A Simple Life

photo-1510333337682-fdd0eba357a4 Robert Nyman UnsplashI attended a women’s conference a few weeks back. I had my notebook ready, and captured all sorts of wise words and valuable lessons. One stood out from all the rest.

“Someone asked the question, ‘What are you doing with your life?’
The answer I heard was, ‘I’m following Jesus. How about you?’”

Is life really that simple?

Yes, I think it is. My college chaplain used to say, “Few things are necessary, really only one.” (More about that here.) Our one thing is following Christ. Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. In order to follow Jesus, we have to see where he’s leading us. That requires time and effort and a good deal of going against the flow of our culture. It takes:

Knowing him: spending time in prayer, taking time to read the Bible, immersing ourselves in teaching about who he is and what his will looks like.

Listening to him: limiting distractions that crowd out his still small voice with clamor and confusion, asking him to speak and looking for his leading.

Opening ourselves to others: letting true fellowship take the role of godly counsel at times when we aren’t sure what following Jesus looks like.

Stepping out in faith and courage: taking action in some situations, while waiting patiently in others. When we don’t yet know the path that’s right, and can’t keep waiting to make a decision, we have to seek our Lord’s will and trust that, as we step out in faith, he will keep us going in the right direction. When we do know what following Jesus looks like in a particular circumstance, we still need the strength or courage to follow through.

But at its core, the life we’re meant to lead is one of simply following Jesus. When I’m discouraged or confused, I take comfort in the fact that Jesus wants me to follow him. And he knows I want to do just that. My prayers for guidance are absolutely 100% within his will, and 1 John 5:14-15 says, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

Photo by Robert Nyman via Unsplash.com

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Be Careful of Your Calling

 

photo-1533154613417-407cfcf6abb2 king castle jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash

Years ago, I saw a movie called “The Man Who Would Be King.” It was based on a story by Rudyard Kipling and, as I recall, (spoiler alert) things didn’t turn out well for the men who sought royalty. Many of us, at one time or another, have dreamed of a fiefdom, a castle, or eight-year rights to Air Force One. The book of Judges provides a different perspective on high positions, though. It says,

“One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’

“But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’

“Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’

“But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’” (Judges 9: 8-13),

God made some to be rulers, yes, but he made many of us for humbler tasks, just as he made the olive tree for oil, the fig tree for sweet fruit and the vine for wine.

Do you ever look at your life and find it lacking some element of grandeur you expected in your youth? Perhaps you’ve missed your calling. More likely, though, you’ve simply honed your calling and, hopefully, come to see the importance of simple tasks. We each need to ask ourselves only this question:

“Am I doing what I believe God would have me do right now, today, living the way he has called me to live?”

If your answer is yes, press on, knowing that you are giving glory to the King of Kings. (None of us were ever meant to heap up glory for ourselves anyway.) If, on the other hand, your soul searching leads you to believe you have sidestepped your calling, please don’t look back. Instead, look forward, asking God how he would have you proceed as you re-commit yourself to following him.

And if you’re willing, let me know your calling and commitment. I will pray for your strength, your courage, and your direction.

 

Photo by  jonny caspari @jonnycpic via Unsplash.

Bother to Obey?

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Why, when it can be so hard, do we bother to obey the Lord? This (with a good bit of editing and updating) is the answer Hannah Whitall Smith gave over 100 years ago:

“When we choose obedience, we bring joy to our Lord as well. Our deep love for him is perfectly reasonable, but the fact that he loves us so deeply is truly amazing! What does ‘loving him back’ look like? For one thing, it looks like obedience. Jesus told his disciples that the first and greatest commandment is to ‘love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). That commandment leads us to ask ourselves:

  • Will we make him our greatest love?
  • Will we follow him, even when there’s no apparent reward, even if following him leads to a life of separateness or suffering?
  • Will we let him have complete control of all we are and all we have?
  • And what if our Christian friends don’t agree with our level of devotion?

“Say, ‘Yes, Lord, yes!’ to each of these questions. Pour out all your devotion on our Lord. Give him your enthusiastic surrender, even if it upsets some of the more moderate Christians around you. Why should you care if some don’t understand your choice? An intimate friendship with Christ is both your duty and your joy. When Christ makes his ways known to us, we have the great privilege of walking in them.

“Your whole-hearted devotion is precious to the Lord. Perhaps others don’t approve, but he does, and that’s enough. Don’t hold back. Lay your whole life open to him and say each morning, ‘Lord, help me to live this day in a way that pleases you. Give me spiritual insight to discover your will. Guide my every step.’ Don’t let a day, or even an hour, go by in which you aren’t consciously following him.”

I’ve loved Hannah’s words for years. They challenge and console me. How do they strike you today?

 

Photo by Jon Tyson via Unsplash.com

Ambassadors

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I wonder what it would be like to be an ambassador to some foreign place. I suppose at times I’d feel quite important, having been commissioned as an official representative by the leaders of my country. Other times, I expect I’d feel a bit lonely and lost, living in a place that wasn’t my home. Above all, I think I’d carry with me a sense of great responsibility, wondering who was listening, watching and assuming that my daily choices were typical of my countrymen.

The Apostle Paul considered himself to be Christ’s ambassador even when he was in jail. And in 2 Corinthians 5:20, he commissioned us, saying, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

This is an important calling! It’s issued not by leaders of our country, but by the Creator of our universe via his servant and messenger, Paul. Our ambassadorship isn’t an option. We represent Christ, every day, wherever we go and in whatever we’re doing—or not doing, “as though God were making his appeal through us.” God speaking through us is a heady thought.  How do we react to disappointment or mistreatment? What do we do with our spare time? What do our facial expressions convey when we don’t think anyone is watching?

Do you ever feel a bit lonely or lost in this world? A bit out of place? That’s to be expected, and Paul tells us how to handle it—be reconciled to God. It’s only through a closer walk with the Lord who loves us that we can fulfill our calling. When we’re trusting him in all things, we can get through the muck and mire that the world tends to dish out. Our response to trouble ought to be an immediate cry to our Lord for perspective, protection and direction—as long as we’re reconciled to him. If we’ve allowed our relationship to grow cold, to be walled off—perhaps by sin or selfishness—it’s easy to forget that he’s right there ready to help.

Most of us will never be asked to go live in some foreign place and represent our country. We’ve been commissioned, though, to an even greater calling. When you head out today, imagine yourself wearing the badge of a diplomat. (Okay, maybe they don’t wear badges, but you get my drift.)

Let your light so shine!

 

(Photo from Pixabay)

No Bones About It (by Beth Smith)

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Have you heard these expressions?

  • “Man! I am bone tired today.”
  • “I can feel it in my bones.”
  • “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” (Uh, oh, that usually starts an argument.)

King David mentioned his bones in the Bible: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2).

When confessing his sins to God, David referred to his bones again: “When I kept silent (before I confessed) my bones wasted away through my groanings all day long” (Psalm 32:3 AMP). When he was restored, he expressed his gratitude by saying, “With every bone in my body I will praise him: ‘Lord, who can compare with you?’”(Psalm 35:10 NLT).

Let’s think about how to have healthy bones in a scriptural sense. David has already given us one way: we confess our sins and then let God forgive and cleanse us.

Here’s another daily requirement for our bones. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3: 6-8).

A third necessity for healthy bones is found in Proverbs 17:22. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If we don’t want dry bones, we need a cheerful heart. How do we get one?

  • Rely on the Lord for help, and be confident in him.
  • Live by the wisdom found in God’s Word.
  • Be kind and merciful to the poor.
  • Reverently worship the Lord.
  • And follow these wise words of Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

We want to keep our bones healthy, and we don’t want to be boneheads. So let’s get some back bone and bone up on God’s Word. Let’s confess our sins and let God cleanse us. Let’s trust God and keep our confidence in him alone. Let’s seek a happy heart. We can do it! The Bible tells us so!

Faith and Presumption

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I was staying at my parents’ condo a few weeks ago and borrowed my mom’s Bible. She writes in the margins, making her Bible all the more precious and insightful. Here is the passage I was reading from Matthew 14:25-33. (Underlining mine.)

Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Here is the note Mom had penned in the margin: “Peter knew he could not walk on the water unless Jesus told him to.”

Peter asked Jesus to call him out onto the water, and then he waited for Christ’s command. We can, in our own pride and presumption, begin to consider ourselves to be in charge of—responsible for—far too much. Our God is an awesome God, ready to help us accomplish great things, but not all things. We are wise to seek his will and keep our efforts within his calling.

Secondly, if we doubt or fail, all is not lost. Yes, Peter sank. But he also walked. And he was still brought back into the boat by the Lord.

What are you considering this week? Pray. Seek the counsel of a good friend and of the Bible and of God’s still small voice. Don’t take on some challenge just because it is there. It may be meant for another. But, if you are convinced that God is calling you to some task, step out of the boat! Our Lord won’t let you drown.