2011 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 6,800 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

Advent: Seeing Jesus as King

Matthew 25

Matthew 25 is a great chapter to witness Jesus as our future King.  Key Verse is verse: 31 – “But when the Son of Man comes in glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.”

We sing a lot about Jesus being our King:  It is in our hymns… “Come Thou Almighty King,”

It is in our choruses:  “All Hail King Jesus”  “Amazing Love… You are My King.”

At Christmas it is in our carols:  “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.  Let earth receive her king.”  Funny thing is… as much as we sing it and believe it… it isn’t true in our lives until he truly reigns in our hearts.  Matthew 25 talks about a day of Accounting that is to come for each of us.  Jesus is the Bridegroom.  (v.1-13)  Jesus is the Master who goes on a journey.  (v.14-30)  Jesus is the King of His throne on judgment day.  (v.31-46)  How will we be found on that day?

Craig Brian Larson shares a story from his past:  “The first summer that my wife and I were dating, she worked as a temp at a bank. In the first two weeks that she had the job, she quickly noticed some extremely unprofessional behavior among the team of four people that she worked with and their supervisor. The supervisor, who was a generation older, was very friendly with the younger staff, taking long coffee breaks with them. College-aged staff would sit on her desk to chat and gossip.

The supervisor and her team were so friendly that the group’s behavior toward one other new member of the team was a stark contrast. This person, a woman in her 30s who had come on staff just a week before my wife, was shunned. If she walked up and tried to join the conversation during a coffee break, the conversation ended. The group, including the supervisor, made jokes about her behind her back and laughed at the way she dressed. They rolled their eyes and winked at each other when she was present. It was obvious that this middle management worker was perceived as an unnecessary intrusion.

Two weeks into the temp job, my wife walked into the office on Monday morning and was surprised to find a much different scenario. No gossiping, no kidding around, no long coffee breaks. All the workers had their eyes riveted on their work. The previous supervisor had been replaced. The cliquish team addressed the new supervisor with formal, businesslike respect. My wife thought she even saw fear in their eyes.

The new supervisor was not a stranger. It was the 30-something woman who had been shunned and mocked. It turned out the bank had hired her to be the new supervisor from the first day she came on the job three weeks before, but the bank had concealed her true identity so she could observe the work style of the team.

In some ways, this situation resembles the coming of Christ to earth. In his first coming, Jesus Christ revealed his true identity and glory to his true followers, but to those who did not believe, his glory was largely hidden by his humanity. Following his resurrection, Christ ascended to the right hand of God, where he rules all things. One day he is coming again to the earth to establish his glorious kingdom over everything. At that time there will be no mistaking who is in charge.”

Joy to the World… The LORD is come… Let Earth receive her king.

Is He Lord of your heart?

 

Advent: Seeing Jesus as Priest

Matthew 9

Last week we looked at Jesus the prophet… today we look at Jesus as Priest.  This is harder to find in the Gospels.  The crowds tried to crown Jesus as their King!  The crowds after witnessing a miracle would cry out:  “He is a prophet… mighty in word and deed.”  But the term “priest” is not there.

The Theological Ground Work for the concept is actually found within the NT book of Hebrews.  Hebrews 4:14 reads:  14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens,[e] Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”    That is well and good, but this series I’m preaching is using the Gospels for texts… so I searched the Gospels to find a place where Jesus was acting very “priestly” and I settled on Matthew chapter 9.  It is there that Jesus tells a paralytic:  “Your sins are forgiven!”

This had to stun that paraplegic.  Imagine you are this individual.  You have little control over your life.  You are immobile… unable to care for yourself.  You might not have even wanted to go see Jesus.  Your friends may have carried you there as you angrily protested along the journey.   But finally your mat is laid before this faith healer… a living legend in Capernaum, a town that had become like a second home to Jesus, a town in which Jesus had performed miracle after miracle.

So you are going to be like healing #258… but instead of Jesus saying something like:  “Be healed.” Or “Stand up and try out your new legs.”  He says:  “Your sins are forgiven.”

Talk about the old bait and switch.  You’re there to be healed of an ailment not absolved of a sin.  And yet this Galilean who spoke with such authority over illness, now speaks with that same power over your iniquity.  Why does Jesus make this curious pronouncement?  Many commentators sight a connection between the man’s sin and his sickness.  Sin and sickness are not always, but can be linked.  Guilt over sin can turn your hair grey, overwork your heart, cloud your mind with depression and completely obliterate your immune system.

But I believe Jesus is doing something else here.  Gazing at this man, He doesn’t see the sickness as being the worse thing to befall him.  The guilt of this man’s soul is far worse than the paralysis of the man’s limbs.  He needs a priest… not a healer.  So Jesus intercedes and forgives the man’s sin.

Jesus says to his critics that day:  5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  Which is easier?  On the surface (and his critics probably believed) that “Your sins are forgiven” was easier.  Because there was less evidence one could present of its taking place.  If he said:  Get up and walk… and the man continued to languish.  Jesus would be proven a fraud.

Who could know the condition of a man’s soul?  Who would know if a man’s sin had actually been forgiven?  But Jesus is saying:  “Get up and walk” is child’s play compared to “Your sins are forgiven.”

Jesus was able to speak the words:  You’re forgiven… because he was already committed to paying the price to back those words up.  He knew the cost of that forgiveness.

He would be beaten.  He would be stripped bare.  He would hang in agony and pain between two thieves.  Nails in his hands.  Thorns on his head.  Even in Bethlehem… the shadow of a cross fell across his cradle.  Even in this story… so early in his ministry.  The shadow of a cross falls across His path.

“Your sins are forgiven.”  Not so easy to say.  But the words of a perfect High Priest:  Hebrews 7:26-27:  Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

We all need a priest!  Jesus is our High Priest.

Advent: Seeing Jesus as Prophet

Matthew 23

 

Mark Galli in his book, Jesus, Mean and Wild wrote:

“I once wrote an article for a leading Christian publication and in one part noted how “mean” Jesus was at times.  My seminary-educated editor deleted the paragraphs, and when I asked why, she said I was taking the verses out of context, and it would take too much space to explain that Jesus wasn’t really mean.  I replied that these were but a sampling of passages where Jesus seemed pretty intimidating.  I gave two more examples.  She stared at me hard.  Then she blinked in seeming irritation as she said:  “I can explain those too.”

The “Jesus, Meek and Mild” of Wesley’s famous hymn… is sometimes hard to recognize in the Gospels.

Witness Jesus openly:

…warn about the last judgment and hell…

…tying metaphorical millstones around the necks of those who would abuse children,

…destroying a heard of swine,

…overturning tables in theTemple

…and calling Peter:  Satan!

Jesus was like the month of March… he came in gently as a lamb in Bethlehem… but at many time in His earthly ministry:  He roared like a lion!

Now, you prophet types already know this.  This is the Jesus you are following.  The rest of us are shocked and at times scandalized by it.

So we take those passages, and like the overzealous editor, we domesticate them.  Once you scrub the passage clean you can’t smell the dead pigs, feel the crack of the whip on your back or the sting of the rebuke of Peter.  Here’s the problem.

Andrew Greeley writes:  “Once you domesticate Jesus, he isn’t there anymore.  The domestic Jesus may be an interesting fellow, a good friend, a loyal companion, a helpful business associate,…  But one thing he is certainly not:  the Jesus of the New Testament.  Once Jesus comforts your agenda, he’s not Jesus anymore.”  We need to have “ears to hear.”  And to receive the brunt of his rebuke.

Jesus confronts us with the truth.  But also… he provides remedy… if we would just accept it.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”

All the OT prophets offered the relief that God promised if they would repent.  God is our Rock of Salvation!  The righteous run in and are safe.  But Jesus the prophet alone says:  I have longed to gather your children together.  He is the rock of our Salvaton!  It is Jesus we run into and are safe.

Jesus calls us out… but then calls us home.  He can do that because he is also our priest.  More on that later…

Giving Yourself at Christmas

One of my favorite stories at Christmas is from Robert J. Morgan:

All I needed was a little piece and quiet—just an hour or so.  Just a cup of coffee and time to think.  And just a quiet spot.  The fuss and flutter of the holidays had upset my schedule, and most of my tasks remained undone.  The Christmas cards weren’t in the mail; the gifts were unwrapped—most of them unpurchased—and holiday preparations at church were percolating.

Only careful, disciplined planning, I reasoned, would enable me to survive the season.

So I chose a little café that served European pastry and a variety of coffees.  Its atmosphere was quiet, with soft classical Christmas music in the background.  Patrons sat at bistro tables, reading novels or working on crossword puzzles.  Here, I thought, I can spread out my calendar, make my “to do” lists, sip my coffee, and schedule the milliseconds between now and December 25.

I only had an hour.

But I no sooner entered the café than I heard a familiar voice. An old friend, Dan Cronk, having little to do that morning, had decided to enjoy a pot of tea and a basket ofbreads.  There he stood, tray in hand, lookingwistfully,delighted to see me and obviously hoping I’d invute him to sit down.

I didn’t want him to join me, for he was a talker, about to rattle away for hours on hypothetical abstractions from his brilliant but rambling mind.

There he stood nonetheless.

“Well, hello Dan!” I said with a broad smile.  “I didn’t expect to see you here.”

“Didn’t have much goin’ on this morning, and I thought a pot of tea would cheer me up.  Meeting someone?”

“Well, no… Actually, I’m not…. Er … Want to join me?”

“Sure!”

And down he sat.

For the next hour I sat there, head nodding and stomach knotting, listening to him pour forth.  My planning calendar rested unopened on the table, and my blood pressure slowly increased in steady increments.  I silently cursed the impulse that had chosen that particular café on that particular day at that particular hour.

The hour passed, and I cleared my throat.  “Well, Dan, it’s been wonderful seeing you again.  I have to go now, but I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.”

He looked deeply into my eyes, and I noticed for the first time that his were soft, tender, vulnerable.  He smiled and reached his hand across the little table and laid it atop mine.

“I’m so glad we ran into each other today,”  he said quietly.  “Thanks for taking time for an old man.  I was feeling pretty blue this morning, and I guess I just needed a friend.  You know, sitting here with you has felt like… well, it’s been like pulling up to a blazing fire on a cold night.  I feel so… so warm now.  Thanks for letting me join you.”

That incident took place years ago, and Dan is now in heaven.  But I’ve thought of his words many times since.  They were so simple, yet the more I mull over them the more profound they seem.  I’m always tempted to allow the holiday to deteriorate into nothing more than jingling bells and jangled nerves.  Dan reminded me that Christmas isn’t decorations, deadlines, and dashing though the snow.  It’s a time for giving ourselves specifically, our time—to someone with greater needs than our own.  And we do it in honor of the Baby who did the same for us, the one called “Immanuel”—which means “God with us.”  (Matthew 1:23)

Time for friends and fellowship in Jesus’ name.

It’s like pulling up to a blazing fire on a cold and lonely night.

–         Robert J. Morgan  (More Real Stories For the Soul, pp. 157-160.)

An important reminder for us during this hectic time of year.

Advent: Seeing Jesus

John 12:20-21

What is Advent?  It literally means “arrival.”  It has been for centuries a time that Christians laid aside to contemplate the birth of Christ.  However, suggest Advent to most folks today and you are libel to get a blank stare.  Who has two seconds they can rub together to contemplate anything in the month of December?

How about this year we do December differently?  How about this season we see Jesus in all His fullness?

John 12:20-21 reads:  “Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the Feast.  They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

We would like to see Jesus!  Awesome request!  Question?  How do you see Jesus?  The old hymn “Praise Him, Praise Him” has a line that says:  “Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever; Crown Him!  Crown Him!  Prophet and Priest and King”  That line has always intrigued me.   Turns out… it isn’t just an impressive lyric.  It is sound theology.  It is known in theological circles as the Threefold Office of the Messiah (the munus triplex).  This simply means the Jesus while he walked this earth as Messiah, performed the three functions of prophet, priest and king.

In the Old Testament, when they appointed someone into one of these three offices, it would be symbolized by pouring oil over their head (anointing them).  Now, the term Messiah, means “anointed one.”  Jesus… Messiah… the Anointed One, is the perfect fulfillment of all three positions.

I ask you again:  How do you see Jesus?

Mark Driscoll at MarsHillChurch in a sermon stated:  “When we look at Jesus in the Gospels we often find ourselves having favorite sections:  stories, sayings, etc.  Often this is because of who we are more like:

 Prophetic People love to see Jesus preaching and teaching.  Rebuking.  Quoting the OT.  Defending the truth.  When someone says “Jesus”… they picture a fiery rebel.

 Priestly People love to see Jesus feeding the hungry, healing the sick, loving the hurting.  They love it when He describes his role as being “to seek and save the lost.”  They see Jesus primarily as Savior of men.

 Kingly People love it when Jesus talks about organizational aspects of the Kingdom… when He prizes faithfulness and talks about stewardship… about thrones and His rule from Heaven.  They see Jesus primarily as Lord.

Here is the thing… we need to appreciate the fullness of who Jesus is… despite who we are or what our preferences are.  May our heart’s cry this Advent season be:  “We would like to see, Jesus!” –  As He is, not simply as we prefer Him to be.

Hail Him!  Hail Him!  Prophet and Priest and King!