The Longing of God

The Longing of God

Looking across the sky often causes my mind to wonder.  As the sun is setting and the brilliant display of so many colors cascade across the evening sky, I am amazed at the handiwork of God.  His power is unmatched and his ability is without measure.  He speaks and matter is created in perfect order.  And in the moments I slow down enough to notice and worship, He hears the words I pray.  It is truly the grand displays of God’s majesty that make his nearness even more surprising and magnificent.  The God who speaks, creates, and knows no limit bends to hear the voice of one of His creation.

Exodus 33 recounts a time when Moses needed the ear of God.  After spending forty days and nights with God on Mount Sinai, he discovered the unfaithfulness of the Israelite people.  God was establishing a law, a way for his people to relate to Him and one another.  The holy God was fulfilling what He promised, “I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God.  And they shall know that I am the Lord their God who brought them out of the land of Egypt that I might dwell among them.  I am the Lord their God” (Exodus 29:45-46).  Exodus 33:9 recounts times when Moses would enter the Tent of Meeting set on the outskirts of the Israelite camp.  As he walked in, the pillar of cloud – the presence of God – would descend to meet with him.  “Thus the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).  Not only did God speak to Moses but promised His presence would go with him and the people…and He would give them rest (33:14).

The story of God is filled with such moments.  From the beginning, humanity has been given the choice to love God, follow Him, and experience His unending presence and rest.  He has always given clarity to the way in which a man should go to have abundant life.  Yet, we have always rebelled.   And despising the shame, God has always pursued his rebellious people.  Beginning in Eden, God restored Adam and Eve providing covering and forgiveness.  He made a covenant with Abraham establishing a great nation whose purpose was to draw the world to see the One True God!  He rescued from Egypt, gave them a good land to dwell within and influence the nations.  Throughout faithless generations, God remained faithful, long-suffering, patient, and ready to restore, forgive, and bless.

At the culmination of the story, God became flesh and literally dwelt among us (John 1:14).  Jesus “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the from of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).  Jesus entered into the world and was rightfully called, Immanuel -God with us!”  And the rest of the story is increasingly more amazing.  After Jesus was raised from the dead, He ascended to the Father and sent His Spirit.  “Or do you not know that your body is the a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?  You are not your own…” (1 Corinthians 6:19).  God, through the death of His Son, made a way for His presence to be with us forever, the indwelling of His Spirit.

The Almighty Creator of the Universe who paints galaxies and speaks matter into existence, the Eternal One who orders life, calms storms, and has no needs chose to pursue you, me and all of humanity.  He longs to be with you.  He doesn’t need you but wants you.  He is still holy, righteous, always good, and to be feared.  And somehow, He also allows His people to affectionally call Him Father, Daddy, and Friend.

Moses would have many good days and difficult days the remainder of his life.  Some of the challenges he faced resulted from his own wrong decisions.  After guiding God’s people through the desert for forty years anxiously anticipating a promised good land, Moses would not be able to enter.  But the land was only a blessing.  God longed for the hearts of the people, He longed for Moses.  He longs for you and me.  We too will have good and difficult days ahead.  And we too might fail to see a dream fulfilled.  But in abiding in Jesus, we discover we have all we truly need…and we remember that it has been His story all along.

Be encouraged today to find rest in the presence of God.  He longs to give abundant life through His abiding presence.  Abide in Him…He is longing to hear from you and He bends his hear to listen.  He is longing to speak…open His word and listen.

Fingerprints

handprint-glass1Winter in Houston is the best (and only) time of year to open the sunroof and enjoy a cool breeze.  The sunroof in our SUV tends to impress my children.  This magical window opens oddly and then part of the protective roof above them peels away to reveal clouds and an amazing winter sky.  And for whatever reason, it also tends to attract their fingerprints.  Honestly, every window in just about every car that carries children is frosted with smeared oily prints of little ones making their messy mark.  Typically, those prints drive me crazy and I crave that moment right after cleaning the car thoroughly that offers transparency rarely experienced in the Allen vehicles.  Call it OCD, but a clean car just makes the world seem a little more in order.

Climbing in last week and hurriedly pulling out of the driveway, I looked up and noticed the presence of those pesky invaders blocking the serene view I longed for.  I’m not talking about my children, but instead, their fingerprints.  And then, as if the Lord pressed hard on my chest, it hit me…one day I will have a printless car.  One day in the not-too-distant future, the windows will be spotless, the stains missing, the radio playing whatever I would like, and the background noise will simply be other cars passing by.  No longer will cheers and wondrous laughter erupt as I open that odd window above.  They will be gone.  My heart sank and I began to realize that these little prints are actually markers of three of the greatest blessings in my life.  As every day passes, I realize that I don’t get to keep them that long.  Eighteen years goes so quickly.

Later that evening, the thoughts of my heart came full circle as I realized the brevity of their fingerprints and connected it to the brevity of my own prints in their lives.  As each sun sets and my wife and I tuck our kids into bed, another opportunity to leave our prints passes.  When each one exits our home, they will leave intentionally and unintentionally imprinted by our lives, our words, our example, our love, and our faith.

In some homes, kids will leave expert hunters, or go on to play collegiate sports.  Others will leave with a strong work ethic and plow ahead in life.  Others will be imprinted with so much fun having traveled to many places and seen amazing things.  All of our kids will see our habits and priorities and begin to form their own for good and bad.  Hard questions began to fill my mind…

What will mine leave with?

What will they remember their dad was like?  How would they describe me?

How has my example tainted their view of their perfect heavenly Father?

Have I modeled the love of Jesus to their mom and have they truly felt it themselves?

Have I been quick to say I’m sorry and quick to forgive?

Have I equipped them to love God with all they are and abide in Jesus daily?

Have I taught them what really matters?

It is so easy to let another night or another week go without having conversations about Jesus.  But we only have their fingerprints for so long.  There are only so many days left to intentionally impress them with our prints of faith that will guide them the rest of their days.  Today truly matters.  What prints will you leave?

For encouragement, read Psalm 78.

Perspective Matters

Daniel was removed from everything he knew as a young man.  Carried off into slavery, his life would be spent in a foreign land serving kings who did not share his worldview or beliefs.  In this foreign land, he and three close friends would face their own mortality on numerous occasions as they sought to remain firm to the truth.

The first challenge was subtle but Daniel faithfully chose not to turn his foot to the left or right, but consider the path of his feet (Proverbs 4:26-27).  His faithful commitment to honoring God in something so simple as his diet paved the way for what lay ahead.  God granted Daniel favor with those in authority over him. Not many days ahead, he would have to trust the same God to provide for His very life.

Such a story begs the initial question, “Do I consider my path in the simple, seemingly small steps?”  I vividly remembering flailing face-first toward a sidewalk one early morning running.  One moment I was beginning to hit my stride and the next, I found myself painfully limping home.  A simple uneven step where the drain met the sidewalk propelled me to a few weeks on crutches and embarrassment. I have learned to appreciate the simple steps.  When we cease to consider that every step we take has direct consequences, we fail to see life as a story and live from event to event.  Every step matters.

The story of Daniel continues when the King makes an absurd request of those in his service.  Troubled by a significant dream, he asks his “wise men” to not only interpret but reveal the dream as well.  Failure to do so resulted in the immediate death of every man tasked with the impossible request.  Near to death, Daniel seeks out his companions to join him in prayer.  God reveals the dream and everything changes.  The rest of the story is found in the book of Daniel, chapter 2.  For Daniel, something drastic happens which was even greater than God sparing his life.  His perspective changed forever.  He recorded these words in a prayer of blessing to God:

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might.  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings…”   Daniel 2:20-21.  In those moments, Daniel confessed truth; God is sovereign.  Those who appeared to possess so much power were unknowing steward of the One who can sift their hearts like streams of water.  This perspective guided Daniel for the rest of his life.

Perspective matters.  When we choose to trust God in the small simple steps, we learn we can trust Him in the life-altering ones.  What decisions are you making today?  Are you looking at them through an eternal perspective?  The right thing is always the smart thing…according to God’s wisdom.  When we choose to live in the shadow of the Sovereign God, our perspective leads to joy, peace, and freedom because of the One who is truly in control.

God’s Story, our next step…

Dear Kingsland Family,

Seven years ago, Jessie and I were sitting in our apartment in Atlanta, GA reading about a church that had called and set up an interview with us.  That church was Kingsland and as we read about it, we were so impressed.  I remember looking at Jessie and saying, “If this church really practices what they believe, this is a unique and amazing place.”  We would soon find that they did.  We knew God was taking us somewhere special but had no idea how much we would fall in love with this body of believers.

For the past seven years, we have had the incredible privilege to be a part of this amazing church.  The blessing you have been to our family has been profound and immeasurable.  You have poured your lives into Jessie, myself and our three kids.  When we moved here, we only had one little one.  And now our youngest of three kids is almost four.  Two have placed their faith in Christ and so many of you have made such an impact and difference in their lives.  Really, in all of our lives.  And so, it is with a very heavy heart that I am resigning from Kingsland.

The Lord has called us to another place of ministry.  And I want you to know that I don’t use that phrase lightly.  We have struggled and agonized over this decision.  We’ve sought godly counsel and gone back to the Lord time and again asking for clarity, peace and His clear will.  And he has given that clarity but in a different way than we thought.  So, we will choose to be obedient to His leading.  It has always been and will always be His story.

We have been called to Bay Area First Baptist Church in League City.  My role there will have three major functions, Executive, Spiritual Formation, and Teaching.  I will have the opportunity to invest in leadership, discipleship, connecting church and home and preach regularly.  We are excited for what the Lord has and yet our hearts are heavy.  We are very thankful for the opportunity to remember that this is God’s story and not ours.  He is always faithful and He has purpose in all that He does.

Though the timing is difficult and honestly, I don’t understand the details of God moving us now, I do know that He is leading.  I believe that Kingsland has amazing days ahead of her.  If I could in any way be encouraging, remember who you are as the bride of Christ.  Jesus gave His life for His Church and He is still preparing for the time He will come again to come for us, His bride.  His love is relentless and His passion for you, His people, is unfading.  He is the Good Shepherd.

Partnering in ministry these past seven years has been an amazing adventure.  Whether in our ABFs, whom I have known best, or in our preschool, children and student ministries, God has raised up amazing men and women to lead and make a difference for His Kingdom.  It has been a privilege to walk alongside men’s and women’s ministries in the past, our door greeters, welcome teams, ushers, and so many more.  God has blessed Kingsland through your faithful service and love for Him.  Lives have been changed because of God working through you and using you and He will continue to use you for His Kingdom.

Through this time of change at Kingsland, stand firm and remember Who you serve.  Continue to fight the good fight of our faith.  Be encouraged to lead with excellence, especially now.  Pray with fervency, love each other well and forgive one another quickly.  Kingsland’s past has moments of trial not unlike the one we find ourselves in now.  But, it is through the faithfulness of you, the men and women, students and children who choose to love God and love others that He will use to walk Kingsland through this valley to the great days He has planned ahead.  Stand firm.  Or as the Lord told Joshua, “Be strong and courageous!”

Parents and Grandparents, continue discipling the next generation.  Continue turning the tide of our culture one home at a time.  Fight for your kids the fight that matters and leave them with the one thing that changes everything – a thriving relationship with Jesus Christ.

I would love to conclude with a prayer.  This is our prayer for Kingsland:

“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy,giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:9-14, ESV)

We are forever grateful for the blessing you have been to our family.  We love you deeply.

Josh & Jessie

 

Spiritual Openness

Recently, several conversations have centered around unique and interesting occurrences.  I have had the opportunity to participate in some of these and others, simply listen (some might call it eavesdropping but I prefer passive listening).  Some of these conversations have revolved around a particular experience with Christ and the Holy Spirit while others are void of any Christian influence altogether.  I am probably late to the game in this conclusion but it is interesting to note the spiritual openness of the coming generation.

It should come as no surprise.  the Post-Modern world values experience and feeling above all else.  Modern thinking relied almost exclusively on reason.  The modern influence of the 20th century on the American church often unknowingly sought to rationalize every supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God.  Often churches were left void of power and dependent upon their own ingenuity and creativity to fuel church growth.  These are certainly broad generalizations and exceptions are not rare.  However, a new day is coming…

The post-modern way of thinking (in regards to spiritual openness) is having a tremendous influence on the church, both in positive and negative ways.  Positively, the church at large seems to be more aware of the need of the work of the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 6 clearly explains that the battle is not against flesh and blood, whether warring with the body or with the mind.  The battle is spiritual and in a realm that we cannot control nor explain.  We are dependent (as we have always been) on the work of the Holy Spirit to accomplish the work God has called the Church to take on.  Negatively, the next generation appears to welcome this experiential faith with less regard for doctrine and Truth.  Experience trumps reason.  It is the battle cry of the post-modern era.  But this opens a dangerous door to heresy in the Christian Church.  And it is a heresy that will deeply divide.

So what do we do?  We return to the Truth of the Gospel. We become Berean (Acts 17).  We embrace the next generation and encourage their faith through discipleship and mentoring.  Whenever God has moved powerfully throughout history, the enemy usually acted to confuse and distort the genuine work.  We can expect the same.  For those raised in the age of reason, may we wake up to the reality of the spiritual realm and be moved to pray asking God to work, dependent upon His Spirit.  For those embracing a post-modern world, may we remember the foundational truths of Scripture.  They must interpret our experience and not the other way around.  Experiences cannot create beliefs.  Otherwise, we will give in to the greatest post-modern heresy believing that everyone determines what is right in his or her own eyes.  Let us learn from one another in all humility, examining the Scriptures to see exactly what God has said on the issues.  Finally, may we pray that this time of spiritual openness would lead others to embrace the Truth of the Gospel.

Autumn Breeze

The first cool front pummeled through Houston during the past 24 hours. Experiencing unrelenting heat and humidity for four months brings great appreciation to seasonal change. A cool breeze simply doesn’t happen during the summer this far South. But these later months ignite visions of northerly winds and light jackets. A certain brightness magnifies the clear blue sky and the dryness of the air invites a refreshingly deep breath. For a moment, the cares of the world fade and one can simply appreciate the moment.

The complications of life often mar the simplicity of living. Living is really taking a breath, eating a bite, hearing a song, laughing out loud and looking deeply into the eyes of one you love. I am beginning to appreciate that Life in Christ is the same. I complicate it often times with schedules, legalistic tendencies, self-imposed pressure and guilt. Living in Christ is simply reading His breath, tasting His goodness, worshipping the one who created songs, laughing at trials, and looking deeply into the eyes of the One who loves me more than I can understand.

Don’t misunderstand, suffering takes place throughout the world and injustice exists. Many people throughout the world won’t have the privilege of appreciating an autumn breeze. Those burdens are one’s I care about but they are not one’s I can carry. Today, the breeze reminds of me to pause doing and just “be” for a moment. It reminds me to cast off everything that entangles my heart and mind and live simply. It reminds me to joy and pleasure in His presence and at His hand (Psalm 16). So much competes for our attention and so much promises pleasure and fulfillment. Yet, with Iphone in pocket, and Starbucks in hand, my delight is in the Lord. There is no worthy joy or pleasure outside of His presence.

Thank you God for an autumn breeze.

Law

A couple of months ago during the early evening, three of the five of our family piled in the car to escape our house for a moment. Adventurously, we traveled less than five miles to a family favorite drive-up institution affectionally called “Sonic.” After ordering our small apple juices and a large diet coke with cherry, we ventured home. While approaching home, my 2 year old accidentally inverted her beverage. Some spilled on her lap. One of the greatest things about Sonic drinks is the ice which keeps the drink very cold. Spilling a sonic drink in your lap often transfers that cold feeling to an uncomfortable level. She cried out and I decided that coming to a complete stop at the approaching stop sign simply wasn’t necessary. Fifteen minutes later, holding a small pink piece of paper, I realized the officer didn’t see things the same way. Alas, I had broken the law and my sin was ever before me, spelled c-i-t-a-t-i-o-n.

The laws we live by are designed with certain purposes and functions in mind. Whether I agree with those purposes and functions matter little. The law simply tells me when I am wrong. It doesn’t affirm the hours of driving well nor does it take into consideration circumstances. The law simply tells me when I am wrong. Growing up in small churches across our country, I developed a sense of God’s law in my life. When I behave well, God is pleased and I am treated with peace, love, and some level of comfort. Sin, breaking God’s law, is punished with guilt, pain, and a feeling of lost favor with God. My actions determine God’s level of love for me and his favor is dependent on how well I am following the law. By law, I don’t mean the Mosaic law or the laws of the Old Testament though that might be part of it. Law indicates this internal code by which I make God happy with me.

Two major issues surface here. One, God’s love, favor and blessing become dependent on me. I essentially begin to earn His love. Two, the law becomes void of a relationship with Jesus. While it may sound so churchy, rules void of a relationship will only lead to bitterness, frustration, and rebellion. Many parents have seen this in their grown kids. Both of these issues create incredible problems in light of Scripture. The law challenges me to be a good moral person. Often, this seems a noble goal! But God doesn’t want good moral people who don’t relate to Him. For whatever reason, God sent His Son Jesus Christ to repair a torn relationship. Sin severed the ties between God and His beautiful creation known as humanity. For thousands of years, creation anticipated the restoration of God with His people.

Jesus was crucified to defeat sin and sin’s result, death. The reality is, I can’t do it. I can’t stop sin in my own life. I long to but I don’t have the ability. Only through a relationship, and adoption, can I find reprieve. So what does this mean?

Instead of trying hard not to sin, I need to talk to and hear from God. Instead of making every effort to eliminate sinful influence, I need to draw near to the influence of my Father. I have spent much of my life trying not to mess up, to fail. Instead, God desires me to rest in Him. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds of the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:5-6) The connection is a relationship with the Spirit, the God of the Universe who lives inside me. Choosing to take off the nature of sin is then replaced with putting on life in Christ. My sin has been taken care of, but not because I am a moral good person. I am wretched and my flesh runs from God. But only in receiving His grace, extended to all mankind, did I become free. Peace fills my heart because my sin is dealt with and the law (which shows me when I have sinned) has been fulfilled.

On my way home

Sitting at the airport after being away from home for so long is excruciating. It is almost as if I can see my family and reengage life as it was meant to be. However, what stands before me is a long flight filled with bumps, delays, people I don’t know and some I do. There will be times when food is served, water is plentiful and possibly even a diet coke. Other times I will feel parched and frankly the restrooms just aren’t comfortable. We will be marched through business class and from a distance glance toward those who ride in the most style. At times, especially when attempting to sleep, I will long for that comfort.

During the early hours of the morning, caught between 30 minute naps, I know I will long for the comfort but jammed into coach with just enough leg space to gently press into the seat in front, I will attempt to sleep. How I long for comfort…

Life is not much different. It is often a long flight succumb to the will of many around you. Some will make noise while others quietly ignore you. At times, you are blessed with abundance and at times you will be parched. No matter what section or seat you have, we so often want one that is just above that seat. As life moves along and seems to become more complicated, we long for more comfort. it is easy to forget the point of the journey. The flight isn’t really about me at all. I am merely a passenger. I have been placed in my seat for a reason, to influence those around me. Being consumed with the quest for a better space and more comfort distracts me from the reason I’m flying. I can easily make it about me, with the best motivations.

So how do I learn to be content with my seat? Well, I think it begins by taking my headphones off and simply looking to my left and right. I don’t want the middle seat but really, it provides the best place to influence others. I don’t want to ride in coach but then again, I am surrounded. I guess I am learning to look again. I am learning to listen again to the stories of others waiting for the right moment to introduce them to the God who can change their story. Their story needs to change and then we both can turn to the other passengers and keep the story moving. It has worked for thousands of years and it is God’s way. He chooses me and you.

I’m on my way home and it is a microcosm of my real journey. May we all tell our story, His story well.

Authority, Arrogance, and Control: But its really not a bad idea

The house church movement seems to be gaining some steam throughout America. Many believers, distraught and utterly frustrated with church experience have turned to the house church. The basic definition of a house church is a church meeting in someone’s home. Obviously smaller than most American churches, many house churches seek to recapture the early church experience and community. There is no doubt that good intentions and pure hearts are behind much of this movement but with those come others seeking the antithesis of what the movement stands for.

Speaking in generalities of the American church is akin to calling everything in the ocean a fish. So much discrepancy exists, even within denominations, that it is impossible to paint broad brush strokes in hopes of capturing a true picture of the church landscape. The American church is much more a mosaic than an impressionist painting. That being said, Scripture sets the same standard for each piece of the mosaic. House churches have become one of the newer pieces of the larger artwork. Some will meet real needs and create outstanding community members could not find elsewhere. There is no doubt of its success overseas, especially in persecuted lands. Hopefully, the house church movement will reach those in the darkness and bring them to the light of Jesus Christ. My prayer is that God will use that piece of the mosaic to make disciples and meet needs otherwise unmet. All that being said, common themes are beginning to emerge that send a message seemingly against the very core of the house church origin.

Authority

One pervasive theme throughout is a natural reaction to spiritual abuse from a position of authority. Churches from all denominations have lost the trust of members because of abuse. Pastors and/or Priests have been convicted of sexual misconduct, financial misconduct among various other immoral actions. The wave of abuse has hit American Christendom painfully hard. Yet, the overwhelming majority of Pastors and Priests continue to have a heart for the people they shepherd and lead. For every situation of abuse, there are thousands of men and women giving their lives for those they minister to.

A major motivation of many house churches is a rejection of any authority other than Christ. Christ is the head of the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23) and no person in spiritual authority should ever attempt supplant that role. However, there is no doubt that authority rested on the Apostles who then placed others in authority to shepherd the churches. Complete rejection of authority is not a biblical concept. Rejection of authority that leads away from Christ is biblical. Yet, we all come under submission of spiritual authority in our lives. We submit one to another and to those God has placed over – even ungodly governments when not asked to compromise God’s Truth.

Arrogance

A quick search of house church networks online quickly reveals the arrogance of many embracing this movement. Many will argue that “real” church happens in homes and the biblical model prescribes home gatherings as opposed to the purchase of land, buildings, etc. The root of such a heart and attitude stands in stark contrast with the initial purposes for beginning such a church. The desire to humbly seek God in close community where all are accountable to one another appears to be the most normal reason given to leave an existing large church and form a house church. However, writing off the former church or proclaiming that all who practice in such “institutions” are false or less than real displays enormous arrogance. Nearly 2000 years after the resurrection of Christ and we are finally get our act together. There is no place in Christianity for such a heart towards brothers and sisters in Christ.

As far as biblical context is concerned, the early church did meet in homes. However, the Bible neither commands nor prescribes the model discussed in Acts and the letters to the churches. Instead, the Text gives principles governing the body of Christ and leaves structure out of the discussion. On top of this, the earliest church met in the Synagogue. Though this practice only persisted a short time, early believers were Jewish and did not consider Christianity a new faith. Jesus is Messiah, fulfilled the law and was worshipped in the context of Judaism.

Control

One final point of contention deals with the issue of control. Leaving an existing church because it doesn’t do what I want or doesn’t meet my needs is simply a control issue. We would do well as Christ followers to spend as much time praying for God’s clear direction for our church as we do complaining about all of the issues we see contained in it. It appears that the newest form of church shopping is simply beginning my own. In doing so, I can structure it to function how I desire. Of course it will be biblical, I am biblical. Understanding this point is being generalized, it is not coincidence that house churches emerge in the most me-centric culture on our planet. The success of the house church movement is out of sheer necessity across the globe in persecuted lands. In America, we begin them because we are dissatisfied with our own local church. Maybe our knees would be a better place to start.

The Church mosaic is large and diverse in America. House churches may add another critical element God uses to accomplish His purposes here. Again, my prayer is such. But let’s not pretend that because I have control, it will be right. God’s church, the body of Christ, does not depend on buildings or the lack thereof. It does not depend on structure or the lack thereof. It depends on Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit empowering each member to live the light of the Gospel in the darkness. It depends on an undying devotion to His Word, the Bible. Otherwise, it always becomes about me.

One worth following

What kind of man can simply walk into the life of another and so profoundly make an impression, he would drop all and follow?  What kind of man can change the heart of another through simple statements with life-altering consequences?

Each time I read through the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, I am amazed at the simplicity yet life-changing call on His followers.  John 1 records Jesus’ call on Andrew, Peter and Nathanael.  How could such men so easily follow a Rabbi they knew so little of? How could He evoke such emotion that Nathanael calls Him the Son of God and King of Israel?  While the Jewish people were certainly looking for Messiah, they weren’t looking for Jesus.  A man of usual appearance from a county town in Galilee, Jesus didn’t have a Rabbinical pedigree.  Yet, he had been amazing the teachers of the law since He was a teenager.

Jesus was, is and will always be an enigma.  His very name can polarize close friends.  Even voiced in vain, it carries such power and emotion.  Jesus befriended those without hope.  He called those who were humble, arrogant, weak and strong.  Jesus’ inner circle listed a zealot, tax collector, orthodox Jews, possible Essenes and many more.  This motley crew lacked any formal eduction or unifying political bent.  From their various walks of life, they discovered One worth following.  Their own religious leaders would go to great lengths to challenge their Rabbi, calling to question every claim.  Jesus’ answers would soon stun crowds and send the scribes away angry, scratching their heads in disbelief.  He would speak with such authority.  Jesus was not what anyone expected, but somehow He was exactly what everyone needed.  He still is.

John 1:11 states, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  I would contend Jesus is the One worth following because He came.  God coming to earth for the restoration of humanity reveals His character and heart unlike anything else.  So many believe in a distant deity while worshipping their own lives.  So many Christians disconnect life from faith and compartmentalize Jesus, fitting Him into the appropriate box of their lives.  In the simple act of coming, Jesus spoke countless words of compassion, love and grace.  He was and is and will always be Holy.  Yet, He humbled Himself, knowing the pain and rejection He would endure.  He came knowing the relentless questioning He would face.  He came knowing those closest to Him would deny Him at the point of His greatest need.  He came knowing He would be born in a feeding trough in some distant cave in a remote town called Bethlehem.  He came knowing He would be misunderstood His entire life.

He still came.  He still came and He gave the right to those who believed in His name to become children of God.  As I sit and write these words at my computer, I am dumbfounded that He came.  I am awed that He called people to follow.  I am astounded that He gave them a choice – that He gave me a choice.  Those early disciples encountered a man they could not help but follow.  Their words and actions speak volumes about the God who became a man and made a way for humanity to be reconciled to their Creator.  Today, I hope I can follow with the same wreckless abandon those early men displayed.  Oh that we would be so captivated with the call of our God, our Creator, that we would leave the cares of this world and follow well.  Of all that will distract my mind and heart today, there is only One worth following.