Lessons from the XBox

xboxGuest what! I got an Xbox for Christmas! Well, not really! It’s really for my grandson, who is living with us. But since he’s a kid and should to be supervised while he is playing, I get to play with it also!

Well as I, I mean “we,” were playing the other day I began to realize that there is a lot that can learned about life from playing with the Xbox. The first thing is the fact that if you don’t know how to operate the controllers, the game will be totally frustrating. You have to know when to push the blue “x” button, the green “a” button, rotate the left and right sticks and when to pull the right and left triggers! Whew! It takes a while to get adjusted, especially when the game is moving at such a fast pace! However, your frustration can be minimized if you take the time to find out how to control functions and go through the various tutorials.

That’s the way it is with life! If you don’t know how life works, life can be totally frustrating! You can be overwhelmed by the fast pace of life when you try to learn how it works on the fly! But just like the Xbox games, the frustrations of life can be minimized by taking the time to learn what buttons to push and go through the various tutorials of life. I think the source of many of the problems in our society today can be traced to the fact that most kids are trying to be grown too soon! As a result, they miss out on many of the lessons they should learn during their childhood. Childhood (the tutorial-period) is the time to learn how the various buttons of life work! But if you wait until you are an adult (when the game is already in progress) to learn how to operate the controls, you are setting yourself up for failure and frustration! Now, if you really want to know how life works, I would suggest you take the time to read and study the manual. The manual is the Bible: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. The Bible is the best manual of life because it was authored by the Creator of Life!

Another lesson I learned from playing the Xbox is that if you’re not careful, it will monopolize your time! Before you know it, the day or the night will be gone and you will have accomplished nothing! The lesson of life is this: Don’t allow yourself to be so distracted by the recreations and non-essentials of life that you fail to do and/or don’t have the time for what is really important in life! Focus and spend your time doing the things that are really important, because if you don’t, your energy will be drained and your time will be monopolized by the “Xboxes” of life! Oh well! I would write more, but I have to go now! Time to play my grandson another game of NBA 2K14!

 

The Ministry of Jesus

servant leaderThis is the last installment of a series investigating The Message of Jesus, The Mission of Jesus, and The Miracles of Jesus. As we look at the ministry of Jesus, I would like to note what Jesus said about his ministry and what his disciples’ concept of ministry should be: “. . . Jesus called them to him and said, ‘You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25-28 ESV)

Note, that Jesus indicated his disciples’ ministries should reflect his own ministry, which was diametrically opposite of the world’s concept. In the world’s concept, the leader is served, but in the Kingdom of God, the leader is the servant of all! Jesus was the perfect embodiment of this principle because everything he did was for others! He came for others! He lived for others! He died for others! Every miracle he performed was for others! He did nothing for himself! Everything he did was for others!

Perhaps many modern-day ministries would do well to remember the very core of ministry is about serving others! That is what every Christian has been called to do: To serve this present age! So as we celebrate this season remembering the coming of the Savior, let us remember that he came, not as a conquering king, but rather as a suffering servant! The Servant-King calls upon all of his followers to follow and emulate his example, thereby fleshing-out the paradoxical nature of his Kingdom! In the Kingdom of God, the way up is down! The way to the top is to lift up others! The characteristic of true leadership and ministry is not to be served but rather to be a servant!

The Miracles of Jesus

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book;”

John 20:30 ESV

miracles of jesusAccording to writer of the Gospel of John, the record of the miracles of Jesus we have in the Bible is really just a sample of all the miracles Jesus performed! There were many miracles performed by him that were not recorded. However, of the recorded miracles of Jesus as they are presented in the Bible, there is an obvious pattern of principles. For one thing, Jesus didn’t perform miracles just to be performing miracles. All of the miracles he performed were deliberate and purposeful.

We can gain some insight into his purpose in performing miracles by taking note of the terms the Greek New Testament uses to describe them. In the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), the Greek word used to denote the miracles of Jesus was “dunamis.” This word is commonly defined by Greek scholars as “mighty works.” Usually, the miracles perform by Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke were for the purpose of demonstrating, illustrating, and verifying the power and presence of the Kingdom of God.

In John’s Gospel, there was a different Greek word used to denote the miracles. John used the word; “semeion.” This word is usually translated as; “signs.” In the Gospel of John, the miracles Jesus performed were signs or proofs that he was indeed the Son of God! They were proofs to authenticate his ministry and his claims of being who he said he was.

I also find it interesting that Jesus DID NOT HEAL EVERYBODY he came in contact with! In John 5, Jesus encountered many sick people at the pool of Bethesda, but he only healed one man, who is lying in the back in the corner! In the New Testament writings, the miracles healings of Jesus were performed according to God’s will, the person’s faith, and the Master’s purpose. It is also interesting that Jesus usually went to where the sick people were! His healings were not restricted to a certain place and time. Perhaps many of the modern-day-faith-healers would really prove the power of God if they would quit insisting people come to their church with an offering to be healed, but rather go to the hospitals where the sick people are!

Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that I don’t believe in healing, because I do! However, I believe that ultimately, the determining factor is not our faith or our offering, but rather God’s providential will. Yes! God does have a miracle with our name on it! It is called: Salvation! The greatest miracle of all is the miracle of new life in Christ Jesus! Does God perform miracles today! You can bet your life on it! Just look at me: I AM A MIRACLE OF GOD!

The Un-Invited Guest of Honor

birthday-chair-cover   Imagine this scenario if you will: You are at a party and the place is filled with people! Everyone seems to be having a good time; laughing, singing, drinking, and just having a ball! All of your friends are there and many people you don’t even know! There is a chair sitting in the middle of the room, draped with decorations and festival ornaments. The chair is the one reserved for the guest of honor; the person whose life and birthday is the occasion for the festivities. But, wait a minute! The chair is empty! The guest of honor is nowhere to be found! You ask those hosting the party the whereabouts of the guest of honor and they return your inquiry with a puzzled look on their faces. Finally, they answer you; admitting that the guest of honor was not even invited! He was not invited because he wouldn’t have approved of much of the activity that was going on at the party in his honor! Then they tell you that not only was the guest of honor not invited, he wouldn’t have been welcomed!

Sounds like an incredible scenario, doesn’t it? But isn’t that exactly what happens every year with most Christmas celebrations? I mean, think about it! Do you really think Jesus would be invited, pleased or welcomed at most of our office Christmas parties? How dare we have parties of revelry and debauchery to celebrate the coming of the Holy Son of God? Would Jesus lift up a glass filled with eggnog and Hennessy to toast at our celebrations of His birth? And what about the gifts and the giving? In the biblical text, the Wise Men brought and gave gifts to Jesus; not to one another! What kind of birthday party is it when the guests give gifts to one another but not to the honoree?

Now, I hope you don’t think I’m trying to be the Scrooge or the Grinch who stole Christmas! I’m just simply saying that by and large, we celebrate a “Christ-less Christmas!” A “good Christmas” for most of us usually means we got the gifts we wanted, but it should mean the presence of the Christ in our lives! In the midst of the Black Fridays, Gray Thursdays, and Cyber Mondays, we’ve lost the real meaning of the season! Christmas is really about what money cannot buy: The coming of the Savior! Peace on Earth and good will to all men!

So if you don’t have spending money for presents and gifts for the ones you love, the best gift you can give them this Christmas is the gift of yourself! Give your love, time, and attention to your family! Give loyalty and dedication to your friends! Give the gift of the Gospel to those who have not personally met the Guest of Honor!

The Mission of Jesus

Mission of JesusTraditional Christian thought has maintained that the mission of Jesus was to go to the Cross and die for the sins of mankind, thereby, providing a way for man to be reconciled to God. John 3:16, states: For God so loved the world that God gave His only Begotten-Son that whosoever believes in Him (the Son) should not perish but have everlasting life. Indeed, the mission of Jesus was one of reconciliation and restoration but I think we have traditionally not realized the full implications of that mission. We have made Jesus and the Cross the end, when according to the Bible, they were not the end but the means to the end! Now, I am in no way attempting to minimize the atoning work of Jesus on the Cross, my point is; I think we have finished the meal, leaving far too much food still on the plate! In other words, I think that traditionally, we have not fully appreciated the extent of what Jesus came to do! Traditionally, we seem to have simplified the mission of Jesus to the simple point of just providing a way for believers to go to Heaven when they die! But, it was so much more than that!

But before we look at the “so much more than that” let’s investigate the idea that Jesus was not the end but the means to the end. Who better to prove the point than Jesus himself? In John 10:7, 9, Jesus said: “I am the door.” Do you know what a door is? A door is a means of access, a thru-way, an entry-way. You don’t stop at the door because the door is not your destination! No! You go through the door to get to where you want to be! Traditionally, we have stopped at Jesus; the Door! But Jesus said; “I’m not it! I’m not your destination; I’m your means of access to get to your destination!” (Millerized Version). He said in John 14:6: “I am the way!” Again; “I’m not where you are going, I’m just the means to get you to where you’re going!” And what is the destination? Jesus is the door and the way to what? The answer is God the Father! The mission of Jesus was to provide the means and the way for us to regain access to the Heavenly Father God! Not just when we die and go to Heaven, but while we yet live everyday! Jesus said to his disciples on one occasion: “In that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. . . At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. (Joh 16:23, 26-27 KJV) Do you see that? Jesus said that at that day (When the Holy Spirit comes) believers would not have to ask him, but would have direct access to God themselves through his name! The mission of Jesus was to provide the means for us to regain an amiable and intimate relationship with God!

In the “preaching circles” I grew up in, the main focal point of the Gospel story was the Cross! But the Cross was not the destination; the Cross provided the means and removed the obstacle to the destination! Jesus paid the penalty for our sin on the Cross so that we might regain access to God via the Kingdom of God! We preach the Cross, but Jesus preached the Kingdom of God! The purpose of the Cross was to deal with sin so that we might have access to the Kingdom! The purpose of the Cross was to provide cleansing and atonement so that we might again have fellowship with God. Again, I am by no means trying to minimize the importance of the Cross, I’m just simply trying to point out the fact that the Cross was not the end-goal, but the means to the end-goal! Just as Jesus was and is the “way” to the Father, the Cross was and is the “way” to gain access to the Kingdom! At this point, I think I need to bring out the point that my reference to the Kingdom is NOT synonymous with Heaven; I am referring to the Kingdom of God in reference to the power, rule, and authority of God. Hence, the mission of Jesus was to provide access to what Adam lost. Adam didn’t lose access to Heaven; Adam lost access to the dominion of the Kingdom!

The mission of Jesus was to provide a model of the Kingdom life! His favorite description of himself was “Son of Man,” indicating that although he was God, during his earthly sojourn, he functioned as a man fully indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Hence theoretically, whatever Jesus did, we also have the potential of doing! He said in John 14:12: “”Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12 ESV) In Acts 1:1, Luke wrote: “In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. . .” (Act 1:1 ESV) Note that Luke said “all that Jesus ‘began’ to do and teach!” The implication seems to be that Jesus didn’t finish doing and teaching! Indeed, every generation of the church has the awesome responsibility of continuing what Jesus began to do and teach! What did Jesus do and teach? His mighty works were signs and demonstrations of the imminent presence and power of the Kingdom of God among men and much of what he taught was concerning the Kingdom of God! Hence the mission of Jesus was to be the “last Adam!” He came to live, to demonstrate and to empower us to live the life that Adam failed to live.

I don’t want to make this into a thesis on the subject, so I will come to a close at this point! But, I think it would be good for us to re-think some of our limited traditional thinking in regard to the mission of Jesus. He didn’t come to take away our sins just so we might have “pie-in-the-sky-when-we-die-in-the-sweet-by-and-by!” The mission of Jesus was so much greater than that!