Archive for the ‘Serious’ Category

 

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A disciple applies discipline to his or her heart to become like his or her master, right? If we are a “hearty” Democrat or Republican, we discipline ourselves to represent these values. If we are a “hearty” fan of MLS soccer, we disciple ourselves to attend to all things MLS, we pick our team, wear their colors, and clear our schedules when they play.

This is interesting—we train our hearts to think and do as our priorities demand—we bend our wills to our heart’s desires. Every heart has a master—usually the owner. Though naturally self-determinate, the heart can be given away to a variety of masters—political parties, MLS, NFL, Mary Kay, greed, lust, power, mercy, love, or service.

Our hearts are undisciplined—going from thrill to thrill looking for fulfillment. The heart is filled with appetites—each an inclination toward obsession. We indulge an appetite and it becomes an addiction. Like Lays Potato Chips—“no one can eat just one!”

Before we go any further, let’s examine how people work. We have three elements at work in us: heart, mind, and spirit. The heart produces desires. The mind rationalizes our desires and makes plans to attain them. The spirit is our inner truth—a set of disciplines or rules for remaining true to our purpose in life. Our spirit admonishes or reprimands us when we break our principles. That voice that says, “You shouldn’t,” or “You should,” is your spirit. Spirits run from saint to sociopath.

If the heart is good, the thoughts and spirit are probably likewise. But, if the heart is undisciplined, it goes from appetite to appetite, chasing desires. This chaos becomes a discipline in itself, and this discipline becomes a “spirit.”

What’s a spirit? A spirit is what suggests or governs desires. We are a spirit unto ourselves—a sociopath’s spirit says, “There’s no one but me.” A typical person’s spirit adapts to the spirit of culture or whatever is trending. We are familiar with good and bad spirits—hopeful, depressed, expectant, disappointed, pessimistic, loving, hateful, etc.

Here’s the problem: Your heart doesn’t like to be told what to do. It is a spirit unto itself. Without a spirit’s interference, the heart is driven by pure desire. The ends justify the means. Your heart is a spirit that makes everything up as it goes along and relies on the mind to find a way to reconcile conflicts.

The Prophet Jeremiah said, “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (17:9, NASV). This is practically the opposite of our culture’s spirit, which says, “Follow your heart—be your authentic self.” The heart is naturally self-centered and we typically discipline it to serve ourselves.  The heart always says, “I want—make me happy!” Your “authentic” spirit is selfish, and often foolish.

What spirit(s) are guiding you?

A wise person chooses a great and good spirit and becomes a disciple. He or she disciplines him or herself to listen closely to the spirit and be governed or “walk” in that particular spirit. A fool has no discernment when it comes to spirits. He or she does whatever feels good at the moment, without reference beyond self.

The saddest people in the world are those who know a good and great spirit, but live as a fool. They are plagued by regret, remorse, guilt because they are undisciplined.

For the life of TR8S I have tried to write about the spirit of Jesus and those who choose to be his disciples. This entry is clearly different from the previous. Before I used abstractions and analogies, here, I’m speaking concretely.

Today’s TR8 is obvious. Choose the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, as your spirit. Give yourself to Him because he is demonstrably the greatest and best of all who have walked on this planet. You’ll find His spirit in the Gospels and nudging at your heart if you listen closely. Jesus said, Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6, NASV).

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TR8: Let the Spirit of Jesus guide you. Become His disciple and discipline yourself to His way.

Jesus walks down to the lake after the disciples and 15 others lunch on a hot dog and a bag of sour cream and chives chips. Jesus reaches the shore and sees Judas sitting with his feet in the water. The other disciples are dunking and splashing each other. Jesus sits a little further up the bank and watches until John notices him.

John: Hey, Jesus!

Judas turns around and everyone stops and looks at Jesus.

Jesus (pointing at Peter) : For Pete’s sake, guys. You aren’t supposed to swim within 30 minutes after lunch.

Judas: Told you so.

Peter: (raises an eyebrow at Judas, smiles at Jesus): We’re practicing baptizing.

Jesus: Hmm. So how does it work?

Peter: Well, you get your hands wet and then make the sign of a cross on their foreheads.

A few near Peter nod.

John: No, you lean ’em back and then dunk ’em totally under water.

Andrew and a few others near John nod.

Judas: Doesn’t matter as long as you get water on ’em.

Everyone looks at him quizzically.

Jesus: What’d’ya think baptism means?

John: Like you told Nicodemus — it’s a new birth — a water birth. The old person goes into the water and a new one comes out. I guess it’s symbolic.

Peter: No, it’s not just symbolic. Baptism imparts real grace to people. You almost glowed when you were baptized. It’s God’s way of giving grace, which opens the way to eternal peace and redemption…I think.

Simon the Zealot: If you don’t get baptized, you can’t join a church can you?

Judas: It doesn’t really mean anything. At best it’s symbolic. It’s just plain water, isn’t it?

Everyone rolls their eyes. Peter splashes Judas.

Jesus: Hmm. You guys are all over the place on this. Andrew, what did the Baptizer tell you?

Andrew: Baptism was supposed to signify repentance and turning from sin.

Jesus: That’s good.

John: Yeah, the Baptizer said it signified turning from sin. After all, he baptized you, what’d it do for you?

Jesus (smiling): It pleased the Father. It was a special moment between the Father and me.

Judas: See, it doesn’t mean anything.

Everyone looks askance at Judas.

Jesus: Sorta right, Moneybags. What if I told you baptism means what you think it means? What if what you believe is what you get? Frankly, guys, it you believe it means nothing, your baptism means nothing. If you believe it’s part of the saving grace of the Father, it is. If you see nothing miraculous about it, nothing is. If you believe you’ve received a miracle, you have. Personally, I like baptisms.

John: So, what does it really mean?

Jesus (wading out): It means, if you like me, do it. Who wants to practice on me?

Tr8: Be baptized in faith, believing. Believe big in case it’s bigger than you think. God exceeds whatever we think.

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man named Judas Iscariot came along who was covered with poison ivy. When he saw Jesus, he showed him his blisters and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Jesus reached out his hand and touched Judas. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the poison ivy blisters left him.

Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for poison ivy, as a testimony to them.”

The news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.

Jesus had just healed a women with warts when Judas returned. Judas said, “Master, It’s been a week and I’ve gone to the priest. Moses didn’t say anything about poison ivy.”

Jesus said, “You error, not knowing the Scripture and the power of God. Many’s the time I’ve avoided this, but that the Father may be glorified — Judas, drop what’char’doin and follow me.”

Judas was moved. He mashed out his cigar under the toe of his sandle and said, “Like Andrew and Peter?” A tear came to Jesus’ eye and he said, “Yeah, like Matthew, sorta.” Slowly he moved forward and embraced Judas, saying, “Peace be with you, Judas.” Judas replied, “And also with you.”

Jesus wept.

And thereafter Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.”

“What is that to us?” they replied. “That’s your responsibility.”

So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.

Tr8: What does love your enemy look like? Can one wish better for Judas than Jesus?  Here’s an idea: what if we started a $1 million Judas Iscariot Fund and tried to redeem his name by helping others in Jesus’ name? Call me screwed up, but I wish sometimes…

Luke 5 and a bunch of others verses — a regular scavenger hunt of Scripture blips.

Jesus and his disciples are on Peter’s front porch after dinner. Bumper, Jesus’ dog is sitting licking Jesus’ feet. Andrew is scratching the dog’s ears. The rest of the disciples are lounging around and Judas is annoying everyone with his cigar.

Matthew: Lord, which of us follows you best?

Jesus: Bumper.

Matthew: What? He’s just a mutt.

Jesus: You should love me like Bumper loves me.

Nathaniel: Dogs are unclean.

Jesus: Yep. They’re pitiful. Bumper thinks cat pooh is wonderful. Absolutely hopeless. To love him I have to overlook his nature. However, he’s happy with anything I give him. He’ll even try turnips if they’re from me.

Andrew (quits scratching Bumper and looks at his fingers): So, he’s unclean and that’s okay?

Jesus: It’s the tension again — the truth is brutal and grace is kind. Bumper is a mess and I love him. He follows me everywhere and is happy with everything but my absence. He’ll walk beside me all day just to have the chance to lick my (unclean) feet. I say, ‘Bumper come,’ he comes, ‘Bumper go,’ he goes. I say, ‘Bumper stay,’ and he’ll sit waiting for me indefinitely.

Peter (he raises his hand and Jesus nods): So, when you asked us to ‘follow,’ you were thinking about dogs?

Jesus: Well, sort of. Remember when I told you the ‘come as a child’ thing? It’s like that. Bumper is pure dog. He lives for me. His happiness is me. Remember the scribe who was arguing with me and grabbed my robe at the bus stop past Nazareth, near Sephora, where my Aunt Anne lives? Bumper was on…hackles up, growling and all that. Bumper processes HIS life through MY perspective.

John: Woohoo! So, you DO want us as bodyguards! I knew it!

Jesus (holding up his hand): Uhm, no. If you’ll remember, I told Bumper to sit and shake hands with the scribe, which he did, though the scribe declined.

They all laugh.

Judas (blowing smoke rings): Bumper is a good dog. He sleeps at your feet, eats anything, obeys, is house broken and even herds sheep. We could rent him to shepherds.

Jesus: Yeah, Judas, he’s a good dog. Bumper would die for me. But, here’s the important thing: Bumper is just a beast that’d be nothing without a master. When I named him, I CREATED him. I gave him an identity. He finds meaning and purpose through me, his master, who loves him. Bumper is completed by me. When your life is me, you will be the most you that you can be. I’ve come to give you life and give it completely.

Tr8: You ARE defined by your master. Choose Christ as your master. You become you when you are known by  Jesus.

messiah wantedWait a minute! Why is this important?

Because Jesus answered the want ad at a singularly significant time and place in Hebrew politics, traditions and history. Judaism was within a generation from being hijacked by Pax Romana. 

Pax Christos far surpassed Pax Romana.

Jerusalem before Jesus

Jerusalem was a wasteland a half-century before Jesus’ birth. There was no temple and no Hebrew King. According to Judas Maccabeus, a pre-Jesus revolutionary who conquered Jerusalem, the temple mount was trashed, the altar profaned, weeds were everywhere and all the gates were burned.

Antipas (Governor of Idumaea) put down a civil war in Palestine and joined the Governor of Syria under Caesar’s standard to defeat Pompey at the Battle of Pharsalia. Caesar made Antipas a Roman citizen and King of Judea.

Herod, his fifteen-year-old son, was given Galilee. Early in his career he caught Hezekiah (a messianic claimant) with an army of rebels on the Syrian border and put them to death. The Hebrews wanted Herod to appear before the Sanhedrin (Hebrew court), but Antipas declared martial law and the Governor of Syria, one of Herod’s allies, demanded an acquittal.

Hyrcanus, the Hebrew high priest, complied, but the people rioted. The teenaged Herod came to Jerusalem with an army, but Antipas sent him back to Galilee to avert a disaster. When Herod gained his father’s throne, he executed Hyrcanus.

The Romans established “Pax Romana” throughout the Middle East. Antipas ruled Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Palistine and Israel. However, he was not a descendant of David and he was not anointed. He kept the peace with swords, spears and crosses.

A decade or so before Jesus’ birth NO ONE in Jerusalem remembered a temple.

Herod the Great became ruler of Jerusalem thirty-five years before Jesus’ birth. To appease the Hebrews, he “converted” and built “Herod’s Temple.” He completed his temple shortly before Jesus’ birth. Always a shrewd politician, Herod managed his temple’s leadership and kept his finger on the pulse of the Hebrews.

Herod’s Temple and Hebrew traditions were re-instituted for political appeasement. Herod shrewdly focused Jerusalem on religion, not God. Herod maintained tension between the legalists and traditionalists to keep the Hebrew house divided.

The Gospels pick up the story here. Situation: Fake king, fake temple and fake religion. 

Jerusalem newspaper: Wanted: Messiah. SJM miracle worker must be lineage of David, anointed by God and able to defeat Roman Empire. Call Issac: JR7-3977 

The “wise men” came seeking the “King of the Jews,” the Hebrew scholars pointed to Bethlehem, Herod the Great stuck a deal with the wise men and then gave orders to kill all the infant boys in Bethlehem (this infanticide is part of the historical record). Joseph, warned by an angel, took off for Egypt.

A few years later Herod gives a speech and explodes (more or less, look it up).

Herod’s son, Herod Archelaus ruled in Jerusalem for most of the New Testament. Achelaus killed his brother, Philip, to take his wife, Herodias. She was a rare piece of work. She detested John the Baptist for condemning their relationship. The royal house was a treacherous place. Caesar Augustus said, “Better to be Herod’s swine than Herod’s son.”

Herod’s temple lasted about one-hundred years and was destroyed shortly after Jesus’ resurrection. The siege of Jerusalem, a famine and the destruction of the temple (prophesied by Jesus) sent the disciples out into the world. 

“In due time…” Jesus came.

Tr8: God knows what he’s doing. Trust his timing.