Tag Archives: Discipleship

Certainty or Confidence?

Years ago I read a newspaper interview with a spry 105 year old woman who had just celebrated another birthday.  I forget nearly all the details of the article except for one question the interviewer asked:  “After so many years of life, what do you know for certain that you would like to pass on to others?”  “Oh”, she said, “I don’t know anything for certain!  But I do suspect a few things.”

After spending the bulk of my life doing my level-best to call young people into discipleship, a steady willingness to “rethink” seems to be an important key to transformation.  We must be wary of certainty, and aim at confidence.  I have come to believe that when Jesus opened his ministry with the command to “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand” he was calling the world to something more than a one-time decision to follow Him, but rather to a lifetime of rethinking the ideas, attitudes, and habits that have littered our minds by the spirit of the age.  Discipleship is a lifelong process of being transformed “by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:1-2) 

In the series, The Chosen, Peter reacts to something Jesus has said: “But this is different.”  And Jesus, with a twinkle in his eye, answers, “Get used to different.”  So often we in the modern church have allowed our religious ideas to harden like concrete into certainty, and  in the process have short-circuited the opportunity to grow and change.  

“Get used to different.” (And by the way, this applies to The Chosen, too. As much as I enjoy the beautiful storytelling of the series, it demands discernment between the clear Biblical truth, and the creative license of the writers. Test all things)!

In the classroom I begin nearly every session with the challenge, “Test everything I say.  I too am a disciple, and though I am confident in what I teach, it’s possible I could be wrong.  Look at these scriptures with me, and if they do not support what I teach, then stop me, and help me to see my error.”   I hope you will do the same.  I’m far from an authority on the things I write about, but I present them with a degree of confidence that they seem to be true according to the scriptures, plain reason, and experiential fruit.  

The disciples of Jesus are not hardened scribes, but lifelong learners.

Perfect Harmony

Back in 1971, the New Seekers recorded a commercial jingle for Coca Cola, I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing in Perfect Harmony. It became one of the most influential TV ads in history, and an expanded version, (dropping the Coke references), rose to the top of popular charts all over the world.  The tune was lilting, but it was the lyrics that captured the imagination of the young.

I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony
I’d like to hold it in my arms, and keep it company.
I’d like to see the world for once, all standing hand in hand
And hear them echo through the hills for peace throughout the land.

The song tapped into the heart of a troubled world and a generation at war with itself, giving voice to hopes and dreams programmed into our primordial DNA by the Creator Himself.  Without doubt, the entire human race is longing for a world in tune with itself; a world of perfect harmony. 

But perfect harmony doesn’t just happen; It takes the long, skillful work of composers, arrangers, conductors, musicians and instrument tuners.  And it’s the same in the Kingdom. Jesus gives us the master pitch, and brings us into tune with Himself: “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus our Lord has done for us.”   (Romans 5;1) But that’s only the beginning, the tune-up note for the symphonic beauty which follows: “Peace on earth, goodwill towards all men.” 

As we step into 2020 we find ourselves in a discordant world of political bickering, divisive opinion, finger-pointing, and contempt. I pray that each of us would refocus our lives on the Prince of Peace, the Master of perfect harmony; learning his ways of honor, love, and respect. Disagreements are inevitable; ugliness is optional. May our discipleship lead us into that world we’re all dreaming of.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God.”
Matthew 5:9

Beauty gone missing

Theologians and philosophers in the West have hosted a thousand-year discussion on the absolutes of Goodness, Truth and Beauty. This Trinity of virtues has suffered a severe blow in today’s postmodern world, but Beauty – I believe – has suffered most.

In my lifetime the church has sponsored well-known crusades to champion absolute Goodness to our neighbors. We have mobalized over morals, vocalized over vices, and sermonized over sin. And while there’s no question absolute goodness demands warning our neighbors about transgressions, that in itself isn’t enough.

More recently we’ve begun to re-embrace absolute Truth. Thousands of websites now defend the Truth of the Faith, the Truth of our condition, and the Truth of Scriptures.  Ever since Josh McDowell published his 1972 bestseller Evidence that Demands a Verdict, the church has made a slow comeback in offering solid defenses for the One who is the Foundation of all Truth.

But our greatest failure, I believe, is in our neglect of absolute Beauty. To present a God who stoops, who humbly enters our darkness and takes our sins and sorrows upon himself, who suffers, dies and forgives … this is where we fail. Because beauty doesn’t lend itself well to words; it must become flesh and modeled among us. The tragic truth is that picketing, judging, debating, and boycotting are often more at home in today’s church than love, service, forgiveness, and humility. When a Mother Theresa occasionally enters the world of dying lepers or when a black congregation in Charleston forgives the white man who turned their Bible study into a massacre, the world sits up and catches it’s breath. But sadly these scenes are mostly rare, exceptional glimpses of Christian beauty.

The Gospel of the Kingdom is not only Good and True, but it is also Beautiful. Yet any Gospel presented apart from the beauty of a humble, dying God is incomplete and stunted.  In a world of offense, judgment, and fragmentation perhaps it’s time we began asking, “Are my Facebook posts beautiful?” “Are my protests and boycots beautiful?” “Are my political opinions beautiful?” If they are not, then maybe it’s time we backed away and examined our hearts, because our first and most powerful mission to the world is to reflect the beauty of our King.

“You will… be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God.”
Isaiah 62:3