Tag Archives: disciples

A Great Book to Read: Tortured for Christ

Richard Wurmbrand was a pastor in communist Romania who was imprisoned for 14 years because he refused to say that communism was God’s ordained plan and that it is greater than the revelation of Christ. He was tortured daily in prison. One of my favorite phrases is when he talks about a deal he made with his guards in the prison. He says, “we have made a deal: each day I will give a sermon, and each night they will give me a beating. I am happy because I get to preach, they are happy because they get to beat me. All are happy.” In Tortured for Christ, Wurmbrand recounts his own story of suffering through severe persecution. He also shares stories of other persecuted Christians throughout the work. These stories stir the soul of believers to share the Word of the Lord!

The story of Wurmbrand’s suffering convicts me to share the gospel all the more boldly. Wurmbrand was beaten and persisted in preaching, we sometimes remain silent because we feel it might be a social impropriety. Wurmbrand was separated from his wife and son for the sake of the gospel, we hesistate to obey the call of God because I don’t want to risk such things. Wurmbrand knew the joy of the Lord through sacrifice and solitude and suffering, most of us have never truly sacrificed, spent time in solitude, or suffering.  We are commanded in Scripture to “remember those who are in chains as though you are in chains with them, for you are all part of the body.” Heb. 13:3 So read this book!!!

Wurmbrand also writes a chapter to the western church.  He calls us to give the underground church the tools necessary to do the work.  He states, “…we will do the suffering… we just need the tools.”  We are able to help the underground church in many ways.  One of the easiest ways is to send money to those who are dying.  A more difficult way is through legitimate prayer.  Spend time on your knees praying for the salvation of the enemies of the cross of Christ.  Finally, stand for justice in every location by loving people in a radical way.

Go get this book and read it. If you don’t like to read, go get this book and read it anyway!  If you can’t read, go get the free audio book here this month: http://christianaudio.com/free/?utm_source=HomePage&utm_medium=InternalBanner&utm_campaign=freebook

My favorite Jesus Story pt. 2

Healing of the blindThis is part 2

When we left off last, Jesus had placed mud on the man’s eyes, the man washed, and then was healed.  Jesus then disappears from the story for a bit, but don’t worry, he’ll be back.  As we read, the man runs across his neighbors.  His neighbors see him and ask, “Isn’t this the blind guy?” Others answer, “Naw, just looks like him.” (I’m using the John Elkins revised remix translation).  Now take note, the debate is between the neighbors.  No one specifically addresses the blind man until he interjects himself.  This happens throughout the story.  First it happens with the disciples, then the neighbors, then the Jewish leaders.  So this poor man stands around his neighbors and they don’t believe his story.  No one cares about the blind guy.

What should give us pause is that the people who live around this man are unsure if he is even the blind guy.  They are so far disconnected from the plight of the weak that they cannot even recognize a neighbor.  This is the tragedy of the story, that no one cares about the lame guy…  no one that is, except Jesus.  The community of faith has failed to defend the weak and broken among them.  They have allowed this man to beg in the street without ever engaging in the plight.  This is exactly what Ezekiel condemns the Jewish leaders for doing in Ezek. 34 and 36!  The shepherds of Israel have abandoned God’s sheep. In this story, the Lord if fulfilling His promise that He will be the Shepherd.

So, the neighbors take him to the Pharisees and they ask the same questions.  This time there is the added struggle that Jesus decided to heal the man on the Sabbath.  The Sabbath is the day of peace and remembrance of God’s work in creation.  So it should not surprise us that God is recreating on the Sabbath.  But it surprises the Jewish leaders.  In the court of the Pharisees, the discussion is not about the blind man’s sin, but about Jesus’ sin. (Of which there is none, by the way.)  The Pharisees don’t care about the man’s story.  In fact, they don’t even believe in it according to verse 18.  So they call his parents and his parents refuse to stand up for him.  No one cares about the blind guy…  not even his parents.

The Pharisees call the blind man again and demand that he reject Jesus as a sinner who could not heal the blind.  This is exactly what people do in our modern world today.  First we deny the validity of the change that happens inside a person, then we challenge the story, then we reject the answer, then we reject Jesus.  No one cares about the person.  We get caught up in the way that things are done, insisting that we know better.  We get caught up in WHEN things are done, insisting that we know better.  We tweek programing thinking that our programming will save people.  We get mad because we think we have the right answers in our programs and works.  In this story Jesus shows us that we should be concerned for the blind guy.  But we are often too busy being right to care about the blind guy.

John 9, My favorite Jesus Story

One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “what is your favorite Jesus story?”  (a trick I learned from my older brother Jeff)  I love this question because it tells us a great deal about each other.  It tells me if a person actually reads the Bible or if they just regurgitate stuff their pastor has said.  It tells me if they have certain theological dispositions and tendencies.  It lets me briefly peer into their inner workings and attitudes towards religion, faith, and culture.  I thought today I’d share one of my favorite Jesus stories with you.  It will come in multiple parts, this is part one.

In John 9 there is a man who was born blind begging on the side of the road.  Jesus’ disciples ask, “whose fault is this man’s blindness?  Did he do it or His parents?”  Now, this question indicates a very peculiar understanding of life.  These men believe that bad things happen as a direct result of our individual wickedness.  To be sure, sometimes we suffer consequences of our sin in a dramatic and dire way.  For example, you end up in Jail if you break the law.  You may get sick and not be able to think as clearly if you are enslaved to alcohol or mind altering drugs.  Or you may end up losing jobs and being broke because you cannot overcome some sort of addiction.  Whatever the case, there are certainly consequences for individual sin that sometimes have great ramifications.  But, this is not the case with every trial and infirmity.  This poor blind beggar is simply blind.  Sin exists in the world and as a result death and infirmities plague EVERYONE.  This man is not guilty of being blind.  He simply is blind.  His own guilt is no greater than anyone else’s and he may actually be more righteous than the disciples!

To be clear, the true indictment should be laid on the community that surrounds this man.  The question the disciples ask is, “why is he blind.”  The question Jesus would have them ask is, “why is no one doing anything about this?”  Jesus asserts, “This man is blind so that the works of God would be shown.”  Cases of infirmity, sickness, and disease exist so that we can show the love of God to one another and recognize our common need for Christ.  So this story begs the question, where is the community of redeemed believers who follow God?  Why have they not taken care of this one?  Jesus kneels down and heals the man.  In Jesus’ example, we are beckoned to do the same thing for the broken around us.

Read the scene carefully, He doesn’t say a word to the man.  Just puts some mud on his eyes and says, “go wash that off.”  It must have been the weirdest thing that man had ever had happen to him.  I’m a little surprised that there is no record of the blind man’s verbal response.  I imagine that this must have been almost offensive, as Jesus’ healings often seem to be.  (He is always initiating healing with a rather offensive statement.  C.f. Jn 5:6, “do you want to be well?” or Mt. 12:13 to the man with the crumpled hand, “stretch out your hand.”)  I can only imagine what he was thinking, “what do you mean, ‘go wash this off!?’ of course I’m going to wash this off, you just put cold wet mud in my face you big bully!”  And yet, once he has washed it off, he was healed.

We are called to work this mission.  We are called to bind up the broken and take care of those who have shattered souls and lives.  It is in these broken people that we find the love of God is most fruitful.  It is in the broken community gathered around to aid each other that we see the Life Eternal at work.  So, get to work Christian!  Find some broken people and lift them up!

What’s your favorite story?

John 12

In John 12, some Greek believers seek out Jesus almost immediately after the triumphal entry. Now, it is no surprise that some Greeks might find the message of Jesus appealing or that some of them might seek Jesus out. What is surprising is what Jesus responds with. John 12:21 The Greeks ask Phillip if they can go see Jesus. Phillip goes to Andrew and asks him and then they go to Jesus to tell Jesus.

Let’s clear some things up here first. All of the named disciples were Jewish. Jesus was Jewish. Jesus was claiming a messianic position in the Jewish religion. So it is only natural for them to be skeptical about non-Jews wanting to see the Messiah of the Jews. Second, Jesus had already had an awkward conversation with a Samaritan woman at a well and that made all the disciples uncomfortable, but they went along with it. Here the two disciples are not certain whether they should turn these Greeks away. Everything they have ever been taught in their religious practice has trained them to explain to Greeks, “you can come to the outer court, but not to the inner court, and certainly not to the holy place.” But here Jesus is the Holy Place. So where is the line supposed to be drawn? They don’t know where the line is. Further, each time they try to draw a line, they get taught a lesson. Remember John 9, the blind guy on the side of the road. They ask a goofy question because they have been taught some bizarre form of cosmic karma. Jesus reproves them, tells them to get on board with the mission, and heals the blind guy. Third, the Greeks recognize the disparity as well. They don’t go directly to Jesus as we see so many others do. They ask the disciples to get them access. Even the Greek believers were living under the assumption that Jesus was for the Jews only and that they would have to be second class. Jesus, however, has constantly demonstrated that He has a rescue for ALL types of men, women, and children, regardless of ethnicity or religious background. For all must be surrendered to Him anyway.

So, verse 20-22 already presents us with an awkward situation in which Jesus must make a decision. The truly odd nature of this portion of the story is what Jesus says to Phillip and Andrew. (The Greeks may be standing right next to them, but we don’t know for sure because the Bible doesn’t say.) When Jesus is approached with the news of these Greeks coming to see Him, He launches into a cryptic sermon about needing to die in order for life to spring up. He explains that a seed must fall to the ground and give up it’s life in order to bear fruit. So the call of Jesus arises to the surface. “Die that you may live.” Surrender your life so that you may find life. These Greeks are confronted with the message of the Cross: it’s not about who you are or where your from or what religious underpinnings you have. All these things must be counted as nothing and forfeit for the sake of following Christ. So the call lands on us. Will we surrender all our preconceived notions of what it means to be good and follow Jesus? Will we break fellowship with the systems that hold us captive in a false since of religious righteousness to follow Jesus? Will we serve the Father and die to self?

But Jesus isn’t finished here, you see He is about to have a conversation with God that everyone is going to get to hear. It’s a freaky, amazing thing. Jesus admits that He has come to lay down His life and says He wants God to glorify His name. A that moment God speaks!

The best I can describe my feeling as I read this is through a cartoon I watched recently with my daughter. Some bugs were playing in a garden and one thing leads to another and they say, “lets ask the Lord!” (yes, I am that hokey Christian parent.) The lady bug bows its head and asked God the question. I was expecting a moment of silence and then the lady bug should have a bolt of inspiration and know what was right! The moment of silence was there, but the cartoon suddenly boomed a voice answering the little bug. I was floored! God spoke outwardly. It was only a cartoon, but it was AWESOME! So… I get the same since here. Everyone must have felt a sudden jolt of “what was that!”
Jesus explains that it is the Father and that He is about to die… of course no one understands because we are told in verse 16 that even His disciples aren’t going to get it until He is glorified.
Reading this story makes me wonder if I come to God with the expectation that He would actually speak. Jesus did. The Greeks clearly overcame their own awkwardness to address Him. Even Phillip and Andrew approach Him expecting to be rattled a little. Do I? Do you? What are you expecting to receive from Jesus?

There is a whole lot more in this text, but I think I’ll leave it there for now.

The Disciple John

fire_from_heaven

James and John often make me laugh.  Did you know that John has only a handful of lines in the Bible? Surprising, I know, but there is reason that what he says was not often written down.  There is very little personal testimony of John’s character from his own mouth and the little we do have reveals his own goofy character.  One of my favorite scenes is when James and John see Jesus rejected in Samaria in Luke 9:51-56.  The sons of thunder see Jesus rejected and they ask Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them!?”  I imagine the Biblical account leaves out the extended lecture that they received from Jesus.  It simply records, “Jesus rebuked them.”  What is even funnier is the story immediately before.  Jesus has just told them that the

greatest among them is the one who would be the least (verses 46-48).  Then John answers Jesus, “Master we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and he was not with us, so we tried to make him stop.”  Jesus corrects the misconception and moves on.  Now, here in these two snip-it’s a little of the Character of John is revealed.

In the first story, James and John are clearly zealous for the name of the LORD.  Much like the Jews that Paul references in Romans 10:2, “they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge.”  You see these two young men had not yet learned the way of Jesus.  Indeed they don’t learn it until the book of Acts.  They think that Jesus came to destroy his enemies and lay fire to those who

would reject him.  They fail to see the love that Jesus has.  Luke records in verse 51 and in verse 53 that Jesus’ face was “set towards Jerusalem.”  So he is focused on getting to Jerusalem.  James and John are probably under the assumption that this is a victory march and they are about to see Jesus lay the smack down on the Religious Elite, the half-bread Samaritan Jews, and the Roman oppressors!  But the way of Jesus is different from the way of the world.  Glory for Jesus is found in death and humiliation.  Glory is found in making the enemy your family.  Glory is found in bending over backward to establish the necessary forgiveness for the salvation of the lost sheep.  James and John think that one must triumph by violence and strength.  But Jesus is going to show them that triumph is found in peace and meekness.  Jesus is going to die, not kill.  James and John do not see

that Jesus is going to die, they think Jesus is going to win.  But the agenda of victory for Jesus is to die so that He God can win, so that the enemy might be saved.  The character of James and John is one of zeal without knowledge.  They persist in proclaiming what they think of Jesus, without actually searching out Jesus’ will.  Did you notice, they don’t say a word to Jesus before proclaiming with pride their intent to burn up those He came to save?

How does one know the will of God?  In John 7:17 Jesus says, “ If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority.”  In this simple statement Jesus calls everyone to

conform their life to the will of God.  Make your will to DO His will and you will know.  James and John needed to conform themselves to God’s will before they could understand God’s mission.  Only in laying aside their own desires and striving to desire God’s will are they able to understand God’s heart.   Indeed they would soon understand fully as their master is about to show them.

In the preceding story, John proclaims proudly, “WE STOPPED HIM!”  Again, John is not concerned for the good of the people here.  People were being rescued from demonic oppression in the name of Jesus.  But instead of recognizing the Love of God poured out through a willing vessel, John is concerned for his own agenda.  John was on the team, this other guy was not!  This other guy did not

follow Jesus in the same manner that John and the 11 did, therefore he must be stopped!  John imposed on this other brother the necessity of worshiping the exact same way he did.  Surely you can’t know Jesus unless you do the same thing John was doing!  Again, Jesus corrects John.

You know…  the disciples are often wrong and I like to laugh at them.  But I am

no different.  I sometimes insist that people must worship the same way I do.  They must have the same kind of music, the same preaching style, the same kind of building or they cannot possibly be worshiping correctly.  They must observe the same worship times and teach their children the same way I do.  They must read their Bible the same amount of time I do and they must listen to Piper, Chandler, MacArthur and balance that out reading Bonhoeffer, Hirsch, Mclaren, and Tozer.   (Now just s disclaimer: The Bible is the authority over how Christians should worship, and we need to be careful to obey Jesus through His Word!  But let’s be honest, there is a lot of stuff we do that has nothing to do with the Bible and is therefore not worth squabbling over.)  Like John, I am often zealous for what I deem is right… and yet I find myself having to seek the Lord all the more to understand His love and attitude toward those I deem worthy of death.  Then I find myself asking forgiveness for wrong motives and a self-aggrandizing vision.  So, I keep walking with Jesus and striving to understand His way, I will eventually grasp this love and will be conformed to the image of Him who created me. (Col 3:10, Phil. 3:10

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