Intimate Discipleship

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It’s all about Jesus

There is much good about the emphasis that the Church puts on discipleship.  We pray, fast, and study the Bible better than any other generation.  We have as our pastors and teachers men and women who have been equipped in seminaries and educated in counseling and church growth. And we are doing missions better than ever.

But I think there is something missing.  I seriously believe we have misplaced intimacy.  Our worship services seem mechanical.  We are no longer in a wild love affair with the One who really matters.  We no longer dwell on Him, crying out for His grace and mercy.

Could it be that the evangelical church in America has passed its expiration date?

Perhaps we have grown confused, and have struggled with an emptiness that is at the core of a legalistic and a works dominated life.  We do not cry out with a passionate love for Him who desperately wants to hold us close. We miss out on so much.

The Old Testament book of the Song of Solomon is the love story between a shepherdess and her beloved.  This love is a love that first envelops and then controls a person’s entire being.  Her love is intense, as well as thirsty.  She needs her shepherd.  There is an element of being ‘lovesick’ and never settling for a second best relationship with her beloved.

Biblical discipleship must always be intimacy with Jesus.

In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul writes about his deep concern for that particular Church,

2 “For I am jealous for you with the jealousy of God himself. I promised you as a pure bride to one husband—Christ. But I fear that somehow your pure and undivided devotion to Christ will be corrupted, just as Eve was deceived by the cunning ways of the serpent.”

There is jealousy involved here (which is suspect by us) and foolishness (which is embarrassing) and is emotional (not at all what we think.)  This passage suggests a higher and purer following of Jesus that Satan wants to corrupt.  Paul was concerned that these Corinthians would not be a pure bride.  He got jealous over their vulnerability. He believed that they would miss the bridal love that they once knew.

I want to challenge you to keep the innocence of your relationship with Jesus. Guard it and refuse to be led away from its simple devotion.  Love Jesus with a white-hot love. Eternity is a long time to spend with someone who you feel ambivalent about.

Learn the language of romance again and remember that your discipleship is not an end in itself.  Biblical discipleship is nothing more than intimacy with Jesus. We must settle on this in our hearts. The true foundation of discipleship can only be a kind of ‘first love’.

 Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

Rev. 2:4

 

P.S. A fanatic is someone who loves Jesus more than you.

 

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A Holy Romance

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What if I told you that the universe was built for romance.  To be sure both scientists and psychiatrists might see that idea both simplistic and perhaps even dangerous. And while we may not understand life as clearly as we could, it surely isn’t a passionate romance– or is it? Please consider: Why couldn’t the universe be the arena of a furious courtship between Jesus Christ and His followers? I’m one of millions who believe this is precisely the case.

I’ve been reading the Old Testament book of Song of Solomon the last few weeks and have thinking a lot about this very intense allegory between a shepherdess and her lover.

It is full of passion and of public declarations of love and desire.  Kisses are exchanged. A dialogue is developed, and truths are volleyed back and forth from character to character. Sometimes it’s hard to follow, but the book is an exquisite work of God’s love, and grace, and passion for your soul.

We can, and should cry out for a revelation of Jesus’ presence. He really is there and He is waiting for your response.

Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth,
    because your love is better than wine.
The smell of your perfume is pleasant,
    and your name is pleasant like expensive perfume.
    That’s why the young women love you.
Take me with you; let’s run together.
    The king takes me into his rooms.

Songs 1:2-4

Scripture as a whole leads us to believe that romance is much more substantial then we dreamed it could be.  But if we can, we should visualize Jesus’ love for us as being his motivation for doing what he has done, and is doing.  Love is what keeps him from letting us go!

My illness can be heartrending; it drives me straight to Him, and I cry out for Jesus’ hand. I may sink, but He’s right there to pull me out. My depression is His invitation to intimacy. Things can get pretty ugly, pretty quick, if I decide not to reach out for His outstretched hand. Trust me on this. (Matthew 14:29-30). I swim like a stone.

cropped-cropped-heartThere are piles of scripture that declare His heated love for you.  I believe there exists a holy romance that Jesus has for your soul.  Love continues to motivate him to reach out repeatedly for you.  Your devotional life (as Christians like to call it) is nothing more than your dialogue with Him as He saves you from a certain destruction.

The ancient Jews regarded the book of Song of Solomon to be the ‘holiest of holies’ of scripture and set apart to be read during Passover. 

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride;  you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”

Songs 4:9, ESV

Captivated over me. Hmmm. Quite often I wonder what He sees in me. Why should I be honored like this?

I think that our pastors and teachers need a “theology of romance” to clarify the place of discipleship in our hearts. Good theology is always warm-blooded. Instead of cold doctrine we need a fervent passion to work it through our lives.  We are a bride after all– the bride of Christ, and we must be reminded of that by good pastors who understand.  “I am my beloved and he is mine.”

“Who is this sweeping in from the desert,
    leaning on her lover?”

Songs 8:5, NLT

 

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The Rigidity of Evil

I have a heart--but it is broken and crushed.
I have a heart–but it is broken and crushed.

Today I realized that I was sick and very tired of myself. It’s really not disgust, or even loathing. It’s more like a weariness, an exhaustion. I’ve never felt this way. In a strange way it intrigues me. Could this definite disenchantment mean something spiritual? Does it have value, or am I just feeling self-absorbed or conceited?

There is a real rigidity to evil. As I have seen it– sin hardens all who touch it, plain and simple. My growing immobility disturbs me, as I know I’m developing a “hardness of heart.” Atherosclerosis is a condition of a sick heart where arteries become blocked. It’s also known as “hardening of the heart, or arteries.” It is a patient killer, slowly and surely making hard deposits that block the flow of blood.

The Bible speaks about having a hard heart. It also uses the metaphor of fallow ground that must be plowed up. Jesus used the same image in His “Parable of the Sower” in Matthew 13.

“A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, 6 but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. 7 Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain.”

There are only four real options.

  • The first is seed that never arrives.
  • The second lands on hard stones.
  • The third possibility is landing on thorns and thistles.
  • Only the fourth flourishes.

    Heart of Stone Heart of Flesh
    The Battle of the Heart

The question I have is this, can the hard soil become soft, and can the good soil become overgrown with thistles? Is this a static, set experience? Or could it be far more fluid? I seem to move from one soil condition to another.

I have found that my own  heart drifts. Manic Depression is a mental illness where emotions fluctuate constantly. They gallivant around, floating here and than there. I maybe depressed and suicidal in the morning, and then I can be euphoric in the evening. It’s having the identity of a “wandering star.”

I want my heart to soften. I want to sit with Jesus and hear His words. I need Him to share what He is thinking about. Any sin I entertain has a hardening effect in my spiritual heart. This really scares me. *

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ybic, Bryan

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A Retrograde Faith

Loveonthewall

ret·ro·grade

  [re-truh greyd]  (ret·ro·grad·ed, ret·ro·grad·ing.)

adjective

1. moving backward; having a backward motion or direction; retiring or retreating.
2. inverse or reversed, as order.
3. Chiefly Biology. exhibiting degeneration or deterioration.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 16 Jul. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/retrograde>.
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24 “But my people would not listen to me. They kept doing whatever they wanted, following the stubborn desires of their evil hearts. They went backward instead of forward.”

–Jeremiah 7:24, NLT
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I seldom seek out things like this to write about. In my 30 years following the Lord Jesus, I have been bludgeoned more than a few times by people wielding Jeremiah like a cudgel. Mostly, these are good people who I liked and honored. (But maybe they had too much coffee that day, IDK.)
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But there is a real issue here. Many who start out strong and brave end up on the scrap heap. Somehow, I suppose they were never able to tune their “ear” to His voice. But to be really honest– this can be a hard thing. And many of these dear ones end up with a retrograde walk in the Spirit. They would deny this, but if we look for a passion, we will see that a “first love” it will be absent.
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That passion is the pulse, the blood pressure of a walk that is so vital and so authentic. We can measure our own walk by this singular means– “first-love.”  Rev. 2:4-5 shouts to us,
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“But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” 
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A retrograde faith may not deny Him, but it can often draw us into the place where our denial isn’t necessary. And that I suppose may be the scariest part of becoming apostate. We just slip; we slip right off of the map into an “almost-discipleship.” We would never dream of speaking an outright denial (never, ever) but we end up in this grey zone, nevertheless.
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I have no desire to manipulate you through nice sounding words and phrases. But I feel duty bound to tell you up-front. Having a “first-love” will protect you. A “first-love” will cover you and lead you through many diverse issues. Revelation 2 was the Father’s plea to a Church that had seemingly advanced in every way. (As a pastor I would have loved to oversee this Church.) But the Father spoke a clear word of correction to them. And  I’m sure that it was hard to accept.
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The “retrograde Church” exists. Unfortunately, it is alive and well, but we must share with these dear ones about the true freedom which comes from the “first-love” relationship with the Lord Jesus. Our love for Him, and His love for us will protect us from something that goes “backward” and not forward. I can only say, love Jesus, and make Him your “first-love.”
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“Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?  –Unknown

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ybic, Bryan

kyrie elesion.