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Posts Tagged ‘John’

I really enjoyed the sermon today, and my husband even said he had a few “aha” moments as to why we are now where we are. It began with Sunday school. One of the pastors presented the account of Jesus walking on the water and Peter getting out of the boat. This took me back to a sermon I heard when visiting a church plant of our former church. The guest speaker took the Ortberg “boat potatoes” concept and preached a sermon on this. His basic message had been that we were not to be “boat potatoes,” and that Peter at least took a chance and got out of the boat. If you want to change the world, you need to get out on the water. I recall being so frustrated with this message. Today was a complete 180 of that previous twistification. The pastor kept the focus on Christ. It was Christ coming in compassion to his disciples after praying and being alone with His Father for hours. It was that Peter got out of the boat but still needed Christ. We cannot do anything on our own, we need Christ. We have little faith and we need to keep our eyes on Christ. I am sure the pastor today said this better, but the thing I remember most is that we need to lean on Christ and that the disciples still needed him. No mention of how brave Peter was, and that we should be like Peter. In fact, I’ve always wondered what Peter was really thinking. Why did he get out on the water? Why did he then doubt? I think the point was always Christ, and not Peter. Yet, Ortberg and others want us to focus on Peter and then also on the other disciples. They tear down those disciples who stayed in the boat, never “taking chances” never stepping out and trying something new. Look what taking chances got Peter. He didn’t change the world in that day. He revealed his lack of faith. He showed his initial zeal, and that it meant nothing alone. We need to be saved by Christ. We need Him.

Later, the head pastor gave his sermon of the week in John. We read about Jesus overturning the tables of the money changers and going after those who would sell in His Father’s house. The focus was again on Christ and on true worship. The people were being ripped off by the priest, expected to buy an unblemished sacrifice. They were often cheated and told their animal was blemished, they could sell their animal and buy here in the temple. So, the temple was full of peddlers. When people were trying to worship, they were hearing animals and men dealing. God’s temple was being defiled. He compared this to what churches and those professing Christ do now. They sell books, they sell trinkets. They try to sell a better life, a promised way. Then, they insult people who buy into it and claim to have something better in the emergence. If we just say the right kind of prayer, dim the lights, we can but reach Christ. Well, this is false, this is a false church, a dirty bride’s gown. He’s going to come again to clean it all up. Maranatha.

My husband went up to the pastor, and made sure he knew we really appreciate his message. I also spoke to the assistant pastor about his Sunday school class. I said, “you know, the messages I’ve heard on this subject from other churches are the exact opposite of what you just taught.” Wow, you should have seen his face. I didn’t realize how I sounded, so then I quickly said, “thank you.” He then said, “whew, I thought I was going to be getting into an argument.” He then added, “not that I wouldn’t do it.” So glad he would fight since he tells it like it is.

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John 20:31.  It’s a basic verse and my children ages 6, 8, 10, and 12 know it.  They learned it at Awana.  The pastor of a church we’re visiting spent a long sermon on this verse today.  This church is going to spend many months on the book of John.  He actually said about a year, but later said months…but still, coming from a church that has themes last 4-8 weeks maximum, this is worth note.  Anyway, this verse is one that defines our struggle with our former church a bit for us.  With that verse, I am taken back to a Sunday when Steve Smith was talking about Lazarus, and began saying that we come to Christ’s call and have grave clothes on us.  These grave clothes have to be removed by community in order for us to heal.  This was a big “aha” Sunday for us.  It was the early stages of questions, and so began my search for the direction our former church was heading.  Lazarus is recorded in John, and my husband and I believe the Steven Smith (as a guest speaker) was presenting the account of Lazarus incorrectly.  The Bible was being mishandled, and psychology injected.  It really sounded like a message Oprah might give.  When we went to our former pastor, we brought this speaker up.  He said he not only supported what Steven Smith said, but he had personally sent letters out recommending his book about Lazarus and the grave clothes.  Lovely.  We tried to explain how we felt the Bible was being mishandled, and the pastor countered that each miracle had a purpose for us.  We were supposed to understand something we could apply to our lives.  We were to, for example, dig deeper into why Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding.  This did not satisfy us as a proper explanation.  We asked two friends, and one a pastor himself the other a college professor said that the verse which explains the purpose for the signs and miracles recorded in John is written in the book itself.  They both quoted “these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” 

Today, the pastor went through an overview of the purpose of John’s gospel using this verse as a starting point.  He explained clearly that the signs recorded were for showing Christ’s glory, his divinity, that he is the Messiah, and the Son of God.  The signs were an apologetic, a proof of God.  We are to believe and receive eternal life.  The second part of John was to show the suffereing of Christ.  Again, we are to believe.  No psychology.  The pastor even mentioned at the end of his sermon that nowadays people are preaching a lot of therapy, or as he put it, the Jesus they call people to believe in is not the real Jesus.  He listed several examples, one of which was the “theraputic Jesus.”  This is a generally quiet church, but I almost said, “Amen, brother!”  I heard that theraputic message big time at my former church.  It was an empty message.

A woman I don’t recall meeting is now a facebook friend, she’s still in my former church.  She has written much about emergent on her facebook, so another friend introduced us.  She has written a testimony she shared about small groups.  In her testimony, she mentions going to church alone and never feeling she was close to God.  She joined a small group, and presto, she was hungry for the Word.  Of course, this small group was actually studying Acts, studying the Bible.  She was also introduced to a study Bible with notes, so she was digging into commentary.  Now, she’s still at our former church and has no clue about me and why our family left.  I won’t tell her the obvious, but to me it’s obvious, the message she wasn’t getting at our former church caused her to feel far from God.  She joined a small group, and she found people she connected with.  She might actully be getting “fed” since it sounds like they are studying from the Bible.  She was praising her church in her note and testimony, but really, she is missing that the theraputic messages aren’t filling.  It’s the study of God’s word.  Also, she may be feeling good because she has friends, but she’s not being challenged about her sin.  I wonder if she’ll see it someday?

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“Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”

Steve Smith lists Dallas Willard as a mentor, and he spoke once at our church.  His book, “The Lazarus Life” was promoted.  Our former pastor mentioned that he wrote letters to others recommending this book.  When speaking many months ago in our former church, Smith spoke of the story of Lazarus in John and claimed we could learn from this event.  Lazarus came from the grave with smelly, awful, binding grave clothes.  Our grave clothes are the events and burdens in our lives.  To be free, we have to take off these grave clothes.  When I heard the description by Smith, how he was using this text, I said, “what?”  I began to search the internet for information on Steve Smith.  I discovered a podcast and listened, and he listed Dallas Willard as his mentor.  Then I searched further.  Eventually, someone posted information on their blog that lead to a link on a sight that had information about writers among them, Dallas Willard.  So, when speaking to our former pastor, I had to mention Steve Smith and his book, and the presentation from the pulpit.  I questioned the use of the account of Lazarus in this way.  (The pastor, when I first asked about Smith before I shared the problem with the Lazarus account and it’s handling jumped in with…”Oh, his mentioning Lectio Divina…you know that was used in the reformation, don’t you).  Once the pastor realized I didn’t like the use of the text in this way, he said that the miracles in John were meant to be used as lessons for life.  I said, “like parables” and he said, “yes, but differently as they were true events.”  I am glad he acknowledged the true event occured or we would have a different problem altogether.  He then began saying that each miracle had important things we could apply like for example, why did Jesus use pots with water for ceremonial cleaning and then turn it to wine?  Doesn’t that have some sort of meaning?  Why all the detail?  He said that in the old testament there were stories used by Jesus that are archetypes with meaning such as the Exodus.  I agree, there are some things that appear to have more meaning, or that clearly do.  However, this is not what Steve Smith was doing, using the Lazarus story to say we need transformation and spiritual formation to take off our grave clothes.  I told the pastor I got out of the Lazarus account that Jesus has the power over death, we can be brought to life by Him. 

The verse I quoted above was given to me by two people today.  One, a friend who is a pastor living several states away immediately quoted that when I asked him about the purpose of the miracles in John.  He said, “that one is an easy one, we had to list the purpose of each book of the Bible in seminary, and in John, it was the easiest as it’s stated clearly.”  Another friend, used to attend our former church, and I asked him, he quoted that very same verse.  In fact, he began to quote it and I could also sing it as it is an Awana verse my children have memorized.  The point of the miracles is not so we can add a psychological analysis to our lives through poetic interpretation of the text.  The point is that we are to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing we can have eternal life.  It’s that simple.

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