Discipleship in a McChristian Culture

I am finishing up a book entitled Rediscovering Discipleship by Robby Gallaty.  He is a David Platt disciple, which is the pastor who wrote the book Radical,  which talks about the way the “American Dream” has hijacked our faith as Christians.  You can read more about David here.

Anyway, there is a chapter in Gallaty’s book, similar to the title of this blog post, that really got me thinking how difficult it is to build long-term, long-lasting relationships with people in a culture that thrives on the idea of having pretty much anything one wants with the click of a mouse.  He introduces the chapter discussing the new “drone delivery” system that Amazon has been working on to get what you ordered to your doorstep in 30 minutes or less.  “Amazon Prime Air, as it is called, will one day revolutionize e-commerce as we know it.”  The thing I thought when I read this statement is that I have not really even gotten use to, or taken full advantage of e-commerce in its present state, and it is already being revolutionized!!  This lead me to think about how this affects the thought processes of a culture.  A culture that changes at a pace that is faster than the pace of me getting use to things in the culture.  We no longer have the luxury of adjusting to a change.  We have to adjust to the idea that we will be changing again before this change (whatever that change may be at a particular moment), finds it’s place in our daily existence.

This is a challenge that affects people differently.  In his book, Generational IQ, Haydn Shaw says, “…generations relate differently to God and often fight about those differences based on their unique generational characteristics….We struggle to love people we don’t appreciate or understand.”  He goes on to make distinctions between the Traditionalists (people born before 1945), Baby Boomers (1946-1964), Gen Xers (1965-1980), and Millennials (1981-2001).  He talks about the strengths of each generation, as well as their biggest challenges.  You can find out more about his book here.

So, as I thought about this information I have been reading and studying, I went back to Gallaty’s book and the chapter about “McChristianity.”  He makes some statements that fly in the face of the “current change(s)” I am trying to get used to in our culture.  “Discipleship is a Crock-Pot recipe.”  So why do we continue to go to the drive-thru and look for the greatest program or next mega-church model to copy in order to jump-start our discipleship ministry?  “Discipleship takes time.”  Why do we organizationally, as churches, try to microwave it and market Jesus in such a way that he becomes like an attraction at the circus?  He asks the question, “Could it be that one of the reasons we are not seeing more intentional discipleship take place today is that we do not want to wait upon the Lord, that we lack the patience to persevere in the long-term commitment required to make disciples?”  So why do I feel this “pressure” to come up with some type of discipleship “program?”

He goes on to address this question by saying ” One of the reasons we are not seeing discipleship take place in churches is because church leadership may assume that is needs to execute the ministry instead of empowering others to do it.”  He goes on to say that “ministry is a the pathway to maturity, not vice versa.”  So I am coming to understand that discipleship is relationship.  It takes time.  It is not a program.  It cannot be rushed.  We all need to be empowered and compelled to do it.  The goal of discipleship is conformity the image of Christ, not more people in church or small groups.  It is a crock-pot recipe and cannot be microwaved or picked up in the drive-thru.  “Discipleship is not a system based on ‘huge numbers, fast!’  Rather, it is entirely dependent on human connection and an honest journey together.  Once we are willing to grow together into the image of Christ, massive change will come.”

So, I have got work to do.  I need to set some realistic goals and start a discipleship group.  Human connection.  So, I guess that really was the Holy Spirit talking to me this morning as I wolfed down my drive-thru breakfast, while driving to church checking my iphone, to see if my order from Amazon was going to be delivered before the weekend?

Lord, help me to slow down enough to be discipled, and to disciple others.


Missing the Bus

Image taken from wikipedia

It doesn’t happen too often at our house, but this morning….it happened.  My youngest daughter, a sixth grader, missed her bus.  Not challenging enough that it comes before any educational juices are flowing (for teachers and students), but today she came early.  Instead of the normal, barely-heard-the-rooster-hour of 6:36am, she had the nerve to show up at 6:33am!!  My daughter just does not think this should be!  And for some reason that I don’t understand, my daughter HATES to miss the bus.  Not sure if the status has changed for 6th graders riding the bus, but this is close to the crisis of the ipod/iphone being below 10% charge, or worse yet, Netflix being down!!

Anyway, we strategized, and she wanted me to run her, in my car, to her friends house.  So being the good dad that I am (pat back here), we hopped in the car and ran around the corner.  To her dismay, the bus had just ended its stop at her friend’s house, and was continuing on with the route.  My hero instinct was to give chase and get my little girl what she wanted….to ride on the bus.  Suddenly, I felt this searing stabbing pain in my arm.  It was my daughter digging her nails into my arm, as she reprimanded me, “Dad, don’t!  Just turn around!”  Not wanting to escalate things, but not quite understanding school bus riding in the current day and age, I slowly turned the car around and headed home.

My daughter’s day was on a crash course with disappointment.  I have learned that many times, this is not a time for a lot of words.  So, we went back into the house, silently, I continued to get ready, and told her we would leave soon to get her to school.  She grunted and kept her head laying in her arms on the kitchen table.  I found myself praying asking the Lord for wisdom on how to positively move my daughter’s day forward.  Not that I was responsible for making her day better, but being willing to be a part of making that happen if I could.  Then, the Holy Spirit jolted me, and said that is what discipleship is all about.  You can’t save anybody.  You can’t make anybody’s day better.  You can’t fix their cancer.  You can’t heal their marriage.  But you can be willing to be a part of investing in that person, and contribute to them seeing their circumstances as temporary, and demonstrate your willingness to see them through it, and provide encouragement along the way.

Jesus continually made his ministry about meeting people where they were.  Sometimes he was the miracle worker, and sometimes he was the encourager.  He healed the blind man’s eyes, but he healed the soul of the woman caught in adultery.  He brought hope.  He led with love.  He was willing to roll up his sleeves and invest in the lives of people who were hopeless.  He understood the stress of missing the bus.

I drove my daughter to school nearly 10 minutes later.  We rode in silence for the first several minutes.  “Lord, help me disciple my daughter,” I prayed.  I turned on the radio to the local Christian station and the Matthew West song I blogged about the other day came on.  Here is that post if you missed it: It Happened Again.  The song is called “Day One” and it talks about this being the first day of the rest of your life.

So, as I pulled up to the school I said to my beautiful little girl who was having a rough morning:  “Three thoughts for the day today.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Number one.  “Sometimes you miss the bus.”  She raises her hand as if to say, “Dad, really?”  I promptly continue, “Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”  She gives me an obligatory smirk kind of letting me know that she is thinking…”I see what you did there, dad.”  Thought three: “I love you!”  She took a deep breath combined with a sigh.  Tilted her head to the side as if thinking.  Turned to me and smiled the most gorgeous genuine smile and said, “I love you too!”  My little girl hopped out of the car, slammed my door (which she always does whether happy or sad), and with a bounce in her step, went into school waving and smiling.

In that moment, I felt God smile.  Not because she was my daughter and I had magically made things better for her.  More for the fact that I was able to be willing to invest in her well-being, not feeling like I needed to teach her something about how not to be late for the bus, but to lead with love and encourage her, and ensure that she is ok and it was all going to be Ok.  I believe that approach is at the heart of discipleship and I hope I can get that right with more people, more often.

Would it be wrong of me to make my daughter miss the bus again tomorrow? 🙂

It Happened Again…

Several weeks ago I blogged about hearing the same song over and over, whether it was when the alarm went off, or hopping into the car, etc.  Last time it was the song “Exhale” by Plumb.  You can read that blog entry HERE if you missed it.

image taken from clipart.me

This time it was “Day One” by Matthew West.  Make sure you take a listen.  The video is cleverly done as well.  I am just going to go ahead and post the lyrics in case you don’t have time to listen:

Well, I wish I had a short term memory
Wish the only thing my eyes could see
Was the future burning bright right in front of me
But I can’t stop looking back

Yeah, I wish I was a perfect picture of
Somebody who’s never not good enough
I try to measure up but I mess it up
And I wish I wasn’t like that

I wish I wasn’t wishing anymore
Wish I could remember that nobody’s keeping score
I’m tired of throwing pennies in a well
I gotta do something
Here goes nothin’

It’s day one of the rest of my life
It’s day one of the best of my life
I’m marching on to the beat of a brand new drum
Yeah, here I come
The future has begun
Day one

Well, every single day Your grace reminds me
That my best days are not behind me
Wherever my yesterday may find me
Well, I don’t have to stay there

See my hourglass is upside down
My someday soon is here and now
The clock is tickin’
And I’m so sick and tired of missing out

It’s day one
And here comes the sun

Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, I will fix my eyes on You
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Sun’s coming up, the beginning has begun

Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over, starting now
I’m starting over
Starting over, I’m starting over
Starting over
Starting over, starting now
I’m starting over

Wonder what it would be like if we started each day with this attitude.  I am tired of throwing pennies in the well.  His grace does remind me that my best days are not behind me.  Every morning His mercy is new.  If you didn’t need to hear that today, I sure did.

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.

 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.

 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”                           (Lamentations 3:22-24)

Today is Day one.  Read this again tomorrow and the next day and the next…

Gospel Legacy

I was listening to NPR this morning. (For those of you under 30 that stands for National Public Radio).  The commentator was recounting an interview he had just had with current president of Notre Dame, Rev. John I. Jenkins.  They were discussing the legacy of Notre Dame football and how it effects the school.  President Jenkins then said “…if and when college players get paid for playing, I will pull the Notre Dame football program from the college football business.”  With a smirk that literally came through the radio dial, the commentator retorted, “Sure Father.  Just like they will take the Ivy off the Wrigley Field outfield walls and remove the pinstripes from the Yankee uniforms.”  This pricked something in my brain.  What creates a legacy?

What makes something an institution unto itself?  That even though it may be a part of a larger organization or system, in these cases football and baseball, that the larger institution would suffer without it’s presence (and maybe not suffer, but have to go through some change process that would involve feelings equivalent to grief or loss).  I mean the legacy of the ivy at wrigley field goes so far as a man came dressed in ivy to the game.

In doing some very basic research about the legacy of the three “iconic” topics above, I didn’t find anything earth shattering.  Notre Dame football seemed to get put on the map when then player, and later coach, Knute Rockne helped introduce the forward pass to the game at the turn of the century.  This seemed to be a big deal because Notre Dame used this new “weapon” to defeat a highly regarded Army team at West Point.

Image taken from ssebaseball.com

The ivy on the wall at Wrigley was not a first, but was the brainchild of  risk-taking owner Bill Veeck, who did some “out-of-the-box” things during his career in baseball. (Disco Demolition Night).

And the Pinstripes worn by the Yankees.  Although many think it was to hide the girth of Babe Ruth, the uniforms were actually adopted the year that Ruth was starting his career as a pitcher with the Red Sox.  A quote by Derek Jeter from Mlb.com tries to explain the Phenomenon: “[It’s the] history,” said Jeter, the Yankees captain. “That’s not being disrespectful to any other team, but you say pinstripes and the first thing that comes to most people’s mind is the Yankees. There’s just so much history there and tradition, it makes it special for us as players.

So it seems that how a legacy is created has to do with a few parts tradition, a splash of circumstance, a smidgeon of creativity and risk, a pinch of perseverance, and a whole bunch of courage.

So I wonder?  How does one leave an effective Gospel legacy?  How do we get to a point that when someone says our name, people think Christ-like.  When someone says Notre Dame, most will think football and shiny gold helmets.  When someone says Ivy covered walls, people will think baseball in Wrigley Field.  And as Jeter mentioned, when he says pinstripes, people think Yankee baseball.  So again, I wonder how we get to the point where someone says Insert your name here , people think Jesus.

John 13:35 is a verse that keeps coming back to me.  It simply says. ” Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”  So it was his love for the cubs that caused that man to wear ivy to Wrigley Field.  There is a sense of adrenaline that comes from sliding on the Yankee pinstripes.  What if we consistently wore some fruit?  Things like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  I think our legacy would gain momentum.  I think discipleship would become a natural byproduct of that lifestyle.  I think the Gospel would be spread.

You’re on deck.  They are calling your number for the next big play.  What is your legacy going to be?

Willing to pay the cost?

In their book Breaking the Missional CodeEd Stetzer and David Putman talk about the fact that Jesus was clear that no one should go out and begin a process of building something without first counting the cost.  At the end of Luke chapter 14 Jesus is comparing the cost of dicipleship to a builder constructing a tower and a King getting ready to go off to war.  The basic premise being that once the decision is made to move ahead, we had better be ALL IN.  Before concluding with one more illustration of unsalty salt, Jesus says these words that seemed to resonate a little different with me when I read them: “…any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” (verse 33)

What does giving up everything look like in 2015?  Am I literally supposed to relinquish all that I consider mine, and become destitute?  Do I have to be “poor” to be All In?  These are questions that often enter into my mind when I read such passages.  Not that I know the answers, but I long to stretch and grow my faith to come to some sense of acceptable existence.  Just because I am willing to pay the cost, does that mean God is going to send me to “Spiritual Collections” and “hound” me for everything I have?  I don’t think so, but He definitely has the right to do that.  After all, what did He pay?

In studying several commentaries and reading the essays of several people much smarter than me, I have come to the following conclusion:

This passage speaks to the importance of loyalty and allegiance to Jesus over all other competing loyalties, including family, self-interest, and possessions.

So what does loyalty and allegiance to Jesus look like?  Attending church every Sunday?  Doing my daily devotions?  Fasting?  Keeping the Ten Commandments? Sharing my faith with my non-believing friends?  Giving my tithe?  Leading a small group?  Raising my hands during corporate worship?  Going on a mission trip?  Unfortunately, it is none of these things.  These are all good things, don’t get me wrong, and all have value.  However, in hunting around for the answer to my own question about loyalty and allegiance, I found an “older” style word that I believe may be the key.  It is the thing that would allow all of the behaviors mentioned above to become by-products of my loyalty and allegiance.

The word is……consecration!!  I know that sounds a little heady and theologically complicated, but it has a rather simple meaning.  Set yourself apart.  Full devotion.  Mark Batterson in his book All In. says “Consecration is an ever-deepening love for Jesus, a child-like trust in the heavenly Father, and a blind obedience to the Holy Spirit.

So, am I consecrated?  Are you consecrated?  Could you imagine what God could do if everyone got consecrated at the same time?  We could build towers and win wars for the kingdom.  It seems that the cost is giving up rights to myself.  Giving God veto power over my life.  Nothing is untouchable and nothing is out of the realm of possibility.  Extremely counter-cultural.

Oh that we would be consecrated….Place our lives before God.

Dear (insert your name here),

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

Consecrate Yourself,

Paul the Apostle (Romans 12)

P.S.  It REALLY works!!

Where are your looking?

Image taken from wikimedia.org

Our church has been going through a “season of seeking” for the past several weeks.  I thought I would check in to see where exactly you have been looking during this season of seeking.  If you are “looking” in the same old spot (doing the same things you were doing, expecting different results), that would be a “season of insanity” not a season of seeking.

I have been reading In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson.  I was reading yesterday about the concept that there will always be a certain level of uncertainty in things (like the pun?).  It was proven by German Physicist  Werner Heisenberg in the early 1930’s when he won the Nobel Prize for his theory of quantum mechanics.  Now I don’t really like science, however, I love the principle behind what he was proving.  You can read more about the science part here.  The basic ideas is that you can’t know with exact preciseness two qualities of something like position and momentum.  To know about one means you sacrifice knowing with exactness about the other.

So what I like is that this principle has some theological truth to it.  We can try and spend our entire life trying to plan for what we think we need and are supposed to do based on our gifts and abilities, and miss out on what it is we are REALLY supposed to be doing.  We can get wrapped up so much in the “position” we are currently in and not become aware of the “momentum” that we potentially have.

Batterson goes on to talk about the fact that “…I think many people have the mistaken notion that faith reduces uncertainty.  Nothing could be further from the truth…Faith embraces uncertainty.  We’ll never have all the answers.  And some people never come to terms with this truth.  They feel like something is wrong with them because they can’t wrap their minds around God.  But maybe faith has less to do with gaining knowledge and more to do with gaining wonder.  Maybe a relationship with God doesn’t simplify our lives.  Maybe it complicates our lives in ways they should be complicated.”  I believe if people could actually “discover” this truth about themselves, it would be greater than Heisenberg’s quantum physics discovery.

Think about a favorite memory that you have from a vacation or something.  There is a pretty good chance that it involves a certain amount of spontaneity and uncertainty in terms of how you arrived at it being a memory.

We went on short three day cruise last year to the Bahamas.  We arrived back early on a Sunday morning and had some time to kill before we headed back to Orlando to our hotel for the evening.  My wife had a wish to go to a beach side store and buy a starfish, take it to a beach, and write something in the sand for a print for a potential Christmas card to send out from our family.  We didn’t know exactly where we were, and so we went on an adventure (figuring that we were in Florida and if we drove long enough we would find a beach).  After driving around for a little bit, honestly getting a little frustrated, we decided we would ask someone for directions.  Wouldn’t you know that parking lot we pulled into held a little medical building.  Long story short, the lady we decided to ask, had just had dental work.  Trying to listen to her directions, and remember them without laughing at her….it was pretty hilarious.

image taken from floridatoday.com

We laughed all the way to where we eventually ended up.  Where we ended up being unexpectedly marvelous. It was the pier at Cocoa Beach.  There was a great little restaurant at the end, we beat the lunch crowd, and ended up creating an awesome memory.  The catch?  I wasn’t looking for Cocoa Beach.  There was a huge amount of uncertainty.  But walking up over that dune and catching that first breathtaking glimpse of the Atlantic on that Sunday mid-morning was something I will never forget.  Having a great lunch with my family, and relaxing in the December sunshine on the coast was awesome!!

Author Robert Fulghum (All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten) says,

” The sweetest memories are seldom the result of planning.”

During this season of seeking, where are you looking?  Are you still trying to plan everything?  Take a different route to work.  Sit somewhere else in church.  Try a new restaurant.  Look up and around when you are walking, instead of head down thinking about all you have to do.  You may just run into the lady who had dental work, and create a memory that will last a lifetime…..

Sweet Spot

Each person is given something to do that shows who God is. (1 Corinthians 12:7 – MSG)

Image borrowed from Sciencenews.orgSports

Sports enthusiasts know about the sweet spot.  The perfect crack of the bat that allows all the laws of physics and motion to work together to give that perfect release of energy propelling the ball at a perfect trajectory.  It resonates through your nerve endings releasing a kind of natural ‘high” that comes from nowhere else.  The same thing happens in golf or tennis.

A similar feeling happens when your child walks for the first time, the tax refund check comes early, or the flight attendant bumps you to first class.  That inexplicable tingle that causes you to feel that all is right in the world.

The God of the universe has given us a shape to fit in the grand puzzle of his design. We were made on purpose for a purpose (borrowing a line from Rick Warren).  So how do you find this spot?  How do you LIVE there?  Not just having it seem like an occasional coincidence, but rather a divine blueprint?

Borrowing from Max Lucados’ Book Cure for the Common Lifeyou need to discover your uniqueness.  “Mine like a gold digger the unique-to-you nuggets from your life.” The guys with the talents in Matthew 25 were each given “…according to their ability.”  We were given a pre-determined inner harmony.  Some inner music that we hear differently from everyone else.  God endows us with gifts so we can make him known.

Our church has entered a “Season of Seeking.”  A time to step back from some of our regularly scheduled church stuff mid-week to earnestly seek God, and what he would have us to do in this season of ministry at Bedford Church.  But the church is made up of people.  The “church” as a building cannot seek anything.  But the church as a body, with some level of intentionality, can boldly seek the God of the universe and what he has planned, both individually and corporately.  Would you join in?  Before the command to seek first in Matthew 6, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount says “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matthew 5:6)

Image borrowed from getupwithgod.com

When is the last time you were spiritually hungry or thirsty?  Are you willing to climb off the couch of complacency, grab your pick axe and sifter, and do some mining to find out your uniqueness?  That is the way to find your sweet spot.

And by the way.  I believe finding other people to do this with, and share the successes and struggles along the way…..I think that might be the secret to discipleship….

A moment or A lifetime

I think I am spiritually ADD.

This past week we took my son to college at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.  He is starting his freshman year, so they had, as most colleges do, a move-in day for new students one day earlier than all the returning students.  We were invited to come down the night before by my son’s soon to be roommate’s parents, and spend the night at their home, therefore, alleviating us having to get up early and make the drive first thing in the morning.  We had never been to their house, and so we entrusted our trip to the Oz of travel in this day and age…Google Maps.  The quickest route sent us by major highway for about half of the 1 hour and 45 minute trip, and then “backroads” for the remainder of the trip.  Needless to say, we had a beautiful drive through the green corn-laden rural countryside of southern Ohio.

Image borrowed from pinsta.me

We arrived in the late evening as the purply-orange sky was fading to sunset at our destination in Apple Valley, Ohio.  After the greeting and the exchange of “How was the drive?” type questions, my son’s roommate’s dad asked me the question that I always dread…which way did you come to get here?  I dread this question because I never know the answer.  I am not the best with directions, especially when going somewhere new.  But, I think I have discovered why.  It is not because I don’t pay attention to where I am going.  It is because I pay TOO much attention to the things around me when I am going somewhere.  I try to soak it all in.  I try to figure out why the rows of corn are so straight.  I try to figure out why the farm has its propane tank painted the grandma’s-livingroom-green color.  I wonder if the farmer bothers drying off his seat on his equipment when there is dew in the morning.  I ask myself if I would like to ever live on a farm.  I wonder, I think, I try to figure out….and before I know it I have driven a distance without “paying attention” to where I am going.

I think this is how our spiritual lives are at times.  We set out wanting to map everything out.  We use all of the resources that we have to make sure we are prepared for the journey.  We may even try to ensure that we guarantee ourselves a spot at THE destination.  The funny thing is, we don’t exactly know what the road of life is going to bring our way.  There may be detours, construction, possibly even road closures.  We may hit a pothole or two along the way.  We may have breakdowns of our “vehicle” as time rolls on and we put the miles on it.

This has brought to light something for me that I think is easy to overlook as we walk along in our faith journey.  When Jesus says follow me, it is not for the moment, it is for a lifetime.  It is not just a simple prayer, and a belief.  Oh trust me, that is an important part of the process, but it is just a part of the process.  That is why in John Chapter 6 in verses 60 and 66 it says, “This is tough teaching, too tough to swallow.” and “After this a lot of his disciples left. They no longer wanted to be associated with him.”  Jesus never asked for an emotional moment or to avert some crisis when he was talking about salvation…He was asking for the rest of their lives.

So when I come to the end of my spiritual journey, and you ask me how I got there.  I don’t know if I will have a specific answer, except I might just say, “I’m not really sure, I just tried to follow Jesus, and I didn’t pay too much attention to how I got here, because I wanted to take in all the wonder around me as He directed me through life’s path.”

Like I said.  I think I am spiritually ADD, and I think He is OK with that.

The Rich Man In Me

I have recently just finished the book Radical, by David Platt.  The subtitle is “Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream.  He specifically talks in one chapter about the wealth of America and all the kids that are dying every day from hunger, etc, etc.  I don’t mean to be flippant, but I read it with that type of attitude.  Sorry, just being honest.  I have since adjusted, and asked for forgiveness, and have actually spent some time dwelling on what he was talking about, but in more ways than just the context of wealth vs. poverty.

Image result for finish the race

image taken from fullydevotedfamily.com

I don’t want to be the rich young man that asks Jesus in Mark 10:17 the question that we all have at times, “What do I have to do to live right?  To gain the prize?  To finish the race well?  Along with not wanting to be him, I don’t want to ignore the fact that that lure to be him is always stronger than I would like to admit.  I think Jesus’s response to the man was not so much a condemnation of wealth, as it was Jesus exposing a “blind spot” for the rich young man.  The rich young man was not willing to examine the extent to which he was reliant on, in this case, his wealth.  However, it could be anything that keeps a person in bondage.  A relationship.  A past relationship.  A job or career.  Children.  A home.  These things are all worthy of our attention, however, we have to be careful about our devotion.

I don’t want to be blind to these things in my own life.  I don’t want to miss Jesus.  It is easy for things that don’t affect me directly to become cold and distant (like the statistics about hungry children in the world), but if they don’t even move something in my spirit, does that say something about my spiritual condition?  What kind of car should I drive?  What luxuries does God intend for my family to have, and which ones am I supposed to sacrifice?  Where is the line between saving responsibly and preparing frantically?  None of these questions have easy answers.  And I definitely don’t think we can put in place legalistic measures to make the answers more acceptable.

I believe this is part of the journey, and I am learning that a bigger part of that journey than I thought is finding joy in being totally dependent on Jesus for the guidance that only he can provide.  In the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 3:

But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.10 I want to know Christ…

What is your blind spot?

Are you Worthy?


Photo borrowed from theprospect.net

Many times through my life I have struggled with the idea that I am not worthy.  I think we all struggle with this at times.  Where does that come from?  Disappointing people?  Realizing that there will always be somebody better than us?  Not totally sure, but I do know that I can do something about making sure others feel worthy, and I think that through those efforts I have come to see my own worth.

Hebrews 11:38 located at the end of the famous “faith chapter” that contains short descriptions of the “heroes of the faith” says this: ” –the world was not worthy of them….”  You can read about what all they went through 
here.  So one of the great paradoxes of this Christian life seems to be that in order to be found truly worthy, I may have to “suffer” some things for the gospel’s sake.  I don’t think I will be facing the fate of being sawed in two or be forced to shop for a new “goatskin” suit, but I may need to feel some persecution or sacrifice some human comforts for the sake of the gospel.

I read a devotional this morning that was entitled “Do you want it or not?”  The author was recalling a time when she was complaining to God about some of the things that He was requiring of her because it did not seem others were being asked to do or give up some of the same things or to the same “discomfort degree.”  She goes on to say that the disciples didn’t check to see what the salary package would be, or travel reimbursement, or, for that matter, what their job description would be.  Then she made a statement that really struck me.  What Jesus was asking these guys to do was pretty severe.  It was totally disrupting their current way of life and their comfortable level of functioning.  Then she said this: Perhaps the greater the opportunity is, the greater the sacrifice must be.  Think about that.  If I want to “do” things for God (which are usually not bad things, i.e. teach Sunday School, work with kids/teens, visit people, etc) I can do most of that with very little sacrifice and add positively to the world, and feel good about myself at the same time.  But what if I jumped into something that I knew I had absolutely no guarantee of being able to do myself that intentionally put me out of my comfort zone?  I would have to sacrifice my pride, my sense of comfort, and my sense of control, and then give God total credit for what does or does not happen.

I think sometimes I am addicted to my own comfort.  It seems too counterintuitive to make myself uncomfortable, yet the more I read about people in the bible, there seems to be a correlation between the blessing they believed they would receive and the level of sacrifice and suffering they experienced.  Paul talked about this in Philippians 3.

So you are worthy.  The real question is Do you want it or not?