What Have We Christians Done? (get ready for a rant)

evernote-camera-roll-20161018-210724We Christians live with such angst about the nature and tenor of our politics.  But look at the real danger to the faith.  It is us!  Check out the headline:  CHURCH ASKS FORGIVENESS FOR BANNING FAT PEOPLE FROM THE WORSHIP TEAM.

In their worship guidelines the New Creation Church lists”excessive weight” along with inappropriate clothing as something that won’t be accepted on the team.  Maybe we want to give them the benefit of the doubt.  After all gluttony is a sin.  Let’s look again at their reasons, “We are the first thing the congregation sees. People do judge by appearance. We never get a second chance to make that first impression. Please be sure that your style and clothing bring honor and glory to God, isn’t excessive and doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself,”

Now check out their apology.  “There has been some media circulating about our Worship Team Guidelines. Forgive us if we offended anyone. That certainly was not our intention. These guidelines have never been used to discriminate against anyone and have never been enforced,”

This is the apology that is not an apology.  “Forgive us if we offended…”  You obviously offended.  Just own it.  But don’t apologize for offending me as much as for offending God and His Bride.  Before you say, “You go Jim.”  Realize now, I am not only speaking to New Creation Church.  I am speaking to all of American (Western) Christendom because this is what we have created!  And it is what we continue to perpetuate.

As long as we have a system of church that is based on attracting people, getting them in the door and then doing all we can to make them stay and pay, this is what we will produce.  We will obsess on the immediate over the long-term, the appearance more than the heart, the tangible over the intangible Kingdom of God.  We will seek crowds first and the fruit of the Spirit second.

In the words of my friend and colleague, Kent Carlson, “the way we attract people, actually forms them.”  The fact is we have tried the old bait and switch for more than a generation.  We have produced greater and greater shows, drawing people into our religious malls where they can choose their product.  We thought we could get them in and in time, they would choose to “deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Jesus.”  But instead we have reinforced our own patterns of consumerism and consumption.  The results are a shallower and not even broader form of Christianity.

Disciples are not formed by having attractive people on the stage.  Disciples are formed as they live in community with others under the lordship of Christ.  Have you ever wondered what the unbeliever should experience, if they happen to wander into our services?

Paul describes it this way.  “…if all prophesy (declares truth), and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you (1 Cor. 14:24-25).”

Don’t hear from me that quality doesn’t matter.  We should be giving God a worthy sacrifice.  But it is a sacrifice of substance, rather than a sacrifice of appearance. It is and offering for His good pleasure, not to appease the whims of the masses of unregenerate souls.  Treating guests well is important.  Hospitality matters as an expression of our love for God and others.

Nor is this a rant against big churches.  Larger churches can provide a powerful witness when they are making disciples who are being formed by the Spirit and the Word.  They can also often accomplish great Kingdom works that a smaller church can’t.

But our life together should not display how we have it all together.  It should reveal our weakness, humility, and neediness for God’s grace and mercy.  The faith is not just for pretty people.  Nor is the goal of faith to make people pretty.  Faith in Christ seeks to transform our emptiness into a fullness that the world can drink from.  Now that would be a show the world needs to see.

As always, thanks for reading, liking, sharing and commenting.

What is Jesus Full Of?

This is the last in a series on John 1:1-18.  To start from the beginning, click HERE.


And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” (John 1:14–18, ESV)

A word that grabs my attention appears twice in these verses: “full,” and “fullness.”  These words, are from the same Greek word, “pleireis.”  It speaks of the contents and the completeness of what fills a container.  So a pitcher of milk, filled to the brim. Or, a reservoir that has raised to the tops of its banks.  Why is this so important in these verses?  Because the John uses the word to point us to what can be expected from Christ, and who might expect it.

First, let’s think about the contents of the container.  The Word came and dwelt among us… In simpler terms, Jesus, the Son of God and agent of creation, came to live as a human being.  But he did so, being filled with something.  What is the content of his fullness?  It is “grace and truth.”  Jesus was filled with grace and truth.  These two inseparable elements draw us into the very nature of God himself.  Grace and truth.  Like mercy and justice, compassion and holiness, forgiveness and righteousness, they seem like opposites, but when taken together they form a life-affirming tapestry of beauty and strength.

Now let’s look at the capacity of the container.  If a lake is our source of water and it is filled to the brim with clean, clear water, that is good.  But if it is a lake that is 20 feet in diameter and 3 feet deep, it won’t provide water to many.  So, what is Jesus’ capacity to give this grace and truth?  His capacity is determined by who he is.  His “glory is as of the Son from the Father.”  He comes after John, but “ranks before me, because he was before me.”  “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side…”  Jesus is the Eternal One.  He was with the Father in eternity past.  His capacity for grace and truth is immeasurable.  The stars in the sky, the sand of the sea, and the myriad intentions of the human heart are all held in the palm of his hand.

What does this mean?  In the words of John, from the contents and the capacity of Christ, we all have received “grace upon grace.”  His coming has heaped on us gift upon gift.  He comes, he loves, he serves, he sacrifices, he lives again, he invites, he leads.  He offers truth, grace, mercy, kindness, hope, joy, immortality… the very fullness of life.  And because of his capacity, he gives this to all who receive.  He has enough for everyone to get a full measure!

These opening words of the gospel of John reveal to us that the world begins, continues and ends with the Word.  The Word is He who brings us life.  By coming, living, dying and living again, he offers the grace of God to each and every one.  This is his message.  This is our hope!  Rejoice!  He has come.  He still comes to us today.  He will come again.

My prayer in this series of posts is that Christ is magnified!  My hope is that we get a clear picture that life and light have forever been in Him.  And our only hope for all the goodness God offers us is in the One who came and joined our lives with His life.

Thanks again for the likes, shares and comments!

Do You See Him?

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9–13, ESV)

Have you ever not been known?  A few years back after heart surgery and started a new health regimen.  I had lost about 70 pounds.  I went to a Conference and I saw a couple of friends who had moved away from our town a few months before my big life change.  I walked up, joined a circle of conversation and stood right next to these two people.  Not wanting to interrupt a conversation, I stood and listened.  I had been their pastor.  I had been to their home.  I had prayed with them for their family.  I stood there for a few minutes.  Finally, I piped up and added my comment to the conversation.  The woman looked at me with the weirdest look.  She was obviously hearing a voice she knew come out someone she didn’t.  Finally she said, “Jim!?  Is that you?”  We all laughed a bit.  But it was a little disconcerting.  Over the next few days I saw a lot of friends who didn’t know me.  I found myself saying “Hey ______, Jim Renke!  Good to see you.”

That happened with friends.  I can’t imagine it happening with my kids. That would break my heart.  I can’t imagine not being known by the ones I helped create!  That was Jesus’ experience, but multiplied.  “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.”  Can you think of a more crushing statement?  That sums up the world’s experience with Christ.  He shows up and the world he created misses it because we are alienated from God.  We don’t have eyes to see Him.  We only see ourselves.

John goes on to explain something even more alienating.  “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”  He came to his people, the nation of Israel as the promised Messiah King.  He was a Jew and came as the Jewish Messiah.  He came to bring a kingdom of grace.  But, for the most part, they didn’t accept him.  They just didn’t recognize the light.  They rejected him.  They refused his right to rule and reign over them and the world.

But John does tell us that this Light, who gives light to everyone, is received by some.  Even today, some do see who he is.  And to those who receive him, he reestablishes the relationship that was there at creation.  He restores us to a place of oneness.  He gives us a place in his family.  He births us to a new life that flows from the will of God.

I’m encouraged by this passage to always be open to receiving the light, who is Christ.  Because, while the light is for everyone, not everyone experiences the life it brings.  We must receive him.  How do I receive him?  I start every day with an openness to the life he gives.  It is a life in another kingdom.  It is a life with him as Lord.  It is a life that is found solely in the will of my Creator God.  Are you open to that life?  Then stop and see Him and receive the Light as your light.  And there we will find life!

Click here if you’d like to read from the beginning of the series.

Thanks for reading.  As always, likes, comments and shares are appreciated!

The next in this series is here.

Be Encouraged and Challenged in Prayer

Prayer is one of the greatest blessings.  Yet most of us believe we are missing something in our prayer.  Prayer, at its core, is a conversation with God.

The following links are videos that we developed to use with leaders.  Our goal is to see believers step into a conversation with God that is increasingly rich.  Please feel free to use them with small groups, or leader boards.  I pray they will be of encouragement and spur you toward the Lord in prayer.

Prayer and Mission Pt. 1
Prayer and Mission Pt. 2
Prayer and Mission Pt. 3
Prayer and Mission Pt. 4

You can download a handout here…prayer-and-mission-video-hdt

They include Pastor Kent Carlson who is now VP of Leader Formation at the North American Baptist Conference, and Dr. Paul Covert who is Pastor of Prayer at Central Christian Church, Mesa, AZ.

Special thanks to Kent Carlson and Paul Covert for their invaluable service and commitment to a life and ministry of prayer.

How does the Light spread?

This is post #3 in a series.  If you want to see what came before, LOOK HERE.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6–9, ESV)

light_dispersion_conceptual_waves350pxLike the Sun bears witness that there is such a thing as light, so God sent a man.  His name was John.  He was Jesus’ first cousin.  We know him from the Gospels as John the Baptist, or more accurately, John the bapitzer.  He did a lot of things and yet only one thing.  He preached.  He ate locusts and honey.  He dressed like a prophet of old.  He confronted people about what God thought about right and wrong.  And he offered the path of repentance as preparation for the coming kingdom of God.  And the kingdom would be in a person.  That person is The Word, we’ve been hearing about in John 1:1-5.

John had a reputation.  He made an enormous impact in this world before his head was place on a silver platter.  Here was the Apostle affirming John’s ministry, but also reminding people that John was only a servant of higher purpose, a higher person.

John’s one job was to bear witness about the light.  The light of God was breaking into the world.  It was going to change everything.  And John was the advance team.  He was prying open eyes, so they might see that glimpse of light and life.  In these short verses, I see a couple of vital things that we must remember if we are going to bear witness to the Light.
  1. A witness has a something to say.  A witness understands the implications of what she/he has experienced.  And a witness tells.  We tell the story of the Light of Life.  We tell the story of the in-breaking of God’s Son and His Kingdom.  We tell the story of His grace and love.  We have a story worth telling.
  2. A witness is not the person, event, or story that is important.  Clearly, it is said of John the bapitzer, “He was not the light…”  No matter how influential he was, he was not HIM.  Witnesses don’t make the story about them.  They tell the story of the Light.  We all know witnesses who would rather witness about themselves than the One who came.  Let’s keep it about Jesus.
  3. A witness is more than a gossip.  We don’t just spread news.  We share so others may believe.  We have a purpose.  It isn’t to entertain, or get attention.  It is to show a way, the way of life in the Kingdom, through the Word.  Let’s tell so others can believe.
  4. A witness is indiscriminate in who he/she tells.  If the Light is life for everyone, then the announcement is for them.  So, whether we find ourselves along the banks of the Jordan River, or the 67th floor of the Willis Tower, or with a group of preschoolers in Sunday School, we say what we can say about the One who came and still comes into the lives of women and men.  Look at all those around you as those who need to know.

As always, thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing as you see fit!  But most of all, thank you for sharing the Light we all need.

You can see the next post here!

When Life & Light Broke In


“In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  John 1:4-5

In John 1:1-3, John points his readers back to creation.  You can read about that HERE.

In verses 4 & 5, John continued the thought about who the Word (the Son, Jesus) really was.  If we thought His person and work began as a child in the manger, or even as one who was conceived of the virgin Mary, we’d be wrong.  He is the One who created.

John moves us from the idea of creating all things (rainbows, trees, puppies and people) to even more basic elements of life and light.  In mentioning life and light, John reminds us of two things that were necessary for creation.  Remember Genesis 1:2?  In this verse it says, “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the earth.”  The Son was not just one who formed creation.  Life and light were needed to form and fill the creation.  Without them, the universe would be a dead, dark ball of rock hurtling through space.  And life and light were IN HIM.

We think of life purely as a biological function.  If we think that light is created by the Sun, we couldn’t be more wrong.  In the order of creation light existed before the Sun (day 1 and 4 respectively).  And in the New Heaven and New Earth there will be no sun.  Why?  “For the Lord God will be their light… (Revelation 22:5).” Life and light are not accidents of nature, nor the result of an impersonal bang.  Life and light have always been and will always be in Him!

John wrote that this life is our light.  The life which emanates from God directs us back to Him and delivers us from darkness.

John wrote, “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  The light that flows from the life of God broke into the dark space of the universe.  It began the movement that was creation.  Everywhere it went it made darkness run.

Darkness has never conquered light.  Light always dispels darkness.  It pushes the darkness into the shadows where it may wait, but it can never advance against the light.  Later in the gospel, we will see what happens when the life and light of God breaks into creation again.  It will rock the world and set it on a course toward the new, redeemed and restored creation.

What does all this mean?

  1. John informs us the Word (The Son, The Christ) is the source of elements that are necessary for us.  The material world doesn’t provide what we depend on, or long for.
  2. John prepares us for appreciating the in-breaking of life and light in the coming of The Word.
  3. John also helps us anticipate the victory of the light and life of God.  The darkness that seems to be marching victoriously through our world is no match for the life and light of the Word.  It couldn’t stand in creation and it can’t stand now.

Prayer:  O God, my God!  You are life.  You are light.  Let me know by experience that all I need and all I long for is in You.  Your Word, the Christ, is the One who began all things and the One who continues His work of bringing us toward a victorious future.  Forgive me for the times when I’ve believed Your Son (by action and word) as less than He is.  Forgive me for the times when I give up on your light.  Forgive me for the times when I let go of your life.  Renew and restore me by pushing darkness out of my life and filling me with the light and life of Your Spirit.


As always, Comments, shares and subscriptions are encouraged and appreciated!

Where Did Jesus Come From?


In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that was made.  (John 1:1)

If we want to know about someone, we go back to their origin.  Psychology has come to understand that family of origin is crucial to gaining perspective.  John used the same tack in helping us understand Christ.  He wants us to understand Christ fully.  So he takes us back to the beginning.  But it isn’t Jesus’ beginning… it’s the beginning of creation.  We can’t know anything about Christ before we existed.  He was simply “in the beginning with God.”

John’s opening words echo the words of Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created…”  The beginning is that timeless time before time when God as Father, Son and Spirit alone existed.  It was the moment in forever when God would act and begin the work that would create us.  That’s where the Word was.  That’s who the Word was with.

And then the Word made all things.  How did that happen?  I think it’s interesting that John referred to Jesus as “the Word.”  And how did God create in Genesis 1?  He created through His Word.  He spoke, “Let there be light!”  The Word, or the Son is clearly the agent of God in creating all things.  God speaks, the Word moves.  The Father wills, the Son makes it happen.

Look at his involvement again.  “without him was not anything made that was made.”  Some people say there is room in Scripture for God creating the world over millions of years.  There may be.  But there is no room for a process of creation that doesn’t need the Son to bring into existence everything that is new.  Every new gene, every new element, every new atom was brought into existence by the Word of God, who is the eternal Son.

Matthew’s genealogy takes us back to Abraham.  Luke’s genealogy takes us back to Adam.  John’s takes us back to the time before time.  And confirms that the Word is there!  And he is active – the agent of God – through whom all things exist and move and live.

Most of us create an image of Christ that is much smaller than who He really is.  In doing that we limit his importance, his authority and his power in our life and world.  In your heart and mind, don’t just place him in a manger, or even on the cross, but place him at the beginning; conferring with and acting on behalf of the Father.  Today, worship the Christ who brings about the creative will of God. Thank the Son, without whom we would never exist and never have the hope of knowing the Father.

How have you limited Christ and his role in your life?

See the next post on John 1:4-5 here.

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