More Than A Legend

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Many in-the-public-spotlight people will hire a publicist to make them look good. Although this publicist can try to direct the public’s opinion, they cannot control the actual word on the street about their client. What people are talking about in their private conversations is closer to the truth than the publicist’s spin. 

Some skeptics of the claims of Christianity have tried to claim that the New Testament is really a publicity stunt: That the New Testament authors wrote their documents to try to control the narrative of the story of Jesus. But I find it fascinating what people were saying about Jesus from His birth—before He ever preached a sermon or performed a miracle. 

Skeptics may want to claim that what Jesus said or did is a myth. But we need to ask, “Where do myths originate?” Myths come from legends, and legends come from historical facts. J.R.R. Tolkien says in the opening of the Fellowship Of The Ring, “And some things that should not have been forgotten were lost. History became legend. Legend became myth. And for two and half thousand years, the ring passed out of all knowledge.” 

There are those that steadfastly cling to Fact long after others have gotten tired of the Legends, and now only see a Myth. Throughout history those that cling to something others think are out-dated have often been able to bring clarity to confusing things that the modern science of the day couldn’t do. Sometimes these Fact-clingers have been called seers or sorcerers or magicians.  

Some of these magicians show up shortly after the birth of Jesus: 

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the One who has been born King of the Jews? We saw His star when it rose and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-11) 

Some English translations of the Bible translate Magi as “wise men.” This is pretty accurate, but magi can also mean teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, interpreters of dreams, or magicians. These Babylonian Persians had seen some sort of astronomical occurrence that led them to make a nearly 900-mile journey to Jerusalem. 

For over 500 years these magicians had been clinging to a Fact taught to them by the chief magician of Babylon. Not a fellow Babylonian, but a Hebrew given the name Belteshazzar. He was one who could…

  • …tell someone what they had dreamed about and then interpret it 
  • …solve the deepest riddles 
  • …read and translate an unknown language 
  • …call on supernatural powers to shut the mouths of lions 
  • …foretell future world events 

Belteshazzar the Magician also saw a vision of the pre-incarnate Jesus before Time even began, One whom he called “the Ancient of Days.” And he even saw all the way to the end of Time when this King of kings would judge the entire world.  

These Persian magicians didn’t make an arduous 900-mile journey for a Myth. They didn’t bring gifts fit for a king to honor a Legend. They did all of this because of a Fact: Jesus is Fact. 

We meet another magician on Barnabas and Paul’s first missionary journey. He was a man named Elymas. The English version of the Bible calls him a sorcerer, but in Greek the word is magos, the singular of the word magi. 

He’s called a sorcerer because he tried to make Jesus a Myth. He worked for the Roman proconsul, a man called Sergius Paulus, whom Luke describes as “an intelligent man.” Elymas in essence said, “Sergius, use your intellect. There may have been someone called Jesus (in fact, my own father had that same name), but the stories about His miracles, death, and resurrection have to be mythical!” Sergius Paulus was convinced that the accounts of Jesus were myth until he heard the words of fact spoken by Barnabas and Paul. 

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, 

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great man or a moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool… or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” 

So who do you say Jesus is? Is He a Myth? A Legend? A liar? A lunatic? Or is He the Ancient of Days, the Light of the world, the Lord of all Creation? 

Christians, we must have this Fact clear in our own minds, and then—just as the Persian Magi did and as Barnabas and Paul did—let’s clearly tell about this Fact to the world’s skeptics, especially as the world’s modern telling of Christmas seems to be becoming more and more mythical. 

Don’t rail on the Myths and Legends, but use them to show others the Fact of Jesus Christ—the Ancient of Days, Savior, and King! 

(Watch the full message More Than A Legend by clicking on the link below.)

To catch up on all of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, please click here. 

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Shepherd Leaders Serve Others

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

I had a great time on the Ailbe Podcast with Rusty Rabon.

Rusty noted that I used Jesus as the ultimate example of a Shepherd Leader, but then he wondered why I also used a man named Joseph Barnabas. Actually, I used Barnabas as a phenomenal example twice in my book—once in a chapter called “Secure to Serve” and again in a chapter about the importance of having other strong shepherds around us in the chapter “Going Farther.” 

Please check out the Scriptures I mention in this snippet by clicking here.

 I’ll be sharing more clips from this interview soon, so please stay tuned. Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter is now available in print or ebook, and in audiobook through either Audible or Apple. 

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Podcast: Helping Leaders Blossom

On this episode of “The Craig And Greg Show” we talk about: 

  • leaders need to grow themselves because we cannot give to others what we do not possess
  • leaders who aren’t refreshed can blow up what should have been a pretty simple situation  
  • Greg and I discuss a great leadership development example from the Bible
  • I drop a little hint about my forthcoming book
  • leaders need healthy self-esteem if they are going to encourage others
  • leaders aren’t developed in a cookie-cutter way
  • be careful of measuring success by things you can count—people growth is more qualitative than it is quantitative
  • it is important that a leader and his/her teammates have the same definition of key words
  • how leaders can turn unexpected “rainy days” into something positive
  • leaders need to learn how to modify plans without totally changing plans
  • Greg shares some key strategies for leaders to grow themselves, as well as a word of caution
  • if you would like more information on our leadership coaching services, please check out this link

Check out this episode and subscribe on YouTube so you can watch all of the upcoming episodes. You can also listen to our podcast on Spotify and Apple.

Myth Buster

Dick BrogdenGuest Blogger: Dick Brogden

Currently there is an inordinate emphasis on size and speed when it comes to the development of the church. Church history soberly shows that orthodoxy tends not to spread as swiftly as heresy and that bad teaching outpaces good. It is the slow, steady repeated truth of God that builds the enduring church. The largest church at the end of the first century was found in Rome, thought by most scholars to be around two hundred members. The churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica (among others) were most probably between fifteen and fifty. The record of Acts takes place over about fifty years. Biblical precedent indicates that it takes about a generation to get a few churches to what we now consider modest size. One myth is that the church has to grow quickly; another that a strong church is a big church. The best churches tend to grow slowly and steadily, and the normal first century church comprised less than fifty people.

Disciples, too, are forged over time. If a church is but a collection of disciples, then it makes sense that strong churches require time to become solid. Another common myth today in mission is that all new disciples need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit. As appealing as this sounds, it has never been true in history, and if we are honest, it has not been true for any of us experientially. Consider how many books, sermons, mentors, friends, and external inputs help shape and form our spirituality over time. None of us grew to where we are without multiple sources of input over disparate seasons, all the input submitted to the authority of Holy Spirit and the Word. Biblically there always remains the need for an outside catalyst to help correct our biases and heresies. A group of people studying the Scriptures can just as easily end up pooling ignorance as illumining one another. Acts 15 is a classic example of ongoing external input necessary for the formation of strong disciples and churches. The negative example of external input (requiring circumcision) does not negate the massive, ongoing positive external input.

Paul and Barnabas report the wonderful turning of the Gentiles to Jesus. They also report the negative external pressure. James and the counsel respond by correcting the error and reinforcing what is necessary. In Acts 15:20, James delineates what they should not do–former religious forms and rituals. Paul reminds the council that coming to Jesus demands conversion (v. 3) and James cites Peter that the Gentiles must come out of false religion (v. 14). In Acts 15:32, Judas and Silas “exhort and strengthen the brethren with many words.” In verse 35, Paul and Barnabas teach and preach to the Gentiles and in verse 36, Paul and Barnabas commit to revisit their converts to ensure they are walking correctly. Disciples and churches are forged over time. Let us continue to believe that God will do great things and bring millions into His church. Let us continue to understand that it is slow, steady, life-on-life work to make disciples and build churches.

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