Monday, November 28, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

Yesterday was another very good day. We had a good time in worship and our attendance was outstanding. We had a carryin dinner after worship and then a wedding shower for a couple who is getting married on New Year's Eve. Then a couple of hours after that we began the decorating of the church and we had so many people come and help and the place is looking great. It was a long day, especially when I was battling a nasty cold, but it was a very good day.

I concluded, at least I think I concluded, the series of messages entitled "Not A Fan". It has been a very good series. I have been challenged so much in my study for this series and am extremely burdened for the people in our church to move from fans to followers of Christ in all areas of their lives.

This week we looked further into the meaning of being a follower of Christ and that to be a follower means that we follow 'no matter what'. We must be careful not to exchange personal interests for the sake of following Christ. Luke 9:23-24 has been our foundation in this series and we also examined Luke 9:57-62 and Psalms 106:19-20. To follow Jesus to do whatever he asks means that Jesus has top priority. Jesus is not looking for those with divided loyalties. What is dividing your attention with Jesus? This means letting go of everything else. Our total focus is to be Jesus and we can't do that if we are still gripping other things. What do you need to let go of so that you can hold onto Jesus? This means being exclusive with Jesus. No flirting with anything else. This means focusing forward. It is difficult to go forward while staring backward.

To really follow we must accept Christ's forgiveness. Jesus has invited you to follow with full knowledge of your past. Why are you still hung up on your past? Let God change you. Maybe the number one reason people have given me through the years for not following accepting Jesus has been that they want to clean themselves up first. They want to fix themselves then they will accept and follow Jesus. They are believing the lie that you must clean up your act before you can follow Jesus. Jesus has invited you to follow just as you are and then he will cleanse you and mold you into his image.

To follow means taking some action. Following is not passive, it is active. Following is not a spectating it is acting. It is not enough to think about it, learn about it and sing about it, you must actually follow with your life. Why not now? What are you waiting on? What are you still trying to understand? What are you still trying to fix. Why not now?

Fan or follower? Which one describes you today?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Monday Musings ...

Yesterday was a difficult day with many good parts in it. The biggest difficult thing was that I did not feel good at all. Started feeling it on Thursday and just kept getting worse. Some kind of cold, or something, that sapped my energy and really attacked my throat. Since I speak on Sundays this made for a difficult day and I had a funeral Sunday afternoon as well. So I went from Sunday School to Worship to the Funeral to our small group that evening. By the time those were all finished there was little voice left. Another difficult thing is that we were having some sound issues while I was preaching and that is always annoying and distracting. There were many good things in the day as well. Some great conversations. I love our small group. A lot of people stepped up and ministered to the family through the funeral and funeral dinner. We had the best attendance we have had in a while and I heard from some people about how they are applying lessons from recent messages.

Yesterday's message was number 6 in the series "Not A Fan". I think it is the next to last message in the series, but you never know it could be extended. We were in our foundation scripture Luke 9:23-24 and this week we were also in Luke 9:57-62. The focus this week on the act of following. Every week of this series has been about moving from being a fan of Christ to being a follower, but this week we looked the act of following. Often we agree with things intellectually and even emotionally but we act on the issue. We looked at two aspects of following. In Luke 9:57 someone told Jesus "I will follow you wherever you go." That is an awesome statement. But it can be a boast too many times instead of a truth. So the question to those who say "I will follow wherever ..." is okay how about over there? In other words let's get specific. We can boast of following until it becomes personal and specific. I will follow Jesus anywhere, doesn't mean much until I follow him somewhere. For many this statement as an exception attached. What we really mean is I will follow Jesus anywhere except ... Where is your exception? How about at work? Or at school? What about at home? What about to a foreign country or another state? Following Jesus means going where he goes, wherever he goes.

This requires you to surrender everything. Not some, not just what is convenient and just surrendering things you don't really want anyway. It means your most prized possession, your best abilities and even your place to live. To follow Jesus wherever means saying no to somethings so you can say yes to Jesus. What would you need to say no to in order to follow Jesus? Living close to your family? Or having a newer vehicle? Or having name brand clothes? Or being able to be with family at holidays?

The idea of following Jesus closely is captured well in an old Jewish blessing. It is a blessing that would be given to students of a Rabbi. It said "May you be covered in his dust." I love that picture. Following close enough to have the dust they create cover you. I think that is the picture in Acts 4 when others saw the courage of Peter and John and realized "they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." Jesus was all over Peter and John. I want to live so that people see Jesus all over me.

We need to be willing to follow Jesus wherever and whenever. So how about now? Will you follow him now? Many people feel good about their current fan relationship with Jesus because one day they intend to go all in for Christ. Just not now, or I will after ... What is you "not now because"?

Are you following? Now? Everywhere?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Monday Morning Musings ...

It has been a while since I got this done on a Monday morning. Yesterday was of special note because it marked our 6th year anniversary in this church, so we have begun our 7th year. It was a good day.

The message was #5 in the series "Not A Fan". The focus was on Christ's call, in Luke 9:23-24, to "take up his cross daily". If this were a marketing strategy it would not be a very good one. Most marketing strategies focus more on comfort, this call is for anything but comfort. Those who heard Jesus make this call had a much different understanding of the cross than we do today. They knew it as a Roman method of execution that was despised. They understood that the cross represented humiliation. For us we need to be reminded that we are called to humbly follow Christ, making nothing of ourselves. They understood the cross represented suffering. There is no comfortable way to carry a cross. Vance Havner said, "We need men of the cross, with the message of the cross, bearing the marks of the cross." They understood that the cross represented death. Death of ourselves, the end of us and the beginning of Christ living in you.

Jesus' slogan could be come and die. Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, "The figure of the Crucified invalidates all thought which takes success for its standard." Being call to carry the cross is not a feel good image. We have dressed up the cross, we have made it stylish in jewelry and stained glass, but the cross of Christ is not stylish. George MacLeod said, "Jesus was crucified, not in a cathedral between two candles, but on a cross between two thieves." We are by nature comfort seekers. This is the opposite of a cross bearer. Kyle Idleman says we have developed a "Snuggie Theology". This is a comfort seeking, it must feel good if it is God's will type of theology. This is opposite of Christ's call and example.

Through my 28+ years of ministry I have done many funerals, I have been by bedsides as some have taken their last breath and this has given me a unique understanding of death and it's impact. This sounds odd, but I have noticed that the dead don't seem concerned with style, or status or what others think. When you lose your life your priorities certainly change. Christ has called us to give our life for him, in surrender and sacrifice. So we should live without the concerns that seem to weigh down so many people in our society.

Dying to self and surrendering your life to Christ leads to discovering true life. It seems to be backwards but it is true. We are all carrying something. For some you are already answering Christ's call and carrying the cross as you follow him. Some are carrying hurts, some are carrying fears, some are carrying your own sins, some are carrying your stuff and dreams. To be able to carry the cross you must lay down the other stuff. You cannot carry all of your stuff and the cross. To carry the cross you must let go of all the other stuff. What are you carrying? Are you willing to pick up the cross? Will you let go of all your stuff?

Are you a fan, or a follower?

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Monday Musings ... on Wednesday

Sunday was a very good day. We had a spirit in worship. We had people responding to the message and prayer around the altar. We had good attendance. We had a good small group on Sunday evening. It was a very good day. I am very encouraged by the words I am hearing and the actions I am seeing from people as they wrestle with the question of whether they are a fan or a follower of Christ?

This week was message #4 in the series "Not A Fan" from Luke 9:23-24. This week we examined the fact that to be a follower of Christ you must deny yourself. This goes against the teaching and example of our culture. I knew someone who weighed about twice what they should who told me "I would do anything to lose weight, except eat less." A lot of people attempt to follow Jesus in the same way. They say they will do anything, give up anything, to follow Jesus "except..." What is your except?

Matthew 19:16-22 tells of a rich young man who desired to follow Jesus until Jesus asked him to give everything up. Verse 22 is one of saddest in all of scripture, "When he heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth." Contrast that with Matthew 13:44 and the man who got rid of everything to gain a great treasure, it is says "in his joy he went and sold all he had". The one who kept what he had was sad and the one who gave it up was joyful.

Denying self requires obedience to God's Word and will. Complete obedience, not 'I will except ...' type of obedience. Where are you trying to make an exception in your obedience to Christ? Denying self requires sacrifice and surrender. The rich young man was faced with the choice of keeping his stuff or following Jesus. To follow Jesus will require you to walk away from a different path. One of the clearest testimonies of your commitment to Christ is when you sacrificially deny yourself.

There are no exceptions to this denial of self. Fans will try to follow Jesus without denying themselves anything. They will compartmentalize areas in their life. As Kyle Idleman said, "Jesus doesn't give us the option of selective commitment." You are either committed to him or you are not.

The Bible describes a follower as a slave. Note what that means. A slave has no possessions, they all belong to the owner or master. A slave has no rights, the master has them all. A slave has on personal identity, their identity is in the master. Following Jesus means he is your master and Lord. Your identity is not in your name, your family, your employment or possessions. Rather your identity is in Christ.

Calling Jesus Lord requires you to be his slave/servant. This is a choice to deny self and serve completely at the discretion of your Lord. That is a great definition of a follower.

Are you denying yourself anything? Are you a fan, or a follower?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Monday Musings ... on Thursday?

Wow, is it Thursday already? I guess I am a bit behind this week. Sunday was a good day. I was not feeling good at all, it hit me about 5 or 6 on Saturday evening. Dizzy and a crazy headache with some stomach issues. Went to bed before 8. Made it through the morning with God's help and then crashed for the rest of the day.

Picked back up with the series "Not A Fan" after a Sunday off (see previous post). This was message #3 in the series. The focus was on Jesus' call for us to "come after me" in Luke 9:23. The call for a passionate pursuit of our relationship with Christ. The passionate pursuit of an intimate relationship with Christ. Passionate pursuit of someone we love will lead to do some crazy things, think of some of the crazy things you have done in the past while pursuing someone you love. Do you have any crazy stories of your pursuit of following Jesus? We should have many of them if we are truly followers of his. Things that look crazy to the fans who are not really following.

This type of pursuit means intimacy. Not a casual relationship. Not a weekend only thing, but a day by day, moment by moment, with each breath type of relationship. That is what Jesus was saying when he said "come after me". Count Nikolaus von Zinzendorf described his pursuit of Christ this way, "I have but one passion; it is He, He only."

This means getting carried away. Fans will never get carried away in their pursuit of Christ. Followers will do some crazy things for Christ, fans will always play it safe. We need to be mindful not to confuse familiarity with intimacy. In a continuing relationship familiarity is inescapable, while intimacy on the hand requires you to deliberately seek it and work for it. Familiarity can produce some comfort and ease, Intimacy seeks for deep understanding.

This means going all in. Fans worry that if they go all in for Christ they may miss out on something else. Fans want pleasure with the risk of pain. Fans want to cohabitate with Jesus, but they don't want to commit to him with their lives. Fans say they will follow as long as Christ doesn't ask too much of them. In Matthew 13:44 a man found a great treasure in a field, "then in his joy he went and sold all he had and bout that field." Notice his attitude while he gave everything he had for the treasure. The scripture says "in his joy". How joyful are you when Christ asks you for everything?

To have this type of passion and joy, or to recapture this type of passion you need to repent of your apathy so that you can passionately pursue your relationship with Christ. If you have lost this type of passion, as evidenced by your actions not your words, then repent and begin doing what is needed to rekindle that passion. Return to your first love.

How is your pursuit? Are you attempting to cohabitate with Christ instead of committing your life to him? Are you a fan or a follower?