Monday, August 31, 2015

“Yet Jesus continued to pursue the masses.”

A thought by Larry Osborne, (2009-04-04) from his book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Kindle Location 841). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book)

He knew why God had sent him to the earth. 

Larry says, “He didn’t write them off, even though he knew their hearts and the inevitable endgame. He continued to give them undeserved chance after undeserved chance. Certainly, he thinned the herd a time or two, once to the point that so few were left that he asked the twelve disciples if they were going to leave too. But that was not his normal pattern. It was a onetime sermon.”

He goes on, “While Jesus wasn’t afraid to say hard things and draw lines in the sand, he didn’t hide out in the wilderness. He went toward the people. He made it easy for them to hear him. He did things designed to draw huge crowds. He even healed people before they made a commitment to follow him. His entire life and ministry had such a populist tone that the religious elite wrote him off as profane.”

As a church planter in Las Vegas we did all we could to make it convenient for people to gather together.  We knew where we were.  The top industry in Vegas was on the Strip and their weekend was Monday and Tuesday so we had church that met our culture.  We had an Express gathering early on Sunday morning so people who were headed to work could stop and hear two songs and a message and who sat around tables.  We also had church on Sunday morning, Monday night, Tuesday night or Wednesday night with the same message as Sunday.  We met in parks, in schools, in leisure centers, in backyards.  We served breakfast.  Did it work?  We won’t know until we get to heaven but we knew there were hurting people who needed to hear the good news of Jesus’ love and “of his burden-bearing grace” and we needed to make it convenient for them.

That is also why now in retirement I write this blog, why I spend time in coffee shops all over metro LA where I now live and why I spend so much time on Social Media. You see, Jesus continues to pursue the masses and he does it through us.  Not in a pushy condemning way but in a friendly way.


Have you experience yet this good news of Jesus and his burden-bearing grace? 

Friday, August 28, 2015

“Jesus didn’t come to thin the herd.”

A thought by Larry Osborne, (2009-04-04) from his book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Kindle Location 807). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book)

I know we just looked at this but I still think there is more to say.  It seems that we need to really be reminded of this fact.

Larry goes on to say, “His goal was to expand the kingdom, to bring salvation to people who previously were excluded. He came to seek and find the lost, including a large group of folks no one else wanted to invite to the party.  Everything about Jesus’ ministry was designed to make salvation and the knowledge of God more accessible.”  He came to make it more accessible not more exclusive.

He says, “Even at the point of Jesus’ death, the heavenly Father sent a message of accessibility. The moment Jesus died, the temple curtain that had isolated the Holy of Holies from everyone but the high priest (and even he could enter only once a year, on the Day of Atonement) was ripped open from the top down. What had once been a symbol of the barrier between God and sinful people suddenly became a symbol of open access for all.”

He then says, “The religious elite weren’t opposed to Jesus being a messiah or a king. They were opposed to the kind of people he included in his kingdom. They fought with him because he kept ignoring their definitions of committed spirituality. He refused to let them pick and choose who was going to be invited into the kingdom — and on what basis they would be allowed to come in. So they wrote him off and tried to kill him. The same thing still happens today. People who plead for stricter and stricter standards of discipleship in the name of a purer church are happy to have a Savior — as long as they can decide whom he saves.”

Let’s do all we can in this day, all we can to not thin the herd but to grow the herd.  That's what Jesus showed he came to do.

Why don’t we do that too.  Ok?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

“But there is something worse than settling for mediocrity. It’s exclusivity.”

A thought by Larry Osborne, (2009-04-04) from his book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Kindle Location 745). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book)

Back when I was young, a hundred years ago it seems, I set as a goal to not accept two things in myself personally.  One was being negative and the other was accepting mediocrity. Worthy personal goals for me.  I didn’t want to settle for mediocrity.  But in the church “there is something worse than settling for mediocrity. It’s exclusivity.”

Larry says, “Everywhere I turn, I find well-meaning speakers, authors, and other highly committed Christians raising the bar (and taking pride in keeping it high) by redefining what it means to be a genuine Christian. Their teaching seems to suggest that a real Christian is someone who always chooses the harder path and then piles on a bunch of extra burdens for good measure. They call for greater sacrifice, deeper study, more evangelism, tutoring kids, adopting children, digging wells, stopping sex trafficking, living more simply, and a host of other things they see as the proof of genuine discipleship. Their drive-by guiltings can mow down an entire crowd.”

He goes on, “You may wonder, 'What’s wrong with that?' It sounds like a recipe for radically committed Christianity. But it’s not. It’s a recipe that leaves out lots of important ingredients. It emphasizes a select few favorite verses and teachings from Jesus while pretty much ignoring the rest of the New Testament. It’s not a recipe for discipleship. It’s a recipe for Phariseeism. Now, I’m not saying that anyone is intentionally trying to produce a brood of Pharisees. In most cases, people who prescribe a more radicalized and activist faith have the best of intentions. They want our churches and people to reach their full spiritual potential. They don’t want to settle for mediocrity.”

He then says, “But there is something worse than settling for mediocrity. It’s exclusivity. It’s the temptation to up the ante and to raise the bar of discipleship so high that it disqualifies all but the most committed, and thus thins the herd that Jesus came to expand.”


Life will thin the herds.  Our task is to expand, not to be exclusive, isn’t it?

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

“But God’s commands are not burdensome.”

A thought by Larry Osborne, (2009-04-04) from his book, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Kindle Location 673). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. (Click on the title to go to Amazon.com to buy the book)

But we think it should be.  I mean, I want to receive some credit for my obedience.

Right before this thought Larry asks a question, “So why is it that so many of us find pride in superior obedience?”  And we do don’t we? He then answers it, “I think it’s because we misunderstand God’s commands. We think of them as difficult and burdensome. We hear sermons and read passages about counting the cost, dying to self, and leaving all behind, and we assume that God’s commands are designed to separate those of us who have what it takes to become a true disciple from those who don’t.”

And then he says, “But God’s commands are not burdensome. They’re beneficial. With the power of the Holy Spirit, they’re not that hard to keep. God gives us both the will and the power to obey. That’s why obedience is not above and beyond the call of duty. It is the call of duty. It doesn’t turn us into the spiritual equivalent of a Navy SEAL. It’s the natural byproduct of loving Jesus. It’s the very definition of being a follower.”

Listen, God didn’t save us from bondage into bondage.  He freed us from bondage.  That is good news.  It’s others not God who places the bondage on us.  But where do we get the credit we deserve if it’s all because of God’s grace?  And there it is again.  That word, pride.

Larry goes on to say, “God hates pride. It’s at the top of his ‘I hate it when you do that’ list. But for some reason, lots of us downplay our tendency to pat ourselves on the back and to look down on others, especially if we think of ourselves as being at the front of the following-Jesus line. But the truth is, pride and looking down on others wrecks everything. It’s a cancer that spreads until it kills. If we want to please the Lord and hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ we need to see it in the mirror and root it out immediately, at all costs. If not, we’ll become a Pharisee — accidentally perhaps, but a Pharisee nonetheless.”


So do we really want credit for our obedience?