Posts Tagged ‘Following Jesus’

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WORSHIP WEDNESDAY (Chris Tomlin)

February 24, 2016

Christian faith is ever to be growing and transforming to the end of life for those who are in Christ Jesus.  Transforming faith reaches the depths of the heart, untangles the tentacles of affection, and reforms the very form of a child of God’s soul.  The maturation of faith awakens early and often under the clear understanding and belief that the God of the Universe, the God of Creation, the Great I Am, is the Best Father of those who are His. The essence of Christian faith is not the general adoration of the unknowable.  The child daily abides with the Father whom he knows and loves.  Within that relationship, the divine power of Spirit transforming faith is released.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!  Luke 11:11

I worshiped this morning to this reminder from Chris Tomlin to the reality of who God is – a good, good, Father.

“The child asks of the Father whom he knows.
Thus, the essence of Christian prayer
is not general adoration, but definite, concrete petition.
The right way to approach God is to stretch out
our hands and ask of One who we know has the heart of a Father.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

 

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“RAISING THE UNDEAD” (Part 1) – Jan. 30

January 30, 2016

“For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”  Matthew 7:14

The group had been trudging for days along the wet, desolate, and narrow way.  They had been skirting a monolith, silently resting to the south, covered with a black cloud perpetually weeping over it.  They stared in dread of this place, always filling the periphery of their vision, knowing all too well the horror that lay within.

The dirt road meandered endless ahead, being lost to sight behind rocky climbs, just to suddenly reappear as a silhouetted streak across distant meadow, only to be lost again as it dipped over the horizon.  However, the oppressive presence of what they simply call the Place, suppressed the chatter of even the most stringent follower of this normally joyful fellowship.  Silence clung to the travelers each time the narrow path swung into close proximity of the Place.

The narrow road was navigating a circuitous route around the monochromatic city lying below, filling a landscape of hewed hills and diverted streams.  There were many diverting roads along the narrow path.  Each beckoning the earthly into the unearthly with an avenue of wide, smooth pavement, gently descending as if following a meandering stream into a welcoming reservoir.  However, each follower knew that what lay below was not a reservoir of refreshment but a cesspool of filth.

They had plodded past many tempting diversions never with a hint of turning from their long familiar path.  This was the reason for the gasp that moved as a wave through the group as their Leader silently turned, onto the pavement without the slightest warning.  His intention were clear.  They were to travel into the Place.

Many stopped, confused by the new direction.  Having recently escaped the clutches of the Place that now lay directly before them.  They dreaded any step in that direction.  Others slowed as deep apprehension made each step a force of will.  Even the longest followers of the Leader looked ahead with grave concern.  They had followed the Leader on several such diversions into the Place.  They knew what lay ahead.

The group had quickly strung out into a long single file string despite the width of the roadway.  Their Leader continued at the head, gracefully moving ahead with an effortless, yet deliberate pace.  Normally, each follower found the Leader’s pace easy to shadow despite their varying levels of conditioning.  However, many now found the pace uncommonly tasking and began to fall back.

By Roberto Strauss from Frankfurt am Main, Deutschland (Orange night sky Frankfurt) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Without any direction from the Leader, the long-time followers peeled back from their normal positions, to lend their strength to those struggling with indecision.  These experienced trekkers quietly stepped alongside those struggling with the dread ahead; gently lifting them, urging them forward with the confidence that they would all survive.  They had been through this before.  All would be fine if they just stayed together in the presence of their long-time Leader.

The quick diligence of these faithful followers successfully pulled the ranks of the group together just as they came to gates of the now towering terror.  The Leader looked over his shoulder and smiled to see that all who he had called were packed in tight.  He knew a long night was before each and every one.

Despite what the others sensed, he knew there was glory ahead.  He turned and took a step through the gates of the undead.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for drawing us through the narrow gate.  Thank you for coming into this dark world to seek and find the lost.  Thank you for saving me while I was still dead in my sin.  Thank you for cleansing me and making me a new creation in Christ Jesus.  I praise your glorious name.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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WORSHIP WEDNESDAY (Kristene DiMarco)

December 30, 2015

The first step of a child of God is to follow Jesus.
The last step of a child of God is to follow Jesus.
Every intermediate step a decision to follow and not stray.

I worshiped this morning to this reminder from Kristene DiMarco to be resolute and decisive in ever one of our intermediate steps of faith.  The lyrics of the song are:

My heart is steadfast oh God, and I won’t be led astray
by the things that, simply will fade before Your face Oh,
And I will follow You, I’m wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I was made for this, one thing is to see and to seek Your goodness
Take me by the hand and lead me

And I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I have decided, and I have resolved in my heart
that I will go anywhere, anywhere just to see Your face
I have decided, and I have resolved in my heart
that I will go anywhere, anywhere, anywhere
just to see Your face

I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

Moments may come when I feel so afraid but
I rest in the promise you made that You will remain forever faithful and

I will follow You, I wrapped up in You, I belong to You

I belong to You

~ Kristene DiMarco, I will Follow You

 “I claim no right to myself, no right to this understanding,
this will, these affections that are in me.
Neither do I have any right to this body or its members,
no right to this tongue, to these hands, feet, ears or eyes.
I have given myself clear away and
not retained anything of my own.”
Jonathan Edwards

 

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RACE MODE – April 25

April 25, 2014

“You were running well.  Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”  Galatians 5:7

I have six weeks to go until the Ironman Boise 70.3. Time has slipped past quicker on the calendar than the asphalt has passed beneath me since my decision to enter (The Agnostic will never be an Ironman). My training has been very consistent yet my time-on-legs has not accumulated as rapidly as I would have liked.

Two rules of thumbs have come to press me into an uncomfortable dilemma. I need to add running miles slowly to avoid injury. Yet, I need to begin tapering from my longest run, three weeks before race day so I will be fresh when it really matters. I have been adding one mile per week. If I get in a 10 mile run this weekend, then I can get to 13 miles over the next three weeks, just in time before I need to start backing off.

It will all work out as long as I stay on schedule.

However, the weather has not been cooperating with my schedule. This last week has been full of rain and wind that has completely kept me off the bike and has forced me to limit my runs. I look to the forecast of the weekend without much hope of a break in the weather.  I need to get in a long run, but that will probably mean a miserable run in a cold, driving, rain.

My race day looms through the gloom of storms. The storm front will not push my race day back.  I will either have to endure through uncomfortable training conditions or face the disappointment of not being ready on race day.

If a race did not occupy a spot on my calendar, I would not train in inclement weather. I would not go out in miserable conditions when they could be avoided by delay. I would not strive to improve at the expense of unnecessary discomfort.  There is no need to endure the uncomfortable when there is plenty of time to train or there is no race on the horizon.

We train differently when we are in race mode. We have to demonstrate more self-control in our training when we are striving to do well in a race. Therefore, I will be going for a run this weekend. I hope it does not rain but I am resolved not to let the weather detour me from my goal.10299087_634665106615225_8860704770501170396_n

The same is true of our spiritual training. We live differently when we are in race mode.

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. (1 Corinthians 9:24-27)

We all have a day coming when we cross the finish line of life. Will we finish well? Are we striving to obtain the prize? The storm clouds of life will not push back our final day. That glorious day should loom through all the momentary gloom of daily cares.

Yet, I do not see a lot of folks living in race mode. The self-control of spiritual disciplines is quickly discarded at the hint of inclement conditions.

Evening prayers are shortened to accommodate late-night TV.
Comfort is sought in ice cream rather than our Savior.
Praise of men governs a prideful tongue.
Charity is withheld in lieu of vacation.
Ministry is replaced by a nap.
Envy flourishes in the discontentment of loss.
Worship of flesh replaces praise of the Almighty.
Harsh words are not withheld due to unrestrained anxiety.
Morning bible reading is discarded for minutes of additional sleep.

It is easy for the cares of this world to throw us off our game. Self-control is difficult when the pressure and discomfort of a sinful will wars against our redeemed soul. It is easy to surrender to our sinful passions when we are living as if there is no finish line and cease to strive for the prize.

We do not live aimlessly. Our self-control is not in vain. We are following Christ in order to obtain the prize of eternal life. We are striving in our spiritual training to glorify the God we love and to enjoy Him daily. We say  “no” to our flesh because we are in a race for the glory of God and we only have so many days to the finish line.

Let’s not waste a day of training.  May we continue to follow Christ even when the world around us is miserable and we just want to stay in bed.  The finish line is coming and none of us knows the day.  What is hindering you from running well?

I think this video by John Piper, Make War, is excellent at describing the attitude we Christians should live in.

PRAYER: Father, keep me in race mode. Lord, help me to make war on my sinful flesh.  Don’t let me be live like there will always be another day to glorify you.  Help me to number my days.  Give me the strength to follow you in the foulest of circumstances.  Give me the perseverance to always strive forward in obedience regardless of what my flesh wants to do.   I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

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I AM SETTING OUT – April 3

April 3, 2014

“So the people of Israel set out from Rameses and camped at Succoth….And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from…And they set out from the mountains of Abarim and camped in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho…” Numbers 33:5-49

Moses’ diary of the stages of the people of Israel while in the wilderness chronicles a consistent pattern. It is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary. The Israelites were constantly moving on. They were setting out from one place and heading to another place. They still did this pattern for decades because they were not in the promise land.

Desert

Desert (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

The land they were passing through was not their inheritance. They were not to settle in a land filled with idolatry that would draw them away from following God with their whole hearts. We can read about what happened to the nation of Israel when they failed to take possession of the Promised Land and settle in it as God directed them.

The enticements of the settled land became barbs in their eyes and thorns in their sides, and they had trouble in the land where they dwelt. (Numbers 33:55)

I wonder what the summary of my spiritual journey toward eternal life chronicles.

We get in trouble when our hope settles in this life. We are passing through a world of temptations that can become barbs that pull our eyes away from Christ. We are baited into fulfilling desires that can become thorns in our sides that hold us back.  The summary of our lives should demonstrate a consistent pattern of setting out from those loves that entice our hearts away from wholly following Christ.

I am setting out from my love of praise.
I am setting out from my pride.
I am setting out from my anger.
I am setting out from my gossip.
I am setting out from my success.
I am setting out from my failure.
I am setting out from disappointment.
I am setting out from my love of money.
I am setting out from my jealously.
I am setting out from my envy.
I am setting out from my worry.
I am setting out from discontentment.
I am setting out from my love of comfort.
I am setting out from my lust.
I am setting out from my fears.
I am setting out from my doubt.
I am setting out from unbelief.

I know there are a lot of things that I need to set out from. I can readily attest to the areas of my life where I settle. Many times, I will set out only to circle back to those sinful loves of my heart that bind me like thorns in my side.

DesertWe all have specific idols in our lives that have strong allurement. We should not be discouraged by the number of times we set out from these wayward loves. We will always battle temptations to settle for the false promises of this world.

I hope that the diary of my life is a boringly consistent pattern when read in summary.

The pattern of a follower of Christ should be one of consistent setting out. While we are still in this life, we will be constantly setting out from those things that keep us from wholly following Christ. We can have confidence in a future of not settling because of the power of the Spirit. There is not a power in this world that can keep us from setting out in the power of the Spirit. I look forward to a future of not settling for anything other than my inheritance – eternal life as an heir of God. Therefore…

I am setting out from the idols that ensnare me.
I am setting out despite the barbs in my eyes and the thorns in my side.
I am setting out in faith, pursuing the Hope that will never disappoint.
I am setting out with a mind on the things of the Spirit.
I am setting out with a heart wholly devoted to Christ.

 

PRAYER: Father, thank you for giving me a hope to set out for. Forgive me for settling upon loves that will never satisfy me.  Forgive me for settling when I should be following.  Lord, help me to follow you.  Give me the power to set out.  Remove the barbs from my eyes.  Pluck the thorns from my sides.  Free me from all that entangles my love for you and you alone.  Thank you for saving me and giving me an inheritance that I did not deserve. I pray this in the precious name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen

 

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“MAKING A GLAD STREAM” – March 1

March 1, 2014

“There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High.”  Psalm 46:2

Snake River in Idaho

I received an overview of rivers as I trekked across southern Idaho for a recent ski day.  I crossed the Snake River, which is a slow, wide, and meandering river that is not very inviting.  The Snake River is a dark muddy river where I live.  It is full of sediment washed from thousands of acres.  It cuts into banks of soil in its century’s long search of the perfect course.  Energy continually dissipates as soils are consumed along the river bottoms, producing an opaque soup that is not fit to consume.

Stuck in Customs / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

As I ascend into the mountain reaches, the rivers become narrow and hardened.  The soils have long ago been washed away and the underlying rock exposed.  Channels lie fixed between mountain ranges.  Water flows with vigor and energy.  The life-sustaining water tumbling across the rocks of these rivers and creeks glistening in the morning sun, inviting a refreshing taste.

The parables and other imagery of the Bible mixed and mingled as I contemplated these rivers that accompanied me in a weary descent from an enjoyable day spent sliding down a mountain.

I could see my life as a follower of Christ illustrated in the changing of these rivers.

I know that I live mostly oblivious to the majority of the deep spiritual realities all around me – like looking through muddy water.  The polluting influences of my flesh have long obscured the truths of the living water of Christ.  I get periodic glimpses of fleeting clarity to bolster my hope during those brief periods when my eyes clear of selfishness and the resulting murk of life.

The eroding work of the Spirit has continued through the years to churn away at the banks of my idolatrous world.  I meander spiritually through this life as the Spirit relentlessly undermines one unholy edifice after another.  It has always been messy when a bank of bad soil finally collapses into the rushing power of the living water.  Confusion and questions swirling in the obscured wash of a life being gouged deep.

Yet, the Spirit is faithful.  The flowing power of the living water has never diminished and the cleansing flush of the divine always brings clarity through reliance, restoring tranquility to the child, love by God.  The seemingly meaningless meandering of a life endlessly eroded is never futile.  God is accomplishing a concealed purpose within the sightless depths of our soul.

English: Shoshone falls located in the state o...

He is washing the bad soil of our flesh away to reveal the bedrock of faith.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  (Matthew 7:24)

We are able to have a hope in the future only through a life firmly fixed upon the rock of Christ.  We can only find that rock through the hydraulic mining of the Spirit, removing layer after layer of bad soil from our lives.  The entire process of sanctification, being transformed from one degree to another into the image of Christ, is a messy and bewildering process.  We rarely can see through the muddy confusion of a life being hydraulically washed by the Spirit.

I have often been frustrated by the ostensibly random patterns to life.  I have wondered if I had jumped the banks of my purpose.  I have wondered why events have transpired in so unexpected ways.

By faith, I know that there is nothing random in the life of an heir of God (Rom. 8:16-17).

Maybe, all the chaos that we don’t understand is evidence to the continued work of God in our lives.

Maybe, the sudden bend in circumstance is another opportunity of the Spirit to remove the bad soil of our lives.

Maybe, the vigorous nature of suffering and disappointment is the living water driving deep into hidden crevasses of our soul to remove the last vestiges of rebellion.

We need to take heart through all trials and temptations because the Spirit of God uses those times to drive us onto the rock of our faith – Jesus Christ.  He loves us too much to allow us to build our lives on bad soil.  He loves us too much to leave us in our idolatry.  He loves us too much to allow us to continue meandering through life in an endless search for contentment.

It is because of love that He continues to wash us clean
– as painful as that might be.

My hope is that every child of God will look back at their lives and see a transformation as distinct as the difference between the Snake River and a mountain creek.

May we be washed clean and Christ exposed in every aspect of our lives.

May our course be gouged deep into the sure foundation of the King of kings.

May the living water flowing through our lives invite others to taste and see that the Lord God is so very good.

May the assurance of our salvation abound through the clarity of a life being continually washed by the word of God.

May our lives be streams that make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.

PRAYER: Father, thank you for the good work that you continue to do in my life.  Thank you for continuing to erode away at my selfishness, disobedience, pride, and discontent.  Lord, thank you for repeatedly bringing me back to the sure foundation of your Son, Jesus Christ.  Please continue your work in me.  Don’t leave me as I am.  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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“SEEING BEYOND TOMORROW’S GLOOM” – Feb 22

February 22, 2014

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  John 16:33

Nick Kenrick .. GO Canada GO / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

The future looms before every person.  The length and breadth of these tomorrows are generally assumed greater than their actual duration and are often casually dismissed.  However, every breath taken is an act of exploration into a realm never before experienced.  The mystery of tomorrow forces us all into the uncertain adventure of living life.

In my optimism of youth, I relished this adventure.  The future was a land of opportunity and freedom.  Without responsibilities and obligations, I raced around the blind corners of tomorrow, crashed through decisions without apprehension, confident that the future was a gift that waited to be opened.

Scott Hudson * / Foter / CC BY

Years have been spent on this adventure of tomorrow and my optimism for youth has waned.  Explorations into the temporal mysteries has proven that all that lay ahead is not the pleasant gift I once assumed.  The unabashed plunge to see beyond the bright horizon has been slowed by the dim of experience.  Hard knocks and expensive lessons weigh down optimism.  Disappointment and torn relationships sap the spirit of adventure.  Unfulfilled expectations and suffering erode confidence into trepidation.

The filter of experience reveals the future as a dark, dense forest where even a breeze becomes lost.  Experience teaches that the adventure of life is a long walk through an imposing, meandering wilderness of darkness broken only by sporadic patches of light.  It is a place where dreams are swallowed and a sanguine disposition gasps for air.

Mirkwood!

Mirkwood! (Photo credit: eckenheimer)

Hope is lost when informed only by the rhetoric of experience.

Experience knows that the satisfaction sought in the land of tomorrow never can be sustained in the present.

Experience knows that happiness and contentment can be stolen by a telephone call.

Experience knows that esteem can slip away in a wave of miscalculation.

Experience knows the eternity within man’s heart will  eventually be swallowed by failing flesh.

Daunted courage is all that can come from a mind informed only by experience.  Hard earned wisdom will inevitably restrain the will into steps of caution through a future of unseen but anticipated difficulties.  The optimism of youth cannot withstand the honest revelation of experience when its hopes are placed within the finite horizon.  The finite future is a dark land of trials and tribulations that no amount of optimism can overcome.

Experience can only be rebutted by a hope that resides beyond the finite horizon in the infinite. 

Undaunted courage to walk through the difficult mysteries of tomorrow arises from the hope in the land that is promised but yet unseen.  Optimism is sustained through finite disappointments of today only when informed of an infinite hope that cannot be taken.

Art4TheGlryOfGod / Foter / CC BY-ND

Hope abounds only within the completed work
of the Overcomer of this world, Jesus Christ.

The power of positive thinking is a foolish hoax of the deceived.  There is no power in the optimism for a finite world.  Experience has taught me that hope is lost in the finite but the Spirit sings to me of the everlasting joy in the infinite.

Therefore, I reclaim my youthful optimism by setting my eyes beyond the finite horizon to a promised land at the feet of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Overcomer this world.  I can joyfully race around the blind corners of tomorrow, crash through decisions without apprehension, and confidently stride toward the gift of eternal life while I endure all things because I eagerly await my adoption as son, the redemption of my body (Romans 8:23).

That is the power of an optimistic life that leads to peace.
True, unfailing power comes only in thinking that is set upon the positive redeeming work of Christ.

PRAYER: Lord, give courage to my soul to face tomorrow.  I take all my fears and failures that experience beats down upon me and cast them before you.  I renounce my pessimism that years have hard won.  I reclaim the optimism of my youth, transformed by your grace.  Spirit, speak to my worn soul of the joys that await.  Revive my vigor for a life lived in the conquering power of my great Redeemer.  Thank you for giving me the gift of eternal life.  Help me to set my eyes upon your promises beyond the finite horizon that I am drawn to.  Draw me deeper into you … Draw me to the infinite.  I praise you O Lord (Take Heart).  I pray this in the precious name of your Son,  Jesus Christ.   Amen.

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