Tag Archives: Jesus movement

The Jesus Birthday party

Thirty-nine years ago tonight, a wide-eyed, eight year old boy was introduced to a new kind of Jesus.

We had just begun attending a wild-haired hippie church called Redeemer Temple in Denver, Colorado. The Jesus Movement was running full throttle at that time, and the church I attended had its foot on the accelerator. Every week, young men wandered into our worship service wearing jeans and no shirts with their teenage girlfriends following behind them wearing short shorts and halter tops. Many of them gave their hearts to Christ. Sunday nights, we baptized the new Jesus devotees in a baptismal—sometimes needing to drain the water halfway through and refill the tank because the water was so dirty. The hippie converts hadn’t yet heard that cleanliness was next to godliness.

In our church’s youthful exuberance, our leaders decided to throw a Jesus Birthday party on December 23. And, they invited one of the most well-known singers at the time.

In his previous life, Barry McGuire was the star of the Broadway musical Hair and singer-songwriter of the angst-ridden Hippie Movement anthem “Eve of Destruction.” Playing next to him was another man—Paul Clark—who attended my parents’ Bible study and would soon leave our church to tour with Larry Norman, the Jesus Movement’s icon.

But what do I remember most about the evening? A throng of young people worshipping Jesus, celebrating his birth.

Now, I like sentimental Christmas songs, even “holiday” songs that don’t mention Jesus. But sentimentalism isn’t the point of Christmas. Nor is family, food, friends, or chestnuts roasting on an open fire. It’s not about the holiday season, season’s greetings, or yuletide. It‘s not even about giving gifts to each other.

Christmas is about Christ. Essentially, it means throwing a birthday party for Jesus. Somehow on my side of the world, we can easily lose sight of this amidst Christmas busyness, parties, and family celebrations.

So this year I have a request: keep Christ in Christmas. Give presents to your family and friends—but remember to give Jesus the best present of all: your presence.

On coming to the house, [the Magi] saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Matthew 2:11 (NIV)

If you don’t have plans for celebrating the birth of Jesus on Christmas Eve  and you live in the Denver, Colorado area, please join us at The Neighborhood Church–5:30pm, December 24 in the Dakota Ridge High School auditorium.

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado with Eugene Scott. He’d love to eat a big piece of birthday cake on Jesus’ birthday.

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The Next Jesus Movement

The movement’s catalyst was a young man named Lonnie Frisbee who found Jesus (or more specifically Jesus found him) while on a drug-induced hike with his friends in the mountains outside Palm Springs, California. He baptized his friends who accompanied him, walked down the mountain, and his life was never the same.

Nor was the church.

Eventually, Lonnie found his way down to Costa Mesa, California and met a young discouraged pastor named Chuck Smith who was considering leaving the ministry. But Lonnie spoke at the tiny church, the Holy Spirit moved in a powerful way, and the Jesus Movement picked up steam.

If you’re weren’t cognizant of the movement back in the early 1970s, you missed out on something amazing. As a child, I remember long-haired hippies with their girlfriends in halter-tops walk into the back of my church and exclaim, “I was driving by your church when I saw something that looked like flames coming up from your roof. I pulled my car over so I could come inside and see what was going on.” Those men and women gave their hearts to Jesus and today, some are pastors, some are actively involved in the church, and some have, unfortunately, been lulled to sleep.

What needs to happen to see God move like that again? And what needs to happen for God to move in us like that again?

Please join us as we explore this topic in our daily Bible conversation.

TODAY’S READING

Amos 1:1-3:15
Revelation 2:1-17
Psalm 129:1-8
Proverbs 29:19-20

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Amos 1:1-3:15. Amos was the unlikeliest of prophets because he was a shepherd, from a backwater town only 6 miles from Bethlehem. While most shepherds received little if any education, Amos displays a surprising command of the Hebrew language, history, and the world around him. Although he lived in Judah, God sent him to prophecy against the northern kingdom of Israel around 750 BC. Both kingdoms were enjoying great prosperity, often on the shoulders of the peasant class. Through Amos, God addressed this problem.

To the delight of his listeners, Amos begins by pronouncing judgment on Israel’s enemies. He starts with Damascus, followed by Gaza and Tyre. Then he focuses on their cousins Edom and Moab and then their better-behaved sister Judah. Undoubtedly, his listeners realize that he will inevitably set his sights on them.

Revelation 2:1-17. In the early chapters of Revelation, Jesus criticizes the Nicolaitans, a “Christian” sect that merged pagan worship practices (including ritual temple prostitution) with Christianity in the attempt to avoid religious persecution. According to early church fathers Irenaeus, Clement and Tertullian, the group eventually hardened into a Gnostic sect.

Notice what Jesus says to the church in Smyrna: You’re about to suffer, but that’s okay.

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

The church in Ephesus was, at the end of the first century AD, the most influential church in the world. They had experienced a Jesus movement of sorts—people had given their hearts to Christ, miracles had taken place, lives changed. Paul and Timothy had pastored there, and then the apostle John made his home there as well.

But over time, the all-consuming fire that had burned deeply in the hearts of its people died down to a flickering flame.

Do you ever feel like that? Your past enthusiasm for Jesus has turned into meaningless ritual? Somehow, you’ve been lulled to sleep? In my experience, this isn’t a one-time occurrence—it’s an ongoing battle we fight throughout our lives.

It’s so easy to stray from the very thing—the very person—that brings us life. In the midst of raising families, paying our bills, and volunteering at church, we slowly drift away from what’s important.

In Revelation 2, Jesus gave the church in Ephesus instructions for stoking the fire, which also applies to you and me. He began by affirming the Ephesians, acknowledging their hard work and perseverance.

Then he told them, “You have forsaken your first love.” First love of who? Jesus. This probably wasn’t a surprise to the readers, but then they assuredly asked the question: “How do we return to our first love?”

Jesus gave them these three instructions (verse 5):

Remember. Think back to those earlier days when felt alive. What did you do? How did you act? How did you feel?

Repent. This means to go in an opposite direction. In whatever ways you strayed from the path, turn around and walk back. It also implies a change in our thoughts and attitudes.

Repeat. John writes, “do the things you did at first.” How did you act when you felt alive? Do them!

In recent posts, I’ve shared about some of the exciting things happening in our young church, especially in regard to our relationship with the high school where we meet. As I meditated on this passage earlier today, I realized that this resurgence is really a repeat of the way I lived earlier in my life–back in the day when I truly believed (and lived) as though Jesus was alive and well, and working through his people. Over time, though, I began to live safe and I built walls that protected me from the outside world. But Jesus’ three-stage process really did make a difference in my life.

And it will make a difference in your life, too.

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Think back to the time in your life when you felt closest to God. How did it feel? How did you live?
  3. Wheat do you need to do to return to your first love?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church with Eugene Scott in Littleton, Colorado.

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Beyond A Shadow of a Doubt

As a child, I grew up in a pretty unconventional church. They were one of the flagship Jesus Movement churches in the Denver area. Every week, countless hippies gave their lives to Christ. And on Sunday nights, they were baptized.

One Sunday night, a man in a wheelchair wanted to be baptized. I’m not sure why he was confined to a wheelchair—all I knew was that he couldn’t walk. Well, once our pastors dunked him in the baptism tank, the man sprang out of the water jumping up and down, splashing and yelling “I’m healed!”

I remember the moment vividly because I was sitting on the front row with my best friend Kent. I was in the first grade at the time.

About 10 years ago I bumped into my friend Kent. We sat down for a cup of coffee and then he looked at me and asked, “Mike, do you remember that time we were sitting in church on a Sunday night when a man in the wheelchair was healed?” He then recounted the events exactly as I had remembered them.

Stop!

As you read this, what’s stirring inside you? Do you believe me…or are doubts swirling around in your head?

If you’re wrestling with doubts, you’re in good company because that’s one of the subjects in our reading today.

TODAY’S READING

Exodus 37:1-38:31
Matthew 28:1-20
Psalm 34:11-22
Proverbs 9:9-10

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

Matthew 28:1-15. Like we discussed yesterday, Jesus was a true revolutionary. So who were the first people to discover that Jesus had risen from the dead? Two women (verse 1). In a culture that viewed women as inferior to men, this was pretty significant. But also notice that Jesus appeared to the two women before he appeared to the disciples. A woman’s testimony was considered unreliable in the culture of that time. This is one more reason to believe the Bible—and Jesus’ resurrection—is true. No Christian at that time would have made up a story about Jesus appearing to two women first. No one would have believed that.

The New Bible Dictionary offers an interesting insight into this account of the resurrection: “This is not an account of how Jesus rose from the dead but of how his resurrection was discovered. The miraculous removal of the stone was not in order to let Jesus out but to let the women in to see the empty tomb.”

In verse 10, Jesus tells Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to “Tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.” In light of abandoning him, Jesus was telling his disciples he was okay with them.

Matthew 28:16-20. This passage is loaded with meaning. Verses 18-20 form the Great Commission. But prefacing it, Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth. He can do whatever he wants—with nature and human nature. Jesus is in complete control.

The wording of verse 18 echoes Daniel 7:14: “He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.”

The phrase in the Great Commission that is often overlooked (in my experience), is the command to teach Jesus’ disciples to obey. We receive salvation as a gift of grace. We can do nothing to earn it. But Jesus loves us too much to leave us as we are. He wants us to grow in our relationship with him and in our obedience to him.

Psalm 34:14. This phrase really speaks to me: “seek peace and pursue it.” In order to attain peace, it seems we must seek it and pursue it. Peace don’t just happen.

Proverbs 9:9. What great insight! Wise people are always learning, always growing. Perhaps that’s partly what makes them wise. But this also speaks to an attitude—a commitment to grow, and the humility to learn.

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends! Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: http://www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

One of the most incisive comments I’ve seen in Scripture is that after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciples worshiped him “but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17). Did you get that? Some of Jesus’ disciples doubted the resurrection—and they weren’t even criticized!

I’m the kind of person who at times prefers denial over reality. Rather than doubt God’s love for me, I suppress it. Rather than wrestle over the reality of miracles in Jesus’ day, I ignore it.

I’m sure the Scripture passage above includes Thomas, the patron saint of doubters. Yet legend (and some historical evidence) tells us that God used him make disciples in India.

So what does this tell us?

  1. God can handle our doubts. There’s no need to hide them from him because he sees them anyway.
  2. Our doubt doesn’t mean we don’t believe. In his book, Soul Survivor, Philip Yancey says that were there no room for doubt, there would be no room for faith, either. He further writes in his book Reaching for the Invisible God, “Doubt is the skeleton in the closet of faith, and I know no better way to treat a skeleton than to bring it into the open and expose it for what it is: not something to hide or fear, but a hard structure on which living tissue may grow.”
  3. Our doubt doesn’t preclude us from being used by God. Thomas serves as a good example for all of us.

Rather than suppress your doubts or allow them to paralyze you, why not bring them to Jesus? He can handle it!

CONVERSATION STARTERS

  1. In what areas of your life do you struggle with acknowledging that Jesus is in control? Why is it a struggle?
  2. To what extent are you committed to learning and growing?
  3. What doubts do you wrestle with? How has God used them to build authentic faith in you?

If you’re reading this blog on FaceBook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here.

www.bibleconversation.com

Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


[1]D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed., Mt 28:1 (Leicester, England;  Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994).

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