The four Gospels do not contradict each other, but John’s Gospel in particular gives a unique perspective on the life and ministry of Jesus. As a disciple and apostle, John the author had a mandate to testify to what he had seen and heard. In fact, the essential requirement for apostleship was being an eyewitness to Jesus’s ministry. But we have the same calling to be a witness and the same opportunity to be a unique voice offering something special that no one else can offer.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we read about the mother of the yet-to-be-born Jesus, rushing from her hometown to stay with her relative Elizabeth. Mary could have been rushing out of obedience to the angel who informed her of the incredible mission of carrying the Messiah. Or Mary could have been fleeing her small hometown out of fear of reprisal from family, friends, and neighbors who would certainly judge her in the coming months for being pregnant and unwed. But I’d like to think that Mary’s haste was primarily out of love.
I am constantly working on finding tools and exercises that help me become more self-aware. John Calvin argues in his Institutes that you can’t really know God if you don’t know yourself, and that you cannot know yourself without knowing God. I see my pursuit of self-awareness as part of my growing relationship to the God who created, called, and redeemed me… As we begin 2019, let’s commit to growing in our knowledge of self and knowledge of God in our daily work.
Personally, I have a hard time with gratitude. I don’t even like to send thank-you cards! But I’m learning more about what gratitude isn’t, so I can understand what gratitude is. Gratitude is more than saying “thank you” when someone gives you something. In fact, very often, we say the words “thank you” when we have no gratitude in our hearts. The difference is having the feeling of gratitude in your heart when you say the words.
The Corinthians knew something about God’s grace. They had converted to Christianity out of their pagan context and struggled to let go of their former ways. The people of Corinth had a reputation in the ancient world as an unruly, hard-drinking, sexually promiscuous bunch of people. Paul spent a year and a half with this group of believers in Corinth and then left to plant other churches. Later, he got word that they had continued in their Corinthian ways.
I shared yesterday how Jesus could be perceived according to certain leadership standards as having failed numerous times… In a Nazarene synagogue, Jesus initially astonishes his hearers with his teaching ability. But that brief approval is quickly followed by criticism, rejection and… an attempt to kill Jesus! With this kind of response from his audience, I don’t think Jesus would have passed the modern test of “successful” preaching or leadership, would he?
I’ve been reflecting on Jedd Medefind and Erik Lokkesmoe’s book, The Revolutionary Communicator… As we’ve seen, the book describes seven essential practices modeled by Jesus: attentiveness, seeking connection, asking questions, authenticity, storytelling, solitude, and defining success. As I’ve incorporated these practices into my own leadership, I have seen incredible fruit, but I’ve also faced many challenges that could be perceived as apparent failures.
The most powerful military regime, the most opulent estate, or the applause of a thousand admirers would not have even come close to the greatness of the Eternal Son—if Jesus only chose to reveal his heavenly reality. Instead, Jesus left them with a picture of success he wanted them to remember and emulate: the most powerful man to ever walk the planet removing his clothes, wrapping a towel around his waist, and washing the muck off of the disciples’ feet. True greatness looks like a lowly servant.
The disciples are found arguing about success in Luke’s story. Even though they don’t seem to be arguing specifically over money, Jesus warns his disciples about seeking power and position as a definition of success. Instead, he says to focus on humbly serving others as an act of being united with his work and ministry… We should find our joy not in our accomplishments for God but in our identity with God.
Yesterday, we reflected on Jesus as a revolutionary communicator who purposefully engaged with solitude and silence as a pattern for his ministry and life. Today, we’ll consider how solitude isn’t meant to disengage us from daily life but to help us reengage in the work that God has set before us… Far from being disengaged, a purposeful engagement with God in solitude leads to a greater fruitfulness in our entire lives and in our service to the world.