Remaining Centered

As followers of Jesus’ way, we long to develop a state of our soul that is in continual communion with God. This is of course done in prayer. The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that they should “pray continually”, but how is this possible in the ebb and flow of daily life? In Jesus we observe those times when he went off to be alone to practice solitude and silence in his prayers. Getting away from the busyness and expectations of life is an important facet of the development of our prayer lives. Yet, praying continually does not mean that we are to live in solitude and silence always. It is not possible nor is it the expectation from what we see in the life of Christ. In order for Jesus to speak out of the overflow of who he was, he needed to be in continual communion with the Father. We need to develop the same sense of presence. Then we will experience less of the dichotomy of life where we define some times and spaces as sacred and others as secular or normal. Jesus’ power as he walked among us came from being ‘in’ the Father. Similarly, our power comes from being ‘in’ Christ. Our ambition is to be ‘in’ Christ at all times and in all situations. An example of this is found in Mark 9 where Jesus, Peter, James, and John are descending from a mountain to find the remaining disciples in an argument that came about because they could not drive out an evil spirit. Later, when Jesus was privately teaching his twelve...

Resting Through the Storm

At the end of a long day of teaching the crowds from the shore, Jesus confronts the disciples with a plan: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” – Mark 4:35 It is Jesus’ idea to get in the boat before dark and head away from the crowds and toward gentile territory on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So, the disciples of Jesus hopped in the boat and they left right then. As we read through this passage, Jesus is going to perform a miracle over nature. But, there is more meaning to this story than just the face value. Throughout his gospel, Mark presents events as well as words as parabolic. Jesus is teaching his disciples (and us) in parables of words and deeds. This story starts with Jesus saying “follow me” and disciples complying, despite not knowing what was to be ahead. Being a disciple means getting in the boat with Jesus. Because they were heading to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were leaving both the crowds and heading toward the gentiles. Both of these realities forced these followers of Jesus to confront their own preconceptions of the Messiah. Leaving the crowds meant leaving power and adulation. Heading to the unclean gentiles confronted the idea that this was Israel’s Messiah. They were heading away from their vision of the Messiah. Being a disciple means letting go of your expectations of the journey. The way of Jesus is one of surrender and obedience. It is also one of discomfort as...

What Are You Offering?

Genesis four says that God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s. And much has been made about the fact that no real reason seems to be given for this rejection. Abel attended flocks while Cain worked the soil. Some have tried to read into this a reason for God’s preference. Among those that I have read: Abel offered the first portions and Cain did not give his best. God clearly wants an animal sacrifice. God is not capricious or random, he makes his ways known when we are to obey. We are not told any stipulations God placed on the offering, so that conclusion seems uncalled for. God prefers shepherds to farmers. The idea that God has the ability to choose whom he wants to choose. Using this situation as a basis for election seems without basis. We long so much for cause and effect. If I do this one thing or this series of steps, then God will accept us. This is simply a way to manipulate God and get what we want. God offers his love and grace before any of us obey. The same is true with Cain and Abel. Although expelled from the garden, they were living under God‘s grace. Maybe the truth is that we’re not told what is wrong with the offering because there wasn’t anything wrong with it. Both of the offering brought by Abel and Cain are described by the same word (minha) with no apparent difference. The key to this issue of the offering is found in Cain’s response. “Why are you angry?” God asks Cain. God’s disapproval becomes a...

Wholeness and Expectations of God

We live in a world that view wholeness as circumstantial. In place of the word wholeness, we have learned to substitute happiness or comfort. So, being complete is not a state of being, but rather an emotional state. When we bring this view into our relationship with Jesus who is the source of our wholeness, we then place the mantle of responsibility for our circumstances upon his shoulders. In our minds the shift may be subtle or not so subtle. If Jesus loves me, then the things in my life should be ok; everything should work out fine. Whether we apply to mindset to parenting, our jobs, healing, addiction, the state of our relational life, the growth of our church or ministry, etc., we have made our devotion completely conditional. In return for our faithfulness, we expect God to restore our circumstances so that we can be happy. Instead of conforming to the image of Christ, we would rather add Jesus to who we already are. Just enough Jesus sprinkled in to make things work out. But, what happens when things don’t ‘work out’? How do we respond when Jesus does not enable our false sense of identity? Frustration with God. Accusing God of withholding what we know is best for us. This may lead to an epic wrestling match with God for control. Questioning God’s presence. We pray for band-aids. God does not enable our false self. Many times what we deem unanswered prayer is God leading us to a deeper awareness. Living in anxiety. If my circumstances are not changing or something bad does happen, does that mean...

Going Away Sad

Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. – Mark 10:21-22 Our souls crave wholeness. Within us, at the core of our desires we know there is something more. That is why a man described as having “great wealth” was found running up to Jesus, falling at his feet, and begging to know what was the “something more” he needed. Knowing what is within all of us, Jesus does tell the man what the one thing is. As you can read in the passage above, Jesus focused on the misalignment of the man’s heart. This person at the feet of Jesus had his identity and dignity rooted in his wealth. Unwilling to release his grip on his financials, the man went away sad. All of us sense there is more. This hunger expresses itself as loneliness, anxiety, exhaustion, stress, inadequacy, etc. These are the symptoms that we attempt to relieve. The attitude that this man had is within all of us. Growing as disciples requires us to develop an ever deepening awareness of what we are clinging to besides Jesus. Jesus treats us in the same way. He shines the mirror on us and says “you want _______________ more than you want me.” And you may be going away sad saying “why can’t I have both?” We can fill in that blank with almost anything: relationships, sex, money, work, raising kids, leisure, power, church...

Hating this Life

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. – John 12:25 As Jesus is preparing his disciples for his upcoming sacrifice and resurrection, he describes what a follower of his looks like. Like a grain of wheat, that must fall to the ground and die in order to bear fruit. A follower of the Christ must be willing do die to the false self in order to begin to experience the blessing of new life. We must all be willing to go through the same Paschal transformation in this life that Jesus stepped into through the cross. But within this passage, Jesus also uses a contrast between one who loves his life and one who hates his life in this world. He likens the grain of wheat that dies to one who hates his life in this world. What does it mean to hate this life? Is it a sin to enjoy a sunset? To delight in a good meal? Look forward to sexual intimacy with our spouse? Does this teaching mean we are to avoid things that are pleasurable? Must the one who follows Christ become an ascetic – abstaining from all forms of pleasure or enjoyment? Historically, this is just what some have done. Practicing asceticism, moving to the wilderness, living in isolation and in intentionally hard circumstances to avoid enjoyment. Yet, we see a lot of this in our churches too. Not that it would be called asceticism, but those whose mindset is that to experience happiness is spiritual weakness. But Judaism is filled with...

Gain Perspective. Live Well.

Close
loading...