I wonder how many people still have one or two of these old mixed tapes laying around? I can still remember taking hours of time to make some great compilations of my favorite songs on this now forgotten media. There was something to be said about having access to all your favorite songs in on place. Generally speaking, mixed tapes recorded a specific style or genre of music, one might have had a mix tape for different times and places.
The book of John contains a compilation or collection of verses that follow a specific theme. In the second to last chapter of John we read this statement: “But these (the events and evidence of Jesus’ power and authority) are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (20:31) John begins his book by writing about who Jesus is in relationship to his Father, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” (1:1) The expression “Word” John uses here refers to Jesus Christ. This sets the stage for what John writes in verse 1:19, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us”. (1:14) Coupled together, these verses give us a clear picture of the meaning of Jesus’ incarnation. Christ’s divine-human nature reveals the love God has for us. Taking on our human nature meant a certain death, a death that was necessary to save the lives of many.
Recorded over and over throughout scripture is the call to believe in Jesus, to have faith and trust in God. Jesus’ birth, death and resurrection are the cornerstones to our faith. Jesus no longer walks among us in the flesh, it is by the power and direction of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we can live and learn to see Him as active and alive. We may not have walked with Jesus like his disciples did, and at times we may feel far removed from the experience of the signs and wonders they witnessed, but I know that God is alive and active here and now. Like the mixed tape, the book of John and other books in the Bible record only a portion of What Jesus did (see verse 20:30). The God-inspired written word (the Bible) is our guide to knowing and loving Him. We need to take the time to listen and allow the words of God to settle into our hearts and minds today.
Have you ever tried to teach someone something and the concept or idea is just lost on them? Someone once tried to teach me how to complete a Rubik’s Cube. First, he showed me how he could do it (which I thought was impressive) and then he tried to explain the theory behind how it works. I felt confident that with his instruction and demonstration I could complete the puzzle, so after a number of failed attempts I simply gave up. Still to this day, I am lucky if I can match one colored face on the cube, and I am ok with that.
“Do you still not understand?” These are the words of Jesus found in Mark 8:21. Jesus was talking to his disciples and the intent of the question goes far beyond the moment of not having any bread to eat. The written words on a page have some limitations as to how we perceive Jesus’ emotions when he asked this question. When you take the time to read the first seven chapters of Mark and see all the things that Jesus has done (driving out impure spirits, healing people, forgiving people, raising a girl from the dead, feeding thousands, etc.) I feel like I can say that He might have felt some level of frustration as he tried to teach the disciples. When I read this question I see it from this perspective, “Do you not yet know who I am?”
I am tempted to say that we have a much better picture of who Jesus is today, but when I think of the disciples being by his side and witnessing the incredible miracles he performed I wonder if we really do? When Jesus came into this world, He became the same as us, flesh and blood. The divine person of Jesus Christ took on our human nature. Through His divine nature we see throughout the book of Mark and the other Gospels evidence of His power and glory. One of the things that helps me connect with knowing who Jesus is as our Saviour is to remember that He walked on the very same earth that I live on, he breathed the very same air that I breathe. It is by faith that I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. it is through His word that I can learn and know more about Him.
There are some big things that some in small packages. It could be an engagement ring in a small black box that initiates a new commitment for a lifetime of love and learning, maybe it is the moment the relator hands over the keys to your new house or it is the birth of your first, second or third child. Each one of these things may seem to be small but each carry a huge amount of care and responsibility in our lives. The physical and emotional nature of rings, keys and the gift of children make a large impact in our lives, but so can the words we say or read.
Take for example the seemingly small four letter word “Holy”, small word, big meaning. The book of Leviticus has a few things to say to us about the grand picture of holiness as it applies to our lives and our relationship with God. All the laws and rules that Moses received from God and passed on to the people of Israel were all part of His call on their lives to be holy. God’s command to the people of Israel and His desire for us today is the same “Be Holy, because, I the Lord your God am Holy. (11:44) My understanding of holiness looks like this:
Be loving, because God is love
Be joyful, because God is Joy
Be peaceful, because God is peace
Be patient, because God is patient
Be kind, because God is kind
Be good, because God is good
Be faithful, because God is faithful
Be compassionate, because God is compassionate
Be gracious, because God is gracious.
We gather together as believers each Sunday (the church) to bring honour and glory to the name of our father in heaven. Some of us meet together in small groups to learn and grow in relationships with each other and God. No matter the who, the where, the when, we are called to lead a life that is holy and pleasing to God because that is who we were created to be, created in the image of a holy God. The words of the Lord through his prophets, priests, apostles, preachers and teachers are the words that help guide us as a church and as individuals. It should be our prayer that God helps us to live true to his word, true to his call, reflecting his life through ours.
I recently visited a local Starbucks establishment to talk with a friend, as I waited around for my drink order this advertisement caught my attention. “It’s easy to get lost in the moment over a robust cup of your favorite dark-roasted coffee. Fuller-bodied and bold, these coffees feature robust flavors and a lush mouthfeel. Each cup is full of enough body and intrigue to entrance the senses until the last drop.” This well written script makes a good attempt at “selling” me the experience of a great cup of coffee, the play to our senses and the use of powerful descriptive words is very effective.
Luke uses some powerful descriptive language in the book of Acts to help us understand our function and role as a called people, particularly those who preach and teach in the church. “Speak your word with great boldness” (4:39), “Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly” (13:46), “Paul spoke boldly, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God”. (19:8). The boldness that is described in each of these verses is a call to preach and teach fearlessly and freely, with courage and without any hindrance. After Saul’s encounter with God he began to preach with such boldness that some of the people tried to kill him (9:29). There are many more examples of God’s people speaking with boldness throughout the Gospels and the book of Acts, the key to understanding their capacity to preach boldly is found in Acts chapter 4:31. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly”. It is through the power of the Holy Spirit (the presence of God) in each of their lives that gave them the ability to speak in a way that made an impact for the Kingdom of God.
Consider for a minute the impact that speaking boldly had on the people. Acts chapter 13 describes the influence that follows Paul’s teaching in the synagogue. Verse 44 says “On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.” Do we have the same boldness today? Did the message this past Sunday make an impact so big on the lives of the people that our churches will be overflowing on the next Sunday? Are we giving everything over to God and praying diligently like the apostles for the work of the Holy Spirit to come and move among us? It is my hope and prayer that we speak God’s word with boldness, to preach and teach fearlessly so that we can make an impact for the His Kingdom.
Have you ever been to a sporting event and had a view from the “cheap seats” (aka the “nose bleeds”). These particular seats offer up some disadvantages as well as some advantages depending on your perspective. The view from the top tier of seats gives you the “big picture” experience. You can see the game being played, you can “feel” the energy of the crowd as they cheer on their team or yell at the referee; yet at the same time you miss the impact of the hard hitting body checks or skillfully placed shot on goal.
As I read through the book of 1 Corinthians I carefully combed through each chapter looking for and listening to what God was leading me to learn. As I worked through the many details of Paul’s letter to the church I had to take a step back to get a scope of the bigger picture, I had to take a seat in the “nose bleed” section to get a different view. Paul’s primary audience was the Christians at that time (the church), he had heard about their problems of inappropriate behaviour and different quarrels that had divided them between leaders and beliefs. Near the beginning of his letter Paul asks them to “recognize” their calling (1:26), a call from God to be saved through accepting the work of His Son Jesus Christ, a call to be in relationship with Him. Paul reminds the people how to live a life pleasing to the Lord, how to live in unity in their marriages, how to treat their neighbours, how to worship properly and how best to use their spiritual gifts for the benefit of all believers. The book of 1 Corinthians holds one of my favourite passages in scripture, it is often called the “love passage”. This short descriptive passage describes the love our Heavenly Father has for us, the kind of love that we should have for one another.
If I had to pick a “moment in the game” as I read through 1 Corinthians to run on the highlight reel or replay on the Jumbo-Tron it would come near the end of the letter in chapter 15. Paul gives the Corinthian church and us the most important reminder of all, the foundation of what our faith is built on, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (15:3-4) This incredible act of love on our Heavenly Fathers behalf is the “ultimate play”, a moment in time that has been witnessed and recorded in His “play book” so we can be encouraged and learn from it.