After hearing Randy Harris speak at the 2016 Pepperdine Lectures, I wanted to share the message of the lectures in print form, got his permission, transcribed, then re-worked the material into five articles, with deft editing help from Karissa Herchenroeder.
We published the five articles about the church and politics in a series called, “Electing to Follow Jesus,” and we ran these articles at Charis Magazine during the run up to the election and shortly after.
We kept the principle names of candidates out of these articles. Why? We want these articles to be more timeless and serve a generation as a primer for understanding our own baggage, how we can take a prophetic stand but still be wrong, and how some Christians have chosen to engage or not engage politics.
We believe the articles will have a long-term impact. Thank you to Karissa Herchenroeder and Charis, the Center for Heritage and Renewal in Spirituality (CHARIS) at Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX, USA).
Here are the links to the articles on Charis Magazine.
This series represents a collaboration between Randy Harris and Greg Taylor, co-authors of Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.
Randy Harris is spiritual director for the Siburt Institute for Church Ministry and College of Biblical Studies. He also teaches theology, ethics, preaching, and biblical text courses in the Department of Bible, Missions and Ministry at Abilene Christian University. Randy speaks at numerous conferences and churches throughout the year and has authored and co-authored several books, including the newest, Daring Faith: Meeting Jesus in the Book of John.
Greg Taylor is preaching minister for The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Greg is author of several books including “Lay Down Your Guns: One Doctor’s Battle for Hope and Healing in Honduras” and “High Places: A Novel,” and has co-authored several books.
Begin praying for our president elect today.
The peso will buy you fewer enchiladas today, pollsters are leaping from tall buildings, stocks are limit down, and my son is moving to Canada, which wasn’t the reason for the Canadian Immigration web site crash, but rather an interesting coincidence. What an election evening and I’m fairly apolitical.
I sat watching the wide-eyed dour commentators and began to wonder what kind of moment I was watching in American history. Clearly it is a watershed moment. But it is unclear at this moment if the water is flowing downhill or back up the mountain. Time will tell.
I’ve lived with a Republican president 29 years. I’ve lived with a Democratic president 28 years. I’m certain that I will adjust to life with another president that gives me indigestion.
Forty-nine per cent of our country feel like it’s the end of the world. The other fifty-one don’t feel much better. Here’s…
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A. Murray: Avoid ”right-hand error of counting separation alone as holiness . . . the left-hand error of seeking holiness w/out separation.”
I missed the publication and signing of this letter linked below, but by posting it here, I also endorse and agree with the contents.
Do you like Thai food and live in Broken Arrow? Try Amazing Thai Cuisine. I enjoy eating at locally owned restaurants serving food from around the world, and if you enjoy Thai food like Yellow Curry, search no further.
Visiting is like walking into a friendly home, with Thai cooks and servers greeting you warmly and serving great food. The atmosphere is very warm and enjoyable, clean, service is great, and food is amazing.
Mark and Pam Rushmore are great friends and beloved Shepherds of The Journey: A New Generation Church of Christ. A Shepherd means they watch over the flock and staff and make sure we follow Jesus, God’s word, and love and pray for every person who calls on the Lord and the church for help.
Mark and Pam have been members of The Journey, like the Taylors, since mid 2000s, so we’ve been through a lot together.
Watch this video about Mark and Pam’s story. What I love about Mark and Pam is they are so good at what they do, but they follow what one of my friends calls the “unforced rhythms of grace” in their lives. They are in business to add value and worth to people’s lives, what they call “Life Lived Better.”
Like many of you, I love local businesses of all sorts. You need running shoes? Even if you walk, work on your feet, Drew and Carol Martin at BA Runner are the people who can customize the best fit for your arch and step. Tell ’em Preacher Greg sent you. Doesn’t mean you’ll get a discount, just that I want them to know how much I care about them and love what the Martin’s do!
William Barclay says in his book, The Gospel of John, “The secret of the life of Jesus was his contact with God; again and again he withdrew into a solitary place to meet him. We must keep contact with Jesus. We cannot do that unless we deliberately take some steps to do it.” Arrange your life, Barclay continues, so that “there’s never a day when we give ourselves a chance to forget him.”
Listen to this audio devotional today and “remain” in His love. The Bible reading is from John 15:1-11, NIV.
Tired of the political talk? Listen to Jesus direct you instead!
Follow along as Randy Harris and Greg Taylor lead you through the amazing Gospel of John in order to meet Jesus and learn Daring Faith.
Daring Faith is a brand new book and video companion new for the summer of 2016!
You can get the book content — which is great for personal, group, or church studies — in three forms: book, video (trailer below), audiobook (sample below).
Audiobook coming soon. Hear a sample below, narrated by Greg Taylor.
As we grow older, we tend to become control freaks. We need to control everybody and everything, moment by moment, to be happy. If the now has never been full or sufficient, we will always be grasping, even addictive or obsessive. If you’re pushing yourself and others around you have not yet found the secret of happiness. It’s okay as it is. This moment is as perfect as it can be. The saints called it the sacrament of the present moment. –Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs.
I recently took a six week sabbatical, and one of the best things I began during the sabbatical was counseling with Terry Ewing of Plumbline Ministries.
One of the big issues many of us deal with in counseling is control. The question could be framed this way: Are you God? Or are you not God?
It seems a ridiculous question. Of course I’m not God. But sometimes we act like we think we are God. As Richard Rohr says in the quote above, as we grow older, we tend to want to push ourselves and others around, judge, tell others what they should and shouldn’t do. A counseling professor I had years ago called this “shoulding on people.” We spout opinions about the way the world should be if we were in charge. We think we’re all knowing because we have a phone and the internet. We take on much more responsibility for situations sometimes than we ought.
It was helpful to me last week in a couple of situations to simple step back from getting emotionally involved in a problem at home or work and ask myself, “Am I God? Can I control this situation?” No. This is the stuff of AA or CR or the Serenity Prayer. “Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Stop there. This means everyone around you. You can’t change people around you. The prayer could helpfully add, “and people” to read, “Lord, give me the serenity to accept the things and people I cannot change,” which is to say everyone around me.
Sunday as I preached I asked the church to repeat, “I am not God.” It felt good for some to release the pressure to carry burdens only God can carry for us. I am not God, and as such I do not control the world. I can cry or be pained for the world, lament war, famine, refugees, and do something about it by planning my life around helping the poor, the refugee, and bringing peace wherever I’m present, but I cannot ultimately change the world’s situation or carry the burden of the world on my shoulders. I am not God.
There was a man named John the Baptist who made a public confession that he is not God. He had to. He was over-appreciated. People thought he was from above. They thought he was the Messiah. Or they thought he was a prophet come to announce the Messiah. Some people in the days John the Baptist lived thought Elijah would come back and herald the coming of the Christ. So it became important for John to proclaim what he was not.
When people asked him (John 1:19-34) “Who are you?” he first said who he is not. “I am not the Messiah. I am not Elijah.” Then who are you, John? “I am a voice crying in the wilderness, Repent! I’m preparing the pathway for the Messiah.”
Later, some of his disciples saw Jesus with his disciples on the other side of the river baptizing (John 3:22-36), and they stirred the pot with John, seeming to prompt comparison and competition between John and his cousin Jesus. Here, after already saying who he was not, John goes further to describe himself only in relationship to Jesus.
He says something that is golden and rings down through the years to us today as a mantra that could change our churches, our families, our lives if we took this into our lives as well.
“He must become greater. I must become less.”
NPR’s Morning Edition tells the story of Julio Diaz, a 31-year-old social worker from New York City who after work one night exited the subway onto a nearly empty platform. As the train left, a boy about twelve years old was standing near Diaz. The boy pulled a knife to threaten Diaz and asked for his money.
Diaz gave the boy his wallet and the boy fled. Before he was too far away to hear, Diaz shouted at the boy and said “Wait! You forgot something. Here, take my coat.” Diaz was taking off his coat when the boy stopped, turned around, and looked puzzled.
“Are you crazy? Why are you doing this?” the boy asked.
“Well, if you’re willing to risk your freedom for a few dollars, then I guess you must really need the money. I mean, all I wanted to do was to get dinner. And, if you want to join me, you’re more than welcome.”
The boy agreed to join Diaz. They walked to the diner and sat in a booth. Soon the waitress came by and asked Diaz if he’d have the usual. She chatted a few minutes before putting in the order. The manager came by the booth to say hello to Diaz and his young friend. The dishwasher came out to say hello.
Watching all this, the boy asked, “Hey man, do you own this place?”
“Because you know everybody.”
“I just eat here a lot.”
“But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.”
“Well, haven’t you been taught that you should be nice to everybody?” Diaz asked the boy.
“Yeah, but I didn’t think people really acted that way,” the boy said.
The social worker in Diaz saw an opening. He asked the boy what he really wanted out of life. The boy’s face was downcast, and he didn’t have much of an answer.
When the bill came, Diaz told the boy, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay this bill for me, because you have my money, and I can’t pay for it. But if you give my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
The boy handed over the wallet. Diaz paid the bill, and then he pulled out a $20 bill, placed it on the table and pushed it across the table to the boy. “I know you could use this, but I want to ask you to give me something in return: your knife.”
The boy took the $20 and handed over his knife to Diaz. I don’t know what Diaz’s beliefs are, but he was living like a man who had a mantra like John the Baptist’s: He must become greater. I must become less. My money must become less. My coat must become less. My time must become less. My own life must become less. The person right in front of me is Jesus, and Jesus must become greater.
In Luke 3:10-14 people ask John the Baptist what they should do about the preaching by John about being fruitful, and fruitless trees getting cut down. The crowd asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “You have two shirts? Give one away.” Tax collectors asked, “What should we do?” John: “Don’t collect more than you should.” Soldiers, “What should we do?” John: “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely–be content with your pay.”
Diaz lived not just the mantra of John but some of these exhortations of John the Baptist.
What would it be like to live the mantra of John the Baptist, “He must become greater. I must become less”? When my wife was pregnant with our first child, I gained some sympathy weight. I was also eating for two! I didn’t need to gain more weight. Jill needed to gain weight, so I went on a diet and called it the “She must become greater, I must become less diet”!
When people think of you, who is bigger in their minds? Jesus or you?
If I were to write the name Arthur Conan Doyle, would that mean anything to you? Of course you could google it, but without doing that, do you know who he is? And yet he created a character you most certainly know. He created a character bigger than himself as a writer. Stephen King is a name you know because he has sold millions of books. And probably in his day, people knew Doyle, but the character he created was so big it continues in our imaginations today and is recreated over and over in dramas and stories. The character’s name is Sherlock Holmes.
When people think of you, who is bigger in their minds? Jesus or you?
Living this mantra of John he Baptist is not easy or immediate. In fact, it’s more like the process described in the song I heard as a teenager when an elder of the church I attended stood up and read all the stanzas in a monotone, but all these years later I remember it and asked our worship leader, Cory Legg, to lead the song in our worship. The song title is, “None of Self and All of Thee.” But the four stanzas progress from early discipleship where the disciple proudly says, “All of self, and none of Thee.” As life’s trials come, the disciple says, “Some of self, and some of Thee,” then later “Less of self, and more of Thee.” Finally, humbly the disciple says, “None of self, and all of Thee.” This is a lifetime of discipleship and step by step emptying of our selves as Jesus emptied himself (Philippians 2).
A portion of the Prayer of St. Patrick strongly ties to this mantra of John the Baptist and the question, “Who is bigger when people think of you?”
Christ be with me, Christ within me
Christ behind me, Christ before me
Christ beside me, Christ to win me
Christ to comfort me and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger
Christ in hearts of all that love me
Christ in mouth of friend or stranger.
One version of the prayer says, “Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me.” Who is bigger?
The mission team Jill and I served in Uganda with had a mantra first said by mentors at Harding University. “Do something bigger than yourself.”
What does it mean to live this mantra in each of our lives. For a ministry at our church that does media during our Sunday services, their mantra is “do not distract but point people to God.” They want the microphones, sound, projection, video all to work without distracting from the point of it all: Jesus. This team of media volunteers want, as John the Baptist wanted, to point to Jesus. He must become greater. We must become less.
What does it mean for a church as a whole to take on the mantra of John the Baptist? My opinion must become less. My ministry must become less. My preaching must become less. My worship singing or playing must become less. My family, my children, my grandchildren, my job, my reputation, my, my, my . . . must become less in order that Jesus becomes more.
He must become greater. I must become less.
I started Harding about Prock ending his coaching career. My cousin, Brooks Davis, played football, and I lived on the “football wing” of the freshman dorm. So I knew many of those named in the book in this era, making it a fun and personal read for me.
In addition, I worked for Ken Bissell in the Public Relation-Sports Information Office. We worked the Bison football games. Before computers, Ken and I announced the official play by play to the media in the press box. I have to admit, I don’t think I was the greatest at this job, and sometimes I would get confused figuring a punt from line of scrimmage, where it was received, then the return and the net yardage gain or loss. We had to do this pretty instantly and record it on a big spread sheet, and Ken would announce to the media in the booth what the official play yardage was, who ran it, who tackled who. It’s crazy, and it’s what happens behind the scenes of bigger, high stakes games televised, but it all comes out pretty smooth when we see it on TV.
With that background, I was able to see how diligently Ken works, and I know he put his heart and soul into this book. It shows. Ken tells the story of John Prock growing up in a hard scramble Oklahoma town with less than ideal circumstances in his family. Complete with lots of photos, which heightens the interest of the book, Ken brings readers up through Prock’s high school days and details how he made it to Harding as a coach in the 1960s as one of the coaches to re-establish the football program that had been discontinued at some point before.
Prock coached three decades and I was struck at how he influenced so many lives. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I look at my life as a preacher and wonder if I have had the kind of influence on 1,000 men like Prock has had. Story after story in the book shows how boys came to be men under Prock’s program. A large portion of the book is ten feature profiles of men whose lives have been changed under Prock, both players and coaches. Over and over men say things like, “If it hadn’t been for John Prock, I wouldn’t be coaching young men today.” Imagine, he didn’t just influence 1,000 men. If only 100 of those became coaches and have the same kind of influence, he influenced 100,000 young men!
Ken also mailed out more than 600 letters to former players, and received back stories from seventy-five of them! Ken placed these stories in full in the book in the order they came back in. The stories are touching, funny, and say the same thing over and over: Prock was one of the best Christian men I ever knew. Stories of coach and his wife caring for sick football players in their dorm by taking them chicken soup when they had the flu, inviting the team over, having “football church” on Wednesdays, humor and sayings, and ways the coach confronted players, apologized when he was wrong.
I want to close by saying that Ken Bissell’s Many Sons to Glory is a great book to stock up on for Christmas gifts to people like my dad, who loves biographies. I will order more copies now. Here’s how to order yours. Go to www.manysonstoglory.com and click the top link labeled, “Buy Now.”
I wrote this article for Charis. I’m not going to publish the whole thing here, because I want you to visit this new online magazine published through the Sibert Institute of Abilene Christian University.
Charlie Shedd once said he found a note on the fridge after a particularly contentious argument with his wife. The note read, “Dear Charlie, I hate you. Love