Scholar or Magi?

A friend passed this reflection on the Magi along to me. I’m not sure who wrote it but it’s a good challenge. -JB

I can see you there, you scholar, you teacher of the law, with your important position in Herod’s court. Busy, busy, busy with the work of the day.

The court stirs…a contingent of Magi from a far off land are welcomed in. They come with a question: where is the new born king, whose rising star trumpeted his arrival? You are summoned. Do you know the answer from your studies of the Holy Scriptures? This is your moment. You have studied. You know the answer. Micah 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.” Bethlehem. A few miles away.
The Magi are appreciative. Perhaps even impressed. Herod is troubled. He allows no competition. You wonder how this will impact your career, your work in the court.
Did it ever cross your mind to leave the confines of the court and travel with the Magi those few miles to Bethlehem? Did it occur to you that if God was calling people from far away to a Messiah born on your doorstep, that there was an invitation to you as well?
I will never know if those thoughts ran through your mind. But I will learn from your example.
To be busy with things that the world sees as important can put a person in danger of missing the greatest invitation from God.
Slow down. Listen. Where is God’s invitation to you today?

Two Blind Disciples

We’ve all heard the song “Three Blind Mice,” but I hear the tune of “Two Blind Disciples” more often these days.  Max Lucado sets the scene:

“Were the scene not so common it would be comical. Two heavy-hearted disciples slouching their way home to Emma’s. By the slump in their shoulders, you’d never know today was Resurrection Sunday. By the looks on their faces, you’d think Jesus was still in the tomb. “We were hoping that he would free Israel,” they lament (Luke 24:21).

As if he hasn’t! How could you be so close to Christ and miss the point? Jesus has just redeemed the world and they are complaining about Rome? Jesus came to deal with sin and death — and they want him to deal with Caesar and soldiers? Jesus came to set us free from hell — and they want to be set free from taxes?”

-Max Lucado, The Great House of God

You ever find yourselves in the disciples shoes? The Risen Christ is standing next to us — no, in us!  — and we’re still worried about so many lesser things…

I relive this scene almost everyday.

Let’s ask God to open our eyes today to see our world anew through Resurrection lenses.

Brennan Manning & Scandalous Grace

I’ve recently rediscovered the powerful grace-centered ministry of the late Brennan Manning who passed away a couple years ago. What a life, what a story, what a message he brought to so many people in need of an accurate image of the true God revealed in Jesus, and to the many in need of an accurate image of themselves as the object of God’s ferocious love.

The internet has brought into our homes so much useless, trivial, and crude content for sure. But I was reminded this week how fortunate we are to have at our finger tips access to so many great messages by some of God’s greatest prophets and preachers from the past century. I have spent many hours the past couple weeks feasting on the tear-jerking, gut-wrenching, hope-giving, image-healing messages of Brennan Manning.

I was privileged to go hear Brennan speak in person once or twice in high school and college. He is part of the tapestry of my faith formation and he sowed seeds in me as a young man that are bearing fruit in the kind of grace-filled church of ragamuffins I now get to lead at MainStreet. I had a blast sharing a video of one of his messages this past Sunday in place of my sermon…because once I heard his message on the topic I was preparing…how could I deprive my flock from the opportunity to hear from this gentle giant? (I’m tempted to show an encore this Sunday. Why not?)

His books Abba’s Child and Ragamuffin Gospel are classics now, but I believe Brennan’s gift of communication flows through his story telling and passionate preaching.

I’ve decided to spend the next 2 or 3 Lifegroup gatherings watching and discussing some of these videos. I encourage you to check them out too this week. You’ll be blessed. But a warning: Grab some tissue before you begin watching. I broke down in tears at least twice each message.)

Just “Good Enough”? (by Daniel Henderson)

This post by Pastor Daniel Henderson struck a chord with me this week. I read it a couple days after confessing to my congregation a deep desire to lead them into the kind of discipleship that would lead to “abiding in Him”, connected to the vine, and really producing fruit. It seems like the main struggle for many Christians is not running away from God and into all manner of sin and rebellion, but rather resigning ourselves to a kind of faith that just scratches the surface of things but really never delivers on Jesus’ promise to give us “life to the full” (John 10:10).  Read below and let’s not settle for cheap, old wine! -JB

I remember hearing many years ago that “to be satisfied with yourself is a sure sign that your forward progress is about to stop.”  We all need a sense of holy dissatisfaction about our current status, our influence for Christ, and our potential in serving His mission.
In Luke 5:37-39, Jesus addresses the Pharisees who questioned why Jesus did not conform to the man-made religious standards of the day.  He responded, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine will burst the wineskins and be spilled, and the wineskins will be ruined.  But new wine must be put into new wineskins, and both are preserved.  And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new; for he says, ‘The old is better.'” I like the translation of the New American Standard here: “The old is good enough ” (v. 39).
Stuck in “Good Enough”
It is so easy to get stuck in the “good enough” rut.  When we simply go along with the way things have always been, accepting what others have always said, and doing what we have always done, we’ve likely lost our true forward progress.  It is time to take a fresh look at the radical life of Jesus, the extreme needs of the world around us, and the potential of the Spirit within us and pray for a deliverance from the “good enough” mentality.
The work of the Gospel is the new wine Jesus speaks of.  The word of the Gospel is living, active, dynamic, and relevant to every generation.  Yet, the old wineskins of mindless routines and long-standing traditions can inhibit and waste the work of the new wine.
Why We Settle for “Good Enough”
We all tend to be creatures of habit.  We can also be plagued by fear, laziness, and selfishness to the degree that we are not open to the new adventure of His calling on our lives, whether it is the daily call to live fully for Him or a new chapter that He is opening before us.  It is easy to cling to the familiar, comfortable, and functional rather than surrender to the Spirit’s prompting to embrace the biblical, the effective, and the best choices of an adventuring and influential faith.
Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, who had settled into a “good enough” mentality, no longer driven by the fire of a clear calling and the sufficiency of the spiritual gifts God had placed in him.  Paul told his son in the faith, “Stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).  Literally, Paul commands Timothy to “fan into flame” the smoldering coals of his spiritual passion and to reject the fear that was keeping him in the gray twilight of “good enough.”  Like Timothy, we must affirm the power of God that is able to energize us for unprecedented, supernatural impact.  We must surrender to His love that compels us to get past ourselves and give our lives away to others in sustained, sacrificial service.  We must submit to the sound mind (or discipline) of the Holy Spirit to keep us clear-headed and resolute to finish our race with perseverance and passion.
Moving Beyond “Good Enough”
When I see the things Jesus did to prepare His very inadequate disciples to become the catalysts for world transformation, I think of five words: Look, Pray, Receive, Go, and Finish.  These ideas can move us beyond  a “good enough” lifestyle.
  • Look – The disciples, like so many of us, tended to go through the routines of their day without seeing the kingdom opportunities available to them.  For example, in John 4 they were busy taking care of lunch and fixating on superficial issues while Jesus reached into the heart of a Samaritan woman at a well, then called her entire village to encounter His truth.  In this moment He turned to His disciples with the challenge, “Lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35-36).  When we fail to see the needs around us with spiritual eyes and kingdom vision, we are happy with a “good enough” lifestyle.
  • Pray – In Matthew 9:36-38 Jesus saw the crowds like sheep without a shepherd – scattered and weary.  From His heart of compassion, He challenged His disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send forth laborers into the harvest.  This is similar to the 10 days His followers spent in an upper room before the Day of Pentecost, praying prior to the great spiritual harvest.  Prayer is a key to preparing our hearts and aligning our wills to His in order to step through the open doors of opportunity.
  • Receive – Before Jesus sent His disciples out on short-term assignments, or to launch the church in Acts 2, He gave them His power to move out of their comfort zones into the battle zones of high-impact ministry. Today, He calls us to abide in Him (John 15:4-8) to receive the sufficiency of His life in us so that He may accomplish His work through us.
  • Go – When “good enough” no longer attracts our hearts, we must then go into uncharted territory to share the Good News of His life and message.  Back in Matthew 9 & 10 we see Jesus sending the disciples out, after they prayed and received His provision.  His final commission compels us to keep going into all the world (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:18-20), which is a calling we must obey every day, right where we are.
  • Finish – Jesus calls us to the “uttermost parts of the earth,” signifying the magnitude and scope of our calling.  As long as you are breathing, your mission is not complete.  “Good enough” isn’t.  As Paul said, “But one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
New Day, New Wine, New Wineskins
Every day of our lives, we must reject the “good enough” attitude.  With each new day, we enjoy the new wine of His presence and purpose.  We must willingly adopt new wineskins to deliver the Good News to the world around us.  As we look, pray, receive, go, and finish we will live a life to His glory and someday receive the reward He has prepared for those who keep pressing on as long as they have breath.

Continue reading Just “Good Enough”? (by Daniel Henderson)

QUOTABLES: Francis Chan

“I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions. It is easy to use the phrase “God’s will for my life” as an excuse for inaction or even disobedience. It’s much less demanding to think about God’s will for your future than it is to ask Him what He wants you to do in the next ten minutes. It’s safer to commit to following Him someday instead of this day.”

― Francis ChanForgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

On Christ the Solid Rock We Stand

Jeremy back in 2010 dreaming of a future church. Lonely and scared…but choosing faith.

Over 5 Years ago I sat on this rock feeling extremely lonely and scared. God called Keri and I to start a church in Mound, and I often came to pour out my doubts to the LORD in prayer on this rock.

Then one night I heard God speak Matthew 16 directly to me, “Jeremy, upon this rock I will build my church in Mound, and not even the gates of Hell will be able to stop it.” I needed to be reminded that Jesus was going to build his church — not me. :)  Feeling a lot lighter, I walked away and set to work in doing my part. God did the rest.

This past Sunday on our all-church prayer walk this place of doubt and loneliness became a place of joyful community and worship as we celebrated God’s faithfulness to His promise (see top photo). Keri and I obeyed God, stepped out in faith, and God made good on his promise to build (and He’s still building) the most magnificent church!

Thanks to all those MainStreeters who have been been a direct answer to our prayers and who have helped God form this rock solid church. May we always stay anchored on Christ our Rock, our firm foundation.

Read some journal posts I wrote a few years ago about this significant rock here.

“On Christ the solid rock I stand, 

All other ground is sinking sand.”

Jeremy sharing the story of the rock this past Sunday.

Upon This Rock

Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

Jesus made a staggering claim when he reprimanded a bunch of religious scholars saying, “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!” (John 5:39) This is just one of many instances that reveal that Jesus either was the Son of God as he claimed or a deranged ego-maniac. No mere mortal in their right mind would ever make such a claim. Imagine if I told my church congregation this Sunday that all the Bible studies they’ve ever been to were a waste of time unless they ultimately ended by showing how all the Bible passages really point to me!

Later, after his resurrection, he spoke with a couple of folks on the Road to Emmaus and made a similar claim about himself as the focal point of all the scriptures: “Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). 

So, Jesus himself believed that his life and ministry, his death and resurrection, and all the truths about his life can be found throughout the entire Bible. I recently came upon the following list of exactly how Christ can be found in every book of the Bible. Enjoy below!

Continue reading Jesus in Every Book of the Bible

Reports from the intersection of faith & everyday life .


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