In the garden, when God and man walked openly, there was a certain freedom and openness that has never existed since. The serpent eventually deceived man and he believed that God was holding out on some of the good life. They didn’t realize that they were living the good life. The punishment for their disobedience was not only being shut out of the garden but a very specific set of curses. One curse was that these people would die, they would return to the dust that they were created from. So the Bible teaches that all people die as a result of this original act of disobedience.
So many times in church we just teach that Jesus came to forgive sins, and while that is true, it is really only half of the gospel. Jesus also came to reverse the curse. I know it might sound crazy but God’s antidote to death is resurrection. Paul says it this way in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. What God really wants for us is forgiveness and a new life.
So in John 11 we find this crazy story of Jesus’ friend, Lazarus dying. When Lazarus died everyone was emotional including Jesus. To comfort those around Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” But then he didn’t just say it; he also showed it by calling Lazarus from the grave. Yet, he didn’t just show it, he lived it by enduring his own death and raising himself up from the dead.
I think the question to be asking is do we believe it? Jesus fundamentally said the same thing? Do we believe that he is the resurrection and the life? Do we believe that we can have a new life?
Words can be life giving, or life taking. Think about the words you’ve said that have translated to action, “with this ring…” Do you remember the first time you looked across an empty space to another person to sincerely say “I love you”? Words do mean something, because they become actions and actions tend to last forever. Do you remember your reaction to some words that you’ve heard, “we should have a baby!” “I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.” Do you remember the sheer emotion that is tied up in these words? The words you say and the words you live by translate to what we do.
The half-brother of Jesus, James says that the tongue is like a rudder of a large ship. What we stay actually steers our life in a certain direction. Jesus reminded his disciples that they would have to give an account on the Day of Judgment, “for every careless word they have spoken.” Then he goes on to say, “For by your words you will be acquitted and your words you will be condemned.” (Matthew 12:36-37) I remember studying the book of Matthew with a friend and when we came across that passage we just sat and stared at each other. We both like to make people laugh and have therefore said many careless words.
I think this is why it is so important that we worship publicly and proclaim what we believe. It struck me when I was reading the gospels that Jesus would say, “go back and tell people what God did for you.” They are just words, but they are words that guide and lead others into love. They are just words that we sing but they remind me of God’s great love for me. Words manifest into emotion and action. This year as I have begun a journey to read through the entire Bible, again, I have noticed how prevalent this theme of words is. It is amazing to me that God cares deeply about what we say to people and how we say it. God’s words actually became flesh in the person of Jesus. If your words became flesh, what would they look like?
On September 15th at 12:45am my friend and mentor Pastor Gordon Coulter went to be with the Lord. He said that God had been so good to him to give him 15 more years of life after his initial battle with cancer. I am glad that I fit in to one of those 15 years. Many of you did too.
Since the passing of Pastor Gordon our Local Board of Administration at the church has turned into a search committee. Their function has been to discern God’s will for our church and to interview, check references and most of all pray. On Monday the 7th the LBA offered me the position. I am continually blown away by what God is doing.
On the 20th of November our church will hold a vote. If the church confirms the recommendation of the LBA then I have agreed to start full-time on January 1, 2012. Thank you all for your continued support and prayer during this time. It has meant a lot to my family and I.
Neighborhood Christian Fellowship is so much more than just me. Over the years here I have seen people get called to ministry. I have seen people make first time decisions to submit their lives to Jesus and I have been fortunate enough to marry, baptize and even bury some wonderful friends. Neighborhood is a place that makes the gospel come alive in the way its members live their lives. It is a little community that continues to be a beacon of light to a larger world.
I am so excited to begin this journey and I hope you will walk this road with me. Thank you for your prayers and please, don’t stop.
My wife and I had dinner with some new neighbors the other day. They are missionaries of a different faith. They are super nice people; we just don’t believe the same things. After dinner the conversation turned to religion. They asked me if I had any questions for them. I did have questions but they weren’t technical, they were narrative. I asked them to tell me the story of their religion. How did it come about? What was their god like? Why do they believe what they believed?
The sad thing was that for people who are so passionate about their religion that they would give up a few years of their life to spread their religion, they didn’t know where to start. I was kind of shocked that they couldn’t answer the question. It wasn’t my intent to trick these people or to be duplicitous in any way. I simply wanted to hear more about them. I believe that embedded within our story are the keys to our being. Our story speaks of our love, our suffering, the good and the bad. Our stories are who we are.
I was really hoping that these missionaries would tell me a good story because I really wanted to understand them. Sometimes it is difficult to understand others. Sometimes when others speak we give them a strange look because it is difficult to understand why they said what they just said. I think stories are powerful.
What if simply by telling stories in your family you could all of the sudden have a more connected family? You could tell stories of life, death, baptisms, weddings, vacations, funny moments, hard times, and God’s provision. I think families are beginning to lose their narrative, and when that is lost their sense of belonging is lost with it. As humans we have a basic need to belong to something. Your family story helps you belong to your family, just like your faith story helps you belong to a religion.
I think it would be sweet if a dad of a 17 year old girl walked into her room and told her the story of the day she was born and how excited he was. How loved would she feel? Even though it might be cheesy she would feel even more deeply connected with who she is as a part of her family.
If you’re a parent I hope you will spend time with your kids telling them their family story. If you follow Jesus, I hope you’ll tell God’s story to your kids. If you love someone I’d challenge you to help them belong by telling them a story today.
I wanted to announce to my friends/readers that my wife and I welcomed our second daughter into the world today. Lucy Michelle Noel Johnson was born at 3:03pm on January 29th. She weighed in at a sizable 9lbs, 11oz, the same as her sister, and 21 1/2in long. My wife and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Thank you all for your prayers, love, support and for swinging by reclaimthebeauty.com
Lucy is here! from Richard Adams on Vimeo.