Fan or Follower

I love to read!  Few things give me as much pleasure as a good book in my hands and a great cup of British tea by my side.  I read for entertainment as well as for enlightenment.  When I am looking to be entertained, I am drawn to murder/mysteries similar to Agatha Christie novels.  Not that I’m actually smart enough to figure out “who done it,” but I enjoy the challenge.  Since I really do enjoy learning new things and because I’ve lived with Calvinists long enough to have the Calvinistic work ethic engrained in my mind so that I am slightly bothered when I just sit and read, I also read a book of some substance at the same time.  There are always at least two books on my bedside table in process of being read.

Right now I am reading the book, “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman which is the inspiration for this blog.  If you read the book, you probably understand the title of this blog.  The author begins by asking a simple question: “Are you a follower of Jesus?”  Those of us who are Christians are quick to respond emphatically, “Of course I am a follower.”  Mr. Idleman goes on, however, to make a distinction between being a follower and being a fan of Jesus.  He suggests that many of us are actually fans of Jesus.  We attend worship on Sunday, sit on a committee or two at church – we may even have a fish or a “honk if you love Jesus” bumper sticker on our car.  We have been saved by the atoning grace of God and we are comfortable in our Christian walk.  The author of the book intimates that perhaps, just perhaps, in our comfortable security, we are more like fans than followers.  We are content to sit in the stands and cheer for Jesus, but we are not willing to get out on the field and get dirty for Jesus or put ourselves in a precarious situation for Him.  We are not ready to walk where Jesus walked – that path of obedience that led Him to the cross.  We find it too difficult to love like He did, forgive like He forgave, or sacrifice to the extent He asks us to.

He never said that being a follower would be easy, but He did promise to be with us until the end of the age.  He sent the Holy Spirit to empower us to do things that are beyond our human desire or ability to do – things like forgiving those who have unjustly hurt us or mistreated us, loving the unlovable, seeing beyond the externals into the soul which bears the image of God Himself.  He has shown us how to live in power and victory, and yet continue to be truly humble and content.  He empowers us to set aside our own needs and embrace the needs of others above our own.  He walks right beside us as we struggle to be obedient and rewards us with these beautiful words when we succeed, “Well done, my child.  I am proud of you.”  As we put our faith into action and choose to be a follower, we experience the power of the Holy Spirit to cast out fear, doubt, shame, and timidity.  He then fills us with hope, love, joy, faith, peace, freedom, and assurance of eternity.

It is indeed safer and more comfortable to be a fan, but I wouldn’t trade the challenges of being a follower of Jesus for that comfort or safety.  The blessings far outweigh the difficulties.  So I agree with Mr. Idleman and I emphatically and unequivocally say, “”I AM NOT A FAN!  I AM A FOLLOWER OF JESUS!”

Jesus said, “Come follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17)  I invite you to join me in following Jesus …..and let’s get fishing.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”  2 Timothy 1:7

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Lessons Learned

This last week has been one of those “bitter-sweet” experiences for me.  Tomorrow will be the one-year anniversary of my beloved husband’s death.  I have been remembering our last days together – the first mention of the word “hospice,” the sweet conversations about what heaven was going to be like, David’s hope and joy of getting to be with Jesus soon, the first time he heard the angel’s wings, writing his obituary together, the loving care of the hospital staff, the day he rallied and we hoped the doctors were wrong, faithful friends who sat with us or sent us text messages every day, friends coming in from all over the country to sit with us at the end, a friend kneeling by his bed singing “Amazing Grace,” hundreds of emails from colleagues and students at Calvin, his pulmonologist coming in on his own time to prayer over David, doctors who gave up vacations or practice to sit with him while he died, his bed surrounded by family and friends as he breathed his last breaths, and the final beautiful memory of David saying, “He’s really here!”  There was great sorrow, but there was also great joy that last week.  So much grace, so many prayers, so much love!!  The tears I am shedding as I write this are tears of sadness, but also tears of joy and gratitude.  I miss David more than I can say, but I am enfolded in the arms of God every day through the love and prayers of faithful friends.  I am truly blessed.

David taught me so much about how to die with grace and dignity and he also taught me much about how to live the same way.  Permit me to share with you some of the lessons I have learned this past year:

God’s grace is greater than our deepest grief

Lament is a gift of grace – be open and honest with God as the emotions wash over your spirit

Embrace the sadness – it means you loved someone dearly and that is a gift

Choose to see the memories as precious gifts instead of painful reminders

Be grateful for the years and blessing you did share and not focus on what you won’t have in the future

Live life with “arms wide open” to receive God’s love as well as the love and comfort of others

Give others the gift of giving to you

Be sure to reflect on God’s faithfulness in the past

Look for expressions of God’s faithfulness in the present

Rest in the assurance of God’s faithfulness in the future

Make an effort to be aware of God’s loving, constant presence in all the moments of life

Fix your mind on the “whatevers” of Philippians 4:8

Make God your primary love relationship – above your spouse, children, grandchildren or friends

Choose to submit to God’s will for your life every day

Ask the Holy Spirit to give the ability to accept that will with joy

Daily ask God for wisdom to understand his will and the actions of others

Investing yourself in being a blessing to others has huge dividends when you are in need

Celebrate each day and live it to the full serving God and others

This is certainly not an exhaustive list and I am still learning.  Some have told me that the second year of being a widow is harder than the first.  I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, I KNOW God will be there to comfort and strengthen me.  And I know that He will provide faithful friends to walk with me.  My heart is filled with great gratitude for those of you who have been walking this road with me and will continue to do so.  I lift you to God and pray that He blesses you 100 times more than the blessings you give me.

I leave you with these verses a precious friend sent to me that have been a comfort and blessing, “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, LORD, supported me.  When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”  Psalm 94:18-19