Tag Archives: John

God Speaks (in free verse, apparently)

(Note: This was a rant-turned-ramble-turned-kindafreeverseything I wrote at 4 in the morning. Just to warn you.)

God Speaks.

He does.

This is a very inconvenient fact, and we Christians have been doing our level best to work around this for years. In America, we’ve built up a whole defense system around the idea, feeling quite under attack by it.

Does He speak? Is the question. And Christian Americans try not to answer.

We hem and haw in a pattern that sounds like this:

Does He speak? After a fashion.

We say.

He speaks, yes, but not in the way that you’re thinking.

What am I thinking? You know, speaking aloud. Actually saying words, in fact. Continue reading


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Servant Leadership

I was just reading the passage in Matthew where Jesus tries yet again to explain to his disciples just what life following Him is really all about. They don’t get it, which is easy to look at and laugh nowadays. (I’ve been keeping a mental tally of the number of times Jesus predicted His death and resurrection — and yet the disciples were surprised when it happened! Talk about deluding yourself out of the truth!)

But on the other hand, I don’t think we really get it most of time, either.

I’m in chapter 20, and I’m talking about Servant Leadership. I capitalized that because the term is really overused in protestant Christian circles, to the point where we forget what it really means.

So in this story, James, John and their mom have this plan. They want to be reigning with Christ in His kingdom. Now really, this isn’t as audacious a request as it seems at first glance, because just a few chapters ago Jesus already told them that they’d be judging the twelve tribes of Israel — with the other disciples. What’s got the others so upset about this request is that J&J have asked to be put over the other disciples, on top of ruling everybody else!

Is it me, or does this sound really familiar?

Of course Jesus defuses the situation and says something totally crazy — a) that in order to lead, you have to serve and b) that even Jesus has to give Himself up to the point of giving up His life. (chalk another one up on the board, please)

If I were a disciple, I bet I’d be focusing a lot more on that last part. They probably didn’t learn this lesson, at least not right away.

This blog is only nominally anonymous, so there’s a good chance that some of you know I have had experiences with several Christian organizations, both church and para-church. And I can tell you first hand that we have still not learned this lesson. I know for sure that I haven’t.

Get any group of people together, Christians or not, and there will be politics. People will talk behind each other’s backs. Middle management will be in and out of favor with the Big Bosses, and the peons will be used, leaned on or even totally ignored. If you’ve never worked for a Christian company you may not believe that a group of Christians, who are there to serve God, could be capable of this. But trust me, it happens.

Christians just use different wording.

When you want to gossip, you say “can I ask you to pray about this?” When you’re presenting your favorite idea you say “God can do the impossible” if anyone tells you it must fail. And when you want to rise in the ranks, you call yourself a “Servant Leader” and talk about how God is really at the top of the company.

That’s not to be down on Christian companies, or to say that all of the above is always bad. But Christians are still people. And very few have learned what Matthew 20 means.

What is a Servant Leader? It’s someone who doesn’t demand that their projects and ideas always come first. It’s someone who knows everyone — not because of what they can do for them, but because they want to know them. It’s someone who loves God so much that they can’t help but love people, just because God loves people. It’s someone who thinks what your heart looks like is more important than what label suit you wear. It’s someone who cares more about the project than who’s in charge of it. It’s someone who gives up their rights. It’s someone who doesn’t name drop. It’s someone who steps in whenever and wherever they can help.

There’s a lot to it. But mostly, I think it’s someone who wouldn’t think to capitalize Servant Leader and make it a title. They’re just too busy being one.

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Making Sense of John’s Craziness

I have never understood why, when someone is looking at the life of Yeshua and wanting to know more, Christians tend to say “Read John.” In my mind, John is the worst way to see the gospel for the first time. There are a lot of reasons for this, but one of the most compelling to me is simply the first few verses:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

Well that sounds pretty and enlightening and all, but what is it supposed to mean? If you grew up in the church, chances are good that you know that somehow, the “Word” mentioned means “Jesus”, and this passage establishes that He is God and at the same time God is more than one part, as He was also “with God”.

But why the Word? Why not just come out and say, “Jesus is God”? If it were my first time reading this I’d probably stop right here. If I don’t understand the first few verses, what luck will I have with the rest of the book?

My explanation when I was younger was pretty much “Well, John wrote Revelations too. He’s just used to acting all mystical.” and I wrote it off at that. But that’s not really a satisfying answer. After all, the book of John settles down a lot after that point and if you plug along, things do start to make sense.

So here’s my take on it now: John knew his audience. A lot better than we do now. Remember, he’s writing to Jews of that era, who would look at the language and at once realize what he was referencing. It’s basically a culture thing — if I was describing someone and said he laughed with a “Ho ho ho!” most Americans would start thinking about Santa and of the person I was describing in terms of Santa.

It’s the same way here. When John said “In the beginning…”, the Jews started thinking about Genesis 1:1:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Now for the cool part. In the creation story at Genesis 1, God makes Earth and everything in it. How? Through His word. Or I should say, Word. He speaks and creates. John is trying to show how, even from the very beginning, Jesus was with God and creating — He was God!

Why go to all the trouble? Jews in that culture knew that one of the fundamental parts of God is that He is one — it’s the first Commandment in the Ten Commandments. So the whole idea of Jesus being fully God and fully man (and being called therefore the “Son of God”) was difficult to get across — it sounded to them as if God was being split in two, which wasn’t possible because, like I said, God is one. But John shows here that even in the very first verse of the scriptures God talks about Himself in parts – His Word accomplishes His will. It’s still God creating, but now you have a separate part of God that is still Him. (it’s a really neat study to look at how the Trinity is represented in the Tanakh, I highly recommend it!)

Still think that’s a stretch? Well actually, God talks about himself and His Word as being separate yet one very specifically in Isaiah 55:11:

…so shall my word be that goes out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in that for which I sent it.

With the background we just talked about, that verse becomes a clear description of the Messiah, who, as we discover if we read more of John (1:14), eventually became the Word made flesh — that is, Jesus.

So, I still think John is a bad book to start with (I usually say Mark as it’s quick and to the point, then maybe Romans to lay it all on the line), but I like the first chapter of it a whole lot more now that I understand it better. It’s actually a really neat thought.

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