Following the leader

“We’ll follow the old man wherever he wants to go as

long as he wants to go, opposite to the foe…”

The slam bang finish, The song on White Christmas just before the enemy planes fly over and disrupt the party. They joke in the song about following the general as long as it’s easy. But the next few minutes of the movie shows the real story. They followed orders even into danger and death.

Following generals into battle. Many people have done it and died for their loyalty and obedience.

Following Jesus has its own risks and rewards. Matthew 8 has a story about that.

“The Cost of Following Jesus

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19 Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

21 Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”’

Jesus is my general. I am following him. So far in my life following has not cost me much. I have a warm house on a cold night. He has provided a job for an income. There may be a day when Jesus asks me to step away from my comforts and follow. Many Christians around the world are living without the comforts I have now and yet they follow Jesus our leader.

Thank you Jesus for the comforts you have given me. Help me to continue to choose to follow you even when the choices get difficult. Help me help others with the bounty you have given me.

The masters healing touch

I want to be touched by Jesus.

It’s the next story in Matthew 8 that make me wish Jesus was still physically here on earth. I want To be touched and immediately changed by Him. There are people in my life that I want to be healed. I long for that. Change in my life life is slow , like turning around an ocean liner.

“14 When Jesus came into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed with a fever. 15 He touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and began to wait on him.

16 When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. 17 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“He took up our infirmities

and bore our diseases.”[b]”

Jesus healed everyone from everything, every sickness he encountered, he healed the person. “He healed all the sick”.

I am not sick. Wait, I do have diabetes. It’s one of those illnesses that’s always there but it slips my mind because there is no cure, just management. So I am sick. But if Jesus were here on earth, sitting in a room I would take my wife and my grandsons Liam and Jonah and Clive to him and ask him to heal them.

As it is now Jesus is in heaven preparing a place for us. He sent his Holy Spirit to be here with us, to live in us when we have given our lives to him. He is still at work here, healing happens but not for every one or everyone.

We continue to ask for healing, Believing that God is still in that business. I miss and long for the touch of my master that heals and sets free.

Jesus please touch and heal Mary and Liam and Jonah and Clive.

The centurion

Do I believe in Jesus? How much do I believe in him? To What lengths will my faith take me?

Matthew 8 tells the story of a Roman centurion who not only believed in Jesus but had an excellent grasp of Jesus power and authority and mission.

“5 When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. 6 “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.”

7 Jesus said to him, “Shall I come and heal him?”

8 The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9 For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, “Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. 11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12 But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

13 Then Jesus said to the centurion, “Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.” And his servant was healed at that moment.”

I admire this soldiers faith.

When I ask God for something can I just walk away trusting God to answer my prayers in the best possible way? Or do immediately start working on plan B?

How much does that say about what I believe to be true about God? Does he know my situation? Does he care? Can he act? Will he act? Does he love me? Does he have a good plan for me? For us? For all of us humans?

So I go back a few verses and reread and review.

“7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

9 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12 So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”

Father God forgive my lack of faith. I want to be more like the centurion. Show me who you are. As I understand who you are let my faith grow. Help my faith grow. Lead me and my family. Even now I’m second guessing my request for building my faith, fearing what tests you will bring to me. Are you a Father who loves me? Show me your love and make my faith in you more like the centurion.

New wine

In the fall of my 5th grade year I got the mumps. Mom and dad both worked full time so I stayed home alone for a week. I had a children’s bible that had been given to me by my God parents, Mr & Mrs H. H. Rieky. (I’m probably spelling that wrong). I read it. I read the entire Old Testament and the gospels and acts. I tried reading the Epistles but got bogged down when there was more words than pictures.

My home life wasn’t perfect. My dad would drink, then get angry. My parents would fight. My dad has bought into the Playboy philosophy and had his stack of Playboy magazines in the living room, available anytime. I wanted a way to make my life and my home better.

At the back of the Bible was a sinners prayer, a place to confess your sin and receive forgiveness, accept Jesus as Lord and savior. I did that. And waited. Nothing changed. My dads stack of Playboys didn’t go away, mom and dad still fought, my dad still drank and got angry.

I thought my Prayer didn’t work. I expected my world to change but it was my heart that changed. A transaction had occurred but I wouldn’t realize it for 11 years, when I finally understood that salvation comes by grace.

Matthew 9 talks about how you can’t add new things to old. They don’t go together.

“14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. 17 Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”’

Christianity is a new way of life. It’s not Judaism. It’s not animal sacrifices and rituals. Christianity is about Jesus, what he did for us. He forgave, once for all and all eternity, our sin. He paid for it, covered it over. It is no longer animal sacrifice. It is a human sacrifice, one human man died to redeem all of mankind.

The transaction is simple.

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.”

It’s a new life in the same world. The sin and sadness and anger and will all be there, but now we can shine on it.

Darkness does not overcome light, light overcomes darkness.

Jesus is the light of the world.

As I reread this i see that it’s not very cohesive. I wrote about my childhood because the memory bubbled up when I read the verses and I hoped as I wrote it would come together. Maybe the memory was just for me, reminding me how my journey with Jesus started. I hope there’s something in hear to bless you and to draw you closer to Jesus, the new wine.

Mission possible

Matthew chapter 8 starts out with one of my favorite stories.

8 “When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. 2 A man with leprosy[a] came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

3 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. 4 Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”’

I like this story because I identify with the leper. I don’t have leprosy but I do have a deadly highly contagious condition that I cannot cure myself of. No one can. No one, except Jesus. The condition is sin. I have sin in my life.

For example:

In second or third grade I stole a green plastic army truck from my friend Miles Hancock. It was premeditated and well planned out. I did not wear black but even now thinking about it I hear the mission impossible theme song in my head. He had it, I wanted it. I took it.

Even if I could find Miles, repent and replace that truck right now my act of thievery wouldn’t go away. I am forever stained with that sin.

This leper had a condition hat made him an outcast. He had to leave his family and friends. He could no longer be a part of society. He couldn’t worship. He was excluded from life.

Jesus touched him. He was untouchable yet Jesus touched him and healed him.

What about me, The truck thief, What is to become of me?

Between God and me there is gap, a break in our relationship. I have confessed my sin and asked God to forgive me because I have accepted Jesus death as payment for my sin. With that simple transaction I am made right with God again.

“9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Then there is the practical side. I took something that didn’t belong to me.

Miles, if you are out there I am sorry. I don’t have the truck anymore. Contact me so I can make amends.

Bath time

1 Thessalonians 5

Sum it up.

“for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.”

We don’t know when Jesus will come back. It could be today.

Live expectingly. Like as a kid you waited for grandma & grandpa, excitedly on your best behavior.

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

A couple more things, do these too.

“12 Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who work hard among you, who care for you in the Lord and who admonish you. 13 Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. 14 And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 15 Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.”

I now make Paul’s prayer for them my prayer for us;

“May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify us through and through. May our whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls us is faithful, and he will do it.”

Sanctify is a word we don’t use very often. It means to clean, To purify cleanse or absolve. Cleaned inside and out, by God himself. The thought of it is a little intimidating. Much like Mrs. Pearce taking Eliza Doolittle in for her first bath. Cleaning will take place. It may feel strange and uncomfortable. We will need to expose our most private self to our father but his goal is not to shame us but to cleanse us.

I am in your hands Father, clean me.

How to live as a follower of Jesus

1 Thessalonians 4

That thing that you did yesterday, where you lived a selfless life, loving and serving the world around you? Living like Jesus and telling the world about him? Do that again. And again. And again.

“As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.”

Part of this lifestyle, a big part, is living a sexually pure life.

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; 4 that each of you should learn to control your own body[a] in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.[b] The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. 7 For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. 8 Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”

His (or her) own body. I must learn to control me.

Be quiet and mind your own business.

” make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

I have seen some very precious people laid into their graves. It hurts but I have hope that we are not separated forever.

“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.”

I am waiting for that day. Meanwhile I strive to keep moving forward.

No turning back, no turning back.