Tag Archives: Jesus

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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Stuff on My Wall, Final Post

I love art!  Art (all types) speaks to the soul in a way that nothing else can.  It moves the heart to understanding of God that cannot be compared to a lecture or sermon.  Because I believe this, I surround myself with works of art.  So on this back wall I have some great works I’d like to share. 
back wall

 

Lion2

The first one is the Lion overlooking the world.  I painted this a few years ago.  My wife and I have a favorite book: Safely Home, by randy Alcorn.  It is a fiction story about the last Christian martyr in China.  In the midst of the book there is a description of a statue of a Lion with his paw on top of the globe.  Alcorn describes the lion as tender yet fierce.  The lion holds a balance of strength and meekness, between grace and near reckless ferocity, between fury and patience.  Alcorn describes the lion as standing over the Earth with a look of power and justice.  I tried to capture that in this lion.  I keep it on the wall so that I can be reminded of Our Lord, the Lion of Judah.  He is not tame!

waterfall

Second, the picture of the waterfall (sorry for the reflection of my desk in the photo).  I was given this picture by a former coworker from back when I worked retail.  Written in the bottom right of the frame is “John 4:14.”  In John 4:14 Jesus says, “…but whoever drinks of the water that I give him will never be thirsty again.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  This artwork is a black and white photo of a waterfall coming out of the rocks!  Hopefully your picking up on the symbolism from the Old Testament.  If you’re not, read Exodus 14 and following… that will get you started.

Safely home

Third is a picture from Safely Home.  In this picture Jesus clutches the last martyr to his chest.  The martyr is holding some crowns in his right hand and is slumped over in the chest of Jesus as if to illustrate complete and total comfort from the exhausting work on his heart.  An angel stands in the back with the martyr’s white robe held out as if presenting it.  I love this picture because Jesus is not sitting on the thrown.  He has leapt off the throne and grabbed the martyr, clutching him close, obviously before the martyr could even complete his bow.  To the right on the floor lay the chains that once bound the martyr on earth.  They are cast off to the side.  This is the image of Jesus meeting his children in heaven!  He does not remain on the throne, He is so excited to see His brother, He runs to hold the servant close.  This is a picture drawn from the character of God found in the Gospel Parables.  It is beautiful and I am excited to see my King in person one day.  “At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, in Heaven and on Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father!” –Philippians 2:10-11

Power of One

Finally, one of my favorite stories is pictured below on the shelf.  “The Power of One!”  In this world of racial discrimination and humanity wickedly oppressing other members of humanity, there are few stories as powerful and horrifying as the oppression of the Zulu people in South Africa.  Apartheid is one of the greatest blights on human history.  In The Power of One, a young white man grows up to teach reading and writing to the Zulu people who are socially, economically, and physically oppressed.  The Zulu people were not able to receive education and therefore were enslaved to a system the relegated them to poverty and death.  The young man works hard to liberate a people who are oppressed and this is that story.  This book inspires me to work hard for justice!  We are to be agents of righteousness in this world.  And, where there is injustice, we must work hard to be the justice and fight for justice for the sake of the Gospel.   If you don’t like to read, there is a fantastic movie version with Morgan Freeman!  Warning, it is graphic, rated R, and has violence and language in it.

Don’t worry, this is the last post of “stuff on my walls.”  We’ll get back to more serious things soon.  What do you have on your walls and why?

Stuff on my office wall, part 1

The things that someone surrounds themself with can provide great insight into the character and personality of that person.  If someone surrounds themselves with golden trophies of former athletic achievements, then that tells you that they value their former athletic prowess.  If someone surrounds themselves with pictures of family, then they value family.  If someone surrounds themselves with mementoes from trips then they probably value their travel experiences.  Well, I was doing some introspection the other day and was looking around my office.  I won’t bore you with my own critical analysis of my character.  But I thought I’d share some of the things on my walls… because I think they’re cool

Painting by Greg Olsen
Painting by Greg Olsen

First, a painting by Greg Olsen sits directly over my desk.  This is my favorite painting.  It is a painting of Matthew 23 when Jesus Laments over Jerusalem.  He sits on a hill and overlooks the capital city of the people of God and proclaims, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem…”  You can imagine a tear falling down his face as he sits down in exasperation.  He weeps for His people.  This is the way I feel about the church in America.  My wife bought it for me when we were in our second year of marriage.  It serves as a reminder of my calling in ministry.  Within the painting is the reminder of my responsibility to my family.  I love my family and surround my calling around constant imagery of my life with them.

(You can find Greg Olsen’s print here: http://www.gregolsen.com/o-jerusalem-9652)

Prayinghands

Second, this is a wood carving that my wife’s Grand Father (Papa) did.  It sits above the calling.  It is probably one of the coolest art works in my office.  Papa is one of the most servant hearted men I have ever met.  He loves people with a love that I often cannot comprehend and he is the most patient man I have ever known.  On top of that, he can do almost anything.  Electrical problems, home structural problems, leadership issues, car problems, engine issues, weed eaters, plumbing, anything!  Papa can do almost everything and this piece of art is a constant reminder to me that Papa’s most admirable and endearing character trait is his constant connection to the Lord.  Likewise, I need to cultivate a lifestyle of prayer and dependence on God and my connection with Him.

happyBDay

This third one may seem silly to some of you.  But I keep a small poster that was made for me on my Birthday by the staff at the church.  However, recognition in church work is uncommon and personal  anniversaries are almost never acknowledged.  So I keep almost all of them when I get them.  This one was on my wall and I left it there because it means a lot to me to know that others think about things like that.

DadThis is a picture of my Dad.  My dad was a great man and I keep this to remind myself of who I am, where I came from, and who I want to be.

Jesus and Gossip

jesusandpeterDid you ever notice, Jesus never talks to the disciples about the other disciples?  There is one incident of Jesus answering a question about another disciple and he answers in front of everyone (that is, Judas at the last supper: John 13:21-30).  But you never see Jesus going to Matthew and saying, “Man…  Peter is such a dolt!” Jesus never goes to John and says, “I’m really concerned about Thomas, did you know he blah blah blah.”  Jesus never looks at James and says, “so… your brother? How’s he doing?”  Jesus never participates in gossip, he never gossips, and he never invites gossip.  On the contrary, when the Lord is asked to gossip He answers very clearly (John 21:21-22).  So, I think we can learn something of how to handle people tempting us to gossip as well as our own wicked tendencies toward gossip.

First, Jesus points people to the work at hand.  When the Peter asks Jesus about the disciple whom Jesus loved in John 21:22, Jesus responds, “if it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?  You follow ME!”  When someone tries to drag you into gossip, you point them to work!  Apparently Jesus knew something about us.  If we are busy working and are focused on the goal, then we don’t have time or interest in gossip.  Gossip is a bored man’s sin.

Second, Jesus points people to eternity.  In Matthew 10 when Jesus is asked by James and John if they can sit at his right and left, the other disciples start to complain about them.  Jesus quickly answers by calling them all over and talking about the structure of authority in Heaven.  He points them to Heavenly principles to quell the gossip.

Third, Jesus points people to humility.  In the above story, Jesus admonishes the disciples that they must serve in order to be great.  It is here we see that in our humiliation we are exalted by God.

Ephesians 5 says we are to be “imitators of God.”  Therefore, it is necessary that we strive to imitate Christ.  So get to work and focus on eternity.

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.

John 5 pt.1

I wonder if Jesus was frustrated by the lack of concern for the weak. In John 5 Jesus sees a multitude of people who are dying as they lay around a pool. I imagine Jesus walking through the gate in the shadow of the colonnade. It would give Him a moment of privacy, passing through the shade. I can see His eyes welling up with tears as He sees a crowd of lame, cripple people desperate for some sort of relief. Can you picture it? He sees His children desperate for someone to help. What catches my eyes, is that this pool is by the Sheep Gate. Jesus walks in and I wonder why the shepherds are not there. I can feel the frustration, “these are my sheep, where are those worthless leaders I left in charge!” They are nowhere to be found. No ministry done to these poor lame sheep. Instead, they’ve replaced ministry to the weak with a myth about a magic pool.

Beneath the shade of the colonnades, multitudes wait for an opportunity to push their way into the pool when “the water is stirred up.” (v.7) Jesus must have been furious! He charged His priests to provide for these weak invalids, and they have created some sort of goofy myth to keep them out of the way. He walks to one of them and singles out a man who had been lame for 38 years. Think about it! 38 years of waiting for healing. I wonder if he had been able to get into the water at some point in the past and it just didn’t do any good? Perhaps the priests just kept telling him to keep trying? Maybe he had tried everything else and in exasperation just decided to wait for God to walk by. Fortunate for him. Did you see the question Jesus asked in verse 6? “Do you want to be healed?” The man’s response seems like an exasperated, “come on, seriously! Another person blaming me!?” His response is a polite way of saying, “why don’t you help me into the pool, you self-righteous snot!” Jesus had another way in mind.

​I wonder what the initial response of the man’s heart was. I think it would have been a frustrated. Incredulously, I think I would have thought, “you’re nuts!” Sometimes, when Jesus says for us to do things they seem crazy. We look at Him and think, “but this is the way that we have been taught to heal!?” “This is the way, we have always done things!” We reason that we have seen healing happen this way before. These are the methods that we have always used to heal the sheep! And yet, we are still sitting under the colonnades waiting for God to walk by. I think it’s because we know that our methods and myths don’t heal unless God walks by. God has walked by.
​All our incredulous responses to Jesus’ questions are overcome when we rise and walk.

Did you notice that Jesus didn’t heal everyone? There were a multitude of people who were under those colonnades. Yet Christ only healed the one. This is not uncommon. Jesus heals who He heals and no one can really be mad about. After all, all we did was make up some myth to keep the weak out of our hair.

Rambling about dreams

I have weird dreams. It’s nothing new, it’s not that they are difficult or absurd, they aren’t nightmares, I don’t wake up in cold sweats (I live in Texas, it’s hard to wake up cool, let alone cold.), and I seldom ever feel shaky because of them. Well… I recently read through Daniel and saw how the kings were constantly having nightmares. Some of my favorite lines come from these nightmares. One in particular is the beginning of Daniel 4, verse 4-5, “I, Nebuchadnezzar (from here on out, he will be known as Nebby) was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace. I saw a dream that made me afraid.”
We often live in a false sense of security so it shouldn’t surprise us that in our frailty we could have a dream that frightens us. The dream ends up being a prophecy that old Nebby is going to go crazy and be humbled by God. Not the best prospects for a king who is “at ease” and “prospering.” However it is precisely our ease that gets us into these insecure states. When we are at ease with the world around us, then we are in trouble. David has the same trouble. You remember the line I am sure. From 2 Samuel, “When kings go off to war, David stayed home.” (John Elkins paraphrase, 2 Sam. 11:1) The story in 2 Samuel 11 begins the downfall of Israel. It’s a tragic failure of the king that displays the truth that ease and idle hands lead to turmoil and wicked actions. This is why we must discipline ourselves beyond simply looking over our kingdoms and relaxing.
One of my favorite quotes is from Andrew Murray. He states,
“You will ask me, ‘are you satisfied, have you got all you want?’ God Forbid! With the deepest feeling of my soul I can say that I am satisfied with Jesus now, but there is also the consciousness of how much fuller the revelation can be through the exceeding abundance of His grace. Let us never hesitate to say, this is only the beginning.”
We should never truly be satisfied with where we are but should always be pressing further into the character of Jesus.
Anyhow, back to the dreams. As I type this, there is a letter that was written to me a long time ago from some anonymous source that recounts a dream of the youth building here at my church. The building is a tremendous blessing and affords me the opportunity to reach students in a comfortable setting. The dream ends with a statement of peace. This person wrote that they came away with a feeling of deep abiding peace (at least that’s what they said in the letter). Sometimes our dreams bring us peace, though that is not often. Someone once told me that it is a bad sign when God has to use a dream to get your attention. It means you’re not listening on a regular basis. Indeed, the dreams that are in the Bible often seem that way. So… if point number one was never let yourself at ease, then point number B is, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8.
So like I said, I dream pretty often, rarely does it ever mean anything. In the dream story of Nebby, God tells him he will go crazy so that he will know that “the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom He will and sets over it the lowliest of men.” (v.17b) That quote sends chills down my spine! God is awesome! No wonder Nebby was afraid, wouldn’t you be? He trembles in fear of the proclamation of God. Nebby would eventually echo the phrase in 4:34-35. So… I think maybe our dreaming is supposed to lead us to echo God’s praises? Perhaps…