Saturday, January 23, 2010

Totally Oblivious

In today's Bible reading (Saturday) Jesus saw the crowds and had compassion on them. (Matt. 14:4)

I wonder why it is that I look and I miss the hurt that people have. How is it that I can see people on a regular basis and do nothing more than have meaningless conversations and move on wrapped up in my own little world and my own little life?

How is it that people that I know and love can have their world crashing down around them and I am totally oblivious? The issues can be, health, marriage, jobs, addictions, school, etc. The point is I don't know that they are in crisis.

I know--maybe it's that they don't want anybody to know. Or maybe they don't want me to know. Or maybe they don't want to be the one to bring it up. It's easy to say that it's not my fault that I'm not there for them. Easy to say...but not the truth. I am supposed to be a minister of the Gospel. I am supposed to look at people with the eyes and compassion of Jesus. Do you think that Jesus would walk into our church and not see the people that are hurting? Have my conversations become so trite that they are just casual greetings and polite how-do-you-do's? Do people get the idea that I really don't care how they are doing? DO I REALLY CARE HOW THEY ARE DOING?

This coming week is the Missouri Baptist's Annual Evangelism Conference. It's an event that I usually look forward to. This year, I'm not feeling like much of an Evangelist. I'm not even feeling like much of a follower of Jesus. I'm sensing this weird kind of irony in my life. As I have made more of an effort to draw closer to God, I'm finding myself much further away from Him than I've ever been. It's kind of scary. What if I'm finding myself right where I've always been? What if I've just been fooling myself?

I'm finding that I've been playing church, playing preacher, playing Christianity--but not really following Jesus.

I wonder if any of you have ever found yourselves in the same predicament. Have you ever thought that you were really following God's will only to find that you were pretty much doing what you wanted and figuring that God was okay with that? Ever throw out the fleece and and tell God-- "I'm going to do this thing and if it's not your will then I expect you to stop me."

That's not exactly where I am, but I don't really know how to put it into words. What I do know is that I am nothing like Jesus--and I am supposed to be. I know that I am not going to be exactly like Jesus, but aren't we supposed to be a little bit like Him? Aren't we supposed to be becoming more like Him? ...everyday?

It's almost midnight in the Midwest. Tomorrow morning I want to wake up with eyes that are more like the eyes of Jesus. I want to see people the way that He sees them. I want have compassion on them. I may not be able to heal all of their hurts or cure their illnesses, but I can reassure them that Jesus can. I can remind them that God loves them and that Jesus died for them. It's great news--for all of us.


Thursday, January 21, 2010

Missing the Mark

The Apostle Paul writes that "...all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

I've been feeling that lately--the falling short of God's glory has been bothering me. I've been sensing (once again) that I do very little that impacts the Kingdom of God and that I rely on myself way too much and trust God way too little.

I have this secure little life and I live it every day, putting nothing out there for God. I have a modest house, a freezer full of beef, cupboards with food, four cars in the driveway (3 of them are older and paid for), cable internet, this shnazzy little HP Mini netbook and so much more. I have a job that provides a good income, access to good health care and insurance that covers most of it, live in the Midwest in a safe little community and have a great family that is living this safe, secure life with me. My job has a decent retirement plan (that I'm eligible for in 1 yr, 11 mos, 17 days) that, although would be a cut from my working wage, will give me an income that is more than the average household in the area. I have enough leisure time to write meaningless drivel and post it on a free blogsite for all of the world (that has access to a computer and the internet) to see.

I only say all of this to say that all of this makes it easy to say that I don't really need God.

Of course, I would never say that. But the truth is that I often live like that.

Oh, I'm usually religious enough to feel good about myself. I can go to church every week (2-3 times most weeks) and that makes me feel better than most of the rest of the world. I can even judge myself against the people that are in church and feel that my faults (sins) are not nearly as bad as their sins. This, of course, give me a feeling that God would love me more than them because I'm not as bad as they are. If I point this out to others (highlighting somebody else's sin) it directs their focus away from my own sin and shortcomings. This puts me in the role of a gossip and God in the role of a being whose favor needs to be earned and whose anger needs to be avoided. That makes God out to be nothing more than a celestial bully--and I don't think that God wants that image.

Jesus teaches that if we love him, we'll obey him.

What does that mean if we are constantly being disobedient?

Jesus says that the greatest commandment is to love God with everything we have--heart, soul, mind, strength. And yet we do what we want to do and (as Christians) think that God will just forgive us and all will be well. We sound like spoiled brats with a rich daddy that will bail us out of any trouble that our reckless, rebellious living gets us into. Be honest--you hate those kinds of people. Spiritually, we are those kinds of people.

When I look at myself and do a quick inventory of how my relationship with God manifests itself to others...well, frankly I'm ashamed.

In the eighth verse of the first chapter in the Book of Job, the Bible says, Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil." For some reason, I can't imagine that God would ever say that about His servant John. If He did, Satan would just laugh, "Your servant? When has John ever served you? Let me show you how your servant shuns evil. Ha!"

I guess I'm looking at myself and looking at the church in general and seeing pretty much the same thing that I see when I look around at the non-church/non-believing world. It makes me sad. I think that it makes God sad, too.

Sorry for the bummer post today. It's just where I've been recently.

John <><

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reflections on the Week/Haiti

Last Friday (Jan. 8), I attended the funeral of a friend that has spent most of his life in the mission fields around the world. Most recently, he and his wife have been Port Au Prince, Haiti. They were home on a a visit and making plans to return when my friend had a stroke and died.

I mention this to say that there are many missionaries that are in Haiti. Our church has sponsored a work in Jeremy. My brother-in-law's niece has been there in the past and is already back in Haiti after the earthquake last Tuesday. Many of God's faithful have been there, are there now and are making plans to go to give aid and comfort to the people of Haiti. Christian organizations and non-Christian charitable organizations are making their way to Haiti or sending supplies.

Controversy that is a result of comments that have been made by a couple of television and radio personalities have been given way too much attention. Whether the comments were said maliciously (Rush) or without thought to the insensitivity and negative impact (Robertson) they should be dismissed as being made by a small and sad minority in America. I doubt that are very many hard-core conservatives that would agree with Limbaugh that our President is using this as a political opportunity and wants you to go to just so that they can get your e-mail address to solicit political contributions for his next campaign. I wonder what Rush (who encouraged listeners NOT to send money) thinks about the Clinton-Bush cooperation to bring relief to Haiti.
I also doubt that many Christians see this earthquake as a judgment on Haiti for a contract with the devil that was made a century ago.

I choose to believe that the vast majority of Americans--conservatives and liberals, Christians and non-Christians, rich and poor--mourn along with the people of Haiti. The loss of life has been great (and many are still missing). The loss of property has been great. The infrastructure (that was poor to begin with) is now practically non-existent. They need help in every area of life--from the immediate rescue, recovery and survival to the long term rebuilding of their country. Millions of dollars have already been donated. Military people and civilians have already arrived in Haiti to offer aid to the reeling citizens of the poor island country.

Our own country is suffering with its own economic disaster--and yet people are donating millions of dollars. Why? Because it's what we do. We help people all around the world. It doesn't matter what the politics of the country is. It doesn't matter what religious beliefs the people have. It doesn't even matter that we are struggling with finances in our own country. Today--when people need help facing the latest natural disaster--Americans will rush to their aid. Tomorrow we may have to endure the hatred and criticism of the world's nations. Tomorrow we may face our own disasters by ourselves.

But today, the presence and prosperity of America will be highly valued by those that are in need.

Today I'll just sign off as--

One Proud American <><

Monday, January 11, 2010


A year or so back I was having breakfast with a couple of other evangelists. One of them wanted to know what passage from the Bible we thought best showed the character of Jesus. The Scripture that I mentioned was one from Sunday's reading.

Here it is:

1When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." 3Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" Immediately he was cured of his leprosy.

In this moment, Jesus gives the man much more than just healing him. Here is a man that has probably not had physical contact with another person for quite sometime. He is "unclean." Few us go even a single day without the touch of another human being--a handshake, a pat on the shoulder, a hug, a kiss. From the moment that this man was declared "unclean" he had lived in isolation. Whenever he was among other people, he would have to declare himself as unclean so that people could move away from him. He had become a non-person. He could not work. He had no rights. He would have to count on family or friends to provide for him or he would have to beg for food. In the eyes of society, he was nothing.

Before Jesus restored his health, Jesus restored his personhood. He gave him back his self esteem. The Bible doesn't say that Jesus healed him and then touched him. The Bible says that Jesus touched (while he was still unclean) and then healed him. We could learn a lesson from Jesus. Things that seem small to us, can be really big to others--a touch, a call, a card, a smile, a word of encouragement. You and I may not be able to heal somebody of a dreaded disease, but we can lift their spirit and let them know that they are somebody; that they are important. We can touch them.

John <><

Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Fictional Character...

This morning was the 3rd Annual "Lightning Writing" meeting of the Ozarks Chapter of American Christian Writers.

The writers are given seven starter lines and can choose one or more to use as they write. It can be a poem, prose, song or story--whatever you want. We then have 45 minutes to write. It can be a completed work or a start to something more. Many of the writers shared their works and they were all very good.

These were the starter lines:

1) I want to celebrate...
2) Gabriel spread his wings and with a loud shout...
3) A single tear glistened...
4) If I could have someone to coach me through...
5) Time is not a rubber band...
6) A fictional character that influenced my life is...
7) Worship happens when...

This is what I wrote:

A couple of fictional characters that influenced my life were two little boys named Franky and Freddy. Franky and Freddy are twins that, for all time, will remain as young boys seeking out the adventure in the things that fascinate little boys.

For some reason, I've always imagined them with red wavy hair, well freckled faces, bib overalls and a look of innocence that makes you wonder what they've been up to. Franky and Freddy were creations of my own imagination. They were born in one of those "Daddy, tell me a story" moments as I was putting my own little kids to bed. Franky was born first--the eldest twin. Freddy didn't come along until one night when the story required a playmate for Franky. After that, the stories were always about Franky and Freddy.

These two adventurous boys could go places that my son only dreamed of. I could pick up one of my son's baseball cards. We could see the featured player, the ball diamond, the dugout and the crowd in the background. But Franky and Freddy could step INTO the card. Once inside, the moment that had been frozen by the camera would come to life! They would be at the ballgame!

They could talk to the players and watch the game from the dugout. They could celebrate a victory with the team, go out to dinner after the game and be the special guests of one of my son's baseball favorites. After their great adventure they would return to their imagined reality on our side of the card until it was time for another Adventure of Franky and Freddy.

I wonder if my son's love of baseball--going to the ballpark, watching batting practice, getting autographs, experiencing baseball--was born in the stories of Franky and Freddy. Aaron and I have spent a lot of time together going to baseball games--from a one day trip to St. Louis and back to our week long seven Major League Games in seven different ballparks in seven days trip after his high school graduation.

We don't get to go to as many games together now that Aaron is away at college. But I look forward the ones that we get to see together and remember fondly the games we enjoyed through the eyes of Franky and Freddy.

John <><

BTW, Franky and Freddy also went into the television to become a part of the kid's favorite cartoons or videos. We told a lot of bedtime stories using Franky and Freddy. I enjoyed the time, the story telling and the nightly challenge to be imaginative.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Not a Daily Blogger

Okay! I admit it! I am not a daily blogger. It's not that I don't have any thing to say. It's that I don't have the time every day to (semi-)organize my thoughts and write a post. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that I'm not disciplined enough to (semi-)organize my thoughts and write a post every day.

But I would like to continue to offer daily links to help any readers work their way through reading the New Testament this year. So I've added a Daily Bible Reading section to the upper right column of the blog. I'll try to post the links there each Sunday and hope to publish comments often to the content as we progress through the year. Many of the Gospel stories will be repeated as the different writers tell of Jesus' life from their perspectives and to different people. I may not comment on the event or lesson in one Gospel, only to comment on it later. In any case, there is an abundance of good material to help us in our daily lives as well as to prepare us for the eternal life which follows.

Each day's reading will only take a few minutes of your time. I hope that you will consider reading along with us.

John <><

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Do the Right Thing

The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew's gospel is worth reading over and over. There is so much good stuff in there that you have to read it many times to glean all of it. I really like the passage from today's reading.

We find Jesus challenging us to rethink how we think about The Law. Even today, we have a tendency to rank sins according to their severity. To God, any sin is an intolerable offense and is enough to keep us from His holy and perfect presence. Murder is on the "big sin" list, but then Jesus reminds us that unrighteous anger has the same spiritual consequences.

Jesus is basically telling us to just do the right thing. Be reconciled to your brother. Settle things with your adversary. Be at peace with others so that you can be at peace with God.

Adultery is another sin that makes the "big" list. Once again, Jesus says that the ill thoughts are as offensive to God as the act is. He instructs us to go to great lengths to guard ourselves against sin.

He addresses divorce and reminds us that God's plan is for a couple to remain married for life.

He tells us to keep our word and to be better than others expect us to be. He instructs us to forgive people; to bless people; to help people.

Unfortunately, we've bought into the whole "I have rights" attitude of the world around us. We're more worried about our rights being infringed on that we are about somebody that we may be hurting, offending or ignoring. Throughout the fifth, sixth and seventh chapters of Matthew, Jesus gives instruction on how to face day to day life.

John's simple summary for today--Just do the right thing!

John <><

Tuesday, January 05, 2010


The first part of today's reading in Matthew deals with Jesus facing off with Satan in the wilderness. I think that the progression of the temptation is interesting and I think that we can learn from it and the way that Jesus handled it. It's easy to say know...he's Jesus. That's supposed to be easy for Jesus. The Bible tells us that Jesus faced the temptations as a man--just like we face them. In the wilderness, Jesus turns them aside by using the Scriptures. This is as good an encouragement as there is for us to read and remember the Scriptures. They will help you during times of temptation and trials.

In any case, Satan begins with a simple temptation--you're hungry, why not just use a little godly power to satisfy your physical needs? There is no misusing the Scriptures here. There is no need to. The simplest temptations deal with satisfying our personal wants and desires; taking care of number 1. So what would've been the harm? Jesus is hungry (he's been fasting 40 days). Jesus is God. Take care of business. Turn a few rocks to bread and eat. (although Satan lack some serious imagination here. Really, if a minor miracle is in order why not a plate full of some serious hot wings, a steak--medium rare please, or a cheese cake with strawberries?) But Jesus faces the temptation ... like a man, and turns Satan aside with a quote from the Scriptures.

Then Satan ramps it up a bit and starts in on Jesus on a more personal level.
"So you're the Son of God, eh? Let's see what happens if you put yourself in danger. The Scriptures say that God is watching out for you; that His angels will keep the junior God from hurting himself."
But Jesus refuses to play in Satan's little game. Once again, Jesus uses the Scriptures to turn Satan aside.

Finally, it's the biggie--the one that gets all of us. Fame, fortune, wealth, and POWER! "Jesus, I can give you all of these things...if you will worship ME!"
By this time, Jesus has figured out that He's not living a life of great comfort. He doesn't have a horse or camel to travel on. He doesn't have a rich set of parents to fund the upcoming years of ministry. He is going to have to convince a lot of people that he is bringing the message of God and a little wealth and power could be pretty helpful in getting people to listen to what he has to say. Instead of being the servant-Savior, he can be the King-Messiah that everybody is expecting. This could make the next three years a proverbial piece of baklava.

Unfortunately, many of us want to take the shortcuts. Too often we want to execute God's plan in our way. Even when we have a pretty good idea of what God wants from us, we tend to want to improve on His design. For a third time, Jesus uses Scripture to turn Satan aside--plus a strong rebuke to let Satan know that He is not going to entertain these temptations any longer!

If Jesus called upon His divine nature to overcome these temptations, then the Bible can't teach us that He faced temptation as a man--besides, Jesus set those divine characteristics aside when He became man. He faced them the way we face them and He overcame them the same way that we can overcome humans trusting in God's Word.

I believe that there might be a sermon in there!

John <><


I'm just going to say that my day isn't over yet so even though the time stamp says it's Jan 5, it's still Monday--sort of. To keep up with reading through the New Testament here is the combined reading for the 4th and 5th.

It starts with the story of Jesus being tempted in the wilderness and then moves into the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. There is some pretty good stuff in there. I'll be commenting on some of it later today in another post.

'Til then...


Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Snowy Day in the Ozarks

The snow started last night around 8 o'clock and has been falling ever since. It started as a fine powdery snow but the flakes are starting to get a little bit bigger now. It looks like a little bit more that 4-5 inches and it's still falling nearly 20 hours after it started. Soon I'll have to make my way out to where the horses are and make sure that they have some food and water. I'll also have to get out and shovel off the driveway (again) but might wait to see if it stops within the next couple of hours.

All-in-all, it makes for a nice afternoon to enjoy a book, a blog or to just sit and relax.


I haven't commented on the daily Bible passages because they are passages that I talked about in December as Christmas was approaching. Today's reading begins the Earthly ministry of Jesus as told by Matthew. If you want to read a little bit about John the Baptist (not this--John, the Baptist; THE John the Baptist) you can check out Chapter one of Luke's account.

John's ministry was foretold in the prophesies of the Old Testament. He would prepare the way for the Messiah. His message is the same message that Jesus preaches as He begins His work--"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." John also tells that we must show our repentance (turning away from our own way and turning towards God) by the fruit that we produce. We'll see this same message from Jesus in a few days as we finish reading the Sermon on the Mount.

Then Jesus comes and is baptized by John. It may seem odd that Jesus gets baptized before He begins His ministry, but I think that Jesus sets the example for us. I truly believe that before a Christian can have a successful, Spirit filled ministry, they must begin by obediently following Jesus in baptism. Matthew ends his account by recording Jesus' command that we make disciples, baptize the believers and teach all of the things that He commands. It was important that Jesus was baptized because it is important that we are baptized.

Just imagine what it would have been like on that day. Day after day, people came and were baptized by John. But on this day, after this man Jesus is baptized, the Spirit descends upon Him and a voice booms from heaven, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."


John <><

New Testament reading for Jan 3--Matthew 3.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

A Fresh Cup of Coffee

One of the many simple things that I enjoy is a good cup of coffee. Last year, Aaron's girlfriend bought me a french press for Christmas. I like the coffee brewed in the press but rarely have the course ground coffee to use in it. I generally have my coffee ground for espresso and that's too fine for the press. It works for the drip coffee maker, I just use a little less than I would a medium grind.

This Christmas, Aaron bought me a coffee grinder. It seem strange that somebody that really enjoys coffee like I do didn't have a grinder already. It's just one of those things that I never went out to buy for myself.

So today I went to Starbucks and bought my favorite beans (gift card from Hannah), ground them coarse in my new grinder (gift from Aaron), and brewed them in the French press (gift from Jenny). Mmm, mmmm. A little late in the day for my first cup of coffee, but worth the wait.

By the way, I started the day at the Red Cross donating a double unit of platelets. There is always a need for blood products. Once again I would like to encourage you to become a donor. It doesn't take much time and it is a simple way to give a gift that really will make a difference in somebody's life. I brought my HP Mini with me and listened to an Alister Begg sermon that I had downloaded and took care of my daily Bible reading.

You may have noticed that yesterday's post included a tag on for anybody that would like to read through the New Testament in a year. I'll try to keep you current, but doubt that I'll post every day. If I miss a day, just read the next chapter or so and I'll post again soon. There's some good stuff in there!

John <><

New Testament reading for Jan 2 -- Matthew 2, The visit of the Magi and escape to Egypt.

Friday, January 01, 2010

I Resolve to...

...not make another resolution that I am destined to fail to achieve!

For this year, I make just one resolution--to live life purposefully.

I want my relationships with people to be meaningful. I want to have fewer acquaintances and more friends.

I want to be very aware of the moments that I spend with my family. I'm afraid that I often take them and their time for granted. This year I really want to cherish that time--everything from text messaging over a great distance to being able to share a meal and a hug.

I want to get to know my God better. I want to immerse myself in His Word and commit to living my life according to it. I want to introduce Him to others and brag about Him often. I want to be able to tell others why I believe what I believe and help them to share why they believe what they believe.

I want to learn and I want to grow. At the end of each day I'd like to be able to look back and see that it wasn't wasted.

I want to stay positive about people and about life.
I want to be less critical and more forgiving.

I want to end 2010 better than I start it.

I want to be a better husband.
I want to be a better dad.
I want to be a better preacher.
I want to be a better magician.
I want to be a better employee.
I want to be a better friend.
I want to be a better writer.

I want to be a better John.

I hope that December 31, 2010 finds you as a better you.

John <><

If you'd like to read through the New Testament this year read Matthew 1 today about the genealogy and birth of Jesus.