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Twix

DDFC98DD-975D-428F-AA77-8EC4A2E00DE9Dear Mars.com,

Since you began your right Twix vs left Twix campaign, this philosophical distinction has brought forth a serious question: what constitutes a Twix bar? Is it one candy bar made of two parts or two parts packaged together? If packaged for Halloween candy it is a single bar named Twix, but if it’s got two bars it is still Twix. This is a question with philosophical implications, so I come to the source! What is the real name of your candy bar and how should we refer to a single Twix candy bar? I humbly wait for your reply and will wait to rely on your expertise.

Sincerely,

Travis Long

Skittles are plural.  M and M’s are as well.  Twix carries with it an immense amount of ambiguity.  Is it one or two? (Or 4 in the case of King Size)?  If each side of Twix is going to obtain an individual personality, where does that leave us?  To sentient individuals or one scidzophrenic?

Where Resees seems to be uniting us (see the previous two posts); Twix seems content to drive a wedge in.  Let’s just say that in some instances Jesus brought the duct tape, but in others he brought a pry bar.

One key concept in the book of John is division.  John understands that sometimes discipleship is moved forward by people being added to the number, and other times it happens by others leaving.

John uses division as a iteray device.  The whole purpose of Johns book is found in chapter 20:

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (30-31)

Johns gospel brings the reader to the crossroad where a decision needs to be made about “who Jesus is?”  But throughout the book, people have been brought to the line of decision.

  • John 6, Jesus teaches on the life that he alone can give and the people divide (6.60,66)
  • The crowds and even his family don’t know what to do with his abscence at the festival. (7.12)
  • Jesus teaches from God’s authority and above Moses’ in the Temple and the people are divided. (7.30-31)
  • The Pharisees are up in arms and division I’ve how Jesus can heal blindness.  The real issue is Jesus place of origin. (9.16ff.)
  • Then the apex of the book, the antithesis of the thesis statement in chapter 12, “after Jesus has done all these  miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe…”(John 12.37-42)

Like Col. Travis or Jean Luc Picard drawing a line in the sand, Jesus has clearly declared the two sides. But there is an interesting dynamic at work here.

When a line is drawn, battle, political, or ideological, the image at the forefront of your mind is often of two sides, yelling at each other while encroaching upon the line.  They are two opposing forces bent over the line with bulging veins in their forheads and necks, screaming obscenities at one another.  That is not the case here.

Certainly, the battle over the identity of Jesus is as real and vital as it had ever been.  John’s excessive use of metaphor shows this.  Life and death; light and dark; the city of God and the World.  But it is not two sides attacking one another.

Instead, it is two lines that are not attacking each other but ignoring one another.  It’s like everyone is standing with their backs to the line.  The groups never really enter debate about Jesus’ identity, but instead ask searching questions.  With each inquiry, individuals on either side of the line step backward over it, switching positions, or stepping forward strengthening their position and allegiance.

This “cross-the-line” mentality is paramount for Johns gospel because of his stance on culture.  Of the New Testament authors, John’s position on how a follower of Christ should interact with the world around him is firmest and recessive.  Jokingly it’s hard to figure out whether John turned his back on the world, “Do not love the world or anything in it…”(1 John 2.15), or the world turned its back on him, he was “…on the island of Patmos beacause of the word of God.” (Rev. 1.9)  Johns attitude is withdrawal.

Paul takes a much softer position.  “I have become all things…” (1 Cor. 9.22); using his political position (Acts 22.22-30; 25.11-12); and quoting the philosophers of the day (Acts 17.28) and referencing their gods (Acts 17.23).  Paul utilizes culture in order to transform culture (Romans 12.1-2).  But this study is for another time and place (and one that I hope warrants time and discussion here).

Johns division is between the followers of Christ and the world that surrounds them.  John is certain that believers are to be seperate from the world in far not ways than where they spend 2 hours on Sunday morning.

It’s in the way we tallk;  the content of of our conversations.  Listened to two high school boys use the f-word 18 different times in 6 sentences and in four different parts of speech in 6 sentences, the other day.  I didn’t know whether to get me a dictionary so I really knew what the word meant, or to get them a thesaurus so the could learn a new word.

It’s the way we parent and serve in schools.  It bothers me that PTO is such poorly attended and how hard schools have too look when the numbers suggest how many Christian parents are connected to the school.  It is disconcerting as to how many single parents lack support from the church in raising their kids.  I struggle with how many parents feel like the are on an island in raising their kids.  Christians are called to be different.

It is in the books that are kept.  It’s the amazon accounts, credit card debt, Craigslist addiction, and Cabelas points.  “Stuff” is a currency all by itself now a days.  Followers of Christ, and their stuff, the amount, how it’s used, and how it is obtained, is one way that they are divided from the world.

Twix has it right, the followers need to be distinct from the world. We may be in the same package as the world, breathing the same oxygen, living in the same space, struggling with the same sins, but John knows we are not the same!

Ps.  Still no reply from Mars or Hershey!

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Resees (part 2)

C35C32A3-95D9-4425-94E5-8BD84D0D4970The theology of today is the downstream result of the philosophy of 10 years ago.

I’m behind the times a little and I will admit that I originally didn’t see the danger of the movement.  I know that I have a book from about 10 years ago with the title: More Jesus, Less Religion. The more common statement was:  “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship.”

I got into a disagreement with a cowboy pastor a few years back over his gratuitous use of this bumper-sticker Christianity.  He told me that apologetics, doctrine, and religion were of little use today.  I asked him to tell me about Jesus.  He began by saying that Jesus was the son of God.  I then asked him who God was?  Every time he began a statement I reminded him that he was making a doctrinal statement.

Relationship is defined by doctrine.  Who’s in the relationship?  The identity of the two parties?  How do they interact, communicate?

Whether it is a spouse, parent, child, friend, stranger, or alien, whatever method of contact, relationships are based upon timeless truths and rules.

When we think correctly about God, our lives will align correctly in Him.

This thinking is what motivated Jesus to pray: “I am the true vine…remain in me, as I also remain in you.” (John 15.1,4). Jesus knew that a key to unity is a common source.  It’s the same principle that unites our country every 4 years during the olympics, the same principle that unites college alumni all over the country, and the same principle that makes Texans so annoying!

A common bond, found in a common source, is what Jesus is identifying here.  He is the common source and he knows that when unity will be challenged, their connection to him will be in call.

I have seen it in Youth Groups.  When a youth group starts focusing on the youth band or what the next fellowship gathering is going to be instead of Jesus, their  unifying source has been eradicated.

I have seen it in churches.  When the discussions begin to focus on worship styles, or what the Pastor’s wearing (tie vs. no tie), or even the addition of a Sunday school class, the source has been severed from the people.

I have seen it in small groups when meetings turn into bbq’s and fishing excursions instead of opening God’s Word and looking for Jesus, the source, the vine has been weed whacked.

So Jesus prays: “Remain…”

The formula from verse 5 is pretty simple.  Jesus is the vine; we are the branches.  Apart from him, we can do nothing.  (15.5) As long as we stay connected to the source, unity will prevail.  Three legged races, under ware races, or blob tag is a living picture of what a common source can result in.  It may not always be pretty, nor will it be easy, but a common source will direct unity.

That is why doctrine is paramount.  And not just any doctrine, but sound doctrine.  Paul makes it a priority for Timothy and Jon makes it central to his book.  The question of “who is Jesus?” is every bit as much a doctrine question as it is a relationship question!  So before the touchy-feely people take over theology, let’s explore first how sound doctrine can provide unity, prior to radical inclusivity.

Resees

C35C32A3-95D9-4425-94E5-8BD84D0D4970.pngDear Hersey’s Inc.,

I commend you on your transparency.  On your packaging, you clearly state your name “Resees” followed by the number of cups contained in the package.  For this I commend you.  But that begs the question of what a resees really is?  Is it one cup?  Is it a package of 2 cups?  When I buy the package of two at the front of the store, am I buying one Resees or two?  An informed word of authority on your part would bring swift end to my dilemma and my own personal hell over this matter.

Sincerely,

Travis Long

This was the email that I sent to multiple levels of the Hersey organization last week in order to get the ultimate answer to a question that has plagued me for years.  The king size (4 cups), the regular size (2 cups), and the individual (1 cup), all bear the same moniker “Resees”.  Beneath the name they each state how many cups are included.  Do you see the ambiguity and dilemma?  How can one be many and many one?  How can unity and diversity co-exist?

It is most certainly a problem our country is facing on multiple fronts: racially, politically, and economically.  It is a problem facing the church as well: worship style, technologically, preaching style, etc.

What is fascinating about Jesus is how he embraced both unity and diversity.  I first want to focus on the unity.

In his discourse/small group lesson/prayer found in John 14-17, Jesus is addressing his disciples in what is known as the Upper Room discourse.  He is short one disciple as Judas has already left to betray Jesus and lead the mob. (John 14.27-31)

Jesus addresses the remaining 11 with the information they would need soon, when he would be no longer with them.  A major theme of this talk is unity.

One Way

“I am the way and the truth and the life” says Jesus (John 14.6).  One of the best ways to stay unified is to have the same goal and the same plan to get there.  Marines are a brotherhood because every Marine from their inception in 1775, has sweated and bled just like those who have gone before them and those that will follow.  Regardless of time period, their path remains the same because their end goal remains the same: to be the toughest fighting unit in the world!

When the path is the same and exclusive, unity is the result.

That is why empathy is so important.  Two books pointed this out to me.  The first was a book “Season of Life” by Jeffery Marx.  Marx was a towel boy for the old Baltimore Colts.  He grew up around the team but as he grew fell out of touch with the players, even his favorite, Joe Ehrmann, now a minister and high school football coach.  He coaches his teams to be tough, disciplined, and loving.  That’s right, he teaches them to love one another.  Marx follows Ehrmann and his team throughout the season, soaking in lesson after lesson.  Towards the end of the season Ehrmann shares this insight: “To me, the number-one criterion for humanity has to be empathy…when you have empathy, when you can understand the amount of suffering in this world, the pain that so many people are living in, and the causes of all that pain, then you can have a cause beyond yourself.” (128)

Empathy is the ability to travel the path of another, to walk in their shoes and to feel what they feel.  Which brings me to the second book:  Aliens Ate My Homework by Bruce Coville.  Rod Allbright is dealing with a problem every 6th grader deals with: a bully.  His bullies name is Billy Becker who counts the number of different types of bugs he can smash into the back of Rods head.  One day Rod is visited by 5 members of the Galactic Patrol sent to Earth to capture the universes most notorious criminal and suddenly hid bully issue seems insignificant.  They use his volcano project to fix their ship and they eat his math homework making his job of keeping them secret harder.  Finally it is realized that his bully and their suspect are one in the same.  When Billy realizes that Rod is helping the patrol, he kidnaps Rod’s twin siblings.  When talking to a worried Madame Pon and crew they reveal that he is wanted for the most heinous crime in the universe.  Rod begins to run through all the crimes he knows and doesn’t even come close.  The crew tells him it is cruelty. Rod wonders if he heard right.

”In the civilized galaxy, cruelty is the greatest of all crimes,’ said Madame Pong…’an intelligent being who takes pleasure in causing pain to others—well, such a being is considered dangerously bent.’

’You must understand,’ msaid Tar Gibbons, ‘that empathy is the heart of civilization…the ability to understand what another feels.’”

Our ability to walk the path of another until our paths meet in Jesus is part of the unity that Jesus applauds.

Think of the group he has assembled around him.  Zealots and tax collectors don’t belong together.  Day workers and the elite.  The poor and the kit cast.  These men are a picture of diversity, yet they came together because of the message, the person, and work of Jesus.  Their unity came from the identical path that they were walking.

by the way I’m still waiting on a new email…tbc.

Three Musketeers (part 2)

41855E78-5DFE-4CCF-A287-4C868050C67C“It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it. (40.59 – 40.60)” — Alexander Dumas

D’Artagnan was a young man whose dream was to join the Kings body guards.  When he goes to Paris, he is given the run around.  When he runs into a few of the Musketeers, unbeknownst to him, by challenging them each to duels. They end up teaming up to defeat the Cardinals guards who had interrupted their duels.

D’Artagnan befriends Athos, Porthos, and Aramis, the Three Musketeers.  Athos is a calculated man.  “Athos…never gave his advice before it was demanded and even then it must be demanded twice. ‘In general, people only ask for advice,’ he said ‘that they may not follow it or if they should follow it that they may have somebody to blame for having given it’” writes Dumas.  The strong, reserved, soft spoken leader.  He becomes a father-figure to D’Artagnan.

Unlike the Disney version, Dumas’ novel paints a more chaotic plot.  It’s not the Cardinal vs. the Musketeers in the book.  The Cardinal, near the end of the book offers D’Artagnan the commission and leadership he has been seeking from the beginning…all he had to do was sign on the line.  He paused as he left the room, weighing the results of his decision  and this was the thought that went through his mind: “It was this fear that restrained him, so powerful is the influence of a truly great character on all that surrounds it.”. The great character was Athos he was thinking of.  The influence was the decision not to sign the commission.  He knew that should he sign, Athos would renounce him.  Truly great characters change the actions of everyone around them!

Mark 9.2 begins with the words “after 6 days”.  What is the deal with waiting almost a week?  As discussed previously, Mark is a fast paced book.  And also discussed elsewhere, Mark is all about identifying Jesus as the Son of God.  His book begins with the statement: “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God…”(Mark 1) and climaxes with the Roman Centurion at the base of the cross exclaiming “surely this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15).  Right smack dab in the middle of the book, Peter makes the confession “You are the Messiah.” (8.29)  So there is the confession. 

Then Jesus begins to tell his disciples about his death.  He would do so in chapters 8, 9, 10.  Mark 8 serves as a tipping point in the Gospel.  It is the fulcrum that balances the entirity of the book.  The confession and the prediction are where the two purposes of Jesus come together.  His action and identity.  In Mark 1, Jesus declares: “I have come to preach.”  (1.38)  In Mark 10, Jesus says that he came “not to be serve but to serve and give his life up as a ransom for many.” (10.45)  The middle of chapter 8 begins a section of the book that serves as central teaching to Jesus’ ministry.

Finally, on top of the confession of Peter and the prediction of Jesus, there is the teaching of Jesus at the end of chapter 8.  The confession and prediction mean little if there isn’t anything that becomes of it.   Jesus reiterates that this is not just a teaching or a lesson, it is a pattern of life.  Jesus wants his disciples to know that it doesn’t end with his cross, but ends with ours.   “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Mark 8.34)

The whole book has been racing along and now all the information about Jesus that is needed has been communicated…then he hits the brakes for 6 days.  For an impatient man like Mark, I bet 6 days seemed like eternity.  If you have ever taught 6th graders or trained a horse, you would understand what Mark is doing.  Its called “think time”.  Letting the message sit and rest for a period, preventing overload of information.  If you have ever tried to teach someone how to play pitch, you know the look of overload.  So he takes a break.

Then the story picks up with the Three Musketeers.  They head up the mountain, alone, with Jesus.  Think of how many great moments have happened on mountain tops.

  • The Ark came to rest on Ararat (Gen 8.4)
  • Abraham was to sacrifice Isaac on Mt. Moriah (Genesis 22)
  • Moses was given the 10 commandments on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 20)
  • The Blessings and Curses came from Mt. Ebal and Mt. Gerizim (Deut. 11)
  • David built his city, Jerusalem, on Mt. Zion (2 Samuel 5.7)
  • Elijah had a showdown with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18)
  • Jesus gave his sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5)

Every ancient culture, the pyramids of Egypt, the Ziggurats of Sumer, the temples of the Mayans, the gods on Mt. Olympus for the Greeks, believed that Mountains were where man met with God.  So there is some theology wrapped up in their trek up the mountain.

When the reached the summit, Jesus was transfigured before them.  Essentially, he started radiating.  There isn’t a whole lot more to this word than what comes to your mind at first.  He became really shinny.  That’s when two other men showed up: Moses and Elijah.  Neither were unfamiliar with mountain top moments as seen above.  The list above, however, left off two very important moments.  The first being Moses’ Mt. Sinai experience in Exodus 34.  The second was Elijah’s Mt. Sinai moment in 1 Kings 19.  I will deal with each in turn.

Exodus 34 recounts a 40 day stay atop Mt. Sinai by Moses.  The purpose of this ascent was two-fold.  Primarily it was to make good on God’s promise to Moses in the previous chapter to show him His glory.  Second, it was to renew the 10 commandments and the stones Moses had broken in anger the first time he was up on Sinai.  God meets Moses and “passes by” him making a statement about his identity.

“The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (34.6-8)

This meeting has been discussed more elsewhere, but for the purpose of this piec it can be said that Moses met God in Sinai.

On the same mountain, many years later, Elijah stands after a 40 day journey (1 Kings 19.8).  He too meets with God.  He is exhausted standing and speaking for God against a corrupt royalty and a stubborn nation.  He had wished for death before coming to the mountain (19.4) but now he has a hearing with God where he offers his complaint.  He says that he is the only faithful one in Israel and that won’t last long if Ahab gets his way.  So God responds:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” (19.11)

And God did so in the following verses.  He wasn’t in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the subsequent whisper.  There it is again; the idea of God “passing by” which brings us to Mark 9.

Peter and the guys are frightened by the dazzling sight before them.  Jesus, Moses, and Elijah are talking in front of them.  So Peter speaks up while scared.  He wants to build shelters for them.

God ends up speaking in verse 7, putting a halt to Peter’s idea, with His statement: “This is my Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

The two men on the mountain with Jesus are no strangers to mountain top moments.  And with each of their encounters there was the presence of the Lord and the voice of the Lord.  Mark 9 has God speaking and God presence, through and in the person of Jesus.

The Three Musketeers were shown Jesus identity as the Son of God and his relationship with God.

And once again they were told to keep it quiet (Mark 9.8).

 

Three Musketeers

41855E78-5DFE-4CCF-A287-4C868050C67CThe previous post mentioned 4 exceptions to the public healings of Jesus and the proceeded to list only 3.  This was by design.  As the prior post mentioned: “to understand what Jesus did, follow the crowds.”  That statement is on only a partial thought.  It’s compliment is: “to understand who Jesus is, follow the three.”

The three: Peter, James, and John.  They were three of Jesus’ first followers.  They were fishermen by trade and pastors in training.  They would someday be authors and speakers, but for the time being, they were working through some issues.  James and John had anger and pride.  Peter was foolish and loose with his tongue.  They failed at discipleship a lot.  So much in fact, that it is a dominant theme in the book of Mark.  Still, Jesus saved his most revelatory moments for the Three.

Instead of a public healing, the Three were pulled aside by Jesus for a revelation.  A girls father had caught up with Jesus as had many others.  Jesus is met after his return from the Decapolis by a crowd of people. A synagogue ruler gets his ear and tells him of his daughters illness.  He knew that if he could get Jesus to her, he could heal her.  Jesus grants his request and goes along with crowd in tow.

One in the crowd, a woman, was sick herself.  The similarities between the two sick ones are inescapable:

  • both female
  • Immediately”
  • One was sick 12 years and the other is 12 years old
  • Faith/belief led to healing
  • It was Jesus touch that instituted healing
  • The thoughts that led to their healing were similar.  The bleeding woman thought: “If I can just get to him…”.  Jairus’ thought: “If I can just get him to her…”

The main difference between the two was where it happened and who it was in front of.  The bleeding woman was healed right in front of the parade.  Jesus even brought attention to it.  “Who touched me?”, he asked as he felt the power leave him.  He made sure the crowd knew what was happening and how the healing happened.

When he arrived at the scene of the dead girl, he was not only a leading a procession, he interrupted a procession.  The corresponding verses in Matthew, those recounting the same story, tells us that the funeral has began: “When Jesus entered the synagogue leader’s house and saw the noisy crowd and people playing pipes…” (Matthew 5.23)  Mark adds that there was crying and wailing.  It was a fiasco.  The first thing Jesus did was send everyone out.  Taking the Three Musketeers with him, he visits the girls bedside, where she lies dead.

Jesus touched her.  This time, unlike the bleeding woman, the power left him by his own ambition.  He told her to get up and, again just like the bleeding woman, “immediately” she was healed.  “Immediately” is one of Mark’s favorite words.  Mark is a fast paced narrative, that scurries the reader along.  When two or more gospel writers tell the same story, as is the case here with Mark 5 and Matthew 9, Mark is usually the longer more in depth version, but still his gospel is quite shorter than the others.  He doesn’t tell as many stories, but when he does, he does it thoroughly.

This story, told by all three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, put the identity of Jesus on display.  John, tells the very public resurrection of Lazarus and the public response.  Luke precedes this account with the raising of the widows son at Nain (Luke 7) and the crowds awe and wonder concerning the event.  But only the Three Musketeers are privy to this event.  They are even given orders “not to tell anyone” (Mark 5.43) a cry that would be echoed throughout the book.

But lets end with this question.  Why the three?  Was the room too small for everyone else?  Was Jesus just wanting some more quite and three people are always quieter than 40 or 100?  Perhaps there is according to some more liberal interpreters a “messianic secret” contained in Mark, where Jesus is desperately trying to keep his identity unkown?  These can all be answered in the negative!

The reason for the Three is simple, this is the only resurrection in Mark outside of Jesus’.  This is a key event revealing the identity of Jesus to his closest followers.  Two more times these three men would be specifically chosen to witness a deep truth of the identity of Jesus.  Jesus has the power to raise the dead; he has power to give life.  This lesson was on display before their very eyes.

 

100 Grand

s643667121527569464_p68_i3_w640“Turkeys flock, but Eagles soar.”

”In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.” — Thomas Jefferson

”If everyone else jumped off a bridge…”

Ancient proverbs, founding fathers, your Mother; all have their advice about succumbing to peer pressure and following the crowd.  Nature understands the safety in numbers: the adjectival crash of rhino’s or murder of crows (nod to Poe); the aptly named tower of giraffes or bloat of hippos; or the alliterated leap of leopards or prickle of porcupines.  If you have ever watched one of those nature documentaries on Nat. Geo or the Discovery channel, before reality mechanic shows and survival shows took over, of the wildebeests crossing the river in front of the crocodiles, the principle is fully on display.  But success, especially in America and contrary to all of history, is all about standing out and swimming upstream.  Mike Rowe put it best in this video (if you watch until the end).  That American ideal is also contrarian to understanding Jesus in Mark’s Gospel. To understand what Jesus did in the book of Mark, follow the crowd.

Much of Jesus ministry was done in view of the crowds.

  • He led them
  • He fed them
  • He taught them
  • He performed miracles before them
  • He was praised, arrested, sentenced and mocked by them (all in a week)

His public ministry was just that: it was public.  Despite some of his best efforts, he was with people most of the time.  He was forced “to get up while it was still dark, very early in the morning” in order to pray (Mark 1.35).  The only times that Jesus is recorded to be alone in Mark, he is either praying (1.35; 6.42; 14.35) or healing (7.53).

One of the biggest things he did in front of them was healed.  On 8 different occasions Jesus healed before the crowds. Sixty-six percent of the time he healed someone, it was before the people.  Only 4 times did he not follow this pattern.

  • He healed a deaf and mute man privately (7.53)
  • He raised a girl from the dead in front of Peter, James, and John (Mark 5)
  • He healed Peter’s mother-in-law with Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 1.31)
  • He drove the Evil Spirits out of the Gadarenes Demoniac with the Twelve watching on (Mark 5) because the crowds couldn’t get around the lake fast enough.

The pattern had been set as healing was meant to be seen publicly.  All the times it wasn’t on display, the connecting ties are few and far between.  The number of people who were either healed, witnessed his healing power, or saw the result of his healing power would have stretched exponentially both in geography and in time.

  • Every marriage that is saved through repentance and submission has been touched with his healing.
  • Every man who finds recovery from a porn addiction has felt it.
  • Every middle school student who has felt the sting of depression and loneliness, who finds grace and compassion in Jesus arms, knows his healing.
  • Every parent who has lost a child, but finally is able to pen a letter to them, knows the power of his healing.
  • Every victim of disaster who has ever received a warm meal and a warm blanket as they begin to piece back together their life, has felt his touch of healing.

Healing was communal.  It is communal.  It was public and it was celebrated.  Jesus lived this out.

Indications point to a population of 500,000 in Palestine during the Second Temple Period.  I think this easily puts a 100 grand within 2 degrees of seperation of Jesus and his healing ministry.

While Jesus was alone, he prayed.  While he was with the Twelve, he explained, corrected, and taught.  With the crowds, the 100 grand, Jesus was the compassionate healer, who’s arms were open to all who came.

But what about the Three Musketeers?

To be continued…

Almond Joy

9D494A70-DAF4-4DAC-B0AE-5395FD5D2AAB.pngI have a routine and it really goes in month long cycles.

September is Football and Franks.  I love to tailgate and grill.  I also love brats and hotdogs.  So I are mostly hot dogs and brats throughout the month.

November is turkey/poultry and Thanksgiving.  I will alter my crock pot taco soup recipe by substituting shredded chicken for beef, load up on the tobasco, Fritos, and shredded cheddar cheese and eat a crock pot full every week.

December is all about the three C’s: Christmas, cinnamon rolls, and chilie.  Chilie is served seven nights a week, cleaning out the crock pot only to repeat the process.  Fun fact: apparently this is a Kansas thing because if you mention it anywhere else people look at you like you are crazy.

But that leaves out October.  Taco Soup (with beef) will get me through the month, but it really is all about candy.  Walmart keeps dentists employed in November.  I  saw a sign the other day where a store is offering to buy back Halloween Candy to keep kids healthy.  Meanwhile, I spoke with a Dad who refused to buy candy this years so he is taking his kids Trick-or-Treating an hour early so they can circle back by their house to refill their own candy bowl.  That is #NextLevelParenting.

I have recently been studying the life of Jesus.  I have also been trying to organize some thoughts on leadership and methodology.  Here I bring the two together.  One of my favorite get-to-know-you/team building games is what I call “synthesis”.  Each group gets one note card.  They have to write down 5 topics or thoughts on the left hand side.  Then the team trades with another team.  The new team has one minute to write down a word that corresponds with the first teams thoughts.  The catch is that there is a theme.  It might have to be an animal, or a celebrity, or a song, or anything else.  They have one minute.  Then each group has to explain to the whole group why they chose that thing to describe the first teams topic.

Since October really is all about the candy, how would Jesus ministry be communicated through candy bars?

One of the first things that draws me to Jesus ministry is how contagious it was.  People were drawn to him.  They brought the sick, they brought friends, they traveled miles, and they fought through crowds.  They climbed trees, dug through roofs, watched from gates, crawled between legs, and snuck into dinners, just to be near him.  But what drw them?  Certainly it was his ability, some of it was probably his teaching, but I want to focus on something that not many other’s have touched: his Joy!  Mostly because I struggle with it.

Joy is really a Paul word.  First, I want to introduce you to three greek words.  This will be painless.

  • Chara is the greek word for “joy”
  • Charidzomai is the greek word for “forgiveness”
  • Charis is the greek word for “grace”

Notice that all three of theses words have the same root.  From that the connection is easily made.  When we understand that we are forgiven and have been shown grace, the only appropriate response is joy.  Paul was joyful because he understood the great lengths to which he was shown grace and the the great depths that he had been forgiven.  The reason I say this is a Paul word is quite simple.  Half the uses of these words in Scripture come from Paul’s pen.  He loved to talk about “joy” and “grace” and “forgiveness”.

Fir James and Peter, the source of joy is found elsewhere.  James begins his book like this:

”Consider it pure joy my brothers when you face trials of many kinds…” (James 1.2)

James knew that the growth received through the testing of faith would bring about joy. Peter echos this sentiment in his letter:

“These [trials] have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.7-9)

Peter and James found their source of joy in the trials they suffered.  These two knew about suffering.  Both would die a martyrs death.  Both would face beatings and persecutions.  Both would counsel people through the same things.  They knew that if you wanted the prize you were going to bear the scars.  This was joy.  Dostoyevsky once said: “One thing I fear is not to be worthy of my sufferings.”  Their joy came in the suffering in the same manner as Jesus.

But what about Jesus?  He didn’t need the grace that Paul was given and his sufferings were unlike any other.  It was his pattern that the other’s followed.  So where was Jesus’ joy found?  The Gospels don’t reveal it.  None of the epistles of Paul reveal it.  The only verse that touches upon it is found in Hebrews 12:2, in context it reads:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12.1-3)

The author of Hebrews encourages the Church to continue its run, not only because of those that have gone on before us and are cheering us on, but because that’s what Jesus did.  Still the question remains, what gave Jesus his joy?  Verse 2 tells us it was his death, resurrection, and ascension.  The process is called redemption.  Paul was joyful for the grace showed him, James for the sharing of suffering patterned for him, but Jesus was brought joy in the redemption he brought others.  Despite the coconut!

Leverage

Leverage (vb.) to use something for its maximum force

I have had the pleasure of coaching middle school football for a few seasons and involved for many more.  Last season we won the city championship.  Frankly, we were more talented than the other teams by far.  When asked “what team are you most proud of?, that team doesn’t warrant the #1 spot.  Don’t get me wrong, I am proud of that team and what they accomplished, but I am more proud of the team 2 years ago and here’s why: leverage!

Two years ago, the team was less talented and less experienced.  We finished 3rd in the city.  Not as great of finish as this years team, but respectable.  Still, they leveraged their talent.

Our fourth game of the season, against our arch rival, Jardine, we lost by 30.  It wasn’t even close.  Three weeks later, on a chilly night on the turf at Hummer Sports Park, we faced Jardine again in the 3rd-4th place game.  The coaches were hyped; the kids were hyped; our fans were hyped.  Man for man, they out talented us nearly across the board.  We may have had the edge at running back but that was all. That night we took it to them and avenged our 30 or beating with our own 14 pt victory.  That group of players leveraged their talents to the max.  They wrung out every bit of ability they had and achieved all they could. That is what makes coaches proud!  John Wooden once said: “Success is the piece of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.”

That team achieved success because they leveraged all they had to do everything they could.

We are given only so much time on this earth.  God asks that we leverage this life for His glory.  he desired that we make the maximum impact on the world around us.  That is what leverage is after all, using something for its maximum force.

James reminds us that our life here on this earth is a “mist”.  So the question is, “what will we do with our mist?”

Jesus makes it quite clear that our life is leveraged in pouring it out for others.  The maximum impact of our 80+ years on this earth is found in laying our lives down for others.  Set in his example (Mark 10.45), the lives that we have are leveraged in service to others.

James, Jesus half-brother, reminds his readers: “Religion that is pure and faultless is too look after orphans and widows.”

Looking out for others, serving others, laying our lives down, is the very best way to leverage the time we have on this earth.  It is completely contrary to what the world tells us this life is for.

“What can I gain?” “How much stuff can I accumulate?”  “How much wealth can I attain?”  “What is in it for me?”  The purity has been lost on this world.  Selflessness has been replaced with a me-first mentality.  Amazon’s catered for you, recommended-for-you, shopping experience has left us bereft of an others first mentality.  Facebook’s friends you may also know and stories-you-may-like, had led us to believe that we are the center of our relationships.  I fear that someday the shopping experience may spill over into the church, where we try to cater to the individual believer, at the expense of the community, in a gross misapplication of Paul’s famous verse: “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some.” (1 Corinthians 9.22)

Certainly, Paul did bring the gospel to different people in different ways, however, the message never changed form. (1 Cor. 9.22)

I am reminded of a story told to me by my friend Scott Brooks.  A man named George Steinberger, who was quite renowned in the rodeo world, especially around these parts, was moving from his home in Olathe to Richmond.  On his ranch in Richmond, atop a hill, stood a massive steel cross.  George had no qualms about letting you know what he believed.  But this Cross had be built at his home in Olathe and followed him down to Richmond.  The problem was that his gates were bigger in Olathe than they were in Richmond.  The cross wouldn’t fit through.  So they cut the cross down to a manageable size to get it  on the ranch.  Immediately, after getting it on the ranch, they went to welding it back together, to its full size.  It sets on his property, full and robust, as a sign to everyone who George served throughout his life.

Want know what I think of every time I see it: “God, let me make the cross as accessible to everyone, but never let me cut it down to size to fit anyone!”  George understood to get it in he had to work at it, but once it was in someone’s life, it couldn’t be changed, cut down, or transformed.

The words: “If anyone would come after me, they must deny themselves, take up their cross and follow me” are not words that are to be altered, changed, or softened.  It is a call to pour out this life in service to another. In other words: leverage this life to the fullest.

The problem is that this life isn’t all peppermints and unicorns.  There are every day obstacles that challenge and oppress us.  “Look on the bright side” is how the world has chosen to advise us.  But  scripture says, in the same advice of our life, we should leverage these things in the same way.

Doubt, suffering, and injustice are the products of living in a fallen world.  Still, they are arrows that point us to God.

Over the next few weeks, I want to discuss how to leverage these topics to their fullest in our walk with Christ.

Dawn Sunday

"Moment of Impact" Cushenberry Memorial Bullfight 2010

“Moment of Impact”
Cushenberry Memorial Bullfight 2010

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” (John 20.1)

I felt great going into a freestyle bullfight one time, until I saw the others there. Kyle Lippencott, one of the best freestyle bullfighters I had ever seen, was in Manhattan that night as well. I should have just handed my $100 entry fee to him and saved the Rodeo Secretary the time. I was beaten before I ever tied on my cleats. But it was my own misconception that hurt me that night. I wasn’t going against Kyle, but a little cross-bred bull of Matt Williams (happy birthday today by the way). One common mistake that people make about Rodeo is that you are competing against another person. If I couldn’t beat my bull, there was no way I could beat Kyle. Subsequently I got run over a bunch and he ended up winning anyway. Still, we look at competition as me vs him, but really its me vs the animal. Sometimes faith can look like that. Belief isn’t a contest between two people. Each person’s journey with God takes on a different pace. On the Sunday morning in John 20 the first guy to the tomb was going a different pace than the second.

Peter and John raced to the tomb that morning. They both got word from the women that the stone had been rolled back and the tomb was empty. In a footrace, John dominated. “The other disciple outran Peter.” (John 20.3) John was that other disciple and frankly I am impressed that he didn’t brag on that point in his book. I would have made a major point of my dominance. Anyhow, they ran to the tomb and John beat Peter. John looked in the tomb, cautiously, but Peter, in a way that is completely in his character, walked right in. He never was a bashful one. After he had taken in all the sights of the tomb, John followed him in.

It is advantageous for us at this point to understand a little bit about John. He was most likely the youngest of the disciples. He was from a fishing family, until Jesus had called him to follow. He was a witness to the proceedings concerning Jesus, as he had some kind of connection to the high priest (john 18.15). He stood near the cross, seeing Jesus first hand and even spoke to Jesus’ death in his final breaths (John 19.26). He was “the disciple whom Jesus loved”.

Peter’s last 48 hours were very similar in John. There seems to have been a weird “envy”, which is probably too strong of a word, between Peter and John. If you recall the Last Supper, Thursday night, Peter asks John to ask Jesus to clarify some of his remarks (John 13.22). It is out of character for Peter. He hadn’t had any problems asking questions before. Maybe he had used up all of his question tokens with Jesus earlier in the night (John 13.6ff). Even Jesus had to be getting to point where he wanted to tell him “Dude why don’t you set the next few conversations out.” Still, Peter followed Jesus into the courtyard of the High Priest during Jesus’ trial where his path and John’s differ. Peter, 3 times deny’s knowing Jesus. (John 18.15-16, 25-27) In the grand scheme of things, with all that has happened since, it seems like forever ago that Peter stood in the darkness of pre-dawn Friday and dis-associated himself with Jesus. Now with the news the women brought Sunday at dawn, the promises Jesus made coupled with the actions of Peter are brought to the forefront.

At Mary’s word, a footrace ensues. Knowing John, the careful crafting of his book, and the reflective nature of his account, its is likely that the foot race in verse 4 was foreshadowing the events of verse 8.

John did to Peter what Usain Bolt did to the field at the Olympics. He cruised to the tomb. John may have had foot speed, but in his arrival at the tomb he proceeded like he does with his book, methodically taking in all the evidence and feeling his way around. Peter, though slow of foot, was never slow to act (or speak for that matter). He arrived after John, but busted right into the tomb.   Verse 9 says this:

“They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.”

The question is who is the “they”? John made his way into the tomb and instantaneously believed [pisteuo]. Three different words for “see” are used in the greek text for what they did when they came to the tomb…they “looked” [blepei] at the wrappings; they “saw” [theorei] the strips of linen; and John “saw” [eiden] and believed. For John seeing was believing. Think back to the blind guy in John 9 and his story. Think ahead to John’s purpose of writing this book;

“These things have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20.30-31)

The 7 signs were meant to bee seen. The people were meant to be encountered. The speeches were meant to be heard. For John seeing is believing and how much more true it was when he reached the tomb. Over half the uses of the word “believe” [pisteuo] in the New Testament from John’s pen in this book. He has been trying to get to the end of the story from the beginning.

For Peter on the other hand (as well as the women), they are the “they”. John was the first to the tomb in the race and he was the first to put together Jesus’ words and the empty tomb. Peter and the girls…not so much.

Belief is easy for some of my friends. In the midst of struggle, temptation, crisis, or mockery, their faith is constant. They heard about Jesus and instantly believed and never have struggled. They are like John. Their quiet times are vibrant, their trust grows daily, and their faith is assured constantly. They are winning the foot race.

My faith is more like Peter’s. Some of it is guilt that I hold onto for not being more faithful. Some of it is doubt that I can’t quite find answers for. Other times it is fear or worry that stands in the way of my belief. It may not be a pace that can win a foot race, but it will get me to the finish line. That is what Peter is dealing with. He may not have set a world record, but he did finish the race. Peter, who failed Friday morning, struggled at the empty tomb Sunday morning, 40 day’s later would wow a crowd with his faith in Acts 2.

Regardless of pace, both ended up at the tomb and regardless of the splits each arrived at belief in the Risen Jesus. Whichever one you associate with, what ever pace you are running, don’t let other’s pace dictate your race.

“Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark…” (John 20.1)

Dusk

529293_10150920001125754_1493193119_n“So as evening approached…” (Mark 15.42)

As the pressure increases, the true identity of a person shines through. When situations get punchy, the true motives and identities show through. The old cowboy proverb says: “If your guts have turned to fiddle strings, it ain’t good for you and it aint safe for me.” When situations get tense, your first inclination is acted upon. When a bullfighter gets in a tight spot, if his focus is on the bull he will step around it. But if his focus is on self preservation its on stepping up on the fence. When Jake Joeckle is on a bronc, if he is about saving his skin, he double grabs; but too many times I have seen that kid lift on his rein and goes to spuring one. Why? Because safety-ing up is not in him and when situations get tense, he is going to give it his all, even If it means a little pain. When situations get tense, our heart tends to come to the forefront. Sometimes it means an action different from normal and other times it means our first inclination shines forth. In the situation of John 19, the true colors, outside of the political and social concerns, is acted upon.

The last twelve hours have been a blur. For Joseph and Nicodemus it has been a long and eventful day. The disciples have been a no show for quite some time. They deserted when the crowd showed up to arrest Jesus. Peter and John followed from a distance, but ever since Jesus arrived at the doorstep of Pilate before dawn, they have made themselves scarce. At the end of the passion narrative two guys come into the spotlight. For the gospel writers, they are not completely unknown characters but they certainly haven’t been central to the story. Now they and their character are in the spotlight. Their contrast is striking.

On the one hand, there is Joseph of Arimathea. He was part of the Sanhedrin (Mark 15.33; Luke 23.50), but a dissenter in the case of Jesus (Luke 23.51). Apparently, he had not made a big plea in the case for Jesus before the Sanhedrin. It was, after all, a case in the early morning, a late night, and he was apparently in the minority. Despite his view, Jesus was destined to die with the vote of the Sanhedrin. From the wording of John it would seem that Joseph of Arimathea did not make a real strong push to get Jesus out of his sentence of death. He was a secret disciple. Usually the greek word for “secret” is translated as “hidden”. A disciple in hiding until…

Nicodemus, on the other hand, is a vexing character in the book of John. He makes three appearances, which is uncommon for a minor character in a book that is clearly well thought out and planned.   He visited Jesus at night in John 3. John never uses words without a plan and the night meeting was recorded to show something about the true identity of Nicodemus. For the remainder of his acknowledgments in the book he would never slip that meeting with Jesus at night. In chapter 7 of the book, as the Pharisees are discussing Jesus rise, Nicodemus tries to vouch for Jesus without tipping his hand. But even then he is introduced as “the man who had gone to Jesus earlier”. (7.50) He tried to stick up for Jesus in a way. Now he shows up at the cross with Joseph of Arimathea. John says that he was “the man who visited Jesus at night” (John 19.39). Can you imagine your life being defined by the worst thing you have ever done?

They are two men who similarities abound. They both are members of the Sanhedrin; both with money; both invested in the honoring of the deceased criminal Jesus (Joseph giving his tomb [Matt 27.60]; Nicodemus with a significant amount of spices costing a great deal [John 19.39]); and both putting their reputations on the line burying a condemned criminal.

The burial had to done in a hurry. Jesus died around 3 pm and the sun was setting soon. His death, the quickness of it, took Pilate, the Centurion, and most other people by surprise. Joseph and Nicodemus didn’t have a lot of time to ponder a method of action. They went to Pilate and asked for the body. They wrapped it in linen, packed it with spices, and laid it in a tomb. This was all done by dusk so that they could still celebrate the Passover.

It is amazing how, when we don’t have the time to spare to think about how we will be perceived, our actions are true to our beliefs. Nicodemus has live the true politicians life; by remaining ambiguous on key issues, hiding his beliefs from the ruling class, and acting in secret. The abbreviated schedule, the approaching dusk, and the quick death of Jesus has brought him to decision time. What does he truly believe about Jesus? Is he worth honoring? Is what he said true? As a member of the Sanhedrin, he was privy to the scope of Jesus ministry, now how would he respond? Still, fear seemed to stand in his way. Despite his visiting Jesus after his death, one cant help but feel that Nicodemus missed the boat. Fear kept him from seeing all of Jesus. In the same way that Pilate traded a political career for a relationship with Jesus, so too Nicodemus seemed headed down the same path. As Mark Moore said, “the biggest thing Nicodemus ever did for Jesus, was bury him.”

Joseph, by all indications was different. He was a disciple “in secret” only by John’s account. He feared repercussions from the Jews by John’s account. But in the haste of the situation and the rest of the Gospels, his true understanding of Jesus was brought forward. Joseph, by all other gospel accounts, was a disciple of Jesus. He has no negative comments amongst the other gospel. Despite John’s description of him as a secret disciple, Joseph of Arimathea was waiting for ‘the Kingdom of God’ (Luke 23.51) and ‘a good and upright man’ (Luke 23.50). He faced his fear, risked his political career and asked for the body of Jesus!

In haste our true understanding, faith, and belief shine through? When quick decisions happen, how do you respond? Are you faithful when its easier to forget? Do you trust when its easier in the spur of the moment to turn

Joseph trusted in Jesus…his approach of Pilate, offering the tomb, and taking the body shows. Nicodemus, as it reads in John, seems to have missed it. His accolades, resume, wealth, and standing aside, missed it. Joseph, by testimony of the other gospels saw the truth in Jesus where Nicodemus hid behind his fear.

In times of haste, the truth shines through.

“So as evening approached”, two men carried the body of Jesus, but only one man knew him.