Friday, April 30, 2010

A Gut Feeling

A friend recently told me about a problem she was having. There was one possible solution to her dilemma, but she said that she did not feel “at peace” with that option.

Like my friend, there are many who allow gut feelings to guide their decision making. For people who are usually clear minded and especially discerning, one’s gut may be a fairly reliable guide. However, the friend I was listening to struggles big time with anxiety issues. When she told me she didn’t feel at peace with this idea, I thought to myself, “she’s never at peace with anything.”
I have faced many decisions where none of the choices seemed perfect. However, a decision still had to be made. How do we handle these type of dilemmas?

The first and most important step is prayer. We have to ask God for direction and then listen to his answer. Secondly, we need to seek advice from other, trustworthy people. Also, it helps to make a list of our choices and the pros and cons for each option. We then need to carefully weigh possible solutions to see how they align with God’s word. Finally, we need to make actually make a decision and follow through with it…even when we are not initially at peace with it.

When Jesus prayed in the Garden at Gethsemane before his arrest he was clearly not “at peace” with the path he was preparing to follow. Mark tells us that Jesus was “deeply distressed and troubled” He said to the disciples, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," (Mark 14 33-34) But, Jesus understood that his crucifixion was within God’s will and necessary to provide salvation to his children. So, Jesus allowed the events leading to his death to unfold.

Life is full of decisions and the big ones can be tough to make. Be careful to not allow your emotions to get in the way of making smart choices.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Counting the Cost

If you build it, they will come. But you have to finish building it first.

The city of Winston-Salem has found itself at the center of a controversy surrounding construction of a new baseball stadium for the city’s minor league baseball team. Apparently, the company building the stadium discovered about ¾ of the way into construction that they don’t have enough money to complete the project, which is going to cost $18 million dollars more than originally thought. They have asked city leaders for a loan to help them finish the stadium. However, some Winston-Salem residents aren’t too crazy about the idea of the city loaning this private enterprise money for a stadium, especially in these difficult economic times.

This situation reminds me of Jesus’ words in Luke 14: 28-30 "Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

When we read the whole chapter of Luke 14, we realize that Jesus is using this parable to teach potential disciples that we need to calculate the cost before we begin following Him. The cost of discipleship is everything! I’ve known more than a few people who started walking with Christ, but didn’t finish the journey because they just couldn’t put Him in first place. Jesus says each one of us has to carry our own cross in order to follow him, meaning we must choose to lay down our old lives and place Him first on our list of priorities, over everything else.

However, the irony and beauty of it all, is that once we have carefully counted the cost and chosen, still, to lay everything at His feet, we realize that the walk gets much easier. Sure, there will still be challenges along the way, but as followers of Jesus, we never have to face these difficulties alone. He’s right by our side, helping us finish the race.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

What Do Yo Expect?

Each year, one week before Easter, Christians observe Palm Sunday, also known as the Triumphal Entry. The Bible describes Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem as an event filled with excitement, singing and praises from crowds of people who had finally recognized Jesus as their promised Messiah. In the Gospel of Mark the event is described this way: “Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, "Hosanna!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!" "Hosanna in the highest!" (Mark 11:7-10)

So, what happened? Within just a few days the jubilant blessings of “Hosanna” had turned to blood-seeking cries of “Crucify Him”. We find this same Jesus… once celebrated and revered by large crowds, now hanging on a cross, with only his mother and a few close followers there on his behalf. Where did every body go?

I’m sure that most of his closest followers were in hiding, afraid to share Jesus’ cruel punishment. But, I suspect that others who were one time followers of Jesus had turned away because he did not meet their expectations. You see, the Jews knew the scriptures and prophesy well…and were anticipating a messiah who was an earthly king, like King David, who would come restore the temple and rescue them from Roman oppression. Jesus was indeed there to do those things, just not in the way they expected. The heavenly Kingdom Jesus came to deliver was far greater than they would ever have imagined. And, Since Jesus, did not match their narrow definition of the Messiah, they missed out on him entirely.

My friend, please do not let this happen to you. So many people become Christians with the expectation that once they do, their lives will be free from problems. They see Jesus as a sort of cosmic genie, granting wishes in the form of answered prayers. Then, when life gets hard they get frustrated and decide that Jesus must not be the real thing because he’s not jumping in to rescue them.

But, the truth is that our Heavenly Father sometimes allows us short term suffering to accomplish His long-term goals for our lives. He’s concerned with our spiritual needs far more than our physical ones. What is most important to him is our eternity and where we will choose to spend it.

Understand this and your expectations will be met, allowing you to see Jesus for the everlasting savior he longs to be in your life.