Monthly Archives: January 2010

beginning to follow

Three men sat talking. Another man walked by.

“That’s the one I was talking about,” says one of the three. The other two start walking after the passing man.

He turns. “What do you want?” he asks.

Their first word, “rabbi”, says everything.

A rabbi was a teacher. Rather than sitting in a classroom with students showing up three hours a week, a rabbi lived and taught wherever. The students, the followers, the disciples, would follow all the time. They would watch what he said and how he said it. They would leave home so they could be near him all the time.

Imagine an internship with your most-admired business leader. Imagine being a personal assistant to your favorite rockstar, going on tour.

“I could never do that” we think. We have our lives to live and commitments to keep. As much as we would love to spend that much time learning to understand how our hero thinks, we just couldn’t.

But what if you could spend a week with David Allen, the guy who knows all about “Getting Things Done.” Yes, you can read his books, but what if you could watch him? What if you could point out what seems unrealistic, ask how he handles certain situations. Wouldn’t that be worth a week?

“Rabbi, where are you staying?” means that these two men want to spend some time with this teacher, finding out whether they want to follow Jesus.

Jesus offers a simple answer: “Come and you will see.” There is in this invitation an implied “I would like you to,” but there isn’t an obligation or pressure or threats.

There is merely an offer of relationship.

These two men had already committed their lives to learning from a master teacher.  Now they found the one to follow.

there He is

John – the one we know as “the Baptist” – had followers.

We don’t think about that, considering that he was a plain-speaking, rough-dressed, wilderness-living kind of guy. He’s the kind of guy that is interesting to visit, but “you wouldn’t want to live there.”

I think we don’t really understand John or his time.

His character attracted attention. His message, that the Kingdom was near, attracted hearts. People were not happy with their lives, not happy with trying to measure up to religious rules. He offered hope, wrapped in a lack of pretense.

Of course he had followers.

One day Jesus walks by. John has two disciples with him, learning, watching, listening. John points at Jesus and says, “there is the Lamb of God.”

The two disciples walk away from John and toward Jesus.

It feels peculiar. It seems like they should have been more loyal, that they should have stuck around.

But John’s whole message is “I’m here to point out the Light, the Lamb, the One.” When these two followers left, they were giving John the opportunity to live what he said he believed.

We worry about followers. We want people to listen to us, to pay attention to us. We want to be noticed, to matter. It’s a human thing.

But Jesus invites us to point people toward him.

It’s a funny thing, fame is, especially for people talking about Jesus. We (and I am one of those people) want to be clear, to be fresh. We want to help people understand Jesus. But then, when we are noticed, we can think that the attention is about us. If we work hard to attract more attention, it is about us.

John offers another way. Don’t worry about getting attention, just point toward the Lamb. That’s why we’re here.

think about it

“I’ve been thinking about what you said.”

“I’m gonna think about that.”

“Ever since you mentioned that, I’ve been thinking about that.”

“Remember how we were talking about that situation? I started wondering what would happen if we tried this.”

“I was sitting in that seminar and all of the sudden, something clicked. So I’ve been working through my schedule using the principles, and, well, I’ve made some changes.”

Sound familiar? Those are phrases we use when we’ve taken some words and wrestled with them.

Those are phrases that capture what God meant when he said to Joshua,

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

We read “meditate” and we think “silence” and we think “empty” and we think “how in the world am I going to sit around all day and do nothing but think about Bible verses?”

But that isn’t what Joshua did.

Right before God says this to Joshua, he says “get ready to cross the Jordan River.” Right after this, Joshua goes to the officers of the people and says, “go tell them to get ready to cross the Jordan River.”

Joshua lived an active life, leading a huge group of people in a major settlement project. He wasn’t sitting silently all day.

However, he was thinking about what he read, what he may have watched Moses write. He was wrestling with what God said and then looking for ways to apply it, to carry it out.

The invitation to us to meditate on God’s words, repeated in Psalm 1 and throughout Psalms, is to think them through, to understand the story, ask what they mean.

Constantly.

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For more on reading reflectively, see “The Heart of Lectio Divina

For more on where to start reading, see “Just dive in.”

On my reading list

I have a pile of books next to our bed. I have a pile of books in my office. I have a pile of books here above my desk at home.

I like to read. I like books.

I could list them for you. It would sound impressive.

Until you ask me about the books.

Then I would have to acknowledge that I haven’t read all of  them. They are on my reading list. “I am getting to that one next.”  “I know I have to read that one soon.”

If I were to be honest, I would have to admit that I have more time to buy books than to read them. If I were honest, I would have to admit that I like how it sounds to be able to say, “Yes, I’ve got that book,” — current, engaged, thoughtful, busy. If I were honest, I’d have to admit that a book on the reading list is irrelevant. It may shape your impression of me, or even my impression of myself, but it won’t shape me.

I’ve been thinking about this gap between books listed and books read for the past couple weeks, ever since my pastor and friend had us reading about Joshua.

After Moses is dead, God tells Joshua that he is the leader. God says, among other things,

Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.

A handful of books. Read regularly. Thought about constantly. Wrestled with, applied, learned, lived.

That’s what God was telling Joshua would direct him, shape him, guide him.

Not books on a shelf.

Apparently, just having a Bible didn’t count. Working to understand it does.

Not sure what to do

I’m trying to figure out what to do about Haiti.

I know. It sounds dumb. Like it’s up to me to figure out massive physical damage, horrible family destruction, ruined infrastructure. Other people are doing lots of things, from texting donations to holding prayer services. The denomination I’m connected to is looking long-term, planning to help people in Haiti help other Haitians.

At this point, I’m still trying to figure out what to do.

Part of the problem is that I don’t want to do the wrong thing. I don’t want to give in a way that is wasted. I don’t want to look at the long-term and not help people have the water that they need to get from now to then.

Part of the problem is that I know that the problems now are about logistics and political structures and how many planes can land on the runway. I can’t do anything about those issues. The decisions that resulted in this airport were made long ago.

And part of the problem, for me, is that as soon as I open my mouth, and heart, to think about the spiritual side of the situation, I will walk into complicated conversations.

  • Is this God’s judgment for some deal with the devil?
  • How can God allow disasters like this that kill people? I mean, in wars you can blame “man’s inhumanity to man.” But this? This is God, isn’t it?
  • Why do things like this happen to poor countries and to poor people in those countries?

I’m pretty sure I need to figure out how to do something. In Proverbs 17:5 we read:

He who mocks the poor shows contempt for their Maker;
whoever gloats over disaster will not go unpunished.

I need to help. I dare not say, “see what happens?”

My friend Cheryl Smith writes about one organization that was helping ahead of time. Read Positioning World Help for Haiti.

I talked about the idea of doing something in Something, a post about Matthew 25.