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

painting with no canvas

Evangelism, evangelism and more evangelism.

This is the desperate cry of many churches around the world (or at least in the wealthy, comfortable, ‘established’ parts of the world). We are losing members fast, and we want to get them back. So, we launch ourselves into much activity to bring about the desired result. Books are written, strategies are implemented. Seminars are given. At least two groups arise out of the activity.

1. Individuals who are oblivious to the lack of ‘evangelism health’ and are not moved to action.
2. Individuals who are obsessed with need for evangelism, and feel the need to force the others to action.

Evangelism is a commandment of Jesus, but to emphasize the Great Commission while forgetting the 1st and 2nd Commandments is a grave error. The purpose of the Church is not merely to evangelise, but firstly to bring honour and glory to God. It’s not the first Good Idea, it’s the first and Greatest Commandment! That means it cannot be excluded! If we are just trying to do all right things without doing them out of devotion to Him, then we are just contestants in a rather large morality contest.

An over emphasis on Evangelism often reveals a mis-placed priority on the number of people in our churches. Do we want to reach people because we love our Master or because we love the idea of being “spiritually successful?” Let’s consider this analogy:

If we’re building a house, the order of progression goes something like: foundation, floor, walls, roof, wall-board, many other things, and finally… paint. If we use this analogy to represent evangelism, let me say that I think we are standing around during the entire project holding a brush and a paint can. We’re not really interested in the ‘foundations’ and ‘floors’ and ‘walls’ of the Gospel, love and self-lessness. This is lazy evangelism. The fact is, you might have to actually CARE about the person you are trying to reach. If you do care about them, you might start doing some radical things like… oh, I don’t know… making time for them, investing in their lives, meeting their needs and the like.

“I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me, you can do nothing.” – Jesus

-Dale

fools and rules

Last week, we talked about how important thoughts are.

This week I want to continue that theme as we look at a passage in Galatians. Our thinking about sin and righteousness just plain matters. In the first century, Paul, who was a Jew among Jews (Gal. 1:13-14), was radically transformed into the Apostle that we know so well for reaching Gentiles (non-Jews) with the Gospel. When he converted, he eventually joined the rest of the Apostles. In Galatians, Paul recalls a ‘disagreement’ he had with Peter (yes, Peter.) and a few of the other Apostles. (And you thought disputes in church were a recent thing?) Paul literally got in Peter’s face about being a hypocrite. When Peter was at Antioch, he had no problem eating with Gentiles until some folks arrived that said that believers had to be circumcised. Peter was afraid that he would be seen eating with these uncircumcised Gentiles, so he stopped eating with them!

Paul openly rebuked him, asking him why he should expect Gentiles to live as Jews, when he (a Jewish believer) lived as a Gentile? Paul then reminded Peter that justification was not from keeping the Law, but by faith in Christ!

Some of the early Jewish-Christian believers of the 1st century struggled to welcome Gentiles into the church. After all, they were the good, moral, circumcised, Sabbath-keeping ones. They were appalled by these Gentiles walking around like they own the place. After all, these ‘other’ people didn’t keep the Sabbath, they weren’t circumcised, they ate pork and other non-kosher food… they just weren’t like them! How could these people be believers?

The Apostle Paul consistently reminds us that we are not saved by what we do, but by the grace of God. That’s it! It’s true! Done deal! You don’t have to jump through all the right hoops or measure up to any standards.

“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes from the law, then Christ died in vain.” – Galatians 2:21

May we recognise where our life comes from, and extend grace even to those who don’t dress, talk, smell, look or act like we do.

Trusting in His Grace,
-Dale

help! i’m not acting right!

Thoughts, Feelings, Actions

Here’s a theologically loaded statement:
Right beliefs (ortho-doxy) create right feelings and lead to right actions (ortho-praxy).

As Christ-ians, our life (and thereby, our life-STYLE as well) is all about Christ. This is true isn’t it? Whatever we think, feel or do ought to be thought, felt or done in regard to Christ. Pretty amazing to think that Christ wants to renew our thinking, give us joy, and (as if that’s not enough) DO great things through us.

Thoughts
It starts with our thinking or our beliefs, doesn’t it? They are of utmost importance. When we actually believe that the God of the universe would not just merely be interested in us, but also would be willing to die for us, that has an effect on us!

Feelings
Once we are thinking straight, and it starts to sink in that Christ paid a debt that we would never have been able to pay, I’m just guessing that our feelings should take perhaps a small positive turn! That is what joy is all about! Would a prisoner that had been freed from a death-sentence show no emotion? Well, whether you realise it or not, or just have forgotten, If you are a Christian, you were a prisoner, and you have been set free from your death sentence!

Actions
This is where it gets interesting. We tend to be terribly distracted when our actions (or someone else’s) are either lacking or not of the right “kind.” If we’re not careful, we can slip into a pattern of thinking that our actions shape and form our beliefs. It’s the other way around. Our REAL thoughts and beliefs are seen in the way we act. It’s a tricky distinction that can easily be missed. Put plainly, you can’t serve your way into having Christian beliefs. You can, however, believe your way into serving in a Christian way. As church-type-people, we often act like the former statement is true. We care less about what people believe or how they feel, and instead just try to find ways to get all of the Christian jobs done! We must not do this.

If you are experiencing a ‘dry spell’ in your Christian life, check your beliefs and feelings. One of the many great things about the Christian life is that we are not simply converted and then put on a shelf, we are grown, tested, tried, bruised, etc. These bumps are to cause us to remember Who we are intended to rely upon. The dry spells aren’t there to get us to try harder, but to help us realise our inability to please God with our flesh, and remember Who our strength is. One of the greatest passages in the Bible about God’s will for living the Christian life is the beginning of the 12th chapter of Romans. Among other things, it says to “be transformed (continually) by the renewing of your mind.”

Thoughts are important.

Blessings,

Dale