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...

Keeping Christ in Christmas 2018

This is a post that was inspired by those “Keep Christ in Christmas” magnets you see on cars throughout the year. I first posted it several years ago and because it still seems relevant, I dusted it off and posted it again. I hope it impacts your holiday. I have to confess to you that I have a little pet peeve regarding the “Keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers, church signs, and car magnets that seem to pop up this time of year. To me these appear as a command to the reader, regardless of what they believe, that it is their job to make sure Christmas is all about Jesus so the person in the car will feel affirmed. Of course, these magnets and signs are a reaction to our culture’s growing tendency to refer to this as the holiday season. Boldly I say, count me as one follower of Christ who fully supports this cultural trend. First, it IS the season of holidays. There’s Thanksgiving. And Hanukkah. Ramadan. Kwanzaa, the New Year. Probably others of which I’m not aware. It seems the height of Christian arrogance to make everyone use our name for a certain time of the year. It dismisses others’ points of view. Whether or not we as followers of Jesus agree with their belief system, diminishing their traditions does not put us in their good graces to have an open discussion about Christ. It creates defensiveness; an us-against-them posture which closes people off. Second, and more importantly (in my estimation), do we really want the name Christmas associated with the consumerism and commercialism that runs rampant in our culture and amps...

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...

Making Time

One obstacle that I experience (and that I hear described to me frequently) in developing a disciplined discipleship relationship with Jesus is the factor of time. How does one “make time?” This is the corollary to the statement “I would pray more (or read the Bible more or serve more) if I just had more time.” The answer to the question “how does one make time?” is pretty simple: you don’t. None of us is able to fabricate more hours in a day. All of us get the same 24. What we really mean by this question is “I’m already involved in things I like or I find necessary, how do I add time with Jesus?” Examples abound. We like to binge watch Netflix. We might like to get in a round of golf with friends after work. We may like the money working overtime brings. We may like the new car we are driving so must work more to support that. Right away you might be throwing up resistance. “I can’t have fun?” “I can’t have leisure?” “I can’t earn income?” Resistance means that this is hitting the target. I’m not saying those aren’t things worth liking or that we shouldn’t engage in recreation. (Ours is the problem of gorging on recreation and entertainment.) But, do you like Jesus more? This is the very real question that Jesus asked Peter. One thing about Jesus that cannot be denied is that He asked for preeminence in our lives. He has earned it. Being a disciple means to be shaped by his presence. We must sit in his presence. All...

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...

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