Wednesday, July 24, 2013


Often preachers like to say that people do not worship publicly like they should. That may mean we don't respond to public worship as generations in the past have. My father's generation had the same history through which to live--the Depression and World War II and the post-war boom. They had so much of the same experience and history.

However, my 1960s and 1970s generation didn't have that same history and culture and experiences to bind us together. We were not bound together, and that is one of the losses of the church. Without believing in the church as the center of our life and neighborhood, we no longer have a center. We have been slung out to the edges by our own introversion.

We have all seen this in the self-help books, the empowerment books, the motivational speakers selling tapes, the sale of cds and other things.

So at this point we might ask, what did Jesus do?

He went off by Himself to pray all night and then He went into the temple--
But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And early in the morning He came again into the temple and all the people were coming to Hiim and He sat down to teach them, John 8. 1-2.

The Pharisees accuse Him being a lone wolf, a solitary rebel who only came to upset people. But if coming to the temple was His way of sharing His great faith, what was His time on the Mount like? He tells us something of this when He says--
But even if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone in it, but I and He who sent Me...I am He who bears witness of Myself and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me, John 8. 18.19.

His communion was with His Father. This communion did not leave Him on the Mount of Olives to hold onto what He had with the Father. The Father even sent Him. He came down from the Mount to the temple, to teach the people.
What did He teach them, which He had learned on the Mount? He said--He who sent Me is true and the things which I heard from Him, these things I speak to the world.

Those around Him didn't believe that. So He says--I speak these things as the Father has taught Me, John 8.28.

Jesus is taking what the Father taught Him in private, to teach it in public and in the temple. At this time the temple was the most public of arenas in Jerusalem. He had said in 8.26--I speak to the world. Certainly this meant the Jewish world and in the Roman empire as well as for all time through John's gospel. And John said that at that time--many came to believe in Him, John 8.30.

We don't often realize how many people did believe in Jesus. We are aware of the opposition of the traditional church leaders in the temple and the Sanhedrin, yet when Jesus spoke openly in the temple here in John 8 many did realize the truth of what He said.

We might imagine that a spiritual time has to be private. We think of quietness and contemplation and maybe even hymns or chants or canticles. And yet here He was in the temple in front of the religious leaders, in public, amid the crowd under the guidance of the process of teaching. His words probably echoed off the temple tiles, resounding through the columns and porticoes, for everyone to hear.

How could we respond to this, to have such privacy with the Father in church? One way is to create in our public order of worship a time and place for contemplation. Any service might benefit by silence, at least in small moments. We might think of worship as our coming to hear Him. This is our time with Him.

We prepare with His word, the Bible. We anticipate with prayer. We open our souls with forgiveness and love. And we receive Him in our worship.

In a way, not easy. And yet if we concentrate on this, God responds. As in so many things, to put God first is all.

To give God the place before us as we go is the place of blessing.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013


When I think of what would be the one essential idea of Christianity, it is in the word, crossroads. Jesus as the crossroads of God and man, Christian marriage as the crossroads of man and woman, the church as the crossroads of heaven and earth.

I've read that Jerusalem is the crossroads of east and west, of north and south. It was never the economic center of the world, but the Jewish prophets always called the City of Peace as the heart of God's people and His footstool.

But to be a crossroads, a place or person has to be filled by opposites and contrasting qualities. The Pharisees often say Jesus is just a carpenter's son, yet the people say Jesus is the Son of God. He is both heaven sent and earthly bound. He was the Angel of the Lord from the OT and the Son of Man in the NT.

His life is the only one lived on this planet worth knowing. He shows us heaven and He shows us how heaven could be here on earth. When He heals someone, He shows us God's power, yet it is God's power in us. When He speaks the wisdom of God it comes from ages past, yet it is spoken to and for someone right there in front of Him.

Jesus is the far and the near, He is reach and circumstance. By that I mean He is God reaching us in our circumstance. He spent His ministry bringing God to earth, and when He was resurrected He took us to heaven. It is this crossroads which makes Him so fascinating.

What was it like for Jesus to see into your eyes?

I have searched this question for years. We certainly don't see ourselves or some better version of ourselves. We see God. But He was not a God of abstract concepts, He is more like the God who reveals His voice, He appears as an angel, He comes to a room, He takes upon Himself a human form.

As the God of creation, He intimates Himself in enclosed places like a garden, a stream disappearing into a forest, a cave within a cliff or the light glittered by dust in a vacant church.
We become aware of Him in bread, in still water at a well, in sheep, in light, in stars. He enters us so that we can become aware of His presence on His own. We see this when Jesus encounters a Samaritan woman at a well. Jesus asks for a drink. When the woman tells Him the truth about herself, He rewards her by saying--God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth, John 4.24. Truth results in revelation, confession results in worship, living water is God the Son.

So how did the woman see Him in her eyes? John provides no simple answer except to say that she dropped her water bucket, ran into her own city to tell the men about this man Jesus. This is her John 3.8 moment--the wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it but do not knowwhereit comes from and where it is going; so is every one who is born of the Spirit.

The men she spoke to must have seen Jesus in her eyes, as they--went out of the city and were coming to Him, John 4.30. He was more important than the well, or her bucket, or their day's duties. He was to them beyond their daily life, even to the point of being worth everything. What they seemed to see when we see Jesus is that He is all, He is the only One who matters.