First, this letter is longer than usual but taking a few minutes to read the lead-in story will enhance what follows. I hope Nate’s thoughts on discipleship bless and challenge you the way they did me!
There is more than one Michael Jordan. And at least two of them live in Murfreesboro, TN. One is a friend of mine
Eight years ago, Michael organized a men’s discipleship group at “Just Love,” a great local coffee spot. For most Friday mornings since, an “eclectic” group of ten or more followers of Jesus have gathered to encourage one another and discuss how Scripture applies to their daily lives. Some of have been with Michael from the group’s beginning. Others, like me, come and go attending when their schedules permit. All are blessed by the encouragement doled out. Michael’s faithfulness in leading this weekly gathering has blessed lives and helped disciples of Jesus grow into further maturity.
A group “regular” is Dr. Nate Callender, a professor in MTSU’s Aerospace department. It happened that Nate was leading the discussion one day last Spring when I attended. Because his point rang so true, I asked that he put it in writing for this e-letter. He did, and It follows this photo of a Friday morning gathering at “Just Love Coffee.”
A Tale of Two Seas
Dr. Nate Callender
Picture with me for a moment an inland body of fresh water, rich with life beneath and above the surface. On this body of water, fisherman earn their living. Towns line the shores of this sea for food, water, and transportation. At a designated time in history the sea provided a miraculously large catch of fish for Peter and his friends and even supported the feet of Jesus. This is the Sea of Galilee (also known as Lake Kennereth or Lake Tiberius). In addition to underground springs, the Sea is fed primarily by a river of fresh water, the Jordan, that enters the Sea from the north. After the Jordan’s waters have entered, the Sea of Galilee sends them out again, continuing the Jordan River’s southward flow.
If a highlight reel of the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan River had been made, both would have contributed fantastic footage. The Jordan is the river that parted for Joshua and the Nation of Israel as they crossed into the Promised Land. Its waters were used to cleanse Naaman’s leprous skin at Elisha’s command. Its waters were also used in symbolic cleansings in John’s baptisms, most notably the baptism of the One who needed no cleansing… Jesus Christ.
The Jordan River completes its course by supplying another inland sea known by various names to include Lake Asphaltites, the Sea of Salt, the Sea of Zo’ar, the Eastern Sea, and more commonly the Dead Sea. The Dead Sea is an impressive four times larger than the Sea of Galilee to the north. It receives the Jordan’s waters, but unlike the Sea of Galilee, it sends no water out. It has no outlet. The Sea is aptly named the Sea of Salt, because it is almost ten times saltier than the world’s oceans. While floating in such water provides a unique (very buoyant) experience, life in the water is absent (with the exception of certain bacteria and fungus). Fish, plants, and other aquatic life find no home here. The Sea is for all intents and purposes… dead.
These two bodies of water, the Dead Sea and the Sea of Galilee, illustrate two types of people: believers who receive and believers who both receive and give. Let us first discuss believers who receive and who give. When someone says “yes” to Jesus, new life (spiritual life) is infused into that person. New life is in need of nourishment in order to grow. Opportunities to grow in the life of a believer abound. Time in prayer, in God’s Word, under the teaching of other gifted believers, etc. can all be nourishing to a believer. Receiving nourishment is like a sea receiving fresh, life-giving water from a source. The Sea of Galilee receives the fresh, life-giving water from the Jordan River. That water supplies the Sea; however, the Sea doesn’t hold on to it. The Sea of Galilee also gives. It takes life-giving water, and it sends out life-giving water. The believer who receives spiritual nourishment and who provides nourishment to others will be like the Sea of Galilee… surrounded by and full of life and a place where Jesus will do fantastic things.
Having a steady stream of spiritual nourishment in the life of a believer is necessary, but it doesn’t guarantee that a believer will be healthy. The Dead Sea receives fresh, life-giving water. It holds on to it. It swells to an impressive size because of it, and it is… DEAD! The water that it receives eventually evaporates away only to leave behind a virtually sterile brine. Believers who receive, take, and hoard spiritual nourishment without themselves supplying others will become bloated, devoid of any signs of significant life, and a place where Jesus won’t (can’t) do much of anything.
For those of us who have said “yes” to The God Who created and Who sustains life, to the God Who created us in His image, let’s nourish ourselves and grow. Let’s nourish others and live. Like the Sea of Galilee, let’s be receivers and givers known to be alive, in and around which Jesus is known to live and to be at work.