Tag Archives: discipleship

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!”

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The Heart of a Disciple: “It Is Well”

I was eight when my dad died.

He was forty-three years old.

I regret that I never really knew him.

He was a pastor.

I have memories, vague, but, oh, how I long to converse with him on how he thought, how he lived for Jesus.

On his tomb stone are inscribed these words from Paul, Philippians 1:21 “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

As an 8-9-10-and up year old, I think I knew what that meant. I don’t remember anyone taking me aside and telling me.

As I father three boys, I learn more of my earthly father.

As I follow Jesus, I learn more of my earthly Father who is with my Heavenly Father.

I learn more of the meaning of those words.

For, one does not choose those words of Paul lightly. One certainly does not choose them for their tombstone, without understanding.

These words come to mind, “what ever my lot, Thou has taught me to say, it is well, it is well with my soul.”

To live, is to follow Jesus. There are lots of other wide roads; none that lead to really living. None that can inspire us to say it is well with our soul, whatever the lot.

This helps me understand more fully what Paul was saying. What ever his lot, whether living, or dying, it was well with his soul.

To live, is to know Jesus in my failures, in my triumphs, in my sadness, in my joy, in my laughter, in my tears, in the easy times, in my difficulties. Jesus has something to say about each. Jesus is there with me in each. With Jesus, it is well.

The world defines “well” as “easy and comfortable.” That is not what what following Jesus is about.

To live is to journey with Jesus and others, so that, in our living, Jesus is made known to us. Collectively, with our brothers and sisters we can say it is well.

In our dying, a new journey begins. 1 Corinthians 13:12 “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

When I die, there will be no more doubt, no more questions. No more striving to follow, no more painful mistakes along the journey. It will be well, for my soul will be with Jesus.

The journey will take on a new characteristic. Instead of following in my Rabbi’s footsteps, I will be able to walk side by side with my Rabbi, my Jesus.

I anticipate the current journey as I follow Jesus. I long for the new journey with Jesus.

It will be well. It will be gain.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Obedience is More Than Something to Do

A lot of people raised in the church, raised around religious people, grew up with this notion: following Jesus means following all the rules. It means no fun. It means not even thinking about fun. Depending on your age, you remember the blue laws, Sunday drives, boring afternoons.

Why do we teach others that following Jesus can be reduced to following a set of rules? Rules are easier than being in relationships. The Pharisees were experts at this. They had the form of faith, without function. A list of rules to follow allows us to be in control. We choose to follow or not. A list of rules allows us to bargain with God; “Please Lord, allow me into your heaven. I have followed most of the rules, most of the time.”

Whereas, a relationship requires trust, energy, surrender, vulnerability, transparency, self sacrifice, and is, overall harder, but ultimately worth the work. Take a moment, and think about each of those descriptive words in the last sentence. Do any of those words describe your faith journey with Jesus? If yes, how?

Or is your faith journey dominated by: calling on Jesus when life gets difficult, keeping track of your “good” status, counting on it being greater than your “bad” stuff? Maybe your faith journey is marked by Gracism. “I thank you God that I am more deserving of your grace than the person who…hurt me, did this, did that, doesn’t live how I think they should, etc.”

I have the privilege of being on a faith journey with some other men, as we strive to grow more like Jesus. This week we looked at 1 John 5:3-4a “This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world.” To this verse we posed 3 questions:

1. If I am to show my love of God by obedience to Jesus’ commands, how does this not become just a new set of Jewish laws, that ultimately ends in Pharisaic living?
2. If I am to show my love for God by obedience to Jesus’ commands, is obedience up to me?
3. If I am to show my love for God by obedience to Jesus’ commands’ how is it not burdensome?

So here is how I would answer this:

1. Because following Jesus is about our relationship with him, we obey not because the law saves us but because we love & trust Jesus! Jesus, when asked to sum up the greatest commandment in Matthew 22, tells us that we are to love God with all that we are, 100% of the time. Jesus is describing a relationship. Jesus tells us to treat our neighbors as ourselves, again a relationship. Jesus tells us to teach, baptize, remember and make disciples, again all done in the context of relationships. The greatest indictment of the modern era church is that we have reduced disciple making to an assembly line process. Do this, do that, take this class, attend this six week course and we will all be better disciples. However, I believe I have set the ground work for the fact that all that our assembly line discipleship making has achieved is vacuous hollow self justifications, devoid of real, life changing spiritual power. When was the last time you prayed to the Holy Spirit, asking to understand/know/hear from/be guided by/be convicted by/have a stronger relationship with the Spirit of Father and Son? After all, the Godhead, lives in a relationship within Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

2. Yes and no, it is up to us! Jesus won’t make the decision for us but; because of our relationship with the Holy Spirit, He is there to encourage, guide, influence, and convict us to choose obedience. How many of us make decisions, devoid of any other relational influence in our lives? We do what we do, and don’t do what we don’t do, to try and please a displeased spouse, an angry boss, garner the attention of a distant parent or a lost child. Our relationships impinge on every aspect of our existence. Why is it, then that so much of Christianity has been striped of it’s relational nature and been replaced with things to do? Is it any wonder that our pews are empty when “leaders” live passionless lives that reflect only themselves rather than the person of Jesus?

And finally,
3. Obedience to Jesus does not become burdensome because of our relationship, for we know he wants only what is best for us. Do not translate “not burdensome” as easy. Obedience will always be a conscious act of our will. However, as our relationship grows stronger with our savior, that relationship begins to influence our thinking and our decision making, and transforms our acts of rebellion into acts of faithfulness.

Here is how some of my dusty brothers chose to answer these questions…

“My love for God is not burdensome because I have the Holy Spirit dwelling within me. Nothing is impossible with God. By being obedient to Jesus I am in my Savior’s love…”

“…our obedience is not burdensome because it’s relational. When we care about someone, even hard work has meaning…”

“We love Jesus! Therefore we follow Jesus’ teachings! Therefore we love others.”

So how about you? I would welcome your answer to these three questions and your insights and thoughts. In the comments section below, join us on the journey of growing our relationship with Jesus.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Discipleship is Kingdom Building

There are several common misnomers among those who seek to grow the church. The first is that church growth is all about numbers. The second is is that God wants the church to grow. In regards to the first, do not hear what I am not saying… I am not saying that new people coming into a saving relationship with Jesus is not important. It is, has been and always will be vital.
However, in the great commission Jesus does not tell us to go out and increase our numbers. He tells us to go make disciples. Most church growth interests are about closing the deal, people in the pews, numbers going up and to the right. This is not a bad thing. It’s more like a half completed wall mural. It leaves many wondering what else was supposed to be there. When we ruthlessly focus on discipleship, the numbers work themselves out.

In regards to the second, God is not interested in growing the church [in terms of numbers]. He is however very much interested in building His kingdom. God’s kingdom is where the many care more about the needs of the lost sheep than their personal needs.

To that end I want to share with you what it is that I do.
44DFE443-6722-40C3-9198-CE93565BE3DB
The groups that I lead are filled with courageous men.  They may not feel comfortable with this imposed descriptor, but the bottom line is-they are.  They have done what few others have done, and have embarked on a journey to grow in the likeness of Jesus.  They want to be covered in the Dust of their Rabbi, Jesus.  But this journey is not like any other they have traveled, for they have given themselves to the others who are also following Jesus.  We constantly work at transparency, vulnerability and openness to others. We practice speaking into each other’s lives as we keep their eyes on Jesus.  Just as the Spirit of Truth testifies about Jesus (John 15:26), so these men choose daily to listen to the Spirit’s testimony while striving to follow.

Do they do it perfectly?  Does anyone follow Jesus perfectly?  Obviously no.  We do however, choose to surrender our will for God’s.  Each group of men I challenge to pray.  We utilize lots of spiritual prayer practices.  One prayer that I challenge them to pray each day has this line, “I commit myself to the role you have invited me to play, as you are building the likeness of your Son, Jesus, in me….”

Two important points:
First, it is our choice to ignore the call of our Savior or to commit to it.  When Jesus calls Peter, Andrew, James and John from their fishing boats in Matthew 4:18-22, they have a choice to make, but the commitment is all or nothing.  They either get out of the boat and follow, or they stay in the fish business.  
But this isn’t the only time they have to decide to be “all in.”  In John 6:66-69, the crowds are leaving Jesus because His teaching is too difficult, too demanding.  Jesus asks the disciples if they are going to leave or stay.  It is Peter who answers that they aren’t going anywhere, they are “all in.” There are many other scriptural references where the disciples need to re-up their commitment to follow.

My point is simply this; committing to the call to follow and to become more like Jesus today than we were yesterday, is a daily choice. 

Second, it is Jesus who calls us to be like Him, and in that calling, Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is building His likeness, His Kingdom in us.  This Kingdom is where the power of God is lived out by those who follow the King.  When we choose to forgive, to repent, to show compassion, to speak the truth, to live a servant attitude, we imitate how our Rabbi, Jesus lived and taught. As we make these obedient choices, the Kingdom is more realized in our simple act of obedience and faithfulness.  

One of the guys in our group recently shared that he was in a conversation at work and found himself tempted to lie. He said he was convicted by the Holy Spirit that there was no reason to lie and to be faithful to Jesus. The beauty in this model is that, not only was he striving to listen, willing to obey, but also to share his experience with a group of brothers in the journey. It is the role we have been given, to commit fully, continually.

“It is the role of every Disciple, to commit fully, continually.”

God is building His Kingdom in us, one relationship at a time. I am honored to be in the journey with these men. I know I am closer to Jesus because of the work of the Holy Spirit and them. In John 5:17 Jesus said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  

Thus the question of discipleship is twofold: Are we fully committed; are we all in? And are we continually renewing our commitment to be like Jesus, by obedience, trust and in community?

Join with me on the journey. There is always room!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

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.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

In It, Not Of It – Living Out Our Discipleship

There have been tons of head lines about the Supreme Court decision on same sex marriage.
Most headlines are designed to grab attention, to get you to click on a link.
The majority of what is written is designed to divide and polarize.
I’ve clicked on a few links, and read a lot of headlines, the preponderance of which lead me to believe that most have an agenda, and few to none have a realistic view of both sides of the debate.
So I will jump into the fray and add one more headline, but mine is on behalf of my Jesus.

A popular contemporary Christian group from a number of years ago was a group by the name of Avalon. One of their songs always stuck with me. It was like the Spirit of God grabbed my head and heart and said, “Listen to this!” The song is entitled, “In not of.” Here are some of the lyrics:
“Come take the Light to darker parts,
Share His truth with hardened hearts,
We are not like the world, but we can love it.
Come bring the hope to hopeless men,
Until the lost are found in Him,
He came to save the world so let us be. . ., In it, not of it.”

Now I am not inferring from this song that people of the conservative nature of Christianity are the “Light” and the rest are the “darker parts.” Hang with me here… at the core of the Gospel of Jesus is the central truth that our world is broken and Jesus is the answer to that brokenness. If you want to argue the “brokenness” of our world, as in our world is not broken, my friend you have been living in a bubble.
Given this “core” nature of the Gospel, many Christians find themselves aligning themselves into “like” camps of people who think, act, and believe like they themselves do. But from where I sit, that is akin to lighting a lamp and hiding it under a basket.

To these folks, seeking refuge in the ‘like” camps, I have this challenge. Many say your “like” camps are about preserving the truth, remaining true to the faith, but I ask is it really about the truth, or just about comfort? Far too many people from this camp-simply want to avoid the potential of conflict that their differing opinion can cause, so they hide out with like minded people, so they don’t have to enter the struggle. They do not build deep, abiding, Jesus style relationships with anyone who does not already think/act/believe like their pseudo classic exemplar of Jesus.

I would like to distinguish between this archetypal “Christian” and a Jesus follower. Jesus followers, like the song by Avalon points out, realize as they are in the Word, that they do not have the option of veiling their lives from the world; for Jesus came to save the world [if this is a problem, one might want to check out John 3:16-17.]

“What if, rather than introducing others to Jesus, we built a relationship with them and allowed them to meet Jesus in us. The challenge of course is that we have to have a relationship with Jesus that shows we know Jesus and follow Jesus.”

Another Jesus follower, Erwin McManus writes this: “From the moment we become citizens of the kingdom of God, we become aliens and strangers in a world that chooses to live absent of God. From the first step taken to follow Jesus, we are out of step with the rest of the world. Once your life is in sync with the story of God, you become out of sync with any story that attempts to ignore or eliminate God. You are a stranger to them, an alien among them, a nomadic wanderer who, while refusing to be rooted in this life, seems to some-how enjoy this life most.” That is what a Jesus follower does. We are in the world but not of it.

Jesus followers know death does not have the final say. We live not tied to a material world, because we know that what we have is not add value to who we are. We know we are loved beyond compare despite what others say. We are chosen, instead of being marginalized. We are friends in on what our Lord is up to. We are children of the most High King.

A Jesus follower loves our King and loves the world which is deeply loved by our King, so much so that He was willing to fight for it, by laying down His life. Why are so many people worried about defining what we are agains? Jesus followers live by the stamp of grace upon our lives by which we are marked. Jesus followers build relationships with people who as McManus says, attempt to “ignore” God. Why? Because they matter to our King, and we are willing to fight for what matters to our king, despite how it messes with our comfort level.

I love McManus’ last line, “…refusing to be rooted in this life, [Jesus followers] seem to some-how enjoy this life most.”

In our effort to be covered in the dust of our Rabbi, Jesus, strive to be in the “fight” of this world, but fight not for doctrine, dogma, position, rightness, but for the hearts and minds of people, for whom the heart of our God, beats. Build some relationships holding on to our Jesus, who held on to God, and fought after and died for what the Heavenly King loves.

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Discipleship is Staying Dusty in the Desert

Everyone goes through hard times-painful experiences that bring us to our knees, sometimes out of anguish, sometime out of prayer.
No one likes them. No one volunteers for them. I have told many people over many years, “We live in a fallen, sinful, broken world, a world not designed as God intended, and in that brokenness, hurt is inevitable.”
Spiritually, these times are referred to as “times in the desert.” “Wilderness” experiences. Times when we feel distant from God, or we wonder if God is even present in our affliction.
I was reminded recently, of Psalm 51:17, “A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.” In this Psalm, David, King David, is pouring out his brokenness before God, because he has followed the ways of the world, abused his power and influence, lied, committed adultery, practiced deceitfulness, and committed murder. I’d say that’s pretty broken. Pastors and Presidents lose their jobs for much less. Yet, God considers David, a man after God’s own heart [1 Samuel 13:14].
As worldly citizens, we seek wholeness, wellness, and comfort. As Kingdom citizens, brokenness, humility and servanthood are the mark. Why?
People who have dealt with brokenness can become God-reliant. They practice humility, become submissive to the will of God, and are compassionate to the needs around them, open to the wise counsel of others. They take their hands off the steering wheel and allow the work of Jesus to drive their lives.
On one of my trips to Africa, I had a dear brother, Gabozi, tell me, “I pray for you pastors in America. It is so much harder to preach the saving Gospel message there. There everyone has so much. At least here in Africa, people know that they are in need.”
I know our “instinct” is to fight hard times, to seek a way out of the desert wilderness, to grasp for control, to long for and strive to return to health and comfort.

What if we embrace the truth that Jesus is with us in our brokenness?

But consider this: Jesus is here. Jesus is present in our brokenness. Jesus is alive in our desert. As we strive to follow him and to be covered in the dust of our Rabbi, to become more like him, let us be found faithful by seeking Him above our own comfort while we “wander” in the desert wilderness times. In our difficult times, God is there, and rather than fight and strive and long for the brokenness to go away, what if we embrace the truth that Jesus is with us in our brokenness.
After all, “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
Our God specializes in using people that the rest of the world considers “broken” and making them into powerful examples of His Love, Grace and Mercy. How much more broken can you get than dead? Yet, our God took someone who was dead and brought Him to life for the exact purpose of defeating death. What if Jesus had refused to allow the “brokenness” of the cross to come into His life?
In ancient mythology it was the “Siren’s call” to the sailors on the ocean to abandon what was best for their ship and mates and sail onto the rocks, to their own destruction. It is ironic that on an ocean of water, the call of the world, exemplified in selfishness, leads to the desert of death for the entire crew.
In my discipleship, I also fight the call of the world to seek my own will above the will of my Rabbi. Stay in the Word, continue to worship, rest in the comfort of songs and Pslams, lean on your brothers and sisters of faith, continue to pray, seek solitude and silence. Persevere in the disciplines and practices that are part of our call to be disciples. Linger in the dust of our Jesus, even in the desert. God will use our brokenness. Trust that!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather