Red letter prayer


“I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. John 17:20

John 17 is the prayer of Jesus with your name in it. The entire chapter, start to finish, is Christ’s prayer for His disciples at the end of His ministry, and not only for them, but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message, which, by extension, would obviously be you and me. Thus everything meant for the disciples in this prayer is also meant for us.

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‘Lazarus, come out!’


Here’s why we love the red letters: it’s as close as we can possibly come to walking with Jesus.

It’s the way He taught His disciples. They walked and they talked. That’s why the stories are about fig trees, and grape vines, and soil, and planting, and harvest, and camels, and sheep, and shepherds. They walked and Jesus talked about what they saw.

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True grit


You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. Matthew 5:13

This part of the sermon on the mount has always troubled me. I don’t think we get to the bottom of what Jesus meant when He called us the “salt of the earth.” I don’t think He meant what “salt of the earth” has come to mean in it’s English interpretation which has its meaning in the best of the best, or a fine, upstanding, moral person. That doesn’t seem to fit with the person He’s been describing since He began this “sermon” — the poor, humble, sad, mocked, persecuted, hungering-for-justice person — what we mean when we say so-and-so has had a hard life. “Crusty” comes to mind. Salty, as in “salty dog.”

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Caring for the whole person


John the Baptist, who was in prison, heard about all the things the Messiah was doing. So he sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?”

Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen—the blind see, the lame walk, those with leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.”  Matthew 11:2-5

There’s a difference between Jesus and many evangelicals today.

Evangelicals have always been primarily concerned about personal salvation and personal spiritual growth — stress on the personal. You accept Jesus, not just as your savior but as your personal savior. Where other people come into the picture, it’s all about witnessing to them to the end that they, too, might accept Jesus as their personal savior. Once that’s accomplished, you’re pretty much done, except maybe to get them into a local church.

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Everyone is a VIP


After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest. He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Mark 9:33-35

Here’s one of those red letter things that is simple in concept but hard to do. Jesus interrupted the disciples’ argument about which of them was the greatest by  telling them, if they want to be great, then take the last place in line and be the servant of all.

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Power under


God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,
for they will be satisfied.
God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way. Matthew 5:3-12

Okay, there they are, the opening words of Jesus in the first book of the New Testament. What does this say except that we are in for a wild ride. This is not what anyone expected. This is how Jesus wants His followers to behave in the world? This doesn’t have anything to do with the American Dream. It doesn’t have anything to do with success. This is a humble, broken, needy person. This is the last guy to get picked for anyone’s team. “Hey wait a minute, you take Sam; we had him last time.” This is the guy they put in right field and hope the ball never goes out there.

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Why Red Letter?

You’re old enough to kill


Democratic National Convention, 1968

But not for votin’

You don’t believe in war

But what’s that gun you’re totin’?

You know God is doing a new thing in the world when He brings a new awareness of Jesus. Fifty years ago a spiritual awakening began that was all about Jesus. 1968 was the most turbulent year of the sixties. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Riots broke out at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Students lost faith in the political process to change anything. Widespread disillusionment set in. And suddenly, Jesus started showing up in the lyrics of popular music. People who didn’t know anything about Jesus were singing about Him. Soon, a generation of boomers were turning to Jesus for the answers family, society, culture and the institutional church failed to provide them. Noel Stookey wrote a song about being in a lifeless, irrelevant church and nevertheless leaving a note in the offering plate that read, “I believe in You.” Institutions were rejected, but Jesus was the answer people were seeking. 

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The last word


God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. Hebrews 1:1-3

Any questions?

This is a statement of finality, is it not? Jesus has had the last word. Jesus Himself has stated that all the law and the prophets can be summed up into one thing: love. Love God … and love your neighbor. That’s it. Do this and you will be fulfilling the whole law and the prophets. Jesus didn’t just summarize; He replaced.

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