Tag Archives: Jesus

The Palms of His Hands

I tend to be a bit forgetful at times. I’ll walk upstairs to get something but forget what it was when I arrive. I’m only 37 but I swear my short-term memory is fading!  The obvious solution for this affliction is to write things down, make lists, or plug it into my iPhone calendar.

Before iCalendars, I went through the post-it note phase. A sea of yellow notes covered my work desk, laptop cover, car dash, kitchen counter and refrigerator. I even flirted briefly with the idea of using different colored notes to organize my life.

Yet, far pre-dating post-it notes is the equally “handy” method: jotting reminders on the inside of the palm of your hand! Ever done this? I know you have.

Don’t be embarrassed. Even God Himself isn’t above this timeless tactic. But what do you think could possibly be so important that even the Creator himself writes it on his hand as a constant reminder? Continue reading The Palms of His Hands

Cabin 17: Row, Row Your Boat

fish

I just updated this chapter, greatly expanding it. Enjoy!

By the time the morning clouds were burned away by the midday sun, I was good and hungry for lunch. Jesus suggested we head to the lake to catch our meal.

“Jesus, I’m no fisherman, but my brother is a pro and he’s told me the fish bite best in the morning and evening, but high noon isn’t the time for fishing.”

“Well, can your brother walk on water and raise the dead?” Jesus replied with a wink. “With God anything is possible (Matt. 19:26). How about you do your job, and I’ll do mine?”

Jesus handed me an oar and we sat down in a little row boat and pushed off from shore. The calm waters sparkled as the sun reflected off the surface. An eagle flew overhead, dragon flies hovered over some cattails, while ducks chased after their lunch in the lily pads near the shore.

“Jeremy, there’s a thousand Kingdom lessons to be learned in a 12 foot row boat. But you need to leave your limited earth-bound mindset behind if you are to understand and embrace the exciting, surprising nature of life in the Kingdom of God.” Continue reading Cabin 17: Row, Row Your Boat

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)

Cabin 18: Frozen Waters

A couple summers ago, I wrote about an imaginative trip to The Father’s Cabin to spend the weekend with Jesus. I wrote out of desperation, from a spiritually dry place, in hopes that the creative writing process would force me into a real conversation with Jesus. It worked!  My soul was nourished as I spent time chatting with Jesus, riding shotgun in his car, walking with him in the woods, fishing with him in a boat, planting with him in his garden, dancing with him in the rain, and imagining the kind of room he goes to prepare for me out of love. 

And then I stopped writing. The end of summer came, and as I launched into the fall of ministry, I left the story hanging with Jesus and I sitting peacefully in a rowboat on calm waters. Its been 2 or 3 years now, and its time to continue the story.  However, unlike last time, this time I am writing in the middle of a cold Minnesota winter, and that will shape the scenery and experiences of this second part of my adventure at The Father’s Cabin. I invite you to come along and join me!

Jeremy Berg, Midwinter 2017

(For the record, the popular novel The Shack never even crossed my mind while I was writing. Any similarities are completely unintended. My experiences and conversations with Jesus have originated from within my own imagination shaped by the Scriptures.)

Read Part One (first 17 chapters) in PDF form HERE

Read them all in blog post form HERE.

18

Frozen Waters

So, there I sat in a boat with my Lord, bobbing gently up and down on the calm waters of the ocean blue lake. The warmth of the midday sun on my neck, the fluttering of butterflies overhead, the sounds of June bugs all around. For a moment all was right in the world. Complete shalom.

Suddenly, without warning, a gust of frigid arctic air blew from the north, stirring up the calm waters into an angry tempest. The blue sky was replaced by a dark, ominous gray. The pleasant sounds of summer were replace by the angry howl of a whirlwind.

In an instant, like a great magician waving his wand, an arctic blast and blowing snow transformed the summer lake setting into a frozen, desolate winter wasteland. Green trees were now covered with frosty white snow. The blue sky was now a dull gray. The blue water was now a snow covered glacier. It felt like I was inside a snow globe that had just been violently shook.

Still sitting in the boat, now frozen solid into the lake, I turned to Jesus for some explanation and reassurance.

But he was gone.

Continue reading Cabin 18: Frozen Waters

Nic @ Night 4: Talking about “New Birth”

This Sunday I have the honor of preaching a message on one of the most significant truths and experiences in all the universe: God’s supernatural work of New Birth in the human heart. “No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again/from above” (John 3:3).

How do you talk about something that is necessary to experience firsthand?  It’s like describing a Mozart piece instead of listening to it.  It’s like talking about a Rembrandt painting rather than looking at it. It’s like trying to describe love to someone who’s never been in love.

These sermons drive a preacher to his knees, and bring him to the end of himself. I can only invite people to follow Nicodemus into that face-t0-face, personal encounter with Jesus, and pray that the Holy Spirit will come among us and open people’s eyes and transform hearts.  Come Holy Spirit!

Here’s a good quote from Gary Burge’s commentary on The Gospel of John:

“Religion is not necessarily a matter of personal knowledge or ethical behavior. Nor is it fidelity to religious traditions, no matter how virtuously they evoke higher ethical, religious behavior among us. Jesus is claiming that true spirituality is not discovering some latent capacity within the human soul and fanning it to flame. It is not uncovering a moral consciousness that is hidden by sedimentary layers of civilization’s corruptions. It is not a “horizontal” experience that takes up the materials available around us in the world.

Rather, Jesus claims, true religion is “vertical.” It has to do not with the human spirit, but with God’s Spirit. It is a foreign invasion, sabotage of the first order. True religion unites humanity with God’s powerful Spirit, who overwhelms, transforms, and converts (in the full meaning of the word) its subject. Our role in this transformation is belief(3:16,18), and yet is is a belief that is aided by God’s work within us since we live in the darkness and have our spiritual capacities handicapped with sin” (Gary Burge, Gospel of John: New Application Commentary, 126).

Come Holy Spirit!  Invade our presence, and sabotage our hearts! Blow mightily among us at MainStreet this Sunday and every day!

Nic @ Night 3: Religion vs. Gospel

Nicodemus was very religious. And this was a major obstacle preventing him from receiving the teaching and understanding the message of Jesus.

Here’s a wonderful contrast between RELIGION and THE GOSPEL by Tim Keller:

RELIGION: I obey, therefore I’m accepted.

THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted, therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity.

THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.

THE GOSPEL: I obey God to get to God, to delight and resemble him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.

THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized, I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a “good person.” Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs.

THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized, I can take it. I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a “good person.” My identity is not built on my record or my performance, but on God’s love for me in Christ.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of my environment.

THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with God.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles: If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure, inadequate, and not confident. I feel like a failure.

THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am “simul iustus et peccator”—simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time, neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to “the other.”

THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for his enemies and who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace, so I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. It is only by grace that I am what I am. I have no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, regardless of what I say I believe about God.

THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life: family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things is an ultimate end for me. None of them is something I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency such things can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Jesus: Wisdom From God

In the OT we find “Wisdom” personified as a Lady calling out on the street corners, trying to get a hearing in order to lead people onto paths of righteousness. We can heed her warnings and find “the good life”; or we can ignore her and find ourselves on the path to ruin and folly.

… 32“Now then, my children, listen to me;
    blessed are those who keep my ways.
33 Listen to my instruction and be wise;
    do not disregard it.
34 Blessed are those who listen to me,
    watching daily at my doors,
    waiting at my doorway.
35 For those who find me find life
    and receive favor from the Lord.
36 But those who fail to find me harm themselves;
    all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8)

In the New Testament Jesus steps onto the scene, and slowly we discover that Jesus is now the new embodiment, the personification, of Wisdom. He begins to cry out on the street corners, inviting people to follow His ways, promising “life abundantly.” He begins to teach about the narrow road to life and the wide road to destruction.

He has the unflinching audacity to say, “Someone greater than Solomon is now here” — thereby stating that He is wiser than the wisest man who ever lived.

Other New Testament writers like Paul begin to make the connection between Jesus and Wisdom. Notice that Jesus is not just declared to be a wise person; rather, in some deeper way Jesus is the personification and very embodiment of the totality of divine wisdom:

“He became for us wisdom from God…” (1 Cor. 1:30)

“…in [Christ Jesus] are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3)

With this in mind, I made the suggestion Sunday that we might read through the Book of Proverbs devotionally and in many cases insert Jesus’ name in the place of Wisdom. (Not in every case!)

If you want to see Jesus in a fresh and illuminating way this week, try it out. See what you find!

I’ll get you started:

Proverbs 3:14-18—

Blessed are those who find Jesus,

    those who gain understanding,

for knowing Jesus is more profitable than silver

    and yields better returns than gold.

Knowing Christ is more precious than rubies;

    nothing you desire can compare with Him.

Long life is in His right hand;

    in His left hand are riches and honor.

His ways are pleasant ways,

    and all His paths are peace.

Jesus Christ is a tree of life to those who take hold of Him;

    those who hold Him fast will be blessed.