Lose and Win

Heavy load coming through.

heavy load

Proceed with caution.

Jesus didn’t mince words when He spoke about the cost of discipleship.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross cannot be my disciple.”  – Luke 14:25-35

Jesus wasn’t encouraging family conflict, disobedience to parents, or neglecting family responsibilities. But He often gave commands in light of His listeners’ real motives. Love of family is one of God’s laws, but even this can become an excuse not to serve God or do His work. Jesus challenged the crowds to evaluate their enthusiasm for Him and encouraged the superficial either to go deeper or turn back.

In Luke 14:28-30, Jesus compares the factors that go into building a tower to the cost of discipleship.

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If a builder doesn’t calculate the cost correctly, his building may be left half completed.

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 Likewise, if we don’t count the cost of following Christ we may be tempted to turn back when trials and persecution come.

To take up our cross and follow Jesus means being willing to publicly identify with Him. Commitment may separate us from loved ones and friends because of conflicting values, goals, and purposes. As Christians, we will most likely experience opposition and face suffering–possibly even death–for Jesus’ sake.

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?”  – Luke 9:24-25

Christ calls us to a higher mission than settling into the comforts of this life. Earthly status, riches, and comforts can not repay for loss of eternal life. Following Christ is hard work and costly now, but compared to eternity, our time here is like a blink of an eye. In the long run, following Christ is well worth any sacrifice. 

Wandering

Last weekend, Eric (my husband), took me for my second ride on my dual sport motorcycle. (My first experience riding is posted under Driving Knowledge.) This time I drove down a gravel road.

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My boys are better riders than I am. . . . But I’m getting off track.

  And that was my riding problem. I found my bike dancing on parts of the gravel, unsure of which track to take at times. Eric calls it wandering. (Don’t worry, Mom, I didn’t crash. I just felt like I might.)

I learned the following tips when caught wandering:

  • Don’t fight the bike as it moves. Speeding up helps. (I kept slowing down, which made it worse.)
  • Pick your riding line, (more compacted car tracks), in the distance and follow it. (I wanted to look down.)
  • Keep your arms relaxed, but firm. Don’t over-correct steering. (Pliers might release my grip from the handlebars!)
  • Transfer weight to the foot pegs, like you’re going to stand up. (My position? Hunched forward; tight.)
  • Lastly, don’t over-think it. (What does that mean?!)

Sounds like an accident waiting to happen? I know . . . but don’t worry, I won’t be riding near you—at least not on purpose.

IMG_0446_1_1If the following spiritual analogy wanders a bit from my motorcycle 101 lesson, I’ll be on track with my theme, right?

Peter’s Wandering

After Jesus fed the 5,000 plus people on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He sent His disciples ahead of Him by boat across the lake so He could spend some time alone in prayer (Matthew 14:22-32). Several hours later, the disciples found themselves caught in a storm and tossed about by large waves.

It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.  – Matthew 14:26, NIV

           Jesus said: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”  – vs. 27

 You know the rest of the story. Peter said:

          “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

I imagine Peter experienced a fair amount of wandering as he got out of the boat and walked toward Jesus on the water.

But to his credit, he got out of the boat.

Look to Jesus

When Peter’s vision transferred from Jesus to the surrounding high waves, he panicked and began to sink.

But to his credit, he reached out to Christ, the only One who could help.

Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out His hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ He said, ‘why did you doubt?’”  -vs.31

When we become serious about following Christ and join Him in His kingdom work, we will eventually run into some rough places. Although the disciples lost sight of Jesus, He did not lose sight of them. Recognizing Jesus’ presence is the cure to fear.

When we find ourselves wandering, let’s look to Jesus–not our inadequacies–or we may also despair and sink.

Bread, Anyone?

When God calls His children to follow and serve, He often tests and stretches our faith.

(This post article is also posted in the Gospel Blog by FEBC at http://bit.ly/123dYn7.)

Evaristo Baschenis - Boy with a Basket of Brea...

Evaristo Baschenis – Boy with a Basket of Bread – WGA1404 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd followed Him because of His miraculous signs.

“Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with His disciples. . . .When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward Him, he said to Philip, ‘Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?’ He asked this only to test him, for He already had in mind what He was going to do.”                                                                             – John 6:3, 5-6 (NIV)

Knowing there was no human solution, Jesus highlighted the miraculous act He was about to perform.

Philip answered Him, ‘Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”   – vs.7

Enter Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother:

Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”            – vs. 9

Can’t you see, Jesus? We don’t have enough!

Wait. . . . . Rewind. Didn’t the disciples just witness Jesus’ miracles, healing sick people? (John 6:1-2)

Incredible!

And yet, how many times does my faith waver, as I take stock of my own limited resources when facing seemingly impossible circumstances?

Jesus said, ‘Have the people sit down.’ . . . . The men sat down, about 5,000 of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.”  – vs. 10-11

After they were stuffed, Jesus told his disciples to gather the left overs—twelve full baskets!

Jesus wanted to teach Philip that financial resources are not the most important ones. The disciples most likely had more resources than the boy, but their reasoning probably kept them from giving. In contrast, God used what little the boy gave, and turned it into something spectacular.

I love that God not only abundantly gives, but also uses what we offer Him—resources, time, ability—and multiplies its effectiveness beyond our wildest dreams. Age is also no barrier to Christ.

Is there some impossible task you believe God wants you to do? Don’t let your analysis keep you from taking it. If you take the first step in making yourself available to God, He will not only meet you, but also greatly use you to further His kingdom.

Where God guides, He provides.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  – Proverbs 3:5-6

AND THEN THE END WILL COME!

While I don’t personally know Brandon Andress, I have enjoyed reading his blog (http://brandonandress.com). When he asked me to review his book—AND THEN THE END WILL COME!—I wasn’t sure what to expect. But the topic, along with his cartoon-like cover, compelled me.

Brandon’s writing tone is down-to-earth, conversational and witty. Even his unconventional capitalization matches his lighthearted poking of the many “end time” speculations. His writing style reminds me of flash fiction, only he writes truth—without confusing theological terms. I believe his book will especially resonate with young adults.

Amidst all the “end times” theories and survival tactics, he presents a Biblically balanced approach for believers.

I appreciated Brandon’s teaching of Jesus’ parables; use of scripture documented in the back of the book; and, his “LITTLE EXTRA” chapter clarifying original Greek words.

His book can be read in a day. But don’t let the plentiful white space fool you—he will challenge your worldview.

Brandon reminds believers that it is not enough to accept God’s forgiveness and eternal life, but we must also roll up our sleeves and get involved in His kingdom work . . . . Now. In classic Brandon style:

No.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Matter.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Cost.

Brandon admonishes believers to take the following actions: Obey Christ’s teachings; live God’s abundant life presently by having a correct interpretation of our hopeful future with God; determine today to remain faithful to God as earthly conditions worsen (foretold in the Bible); be intimately connected with Christ; walk in His strength and light; and, refuse to give in to fear.

His message resonates with Joel 3:14-16:

Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision! For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision . . . But the Lord will be a refuge for His people.”

After reading AND THEN THE END WILL COME! I felt as though I gained a wise counselor-teacher friend who truly cares about the church.

Brandon’s book begs discussion and makes a great Bible study companion.

AND THEN THE END WILL COME! is available through Amazon.

Brandon Andress is also the author of UNEARTHED: How Discovering the Kingdom of God Will Transform the Church and Change the World.

Driving Knowledge

I nervously saddled up for my first ride on my Suzuki DR650SE dual sport motorcycle. My husband’s backup plan―if the motorcycle riding isn’t my thing―will be an economical commuter for him. My twelve year-old also assures me that he can ride it if I crash.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now that’s comforting!

After riding behind Eric, (my husband), down a nearby canyon dirt road, and maneuvering through a herd of cattle, we stopped at an empty lot for my first lesson.

“Remember, clutch first,” he said.

“And which side is the clutch on?”

“Left,” he pointed a second time. “Your brake is on the right . . . . Remember driving a stick shift car? It’s the same, only your clutch is here.”

I haven’t driven a stick shift in 15 years! Maybe we should just go to McDonald’s and enjoy a romantic moment―without kids―over a strawberry smoothie. The thought was tempting, but my boys were wagering on my resolve.

Eric, however, remained calm. “Gradually twist the throttle and release the clutch. Let the bike balance you. Don’t put your feet down until you come to a complete stop or they will drag behind you. Start in first. It’s the only gear you push down.”

“Which side are the gears on?”

“Left . . . . The right foot controls the rear brake. But when you brake, do it together with your right hand, which controls the front. And, you’ll need to brake while clutching when the engine begins to lug.”

Uhg, so many rules! But he certainly had my attention. He really believes I can drive this. I swing my leg over the seat. This is a lot bigger than my old mini bike! . . . . Clutch first. Replaying his instructions in my mind, I went through the motions step by step. And . . . .

I cruised!                                                                                     OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Well, I cruised slowly in first gear anyway, but I didn’t crash―thanks to Eric and his patient instructions. Like a child graduating from training wheels, I progressed to third gear. Okay, I admit that I killed the engine a couple of times. But the freedom of riding motivates me to learn this new skill.

Sorry boys, I may not be motocross material, but I’m not ready to hand over the bike!

Rules. Most of us chafe under directives, including Yours Truly. Why? They appear to constrict our freedom. But I’m grateful for Eric’s driving instructions. He saved me from kissing the pavement.

Similarly, God desires our safety in our daily journey. His directives are laid on a foundation of love, fairness, and compassion. Although it takes time, discipline, and hard work, consistently reading the Bible unwraps God’s truth, wisdom, and map for our earthly journey.

Although God’s holy standards reveal our sin, because we have all failed to keep his laws perfectly (Matthew 5:48), when we seek God’s salvation and forgiveness in Christ, we have freedom from sin and oppressive guilt. I am so thankful for Christ’s provision on the cross. We no longer live under the old covenant period, which was a shadow of the real Christ (Hebrews 8).

God knows what’s best for us. He knows we can only follow and obey Him through the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit (Philippians 4:13; Ephesians 1:19-20). Obeying God’s precepts frees us to be all He designed us to be. His guidelines make a way for us to participate in His holiness and avoid paths that lead to destruction (Deuteronomy 8:10-20; 11:26-27). If that’s not enough, our obedience to Him stores up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33).

Interestingly, Psalm 119 is the longest psalm and chapter in the Bible. We are repetitively instructed to meditate on God’s Word. God’s promise to “preserve life” is alluded to 11 times in this chapter. No wonder the psalmist writes of rejoicing in God’s statutes: “as one rejoices in great riches” (vs. 14).

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” 

– Jesus  (Matthew 24:25)

The following are a few links for a more in-depth study of God’s laws:

http://www.truthforlife.org/blog/law-leads-christ-and-redemption/

http://www.moodyradio.org/uploadedFiles/nq070412.pdf

http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Matt/Christians-Must-Obey-Gods-Law

http://www.keyway.ca/htm2005/20050805.htm

I found the following video both funny and inspiring:

http://www.godvine.com/Simon-Cowell-Made-Fun-of-This-Gospel-Singer-Then-Everyone-is-Blown-Away-3177.html