Friday, August 24, 2012

Follow Me

Among the first recorded words of Jesus are, "Follow Me." Follow Him, and He will make you a fisher of human souls. Follow Him, and He will show you true peace. Follow Him, and He will give you the riches of the Heavenly Kingdom.

"Follow," as used here, encompasses virtually every English meaning of the word: follow the path and don't wander off; stay behind the Leader and don't run ahead or lag far back; follow instructions and don't try to invent your own way. The original Greek also carries the sense of "accompany" or "assist." When we follow Jesus, we are more than His subjects; we are His companions, right-hand people, and friends. 

Many of us want to follow Him but wonder why the path never seems clear. Often it's because we have our stubborn minds made up to follow only at our own speed and on our own terms. While relatively few of us flatly refuse to obey clear instructions, many of us are all too willing to listen with half an ear if we suspect God may tell us anything we don't want to know. Or, conversely, we nag Him to provide instructions in detailed long-term format so we aren't distracted from the important work by the nuisance of keeping in constant touch with Him. We don't really want Jesus to be our Leader; we want Him to be our daily planner who organizes our own preferred duties, our front guard who goes before us while we choose path and pace.   

If, as a child, you ever lost Mom in a public place, you have some idea of the results that attitude can serve up.

Of course, unlike that frantic mother, Jesus knows exactly where we are even when we're lost. He simply waits for us to call to Him, in sincerity and repentance, to show us the way back to the path. Often, we can't see His leading clearly because we don't yet feel lost enough to know the desperate earnestness of seeking Him wholeheartedly.

But as God told the Israelite exiles (in Jer. 29:13) who became lost when they stopped following Him: "You will seek me and find me [and My plan for you] when you seek me with all your heart."

He Who called His first disciples
Where the lake in sunlight basked,
Still does call us where we labor:
"Follow Me, and find your task."

He Who called the weak and weary
To a "load" that meant release,
Still is calling us to trust Him:
"Follow Me, and walk in peace."

He Who called the ones reluctant
To abandon earthly care,
Calls us still to full surrender:
"Follow Me to Heaven's share."

Lord, You led the way through suffering,
On through death, to life again:
May we find the faith to answer,
"We will follow to the end."

Friday, August 17, 2012

Clutter's Children

"The sleep of a laborer is sweet, whether he eats little or much, but the abundance of a rich man permits him no sleep" (Ecc. 5:12).

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal" (Mt. 6:19).

"Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.... [A] certain rich man... thought to himself... 'You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.' But God said to him, ‘You fool!'" (Lk. 12:16-17, 19-20).

Everyone knows about those who are rich, famous--and totally miserable. Everyone pays lip service to the idea that money can't buy happiness. And nearly everyone is secretly confident of being the exception to the rule.

But it's not only money and possessions that weigh us down with the stress of longing for more, with worry about what we might not get, with hostility toward others who might have designs on what's "ours." Perhaps even more people clutter their time with overload, fueled by longing for a sense of importance and success, and by fear of missing out. Shortage of adequate vacation time and bitter resentment of interruptions have driven many to hospitals or worse.

Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.... For my yoke is easy and my burden is light" (Mt. 11:28-30). An irresistible offer--until we realize that our own self-imposed burdens have to be removed to make room for His. Give up our rights to control our own money? Preposterous! Trade work time for quiet time? The road to poverty! Yield up our carefully planned schedules? Why, that's unnatural!

It is unnatural to give up what we hold. As with the child who traps his hand in the candy jar by grabbing too big a fistful, instinct tells us to struggle and scream, to smash what imprisons us and "our" possessions, to find any alternative to letting go of a coveted thing that we finally have in our grasp. This instinct is the manifestation of what the Bible calls our "flesh"--that insidious, all-pervasive, "me first" aspect of human nature that infected our universal gene pool at the Fall.

God is waiting to restore our spiritual health. But don't blame the Doctor if you insist on writing your own alternative prescription. 

Clutter is the father of Anger:
With each moment a task assigned,
You will hate every interruption
For invading your precious time.

Clutter is the mother of Anguish:
With “to do” as an endless snare,
You will fret at each thing that stalls you
Till you sink into black despair.

Clutter is begetter of Illness:
When all life is a pile of “more,”
Endless effort dragging the burden
Strains your heart and health to the core.

Clutter is the bearer of Misery,
And of Pain and the Way of Death:
Yet it draws us all to its clutches
Almost from the first earthly breath.

Jesus is the Bearer of Burdens,
The Begetter of Hope and Peace:
Let Him cleanse your life of all clutter
And wash you in His sweet release!