Tag Archives: disciples

Worship Wednesday – Nathanael, Philip, and Jesus – Time Under the Fig Tree

Photo Credit: Howard Carter

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”John 1:43-51

Philip found Jesus. The One. The Messiah. He followed Him…and he sought out his friend Nathanael to tell him the good news. Even as Nathanael mocked the news, Philip persevered.

“Come and see”.

As they approached, Jesus called out identifying Nathanael. It was shocking for Nathanael (also known as Bartholomew) because they had not met before. Jesus called him “an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.  Something about what and how Jesus spoke to him caused Nathanael to wonder aloud how Jesus knew him.

Then Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” What?! Of course, we remember this is God, this Jesus. Still, something in His seeing Nathanael under the fig tree meant everything to Nathanael…it meant that He was the One. The Messiah. Nathanael believed.

“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

Now, there are a lot of fig trees in Israel. Most probably, Nathanael sat under them from time to time. Something happened specifically under one of those fig trees that made it hugely significant that Jesus recalled it to him…and told him, “I saw you”.

In the TV series, The Chosen, we watch a story about Jesus, His followers, and His public ministry. We are reminded by the director and others that The Chosen is faithful to the truth of Scripture, but it also tells a story. We don’t know from the Word what was going on in Nathanael’s life “under the fig tree”, but that Jesus saw him was crucial.

The writers of the series have Nathanael wrestling with God over a failed hope. Nathanael had wanted to design buildings that would honor God, and he failed. Under the fig tree, he cried out to God in the words of Psalm 102:1-2:

“Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry for help come before You. Do not hide Your face from me in my day of distress. Incline Your ear to me; answer me…”

In reality, we do not know from Scripture what happened under the fig tree, but when Jesus told him that He saw him there…Nathanael believed. In the Son of God. The King of Israel.

[The scene below is 11 minutes in length. If you haven’t seen it, it is well worth your time. Beautiful. Remember some is story, BUT the passage in John above is faithfully represented…and the emotion is there. The grand emotion of discovering that we are seen…we are known.]

We have all had those moments under the fig tree. Times we thought we were all alone. Times of anguish or fear. Times of feeling completely undone. To be reminded that Jesus sees us changes everything. It is similar, in a God way, to the pronouncement the Samaritan woman made after encountering Jesus at the well. “He told me everything I ever did!” So different from Nathanael but similar in that she met the Messiah who knew her…and still loved her completely.

Worship with me to Jeremy Camp‘s He Knows:

All the bitter weary ways
endless striving day by day
you barely have the strength to pray
in the valley low

how hard your fight has been
how deep the pain within
wounds that no one else has seen
hurts too much to show

all the doubt you’re standing in between
And all the weight that brings you to your knees

HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
EVERY HURT AND EVERY STING
HE HAS WALKED THE SUFFERING
HE KNOWS, HE KNOWS
LET YOUR BURDENS COME UNDONE
LIFT YOUR EYES UP TO THE ONE
WHO KNOWS
HE KNOWS

we may faint and we may sink
feel the pain and near the brink
but the dark begins to shrink
when you find the one who knows

the chains of doubt that held you in between
one by one are starting to break free

every time that you feel forsaken
every time that you feel alone
He is near to the broken hearted
every tear
He knows…*

As you get back to your day, you might want to bookmark the links below. Nathanael is a lesser known apostle, BUT we can learn so much in his conversion story…about Jesus…about the friend Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ…and about Nathanael, this righteous Jew, overcoming his prejudice and coming to Christ.

*Lyrics from He Knows – KLove

YouTube Video – He Knows (Lyric Video)

Worship Wednesday – He Knows – Jeremy Camp – Deb Mills

Jesus and Nathanael – D. Young

Snowballs and Bowling Balls – Jesus and Nathanael – Brian Rosner

Nathanael and the Fig TreeCharles H. Spurgeon

Under the Fig Tree…Jesus Meets Us Where We Are and Calls Us to Follow Him – Howard Carter

Under the Fig-Tree – How to Live a Holy Life – C. E. Orr

Worship Wednesday – When We Love Like Jesus – How Beautiful – Twila Paris

Photo Credit: Burke Church, Facebook

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Romans 12:9-10

We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.  1 John 3:16

“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you also must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

Our world is so full of words…so many voices. Too many are divisive and blaming. Too many propose solutions that seem beyond our capability or capacity. Beyond our understanding even.

Especially in the issue of racial inequality, racial reconciliation, and racial healing. When we look at the proposals made by politicians and even some educators, we are stunned and bewildered.

What will it really take for things to get better? What actions can bridge the racial divide? The words blasting through our news outlets seem more hurtful than healing. We as the church are wrestling with what to say…what to do. I have found that so puzzling given how the Lord has told us how to live and how to love…but we seem challenged especially in this dark dilemma of our times.

Then just today…two voices came through the noise: U.S. Senator Tim Scott and Reverend Keith Haney

Senator Scott posted the following on his Instagram and Twitter page today. Take the time to watch the video.

He deals with the politicizing of the racial unrest in our country, and he calls us as Christians to love people…really love people. Wow! Why “Wow!”? Because we know what is the truth and yet we don’t do it. We talk about it, we react when others tell us what we should do, but…We already know what Jesus tells us to do…and He has shown us how by His own beautiful life.

I have been thinking about what Senator Scott said the rest of the day, and then, in the kindness we regularly experience from God, I discovered this blog The Light Breaks Through authored by Reverend Haney. The piece below is a blog he wrote after George Floyd was killed and all that happened in Minneapolis in reaction.

How Should the Church Respond to Racial Issues?

Reverend Haney writes: “Genuine change only happens when we can change hearts, and only the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ can do that. The community is begging for someone to step up and make things better.

What I hear the world really asking is this:

Dear Christian Church,

As I look at the racial pain all around and the way it is portrayed in the national media, it saddens me. The tone is so negative, and it is feeding into the darkness that is already out there in our sin-sick world. I don’t expect the world to have real solutions. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Dear Church, especially the Black Church, just as you answered the call in the Civil Rights Movement, you have a pivotal role to play. You have the Light. You know the only real Love. The world is lost without your voice. Without your direction. It is time to stand and lead. Now is the time to speak out.”

Then Reverend Haney further encouraged us: “…We are living in a broken world, and the racial issues only serve as a stark reminder of our need for a Savior, a healer, a reconciler.

There is a spiritual reason behind this racial rift. Church leaders you have the power to change things. Our Lord and Savior armed you with the spiritual weapons of God. Battle Satan’s lies the way Jesus did with the truth of the Scripture. All people have value because we are created by the same One True God. We all begin our journey at the foot of the cross and end our trip at the grave.”

We have a beautiful Savior who showed us how to really love each other. Not, as Senator Scott read from his devotional, “just pretend to love others”.  We can state our beliefs about racial divides and racism. We can voice commitments as the church on where we stand. Words only (just talking about issues or doling out our opinions) do not take us to the cross…or to the grave.

Our Savior held nothing back. Maybe we don’t know what that means for us in specifics, given the problems we face as a nation, as a world today…but we know where to start.

We start with receiving the love Christ has given us, every one of us. We receive from His hands. Then we become His hands for one another. He loves…we love. He serves…we serve.

I don’t have sweeping answers but, after today, I am less confused… and less distracted by all the negative talk and virtue signaling. We don’t have to be led to answers, especially by people who have no interest in what Jesus says and does about injustices. He has given us a way forward…ours is to take that path.

Worship with me…to this song by Twila Paris on the beauty of Christ and the beauty of His church – How Beautiful

How Beautiful the hands that served
The Wine and the Bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

How Beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That choose to forgive and never despise
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He lay down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as He died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How Beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her Groom with His light in her eyes
How Beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live
How beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How Beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the Earth
How Beautiful, how beautiful, how beautiful is the Body of Christ*

Photo Credit: QuotesLyfe

*Lyrics to How Beautiful – Twila Paris

YouTube Video – How Beautiful – Twila Paris (talks about the song before she sings it) 1994

Jesus and Holy Week – Tuesday, Day 3 – A Long Day Teaching & Countering Religious Opposition

Photo Credit – slidesharecdn.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

When He [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to Him while He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things, and who gave You this authority?”Matthew 21:23

On this long day, Jesus would demonstrate in one situation after another that he spoke and acted with the authority of God Himself. The barren fig tree cursed by Jesus the day before had indeed withered and died. The disciples saw it themselves that morning as they walked again from Bethany to Jerusalem. Jesus spoke to them of faith, which they would need all the more in the days ahead (Matthew 21:21-22).

Again and again…in Jerusalem, in the Temple and on the busy streets during Passover, Jesus was confronted by the religious leaders. They were determined to trap him in some sort of blasphemous teaching or interpretation of the law. It would not happen, yet they were set on his destruction one way or another.

In an attempt to test Jesus’ understanding of the law, a legal advisor to the Pharisees asked Jesus what was the greatest commandment in the law. The Pharisees emphasized strict adherence to the laws of the Torah, all 613 of them! I don’t think they were prepared for Jesus’ response:

Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is One Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” –   Mark 12:29-31

Two commands: 1) Love God with your whole being; 2) Love your neighbor as yourself. Some might say that a third is presumed in that you must love yourself in a right and wholesome way in order to truly love others. Jesus’ love for the Father and his love for all people were in perfect unity. Loving God, with all we are, gives us perspective and capacity to love those around us, whomever they are, as we have experienced love ourselves, from the God we love.

The Pharisees, Sadducees, and other Jewish leaders grew more angry at Jesus and were vexed as to how to destroy his popularity and influence with the masses of Jews loyal to him. All their trickery that day failed. Jesus was not intimidated by them, and in fact, spoke some of his strongest words against them while teaching that day. His 8 “woe to you” pronouncements against the Pharisees are listed at bottom of this page. When I read them, the song from the original Godspell film comes to mind as the Jesus character stands against the religious “machine” of his day – those “hypocrites”, those “blind guides” of the people.

http://debmillswriter.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Blog-Holy-Week-Pharisees.jpgPhoto Credit –www.faithbibleministries.com

Finally, leaving Jerusalem that day, Jesus stopped on the Mount of Olives (Olivet) to speak about the future. He talked at length, to his disciples and all those who followed, about the end times, cautioning them about false teachers and the evil that would rise up in those last days. What it must have been to listen to Jesus, the Messiah, the day. Filled with a mixture of faith in him and fear of what could lie ahead for them, and the generations to come.

When Jesus and his disciples returned for the evening to Bethany, Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, stole away and met with Jesus’ enemies. [Matthew 26:14-16] He would betray Jesus to them in the dark of night, away from the crowds who would have strongly objected…in just two more days…for 30 pieces of silver…Judas would seemingly take history into his own hands, but the clock was already ticking, and Jesus would finish what he came to earth to do.

Postscript:

8 “Woe’s” Spoken by Jesus Against the Pharisees (Matthew 23:13-30)

1- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you shut up the kingdom of Heaven against men.

2- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you devour widows’ houses, and pray at length as a pretense.

3– Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

4- Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”

5- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith.

6- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.

7- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.

8- Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.”*

Holy Week – Day 3: Tuesday in Jerusalem, Mount of Olives – Mary Fairchild

YouTube video Alas for You from the original film Godspell

Reasoning Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree – Sam Shamoun

Jesus and the Pharisees

*8 Woes Upon the Pharisees – Curtis Kittrell

Great Texts of the Bible – The Two Commandments – commentary by James Hastings

613 Laws of the Torah – William F. Dankenbring

Jesus’ Olivet Discourse about Two Future Events – Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D

TGIM – What Can We Do to Make a “Thank God It’s Monday” Work Culture?

Blog - Thank God It's Monday - bridgepointconnections.org

Photo Credit: BridgeportConnections.org

Don’t hate me, but I’ve always loved Mondays. Mondays read a fresh start for me…a clean slate. New possibilities. Sunday nights would sometimes mean a bout of anxiety or a bit of depression in my questioning of being mentally prepared for whatever Monday brought. All that cleared by the time I stepped outside, into my car, and headed for work.

TGIF (“Thank God/Goodness, it’s Friday!”) was never something I understood. It was hard for me to fathom grinding through a work week, longing for Friday. There’s a rhythm in work, requiring a certain number of days at it, and by Friday, I was ready for a break, but “living for the weekend” wasn’t my thinking on work.

This past Friday was an exception. Pressures at work did spill out over the purpose and pleasure of work such that Friday came just in time. So…I do understand TGIF. Still, it’s clear that God created work for us and I usually take joy in it. Hopefully this resonates with some of you…with others, maybe you might consider how TGIF could make room for TGIM as well.

Tim Hoerr, author of Risking It: An Intersection of Faith and Work, wrote an excellent piece on Building a “Thank God It’s Monday”. It’s a quick read and I strongly recommend it for anyone who struggles with taking joy in their work. It is possible to change your culture.

How does Tim Hoerr define a TGIM Culture?

  • TGIM culture: each team member engaging in challenging, meaningful work – each knowing that their individual contribution is a significant, integral part of the larger whole.
  • Second, each person has ample opportunity for growth and advancement. God has wired each of us to grow and desire new, richer experiences. Entrepreneurial environments are greenhouses for human growth.
  • Another feature of TGIM culture is that each team member and his or her efforts and contributions are being recognized by the company’s leadership. It doesn’t have to be terribly formal or fancy – but each of us want to know we matter and our work is making a difference.
  • TGIM culture means that the fruits of success are being shared by each of those making a contribution to that success. Although surveys show that compensation ranks relatively far down the list of what makes one satisfied, it is essential that the rewards be fairly shared amongst the team.

After defining a TGIM work culture, Hoerr gives a historic example, completely relevant to today’s workplace.

“If you examine the ‘work environment’ Jesus created with his ordinary band of followers, you’d have to say it was a template for our organizations today.”  Then Hoerr lists those components:

  • There was a common mission.
  • A series of challenging assignments.
  • Regular dialogue and interaction amongst the team.
  • Teaching and training in order to replicate the mission on a broader scale.
  • And, importantly, Jesus as the leader facilitating the larger purpose amidst his team’s diverse personalities and all-too-human tendencies.

Don’t miss the rest of Tim Hoerr’s piece on TGIM Culture.

Is the TGIM culture cultivated in your workplace? How might you see the components above implemented where you are – whether top-down or bottom-up? You can be part of making your work and workplace one where you look forward to Monday rather than just longing for Friday.

Tim Hoerr Website and original blog – Building a “Thank God It’s Monday” Culture

Building a “Thank God It’s Monday” Culture – featured at Institute for Faith, Work, & Economics Blog

Bridgeport Connections – Connecting Professional and Spiritual Life

All the “One Another” Commands in the NT (Infographic)

12 Ways to Glorify God at Work

Risking It: An Intersection of Faith and Work by Tim Hoerr

Blog - Thank God It's Monday - Risking It by Tim Hoerr

Photo Credit: Amazon.com

A Prayer for Young Moms of Little Ones

2014 Phone pics July-December 034 Jesus declared, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

Years ago, during a Nile Cruise with friends, we had the opportunity to visit a hospital in Aswan, Egypt.  Across the entryway into the maternity ward were these words, written in Arabic and English: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When Jesus spoke those words, I can’t help but think He also had young moms (and moms-to-be) in mind. The young moms in my life have been on my mind a lot this week.  [See previous blog.] Such a big job, and yet such a bigger God.

Would you pray with me for the young moms in your life?

Dear God,

Thank You for life…and for how You bring it to be through the bodies of Your daughters. These brave young women who carry little ones to term and then continue to carry them in their hearts forever. Keep them close to You, Lord, through all that takes their sleep, their energy, their breath. We are so grateful that You never leave us or forsake us – whether in the wee hours of morning feedings or the late nights of troubling fever. Wrap Your arms around these sweet mamas as they lean on You for help in these moments…moments when there’s no one else really to tag in for them to take their place.

Oh Father, give them wisdom…how to lead their little ones not just to be engineers or fire fighters or moms themselves, but to be followers of God. Help these moms to love You with all their hearts and to teach their little ones to do the same.

When You spoke through Moses to the children of Israel, You must have had young mothers on Your heart. You knew they would need all sorts of reminders to redeem teachable moments, for themselves and their/Your smallest disciples. God, help them to surround themselves with Your Word and remembrances of You. Refresh them with the Truth through their day in the relentless responsibility of caring for children. Restore the joy of their salvation, Lord.

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God, guard them from small lives and trivial pursuits. They are staking out the future of Your Kingdom through their investment in these little lives. Hannah comes to mind who prayed for a child and then gave Him back to You after he was weaned. God, may we remember always that these, our children, belong to You. Make them fit for Your Kingdom’s purposes. Help us all as moms, and especially young ones, have a long view of the future. Give us grace to see.

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Father, thank You that Your yoke is easy and Your burden is light. It doesn’t always seem so in the daily work of life – for moms working in the home and moms also working outside the home. Help us trust what You tell us about ourselves, Yourself and Your ways. In the midst of cooking, cleaning, and caring for these little ones, encourage Your young daughters with glimpses of glory. Help them to lean in to You, Father. Thank You, that You are there for them.

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And finally, God, I pray for the Church to be very real for these young moms. Help them to see that we are more like Jesus, with them, than without them. Help us to be there for them in concrete, life-giving ways. Call us to pray daily for the young families in our community. Lord, help us to serve them in ways that bring us all closer to each other and especially closer to You. Father, also, give these young moms clarity about how much we need them, too. How encouraged I am each week to hear their stories and to see them determined to be intentional in their walk with You, teaching their little ones to do likewise. Thank You, for the grace You give to them to continue to serve their church and community, even in seemingly small ways. God, I remember how hard this was when I had young children. Thank You for Your faithfulness in our lives. We marvel at Your love.

Lord, we know too well that this season of small ones is so brief. We have such a short time really to teach our children how to walk with You in this world. Thank You for these young moms who keep their eyes on You and on their little ones at the same time. Whew! It’s no small thing, Father. Thank You for their sake…and for ours.

In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Lisa-Jo Baker Surprised by Motherhood

Ann Voskamp A Holy Experience

Moms in Prayer

YouTube scene from film Moms’ Night Out – “You just be you, He’ll take care of the rest.”