Thursday, September 6, 2018

Follow me, Jesus said

I remember back to my childhood days on the school playground and one particular day another student came up to me and said follow me, follow me!! It was my gut instinct to follow him because of his sheer excitement. So I followed him to the corner of the playground where he proceeded to show me a dead squirrel.
As I look at Jesus call to follow him and the schoolyard incident, there’s significant contrasts. I followed that student because he was excited to show me something. Little did I realize it would be a dead animal. Then I listen to Jesus call to follow him and I’m assured there’s something far beyond myself to see. As a matter of fact when we surrender to that call to follow, there’s massive change in our lives.. I no longer follow the crowds but I follow the one who knew me before I was even born. Those first disciples left all they ever knew to follow this man.
Can we point to areas of our lives we left behind to follow Jesus? Or is there still a cloudy mix of the world and the one they call the Messiah.
I’m convinced there’s many who say they follow yet they’re not really following. So what’s it mean to really follow Jesus? Can we stay the same or is there actually change required. I read Jesus’ words like deny self and it only makes sense not only change must happen but transformation of the inner self.  It’s fairly easy to see who or what someone’s following in their life by the way they act or speak. My challenge is to pass on the leaders taking us to something dead and turn and follow the one who takes us to the fullest life possible.

Would you pray with me? God we admit we follow many dead things in our lives that don’t amount to anything. We pray you would lead us to surrender and following you to a new life that’s awaiting and calling us deeper. Teach us to follow you Lord. Forgive us when we don’t.  Amen.

Monday, August 14, 2017

All in all

A favorite song of mine has the lyrics "you are my all in all." Of course the song is referencing Jesus and we have to consider when we make Him our all in all, what that entails. We're saying to our family and friends, our cars, homes, boats, careers and even our very lives, that Jesus is above all. He's not our co-pilot, our second best. He's our all in all. Think about that a minute. When our strength is fading, He becomes our strength. When we fall, he picks us up. All in all provides our every need. So where do we need to realign? What's keeping Jesus from being our all in all? When we begin to see He satisfies our longings, our lives become fuller. May today mark the day all else becomes second best to the best of the best, Jesus our Lord.
Let's pray. Father, we trust you with our lives. We ask you to guide us in our decision and place you as our all in all. We love you Lord. Amen.
Bless you friend.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Who's leading who?

There's been a popular slogan through the years that reads, "I LOVE JESUS". When I think about loving someone, I immediately turn to devotion, to loyalty, to a deep longing to be with that person. When we say we love Jesus, are we really saying we love Jesus and we want to follow Him as loyal and devoted people? Or have we been trapped into a cliche' that says I LOVE JESUS simply to satisfy a cultural norm that is fed to us in society through "religion". I'd pray it means we truly love Jesus for who He is and what He has done for our lives. For one second, I can't deny the transformation Jesus has offered me through His grace and mercy. I know who I was and who Jesus has made me to be. It was foul talk, lying, coveting possessions that defined me, but as I've surrendered more and more to God's will, I accept the fact I can no longer be who I was. The death and resurrection of my Lord demands a change, knowing He's paid the ultimate price for my sin. We don't change unless we grasp reality of who we love. When Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him in Matthew 16: 24, He's not talking about some burden we must carry. When He was carrying His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one thought of the cross as a burden to carry. It meant one thing only; death by the most excruciating means possible. It was humiliating. It's rather ironic today we see the cross representing atonement, forgiveness, grace and love. Bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device. So when Jesus tells us to take up our cross and follow Him, He's really saying that we must be willing to die in order to follow Him. Now to be led, we must be willing to follow. To follow, we must be willing to trust. To trust, we must know who we are trusting. Trusting one another is not an easy task these days. We let one another down. We fail each other. We don't meet expectations. But trusting Jesus has historical evidence and detailed facts of His willingness to die for us. Following Him requires a call to surrender, a dying to self. The call to follow may very well be difficult, but friends, the reward is incomparable. It's a lot easier to trust and follow and surrender to Jesus in love and devotion and loyalty when things are easy. But as we begin to experience pain and suffering, recognizing sacrifice therein, we can be assured Jesus told us it would be so as found in John 16: 33b; "In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world." There's no greater feeling knowing that Jesus loves us. May we honestly be able to say I LOVE JESUS through the words, actions, and relationships we carry in this life. Jesus is our all in all. Are we willing to follow Jesus if it means losing our job, friends, reputation, family and even our life? Not that all these things will happen, but are we willing to take up our cross.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

No ordinary King

Jesus was no ordinary king. He didn't require all the bells and whistles that often go with the title. Instead He chose the lower road, the one less traveled by kings and rather be served, He served. What kind of king is this many asked in His days on this earth? They expected a stallion and a sword and commands. They wanted Him to conquer and destroy. But they got a king who would command followers to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind and strength. And then to love others as you would love yourself. No ordinary king indeed!  And when the going got tough, He retreated and began to pray in some distant place away from the crowds. Could this really be the promised Messiah?
Today in the life of the Brethren church, we prove the point even further by gathering for our fall Love Feast, something we Brethren hold very near to our hearts. Yet over the generations, there appears to be somewhat a decline in attendance. I evaluated the reasons behind this and understand the craziness of our lives. But then I thought about this king and what He demonstrated to us. Not only demonstrating but telling His disciples to do the same.
Now today we can minimize what He was really saying and pass it off as symbolic act. But is that really what's happening here. Take another look at the passage in John 13: 1-1 "It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.” “Then, Lord,” Simon Peter replied, “not just my feet but my hands and my head as well!” Jesus answered, “Those who have had a bath need only to wash their feet; their whole body is clean. And you are clean, though not every one of you.” For he knew who was going to betray him, and that was why he said not every one was clean. When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”
Did you read what I read? Do as I have done for you.  As a matter of fact He goes even further and says you will be blessed if you do them.
I understand feet are gross. They have an odor. They can look rather awkward. But feet to Jesus meant so much more.  As He told Peter who essentially wanted an entire bath, the feet were all that needed cleansed.  Such deeper meaning in this act of humility than we realize. But today I chose something different. I didn't wash another's feet.  I had my 7 year old with me and he preferred to wash one another's hands. I walked hand and hand with him to the basin and towel. I washed his hands first and dried them off.  He learned quickly and did the same for me. Then we hugged and said I love you.  That was it.  The moment was over and I'll admit I understand why offering this for certain individuals is important. But for me,  if this were every time we "washed feet", I feel I'd be missing out on an opportunity to serve and be served  in a completely humble way.  For me,  I guess it list the significance of the passage. Kneeling down, taking an often neglected part of the body and making it clear.  That's what Jesus is talking about. Serving one another despite our differences.  Loving one another beyond our views. This was no ordinary King and to share that experience today is like no other. It's the definition of our existence as followers of Christ. We share in His service to others by doing the same.
May we reclaim this beautiful, simple act in a world that needs our love. Might we in many significant other ways wash the feet of the communities we live in. Be blessed in doing so.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Rise up loved one

If we were told to rise up, what might we do? Some might stand if they were seated. Others might rise to a challenge and take an opportunity to a whole new level.
In Isaiah 46,  it reads “Bel bows down, Nebo stoops low; their idols are borne by beasts of burden. The images that are carried about are burdensome, a burden for the weary. They stoop and bow down together; unable to rescue the burden, they themselves go off into captivity. “Listen to me, you descendants of Jacob, all the remnant of the people of Israel, you whom I have upheld since your birth, and have carried since you were born. Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. “With whom will you compare me or count me equal? To whom will you liken me that we may be compared? Some pour out gold from their bags and weigh out silver on the scales; they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god, and they bow down and worship it. They lift it to their shoulders and carry it; they set it up in its place, and there it stands. From that spot it cannot move. Even though someone cries out to it, it cannot answer; it cannot save them from their troubles.

Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’ From the east I summon a bird of prey; from a far-off land, a man to fulfill my purpose. What I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do. Listen to me, you stubborn-hearted, you who are now far from my righteousness. I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.”
This passage guides us to the One who not only allows us to rise but even carries us as risen people through the difficult times. There's none other we can compare our God to. What He's said we can be assured of. There's a guarantee; a promise given that He will fulfill His purpose. When we stray, it's crucial to confess and move forth and rise up in forgiveness to take hold of His love. Considering a beginning and an end, we rise up knowing He will make it known. There's no stress consuming the mind of a risen follower. For we realize it's not on our strength we find ourselves in this risen state. We know it's the strength of the Lord Almighty carrying us in our salvation.  May we keep in mind the things we place ahead of God will never move nor help us rise. It's only God who keeps us lifted high that we might make Him known.
Whether we find ourselves soaring in the arms or God or gripped in the arms of despair, keep our eyes fixed on the perfector of our faith, Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

With JOY we follow

There are a bounty of pleasures in this world that bring us joy. Over the years, it has been fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking, starting a family, vacationing, Mustangs, Harley's, and various people I've encountered. But as much as I enjoy all these things, they do not compare to following the Lord Jesus Christ.
2016 has hit me square between the eyes. The Lord has made it crystal clear that followers need to follow. In the quest for our next joy adventure, I sense we have forgotten where true joy comes from. It's not in and of ourselves but in the footsteps of following the Lord. It's not simply the knowledge of our salvation but living that salvation in the present. I've confessed that I sought after the things of this world and have pleaded with God to have mercy on me, a sinner. I no longer want what the world has to offer, but I want all that Christ has to offer. What's been so real to me is that in the midst of finding our next fix here, God is longing to give us more. I can almost hear his voice saying, you think that is awesome, try sharing me with others.
He commands us to go and make disciples but it's a lot easier to just sit behind a desk, or walk into a hospital room and pray, or minister at a funeral, or preach a sermon, or sing a song, and the list goes on.
But when we seriously consider our salvation, and the future hope it provides, we can no longer resist taking it to those who have not heard. I strongly dislike using the term lost to compare ourselves. Aren't we all lost in one fashion or another? But to share what it means to be found is the indescribable joy we have in following the Lord. So the place I find myself right now and perhaps you may as well, is where do we go from here. It's not difficult to look that far to see the persecution of Christians. We have a greater chance of sharing any religion but Christianity. But that's where I start to really think. It's not just any religion. It's about a relationship we have with a God who has provided way through his one and only Son that we can do so. It's about a faith and a belief that Jesus has walked this path called life on earth, and knows what we endure. He can identify with us. In following Him, we see the difference He makes and why would we not want someone else to know of that joy? For someone to be willing to die for me and to rescue me from my sins that separates me from my heavenly Father is overwhelming to say the least. Let us be diligent in offering this hope that we no longer need to live this life alone. We are together in this journey following the Lord. Two has always been better than one and taking steps together to share our faith is key to the world finding a new hope. Jesus is all that matters and when He is all that matters, others matter too. Love like the one who loves us.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Giving thanks in the struggles

Rejoice always! I say it again rejoice! These words can be hard to swallow when life is on a downward spiral and your loved ones are facing struggles. I was never one to handle suffering well until I gained an entirely new perspective. As I pondering these times from the past to the present I started to see a pattern particularly in our family dynamics. Now as a pastor I have to confess my family is far from perfect. My wife is always the one to keep us all together but with Multiple Sclerosis, we never quite know when the next flare may strike. This disease seems to have a mind of its own and though certain factors can attribute to a flare, we can't predict the timing until it's arrived. With the Thanksgiving season upon us, we have been reminded to give thanks even for the struggles. I am not totally there yet but as I see our family draw closer through the suffering, it takes on a new perspective. I won't say I rejoice as I witness the weakness in my dear wife's body but we can turn to God and allow his strength to permeate us. It's becoming more a blessing to see how God responds through his people as we care for one another and show love and support. Prayer is powerful and effective and the disease causes us to grow together and to slow down and be still, knowing that he is God. I pray as we each encounter suffering on various levels, we can find the peace and comfort it offers in our dependency on Christ and the body of Christ. Families praying together are healthier and stronger together. May we discover a new outlook on suffering and see Christ in all the remaining days of our lives. Be encouraged by the birth, death and resurrection of our Savior. In His suffering He took on our sins and gave us the greatest Thanksgiving gift ever; forgiveness.