Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? John? (part 2)

We are back to John, the younger brother of James. The two shared many experiences and lessons along the way, so that reading about James is like reading about John. They had a strong family bond.

But, there are significant differences. As you know, John lived a long life of speaking and teaching and writing the saints, even from his prison on the island of Patmos. And, he was the only apostle to die of natural causes.

Another thing that catches my eye is how John stands out when he intentionally follows the angry mob that arrests Jesus. He had guts, man.

Think about it, if a group of military police accompanied by angry men waving their arms in the air come to the park where you're resting, and take the guy who's been teaching your Bible study group, would you follow them? Would you enter the building they take him to for questioning? Would you use your security pass to get close to the action? Would you then turn around, make your way back through the angry crowd, retrieve a fellow member of the group and bring him through the door into the midst of the crowd?

John did. Like I said, guts.

And, even though he knew how this ruling group of the church felt about Jesus he still made the decision to stay near Jesus, to stand with his mother at the cross while they watched him die, to leave the protection of the upper room to see if Jesus was gone from the tomb. Guts.

Also, he was astute. Notice, who's the first one to recognize Jesus when another miraculous catch is made? (John 21) John, that's who. I can just see him lighting up when he realizes who's back to see them.

It must have spark a new eagerness in him. You know, like the eagerness you had when you first became a believer? To learn everything you could about Jesus and all the teachings about him?

After that catch we can see this. John was intent to hear everything Jesus had to say, even to the point of following him and Peter during a private conversation. Perhaps it may have been rude, but John seems eager to take in every word.

Then he accompanied Peter when their time of ministry first began. They taught together, and were arrested together. He even went along to Samaria with Peter. John learned what Peter understood and what Peter did to reach out to the new believers. He didn't stop learning the day Jesus returned to heaven.

And, even in his old age when he had so much experience, and respect from the believers, he maintained a humbleness. You can see this when he is given all the information to write for the book of Revelations (chapter 22).

Through his writings we see gone were the days of fiery attitudes and thunderous outbursts. He became the man from whom the love of God flowed.

What a goal to try to achieve. I so hope when my time comes that people will be able to see a difference in me between the start and the finish of my life.

You can read about him in the following passages: Matthew 4,10,17,20; Mark 1,3,5,9, 10,14; John 13,18,19,20,21; Luke 5,6,8,9,22,24; Acts 1,3,4,8; Revelations 1,10,22.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? John?

We're almost finished with our group of apostles. Only two left. And, yet, there is so much to say about these next two apostles I plan to break each one up into two smaller posts.

Have you ever wondered what the perfect age is to do something big? John is the younger brother of the apostle James. Yet, the five books he wrote weren't written until late in his life. Just goes to show it's never too late to accomplish something that can affect many lives.

Have you ever tried to take on another person's battle and had it come back to bite you? One thing I missed last week was that both John and James quickly asked to destroy a town simply because it wouldn't let Jesus and his group stay the night. No matter how they disliked this rejection, they were rebuked for this. (Luke 9:51-56)

Have you ever been part of a church or Bible study that felt only they had the right answers and were on the right track; everyone else was in the wrong? John thought, at one time, only their group should be able to cast out demons. After instructing another group not to do it, he was rebuked by Jesus. (Mark 9:38-41; Luke 9:49-50)

Have you ever held back totally believing someone's statement until you could see for yourself? I know I have, and so did John. He didn't believe Mary Magdalene when she reported the tomb was empty. He had to see for himself. Only then, he confesses, did he believe what she said. I can so relate to this. (John 20:1-10)

Have you ever wished you could learn a lesson once and not have to repeat it again before it becomes a real part of your life? The word John used to describe himself addresses this. He is unique in that he does not called himself by name, but instead refers to himself as the 'other disciple' or 'the disciple Jesus loved.' A word study showed me that John choose the word describing a pupil who once the lesson is heard applies it to his life and adheres to it as his rule of conduct. Wow.

He was learning for keeps, not just for the tickling of his ears.

And, it's obvious he did that. At the start of Jesus' ministry he was one of the "Sons of Thunder" but by the time of the cross Jesus saw fit to ask John to care for his mother. (John 19:25-27)

He must have changed that much. And knowing it's possible, he encourages believers in their learning and application process in his books. It's no wonder his books are among my favorites.

John is a great example to all of us that no matter how rough the start may be there is always hope for change.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? James?

Shaking their hands in the air at one another while yelling and pointing at the choir members; I just knew a fight would break out at any moment. My only comfort came in that I was in a church, these people loved each other, and they wanted to share a meal with us. Sons of thunder come to mind when I think back to that day in Romania.

Thunder rumbles in the air above as storms begin to roll in; unlike lightening which quickly appears, strikes an object, then disappears. Can you not see these sons of thunder walking about after they heard something they disagreed with mumbling and grumbling to themselves and perhaps with each other? It had to be loud enough for everyone to take notice. They obviously spoke their minds, but they loved each other none the less. And, Jesus tolerated this, forgiving them for the weakness in their outlook.

James was the older, responsible brother who stayed behind with the family while his younger brother, John, went to hear John the Baptizer's teachings. He was part of a successful family business which had hired workers in two towns.

He is most known for falling asleep when Jesus prayed in the garden before being arrested by the Roman guards. Yet, that was not the first time. Luke 9:32 talks about the time right before Elijah and Moses show up to the mountain top. Intercession was not his driving force to stay awake.

It was in that same experience that he heard the voice of God for the first time, coming out of the cloud that surrounded him. He feared God enough to know to drop to the ground immediately, face first. And, he didn't get up until Jesus gave the all's clear.

Then after all that, when the group was making their final trip up to Jerusalem he had the guts to ask Jesus to seat him at his side in heaven. Or was it audacity? Took a lot of nerve to ask such a question, especially right after Jesus tells the group about the trauma he's about to face when they get to Jerusalem. All the same, James knew Jesus well enough to know he could ask anything. The answer he received was a gentle rebuke resulting in the promise of a tough road before reaching heaven.

As a believer he had it all. Saw the appearance of Jesus change when he prayed privately. Had the favor of being asked into the inner circle; up close and personal with the Son of God, so to speak. Seeing miracles close at hand (a huge catch of fish after a night of failure; the spirit return to the dead body of Jairus's daughter).

From the outside one would think he was going places...that nothing could stop him because he had the favor of God. But, in the end, he was cut off before he could get very far. Acts 12 tells us he was struck down by Herod's sword.

I think it's wonderful that James knew Jesus well enough that he felt free to ask whatever was on his mind and to just be himself without any pretenses. And, I can definitely relate to how hard it is to continue to be in prayer when someone else is doing the talking...it is not always easy.

You can read about him in the following passages: Matthew 4:21, 10:2, 17:1-13, 26:36-46; Mark 1:19, 3:7-18, 5:35-43, 9:2-13, 10:35-45, 14:32-42; Luke 5:1-11, 6:14, 8:49-56, 9:28-36; John 21; Acts 12:1-2.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Who Do I Relate To? Matthew?

Has someone else been put into a position, or given a job, for which you have lots of experience? And, after seeing how poorly the job was performed wondered why they didn't remove that person and ask you to do it?

That was Matthew. He was use to handling money as a tax collector, but the job of handling the money box was given to Judas, who along the way skimmed funds from it. How hard was it for Matthew to see that happen?

But as a tax collector Matthew knew exactly how other Jews viewed him. Like scum. He never forgave himself for this; he always referred to himself as the "tax-collector."

In other words, he knew the moment he joined the group that the others didn't like him. That they wouldn't have chosen him to be part of the select group to support and learn from Jesus. He was for a period of time the outsider to the inside group...the odd man out, so to speak.

How much did Matthew have to do to show he had changed? That he could be trusted? That he was faithful to the group and to Jesus? Did they trust the changes they saw he made in his actions and words?

Perhaps the dinner party he threw was an effort to show everyone he was for Jesus and his message. Luke mentions it was a great feast with other tax collectors and back-slidden Jews in attendance, thus giving the opportunity for the word to get out to those he knew.

Which brings up another point about Matthew. He was well respected among his fellow tax collectors or they wouldn't have gone to the dinner. Why would they go see a man who was calling for change in the way life was lived? Even if he was making the pharisees mad.

In the end, by the time the gospels were written only Matthew continues to refer to his previous profession. All the other gospels refer to him simply as Matthew. They forgave him. They saw the change. They accepted him and included him in as part of the group. He continued as one of them even after the master's death.

I can relate to Matthew on so many levels. I sometimes have trouble forgiving myself for past actions that others have long forgotten; regretting they ever happened and being unable to erase the past. As for being overlooked for jobs or positions, this has not been an easy thing to experience. But, if I wait long enough I do see God's hand in it.

Matthew is thought to have preached in Parthia and Ethopia, where he died as a martyr. In his gospel you can read how he viewed Jesus as fulfilling prophecy as the Messiah, the King of the Jews, with a focus on his teachings. In the following passages you can read about him: Matthew 9:9-17, 10:3; Mark 2:14-22, 3:18; Luke 5:29-39, 6:15; Acts 1:13.