I invite you to join discussions, it enhances the reading experience for everyone. Please share your thoughts, opinions and knowledge in a respectful manner. May we all learn something in our endeavor to educate our hearts and minds. I look forward to hearing from you!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship Chapter 6

Matt 5:1-12 Beatitudes

Bonhoeffer opens with the people watching Jesus’ disciples on the mountain. Christ’s followers used to be like them, ordinary men. What made them different?  How could they leave everything and follow Jesus? Could they follow Him too? If so, how does the life of a disciple look?

Bonhoeffer goes through the Beatitudes, describing the character and life of a disciple. I’m going to hit the highlights.

 “By “mourning” Jesus, of course, means doing without what the world calls peace and prosperity…The world dreams of progress, of power and of the future. But the disciples meditate on the end, the last judgment, and the coming of the kingdom. To such heights the world cannot rise. And so the disciples are strangers in the world, unwelcome guest and disturbers of the peace.”

The world keeps the church at arm’s length. Churches are not invited to celebrate the triumphs and barely tolerated to assist in tragedy. However disciples are sorrow-bearers, whether the world welcomes the love or not. They show mercy to the one’s God loves. Jesus went among the sinners to gather disciples and we must go among them too. In so doing, we renounce our own dignity and righteousness.

“As if their own needs and their own distress were not enough, they take upon themselves the distress and humiliation and sin of others. They have an irresistible love for the down-trodden, the sick, the wretched, the wronged, the outcast and all who are tortured with anxiety…If any man falls into disgrace, the merciful will sacrifice their own honour to shield him, and take his shame upon themselves.”

This sounds like a lot of work! How can a disciple bear his own cross and help his fellow man- especially those who don’t want help? Surely God is asking too much! 

“Sorrow cannot tire them or wear them down, it cannot embitter them or cause them  to break down under the strain; far from it, for they bear their sorrow in the strength of him who bears them up, who bore the whole sufferings of the world upon the cross.”

Not only are disciples to bear sorrows, they are to make peace when the world screams, “fight!” Disciples choose to endure pain instead of inflict it. They chose to accept being wronged, they deny their rights and in that, they make peace. 

But nowhere will that peace be more manifest than where they meet the wicked in peace and are ready to suffer at their hands.”
Disciples willingly accept the suffering of others, whether they deserve it or not. How can they do this?

Because disciples are also meek. What does that mean? 

Jesus left all. He humbled Himself and served. He didn’t claim His rights as Lord. For the Joy before Him, He endured the cross. We too must deny our rights and any claim we have on this Earth. We must trust God and the Kingdom ahead. 

“[R]enounce every right of their own and live for the sake of Jesus Christ. When reproached, they hold their peace; when treated with violence they endure it patiently; when men drive them from their presence, they yield their ground. They will not go to law to defend their rights, or make a scene when they suffer injustice, nor do they insist on their legal rights. They are determined to leave their rights to God alone.”

All this sounds crazy. Why would anyone want this life?

Because it’s a relationship, not a life style. As we grow in our relationship with Christ, we hunger and thirst for more. There’s never enough! But many lack this hunger. Why? Because in order to hunger, we must first deny our flesh. 

“Not only do the followers of Jesus renounce their rights, they renounce their own righteousness too. They get no praise for their achievements or sacrifices.” 

How can one live such a selfless life?

They are pure in heart. Not simply pure from evil but pure from good as well. 

“Only those whose hearts are undefiled by their own evil- and by their own virtues too. The pure in heart have a child-like simplicity…innocent alike of good and evil:  their hearts are not ruled by their conscience, but by the will of Jesus…Purity of heart is here contrasted with all outward purity, even the purity of high intentions.” 

Lastly the disciple is willing to endure persecutions at the hands of those they serve and love.
How can one do all this?

“The fellowship of the beatitudes is the fellowship of the Crucified. With him it has lost all, and with him it has found all.” 

1)       Which Beatitude do you struggle with the most and why?
2)      Have you ever experience a time when “good” things got in your way of being Pure of Heart? How did you identify it and what did you do next?
3)      Have you ever known someone who exemplified the Beatitudes? Were you challenged to draw closer to God?
4)      What steps do you need to take to embody the life of a Disciple? 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Character of Popularity and Leadership?

 I'm a Guest Blogger today at Brandon Gilliland's  while he is on a Mission Trip. Please head over and read my post, I'm Not Home Yet. If you are visiting from Brandon's blog, Welcome! Stay a while. I pray you like what you read and sign up to follow. I have a Monthly Newsletter you can sign up for as well. God bless you all! 

The Character of Popularity and Leadership?

I read numerous blogs on how one can become a good leader.

But as I watch the news, I wonder if our national leaders read them.

I also wonder what the general population reads. 

Sadly, I don’t think it’s the same blogs as me. 

I listen to left and right wing commentator’s talk about the presidential candidates and get nauseous.

This seems more like a High School Popularity Contest than a Presidential Election!

I know Americans are hooked on shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, Bachelor and countless other mind numbing shows that focus on appearance and talent and less on Character and Morals, BUT SERIOUSLY! Are we going to elect our next president based on “LIKEABILITY” and “PERSONALITY”? 

I don’t have to “like” my president as I do my best friend. I don’t have to think, “Man, this is someone I could see myself hanging out with.” 

No. What I’ve got to have is confidence the person can do the job. I must be confident I can trust him (or her) to be honest, to have integrity and to live within the confines of the law- not to manipulate it or override it when it doesn’t fit their agenda!

I don’t need to think our president is “cool” or “hip” or whatever the current lingo is. I don’t have to like what they wear, be in awe of their friends, or be blinded by their skin color/religion.

I don’t care what my president looks like! I don’t care if they tell good jokes! I don’t care if they have a million celebrity friends or none! I don’t care if they grew up rich or poor! I don’t care if they have a million dollars or five bucks! 

ALL I CARE ABOUT IS THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER! (Character is more than words, its actions).

Character is what leads this nation, not popularity…or at least it should be.

It’s time Americans learn how to pick good leaders.

Followers will not always agree with leaders. However, they should have confidence their leader is doing what is best for them. They should be assured that when our president makes a mistake (as all leaders do) that he or she will take ownership and not cast blame.

But let’s be real- Leaders give what the masses want and expect. 

In the past few generations, it seems American expectations are low.

So how can we change America’s perception of what defines a good leader?

How can we convince some of our current leaders to be more than they are?

How can we do this when it appears it is only you and me who read leadership blogs, buy challenging books, study quality mentors and actively endeavor to become more than this world requires us to be?

I’m not sure. However, I do know good leaders- especially Presidential leaders- are not about popularity, appearances, convenience, or any of the other things we like to attribute our celebrities.
Celebrities are in a different category. They are celebrities. We like their glimmer and fashion. We expect them to be likeable, to not always be responsible, and to be selfish at times.

We shouldn’t place those attributes on anyone leading our country. 

America deserves more.

But we will give her more? We will take responsibility and vote for leaders worth following?

Will we vote for character, morals, honesty, integrity and all those other qualities not popular with mainstream society?

We will take our leadership blogs to the masses… or expect the masses to come to us?

What would a good leader do?

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Cost of Discipleship Chapter 5

I'd never heard the term “collective salvation” until five years ago. Thanks to our president, I am now familiar. And yet collective salvation goes against the Bible.

“Every man is called separately, and must follow alone. But men are frightened of solitude, and they try to protect themselves from it by merging themselves in the society of their fellow-men in their material environment…But all this is only a cloak to protect them from having to make a decision.” 

Luke 14:26 NIV, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.”

“Yet neither father nor mother, neither wife nor child, neither nationality nor tradition, can protect a man at the moment of his call. It is Christ’s will that he should be thus isolated, and that he should fix his eyes solely upon him…He wants to be centre, through him alone all things shall come to pass. He stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality.” 

When I think of Jesus as mediator, I usually think of Him as mediator between me and God- not me and others, me and this world.

And yet He is.

Though we desire to be part of the collective, it is individually we are called. It is individually we must respond. Though we live in communities, surrounded by many, part of multiple groups, we are individuals unable to overcome fundamental barriers that divide.

We can never truly know anyone- even our spouses. We know some better than others, but only Christ knows each of us individually. Only through Christ do we know how to love selflessly and unconditionally. He stands between us and others, helping form the Body of Christ, the Family of God.

Jesus is the Mediator unifying all our differences within the Body.

But how are we to live in the world and yet not love it? How are we to express the love of Christ and yet fulfill this scripture-  “hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple.”?

 God tells us:  We are not of this world, yet we live in this world -John 15:19.

We are to “Love not the World”- 1 John 2:15 but we also must remember “God so loved the world”- John 3:16

But how do we accomplish this? 

Jesus the Mediator!

Though we are to have no other loves above Him, He doesn’t want us to be alone in this world. 

Through His mediation, we can experience this world and our relationships on a whole new level! He is the one who unifies the Church, not man! He should be the center of all our relationships, Mediating. On our own we are bound to mess up the collective cohesiveness- the unity within the Body.

“He divides, but he also unites.”

 So regardless of the popularity of “collective salvation”, we are not saved collectively. Despite our desire to be part of a group, we must follow individually. And yet through this individuality we find ourselves- we find our family.
“Though we all have to enter upon discipleship alone, we do not remain alone. If we take him at his word and dare to become individuals, our reward is the fellowship of the Church.”
1.        Do you see “collective salvation” in our society, if so how?
2.       Do you find yourself afraid of the individual call?
3.       Do you hide in a group?

Friday, July 20, 2012

One Lovely Blog!

Recently I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by a very beautiful blog, Longings End

I have to say I was completely humbled and honored to be selected for this award, especially because Michael and Sheila’s blog really is lovely- I feel mine pales in comparison. Nonetheless they nominated me and I am tickled pink! Thank you both!

So here are the rules for accepting this award: I must tell 7 things about myself, thank the blog who nominated me and link back to their blog, and then pass this award onto other deserving blogs who will continue the process!

1.        I am a huge animal lover
2.       I don’t like folding laundry- easiest house chore, but I don’t like doing it
3.       My spice rack is alphabetized
4.       I detest most Reality TV
5.       I like following rules
6.       I hate people being left out- that is why on this occasion I am breaking a rule and not formally selecting anyone for this award. Instead I select you all. I think you all deserve awards, how can I pick only a few? That’s too hard a decision. You all inspire me, challenge me, humble me and encourage me. You all are lovely bloggers. So, if you are reading this, consider yourself notified that you have been nominated for this award!
7.       It gets on my nerves when people can’t make decisions...(oops, looks like I’m getting on my own nerves right now- #6)

 Thank you all for making this blog great! I dedicate this award to you. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Hands and Feet

Theme for Today: Body Parts!

I have the honor of Guest Posting today at Serving Strong. Please check out my post on Feet! If you are visiting here from Scott’s blog, welcome! Please look around. I hope you enjoy and sign up to follow. I also offer a Monthly Newsletter. God bless and have a wonderful day.

The Most Beautiful Hands I Know

I sat and watched her.

Her hands were rough, wrinkled, scared. Deformity from arthritis was setting in.

Yet her hands gently stroked his damp forehead. Offering comfort, love, and support.

If he could, I imagine he would have leaned into her touch. Craving more.

For years, they had held each other.

For years, they had supported each other.

For years, they had been lovers and best friends.

But he was leaving her now.

The years ahead looked lonely without him.

I wondered what her hands would do with him gone.

Her worn hands had worked so hard preparing his meals, washing his laundry, cleaning his house, rubbing his back and countless other tasks a devoted wife preformed.

What were they to do when he was gone?

It didn’t seem fair that he was leaving without her.

But the choice was not up to them.

This was above them.

This was God’s will.

Some question God’s will- how a loving God would allow such unfairness.

But they do not know my God.

His ways are above ours.

His love more pure than comprehension allows.

While I did not know what her hands would do in his absents, God did.

And He was already working on a plan.

Shortly after his departure, God gave her something new to hold, something new to love, something new to care for…He gave her a grandbaby!

A few years later, her tired hands still find energy to love a rowdy toddler. To hold him as he wiggles, to catch him if he falls.

She uses those same hands to prepare him meals, to wash his clothes, to pick up his toys, to rub his little feet and to do countless other things only a loving grandma does. 

I sit and watch her.

I cannot tell you the joy it brings my heart to see her with my son.

Her hands, growing more painful by the year, are beautiful to me.

As beautiful as the baby she loves them with.

I pray for many more years with her.

I pray for her hands.

They are beautiful hands. They are loving hands. They are the hands of my mother.

God bless those hands!