The Tale of Two Disciples

My favourite disciple is Peter.  The fact that he was like a bull in a china shop at times, endears him to me.  I’ve felt and acted like that too.  Charging into conversations, situations without thinking, just reacting.  Words popping out of my mouth before I can even think them over.  Saying I’d NEVER….only to find myself caught in the act. So Peter’s my guy.

Judas, on the other hand, is no one’s guy.  No one wants to be associated with him.  Perhaps that’s because we don’t necessarily understand him.  Fear surrounds him. Could we be like him?  He complained when Mary used some expensive perfume to wash Jesus’ feet.  “Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor?  It was worth a year’s wages.”  He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it. (John 12:5-6)

The sad truth is, he could have been Someone’s guy, but he chose to reject and then betray that Someone instead.

The contrast between these two disciples as I’ve been reading through the New Testament with the LentChallenge and studying Beth Moore’s, Jesus The One and Only, bible study, has been jumping out at me.  Let’s look at Judas first.  Judas loved money more than Jesus.  His heart was owned by greed not Jesus.  It was hardened.  In the most literal sense, it was made of the coin that he so greedily lusted after.  Hard, cold, unyielding.  Money was the counterfeit that Satan used to seal the deal to get Jesus.  I think Satan told Judas that money was what he needed to make him happy.  To have it all.  When in reality, the God-man that he kissed on the cheek in an act of meanness none can compete with, was the only One who could give him what he needed.

The hardened heart always leads to death.  Judas is the epitome of death.  The thing that makes it sadder; he didn’t have to be.  He choose it.

Peter, on the other hand, could have gone the same route as Judas.  I mean he didn’t betray Jesus, but he denied knowing him, of being one of the twelve.  It’s almost as bad.  Beth Moore in her study, asks for us to consider some of the encounters Peter had with Jesus that would “ make his denial more startling”.  Think about it.  Think of all those bible stories you may know from Sunday School alone.

Peter, one of the chosen twelve, who witnessed countless miracles.  Who walked beside Jesus and had one-on-one conversations with Him.  He was one of the inner three, chosen to go with Jesus where the other nine were not.  He was one of Jesus’ peeps.  It was that bad.  I don’t imagine the guilt was any less.

The major difference between Peter and Judas is that unlike Judas’ hardened heart, Peter’s was fully owned by Jesus.  He was an authentic follower of the God-man.  His whole entire identity was wrapped up in Jesus.  I like how Beth Moore puts it: “The conflict of his soul surged in a tidal wave of grief, betraying his true identity. His belief had not been a sham. His denial had.”

Peter messed up.  He let fear take it’s hold and squeeze.  He gave in.  He sinned and then he wept.  He repented.  Because his heart was true.  It was beating true to the one who owned it.  The One whom it knew.  When all was said and done, Peter knew Jesus.  He knew repentance and he knew the gospel of forgiveness that he’d been listening to for three years was truth.  In the hour he most needed it, Peter believed it.

Peter’s denial could have ended in death.  But he knew Life itself.  Peter’s journey led to life.  Life more abundantly.  Because I don’t think, Peter would have been the disciple he became if he had not gone through this journey.  He let God do the work in his heart and he came out the other side, more like the One he followed.  It’s a great story of hope for us all.  Nothing is impossible for God.  We can never be too messed up.  He always chooses US.  We just need to choose HIM.

Two disciples.  Two very different endings.  One ending in death.  The other in Life.

(Jesus The One and Only, Beth Moore p. 211.214)

Who We “Get to See”

 


I was cleaning out a bookcase today and I found this gem.

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It’s not like it was lost.  I knew it was there, I just hadn’t looked at it lately.  It is symbolic to me in many ways.

I got to see Karen Kain dance her farewell tour.  I use the word “I got to” because it was something I didn’t think would ever happen.  I had followed Karen Kain for as many years as I danced.  I admired her.  It was a translucent wisp of a dream.  Too extravagant for a young married couple, one of which was doing his masters in seminary and working part-time in retail and the other one who worked for under ten dollars an hour in an office.

To say it was an extravagance is an understatement.  But Mark got me the tickets anyways for my birthday.  ( Wasn’t it a coincidence that tickets went on sale right around my birthday? I don’t really believe in coincidence.)  The thing that made it even more so, was we paid for it twice.

Because I lost the first set of tickets.  I was recycling paper off Mark’s desk and I’m pretty sure they got swept up in scrap paper.  We discovered it soon enough afterwards but too late to find them in the garbage or recycling.  I was sick.  Mark ordered another pair of tickets.  He didn’t even get mad at me.

(Now this wasn’t the most fiscally responsible thing to do.  I know that.  But we were young.  Somewhat stupid.)

Putting that aside, we knew that this was a once in a lifetime experience!  I would never get the chance to see Karen Kain dance again.  Was it worth it?  OH YEAH BABY!  Parts of that day are crystal clear in my mind. It was a Sunday matinee performance.  We went after church.  I remember being in the lobby.  I remember sitting in our seats and looking for the other set of seats.  Our second ones were better anyways!

The most standout thing in my mind is Karen Kain herself.  She did not disappoint.  I had been to ballets before.  I had never in my life seen someone dance like that!  She was so incredibly light on her feet that she seemed to literally float through her steps.  It was like watching light move.  It filled me with joy.  Having trained for years in ballet I know how hard and disciplined you have to be.  You have to make your body do things that it just doesn’t want to do.  It takes years to look somewhat decent when you dance.  What I saw on stage that day beat anything I have ever seen before or since in the dance world.

We moved mountains to get there that day.  (Mark wasn’t as excited as I.)

Have you every moved mountains to “get to” see someone?  As I have been reading through the New Testament in the LentChallenge and studying Jesus’ life in my bible study I can’t help but think about the crowds that sought him out.  Obviously the miracles, the healing of sick and demon-possessed drew people out to see him. Why else did they come?  He was a gifted teacher.  Scripture often states that the crowds were amazed by what they heard.  Jesus was offering them a new, radical way to live life.  It wasn’t about laws, rules and regulations.  It was about love, repentance and a new way to live.  They came by the thousands.  Did people crane to get a look?  Piggyback on someone else?  No big screens back then.  With thousands in the crowd you can bet for some, Jesus was just a speck in a boat, on a hill.

Family members and friends of those who were sick and infirm moved mountains to see him.  The sick, who were considered unclean, risked public ridicule to get near him.  People tore holes in a roof to lower a friend down into the house Jesus was in. They sent servants to beg Jesus to come and heal.  They reached to touch even his tunic.  These people were desperate.  For most it was their last hope.  They had tried everything else.

Did Jesus disappoint?  No, he didn’t.  He healed the sick.  He drove out demons.  He forgave sins.  He fed thousands on a few loaves of bread and some fish.  He taught them and most of all, he loved them. Did they know that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience?  Did they know it would be life-changing?  Did they walk away from that glimpse of the Son of God, totally wrecked in a good way?  Because they knew they could never go back to life as it was? For some most assuredly they did.  Others may have realized later, just what they had witnessed.  And others, they totally missed the boat.  They had no clue what they had 
“got to see”.

More Part 2

Do I love Jesus more than all?

The only way to answer that question with a “yes” requires something I don’t do really well.  In society today it’s a four letter word (even though it’s ten letters).

Submission.

Releasing control or going against my own desires is a foreign state of being for me.  It’s not something I desire to relinquish.  My whole being revolts at the word.

I read a book recently that I thought would help me manage my strong-willed children.  The author, a former strong-willed child herself, was writing that as parents, we can’t make a strong-willed child do anything.  They will shut down.  In taking a different approach to get the same results, the child can be persuaded.  She had some good points.  But by the time I finished the book, I was exasperated with her and mad.  I felt like she was telling me what to do.  The whole time I was reading, I kept thinking to myself, “I’m not doing that.  Who do you think you are that you can tell me what to do?!!!!”  I remember asking Mark, “Do you think I’m strong-willed?”  He just looked at me. “Do you really have to ask?”

The word submission immediately takes me to a place of “You can’t make me.”  The wonderful thing about God is that He has given us the choice to choose.  It’s our free will.  He won’t make us.

For me, strong-willed equals control.  I want my way so I can control things, people, circumstances.  Then there are no surprises for me.  It keeps fear at bay.  For the most part.  It also takes a whole lot of energy.

To release control is scary for me.  Unknown in the past meant bad things would happen.  Submission means letting go.  Letting reality play out in the good and the bad.  In some respects, it’s admitting that bad happens and in the end I don’t have any control over it happening or not.  Being a control freak is not the way to protect myself.  There are other healthier ways to do that.

Once the strong-willed control-freak has released her white knuckled grasp, then I can deal with a deeper submission.  Where the question remains unanswered.  Do I love Jesus more than_______?

To answer yes to that question requires that I let Jesus be number one in my life.  Much like I had to deal with the control freak, I now have to deal with the ego.  It’s taking myself off the throne of my life.  It’s not just removal from the throne but it’s bowing down to the only Ruler.  It’s yielding the right to put me first.  My wants, my dreams, my desires.

For me, the things that keep me from loving Jesus more are my dreams, what I want deep down.  I love the desires of my heart more than the author of those desires.  I think I have a right to them.  That I’ve earned them.  They become the gods I worship.  Submission means yielding these up to Jesus.  Letting go and saying, “Whatever you want Lord.”

Yielding our rights, what we think we’ve earned, can be quite freeing.  We are freed up to love Jesus more.  He replaces those other gods.  Our agendas are no longer full but empty to live out whatever path He opens.  We have more time because we no longer have to keep up a tally of what we’ve earned.

Submission is living out the Royal Law.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  Love your neighbour as yourself.  (Mark 12:30-31) It’s that choice between God and something good.  Which is better?  Jesus went and stayed with Mary and Martha.  Martha was busy with preparations.  Mary chose to sit and listen to Jesus.  When Martha complained, Jesus answered that Mary had chosen what was better.  (Luke 10: 38-42) Choosing Jesus is always better for us.

Choosing Jesus is submitting to Him, his purpose for our lives and to the much bigger picture that we can’t fully see at the moment.  But one day, I can’t wait to see it.  To see what loving more really looked like from the Kingdom of God.

 

MORE PART 1

Who do you love more?”

It’s a question that has been flitting in and out of my mind for months.  No, it’s not a choice between children or people.  It’s a question that God has been asking me for months.  Who do you love more, Me or….?”  Fill in the blank.

As I’ve studied the life of Jesus in Beth Moore’s, Jesus the One and Only bible study, the question resonates often.  We’ve gotten a taste of what it was like to be one of His disciples.  As we’ve witnessed Jesus’ ministry, we’ve gotten to know Him a whole lot better.  It’s impossible, for anyone, to walk away untouched by his presence.  But as we see over and over in the scriptures, reactions can vary.

The Pharisees, teachers of the law, religious leaders rejected him.  His presence, his touch, was like a burning coal.  It exposed their hardened hearts.  They loved their status, their prestige in society, their rules, more.  Their pride wouldn’t give these comforts up.  And so they turned their backs on Jesus, His teachings and instead, decided how they would get rid of him.  Loving something or someone more is a dangerous game.

On the flip-side, those with open hearts, desperate hearts, burdened hearts, sick hearts, His presence, His touch, was a healing balm.  Their pride wouldn’t let him go because they knew He was it, “THE ONE and ONLY”.  There was no other.  There could be no other.  Loving Him more gave life.

For me, the question persists,  Am I your “one and only”?  Who or what do you love more…Me or _______?  Do I love: my possessions, ministry, shoes, hobbies, family, more?  Do I love: my sin, my anger, the desire to be right, my rut/pit, more?

Some of these are good things.  It is not wrong to love your family and the other good things that bless our lives.  But they can’t come first or it’s idolatry.  God is definitely clear on that:  

Then God gave the people all these instructions:

“I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery.“You must not have any other god but me.“You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. Genesis 20:1-4 (NLT)

Pretty straightforward.  If we don’t deal with our idols then God will because He loves us with a jealous love.  I don’t know about you but I’d rather deal with my idols first with God’s help rather than continue to let them have a place of prominence in my life.  To give them more.

It’s true and scary, that the god we place our more in is often picked up by our children.  They watch us always and the things we do, the things we love, they take as their own.  Not always but a lot.

I want to teach my kids that Jesus is IT – there is no other.  He is the more in my life.  I want the generations that come after me to be lavished with His unfailing love because the legacy we’ve left is one of love and obedience.

So the question; Do I love Jesus more than all?  It’s an important one.  Is Jesus really, my “ONE AND ONLY”?

Is Jesus the more in your life?

Why I Need to Rethink Interruptions

The marathon of March break has begun.  Right at the same time as reading through the New Testament in 40 days with Margaret Feinberg.   Awesome.  I’m going to have so much spare time during spring break!  In addition I’ve got a head cold.  What a super start to the break!

On Monday as I’m getting ready to start my reading, I sent the boys to watch (horrors) TV.  As the sound was starting to inch up, I yelled for them to turn it down as I had “stuff to do”.  As in bible reading.  Superb.  Let’s start our reading with yelling at the kids.

Today when I pulled my bible out, a little head appeared and started to tell me about the latest LEGO thing.  How am I supposed to read for Lent, do my bible study as well as write, all of which requires quiet.

As I lay awake in the early hours trying to breathe and keep my head from exploding, I thought about what it was I was trying to do this Lenten season.

Walk closer to Jesus.  Get to know him better so I can be more like him.  As I read through Matthew last week (before March break) and as I’ve been doing my bible study on Jesus, what stood out to me was Jesus often broke off from the crowds to get rest, be alone and pray.

But as many times as he did, he got interrupted.  By the crowds seeking him out.  By his disciples.  Never once did he turn them away with a harsh, Leave me alone.  Instead, he welcomed them and had compassion on them.

Really?  It seems to me that a good portion of Jesus’ ministry was made up of interruptions.  People asking for healing.  He couldn’t even teach without being interrupted by a man coming down through a hole in the roof!  Crowds came out of the cities to hear him by the thousands.  And when a woman touched his cloak for healing because she didn’t want to bother him, he stopped and sought her out.

Why?  Because that was why he came.  He was about his father’s business and that business was us.

Why am I surprised and annoyed with interruptions?  Why do I hold so tightly to my agenda?  If Jesus’ ministry was made up of many interruptions, why am I so surprised by them in my own life?

What would happen if the only thing I took away from my Lent readings was that Jesus welcomed interruptions (people) and had compassion on them?  That I too, was an interruption and he welcomed me and had compassion on me?

What if I took Jesus’ example seriously?  What if I welcomed my kids interrupting my readings and had compassion on them?  Wouldn’t that make more of a difference than checking my little done box?

What if I filtered my interruptions through Jesus?  He had compassion on the people because they were lost, like a sheep without a shepherd it says in the book of Luke.  What if I looked on my annoyances (people) through the eyes of Jesus?

I admit I don’t relish the idea of welcoming interruptions because it’s scary.  It means I may have to get off my comfy couch.  Honestly, I’m afraid I’ll fail.  I am so entrenched in my own life and agenda that I’m afraid I’ll fail miserably at this.  I don’t want to be a hypocrite.  So why bother right?  But wait, aren’t we given the Holy Spirit precisely because we can’t ever do this on our own?   If we are walking beside Jesus wouldn’t we trust him to help us?

Lent is preparing our hearts for Easter.  Maybe that includes embracing and welcoming the interruptions that make up our lives.  Sometimes it’s the interruptions in life that cause the most change simply because we listened and obeyed Him.  And we once again get to witness his faithfulness.  In the end isn’t that what it’s all about anyways?

 

Potholes, First Response and Lent

 

I’m not sure about where you live but our roads are full of potholes!  Ones that make you go ouch! and hope and pray that your tires and underside are still there!  The deep freeze of 2014 has caused major upheaval on our roads.  Potholes can bang your car around, cause major damage to tires among other things and basically trip you up.

I hate the potholes that life brings too.  Things that may seem minor but can cause deep lasting damage.  The effect of going over too many.  Wearing you down.  I’m tired of being banged around, blindsided and then reacting to them.

My goal: respond rather than react.  Much harder said than done, if you have always been a reactor like me, not a responder.  Two of my sisters have been ER nurses and one is married to an ambulance attendant.  They are called first responders for a reason.  They go in prepared.  They don’t react to a crisis, they respond.  They’ve trained so they know what to do when a situation arises.

I want to be a first responder not a first reactor.  First reactors cause a bigger mess, more damage.  I’ve done it a hundred times.  Yuk.

I’ve been thinking about Lent.  I know, how does this have to relate to potholes and first responders, right?  Stay with me.  I have really been trying to respond not react in my life.  Be a participant rather than a bystander, just letting life happen.  So many holidays go by and I feel empty.  I haven’t prepared for them in my heart.  It happens.  I get it.  But I’m a little tired of it happening to me.

I felt God nudge me to walk more intentionally by his side as the new year approached.  One area that needed attention was confession.  I admit, I blew through my “I’m sorrys” if I did them at all.  I didn’t really sit down and take it seriously.  I didn’t have time.  I didn’t really examine my heart.  God was telling me it was time to grow up in this area.

As I’ve been on the journey of confession, on the horizon appeared Lent.  It got my attention.  Unlike Advent, I was open to the idea of Lent.  Advent felt like a HAVE TO but Lent is a I WANT TO.  This is partly due to the fact, I’m in a bible study this winter, studying the life of Jesus.  My heart is open not closed.

The other reason is a book, Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg, I read last spring.  She has a wonderful chapter on prayer and Lent.  Margaret writes, “Maybe instead of asking, What are we giving up for Lent? we need to ask, Who and what are we trying to receive through Lent?”  (p. 82)

I really like the shift of focus off my self-denial and onto the One who Lent is really about.  That doesn’t mean self-denial isn’t part of it but the focal point is off my personal martyrdom.

In those forty days of Lent, I want to walk beside Jesus, like the disciples.  As we’ve studied Jesus in our study, it’s been interesting to see how much of an effect Jesus has on those who draw near Him.  His Holiness, His Majesty, His Love, His Truth reveal people’s hearts.  Those whose hearts are open to Him reveal gratitude, love, reverence, to name a few.  Those whose hearts are far from Him, reveal judgement, fear, pride, hate and self-preservation.  I want my heart revealed this Lent. I want to be affected by Jesus in these forty days.  Then the potholes won’t trip me up because I’ve trained alongside Him and I can respond rather than react.

Can this happen in forty days?  Honestly I feel a little afraid, doubtful.  My faith is immature when it comes to trust.  “Help my unbelief.” (Mark 9:24) I whisper.  My head knowledge is telling me that God is faithful.  I’ve seen it again and again in the scriptures.  I think I just need to take the first step.

How to accomplish this?  I’m praying about reading through the new testament with Margaret Feinberg through Lent.  (see widget on sidebar)  The New Testament in forty days?  That’s a commitment and a sacrifice of time.  I’ll have to be intentional about it.  Not let the potholes of life distract me.

Do you practice Lent?  If so what are you doing?  If not, why not?