Saturday, April 19, 2014

4/19 by Ann Wetzel

This year’s Lenten theme is “to follow Jesus”.  I have to admit, I am a bit of a nerd as one of my favorite phone apps is the dictionary/thesaurus.  I further investigated the words follow, follower or following.  The thesaurus includes these synonyms: to chase, ensue, pursue, to be a disciple, and to tailgate!  As I pondered on the word tailgate, I was reminded of a reckless driver who is much too close to me, or of enjoying a party at a football game.  Am I recklessly chasing too close to Jesus or in celebration with Him or am I pursuing meaningless things that have no eternal value as Solomon so well describes in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes:  “Meaningless! Meaningless! …” ?   In Matthew 4:19-20:  “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed Him; they recklessly tailgated Jesus, and no doubt are celebrating with Him today!  

As I meditated on this, I began to question myself.  Either I am following Jesus or I am not.  I cannot follow Him with my agenda.   It is His way or no way.  I must follow him to the cross and die with Him. As John the Baptist said, “He must become greater, I must become less.”(John 3:30)  This creates tension, as much of life seems to be about waiting or living in the “gray.”  I am always waiting for someone, waiting for something or waiting for the next season before following Jesus. Following Jesus is also not “gray”, either I am or I am not. Following Jesus requires action not tarrying.

The time of Jesus’ ministry was short and it demanded full, perhaps even reckless, attention and commitment from his disciples.  Is this any different today?  Our time is also short!  James 4:14:  “What is your life?  You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”  Our days are numbered and time moves by in a flash. Although the time is short, the consequences are of eternal value.  A decision is required: am I following Jesus to the cross, the empty tomb and the resurrection or not?  Amen!

Friday, April 18, 2014

4/18 by Marion Kuszyk

In Psalm 22 and Lamentations 3, the prophets wrote about what would be Jesus' struggles on Good Friday.  As I ponder what it means to really follow Jesus this Good Friday, I am struck by the supreme sacrifice he made for us.  What is profound is that Jesus knows our struggle with sin because he took it on himself!  At the Journey With Jesus event last week, Heather Henry discussed sacrifice and helped our understanding of what sacrifice really means.  So, in simple terms, a sacrifice is when you think of something you really value and you give it up to help others.  Being a mother, I think about this in new terms.  I value my sleep and my free time.  When my children were babies, I sacrificed sleep so that they could be fed.  Now, I sacrifice my sleep to care for them when they are sick.  I sacrifice my free time so that they can attend lessons, games and other events which will shape their lives.  So, in order to really love, one must sacrifice.  When the meaning of sacrifice is put in these terms, I realize now just HOW MUCH Jesus loves us!  He sacrificed his LIFE for us, not just sleep and free time!  When I stop to actually internalize his suffering, I become overwhelmed.  I have difficulty even grasping the amount of physical and emotional pain he endured all so that we are free from the bondage of sin.  One comment Heather made really sticks with me.  She said that while the physical sacrifice of dying on a cross was great, the bigger sacrifice was taking on our sin and being separated from God because being united with God is what he values the most.  When we sin, we become separated from God so the fact that Jesus was willing to be separated from God just so we never have to be apart from God is the very embodiment of sacrificial love!  His love for us makes me want to follow him to the ends of the earth and to sin no more!  Yet, as I even write these words, I struggle with my sin.  It is a comfort to know that Jesus actually understands that I struggle with my sin.  He knew that Peter, even though he pledged to lay down his life to follow Jesus, that he would struggle with his own sin.

John 13:36-38:
Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?"
Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now?  I will lay down my life for you."
Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me?  I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!"

Even though Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, after the resurrection, Peter did follow Jesus to the ends of the earth!  Why?  Because he understood he was free from the bondage of sin and that God gave him grace.  He understood that God gave us ALL grace!   Peter did lay down his life so that people would know about Jesus and to teach them how to really follow him.  He instructs in 1 Peter 1:13-20:
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.  As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance.  But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written:  "Be holy, because I am holy."
Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear.  For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.  He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake."

In Psalms 22 and Lamentations 3, the prophets also reveal God's glory.
Psalm 22:22-31:
"I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the congregation I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
before those who fear you will I fulfill my vows.
The poor will eat and be satisfied;
they who seek the LORD will praise him-
may your hearts live forever!
All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD,
and all the families of the nations will bow down before him,
for dominion belongs to the LORD
and he rules over the nations.
All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before him-
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve him;
future generation will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn-
for he has done it.

So, if Jesus shows love for us by his supreme sacrifice, we can show love for him by our sacrifice as well.  We can sacrifice our self-serving desires and follow Him!  We can care for the suffering people and it shows that we care for Him!  We can give people hope by sharing the good news that he loves us so much, he sacrificed his life for us!  Certainly, following Jesus has challenges because he does not go down an easy road.  However, following Jesus is the only way to find the true meaning of grace and love.  Jesus is the way to eternal life!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

4/17 by Kim Cox

Following the Right Leader

Whenever anyone tells me to follow them the first thing my brain goes to is (truthfully) not the bible but
DISNEY! For days I can’t get the darn “Following the Leader” song from Peter Pan out of my head. That
song is actually quite ironic as you have the followers (The Lost Boys) angering bears, monkeys, etc and
the leader (John) is ignorantly unaware that he is about to lead them into an ambush. And I can’t help
but think, “Isn’t that like us”.

Some “John” who is a persuasive, well spoken, possibly good looking person stands up exclaiming that
they have the newest, brightest, piece of heaven that is going to save humanity and we follow them
full hearted only to find out too late that it wasn’t quite what we had in mind. The extra hours at our
job didn’t lead to that promotion (or the feeling we wanted from it), our new iphone is about to be
outdated in 2 months by the iphone45, or there really wasn’t a brand new wagon outside the house and
your older brother and sister had lured you out maliciously to lock you out of the house while they were
“so-called babysitting” (true story).

The POINT is that we should be wise with who we choose to follow in showing us the purpose of our
lives. There is only one GOOD leader and his name is Jesus Christ. The hope would be that if we were
hearing wisdom from our trusted friends and comrades around us that they too would be following
Christ as well. I (follow) Christ, THEY (follow) Christ, I (follow) Them that (follow) Christ. After all, Christ
actually wants to take care of you. Lk: 22-24

Now I, who know to follow Christ with my life, fall into the “The Lost Boys” category. While I am
following Christ with my life, I keep poking at those around me. And while I doing those things that we
know that we do, those “stuffing our umbrellas in people’s nose” things, I realize I’m not showing the
best side of the person I follow. We have the great privilege to be a reflection of Christ’s love. Titus 3:3-8
Reminder for this Lenten season: Follow Christ, Reflect his love… stop hitting others in the nose :p

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

4/16 by Josh Horton

As most of you know because you've either read it about me or have heard me proclaiming it from the mountain tops, I'm a HUGE fan of a professional soccer team from London: Chelsea Football Club. Now, my passion for Chelsea means a few things.

The first, is that I read just about every piece of writing that is available to us Americans on the team. I wake up and it's actually one of the first things on my mind (partially because the first half of their day in the UK happens while I'm sleeping). I scour the web searching for analysis on the previous match and predictions for the next one.

The second is that almost everywhere I go I'm talking about the famous CFC. I talk to my girlfriend about it all of the time (she's kind enough to listen to me blab), I'll explain parts of the game to people that they sometimes don't care about. And, when there are fans of other teams who bad mouth Chelsea, it wells up this desire in me to fight their every negative statement. 

Lastly, it means that I'm connected to Chelsea fans all over the place- all over the world even. Through outlets such as social media, I can talk to British fans who attend games and can learn from their expert and experienced knowledge. I can gather with fellow Chelsea supporters at local pubs and restaurants to cheer on our team together. Sometimes supporting Chelsea means I will love complete strangers just because they're part of the Blue Family.

Interestingly, while in America we call ourselves "fans" when we like a sports team, Englishmen and women refer to themselves as "followers." Pretty wild, isn't it? Now, following Jesus is and will always be more significant than following some soccer team (even if they are amazing). However, I think that many of the principles that are pivotal to being TRUE followers of a team are also irreplaceable when it comes to following Jesus. 

When we follow Him, it means we take in every piece of information we can about Him. Truly following Jesus means that within us there is a passion to consume all things Christ! To want to learn all we can out of admiration. This passion is followed by a consuming desire to share Christ's awesomeness with everyone we meet. To give them the stats- whether they seem interested in them or not because of how much it excites us. We can't contain it! And following Him means we engage with other followers over the great, great thing that unites us. Our incredible salvation- the ultimate victory- that Christ himself offers. 

To follow Jesus, we must not just be "fans" who like teams, but followers, whose every breath IS laced with joy of simply being allowed to follow. 

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

4/15 by Darrell Fernandez

Hmmm…  A Lenten blog…  What can I write about when the topic is “Follow?”

This is a particularly good question when I am doing a lot of following but don’t know what it is I’m following.  And, it feels a lot more like chasing then following! 
It’s also a good and necessary question when my “chase” is not focused with a vision that looks anything like the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.  My chase doesn’t include:
·         Continual thankfulness for Jesus’ pain and suffering for those of us reading this (and those not reading this.)
·         Jesus’ teachings that He lived and died for.
·         Following – Listening, hearing, learning and living by His teachings.

As I think about this topic, I can see that “Following” is easier said than done….  But if I can put a spin on this, I think there is a way that will help all of us “follow” (myself included.)

I think for many of us…. We need to lead to follow.  I know, you’re saying… “What??????”
Take a minute to read on, as this will hopefully make sense and hopefully have some ROI of your time.  Keep “Lead to Follow” in mind and let’s think about that!!

We’ll start with a few examples…
1.       A few weeks ago, Phil Van Horn mentioned that he was nervous about his commitment to lead a “Men’s Group” but he felt a calling.  While he has influenced many men, it’s important to mention here that he has also shared that he has learned to trust and follow in the process.
2.       While I was excited to lead the “Foundations” class with Michele, I was also nervous.  However, the role caused me to spend time praying, reading, planning, and removed me from my daily “chase” to follow by leading.
3.       I was talking with Doug Givens this past Sunday and I mentioned that leading others related to roles in our church has a way of making us very accountable (I think some more appropriate words to use in my case are unqualified, lost, weak, distracted and broken.)  Interestingly, with a grin on Doug’s face he was quick to recognize that truth as he described that he was going to be leading a service that has already caused him to “look within.”

Sooo…. I think that as we take on opportunities to lead in some way where we may have a calling, we also learn to follow.  This has been especially true in my case and as shared by Phil and Doug in the way we have each truly “followed” with more time in prayer, reading of scripture, and listening to follow God by leading.  These are only three very recent and personal examples.  But without a doubt, I believe that we have all seen big ROI received in following as a result of leading.

In the ongoing struggle between chase and follow, this blog is just another example…
Thanks Lee, for asking me to write and the opportunity to think and pray about my walk.

And for those reading, I hope I have not left you ragged with my writing but instead, have given you some return on your time spent reading about following through leading.  (Yes, I know…. Hard to imagine an engineer would have wrapped it with a rhyme.)

God Bless your walk and your pondering of “Follow.”

Monday, April 14, 2014

4/14 Matthew 19:16-30

 16 Now a man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?"
 17 "Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments."
 18 "Which ones?" the man inquired. Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony,
 19 honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.' "
 20 "All these I have kept," the young man said. "What do I still lack?"
 21 Jesus answered, "If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."
 22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
 23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, "I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, "Who then can be saved?"
 26 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible."
 27 Peter answered him, "We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?"
 28 Jesus said to them, "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.
 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers 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.
 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

4/12- Psalm 119:9-16

 9 How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your word.
 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands.
 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
 12 Praise be to you, LORD; teach me your decrees.
 13 With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth.
 14 I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches.
 15 I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways.
 16 I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.