Posts Tagged ‘follower of Jesus’

What do you think it means to “fight the good fight?” I used to think it meant a lot of proselytizing and speaking out for the faith. I needed to take a stand, face derision for my beliefs, hold the line, and be bold for Jesus. Wrong.

I Timothy 6:11-12a
But you, man [woman] of God, flee from all this [the love of money], and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith.

To fight the good fight, it’s an interior struggle; it’s learning to choose, in the moment, the right way, the honest way, a choice that may not be “best” for me. It’s about experiencing God in such a way that I am awake to the Holy Spirit and respond to people and situations as the Christ would. It’s about believing in the truth of the Presence. It’s all real and true and does make a difference inside me. I am different because of that Presence. It’s love. And that’s the most difficult of all because it’s love in the face of all things, it’s love so strong that one’s heart is visible, it’s love so authentic that is can tolerate rejection and hatred and betrayal. That’s why endurance is part of the package. That’s the fight part. Keeping on. And then, the last: gentleness. What? Gentleness? How do we do this long-suffering battle with gentleness?

It would take everything in me to test to truth of these words. And that’s the point.

I need to be gentle with myself. It’s a journey. It’s a war to become . . . to really give it all away (those old ways, not just the stuff) and follow the Christ.

Read Full Post »

Photo from Flickzzz

A two-part requirement is implicated in the advice of Phil 4:8 — First I must recognize what is true, virtuous and lovely while I consciously decide to “think on these things.” I must choose to move my mind there. And secondly I must put what I know into practice.

Philippians 4:8-9
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

This is one of those core messages from scripture, a bare bones instruction that can be followed and if, I could exercise such a truth, my world would be better.

This lesson is taught in secular circles as well. My daughter struggles with emotional swings that are fueled by her raging thoughts, sometimes from her difficult past before we adopted her and sometimes from her daily struggles. In any event, these mind games steal her sleep, her well-being, and her confidence. The process of moving the mind to another place is a discipline she is trying to learn, but it’s a slow kind of progress, the two steps forward and one step back kind of schlep through life.

But am I any different just because I understand it better? I do a lot of replays in my mind and I find my mind pulling up old scripts all the time. The holidays are often the worst: “Why does Christmas cheer depend on me?” “Why am I always placating everyone else?” “Why do I end up doing all the cooking, wrapping, cleaning, and planning?” “Can’t anyone help me pick up some pieces of the weight of our responsibilities?” “Will we always struggle financially?” “I don’t want to be poor again.”

Every one of these inner questions is laden with stories and history and images that can replay forever, if I allow them to start. They go from some sort of righteous indignation through a variety of pity parties to fear. It’s a sad, downward spiral. These are the gifts of an undisciplined mind.

And so, I must choose to set these thoughts, and others aside for a time when they can be addressed in the safety of my inner counselor, when my connection to Spirit is strong and lush. Not before.

Another trouble begins however if I don’t remember the second part: the practice of what I know. This is the part that supports my inner health so I’m not just putting my mind and my head in the sand forever. It is the practice of what I know that gives me the ability to move my mind both to AND from the harder elements of life on this earth.

Writing and praying and reading, these are three of the key disciplines in my life.

Read Full Post »

Paul is certainly confident as a prototype for believers: become like me, follow me, imitate me. Paul was a zealot before he met Christ and he was certainly one afterward. I could no more imitate him than I can imitate Christ. Ah, there’s the difference. . .

Galatians 4:12
I plead with you, brothers, become like me, . . .
I Corinthians 4:16
Therefore I urge you to imitate me.
I Corinthians 11:1
Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.
Philippians 3:17
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

To follow Paul is an outside/in method while following Christ is an inside/out endeavor.

Despite the freedoms Paul articulates as a follower of Jesus, having been a Pharisee for many years, he still had a very law-based mentality and world view. He was an administrator, an organizer. He could see how things would work out best. He loved his churches and he loved his people, but he did get frustrated. He was impatient. He continually aimed for perfection (Christ) and condemned himself often (not in a bad way, just as a confession) for missing the mark. He knew he was less than perfect and only Christ within made up the difference. Nonetheless, it was Paul who set up the churches with structure. He was an academic. He laid out the reasons for everything he said. He was a man of logic and reason. I’d say a good portion of our modern day churches have evolved out of the teachings and interpretations of Paul.

But when Jesus calls us to “follow him,” I think he is drawing us to the Kingdom. It is Jesus who consistently lays out the paradoxes of internal following. Everything is the opposite of what we would think: turning the other cheek, loving our enemies, going the extra mile, meekness is victor, weakness is strength and so on.

For Jesus it is not really “become LIKE me,” it’s become ME.

This is much more mysterious. When Jesus taught about “eating his flesh and drinking his blood,” a lot of disciples fled. This entire teaching on Jesus being the “bread of life” terrified most of his followers. [John 6:41-66] They fled because they understood, not because it was beyond them. Every time Jesus spoke bluntly about his intentions, there was an uproar.

With Jesus, what seems impossible is possible; what is lost can be found; what dies can be raised up.

In the face of these kinds of truths, do the outer trappings really matter: Robes or no robes, dunking or sprinkling, wine or grape juice, men or women, buildings or no buildings, and so on.

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” [John 14:20]

Read Full Post »

There are times in a person’s life that he/she feels compelled, for the sake of faith, to act. I don’t think we can know when that moment will come, but we cannot help but recognize it in hindsight.

II Corinthians 5:14
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.

The first compelling moment of this kind comes at the Christ recognition moment: to accept or not to accept the truth of Him. At least for me, it wasn’t a casual decision. I simply had to choose, as though Jesus was sitting beside me saying, “But what about you?” . . . “Who do you say I am?” [Mark 8:29a] The question had been lingering at the back of my mind as I read through the New Testament. There was so much in that read-through I found unbelievable, frustrating, and even misogynist, but the identity of Jesus, that was becoming more and more plausible, not less. I could not deny Him.

After that day, there were more times I had to “fess up” to believing in that Jesus of Nazareth as the long-awaited Messiah. “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” [Romans 10:10] Some of my friends were shocked, some were belligerent, some were curious, but few were compelled to do what I did, to make that leap of faith. I didn’t understand.

My immediate family saw my new found Christ-consciousness as a passing fad. Unlike legwarmers over jeans, rat tail hair, and the “Where’s the Beef?’ commercial, my faith did not go away. I am still compelled to follow after thirty years.

It’s taken me a long time to realize I cannot compel another person to believe in the Messiah. There are no rules, no “four spiritual laws,” no “evangelism explosion,” no memorized verses, no descriptions of hell and damnation that will “do the trick.” I can only share my story.

Along the way, my faith has taken me down a number of unexpected paths: I married a man after a three-day whirlwind; I created two scripture-based performance pieces I toured over many years, I adopted three children with my husband of twenty-five years, I traveled to Africa in mission, I have taught and spoken to both small groups and crowds on the ways of God, I have led in a variety of para-church organizations, I continue to read extensively, I have been a mentor, a bible teacher, and a Sunday School teacher, I have been a worship leader, a counselor, and a prayer partner, I have fasted, been on silent retreats, and clowned for Christ in white face. I have danced, cried, laughed, and fallen over in the spirit. I have spoken in tongues, sung in the spirit, and prayed for healings.

I am compelled to seek the deeper way. I am compelled to know the Christ within. And my life continues to evolve. My journey is far from over. There will be more. I give thanks.

Read Full Post »

Thirty years ago, I finished reading the New Testament all the way through for the first time. I had a decision to make. Was it the truth or a lie? I kneeled beside my bed and confessed to this Jesus that the words felt… they resonated like truth. That decision changed my life forever.

Hebrews 5:14
But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

In some ways, I feel as though I am still on “spiritual milk” and have not matured as I should. After all, it’s been a long time. I have professed followership of Jesus for many, many years. And yet, I still struggle with many of the basics: love, trust, faith, hope…

Perhaps that is the maturity… I recognize I am still struggling. When I was younger in the Lord I can remember attending spiritual retreats where confession was a signature event where we pounded our written sins onto a cross. For many, it was extremely cathartic. But for me, in those early years, I’d struggle with the writing. What should I put on that little piece of paper? What great sin had I committed that still needed to be confessed. Hadn’t I confessed them all by now?

That makes me laugh. These days, I confess my sins daily. They accumulate quickly. I place even the smallest sin at the foot of the cross before that sin can grow, like yeast, to a besetting mountain of emotional pain or denial; before it can darken or harden my heart any more than it already has. And, unfortunately, I confess, some days, it’s the same sin… judging, pride, resentment, self-pity, anger… to name a few familiars.

I understand now, more than ever before, what it means to pray the Jesus prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner.”

My sins are legion, which reminds me of the demoniac [Luke 18:30] who was possessed of many demons. In the same way that many demons can be “swept away,” they can also come back to look for purchase in a newly cleaned “soul.” Sins also reappear [Matthew 12:43-45] to plague the spirit.

This is my message to any believer, young or old: confess often, accept grace and forgiveness daily, and give to others what Christ gives to you.

This is not just the beginning of the church year, it is also the beginning of my own new year in Christ. Continue to teach me, guide me, and renew me. Amen.

Read Full Post »

Paul had a nephew who was following in his “Pharisee” family tradition apparently. As a result, he was present when the Sanhedrin and 40 men plotted to ambush and kill Paul. That young man, unnamed, changes Paul’s course. Who’s life will I change… who will change mine?

Acts 23:16
But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.

Over and over again, I am astounded by the impact of one person’s courage. In a recent post by Seth Godin, he wrote of the power to affect change by corralling 1000 people into action. And I think that is very compelling, but then, I read about the impact of one person in a single moment that changes everything.

If Paul had been ambushed that day, the New Testament would be totally different. Many of Paul’s writings would be lost. His legacy and witness to the gentiles would have been diminished.

And in all of this, Paul had no control whatsoever. He had no idea what was happening. The situation was being molded completely outside of his knowledge.

How many events and people are operating right now that may collide with my own life? Will there be a turn in my future when I go out shopping today? Will someone cross my path who will unlock something critical in my understanding of God… of life? Or will I be the catalyst for someone else? Will I have the courage to act if the situation is dangerous?

I don’t believe Paul’s nephew was a believer or follower of Christ. But he recognized evil and he was moved by his own personal sense of right and wrong; he warned his uncle of the plot. Who knows what else prompted him to act? We’ll never know. Perhaps he loved his uncle… perhaps he spoke to his mother first and her love for her brother trumped everything else. It’s fun to speculate.

Today, I want to be mindful of those around me. Give me courage today to act when necessary. And if I am on the receiving end of a dramatic shift in my circumstances, may I be at peace knowing that this too is within the sovereign will and grace of God. Plus, my change may be the opportunity for someone else to exhibit his/her own courage.

Oh yes, we are woven together. I am grateful for our God, the weaver of life and death.

Read Full Post »

I do get some satisfaction knowing that Paul was flawed. And apparently, among his imperfections was his long-windedness. On this occasion, in Troas (part of modern day Turkey), the last day of his visit there, he talked and taught almost 24 hours!

Acts 20:7b, 9a, 11b
Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. … Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on…. [then] After talking until daylight, he [Paul] left.

Luke wrote that Paul talked “on and on” [NIV] indicates to me that this was a long session even for the devoted disciples.

I think it’s important to remember that Paul was not perfect. He was anointed by God and did marvelous works as a faithful apostle. He taught many. He changed the composition of the believers, opening hearts and doors to non-Jews. But he wasn’t perfect! In fact, he was on the extreme side of things. He had been a Pharisee before he accepted Christ as the Messiah. He already had a bent toward compulsiveness.

We must read Paul in this light. Besides, in a time when little was written down, how could anyone remember what Paul said in a 24 hour sermon? Unlike Jesus, Paul did not lean to parables and simplicity. He was a scholar… a theologian… an academician. Face it, to read the books and writings of scholars today can be daunting as well. It takes lots of energy and focus to capture the essence of what is written in these complex texts.

Each person brings his/her uniqueness to the kingdom story. The spirit of Jesus in me manifests differently than the spirit in you. Of course, there are common denominators, but there is that part of the story that only I can tell… that only I can live…. flaws and all.

Confession, I’m a big talker too. I think out loud and my listeners have to sort through the half-baked ideas to glom the big picture. I talk with such confidence and enthusiasm that people often miss my insecurities and fears. Sometimes I say things so fast that I manage to talk myself into trouble, putting my foot into my mouth, as they say, up to my thigh. And then, there’s the gossip factor. It’s all about talking… and talking… and talking.

And yet, in midst of the jabber, I also know there are truths. I love being a follower a Christ. I love that spiritual aspect of my life. Secret? I think I could talk about my faith, my God, and the Messiah for 24 hours too. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could guarantee to raise anyone from the dead who fell out a window.

In the end, I think I’m supposed to be quiet today. Let’s see how that goes.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: