“Go and Learn” [Discipleship]

“Go and learn”

“When Jesus heard this, he said, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” 13 Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

Matthew 9:12-13, NLT

These two verses are a challenge. They fit together like old watch mechanism, small gears and wheels in precise motion, keeping time in a treasured grace.  My father had an old one, used once by a train conductor.  It was made of gold, and had been used for almost 100 years.

The complexity of these verses were never meant to confuse the disciples.  But for them it is simple, to go and learn.”  Certainly, there are times we will be ‘schooled’ in what we learn.  And really the only way to approach this is in humility.  Trying to extract the truth will take patience and a broken heart.

Jesus states the truth of being a doctor, and there is a singular work that a doctor does.  It is serving all who come to him with sickness or injury.  Jesus clarifies a truth that has to be in place.

“Go and learn what the Scriptures mean when they say, `Instead of offering sacrifices to me, I want you to be merciful to others.’ I didn’t come to invite good people to be my followers. I came to invite sinners.” v.13, CEV

“Go and learn!” This implies that there are lessons for us, classes that we need to take in order to grow-up and touch sick and desperate people.  Funny, but it’s all about mercy, and nothing to do with “sacrifices.”  Mercy is what matters. I want you to be merciful to others.”

I admit that I’d rather be merciful, than to be right. (It’s good to be both.)  But mercy– and gentleness should be our driving impulse.  These attitudes assist us to move us forward. “Go and learn.”

The last verse reveals the thinking that Jesus has.  He has come to help those of us in trouble.  The good people don’t understand, after all, isn’t their ‘sparkly goodness’ enough?  As his disciples, we share our faith to all; but maybe we should consider the weak, poor and the sick already prepared for the words of Jesus? “Go and learn.”

“Discipleship is a lifelong process and journey rooted in a relationship with Jesus, whereby we become more like Christ.”

Greg Atkinson

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Working in the Time of Grace

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 “These men who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.”

Matt. 20:12, NIV

Matthew 20 irritates me.  People are working the entire day, and along comes people who have only worked for one hour.  This discrepancy drives the believer nuts.  How in the world could such a thing take place?  It is foolishness to us who insist on a ‘grace of appropriateness.’  We want grace to be fair, recognizing the person who has worked very hard.

The problem is that God is outrageous with His grace and love.  He completely expands us to a point where we must embrace a grace that is completely beyond us.  We have to break down and accept what is available to us.  Grace completely dumps us upside down.

We can only proceed if we accept His definition of Grace.

Those who have labored the least are made equal to those who work the hardest.  This seems incredibly unfair and we revolt against such extravagance.  It strikes us as outrageously unfair.  How can those who worked only an hour receive the exact same amount as those who have labored a full eight?

The miracle of  this shockingly outrageous grace is that we are confronted by a profound freedom.  We basically get brought to the point where we get stripped of these illusions and need to walk out the scripture.  It has the tendency to eliminate the issues that could block us and bring us to a most receptive position.

“But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you. Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day? Take your money and go home. It is my wish to give the latecomers as much as I give you. May I not do what I like with what belongs to me? Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

16 “So, many who are the last now will be the first then and the first last.”

Matthew 20:13-16

We must admit that God’s grace reaches out to everyone. 

That He has the deep, deep desire to see that each of us connect with His love.  This is indeed the radicalness of the gospel.  It is outrageous and astonishing.  That He would love us who have hated Him.  Our sense of equity is completely undone.  His grace completely turns us upside down. I think that is a good thing.

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Like Well-Watered Gardens: Isaiah 58

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Feed the hungry,
    and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
    and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
    giving you water when you are dry
    and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
    like an ever-flowing spring.”

Isaiah 58:10-11, NLT

This is the precise key many need for this moment. It just could be as vital as your next breath.

You see our faith was never intended to be a personal ‘spiritual make-over.’ Discipleship was not meant to be about becoming a ‘new-and-improved’ person. That simply is not the message. There can be an emphasis placed on a selfish preoccupation with becoming better (and nicer) and we miss out on God’s real intent for His redeemed people. The difference is subtle but significant. We cannot sanctify our selfishness— no matter how hard we might try. 

For years I travelled under a misconception that God wanted from me ‘a better Bryan.’ I felt like a juggler trying to keep the balls moving. But by making this my focus, and not on others, I only exacerbated my mental illness. For me, my depression is only intensified when I look inside. Often I can’t see the needs around me. All I can see are my own issues (which are formidable.)

Isaiah prophesies a spiritual ’cause-and-effect.” If a person will only reach out to others will there be a spiritual blessing. Often we struggle because we don’t realize the implications of being spent for others. We become ‘a well-watered garden’ if we will only reach out to others. If we would only learn that it is when we give out— we receive. The kingdom is reciprocal in the way blessings come.

“And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Acts 20:35

The entire chapter of Isaiah 58 makes it a vital point to the people of God. Our own healing is contingent on becoming a blessing to others. If we will pour out we will be poured on. We become ‘a well-watered garden’ when we begin to serve others. Our own ‘healing’ will come when we reach out to the desperate needs around us. After all, isn’t that what we’re supposed to be about?

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The Art of Begging

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Jesus looked at his followers and said,
    “You people who are poor are blessed,
      because the kingdom of God belongs to you”.

Luke 6:20, NCV

It is an astonishing thing, to have Jesus look at you.

His steady, focused gaze is transformational, He sees me, and in this huge mass of people Jesus has picked me!  It’s like He takes His ‘spiritual highlighter’ and sets me apart from everyone else.  Amazing grace!

But this really isn’t arrogance, or even wishful thinking.  We’ve been selected to be the special ones, not so much in an elite way, but in a way that glorifies only Him.  Scripture emphasizes this by stating ‘the weak are chosen’.  As I stood in this teeming crowd, I was surrounded by some very attractive and muscular people.  They preened and postured, but that wasn’t what He was looking for.  When He saw me, He stopped, and then He picked me out of the crowd.

Those who have been ‘chosen’ are definitely not superhero material.  We are the weak, and blind, and very foolish.  There is ‘zero attractiveness’.  In the classroom, we are the nerdiest of nerds.  (We are nerdisimos.)  In the spirit, we have a ‘less than zero’ rating.  In a sense, we’re not even remotely ‘the right stuff’, we are so pathetic.

Every once in a while, we find someone that seems to have figured out how to put it together.  Then often we go ahead and put our ‘mark’ on that person and then become loyal followers.  But if we extend ourselves to hear the Spirit (who by the way, is very easily heard) we find that our choice is a Saul, and not a David.  In other words, he is very close but is disqualified.

We are Christians because Jesus chose us.  We come into His presence because He left the doors open for us to squeeze in.  We enter in because Jesus has been ‘bled out’ for us.  Everything was drained when He died.  He stepped into our ‘nightmare’ to allow us to escape into the light.  Without His presence, we would decay into a dark and perpetual night.

And now He stands directly in front of us.  He looks (it seems He is always looking) and says something to us that is strange. ‘Those who are poor will become those who are very, very ‘blessed’.  Quite strange and bizarre.  Like the guy sitting on mass transit right next to you, who is talking to himself!  He simply doesn’t mesh with what is real.  He has lost touch with reality.

The kingdom is up for grabs!  Anyone can snatch it and bring home something substantial.  Poor people, those who are at the level ‘of very little account’ have been moved ahead in the line, right up to the front.  Suddenly, those in the back become envious.  This envy becomes jealousy and then rebellion.  But it changes nothing.

The ‘poor in spirit’ have just inherited the Kingdom of God.  It has become theirs and it won’t be something that can be overturned.  The ‘ultimate’ has become fully available to the ‘least’.  Those out there who are starving, will be those who get the most.

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She Gave Everything She Had

“Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

Mark 12:41-44, New Living Translation

“God judges what we give by what we keep.”

–George Mueller

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Jesus has a whole different way of counting.  He sat, and waited, and watched.  Lots and lots of money was being dropped into the box.  The rich actually hired ‘criers’ to proceed them.  They shouted out to prepare the crowds in the Temple for their generous offerings.  Great effort was made to choreograph their procession when the Temple would be crowded. (I think some Churches might allow this, if only to increase the offering.)

But I’d like to think the best of these rich ‘fat cats.’  I want to somehow believe that they didn’t have ulterior motives.  But, knowing the heart of man, I strongly suspect these ‘givers’ intended to get as much ‘PR mileage’ as they could.

When we focus on the widow we find we pretty much dismiss her offering.  To put it in perspective, a laborer would work all day for a denarius.  This widow gave just 1/164th of that. And certainly without the fanfare that these pharisees and scribes created.

Jesus is sitting, and watching very near to the offering box.  He is impressed with this widow, and her scanty contribution.  But He looks at each heart, of each giver.  He puts a value on each one.  The size of the gift is not at all the issue here. It is the dimension of the sacrifice. She was dropping in everything she had.  All of it, without hesitation or negotiation.

As we are His disciples, this particular lesson must be learned.  And, indeed, it is learnable.  If it seems too hard to emulate we need to deal with hard issues.  Like fear, doubt and pride.  And there is nothing quite like ‘sacrificial giving” to penetrate our stony hearts.

“I do not believe one can settle how much we ought to give. I am afraid the only safe rule is to give more than we can spare.”

–C.S. Lewis

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kyrie eleison, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on us)
 
 
 
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The Real Treasures, [Weaknesses]

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As Christians often our theology tells us that mental illness, depression, and bipolar disorder have no place in the believer’s life.  So we hide, sneaking into our sessions with our therapists, and change the subject to minimize our exposure to direct questions. We have had to hide our issues really well. 

But I would submit to you that it is we who are closest to the Kingdom of God. It is far easier for us to approach the Father, in our brokenness, humility, and general lostness. We have needs; a sound mind, a healthy body and we know it. We have no illusions of wellness, nothing can convince us that we are well. We are not.

We are broken and only our loving creator can mend us.

You might say that the Church needs us. An Archbishop was given an ultimatum by the Huns who surrounded his cathedral. “You have 24 hours to bring your wealth to these steps”, the war-leader demanded. The next morning the Archbishop came out leading the poor, the blind, the lame, and the lunatics. “Where is your treasure? Why have you brought out these… people?” The Archbishop simply and quietly replied, “These are the treasures of the Church, these who are weak are our valuables. They make us rich.”

We often can value giftedness more than weakness.

I am afraid the the Western Church no longer sees its “treasures” like it should. In our pride and self-centeredness we have operated our churches like successful businesses. We value giftedness more than weakness. We definitely have no room for the desperately weak. I suppose it’s time for the Church to begin to act like Jesus.

Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church should be a verb.  Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.

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Mother Teresa’s Heart, [Mercy]

“Intense love does not measure; it just gives”

“No, O people, the Lord has told you what is good,
    and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy,
    and to walk humbly with your God.”

Micah 6:8, NLT

These are all quotes from Mother Teresa, born ‘Anjezë Gonxhe Bojaxhiu’, 1910-1997. Here are some of the things she wrote or said. I hope they will inspire and encourage.

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Be the eyes of God. See what He sees.
  • See the world as God sees the world.
  • When God sees a homeless man. He sees a precious person who has a painful life, whom everyone else has cast aside.
  • When God sees people fighting against each other, He is grieved because they have allowed their small differences to destroy what they have in common.
  • When He sees a child without parents, He sees the lonely heart abandoned by people who themselves have pain.
  • See what God sees.
Be the ears of God. Hear what He hears.
  • God hears the silent tears of the lonely. He hears the voices of the oppressed. He hears the shouts of injustice. He hears the cries of pain.
  • Learn to listen and hear as God hears.
Be the mind of God. Think as He thinks.
  • Seek to understand the mind of God, to think as He thinks. Observe things around you and have conversations with Him. Seek His wisdom and knowledge. Know that He wants to bring you to a higher consciousness of His Kingdom.
Seek to understand the heart of God.
  • Be the heart of God. Feel what He feels.Feel the pain He feels for those who suffer. Feel the tears He feels for the lonely. Feel the magnitude of His great love and compassion for us His creation.
  • The heart of God is filled with overflowing love and He desires us to participate in His work to bring back wholeness to the world. See that the heart of God is indeed filled with unconditional love.
Be the hands of God. Do as He does.
  • God asks us to take everything we have learned from Him and change things. He asks us to use our hands to do His work: To stand up when there is injustice. To love as He loves. To do things no one else wants to do. By making a connection, volunteering, joining a community or offering to help, we do what God hopes for us all to do: love people to Him.
  • Listen to God and do what He beckons you to do. There is so much that needs to be done, but so few persons willing to do the work of God. We can no longer be just bystanders on the side of the road asking God for handouts, comfort and security. We each have a part in His great plan to bring salvation to the world.
  • Many believe that being spiritual is cerebral. Our minds seek only to contemplate and meditate on God, but that is only part of it. Thinking on God is 1% spirituality. Doing the work of our contemplations is 99% of it.
  • Action above all is what is hardest for us to do; yet, ACTION is the fruit of deep spirituality. Contemplation may be spiritual, but when there is no action behind our spiritual thoughts, they become worthless.

Like the Good Samaritan, what matters is that love is manifested into action. Not just concern, not just prayer, and not just sympathy, but ACTION.

  • The energy that gets the ball rolling and sets God’s love into motion is ACTION.
  • So many of us pray when someone needs help, yet, no one just goes on in and helps. We pray for someone else to do the work, but perhaps we are the ones who should heed our own prayers.
A person of God, sees, hears, thinks, feels and then DOES.
  • Spiritual thoughts are fruitless until they become a part of your life. One who does, follows through with what he has learned and produces fruit. It is the result of our conversations with God. One who thinks only entertains himself. One who does, entertains God.
  • God is excited when we allow our hands to be His hands, because only then can things begin to happen. Only then can work be accomplished.
  • We can no longer remain complacent and removed from everything. He challenges us to walk along with Him and be His eyes, ears, mind, heart and hands to do His work. To walk a closer walk with Him.
When our hands do as God does, then we are truly walking side by side with Him toward the Kingdom of God.

“We have not come into the world to be numbered; we have been created for a purpose; for great things: to love and be loved.

Mother Teresa

Sources: http://epistle.us/articles/deeperspirituality.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mother_Teresa
 
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