The cost of discipleship

Three times in Luke 14, Jesus describes those who cannot be His disciples.

“If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:26 *ESV, emphasis mine)

“Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:27*)

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (Lk. 14:33*)

These are not wishy-washy statements. They’re strong. Forceful. Hit us where it hurts.

Does my life reflect the true reality of being a disciple of Jesus? Am I really ready to renounce all that I treasure in this life … today, tomorrow, and every day until eternity? Am I willing to say goodbye to friends, willing to live a nomadic life like Jesus? “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” (Lk. 9:58) Am I ready to face persecution — physically, emotionally, spiritually?  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12)

Have I really counted the cost? Am I able to finish building what I’ve started?

“For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.” (Lk. 14:28-30)

Thankfully, this sacrifice is not without reward, on this earth and in the life to come. We will gain far more than we have lost.

“Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.’” (Mk. 10:29-31)

I have counted the cost. I’m in.

May I be found worthy of His life and death, not making Him out to be a liar by shrinking back when the day of trouble comes.

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Phil. 3:12)

Prayer and evangelism

I’m still slowly working through my study on prayer.  I really don’t do it often enough. Generally, I read the Word, but I don’t actually spend enough time studying it.  When I do, though, it’s sweet.

I did this particular study at the laundromat on Sunday.  (I recently moved and no longer have a washer and dryer.)  The study was on persevering in prayer.  How do we do this?  The author said it is by thanksgiving and praise. (Phil. 4:6-7, Col. 4:2, 1 Samuel 1-2, etc.)  Only when we thank God for His good, unchanging character and praise Him for His mighty deeds and His holiness, only then will we have the strength to persevere in praying for what we have longed for but have not yet received.  God wants to be praised and thanked just as much as I, in my sinful pride, desire those things. The difference is, He deserves the praise and thanks for He is good, while I am merely a sinner.

The other thing I learned is that when we receive what we have so earnestly prayed for, we are to look past the gift and praise the giver.  How often do I thank God for what He has given me and not thank Him for who He is that He delights in giving me the desires of my heart? Or what is more, how often do I praise the LORD to others for what He has done, yet I do not incline my heart to Him to thank Him.  LORD, may I turn my heart to you when you bless me!

Answer to Prayer

Just a quick note to say one of the things for which I am thankful this Thanksgiving. During the past summer, I began praying fervently for people–or even a person–with whom I could sit around and discuss theology. I was at a church where no one seemed to want to do that–or at least did not have time for it. Then I started attending a PCA church. I was so blessed tonight by some of the college students! I called one guy to tell him happy birthday, and he invited me to his birthday dinner. Imagine my joy when we sat around the table at Old Chicago talking about theology! Then, a few of us went back to my friends Sam and Nat’s house and talked about theology some more.

What an amazing answer to prayer! It was great to have (relatively) young people my age sit around for four of five hours and just discuss deep questions and talk about the Bible and God and Schaeffer and the worldview of architecture. It also was great to see some young men being courteous, chivalrous, and respectful. I’m blessed to be getting to know these guys and gals better!

I’m seeing even more God’s sovereignty tonight. I prayed that prayer close to five months ago now. At first, I thought that God was not answering my cry. But He was–He answered, “Wait!” God has been teaching me that not every answer to prayer is a granted request. Sometimes it is no (as much as that hurts), sometimes it is wait, sometimes it is trust, sometimes it is, “I’ve got something even better for you!” I’m so grateful now that I’ve found a group of godly friends with similar interests. Now I’ll just keep praying for God to let me continue to grow closer to these men and women!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! What are you thankful for?

“Godliness with contentment is great gain”

Yesterday was a watershed day in my life as a Christian. The Lord did so much work in my heart it was almost as though I had accepted the Lord’s gift of grace all over again. And in a sense, I did. He renewed my heart in ways I could not even have imagined.

The past two weeks have been full of challenge after challenge. Illness has struck me several times, school has overwhelmed me, work has frustrated me. Yet in it all, my God has been sovereign and has worked out His salvation in me. I feel such joy at the lessons he’s taught me in the past two or three days and in the mountains He’s moved. Yes, He’s moved mountains! I came before His presence last night and submitted my selfish human will to His in areas that He’s been trying to get into for years. I can’t even believe the freedom I feel today! And already I can see Him blessing me for being obedient.

Last night, I continued my study on being a woman of prayer. I learned “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” During the study, I discovered that to delight yourself means to immerse yourself in the Word–the Law and God’s works and promises–and as a result to become obedient. God does not delight in self-motivated burnt offerings, but rather in one whose walk is blameless and upright.

I’ve been praying for months and even years about certain areas of my life in which I have been disobedient. I knew the truth in my head, but it was just last night when I submitted to my King that I felt the burdens lifted. He is faithful when we answer the call to receive His grace and mercy!

God has given me an incredible, overflowing love–for my parents, my roommates, my friends, the lost. I feel like I am going to overflow because His love is welling up so deeply within me! I came to Him because I was thirsty, and He gave me streams of living water. All praise and glory be to the Lord most high!

I was reading through some old e-mails today from a couple of weeks ago. I am in awe of one e-mail in particular where I was really struggling. God answered every single prayer in that long e-mail! I can’t even fathom His faithfulness to remove these stumbling blocks in my life!

I’ve been longing for intimacy with the Lord for months. I’ve struggled with a desire in my head to spend more time fellowshiping with Him in prayer but without motivation in my heart. The floodgates of communication were let loose last night!

“Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Amen, and how great is our God!

Looking past the stops while reading the Bible

For the past month or so, I have been slowly doing a Bible study on prayer.  The study is called Becoming a Woman of Prayerby Cynthia Heald, published by NavPress.  Today’s study was on the roll of the Spirit in our prayers.

 The first question reads, “God knows our weakness in prayer, and He wants to help us.  How do the following Scriptures describe His support?” The first Scripture is Romans 8:26-34.  Now, for all of my undergrad, I used an NIV Zondervan Study Bible.  This particular Bible places a section heading at Romans 8:28.  Being a fairly new Christian with no knowledge of that point of the original Greek (and not knowing that in the Greek, there is no punctuation), I always started reading the last half of Romans 8 with the thought that “All things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” I had always taken that verse as the beginning of a new section and topic in Romans. Imagine my surprise today when my study asked me to start at verse 26

When I began at Romans 8:26, 8:28 took on a new light. (I’m still working this out in  my mind and plan to meditate on it some more, so bear with me as I ramble through it on here.)  8:26-27 say that the God searches our hearts, where the Spirit resides once God regenerates our hearts and we become followers of Christ.  This Spirit inside of us is so closely intertwined with God the Father that the Father knows intimately the mind of the Spirit.  Likewise, the Spirit also knows our hearts and our minds.  He knows God’s will, and He places God’s will on our hearts.  The greatest part, in my opinion, of these verses is that the Spirit intercedes on our behalf to God the father “with groanings too deep for words” (NASB).  How wonderful it is that God knows our hearts because the Spirit knows our hearts.  The Spirit is the means of communication between our hearts and God’s heart.  So often I will say, “I don’t know how to pray,” or “I don’t know what to pray.”  God’s Word promises that the Spirit will intercede on our behalf and make the prayers of our hearts known to God. 

 Now, moving into 8:28.  The word begins with the word “And.” I believe that we can also read this word as “In addition to what was just said.”  The verse reads, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NASB).  In light of the previous discussion, I have come to think that God works all things together for good because of the Spirit interceding on our behalf. So often I pray for things selfishly that are not good for me in light of God’s sovereign plan for me and in light of eternity.  However, because of the Spirit’s power, God hears the perfect prayers of the Spirit on my behalf, not my imperfect, selfish human prayers.  The Spirit, being one in essence God, knows the will of the Father and knows fully God’s sovereign plan for my life.  Because of this, God’s sovereign plan is perfectly worked out in my life by means of the Spirit’s intercession. 

 God revealed to me today through the Spirit new insight in Romans 8:28, a verse I have had memorized for years and that I quote constantly.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Oswald Chambers:

“God searches your heart not to know what your conscious prayers are, but to find out what is the prayer of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God needs the nature of the believer as a shrine in which to offer His intercession.”

Glory be to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit for His sovereignty in our lives and for providing us wisdom!

Billboard Blessings

The Weeping Theologian
I’ve been overcome with the Lord’s blessings today.  This weekend thus far has been no doubt the best since moving to Kansas in May.  I am not struggling with anxiety nor fatigue today. I am not homesick nor sad. I am not overwhelmed by the need to be alone. Yes, indeed, today has been a great day.

The Joy of a Home-Cooked Meal
As I prayed over my evening meal, I was overcome by the Lord’s goodness to the point that my eyes filled with tears that threatened to spill onto my classic American farm meal (round steak, fried potatoes, bread and butter and a tall glass of milk).  The meal itself brought me joy as I thought about the wonderful days of Mom’s amazing farm cooking. (My high school friends often told me that the only reason they were my friends was because my mom is such a good cook!) But beyond that, I have many things to be thankful for today.

Sunday Lunch with a Family of the Lord
A friend from town called today to invite me to his parents’ home for Sunday lunch tomorrow. What a blessing! He is from an amazing Christian family with 11 children in all. I have never met his parents, but I am excited to find out more about the woman who has the strenght to give birth to 11 children, feed them three times a day, homeschool them, clean the house and still manage to have time with the Lord! I am also excited to meet my friend’s father, whom I suppose to be a godly man to raise that many children to fear the Lord.  And, of course, there is always the new baby, born July 3rd! It will be a great meal.

Another Surprising Phone Call
Not long after that call, I received another phone call from a friend back home in Iowa. I had called him four or five times in the past two months, but he never returned my calls. When I answered today, I said, “You actually called me back!” to which he replied, “I know!” Excited but somewhat skeptical at his ability to call on his own (he is a guy , after all!) =) I asked him, “Did Sarah tell you to call me?” He said, “No, I wanted to call you.” As the amazement set in, he continued, “I’m coming to Kansas City next weekend for a job interview, and I want to come see you!” What an incredible blessing!  This friend and I were not uber close, but I did see him numerous times a week, either at various events for the ministry we were involved in or at his house where he and two other of my friends lived.  Even after I told him that I don’t live in KC but two hours west, he still told me that he wants to come. I was touched by his offer.  He has a car that we both agree may not make the trip, and it’s going to cost a lot for gas for the four hour roundtrip detour. Nonetheless, I am overjoyed that he is coming next Saturday! How refreshing that I will get to see someone from home. Finally someone will get my jokes about the Monroes taking over the world and about the necessity of syllogisms in daily life. (None of my friends here even know what a syllogism is!) Even though this work week is bound to be overwhelming and anxiety ridden, the anticipation of seening my friend will propel me onward.

Bonding time with the Roommate
My roommate and I had a great time making cookies. She is from Japan and has never made any cookies before!  It was wonderful to share with her the joy of baking that I have had since I was just a little girl standing on a stool in our big farmhouse kitchen just so that I could reach the counter.  She and I had great time conversing throughout our baking time as well as while I groomed and painted my nails (a blessing in itself, as I have only had time for it twice in the past two months.) My roommate does not know the Lord, so this time was good to set up a foundation for what I hope will lead to spiritual conversations in the future.

Phone Call Number Three
In the midst of making cookies, I received a call from my mom.  She told me that my high school’s baseball team played in the state championships today and won 5-4. What a blessing!  It is the first time we have won anything in a state sports competition. May they give the glory to the Lord and not keep a drop of it for themselves!

Yet another Phone Call!
As I made supper, I received yet another surprising phone call. A friend whom I met earlier this summer who now lives in Kansas City is here tonight. I am heading over to his place in just a little bit to hang out. I have been praying that I can be a light for Christ. He claims some sort of faith, but his life does not reflect it.  What an awesome opportunity to shine!

Reflections on it All
As I sit here and think upon the wonders of this day, I am reminded of a quote on a dear friend’s facebook profile:

“…the reason why God’s blessings drop upon us in a sparing and slender manner is, because our mouth is too narrow; and the reason why others are empty and famished is, because they keep their mouth completely shut. The majority of mankind, either from disgust, or pride, or madness, refuse all the blessings which are offered them from heaven. Others, although they do not altogether reject them, yet with difficulty take in only a few small drops, because their faith is so straitened as to prevent them from receiving an abundant supply. It is a very manifest proof of the depravity of mankind, when they have no desire to know God, in order that they may embrace him, and when they are equally disinclined to rest satisfied with him.”
–John Calvin, from his commentary on Psalm 81

Yes, I have seen today the blessings of the Lord today. They have been quite obvious. But doesn’t the Lord bless me every day?  Doesn’t he give me all these things–and more–each day that I walk on this earth?  Why is it that my mouth is so narrow that it takes a day full of billbaord blessings for the Lord to get my attention?

Lord, open my throat wide so that I may receive your blessings each day, and open my eyes that I may recognize each gift that you give me.

The Making of a Theologian

Θαυμαζω. Marvel, wonder at, be amazed. That’s the euphoric state in which I currently reside.  The Consuming Fire has consumed my heart with a passionate love for His word.  Never before have I felt this intense desire–need, almost–to excavate God’s infallible, inerrant word and search it for Truth.

I feel like the prophet Jeremiah in a slightly different context.  This fire for theology burns within my bones.  I cannot keep it pent inside.  I must talk about it with everyone whom I know.  I’m sure my friends are sick of my incessant talk about theology, about my consant desire to be studying rather than spending time with them.  I do spend time with them–just not as much as I used to.

This fire is even burning into my nightly rest.  I lie awake for hours pondering my most recent theological inquiry.  I wake up at 2 a.m. and the musings once again imprision me, so I lumber out of bed and pick up my weapon of choice–The Holy Bible, the Greek New Testament, my laptop–or, more recently, J.I Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God or the abridged version of Calvin’s Institutes. 

I can’t get enough. It’s an insatiable hunger that, the more I feed it, the more it wants to be fed.

I must continue to throw sticks (and perhaps someday logs) on this fire that the Lord sovereignly ordained to consume me.  I will never let go.