Category Archives: Devotional

God’s People, part 172: Thomas

Read John 20:24-29

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus.’”  (John 11:16, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

HidingCaveofStThomas2010
Rev. Todd praying in “The Hiding Cave of St. Thomas” in Chennai, India back in January of 2010. The Apostle Thomas was believed to be in hiding there on “Little Mount”, prior to being caught and martyred.

Part 172: Thomas. The Apostle Thomas often gets a bad rap as a result of one moment of disbelief. Called to be one of the Twelve, it is rather unfair for him to be given the disparaging nickname of “Doubting Thomas.” We don’t know too much about him prior to his time with Jesus, but we do know that he had the nickname of Didymos (Greek) or Didymus (Latin) or Twin. This probably is an indication that Thomas had a Twin brother; however, there is no way to be certain about that.

It is in the Gospel According to John that we gather the most information on Thomas. Upon being told that Lazarus had died and that Jesus was planning to head down to Bethany, near Jerusalem, to visit with Lazarus’ sisters, the disciples protested for fear that Jesus would get himself captured and killed. This was toward the end of Jesus’ ministry and it was known to them all that the religious leaders, Herodians and scribes were looking to arrest Jesus and have him killed.

In that moment, it was Thomas who said to the rest of the disciples, “Let’s go, too—and die with Jesus” (John 11:16, NLT). For someone who often gets painted as a doubter and “wishy-washy”, this is a pretty bold statement of loyalty to Jesus and his mission. It is clear that Thomas believed they were going to all suffer the same consequence of Jesus and he, loyal to his master, was seemingly ready to suffer those consequences. At least in that moment, as later on in the Garden of Gethsemane, Thomas flees for his life just like the rest of the disciples.

While Thomas did not always get Jesus, and while he did not always understand the things Jesus taught and said, he was always engaging with Jesus and sought to have a deeper understanding. For instance, in John 14, Jesus was explaining that he was not going to be with the disciples much longer. Speaking in riddles, Jesus begins to talk about going to away to his father’s house to prepare a place for the disciples.

Most of the disciples sat quietly, dumbfounded and confused by Jesus’ exposition. The only exceptions are Thomas and, subsequently, Philip. When Jesus stated that the disciples knew the way to where Jesus was going, Thomas responded, “No, we don’t know Lord. We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” To that, Jesus famously answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:5-7, NLT).

Like all of the disciples, Thomas did not quite understand just what kind of “Messiah” Jesus was. For him, and the others, Jesus was the Messiah who would conquer the Romans by force and restore Israel to her rightful place as God’s Kingdom on Earth. Thomas, along with the other disciples, was mistaken. Jesus was not a conqueror king and God’s Kingdom was far more than Israel had ever amounted to. No earthly kingdom could compare to God’s Kingdom and, as shown through the disciples’ confusion, God’s Kingdom was far different than anything the world could ever understand or accept.

So, that brings us to the moment that Thomas will be forever remembered for. When Jesus was crucified and died, Thomas was devastated as were the other disciples. He was ready to fight alongside of Jesus, even to the death; however, Jesus never fought. Instead, he willingly gave himself up, was tortured, crucified, and now he was dead. There was nothing that any of them could do to change that and they all were in a hair’s breadth of being caught by the officials and crucified themselves.

So, when Thomas is told that Jesus had resurrected, he did not believe. It was not a moment of doubt; rather, it was a moment of grief-driven disbelief. Yet, unlike the rest of the disciples who had actually placed their hands into the wounds of Christ, Thomas never even had to. The second Jesus appeared to him, he fell to his knees and proclaimed, “My Lord and my God.” Instantly, in that moment, Thomas knew who Christ was and professed it fearlessly with conviction.

That same Thomas went on to travel one of the furthest distances of any of the Apostles. He followed the Spice Route to India and established one of the oldest in Kerala, India. From there he traveled across expansive India, proclaiming the Gospel everywhere he went until he was martyred in what is now Chennai, India, on the coast of the Bay of Bengal. Thomas was no feeble-minded doubter, but a person who wrestled with the complexities of being human.

We do no less and, I think, our willingness to judge and label Thomas a doubter says more about us than it does about him. We should, like Thomas, be willing to ask probing questions and to seek answers. Like Thomas, we should wrestle with our unbelief and come to terms with who we are in Christ. Like Thomas, we should profess Christ as our Lord and our God and follow him to the ends of the earth, if that is where he is calling us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
It’s not your doubts that brings you down, but how you respond to them.

PRAYER
My Lord and my God, I humbly seek you out in my life and in all that I do. Remind me the way to you and to your Kingdom and guide me toward it. Amen.

Episode 67 | From Ash, part 5: Sally Forth

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-uqk7g-ad0566

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses the need to jump out from the ash and into action, serving Christ  and Christ’s Kingdom. This message is based on Philippians 3:4b-14.

EPISODE NOTES:

God’s People, part 171: Matthew

Read Matthew 9:9-13

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, ‘Why does he eat with such scum?’ When Jesus heard this, he told them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.’”  (Mark 2:15-17, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-matthewPart 171: Matthew. When we think of tax collectors today, we probably think nothing more about them than that they are a person doing their job. Granted, thinking about the tax collector is different than thinking about the taxes themselves. No one, throughout all of history, has ever enjoyed paying their taxes. With that said, most of us do not personally despise the person working behind the desk at town hall, taking checks and handing out receipts.

The same thing is true when I go to my accountant to claim my file my income taxes. Sure, I may not always be happy that I owe “x” amount of dollars to the state and federal government; however, I do not personally despise my accountant for giving me the news and setting up the payments. I am sure accountants have to deal with angry people when they find out said bad news; however, I would imagine few (if any) are wishing or plotting the deaths of their accountants. Nor are they doing that for the person at town hall.

In Jesus’ day, the tax collector WAS DESPISED. They were seen as absolute traitors to their country and to their people. Why, you might ask? Because, properly speaking, they were working for the Roman Empire. Before we even go there, let me state that again: they were JEWS working for the Roman Empire to collect the imperial tax that was owed Caesar. To understand this on a deeper level, we have to understand that Israel was NOT ROMAN.

The Jews built an alliance with the Romans when during their revolt against the Seleucid Dynasty. Once the Jews won freedom from the Seleucid Empire under the leadership of the Judas Maccabeus, they established the Hasmonean Dynasty which lasted for 128 years. Toward the end of that time, a civil war broke out between supporters of the Hasmonean Dynasty and those that felt there should be no king, but that the nation should be a theocracy ruled by a council of clergy. As such, those wishing for a theocracy turned to Rome for help against the Hasmonean King and his army.

Rome saw this invite as a golden opportunity to come in and seize control of the land, which was strategic for them and, in essence, gave them control of the entire Mediterranean Sea. The rest is a long, but brutal history of oppression by the Romans that started with TAXATION. They at first taxed the people for their support and then, as they conquered all of Judea, they seized control and imposed more taxes upon them. Rome was no longer an ally; rather, Rome was sovereign and Judea was its subject, a province in the expansive Empire.

So, Jews had much disdain for anyone who aligned themselves with the empire. Tax collectors were the worst of the worst when it came to that. Not only were they fellow Jews working to collect what was due Rome, but they were also robbing their own people blind and getting rich off of it. They would charge their own people more than what they owed and kept the difference for themselves. If anyone refused to pay, they had them arrested. They were traitors.

So, when Jesus approached Levi the Tax Collector, this is who he approached. He approached a person who was viewed by everyone as a traitor to his own people and, ultimately, a traitor to God. Yet, Jesus not only approached him, but he invited him to leave behind his life of sin and to follow him. What’s more, he wipes the slate clean and renames him Matthew. No longer is he Levi the tax collector. Now he is Matthew, the disciple of Christ. And that disciple went on to become an apostle and, by tradition, the author of one of the most beloved Gospels in the New Testament.

Matthew reminds us that, no matter how much we’ve sinned and how far from God we might find ourselves, that there is a life for us in Christ. There is no sin too great, and no sinner too wicked for Christ to invite into fellowship and followership. Conversely, it should also remind us who are Christians the same exact thing! There is no sin too great, and no sinner too wicked, for us to invite into the life of the Church. After all, we’ve all been invited in, haven’t we? If we, who are sinners, can be included, then anyone can be included. Let us, as the church not forget the unconditional, radical, transformative love of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Go [to God] as altogether ungodly, guilty, lost, destroyed, deserving and dropping into hell; and you shall then find favor in His sight and know that He justifies the ungodly.” – John Wesley in Justification by Faith

PRAYER
Lord, truly I am unworthy of the grace you have given me. Let your grace shine through me in a way that magnifies your glory to all the world. Amen.

God’s People, part 170: Bartholomew

Read Acts 1:12-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Here are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (also called Peter), then Andrew (Peter’s brother), James (son of Zebedee), John (James’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew (the tax collector), James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”  (Matthew 10:2-4, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Part 170: Bartholomew. In the last devotion, we spoke of Nathanael who at first was skeptical with regard toward Jesus ’identity. Jesus was from Nazareth, a tiny Galilean village with maybe a 150 people living in it. What good could possibly come from that little village, which was made up of known troublemakers at odds with the political and religious institutions of their day? If God was going to send the Messiah, it was far more likely that God would stick to what had been prophesied and have him come from King David’s hometown of Bethlehem. What’s more, the Messiah would come from a people who could gain the support of the religious and political establishment, and someone from Nazareth was the least likely to do that.

As was mentioned, Nathanael was only ever mentioned about in the Gospel of John; however, Philip is mentioned in all four Gospels. In John’s Gospel, which is the latest of the four Gospels to be written, Philip is close to and paired with Nathanael. In the Synoptic Gospels (e.g. Mark, Matthew, and Luke), Philip is close to and often paired with Bartholomew. On top of that fact, Bartholomew is never mentioned in the Gospel of John, but is only present in the Synoptic Gospels.

What does this tell us? This tells us that it is possible, perhaps even probable, that Bartholomew and Nathanael are the exact same person. What we do know is that Nathanael is a Hebrew name meaning, “God has given.” We also know that John’s Gospel originated from a Jewish disciple of Jesus’ known as “the Beloved Disciple”, who may or may not have been the Apostle John. It was completed in the 90s CE by a Jewish Christian community originally founded by that disciple. We know they’re Jewish by the intra-Jewish dialogue found throughout John’s Gospel and through the the Johannine writings altogether (e.g. Gospel of John, the letters of John, and Revelation).

The name for Bartholomew is Aramaic for bar Talmai, or son of Talmai. In the Synoptic Gospels we do not know Bartholomew’s first name, only that he is the son of Talmai. In the Gospel of John, we do not know who Nathanael is the son of, just that his name is Nathanael. It is possible, reasonable even, to draw the conclusion that the two are one and the same person, especially when we see that they are both linked with the Apostle Philip.

We do not know much beyond that regarding Bartholomew. We know that, given John’s account, he was skeptical at first of Jesus; however, his skepticism didn’t last long. Once Jesus revealed himself to Bartholomew, he became one of the twelve and was among those who even witnessed Jesus’ ascension following his resurrection. What’s more, Bartholomew went on to preach the Good News in India and, eventually, in Armenia where he was martyred. Current scholarship, however, does not believe he made it to Armenia, but that he was martyred in India. According to ancient tradition, Bartholomew was martyred for his faith by being flayed (aka skinned) alive, hung upside down, and beheaded.

As grisly as that is, it begs of us this question: how unwavering is our faith? Do we believe that Christ is who he said he is? Are we so convinced that we’re willing to risk it all to bring Christ’s Gospel to the lost, the hurt, and the broken? Christ expects no less of us and, no matter where our skepticism may or may not lie, Bartholomew’s faith gives us hope that we, too, can grow in our faith and make an impactful difference for God’s Kingdom.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Martyr, in Greek, means witness. Let us witness to the love, the grace, the resurrection and the life found in Jesus Christ.

PRAYER
Lord, I submit myself to your will. Reign in me your love, grace, resurrection and life. Amen.

Episode 66 | From Ash, part 4: Our Turn

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-97jip-ac4048

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses what the journey from ash to becoming a new creation, born again (John 3:1-7), looks like and what it means for our lives. This message is based on 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.

EPISODE NOTES:

God’s People, part 169: Nathanael

Read John 1:43-51

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,’ says the LORD. ‘I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.’”  (Jeremiah 31:33, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

nathanael-under-fig-treePart 169: Nathanael. Nathanael is a bit of a mystery. He is only ever mentioned of in the Gospel of John and is found nowhere in Mark, Matthew, or Luke. Yet, Nathanael, in John’s Gospel, is mentioned as one of the earlier of the twelve to be counted among Jesus’ disciples. There is a tradition of thought that may link Nathanael with one the twelve who is mentioned in the Synoptic Gospels but is nowhere to be found in the Gospel of John.

Nathanael is a Hebrew name that means, “God has given.” We are told in the narrative that, following by being called by Jesus, Philip ran to find Nathanael and told him all about the Messiah whom he had met and was not following. We are never told Nathanael’s relationship with Philip, they clearly know each other and are friends.

“Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.” To us this sounds exciting, right? Philip had just come face-to-face with Jesus, so how could he be less than enamored? He had just witnessed the presence of God incarnate and had been called as a disciple by him? How could anyone NOT find this exciting? Well, in truth, those types of questions only come in hindsight. Nathanael was less than impressed, and made that known to Philip,

“Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael’s was not rejoicing at Philip’s news; rather, he was skeptical of Jesus’ being the Messiah. How could the Messiah, the one who is supposedly going to kick the Romans out and reestablish Israel to her rightful place as a sovereign kingdom under God, ever come from a dinky little village such as Nazareth?

That village “boasted” of maybe 150 residents and was a pocket for those who were discontent with the religious establishment in Jerusalem.  Besides, according to the Scriptures, the Messiah would come from David’s hometown, Bethlehem. Never, in all of the Torah, the Psalms, the Wisdom texts, or the prophets, is Nazareth even hinted at.

“Come and see for yourself,” Philip replied.” (John 1:45-46, NLT) Skeptical as he might be, Nathanael takes Philip on his offer to come and meet Jesus. It is then where his eyes and heart are opened to see Jesus as the Messiah. Why? Because Jesus spoke to him in a way that revealed Nathanael’s heart’s desire: to follow God faithfully. When Jesus saw him, he said, “‘Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.’

“‘How do you know about me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, ‘I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.’”  (John 1:47-48, NLT) There are differing interpretations of what Jesus meant when he said “I could see you under the fig tree”; however, the one thing that is for certain is that Jesus true identity was revealed to Nathanael in that moment. As such he responded, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”  (John 1:49, NLT)

Like Nathanael, we too can be skeptical of the things claimed about Jesus. Were they just first century fairytales? Did Jesus really do the things he was claimed to have done? Does the Christian witness really have any sway in today’s time? What allowed Nathanael to see Jesus as the Messiah, was his deep desire to know God and to know God’s word. Some have even suggested that the reference to the fig tree was an allusion to Nathanael’s deep devotion to the Torah, God’s Law.

Perhaps that is an in for us too. Not the attempting to live up to the letter of the Law, but to begin to discern who God is through a faithful studying of God’s word. It is that word that will, in the end, lead us to the Word mad flesh…to Jesus Christ. If we make that a part of our daily discipline, we will find that indeed we do know the teacher, the Son of God, the King of Israel. Challenge yourself the discipline of studying the Bible.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Relationships must be a two-way street. If you put nothing into discovering and relating to others, you will get nothing out of it. The same is true in our relationship with God.

PRAYER
Lord, draw me close to you and teach me who you are so that I may know, follow, and have a relationship with you. Amen.

God’s People, part 168: Philip

Read John 14:8-14

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”  (Philippians 4:13, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

Rubens_apostel_philippusPart 168: Philip. Philip is one of the disciples/apostles in all four of the Gospel accounts; however, we know very little of him from the synoptic Gospels (e.g. Mark, Matthew, and Luke). Instead, Philip is more prominently figured in the Gospel of John. It is there that we get a sense of who Philip was and how he interacted with the other disciples and with Jesus.

Philip was from the town of Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. According to John’s Gospel, Andrew and an unnamed disciple were followers of John the Baptist. Once John proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God, Andrew and the unnamed disciple left the Baptist and followed Jesus. The unnamed disciple has traditionally been understood to be the beloved disciple, whom has also traditionally understood to be John, brother of James. We will refer to him as John to keep things less confusing.

From there, Andrew and John took Jesus to Simon, whom he renamed Cephas (Aramaic for Peter). Presumably, John’s brother James was also there. These were the first four disciples called by Jesus. The next disciple, the fifth to be called, was Philip of Bethsaida. We do not know what Philip’s trade was, whether he was a fisherman or not, but we do know that the Gospel is written in such a way that seems to indicate that Andrew and Peter knew Philip. Bearing a Greek name, it has been speculated Philip may have spoken Greek and may have been known to some Greek pilgrims who were visiting Jerusalem (John 12:21). If that was the case, it certainly went on to be a benefit to him while serving Jesus.

It is believed that Philip was among the disciples at the wedding in Cana, since he was called prior to the event. Philip also introduces Jesus to Nathanael, who was also among those at the wedding. Philip, like Andrew, seemed to have a passion for bringing people into a relationship with his master. On top of introducing Nathanael, Philip let Andrew know that there were Greek pilgrims who wanted to speak to Jesus, and they both went to tell Jesus about it (John 12:22).

Overall, he was a disciple who showed great faith; however, he did waiver in that faith and was sometimes confused in his understanding of Jesus over all. When Jesus asked the disciples to feed the 5,000 men (not counting women and children), it was Philip who was confounded and questioned Jesus on how that was even possible. It was also during the Last Supper that Philip didn’t seem to understand that by knowing and seeing Jesus, he had actually known and seen the Father as well.

I think, if we are honest, Philip is representative of most of us who follow Christ. We are passionate and want to serve Christ faithfully. Sometime, even, we come through on that; however, we often times get confounded by the seeming impossibilities surrounding us, and get lost in focusing on what we do not have as opposed to focusing on what we do have: CHRIST.

The challenge for us to stop relying on our own power and on our own abilities. They will fall short every time, and they will definitely leave us feeling hopeless. Rather, we need to place our faith in Christ, in whom all things are possible if we will only believe and take the step of faith. The challenge, therefore, is for us to place our faith wholly in Christ and to move forward in our Christian walk of faith, even when things seem impossible.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Faith is not about knowledge, it’s about trusting Christ enough to move forward even though one does not know.

PRAYER
Lord, give me the kind of faith that moves mountains. I can do all things through you who gives me strength. Amen.

God’s People, part 167: Boanerges

Read Luke 9:51-56

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. ‘Teacher,’ they said, ‘we want you to do us a favor…when you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.’”  (Mark 10:35, 37, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SonsOfThunder-1024x537Part 167: Boanerges. So far, we’ve learned a little more about Simon Peter and his brother Andrew. We learned that Simon was an uneducated fisherman who had a loud mouth and a tendency to make rash decisions. He was close to getting who Jesus’ true identity; however, he never quite got to that ultimate understanding during Jesus’ lifetime. We also learn that his brother Andrew, also and uneducated fisherman, was passionate about bringing people to Jesus. With that said, he found it hard to put his faith fully in Jesus’ ability. He often let circumstances smother the passionate faith he had for Christ.

This bring us to Boanerges, which is a Greek phrase that translates to English as, “sons of thunder.” The Greek is a slight mistranslation from the Hebrew phrase, bənē reghesh, which translates in English as “sons of rage”. This was the nickname that Jesus gave to the brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee. Both James and John were called by Jesus to be disciples around the same time as Peter and Andrew. Both of them, like Peter and Andrew, were fisherman. In fact, we know that the sons of thunder were working in their father Zebedee’s fishing business.

We don’t know a whole lot about James; however, we do know that he was among the inner circle of disciples who were closest to Jesus. He witnessed the Transfiguration and he was in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus while prayed for God to spare his life. Wherever Jesus went, James was sure to follow.

The same is true about John who, like his brother, was among the inner circle of disciples. He has traditionally been identified as the beloved disciple that wrote the Gospel of John (so named because of this attribution). Most modern scholars do not believe John authored the fourth Gospel; however, his importance and influence in the early church cannot be disputed. In fact, John was named as one of the “pillars” of the Jerusalem Church mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles and referenced in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.

With all of that said, Jesus’ nicknamed James and John as the sons of rage or the sons of thunder. This is an an indication that these two where known for their fiery ambition and tempers. In Mark 10:35-45, the two brothers approached Jesus in order to petition for themselves to be in the places of honor (and power) next to Jesus when he assumed control of his kingdom. Thinking that he was the military messiah who would overthrow the Romans and restore Israel to her former glory, the Sons of Thunder were vying for power. This set them at odds with the rest of the disciples, who quickly grew angry and annoyed with the two.

Also, when Jesus and his disciples were not welcomed by Samaritan villagers, James and John both turned to Jesus and asked if him if he wanted them to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume [the villagers]”. In both cases, Jesus sternly rebuked the Sons of Thunder” for their scheming ambition and fiery tempers. These two, as passionate and devoted as they were, were far from being the perfect followers in Christ.

The same is true for us. Each and every one of us, just like the twelve disciples, come to Jesus with our strengths as well as our shortcomings. Perhaps anger and ambition are things that you struggle with or, perhaps, you are like the other disciples who grow short-tempered with those who are ambitious and short-tempered. On either end of that, Jesus rebukes the sin in us and calls us to deeper and more committed discipleship. The challenge for us is to heed Jesus’ call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.” – Napoleon Bonaparte

PRAYER
Lord, help me to quell the part of me that seeks to derail the path you’ve set me on. Help me overcome my weaknesses and grow in my strengths. Amen.

God’s People, part 166: Andrew

Read John 6:1-15

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means ‘Christ’)”  (John 1:40-41, NLT).

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

jesus-feeds-the-5000-AndrewPart 166: Andrew. When it comes to the disciples there are a few we know without thinking hard about. Peter is the first to come to mind because he was not only the first called by Jesus, but he also was the one who Jesus renamed from Simon to Peter and said that he was the “rock” or “pebble” (depending on interpretation of the Greek) upon which Christ was going to build his church.  The next are a pair of disciples named James and John. John is the most known of those two; however, because James is so often paired with him they get notoriety together. They are the one’s Jesus humorously and affectionately nicknamed Boanerges, or Sons of Thunder. They must have been a fiery pair.

Another disciple who is forever etched in our memory is Matthew, the reformed tax collector, as well as Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus. Then, perhaps, we might remember Andrew, who was Peter’s brother, if we remember him at all. Of course, most who have read the gospels will remember him; however, outside of Biblical literacy, there is a less likely chance that someone would remember Andrew alongside the aforementioned disciples.

With all of that said, Andrew was actually among the core leadership with in the group of twelve disciples. Since his name was always mentioned after Peter’s, it can be safely presumed that Andrew was most likely Peter’s younger brother. While we cannot be sure why Andrew is less present when Jesus’ is alone with his “inner circle”, he was among the four disciples who were closest to Jesus.

Andrew has rightly become known as the disciple who brought people into a personal relationship with Christ. While Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the events a bit differently, in John 1:40-42, we find that Andrew was the one who brought his brother Simon to meet Jesus. In the Synoptic Gospels, it just states that Jesus saw Peter and Andrew fishing and called out to them. This could be simply away of just condensing the story.

In John, on the other hand, the account is more fleshed out with detail. For instance, we learn that Andrew and the beloved disciple (who may or may not have been John) were followers the Baptist, who pointed Jesus out to them as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world”. From that point on, Andrew and the beloved disciple followed Jesus and Andrew brought Jesus to Simon, who was renamed Cephas (which is Aramaic for Peter).

Also, when Jesus was preaching to the multitude (over 5,000 men, women and children), Jesus asked the disciples to feed the people. They all begin to panic, for how could they possibly feed that many people. It was in this moment that Andrew spoke up and brought a little boy to Jesus, and pointed out that this boy had a basket with five loaves of bread and two fish. Here, again, Andrew was bringing someone into contact and relationship with the Lord.

Yet, Andrew was not necessarily a person with rock solid faith. In fact, as you will see, none of the disciples were. In the same breath that he pointed out the boy to Jesus, he anxiously marveled, “But what good are [these 5 loaves and 2 fish] with a crowd this size?” Even Andrew, who proclaimed to Simon Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41), found himself lacking in faith in the midst of seemingly impossible circumstances. Yet, the Lord did not reject Andrew as a result of his faithlessness, rather he performed a miraculous sign out of the meager offering of the boy Andrew brought to him.

The question for us is this: do we find ourselves doubting even though we know that Jesus Christ is the King of kings and the Lord of lords? The challenge for us is to step out in faith even when the odds seem squarely against us. The challenge is to let Christ work IN SPITE of the circumstances. The challenge for us is also to trust that even when we fail and/or fall short, that Christ does not reject us, but works in spite of us and shows us that he truly is in control. Let us be a people who, like Andrew, eagerly bring people to the Lord even when we are not certain where we stand on the circumstances around us. Let us dare to bring people to the One who is not imprisoned by the fear that shackles us.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

PRAYER
Lord, thank you for loving me even when I fail to live into the faith you’ve called me. Give me an eagerness to share your love with others and bring them into a relationship with you. Amen.

Episode 64 | From Ash, part 2: Break a Leg

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-tgqyr-aabe36

In this episode, Rev. Todd discusses method acting and how that ties into being a true and sincere Christian. 

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