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Thursday, March 3, 2011

Are You Paying Attention?

Some lines in the Bible crack me up. Case in point:

"Don't you know what I am talking about by now?" Jesus asked.
Mark 8:21

That is, that line cracks me up until it convicts the stew out of me. 
Jesus' disciples had been spending night and day with Him. They had watched Him heal people, cast out demons, feed multitudes, and preach truth. But they still didn't seem to understand His agenda. 

In this particular passage, Mark 8:12-23, the disciples had gotten in a boat with Jesus and happened to have only one loaf of bread to share amongst themselves. I suppose they were sitting in the boat and trying to figure out how to divvy it up when Jesus, obviously unconcerned about the lack of bread, said, "Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod." Obviously, in hindsight, Jesus is talking to the disciples of a spiritual matter. He's telling them to watch out for the sin, the wickedness, and the deception of the spiritual leaders and their government. He's not talking about yeast or bread you eat or food at all. But here's the disciples' thoughts on the matter:

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, "It is because we have no bread."
Mark 8:16

At this point Jesus expresses His holy frustration with His chosen followers. Haven't they been paying attention? Don't they know that Jesus can supply more bread if they need it? Didn't He just feed groups of five thousand and four thousand in recent days? Didn't they even have bread left over? Are they that disengaged from what Jesus has been teaching, what He's been doing in their sight? Don't they know that He has come to give them a bread that is eternal, one that feeds their souls and not their stomachs?

And so He says, "How is it you don't understand?"

I've been in that boat with Jesus. I've spent time with Him, experienced His miracles, heard His teachings, and witnessed His power, and still somehow missed the heart of the matter.

I've seen Him provide for my family over and over and yet any new financial challenge sends me into a tailspin as though I have no hope.

I've felt Him convict me of an ill thought, a biting word, or a sarcastic attitude and yet later I entertain the very same thought again.

I've heard Him encourage me, teach me, point me in the right direction and yet just days later I'm living like I'm clueless once again.

And, I'm sad to say, I've found myself in the same classroom over and over. Jesus has shown me the way, drilled the truth into my head, tested me on the subject, and congratulated me over my victory. Then weeks or months later I find myself in a remedial course on the same subject because I seemingly forgot everything He taught me before.

How is it I don't understand?

I think at this point the disciples had a few handicaps:
  • They were still looking for a different kind of savior. They didn't know Jesus' purpose and they were stuck on their own agenda.
  • They hadn't honed their minds to think spiritually yet. They saw the physical, heard Jesus' parables, and had a hard time connecting the dots. They weren't thinking deeply enough.
  • They weren't taking it all in. Perhaps they were even taking a lot of what Jesus did for granted. They hadn't yet meditated on it, pondered it.
  • And obviously they didn't have the Holy Spirit to help them perceive truth. 
Well I have the Holy Spirit living within me, but I still miss a lot of what Jesus is trying to teach me for the very same reasons.
  • I get focused on my own agenda instead of God's. I forget that He is not so much concerned with my happiness, comfort, and success as He is about my becoming more Christlike. Huge difference.
  • I neglect to think. Period. I don't take the time to ask for wisdom, seek truth, or pray about things. Instead I go with the quick fix, the easy answer, the visibly obvious solution. I too don't think deeply enough.
  • And quite often I get so busy with the everyday stuff that I forget to spend time meditating on God's Word, contemplating what He's doing in my life, or noticing what He's doing around me. I take His goodness and provision for granted and don't thank Him for it or record it in my memory.
But I don't want to be clueless. I don't want to be a remedial student. I want to get it. I want to see God at work around me, grasp what He's teaching me, remember what He's shown me, walk consistently with Him, and even be able to pass it all on to others.

And so today I'm trying to sit up and take notice. I'm sitting at the front of the classroom so I won't be distracted by the stuff on the walls of my life. And I'm putting my thinking cap on. (Remember doing that in elementary school?)

I'm paying attention because I want to get it.

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