And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19 ESV
A few years ago, my husband and I decided to get a dog. He’s been a great pet for our family but like any dog he needed to be trained. One of the first commands my husband taught our dog was to heel. The heel command instructs the dog to submit to his master’s leadership and not trail behind or run ahead. He must stay right beside the master and follow his lead. Not only is this an act of obedience but it is also a matter of safety by keeping the dog from running ahead and up to an unfriendly animal. Heeling to the master provides protection.
Jesus asks his disciples to follow him, and he asks us to do the same. Of course we are not dogs, but we also have the opportunity to heel to our Master. It sounds easy but we become impatient and don’t want to wait upon the Lord. We run ahead of him by taking matters into our own hands and make decisions without consulting him first. Or perhaps we aren’t diligent to keep in step with him. We fall behind and soon Jesus seems so far away.
Following Jesus requires staying right on His heels. We need to be close enough to hear his whisper. Allow his Word to speak to your heart and give you direction. Stay close by praying for guidance and wisdom. Keep in step with Him, and his close presence and protection will be a blessing to you.
Are you struggling to stay in step with Jesus right now? Have you created some distance by running ahead or lagging behind? Trust the Master. He knows where you need to go.
“Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” – Colossians 1.27
The goal for Christians is to mature in Christlikeness. A group of high school seniors and their parents are preparing with SHM and Campus Church for the transition into college. Teleois is guiding our study as we talk about becoming mature in this season.
“Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5.48). It’s extremely dangerous to stand in front of students with their parents and tell them that the goal of college (and of life) is to be perfect. Perfectionism is a disease in our culture. I like the way that J.K. describes this word: “Perfect, in this teleois-sense, makes me think of my garage door. It clamors and clangs it’s way up and down, but whenever I push the button, it works perfectly.” With this image in mind, the word takes on a more functional meaning. Perfect means being functional, not without flaw, as followers of Christ in love and witness.
“He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1.6). Here, the verb form of the word gives me an image of students in their graduation gowns. High school students are about to get all fancied up, walk across the stage to receive their diploma, and take a bunch of pictures with their proud parents. They have brought to completion all that was required to graduate and the spirit of God is doing similar work in us.
With garage doors and graduation gowns in mind, I have to ask how mature are we in our faith?
We are all works-in-progress, even Paul admits he’s “toiling and struggling with all the energy that God is powerfully working within him” (Col 1.28). Today, I’m embracing that I haven’t even graduated Jesus-High-School. I have a long way to go in terms of being perfect/functional; but, I’m eternally grateful that He is the one bringing this project to completion/graduation.
Talking with Jesus
“Hear me as I pray, O Lord. Be merciful and answer me! My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming.’” Psalm 27:7-8 (NLT)
Sometimes when I am discouraged or emotionally tired, I turn in my bible to the Psalms to read, pray, and be encouraged. Psalm 27 is one of my favorites for a number of reasons. Here we find David in the middle of opposition and attack. He is scared and troubled and he turns to the Lord for comfort. He hears God say to him, “Come and talk with me.” I find it fascinating how relational God is. He invites David to come and talk with Him in the midst of his troubling circumstances. And He invites us, too.
God knows that on our own we cannot endure the trials of life and that He is our source of strength, peace, hope, joy….or whatever it is we are needing. It is in the midst of conversation with Him that we are reminded of who He is and we have the chance to allow Him to change our perspective on the present circumstance.
Our tendency is to isolate and distance from relationships when we are troubled. We often turn to things like food, TV, and busyness to numb out the difficult emotions. But David’s response to the Lord’s invitation is, “Lord, I am coming.” How do you respond to this invitation?
Father, thank you for the open invitation to come and talk with you no matter what is going on in life. Help us to keep a lifelong conversation with you. Amen.
“And he opened his mouth and taught them saying:”
During difficult times, people try to say things that are helpful.
“Attitude is everything,”
“It will be ok, think about those who have it worse . . .”
“Let’s just go drink a beer”
“If you want something done right, do it yourself”
These sayings are meant to help but in reality don’t work out so well. This advice often leads to more brokenness, heartache, and dead ends. Our culture has some advice to give us as well:
blessed are the strong for they shall take what they want.
blessed are those who are tough for they can handle anything.
blessed are those who are first, for they will get their own.
blessed are those who make a way for themselves for they shall be self-sufficient.
blessed are those who stir up trouble for they shall find an advantage for themselves.
blessed are those who live it up for they shall gain the entire world.
blessed are those who do not stand for what is right for they will have an easy life.
blessed are those who put their self first for they shall achieve happiness.
Jesus says something very different. In Matthew 5:3-12, Jesus goes straight to our heart and challenges everything we think is true about being a Christ follower. Jesus introduces unexpected blessings that only come through giving our burdens, our difficult situations, our control, and our trust to him. Jesus is asking us a question, “Who is in the center of your heart?” He is inviting us to let him take over and provide a way when there seems to be no way.
When the world says, “Keep trying,” Jesus says “Come to me and I will give you rest.”
We have a God who is saying “I am with you . . . will you be with me?”
In the midst of whatever is going on in your life today, I encourage you to open your heart to God and allow him to provide unexpected blessings.
Who is the Owner of Your Life?
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to Him.” Psalm 24:1
Bloomington-Normal knows the sting of death far too well this week. This past week-end was occupied with the visitations and funerals of seven highly respected leaders in our community. Death is frightening because we are totally helpless in its presence. Only one person can walk us through death and bring us safely to the other side- the God of life, Jesus Christ.
Psalm 24:1 is a reminder to me of who the author of my life is. I know it’s not me because I am sinful, selfish, broken, and sometimes a bad judge of what’s best. God is the One that created me and knit me together. As Job 14:5 says: “You have decided the length of our lives. You know how many months we will live, and we are not given a minute longer.” I belong to the Creator. He is the Author of my life.
All of us have fallen short of the glory of God. We deserve death because of our sin. God chose to sacrifice His one and only Son, Jesus, in order for us to be made righteous and to live forever with Him. I am undeserving of the eternal gift of life. It is because of our confidence in the resurrection of Jesus, that we celebrated just a week ago, that we will live victoriously with the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
Life is uncertain. However, we have an eternal King that is certain.
Who are you following today? Is there something or someone more important in your life than following the Creator of your Life?
Submit your life to Jesus. Believe in Him.
“Listen! The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore. Your hands are the hands of murderers, and your fingers are filthy with sin. Your lips are full of lies, and your mouth spews corruption.”
We’ve all felt the separation from God that our sins can build; I know I have. The interesting thing about humans is that we’re so good at blaming God for the separation between us rather than realizing that we were created for unity with God and any separation that’s wedged between us is because of our doing.
It’s like a fence. We all know what fences are and what fences do; they separate things. When we start to veer away from God’s plan and purpose for our lives; we start building a fence, separating us from God. He always wants us to come back home, but we’re scared, so we keep building the fence and adding to it and raising it.
Before too long, this fence has gotten so high that we can’t even see God anymore. We’re lost; and we say, “God! Where are you? Where did you go? You’re so far!” And then we read God’s word and verses like Isaiah 59:01-03 and remember that God hasn’t gone anywhere. God hasn’t moved. God hasn’t changed. The fence that we’ve built by our selfishness and by our flesh has hidden our view to Him, but He certainly hasn’t gone anywhere.
The Lord’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. No fence that you can build by your sins is high enough or strong enough to keep God out. God never kicked you out; you just ran away. So, release this separation. Break down the fence. Come home.
Heart for Hospitality
And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us. Acts 16:15 ESV
While traveling, Paul and his companions stopped to pray by the river outside the city gate of Philippi. They met a group of women there that included Lydia. She listened to Paul’s message and accepted Jesus. Lydia and her entire household were baptized. Lydia was so grateful to the men she insisted they come home with her and be her guest. She wanted to show hospitality in the name of the Lord.
To say Lydia “insisted” is an understatement. Different translations use more forceful words: she prevailed upon us (ESV), she constrained us (KJV), she persuaded us (NIV), and she urged us until we agreed (NLT). Those men didn’t have a chance! They were staying at her house and she was going to serve them. I know people just like Lydia, don’t you?
A few years ago I was in Russia on a mission trip and we had the opportunity to visit a couple of ladies from the church. We were “persuaded” and “constrained” to extend our visit and an hour turned into an afternoon. They lived in a small flat and we gathered around a table that was set up in the middle of the living room. They served cookies and tea and we shared stories, talked, laughed and prayed. Their hospitality was so warm and enjoyable. I am so glad we were “persuaded!”
I learned I don’t need to have a large or perfect home to invite others in. I also don’t need to serve an elaborate meal. It doesn’t take much to share my gratitude and show love and hospitality in the name of the Lord.
Father, help me to have a heart for hospitality. May I always serve others in your name. Amen.