WARNING - Work in Progress

WARNING - Work in Progress
WARNING - Work in Progress

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Jesus is the Word – 4/23/2017


John 1:1-2

1In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God.

John’s Gospel starts with the beginning of all things; “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.  This sequence of language seems odd to us modern day readers, but it was deep philosophical language to the readers of the Apostle John’s day.  The Greek word logos (translated Word) was an ancient philosophical and theological term used to try to explain the divine reason for everything, it was used to explain how the universe was ordered as it attempted to explain the form and meaning of existence.  John’s Gospel immediately shows that it is to be the most philosophical of the four gospels and sets itself apart as it delves into the meaning of life.

In these first two verses, the Apostle John writes that Jesus was at the creation of the universe.  In fact, the language is more complex than that, the English word with is translated from a Greek word that in a philosophical discussion very likely suggests more than just a side-by-side accompaniment of two people but rather an intertwining of beings.  The word with doesn’t make this point all by itself but John’s description that the “Word was with God and was God” certainly does.

The Jewish reader of John’s Gospel would immediately recognize the link John is making between his writing and the first book of the Jewish Scripture.

Genesis 1:1

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

Because of this link, I am sure the Jewish mind went into alert mode.  John was seemingly cross contaminating the idea of the singular God with something else which he calls the Word.  I am not sure if John knew what he was doing but he essentially introduced the concept of the Trinity of the God-head.  This was blasphemy according to the Jews which was one of the charges against Jesus when they tried and executed Him.

Philippians 2:5-8
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

As Christians, our faith is in the life, death, and resurrection (new life) of this Jesus who is the essence of our creator God who dwelled among us.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Introduction – 4/23/2017


Ephesians 2:4-10

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast, for we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.


Please allow me to introduce you to my old friend Jesus.  Jesus…  Not a biblical character, a doctrinal concept, a theological thesis, an ideological bent, a political agenda, a religious nicety, and not even a historical saint or document, just my friend Jesus.

Jesus and I have drifted apart over the years.  Not that we aren’t still good friends but through the time I can see that I’ve gotten quite distracted.  I used to spend a lot of time with Him, seeking His active involvement in my daily life and doing the things that He would help me to do.  Together, we used to talk all the time and He would be with me through my days. 

Like one time, when I and a few friends were taking a day trip to Chicago, and the van I was driving broke down on the expressway.  I told my friends to remain with the van and pray while I walked to the next exit to call a tow-truck.  I started walking and within a few minutes a car pulled over in front of me and offered me a ride.  The driver was an elderly woman and her passenger was another elderly woman.  I asked them why they would picked up a single guy on the side of the highway when it isn’t safe to do so, and they said that they could see that I was broken down and they had a peace about it, so they did.  Some people might say that I got lucky but I’ve been to statistics class and I know better.  No, I know Jesus gave those ladies peace so that they would stop for me; that’s just the kind of friend Jesus is. 

This is just one instance of many more instances of Jesus being with me in my life, and I miss those days.  Somewhere along the way I got busy and sidetracked with other “pressing and important” matters.  You know how life gets: marriage, kids, friends, work, and church.

Anyway, I want to introduce you to my friend Jesus, He is in the business of restoring relationships; specifically our relationships with God. 

A long time ago our great grandparents (Adam and Eve) were estranged from God and He has been trying to get the family back together ever since.  The problem is that humans are funny creatures; most of us have a problem with humbling ourselves, so we just avoid Him.  We don’t like saying “sorry” for things we do wrong, let alone apologizing for something our great-grandparents (whom we’ve never met) did a long time ago.  So God solved the problem and He apologized first.  Because He loves you and me, He sent Jesus to tell us that we can come home.  That He doesn’t want to be estranged from us any longer and eagerly wants to be friends.  Jesus has gone so far as to fight the devil for us (the one who created the estrangement in the first place) to bring us back to God.  He took quite a licking but in the end He bested that old devil.

I realize that as I am introducing you to my old friend Jesus, I’ve missed Him.  I’m going to have to give Him a call and get reconnected with Him again.  Anyway, He’s really a great guy; you should give him a ring, I know you will just love Him. 

Remember, His name is Jesus and I told him to expect your call.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Your Easter Morning - 04/16/2017

Warning Preachy

This is the moment that changes everything, or nothing at all.  The moment when you answer the question: "Do you believe Jesus raised back from the dead or not?"

Like I say, everything changes or it doesn't.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

TGIF – 4/09/2017


This week, on a Friday called “Good”, we remember the day that Jesus was arrested, falsely accused, bogusly tried and convicted, publicly beaten, humiliated, and finally nailed to a cross until he bled out, suffocated, and died.  But remember, we call it “Good”.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:14-15,

14 For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

The apostle taught that Jesus did not just die, but He died for us all. 

The day the Lord was executed, the apostles abandoned him.  They were confused because the Messiah was not supposed to be executed like a common criminal.  But he did and they were scared and dismayed.  They hid out together, behind locked door, in the Upper Room wondering what was going on and what they were going to do now.

That Sunday morning, after Sabbath had ended, the women with them went out to Jesus’ tomb to finish preparing his body for proper burial.  But when they arrive at the tomb they discover his body missing.  Luke tells the story this way.

Luke 24:1-9

1 Now on the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women went to the tomb, taking the aromatic spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood beside them in dazzling attire. The women were terribly frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has been raised! Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then the women remembered his words, and when they returned from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

This is the upset in the story and the point of contention in History.  Nobody argues about the reality of the crucifixion, because it isn’t unique.  The Romans executed a lot of “criminals” on crosses, the history cannot be contested.  It is reported that crossed with bodies on them lined the countryside as a warning of the severity of the Roman government.  But what is unique is the claim of the resurrection from the dead.  Now that, that didn’t just happen much in the history of the world.  And this is exactly where Christians and non-Christians divide: at the resurrection.

But Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:12-14

12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.

This has to be the most honest thing I have ever read in the entire Bible, because in these 55 words Paul tells us how to be able to ignore Christianity; if Jesus did not raise back to life then faith in Jesus is foolish and Paul and the others are liars for preaching it.  Paul further writes in verse 19 that “For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

In other words, if Jesus did not rise back to life from the dead then you can ignore Him (and Christianity) completely, “but” claims Paul in verse 20, “But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.

And here is the moment of impasse, for everything hinges on this resurrection from the dead.  Logic demands that if he did raise from the dead then everything he said and taught was true; and we need to heed Him.  And conversely, if we don’t believe that He rose again then we are free to move on with our day leaving the claims of Christ in our dust.

This coming weekend is a big one for the Christian Church as we remember the resurrected Jesus who died for us and rose back to life to prove it.  What about you?  Do you believe it, will you believe it?  It’s a matter of faith and a matter of choice.  Just as Jesus struggled and chose to go to his death on the cross, it often feels to me that making the choice to have faith in the resurrected Jesus is like choosing to die.  Even if we can make the leap of faith in our head, getting our heart to own it and put into practice His teachings is like choosing to go to our own death.

This Friday is “good” for those in the faith; I do pray that this Sunday will show you that.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

The Narrative of Suicide – 4/02/2017


Matthew 27:1-8

Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor.
When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”
“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
The chief priests picked up the coins and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” So they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners. That is why it has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 

Over the years, I have had many discussions about Judas hanging himself.  I’ve heard people portray him as a monster and inherently evil person who deserved eternal damnation, and I have heard people have compassion on him as a victim of God’s Sovereign Plan.  I’m sure through the years I have been on both sides of the issue, but right now I just feel sorry for him.

Judas was named after the Jewish cultural hero Judas Maccabeus[1].  Judas Maccabeus was called The Hammer and his family revolted against the Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes.  Ultimately the Maccabee rebellion is why the Jewish holiday Hanukkah exists today, and with it all happening just 150 years before the birth of Jesus, there were many people in the Jewish culture that still held to the spirit of the The Hammer.

I believe that Judas was brought up with a certain mindset and expectation of what the Jewish Messiah was supposed to be.  I suspect that Judas was expecting (as many Jews did) that the Jewish Messiah would take the throne of King David with King David-like ability; with cunning warrior skills that would make the Jews dominate the current Roman rule.  But when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (Matt. 21:1-11), the image was anything but valiant like a king proclaiming his rule from a war-horse.

I feel bad for Judas, because the expectations of Messiah that were taught him all of his life were not being fulfilled in what Jesus was demonstrating or teaching.  And so in the end, Judas cut his losses and made a few dollars for his trouble.

Yes, my portrayal is simplified, but I’m feeling the disappointment that Judas must have felt at the time.  Yes, he experienced and witnessed many miraculous things from Jesus that should have convinced him of Christ’s Messiahship by that time, but they didn’t, and Judas made a very poor choice based on his expectations of his world.  I suspect we are all a bit like this.  That’s why I am very cautious at listening to people tell me what to expect when Jesus returns: I’m afraid of missing Him if my expectations aren’t met.

When I was in college I worked at a hospital sitting with patients who had tried to take their own lives.  I sat with many people who were obviously mentally ill and required physiological medication, but most others were just normal people like me who had narratives that proved to be different than the lives they were actually experiencing.  I felt bad for these folks, because someone had created in them a false expectation, and the only way they could think to handle it was by ending their own lives.  Like Judas, the devil entered in (Luke 22:3) and convinced them that suicide was the best choice.  I feel for them, because I know that this could be my fate (any of our fates) if I don’t hold to the narrative of Jesus alone.

At some moment Judas made the decision to betray our Lord, but he realized his mistake.  Yes, I feel bad for Judas, because I too have made too many decisions only to realize my error afterward.  But after betraying Jesus, Judas went to the Jewish leaders to do what, fix it?  However, when he discovered he couldn’t undo it, he was plagued by guilt and took his own life.  Criticize Judas if you must, but I feel bad for him because I know it is only by the grace of God that I have not been to this point in my own life.

Judas only understood the wrathful Old Testament God, and what you and I have is a graceful New Testament God.  Through Jesus who died on the Cross to forgive us our sins, we have a new narrative to guide our lives.  This narrative may be a major shift in our thinking, but really, a major shift is generally what we all need.

This Easter Season, let’s look to the Cross of Jesus, not from the vantage point of our own expectations, but from the position of people who accept that His narrative is what we need.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judas_Maccabeus