The Weight of Jesus’ Identity and My Response to Him


IMG_2515In the comment section, a reader wrote, “Jesus was one of the greatest ever born. I am fascinated by the improvements and additions he made to the already existing ideals, but he created complications by claiming to be incarnation or son of God …” (Do You Need to Drop “the Weight of Christianity”?)

“He created complications” is both true and an immense understatement. His words alone challenge us.

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24).

“If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).

Serve others …

… and you will be great.

Die …

… and you will live.

Our centered-in-us natures wrestle with these statements because they push us beyond self-interest and even the basic human desire for self-preservation.

No easy task (and, yes, I realize that’s both trite and obvious).

But Jesus complicates things further, especially if you didn’t grow up in a Christian community, by adding the weight of his identity—“… the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Peter’s statement, Matthew 16:16). “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 where the Apostle John identifies Jesus as “the Word”).

“Before Abraham was born, I AM.”

Jesus said that to a group of religious leaders after their lengthy interrogation concerning his identity. They understood the reference and picked up stones to kill him (see John 8:48-59).

The complication comes when Jesus’ teachings are put up against his claims. Few argue with what he taught. His sayings get repeated in today’s world by Christians and non-Christians alike. They’re brilliant.

But how could someone so brilliant make such outlandish claims about his identity as eternal God?

In other words, how could a crazy man speak such philosophical gems as the Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”? How could a mere man claiming God as Father—that’s exceptional self-delusion—do so much good?

Jesus’ claim boogers up all the good he taught and did.

Unless …

He told the truth.

In general, people accept Jesus’ teaching on seeking spiritual blessings over material ones and living sacrificially for the benefit of others.

But when the topic is “Jesus is God,” we respond in one of three ways.

Indifference. We simply don’t consider who he claims to be. A nice man who did lots of good and said some interesting things is sufficient. We don’t need to go any deeper. Let other people argue about that religious mumbo jumbo. Yawn!

Despite growing up in a Christian home, I would have fit into this category for my first 17 years of life. I didn’t understand Jesus’ claims and didn’t care one way or another who he was.

Anger. We understand his claims, or at least the claims of others about him, and get pretty riled up about such an intolerant position.

If we’re here, we’re closer to the truth than when we’re indifferent. We understand the implications. We just don’t like them. (I write about hot and cold responses to Jesus in A Tale of Two Flight Attendants)

Excitement. We understand his claims and accept them. We realize the difference between living a life of religious rules without him and an authentic life of relationship in him.

I came to hold this position in January of 1972 (yes, that is a long time ago). An encounter with a living Jesus Christ has a way of doing that to a person.

I’m curious. What is your response to Jesus’ identity? If you grew up in a Christian home, what did you hear about Jesus? If you didn’t, what do you think about Jesus?

Recommended links:

Jeff Goins has an interview worth listening to: The Importance of Numbering Your Days (if you listen and disagree, I’ll send Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes for free)

Jon Stolpe’s Les Miserables–Unmerited Divine Assistance

J. M. Njoroge’s Beyond the Words

Jon Acuff’s The Simple Things

IMG_3322Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius. … A must read.–Linda Rondeau, best-selling author of It Really IS A Wonderful Life

Come along with T. Neal Tarver on a roller coaster journey to the afterlife, from the bliss of heaven to the despair of hell.–Dawn Kiefer, Editor, Richland Observer

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Bible truth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Do You Need to Drop “the Weight of Christianity”?


Think she's worried about "the weight of Christianity"?

Think she’s worried about “the weight of Christianity”?

On a long road trip, I listened to an audio version of Zorro: A Novel by Isabel Allende. Toward the novel’s end, Zorro’s mother throws off “the weight of Christianity” and returns to her Native American ways.

What in Heaven’s name is “the weight of Christianity”?

Well …

If you’re a Christian man, you keep your hair trimmed.

If you’re a Christian woman, you grow your hair long.

You must have a daily devotional time.

You must memorize scripture.

You must tithe.

You must not go to R-rated movies.

You must not read fiction trash like Zorro.

You must be prim and proper in social settings.

You must attend church services on a regular basis.

And you must dress up when you go to church.

For sure, if you’re a Bible-believing, Spirit-filled, Jesus-loving person, you must vote for good conservative Republicans.

I’m not trying to tick people off here, so please stick with me on this one. Instead I’m trying to get into the head of Zorro’s mother (and Isabel Allende and others who hold a different worldview than me). And I’m challenging us as followers of Christ to recognize “the weight of Christianity” we often superimpose over the Gospel.

After spending time with Jericho’s chief tax collector and witnessing his conversion, Jesus had to explain to the religious conservatives, “… the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

During his earthly ministry, the Lord had the most difficulty not with the Isabel Allendes of life who cast off “the weight of Christianity” but with the religious Tom Tarvers who added to its burden.

Just in case you were wondering …

Jesus Christ is not a conservative.

He’s not a liberal.

He’s not Protestant.

He’s not Catholic.

He’s not even Christian.

He is Lord.

Jesus Christ did not come to validate the American Dream or preserve the American Way of Life.

Nor did He come to expand the rules of the religious life and add to “the weight of Christianity”.

He came, in His own words, “to seek and to save the lost.”

I’d encourage you to drop “the weight of Christianity” and focus on two simple things—knowing Jesus Christ and making Him known to others.

In January 1972, I had a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. He changed the entire trajectory of my life—from missing life’s target to being centered in Him.

New Christian neighbors moved next door at some point after my conversion. One of the neighbors asked me a series of questions. “Were you baptized?”

“Yes.”

“Dunked under the water?”

“Yes.”

“What name was used?”

“What do you mean?”

“What did the preacher say when he dunked you?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Did he say, ‘… in the name of Jesus …’ or ‘… in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit’?”

“I don’t know. All I know is I have Jesus Christ in my heart.”

Not good enough. According to my neighbor …

You must be baptized by immersion.

The preacher must say, “In the name of Jesus.”

That’s “the weight of Christianity”—the add-ons that go beyond “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved …” (Acts 16:31).

I’m curious. What spiritual dead weight have you heard added to Christianity?

Recommended links:

Jon Acuff’s “Why I don’t believe in grace”

Jr. Forasteros’ “Les Miserables: Javert and the End of Legalism”

Chris Patton’s “7 Easy Steps To Be A Missionary Where You Are”

IMG_3354Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

Tarver’s storytelling technique as he takes us along with Nick and Wayne’s journeys through opposite eternal pathways is nothing short of genius. … A must read.–Linda Rondeau, best-selling author of It Really IS A Wonderful Life

Come along with T. Neal Tarver on a roller coaster journey to the afterlife, from the bliss of heaven to the despair of hell.–Dawn Kiefer, Editor, Richland Observer

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

“The Burials of These Babies”


IMG_3937“We interrupt the regularly scheduled programming to bring you breaking news from Newtown, Connecticut.”

We’ve all heard the tragic news from last Friday’s shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary. In a matter of moments, twenty-six souls stepped out of time and into eternity—six women and twenty children ages six and seven. The gunman murdered every soul save one in a first-grade classroom. The lone survivor feigned her own death as her classmates were gunned down.

In a poignant commentary, Joe Scarborough said, “Today as a nation, we grieve; and today we as a people feel helpless.” He spoke of soon watching “the burials of these babies.”

Questions abound in the aftermath of the massacre. I’m sure these three questions have surfaced in various forms and with various degrees of incredulity. Is there a God in heaven? Does He know about what happened? Does He care?

Don’t take these next words as glib or callous. They are not.

Every moment of every day, someone steps out of time and into eternity.

Every moment of every day, someone dies.

Every moment of every day.

The trip has always been one way—from time into eternity. This has been true of Ancient Egypt’s pharaohs … or  first-century Roman captives led into the Coliseum … or Civil War casualties … or Holocaust victims … or starving children in Africa … or first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Always one way!

Always …

… step out …

… of time …

… into eternity.

Always.

Except once!

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The Son of God stepped out of eternity and into time. He brought light into our dark world.

A mass shooting during the height of the holiday season is about as dark as it gets. Yet, in the midst of tragic death, the mystery—One who steps out of eternity into time—lives. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5 NIV).

Is there a God in heaven?

Yes, and over two thousand years ago, He stepped out of eternity into a stable connected to a Bethlehem inn.

Does God know?

Yes, God knows. Jesus said that a sparrow doesn’t fall from the sky without God’s notice. He also said God knows the number of hairs on our heads. He knew, knows, and forever will know the names of all twenty-six victims from Friday’s massacre.

Does God care?

Yes, God cares. After talking about “the birds of the air” and “the flowers of the field,” Jesus said, “Are you not more valuable than they?”

After Jesus raised a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11-17), witnesses testified, “God has come to help his people.”

On Friday morning, December 14th, at Sandy Hook Elementary, twenty first graders and their teachers stepped out of time into eternity.

On an evening long ago, in a distant land, One stepped out of eternity into time.

Isaiah spoke a prophetic word centuries before the birth of Christ. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned” (Isaiah 9:2 NIV).

Today our nation is a “land of deep darkness.”

But in this Christmas season, we remember the Light who “shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Recommended links:

“Hallelujah”–the Voice Tribute to the Sandy Hook Elementary victims

“It Was Just Another Day” by Kari Scare at Struggle to Victory

“In the Wake of the Newton, CT–Turning to the Psalms” by Jon Stolpe

IMG_3324Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

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Posted in Bible truth | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

One Assignment You Need to Get Right


IMG_3792I’d like to make Jesus’s words more difficult to understand than they really are. I’d like to say, “Boy, that Jesus—He sure is smart. In fact, He’s so smart I don’t understand half of what He’s talking about.”

I’d like to …

… but I can’t.

I can say, “Boy, that Jesus—He sure is smart.”

That would be … well … duh!

I can also say, “I do understand what He’s talking about … if I pay attention.”

The fault isn’t in His words being difficult (at least, not difficult to understand). It lies in my slothful habits. If not for other Christ followers, I’d miss so much of what He says.

Case in point—this line which we read in Sunday School (yes, I do go to Sunday School—I need it): “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?” (Matthew 24:45 NIV)

Jesus goes on to speak about the difference between the faithful and the wicked servant. The funny thing is His standard of judgment has a little to do with the Master and a lot to do with everyone else.

Read the servant’s assignment again. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time?”

The servant doesn’t have to go into town and talk about how great the Master is. He doesn’t have to sing the Master’s praises. He doesn’t have to attend weekly prayer meetings to request traveling mercies for the Master.

The servant does have one simple directive he must follow though—feed the others on time.

What then separates the good servant from the bad one?

This one thing—his treatment of those under him. More specifically—whether he makes sure their needs are met or not.

It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. Truly I tell you, he will put him in charge of all his possessions” (Matthew 24:46-47).

Job well done? Okay, here’re the keys to the Rolls and my personal VISA card.

Sweeeettt!

And if the servant isn’t taking care of the needs of those under him—if he’s abusing his status instead and therefore abusing those placed in his charge?

Are you familiar with the phrase “weeping and gnashing of teeth?”

Keys to the car or a hot time down under—all depends on how well you treat others.

For me, the convicting thing isn’t the future rejoicing or weeping. It’s how my words and actions influence others and their view of the Master now. “If that’s a Christ follower and he treats people like crap, I want nothing to do with Jesus.”

Ouch!

So where do I start and where do I most need to practice this passage?

At home!

IMG_3908Here’s how I could rephrase the verse: “Who then is the faithful and wise husband, whom the wife has put in charge of the household dog to give her food at the proper time?”

Look. I know the verse is about more than taking care of my dog. But, for me, that’s the place to start.

Then it continues with caring for my wife, my son, my friends, my relatives, my neighbors …

The simple truth though is, if I generalize too broadly, I’ll miss my specific assignment—to provide for the needs of those placed under my care.

          I’m curious. How would you personalize Matthew 24:45?

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Recommended links:

Jon Acuff’s “Best Christmas Card Ever?” (funny in 5 seconds or less)

Margaret Manning’s “Lost in Translation” at A Slice of Infinity

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes on tourDark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Bible truth | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jesus Doesn’t Know Everything!


IMG_2267“In the  beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

Jesus knows God.

From the start of his gospel, John establishes that Jesus knows eternal God and is eternal God.

Later John quotes Jesus. “… the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing …” (John 5:19).

Jesus knows the will and work of God.

He knows exactly what God the Father would do in a given situation. And he knows why God would do it.

Which is a whole heck of a lot more than I know.

But Jesus doesn’t know everything!

“Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3).

Jesus knows the world.

God the Father created the universe with and through him.

Jesus understands how life began. He knows the stuff of which stars are made. He comprehends galaxies, quarks, black holes, deep space, the laws of physics, and high school algebra.

But Jesus doesn’t know everything!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

Jesus knows people.

Jesus experienced life’s cycle as a flesh-and-blood person—birth, wet diapers, grade school, puberty, work, aging, and death (by execution).

He sweated. He hungered. He thirsted. He hurt. He tired. He slept. He laughed. He cried.

He knows us well because he’s walked in our skin.

But Jesus doesn’t know everything!

“But about that day or hour [the end times] no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

See! Jesus doesn’t know everything.

But he does know …

… God.

… the world.

… and me.

So Jesus knows enough …

… for me to trust him …

… for my past …

… my present …

… and my future.

I’m curious. According to His own words, Jesus doesn’t know the final judgment’s hour. What else do you think He doesn’t know? If He doesn’t know everything, why would you put your life in His hands?

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Recommended links:

Jon Acuff’s “Fame Is a Drug and It’s Never Enough” 3-minute video

Chris Patton’s “More Lessons From David Green of Hobby Lobby” (part 2 of 3)

Dark EIMG_3354yes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

For more of what People Are Saying follow link.

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Bible truth | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

How to Strengthen Ties with Family and Friends During the Holidays


Ah, the holiday season is full upon us with one down and three to go.

Haunting Halloween.

Done!

Happy Thanksgiving.

Almost done!

Merry Christmas.

Just a smidgeon over a month away.

Happy New Year.

I’ll see your smidgeon plus one week more.

And in all the holiday festivities, we want to connect with something deeper, less fleeting than a big meal or presents under the tree.

So how do you strengthen the ties that bind—whether with family, friends, or God?

Let’s start in the kitchen since that’s where the action will be on Thursday morning (and you want to be where the action is, right?).

Make meal preparation a symphony, not a solo. Suvir Saran, a chef friend, suggested, if you’re having guests to dinner, invite them early and allow them to help with meal preparations.

Ellen and I did a test run in September with good friends. We each had a part in the preparation and the result was a meal invested in and enjoyed by all.

The idea resonated with our friend Kathy who mentioned that it made having guests over less intimidating. After all, people don’t typically complain about something they’ve helped make.

If you’re the Thanksgiving Day conductor, think in terms of overseeing the work rather than simply doing it yourself.

If you know the conductor, ask how you can help.

Okay, now on to the dining room.

Give the next generation a gift they can use. Last week on his blog, Jon Stolpe wrote about a great family tradition. His post made me both excited and sad—common emotions at this time of year.

His family brings out a special tablecloth for Thanksgiving. Each family member traces a spread hand on the tablecloth. Then they write five things for which they are thankful, one for each finger.

For me, the exciting part was the tangible evidence of God’s grace written on a tablecloth. The sad part was thinking of those whose hands would not be at the table this year.

I would have loved to see my mother’s hand and thankful thoughts every year at Thanksgiving or Christmas but she went Home three years ago.

Still I have the opportunity to pass on to the next generation the gift of a family heritage of faith in and gratitude toward God.

I’m curious. What holiday traditions do you have that strengthen family and community?

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Recommended links:

Richard Burkey’s “Quotes for Launching a Daily Gratitude Revolution”

Kari Scare’s “Sunday Reflections–Cultivating Thankfulness”

Jer Monson’s “Making Your Life Count: The Three T’s of Service”

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Community, Special Days | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Any Suggestions for Date Night?


Eating out is always a pleasure.

Have you ever had this conversation with your beloved?

“What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know …”

Oh, yeah! If you’re married or dating, you know exactly what I mean.

John Maxwell said, “The wisdom of the group is greater than that of any individual” or at least something close to that.

I write about community and recognize its power for good. In this case, the power to pass on some great date-night ideas.

So as I prepare for a weekend with my beloved, I’m curious. What would you suggest we do in small town America?

P. S. With Thanksgiving approaching, I have two excellent suggestions to enjoy with family and/or friends. I’ll post them early next week.

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Recommended links:

Jon Acuff’s “Small Group Surprises”

Jon Stolpe’s “Walking the Tightropes of Life–Balancing Truth and Grace”

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes

Two men. Two eternal destinies.

One common hope.

A poignant and compelling portrayal of heaven and hell, with a powerful look at redemption from the perspective of both the lost…and the saved. Well done!–Susan May Warren, best-selling, award-winning author of You Don’t Know Me.

“Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes” was a compelling read for me. The vivid descriptions challenged and ignited my imagination. Tom skillfully laid out a clever story that caused me to think and made me want to read to the end.–Ron Fruit GM, WRCO Radio

Dark Eyes, Deep Eyes can be found at:

WestBow Press

Amazon.com

Barnes & Noble

If you enjoyed today’s post, consider subscribing. Each new post will come directly to your email inbox. Check out the Email Subscription box in the right-hand column.

Posted in Community, Special Days | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments