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Category Archives: Bible

1 Guaranteed Way to Anger Religious Leaders

toriebballcampI signed my daughter up for BOYS basketball camp. Not on purpose, of course, but, after spending the first-half of summer anticipating the 4-day camp at a local high school, we showed up for Day #1. Noticing the gym brimming with 100+ boys, with naivety, we asked, “So, where’s the girls?” In the respondent’s split second of indecision, my mind awakened to the unlikeliest of possibilities. Having already paid and with the authority that comes from being her dad, I could have forced her participation; but instead, sheepishly, I turned to my daughter and questioned, “Ummm…how do you feel about four days of boys basketball camp?” #awkward 
 

Authority: “the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.”

 
After telling an afternoon Texas-sized tornado-swirling hail-pelting rain-piercing storm to “Shut up and sit down!” and liberating two men living in a cemetery by ejecting thousands of demons into a nearby heard of pigs, Jesus steps back on shore in his hometown to a couple guys and their friend suffering from paralysis. Jesus, amazed by the faith of the paralyzed man’s friends, remarks, “Cheer up, son. I forgive your sins.” Immediately, the present religious leaders begin asking each other, “Does he think he’s God?” 
 
legalistMostly, we tend to respond, “Well…yeah, actually, he is God, so what’s the problem?” But to the locals, Jesus was the carpenter’s kid. No specialties. No fanfare. No authority. Just another Galilean, and “Can anything good come from that area?” The religious leaders are asking each other if Jesus thinks he’s God, because, in their minds, only God has the authority to forgive sins. For Jesus to even attempt to pronounce the paralyzed man as forgiven must mean that he considers himself equal to God.
 
Authority. That’s what this is about. So, with words, Jesus proves his authority by transforming a paralyzed man laying on a mat into an exuberant man jumping up and down on his way back home. You think LeBron’s homecoming deserves headlines? All he did was switch basketball teams.
 
Try being unclean and, therefore, ostracized from your family, livelihood, and hometown. Try being filled with nervous excitement about returning for your 10-year high school reunion only to discover everyone ignoring you at best and leaving the room when you approach them to initiate conversation at worst. This was the paralyzed man’s life…all the time. 
 
That’s what impressed Jesus about the paralyzed man’s friends in the first place. Their friend was paralyzed, right? So, how’d he get on the mat?
 
I’m guessing the paralyzed man’s friends picked him up, and in order to do that, they had to touch him, and because they touched him, they made 55487themselves unclean. I just imagine the people parting like the Red Sea as they trudged through town carrying their friend on a quest to find Jesus.
 
Authority. After the miracle and celebration of the man who is not so paralyzed and not so unclean anymore, “Fear swept through the crowd…” Of course, they were afraid. This was an unexpected, untamable authority refusing to play by the rules.
 
Forgiving sins? Healing paralysis? Commending the unclean? Restoring the hurting? Freeing the captives? Sending the ostracized back home? Who does this guy think he is?
 
Apparently, a man sent by God with great authority. 
 
*How does this quick glance at Jesus’ authority make you feel about him?
 
*How do you feel about the concept of authority?
 
*In the story, which character(s) do you identify with most?

Still learning,

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Posted by on July 15, 2014 in Bible

 

The Ultimate Guide for Making Excuses to God

My Wife = #BeastMode
Yesterday, I posted the following on Facebook: “She runs 2 miles, does squats, lunges, and bleachers, goes to the grocery store, does all the laundry, sweeps and mops the floors, and home schools the children. I run 2 miles and crawl into bed from exhaustion.”

trackMy lovely wife is the “she” in the statement above. She’s a beast, no doubt. Me, on the other hand: when it comes to working out, I make excuses. She does not. That’s probably why she’s down 80 pounds. And I’m not.

On a bad day, I find good excuses not to run. On a good day, I find bad excuses not to do anything else after running.

This week, while reflecting on Exodus 3 through Exodus 4:17, I’ve discovered Moses making excuses: five of them, in fact. Okay, one is more of a plea, but I’m counting it as an excuse.

excusesMoses Excuses
1) Who am I? (speaking about himself)

2) Who are You? (speaking about God)

3) What if the Israelites do not believe me?

4) I am not a good enough speaker

5) Won’t you just send someone else? Please?

Talk about the ultimate guide for making excuses to God! What a list! It’s no wonder the “Lord’s anger burned against Moses” in the very next verse. Take a hint, Bud!

Turning Excuses into Action
However, throughout the entire story, God remains faithful to his original words of encouragement: “I will be with you.” Moses plays a major role, but truly, God, is the main character and hero of the story.

overcomeAre you making excuses in your relationship with God? Whatever they are, I’m willing to bet He’s heard them all (in this story alone!). All the while, He must be longing for your acceptance of the truth He’s known all along: You. Can. Do. It.

Whatever “it” is, God is listening. God is working. God is sending. And my hunch is, he’s sending you. Whether you asked for “it” or not, embrace His sending. The power, energy, and opportunity come from Him.

Please send someone else? Nope. God’s got faith in you. In fact, he stretched his arms wide open just to reveal how much.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Bible, Discipleship

 

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Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 4 *Final*)

Thank you for clicking on my blog. 2 reasons you should keep reading: 1) I am personally committed to writing more consistently and your gracious feedback on this article in the form of a comment would be appreciated, and 2) perhaps you would like to wrestle with the Gospel of Luke, too.

As mentioned in the title, this is “Part 4” of a series in the gospel of Luke. Below are links to the three previous entries.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

THE VOICE
Yesterday, on his Twitter feed, my buddy, @CharlesKiser, posted the following quote attributed to Eric Pfeiffer: “It’s the birthright of every Christian to hear the voice of the Father.” John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, quotes Jesus Himself as saying something similar (or maybe Pfeiffer heard it from him first!), “My sheep recognize my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27 NLT)

For my dad, it was a whistle. It did not matter if I was in a room crowded with hundreds of people, participating in an athletic event, or behind the closed door of my bedroom playing Super Nintendo, whenever and wherever my dad whistled, I could hear it. I could pick out and pick up on his whistle while conversations unfolded all around me. In the midst of any cacophony, I recognized my dad’s whistle. He knew me and upon hearing the whistle, I immediately looked up, made eye contact, and found my way to him.

Do we recognize the voice of the Master? Can we tune to the frequency of the Master’s voice even with the noise of other radio stations saturating the “scan” and “seek” buttons of our lives? As we shuffle from playlist to playlist, does Jesus get airtime, and do we know when He’s got the mic?

NETS, BOATS, AND BUDDIES
Simon Peter heard the voice of the Good Shepherd: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon Peter recognized the voice of the Good Shepherd: “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at your word, I will let down the nets.” From there, the text reveals that Simon Peter and his buddies caught so many fish that their nets began to break. What?! After all the reasons why this will not work, their nets are breaking?! By then, they were forced to band together to help (and sorta rescue) each other. As they frantically threw fish into their buddies’ boat, both boats became so full that they began to sink. Once more, what?! I guess they frantically rowed to shore, but I SO wonder what transpired between Luke 5:7 and Luke 5:8. Regardless, their nets, boats, and extensive experience failed all at the word of Jesus. As I wrote in “Part 3,” Jesus asks fishermen to forsake expertise, fish in unfamiliar, unpredictable waters, and render their equipment useless. Now in “Part 4,” we discover that when they do, they catch the greatest haul of their lives.

GOD, FLOWERS, AND STUFF
To call it an overwhelming experience seems quite the understatement. After Jesus’ healing of his mother-in-law, adding a lifetime supply of fish to the mix sent Simon Peter over the edge: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” In (possible) other words, “You are some kinda power! I’m so not. You speak and amazing happens. After coming up short in religious studies, I’m back here struggling through life in the family business. What could you ever see in or want from me? Please go away. I’m too not like you to participate in this.” Eugene (The Message) quotes Simon Peter as exclaiming, “Master, leave. I’m a sinner and can’t handle this holiness. Leave me to myself.” Ever felt that way? Leave me in my misery, Jesus. You’ve more important people and matters. Don’t waste your time with me. “Master, leave.”

My son, Hudson, created the collage in this picture in Bible class last night. When we asked him what his class talked about, he responded, “God, flowers, and stuff.” At 3 years old, it’s difficult to determine whether or not he’ll grow up to become the next famous artist or painter; however, it matters little, if at all. As far as @HeidiMashele and I are concerned, he creates masterpieces. How can we say such a thing? When he creates, he’s using gifts given to him by his Father, and he’s participating in an activity only found in fullness and completion in and by his Father. We don’t reject his creations, because they are not Picassos. We celebrate them because…well just because he created them.

THANKS FOR NOT ANSWERING OUR PRAYER, JESUS
Let us rejoice at Jesus’ refusal to answer the “Master, leave” prayer. He does not abandon us because we are not holy enough. He does not rip our “God, flowers, and stuff” creations to shreds because, at 3 years old, we cannot produce a Van Gogh. No, the King of the Universe, humbled Himself in becoming one of us, and, in the Luke 5 passage we’ve been discussing, truly reveals Himself as the Good Shepherd (an allusion back where we began…John 10) by offering these encouraging words to Simon Peter (and us), “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”

DON’T BE AFRAID
Misplaced fear has no place here. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of not knowing what to say. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of not knowing the Scriptures well enough. Fear of uncorking the past. Fear of mysteries in the future. If you want to fear the one who can destroy both soul and body (Matthew 10:28)…that would be wise, but misplaced fear has no place here (I’m so happy to use my punny rhyming words today). Reassuringly, the Master says, “Don’t be afraid…[I have a job for you.]”

So, what are we afraid of? Another buddy of mine, @MissioGibby, tweeted: “Creation is well when we risk looking foolish by casting our nets in deep waters for the sake of the Messiah.” What fears are shackling our wrists and preventing us from “casting our nets in deep waters for the sake of the Messiah.” Later on, I added “for His sake and by His word” to the tweet. If we are His sheep and know His voice, what have we to fear? When face-to-face, are we prepared to respond with, “I wanted to offer a cold cup of water in your name. I wanted to visit you in prison. I wanted to give you a place to stay. However, I never acted because I was too afraid.”? As the crescendo of the passage, Jesus seems to be telling Simon Peter that no time for fear exists. He (like we) have a job to do.

BY HIS WORD, THEY LEFT IT ALL
At his word, Simon Peter let down the nets in deep waters, and at his word (“Don’t be afraid. Let’s go fishing for people.), he (and his buddies) “…pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.” Jesus asks fishermen to forsake expertise, fish in unfamiliar, unpredictable waters, and render their equipment useless, and now they are leaving it all behind to follow Him.

Aren’t they crazy, irresponsible, selfish, and in a fantasy dreamworld far from reality? Jesus provided enough fish to rip nets and (almost) sink boats, but what about tomorrow…what about next week…what about next year…what about climbing the family business ladder of success…what about consideration for how the townspeople will look at this…what about seeking wise counsel from other religious leaders…what about the savings account…what about the kids college fund…what about retirement…what about…what about…

Mesmerized by the abundance of fish and hoping to become like Him, at His word, they left it all. Nets…boats…everything. There’s movement here…a shift…transition…transfer…from darkness to light. From the darkness of fishing in our own strength with our own methods…own experience…own strategies…own grit and determination.

When Heidi and I first entered into church planting, I felt as though (and believe) we were following Jesus on in. However, somewhere along the journey, we passed Him. We were still looking backward at Him, but we were on up ahead (and moving ever-so-quicker). Whether we could look back and see him or not, we were out of order. Eventually, we got so far ahead we could no longer look back and see Him.

On the other hand, when they fished in the light of His word…when they moved in response to what He was doing…when they recognized His voice and moved in tune with the frequency of His Spirit…yeah well, we’ve already talked about the broken nets, undependable boats, and fish tossing that occurred.

WILL YOU CONCLUDE THIS BLOG SERIES FOR US?
When it comes to wrapping Christmas presents, I get out of the way, and my wife takes control. It’s like teaching ballet to a pig and I don’t do leotards. (I have no idea what I meant there, but I had fun writing the sentence!) Well actually, she no longer offers lessons. That being said, in order to spare myself the embarrassment of a poorly tied bow, I’m just going to leave them in the bag and politely choose not to neatly wrap-up this “some of Luke 4 and 5” blog series. Truth be told, I’m exhausted from wrestling and my hip feels funny.

Instead, I’ll let the tension sizzle. How does 1) “Don’t be afraid,” 2) “…from now on you will fish for people,” and/or 3) They “left everything and followed him” stir you? What questions remain? Which character(s) are you in Luke 5:1-11? What is Jesus saying to you through this text? What final paragraph would you write to conclude this series? Overall, how can I improve this “Bible-blogging” series?

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Thank you again for stopping by. I have enjoy the writing and interaction during this series, and am considering similar “Bible-blogging” for the future.

In the meantime, would you click here to offer your answer to the following question: “What’s missing in missional?” Mike Breen, Charles Kiser, and others are producing and encouraging reflective dialogue on this topic, and I would enjoy hearing from you.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Bible

 

Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 3)

Thank you for clicking on my blog. 2 reasons you should keep reading: 1) I am personally committed to writing more consistently and your gracious feedback on this article in the form of a comment would be appreciated, and 2) Perhaps you would like to wrestle with the Gospel of Luke, too.

EVERYTHING CHANGED
Once Jesus stepped inside the boat, everything changed. Let me specify. Once Jesus stepped inside Simon Peter’s boat, everything changed. After concluding his sermon, Jesus turns to Simon Peter with a challenge: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” At this point in the story, I wonder what images were racing through Simon Peter’s mind.

On one hand, Jesus had healed his mother-in-law. Simply stated, she had a high fever. They asked Jesus to help her. He told the fever to get out of town. She got out of bed and started cooking. On the other hand, Jesus is no fisherman. He seems to know wood, stone, and rocks. He seems to know preaching, healing, and how to avoid an angry mob. However, suggesting the usage of nets in deep water would disqualify him from offering counsel on any early Saturday morning ESPN fishing show (more on this below). Therefore, what clout and/or credentials authorize Jesus’ command?

NEW NORMAL
We miss the ironies here, because most of us are not fishermen either. First, Simon Peter, the Sons of Thunder, and the rest of the boys fished in shallow water…thus, the nets. They were experts, indeed. Fishing was the family business, and they were no slouches. However, fishing outside their “comfort zone” severely limited dependable, success-producing expertise. Second, “deep water” was mysterious, unfamiliar, and uncomfortable. There were abysmal (pun intended) connotations connected to “deep water.” Would rowing into the unknown would leave them susceptible to a cataclysmic storm? Would rowing into the unknown open trap doors into the underworld? Either way, Simon Peter and his homies were not keen on finding out. Third, fishing with nets in deep water seems futile. Would net-catching fish hang out in deep water? Seems highly unlikely. In summary, Jesus asks fishermen to forsake expertise, fish in unfamiliar, unpredictable waters, and render their equipment useless.

SO…YOU COMIN’?
With his head swimming in images of Mommy-In-Law’s disappearing fever, his eyes roll outward staring into the darkness…the deep. Will he push back or push out? Will he risk or rest? Is the Spirit still hovering over the waters of the deep? The unclean, unconventional rabbi wants to go fishing. Are you coming along, Simon Peter?

Simon Peter answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. Nevertheless, at Your word, (But because you say so), I will let down the nets.”

HOW THIS PASSAGE SPEAKS TO ME
This summer, the Wind has forcefully and frequently blown this passage across my path. With each step and in increasing intensity, the challenge and invitation contained within this encounter swirl around.

I resonate with Simon Peter’s fatigue and frustration. When my church planting journey concluded in May 2011, I felt like I had fished “all night” (6 years) and “caught nothing.” As I mentioned in “Dark Night Before the Dawn,” I entered a wilderness season of doubt, bitterness, and exasperation. Did we endure 6 years of sacrifice in order to row back to the shoreline empty-handed in the shadows of darkness?

However, beginning in late February/early March, the Lord began lifting my heavy clouds. This summer, he began necessary rejuvenating transformation that included this very command: “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” We are still discerning and processing what Jesus’ request means for us, but today, we echo, share, and challenge you to participate with us in Simon Peter’s response, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. Nevertheless, at Your word, (But because you say so), I [we] will let down the nets.”

Next time, I will describe their “catch.” Until then, let me bless and encourage you to consider fishing with the Master. Perhaps, He would make an adequate ESPN fishing analyst after all.

Thank you again for stopping by. “Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 4)” will post soon. Would you click here to offer your answer to the following question: “What’s missing in missional?” Mike Breen, Charles Kiser, and others are producing and encouraging reflective dialogue on this topic, and I would enjoy hearing from you.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2012 in Bible

 

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Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 2)

Thank you for clicking on my blog. 2 reasons you should keep reading: 1) I am personally committed to writing more consistently and your gracious feedback on this article in the form of a comment would be appreciated, and 2) Perhaps you would like to wrestle with the Gospel of Luke, too.

DRIBBLE OUT THE CLOCK
During my collegiate years (which is quickly becoming 15 years ago), I played on several intramural basketball teams. Among many games (and mostly positive experiences), one stands out from the rest. Both teams played well and traded off taking the lead throughout the entire game. Finally, with under 10 seconds remaining, my team had pulled ahead by one point and we had the ball. To end the game, all we needed to do was throw the ball inbounds and dribble out the clock. While in college, I had not quite learned humility like I have since, so I expressed more of a cocky attitude (especially when it came to athletics). While scanning the court in order to throw the ball inbounds, I deduced two choices. I could either throw the ball to the teammate standing right in front of me who would dribble out the clock and commence our victory celebration, or I could throw the ball to my teammate closer to the basket who would heave up one more shot and stick it to our opposition. Well, my well-thought out plan to run up the score would have worked with precision if the best player on the other team had not intercepted my pass. As he began dribbling across the court toward his basket, I began mentally reassuring myself: “Okay…that was not the best decision you have ever made, but no big deal. There is no way this guy has enough time to get off a potential game-winning shot, and even if he did, there is no way he will make it.”

SULK. WASH. REPEAT AS NECESSARY.
I can still hear the clock ticking. 4, 3, 2…1… He covered more ground with the ball than I anticipated. As he jumped for the shot attempt, I jumped too with my arm extended toward the ball and my fingers centimeters from a blocked shot. (Indulge me, okay. Surely, someone photographed the moment and cashed in big time with a hot-selling poster.) As the ball floated in the air, time stood still. After landing, I stood still too, because the closer the ball traveled to the basketball the more it looked like it was going in. Finally, it happened, and 15 years later the entire experience looms in the back of my mind. (Can’t you tell I’m over it?) As disappointed teammates, laughing fans, and jubilant opponents left the gym that night, I remained…stunned, humbled…washing my nets. Those fishermen probably felt the same…only worse. Instead of the ego stroking peer adulation, their livelihood, financial sustainability, and dinner for the kids was literally…on the line (Okay, they fished with nets, but I could not resist the pun). Rather than counting a huge haul, they were sulking and washing sulking and washing. Until, the rabbi asked one of them if he could borrow a boat. Once Jesus stepped inside the boat, everything changed.

Thank you again for stopping by. “Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 3)” will post soon. Until then, join the “Missing in Missional” dialogue by clicking here.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2012 in Bible

 

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Wrestling with the Gospel of Luke (Part 1)

Thank you for clicking on my blog. 2 reasons you should keep reading: 1) I am personally committed to writing more consistently and your gracious feedback on this article in the form of a comment would be appreciated, and 2) Perhaps you would like to wrestle with the Gospel of Luke, too.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me…”
“…the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God.” Ironic, right? They were also crowding around and listening to the Word of God. The Word of God who put on flesh and moved into the neighborhood. The Word of God unafraid to seek out and spend time with the unclean, wandering, broken, diseased, and misfits.

Look back to the end of chapter 4. After healing Peter’s Mother-In-Law, Jesus spent time healing “all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one…” Whoa. The alarms, bells, and whistles remain mute for us; however, for those reading Luke’s account for the first time…I wonder if they shuddered in silence or leaped through the roof in jubilation.

The One who, after being handed the scroll of Isaiah, stood up in church and pronounced, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” was not kidding. Immediately, he stepped into mission proving, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” However, even in the midst of such boldness, two problems remained.

Problem #1: Apparently, Jesus did not arrive on the rabbinical scene through the proper channels or with accepted credentials.
First, who is this guy? I mean, we know him. We know him as Joseph and Mary’s kid, the stonemason apprentice. The One with the amazing story born among the stench, hay, and livestock. But really, who is this guy? At first, the people were impressed with his composure, assurance, and confidence. “All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” However, as his sermon progressed, the crowd became less and less enamored. What began as the resounding ministerial inauguration of an unexpected rabbi abruptly ended as the unexpected rabbi slipped away from the crowd…the crowd that attempted to throw him off a cliff.

Problem #2: Apparently, Jesus did not arrive on the rabbinical scene to avoid undesirables, because he seems to purposefully welcome them.
Second, does he not know these people are unclean? Does he not understand that welcoming and laying hands on “all who had various kinds of sickness” can get a rabbi (or anyone else for that matter) in some serious trouble? In the words of some friends from my past, “We’ve never done things that way before.” What makes it worse is that he seems to seek these people on purpose. Demons are shouting his name. The diseased are stalking him. He’s not only putting up with it all. He’s running right on into all of it.

Anticipation
Amazingly, “…he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea.” We’ve come full circle, and now, as Jesus stands on the Galilean shoreline, “…the people were crowding him and listening to the word of God.” While speaking, Jesus glances over to discover two boats left there by fishermen “who were washing their nets.” He has attracted quite an unconventional and unclean following. I wonder what he is going to do next.

“Part 2” will post soon. Until then, join the “Missing in Missional” dialogue by clicking here.

Still learning,

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Bible

 

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