“Come Away With Me”

Last week, I started to wake up a couple of hours early, but resisted. It wasn’t time to get up and I wanted to get more sleep. In this moment, it seemed to me that my heart was stirred by these words, “Come away with me.” About an hour later, the same thing happened. Same stirring and same reaction. In both cases, I went back to sleep.

Then, two hours after the initial stirring, it was time to get up and I awoke to that same perceived call. I believe God was stirring my heart in that way so I woke up praying and considering, “is that You? If so, what does that mean?”

I opened the Bible and found this passage: “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

This meant some things to me personally which I continue to process. It also meant some things to me professionally. The ministry I work for (thequestlife.com) was started, in effect, from that phrase. The founder, Richard Henderson, tells the story of God stirring those exact same words within him over 18 years ago. That invitation, met with his “yes,” took him to Riodoso, New Mexico. From that invitation and acceptance, Quest was born on the side of a mountain. Thousands of people from different parts of the world with different stories have encountered Jesus during their Quest experience.

The invitation was given by Jesus to the guys with Him and it’s given to us. Our willingness to simply say, “yes” to his call to put down our business and go away to a quiet place for rest with Him remains. Maybe that’s the true “secret sauce” to Quest or any related “freedom” ministries . . . “yes” to the rest. Yes to the communion. Yes to the meal with Him.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? I think it is, but it isn’t. In the “yes,” there is an implied “no.” That “no” is where the problem is. Most of us are simply unwilling to say “no” to the busyness. We are either too over-extended, self-important or addicted to the adrenaline that we won’t stop. Our excuses will vary, but they all result in a refusal to take Jesus up on that very simple invitation. Until they don’t, and then our quest can begin.

Working Without A Net

trapeze_artists_18901I have a good friend who has had many struggles. He has battled addiction and all kinds of temptations following a childhood of abuse. There has been divorce and hurt and loss of just about every kind. He has spent his adult life trying to put back together what was dismantled during his formative years.

There was a point several years ago that he was reaching out for counsel as he considered how to break free from his current situation. As we talked, he was contemplating the promise of Jesus to heal the broken-hearted and set the captive free. He was curious and tempted, but also wise in his question, which was “What does that cost?’

As I considered the question, it dawned on me that I had never fully considered it to the extent that this friend was asking. The depth of the answer which came out of my mouth was startling to me as I shared it with him. “Everything,” I said.

Following Jesus costs everything. This is an all-in proposition filled with all kinds of challenges in exchange for the benefit of carrying His glory. Being a disciple and making disciples requires a realization that Jesus calls us into a life filled with the following found as He sends out his disciples in Matthew 10:

  • There is no promise of a big bank account (v. 9)
  • You will be accused and persecuted (v. 17)
  • Relationships will be strained if not fractured (v. 21)
  • Others will hate you (v. 22)
  • You will be maligned and ridiculed (v. 23)
  • It costs your entire life (v. 38)

Part of the reason that the West struggles to see the move of God that is seen in other parts of the world is because of the comfort. From a place of comfort, there is no appetite for abandonment. There does not appear to be a need to be drastic when there is nothing drastic about our conditions.

Discipleship and disciple making tends to be conditional and measured because the context in the suburbs allow for it. This isn’t to say we need to sell everything and move to Africa, it is to say that the heart condition of a disciple is the same as it was when Jesus sent out the first twelve. It’s not about losing your stuff, it’s about being willing to.

The promises of Matthew 10 are plenty to overcome the challenges:

  • Supernatural authority (v. 1)
  • Supernatural peace (v. 11)
  • Supernatural wisdom (v. 16)
  • Supernatural favor (v. 20)
  • Supernatural representation (v. 32)
  • Supernatural life (v. 39)
  • Supernatural rewards (v. 41)

So it’s a great, and somewhat intimidating, exchange. The apparent security and comfort of the natural for the abundant promises of the supernatural. It’s a move from the seen to the unseen. It’s a transition from temporal to eternal. It’s heaven on earth.

You in?

Oxen & A Field

oxen-plowing3I wonder how many times I’ve passed up the banquet? I wonder how many mornings came and went with the cares of the world taking a primary focus ahead of the availability of what could have been a great feast? How many useless hours of scrolling Facebook, perusing the news, considering the day or worrying about the future at the cost of a fulfilling time of relationship and celebration? The sad reality is that there have been a great number of times that I missed the chance to truly dine.

Recently, I was enjoying the banquet and the contrast became glaring. It was a morning spent accepting the invitation and resisting any temptation to jump into the world too quickly. It was time spent with Jesus considering His words and resting at the table with Him. It was rich and fulfilling and deep and real. I didn’t want to leave.

I was reading during that time the passage in Luke 14 where He describes the invitation to a great banquet and how many who were invited would decline. It was never a rude, obviously disinterested declination, but a choice made to communicate better options or greater value for the invitee. The three  following excuses were given:

  1. I have to go look at a field that I have purchased
  2. I bought five oxen and I need to go inspect them
  3. I got married, so I can’t make it

They opted for the lure of riches, the cares of the world and the pleasures of this life. The banquet with the King was not appealing enough to postpone an oxen inspection. For some context, the average life expectancy of an ox is about 20 years and the banquet is an invitation into eternity.

It’s easy to look at the three excuses and judge the reactions of the men. It’s easy to project our reaction if Jesus were to invite us to a banquet and judge ourselves better responders then they. It’s easy to think that we would drop everything to attend, but do our choices support our projection?

What if the banquet were available every day in the setting aside of time with Him? Here’s how He describes it in Revelation 3:20: “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

How many meals are we missing?

Not Home Alone

Why-He-Needs-More-Time-AloneThe only way to get from here to there is to know the transformative agent that moves us from the current to the future. In other words, what works to change things? If we don’t have a grasp on what it is that makes things different, we will spin our wills with activity and good intentions but end up frustrated with our minimal impact. We’ll scramble from one good idea to another trying to be better but the results will be left to little more than luck.

There is a need for a shift in the current to move towards a releasing of every believer to their purpose and destiny in the context of the Kingdom. I don’t believe any of us can pull that off of our own hard work, learning or service. That isn’t pessimistic or fatalistic, its realistic. The reason for that perspective is that I’ve never met a person that can do the kind of inside-out work that is required like the Holy Spirit can. He can breathe life and transformation into the darkest corners of any heart to birth new identity in Christ which is the creation of a Kingdom agent.

The presence of God has to be the primary factor in our vision for organic delivery of the Kingdom from Sunday mornings to the rest of the week/world. That sounds elementary but is that really the focus we maintain in our weekly gatherings? Is that the demand of the attendee and/or the purpose of the leadership that calls them together? Is it the presence of God or the quality of facilities and programs? Is it Holy Spirit power or man-made entertainment?

The simple, yet relevant and necessary call is to welcome the presence of God back to the gatherings of God’s people. We need to change our tone and scope to welcome divine interaction in a corporate setting and not just us getting together to talk about Him. Sometimes that means being quiet. Sometimes that means going off the script. Sometimes it may mean running long and sometimes being done earlier than planned. It means that we come to meet Him and allow Him to move as He chooses. It means that we welcome, foster and yearn for an environment where He is the primary invitee and cater everything we say, sing, pray and do to that central thought.

There is no magic in this and it’s not a “charismatic” idea. Simply taking a minute to be quiet brings incredible realization of His peace and presence in this void of activity compared to a world of activity. Allowing for a minute to let Him speak to individual hearts is simple and uncontrolled, but that one word that an individual receives from Him trumps anything we can possibly plan, preach or program.

He’ll change us, one by one and as a whole, if we’ll at least invite Him into the process. With Him, we’ve got a shot at doing the stuff He’s calling us into. He doesn’t need us to do stuff “for” Him . . . He wants to do His stuff with us.

All In?

poker chips

Sometimes a fresh look at something from a different persepective of time and experience yields a completely different understanding. The thing that you thought it was may still be true, but the fresh glimpse affords a depth of understanding that makes the original observation different while remaining the same.

I intend to read through the entire Bible several times this year and recently re-read Deuteronomoy for the first time in a while. Part of the story found there is God giving Moses the Ten Commandments as He takes Moses and the Israelites to the promised land. This most recent reading clarified and highlighted a few things for me:

  1. God delivers the Commandments with the promise of if you do these things, it will “go well with you” (6:18) and do these things “so that you may live and prosper (5:33).”
  2. They (and we) were prone to forget God when they started to experience success (8:11 and 31:21).
  3. Wealth brings satisfaction that lends itself to pride which gives way to putting things above God (8:14 and 31:20).
  4. There is no compromise of middle ground, we either follow Him and experience the promise of His blessings or we reject Him and experience the consequences of rebellion (30:19).

In a nutshell, God is not mad at people nor does He give them rules. He simply lays out the way it works in the context of His holiness. The Commandments are a framework for how to experience the fullness of life and know the rewards of abundance that come in His kingdom. They are, at their core, an invitation to walk with God. We get to choose life or death but inherant in the love which is being expressed through allowing us to exercise in our own will is the reality that we will have to live out the consequences, good or bad.

John 10:10 says that there is a thief that comes to kill, steal and destroy but Jesus wants to give us abundant life. The thing about the life that Jesus offers is that it costs everything. We have to lay down our life to exchange it for His. That’s the invitation; His life for ours. It’s an invitation, and the rewards are immediate and eternal if we’ll submit ourselves to enjoy His fullness.

There is no middle ground. Going to church on Sunday won’t deliver on His promises and being good won’t, either. It’s an “all in” proposition one way or the other and the consequences and rewards are certain in this life and the next. With God’s invitation, the all in requires everything. With the world, you can maneuver in the gray but in the Kingdom the compromise is actually a rejection of Him. The American Dream is not a viable substitute for the Kingdom call. The suburbs are not the mansion and being dutiful is not the same as being dead.

Where have you declared your “all in” to be?

Counting the Costs

numbersThe middle ground will get you killed. The compromise leads to losing that which you wanted to preserve in the first place. There is no third option, there is no grey. You’re either all-in or just a defeated, church-going poser hoping nobody knows how anxious you are about them knowing who you really are.

That first paragraph wasn’t really my idea, it was what Jesus was saying in Luke 14. Beginning in verse 25, He apparently is trying to self-destruct His ministry. Doesn’t He know that they might leave? What if they quit tithing?

Jesus had “great crowds” following Him. Most of us would be thrilled. They like me! They’re listening to me! This is working and God must be happy with me! The reaction Jesus has to the “great crowds” is quite different from that. He kind of tries to run them off. He turns to them and questions their commitment at the risk of offending them. Remember, He said “blessed is he who is not offended by me” and He is love, so everything that He chooses to do is a manifestation of perfect love.

So, knowing that they have to work past their possible offense, He loves them enough to get in their business about where they really are in their commitment to follow Him. He tells them that they can’t just love Him, they have to love Him more than they love their families. Their love for Him must be such that they might be rejected by those that they have always loved prior to Him. Their love for Him had to be more than they love themselves, their standing and their comfort. Their love for Him has to be dangerous.

Are we even remotely familiar with a call to dangerous love any longer? Are we even remotely open to the idea of sacrificial following? Does our pursuit of Jesus revolve around our comparison of churches and is that comparison rooted in our comfort?

Then there is this; “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27. That’s a call to crucify yourself; to die. Jesus was destined to die for us on a cross and He’s saying that the death is a mutual destination. Of course He sacrificed for us, and the way to receive the benefit of that sacrifice was in like kind. That doesn’t have anything to do with how much your kids like the children’s ministry.