Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blessed Are The Persecuted: How to know you are on the right track.

"Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."- Jesus (Matthew 5:10)

Persecuted, can be defined as: Being subjected to hostility or ill-treatment.

Righteousness, can be defined as: Adhering to moral principles. 

In the above verse Jesus is basically saying: Blessed are those who because of adherence to (my) moral principles, are subjected to hostility and/or ill-treatment. In the world we live in we are constantly expected to "fit in". By following Jesus and his moral principles, however, we will often find ourselves NOT fitting in with those around us. This often leads to persecution. Whether physical or verbal, persecution can and will come to those who are different. 
     What are some of the ways in which we may look or act different than others? In the previous verses of Matthew 5, Jesus lists 7 other traits or mindsets, followed by a natural blessing for each. Let's look at a couple:

               Blessed are the meek (Quiet, gentle, and easily imposed on)
               Blessed are the merciful ( those who give mercy)
               Blessed are the peacemakers (those who seek peace through sharing God's love)

     Are either of these 3 attributes normally praised in our society today? How about in the church? Do we as the body of Christ seek to be meek, merciful, peacemaking people? To the extent that we do, we will look different. We will look different than the rest of the world. We will look different than alot of the Western, nationalistic,moral guardian, control-seeking church we find ourselves in today. But that's ok. If by following Jesus, we look, act and believe different than the world (and oftentimes church) around us, and as a result are treated with distance and hostility, we can be confident we are on the right track.  
      Jesus said in John 15:20, "Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also."

     So, there are two responses others will have when confronted by our Jesus-like lifestyle. They will either persecute us (because they persecuted Jesus as well), or they will accept and obey Jesus' teaching. Let us not be afraid of looking, acting, and believing differently than others, because of our commitment to following Jesus. We can be confident that when we find ourselves in the midst of persecution, (however and by whoever it is manifested towards us) we are on the right track.

     My challenge to you is to examine your life. Are there areas where you are holding back from following Jesus for fear of persecution? Pray that God will give you the desire to follow him without fear of persecution. Pray that through His Spirit you will have the strength to be the different, counter-cultural, anti-religion-pro-relationship, disciple that he calls you to be.
     Are you currently being persecuted (singled out, picked on, joked about, ignored, abused) because of your different lifestyle and beliefs? Amen ! You are on the right track. You are blessed, and "yours is the kingdom of heaven" !

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Disciple or Hypocrite

     So, before we dig into the teachings of Jesus, I feel we should make sure our heart and desire is in the right place. We should ask ourselves, do I really want to follow Jesus? In this article I want to take a look at the kind of person Jesus wants us to be ( a disciple), and the kind of person he calls us not to be (a hypocrite).
     First off, let's define some terms.

Disciple can be defined as : "One who submits themselves to the discipline or training of another". In this case specifically, one who submits to the training or teaching of Jesus. That is what I mean when I talk about being a disciple of Jesus. Other synonyms of disciple are : follower, adherent, pupil, learner, apprentice.

Hypocrite can be defined as: " A person who indulges in the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one's own behavior does not conform." To put it simply, claiming to believe or do one thing, but then not doing it.

Here's an example of the difference between the two:

Jesus said: “Tell me what you think of this story: A man had two sons. He went up to the first and said, ‘Son, go out for the day and work in the vineyard.’
29 “The son answered, ‘I don’t want to.’ Later on he thought better of it and went.

30 “The father gave the same command to the second son. He answered, ‘Sure, glad to.’ But he never went.

31-32 “Which of the two sons did what the father asked?” (Matthew 21:28-32, The Message)
     Let me rephrase Jesus' question: Which son behaved as a disciple, and which like a hypocrite?
Jesus calls us to not just mentally, verbally, or physically claim to be "glad to" do what he asks (like the second son). He calls us to action, to obey what he asks and commands of us (like the first son). If we say to Jesus, "Sure, glad to" follow you, we must make sure we put our money where our mouth is, so to speak. Anything else is hypocrisy.
     The question then becomes, do you want to follow Jesus? Do you want to follow what Jesus teaches and commands us to do even if it may come at personal cost to you? I pray we can get to that point together. Maybe some of us aren't there yet. Maybe we look at our lives and see places where we are being a hypocrite and not a disciple. If so, that's ok. At least be willing to admit to yourself and to Jesus (hint, he already knows) whether you are following him or not.
     If you find yourself in that place of realizing there are areas where you are not truly following what Jesus asks of us, would you pray this prayer?

     Here it is:  Jesus, help me want to want to follow you. Help me turn from being a hypocrite and submit myself to your discipline and teaching,wherever it may lead. Amen.

If you want to be a disciple, if you are ready to follow the teachings and way of life taught by Jesus, take the next step. Open your Bible to Matthew,Chapter 5 (or any Red Letter, words of Jesus), and do what Jesus says. It's that simple. That's what it means to be a disciple.

Blog Reboot, The Rejected Path

“The one who listens to you, listens to me. The one who rejects you, rejects me. And rejecting me is the same as rejecting God, who sent me.”- Jesus of Nazareth

I've had a desire to change the direction of my blog in recent weeks so I decided to start over with a fresh look and name. My old blog, The Grey Things ,was a place for general discussion on grey theological issues that have often seemed to divide Christians. If it was profitable to others or not I can't be sure. What I am sure of is that in recent months it turned into more of a place for my rantings or personal updates about my life and spiritual journey. I now have a clearer vision as to what I want my blog to be about . Thus, I felt it needed an official change of direction.
     To start: What's with the name?
The new title, 'The Rejected Path', encompasses the 3 areas I want my blog to focus on.

#1 My personal rejection of the path of this world. My rejection of the violent, nationalistic, empire-worshiping, idol making, legalistic, self-serving, "us vs them", ways of this world . This will serve as my soapbox to share what is going on personally and spiritually in my life. I hope to share my experiences on the path of being a Jesus follower. To start, check out my previous post about my conversion From Soldier to Pacifist .

#2 The rejection of Jesus Christ by the majority of the world, throughout history, and during our Post-Christendom age that we now live in.

#3 Probably the most important aspect of this 'Rejected Path': The ignorant and sometimes willful, ignoring or rejection of Jesus' ethical and moral teachings by the "Christian" church for the last 1,600-1,700 years. I'm not talking about the Jesus who came to the world to die on a cross to save lost sinners from hell (not many people have missed that one). I'm talking about the Jesus who said :

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations...teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18 and 20)

What were these commandments ? I don't know about you but we don't often hear about the "red letters" (most modern bible translations highlight the words of Jesus in red) and what they say about how we should live. So that's what I plan to do. I want to talk about the Jesus who offered not only salvation of our souls from some kind of eternal damnation, but commanded a new way of life, a new ethic for how to live in His kingdom. Brian McLaren, captured what I'm getting at when he said:

"In Protestant denominations it's very hard to find people who take Jesus' teachings and the Sermon on the Mount, and Jesus' example of nonviolence, seriously" .

So, welcome to The Rejected Path. I hope to get some more topical posts up soon. I pray that together, we can take an honest look at our lives, the teachings of Jesus, and try to grow closer to the way of life he offered 2,000 years ago that has been so often overlooked, explained away, or rejected. Whether you are Christian or not, Protestant or Catholic, Democrat or Republican, Gay or Straight, Pro-life or Pro-choice , it doesn't matter. We can all answer the call of Jesus, "Come, follow me". In following Him, we can find the place to work out our differences, to grow closer together, united by the call of the rejected Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth.     .