You Can’t Handle It Now

“I have much more to say to you, but you can’t handle it now.” John 16:12 CEB

In his “farewell discourse” with his disciples, Jesus lets them know there is more, much more, that he would like to say to them, but they can’t handle it at the moment.

How awesome is it that Jesus knew his friends well enough to know their limits and respected them enough to hold off on saying some things to them?

How many times have I unloaded words on people when they were already up-to-here and unable to handle more?

How many times has Jesus wanted to tell me something, but knew I couldn’t handle it?

The discourse continues with some assurances about the role “the Companion” (CEB) plays in communicating. While you can’t handle it “now,” God is already preparing for the moment when you can handle it.

Thanks be to God.

What is God Like?

What is God like? God is revealed in many ways in scripture, but the final word on what God is like is seen in Jesus. What is God like? God is like Jesus. Jesus is the “radiance of God’s glory.” So, if you are wondering what God is like and find yourself confused by different pictures of God in scripture, let Jesus settle your understanding. Jesus is the final word. Check out Hebrews 1:1-3.

Light, Bread, and Water

My brother Josh Patrick writes, “Jesus compares himself to light, bread and water. He illumines the path. He satisfies the appetite. He quenches the thirst.” It’s difficult to overemphasize or exaggerate the importance of keeping my eyes on Jesus. When I turn away from Jesus, I find myself looking for satisfaction and guidance in the wrong places. I want to stay focused on Jesus.

Jesus and Women

Women played an integral role in Jesus’s life and ministry beginning with those listed in Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus (Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Uriah’s wife), the prophetess Anna (Luke 2:36-38), and Mary.  Without Mary to give birth to Jesus and provide his physical nourishment, there would be no story of Jesus. But there is evidence Mary’s influence continued beyond his infancy, which is not surprising when you think of the profound effect a mother has on the spiritual nurturing of her children. Is it coincidence that themes from Mary’s song (the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55) were reflected in Jesus’s preaching and the writings of Jesus’s brother, James?

Mary does not disappear after giving birth to Jesus, but is part of the story throughout the life of Jesus and is even present in the upstairs room (Acts 1:12-14). In addition, Luke, who carefully researches his gospel, includes several stories in chapters 1-2 that only could have come from the witness of Mary.

Jesus welcomes women as disciples and friends (Luke 8:1-3; John 11:1-45; 12:2-8; Matthew 26:6-13; 27:55-56). Jesus affirms the dignity of women, teaches they are not to be treated as objects, and holds them up as positive examples (Matthew 5:28; Luke 21:1-4; Matthew 26:13). Jesus engages women in deep, theological discussions (John 4:1-42; 20:10-18); in fact, in some cases women seem to have a deeper comprehension than do men (Matthew 26:6-13; 28:1-11, 17). Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman resulted in her acting as an evangelist who led many Samaritans in the town to believe because of her testimony. Jesus used illustrations about women and for women, and even presents a feminine metaphor for God (Matthew 12:42; 13:32-34; Luke 15:8-10).

Jesus interacts with women without condescension (Luke 7:36-50; 13:10-17; Mark 5:25-34). Luke often couples stories of Jesus with a man to stories of Jesus with a woman seemingly to emphasize equal treatment (for one example, Luke 7:1-17). Matthew records Jesus holding men and women equally accountable in discipleship (Matthew 10:34-39; 25:1-13) and divorce (5:32; 19:9; see also Mark 10:12). While there is some discussion over exact chronology, most agree that women were the last ones at the cross, the first ones at the tomb, and the first to proclaim the resurrected Jesus (Luke 23:27-29; Matthew 28:1-10; Mark 16:9-11).

When the Pharisees question Jesus about divorce, Jesus seems more interested in talking about marriage (Matthew 19:1-9). As Jesus responds to their questions He emphasizes God’s original plan for human beings in marriage by quoting from Genesis 1:27. God’s original intention for humans was to join male and female so they become “one flesh.” Jesus encourages a restoration of God’s original purpose.

Jesus welcomes women as disciples but does not appoint any women among his original apostles (nor were any Samaritans or Gentiles appointed, it should be noted). But notice what happens as we see the life of Jesus coming to an end at the cross. The men have fled and the women are present — it almost reads as if they are stand-ins for the men (read the entire account with special notice of Matthew 27:55-56, 61; 28:1-10).

Women were (and are) an integral part of the story of Jesus.

Best Church Sign Ever

Messages on church signs often make me cringe.

Some make no sense. Others seem like passive-aggressive attacks.

Still others seem to be smart-aleck.

At one church where I worked a new church sign was purchased. Only after it was installed did people realize the letters were so small you could not even read it from the street. At another the office phones lit up within minutes after a message that could best be described as both passive aggressive and smart-aleck was displayed by a helpful volunteer. It wasn’t long after that I decided if I had any input, the message on the church sign would always be a scripture that bolstered the current theme.

I see the signs all over town. I see them when I am traveling. Maybe I am just too harsh, but I gotta tell you that I don’t like most of the messages I see.

And then it happened…I saw the greatest church sign ever. It happened last Sunday as Lourene and I drove around in downtown St. Louis after visiting a patient in the hospital. It all happened so fast. The traffic was moving quickly. I couldn’t get to my phone in time to snap a photo. So I ventured back to the church yesterday so I could get a good shot of the sign. I was concerned the message might have been changed, but something told me that it probably had not been changed in a long, long time.

Take a good look. What could possibly be better to say about a church than that they feature Jesus?

Remember Jesus Christ

“Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel…” (2 Timothy 2:8).

This week as I was meditating on Paul’s declaration of Jesus as the gospel, I received the following quotation from John Stott.  Without a doubt, the gospel is a story of love.

May the gospel shape our lives and our churches.

Enjoy the words from Stott!

–Bob

“Jesus renounced the joys of heaven for the sorrows of earth, exchanging an eternal immunity to the approach of sin for painful contact with evil in this world.  He was born of a lowly Hebrew mother in a dirty stable in the insignificant village of Bethlehem.  He became a refugee baby in Egypt.  He was brought up in the obscure hamlet of Nazareth, and toiled at a carpenter’s bench to support his mother and the other children in their home.  In due time he became an itinerant preacher, with few possessions, small comforts and no home.  He made friends with simple fishermen and publicans.  He touched lepers and allowed harlots to touch him.  He gave himself away in a ministry of healing, helping, teaching and preaching.   He was misunderstood and misrepresented, and became the victim of men’s prejudices and vested interests.  He was despised and rejected by his own people, and deserted by his own friends.  He gave his back to be flogged, his face to be spat upon, his head to be crowned with thorns, his hands and feet to be nailed to a common Roman gallows.  And as the cruel spikes were driven home, he kept praying for his tormentors, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’   Such a man is altogether beyond our reach.  He succeeded just where we invariably fail.  He had complete self-mastery.  He never retaliated.  He never grew resentful or irritable.  He had such control of himself that, whatever men might think or say or do, he would deny himself and abandon himself to the will of God and the welfare of mankind.  ‘I seek not my own will’, he said, and ‘I do not seek my own glory’.  As Paul wrote, ‘For Christ did not please himself.’ This utter disregard of self in the service of God and man is what the Bible calls love.”

–From “Basic Christianity”  by John Stott (rev. edn. London: IVP, 1971), p. 44.

Write Your Story

reflections on Luke 1:1-4

Luke was not the first to write the story of Jesus. In fact, there were many accounts floating around, many of them based on descriptions shared by eyewitnesses. But Luke wanted people to have a sense of certainty about what they had been taught about Jesus.  So he carefully investigated everything and carefully wrote his account of the story.

Today there are many stories about Jesus floating around. Aloof Jesus. Irrelevant Jesus. Domineering Jesus. Hateful Jesus. Genie Jesus. Insensitive Jesus. Golden Jesus.

Do we share Luke’s concern that people meet the real Jesus?

Are we willing to carefully read the story? Are we willing to carefully write our story about Jesus?

Truth is, whether I want to admit it or not, I am writing my story about Jesus every day. And so are you.

We write with our lives. Each encounter we have with people communicates to them our story of Jesus. Christians wear the name of Jesus. So what people see in us they attribute to Jesus. People form their understanding of Jesus by watching people who wear the name of Jesus. That means we need to carefully read the story. We need to carefully write our story — so they might see Jesus. Real Jesus. Caring Jesus. Listening Jesus. Reaching Jesus. Touching Jesus. Healing Jesus. Compassionate Jesus. Bold Jesus. Praying Jesus. Tender Jesus. Crying Jesus. Crucified Jesus. Resurrected Jesus.

People are looking. People are searching.

Write your story.

Let them see Jesus.

Jesus and People

“People are people and not the keys of a piano.” – Dostoevsky

Jesus always treated people with respect for their humanity.

The disciples did not want to be interrupted by children.
Jesus welcomed them.

The teachers of the law and Pharisees used the woman caught in adultery as a tool to argue about the law.
Jesus responded redemptively.

Follow Jesus as he walks from town to town and you see him noticing people, touching people, talking to people, and allowing people to interrupt his routine. Jesus listens to people, engages people, and responds to them with compassion and love. And Jesus doesn’t steer clear of troubled people. He talks with the hurting. He takes time with those who have been battered by religion. He even cares for those who use religion like a club.

Jesus treats people with honor and respect for their humanity. Jesus allows people to exercise free will, even if that means allowing them to sadly walk away from him.

As I think of how Jesus treated people with dignity, I recall occasions when I have responded to people with compassion, love, forgiveness and a respect for their personhood. But I also remember times when I have treated people very differently. Disdain. Contempt. Disgust. I remember times when I used people for what benefit I could gain from them, with a disregard for their humanity. I remember times when I wanted to control people, with a lack of respect for their free will.

God,
Help me remember, people are people.
People made in Your image.
People You love.
People for whom You gave Your Son.

Open my eyes, that I might see them.
My ears that I might listen.
My heart that I might give them respect and honor.
And forgive me, O God, when I sin against them, and You.

In Jesus’ name,
AMEN