Posts Tagged With: selflessness

Luke 9: Take Up Your Cross Soberly

I was watching again the first of The Lord of the Rings movies recently (notable because I almost never watch the same movie twice), and I was struck by how Gandalf was both drawn to and terrified by the ring.  When Bilbo leaves it behind, does Gandalf want to take it up and wear it and even use it “for good” as he says later to Frodo?  Absolutely!  The ring is such that any being would want it.  Yet, Gandalf will never touch the ring.  He knows, no matter how good his intentions, the ring will corrupt him and, therefore, destroy him.

I see the same thing happening in this passage.  Not in Jesus.  He has it figured out.  But like Gandalf was teaching Frodo to fear the corrupting power of the ring, I see Jesus teaching his disciples that power can easily corrupt.

I see an earthly king, Herod the tetrarch, scared that he might lose his power to this new man everyone is talking about.  I see people who flock to Jesus for whatever his power can give them, whether healing, wholeness or food.  Who could blame them?  I see disciples given power to heal and exorcise, who are excited to tell Jesus what they have done (9:10, 36) but who want to press pause on ministry to tell glory-stories about themselves (9:12).  I see Peter marveling at the power and glory of Jesus on the Transfiguration and glad that he gets to be there to see it (9:33), as if the marvelous sight was the point itself.  And at the lowest point in the whole chapter, I see disciples arguing over which of them is the greatest, as if the point of the power they have been given in this chapter was for their own glory (9:46).  Then they are ready to use that power to call down destruction of people who reject Jesus (9:54).  They have drunk the heady draught of power and have become intoxicated.

In the midst of all of this is a teacher who forbids his followers to tell others what they have seen and learned (9:21), who tells them he is getting ready to die, not revolt against Rome (9:22, 44).  Here we have a Master who practically tries to dissuade people who want to follow him, saying the cost is very high (9:57-62).  And also in this chapter are these famous reminders that the way of Christ is about sacrifice, self-denial, and service not power and glory:

“If any of you want to come after me,” he said, “you must say no to yourselves, and pick up your cross every day, and follow me.  If you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me, you’ll save it.  What good will it do you if you win the entire world, but lose or forfeit your own self?” (9:23-25)

“Whoever is the least among you — that’s the one who is great.” (9:48b)

Power only ever belongs in the hands of those who can carry it for a while, for the benefit of others not themselves, and who honestly see the “cross” they carry for what it is: an instrument of possible destruction and a vehicle of potential grace.  We dare not take up the cross of ministry, with the power and glory it can bring, lightly.

What stood out to you in this chapter?

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Philippians 2: Look Out for Others, Not Yourself

All day long we are feed the message that if we want to be happy and content we will have to have what we want.  In marketing it is called the “you sale.”  Buy this product and you will be happy.  Wear this product and you will be more attractive and self-assured.  Go into debt to get a bigger or better one of these and you will find peace.  You want it.  Or maybe you even deserve it.  You’ll be happy when you get it your way.

Be sure to read the fine print! WOW!

Then Paul comes along, claiming as he has that he had discover how to be content, and he says this:

Bring your thinking into line with one another.  Here’s how to do it.  Hold on to the same love; bring your innermost lives into harmony; fix your minds on the same object.  Never act out of selfish ambition or vanity; instead, regard everybody else as your superior.  Look after each other’s best interests, not your own. (2:2b-4)

Secret to Contentment #2:  Stop trying to find contentment in self-fulfillment.  You will be happiest when you serve others and pursue their best interests.

What did you see in this chapter about contentment?

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Mark 8: Jesus’ Core Teaching

He called the crowd to him, with his disciples.  “If any of you want to come the way I’m going,” he said, “you must say no to your own selves, pick up your cross, and follow me.  Yes: if you want to save your life, you’ll lose it; but if you lose your life because of me and the message you’ll save it.  After all, what use is it to win the world and lose your life?” (8:34-36)

This one just has to be the passage highlighted today.  They are not comfortable or easy words, but this saying of Jesus is the most often stated saying in the gospels.  It appears six times in some form or another.  Not John 3:16.  This one about self-denial.  Interesting!

What caught your eye today?

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Mark 6: A “Deeply Sorry” Giver

“All right,” Jesus said, “it’s time for a break.  Come away, just you, and we’ll go somewhere lonely and private.” . . . When Jesus got out of the boat he saw the high crowd, and was deeply sorry for them, because they were like a flock without a shepherd.” (6:31, 34)

Well, I am afraid I wouldn’t have been feeling “deeply sorry” for those crowds if it had been me.  Maybe, resentful.  Fed up.  Used.  I think I could have mustered up one good martyr syndrome at that point.  I think I would have gotten back in the boat and rowed faster, somewhere else.

I don’t like this sort of all-consuming busyness Jesus seemed to be in the middle of.  (Okay, maybe my ego does a bit, but that is a different post).  Crowds pressing in.  More and more demands on my time.  Everybody wanting something more from me.  I plain hate it.  It turns me into a grump.  It makes me less human and humane.

And I guess the more I think about it, it makes other people less human to me too.  They become a deadline or a need to fulfill or a to-do list item.  They become work.  I don’t like to admit that, but I don’t think I am alone in this pathology.

Jesus just wants a little recuperative time with friends.  This is absolutely essential for a healthy spiritual life.  And Jesus regularly took such time.  Maybe the constant crowds are what drove Jesus to seek solitude early in the morning and late at night.

Still, he saw their needs and was filled with compassion.

In one way, Jesus’ death didn’t first happen on a cross.  It happened as he stood at the edge of Heaven just before his birth when he “emptied himself” of his glory and took “the very nature of a servant” (Phil. 2:6-7).  Death occurred in the desert with Satan as he took the hard, sacrificial, life-giving way to recognition, power, and popularity.  Death happened once more this day on the seat of a small fishing boat as they pulled into a small port hoping to find solitude only to be greeted by the hungry masses looking for a meal.  Maybe compassion will not come until we begin to die to our own wills.

Easier said than done, I know.

What situation in your life today needs a “deeply sorry” response, not exasperation?  

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