All Or Nothing

I think that it is only fair to warn you in advance that God has been really beating me up about discipleship, commitment and what it truly means to be a disciple of Jesus.  I don’t like it – being beaten up, that is.  I don’t like the things the Lord says about what it takes to be His follower.  While I can wish he’d not said such things, I can’t deny the fact that He said them.  So, in the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing some thoughts on occasion about what Jesus said on this vitally important topic.

A missionary went to a remote, desperately poverty-ridden area in West Africa. While there, he appealed for those who were present to join in support of Christian work throughout the area and encouraged them to give whatever they could toward the construction of a building which would serve as a medical clinic and a place of worship.  Approximately two hours after the worship service concluded, a young woman came to the missionary and handed him $40 for the building project.  The missionary was stunned.  Where on earth, he wondered, did this woman come up with such a large sum of money in a region afflicted by painfully forbidding circumstances?  Confounded, he asked her as politely as he could where she’d gotten that much money.  She told him that she had gone to a wealthy planter and sold herself into his service for the rest of her life.

Let me be real clear about what I just said: she had sold herself into the service of a landowner until the day she died.  Why?  This was her way of giving herself into the service of Jesus Christ.  Not partially, but totally.

We live in a country where we can practice our faith cheaply.  We live in a country where we risk virtually nothing as disciples of Jesus.  But are we truly his followers?  Oh, I know how easy it is to say “I want to follow you, Jesus.  I want to be your disciple.”  Why is it easy to say that?  Because it costs us nothing to say it.  We don’t value things that come easily, cheaply or free.  We value things when we have to pay a large sum for it.  Think about it: if you were to purchase a disposable camera for $10 or a Nikon D3 for $2000, which do you think you would value most?  The Nikon, surely.  Why?  Because it cost you something.

Discipleship is the same way.  We don’t treasure it and cherish it very much in America because we don’t have to pay anything for our faith.  But Jesus is blatantly clear about what it means to be his disciple.  Here’s just one such passage: So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. – Luke 14:33  With Jesus, discipleship is an all or nothing deal…either “Yes” or “No.”  There is no third choice.

 

"You are either for me, or against me." - Jesus

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Jesus was talking only to those in the first century, or to his immediate 12 disciples when he said that.  Read the verse again: So therefore, ANY ONE OF YOU…cannot be my disciple.

 

What have you given up to be His disciple?  What are you willing to give up?

PRAYER: Jesus, your words about what it means to be your disciple are extremely challenging and frightening.  I want discipleship to be easy and painless.  I don’t want to hurt, I don’t want to have to pay a great price to follow you.  But I can’t ignore your words.  Give us the courage we need through Your Spirit to grow in discipleship and commitment – no matter the cost.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

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Sometimes It Is Enough

Karen Spears Zacharias is a gifted writer and bloggess who challenges my thinking frequently.  In one recent blog, she talked about how we can often get frustrated with what we are able to accomplish, or with what we could not achieve.  I thought her reflections were worth sharing with you.  The background to this blog post described her encounter with a young woman who was walking with groceries through a torrential downpour – getting soaked to the bone.  Karen’s first reaction was not to help…but she felt convicted that she was to help this young woman get home.  After hearing the woman’s story, Zacharias felt frustrated that she couldn’t do more to help this woman with her many struggles and challenges.  She expressed her frustration at not being able to do more – and the young woman replied that what she’d done was enough.  Here’s what she had to say about her thoughts after that conversation:

“Of course, I meant more — how could I be of more help?

“Those of us who follow the promptings are often too hard on ourselves.  I know my friend Hugh gets frustrated that he can’t do more for his homeless friends.  My husband is one of the best people I know and he’s hard on himself. After nearly 30 years of teaching and coaching, he frets that he hasn’t done anything really important in life.

“Veterans who survive the war are hard on themselves. They live their lives in service to others, trying to find a way to apologize for making it through the war that killed their buddies.

 

The Burden

“Pastors are hard on themselves. It’s not enough to pray and prepare, now they have to have a brand, be market savvy, have an online presence, if they expect to grow a community. And once they get that community grown? Then what? How can they possibly manage to shepherd so many?

 

“Moms and dads are hard on themselves. It’s not enough to nurture a child. Now you have to push them to excel in everything because, well, left to be children, they will undoubtedly turn out to be slothful and homeless.

“Life’s hard.  It rains on the person walking and the person with a car.  We should look each other in the eye more often and acknowledge that sometimes the good we do is enough.  For now.”

We cannot solve all the world’s problems.  We shouldn’t feel that we have to in order to be pleasing to God.  He knows we can’t solve them all – and He doesn’t ask us to.  Many of the world’s problems require a God-sized solution that only He can, and will, one day provide.  While we shouldn’t be so kicked-back that we don’t try to solve the problems we can, we should realize our limitations as humans, pray for God’s direct intervention to fix what we cannot, and realize that even a cup of cold water is a blessing – and it helps.

Here’s the direct link to Zacharias’ account of her encounter with the young girl: http://www.patheos.com/community/karenspearszacharias/2011/01/18/when-the-good-we-do-is-enough/

PRAYER: Help us be aware of our limitations, but also to know that “With God all things are possible” and that we can do “all things through Christ Jesus who strengthens us.”  Give us willing hearts, eager to help those in need.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

Life As An Image Bearer

John Ortberg (writing for Leadership.com, I believe) made the following observations:  “In ancient Mesopotamian culture, only kings were made in the image of a powerful god; peasants were actually thought to be made by inferior Gods. This is what the writer of Genesis challenges: Then God said, “let us make human beings in our image; in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish…”  So God created human beings in his own image, In the image of God he created them; Male and female he created them. Genesis 1:26-27

 

We are reflections of His image...

“This is single most world-changing truth about human dignity and equality ever recorded.  Imagine what it did to the heart of peasants and slaves when they heard that not just kings but EVERY human being was made in the divine image.

 

“What if there was a community where everybody treated everybody else as if they were a king? Nobody on top; nobody on bottom?

“This is why low self esteem is so painful-you were made to experience life as an image-bearer.  This is why the mis-treatment of another human being is so serious. This is why justice can never be separated from the gospel.

“The fact that you were made in the image of God tells you not just about your worth, but also about your destiny. The main point of ‘image of God’ language in scripture is not about some ability or trait we share with God, its about the mission He has given us.

“In ancient times, there was no media or internet; the king would set up an image (TSELEM) of himself in every corner of his empire so people would know whose kingdom they were in. (Kind of like politicians now put their picture in post offices).

“Genesis is saying that just as a king would place images of himself around so people would know who was ruling, ‘So God has placed his own image, human beings, into his world so that the world can see who its ruler is.’ N. T. Wright

“God’s plan was to graciously share His power through Spirit-breathed little dust bunnies.

“Through our learning, our work, our culture, our relationships, technology, the arts, medicine; we are with humility to add goodness and beauty to families and societies and creation so that God’s whole project becomes a glorious delight to all who see it.”

Dust bunnies?  Yes, when compared to God Almighty, we are of no more significance than dust bunnies are to us as humans.  Yet the Everlasting God has breathed His Spirit into us, stamping His image on all believers so that the world will know whose world this is and give Him glory.

PRAYER: Thank You for creating us to be walking, talking exhibits of Who You are.  Help us to live up to that challenge, and for those struggling with who and what they are, help them to be blessed by knowing Your image is stamped deep in them.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

On Bearing Crosses

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” – Matthew 16:24

 

On Bearing Crosses

Ben Witherington recently had an interesting blog post about these words of Jesus.   He said some things we need to consider:

 

“All too often, Christians confuse ordinary suffering with cross-bearing.   Your physical pain or suffering may well be your thorn in the flesh, but it’s not ‘your cross to bear’.  Cross-bearing as a metaphor for discipleship to Jesus has to do with a deliberately chosen course of life, not something that simply happens to you.   The second thing to be said about cross-bearing is that Jesus does not call us to bear his cross, rather he talks about picking up our own crosses, and carrying them.

“Among other things, this means that there is no room for Christians developing messiah complexes as if they could save the world, perhaps through dying a spectacular death.  No, while it is true that Jesus told his followers that they might well have to give up their lives for their allegiance to him, and not just their possessions or their families, cross-bearing for the Christian is something rather different than what happened to Jesus somewhere around 30 CE.   That was a one time event, but as Luke stresses, the disciple is called to take up their cross daily and follow Jesus.

“What this likely means is a daily commitment to present one’s self to God as a living sacrifice, a daily commitment to live a Christ-like, self-sacrificial life.   And make no mistake about it, Jesus and Luke as well emphasis how hard this is to do.  Indeed, they suggest that it is impossible, except by the grace of God and the help of God’s Spirit.  It’s not a natural normal human thing to do.  It requires divine help.

“Some preachers have thought that the way to get more people into the pews is by making it easy— Gospel lite— less filling, tastes great.    In fact Jesus suggests just the opposite.  He takes the approach of the Marines.   He tells one and all, it’s going to be hard to follow, hard to live up to his demands, indeed it may even lead to one’s demise and then he exhorts his audience—-‘whose up the challenge’?   Interestingly, cheap grace apparently is not the way of getting more people to be devoted disciples.   So what’s the secret?    Jim Elliot, a modern martyr who lost his life trying to reach South American Auca Indians for Christ, put it this— “he is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep (i.e. this life), to gain what he cannot lose (everlasting life.”    Dietrich Bonhoeffer suggested the same when he said that when Christ calls a person, in principle he calls him to come and die and indeed Bonhoeffer paid for his convictions with his life.  In other words,  when you realize this life is not the be all or end all of existence, you can sit more lightly with it,  take more risks for Christ with it,  be less self-protective or self-indulgent.   Following Christ will get you somewhere alright, and it’s not where the self-help gurus tell you you should go.

“In reflecting on this very portion of Luke (as well as other Scriptures), Martin Luther wrote the great hymn of the Reformation entitled,  ‘Ein Feste Burg’  or as we know it ‘A Mighty Fortress is our God’.    The line which should ring a bell after reading Luke 14 carefully is ‘let goods and kindred go/ this mortal life also/the body they may kill/God’s truth abideth still. His Kingdom is forever.’”  (The link to Witherington’s blog is here: http://www.patheos.com/community/bibleandculture/)

I am convinced that though many churches are facing financial difficulties, the real problem in the church today isn’t financial.  It is a problem of commitment, of hearts that know little of what obedience to Christ means, of what it means to carry our cross daily and to follow Him!

PRAYER: Forgive me, Lord, for my own lack of commitment to You!  Help my commitment grow daily by the power of Your Spirit, that I may tack up my daily cross and carry it well.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

All Things New

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true. – Revelation 21:5

 

Behold, I make all things new...

Oh, how I cherish this promise of Jesus!  Of all the promises in Scripture, this one lifts my heart perhaps the most.

 

Most of the time when I think about Jesus making all things new, I think of things like this planet, of the universe being set free from the existing laws of thermodynamics with its inevitable demise.  I think of the polluted rivers and streams and lakes and oceans.  I think of the erosion that has scarred much of the earth.  I think of the hunger and homelessness of billions on this planet and my heart breaks for them.  I recall the faces of those I met in Haiti who will never have much of anything in this life – and how I wish there were some quick and easy answer for them.  I think of the wars, killings, genocide, diseases.  I think of hatred, racism, of death and dying.  I think of dead bodies being raised in glory as immortal beings who will reflect God’s glory forever.

But I think I’ve missed the most important thing of all with my musings about what will be made new.  You know what I long for?  It will be great to have a new body that won’t age or die, but what I/we most need is not new rivers, forests or mountains.  What we need the most are new hearts.  Jesus will make that new, too.  And I think that will be one of the most wonderful new things that there could ever be!  We need new hearts.  Scripture is clear that the imaginations of our hearts are continuously evil and selfish (Genesis 6:5).  Won’t it be awesome when the imaginations of our heart only dance with that which is pure, holy, righteous, loving, compassionate and kind?

PRAYER: Even now, Lord, cleanse our hearts and begin the process of giving us hearts of love, not hearts of stone!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

 

Growing Smaller

The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease. – John 3:29-30, ESV

He must increase; I must decrease. - John

I have always admired John for his humility.  He, like us, was a human being who is prone to self-aggrandizement and self-glory.  He could have been more interested in self-promotion than self-abasement.  But, he wasn’t.  One would think that when confronted in the flesh by the very Son of God that one would be as humble as possible, but that wasn’t the case with most of the people who dealt with Jesus during his Incarnation.  They were still proud of their righteousness – and did not feel as if they needed him.

There is an interesting phenomenon that I am observing as I grow older.  I find myself agreeing more and more with John’s statement: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  (I don’t say that out of pride, but out of necessity because it is true!)  When I was younger, I thought, like most young folks, that I was pretty hot stuff.  I was self-confident, very independent, didn’t want to accept help from anyone for anything, thought I had life figured out and that I could plot my own course on this earth.  Perhaps the reason that I now see myself growing smaller (and I don’t mean just the shrinkage from the compression of the spine!) is because I no longer have that confidence, I recognize much better my dependency on Him, I need His help desperately, I’ve got nothing figured out except for my lack of having things figured out and my course is not controlled by me.  Perhaps it isn’t so much that I’m growing smaller (decreasing) – it may just be that the closer I get to the end of this life’s journey He looms ever larger on the horizon with each passing day.

The reality we come face to face with as we get older is not just the shocking reality that we are mortal and approaching our demise, but that we will stand before Him face to face.

It seems to me that we would all do well to decrease so that He may increase in our awareness, devotion and commitment.

PRAYER: Jesus, I pray that as each remaining day of my life passes that You will be even nearer and dearer to me at all times!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>

The Power of Example

Many years ago in Missouri, a minister of the gospel made a very bad mistake in moral judgment that came back years later to haunt him and to hurt many others.  Through a combination of trickery, conniving, and scheming, the minister stole a man’s dog.  That was bad enough all by itself, but to make matters worse, the minister involved his two little boys in the deception and theft.  After the dog had been stolen, the two little boys helped their dad disguise the dog so the rightful owner could not recognize or claim him. The boys thought it was fun and they enjoyed the trickery and plotting.  The boys thought it was great fun to take away the man’s dog.

Some years later, the minister came to a realization of the effect of that one deceitful act.  He had taught his sons how to steal and in doing so, he helped turn them away from the Christ-like spirit of love, kindness, goodness and respect for others.  And he reportedly said, regretfully: “It was a terrible mistake on my part.  I was able to keep the dog, but I lost my sons.”

The names of those two little boys were Frank and Jesse James and they grew up to become two of the most notorious outlaws and robbers of the old West. Their minister father never forgave himself.

This true example is dramatic but it is true, so true, that our children (and others!) do indeed watch us closely and learn so much from what we do.  Not just our children – but other adults watch us to.  What are they learning from watching you?

Everyone is setting an example...is yours a good one?

PRAYER: Keep us from deceit, from setting bad examples that others might see that would lead them from following you!  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Copyright by 2011 by Galen C. Dalrymple.  ><}}}”>