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Archive for August, 2009

The Challenges of Discipleship: The Sweet Yoke of Love

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30)

My Fellow Pilgrims,

Sweet Yoke of Love

Sweet Yoke of Love

From a worldly point of view, offering someone to live his/her life yoked to another person is not exactly a very appealing offer even to the farmers of Jesus’ day. Of course they knew that new oxen were trained by yoking them to an ox that already “knew the ropes” so to speak. But the analogy was still rather a shocking way of attracting disciples.  Even today we are still taken aback by the metaphor even though we understand that it refers to the relationship that is required if one wishes to enter into a life of discipleship with Jesus.

However, if we try to understand what true discipleship entails it turns out to be a very enticing offer.

All Christians are called to discipleship, and many of us (like myself) are merely wannabe disciples. The main reason for this is that true discipleship involves a total giving of ourselves in Love – a total giving that asks us to be conformed to Christ and not to the world in which we live. Thus, although we may have a deep desire to be in a discipleship relationship with Jesus, our worldly attachments are formidable barriers to achieve this in our lives.

As an example let us look at the story of the rich young man who also was a wannabe disciple.:

And behold, one came to Him and said,  “Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may obtain eternal life?” And He said to him,  “Why are you asking Me about what is good? There is only One who is good; but if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him,  “Which ones?” And Jesus said,  “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; Honor your father and mother; and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to Him,  “All these things I have kept; what am I still lacking?” Jesus said to him,  “If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard this statement, he went away grieved; for he was one who owned much property.

(Matt 19:16-22)

The first thing one notices about this exchange is that Jesus only asks the young man about the commandments dealing with our relationship with others but NOT His relationship with God. Jesus does this intentionally because He knows that this young man is sincere in attempting to keep the Law with regard to his relationship with others but He also knows that if He asks Him about his relationship with God He will attempt to justify himself because, inadvertently perhaps, He is not keeping the Law with regards to God and doesn’t want to admit this to himself. This is brought out when He asks him to sell all that He has and to come and follow Him. The young man went away saddened because the challenge that was placed before him by Jesus revealed that his possessions were really his ”god” and that these were controlling his life rather than the Only God, the God of Israel.

If we analyze our consciences carefully we will find that there are many attachments in our lives that similarly control us and keep us from giving ourselves totally to God, which is what true discipleship requires. Things like our business, our occupation, our family, our politics, and our hobbies can take over our lives to the degree that they control us. None of these are necessarily bad in themselves but because we give ourselves over to these things instead of seeking FIRST the Kingdom of God they become impediments to our spiritual growth and we place ourselves in bondage to the things of this world. With appropriate spiritual guidance, however, we can overcome the bondage these things impose on our lives and come into true discipleship.  Yes, through Jesus we can overcome the world even as we live in the world to proclaim the Good News of Salvation.

That is where the Yoke comes in!

If we yoke ourselves to Jesus and live our lives in a walk that is closely linked to Him He will guide us and deliver us from the bondages the world has placed on us. In being yoked to Him, He will transform our thinking about how to live in the world without being conformed to the world. Instead, we will find our freedom and find ourselves being conformed into His Image day-by-day.

So if you are a wannabe disciple (like I am) being yoked to Jesus is a very enticing offer!

The Lessons of the Yoke: The Obedience of Love

Now, It must also be said that in being yoked to Jesus you begin to learn some spiritual principles that are clearly opposed to the world’s way of thinking. Some of these are: Faith brings you to Love and love brings you to obedience and obedience brings you to freedom!

As strange as it seems (from a worldly point of view), Freedom, Faith, Obedience and Love are all interdependent and connected to one another. You cannot have true Love unless you are free and believe in the One to whom you are giving yourself to. And you cannot claim to express that Love through your life if you live a life that is not in accord with that which the One who Loves you desires for you. This is the Obedience of Love.

True Love, the Unconditional Agape Love, that God gives us and the Love that the Father desires of us, requires a freely given act of the will.

It cannot be forced, enticed or coerced.  It must be given freely because true and pure Agape Love is the unconditional giving of ourselves to God.

You cannot therefore truly Love God unless you are free to express that love in the total giving of yourself to Him.

This kind of giving goes against our human nature and so the only way that we can decide to give ourselves to God is through Faith – Faith in Him, faith in His Word, and faith in His Love.

Like wise, you cannot truly give yourself to God unless that love is in consonance with His will and you hold back nothing that is in you from Him.

Because it is in obeying the One you Love (God) that you fully express the gift of yourself through your obedient actions and response to His Love.

That is why Jesus tells His disciples that …

“If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14 23))

Now, that is a very high bar which none of us has the ability, in our human nature, to achieve.  Thankfully, in His Mercy and Love, the Father also provides the means to achieve the level of Love He desires of us. He does this by first of all giving us the faith we need to believe in His Divine Son, Jesus, and then by pouring His Divine Agape Love into us through His Spirit, the Spirit of Love (Rom. 5:5).

So now, I hope I have made It clear, that in yoking oneself to Jesus you are yoking yourself to God’s Love. And since Divine Love never fails you also, will never fail to come to the place in discipleship where the Father wants you and where you will accomplish His purposes by the power of His Spirit and for the Glory of His Name!

May it always be so forever, Amen and Amen!

Bartimaeus

Related Links:

The Narrow Gate

Walking The Walk

The Challenges of Discipleship

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PS:  I add the following scriptures for you wannabe disciples that  are considering being yoked to Jesus.  These scriptures clearly lay out for you the Commitment of Love, that is, the Yoke of Love.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete. “(John 15:9-11 NRSV)

“Beloved let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us.” (1 John 4:7-12, NRSV)

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father has sent his Son as the Savior of the world. God abides in those who confess that Jesus is the Son of God, and they abide in God. So we have known and believe the love that God has for us.” (1 John 4: 13-16, NRSV)

“God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness on the day of  judgment, because as he is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The  commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also”. (1 John 4:16-21, NRSV)

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2009].

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My fellow pilgrims,

The other night I was watching a documentary on television regarding the piano performances of a musical genius and how he led a group of gifted students he was teaching to be able to reach their full potential.

The Music of God is in His Word

The Music of God is in His Word

In one scene, he was interacting with one of his students explaining to him how the notes of a particular Beethoven concerto were to be played. He told the young genius he was teaching that, “… in order to give each note its proper meaning and interpretation, the crucial elements to bring the music to life were the appropriate timing, emphasis, and spacing with respect to the total composition”. “However,” he added, “in order to determine what is ‘appropriate’ you must give your total self over to the music so that it lives in you and you become one with the music. Only in this way can the ‘appropriate’ spirit of the music itself be captured.”

“You cannot bring forth the true purity of the meaning of each note”, he continued, “and its place in the composition unless you have completely died to yourself, forgotten who you are, whatever personal situations you are enduring outside of the concert hall, and even why you are here in the concert hall. You must be so completely absorbed in the music that, as you perform it, that it becomes your life and your life is poured into that music.”

In the same way, brethren, we have been called to bring to life the “music”of the Word of God as it is played through the instrument of our lives. This is not achieved by merely reading the scriptures like a piano score that we learn by rote and never touch the keys of the piano or some other instrument. And even then, just technically touching the right keys will not really reproduce the spirit of the composition itself.

The author’s intent is that we identify with His Spirit as we attempt to perform His composition through the instrument of our hearts and lives. Thus, in giving ourselves over to the “music” of His Divine Love, which is the essence of His Word, that music permeates our lives and resonates in the hearts of those whom the Lord brings into our sphere of influence.

We achieve this only by dying to ourselves and the circumstances that constrain us. In doing so we open ourselves to the Spirit of the Author and thus permit Him to manifest Himself in our lives so that through HIM we may truly live out the Word of His Divine Love!

Without wishing to belabor this metaphor too much further, I must note, that before my spirit was revived through the Baptism of the Spirit, I was very much like a musical illiterate. Because I could I not read the score (His Word), I had no way to know what to play on the instrument of my heart. And if I did try, it did not turn out very well.

After I received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, one of the gifts I received was that I found that not only could I read the “music” of the Word but was also able to play that music on the instrument of my heart! So now when I meditate on His Word, the sweet music of His Love resonates through my entire being: body, soul, and spirit to the Glory of His Name!

Yes, my brethren, there is a hearing beyond hearing, just as there is a seeing beyond seeing, and an understanding beyond our human understanding. And these spiritual gifts are freely given to us by the Holy Spirit when we truly repent of the sins of our fallen sate, receive the forgiveness that Jesus offers through His blood, accept Him as our savior and Lord, and receive the Holy Spirit of Promise so that we can truly fulfill our calling as disciples of His Love!

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2Cor. 4:6-7)

Be very careful, then, how you live
— not as unwise but as wise,
making the most of every opportunity,
because the days are evil.
Therefore do not be foolish,
but understand what the Lord’s will is.
Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery.
Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,
always giving thanks to God the Father for everything,
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(Eph. 5:15-20)

Praised Be His Holy Name! Amen and Amen!

Bartimaeus

© B.R.Timeo and Bartimaeus’ Quiet Place, [2008-2009].

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Prayer: Our Response to God’s Call to Intimacy

By Jorge Madrid Sr. (Posted with author’s permission)

If you have ever felt a tug at your heart to experience a level of prayer that takes you beyond the rote repetition of formalized prayers you should consider that it is the Lord who is urging you forward.

When you clasp your hands open your heart!

When you clasp your hands open your heart!

It is the way the Lord calls us to a more intimate personal relationship with Him. It is He who is saying to you. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”(Rev. 3:20).He is calling you to intimacy through personal one-on-one two-way prayer. Will you disappoint Him? Will you not open the door of personal intimate prayer?

Formal prayer plays a key role in communal or liturgical prayer because it is necessary that all in the praying community be united in a particular prayer. Either we sing or recite the same prayer or add our agreement to the prayer with an “Amen”. Without detracting for the need for communal or liturgical prayer, we must understand that the strength of our communal or liturgical prayers is directly related to the intensity of each individual’s personal prayer life. As a community we are instruments in bringing God’s glory into our services. This happens when a sufficient number of individuals in the community bring the prayer energy of their personal prayer life to the community service.

When non-praying or skeptical individuals come into a truly anointed praise and worship service, the Holy Presence breaks down their defensive composure against anything spiritual and the Holy Spirit begins a work of conviction in them to bring them to conversion or renewal. Knowing, then, the importance of personal prayer, it behooves us to always pray from the heart because sincere prayers from our hearts are the ones that what reach God’s heart.

When we enter into personal prayer, the use of formula prayers tends to stilt or limit rather than enhance our personal dialogue with God. Let us remember that prayer is the means with which we actualize our personal relationship with the Divine. Like all such relationships the more personal we can get the better. Since our Creator knows all our words even before we initiate them it is clear that the Lord does not need to hear our uttered prayers no matter how beautifully worded they are. What He is looking for is the prayer of our hearts. This means that our spoken or verbal prayers need to flow from our hearts and not from our minds. Formal prayers can be of value at this personal level only if we have made them our own. That is, we should have meditated sufficiently on the words of the prayer that it conveys the deepest expression of our hearts. If we sense the words don’t quite express what is in our hearts then we change the words as the Spirit gives us utterance.

Because God looks at our hearts sometimes even words can get in the way. There are times when the most appropriate prayer is the prayer of silence where we merely present ourselves before God for our spirits to commune with His Spirit without any words to spoil the purity of the communications. As we become more comfortable with the Lord in prayer we will find that although we may still initiate our prayer time with a heart-felt formal prayer, we will enter into His presence with a time of silent reflection during which we open our hearts before Him.

One way with which this opening of our hearts will come is by meditating in silence on His presence and our deep desire for His Person apart from any petitions or concerns. By quieting our own minds and putting aside our worldly concerns we make ourselves available to hear the voice of the Lord within our spirits. Once we sense His presence our prayer can be as simple as Samuel’s prayer: “Speak Lord, for thy servant is listening” or “Jesus”. At this point your spiritual dialogue with Jesus will begin.

Another way to open our hearts to Him is to quiet your mind and imagine yourself in a setting where the Lord is present to you. As you look into His face you sense His compassion and love for you as he reaches out His hand to your shoulder. Immediately, those things which have been burdening you come out of your mouth. As you tell him about the deepest feelings of your heart, He begins to tell you of His Love and how He wishes you to respond to His Love through the circumstance you are facing. As you converse with the Lord you find your concerns fading into the background and your attraction to the person of Jesus increasing until you throw yourself into His arms and embrace Him with a Love that you did not know you had in you!

Because of our confused understanding of prayer, we have come to believe that the only function of prayer is to petition the Godhead for our needs or the needs of others rather than purely for the delight of communing with the Lover of Our Souls. If we come from a liturgical tradition we also are trained to find some kind if a formal prayer written in beautifully expressive language that expresses something close to what our petition encompasses. And so we have books that are collections of such prayers that we rely on in our attempt to express the yearning of our hearts to God who already knows those yearnings better than we do. Sometimes we use a mechanically repetitive prayer as a means of attempting to communicate our petitions to God as if somehow the repetition of the words will emphasize the sincerity of our prayer and convince God of our need.

I think that the Lord winks lovingly at our uninformed piety and answers us just because he sees the intentions of our hearts and in His compassion understands that we really don’t know any better. We also sometimes think that God will not listen to us personally because we are imperfect sinful creatures and that we must therefore find someone who is “better” than we are to intercede for us before God. In the truth expressed in His Word we find that God the creator of the Universe, the God who created us, is more desirous than we are to have an intimate communion with each of us, a communion that liberates us to fellowship with Him in a way that cannot be imagined by our religiously organized mentalities.

It is true that sin and our own hardness of heart are barriers to this fellowship with Him. But they are barriers we ourselves create, not God. In fact God loves us so much, he has provided the means for us to clear out these barriers. He has done this through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. Jesus, who continually intercedes for us before the Father so that nothing can interrupt our fellowship with the Father. It is because of the Precious Blood of Jesus that every believer can come before the throne of the Almighty and enjoy fellowship with Him! All we need to do to enter this supper of divine fellowship is to consciously and verbally open the door of our hearts to Jesus. Acknowledging our need for Him to clear out the barriers of sin that encumber us and to maintain a loving fellowship with our fellow believers in His Name. Of course we must also invite the Holy Spirit into our supper with the Lord, since it is the Holy Spirit who reveals the person of Jesus to us. If we do this we are ready to enter into a new and wonderfully intimate relationship with our God!

Once we begin our revived prayer life we soon find that although we have concerns we leave these behind when we enter into His throne room and we immerse ourselves in His Presence enveloped in His Love. Then, as we interact with Him during our intimate prayer time, He will ask or bring to mind our concerns. He will also add to our list some concerns we had not even thought about. It is then that we present them to Him, knowing that if He places a concern in our hearts then we can be assured that our petitions have been heard. Our role, then, is to be His instruments in bringing forth His Kingdom by permitting Him to perform the very things He has already, in His sovereign will, determined to do. He merely desires us to be His partners in the manifestation of His Kingdom

(excerpted with permission from “Thy Kingdom Come” by Jorge Madrid Sr.; © 2003 Madrid Family Trust, all rights reserved)
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