Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Follow Me and Leave it all Behind

Follow Me and Leave it all Behind

"No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God." - Luke 9.62 (NIV)
"No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day." - Luke 9.62 (The Message)
"No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." - Luke 9.62 (KJV)

Jesus calls us to leave and follow Him. What do we leave? We leave our ideas of how a "good" person lives. We follow the pattern Jesus shows us of how a child of God lives. (Matthew 5.1 - 7.29 & Luke 6.20 - .49) We leave the idea that a job is our identity. After accepting the call of Jesus to follow: Peter, Andrew, James, John and Matthew would no longer see themselves as simple fishermen or a tax collector. From that point on they left their old identities behind and would identify themselves as disciples of Jesus who follow. (Matthew 4.18 - .22, Mark 1.16 - .20 & Luke 5.1 - .11) We leave the comforts of home and family, leaving that behind for a life that follows Jesus wherever He leads. (Matthew 8.18 - .22 & Luke 9.57 - .62) The path He leads us on may lead to danger and uncertainty or it may lead to joy and success. My experience shows me that we find both on the path on which He leads us. We are called to follow and leave ourselves behind. No longer do we, as followers, belong to ourselves but now we are His.

Jesus does not leave us alone. Even though we leave family, job, comfort, safety, certainty and ourselves behind we have been given so much! We have Jesus with us here and now. He is not only the one we follow but He is our fellow traveler as well. We also have each other on this path. We, as followers of Jesus, are walking together. Sometimes our paths take us in different directions, but we are all following the same leader. As we run and walk this path with Jesus and each other, we also have a mission. We leave behind our own agendas and the agendas of the world for Jesus' agenda. He calls us to continue His work and ministry here and now! We are to take the message of the Kingdom of God to this world. It is a world full of bad news. Isn't it wonderful that we have the true Good News to share? (Matthew 28.16 - .20, Mark 16.14 - .20 & Acts 1.1 - .11)

Jesus warns us that if we start to follow but don't leave things behind we are not fit for the Kingdom of God. We can't follow and not leave the things of this world and ourselves behind. It is like someone who starts to plow a field and continues to look back. Instead of nice straight rows that are fit for planting you end up with crooked overlapping rows that ruin a good field. So the choice is yours and mine. Do we leave and follow or do we stay behind and care for the things of this world? I choose to leave and follow and I pray that you will also!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Follow Me Right into Danger

Follow Me Right into Danger

Danger is something most of us try to avoid. We naturally avoid danger. If yellow caution tape is up we know that beyond that tape is danger. Some dangers we accept. We have “normalized” the dangers of traveling in a car or an airplane. Some dangers we have not normalized. For instance you are more likely to get into a serious car accident than hurt in a terrorist attack. It is natural for us to fear and avoid danger.

Unfortunately this natural instinct to avoid danger is not the path Jesus leads us to on when we decide follow him. An excellent example of following Jesus into danger can be found in the second half of the 8th chapter of Matthew. (Matthew 8.14 - .34) Jesus leaves Peter’s house after healing his mother in-law and the many people who were brought to him. (Matthew 8.14 - .17) Then he crosses the lake to get away from the crowd around him. When he lands on the other side of the lake several people ask to follow him. The first person is a disciple described as a teacher of the law. The teacher of the law tells Jesus he will go where ever Jesus goes. Jesus’ tells him that unlike foxes and birds the Son of Man has no place to lay his head. Following Jesus will take you away from your comforts of home. (Matthew 8.18 - .20) Another disciple comes forward and wants to follow but first wants to bury his father. Jesus calls this man to let the dead take care of themselves but you are to “follow me.” (Matthew 8.21 & .22) We are not told if they follow or not that is up to us to decide. By following they leave their comfortable lives because Jesus is about to lead his followers into danger.

The first danger Jesus and his followers face is a storm on the lake. While the disciples struggle to keep their boat a float Jesus sleeps. In fear they wake Jesus to save them from the danger. He rebukes them for their lack of faith and calms the storm completely. The followers are amazed and astonished at the power of the one they follow. (Matthew 8.23 - .27)

The second danger is a pair of demon possessed men. Immediately after they get out of the boat these two men come at the followers from the tombs. The text describes these two men as being so violent and dangerous that no one could travel in that area. The demons beg Jesus not to torture them but to let them go into some near by pigs. Jesus commands them to “GO”! They go and the pigs run off a cliff and drown in the sea. The locals come out and beg Jesus to leave their region and he does. (Matthew 8.28 - .34)

Following Jesus is not a safe path to walk. His disciples follow him into a boat that takes them into danger. The storm could have killed them. The demon possessed men posed both physical and spiritual dangers. Demons could have left the men and possessed the disciples or the men could have severally hurt or killed the disciples. Jesus lead his followers into these dangers and lead them out! Ironically the dangers were themselves in danger. Jesus stops the storm. Jesus commands the demons. Jesus is a danger to dangers because he is the LORD of all.

He is still leading us into dangers today. He is still leading us thru dangers today. We must have faith and follow. The disciples were warned up front. They will have none of the comforts of this world if they follow the Son of Man. We are given the same warning but we know that even if the Son of Man leads us into danger he is with us. He did not leave us alone but walks into the dangers with us.