The Story Week 24: Jesus – No Ordinary Man

Jesus created disturbances where ever he went.  He spoke and crowds came to listen.  Many left in awe, others left in anger.  He spoke in parables and many could not understand what he was saying including the disciples.  He ate with sinners, healed those condemned as sinners and outcasts, the blind, lepers, cripples he even ate with those dreaded IRS agents of the day, the tax collectors. Jesus was certainly not an ordinary man.
Then we have the disciples crossing the sea and a storm hits and threatens to swamp the boat and what does Jesus do he commands the winds and the waves to “be still”.  No ordinary man.

In his sermon on the mount and the beatitudes this “extraordinary” man turns our understanding of what it means to be blessed upside down.  The poor, the meek, etc.  But ultimately everything comes down to this statement that Jesus makes that many today do not want to hear just as many turned away back then.  Jesus says to all of us, “I am the only way.”  He is the bread of life, and if we feed on this bread we will live forever.

We want ordinary bread, we want Jesus and our own way, we want to worship God and our idols of wealth, status, power, freedom, happiness, and fame.

At some point we are  faced with having to answer this question, do we want to follow the one that God the Father sent?   We have to decide do we believe and will we follow with singular devotion this most extraordinary man.  Belief means making a commitment, belief means faithfully following Jesus with singular devotion.

The Story Week 23: Jesus is Scary………………..Good

This week week as we seek to understand Jesus more fully we move from the birth of Christ to the beginning of his ministry, beginning with his baptism by John.  The questions that I want to engage this week are first: ‘What are you afraid of, what scares you?”  and second; “Why is Jesus scary and should we be scared?”

This week we will explore why Jesus struck fear into the Pharisees, and the religious scholars of his day.  Why because he made them uncomfortable by his actions, by the people he chose to hang out with by the customary laws he chose to turn upside down, by how he challenged the religious establishment of his day and does to the same for us today.   He chose to eat with sinners, with known thieves, with drug addicts and the dregs of society.  Reminding all of us that they are beloved by God and thus should be loved by those who claim Christ as their Lord and savior.

As you read chapter 23 consider how modern versions of these same stories might play out in your daily life, and how they might upset not just our faith communities but your very lives as well.    Then just maybe we will have a glimpse of why Jesus was and is SCARY and oh so very Good as well.

Till next week, grace and peace be with you.

The Story Week 22: Birth of a King

This week we begin, the New Testament, the next chapter or series in our journey through The Story(Bible), the season of Lent.  Before I begin here are some thoughts to guide us not just this week but over the next 5 weeks as we begin our Lenten series entitled “Understanding Jesus”.

Lent is often described as a journey, a time of self searching. But Lent can also be thought of in terms of truth.

In Lent, the masks we put on to protect us from God’s penetrating stare are stripped away.  In Lent, our lives are grasped by the power of God’s truth, which first strips us bare of our self-justifying lies and second assures us that God truly loves us in spite of our failings.  Join us during this season of Lent as we seek to reveal God’s truth by:

un-Masking who Christ is – so we can more fully know Christ.

   un-Masking of Ourselves, so we can be fully present in community

   un-Masking of Others, so we can remove the expectations we place on others and allow them to be who they are, loved by God and by us.

We begin this week with the Birth of a King, king Jesus.  A couple thoughts to ponder as you read chapter 22 of The Story.   This birth story which is so ingrained into our lives, a babe lying in a manger, the crowded inn, a carpenter and his young wife, Mary.  Is very familiar to us for it is the Christmas story and for at least a month every year we remember through songs and words this familiar story, perhaps it has become too familiar.

Our text this week comes to us from John 1, and it to should be familiar to us,  “in the beginning” for this is how this book that we love, the Bible begins, “in the beginning”.   A reminder that w are not to get to comfortable with this image of a new born child, this royal birth.  When things in our lives become familiar and comfortable we settle into believing we already have all the understanding we need, we know the answer.  When we do this we tend to miss God in our midst.

A couple thoughts to ponder. “In the beginning” reminds us that Jesus was there with Abraham, with Moses at the burning bush, wrestling with Jacob at the river, with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fire, and with you and I today.

Second, there was no room in the inn(s) in Bethlehem for this common little babe to be born.  Is there room in your life?  As I look at how crowded my calendar is ……… I wonder if Joseph came knocking what would I say?

Lastly, this was the child of a carpenter a common man, a reminder that Christ comes to us in the common every day reality of life.  Perhaps is a worldly king came calling we would clear our calendar, perhaps.  But Jesus reminded his disciples that they saw him when they touched the lives of those in need around them, the hunger, the naked, the cold.

The Story – Week 21: Rebuilding Walls – Rebuilding Lives

The Old Testament ends with three very distinct building projects.  The first was the rebuilding of the temple under Zerubabbel which we read about two weeks ago in chapter 19.   God now has a place to stay with his people,  and worshiping God and making sacrifices for their sins could resume.   Second, they needed to rebuild the walls around the city of Jerusalem, protection from the surrounding enemies and raiders.  Walls and the temple where very important in the lives of the people.

The most important rebuilding project is however, was not a structure rather it was the lives of the people.  Evidence that God was at work would come not through a prophet, a building, the kingdoms prosperity, rather it came when they asked for the first time in 140 years for the Law of Moses to be read.   Israel was for the first time in a long time hungry, truly hungry for the Word of the Lord.  Because God allowed them to be in the wasteland for a period of time because of they repeatedly turned away from God, sinning again and again they now were in a place where they thirsted deeply for God.

By reading the Law, Israel refocused, re-centered, and were reminded of what was truly important.  Only by doing this could the people align themselves with God’s Upper story which is God’s desire to redeem his people, to restore our relationship with Him.

This begins by rebuilding the spiritual walls in our lives and taking down the walls of sin that exist in our lives.  Walls of anger, unforgiveness, hatred, jealousy, lust, coveting, discontentment, hurt, pain, self-centeredness, racism.


1. What are the walls in your life that you need to take down so that you can rebuild your life with God at  the center?

2. Are you willing to place God’s laws, the ten commandments and the greatest commandment at the center of each day?

For the next few days and for the weeks ahead try reading the Law of Moses, the Ten commandments found in Exodus 20.


Week 18 of the Story: Stranger in a foreign Land

Here is the question this week, how would you go about maintaining your faith if you moved to a new state, or even to a new country with totally different customs?   The book of Daniel offers us not only a clear picture of God’s Upper Story but shows us what our Lower Story might look like given that we have a clear understanding of God’s story for those that are willing to stand firm in our faith and our belief in God.  As we shall see this week this is no easy task, people and circumstances with try to trip us up.  Being faithful in a foreign land might be difficult but I wonder if it is really no more difficult than being faithful in the world today?

The Story Week 17: Faithfulness in the midst of Failure.

This week we pick up the Story and the Northern kingdom has fallen, Hezekiah’s son Manasseh has just become king of the Southern kingdom and sadly he is not like his father.  He neither loves God nor does he follow the Law of Moses in any way.  He is an abomination in the eyes of the Lord.  God sends Babylon to judge the Southern kingdom and ultimately take them away into captivity and destroy the Temple.

In the midst of the rubble of a destroyed Jerusalem, a world turned upside down God sends the prophet Jeremiah to weep over the remains, and to point to what God was going to do in the person of Jesus Christ.   There was one catch God also told Jeremiah that the people wouldn’t listen to his words.   Just as Israel refused to head God’s commandments.

I wonder how many of us are willing to commit 100% to the role God has given us play in his Grand Story.  To the place, ministry, community into which we have been place?    Each of us has a role to play and Paul writes again and again that we are to remember that we do for Jesus Christ in as much as we make Paul’s joy complete we make Christ’s joy complete.


In what way do you need to confess your sins and turn the focus from you and your needs and instead focus on the things of God?


How has a difficult circumstances ended up been a blessing?

The Story Chapter 16 / Adopt a Revolutionary Motto for Your Life

  In the early formation of our nation George Washington had the opportunity to become king of the burgeoning nation.  But given the young nation’s experience with England and because he had a robust prayer life he knew there was only one King, so he declined the offer. 

 The people of the land apparently knew the same.  In a 1774 report to King George, the Governor of Boston noted: ”If you ask an American, who is his master? He will tell you he has none, nor any governor but Jesus Christ.” The pre-war Colonial Committees of Correspondence soon made this the American motto: “No King but King Jesus.”[1]

 The story of God’s chosen people might have gone very differently had they chanted the same motto.  Instead, they wanted a king.  Over the period of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah there were thirty-eight kings.  Only five of them were good. Of the others a refrain heard throughout the Old Testament goes like this: “They did evil in the eyes of the Lord.”  

 Prophets appeared exhorting the people to turn back to God. God spoke through one prophet—Isaiah—to tell the people of Judah that they would be captured and deported to Babylon but afterward he would bring them back home.  The purpose? “Then you will know that I am the Lord; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.  Then the whole human race will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob” (Isaiah 49:23).

 In Isaiah 53 the prophet depicts the coming Messiah. “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.  He was despised and rejected by others, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” (Isaiah 53: 2, 3).  God did not want the people to miss him.  But they did.  And still do.

 Our nation would have gone a much different route had Washington agreed to be king.  But he seemed to know what many others didn’t.  When we displace God on the throne of our lives, the outcome will go horribly wrong.  But when we put God on the throne in our lives, we put ourselves in the best possible position for godly success. 

 Maybe our American ancestors knew the best way to start a revolution.  Adopt the motto “No King but King Jesus” in your life.  See what changes that ignites in your life.

Here is the question we have to answer is Jesus really on the throne of our lives?  It has often been said down through the history of the church that the easiest way to measure this is to look at the description line in our check books, or look at your calender.  What consumes our time and our money sit on the thrones of our lives.
Question:Take a moment and look at your bank or credit card statement and your calender and write down what sits on the throne of your life.
What would it look like  “King Jesus”

[1] Idea from Randy Frazee’s sermon on The Story, Chapter 16. Reference from “Is America a Christian Nation?” CARL PEARLSTON


The Story: Chapter 15 – God Messengers

Can You Hear Him Now?

 Verizon Wireless created one of the most memorable marketing campaigns ever in 2005.  In their commercials a so-called ”test man,” accompanied by a crowd of network engineers, travels the country asking the simple question, “Can you hear me now?” in an ongoing exercise to determine the reliability of the mobile phone carrier’s network.

 The “catch phrase” caught on.  The company’s market share went up and employee turnover went down.  It seemed people could relate to the struggle to connect.  Folks were tired of dropped calls and unreliable communication systems.  And Verizon sent a message that they wanted desperately to connect with its subscribers and wanted its subscribers to be able to connect with each other.

 At the risk of selling Him short, God has done the same.  Even when the Kingdom had split in two, He kept sending His message.  He gave the people of the DividedKingdom some 208 years to decide whether they would “accept” or “reject” His call.  He sent His own “technicians” to get the message out.  We call them “prophets.” Thirty eight kings where spoken to by 9 prophets and only one kingdom would listen and it wasn’t Israel, it was Nineveh.

This week we will look at God’s Upper plan as told through the story of Elisha and the Shunamite women.  As God once again declares that he is present, redeeming what is lost, and bring life to what is dead we are once again faced with the same question that Israel was faced with.  Are we in the midst of our unfaithfulness, willing to stop and listen to God.  Or are you more likely to put God on hold or send him to voicemail?


1.   The prophets challenged the people of God to turn from their evil ways back to the Lord.  These messages were parts of God’s loving plan for the salvation of the world.  Have you ever had someone challenge you to change your ways for the better?  How do you receive such messages?

2.  What is preventing you from seeing and hearing God?

The Story: Chapter 14 / Pay Attention to the Ripple Effect

The decisions you make and the actions you take affect those around you.

Rehoboam learned that lesson the hard way. Rehoboam followed his father Solomon to the throne of Israel. Solomon had a high calling but low standards and he had exacted harsh labor on the people while biulding his palace and kingdom. A delegation, led by Jeroboam, went to the new king and asked him to take away the harshness, to give the people a break.

In private, Rehoboam asked his elder council what he should do. They advised that he become a servant to the people, lighten their load, and the people would always be faithful servants to the king.

His personal circle of younger friends gave him just the opposite advice. They told him to work the people harder. He liked that idea, told the delegation his plans, and wound up with a divided kingdom.

At one time or another all of us are impacted by someone else’s decisions or actions. Here is the Upper Story when we suffer the negative consequences of another’s wrongheaded decision, God can redeem the situation. Although Rehoboam wound up ruling only two tribes—Judah and Benjamin (as opposed to Jeroboam’s rule over ten tribes)—it was through Judah that Jesus came to us. God can work, and often does what seems to us as his best work, in situations that seem the most difficult.

We should always consider how our decisions and actions affect those around us. In “systems thinking” it is said that “you are the highest leverage point in any system you are in.” More simply stated, you can make a difference. You are more “powerful” than you think you are––no matter your station in life.

Clint Eastwood’s film Invictus tells the story of Nelson Mandela’s use of the South African rugby team to help heal a nation divided by apartheid. In one scene of the movie he explains to a team member, “Reconciliation starts here. Forgiveness starts here.” He knew his actions would have a ripple effect on those around him. Eventually the blessing of that “ripple” washed across the nation.

Rehoboam made a bad decision, but it was really his father Solomon’s actions that rippled outward and divided the kingdom. He forsook the one true God and chased after other “gods,” he neglected to serve the people and instead forced them to work harder, taxing them cruelly, and he was focused on himself, as reflected in his accumulation of wives, gold, and horses in direct disobedience to God’s counsel and words of instruction in Dueteronomy. His son Rehoboam was merely living out consequence of those decisions and actions, following the example that his father had set.

Learn from Solomon’s mistake. Love God first. Love others second. And serve those that do not yet know God. You will be surprised to see how far your ripple will travel.

Questions for the week:
Consider journaling your response to these questions
1. We may not bow down to pagan gods, but many things in our lives compete for our worship. What things in your life compete for your devotion to God?

2. Scripture reminds us that our actions will have a ripple affect to the seventh generation. Are your actions and choices impacting those around you in such a way that they are becoming willing followers of Christ, active not only in the church but also in their daily walk with the Lord?

January 5 – “The King Who Had it All” – week 13 of The Story

As we enter the first week of the New Year, we resume our journey through the Bible using The Story, the Bible in narrative or story form. Please join us each week as we together we strengthen our understanding of God’s Upper Story purpose in our Lower Story lives as we dig deep into the Bible.

This week we begin where we left off with King David turning over the kingdom to his son Solomon, born of his marriage to Bathsheba.  Solomon’s story brings back memories because he was granted what we all would like to have a special wish.  Some of us perhaps are old enough to remember the Sears or JC Penny Christmas Wish Book.  Filled with every imaginable toy that a kid could ever want.  When I was a kid the wish book helped answer the question “If you could have anything for Christmas what would it be.”  Today we have the internet and vivid computer screens to bring to life our dreams and wishes.

Solomon when faced with this question by God, chose not wealth, or material things he chose wisdom.  As a young man faced with ruling a vast kingdom that surely was a smart thing to choose, wisdom.  God granted him his wish and he was known far and wide for his wisdom and because of his gift he soon acquired incredible riches, wealth beyond imagination.  Here is the sad thing, over time while using God’s gift and accumulating wealth, fame, women Solomon forgot the giver.

Perhaps this story sounds familiar because you’ve heard it, or perhaps it sounds familiar because you like me have had times in your life when you’ve taken your eyes off the giver.  As you read chapter 13 in The Story, or 1 Kings 3-11 in your Bible ask yourself these questions.

Questions:  How have you allowed yourself to be distracted by the gifts that you have received?

What things in your life have lulled you into forgetting all about the giver, God?