Tag Archives: disciples

THE MESSAGE OF THE NAIL PRINTS

THE MESSAGE OF THE NAIL PRINTS

Two disciples… returning home after a weekend of tragedy and disillusionment. Back and forth they talk, airing their grief, their shattered hopes. Why, oh why did it have to end like this?

Soft footfalls behind them herald the approach of a stranger. Sensing the sombre atmosphere, the unknown man asks, “Why so sad?”

“Haven’t you heard? Are you the only one who doesn’t know what happened in Jerusalem this weekend?” they reply.

Eyes downcast, they relate events and emotions that betray their deep-seated disappointment.  “We had hoped… but now…” Like the Twelve who persisted in their unbelief despite the testimony of the women who went to the tomb, these two dejected disciples allow their grief to destroy any last vestige of hope. They know that the lifeless body of the one in whom they fervently trusted is sealed in a rocky tomb.

The stranger rebukes them. “Are you so foolish that you let grief override good sense? What does the Word say?“ This man seems to have amazing insights into the depths of Holy Scripture.

He opens the sacred writings as they listen, fascinated, to his teaching… yet they still have no idea who he is, perhaps a visitor to Jerusalem with no ties to the events of the past weekend. They still make no connection between him and the messages he is recalling from Scripture.

They invite the stranger into their home as is the custom of hospitable people. There is something familiar about him that they can’t quite figure out. Perhaps a few more hours with him…

The evening meal prepared, they gather around to share their bounty. Courtesy prompts the head of the family to invite the stranger to bless their meal.

He lifts his hands in thanksgiving and suddenly, in a flash, every detail of the past moments falls into place. His seeming ignorance of recent tragic events… his gentle rebuke… his intimate understanding of their sacred book… his hands as he spreads them out in blessing.

In a heartbeat, as understanding dawns, He’s gone! Gone from their eyes but not from their hearts. A subtle fragrance fills the room where He shared the table with them, the lingering fragrance of the Son of God.

His hands! Of course, who else but Jesus Himself! Gone the grief and unbelief! It all makes sense now. He is no upstart, self-proclaimed prophet, but truly the promised Messiah so eloquently described in their own Scriptures.

Those angry wounds so clearly visible in His upraised hands speak more clearly than the many words He uttered as He accompanied them to their home. How beautifully the nail prints symbolise the greatest love of all, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” How clearly they speak of a sacrifice so great that it forgives and restores everything Adam forfeited in the Garden of Eden.

An old but ageless hymn captures in the jewels of language the message of the nailprints:

Crown Him the Lord of love

Behold His hands and side

Rich wounds, yet visible above

In beauty glorified…

Matthew Bridges

Godfrey Thring (1851)

(en.m.wikipaedia.org)

Have you seen the nailprints?

THE GOSPEL OF LUKE – LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

CHAPTER ELEVEN

LORD, TEACH US TO PRAY

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When He finished, one of His disciples said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’” Luke 11:1.

This was a strange request unless something significant lay behind it. What was it about the prayers of Jesus that caught the attention of His disciples? They were Jews who had been taught to pray the Jewish way from their mother’s knees. There were prayers they prayed every day and there were prayers they prayed on every occasion. What’s more, their prayers were ‘Bible’ prayers, making them more powerful than spontaneous prayers. They were praying God’s Word which meant that they were praying God’s will.

But there was something different about Jesus’ prayers. Did they link His prayer life and His public life, His powerful ministry and His miracles to the relationship He expressed with the Father through His prayers? How much of His praying did they actually hear? Sometimes Jesus prayed one-sentence prayers out loud as in, for example, His prayer in John 12:27, 28, and the Father responded audibly.

Jesus answered them by teaching them a model prayer which enshrines all the principles of New Testament praying. In it He was taking them into a realm of prayer which was foreign to them because it opened to them the same privileged position of sonship which He enjoyed and which He had come to reveal in His incarnation.

Was this what they saw and wanted? There is no evidence that this moment added anything to them before His death and resurrection since they were the same quarrelling, competitive and failing bunch that denied and abandoned Him in His hour of need. Nowhere in the gospels do I read of any of them engaging in prayer as He did.

It would take the life-changing event of His death and resurrection to move them from being spectators to becoming sons and learning that the same source of power was available to them through the Holy Spirit who had come to live in them at Pentecost, as He had promised.s

THE BOOK OF ACTS – JOYFUL GENEROSITY

JOYFUL GENEROSITY

“The man went into the Temple with them, walking back and forth, dancing and praising God. Everybody there saw him walking around and praising God. They recognised him as the one who sat begging at the Temple’s Gate Beautiful and rubbed their eyes astonished, scarcely believing what they were seeing.

“The man threw his arms around Peter and John, ecstatic. All the people ran up to where they were at Solomon’s Porch to see it for themselves.” Acts 3:9-11 (The Message).

What a commotion! What a sensation! The healed beggar was certainly creating enough noise to attract the attention of the worshippers in the Temple.

The Healer had come and gone, and life in Jerusalem had settled down to business as usual. There was this new sect that had arisen around Him but they seemed quite harmless. They were joyful and generous, doing life together, sharing their resources, spending a lot of time with their leaders and just generally being pleasant to be around. They weren’t militant. They were no activists, stirring up trouble, and the people of the city had grown used to them.

Now this! A man crippled from birth, a familiar face at the gate of the Temple, suddenly gets up and walks. And, what’s more, two of Jesus’ disciples are in the mix and, mysteriously, the name of Jesus of Nazareth had reappeared as the one responsible for this miracle.

The beggar’s reaction sure got the attention of the people. People are the same everywhere, inquisitive; any commotion is sure to draw a crowd. This is not what the disciples intended. They were not out to get attention. Their action was purely out of compassion for the crippled man. What happened next was more than they bargained for.

The crippled man’s actions were quite amusing. He went “ballistic”! Wouldn’t you? He had never walked. His legs were shrivelled and weak from lack of exercise. He had always viewed life from ground level. He had always been treated with pity or contempt.  He always depended on others for help. There was no wheel chair to get him around. Wherever he was dumped for the day, he had to stay put. What a life! One shudders to think about everyday things like going to the toilet, or washing his hands.

In an instant everything changed for him. A new and unfamiliar life had begun. He was walking — it was that simple and yet it opened up a whole new life of learning and possibility.

That’s what Jesus does. It’s not always about a physical miracle, though He does that too. Jesus is about setting people free. It’s His passion. There are many ways in which we are held captive to a life that has only one perspective, ourselves. We are crippled by bitterness, unforgiveness, small-mindedness, selfishness, greed, anger, guilt, shame, fear; everything that robs us of the freedom to realise our potential as beloved children of God.

He came to reconcile us to the Father so that we can enjoy freedom from the crippling enslavement to ourselves that robs us of really living. Living is about loving others for God’s sake. Only Jesus can set us free from loving ourselves for our sake into the same life of joyful generosity that Peter and John were living.

It takes a miracle to do that!

Imitators Of Jesus

IMITATORS OF JESUS

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5: 1)

The third step in being a disciple of Jesus is imitating Him in everything He was and did. Disciples were taught to walk behind their master, one behind the other so that they could watch the person in front of them. The one who walked behind the rabbi was to copy everything he did.  Each one was to copy the one in front so that they would all end up copying their rabbi.

It was the privilege of the disciple who walked directly behind his rabbi to be covered with the dust which the rabbi’s sandals kicked up as he walked. This was a sign of his privileged position. It was considered a blessing to wear the rabbi’s dust.

On one occasion Jesus sent His disciples out to the villages round about to preach the good news of the kingdom and the do the works of the kingdom in preparation for His arrival in that region. If a village or a household refused to receive them, they were to shake the dust off their feet and move on without protest. What was He saying?

We interpret His instruction from our purely human mindset. Shake the dust – i.e., thumb your nose at them as a sign of contempt. Does that sound like the way Jesus would react, Jesus – the one who always looked for an opportunity to show mercy? If the rabbi’s dust which they wore was a sign of His blessing, wouldn’t it be true to say that He instructed them to leave His blessing on those who rejected Him by shaking off the dust of their feet even if they refused His message?

Jesus used the rabbi/disciple model to train His disciples to be like Him. Mark recorded His strategy like this:

He appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach and to have the authority to drive out demons (Mark 3:14).

“That they might be with Him” was the first part of their training – following and learning. They were to watch and listen, absorbing everything they could about their rabbi, not only just learning to teach what He taught but actually becoming what He was – a true son of the Father in every sense of the word.

Jesus took every opportunity to teach them about the Father and to model a true son. They were not just to be wooden puppets, moving when He pulled the strings. They were to absorb everything about Him including His attitude and disposition. When James and John wanted to call down fire on the Samaritans for refusing them hospitality, Jesus sharply rebuked them.

…James and John…asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to destroy them. But Jesus turned and rebuked them.  And He said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Luke 9.54-55)

He told them more than once:

If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world but to save the world (John 12: 47).

Jesus both taught and showed His disciples that His disposition towards His people was compassion and mercy. He wept over the city of Jerusalem for not recognising Him and for rejecting their opportunity to respond to His invitation to return to the Father and to be a part of His eternal kingdom.

Imitation Jesus is not just a mechanical copying of what He said and did. Through the prophet Ezekiel, God promised that He would send His Spirit who would change their hearts (Ez. 36:26-27). He fulfilled His promise on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on all the waiting believers. Peter responded to the confusion in Jerusalem by reminding the people of the same promise in the prophecy of Joel.

And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams and your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days (Joel 2:28-29).

The same Spirit who empowered Jesus would indwell them. Unlike all the other rabbis who could teach and train their disciples but could not impart their heart and disposition to them, Jesus promised that the very same Spirit that fell on Him would fall on them. He would live within them as Jesus’ other self, and mould them into His image as they followed and learned from Him.

It was His intention to produce replicas of Himself, empowered by the same Spirit, carrying the same authority to do the same works and even more (John 14:12) through Him, so that they would extend the kingdom of God wherever they went.

Scripture is taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my first book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

ISBN: Softcover – 978-1-4828-0512-3,                                                                              eBook 978-4828-0511-6

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or Kindle version, on www.takealot.com  or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

My second book, Learning to be a Disciple – The Way of the Master (Copyright © 2015, Partridge Publishing), a companion volume to Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart, has been released in paperback and digital format on www.amazon.com.

For more details, check my website:

http://luellaannettecampbell.com/

Have you read my blogs on www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com ?

The Folly Of Tradition

THE FOLLY OF TRADITION

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus, and saw some of His disciples eating with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as washing of cups, pitchers and kettles). So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?’ (Mark 7: 1-5).

A good plan – to wash hands before eating, especially after being at the market! And as for washing dishes – don’t we do that every day? So what was the issue? The religious types were not critical of Jesus’ disciples for not washing their hands before lunch. They had issues with them for eating with ceremonially “unclean” hands. Their problem was not hygiene but religion.

They were fastidious about keeping the detailed instructions handed down from their sages – the ancient rabbis who spent all their lives debating the meaning of the 613 laws of the Torah, and adding what they considered to be interpretations which were supposed to protect the people from inadvertently transgressing the commandments. The outcome was a top-heavy load of rules that made the ordinary people’s lives intolerably weighed down by so much “do-ing” that they had not time for “be-ing”.

That led to another problem. The emphasis of the rules was so much on the doing or not doing that they lost the implications of the Torah, to show mercy to their fellow beings, both Israelites and foreigners by being generous and kind, like the God they served. They were so self-absorbed in their efforts to be right that they became self-right-eous, and despised those who were not as “holy” as they. The nature of their God was distorted and the ones they were supposed to be influencing toward Him were driven away.

He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.’ (Mark 7: 6-8).

Aha! So this was not new. It was already happening in Isaiah’s day, some six hundred or so years before. It was not new then and it certainly is not new today. Look at some of the additions to Jesus’ simple command to follow Him that have become integrated into the gospel and the Christian way of life. Those who are bent on being true disciples of Jesus might wonder where all that stuff came from.

I have a simple test when it comes to evaluating all the trappings of Christianity. I ask myself the question, “Is this why Jesus came?” Of what value are fancy embroidered robes and sashes, swinging of incense, bowing to altars, wearing of crucifixes, praying to saints and lighting of candles and . . . and . . . and, to people when Jesus only said, “Follow me”? Did He insist that all of that was part of His calling? Did Jesus set up a hierarchy of people so that some are “holier” than others because they have education or a title or wear embroidered robes? What about “That they may be one . . .”?

What about all the other stuff we have added? Some believers in some circles regard other believers in their circles as “second-class” because they don’t speak in tongues, or they haven’t been “baptised” in the Holy Spirit. Where do they find that in the teaching of Jesus? And if there is no being “slain in the Spirit” during ministry, then they say that the Holy Spirit had not “worked”. Really? Who said? Who is the judge?

And what about being called “born-again” believers as though there are two kinds of believers, those who have been born again and those who have not? Jesus told only one man that he had to be “born again” because Nicodemus was a Pharisee. He had such fancy notions about himself that he needed to go back to square one, symbolically, and begin all over again through the power of the Holy Spirit, like beginning life from scratch as a baby in his understanding of God’s way.

Jesus called everyone else to follow Him; to become like Him, to think like Him, to live like Him, to speak and act like He did – to “become” Him so that the world would see what the Father is really like.

Is it any wonder then, that the church in the main is irrelevant in the world? It is no better than any other religion – fragmented, ritualistic and unrealistic, making people slaves to do’s and don’ts just like any other man-made ism.

Jesus came to set people free from all that stuff to become true sons and daughters of God. Over the centuries, rules, rituals and traditions have been so piled on Jesus’ simple call that He has become an unrecognisable caricature of the true Son of God. In some quarters the Bible, God’s Word to His people, has even become a forbidden and hated book! Why? In simple terms, because people love their darkness rather than the light because of their wicked lives.

In some places the church has become nothing less than the temple of Baal – with altars and images all over the place and beads and saints and holy water and every other irrelevancy to draw people away from Jesus. Jesus came as the truth to do away with every picture and symbol so that we can focus completely on Him and Him alone.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Cor. 3: 18).

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Have you read my new book, Learning to be a Son – The Way to the Father’s Heart (copyright 2015, Partridge Publishing)? You’ll love it!

Available on www.amazon.com in paperback, e-book or kindle version or order directly from the publisher at www.partridgepublishing.com.

Check out my Blog site – www.learningtobeason.wordpress.com