Category: John (page 1 of 24)

Virus Peace

In the John 9 story of Jesus and the healing of the man born blind, he tells his disciples he is doing the work of the Father. Then he says, “I am the light of the world.” I think in the middle of this virus crisis, we and our churches should let the words and the work of Jesus reassure our peace.

“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” ~John 16:33

Jesus goes to the town of Sychar and meets a very lonely woman at a well and creates community. He goes to the town of Tiberias and sails with his disciples into the middle of the sea in the middle of a storm and he reveals who he is and turns their great fear into deep faith. He goes to the Gerasenes and finds a man who’s being tormented inside and out and Jesus drives away the man’s demons and makes him completely whole. He goes to the town of Nain and raises the widow’s son, turning her devastation and grief into exhilaration and joy. Jesus goes to the town of Jericho and comes across a rejected and ostracized tax collector in a tree and calls him a beloved son of Abraham. He goes to the town of Capernaum and turns a sinful, paralyzed man lying on his cot into a totally forgiven man leaping and dancing and celebrating in the streets. Jesus goes to the town of Bethany and gave new life to his friend who had been dead in a dark tomb for four days.

Time and time again, constantly, our Lord Jesus walks into anxious circumstances and encounters stressed out, burned out, and broken-down people and he restores order. He creates calm. He provides peace. Over and over, Jesus reveals his identity as the Son of God, he proves his presence with a word and a touch, and he restores your plight and reassures your peace. He says, “I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”

I don’t know exactly where your anxiety is with this Coronavirus. Physically. Emotionally. Spiritually. I don’t know where you are. Some of you have told me. I’ve heard some things over the past couple of weeks:

“I’ve got my dad in home hospice – how am I supposed to handle this?”
“I’m a server in a restaurant and for the first time in my life I don’t have a job.”
“I have a job but my kids are out of school and I don’t know what to do.”
“My 401k is in a free fall, I’ve lost nearly 40% of my retirement – I’m nervous.”
“I’ve got heart disease and my daughter has asthma – I’m worried.”

Here’s the best thing I can say. And I believe this with everything in me. God is good. And he is near. God is good and compassionate and loving and kind. And he loves you. And he is with you. His Son, Jesus our Lord, came into this world to suffer with you. He doesn’t bless you from above, he doesn’t save you from afar. He came here to experience everything you experience with you. He is familiar with suffering. He was born in the middle of the night, he was crucified on a day the sun disappeared, and he was raised to eternal life in the dark of the beginning of a brand new age. For you.

He creates peace in your anxiety. He turns your fear into faith. He provides forgiveness for your sins. And he brings life out of death.

He is in your town. And he’s got a handle on this virus.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Purpose

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

We have a tremendous opportunity to point to our Lord Jesus in the ways we behave during this virus crisis. Our perspective is reframed by Christ. We don’t complain or criticize, we don’t point fingers and blame. Like our Lord, we share and sacrifice and serve for the sake of others. There is such an opportunity right now to really stand out as generous and kind.

Whether you go to Wal-Mart eight times a day or once a week, you could knock three or four doors on your street before you go. Ask your neighbors, “Can I get anything for you? I’m going to the store, what do you need?” Maybe you could give toilet paper away on your street. There’s a Seinfeld episode about not being able to spare a square. Maybe you can start a trend by sharing a square, sharing a whole bunch of squares!

The point is: When this thing is over, do we want to be known as greedy hoarders or as generous sharers? At the end of this crisis, we don’t want people to remember that the Christians were the ones buying up all the toilet paper and hamburger meat. We want people to think, “You know, I may not agree with their position on abortion or divorce or whatever, I may not fully understand everything they do on Sundays and why they do it, but those Christians are so kind. They’re so generous. They kept checking up on me. They shared valuable resources with me. They really care about others.”

That’s what brings glory to God. That’s what displays our God’s work in the world.

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We dropped another podcast here at Central yesterday afternoon: a 15-minute conversation with one of our home-school moms, Danna Lagan. She provides helpful tips and encouragement for everyone who became home-school parents for the first time this week. With our schools shut down across the country,  many folks are now stuck at home with the kids and trying to help them with their online learning. An increasing number of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren are now trying to figure out how to help a grandchild with 6th grade math! Danna addresses these things, as well as schedules, power struggles, and outside resources on this podcast. You can access it by clicking here.

Peace,

Allan

Virus Priorities

“As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me.” ~John 9:4

When the grocery store shelves are empty, when your work hours have been cut in half, when the banquet has been canceled, and you don’t even want to look at your 401k — when the news is always breaking, always urgent, and always bad — it’s easy to think only of yourself. It’s tempting to concentrate on your safety, your security, your possessions, and your lifestyle. But Jesus resets your priorities.

Jesus walks into Jerusalem and gives this blind man his sight and brings glory to God. Jesus repairs what is messed up and points to God’s work in the world. Fixing what is broken, making right what has gone wrong — that brings glory to God. Notice how this man’s healing, his circumstance, becomes a display for God’s work. The man publicly testifies that Jesus is from God. He confesses his faith: “Lord, I believe.” The Pharisees accuse and criticize this man. “Give glory to God!” they say. And the healed man responds, “I am! Look what Jesus did for me! I was blind, but now I see!”

Our elders at Central made the decision nine days ago: No matter what happens with this virus, our priority is to love our neighbors, to protect the vulnerable and those at risk, and to minister to the marginalized. That’s the Christian thing to do. That what our Lord Jesus does and that’s what brings glory to God.

Not meeting together as a church right now is a way to love our neighbors. Even if you’re in your 20s and you run a half-marathon twice a month, even if you’re young and completely healthy and you think the national and state response is a bit overblown, not meeting for a while is a faithful attempt during this uncertain time to love neighbors you don’t know and protect vulnerable people you may never meet.

It’s like getting a flu shot. You don’t get a flu shot just for you. You get the shot so you won’t get the flu and pass it on to somebody who might not be able to handle it. If you get the flu, it may only knock you out for a couple of days; but you could then pass it on to somebody it might kill. So you get your flu shot because you love those vulnerable people. You do whatever you can to keep from getting it and spreading it to others.

That’s what we’re doing as a church right now. We are joining our community in trying to flatten the curve. We want to work together so that the peak of the infections will be smaller and more spread out. I’m not sure it’s ultimately going to keep people from getting the disease. But it might slow it down long enough to save more lives.

So we’re not meeting as a group right now. Our Sticky Buddy event for this Sunday night has been canceled (that was a no-brainer; it was at the bowling alley, probably not the most sanitary place in Amarillo). The Evening of Chocolate for tonight has been postponed (there’s a whole bunch of chocolate in this building somewhere; I just haven’t been able to find it). But that doesn’t mean we are not still the Church.

Church is not a building we use once a week on Sunday mornings. Our gatherings are suspended, but our ministries are not. We’re still providing dinner at Martha’s Home and studying and praying and encouraging our sisters there. Loaves and Fishes looks a lot different, but we are still handing out a bunch of groceries on Thursdays. The procedures for Snack Pack for Kids has been modified, but we’re still getting food to the students at Bivins Elementary. Our Sunday morning prayer breakfast was tweaked, but everybody who showed up got a free meal. Our Care Central process is not the same, but we’re still paying water bills and getting state I.D.s and giving out gas cards and praying for everybody who walks through the doors.

We made the decision last Monday. The rule of thumb for us is if it protects the vulnerable, if it comforts the grieving, if it ministers to the marginalized, we’re going to keep doing it. Absolutely. “We must do the work of him who sent me.”

Peace,

Allan

Virus Perspective

I’m not sure any of us knows exactly what’s happening right now or what’s driving it. I spent over two hours last Sunday going to more than twenty stores looking for toilet paper and I couldn’t find a square! Carrie-Anne actually ordered toilet paper online. I’m not kidding. That’s actually a thing. And we did it.

My daughter’s college graduation has been postponed, March Madness has been canceled, and the Whataburger’s closed! We were two people away from me singing soprano on the praise team yesterday! What kind of a world are we living in?

Now, I do believe that everybody’s doing the very best they can. I really do. I believe everybody who’s making decisions for us are doing so with pure motives and in the best interests of the most people. But, still. I don’t feel like I actually know anything. Do you know anything for sure?

Is it just the older people who are suffering or are younger people beginning to get sick? How exactly is this thing transmitted? Do we have testing kits or not? Is this going to be a two-week thing or a two-year thing? Is all of this virus scare and the shutdowns and closings overblown or underappreciated? Is the government doing too much or not enough? Am I going to have any money left when this is over? And what about this tickle in my throat? What’s that all about? You know? These are anxious times. Things are unstable at best, and maybe even chaotic. People are frustrated. And nervous. And scared.

There’s a lot we don’t know for sure. A lot. But I believe our Lord Jesus gives us the proper perspective for dealing with this outbreak.

In John 9, Jesus and his disciples come upon a man born blind. When the disciples see this guy, they view his situation in a certain way. What’s their perspective? They want to blame somebody. They want to point fingers. They want to turn this guy into a theological case study. Who sinned? Whose fault is this? This is a bad thing that’s happened here — who messed up? Who’s right and who’s wrong? Let’s get after it!

And while the apostles are pulling out their commentaries and word studies and their grandfather’s lectureship notes, Jesus completely reframes the whole conversation. Jesus says nobody sinned. Nobody did anything wrong. That’s not why this man is blind.

“It happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.” ~John 9:3

Jesus says this man born blind is going to be a banner, a display, a huge billboard for the glory of God and everybody’s going to see it! God is going to work through this man’s particular circumstances and God’s name is going to be praised!

The disciples are asking the wrong questions. They’re looking to point fingers and to lay blame. Their instinct is to criticize and complain. But Jesus refocuses their perspective. He reframes how he wants his followers to see a crisis. What can God do with this? What is God going to do with this? Those are the right questions. That’s the proper perspective.

I know every five minutes it seems like more places are closing down, more events are being cancelled, and more activities are being suspended. But the Gospel is not suspended. Jesus Christ has not been stopped. The Church has not shut down and the mission has not been slowed down. Our God is still very much at work and his name is still to be glorified and praised.

Do you see God at work in this virus? Have you seen evidence of his love and grace in the middle of this mess? Are you looking for the proof of his presence in this crisis? Are you looking for it?

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While we’re not physically meeting together right now, we’re doing everything we can to keep connected as a church family at Central. We’ve started a weekly podcast of Central people talking about Central things and each morning we’re livestreaming our church staff’s regular Word and Prayer time. We’re making lots of phone calls and producing lots of videos and resources on the fly. Most of this is new, some of it is quite challenging, and all of it is being used by God’s Spirit to draw his people closer to him and closer to one another in a really strange time.

Peace,

Allan

Church People: Part 2

Our Lord Jesus is a flesh-and-blood person. That’s the beauty and the glory of our salvation, that our God didn’t just come to us, he became one of us. This is God’s salvation plan, that he would put on our flesh-and-blood.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” ~John 1:1, 14

What’s the covenant God made with us? From Genesis through Revelation, from the Law and Prophets and Psalms through the Gospels and Letters, God says it dozens of times, the same promise over and over: “I will live with you, I will walk among you, I will make my dwelling with you; you will be my people and I will be your God.” That’s the covenant.

And when Jesus comes, it’s the messy particularity of it that’s so striking. As you read the Gospels, you can almost taste the dust. You can smell the animals. You can hear the people arguing. Jesus is not so much about inspiring concepts and theological abstractions, he’s about fishing nets and mustard seeds and coins and lepers and spit mixed with dirt and sheep and synagogues and sermons and suppers and tears and frustrations and heartaches and forgiveness. The flesh-and-blood reality of Jesus as a real human person is in your face!

And it’s a beautiful and magnificent thing. We praise God because he became one with us, he became one of us, in Jesus Christ. Our eternal salvation is grounded in the fact that Jesus is a flesh-and-blood person, that he experienced everything we experience, that he knows us intimately and he fully understands everything we go through because he went through it, too. It’s awesome and mysterious and so amazingly glorious! What other God would do this? Jesus the Christ, the promised holy One of God, is a flesh-and-blood person!

So, of course, his Body, the Church, is a flesh-and-blood people.

Our God has always called people. He always calls his people to be people — certainly more than just people, but not something other than people.

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God!” ~1 Peter 2:9-10

Just like individuals, I think churches long to throw off their flesh-and-blood natures and soar like Superman. Or super-saints. But that’s a childish wish and it’s not going to happen. When people complain about the Church being too preoccupied with money or buildings or doctrines or prestige, when people gripe about the Church being closed-minded or exclusive or lazy or boring, they’re usually revealing their discomfort that the Church is, indeed, a body.

Bodies sweat and get sick, they produce weird smells and require varying levels of maintenance. That’s the Church.

Some churches are the bodies of infants — they’re crawling and stumbling and falling down and uncoordinated, but so full of potential. Other churches are like the bodies of teenagers — they’re full of muscle and energy and they’re tripping over each other in their enthusiasm to save the world with no appreciation for how difficult that really is. Some churches are really old bodies — they have a distinguished heritage and some really great memories, but they’re about ready to keel over. For better or worse, whatever kind of body we encounter, this is the Body of Christ. This is the form our risen and reigning Lord has chosen to be present in the world.

And it never meets our high expectations. We can be disappointed by the Church. Embarrassed.

But the world being what it is and we being who we are, we are not going to arrive this side of glory. We’re still human pilgrims doing our best to live out the love of God in Christ. And falling way short. But the Church is always more than it appears to be. It’s not another club or social organization. The Church is a chosen people, a holy nation selected by a holy God. What can look like a failing, declining institution for religious folks is, in truth, nothing other than the very Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, united as one with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit right now today and forever!

And it’s real. It’s physical and tangible and flesh-and-blood visible. And real.

God’s Church does not work as an abstract ideal. It’s not a theological concept. It’s intended by God to be visible and authentic and real, warts and all.

Peace,

Allan

Confident Trust

(This is part three of last Sunday’s sermon at Central: “Parenting: So, You’ve Ruined Your Kids…” I posted part one Monday. Part five will be Friday. You get it.)

Confident Trust – We try too hard to protect and even over-protect our children. We try to shelter them. We can’t see their futures, we don’t know what kind of world or school or marriage or health they’re going to have. And we don’t want them to suffer. That’s — I really want to be diplomatic here; I want to be gentle — that’s horse pucky! It’s nonsense!

We are the people of the cross! Jesus promises us we are going to face suffering and trials of every kind. This world is not Disneyland, it’s a boot camp. It’s tough. Our Lord says, “In this world you will have trouble; but take heart, take courage, be of good cheer, I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33)

We are not doing our kids any favors by staying in constant contact with them by texting and calling and messaging with them all day from morning til night. We’re not helping them by setting up shields and safety nets around them so they never experience pain or failure or loss. Sometimes they need to figure out on their own how to get out of a jam. How to solve a problem. Sometimes they need to suffer the consequences of their poor choices. How else will they learn? How else will they grow?

We used to tell our girls we weren’t afraid of them ever being kidnapped because whoever took them would bring them right back. Like in less than an hour. That’s a joke. I’m not talking about throwing our children to the wolves. But this continuous hovering and protecting and sheltering and the 24/7 connection with the phones is doing more harm than good. Our kids aren’t growing up. Talk to any college professor. Talk to an HR guy who interviews job applicants.

We need to display a confident trust that our God is taking care of our kids and we shouldn’t be afraid. We need to instill that confident trust in our kids. God gives us his Spirit. God gives us his promises. The parenting text in Deuteronomy 6 begins with, “You are crossing the Jordan into the new land just as the Lord, the God of your fathers, promised you.” Verse ten says, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land he promised…”

No fear. No worry. No anxiety. Confident trust.

Peace,

Allan

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