Friday, March 29, 2013

Follow Me

Recently I've been pondering the way Jesus called his disciples.  He walked up to a couple of guys fixing their fishing nets by the shore of the Sea of Galilee and said, "Follow me."  That's all it took for them to drop everything they were doing and start walking with Jesus.  Surely they'd heard what John the Baptist had been preaching in the desert, so maybe they were curious to see if Jesus was the real thing.  Or I wonder if there was just something magnetic about Jesus that these men were immediately drawn to.  Surely there was something different about this man who was truly God incarnate.

But the thing that has really been making me thinking lately is how the disciples Jesus called didn't already have a full understanding of who he was before they began following him.  Jesus didn't have some list of pre-requisite beliefs that these men had to have before they could be his disciples.  All he asked was that they follow him; he would teach them the rest.  He would live life with them and show himself to be the Son of God through his very life.  What an incredible lesson that would have been!

In some ways I've had my thinking backwards.  For so long I've thought that to be a follower of Jesus you had to have it all figured out.  But God has been reminding me that when I first started following Christ I couldn't have given you a clear statement of theology or even fully explained why I believed what I believed.  All I knew was that Jesus was calling my heart to follow him.  Jesus says, "Follow me."  He doesn't say, "Figure out you theology and then you can follow me."  This is the beautiful thing about the gospel; we don't have to fully understand everything about Jesus to follow him.  Our lives don't have to be perfect, because as we grow in our relationship with Christ we will begin to reflect his perfection.

Jesus also doesn't say, "Get rid of all that baggage in your life first before you follow me."  Instead, he tells us that we can hand it all over to him.  He says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." (Matt. 11:28)  I find myself breathing a sigh of relief every time I revisit this truth.  It's a very freeing thing to realize that we have nothing to bring to the table when it comes to meeting God.  All we have to offer is our sinful lives, but Jesus takes it all and transforms it into something wonderful.  He gives us a new heart and a new spirit; he gives us the ability to stand before the God of the universe and not be guilty of our messed up lives.

The other thing I love about this verse is that Jesus says, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."  He's telling his disciples that he will so transform their lives that they will be able to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth.  What an amazing truth!  I get really caught up in thinking that being a witness for Christ is about what I do, but it has nothing to do with me at all.  It's about what he does through me.  Jesus will teach us and mold us more and more into the image of God, and our only job is to be obedient.  

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Cup Overflowing

Have you ever heard people talk about "dangerous prayers?"  You know, like asking God for patience or humility?  God always seems to answer these prayers with a swiftness that might knock you on your face.  Not that this is always a bad thing.  Often what we need is for God to use our circumstances to bring us back into alignment with his will.  But this isn't a post about dangerous prayers.  It's about how God has (yet again) shown himself to be a Great Provider.

For a couple of months after we returned from "The Year of the Suitcase" I felt like I was walking through a spiritual desert.  I didn't feel God's presence as strongly as I had while we were on the mission field, and I was seriously lacking in motivation to approach God in prayer or through the Word.    This wasn't a new experience for me, but it was difficult after feeling so close to God while we were overseas.  Not a place where I wanted to stay spiritually!

I started praying that God would give me a thirst for His Word and presence, and this was one of those prayers that He answered in a big way.  Psalm 42:1 was constantly on my lips, "As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you O God."  And Psalm 1:2-3, which says, "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither."  Honestly I was starting to feel like a shriveled up plant, and I desperately needed God to restore my soul.

I've written a lot about my need for community, and I believe God answered these prayers by surrounding me with other people who are totally in love with Jesus who could encourage me and point me back to Truth.  I can't put my finger on exactly when my heart started to change, but over time I developed a deep longing for God.  I would ask Patrick to read scripture to me out loud and it really did feel like my shriveled-up-plant of a self was being watered.  David's words in Psalm 51 were coming alive to me; "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

These days I wouldn't describe myself as a shriveled plant but rather a cup that's overflowing with blessings from God.  You know that fuzzy feeling you get when you haven't had enough water?  I used to feel as though there a piece of gauze wedged in my brain making it hard to think straight.  But drinking in God's presence removes the gauze, and it's as though I can see Him clearer again.

Last year I wrote about the flow of grace, and how when God pours out his Spirit into our lives we can't help but pour into the lives of others'.  That's my prayer during this time of refreshment; that God would so overwhelm me with his very presence that I can't help but share his love with other people!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Perfect Fit

A few weeks ago our community group had a "family dinner," which we do every so often as a way of just hanging out for the evening with no set agenda.  It's nice to just be together sometimes.  Our most recent gathering had a food theme of "Things that Remind You of Home", and our clothing theme was "Goodwill."  Everyone truly went all out with their food dishes, and I'm bummed that I didn't take a picture of the amazing spread.  We all were equally intense with our clothing selection...
The picture really doesn't capture the hilarity of our clothing.

Earlier in the week Patrick went to the Goodwill and found a pair of pants that were a size 60.  Adding to his luck he then came across a 5XL shirt.  The only appropriate thing for us to do was to see if we could both fit into the outfit at the same time.  Sure enough, it was a perfect fit.  Haha!
I know it's blurry, but you get the idea.
All the ladies (and Andrew being creepy in the background)
Yet again I was reminded of just how blessed we are to be in such an incredible community of believers.  We have seen over and over again in our lives just how important it is to be surrounded by a fellowship of friends who are pursuing Jesus alongside us!  I can't even begin to tell you how thankful I am for our community group!