Thursday, May 28, 2015
"...Levi got up, left everything and followed him."
It's a miracle, truly a miracle. I know we are often mesmerized by the water Jesus turns into wine, the thousands he feeds with very little, the dramatic healings, and Lazarus called out from the tomb. Without a doubt, those are spectacular. However, there is a miracle that I feel is often neglected in the story of Jesus, the miracle of "YES." Early in the story, Jesus is in search of some traveling companions, those that would commit to a journey of placing their feet wherever Jesus makes tracks in the sand. We learn quickly that Jesus doesn't often call the usual suspects, the power brokers, the religious professionals, or the ethically spotless. He calls misfits just like us.
In these stories, it says they "left everything and followed him." Right there! That's a miracle. Anytime a misfit leaves behind "everything" in purposeful commitment to Jesus something extraordinary has occurred. In our lives "everything" is captivating, alluring, often tethering us to the comfort of status quo in our lives. There is a seeming security in our "everything." To follow Jesus is to make the conscious decision to leave behind what I've known, who I've been, what I have, and what I've done. This departure is nothing short of a miracle.
What I've Known: Each of us have grown up throughout life with a set of beliefs about the "way things are in this world." We've inherited these from our upbringing, from the voices of authority in our lives, our experience, our prejudices, etc. However, to follow Jesus is to say "Yes" to learning to see the world how God sees it and not how I assume it should be. Leaving behind what we know can feel at first extremely disorienting, as though the haze has been lifted and for the first time we glimpse the world, our place in the world, and the people around us in a new way.
Who I've Been: Each of us have had identities constructed for us. In the story, Peter was a fisherman. Levi was a tax collector. With the assignment of these identities carries certain expectations and beliefs about potential, value, and promise. However, in following Jesus we quickly come to discover that the ways in which I've seen myself and the ways others have constructed my identity often have little to do with how Jesus sees me. When we commit to following Jesus we are leaving behind what I've known ourselves to be and stepping into who God calls us to be. This departure can feel as though part of us has died. That's true! The old identities have passed away and all things have been made new.
What I Have: Our possessions are often shackles that bind us to the status quo. Many potential traveling companions of Jesus have missed the call because they couldn't bring themselves to tear away from the tyranny of accumulation. When Peter is called by Jesus he drops the net that he'd fished with and earned his living. For some of us, that's easy, a net, no big deal. However, when Levi (Matthew) is called he leaves behind a table full of tax money, much of which he'd skimmed off the top for himself. He'd left behind the false security of his possessions. Following Jesus will often require us to travel light. It's not that we don't have stuff, it's just that our stuff doesn't have us.
What I've Done: Status quo is maintained through the rote performance of what I've always done and how I've always done it. We've learned habits in the ways in which we conduct ourselves, what has been acceptable, and the ways in which we've justified our treatment of others. To follow Jesus is to commit to a path of unlearning certain behaviors and actions and relearning those practices that most faithfully adhere to Jesus' pattern for life in this world.
As you can see, the journey into "Yes" means we leave a lot behind. Though painful at first, we come to discover that in "leaving everything" we actually gain so much more.
Have you had a miracle?
Saturday, May 16, 2015
"When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left until an opportune time."
I've come to learn throughout my journey of following Jesus that my definition of an "opportune time" and the devil's definition of "opportune time" are very different. When it comes to temptation, the opportune time for me is when I'm nailing it, right? Bring it on devil when I am in the Word everyday, when I am strong in my accountability with Brothers in Christ, when I am praying, serving faithfully, getting enough rest and taking care of myself physically. That's my opportune time! In those moments I am well prepared and ready for the tactics and ploys of the enemy. I can spot temptation coming from a mile away. I've fallen on my knees, taken it to Jesus even before it arrives. I have gathered my brothers and asked them to pray for me. I've even put on the the full armor of God found in Ephesians 6. That's the opportune time.
But not for the devil...
See he waits! In the passage of Scripture above, Jesus has been in the desert for 40 days, fasting and praying. Now note, the devil doesn't come on day 1 or 15. He waits until the defenses of Jesus are low. He's hungry, lonely, and tired. That's the when the devil jumps him. What I love about this story is that even in a vulnerable state, Jesus manages to fend off the temptations. But!!! And this is huge. The devil doesn't go away head hanging defeated. Instead, he bides his time, waiting for another opportune time to come at Jesus.
The opportune time for the devil is when our defenses are low. He comes at us when we've been lazy, complacent, discouraged, or disappointed. He lays in wait in the field of tall grass, waiting til the moment is right, when we've been taken off guard by something or someone. It's in that moment that the time is right! Then he pounces. Often when people fall to temptation, they say similar words, "I never saw it coming."
As followers of Christ, we are called in Peter's 1st letter to be "alert and self-controlled." That's the way of the follower, to be steady and ready for the tactics and ploys of the enemy. It also requires us to be self-reflective and honest. We must be aware of the situations and scenarios in our lives that make us particularly vulnerable to temptation. Awareness of our vulnerability is our humble recognition of our need for Christ, each and every day, We don't resist temptation through gusto and bravado, but through surrender and trust to/in Christ.
What makes it the "opportune time" for the devil in your life?
What situations make you prone to discouragement and disappointment?
What relationships lower your defenses?
What gets you easily distracted?
Have you surrendered each of these to Christ, today?
Are you well fortified and equipped for the onslaught of temptation or are your defenses low?