Welcome “Distractions”

Have you ever had one of those times where you just want to be alone? Maybe you were busy and had an urgent task to complete, maybe you were exhausted and needed a nap, or maybe you just a few minutes of silence. Whatever the case, we’ve all been there. As we read through the gospels, we see that Jesus had days like that too. Luke 9:10-11 describes one of those days in the ministry of Jesus.

Jesus had recently sent his 12 disciples out on a sort of messianic mission trip. They cast out demons, healed the sick, and preached the message of the Kingdom. Now they had returned, excited to tell Jesus all the ways they experienced the power of God. So, in order to have some time celebrating with his disciples, Jesus withdrew from the crowds to the town of Bethsaida (Luke 9:1-10).

Do you get the picture? Here is Jesus taking his disciples for some time alone with them. But we see in verse 11 that the crowds somehow hear about where Jesus has gone and follow Him. And how did Jesus react? “And Jesus rebuked the crowds…, ” no. “And Jesus seeing the crowds sighed…,” nope. “And Jesus said, ‘Hey guys give us a minute,'” no.

Instead, we read, “and Jesus welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God and cured those who had need of healing,” (Luke 9:11). That is amazing. Jesus welcomed them, not begrudgingly or out of duty, but gladly and took the time to serve their needs. People were not a distraction or interruption to Jesus. Rather, it was His joy to serve and love them, ultimately by laying down His life. That is why He came (Mark 10:45).

I don’t know about you, but I find my reaction to people is often far different from that of Jesus. I often act as if it is a chore to serve others: I grumble, I am rude and dismissive, I snap at my kids for interrupting me while watching SportsCenter. The difference? Jesus was full of grace and truth (John 1:14) and I am, well, full of my self. When Jesus saw the crowds He didn’t sigh, He served. He didn’t grumble, He gave. He didn’t run, He received. Jesus understood (and still does) that what the people needed most was Him. And He is never short of the grace to give the truth of Himself.

The point:  I need the grace of Jesus to see and love like Jesus. The grace to be reminded that He always has time for me, that He gave His very life for me, even when in my sin and rebellion I didn’t deserve it. And I need His strength to then show others that same grace. To remember others around me need the grace and truth of Jesus too. To remember that people and their needs aren’t a distraction, but that people are the point. And then like Jesus, to welcome them and give them grace and truth.

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It “All” Matters

“And Paul entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks,” (Acts 19:8-10, ESV)

“All.” It’s a pretty simple word, but one that carries a pretty big meaning, yet it is easy to rush by. The verses above are Luke’s summary of Paul’s ministry in the city of Ephesus, and the “all” matters. The book of Acts tells us and history agrees that Ephesus was a bit of a world city, exerting a large amount of influence in the Roman province of Asia (modern day Turkey). So, it is not surprising that Paul would dedicate a good amount of time to plant a church there.

What is striking, however, is that Luke tells us that after two years of faithful ministry “all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord,” (v. 10). That’s right “all”. Don’t skip that. “All.” Let that sink in a minute. And not just all the residents of Ephesus, but all the residents in the entire province of Asia. Luke’s statement raises three questions in my mind: what does he mean here by “all,” how did Paul accomplish this, and what does that mean for us today?

As to what Luke meant by “all”, we have a few basic choices. 1) By “all” Luke meant every single person, without exception, in Asia heard the gospel. While possible, I am not sure this is the most probable choice. 2) Luke was using hyperbole; a pretty big number of people heard the gospel, and to really make a point Luke just said “all.” This is the least likely possibility in my mind, because it borders very close to being dishonest, and I don’t think the Biblical narratives work that way. 3) Luke meant “all types of residents”, referring to socio-economic and ethnic groups. Luke’s explanatory phrase “both Jew and Greek” at the end of the verse gives this view considerable weight. 4) Enough of the population heard the gospel that they were representative of the whole. We talk this way sometimes “all of our workers embrace this new policy” even when two or three may not, but enough people do we can speak for the whole.

My sense is that by “all” Luke is using a combination of numbers 3 and 4 above. In other words, Luke is saying, “As a result of Paul’s ministry in Ephesus, so many people, from every social category, heard the gospel that there was no place in Asia you could go where people had not heard the message of Jesus.” Not that all who heard the word believed, but the gospel spread far and wide. (Interestingly, Paul claims this same comprehensive sharing of the gospel while in Ephesus in Acts 20:26-27). And that fact is breath-taking.

How then did the gospel spread so broadly in Ephesus and Asia? The answer is found in 19:8-9. There we see that Paul spoke the gospel boldly and daily, and in Acts 20:20 we learn that Paul did this both in public and from “house to house.” In other words, the gospel spread so effectively because Paul and the other believers simply shared the message of Christ in their daily life, wherever they went. As a result, all heard the gospel.

Oh that this would be said of my church, of my neighborhood, of my town (or is it a city?)! And, in fact, it can. How? In the same way it happened for Paul in Ephesus: we face down our fears, trust in the power of the Holy Spirit, and boldly, daily speak of Christ, wherever we find ourselves. May we -may I- be so gripped by the greatness of the gospel that it can be said of our places of influence “all the residents heard the word of God,” because, really, they all matter.

 

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August 6, 2013 · 2:36 pm

Back to the Blog

A couple of years ago I started this blog as a creative outlet for myself, but have not touched it in over three years. That is a pretty long time to not do something and then start it again. But, here I sit starting up the blog again, and so wanted to take a moment to explain why I stopped and why I am starting again now.

So why did I stop? I stopped blogging for two main reasons: attitude and time. The latter is the easier of the two to explain.  I was in a season of life that just didn’t feel conducive to keeping a regular blog (we’ll see if that has changed) and as such keeping up was simply not a priority. Added to that, I can be a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to writing, so I was taking A LOT of time per post. I am trying to be a little more relaxed this time around, not trying to say everything I can possibly say in each post. The second reason I stopped blogging was because I noticed my posts were becoming prideful, reactionary, and overly critical (some of those posts I deleted, some thankfully, I never posted). I had begun writing to an audience that didn’t really exist about topics that I had more theory than wisdom. God convicted, I repented, and decided to stop. Hopefully, by His grace, I will avoid that type of writing this time around.

Why start again now? Good question. For one, I’ve had some ideas kicking around in my head, and I need a place to get them down where others can interact with them and sharpen me. Second, I hope to use this blog as a tool and resource for the families I am serving in my local church. Third, I have this crazy idea that I’ll actually have more time to do it. Hopefully, I will be disciplined enough to keep this thing going.

So, thanks for stopping by, I pray God will use this blog to glorify Himself and encourage His saints. Look for a new post coming soon!

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Shadows of Christ in 2 Samuel 15

On several occasions,  Jesus made the claim that the entire Old Testament (OT) is about Him (Lk. 24:44-48; Jn. 5:39).  I believe that the Old Testament speaks of Jesus in a number ways, but primarily by direct prophecy, foreshadowing, and typology (i.e. where an event or person represented or reflected something that was to come in the life of Jesus).  With this view of the OT in mind, I came across an interesting episode in the life of David that foreshadows an event in the life of Jesus.

2 Samuel 15-19 contains the narrative of the rebellion against King David by his son Absalom.  In chapter 15, we read about Absalom’s (whose name ironically means “My father’s peace”) conspiracy, his coup, and his march toward Jerusalem, David’s capital city.  The second half of the chapter (vv.13-37) record David’s flight from Jerusalem.  The text notes that during David’s flight he crossed the brook Kidron (15:23) and then went up the Mount of Olives (15:30).  There on the mount, David is met by Hushai, a man the text specifically labels as David’s friend (15:37).  Hushai, in his loyalty to David returns to Jerusalem and plays a vital role in downfall of the rebellion (see 2 Sam. 17).

Interestingly, Jesus, the long expected Son of David (Mt. 1:1; Lk. 1:32-33; Rev. 22:16), experienced an event much like this one from David’s life.  When Jesus came to earth, He was a King (Jn. 18:33-37) who found Himself in the midst of a rebellion.  As David’s son, his own flesh and blood rebelled against him, it was humanity, those whom Jesus created in His own image that were in rebellion against Him (Jn. 1:10-11; Rom. 5:8-10).  Like David, in a desperate time, Jesus and his closest followers left Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron (Jn. 18:1) and  ascended the Mount of Olives (22:39).  While on the mount, Jesus also was met by one he called a friend (Mt. 26:50).  Yet, unlike Hushai, Judas came to betray his master.  While David re-entered Jerusalem as the victor, Jesus re-entered the city in bonds.  While David defeated Absalom’s rebellion with military strength, Jesus defeated the rebellion of sin by dying on a cross and rising again on the third day.

Now, some may argue that Jesus and David traveling the same route, being met by a friend, and the like is not much more than mere historical coincidence.  After all, no one Gospel presents all the details as I have reconstructed them above.  Yet, despite these and other arguments that could be made to the contrary, I contend that no detail in the text of Scripture is coincidental, and that what we have going on in these events in the life of David is an intentional foreshadow to a similar event in the life of Christ.  Perhaps the Gospel writers even  included the details they did to make a subtle connection for their reader’s to this OT account.  The question then remains, so what?

I would say this foreshadowing accomplishes three things.  1) It demonstrates that David’s life, not just his writings and the promises made to him, point to Christ.  Thus we ought to read these accounts with an eye for theology, not just looking for a nice, neat moral interpretation.  2) It demonstrates that all Scripture bears witness to Jesus Christ.  3) It causes us to look for the one Son of David who suffered rebellion, yet defeated it and brings peace in chaos, forgiveness to His enemies, and healing to brokenness.  This we find in Jesus, the One who ties all Scripture together.

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Easter: More than Cadbury Eggs and Bunnies, it’s Hope

Today, I attended the funeral of a dear follower of Jesus, who recently passed away after  a long battle with cancer.  Going to a funeral this close to Easter was a pretty unique experience for me, and it brought the practical realities of Jesus Christ’s resurrection into sharp focus.  The effects and implications of Christ’s death on the cross for our sin and His subsequent resurrection are incredibly numerous, but here are a few apects that have really stuck out to me as I and my church family have mourned the loss of a fellow Christ-follower.

First, Jesus’ resurrection brings hope in the face of death.  Death is unnatural.  It is the result and penalty of human sin, our rebellion against God.  Death also brings hurt and grief when it comes to those we love, and it often rouses fear when we face it ourselves.  But, the good news of Jesus’ resurrection is that He has conquered death.  This means that death does not have the final word, it is not the end.  So, while it is fitting to mourn the death of those we love (as even Jesus wept at the death of a close friend), for those who follow Jesus, we mourn with hope.  We mourn with hope knowing that those who have trusted Christ in this life, when they die they are present with Him, and that His resurrection guarantees that when Jesus returns their bodies will be raised to new life to dwell with Him for eternity.  So, Jesus’ resurrection gives hope to death, because it demonstrates that there is life in Christ after death.

Second, Jesus resurrection gives hope in our suffering.  Let’s be honest, life is at times very hard.  We go through trials and experience pains and sorrows that are often deep and heavy.  Jesus’ death and resurrection show us that God, Himself, identifies with our sufferings, trials, pains, and sorrows because He experienced all of those things Himself, when He became a man in the person of Jesus Christ.  So, we don’t suffer alone, Jesus walks with us through our suffering, encouraging and caring for us, because He has been there.  The sweet lady whose funeral I attended lived the last eight years of her life in terrible pain from her cancer and treatments, as many others also have.  But, since she trusted in Christ’s resurrection, she was able to suffer well, never allowing her trials to consume her, though they were difficult for her.  Instead, she used her suffering to glorify Christ, by sharing His love and joy to others, despite her pain.  So, Christ’s resurrection lets us know we don’t suffer aimlessly, and that we have a God who can identify with our sufferings and so bring us great comfort.

Lastly, Jesus’ resurrection gives us hope for this life.  On the one hand, the resurrection signals that sin and death are defeated; our penalty for sin has been paid by Christ, we have forgiveness!  This means that those who trust in Christ as their Lord and Savior are able to live as they were created: to love, worship, and obey God.  So, the resurrection of Christ brings meaning to life.  On the other hand, Christ’s resurrections shows us that there is more to our existence than simply breathing, accumulating stuff, and dying and that life in this sinful, broken world with all of its hurts and sorrows is not all there is.  The resurrection allows us to live with radical passion for Christ, worshiping and serving Him now, with the assurance that whenever our life on this earth ends, there is life on the other side with Him.  So then, the resurrection allows us to live with hope because it gives purpose and meaning to this life, as well hope for a life come.

Easter, then is about more than lilies, chocolate bunnies, Peeps, and delicious cream filled eggs; it is about the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Easter doesn’t just signal the arrival of Spring, it signals hope for all people, because Jesus died, and is alive, calling everyone to leave sin, love and treasure Him, and so truly live.  This is the gospel, that we have hope in one savior, Jesus Christ.  “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

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