Who is the greatest?

 

All Sons & Daughters – Great Are You Lord

 

Muhammad Ali, the colorful 1960 light-heavyweight Olympic boxing champion who went on to hold the world heavyweight title three times, is known to have uttered many a memorable remark during his time in the spotlight. His personal catch phrase “I am the greatest” came to serve as an identifier of the man, in that whoever voiced it, one knew that person was alluding to Ali.

In 1980, just before takeoff on an airplane flight from New York to Los Angeles, the Eastern Airlines stewardess reminded Ali, who was on his way to making a movie, to fasten his seatbelt. “Superman don’t need no seat belt,” replied Ali. “Superman don’t need no airplane either,” retorted the stewardess. 

Reminds me of another story where the disciples are with Jesus and He overhears their discussion about who of them is the greatest. In light of their inability to heal the evil spirit possessed boy, they were hardly in the position to be talking about greatness.  Moreover, they simply did not have enough experience and maturity to really understand what it means to be great in the kingdom of God.  Jesus’ teaching had a lot to teach me about what greatness in the kingdom really means.

And they came to Capernaum. And when he was in the house he asked them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.” And he took a child and put him in the midst of them, and taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.” – Mark 9:33-37  ESV

 

 

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To hear and see

 

Do You Hear What I Hear?

 

Our ability to hear and see is our gateway to wisdom.

The hearing ear and the seeing eye,
the Lord has made them both. – Proverbs 20:12  ESV

So when I hear the invitation from Jesus to come to Him, what does that mean to me?

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. – Matthew 11:28  ESV

It is a strong appeal. It leaves no doubt to the sincerity of the call to turn from whatever I am presently leaning on to depending on Him.

In many ways, it is still a call to believe in Him, follow Him, and be a committed disciple – to completely turn my life over to Him.

It is a call to an intimacy of fellowship. My walk with God is all about my personal relationship with Him.

So I hear the call, what do I see?

 

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Win over the heart

 

Love & The Outcome – King Of My Heart

 

Not a single soul—be it a student, disciple, parishioner, devotee, son, or daughter—could ride our coattails to glory. “If you are wise, you are wise for yourself.”

If you are wise, you are wise for yourself;
if you scoff, you alone will bear it. – Proverbs 9:12  ESV

So it happens in my heart – change, wisdom and growing into the character of God.  This is where I need to spend time – with my heart.

If all who laboured for the conversion of others were to introduce them immediately into Prayer and the Interior Life, and make it their main design to gain and win over the heart, numberless as well as permanent conversions would certainly ensue. On the contrary, few and transient fruits must attend that labour which is confined to outward matters; such as burdening the disciple with a thousand precepts for external exercises, instead of leaving the soul to Christ by the occupation of the heart in Him. – A Short and Easy Method of Prayer – Madame Guyon

I was reading about Jesus’ ability to see the importance of the heart.

Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.” – Matthew 8:18  ESV

Jesus liked leaving crowds or at least withdrawing from them. If He was going to change the world, why would He be leaving the opportunity? Therein lays our mistake that many fall into today. Jesus was not trying to gain an audience; His primary task was to prepare an army. He wasn’t even looking for a following; He was really interested in forging followers. He was looking for disciples, not only the ones who listened but the one who wanted to become like Him. The journey of a follower experiences confusion, amazement, bewilderment, astonishment, testing, saving, breaking, encouragement, being exposed, and protection. How many want to be followed by such an individual? That is what it takes for commitment, it is what the journey looks like when we are going to live to share Jesus’ life with others and teach them how to live it.

When we realise what the journey looks like, we might say we are not too sure we want to start such a journey. That’s OK. It just means that we have come to realise that we cannot be a disciple in our own strength.

Jesus understood this with the two men in the verse above. He wants to see where my heart is.

 

 

 

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Wisdom

 

W I S D O M

 

I remember my mom’s good friend giving me a copy of the Rebel’s Bible when I was 14 years old. Inside the front cover she wrote all about wisdom and quoted from Proverbs. Here is a key verse.

My son, be attentive to my wisdom;
    incline your ear to my understanding – Proverbs 5:1  ESV

The wisdom she was sharing with me was not of this world but of a spiritual nature. In fact, even more than what Solomon possessed. Wisdom is used here to describe the ability to see something from God’s viewpoint. Wisdom is God’s character in the practical affairs of life. God’s wisdom is not based on theory but is worked out, with discernment, figuring out good and evil or right and wrong. God’s wisdom is also not based on a formula, but based on a right relationship with Him. In this chapter of Proverbs, wisdom is defined as having the ability to guard the heart and mind of a man.

‘If you lack knowledge, go to school. If you lack wisdom, get on your knees! Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is the proper use of knowledge.” – Vance Havner

Understanding is more than just gathering data. It is the capacity for discerning a right course of action. It implies a mental grasp and the importance of something.  It is the ability to connect the dots.

“The faculty of the human mind by which it apprehends the real state of things presented to it, or by which it receives or comprehends the ideas which others express and intend to communicate. The understanding is called also the intellectual faculty. It is the faculty by means of which we obtain a great part of our knowledge.” – 1828 Webster’s Dictionary

Solomon is telling me that his lecture is not designed to fill my head with ideas, with wishful thinking or possible argumentative positions, but to guide me in how I conduct myself. All this with the idea that I actually might act with wisdom, that it would be part of my nature and in fact, its pursuit would be my true interest.

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One

 

One Church, One Faith

 

There is only one church that belongs to Jesus.

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. – Ephesians 4:1-6  ESV

I cannot get past how many times the word “one” is used in these verses. It is a reminder to me of the Trinity – the Holy Spirit, the Son, Jesus and the Father – three and yet one.

There are fond memories of times where I had the opportunity to introduce the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in Sunday School formats and my favorite part was the Deity of Jesus and how best to describe the Holy Spirit. Yet, there was a point in the study where we needed to look at the significance of the Trinity and what was life like within the Trinity. Most importantly, there was the reminder that these three are all persons and the Trinity is a personhood.

All who have decided to follow Jesus are the called of God. Our calling is our responsibility to respond to what we have become in Christ and to serve in the body of Christ. These verses move us from the call to unity to one’s calling in ministry. Jesus has given many gifts of grace which come together in one common goal of maturity in Him.

 For example – one baptism. Baptism is the entry point to one’s walk with Jesus. It puts all new believers into the body of Christ to join with all the other believers.

 So then, when I am asked to walk in a manner worthy of my calling, it means that as a disciple, a part of the body of Christ, a part of the Church, it is a high calling. It is a walk not found in sin, but rather as a child of God. I am not my own, but bought with a price. My life is found in Christ and I live my life through Him. My life has been rescued by Jesus and His calling to follow Him changes the direction of every decision I make.

 

 

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Willing to repent and believe that it is safe

 

If we have been taught that there is safety in repentance then we can break through the dynamics that put issues ahead of our desire to seek the kingdom of God. One of those I mentioned earlier was how people think of me. If I do this, I will come to the point where I will not worry on how people think of me.

Now, I could do this or I could do what St. Benedict did when he was trying to erase the temptation of a woman. St. Benedict of Nursia (480-547 CE),  according to legend, cast himself into a thorn bush while naked.

I struggle staying away from the things that take me away from the kingdom of God but I also struggle to do the things that one would do if they were walking in the kingdom of God. Romans 8 I mentioned in an earlier post is the antidote for Romans 7. These truths help me follow Jesus in this area of struggle. Especially looking at my struggle to share the gospel, or an area in my inner life where I hope God does not want to deal with. Then I ask myself what I think it would look like for me to “go deeper” in my discipleship.

This was the promise from Jesus who walked a hidden life with God. He overcame sin and was able to fulfill the incredible plan of salvation for mankind.

 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,[c] he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. – Romans 8:3-4  ESV

I conclude then that Jesus; taking upon Himself human nature, condemned the sin in human beings, so that I, His disciple, who has the same nature, can now follow Him in this way, regardless of my background, personality, or where I live.

Here are some other lessons I have learned from Romans 8.

  • There is a house analogy describing the Spirit living in us just as a person would dwell or reside in a home.
    • You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus[d] from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. – Romans 8:9-11  ESV

  • In the same verse above there is the Holy Spirit described as the key identifier, the essential possession of a disciple of Jesus.
  • There is an adoption metaphor where the Holy Spirit has put together a connection between us and God so that we are truly His adopted children, and thereby, heirs of all that is His.
    • For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.. – Romans 8:15-17  ESV

  • The verses above also reveal the Holy Spirit providing the inner testimony or the prompting that calls out to God in an intimate way – “Abba! Father!” and provides the assurance that we are His children.
  • The Holy Spirit makes alive our spiritually-dead spirits and connects us to God.
  • The Holy Spirit is the same as Christ’s Spirit and God’s Spirit. They are one and the same.

 

 

 

 

 

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To know

 

Jesus Culture – I Want To Know You

 

“To know” means more about experiential knowledge, not just cognitive knowledge. It is all about the intellectual assimilation and practical use of what is acquired.

To know wisdom and instruction,
    to understand words of insight. – Proverbs 1:2  ESV

“To know” includes mental awareness of who God is and the consequential submission to His lordship. To know Him is to obey Him. I am being called to a life of trust and obedience in which every disciple of Jesus see Him in every event and rely on Him. When I acknowledge (know) the Lord in every event means I will trust and obey Him for guidance in right conduct.

When it comes to “instruction” I have seen different translations use “correction” and “discipline.” Being wise requires a discipleship type relationship that involves someone warning, rebuking and telling me when to turn around. I have not met anyone who does not like the idea of being wise, but it would seem the path to that also includes rebuke and I have seen many not able to handle that well – including me. If I am going to be wise, I must humbly recognize that I am not always there and need to submit to wise counsel. Ultimately, I must submit to the Lord Himself if I want to be wise.

I like Proverbs style of delivery. With commands, whether positive admonitions or negative prohibitions, they are supported with reasons. Reasons move the teacher away from the stance of an authoritative expert to that to a persuader. Sometimes it is as simple as challenging the learner to think through the issue but at the end to be ready to face the realisation that there is a need to obey the command because it is a wise thing to do. So the teacher becomes more of the spiritual director and their role becomes one of countering the natural aimlessness of the learner.

“Left to themselves, beginners flounder from one extreme to the other. The experienced sage can establish lines by which the disciple can develop the self-control necessary for the good ends in view.” – J. Eaton

With all of this, it is safe to assume that a wise person has never really attained, but in fact understands they have “not attained” and are in fact pressing on.  I suppose I grow the most by hearing.  Hearing establishing a personal relationship with the speaker but also provides the example of how I should teach, for I believe all hearers become teachers. If I teach before I hear, I will soon be bankrupt. The longer I learn, the more I feel like a learner and the more ready I am to hear and thereby know more.

 

 

 

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