Saturday, December 13, 2014

Knowing Who's the Boss: Fred the Rooster forgets who's boss

My good friends Walter and Sherry Downs decided to get chickens a while back and, as will happen, not all of the chicks turn out to be hens. They had two roosters that were just beginning to crow. Because crowing is not considered a happy sound in some neighborhoods, Fred Mertz and Ricky Ricardo needed a new home. As you may have guessed, they found rooster heaven in Blue Springs, where fifteen hens were just waiting for a rooster.  Fred and Ricky have settled into a pretty comfortable routine. Ricky does a lot of crowing, not surprisingly, and Fred is in charge of the chicken coop. He says who comes and who goes. Fred and I have always gotten along just fine, until recently.

Fred never has liked Bill the Magnificent. For some reason, he disliked him from the start. Maybe it was because Bill wasn't Walter, but for whatever excuse that silly rooster chose, he declared war on Bill. When Bill went into the chicken coop to take feed, Fred would jump all over Bill. You can well imagine that did not go well. I feed the chickens now. Even when Fred was having his trouble with Bill, he was happy with me. Not long ago, though, Fred must have forgotten who I was. At my farm, all animals are required to remember the hand that feeds them and remember who is boss.  That's me. This remembering rule includes roosters, just in case you wondered. Apparently Fred forgot about the remembering rule. I walked into the chicken coop with feed for the feeder and that crazy rooster jumped all over me. When a big rooster decides to fly at you, he can do it with considerable force. The only reason I didn't fall down was because he rammed me into the door. I hate to say this, but I might have put my bucket in contact with a little of Fred's body. It was self defense and, thank the Good Lord, it got him off me.

I had more than a few words for Fred about this outrageous behavior and they included a discussion of fried rooster for supper. I do know how to dress a chicken, in case you wondered. It turned out that Fred did not respond to threats. The next day, I headed in with feed and Fred tried to jump on me again. This time, I was ready. I had my bucket up in an instant and, instead of ramming into me, he rammed into the bucket. I did not hit Fred. Fred hit himself. He jumped back and took a good long look at me. You are not going to believe this, but a good dose of remembering jumped all over that rooster and he came to himself. He took a few steps back and thanked me for the feed I so graciously provided. He was grateful I had brought water to quench his thirst. He was grateful for all the chickens that lived in the chicken coop that he had thought was his, but now realized was mine. It was a wonderful moment, and one neither of us have forgotten. Fred and I are friends, mostly because he got his remember-er fixed and he knows who's boss.

It's easy to get so accustomed to the little area over which we think we are in charge that we forget who is really in charge, don't we? I have a friend who likes to say, "There is a God, and you are not it." Admittedly, I have sometimes needed reminding of that fact. Perhaps we all do. There is a God, and you are not it. It's not really that we think we are God. What generally happens is that we think we are in charge. We can become so accustomed to making decisions, doing what we want, and being self-sufficient that we forget those decisions we make, the actions we take, the supposed self-sufficiency are all possible because of the grace of God. That grace is His wonderful way of giving us what we don't deserve. Just like old Fred the Rooster, we can forget who's boss and start demanding our way. God must just laugh at our foolishness. After a while, though, he has to settle us down for our own protection. Fred the Rooster would have starved to death if he'd had his way. Aren't you grateful God doesn't let us get that far? Perhaps we should do what the animals here at the farm are required to do. When they start feeling sassy, they have to remember who's boss and recognize the hand that feeds them. It's a pretty good rule for us, as well.
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Sending the Seventy:part 4

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.

Go; behold, I send you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. (Luke 10:1, 3 NASB)

Jesus told the seventy disciples that he was sending them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Of course, he was speaking metaphorically, so it will help us  understand the metaphor to look at the difference between lambs and wolves. First, a lamb is a young sheep. It's still a baby and not yet fully matured. It still has growing to do. Sheep in general, and lambs in particular, are not capable of caring for themselves. They need a shepherd and for these particular lambs, that Shepherd was the Lord, Jesus Christ. Lambs graze as they go. They need clean water and green pastures. 

Wolves, on the other hand, are beautiful creatures, but they are carnivorous. They hunt and kill their prey. A lamb, alone and without its shepherd, is an easy mark for a wolf. When "wolf" is used as a metaphor for man, it usually refers to a greedy, cruel, destructive person, always on the prowl for more prey to devour. 

These "faith lambs" were heading into "wolf territory", Jesus told them. They would find themselves in the midst of people who were not lambs. They were not innocent and dependent upon the Good Shepherd. Some of those people would try to devour their faith and destroy their testimony if they could. The journey might be hard. The journey might be dangerous. Go anyway. Speak anyway. Try anyway. 

Our Lord, who knew that death and destruction awaited Him here, came anyway. He came to earth as God wrapped in a little baby to save us from our sin. In fact, there is far too much "wolf" in all of us and He came to change wolves into lambs. How incredible is that? The first thing that must happen to be a "sent one" is to allow our Divine One to change our own wolf to a lamb. When we are purified, cleansed, changed to become like a little lamb, willing to be led where He goes, willing to be fed where He provides, it is only then that we can be useful on the journey. The innocence of the lamb draws the wolf, but oh how amazing it is when the innocence of the lamb draws the wolf straight to Jesus! 

Dear ones, what about the wolf in us? Have we submitted it to Jesus, allowing that divine work of transformation to make a lamb of the wolf within? Are we willing to go, then, where the wolves dwell to draw them to Jesus? It won't be easy. In fact, we are promised that the way will be hard and the work will be dangerous, but it will be worth it, and we will not be alone. Are you willing to be a harvester? Will you be a lamb? 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  
Here's the link to last night's post:

Friday, December 12, 2014

The Fat Goat

Some months ago, we had three goats. Two had horns and one, Ryan's original show goat, did not. They were all former show goats and fine specimens. Shamrock, Ryan's first goat, has had a little trouble with her waistline in the past and it had an unfortunate impact on her show ring success. The other goats, however, fixed that. Over time, those goats with horns became increasingly aggressive with her. They started pulling her hair. They wouldn't let her eat. She lost weight. 

Eventually, I had to intervene. I would stand guard over Shamrock at mealtime. Before long, I was fighting off those horned goats as they tried to attack both Shamrock and me. That was the final straw. "Sisters, you are headed to the sale barn!" I threatened. They didn't care. They were as tough as nails. They could take anything. Ryan, my son, informed me, "You'd be tough too if you had big guns on your head." I thought they were more like battering rams, but I finally had enough. I called the owner of the sale barn and those goats were gone.

Shamrock had been through a rough time and had lost some weight. In fact, she looked a lot like a "Twiggy" goat, so I started giving her increased rations. I was so proud of her improved nutrition that I failed to notice her expanding waistline. Again. When Ryan came home recently, he went to visit his goat and was shocked. "Mama, that goat is morbidly obese! You're going to kill her feeding her so much!" I could not believe it. "I'm cutting her rations back to half of this," he said as he emptied part of the feed back in the barrel. "I cannot believe how fat she is!" He was truly shocked. 

I went back to the goat pen and took a good look at Shamrock. Ryan was right. I had just about fed poor Shamrock into a heart attack. (Well, not really, but she had gained a bunch of weight.) It seems odd that I hadn't realized how much weight she had gained, but I see her every day. It happened gradually, and it's left me thinking about how easy it is for me to develop thoughts, behavior, and habits so gradually that I don't notice their impact on my heart and life. Do you do that, too? Probably so, if you're like most people. Maybe what we need is to take a few steps back and look at our lives and our hearts from God's perspective. When He views our heart, what does He see? What does He think? Sometimes He must want to say, "Look what you're doing! You're making a mess! Stop! Let's fix this before it gets worse!" 

During this Advent season, as we await the birth of our Lord, let's remember why He came. We had made such a mess of our hearts and our lives, from the beginning of the world, that we needed a Savior and only a perfect, spotless, sinless Savior would do. Lord Jesus wrapped Himself in flesh and came to dwell among us. He took the mess we made of our lives pretty seriously and we should, too. Let's invite Him to do an inspection and help us to make any changes needed. He came to save us, but He never intended to leave us like we were. Let's invite God to have His way in us this Christmas season.

The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Sending the Seventy, part 3

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 NASB)

The word translated as "Lord" is kyrios. It is a title of honor and respect given to a master by a servant and is one of the names given to the Messiah. It is used in this instance, however, a little differently. In this instance, the word indicates "he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord" (BLB) Lord, in this instance, means owner of the harvest. 

This is a marvelously complex concept, yet incredibly simple at the same time. Jesus, the Master and Lord of His followers, sent seventy disciples out to the places where He was going so they could prepare the way. There is a harvest of souls to be gathered, He told them, and I am sending you. The harvest is huge, however, and many more laborers are needed. Therefore, ask the Lord of the harvest to send more workers. 

Who is the Lord, or owner, of the harvest? Jesus. It is His word that acts as the seed that grows into the harvest. The harvest belongs to Him and He is the boss of the workers. What Jesus was telling them was, in the vernacular, "If you need more help, just let Me know." He knew more help was needed. He knew from the start that the job of harvesting was too big for the people He sent. Perhaps what He intended was that we would know that, too. 

When we understand that the work before us is God-sized and that it is far more than we can do alone, we are more likely to depend upon our Lord, the owner of the harvest, for help. We are more likely to do things His way, simply because we realize our way is inadequate. Take a look at the portion of the harvest to which God has assigned you. Is it too much for you? Too big a job? Wonderful! You are right where you need to be! If the task before you is too big, do what Jesus said to do. Ask Him for help. He who owns the harvest wants to get the harvest in and is happy to help. There is one requirement, though, and we often fail to meet it. If we need help (and we do), we have to ask for it. 

Here's the link to last night's post:
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Learning Place

I have a lady who helps me with my housework a few hours a week. We bartered a deal a couple of years ago, and it has worked well for both of us. I'm not always home when she comes, but yesterday afternoon, I was. I wandered into the kitchen where she was working and she looked at my little hydroponic winter garden. 

Admittedly, it is a very small winter garden, but it is what it is. The plant in the middle is celery and the plants on the ends are romaine lettuce. As she was cleaning the counter, she said, "I've been wanting to ask you about this stuff in the water. It's kind of an unusual centerpiece. Is that celery in there?" I laughed. "It is," I said. "I cut off the end of some celery and it's growing in the water. That's lettuce on the ends." She was shocked. "How did you make that celery grow like that?" she asked. "Oh, all I did was trimmed the bottom and stuck it in the water. God did the rest." She just shook her head.  "I didn't know you could do that. And lettuce. I can't believe you are growing lettuce like that." I explained that I usually wait for roots to form, then transfer the plants to soil in a pot. It will grow until I harvest it. 

"I have learned the most stuff coming to your house. There's always something to learn here," she said. I laughed, but I've thought about it quite a bit since then. It pleases me to think that my house is filled with learning and adventure. I enjoy learning new skills and new information, and I also enjoy teaching what I learn. Wouldn't it be wonderful, though, if my house was so filled with God that what people said about coming here is that they always learn something about Him when they come? 

I think the reason my housekeeper learns something so often is that there is usually tangible evidence of my latest learning endeavor for her to see. Tangible evidence... What would be the tangible evidence of my learning endeavors with God? That's not quite as easy. It won't be celery in a bowl, that's for sure. Perhaps what she needs to see is tangible evidence in me.

When people look at our lives, do they see tangible evidence of our learning adventure with God? Let's be sure they do, so they can enjoy the adventure of a lifetime, too.  
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Sending the Seventy, part 2

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 NASB)

In the previous post, we looked at the two areas of responsibility for the harvest. There are those that go to gather the harvest (the uttermost ends of the earth) and those who stay at home and pray. Those who pray and those who go make a perfect team to get the job of harvest done. 

On closer inspection, we find that Jesus' instructions about praying for the harvest were first directed to the seventy, the "sent ones". It turns out that the ones who go have a big job of intercession, as well. Why? It is not because they are somehow "better". They are not better at faith, in their Christian life, or in their prayers. It is simply much easier to pray with insight when you are "on site", isn't it? Seeing the need helps us to better understand what it will take to meet the need and gives us a better understanding of how to pray. 

This is the idea behind "prayer walking". Intercessors go to a specific town or area of a town, walk through, and pray as they walk, allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt their heart as they see the needs with their eyes. In a way, the on site sight brings greater insight. That's an awkwardly complex sentence that conveys the idea behind prayer walking. It's praying with your eyes wide open to see the needs around you. 

When Jesus sent the seventy, they were to go to the towns and villages where He was going. At that time, His going had flesh and blood restrictions. Because he was wrapped in flesh, He could not be everywhere at once. Now, because of His Holy Spirit, our omniscient, omnipresent Lord is everywhere at once. No matter where we go, He precedes us, and that means everywhere is a potential harvest field. Even if we never leave our home town, there is a harvest just waiting for those serving as the hands and feet of Jesus. Look around. There are multitudes of people who need Jesus all around us and they are waiting for those of us who know Him to make the introduction. 

In our family, we usually make a donation in honor of our family members at Christmas rather than elaborate gifts, and we will continue that tradition again this year. As I'm writing this morning, it seems that a gift of harvesting might be the one gift that would most please our Lord. Walk or drive through your town, eyes wide open to see the needs around you. As you see those needs, pray that God will send someone to meet the need. Pray for each home, each family. Pray for the homeless, the lonely, the grieving. Pray for the lost, those who are wandering from their faith, those who are wondering about faith, and those who are certain about their faith. Pray that God will send exactly who He wants to meet the need, bring the Word, provide comfort and tangible goods. Pray that He will send someone to tell the news about Jesus. Don't be surprised, though, if the one He sends is you. 

There is a harvest, and we are the ones who are called to bring it in. Open your eyes, reach our your hands, and get your feet on the ground. Someone is waiting for you to introduce them to Jesus. 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Sending the Seventy

Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 NASB)

Just as Jesus sent the disciples out in ministry pairs, now we see Him sending seventy other followers. They were to go to all the cities and places where Jesus was headed and preach and heal. Just imagine it! Two followers would go into a village and share the good news of Jesus. "The Messiah has come!" they would tell the people. They probably offered to pray for the sick, knowing that God already planned to heal them. Of course, people would be excited about the healing and the pair of disciples would say, "You think this is good? You haven't seen anything yet! Jesus is coming soon!"

These people were sent to prepare the way and introduce Jesus. Jesus described it as a harvest that was plentiful. He explained that there are many people who will come to Him if they hear the good news about Him, but they can't believe if they don't hear. Jesus understood how hard it is to leave home and go to a foreign place where everyone is a stranger. He understood because He left the best place of all to come to a world that would reject and kill Him. 

There is a big harvest of souls available, Jesus explained, but not enough workers to get the harvest in. More workers are urgently needed. ALL of us are responsible for bringing in the harvest. Every single follower of Christ is responsible for the harvest. It is shameful to leave a harvest of grain in the field. It is even worse to leave a harvest of souls not gathered. 

We fall into one of two areas of responsibility about the harvest. Either we are the one who goes into the field to get the harvest in or we are the one who prays for more workers. We do not have the option to disregard the harvest. A quick "Bless the missionaries" prayer is not what our Lord had in mind here. The one who stays and prays is to approach the harvest with all the fervor and commitment of the one who goes to the field. That's a strong statement, isn't it? Read what Jesus said once more. There are two jobs. Going and praying. Both are vital. Both must be done with enthusiasm, committment, and perseverance.  

There is a harvest of souls waiting to hear the good news of Jesus and God's love. It's our job, mine and yours, to make sure they hear. Are you called to go or to pray? Let's be sure we are doing our part to bring light and hope to a dark and lonely world that will perish without the grace and mercy of God. 
Link to last night's post:
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Staying Close to the Herd

In case you are just joining in, Toby is my 28 year old horse who has lost a considerable amount of his hearing. He was my first horse, so I'm really partial to him, at least most of the time. He is as cantankerous as a mule quite a bit of the time, and some days I think about the possibility of equine euthanasia. I don't think about it for long, but it definitely crosses my mind, especially when he repeatedly kicks the barn door to make me hurry with his feed.

Toby's hearing is terrible, but as long as he stays with the other horses, he's fine. They hear for him. When they head to the barn, he goes, too. The problem is that Toby has developed a tendency to wander away from the other horses, rambling through the hills and pastures, nibbling grass as he goes.  When he goes off on his own, he can't hear me call him, and I have to track him down like a hound dog, searching through the pastures for him.

There is a simple solution that would allow Toby to enjoy all the human interaction he loves, all the on-time meals he prefers, all the coat-brushing he needs. Stay close to the herd. Staying close to the herd is all that is needed, but, for some reason, he doesn't want to do that. He wants to go his own way.

I've been like that before, haven't you? I've wandered from my herd (the body of Christ) and gone my own way, but it never worked out like I planned. Wandering and nibbling as I went never brought the fun or freedom I expected, but it certainly brought more grief and regret than I ever imagined. Perhaps you've experienced this for yourself. Maybe you're doing a little wandering of your own now.

Just as Toby is safer in his herd, even when he and the other horses disagree (to put it mildly), we are, too.  The body of Christ was never meant to be a solo act. It was intended to be a kind of teamwork, where we all have our function, we are all indispensable, and all interdependent. Each one of us is critical to the whole and each one has a vital part to play. When the body of Christ works the way He intended, it's the best place to be. It can't work, though, if we don't fill our position and do our part.

How well are you doing your part in the body of Christ? How close are you to those where Christ has placed you? If you are not enjoying the consolations of the Christian walk, maybe what you need is to "stay close to your herd." Take your place. Do your part.

"But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired..." (1 Corinthians 12:18 NASB)

The Price of Discipleship, part 4

Another also said, "I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home." But Jesus said to him, "No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:61-62 NASB)

We have seen over the last few days that the call of Christ is a present call, a priority call, a persistent call, and a pervasive call. When He calls us to follow Him, we are to follow immediately. The following should take highest priority in our lives, and we are to follow without stopping. It is a lifelong journey that encompasses every aspect of our lives, every moment. We are to follow our Lord and share His good news as we go. 

Today's verse speaks of the danger of "looking back". Jesus uses agrarian imagery to help His listeners understand the concept. A man pushing a plow has to keep his eyes fixed on the plow and the row he is plowing in order to assure that the row is straight, as well as to watch for obstacles in the way. If he "puts his hand to the plow" but continually looks back at what is behind him, (even if he is simply admiring the straightness of his rows), his eyes will be off the path ahead. He will not be able to see the obstacles ahead in time to avoid them, nor can he keep the row he is plowing straight. 

Jesus said that the one who starts following but "looks back" is not fit for the kingdom of God. The words translated as "looking back" imply more than a casual glance over the shoulder. This phrase suggests an "intent, earnest contemplation" of the things that have been left behind. Just as we cannot serve two masters, we also cannot keep our eyes fixed on what we have given up for Christ and where we are going with Him at the same time. Following requires a choice. We must decide whether we want what we have left behind or what Christ offers in our new life ahead, for we will pursue that choice. We cannot have both at once. 

The word translated as "fit" for the Kingdom of God indicates "fit for service" and can also be translated as "useful". Putting it all together, we find that Jesus' words make perfect sense. If we are constantly looking back at our old life or at the things we have done in our new life with Christ (either good or bad), we lose our usefulness in the Kingdom of God. Looking back prevents us from accomplishing that task to which God has called us. 

Paul spoke of this "looking back" in his letter to the church at Philippi. 

Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14 NASB)

He understood what Jesus was teaching that day so long ago. The life of a disciple is a three-part process that involves forgetting (the good and bad) the past, reaching forward to where God leads, and pressing on even when the way is difficult. It is a call to perseverance that endures all the way to eternity. 

In which direction are you looking? Are you gazing longingly at what you have relinquished for Christ, looking admiringly at what has been accomplished through you, or keeping your eyes fixed on the task ahead? The only way to be useful in the Kingdom of God is to keep our eyes fixed on the row ahead and the task to which we have been called and persevere all the way through. Press on, dear ones. Press on. 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Importance of Ears

Sunday was the Christmas choir program and, since this was the first time I've sung in a choir since high school (which was a few decades ago), I was naturally very excited. We were to be there at 5:00 pm, which meant I had to leave my house by 4:30 pm.  The timing was a little bit of a challenge for me.

Well, actually it was a lot of a challenge. I had planned to get feed on Saturday after the Blue Springs Senior Citizen Luncheon. I had driven my truck to the luncheon, then decided to take the dirty tablecloths to the house and start them in the washer before I went to the feed store. (I probably shouldn't admit this, but this is an evening confession. Just don't think I'm a total nut.) I usually back into the truck's parking place by my house. For some reason, I decided to drive in, then do some maneuvering, and turn around. I didn't count on how wet the ground was from the recent rain, and my truck got stuck. That should not have been a problem, because it has four wheel drive. It was a problem, however, because I forgot how to get it in four wheel drive. I struggled and struggled. Finally, I admitted defeat and asked Sam. He couldn't remember either. We both admitted defeat and text'd Bill the Magnificent, who text'd right back with easy directions. By that time, it was getting late and I was facing unloading 850 pounds of feed in the dark. I really hate unloading feed in the dark, so I decided to get the feed after church on Sunday. My ox was not in the ditch, but my truck kinda was.

After church, I stopped to buy feed on the way home, then had to change clothes to go to the barn. The new guy who loaded my feed had a little problem with his equipment, which I didn't realize until I got home. It turned out that he had somehow put the feed in so that I had to climb into the bed of the truck for every bag, then drag it to the edge, hop out, haul it into the barn and stack it, then climb back in for the next bag. 850 pounds of feed later, I was dirty and sweating, but the feed was unloaded.

The livestock had to be fed before I left for choir, but I had just fed the horses a few hours earlier. I made a very careful calculation and decided to feed all the livestock at 3:15. That would give me time to feed everyone, take a quick shower, and still leave on time. It would be plenty of time IF everything worked right. I didn't count on the problem with Toby and his ears.

At 3:15, I went to the barn, put feed in the horses' feed troughs, opened the barn door, and called. "Come on, girls!" Admittedly, Toby is not a girl, but he usually comes anyway, right along with the mares. This time, Cali and Belle came, but no Toby. I called and called. I whistled and whistled. Since he is 28 years old, I always worry when he doesn't come up. I was desperate. Time was getting short and I was going to be late. I decided he had fallen over dead in the pasture. I would have to deal with a dead horse and would have to miss my choir program. I was on the verge of tears. (That's what vain imaginings will do for you!) I began to plot how to deal with his body. This was not going to be good.

Finally, I stopped to pray about how to deal with my dead horse's body, and it seemed as if I was getting some directions that sounded a lot like, "Go look." That would be helpful, I supposed, because I could tell a little better how to deal with his body if I knew where he had fallen. I admit it. I was having a totally crazy-frantic moment. It was muddy outside the barn, but I waded through to find the body of Toby, my very first horse. He has been more cantankerous than a mule for years, but at that moment, he was the best horse that had ever lived.

I walked through the pasture and continued to call Toby, just in case. As I topped a little hill, I had the most amazing sight! Toby hadn't fallen over dead at all! Toby was standing there, eating grass, as calm as a cucumber. I called him and he never looked up. Finally, I walked up to him and touched him. He seemed surprised to see me. It was at that moment that I realized the problem was his ears. He couldn't hear me. He had wandered away from the other horses and, alone in the pasture, he had no way of knowing I had called him. I motioned to him and he started following me back to the barn.

There's more than one lesson in this story (beginning with the value of avoiding vain imaginings) but we are only looking at the importance of ears tonight. The loss of Toby's hearing puts him at a distinct disadvantage. He can't hear danger approaching. If he can't hear my voice, he doesn't know when I'm calling him for a meal or for a ride. Not only does he miss his nourishment, he misses the time of interaction with his humans, too.

We, too, can have problems with our ears that prevents us from hearing the voice of the Master calling. When the cares of this world or the sin that so easily besets overwhelms us, when our lives are filled with clamor and strife, that Still Small Voice of God is not easy to hear, is it? The problem with lack of hearing is that we can easily miss the blessings God has planned for us when we fail to hear His call. Even more important, we miss that sweet interaction and communion with Him that He offers so freely.

Can you hear the Still, Small Voice? Listen closely. Your Master is calling.

The Price of Discipleship, part 3

And He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father." But He said to him, "Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." (Luke 9:59-60 NASB)

We are continuing the lesson on the cost of discipleship. In the previous lesson, one who volunteered as a disciple, pledging to follow Christ anywhere, was told that he could not expect a life of comfort with Jesus. Instead, he could expect a hard and difficult time, and needed to count the cost. 

In the present example, Jesus called this man to discipleship. He had an elderly father at home and requested a delay. He had good intentions of following Jesus eventually, but needed to care for his aging father until he died. Jesus was firm. The call to follow Him is a now call. We are not to delay until a more opportune time, but are to obey now. It is also a matter of priority. God was very clear about our responsibilities to our parents, however nothing is to take precedence over Him. 

The call of Christ is a present call, a priority call, and a persistent call. We are to obey and not stop. The man was called to be an evangelist, yet he wanted to wait until a more convenient time. Jesus pressed him. He was to "get going and keep going".  

It was, finally, a pervasive call. This man was to share the gospel "everywhere". As he went, he was to tell the good news of Jesus. 

There is a tendency to look down on this man who was at a critical juncture and  struggling with the call of God upon his life. He had a difficult choice to make, and perhaps we, too, would struggle. In fact, we likely struggle with the same issues on a smaller basis. 

Do we respond quickly to the call of God or want to wait for a more opportune time? Do we make obedience to God our number one priority or does obedience take a back seat to family responsibilities? Are we willing to consistently obey, making a change in life style that is permanent? Do we share the good news of Jesus with every one we meet? 

Obedience to the call of God is a frightening and often daunting task. Without the help of the Spirit, none among us could do it. Empowered by the Spirit, however, that costly discipleship brings with it an abundant supply of love, joy, and peace. 

Following Jesus. It costs everything, but brings back more blessing than we can imagine or receive. Follow, dear ones, and don't look back. 
The new book, The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayer is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone, as well as The Clay Papers and The Road to Bethlehem (an advent devotional guide) are now available at Get your copy today. 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Price of Discipleship, part 2

As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, "I will follow You wherever You go." And Jesus said to him, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." (Luke 9:57-58 NASB)

These verses are part of a section in which Jesus was teaching His disciples about the cost of discipleship and describing what discipleship included. Someone said to Jesus that they would follow Him anywhere. Jesus replied by explaining about that "anywhere".  "The foxes and the birds have homes," He explained, "but I don't even have a spot to sleep that I can call My own." Jesus left the riches and glory of heaven for earth. His sole purpose was to redeem mankind by His death, burial, and resurrection. He came to do the will of the Father, to fulfill the law, to proclaim the Kingdom of God, to bind up the broken-hearted, and set the captives free. He did not come to accumulate stuff. 

Jesus did not spend His time on earth accumulating riches, gathering "things", or aquiring land. He owned everything, and yet He had nothing. This lack of material possessions allowed Him to be mobile. He could go where He was needed, stay as long as needed, and move on when the time came. There was no time spent on the maintenance of things. 

It was a matter of priority for Jesus. People and their hearts and souls were the priority, not things. That priority defined everything in His life, and His should be our priority as well. Does this mean that we should be homeless and wander the roads preaching and teaching the gospel? No. There will be some of us who live the life of an itenerate preacher, but most will not. 

All of us, however, need to have the Kingdom of God as our priority and not the kingdom of self. Speaking as one who has done far too much accumulating, there is a great blessing in a simple lifestyle with little to maintain. Living a life of simplicity allows us to be mobile for responding to needs, gives us freedom to invest in the kingdom of God, and keeps our eyes on our Heavenly Father from whom all blessings flow. 

Where is our priority? Is it the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Self? That priority is the first mark of a disciple. Whose life are we living? Do we choose the one we want or the life God has chosen for us? That choice says much about our discipleship and is often the very thing that prevents us from becoming disciples. What we seldom realize is that the life of accumulation and fulfilling our every desire is not the path to peace and joy. It is in following Christ, in giving freely, in loving with abandon that we find the fulfillment we seek, as well as the peace and joy that only Christ can give. 

Choose your life wisely, dear ones. Choose wisely and well.