Called to Follow Jesus

hume-lake-3

One day, Jesus was walking along the shore of a lake, where he saw two burly fishermen. He watched, as Simon and Andrew stood inside their battered boat, working a big net in the water.

They were fishing—doing what they knew best and loved most. The brothers were sweaty and smelly, tired and tenacious—doing what they’d learned from their hard-working father.

Every day, they’d drop a net into the lake. After a while, they’d pull it out of the water and into their boat, hoping it’d be full of fish. All day long, they’d do it again—and again. They were determined men, intent on catching fish. It’s what they did for a living.

But Jesus was “fishing” for men who’d drop everything to follow him. He was looking for ordinary men who’d impact the world forever. Far from perfect, but pliable and teachable. Twelve men with dirty feet and broken hearts, just like you and me.

Our Savior was searching for men who’d answer his extraordinary call. Abandon what was safe and familiar. Risk sailing into uncharted waters. Commit to a cause bigger than life.

Jesus called Simon and Andrew first—and then called two more fishermen, James and his brother John. Mark 1:18 says, “At once they left their nets and followed him.”

Before long, Jesus hand-picked eight more men:  Phillip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James and Judas Iscariot.

This band of rag-tag ruffians followed their rabbi for three years. As he taught, they listened and learned. Soared and struggled. Compromised and panicked. Resisted and ran away.

They were short on faith and patience. Long on pride. Quick to jockey for position and power. Rough around the edges. Puzzled by what they saw and heard. Confused and distracted.

But Jesus never gave up on his wayward followers. He patiently taught and explained the Scriptures. He gently encouraged and cared for them. He loved them.

That’s why Jesus pursued and stayed with his disciples, not long after he died and came back to life. That’s why he encouraged and empowered them.

Matthew 28:17-18 says, “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  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 …”

Jesus called and commissioned them (and us!) to go and share the good news with everyone—and to baptize and teach believers everywhere to follow and obey Jesus. They did that—and turned the world upside down.

Will you answer Jesus’ call, obey his command and share the good news today?

Feeling Cranky or Content?

Sloth two toed

A man once visited a camp, where he was surprised to see an incredible menagerie of snakes, fish, birds … and a two-toed sloth.

He watched the odd-looking sloth for a while, observing how it barely moved. He noticed it was strangely content to hang upside down from a branch. When the sloth eventually moved across his critter room, he’d swing or walk in slow motion. He was seldom in a hurry.

As wide-eyed young campers petted the sloth’s crazy hairdo, staff fed him. They kept him preoccupied and comfortable so he’d be less likely to feel threatened—and more likely to be content with “hanging out” with a bunch of curious youngsters.

When someone pampers and serves me like that, I like it—and tend to cooperate as well. When my needs are met, I can be a really nice guy. I’m content.

But when things stop going my way, I may broadcast disappointment and discontentment with my circumstances. I may bad-mouth, belly-ache and blame. I may get obstinate and out-of-sorts. Ornery. Grumpy. Annoyed.

How do you react when things aren’t going your way? Shrug it off and keep going. Gripe and complain. Get critical and cranky. Rant and rave.

2 Corinthians 11 details how often the apostle Paul faced hard times. He was “hard-pressed on every side …” (verse 8). He endured hostility and hurt. He had his share of lousy days—and was dealt a bad hand more than once. He was beaten, dragged out of town, stoned and left for dead. He was chained inside a cold, dark and rat-infested prison.

And yet Paul learned to live above his circumstances. He lived what he wrote:

“I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

That’s an “above the clouds” perspective on the stuff of life—and the secret of contentment.

Paul struggled with adverse circumstances and yo-yo emotions, just like us—but he discovered how to rise above them. He learned how to experience true contentment during adversity.

Paul was able to live confidently and contentedly because he believed God would care for his daily needs. He trusted God to guide and provide for him in any and every circumstance.

That kind of contentment is rare. It’s bigger and stronger than our worst circumstances. It’s better and brighter than our best moments.

It’s not easy to live contentedly during adversity—but God encourages and strengthens us so we can endure whatever comes our way.

God empowers us to live out the secret of contentment!

When We’re Hurt or Offended

spikes-jesus-on-cross

Jesus reached out to people everywhere he went because he cared about everyone he met.

Every time Jesus encountered and connected with people, he demonstrated grace, forgiveness and love. He didn’t manufacture or fake it. He didn’t hold back or give up. Jesus was authentic, compassionate and relentless.

Our Savior opened his heart and extended his hands to others. He cared—and people knew it.  He touched—and people felt it. Jesus was gracious, kind and loving.

He greeted, accepted and helped people. He acknowledged and affirmed them. That’s why so many people were attracted to him—and that’s why they followed him.

They knew Jesus cared with no strings attached. They saw him serve with grace and humility. They watched him heal miraculously. They heard him speak boldly and gently.

And yet, Jesus was misunderstood and maligned. Clergymen criticized him. Friends deserted him. Leaders hated him. Sinners accused him. Soldiers hit him.

The religious Pharisees and Sadducees tried to trick and trap him. They hated and rejected him. That’s why they plotted to capture and kill him.

Our sinless Savior was betrayed by a fickle friend and arrested by Roman soldiers. Falsely accused and condemned. Bullied and mocked. Disrobed and whipped. Speared and crucified.

Our gentle Shepherd was condemned by an agitated mob. And yet he endured everything without getting angry or lashing out. He refused to strike back, choosing instead to forgive.

But often when you and I are hurt or offended by others, we say and do things we shouldn’t. We give in to that ugly urge to get even. We plot revenge. Attack and retaliate. Spit venom and say hurtful words. Go after a pound of flesh.

But not Jesus. He did nothing of the sort. “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly …” (1 Peter 2:23). He didn’t say a word when the crowd harassed and hurt him. He didn’t summon holy warrior angels when the soldiers shoved and struck him.

Our Savior did something radical and unexpected. He didn’t retaliate. He didn’t seek revenge. Not once. Instead, he endured awful abuse and intense suffering with unusual dignity, joy and strength. He extended undeserved grace—and forgave freely.

That’s what Jesus taught and did—and that’s why Paul taught, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17). Our Savior endured extreme suffering—and demonstrated how to respond to the hurts and wrongs of life.

Will you follow our Savior’s example and walk in his footsteps?