Letting Go of the Good too…

14 01 2009

Scripture:

Luke 14: 12-14, 25-27, 34-35 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

 25Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: 26“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. 27And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…

 34“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. 
      “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Observations:

There are several things I see in these texts, through the whole chapter, that cause me to take pause.  Several things are not being done in today’s Church.  Several things we, as modern-day disciples, seem to ignore.

The first is the inviting of those who have nothing to offer.  Whether it be to after church dinners, membership, or community events.  We tend to invite those who have something to offer.  Not those who can’t repay us.

Second, we seem to think we should have the most honored position and we’re afraid to be left out in the cold – so, with a measure of insecurity, we jostle for position.  I’m not just talking about the banquet table – but for positions of leadership.

A third thing, from the intervening texts (not quoted above), are Jesus comments about “counting the costs.”  He concludes these two parables by indicating that we have to be willing to lose all, or we will gain nothing.  If we don’t take the time to count the costs, we won’t know what’s at stake.  This reminds me of of Socrates’ statement that “The unexamined life is not worth living.

Finally, Jesus makes it clear that salt without saltiness, is not worth anything.

Applications:

It is easy for me to read texts like this and apply it to others.  This is the safe approach.  This is the easy route.  This is the dysfunctional approach.  In fact, I need to look at myself and see how this applies.

First, I seem to look for friends, leaders, and disciples that will help the church (or me) succeed.  I want to pour my energy into those who will accomplish my goals – God’s goals – the church’s goals.  Instead, as was pointed out to me last Sunday (in a great exchange), I need to love those who need to be loved.  Period.  Without thinking about what I can get out of it.

Second, letting go of my own needs is the path to humility.  When I have no thought of what I need to get out of “this” – whatever “this” is, that’s when I will gain the greater blessings.  It is the “Good to Great” concept.  Good is having friends and being thought of as significant.  Great is serving God and letting Him use me to bless others.

Third, counting the cost.  This is never a one time proposition – though I often think it is and I begin to settle.  Counting the cost is always an ongoing concept.  Each step with the Lord involves letting go of something: a thought, a behavior, a possession, a relationship, …something.  When I let go of something, good or bad, I am doing so to gain something greater.

Finally, and this is an idea that is reoccurring in my time with God, is that if I want the church to grow, if I want the church to be “salty,” and if I want there to be radical disciples in the church, then I need to be a radical disciple.  My life, my actions, and my influence will best be realized through my transformation – not my words or teaching.

In addition, this is something I need my leadership team to understand.  This isn’t about maintenance, this is about transformation of our-selves, our church family, our community, and our world.  

H.M.S. Richards once said, “Be always preaching, and if necessary, use words.”  This is who I want to be.

Prayer:

Dear God… <pause….sigh….deep breath>

Enable me to absorb these important concepts.  It is so funny how when I first began reading this chapter in Luke’s Gospel that all I could think of was how it applied to the Laodecian Church.  But as I asked you into my heart, you helped me see how this applied to me.

This is what I was unable to communicate the other night.  This is why my QT3 is important to the church.  It isn’t about maintenance – it’s about growth.  Before the church will grow, I have to grow.  “The speed of the leader determines the speed of the church.”  Enable me to grow.  Enable me to be transformed.

As I count the cost, I see how that will lead to greater loneliness, greater ostracization, and greater pressure to “do something” useful.  Some of this comes from the tapes in my head.  Being raised by a dysfunctional, (work) addicted family system, in a time where production meant value, I continue to try and shed those ideas.  But now, I have leaders who want me to produce – or at least that’s what I hear them saying.

At the same time, I’m fighting to go the other direction.  I’m fighting to let go of the production values.  I’m fighting to connect with a path of surrender and sacrifice.  I’m seeking to develop a life that is a constant conversation with God.  I’m seeking to let go of my “self;my ego, my dreams, my heart, my selfish desires, my ornery old man, my wandering, my good – as well as my bad.  Often, the downfall of those who seek Christ is thinking that we have something good to bring to the table.  But we read that even our best efforts are worthless.

Father God – release me from the me, my, mine in my life.  Release me from the hopes, fears, dreams, and strengths that I think are so unique and powerful.  Reshape me into your image.  Redesign me.  Remake me.  Rebirth me.

I surrender to you today.

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