The Man Who Was Thursday

The man who was thursday

GK Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday begins as a clever mystery in which Syme, a police officer, attempts to infiltrate and expose a group of anarchists led by a powerful and mysterious leader named Sunday.  Syme gains access to the group posing as the man called Thursday.  Slowly the detective unravels the truth about the anarchists and discovers at the center of the chaos is Sunday.  Syme’s investigation of the terrorists becomes less about uncovering the evil within the organization and more about the philosophical underpinnings of apparent chaos as is juxtaposed with law and order.

As Syme investigates each of the other men he discovers that there are other detectives in the mix.  Each character is revealed to represent a certain philosophical leaning and approach to discovering the truth.  Soon the reader finds that the masters of law and order are being guided into a vast and chaotic web of exploration that reveals the nature of man and of God.

All the efforts of Syme prove to be an exercise in futility and disorder.  Surprisingly the masters of order find themselves running from the law in a wild pursuit to catch Sunday.  In the end the reader is drawn into an introspective challenge in which we are forced to answer what our opinions are about God and who He is.  In final estimation the only true anarchist is revealed and Syme is confronted with a remarkably ordered leader.

This book is an enjoyable read that leads to deep thoughts of theology.  If you need a good fiction read, this is a great one.

Advertisements

John 21 pt. 2

jesusandpeterPeter has been wrestling with a deep need to be approved of and Jesus has remained strangely silent.  We can assume that Jesus is suspiciously silent for a deeper purpose, as almost everything Jesus does in the Gospels has deep implication.  I think Jesus was deeply connected with the pain Peter was feeling.  He certainly knew that Peter was torn up.  He must have seen the zeal with which Peter ran to grab the fish!  Yet He remains silent.

The weight of shame must have been great on Peter.  To know that you rejected the Messiah in His darkest hour must have been unbearable.  So, how is Jesus going to show Peter the grace necessary to move beyond this crippling need to prove himself?  Breakfast!  Jesus cooks breakfast!  I like to think Jesus was a good cook and that the food He cooked tasted great…  but that’s just me.  So after breakfast, Jesus sits back and this conversation follows:

“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 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 21:15-17

Did you notice that Jesus is not using the name He gave Peter?  Instead, He uses “Simon.”  Peter must have felt that burn…  He probably felt like he was unworthy and he was no longer allowed to bear that name.  Jesus, I believe has something else in mind.  Peter gets asked the question three times!  The same number of times that he rejected Christ, the same number of times that Christ has now revealed himself in this gospel, the same number…  Peter must have felt that as well.  In the original language, the first two questions are slightly different than the third.  The first two times Jesus asks to you love me with unconditional love (agape).  Peter answers each time, “I love you with familial affection” (Phileo).  On the third time, Jesus says, “do you love me with familial affection.”  You can imagine Peter beginning to cry as he realizes what Jesus is doing.

You see, Jesus was not picking on Peter.  Jesus was answering Peter’s soul need.  He is showing Peter the balm for his soul need.

  1. Think back to when Peter was first following Jesus in Luke 5.  The same miracle is done.  So, here Jesus reminds Peter who He is for Peter.  The first thing Jesus teaches Peter in this passage is: Jesus meets you in your labor and He is Lord over it and you for your good and His glory.
  2. Next, notice that Jesus did not need the fish the disciples caught.  He already had breakfast going on the fire.  But he tells them, “bring some of the fish you caught.”  Peter runs to get the net and Jesus was showing the second lesson:  Jesus delights in your efforts.  Jesus values your efforts and work, even though He is God and does not NEED it.  He values you and loves your work for him.
  3. Jesus includes Peter with the rest of the disciples.  We often want to be singled out, but Jesus knows what is good.  He purposely does not single Peter out as leader but identifies him with his brothers.  In this way Peter is rescued from the accusations of the other disciples and the self-doubt that might have consumed him.  And therein lay the third point: You are a part of a community that Jesus loves and you don’t need to bear the weight of failure alone.
  4. Then Jesus calls Peter, “Simon.”  This is not a scathing rebuke.  Jesus calls him Simon to alleviate the responsibility from him while simultaneously letting Peter know that Jesus is not done working in him.  When Jesus met Peter in the Gospel of John He, almost immediately renames him.  Here Jesus lifts the burden of living up to that name.  Jesus calls him Simon to let him know he was loved from the beginning and he will be included even if he can never measure up to the name Jesus has for him.  It is not Simon that makes himself Peter, but Jesus who does that.  Peter probably took it as a rebuke at first, at least until he heard the last question.  But the fourth lesson is: Jesus continues to work in you in spite of all your failures.  He loved you when you were Simon and He is not done working in you.
  5. The question of love is a profound one.  Two times Jesus essentially asks “do you love me no matter what?”  Peter responds, “You’re like family!”  Then the final time, Jesus asks, “do you love me like family?”  Now it is tempting to think that Jesus is beating up on Peter, however, Jesus is meeting Peter on his level.  When Jesus asks the first two times the word is detached from emotional affection.  When Jesus asks the third time he articulates a familial affection in the word “Phileo.”  By asking it this way, Jesus effectively tells Peter that he is family.  The fifth point: You are part of Jesus’ family, no matter what you have done.  He has loved you unconditionally and, more than that, he loves you with familial affection!
  6. The final and most evident balm for Peter’s soul is the call to the mission.  Jesus calls Peter to the mission of shepherding the flock of God.  He says, “feed/tend my sheep.”  Peter stands wondering what his value is in the Kingdom, Jesus goes out of his way to send message after message of love and grace to Peter, and finally, Jesus gives him a commission of utmost value!  Jesus commissions Peter to shepherd along-side the Messiah (the Good Shepherd, John 10)!  When you feel like you have failed the Lord and your life is simply inadequate, hear this last balm for your ailing soul: focus on the mission of God, He has commissioned you to something great and calls you to work!

 

Perhaps you’re in the same place Peter was.  I know I have been there.  Take heart, Jesus has work for you to do!  The easiest way to overcome the feeling of failure is to work and watch the Lord use you.  What Joy!

John 21 Pt. 1

Jesus eating fish

You ever have the unsettled feeling in the pit of your stomach. As if you have done something wrong but can’t quite figure out what it is? Maybe you know exactly what it is, but you don’t know how to fix it? You worry that everyone is watching and everyone knows whatever it is you don’t. You become snippy with people who pass by and you think that there must be some sort of action that you can take that will heal this issue. The person you are certain you have offended suddenly becomes the single greatest judge in your life and the object of all your efforts of approval. That feeling in the pit of your stomach can be paralyzing. I think that’s the feeling Peter was wrestling with in John 21.

Peter failed Jesus. He failed Jesus in the most grievous way! Peter denied Jesus as Jesus walked to the cross carrying Peter’s sins. When Jesus rose, he didn’t show himself to Peter first. Peter could have let his mind wonder why? He saw Jesus with the other disciples, but Jesus didn’t really recognize him. Peter wouldn’t dare to say something in front of others until acknowledged. His offense is too great. So… it’s been several days since the disciples have seen the risen Lord and I imagine Peter is waiting for Jesus to say something like, “hey buddy, I love you. We’re good, don’t sweat it.” He hopes for a nod, he longs for a fist bump, anything to tell him it’s ok. But, he gets nothing. Jesus has returned, He has shown Himself, and Peter has yet to be affirmed. Imagine the depression.

So… what do we do when we have this feeling of complete and utter failure in our stomach and no resolution? We fall back to what we have done in the past. So, Peter goes fishing! I think his friends must have felt the uncomfortable tension in their most braggadocios leader. They all acquiesce to his desires and go fishing.

Well, Jesus is not done dealing with Peter. Jesus has purpose for our struggles for approval. There is a great deal we can learn. He shows up on the shore where they are fishing and repeats a miracle they had seen before.

While they are in the boat he calls to them and says cast your nets on the other side! They do and they get fish. How comforting to know that Jesus will continue to show himself to us in ways that work for our own needs. The disciple whom Jesus loved says, “it’s the LORD!!” Without hesitation, Peter puts on his cloths and dives into the water to swim back. Now at this point, the other disciples must be a little annoyed at Peter’s attempt to reconcile himself. It’s always like that when you know someone is irrationally trying to reconcile himself to an authority. From the outside, it looks like they are simply being annoying. They neglect chores and duty for the sake of proving themselves in some drastic way! The conversation probably went like this:
Disciple Jesus Loved: Check it out it’s Jesus (turns to get the net), help me dra..(hears a splash), Wha!? Hey! Get back in the boat and help with the fish! Ahhh.. it’s no use.

James: Dude, what did you say to Peter?

DJL: Nothing, I just said it’s the Lord and he jumps out of the boat!

Andrew: would you guys stop yapping about captain mopey and get over here and help!

So they drag in the fish and row back to the shore. At which point Peter stands up and runs over to the boat to grab all the fish hastily and drags it to Jesus as if to say, “look! I have caught all these for you!” What’s funny, is

Jesus already had fish. He has a fire set and is already cooking fish and bread, but he asks for their fish anyway. You see, Jesus values our efforts, even when He does not need them. He still wants them, He still loves our work, He values you. The first lesson Jesus is showing Peter, is “I’m still here.” No matter what you have done, you cannot drive the LORD of heaven away from you and you cannot drive away His love. The second lesson is that Jesus values our work, even when it is inadequate.

So Peter struggles to earn the grace that Christ has given him and He sits down to eat with the King of all Glory, the King that Peter failed. Peter has been confronted with a reality, he cannot fix what he has done. He cannot change it. He cannot earn the grace that Jesus keeps on handing him. So, what is Peter to do? He sits, eating fish, awaiting his head nod. He waits for an, “it’s ok buddy.” He waits for some acknowledgement of his approval and forgiveness. Jesus will give him the most powerful antidote for his affliction and indeed the most powerful antidote for our own struggles with depression, in the next passage. But more on that later.

The Attributes of God, volume 1. By A.W. Tozer

Sometimes I pick up the work of Tozer simply to remind myself that the investigation of God’s character is the single most awe inspiring activity that a Christian can undergo.  His challenging analysis of deep topics is immersed in a pastoral tone that allows the reader to be led to worship at the throne room of God.

For Tozer, all of God’s attributes stream from the idea that God is infinite.  An infinite God cannot fit into a box or a definition. Yet, infinity does not deny the ability to investigate. And so Tozer plumbs the depths of God in such a way as to draw the reader deeper into a worship of the most high that one cannot help but enjoy thinking about the great nature of God.

If you’re scared of deep theology, you shouldn’t be. But, if you are, Tozer may be a welcome introduction for you.  His concern is primarily pastoral in nature.  Tozer wants people to know the Living God! As a result he goes to great lengths to accomplish this task.  I hope that you will read this book.  If you read nothing else, read the Bible… if you will read only one more, make it “The Road to Reality,” by KP Yohannon.  BUT!  If you want to worship, read Tozer’s Attributes of God volume 1. I cried, laughed, and felt as though I walked with Christ as I read this work. It is excellent and challenging. Read it.

Confrontation at the Shoe Shine Stand.

“My childhood was stolen from me” she said. “I was 8years old when my uncle raped me.” I sat in stunned silence as the 50 year old woman whipped the cloth across the leather of my boots. Without looking up she persisted, “I hope he’s in Hell.” Shocked, I simply muttered, “I’m sorry.”
“Pastor, why something like that happen to an 8 year old girl.” I looked at her and quietly said, “sin.” Confident my one word answer was inadequate, I attempted to elucidate. “You see, mankind has chosen to shake his first in the face of an Almighty God and has chosen the way of wickedness over the way of truth. I’m sorry, it is sin that makes men do such horrific things.” We talked at length about the wickedness in this world and the righteousness of Christ. Finally I felt the need to say, “mam, there is no answer I can give you that will satisfy your heart. The only thing we can be sure of is that God is just and good, Jesus can restore, and God will do justice. Trust Him… He is good and he can heal your heart. He will be a Father to you.”

This world is so dark.

In “The Attributes of God” by A. W. Tozer, he recounts a story of a starving 60 year old man and is starving 6 year old child. The pair walk into an orphanage. Upon entrance the man said to the attendant, “I want you to take my child.” The worker told the man as kindly as he could that, because of the enormous amount of orphans they cannot take children whose parents are still alive. The father looked at the attendant and said, “you mean if I were dead, you’d feed and cloth my girl.” The attendant said, “yes sir.” The father then knelt down and hugged his daughter, kissed her face. He rose to his feet took the hand of his daughter and placed it into the hand of the attendant and said, “I’ll take care of that, you take care of her.” He turned around and left the building and committed suicide to save the life of his daughter

This world is so dark.

The Father of Heaven and Earth has seen the darkness in this world and is answering in the name of Jesus Christ. There is restoration in the Kingdom of God for the broken, there is justice for the victim, there is life for the dead. There is life because God has taken care of the debt required to to clothe and shelter us. There is hope because God has redeemed all who would believe. The light will one day resolve all injustice and even now is overcoming the darkness. On that day, we will find the joy of The Lord. Darkness will be gone, wrongs forgotten, justice will be done, and mercy will be given.

I never really know how to answer these direct questions. Most of the time I remain silent. (some of you probably think I should have done so at the shoe shine booth.) My theological answers conflict with my pastoral heart. I find myself wanting to hug the person and to tell them everything will be ok while simultaneously wanting to show them the truth about theology, confident that the knowledge of God brings greater comfort than a hug. So I stagger about trying to offer some sort of combined answer that will provide the comfort necessary to ease the pain and the theology necessary to process it. Mostly I feel inadequate. But, God is never inadequate and He knows how to answer us in the deepest hurts we can imagine. So rest in the truth that God goes before you and He can take your flawed answers and move the souls of men.

Leadership 101 By John C. Maxwell

Leadership 101 by John C Maxwell.

A Good Book on Leadership

Maxwell is a leadership guru.  His work has been on the New York Times best sellers list, in the wall street journal, and is getting to be required reading for pretty much every leadership course offered in business or ministry.  Maxwell is an easy read.  His books are filled with stories that inspire the heart of men through the examples of great leadership throughout history.  Stories about athletes conquering devastating injuries to return to greatness intertwine with stories of titans of business who rose from nothing to the most successful business men of their day.  On cannot read Maxwell without feeling inspired to be great.  Whether it is the stories he tells or the applications he draws, you will feel like you are suddenly able to conquer any leadership challenges with the practical and strategic method he lays out for the reader.

This short, easy read is intended to be read in one sitting.  I did this, it was fun and easy to digest.  I think that it’s a good exercise.  If you ever want to grasp the flow of a book, sit down and read it all at once.  Try it!  It’s easier than you think.

Maxwell divides his work into three sections. The Development of a Leader, The Traits of a Leader, and The Impact of a Leader.  I would rephrase them this way: Why should I lead and how, What I should look like as a leader, and What will be the results if I actually do this?  If you’ve ever read a Maxwell Book, you know every page is filled with useful tips on bettering yourself as a leader.  This work is no exception.  In fact, most of this work is a compressed version of several other works he has written on the subject.

What was helpful:  Maxwell’s work is compelling and sometimes challenging.  The illustrations make you feel as though you could just tweak a few things in your life and you’ll be able to conquer the world!  Further, Maxwell has a naturally encouraging tone.  When reading you feel as though your grandfather is cheering you on as you play tee ball and occasionally giving pointers that can change the shape of your career.

What was troubling: 1) Maxwell knows leadership, but he is a self confessed poor practitioner.  Maxwell has studied leadership for years, and yet at the beginning of almost every book he writes on the subject he tells you he is not good at it.  But, consider Maxwell.  He runs a tremendous organization and has tons of experience leading.  I think he is probably trying to set the reader at ease and explain that he was not naturally a good leader.  But he is certainly a good one.  2) There is next to no scripture used.  Maxwell draws his life lessons from illustrations from American Capitalism and Athletes.  While these are tremendously encouraging and engaging, there are seldom stories taken from Scripture.  Now, don’t get me wrong, this is still a worthy book to add to your collection, I would simply add a few more that talk about scriptural leadership as well.

In truth, there are no formulas to make you a better leader… I see my friends grab on to principles of leadership constantly.  The oldest truths described in the newest ways.  As leaders we latch on to these kinds of books for a time and we drum up a great deal of excitement in our lives for a time.  Quickly though, it becomes evident: only discipline, fervent faith in Christ Jesus, and hard work will accomplish the life change needed to lead well.  Maxwell agrees.  So read the book, love Jesus more than the advice in the book, and work hard.

Touching Godliness through Submission! a fantastic book!

One of the most enjoyable books I’ve been challenged by this year.

Touching Godliness through submission.

I read this book once all the way through and was so moved that I am going back through it slowly so that I can absorb everything in it.  K.P. Yohannon is one of the most Godly men I have met in my life and also one of the most human.  One of my dreams was fulfilled this past spring when I was privileged to sit across from him at lunch. His brilliance and Godly character are only exceeded by his humility, simplicity, and love. He would probably chide me for complementing him so and say something like, “I’m just a hamburger and french fries guy!”  But, sitting with him for a few moments, was a wonderful experience I will not forget.  He is the founder of Gospel for Asia, a missions organization my wife and I support and you should too.

In his book he delves through scripture to teach the reader truths about Godliness that can only be learned when learning submission.  It is a difficult read and it is not always fun.  Since reading this book I have called and apologized to several leaders who I served poorly and with an unsubmissive spirit in my life.  This book will change the way you look at the leaders around you!  You should read every word!

This work flies in the face of the American independent spirit.  We don’t submit! We acquiesce, we allow, we permit, we agree, but NEVER submission!  As Americans we see submission as something someone who is weak does toward someone who is strong.  But we are STRONG!!!  No…  KP wisely shows us, God is strong… we are pitiful.  Through this book I have been on a journey to learn that submission is not a weakness, but is Godly.  Think about it: everything submits to authority except sinful man.  Even Jesus submitted to the pole tax, the Pharisees, and the Roman governor! Seriously, it’s some crazy deep submission Jesus gets into…  read Philippians 2! Through understanding submission and what that looks like when we are living it out, we can begin to grasp who God is and we will be blessed to know Him more fully.

KP begins by defining Submission and explaining what is at the core of submission.  Through Scripture he defends God’s design for submitting to authority and expounds on what it means to submit.  I was so convicted by this that I have even attempted to change the way I dress when I am in the presence of an authority.  Establishing where authority comes from, KP establishes where rebellion comes from.  That is, rebellion comes from sin and our sinful rejection of God.  A warning is fired across the reader explaining that rebellious people are not children of God, but children of the devil.  Through a series of Biblical examination and a smattering of personal anecdotes from his experience as a missionary, KP challenges the way we conceive of authority and Submission to that Authority.  I promise you…  if you read this carefully, you will know Jesus better. This book is fantastic!  Go buy it now or download it for free here: http://www.gfa.org/resource/books/

I John 4:7-12