Tag Archives: followers of Christ

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Small Group Priority: Time.

Categories: Ministry Tips, Small Groups, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The human heart was never intended to do intimacy in microwave fashion. When relationships are required to operate in excessive megahertz there are usually excessive mega-hurts! Look around and see the fallout of lives where taking time was not priority.

We live in a microwave, fast lane, express culture where ‘blur’ is the natural perspective and ‘rush’ the natural rhythm of life. In this vortex of activity, money has been replaced by time as the principle premium commodity of value. Whoever said Rome wasn’t built in a day didn’t live in the 21st century where ‘fast’ is the new ‘slow’ and innovation lags behind invention!

We actually have been conditioned to believe that we can actually do all things in the shortest period of time possible. But while industry thrives on production in less time, intimacy never will. The human heart was never intended to do intimacy in microwave fashion. When relationships are required to operate in excessive megahertz there are usually excessive mega-hurts! Look around and see the fallout of lives where taking time was not priority.

Churches can sometimes be notorious in reflecting the culture too much and reinforcing the chaotic rhythms of life to the beat of a manic metronome. One of the best gifts we can give to each other is time — time to process the groanings of our heart; time to hear and be heard; time to care and be cared for. Time to hear the voice of God and actually deal with the “now what” of it rather than the “what’s next?” It only takes a few moments to absorb content into the mind, but it takes time to apply the intent of that content to the soul.

Dynamic, transformational small groups discourage and outlaw a “drive-thru” Christianity and favor more a “drive-in and park” environment. They give and take time to hear the whisper of the still small voice of God as well as the murmurs of the hearts in response to that Word as they all bring their chaos-riddled lives to it. Honoring time gives everyone in the group time to better “know and be known” with the understanding that such revelations gained can stabilize one’s life when they reengage the frenzy of real world obligations.

Practicing this healthy priority can be expressed in several ways.

First, avoid the trap of responding to each other in Bible studies with only answers to the questions on the page. Take time to read between the lines by seeking to discuss how the truths they encountered impact real life…their real life. In my small group, when I take the husbands into another room after our group has studied together, I start off by asking the question, “How does what we have just studied and discussed affect us as fathers, husbands and men?” Small groups must consecrate time during the study to allow for the ‘rubber to hit the road.’ This is one of the ways Scripture can be experienced as the Living Word of God for life.

Second, do not allow your formal meetings to be the exclusive venue of interaction. So much of life happens in the informal and in-between gatherings. For our group, periodically we will schedule breakfasts, lunches, or game nights where we hang out and bear down on whatever comes up. These times are especially effective in creating friendship and community where there is no other agenda than that.Keep in mind that this does not mean that all members need to attend. As long as there is at least one other person, time can be well spent if the goal is developing deeper friendship.

Third, observe a combination of the previous 2. Use informal, in between times to follow-up on things said and discovered during the formal gathering. In this way people can know that they have been heard and that what they said really mattered. This can happen at a restaurant, bowling alley, or coffee shop but can also take place on the phone or via email (though probably not Facebook!) The point here is to take time to connect with one another’s hearts and minds in a way that fosters friendship.

Individual Christ-follower: are you taking the initiative to connect with a member of your group outside of the group meeting times in meaningful ways? Don’t wait for the leader to do this for you. Step up and out and make time for a group member!

Small Group Leader: are you encouraging and facilitating times for your members to be together in significant ways? Have you considered using one of your times you study the Bible as opportunities to “study one another”?

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John 12d – “Shades of Darkness”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

This is how bad darkness is: to hate the truth and light so much that when it becomes more fully disclosed, the hatred increases all the more.

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READ JOHN 12:37-50

The Power and Poison of Darkness: When a person has all the evidence, even standing right there in front of them, along with miraculous signs and historical texts to back it up and yet they refuse to believe – darkness has truly taken over! For such a person, there is nothing they can do to change their deplorable condition. It is in need of divine intervention even more than ever! These Jews had already made their minds up about Christ and in that state it isn’t too difficult to see how every word Jesus would speak or miracle He would perform would only fuel their indignation and hostility and inflame their commitment to eradicate Him. This is how bad darkness is: to hate the truth and light so much that when it becomes more fully disclosed, the hatred increases all the more.

The Prospects and Possibilities in Darkness. Then there are the holdouts, the fenceriders – impacted by Truth but too afraid to let go of the opposing traditions. What a torment: to know that what you are about is wrong but to be too afraid of what you’ll lose to consider what you will gain. The forces of darkness do their best work to keep humankind chained up by fear refusing to allow any motivation and inspiration of what is always greater. The aim is to legislate life through fear than allow faith to liberate it through love.

The Problem and Paralysis in Darkness: Here, the Jewish leaders subscribed to the cold grip of fear and rejected the warm embrace of faith. As long as there is the compulsion to “pay the piper” or pander to the oppressive forces against divine authority, truth will always be irrelevant and never worth losing one’s life over. The Pharisees exerted a power of which they were only pawns and not at all the source of. The power of darkness is to keep people ignorant of the long term benefit of true freedom while enslaving them to short term priorities and luxuries that actually disqualify from eternal gain.  Here these “leaders” were afraid to follow their true “Leader” and thus became complicit in the conspiracy against Him.

A Key to the Prison: The fact that “belief” is mentioned 7 times in this passage underscores its significance as an expectation of God and a qualification to the life of faith in opposition to a life lived in fear. Jesus makes it clear that to side with Him, to believe Him, to fix one’s devotion on Him is to affirm the will and wonder of God. No one can say they follow or love God if they do not follow or love the Son. This is not so much an presentation of our power and character of belief but the clarification of the harmony and unity between Father and Son. All that Jesus said and did, and the way He said and did it, was a perfect expression and extension of the Father. Is it correct to say, that The Father could not have done it any better since He was completely at work in His fullness in His son? This is the consummate example of how our Christian lives should be lived: giving proof to the work and presence of the Father by what He wanted, the way He wanted it. The “way” may be the clear defining distinction in the works of God being performed by His servants.

In coming to Earth, Jesus didn’t have His eyes on the task of judgment but on salvation. He didn’t come to punish but to liberate people already in darkness. His goal: to offer a divine opportunity for those who walk in darkness to no longer stay there. When you think about it, in reflection of His years of ministry – the healings, exoricisms, the feedings, teachings, resurrections, etc. – that is precisely what He did: bringing people out of darkness into His glorious light!

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John 12c – “Preparing for the Darkness”

Categories: Glimpses of Christ, Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Yet even in the midst of the inquiry by Gentiles and the anguish that is now laying siege to Jesus' soul, His prayer and desire: “Father, glorify Your name!”

3-crosses-at-left-2READ JOHN 12:20-36

The Greeks that came to Jesus here represent the eventual scope of Jesus’ redemptive mission. Their search for Christ may have been out of curiosity but at this juncture in the life of Jesus it is not insignificant. Commentators describe these Greeks as part of Gentile groups in pursuit of truth and enlightenment and would thus frequent Jewish festivals and feasts. Obviously hearing about Jesus from others, they wanted to see firsthand that which would enhance their pursuit. It seems that the reputation of Jesus is what draws them gravitationally toward Christ – His teachings, actions, and character.  Now, through the Church, the same must be allowed to hold true.

Jesus recognizes that His hour is at hand. He remains so very clear on His mission’s purpose (12:27). Yet even in the midst of this inquiry by Gentiles, the anguish that is now laying siege to His soul, His prayer and desire: “Father, glorify Your name!”  The aim of the follower of Christ is to mimic Him and the way He reacts to situations by always keeping the Father first and foremost. Had this focus not been there, the trial ahead of Him could have overwhelmed Him to death or cowardice, to self-preservation instead of self-sacrifice. Keeping the Father first and foremost in our mind and heart affects the way we live and the way we face death—with the dignity of soul and purity of heart essential for the Father to glorify Himself in ways that will raise an abundance of true faith in the harvest of true Christ followers.

Jesus admonition to His followers in order to prepare for the coming darkness: Walk in the Light! That is not something we adopt as a practice right before the light is gone – indeed that is almost too late. We must live in proper relationship to the Light while we have it, and live in a way that takes advantage of its illumination showing us the way things are and must be.

Jesus goes one step further: don’t just walk by the Light. Put Your Trust in the Light. This is the best way to consistently walk by it and in fellowship with Christ. Trust lies at the heart of true faith. I believe there are many who walk by the Light but only until it delivers them to their desired destinations, their objectives, their goals. Then they abandon it proving that though they walked by it, their trust remained in themselves while using the Light to advance their agenda with little or no thought to the divine agenda.

Jesus goes further: the rhythm of “walking by” and “trusting in” the Light reveals and verifies one as an offspring of Light, they have “become” children of Light. Good definition of a Christian: one who walks by and trusts in the Light as a Child of that Light. Such a person has an identity and perspective that exists in diametrical opposition to the natire and impact of Darkness. Such a person is a true follower of Christ.