Posted in discipleship, the cost of discipleship

All or nothing–There is no in-between.

I am in a Precepts study in the second part of the book of Matthew this Spring. There are no more haunting words in the Bible to me than the words of Jesus that talk about us denying Him before men. We live in such a lazily safe culture for meager faith. It costs us basically nothing (save for snickers or arguments) and produces such an anemic faith that cannot even crawl.
Fear captivates our hearts here while in countries where the cost is so great for faith, Followers of Christ move and act in boldness and joy in the midst of harsh suffering. What most of us call a Christian life is not. It is a label of tradition that makes us feel safe and righteous.
What does Jesus say is the mark of one with faith? Matthew lays out to a Jewish audience several things Jesus conveyed. Repentance from sin, humility knowing that we have no resource to bring to God, following after Him and His ways (which include submission, suffering, death), lack of fear, hungering and thirsting for His righteousness, lack of popularity, service, faith, being abandoned by one’s family.

He says:

“you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”M10:22
“Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” M 10:39
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” M 16:24-26
“Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” M 11:6

I do not know about you, but those words are chilling to my bones. This is serious. This is not a half-hearted life Jesus is calling people to. His words leave no room for doubt. Either you follow totally or you don’t. There is no cultural following, no day to day flip-flop, no convenient gospel. It is by His redemption and righteousness that we live in the hope He gives us. We bring nothing to the table (Romans 3), with repentance and faith, he gives us life to live FULLY in Him. We are constantly seeking Him to show us ways in which we need to die to ourselves and live to Him. That is where true life is found.
This is not meant to be an exhaustive article on following Him. My question today is where do you see yourself in the light of these truths? Offended by Him? Self-protective of your rights and what is not fair in your life? Seeking to be admired and praised by men? My prayer is that we examine ourselves in the light of these truths–of what He puts forth, repent of our self-protecting, self-promoting hearts and cling and lean into the righteousness of Christ.

Posted in discipleship, eternal things, God's sovereignty and goodness, infertility, persecution, suffering in joy, the cost of discipleship, trusting God

Living Life…

“Whoever find (her) life will lose it, and whoever loses (her) life for My sake will find it.” Matthew 10:39

What does this look like in our day to day life? I am studying Matthew and have been in Matthew 8-10 today. I am reminded again about the cost of discipleship. We are not promised anything different than our Master, Jesus. Let’s evaluate His life…he was popular with the masses when He was healing, casting out demons, forgiving sins (the “what can we get from this” philosophy). He reached out to the forsaken and foreign and sick (place any name here that might cost you to reach out to:)–including us–hello!). He was homeless (we are aliens/strangers in the world–this is not our home). Then, He was rejected in His hometown (hmmm–I have been rejected by those who claim to be on the same side as me). The religious leaders of the day hated Him because of His message and compassion (standing for truth is not popular–nor does it tickle the ears of self-righteous men or women). He was tortured, killed and as an innocent man punished with God’s wrath for His enemies (our) sins (In our freedom in Him, He calls us to take up our cross and follow Him). He teaches that His message will divide families and that our love for them is not to overshadow our love and devotion to Him.

A few months ago, I memorized Phil 3:7-11.

‘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 of God that depends on faith–that I may know him and the power of his resurection, and may share his sufferings , becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain the resurection from the dead.’

I struggled mightily with that last sentence–memorizing in my heart to really mean it. The power and the resurection part–yeah…on board. The sharing in his sufferings and becoming like him in his death–that’s where the big crowds for healing and forgiveness leave–including me. This all hinges on the ‘surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.’ When we KNOW him for who he really is–we count everything as loss. We are ready to lose our lives here–reputation, status, things, vanity, dreams, self-righteousness, family–because we see his surpassing worth and an eye for eternity with him. This life is a blip, but oh how I treat it as the end all, be all. IT. IS. NOT.
The Spirit has spoken through the Word–take up your cross (die to yourself) and follow me. He is a good shepherd who has compassion and mercy like no other. He takes my dreams and rearranges them and breaks me of my blinded will to weave a tapestry of beauty that points to Him. He says,

“Jennifer, die to the American dream of being comfortable, of having kids to build your life around, of fixing your kingdom here in houses that fade, and of spending on momentary pleasures. Look at the bigger picture. I have created you to be a light for Me–for My glory. Do you know what a privilege that is? Do not cry over scraps of this life when I have called you to the surpassing worth of knowing My Son, peace that passes all your understanding–that fills more than good food, wine, new outfits, awards, attention for beauty, entertainment, accolades for ministry. Your momentary tears will be dried, and you will spend eternity in joy and fellowship and great treasures in Me. You do not have any idea, my daughter–no idea. For this time, I teach you patiently–again and again of My worth. I teach you to die to You and live to Me. My good really is your good–surrender, my child. For in surrendering to Me, you will find All–real life, true life, abundant life. This will look so different to the world–foolish–something to be pitied. Don’t worry about what they think–fear Me–the Almighty God, Creator of this Universe, the One who holds the keys of Heaven and Hell. I have got you–proclaim the life in Me.”

So, today, I surrender. And, I pray for the strength to do so tomorrow. I am weak–but in my weakness, I pray that He make me strong in Him. I pray the same for you.

Posted in persecution, prayer, the cost of discipleship

Wake up

In the last few days, I have read some blogs that have made me aware of the violence and persecution against Christians in India, especially in the last few weeks. They need our prayers. We, as Americans, have more than enough of so many things that we almost become numb to the needs around us. We are high on stuff and circumstances and the “cares” of “our” world.
I know of several people who have been to India this year for various reasons, and I also sponsor a Compassion child, Tanuja, there. More than anything, our brothers and sisters in Christ are being threatened, their houses and churches burned, and some beaten and killed. Please pray, and please read this update. Take time today to be awakened to needs around the world and to pray for those needs. It may just put your struggle in perspective. This is nothing we should be surprised about–it is promised. But, this is something that we should actively love our brothers and sisters in by praying and seeing where we can help.

Posted in discipleship, discipline, love, spiritual growth, the cost of discipleship, transformation by truth, trusting God

Real joy and perserverence

This morning, I stopped in my tracks as I read this blog. I have been convicted more and more lately that I choose the easy way out. I choose to speak truth far more to those who I know will take it well or who I know agree theologically with me. I self-protect by reading people and situations. Basically, I am a coward.
I am amazed that God’s grace reaches to my cowardice and picks me up, and he renews me each day. I cling and pray for boldness, for courage, and then, again, I choose the safest way out. I am glad that I am a work in progress being shaped into his image more and more each day. The truth of his gospel revives me in the now. Reading Foxes Book of Martyrs humbles me, and thinking of those persecuted around the world does as well.
As I read the cited blog, I am thankful for those daily who say the hard things. Nothing good comes without a cost. We were promised high cost in God’s word, but it is cost with everlasting reward of the riches of Christ through eternity. There is a battle in my mind daily of whether I will treasure Christ more or the temporal things of this world which include new stuff in my house, cool food, financial “safety” and being liked and respected here on earth.
Truthfully, sometimes I live defeated thinking I am not enough…and I am right in thinking that. I have no hope without Christ, and in him, God looks on me without condemnation (Romans 8:1) and Fathers me growing me to be more like his son. For some reason, I default to thinking I have to do things on my own, and I forget the amazing Sovereignty of God. He grows me and leads me and imparts grace and love and discipline. There is no way I can get it together before him…only in him. He chose to deal with me, a mess, and he graciously leads me everyday through the power of the cross of Christ.
I am thankful for men and women who lead the way in living lives of boldness. The man who wrote the blog was bitter and hurting and desperate and his pastors and persevering friends continued to boldly and loving share the truth about God and his word standing with him when he did not want the “with”. The easiest thing to do would be to bring a casserole, shake one’s head in empathy and get the heck out of Dodge–especially when that may be what the people want. We don’t like the messiness of other’s lives because it reminds us of the messiness of our own that we may be trying to avoid. When Jesus said to “love your neighbor as yourself,” don’t you think this was the kind of love he meant? We tend to think of it as make people feel comfortable, but the greatest love may be losing your reputation and comfort in order to point them to the greatest truth–the greatest hope. That is what happened in the situation…the man knows Jesus in a far greater way now.
I think back on the past year of my life. There are people I tried to bear with in love and speak truth to, but most of the time, I followed their lead. If they pulled away after I pushed in, I let them. I know sometimes it happens that way, but is that the greatest love? I pray today for the faithfulness to love God with everything and love my neighbor as myself through the power of the Cross. When I falter, I pray for the strength to cling on in him. May I learn to count everything as loss in comparison to the riches of Him who called me.

Posted in Books, discipline, eternal things, idols, the cost of discipleship, transformation by truth, trusting God, Uncategorized

Ease

Have you ever learned or grown from things being easy? I do not think I have, yet I tend to strive for it and listen to voices that encourage ease. I spend a lot of money for ease and comfort, and yet, I have nothing to show for it.
The most fruitful parts of my life have been because of hard work and struggle and suffering. Pain is not easy, but it reminds me of what is true, important, good, lasting. Struggle causes me to look to the source of life, God. Struggle and pain and adversity stretch me beyond my limits to see that I need to depend on Christ and let go of things that I have valued above Him.
This week I read a challenging book and listened to a challenging sermon that have stretched me to think beyond comfort. The book is written for teenagers, but it is really for all of us! It is called Do Hard Things by Alex and Brett Harris. They have a website called The Rebelution that encourages teenagers to rebel against low expectations. I read it to check it out as a resource, and I was challenged with a fire lit inside me to do hard things.
They begin the book by addressing the concept of adolescence that began over a century ago. They proceed to show how adolescence has become a breeding ground for low expectations. I was convicted how I, myself, have encouraged teenagers to relax and not push themselves too hard. I have adopted a worldview of our culture instead of a biblical worldview about adolescence. I see even how I struggled in my early twenties with what I wanted to do. I stretched my adolescence out a lot. I see young adults do it all the time. We want to live as long as we can for pleasure when there is a lot of work to be done. We are created to live and work and be productive–as Christians for the glory of Christ.
The book shares many stories of teenagers who are pushing themselves to do hard things. They share their struggle and enjoyment in it–and their failure at times. They point out five things that one needs to do and be aware of when tackling the goal of doing hard things…they include: how to do hard things that step out of your comfort zone, how to do hard things that go beyond what is expected or required, how to do hard things that are too big for you to do alone (need for collaboration), how to do hard things that don’t pay off immediately, and how to do hard things that go against the crowd.
Reading this in light of my current path in life, I was challenged, encouraged and fired up in a way I have not felt since I was 18. I guess in my own way, I am a person of adventure, but I still struggle with fear. The older I get, the more safety becomes an idol in my heart. I am in the midst of working towards forming a non-profit, and before I left for the beach, I spent a week researching all I needed to do. I was what you call—overwhelmed and scared and intimidated. This book reminded me of hard work, trust in God, collaboration with others and perseverence. I felt energized after reading it. God also reminded me that this venture is not about me…it is about His kingdom and His gospel. It is about fighting the good fight by investing my life in teaching Truth. He can do it without me, but I want to surrender in obedience to the life He has called me to. I do not want to miss out because I want a nicer, newer house or a respected reputation or a heftier 401K. My friends, I want to live for the furthering of His kingdom through the good news of Jesus Christ. It is not a mere whim of faith. I was reminded that it will be hard…hard work. There will be times it feels or maybe is impossible, and then I am reminded that in God all things are possible.
The culmination of my week was listening to a John Piper sermon driving back. In his famous fashion, my heart was wrenched as I listened to Him speak on a Living a Radical life for the Supremacy of Christ. He reminded that the comfort that we worship is nothing. He reminded me that God calls us to meet Him (Christ) outside of the Gate (comfort and safety) (Hebrews). He spoke of suffering with Christ. My heart welled in me…my spirit soared because safety and comfort and new curtains do not bring joy–knowing and following Christ does. I have experienced it time and time again in the hardest parts of marriage and friendships and sickness and death–my Hope and life and joy is in Christ. I get sick and saddened when I see myself and friends and family living just like the world when we have such a higher hope.
I listened to two more sermons yesterday that reminded me, with clarity, of the gospel–our hope. My prayer is to remember these truths–this purpose. My prayer is that I store up treasures in heaven. My prayer is that we would sharpen one another toward this end. I am reminded of His grace that calls me to truth, gives me strength and courage and gently reminds me I am not alone. I am reminded that it is not my own power that I rely on.

Posted in eternal things, evangelism, the cost of discipleship, ungodliness

Haunted Thoughts

Since I became a Pinkner, my Cox sleep genes have been replaced. I had the spiritual gift of sleep at any time and any place, and now if I “sleep through the night” without having several bouts of waking times in the middle of the night, I celebrate. Greg has always had a hard time sleeping–and that is why I blame him.

Isn’t everything that much more severe in the middle of the night? The thought about paying a bill becomes a life and death struggle at 3 am versus the regular fleeting “to do” at 9 am.

In the last six months or more, I have had haunting thoughts about eternity and evangelism as I lay there in the middle of the night. It is like all the layers of what I think is important are stripped away and I realize how much like this world I really am. I have been ruminating over Paul’s life and writings–the urgency of the gospel in all things. And, I ask the question at 1, 2 and 3 am–Am I squandering my life away on piddly things? If I really treasured Christ above all, wouldn’t I share the truth of Christ consistently with the person checking me out at Wal-Mart? Wouldn’t I say the hard things to my family members to exalt Christ and love them without thought for the cost? Wouldn’t I watch less T.V.? Wouldn’t I speak and invest in my neighbors instead of protecting myself and waving hello from afar?

I have been reading Foxes Book of Martyrs intermittently this month, and I am speechless as I look at the boldness with which our brothers and sisters lived. I need to be awakened in the middle of the night to pray…to be convicted…to see Christ’s mercy towards me when I choose self-protection above exalting Him.

Life in Christ amidst this culture is such a battle. I want to grow in holiness and live to exalt Him and only Him, and sometimes I cannot even differentiate how different I am supposed to be. An alien, stranger…not of this world am I, yet, is that who I am?

I am thankful for being haunted with these thoughts because they shake me awake in the slumber I can get caught in in daylight. Oh, that less of me and more of Him be in me. May my fear melt the more I know Christ.

When you see me live more like the world…call me out to holiness, to boldness, to the One and Only thing that is important!

Posted in eternal things, the cost of discipleship, trusting God

Counting the Cost

‘Enter the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow is the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

Matthew 7:13-14

 

‘If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.  If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own.  As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world.  That is why the world hates you.  Remember the words I spoke to you:  ‘No servant is greater than his master.’  If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.  If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.  THEY WILL TREAT YOU IN THIS WAY BECAUSE OF MY NAME, for they do not know the one who sent me…’

John 15:18-21

 

‘LARGE CROWDS WERE FOLLOWING Jesus, and turning to them he said:  “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.  And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

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.’

Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king.  Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand?  If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace.  In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.

Salt is good, but if it lose its saltiness, how can it be made salty again:  If is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile;  it is thrown out.

He who has ears let him hear.”

Luke 14:25-35

  These last few days, I have been counting the cost.  Counting the cost of  comfort,  relationships, reputation,  sleep,  finances, only to be reminded time and again of Jesus’ words.  I WILL have enemies if I follow him.  I WILL be looked at as a lunatic in the world’s eyes and also in the eyes of some in the church.  I WILL experience rifts in my family because of his name.  I WILL lose relationships because of his name.  I WILL be misunderstood because of his name.  I could possibly lose my life (literally) because of his name. When I experience cost for following him, I have two options.  I can cling to him and his word all the more–which is why I got to this place, or I can believe the lies of the enemy–which have been REALLY loud.  I begin asking myself,

“Do I have it all wrong?  Should I just give in and tell people what they want to hear?  Am I really being loving?  Why does it have to be so hard?  Will it ever get easier?  How will this cost my future children?  Will I get to see any fruit of this?” 

  This year, Greg and I have experienced more discomfort and opposition for the sake of Christ than ever before.  We know that this will only grow stronger.  As we have grown more to cling to his word and live by it instead of the status quo of Christian expectations, there has been a distinct difference in the reaction of others to us.  And, there has been an increased joy in fellowship with Jesus.    I am reminded daily that wide is the way that leads to destruction and narrow is the way that leads to life in Him.  I also am reminded that as an American Christ Follower in the South, my cost is minimal compared to those risking their very lives in China, Southeast Asia, and around the world.  But, I still must count the cost and cling to him in where he has placed me.  I want to be faithful to him and love him and treasure him above all.  In order to do that, my mind has to be renewed in his word daily…hourly.   I look around at churches and pastors that are taking the easy way.  It is hard to find a place to worship and grow where Christ is treasured and exalted above all–and his word is the guide.  In times of cost, I can understand how they get there.  It is hard, but I am reminded that the very power that raised Christ from the dead is in us.  What is impossible with man is possible with God.  It is scary when you hear that people hate you.  (Especially for a fleshly people pleaser like me.)  But, this is not to be a surprise.  I thank Jesus that he laid this out in his word for us not to be surprised.  So many times, I feel myself teetering on a fence thinking that I can get reward from the world and from God.  Then I am soberly reminded that that is not true.  In that moment, I am also convicted that Jesus is to be my treasure.  He is the deepest, truest, costliest, most beautiful treasure.  When my mind is saturated in his truth, there is nothing I want more than Him.   The greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength.  This is a trust and a love that goes beyond our comfort…it trusts his very words are true and life giving.  It examines every motive within us.  It does not panic when someone attacks or questions or tears us down.  It continues to cling with everything to the Truth…our treasure.   I do not claim to have conquered any of this, but I claim to cling to the One who made a way for us to walk freely in Him.  I pray for my brothers and sisters who read this to remain in Him (John 15) and his words.  I also ask that you pray for our family.  May he be treasured and glorified today whatever the cost.