Tag Archives: disciple

Fear and the Kingdom of God

in Mark 5:36, Jesus say to a father who has been told that his daughter has died…”Don’t be afraid;just believe.” This is remarkable, because in today’s world, in the average person’s life, death kind of is the ultimate take down and a source of fear. Yet Jesus isn’t even phased by death.

So Jesus isn’t bothered by death. He see’s it differently than we do. His command to the caring and concerned father is not to give in to fear. Not to give in to the words of the people/world saying it’s over. Do not give up your hope in me! You came to me with faith that I could do something about your daughter’s situation. The other voices want to distract you from that faith. The voices of the world want to convince you that your faith is misplaced. Jesus’ words are truth. “Don’t be afraid. Just believe.”

Dallas Willard writes: “As disciples (literally students) of Jesus, our goal is to learn to be like him. We begin by trusting him to receive us as we are. But our confidence in him leads us toward the same kind of faith he had, a faith that made it possible for him to act as he did. Jesus’ faith was rooted in his gospel of heaven’s rule, the good news of “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 4:17).” [Italics added by me.]

We are called to view death the way that Jesus viewed it. We are called to think and act like our Lord did. And he wasn’t even phased by the message of the people to give up hope or to give into fear, or that death had the final say. Jesus knew the truth: that fear and death and this world do not have the answers that humanity needs. Only the Kingdom of God has humanity’s best interest at heart.

What are you facing right now? The loss of a job? The inability to find a job? The end of a relationship? Financial hardship? Under-employment? Drug addiction? A family member with an addiction? Abuse? A wayward son or daughter? Loneliness, depression, or your failing health? A time of waiting, when it’s the last thing you want to do? A time of confusion when all you want is direction and clarity?

I think there are many times in our lives and different situations where we face fear and the Holy Spirit is whispering “Don’t be afraid, just believe.” Fear has no place in the strong unshakable Kingdom of God. Jesus didn’t fear. His command to this father was not to give into fear and abandon his fatih. Jesus’ message was simply to believe in Him. For me, it is a message to trust. It is a message to not over-think. It is a message not to worry. It is a message to depend on Jesus, not my self. It is a message to let go of the steering wheel and trust Jesus to drive.

I’m not saying this is easy. I’m sure that the father of this daughter wanted desperately to rush Jesus along [from healing the woman with the issue of blood Mark 5:23-34]. This father had faith, but he was also afraid. Coming to Jesus is the answer. Trusting in Jesus is the way. This father’s faith hung in the balance. Jesus must have known that at this point, the father’s faith wavered between faith in himself and faith in Jesus. Jesus’ words, “Do not be afraid; just believe.”, are words that recognize this struggle and acknowledge the faith that is dangerously on the edge of no faith at all. Jesus’ words meet the father where he is, but also bid him to move in the direction of God.
Do not beat yourself up when you have fear and doubt, for our Jesus meets us there. And in that divine meeting, in the midst of the storm around you, pause, listen, and and in your journey hear the words of God’s own Holy Spirit say to you “Don’t be afraid; just believe!”

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A Call To Discipleship

Now more than ever, the words of Jesus herald truth…“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.John 13:34-35”

The world needs disciples. What is not needed is more rhetoric, hate speech, divisive commentary, baiting of one side against another. The world needs Jesus. They way the world comes to experience Jesus is from His disciples.

Like so many, I add my voice to the fray of noise regarding the violence that we see played out in America. Senseless killing of individuals, regardless of color or ethnicity, a life lost is tragic. You may disagree, but then you may not claim the name of follower of Jesus.

Jesus chose to heal his attacker’s wounds. [And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear.
But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51]

Jesus chose to forgive the men driving the spikes through his wrists. [Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23:34]

No slight, no offense, no racial profile, no name calling is worth taking another person’s life. No one has been slighted, offended, profiled, racially slurred or called names more than Jesus. His path is not protest. His path is not angry words. His path is not violence. His path is forgiveness.

Instrumental to all of this is Jesus’ relationship with His Father. The second key is that Jesus chose. He chose to love his father, obey his father, honor his father. He chose these rather than his anger, hurt feelings, slighted ego, wounded spirit, selfish motives, entitlement attitude, and perceived rights.

There are all kinds of buzz and conversations happening at lunches, around the water cooler, in the break rooms, at the back yard BBQ’s. What if Jesus’ followers started acting like Jesus-followers and offered a word of forgiveness instead of jumping on the commentary wagon? What if Jesus-followers would go out of their way to be polite, smile, offer a helping hand, concentrate on building relationships that reflect Jesus?

Our broken, hurting world needs disciples of Jesus to be disciples; “love one another as I have loved you.” — Jesus

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Jesus in a Bottle is Not Discipleship

I am not sure when it became en vogue to treat Jesus like a genie in a bottle and God the Father as His more powerful big brother.  It is alarming how often, in the face of hardship, people turn to God to fix everything to avoid any personal suffering on their part.  This is understandable for the non-believer, even expected and used by God to bring about an awareness of His desired presence in their lives.  However, for the follower of Jesus, our relationship with Him and the Father, through the Spirit, ought to inform us that Jesus does not promise us that following is easy. Instead He tells us we must ever bear a death sentence in this life (see Matthew 16:24).  
So why is it that most followers prefer an Easy Button that they can safely push from their pews, as opposed to life changing, real relationship?

Only a part of the answer lies in the tragic fact that largely we have ignored Jesus’ relationship with the Father, and how that informs the kind of relationship we are to experience with the Godhead.

The relationship Jesus had with His Father is the relationship we can and are supposed to have. God wants us to know Him and trust Him of fully, that obedience becomes an assumption on our part. It is if we are to say, “of course I will obey you, Jesus; I can’t imagine doing otherwise.”
It is the same response Peter had when Jesus asked, in John 6:66-69, if the disciples are going to abandon him like the rest of the crowds. Peter’s response is “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” Part of what Peter means when he says that he and his fellow apprentices “know that you are the Holy One of God” is that he, Peter, has a relationship with the Holy Son of God. Given what Peter has experienced, given the many miles traveling, given the conversations around the camp fire, the laughter over a glass of wine, the sights, the sounds, the miracles, and probably, most of all the calling that Jesus has placed on his life to leave the fish business for the disciple- making journey, Peter can not fathom leaving Jesus just because things have become difficult.

It is directly because of the relationship that Jesus has with the Father that he can perfectly trust that God knows best. In spite of the great personal suffering He is about to endure, obedience to the Father is not a question for Jesus. Jesus trusts His Father enough to be honest with the Father and to tell the Father his preference, that this cup, the cross, might be taken away. Yet Jesus trusts the Father enough to choose the will of the Father over his own.
For us, we can not over look the role that the Holy Spirit plays in teaching and encouraging our relationship with the Father, through the Son. It is the Spirit who is always whispering the truths of Jesus in our hearts and minds. It is the Spirit that calls us to Journey with Jesus. It is the Spirit who reminds us that God is trustworthy and loving.
Thomas A. Small has written a book entitled, “The Forgotten Father”. In it he writes:
“When in the Spirit we dare cry Abba (Father) like Jesus, the one on whom we call is the God of Gethsemane who can ask for anything including ourselves because he gave everything including himself.”

The pinnacle truth is that this trustworthy God loves us so much that He wrought the mantle of heaven for the mire of earth so that we might know the kind of relationship we were designed to have. By looking at the relationship of the Father with the Son, we glimpse the possible realities that exist for us.

What does this mean for us? Some hard questions… Can we embrace the cancer diagnosis? Not because cancer is good but because God is good. Can we live with the pain, not because we deserve it but because Jesus endured pain? Can we hold on to our marriage relationship, not because it is what is expected but because He asks us to trust and obey. Can we let go of the plans we have, trusting that He has a different plan? Will we let go of our desperate grasp of the steering wheel of control and allow Jesus to drive our relationship?. Are we willing to trust God and suffer the hardship in front of us rather than constantly pleading for the hardship to be removed? In short, will we choose God rather than our own will?

In Luke 7:18-23, we are confronted by the story of John the Baptist in prison, asking Jesus for assurance. Erwin McManus, does a wonderful retelling of this in chapter two of his book, “The Barbarian Way.” Essentially, and this is a generous paraphrase, in verse 23, Jesus is telling John, “Yes, I raised Lazarus from the dead but I am not going to come through for you. I am not going to get you out of jail.” Analyze this: Lazarus is a friend, John is a cousin. Lazarus is just a guy, but John, according to Jesus, is so great that no man who has ever lived is greater than John, v. 28. Yet God had different plans for both men. They don’t have to understand the plan. Neither do we. The don’t have to like the plans; and, if it means personal suffering, we most definitely do not like that plan.
Will we continue on the journey to be covered in the dust of our Rabbi, Jesus, even if Jesus doesn’t come through for us the way we would like? Let us look to the relationship of perfect trust and love between Jesus and His Father as formative for our own relationships both divine and human.

Some difficult questions to answer for ourselves, as always, I invite your comments and to enter into the dialogue as we journey with Jesus.

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Discipleship is: The Work of God

Discipleship is the Work of God. Yes, you read that correctly. I know it seems backward. We assume that discipleship is our work, our devotion, our journey, our growth, our following. And it is, but it isn’t.

In spending some time in John chapter 6, we see Jesus discussing with the crowds why they followed him from one side of the lake to the other. Jesus tells the crowd that they came looking for him because they had their bellies filled and wanted more. Jesus then points out to them in verse 27 not to work for food that spoils, but for eternal life. The crowd responds, “What are the works of God that He requires? Jesus answers in verse 29: “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”

The journey to my premise, that Discipleship is the work of God, may be fraught with twists & turns, but hang in there with me. This is how my brain works…

It has been the modus operandi of the last half century, that salvation was equated to “right” belief. This comes out of our protestant heritage and is summed up in this type of thinking: “If I believe the right things, then I get into heaven.” The result of this approach generally leads to a hollow existence without much life change or transformation. Thus the “practice” of faith is open to accusations of meaningless mind games and a “christian” community looking not much different from the rest of the world.

Contrast that with the growing swell in spiritual practices, formation, discipleship, ancient practices and life change. People want to do something and like the crowd that asked Jesus by the sea of Galilee in verse 28 of John chapter 6, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”

The mistake that many people make, some knowingly and others innocently, is when Jesus says in verse 29, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” is something that only happens in our mind/head. Belief is so much more. The classic example is that I can believe in the idea of flying. I can believe that air planes fly great distances. However, unless I am willing to put my self on the plane, to entrust myself to a belief that I do not understand, do I really believe? Now move this into the realm of following Jesus. I say I believe in Him, I say that I believe He is the Son of God, but do I do the things that the Son of God says I am to do? Do I forgive? Do I trust? Do I go last? Do I serve? Do I take the narrow path?

Belief in the one whom God sent, Jesus, is so much more than a mindset, correct philosophy, and mental gymnastics. Yes, apologetics are important, knowledge is crucial, healthy debate is needed. When we do the work, God’s work of discipleship, the journey becomes the adventure rather than the obligation. The discipleship connects us with our Savior, whom we love with all abandon. The drudgery, the lifeless monotony, the joyless worship fade into the back ground when we do the work God has designed us to do, discipleship, believing in Jesus, acting like Jesus, doing what Jesus said to do.

So when I say that discipleship is the work of God, what I mean is this… God’s work is to believe in the one He sent. The one He sent was Jesus. Belief in Jesus is not simply a cerebral switch flip. It is a journey of life practice, being covered in the dust of our Rabbi, Jesus. James Bryan Smith refers to it as “apprenticing,” in doing the things that Jesus did and calls us to do. The work of God that leads to life is discipleship. Let’s do this journey together!

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Discipleship and Trust = Submitting My Rights

The Kingdom of Jesus is the exact opposite of the way our world operates today.

In addition to the traditional pro-life, pro-choice battle, increasingly polarized opinions keep popping up. Homosexual vs. Straight. Left vs. Right. Pro Gun vs. Anti Gun. Black vs. Hispanic vs. White vs. Asian vs. fill-in-the-blank., Pro-smoking vs. Anti-smoking, Pro Law enforcement vs. Anti Law enforcement. We have been fed a steady diet of polarizing views to entertain and sell advertising dollars and garner viewers. Each side presents their case/cause as the only correct way and paints a portrait of the opposing view as the depiction of evil.

This is not new. The voices are just louder through the voice of the media, internet, Facebook, Instagram and even blogs. At the heart of all of this is the idea that I must assert my opinion over your opinion, because I, necessarily know what is right/best for me. My assumption, of my rightness, does not stop here. Because I assume it is right for me, it should be right for you, and you should see that. We have come a long way or digressed, from the pluralism that ruled the thinking of the 60’s-90’s.

This me-first attitude goes all the way back to the garden of Eden, with Satan’s temptation of Eve that God was holding out on her and Adam, and did not want them to know what God knew. [See Genesis 3:4-5]

Who do we trust more? Ourselves or our Creator?

At that point in time Adam and Eve made a decision that all humanity would struggle with for the rest of existence. Who do we trust more? Ourselves or our Creator?

So look at Matthew 5:39-42, where Jesus says, “But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”

Here is the trust factor. Our Jesus said it. Are we willing to trust Him enough to do it? Every message we see from the world encourages us to strike back, seek revenge, hire a lawyer, sue, hold on to what we have tightly, and do the bare minimum that we are required to do, because those requiring us do not have our best interests in mind.

In the Kingdom of Jesus, the only excuse for holding tightly is holding on to Jesus, trusting in Him and obeying Him. People act like God’s sovereignty is up for debate. God will accomplish His kingdom. We have been invited to play a part in that kingdom. Our part is to concenter* the power of God in a display of our obedience. When we give up our right so that what Jesus said we should do, gets done the world sits up and takes notice. Labels are strewn around; crazy, lunatic, ineffective. From the mind that thinks like the rest of the world, they would be right. From the heart of the Gospel, we are only doing what we ought to have done. [See Luke 17:10]

God is not looking for mindless automatons that blindly follow. Rather, God sent His Son, so that we would have a relationship. In the context of that relationship, I would willingly submit what I want for doing what Jesus wants, in spite of what the world tells me is in my best interest.

That is a synopsis of my life’s calling – to journey with others as we grow dusty in this life-giving, life-transforming power of a relationship with Jesus characterized by submitting my will for Jesus Kingdom.

*Concenter definition – the act of bringing together something around a common center, place or concept.

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