Follow the Guide!

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. You know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. – John 14:15-17

Christians have been known throughout the centuries as “Christ Followers” or simply “Followers of Jesus.” The common interpretation has been that we follow the ways and teaching of Jesus, which of course is true. We learn His word and study His ways, doing our best to represent Him well.

However the gospels paint a different picture of following Jesus. When Jesus called someone to follow Him it quite literally meant follow…

…Like right now.

The idea was… “Stop what you’re doing, come and follow me.”

This was not an easy call.

Jesus never gave His followers the month’s schedule or presented a detailed itinerary. In fact, they often misunderstood His true plan or purpose until well after something had occurred. He rarely asked their opinion on the plan, and He never took votes. He would simply lead and they were expected to follow.

For those of us who like to be in control, this is kind of a scary thought! Can you imagine Jesus being with us 24/7 and us simply being expected to follow? No…many of us prefer to think of our faith as though Jesus left us a map to follow as we see fit.

Part of me loves the map! I get to choose how I go, what pace I take, which stops are essential, etc. With the map, I get to retain a fair amount of control over my daily affairs. There’s just one problem…

Jesus didn’t leave us a map.

He left us a guide.

In John’s gospel, chapter 14, Jesus promised that His followers wouldn’t be alone because He would send the Spirit of truth to be with us and in us! That means the very Spirit and presence of Jesus is with us 24/7, and that we are expected to follow His leadership, daily, just like His first followers! The good news is, not only is He there to lead us, but He is also there to empower us! His Spirit will supernaturally enable us to accomplish whatever He calls us to do, as we follow Him!

I never had a map that could do that!

Following Jesus is not easy, but it is actually fairly simple: listen for His voice (through His word and prayer) and do what He says. That’s when the power of God becomes real!

Once you’ve followed His voice and seen His power, you’ll never go back to the map!


Are You Sure You Want Vision?

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint, but blessed is he who keeps the law. - Prov. 29:18

I love this verse!

And why shouldn’t I? All leaders love this verse because it’s about vision!

Proverbs 29 verse 18 has been used to justify and launch an endless array of leadership initiatives…some God inspired and kingdom focused, and many…well, not so much.

Vision is a word that has become so common it almost has to be redefined, or reclaimed, to be understood in its biblical setting. It’s actually pretty simple…the biblical idea of vision was simply some kind of visual revelation from God. The operative phrase being, “from God.” When the biblical writers speak of vision they are referring to God showing up and making His will known. In fact, dark times were sometimes described as seasons where there was no vision from the Lord (See Lamentations 2:9).

The people of God have always sought the vision of the Lord. It meant that God was on the move! He would be bringing about His purposes and He wanted His people to play a part! Note how Peter quotes the prophet Joel in his sermon on the day of Pentecost:

“ ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” - Acts 2:17

Vision is God revealing His purpose and inviting us to join Him! Who wouldn’t be excited?

Of course, hearing from God is no small matter and is never to be taken lightly. Ironically, the key to understanding Proverbs 29:18 is the part that’s always left out…”But blessed is he who keeps the law.” A vision from God is the law, because He’s…well, God! To not follow the vision that God has given is considered an act of disobedience and even rebellion. That’s what the verse means when it says the people “cast off restraint” or the more familiar King James rendering of “the people perish!” Those who disregard the vision and word of the Lord always come under judgment 

Are you sure you want vision?

It’s worth noting that this verse is preceded and followed by verses that speak of discipline. Vision is always a part of God’s leadership and discipline, or discipleship, of His people, because it is the revelation of Father’s purpose and calling to those who are His. There are some ways in which God’s vision is general, for all His people. Yet there are other aspects of His vision that are very local and even personal.

So…what vision has God given you?

What is God’s assignment for you, your family, your Christian community?

As you pray and open your eyes, what do you see?  What breaks your heart, because you believe it breaks God’s heart? What makes you sing and celebrate because you feel God’s joy? What keeps you awake at night? What do you think about when you’re alone in the car?

The warning of Proverbs 29:18 is that without God’s vision my life becomes “unrestrained”…think void of divine purpose and meaning. We live in a culture where it is far too easy for our life to become dissipated in the pursuit of self-interest. We all have a voice inside that calls us to live for something bigger than ourselves. That voice is the voice of God Himself and vision is His invitation to break free and make your life count for eternity!


What’s your vision and what are you going to do about it?=

My Word for the Year

For we have found this man a plague… Acts 24:5a

Every year people try to find a theme word for the New Year. Things like Purpose, Joy, New Beginnings are certainly among the favorites. My word won't be among the favorites…because my word for the year is Plague.

In Acts 24, the apostle Paul was brought before Felix, the governor of Caesarea. His accusers were a group of Jewish religious leaders, including the high priest, Ananias.  As they began to state their case, the first thing they said about Paul is, “We have found this man a plague…” At least that’s how the English Standard Version translates the Greek word, “loimos.” It’s actually a pretty good translation…the literal meaning of the word is pestilence or…well, plague!

When I read it I kind of laughed, because of how much he was obviously in their heads! And while the specifics of the accusations against Paul were trumped up and false, this one was actually true. He was like a plague to their agenda of religious control. And under his leadership, the gospel spread like wildfire…or like a plague.

Then I began to wonder…does our enemy ever find me to be like a plague?

I’m really serious here! In Ephesians 6, Paul says, For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” We have real enemies with a dark agenda to destroy human lives and keep them from living abundant life in Christ. Do they see me, or us, as a threat to that agenda?

In the New Testament, the gospel created turbulence, everywhere it went, because it radically changed lives! And radically changed lives always disrupt the status quo. The gospel is an invasion of God’s presence through belief in Jesus Christ…marked by repentance, faith, and surrender to God’s life-giving purpose. The problem is there are many who have no interest in surrendering to God’s life-giving purpose. Consequently, the gospel makes many people very uncomfortable 

So I guess my real question is…

If our spreading of the gospel isn't making anyone uncomfortable, are we really spreading the gospel?

 It may sound odd, but one of my big New Year’s prayers is to follow in Paul’s footsteps and be like the plague! I want to be a carrier of the Spirit of God and His gospel of peace! And if the enemies of the gospel are made uncomfortable by God’s work through me, then I’ll know I’m on to something!

 Here are a few things that will help all of us become carriers of the gospel this year:

1.      Be full of Jesus! Daily time in communion with the Lord through the word and prayer will make a powerful difference. You can’t share what you don’t have!

2.      Connect in biblical community. The early church always ministered in community and from community. We need the strength and accountability that community brings. Jesus said the gates of Hell would not prevail against the community He called the Church!

3.      Share the love of Jesus freely! Look for ways to reach out and love people in Jesus name. They are all around us if we’ll stop and ask God to open our eyes.

4.      Speak the truth of the gospel boldly! This is one of the hardest for contemporary Christians. We have allowed ourselves to be intimidated into silence! We think that somehow if we’re quiet and nice enough people will be so impressed they’ll just run to the gospel. It has never worked that way! And, as far as being intimidated into silence…no one respects a pushover! Be kind and respectful, but don’t be afraid to speak the truth in love…boldly! And…don’t expect those who refuse the truth to like it!

May you have a happy New Year full of the passion and fire of His presence! And may the enemies of the gospel fear you like the plague!