Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January's Over

We've arrived at the end of our time working through John's Gospel. As wonderful as it may be for you to have read my writings, what you have gleaned through John is more important. (And I hope you have) If you have read through John, I would be interested in hearing what stood our to you. What do you see in Jesus? What remains with you now that you are finished? Consider letting me know by leaving a comment.

Different individuals view the Bible in different ways. Some think it's a book that allows people to be controlled. This kind of philosophy isn't unusual and is even a common theme throughout The Book of Eli. Is that how John's writings came across to you? Did his words find a way to make you vote for a certain political candidate? Honestly, I find that thinking odd. If there is a theme to John's writings it isn't to vote Republican or conservative. The theme clearly is this - Jesus is King! Follow Him.

Whatever you decide regarding Christ as you move on, know that I haven't been here trying to convince you of some obscure theory surrounding things that happened billions of years ago. As we've looked though John, we have looked at a person and events well within the span of observable human history. In spite of this, there are still many skeptics and you may very well be among them.

If we are parting ways and you think this has all been a fairy tale, I'll give you one final piece to ponder. When we consider that John's account was written within the timespan of recorded history, the events he spoke on were either deniable or verifiable in their time. Had this been a fairy tale, the people who read it would have had the chance to do their own writing and say, "The stuff these Christians are talking about never happened."

As we look back on antiquity we find something different. We don't find early writings saying that there was no Jesus. What we do find are writings that say, "That's not the way it happened". We see the very things that John was trying to teach us. He made it VERY clear that not everyone believed in Jesus; that many people had a very different take on who He was.

The Gospels of Matthew, a Mark, Luke and John are the stories that have prevailed and they have prevailed largely due to their consistency with each other and their acceptance in their time - something we know from their available manuscripts. If you want to find other accounts of Jesus' life that are inconsistent and that we're not accepted in their time, then you will have to look elsewhere. I'm not about to help with that.

Thank you so much for journeying with me. I hope you have further to go with Jesus. Let me know how I can help with that.

Kevin

Monday, January 30, 2017

Last Call

John 21

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

Some people look at this passage as if Jesus is rebuking Peter. Other’s see it as if He is giving Peter some much needed guidance. Whatever tone you think would fit this conversation, Peter had went back to his old lifestyle. Jesus had spent approximately 3 ½ years teaching Peter how to be a fisher of men, but he’s back on the boat making a living casting nets.

In Peter’s life specifically, Jesus wanted him to leave his career as a fisherman to pursue the kind of ministry he had just been trained to do. God has called or might be calling some of you to do the same and it can certainly be a very uncomfortable “career path.” If you aren’t a career pastor, ask yourself this question: Could you reasonably expect to make your living on none other than the voluntary offerings of God’s people?

I fix cars for a living. I don’t really worry about my job security all that much for two reasons. 1. I can rely on the fact that cars break down. They just do. So as long as people have cars, they will need them fixed. 2. I also know that people value their cars much more than they support the work of Christ in the world through the church. What that means is, I know their car will break and I know they will be willing to pay me to fix it. If God has called you to serve Him vocationally – thank you for trusting Him in that.

Jesus charge to ‘Feed His Sheep’ was both a specific commission over Peter’s life and a general call for all of those who have truly believed in Him. Becoming part of God’s nation isn’t merely a spiritual transaction whereby we resume life as if nothing significant has happened. When we are His, so long as we remain here in this life we have the privilege of being ambassadors of the country of Jesus. The church is therefore kind of like a foreign embassy, not representing Russia or China – but God most high.

You likely haven’t had Jesus sit you down and tell you to feed His lambs. Would it help were He to do so? Likely not. The language of His commission to Peter didn’t spell out in specifics the kind of tasks that he would have to pursue. I surmise that even after being redirected, Peter still had to think, process and pray over what exactly he was to do. I hope it reasonable to assume he would have given some thought to what Jesus had been preparing him for up until this time in his life.

Maybe the question we have to answer is this – How does Jesus want you to represent Him in this world? If you are working that through, you’re already well underway. If you’re just starting to answer the question, I won’t place on you a specific task other than to live out the simple relationship to which we are called. Spend your effort reading, studying and understanding God’s Word. Talk your observations over with other believers and make time to worship God and pray to Him. Then.....do what comes out of that. I know this process is too elementary to be impressive, but give it a whirl.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Why

John 20:24-31

“...these are 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 20:31

And finally we see his heart; John’s heart. We are near the end of his firsthand account of Jesus’ life and I hope we consider it a privilege to know why he took the time to write it out. It’s between you and God whether you respond the way John had hoped. He wrote in the hope that you (and I) would:

1. Believe Jesus is The Christ
2. Believe Jesus is the Son of God
3. That by believing, we would have life in Jesus’ name

It isn’t as if John wanted us to receive 3 separate things, like a toaster, a baseball and a new kitten. I’m just listing them so as to address the implications of each.

Jesus is The Christ

“Christ” is a title. It was another word used to describe the deliverer, or Messiah. The Jews generally looked towards the Christ as being someone who would restore Israel to her sovereign place among the nations. God’s purpose for the Messiah was much grander – all of humanity.

Depending on your worldview, you might not think humanity is in need of saving. We are indeed making progress in many ways. There are facets of life however that our advancement simply cannot help with. We are medicated more than ever and medicine has its place, but we’re really losing ground to anxiety and depression. We have more communication tools at our disposal than ever before, but are increasingly disconnected from one another. Feel free to believe that we are not falling apart, but you do realize that we have no solution to our own mortality. The Christ was to reconcile God with mankind. Try inventing a pill or an app that does that. Jesus is not just “A” deliverer, but “THE” Messiah, once for all time.

The Son of God

God’s love for the people He created prompted Him to send His very own Son. I love a few people. I do not love any of them enough to give them my son. As God’s Son, Jesus is uniquely situated to represent us before The Father as well as The Father to us in a way that no other can. The Christ had to be The Son. Anyone else would merely be a representative.

You May Have Life in Jesus’ Name

If I tell you Jesus wants you to have life now, how would you interpret that? He does care about your life now, but that doesn’t mean that by believing you will be healthy and wealthy. As for this life, I think the implications for faith in Jesus have more to do with receiving the peace, strength, hope and perseverance in the midst of life. It’s not just life that John is referring to: It is life in Christ’s name. Our life, our identity is to be lived out in Christ. His name is the name we are to be known for. His name is the flag that represents our lives. If we are His, we are to be known primarily as His, not for our “own” accomplishments. As for the life after death, He’s taken care of that too.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Sent

John 20:1-23

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” John 20:21

The God of the universe cares about all of humankind, all throughout human history. In ages past, He sent different kinds of people to reveal Himself, many of them being known as prophets. During John’s lifetime He chose to reveal Himself perfectly though His very own Son. But what about now? He came. He died. He rose again. He published a book, hoped it would fall into your hands, prayed you’d be competent enough to understand it and then left us. Such is not the case.

Having risen, He gave His disciples this charge. He sent them, just as His Father had sent Him. It sounds like a simple enough statement, yet it carries with it profound implications. They were to be sent by Jesus, AS Jesus was sent by the Father. They were called to represent Christ to the world among their generation, just AS Jesus revealed the Father while He was among us. So what about now?

Perhaps it’s you. I say, “Perhaps”, simply because I don’t know who you are. The baton of being sent is one which is passed to all who are authentically followers of Jesus Christ. I do want that for you, but respect if you desire otherwise.

It reads like a command, but for the believer smells more of privilege. There is no greater honour than to serve the One who made the universe and the One to whom which all people answer to. When you really are convinced that Jesus is Lord and the He alone holds the keys to forever, it shapes your life’s ambition. Any responsibility comes not because we are so charged, but because we dearly love people. There really is no other assurance beyond this life apart from Jesus. So for the disciple, the going has very little to do with obligation but everything to do with the privilege of their position in Christ and a genuine love for the people they know.

If you don’t want to be sent, then you probably aren’t. If you do, you may wonder where it is you should go and what it is you should be doing. For the purpose of this short blog post, I would say – Do what you can. Spend your time reading His Word, in prayer with Him and talking it out among His people. Do what comes out of that. I am convinced that He really is alive and is quite capable of leading you and me if we are willing to simply live out our relationship with Him.

Who you are matters far more than any program you could run, any charity you support or the specific cause you lend your name to. If you are sent, your credibility among those you serve hinges primarily on your character and integrity. If we fail to be a people deserving of trust, the ministry we have taken on or the church model we have chosen will matter very little.

It seems that John went. We don’t know everything He did as a disciple, yet we do know that He took the time to write down what he knew about Jesus. The going hasn’t died with John as Jesus continues to send His people today. I have done my best to respond to that call, which is why you are hearing from me this day. I pray that you would also discover the privilege of being sent in Jesus’ name.

Friday, January 27, 2017

I Was There

John 19:28-42

He who saw it has born witness – his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth - that you also may believe.” John 19:35

Sometimes I’ll hear people say that all this stuff about Jesus is made up. I don’t know what to do with statements like those. I suppose if you completely disregard the things that were written about Him by people who lived in His day, then I guess you could continue to think that this was all a fairy tale. Besides these – people who actually knew Him, people who were there – who do you expect would have written about Him? Seriously.

Let’s think about the context of John’s words. We are reading about a Jewish carpenter in the region of Judea, under the occupation and dominion of the Roman Empire. He led no revolt against Rome. He held no public office and neither did He have any known political ambitions or affiliations. He had a few large gatherings, but as best I can tell, he only had a hundred or so devoted followers here at the very end of His 3 ½ year earthly calling. In His time, few in Roman or Jewish culture would have given such a person even a footnote in their writings. Historians occupy themselves with events of greater significance such as war, politics, catastrophe and such; not the antics of a Jewish carpenter whose ministry lasted all of 3 ½ years.

When we read John, we aren’t reading a news report. We are listening to a man who had firsthand knowledge of the life and death of Jesus. He tells us, “I was there. I saw it with my own eyes and I know what I saw.” He’s not a teacher asking us to believe things that happened billions of years ago. We are sitting in on the words of a person who was there on this very day. If that doesn’t do it for you, nothing will. Will it?

If we accuse John of being a liar, what could we suppose his motivation would have been? Was it an elaborate setup designed to help establish America’s political system? If you watch enough conspiracy videos on YouTube, you might have heard such. There was nothing for John to profit from taking the time to write His account for us. Because of His devotion to Jesus, he spent his later years being exiled on the island of Patmos. With no reward other than persecution and isolation, I don’t see what would motivate him to contrive a Christ-hoax.

The very things that John describes to us here give us cause to lend him some credibility, some consideration that he was in fact on the scene. He tells us that when the soldiers pierced His side, blood and water flowed out. In our modern day, we know that blood is largely made up of water and that it can separate over time. One would not expect a man in the first century like John to know the science of it well enough to make up such a tale. So there is little room to conclude that what he tells us is anything BUT personal observation.

I have little control over what you really believe. Can I ask you a favour though? If you aren’t willing to listen to the man who was there, would you please give that same level of criticism to everything else that you read? It’s only fair.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Moving Forward Together

John 19:1-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” John 19:26-27

This was Jesus’ final request –sort of. This was a statement; a statement that expressed His desire for His mother and His disciple during these circumstances of their respective lives. The woman was losing her son, the disciple his teacher. Christ’s hope for these two summarizes, in a way, His work on the cross for all of humanity: life–that we would both receive and live it.

Jesus wants us all to receive eternal life, but part of that includes beginning to live it now amongst His people. Suffering such a great loss, like Jesus’ mother and His disciple, can be debilitating. Losing a son can especially consume us with an inconsolable form of despair. It is the sort of wound that few completely heal from.

It is much easier to write this than it is to live out what Jesus calls us to. There is a place and a time to mourn, but it is not intended to be the house we live in. He called His mom and His disciple to recognize what they had in each other. They mourned. That is for certain. Yet within their mourning they were meant to regroup, rise from their tragedy and press on.

Lamenting our losses often has the effect of shutting us down. Our minds tend to encircle the pain, reliving it moment by moment as we further isolate ourselves from what lies before us. We have not been made to live solitary lives. I guess you are allowed to do so if you choose, but believers are called out of that. At the very least, we are called to be an integral part of His family, otherwise known as the church.

We are to have hearts that are tender towards each other–empathetic hearts of flesh rather than hard and cold. Christians are called to look at each other as if they are their brothers, sisters, moms and dads. If we take on that attitude amongst us, it should also translate into our caring for one another in very practical ways, just as the disciple took Jesus’ mother into his own home.

Healthy relationships require both heart and action. They require at least one person taking the initiative to reach out and the willingness to continue cultivating the relationship. In the case of this passage, it required the disciple providing a home for his teacher’s mother. One would hope that she repaid the gesture by helping care for the home.

None of us can truly care in this way for the whole world. Jesus didn’t ask His mother to be a mom to all of His followers. Likewise, we can’t be there for or provide for everyone who walks into our lives. We are however responsible for some. Who is before you now? Maybe you don’t “feel like” reaching out. Perhaps the cost seems too great, or your personal wounds and losses have left you curled up in the fetal position. Now might be time to look at what you do have, regroup and learn to live again; if not for your own benefit, but for the benefit of the ones Jesus has placed in front of you.

Life brings with it much loss and disappointment. Do yours hold you back from receiving and the life God has called you to?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

You're What?!?

John 18

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.”” John 18:25

If Peter were merely a sports fan, I suppose this story would read differently.

“You are a Toronto Maple Leaf’s fan. Aren’t you? They suck!” Reluctantly Peter replied, “Yes I am. But we’re in a rebuilding phase.”

Life really is about Jesus. Any other allegiances we have in life can find some place, or support in this world. When we have a favourite sports team, we wear our colours proudly, even amongst those who support the opposition. When we belong to any of the nations of the earth, it’s understandable when we wave our flag. Of all the things we can be associated with in this life, allegiance to Christ carries with it an odd kind of stigma.

It’s not too difficult to admit to our coworkers that we “go to church”. We can comfortably tell our peers that we spent the evening with our Bible study people, life group or youth program. However, if we begin to literally talk about being a follower of Jesus, the conversation gets very real. I remember early on when I became a new believer and I was telling my best friend what had happened to me. His words were these,

“Oh. You want to talk about religion. Do you?”

The conversation became significantly more uncomfortable after that. Had I merely become a communist, I think the dialogue would have been much more pleasant. Our relationship soon met its conclusion, not because either of us wanted it to, but we truly could no longer relate to one another. I hadn’t simply changed my sports team, political affiliation or preferred brand of running shoes. I was a new person who had chosen to be a part of a kingdom from some unearthly region.

Everything else has its place here. The Nation of Christ is the only alternative kingdom to that of this world. All other devotions fit somewhere within the spectrum of humanity. If we just wanted to be a part of a different culture, we could pack up and go. If we decided that the Netherlands know the right way to govern, we could buy a plane ticket and learn the language.

When we follow Jesus, there is no flag to wave and no soccer team to cheer for at the World Cup. There is no embassy to run to or military to defend you. There’s really nowhere to run to but Jesus – no other defense or refuge other than God Himself and His people. I know I’m not selling this very well and I don’t intend to. Being associated with Jesus doesn’t win anyone credit within this world now any more than it did for Peter on the eve of Jesus’ trial. Peter caved. We often do as well.

Peter made a very short sighted decision, one which he soon came to regret. We can either learn from Peter, or imitate him. One kingdom will endure and one will pass away. Which do you identify with; Jesus or the world?