The time I said “screw you” to God

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Jesus wants us to enter discipleship with our eyes wide open. He splashes water on the face of the overzealous one; he startles awake the one who is stuck in the past; and today he drives home the point about our need for intentionality when we choose to follow him. Read on….

Another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him “No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61,62

Some equivocate about their discipleship. One foot in – the other out. Jesus calls us to a unity of purpose, an undivided heart and loyalty. Just before Jesus had these three encounters with would-be followers, the scripture records: “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.” Luke 9:51 Other translations read, “he resolutely set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He turned his face, his body, his steps toward the fate that awaited him there. He would not turn aside from his commitment to obedience and living out his life’s prayer, “Thy will be done.”

Someone who knows about farming told me the way to make the best use of your farmland and to use every possible acre to grow your desired crop was to make your rows straight and square. He said the way to do this was to start on one end of your field, pick a spot on the opposite end and then keep staring at that spot as you start moving toward it with your plough or your tractor. Keep your eye fixed on the one spot, because if you get distracted and look away, you will end up with a crooked row.

I never thought my self an equivocator. I came to Christ at seventeen and remember a spirit of gratitude that my love for him and, more importantly, his for me held my rows straight. I watched my fellow Christian girlfriends throw the Lord over for a guy and I prayed God would not let me abandon my faith because of my desire for a boyfriend. (I must admit there was some judgement on my part going on.)

My rows remained relatively straight as I went to wedding after wedding, watched my girlfriends get married and start families. These women were still my friends, but they were busy with their new lifestyle and there wasn’t a lot of room for a single. So I made new friends and watched them marry. Same story unfolded. It was getting harder and harder to make new friends.

That’s when he came along. Handsome, fun, came from a great family, and was attracted to me. My rows began to go a little crooked. 

It began innocently enough, I agreed to go out with him so I could “share the Lord with him.” One date led to the next and within three months I told God to screw it. I had always wanted an intimate relationship with a man, God had never given me one, so I would get it on my own. Sure, he wasn’t a believer, and in my gut I knew I was settling for less than I truly wanted, but at least he was real, I could talk to him and hug him. So, take that God!

Ah but God wasn’t willing to let me go so easily.

The very weekend I told my boyfriend about my decision to let our relationship move to the next level of intimacy, I found him in the corner of the bar where we had gone with friends making out with another woman!

I stormed out of the bar and was more angry with God than with him. “Damn you, God. You won’t give me what I want and won’t let me get it on my own.” 

My row had a big crooked curve in it now.

It took years for me to process my anger toward God. The humiliating and confusing experience I had when I found my boyfriend in that compromising position has been redeemed by God’s grace. In retrospect, I feel God was spreading a net to catch me as I attempted spiritual suicide. And I am grateful for the rescue. 

The farmer’s straight rows and God’s dramatic intervention in my romantic life demonstrate how serious Jesus is about intentional discipleship. We need to fix our eyes on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. Keep moving toward him, do not be distracted from our destination and our end. If we get distracted, or look back, we will lose our way, get off track. Our rows will be crooked and our harvest less plentiful.

The second sentence of my rule provides hope for such a life: “This mentored life is possible because God’s good and just love has been given to you in Jesus Christ.”

It is God’s gift to us, we receive and learn to live it, trusting God’s faithfulness, his forgiveness, his love and his power to teach us well.

With you on the journey,

Debby

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Following Jesus requires you to grow up

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We’re talking about responses to Jesus’ invitation to follow him into the Kingdom Life. Surprisingly, he discourages the over-eager one, and today, he admonishes and invites the overly responsible one. Check it out.

To another he said, ‘Follow me.’ But he said, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Luke 9:39,40

This guy sounds like he’s doing the right thing, right? being the responsible child, taking care of the family duties. After all, it is in the law, “honor your father and mother.” But Jesus will not take second place in the affections or loyalties of anyone who wants to follow him. His must be the primary voice to which one listens.

Following Jesus requires you to grow up.

When I was asked to be a pastor at our church in San Francisco, I was proud and terrified. Neither responses were very pastor-ly. Proud, because my heart’s desire to be seen as useful for the kingdom was validated, (honestly, though this pride was ego-driven); and terrified because I was sure I wasn’t good enough for the role and naming me as pastor would bring shame to our church.

The word I received from the Spirit as I prayed over the call was that it was time to “put aside childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11 The fear-based need to be seen as valuable, and the shame that convinced me I was not, were emotional reactions born of childhood wounds. My old beliefs about myself, and about how I needed to relate to the world threatened to keep me locked in fear and death; and closed the door on my offering any gift to the world.

You see, some are reluctant to follow Jesus because they are caught up with the things of death. We all have habits, ways of thinking, behaviors, addictions that breed death, not life. Yet these are precious to us, and we attempt to negotiate with Jesus about how we want to handle or process them. Jesus will have none of this. “Leave the dead things behind. Follow me, I want to use you to announce life, to bring my presence to the world.”

Jesus invites you into discipleship and into partnering with him in his mission to proclaim the kingdom of God. Do you resist because you are too attentive to the things in you that are dead, and of your old life? habitual ways of thinking about yourself, learned from childhood wounds; assumptions about your lack of competence; a conviction that you have nothing to offer of value? These are deadly lies. Do you give them too much homage? Like a Buddhist who sets up a home shrine to honor her dead ancestors, do you give allegiance to things that are dead and buried with Christ in your baptism?  With God’s help and the new life of Christ in you, choose to let these dead things remain dead.

We’ll explore a third response next time. See you then!

With you on the journey,
Debby

Foxes and their holes

Foxes and their holes

Jesus invites us to follow him and we respond. Here’s a look at one type of response.jean-blackmer-38927

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’

This guy is so enthusiastic about following Jesus. He’s ready to give follower-ship all he’s got. He’s eager, quick and ready to make a promise and a commitment. Jesus, though, requires a realistic assessment of self and of one’s words. The young, the naive, the quick or emotional words of commitment and promise need to be awakened to what will be required in this relationship. It will not be easy, enthusiasm will not soften the rock you will have as your pillow. Jesus wants us to be open-eyed about the cost of this discipleship.

How many hearts are broken because an emotional promise was made that could not be kept once the fire of attraction died down?

Working as a youth ministries intern at my church is how I supported myself in college. My slightly older co-worker Mark and his wife Charlotte took a liking to me and invited me into their circle of affection. They were cool and they chose me. I felt pretty cool. 

One day they announced to me, rather casually I thought, that they had decided to love me unconditionally and then began to pour words of affirmation upon me. After this announcement, they would seek me out, their only objective was to tell me they loved me. 

This should make me happy, right? But it didn’t, instead It freaked me out. I felt smothered by their attention and began to withdraw. Where I used to be warm and receptive, I was now cool and elusive. I wasn’t purposefully pouring water on the flame of their love, I was just wounded and not able to handle such loving demonstrations. 

Not surprisingly, their love cooled. In retrospect, I give them a huge break, they were probably 24 years old, very good intended and very human. But when they let my reactions to their movements toward me modify the way they acted toward me, I became more convinced of the false truth I feared; I was not worthy of love. Their eager but faltering attempt to love as Christ loved, solidified my self-hatred. 

What if they would have just loved me?

I certainly am not without fault. After months of praying for the faltering marriage of a friend, I remembered Jesus’ explanation to his disciples that sometimes a situation needed more just just prayer, it needed prayer combined with fasting to be effective. So I earnestly promised my friend I would fast and pray for the healing of his marriage. Well, I didn’t. As Jesus said, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.”  Their marriage ended. And I felt slightly responsible about its demise.

Peter was one of those quick to declare guys. After the last supper, he promised he would follow Jesus wherever Jesus went, even lay down his life for him. Jesus knew him so well, Jesus knew Peter wouldn’t keep his promise. Jesus told him the truth about his fickle nature (Peter would deny Jesus three times before breakfast); and yet loved him to the end and beyond.

We need to own our desire and our lack; let our hearts be moved with zeal to follow Jesus and yet be acquainted with our inability to do it well. Jesus will not be surprised by our shortcomings. He prays for us and welcomes our attempts. When we fail, we fall, and with each failure, let us fall into the arms of God’s grace and begin again, wiser and more humbly.

Let the hot flame of love burn low, so its embers can sustain the heat necessary for warmth and provision.

Next time another possible response to Jesus’ invitation to follow him. See you then!

A sure way to get where you are headed!

annie-spratt-223429We all need a “Rule” to live by that supports our intentional life in the Lord; a guidepost that points us toward our destination, a map that would help us return to the path when we veer off course. I wrote one once and the first sentence of this rule reads, ”In order to learn to live and love like Jesus I must apprentice my life to the mentorship of Jesus.”

Will you join me in exploring this sentence, not just reading it? Let’s unpack it and see what help it holds our our journey toward God’s heart of love.

To learn – suggests we don’t know how to do it. There will be practice required. Like any new skill mistakes are inevitable. Remember learning to downhill ski? Plenty of bruises from that endeavor!

To live and love like Jesus – this is our goal, the end of our life, the target we aim for. Jesus is the model and the example of humanity perfected. The more we become like him, the closer we are to becoming who God created us to be. We need to learn to express the character of Jesus’ life and the quality of his love through our own unique and distinct personality and temperament.

Apprentice my life – An apprentice is one who, because she desires to learn a trade or skill, attaches herself to one who is a master at the trade so that she can acquire the needed skill and knowledge. We know what we want to know and we know we aren’t able to get what we want or need on our own. To be an apprentice requires a humble submission and an admission of two things: our desire and our lack.

Mentorship of Jesus – Jesus is the experienced and trusted expert at life and he has agreed to train us and advise us. He’s the source and the final authority. We submit to his life giving, and death defying instructions.

It’s like enlisting the the military and going through boot camp or like being a contestant on the biggest loser. We trust and submit to the experts in order to help us accomplish what we long for, but can’t bring about ourselves.

The opening sentence of the Mentored Life requires a response; a decision must be made, a commitment must be undertaken, a direction determined.

Are you willing to submit to Jesus’ mentorship and follow him and his teaching? Does this opening sentence to the Rule I wrote resonate with your heart?

In my next post we’ll talk about potential responses! Please stay in touch.

With you on the journey,

Debby