Leave It!

20181110_115916.jpgMy dog, bless her little heart, is afraid of everything. It’s not her fault, it’s the nature of her breed! She’s grown braver in many areas, but still runs and hides at loud noises (like when we put wood in the wood stove), or barks at unknown objects (like branches that fall in the back yard).

She’s very smart, and learns new tricks quickly, wanting just to make me happy! One command she learned relatively easily was “Leave It.”

One way to train a dog to follow this command is using yummy treats. You first give them a high-value treat that they really like. Then you tell them to “leave it” while offering them a new, way-over-the-top, exciting, super-high value treat in exchange for what you’re asking them to drop. For a dog, it’s really a no-brainer. Obviously they’ll take a piece of real chicken over a dry biscuit!! (My dog’s very favorite treat in the world is dehydrated chicken. No packaged treats even come close. It’s a good thing we’ve got a dehydrator, and chicken is always on sale!!)

Today is December 5, so today’s reading is Luke 5.

Leave It!

There are two examples in the same chapter of people who left everything they knew in order to follow Jesus.

  • Simon, James and John left their two boatloads full of fish and their fishing nets–their very livelihood, and followed Jesus after He said, “Don’t be afraid! From now on you’ll be fishing for people!” (verse 10 NLT).
  • Levi the tax collector left his booth, everything in it, and his career when Jesus told him, “Follow me and be my disciple” (verse 27).

Why did they leave everything behind? They knew they had found a more valuable investment for their time and their very lives. They were perfect examples of Jesus’s parables found in Matthew:

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a treasure that a man discovered hidden in a field. In his excitement, he hid it again and sold everything he owned to get enough money to buy the field.

Again, the Kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant on the lookout for choice pearls. When he discovered a pearl of great value, he sold everything he owned and bought it!” (Matthew 13:44-46).

Jesus calls us today, asking us to leave things behind in order to follow him wholeheartedly. It may not be a career, but it most likely involves abandoning selfishness, greed, malicious behavior and things of the like that are tied to our race to get ahead in this world. That’s not the race we’re called to.

No matter what our chosen profession, in or out of the church, we are all called to be ministers of the gospel. We are all called to be servants of our Master, Jesus Christ, shining his light in the darkness around us.

What is Christ asking you to leave behind today in order to follow him more closely? Leave it! It’s a small trade-off for the treasure you’ll find in him. 

Old Timers

Once we’ve been followers of Christ for a while, it’s easy to become comfortable with our walk. We like things the way they are, and don’t really want anything to change. We’re not all that interested in spiritual growth anymore, because it’s uncomfortable! We feel like we’ve already left everything, so we’ve reached what we think is an acceptable point of relaxing. There’s no more running the race; we’re content to sit on the sidelines and watch others run. But the writer of Hebrews encourages us,

“. . . let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith . . .” (Hebrews 12:1-2).

My friends, there is always more of ourselves to leave behind and more of Christ to pick up! We never reach full maturity, but we keep on toward that aim. Paul wrote,

“I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

If Paul hadn’t reached perfection, I’m pretty sure none of us has, either!

Luke 5 closes with a discussion on fasting (verses 33-39) that ties in with leaving the old behind. Jesus says that when He’s gone, his followers will fast (verse 35). For anyone who counts themselves as a follower of Christ now, how’s your fasting game? Are you in shape?

I have to say that I need a great deal more discipline in this area of my walk. Why? What’s the payoff? Growth. Clearer vision. Greater strength. Deeper insight.

Fasting helps us to see ourselves more clearly as we hear more clearly from our heavenly Father. We can see the grime that’s slowly been building up in our hearts that we need his help cleaning out and leaving behind.

Fasting helps us to see the difference in value between the temporal and the eternal, helping us to let go of the one in favor of the other.

If you’re satisfied with what you’ve achieved spiritually, then by all means take a seat. Cheer the rest of us on. But this passage spoke loud and clear to me this morning.

New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say” (Luke 5:38-39).

I’m not satisfied with the old wine of yesterday. I want to be filled with new wine for a new season!

New Wine by Hillsong (click to listen)

“‘Cause where there is new wine
There is new power
There is new freedom
And the kingdom is here
I lay down my old flames
To carry Your new fire today”

How is your race going, my friend? Is it time to add more discipline into your spiritual life in order to trade the old for the new? The payoff is so worth it!

 

Don’t Just Stand There, Dig Deeper!

I’ve been reading through the Psalms, and am scheduled to finish the book just in time to start my Christmas season in Luke on December 1. Imagine my wonder at my reading for today (the day before Thansgiving here in the U.S.), which included Psalm 136.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the God of gods.

His faithful love endures forever.

Give thanks to the Lord of lords.

His faithful love endures forever.” (NLT)

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Photo by Meghan Holmes on Unsplash

At first glance, it starts off very repetitively. And that’s how I read it for years, before I learned to dig a little deeper. I was using the kiddie plastic beach shovel, which is fine for a season.

But there’s so much more to be discovered in just these three verses than can be seen with just a cursory glance! Each of these stanzas reveals something different about our God by using a different name for him.

Verse 1: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!

His faithful love endures forever.”

This tells us that Yahweh is good. He is good through and through, and this goodness is expressed through his never-ending love. When you read “LORD” in your Bible, it is referencing God’s name. What do people call you? They call me Lauri. That’s my name. Yahweh is God’s name.

Not only is Yahweh the proper name of God, Yahweh also expresses his character. When this name is used in scripture, it emphasizes God’s righteousness. Because He is righteous, He must judge evil, and requires us to live good, righteous, godly lives before him.*

Although He judges sin, He makes the sinner righteous for his name’s sake in the world. And that’s where we see his unfailing love and goodness shine through. Because we could never live up to his righteous, holy, perfect standard, He sent his Son to take the punishment we deserve. For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

One day we will all stand before the judgment seat, and give an account for what we’ve done here on earth. Have you accepted Christ’s gift of forgiveness for all of the ways you fall short, and for what you could never do on your own? It’s a free gift! All you have to do is accept it.

Verse 2: “Give thanks to the God of gods.

His faithful love endures forever.”

There is in the heart of mankind a need to worship something. If we don’t know Yahweh, we may end up creating a god so that we meet the need to bow before something. Throughout human history, man has created countless gods, or worshiped things God created, like the sun, moon, or stars. But these “gods” are far-off imagined-powers that are not personal. Since they’re not real, they’re not involved in our lives, either!

But God is all of these: real, personal, and involved. When you read “God” in scripture, it refers to our Covenant Creator. He made us, and he stands in a covenant relationship with us, his creation. No matter how often we fall and fail, He will never abandon us. He works in us and with us, through his grace, to restore and save us from the enemy of our souls.* Now that’s faithful love!

Take time today to recognize all of the ways God is at work in your life. How have you grown in your knowledge of the love of Christ since you’ve come to know him? How has God worked all things for the good in your life so far? Don’t worry, there’s still more good coming…

Verse 3: Give thanks to the Lord of lords.

His faithful love endures forever.”

There are many rulers in this world, with many different authority levels. Even rulers of countries have their own pecking order. Who’s got the most money? Who’s more powerful? No matter where each thinks they stand, there is One who stands above every one of them. Adonai, the Lord of lords, is master and commander of all.

“Lord” in scripture means just that. We don’t call anyone “Lord” anymore, but it means master and owner. God created this world and everything in it, so He owns it all! We’re just managers of it. We are his servants, and He’s in charge. We may think the world is going down the tubes, but we can only see a speck of the master timeline. Don’t lose sight of the fact that the Lord is in charge, and has got it all under control! We will see how it all comes together in the end, when good is rewarded and evil is judged.

If you are a follower of Christ, you are a servant of the Lord. As his servant, you are called to submit to his orders. In return, He cares for you, provides for you, and protects you. Doesn’t that sound a bit like love to you?

How are you doing in the submission department? Our lives are not our own anyway, so we should not be trying to run them with our own agenda. What’s is God’s agenda for your life? Are you lining up with what He’s calling you to do?

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Photo by Luísa Schetinger on Unsplash

Now dig deeper with your grown-up shovel, and look at how the end of Psalm 136 lines up with the beginning. Can you see how these verses apply to the different names of God used earlier?

LORD: “He remembered us in our weakness.

His faithful love endures forever.” (verse 23)

God: “He saved us from our enemies.

His faithful love endures forever.” (verse 24)

Lord: “He gives food to every living thing.

His faithful love endures forever.” (verse 25)

I’d say there’s a lot to thank God for in just this one Psalm, wouldn’t you? Enjoy Rend Collective’s Counting Every Blessing, and have a Happy Thanksgiving even if you don’t live in the U.S.!!

 


*For more on these names and character traits, read The Names of God by Andrew Jukes. (I won’t get a penny if you order it, just sharing a resource!)