Saturday, March 9, 2013

Barricades and Bulldozers

Think back in your life about your teachers.  Some were life impacting and will be remembered as the best you ever had, and others were just bad.  What made the difference?  I asked this of a group of people and the best teachers were known for their passion and knowledge, their genuine care for the students, and the ability to maintain and demand high standards while challenging us to reach them.  The bad teachers were the opposite in almost every dimension.

Recently, I have been meditating on two statements of Christ that are very contrasting.  The first passage is found in Matthew 23:33 &14 where we hear Him say to the religious leaders, "I've had it with you! You're hopeless, you religion scholars, you Pharisees! Frauds! Your lives are roadblocks to God's kingdom. You refuse to enter, and won't let anyone else in either." (The Message)

In stark opposition, to describe His ministry, Christ quotes Isaiah 40:3 & 4 "Thunder in the desert!  Prepare for God 's arrival!  Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.  Fill in the valleys, level off the hills, smooth out the ruts, clear out the rocks." (The Message)

The title of this blog comes from the images of these passages.  In one case, spiritual leaders were barricades, blocking the believers ability to get to their destination in Christ.  In the other group, they were people who did everything possible to prepare the way and help people get there.  They were doing the hard work of the bulldozers leveling the road.

It is any easy to draw the conclusion that we are clearly bulldozers.  But are we really willing to look at our lives, our churches and our practices.  When I look at our own mission, I see procedures and policies that 40 years were at the time greatly simplified the preparation and sending of global missionaries.  Today, modern transportation, the internet, and global real-time communications  has changed our reality.  Those same policies that once simplified life, now represent barriers to the sending of a new generation of missionaries called to ministry together with a truly global missionary force.

Where this becomes so complicated and demands the leading of the Holy Spirit is trying to determine what is a necessary 'high standard' that Christ is calling to, verses a roadblock to the the Gospel, the Kingdom and the future.

As I journey forward, my desire is to find myself on the side of Christ doing everything possible to make disciples who are so committed and engaged that they themselves form new disciples ultimately resulting in communities of Christians - "little Christs".  I want to be remembered as one of the good teachers - passionate, knowledgeable, demanding, and caring, doing everything I can to make others successful in Christ.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Follower, disciple, friend

The term "Follower of Jesus" has become popular in the last number of years.  At the highpoint thousands of people followed Jesus to hear his words, receive healing or other forms of blessing.  Hillsides were filled with people to see and hear this "prophet" or "rabbi" who was unlike all the others before him.

Yet, by the time we arrive at the beginning of Acts following the death and resurrection of Christ, this mass of people had dwindled to 120.  So, what changed?  I see the answer in the difference between followers and disciples.  Followers, whether of a football team or popular statesman, tend to determine their level of engagement based upon what they are receiving from being followers.  So long as Christ was meeting their basic need for food, healing their illnesses, and responding to their desires, follower-ship was high.  But, when that reduced and the need for life transformation increased, the decision to become a true disciple was often a step deemed too costly.

After 15 years back in America, I find a lot of Jesus Followers in our churches.  The criteria for attendance or engagement is often the benefit that can come to us, our children or the family.  I find the number of true disciples to often be in the same ratio that Christ experience.  So, who or what is a disciple.  The origin of the word in Greek education and culture is one who engaged in the life and purposes of the 'master' to whom they were engaged.  In the case of the disciples of Christ the model and the charge was pretty clear - to have a living, daily relationship with the Father-God that resulted in seeing, treating and caring for those around us from the eyes of His heart and soul.

Disciples knew, lived and were passionate about the Great Commandment long before it got that label.  They wanted to like Christ, to multiply that into the lives of other so they could share in the same loving relationship.  The natural outcome of this passion for multiplication where communities of believers who shared this deep, intimate relationship with the Living God.  Today, we calls these communities churches.

Christ however invited a few into yet a deeper relationship.  In John 15, surrounded by those 12 men who had become so close, Christ announces that He no longer calls them slaves, but friends.  Friends know what the master is doing.

As I begin this journey, I have realized that God is asking me to make this last transformation from that of a passionate, committed disciple to that of a friend of Jesus who knows on a daily basis what He is doing.  The image that burns within my heart hangs on the wall above my computer in my office.  It is the painting of the two disciples of Christ walking with Him on the road to Emmaus.  Today, I commit myself publicly to be a friend with Jesus - to talk with Him daily and to learn to do no more or no less than He is asking for that day.