Friday, June 27, 2014

To Follow God 2

Back in April, I read about the rich, young man in Mark’s version of his encounter with Jesus (Mark 10) and wrote this reflection in my journal.

“Something still had him.  He asked what he must do to have eternal life.  In Jesus’ day before the resurrection (the young man) was to adhere to the current revelation (God had provided).  The rich, young man did, but it didn’t address his own hunger.  Jesus said to transform what still captured him into a blessing (‘Go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor’), and then come follow him.  His wealth had him.  He couldn’t transform the false security into a blessing for many others and follow Jesus as a new security, a new passionate relationship.

“This strikes me.  There’s still some insecurity within me because the insecurity keeps me defensive, and it has to do with money.  I think this guy is insecure. I think I am still to a degree.  I must and will surrender my false security, that which still has a hook in me.  I must be willing to surrender what I value to live out of eternal life.  I must surrender my control over time and money and space in order to be a follower. . .

“Insecurity is reflected in what I believe I need in order to be secure.  In order to be secure as a follower of Christ, I must abandon my ties to what is false security.  Jesus, I want you most!  I will not be secure in money or in justifying my fears and angers. 

“Forgive me, Lord.  I confess my insecurities regarding money, my fears, and my anger.  I will not control what I feel I need to control out of fears related to insecurities.  Great God, I will and do trust you.  My values, what I value, begin with my trust and love in God through Christ.  Alleluia.”

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

To Follow God

We’re living where we never expected to be.  It’s not in a place where we felt called or drawn to be.  It’s near where April grew up.  It’s true, you never go home again, and we’re not home, but it’s where grace and mercy has been offered to us. 

We’ve gotten here by choosing to trust what we believe we heard from God.  Believing what we heard put us into action.  We acted and took risks and a couple doors opened for us, but we had to suffer for the sake of what we believed.  Our suffering has not caused us physical pain or harsh conditions, but misunderstandings and financial hardship have been some of the costs.  With that, family opened their doors to us.  We are blessed and loved and thankful.  It’s interesting where trusting what God has told you will put you.

In Matthew 19, a rich, young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to secure eternal life.  Jesus told him to keep the commands.  The man told Jesus he did.  “’What do I still lack?’”  Jesus told him to sell all the things he had, give the money to the poor, “’and you’ll have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me’ (vs. 21b).” The commands were not a treasure like the things that made him rich.  The commands were not a lifestyle, a way of life, a culture.  They were things he did.

The commands were things he did that didn’t compel him to sacrifice anything.  He never gave up anything in his life that was sacrificial for the sake of the commands, for the sake of the will of God to be done in and through him. 

“’What good deed must I do to have eternal life (vs. 16b, NRSV).’”  After he said he did all the commands since he was young, he asked, “’What do I still lack (vs. 20b)?’”  He had ‘everything’ but he still lacked something.  He felt it.  He knew it.  In the face of Jesus he knew he still lacked.  With the earthly treasure, he still lacked.  With the doing of the commands since he was a youth he still lacked.  He goes to Jesus and asked what was it he was missing in order to know beyond a doubt he had eternal life secure.  He doubted because he was insecure, insecure in the face of Jesus. 

“I declare that your steadfast love is established forever; your faithfulness is as firm as the heavens” – Psalm 89: 2, NRSV.  The young man’s focus still remained on what was not firm. The treasure he possessed and measured and counted, he believed, was firm, but it wasn’t.  God’s faithfulness is firm.  Being heavenly minded makes us aware of his faithfulness.  It’s firm.  What must we do to take hold of what is so firm?  The rich, young man’s soul and spirit were not firm because he obviously still believed he could keep a grip on what is valued in this world and do his religious duty; thereby, secure heaven for himself without giving up anything.  He knew he lacked. 

The young man treasured what was not firm, and in the face of Jesus, he knew it, and it bothered him greatly to the point he approached Jesus for the answer.  The answer had to do with how he wasn’t living.  He didn’t treasure what deserved true attention and acclaim by this man.  He was poor and wanted to fix it religiously without fixing it through surrender to the True Treasure.  “He went away grieving, for he had many possessions (19:22).” 

We’ve grown familiar with doing what we can with what we have or have been given.  We’ve lacked financially.  Our debt has fluctuated from two cars being paid off finally to an increase in our credit card indebtedness to an unprecedented level.  We’ve lacked socially.  Friends and acquaintances have grown cold to us to the point we’ve felt abandoned without encouragement.  We’ve lacked professionally.  April and I have never had such difficulty finding work especially in a time in our lives we’ve needed incomes the most.   It’s interesting where trusting what God has told you will put you, but there’s little we would have changed.

“Oh, maybe you missed God.”  “Oh, maybe you didn’t count the cost.”  “Oh, maybe you never ‘heard’ God.”

April and I had scores of conversations addressing these and other propositions.  I’m sorry, if you’re making these same comments now, you’ve fallen behind.  We’ve crossed these bridges and have come to the other side.  We’ve been given prophetic words by strangers and family alike that had little idea what we were going through.  We’ve had dreams.  We’ve had encounters with God in worship and prayer and out-of-the-blue.  God has expressed and continues to express to us how good he is and how good it’s going to be for us and those we’ll encounter in the seasons to come.  Truly, after having such encouragement given to us, we have decided in faith to not look back and follow our True Treasure. 

Sisters and brothers, it has and continues to be hard on many levels; however, we believe we’ve had to go through many of these experiences and conditions so we can never say we have regrets. 

We will not encourage anyone to sacrifice and surrender-it-all unless they’ve heard from God and followed up with confirming words, dreams, visions that support what was told to them originally.  We’ve sacrificed wealth and security and relationships for the sake of what God has told us.  We believe him.  This is what it is to follow God. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

And, Again, Alleluia!

In the conclusion of my last post on this blog I wrote, “I will write, and I will trust.  Alleluia!”  Well, I haven’t written, posted anything in nearly three months.  Even though I said I’d write, I haven’t, BUT, I have trusted.  And, again, Alleluia!

There are two episodes in the life of Jesus intertwined in Mark 5 that reflect interesting expressions of trust/faith.  A bleeding woman acted in faith to just touch his robe through a crowd, and she was healed.  Jairus believed Jesus could lay his hands on his dying daughter and she’d be healed, but he had to come to Jairus’ house.  The woman pressed in.  She was healed, and Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has made you well – be healed of your disease.”  Jairus was then told his daughter just died.  Jesus said to him, “Do not fear, only believe.”  This religious leader just witnessed a woman risking public stoning by reaching out in faith to touch a man in public while menstruating to be restored to health despite her own fear.  Jairus, look at what faith does in the face of fear.  Don’t fear.  Only believe.

Both the woman and Jairus are oppressed by social opposition to believe in what Jesus can do for them.  The woman is menstruating, but in a crowd she reaches out to touch Jesus’ clothing to be healed.  If she’s caught, legally, she can be executed.  Jairus was told in public his daughter was dead, and the mourners at his house accentuate the point.  Jesus accompanies him to the home to do what exactly?  She’s dead. 

The woman just tried to avoid the stigma and execution, and he affirms her faith, and she’s restored.  Jairus carries a lot with him because of his religious and assumed political authority in his community.  There were lots of opportunities for him to believe what they said to him (She’s dead!) or what they did by mourning openly at his home, but he literally had Jesus with him.

The woman who suffered for years went to Jesus.  Jairus took Jesus with him.

There is going to Jesus in an uncertain environment and believing or taking Jesus with you into a mourning or defeated environment and believing.  Be it going to him or taking him with you where you’re going, victory is had in believing, trusting in him where you find him or where you ask him to go.  They both experience his gracious power that makes things new in the woman and Jairus’ daughter.  This wonderful account of who Jesus displays himself to be for the sake of his loved ones thrills me still! 

April, our children, our family and me still believe in what is promised to us and our destiny as anointed instruments of God’s presence and His kingdom on Sand Mountain.  Though it has been difficult at times to continue to trust that God has not abandoned us, we continue to believe.  Though we’ve suffered the passive aggressive behavior of acquaintances who wouldn’t say to us out loud we were stupid, we knew what they thought and carried on despite them.  Though we looked foolish in ministering to the suffering and risking any respectability we had left after leaving the United Methodist Church, we trusted the Lord’s voice and direction in our lives.  Though we offended friends by calling on them to trust what the Lord was telling us about them and to surrender their spiritual blindness, we trusted the Holy Spirit’s giftings in our lives to reveal abundant life in Jesus alone.  Though we’ve moved from Sand Mountain to live with family in Anniston, we believe and are not afraid of our current circumstances nor our future found in the right hand of the God of power and love.

We’ve spent years going to kneel at his feet and lifting our hands in praise and shouting his name in worship.  We’ve gone to Jesus, and we met him, and he’s given us a glorious life.  We will spend our lives telling the world how outrageously good God is.  We will accompany him and he will accompany us to wherever this journey leads to declare his mercy and glory in Jesus Christ.  As we go to him, we believe, and as we walk hand in hand with him, we believe.  What glorious things we’ll witness and tell!  We invite you to come with us.