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Follow Me

Palm Sunday reflections

“Come, follow me”, Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”

Matthew 4:19

fishermenPeter and his brother Andrew dropped their nets and followed the man they considered a prophet and came to know as Messiah.

They followed as He traveled and preached, healed and taught. They listened as they follow Jesusfollowed and learned many things about a Heavenly kingdom that was promised them. They watched as they followed and saw the storms calmed, thousands fed, blind eyes opened and weakened legs regain strength. They followed as the dead were raised to life. They followed for a joyous parade into the city, a tender Passover dinner, a late night walk singing hymns and into a quiet garden for prayer.

They continued to follow, although from a distance, through arrest, a trial, the final sentencing and death.

Did they think that their following days were over? Had they been left adrift and on their own?

Fear, shock, grief ….then three days later…. surprise, joy, the Master had returned!

In His final private instructions to Peter Jesus repeatedly asks Peter if he loves him. Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus then repeats what had been said three years earlier:

follow“Follow Me!”

John 21:19b

Jesus lays out his final instructions – Peter must follow with love for anything else will fail him.

Two thousand years later we are still called to follow from the day we make that first commitment to the day we leave this earth.

Following, loving, watching and listening to the One who calls us –“Follow Me!”follow 2

 

 

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Step Boldly

I’ve been doing some research about the German pastor/author Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a courageous man who lived during a very dark time in history. His resistance to the Nazi party in Germany during WWII eventually led to his execution just weeks before the war ended. As I leafed through his writings, I found this quote,

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“Being a Christian is less about cautiously avoiding sin, than about courageously and actively doing God’s will.”

Those words got me thinking. The Old Testament is all about following the rules. God lays out the Ten Commandments and tells his people to obey. Today, I think most Christians will tell you (myself included) that we are grateful that the Lord spelled it out so completely for us in Exodus 20. It’s a much needed roadmap to help us avoid all the pitfalls of this world. By the time that Jesus shows up in the New Testament, mankind is ready for the next step.

Jesus replied: “Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: “Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:37-40

matthew 22.39

This is really the same as the first commandment in Exodus 20:3. Jesus is quoting directly from both Deuteronomy and Leviticus but his words reach beyond telling us what not to do and tell us how to “do”. He tells us to love. That verb “love” resonates through all of Jesus’ teachings.

“Love one another”

“love your neighbor”

“love as I do”

It takes us from how to avoid sin and jumps into how to live lovingly. It shows us the steps from “do not” to “do”.

Anyone who has experienced love can tell you it is not easy. It can be messy, painful, exasperating, joyous, uplifting and turn your world upside down crazy. It is the most difficult command to follow because it encompasses all the other commands. But Dietrich Bonhoeffer was able to cut right through that and instead of cautioning us to watch our steps, he is encouraging us to step boldly.

In both the Old and New Testament we find that God never stopped at just listing the things that we shouldn’t do. God has always instructed, admonished and often has to push us into action. Following Christ has always been more about what you do than the things that you don’t do.

 

 

I’ll just leave you with this favorite verse of mine:

He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

Micah 6:8

Micah 6 8

 

 

 

 

 


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To Be Led by You

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It’s a simple prayer really

I’m not asking for power or wealth

Not even asking for wisdom or health

Just asking to be led by You

 

Of all the things that I think I need

I just need to ask for eyes that can see

And hands and feet to follow faithfully

And just let me by led by You

 

I wish I could live in a world at peace

But I can’t even find peace in my heart

Feeling in need of a little head start

In just being led by You

 

Maybe I just take a single stepp1010195

then someone else comes along

We’re walking your path and humming your song

Just learning to be led by You

 

There are those days when I dare to think bigger

I ask that the guns be laid down

I ask that a cure for pain be found

I just want to be led by You

 

Those are the days that I realizep1010205

War will not stop because of a president’s hand

An executive order won’t heal the land

But only when we let ourselves by led by You

 

So, today here’s what I’ll pray

Lord, take my anger and pride and fear

those things that get in the way and hold me here

And I cannot be led by You

 

Take me from valleys shadowed by doubts

And take me to a shining hilltop place

Where I can run through rivers of grace

And only then be led by You

 

Just let me be led by You.

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a fair question

5096_1197313732195_1677986_nO LORD, what is man that you care for him,

The son of man that you think of him?

Psalm 144:3

A fair question.

Why does God care about us? I know that theologians can (and have) gone on and on about this but the answer is simply that He loves us. I wish I could state it more eloquently. I wish I had the beautifully poetic words that would make the notion of such a love come to life for you. But, honestly, there is no need to complicate things. God is love and He loves his creation.

That’s it – a pure simple truth.

Man is like a breath

His days are like a fleeting shadow

Psalm 144:4

Compared to God’s greatness, we are nothing

He loves us anyway

Our time on earth is momentary

He notices us anyway

Our foolish waywardness has to be frustrating

He shows us a true Way

Our speeches and written words (like this) must be entertaining

He listens anyway

And responds by pointing us to the Word – His Son

Why does He care?

He simply does.

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Anchored in a Foreign Land

How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? Psalm 137:4

 

I hear it all the time these days. People are asking how our country could have fallen into this quagmire of conflicting ideologies that have triggered such hate and fear. Whether you are on the right or left of the political fence, confusion reigns as finger pointing spreads the blame and shame.

So how do Christians respond?

Maybe we shouldn’t be so worried about responding to the world. Truth is, we need only respond to our God who is in control of this upside down world. If we can do that, I think we would find that our actions and words would spring from love and compassion rather than knee-jerk reactionary confrontations with the world we live in.

We may feel that we live in a foreign land, one that does not recognize Christian tenets but that would be short-sighted of us. God’s fingerprints are all over this world and its inhabitants. We sometimes miss what is right in front of us because we are so overwhelmed by the anger on social media feeds fueled by often biased news reporting. No wonder the land seems so foreign to us.

So here’s the best advice I can think of; take it or leave it.

anchorAnchor your life in both heavenly and earthly realms. Your faith must be built and daily
nourished by prayer and the Scriptures. This provides that all- important “hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Heb. 6:19) that gives you an open avenue of two-way communication with God. Secondly, do not neglect the earthly anchors God has placed in your life to keep you grounded. Work to protect the relationships you have with your family and friends who love you, will pray for you, will trust you and allow you to trust them. Jesus said it all when he said, “Love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)

Finally, and this may seem contradictory, but remember that this is not your home. On the deepest level this is a foreign land; for we are spiritual creatures who will only come into our fullness when we enter into that next realm. In the meantime we have the Holy Spirit who indwells us and keeps us tethered to each world. We may at times feel adrift but we are never really drifting. We are always within reach of eternity even while grappling with a fallen world.

Go ahead and sing the songs of the LORD! Sing them with words of love, joy and peace. Sing them with actions that display the patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal 5:22,23) that comes from the Spirit within, the Father above and a Savior who bridges that gap for us.

The land may feel foreign but it’s only temporary and even the temporary can be very beautiful in its fragility.blue-sky-w-rainbow


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Extraordinary Love

 

jesus_mary_joseph

It was just an ordinary town

on the edge of nowhere

Just a simple, quiet night

that took the world unaware.

She was just an ordinary girl

Frightened of her part to play

He was just an ordinary guy

with a wife and child on the way

But He was no ordinary babe

Lying in that bed of straw

Surrounded by sheep and shepherds

Even kings bowed down in awe

star

Under that same old, starry night

Where one star shone out clear

A new mother held her babe

And whispered love into Love’s ear

On this simple, quiet night

He entered our world in this way

From a throne in Heaven above

To a simple bed of hay

Out of ordinary things

Comes a simple mother’s love

Out of ordinary things

Comes extraordinary Love.

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No Room in the Inn

pig-pen-innkeeperOne of the most famous characters in the whole Christmas story is one who doesn’t exist, other than in the reader’s imagination. The innkeeper, who turns away Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem, isn’t recorded in the Scriptures at all. We are simply told that there was no room in the inn.

Looking throughout Jesus’ earthly life, we notice that the world he was born into does not find or make room for him. He never really fits in anywhere. His teachings are always surprising people. His actions are always being questioned by the authorities of the day. Even when those same authorities finally had him under their control, they had no idea of what to do with him. Caiaphas sends him to Pilate. Pilate asks the crowd what they would like to do.  After his death, his followers continued to have a hard time finding places to stay and ears to listen.  As a prisoner, Paul spoke out about Christ whenever he could but was told by his captor, “When I find it convenient, I will send for you.” (Acts 24:25b) No room in that inn either.story-of-christmasnativity

The only place he seemed to fit was as a child in the temple. He was perfectly at home but no one else, from the teachers there to his parents, understood. They were scratching their heads at his behavior while Jesus himself said, “Why were you searching for me?” He asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49) He knew where he belonged even if no one else got it.
nativityJesus stirred things up from the time that he was born. The local tyrant reacted to his birth by ordering a mass infanticide. Shepherds and Magi reacted in worship. Jesus’ life would continue to cause people to rethink philosophies long held dear. He never seemed to fit in. He flipped lives around just as easily as he would flip tables in the temple. Some would say that he left havoc in his wake. Yet, those who stopped to listen, those who did find room for him in their hearts would disagree. They would say that he left them changed in ways that they hadn’t even imagined before and made their lives immeasurably better. Maybe not easier, but better.

 

Let’s make room this Christmas to hear his words and to live them out in our actions. If your heart is too crowded with the worries of the day, toss some out and make room for faith. Faith in the one who loves the whole world without reservations. Faith that a tiny baby born two thousand years ago will change this world one heart at a time.

 

manger

Find some room in your inn.