Follow Me, um, I mean Jesus

I have been very weepy lately over the condition of our world, especially the condition of the hearts that claim to be Christians & how they deposit themselves into said world. With the luxury of the internet & namely social media, we have the ability to do so much to shine God’s light into a hurting globe, yet more times a DAY than I can count, the representation I/we all see has nothing, NO THING, to do with the characteristics of the Christ we say we “follow”. I write this from my own conviction perspective & from observation; but I mainly write it because it’s Holy Spirit inspired.

Let’s just take a minute. Let’s take the sparkles, the lights, the decorations, down from the American Cross & let us return to the Cross of wood, nails & thorns. The Cross covered in spit & blood. The Cross dragged to Golgotha with more hate, sin, & sacrifice than we could ever wrap our fleshly minds & hearts around. Yes that Cross. It looks different than the one we have accustomed & fashioned ourselves to believe in doesn’t it? The rawness & the simplicity of that Cross is where we will find THE true, realistic Messiah, not the modern day version of flashy American Jesus. Anything outside of that Cross, is counterfeit; a lie. Sadly the modern church of today has fallen head first for that lie. There has become a polar opposite difference in what the Bible defines as a slave for Christ vs today’s idea: which is no more than a motivational speaker for Him. It seems that the majority of today’s church is consumed to 1st speak in approval of God’s word & many have never even taken the time for Bible study, much less actually stand on it confidently. There is a giant band wagon for upholding the rules & the laws that apply to OTHER people, but self application, well forget that. There is such a blindness that cannot see in fact they themselves have transformed into exactly what they say they don’t like. To me, it feels like the 2014 version of the Pharisees/Sadducees of Christ’s ministry. The guiltiest are always the ones with the stones in the air & ready to fire out of the cannon at a controversies notice.

The ministry of Jesus, His life, death, was not about our being right & feeling good when we make a point to someone else. It’s not about winning arguments & proving who has the most scripture memorized or attended the best Bible colleges. It was not to use God breathed scripture to condemn others & it definitely was not to be used to make ourselves a celebrity or super star. It was & is to testify of what He has done for us & in us & take THAT message of Good News & disciple others with it, not beat them to a pulp with it. When we are focused on God’s call upon our lives, His will & honoring His word….we will live a new way & we will show people the REAL Jesus. Not this flash in the pan Rabbi. If He says speak, we speak. If He says silence, we listen. If He says type, we will wait for His word, not our opinions or analysis of His word. And we’ll be careful to read the words of others that He has sent, in their voices, not our inside angry voice.

When we have traded Jesus deathly, cruel, sin paid, rugged Cross for approval & popularity; it’s time to fall on our knees & bury our faces in the dirt. Who are we trying to make famous & when did we trade our salvation for how many “likes” we receive, how many shares we get, or how many hash tags about ourselves we can have trending? When did THAT become a Christian’s foundation for feeling value? And we wonder why the world “just doesn’t get us. Our poor ‘persecuted’ selves, we’re SO misunderstood” PFFFT, is all we should ever say any time those ideas stroll in.

This following stuff is hard. It’s dirty, it’s sad, it’s sacrificial, it’s lonely- Not a great selling point. You know why? It’s because Jesus was not meant to be advertised or sold. He was meant to represented in our characters & in our serving & loving. Jesus did not suffer & God did not sacrifice His son so any of us could be superstars in His name. How can we call ourselves content in whatever state we are in, when we get let down because 150 people or more didn’t like our updates. “But, they loved the one I posted about ______.” And we as grown human beings, get pissed off because people are not valuing us with a thumb up–or a star–or a slow clap. If we trade places & get into God’s will instead of our will for ourselves, He will be faithful/just/obedient to use us where we are needed. In His time. He’ll call us to the most impossible, ridiculous places, because THAT is where we need His help to accomplish the task before us. That task is to represent Him & give him the glory; not sell ourselves out for 15 minutes of fame. John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

We often, even someone at this exact second, gnashes & thinks, “Who is ‘SHE’? Who does ‘HE’ think he is to say or point out this & that?” And we get so worked up instead of maybe simmering down, & evaluating WHY this particular topic or issue has tripped us up & caused us to get in a wad. Is it really the messenger or could it actually be our inner selves convicted & we can’t see or allow God to convict us appropriately & healthily because we’ve prescribed ourselves pride goggles. The only thing pride goggles generate or see is anger. Don’t you know satan throws his head back & howls & cackles watching Gods chosen act just like the vipers under his control. He stands at the posts of yours ears & he whispers lies about other people who have Christ’s intentions. Those lies are adopted as our own inside voices & before long we feel offended, jealous & intimidated by the calling’s God has placed on our brothers & sister’s lives . We find ourselves behaving in ignorance because “they” are so happy & have the best life & such a wonderful story blah blah blah…. when in actuality, I will tell you RIGHT now,  we have no idea the ache involved in a person’s story to arrive at this current moment. And if we knew exactly what it cost them, we would not desire a thing they have; we’d keep ourselves bowed & grateful before God for enduring our speed bumps::they after all, had to climb over mountains & they’re still climbing.

What if God is bringing His church to a place of restructuring? Reconnecting to the ways of the past. The revival that is already here being awakened from this lazy nap? Often the very church communities claiming to stand on the scriptures are the very ones who have stepped off those words & used them to build walls that not only exclude others, but God himself & the leadership of his Spirit. Oh yeah, the Spirit. There’s that again. You see, most Christians have no more been filled, even though saved, do not understand the Spirit or it’s purpose. That temporary feel good rush of joy or excitement that blows in when the praise song gets exciting or the pastor says something you hope somebody else knows THEY need to be listening to, that isn’t it. No you see, the fullness of the Spirit isn’t an emotion that leaves when you get in the car. It’s what you ARE. What your soul has become. You’re whole life, your choices, your desires, your spending, your giving, your studying of the word, your praying, your sacrifices… it’s ALL wrecked. It’s because of the Spirit. Take 2 people from regular town America or even the world, who are Christians. 1 is ON FIRE for Christ, the other is merely existing day after day lacking the same kind of zeal. Why? They both believe the same Bible, same Jesus, same God…WHY such a difference? It’s the Spirit. But we find that not only does the modern Christian NOT understand the Spirit, but most Christians are afraid of the very mention of it. We know for a fact that when we are intertwined with the fullness of the Spirit, everything, even scripture is different. With the Spirit everything takes on a new abundance of discernment, knowledge, & wisdom. Why do you think someone who a few years ago, was a homeless addict can be surrendered to Christ & now be leading a ministry & discipling hundreds with the skills of a theologian? It’s because of the transformation that comes with the Spirit. Did Jesus EVER call anyone who was of greatness & status? I’ll let you review the bios on just those who penned the New Testament for that answer. It’s why non believers, maybe even yourself who is a believer, reads scripture & it seems to be some jumbled mess that makes no sense & contradicts itself. It’s the lacking & necessity of the Spirit. Instead of understanding how to study God’s word with the Spirit’s understanding, there’s an idea we must leave it to others to interpret it for us. And most are only interested in that for 45min here & there on Sundays & maybe Wednesdays. This this this this, is where we have the problem in the word, in the church & why there is no radical difference in today’s church & the regular world.

Christians even condemn the church across town for raising their hands in worship & call those people very harsh names, however these people are the same ones who keep their hands straight up during football season…. hit home with anyone? We have NO place & NO right to criticize the way anyone praises. I have no idea why or where this attitude has been adopted or accepted but I will tell you it has to & needs to stop. And I tell you if you see me in your church, you will see my hands in the air. I celebrate Jesus hands up in my car-living room-bathroom- because you don’t know the cost of my praise. I am not & nobody else should ever be ashamed of their praise. When I see Jesus the last thing I am going to care about is if you call me a holy rolling pew jumper when I am in the throne room exalting Him with everything my soul has; so why not do that now? Does scripture say hands up in praise & worship is satanic & non Christlike? Let’s see:

Psalm 63:4, So I bless Thee in my life, in Thy name I lift up my hands::1 Timothy 2:8, I desire therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting:: This actually started to get rather lengthy, so here’s a link to 20 OT & NT scriptures about raising our hands in praise, prayer & worship. The next time we encounter why someone does this, you may want to ask God why we are not compelled to do it also. If you’re not led to do it, that’s fine, but let’s chill on those who do feel led. http://www.openbible.info/topics/raising_hands

I often think, without putting words in His mouth, that maybe just maybe, God would like to see His people surrendered. Fully. That He would like for us to use our machines & our money & our time & our technology to help one another & others actually do something for His kingdom…every day. That when someone asks us to sponsor a child we stop saying let me pray about it or I can’t afford it (IE. I assure you A. He won’t tell you no when it comes to caring for children B. Pull your checking acct statement for 1 or 2 months & look at the items you blew money on, then tell me you cannot afford a meek $35 a month. You can, you just don’t want too, let’s be honest. I was there once also & said the same things. And if you decide you do, I have a great org called World Vision I volunteer for who are doing beautiful things in the US & other countries) Back to God. Maybe He desires for us to crave the simplicity of the old church, the church of the Bible. Whether it’s 100 degrees outside or 50, we’d be willing to walk for miles to sit in it, with no children’s church activities for the kids, and have the Word read aloud & taught FOR HOURS, gasp, maybe ALL DAY, since that’s what went on back then. Today people are looking at their watches wondering if pastor is gonna hush by noon so bodies can be filled with lunch from an area restaurant followed by a well deserved Sabbath nap, by the way not realizing as we take this freedom for granted, somewhere across the globe, in a basement a group of people are hiding to learn God’s word . If caught they & their families will be murdered. Or those on a mountain top who are fleeing for their lives & their women are being raped & sold while their babies are being cut in half….. but let’s hurry to Applebee’s if this pastor ever shuts up.

We will see a paradigm shift in the church, in our homes & in our individual lives when all we want is Jesus, not what Jesus is going to “give us” if we accept Him. We are willing to take the backseat & give of ourselves until prying that thing out of our hand becomes so natural we don’t bat a lash. We understand that serving the poor is not just a financial idea. The poor of the Bible are the poor in spirit, the poor in friendships, the poor in loneliness, the poor in joy… and many times over, our service is not just about writing a check, it’s actual about physically doing something. Giving up a day you can sleep late to serve somewhere. Invite someone to church & actually go get them. Build some friendships with people you’d otherwise not make eye contact with. That stuff. We cannot claim Christ & do NOthing. I mean literally doing something constantly for others & looking to gain not one thing in return except to show people Christ character in yourself. Just maybe Jesus was serious when He explained that we need to die to our selfish sides EVERY DAY. Pull up our crosses & come after Him. What cross do you need to pull up? The cross of anger. The cross of complaining. The cross of faithlessness. The cross of adulterous thoughts. The cross of pornography. The cross of materialism. The cross of idolatry. The cross of unforgiveness. The cross of addictions. The cross of self promotion. The cross of self serving. We all have one. Maybe yours is one cross that’s draped with hundreds of things. All you need to do, every day, is pick it up & go after Jesus. He won’t carry it for you & He’s not begging you, it’s your choice. He’ll be there to strengthen you, but you MUST give an effort. I assure you, the day you choose to fully do so, is the day your entire life & the lives of others around you will change. Luke 9:23, And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (bold emphasis mine)

I don’t know about you but I am ready in 2014 to start seeing some Paul’s, some Peter’s, some Lydia’s, some old widow with their last coins….rise up & do this thing. It seems the masses love to lay claim to being a “Jesus Freak” until they’re standing alone, with everyone watching & looking like just that… a freak. A crazy, radical, out of their mind, freak. Even coined that by other believers. In those moments of standing out & standing up, we see one of 2 things happen, either pressing on boldly looking like the Jesus freaks of the day OR bowing down lowly to the modern day Sanhedrin so people will “like” you & approve of you. It’s always been & always will be, Him or them. I don’t know about you but when I stand before the Almighty I long to hear I was a good & faithful servant rather than be shocked because He’s asking me to depart, while I say wait, what, but I’m saved. {refer to Matthew 7:21-23 & Matthew 25:21}

Let’s evaluate ourselves & our goals. All of us in Christ. Not just other people you wish would evaluate themselves. Start with our own individual lives. Examining who & what we actually follow vs who & what we say we follow. Are we content no matter what we do & how we serve, that maybe we will always stay “behind the scenes?” What if behind those curtains is where God calls us? He still sees us whether we’re in an arena preaching or cleaning the church bathroom….so if we’re truly in Him & not looking for approval from them, we should be joyful in that, right? Are we comfortable in the shadows or do we love that puffed up feeling when we’ve stumbled into the spotlights? It’s something I have definitely spent much time combing over in my own life.  We may have 25, 505 or 55,000 people “following us”, but Jesus isn’t one of them. It’s time we switch places & deflect the intention of glory.

I’ll leave you with a beautiful prayer penned by a man whose words I love to read, Eugene Peterson:

Dear Jesus, 

teach me my place: as a servant, not a master,

as the friend of the bridegroom, not the bridegroom;

as a witness to the truth, not the truth itself.

-amen

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