Tag Archives: Jesus

Quote Of The Week

books-1163695__340

The hero of mythology descends from the sky, gaining fame and glory through courage, violence, and power. He then dies, His grave becoming a sight of hero worship. Christ defies this cycle. He emerges from the tomb, remaking the world with resurrection power, ascending to heaven because of His humility, His servant leadership. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the world would never be the same. Those who bow their knee at the foot of the cross admitting the absurdity of their own efforts to be godlike, who confess the chaos and sin within them, now enter into a new way of being–one not driven by striving, agenda, or applause. For these followers of Jesus would be taught to follow this new way of living…service!

(taken from Facing Leviathan by Mark Sayers, location 2235 in Kindle)

Quote of the Week

books-1163695__340

Service is the greatest act humans can do, as it imitates the self-giving life of God. If Jesus is the most deserving recipient, then denying ourselves and serving Jesus is the most satisfying thing we can ever do. The road may not alway be easy, but have you ever met anyone who regretted taking up their cross and following Jesus? I’ve never heard an older saint say, “You know what? I wish I had lived a little less committed to the Lord. If I had to do it over again, I would have been a bit more selfish with my time and money, especially when I was establishing my family and career. I would be better off if I had served Jesus less.”

(taken from Becoming Worldly Saints by Michael Wittmer p. 83)

Are You Ready To Be A Neighbor?

row-houses-196105__340

“Who exactly do I have to be nice to? I do want to be obedient to God and treat others right, I just want some confirmation as to who all this includes. And by the way, I think I’m doing pretty well at being kind to others, I just want to hear it from you. Bottom line: Who is my neighbor?”

And so with the question “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus told a story (Luke 10:25-37). For us it’s a familiar story, but for the lawyer who was seeking to prove to Jesus how good he really was, it was shocking. This lawyer, who was hoping to trick Jesus, was wanting a simple answer. “Just tell me who my neighbor is,” he most likely thought, “so I can show you how loving I really am.” But Jesus’ story didn’t exactly offer the affirmation for which this young lawyer was looking.

“There was a man who was going from Jerusalem to Jericho,” began Jesus. “As he was walking, he fell among robbers who stripped him, beat him, stole his money, and left him almost dead. A priest happened to be traveling by and when seeing this man, he passed by on the other side. A Levite also was traveling on this road and when he saw this man, he did the same as the priest and passed him by. BUT A SAMARITAN, when he saw this man, he had compassion for him. He helped him up, began to take care of his wounds, put him on his mule, carried him to the closest inn, and paid for him to stay there until he regained his strength. So who was the neighbor?”

We know from Scripture what the lawyer said (see Luke 10:37), but I wonder what he was thinking. He had to be shocked that a Samaritan was actually the neighbor. How could that be? The Samaritans were not respected at all by the Jews. They were the outcasts and the outsiders and yet in this story, it was the Samaritan who satisfied the requirements of the law.

Plus, this lawyer might have thought that what the priest and the Levite did by passing by was not that bad. After all, they didn’t know who this injured man was. Was he another Jew? They really couldn’t tell since he was all beaten up and stripped naked. And so it probably wasn’t their responsibility. Neighbors are only other Jews, not Gentiles. Plus, what if he’s dead? To touch a dead body would mean defilement. It would be too risky to get involved. They had temple responsibilities.

The problem this lawyer had, along with the rest of us, was that he was more interested in who his neighbor was than in being a good neighbor. He wanted to draw a circle around those in whom he had “neighborly responsibility.” He was ready to help those in whom he was willing to help. There were parameters. Not everyone is a neighbor, right?

The point of Jesus story is not “Who is your neighbor?”, but “Are you ready to be a neighbor?” Helmut Thielicke writes that “we cannot go and do and love, if we stop and ask first, ‘Who is my neighbor?’ The devil has been waiting for us to ask this question; and he will always whisper into our ears only the most convenient answers.” Instead, he writes, “we need to ask ‘To whom am I a neighbor? Who is laid at my door? Who is expecting help from me and who looks upon me as his neighbor?'”

So who’s around you? Do you see them? This is the the starting point. It begins with the eyes. And don’t just look for people stranded on the road. They are easy to spot. Look for those we tend to overlook. What about the person at the drive through window who is rude? What about the check-out clerk at your local grocery store who seems lethargic about moving you through the line? Maybe they need a neighbor.

The reality is that we all need a “neighbor.” We talk about loving others, but until we realize that we have the greatest of all neighbors, our love will be short-lived. It is Jesus who has found us. He is our greatest neighbor. He saw us abandoned and half-dead on the side of the road. And yet he picked us up. He healed us. He brought life. He loved us. And so we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). All our love for others is found in the love that God has for us. This is where being a neighbor begins!

So are you ready to be a neighbor today?

Jesus Hung Out With The Wrong People

restaurant-690975__340

Jesus “hung out” with the wrong people! And it is Luke that  seems to have noticed this more than any of the other gospel writers. In Luke 5, after Jesus had called Levi, the tax collector, to leave everything and follow him, Levi prepared an incredible feast and asked Jesus to attend. Many other tax collectors were at the party which disturbed the Pharisees so they asked Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”

In Luke 7, Jesus is invited to a dinner at the home of a Pharisee. As Jesus took his place at the table, a woman who did not have the best reputation in town, stood behind Jesus at his feet and “wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.” When the Pharisee saw this he was aghast that Jesus would allow such a sinful woman near him. If Jesus was truly a prophet, he would have known this woman was an outcast. Jesus should have sent her away.

As Jesus was leaving Jericho in Luke 19, he encountered a man by the name of Zacchaeus, a tax collector. Though it looked as though Jesus was going to leave Jericho without taking time to enjoy a meal, his encounter with Zacchaeus led to dinner at his home that evening. When the news got around that Jesus was going to eat with Zacchaeus, some grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

In Jesus’s day, there was much hostility between the religious and the people of the land. The religious were those who took the law seriously. They were trained in religious law and stuck to a religious code. This caused them to not associate with those who did not take the law as serious. Specifically, there were food laws which meant Pharisees had to be careful as to what they ate and to whom they ate with. Table fellowship was a critical symbol of identity. And yet there was Jesus, eating with all those “tax collectors and sinners.” 

But not only was Jesus going to the “religious outsiders,” they were also coming to him. Luke points this out when he writes that tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him (Luke 15:1). And as to be expected, this disturbed the Pharisees. And it is this hard-heartedness of the religious leaders that prompted Jesus to tell the stories of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost sons. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. He came to rescue and restore.  But the Pharisees didn’t get it.

I write all this above to ask ourselves this question: If we follow Jesus, who will we be drawn to and who will be drawn to us? Consider what Tim Keller writes:

Jesus’s teaching consistently attracted the irreligious while offending the Bible-believing, religious people of his day. However, in the main, our churches today do not have this effect. The kind of outsiders Jesus attracted are not attracted to contemporary churches, even our most avant-garde ones. We tend to draw conservative, buttoned-down, moralistic people. The licentious and liberated or the broken and marginal avoid church. That can only mean one thing. If the preaching of our ministers and the practice of our parishioners do not have the same effect on people that Jesus had, then we must not be declaring the same message that Jesus did.

Did not Jesus ask Simon and Andrew to follow Him and as they did, he would make them “fishers of men?” (Mt. 4:19). Did not Jesus also tell all His disciples that “as the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). So let’s ask ourselves once again, if we follow Jesus, who will we be drawn to and who will be drawn to us?

 

The Crown Of Thorns

images

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands.      –John 19:1-2

Frederick Leahy writes:

There he stood, his face bruised, swollen and bleeding, and that thorny crown upon his head. He was so alone, ‘friendless, forsaken, betrayed by all’. That crown symbolized what sinful man thinks of Christ. He was not to be taken seriously. He was only fit for a stage-play! They made him a carnival king and placed on him the stamp of derision. With this mock robe, reed sceptre and crown of thorns, he was made to look like a theatrical figure. Luther says that Christ was ‘numbered with the transgressors, crucified as a rebel, killed by His own people in supreme disgrace, and as the most abandoned of men’. Ah yes! ‘supreme disgrace’, the shameful crown of thorns woven by the hands of men and placed on the Saviour’s brow – man’s estimate of Christ. 

Certainly behind that crown of thorns worn for us we see invincible patience and invincible love–a love that we can never understand, but which, by God’s grace, we may experience. Only unspeakable love, unquenchable love, divine love could wear that crown of thorns; and that is the wonder of it. 

But now the brow that once wore the cruel crown of thorns is now adorned with the diadem of the universe, for all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Christ. ‘We see Jesus…crowned’ (Heb. 2:9). ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’ (John 1:29).

The Gift Of Gifts

Unknown-2

O Source Of All Good,

What shall I render to thee for the gift of gifts,
thine own dear Son, begotten, not created,
my Redeemer, proxy, surety, substitute,
his self-emptying incomprehensible,
his infinity of love beyond the heart’s grasp

Herein is wonder of wonders;
he came below to raise me above,
was born like me that I might become like him.

Herein is love;
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on
wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.

Herein is power;
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.

Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him,
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God-incarnate, to save me
to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me.

O God, take me in spirit to the watchful shepherds,
and enlarge my mind;
let me hear good tidings of great joy,
and hearing, believe, rejoice, praise, adore,
my conscience bathed in an ocean of repose,
my eyes uplifted to a reconciled Father;
place me with ox, ass, camel, goat,
to look with them upon my Redeemer’s face,
and in him account myself delivered from sin;
let me with Simeon clasp the new-born child
to my heart,
embrace him with undying faith,
exulting that he is mine and I am his.

In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.

(taken from The Valley of Vision, p. 28)

I want to wish each of you a Merry Christmas!!!! 

Heaven And Earth Come Together

Luke-Chapter-1-2

As you read the Christmas story from Luke this Christmas, consider the words written by Darrell Bock in his commentary on Luke:

Luke 2:1-21 portrays Jesus’ birth with a simplicity that belies the event’s universal significance. The birth of the Davidic Savior and Messiah occurs in a room normally reserved fro animals. His crib is a feed trough. And yet the birth in Bethlehem is the beginning of the fulfillment of God’s most significant act for humans. From this simple setting emerges the Lord Jesus, the focus of all God’s promises and of all human hopes.

In Luke 2:11, Jesus’ life is introduced in terms of three titles: Savior points to his role as deliverer; Messiah points to his office in terms of the promised Anointed One of God; and Lord indicates his sovereign authority.

Jesus’ birth is set in the middle of Roman history, in the reign of Caesar Augustus, However, for Luke the key historical figure is not the powerful Roman ruler; it is the frail child, Jesus, the Christ, who is Lord. 

In the angelic exchange with the shepherds, the major point is heaven’s testimony to simple folk. The shepherds seem to represent humankind. After hearing angelic testimony of heaven’s joy over the birth, they respond admirably and go to see the child. They share the joy of heaven upon fulfillment of the word. The see, hear, and testify. Other bystander at the event marvel at what is happening as the birth produces a variety of responses. In Jesus, heaven and earth come together. 

-Luke (Vol. 1) by Darrell L. Bock, p. 225-226

Don’t Let Christmas Become Too Familiar

Unknown

Familiarity has the tendency to breed monotony. When we become so accustomed to seeing or hearing the same thing over and over again, we can become indifferent. “Yeah, I’ve heard this over and over again,” we say.

A couple of my children love the group Pentatonix. Specifically, they love their new Christmas album.  As a result, they play it over and over and over and over. Though I do enjoy Christmas music, I will have to admit that I’m growing a bit weary of listening to Pentatonix. No doubt, it’s good music. Pentatonix are some great vocalists. But I’m afraid I’ve heard it too much now. The message of the songs is now lost.

I’m afraid that sometimes, the same can be said of the Christmas story. We know it. We’ve heard it. We’ve read it. We have even seen it acted out. And yet it may have become too familiar to some of us. “Oh yeah!” we say, “I know the story.”

In his book The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey writes:

The facts of Christmas, rhymed in carols, recited by children in church plays, illustrated on cards, have become so familiar that it is easy to miss the message behind the facts.

So what do we do? Well, Yancey tells us what he does.

After reading the birth stories once more, I ask myself, If Jesus came to reveal God to us, then what do I learn about God from that first Christmas?

For Yancey, what he learned shocked him. He writes:

The word associations that come to mind as I ponder that question take me by surprise. Humble, approachable, underdog, courageous–these hardly seem appropriate words to apply to deity.

So as you and I ponder the Christmas story, the story of the Creator becoming the created, what do you learn about God? What do you glimpse of God’s commitment to save us? What do you realize about his love? What shocks you about this story?

As my children continue to play the Pentatonix Christmas album throughout this Christmas season, and most likely, throughout all of 2015, I hope one song in particular does not lose it’s impact on me. True, the tune may grow old, but the message should not. Their remake of Mary, Did You Know? is a great song that reveals much about God becoming man along with the reasons why. It seeks to help us plumb the depths of the Christmas story.

God becoming man is no small thing. Though some of us have heard the story hundreds of times, I pray we don’t become so familiar with it that we forget the miraculous nature of it. Once you truly think about it, I think you will come to realize that it really is the  most shocking, wonderful, true, crazy, glorious, and grace-filled story ever told.