Fight and serve

 

Disciple Foot Washing

 

Esther brings out an element of how to fight with honour and skill and John reveals the power of servant leadership.

I normally would not try to extrapolate a story from the Old Testament and make it meaningful in the New, but will make an exception here because it involves spiritual warfare.

In Esther’s story the enemy were those who hated the Jews and their weapons were physical. The king’s decree gave them four things.

Saying that the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, children and women included, and to plunder their goods. – Esther 8:11 ESV

Those four things were the right to assemble, the right to defend themselves, the right to use deadly force and the right to take possessions from their enemies.

When I consider that my war is a spiritual one and not physical, I try and bring meaning of this passage to my life today. My enemy is Satan and his demonic forces, my weapons are spiritual, Jesus’ decree give me three things – His authority, His power and Himself.

So John explains what kind of leadership model Jesus used to guide us through this warfare. Jesus taught servant leadership and His dialogue on that matter is found in John 13:1-20. In this case, disciple means servant.

The picture of Jesus washing the disciples feet describes how disciples serve disciples. Is this not  in line with the new commandment.

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13:34  ESV

I am challenged in my desire to be a disciple today because it means that I need to serve like Him. It is about going low to serve other disciples even when it is inconvenient to myself or even when it is contrary to what any one is expecting. Therefore, in my disciple making mode I am making servants who love one another.

 

 

 

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To be an intimate disciple

 

116 Clique – Tedashii – Carry Mine

 

Esther challenges me to prepare myself to be the intimate disciple that God has asked me to be in order that I may carry out His plan and His will.

She has become an example of how to live the obedient life. She did the right thing, made the right decisions, and said the right words.   She moved in faith.

It almost feels that we were able to watch Esther grow up spiritually. I would say that when introduced to her she had a weaker character and by the end of her story she definitely had a heroic moral stature.

I would like to believe that she modelled a disciple’s life by listening to her mentor.

Esther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her. – Esther 2:10-11  ESV

I get two things out of this – Esther, I am sure, had no way of knowing why her mentor left her these instructions, but she followed them anyway and did not question the intent. The other is the amount of time and energy her mentor put into her life. He was available to her every day. He invested into her life.

Esther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordeci just as when she was brought up by him. – Esther 2:20  ESV

They ended up working together as a great team accomplishing God’s plan for their day and time. Each had to do their part.

Another model is the disciple Thomas – who does not get much respect – but he laid down his life for Jesus. He was discipled by Jesus and knew what it meant to follow Him.

So Thomas, called the Twin,[b] said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.” – John 11:16  ESV

Thomas statement here led him to a place where he could lay down his life at anytime for Jesus. He eventually did as he preached the gospel in Persia and India.

Imagine, if we found ourselves in a worship service filled with unrestrained praise to the tune of Psalm 150. Is that not unrelated to Thomas’ move from restrained disciple toward a proclamation of unrestrained praise —

Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” – John 20:28  ESV

 

 

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A follower and a pursuer

 

I am taught that if I stay in God’s Word and hold to His teachings, I will become His disciple. I learner who is following Him, a believer who follows His teachings and pursues His example.

As he was saying these things, many believed in him. So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples,  and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”  Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave[b] to sin.  The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. – John 8:30-36  ESV

Who was in the audience? There were Jews who had just started to believe in Him moments ago. They were not yet disciples. They were beginning Christians and Jesus was pointing out that believing is only crossing the starting line. Jesus wants me to cross the finish line.

J. Oswald Sanders wrote, “Continuance is Christ’s Word is not automatic; it is the result of strong purpose and self-discipline” (Sanders, Spiritual Discipleship).

As a disciple, I am taught, I follow a discipline, a teaching. Therefore, it is fundamentally implied that unless I continue in Jesus’ teaching, I am not His disciple.

The Scriptures make it quite clear that salvation is a free gift of God’s grace, but the Scriptures also teach that discipleship is costly. Salvation is my birth in the Christian life, and discipleship is my education and maturity in the Christian life.

So, today I was enslaved, I know that not all who believe are disciples, and if I keep in the Word I have a chance to grow into a disciple and I definitely will come to a place of knowing truth. Truth leads me to freedom from slavery.

Here is a prayer, old fashioned in its language but full of wonder from a follower and a pursuer.

Behold I come unto Thee, O Lord, that I may be blessed through Thy gift, and be made joyful in Thy holy feast which Thou, O God, of Thy goodness hast prepared for the poor.(1) Behold in Thee is all that I can and ought to desire, Thou art my salvation and redemption, my hope and strength, my honour and glory. Therefore rejoice the soul of Thy servant this day, for unto Thee, O Lord Jesus, do I lift up my soul.(2) I long now to receive Thee devoutly and reverently, I desire to bring Thee into my house, so that with Zacchaeus I may be counted worthy to be blessed by Thee and numbered among the children of Abraham. My soul hath an earnest desire for Thy Body, my heart longeth to be united with Thee. Imitation of Christ — Thomas A Kempis

 

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Best life possible

 

What will be my core message to those I am discipling and teaching on how to follow Jesus. It will simply be that following Jesus is the best life possible.

On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink.  Whoever believes in me, as[f] the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” – John 7:37-38  ESV

Martin Luther had some great thoughts on this when he commented on Psalm 126:2.

Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
    and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.” – Psalm 126:2  ESV

Then our mouth was filled with laughter, etc. We must earnestly endeavour to learn this practice, or at the least to attain to some knowledge thereof; and we must raise up ourselves with this consideration—that the gospel is nothing else but laughter and joy. This joy properly pertaineth to captives, that is, to those that feel the captivity of sin and death; to the fleshy and tender hearts, terrified with the feeling of the wrath and judgment of God. These are the disciples in whose hearts should be planted laughter and joy, and that by the authority of the Holy Ghost, which this verse setteth forth. This people was in Zion, and, after the outward show of the kingdom and priesthood, did mightily flourish; but if a man consider them according to the spirit, he shall see them to be in miserable captivity, and that their tongue is full of heaviness and mourning, because their heart is terrified with the sense of sin and death. This is Moses’ tongue or Moses’ mouth, full of wormwood and of the bitterness of death; wherewith he designs to kill none but those which are too lively and full of security. But they who feel their captivity shall have their mouths filled with laughter and joy: that is, redemption and deliverance from sin and death shall be preached unto them. This is the sense and meaning of the Holy Ghost, that the mouth of such shall be filled with laughter, that is, their mouth shall show forth nothing else but great gladness through the inestimable consolations of the gospel, with voices of triumph and victory by Christ, overcoming Satan, destroying death, and taking away sins. This was first spoken unto the Jews; for this laughter was first offered to that people, then having the promises. Now he turneth to the Gentiles, whom he calleth to the partaking of this laughter.—Martin Luther.

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Chief cornerstone

 

Cornerstone – Hillsong Worship

 

I ran across these verses in Zechariah and cannot say I fully understand what they mean but there is a stone, seemingly an important one. There would seem to be an allusion in these words to the chief cornerstone of the temple.

For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes,[f] I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree. – Zechariah 3:9-10  ESV

In verse eight, Jesus is clearly identified as the Branch, the rod out of the stem of Jesse and right away in verse nine the stone is cleary Jesus as well.

It’s the eyes that mess me up a bit. I think of the Father’s eyes as key – taking care and protecting Him. I think of the prophets and the Old Testament faithful, like Abraham. I think of myself and other followers of Jesus who put their eyes on Him as they follow, similar to the brazen serpent in the desert when all of Israel looked upon it and were saved. I also think of the eyes on the wheels in Ezekiel’s vision. Maybe it signifies knowledge and wisdom found in Jesus and His ever watchful eye over us. I could even go as far as the various gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit, something out of Revelation involving the seven spirits of God, as well as the seven stars. Revelation talks about His eyes piercing through my fakeness, searching my heart. Jesus is the searcher of hearts.

One thing is for certain, only the Messiah prophesied from the prophets like Zechariah, could die on the cross and have God remove the iniquity of the land in one day. Only God could create that peace which extended to every neighbour in the land.

While the invitation is there, Jesus’ words still need to be addressed. His words create crisis for us because we find them hard to follow.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” But Jesus, knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.) And he said, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”

After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” – John 6:60-69  ESV

Who else can be the foundation of my life – only Jesus – the one I have believed and have come to know, the Holy One of God.

 

 

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Trees

 

I was just made to realise something that came across in a rather profound manner. It has to do with Jesus’ comments regarding trees. He mentions that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit. He also says a bad tree cannot produce good fruit.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. – Matthew 7:15-20  ESV

Here is my realisation. I have found myself believing the last part – bad trees produce bad fruit that I have completely forgotten about the first part – good trees produce good fruit. Here is what I mean – because I believe that a good tree cannot produce bad fruit, I do not cultivate the good tree and yet it is the absolute priority of where the work needs to be done.

What does it look like to keep cultivating the good things in my life that are producing good fruit?  The first thing that comes to my mind is a familiar Psalm – Psalm 1.

Blessed is the man[a]
    who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
    nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law[b] of the Lord,
    and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers. – Psalm 1:1-3  ESV

In the kingdom of God I need to be careful on discerning what I see. Certain thorn bushes have berries that look like grapes, certain thistles have a flower, that from a distance make them look like figs. Looks can fool us for sure. By cultivating the good in me, I can discern more easily those who are as genuine as I am. I think Jesus was connecting soundness with good fruit. Soundness has something to do with sound living – free from defect, decay or disease, it’s healthy.  Being true to God, His Word and His grace is what I need to be aligned with. I believe that also means that I know my strength does not lie in myself, but in God who supplies everything I need. These I think are some keywords that describe fruit in a disciple – faith, hope, love, justice, wisdom, strength and self-control.

 

 

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There is a cost, but it is worth it

 

Ben Cantelon – Worth it All

 

I cannot imagine what it was like for families making the decision to go back to Jerusalem after spending so many years in Babylon. Some of them had children that were born, raised and were now working and providing for families of their own. In many ways, it was their home, with their friends and their communities.

To go back to Jerusalem was a big unknown. I know my parents and my wife’s parents came to Canada from Europe and started from scratch, so I know a little about what that may have meant. They did this without God, so the people of Israel had a head start knowing that the story of their return to the promised land was shared from generation to generation. They were doing what Abraham had done. I sometimes think about what I would do – am I willing to obey Christ no matter how much it costs? I believe this is what it means to be His disciple.

I look at the Samaritan woman at the well story and know that when I make the decision to follow Jesus, I will have a life transformation moment just like she experienced. I cannot imagine the number of steps Jesus took for her to receive so much healing. Women were never called “daughters of Abraham.” Jesus made the woman feel as if she had equal worth to God. Jesus continues to ignore two codes of behaviour. His conversation with the foreigner, and the fact she was a woman.

All of that did not matter. Jesus wanted to bring out a truth, and that was for a call for those to worship Him exclusively – the heart of Jesus’ ministry on earth.

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” – John 4: 23-24  ESV

In this very prolonged dialogue, there is a recognition and then an honouring for her thirst for truth. Jesus reveals He is the Messiah. When the disciples come back that are so confused as to what He was doing.

Another tradition was changed, for Jewish thought gave no heed to a woman’s testimony for it was seen as not trustworthy. But look at the reaction from those that heard her excited words and acted on them:

 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” – John 4:39  ESV

Jesus is invited to spend a few days with this community. Her encounter with Jesus changed her from a stranger – to a learner – to a teacher of others. By experiencing this, she broke through old barriers of distrust and hatred that everyone took for granted.

The cost was a hard time of change she had to go through, and so quickly, but it was all worth it at the end.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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