Category Archives: Discipleship

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.

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.
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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!

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!

Discipleship and the Planet Pluto

There has been a lot in the news lately about the historic NASA mission of the New Horizon’s spacecraft to visit the planet Pluto. This grand piano sized satellite traveled faster than any other earth space craft at a speed of 30,800 miles per hour. At that fastest speed of any known space craft it still took New horizons 9.5 years to cover the 9 billion miles to the dwarf planet. The radio signal from New Horizons to earth to let us know that it had arrived and was functioning took 4 hours and 25 minutes to make the trip of 9 billion miles, and that signal was traveling at the speed of light.

Why all the statistics? Well, besides being a Jesus follower, I also am a nerd [and I mean that with all affection and positiveness.] It’s fascinating to me the amount of time, energy, money, and hard work that it took to achieve this historic achievement.

Something like this doesn’t happen over night. It takes serious commitment and time. To travel through space, endure extreme cold, and radiation, takes careful planning and resoluteness.

Nine and a half years, think about that. What are you committed to for nine and half years? Once New Horizons was launched and began it’s journey there was no turning back. There were all kinds of obstacles and deterrents, but the commitment to go was one way.

This mission to Pluto has brought to the surface, once again the discussion about colonizing the planet Mars. With our best technology and planning and commitment, it is said that if it can happen, those that go, are going with the knowledge that it is a one way trip. If they reach Mars, if they are able to build a sustainable living on Mars, there is no coming back. The technology simply doesn’t exist to get them back to earth. It is a lifetime commitment. Once they lift off, the world behind them, there is no turning back. It will be a one way trip into the unknown.

This led me to reflect on our discipleship journey. Following Jesus is all about commitment. Yet it seems that many in the post modern church have made commitment a dirty word. Why do we think that following Jesus is any less of a commitment than what it takes to build a space craft to travel nine billion miles? Why do we think that discipleship is a journey, in which we have all kinds of options, that our opinion is important, that we chose if it is convenient, and give attention to if we have nothing better to do?
Where do we see Jesus invite his disciples to focus on him for one hour a week and then spend the rest of the week critiquing whether they felt entertained, energized, equipped, and enabled to go about doing what they want to do the rest of the week?
In fact we see the exact opposite:
Matthew 16:24 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
Luke 14:33 “In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
Matthew 22:37-39 “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our Jesus is looking for people who are all in.

Our Jesus is looking for people who are all in. Our Jesus is calling people to give their all. Our Jesus expects 100% of us 100% of the time. Our Jesus is presuming commitment.
In a conversation that I with a disciple this week, we were sharing our ideas about trusting in Jesus rather than fighting for control in our lives. We ended our time by encouraging one another and reminding one another that there is a reason that most of the time the commitment to journey with Jesus is called the “practice of discipleship.” The mistakes, not withstanding, do not weaken our commitment on the journey to be more like Jesus today than we were yesterday.

Hillsong produced a song back in 2013 entitled “Christ is Enough” that uses the lyrics from an old hymn. “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. The world behind me, the cross before me, no turning back, no turning back.” Video for Christ Is Enough by Hill Song

We all need to be encouraged/challenged in our discipleship. I have decided to follow Jesus. The world behind us, the cross [dying to self] before us. No turning back, no turning back!

Suggested Dusty Discipleship practices…

1. Do a spiritual inventory, how is your commitment level to Jesus? Is there anything you are not doing that you should be doing?
2. Click the link above and listen to the song, Christ Is Enough, and talk with Jesus, reaffirm to Him that he is your reward and all that you will ever need.
3. Challenge “convenience” thinking in your life. Listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in your life that commands your commitment and obedience.

As always, I look forward to journeying with you, as we are covered in the dust of our Rabbi, Jesus!

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.

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.

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!

Discipleship and Servanthood at 3 am

It’s 11:30 pm. I’ve been wanting to sleep since I got up this morning. It’s also shift change. A brand new, wide awake nurse comes in to introduce herself, tell us what the rest of the night holds, and to check vitals on my son. I push aside the desire to pretend I’m asleep aside. I listen to her story. I make eye contact. I thank her for keeping the night watch. I put her first.

It’s 3 am. My son needs me. So I get up. I help. I comfort. Ignoring the fact that he is my son, he hasn’t done anything to deserve it. Of course, he hasn’t done anything to not deserve it. I put him first.

It’s 4 am. The nurse comes in to check my son’s vitals. My body says roll over. My mind screams, why check vitals in the middle of the oh-dark-thirty morning? So I get up. I help. I engage. I put her first.

I share this with you, not for human praise. I don’t want it. I am not perfect. Far, far from it.

I choose to live out my discipleship by serving. Jesus served me when he put me first, when he went to the cross.

I lie back down, I utter a prayer, “thank you Jesus, for making me first in your life.”

I fall asleep knowing that I am loved, and that is why I love. I fall asleep knowing that God’s comfort for me is found in Him and that is why I comfort others. I fall asleep being held by serving hands that have served me many times over, and that is why I serve.

To many my words may seem trite. To others, too touchy/feely. But the disciple-who has come to the part in the journey of “being” with the Trinity, understands that the “being” informs the “doing.”

Left to our own motivation, if it were up to my good intentions, serving would happen when it was/is convenient.

In a world distracted by Satan with busyness, servanthood becomes optional. In this world the servanthood of discipleship becomes something we can do if it is easy, fun, low commitment and is convenient to our schedule.

Jesus does not call us to a convenient discipleship.

If a journey of comfort [as the world defines it] is what you seek, then do not follow Jesus.

If serving others is an option for you to choose, you do not follow Jesus.

Jesus is not interested in fitting into our schedule. Jesus is the schedule. His kingdom come, His will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Rick Warren is fond of saying that “God is more interested in your character than in your comfort.” There is truth there.

A cursory reading of the Bible finds that the people God chooses to use, are rarely called to a life of comfort and convenience.

By following Jesus, will you know comfort? Yes. Will the comfort our Rabbi grants to us match the worldly definition of comfort? Most likely not.

By following Jesus, will it be convenient? Not unless we learn to “be” in Christ on the journey.

If you are interested in being just a good person, by all means, please continue to occasionally don the towel of servanthood, when you feel like it and it is convenient.

If you are, if I am, interested in being a disciple of Jesus, being covered in the dust of our Rabbi, then servanthood is a way of living out our “doing” because our character has been shaped by the time spent “being” served by our loving Lord.

Full of Grace & Truth in our Neighborhood = Discipleship

John 1:14 NIV “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

John 1:14 MSG “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one–of–a–kind glory, like Father, like Son. Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”

Discipleship is all about becoming more like Jesus. Contrary to most current Christian “religions” where following Jesus has been reduced to belief, this is translated into all I have to do is believe in my mind the right things. Contrast this to real discipleship that espouses a fides in libro actio (faithfulness in word and deed).

John 1:14 tells us about the person and deity of Jesus, who we are striving to be like. From this translation and paraphrase we gain insight into three important parts of discipleship; relationships, grace and truth.

One of the blogs that I follow, Conversation for Transformation, by Casey Tygrett, had this to say about truth:

    It makes me feel better to sit secure in my rightness and “truth” you from afar, than to actually understand you as imago dei (created in the image of God), just like me, and sit with you for a while until the truth comes out.

    So here’s a suggestion: if we are going to do truth in the context of love, then we shouldn’t try and “truth” someone that we can’t have coffee with. We shouldn’t truth someone that we can’t talk to about their story, that we can’t listen to well and learn where they may be coming from.

You can read the full blog here: Why Love is Harder Than Truth

Most often the church likes to gravitate toward “truth” because it is easier. It is much easier to speak against homosexuality than it is to face your son or daughter who has come out of hiding. It is much easier to speak against abortion than it is to build a relationship with a young woman who has bought into the lies of the world about body image, sexuality, responsibility and individual rights. It is much easier to speak truth to strangers and people I don’t know, because I do not have a relationship with them. Showing grace is really needed in the context of building relationships. Relationships only happen when we are honest over extended periods of time.

Jesus, made his dwelling with us. He moved into our neighborhood. From His vantage point of a perfect relationship with the Father and Spirit, He build relationships with humans to model for us what relationships are. Jesus then fully embodied grace for a hurting humanity and truth that an enslaved humanity needed to be free.

In our discipleship journey, where have we “moved into someone’s neighborhood” simply because we care about them? Discipleship looks like this: We care so much for Jesus, that we care for them. We begin to build that relationship. We know that truth/Jesus would move into their lives if he were here, but we know that He has us, so we exercise our grace/Jesus and move in.

In our discipleship journey, where are speaking truth from afar because of the difficulty of practicing grace up close?

In our discipleship journey, where are we failing to speak truth because of the difficulty of not having a strong enough relationship?

As always, I welcome your comments and questions as we journey together to become more like Jesus.

Discipleship and Obedience

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” Jesus to His Disciples in the Upper room.

John 14:21 “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” Jesus to His Disciples in the upper room.

John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” Jesus to His Disciples in the upper room.

John 14:31 “…but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.” Jesus to His Disciples in the upper room.
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Discipleship, like it or not, is about obedience. However, to reduce discipleship to mere obedience is to flirt with, if not entirely stumble head long, down the wide road that leads to destruction.

As I study and understand discipleship, it does not begin with obedience, it begins with a love [agape] relationship. A relationship with Jesus, where we realize our need for forgiveness, we accept grace, and we seek to become more like Jesus each and every day. Discipleship is all about becoming like our Rabbi, Jesus. [see my very first post if you want to know more]
May you be Covered in the Dust of Your Rabbi

This relationship of [agape] love does not excuse my disobedience. Rather, it informs my obedience.

To understand this it is worth exploring the two basis upon which most human beings choose obedience or disobedience.

Basis 1 of Obedience is fear. This is the most common of all choices for being obedient. I obey the speed limit, because I don’t want [fear] a ticket. I don’t touch the hot stove, because I don’t want [fear] the pain. I obey the commandments because I don’t want [fear] to go to hell. This has been one of the primary manipulation tools used throughout Christian history to convince people to profess Jesus as Lord. The disconnection with this basis of obedience is that the fear of hell lessens over time and becomes less persuasive an obligation for obedience.

Basis 2 of Obedience is Love… this the real basis for obedience. Our obedience to the commands of Jesus, come from our love [agape] relationship. We love our Jesus, so much that the thought/temptation of being disobedient has less and less influence over us. Our obedience to the commands/teachings is informed and bathed in the fellowship that we enjoy with the God-head.

Notice in John 14:15, Jesus sets the stage that love is the basis of obedience. “If you love me, you will obey…” Again in John 14:23 “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” Jesus could not be any clearer about why we obey Him. But this is the “narrow gate”; it is the harder choice.

With fear the basis of obedience, if I disobey, the consequence of my sin is usually delayed and if experienced by myself I can explain it away.

With a love [agape] basis for obedience, when I disobey, I have to look my Savior in the eye and own up to my selfishness and sin. In my repentance, I come face to face with the depth of my depravity, and see the wounds that I have caused to others, to myself and to Jesus.

Yet, in this face to face meeting, Jesus still loves me. Jesus calls me to experience his grace and mercy and to come closer to Him, so that I might become more like Him.

Consider this…
– What is the underlying narrative for my obedience to the commands of Jesus? Is it fear, manipulation, or love?
– What areas am I struggling with in obedience to Jesus commands? How does a relationship of love inform those areas of struggle?
– Who do I know who so well, that I could assume that they mostly follow Jesus out of fear? What could I do to share with them the idea of obedience out of love?

As always I welcome your questions and thoughts as together we journey toward Jesus.