discipleship


This is the second in a series of posts about following Jesus in rest.

For the first, go here.

In Matthew chapter 3, we find Jesus going to John the Baptist … to be baptized!

It occurs to me to wonder, why did Jesus do this? Baptism is an outward symbol of inward repentance, a burying of the old self and a birth of the new. Since Jesus had never sinned, he had nothing to repent of. John knew this. He asks Jesus, why are you here? I need to be baptized by you!

Jesus answer is that it is right to do this to fulfill all righteousness. In other words, this is how God planned it from the beginning, so this is how we’re going to do it. Jesus knows that it is not wise to try to get ahead of God, to second guess, to try to do things in one’s own way and in one’s own strength. He has waited, honoring his family commitments until this moment, the right time, the right place. Jesus knew that there is a proper order to things and it is best left to God the Father. Jesus rested in the timing of God. Can we do that? Can we trust God enough to wait? To know that he has amazing things in store for us and blessings that we can’t even imagine?

If we wait and trust … we rest.

If we strive and push and manipulate … we stress.

Additionally, we see the Spirit descending on Jesus … clearly the rest of God is facilitated by the Spirit. The more we walk with the Spirit … the more restful we will find our lives.

“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

I’ve been working my way through a devotional by Alicia Britt Chole called “Intimate Conversations”. Today’s excerpt was based on the concept of providing for rest and margin in one’s life. This seemed to me especially fitting since it is the beginning of my spring break. I decided to take these as my theme verses for spring break.

Alica suggests that the reader “learn from” Jesus by reading through the gospels and getting a sense of the flow of Jesus life. How did he rest? How was his yoke easy? With all the demands on his life, how did he keep from becoming frazzled and burned out?

I thought it would be a great exercise and decided to read through Matthew with that aim and to share it here, with those of you who are still reading despite my seriously sporadic publishing.

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In Matthew chapters 1 and 2, of course, Jesus is not teaching anything yet; but I note two things:

First, whenever God told Joseph to go … he went. Immediately and without question. It must not have been particularly restful at the time … but from it I conclude that it is more restful to say yes to God than no. (Just make sure it IS God you are saying yes to and not your colleague, your pastor, your Sunday School Superintendent … ).

Second, Jesus is given many names in this short chapter. He is Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (1:21); He is Immanual, God with us (1:23); and in chapter 2 verse 6 He is identified as the Shepherd of Israel.

Jesus had a destiny to fulfill, a purpose for being on this earth. I imagine that, at least in part, His serenity came from living in that purpose and letting nothing distract Him from fulfilling that destiny. Part of our journey on earth surely must be to discover that purpose, that thing which God has prepared in advance for us to do, and living in it. It sounds restful, doesn’t it?

My name (Anna) means grace … which is kinda funny, because I’m a little clumsy. But I am growing into my name spiritually – becoming more and more able to offer grace instead of judgement, to give others the benefit of the doubt, to begin to see people the way Jesus sees them. But the Bible says that the one who overcomes will get a new name (Rev. 2:17). Perhaps, our journey on earth is to become fitted for that new name, and as we become more and more aware of who God has made us to be, and as we conform more and more to that name, we experience more and more of that elusive rest that is spoken of in Matthew …

… what do you think?

Jesus
help me
i feel far away
and empty

remember

you are near
when I don’t feel it

remember

as the Father has love me
so I have loved you
remain

remember

Jesus
help me

remember

by: anna lenardson

If you missed part 1, go here.

‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ -Jeremiah 33:3

Here’s the thing. It’s not that I think the analogy of the Bible as our “owner’s manual” or “rulebook” is wrong; it’s just that it’s so limited.barnums_animal_crackers

We want order, instructions, procedures, guarantees. If we follow the rules, we want our lives to “work out”. We want to put tab A into slot B and end up with a nice little box for our animal crackers. But, what if God wants to scatter your animal crackers across the sea? What if, for your good, he wants to let them get a little chewed up and broken? What if he gives you way too many animal crackers for your neat little box? What if he just gives you one, special one, to cherish close to your heart? (whew … talk about taking an analogy too far …)

I’ve seen people ask a question and close their eyes and point with their finger … like the Bible is a magic 8 ball. It’s not that I don’t think God can work in that way … but it is so self-focused. How do we know we’re asking the right question? We might be having a problem with a co-worker, and be so focused on that that we miss the “great and unsearchable things” God has for us.

The Bible does have guidelines for how to live, but, I think the secret to learning them, to living them is going deeper into him. If we simply look for procedures, but miss the relationship … it’s going to be mighty hard to follow the manual.

We follow, not because it’s right, but because he loved and he gave … out of love and gratitude for who he is and what he’s done. The more we know him, the more we know how.

So, maybe the right question (or at least a good question) is, may I see you in my reading today?

What do you think?

Twice in the past few days, I’ve run across this verse, But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. (John 12:32). Anytime that happens, repeated references to the same verse or idea, I try to take notice. And here’s the progression of my thoughts:

If my mission is to make disciples (and it is)

And if making disciples means helping others know and follow Jesus (and I believe it does)

And if Jesus said men would be drawn to Him as He is lifted up (and He did),

Then, I should be lifting Jesus up with my life.

What does it mean to lift Him up?

Did I lift Him up today?

More than I lifted myself?

More than I tore others down?

Did you?

Off and on I’ve been reading “A Generous Orthodoxy” by Brian McLaren. Understand that McLaren is not for the faint of heart and I do not recommend him wholeheartedly, but I like much about this book especially with regard to unity and the Church.

One of the things he talks about early on in his book is the tendency for evangelicals (full disclosure: though I don’t like labels, evangelical is the tradition I grew up in) to focus almost exclusively on Jesus’ birth and death, the incarnation and the cross, while some other traditions tend to focus much more on the Jesus in the middle.

And I’ve been thinking about the Jesus in the middle.

In the middle Jesus had compassion on the multitude.

In the middle Jesus healed the sick and the lame and the blind.

In the middle Jesus fed the crowd.

In the middle Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners.

In the middle Jesus walked and he taught and he prayed and he helped.

He laughed and he ate and he danced and he loved,

and he loved and he loved and he loved.

I praise God for the birth of Jesus, the Word became flesh, God stepped into time … a mystery unfathomable.

And I thank God for the cross: salvation, redemption, restoration … blessing beyond compare.

But for today, for life, and for joy, and for truth, and for peace, and for love, I try, and I try and I fail and I try, to pattern my life on the Jesus in the middle.

Because the beginning and the end seem a bit empty without the life in the middle, like a story with no plot, or a melon rind with no sweet fruit … hollow … don’t you think?

My sister in law is a hair stylist.  She used to run her own business.  After the birth of her second child, however, she closed her business and only worked on family, in her kitchen.  One day when she was cutting my hair I remarked that she was a highly skilled amateur.

She bristled, “Oh no, I’m a professional.”

I tried to explain that I hadn’t meant to insult her, but the literal meaning of the word amateur was one who does it for the love.  She no longer cuts hair professionally, for money, but now does it for the love.

And I’ve been thinking …

Many of us approach Christianity like it’s a profession.  I am a Christian, so I do this and I don’t do that.  Which makes my Christianity about me.  Which makes me a hypocrite.  Professionalism implies a level of training, competence and skill.  Does that speak to our unrealistic expectations of our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who are at a different point in their journey and walking a different landscape than our own?

I’ve been an amateur musician since I was 8 years old (I just had a birthday and I don’t feel like reckoning up the years just now, but suffice it to say that’s a long time).  In that time I’ve gone through periods where I’ve played and/or sung a lot.  Just this week I opened a book I bought a few months ago and started to teach myself to play the piano.  Is this because I’m super good at it or because I think I might like to or be able to earn my living at it some day?  No way.  It’s pure love.  I love music.  At my best, I’ve achieved some degree of competence, but I’d be kidding myself if I thought there was a future for me as a professional musician.  I don’t have the talent.  And, frankly, I don’t want to place myself in the position where the work required to achieve professional level musicianship would detract from the love …

What does this mean for me as a Christ follower?

First and foremost I must remember that I’m in it for the love.  Love for Jesus is my motivation for all that I do, not some list of rules posted in the church bylaws or even some list of rules printed in the bible.  Those are guidelines for how I live out my love for Christ.

It also means that my attitude toward my fellow followers is one of grace and not judgement.  I might think they should or should not be doing something, but it is unrealistic to expect professional level competence out of one who is just taking his first steps on the path of love.

It means that I have to follow the path of love that is laid out in front of me regardless of whether it measures up to popular Christian culture.  I’m not talking about going against the bible, I’m talking about a path that’s outside the mainstream experience.  There are many things in our contemporary Christian culture that are traditions and practices, this is the way we’ve always done it.  And I must be free to take them or leave them as Love dictates.

And it might mean that my attempts to be more like Jesus are sometime, well, amateurish.  Maybe I’m visiting in the nursing home for the first time and I don’t know what to do, don’t know what to say and I stand there awkwardly and I stammer and I repeat myself and I leave too soon or stay too long.  But, I love Jesus.  And I want to be like him.  And I believe that if he was living my life, he would visit the sick and lonely.  And I’m not doing it because I’m good at it, but for the love.  So I’ll go back next week.  And, just maybe, after a while, I’ll achieve some degree of competence.

Maybe it’s like my friend Jon wrote about should and could.  A professional should, but an amateur could …

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