Jesus

Jesus in the Middle of His Church

Image result for stereogramDo you remember those old “magic eye” posters that were all the rage in the 90’s? They were 3D images that were masked by a two dimensional pattern that could only be seen by slightly crossing your eyes, like you would to view a 3D stereogram (this is what a stereogram is, if you don’t know and actually care).

The key to seeing those visual puzzles had to do with refocusing your eyes. The picture didn’t emerge until you saw it from the proper focal direction.

That is a lot like the book of Revelation. It has a message that seems confusing and difficult on the surface reading – but when we focus our eyes properly, we begin to see that not everything is as it seems on the surface. The symbolic imagery begins to take on a different meaning which encourages us to hold fast to our faith in Christ.

We began an expository study of Revelation last week, and this week we’ll continue, still in chapter one, reading v9-20.

The first eight verses were the introduction, the last 11 are the opening of the prologue.

A dramatic and powerful voice commands John to write this down in a letter to 7 churches in the province of Asia Minor. When John turns to see who’s talking, he gets an eyeful. Jesus stands in the middle of 7 lamps, which v 20 says stand for the 7 churches. The number seven will be significant in this book. It’s actually a significant number in the whole of the Biblical Narrative. Easton’s Bible Dictionary says: “Seven is used for any round number, or for completeness, as we say a dozen, or as a speaker says he will say two or three words.”  Given this usage of that number – what significance do you think “seven churches” has?

The One speaking isn’t named as Jesus, but his self-description of being dead but now alive is a clear indicator of who this Risen One is. Where is he standing? Given that the lamps are the church, what is significant about his placement?

Look at the descriptions of Jesus. A long robe, a golden sash, white hair, flaming eyes, shining skin, burnished bronze feet and a literally sharp tongue (sorry, couldn’t help myself). All of these symbolic descriptors are meant to indicate Jesus’ power and ability to preserve and empower his church. What do you think these descriptions imply about Him in relation to the church?

We’ll go into more detail on Sunday – but take some time to read this passage before-hand. Get the feel of how John uses imagery. Let your imagination take flight and do your best to picture what John is describing. This is how we’ll enter into this as an experience and not just another lesson with more information to store. Let’s get stoked about “The First and the Last, the LIVING ONE!”

Hope to see you Sunday!

Kingdom Come – the Gospel of Matthew

matt FB web

This Sunday we’ll be starting a new study in the gospel of Matthew! We’ll be reading all of chapter one. I’m pretty stoked about this as it’s my second time through this gospel. I know it can be a disappointing shock when you begin to read this story and realize it begins with a long genealogy. Not the exciting start we’d hoped for, but an important one for establishing Jesus’ claim as Messiah. The expected Messiah was most certainly supposed to be Jewish, and from the family line of King David. The list of names that Matthew provides establishes just that.

Now, pay attention to the names of the characters in this list. Look up Tamar and Judah. Do some research on Rahab and her occupation; Ruth and her origins. What event launched David and the mother of Solomon in thier relationship? Explore the lives of all those descendants of Solomon and look at the epitaph that they left behind, including Solomon himself. Does this look like a squeaky clean list of characters? Do you spy, with your little eye, any skeletons in Messiah’s closet? What does that tell us about God’s kingdom and who it chooses to work through? How can that combat any shameful past we may have?

V 21 and v23 give us names that declare mission and the nature of the mission of Messiah. What do those names mean to you personally?

Hey – the Bible Project has done a set of WONDERFUL introduction videos that lay out and explain the structure and emphasis of Matthew’s gospel. Please take the time to look at them in preparation for this study! Hope to see you Sunday!

A Change of Priorities

Hey everyone! Hope your week is going well.  This Sunday we’re going to be looking at Luke 6:12-26.

The narrative transitions from the conflicts Jesus had with the Pharisees to the choosing of the 12 apostles and the establishing of the Kingdom ethic.  As we explore this passage this week, I’m going to try and focus on the change in priorities that Jesus introduces us to.  A change from the standard priorities of this broken world to the values and priorities of Jesus’ kingdom project (to use a phrase coined by N.T. Wright).

v 12-16 we have the account of Jesus selecting his 12 apostles.  This occurs after an all night prayer session that Jesus has.  As I look at that list of names, something occurred to me as I considered Matthew the tax collector and Simon the Zealot both being included on the team.  Considering the differences between the values these two men may have embraced, what, if anything, does it speak to you about our priorities and purposes in the community of Christ’s followers?

v 17-19 describes Jesus ministering to the multitudes.  If you were to try and summarize with one word the priorities revealed in these verses, what would it be?

v 20-26 begin what is referred to as “the sermon on the plain“, where Jesus teaches many of the same things, with a few variations, as he taught in the “sermon on the mount”.  With this opening salvo of “beatitudes”, or blessings, and the contrasting “woes”…what kind of picture do we see emerging about the values of the kingdom project?  Where does personal comfort place in these values?  Do these verses comfort or disturb you (or both)?

This should be a very interesting study…you never know, it may even get me into trouble.

See yer’ Sunday!

Fishing For Disciples

Normally “fishing stories” are associated with exaggerations and misrepresentations…but in our study in Luke 5:1-11, we will see another kind of fish story.

“Fishin’ With Jesus” could have been a cool show for early morning local TV.  Better yet, Discovery could have done a new reality series called “Heaviest Catch”… except it might have gotten a little monotonous after a while.  You’d do interviews and back-stories on the local fishermen shot on location at the local pub, get tours of their fishing vessels and quick instructions on how they go about deciding where and when to fish and what equipment they use.

Then the big moment when Jesus is introduced to them and he goes out on a fishing run with them.  Each show would have a predictable ending, where everything looks like they’re going to get skunked…and then the hand-held cameras start shaking around and you hear shouting and when the lense finally finds it’s stable focus…you see the fishing nets filled to beyond capacity and the boat is listing and Jesus is laughing telling the greenhorn that he has a sister who could pull the net faster than him. Cut to theme song and teaser for next week’s episode.

The thing is, in the story about Jesus and the big catch of fish, we find that miracle is actually only the platform being used to tell another story.  A story that teaches us something about what it means to follow Jesus.  The reason we know this is because in v10, Jesus merges the act of literal fishing with his call on Peter’s life to advance the message of the Kingdom of God, revealing to us that the whole story is a living metaphor.  As best we can make out, a metaphor about following Jesus…being a disciple.

As you read the story, break it up into four parts.  Read v1-3 and think about Simon’s (Peter’s) role.  What Did Jesus ask of him, what did he do…and how can you translate that to YOUR life?

Then read v4-7 and consider the same things concerning Peter and Jesus.  Again, read v8-10 considering the same questions.  Finally, read v11 and re-read it and then read it again, and ask yourself, what does this mean about ME?

I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.  See yaz Sunday.

The Authority of Christ

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Luke 4:21-44.

Right on the heels of Jesus declaring that the prophecy of Isa 61:1-2a were fulfilled, he goes out and demonstrates just how it is He will be fulfilling His messianic calling.  While the people of Nazareth rejected Jesus, the people to the North-West in Capernaum have a very different reaction.  They are filled with wonder…because of Jesus’ “authority“.

What things does Jesus demonstrate His authority over in this passage?  What can it tell us about our own life specifically?  How often do we ever think about the forces that operate behind what’s seen with the natural eye?  What do we learn from Jesus’ interaction with those forces?

For all of His authority, Jesus also demonstrates submission as well.  What does Jesus submit to, and what does He NOT submit to in the last few verses of this passage?

Good stuff to consider, we’ll unpack it more on Sunday!

Temptation: Settling for Less

Hey, hey!  I’m finally back to somewhat normal patterns, which leads me back to Wonderwhat!   I’ll do my best to keep updating with thoughts about our upcoming studies, but I will warn you that for the next month or so, I’ve got a lot on my plate.  For the last year, Ken Raney of Clash Creative has been negotiating with Voice of the Martyrs to do a series of graphic novel adaptations of some of the stories of triumph that have come from Christians who have endured persecution in closed nations.  I was asked to participate in this project, and a few weeks ago, they finally gave the go-ahead.  Needless to say, I have a lot of work ahead of me in laying out, penciling, inking and hopefully coloring said project.  Ben Avery wrote a compelling script…which has had me in tears multiple times as I’ve tried to convey this story through pictures.  Pray for me if you think of it…I need to learn how to draw and fast….I want, with all my heart, to do this story justice.

This Sunday we’ll be looking at Luke 4:1-13.

It’s a fascinating passage about the temptation of Christ in the wilderness.  It provides us food for thought concerning our own struggles with temptation…but it also gives us an amazing insight into just what kind of Messiah Jesus intended to be (and IS).  Jesus had to break with many of the expectations concerning the messiah in His day, and we see that the break from accepted patterns wasn’t just a public thing…it was initiated in the most private of times, alone and unobserved.

Here’s something interesting: if you get the chance, read Deuteronomy 8 and then read Luke 4:1-13 right after it.  What connections do you see?  Do you think there was a point being made in the nature of the temptations recounted in Jesus’ story?  Beyond that, what do we learn about the nature of temptation in general?  If we describe it as settling for less…less than what?  What do we learn about how to resist temptation from Jesus’ story?

This should be an interesting study…hope to see you this Sunday!

A View From the Cross

We will be studying Mark 15:21-(possibly)47 in our exploration of the gospel of Mark this Sunday.

Jesus has been tried, condemned and brought before the powers of Rome, who have determined to crucify Him for political reasons.  All of this was predicted by Jesus before hand.

Mark’s gospel is unique in all the accounts because Mark provides so few details about Jesus during this time.  There is no description of Jesus’ other words spoken just before and during His time on the cross, other than what he says in v34.  It has been suggested that Mark’s viewpoint then, is not at the foot of the cross looking up…but rather a view from the cross looking around. 

From this vantage point we see Simone the Cyrenian press-ganged into carrying Jesus’ cross.  He and his sons are mentioned in such a way that we would think they are well known to the readers who originally recieved this gospel.  Tradition says that they became leaders in the early church.

We see from Mark’s view the solders who try to offer Jesus pain killers, and then once their grizzly task is completed, begin dividing up Jesus’ clothing as the spoils of their job.

Looking to the right and left, we see two other men on crosses.  Robbers, it says in the text, though that could have been a generic term used to describe people who stirring trouble and breaking laws.  They may have been the very men Barabbas was chained up with when Jesus took his place.

From the cross, we see the passers by…the ones who probably have heard about this teacher from up north who thinks He’s the Messiah.  Now they see Him on a cross, and begin jeering and taunting Him, because in their minds, this proves Jesus isn’t the Messiah they’ve been waiting for.

The religious leaders are there too.  When the mocking begins, they don’t urge people to mercy.  There is no kindness demonstrated in spite of their disagreement with Him.    They don’t say “listen, this guy’s suffering already, lets not add to it, lets pray for Him.”  No.  They join in the mockery.

Darkness descends, the atmosphere becomes strangely ominous.  Jesus gives one final cry, and dies.  One final character stands at the foot of that cross, and we see him looking up at Jesus.  He says “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”

What are your thoughts on the cross, at least from Mark’s description of it?  Mark’s gospel was the earliest one written, and if all we had was Mark’s account of this….what would we make of it?  What do you think Mark’s view from the cross tells us?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Peace