“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.

************************************************************************************

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?

Advertisements

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?

. . .  make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There’s an order to the walk of the disciple of Christ. Peter urges us to build on the foundation of faith, adding in succession goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. He adds that these qualities, in increasing measure will keep us from being ineffective and unproductive in our knowledge of Jesus. I’ve been thinking about this passage lately, especially in the context of several conversations that are taking place both FTF and around the blogosphere. I’m visualizing a pyramid that an individual ascends throughout his faith journey. Everyone begins at the level of faith. Some don’t progress much further. A couple steps up you add knowledge and all the higher acheivements build on that, like self-control, perseverance and love.

Here’s my point. In my experience, the American evangelical church is stuck on the third step. We spend so much of our effort and our resources on building our own knowledge and force feeding it to our disciples that we lose track of the higher calling, the self-control, the brotherly kindness, the love. And so, our “discipleship” programs become all about studying the bible and less about learning to live a Spirit-filled, God-honoring, Christ-like life in the meantime.

PyramidI don’t have a problem with the accumulation of knowledge as long as it is tempered by love (knowledge makes us proud, but love makes us useful), and I love participating in Bible studies, but, I think we might be missing the point. I don’t think God wants us hanging around opening coffee shops on the third step. I think he wants us to keep climbing.

There’s something my dad used to say to us that I think applies here. “Don’t think about it, just do it.” (Sorry, Nike, my dad said it first.)

And now I’m telling you.

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?