"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
August 9, 2017
My nephew, Devin, is 15-1/2 years old. He will be taking a driving course this fall. This summer he has been working part-time to save up so that he can buy his own vehicle when he turns 16 in January. Here's the thing: since working to save up for something that he really, really wants, he is learning a whole new respect for money.
He has worked for a contractor in our church a few days this summer. Janie has been making Devin use his own money to pay for his lunches when he is on a job site. He really doesn't like having to spend his money on food! There are times when Janie and Devin will go out to eat together and she will buy his meals then; but she is trying to teach him responsibility, so that he will have a better understanding and appreciation for the value of things that he wants.
Devin has always worked a couple of different weeks doing mowing and feeding horses for a couple from church who own a ranch. While there, he gets free food and lodging, but he works hard for the pay that he is given. He also mows lawns for a couple of people occasionally, in order to earn some money.
Janie, Devin, and I were planning a long road trip and she asked if he would like to buy a portable DVD player so that he could watch movies in the car while we traveled. At first he said yes.... then he asked how much it would cost... then had to think about it for a while.... and finally said that he thought buying one would be a good idea. When he was younger and Janie bought everything for him, it was much easier for him to want things, because the cost had absolutely no affect on him. Devin has never been one who would ask for much, but now that he is becoming more aware of the cost and it is affecting his savings personally, he is putting much more thought into what he wants. Is it worth giving up money from his piggy bank or savings account, when his goal is to one day own his own vehicle? He is counting the cost!
In Luke 14:25-33, Jesus speaks very clearly about what the cost is to be His disciple. He had crowds of people following Him everywhere He went. They enjoyed seeing the miracles that He performed and hearing Him teach. Many probably thought, "It would be an amazing experience to be able to travel with Jesus everywhere He goes, and sit around the campfire with Him in the evenings, and see all the many miracles that He performs! If I were able to be one of His disciples, perhaps I would be empowered to be able to lay hands on the sick and they would be healed; and be anointed to preach; and be bust buddies with Jesus. That would be awesome!" Perhaps they were more interested in seeing what Jesus did, instead of truly knowing who Jesus was.
But Jesus spoke clearly about the cost of being His disciple. "'If you want to be My disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison -- your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters -- yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, 'There's the person who started that building and couldn't afford to finish it!' Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can't, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.'"
Don't misunderstand, Jesus is not telling us to hate our family. What He is telling us, is that in order to be His disciple, He has to be first before anyone or anything else; even ourselves. Our love for Him has to be far superior to our love for anyone else. We have to be willing to give up everything we own, if asked. We have to see that everyone and everything is a gift from God, and He only gives them to us to enhance our life; not to be our life. People or things can't take priority over Him, in order to be His disciple. There is cost involved in being a follower of Jesus.
Sadly, it's a cost that many aren't willing to pay. Many are like the crowds following Jesus, only wanting to witness the miracles and be nearby Him; but they don't want to have to sacrifice relationships or material things to be His disciple. They want to accept the free gift of salvation, but aren't willing to pay the cost for anything more. They fail to realize that although salvation is free to them, it cost Jesus His life!
In Philippians 3:7-9 Paul writes, "I once thought these things (being a Hebrew, who was a member of the Pharisees, who demanded the strictest obedience to the Jewish law) were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with Him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ."
Paul knew about the cost of following Christ. He considered everything that he had been or known in the past and what he had thought as being valuable, as worthless. Compared to the fathomless, never-ending value of knowing Jesus, he counted everything else as garbage. Some translations are a bit more graphic and say that Paul counted it as dung. Becoming one with Christ was Paul's focus, his ultimate goal.
Probably two of my all-time favorite Biblical heroes are Elijah and Elisha. God speaks to Elijah and tells him to anoint Elisha to replace him as God's prophet. So Elijah went and found Elisha plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and walked away.
Can you imagine Elisha's thoughts when that happened? Here he was working hard at plowing, when he saw this great prophet striding boldly across the field straight towards him. Perhaps he thought that Elijah would have a prophetic announcement or a specific message for him; but all he did was throw his mantle around Elisha's shoulders, then turned around and walked away.
Elisha must have known who Elijah was and recognized the significance of having his mantle thrown across his shoulders, because he left the oxen standing where they were and ran after Elijah.
He said, "First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!" Elijah replied, "Go on back, but think about what I have done to you."
Elijah ran back to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant. (1 Kings 19:19-21)
There are a lot of different commentaries about this passage of scripture and Elisha's request to bid his parents farewell. I truly believe that when Elisha left his plow to run after Elijah, he was committing himself to leave the familiar behind to go with him. I also believe that perhaps Elisha knew that he may never see his father and mother again, so wanted to let them know that he was leaving out of honor and respect. Perhaps Elijah wanted Elisha to realize that the calling that had been placed upon him was from God and not himself, which is why he responded by saying, "Think about what I have done to you." If Elisha went with him, he needed to be committed to being a prophet, and not be running home every time he got discouraged or something went wrong. He needed to think about the cost.
Elisha was willing to sacrifice his oxen, using the wooden yoke to build the fire, as a sign that there was no going back to his old life as a farmer. He was committed to going with Elijah and accepting the call to be a prophet. He chose to pay the cost.
We want the christian life to be easy, with few demands made on us by God. I daresay that many of us think that we would like to be a disciple, fully committed to following and obeying God, regardless of what that may mean for us. But when we see the cost, few are really willing to pay the price of being a disciple.... of really getting to know the heart of God and living daily in His presence.... or willing to live a life of obedience, even if that means hardship or that we may sometimes look foolish to others.
My pastor had a dream a while back where the anointing of God was very strong upon her and she was being greatly used by Him. Another minister came up to her, in the dream, and said, "I'd love to experience that and be used of God like you are!" Her reply was, "You don't understand the cost."
Sometimes the cost may mean that we have to leave family in order to be in the place of ministry where God has called us. It may mean that family and friends don't understand what God is doing in our lives and they become critical or judgmental. It may mean that in order to help others, we are asked to give money or material possessions that we really want to keep ourselves. It may mean spending time in prayer and Bible study and listening to godly sermons, when we'd rather be watching TV or taking a nap. It may mean us being accused of thinking that we are better or more spiritual than others, because someone is uncomfortable with our commitment to God and they are feeling convicted. It may mean giving money to support a ministry when we'd rather use it to put new flooring in our home or whatever it is that we really want. It may mean Satan coming in and trying to cause division in marriages and families and churches, because he is agitated at the level of spiritual growth and maturity that is taking place and wants us to lose focus. It very well may mean something different for each of us.
The glory of God, and experiencing His presence in a powerful way, and being used to do His work far outweighs the cost of being a disciple. Yes, there is a cost; but the benefits are much greater than the cost. It won't be an easy road to travel and will take perseverance and commitment. And mistakes may be made; but we don't give up, but get back up again and keep moving forward.
Moses experienced the glory of God. Exodus 33:11 says that the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend. The other Israelites would get up and stand in the entrances of their own tents, watching until Moses disappeared inside. As he went inside the tent, the pillar of cloud would come down and hover at its entrance while the Lord spoke to Moses. When the people saw the cloud standing at the entrance of the tent, they would stand and bow in front of their own tents.
Many times we are more comfortable standing at a distance observing what God is doing in other people's life, than entering in and experiencing the glory for ourself. We want to be near the glory of God, but not in the glory of God. We want to see what God is doing and be close enough to be blessed from time to time, but aren't willing to pay the cost to enter into the Holy of Holies and be in the presence of God. By doing so, we miss out on having God conversations. We miss out on knowing God as a covenant friend.
I don't want to miss out on experiencing all that God has for me! I don't want fear or timidity or other people's opinions to influence the intimacy of my relationship with God. I want being in the presence of God to be more important to me than anything else! I pray that will be your desire, also.
What we may have to sacrifice isn't always a material possession, like a plow or oxen. Sometimes, it is an hope or desire. If you have always hoped to get rich, you might have to give that up. Or if you always desired revenge, you will probably have to give that to God, too. If you want to be famous, or idolized by people, you may have to let go of that.
Giving something up usually means something better is coming.
Twice Baked Potatoes
4 large baking potatoes
1 stick butter, sliced
8 ounces sour cream
1 cup cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 teaspoon salt
Bake potatoes until done in 400 oven; about an hour. Do not wrap in foil when baking. When done, cut in half and with a cloth hold them and squeeze gently to loosen the potato inside. Scoop out most of the potato and put in a bowl. Leave enough of the skin intact to be able to fill it without tearing apart. Add the butter, sour cream, shredded cheese, and salt to the bowl of potato; mix well. Stuff the mixture to overflowing back inside the potato skins. Cook on baking dish in 350 oven about 20 minutes or until heated thoroughly and cheese is melted.
When I was growing up, we didn't have central heat and air in our home. We had box fans and open windows in the summer and wood heat in the winter. Mama would put heavy plastic over all the windows in the house during winter to try and keep the cold air from coming in so badly. This was before double-pane windows; or at least for us, it was. I remember in the spring time always being excited when we got to take the plastic off the windows. One of my favorite pastimes was to lay on the bed, with the window open during warm weather, and read a book. If it was raining outside, listening to the sound of rain while reading was like a double bonus.
Sometimes God will put a Goliath in your life, for you to find the David within you. - TobyMac
We love you!
Loretta & Jon