FOLLOW ME

 

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

Photo courtesy: nonprofitrisk.org

FOLLOW ME. Two words that sound so simple yet are so radical. Actually, they sound foolish. If someone came to me and asked me to leave my job and family and “follow me”, I would first like to know what he is offering and whether it, not he, is worth following.

The sages of history gave us philosophies and principles and life tips. They acknowledged that they were mere men and the best they could do its point us to the truth that even they could not attain. None of them ever said “follow me.” Maybe “obey me”, and sometimes “trust me”, but never “follow me”. The great teachers knew that even they could not perfectly live up to the utopian truths they preached.

They tried, but their flawed humanity got in the way. They failed so miserably that the wisest of them opted to be only pointers to the way, not pioneers. They knew they would fail us miserably if they asked us to watch them as models and judge their words by their actions. Furthermore, only a fool would think his or her role model is perfect. We follow people for a particular aspect of their life, not every aspect.

I follow Max Lucado for his writing prowess, not necessarily for his theology (which I also have no major qualms about). I follow John Piper for his theology, not his sense of humor.

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Photo courtesy: lockingshields.org

Even on Twitter, we have very narrow and specific reasons for following someone. I follow Maria Popova for updates on the latest posts on her awesome website Brain Pickings. I could care less what she had for dinner or where she will be going for holiday. I follow some people for their humor, some for their opinion on politics, and others for their satire. I never follow anyone for everything about them.

In leadership classes, one of the great  lessons is that a good leader is one who follows, one who admits his inadequacies and is not afraid to help. A good leader “leads from behind.”

But then Jesus comes and says “follow me.” The audacity! But the call gets even more radical when we see what Jesus is asking us to follow him into: pain, suffering, alienation, tears… and some mysterious victory that seems to always “feel” out of reach.

Jesus stands apart from the rest of the world changers and thought leaders. Jesus does not point us to higher truth or philosophy and say “follow that”. He does not tell us to rely on the principles he preaches. On the contrary, he tells us that all the tips, the proverbs and all the philosophies he teaches are nothing without him. To benefit from his wisdom, we must first follow his person.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his teachings and his philosophies and his great words of wisdom.

He calls us to follow Him, not just his kind acts and his great missionary works and his altruistic actions.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Twitter but in our homes and our workplaces and in our sufferings.

He calls us to follow Him, not just on Sundays or on Easter or in the half an hour morning devotion slots.

FOLLOW ME. Sounds radical? It is. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it is both too good and too true, no wonder very few people do.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24

Reaching the Lost at Any Cost

Nowadays, it seems more important to please the world than to please the church (please note I said please the “church” not please “God”) — even though the Bible says we should prioritize those in the household of faith.

We don’t care if our conservative brothers are stumbling all over our creative freedom. The important thing is that unbelievers are not stumbling over our message.

We no longer go to preach where the idols of the world are, it is much more fruitful to bring the idols into the church to lure the world in. We trick them to win them. We tease their weaknesses and manipulate their addictions because the end justifies the means. We bait them with images of wines and spirits and then when they show up we spring up the Holy Spirit on them.

It is not like we are worshiping these idols ourselves, we are not, we are simply going where the sinners are — establishing a point of contact. Like Jesus, we are simply lunching with Simon and dining with Zaccheus.

So what if our brothers in faith disagree with our strategies? So what if our brothers don’t get it? They are the ones who need to grow up, to get with the program. We will not be patient with the weak in the church (read, the “narrow-minded” in the church). Why encourage their hypocrisy? Why succumb to their holier-than-thouness?

Even Jesus faced resistance and condemnation from the Sadducee and Pharisee of his day, that is why we are confident in what we do. It doesn’t matter that the Sadducee and Pharisee were UNBELIEVERS, yes even the high priest. Somehow, it seems more appropriate to dismiss conservative Christians as unbelievers simply because they think our methods unwise.

The end is near and we need to harvest as many of the lost as fast as possible.

And as the masses stream in through the front door after their idols, those inside are being carried out in their #judgmental stretchers through the back door — their faith in a #hypocritical condition.

And it’s really alright because, well, we can see the fruit. We are winning the world.

#Selah

mavuno poster

“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:10)

“Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? So this weak brother or sister, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge. When you sin against them in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.” (1 Corinthians 8:9-12)

A big shout out to J.C.

Pray for Persecuted Muslims

Muslims are dying in Central African Republic (CAR). Actually, people have been dying in the country for weeks now. Nothing new there, people die all the time.

But reports say that these Muslims are dying in the hands of Christians. Innocent men and women are being massacred, not because of any crime they have committed, but because they have a different religious affiliation. Children are murdered because they were born in the “wrong” religion. In a way, this is both news and not news.

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic's capital. AFP

Muslim civilians prepare to board trucks in Bangui to flee violence in the Central African Republic’s capital. AFP

Religious extremists commit such heinous crimes all the time. Christians should not be surprised that fellow believers are being killed in the Middle East. The Bible says this will happen. It is to be expected and acknowledged, even if it will not be enjoyed. But should Christians be surprised that Muslims are dying at the hands of Christians?

DISOWNING THE EXTREMISTS

As Christians, reports of fellow Christians killing people who belong to a different religion are disturbing. And we are quick to dismiss them as the work of “religious extremists” who are not true Christians. We are careful to qualify how we refer to such people, as “professing” Christians who are not true Christians at all. We do not want to be associated with such barbarism. Because we know the Jesus we worship is a peaceful King. A king who embraced women and adored children, no matter which god they worshiped or where they did their worshiping. Our Jesus vehemently condemned the killing of the innocent — the last and the least among us. Continue reading

Behind the Sins (Part 1)

 ‘If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.’ – C. S. Lewis

That is the mystery clouding this man’s vision as he disappears into the shadows tonight. He needs answers; answers to questions his scholarly mind cannot provide; solutions to mysteries his experienced years cannot unravel. So he sits and waits until the quiet evening cacophony has been completely replaced by the rhythmic chirping of crickets. He tarries until his wife and the kids have slipped into the sub-conscious country of slumber land.

He doesn’t make a sound. Like a cat pad-footing through a messy kitchen, he steals into the night. Stealthily, he weaves his way through the city. Avoiding street-lights and highways, he chooses the dark alleys and back-roads. The cover of the darkness gives him the courage to go out. This perplexed patriarch seeks the truth in the dark.

After fifteen minutes of avoiding late-night drunks and street-side bums, Nicodemus senses that his destination is close by. The soft chatter of voices and the misty rays of candle-light from a house two blocks away give him hope.

“Soon I will be able to sleep in peace. Soon, I will have the missing piece — the answer to my puzzle.”

He is now at the door. He stops and takes a deep breath. That’s when second-thoughts that have been chasing behind him quickly catch up with him. This was a bad idea. Maybe I should just go back. What if one of the elders catches me here? How am I going to explain myself?

After weighing the options and the repercussions; after pre-enacting in his head the public humiliation that might result from this encounter, he decides this was a bad idea. So he turns to leave, but he is too late. The door swings open and a disciple almost runs into him on his way out.

“Oh, pardon me sir,” Peter’s apology is quick, “almost didn’t see you there.”

Nicodemus stands frozen. He opens his mouth but no words come out.

Come on, man! This is bad. Say something! Talk your way out of this fix. Pretend you are in the wrong place, apologize and leave.

“Would you like to come in?” Peter opens the door a little wider and motions him in.

Nicodemus’ scared gaze wanders onto the group of men huddled around the table. A single candle illuminates their attentive faces. The conversation stops. The people turn and look towards the door. Then the man seated at the farthest end of the table, directly facing the door, motions him to get in.

Too late now. They’ve seen me. Might as well face them.

“Oh, thank you,” he says politely to Peter, lifts up his robes and steps into the room.

The silence is deafening. Everyone recognized him the moment he stepped through the door. And everyone held their breath. They had seen him before. He was always hanging out with other Pharisees. When Jesus had claimed to destroy and rebuild the temple in three days, Nicodemus was among the members of the council who confronted him. Though he didn’t say a word then, they knew he shared in their verdict. The disciples knew him, and they knew he was up to no good.

Nicodemus, trying hard to ignore the stares, finds a place to sit at the table. But the moment he settles down, the two seats on either side of him are quickly vacated. It’s clear that no one wants to sit next to him.

He is not welcome here.

To be continued…

The Day Someone Shared the Gospel With Me

cornell vic poa place I don’t know where it came from, but it finally arrived. In fact, I think it has always been there, though I chose to ignore it. But it was there. And it was real. I am talking about something that exists in all of us, believer or not, born-again or not. It is the desire to live for something greater than ourselves. The need to worship. The yearning for something out of this world. Something more powerful, more important than we are. It is what keeps us going. Something that sets the standards and the stage. What gives our life meaning and a purpose. This is God calling us. It is God drawing us and nudging us, the chosen, towards Him.

I realized that I had a desire to worship. I acknowledged the existence of a supernatural being that held everything together. Everything on earth that I thought would sustain and satisfy me had let me down. Wealth had dumped me. Fame had worn me out and the search for approval had grown stale. I never contemplated alcohol or drugs (all by Grace, now in hindsight). I guess my need was more intellectual than emotional. No philosophy could make my mind content. No. This world just didn’t have the answers. Continue reading

Be It Unto Me According To Your Word

I am currently reading Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality and this book is just overflowing with timeless gems of truth about the Christian’s walk with Christ. I came across this illustration and  had to share it with you. Schaeffer revisits the story of angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary and shows us how Mary’s response ought to be the response of every believer upon hearing the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ. What is your response? Are you born again?

The angel has come to Mary and says: “Mary, you are going to give birth to the long-promised Messiah.” This was a unique promise, and unrepeatable. There is something totally unique here: the birth of the eternal second Person of the Trinity into this world. What is her response? The Holy Spirit, we are told, is to cause a conception in her womb. It seems to me that she could have made three responses…

1. She could have rejected the idea and said, “I do not want it; I want to withdraw; I want to run. What would Joseph say?” And we know what Joseph thought later. Humanly, we could not blame her if she felt this way. But she did not say this.

2. Second… she could have said, “I now have the promises, so I will exert my force, my character, and my energy, to bring forth the promised thing. I have the promise. Now I will bring forth a child without a man.” But with this response she never would have had the child. She could not bring forth a child without a man, by her own will, any more than any other girl could do.

3. But there was a third thing she could say. It is beautiful, it is wonderful. She says: “Behold, the bondmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”

There is an active passivity here. She took her own body, by choice, and put it into the hands of God to do the thing that he said he would do, and Jesus was born. She gave herself, with her body, to God. In response to the promise, yes; but not to do it herself. This is a beautiful, exciting, personal expression of a relationship between a finite person and the God she loves. This is an illustration of our being the bride of Christ.

Indeed, God could have just planted the seed in Mary’s womb and not need to make any verbal promise or announcement. But the truth is that God was pleased to pay Mary a visit and proclaim the Good News to her. Let this be an example of how our attitude should be concerning evangelism. We need to go out and proclaim this news. In the same way, there are various ways Mary could have responded. But only one response was valid, and only one response revealed true faith. In the same way, there is only one response that is a response of faith, may this be our response, “Be it unto me, according to your word.”

Much Ado About Resurrection

For a long time in my Christian walk, I honestly didn’t get the resurrection of Christ. I confess that I am still not quite sure that I truly grasp it . What I mean is that I didn’t get what the “big deal” was regarding the resurrection, and why it must be included in our Gospel confession. I “got” why Jesus had to come to earth as a human being, I “got” why he was born of a virgin, why he lived a sinless life and died on the Cross.

But that’s where the story ended for me.

The resurrection just didn’t square with my understanding of the Gospel. It was like an awkward, almost unnecessary addition to the essentials of the Gospel. To me, the resurrection of Jesus was no more significant than the resurrection of Lazarus. It was just one more miracle. The big deal was the death of Christ, not His resurrection.

I doubt that I am alone in this boat. I am sure that many of us are (or have been) “conformists” when it comes to incorporating the place of resurrection in our Gospel messages. For many of us, we have noticed that the Bible includes the resurrection as part of the “essentials” package of what one must believe to be saved. We have noticed great Bible teachers emphasizing it in their sermons about the Gospel.

But we don’t quite get it. Continue reading