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Which Disciple are you Most Like, Part 5: Andrew & Bartholomew

So far in this series I’ve discussed the three disciples that were Jesus’ inner circle as well as the other James that was a disciple. Today I would like to focus on two other disciples, Andrew & Bartholomew.


Andrew is, I believe, one of the most intriguing disciples. There is actually very little known about him. We know he was the brother of Peter and was also an original disciple of John the Baptist. Andrew was also the very first one to follow Jesus.

John 1:40-42 – Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41 The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). 42 And he brought him to Jesus.

I love those verses!

Since we don’t know much about Andrew outside of bring Peter to meet Jesus, I always think that was Andrew’s sole role. Peter went on to much greater things inside the community. He was second in command, next to Jesus.

Andrew was in the background.

Peter was part of Jesus’ inner circle.

Andrew wasn’t.

Without Andrew, Peter may not have had the life trajectory that he did. It is because of Andrew’s invitation that Peter went on to lead in the first community of believers.

Andrew was used to bring others to know Jesus.

There is one other instance in which Andrew is used:

John 12:20-21 – Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.”

This is one of the first instances when Gentiles were introduced to Christ.

I think of Andrew and my very own life as I write this. Jesus calls us to seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and then all the things we worry about will be given to us. With all the transition that has been happening to me and my family, I just need to remember to seek first the kingdom of God. God will provide the rest. If there is one thing I want my family (and myself) to know as I write this through the transition it is that in His kingdom all is made fresh and contentment follows as long we seek Him first.

It was that same attitude, during a significant transition in Andrew’s life (changing from following John the Baptist to following Jesus) that kept Andrew from getting jealous or overwhelmed or sarcastic or have any other negative attitude.  Focusing on Jesus and His mission is what kept Andrew content.

Andrew’s sole job was to lead people to Christ so that Jesus could bring out their calling.

What a job to have in the kingdom!

I always think of something someone told me in seminary, “what if God chose you to lead the person to Him who would go one to lead the largest revival in human history, would you be jealous or content?”

Andrew was clearly content knowing he wasn’t in charge. He knew his role and he performed it well.

Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped cross when the Roman leader was angry that his wife converted to Christianity because of Andrew’s evangelizing.

Nathanael (or Bartholomew):

Nathanael was also known as Bartholomew. The Hebrew name is actually Bar-Tolmai, which means the “son of Tolmai.” This could be a reference to 2 Samuel 3:3, which means that he would have been from nobility.

It was another disciple, Philip, who brought Bartholomew to meet Jesus. We don’t know for certain, so they are either very good friends or they could even be related.

Much of what we know about Bartholomew comes from his call by Jesus.

John 1:45-49 – Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked. “Come and see,” said Philip. When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”

Interestingly, in verse 45 it would seem that both Philip and Bartholomew were students of the Law and recognized Jesus as the Messiah because of the Law. And like most Jews from that day, they believed that Nazareth was a wicked place and couldn’t believe that anything good, much less the Messiah, could come from there.

In verse 47, Jesus gives us an idea of Bartholomew’s character. Jesus says that he “truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”

Bartholomew was an honest man.

The other cool thing about this is that we get an understanding of Jesus’ omniscience. When Bartholomew asked Jesus how He knew him, Jesus replied, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Jesus was not present at that conversation.

Tradition holds that Bartholomew was a missionary to Persia and India. There is no biblical evidence of his martyrdom, but tradition holds that he was martyred. How he was martyred is up for debate as some scholars say he was tied in a sack and dropped into the ocean and others say he was crucified.

After studying through half of the disciples, it is easy to see how focused and relational Jesus was with those He loves.


Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 4: John

John is another one of those people in the Bible that can be confusing. There is more than one John in the Bible. The John of Jesus’ disciples was James the Elder’s younger brother and a son of Zebedee and Salome.

John wrote 5 of the books of the New Testament and was known as the Beloved Disciple. In his books he spoke more of love than in any other book in the New Testament. Unlike his brother, James the Elder, who was the first to die among the disciples, John was the last to die. Some say he was martyred while others say he died a natural death. He was, during the time of Domitian, exiled to Isle of Patmos.

John, along with Peter and his brother, comprised the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry. Those 3 men saw miracles that the other disciples didn’t.

Matthew 17:1 – After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.

One of the things the inner circle witnessed that the other disciples didn’t include Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah. That is something I wish I would have been a fly on the wall for! He and Peter are also the first two disciples to see the empty tomb.

James & John came from a more well-off family than most of the other disciples. They father had hired servants for the fishing business.

Mark 1:20 – Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

This might have fed into their ambition and desire during Jesus’ ministry. For example, in Mark 9 we see John forbidding a man to drive out demons in Jesus’ name because he wasn’t one of the twelve disciples. Needless to say, Jesus rebuked him for that.

Later we see both James & John wanting to call down fire to destroy a Samaritan village because they didn’t welcome Jesus. And yet again, Jesus rebuked them.

Even later we see that, at the request of their mom, they requested to be seated on Jesus right and left sides in heaven. This caused some discord among the brothers and the rest of the twelve.

Matthew 20:20-24 – Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him. “What is it you want?” he asked. She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”  “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,” they answered.  Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”  When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers.

But John matured very well.

His proximity to and discipling by Jesus taught him love. He left his explosive temper behind. He was humbled and dropped his need for human ambition. He left everything but Jesus and His command to love.

John’s gospel is the only to record the washing of the disciples’ feet.

John 13:4-5 – so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.  After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

I believe this might have been the turning point in the humbling of John.

Jesus had so much confidence in John that, during the crucifixion, Jesus turned to John and told him to care for his mother. John took this task very seriously.

John 19:25-27 – Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home.

John’s early ambition melted away for humility and compassion.

Eventually, according to historical evidence, John was exiled to Patmos. According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman philosopher and naturalist, Patmos was an island about 30 miles wide. Other literary evidence shows that Patmos was an island that worshipped Apollo and had fishing villages on it.

Cassius Dio, a Roman historian, outlined how long John might have been exiled. It last up until Domitian’s death, at which point Emperor “Nerva released all who were on trial for high treason and restored the exiles.”

Eusebius, a Christian historian from the second century, adds “the sentences of Domitian were annulled, and the Roman Senate decreed the return of those who had been unjustly banished and the restoration of their property…the Apostle John, after his banishment to the island, took up his abode at Ephesus.”

According to church tradition, Travels of St. John in Patmos was written by the same Prochorus that is listed in Acts 6:5. It is an apocryphal writing that was translated in the 17th century and is very interesting reading, although I don’t put much stock in apocryphal writings as it is also seen as pseudopigrapha. Basically, apocryphal means it goes beyond the revelation given in the infallible Bible and cannot be proven through Scripture and pseudopigrapha means it is outright false. The reason Prochorus’ Travels is in this group is because it cannot be proven to be from Prochorus and there is no earlier text than the 5th century, which makes it a wonder if an earlier text exists. But it does give some accurate history of the island of Patmos around the time of John’s exile.

There are examples of miracles that John performed on Patmos written in the book that, to this day, are celebrated at various churches on the island.

Going back to the canon of Scripture, John has a lot to teach us. There is no one in Scripture that has more to teach us about either love or truth than John (except for Jesus, of course).

3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

He gave his strongest condemnation against those who perverted the truth, especially those who claimed to be believers.

1 John 2:4 – Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person.

Not only truth, but love he preached. He even called himself the “one whom Jesus loved.” His entire first epistle is to believers “whom I love in truth” and he exhorts them to “love one another” as they walk in the commands of Jesus.

John teaches us a lot about the relationship between love and truth. Zeal for the truth must always be balanced by a love for people. Without love, zeal for truth turns to judgmentalism. On the flip side of that, love without care of the truth become simple sentimentality. As John matured, he learned the importance of both.

The next thing we learn from John is that humility needs to win out over personal ambition. While confidence is an important quality to have, if it is not tempered by grace and compassion then we become smug and unapproachable. Jesus took the time to rebuke John when his confidence got in the way of his testimony.

John is an amazing character study when looking at how God trains up people and prepares them for the ministries for which they are called.

Next time I will start looking at the rest of the apostles, those who we don’t hear as much about.




Which Disciple are you Most Like, part 3: James

I know it has been quite a while since I last posted anything on here. I’ve had some transition in my life and have wanted to focus my time and attention on God, my family, and the transitions. There are more transitions to come, which I will eventually share as things get finalized.

But I wanted to pick back up where I left off with the disciples of Christ, who they were, and eventually getting to the point of determining which disciple I see myself most like. If you recall, a couple months ago, I asked a simple question:

Which disciple are you most like?

Of course we all aspire to live like Jesus lived, and so did the disciples. But they were not always Jesus-like. They had their own personalities, their own strengths, and their own baggage.

This week, I want to look at James.

James is a common name in the Bible. There are quite a few running around in there, so it is easy to get confused when people mention the name of James. There is even more confusion inside the disciples because there are actually 2 disciples named James. I will look at them both here.

Luke 6:15 – Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot,

Let’s start with the easier of the two to write about, James the son of Alphaeus. He is also known as James the Lesser (or the James the Younger). When it comes to James the Lesser, there is more speculation than Biblical fact when it comes to his background and his life after the ascension of Jesus.

James the Lesser was the son of Alphaeus (or Cleophas) and Mary and he lived in Galilee.

Mark 15:40 – Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome.

James’ father shared the same name as Matthew’s father’s name, Alphaeus, so there is speculation that both James the Lesser and Matthew are related.

The only other information I can find about James the Lesser is that tradition says that he died a martyr and his body was sawed into pieces. This is simply taken from oral tradition, and there is very little written detail about it.

With that, James the Lesser is complete. Since there is little written about him we have very little to go on as far as personality or accomplishments. I have to assume that Jesus chose him as one of the 12 for a reason, we just don’t know what that reason is.

The next James, son of Zebedee, we have a lot more information about. First, he is known to the Catholic church as James the Elder.

James the Elder is the son of Zebedee and Salome. He was a fisherman and was actually called by Jesus when he was on his boat with his dad and brother, another disciple, John.

Matthew 4:21-22 – Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them,and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.

James is almost always associated with his brother John. Jesus gave both James and his brother the nickname “Boanerges” which means “sons of thunder.”

Mark 3:17 – James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”),

This gives us some insight into their personalities. They were known for their zeal, passion, and ambition. The other disciples were also not too fond of them for their forwardness as Mark 10:41 tells us.

Then in Luke 9, James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village that refused to welcome Jesus. Jesus immediately rebuked them for wanting to destroy lives instead of saving them.

There aren’t a lot of specifics about James the Elder after Jesus’ resurrection. We know he went fishing and saw another miraculous catch and that he had breakfast with the resurrected Christ on the shore. We also know he was present on the day of Pentecost as shared in Acts 2.

By the time we get to Acts 12, we see the prediction of Jesus come true when James is the first disciple martyred.

The cool thing I like about James the Elder’s story s that it shows that God immediately knows our hearts. He identified him as a “son of thunder” right away. His story also shows God’s patience in our sanctification. It shows that we don’t become immediately sanctified but that it is a process that requires spending time with Christ.

The next post I will focus on James’ brother John.

Which Disciple are you Most Like – Part 2, Peter

Last week I started a series on the disciples. Most people can name quite a few of them, but only a couple of the disciples resonate with us because they are the most popular.

This week I would like to look at Peter, probably the most well-known of the disciples.

Peter was a fisherman that lived in the town of Bethsaida. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle of disciples and did evangelistic work among the Jews as far as Babylon.

Mark 1:16 – As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen.

Peter had many different names. During the time of Christ, the common language was Greek, so Peter’s Greek name was Simon. The language Peter grew up with was Hebrew, and his Hebrew name was Cephas. Translated into English, Simon and Cephas both mean “rock.”

Galatians 2:9 – James, Cephas and John, those esteemed as pillars, gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship when they recognized the grace given to me. They agreed that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcised.

Peter was a working man. A fisherman by trade, he was married. He was born right around the turn from BCE to AD and he lived somewhere around 65-70 years. The typical Galilean fisherman was salt of the earth. Jospehus, the Roman historian, describes the Galileans as “…quick to temper and given to quarrelling and they were very chivalrous men.” The Talmud explains Galileans as “more anxious for honor than gain, quick-tempered, impulsive, emotional, easily aroused by an appeal to adventure, loyal to the end.”

Honestly, the Talmud makes Peter sound like Bilbo Baggins from the Lord of the Rings.

Fishermen in Peter’s day were rough around the edges. They often swore and dressed shabbily. Many have described them as a “man’s man.”

Then his life changed.

He was still the shabby, quick-tempered fisherman, but Jesus called his name.

Luke 5:10-11 – Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.”  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.

At that moment, Peter stepped up as the leader of the group (next to Jesus, of course).

He turned into the most well-known disciple, and the one that is typically listed first. He was also part of Jesus’ inner circle.

But that didn’t mean he was without his problems. I believe Jesus called Peter to show all of humanity how the individual mess-ups that we make don’t mean God doesn’t love us any less.

Peter made a lot of mistakes!

One minute he is walking on water by faith and the next he is sinking in his doubts.

He wanted to know how much he needed to forgive someone who sinned against him.

He wanted to know the reward for following Christ.

He was also the one who denied Christ several times.

Every time he fell, he would come back stronger, understanding Christ a little more each time. He was the first to call Jesus the Messiah.

Mark 8:29 – “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

After Jesus left this earth, Peter turned from disciple to apostle. As a disciple is a “follower of” Christ, an apostle is “sent” by Christ. Peter was the first to preach on the day of Pentecost and was the first to proclaim the Good News to a Gentile. He suffered a lot for the glory of Christ. He was persecuted, beaten, and jailed. But he rejoiced at his suffering.

Acts 5:41 – The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.

One more interesting note about Peter is that many believe the Gospel of Mark was actually written by Peter. John Mark was a companion of Peter’s later in life and dictated much of what he said. I don’t know for sure if this is true or not, but as I reread the Gospel of Mark, you can get a true sense that it was an eyewitness account. This makes you believe that the gospel is the life of Christ shared through the lens of Peter written by Mark. Some of the personal stories, like the transfiguration, are told in the first-person, which Mark never would have been at.

In the end, Peter died for the message of the cross and the gospel of Christ. Leading up to Peter’s crucifixion, almost all the apostles were martyred.

Church historian, Tertullian, as well as Origen and Eusebius say that Peter was stretched out by his hands, dressed as a prisoner, and taken where no one wanted to go, thus possibly fulfilling a prophecy by Jesus.

John 21: 18-19 – Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

The historical evidence shows that Peter was crucified upside down during the reign of Nero. When condemned to death, Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he didn’t feel worthy to die the same way Jesus died.

Arrogant fisherman to humble fisher of men.


Which Disciple Are You Most Like – Part 1, Introduction

A few days ago I was scrolling through LinkedIn and came across someone asking the question, “Which disciple are you most like?”

I didn’t know how to answer.

You come to know the temperament and attitude of a couple of them based on stories that directly revolve around Christ, but there were 12 disciples and I really only “knew” about 4-5 of them.

I decided to research the disciples. I started with the New Testament and went out from there. There is a lot of information from archaeologists and Bible historians. There is also a lot of written and oral tradition that come to bear in this study as well.

Since this is not a scholarly paper I will not be citing my references (in modified Turabian format as Bible scholars seem to like). I am using many of my books from seminary as well the Bible the support my information. Don’t worry, neither Google nor Wikipedia were used as sources.

Over the next 12 posts, I will give you a little information about each of the disciples and then I will tell you who I feel I am most like. It would be really cool if you commented on here with who you are most like and why you think that.

There were 12 original disciples. They are the foundation of the church. In Revelation 21:14, the Bible says the twelve walls of the foundations of New Jerusalem will have the names of the 12 disciples. These 12 men were his closest disciples. After Jesus’ resurrection, He commissioned these same men to carry the gospel message to the world.

These men were not perfect. They had attitudes and tempers. They doubted. They betrayed. They were not the religious elite. Not one was a scholar or rabbi.

They were ordinary.

God chose these ordinary men.

Today there are over a billion professing Christians in the world and they can all trace their roots back to this original group of 12 men.

I like how J.D. Greear says it in a sermon I once heard from him:

“What was it about them? And as I begin to study about these people, what I found out about them was if you were picking teams, you would not have picked them! If you were sitting in a room and going ok, “we’re going to start a movement that is going to turn the world upside down. Who do you want to start with, this group? ABSOLUTELY NOT.” They were cheating tax collectors, they were salty fishermen. They had no creativity. They had no strategy! They had no education, no formal training. None of them had seminary degrees. None of them had preached sermons. They weren’t professional ministers. They had no influence. They had no relevance. Oh God help us.

They had no money. They had no power. They had no facilities. They didn’t even have a start up kit.”

Never has a larger assignment been given to a less qualified group of people!

But here is what they did have:

  • They trusted God and did what He said.

When you think about the context of that statement alone, it is a pretty radical concept. Today, in modern day America if we say we are trusting God and doing what He says then we are probably choosing Chick Fil-A over McDonald’s or we are going to work for Hobby Lobby instead of Whole Foods Market.

In their day, it was dangerous!

What is the first thing Jesus told them to do?

He told them to go back to Jerusalem and wait. What happened in Jerusalem? Well, 40 days earlier the people of Jerusalem made it painfully clear what they thought of Jesus and his followers as the crowds screamed “CRUCIFY!” at the top of their lungs.

Basically, Jesus just told them to go back to the place where their leader had been murdered.

  • They had a passion that unified them.

Today’s church has passion. There are even entire conferences called Passion. But many times our passions are divided, not unifying. These disciples unified around one thing, spreading the gospel across the world.

  • They were in prayer because of their desperation.

Think about it. Up until this point they had Jesus right there with them to talk to, bounce ideas off of, and learn from. Now, they had to go to prayer. This must have left a desperate hole in their hearts and that led to significant prayer.

  • They had the power of the Holy Spirit.

God’s presence was still with them, even in His physical absence. This gave them the power they needed to turn the world upside down.

So over the next 12 weeks I will break down each of the disciples and then tell you which one I believe I am most like. Yep, I am keeping the surprise until the end.

So enjoy as we dig through the Bible and outside sources to learn a little more about each of the disciples together. Next week, Peter.

What does being an elder look like?

1 Thessalonians 5:11 – Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

I am currently an elder at my home church. I’ve been attending the same church since 2002 and, in April 2013, became an elder. I remember the ordination exam. I was so nervous!

The room was filled with all the other elders as well as all the pastors, over 10 people! They went around the room asking me questions that dealt with my understanding of the Bible, my personal life, and some “how would you handle” situations.

Afterward, they asked me to leave the room and they provided their feedback to each other as to how I did and whether I was “above reproach” enough to become a leader in the church.

I squeaked by.

It was not a unanimous decision for me to become an elder. The Bible exam was ok. I passed. The situational questions were fine. It was the personal side that almost ended it for me.

If you have been following my blog you will know that in the not-too-distant past I got divorced. With all divorces comes baggage, but even more so if the person claimed Christ before the divorce. In retrospect, I don’t believe anymore that I was a Christian before my divorce. I believe I was a “cultural Christian.” My conversion truly didn’t happen until after the divorce.

My past is messy.

But, then again, so is almost everyone’s.

But what does the day to day life of an elder look like?

Most people have a vision of what it looks like.

  • Up at 4 AM
  • Spend 2 hours in prayer and petition
  • Read the Bible for an hour, focusing on what God just taught you in the 2 hours prior
  • Spend time reading devotionals with the family before they head off to work or school.
  • Have prayer time with the family.
  • Head to hospital and pray with anyone who will welcome it
  • Go to lunch and have it turn into a conversation. See a whole bunch of people get saved and baptize them in the mop sink at the restaurant
  • Head to a homeless shelter and start preparing food for the meal
  • Serve meals at the shelter and end with a small group that brings the homeless to know Christ
  • Head home in time to do a devotional with the wife and go to bed by 9 pm

All the children are missionaries, pastors, or training to become one. There are no arguments between the husband and wife. All the carnal, fleshly desires are gone and replaced only with Bible verses. They may have a “bad thought” come to mind, but it is immediately replaced with views of how God has changed their life and they immediately repent of the thought and do the right thing.

Now I am sure that there has to be someone out there that fits that.

I don’t.

As a matter of fact, my life is still pretty messy.

Luke 16:10-12 – “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?

Let me share with you my daily schedule:

  • Get up between 6:30 and 8 AM
  • Get the dog ready for a walk and read the Bible while on the walk, pray after Bible reading and re-read the Bible
  • Get home and immediately get ready to start my work day
  • Spend the day at work until about 4:30 each day, making decisions on how to write a person’s resume to make them sound like the perfect candidate while trying not to lie about their qualifications. It is a constant battle.
  • Make dinner for the family
  • After dinner I walk the dog again and go to prayer almost the whole time
  • Get home and unwind with a video game or catch up on blogging
  • Go to bed at somewhere between 11 pm – 1 am.
  • Once a week I pray over the prayer cards in our congregation. I am available for phone calls from the congregation or people I am a mentor to, but many times because of schedules those go to voicemail.
  • Once a week my wife and I get a chance to do a devotion together and pray together.

My wife and I argue. My kids don’t always look like saints. I don’t always look like a saint. I make poor decisions from time to time. I don’t have all the verses of the Bible memorized. I don’t even have some of the verses memorized that others do.

I’ve been known to have a swear word pop out of my mouth from time to time. It usually happens when I get frustrated and try to handle things on my own.

I am a guy, so it takes conscious decisions to prevent my eyes from wandering.

So being an elder doesn’t mean all the temptations go away.

As a matter of fact, those temptations tend to hit even harder once you make the decision to become a ministry leader.

But there is one thing that typically separates people who are taking their Christian walk seriously from those who are not. It isn’t even something that separates elders from the rest of Christians.

It is something that separates those who are mature in their faith versus those who are not.

Accountability and mentorship.

James 5:16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

If someone is really serious about their faith they will allow someone to have access.

Now, yes, my wife is one of those people. But men need other men to have access in their lives and women need other women. While my wife has full access to my life, there are times that I need help understanding how to love her the way I should. And that requires a man who has been there.

So, yes, as an elder I have all of the same temptations as you do. I have moments of pride, moments of weakness, moments of anger, moments of impurity. And I have people in my life that can help me understand those moments and lead me in repentance and forgiveness. They show me grace and mercy and emulate Christ to me.

If you don’t have someone who can do that for you, you need to make sure that is a top priority. Go and ask your pastor. Talk to your church elder or deacon.

Find a person to hold you accountable.

It will lead to your maturity and growth as a Christian.

Proverbs 27:17 – Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

Freedom of Captivity

What do you think of when you hear the name Paul from the Bible?

Many think of the world’s greatest missionary or the world’s greatest evangelist. Others think of the guy that wrote most of the New Testament. Still others think about a Pharisee turned Christian.

But Luke, the author of the Book of Acts, wants us to remember that Paul was imprisoned just as much as he wants us to know he planted a lot of churches. Almost 25% the book is devoted to Paul’s final arrest and imprisonment. If you add all of the information about Paul’s issues in Philippi then you have almost a third of the book dedicated to Paul’s legal problems.

Luke explains, in Luke 21:12 that Jesus prophesied that His people would be imprisoned for their evangelistic efforts.

Luke 21:12 – But before all this they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and …

Later, in the book of Acts, Luke shows us the fulfillment of this prophecy. Paul was not only one of those who were imprisoned, but he was done so because of Jesus’ call in his life: to both carry Jesus’ name to the Gentiles and Jews and to suffer for Christ. Paul’s ministry would not only be far-reaching, but it would be filled with suffering.

So, in Paul’s time, why were people imprisoned? There were really several reasons: to protect them from being hurt, to stop them from running away, to hold them while awaiting a trial or execution, or to force them to help in a judicial case.

Unfortunately, the prison system was very backed up and people would be imprisoned for long periods of time. Defendants were put into custody based on their charge. It was also based on the social status of the person. So, for example, if someone murdered another person, that would be serious. But if someone had a low status a lesser crime could be seen as serious.

If a Roman citizen was a high-status offender, they would be treated better than those who had a low status or were not citizens. There were several options available to the magistrates: prison, military custody, trusting to a higher-ranking sponsor, or release to their own reputation. There was a lot of corruption, even though there were laws in place to prevent it.

There is no greater example of how the system worked than Paul’s experiences in Philippi. Paul had removed a demon from a girl there and her owners, upset with the financial turmoil that it caused, have Paul and Silas taken to court where they are accused of being serious criminals.

Acts 16:16-24 – As we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour. But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, “These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice.” The crowd joined in attacking them, and the magistrates tore the garments off them and gave orders to beat them with rods. And when they had inflicted many blows upon them, they threw them into prison, ordering the jailer to keep them safely. Having received this order, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

The apostles are seen as low-status strangers. They are considered “these Jews.” The owners of the slave girl accused Paul and Silas of undermining the Roman culture and subverting the religion. They were told they were “advocating unlawful customs.” The owners of the girl use their influence as Roman citizens to get special consideration from the court.

Paul and Silas stay quiet.

For the longest time I wondered why they stayed silent. All they had to do was tell the court that they, too, were Roman citizens. But in this case claiming to be a Roman citizen would hurt the message of the gospel. If they would have said, “we are Romans” would have meant they would have to deny Jesus.

This led to Paul and Silas being publicly stripped, severely beaten, chained, and then put into stocks in an inner prison cell, the cells that were used for dangerous and low-status criminals.

While they don’t turn their back on their faith, it doesn’t mean they aren’t angry from the treatment they have received.

Acts 16:35-40 – But when it was day, the magistrates sent the police, saying, “Let those men go.” And the jailer reported these words to Paul, saying, “The magistrates have sent to let you go. Therefore come out now and go in peace.” But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men who are Roman citizens, and have thrown us into prison; and do they now throw us out secretly? No! Let them come themselves and take us out.” The police reported these words to the magistrates, and they were afraid when they heard that they were Roman citizens. So they came and apologized to them. And they took them out and asked them to leave the city. So they went out of the prison and visited Lydia. And when they had seen the brothers, they encouraged them and departed.

When the courts find out they are Romans, Paul and Silas stage a lock-in until the magistrates escort them out of the prison. The magistrates are fearful for the treatment they gave to Roman citizens, which is a serious crime in itself, and they go and escort the apostles out of the prison and ask them to leave the city.

In Jerusalem, Paul was arrested and chained twice at the Jerusalem temple. The commander tries to find out what Paul’s citizenship status is and what crime he has committed. Paul says he is both a Jew and a citizen of Tarsus.

But, yet, what crime has he committed?

The commander sees Paul as a low-class citizen and an overall troublemaker.

Paul is the guy cops don’t like to pull over. They ask for information and get half-stories or no story at all.

He is ordered for interrogation by flogging.

The commander ended up being wrong about Paul’s status.

Acts 22:25 – But when they had stretched him out for the whips, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”

The interrogation and flogging stops. The commander is even worried when he learns that Paul’s citizenship status is higher than his own. You see, the commander bought his citizenship while Paul was a citizen at birth.

The commander had a socially superior person flogged!

They remove Paul from the chains and placed in the centurion barracks where he is allowed to receive visitors.

Acts 22:29-30 – So those who were about to examine him withdrew from him immediately, and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. But on the next day, desiring to know the real reason why he was being accused by the Jews, he unbound him and commanded the chief priests and all the council to meet, and he brought Paul down and set him before them.

Paul is then transferred to Caesarea where he stays for 2 years. But what this shows is how your custody is handled is based on your status and your crime.

The Romans bring out a sizeable portion of their army to transfer Paul to ensure his safety. The same commander that had flogged him sends a letter to the governor, Felix, and changes the facts so they don’t show that he had a Roman citizen from birth flogged for no reason.

He says that Paul’s issues are Jewish in nature and that his charges do not warrant death or imprisonment from a Roman standpoint.

Acts 23:29 – I found that he was being accused about questions of their law, but charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment.

Felix orders Paul to be kept under guard in his own palace.

Acts 23:35 – he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” And he commanded him to be guarded in Herod’s praetorium.

Felix hears the side of Paul and the Sanhedrin. After that he determines that Paul should be kept under house arrest but be able to have friends over and have some other freedoms.

Acts 24:23 – Then he gave orders to the centurion that he should be kept in custody but have some liberty, and that none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.

More than likely while under arrest Paul was chained.

Over the next several days Felix meets with Paul, hoping he would offer him a bribe. But he wouldn’t. And this shows that Paul’s resistance to judicial corruption was the reason for his 2-year confinement.

Acts 24:26 – At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul. So he sent for him often and conversed with him.

Felix leaves Paul in confinement as “a favor to the Jews.” In reality, what this did is that it made Paul suspect in the future in case the Jewish leaders wanted to bring other charges against him.

In the meantime, Felix gets replaced by Porcius Festus and his confinement is left in his hands. Likely the Jews attempted to influence this new magistrate through corruption. This led to Festus suggesting a change in the place of trial from Caesarea to Jerusalem.

Paul is not happy.

He cries out for an appeal to Caesar himself!

Acts 25:11 – If then I am a wrongdoer and have committed anything for which I deserve to die, I do not seek to escape death. But if there is nothing to their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.”

His appeal is granted.

Paul goes from Jerusalem to Caesarea to Rome. He is a citizen who is under the charge of the Roman centurions. Once he reaches Rome, where citizenship is the norm, Paul goes from an entire garrison down to being chained to a single soldier. He can live on his own and rent a place, which he does for 2 more years.

Being that rental properties in Rome are expensive and very few people could actually afford to rent a private house, Paul most likely found a place in one of the tenement buildings throughout the city. Paul most likely could not afford to continue working as a tentmaker at this time as those tools were costly and security in the area he would have lived was scarce. Since he was a citizen, he would have been eligible for grain rations, but otherwise he was in need of support from others.

Philippians 2:25-30 – I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men, for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

Paul was in minimum security in Rome. He was able to welcome anyone and everyone to his place and preach as he saw fit, which would have been boldly.

Acts 28:30-31 – He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Paul would have basically had a house church.

After his third missionary journey, while on the way to Jerusalem, Paul was warned by the Holy Spirit that captivity and difficulties awaited him.

He didn’t care.

Acts 20:23 – except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me.

It was in Rome that Paul told the Jewish leaders that he was in the state he was in because of Jesus.

Acts 28:20 – For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain.”

Imprisonment and captivity was not a disqualification for ministry. It was an expression of it!

In his captivity letters, Paul said he was captive for a higher purpose. He is a prisoner for Christ. He shares in His sufferings.

Paul was an ambassador in captivity who preaches the freedom found in Christ.

Spiritual Focus – A Study in Matthew 16

I know a lot of people ADD, Attention Deficit Disorder. I probably have some sort of ADD myself but am just to distracted to go get it verified. Basically put, people with ADD get distracted very easily.

A lot of people, including myself, suffer from spiritual ADD. It doesn’t take a lot to get distracted away from seeking God’s kingdom. The question Jesus asks in Matthew 16:26 really hits me hard.

Matthew 16:26 – What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?

Getting distracted and losing my sunglasses or car keys is one thing, but what about getting distracted by pursuing a career, watching TV, playing video games, or fill in the blank with your favorite distraction?

Imagine forgetting what you did with your own soul!

The Greek word for soul is “psyche.” This word has several meanings:

  • Physical life
  • Personal identity
  • Spiritual life as it relates to God

Let’s look at all three of these in relation to our own “psyche.”

In Matthew 16:21 Jesus predicts His own death. He was about to lay his physical life down so that salvation could be provided for the world. This is the complete opposite to the man in Luke 12:16-21  who was busy chasing treasure. God responds to this man’s life choices by saying:

Luke 12:20 – ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

In this verse above the word life is also the word “psyche.”

While Jesus spent His life getting ready to lay His life down for everyone, the fool forfeited his life by constantly getting ready to live.

I don’t want to be found like the fool, spending my life waiting to live while Jesus constantly lived knowing He would soon die.

I also don’t want to lose the second definition of “psyche,” my personal identity. My identity is who I am, whom I belong to, and the purpose for my existence. This definition is also seen in Matthew 16:13-19.

Matthew 16:13-19 – When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”

Peter tells Jesus that He is the Christ after being asked  by Jesus who the world says He is. Jesus then identifies Peter as the rock upon which the church will be built. But Peter forgets his identity and almost immediately starts chastising Jesus (16:22). Instead of behaving like the rock Jesus created him to be, Peter gets distracted by his own views.

The third view of “psyche” is that of the soul. I never want to lose that. It is the part of me that knows God. While all three meanings of psyche can fit here, it is this third definition that fits Matthew 16:26 most closely.

This verse looks back at Matthew 4:8-10 when Jesus was tempted.

Matthew 4:8-10 – Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”

Jesus never got distracted. He refused Satan’s offer to gain the world, reminding us that our life is meant for worshiping God.

He is the example. He asks us to ignore the distractions of the world and focus solely on seeking the kingdom of heaven.

Job Loss

Last week the first time jobless claims in America was 218,000. That is the number of people filing for unemployment benefits. While that is only a small portion of the 325.7 million people in America, that is still an incredibly huge number!

Add to that number my wife and many others with which she used to work. That’s right, she was laid off. She is an amazing worker and has a awesome work ethic. I’ve never seen someone so focused on her job than my wife. But companies don’t base their decisions on loyalty anymore, they base them on dollars only.

Over my career I have been laid off twice, fired twice, and have laid off or fired countless people. Currently as a recruiter and human resources professional, I help people find new opportunities after life throws a curve ball at them.

Getting laid off or fired is truly a negative thing.

But there is good news for Christians during this life situation.

God promises us that He will help us financially. Even when we don’t know where our money will come from, we know God will provide.

Matthew 6:34 – Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Jesus told the people in His day, many of whom were unemployed as well, to not worry.

That’s comforting, but, Fred, how does the application of that work? I mean, the bills are beginning to pile up and the creditors are calling me and Jesus is simply telling me not to worry?

Well it starts with prayer.

Now, prayer doesn’t guarantee you will get exactly what you want. Even if you do receive what you desire, it will most likely not be in the timeframe that you expect it. But Christians are called to a life of prayer.

Even when the prayers don’t keep us from losing our job, we are still called to pray. It obviously didn’t work. Why keep praying?

Yep, I don’t have a very good HUMAN reason for that.

The very first time we are told to live by faith happens in the book of Habakkuk. Habakkuk was questioning why God didn’t protect His chosen people. It seems God was being unjust. God didn’t give us a crystal clear answer, but what He did say was “the righteous live by faith.”

Habakkuk 2:4 – See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright— but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness

We are to trust God no matter what, even when God seems to be acting against us.

Bottom line is that prayer brings about increased activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Over time, God DOES respond to the cries of His people and redeems them from the problems by bringing them into His good purpose.

So what else should we do while we wait for God?

Tighten your belt. We have grown very accustomed to luxury. When one is out of work it is time to refocus on the necessity and leave the luxury behind. Spending money makes us feel good. When we buy that $5 latte at Starbucks or the grass-fed, organic meats we feel good about ourselves. We can easily justify these as necessities while in reality they are luxuries.

Over the years our standards of what is normal or a necessity has changed. Not too long ago, a 1300 square foot house was elegant (I say this as I sit in my 2600 square foot home). Do we really need the latest electronic gadgets or designer clothing or the newest car? The list can go on.

We are so used to expecting this in our lives that we can no longer afford our lives.

It makes it difficult to cut back because we believe everything in our life is necessary. It is during this time to differentiate between needs and wants.

If you find that you really cannot pay for something, it is time to contact your lenders. There is all kind of debate in the church as to whether Christians should take out loans, and I am not going to cover that here. But if you cannot pay for what you own it is best to contact the lenders before they start contacting you.

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Jesus tells us that if we want God to give us our desires then we need to seek first the kingdom. In this case, we need to be looking for God’s “influence” in our lives (kingdom) as we strive to do what is right (his righteousness). Contacting those you cannot pay is the right thing to do. Not only will the creditors work with you, but God will honor it.

One you have done that, don’t give up!

1 Kings 17:12-14 – “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”  Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

In this story, Elijah asks a woman for a meal during a devastating famine. But the woman did what Elijah asked and she didn’t run out of food. God used her giving to bring about His provision. Our giving doesn’t “earn” us anything, but it teaches us to trust God and put that trust at the forefront of our lives.

Now that you know you aren’t giving up, it is time to get out there. Start sending out resumes in faith.

Make your job to find a job. I have said that over and over to people I represent. If you are out of work, you need to spend your “free” time finding a job. Do not just sit back and wait. Don’t run away in fear.

Remember something: God is a creator! Even if there is no job out there that exists at this moment for you GOD CAN CREATE IT!

Mark 9:23 – “‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”

During this time you need to be willing to work at jobs that pay less than you were paid before and jobs that you may seem overqualified for or even demeaning to you.

Stay in motion.

Over my many years leading teams and lately counseling people on their careers I have found that God moves more quickly in the lives of those who keep moving forward than in those who feel victimized and paralyzed in their circumstance.

If you need to, ask for help.

I hate asking for help. But sometimes it is necessary. Maybe you reach out to a family member or a friend or the government. You might think it seems irresponsible to ask for help, but there come times in all of our lives that we simply need help. Asking for loans from someone close to you might need to happen and, if you are a person of integrity, then you will be greeted with empathy and kindness.

Finally, remember that this is only temporary. If you simply hang in there and keep in motion you will see that this will pass with minimal negative effect. And it might even help refine you into the person God needs you to become.

Hebrews 6:11-12 – We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Just remember this will all pass. God is going to make sure of it.

In the meantime, if anyone knows of any great, preferably remote, opportunities, send me a message and I will tell my wife. She’s currently looking for a new career choice.

Faced with Frailty

Getting older sucks.

There is no way around that, we all get older and we our bodies, minds, and emotions start to break down.

1 Peter 1:24 – For All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls

Now, please keep in mind, I am fairly healthy. But as I have gotten older, I have started having more and more issues.  And I don’t exactly keep myself in the best of shape. I don’t exercise other than walk the dog around the neighborhood a couple times a day. If you cut me I will bleed chocolate and marshmallow fluff. Watching my calories involves reducing the number of Oreos that I eat from 8 to 4.

Today as I went to the doctor, he told me that I have something on my leg that he wants to remove and send to pathology for testing.

Without making this sound dramatic, in a brief moment I realized just how fragile this life is. I had every negative thought running through my head in that single moment. All the “what-if” questions hit me. It didn’t help that as I was sitting in the doctor’s office there was a single publication to read and the title of it was “Living with Cancer.”

Now before I go on, please note that I have nothing more than a single lump on my leg that is getting cut off in a few weeks. Nothing more.

But when the doctor says those words about being a possibility, you begin to realize how fragile and frail the human condition is.

Job 14:1 – “Man, who is born of woman, Is short-lived and full of turmoil.

The then I think about the apostle Paul.

In Philippians 4 he talks about being content in all circumstance. In Galatians 4 he talks about his physical illness. In 2 Corinthians 12 he mentions his “thorn in the flesh.”

Paul was a broken man.

But humanity is broken by design.

I have heard many people say that we weren’t meant to be broken, but it was because of the sin that entered from Adam and Eve that we became broken. And there are definitely scriptures to support that, because of the Fall, we were broken.

But I believe we were broken before that, we just didn’t realize it yet.

How could sin enter into Adam and Eve unless they had a broken nature to them? If they did not have a nature that was susceptible to sin and brokenness then why did God have to give instruction to them? He could have just let them go on their own without the instructions.

But brokenness needs to be part of our condition by design.

We are never more human than in our brokenness.

Think about it, when you are doing well at something do you believe you need God? Do you truly put God first when things are going well? Maybe for the few “super-spiritual” people who we see as the Marvel superheroes of Christianity, but for the average run of the mill Christian, we forget God too easily.

We succeed and believe that our success is due strictly to ourselves. We grow and we credit ourselves for the growth.

We are a proud bunch of people.

Psalm 49:12 – But man in his pomp will not endure; He is like the beasts that perish.

But brokenness shows us that we are not God.

When we are hit with illness, we realize that we cannot do it alone. When our bank account reaches zero and the bills are piling up, we realize that we cannot dig ourselves out of the hole we created. When we anger our friends on Facebook we realize just how lonely we are when given to our own devices.

We need our brokenness.

It reminds us that we need someone who is much bigger than us. It reminds of us of our Creator and that we require a Creator to create us. It reminds us that we are simply clay pots in the potter’s hands.

Without brokenness we become a people that is proud of our own accomplishments. We turn inward focused. We desire ourselves and our own flesh and, eventually, our self-centered nature leads us to not just forget God, but others.

That is why brokenness is built into our humanity.

Without it we wouldn’t look out for our brethren.

God has always been about loving Him and loving others.

We can’t love others unless we know how to love Him.

That is why we wants us to love Him. It teaches us to love others.

Brokenness reminds us of that.

So, as I write this, and get out of my own head and refocus my attention on God and the grace He has poured on me, I realize my humanity and the brokenness I have. I realize the frailty of my body. I realize the strength I have in an eternal God.

And I thank God for the brokenness.

A lesson in living. A lesson in loving. And a lesson in being human.

Psalm 39:4 – “LORD, remind me how brief my time on earth will be. Remind me that my days are numbered–how fleeting my life is.

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