now that’s relaxing

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
Jesus in Matthew 11 (emphasis mine, and maybe Jesus, too)

For some people, this passage is refreshing, freeing and memorable. Others simply give it an affirming nod and move on. Others (if they’re honest) might admit they’re not sure what Jesus is getting at with all this talk about rest. Rest from WHAT? What does it mean to labor and be heavy laden?

Practically, we know that Jesus was referring to what Judaism had become. The Pharisees had placed too much emphasis on rituals and outward things. Jesus had a radically different way of life in mind. Still some of us may find it hard to see how this relates to us today. After all, only about 1% of the world’s population is even Jewish.

There is a Pharisee inside all of us.

The Pharisee mindset has to do with proving your worth to God by doing good things. And not just doing them, but doing them better than others! Unfortunately, the Pharisee mindset often drives many really positive acts of ministry and Christian organisations. This ‘philosophy of works’ can slip into the minds of the most genuine Christians.

We must never mistake ‘works‘ for ‘fruit.’ Fruit is a natural by-product of a relationship with Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. God Himself inspires, directs and empowers our actions. And these ‘fruit-actions’ never have anything to do with us getting the credit. ‘Work-actions,’ however, can be and are done without a relationship with Christ and have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit at all. As much as we may try to claim God’s ‘sponsorship’ of our efforts, we really want the credit to go to us. We want to be known as ‘spiritual’ or ‘a good, serving Christian.’

Fruit and Works, Relationship and Religion, Devotion and Duty. They often look the same to us, but to God, one is worthless and the other priceless.

-Dale

the gospel blimp: a review

I’ve just finished a book called, “The Gospel Blimp, by Joseph Bayly.” It was published in 1960, but it’s amazingly relevant to Christians today.

The story begins with a group of typical, white, middle-class, protestant Americans having a get-together in one of their back yards. The discussion turns to evangelism, and after some time, an idea is floated that would change their lives for the next few years: a Gospel Blimp. The proposed Blimp would be visible to the whole city and would carry a simple Christian message. They look across the fence and notice the neighbors smoking and drinking beer as usual. This all-too-familiar sight provides the necessary motivation and soon all agree to commit to making the Blimp everything it needs to be to evangelise their city. They especially pray that the next door neighbors would be the first to be saved through the blimp.

Over the next few years, the group sees International Gospel Blimps, Incorporated (I.G.B.I) grow and develop far further than they ever expected it to grow, finding support from many Christians. Prayer meetings, publicity personnel, PA systems, lighted signs, the works. The I.G.B.I. committee experiences ups and downs, family trouble, interior conflict and resolution, sacrifice, success, tragedy and a host of other twists and turns. Possibly the worst of these is that the couple with the next door neighbors eventually leave the committee altogether. That doesn’t hinder the commitment of the rest of the committee. They press on.

Eventually, the story closes when the couple that had left invites the committee over to their house again for a BBQ. Also invited to the BBQ were the next-door neighbors. Only they had become Christians. The various committee members are eager to hear the long-awaited story of how God used the Blimp to touch their hearts and draw them to faith. The committee is shocked when the neighbors said that God hadn’t used the Blimp to save them. They instead had been deeply moved by their neighbors recently increased involvement in their lives. Their love and care for them through some tough times had been a huge witness to the love of Christ. Toward the end of the BBQ, one of the committee members thinks he will take this golden opportunity to invite the new Christian husband to the Blimp hangar the next morning to help others with their work on the Blimp. The neighbor has to decline because he has plans with a couple of his neighbors to go bowling.

I recommend reading this book in it’s entirety, because I think it vividly portrays how many sincere, genuine Christians can be a bit misguided in their efforts. An essential ingredient for Christian witness has always been and will always be love. Selfless love. Even if you have to miss a few Gospel Blimp prayer meetings, or not be involved altogether.

-Dale

let’s see some I.D. please

One of the most bizarre notions in the entire universe is also one of the most important doctrines of Christianity. It’s the idea of a new identity.

The over-abundance of self-help books, ‘inspirational’ seminars and ‘inner-peace’ tapes/CD’s only begin to show our human obsession with life change. We want it. We crave it. We need it. We know something is wrong inside of us, and we will try anything to make it better.

Unlike the comforting, feel-good, wholeness, positive message of these mediums, the message of the Cross is offensive. The Cross doesn’t hide our weakness, but painfully exposes it. The Cross doesn’t try to fix our broken lives, but ends them! In the book, Grace Walk, Steve McVey rightly points out that we don’t get our lives changed, but get them ex-changed!

At times we forget that the Empty Tomb and the wonderful promises of newness of life come only after the Cross and it’s shame. Humanity would love to have the power of the Empty Tomb, but is too proud to humble itself to bow to the Cross. Take a fresh look at the following verses:

Jesus in Luke 14:27, “The man who will not take up his cross and follow in my footsteps cannot be my disciple.” – (Phillips)

Jesus in Mark 8:35, “Whoever wants to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it.” – (New American Standard)

The Apostle Paul in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ that lives in me; and the life which I now live in the body I live through faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself up to death on my behalf” – (Weymouth)

Paul in 2 Timothy 2:11, “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him.” – (New King James)

This dying is not a once in a lifetime occurance, either! For God’s life and power to flow through us, we must take Jesus’ advice in this last verse:

Luke 9:23, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” – (King James Version)

yokes, disciples and dust

Note: I’ve shamelessly ‘borrowed’ some (all?) of these concepts. You can find them yourself if you research Judaism. Also, Rob Bell covers them quite well in his book, “Velvet Elvis” and his Nooma DVD entitled “Dust.”

Studying the Torah (first five books of the Old Testament, or the books of Moses) is an integral part of Jewish life. In Jesus’ day, Jewish boys would begin Torah study around the age of six (bet sefer), and would memorize it entirely! Around age ten, while the majority of the boys would begin learning their fathers’ trade, the best of these Torah students went on to study other Jewish writings and memorize the rest of the Old Testament (bet talmud)! That’s right, even Psalms and Proverbs! Finally, in their early teens, the best of the best of these would apply to a rabbi’s disciple (bet midrash). They didn’t just want to know what the rabbi knew, they wanted to DO what the rabbi DID. If a rabbi thought the student could ‘do what he did’ (known as a ‘yoke’), he would ‘call’ the student to be his disciple by saying, “Come and follow me.” The student would then leave family, friends and his whole life to follow the Rabbi and take his ‘yoke.’ Each Rabbi’s ‘yoke’ was shaped and influenced by the interpretations of the Scriptures that the Rabbi had, so some ‘yokes’ were more strict or ‘heavy’ than others. Following the Rabbi wherever he went inspired the Jewish blessing, “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.”

Jesus was a radical rabbi…

When other rabbi’s looked for the cream of the crop, Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors! That’s right, He called those who didn’t even make it past learning the Torah! He also said that His yoke was easy, and His burden was light!

These radical actions and words of Jesus highlight His turning away from burdensome, strict, ordered processes of learning and teaching. Jesus’ emphasis was on relationships. He must have believed that if His disciples loved Him, then they would be like Him!

Perhaps this sheds new light on the Great Commandment to love the Lord your God, and the Great Commission of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. He wants us to share a way of life with each other and the world that He said was easy and light. He wants that way of life to flow from a relationship with Him.

Are you involved in a discipleship relationship?

May you see the importance of your relationship with Christ above all others.
May you realize the calling of Christ to disciple-making.
May you understand that this means disciple-being as well.
May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi.

god’s toolbox

“Behold, I am sending you out like sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as cunning as serpents and as innocent as doves . . . When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given, at that moment, what you are to say. For it will not be you, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:16,19)

God has a big toolbox. Contrary to popular Christian tradition, his tools are people. The verse above says that He is sending ‘you.’ We commonly refer to organisations, programmes or church meetings as tools. Sure, God can and does use these, but He still chooses to create these through people. The people are His tools. We are His hands and feet.

Even though most every Christian realises this, we still often tend to rely on human inventions rather than on God and His Spirit working through us. Allow the following illustration:

Concerning evangelism, we have a mindset that says we are to lure our non-Christian acquaintances to various church services or ‘gospel meetings’ so that they can encounter the gospel, be confronted with the message of Jesus and hopefully place their faith and trust in Him.

This IS a valid method of evangelism, but it is ONLY ONE method! Thankfully, God has a LOT more ways to reach people than just gospel ‘meetings.’ And to be completely honest, there is somewhat of a large contrast between this method of evangelism and Jesus’ method, which is not gospel meetings, but gospel lifestyles.

Jesus tells US to GO. He wants US to share the Gospel with the world and teach them about Christ. We cannot and MUST not rely on ‘the preacher’ to tell our non-Christians about Jesus. 1 Peter 3:15 says,

“But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord, and always be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you whenever someone asks, with gentleness and respect.”

Like it or not, if you are not prepared to share the Gospel with your friends, you are in disobedience to Christ.

And by the way, we MUST share the Gospel with much more than only WORDS. As a popular author has said, we must share the testimony of our LIFE and LOVE, and earn the right to share the testimony of our LIPS.

Will we make ourselves ready to be used by God, or will we continue to stay buried in the bottom of the toolbox?

Dale

asking the wrong questions

“Love someone.  Anyone.  Any way you choose to.  But you need to do it at the right time, with the right flowers and at the right restaurant.”

Stop and think. What is wrong with this command? Read it again carefully if you need to.

It tells me when to love, with what to love and even where to love, but what other details might you need? How about who and how? Do the what, where and when really matter if you have the who and how figured out? I don’t think they matter one bit.

Isn’t it refreshing that God’s New Covenant commandments to us don’t even bother with the what, where and when? Let’s look at the Two Commandments of Jesus Christ.

1. Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.

Do you see anything in these that have to do with what it looks like to do this, or where or when to do this? Of course not. It appears that God isn’t as concerned with what, where or when we love Him, but instead is concerned that we indeed are loving Him and how we love Him.

Another example about this from Jesus is His discussion with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria about the differences between Jews and Samaritans. She reminded Jesus that Jews believed that the Temple in Jerusalem was the TRUE place for worship, but that the Samaritans were actually the right ones, because the real TRUE place for worship was the mountain in Samaria. The reply of Jesus is paramount. He told her that the time was coming and had already come when she would not worship God on the Samaritan mountain or in Jerusalem. (What!?!) He then tells her that True worship is not where, but in Spirit and in Truth (how).

Who do we love? The LORD first, and then our neighbor.
How do we love them? With everything that we have. Every affection, moment, possession, thought, feeling and effort.
Where and when do we do this? What do we do with with? It just does NOT matter.

Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for not attending the latest, hippest Christian conference.
Don’t let anyone pressure you attend an event.
Don’t listen to those that tell you you MUST read this book or do this bible study.
Don’t believe the idea that certain rituals of prayer, bible-study or worship are any better than others.
Don’t let anyone control you but God.

but it looks like love

What does it look like to love God and my neighbor?

I know, I know. You might be getting a bit numb to the topic of love. Maybe you have love figured out. If so, stop reading right now. This article won’t apply to you. If you’re like the rest of us, you can probably admit you have a thing or two to learn about True love.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were clear, precise, practical examples of what True love is? Then we could stop guessing and just do it, right? Some of us long to be told just what to DO in order to demonstrate True love. Would that help? I’m not convinced that it would.

You see, what looks like love isn’t always the real deal. Truth is, we ALL know what love LOOKS like, even if we don’t know what love IS. Just think of all the donations to charities all over the world that would never be made unless someone was looking. There just has to be something in it for us. It’s not flattering, but it’s the truth. The world runs on selfishness. And what’s really scary is when selfishness is disguised as humility or generosity.

So I won’t waste any time telling you to talk to your neighbor even if they aren’t like you; I won’t try to tell you where the line is between affection and disrespect for your boy/girlfriend’s body; and as much as you might like me to, I won’t try to tell you how to learn to love people you don’t like or that don’t like you. That is behavior modification, and it doesn’t work. Sure, it might make things look a little bit better, but at the end of the day, no change results.

What I WILL do, is point you once again to the best example of love that we have. The one act of Grace that echoes through all eternity, silencing all other acts of love. The sacrifice that out-does all of our petty performances of trying to love others. The death of Christ.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” – 1 John 4:10-11

May God’s love be perfected in us… period.

-Dale

crashing

Last night, I saw the movie “Crash” with a group.

It basically told several inter-weaving stories of people dealing poorly with people. The themes included rage, impatience, vengeance, racism, power-trips and more. We weren’t left with a very hopeful solution for humanity, but I could appreciate the realism with which the topics were addressed. Kinda nice to know that we are nothing like the people in this movie, huh?

Not really. Truth is, those same emotions are in all of us. Yeah, you. We’re all guilty of some serious over-reaction to various annoying things.

The sub-heading for the movie was something like this: “When you’re moving at the speed of life, you’re bound to collide.”
That is actually quite profound. Why does this happen?

Perhaps we really ARE shockingly disconnected from one another.
Perhaps we really ARE disgustingly comfortable.
Perhaps we really ARE lethargic to do anything to change this.
Perhaps we really ARE terribly self-centered.

As long as we insist that the problem is with someone ELSE, we are going to continue to be frustrated.
As long as we insist on placing high expectations on others, they will continue NOT to meet them.
As long as we insist on finding fault with others, we will continue to NOT see (or rationalise or lessen) our own faults.

Slow down, think, be honest with yourself. Why are you so frustrated with him/her? Why are you allowing their opinion of you to control you? Etc., etc.

“Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret – it only causes harm.” – Psalm 37:8

-Dale

are you sure you want love?

We need to ask ourselves this question again.

Is it really love we are seeking? Have we forgotten again what real love is? Just about anyone will admit to the universal desire to love and be loved in return, but we are seriously going to hurt and be hurt if we fail to not only realise what true love is, but act accordingly.

Our picture of love is very incomplete. We have images of companionship, smiles, hugs, kisses and a host of other wonderful things. What we love to forget is that alongside those nice images, there need to be a few more. Sometimes love is stern, grim and menacing. Sometimes silence, rebuke and conflict is a more than necessary part of love.

The difference between love and true love is that true love is rooted in Truth. It must be. It has to be.

We are all guilty of what I like to call ‘keeping people at arms length.’ We like companionship, smiles and hugs, but when someone gets close enough to us to see faults, we take a few steps back. Often times, the people that care the most are the ones that care enough to say a few things we don’t want to hear. THAT is why seeking comfort is so harmful to growth! We stay a safe distance from those that will ‘sharpen’ us, and spend oodles of less meaningful time with others who we simply ‘get on’ with.

“Mockers don’t love those who rebuke them, so they stay away from the wise.” – Proverbs 15:12

So let me ask you one more time…

Are you SURE you want love?

-dale

a comfortable amount of discomfort

In the Christian life, one mistake we can make would be to think that we have no further need to grow. How ridiculous is that? Thankfully, I don’t know many people who think that. However, a much easier mistake to make is to fail to recognise how growth happens or fail to allow growth to happen in my life.

If we don’t understand how growth happens, we are likely to either falsely perceive growth that isn’t really there, or falsely believe that it can’t or won’t happen. Still yet, even if we do understand how growth happens, we are likely to resist the process.

We want growth to happen, sure enough, but we can’t get past the biggest obstacle: our desire for comfort.

Growth requires discomfort. That fact is unavoidable. It’s as true as the reality that water flows downhill.

If we are ever going to grow as Christians, it means that we are going to have to give up level upon level of comfort in our lives. Read this next sentence carefully.

If you want to be more loving, you will HAVE to learn to put up with un-lovable people.

(Might wanna read that one again.)

Truth triumphs over feelings. We can’t rely on feelings. Frankly, I don’t FEEL like loving people that aren’t like I want them to be. But when my mind is renewed with the TRUTH that I am no better than they are, I am enabled to love them, whether I FEEL like it or not.

May we recklessly love one another in a true, self-less, Christlike way.

Grace and Love,
Dale