Tag Archives: Erwin McManus

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.

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.