Tag Archives: Jesus People 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.


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


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 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.


  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?

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

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Are You Ready?

In 1969, Larry Norman released his first solo Christian music album, Upon This Rock. The back side of the album–pressed in vinyl!–featured a song that became the rallying cry of the burgeoning hippie-driven Jesus Movement.

I Wish We’d All Been Ready (you can watch it in the video above) foretold the day when the world comes to an end and Jesus escorts his people home. Across the country, hippies raised their index fingers in the air and proclaimed, “There’s only one way, to Jesus,” and “Jesus is coming soon.”

So what happened? Did Jesus return? And what does the Bible say about Jesus’ coming back?

Join me as we explore this subject in today’s reading.

Note: An acquaintance of mine, David Di Sabatino, recently released a documentary on Larry Norman’s life entitled “Fallen Angel: The Outlaw Larry Norman.” For more information go to http://www.fallenangeldoc.com/


Exodus 21:22-23:13
Matthew 24:1-28
Psalm 29:1-11
Proverbs 7:6-23


Exodus 20:20. I know this goes back to yesterday’s reading, but it really speaks to me: “The fear of God will be with you to keep you from sinning.” Taking God seriously can keep us from sin.

Exodus 22:2-3. This seems like a precarious law: If a person robs you at night, you can kill the person. But if it happens after sunrise and you kill the person, you’re guilty of bloodshed. What’s the difference? The Bible Background Dictionary explains, “When a burglar enters a house at night and is killed by the homeowner, this is considered a case of self-defense…That changes, however, if the break-in occurs during the day, because the homeowner could more clearly see the degree of threat and could call for help.”

Exodus 22:21-24; 23:6,9-11. Of the litany of laws in today’s reading, the command to be kind to the alien, widow, and orphan speak to me the loudest. Roman Catholic theologians espouse the “preferential option” which means that all things being equal, God sides with the poor. Because of this, we must side with the poor.

Exodus 22:28. The command “Do not…curse the ruler of your people” is selectively obeyed today. Seems to me that most people obey it when their candidate is in office and invalidate it when the candidate they opposed in the last election is in office.

Matthew 23. In the chapter, Jesus gives the religious leaders of his day a whuppin’, which pretty much sealed his fate. His message? Appearance means nothing. Motives mean everything. And what motives is God looking for? Justice, mercy, and faithfulness (sounds reminiscent the comments made from Exodus 22). It’s important to remember that Jesus wasn’t against the Law (see Matthew 5:19). This is a good lesson for churches that get caught in the business of ministry–or stuck  following the rules and then neglect the true intention of our faith: loving God and loving our neighbors.

Matthew 24:15. A great deal of conjecture exists regarding the meaning of the “abomination that causes desolation.” First, it’s a reference to Daniel 11:31 and 12:11. Some historians believe it occurred in 167 BC when Antiochus Epiphanes placed a pagan statue in the Temple. Josephus, the first-century historian believed it was fulfilled when the Jewish temple was destroyed in 66 AD.

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In my childhood, I listened to sermons on Matthew 24 nearly every week for two years (at least that’s how it felt). Line-by-line, we were shown parallels between Matthew 24 and the present: rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, famines and earthquakes, people turning away from the faith, an increase in wickedness.

And I drank the Kool-Aid. In Sunday School I told my friends they needed to repent because Jesus was coming soon. I pored over books about the last days. Surely, I thought, I’ll never get my drivers’ license or get married.

But Jesus never came back—at least not in the way that I expected. In my seminary studies, I discovered that for two thousand years, preachers have pointed to sections of this chapter as evidence that they were living in the last generation. And up to this point, all of them have been wrong.

Nevertheless, people still flock to Bible prophecy conferences and feed on novels like Left Behind.

True confession: sometime, I’d like to attend one of those prophecy conferences and stand up in the middle of one of their general sessions and yell, “If you really believe it, run up your credit cards as high as you can so that after Jesus comes back, you’ll bankrupt the Anti-Christ!”

So how are we to respond to passages like Matthew 24?

We read them closely and take them seriously. Jesus could return any day now. Of course, he could return much differently than any of us expect. We also live as if we’re ready to go: keep our accounts short in our relationships and in our walk with God.

But beyond that, we keep on living.

Isn’t that how Jesus wants us to live anyway?


  1. What spoke to you in today’s reading?
  2. Read Exodus 21:23-25 and then Matthew 5:38-40. The first passage instructs people to live by the rule of “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But in the second passage, Jesus directly contradicts it. How do you reconcile the two passages? Should one overrule the other? Why or why not?
  3. What would your life look like if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow? What prevents you from living that way right now?
  4. What’s the biggest challenge you’re facing right now? In light of Psalm 29, what do you think God is saying to you in response to it?

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

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