).  This was a bold declaration of deity. “I AM” was a reference to the sacred and holy name of God, “Yahweh” (Exodus 3:13-15). Hearing what they believed to be blasphemy, the deeply offended crowd picked up stones… the conversation was over, and Jesus walked away unharmed.

How’s your conversation with Jesus going?

In the midst of an all-out attack on Jesus, His opponents brought up the well-known question about Jesus’ paternity. “We were not born of fornication,” they said (verse 41). It was a cheap shot. Mean. Hurtful. Almost no one had believed Mary’s story how she had become pregnant through the Holy Spirit, but Jesus knew the truth about Himself (Luke 1:21-38). The problem was that these men didn’t know the truth about themselves. Claiming to know God as “Father,” they missed God. Completely.

Drop the stones. Stop challenging Him and dissecting Him… just listen to Him: “If God were your Father, you would love Me,” He said (verse 42).

When you are dealing with the one, true God of the universe… you will fall in love with the baby born in Bethlehem. It’s that simple. And it’s an inescapable reality within the Christmas Revolution.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Day 1: Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution

Watch lying in the snowIn the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:1, 14

In the popular reality TV show “Undercover Boss,” CEOs go to work as ordinary people within their own companies. Subject to the same income, policies, and managers as the other workers, the CEOs are often motivated to make leadership changes and provide special assistance to the employees they befriended during their undercover experience. When an overbearing supervisor unknowingly mistreats or speaks harshly to the CEO-in-disguise, viewers begin to look forward to the moment when the true identity of the CEO is revealed.

What is Christmas really about when you peel away the myths and legends, gift-buying and giving, and holiday customs and social gatherings? It’s the story of the time when the CEO of the universe went “undercover” among us. The timeless and eternal God stepped down quietly out of eternity and slipped into our neighborhood. Entering our time and space as the baby Jesus, he emerged as the Lord of Lords, and the astounding story of His visit continues to be told and re-told through the ages. Carrying out a divine rescue mission with a human heart pounding with love, He chose to come. And for those of us who know Him, He walks with us still. His birth was the beginning of a revolution.

A revolution represents a radical change in something. Over the next 25 days leading up to Christmas, I want to point out the revolutionary nature of our sacred celebration.

Editor’s Note: If you would like to obtain a single PDF file containing all 25 blogs in the “Counting Down to the Christmas Revolution” series, click here to download. May God richly bless your efforts to explore the revolutionary truth underlying the Christmas celebrations around the world.

Follow Him in Every Decision

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth…
John 16:12-13

Some time ago, my wife and I drove separately to a retreat center in Hot Springs, Arkansas. Because I was preaching a Sunday night service 200 miles away, my wife decided to leave home early and make her way to the hotel. She had some difficulty finding her way, but eventually she made it there safely.

Several hours later, I drove into town and experienced the same difficulties she had in finding the hotel. I called her on my cell phone and she guided me through town, directing me at each turn and intersection. Step-by-step, she helped me find my way to the hotel. She was my guide.

In verse 13 of this passage, the Holy Spirit is called our guide. The Holy Spirit is assigned the task of communicating truth and insight that we need from Jesus every day – but not all at once.

Jesus understands that we are weak and limited in our ability to process and apply truth. As the Holy Spirit continues the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ, He guides us incrementally – step by step. The Apostle Paul would later caution us to walk with the Spirit (Galatians 5:16) in this way: by keeping in step with Him on a moment-by-moment basis (Galatians 5:25).

Now that the meal is over…

John 13:12-14 So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.

What do you like to do when you are finished eating a meal? Take a nap? Read the paper? Watch TV?

The night before Jesus died on a cross, He shared a final meal with his key leaders. He had poured Himself into their lives and was squeezing in a final teaching time before His departure. Washing feet was the servant’s task in a household populated by people who walked around outside in sandals through dusty, dirty streets and fields. Typically feet were washed as guests entered the home and before meal time.

At the Last Supper, no one volunteered to do it. Jesus finally did it Himself, after the meal was concluded. He stated flatly “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

Washing feet on a full stomach… doesn’t sound great, smell right, or feel good. In this age of senior, executive-style leadership models, foot washers are hard to find. What does it mean to wash feet today?

  • Could it mean pulling preschool duty or teaching children on Sunday morning?
  • Could it mean rolling up your sleeves and taking on a responsibility in your Sunday School class or small group?
  • Could it mean greeting guests in the parking lot or in the worship center?
  • Could it mean hanging around after service to listen to a hurting brother or sister?
  • Could it mean meeting a practical need in our care n’ share ministry?
  • Could it mean inviting some church people over for dinner?
  • Could it mean keeping children for a young couple to get out for awhile — for free?
  • Could it mean coming to church early to pray over the places hurting people will be sitting and listening?
  • Could it mean giving a senior a ride to the grocery store or beauty shop?
  • Could it really mean ________________? (you fill in the blank)

Not very glamorous is it? But then neither is washing feet!

If you enjoyed the sermon, the worship, and the class study time — then you are truly well fed! The meal is over – what will you do now?

Consistency

Described in John 12, Palm Sunday has been observed through the centuries by the faithful, marking the beginning of Holy Week on the Christian calendar. The story is wonderful and a warning at the same time. Proclaiming their support for Christ, the citizens of Jerusalem greeted Jesus on his famous ride into Jerusalem, waving palms and shouting praises before the Lord. However, many of those same citizens were probably part of the same crowd that support His crucifixion.

Palm Sunday is a good time to remember our own tendency to be inconsistent in our service of Christ. Hypocrisy and unfaithfulness is usually someone else’s problem. The television preacher exposed as a philanderer; the church member who professes devotion on Sunday, only to embrace unethical business practices during the week; or the deacon who prays for God’s blessing, while dividing a church with destructive gossip about the preacher. Those are the hypocrites.

Yet, James cautioned that teachers would face a greater judgment (James 3:1). The more we know, the more we are called to live and model before a watching world. What an awesome assignment to be a communicator of God’s Word!

It is easy to get caught up in the duties associated with our ministry — especially during a busy Easter season. Yet, I can’t think of a better time to pause and reflect, asking the Lord to search our hearts and renew our passion for Him. Lord, make us consistent, matching our words with our deeds.