Sunday, November 3, 2013

Are You a Follower?

Matthew 9:9 As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him.
Today bursted with activity. I wouldn't call it relaxing, but as with other Saturdays lately, I learned something important.
From the moment the cuddly four year old whispered good morning in my ear, and her silky cheek pressed against mine to say, "I love you, Mommy", my day exploded like a race horse.
There was our Children's Bible Study at 4PM, last minute lesson prep, Paul's birthday cake to prepare and frost, a very messy house to organize, along with the usual dusting, vacuuming, mopping, and wiping down.
I can't say as I was in the best of moods at first. Finding puzzle pieces and Legos all around the house makes me a fire-breathing dragon, especially when I'm cleaning on a deadline.
The children do help with Saturday clean-up, but the whole while they wish Saturdays could be relaxing. My husband chimes in about that too, since we also serve at AWANA on Sundays.
We barely had enough powdered sugar to make the frosting, and I learned too late that we were out of candles. So, yes, at times I definitely fought for joy today. Nothing was easy, from the children's birthday-related hyperactivity, to the red acrylic paint I scraped off the dining room floor.
What did I hear from the Holy Spirit, my Counselor and Comforter? Just this:
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."

Giving up my time for others is hard; there's no argument there. It feels like a grueling sacrifice often. The children's ministry at church, the Bible study in our home, the serving at AWANA. All of it is sacrifice.
Something beautiful happens in the process, though. Always. And in spite of myself. 
When I'm in the middle of serving, and when I'm done, I feel a high that's hard to describe. It's as though my spirit's filled to overflowing and I can't stop smiling inside, even if I'm plum exhausted physically. Even if I'm cranky on the outside because I stepped on another Lego, I'm riding high on the inside. That deep down peace is what we're meant to feel, and it's available to every Believer.
Today the young boy who faithfully comes to every Children's Bible Study, and to AWANA with us, revealed the depth of his spiritual growth. Until recently we worried he would never "get it", but Wow! He's come far, and that can't even be typed without tears, it's so amazing.
I'll confess, at times we wondered if we'd made a mistake starting this study, since Landon is the only child who comes every single time. He's been fully committed, at first because he just liked coming down here and having ice cream and fellowship time. Our family structure--husband, wife, kids--isn't one he's ever experienced, so just being part of that was a positive for him, even if the Study itself didn't grow on him.
Now, 10 months later, he enjoys the Word of God. He actually reads ahead in his Jesus Storybook Bible and enjoys it!
I'm high-fiving the Holy Spirit for the work He's doing in this little boy's heart. 
Landon is a boy without a father in his life. A boy whose mother died when he was 18 months old. A boy who's being raised by a single grandmother who's plum tired out. A boy with special-needs issues that make him exhausting in some ways, especially for a grandmother who makes her living cleaning various businesses.
Yes, Landon has a tough road ahead with an aging support system. Without the Lord, the road will often seem dark and heavy to him. I can't say for sure how far his relationship with the Lord will go, but I can tell you that Jesus cares about the one sheep who wandered away from the other ninety-nine. He cares about every sheep, and even if we give up two years of Saturdays just for Landon's spiritual growth, it will be time well spent.
Because Jesus love you, Landon.
I'm learning that in serving, I'm fulfilling God's purpose for my life. I'm experiencing a fulfillment that can't match anything I might chase on this earth.
My problem is that while I'm preparing to serve--cleaning, getting everything ready--I feel deprived, as though I'm missing out on something else. Like weekend relaxing that other families enjoy.
I can serve with a happy heart, from start to finish, if I just get over that sense of entitlement.
Why are we entitled to spend our Saturdays the way we want? Or any day of the week, for that matter? We're bought and paid for, by a gracious God who wants to give us everything.
Our culture chases all kinds of material items and experiences, and it's so easy to get caught up in that. It's easy to think we deserve to spend our days amusing ourselves.
I'm sure a lot of you probably spend the weekends working on laundry and grocery shopping, so excuse me for making generalizations here, but there are many who seek frequent amusement--stemming from a sense of entitlement.
It's all folly when overdone, because what our souls truly crave comes from bending low and serving, like Jesus did. Jesus didn't take the disciples out for golf and baseball and beers. He was about his Father's business.
When we serve, we're also having fellowship with Jesus, making it all the more attractive. He's there by our side, giving us strength, grace, and joy. I feel Him there, and I feel the warm afterglow of faithful service.
The next Bible study comes two weeks from now, and I'm going to wake up with a different mindset. While I'm preparing, I'm going to remember how joyful it is to serve the Lord. How joyful it is to go after the one sheep. Any other mindset is just an illusion, put in my head by Satan.
The enemy wants self-serving Christians who are lord of their own lives. Christians who don't impact the world for Christ. Satan bombards Christians with many distractions, whether it be computer gaming, restaurants, golf, shopping, manicuring, pedicuring, or endless sports.
These may be amusing, but they are not fulfilling. Our souls don't crave amusement, but fulfillment. Burn out comes not from serving others, but from running our own lives. From being the pampered one, instead of the servant.
Jesus teaches: Do you want life? Come, Follow me.
Mark 8:34: “When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me
Revelation 14:1, 4: “Then I looked, and behold, a Lamb standing on Mount Zion, and with Him … the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being firstfruits to God and to the Lamb.”
Philippians 3:7-10 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,        

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