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Posted By Nan

Matthew 8:18-22
One of the big buzz phrases of this current age is “pursue life”. It is usually accompanied by images of people pursuing hedonistic pleasures or searching through novel and different religions to find the elusive “life”. Here in these verses, Jesus tells his followers to pursue life.
There are two men who say they want to follow Jesus. One is a religious man. Jesus looks at his heart and tells him that Jesus has no home, and his followers will have no home either. He realises this man is not ready to give up the security of his current life to follow Jesus. The other man tells Jesus he wants to follow Jesus but first must attend to his father’s wishes (were apparently were to remain at home following his father’s desires for his life) and would follow Jesus once his father had died and he had buried him. Jesus’ response was to direct the man to follow Him. His business in this world was life, not death. To get life he needed to follow Jesus.
It is easy to forget that this busy life we lead is not about all the trappings of work, family, friends, church leaders, or other commitments. Life is about following Jesus. We are told the Bible tells us to do what our parents tell us, to do what our husband tells us, to do what the church leaders tell us. But that is not what the Bible tells us and here is Jesus speaking plainly to a prospective follower. We are to follow Jesus, because life is found in Jesus. Death is found when we take other paths that lead away from Jesus.
Be careful to follow the narrow path to Jesus. Be careful as you seek to follow that narrow path that it is Jesus you are following, not work, family, friends, church leaders or other commitments. Only with Jesus will you find life and only with Jesus will you truly follow Him.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Matthew 4:18-22
This is the first time Jesus called disciples. It is amazing that He just called them to follow Him. He didn’t try to sell following Him. He didn’t go into explanations. They didn’t ask questions either. As is written in The Message, they just dropped what they were doing and followed Him. The Amplified Bible relates verse 19 as Jesus saying “Follow Me as My disciples, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk and I will make you fishers of men”.
Those words are so powerful. This is what Jesus asks of us. He wants us to follow Him as His disciples accepting Him as both our Master and Teacher and follow Him on the path that He walks. That is the important part of Jesus’ message.
Most people would relate, that following their first encounter with Jesus, they dropped everything and followed Jesus. That is the effect of a first encounter with Jesus. The trouble is, so many do not continue to follow. The request to follow is not just a once off, do it now thing. It is a continuous decision to follow Jesus. The early disciples walked physically with Jesus. They remained in His presence. It didn’t necessarily matter what they believed. They remained physically with Jesus. Over time, as the disciples learnt more, they accepted Jesus’ teaching and identified with the salvation he was offering. After Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, following Jesus came to mean identifying with Him. This included being persecuted and rejected for that faith.
As followers of Jesus we are called to accept Jesus’ teaching and the salvation He has given us. It means we identify as followers of Jesus, no matter how much we may be persecuted or rejected for having that faith. It means we speak honestly of our faith and stop worrying about ‘offending’ other people. Other religions speak openly and sometimes forcefully about their faith. Those who follow Jesus tend to be quiet about it. I know there are times when I am quiet about it.
There is a story about a woman whose only child was killed in an accident. The first thing she did was get in a taxi and ask the driver to find a Moslem so she could get prayer. Her reasoning was that Moslem’s were always praying and she needed prayer. I felt so sad that she did not perceive Christians as people who prayed. As I reflected on this I realised Christians spend a lot of time worrying about offending people. We even water down Easter and Christmas so a not to offend others. No other religion would water down an important religious day. Why do we? I realised prominent Christians spend more time criticising same sex marriage, or homosexuality, or any of a number of things that they have decided other people should not be doing. If they offer to pray, it is often used in a condescending manner or in an inauthentic way. Christians are not seen to openly thank God for things, or to express loving concern about events and speak of praying over those concerns. I am not saying Christians do not pray. They do. But they are not seen to pray.
I am issuing me the challenge to be more open in speaking out about my faith. Would you like to join me in that challenge?
 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 119:161–168

As we come towards the end of this Psalm, the psalmist reminds himself of how much he loves God and how much he follows Him. He speaks of the way he can rejoice because he has God to follow and God will help him. I find these verses so inspiring.

I remember a terrible time in my life when a woman I thought was my friend, a fellow Christian from whom I expected better behaviour, started making up terrible stories about me and telling the other women from my fellowship group. This took place over a period of five years. During this time I could not understand why these women avoided me. Why there were nasty comments made in my hearing. Why no-one would offer to help me with my ever increasing brood of babies despite my willingness to help the other women. Finally, a non-Christian friend of mine who knew this woman, told me what she had been doing. I was so hurt and betrayed about what had been said. Terrible things. None of it true. To make matters worse, another supposed friend told these lies to everyone she worked with, all the other Christians from other churches she knew. I did not know everything she had said, only some of it. My name was dirt amongst the Christians of this small community. Never once did anyone come to me to find out if what this woman was saying was true. They were so keen to believe the lies and ostracise me.

I remember leaving my non-Christian friend and crying before God. I was shattered by the terrible, unjust betrayal. God reminded me that He had told me three years earlier to leave my friends because they were no good for me. But I had not done that. I told myself I must not be hearing God because I couldn’t have no Christian friends. But I could. Faith in God does not rely on having Christian friends. Faith in God relies on what this psalmist was doing.

The psalmist loved God. He loved hearing from God. He loved studying God’s word. His heart trembled with joy and awe at God’s word. He rejoiced in God’s word and instruction. He loved the Godly way of living. He never stopped praising God for His greatness. And God filled him with peace. He promised him salvation. He knew the psalmist and cared about all the psalmist’s worries. All his ways were known to God.

What a beautiful promise. All my ways are known to God. All your ways are known to God. What comfort that brings.

I survived the terrible slander. I never had anything more to do with those women who were not following God as He intended them to. God moved my little family to Europe, then back to Australia to another State. God has kept me away from other Christians during that time. Every time we went to join a church, God took us away from it. I have learned to be like the psalmist, to relate to God one to one. To allow God to know me and to learn more and more about God. I have learned to read the Bible and spend time in conversation with God. I have learned that following God does not necessarily involve church attendance. I have some Christian friends, and I have non-Christian friends. All are sent by God, all have something to teach me and all are a blessing from God. I have learned to rely on myself for my relationship with God. And I have grown so much in the more than 20 years since those terrible events.

Reading these verses is such a beautiful encouragement and blessing. May God bless you through your reading of these verses as well.

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 119: 153 – 160
The Psalmist in these verses voices the predicament many of us find ourselves in at times. We are faithful to God. Maybe we are as devoted to Him as the Psalmist. But we strive to put Jesus first and foremost in our lives. We strive to follow God. We strive to live Godly lives. Yet here are those who laugh at the thought of faith in God. Those who are unjust to others. Those who are greedy worshippers of money and possessions. But those people are still doing well! How can that be? The psalmist is reminding God of how good and faithful he has been. Yet he is suffering at the hands of these people and they are still doing well. Why doesn’t God send trouble to them so they can be humbled and turn to God? Why is the psalmist still suffering?
The truth is, those who hate God and plan evil do well in life. Sometimes we see them suffer, but mostly we do not see that. It looks like we are the ones suffering while those who hate God get away with it. So how is that fair?
God did not promise fair. When I see these verses I am reminded of my own life. With a disabled daughter I am at the mercy of the government and their insistence a young woman who is incapable of working should seek work or lose her disability pension. I have appointments with a job agency, appointments with a psychologist, appointments with a dietitian, appointments with a doctor, and myriad appointments related to meeting her health and emotional needs. Every week there is at least one appointment, usually more. I cannot work regular hours because of these appointments. More than once I have been like the psalmist, complaining that I am being given a hard time while those who impose this unfairness on her and others live wonderful lives. I pray and wonder why God doesn’t reward my faithfulness. But why should He? We are faithful to God because He is God, not for any reward we may receive. So what should I be doing? The same as the psalmist. Love God, praise Him for everything. Ask for help to endure hardship but be grateful for His help and for who He is DESPITE the hardship. How other people are going in life is not our business. God gives us what He gives us. Pray for the faith to accept that and the strength to cope with what comes your way. Never forget God owes you nothing. Never forget God always has your best in mind. Never forget He has a plan. Never forget He suffers with you. Never forget God.
 

 
Posted By Nan

Psalm 119:145 – 152
Last blog I wrote about how my faith journey looks unlike that of other people. I wrote about how I have learned the different faith journeys we travel on and how much western Christianity, the modern day church, has forgotten about spirituality. It struck me later, as I thought about that blog, that the big thing the modern day church has done is to take the spirit out of God, but God is spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and truth (John 4:24). We need to be careful to ensure the truth we worship is the true truth, not something watered down by cultural pressures. Our faith should be based on us loving and seeking God with all our hearts. It should be based on calling God with all our hearts. It should involve being committed to spending time seeking God, even when it is inconvenient. It should involve a personal relationship between you and God, not via some intermediary. True seeking is not formularised prayers. It does not use prescribed phrases and specific orders. This is a conversation with someone you know well. Yes He is Almighty God, but He is still in an intimate personal relationship with you. Yes you will give Him respect and express awe in your conversations with Him, but they will still be personal. Just as you do not speak to friends with formulaic prescribed phrases, you do not speak to God that way either.
God does not expect your words to be flowery, or varied. He is okay with the same prayer repeated if that is what you need to pray. He loves you and loves spending time with you and He knows you benefit from spending time with Him.
So may your faith journey look like that.
 

 


 
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Nan
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