Heaven ~ Close Enough to Touch!
When I was a new Follower of Christ, I was invited to what was then called "discipleship training." It was really more evangelism training than adult Christian education or what we would consider true discipleship training today.
My Early Discipleship Training
I arrived, fresh and eager, ready to get trained for my new life with Jesus. I can still remember the “tract” my leader took out for us to walk through so we could then share it with others. It focused on sin and the bridge Jesus built between himself and our sin.
Okay, I thought. I can accept that. It didn’t thrill my heart, however, it felt so . . . should I say, “academic?” The leader went on to say that as we invited people to ask Jesus into their heart that we shouldn’t “expect anything to happen.” Hmmm. It wasn’t what I was experiencing in my times with Jesus. He was revealing his ability to do lots of miracles and inviting me to follow him in them.
I have to say I am glad that season of my faith life is over. I am glad the season of “academic discipleship” is coming to a close in the broader Christian culture. Even though a lot of people went to church, our impact on culture was minimal.
Fast forward to yesterday.
Exploring Biblical Passages on Kingdom
I’ve been exploring more about the Kingdom of God. It’s interesting to me that Jesus rarely mentioned the church, but he spoke about the Kingdom all the time.
In fact, his first public words were, “The time promised by God has come at last. The Kingdom of Heaven is near.” (Mark 1:15) The Greek word for time is “kairos”--timing when God breaks through from heaven to earth.
My reading yesterday was out of Matthew 10. I love the new Passion Translation which combines the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew language together into a passionate, emotive, powerful format!
Here’s what it says:
“Heaven’s Kingdom realm is accessible, close enough to touch. You must continually bring healing to lepers and to those who are sick, and make it your habit to break off the demonic presence from people, and raise the dead back to life. Freely you have received the power of the Kingdom, so freely release it to others.” Matthew 10:7-8.
I sat there stunned. I thought, I’ve got to check this in a more traditional translation. So, here’s what the New Living Translation (NLT) states,
“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons. Give as freely as you have received!”
It’s actually not that different.
Here’s the thing: the context in which Jesus speaks this is to his 12 disciples as he sends them out on their first discipleship assignment. Yes, the disciples watched him do those things, and they helped Jesus at times, but now they were being called to do them too.
So are we.
Discipleship isn’t the boring activity that many of us have been led to believe.
I don’t know about you, but I find the challenge to recognize the heavenly realm is close enough to touch pretty compelling. One example is the post I wrote about the my recently deceased dog, Nicki, in Do Dogs go to Heaven.
I find Jesus’ call to heal lepers rather challenging.
Breaking off the demonic presence--isn’t that Jesus’ job?
Raising the dead, not on my everyday “to do” list. But according to Jesus, it’s supposed to be.
Are you following me yet?
Jesus stated his priorities to his disciples for how he wanted them to focus their attention and time.
Without a vision, people perish.
I believe we’ve been given a very small vision for how we are to follow Jesus.
It’s time for us to start listening to what Jesus really said about discipleship. It’s not for the faint of heart, but it is for those of us who are adventurous in nature, hungry to know God better, and seeking to see the world around us transformed.
An Example of Kingdom Living
This describes my good friend Martha Rust Jackson. Martha went to seminary looking for more of God. Her most transforming class in seminary was about healing. God didn’t just let her learn about it academically, he gave her the opportunity to experience it herself when she was miraculously healed of severe migraines.
Martha used to be a nurse. She thought God had called her to something more “important” now that she had gone to seminary.
But, in God’s sense of humor, he called her to get her nursing license renewed. He opened the door so miraculously that Martha knew she needed to walk through it. She struggled with studying again, but now she is interning on a hospital floor.
Last week, Martha came into a room of a woman that all the other nurses described as being mean. Martha decided to put Jesus’ call into action as she began to wash this emaciated woman’s body. She silently prayed for heaven to be released into her body, for God’s love to pour through her, as heaven connected with earth. Outwardly, Martha didn’t do anything different than any other nurse. But, inwardly, Martha was following Jesus’ direction by becoming the connecting point between earth and heaven. She was calling for healing for the woman, first for her heart, and then for her body. She was living Matthew 10:7-8!
Martha didn’t see the woman for another week. But, the next time Martha went into her room, the woman’s eyes lit up and she exclaimed, “Where have you been? I’ve missed you.” The angry woman had become calm and was now well enough to go back home.
Practical Steps in Discipleship Training 101
Martha’s story encourages me. Following Jesus’ directive doesn’t make us strange or different outwardly, but it gives us a way to impact our environment in a dramatic way because we are the ones who bring the kingdom, which is accessible, close enough for us to touch.
Are you willing to take a step?
I have to think that when the disciples received Jesus’ instructions, they took a big gulp and said a few “Help me God” prayers. But, after they finished their first discipleship 101 assignment, they came back to Jesus and told him, “Lord, even the demons obey us when we use your name” (Luke 10:17). Jesus answers, “Yes, I saw Satan fall from heaven like lightening. Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy.”
Are you ready to get started?
These are a few practical tips I’ve learned along the way:
- Start your day with a question, “Where do you want me to partner with you today, Jesus?”
- Be aware through the day….on the lookout for where he may be directing you.
- When you sense Jesus saying, “Here is your opportunity,” ask him what he wants to do and then pray it (out loud if possible, or silently if needed), using his name!
- Do it, and then go on your way--leaving the result to Jesus.
Here’s the thing about life in the Kingdom.
It’s often done behind the scenes. Invisible. Hidden.
Our part is to do our part, Jesus’ part is to bring the breakthrough.
I’d love to hear your stories. Let’s share them.
- When have you seen heaven break through into earth?
- Where have you taken a risk and experienced Jesus showing up?
- What do you feel called to do but haven’t yet taken a step?
Let’s keep dialoguing about Jesus’ call to Discipleship Training 101 as we enter into a time of great adventure as his disciples~All of Heaven is waiting!