Archives for February 2020

How to Practice Discipleship in the Middle of Suffering

How do you practice discipleship in the middle of suffering?
When everything seems aligned against you, seems to be throwing up barriers to your life with God, how do you continue walking in the way of Jesus?
Bonhoeffer
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a pastor and theologian in Germany during the Third Reich. He gave all that he had to fighting evil. Including his life. Bonhoeffer wrote a book entitled The Cost of Discipleship. He truly knew what that meant.
Bonhoeffer’s theology was first of all Christ-centric, but second it was centered around community. He wrote that the way to successfully practice discipleship in the midst of suffering was found in the idea of the Sermon on the Mount.
SermonOnTheMount
The practices of turning the other cheek, going the extra mile, giving up the cloak, these were all essential to staying true to Christ when the darkness is enticing you to give up.
This seems counterintuitive. When evil and injustice are all around, we want to fight, to punch back. God, in fact, tells us to do the opposite.
God tells us to feed our enemy, to give him water to drink when he is thirsty.
Not once does God tell us to punch him in the nose.
discipleship
Paul tells us in Romans to overcome evil with good.
This is how we practice discipleship in the middle of suffering. This is how we die to ourselves, and in so doing, bring God’s kingdom rule to our world.
Jesus was, after all, as he was teaching these practices, living in the middle of his own enemies.
Part of the way we are able to have the strength to live out the Sermon on the Mount while surrounded by our enemies is by knowing that we are not alone.
Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us, and he has not left us alone. He has given us his Spirit inside of us and is himself praying for us before the Father.
Christ with us
We also have each other. This was the other piece around which Bonhoeffer’s theology revolved. The way we are able to follow the commands in the Sermon on the Mount, the way we successfully practice discipleship when everything seems conspired against this kind of life, is by living it together.
We are the body of Christ, and together we are stronger than each individual. Together all the parts of Christ are joined and are unified in one heart and mind. Together we are united with Christ in the bringing of his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
We are to speak God’s truth to each other, encouraging each other to continue the incredibly difficult practice of dying to ourselves and living for Christ. No matter our circumstances.
In Christ, we are together even when physically apart.
We are one in Christ, and in Christ we can do this.
So encourage each other as you continue to live out your discipleship in the middle of your enemies by loving them well.
discipleship
God will take care of the rest.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

 

Art credits: photograph of Bonhoeffer from The New York Times; The Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch; The Sermon on the Mount by Gustave Doré; The Road to Emmaus by Robert Zünd; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni

How to Know God – Part Two

Last week we began to explore the way that we can know God. If you haven’t read that post, you may want to click here and read that one first.
How do we know God?
know God
By obeying.
By doing what we see Him do, and this best by watching Jesus, by imitating Him.
This does not mean that we should spring immediately into action.
This is not the way that Jesus obeyed.
Be still
First, it means to be still.
Be still and know that I am God.
It means to go to the wilderness, to the lonely places, to get away and be alone with God.
in the wilderness
A lot.
Jesus spent much time alone with God before He did anything of importance.
Before beginning His ministry.
Before choosing the apostles.
Before the crucifixion.
alone with God
Don’t worry. Action will come.
Obedience does not only mean being still. There is much to be done to bring God’s kingdom to rule here on earth as it does in heaven.
But obedience first means to be still and know.
be still
Once you know what to do, then you begin the work of obeying.
You begin the practice of obeying. It, like anything, feels awkward at first. You continually go back to Jesus to figure out how to obey. You have to return again and again for specific instruction.
Yet slowly, over time, it feels more natural. You know more quickly what to do or what not to do. When to act and when to go back to being still.
Obedience becomes instinct.
I have used the image of a jazz musician before, but I will bring it back here again because it gives such a beautiful and concrete example of why this practice of obedience is so important.
obey like jazz
It shows us why obeying is what brings us to know God.
A jazz pianist, a really good one, knows his art intimately. It is a part of his spirit.
When he plays with a band, he knows what exists in the music. He knows the nature of the musical form, he knows the structure of the harmonics well enough to think quickly and compose something that fits in with the reality of the music.
It is so seamless it appears effortless.
This kind of perfection, however, is far from effortless. This kind of intimacy with the music does not come easily or quickly. It takes hours and days and months and years of practice.
This, too, is how we know God. By practicing the discipline of obeying for hours and days and months and years.
This is how we learn to know God. This is how we learn to know the way He created the nature of this life and this world well enough to know how to respond no matter what is happening around us.
This way of obedience leads to knowing God which leads to better obedience which leads to…
a beautiful circle.
A circle wherein we abide with our Father in peace and blessing.
abide
How do we know God?
By obeying Him.
There is no other way.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: Children at Prayer byAntoine Édouard Joseph Moulinet; Prayer by Mednyánszky László; Gethsemane by Carl Heinrich Bloch; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer

How to Know God – Part One

We all, every one of us, want to know God.
We want to know God
Whether we acknowledge or even realize it, knowing God is one of the deepest desires placed immovably into the heart of humanity.
It has been so since the beginning of time.
It is the reason behind the Fall.
We want to know God without having to obey
To know.
The tragedy behind Eve’s choice of disobedience is that God had already given her the way to know Him. He had already given her the way both to know Him and to stay with Him.
It is the same tragedy that lies behind every act of our own disobedience, when we believe that our way is better, that our shortcut is easier than God’s (admittedly, often longer and harder) way for us to know Him.
What is this way? This way both to know God and to remain with Him?
By obeying Him.
To obey him is the only way to be one with him. ~ George MacDonald
If you want to know the mind of God, do what He says.
Jesus' way of knowing God is through obedience
Jesus, who was the very image of God, knew the Father absolutely. He also obeyed the Father absolutely.
Jesus told the Jews that He can only do what He sees the Father doing.
Why? Because the Father loves the Son and shows Him all that He Himself is doing.
The Father loves the Son. He wants Jesus to know Him and to know what He is doing.
The beautiful, astounding piece of this?
He loves all of His children in the same way.
Jesus affirms this when He prays that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
He wants us to know Him because He loves us.
He is not hiding from us. He is not playing games with us. He wants us to know Him.
How do we know Him?
By obeying.
By doing what we see Him do, and this best by watching Jesus, by imitating Him.
This does not mean, however, that we should spring immediately into action.
Will you join me next week as I ponder this idea a little more? I would love to explore with you about the way Jesus obeyed so that we can obey and know the Father in the same way.
I am grateful for you.
To hear my blog post read aloud, just click the play button. If you’re reading this in an email, you may have to click here to hear the post on my site.

Art credits: Children at Prayer by Antoine Edouard Joseph Moulinet; Adam and Eve by Foster; Christ Washing the Disciples’ Feet by Francesco Vanni