Showing posts from July, 2013

Hungry For More

Grassroots. That word has come to mean a movement initiated and sustained by the people, at the lowest level of an organization. Those in the top levels of that organization are often wise to pay attention to what is happening at the grassroots.

I was surprised to note that a grassroots movement can be faked. It’s called “astroturfing” and is defined this way: Faking a grassroots movement is known as astroturfing, which, as the name suggests, is named after AstroTurf, the iconic brand of artificial grass. Astroturfing means pretending to be a grassroots movement, when in reality the agenda and strategy are controlled by a hidden, non-grassroots organization. In this manner, a faux show is presented, consisting of robotic individuals pretending to be voicing their own opinions.

What John the Baptist and Jesus began was a grassroots movement. It was one of the reasons those in authority were not happy with either of them.

John the Baptist is an interesting character. He appears on the sta…

Can You Keep A Secret?

Can you keep a secret?

In God’s world there are lots of mysteries, but few secrets. A mystery is defined as: something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain. A secret is something not known or seen or not meant to be known or seen by others. There is a lot that we can’t explain about God. There are some things that He doesn’t mean us to know. With our usual insatiable need to control everything, even information, we try hard to explain the unexplainable and to dig up and reveal the secrets of the Almighty.

We often hear phrases like: “I have no secrets” or “My life is an open book.” But everyone has something he doesn’t want anyone to know about. There is at least one incident in my life that I will go to my grave without revealing (don’t ask because I won’t tell!). We often keep secrets in order to prevent others from being hurt. Sometimes we keep secrets so that we won’t be hurt. Unhappily there are secrets we keep that cover up evil in our lives that we don’t wan…

The Simple Truth

You must be born again” (John 3:7).

I doubt that this was what Nicodemus expected when he arrived under cover of darkness to talk to Jesus.  According to the record given to us in John 3, Nicodemus hardly got through the pleasantries of a polite introduction before the Lord went right to the point—the religious leader and member of the Jewish ruling council, needed a Saviour.

In this most famous chapter of the Scriptures, the Gospel is laid out in graphic detail.

No one can be part of God’s kingdom unless he is born again (3:3).

Being born again is the work of the Spirit of God (3:6).

The Son of Man, Jesus, would be the instrument of that new birth (3:14).

Belief is required (3:15, 16).

God made the supreme sacrifice to make it possible for us to be born again (3:16).

The first coming of Christ happened so that we would have the opportunity to be saved (3:17).

Those who reject Christ have already condemned themselves (3:18).

Sin keeps people from being born again (3:19, 20).

If we ever needed …

...All Others Pay Cash

“In God we trust; all others pay cash” is a tongue-in-cheek slogan taken from the inscription on American coinage. It testifies to our innate mistrust of everyone, though it could be argued that most people don’t even trust God all that much.

After the confrontation in the temple (John 2:13-16), Jesus stayed in Jerusalem for the Passover. While He was there the text tells us that He did many miracles (2:23) and people believed. That sounds wonderful. When that happens in our churches we get all excited and try to modestly boast about how the Lord is moving among us.

Oddly enough, Jesus didn’t make a big deal about the growing “body count” of these “converts.” The text says: “But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men. He did not need man’s testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man” (2:24, 25).

The King James version uses the word “commit” rather than “entrust.” The word means, among other things:  to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place …

The Death of the Sanctuary

I often wonder how Jesus would feel about the activities that go on in His house today.

John 2:13-17 records an event that Matthew, Mark and Luke put much later in Jesus’ ministry. There is no reason to assume that Jesus only cleared the temple once so the fact that John recalls the events early in Christ’s ministry doesn’t pose a problem. We KNOW how slow we are to get the message sometimes, so there is no reason to believe that the Jews of Jesus’ day were any faster—or any more obedient!

In any case, John tells us that shortly after the wedding in Cana, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for the Passover. When He got to the temple he found it busy—but not with worshippers. It was busy with businessmen hawking their wares.

To facilitate the sacrifices, these merchants had set up shop to sell the sheep, cattle, and birds required by the priests. Since there were foreigners among the Jewish converts, the money changers were there as well. It was their version of “seeker-sensitive,” providing for…

Better Wine

I’ve always wondered why the miracle of changing the water into wine at the wedding in Cana was Jesus’ first miracle. It has always seemed so out of sync with all the other miracles. Though He fed the multitudes on several occasions, those miracles were always connected with His teaching. But here in John 2, it doesn’t appear the Jesus had the opportunity to teach—at least from the part of the story we have recorded for us.

But the Lord never did anything without a reason, without an eternal purpose. As I sat and thought about this passage this morning, an idea occurred to me. I could be stretching the passage beyond its meaning but here is where my mind went.

I thought about what Jesus said about putting new wine in old bottles in Matthew 9:17, and wondered if that was the lesson here.

The host of the wedding had served his best wine at the beginning of the wedding feast. That was customary. While the guests were capable of appreciating the bouquet and the expense, they were treated t…

God With Us

John records for us how those first disciples came into contact with Jesus. The episode with Nathanael is particularly interesting. Philip, after meeting Jesus personally, went to find his friend, Nathanael, to tell him that he had found the Messiah. Nathanael was skeptical but went along out of curiosity. When Jesus saw him, the Lord identified him as a “true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (John 1:47). That resonated with Nathanael. The conversation provided the tipping point that brought this “true Israelite” into Jesus’ first circle of followers.

‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” (1:48).

It seems obvious that whatever Philip was thinking while under that tree had something to do with why Jesus would identify him as a true Israelite in whom there was no falsehood. Recently I was at an event where the speaker “suggested” that she had some special insight into the needs of c…

When God Shows Up

Today we often hear the expression, “God showed up.”

God can’t NOT show up. He is present everywhere, so beyond our capacity to understand that it isn’t just a piece of Him that is presence in every place all the time, but all of Him all the time.

But what people are trying to say with that phrase “God showed up” is that God revealed Himself by doing something special at that moment.

In John 1 we read this ominous statement: “He [Christ] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him” (John 1:10, 11).

God was there, but hardly anyone was looking for Him, or noticed Him, or wanted Him. We know that Jesus did not come as the majority of people expected Him to come. Most wanted their Messiah to come at the head of a heavenly army to overthrow the Romans and to free them from being under the thumb of a foreign ruler. Jesus came alone to restore a relationship and to free them fro…

The Heavenly has an Earthly Connection

If there ever was a portion of the Gospels that testifies to the deity of Jesus Christ, John 1 is that portion.

The writer begins with those famous lines, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.

One of the reoccurring questions that bubbles to the surface here and there on the otherwise stagnant pond of today’s church is, “How can I know God better?” The deepest desire of a believer ought to be a more intimate connection with his Creator, John, reported to be the disciple who had that connection with Jesus more than any of the others, tells us the secret to knowing God.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth...No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (John 1:14, 18).

To know Jesus is to know God. Those who say they have faith in God bu…

When In Doubt...

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

Come on! How can it be possible to see Jesus in the flesh after His death and doubt Him?

It’s easy to criticize—at least until I look into my own heart and realize that I am often guilty of the very same thing.

I’ve been reading a book by Larry Crabb, titled, Finding God. In it he talks about our tendency to try to “fix” things ourselves when God doesn’t deliver what we think He should, when we think He should deliver it. That’s doubt—we doubt that He will meet our needs, that He is sufficient to meet our needs, and that, even if He doesn’t meet our needs, it’s all okay because He is good and He is God, and that is enough.

The followers of Jesus saw Him, but perhaps the events of the days and weeks that had gone before made them reluctant to trust. Sure, He was there. But He was going away again and what would happen to them then? Why didn’t He stay and lead them? Who would heal them, and teach them, and prote…

The Truth, the Whole Truth, and Nothing But the Truth

It was a payoff.

Whether or not the lie the guards told helped them to keep their jobs, certainly the truth about what happened at the tomb would have caused a few of their superiors’ heads to roll.

The angel appeared at the tomb and: “The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men” (Matthew 28:4).

Once recovered from their shock the guards reported in. Angels had appeared, rolled the stone away and the body they were so carefully guarding was gone.

If you had heard this story and didn’t believe it, what would your reaction be? If you fired the guards for negligence claiming that they had fallen asleep and the disciples had stolen the body to make it look like Jesus had come back from the dead, the guards would have told the truth and made you look like a fool. So you pay the guards to keep their mouths shut and spread the story that the disciples stole the body while they slept, and make them look incompetent.

For the right amount of money the guards didn’t c…

Exceeding Expectations

It’s never what you expect.

The women went to the tomb early that morning. The body of Jesus had been hurriedly, though lovingly, placed there. Joseph and Nicodemus hadn’t had a lot of time to plan a funeral since the Sabbath was approaching when Jesus died and they had to get the work done quickly so that they would not be in violation of Jewish law. The women hoped to be able to add more spices to the grave clothes, though they wondered how they could do that with the stone rolled over the entrance. Perhaps the guards would take pity on them and help them with that task.

But by the time they got there, everything had changed.

The stone was moved. The body was gone. An angel stood guard.

He is not here; he has risen, just as he said” (Matthew 28:6a).

They were instructed to go and tell the disciples what they had witnessed and heard and then to go to Galilee to see Him. According to both Mark and Luke the disciples didn’t believe them even though Jesus had told them on several oc…

The Dead Really DO Speak

I was still living in Medellín, Colombia when, in March, 1983, a 5.5 magnitude earthquake struck the city of Popayán, some distance to the south of us. As earthquakes go, a 5.5 isn’t all that significant, but the city was made up of old buildings without much support. The result was devastating for the city’s inhabitants. But most traumatizing was the destruction that took place in the cemetery. The movement of the earth was so forceful that graves were opened and caskets popped to the surface and opened, exposing the bones of the dead.

They stayed dead. We wouldn't expect anything else.

But in Matthew 27:50-53, something amazing happens in the midst of the trauma of Jesus’ death. It’s seldom commented on, probably because no one can explain it, but there it is.

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook and the rocks split. The tombs broke open and the bodie…

The Buck Stops...

The deed had been done.  Jesus had been turned over to the authorities. It is assumed that Judas expected the Lord, when faced with the threat of arrest and execution, to call down those legions of angels, to establish that earthly kingdom. Things didn’t turn out at all as Judas expected them to. Jesus allowed Himself to be taken away and did nothing when the authorities condemned Him to die.

Judas was devastated and tried to undo what had been done but it was too late. “‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘For I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility’” (Matthew 27:4).

A little later, Jesus was standing before Pilate, the Roman governor. Pilate was reluctant to condemn Jesus, but according to the law he was the only one who could pronounce the death sentence. He tried to evade the responsibility by giving the people a choice: Free Jesus or free Barabbas, a known criminal. By this time the crowds had been so fired up by the Jewish authori…