Tag Archives: Jesus

Mal’s Challenge

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**Once upon a time, my husband started one of those blog things I’d never heard of and would sit in our little one-bedroom apartment taking much joy in conjuring up witty and insightful posts to share.  That was before the hurricane hit and kids started coming (seemingly by the half-dozen) and the 50-60 hour work weeks began.  He’s back today to share something from the heart.**

Guest Post by Jeffrey Hazleton

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

Captain Malcom Reynolds with his crew aboard Serenity

One of my favorite movies (and this is a rather vague label, as I have no certain list of favorite movies) is the 2005 film Serenity.  This film is itself a continuation (one blogger called it “a [wonderful] impossible fairytale ending”) of the cancelled television series Firefly.

The premise of both the TV show and the film is a “space cowboy” drama set 500 years in the future, Serenity is the story of the captain and crew of a transport/cargo ship.  Space ship, that is.

Their lives of petty crime are interrupted as they are swept up in a massive conspiracy.  Their government (the Alliance) has dispatched an operative to eliminate the threat that one of their passengers represents – a secret that, if known, might bring about the collapse of the ruling powers.

This operative is relentless in his pursuit and beyond remorse in the atrocities he commits to achieve his objective.  After one such event (he wipes out an entire city just so our heroes have no refuge to run to)  Captain Reynolds and his crew learn the origin of the conspiracy, which they investigate and confirm, to their horror.

In one of the defining points of the series, the movie, and the man himself, the captain tells his crew of his intention to act on behalf of those who have been victimized by the Alliance:

“This report is maybe twelve years old? Parliament buried it, and it remained buried, until River dug it up. This is what they feared she knew. And they were right to fear. ‘Cause there’s a whole universe of folk who are going to know it too; they’re going to see it.

Somebody has to speak for these people.

You all got on this boat for different reasons, but you’ve all come to the same place, so now I’m asking more of you than I have before — maybe all. [Because] sure as I know anything, I know this: they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten, they’ll swing back to the belief that they can make people … better. And I do not hold to that.

So no more running. I aim to misbehave.”
Video of Mal’s Speech

This is my favorite moment of the movie.  The scene gets me every time.  I feel Mal’s outrage at the injustice and understand his need to speak for and defend those who cannot help themselves.

In this speech, he reveals his philosophical difference with the ruling powers:  They believe they can make a better world by making better people.  He knows this is not the case.  You cannot make a person better.  All the evil the Alliance has done and hurt they have caused grows out of this humanistic philosophy.  And he is determined to put an end to it.

 I am determined to put an end to it.  This thinking that I can effect change in others by some strength of character or force of will or marvelous example of how to conduct oneself in life.

Here’s the point:  I am not commanded to do Jesus’ work, only to follow His example and keep His commands.  And that is why Malcolm Reynolds’ speech resonates so deeply with me.  I cannot make.people.better.  Whether it be my kids, my wife, my friends, my co-workers – whomever – I cannot change their heads or their hearts.  That is God’s job.

My job is to lay down my life, to embrace the death of self in the service of my King.  I am supposed to love God with everything I’ve got – heart, soul, mind, strength – and to love everyone else as much as I love myself.  But what does that look like?

In Matthew 9, Jesus

“went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”         Matthew 9:35-38

Jesus loved these people.  Loved them.  The word translated “had compassion” here means that he was moved in His gut for them.  He was touched to the core with concern for the people.  So what did He do?  He served them.  Did what He could to meet their needs.  Especially their eternal need – for a right relationship with God.  He proclaimed the Gospel of the Kingdom.

That is what I’m supposed to do.  See people as God sees them.  Broken and lost, in need of the Good Shepherd.  And then respond in compassion – serve them and give them hope – tell them about Jesus and the eternal difference He will make for them and in them.

It’s not my job to change people – to make them better.  No man can do that; only God can.  It is, however, my commission to love and serve everyone my life is connected to, to make disciples, teaching them to know and follow Jesus all the days of their lives.

 

 

 

 

Child Like

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 “And they were bringing the children to Him that He might touch them,…”

 This is what the hard-working man read to us as he was sprawled out on the off-white carpet, the rest of us gathered ‘round in half-circle, listening… some following along in Mark, tenth chapter.  We’d been camped out for weeks in the book of Mark during family worship each evening, taking it in slow and small and steady.

“…and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it He was indignant…”

 And the hard-working man stopped for a word lesson.  Little mouths repeated syllables and simple definitions were explained.

 Jesus was angry.

“… and said to them ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the Kingdom of God.’”

The Daddy sitting Indian-style looked up at eager faces.  “Now, who was bringing these children to Jesus?”

Voices erupted: “their parents”… “their mamas and their daddies”

“That’s right,” he said. “And why do you think they were doing that?  What did they want Jesus to do?”

There was a thoughtful pause.  Like we had never thought of that before.

 What exactly do we want Jesus to do when we bring our kids to Him?

The blue-eyed girl with glasses spoke up, “they wanted Him to touch them.”

She’d read it herself, right there in her pink Bible.

“Right.”  Her Daddy grinned.  “So when Jesus touched them, how do you think He did it?  Did He touch them like this?”

He motioned for the little blonde boy to come to him, so Carson walked up, eye-to-eye.  And his Daddy poked him on the shoulder.  “Did Jesus touch them like that?”

The room shook a little with giggles.

“Noooo!”

“Well, how then?”

Lilly jumped up, “like this!”  She walked on her knees to her brother’s side.   Pressed her cheek right up against his.  Wrapped her arms around him… another sister walked up and put her hand lovingly atop his blonde head.

And my smile snuck up on me.  Yes, that’s it.  Just like that.  So natural.  How did they instinctively know this?

“Yes,” he said. “But Jesus’ disciples didn’t want the kids to bother Jesus.  Maybe they thought He didn’t have time for this, so they tried to stop the children.  They might have told those parents, ‘take your kids away; don’t let them bother the Teacher.’”

There may have been some finger-wagging.

“But what did Jesus say?” he asked.

“Let the children come to me!” said Maggie.

“Yes!”  he said.

“… Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…”

 He leaned in for the question.  

“What does that mean- receive God’s Kingdom like a child?”

Silence.

They didn’t know.  Do any of us?

“Let me show you,” he said.  “Bring me one of Olivia’s toys.”

A lovie was fetched and he turned his attention to the little one toddling ten feet away from him.  He called out to her, and showed her his little gift.

Honestly, could it have been a more magical moment?  Like she must have seen a little bit of Jesus Himself sitting right there with her Daddy and the rest of us wore eyes of the blind.  When she turned around and looked at him, the giddiest giggle escaped her smiling lips, her face all lit like that…  Instantly she abandoned what had been holding her attention and she ran to him.  

She giggled the whole way.  Mouth wide open grin.  Arms thrown back.  Face to the Heavens.

My heart warmed.

And yearned.

Is this how you want us to come to you God?  Like this?  This is how we should receive all that you give us?  All of it?  With Abandon.

Joy.

Inhibition.

Radiance.

It’s a rare thing when we call one of our children and they come to us like this.

Rarer still that I go to Him like that.

Why have I robbed Him of that?

And when did I stop taking Him seriously when He said stuff like “whoever doesn’t receive the Kingdom this way shall not enter it”?

How many years have I just breezed over that part?

I want His Kingdom, for sure.  Count me in!  Called, chosen, forgiven, right?

Highway to Heaven, Baby.

I believed and received.  I prayed the prayer and got baptized and now my mansion is waiting for me in Heaven.  I’ll walk the streets of gold with Jesus and have a little Heaven on earth, too, because Jesus makes life better, sweeter, right?

All my troubles…. fade away?

Wait, what?

Was this the Kingdom of God or My Kingdom we were talking about?  It got a little fuzzy.

I got all caught up in my little blessed life and my super-awesome worship team and I forgot that Jesus said stuff like, “I’m sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves… and you will be hated by all for my Name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  (Matthew 10:16, 22)

Say what?  I was kinda thinking I could just have the good life.  Did I temporarily forget Jesus saying something like “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword…” ?(Matthew 10:34)

Maybe while I was enjoying my lattes at my 132 different Bible studies designed just for me and my season of life– maybe that’s when I got comfortable and didn’t think it really pertained to me very much when He said “whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew10:38-39)

When I started out on the journey to “seek first His Kingdom, and all these things shall be added unto you”, was I just seeking God so that I could have the second part – all these things?

Wait.  I know this stage… it rings familiar… these are growing pains I’ve experienced from the other side…

When some of my bigger kids were sweet toddlers they would run to me, cling to me… long to be held by me… reach up their arms to me… in the same way that that sweet baby now presses her face into my knee when I’m standing in a crowd… and she wraps those chubby arms tight around my legs… and then she looks up at me, those eyes piercing, and says determined, “ma ma!”  She knows I will stop whatever I’m doing and pick her up.  It’s her reward for seeking me out and calling my name.

 And that’s all she wants – for me to pick her up, and she rests her head on my shoulder.  Happy.  She has absolutely nothing to offer me.  No work that is handy or useful.  Even her attempts at helping just make more work for me.  She has no real offering of love or devotion.  Not even a promise voiced.

She is utterly dependent on me for everything and all she gives in return is all of herself.  Her laughter, her cries…. her messes, her smiles.  Uninhibited.  And she comes to me only wanting me.

My bigger kids did this too… until they were bigger… and then their want for Mama’s safe arms was slowly replaced by a want for things.  For a toy, a book, an activity.

But I’ll always miss them longing for just me.

Now I’m the child.  And He’s the Father.  And how long has it been since my face pressed in, determined?

How long since I longed?

 “And He took them in His arms, and laying His hands on them, He blessed them.”