Matthew 4:19

 

Lately I’ve been thinking about when Jesus looked at Peter and Andrew and said to them, “follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mt. 4:19) As I read through the Gospel I have enjoyed seeing how Jesus changed the hearts of his rag tag bunch of followers.  They begin their journey with Him in near complete obedience.  That’s because they have taken upon themselves this Messiah’s promise.  Don’t be mistaken, this is a promise.  Jesus tells them, “Follow ME!” that’s a command.  Immediately following the command Jesus says, “and I will make you…” that’s a promise, “fishers of men…” that’s the end result.

Now, to Mathew 4:19.  Now what’s intrigu
ing about this passage is who does the work.  The passage is not about making yourself a fisher of men, but it is about following Jesus.  You see Jesus was saying, “Follow me” that’s the command.  We follow Him!  In our obedience to Christ, we will be lead into evangelism.  The promise is “I will make you fishers of men.”  Did you see that?  Jesus says that He will mold you into fishers of men.  The passage is saying, “OBEY.”  If you will obey Christ, then you will be made into fishers of men.  Easy.  So, reading this passage helped me to realize something.  We become fishers of men when we know Christ.  The more we know Christ, the more he shapes us into who He designed us to be.  The more that happens, the more we fish.

Now, fishing in Jesus’ context was hard work.  You couldn’t just sit on the side with a pole.  You were casting nets, dragging them in, finding the schools of fish, up early, home late, and you probably lived pay check to pay check.  Your hands were calloused from the nets, and you always smelled like fish.  So, when Jesus looks at these to fishermen and says, “I’ll make you fishers of men.”  I don’t think they thought, “How wonderfully relaxing and comforting that will be!”  I think they rolled up their sleeves and said, “Let’s do this!”  My point is: following Jesus is not always easy.  Following Jesus means we are going to be transformed into His image.  He is going to have to chip away a lot of nonsense.  But, we are invited into a journey that is well worth the work!  To follow Jesus means to be changed.  It means to journey on a lifestyle that will take discipline and hard work.  Further, it means that Jesus is going to mold us into disciplined hard workers.

Now it is necessary to take note that Jesus doesn’t tell Levi, “Follow me and I will make you a money counter of men.”  His response is always, “follow me,” but it is not qualified in such a specific manner again.  So this begs the question.  Was this promise only for the fishing disciples?  I don’t think so.  I think He doesn’t repeat the same pattern because it only made sense in this context.  Matthew was not going to be transformed into a counter of people, that would be contrary to Christ’s mission.  But, in this passage there is an underlying principle.  That is, a journey with the Messiah is going to so change who you are.  It is going to change your life and you are naturally going to be evangelical.  If you follow Jesus, then you will be a witness.   Christ has moved, and you can do nothing else.

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I Didn’t Like Bible Drill as a Youth

I recently found myself in conversation about Bible Drill.  The person I was speaking with was simply astounded that I had not been in Bible Drill as a child.  I recounted for them that at a very young age my parents brought me to Bible Drill and I distinctly remember that I didn’t want to be there.  So I pouted about it.  To my surprise, the people I was talking to were shocked and did not think I was capable of such a lack luster spirit towards the word of the LORD.  They asked me when that changed.  So I told them, God moved in me over time, it was gradual and slightly painful.  I thought I’d share that today with you:

First, I came to know the LORD at a very young age walked forward at 6 baptized at 8 (because my parents wanted to be sure, they are wise).  I knew the Lord loved me, I knew He died on a cross for my sins and rose again to give me life, I knew that He would save me, and I knew that I had sinned.  Don’t be one of those head knowledge not heart knowledge guys on me!  I knew in my head and in my heart!  There was not a distance there, only an ignorance that I had not yet had the opportunity to grow of.  Now, this is fine.  If you are where I was, you can say with confidence that you believe and are saved.  I didn’t like Bible Drill.  I was considered a pretty good kid in church.  I was quiet during sermons, though I was not exactly listening.  And I read my Bible for about 15 minutes every night before bed.  I never remembered what I read and I only remember the sermons about Samson (because he was a professional wrestler and WWF was AWESOME at that time).  The only other sermon I remember was when the pastor would say “Girls!  Don’t paint the Barn so Red he can’t see the house!” every February.  I was pretty much nominal.  Perhaps you need to be encouraged by the way God moved my heart.

When I was 13, I was in school in New Orleans and received a phone call from a friend who asked for prayer for a friend who had been shot.  I realized I had never shared the gospel with this friend and my failure to be intentional with those I meet may result in Hell for my friend (he didn’t die, he was just shot…  still shook me up).  So God chipped away a little of my sinful self and replaced it with some missionary zeal for His message.  Still wasn’t crazy about things like Bible Drill, still didn’t really listen to sermons, still didn’t pay attention when I read my Bible, still thought about pretty girls more than my God.  But I started to talk about Jesus more.

Then I joined World Changers in my youth group.  I will be forever grateful for Ron Holman who pushed us to actually study the Word of the LORD.  We were forced to memorize Scripture and to actually study it and answer difficult questions about it.  At the same time, I began to take long walks with my dad.  Dad prophetically began talking about the day when he would be gone and I would need to KNOW the Word.  God moved me to begin to treat the Word of the LORD as something that actually led me to the throne of the LORD.  As I read the Word, I began to understand that God speaks through it.  Still wasn’t crazy about Bible Drills, still didn’t really listen to sermons, still thought about pretty girls more than my God, still didn’t want to wake up to go to Sunday School.  But, I started to study the Bible and pay attention.

When I was 15 we moved to Towson Maryland.  In Towson, our family was restored by God.  We felt as though the move to Maryland was God’s way of redeeming us out of the muck and the mire.   Everything seemed to be getting better.  Then after being in Maryland for about a year, my dad passed away.  I leaned heavily on the community of the church.  I would cling to my Bible and the things dad had taught me.  My mom’s strength was pivotal to my struggle to find community in the church.  I watched the way she let people lift her up and learned the value of community.  My friends lifted me up and were sensitive when I was not.  My youth pastor, Kevin Banfield, did his best to love me and my family.  My youth group and church began to become important.  Still wasn’t crazy about Bible Drill like programs, still felt like I’d rather sleep in than go to Sunday school, still thought about pretty girls more than the Bible.  But, I began to listen to the community of faith.  I began to listen to sermons (well, at least more often than before) and small group meetings became worth something to me.  I began to find community in learning together.

So, before college I was a good Christian boy who was a poster child for the church.  Strong in my faith, studied the Bible, evangelized among my friends and acquaintances, and attentive to learn among others in the faith.

In college I was focused on the idea that I was going to be Dr. Thomas Elkins (dad) part two!  I was going to become a doctor that would change the face of medicine in a foreign country!  Well, that’s well and good… but I didn’t like Science.  Just a note, not liking science has a pretty big impact on whether or not you are going to go into a scientific field, like medicine.  In light of my newly found distaste for science, I began to reconsider what I should do.  I figured out I only enjoyed studying my Bible…  So, RELIGION IT IS!!  I became a religion major at Baylor University and dedicated myself to the study of God’s Word.  It was a time of great spiritual growth for me…  I started teaching Bible Studies and hounding my older brother about all things ministry.  In this time I began to come across big words in the Bible: Predestination, Propitiation, Atonement, Dispensation, Covenant and had a wonderful time dealing with them.  Suddenly, I had a desire to know this God.  I started to read my Bible and God began to show me who I am as I looked for Him.  I am not a Dr. of medicine.  I had to come to grips with that and the only way I could was to realize that my affections were not for Medicine; my affections were for The Word.  God communicated to me that I was set apart for something else.  At the same time I went through an unhealthy relationship with a girl in college.  Through that relationship I learned to let go of my future.  I learned that Jesus is sweeter than anything else and those who put their trust in Him will find so much more joy that those that are placing their contentment in women.  Surrender it and God will take care of what He wants for you, which is so much better than what you want for yourself.  So, l started to like things like Bible drill.  I started to think of my God more than pretty girls.  I started to love the Jesus’ Church.  Still not so sure I would go to Bible Drill if they had it for my age group and there are days I struggle to engage in listening to a sermon or study with a group.  But, God is still chipping away at me and making me more like who He created me to be.  He is still bringing me in line with His plan and His vision, and I am loving every minute of it!

So…

Maybe you’re a student who idealizes your pastors and as a result writes off your chances of pleasing the Lord by comparison to some professional pastor.  Don’t worry, we all go through chipping and sculpting.  And maybe you’re designed to be different than that pastor!  Besides, most students are light years beyond where their pastors were at that age.

Maybe you’re a parent who is afraid for your child.  Don’t worry, God chipped away at you…  He has a way of bringing us to Himself.  You remain faithful to the LORD like my mother and no matter what trauma your child goes through, God will shape them.  Trust Him, surrender your wants for His, and remember… you’re still being chipped.

The Day Jesus Got Mad, Part 3

This is part 3 in a 3 part series.  You can read the others here: Part 1…   Part 2…

In Luke chapter 19 the same story that we have examined in Matthew/Mark and John is told in a slightly different perspective.  Here we get some idea of the way Jesus felt.  The chapter begins with Zacchaeus…  the wee little man.  Being a wee little man, Zach climbed a tree to see Jesus.  Jesus eats and has fellowship with Zach.  Of course, Luke gives us some insight into Jesus’ thoughts: as he pronounces Salvation over Zach and his household, He tells a parable.  The parable involves a king who leaves his citizens to go and receive a greater Kingdom from some other place.  Upon leaving, the King divides some of  his fortune among some stewards and charges them to increase it.  Luke tells us a peculiar phrase in verse 14.  This King evidently had some citizens who did not want Him as King.  When the King returns two have done well, and one had done nothing.  The one who had done nothing was rebuked harshly and then the King proclaims that He is going to kill the ones who did not want Him as their King.  Presumably this one who did nothing was among those who did not want this King.  He defames the character of the King and the King shows him how illogical his actions have been.

"Oh Jerusalem Jerusalem" by Olsen

Luke follows this parable of the King collecting His Kingdom immediately with the triumphal entry.  Read carefully and you will see the worthless steward in the rest of the chapter.  On the way into the city, the disciples begin to proclaim “Hosanna!  The King has come!” In verse 39, the Pharisees call for Jesus to correct His disciples.  Essentially saying, “You’re not the King we want! Tell them to stop!”  Jesus answers simply, “It doesn’t matter if you want me, I AM THE KING!”  Take note, even the rocks can’t deny the reality. (v.40)

Imagine, The King of all things riding into his Kingdom and seeing His people, His stewards, whom He put in place, whom He gave authority… all of them hating Him.  Have you ever felt this way, surely not to this extent, but perhaps on a small scale?  You see that guy across the room, supposedly your brother in Christ, and you know that no matter what you do, He is going to hate you?  Perhaps you’ve done something in the past, or maybe he just doesn’t like you.  You get that feeling in the pit of your stomach like you need to throw up.  Your knees go weak as you cross the room to say hello, hoping for some glimpse of forgiveness for the offense you never gave and therefore cannot remedy.  I think that is something like the feeling Jesus felt.  On a small scale, maybe.  Even as I imagine the feeling, my arms are weak and I feel like I am going to drop my tea mug.  It’s in these moments that we feel utterly alone.  We feel like no one is with us, even if we are surrounded by an army.  I believe Jesus’ mourning over Jerusalem in verses 41-44 are born out of this feeling.  He sees His own people, whom He has protected and shepherded hate Him and don’t want Him as King.  The stewards have taken advantage of the citizens who would Love their King.  The consequence will be dire and many of the people who imagine a false offense will be slaughtered because they did not know the King would return. (v.44)

Imagine with me, the King enters His palace (the Temple) and His servants do not take note of Him.  In spite they turn their faces away.  The brothers, His disciples, are clueless and numb to the pain of their King.  The King looks over His Kingdom and finds that His stewards have been abusing his citizens.  They did not want the King, so they have put in place their own system of righteousness and approval.  I think Jesus walked into the Temple and perhaps he heard some of the money changers, “Come get your spotless lamb, to make atonement for your sins.  Half Price!  Two doves for a buck!”  Maybe he overheard the Pharisees, “The LORD is pleased, look at how many lambs we’ve sold today.”  One of the smaller ones says, “We could rake in even more if we sold tickets.”

Just then a skinny teenage boy brushes past with his parents, “Dad, make sure we get the best lamb, I want the Lord to have the best!” (Teenagers are often more zealous than the rest of us.) The father turns, “Son, we will be sure to honor the Lord,” his eyes slightly strained as if trying to hold back tears, “but I don’t think we can afford the best.”  Jesus sees His citizens clamoring for salvation under a system that is horrifically abused and oppressive.  Then he saw Kyle and the Johnsons, having been taught that they needed money and ritual to be called His citizens!  In fury, Jesus starts throwing tables and screaming, swinging a whip around, and driving out everything that is not of His rule.  The Pharisees try to stop Him and in warning he raises his fist and points at them shouting “You’ve made my House a den of thieves!”  I imagine tears streaming down the Messiah’s face as He can scarcely contain His wrath.  Panting heavy from having thrown out the thieves and dismissed the foolish stewards, I can imagine Him locking eyes with the frightened young teenager and pleading with tears in His eyes, “you don’t need a lamb, I have come and My Kingdom is yours to enter.”

So it is for us.  Our King returns to find us struggling to find our own righteousness in the things we do or the things we own or the rituals we practice.  We think to ourselves, “If I could just be good enough” or “If I could just get this thing right” or “I’ve gotta get my life right with God” or “I have got to get back into church.”  He walks into our worship centers and sees us trying our hardest to say the right words and pray the right prayers.  We long for application in our Bible studies that could just tell us something to DO to earn our right standing before God.  We clamor for worthiness when all along He has called us His own, and there is NO greater worth than His proclamation of ownership.  Sometimes I think my worship proves how little I would recognize the King of Glory if He were to walk into the room.  I hope I would be like the teenager I have imagined for you in these illustrations.  But I worry that I’d be like the priest… at best a disciple fretting over bread because I missed something.  If we are to see the Kingdom, we must rest in the righteousness of the King.  Our obedience to the King must stem from a love for Him as King.  “For this is love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and gave His Son as an atoning sacrifice for us.” (1 John 4:10) The Kingdom has come, and the King will soon return.  “Seek Him while He may be found.” (Isa. 55:6)

There is a grave warning in this chapter as well.  You see the parable ended with the slaughter of those who would not accept the King.  That comes later in the Bible… but it still comes.  If you do not trust the King and you put anything else to rule your life, woe to you when The King returns, for you have less sense than a rock. (v.40)

The Day Jesus Got Mad, Part 2

This is the second in 3 parts. The first part is here.

So last time we thought about this scene from the perspective of the disciples.  I wonder if we walked into the church with Jesus today, would it be the same?

Just a short warning, I am a pastor and desperately want to feel the conviction of my LORD, so I’m really trying to get into the skin of a Pharisee… as a result I may be long-winded and I am making up part of this story for the sake of feeling the character.  Also, I am trying to identify Jesus in the way the Pharisees saw him that day.

Let’s begin today in Matthew’s account.  It begins in Chapter 21.  Take note, unlike John’s gospel, Matthew shows that Jesus had been around with his disciples for quite some time.  Matthew places the account later in his book to show the reader, Jesus has been at work for some time and now He is bringing the message to the door of the Temple.  At the beginning of the chapter, Jesus enters Jerusalem on a donkey, or a colt.  This is significant because only the King was supposed to ride on a donkey/colt.  The people cry out “Hosanna!” which means, “Salvation is Here!”  So there is the set up to this account.  Let’s see what it would look like from the view of the religious leaders.

You’re a pastor working in your study.  Perhaps you’ve even been counseling a young couple about holiness and purity.  You strive to teach your people of holiness and the goodness of God.  All week you’ve been preparing for the big event this week.  It’s Passover!  You have spent at least 30 minutes in prayer every day and you have laid your people before the Lord.  This morning as you work in your study, your mind drifts to the preparation you must do for the Passover.  Your heart is suddenly heavy as you contemplate the spiritual state of the people.  Why can’t we understand your mercy God?  You think about the myriad of things you want to change.  The program times, the fellowship opportunities, the money changers, even the ones who sell the sacrificial offerings at the door.  Maybe we don’t need those, you think to yourself.  Your heart begins to race and adrenaline begins to flow thinking about the changes you would make to this system.  You consider planting a synagogue in Babylon…  then you remember Mr. Johnson’s son Kyle and refocus the missionary zeal on these people.

But, how would the Johnsons get their lamb for sacrifice…  I mean seriously, he is a fuller (that’s a dry-cleaner), he doesn’t have any other place to buy the sacrifice and we can offer them at a reduced cost.  You convince yourself that this is actually a necessary service and disregard the nagging.  Or maybe you’ve even thought, “That needs to change, but change takes time.  So we’ll just start changing it slowly.  I’ll talk to the leadership and float the idea by them.  Then maybe in a year, we can move those things outside the temple.”  Still heavy from the burden of the state of your people, you glace up and see the morning sun casting a faint glow as it begins its assent into the sky.  The other priests are arriving, that young annoying priest is offering to make you some coffee obviously not realizing you have a cup already half empty on your desk.   Wave him away and throw one more prayer up to the LORD for the day.  “Father, would You please change the hearts of these people!?  Would you change mine?  I love you, help me please.  Save us.”  Push back from the desk, rub your knees, sigh a deep cleansing sigh, then stand.  You’ve done this every day for years.  Chief priest is a big calling that requires a great deal of discipline.

As you walk out to meet the other priests and pick up in the preparations where you left off the day before, you force a smile.  Remember when you were loaded with zeal for change.  Remember when the people were your greatest concern and not the ritual.  The ritual!  If the LORD would just change something!  You walk out of the small office into the large foyer.  Oh no, here comes Fred.  You see him from about thirty yards off storming up to complain about something.  Doesn’t he know it’s Passover!  He always complains right before you’re about to administer some sort of Holy ritual!  Fortunately for you, your young priest intercepts him to talk to Fred about the need for more silver around the altar for the priests to use.

As the day has progressed it has been a good day.  The priests are in the right frame of mind and everything is running smoothly.  Sure, you heard the commotion earlier about this Jesus and his disciples running around playing Savior.  But Messiahs had come and gone.  After all, Honi was an equally charismatic prophet and he had faded into history.  But the power of God and His temple remains!  Suddenly, the annoying one comes running to you panting and spewing some nonsense a whip and tables being turned over.

Annoying priest:  I told you we shouldn’t have let that guy come in here, he’s out there turning tables over and kicking out OUR money changers.

Chief priest: You’re exaggerating, calm down boy.

Annoying priest:  If you had just let me put up the ticket entry booth like I wanted to and charge admission, none of this would have…

Chief priest: NO TICKETS TO WORSHIP!  Seriously!?  You bring that up now?  It’s Passover!

A crowd has gathered and several of your closest advisors clamor for you to do something… so you go.  As you walk to the courtyard, you see a mad man waving a whip around and driving people and animals out of the temple.  For a moment you think this is some practical joke put on by the other priests, but no one is smiling.  Your eyes search the crowd frantically seeking a face that might identify an instigator to this entire event.  It is obvious that the mad man is acting alone.  You see Peter, James, Andrew, and John with a few other men running off to the side and muttering, “don’t say anything about the bread!”  They had not been seen in temple for a while, and you had just excused their absence as needing some time for soul searching.  But here they are with this mad man!  Then you see Kyle.  Kyle is only about 13 years old and he has tears running down his face.  Clearly this mad man had driven away the sacrifice that the Johnsons were going to buy.

Chief Priest: THAT’S ENOUGH!

Jesus flips another table and screams, “MY HOUSE IS TO BE A HOUSE OF PRAYER!”

Chief Priest: STOP IT!

Emboldened by rage for Kyle you stomp forward as the mad man spins and raises his finger toward you.  He locks eyes with you and everything is suddenly gone, just you and Him.

Jesus: YOU HAVE MADE MY FATHER’S HOUSE A DEN OF THEVES!

Something in his eyes breaks you.  Your heart begins to shatter as you hear the words of Jeremiah 7:11 pierce your soul.  Could it be that you missed something?  Could it be that your inclinations to remove these trappings of religious activity were correct and you simply should have followed your leanings?  Could it be that God really wanted you to lead the people to Him and all these religious conveniences were getting in the way?  In order to please our people have we set forward a religious system that caters to a consumeristic mindset and fails to challenge the core of their hearts?

Stunned that anyone could speak to you piercing your soul so deeply, you turn to see Kyle.  You had hoped he would run to you for a comforting hug, not because he needed it but because you did and if he came to you, you could continue to look strong in the face of such turmoil.  But Kyle didn’t run to you, the mad man knelt down almost instantaneously calm and locked eyes with Kyle and his parents.  “You don’t need that sheep, I have come.  Would you like me to tell you about the Kingdom of Heaven?”  Kyle nodded his eyes growing big and tears vanishing.

Anger fills your heart and you challenge, “Don’t you hear the people saying Hosanna to you!?  That’s wrong!”  The moment has passed and you recognize that you can say nothing to regain control of the crowd.  Jesus seems not to notice the question and continues to teach the crowd.  The crowd was enraptured with him.  Some even pushed right past you, their priest, to get a closer seat as the mad man transformed into the most engaging teacher you’d ever seen.

You hear a sing song voice over your shoulder say, “Tick-et Booths.”  Resisting the urge to punch him in the nose, you spin to see your team of priests is standing behind you.  They’re grumbling.

Priest 1: Where is Niccodemus!  Never standing with the rest of us!

Young Priest: Who is this crazy man with a whip!  We are not in the temple of doom and he is clearly not Harrison Ford!

Priest 2: We’ve got to stop this mad man!

Young priest: Come on!  Not even a chuckle at my Indian Jones reference!?  Seriously though, this guy is gonna be a problem

Annoying priest: Well, what are you going to do?  (singing) Tick-et booths!

Priest 1: He must die.  Look at this crowd, even the Johnsons hang on his every word!

Priest 2: false prophets are to be stoned!  How dare He prevent people who need sacrifices from buying them.

Emboldened by their rage, you contemplate what must be done next!  Imagine the internal conflict.  This man spoke directly to your soul and yet, you are infuriated and ready to have him stoned because of His disregard for the religious system you’ve worked so hard to serve!  He challenges all that you are, and yet, you cannot grasp what needs to change.

We know how the priests respond.  Mark 11:18 tells us they plotted to destroy Jesus.  How would you respond to Jesus tearing down your religious systems?  What if God likes rap? What if Jesus cares very little whether or not you like sermons?  What if Jesus thinks small groups are awesome?  What if Jesus thinks small groups are silly?  What if Jesus thinks your worship is creating a den of robbers?  What will you do?  The way I see it, we can do one of two things.  1. We can ask Jesus to reveal in us where our areas of false religious worship are and drive them out.  Or, number 2, we can drive Jesus out….  (ok, so I admit that was a loaded statement, only a fool would try to drive out the one holding the whip.)

The Day Jesus Got Mad Pt.1

I have had the privilege of counseling a great deal of angry people. Well, counseling angry people got me to thinking about the day Jesus got mad.  I’d like to look at this from three different perspectives.  Today will be the disciples perspective.

In John 2:13, we see Jesus and His disciples coming from Jesus’ first miracle into the temple for Passover.  Now, to set the stage:  This rag tag group of guys has been looking for a messiah and they believe they have found Him.  They were recently at a wedding party where Jesus turned nasty water into wine and then they spent a few days just chilling with Jesus’ family. (v.12)  I remember when I was young and my Father would have foreign dignitaries into our home for a few days at a time.  One time, the president of the World Health Organization spent a few days in our home.  I remember just sitting in the room and listening to this brilliant man discuss everything from classical music, to economics, to poverty, even basketball!  He sat at the piano and played Autumn Leaves, then he played it the way Bach would have, then he played it the way Chopin would have, then the way the Beatles would have, then the way a jazz pianist would have.  It was incredible.  So I wonder…  how stinking amazing would it be to spend a few days in casual conversation with Jesus, God in the flesh!

After this retreat, the disciples must have felt like they could fly!  The things they would have learned, the joys they would have seen, the simple time spent in communion with Jesus after a miraculous experience would have made them want to dance into the temple musical style.  Imagine the confidence.  We’ve found the Messiah and we’re on His crew!  Yeah!  So, they head to Jerusalem… (notice in verse 13, John doesn’t include the disciples in this story.  I think it’s because he’s a little scared of this side of Jesus and he wants to emphasize that the disciples didn’t really get it yet.) Jesus walks into the temple and sees the money changers and makes a whip.  Now it takes a few minutes to make a whip.  Not a half an hour or anything like that, but a few minutes.  Can you imagine walking into worship with the most holy person you know?  Imagine the discomfort when you are planning on worship, hoping to introduce this Messiah to your friends (some of whom volunteer at the money changing table occasionally), and you see the change in His eyes and you realize that you’ve missed something.  This holy man you were walking with has suddenly become upset about something you didn’t even notice.  Have you been there?  You feel utterly sunk.

I can even imagine the conversation:

Peter: Dude, John…  what’d you do?  Why’s He all ticked off? (Peter would totally say “Dude”)

John: I didn’t say a word, I don’t know what He’s mad about. He just walked over there muttering something about prayer and oxen.

Peter: Did we forget the bread again?

John: Don’t bring that up, you’ll just get Him going on the Pharisees again.

Peter: Ask Him what’s wrong!

John: I’m not crazy bro.  You ask him! (John would totally call Peter “bro” but in a cynical mocking way)

Andrew: Hey guys, why is Jesus making a whip?

Peter: A what?

John: Yeah man, He’s making a whip.

Thomas: I refuse to believe that it’s a whip until He hits someone with it.

Andrew: I think we should move over there where He won’t hit us with what Thomas refuses to believe is a whip.

James: (Laughing) Why is Jesus mad?  Was Peter asking about bread again?

Peter: I still don’t get it, why’s He so…  oh dang, He just flipped over that table…  ouch, that must of hurt… I’m with Andrew… run away!

I’m being a little silly, but just think about it.  That uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’ve missed something critical and you’re afraid you may be absolutely in the wrong.  If you’re like me, you begin to catalog every bad thing you have ever done and trying to find a connection.  That sick feeling you get in your stomach seems to affect everything.  Your arms go weak, your mouth goes dry, your head begins to spin, and you feel the weight of failure beyond what you can stand because of something you can’t even see.  You stand by and watch as the King walks over to the side of the room, muttering under his breath and begins to fashion a whip.  It doesn’t take long, but you wait awkwardly not sure what to do.  Those brief moments feel like an eternity and you are acutely aware that you smell a little odd, desperately need a drink, and are beginning to sweat.  And then He explodes, beating people and flipping tables, yelling about righteousness.  Some of your friends get beat out of the temple, maybe even one of your childhood buddies that you were hoping to introduce Jesus to.

All of a sudden, John tells us in verse 17, you remember the Bible and suddenly realize what you missed.  The root of this anger is the House of God.  Shame fills you for a moment as you realize that you were blind to something that has been dreadfully wrong all your life.  Peter hangs his head and kicks a pebble on the ground and says something like, “I shoulda made a whip.”  Then some of the men you used to admire come stomping up in anger demanding Jesus answer for His actions.  It’s that moment when I imagine the urge to disown Jesus.  You’re standing right next to Him, obviously His friend, near tears already, and your favorite pastors come walking up, stammering to try and contain their anger, and they demand an answer.  I want you to imagine Sealy Smith, or Herman Coe, or Greg, or Mike, or Chuck, or Me walking up with a list of reasons that Jesus was in the wrong.  (Though I am certain we would agree with Jesus, for the purpose of illustration, that is who the disciples saw stomping up to their Messiah.)  Jesus, your King, answers these pastors, these second most holy people you’ve ever known, with a bizarre statement about razing the temple and rebuilding it.  His answer doesn’t even make since!  (We know this didn’t make since because John tells us they don’t get it until Jesus rises again. v.22)

Now let’s be honest, Peter’s taking some steps off to the side and looking at the wall as if he doesn’t know Jesus and so are we.  Sometimes God’s anger doesn’t seem to make since to us.  Sometimes Jesus says stuff that we really just don’t want to deal with.  Sometimes what is true is far too inconvenient for us to even want to recognize.  Maybe Jesus has said some things to you lately?  Maybe you’ve seen some things in yourself that you would rather He not beat out of you?  How are you going to respond?  Are you going to admit that you were in the wrong, and maybe you need to start a repentance tour to all the people you have wronged?  Are you going to insist that Jesus answer for His cleansing anger?  Are you going to stare at the wall and hope Jesus doesn’t turn to talk to you?

You see, we like anger.  But only when we’re the angry one and when we’re in the right.  But what about when Jesus is angry and we’ve missed it?  What do we do then?  We can pretend that we are righteous.  We can dismiss Jesus’ word as if He never made comments about our own wickedness and sin.  We can pretend that Jesus never got angry and was all smiles, hugs, and candy.   Or… we can be honest with ourselves and God, repent from our sins, repent from our failure to notice something so important about the God we say we love, and commit to obey and be more attentive to God’s word.

 

Pooh 2012

I feel like being a little silly today… if you were hoping for something substantial, come back later.  After watching the latest titans of the political arena dodge important issues and masterfully jab their opponents in the metaphorical nose with unimportant nonsense that was subsequently exalted as “great leadership” in the various opinionated media outlets.  (I’m speaking of NPR and FOX News, therefore everyone can be equally mad at me.)  The only point of sanity that I can draw from such a zealous display of “great leadership” that answers no questions but receives monumental applause for nonsense is to imagine what Pooh would do.

So…  if Pooh were president there would be no lies.  Not because Pooh is sanctified or holy, but simply because he is a “bear of very little brain.”  Lying takes a great deal of creativity.  Pooh would not be able to do it.  Press conferences would consist of Pooh saying things such as, “I have an idea, though I don’t suppose it’s a very good one” and “I don’t suppose we could have a little break for … (smacks lips) honey?”  His natural response to any national or political conflict or divisive issue would be to inspect all honey supplies and then distribute it as needed.  Think of it, Health Care- have some honey.  Taxes- Have some honey (the pages would then become too sticky for the auditors to look through resulting in a win for the citizens.)  Social issues- everyone gets honey!  It would be fantastic.  Texas is acting up again- load on the honey!  All problems then solved.

Now lets talk staff.
Secretary of Defense- Tigger!  This would be perfect!  Because his response for every situation is the same.  Iran threatens to blow everything up, what do we do?  “Gerrr….  Let’s Bounce ‘em!”  Iran lays down all their arms and decides to become a true democracy, how do we respond?  “WooHooHoo hoo!  Let’s Bounce ‘em!”

Vice President- Eeyore.
This is for the soul purpose of comparison.  Everyone in congress would seem SOOO happy!  Eeyore would proclaim national days of mourning and rain cloud watching!  We could even pretend that our senators and congressional leaders are actually happy and get along!

 
Secretary of education- Owl.  Who better to establish what must be taught in public schools that the long-winded self proclaimed wise old Owl who can’t spell and makes up most of

the answers.  Honestly, it wouldn’t be much different than the sec. of education that our current political candidates would appoint.

 

Secretary of State- Piglet.  Poor little Piglet…  no country would ever take advantage of that little guy.  If they did, the sec. of Defense would “Bounce ‘em!”  and the world would call for shame!  Besides, can’t be any worse than our current secretary.

 

Sec. of Agriculture- Rabbit.  No sweat…  he’d look after every garden as long as he can keep the secretary of homeland security from digging tunnels underneath everything.

 

Secretary of Homeland Security – Gopher!  Perfect for the job, this work-aholic spends all his time digging tunnels that no one knows about and has the blue prints for EVERYTHING.  I assume that is what homeland security spends it’s time doing…. Digging tunnels no one knows about.

Finally, Chief of Staff:  Christopher Robin.  Everything will be fine, because as we all know from watching West Wing, Rob Lowe actually ran the country, not the president.  So it will be here.  Christopher Robin will fix all of our probl
ems and at the end of each day we’ll take a candid photo of everyone around a table with a cake in the middle.  (that’s how almost every Pooh ends.)

White Noise

White noise helps babies sleep.  It is a noise that cancels out other noises allowing children and babies and even adults to have a restful sleep.  Technically it is something like all the sounds in the middle range of sound frequency and so it is comfortable noise.

I think God hates white noise.  Think about it, how many times in the Bible does Jesus have the people eating out of His hand only to say something that turns them all away?  Almost every time!  Nicodemus is ready to jump in and follow this messiah!  He is ready to report to the other Pharisees and bring them along, and Jesus throws the “New Birth” concept at him telling Nic that he has to drop all his self-righteous pretention in order to follow Christ. (John 3)  The 5000 are ready to follow Jesus having pursued him across the sea!  He turns to them and says, “unless you eat my flesh, (in other words, unless you find your sufficiency in ME) you will not have eternal life!” (John 6) In Luke 9 a man comes to him and says, “I wanna come follow you!”  Jesus says, “Foxes have homes, Birds have nests… the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Another one says, ”I’d follow but,  I need to burry my dead,” and Jesus replies, “let them take care of themselves!”  Then to another Jesus says you can’t even say bye to your loved ones. (Luke 9:57-62) Jesus has opportunity after opportunity to make people comfortable and He NEVER does it.  It is as if the Kingdom is being built on and fueled by Christ’s angst against and His frustration with this world.  So, I think God hates white noise.

Why does God hate white noise?

Tell me, is it loving to let someone sleep while the world around them burns?  What if it is the person that is burning?  Would you sing a lullaby to a young child to help that precious one sleep only to die in the fire surrounding them?  Of course not!  That’s insane.

I think God sees His people burning up in the false affections and entrapments of this world.  Things that keep them from knowing HIM, the Truth, The Life, The Way!  God sees people dying, I think we sometimes imagine their just sleeping.  Could you imagine what it would be like if the church of Jesus saw the world as He does?  What if we saw the church as He does?

So I live in church culture.  More than that, I’ve dedicated my life to ministering in that culture.  I love the American Church.  Seriously, I love everything about it.  The history, the present weight of weakness, the strengths, the flawed systems, everything!  I can honestly say that there are times when I love business meetings! (rare, but they do happen) Lord knows I have tried to consider being a missionary to unreached places and each time I do, God breaks my heart for the church in America and I cannot leave.

In my experience, we, the church, want people to be comfortable.  Here’s the problem with that…  It seems like Jesus wanted to make people uncomfortable.  Rather than being a white noise that could be added to their slumber, Jesus wanted to be a fog horn that aroused them from sleep and saved them from certain death.  Unfortunately, as churches in America, we are often comfortable to be white noise to the world around us and the “Christians” we call brothers.  We often would rather people be happy and comfortable in attendance than be struggling and uncomfortable in their pursuit for holiness.  But, is that what Jesus was about?  No…  Jesus called the people who met Him to holiness and change.  Moreover, He changed their hearts so they COULD NOT stay the same.  Jesus invaded culture to war against affections of the world.  He did not let Nic think that religious activity was a suitable substitute for true regeneration.  Nor did He allow the 5000 and the Pharisees around them to think that they just had to come get fed and that was all they needed.  Nor did he simply tell people, “you’re awesome just because you want to follow me! You are so self-actualized!”  No…  those words never came out of His mouth.  For, to follow Jesus must cost you everything.

I don’t want to be white noise.  I want to call brothers and sisters to holiness and address sin with intensity and honesty.  I want the world around me to be saved from the impending doom of the coming Judge.  I want the world to see Christ’s holiness in His Church and to feel the Love that Christ has laid into our hearts!  I want the people I love, the church I love, to stand with me as I meet the Lord, my Master, when He returns to collect His bride!  I think most of us want these things.

So why is it we are so often just white noise?

Well, let’s be honest with ourselves… let’s not settle for white noise…  Do we believe that there is punishment for wickedness?  Do we believe that Jesus will return and when He does, so we believe that He is going to judge?  Do we believe that Hell is real?  Do we believe that those who do not trust Christ for salvation will not see Heaven?  Not to mention the lists that Paul give us of those who will not see the Kingdom!?  (Gal. 5:19-21, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) Do we believe what we read in the Bible?  If we do, then how can we be content to be white noise?  The lifestyle we live and the things we say must be uncomfortable, loving, difficult, engaging, and even noisy.  The noise we create must reflect what we believe about eternity.  If we engaged our lives with an eternal perspective, perhaps things like church discipline, Bible Study, faithful communion with the saints, personal evangelism,  and living life together would be greater priorities in our lives.

I don’t want to be white noise, let’s wake up the world and the church!