Have you ever felt worried, distressed, or anxious?
Yes, I know that might seem like a ridiculous question. In one way or another, we have all experienced worry, distress, or anxiety. These real experiences of our lives are the sort of things we encounter throughout the Scripture. In fact, the writer of Psalm 4 expresses thoughts we all likely relate to:
Answer me when I call to You, my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress; have mercy on me and hear my prayer. (Psalm 4:1)
Where do you turn to find peace in these times? Often, we turn to friends or family for support, or look to distractions like television or reading a book. In themselves, none of these things are bad. However, within Psalm 4, we are directed in another way. The psalmist instructs us in the way we should turn in our distress.
God’s Strong Presence
First of all, the psalmist shows us to whom we should turn. “Of course,” you might say, “you are going to say that I should turn to God.” Yes, that is true, but it is not enough of the truth in this case. The psalmist says Read More »
In the midst of our pursuit of God, we can sometimes focus so much on the seriousness of discipleship that we miss out on the joy of our life with God. Of course, there are good reasons for that.
First of all, Jesus called us to take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow Him. That is a serious call. Second, in this world we at times encounter suffering or difficulty, neither of which are light or easy. Thirdly, our discipleship is serious because, as Paul points out in his letter to the Ephesians, we are in the midst of a spiritual conflict.
Yet for all the seriousness of the pursuit of God, it is also true that God is the creator of joy. The ||40days|| journey reminds us that for all of the seriousness of following Jesus, it was Jesus Himself who said that following Him brings complete joy:Read More »
Every year in the US, we mark out a day to celebrate what we have been given. Thanksgiving Day, in my opinion, is actually one of the most culturally amazing moments where we take time out from work and normal routines to simply celebrate and enjoy God’s goodness. Of course, like all things, Thanksgiving can be trivialized by commercialism, but it is still a fascinating moment in our country’s history and experience.
The wonder of the life with God is that each day spent following Jesus propels us into thanksgiving. The abundance we have received from God through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection is beyond words. Today, as we continue our ||40days|| journey, we want to come alive with thankfulness.
Throughout the Scripture, we encounter many sacrifices offered in worship of God. In Psalm 50, however, we encounter a different kind of sacrifice:Read More »
There are few things which set the blood pumping as much as watching a team make a heroic charge to victory. Whether it’s an underdog basketball team surging to an upset or a football team pushing down the field in the last two minutes of a game, such an effort is quite a thing to behold.
When Jesus calls us to follow Him, He is inviting us into an effort like that. Jesus’ mission was “to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). He did not do that by standing at a distance but by drawing right into the enemy territory and bringing salvation through His life, death, and resurrection. He accomplished His mission, but He invited His followers to join Him in that charge.
Even before the Cross, Jesus called out and trained twelve closest followers. He sent them out as part of His charge into the world: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves” (Matthew 10:16). From there, He gathered a larger group: “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of Him to every town and place where He was about to go” (Luke 10:1). The final words of Matthew’s gospel, Read More »
Leadership is a hot topic these days. Go into any bookstores and you will find hundreds of books on leadership. Being a leader is different depending on the setting. It is one thing to lead a race with many in pursuit of you but it is another thing to lead a team where you facilitate others working together toward a goal.
Unfortunately, what is often neglected in the discussions of leadership is the secondary concept of being a follower. Even to read ‘being a follower’ may conjure up negative ideas in our minds. But as we continue our ||40days|| journey, our interaction with Jesus must move from being our own leader to letting Him lead us, from trying to lead everything to learning to be His follower.
When Jesus began His public ministry, we read of John the Baptist identifying Him as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). Time again and again, we encounter John directing people’s attention to Jesus in this way.
It is only natural that eventually even some of John’s followers wanted to find out more about Jesus. So, we read Read More »
“You can just follow me there.” I’m sure we have all had the experience of following someone in our car from one place to a final destination. We may not know where we are going, but trust the person to lead us around curves, through unexpected turns, racing through yellow lights to the destination. When we begin following Jesus we may not know where we are going, but we choose to follow wherever He leads us.
There came a time in Jesus’ life and ministry, when his dear friend, Lazarus, became very sick. Because of God’s purposes, however, Jesus did not go to him until after he died. Going to Bethany, where Lazarus and his two sisters lived, put Jesus right back in the vicinity of those who were most opposed to Him. In fact, His last visit to that area had ended with people ready to stone Him for blasphemy (John 10:31, 39).
Knowing these risks, Jesus went anyway. It was His disciples, however, that experienced the fear of this moment. Thomas – unfairly labeled only as a doubter – is the one who verbalizes both the fear, but also the faith of a follower:
“Then Thomas (also known as Didymus) said to the rest of the disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him.’ (John 11:16, NIV)
Even if Jesus was going to face death, Thomas wanted to follow Him. Regardless of the unknown elements of Read More »
Walking out of prison is not something you do. Even with all of the mystique of stories about prison escapes, when it comes right down to it, prisons are places you go to but don’t get out of by your own will or effort.
But what if someone sets you free?
In this fifth week of the ||40days|| journey we are looking at following Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel we read what appears to be an autobiographical account of Jesus calling Matthew to follow Him. Matthew is a tax collector for the Romans who, like most in his trade, was likely enriching himself at the expense of his own people. He was not liked by the Romans because he was a Jew, while at the same time he was not liked much by the Jews because he was seen a traitor and a thief. Matthew is caught up in a prison both of his own choices and his circumstances. It is at this point that we read about a very straightforward encounter between Jesus and Matthew:
As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. ‘Follow Me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him. (Matthew 9:9)
Sometimes the prisons that hold us are not physical but spiritual realities with personal and social impact. Read More »