Tag Archives: following Jesus

June 27; Not For Sale

Amos 7-9; Hosea 1-3

Amos did not have a college degree. He wasn’t a scholar or an authority on spiritual things. He was a shepherd, and we know tending sheep wasn’t exactly a career choice that was held in high esteem in those days. Yet God  spoke to this humble, plain, unassuming man and gave him an important word for Israel. That same word reaches to us centuries later.

The word is this: God is not fooled by religious activities. In fact, I don’t believe God even likes religion. God says the religious people, His chosen people, will prostitute themselves.  And He promises to destroy them.

We might go through the motions of religion by going to church, reciting prayers, giving of our finances, and wearing Jesus’ name like a get-out-of-jail-free-card by calling ourselves Christians, while at the same time selling ourselves to the world by compromise, by participating in things that dishonor God, or simply by harboring bitterness or hatred, and having a depraved thought life. We might look religious to those around us, but the reality is we are nothing more than prostitutes.

When I read God’s Word I realize He’s not fooled by my outward appearance. He knows my heart. And I want my heart to be totally, sincerely His. When the world knocks at my door and wants me to join in, when sin entices me to compromise, I want to slam the door in its face. Let it be known my heart is…

Not For Sale.

 

Matthew 5:1-12; The Beatitudes Are Not About Happiness

I have read these beatitudes more times than I can count. Even today, as I read the Sermon on the Mount, I blew past these verses without giving them much thought. “Yeah, yeah. People who are “poor in spirit” are happy. People who “mourn” are happy. People who are “meek” are happy. And so on, and so on…”

I pulled out my commentaries, fully intending to write a post about the whole sermon Jesus shared, when God threw a wrench into my plans through William Barclay. This is just too important not to slow down and feast on Jesus’ own words.

It was enlightening to read what Barclay revealed about the word Jesus used for “blessed.” It’s not about happiness at all! In a nutshell, the Greek and Hebrew translation boils down to this: “Oh the blessedness of…” (The Daily Study Bible Series; the Gospel of Matthew volume 1, Revised Edition; William Barclay; 1975; The Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA; page 88)

Jesus wasn’t saying that if you experience these things, He would give something to you. He was saying:

“O the bliss of being a Christian! O the joy of following Christ! O the sheer happiness of knowing Jesus Christ as Master, Savior and Lord!” (Barclay, p. 89)

It’s not about what God gives as much as who I am in Him. So, using Barclay’s insight, here is what God spoke to me today through His Word:

  1. O the bliss of knowing I am lost without God, that I am utterly helpless in and of myself, that I am totally dependent on the One who is totally capable!
  2. O the bliss of being broken over sin, of realizing what my sin cost Jesus, of repenting, of laying my sins at His feet and being totally forgiven. O the blessedness of mourning the sins of the world, and wanting others to know His forgiveness, too.
  3. O the bliss of turning my emotions, my actions, my very being over to God and allowing Him to control those things in me. O the bliss of recognizing my ignorance and weakness, and allow Him to be my knowledge and strength.
  4. O the bliss of being totally, completely filled by God Himself, and understanding that every longing, every need, every hope and dream are perfectly satisfied in Him. O the bliss of being to the point of desperation, empty, barren, and then filled to overflowing by the Presence of my Savior and God.
  5. O the bliss of setting myself aside, and really seeing other people, really getting into their skin, really feeling their emotions, and really being what they need me to be – not what I need to be for them, or what I think they need. O the bliss of putting others above myself for Jesus’ sake.
  6. O the bliss of pure motives, the ability to see God in every situation, in every breath I take. O the bliss of not always seeing the seedy side of things, or getting a chuckle out of the filth that exists in the world, because my eyes are on a holy, pure, and perfect God alone. (Barclay says its the bliss of a clean heart, (p. 105) and reminds me we “see what we are able to see” (p. 107). I can see the filth of things if that is what I’m looking at. I don’t see the filth if I’m looking at God. O the bliss!)
  7. O the bliss of making peace, not by tolerating, condoning, or ignoring sin, but by facing it, calling sin sin, then leading sinners to repentance. O the bliss of making peace between myself and God, and by making peace between my lost friends and family with God through the blood of His Son.
  8. O the bliss of being singled out for being a follower of Jesus. O the bliss of losing a job, a relationship, worldly comforts or freedom for Jesus’ sake. O the bliss of sharing in His suffering if it will lead one soul to the Savior.

You’ve probably heard it said that this portion of Jesus’ important sermon are “attitudes” the we should “BE.” After spending a few hours thinking about these verses, I’m inclined to agree.

Reading these beatitudes challenges me to be the person Jesus died for me to be. And it helps me know that there is a joy that comes from being that person, a joy the world can’t understand or manufacture. O the bliss of knowing Jesus.

 

Matthew 4; The Most Precious Thing

He loved her. He wanted to marry her. They’d been dating for over a year, but he knew she deserved better. She was from a good home, educated, smart, and beautiful. His mom had never married. He’d graduated from high school with marginal grades and, with no money for college, had gotten a job as a welder in a bodyshop in town. He was still a welder in that bodyshop in town.

But today, he’d picked up the diamond he’d been making payments on for several months. He was going to do it.

She took his hand and gave it a squeeze as they slowly walked on the beach at sunset. He knew his hands were sweaty, his heart was in his throat. He stopped, and turned to look deep into her green eyes. Then, he dropped to one knee and pulled the velvet box from his pocket.

“I know people look at us and wonder what you are doing with a guy like me. I’m not rich. I don’t have an impressive career. No one has ever said I’m handsome. But I love you. I’m down here, looking up at you, knowing I have nothing to offer you but myself. But I promise, if you say yes, I will be yours forever. Will you marry me?”

She knelt in front of him and took his face in both her hands. “Don’t you understand? When you give yourself, you are giving me the most precious thing of all. Yes, I’ll marry you.”

______________

On the surface, when you look at the men Jesus called to be his disciples, you’d wonder what he was doing with those guys. They were ordinary men. No impressive pedigrees. Uneducated. But when Jesus called, they dropped everything and followed Him.

They had nothing to offer Jesus but themselves. And Jesus saw that as the most precious thing of all.

God’s not looking for perfect people to follow Him. He’s not interested in bank accounts or public speaking abilities or even Bible knowledge. God wants people who understand that all we have to offer Him is ourselves, broken, sinful, worthless people that we are.

God wants you! He wants me! He wants us to empty ourselves, fall at His feet, and give ourselves with all our imperfections to Him just as we are.

Dear one, in God’s eyes YOU are the most precious thing.

 

Deuteronomy 18-20; Go Home

I came across some verses here today which remind me of something Jesus said. Moses is talking about warfare as the Jews prepared to take the Promised Land. “Don’t be afraid,” he tells them, “even if the enemy seems unbeatable, because the Lord your God who brought you out of Egypt, will be with you and will fight for you.” (from 20:1-4)

But then Moses instructs the army officers to weed out certain soldiers:

If you’ve recently built a house, go home.

If you’ve just planted a vineyard, go home.

If you are engaged to be married, go home.

If you are afraid, go home.

It makes me think of when Jesus, in Luke 9, tells a couple of guys the same thing:

You want to go bury your dad? Go home.

You want to go say goodbye to your family? Go home. Neither one of you is of any use in my kingdom.

An effective Jesus follower cannot have divided loyalties. Period.

Toward the end of his life, my dad spoke more freely about his experiences as a Marine fighting in the Pacific during WWII. He talked about fear, about duty, about focus and determination, senses heightened, everything forgotten but the task at hand.

He told me about a Marine in his division, who gave in to fear. He said the young man, at a critical point in the battle, stood up and tried to run away. He was immediately shot and killed by the enemy. I must have said something like, “How sad,” or “I feel bad for that guy.”

Dad quickly replied that there was nothing sad about it, that that Marine had jeopardized every other Marine in the area by revealing their position. He had no sympathy for that young man.

So what does this have to do with living the Christian life in 2017? I am reminded that being an effective follower of Jesus is not for sissies. It’s hard. It’s not popular. It takes intention and determination. It takes focus, and courage. It means loving Jesus more than your spouse, or your children. It means obeying Jesus even if it costs us a career, or a friendship. It means sharing the Gospel with that loved one, that neighbor, that coworker, even if that person will think you are an idiot.

It means living a life that doesn’t look like the world. This is war. And if you aren’t in this 100%, just go home. You might as well go golfing on Sunday morning, quit identifying with your church fellowship, stop quoting Scripture if your life doesn’t reflect the Truth.

Because you are putting the rest of us at risk. You are giving Christianity a bad name, you are undermining what God would like to do in the lives of the people you are in contact with. There are people who are totally committed to Jesus, who are obeying Him, loving Him, sacrificing for Him. And if you aren’t one of them, you are a liability.

The soldiers Moses was talking about were still soldiers, the men Jesus spoke to might have really loved Him. But they were told to go home anyway, because they were of no use in the battle at hand.

And neither are you if you aren’t in this all the way. The Bible doesn’t encourage us to kinda follow the Lord. It doesn’t tell us to turn over most of our life to Him. Scripture is pretty clear that it’s all, or nothing.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. (Matt 22:37)

I challenge you to find a verse that says differently.

I know this sounds harsh, but I think it needs to be said. We’ve come way too far away from this truth. And Christianity is suffering for it. There is nothing politically correct about being a Jesus follower. Jesus was hated and crucified because He refused to be politically correct.

I think it’s time we quit trying to look like the world, trying not to offend sinners, or by making sinners feel comfortable in the presence of a Holy God. It’s time we quit wimping out when it comes to standing for Biblical truth. The Church was never intended to be a country club.

It was intended to be an army of dedicated soldiers, giving it all for the purpose of sharing the Gospel. Here’s the good news: Moses reminded the people that God Himself, the God who rescued them from slavery, was fighting with them and for them. We aren’t in this alone. And that makes me believe I can commit myself 100% and He will give me the victory.

Otherwise, I might as well just go home.

Father, I pray for Your children today. Some of us might need to take a step back, to go home for a bit and be strengthened, and encouraged to join the battle. Some of us are ready to get in there and follow Your lead today. May each of us check our commitment level, and may we all make the determination to follow You 100%. You demand no less. You deserve no less. I pray Your Church will be strong, effective, and powerful as we submit ourselves to You, in Jesus’ Name, and for His sake.

Genesis 41 Forget It

Joseph is out of prison. Not just free, he is made the vice president of Egypt. With that position came honor and wealth and a position of authority over his former captors. He got married and started a family. He had it all, according to what many equate with happiness and success.

But with all the good that was ahead, Joseph had to make a hard and sad decision. It’s revealed in the name he gave his first son: Manasseh, which means “forget”. Verse 51 says God helped Joseph forget all his troubles, including his father’s family.

Wow. That must have hurt. But Joseph was at a crossroad, and he chose to leave what was behind him and move forward. We know he’ll eventually unite with his family. Joseph had no such knowledge.

Sometimes following Jesus involves making hard choices. Sometimes it requires leaving a lifestyle behind, friendships, yes even family. Paul, in Philippians 3 tells us to forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. Jesus Himself tells us in Luke 14 that anyone whose feelings toward their parents doesn’t look like hate in comparison to their feelings for Him can’t be His disciple. And in John 21 we see Peter leaving a boatload of fish on the beach to follow the Lord.

Forgetting what is behind. Is there something or someone in your life that God is telling you to turn away from? Is there something in your past that is holding you back from serving Him?

Forget it. Leave it at the foot of the cross and move ahead.

God used Joseph’s obedience to save the very family he’d left behind. And God will use your obedience to do amazing things as well. After all, He’s the same God that we read about here in Genesis 41. Joseph trusted Him. And so can you.

 

November 1 – I Love A Parade

Matthew 20-21

Last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the NBA Championship. To honor them, the city gave them a parade. I don’t know if you watched it on TV, but it was pretty impressive. Over a million people lined the streets of downtown to get a glimpse at their heroes. The cars carrying the players couldn’t even move because the fans, swarming the streets, were trying to get close to the players.

At the time, the Cleveland Indians baseball team had a winning record, and someone jokingly (or hopefully) posted an invitation to the World Series championship parade to be held November 3 in Cleveland. It was June. The season was just under way. The Indians hadn’t won a World Series since 1948, or appeared in the series since the 1990’s. Even though November 3 seemed so far away, I thought, why not? I laughed, then hit “accept invitation.” I was thinking this could be the year, like I’d thought every year since I was a little girl. What can I say? I’m a fan.

I read about another parade this morning in Matthew. Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. People threw their coats in the road for Him to ride over. Others cut branches from trees and made a carpet for Him. The crowd shouted, “Hallelujah!” I think I can almost feel their excitement.

 

We know that that crowd ended up turning on Jesus only a few days later. They were celebrating Him for the wrong reasons. They wanted a King who would free them from Roman rule. They wanted Someone who would finally return them to their glory. When they heard that wasn’t happening, they rejected Him. In fact, they ended up killing Him.

Makes me realize how important it is that we follow Christ for Who He really is. I think too many people desert Him when things aren’t going their way. Like sports fans who only support a team when they win, they want God to make them feel good, secure their happiness and success, zap all their enemies. But when they realize God demands we humble ourselves and serve Him instead of being served, they bolt.

Fickle.

I know that many people are fans of the Indians (or any team) when they are playing well. Everyone wants to be on the winning side. But it’s those lean years when a team can’t buy a win, that a true fan is identified. I guess the same can be said for a true Christian. It’s that person who loves and obeys and demonstrates God’s love to others even when life isn’t fair. It’s the person who stands for the Truth of Scripture, even when it’s not politically correct. It’s the one who can say “Hallelujah” even through the tears.

I want to follow Jesus for the right reasons. He is my hero. He is my champion. He is the winner of every battle He and I face together. He alone deserves my awe, my devotion, my praise and honor. He is my Savior.

And the next time we throw a parade for Him, it will be the day He returns to take us home. We’ll meet Him in the air and follow Him to glory. Sign me up. That’s one parade I don’t want to miss.

 

October 27 – Counting The Cost

Luke 14&15

Have you ever agreed to do something before your really checked it out? Or bought something before you read the fine print? Started a project you weren’t sure what to expect? Or even accepted an invitation without knowing the details? How did that work out? Yeah, bummer.

Luke shared that Jesus wanted His disciples to know what they were getting into, because it’s not easy being a disciple of Jesus. It wasn’t when Jesus was walking this earth in bodily form, and it’s not easy today. Jesus wanted all of us to know this. So He spelled it out so we’d know exactly what following Him costs.

In 14:26 He said the first requirement of being a disciple is to love Him more than anything or anyone. He went as far as to say that, in comparison, our feelings for our family should look like hate. Now, Jesus wasn’t advocating we turn on our loved ones. We need to remember to read every verse in light of all of Scripture, and Scripture talks an awfully lot about how we should love one another. But Jesus wants me to ask myself if my love for Him is so complete, so intense, so exclusive, that all other relationships pale in comparison? That if I put it on a scale of 1-10, other relationships would be at zero, while my love for Him is at an 11.

In verse 28, Jesus asks us to consider the cost of discipleship. Can following Jesus strain our pocketbooks? He might call you to pastor a tiny church instead of being CEO of some big company. He might ask you to give sacrificially to His work to the point where you are unable to drive a new and fancy car. You might be overlooked for a promotion at work because of your stand for the Savior. So, yes. Being a disciple of Jesus might effect your finances.

And it might cost you in other ways, too. Relationships, certain parties or social events, not being able to join in the conversation in the break room when people are talking about the latest episode of Modern Family or Dating Naked. Being a disciple of Jesus might cost you your social standing.

Jesus also asks us to consider the fact that His disciples have battles to face (verse 31). This is war. There will be times when He asks us to stand and fight, others when seeking peace is the answer. Are we ready to follow His lead in both cases?

Then, in verse 33 Jesus says this:

So then none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.

That’s the fine print we need to read. Being a disciple is not a part time job. It’s not Sunday thing. It’s everything.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? It’s not easy. It’s not even politically correct these days. But if you are His disciple, I imagine we both can agree it’s worth it. I know for myself, I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but right there with the One who loves me more than even I can understand. I count everything else a loss except for knowing Him.