Critics

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Critics

John 8:48-59

The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it and he is the judge. Very truly, I tell you, whoever keeps my word will never see death.” The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and so did the prophets; yet you say, ‘Whoever keeps my word will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? The prophets also died. Who do you claim to be?” Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, he of whom you say, ‘He is our God,’ though you do not know him. But I know him; if I would say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you. But I do know him and I keep his word. Your ancestor Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad.” Then the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

There is nothing like a racial slur to get your blood boiling as you attempt to begin public leadership… but Satan really showed his hand when he could not hold back the religious attack about demon possession. That is the biggest problem with working for the devil. There is no patience, no thoughtfulness, only barrage after barrage of lies poured out like napalm in hopes of covering everything with the stick, stench, and burn, so that the truth becomes unrecognizable. It is not because the devil is stupid, at least I don’t think that is the case. It is because there is no other way. One single truth shines like a lightning bolt in the darkness, becoming instantly visible to all around. A field of truth growing makes those lies equally recognizable. The only way Satan can gain and maintain a foothold anywhere is by eliminating all truth, because any truth will eventually point back to God and to the devil’s downfall.

We live in this battlefield every bit as much as Jesus did. If you’ve not come across critics commissioned from evil incarnate you have not yet really started leading yet. Jesus told us that we are the light of the world. Our very existence testifies to the truth of God’s goodness, love, and redemption in the world because we are all frail, broken people who God works through and with from time to time. Everything good that comes from us will point back to God if you look far enough. Satan can lure us with lies that we created ourselves or are the source of our own strength and goodness, but those lies will not stand the test of time and eventually he will just have to eliminate us to keep his lies going. I think, if the devil really had his own way, he would destroy every single thing in creation, leaving himself last, empty, broken, and alone – the only one left to keep up the lie that God was somehow wrong or unjust. The only enemy he would have left would be himself. Sin truly carries the seed of its own destruction. Or so claim the some of the critics anyway1

So the first step in dealing with critics is to consider the source. That does not mean we should turn a deaf ear to anyone who is not a friend or claim allegiance to a friendly camp. Sometimes we can learn much from our enemies. But regardless of who they are or what they say, it is important to remember that everyone comes from somewhere, is shaped and informed by others, and have their own motivations in raising their concerns. Most of our heated conflict comes from trying to hide those origins and motivations.

Our politics, both church and state, about doctrinal issues get far more heated in times of economic crisis than in times of economic plenty. We go to war when we think those who do not share our values will take from our precious wealth. Likewise, we quit our internal squabbling when we have an external enemy to focus upon, to unite us against. Solutions are not found in either situation though. Indeed, scripture gives plenty of examples of these conflicts between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, between the Jewish people as a whole and the Romans, even between the disciples themselves.

In fact, you have to move through the gospels and make it into the book of Acts before you really start to see communal solutions. There, amidst strong divisions along ancient lines, the Holy Spirit poured out upon 3000 people who hailed form different cultures, spoke different languages, had different understandings of God, His law, and his teachings, and who would not normally associate with one another for fear they might “taint” each other with uncleanness. Within the following decade, that same Spirit would travel across the Near East and up into Europe, into places that had never heard of God before – in spite of a multitude of very active critics. Yes, it requires the Holy Spirit – but not everyone received the Holy Spirit, and not all at the same time. It takes several things for the Spirit to move a community forward.

First of all, it takes humility, which looks like confession and repentance. We love baptism, but we often miss the point that baptism had little to do with getting wet, and a lot to do with getting right with God and others. The confessions that were made at baptisms in the gospel were public and specific. There was no salvation without telling the community what we had done wrong and making amends for those wrongs. The story of Zaccheus is an excellent example of this, and that understanding of confession before baptism is what makes the story of Jesus’ own baptism so powerful… and weird. If we cannot divulge our own weaknesses and failures, we implicitly claim superiority in any situation, which means that if a problem exists around us, it is our fault. People are going hungry? Not my fault, I give to the food pantry! Apparently not enough to solve the problem. People struggling with sexual identity? Not me, I know what is right! And is that “knowledge” making any difference? Broken hearts that lead to self-destructive behaviors know no sexual boundaries. It touches every age, race, religion, political persuasion, and trying to pin it all down on one particular demographic or another is a category mistake.

Because we are human we make mistakes, and these mistakes hurt those around us. When we get hurt, we get defensive and lash back out, with intent to harm because it seems normal to us that if we destroy those around us, no one can harm us, and the devil leads that charge. The one thought that does not occur in those moments is that we need each other, and that the miracle of healing, reconciliation, and grace can only occur between opposite sides of a conflict – between enemies.

If we can get to that place of real honest humility ourselves, then we can start moving towards the next step: Examining how the relationships between us create the situations we live in and the thoughts and feelings we hold. Those who claim that children are not born knowing hatred and bigotry, but learn it from those around them are at least partly right. But it is not their parents alone who are their sole teachers. You and I, every moment we are around children are teaching them one example or another, and if we do not teach them another way, but settle on being passive, and not teaching them anything at all – we reinforce any bad teaching they have. A person’s (of any age) opinion will not, and should not accept as a rational truth of “normal” reality, anything that they do not experience significantly more than another opinion. If we want to claim that there is no division between rich and poor, but a person only sees the rich and poor eating together in public 1 out of every 100 times, you would be a fool to believe they are peers. If, on the other hand, they see people of similar racial, socio-economic, religious, and political backgrounds sharing meals together in public 99 out of 100 times, it makes perfect sense to believe we live in a divided society, and that the normal thing to do is to find the group into which you fit best.

Jesus, made Himself our peer. He even made connections (through Abraham) to His critics, and they felt threatened by that connection. Having thrown their worst words at Him, they could not allow Him to exist if He was indeed connected to themselves. So they picked up their rocks. I think, it was mercy that kept Jesus from defending himself, the way He defended the woman caught in adultery, “Let the one without sin throw the first stone.” That truth, set inside a question of who is worthy to dispense justice, stopped that conflict cold. Jesus would defend us, but not Himself, but it made no difference. The first to choose the stone is always the first to admit defeat and inability to lead.

Jesus does not needs stones. Stones are the way of lies. Jesus leads by humbling Himself, stripping Himself down to vulnerability, and washing the lies from feet of his critics as He invites them to join Him in bringing healing, reconciliation, grace… truth to the world.


  1. “You see, evil always contains the seeds of its own destruction. It is ultimately negative, and therefore encompasses its downfall even at its moments of apparent triumph. No matter how grandiose, how well-planned, how apparently foolproof of an evil plan, the inherent sinfulness will by definition rebound upon its instigators. No matter how apparently successful it may seem upon the way, at the end it will wreck itself. It will founder upon the rocks of iniquity and sink headfirst to vanish without trace into the seas of oblivion.”- Neil Gaiman, *Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch

7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God

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7 Godly Sins? – the Pride of God

If God expects His followers to dedicate their lives to worshipping and praying to Him, is it Pride?

1 Corinthians 15:1-111

The Resurrection of Christ

Now I would remind you, brothers and sisters, of the good news that I proclaimed to you, which you in turn received, in which also you stand, through which also you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message that I proclaimed to you—unless you have come to believe in vain.

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we proclaim and so you have come to believe.

Egos are perhaps the hungriest, neediest things in existence, psychologically speaking. Or perhaps more accurately it is the “id” that is the hungry entity and the ego struggling to feed it. There are two kinds of pride: (1) The kind that needs to have active attention to feel worthy, and (2) The kind that needs the passive attention of being needed by another – often supporting someone actively in the spotlight. We probably all fall into one of these two categories at one time or another, and this pride finds itself at the root of much suffering that goes on in the world.

Pride may not be the thing that pushes us to murder, rape, robbery, or other very visible crimes, but these things do not usually happen overnight, and it is often pride that keeps us from asking for help when we need it. Whether we are struggling with some other kind of temptation or sin ourselves or being held back by the need to help someone else without asking for help ourselves. This problem of codependency is another form of pride working its way into our life.

Let us look at God then, to determine whether or not He has a problem with pride.

Does God need all the attention? In the Old Testament, and in Genesis in particular, God did not have a temple or priests. In fact, after Adam and Eve, (who may have lived 900 years of the scripture is read literally there) 4 generations passed before people even began to “call upon the name of the Lord.2 So, for at least the first century of humanity , God did not seem to have a pride problem or a need to be involved.

If we survey the years between then and Abraham, we see God judging the earth and punishing creation with a great flood, saving only Nosh and his family, but they are not judged for not following Him. Indeed, they were all invited into that salvation. The world was judged because of the violence that fallen humanity had brought into it. By the time we get to Abraham, where much of that violence had reawakened, in a world where kings were worshipped as gods, it makes me wonder why God only picked one small family to worship Him instead of a whole nation or the whole world. Even then, the only real practice of worship that He asked of them was a few one-time sacrifices, the greatest of which was the sacrifice of Abraham’s own son Isaac which God called off a the last minute.

God does not need to be the center of attention all the time, nor does He ask for that. In the 10 commandments, He asked for one day out of seven, not every day for our attention and affection. Many of His commands were not for His benefit, but for the benefit of the poor, the orphans, the foreigners, and the widows. When we take into consideration these laws and compare them with the New Testament, where God comes to earth in the flesh as Jesus Christ, it reveals something else about Him. The Almighty, who could command obedience from the entire world, but chooses to ask it only of those willing to follow Him. However, He does not try to save the world by Himself either. He always, from the very beginning, invites others to partner with Him in the work of caring for creation.

So God is neither prideful, nor codependent in His work in the world. What is more, the effect He has on others is such that it does not make them prideful or codependent either. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he took no credit for Himself, but gave God the credit He was due – not because God demanded it from Him, but because Paul gave it gratefully in response to the work God had done in his life. God’s humility is contagious and spreads to those around Him.


  1. (Cp Mk 16:9–20)
  2. “At that time people began to invoke the name of the Lord.” – Genesis 4:26

The King of Humility

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The King of Humilty

Matthew 21:1-111

Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

When they had come near Jerusalem and had reached Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, “Go into the village ahead of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, just say this, ‘The Lord needs them.’ And he will send them immediately.” This took place to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet, saying,

“Tell the daughter of Zion,

Look, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” “


  1. (Mk 11:1–10; Lk 19:28–40; Jn 12:12–19)

What the Lord sees

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What the Lord sees

1 Samuel 16:11-13

“Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.” He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.” Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah.”

Samuel learned about the vision of God when Saul failed as King and Samuel was sent to find his successor David. To outward appearances, David was too young in age, and last in his family – so much so that when the prophet came to his home, looking for a young man to make king, David’s own father did not even consider him. Neither, by all accounts, did David argue that point. Instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to advance himself, David contented himself by tending the family sheep.

I think part of what made David a man after God’s own heart was that he chose dedication to his work over aspiration for position. If you follow David’s career, apart from a handful of mistakes and several major misdeeds, he dedicated himself to serving God and the people of Israel. He saw himself as their shepherd and sought to be a good one.

But it is also important to note that, like Jesus, David went through his trials and temptations as well. Although he was anointed as a young man to be king over Israel, he had to wait 20 years before taking the throne, and unlike many would-be kings in history, David waited with patience. I think he was able to because he saw each day as an opportunity to serve God, wherever he was, rather than as an opportunity to advance himself.

How important is position to you?

What can you do today to be a servant of the Lord?

There, but for the grace of God…

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There, but for the grace of God…

John 6:60–71 (NRSV)

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve? Yet one of you is a devil.” He was speaking of Judas son of Simon Iscariot, for he, though one of the twelve, was going to betray him.

As we get closer to Holy Week and Easter, in our journey through Lent, it is important for us to not think too highly of ourselves, especially since the main purpose of this journey is learning humility. That may seem ridiculous, but our feelings do not always follow logic. I can remember several occasions when the thought popped into my head, Wow! Look how humble I am today!. That kinda defeats the purpose. If you struggle with those kind of thoughts, humility can seem like an unattainable task. Pride gets you when you are proud and when you are humble.

Do not lose hope though. Getting this far in life has been dependent upon God’s mercy and grace from the beginning and it is only by His mercy and grace that we will make it anywhere in life. When the challenges ahead of us seem to big, sometimes it is because they are too big. We were never meant to get through this life on our own, without God and without the help of our brothers and sisters around us. This business about eating and drinking the flesh and blood of Jesus was one way Jesus taught what Paul spoke of in his letter to the Philippians where he wrote:

I can do all things through him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13 (NRSV)

We only get this strength from Jesus. We only get Jesus because He found us.

(Pause for a brief moment while the theologians pull out their 18th and 19th century theology books to prepare for a fight.)

I’m not making an argument for or against free will here. I’m just saying we are all playing hide and seek and Jesus is ‘it’. We do the hiding, and have done it since Genesis 3 and God has been in the business of finding us ever since then.

Our problem is not figuring out how to make Jesus find us. He is pretty good at finding people, even the ones who will fall away and/or betray Him. He is not incredibly picky about who He chooses. No, our problem is that once we are found, we like to wander. 60% Divorce rate in our country among Christians. We like to wander. Getting lost and found has become a game to many of us. Once saved, always saved, and baptized 13 times just to make sure… Tried out 28 different churches too while I was at it. These are just symptoms of a heart that won’t stay fixed on the one and only love that can fulfill it. Left to our own devices, we would hide from life forever until what little we had was taken from us. We may only need salvation from our sin once, but we need to be saved from ourselves every day.

What temptations is God keeping you from today?

What do you need to seek His help in?

In Between

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In Between

John 3:22–36 (NRSV)

Jesus and John the Baptist

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized 24 —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.

25 Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The One Who Comes from Heaven

31 The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. 34 He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Some of us have difficulty navigating the times in between great moments of our lives. Today, we have an entire age group named for this particular stage of life called “Tweens”. These are young people who are no longer children, but who are not quite teenagers yet. It is a crazy age where hormones are beginning to fire up at random intervals and growth spurts are occurring, yet the maturity and responsibility we ask of many teenagers may not have come yet. In many ways, it is just some of the most awkward moments of a young person’s life. They know where they are heading – some of it good, some of it maybe not so good – and all they can do is wait.

But wait, is that true? The only thing we are able to do in-between these moments in life is wait? I’m not so sure.

Look at John the Baptist. He had a brief time in between the climax of his ministry: Baptizing Jesus, up to his death in prison for preaching God’s Word. People were coming to him and asking how he felt about all those who had been following him who were now going to Jesus, getting baptized by his disciples, and following Jesus instead of John. John may not have understood everything that was going to happen. Like you and I, he was not God and did not know everything. Yet he knew his own particular role, so he felt he knew enough. John explained that he was like the best man at a wedding, who was there simply to celebrate the wedding of his dear friend, the groom.

So, one thing John could do in between was celebrate.

The other thing he mentioned was a knowledge that Jesus must increase and John must decrease. John was exercising his humility in between his own highlighted moments. In fact, I think this exercise in humility probably helped prepare him for his witness in prison. We do not often talk about humility as a preparation for great things, but I believe it is one of the best preparations. No matter what you are going through and going to, learning and practicing humility will make you more prepared when you get there.

What do you find yourself “in between” today?

How can you practice humility, and how might that help prepare you for your next transition?

Why did Jesus get baptized?

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Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.” – Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)

Last week I came across a blog that listed out dozens of controversies regarding the truth of the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). It was written by a non-believer pointing out anything and everything he did not understand. As usual, the questions he posed were often very legitimate but the conclusions he came up with often not well thought out. For example, his question about why Jesus was baptized is a very legitmate one. Unfortunately, he discounted the reason provided in the text itself simply because he did not understand it, and then tried to use that as some kind of evidence against believing in the existence of Jesus.

So, instead of dismissing the reason Jesus gives in Matthew’s account, let’s look try to see what we can glean from it.

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

The purpose, as Jesus states it, is to fulfill all righteousness. What does this mean?

N.T. Wright explains:

Ulrich Luz, disagrees and chooses to focus just on this verse itself. He writes:

To Luz, this baptism is a teaching by example, a teaching, which has far less to do with how much water was used or how it was applied and far more to do with the humility with which Jesus received it. It is Jesus showing us that He started His ministry with humble obedience and we should as well.

What do I think? I think it could be both. Matthew gives us this as the first words of Jesus in his gospel, not the last words. But they do reflect his last words when He commands the disciples to go and baptize, teaching everything that He had taught them. Both scholars, and I suspect the majority of them out there see this act of humble obedience as central to any interpretation we take from this passage. Is our baptism going to be the same as the one that Jesus experienced? Probably not, but we have been given the same Spirit from Him and we should walk in that same Spirit, not just in our baptism experience, but in our daily lives.

  • Have you humbled yourself enough to follow God in obedience, whether you think you need it or not… whether you fully understand it or not?
  • Are you teaching others, by your example, to follow God in obedience?