Anthony Parker KNLS.ORG, World Christian Broadcasting Alaska... http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading.html Sun, 30 Apr 2017 20:29:42 +0000 Joomla! 1.5 - Open Source Content Management en-gb John, the Apostle http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/121-john-the-apostle.html http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/121-john-the-apostle.html Transportation is much easier, faster, and less expensive than it used to be. We want to arrive at our destination spending the least time, effort, and money possible. Seldom do we take time to just enjoy the road we are traveling.

In our journeys of faith, we also usually focus on the destinations—perhaps a spiritual experience or an eternal reward. It’s in the process of traveling, however, that we are changed—and this transformation is essential if we are to reach our ultimate destination.

When Jesus started making public appearances, teaching about and demonstrating God's reign in the world, some people were so eager to hear such good news that they were ready to follow him without question. And Jesus knew just who they were.

One day, Jesus saw some fishermen. Some were casting their nets into the lake; others were working to repair their torn nets. When Jesus called them, they immediately left what they were doing and followed him. One of these fishermen was named John. He, along with his brother, James, suddenly left their father's fishing business and followed Jesus.[1]

We don't really know what John was thinking. Like many people, he believed that Jesus was bringing in a new age, but also like many others, he misunderstood what that new age would look like. Whatever John's misconceptions, he set out on a journey that would forever change him.

John had a fiery temper—a character trait that earned him and his brother the nickname “Sons of Thunder”[2] John developed a tremendous loyalty toward Jesus. Sometimes, in fact, Jesus had to rebuke him for being too loyal.

Once John reported to Jesus that a man who was not a part of their group of disciples was driving out demons in Jesus' name. John told the man to stop. He probably thought that this man was not qualified to represent Jesus. Jesus, however, didn't feel threatened. He told John not to hinder the man. Jesus said that as long as someone wasn't opposing him, they were on his side.[3]

Not long after that, John offered to call down fire from heaven on a village that had refused to welcome Jesus. John believed he could do it, and assumed that this was what Jesus wanted. Jesus rebuked John for his aggressive attitude and moved on to another village.[4]

I can't help but think that in spite of John’s over-zealousness, Jesus still appreciated John's loyalty. John shared a special relationship with Jesus. He was one of three disciples whom Jesus chose to be with him on special occasions.[5] The New Testament gospel that bears John's name identifies its author as “the disciple who Jesus loved.”[6] Jesus shared such a close relationship with John, the beloved disciple, that he even trusted him with the care of his own mother.[7]

John's loyalty was rewarded with Jesus' trust. After Jesus' resurrection, John testified to what he had experienced, even under fierce persecution. While John retained his boldness, his experience of receiving Jesus' love also had a softening effect.

The New Testament preserves three letters written by John, who became known as “the apostle of love.” In these letters, we sometimes catch glimpses of the fiery-tempered “Son of Thunder,” but the dominant message is John’s repeated plea to believers to “love one another,” to seek the good of others ahead of their own. John’s priorities had changed a great deal from the time when, as a much younger man, he selfishly vied for the position of prime minister in Jesus’ kingdom.

How had a Son of Thunder become the apostle of love? I think the answer is this: John may not yet have arrived at his destination, but he was still on a journey with Jesus. As he walked in the Way of Jesus, he was changed.

John wrote about what Jesus called his “new commandment.” That new commandment was this: “Love one another.” By itself, there was nothing new about the commandment. God had long ago told his people to love their neighbors as themselves. What was new, however, was the degree of love. Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”[8]

John had not only listened to Jesus teach, but he had watched how he lived, and finally watched how he died for others. Jesus’ own sacrifice had shown John what love really was. John also wrote, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”[9] It’s by looking to Jesus that John—and we—can know what it really means to love.

If we really experience such love, we ourselves will be changed. John wrote, “And we ought to lay down our lives for one another.”[10] When we receive the salvation that comes through Jesus’ sacrifice, not only are we cleansed from our sins, but our lives are changed by his love.

Laying down our lives for one another may demand that we die physically. But it usually involves something more immediate and practical. John writes, “If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need and has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in you?”[11]

John’s gospel tells that Jesus called himself “The Way,” the road that we travel to get to God. John himself traveled that road, and he invites us on the journey as well. The destination may seem far away, but let’s enjoy the journey, and be changed as we travel with Jesus!

 


[1] Mark 1:19-29

[2] Mark 3:17

[3] Luke 9:49-50

[4] Luke 9:51-56

[5] The transfiguration (Matt 17:1f), the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37f), and in Gethsemane (Mt. 26:36f).

[6] John 18:23; 21:20-24

[7] John 19:25-26

[8] John 13:34, NIV

[9] 1 John 3:16a, TNIV

[10] 1 John 3:16b, TNIV

[11] 1 John 3:17, TNIV

]]>
khtan@worldchristian.org (Anthony Parker) Anthony Parker Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:58:33 +0000
Thomas: Walking the Road with Jesus http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/120-thomas-walking-the-road-with-jesus.html http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/120-thomas-walking-the-road-with-jesus.html There is an ancient story that, after Jesus was raised from the dead, the apostles drew lots to decide which ones would go to various parts of the world to tell people the good news. One apostle was chosen to go to the land of India, but he didn't want to go because he thought that, as a Hebrew, he would not be able to relate to the Indians. Even after receiving a vision from Jesus, he still hesitated.

This disciple, however, was eventually sold as a slave, and was taken to India and placed in the service of a king in northern India, a king who eventually became a follower of Jesus.

Since this story is not in the Bible, we can't be sure whether all of the details are true. But even today, there are followers of Jesus in India who trace their origins back to one of the earliest missionaries—the apostle Thomas.

Most people who have heard of Thomas remember him for a different reason. In fact, his name is almost always spoken in derision. Somebody who has a hard time believing what others tell him might be referred to as a “doubting Thomas.”

It's true that Thomas had his doubts, but he also displayed a willingness to believe. In fact, each time that Thomas encounters Jesus, we are led to deeper understanding of who Jesus is and—if we are willing to believe—to a greater faith in him.

In the first encounter, Jesus received news that his close friend, Lazarus, was gravely ill. Lazarus' sisters, Mary and Martha, sent word to Jesus in hope that he would come and heal him. Jesus delayed his trip, however, and Lazarus died. Only after Lazarus' death did Jesus suggest to his disciples that they all go to Mary and Martha's home in Bethany.

The disciples didn't think this was a good idea. The last time Jesus had gone to that area, the people had tried to kill him. However, one of the disciples—Thomas—bravely spoke up. He said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”[1]

Thomas was willing to make the journey with Jesus—a journey that demanded faith. Thomas may not have understood Jesus' purposes, but he showed intense loyalty.

As it happened, Jesus followers did go with him, and Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. But this miracle wasn't about Lazarus. It was about Jesus and who he is.

As Jesus said to Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies ... .”[2]

On another occasion, just a few days before Jesus' death, he encouraged his disciples. He promised that, even though he was going away, he would prepare a place for them, and would return one day to take them there. Then he baffled his disciples by saying, “You know the way to where I am going.” [3]

All of the disciples were confused, but only one dared question the Teacher. Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”[4] It was an honest question. Thomas was loyal to Jesus, but that didn't mean that he wasn't going to ask questions.

Thomas' question moved Jesus to make one of the clearest statements of his identity and purpose that we find in Scripture.

When Thomas said that he didn't know the way, Jesus said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[5]

Jesus' claim to be “the Way,” was an invitation to Thomas—and to us—to follow him on that way as we take our journey of faith.

After the death of Jesus, some of his followers were gathered in a locked room, but Thomas was not there. Suddenly, Jesus, who had risen from the dead, appeared in the room with them. These disciples spread the news among the others, but one of them was not so eager to believe. Again, Thomas was asking questions. He refused to believe unless he could see and touch the wounds in Jesus' body.

A week later, Jesus appeared again, and this time Thomas was present. Jesus invited Thomas to touch his side that had been pierced by a spear. With the risen Lord before him, Thomas moved forward on his journey of faith. He exclaimed, “My Lord and my God!”[6]

This is earliest recorded example of anyone explicitly confessing Jesus as God. For Thomas, this was a personal statement that he belonged to Jesus. Thomas says, “'My Lord, and my God.'

In recording Thomas' declaration, the Holy Spirit is inviting us to make the same confession—not a statement from a creed, but a personal life-changing decision.

By the time John wrote his gospel, his readers, like us, no longer had the opportunity to examine Jesus' body. That's why he records Jesus' next words. Jesus told Thomas, "Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."[7]

Jesus wants us to know that our faith can be just as real as the faith of those who physically saw him. Even though we are not eye-witnesses of the resurrection, we still have a testimony to bear.

Though Thomas may have gotten a bad name, it's through his encounters that we have a clearer picture of who Jesus is.

Jesus says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
Thomas exclaims, “My Lord and my God!”

What a journey Thomas was on! If you believe this, you're making great progress on that same journey—your journey of faith.

 


[1] John 11;16, NIV

[2] John 11:25-26, NIV

[3] John 14:4, CEV

[4] John 14:5, NIV

[5] John 14:6, NIV

[6] John 20:28, NIV

[7] John 20:29, NIV

]]>
khtan@worldchristian.org (Anthony Parker) Anthony Parker Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:31:12 +0000
“Who was I to Argue?” http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/119--who-was-i-to-argue.html http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/119--who-was-i-to-argue.html In the 1960s, George Wallace was governor of the state of Alabama in the United States. America was going through great changes at that time but some, like Governor Wallace, resisted change—even good change.[1]

One thing that was changing was racial prejudice. For years, many Americans had been segregated—kept apart—from other Americans. Americans whose ancestors had come as slaves from Africa—black Americans—had been denied equality and opportunity. This was especially true in southern States like Alabama. By the 1960s, however, attitudes in much of the country had changed and most people felt that everyone should be given equal opportunity.

Some, however, resisted the change. When he first became governor, Wallace promised that there would always be segregation in Alabama. When the first African-American students were admitted to the University of Alabama, Wallace stood in the doorway to block their entrance.

Governor Wallace could not, however, stop the changes—good changes—that were occurring in Alabama and throughout America. Change came in spite of Wallace’s opposition.

Later in his life, Governor Wallace became a follower of Jesus Christ, and realized how wrong he had been. He renounced his racism and asked black people—including the students—to forgive him. He said that while he once sought power and glory, he realized he needed to seek love and forgiveness. In his final term as governor, he appointed many black Alabamians to government positions.

There is a story in the New Testament that is very similar. The earliest followers of Jesus were all Jews, descended from Abraham through his son Isaac. Although Jesus himself was a Jew, he told his followers to “go and make disciples of all nations.”

There was, however, much to be done among the Jews, and Jesus’ disciples seemed to forget about telling the good news about Jesus to everyone.

One day, all of this changed for a man named Peter. God sent Peter a vision to show him that he should reject nothing—and no one—that God had created. While God was teaching Peter these lessons, he was also working in the life of Cornelius, a commander in the Roman army.

Not only was Cornelius not Jewish, he was part of a foreign military force occupying Peter’s country—a force that the Jewish people bitterly resented. Cornelius, however, was a man who believed in God, and who was generous toward the poor. It seems that he had rejected the pagan ideas of his culture and accepted the Jewish understanding of one God who is over the entire world. Cornelius did not know, however, that it was only by faith in Jesus that he could approach God and be in a right relationship with him.

The Bible teaches us that God earnestly desires to bring us into a relationship with him. He will do amazing things to make that possible—including sending Jesus into the world to live and to die for us. And he will do amazing things to let us know what he has done for us.

God sent a heavenly messenger to tell Cornelius to send for Peter. Of course, the angel himself could have told Cornelius about Jesus, but God was not just interested in Cornelius—he also had something to teach Peter and all who were already following Jesus.

When the men that Cornelius had sent came looking for Peter, he understood what God had been trying to teach him. Peter not only taught Cornelius and his family about Jesus and baptized them into Jesus Christ, he stayed in their home and ate with them for several days. That was an act that would have made him ritually unclean in the eyes of the Jews.

When the Jewish Christians heard what Peter had done, some of them questioned and criticized him. But Peter explained how he had arrived in Cornelius’ house and how he had unmistakably seen that God had accepted their faith. Peter asked, “If God gave to them the same gift He gave to us after we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I stand against God?”[2]

When the importance of what had happened finally sank in, the Jewish believers began praising God, as they exclaimed, “It's really happened! God has broken through to the other nations, opened them up to Life!”[3]

God not only worked to bring salvation to Cornelius and his household, he also saved the church of that day from continuing in deeply worn patterns of prejudice and exclusion. Sadly, there have been times when Jesus’ followers have slipped back into those patterns, but that is not God’s will for his people.

What about you? What are the patterns in your life—patterns of prejudice, pride, resentment toward other people, habits that do not honor God—that God wants you to change? What about God’s work in your own life? He wants to draw you into a close relationship with him.

Ask yourself the same question Peter asked, “Who am I to think that I can oppose God?”

Don’t oppose God, but join with him in opening your heart to him, and to all the people he has created!

 


[1] Information about George Wallace is taken from the article “George Wallace” found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wallace .  Viewed 9 March 2007.

[2] Acts 11:17, New Life Version (NLV)

[3] Acts 11:18, MSG

]]>
khtan@worldchristian.org (Anthony Parker) Anthony Parker Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:17:57 +0000
“My God, My God, Why Have You Forsaken Me?” http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/118--my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me.html http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/118--my-god-my-god-why-have-you-forsaken-me.html “In the National Gallery of Art in London there's a picture of the crucifixion [of Jesus] that is so dark that when you first look at it, you can't see anything. But if you stand and ponder it ... eventually you will see ... a very dim figure of the crucified Christ. If you look longer ..., you ... begin to discern behind the figure of Christ the presence of God the Father, whose hands are holding up his Son, and on his face is a look of unimaginable grief.”[1]

If ever there was a question that deserved an answer, it's the question posed by Jesus Christ as he was dying. He was being executed by one of the most horrific methods ever devised. He was being crucified.

Crucifixion was not only a painful, but was a shameful way to die. The condemned person's wrists and legs were tied and often nailed to large wooden beams, and the body was left hanging in public view for hours, sometimes days, until the person died.

Jesus was God's messenger who went about doing good, healing multitudes, feeding thousands, freeing many from the control of demons, and telling people how to enter the reign of God.[2] He had done nothing to deserve such a death. But even the most righteous prophets—precisely because they are righteous—are perceived as a threat by those who hold power. Jesus' followers believed—and Jesus himself claimed—that he had a special relationship with God, a relationship so unique that he called God his own Father[3], and claimed, “I and the Father are One.”[4]

In Jesus' day, those who wielded political power also guarded religious orthodoxy. Perhaps they would have accepted Jesus' claims if he had come leading an army and bringing political liberation. But they could never accept someone who taught his followers to love their enemies.

And so Jesus, though he was faultless, was hanging on a cross, dying an excruciating death. He had prayed that this moment would not come, yet when it did, he did not try to escape. As he hung there on the cross, however, an overwhelming sense of alone-ness must have overtaken him. He had always felt so close to God—even being One with him. But now ... now he felt alone.

So he cried out some of the saddest words ever uttered. Words that hung in the air so powerfully that they are recorded for us in Jesus' native language: “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” —and the interpretation is provided, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”[5]

These words pierce our hearts just as the nails pierced Jesus' flesh. Some people find them intolerable, and refuse to believe that God would have allowed his Son to be crucified. Others believe that God really did abandon Jesus—that a holy and pure God was forced to turn his back on the One who was bearing the sins of the whole world.

They may be right, but I find it just as likely that Jesus really did share an experience that many of us have felt. He experienced the feeling of being abandoned by God even though, just as in the painting, God was present with him, supporting him through the pain and suffering with him.

Christians believe in a God who enters into our world and who suffers with us. John Stott has written,

“I could never myself believe in God if it were not for the cross. ... In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? ... I turn to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death.”Stott continues by saying,

“He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of his. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we boldly stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.”[6]

Have you, like Jesus, felt forsaken by God?

That doesn't make you a bad person. God knows just how you feel. Jesus was guiltless, without sin, yet he felt that way. You are human—and Jesus shared in your humanity.

Even though Jesus may have felt abandoned by God, he was not. Yes, he died. But death was not the end. Jesus was raised from the dead—and not just from the dead, he was raised to reign eternally!

The first ones to proclaim this message understood that the prophet David had foreseen this long before. He had spoken about Jesus in the ancient Psalms when he wrote, “you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, you will not allow your holy one to see decay.”[7]

Have you ever felt forsaken by God? It's a normal, even understandable feeling.

“My God, why have you forsaken me?” is a question that deserves an answer. The answer may be slow in coming, but the answer is that you have never really been abandoned by God. He may, as in the painting, be out of view, but He is there, to deliver and to rescue you, just as he was for Jesus.

Many times God saves us from suffering. Sometimes he saves us through suffering. Yes, there are questions that are still unanswered. But over those question marks is the sign of the cross—a sign that says, “You are not forsaken.”

 


[1] Bruce W. Thielemann, “The Cry of Mystery,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 66.

[2] Acts 10:36-37

[3] John 5:18

[4] John 10:30

[5] Matt. 27:46, TNIV

[6] John R. W. Stott, The Cross of Christ (IVP, 1986), pp. 335-336.

[7] Acts 2:27, TNIV, cf. Psalm 16:10.

]]>
khtan@worldchristian.org (Anthony Parker) Anthony Parker Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:14:22 +0000
Who am I? http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/117-who-am-i.html http://www.knls.org/reading-pleasure-main/anthony-parker-reading/117-who-am-i.html “Who am I?” This is a question that desperately needs to be answered. Unless we have a strong sense of our own identity, we're likely to live our lives without direction—unsure of where we have come from or where we are going.

Who am I? It's an important question.

People seek to answer this question—to search for their identities—in different ways. Some find their identity in the nation, the ethnic group, or the family into which they're born. Others find it in their professional, athletic, or artistic accomplishments. Still others adopt a philosophy or system of faith that gives them their identity.

“Who am I?”

Many cannot answer this question. They do not belong to a group that they can take pride in—they haven't accomplished anything they consider noteworthy—and they're not sure what they believe.

One of the most important and well-known characters in the Bible once posed this question. Many think of this man as someone who must have been sure of who he was—but one time in his life he was not.

God had decided to bless all people through the family of Abraham. Isaac was one of Abraham's sons, and Jacob was Isaac's son. God gave Jacob the name “Israel.” When Jacob's family faced famine, God led them to Egypt where one of his sons had already become a powerful leader. God saved the people of Israel by leading them into Egypt.

After many generations, however, the king of Egypt, Pharaoh, grew to fear the Israelites and began to oppress and enslave them. When their numbers continued to grow, he ordered that all Israelite boys be killed at birth. When that didn't work, he sent his soldiers to drown them in the river.

At this time, Moses was born in Egypt to Israelite parents. As a baby, Moses was spared when he was adopted by Pharaoh's own daughter and raised in his household. Moses knew, however that he was not an Egyptian and, when he had grown up, he killed an Egyptian who was beating an Israelite.

Because of this he had to flee and become a shepherd in a mountainous wilderness. There he married and started his family.

But Moses was a man without an identity. He had been born an Israelite, but was not among his people. He had been raised as an Egyptian, even as royalty, but had been rejected. Far from being a prince of Egypt, he had become a lowly shepherd—not exactly an occupation to boast about. He had received an Egyptian education, but did not worship their gods—neither did he really know the God of his ancestors.

Until, that is, the day God spoke to him. Moses was out tending the sheep when he saw a bush on fire—on fire, but it did not burn up. Moses went closer. As he drew near, he heard a voice, a voice that called his name. Moses answered the call, and the voice told him to remove his sandals, because he was standing on holy ground.

The voice then identified itself: it was the voice of God! Not one of the Egyptians gods, but the God of Moses' ancestors—the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and Jacob. That God had heard the cries of the oppressed Israelites, and was ready to deliver them from Egypt.

God told Moses, “Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”1

With such a direct order from God, you might think that Moses would have obeyed immediately. But Moses had such little sense of identity that he had no confidence in his ability to do what God was demanding.

He replied, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”2

“Who am I?” Moses asked.  Who was he, indeed?

For one thing, Moses was God's creation. He was made, like all people, in God's likeness—and therefore, like all people, he was filled with infinite value and worth. Not only that, Moses was one of God's people. He was descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and therefore heir to the promises that God had made to his ancestors. What's more, God had a purpose for Moses' life, and had already been preparing him from the day of his birth. Moses had an identity—he just did not know it.

By God's amazing grace, we can all have the same sense of identity. We have all been created by God in his image. Whatever our race, nationality, religion, education, or abilities, we are all equally loved and valued by God. And now, through Jesus, we can all be adopted into God's people. We can be part of the community of believers, where each individual is given unique gifts and plays a valuable role. God offers us an identity in which we can take confidence.

Interestingly, when Moses, asked the question, “Who am I?” God did not answer—at least not directly. Instead, God simply said, “I will be with you.”

You see, the more important question is not, “Who am I? but “Who is God?” If we believe in God, we can believe his assurance that he is with us. If he is with us, then answering his call is not a test of our abilities, but of our faith. What we do for him is not accomplished by who we are, but by his presence in us and with us.


[1] Exodus 3:10, NLT

[2] Exodus 3:11, TNIV

]]>
khtan@worldchristian.org (Anthony Parker) Anthony Parker Tue, 15 Jun 2010 17:09:03 +0000