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Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!

Get Off Your “But” and Follow Jesus!
Luke 9:57-62, 1 Kings 19:19-21

† I. H. S. †

May the grace and mercy of God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ sustain you as you walk “in His steps”

Are you listening?  Are you understanding?

Have you ever asked someone if they were listening, and 30 seconds after they replied yes, they ask you “what are you talking about?”

I think that happened to Jesus, far more than it happens to us.

It does today, as one man offers to follow Jesus, and two others responded to His invitation to follow him, but they then realized they had a problem.  They all had a big “but!”  Uhm – that’s but with only one T.

As we look at the call to follow, as we begin to really hear Jesus, I pray we come to understand what it means to follow Him, or as the apostle Peter wrote,

21  For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 1 Peter 2:21 (NLT2)

The Big BUTS

So the first guy tells Jesus, I will follow you wherever you go!  Jesus tells him, “okay, here is the challenge, we have no support, no place to stay, no place to sleep.”  Oddly we don’t’ hear from the guy again.

Following Jesus isn’t easy or comfortable.

The second and third guys clearly describe their “buts”.

One wants to go home and take care of his dying Father. The second wants to go home and make significant arrangements for his family’s care, cutting off their need for his involvement in their life.

How many of us would have similar issues to deal with?  I mean, before Jesus asks us to go with Him to China, or Jordan, or Papua, New Guinea?  And how many of us have relationship issues that would make leaving with Jesus complicated?

Those “buts” aren’t easy to deal with, and to turn down an invitation to go with Jesus is heartbreaking, or it should be.  I mean if you knew Jesus was going to be at the ordination I am officiating at this afternoon, would you drop everything and come with me?  What about if you could meet him on Pastor Bernie’s next trip to the Sudan, but you had to leave today?

What if it required moving to Turkey and working alongside Christina for the rest of your life? Never ever returning to the U.S.A. but you knew for sure you would encounter Jesus every day?

Could you show Jesus your “but”?

This isn’t theoretical for the people in the gospel!  They had BIG BUTS, major life concerns, as they truly desire to travel with Jesus.

It’s what some would call a First commandment issue, a problem with prioritizing who is our God, who is most important in our life. Who is most involved in it.  For if we can’t listen to God and respond obediently to Him, are we really in a relationship where we realize He is the God who rescues us, and we are the people He listens to, cares and provides for, and loves?

The problem is simple to fix, we just have to get off our “but” and follow Jesus.  Follow Him, not travel with Him. If the people had listened to what Jesus said, they would have understood the difference.

What’s the difference?  Glad you asked!  

The Elisha Example!

In the Old Testament passage, we see Elisha also responding to a call to follow, as Elijah makes him his successor.  That’s why he threw his cloak over him, that is what you symbolically did back in those days. 

But Elisha goes back to his people. He takes care of business, and isn’t rejected by Elijah, the way it seems Jesus rejected those who had big “buts”.

But look at what Elisha did carefully, and you will see he was already following Elijah as he goes back.  He takes his old stuff, the plow, the oxen and uses those things to minister to people.

What the invitation really is

You see, the word for follow doesn’t mean travel with, it means begin to imitate Him.  To become like, to gain the attitudes and heart and desire of the person you “follow”.  There is a word to walk with, but this is far more, it is another word like disciple, or apprentice.

It is to know Jesus is on the journey with us, shaping us, forming us, sending us out to where He would have us minister.  Like the man he delivered from the clutches of demons, often the place is where we call home, sharing the news of God’s mercy with those we love and care about, with those whose lives are broken, and spiritually dead.

Following Jesus is not just physical, it is more, it is transformative, it is incarnational, it is beholding His glory and knowing He dwells among us.

This is what His invitation to believers is about, it is life lived in His presence, hearing His voice, learning to care for and love people as He does.  That is what it means to walk in His steps, to live life the way He does, and we do that by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Lord, help us see the “buts” not as challenges to following You, but as places where You bring us to minister and care for other, with you at our side.


Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven; V. Where Are We Going?

Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:Concordia Lutheran Church

Where are We Going?
Matthew 22:1-14

 IHS

 

As we journey through this life, may we keep in sight the destination, the place where we realize completely the love and mercy of God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Other Destination Options:

Have you ever been tempted to play hookey from a family gathering?  You’re on your way to your grandparent’s house, and you see how beautiful a day it is, and you think, we could just spend a little while at the park, or maybe the beach?

Or maybe you are working on a project, sewing that new whatever it is people sew and just another twenty minutes and you will finish it!  Or the ball game is on, and you will leave a little later…and make up for it by driving a little faster?

Back when we were kids, and we were about to be stuffed in the back seat together, I bet many of us had a way to stall.  Maybe we didn’t want to get dressed up, Or we blamed our sister for taking too much time in the bathroom.  For me, it usually was – just let me finish the book I am reading!

It’s not that we didn’t know about the feast that awaited us, Grampy’s sausage, or Uncle Wally’s fireworks, or the French Onion Dip and carved turkey?   There were just other things….that seemed important for that moment.

If you did this, and arrived two hours late, were you upset when they didn’t keep everyone waiting for dinner?

Do we play the same game with God?

Do we miss His invitations to spend time with Him, to share the feasts He has prepared, because we have other things to do before we continue on our journey to heaven?

Why Didn’t God wait for Us?

Patient, we hear God is patient.

Abraham and Moses count on it for their people.  Joseph comforts his brothers with the thought of God’s patience.  David praises God for God’s patience with him.  Job depends on it, even when he doesn’t have the answers.  Peter tells us why God is so patient, because God doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to be transformed and made holy.  Set apart to a relationship with God.

An interesting thought, this patience of God.

Curious, has anyone here ever had someone take advantage of their patience?

How did it feel?

Ever plan and cook a dinner, like the king in the parable, only to have the people choose to do something else?

What if their excuse, like the excuses in the parable, is somewhat weak?  I heard one yesterday, for example, that was that we miss church sometimes because we know church and Bible studies will be here next week, but that other thing, that game, is today.  I need to make this abundantly clear: this parable isn’t just about our church life.

How often do we fail to talk to God, to put our trust in Him for the things we are struggling with? How often do we think we have to find another solution for our problems, a different road to take?  How often will we pass by the opportunity to think and meditate on His love.   Do we find something else, rather than being still, and knowing He is God?

Does being patient cost you something?  Does it ever tear at you, frustrate you, even sadden you?

Have we ever wondered what God’s patience costs Him?

We know being patient costs us, we know the levels of frustration, even pain, as we see people we love do the wrong things.

Things that would so concern God, that He sent Jesus, to live life, to suffer and die on the cross, to make it right…

To bring all who would come, to His feast, to be His family.

The good and bad alike…..all are welcome, all are offered the opportunity to be made ready. Matter of fact, we are sent out to bring them here; to celebrate, to enjoy, to know His peace.

But what are we missing?

If I can go back to the original illustration, we know that there are some things that we miss, when we divert from the original journey, we realize we are going to miss some things.
if we were diverted on our way to Grampy DeLuca’s house, it would mean we would miss Grampy’s incredible Italian sausages.  Even some 34 years later, I can remember walking down the stairs into his basement, where they would be in the oven.  We’d miss Grampy and Uncle Bill, Uncle Butchie and my dad singing. (I’ll actually get to play the piano that I played for them this week. )  we’d miss everyone at peace, the one day when all family fights were given a reprieve, a truce.

I would have us ask what we miss, when we forgo our times with God, whether here at church, or whether it is the time we could set aside for prayer, for spending time meditating on His word, and on the gifts He gives us?  What do we give up?

You see my friends, this is about doing things because we have to do them or we won’t be good.  It’s about doing them for the same reason we go to our family gatherings, a friend’s birthday party, or make time to go to a wedding.  No, Don, it’s not because of the food, its’ because of the love of family, and there is no family closer to us than God.

What we are missing is our time with Him, our time realizing the depth of His love.  Our time where He assures us that it will all be okay, that He has forgiven us and made everything right.  We’d miss the people He surrounds us with to bless us, to help us grow, to give us a hug because they are glad to see us, or to bring us comfort.

When we forgo our time with Him, we miss Him, and all He brings to our life.

These things Paul called the fruit of the Spirit,

22  But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)

These things aren’t the reason to feast with God, but they are what happens when we do.  The reason is simple… to be in the presence of the One who loves us, who gives us life, who gives us Himself, who makes our lives right…..who feeds and nourishes our Spirit, who lifts us up like no other.

Enough so our souls shout His praises, our hearts trust and depend on His healing and restoration, our minds are transformed, and we begin to see reality differently, His way.  And we hear his voice calling to us, encouraging more people to come to the feast, for it is ready!

Amen!

Get up – Get Walking… with Jesus

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall p...

English: The healing of the paralytic : wall painting in the baptistry of the domus ecclesiae in Dura Europos. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Do You Want? Then Rise Up

John 17:20-26

 

Jesus! Son and Savior!

 My Dear Friends, as Jesus comes to you in your brokenness, and with grace and mercy calls for you to get up and walk… may you trust in His healing, and run to His rest and peace!



Poolside – what else do we need?

        Rest – Deep, reviving rest…

 

For some, it may seem like a dream lifestyle, and once adjusted to it, it might be a little want to change from it.

Imagine, you get to lie out by the pool every day, take in all the sun, have people bring you food, have people attend to your needs…well all but one.  Some of us might like that as well – for there was no one that would toss you into the pool!

Sounds like the dream California life, and like I said, once used to it, could you give it up easily?

There was once a man who gave it up, in the course of a few moments,

All it took was one question, and one word of encouragement.

It was then, that this man who had spent 38 years, laying out by the pool, learned finally what it meant… to rest.

It is time to get up – and walk and find some real rest….

The Scene –


I want you to put yourself in the man’s place, to imagine the sights, the sounds, the smells, the voice.

The poolside was crowded that day, as it was so many.  It would be as crowded as a Palm Springs, Miami or Vegas hotel swimming pool on Spring break, with every spot taken, and people just sitting and laying out, enjoying their week of rest, having people to care for them. Having the staff of the pool caring for their every need.

This pool where the man lay was as crowded, but not with people looking for rest, but desiring to be given an active life, to have a miracle happen that would change everything, that would make them whole.  They filled every spot – these blind, weak people, these people who had to have people care for them, because they couldn’t care for themselves. .

I imagine after the first few healings, their attention would be focused on the water with everything they were.  Ready like sprinters in the blocks, knowing that the answer to their life would be met with the stirring of the water… but after a few weeks?  After a few months?

What about 38 years later..

Was he still as ready?  Was he as desiring to get into the water?

Or was He comfortable, and had he made this place a “home”.

It may not be a poolside spot in the sun that has been made our home, our comfort zone.  However, each of us can easily tire of this life, and become accustom to a sin,  Or maybe we’ve given up on praying for a life that is going to pieces, or we find that we can’t stop that which causes our anxiety. Whatever it is, we can feel blind, weak, paralyzed.

There is a point where the emotional overload, whether pain or guilt or shame or anxiety just pounds us down – and we find ourselves giving up on the possibility of being healed, we think overcoming, or seeing things change… no that’s for others….. We just lie there spiritually depressed and defeated.  Not bothering even to ask anyone for help – not even realizing that we can pray for that which we need.

Do you want… then get up…

        The authority in that command.

 

Into this pit of despair, walks a man that draws everyone’s attention.  They had heard many things about him, rumors of the healings that run through the families of those who had hoped for healings, and would take any opportunity, consider any remedy, try any curative.

He’s here, everyone is whispering to their neighbors, He’s here….as a thousand desperate eyes, desperate for themselves, desperate for those they love, focus in on this man, followed by a few guys, some of them probably arguing among themselves.

He sets his eyes on one man, the one who has been there so long… and he walks up…and asks….”Do you want to be made whole, do you want to be revived and cleansed?”  For those words – get is the word – genesis, and the word for well is the word we get hygienic from. Do you want to become, to be born again…clean, whole, perfect?

There is a part of me, the part of me that is a pastor that loves that the excuse is not considered – that Jesus simply says, “Get up – take away that old mat, and walk.  I love the authority, His response, the simple way in which Jesus deals with this man.  I wish I had the confidence to do this more, and the wisdom to know when!

It scares me a little as well, as one who wants to walk with Jesus. Does He want me to do likewise?  Is Jesus not going to hear my excuses?  Will He compel me to get up?  Are these words just not to that man, on that mat, besides that pool?  Or are they to you and I?  Is it time to get up – to abandon the things that hold us back, and walk with Christ?

Friends, He has told us this… and it is time to get up – to leave that old life behind, and walk with Him.


Note what awaits us when we Get up?

        The Sabbath!


As the end of the gospel reading – the last sentence, the last thought seemed like a comment made in oversight – sort of a “o yeah – it was Saturday….” A nice passing comment – I thought at first.  It caught my attention, and I thought about it a little more.

The symbolism is phenomenal.  The very thing this man was to do, on his first day of wholeness, it to keep Holy the Sabbath.  To spend the time with God, in prayer, in reading the word, in the community of the people of God, gathered in His name.  Not out of duty, but in prayer and praise, in rejoicing with them in their healing, in God answering their prayers as well.

There, walking with Jesus, we gain what most people look for, when they plan a vacation poolside.  We find our burdens lifted off our shoulders, our sins erased, our hearts and souls healing, for He is here, just as He was for that man who laid around for 38 years.  Telling us to get up – and to walk up here… and find rest in Him.

This man who had for so long laid by the pool at Bethsaida – translated as the House of cHesed, the House of God’s loving mercy.  That man found the strength he needed – not just the strength of body, but the strength of the soul.  He didn’t find it himself – he was right – he needed someone’s assistance, and that someone was the Lord, the God who heals, the God who makes whole,

The God who says to you – even as He prepares to feed you with Christ’s body and blood, “get up – get rid of the stuff and walk…. and come – rest with me.”

As you do – may His peace flood over you – and may you realize it guards you – heart and soul for you dwell in Christ.   AMEN!

 

 

No Excuses! Really! They aren’t needed..if..

 12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. 13 Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. 14 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. Colossians 3:12-14 (NLT)

We must fear and love God, so that we will not deceive by lying, betraying, slandering or ruining our neighbor’s reputation, but will defend him, say good things about him, and see the best side of everything he does. (1)

When I speak to you of good example, I mean to tell you, too, that you have to understand and excuse, that you have to fill the world with peace and love.(2)

It is a phase we all go through, a defensive mechanism that we revert to in moments where we’ve been “caught” in the act.  In a five year old, it can be a little cute and hilarious.  In a 30 year old, or even a 50 or 70 year old – not so much.  I am talking about making up and giving excuses.  The ways in which we try to bend the perception of others, in regards to our actions (and their perceptions are often accurate) to get them to put the best construction, the best reasoning on our actions.   We may say things without thinking, we may do something that was wrong, whether we know it or not at the time.

And a five year old can make up some of the silliest excuses you’ve ever heard!  Again – kinda cute, a interesting phase.

But what if the best…way of dealing with excuses was not to be found in the one making them, but in the one to whom they are made?

If I read Paul’s words above, and they were practiced, especially the ones underlined, we see a relationship in which a person wouldn’t have to give you excuses – there would be no need!  If we trusted each other, to forgive, to make allowance for our mistakes, why would we bother?  If we could comprehend the love, the charity (see the last two blogs for charity/love) would we be so quick to find excuses?  If we put the best construction, saw the best in what each other did – as Luther taught, would we need to create incredible stories – and get defensive?  If we sought to understand and excuse, to fill the world with love and peace… would others need to blame others?

As I think about the community of faith, and the sanctuary it should be, about how we should be able to strengthen each other, build up each other, help each other overcome temptation, this is one of the greatest ways.  To mutually work to create an environment where mercy and love are demonstrated, are encouraged, where peace reigns, because we learn not to be defensive, because we  do not have to be!  What a wondrous environment we could create!  We would be the church God intended, a church were people ran for absolution, for forgiveness and would find assurance of it.  Accountability wouldn’t be a law driven concept, but one that we rejoiced in, knowing those asking us questions were actually interested in helping us thrive.

It starts simply – not with trying to find excuses for our actions, but excusing and forgiving the actions of others….knowing that is exactly what Christ did!

Even simple – this won’t be easy…. so let us cry for God’s mercy!

And know and be assured – and assure each other… He has listened and is merciful!

 

(1) Luther’s Small Catechism: Developed and Explained.

(2)Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). The Forge (Kindle Locations 2103-2104). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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