Category Archives: Jesus

Hope for Moody Pastors (Mark 3:3-6)

One reason I resisted being a “pastor” for so long was all the stereotypes I had in my head for what pastors are supposed to be like. My image always looked something like Mr. Rogers in a sweater and khakis. Warm, personable, emotionally steady, gentle and never, EVER moody.

I don’t know where I picked up that image of the pastor, but it certainly wasn’t in the Bible where God’s leaders are all over the map with their varying personalities and wild mood swings.

Moses’ temper tantrum (striking the rock) cost him the Promised Land. Jeremiah was depressed. Elijah withdrew and almost quit ministry. Peter was impulsive and often put his foot in his mouth. James and John had a violent streak earning them the nickname “Sons of Thunder.” John the Baptist was loud and abrasive, maybe wore a camel hair sweater but definitely not Mr. Rogers’ khakis. Paul was prickly and at times butted heads with others.

Ok, even admitting this diversity of characters, I at least thought I could count on Jesus to be the perfect picture of the unflappable, zen-like pastor who was always calm and collected. Or, could I?

Today I noticed and appreciated the little episode in Mark 3:3-6 where Jesus going about his ministry….and we see him breaking my Mr. Rogers-like pastoral mold. For fellow church leaders, its refreshing to see that even Jesus faced some very irritating ministry moments and difficult people. (I have a perfect church, but I’ve heard other pastors have difficult people.)

Let’s take a quick look and I’ll offer some off-the-cuff leadership insights at first glance. Continue reading Hope for Moody Pastors (Mark 3:3-6)

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.)

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

GOLF & GOD (9): Mulligans & Scorecards

“What did you get on that hole?”  the scorecard keeper asks.  Your answer may not be as simple as just counting up your strokes.  For many, this question immediately forces an ethical dilemma or sparks an internal wrestling match with one’s conscience.  Do I tell him the truth– that I got “a snowman” on the short par 3 — to keep a clean conscience?  Or is it better to save face and protect my ego with the guys, give a dishonest score and deal with the guilt later (when no one’s looking)?  Or, better, why don’t I just try harder, screw up less and always be sure to get a respectable score every time?  Like that’s possible.

Have you ever quit keeping score in the middle of a round?  What’s up with that?  Certainly that, too, is a defense mechanism to avoid the shame and humiliation that would come at the end of the round when you actually had to own up to your embarrassing score.

One spiritual mind exercise I occasionally engage in is to imagine Jesus along with me, taking part in a typical 21st century activity and seeing how he would act (e.g., Jesus in rush hour traffic, etc.).  Play along with me for a second.  What do you think it would be like golfing 18 holes at your favorite country club with Jesus (assume Jesus can get you free passes to any private dream course!)?  If you’re like me, you’re already wondering if Jesus would use his divine powers and ace every hole with 500+ yard drives, whether he would walk across the water to retrieve your water ball, etc.

Yet, the issue I want to focus on in this imaginative exercise has nothing to do with Jesus’ divine swing, putting perfection and the like.  Instead, I want you to ask yourself this question: What kind of scorecard keeper would Jesus be?  Would Jesus be a stickler for the rules, allowing no gimmes and keeping close record of every single penalty?  Remember, you’re probably not going to sneak anything by Jesus — like that secret “foot wedge” to get your ball away from that tree on # 12. Or, the classic litmus test to determine the gracious scorekeepers from the uptight, legalists:

Would Jesus allow mulligans?   Continue reading GOLF & GOD (9): Mulligans & Scorecards

Going Green with Jesus

“Plant the good seeds of righteousness, and you will reap a crop of my love; plow the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord. HOSEA 10:12

Jesus spent his entire ministry teaching one main message: Open your eyes and see a new way of being human available to you. He called this new reality the Kingdom of God.

Yet, when the greatest teacher who ever lived reached for metaphors and images to describe this profound Kingdom reality, he didn’t direct our attention to the heavens and talk about harps and angels and a cloudy afterlife.

Instead, he repeatedly turned our attention to the mud and dirt under our feet.

“You want to know what the Kingdom of God is like?” he would ask. “Then look at the flowers of the field and how they grow” (Mt. 6:28). Or, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as the workers slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat, then slipped away” (Mt. 13:25-26). Or, “I am the true vine and my Father is the gardener. I’m the vine and you are the branches; stay connected to me and you’ll thrive. But He takes away every branch that does not bear fruit in me” (Jn 15).

If you were a Christian back in Jesus’ day, you were not racing your kids to VBS, comparing your worship band with the one down the road, or scrambling to get to church on time. Rather, you were probably sitting on a grassy hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee with a gentle breeze in your face and asking the question, “Jesus, will you please explain to us the story of the weeds in the field” (Mt. 13:36)? I imagine Jesus letting the question hang in the air long enough to let the birds chirp their answer and the sound of the waves washing on the beach to set the backbeat before Jesus tries again to unpack the melodies of the Kingdom Dance we’re being invited into.

We would do good to slow down this summer and ask Jesus that same question today.

The mysterious, life-changing power of the Kingdom is still available. God still wants to reveal to us the secrets of the kingdom of God that can change us the world today.

Jesus said that the litmus test for being a true disciple is that we obey his commands. While some of his commands are difficult, my favorite command Jesus ever gave his disciples is to go sit in a field and “Study the flowers!”

So, this summer at MainStreet we’re going to obey Jesus’ command and “Look at the flowers of the field and how they grow.” We’re going to ask that simple but profound question, “Jesus, will you explain to us the story of the weeds in the field?”

We’re going green this summer! We’re going to engage in some “Green Thumb Theology.” We’re going to do some home lawn and gardening work of the soul. Grab your work gloves, spade and Bible, and we’ll meet you in God’s Garden!

Listen to Jeremy’s “Going Green” sermon series HERE.

WWJD: Go Sit by a Lake!

“That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake” (Matt. 13:1).

The Christian life is largely about imitating the spiritual habits and behaviors of Jesus. Now, many of Jesus’ teachings and practices are rigorous and demanding. E.g., “If you want to be my disciple you must first deny yourself and take up your own cross.”

Yet, some of Jesus’ practices are so easy and simple they escape us. We assume they are unimportant details and we jump right over them without a second thought. One such example is this passing comment in Matthew 13:1.

Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake.

Boom! Do you want to be more like Jesus? Do you want to do something spiritual? Turn the TV off and go sit by a lake for a while. Leave your cubicle on your lunch break today and take a walk in the woods. You just might find yourself feeling closer to God. Your ears might be opened a bit wider to His “still, soft whisper.”

Of course, we industrious Americans usually feel guilty sitting by the lake in the middle of a work day while everyone else is racing around trying to get ahead. Ahead of what exactly? Well, one person many are “getting ahead” of is Jesus himself, who knew the importance of slowing down, “considering the lilies of the field and the birds of the air” (Matt. 6), and constantly finding ways to stay connected to our Heavenly Father.

There’s a powerful two-fold movement here in this simple statement: Jesus went away from something in order to go toward something else.  Continue reading WWJD: Go Sit by a Lake!

Fishing Opener Mystery on the Sea of Galilee

It’s sunrise. The day after Fishing Opener. 

Location: Sea of Galilee. 

Date: A.D. 28. 

The schools of fish have gathered for an emergency all school assembly at Rock Pile Point. There is great unrest in the school. The fish of Galilee are extra fidgety this year. There are strange rumors float. You see, every year around this time, all the various schools of fish go through a rigorous series of training exercises where the older wiser fish teach the younger, more foolish fish how to avoid getting caught in the nets of eager anglers out for the first time of the new fishing season. They are taught how to tell real worms from clever rubber decoys. Their fish eyes are trained to spot and avoid every kind of net, hook and fishing line. First aid training is mandatory for every fish in the school for helping victims who are caught but luckily released again with a sore mouth. But something strange happened this year on fishing opener. There’s something…well….very fishy going on. The President of the school swims to the podium and addresses the mass of floundering fishtails.

Dear citizens of Rock Pile Point, As you all know, the strange happenings of yesterday’s fishing opener took us all by surprise. We took all the regular precautions to be ready for the regular rush of angry anglers and those nasty net throwers. Yet, to our amazement we suffered no harm, we had not one catch and release victim and zero fatalities to report.

This remarkable news was met with a loud, joyous display of fin flapping applause!  When the fin flapping died down, he continued:

More curious — even disturbing — is the remarkable report from our trained spotters that hardly any boat bottoms were spotted on the entire lake all day!

This fact brought the crowd to a state of disbelief entirely. No caught fish for a day, however improbable, could still be explained away by good luck, extra caution on the part of the fish, or distracted, poor fishing performances by the fisherman. But what could possibly account for the absence of boats on the water for the fishing opener?!?!   Continue reading Fishing Opener Mystery on the Sea of Galilee