Thursday’s Column: Carlnormous Comments
Let’s examine FOUR quick factors:
Factor 1 – LOCATION: Nazareth was located 3 miles from Sepphoris which at the time was developing quickly as part of Herod Antipas beautification project. It would eventually be known as “The Jewel Of All Galilee.” Jesus would have witnessed and perhaps helped his father cut stone in the quarry that was half way between Nazareth and the developing city.
Factor 2 – DEMAND – In the days of Jesus there weren’t many trees in the area, and there still aren’t many today. To try and make a living working with a material that wasn’t readily available or even used much would be difficult.
– Factor 3 LANGUAGE – “Tekton” simply means “builder” The Messiah was a handyman, and the spiritual connections in your mind may already be forming.
Factor 4 – SCRIPTURE – Luke 20:17ff – Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants, after Jesus is questioned about His authority in the temple by the scribes/chief priests, He looks at them and says “The STONE the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?” quoting from Psalm 118.
Again quoted by Peter as he defends himself in front of religious leaders in Acts 4 “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you the builders.” It was a reference to David’s lineage to the Messiah and it would have been familiar to Jewish stone builders.
So with this in mind, let’s revisit the questions asked by those in Jesus’ hometown…
A. Their perspective: “You’re the son of a common builder. He didn’t teach you these things, he taught you to build.”
B. The reality: It wasn’t wisdom from Joseph, it was His heavenly fathers wisdom. But Joseph, no matter how talented he was in his craft, did not teach Him to build…
1. A ship that would carry christians safely into eternity, he may have taught Jesus to work with stones, but he no idea that on a rock He’d build His church.
2. He did not teach Him to build a home that would last for all eternity, but that’s what Jesus is building now!
3. He didn’t teach Him to build a walkway that would bridge the gap of separation between God and man, but He did.
2. Where did He get these miraculous abilities?
A. Their perspective: “You’re the son of a common builder. You’re performing things with your hands that the hands of a common builder can’t perform!”
B. The reality: Jesus is the master builder. The only one that could claim to build things out of the very stones and pieces of wood He spoke into existence.
What does all this mean?
1. In the hands of the Master builder, you can be something better.
2. In the hands of the master builder, you can be somewhere better.
3. If you’re broken, you can be fixed. If you’re not a child of God, your life is broken.
4. You can be something better than you are. Your imperfections can be made perfect through the blood of Christ.
5. You can be somewhere better. You can be In good standing with the God above. You could be In a loving family bound for glory— the home built by God.
Once I preferred laptops, but since the advent of Android and Apple tablets, I migrated back to the desktop PC. When attempting to accomplish work, there is something to be said for sitting at a dedicated workspace to help productivity. Even so, I usually choose desktop wallpaper to reflect my interests from the religious to whimsical. My capricious nature typically ensures that wallpaper is changed frequently.
One day after having selected an artist’s rendering of the Christ wearing a crown of thorns for my wallpaper, I noted how I had allowed the desktop of my PC to become cluttered with icons and files. Though they made finding things more manageable, they obscured the image I had chosen for my inspiration. I had to do some cleaning so that I could once again see Christ!
Spiritually, I feel as if we sometimes equally “mask” the presence of the Christ in our lives. It is not our intention to do so, of course. We are just going about our regular business. Yet, there comes the point in out lives in which we begin doing what we feel is most convenient, despite what this “convenience” does to the presence of the Christ in our lies. Soon, others are unable to readily see the Christ in our lives since He has become obscured by our ephemera. If this persists, others will be unable to see Him at all.
When this happens, it is time to clean up or bring order to the chaos. One needs to put things in their proper place so that the image of Christ becomes accentuated rather than obscured (cf. Matthew 6.33). It may take a bit of work, but the effort is worth more than anything else in this world because of its eternal implications.
Dear reader, are others able to see the Christ in your life? If not, perhaps it is time for spiritual cleansing. The only thing equal to the task, great or small, is the blood of Jesus Christ. For the one having never clothed him or herself in Christ (Galatians 3.27), baptism brings about the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2.38). For the immersed believer, the blood of Christ continuously cleanses us as we walk in fellowship with Him and fellow Christians (1 John 1.7).
Check your image in the spiritual mirror (James 1.22-25). If you cannot see the Christ, rest assured others cannot see Him either. Let us always strive so others can see the Christ in us.
When Jesus met Peter, it may have seemed like an ordinary day to the Galilean fisherman. Simon Peter and his partners had just spent a long night fishing with no results. You can imagine they were irritated and frustrated, maybe even feeling sorry for themselves. Then, Jesus commandeered Simon’s boat and used it to teach. This presumably would have been Peter’s first impression of Christ, though we do not know how closely he was paying attention to the Lord. In Luke 5:4, Jesus stops preaching to the crowd and addresses Peter. He says, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” Jesus has ulterior motives, but the command is for Peter to literally cast his nets to try to make a literal catch of fish. Immediately, though, Peter is exposed to something far greater than anything earthly or material. Notice how this account illustrates the call of scripture in which Christ tells us, like Peter to launch out into the deep in faith to do great things for Him.
Launch out into the deep…even if, despite great effort, you have failed in the past (Luke 5:5). Simon explained that he and his associates had struck out overnight. Jesus was telling him not to worry about the past. He tells us the same things today. If you have failed in trying to do right or have succeeded in doing wrong, don’t give up hope. Launch out again!
Launch out into the deep…at the prompting of God’s Word (Luke 5:5). Simon was willing. What a great character trait. He tells Jesus, “Nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Simon says, “I value and respect your word enough to try again where I failed in the past.” Do we trust God’s promises and revere God’s commands enough to keep trying and biting off big things for the Lord?
Launch out into the deep…and involve others with you (Luke 5:7). Of course, with the Lord’s help, Simon became a success. In fact, the disciple knew immediately that he was not big enough to tackle his opportunities alone. He got his partners involved. In the Lord’s church today, each of us as Christians are partners and associates together with Christ (2 Cor. 5:18-6:1). Launching out into the deep requires involving as many as possible, for the task is so great and too much for one alone.
Launch out into the deep…and astonishing things can happen (Luke 5:9-11). First, the catch of fish is astonishing to them. Then, Jesus’ commissioning of them is astonishing (to turn from fish to men). Finally, their response is astonishing. They get to land, leave their boats and all they have, and follow Jesus. Eventually, they change the entire world! Launch out into the deep. Who knows what you can do through Christ (cf. Phil. 4:13), but it will be astonishingly amazing.
Obviously, this was about men and not about fish. Jesus was not interested in making them rich fishermen in Galilee. He was looking to enrich the people of Galilee and far beyond through these fishermen. All it took was for some men who believed in God’s power to launch out into the deep.
Anything special, big and worthwhile a church attempts, be it a new program, evangelism, visitation, the Bible School, or a lectureship, will fail if it rests only on the shoulders of the elders, preachers, or select few. The late Wendell Winkler was fond of saying, “Programs do not work. People do.” Programs are only as effective as the people in the local church work to make them. It is estimated that nearly a gazillion little things must be done for something of any magnitude to go smoothly, and the active, tireless labor of as many as possible makes all the difference.
Active members are so crucial to a church being successful, in God’s eyes. Here is a tribute to some very special members of a congregation:
The REMEMBERS: These are the folks who don’t “forget” events on the church’s calendar, who don’t say “Oh, was that this week?” As you involve yourself in the church’s work, you take seriously the ever-relevant principle, “But you shall remember the LORD your God…” (Deut. 8:18). God does not like to be forgotten (Psa. 42:9; Jer. 2:32; Ezek. 22:12).
The DISMEMBERS: These are folks who are willing to sever themselves from their normal routines, preempting other events, to support an activity or event. Such are living out Matthew 6:33 and Romans 12:1-2. God richly blesses Christians who make such decisions. You are those who know it is better to “cut off” anything that keeps you from doing what you can for the Lord (cf. Heb. 12:1).
The EMBER MEMBERS: These are members who are involved, supporting the works and activities of the church. You have your fire lit. You want to be a better child of God. Keep the fires of enthusiasm, rededication, and determination burning brightly. We see your glow. It encourages all of us. You can help smoke out spiritual enemies even better through your faithful participation.
God bless every faithful member of His church. Your support for good works is overwhelming. Let us use each event and opportunity to make the church, with its every member, stronger.
Some just can’t! They assume bad motives, intentions, and behaviors in others. They like to predict failure and disaster. Some take that attitude toward people, including Christians. “They won’t last!” “They can’t cut it as a deacon/elder.” “He won’t ever be a good preacher!” “They just want the praise of men.” Think about all the people you know and interact with. Some are exceptionally talented and pleasant and some are pretty worthless and repulsive, but most are in-between the two extremes. But, what if I told you that you could influence what others become? Barnabas did (Acts 4:36). He was so good at encouraging people, “encouragement” wasn’t his middle name but his first name. Who was the first one to see good in Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:27)? Who saw great potential in Antioch (Acts 11:23-26)? Who still believed in John Mark (Acts 15:37), who Paul would later think valuable once more (2 Tim. 4:11)? Barnabas was a great leader because of what he could see in others. We can make an eternal difference in people by seeing the good in them.
First, take them where they are. Jesus did. Do you remember when Jesus met Peter (Luke 5:1-11)? Peter calls himself sinful. We know he was impetuous (John 18:10) and could use unsavory words (Mat. 26:74). Peter’s business partners, the Sons of Thunder (Mark 3:17) seemed to have some anger management issues. In fact, Jesus made it an emphasis to take sinful people and work with them wherever they were (the woman at the well, the sinful woman caught in adultery, Bacchus, publicans, sinners, etc.). We will never help people get to heaven if we can’t take them where they are.
Then, see them for what they could be. Whether it’s a non-Christian or Christian, they need us to be able to see their potential and think the best of them. I don’t mean gullibility or compromise, but optimism! Why did Christ put such effort into Peter? He was a sinful man when He met him, made many mistakes while he was with Him, and denied Him in His greatest moment of need (Luke 22:60-62). He saw what Peter could be (John 21:15-17). Look past people’s quirks and flaws; imagine the possibilities. There’s got to be a soul-winner in every Christian, since Christ commands it of us all (Mark 16:15-16). Every one of us can be faithful, dedicated, and fruitful Christians. Every lost person could have their hearts softened by the gospel–at the least the gospel has the power (Heb. 4:12; Rom. 1:16). Remember, love “hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).
Finally, help them be what they can be. It’s far easier to be the critic and tell people what they’re doing wrong. But remember, “To belittle is to be little.” Criticism alone is useless. It’s a lot tougher to help people improve and to go about helping with patience. Jesus didn’t end His work by telling people what sinners or failures they were. He guided them to the better way (Mat. 7:13). He told the adulteress to stop sinning (John 8:11). He told Peter to go feed His sheep (John 21). When He was through with Zaccheus, he went from thief to philanthropist. Jesus’ whole purpose was to take people afflicted with sin and transform them. It is rewarding work to invest in people and to help them grow. The Bible tells us to help people do better and be better (Gal. 6:1). To see the best in others, be willing to help and lead them (Luke 6:39-40).
If we are negative and pessimistic, that really is just a commentary on us. Look for good in others. Accept, anticipate, and assist!
American born painter, James Whistler, was as controversial as he was competent. The artist best known for Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1 (or, Whistler’s Mother), the famous painting depicting an aging woman in side profile wearing a bonnet, was as known for his arrogance and egotism (Peters, Lisa N. James McNeill Whistler. Smithmark: New York, 1996. p. 4). On one occasion, Whistler was told that a shipment of blank canvasses he had ordered was lost in the mail. He was asked if they were of any value and he replied, “Not yet, not yet” (Today In the Word, 12/3/92).
We are born into this world innocent and with endless potential. Some are born with many more advantages and opportunities than others. All of us who live to maturity leave this life, whatever we achieve, stained by sin having disappointed or transgressed against others. Yet, of what value will we be to those we meet? What to our families, our friends, the church, and the world? It depends upon what we allow God to do with our lives. He can take the most mundane, ordinary material and work a masterpiece through it. If we allow Him to work on the canvas of our lives, we will become infinitely better parents, spouses, and Christians. But, how can we become masterpieces in the hands of the Master?
Such is the possibility for everyone who submits themselves a blank canvas to be worked upon by the Master Artist. He is not arrogant. He is perfect. It is not a boast for Him to declare His ability to transform the dullness of our lives into the brilliance produced by the influence of His Word and will! You are not yet what you could be. When all is said and done, will you have been what you could be? The decision is made if you let Christ work upon you.
How fitting that they were there studying James 1:22, as Michael Hite taught. Well over 20 of them gathered in one living room, hunkered down for nearly 90 minutes as just eight verses were covered in-depth, they seemed like budding archaeologists finding some new treasure. That they have been doing this week after week for nearly nine months is incredible! Rather than losing interest, they seem to be building it. Not only that, they are inviting non-Christian friends, concocting ways to serve the Lord and others, and growing more knowledgeable in the meat of the word. There is no sense of obligation evidenced, but a genuine desire to be together investigating the truth of the Bible. Yes, they have an excellent teacher, but they also have a true hunger. They are like those Jesus’ praises in Matthew 5:6, hungering and thirsting for righteousness. They are like those Luke reports about in Acts 17:11, eagerly receiving the word. They are like those James challenges the Christians to be, quick to hear the word (1:19) and looking into the perfect law of liberty and continuing in it (1:25).
Frankly, they challenge you and me. They are saying, by example, “we are willing to commit an extra couple of hours every week in addition to our regular assemblies to go deeper in studying God’s Word! We do not have to, but we want to do it. Not only that, we are growing (2 Pe. 3:18) and using this study to improve our spiritual walk (Col. 1:9-12)! It is motivating us to do good works (cf. 1 Ti. 6:18). We are applying it and it is changing our lives!” Of course, that is what scripture is meant to do for each of us.
We must develop a taste for the milk and meat of the Master’s message! The more we thoughtfully take in, the more we will want. Bear Valley teens, thank you for challenging us to step it up! We will try to keep up with you!
I am at a unique crossroads at which I cannot hope to long remain. Currently, I am young enough to exercise vigorously, play sports, appreciate indie music, vaguely cope with technology and its changes, and not feel old. Yet, I am old enough now to have seen all my children reach the teen years, accumulate some life’s experience, and deepen my appreciation for the living history and wisdom that is our senior citizens. Subtly, but surely, I will loosen my grip on youth and embrace old age.
As a 43-year-old, I still am able to hold hands with both sides. No generation is perfect, nor does any have the clear advantage over the others. There are things all of us should keep in mind, no matter our age.
To our older Christians, may we appreciate that our youth and young adults need so much more than a constant diet of teaching and preaching on sexual and moral sins. They need a larger diet of Christian evidences, how we got the Bible, and similar subjects in a post-faith world that is increasingly hostile to biblical principles. They deserve as many textual and deeper studies as anyone else. May we further appreciate our need to meet the younger people of our churches with technological savvy, newer (though scriptural) songs, and an empathetic view of the challenges they face in the culture. They need us to believe in them, listen to them, and go to bat for them. May we view them as “innocent until proven guilty,” hoping the best for them. May we value them, empower them, and use them in meaningful service in the Kingdom today!
To our younger Christians, may we appreciate that the church is comprised of more than those 30 and younger. There may be some things that are lawful but are not expedient. The fact that you are a part of your culture does not mean you should not strive to rise above it, excel, and be an example to it. That even should impact how you dress for worship (not meaning coat and tie, but meaning doing better than ratty shirts, “holey” jeans, and flops). Remember that the church has more than one generation in it, and the servant-hearted does not insist on his or her “rights” or liberties but rather strives to serve through love. Wisdom should propel you to “rise up before the gray-headed and honor the aged” (Lev. 19:32). As was said of Lot’s wife, so we do well to “remember Rehoboam” who listened to his peers instead of his elders (1 Ki. 12:8). Beware the temptation to hold the “older generation” in contempt and disrespect the greater wisdom that usually accompanies the accumulation of years.
We all truly need each other, now more than ever! There must be empathy for everyone else, a love that seeks the best for others. Let us look through each other’s eyes as best as we can and so “preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (cf. Eph. 4:3).