From the monthly archives:

April 2010

Will you Follow

April 29, 2010

And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”  Luke 9:58

Wonderful events can lead to sobering words.

Luke 9  tells one of the most exciting series of events in the ministry life of Christ which erupted in a revival of conscience beyond what the world had ever seen. The disciples had been sent out and empowered to heal the sick and cast out demons.  Following their return, the miracle of the loaves and fishes fed over 5,000 seekers.  A week or so later, Peter, James and John saw Heaven come down as Moses and Elijah planned the homecoming of the soon coming King.

Three of those who conditionally followed Christ are then addressed.  The first would-be disciple said to Jesus,

“I will follow You wherever You go.” Luke 9:57

It was the declaration of devotion, the commitment of the convicted.  This man was bravely stating what those who choose Christ have repeated since,

I have decided to follow Jesus,
No turning back, no turning back.
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
No turning back, no turning back.

The Lord’s response was curt and to the point.

“The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

Why the dismissive response?  Is there something lost in the translation, something in those elusive Greek words that translates harshly what was meant gently?  There in lies the problem.  Christians today are offended at rebuke.  To correct someone is to insult in our more sophisticated church of today.  To tell the truth unashamedly is to degrade a person.   In the words of conventional wisdom, it is somehow not fair.

The man was looking for what many look for today.  He was looking for his throne, his place of honor, possession or security that would designated that he was blessed by God.  Don’t think that the “Gospel of Get” is unique to the modern church.  Since the Fall, a man’s worth has been based on what he has and not on who he is.  Job suffered more from the condemnation of friends than the hand of the enemy.

It was the same message carried to Jesus by the mother of James and John.  “Command that my sons may have thrones next to yours!”  She unashamedly asked what many ask today… expecting, demanding, whining, grasping and jealous when someone gets what we think we deserve.

The Lord’ response was clear.

“I have nowhere to lay My head.”

Jesus’ entourage of adoring fans would soon become a mob that would demand His death.  As long as His message promised worldly security, the crowds stayed true, but the message was changing from miracle bread to taking up a cross (vs.17 & 23).  The Master was declaring that no one could enjoy duel citizenship with the world and Heaven.

Jesus’ words were His declaration of freedom, a clear demarcation from the world itself.  He was saying, “If you follow Me, take no thought as to where I am leading.  If you follow Me, don’t expect either persecution or privilege because you will experience both.  My place is not in this world. My home is not in this world.  My desire is not for this world.  If you follow Me then be with Me and don’t bring the world with you!”

It is neither godly to have or to have not, Jesus was stating.  Both will destroy you if you do not assign allegiance to the Kingdom.  Spurgeon wrote,

“If riches are not the trial, worldly cares are every bit as mischievous.  If we cannot be torn to pieces by the roaring lion, we may be hugged to death by the bear.  The devil little cares which it is, as long as it destroys our love for Christ and our confidence in Him.”

Jesus rebuked the three would-be disciples and ignored the flattering words of manipulation that they spoke.  He said to those who said they would follow,

  • I have nothing in this world, so don’t follow expecting a comfortable position.
  • Let the dead bury the dead… stop using others as an excuse for not serving Me.
  • If you look back, you are not fit for the Kingdom of God.

My desire to follow Jesus needs more than a moral compass, it needs a light to my path to produce character.  The lack of persecution coupled by unparalleled wealth in the western church is translated by many as Heaven’s agreement and God’s anointing on our actions and behaviors.  It is anything but and is in fact being “hugged to death by the bear.”

What light does God’s Word shed on the narrow path of discipleship?  Jesus’ words point to a return to simple and humble obedience, godly authority, and lifestyles that emphasize responsible living before grand plans of “being used by God” are attempted.  The prophet Micah said it best,

He has showed you, O man, what is good and what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8

The world is watching and couldn’t care less about most of the trinkets the modern church thinks are so cool and holy.  They look for families that work, children that are obedient, moral behavior, marriages that are healthy and people who are genuine in their loyalty to one another.  Does that look like your life?

The call to be disciples goes beyond catch phrases and religious behavior.  It is demonstrated through the fruit of relationships, obedience to authority, and the peace and divine order of our homes, those things and one other.  Call it a heart commitment, one selfless choice that leads to another or simply a life that responds to His call but in the end it is this… when He calls do you follow?

Thus saith the Lord,
Stand ye in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.  Jeremiah 6:16




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What to Do at a Dead End

April 15, 2010

“They were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word…
the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.”  Acts 16:6

Acts 16
Paul and Barnabas had parted ways and Silas was now Paul’s traveling companion.  In Derbe, located in modern south central Turkey, a young man named Timothy began his lifelong relationship with the apostle that would result in so much good. Nothing was withheld from the band of missionaries whose troubles and persecutions could only be surpassed by the glories of miraculous ministry.

Determined to blaze a white hot trail of church planting through Kingdom preaching, they continued north towards the Black Sea.  Over 400 miles of walking.  Months of travel.  Cold, hunger, robbers and persecution along the way, all the while the blessings of Heaven grew faint and distant.  Finally,

“They were forbidden to preach the word…
the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them.” Acts 16:6

How did “the Spirit of Jesus” say no?  Prayer, intercession, circumstances, I am sure.  A change of direction, west by southwest, was taken but to no avail.  The ministry trail to what would become at another time the seven churches of Revelations was closed.  The little team was constricted to a narrow path ending at the Aegean Sea and the port city of Troas.

Sometimes, the follower of Jesus travels long and far only to be boxed into the Canyon of No.
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A steady decline in Jan’s progress has restricted our path.  An afternoon appointment with the transplant doc led to a hospital admissions desk in the early afternoon, an emergency room cubicle that night and finally a hospital room at 4 am in the morning.  We are back where we started some would say. We are in the Canyon of No.

It is here that the Lord speaks.  Activity, after all, does not always produce maturity.  Through the long night, the Lord would point out so many lessons He had for me.

  • A tiny lady in a black burqa lay on a gurney in the hallway, no room in the inn.  Her husband stood nearby and as I watched, he leaned over and kissed her head, a public expression I had not seen in the Muslim culture.  The Lord said to me, “You love because I first loved you but it does not mean that others do not love also.  It means that you should love more.”
  • A husband was reading next to his wife in a cubicle across the hall.  In their mid-60’s, he sat with the patience of Job in the 2 am frenzy while his wife slept.  She had taken off her hair piece and it lay like a long haired cat in her lap which in the moment of a sleepless night looked quite funny.  She was swollen, patchy hair, exhausted and sick.  He, patient, whole, nicely dressed even in the ordeal. Their love having passed the bounds of skin deep, he was a sentry in the night of their long despair.

Throughout the day, every corner revealed another storied lesson.  We live such sheltered lives, away from the congregations of those sorely afflicted, yet what can look like a dead end is really a commissioning to observe His common grace extended towards all, no matter what background, religion, heritage or language.  Dead ends are a chance to experience real grace.

Most every person here carries the wounds of cancer, whether it is an IV pole, wheelchair, physical deformity or the oh-so-familiar scarf or hat.  It is a living illustration of our world that is hidden just beneath the covers of our prideful self-sufficiency.  All are sick to death with sin, in great need of another, desperate for an answer from one of the white frocked professionals who cure some and sends others home instead of humbling ourselves before the God of all grace.  It takes a “Canyon of No” to see what only God can see clearly from His great Heaven.

This is the land of the dying who know, while the world outside is the land of the dying that do not.  And in this place, the grace of God… that amazingly vast cosmos as immeasurable as the stars that give meaning to the ink black darkness… that grace invites His saints to live out the Gospel to those who perish.

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Paul had a vision in that providential port city.  A man from the west, Macedonia, was begging him to come.  The canyon was breeched and the sea crossed to another field of the Father’s choosing.  Randy Alcorn writes,

“The faith that can’t be shaken is the faith that has been shaken. God tells us that trials in which evil and suffering come upon us ‘have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed’  (I Peter 1:7).”  If God is Good, pg.4

Has your path led you to what appears to be a dead end?  What began as a wonderful life, marriage, career, or ministry often turns “west by southwest.”  Days, months and even years can go by walking across the stones of discouragement as others declare the victories and blessings of their own paths.  All of this while you are as faithful as you know how to be.  Like the psalmist, you “look to the hand of the Master until He has mercy.” Though you hope for a turn for the good, you find yourself surrounded by the Canyon of No with the Aegean Sea ahead.  So what do you do now, Pilgrim?

The lesson of trials and of those who have proven God’s grace through them is that there is a divine breech in the wall of the canyon.  The follower’s task is to believe in the silence that God is speaking, to listen and then to keep walking when and where He directs.  What is a setback to the faithless is the staging ground for fresh faith and far reaching purpose for the disciple of Jesus.

“His mercies are new every morning,” Jeremiah wrote.  Claim it, live it, declare it, friend.  God is on your side.


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Scarred for Life

April 6, 2010

Springtime in Texas… The rain and cold have been good to Texas this year.  The promise that a cold and wet winter brings a bounty of wildflowers has been proven once again by scattering liberally throughout the fields of Bluebonnets the lesser blooms of Indian Paintbrushes, Buttercups and Mexican Hats.  The Huisache, Agarita, and Yucca […]

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