Who Are You Following?

A few days ago the question occurred to me: who are you following? In that moment the Scripture that says “fix your eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith…” immediately came to mind. Today I want to ask you this question, who (or what) are you following?

In Scripture, time and time again, we see Jesus tell others to “follow Him”. The New Testament has much to say about following Jesus (what it means, costs, looks like, etc.) and I encourage you to read and study the Bible to understand this more. If you aren’t a follower of Jesus now, you can visit http://www.myemanuel.com/i-am-ready to learn more about who Jesus is and how you can be saved through Him. If you are a Christian (or a curious skeptic) I encourage you to keep reading.

I have often heard Christians (and non-Christians) say something like “I don’t go to church because…” Normally in the blank there is some story about a time they were hurt by a leader at church, by a friend who claims the faith, or worse yet by a parent or family member who was a self proclaimed follower of Jesus. Often the pain and hurt they endured makes it hard (even though they love Jesus) to expose themselves to the vulnerability of being hurt again.

In conversations I’ve had or heard about with non-believers, time and time again I hear how people admire Jesus but not His followers. One example, attributed to Gandhi, puts it this way: “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

With all this hurt and confusion both in and out of the church, I want to share this reminder: Jesus called you to follow Him, not other “Christians”. Jesus called you to follow Him, not your spouse. Jesus called you to follow Him, not your favorite teacher or preacher. Jesus called you to follow Him.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV)

To all those who have been hurt by the church, it’s leaders or teachers, or anyone who has claimed the name of Christ, my hope is that you can forgive them and find healing. Although those we love, respect, and trust may fail us, Christ never will. God’s love is unfailing, He is faithful, and even when His most faithful servants stumble, Jesus never will.

Today I leave you with this thought: keep your eyes on Jesus. Follow Jesus. This way when other Christians fail you, you will remember your faith is in the One who never will. His promise is clear and my prayer is that it fills us all with awe and joy: 

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

Pillow Talk

Tonight as we did devotion and prayed, I asked my kids if they confess their sins and ask God for forgiveness when they pray. As I reminded them of what sin is, I offered to give them both an example of how I ask for forgiveness when I pray. Although I reminded them both that my way doesn’t have to be there way, what I wanted them to know is that this is an important part of being a disciple of Jesus.

The Scripture tells us: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9 NIV) As I explained to my children, we don’t have to come to God begging and pleading for forgiveness, it has been paid for by the blood of Jesus. This also shouldn’t be a mechanical ritual where we try to “wipe the slate clean” each night before bed.

Confessing my sin tonight as a father, I pray that my children know that even daddy needs God’s grace (especially daddy – 1 Timothy 1:15). As I told my them both, we don’t ask for forgiveness with the intention of continuing to do the same things. Inevitability when I do what I don’t want to do (Romans 7:15-20), I realize God isn’t done with me yet (Philippians 1:6) and I praise Him and thank Him for His loving kindness and patience.

To summarize, God already knows your sins… but you need to acknowledge them before Him. This is the first step in the healing process and a continual part of growing as a disciple. Although I fail Him a million times, His grace is sufficient for me. If you’ve never placed your faith in Jesus, you can know this forgiveness and freedom, visit http://www.myemanuel.com/i-am-ready for more details.

I leave you with this poem that simply captures what I hope my children always remember from tonight’s devotion:

“He came to my desk with a quivering lip,
The lesson was done.
‘Have you a new sheet for me, dear teacher?
I’ve spoiled this one.’
I took his sheet, all soiled and blotted,
And gave him a new one all unspotted,
And to his tired heart I cried.
‘Do better now, my child.’
I went to the throne with a troubled heart,
The day was done.
‘Have a new day for me, dear Master?
I’ve spoiled this one.’
He took my day, all soiled and blotted,
And gave a new one all unspotted.
And to my tired heart He cried,
‘Do better now, my child.'”

 

The Storms of Life

Often I think we forget that the “super heroes” of our faith (i.e. David, Peter, Paul, etc.) were just normal men that an extraordinary God transformed and used to change nations and the world. Sometimes I read Scripture and begin to compare myself to the men I read about there. Peter is one person I can relate to as he and I both share the special art of inserting our foot squarely in to our own mouths.

In the Scripture we see the disciples out on the Sea of Galilee crossing to the other side. The men in the boat, with several expert fishermen who spent their lives on this body of water, fighting and struggling against the wind and waves. During this struggle, the disciples are alarmed as they see what they think is a ghost walking on the water. The ghost turns out not be a ghost at all, it’s Jesus!

In the midst of the wind and waves, as the disciples were filled with fear at the unknown, Jesus calls out to them “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) As Peter so often does, he makes a bold deceleration: “Lord, if it is you… tell me to come out on the water.” As Jesus often does, He tells Peter: “come”.

What happens next is miraculous. Peter (outside of Jesus) becomes the only man in history to walk on water. Imagine his heart beating intensely as he steps out of the boat on to the water. Imagine the exhilaration as he begins to walk towards Jesus. It is in the midst of the winds, waves, and fear that Jesus calls to Peter, and Peter comes. Sometimes I am quick to judge Peter because what happens next: But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me! (Matthew 14:30 NIV).

For just a moment in this incredible moment, Peter fails in his fear. It could have all ended here for Peter. He could have drown, he could have felt unsure of himself for the rest of his life, he could have tried to turn around and get back to the boat. But it is in this moment, as he desperately cries out “save me” that we see Jesus remain faithful. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

Here is the application in my own life: there are times where the winds, waves, and fear will come. In those moments I hear and see Jesus calling me through the storm. Sometimes I get distracted by the storm so much so that for a brief moment I take my eyes of Jesus and begin to sink in hopeless despair. Time and time again I cry out “Jesus, save me!” and the most amazing thing happens… He does.

Today I don’t know what storm you are facing, don’t give up hope. The same Peter who sank because of his fear for the wind and waves is the same Peter the Holy Spirit empowered to take the Gospel throughout the Roman empire. Today if you are “sinking”, cry out to Jesus… “Lord, save me!” and know that He alone truly can.