Tag Archives: John

“Look How They Love Each Other!”

And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. 1 John 4:21

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. Colossians 3:15

sibling hugThis Summer, my younger daughter is living with my older daughter (and her husband and their dog) while she does an internship for her major. This last weekend, I had the privilege of visiting them for the first time since that arrangement started. So far, nobody has killed anyone. I am happy about that.

The truth is, my girls get along really well with each other. They give each other a hard time, but they are also clearly best friends. And when they fight, they fight fair. That’s important. That brings an amazing amount of peace to a parent. I am pretty sure I would never have understood that peace until I became a parent.

There is an aspect of God’s perspective on our love for each other that is “parental” in nature.  Paul references it in Colossians 3 when he admonishes that church to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”.  I do not read Aramaic, nor Greek. But I am told that Paul actually wrote peace of Christ in Latin (Pax Christi), so as to make it a play on words for that culture. You see, the nickname for the Roman occupation under which those churches operated was the Pax Romana (“Peace of Rome”). It referred to a kind of imposed peace which Rome enforced in all of its territories. It was an understood connotation of Pax Romana: you and your neighbor are both now  part of the Roman Empire…if you have a problem with your neighbor, you have a problem with Rome. Paul …

Confessions of a Teacher’s Pet

Tuesday Re-mix:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”  “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked.  They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”  Mark 10:35-37

teacher's pet

I admit that, sometimes during my childhood, under some circumstances which might come about upon occasion, I was, at times, capable of being…the teacher’s pet.  I do NOT admit to being crass about it, nor even intentionally manipulative about it.  And I certainly never perfected the art in nearly the way(s) my younger daughter seems to have done so (sorry, Reno…cat’s out of the bag now I guess).  But I will confess that, when one of my teachers may have favored me a little one way or another, I liked it…and may have even used it to my advantage at times.  Whew!  So glad to get that off my chest!

So, when I read about James and John and their not-so-secret desire for favored treatment with Jesus, I admit that I actually understand where they were coming from.  Don’t act like you don’t get it.  I know you do.

The truth about all of us is that we enjoy being favored.  We relish special treatment.  When the flight attendant comes to your seat in coach and informs you that you have been selected to enjoy a free upgrade into first class for this flight, you have no problem gathering your belongings and bouncing up to the comfy seats as if you deserve it.  When the police officer pulls me over and has me on his radar doing 65 in a 55, and then tells me he is just going to give me …

The Long Journey Preparing for Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix:

The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
    who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:1-3

Christmas JourneyWelcome to the Advent Season, everyone!  I am certain this season is as special at your church as it is at mine.  Now begins the challenge of leading our people’s hearts to turn toward Christ as opposed to getting so entangled with the secular culture of Christmas that they lose sight of Jesus.  I know you are thinking about that.  You are considering how you can best lead so as to help your people “prepare the way for the Lord”.  In that regard, you, my church leader friend, are John the Baptizer.  Your calling this season is to help your people prepare for Jesus.

So, as you strategize about this Advent Season in your own church, and how you will help your people prepare for Jesus, will you just consider the following:

  • How will you help the single mom who is holding down three jobs and just trying to survive from one day to the next prepare her heart for Jesus?
  • What is your strategy to help the child whose parent is deployed or in prison or just disappeared to prepare his/her heart for Jesus this season?
  • What can you do this week to help that nursing home resident who gave your church so many good years of ministry to prepare for Jesus this season?
  • What is your plan to pour into your second tier of church leaders over the next couple of weeks, so that they and their families are prepared

“Look at us!”

Tuesday Re-mix –

Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!”  So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them.  Acts 3:4-5

The short, two-block walk in downtown San Antonio from my parking garage to my office usually crosses paths with at least a dozen or so people who are either homeless or at least very “down on their luck”.  There was a time a few years ago when God brought me under conviction for my then-habit of crossing the street before I had to face them and their requests for money.  I am pleased to say I do not do that anymore.  I actually know several of the regulars by name now: Sal, Jorge, little Joseph, Becky, and one who just calls himself “Soldier”.  While I am pleased to know these few names, God is not finished with me yet.  The next lesson is about the eye contact…or lack thereof.  I know God is leaning on me to be a better friend to these often-troubled souls, and in order to do that, I really am going to have to be better about making eye contact with them!

That is the real issue, isn’t it?  We don’t want to see them, and we don’t want them to see us.  And it is not just the homeless…it is anyone whose needs just seem overwhelming to us.  We do not want them to see us as a possible source of help, because we do not believe we really have something that will help them.  If you walked into a hospital ward full of sick people and you were carrying the one vaccine which you knew would cure them, you would look them all right in the eyes and tell them to line …

Sometimes the Only Thing Missing in Ministry is Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix –

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

O.K., I know virtually nothing about the commercial fishing industry. I’ve never even seen an episode of The Deadliest Catch. And I certainly have very little knowledge of what that industry looked like 2000 years ago. I suspect that Peter and the guys had been through a very long, very hard night of tossing their tangled nets out and dragging them back in empty…I suspect that they were as skilled as anyone at this particular trade but that their very best and most strenuous efforts had been completely fruitless on this particular night…and I suspect they were exhausted and disappointed and frustrated. But that is all speculation on my part, because I don’t really know much about fishing. Nevertheless, I have a theory about what was going on in Peter’s mind when Jesus, the carpenter/teacher/NON-fisherman, wryly suggested that they pick up their nets and head out and try again one more time. I contend that what Peter was thinking in his head at that moment would NOT have made for good scripture.

Very much like Peter and James and John, we have developed some real expertise when it comes to “doing church”. Given hundreds of years to develop our systems and our understandings of scripture, we have a strong sense of what works and what does not work. We study our culture and think we’re pretty knowledgeable about the best ways to teach and to minister and to reach people. And when we set out to implement a ministry …

We, the Brood of Vipers

Tuesday Re-mix –

“What should we do then?” the crowd asked.  John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”  Tax collectors also came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”  “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”   He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” Luke 3:8-14 [selections]

John the Baptist was given the assignment of preparing a people to receive a savior.  God would use John to help the people see that, beyond a political hero, what they needed most was a spiritual savior.  So, in fulfillment of this calling, what do you suppose are the first words out of his mouth in issuance of this “wake-up call”?

“You brood of vipers!”

That’s just mean.  Right?  Those words are just harsh.  But they seem to have gotten the people’s attention.  It wasn’t long before they were asking John, “What do we need to do?”  He then started rattling off impossibly inflexible rules for them…bad conduct that was the most deeply ingrained in their culture, things it would have been extremely difficult to change.  It would have required a huge shift in how they thought about other people.  It would have caused them to think, “Wow, that’s nearly impossible!”  And that, of course, is exactly the right response.  John would have said, “And THAT is why you need a savior!”

So, it got me thinking.  If John were to come to the church today in order to get us ready for Jesus to return, what would he say to us?  Assuming we too are a “brood of vipers” and …

The Transforming Power of the Resurrection

Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed.  John 20:8

And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”  John 20:22-23

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”  John 20:28

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”  Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”  Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.  John 21:17

My studies are in John’s gospel right now, and none of the gospels demonstrates the practical effects of the resurrection more beautifully than John’s.  He portrays so very well the fragile, confused disciples hiding in the upper room out of fear of the Jewish leaders…the very human Peter, cowardly denying Christ…mere shadows of the men who would eventually have the responsibility of continuing the revolution Christ began.  Take a moment and compare the Peter in John 19 with the Peter in Acts 4.  The transformation is God-sized.

That, it seems to me, is the power of the resurrection.  Without it, we still have atonement for sins, we still have Christ’s teachings and his ministry, and but for all of the unfulfilled prophecies we would have, we still have scripture.  But without the transforming power of the resurrection, we would not have a church today.  Without the evidence that Christ lives, even today, we would not have a testimony of a living Savior.  Without the resurrection, Peter, James and John most likely all return to their obscure lives as fishermen, all of them surely impacted but none of …

Missional Institutions v. Missional People

Tuesday Re-mix –

In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John.  It has been a wonderful study for us!  I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people.  It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.

But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.

You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution.  The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional.  The attitude at my own church provides a great example.  Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries.  We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen.  We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets.  We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes.  We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year.  In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.

So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church …