Category Archives: obedience

Not Cut

“Coach wants to see you in his office…”  Those words can strike fear in anyone who has been struggling to make the team.  Getting cut can be devastating.  Getting cut from God’s team is worse.  Jesus describes it metaphorically:

He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit,…  (John 15:2a)


“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.  (John 15:5-6)

Getting cut from Jesus’ team is what happens if you don’t “bear fruit.”  But, bearing fruit is what happens, Jesus said, “If you remain in me and I in you…”  So then, as a newby to the faith, not wanting to get cut from the team, I looked to see what I had to do to “remain in Him.”  

And read this:

Now remain in my love.  If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.  (John 15:9b-10)

“Aha!” I thought, and set about making a list of Jesus’ commands so I could keep them.  I came up with quite a lengthy list, but completely missed the point of what He said.  Jesus said keeping His commands should be done in the same way He kept His Father’s commands.  Jesus never checked off the boxes from a list of commands.  That’s not how He did it.  Instead, He said these things:

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19)

Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.  (John 14:10)

The way Jesus kept His Father’s commands was by staying so close to Him He naturally kept in step with what the Father was doing.  He was “in the Father” and the Father was “in Him.”   Now, compare that with Jesus’ teaching in John 15:5, quoted above, where He said, “If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit.”  It is in that close, “you in Me and I in you” relationship we are able to keep His commands and bear “His fruit.”

And not get cut.

WD-40 for Life

Stubborn.  So set in their ways they can’t listen to reason. Know anybody like that?  Jesus did and they made Him angry.  Angry, but also sad they could not loosen up.  They were like seized pistons in what could have been the powerful engine of life.  Here’s what happened:

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there with a withered hand. And they watched Jesus, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. And he said to the man with the withered hand, “Come here.” And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
You can’t get in step with Jesus when your heart is hard or stubborn.  You can’t fold your arms, stick out your chin and insist on your own way.  Responsiveness to His rhythms is the key.  Perhaps that heart adjustment seems risky at first.  Like your first time out on the dance floor.  But life is so much more exhilarating when we are not stuck.

What to Do

Yet another terrorist bomb.  More predictable responses from government and media.  Already, network art departments are designing background graphics to promote their newscasts and experts are deciding on a catchy name for the story.  Already, expressions of sorrow and determination have been issued, quoted and re-quoted.  Already, are first responders honored, makeshift memorials bedecked with flowers, funerals planned, security efforts tweaked.  It’s what we do.  The whole process has become stylized.  There is a ritual for it.  And people will become more accustomed to the tragedy, no longer able to fully feel the outrage and frustration.  We feel helpless to do anything that will truly make a difference.

Jesus told us what to expect and what to do.  Here’s what He said we could expect:

Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, (Matthew 24:12)

Here’s what He taught us to do:

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.  (Matthew 6:9-10)

Perhaps it seems strange to ask God, all sovereign and all powerful, to do what He has already willed to do.  I don’t know how prayer impacts the accomplishment of God’s will, only that Jesus taught us to do it.  So, let’s do.  Urgently – and paying full attention to the meaning of what we are asking.  Yearning for that day to come.

There was a church that broke ground for a new building with an old plow to which several hundred slender strings had been attached.  They invited everyone to take a string and, when the command was given, to pull.  No one of those people or strings would have been strong enough to move that plow.  But together, it jumped through the soil and chewed it up with ease.  When Jesus taught us to pray for the Kingdom to come, He handed each of us a string and gave us the command.


Now What?

On the day after Resurrection Day, it might be good to reflect on how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus actually changes the way we live.  Do they make a difference or do we simply put the plastic eggs back in the closet and go back to the humdrum of life?  If you are still reading, no doubt you vote for them making a difference.  But what sort of a difference?  Read through what Peter wrote – slowly and thoughtfully – and you’ll have a pretty good answer:

Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.  (1 Peter 1:17-21)

Real Freedom

He refused to participate in a corrupt act, was sued by his partner, and lost everything – his business, his home, his wife and millions of dollars.  He was forced into bankruptcy.  He eventually found another job, at a fraction of his former salary, but then proceeded to make payments to his creditors, despite no longer being legally required to do so.  Why?  He was free.  Free to do what was right without fear or coercion.  His freedom came from Jesus.

Jesus was free.  He was not hemmed in by social expectations.  He didn’t follow the rules imposed by the religious authorities.  He was not afraid of their punishments and not afraid to be considered eccentric.  He socialized with outcasts, ate and drank as he chose.  Jesus was free.  He was free of the world’s coercion, free to listen to God and get in step with His instructions.  He said,

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. (John 5:19b)

 The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (John 14:10b)

Jesus was free to dance in perfect time with His Father.  Free to break the restrictive rules of social expectations and ignore the threats of the powerful.  He was free to go to the Cross without fear.

For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again.  No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father.”  (John 10:17-18)

Everything or Nothing

If at first you don’t succeed, wingsuit flying is not for you.  Watching videos of those guys flips my stomach.  Especially the takeoff.  They climb to the peak of a high cliff, teeter on the edge, count to three and dive, headfirst, nearly straight down.  I suppose it’s to build up enough speed.  There’s no halfway in a wingsuit jump.  No easing into it.  It’s everything or nothing.

Same thing with Jesus.  Everything or nothing.  People ease up close to Jesus, spend time talking and singing about Jesus and read books about Jesus but none of that matters.  About many who called Him Lord, Jesus said, “I never knew you.”  There’s no halfway; you gotta jump.  Headfirst.  Jesus said it like this:

34 And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 35 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  (Mark 8:34-35)

Deny himself” does not necessarily mean giving everything to the poor (although it might mean that in some circumstances).  It means letting go of fear and the overwhelming urge to keep yourself safe.  For a wingsuit jumper, it would be ignoring the part of your brain that is screaming, “Are you out of your mind????”   For the would-be disciple, it is abandoning all half-way measures, all plans B in case it doesn’t work out.  If you try to save your life you’ll never find it in Him.  It’s everything or nothing.

Take up his cross” does not mean to commit suicide.  It means to let go of all the things you used to think defined life.  Money, fame, popularity, success, luxury, good looks,  fun – all these things are pursued by people who think they will provide a satisfying, full life.  The would-be disciple doesn’t necessarily become penniless or unpopular.  He lets go of the idea that those are important.  He recognizes that full life, satisfying life can only be found in the company of Jesus.

Follow Me” means to pay attention, learn and imitate the attitudes and actions of Jesus.  Not the bland, passive Jesus of paintings and Sunday School books but the robust, free-spirited, radical, passionate Jesus.  To follow Jesus is to let go of your own plans and let Him take you on a real adventure.

Perhaps these imperfect descriptions of Jesus’ cryptic challenge sound repressive and personally suffocating.  My experience has been just the opposite.  Instead of letting the fickle, competitive world set the agenda for how to live, I’ve discovered the One Who created me can set me free to be all He made me to be.

But you can’t get there tentatively or halfway.  You gotta jump.  Everything or nothing.

Weaker Equals

Women are weaker than men.  I know, you’re not supposed to say that out loud and I realize there are some women stronger than some men.  But in general, women are weaker.  If you don’t realize women have certain differences in how they have been designed, you have not been paying sufficient attention.   BUT…  weaker does not mean lesser.  That’s why Peter writes:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.  (1 Peter 3:7)

Instead of belittling a wife who is weaker, a husband is to treat her with understanding and honor.  Understanding because she may not be able to lift that end of the sofa.  Honor, because she is not lesser in her weaker make up.  I own a guitar and a case for it.  The case is stronger than the guitar and is used to protect it.  When I play music, I have discovered that the case doesn’t sound as good as the guitar.  The guitar makes beautiful music precisely because it was designed to be weaker.  Weaker is not lesser.

Moreover, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are equals.  They are heirs of God’s grace, just as their husbands are.  Weaker is not lesser, it’s just different.  Different but equal.

But, what’s all this about mistreating a wife hindering prayers?  When we pray to God, we ask Him to treat us in ways we do not deserve.  We cannot ask God for grace while at the same time failing to treat our wives with the honor and respect they do deserve.  They may be weaker, but they are equal.

PS – Having witnessed the delivery of my children, I have seen that women are stronger than men in some amazing and necessary ways!

Just sayin’….