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Much like most international fellowships in the world, ours here in Penang tends to scatter throughout the world for the summer and then regather when the school year starts up again in August. Our shepherd had what I think is a really great idea for us to stay connected and maybe even connect in new ways throughout the summer. We are reading through the Gospels and reading the book, The Jesus Way($), by Eugene Peterson together, and he has created a reading schedule and a blog where we can discuss the book and what we are learning as we go through it. Personally, I think this is a brilliant idea, even if we weren’t scattering for the summer. As a mom of little people, I rarely am able to connect well with people on Sunday. I feel scattered and usually have to nurse and I’m honestly doing really well if I’m able to connect with the Lord during that time. Connecting with people is a major bonus that may or may not happen on any given week! So having an avenue for connection that I can participate in while I’m at home nursing or on my computer late at night after everyone’s in bed really excites me.
I missed the original announcements that we were doing this. (See my note above about being scattered on Sunday mornings!) 🙂 So I got started a week late. I am absolutely loving this book, and I’m also loving having a Bible reading plan with a little built-in accountability. Knowing that I’ll get behind really helps me do my Bible reading when I don’t feel like it! So far, I love the book so much that I have more to say than is really cool to say in the comments section of someone else’s blog. (Who wants to read a comment that has five or more paragraphs, right?) So I thought I would do a post each week of my thoughts, and then maybe I’ll just share a summary of them on his blog. I think everyone there will appreciate that! 🙂
The premise of the book is that Jesus being the Way as he claims to be in John 14 means much more than His just being the way to heaven; it means that He is the way we need to live each moment of our lives. This seems really obvious to me now that I’ve read it and written it, but I have to admit, it felt like a pretty revolutionary thought when I first read it. The Lord has been teaching me a lot lately (from the books The Peacemaker($) and The Transforming Power of the Gospel($) primarily) about how the Gospel is not just for getting saved but for living every moment saved. I think this is kind of the same idea, just said using the “Way” metaphor. It is good for me to hear it in a new way. I’m really looking forward to reading this book!
Here are a few thoughts and quotes from the Introduction and chapter 1 and why they stuck out to me:
The first three commands Jesus gave were repent, believe, and follow. He is the Way we do each of these things. Peterson quotes a Puritan preacher as saying that God loves adverbs and cares very much about the “how” of what we do. I love that! God loves adverbs. (That will definitely come up in Bignificent’s grammar class this year!) 🙂 Peterson says we all too often slip into the trap of trying to do these things in our culture’s way instead of in Jesus’ way. We focus on impersonal results with a consumer mentality, depersonalized into principles and strategies but Jesus didn’t and doesn’t. Very challenging for me!
Peterson talks a lot about the differences between “ends” and “means” – the results and the how we get there – and says that our culture allows us to justify the means if we attain the ends, but the Jesus way doesn’t. I knew this, but I had never considered that the “means” are harder to acquire than the “ends” are. I’ve often wondered how I can be so committed to “reaching the unreached,” and I know that I really am committed to that in the deepest parts of my heart, but then I struggle so much to actually talk about Jesus with my waiter or my hairdresser. How can this be? Peterson has a quote here that is really helping me to understand this… and hopefully change!
“Setting the goal requires little effort, no commitment, and no skill. But finding the means for reaching the goal, achieving that identity, is a matter of diligent concentration, responsible perseverance, and keep discernment.”
It makes so much sense! In this too, I must follow Jesus! My commitment to the ends is not enough. I have to follow Him THROUGH to get there. Peterson even goes so far as to say that…
“The devil is content to leave the matter of ends – the goal, the purpose, the grand work of salvation – uncontested. His tempting is devoted exclusively to ways, to the means that are best suited to accomplish the end to which Jesus is the way.”
Wow! As I look at my life, that rings so true! I rarely if ever feel tempted to change my mind about Jesus or to stop believing that the world needs Him. But, oh, the temptations to go my own way about the means! To make my own decisions about how I’ll spend MY time and MY money. To make my own decisions about who I’ll talk to today and what we’ll talk about.
In chapter 1, Peterson looks at the temptation of Jesus and how this is exactly what Satan did there. He didn’t challenge Jesus’ mission to meet needs, save humanity, and be worshipped; he challenged the way Jesus would do those things. Peterson warns that Satan will always tempt us, as he tempted Jesus, to reduce God – to reduce Him to something we use, something we consume rather than Someone we follow. To reduce Him to something we use to do good, something we use as a hedge against boredom, something we use to escape or experience a thrill, something we use to control our families and our world, something we use to get peace or justice.
But God won’t be used. He won’t go about achieving His ends in Satan’s impersonal ways. He is not a “something.” He is Someone – Someone who always works in personal ways, never impersonally interfering from the outside! Peterson goes so far as to say that…
“Every time that we embrace ways other than the ways of Jesus, try to manipulate people or events in ways that short-circuit personal relationships and intimacies, we are doing the devil’s work.”
My first reaction to this was a bit of horror, immediately seeing ways that I reduce Jesus daily and the ways that I try to short-circuit personal relationships and intimacies. Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! My next reaction was a pragmatic “Let’s make a list of the Jesus way of doing things so I can get this right” reaction. But that’s still a reduction!!! Jesus is a PERSON, not a list, not a slogan or a bunch of principles or strategies! The way to learn the Jesus way is to walk with Him through the Gospel narratives, to “enter by imagination and faith and prayer into the story…and get a feel for what is involved, the relationships that make up the web of this way.”
And that’s why we’re also reading through the Gospels at the same time! I’m so glad our shepherd made the reading plan this way! I need to immerse myself anew in the Gospels. I don’t know Jesus as the Way well enough, but I WANT TO! And that’s a good place to start!
We’ll be reading chapter 2 and Matthew 15-21 this coming week! If you’d like to join us, please do. I can hardly wait! Here’s the link to the book one more time in case you want it: The Jesus Way($). I can hardly wait to get started for this week!