Jesus Loves Me

Jesus Loves Me

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him… (Mark 10:17-21)

When we read this account of the rich young man who approaches Yeshua, we tend to completely gloss over one little statement. After responding to Yeshua that he had been diligent in keeping the mitzvot throughout his life, it says that Yeshua “loved him.” He “loved him” because he knew that this young man was sincere in his service to Hashem. He “loved him” in that he was faithful in walking in obedience to the God of Israel. But he also “loved him” enough to speak to him with the gut-level truth when he told him the one thing he still lacked: to be radically sold out to the Messiah.

When we are faithful in the small things, we will be “tested” by with the reward of being given even greater responsibilities. C.S. Lewis, in The Horse and His Boy, from his Narnia series, tells the story of a boy named Shasta who had to experience very difficult things in his life. And just when he thought it couldn’t become any more difficult, the challenges increased exponentially. Here is an excerpt, which I posted previously, that illustrates what I am trying to say:

“‘If you run now, without a moment’s rest, you will still be in time to warn King Lune.’ Shasta’s heart fainted at these words for he felt he had no strength left. And he writhed inside at what seemed the cruelty and unfairness of the demand. He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another and harder and better one.”

The Mishna puts has an aphorism from Ben Azzai which states,

“Be eager to fulfill the smallest mitzvah and flee from transgression; for one mitzvah induces another and one transgression leads to another transgression. The reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah, the reward of one transgression is another transgression” (Avot 4:2).

Yeshua said it this way:

“You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

But the good news is that if we step up to the plate and meet the challenge, his response will be:

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ (Matthew 25:21)

I see myself in this young man to which Yeshua addresses in that I have been faithfully diligent in many things, but sometimes am not ready for the “reward.” I would like to sit back and rest, rather than meet another challenge. However, in regard to this young man, Yeshua “loved him.” Maybe this young man overlooked this just as I had. He didn’t realize the love Yeshua had for him and how the challenge was actually the reward. Yeshua “loved him” just as he “loves us.” Yes, Jesus love me… But he expects a radical commitment to himself. Are we up for the challenge, or are we walking away with our heads to the ground?

Balderdash or No?

man covered in dust

Let’s face it. There is a lot of “balderdash” or “urban legends” that circulate, particularly when it comes to religion. It seems there is hardly a week that goes by in which I do not receive some forwarded email from someone thinking they are doing me a favor by sending me an “inspiring” teaching on how the way Jesus folded the “napkin” after his resurrection alluded to his second coming, or how the blood of Jesus literally flowed down from the cross and onto the hidden Ark of the Covenant beneath the Temple Mount to make atonement for us. It’s just that way. Humans have an innate need for sensationalism to validate our paradigm. However, we need to know fact from fiction and need to always check our sources and be prepared to prove our outlandish propositions with evidence, if we make such claims.

This morning I came across a blog post from Lois Tverberg, which she recently posted as a response to another blog post from about a year ago which attempts to debunk the legitimacy of a popular rabbinic concept often used by Messianics in their teachings.

Back in April of last year, Trevin Wax (Managing Editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources) created a list of “urban legends” within Christianity. While the majority of these were great and need addressing, he included one that didn’t quite fit into the “balderdash” category. The concept he challenged was that of being “covered in the dust of your rabbi”, based off of Avot 1:4, which states:

Yosi ben Yoezer of Tzeredah said: Let your house be a meetinghouse for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.

Fortunately, Lois Tverberg and one other brave soul chimed in with a very thorough (but gentle) rebuttle, but seemed to be completely lost in the 211 comments that erupted from Trevin’s post.

I’m not quite sure why Wax thought this to be an urban legend, particularly since it is based squarely on a reliable Jewish text from antiquity, unless he was merely going on the misunderstanding of other misinformed bloggers who only had one desire: to attack Rob Bell and his use of the concept in his teaching (Dust – which I highly recommend). I think the real breakdown in communication came in that of the attackers thinking the more “Hebraic” or “Messianic” interpretation of this mishnah to be literal, rather than idiomatic. They seem to attack the concept of literally caking on dust while following your rabbi, particularly the origin of the phrase, “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi” (which is obviously a Rob Bell original).

This, however, is not the point of the mishnah. The point is that as disciples of our Master, we are to allow his teachings and his presence to “rub off” onto us so that we are better equipped to emulate him. We are to be constantly following him, constantly sitting at his feet in order learn from him, constantly looking for ways to imitate him. No, we shouldn’t grab a handful of dust and powder ourselves with it to feign our piety. We should, however, be getting a little dirty because of our concern for following our rabbi being greater than our concern for outward appearance.

Are you walking around squeaky clean, or are you beginning to collect the dust of your Rabbi?


ps. Dr. Tverberg – If you are reading this, I would be more than willing to post a review of your latest book, Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus, if I could get my pauperly hands on one (hint, hint).

What’s Stopping You?

One of this week’s mussar teachings from A Daily Dose of Torah (ADDT) references arguments & techniques of the yetzer hara (our “evil inclination” – or as Paul would say, our “flesh”) which keep us from achieving our potential. It summarizes it as follows:

The arguments and persuasive techniques of the yetzer hara are presented in two categories: (1) those that involve raising doubts about fundamental religious beliefs and faith; and (2) those that try to dissuade a person from concentrating on spiritual concerns, and urge him instead to focus on the physical and the self. 1

ADDT defines these things as things which raise religious doubts, and arguments which cause us to loose our spiritual direction. I would like to broaden these to two general categories. In a nutshell, the two things that keep us from fulfilling our divine purpose in life are Doubts and Distractions.

Doubts

We have all had doubts that creep in as to our purpose… Should we be doing this? Should we be doing that? Should we have done this? Should we have done that? Is this really the choice I am supposed to make? What if I’m wrong? The list goes on and on. Doubt is a huge factor in following the will of the Almighty. The problem with doubt is that it is so deceptive. In nearly every case, we can overcome doubt by looking at the possible outcomes of our choices, and the “what if” scenarios. “What if” we made this choice? “What if” we made that choice? Would it be a disaster? In some cases, yes, it would be. But in the vast majority of cases, no, it would not. It would just mean that we would fail trying to accomplish something. Therefore, our pride is the only thing standing in our way. Our pride guards our doubts, and therefore cripples us from ever really knowing if something was the will of the Almighty or not.

“…the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” (James 1:6)

I don’t believe that it is as much of waiting to hear clearly sometimes as it is taking initiative and allowing our Heavenly Father to open and close doors along the way. He can do much more with one who is in “drive” than in “park.” In other words, “Get off your duff, and go for it!”

Distractions

In regard to distractions, I think this may be the single-most pitfall of Western Christianity. We are so distracted by entertainment (and even “edutainment”) that the Adversary doesn’t have to work hard to keep us from fulfilling our purpose. Our X-boxes, Wiis, iPads and smartphones keep our minds revolving around things other than our spiritual needs. We are constantly being inundated by the TV as to what to eat, wear, & buy. Not only do we rush off to get the latest trendy gadget or hairstyle, but most of the time we view it as a “necessity.” What if we focused all of that time, energy & money on doing something that would have eternal repercussions? What if we weren’t so distracted from our spiritual purposes? The sages were unsympathetic in regard to making excuses for distractions:

Rabbi Jacob said: If a man is walking by the way and is studying and then interrupts his study and says: “How fine is this tree?” or “How fine is this plowed field?” Scripture regards him as though he was liable for his life. (Avot 3:9)

The author of the epistle of Hebrews says something similar:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

And then Paul admonishes us:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

So… we can either use our time to serve our flesh, or to serve our Heavenly Father.

Rabbi Yosi said… Let all your deeds be done for the sake of Heaven. (Avot 2:17)

Are you pursuing things that are eternal, or are you allowing doubts and distractions to direct your life? What if all believers across the globe actually lived out their faith every moment of every day? What if we actually put aside doubts & distractions to accomplish the work of the Kingdom? Wouldn’t that be strange…?

Wouldn’t It Be Strange

(by Charlie Peacock)

I’ve got a question for your consideration
I’ll make you privy to my contemplation
Let me say in my defense
I know it goes against all common sense

It’s not our nature
Not what we’ve been taught
Flies in the face of every lie we’ve bought
It’s hard to see it
Harder to explain
I know it cuts against the grain

Wouldn’t it be strange if riches made you poor
And everything you owned left you wanting more?
Wouldn’t it be strange to question what it’s for?
Wouldn’t it be strange?

I know we’ve got some interest to protect
A set of dots we’re committed to connect
It makes us nervous in light of how it’s been
To play a little game of pretend

Wouldn’t it be strange if power made you weak
And victory came to those who turned the other cheek
Wouldn’t it be strange to welcome your defeat
Wouldn’t it be strange?

Wouldn’t it be strange to find out in the end
The first will be the last and all the losers win?
Wouldn’t it be strange if Jesus came again?
Wouldn’t it be strange?

  1. The Kleinman Edition, A Daily Dose of Torah, Vol. 10, p. 139.