A Towel, Not a Title

There are no shortcuts in discipleship
“Jesus knew that the Father had given him authority over everything and that he had come from God and would return to God. 4 So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist.”  

John 13:3-4, NLT

Jesus was always constant.  Nothing could erode His place or position.  The authority had been His Fathers, and it had been given to Him.  He carried it as a special burden, treasured and separating Him.  Jesus had the freedom to act like the servant.  It didn’t bother or confuse Him, He understood perfectly who He was.

With the supreme authority given to him, he got down on His knees, and began to wash dirty feet.  I can offer no magic or flair to adjust this scene.  He washed off dirt, cleaned between toes, making filthy feet clean.  And all of this ‘as God in human flesh’.  This staggered the disciples, perhaps a baseball bat on the side of the head, would’ve been more compassionate.

This was revolutionary, it completely devastated the disciples.  They just couldn’t grasp what was happening.  Jesus, who was ‘God in flesh’, had decided, in a moment of time, to clean their feet.  Outrageous!  Not really happening!  No way! Never!

The reality.

This spun them around.  They tried as fast as possible to process what had just happened, and ‘who’ it had happened from.

Essentially, it buried them.  Jesus Christ, as Servant pounded them into the ground.  Servanthood was to take the supremacy from this point forward.  Becoming an indentured slave was now the way of Christlikeness.  This servanthood was to now guide us to a point of slavery.

Gone are the days of Zebedee, when one can ask for a position, on the right or the left.  We can ask, most certainly, but we haven’t been the first.  We can ask but the sheer weight is against us.  So very many have gone before us.  We must become a people who accept, and then presses into His grace, His specialness, His presence.

Today, more towels are what we need.

We have got to turn over our ‘need’ for recognition and pick up from the pile the rag of servanthood, we must ‘ask’ our brother/sister if we can scrub their feet.  We must get on our knees and do the unspeakable.  We must find a way to clean off their feet. This dear one, is what you’ve been told to do.

“There are many of us that are willing to do great things for the Lord, but few of us are willing to do little things.”   D.L. Moody

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When Angels Stand Amazed

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“When the Japanese mend broken objects, they aggrandize the damage by filling the cracks with gold. They believe that when something’s suffered damage and has a history it becomes more beautiful.”

~Barbara Bloom

Just a short word of encouragement to all my suffering brothers and sisters.  I believe God loves you (not a cliche) and has a tremendous plan for you.  Scripture tells us that we will reign with Him (and the last time I looked, there is no disqualification for being mentally ill).  Having suffered through your whole life will be just an enhancement, a bonus when you finally are held by Jesus, in His arms.

Those of us who struggle with depression, mania, and paranoia know a lot about cracks and brokenness.  Mixed states, anxiety, and social withdrawal all have taken their toll. Some of us hear voices. Addictions and suicide attempts have made up our past life (and even sometimes try to intrude on the present.)

Some have physical disabilities. They have come to worship from their wheelchairs. Some are deaf, others are blind. But they come still.

I have a dear friend with advancing Alzheimers who understands little of what is happening to her,  but she still worships God with the rest of the congregation. Before the dementia she was a spiritual marvel.  Without a doubt one of the astonishing women I had ever met. Now however, when she raises her hands, I believe the angels step back in a deep awe.  I just realized this, the angels understand worship, they really do. BUT, they do not understand worship out of weakness and brokenness.

Let us worship God with our cracks and brokenness.  In John 12, a woman breaks open a jar of nard on Jesus feet, while the other disciples hang back and complain.  But always remember this dear one–it is only by being poured out that one can release the perfume.

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Walking Intelligently

  1. Faith–“For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  2 Cor. 5:7
  2. Spirituality–“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16
  3. Consistency–“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”  Eph. 4:1
  4. Love–“And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us.”  Eph. 5:2
  5. Wisdom–“Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise.” Eph. 5:15
  6. Light–“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”  1 John 1:7
  7. Christlikeness–“Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.”  1 John 2:6

 

These 7 verses all talk about our walk.  Each verse brings us a facet of that walk.  We must avail ourselves of every awareness, following Jesus is indeed a “walk.”  We take steps that will lead us into an vast eternity with our Savior.  We move spiritually from one place to a closer place.  We walk forward, and not back.  We move ahead, and each day closer to our Lord.  Time, you see, only exists to bring us that much nearer to Jesus.

To walk means progression.  It also is destiny.  Some of the greatest works in literature is the book, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” by John Bunyan.  It is a book about walking.  We are all walking toward home.  It is challenging to make this journey through tremendous issues.  We all are making progress as we travel home.

The issues are “faith, spirituality, consistency, love, wisdom, light and christlikeness.”  Which of these are we prepared to ditch?  If we concentrate on each of these, we find that we can’t give up any of them.  They all are dear and fundamental to an authentic faith.

Walking can be strenuous.  When we walk it means we have direction and a goal in mind.  It is almost never done aimlessly.  As we walk, we begin to unfold these seven issues.  We will find that the Father inserts us into situations and circumstances where we get to unveil these seven.  We will enter into events where we take on certain qualities.  As we walk we learn the behavior of our Lord.  And that dear ones, can’t be all bad.

Even More Victory in Our Affliction

 

Reach for the tape

 So we plow on in this miniseries on “Victory in Our Affliction”. 

This is part 3.

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Part 1 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/09/23/victory-in-the-middle-of-affliction/ 

Part 2 is here–https://brokenbelievers.com/2010/10/19/more-victory-in-our-affliction/

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Can Our Pain Produce Anything Good?

Our pain tells us we are growing in Christlikeness.  When we hurt often the Lord will draw quite close, with pain focusing our eyes to see Him, others and His Kingdom.  It is far from pleasant.  Diamonds are produced in confinement and pressure.  Our faith is like a precious jewel ‘in the making’. Gold has to be refined to make it pure .  “I tested you in hard times just as silver [or, gold] is refined in a heated furnace.” Isa. 48:10.  Both diamonds and precious metals have to be worked on before they are recognized as authentic.  Often, it will be a blast furnace of affliction.

“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.”  2 Cor. 4:17, NKJV

“These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing.” 2 Cor. 4:17, CEV

We can hold a sense that our different afflictions are actually our employees who work for us.  They ‘prompt’ us for what we need at any given moment.  For example, we need to grow in love.  What does God do?  He sends us very difficult and frustrating people for us to love.  He sends us His best for us!  Our lessons are given to guide us into a Christlike identity.

The natural impulse is to regard our affliction as eroding our faith, or degrading it.  But the opposite is true.  Affliction is like the weight bars waiting for us in the gym.  The bar and weights do not have an agenda or impulse to defeat me.  They are there to help me.  The gym is a wonderful metaphor for us to grasp spiritual things.

“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience.”  Romans 5:3, KJV

The word ‘patience’ simply means ‘endurance’.  And it seems we are starting all over in thinking that afflictions are evil, and to be avoided and rejected.  But actually the opposite is true!  We deal with the pain and frustration knowing it is working in us a ‘concentrated form of glory.’

“Knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”  James 1:3

Essentially it is all ’cause and effect’ with our provisional acceptance to the Lord’s good intention, we let Him have His way with us.  It hurts, some may call it brutal, but it seems to be the only way for God to make us ready for eternity.

Disciples Wearing Steadfastness

“The steady discipline of intimate friendship with Jesus results in men becoming like Him.”   

Harry Emerson Fosdick

 

Finally.  A voice of reason and understanding in our quest for to be Christlike.  A very simple dynamic that stresses personal intimacy.  As we walk and talk with Him we are affected, we absorb things by rubbing up to Him.  We become altered.  But it takes a “steady discipline” (that is probably the most intense words in this quote).

Steadiness is a very undervalued commodity.  This culture— my culture— has minimized this particular quality, and inflated others to take its place.  We put a new weight on certain things that eventually ‘throw off’ the equilibrium of our discipleship.  We extract ‘steadiness, or faithfulness’ from our faith and we are left with something that is only a “disciple”  in pretense or personal confusion.

Being steadfast means you are dependable and stable.  It is evidence ‘exhibit A’ that you have the Holy Spirit infecting you.

‘But as for you,(A) O man of God,(B) flee these things.(C) Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness.’

1 Timothy 6:11

When we are in pursuit of something, we become incredibly focused.  Our peripheral vision is adjusted and we become focused on just reaching our goal.  Paul told Timothy to make these things his target, and then to pursue them.  But this particular verse, embedded as it is with concepts of discipleship is rarely (maybe never) given more than a fleeting glance.  Perhaps is is just too boring?

Admittedly there is a plethora of choices.  Our fellowships had just passed out spiritual menus for us to order from. (As it that were possible.)

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials(F) of various kinds, 3for you know that(G) the testing of your faith(H)produces steadfastness.4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be(I) perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1:2-4

If we fully intend to become ‘biblical’ we will refocus on all that God wants to hear.  We are pretty much in peril if we buy into a gospel that is not balanced on the New Testament scales.  We will not grow at all if all we eat are “spiritual snicker bars”.

People like us are almost always trying to balance ourselves.  Bipolar depression is a vicious illness of extremes.  One day we are into this, and then we shift to another thing.  We walk a tightrope it seems, even while others are enjoying themselves in a steady, solid and comfortable walk of discipleship.  Being aware of your  balance,  propensity and momentum is a valuable asset to have.