Archive for June, 2014
“Another of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead” (Matthew 8:21-22).
In Jewish tradition there was no greater obligation than a son to his father, and no more so than in the responsibility of providing an honorable burial. These strong words of Jesus point to the weightiness and exclusiveness of his call of discipleship upon a persons life; a call so pervasive that all things formerly deemed as important, noble, and honorable are now considered dead or dying. The passionate pursuit of Christ is the only course leading to life. Everything else is a dead end.
“Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord!’” (Matthew 16:22).
Peter has usurped and assumed a divine position by his emphatic statement of what God cannot do. When Jesus blessed him and his rock-solid confession, Peter offered no protest. Yet, when Jesus began describing a messianic path of suffering and death, Peter became indignant. While prideful arrogance will lead us to assume that our preferences must surely be God’s, our challenge is to humbly, prayerfully, and constantly subjugate our will to God’s; our expectations to God’s eternal purposes. Even when it goes against our wishes, it’s only when we follow what God says that we discover what God can do.
“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me” (John 10:14).
Long considered dim-witted, recent research indicates that sheep are quite intelligent animals—recognizing people and even responding when you call their name. Perhaps Jesus had insight to the characteristics of sheep that modern researchers are only now discovering. Our destiny doesn’t have to be a mindless following of the crowded flock, but we are fully capable of being called out and responding to the voice of the One who desires to lead us to pastures we have never before known or imagined.
“And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly” (Mark 8:31-32).
That someone is teaching doesn’t mean you are being taught. Learning requires listening; being open to the unfamiliar and to that which challenges everything previously understood. Too often we limit God on the basis of our expectations. Such was the case for Jesus’ disciples. Suffering and death were far removed from their entrenched ideas regarding the Messiah. It took a resurrection for them to finally see; for Jesus’ teachings to finally make sense. When holding to beliefs, traditions, and practices based upon our personal preferences but lacking in biblical merit, we, too, can find ourselves in a place of being unteachable even while being taught. Maybe the needed remedy is a resurrection of our hearts.
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” (1 Corinthians 3:9).
To be a devoted follower Christ is to embrace the larger, diverse community found in congregational life. Faith is never a lone God-and-you affair but a kinship between Christ and us and us and one another. It is in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ alone where individuals from so many varying walks of life, who might not otherwise have met, are thrown together for a common mission. You can go alone and go fast or we can go together and go farther.
“Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints” (1 Corinthians 6:1)?
Even though a “case” brought to court would have been of a practical nature (“case” coming from the word “pragma,” for “pragmatic”), Paul understood that there were very real spiritual implications to the church, its unity and witness to an unbelieving litigious society. We must live our lives as a prequel to and a proclamation of a Kingdom that is to come and now is. Kingdom life is more important than property.
“When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28).
When you long to know what God is like look no further than the cross. It is God’s single greatest meeting place with humanity. Being lifted up on a cross is the most unexpected display of not only how much God loves you, but also how much he is willing to suffer to have a relationship with you.
“Now Moses was pasturing the flock… and he led the flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush; and he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed” (Exodus 3:1-2).
When God lights the fire that offers us the awareness of his presence, and the purpose for which we should live, it usually occurs in the routines of everyday life. Sometimes on a mountain; sometimes in a sanctuary but, most often, in the routine of the day. What Jesus did, he did in the streets; among the people; in the midst of human pain and lostness. Just as his life and ministry confirmed the presence and working of God, so does ours.
“From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem” (Matthew 16:21).
The life of faith is a commissioned existence always oriented to the future; to the pursuit and fulfillment of the unfolding purposes of God. Like any teacher of his day, Jesus could have focused solely on a local collection of disciples, drawing them ever closer into their own existence, self-interests, preferences, traditions, and an ever-growing preoccupation of maintaining what they now have while convincing themselves that this is pleasing to God. A commission, however, is for all and not some; the many not the few; the lost and not the found; for Jesus and for us.
“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27).
Have you considered the implications of this statement to both our existence and interactions with others? That we are created in the image of God means that no one person should be counted as ordinary. In fact, it could be argued that the most sacred moment of the day is when we cross paths with another person. Viewing every person as someone created in His image changes everything in our dealings with others.