Just Like Jesus

It was just like yesterday, when the world was filled with despots struggling with each other for power, when economic classes typified the struggles between the “haves” and the “have nots,” and the walls of racial and religious prejudice were flagrantly making themselves known.  Now unless you accidentally are thinking this was yesterday or last week, these all describe the time long ago that were active when Jesus entered the scene.

It was exactly the same as it is today, or at least it certainly feels that way.  There are gross economic disparities, there is great divisions between races and skin colors, and there are still difficulties between the sexes in our day today.  It seems that almost nothing is any different, and it forces us to have it called to our attention that the world Jesus was literally born into is the same as the world we see all around us.  It is not an unusual effect of the times “back then” but more a continuing picture of what the human race looks like.

I think it safe to assume the same Jesus who came and spoke to the disciples of the day back then speaks as well to us today.  The parable stories that Jesus made famous, still are applicable today.  That also means the words and messages that those words brought with them are still in play today.  Jesus continues to bring the will of God to bear upon His people despite the fact that the people are most likely going to reject it.

Jesus heals the untouchable.  He speaks to the Samaritan woman, who was the “wrong” person to be dealing with at the well from a variety of factors.  He sided with the poor at almost every opportunity, despite accusations that they were all unclean.  Jesus made unpopular decisions at almost every turn, because His task was the annunciation of the Kingdom’s coming into existence with His presence.  We know the history lesson here-Jesus was rejected much as He probably would be today, if the circumstances would find themselves recreated.

If the situations have not really changed, then I would begin to want to argue that the message of Jesus is spot on for today.  What He said then, applies to us today.  His words establishing a new reign of God’s love into and throughout the entire known world are exactly appropriate for the moment.  This moment as well as every moment the from the past.

The words of Jesus, as well as the actions He demonstrated those words by each and every day He walked this earth, model God’s Will and God’s intent for His creation.  Our task might best be served once again by clearing our “theological decks” and getting back to the words and deeds of Jesus.  They are to be the model for living our lives.  To allow a broad faith descriptor like “Christian” might not even be pointed enough.  For those who would be followers of Jesus and “do-ers of the Word” as James tells us in his letter, we must get back to the basics.

To that end, we need to walk as Jesus walked.  Slow to anger, quick to show pity and mercy, suspending our human need to be judgmental, and actively showing love to one another- all these might best describe what we need to be concerned about accomplishing.

Being just like Jesus.

 

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The Left Side of the Boat

Waterside gets its name from the place where it seems Jesus spent the most time teaching His disciples, at the Water’s edge, or as today will indicate, on a boat on the water. Jesus’ ministry was based around going to where the people were and interacting with them right where they were, and encountering them at that location. While at their familiar venue, Jesus engaged many of them into the process of becoming a disciple, and ultimately they left what they were doing and followed Him.

In John’s Gospel we see the disciples in a boat fishing all night. They obviously were hard working types but as all fishermen know, sometimes, things just are not happening, and the fish just don’t show up. On this, the third appearance to the disciples after the Resurrection, here’s what Jesus says to the disciples-

He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.    John 21:6 NIV

The story continues as Jesus invites them to come and share a shore lunch and the restoration of Peter into the discipleship process. Amidst all of the fear that is present in the hearts of the disciples, they knew it was Jesus and that He was the reason for the catch of 153 fish.

We pause a moment not to dwell in the story by going further into it, but to consider the “right” side of the boat. Does it mean they have been fishing off of the left side of the boat and it proved fruitless? Does it imply a pun off of the “right” side of the boat as the “correct” side of the boat? Does it lead us to the understanding of doing things “His way” verses “our way?” No matter how the question gets asked, it always come back looking awkward for us. No matter how you chose to define things, it would appear we can only come up with an inefficient process when we are left to do things on our own.

A good friend blessed me with the thought that Jesus is suggesting here to follow His lead. We can strive all night long with our way of doing things and all we have to show is the lost sleep. Or, as the text might suggest, we simply yield to the direction of Jesus and then watch what happens!

I do not know about you, but I know I spend too much time fishing off of the “left side” of the boat. Who does not want to be in charge of their own destiny? Who does not want to be “driving the bus” even when we are clueless as to the destination? So for our efforts we are left with empty nets. When will we learn?

Notice Jesus does not berate the disciples, but simply suggests doing it a different way. That invitation is given to you and I as well. Imagine what life would be like if we followed His way first, not after fruitless bouts of all night fishing that we find ourselves conducting more than we even want to admit. His way, not ours!

If we were to adopt that methodology in the first place, our work as disciples would be incredibly easier. No longer would we spend time and energy trying to do things the hard way. Instead, following the lead of Jesus, the sheer simplicity of discipleship in our lives would be almost too powerful to understand. Follow Him, and we turn into fishers of men.

IMG_0625.JPGI don’t know about you, but I’m not fishing on the same side of the boat as I used to! It is simply time to follow!

Embrace the Grace!

It does not take a long time to look around the world of social media to discover the leaps and bounds people are taking away from principles long held in a society which now tolerates just about any and everything under the sun. I’m not bemoaning how bad everything or everyone else is, I just am taking this moment with you to share what a look at oneself leads this self to consider.

Somewhere along the lines of our lives we may have come to faith and realized the power of walking into and remaining in a relationship with Jesus. It took just a few things on our part, but I’d dare to say the hardest part was to let go of the steering wheel of our lives and let Jesus do the directing. Along with our lack of desire of following His lead, comes our general rebellious nature to keep from being willing to- and I’ll pause for effect- Obey! 

We could spend hours talking about how our obedience helps our relationship with our Heavenly Father with the mistaken notion that continues even today that somehow our behavior will make Dad happy and it will somehow benefit us. This approach has been handed down over the generations and somehow it leaves me cold. Maybe we look at things in the wrong direction.

I would offer for your consideration that this obedience thing is more beneficial on me than on my relationship with God. What if my release of the control of my life and allow myself to be discipled as well as to disciple others in a model where I die to self, and allow a new creation to come to being as Scripture explains it. Maybe this is more for me to dwell in the mercy of the Almighty to realize the full aspects of divine love and grace. Maybe, just maybe, God’s love toward me is more important and has a broader impact on my life than feeble attempts to try to convince Him of my moral worth, which never has really cut the mustard!

What if I looked at my personal attempt at obedience as something good for me, and not something I have to do to dredge up divine favor? What if I took the time to realize the reason Jesus died on the cross was to forgive me for my sin and not to be impressed by how badly or feebly I am able to cover that sin up?

I’m thinking this is driven more by the heart than the head. I ‘m thinking that I end up in a better place, for myself, when I embrace the grace that God uses and lets Christ set aside my sin, and as a result, I am free to start once again. It just is a lot sweeter of a thought to be able to begin again walking with Jesus with His grace of the blood of the cross and the power of the Resurrection at work in my life.

grace

Gone are the days of having to earn anything. We can rest in the grace that sets us free to be.

 

 

“Unprayed” Prayer

From 1 John 5:14-15

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that He hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him!  

John hints fairly strongly here and all over this letter that he is writing so that God’s people would receive reassurance about their faith and their trust in God for salvation. This Spirit centered gift is ours of course because of the purpose and work of Jesus Christ on the cross and as a result of the Empty Tomb. God’s intervention in history with the gift of His Son cannot but cement the power that God himself brings to the equation.

Yet what do we do about that?   How do we respond? We are not going to move in any direction unless we get going and act ourselves on this matter. John’s words here help us realize the power that is in our hands. More aptly put, the power in our hands when we fold them to pray.

God seeks to use His people in the divine plan of salvation and what is essential for you and me to realize is that we indeed have a part to play! I know you won’t believe me, but what if there are the difficulties we have in the world today simply because God’s so-called people fail to pray?   What if we had said to God- no more violence, no more murders, yet seek Him for peace in our moments?  What if we had prayed for our neighbor whose health had been slipping? What if we in fact had daily prayer for the people on our street, on our floor at work, or whose children went to school with our children?

Intercessory prayer, the art of praying for others, might just be a tool in God’s arsenal waiting for our use! He has gifted us this wonderful action, and as John suggests in this his first letter, we know that God is all over answering our prayer!

If it flows through our prayer, perhaps it also starts with our prayer! 

So if in the gift of prayer you have an entire set of divine resources available to you, why is it that we all fail to use them as we could? Might it be our duty to present our prayers, yes, and even present our lives to God’s purposes as revealed in the Word of God? Might this actually be all about God and not all about humanity’s wishes or ill-thought-up schemes? If we have lives dedicated to prayer and then actionable steps to follow up that prayer with action, perhaps we are on to an entirely new dimensional reality in prayer.

I’m not saying, and I know John is not saying,  that this is an easy process. Obedience to the Word never is easy, but in our humility and in our submission to God’s will to be the guide in our lives, we quickly get a sense that once we stop striving with God for the actual driver’s seat, we can be content with the knowledge He hears and acts on our prayers.

So a prayer unsaid is?   Only as we earnestly seek His will and eagerly act upon His Word will we get a sense of the immediacy of God’s actions in our lives. If we are not praying to be drawn into that divine process, we are but bystanders in the game of life and do nothing to address the Kingdom purposes that Christ died for us to accomplish.

Maybe, just maybe, we should reconsider our thoughts here. The slogan we hear is “Prayer Changes Things.” What might that be for us all if we consider the “unsaid prayer?”