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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For the Repeat Offenders Who Are Loved, [A Poem Prayer]

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“Lord,

Every family has a rascal, someone who breaks the rules

a delinquent of untold frustration and sleepless nights

a repeated offender and bearer of woe

The problem child who needs the most chastening.

Is this why you love me most persistently?

When you correct me, is it because

I’m the one most contrary

Or because you love me so?”

 

I wrote this thinking about Hebrews 12 and God’s purpose of chastening. I don’t pretend to understand this dynamic; but my childhood was punctuated by so much difficulty. As a father, my two children are now grown and fatherhood has been far easier than my dad had with me.

7 “As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? 10 For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. 11 No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.”

Hebrews 12:7, 10-11, NLT

I think we really understand our Heavenly Father when we spend quality time with this part of scripture. We are given insight into His care and into our own issues. It is a good thing He gives us— it enriches our spiritual lives. When He disciplines you, He proves that He is your Father. It’s critical to remember: God’s correction is always for our good.

“Father, I’m so sorry that I grieve you. I promise to behave. Thank you for being a faithful Father to my soul. Amen.”

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The Future is According to God

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“I say this because I know what I am planning for you,” says the Lord. “I have good plans for you, not plans to hurt you. I will give you hope and a good future.

Jeremiah 29:11, NCV

“So that for all future time he could show the very great riches of his grace by being kind to us in Christ Jesus.”

Ephesians 2:7

The word “future” is defined as “all that time which is to come hereafter.” It seems that it can never be held by us in a literal sense. In trying to explain it, I have come up with this idea or concept of something that will exist or happen in time to come.

People who struggle with a mental illness  often have a problem with the idea of having a personal meaning.  I remember reading this somewhere, Depression is the inability to construct a future.”  I think  that many have issues with trying to make life work.  It seems that hopefulness has been brutally cut out of our hearts, and we think and believe that we’re lost and cursed.

It seems to me that this is one of my own problems.  Closely related are the twin issues of cruel despondency and a terrible despair.  When these two run rampant through my life it is sort of a “spiritual mugging.”  I’ve just been totally ripped off. I’ve been completely drained of hope.  I don’t anticipate life and grace, instead I have profound pain and incredible loss.  I feel terribly alone in an ugly void. My depression is all I can see. A relationship with an eternal God seems highly unlikely.

I believe that it isn’t so much me reaching out to Him— rather it is Him coming to me.

The promises God gives us are made to energize and propel us into life and meaning.  The Father completely understands me, and has purposefully given me “a future and a hope.”   I once worked out a plan to kill myself a couple years ago.  It involved duct-taping heavy weights to my ankles and jumping off the dock in the harbor.   I had reached the point of complete despair. Everything was without hope. And all I will say is that God prevented me and then gave me hope.

At times, our future is sometimes woven with predominently dark threads.  If we just look at the back side it makes no sense at all. But God works patiently and expertly, as a skilled Artisan.  We have His word that what He does will be a wonder and a marvel. And we will see an intricate and beautful work.

“Father forgive me for despairing. I know You control everything, and especially all that concerns me. Give me hope for my future.”

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Dressing Up to Please, [Authenticity]

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,”

 – Colossians 3:12, ESV

I used to always get dressed up for Sunday church, hey– our whole family dressed in their best.  “Windsor knots” and jewelry, and we looked good.  I was pastoring at this time, and we felt compelled to make a statement.  We were examples, after all. (But we were also idiots.)

This now seems a little ‘kooky’ living in rural Alaska.  During the spring breakup, we would wear big rubber boots as we navigated the mud, and then in the church foyer we would all change into our dress shoes before we entered into the sanctuary.  I admit, I’m glad that we are no longer compelled to do this.

But “dress up” is a major spiritual issue with real consequences.

Not the physical dressing, nor our preening and posturing– but spiritually, getting dressed.  Paul urges us to put on our spiritual man clothing that will honor our Father.  He lists the clothes in our “wardrobe”.  These are the things we should put on, and be seen in.  We are to cover ourselves in what really matters.

“Put on…compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience”

This is a list of items the Lord wants us to wear.  If my dear wife Lynn tells me she really likes to see me in a particular sweater, I will wear it and frequently.  I know she likes it on me, and I want to please her.  The list just above is what the Father really wants you to wear.  He wants to see you in these things.

I just want to urge you today, that you would think about your spiritual clothing.  What is covering your spiritual man?  What do you look like?  This might mean changing your clothes and putting on something that the Father really thinks you look good in.

“Father, when will I learn to dress the inside? Help me attend to the things that really matter to You. Amen.”

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