The Completion of Discipleship

Luke 14:25-33

25Now large crowds were traveling with [Jesus;] and he turned and said to them, 26“Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. 27Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. 28For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? 29Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, 30saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ 31Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. 33So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.”


When I felt the call to attend seminary, I had just one problem – I had not completed my undergrad. Well, it just so happened that Northern Kentucky University was only about 20 minutes from where we lived. So, I applied, and it was the beginning of my journey…

However, at that time, our sons were in the 9thand 10thgrade, and our daughters in the 3rdand 4thgrade.  Bob’s job required him to travel for most of the week.  It wasn’t long after I started school full time, I began working at Procter and Gamble full time, as well – not to mention, my job as a mom was full time – 

I get tired just thinking about those days.  No doubt, there were times I knew that “I bit off more than I could chew. There were times that I knew I underestimated when considering the costs.

It was only by the grace of God, that I completed what I had set out to do – graduate with honors so that I may be accepted into graduate school – Seminary.

You have heard the saying, “Don’t Bite off more than you can chew!”  A saying that often means…be careful that you don’t try to do something that is too much or too difficult for you…Don’t bite off more than you can chew. 

I wonder if this is possibly what Jesus was trying to say to the crowds today as they surrounded him…“Listen…be careful that you don’t bite off more than you can chew!If you want to be my disciple – there is a lot, you have to deal with –  

Because you can’t become my disciple if you don’t….

Hate your mom, dad, sister, brother, spouse, children – 

Hate your life!

You cannot become my disciple if you don’t pick up your cross and follow me.

You cannot become my disciple unless you give up all of your possessions.

Honestly, I’m not sure I would want to stay seated in the pew right now after hearing this text.  If it was Jesus’ intention to weed-out those who were serious about becoming His disciple, this just may have done the trick.

Consider the cost right now! I’m giving you an out!  I’m giving you an opportunity to walk out and get out of a situation that you cannot finish to completion if the pressure is too much for you!  If it’s more than you can chew…here’s your chance…

But, if you think you can do it…

Here are the requirements:

Must hate mother, father, sister, brother, spouse, and children.

Must hate life itself.

Must carry the cross and follow Jesus.

Must give up all your possessions.

Consider the costs!  

I mean after all, it’s like anything else – right.  We didn’t just decide to start to build a new fellowship hall until we sat down and considered what it would costs us.  We had to know if we could afford it!  And, come on – let’s face it!  It’s always more costly than what we would expect.  All kinds of things show up that we didn’t think about or consider in our calculations – 

So, when considering the costs to be a disciple for Jesus, make sure you leave room for incidentals – I’m also thinking that you may want to think about if you are a risk-taker or not – there’s an awful lot of risk to consider – like – Where you will sleep? What will you eat?  Think about it…you won’t have any possessions…You gave them all up!

You know…I don’t think there were too many disciples with Jesus as He made his way up the cross. Where were the 12 who had been with him?There was not a single person or disciple with Jesus that day as He was nailed to the cross – 

I don’t know about you – but, I’m thinking there were quite a few, including the disciples themselves, that bit off more than can chew.

Let’s face it! It’s too hard!  

I cannot do this list of requirements that Jesus wants me to do – 

I’ll be honest, I’m not willing to give up my possessions.

I love my family.

And, can I really carry the cross?  Am I willing to die for the sake of the Gospel and Jesus Christ? If a gun is pointed to my head, would I be willing to proclaim Christ as my Lord and Savior? While I certainly would like to think so – to die to this life, would be frightening.

Consider the costs.  

You know, here is the thing…I believe that Jesus knew that in no way you and I could possibly do these requirements.  And, while Jesus is not asking us to do anything that He has not done himself, He is God – and we are just mere human beings.

Besides, how can God tell us to honor our mother and father – but now we are told to hate them? How can Jesus tell us to love one another and now we are to hate them?  

Therefore, what in this world does Jesus want from us!

I had a young girl in confirmation in my first congregation.  She was not confirmed because she said that she did not believe in God.  I did everything that I knew to try and help her see how much God loved her.

One day, she blurted out in one of our discussions, “Gees…what does God want from me!  You would think He wants my HEART!”

I about fell out of my chair!  Yes, Yes! That’s exactly right!  God wants your heart! God wants your allegiance. God wants a relationship with you! God wants you to be transformed from things of this world to things of our eternal world!  

You see, Jesus knew that we could not meet the requirements as specified.

But what He does want is our hearts – 

  • Love me more than you love your family.
  • Do what it takes to proclaim the Gospel – even if it means getting out of your comfort zone – 
  • Know that suffering, pain, trials and tribulations are only a part of this world – but not the world I am about to offer you.

This will be really hard, Jesus says.  The things of this world will want to consume you.

…but here is the there…My face is set for Jerusalem. With or without you, I’m on my way to the Cross. It is the Cross that will bring you GRACE.  

I want YOU so badly in my kingdom and for you to be with me – that I’m willing to climb up on that cross – all by myself – 

So that my GRACE will be poured out abundantly – over and over again – ON YOU, FOR YOU, and WITH YOU!


When I made the decision to go to seminary and complete my undergrad – looking back, I know I bit off more than I could chew…Ask my husband and children how many times I said I wanted to quit – It was too hard…

While I thought I had considered the cost – there were a lot of incidentals that I had not considered – 

The sacrifices that my family made –

The financial burden – 

And, the time I lost with my children growing up – 

After graduating Cum Laude, I knew it was only by the grace of God that I had completed what I set out to do…

Jesus says…

Be my disciple.  Know the call is costly.  Don’t give up but give it all you got.  Recognize that – through your baptism – where the journey starts, your choices are shaped by the waters where Christ claimed you as HIS CHILD!

As a disciple and a beloved child of God. Jesus says, I want your heart!  I want your allegiance. 

I want you because I created you and I love you!  

I knew you even in your mother’s womb.

I have called you by name and you are mine.

Be my disciple.  The journey will be costly, difficult, and hard…And, there will be times that you will want to give up and quit.

But my grace will be enough. It will be all you need.

God’s Grace.  God’s amazing GRACE will carry you…carry us… to the completion of our discipleship.

Amen.

Future Blessings!

Day 298 – Bible in a Year: 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

I loved being a mom.  Now that our four children are all grown, hindsight is 20/20.  In other words, I can look back on those days when they were all so little and I had complete control of their lives.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know it then, but what I do know now is that I wish I had cherished those days more than I did!  I felt like I could keep them safe, protect them, and meet their needs!  Now that they are older and have careers and families of their own, I have absolutely no control! 

In 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, St. Paul is writing the Corinth Church and trying to explain to them why it was so important for Jesus to come and be raised from the dead.  Paul explains that if Jesus wasn’t resurrected, then you and I can just keep on living our sinful life.  Nothing would matter – not the way we speak to others, treat others, or how we live.  Life would be a “free-for-all” to do just what we want to do for ourselves and then just eventually die.  However, with Jesus’ resurrection, we have hope that our lives don’t end and because of that hope, we are grateful and love Christ for what He has done for us.  Our response to God’s love is to love God and love our neighbors! 

However, Paul then goes on to talk about “Subjection.”  He states, “All things are put into subjection” (v. 27).  In other words, God brings us under His control.  This doesn’t mean that God wants us to be puppets and God controls our every move.  What St. Paul is trying to say is that God wants us to have a relationship and a life with HIM!  And, in order to do make that possible, Jesus had to be crucified and then resurrected!  You see, God is like the parent who wants to protect their children, keep them safe, and meet their needs! 

St. Paul states: “God puts all things subjective under Him, so that God may be all in all!” (v. 28).  With God, we are saved, protected, and all our needs are met!  God will be and is, all things to everyone!

Let us pray…Gracious God, you love us so much that you sent your one and only Son to come to this world, die on a cross, face death, and then be raised from the dead.  You did it for us!  You did it so that we have life and grace!  You did it because you love us. Thank you Lord Jesus!  Amen.

Relentless Grace

Luke 13:10-17

10Now [Jesus] was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” 13When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.” 15But the Lord answered him and said, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” 17When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

IMAGINE a young child whose world is brand new! 

A child that goes to school for the first time.

A young child – maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s your daughter or son – Granddaughter or Grandson…

A child who learns their ABC’s…who runs, plays, laughs, and makes friends.

A child who learns to play an instrument, loves to dance, play baseball, soccer, volleyball, Golf, and or…even HOCKEY!

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A young child who grows into a young adult…graduates from High School, goes to college, attends Seminary, Law School, Veterinarian or Medical School, joins the Peace Corps…

…Who travels the world, loves culture, people, and hungers to know more about LIFE!

…Who finds the ‘love of their life,’ raises a family, takes care of their loved ones as they grow old, who begins to see and experience the ebb and flows of life…

Who becomes a witness to LOVE, LIFE, Disease, EVIL, HURT, PAIN, and yes…even DEATH.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A woman, who was once a young, vibrant woman, but now has now grown old…

A bent-over woman – so bent that now all she sees – all she experiences – all she knows is the voice of others, – the ground on which, she walks on – the dirt, her feet, and the feet of others – Not to mention, the constant back pain.

A bent-over woman whose life was once full of energy, who played with her friends, grew up in the community, and loved God –

And, a woman who for now 18 YEARS suffers from what is known today as Osteoporosis, which literally means “Porous bone.”  In other words, the density and quality of bone are reduced.  As the bones become more and more porous and fragile, the risk of fracture is greatly increased. 

Of particular concern are spinal and hip fractures.  In fact, some fractures can occur even if you haven’t fallen.  The bones that make up your spine can weaken to the point of crumbling, which results in severe back pain, loss of height, and a hunched-over posture.

But, in spite of her pain – the fact that she is unable to see what is in front of her – she shows up to worship in the Synagogue on the Sabbath –

The Sabbath – the Fourth Commandment of God’s Law: 

Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy.

On this Sabbath Day, something is different.  Jesus is preaching and teaching.

This woman doesn’t know him.  She’s minding her own business.  She came to worship.

But Jesus sees her.  He feels her pain.  He sees her differently.  He knew her as a child!  He had watched her play with her friends, go to school, and raise a family. 

Jesus knew her!  And, he had compassion for her! 

“You have been through enough.  Your suffering is over.”

“Woman, you are set free from your ailment.” When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight…”

Can you imagine…really IMAGINE what that must have been like?!!!  That after 18 long years of seeing nothing but the ground that you walked on, the agonizing pain of being bent-over – and now able to stand up straight!

I had the pleasure of having a conversation with a Buddhist man the other day.  I really don’t know much about Buddhism – but now have a clearer picture. 

In all reality, it reminds me much like the Jews who were there that day at the Synagogue when this woman comes to worship. 

I say this in the sense that this Buddhist told me that he spends his life trying to obey the law.  They have a book of “do’s and don’ts.” 

And, if you don’t get it right in this life, it is possible that you will be reincarnated and given another chance to get it right.

And, so I asked him, “What happens if you don’t get it right?  What happens when you can’t measure up, as hard as you may try?” 

He told me, “He didn’t know and wasn’t sure that he wanted to know.”  

He says that no one knows what their final outcome will be at the end…

Jesus humiliates the Jewish leaders that day for criticizing Him healing a woman, for whom 18 years has suffered pain and agony.

Seriously…you hypocrites, you want to give me a hard time about healing a woman who has come to worship God – whom you have probably seen here in this place every week on the Sabbath – Whom you have had no compassion for –

When on this Sabbath Day, you will lead your animals to get water – but yet, have no concern for this woman…

Be careful…you LAW followers…You can’t do it.  You will mess up.  And, before you start criticizing others, you may want to look at yourself first.

I looked intently at the Buddhist man and said, “What if I told you that I knew what my outcome was in this life?” 

And, He laughed at me…though curious…

“Yeah, how’s that, he asked me.”

My God loves me so much that He died for me.  My God FORGIVES ME when I mess up – even though I try really hard to do what is right.

Through Jesus, I have Salvation.

Through Jesus, I have GRACE upon GRACE.

He asked me how I knew that.  I told him, “Well, it starts with FAITH.”

He did not know what FAITH was…I even had to spell the word for him.  He had never heard of it. 

Now, can you Imagine that?

Faith is a hard concept.  And, it is easy to lose our faith when bad things are happening.  Because…

Here is the thing…we are all BENT in some way…

We break God’s LAW every day, even though we don’t want to.

We suffer and are in pain from all kinds of diseases – cancer, dementia, heart issues, depression – the list goes on…

We may have experienced a loss of our job, struggle financially, drug addictions and alcoholism…

We are all bent…

In fact, just like this bent-over woman who goes to the Synagogue on the Sabbath…

We too, come to worship – Bent OVER – where all we can see are the problems, the pain, and the suffering of the world that not only, we ourselves experience, but also the world.

IMAGINE WITH ME…

A young child – maybe it’s you.  Maybe it’s your daughter or son – Granddaughter or Grandson…

IMAGINE a young child whose world is brand new! 

But this isn’t any child…this child is not ordinary, but extraordinary…This child is God’s CHILD! 

Jesus sees you.  He feels your pain.  He sees you differently.  He knew you as a child!  He watched you play with her friends, go to school, and raise a family. 

Jesus knows you!  And, he has compassion for you! 

And, Jesus says, “You have been through enough.  Your suffering is over.”

“…you are set free from your ailment.” When he lays his hands on you, immediately you are able to stand up straight…”

IMAGINE WITH ME!

That day when we are made perfect and righteous – our CROOKED SOULS have been made STRAIGHT –

We are no longer bent when Jesus lays His hands on us – reaches out to us…

And as we stand up straight,

WE ARE FACE-to-FACE, with our Lord Jesus Christ!

God’s Amazing Grace upon Grace poured out upon you…overflowing with God’s MERCY and LOVE…

Because if truth be known, we can’t get it right…not in this lifetime or any other time.

My God loves you and loves me so much that He was crucified, died, and was resurrected just so that our world will be made brand new!

And, so you see, my Buddhist friend…

That is how we know our future!

Amen.

Life!

Day 297: John 5:19-30

I believe that one of the biggest flaws in human nature is the desire to judge one another.  The reason is because as humans, we like to ‘justify’ our actions.  It’s difficult to admit that we are wrong.  It’s hard to see ourselves as unjustified for the way that we often behave towards others.  Or, it could be because we like to think of ourselves as a little better than others.  However, there is only one judge and that is Jesus Christ.

In John 5:19-30, Jesus tells us that He is the only judge.  The Good News is that we have the opportunity to pass judgment and enter into eternal life.  And, to make it even better, this doesn’t have to wait until we die, but can happen right now!  In this passage, Jesus tells us how we can have this LIFE right now!

Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgement, but has passed from death to life.  Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live” (v.24-25).  In other words, try to remember that for Jesus, death is the same as sin.  This is important because it changes everything! 

If we confess our sin, we have no sin.  Our God who is just and merciful will cleanse us from our sin – wipe it away, which breaks the barrier – tears down the walls between us and Him!  Once that barrier is gone, there is nothing to be judged for!  We receive life!  A life free from judgement!  A life that will never end! 

So you see, for us Christians, the Law – The Ten Commandments, is there to guide us and help lead us in the direction God wants each of us to go; however, it’s not why we have the Law.  The Law is there to convict us.  It convicts us because we fail to have the ability to follow it.  Our confession, our repentance, lands us right into God’s amazing grace! 

Before judging others, I say judge yourself first.  Hear the Word of God to repent.  Eternal life is right here – right now – at your fingertips!

Let us pray…Gracious God, we give you thanks for your Son, Jesus Christ, who made it possible for us to come to you with our confession.  Take our sin and wash it away so that we can have a life in you!  We pray this in your name.  Amen.

A Glimmer of Hope!

The Bible in a Year: Day 296: Psalm 8:1-9

It feels like I have been seeing so much suffering lately.  The homeless walk our streets looking for food, a place to sleep, and even just the desire to be able to get a shower and put some clean clothes on.  I’ve watched our very own lay on their deathbeds, praying for the Lord to take them.  And, what seems to hurt the worst, is to witness the pain of a friend who has lost her dog. 

In Psalm 8:1-9, the Psalmist looks at the world through a different lens.  I am reminded through his words how much God loves us, despite our suffering and all the bad things that happen to us in our lifetime.  The Psalmist states:

“When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have established,

what are human beings that you are mindful of them,

mortals that you care for them?

Yet you have made them a little lower than God,

and crowned them with glory and honor.  (vv.3-5)

Just think about this for a moment…God can do anything and have everything.  He could have chosen to create us, but then decide that we are just sinful people and do away with us.  But God doesn’t.  Instead, God sends His Son, Jesus Christ, to live among us in the deep and dirty of the world just so we can have a relationship with our God.  If anything fathoms me, that does!  Why in the world would God love me that much?  It’s just too good to be true!  However, it is true and that is what is so amazing! 

There is so much suffering in our world, no doubt.  However, this Psalmist chooses to focus and point out the beauty in the world that God created just for you and me!  I cannot but to wonder if that isn’t what God wants us to do.  God knows our pain.  God knows how much we hurt.  God knows everything about us.  I think what we forget sometimes how great God really is and what is in store for us beyond anything that we can imagine!

In all honesty, if suffering means that I get to experience the life God has waiting for me, then Lord Jesus, bring it on!

Let us pray…Gracious God, we do suffer in so many different ways.  Help us to see, not only your Glory, but also the glory and honor that you bestow upon us because You love so much.  Thank you for Your Son who came to be with us and hang on the cross on our behalf.  Lord, we do love you so much.  Amen.

You Gave Me a Forever!

Bible in a Year: Day 295: Job 14:1-12

Did you know that if you were to live to the age of 75 years old, it calculates that you only have 27,375 days on this earth?  Believe me!  I did the math twice because it just doesn’t seem like much time to be here!  And, of course that is only if we are lucky enough to live to the age 75.  However, there will be those who will have the opportunity to live longer than 75 years.  In any case, when there is a number of days versus a number of years, it becomes a reality that indeed, our days are numbered!

Job, in the Old Testament, was a righteous man and always did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.  The devil is after him and God is very aware of what is going on.  Job’s health, family, livestock, and livelihood have all been taken away from him.  The devil’s goal is to get Job to submit to him and turn away from God.  While Job never does submit to the devil, he is now having a pity party.  I really can’t say that I blame him!  I most likely would also! 

Job talks about how a tree, even though may be dying, but gets water, it stands a chance of surviving and coming back to life.  However, Job then states how that is not so with humans.  He states, “So mortals lie down and do not rise again” (v.12).  What Job doesn’t know is how Jesus Christ came and changed all of that!  That through the waters of our baptism, we have life!  We don’t just lie down and it’s over!  We have a new life with our Lord and Savior – not just when our days are out-numbered here, but also, once and for all in our eternal life! 

Job never turns away from God.  In fact, at every turn, Job finds a way to glorify God.  Can you imagine how Job would have proclaimed Christ, if he had just known?!  And so, for me, I am at the age of 58.  If I am lucky enough to live to the age of 75, I only have 6,205 days left to do the work of the Lord.  Anything over that, I will consider gravy and a blessing.  However, let’s be real here – none of us what tomorrow holds.  Therefore, there is no time to throw a pity party!  Every second counts!

Let us pray…Gracious God, our days are numbered, and You are the only one that knows the beginning and the end that we have to live on this earth.  We know with you that our lives do not ever end, but the time we have to tell others about you is numbered.  Help us and guide us to do your will, to be a good neighbor, and to open our hearts to your word.  We love you so much.  Amen.

Be Blessed!

40-Days of Prayer: Day 18 – June 18, 2019

Matthew 5: The Beatitudes

I think about heaven “A Lot.”  I often ask God if ‘my’ heaven could be made just for me.  I want lots of really fattening deserts – because I won’t have to worry about my health or getting fat; I want all the people I love so much to be with me; and I want every dog and cat I had in my lifetime to be there where I can continue to love on them. 

However, I read the Beatitudes, and I get worried.  Wonder if I don’t get to heaven?  I mean, have I fought for justice like I should?  Am I hungry enough for God’s Word?  Am I even physically hungry?   Do I stand up for Jesus in front of others who put Him down?  Have I even really been persecuted for boldly proclaiming the Word of God as I am called to do?  Jesus’ blessings are for those who are weak, lowly, hungry, and for those who put themselves out there for justice and righteousness for all people!  In all honesty, I feel unworthy of these blessings that Jesus has bestowed upon me!

I wonder then, if that isn’t the point here.  Do any of us deserve the blessings that God gives us?  Not really!?  I have been accused of asking for more in my congregations.  I always say, “We can do more!”  When is it enough, they ask?  “Never,” I say!  We are not done until our day is done!  There is always more work to be done in the name of Jesus Christ!  There are those who are hungry physically and spiritually.  There are those who are heart- broken from the loss of loved ones.  There are those who suffer from terminal illnesses.  There are women and people of color who are treated unfairly and need justice!  The list just goes on and on! 

None of us deserve God’s amazing grace and blessings that He gives us each day.  However, for those of us who are able, are called to reach out to those who need the loving arms of Jesus Christ.  Knowing that our salvation is at hand, do we have the courage to extend God’s blessings to others?  Let us pray for that!

Gracious God, you have blessed us in so many ways.  That is not to say that many of us are suffering, need justice, cry in pain for those we love, and are physically and spiritually hungry.  We are grateful for the blessings that you give us.  In the meantime, please help us to extend your blessings to others.  Give us courage to fight for justice in the midst of persecution.  Help us to feed those who are hungry and ache for your Word.  Send us out into our communities – and take all our fear from us.  Jesus, our Lord and Savior, we love you so much.  Amen.