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Food for Thought - Musings

"Come, Follow Me"

“Come, Follow Me”

As we enter the first months of the New Year, our musings will focus on the words of Jesus that are oft heard, but not deeply pondered. These words are “Follow me.” These words, when first spoken by Jesus, had an actual physical reality to them. One would ‘follow Jesus’ by walking his path, sleeping where he slept, eating what he ate, watching, listening, being with Jesus. I, for one, have imagined what it would have been like to truly walk, eat and live with Jesus. I have romanticized this in my mind and it turns out I was a most faithful, true and upright follower of Jesus who was even able to comprehend the deep truths, which were often veiled in his parables, and I certainly did not fall asleep in the garden, nor desert him at the cross. But in my more reasonable moments, I think that I would not be much different than the original disciples who did not fully comprehend who Jesus was, what he was teaching or doing, and I might even have denied him, for that is how I find myself living at many junctures of my life today. But the truth be known, you and I do not have the opportunity to physically follow Jesus as those first disciples did, yet we still have heard and have sought to respond to those same words spoken by Jesus: “Follow me.” So what does that mean and look like for us today? I believe the answer to that question has as many answers as it does followers, but I also believe that Jesus embodied some very foundational truths that we also need to embrace if we are to be able to truly follow Jesus in a way that is true to who God has created us to be, given our uniqueness, our gifts, talents and life circumstances. But as usual I am getting a little ahead of myself.

Before we continue I would like to say right off that I do not believe asking the question; “What would Jesus do” is all that helpful. Truth be known, we do not know what Jesus would do in any given situation, save that Jesus would do the bidding of his father in heaven, even when it was difficult to do so, and even contrary to Jesus’ own desires (e.g. “not my will but Thy will be done”). Jesus seemed to go out of his way to do things differently: the way he would cross a lake (by boat or on foot), how he would heal someone (from a distance, with spit, with mud, with laying hands on) how he would interact with individuals (kind, confrontational, obtuse, caring, merciful…). So discovering what it means to “follow me” is not as easy as it might at first seem to be. But before seeking to ascertain what it might or might not mean to follow Jesus, it is important to truthfully answer the question: What is the level of your desire and willingness to say yes to the invitation/challenge of Jesus to “follow me.” This is the question that I invite you to focus on in January. Now before you give the Sunday-school-approved answer to this question and move on, I encourage you to explore openly and honestly before God, “What is the level of your desire and willingness to follow Jesus knowing that Jesus invites those who follow him to:

  • deny self ( which for some may mean letting go of power, while for others it may mean owning and embracing the voice God has given you – more on that in the months to come)
  • pick up the cross daily
  • seek first the kingdom of God
  • desire God’s will be done (not ours) on earth as it is in heaven
  • become a servant, a foot washer
  • love God with the totality of who you are
  • love others in deed and in truth (feeding, clothing, visiting)
  • lose life that you may truly find it
  • take your own sin seriously ( cutting off hands, plucking out eyes)
  • knowing and owning who you are
  • love for your enemies, bless those who curse you, pray for those who persecute you…

In some sense the disciples did not know what they were saying yes to, and in some ways when we first heed the call of Christ we do not know what it will entail, but what about today, knowing what you know, knowing your attachment to the world and the things of the world (power, prestige, riches, security, comfort…) and your desire for things that tend to draw you away from God – what would be your response if Jesus stood before you and said follow me? What would you do? What is the level of your desire and willingness to say yes to the invitation/challenge of Jesus to “follow me”?

So in January you will be seeking to discover the
level of your desire and willingness to say yes to the invitation/challenge of Jesus to “Follow me.”?

Seek to discover where you are when it comes to truly and wholeheartedly following Jesus. Let this month be about establishing a baseline of awareness in terms of your commitment to follow Jesus. A begining point for the journey through 2011 and beyond.

I encourage you to be honest and open with yourself and with God as you ponder this. It is important to be honest, for that is were God will meet you. As strong and powerful as God is, God meets us where we are at any given moment. So it is vital for you to be honest with yourself and with God concerning where you currently are in terms of wholeheartedly following Jesus.

Also, resist the temptation to fix yourself, to try harder, to turn this into a self- improvement project. Stay away from questions like: what might a yes mean in terms of how your live your life, how you use your resources (time, money, talents), how you view, interact with your circumstances and others? What might be the ramifications of this regarding how you live your life, the choices that you make, the way you see and respond to your circumstances, the way you treat and interact with others? What might you need to let go of? What might you need to make a part of your life? We will look at these types of questions in due course, but for now seek to discovery your level of desire and willingness to respond to the invitation/challenge of Jesus to “follow me.” This month is about coming before God and honestly accessing the level of your desire to say yes to the invitation/challenge of Jesus to “follow me.” This month begins a journey and as such it is important to take the next step seeking to be aware of the present reality and not rushing to some predetermined end. Let God guide and direct.

Finally, I would encourage you to do one more thing: at the end of each day, 2-3 times a week: Ask yourself: When did I follow Jesus today and why? When did I not follow Jesus today and why? What kept me from following Jesus at times today (what was I afraid I of losing or not getting)?

Since at this point we haven’t even began to define what it means to follow Jesus these could be difficult questions to answer, so invite God into the process – ask God to reveal to you those times you did follow Jesus in the course of your day, in how you saw and interacted with your circumstances and others and when you did not follow Jesus and the why’s behind both. These times are not about self-bashing, but self-awareness. As you spend time with God asking these questions, remember that there is NO condemnation in Christ and NOTHING (no thing) can separate you from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. If you are feeling condemnation this is NOT coming from God.

So now begin the journey. Jesus stands before you and invites/challenges with the words; "Come, follow me." Ask God to help you search your heart so that together you may begin to discover the level of your desire and willingness to embrace this invitation/challenge of Jesus. This will involve a series of conversations with God, remember to journal.

Next month
you will be invited to spend time looking at the person of Jesus. Seeking to discover what is it that draws you to Jesus and births the desire within you to follow Jesus, or causes you to resist that invitation/challenge.

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