Thursday, September 27, 2012

Hey Old Guy - What Keeps You Going? Lesson 2: Walk By Faith

Today I received a phone call from the office of the Seattle Prosecutor. The person on the other end told me that she had my Bible in her possession. Two years ago, thieves kicked in our front door and stole many things including my briefcase which contained the Bible I had used since the early 1990s. Now, for reasons unexplained, my Bible was sitting on the desk of someone in the Seattle Prosecutor's office. I expressed the hope that the person who stole it had read it. In fact I've prayed off and on that the people who broke into our home would read my Bible and find Jesus. (I have no idea if that happened, but it encourages me to think that they might have). This afternoon, a manila envelope containing my Bible was placed next to my front door.

 When I came home and Iris handed me the Bible, I held it for a few moments and then I began to page through it. I looked at promises that I'd underlined and remembered where I was when I first heard God speak them to me. I was really surprised by the emotion I felt and by the memories that came to me just by skimming through the pages. Then my eye fell on the title page and a statement I had written there: "Pray that God would always keep me in over my head".
This afternoon, standing in my office and holding my old, stolen, and now returned Bible, I thought about all the ways the Lord has answered that prayer and how much it has shaped my life. There have been so many times that I have taken on something that there is no way I could do on my own. In other words, if there is no God, I'm sunk. Everything from pioneering new ministries and moving my family to the former Soviet Union right after its breakup to my current role in leading the Nav work among the U.S. Army - all of those things are beyond my capability. And I'm not just talking about ministry challenges. Marriage, child raising, finances, disappointments and failures have all challenged me to the breaking point and pushed me to my knees.

So, I recommend it here as lesson two in how to keep going over the long haul. Trust God with your life and take the risk to pray the prayer I prayed years ago. Ask God to always keep you in over your head. I know, it's a risky prayer, but not really because our Father is a strong and loving God.

What's the practical lesson from the life of Jesus? It's this: He is looking for faith. Once Jesus told a story about a widow who needed justice and bugged an unrighteous judge until he finally granted her request. At the end of that story, He asked a question: When the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth? The people of faith are not found near the shore where their feet can touch the bottom, but out in the deep water where they can't make it for long unless there really is a Lord who promises to be with them always, even to the end of the world.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Hey Old Guy - What Keeps You Going? Lesson 1: Count the Cost

“In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple”
(Luke 14:33 NIV)

Jesus had just expressed entrance into the kingdom as a wedding banquet in which the bridegroom was so desirous that guests come in that he compelled people to do so. The invitation was broad and extended even to strangers in the street. This is the calling from God's point of view. He is calling us to a wonderful banquet.

This is however, not the whole story. To follow Christ means to put Christ ahead of everything. He comes before all other relationships and before any possession. In addition, each person who follows Christ will be asked to carry his or her own cross. That is, there will be life circumstances - unique to each individual that calls a person to put "self" to death. Jesus urges the crowds basking in the warmth of His presence, to consider the cost of following Him.

I'm fifty four years old and I'm often around Christ followers who are quite a bit younger than me. More and more, I'm being asked the question that I used to ask "old guys" who follow Jesus: "How do you keep going?" I think there are several answers to that question - and I'll take them on over the next few blog posts - but it seems to me that Jesus is giving one of the keys to beginning well: count both the blessings and the cost to following Jesus. If you calculate accurately, I believe you'll find that the costs are far outweighed by the benefits, but there are costs.

I'm still challenged to remember that I am not exempt from taking up my cross. That is true of every Christ follower. People in their 20s think I'm old, yet I think that I probably have some years yet to serve and glorify the Master. I want to follow hard all the way to the end. I must continue to count the cost.

Lord, help me to live as a disciple today. Help me to put my relationship with you above all earthly relationships, help me to let go of my possessions before you, and help me to take up my cross - whatever it is - on a daily basis.