2. A boat divided will sink

2020, I believe will go down in history as one of the most difficult years of a lifetime. Hopefully, in the future, many people will also remember that 2020 was the year of their greatest growth. Much good can arise out of painful and unwelcome circumstances. I know because I’ve witnessed this truth in my personal life.

And I believe I’ve earned the right to state matter-of-factly, MUCH GOOD can come from great pain.

For some the slow down has been a needed time out, which admittedly most of us would not have taken voluntarily. Truly, we are quite unaware of how fast we’re spinning because everyone around our orbit is spinning as fast or faster.

For others, wounds yet to be dealt with have surfaced and have become unmanageable. The stress and fear of uncertain times have caused the unhealthy coping mechanisms to spin completely out of control. The festering infection must be dealt with before it becomes fatal. That’s not drama. It’s just TRUE!

Hopefully, down the road, individuals, couples and yes, even whole families will be able to mark this time as one of healing, repentance and reconciliation.

What is becoming blatantly obvious, as many of us venture out into the public square, is that people are divided. The new normal doesn’t feel normal or good. On every side of every issue we’re wondering who is right and who is wrong. Who’s to blame and who will fix this mess. Everyone is feeling the raw hurt and loss of most everything normal and secure – even if it was false security.

When my dear man and I first stepped into our boat with Jesus, it felt much more like an exciting adventure ahead. Admittedly, we had some trepidation, and some honest questions. Yet, we were willing to step into another unknown, and in the end we would be glad. We knew that times on the boat {learning to sail} might prove challenging, but adventure with Jesus has always brought us growth, strength and deeper intimacy.

Because we had previously lived through some deeply trying times in career, church and family life we stepped into our training boat with confidence in our Teacher. He’s been our Teacher for a long, long time, and He’s never steered us wrong. Never! Still, it didn’t take long for us to realize that Jesus had determined we were now ready for the advanced training course.

May I state for the record, once again, our trust in Him as Teacher and our confidence in ourselves and each other has been severely tested.

The wounds in our very human hearts have again been laid bare as we began to spend many more hours in a day together. I had grown accustomed to my cherished quiet hours in the house alone before my dear man walked through the door from work. That was my time to putter, relax, listen to music, pray, read and process my day. Okay, let me just be honest, I simply liked being able to do whatever I wanted to do – alone. I cherished ‘me time’.

Suddenly, we were both home. Together. Alot. No more quiet alone time. I bristled at the loss of ‘me’ time and the invasion of ‘my’ space.

He didn’t want to be home either. My dear man had never planned to retire. Work was his passion and pastime. He was resentful of his lack of work, and was frustrated with the huge gap of time needing to be filled with productivity from morning to evening.

Realization set in as we tried to balance ourselves in the boat of our new normal. Neither of us were happy. None satisfied. I was working outside our home, which was all he longed for. And he was doing what my heart desired; staying home. Like seasick sailors we were topsy turvy and nothing seemed to settle the rocking. We struggled desperately to find the calm.

We were in the boat together. For better. For worse. For richer. For poorer. In health. In distress. With Parkinson’s. Without career. Missing the main income. We had stepped into the boat together and neither of us knew how to sail.

Our differences seemed exaggerated as time in the boat droned on day after training day without so much as a breeze to lift our sails. Too many times I allowed my insecurities to control my emotions. I pointed a finger in his direction and demanded to know when he was going to learn to sail so that we could get moving again.

I knew I was wrong. The hurt in my dear man’s eyes pierced my conscience, but the empathy in Jesus’ eyes over our broken humanity pierced my heart. I confessed my wrong. I was forgiven. Yet, I didn’t know how to resolve the helpless feelings of being adrift on the open ocean with a person who didn’t know how to sail.

Many times on certain days I completely lost sight of the fact that our Teacher was in the boat with us. He wasn’t going to let us sink. Or would He?

I cried out to God for help. We had already overcome some major marital hurdles and I didn’t want to fail this current test of oneness. Our boat was divided. And this lack of unity, we knew all too well, had the power to destroy even the most committed souls.

Jesus. Help!

He did. He reminded me to seek His face. He gave me a hunger for His word in which He reminded me to confess what is true, forgive what hurts, and love like He loves me.

We weren’t getting out of this boat any time soon it appeared quite obvious. So we needed to find ways to communicate, design rules of fair play and negotiate together the rhythm that would keep us afloat.

Now as I look at the condition of our western society trying to crawl out of a pandemic and all but total economic shutdown, I remember our personal learning curve. The ways our country has fractured and split in this year of 2020 are too numerous now to even count. We’ve fallen off the cliff of simply being divided down the middle of red or blue. We’ve splintered as a society into innumerable beliefs, thoughts, values and judgments.

What will keep us from self destruction as a society? A boat divided will sink.

All I know to do for our country, our state, and our local community in the turbulence is to cry out…

Jesus. Help!

You might think me a simpleton. A Pollyanna. You might think me ridiculous and you might not come back to read my words. That’s okay.

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
Psalms 107:31‭-‬32 NIV

I know what I’ve experienced is true. Jesus has always been faithful when I’ve been eager to give up. He’s always had answers to my questions and He’s always had solutions to my problems.

I’m asking for Jesus to help us, as people He created, to be patient with one another, to forgive readily and to be kind. I’m asking Him to have mercy on us and to teach us to be merciful toward others. I’m asking Him to open our eyes to His goodness and generosity, which will surely cause us to reflect His goodness and generosity to others.

Jesus. Teacher in the boat. He’s been teaching us to sail together, my dear man and myself. He’s teaching us how to sail and not sink. Guess what? Five years into training, we’re really getting the hang of it.

Yes, five years. Training takes time, especially for us slow learners.

I know our Teacher will do it for you too. I believe Jesus will show Himself faithful to you and your household. I feel sure He will step into your boat. He’ll stay with you even when you’re not sure whether He will let you sink.

So, what will you do? How about crying out?

Jesus. Help!

~Lisa

Five Minute Friday: Turn

It’s Friday.  Turn.  It’s a choice today.  Will I let my eyes fearfully stare at the overwhelming stuff of life?  Will I glare at things I have no power to change?philippians 4.4 fmf.png

Or will I turn my eyes away from what is seen, but not understood with my limited perspective?  It’s a willful choice to make my eyes turn in faith believing God is bigger.

I choose today.   Eyes on Jesus and Shine.  Eyes on Jesus and Shine with His glory.

Eyes on Jesus and shine His Light in this dark world.  Be a reflector of His Light on the physical circumstances all around me.  Let His presence bring Peace and JOY.

Gaze upon Him, join your life with His, and JOY will come.  Your faces will glisten with glory.  You’ll never wear that shame-face again.  Psalm 34:5 tpt

This week Holy Spirit has been teaching me from the book of Philippians.  This is what I have gleaned while I’ve chewed on the words this week…

Rejoice, rejoice and press on…

How does one do this?  I’m honestly asking.  How does a finite person of limited power and ability choose not to look at the circumstances?  What will cause my eyes to turn to things above?

Simply choose Jesus.  Simply call on His name.  Jesus.  Jesus.  Jesus.FMF turn

I can’t do it in my own strength.  I listen for His voice.  The voice of my Shepherd tenderly calling my name.  That’s it.  It’s Him.  I want to look at Him.   My heart can’t help but look up when I hear Him call my name.

When my heart turns, my eyes follow.  I have to turn my eyes to Jesus.  Focus on Him.

Turn away from my circumstances.  And He will make me able.  Then when my eyes and my heart are settled on His presence with me, I rejoice.  And again I will rejoice!

I will press on…and I will fulfill my calling in the name of Jesus.

Finally, as my Shepherd trains my heart and my eyes to remain turned toward Him, I will win the prize.  For Jesus is the prize!

Ponder:

Is there something on which you’ve fixed your eyes?  Is it something in your circumstances over which you have no power to change?

Do you hear Jesus, your Good Shepherd calling your name?  Will you turn your eyes toward Him?

If you don’t think you can do it… ask Him.  He’ll help you.  Bow at His feet.  Let Him cup your chin and lift your gaze.  He’s calling your name.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re shining!

~Lisa

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FMF-Square-Images-Turn

Congratulations, Kate Motaung, on the release of your new book.  Please click here to purchase A Place to Land by Kate Motaung.  You’re going to be so glad you’ve added this book to your reading collection.

Today I am joining Kate and her wonderful community of faith writers for some Five Minute Friday writing fun.  The word prompt for this week is {release}  If you’re in the least bit intrigued by this concept of writing five minutes on one word, come join us for the Five Minute Friday link up

All you have to do is ponder the word prompt, set your timer for 5:00, and start typing. When time’s up, publish and link up.  Really it’s ok that it’s not even Friday anymore.  Jump in with me.  Oh so simple!

 

FMF: time creates the {familiar}

FMF-Square-familiarGratefully, Kate didn’t forget Five Minute Friday comes right after Thanksgiving Thursday.  When I saw her word prompt pop up on Facebook last night, it was a {familiar} reminder – it’s time to write and link up!  Thanks, Kate, for hostessing this beautiful community of faith writers.

So, here I go with thoughts on how time creates the {familiar}…

I’m thinking of a baby newly born in its mother’s arms looking into her eyes as she can now put a face to the familiar voice.  She knows momma’s voice.  She’s been listening to and has been comforted by the sound, the cadence, the rhythm of her voice for months.

And then I think of family sitting around a table in conversation – finishing each other’s sentences with memorized lines from the all too {familiar} movies.  Yesterday my mom mentioned she, my brother and I had all taken a train from Witchita, Kansas when he and I were just babies.time creates familiarity

The family story was lost when husband and son looked across the table with knowing eyes and said at the same time… “Train don’t run out of Wichita… unlessin’ you’re a hog or a cattle. People train runs out of Stubbville.” (a line from Planes, Trains and Automobiles – a family Thanksgiving classic)

I’m also reminded of the {familiar} well-worn path from my home to my elementary school.  I can retrace my steps in my mind nearly 50 years later.  My dad took time to teach me the way by creating {familiar} landmarks in my memory, and then I walked the path twice a day for several years.  Time created the {familiar}.  (5 minutes)

Ponders:

And it’s the same for my relationship with God.  The more time I spend reading the Bible, the more {familiar} I become with Who He is… and who I am as His created daughter.  As I commit time in the dark, quiet of our secret place I talk with Jesus about everything in my heart and in my life.  The {familiar} promises of His Word come back to me and I am comforted just like the newborn baby.  It is His voice which speaks peace into the storms of my life on this earth.familiar trails

  • Time creates the {familiar}… and I want to rightly dedicate the limited amount of time I have been given.  How about you, friend?
    • How does time create the familiar in your life?  in your relationship with God?  with people?  with the mission God has given you?
    • Are there places in your life which need to be renovated by concentrating time into that space?  relationships?  mission?  work?  creativity?
  • Holy Spirit of God, what do You want us to know about time, familiarity, our lives, and Your purposes?  We’re still and we’re listening for Your familiar voice…

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

 

 

Day 15: If I have found favor in Your eyes, Lord, why wouldn’t I {remain}?

“Remain tonight, and in the morning, if he will redeem you, good; let him do it.  But if he is not willing to redeem you, then, as the LORD lives, I will redeem you.  Lie down until the morning.”  Ruth 3:13 esv  remain

{Remain}  Also abide.  Stay in.  Attached to.

From my study of Ruth so far, she was a woman who knew how to remain… to stay… to abide.

Ruth chose to {remain} with Naomi instead of returning to her mother’s home.  She chose a new homeland and culture and people in which to {remain} for all the rest of her days.  Ruth chose the One true God, Jehovah – The Almighty – over the false gods of her culture in Moab.  And once she chose Yahweh, she chose to {remain}.

How do I know that?  From the words of Boaz in answer to Ruth’s question, “Why have I found favor in your eyes…?”

“All that you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband has been fully told to me, and how you left your father and mother and your native land and came to a people that you did not know before.  The LORD repay you for what you have done, and a full reward be given you by the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge!”  Ruth 2:11-12

These words of Boaz are similar to Jesus’ words to His disciples.

“I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on His glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brother or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.”  Matthew 19:28-29branch with fruit

I am so encouraged by these commands to remain.  I wish I had understood as a youngster that ‘being saved’ – going forward in a church, professing Christ as Savior and being publicly baptized was the beginning of being adopted into a new family.  I wish I had understood then that an eternity of abiding – remaining in a relationship – had begun already.  I wish I had remained at Jesus’ feet as Ruth remained at Boaz’s feet expecting to be at home with him and cared for by him and building a relationship with him in the present.

I am even more grateful to Jesus it is never too late to learn what it means to {remain} with Him.  Jesus was patient with me.  He was waiting for me to come back around and realize there is no true life or JOY in living apart from Him.  When I began to ask, “Where is this abundant life You promised, Jesus?”, He was right there to show me His way.

Lord, Jesus, my greatest desire is to {remain} in You.  I am asking You to teach me how to live daily in the truth our eternal relationship has already begun.  I will never be alone!  

Ponders:

No coincidence or accident I attended a women’s day retreat yesterday in which my friend, Kaitlin Miller, taught us so much about JOY in the Journey of following Jesus.  One really big take away for me was this truth from John 15:1-11

True JOY comes in abiding (or remaining) with Christ.  As I {remain} with Him, He fills me with joy and I am full of His joy continually.

Whatever, wherever we’re walking, we need to remember we must choose to {remain} in Him.  Christ has already promised to abide in us – we are never alone.  Our eternity of relationship with Him has already begun…

  • As you ponder this truth of {remain}ing in Christ – abiding – where do you see yourself?  Are you purposefully attached to Christ with an awareness of His never-ending presence?  Or have you wandered off?
  • If you are in a place of remaining, what fruit of the Spirit do you see produced in your life?  Does the enemy try to deceive you into thinking your life isn’t purposeful?  Resist the devil and he must flee from you.  Draw near to God…remain near and know He is already near to you.
  • If you feel far off, what would you like to say to Jesus?  Will you pour your heart out to Him in repentance?  Will you head for home with a decision to remain – to abide with Him?  Are you ready for your eternal relationship with Him to begin right here on earth?

Lord, we are grateful for Your desire to abide with us and for us to remain in You.  Thank You for Your promise to fill us with JOY and to never leave us.  May we be so faithful to remain at Your feet and experience the fullness of a joyful life simply because we are in You and You in us.  For Your glory, Jesus.  Amen.

Eyes on Jesus… you’re Shining!

~Lisa

Saturday Share with Brandon Garrett: Jesus is Not a Vending Machine

Saturday Share coffeeWelcome to Saturday Share!  I am thrilled and honored Brandon Garrett, fellow Jesus follower, and local church plant pastor agreed to write a guest post for Eyes on Jesus and Shine.  I hope you’ll settle in with a hot cup of something yummy and then fasten your seatbelt.

I know this is Brandon’s story, but I need this truth just as much.  I’m challenged with the same question of myself, which Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  Maybe Brandon and I are the only ones, but somehow I think we’ll all be rocked, challenged and transformed from the inside out as we ponder what Brandon offers us today from his current personal journey with Jesus.

Thank you, Brandon, and bless you on your journey…

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Jesus is Not a Vending Machine

by Brandon Garrett

 

I fear we have massively misunderstood Jesus. And by we, I first mean me. I have spent most of my life engaging Jesus as a sort of vending machine. No one loves a vending machine for being an exemplification of superb mechanical engineering. No one marvels at the precision of its delicate electronics. People love vending machines because they give them what they want it.

We come to a vending machine with our merit, our money that we have earned, in order to exchange it for the object of our desire. In short, we bring what we have earned and exchange it for what we want. That’s how I often treat Jesus. I give my good deeds to Jesus—my Bible reading, my praying, and my being a really nice person—and get whatever I want from Jesus. If I wanted a nice car and a good job and a loving family from Jesus, then I could give my good deeds to Jesus in order to obtain them. Here’s the uncomfortable truth: Jesus will have no part with those who wish to treat him like a vending machine.

pablo (80)

In Luke’s gospel, a rich ruler approaches Jesus wanting Jesus to give him eternal life. He poses the question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18.18). The rich ruler is even so audacious to claim that he has kept all of God’s commandments (Luke 18.21)! He thinks he can come to Jesus and trade in his commandment-keeping for eternal life. Put commandment-keeping in, get eternal life out. So it understandably comes as quite the shock when Jesus responds, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Luke 18.22). This cuts right to the heart of the issue. Jesus is asking whether this rich ruler actually loves Jesus as an end in and of himself or if he loves Jesus as a means to his own selfish end. Jesus is asking the question, “Do you really want me or do you merely want the benefits you think I can provide you?” With Jesus’ statement, the rich ruler is left bare. His motives are exposed and his loves brought to light. “But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich” (Luke 18.23). He did not want Jesus. He wanted his own riches.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Like I so often do, the rich ruler wanted Jesus on his own terms. He wanted to gain Jesus’ life while sacrificing nothing of his own. He envisioned a fabricated world where he could have as much of his life and as much as Jesus as possible. Then Jesus shattered it because to have Jesus, we must lose everything else. When Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9.23), it is not a suggestion. It is a mandate. Denying ourselves and our rights and our ambitions and our plans and our bank accounts is not an optional add-on to discipleship. It is a prerequisite. We can either have Jesus alone, or we cannot have him at all.

Too much is at stake to deceive ourselves into thinking that we can manipulate Jesus and minimize his demands on our lives in order to preserve ourselves. “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it” (Luke 17.33) is the paradox of following Jesus. We and all that we hold so dear in this life will be lost and perish forever if we do not part with it for the sake of Christ in this life. Yet here is the precious promise of Christ: when we forfeit our life, our calendar, our job, our everything, into the hands of Christ, what he gives in return is more than we could ever earn or even dream—life with him. Upon surrender, Christ sweeps us up into his embrace and gives us “everything we need for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1.3).

 When Christ demands we surrender our everything, he does so assure us that nothing we possess is necessary for life and godliness. On the contrary, it is a hindrance to it. Should we treat Jesus like a vending machine, desiring to exchange what we have and what we have earned for his benefits, we could never afford them. Worse still, we would forfeit the greatest benefit of all in unending, unbroken communion with Jesus, the incarnate God in whose “presence there is the fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16.11).

 All of this is real time for me. Over the past few months, Jesus has made demands upon my life that have exposed what I truly desire. Three months ago, he called my family to sell our house on a big lot in a quiet neighborhood in a good school system. That was the easy part. Surely if we agreed to that, we could exchange our obedience for an even bigger house. Put my obedience in and get what I want out. Except that didn’t happen. He then called us to buy a house that is less than half the size of our previous house, on a smaller lot, is on the main road and not in a quiet neighborhood, and the public school system is failing. Selfishly, I want none of those things. However, the gracious kindness of Jesus is that he knows my selfish desires will kill me, and he demands I lay them aside and follow him into abundant and everlasting life. So he what he demands from me is always for my good. What he demands me to lay aside is only the allusion of comfort at best and masquerading poison at worst. Likewise, what he demands me to lay hold of has only the appearance to my selfishness of discomfort and inconvenience at worst and is eternally radiant glory and infinitely deep joy at best.

“presence there is the fullness of joy and at whose right hand are pleasures forevermore”

I do not get to define the terms of my discipleship. Jesus does. I do not get to negotiate with Jesus under what conditions I will follow him. Jesus has made those conditions clear. I either follow Jesus on his terms or I do not follow him at all. He is not a vending machine for my convenience, he is the Sovereign Savior who demands my obedience for my good. For his promise to Peter, who also left a home to follow Jesus, still stands. “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18.29-30).

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Garrett family

 

Brandon is the church planting pastor at Mountain Park FBC currently working to plant a church in Stone Mountain Village. He is husband to Emily and father to Elizabeth Ann, Whittaker and Olivia.

He blogs at The Beautiful Tension and you can follow him on Twitter @Brandon_Garrett

Saturday Share: Chuck Graham – Great with Encouragement

Chuck GrahamIn this segment of Saturday Share, I’d like to introduce Chuck Graham.  He is the founder of a thriving encouragement ministry under the umbrella of CILOA – Christ is Lord of All.  First and foremost, he is a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, as well as husband, father and devoted grandfather.  Great to mention… he’s a published author.

I own and have enjoyed reading two of Chuck’s books. A Year of Encouragement is a compilation of stories previously published in CILOA’s weekly email subscription – Notes of Encouragement, which encourages faithful readers around the globe (literally).

Notes of Encouragement are written by Chuck and a handsome assortment of encouraging and creative contributing authors.  Go ahead and sign up for your subscription and start being encouraged this week.

The Company

The Company – A Parable for Our Time is the first of Chuck Graham’s trilogy.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Company, and I am anxiously awaiting publication of the second book.

How did I meet Chuck?

Seven-ish years ago, my life felt mostly out of control and spiritually parched.  I had been crying out to the Lord for many months to teach me the meaning of the abundant life Jesus said He came to give.  I read the words in John 10:10.  This promise was on the page in black type on white paper.  I didn’t have abundant life – LIFE to the full, but if Jesus was truly offering then I wanted it.  And I asked for it.

I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

As I sought Jesus for healing in deep places I found a love for writing.  Through the pursuit of writing, I learned about blogging.  I found freedom in sharing my journey out of the desert and walking toward abundant life in Christ.  Equally thrilling were the occasional responses of a few friends and blog followers who had been encouraged by one of my blog posts.

Through shared friends, I was encouraged to submit one of my short stories to CILOA through Chuck.  I wasn’t sure if I qualified as an author of a Note.  Truly I had no confidence in my writing ability.  True to Chuck’s mission, he encouraged me to keep writing.  He was willing, a time or two, to give me the gift of time to meet with me over a cup of coffee and offer advice and writing tools.

What makes Chuck GREAT with encouragement?

Chuck was willing to accept my first story raw.  As a teaching tool, Chuck personally edited my story, sharing the edits along with the reasons for each change. Through Chuck’s tutelage and encouragement to just keep writing I have grown as a writer.

But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,”  Hebrews 3:13

Much of our correspondence was accomplished by email.  Each and every communication opened with the salutation – Great!  Somehow even if he was sending me a page full of edits I felt like I was doing a ‘great’ job of learning.  I was continually encouraged and just kept writing and learning.

A Year of Encouragement

Over the years Chuck has honored me with the opportunity to contribute Notes, and I am overjoyed with the privilege to participate.  It is because of the multiple times and the various ways Chuck and the CILOA community have been an encouragement to me and my family, I have chosen Chuck Graham for this week’s Saturday Share.

Please take a few moments to click over to the CILOA website to explore the history of this much-needed ministry, and get to know the heart of CILOA – Chuck Graham.  As you click around the website you’ll find the many opportunities CILOA offers to the body of Christ for the encouragement of the body.

Thank you, Chuck Graham!  You’re GREAT with encouragement!!

Click here to purchase a copy of The Company on Amazon.com

Note: I receive no financial benefit from your purchase, from CILOA, Chuck Graham or Amazon.com  I simply want to give back by promoting and encouraging a friend as he continues to promote and encourage me.

Perhaps you have a note of encouragement to contribute?  Check out CILOA’s website here to find out how to participate.

Drop what you hold…

…follow Me

As I began a study through the book of Mark, these words dug deep “…follow Me,” Jesus said.  (Mark 1:17)  Jesus was speaking to two fishermen – Simon and his brother, Andrew. He had asked them to open their fingers and drop their nets.  Drop the familiar.  Drop their livelihood.  Drop all they were dependent on.  Follow Him.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

“Come, follow Me, ” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  Mark 1:17

It sounds so simple until I use my imagination to put myself on that shoreline, with nets in my hand, standing next to my brother and my Dad. This is our livelihood – fishing. This is what we do.  It’s what we’ve always done.  Fishing is how we feed our family.

Wait, leave fishing?  Leave?  My brother and I should leave dad here to fish alone and care for the family?  Follow you, Jesus, with the promise that you will teach us to fish for men?

Isn’t that how most people would respond?  At least think it, right?

Once I ponder the Scripture more deeply, I am amazed to realize Simon and Andrew agreed with Jesus.  They took Him at His word.  They dropped their nets and they followed Him.

crowd watching sunrise

It wasn’t just that they needed to drop their nets so that they could leave the shoreline and their fishing career behind in order to follow Jesus.  Their hands had to be free.  I feel sure these budding disciples had no idea Jesus would ask them to trade nets for a cross.  Yet, eventually, He did.

Later in Mark, Jesus dug deeper with His requirements, “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” (Mark 8:34)  Same truth – drop what you hold onto for security – deny yourself the choices of your will – fill your hands with a cross – and then follow Me – Jesus.

This was a command not only for His twelve disciples, but for all who would desire to follow after Jesus.  It’s for me!

It was January and for some reason only God knows, my husband and I needed to fly all the way from Atlanta to Colorado Springs to hear a devotional about letting go of what we hold in our hands.  Even before we arrived at the conference I knew that I would be dropping something very dear to me.  The only reason I could see myself opening my hands and let the calling slip to the ground was because Jesus was directing me to let go and follow Him.

If it wasn’t for the promise, I might not drop what I held in my hands.

Yes, Jesus had called me to those nets, and He taught me for two years more than I could have ever imagined.  I was stretched and I developed muscles of perseverance and boldness I never knew I could achieve.  And just as He called me into that place of training, Jesus was confirming it was time to let go of those nets and follow Him to the next place on our journey.

Looking back at Mark 1, the words of Jesus to the fishermen comforted me most because of His promise to them. They would let go of what they knew, and Jesus promised to take what they knew and teach them to do something different with those skills.  It was His plan and all for the Glory of God.  They would be stretched and develop muscles of perseverance in faith, but they could trust the promise of Jesus.

Sand Dollar Birthday

And so with the limited vision of standing at the beginning of something new, I am determined to let go and follow Jesus wherever He leads.  I feel the security of remembering His past faithfulness.  And yet, I am fully aware of the ambivalence of knowing not the path nor the destination of His leading.

Behold, I am doing a new thing;
    now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
    and rivers in the desert.

Isaiah 43:19

What I know for sure:  All of my experiences of living – the beautiful and the ugly and all that lies in between – have been purposeful and will be useful on the next leg of my journey.  Whatever Jesus calls me to do next, His promise is secure.  However if I cling to anything more than I cling to Him, Jesus will remind me to drop what I hold – deny myself – take up my cross and follow Him.

Ponders:

  1. Are you standing at the edge of something new?
  2. Is Jesus asking you to drop something precious from your hands?
  3. Will you ask Him to remind you of His promise as you drop what’s in your hands?
  4. What will it take for you to deny yourself, take up a cross and follow Jesus?

 

How will we know the way?

We can follow Jesus.  He’s calling.  He’s calling you by name.  Me too.

It’s your choice.  I have a choice as well.  I’ll walk a path through life.  And you’ll choose a path to walk.  But, don’t you want to walk a great path?  I want to walk the best path!

Once I cross the finish line, I want to find that I ran the exact race that was marked out for me.  The destination will be proof of the path.  And don’t we long for the cheers of the witnesses – the crowd already finished with their race.

Oh, and don’t we want the prize?

Jesus has the scoop on how to accomplish our greatest desire – to live a meaningful, productive and abundant life.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.  John 14:6 esv

All that we are seeking is Him.  Jesus is the WAY.  Jesus is TRUTH.  And Jesus is LIFE.  Jesus is ABUNDANT LIFE!

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I (Jesus) came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10 esv

There are many paths.  And there is an enemy – a thief, a murderer, a destroyer, who will purposely lie to you about the path you are on.  I’ve fallen for his lies more times than I care to admit.  I’ve found myself on the wrong path…and a time or two the wrong path has led to a pit or a ditch.

But Jesus has called my name.  Look up; He encourages us as He extends His hand and pulls us up out of the mud.  “Follow Me”, Jesus invites you.  He’s invited me, and I am going!  I want to go His way.  And now I understand better than ever (because of all my wrong turns) He is the Way.  He’s the path.  Jesus is the journey.  The life… Abundant LIFE.  Jesus is the PRIZE!

Don’t you want to respond to Jesus calling your name?  How about it… will you run the race He’s marked out for you…to win the prize?  Don’t you know Jesus is worth it?

I’d love to know where you are on your journey.  What have you learned on your journey?  Have you heard Jesus call your name to follow Him?  Are you aware of the crowd of previous race winners cheering you on?

What do you think?

 

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!  Hebrews 12:1-2 (the message paraphrase)