Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Following Jesus Pt 3

Posted: May 20, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to have a greater love for Jesus than for any other relationship.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” – Luke 14:26

The word hate here was used in what would have been understood by a Jewish person as an expression that aims at contrasting two things. Jesus is not in any way saying that you should have hatred in your heart. What he is saying is that you should love him more that anything. In other words, to follow Jesus is to love him and make him so central to our lives that in comparison to our love for God any other relationship looks like hate. And as if that weren’t enough, we are to be willing to give up our own life for the sake of Jesus. Without being willing to give up of every relationship we know, and come to grips with even giving our own life, we cannot be a disciple of Jesus.

Our allegiance to Jesus is to be such that if such a difficult decision were to be made, we would choose Jesus and his mission. There are countless stories of martyrs that have given their lives in places where Christians are not welcomed. Many have risked the lives of their wives, children, and their own in order to take the story of God to places that have never heard of Jesus.

2 Questions

I know that there you are probably thinking, “What is this mission of Jesus that you keep talking about?”

To follow Jesus is to do what he was sent to do. That is, to do what he would be doing if here were here today. The Bible tells us that Jesus came “to give his life and be a ransom for many”. Jesus came to sacrifice His life for the good of others- people who were His enemies and wanted nothing to do with Him. Jesus came to “seek and save the lost”. He came to the world so that people who rebelled against his authority as king of the universe could be made right with him. Jesus says this to us now. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus’ mission is to go after men and women who are rebelling against Jesus and are far from him. Although this mission is to be carried out in the company of other believers, we should not be locked into a Christian ghetto that does not engage in the global mission of Jesus. Our commission is to make the news that Jesus saves known on every corner of the earth, starting in MD. The mission of Jesus is also to seek the good of others, even if it means we sacrifice for it.

But is it worth it? Do I really want to give up my money, career, skills, relationships just because Jesus said to follow him? 

Jesus is definitely worth it. Certain things will seem risky and I believe that Jesus wants us to take risks to see Maryland become a better place and for people who don’t know Jesus to know him. But, when we see Jesus and all that he is for us, it is not a risk to give up things for Jesus. It is the safest and smartest thing for us to do. When Jesus becomes more valuable and more precious to us that anything we own we would be willing to give up everything with joy. Jesus tells a parable (story) of a man to make this point clear. In Matthew 13:44 we see two stories, one of a farmer and one of a merchant. When the farmer walks through a field and finds a treasure, he sells all that he has in order to buy that land so that he can have the treasure.

Although sacrifice is necessary and there is a cost to discipleship, who Jesus is and what he does for you is incomparable and far greater than what you give up. What you gain, in the place of what you give up, is infinitely better. The main thrust of this story is that when you come across a treasure, or something of value that is greater than what you currently have, you are willing to give up all that you have so that you could have that treasure. The picture here is of someone who is willing to give up everything if he could just have Jesus.

It is not about what you do, how often you do it, or how much you give up. The attention would then be on your sacrifice. The climax of this passage and the cause of joy is in what the farmer and merchant are getting not what they are sacrificing.

The Jesus who calls us to give up everything also promises that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for my namesake will receive a hundred” in heaven.

Let’s count the cost, see the beauty of Jesus, and follow Him.

 

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Following Jesus Pt 2

Posted: May 17, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to give up control over your career. 

“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men” – Mark 1:17

“Follow me” Luke 2:14

J.D Greear a pastor and author gets this point across to his college students in this way.

“What you do, do well to the glory of God. What you do well, do strategically for the mission of God.”

Jesus in this passage appears to four fishermen and calls them to follow him. We don’t know much about how successful or unsuccessful, how rich or how poor they were as fishermen. What we do know is that based on their understanding of who Jesus was and what he meant by following him, their response was to drop their nets and install hired servants as their replacements. He approached many people and asked them to leave their post to follow him. Levi, a tax collector who more than likely made a lot of money by over taxing people, was told to follow Jesus while he was at his booth. Levi rose and followed him, just like that. Or at least as far as we know.

Do you feel that Jesus doesn’t have the right to call you to this? I believe that many of us can get so caught up in what we are doing that we don’t feel that Jesus can say drop what your doing and join me in what I am doing. Many of us think that we can choose our major, settle into a career and join Jesus in what he is doing insofar that it is comfortable and doable. As long as Jesus doesn’t get in the way of what is really important you will join him. Sorry guys, but to be honest I don’t think it works that way. There are 2 billion people with little to no access to the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus may call you to leave your job as an engineer, accountant, or teaching to follow him on his mission to the 6,000 plus unreached people groups. He may lead you to stay and be a marketer, computer programmer, or business manager. Both are equally important and needed. Some are to go to places where Jesus hasn’t been heard, and others are to fund the goers by sending them. All are to go and make disciples of Jesus. Some do it in reached places while others do it to the unreached. It isn’t an either/or its a both/and. If you stay you are still commanded to have a global perspective when it comes to the mission. One isn’t more important or of more value.

Again, this does not mean that every follower of Jesus is to quit their job go to some tribal location and tell the indigenous people of Jesus. Although I hope he calls many, he doesn’t call everyone to go overseas. In fact there are times where Jesus commands people he has had mercy on to go to their own people and share what Jesus has done. The point of this passage is not to quit your job, or sign out of your major. The point of this passage is to keep in mind that to follow Jesus it to be open to the fact that if he leads you to quit your job, you have a higher allegiance to Jesus and his mission that you do your career and your reputation.

“What you do, do well to the glory of God. What you do well, do strategically for the mission of God.”

Following Jesus pt 1

Posted: May 16, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing
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To follow Jesus is to give up the closed fisted grip we have on our resources.  

“Any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple” – Luke 14:33

“If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” – Matt 19:21

In these two passages Jesus speaks to his followers in general and then to someone in specific. But notice that one of the ways you can easily count yourself out as a follower of Jesus is by not being willing to part with all that you have. Notice that Jesus is not taking simply about money either, He says “renounce all”. That includes giving time, energy, skills and all that we have and could leverage for the mission of Jesus.

Jesus may call you to give generously of your time, skills, and money for his cause and for his mission. He may call you to give everything. Or he may call you to give out of what you can, with a joyful heart. The young rich ruler in Matthew 19 was to sell all that he had and give it to the poor. In another story about a tax collector named Zacchaeus, when he encountered Jesus he restores all the money he has taken from others and gave half of his possessions to the poor.

The call to renounce all things is not a command or demand to go pawn all that you currently have and go to the poor people of the world. But it does mean that everything that we own should be at the disposal of Jesus. We should leverage all that we have to make much of Jesus. Our clenched fist should open up and offer Jesus all that we have so that He would be known.

A lot of times songs drive truths deep into my heart. Matt Papa wrote a song called “Have I forgotten?” and in it he asks the question, “have I forgotten that your hands are pierced, when I hold on to this world?”. Jesus’ command to renounce all that we have is a call to freely part with what we have and follow him.

If Jesus were to budget your money, your time, how you use your gifts and talents, would he find that you itemize things that would make much of you and make life comfortable, or would it make much of Him and show a priority and urgency for mission?

David Platt recently wrote a book titled Follow Me where he expands on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. Platt being committed to the Bible, looks at every instance in which Jesus calls someone to follow Him as a disciple and draws implications for us today. I began to rethink of what I committed to when I became a follower of Jesus and thought I would read his book and study those passages myself. I hope to be able to not only share what I have found, but also encourage you to count the cost of what it means to follow Jesus and to live in light of His call.

As I read these passages and put myself in the feet of all those who hear Jesus say, “Follow me”, I began to feel a lot like Bilbo Baggins did when he received a contract from Ballin, a dwarf who is part of Thorin Oakenshield’s company. Thorin Oakenshield is on a journey to take back a mountain that was once his grandfathers. The journey is dangerous and it comes with great risk. We are all being handed a contract. We don’t get to set the terms either. Jesus sets the conditions of what it means to be His follower.

At times when we think of being a follower of Jesus some of us think of changing who we are. Others think of how we can become better people. Some of us even think of doing things for Jesus in our spare time and giving whatever money we can to help the poor. Through this series I hope and pray that we get a more robust understanding of what Jesus means when he says, “follow me”. I believe that we, as Christians, can be sucked into and have given ourselves to a culture that feels the freedom to take Jesus on our own terms rather than taking Jesus on his terms. We live in a consumeristic culture that makes us believe that if we don’t like something we can simply move on to something else that we would much prefer or feel more comfortable with. With Jesus we don’t have that freedom. He sets the terms and he tells us what it means to be his follower. When Jesus says follow me, He gives us a contract and the terms of agreement are drafted up by him and not by us.

I pray that many would carefully consider what it means to follow Jesus. I also pray that God uses this series of posts to create risk taking Christians that will move towards area’s that have little to no access of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

No one I enjoy, no one I am more devoted to than you…

Posted: February 14, 2013 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Thoughts, Writing

It was April 4th and I was nervous beyond description. I had only thought of the day that I would get engaged to the woman of my dreams. The night before I set out clues everywhere. Her dad’s study, her car, her class and went to get other things I would surprise her with. The planning was awesome. The actual moment of it all coming together even better. I had only known her for about 8 months, but I knew this was it. 2 years later, I know I haven’t made a mistake.

Here is what I wrote two and a half years ago and mean more fervently today than I did then:

Love, and specifically marriage, has been on my mind for the last 5 years. The more I thought about marriage, the more I looked forward to laying my life down, in sacrifice, for the good of my wife. I know that marriage, apart from knowing God, is the biggest decision I will ever make in my life. With that in view, I have chosen my decision carefully and hope to lay out the thought process behind the process of choosing you as the person I want to live life with.

For the last 9 months and 12 days my prayers for a wife have had a specific name to them. Before I tell you how I began those prayers, let me tell you what sparked those prayers for you. I heard about your character, love for others, compassion, and friendship from those close to you. I have to say that, the more I heard about you, the more I wanted to know you myself. I remember my meeting with Sylvie at Pistachio’s coffee shop off of Brink and 108 like it was yesterday. It was that Friday morning, before NEXT, when she told me… “You should consider Lindsay.” Wow…did she leave a pebble in my shoe….

You were in Ecuador loving the culture and language that makes me who I am. It was in Ecuador that God had you, even though I would have preferred you here, at least for a moment.

June 23rd marks the date that I first had an exchange with you. Although it was through an email, your love for the family that was hosting you, and for the people of Ecuador was evident. Let’s just say that August did not come fast enough.

On August 27th, I began my intentional pursuit of you.  I walked you to your car and spoke to you in Spanish.

September 29th, 2010- I went out with you and Sylvie to celebrate your birthday

October 22nd, 2010- The first time I initiate having coffee with you

November 22nd, 2010- First spontaneous dinner and the first time we ride a car alone

December 23rd, 2010- First time at my house, meeting my family, and cooking tamales

December 30th, 2010- The first time we danced Salsa in D.C

January 10th, 2011- The first time I ask someone into a courtship

February 19th, 2011- The first time I talk to your dad about marrying you

March 13th, 2011- I ask your dad for your hand in marriage

As you can see, I was very intentional.

It took 9 months for me to know you were an answer to prayer. It took six to know you were the girl I wanted to marry. My decision is easy not because I know or think marriage will be easy, but because there is no one I would rather lay my life down for. I have had dreams, read books, and seen others lay their lives down for their wives, yet none of them told me how sweet this death is. And even if they did, language failed them. I want to lay what I am down for your greater good. I want to magnify your gifts. I want to live life with you. I want to build a family with you. I want to find my joy in things that bring joy to you. Will you let me do this for as long as I live?  If so, come find me at the place I first asked you to live life with me…

Lindsay, I looked at this note and thought of our relationship, engagement, and our first year of marriage for most of today. This is only our third Valentine day together and it seems like it all flew by. Life with you has never had a dull moment. There is nothing better than knowing that you are that one person that knows every detail of my life.

I still have a lot to learn about you. In these past 3 years, I have loved getting to know what makes you laugh. How to help you when you feel like the world is on your shoulders. Reminding us that our conflicts aren’t a me against you, but a we against this. You have increased my joy and have made me a very very happy man. The pot holes we have navigated through make this journey a lot more interesting. There is no one I would rather experience life with than you. The memories we have made are forever in my heart. May our future make our memories pale in comparison. I love you, and will love you as long as I live.

Why should I follow another blog?

Posted: December 11, 2012 by thoughtsfrommyshelf in Reading, Writing

It seems like everywhere you turn now everyone is starting up a blog. There are blogs about clothes, style, theology, movie reviews, and just cool, hip, witty and artistic blogs. Why should you follow my blog? Why would I even create a blog? What would make this blog different from all the others? Here are a couple of reasons why I look forward to writing and in hopes that you read.

1) As I read, I read to recommend.

As a reader, a blog follower, and friend to book worms- I love recommending books. I like giving reasons for why I recommend certain chapters, articles, or paragraphs. I want to create a blog that points people to materials that I have found helpful. I am going to be writing with the purpose of recommending specific books for specific topics and issues.

2) As I read, I read to reflect.

When I read, I normally am adjusted in the way that I think. Sometimes it is a radical adjustment or at times it is a minor tweak. I like to treat books as if it were a conversation with the authors. There are times that I am persuaded to change my line of thinking and there are also times when I disagree with an authors argument. I find myself writing on the margins of  books looking for answers. My goal is to capture that internal conversation here. I want to invite you to chime in on the conversation. I want to encourage and be encouraged to think critically.

3) As I read, I read for the purpose of reproducing. 

I love learning something new. I like understanding something to the point that I can then tell others about it. In fact, I would say that we all like this. Just think of the last time you shared a link of FB, Twitter, or over email. When was the last time you saw a movie that you could not stop talking about. It doesn’t have to be something viral. It could be something you saw at work, or a joke someone told you. We all like transferring what we treasure. I hope to do that here with books that I find helpful.

Enjoy the blog and may you find it helpful.