Following Jesus Part 2

by Rhonda, May 06, 2022

Luke 8:43-48  And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians,[a] she could not be healed by anyone. 44 She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. 45 And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter[b] said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47 And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

In Following Jesus Part 1, we talked about the importance of seeking Jesus.  There's really no better example of someone seeking Jesus than the woman in Luke Chapter 8.  Isn't is fascinating how Jesus is in tune with someone seeking Him so fervently?  In a crowd of people, He stopped everything He was doing to pay attention to her.  God is extremely aware and focused on anyone seeking Him in total faith.  He's also incredibly graceful to those seeking Him.

Following Jesus healed this woman.  Often, when we think about following Jesus, we consider what we have to give up in order to follow Him.  We can no longer enjoy our sinful lifestyles in the same way.  Our anger can't be spewed anytime we feel like it.  We might have to remove bad influences from our life.  We think we need to sacrifice to please Jesus and we look at what we have to give up to become a follower.  But, we are the ones who benefit from following Jesus.  Much like the woman who bled for twelve years, we are also healed when we follow Jesus.

Unfortunately, we as humans tend to be followers.  If we aren't following Jesus, we're following something.  When Moses left for Mount Sinai, the Israelites began worshipping a golden calf.  While we may not be bowing down to a golden calf, we're likely following something else that's leading us astray.  Why would we follow anything other than love and healing?  Instead, we choose fortune, fame, selfish ambition, addictions, and ego.  We choose things that lead us into bondage.  The only source of true freedom is following Jesus.  His goal is to heal His followers.

Shortly after my husband and I separated, I made a commitment to follow Jesus like I'd never followed Him before.  I truly didn't understand that by doing this, He would heal me.  I thought I'd heal myself.  I thought if I spent time in devotions, and if I did all of the right things by following Him, I would heal myself through my discipline and good works.  Why not?  I would relieve some of my pain and feel better about myself in the process.  As long as I kept a schedule of devotions, prayer time, and religious commitments, everything would be okay..

The problem was it seemed impossible to remain consistent.  When the realization finally came to me that Jesus was the one doing the healing, the pressure was off of me.  I didn't have to keep a rigorous schedule to feel better, then apologize profusely when I fell short.  I was interested in pain relief after my divorce.  But, God was interested in healing, and as usual, He was seeing the bigger picture.  

He was interested in freeing me from shackles that had been carried around for many years.  He didn't stop with the divorce.  He wanted to heal me from self focus, approval addiction, eating disorders, and many other things.  He asked me to bring my life and my decisions in line with my beliefs.  Bringing my life under His authority (not mine) brings peace and fulfillment - both to me as well as those around me.

It may seem like common sense, but it was a surprise to me that He didn't ask me to spend more time in church.  He told me You've found your place with me.  Now, I want you to find your freedom.  Let's truly bring your life under My authority.  I had always felt like I was following Jesus, but I had yet to find my freedom.  He didn't ask me to do more, He asked me to make different decisions.  My head was full of knowledge.  I didn't need any further study time.  Instead, He asked me to stay in my same everyday life, but live it differently.

So this is what it means to follow you? I asked Him.  One day at a time, one decision at a time? Just let you lead?  It seemed so easy, and I went to sleep that night with peace, resolving to try it the next day.  

The next day came.  

Let me tell you, I was so surprised by how often I was led daily by my emotions.  I knew the right things to do, but rarely chose to do it.  When God asked me to bring my life under His authority, it wasn't a small tweak.  I was going to have to make major changes, and the sheer amount of times I was falling short on a daily basis was overwhelming to me.  That night, as I poured out my heart to him in tears, He reminded me there were a few times that day I was successful.  I made a few, just a few, decisions where I allowed Him to lead.  This was progress.  He prompted me to write them down, so I did.  

The next day I tried to repeat the few successes I had the day before.  Feeling like a failure at the end of the day, I wrote down my meager successes in my journal.  I tried again the next day.  The next day, I gave up.  Then, the next day I decided I would try again.  And so on.    

I am still such a work in progress, learning how to follow Jesus and truly allow Him to lead in my life.  Every month that passes, I continue to make progress, but I still have my days of complete failure.  However, through this process of working to live my life differently, something crazy has happened.  

I've experienced healing.  Not a little bit of healing, mind you.  I've experienced some of the greatest growth and peace of my life.

How is that possible when I'm such a mess?  I am constantly screwing up.  I lack consistency.  I lack discipline.  Sometimes I completely fall off the wagon and go off the deep end.  Yet, in the midst of it, miraculously I've developed a heart that is continually seeking to follow Jesus.  Not a schedule.

This mess is becoming a healed, whole woman like never before.  I don't even know how its possible.  But, when I look back at my writings, I am starting to see more consistency.  I'm starting to see more discipline.  The devil constantly reminds me of my failures, but these things I've written down say otherwise.  Now, I am starting to look forward to recording my successes.  I'm proud of myself and what I've accomplished.  I am not so focused on the failures anymore.  I'm being healed, and I can guarantee you I wasn't the one who did it.

He is so faithful.  He is so gracious.  Following Him is the greatest thing I've ever done, or will ever do.  

I'm so grateful He takes the time to deal with this work in progress.

Following Jesus Part 1

by Rhonda, May 03, 2022

What does it mean to follow Jesus?

Matthew 6:33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

The first step to following Jesus is to seek Him.  

I have a terrible habit of losing my car keys.  I wish I could tell you it is a result of getting older, but I've lost my keys since I was fourteen years old, holding a shiny new restricted license.  I've lost them in convenience stores, movie theaters, grocery stores, or (my personal favorite) locking them inside of the car.  At least the car I own now won't allow me to do that anymore.

When I was a teenager, my father would have to pick me up in random places after I lost my keys.  He always kept a spare, knowing I had a brain block when it came to finding my keys.

"Don't you pay attention to where you put them?" he would ask me with an exasperated sigh.

I can assure you I didn't.  

Even now, if I don't make a specific effort to remember where I put my keys, I will lose them.  I have to put them in the same place every time.  If I don't, I will have a very bad morning the next day, usually when I'm already running late.

As a redhead, when I lose things I get mad.  It isn't my fault, its the hair color the Lord gave me.  But, my kids can attest I'm no fun when searching for my long, lost keys.  As a coping mechanism, my daughter seems to have developed a superpower of sniffing out keys.  I have no idea how she does it.  I will lose my keys, and she will promptly walk into my office, fish under a stack of papers and walk out with my keys.

It really is incredible.  I need to enter her into some sort of talent contest.

But, I digress.

My point here is that when I'm seeking my keys, I'm not seeking anything else.  I'm not looking for my glasses (yes, I lose those too), a piece of chocolate (maybe later), or the TV remote.  I need my keys, and nothing is going to distract me until I find my keys.

We need to really, truly seek Jesus.  Spending time in the Bible will allow us to learn who Jesus is.  Prayer is our avenue to being known by God.  Seeking God also helps us to understand who we are, and what our purpose is.  God doesn't hide Himself from us, and if we seek Him, we will find Him.  

Seeking Jesus is a daily choice, and its not always easy.  I know I certainly have my days where I don't feel like seeking Jesus.  I'd rather attend my own pity party (alone), fall back into the pit of anger and unforgiveness, and isolate.  But, when I seek Jesus I'm less dependent upon my emotions.  My eyes are on Him, instead of continually worrying about what's going to happen to me.  I personally think the devil's agenda is doomed when we become less dependent upon emotions, stop thinking about ourselves, and seek Jesus regardless of how we feel.  Some days I'm successful, but if I'm honest, some days I'm not.

One of the biggest reasons we quit seeking Jesus is because the devil likes to shame us for our inconsistency.  The devil loves to tell us our victories mean nothing if we don't experience the same victories every day.  That's not true.  Our inconsistencies don't invalidate our victories.  Perfection has never been a requirement for following Jesus.  In fact, our inconsistencies can call us to His faithfulness.  Our faithfulness doesn't save us.  A perfectly consistent Christian life doesn't get us into heaven.  God's mercy is what saves us, and when we follow Jesus, our confidence can rest in His consistency.  Thank goodness for that!  

We should never stop seeking Jesus because we've experienced a setback or a failure.  God wants us to receive His love every day.  If perfection were a requirement, no one would be called to follow Jesus.  But, Jesus confronts our inconsistencies and insecurities with his incomparable mercy.  

Follow me, He invites us.  Its time for you to be freed of these shackles that you've carried around for many years,  I have good plans for you.  

That's an invitation worth accepting.

The Power of Prayer Part 3

by Rhonda, May 01, 2022

 Can Prayer Grow Your Faith?

I posed this question to my kids this week.  

Alex thought about it for a few minutes.  

"Sometimes when I am praying about a worry, I realize it is a stupid thought that just popped into my mind and halfway through my prayer I'm not sure why I'm even taking the time to pray on it.  But even if its stupid, just taking the time to be with God and bring your worries to Him grows faith.  Sometimes problems get solved just by sitting there with God."

Leeza chimed in.  "Prayers are a way of me giving God an opening to work in my life.  Sometimes I pray for little things like for my favorite football team to win.  Sometimes I pray for big things like a loved one who is sick.  But, these are all opportunities for Him to work in my life, and when He works in my life, it definitely grows my faith."

I think they're right.  

Bringing our problems to God, whether big or small, creates opportunities for Him to work in our lives.  Is it possible the worries and problems we bring to God in prayer strengthen our relationship with our creator?  Every problem we bring to God may not be answered in the way we expect, but we can rest assured He always hears us and He's always working on our behalf.  His solutions to our problems are always better than our solutions.

Isaiah 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

I've heard this verse for years, and I've always thought it was notable His name would represent "wonderful counselor".  A person goes to a counselor to talk about their problems.  A counselor relationship is a very personal, intimate relationship.  Often a counselor knows more about you than your closest family members!  They are a trusted advisor in your personal life, helping you restore relationships and regain mental health. 

God desires this type of personal relationship with us, and more!  While a counselor can help us to view our problems differently, God can actually solve them.  He can take them onto His shoulders, remove our burdens, and remind us My child, I've got this.  I'm on your side.  Prayer is our avenue to this type of amazing, profoundly life-changing relationship.  It is the ultimate gift, allowing us to face our problems in life instead of crumbling under the pressure of having to go through trials alone.  We are never alone!  Isn't that an incredible realization?

When going through the cancer diagnosis, you are not alone.  Walking through a divorce?  You're not alone.  When the kids have driven you to the edge of reason, you don't have to shoulder it by yourself.  When the loneliness feels unbearable, the Wonderful Counselor is by your side.  Not only does He know how to solve our problems, He takes them onto His shoulders, reminding us that our only charge is to stay obedient to Him.  We can't save ourselves from our problems.  Jesus is the one who can save us and set our hearts free.  

Isaiah 55:8  As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Part of the reason it is so important to pursue God's perspective is because He can see the future.  He can see the big picture, but we can't.  We live in the moment, in the day, in the clutches of our immediate needs.  We want a solution for our problems today, but God knows what's good for us tomorrow.  Prayer gives us opportunity to listen for His guidance, knowing He has a bigger plan in mind.

I've had some significant moments this week where I've felt very down.  Divorce is isolating, and there's times the lonliness can be very challenging to deal with.  While it is always helpful to pour out my troubles to God in prayer, I find when I listen during prayer, I begin to view my life through God's plans instead of my own.  God gives me new perspective and pulls me out of my dark places.  In those times, He reminds me the present isn't an indicator of the future.  My struggles won't last forever.  He has great plans for me.  I miss out on being reassured when I don't give Him time to speak into my life.

Take time to make prayer a meaningful part of your life.  Move it to the top of your to-do list, and let God shoulder the struggles you're experiencing.  You deserve to experience God's grace and when you do, it will transform your life.