Category: John (Page 1 of 27)

Relational Leadership

You’ve got to look at this incredible pass from Luka to Hardy during last night’s Mavericks win over the Pacers. Put the video on full screen and let it roll for like three times. It’s just unfathomable what Luka does almost every single night. It’s not enough to keep them from completely blowing the end of the season – was there anybody who thought the Kyrie trade was going to work? But, man, Luka is a special dude. I pray they haven’t totally ruined him with that putrid trade and this monumental late season collapse. Watch this crazy pass.

This Sunday is our deadline at GCR Church for recommending new shepherds to join our existing eldership. And I want to remind us and anybody else who might be reading this in a different context that we are looking for relational leadership, not positional leadership. Too many churches are led by strangers who are not recognized by the sheep. A true shepherd is followed not because God has given him authority, but because the sheep recognize his voice. In the Bible, God doesn’t tell his people to respond to a leader because he has an office or a title. It has to do with relationship. Uphold these men, the Bible says. Recognize them. Follow them. Not because their names are in the bulletin or because they approve the budget. But because of their hard work. Because of their love for the Body. Because of relationships.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” ~John 10:14

Shepherds in Bible times were not day laborers who show up for work in the morning, put in eight hours with a lunch and a couple of 15-minute breaks, and then call it a day and go home. They lived with their sheep. Day and night. Season after season. They fed them, protected them, loved them. The sheep knew their shepherd’s touch, they recognized his voice, and they followed no other shepherd. It’s about relationship.

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow me.” ~John 10:27

Picture Jesus with his disciples. Eating with them, walking and talking with them, working with them, teaching them, encouraging them; praying for them, correcting them, loving them; washing their feet and dying for them. Ordaining elders is about acknowledging relationships, not appointing positions. This doesn’t mean elders don’t have a title, but it means their authority comes from their lives and hearts and Jesus in them, not the title. They have the title because people follow them, not the other way around.

It’s one part of the church saying, “This man is a wonderful shepherd to us and we think he’d be a great shepherd for the whole church.” And the rest of the church saying, “Yeah, please shepherd us, too!”

When we’re looking for elders, WHO he is is a lot more important than WHAT he is. Relational, not positional.



Take a Break on Your Take

“Everyone has to have their take. That’s how it works now. If you don’t have a take, you don’t have a voice. If you don’t have a voice, you don’t exist.”
~ Quintin Sellers, Vengeance

Ashton Kutcher’s character in the movie Vengeance perfectly describes today’s loud and polarized culture. We have rapidly been conditioned by the internet over the past twenty years to react immediately and strongly to every single thing that happens and to take a side. All of us are compelled to take a position on everything as soon as it occurs, staking out immediate and immovable opinions on matters large and small before any conversation or reflection can transpire. Those hastily formed opinions then become our identity and our “cause.” You’ve chosen a side. And the other side will take the other side just to take the other side. Louder and more aggressive. On and on it goes, proving, as Quintin Sellers says, the defining truth of our time: everything means everything, so nothing means anything.

It’s so bad now that not saying anything, not having a take, not making immediate and loud conclusions about an event, is worse than having the wrong take or saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing is an even faster way to be labeled now as part of a side or a cause.

I think that happened to Nicodemus.

The most highly esteemed rabbi in all of Israel had met with Jesus under the cover of darkness – the conversation is recorded in John 3. We’re not really sure of his motives. Is he investigating Jesus on behalf of the Pharisees or is this a personal visit? Either way, when Jesus tells him he must be born again, Nicodemus sounds like somebody who doesn’t believe and won’t ever believe. He sounds immovable. It sounds like he has taken a side. Maybe.

By John 7, Jesus has stirred up some controversy among the religious and political set. The police and the religious-political leaders come together to discuss their options, and Nicodemus sounds somewhat sympathetic to the troublemaker. He asks the gathered leaders, “Does our Law condemn anyone without first hearing him out?” And they ripped Nicodemus to shreds.

“Are you from Galilee, too?!”

Are you on his side? Are you taking up his cause? Is this who you are? Is this your “take?”

There was no room in this heated political and religious environment for measured conversation and careful reflection. And this was several years before TV, much less the internet.

By the end of the Gospel, all the apostles have deserted Jesus during the night. And there’s Nicodemus, in broad daylight, with permission from the government, taking care of Jesus’ body.

Our society is in trouble largely because all the “thinking” we do is expected to be immediate and public. If you don’t have a position posted as soon as some question emerges, somebody’s going to ask if you’re really “one of us.’ Someone will say your “silence is deafening.” But that’s not how human beings change our minds about anything. We change after we wrestle through questions, as we ponder and reflect, as we talk with others and read new ideas, as we experience different views and cultures, as we pay careful attention to all sides and show grace and mercy to others and to ourselves.

None of that can happen under the pressures of our “post-your-take-now” culture.

Take a break on your take. Leave some wiggle room. Give yourself and others a cushion. And, above all, take your time. Show some restraint. There’s a big difference between reconsidering a viewpoint and losing an argument.



No Solo Missions

Our God is on a mission to save the world. But he has no interest in doing it by himself. God doesn’t do solo missions. He’s not interested in that.

When God decides to tell us how he’s going to restore the world, how he’s going to fix the problem of sin and death, he lets us know clearly that we’re in on it with him. He’s not going to do it alone. He recruits Abraham to join him. “Go to the place I will show you. All the peoples of earth will be blessed through you.”

God calls Moses. “I have come down,” he says, “to rescue my people. But I am sending you to do it.”

God calls Joshua. “I am giving this promised land to the people. But you’re going to lead them and do all the fighting.”

God saves his people Israel out of exile, not for their own sakes, but for the purposes of participating in his global mission:

“It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles (nations), that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” ~Isaiah 49:6

Then God decides to show us in person exactly what he’s doing and how he wants it done by coming here in the flesh and blood of Jesus, so we can see it and understand it. Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father.” Well, what do we see in Jesus? He calls the apostles and recruits the disciples to partner with him in bringing the Kingdom of God to earth. They pray together, “Your Kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And that’s exactly what happens.

Jesus heals the sick because there’s no disease in heaven. He feeds the poor because there’s no hunger in heaven. Jesus raises the dead because there are no cemeteries in heaven. He turns the other cheek because there is no violence in heaven. He eats and drinks with everybody because there are no divisions between people in heaven. That’s the mission. And our God is not doing it solo. On that last night, Christ Jesus sends his disciples out.

“As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”

“I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do the same things I’ve been doing. In fact, you’ll do even greater things because I will live inside you.”

“Remember, you didn’t choose me; I chose you!”

Every one of us is on God’s mission. None of us is exempt. According to Matthew 25, Jesus says on that last day the King is going to judge us according to who was on the mission and who wasn’t. Our God is on a mission to bring the fullness of his eternal Kingdom to this earth. And he refuses to do it by himself.



This is Eternal Life

“This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” ~John 17:3

In the Bible, knowledge is not some special understanding or deep insight reserved for the spiritually elite. It’s not about unlocking the secrets of the universe. In Scripture, knowledge means understanding who God is and what he is doing through Jesus. It’s not knowing the kings of Israel in chronological order or how many generations are in Matthew’s genealogy or having a well-researched argument for why Adam does or does not have a belly button. Scriptural knowledge means knowing God in Christ.

“We have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” ~Colossians 1:9

Jesus rebuked the Jews for diligently searching the Scriptures, but not knowing him. He accused them of looking for eternal life in the Bible, and missing it because they didn’t see him, the source of eternal life the Bible points to. According to Scripture, knowledge is knowing that Christ Jesus is the fulfillment of all of God’s salvation promises and plans.

The Word of God in its fullness, according to Colossians 1, is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

“We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom… that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” ~Colossians 1:25-2:3

Knowledge is understanding that all of God’s redemptive purposes are fulfilled in Jesus. It’s not gaining more biblical facts. We don’t read the Bible to bolster our arguments or to prove somebody wrong or to get my day started off right. Christian knowledge is understanding that God’s salvation is available to all people through Christ Jesus.

And that keeps us from being sucked into the world’s opposite kinds of knowledge and understanding. The beliefs and values of our culture are powerful forces. And without biblical knowledge, we can wind up buying into a mushy sentimentality or following a pathway of power and success or just kind of following the herd. You know, whatever is hanging on the wall this week at Mardel.

Christians may not know more than others. But we ought to know better.


The Cowboys play their first division game tonight at the Meadowlands against a team they’ve beaten by an average of 12 points nine of the last ten times they’ve met. Dallas swept the Giants last year by a combined score of 67-26 in two games. But not tonight.

All signs point to a Cowboys loss.

This is the first road game for a struggling offense. The Cowboys have scored a total of two field goals in their past three quarters. This is the first time Cooper Rush has ever played an NFL game when the other team can watch film of him from the previous week. The Cowboys still don’t have Michael Gallup. The Giants do have Saquon Barkley, the NFL’s leading rusher after two weeks, averaging over six yards per carry. It’ll be close tonight. It’ll be a one-score game. And it’ll be decided by a Cowboys turnover. Delicious.



If Not You…

“See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” ~Hebrews 12:15
As children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus, we demonstrate his grace to the people around us. We make sure all the people we contact every day know the truth about our God because they experience it in us. They encounter his grace in us. They see it and feel it in you.

This is as practical and tangible and as real as the Christian life gets. Whatever you have received from the Lord, you generously pass it on to others.

“Forgive each other just as in Christ God forgave you.” ~Ephesians 4:32
Forgive the person in your life who doesn’t deserve it. Forgive the person who’s never apologized. We’ve got more than enough people out there accusing and condemning. Who’s going to forgive? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been forgiven.

“Accept one another just as Christ accepted you.” ~Romans 15:7
Invite somebody over to your house who is 30 years older or 30 years younger than you. Take somebody to lunch who’s a different race or speaks a different language. Have a conversation with somebody from a different culture than yours and learn something. We’ve got lots of people out there dividing us and categorizing us and drawing lines and excluding others. Who’s going to accept others? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been accepted.

“Love one another as I have loved you.” ~John 15:34
Take a Sonic drink to your grouchy next door neighbor. Say something kind and encouraging to the customer service agent. Compliment the cashier at the gas station. Give up your own rights and give in to the demands of someone else. There’s enough hate out there, there’s enough haters – more than enough. Who’s going to show love? Christians who, by God’s grace, have been eternally loved.



A People Person

When we follow Jesus through the Gospels, it’s impossible to miss that Jesus is basically just moving from one dinner party to the next. On every page of the Gospels, Jesus is either at a dinner party, just leaving a dinner party, or about to go to a dinner party. We notice early on in the story that Jesus is not a silent, high-minded, stoic priest lighting candles in a dark sanctuary; he is a rowdy rabbi who does his best teaching and pastoring among a big group of people at a party.

Of course, he was criticized for it. He was called a glutton and a drunk. One of the main things Jesus was known for was his very public eating and drinking.

Yes, there were times when Jesus went alone to the desert or up on a mountain to pray. But it’s much more typical in the Gospels for Jesus to be eating and drinking with big groups of people. Eating and drinking with five thousand folks in the wilderness. Having dinner with two strangers in Emmaus. Dining with his twelve closest friends in an upper room. Feasting with Levi and his friends at Levi’s house. Preparing a picnic on the beach. Jesus was all the time eating and drinking with sinners and saints, with prostitutes and Pharisees, with men and women, with Jews and Gentiles.

These big meals are illustrative of our Lord’s character as a people person. Jesus was with people all the time. Praying with people. Worshiping with people. Walking with people. Fishing with people. Teaching and debating with people. Laughing and crying with people. Attending weddings and funerals with people. Jesus was very deliberate about this, very intentional.

John 4 says Jesus had to go through Samaria. Well, no, nobody has to go through Samaria. Most people like Jesus went out of their way to avoid Samaria. But Jesus purposefully goes to meet that woman at the well and he stays in her village with her and her people for two days. And at the end of those two days, everyone in Sychar declares that Jesus truly is the Savior of the world!

Our Lord Jesus is a people person. He is a supremely social and communal person. Whatever the Father sent the Son to do, Jesus had no interest in doing it by himself. Jesus is a people person. And if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father.

Remember, Exodus 24. The very first communion meal. God has come down to his people on the mountain. He comes to be near them, to be with them. Moses is sprinkling blood on the people to cleanse them: “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you!” Then they go up on the mountain and they see God. The Bible says it twice because it is so astonishing. “They saw God and they ate and drank.”

But as good as that was, it wasn’t good enough for God. It wasn’t close enough. Or near enough. It wasn’t physical.

So our God decides to come to us in the physical flesh and blood of Jesus. And now, through Jesus, God himself is eating and drinking with everybody! All the time! At Zacchaeus’ house with all his friends. At Mary and Martha’s house with the community in Bethany. God in Christ is now eating and drinking with everybody, together, in person!

And Jesus says, “This is the Kingdom of God! The Kingdom of God is like a wedding banquet, like a giant feast! It’s just like this!”

You might read the Bible differently – the whole Bible – when you realize that our God’s eternal goal is to eat and drink with his people. To be so close to us, to have all the barriers to relationship between you and God removed so that you and we can eat and drink together in perfect community – you might understand the Kingdom better when you understand the goal.



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