Riding the Underground with Jesus

“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’

Mark 6:31, ESV

Our Savior would never drive us to do things with a whip.  He is not a taskmaster, and he will not insist or impose his will over us.  Nothing about him is brutal or demanding. (He could, really– if he wanted to.)  But no, we learn how to serve him from our loving hearts. It is interesting that it was Jesus that was very careful, and aware of his disciples needs.  No one suggested a break from the work, but Jesus initiated the break from the massive press of the crowds. He knew intensely what his disciples needed.

 “Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, NCV

Underground-SymbolThe presence of so many people had put the disciples in a very hard place.  The NCV describes the crowds, as “coming and going.”  If you have ever been on the London Underground you will understand just the sheer number.  Everyday, 2.93 million people ride the trains.  I remember travelling from the backwoods of  Alaska, with just a backpack, and hitting the crowds on “the tube” in London, UK.

The intense masses were way beyond anything I ever imagined.  Talk about a “culture shock!  I saw more people in just 3 minutes than in an entire year of living in Alaska.  It was like an amazing giant ant-hill; I would stop, and just stare. Nothing prepared me for this. But I knew His presence was with me.

Jesus is more concerned about the living freshness of his disciples.  He shuts things down in order to rest with his followers.  Often the tendency will be the opposite, especially when the leader is weak and immature.  “Work harder, and even more hours!”  Jesus did not have the need to be available 24/7.  And he certainly didn’t expect his disciples to.  His heart is committed to his followers.

He “orders” his disciples, come apart and let’s rest!

“But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, CEV

I don’t know if you can grasp the sensitivity, or see the nuances of Jesus shepherding his disciples.  He has a deep awareness of them; he doesn’t get lost by people pressing in from every side.  He loves the world of men and women, but his followers are his “specialty.”  He tunes in on their frequency, and knows our spiritual capacity.

What gives his followers strength, is to be close with Jesus, and to separate from the needs that were densely surrounding them.  We can be flattered by being needed, but that can be very corrosive or destructive.  I’m guessing but I believe that a few of the disciples may have been annoyed by this break in the action. They found it hard to remove themselves from the action.  Some may have been frustrated, perhaps maybe even slightly irritated by “Jesus’ retreat.”

When you are pouring out, you will find there is only a certain capacity before you run dry.  You may think this is “noble and praiseworthy” but it is nothing of the sort.  It is a form of arrogance and pride.  In order to really mature as a believer, we must shake this off and not to entertain our seeming indispensability to the cause.

We must keep on following Jesus into the quiet places.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28, MSG

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Is He Your Friend, or a Doctrine?

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“A rule I have had for years is: to treat the Lord Jesus Christ as a personal friend. His is not a creed, a mere doctrine, but it is He Himself we have.”

  ~D.L. Moody

This can be a liberating secret. It releases us from the terrible bondage of religion, with all its negative connotations. Friendship with our Lord will carry us beyond creed or doctrine to the place of true communion.

But we value legalism, and that is precisely what we believe when we bypass the relationship. Doctrine is a good servant, but a poor master. Creeds are necessary, but incapable of bringing either salvation or a fruitful life. This can only come from a living faith in the Lord Jesus.

We evangelicals talk big about “a personal relationship.” That is indeed crucial. But few be the believers that walk in a daily friendship with their Savior. That is truly a tragedy.

 “I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.”

John 15:15, NLT

Friendship with Jesus will bring true guidance. He shares secrets and wisdom to his friends. We are brought into a true knowledge of the Kingdom through the relationship of friendship with the King. We are not slaves– or drones, slavishly serving out of slavish fear. We are His friends.

Jesus wants to confide in us; sharing mysteries hidden by time and sin. And his kingdom is full of them! He is looking to bring us into that willingness of a daily communion.

He will heal our wounds, and forgive all our sins. He is truly our savior as well as our friend.

Friendship comes with a price. It means we are now tethered to the Lord. That can get old, especially when I want to do my own thing. I will continually have to lay things down, and choose to follow Him.

But my soul now has a best friend.

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Simply Mary, at Jesus’ Feet

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We see Mary three times in the gospels, and each time she is in the same posture — “at Jesus’ feet.” When we have our first glimpse within the Bethany home, we find Martha in her characteristic attitude– working and serving; and Mary we see sitting at the Master’s feet, sitting eagerly and listening to His words.

Our second view of Mary is when Jesus came back to Bethany after the death of Lazarus, and the sisters went out to meet Him. Again, we see her at the feet of Christ. But this time in deep sorrow, seeking comfort. And then we observe her a third time. She has come to anoint the feet of Jesus. We find her again, at Jesus’ feet, and now she is honoring her Lord.

She has this peculiar habit, and that is to be at the feet of Jesus. 

It is her natural posture. I believe that she feels entirely comfortable in this place.  I have personally seen sparrows’ nest on a sheer cliff hundreds of feet straight up, without any apprehension at all. I have been astonished at their daring and simple confidence.  And Mary has this spunk.  She has that certain easy and confident boldness.

Martha, the oldest, obviously has the theology.  We see her taking issue with Jesus, she is questioning, and confronting.  But with Mary it seems, there is a quiet contentment and a rest.  An open readiness to receive. We don’t see that too much, but Mary was a “learner.”  She had become learned in the grace of trusting simply.

The greatness of her love enabled her to kneel.  She was centered on her Master, He was the focus of her attention.  We dare not minimize this, or try to focus on something less “holy.” This is not something we can easily duplicate, because it proceeds out of a heart that is absorbed in love.  It may appear to be unseemly, and we scratch our head with nervous skepticism.  But it seems whenever Mary comes into the presence of Jesus, she works her way to the front– so she can sit with Jesus. (Interestingly, the Orthodox Church regard Mary to be the first real disciple.)

We have so much to learn from Mary.  Our Christian life can be very shallow and seem rather anemic.  We live in a culture that is racked in intellectualism and pride.  When we engage it we may end up with a bit of haughtiness and a lot of selfishness to deal with.  Mary can be our compass, and our example as we crash through these issues into authentic discipleship.  She really does deserve to be esteemed, and recognized for inspiring us to be with Jesus.

Lord Jesus, thank you for Mary.  May I become like her and have you very close. I want to sit at your feet.  I choose you. I choose to be with you.

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ybic, Bryan

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Fire Walking [Protection]

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“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
     When you cross rivers, you will not drown.
    When you walk through fire, you will not be burned,
      nor will the flames hurt you.”  

Isaiah 43:2, NCV

There is an unique immunity that is given to the simple.  Believers find that suddenly they have been inoculated against a reality that others can’t understand.  Passing through the waters, we find the divine presence.  We discover it and find that it covers us.

Daniel tells us of three men dropped into a super heated furnace. To survive was impossible, and yet they felt no heat or flame while inside. That is a tremendous thing for believers to understand.

Having Him to cover us is a profound thing.  There are many reasons this should not be happening to us, and not given any serious thought.  And yet He appears out of nowhere, and declares that we are completely immune to every attack against our desperate souls.

Jesus watches over us.  He concentrates His focus on us, and we find a strength that is almost absurd, something that doesn’t make any sense at all.  He covers us from all the ugliness that could be focused on us.  A barrier is put around us.   His care protects us and shields us from the insidious attacks on our very vulnerable hearts.

Isaiah 43 declares that there is an certain immersion of grace that surrounds our souls. 

We encounter a sense that He is there and that He will not let anything happen to us.  This security is not from anything we produce, maintain or manufacture.  He brings it to us without any logical reason.  It’s called “grace” and it gives us a certain immunity.

This world generates a lot of ugliness.  We must enter and pass through a whole lot of difficulty and pain.  Water and fire, that in abundance, are things that will happen to us.  We will deal with these things, and work our way through them.  One thing needs to be understood,   His spirit in us resists being controlled by sin.

We travel through intense times when our faith seems ludicrous, when it seems weak and illogical.  But somehow we make it, and we will pass through this and other challenges.  He intervenes and brings us safety and strength.  We are indeed survivors, and we pass through all evil and darkness without being scorched or singed.

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.”

Philippians 1:6, NLT

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