Archive | February, 2015

Have you ever had people think you’re crazy because of your faith?

28 Feb

maybe-youre-crazy-570x398When was the last time you demonstrated faith in God that caused people to shake their heads in disbelief?

I’m talking about reckless faith.

The kind of faith that people say is stupid. Faith that seems unwise.

Faith that upsets society’s conventions. Faith that almost seems wrong.

Have you demonstrated faith in God like that?

You’ll know you have demonstrated faith like that when your friends and family try to intervene and stop you. Or when they want to take you out to coffee to “set you straight.”

It might be going out on your own to start a business.

It might be going to Kenya this summer, or another kind of mission trip.

It might be reaching out to people of a different culture or socio-economic status.

It might be the choice to follow Jesus. Remember the fisherman last week who left behind their fishing boats and gear to follow Jesus? They left behind their livelihood to follow Jesus! I bet they had some people in their lives saying “What are you doing? You barely know this guy. You need to get back out there on the lake and earn us a living!”

I remember a friend of ours who was a professional model who turned down some lucrative contracts with companies who were selling items he could not support.

Today we’re going to meet some people who had crazy faith. You might even say their faith was criminal!

Take a look at Luke 5:12-26 and join us tomorrow morning at Faith Church.

How to start following Jesus – Luke 5:1-11

26 Feb

Swanson_Great_Catch_of_FishLast week we saw how Jesus nearly sunk some fishermen’s boats with a miracle haul of fish.  They were astonished, after a long night of unsuccessfully catching fish. In the brief conversation that Luke records right after this moment, I believe there are four components that are vital for churches that want to make disciples like Jesus did.


  1. Don’t be afraid
  2. Leave
  3. Follow Jesus
  4. Catch men

Jesus’ call to us is to be disciple-making churches, but I have to admit that while “make disciples” is just two words, it can be complicated.

So “Where do I begin???”

How do you and I “catch men”?

At this point, the disciples had no idea. They weren’t even disciples, or at least didn’t identify themselves that way.

First of all, Don’t be afraid!

Faith Church has long supported a missionary, Joe Toy, and when I watch him I think “Wow he has this Fisher of men thing figured out.” He is bold, smart, funny, creative, and so good in his approach. He is out there on the streets of Philly, at beaches in the summer, at Mardis Gras, and more.

“If that is being a fisher of men,” many of us say, “I’ll never be able to do it.”

But remember these fishermen were regular guys. People like you and I when they started.

Three years of following Jesus later they were ready to take over the ministry Jesus started. They learned from Jesus that they didn’t need to be afraid. You might not be a Joe Toy preaching on the streets of Philly. But as disciples of Jesus you need not be afraid to answer his call to be his disciples right here. He is with you. He says to you and to me as well, “Don’t be afraid!”

Here’s the rub: for those first disciples, during the three years they walked with Jesus, it took a significant commitment to leave and follow.

Those are the second and third words: Leave and follow.

Some groups in Faith Church have been studying the book Not A Fan which talks about this invitation to discipleship. When Jesus said “follow me and I will make you fishers of men” we approach this different ways. The main idea of the book is that generally Christians falls into either the fan or the follower category. Fans like to watch. Followers actively participate.

When Jesus issues the command to follow him to be his disciples, the author of the book says “there is a fear among fans that by going all-in, they’re going to miss out.

“Fans want to have just enough pleasure without having to risk feeling any pain. We want to enjoy what’s available to us without having to risk sacrifice for it.

“Instead of come after we hold back. It’s not that we don’t want a relationship with Jesus; we do. We just don’t want it to cost us very much. … It’s like a man and a woman who have been dating. Things get pretty serious, and she wants to get married. He loves her and doesn’t want to lose her, but he doesn’t want to get married. He’s afraid that if he makes that kind of commitment it will require too much of him or somehow, he’ll miss out on something better. So he makes the suggestion, “Hey, why don’t we move in together?” Translated: “How about I get all the benefits of marriage without having to make any of the commitments and sacrifices?”

“That’s the approach fans take. Fans say to Jesus, “Hey, why don’t we move in together?”

“There is a satirical magazine called The Door, and it suggests that unmarried couples living together should share the following vows:

“I, John, take you, Mary, to be my cohabitant, to have sex with and to share bills with. I’ll be around while things are good, but I probably won’t be if things get tough. If you should get a cold, I’ll run to the drugstore for some medicine. If you get sick to the point where you can no longer meet my needs, then I’ll have to move on. Forsaking many others I will be more or less faithful to you for as long as it feels good to me. If we should break up, it doesn’t mean this wasn’t special for me. I commit to live with you for as long as this works out.”

“Fans are often guilty of offering these kinds of vows to Jesus. I’ll follow you, as long as things are good and you hold up your end of the deal. I’ll follow you as long as you don’t ask too much of me.”

But it was in those disciples’ best interest to leave their livelihood behind and follow Jesus!   I wonder how their wives and kids felt about that? And yet we see from hindsight how clearly right and good it was for them to reorder their lives to follow Jesus in a new and deeper way.

The same goes for us!

What will it look like for you to follow Jesus? Don’t be afraid, Disciples are not just fans, they leave and follow. And finally, the fourth word: Catch others. Be fishers of men.

As followers of Jesus, we have a mission to see other people become followers of Jesus.  I believe this has been a missing component to many Christians’ lives.  We learned the “I will make you fishers of men” song as kids, but we rarely take that teaching seriously.  Simply put, it is part and parcel of being a disciple that you and I will help other people become disciples.

multiplyWhat will it look like for you to take on the work of a disciple to help other people become disciples? At the outset Jesus gave them a vision for what following him meant. It meant that followers of Jesus get more people to become followers of Jesus. That’s what the fisher of men comment was all about.

Disciples reorder their lives to follow Jesus so that they can help more people follow Jesus!

In 2015, I’m convinced Faith Church needs to simplify our ministries so that we can focus on being a disciple-making church.  What about you and your church?

It starts right here with us. It starts by not being afraid, by leaving behind the attitude that says “I’m just a fan”, then by following Jesus into a lifestyle of helping others to be followers.

When churches don’t make disciples

20 Feb

“If you make disciples, you always get the church.  But if you make a church, you rarely get disciples.”

 – Mike Breen

What do you think about that quote?  Is it right?

The first part I think most Christians would agree with.  It’s pretty straightforward.  Disciples are followers of Jesus, and when you have a group of disciples in a community striving together for the mission of God, that’s pretty much the baseline for what we would call a church.  Simplistic, yes.  But for the sake of Breen’s larger point, let’s say that’s a church.

What about his second phrase?  Why would he say that if you make a church, then, you rarely get disciples?

Maybe he is just talking about the physical bricks-and-mortar buildings we call churches.  That could be easy to grasp, because if you erect a church edifice, you might have a meeting place, but there is no guarantee that you’ll get disciples.  But I suspect that while he may be referring to buildings, he is probably referring to more church-y kinds of things as well.

Maybe, then, he is talking about church programs or worship services or paid ministry professionals.  Maybe he is saying that we can create those structures, and we’ll have events and ministries that look and feel a lot like church has looked and felt in recent decades, and even then we might not get disciples.

Is that possible?  Could it be that much of what we call church is not making disciples of Jesus?  How does your church make disciples?

Better yet, how did Jesus make disciples?


This Sunday at Faith Church (there I go talking about a building) during worship (there I go talking about a program), we’re going to look at Luke’s first description of Jesus’ interaction with the men who would become his disciples. He nearly sinks their boat!

You can read ahead in Luke 5:1-11.  I think you’ll find it eye-opening!

(Re)Discovering Jesus – Luke 4:31-44

19 Feb

Rediscovering-JesusWhen’s the last time you were amazed by Jesus?

When is the last time you were excited about him?

Put together, Luke’s story of Jesus’ early ministry in Capernaum, his authoritative teaching, his exorcism of demons, his healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, and all the other healing and preaching he did there, demonstrate the authority and power of Jesus.

The people encountered Jesus and were left hungry for more.

When they discovered Jesus, they were amazed. This is an overwhelming and astonishing sense of amazement.

This passage really spoke to me, as I watch the crowds in Capernaum amazed, longing for more of him. As I watch his power and authority over demons and over sickness.

I admit for myself that it is so easy to get academic or routine about my faith. I believe that spiritual habits are really good and important. But I also feel how they can get so standardized they lose that sense of amazement. I know that God doesn’t ever promise that our relationship with him will feel vibrant and exciting all the time.

But I wonder if today you and I need to rediscover Jesus?

I wonder if it has been a long time since you were excited about him?

I wonder if it has been a long time since you felt your relationship with him was really meaningful.

One of the amazing things that our evangelical forefather John Wesley brought to faith in Christ was experience. Wesley was coming out of a time when following Jesus was, well, boring. It was just a bunch of religious rituals at church. And Wesley had what he described a strange warming of his heart, in an encounter with Jesus. For him it was an experience of Jesus!

These people at Capernaum had a vibrant experience with Jesus and they wanted more.

When you experience Jesus, you will want more!

I’m afraid that for myself and perhaps for many of you, it has been a long time since we experienced the authority and power of Jesus!

We need him. We need to encounter him. We need to spend time with him. If you’re like me, then maybe you look at the people of Capernaum with a bit of jealousy thinking “Yeah, but they actually got to be there with him in person. Talk with him. See the look in his eyes, the inflection in his voice. He touched their sick.” I get that. I wish he was in the flesh right here as well.

But know this, we can still encounter him. First, we have his Spirit with us, something those people in Capernaum did not have! Second, we encounter him in his Word. Also, something they didn’t have. Yes, they could meet him in the flesh, but after three years, that was over. We can encounter him through his Spirit, through his Word all the time. And Finally, we are his body. We encounter him through the church, the body of Christ. To encounter Jesus, we should do what he did. Spend time in solitude, pray in the Spirit to the Father like he did. Read about him. Over and over. Actively be part of your family of faith, your local “body” of Christ.

Finally, I believe we need to see him with new eyes. We can magnify Jesus in our lives. Here’s how one person described Jesus, and it magnifies Jesus!

What do you think about Jesus?

14 Feb

What is the first word or image that comes to your mind when you think of Jesus?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe crucifixion, resurrection, his birth? Miracles?

A guy with long brown hair, beard, chiseled face, wearing white robes and sandals?

When is the last time you thought about Jesus?

Writers Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet, in their book Jesus Manifesto, say “Christians are starved for a real experience of the living Christ. We know a lot about our Lord, but we don’t know Him very well.”

Is that true?

Last week we saw how Jesus’ own hometown neighbors, family and friends didn’t know him. He spent 30 years growing up as the boy next door. The carpenter’s son. He goes away like so many others were at the time, to get baptized by John.  Then he spends 40 days in the desert, and starts his ministry of preaching.   That ministry is off to a great start, and word spreads fast that there is a new superstar preacher in the area. And he does miracles!   Jesus is only gone a couple months, maybe, when he returns to Nazareth. The newly famous son returns home. On the Sabbath, he enters the synagogue and within a span of a few minutes into his first sermon before the hometown crowd, he has them so fired up, they’re ready to kill him.

Huh? How could they do this?

They didn’t know him. They thought they knew him, but he turned out to be very different.

Do you know him?

This week, after Jesus leaves Nazareth, Luke tells us that his next stop is the town of Capernaum.  How will the people there react to him?  Check out Luke 4:31-44 to find out, and join us at Faith Church tomorrow for worship.  Maybe you’ll (re)discover Jesus!

What if Jesus turns out to be someone we don’t like? – Luke 4:14-30

11 Feb

What if Jesus turns out to be someone we don’t like?

In Luke 4:14-30 we read about how Jesus, having just started his preaching ministry, returns to his hometown.  Kinda like the singing competition TV shows.  When they get near the final round, they send the remaining contestants home with a film crew to adoring crowds in their high schools, and the mayor gives them the key to the city. Jesus was the boy next door for 30 years.  But in recent months he went away and has started a reputation for preaching and healing people in nearby towns.

Jesus_Silhouette_by_BkinnIn Nazareth, the townspeople have quite a reaction to their now famous son.  Read the story here.

They had created a mold. Jesus was the carpenter’s son. That’s how they knew him.

On that day, Jesus broke the mold. No longer a carpenter, now he is the Messiah on a mission, and it was a mission that was a whole lot bigger than the town of Nazareth. He couldn’t be contained in the box they had created for him in their minds.

He wasn’t a magician who could just pull out his tricks for them, to entertain them.

He was something wholly other.

I wonder if we have created a box for Jesus.

Is it possible that we have a way of understanding Jesus, of following Jesus, that works very well for us, and is comfortable for us?

I wonder if we really knew him, would we see him break out of that box?

I wonder if that would anger us. Threaten us. Scare us.

Too often our box for Jesus is that Jesus is calm, and meek, and just wants to hug us all the time. 12 years ago Vintage Church created a series of four videos where they took an older Jesus movie and dubbed new vocal tracks. They were doing a four week series on Jesus and they made the videos as satire to reveal how our view of Jesus can be very different from what he actually was and from what he actually wants us to be.  Check them out on YouTube.  Have you put Jesus in a box?

One way to tell if you have put Jesus in a box of your own making, is to think about how you would react if Jesus visited your church.  I think that if Jesus came and read Scripture to us, told us some Bible stories, we wouldn’t get up in anger to throw him off a cliff. I don’t think we do that at all.

I actually think we would be receptive to his teaching.

At least to his face. We would smile. We might nod our heads.

But inwardly we would be thinking “Ok, let’s finish this us, Jesus. I’m hungry and want to get to lunch.”

“That was a nice sermon Jesus, thanks. OK, cool, see you later. I need to get home for football…oh bummer…there’s no more football…what the heck am I going to do this afternoon?”

Do we really hear what Jesus said about his mission, about being his disciples?

Deitrich Bonhoeffer once said that when Jesus calls us to be his disciples, he bids us come and die.

While I don’t think we would try to throw Jesus off a cliff, I wonder if we would take him seriously.  Follow him to death?  Nope, not sure if I’m interested in that.

Philip Yancey has a fascinating book called The Jesus I Never Knew, and his basic premise is that when he opened up the Bible and started studying Jesus, he was shocked. He thought he knew Jesus.   He had grown up in church all his life. Heard the stories of Jesus many times. But when he really started going deep, he met a Jesus that he had never known.

Just the like the people in Nazareth that day, I wonder if Jesus has become the boy next door for us.

But know this:Jesus’ mission is radical, it calls us to give our lives, and I’m convinced that it will probably ruffle our feathers, call us to more, be uncomfortable, and different from what we thought.

It means we’ll have to change.

It means we’ll experience a whole new life, his life, he called it abundant life. And that life will be far better than the American Dream.