Saturday, May 21, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.6


John 6:70
70 Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve? And yet one of you is a devil.”

The Lord had struck a special kinship with young John as they walked the dusty roads between each town and city. Young John watched the crowds grow as Jesus displayed wonders among them. John had seen men lame from birth rise and walk, their legs reconstructed right before everyone’s eyes. He had watched men that had never glimpsed even a shred of sunlight have their eyes made new, jumping and screaming with joy as they beheld the world for the first time. John and the other disciples had shrieked with fear the first time they watched the Lord reach out and touch a leper but then felt ashamed of their lack of faith as they watched the leprous skin remade new again. Jesus took great joy in watching they’re delight and always thanked the Father in heaven for all he performed.
A large crowd began to stalk the twelve; John began to notice many of the same faces in the multitudes being taught. They would go a whole days walk into another town and yet they would be there waiting or following close behind. John could hear some of them trying to turn the people against his master and reported this to the Lord but Jesus seemed neither surprised nor worried in the least.

Jesus sat teaching near the Sea of Galilee to more people than young John had ever seen in one place before. The twelve now tried to keep the teacher surrounded as often as possible because of the threats hurled at Jesus from the spies of the Pharisees. On several occasions the disciples feared they would drag him away and stone him to death because of their inability to accept what he taught, but strangely he had watched his teacher walk through murderous crowds and leave as if they no longer recognized him. Even the disciples were baffled by many of his teachings but discussed among themselves which ones they would ask the Lord to repeat for them.  The parable he told of his own execution began to seem more like prophesy than a teaching story and John and the other disciples began to discuss this most of all.
As the teaching ended Phillip went to the Lord and seemed to be confused and frustrated with what Jesus was telling him. When Phillip had walked away a young boy handed Jesus a basket, young John ran to Phillip and asked what the Lord had said. Phillip told John to help the others in getting everyone seated on the grass in groups. What John took part in next left him wondering if there was anything this teacher could not do?
 Young John and the other eleven returned to the Lord again and again and had their baskets filled with fish and bread. Jesus would hold the empty basket to the sky and when he brought it back down it would be filled again and again until they had given food to the last person they’re that day. As John also ate he was even more amazed because the bread was as if it had just been baked. As the people began to finish many of the men began to shout “Surely this is the son of David!” One man shouted. “The new King of Israel!” Another man joined in. The shouting grew into chants and singing, John began to be afraid, after all there were many thousands of them, what would stop them from doing whatever they wished?
John looked to where Jesus had been but he was gone. Not being able to find Jesus the crowd began to leave, most heading toward town.

Rant
Looking at the enormous text of the Bible we can get intimidated with the notion of reading it. We can witness the great intelligence of our pastors and teachers in our churches and think “I could never do that.” We hear sermons on the mighty faith of the apostles and the prophets and feel very inferior. All of us can look in the mirror and get depressed over what it is we think we are incapable of doing, and we are right we are, on our own, incapable of many things, but what is God incapable of doing?
King David as a young shepherd boy stood before a philistine soldier that was more than nine feet tall and he was able to do so not because of his great confidence in his own abilities but because of his great faith in his God, he was actually confused and frustrated with the fear of those around him. 
Many times we, Disciples of Christ, can see a need but don’t even begin to consider ourselves capable of filling that need because we are only thinking of the abilities we currently have or know about. We tell ourselves we could never teach because we don’t know enough or we could never lead someone to Christ because we may not be able to answer their questions. We may feel a pull by the Holy Spirit to do certain things but shrink back after reminding ourselves of our limited time or our limited talents but we who follow Christ are vessels of the greatest power this world will ever see, our abilities do not end with our limited brain capacities or our own life experiences, no, we are tapped into limitless knowledge and ability. A jigsaw isn’t much on its own just a hunk of metal and plastic without a carpenter, but with the carpenter it’s capable of crafting beautiful things.
These first disciples of Jesus were men of limited abilities also, these were not men of great learning or position, most were poor and uneducated yet the Lord took what little they had to offer and made much with them. Like a carpenter with a few small tools can produce many beautiful works of craftsmanship he took a handful of very regular ordinary common people and changed the world. If these men had believed in only themselves and their own abilities they would have remained in hiding for the rest of their lives even after seeing the risen Christ, but they didn’t after they received the Holy Spirit they forgot about themselves and they’re own limitations and had faith in the fact that they had been made an instrument, a tool to be used for God’s will.
That same Spirit resides in you and in me. The Lord can make much from very little, of this I am a great example, I am more and more convinced as I walk with Christ that fears and selfishness is our only obstacles to being true servants of our Lord and doing all he has called us to do. We convince ourselves we are incapable as we look at only our own abilities rather than the awesome power of Jesus Christ. We use our comfort level and our preferences rather than His Spirit to lead us into any faithful action. We selfishly think of what we may loose or need to give up, whether its time, money, or how others view us and we resist what the Spirit is trying to pull us toward.

We hold onto ridiculous notions that tell us to value the things of this world and to tightly cling to the few pathetic crumbs of time or material this world has to offer for ourselves rather than hand it over to the One that can take those crumbs and greatly multiply them to serve and increase His Kingdom here on this earth, the One that will exchange those things by giving you back, not wealth or even health but a peace and joy that transcends all understanding and an assurance and confidence in eternal things to come that silences all the fear filled whispers of the evil one. 
We are only His tools, we can collect dust and get rusty or we can give ourselves to the carpenter.

Christ is the only one that can take the limited beings we are and change us, making us into a completely new creation and by His power, not ours, He can make us into more than we ever believed possible, and use for tasks that on our own we could have never accomplished, tasks for His Kingdom, His glory, and our eternity. 


Just give all that you are to Him and watch as He takes our measly crumbs and makes abundance!  

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Relentless

A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.5

John 5:31-32
31“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies in my favor, and I know that his testimony about me is true.

Young John watches on as his teacher’s fame skyrockets after the public display at the temple. Jesus no longer tells those he heals to keep quiet, and now begins to heal the incoming masses, and masses there were. Certainly from all John and the disciples had been taught in the synagogues about the coming Messiah they began to build many expectations as they now were witnessing this growing popularity for what they thought would be Jesus’ overthrow of the Roman Empire and a new physical kingdom established there in Jerusalem.
As they walk along the road and began to enter Jericho James and young John finally get up the courage to ask Jesus something they’ve been discussing amongst themselves for sometime, after all this new coming Kingdom looked more and more eminent by the day. The sons of thunder approach their teacher who was walking ahead of the twelve an a growing crowd trailing behind as the came into the city.

John never ceased to be amazed that the Lord always seemed to know what you were going to ask before you asked it, he knew arguments and discussions going on between the twelve without ever hearing them, their was no surprise or sense of unexpectedness in the Rabbi whatever.
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked them before they had even gotten in front of him, the brothers were still at his back and his stare remained forward looking at the people bringing their sick and lame to the roadside.

“We want to sit at your right and you’re left in your glory” young John said confidently. A jovial look crossed the Messiah’s face as if a child had just asked him a silly question. This made John well up with shame and regret, now hearing the question aloud and seeing his teacher’s response he wished he’d never asked it, he looked at his brother James with a hard look of disgust as if to accuse him and he could see that James was now feeling the same about the question they had felt compelled to ask.
“You do not know what it is you ask.” Jesus replied with the same playful tone in his voice. “Can you drink of the cup I drink, and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” As the Lord asked this question his expression grew very serious, an almost stone like look came upon him as he stared into young John’s eyes, John was silent, totally stifled by the teachers gaze. “We can!” James said. Now they had come to a stop on the road and the other disciples gathering around them and gave hard looks to James and John after hearing what they had asked, they all burned with anger. Jesus removed his gaze from young John and now looked at James sternly and said “”You will drink of the cup I drink, and be baptized with baptism I am baptized with, but to sit at my right or my left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Jesus said.
Their teacher then spoke to the twelve, explaining that in his kingdom any positions given will be ones of service not power, selflessness not self exaltation, he tells them that he himself is but a servant and that they should be also. Surely all twelve were confused and troubled about what this meant for the coming kingdom, how such a kingdom could operate this way and what this meant for what would be expected of them. By this time the Pharisees had sent spies to walk among them and they persecuted the Rabbi just as he had told the twelve they would. He began to tell them also of a strange parable where he the teacher dies and comes back to life, but none of the twelve could make sense of what he meant.

Rant
Many of us have walked through many years in life having preconceived ideas of God and of what He would want for our lives, the problem is we haven’t actually asked God.
We are such sinful self indulgent people that we desperately want to believe that the road God has paved for us is one of prosperity and exaltation, thinking that God may have an obstacle course in mind rather than a soft path is counter to our thinking. Is it no wonder that the multitudes flock to the television evangelists that tell them that the Lord wants you to have that promotion, that new shiny car, or whatever else may make you happy? They tell us that all the work is done and we need only enjoy for ourselves not thinking too much or worrying about doing too much for those around us. When we come to the Lord with these expectations we get surprised when a “fiery trial” comes upon us. Many that flock to a false Gospel of self indulgence never grow roots in the real faith, they hear just enough truth to hope but build a foundation on lies therefore when the “fiery trial” comes they are easily scorched having never been rooted in the true soil of the Gospel to begin with.
As I have said before in this series, when we get God wrong we get life wrong and this one life is our litmus test for eternity.
So how do we ensure that we “get life right?” How can we be sure that we are rooted in the true Gospel and that we are getting God right? Ask Him! Jesus told the twelve and us in His Word what being one of his disciples looks like and feels like. He tells us to count the cost and have a right understanding of what being his disciple will mean for your life, your work, your marriage, and you precious plans and schemes. Reading devotionals and listening to sermons is encouraging and in some ways informational but if that is our main form of fertilization our roots may not be planted very deep, our expectations and understanding of what God may have planned may not be realistic and Jesus wants to be really clear about what following him means and also what it doesn’t mean. We can only grow so much when we are always placing a person between us and the Lord to relay his truth. Most growth will only come from getting alone with Christ and His word.

We must be in God’s Word allowing Him to speak into our lives we must be on our knees asking those questions. When we hear a sermon we should investigate what the preacher said for ourselves using the Word of God, when we read a devotional that makes us feel all warm and cozy we should ask “is that really true?” and see if we can find it in God’s Holy Book. God’s word creates a holy tension in us that calls for spiritual discipline, many in the Western version of our faith recoil from this and insist we only need focus on love and grace, and I agree that love and grace should give us a great sense of assurance and bring joy into our lives and they should be a daily source of thanksgiving and gratitude but if we have no discipline, if we are not seeking daily to live a life worthy of the sacrifice given to us by God than we can easily begin to focus again on our own comforts and preferences and soon we have left the rocky terrain of the Lord’s obstacle course and begun to stroll down the broad highway, after all who wants to trudge through an obstacle course when we can take a much easier route? Who wants to be a servant when we can be served?   

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Relentless
A series of expositions on John the Apostle Pt.4


“Stop turning my Fathers house into a market!”

The party in Cana concludes and Jesus and his disciples leave and walk sixteen miles to Capernaum where they rest with his mother and brothers for a few days. Young John was no doubt keeping his eyes tightly bound to this teacher now waiting for another incredible work like the one he had done in Cana. I can imagine a lively conversation with lots of questions as they reclined in Capernaum.
The Passover is to begin and Jesus takes his disciples and heads out on an eighty-five mile hike to Jerusalem.
The temperature during the day would have been in the seventies to eighties and at night in the mid to high forties. There exist rough paths and roads that they would have likely taken to make the walking easier but such a walk still would’ve taken three to four days or more. Surely many teachings and moments of close fellowship were shared during these long treks.
The disciples don’t know it yet but they’re Lord is about to make a public announcement in a very public place and he couldn’t have chosen a more public time.
Herod had begun work on the temple in 20 B.C. and had been ongoing for forty-six years when Jesus came this day with his disciples, which would have made it 27 A.D. Every adult male within a fifteen mile radius was required to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover in order to pay the temple tax. Gentile coinage was accepted at a much depreciated rate and the exchange would cost the gentile a day’s wages more than that of the Jew.
Then the spotless sacrificial animals available for sale were priced at an incredibly inflated rate. Herod had created a gentile court by the placement of colonnades outside the temple. He had signs posted warning anyone that was not a Jew not to enter the inner courts and to do so meant death for that person. Rome had given the Jews permission to execute anyone that violated this law. So the gentile court was where the gentiles were to worship, it was their church, their sanctuary and this was the place the Jews had chosen to set up a market for the sale of these highly priced sacrificial animals, and where they exchanged the gentile currency for the temple currency, again for a much depreciated rate.
Picture a flea market or fair type of environment, the smell and the sound of livestock, vendors shouting and announcing the goods they had for sale, haggling going on over price, meanwhile we can imagine somewhere among the chaos a small group trying desperately to worship, to give their annual sacrifice, be cleansed of their sins and spend time their in solitude at Gods great temple. Imagine this taking place inside the sanctuary of your church as your time of prayer begins. This is the scene Jesus walks into as he comes into the court that day with his disciples in tow.

I can imagine Jesus walking about looking for the cords and young John wondering what it is he is looking for and possible the disciples offering there help in his search if he will only tell them what he wants. After all, this scene was of no surprise to the disciples and it could be argued that even Jesus had seen this before but today was different, today it was his time.
Finishing his whip he begins shouting as he turns the tables of coins over and thrusts the whip at the animals. “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”
Surely great fear and confusion mounted in John’s mind wondering what would come of this from the Jewish officials.
I think we can sometimes go too far in thinking that Jesus was lost in a rage here in this scene because we as humans are familiar with that kind of loss of control but we must remember that while the Christ is a man he is also God and I for one believe this to be a very deliberate and controlled act of his disapproval and wrath, not a man that has been given over to rage like we would be.
John’s Gospel does not specify who specifically who asked “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this” but it was likely the Pharisees. Why did they not just drag him off and jail him for trial?

I think this scene and the lack of action on the part of these officials gives us a glimpse into the persona of Christ and the knowledge, wisdom, and certain authority that flowed from him. In some way something about him spoke to them telling them this is not only a man.
“Destroy this temple and I will raise it again in three days!” Jesus tells them. How this must have echoed in John’s mind for the remainder of his life. It was quite possibly the first occasion the Lord had predicted his death and resurrection. He calls himself “the temple” because he is to be the new temple indestructible and everlasting that will be given to all so that no man can any longer hold it for ransom and use it to oppress the lost that come to seek the Father. Satin’s days are numbered…



Rant
As we first come to Jesus having lived a worldly life for many years our hearts and our souls are filled with the stench of worldly desires and sounds of selfish lies being announced. The love of money and self exaltation has filled our inner temple; a place now meant for the Lord to dwell has been filled with the lies and deceit of the world.


As we walk through we view our perversions, our prejudices, and our pride. We here the salesmen calling to us that happiness will be found in that next promotion at work, in that new car we will finally be able to afford, in a new sexual conquest, on that pornographic website, in a that chemical that gets us high but these are sales pitches we’ve heard and explored numerous times and we have found them wholly unsatisfying, destructive and leaving us only thirsty for more, we just want these distractions gone now, we finally want our temple cleared and through the chaos and confusion of our worldly desires and Satin’s sales pitch we look toward the entrance of the courtyard as if we already know who stands their. He has been waiting there a long while now. As we invite him in the voices of salesmen grow softer and softer until they cannot be heard at all. As He walks through the markets of pride, ego, and perversions they disintegrate into ashes and are blown away, as He approaches the alter of our temple all grows quiet and the temple has grown vacant of anything not of Him the Christ. Now we know satisfaction, now we know completeness, now we can worship what we were created to worship and we can do it in a clean temple!