Prophecy Fulfilled?; Learning Under Jesus

Note: This series is written as a first-person narrative in order to present Jesus in the context he walked with the unknown disciple that narrates presenting my thoughts and sparking more thoughts with his questions. Enjoy.

We didn’t stick around long though. There was a plot to kill Jesus for shaming the Pharisees that day. We went to the nearby lake, however, a large crowd was following us.

“Is it true that he heals and casts out spirits?”, we were asked.
“Yes.”

People were coming from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan River in the Decapolis area, and north by the Mediterranean. Jesus told us to prepare a boat as the crowd grew and grew. People were crowding forward to be healed, reaching for him, desperate for a touch.

The demon-possessed fell down, screaming, “You are the Son of God!” as they left their victims. Yet, Jesus was telling people to be quiet about it, don’t tell others what he was doing.

“Why?” I asked our group.
Matthew answered after a moment, “This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope.

Everyone recognized that as from the prophet Isaiah.
“Isn’t that about Israel?” Thomas questioned.
“Yes, but Isaiah prophesized later that God said Israel failed. ‘“Hear, you deaf; look, you blind, and see!
Who is blind but my servant, and deaf like the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one in covenant with me, blind like the servant of the Lord?‘. Later God gave that mission to the Messiah to fulfill. ‘This is what the Lord says—the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the servant of rulers: “Kings will see you and stand up, princes will see and bow down,  because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.‘ I think this may be it.”

We stared at Jesus and wondered. Even more so when he started up the mountain without us…

Matthew 12:15-21, Mark 3:7-12, Isaiah 42:1-4, 18-19: 49:7

What Is “Thoughtful” Christianity?

At the start of the year, I began categorizing a lot of posts under Thoughtful Christianity. What do I mean by it?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines thoughtful as careful reserved thinking. Dictionary.com defines it as careful, heedful or mindful. How is this different from intellectual?

Because it’s not solely a mental pursuit driven by reasoning and curiosity. It is related to it by study, reflection, and speculation, but should also impact life itself.

An agnostic, Julian Barnes, wrote, “What’s the point of faith unless you and it are serious–seriously serious–unless your religion fills, directs, stains, and sustains your life?”

The Christian Paradox

Christianity is a paradox in that the Gospel is so simple that a child can grasp it, and scholars continue to debate it’s finer points. The lens I view the world is in how is Christianity relevant here, what would help, what’s going on, and what am I to do? That’s the steady hum of thoughtfulness going through my mind.

We like to build narratives to make sense of our lives, little mini-narratives, but there is a meta-narrative. Creation, The Fall of Man, Redemption, and Restoration. That encompasses the Bible thematically.

The Fall explains why the world is the way it is, and why humans are so self-centered that we can’t be left unchecked. Not even a multitude of laws can fix it.

Deeper inside is how it applies to us. My favorite is the Wisdom books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes along with the entire New Testament. In the Old Testament, you have a people trying (or not) to live according to God’s standards, and being unable to. Their lives are examples of good and bad decisions. Later in the New Testament, a hope is developed and brought to fruition in the New.

Immerse yourself in the story.

“But it’s just a story.”

It’s more, you can pursue a strong apologetic foundation to cement it in place. There are types you can pursue, the best when you can overlap them and it makes sense. Here are the different approaches:

  • Classical Apologetics: It focuses on arguments for the evidence of God along with historical evidence supporting the truth of Christianity. Two steps characterize it, theistic and evidential arguments. (My preferred area)
  • Evidential Apologetics: Focuses on the need for evidence: rational, historical, archaeological and experiential. It’s broad in scope.
  • Presuppositional Apologetics: Like it states, this area starts with a few presuppositions, like Christianity is true, and then argues the case. It’s broken into four areas itself: relational, rational, systematic consistency, and practical.

A blend is best. But my point is that you can go deep with Christianity. Want philosophy, go to reasonablefaith.org. Want to blend that with existential, go to rzim.org. Popular level classic apologetics, go to str.org and coldcasechristianity.com.

When you trust that it’s true, you’re more likely to live it. Just like you trust that if go on a trip, you’ll get there. You don’t know what’s along the way, only what you’re bringing with you, and where you’re going.

Breaking It Down

When you have the big picture, know the background, the cultural context, explore the areas that systematic theology explores; it opens up. A thoughtful Christianity is hard to shake. The deeper you dive, the stronger your foundations, the more it comes alive.

A simple way to start is to just ask yourself, “how does the Bible apply here” in various situations. Not just in commands, like most think, but an explanation for life. Why did that person do that? What is happening here? And so on.

You can go as deep as you want from there, the only hitch…you have to know Scripture. Go on and try it, let me know what you get.

Discipline; A Difficult Topic

Discipline isn’t a pleasant topic. As a kid, it comes in many forms: time out, grounding, spanking, or my dad’s favorite, a lecture. I preferred a spanking since it was over quicker.

Adults still deal with it, except our timeouts generally mean jail. Lectures come from spouses, friends, or authority figures. There are times it comes in the form of natural consequences, and those usually make the most impact.

There’s a reason for it, though.

Why Me?

cryingWhen we face hard times, we at one point may ask, ‘why me?’ The question comes out of three areas–a sense of helplessness, a narrow perspective on the matter, or a self-important view of oneself. Honestly, at times I waver between myopia and self-centeredness when dealing with work. I have an excellent support network at church and work helping me with that.

Hebrews 12:4-6 starts with a smack in the back of the head.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

I can read that in two ways, ‘quit whining, others are worse off’, or ‘you haven’t seen anything yet.’ Proverbs 3:11-12 gives a reason for the hard times.

My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

We are God’s children and he’s treating us as a parent would.

What Does Discipline Mean?

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father?
Hebrews 12:7

The Greek word is paideia—meaning correction or chastisement—and it’s used four times in Hebrews 12:4-13. The point behind it is to train us. Self-discipline is training you for a goal, discipline at work is to train you to be a good, valuable employee, and parental discipline is to train you how to live. Read the verse above again.

Discipline is training that corrects, molds, or perfects the mental faculties and moral character. Sometimes it’s as simple as telling someone no so they can avoid the negative consequences. To reach a point, if it’s set high enough, everything that doesn’t get you there you’ll have to say no to.

God the Father

A parent disciplines their kids, providing boundaries, rules, and correcting them when they stray. Every Christian is disciplined in this way (Hebrews 12:7).

Would you discipline another person’s kid? God wouldn’t. In fact, that’s how we know God’s our Father, in that he disciplines us.

If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
Hebrews 12:8

In hindsight, look at how your parents raised you. What good came from it? Were they perfect?

God is, so why aren’t we submitting to Him more so than our imperfect parents? They didn’t have the luxury of foresight that God has. That’s part of our hope, He sees the end, and knows what we’ll have to do to get there.

It Still Sucks

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Hebrews 12:11

The reason behind it is righteousness, which is that right standing with God came from Christ on the cross. The transformation to become like Christ is the harvest of discipline as we learn to go God’s way. A parent doesn’t forgive and lets you keep doing the same thing, they stop you. God’s not any different.

It’s training, the stress tests that show how strong or weak you are. Where are you strong at? How are you doing it?

Where are you weak at? What are you missing? Is it even beneficial? Is God in that area?

What to do?

Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
Hebrews 12:12

Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
and be steadfast in all your ways.
Proverbs 4:26

Practically, look at the stress points. They’re data. Look for the large patterns and signals, the small problems, rhetoric, and gossip is background noise.

Listen for real information (signal), not noise (generalization/what isn’t being said), and act. The only reason to react is in the event of a true emergency, and if you have redundancies built in, that should be rare. If God is in every part of your life, it will be even rarer.

What to do? This:

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
Hebrews 12:28-29