Do You Really Want to?

We sing songs about it. We pray prayers about it. We talk about it a lot. It is the Christian motto: “be like Jesus”. But let’s think about this for a little bit. Do you, do we really want to be like Jesus? Do we really want to be exactly like him? After all it even says it in the bible. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus lived” (1 John 2:6 NIV).

Let’s break this down a bit. The Life of Jesus.

Born of a virgin in a stable
Lived among the poor
40 day fast in the desert
Tempted by the devil himself
Associated as a drunkard and friend of sinners
Seems he was a wonderer
Had no place to lay his own head
Accused of many things but innocent
Mostly misunderstood
Few people loved him most people hated him
People always talked about him (both good and bad but mostly people wanting to kill him)
Mostly considered crazy (associated with beelzebub: Matthew 12:24)
Beaten and given 39 lashes (basically up to the point of death)
Ridiculed, cursed at, then crucified
Died at 33
Betrayed and desserted by his closest friends at his greatest time of need
Took the full wrath of the Almighty God upon him for the world.
One day he was their hero the next day he was their enemy

But wait what about the good stuff?
The ability to heal, cast out demons, and raise the dead
Defeat Satan once and for all
To speak with authority
To Love unconditionally
To empower people
To walk on water and calm the seas
To still be the most talked about name 2000 years later (both good and bad)

So… Do you still really want to be like Jesus? Do you really want to live like him?

When I look at the list, the bad seems to outweigh the good. But don’t get me wrong, the good is really awesome. But the bad, is really bad. And let’s look at my current life and where I was born. I was born in a hospital, I am not poor, and I have not fasted in the desert for 40 days. If I am honest I don’t want to be ridiculed, beaten, crucified, betrayed, and deserted at my greatest time of need. I definitely don’t want to experience the full wrath of God. I am very grateful Jesus took that for me. I am older than 33. I want people to like me. NO! I want people to love me. I don’t want any enemies. I don’t want people to talk bad about me or consider me crazy. I like having a place to call home and lay my head every night. I have not really faced any persecution at all.

Often when we think about being like Jesus we think about all the good stuff. After all who wouldn’t want that. But we leave out the bad, tough, and ugly stuff. Do we do that with God too? Do we only take the stuff we like about God and leave out the other stuff? I like the fact the God is Love. But, he also has wrath. And the wrath of THE ALMIGHTY GOD can be a bit scary.

So what am I getting at here?

I want to give Jesus my all. I really do. I want to follow him wherever he leads me. But, to be exactly like him? umm… When the rubber meets the road will I actually do it?

What about you? Will you?

Do we really want to be like Jesus? Let’s be careful as we throw those words around. Let’s really think about what we are saying and what we are praying. To be like Jesus is to deny ourselves and to never ever look back. There is a huge cost to follow Jesus.

Luke 9:23-26
“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Luke 9:57-62
As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Remarkable Things

“They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.'” (Luke 5:26 NIV)

This reminded me of an incredible moment when I was filled with awe because I was a part of something remarkable.

I was in the auto parts store I had been in so many times. The young man behind the counter was always very friendly and helpful. He remembered my name and greeted me each time I came in. That day he had shared he was possibly going to be moving on and getting his own store. It was then I felt the nudge. It was that quiet voice I had heard before and it whispered to me once again. “Take him out to lunch”. I tired to write it off, but the nudging wouldn’t go away. I didn’t want to interrupt the conversation he was having with another customer so I tried to leave going unnoticed, but that nudging and quiet voice would not quit. So I gave in. I turned around as I was at the door to leave, walked back and said, “He Ryan, we should grab a lunch sometime, my treat, before you head out of here.” His response surprised me. I was thinking to myself, how awkward is this? What if he says no? What is he thinks I am just weird? All the reasons went across my mind to try and get out of this, but his response, “Sure man, that would be great” was a good surprise. We exchanged numbers and I told him I would text him to set up a time. I walked away thinking, Ok that wasn’t all that hard.

Later that day I had texted him to set up a time to meet. My schedule was pretty full so we had to schedule over a week out on a Thursday. On Wednesday (still a week and a day from our scheduled meeting) my lunch appointment cancelled. Ryan came to mind so I called him to see if he was free. He was so we met up at a local pizza place to grab lunch.

At first it was small talk and then he started to tell me about some of his life and what was going on. He knew I was a youth pastor so maybe he felt safe. Ryan has a girlfriend and they had a child together. He desperately wants to do the right thing but feels his girlfriend’s mom has turned her against him. He wants to be a good father and wants to be a good husband. I believe him. He seems to desperately be trying to do all the right things, but it just doesn’t seem to be working out. Soon in our conversation I felt that nudge again and that still small voice. “Tell him that you have been thinking about him and praying for him and that I have put him on your heart.” One of two things are going on here. I am either schizophrenic or God is really speaking here. I have a brief argument in my mind of all the reasons why saying this is a bad idea, but it won’t go away. So I try my best to preface it so it doesn’t sound super crazy and weird. “Ryan, look this may sound a bit crazy, and… I usually don’t do this. But I believe and have learned that when God is asking me to do something I really need to listen. He wants you to know that he has placed you on my heart and I have been thinking about you and praying for you.”

The next thing that happened blew me away. I never expected anything close to this. The expression on his face was one of complete and utter shock. Like he had seen a ghost. He said, “That is crazy”. I said, “I know”. He replied, “No you don’t understand Tony. I have not prayed to God since I was 5 years old. I had given up on God completely. Last night I was at my end with all of this. I didn’t know what else to do. So I cried out. God help me. If you are real, if you are really out there show me a sign, something, anything.”

And we were filled with awe, because God had done something remarkable!

I don’t believe it was coincidence that my lunch meeting cancelled the day after Ryan cried out to God.

God is always working and doing remarkable things. The question is are we too busy for them? Are we listening closely for His still small voice? Are we ignoring that voice? Are we shrugging it off? Are we afraid? What holds us back?

I know one thing. I want to be filled with awe! I want to see more remarkable things!

How will you be filled with awe?

Lonely Places…

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (Luke 5:16 NIV). Today these words jumped off the page. The two in particular, “lonely places”, struck me in very different way than ever before. There is so much about this passage that raises some questions for me. It should cause all of us to pause and think about our own prayer life.

Where did Jesus go?

Why alone?

How often?

What did Jesus pray about?

I suppose the first question doesn’t matter as much as the others but I’m curious and I want to know. What defines a lonely place? Is it all by yourself? Is it away from the people we know? We all know we can be around people yet still be alone. People may find it odd that I find my lonely place in a coffee shop. They would say I am not alone, but for whatever reason it is a place that I can focus. I can block out the noise around me. As Jesus found, the world around him constantly wanted him. They went after him to find him when he tried to get away. They often found him. It’s almost as if they knew where to look. So did he go to the same place? If we knew would this change the way we approach prayer? Maybe it is left out because the author didn’t know. Or maybe it just doesn’t matter. Maybe the key it to develop a rhythm in our lives so that we have sacred places. Places where we can hear from God.

Jesus had such a clarity of focus for his life and God’s will for his life because of these practices. We live in a world that is constantly grabbing for our attention. It is easier to hear from God when there is no noise, but the key is to learn to hear from God in the noise and chaos that is always around us.

The next question that puzzles me is How often? Why can’t we just get a “everyday Jesus went to such and such place…”? Who gives us that kind of sweeping statement? OFTEN. What is that supposed to mean? Luke you are not helping us out here. We want a formula, a system, a linear path. If we can just put this into a quick little 1+2+3=6 formula, then we know what to do and we know what the results are. The reality is life doesn’t work like that. Neither does the Holy Spirit. We can’t put God into a formula or system. His ways are beyond our ways.

The very point is OFTEN! Jesus knew he needed to be with his Father often and hear his voice and he knew the benefits that derive from those moments. It would be safe to say Jesus had this keen sense of awareness that he needed those moments before he even got close to the place where he was sensing he was distant from him. We often go to God we when feel the need to regain our sense of purpose. Jesus often went to his Father to maintain his sense of purpose. We often go to God when we feel distance from him. Jesus often went to his Father to stay close to him. Notice the difference. His words now pierce our hearts. “The Father and I are one” (John 10:30 NIV). You only become like someone (or one with someone) by spending a tremendous amount of time with them. Yes, Jesus has an edge on us. He was there with God in the beginning. He has always been with the Father. All the more reason for us to find our lonely place more often, so that we may know him and be like him.

This then leads to the final question. What did Jesus pray about? We know about his prayer in the Garden. We know his response to his disciples that asked him to teach them how to pray. But what were these moments like? What did he pray about when he was away from everyone in the lonely places? Clearly the disciples saw something very different about the way Jesus prayed or what he was like as a result of those moments. What they had learned in the past was no longer enough. They longed for something more. Teach us to pray! In Luke 11 it describes the moment right after Jesus finished praying. He gave them a gift in that moment. Read the exchange that happened in Luke 11:1-13. It’s powerful.

There is a moment Jesus uses the words “shameless audacity” (NIV version). He used a story to refer to our desire to be in desperate need of something. In the greek it is this shameless persistence to ask for the things we need most to live. Food. His closing statement brings it all home. “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13 NIV). Our need for the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is often more than we realize. It is the very thing that makes our souls alive to the very will of God.

Here is the gift. In that lonely place we can boldly approach God’s throne with shameless audacity often so that we can be filled with His Holy Spirit, which make us alive to God’s will, unites us to His purpose, frees us from our sin, reminds us we are his precious children, so that we may know Him and serve Him with all that we have.

So go find your lonely place. Go hear from the Father. Let him breathe life into you.