The cost of discipleship

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “All who want to come after me must say no to themselves, take up their cross, and follow me. All who want to save their lives will lose them. But all who lose their lives because of me will find them. Why would people gain the whole world but lose their lives? What will people give in exchange for their lives? For the Human One  is about to come with the majesty of his Father with his angels. And then he will repay each one for what that person has done. I assure you that some standing here won’t die before they see the Human One r coming in his kingdom. ” ~Matthew 16:24-27 (CEB)

“Salvation is free, but the cost of discipleship is enormous. I try to hide from the truth, but when I read the Gospels and seek to live in communion with God, I discover both parts of the statement are dead-center truth. I can do nothing to earn my salvation. My redemption is a pure gift of grace, a gift offered to me without qualification or reservation. I am God’s child and no one or no thing can change that facet. Jesus Christ lived, died, and lives again to bring this gift of salvation to me in all of its fullness. My faith can appropriate this gift, but even my greatest doubt cannot change its reality. I am God’s beloved, embraced in God’s love for now and eternity. All words are inadequate to describe the extravagance and grandeur of the gift of salvation. Our hums of praise and gratitude fall lifeless before the immensity of this gift. We simply and humbly offer all that we are to the One who offers us the option of becoming more than we are.

In offering ourselves as fully as we can, we discover the cost of discipleship. For to bind our lives to Jesus Christ requires that we try to walk with him into Jesus Christ, we see barriers broken down and we are led to places we have never been before and to carry loads we have not even seen before. Having offered ourselves to Jesus Christ, we may expect to become the eyes, ears, voice and hands of Jesus Christ in the world and in the church. The cost of salvation? It is completely free and without cost. The cost of discipleship? Only our lives- nothing more and nothing less.” ~From A Guide to All Who See God, Rueben P. Job

Give my strength O Lord to live up to the cost of discipleship. Help me to align my steps with Your will for my life. Amen.

Faithful with little

“Whoever is faithful with little is also faithful with much, and the one who is dishonest with little is also dishonest with much.  If you haven’t been faithful with worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? If you haven’t been faithful with someone else’s property, who will give you your own?  No household servant can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be loyal to the one and have contempt for the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. ” ~Luke 16:10-13 (CEB)

“Faithfulness is consecration in overalls. It is the steady acceptance and performance of the common duty and immediate task without any reference to personal preferences- because it is there to be done and so is a manifestation of the Will of God. It is Elizabeth Leseur settling down each day to do the household accounts quite perfectly (when she would much rather have been in church) and saying, ‘The duties of my station come before everything else.’ It is Brother Lawrence taking his turn in the Kitchen, and Saint Francis de Sales taking the burden of a difficult diocese and saying, ‘I have now little time for prayer- but I do what is the same.’

The fruits of the Spirit get less and less showy as we go on. Faithfulness means continuing quietly with the job we have been given, in the situation where we have been placed; not yielding to the restless desire for change. It means tending the lamp quietly for God without wondering how much longer it has got to go on.” ~From The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill

Day to day life can sometimes be tiring. 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” reminds me that I can serve God in my everyday ordinariness. Phillippians 2:14, “Do everything without complaining or arguing,” reminds me that I should do all things with a happy heart. Everyday life is often glamorless but the Bible tells me to still “rejoice always.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

May all I do this day give glory to You O Lord. Help this day to remember not to grumble in the days ordinariness but to rejoice, always. Amen.

The love of a child

People were bringing children to Jesus so that he would bless them. But the disciples scolded them. When Jesus saw this, he grew angry and said to them, “Allow the children to come to me. Don’t forbid them, because God’s kingdom belongs to people like these children.  I assure you that whoever doesn’t welcome God’s kingdom like a child will never enter it. ” Then he hugged the children and blessed them. ~Mark 10:13-16

No one loves like a child. This is how God wants me to love Him, that unconditional love, that love that completely believes that the parent can provide for all their needs, a complete dependence for the provision of those needs. A child is free to not know all the answers but has the assurance of where those answers may be found. Children adore their parents.

The Kingdom of God is like a child secure in the love of a parent.

Heavenly Father, Thank You for allowing me to come to You as a child comes to a parent. I thank You for Your love that You pour out on me every day. I thank You that I know that I am Your Beloved child. Amen.

Rooted in love

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us.

Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. And everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself even as he is pure. Every person who practices sin commits an act of rebellion, and sin is rebellion. You know that he appeared to take away sins, and there is no sin in him. Every person who remains in relationship to him does not sin. Any person who sins has not seen him or known him. ~1 John 3:1-6 (CEB)

“The word ‘radical’ means going to the root, getting down to essentials. People who get down to essentials and stay with them, no matter what the changes around them, are and remain radial. They are rooted in something that endures. The most radical element of our faith is the unconditional love of God. The more we internalize this truth, the greater the transformation that happens within us. Transformation has to do with freedom, freedom to live and love like Christ.” ~From Free to ray, Free to Love by Max Olivia, S.J.

O Lord, may I ever be rooted in Your love. May Your truths be seeded deeply and knowledge and wisdom spring forth. May the seedlings You have watered shoot forth from my heart flowing into those You have placed in my life.  Help me to stay radical in You. Amen.

Unconditional love

One of the Pharisees invited Jesus to eat with him. After he entered the Pharisee’s home, he took his place at the table. Meanwhile, a woman from the city, a sinner, discovered that Jesus was dining in the Pharisee’s house. She brought perfumed oil in a vase made of alabaster. Standing behind him at his feet and crying, she began to wet his feet with her tears. She wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and poured the oil on them. When the Pharisee who had invited Jesus saw what was happening, he said to himself, If this man were a prophet, he would know what kind of woman is touching him. He would know that she is a sinner.

Jesus replied, “Simon, I have something to say to you.”

“Teacher, speak,” he said.  

“A certain lender had two debtors. One owed enough money to pay five hundred people for a day’s work. The other owed enough money for fifty. When they couldn’t pay, the lender forgave the debts of them both. Which of them will love him more?”

Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the largest debt canceled.”

Jesus said, “You have judged correctly.”

Jesus turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? When I entered your home, you didn’t give me water for my feet, but she wet my feet with tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss, but she hasn’t stopped kissing my feet since I came in. You didn’t anoint my head with oil, but she has poured perfumed oil on my feet. This is why I tell you that her many sins have been forgiven; so she has shown great love. The one who is forgiven little loves little.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

The other table guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this person that even forgives sins?”

Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” ~Luke 7:35-50 (CEB)

Recently I experienced unconditional love. No strings attached. No judgment involved. The night before I had been tossing and turning and throwing up prayers to God. I didn’t even know exactly what I needed but I knew I needed a miracle. Maybe this was the first time I actually prayed for a miracle. But let me tell you, when you ask, be prepared for an answer.

God knew exactly what I needed to release some of the pressure that I had been under. I was struggling so hard to trust and believe… struggling so hard to keep the faith that I knew. The next morning a dear friend offered a selfless gift. It was an answer to my prayer from the night before.

When you pray for a miracle you still have to do the work of accepting it when it comes. It is so tempting when we have dug that hole of despair because of our own mistakes to not accept a miracle when it does come our way. “I made this mess so I should be the one to dig myself out!” God has been in my face this season about pride. Here again I felt that old demon rising his head.

Pride swallowed I accepted her gift and was blessed beyond belief. Through this I learned what unconditional love looks like. I pray often to be able to see with God’s eyes and to love with His heart. My eyes are opened in a way I never could have understood before.

He has shown me what unconditional love looks like.

Heavenly Father, from the depths of my despair I cried out to You and You heard me. I asked to feel Your love surround me. I thank You for showing me Your unconditional love through Your earthly servants. I thank You for people who are obedient to Your will. Help me to return the love that I have been shown. Amen.

The best view

Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust:  “Two people went up to the temple to pray. One was a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood and prayed about himself with these words, ‘God, I thank you that I’m not like everyone else—crooks, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week. I give a tenth of everything I receive.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He wouldn’t even lift his eyes to look toward heaven. Rather, he struck his chest and said, ‘God, show mercy to me, a sinner.’ I tell you, this person went down to his home justified rather than the Pharisee. All who lift themselves up will be brought low, and those who make themselves low will be lifted up. ” ~Luke 18:9-14 (CEB)

“When I was growing up, I thought the greatest Christians must be the person who walks around with shoulders thrown back because of tremendous inner strength and power, quoting Scripture and letting everyone know he has arrived. I have since learned that the most mature believer is the one who is bent over, leaning most heavily on the Lord, and admitting his total inability to do anything without Christ. The greatest Christian is not the one who has achieved the most but rather the one who has received the most. God’s grace, love, and mercy flow through him abundantly because he walks in total dependence.” ~From Fresh Faith by Jim Cymbala

Which image of a Christian would you relate to the most? The person who seems to have it all together perfectly? Or the person who has been broken but pieced back together by the Love of Christ? When all we see of each other is our “very best face” instead of the mosaic that is our hearts we remain isolated from each other and miss out on the community that God intended for us to share. It is not the Christian who “has it all together” that draws us out of the depths, but the one who “was once lost, but know is found”.

Today Lord, help me to show my “real self” to every person that I meet. Let them see that once I was broken, once I was lost but let them see that You sent Your Son into the world to retrieve me out of the depths and piece me back together. Let Your light shine though the mosaic of my heart. May they find Your Beauty and Grace. Amen.

Present-centeredness

Show me thy ways, O Lord; teach me thy paths. Lead me in thy truths, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. Remember, O Lord, thy tender mercies and thy loving kindnesses; for they have been ever of old ~Psalm 25:4-6 (KJV)

“Present-centeredness describes this important prerequisite of contemplation. Too often we find ourselves ‘distracted’ or ‘abstracted,’ that is, not all there. Both terms are derived from two Latin words: trahere meaning ‘to be yanked or pulled’ and de or ab meaning ‘from.’ When we are distracted or abstracted, we have been pulled from the present by some concern, thought, or action. Often it is guilt and regret over the past or concerns and worries about the future than keep us from living in the present. Dwelling in the past and projecting ourselves into the future both have the same result; they fragment our consciousness, leaving us unfocused. With one foot in the past and the other in the future, this bifurcated way of being splits our attention and ruins our ability to appreciate fully what is occurring before our very eyes.” ~From The Enduring Heart by Wilkie Au

It is my belief that in the “present” I find God’s presence. In the “present” my focus is on Him. In this “present” moment is where I will find the kingdom of God.

Help me to be ever focused on you this day Lord so that I may feel Your presence in my Life. Help me to not be pulled away by the guilt of the past or the worries of the future. Help me to be in Your presence now for this moment. Amen.

Stressful times

An argument broke out among the disciples over which one of them should be regarded as the greatest.

But Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles rule over their subjects, and those in authority over them are called ‘friends of the people.’ But that’s not the way it will be with you. Instead, the greatest among you must become like a person of lower status and the leader like a servant. So which one is greater, the one who is seated at the table or the one who serves at the table? Isn’t it the one who is seated at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.

“You are the ones who have continued with me in my trials. And I confer royal power on you just as my Father granted royal power to me. Thus you will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and you will sit on thrones overseeing the twelve tribes of Israel. ~Luke 22:24-30 (CEB)

Being a disciple was becoming stressful. The pace clearly had quickened during this three-year course in discipleship. The crowds had grown larger and demanded more. The lessons to be learned often seemed over the heads of the disciples. Jesus talked more and more about his own death and what was to follow. Frankly the disciples did not understand it, and the more confused they became, the more frustrated they became. We can appreciate that phenomenon. It happens to us. When we are under a heavy load for a long period of time, we often become frustrated, impatient, and sometimes not very nice to be around. We even begin to compare ourselves to others and begin to think that we deserve a little bigger slice of the reward pie than even our closest friend.

That kind of reaction to stress may explain why the disciples began arguing about who was to be regarded as the greatest among those who followed Jesus. Jesus shattered their hopes of achieving special status or special reward (Luke 22:26).

The world’s system of reward has nothing to do with the disciple’s system of reward. A disciple of Jesus Christ is called first to be servant of all, and the leader is to take the lowliest position of service. This system turns the world’s concept of leadership upside down. The first disciples found it hard to understand and even more difficult to live by such a value system. But Jesus seems to say there is no other way. Disciples serve. ~From A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God, Rueben P. Job

Heavenly Father, help me to keep my focus on whatever is true, not on the things that I perceive to be true. In my trials ease my frustration, bolster my patience and help me love those You have placed in my life with Your heart. Help me to serve others this day so that I can be Your hands and feet to the world. Amen.

A true fast

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. ~Matthew 5:6 (NIV)

Isaiah 56 tells us “Isn’t this the fast I choose: releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke, setting free the mistreated, and breaking every yoke? Isn’t it sharing your bread with the hungry and bringing the homeless poor into your house, covering the naked when you see them, and not hiding from your own family? … If you open your heart to the hungry, and provide abundantly for those who are afflicted, your light will shine in the darkness, and your gloom will be like the noon.” (Isa. 56:6,7,10)

So I ask you, do you hunger and thirst for justice? True fasting is not just depriving ourselves of privilege but also sharing sacrificially to bring an end to the cycles of inequality, an end to violence and solution to starvation.

Heavenly Father, create in me a hunger and thirst for Your righteousness. Enable me this day to be Your hands and feet to those who live in darkness.  Help me love with Your heart and shine with Your light so that the darkness may be like the noon day sun. Amen.

From the ends of the earth

You whom I took from the ends of the earth and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant; I chose you and didn’t reject you”: Don’t fear, because I am with you; don’t be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand. ~Isaiah 41:9-10 (CEB)

“There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.” ~From Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Lord, in my weakness and vulnerability I find you. Please take my trials and help me bear fruit. I thank you for communities that You have provided through which I can feel Your love for me. Guide my steps, make the ground firm beneath my feet for my hope is in You. Amen.

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