Monday, March 31, 2014

3/31 by Dan Blessinger

One of my favorite songs was written and recorded by a little known artist (now producer) named Charlie Peacock, called "Heaven Is A Real Place".  I've always admired songwriters who can sum up something that I feel, or believe deeply, in a 3 minute collection of melody and lyrics.  This is one of those songs for me.  Here are some of the lyrics.

Oh, for the eyes to see beyond this flesh and bone to my final destination, to the city I'll call home,
Well, it's crazy to pretend and try to act like I'm one of the local boys,
Everybody knows that I'm really just a tourist, not by accident, but by my own choice,
Still, so much of the time I live like this spinning ball of land and ocean is my reality complete,
Would you say a prayer for a change in me?
'Cause this is what I want, this is what I need.

I wanna live like heaven is a real place,
I wanna live like heaven is a real place,
In my everyday time and space I wanna live like heaven is a real place.

God didn't give up on the idea of Eden, as some misguided have assumed,
The garden has given place to a city where the walk of God with man will be resumed,
Paradise is not lost at all,
Let my whole life reflect my belief that heaven is where I'll spend eternity,
That would be something, something to see, 'til death is swallowed up in victory.

I wanna live like heaven is a real place,
I wanna live like heaven is a real place,
In my everyday time and space I wanna live like heaven is a real place.

What does it mean to follow Jesus?  It starts with the faith to take Jesus at His word, that what He said was true and worth pursuing.  We are mere tourists on earth, here for a brief moment in time.  We are tasked with building His kingdom, loving our neighbor, taking care of widow and orphan, forgiving our enemies, finding lost sheep, offering a cup of cool water to the thirsty.  This sounds like a lot of work… right?  It's not if you live like heaven is a real place.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

3/29 by Ashley Pollock

Have you noticed that since the advent of social media, it is a lot easier to get bad news? I know, I know… what an inspirational way to start out a blog post. But in all seriousness, sometimes I log onto Facebook or the Yahoo news feed and I feel inundated by the pain and suffering of others. Someone may write a status update about a sick friend and the featured story in the news might be about a horrible tornado and what began as a frivolous visit online becomes a heart wrenching glimpse into the world around me. And suddenly, I don’t know how to pray. I mean, I can come up with requests but the words feel limp because I have already given up. I don’t mean that I have stopped believing in God’s miraculous powers. I know in that big head of mine that our God can do anything. What I have lost or at least pushed down underneath the pain around me is the knowledge that no matter what is happening God remains the same – present, faithful and saving.

In Psalm 43, the psalmist begins with a please: “Vindicate me, my God and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked. You are God my stronghold. Why have you rejected me?” The writer feels deliberately ignored because God isn’t dealing with His immediate problems in the way he desires. In other words, the bad stuff around him keeps happening and so, like me, he starts to feel like giving up. But then something beautiful happens, the writer seems to consider not just what he wants God to do but who God is.

Verse 5 reads: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.” HOPE! Even when the writer is being oppressed by his enemy, there is hope. Even when the people I love are grieving, the crime rate is rising, weather is devastating, even then there can be hope not because God is necessarily going to take away those problems but because those problems cannot change His character.

This Lenten season, we are being challenged to follow and I am learning more and more that in order to even begin doing that I must trust – not in what I know God has the ability to do but simply in God. He is present in the midst of suffering. He is faithful to His people and His saving grace stands no matter what. The God we worship is good and when I trust that, I can experience the hope written about by the psalmist. The hope that we need in our fallen world. The hope that is rooted in Him and Him alone.  

Friday, March 28, 2014

3/28 by Nancy Minkler

When Lee asked me to write for the Lenten Blog, I panicked a little bit. Okay. A LOT. All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind, causing me to question whether or not I was the right gal for the gig. I’ll spare you the details, other than to mention that’s the little voice that cheers me on when I stand in my own way. It belongs to Saboteur. Fortunately, there is another, much louder voice in my head, always enthusiastically pointing out the benefits of a given situation or adventure with the curiosity and wonder of a child. That one belongs to Sage. Oh, and before you go thinking I’m unique, or worse, insane…everybody has a saboteur and a sage side to their brain (go ahead, Google it)! Of course, the choice is yours which one to follow, and how far to go. Much the same way you go about following Jesus. You have to go broke or go home.  

Although I was raised in a Christian home, according to the teachings of the Bible, we didn’t attend church on a regular basis, and I can’t quote scripture from memory, nor use it to aid me when trying to explain what it means to follow Jesus. With this in mind, you can imagine my surprise when I realized I would need to use the lectionary texts for today to help prompt my thoughts. Talk about panic! I got over it though, and decided to dive right in to the texts, and see which one really resonated with me. It ended up being this morning’s Psalm 22, because it reminded me of a time, four years ago, when my family was facing a plethora of seemingly impossible hurdles. I’d always heard the saying, “Just give it up to God, and it will be okay.” One day, crumbling under a cloud of defeat, I found myself sobbing, frustrated, angry and shamefully, asking “Why me?” Never one to admit being overwhelmed, I somehow managed to muster the courage to do one of the hardest things I’ve ever done: I raised my hands up, looked at the sky and said, “Okay, I’m done. You can have it. Can’t handle this on my own… I need your help. Wherever you lead me, I’ll go.” Instantly, I felt relieved. 

Shortly thereafter, we lost our house. Yes. It really happened.  

Of course, that meant we needed to find a new one, in an area with good public schools, which is the challenge of many people when pondering where to settle in Los Angeles if you have children. At the time, our girls were in private school, but things…they were a-changin’! Oh, and it needed to be within a reasonable distance to Hollywood, as that’s where most of Chris’s work was based. So upon the suggestion of my best friend (and fellow LCPC member) we began looking in a little community called La Crescenta.

And here I am. 
He led, and I followed. 

Now that you know how I got here, I have a confession. This is actually the first Lenten Season in which I have ever participated. Considering I wasn’t raised Presbyterian, that’s not terribly shocking. Since I’m a bit of a rebel, instead of giving up something, I took something on instead. I’ve been keeping a gratitude journal since Ash Wednesday. Each morning, I write down one thing I am grateful for, and if I follow through…by Easter I’ll have 40 entries. In the spirit of full disclosure, I thought it appropriate to share what I am grateful for today. 

Last Sunday, my soul sister and I stood together at the 9am service, hugging, singing and eventually crying, thankful for the gift of being able to follow Jesus together. So today, I am grateful for her, as she was clearly following God’s will by suggesting we look for a house in her neighborhood, then urging us to attend services at LCPC once we moved, because she loves it so much. Now, so do I. 

Have a blessed day! 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

3/27 by Donna Herrin

When it comes to music, I am hooked. I have often said that if someone would've put my algebra lessons and subsequent math courses to music, I would've had straight A's. For some reason that is how my brain works. Put anything to music and I will learn it. So, as I dwelled on our Lenten theme, “Follow” and what I would write for all to read (a very intimidating thought) naturally, my brain went to music and different songs began to jump out from the cobwebbed corners of my mind. Follow the Yellow Brick Road, (The Wizard of Oz), Follow the Drinking Gourd, (An African American Spiritual that helped escaped slaves find theIr way to freedom.), I Will Follow Him, (Little Peggy March), Try To Remember, aka Follow, (The Fantasticks), Annie's Song/Follow Me, (John Denver), Follow You, Follow Me, (Genesis), And finally, Follow Me, (Muse).

As I recalled many of these songs, I began to ponder...

What would happen if we decided to follow, instead of trying to lead? Depending upon whom or what we follow, could land us in a place that is either good or bad. If we decide to follow the latest trend or styles we could end up looking fantastic--now, and silly-- later when the trends have changed. But not following the “latests” often leaves us looking like a people stuck in the past. Relevant or irrelevant, it’s a choice. But what is relevant? Who determines what relevant is? Perhaps a better question is, who do we allow to determine our relevance? Family, friends, the university we attended (or never attended), our career, complete strangers, Facebook, Twitter, or Jesus Christ? 

In Matthew 4:19 and Mark 1:17, Jesus said, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” At once they left their nets and followed him. 

The disciples understood relevance.

A fascinating event occurs as we begin to follow Christ. We somehow, at some point, become leaders. And what we do with our leadership will determine just how many more followers will become leaders for Christ. It is a circle made perfect only by Christ. 
If you think that you can never be a leader, I ask you to dwell on these verses in Psalm 139:13-14, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.” 

So if God’s works are wonderful and we follow Him, we need only to find our relevance in Him and He will fill our nets with what is truly important.

What’s in your net?

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

3/26 by Greg Wolflick

 I Corinthians 12: 4-20

Each of us is familiar with the “great commission” found at the end of Matthew, go forth and make disciples all of the nations and baptize them in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit. But each of us, as the reading from I Corinthians highlights, has different gifts and as a result, each of us will have a different commission. 

It is likely, through the course of our life, we will have several different commissions.  I am not talking about day to day to decisions like do I marry her or not? Do I get divorced or stay married?   Do I go to Mission Mexico or stay home and go to my kid’s baseball game?  I am talking about “your” commission. God has a plan for each of us and we are called to fulfill that plan.  This is how we “follow” Christ.

Each of us goes to church, we pray, we even read scripture and, attend things like the Men’s Ministry Group or the Woman’s Prayer Group on Saturday mornings.  These are wonderful things but they are simply there to prepare us for our commission.  Phil Van Horn 2 years ago was called to start the Men’s Ministry.  God called and he answered and, found his commission.  Jim Sedgwick was driving home one day from work and had the idea to start Mission Mexico and call men together once a year to build homes for those people in El Nino, Mexico.  Again, this is one of Jim’s many commissions. 
God has put you here for a purpose.  And while going to church every Sunday and praying and reading scripture is a great foundation, that is not your commission.  Have you reflected on your commission?  Have you thought about what God’s plan is for you?  If not, I invite you during this Lenten season to pray about how God might use you and your special talents and skills to make the kingdom present here on earth just as it is in heaven.

For those of us who have found our commission we often times find ourselves in a rut or simply very comfortable because we have done the same thing for a long time and it is rewarding but, mainly easy.  There is no stretch.  We need to be looking to see if God is calling us in some other direction to perform yet a new commission that will cause us to grow and that would further serve His purposes.

How do we come to understand God’s commission for us? Of course, there are many answers but, here are some helpful pointers:
Does what I’m doing (or planning to do) conflict with Scripture?
God’s will never will. God is always true to Himself and His Word is the best place to start. We may differ in interpretation of a passage, but if it’s clearly spelled out in Scripture, then we clearly know His will.

Does what I am doing conflict with the counsel of others?

God uses others to confirm His will. I am thankful for the people in my life, including my wife and sons, who have helped shaped the path of my life. Often they see things I can see or believe in me when I can’t believe in myself. God sends the body of Christ to encourage, challenge and strengthen the body.

Does what I am doing conflict with the spirit within me?

God sent the Holy Spirit as a helper. He guides us with an inner peace or a holy unrest. If Christ is in you, He will not leave you to make a decision completely alone. Often God provides a peace or a lack thereof when He is trying to confirm His will. You need to have the peace of God. I have learned to listen to the peace of God. If you are not a Christian, then you don’t know what I am talking about. But if you are, then I think you do. There is the peace of God that helps to confirm whether you are in the will of God.

Does what I am doing conflict with my life experience?

God uses our experiences in life to teach and mold us to His will. Often it isn’t as unusual of a path when we look back over our life experiences. Again, don’t be confused, because He usually stretches us out of our comfort zone also.

Does what I am doing conflict with my passion for life?

God tends to work with the things that fuel our fire. He loves when we are energized for the tasks He calls us to. When I look at Bible characters like Joseph, David, the disciples, Abraham or Paul it appears their calling matched their wiring. Paul was zealous for whatever he did. God used that passion for good. What’s your passion? God may work within it to confirm His will.

I fully believe God works all things for good even when we miss His will in individual decisions or even decisions made by a community of believers. You can make a bad decision, but God retains the right to finish your story His way. Proverbs 16:9 says, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

Monday, March 24, 2014

3/25 by Nancy Coler

Psalm 34:4-5 4 
I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. 5 Those who look to him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

These verses speak to me in two different ways concerning following Him. As I read these two verses together I am seeing that one aspect of my life is following steadfastly, as if the needle of a record player is set into the groove and following in the track already laid out, without needing to be guided, letting itself be led by God’s spinning turntable. The other verse, promising deliverance from fear, requires considerable effort on my part to follow. It’s like trying to follow someone on the freeway to an unfamiliar neighborhood, and losing sight of them ahead in the maze of cars, knowing you don’t know how to find the restaurant you’re headed to or which off ramp to take. We are trying to follow God, but lose sight of Him in the rush of cars, the maze of life.  Now fear takes over and we are hopelessly lost.

I seek the Lord in my prayers, and in my thoughts throughout each day. I know he will deliver me from my fears. Oddly, it is surrender that is my constant struggle. Only when I release the reins that I clutch for dear life and let the Lord take them can I feel the weight physically lift from my shoulders. When I give the worries of my life to Him I no longer need struggle to fix everything myself. Why is it so incredibly difficult to put my complete faith in Him to take care of troubles that arise? I am trying to patch every crack with my own little putty knife, forgetting that God is maintaining my house. 

I feel such spiritual resonance with Verse 5. Following Jesus fills me up, and indeed can make me feel radiant. I feel His Spirit inside me and it fills me with joy. I feel Him with me most days, an effervescence, and this is part of me, intrinsic. This is an incredible gift the Lord has given me.
I have had some challenges, as we all have. God has a way of illuminating the darkness just when it is needed the most. It is always there. We just need to look for it. His radiance is everywhere.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

3/22 Psalm 73

See if you can find yourself within this passage of scripture:

NIV  Psalm 73:1 A psalm of Asaph. Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart.
 2 But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold.
 3 For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.
 4 They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong.
 5 They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills.
 6 Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence.
 7 From their callous hearts comes iniquity; their evil imaginations have no limits.
 8 They scoff, and speak with malice; with arrogance they threaten oppression.
 9 Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.
 10 Therefore their people turn to them and drink up waters in abundance.
 11 They say, "How would God know? Does the Most High know anything?"
 12 This is what the wicked are like-- always free of care, they go on amassing wealth.
 13 Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and have washed my hands in innocence.
 14 All day long I have been afflicted, and every morning brings new punishments.
 15 If I had spoken out like that, I would have betrayed your children.
 16 When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply
 17 till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.
 18 Surely you place them on slippery ground; you cast them down to ruin.
 19 How suddenly are they destroyed, completely swept away by terrors!
 20 They are like a dream when one awakes; when you arise, Lord, you will despise them as fantasies.
 21 When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered,
 22 I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you.
 23 Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.
 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory.
 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
 27 Those who are far from you will perish; you destroy all who are unfaithful to you.
 28 But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign LORD my refuge; I will tell of all your deeds.

Friday, March 21, 2014

3/21 by Hilary Norton

Devotion.  Faith. Sacrifice. Obedience. Joy.     

God’s selection of  passages for today’s Lenten blog present the full spectrum of discipleship and the nature of God and Jesus’ guidance.  From the parable of Jesus calming the storm, to Jesus’ instructions on marriage and chastity, to the Psalms extolling God’s protection and deliverance of His people even though we are unworthy, each reading presents the challenge and joy of following our most awe-inspiring Lord.    

Spring is here. God calls on His disciples to shout for joy and praise His name! Let’s not feel self-conscious about expressing our delight at the way God is leading us!  Yes, the cost of devotion is high.  Following God requires faith, devotion, sacrifice, and obedience -- as Lee pointed out in his sermon this past Sunday – but the cost of not following God is death.  

Praise God for showing us His path and leading us in His way, in His time, until we reach Him!  So, dear God, whatever today has in store, bring it on!

I think of Jesus’ disciples when they met Jesus after he emerged from the tomb.  They were so full of delight and marvel that God had conquered death, as Jesus said God would, that no one could stop them from praising God as loudly and as disruptively as possible for the rest of their lives – even to their own horrible deaths.  

Nothing could extinguish their joy and conviction regarding the risen Lord, as they followed all that Jesus had instructed them to do.  These “sons of thunder” greeted each day looking for opportunities to be the followers that Jesus commanded them to be – to tell people about Jesus, to care for the children, the sick and the poor who God had placed before them.     

What an amazing witness it would be to our community if, after our Annual Meeting, we threw open our doors so that people could hear our singing and shouting out onto the street: “Praise God!  Thank you for leading us!  Thank you for making our stewardship possible!  Thank you for our faith journey into the coming year!” 

True follower-ship requires us to submit all to God as he leads us.  Are we willing to recognize that God is leading us, leading LCPC’s congregation, and leading the community that is yet come to LCPC, even as we continue to inwardly refine ourselves as His followers?  

When conflict arises, as it will inevitably, do we recognize that God may have placed us in this conflict for us to grow closer to Him? 

Are we meeting each day and each challenge with joy and courage, knowing that God never forsakes us? 

Dear Lord, as I continue to grow in my discipleship, never let me forget to exude the joy of following You.  Help me never to let fear get in the way of sharing to others my witness of all that You have delivered me from, as You lead me on the path to everlasting life.  Amen! 

Psalm 22 New International Version (NIV)
1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me,
    so far from my cries of anguish?
2 My God, I cry out by day, but you do not answer,
    by night, but I find no rest
3 Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;
    you are the one Israel praises.
4 In you our ancestors put their trust;
    they trusted and you delivered them.
5 To you they cried out and were saved;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.
6 But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by everyone, despised by the people.
7 All who see me mock me;
    they hurl insults, shaking their heads.
8 “He trusts in the LORD,” they say,
    “let the LORD rescue him.
Let him deliver him,
    since he delights in him.”
9 Yet you brought me out of the womb;
    you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast.
10 From birth I was cast on you;
    from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Do not be far from me,
    for trouble is near
    and there is no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
    strong bulls of Bashan encircle me.
13 Roaring lions that tear their prey
    open their mouths wide against me.
14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint.
    My heart has turned to wax;
    it has melted within me.
15 My mouth is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;
    you lay me in the dust of death.
16 Dogs surround me,
    a pack of villains encircles me;
    they pierce my hands and my feet.
17 All my bones are on display;
    people stare and gloat over me.
18 They divide my clothes among them
    and cast lots for my garment.
19 But you, LORD, do not be far from me.
    You are my strength; come quickly to help me.
20 Deliver me from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dogs.
21 Rescue me from the mouth of the lions;
    save me from the horns of the wild oxen.
22 I will declare your name to my people;
    in the assembly I will praise you.
23 You who fear the LORD, praise him!
    All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
    Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or scorned
    the suffering of the afflicted one;
    he has not hidden his face from him
    but has listened to his cry for help.
25 From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly;
    before those who fear you I will fulfill my vows.
26 The poor will eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek the LORD will praise him—
    may your hearts live forever!
27 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,
28 for dominion belongs to the LORD
    and he rules over the nations.
29 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.
30 Posterity will serve him;
    future generations will be told about the Lord.
31 They will proclaim his righteousness,
    declaring to a people yet unborn:
    He has done it!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

3/20 by Bob Keiter

I believe to follow is to learn to “live in time” to be empowered to say at the end of our days, “I
have completed the work that was given to me”. We must find in Christ our life’s purpose and
direction, and through union with Him, to become what we were designed to be from the very
beginning. Let go of envy and resentment and enjoy the life that has been given to us.

The Boy Scout Oath, in part says, “to do my duty to God and my country”. What a great start for
a young man. I feel there is a proper time to listen to Jesus and a proper time to work for Him. 
As a teenager in the Baptist Church, our youth group, called the Baptist Youth Fellowship, was
invited to take part in a Discipleship Convocation with several other churches. I volunteered to
paint a banner that read, “Lead on O King Eternal, we follow not with fear”. The banner was 18
inches wide and 50 feet long and was to be hung across the front of the host church. What was I

Each of us has been a prisoner of fear at one time or another. Fear of sickness, uncertainty, or of
rejection. Fear is like a dark shadow that imprisons us within ourselves. But we can conquer
fear by using the bright light of the Lord. The Lord is my light and my salvation. (Psalm 27)
During the Korean war I carried, in my helmet, a small copy of the New Testament which
contained selections from Psalms. I would often refer to Psalm 27 with my squad. During a
night battle, while trying to protect a hill, I was wounded. Falling head over heels down the
snow covered hill, I was in fear of losing my bible. At 22 degrees below zero, I soon passed out. 
I saw the light of my Lord in the morning when I heard someone say, “This one is alive”. I was
picked up, put in a trailer, and taken to a MASH station. (I still have my bible.)

God’s ability to restore life is beyond our understanding. We know forests burn down and grow
back. Broken bones heal. Even grief is not a permanent condition. (Psalm 126) 
The Book of Luke tells of Jesus teaching about entering the Kingdom. Jesus spoke in parables,
some difficult to explain or understand. I believe we can follow Jesus if we live faithfully, speak
truthfully, love generously, pray daily, and leave the rest to Him.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3/19 by Doug Given

Several years ago Andy recommended a book in his monthly Messenger article called “Knowing the Heart of God”. The book is an arrangement of writings by George MacDonald with some editing to bring the language up to date. I knew of MacDonald as an inspiration to C.S. Lewis, in fact he appears as a sage character in Lewis’ “The Great Divorce”. MacDonald was a Scottish novelist, poet, and Congregational minister who had a far reaching impact on famous authors like J.R.R. Tolkien, Madeleine L’Engle, G.K. Chesterton, Lewis Carroll, and Mark Twain. I had read two of his fantasy works “Fantastes” and “At the Back of the North Wind” because of his connections to Lewis (and because his out-of-copywrite works are cheap). But I had no idea what was in store for me in “Knowing the Heart of God”. What he wrote scared me. MacDonald’s challenge to true discipleship in Christ was so direct, so unvarnished, that I felt unsettled. It stripped away my excuses and threatened my comfortable “faith”; so much so that, to my shame, I stopped reading after two chapters.

I can do no better than to give a small taste of MacDonald:

Do you want to live by faith? Do you want to know Christ aright? Do you want to awake and arise and live, but do not know how?

I will tell you:—Get up, and do something the master tells you. The moment you do, you instantly make yourself his disciple.

Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one thing because he said, “Do it”, or once abstained because he said, “Do not do it”. I do not say that you will not have done, as a matter of course, this or that good thing that fell into harmony with the words of Jesus, but have you done or not done any act, as a conscious decision because he said to do it or not?

It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not do anything he tells you. If you can think of nothing he ever said as having had consciously influenced your doing or not doing, you have no good ground to consider yourself his disciple. 

This week I’ll be praying for the courage to pick up this book again. “Lord, give me the courage to be your disciple. Strengthen my faint heart and enliven me to do your will and not my own. Make me obedient to you, not just when I agree with you but in all things, for I know my wisdom is nothing compared to yours. Amen.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

3/18 by Phil Van Horn

There’s a trend on our campus.  We follow and are blessed.

We follow the familiar routine to Sunday sermons, for sure.  But we also follow the growing group on Wednesday evening for dinner, family time and classroom learning opportunities.

And we are following our curiosity to groups about Missions and Music, or Be Still for women Saturday morning and Men’s Ministry Wednesday morning.

Even the leaders of these groups at one point followed an urging or interest to contribute. 

So, what common interests do you have?  Where can you follow, support and step out in faith?

Pastor Andy Wilson is good at helping answering that question.  (Lee and Ashley have done the same and impacted our increasingly active LCPC family.) 

“Be patient,” Pastor Andy told me.  “Get involved.  Don’t rush.  Pray about it.  Take your time.  Find a group that interests you.”

Immediately I followed Andy’s advice.  At least, the part about, ”take your time”.  I was cautious at best, and lazy at worst.  It was a mistake.

Oddly, the more I began to follow the lines of people in the breezeway on Sundays to buy chili to support Mission trips, the more I wanted to learn about my fiends who went to Mexico, Arizona and the Dominican.

The more I began to hang out at the donuts and cookie table between Sunday sermons, the more I wanted to know how supporting our church groups impacted others.

In the midst of that, I got hooked.  I followed and gave time.  Then I inched toward leading and received the blessing that comes from giving. 

Our LCPC family can have that impact.  How about you?  How can you give and then receive?  Where can you follow and perhaps eventually lead?

Find a group that interests you.  Pray about it.  Get involved.

Monday, March 17, 2014

3/17 by Lee Cook

Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9:62

This saying has always scared me.  It almost seems as if Jesus is saying that if you have any doubt that you can't be a disciple.  The context of this saying is the cost of being a disciple and Jesus is telling us that we must let go of the past in order to embrace the future.

Plowing is a great metaphor.  Most of us have probably never plowed a row in our lives, so this is a strange metaphor. In plowing, the wise old farmer knows that you pick a spot in the field, like a tree or rock, and set your aim for that mark.  It's tempting to look back and see how your plowing; it even seems to make sense.  "How can I know if I'm plowing straight if I don't look back?" The problem is that if you look back, even for a moment, you look sight of your mark and your rows become crooked and you even risk plowing under something you've already planted.

Jesus is telling us that in order to be a follower we must let go and never look back. To be a good tiller of the soil is to keep our eyes on Jesus and never look back at our old life. We must count the cost if we are to be useful in the Kingdom of God.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March 15 by Carrie Hofmann

Deuteronomy 5-6:9

“Don’t Forget & Teach Them to Follow”

Because of their lack of trust in God, the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 
years. To make sure they would remember what God had taught them and done for 
them, he gave them the gift of the Ten Commandments. Just as the Israelites needed 
this very important reminder, we also need to remember and believe everything that 
God does is done because he loves us. We need to remember and acknowledge what 
God has done for us every day and we need to remember this promise was not only for 
the Israelites, but goes on for us today. Would you take some time right now, to list the 
gifts he has given you? ---- the ones in front of you today, the ones of yesterday, last 
week, last month and last year? My prayer is that you will suddenly realize that God’s 
presence has always been with you, even when you may not have seen it in the 

Friday, March 14, 2014

3/14 by Cindy Williams

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship.  And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.   Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  (Romans 8:14-17)

“I’m the daughter of the King!”  

Spending a few days at Walt Disney World with my 21-year-old daughter (we’ll never be too old for the Magic Kingdom), Brooke and I decided this was a better version of the “I’m a Princess” theme.  We are sons and daughters of the Most High King.  What does that mean, and what does it tell us about following Jesus?
I struggled with where to go with this verse, so I went back to the Lectionary readings for the day (as Brooke reminded me, “It’s a good thing we’ve got a big fat book with answers to most of our questions!”):

“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him.  He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord. (Jeremiah: 22:15-16) 

Reflecting on the other devotionals in this blog, this seems to be a common theme for all of us this season.  Scripture’s direction is very clear on this one aspect of what it means to follow Jesus (and serve as co-heirs of His Kingdom)… that we defend the cause of the poor and needy.  I cannot help but hear this as yet another call for us to be faithful stewards of the riches that the King has given to each of us.

I honestly did not expect my devotional to turn into a stewardship message.  In fact, I’m incredibly frustrated that it did.  I want to celebrate the fact that I’m a princess, not think about how Christ is calling me to greater sacrifice. But I can’t have one without the other. We must share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.  

Um, I don’t like the sound of that.  I’d like a Fast Pass, please.  Maybe just skip that ride altogether?   What does He mean, “share in his suffering?”  

George Buehler shared a compelling message on Ash Wednesday, reminding all of us that following Jesus requires the death of our sinful natures, “Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:8)  “Who wouldn’t want that?”, George exclaimed.  And I thought, “lots of people… maybe most people… including many lifelong Christians.”  So why don’t we all immediately respond in excitement to this offer? 

I think there are only two reasons for a Christian not to… (a) we don’t really believe the words (and we’ll rarely admit this, even to ourselves)… sounds good in principle, but if I act on them and it’s all a fairy tale, not only will I feel stupid, but I will have made some sacrifices I might regret), or (b) we have no inkling of what it means to share in his glory… so we’re afraid that the tradeoff might just not be worth it.  

To the latter I say this… the Creator of the universe is offering to live in us and through us, and we think it might not be worth the trade off?  Or we’re afraid of it?  How can I continue to be so dense?

And yet I am… 

I believe that most Christians satisfy themselves with just the faint shadow of the real presence of the living Christ in their lives, mostly out of a fear that we never stop to name.  Maybe it’s the challenge of the sheer numbers of the suffering, around the world and in my own backyard, that are just too great.  I don’t know where to start… so I’ll try not to think too hard about that.  In fact, maybe stay away from quiet contemplation altogether.  And don’t read that big, fat book too much, that will just challenge me more.  

And then I’m reminded, by some one or some thing, that I’m not on this ride alone… my co-heir walks with me every step of the way, telling me to “fear not!” And I choose to believe, once again… die just a little more to myself… and experience His Presence just a little more deeply.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March 13 by Craig Carlson

In the past several weeks I’ve had a few different conversations with friends and family about raising kids in today’s world and the changing expectations regarding such topics as underage drinking or pre-marital sex or co-habitation - you know, the light topics facing our youth today.

Typically, these conversations at some point veer towards someone saying the religious norms of the past are no longer realistic and we must accept changes in society.  While in those conversations, I’ve tended to agree on some points.  But in thinking about “Follow” and the Lenten blog, it made me think about these shifting norms on a different, more biblical level.  At the same time, I came across an article in Relevant Magazine by author and pastor David Platt that was asking “What Does it Mean to REALLY Follow Jesus?”

In his article, he has this description of Jesus that society has twisted to modern times:

“A nice, middle-class American Jesus.  A Jesus who doesn’t mind materialism and who would never call us to give away everything we have.  A Jesus who is fine with nominal devotion that does not infringe on our comforts, because, after all, He loves us just the way we are.  A Jesus who wants us to be balanced, and who, for that matter, wants us to avoid danger altogether.   A Jesus who brings us comfort and prosperity as we live out our Christian spin on the American Dream.”

Ouch…I’m not sure I can defend myself against that, as my very conversations mentioned earlier, though not directly addressed in the description above, could lend themselves right into this twisted modern definition (not to say there isn’t room for prayerful thought and biblical interpretation on such subjects).  So I guess I am left to decide whether I choose to take an honest look at the Bible and follow the real Jesus and accept the social consequences of truly obeying Him or go with the “Middle-class American Jesus”.

I know which one is easier.  But I also know which one is right.  I’m guessing you know too.  So what are we going to do about it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

March 12 by Darren Pollock

Lectionary passage: Mark 1:29-45

Jesus (or possibly someone impersonating him) currently has 591,000 followers on Twitter—not Katy Perry numbers, but not a negligible sum…on par with actress Brittany Snow, Grammy-award winning band The Black Keys, and the always-hilarious Albert Brooks. But surely a good social media consultant could help Jesus increase his Twitter following. Perhaps he could tweet out some March Madness prophecies, explanations of vexing unsolved mysteries, or GIFs of videotaped miracles. If Justin Bieber can amass 50 million followers by tweeting little nuggets of wisdom like “I love monkeys,” surely Wisdom incarnate can crack one million. 
Now, of course, Jesus walked the earth in a pre-Twitter age—pre-Myspace, even—but I wonder if Peter and the other apostles were marveling at Jesus’s apparent lack of PR acumen when they found him praying in a solitary place outside Capernaum, hidden from the mesmerized masses. “Everyone is looking for you!” Simon Peter tells him. Peter had only recently left his fishing boat to follow Jesus, and now he was already seeing Jesus’s magnetism draw in hordes of others. This curious fish-for-people endeavor was working! “No time to be lying down on the job now, Jesus,” I imagine Peter saying. “You’re the talk of the whole town—let’s strike while the iron’s hot!”
But Jesus responds with the counter-intuitive suggestion that—right when conditions seemed so primed—they leave Capernaum to preach in another village. It seems that Jesus was after something other than popularity or fame, and that the “followers” he desired would be marked by something deeper than their multitude. If he could find three disciples who would be able to keep awake while he prayed in Gethsemane that would be preferable to an entire town following his every move.
Jesus and the disciples travel on to other parts of Galilee, and we hear next of an act of miraculous compassion as Jesus’s healing touch cleanses a man with leprosy. Yet again we see Jesus miss out on an optimal opportunity for self-promotion. Healing a leper? That’s got to be worth a few hundred thousand Twitter followers. But Jesus warns the man not to broadcast what had happened—a command that the man with a new lease on life regrettably (if understandably) flouts. 
We learn a great deal from this passage early in Mark about what it does and does not mean to follow Jesus. Christ is not concerned with mere numbers—collecting nominal followers like so many feathers in a cap. He is not interested in wowing the masses to follow him by grandiose miraculous displays; his compassion moves him to heal when occasions arise, yet he tells his apostles that he hasn’t come to work wonders but to preach the gospel. And even good intentions are not enough—surely the healed leper’s open witness wasn’t coming from a malevolent heart, yet his disobedience complicated Jesus’s own mission. Following Jesus involves trusting him with our lives and with our destinies (not merely approving of him from a distance). It involves rethinking our commonsense notions of power and success. It involves following because of who he is, and not for what he can give us (like a cosmic ATM). And it involves humble obedience to the often counter-intuitive tasks and methods that he entrusts to us as instruments of his grace in the world.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March 11 by Martha Bryan

I accepted Christ into my life when I was in high school and became a member of the United Methodist Church in Visalia, CA.  I had been to other churches, and found them lacking, but I felt as if I had found a home and loving church family at this one. I was so joyful that I ran around my high school, telling everyone I knew that I had accepted Christ. I received a lot of strange looks and comments like oh ….. okay, and I alienated a lot of people. Since I was a very shy kid, I didn’t have enough friends that I could lose any, but this still didn’t put a damper on my joy. I just felt sorry for those other kids.

When I went away to college, I moved to Fresno and was unable to find a church family there, although I have to admit that I didn’t try very hard. Everything was new and exciting, and there was so much to learn. I spent a lot of time in choir and opera rehearsals. I gradually drifted from my faith, not completely away, but I set my faith at a distance. I never stopped talking to God, but my conversations were much less frequent, and I was less sure that He had the time to listen to my silly problems.

Over the years, there have been many times in my life when I could feel Jesus watching me, and with me. He has always been there for me, even when I was absent for Him. I believed that, by following God’s command to “treat your neighbor as yourself”, I was still being a Christian.

When Geoff and I had a personal crisis a couple of years ago, we experienced a very dramatic rescue that could only have come from God. Geoff and I talked about this afterward, and both of us were convinced that we had received a miracle from God, and that we needed more God and Jesus in our lives.

I now believe that following Jesus requires a much more significant commitment. It means not only worshiping Him, but being more like Him ourselves. Mark 1:11 says, “And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”

If I want to please God, I must be more like Jesus. This includes being generous to those who have less than I do. It includes loving people who are different from me. It includes loving those who don’t treat us well – not an easy thing to do, but who among us has been treated as badly as Jesus was by the people he loved and gave His life to save? Jesus still loved us enough to withstand torture for us, and to come back from the grave. This is the kind of love I want in my life, and that I want to show to others. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

March 10th By George Buehler

One follows Jesus because if you follow anything else, no telling what foolishness you’ll end up in. One thing Jesus has taught me — and boy, it has taken me awhile to start to get a true grasp on this — is that the most satisfying thing is to help other people, and that if you set out to help other people He will be there to help as well. I have tried to use my skills as a lawyer to help persons charged with crimes. When you say something like that, people often think, why should anyone help criminals in prison, they don’t deserve it, and aren’t they pretty much beyond hope anyway? So let me point out something Jesus said. In the gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, he tells a story about what will happen at the end of this world.  He will welcome into his kingdom those who followed him, telling them “when I was thirsty, you gave me to drink, when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was sick, you cared for me, when I was in prison, you visited me ....”  His followers ask, “When did we give you to drink, or give you food, or care for you when you were sick, or visit you in prison?” Jesus replies, “When you did it to the least, you did it unto me.”   Jesus makes it clear that he cares about those who are in prison, even the least (which could include some pretty nasty characters), in fact he identifies with them and says he is there with them in prison. So who are we not to follow Jesus into places like prisons?

Of course Jesus can be with those in prison, and in many other places, because he was raised from the dead after he was crucified. His death on the cross and his resurrection set us free from our sins, the wrongs we have done, all of the ways we live and think and feel that are selfish and unloving and hurtful. If we trust him and follow what he says, he transforms our character and desires so that we love like he does and enter eternal life with him. This is the basic truth of our existence. Contrary to what the world thinks, the only true definition of success is following Jesus. Indeed, the only true definition of life is following Jesus. 

Jesus’ command that we die to self is not a harsh demeaning command, it is the offer of life in the only place it can be found, with Jesus.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

March 8 by Pat Chambers

Philippians 4: 10-13, 20
10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength. 
20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

When reading the text for today’s devotional I was struck with the phrasing,  “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”  I was taken aback by the fact that Paul writes about the challenge of being content in both abundance and want.  I struggle to be content in my times of want.  It is hard not to wish for  monetary stability or yearn for better health or  fantasize about someone else’s  relationship.  But while I am often  not content it has been easy to follow Jesus during those times of want,  that made sense to me.  When things are tough I turn to any help I can find.  Turning to Christ for help comes almost naturally for me.  But what about in plenty and abundance, is there a challenge there?  There is for me.  Somehow, when things are good, plentiful I delude myself into thinking I made it on my own.  The challenge to follow Christ when things are in plenty requires me to follow Christ who calls me to humility, justice and mercy.  Following Jesus when we experience abundance albeit monetary, health or relationships takes spiritual discipline every bit as much as when we experience want.  Because in abundance or want it is about following Christ to be Christ-like in our daily walk.   So in both plenty and want, to follow Jesus means to seek Him, serve Him and thank Him.  It means not just being with Him but doing like Him, not just faith in Him but action like Him.  To be a follower or disciple of Christ means to be a lifelong learner of God’s words and actions.  We must follow as learners and doers of His way.  So in plenty and want, I seek to follow Jesus.

Gracious God
Be with each of us
as we continue to learn
how to live out our faith in you
how to practice resurrection
how to bring you glory
how to rest in you
how to love you
In Jesus name

Friday, March 7, 2014

March 7 by Tom Brown

The dictionary defines a journey as, “an act of traveling from one place to another”.  As Christ-followers, our journey is never ending and never easy.  This Sunday, we will be singing, “I Have Decided to Follow Jesus”.  The origins of this hymn text are quite different from many of the stories we know of western theologians who penned the great hymns of our faith.  The words came from north-east India in the mid 1800’s.  Although no one knows for sure of the story behind the song, all versions tell of a time of great trial and persecution for a faith that was forbidden.  Death was very real for those who professed Christ to be their Lord and Savior.

We enjoy a freedom in this country that at times is tested but is rarely threatened the way it is in so many places around the world.  While we are blessed by this freedom, it can also be a cause of complacency.  In order to truly know what it means to take up our cross and follow Christ in a free society, we need to put ourselves in a place of sacrifice.  

Christ’s journey to the cross was a time when everyone abandoned him.  His disciples denied him.  He was stoned, spat upon and ridiculed.  Understanding that level of persecution is the purpose of Lent.  Walk this journey with a penitent heart.  Take time to ponder Christ’s walk in the lonesome valley.  When, in your journey, you are persecuted for your faith, remember these words:

I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back.  No turning back.

Though none go with me, I still will follow.
Though none go with me, I still will follow.
Though none go with me, I still will follow.
No turning back.  No turning back.

The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me.
No turning back.  No turning back.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

3/6/2014 by Andy Wilson

Think for a moment about what it means to be God’s child. Following the language of the Bible and Christian tradition, we can talk about our identity in two ways.
The inward, hidden reality of our life is that we’ve been reconciled to the Father through the Son. God has adopted us as his beloved children and given us his Spirit as a gift.
The outward, tangible reality of our life is that we’re trying hard to follow Jesus. We don’t always succeed. In fact, we often fail miserably as the Lord presents us with difficult or frightening challenges. But we know the Lord’s plan for us and for the world is good. We know that, as we follow him, we grow to resemble him, and he uses us to build his kingdom. So we make it our goal to follow Jesus no matter where he leads us. We don’t allow ourselves to become discouraged when we fail.
During Lent we make a conscious effort to plug into both realities. We turn inward and meditate on the unmerited grace we’ve received from God in Christ. We seek intimacy with Jesus, and allow his living water to well up inside us.
We also examine the outward displays of our discipleship. We work hard to be obedient and to imitate Christ in our daily actions.  Throughout the journey, we ask: “Is there tangible evidence in my life that Jesus is my Lord, and that I’m following him even when it’s hard?”
We need both perspectives – the inward and the outward. Religion that doesn’t give rise to a change in our behavior is worthless. As James says: “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17). At the same time, all our efforts to do good will come to nothing if we choose to live outside of God’s grace.
If we’re truly intimate with God and filled with his Spirit, we’ll naturally desire to follow Jesus and bring him glory. And, as Jesus reminds us, the yoke we bear as we walk with him will become light and easy (Matthew 11:28-30).
May we discover Christ’s joy and peace as we travel the downward way of the cross.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday

God's Discipline- Hebrews 12:1-14.
The idea of God disciplining his children is foreign concept to most of us.  Sure, God should discipline the really bad people, but not good Church-going folks like us. 

Growing up, I prided myself on being a really good (translation "perfect") kid. It was my identity.  I didn't steel, cuss, cheat, lie (at least no big lies), or stay out late partying like my brothers did. I was so good, that I was often genuinely surprised when my parents got upset about my messy room, moody disposition, or forgetful habits.  I remember feeling incredibly ill-treated.  I was on my way to being the valedictorian of my high school; I drove myself to church; I was going to be the first in my family to go to college; I didn't come home drunk, and they're complained about a few forgotten chores and a slightly messy room. My brothers weren't nearly as good as me. "Your brothers do not set the standard in the house" I was told.

I think we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to each other. My parents were right; comparing myself to my brothers wasn't helpful if I was to do my very best.  (By the way, my brother is now a sergeant in my home town police force and a respected member of the community...). God disciplines not to be unfair, but to transform us into the likeness of His Son. He removes those things that hold us back and keep us from experiencing true freedom in Christ.

Lent is a time for us to reflect on what God is doing in us. Where do you feel the discipline of the Lord? What areas of your life still need molding and shaping? How can you surrender those areas and begin to allow the Holy Spirit to transform you?