Do we really believe this?

As I listened to a sermon this morning based on the 23rd Psalm, I was blown away. I've been a Christ follower for over 35 years and I've heard and read Psalm 23 many, many times. It's a beautiful passage of scripture that flows with poetry, with beauty - it's comforting, peaceful and reassuring. But today I discovered the challenge hidden within it's verses. See if you can spot it.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
    for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

So where's the challenge? 
The challenge is found in living
as if we really believe the promises
of this passage. 

Do we really believe that we lack nothing?
If so, why do we whine about what we don't have?
Why don't we just trust that whatever we need, God will supply?
Why are we afraid to give generously?
Are we afraid that if we do, God will punish, rather than bless by not giving us what we need?

Do we really believe that God will guide us along the right path?
If so, why do we wrack our brains trying to figure out our next move?
Why do we stress and lose sleep over what we should do?
Why are we afraid of the future? 

Do we really believe that God is able to prepare a table before us in the presence of our enemies?
That He could give us enough peace and protection to be able to sit down and enjoy a meal in the midsts of  a dangerous situation?
If so, why are we afraid to minister to the homeless, to those who live in crime-ridden areas, to those who are in prison, to those in foreign countries?
Are we really convinced that God will protect us?

Do we really believe that God will anoint us to do any work He calls us to do?
If so, why do we hesitate when He calls us to step into a leadership position?
To teach a Sunday School class? To lead a Small Group?
Why do we shrink back when He prompts us to reach out to the seemingly unreachable? we really believe the Word?
With God for us, who can stand against us?
What can they do to us?
Kill us?

Oh, please...don't make us go to Heaven!

This morning, my eyes have been opened.
I'm praying that I never again let fear keep me from doing something brave for God.
I'm praying that I never again let my perception of lack keep me from stepping out in faith.
I'm praying that I never again allow well-meaning people talk me out of doing something outrageous for the One who loves me, protects me, provides for me, equips me and anoints me.

I pray that I will take Him at His Word, for when we are bold enough to do that, to live like we believe it, the world will sit up and take notice...not of us, but of our Almighty God.

God's promise is this...

Surely your goodness and love will follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Believe it!
And live like you believe it!

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Are You a Follower?

photo courtesy Tacluda,
When Jesus invited people to follow him, he wasn't asking them to tag along behind him and watch what he did. He was inviting them to walk along side him and be a part of what he was doing. He taught them how to do what he did, and then he, expected them to dig right in and work with him in the ministry. Those were the people he called disciples.

The crowds that followed him, the tag along-ers, the curious onlookers were not followers. They were not disciples and Jesus did not bother go share deep spiritual truths with them. Those were reserved for those who demonstrated their willingness to lay everything aside and join him in his work.

Many today claim to be Christians - Christ Followers, but in reality, they just a part of the crowd, the onlookers. They show up at church when they have nothing more interesting to do, just to see what's happening, or perhaps just to ease their conscience. They're not a part of the many ministries that are going on in the church. They're there to receive, please don't ask them to give or they might not show up for another several months.

Jesus had little patience with folks like this and I have to admit, neither do I.  I'd rather have a church full of unbelievers who are earnestly seeking to know what it means to follow Jesus Christ and grow in a relationship with God than a roomful of "Christians" who are not truly following Christ at all.

Don't get me wrong - I love these people and I know that Christ died for them...I just don't have much patience with them. I guess it's because they already know what Christ did for them. They know how far God went and what He was willing to sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins, yet they still remain in the infant stage of Christianity, always looking to be catered to and fed instead of growing up in their relationship with Christ so that they are mature enough to minister to others.

As you can probably tell, this is a pet-peeve of mine, but more than that, it's a crying shame for those who claim the name Christian, but are not following Jesus, not really involved in the work he has asked us to do so that others might know Him and have their needs met. It always makes me thing of this verse in Revelations...

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.(Rev 3:15-16)
Please take a moment and ask yourself if you are a true follower of Jesus, walking alongside him, doing the works of the ministry, because the last commandment Jesus gave his disciples before he left  this earth was...Matthew 28:19-20

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Are you doing that? Are you assisting your church with making disciples? with encouraging others to know God and follow Jesus Christ? 

If not, let me encourage you to call your church today and ask where you can help. Every ministry, from working in the nursery to being on the prayer team, hosting a small group in your home, to helping vacuum the carpets at the church...and everything in between is all a part of providing a place where people can find Christ, grow in Him and experience the joy of being a part of a church family.

Please let me know if you've decided to follow Jesus closer as a result of this blog post and if you've become involved in a ministry in your church. I would love to celebrate with you because you have just taken one more step closer to Christ yourself and many will be blessed by your willingness to serve.

Father, I pray that you will show each one who reads this where they can serve you in their church and I thank you for speaking to their hearts. I celebrate with them that they have decided to be a part of what you are doing in the hearts and lives of people today. Bless them, bless their efforts and bless others through them. In Jesus Name, Amen

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