The promise and the fine print

Thoughts on Mark 10:28-31

The rich young man, who chose his many possessions over following you got the disciples questioning the possibility of entering the Kingdom of heaven. You assure them, “God makes the impossible, possible.” But Peter still needed clarification, he spoke for all the disciples when he described how they had left everything behind to follow you; businesses, fathers, political causes all now seen in the rear view mirror. Your tone sounds gentle and reassuring as you acknowledge their sacrifices and promise a sure future both now and in eternity. In this life the Kingdom will provide homes, families and lands beyond their limited, parochial world view. All who know and love you become family members, my home is theirs, theirs is mine. Letting go of earthly ties, frees me to receive eternal connections and provisions.

But there is a fine print on the promise: I’ll receive a hundred-fold return on my sacrifices, but I’ll receive it with persecutions. This word is used 10 times in the NT, each time associated with trouble received because of the Word of God. It is what Paul was carrying out on Christians as he was bound for Damascus. Jesus gives the disciples hope, they will be abundantly provided for in this life, but he gives it in the context of reality, they will suffer.

Wow. What does this mean to me, Lord? First of all, hold your belongings loosely, and be absolutely generous with them. All I have is loaned to me, I am a steward; my house, my husband, my kids, my work, my time, my money, all available to serve the Kingdom. And in some ways, an even harder lesson, I am to be willing to receive from others of their abundance when I am in need. Ouch, a lesson in humility.

Second, expect to suffer. What? The world will not understand or appreciate the nature of the Kingdom life and Satan, the great deceiver will stir up trouble. Don’t be surprised when troubles arise, worries lift their head, fear threatens. As Jesus said, “in the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I’ve overcome the world.” Troubles will pass, persecutions will end, but eternal life is  mine and it is increasing and is forever. Thank you and amen.

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How to be honored by God

Thoughts on Mark 8:34-9:1

If I’m serious about following you, I will deny myself (so no to my ego and my sinful tendencies), commit myself to choose to die (carry with me the awareness and means of death) and then go where you go, do what you do, let you lead. If I hang on to my own wishes, my own ways, my own sense of control, my life will be dead to joy and purpose. What good will it do me to be physically alive, but numb and dead inside? Besides there is no guarantee that all my attempts to determine the fate and safety of my life will pay off. I can’t control the circumstances of my existence. Death/illness comes unexpectedly and/or eventually. Unless I honor you and your words in the midst of this crazy, life, you will not honor me in your glorious life. I want to taste the power of the Kingdom Now. Thank you and Amen.

What’s in it for me?

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Luke 6:37,38

“What’s in it for me?” is often the primary concern of humankind. We ask, “How will this proposal benefit me and the ones I love?” Jesus, the wise teacher, understands this part of human nature, so he continues his instruction on becoming his follower with this enticement – You don’t want to be judged or condemned, do you? Then don’t judge or condemn. You want to be forgiven and receive good, don’t you? Then forgive and you’ll receive good things.

Jesus knows us so well, he uses even our selfishness to move us toward the Kingdom.

Jack and I after running the Race for the Cure (I'm a breast cancer survivor)

Jack and I after running the Race for the Cure (I’m a breast cancer survivor)

When I began running, it was with the goal of impressing my fiancee and getting in shape, not a very noble motivation, in fact, very me-centered. Over the years since I began this practice, it’s true, my relational and physical well-being have benefitted, but my motivation has shifted, now I run for the enjoyment and challenge of it. The discipline of running has made me a runner.

Practice not judging or condemning others, even if it’s imperfect in it’s motivation and you will become one who accepts others without condemnation. The more you offer forgiveness and good to others, the greater your capacity to receive forgiveness and recognize goodness.

He also told them a parable: “Can a blind person guide a blind person? Will not both fall into a pit? A disciple is not above the teacher, but everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher. Luke 39,40

Bernard of Clairvoux said, “What we love we shall grow to resemble.” Attach yourself to Jesus, let him be your teacher, he will not lead you into a pit. He knows the path and will guide you. Humbly, and imperfectly follow Jesus. Fix your eyes on him, mimic him, ask Jesus to make you “fully qualified and like him.”