Double Vision Double Vision   When Pain Blinds YouPain has a way of blurring our vision.

  • Friendships end.
  • Disappointments break our hopes.
  • Dreams die.

It feels permanent. Pain, when you’re in the middle of it, seems inescapable. It’s not. I know the way out.

Have you ever been so shattered by life that you couldn’t see straight?

Mary Magdalene, Jesus’ faithful follower, was broken in the wake of His death. It’s easy for us to say, “But the resurrection was coming.” That’s hindsight. For her, Jesus was dead, and He wasn’t coming back. Hope had evaporated.

We find this woman wracked with pain on Resurrection Sunday (John 20):

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”

The thought that Jesus had risen from the dead did not occur to her. She was so wrapped up in grief that, even when angels asked her why she was weeping, she could only focus on her worst fears. Not only had Jesus died, but now she thought that even his body had been stolen.

But then…

14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?”Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.”

Jesus stood right in front of Mary, but she didn’t recognize Him. Her pain had blinded her.

  • Ever been there?
  • Have you ever been so wrapped up in the pain of your life that you did’t recognize God when He reached out to you?

Pain is unavoidable in this life. We live in a fallen world, and even followers of Christ are effected by the fallout. But just because we experience pain doesn’t mean that’s the end of the story. Even as Mary hurt, she stood in the presence of the resurrected Savior of the world.

Finally, Jesus breaks through her fog of confusion.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” 

He called her name. How personal. How just-like-Jesus. I imagine that the tone of His voice must have somehow cut through her pain, calling her back to clarity, pulling her out of the depths of despair.

She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).

  • Is it possible that pain has blurred your vision?
  • Is it possible that Jesus stands right in front of you, but you don’t even recognize Him?

Your God is not dead. He’s alive! And so is your hope, if your hope is in Him.

Jesus calls your name in the midst of your pain.

Turn to Him.

 

Feeling Empty?

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

Ill pray for you 225x300 Stop Saying, Ill pray for you.

“I’ll pray for you.”

“I’ll pray for you.”

It’s often a Christian cop-out. I’m guilty of letting it roll off of my tongue.

Christian, be honest for a second. When you say, “I’ll pray for you”, do you really? Or are you just saying, in a nice Christian-ese way, “That situation sounds bad / concerning / difficult and I sympathize with you”?

Are you a “prayer warrior”? Do you actually tuck away each prayer request and go to God with it? Or do you just tell people you’ll pray for them, and forget about it 5 seconds later? (I’ve done both.)

If you say it and don’t mean it, you risk becoming a non-praying hypocrite.

If you’re a super-conscientious pray-er, if you really write down a prayer request, and then lift it up to God, then by all means tell people, “I’ll pray for you.” But if “I’ll pray for you” is just a hollow pat on the head to the people who come to you with honest requests, it’s time to change up your approach to handling prayer requests.

I know people who are true prayer warriors. God has given them the gift of intercession. They are not only called, like every Christian, to the ministry of prayer, but they are specially gifted with the ability (and time) to intercede, to go to God, on the behalf of others.

But what if you’re not one of those people?

Maybe it’s time to stop saying, “I’ll pray for you.”

What’s the alternative? This is what I recommend:

1)  Pray immediately.

When someone asks me to pray for them, whether it’s on the phone, on Facebook, or right after church, I most often pray immediately. Sometimes they’re stunned. They weren’t ready for that. “Please pray for me” meant later. Not now.

But look. If it’s important enough to ask, it’s important enough to take to God immediately.

My advice for the honest Christian? Pray immediately. You’ll be surprised at how powerfully God uses immediate prayer. And you’ll like not feeling guilty a week later when you realize you forgot to pray.

2)  Pray close.

How do I keep from being overwhelmed with the level of need in this world? Heck, if I just consider all the needs in my world, I get overwhelmed. And instead of praying for what matters most, I can be immobilized, and not pray at all.

Pray close. Start at the center. Then move outward.

  • Pray for your walk with Jesus. Always.
  • Married? Pray for your spouse. A lot.
  • Kids? Pray for them like crazy! (If you don’t, who will?)
  • Then your other family.
  • Your small group.
  • Your teammates at work.
  • Your church and pastor.

If your day “blows up” and your prayer time is interrupted, at least you’ve prayed for God to grow and strengthen you and for your immediate family. If you don’t start there, you’ve got no business praying for someone else.

3)  Pray big.

You may not be a “prayer warrior” yet. But you can train to become one.

As you “flex your prayer muscles”, God will train you how to lift up others. Someday you’ll be the kind of Christian who teaches others how to pray. But that will only be true if you start at the start.

Don’t just say, “I’ll pray for you.”

Pray immediately. Pray close. Pray big.

 

For more on prayer:  “How NOT to Pray

Empty

April 9, 2014 — Leave a comment

Empty EmptySometimes I feel empty.

I have a great life. A beautiful wife, 4 healthy daughters, a job as a pastor at a thriving church in my hometown. In many ways, all of my dreams have come true. But even when things are going well, the fact remains that I live in a broken world. I deal with the same stuff you do.

  • People disappoint or hurt me.
  • Heck, I disappoint me.
  • I pray, and wait for God to answer. But it seems to take Him a looooong time to answer.
  • I could add a dozen more things to the list. You could too.

I lose sight of Jesus from time to time. And when I can’t seem to find Him, when He’s gone from my sight, I find it difficult to maintain the hope and joy that I once had. Love wanes. Life becomes a chore. I am drained.

I know you feel empty sometimes too.

The everyday ebb and flow of concerns, worries and problems has a way of sucking the life out of even the most optimistic believer. We’re not the first ones to doubt, to wonder if God will really come through, to feel empty.

Can you imagine how empty Jesus’ disciples felt in the hours and days between His death and His resurrection?

The bright hope Jesus birthed in resurrection was preceded by His death on a cross. It’s easy for us to forget, but Jesus’ disciples didn’t know He was going to rise. Yes, He told them. But they didn’t pay attention. Or they forgot. When He was arrested, they scattered. They betrayed Him. The One they had followed for three years was left alone when He needed His friends the most. The disciples failed in faith and friendship. Jesus was dragged away as they ran. He was crucified for all to see. And now He was dead. But fear and failure were not the end of the story.

This is how it played out in John chapter 20:

20 Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2 So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!”

This was empty, not hopeful. The assumption Mary made was that robbers had stolen the body of their teacher. This was a blow. Insult and disgrace were added to this great injury.

3 So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4 Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5 He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7 as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen.

What could this mean? The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. Could His Words be echoing in their ears? Could it really be? Was he really the Lord?

8 Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9 (They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10 Then the disciples went back to where they were staying.

Empty is not the end.

Empty is the beginning.

Empty makes room for resurrection.

If empty is where you are, maybe you’re on the way to something new.

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

Logos 5 Final New Wine > Old Water   Logos Part 5

Jesus made some pretty great wine at the wedding feast at Cana.

I’ve seen people do back-flips trying to explain all the different ways that Jesus couldn’t have possibly made actual wine (with alcohol). All I can say to that is this: The master of the banquet thought it was pretty dang good. (John 2:10)

This post isn’t about alcohol.

This post is about how Jesus, fully God and fully man, stepped into a world filled to the brim with the same-old same-old. He offered something undeniably better than what we had tasted before.

When Jesus walked the earth, he gave us an accurate view of our Father in Heaven. Being God himself, Jesus was called the “logos“, the word. He was the representation of God in flesh. His first miracle, at the wedding feast in Cana, “was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory…” (John 2:11)

Jesus’ first miracle started with a problem at a party.

The wine ran out at a wedding reception. In this culture, running out of wine for wedding guests would be a crushing embarrassment to the hosts.

Mary, Jesus mother, was somehow involved in the arrangements for this feast. Given the fact that she pointed to Jesus and ordered the servants to “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5), it is presumed that Mary may have been doing the catering for the wedding.

Whatever the case, Mary knew two things:

1) There was no more wine.

2) Jesus could fix this problem.

Jesus didn’t really want to do what she was asking. He said, “Woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My hour has not yet come.” (John 2:4) But like any good son, he did what his mother wanted him to do.

Old Water = the Old Covenant

Sitting nearby were six empty stone jars, each able to hold between 20 and 30 gallons. Without running water, people would store their water supplies in these tall jars.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The water in these jars would have been used for the Jewish purification practices. The guests at the party would have washed their hands with this water. Their dishes would have been ceremonially washed as well. All this kept the Jewish laws of the Old Testament.

But the water had run out.

These empty vessels, now exhausted of their usefulness, sat there, waiting to be filled.

Jesus ordered the men to fill these jars with water. They did.

New Wine = the New Covenant

All the servants had to fill these jars with was water. But Jesus’ intervention made a whole new product.

Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”

They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” (John 2:8-10)

Wine. New wine. Brand new wine. Wine so good the master of the banquet questioned why it hadn’t been put out yet.

Jesus stepped into this world to bring the new, the better, the best. All that had been poured out prior was good, but its usefulness had run its course. Now, in the fullness of time, the Savior stepped onto the scene. He came to fulfill the Old Covenant, where animals were offered as a temporary sacrifice for sins. He came to usher in the New Covenant, in which He would offer Himself as a poured out offering.

New Wine > Old Water

New Testament scholar F.F. Bruce says, of Jesus’ first miracle:

Christ has come into the world to fulfill and terminate the old order, and to replace it by a new worship ‘in spirit and in truth’ which surpasses the old as much as wine surpasses water. (The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes pg. 72)

Jesus offers us something completely better than what we could ever attain on our own.

Would you like a drink?

 

Want to know more about Jesus?

Check out the other 4 parts of this “Logos” series.

1) “In the Beginning”

2) “Unworthy”

3) “Come and See”

4) “Go and Tell”

 

This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.

3 Weird Things Final 300x199 3 Weird Things About Being A PastorI love being a pastor.

I’ve been in ministry 15 years now, and I’m ruined for doing anything else. I just can’t imagine spending my life any other way. I love getting to share the Good News of Jesus with as many people as possible. It’s my calling, my life work.

But I’ve got to tell you, there are some unique things that go along with being a pastor.

Here’s 3 Weird Things About Being A Pastor:

1)  Every Sunday is “Take Your Kids To Work Day”

Don’t get me wrong. I love my girls more than life itself. (We have 4 daughters.)

But just imagine, for a moment, that your whole family came to work with you once a week. Or twice, if you have mid-week events. There you are, at work. Your mind is running 100 mph as you factor in everything from A to Z…

  • …the lighting level
  • the coffee
  • the 15 people you need to talk to
  • the crisis that just popped up
  • the grieving friend who just arrived
  • the volunteers who called in sick
  • and OH! that 25 minute presentation you have to make in T minus 30 minutes…

…when all of a sudden, you’re immobilized by the 5 year-old who just ran through a crowd to throw their arms around your legs.

It is pure joy to see my kids while I’m “at work”. But it’s also challenging in a unique way.

The last thing I ever want is for my kids to resent me, church or God. I don’t want them to feel like they’re competing for my time and attention, but they often are. The nature of the role just won’t allow that tension to be removed.

I’m not saying it’s a bad thing. It’s just weird. My kids have to share me with a bunch of other people, and not just on Sundays.

On the up-side, there are, occasionally, times during the week when I can adjust my work schedule to be there for important stuff for them. Like everything, it’s a trade-off.

2) You’re Learning the Message AS You Preach It

Maybe there are pastors who are experts. They’ve got it all figured out. But I doubt it.

Preaching is a tricky thing. Yes, any pastor worth his salt studies his tail off in preparation, learning lots of stuff, most of which doesn’t make it to the sermon, but falls to the cutting room floor. But the learning part doesn’t mean anything unless it’s attached to life change. And if the pastor doesn’t live out what he’s preaching, well, we all know what that’s called.

Being a pastor is weird because your’e not teaching math. Math facts are math facts. They don’t change. There are 1,000 ways to teach history, but the dates and events have not changed, nor will they. But the content you’re bringing from the stage at church is living. It transforms you, as well as the hearer. So you’re always being impacted by it yourself AS you teach it.

So, how do you, a real, flawed person, maintain transparency with your congregation without freaking them out?

Finding that balance can be a little weird.

3)  What’s A Weekend?

My week builds to a crescendo. Sunday is “Game Day” 50 weeks a year. It’s not down-time. It’s go-time. The day we invite everyone to come and “be filled” is the most emotionally, spiritually and physically draining day of the week. Every pastor I know suffers from the “holy hangover” on Mondays as a result.

Friday is my day off (unless there’s a church event), which is weird because the kids are in school and my friends are at work.

Saturday I get some time off while the kids are off too, until I have to prep for Sunday and go to our Saturday night service.

Rest is a weird thing for pastors. So much of the time you’re “on” when everyone else is “off”. So you have to learn how to adjust your life to a different rhythm. I struggled with this for years, but have learned how to survive and thrive while working a job with a schedule that doesn’t mesh with everyone else’s.

Being a pastor is weird for a lot of reasons.

But it’s a great, wonderful weird that I wouldn’t trade for the world.

Being a pastor is a privilege, an honor. And I wouldn’t trade one moment of it. (Well, yes I would. But there are many more good moments than bad.)

What about you?

Are you from a ministry family? Are you a pastor? The spouse of a pastor? Or a Pastor’s Kid? What would you add to the list?

Logos 4 Final Logos Part 4: Go and Tell

Logos Part 4: “Go and Tell”

Jesus’ first followers couldn’t not GO and TELL others about Him.

This Jesus, our Savior from Heaven, was called the “Logos” (word). He was the self-expression of God Himself. Looking at Jesus gives us a clear representation of what His Father is like. Looking at how Jesus’ followers responded to Him gives us great insight on how to live.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he recognized who He was and pointed Him out.

36 As Jesus walked by, John looked at him and declared, “Look! There is the Lamb of God!” (John 1:36)

Andrew was within earshot of John’s declaration about the Messiah. And as soon as he heard it, he decided to follow Jesus.

40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus.

What!? Just like that? He didn’t require Jesus to do anything, to jump through any hoops, or do a magic trick, a sign, to make it plain that He was God?

Nope. Andrew heard John’s word about who Jesus was, and followed. What a faith-filled guy!

What Andrew did next should be a lesson to us all.

When Andrew realized who Jesus was…

 41 Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).

Today we might think, “Well, maybe I should wait a while before I tell someone about Jesus.” We’ll go to great lengths to keep our mouths shut about Jesus.

Our list of cop-outs is never-ending:

  • “I don’t know enough about Jesus to go and tell someone else.” (If you know Jesus, you know enough)
  • “I can’t go and tell anyone because they might reject me.” (Jesus was rejected on earth. Are you too good to be rejected?)
  • “I don’t want to offend anybody who doesn’t believe the same way.” (You didn’t believe at one point. How can others have faith if you don’t go and tell them?)

Evangelism isn’t a program. At least it shouldn’t be.

Evangelism, telling those disconnected from God about how they can be in relationship with Him through Jesus, should be a natural outflow of our own relationship with Him. If you fall in love, you don’t need a class to learn how to go and tell other people about how much you love that person. You just do. You can’t contain it.

When we follow Jesus, we enter into a life-altering relationship that transforms us from the inside out. When we experience His love, joy, and peace bubbling up from our hearts, we can’t NOT go and tell others about this One who is transforming us.

Andrew’s simple example should make us bold.

  • He heard.
  • He followed.
  • He decided to go and tell his brother.

42 Then Andrew brought Simon to meet Jesus. (John 1:40-42)

Andrew could not have known that this introduction would alter the course of history.

Looking intently at Simon, Jesus said, “Your name is Simon, son of John—but you will be called Cephas” (which means “Peter”).

This Simon, now Peter, changed the world. Peter became the anchor of Jesus’ movement on earth. God used him to establish the Church in the years following His death and resurrection.

So, are you willing to go and tell?

  • Have you decided to follow Jesus?
  • Who is God calling you to go and tell about Him?
  • What might God do with the life of the person you go and tell?

You’ll never know what God will do until you’re willing to step out in faith.

Meet Jesus. Follow Him. Go and tell others. It’s that simple.

 

Here’s the post that started this series:  Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…”

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(This post also appeared on the blog of New Vine Media.)

 

Logos 3 Final 2 Logos Part 3   Come and see.

Logos 3: “Come and See”

Jesus calls followers.

He doesn’t call observers, critics or competitors. Jesus calls followers.

Are you a follower of Jesus?

No, I didn’t ask you if you go to church. Lots of people go to church. What I want to know is this:  Have you responded, are you responding, to Jesus’ call?

Jesus, referred to by the Apostle John as the “Logos” (the Word) is the self-expression of God Almighty!

So, God the Father’s heart, His mind, His character and purposes were clearly defined through the life of His Son.

Jesus began his public ministry by being baptized and tempted, identifying with us. Then He called his first followers. John records it this way:

35 The next day John [the Baptizer] was there again with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”

37 When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?”

They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?”

39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Jesus calls followers. Have you responded to His call?

Maybe you’ve never responded to Jesus’ call because you know He’s asking too much. You’re right. And you’re wise to hesitate. Jesus doesn’t call us to just nod in acceptance, recognizing He is God. No, His call is all-encompassing. This One who came to earth, completely identified with sinful man, lived a perfect life, then died to make us right with the Father, is the One who calls us to a no-holds-barred commitment to Himself.

That kind of commitment should cause you to pause. You know that Jesus isn’t asking you to just check a box. He wants all of you. And if you commit to Him, He’ll expect you to follow Him. And if you follow Him, you’re going to have to leave behind a lot. Everything.

Jesus calls us to love Him so much that our allegiance to anything in the world pales in comparison. We all know love is risky. It’s not a neat investment. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s terrifying. But it’s absolutely worth it.

Jesus calls us to leave behind what’s dead. The old life. The old habits. The old toxins that once consumed us must now be left once we set out on this new course, walking in our Master’s footsteps. This means we separate ourselves both in heart, and physically, from the things we once found familiar, if not debilitating.

That’s hard. It’s a process. But it’s for our best. The more we let go of, the more free we become in Christ. And the more freely we grow.

Jesus invites us into a bright new future. Once we commit to follow Him, inviting Him to reside in our hearts, washing us clean, we experience new life, new power, and new purpose. What was once dead now comes to life! Where darkness once ruled, there is now light radiating from a new Source! The God we could never reach is now accessible for us who are re-born by the power of His Son, our Savior. And if you can wrap your brain around it, you understand that the very Holy Spirit of God now inhabits us.

But for those who set out to become Jesus followers, the immediate future is also full of uncertainty.

  • How will He lead you?
  • Where will you go?
  • What will you do?

This new direction, this path, this commitment to your Savior, is not for the faint of heart.

Surrendering complete control of your life to Jesus is at once the most safe and most risky decision you can ever make.

This decision secures your eternal destiny. If you are in Christ, and Christ is in you, then you are heaven-bound. Nothing can separate you from the love of Christ. (See Romans 8)

However, once you become a Jesus follower, your life is now not your own. (See 1 Corinthians 6)

This radical commitment to Christ…

What’s Holding You Back?

Jesus is calling you. He is inviting you into an adventure that will radically shape the course of your life. Don’t believe me? Just look at the lives of His disciples. Ordinary men, living ordinary lives, were called by Him. Within a matter of years they were turning the world upside down.

Jesus is calling you into this same level of commitment. He would like to walk with you in relationship. But you’ve got to go. You’ve got to step out. You’ve got to say, “Yes, Jesus, I will follow you with all I am, all I have, all my ways and all my days.”

What will happen if you follow Christ?

I won’t make you any guarantees for your safety or your comfort. His first disciples didn’t get any.

But I will tell you that whatever happens as a result of you following Christ, it’s worth it.

What will happen if you follow Jesus? I offer you His words to the disciples He first called:

 39 “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” (John 1:35-39)

Take the step. See the new future He has in store for you.

 

Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…”

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

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This post also appeared on the Blog of New Vine Media.

 

Logos 2 Final Logos Part 2   Unworthy?

Logos Part 2: “Unworthy?”

John the Baptist was the greatest man that ever lived.

You’re thinking, “WHAT??”

Yep. Jesus said so.

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist… (Matthew 11:11a)

Let that one sink in for just a moment.

Can you think of a higher compliment?

Jesus was called the “logos“, the “word” or “self-expression” of God (John 1:1). This Son of God, one with the Father, perfect in every way, says, essentially, that John is the best person to ever be born. Not David? Not Solomon? Not even Moses? That’s quite a statement. What could make Jesus say such a thing?

Today we’re told that the path to greatness is found by making yourself the center of the universe. Go out and grab fame, fortune and everything that comes with it. If nothing else, our culture values the star. Go on a show, sing a song, and you’re an instant success. Your life is made. What more could you want?

Jesus’ attachment of great value to John should cause us to do a double-take, questioning our worldly assumptions.

  • How do we determine the value of people?
  • How much do position, possessions and popularity really matter?
  • Am I seeking God’s approval, or the world’s?
  • Is it possible for us to live a life that God values highly?

Let’s pause for a moment and see why Jesus regarded John so highly. Then we’ll be able to see our lives more clearly.

John’s greatness wasn’t derived from his position.

John’s birth was miraculous, his mother and father being very old when they had him. But his upbringing was simple.

“he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.” (Luke 1:80)

If Israel had a “Podunk”, this was it. John grew up far removed from the hustle and bustle of Jerusalem, the spiritual center of the Jewish people. He would not have run in the same circles as the “movers and shakers” of Jesus’ day. Growing up in the wild, away from the public eye, is not how people typically achieve notoriety.

God called John to a prophetic ministry. He was to call people to repent of their sins and prepare themselves for the coming of the long-promised Messiah.

When John’s ministry became popular, he didn’t exactly let it go to his head.

7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”

John wasn’t in this to make his own name great. He never changed his message in order to broaden its appeal. He was not interested in advancing himself.

John’s greatness wasn’t attached to his possessions.

Even as an adult, John lived a simple life in the wilderness of Judea. People came out to see him, and noted,

4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. (Matthew 3:4)

This was the dress and diet of a man who rejected the world’s view of success. My study Bible notes say, “John’s simple food, clothing and life-style were a visual protest against self-indulgence.”

John didn’t get into ministry to get comfortable.

John’s greatness wasn’t measured by his popularity.

He spent his time denying that he was someone great. He was so charismatic, and drew such a following, that people were puzzled. “Who could this guy be?” When the spiritual leaders of the day finally came to investigate, they had this interesting exchange:

19 Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. 20 He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.”

21 They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?”

He said, “I am not.”

“Are you the Prophet?”

He answered, “No.”

22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” (John 1:19-23)

How could someone who had such a powerful personal ministry not jump at the chance to make his own name great?

That’s not what John was all about.

John’s greatness was rooted in his recognition that Jesus was the Christ.

It really is that simple.

John accepted and responded to what God had asked of him. He was one of the few unique figures in history that truly kept his focus on the task at hand. When faced with success, he did not sell out. He kept his eyes clearly focused on the mission God had put him on, to make a way for the coming Messiah.

John had this to say about the coming Messiah:

26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” (John 1:26,27)

In Jesus’ day, a host would cater to the needs of their honored guest. But even the best host would not untie the sandals of his guest. This was a job for a house servant, a slave. John says that he is not worthy to complete even this menial task for this coming Savior of the world!

“unworthy”

  • unworthy to untie Jesus’ sandals
  • unworthy to be mistaken as The One
  • unworthy to be called “The Man”

What humility. What focus. What a heart.

John’s entire attitude was summed up by this statement:

30 “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30)

Are you now beginning to see why Jesus’ opinion of John was so high?

John did not consider himself unworthy because Jesus’ opinion of him was low. He counted himself unworthy because his opinion of Jesus was so high. I wonder what would happen in my life if I lived with the same kind of abandon of self that John did.

Are you willing to give up your position, possessions and popularity?

I’ve got to be honest with you. I wouldn’t mind an increase of any of those.

But is that where my heart is set? I think that’s the real question.

  • Are you ready to live your life for the glory of Jesus’ name?
  • Are you prepared to trade your position, your possessions, even your own popularity, so that Jesus’ name can be made great through you?

Let’s take one last look at Matthew 11:11. Jesus continues speaking about greatness:

11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)

That’s right. If you are in the Kingdom of God, if you have been re-born into a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ, then you are considered greater than even John the Baptist. You are worthy of Jesus’ blood. You are worthy of a new status. You are now called a child of God, and the bride of Christ.

Jesus says you are greater than John because you have received Christ into your heart. This Savior is alive inside of you, and you are called to live a life that makes His name great. Are you ready to live as one who has been made worthy?

 

Want Part 1 of this Series? Check out Logos Part 1: “In the Beginning…” 

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This post also appeared on The Blog of New Vine Media.

Logos 1 Final Logos Part 1: In the Beginning...

Logos Part 1 “In the Beginning”

“In the beginning…”

We all know the story. In fact, I’m afraid it’s become all too familiar.

“In the beginning…God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)

Hold on. Back up for a minute. Let’s click delete on all the flannel-graph illustrations, all the mental images of a cute little creation story. Let’s step way back from whatever has sapped our sense of reverence, holy fear, from this universe-originating event.

If we can read these words without gasping for breath, we’re letting familiarity dampen what should be an awe-inspiring experience. I don’t want us to miss out on the creative potential that’s dripping from every word.

So let’s step through this verse with a renewed sense of the violence and force in which it was originally penned.

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

God spoke, and what had never been conceived of came hurtling out of His mouth and into existence. This event was anything but serene. In a breath, God created light that rips through the universe at 186,000 miles per second! He formed stars that dwarf our little sun in numbers so profoundly great that we cannot even count them. The complexities and mysteries of this universe, barely understood even today, were spoken into being by Him.

Just the scope of creation is mind-boggling. With all our advancements in technology, with all the billions of light years worth of galaxies we have observed, we still must call this realm, “the known universe”, because each time we gain the ability to look farther out, there is more to see. We haven’t found its limits.

God spoke all of this into creation. And now this creation speaks back, shouting the majesty of God 24 hours a day.

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.

(Psalm 19)

“In the beginning, God…”

God. He preceded the existence of our universe. He exists outside of it. He is not constrained to the limitations of His creation. This God who is Omni, who is all-powerful, all-present and all-knowing, was not in any way exhausted by the exertion of His force. His ocean of all-ness was not diminished by a drop when He spoke all into existence.

“In the beginning…”

There was a time when time was not. Wrap your brain around that for just a second. Before the earth existed, before billions of galaxies were flung farther than we can imagine, there was God. And as far as we cal tell, this beginning began in order to provide a context for us, created beings, to enter into a relationship with the One who created it.

This God who spoke this universe into existence cannot be contained by His own creation.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said this when He dedicated the temple God told him to build: “But will God really dwell on earth? The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built!” (1 Kings 8:27)

This God of creation, when He spoke to Job, asked Him this:

31 “Can you direct the movement of the stars—
binding the cluster of the Pleiades
or loosening the cords of Orion?
32 Can you direct the sequence of the seasons
or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens?
33 Do you know the laws of the universe?
Can you use them to regulate the earth?

(Job 38:31-33)

Wow!!

These first words of Genesis resound in our hearts and minds as the opening of the story of God and man. At creation God displayed His ultimate power, and opened up creation to relationship with Him.

So, who is this God, and what is He like? Can we know more?

Yes. This God of creation, who spoke into existence the wonders of the heavens and the earth, did not hide Himself. Throughout the record of humanity He has taken great pains to make Himself known. He has revealed Himself, step-by-step, to man. He made Himself known plainly to Adam & Eve. Think about that for a second. Before sin entered the world, these two experienced face-to-face relationship with God.

But then they gave it all away when the chose to disobey Him. They chose to run the show, and so they hid when God came looking for them.

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8)

You and I can only dream of what this must have been like. For God to just come strolling into our home… we can hardly imagine. That marked the last day Adam & Even would reside in paradise. Curses entered the world along with sin. This is the world you and I were born into. Because of sin we’ve been separated from this God of the Universe. No longer does He walk up to us face-to-face. Or does He?

I have good news. There is a second beginning.

“In the beginning…” (John 1:1)

Just as original life began long ago with “In the beginning”, so did NEW life.

The apostle John opened up his gospel account by echoing the creation story. He calls on the words of Genesis to mark the opening of an ancient and continuing narrative. He calls on the original account of creation to usher in his telling of this new creation through Jesus, the Christ.

Jesus is described as the “Logos”, the self-expression of God! It is through this God-man that our Father closed the gap between sinful man and His holiness. This new creation is no less energetic than the first. The movement of God to earth was no less significant than what God did when He spoke all creation into being.

And He did this all for you and me.

Jesus was the representation of God on earth.

  • Would you like to get to know this God of creation personally?
  • Are you ready to undergo the violent transformation His Word is capable of?
  • Get ready to experience creative power like you’ve never known.

This Jesus, made known to us, is waiting for you to discover Him in all His fullness.

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-3)

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This post also appeared on the blog of “New Vine Media”.

photo 8 300x225 How To Make Family Meal Time God Time

How to Make Meal Time God Time

Families today are stretched more than ever.

Activities of all kinds compete for the time and attention of Dads, Moms & Kids. In this fast-paced world, how can we slow down enough to grow our family’s faith?

Going to church is an obvious first step. But how do you augment your family’s faith day-to-day? My suggestion is to start with meal-time.

Meal time in your home can become a daily touch-point for your family. With a little bit of effort, you can grow your family’s faith, as well as your connections to each other. Over time, this powerful dynamic can, quite literally, change the course of your family’s future.

Here’s 7 Steps to Make Family Meal Time God Time

1) Pick a Meal Time

If the thought of choosing a daily meal time where everyone can sit down together induces panic, then it might be time to rethink your schedule. Sure, some families work different shifts. And even my family misses this connect occasionally. But as a rule of thumb, if you’re so scattered that one meal a day is out of reach routinely, maybe it’s time to make some space to connect.

2) Ban Devices from the Table

I’m an iPhone junkie. So is my wife and our oldest daughter. So we ban phones, iPods, Leap Pads, all devices from the table. If we have them in our hands, on our seat, or in our pockets, we will look at them. It’s that simple. In order to respect the rest of our family, we don’t answer calls, texts, or any other notifications during meal time. It’s blocked out for face-to-face interaction. We also turn off the TV in the other room so we can minimize distractions.

Some of you may need to look into a 12-step program in order to pry yourselves, or your kids, away from their devices. But believe me, once you rediscover the power of true face-time, you’ll be hooked.

3) Pick a Bible

Choose a Bible that’s easy to read and that you don’t mind getting food on. Then keep it on the table. If you keep it in another room, you’ll forget about it within a week. Just make it an ever-present reminder that meal-time is God-time. Our 3rd daughter, who is 6, has the job of opening up to our selected Scripture daily. She’s learning how to navigate the Bible daily.

4) Pick a Book

You don’t need a complicated reading plan. Just start with one small section of one of the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke or John). We started with Matthew. Reading one small section daily only took a couple of minutes daily over several months. But we were surprised with how quickly the kids expected the reading and looked forward to it.

5) You Go First = You Go Last

At our table, we pray (our 5 year old leads us), and then I read the Bible out loud while Mom serves the kids and herself. Waiting a few more minutes to eat is a small price to pay in order to make sure my family gets fed spiritually. I admit that most of the time I’m so hungry I just want to take a bite. But the short wait is worth it. I hope it communicates to my wife and children that providing for them spiritually is a top priority for me.

6) Keep it Short

I love God’s Word. I love reading it, studying it, teaching and preaching it. But this short God-time at the table has to be kept short. Sure, once in a blue moon the older kids will linger after dinner, curious about God’s ways as displayed in His Word. But this is a rarity. In order to keep it consistent, I have to keep it brief. If I make it a drudgery, it will turn from a blessing into a burden.

7) Let Conversation Happen

You know what my favorite part of this is? It’s when I get done reading and start eating. No, it’s not just because I’m hungry. It’s because as I let God’s Word register with my children, they will inevitably ask questions and make observations that would never have occurred to me.

God’s Word is “alive and active”. I get to see this truth come to life often as I shut my mouth and listen to my children. Then I can respond to their questions, encouraging them to think clearly about who God is and how He relates to us.

I hope you can turn meal-time into God-time.

If you do, you will step into the ancient flow of faith being handed down from one generation to another. As you leverage the seemingly fleeting moments of your day, you will chart a path of faith for your family that will endure through the ages.

As Moses told the families that made up the nation of Israel:

6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. 8 Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. 9 Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.(Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

 

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