Jeb’s Story – Part 2

The first section of Jeb’s Story can be found here. Jeb’s Story
…the story continues.

I was in the city with some friends and we heard that Jesus of Nazareth was creating a stir. A huge crowd had gathered and when I got near enough to see what was happening I could hear one of our priests encouraging the crowd to choose Barabbas to be freed instead of Jesus who is called the Christ. As you all know it is customary for Pilot to release a prisoner during the time of the feast. The priests kept saying to the crowd “Barabbas!” The angry mob began to shout over and over,”Give us Barabbas!” I am not sure why but I too joined the chorus, demanding that this hardened criminal be spared and that Jesus be executed.

I had known Jesus for several years, sort of at a distance. Twice I believe my inns had purchased tables from Jesus’ family carpenter shop. One of those times I myself spoke to him briefly inquiring about the tables. He was just an ordinary Jew. He was not handsome and I didn’t notice anything unusual about him. It was a few years later that I started to hear that he had gone mad. He was claiming to be God, the Messiah, and that he would overthrow the government and rule the Jews from David’s throne.

I felt only pity for him, the poor fellow had mental problems. But as time went on there were more and more stories about miracles, healing cripples, giving sight to the blind, and desecrating the temple and the Sabbath. He made outrageous claims about knowing Abraham, being equal with Jehovah, and that he was King of the Jews. My pity soon turned to anger. I hated this impostor who spoke against the chief priests, whose disciples broke the law, and ate with Samaritans and common sinners.

So on that day when Jesus was condemned to be executed by crucifixion I heartedly joined the others in calling for his death. I wanted the earth rid of this devil. I began to have an anger that I couldn’t explain and it surprised me. I am one who was usually just out for a good time and religion and politics did not move me.

I witnessed with my own eyes the brutal beatings, the humiliation, the mocking, the bloodshed before they put him on the cross. I was a willing participant even though I did not personally strike him or say anything but I did not object either.

When he was finally up on the cross and the roar of the crowd was at a fever pitch I felt an emptiness in my inner being. I admitted to myself for the first time that an innocent man was being put to death. He had really done nothing that deserved this.

I left for a while, drank several cups of wine with friends and came back to see if it was over yet. When I drew near I was astounded when he summoned the strength to say “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are dong.” Those words struck my soul. There had been a great injustice! This was all so wrong! I was so wrong.

to be continued…..


Jesus said, “I will build my church…”

In the 5th chapter of the Revelation John wrote about the scene revealed to him when Jesus would break the seals and read from the scroll. The whole 5th chapter is remarkable but these verses caught my attention.

“And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9,10)

Jesus said in Matthew 16:18b,

“I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

And he is doing just that. I wonder if we sometimes get off message, out of focus, and busy doing the wrong tasks?

Jesus is building HIS church, not our church. The question then becomes “Will I join Him in what He is doing?”. “Will you join Jesus in what He is already doing?”. You see, in spite of our pettiness, our in-fighting over singing, our doctrinal differences, Jesus is at work gathering His chosen ones who will one day rule and reign with Him. And, it is clear He is doing it quite well. He will do it with us or without us, but He will build His church!

Who are those He is redeeming? They are “from every tribe and language and people and nation”. He is calling to himself people for his own from every people group, pretty effective huh?

I am not the King, I am an ambassador for the King. My role is to serve the King. He says to his people “I have all power in heaven and in earth, go in that power and tell the good news. Baptize those who believe my story and teach them to love the unlovely, be holy, and keep telling the story until I come.”

He enables us to love the unlovely, He empowers our words to the powerless and helpless, and He promises that if we will tell the story as we live our lives while loving others He will do the church building.

Not one person will be left out who should have been saved. So we can confidently say to the thirsty, “Come and drink from this water and you will never thirst again! And to the hungry, eat this bread and you will never again be hungry. And we speak words of life to the spiritually dead and they are raised to eternal life in the power of the Spirit. Why? Because He is “with us” and “in us”. Immanuel is with me today as I go in his name to herald the good news of Jesus.

What if I don’t go? What if you don’t go? What if your church don’t go? Jesus will still be building His church and will keep building it until the last sinner is made a saint and He comes for His own.

His church will be built and it will be from every people group. Let us join Him in what He is already doing.



Questions churches should ask when hiring a preacher but don’t.

I recently read four want ads posted by churches who were trying to find a preacher. The man with the cape could never do all these churches expect. I once wrote a parody of such a want ad. It is astonishingly stupid to ask so much of one man! But that is not the focus of this post.

The ads are dead give-aways of the questions the pulpit search committee will likely ask.

  • Where were you educated and what degree have you earned?
  • How long have you been a minister?
  • What churches have you served and did they grow?
  • Are you married?
  • Have you been divorced?
  • Do you have children?
  • Are your finances in order?
  • What is your vision for a church you serve?
  • Can you live on $***** per month?
  • Etc., etc., etc.

And of course they will want to hear the guy preach, either by a recorded sermon or perhaps in person. The questions above have very little to do with the ministry of leading a church as a preacher, pastor/teacher, or whatever your group calls him.

I have served twice on search committees and both times we hired good, godly men. I have also been used as a reference by ministers seeking a job. One fellow from Arkansas called me to ask about a candidate he and his fellow committee members were considering. He asked “Is he a dynamic pulpit man?” I answered with a question, “Why is that important to you?” My question was met with an uncomfortable silence and then he finally sounded apologetic and unsure saying, “Because we want a very good preacher?”

I explained to this guy that a very good orator, with great credentials, can be a lazy jerk who does all that he does in the energy of the flesh and can not help grow Christians toward maturity and Christ likeness. I suggested that the man go back to his committee and that they should have an extended time of prayer and seeking the mind of the Lord about what their church needed and then interview preachers. Of course he didn’t listen to my advice, and neither did my friend who I tried to talk out of taking the job and it was a disaster! They were the most immature bunch you could imagine. They made the Corinthians look really good!

What churches ought to ask.

  • How do you know you are a Christian? (If he doesn’t answer this one right the interview would be over and I would want to share the gospel with him.)
  • How did you make the decision to become a minister?
  • Tell us about your prayer life? Do you have specific answers to prayer?
  • How much time do you spend in an average week in Bible study?
  • Are you walking in the Spirit?
  • If we hire you will you love our people? (People can tell if you love them or if you are just doing your job.)
  • Is your vision to help us grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, to know him more? (If not what is it?)
  • Do you preach the gospel, regularly and often?
  • How many people have you shared the gospel with in the last 6 months one on one?

There are more, but you get the idea. You see, most churches want a polished preacher who is brilliant and funny in the pulpit, loved and respected by everyone in town, and they want their numbers to increase, both in members and money. And, they often get exactly what they want.

What is your church (or mine) doing for the people of your community that could not be done by a good civic club? The mission of the church is to make men fit for heaven. If lives are not regularly being changed, if spiritual transformation is not changing sinners into saints, if the hungry are not fed, if the mourners have no one to weep with them, if the prisoners have no visitors, if people are not having personal encounters with the living Christ, when your church needs a preacher the first list of questions will do just fine.

If you want a man who is a man of God, who knows God intimately, loves people where they are, like they are, and has no greater passion than to introduce men and women and boys and girls to the living Christ, maybe the first list of questions are not the right ones.


The One True Church

This morning I was to fish in a tournament on a nearby lake. All of the proceeds from the tournament entry fees will be used to support summer camp for kids from our church, Whites Ferry Road Church of Christ. I decided to not fish after paying my entry fee and registering for two reasons. The steering on my boat is failing and severe thunderstorms are predicted. The boat is in the local repair shop and I am in my cozy home.

This morning I sat down with a warm cup of coffee and Googled “weather, 71203” and clicked on my favorite weather site, to see how far away the predicted storms are. I noticed a tiny Google ad, “The One True Church”. My curiosity peeked and I clicked on the link and listened to a few minutes of a video expounding why that church is the “One True Church“. Of course they are not the one true church but maybe they are a part of it, maybe not.

It was easy to learn from the website that the focus of their teaching was a series of lessons validating their claim that they alone are the true church and that all others are false. The first red flag I see, the thing that gives me pause, is when any  group teaches more about the church than the Christ. It takes a lot of time, money, and effort to produce all of the material necessary to support such a claim of exclusivity.

I’m trying to remember how many “One True” churches there is. I can think of  perhaps a dozen right away. You might think of more. Each of those that come to mind use similar tactics and teaching to prove up their claims. And, every one of them has a different set of rules one must keep to finally be accepted by God. Man made religion is always and forever about keeping rules. It is a detailed, well thought out plan of how man can earn God’s favor and be looked upon favorably by Him.

The One True Church” is not a church on earth making claims of exclusivity. The “One True Church” is the mystical body of Christ composed of every person God has called to Himself and is depending on Christ alone for salvation and final reward. That remnant of those, both dead and living and who are not yet saved, who are God’s own dear children and understand that God looks on His children favorably because of the obedience of Jesus and not their own. He birthed them supernaturally, put His Holy Spirit in them as a guarantee and assurance, gave them immortality, wrote His law on their hearts, poured out His love in their hearts, and designed them to love and do good works.

It is my view (this is not inspired!) that of professing Christiandom only a “few” are members of the Lord’s body, the “church“. Jesus’ own words when He described the “narrow” way and “few” that find it. His rebuke of professing Christians who were only counterfeits in Matthew 7. And for me, the most compelling truth is His descriptions of how his followers must live in self denial, have unconditional love for others, be different from the world, and be holy people, stands in stark contrast to the average church member on the pew any given Sunday.

God’s plan to reconcile sinful people to Himself goes against human nature and crushes the human ego. It demands surrender! It demands that we give up trying to appease God and simply trust the Christ who bore our sins in his body, who died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. Most people it seems, stumble at the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.

If you are in “The One True Church” Christ is the chief cornerstone of your life. If not, He is the stone you stumble over and a rock of offense. The message of the cross and the resurrection of Jesus will get one of two reactions. A person will either be drawn to God’s plan or be offended by it. How about you? It is my only hope!