Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Plow Ahead

Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

                        Luke 9.62

No Turning Back

I just entered my teens in the early Seventies when the “Jesus Movement” swept the nation. It was a sanitized version of the Sixties’ peace movement—teens and college kids, guitars, buttons, posters, and so on. At Woodstock-like “Jesus rallies” all over America, thousands of kids gathered to sing folk hymns and hear celebrity Christians like Pat Boone and Dean Jones. The rallies ended with an invitation to those who hadn’t yet dedicated their lives to Christ. As they streamed forward, the rest of us sang, “I have decided to follow Jesus/No turning back, no turning back.” I think about all the young people who attended the rallies and I wonder how many of them didn’t turn back—how many of them really understood and honored the song’s words?

Deciding to Commit

Following Christ is more than a one-off decision. It’s deciding to commit our lives to His way, His purpose, and for His pleasure. Such a commitment puts uncommon demands on how we approach daily life. It reorders our priorities, asking we set aside personal comforts and considerations that others pursue or take for granted. It requires determination to do what’s right in the long run versus what seems best for the moment or easiest all-around. Christ’s path is straight, but it constantly intersects wider, smoother, and more popular routes. Deciding to commit to Him commits us to decide we’ll follow His example, rather than conform to the crowd.

Fit for Service

Luke 9.57-62 gives a fair indication of what following Christ involves. As Jesus and the disciples walk along a road, three different men volunteer to follow Him. He tells the first that he’ll have to sacrifice comforts of home. The second promises to rejoin Jesus after his father’s funeral. “Let the dead bury their dead,” Jesus says, referring to mortal affairs, “but you proclaim the kingdom of God.” The third man asks to say goodbye to his family first. Jesus’s response invites one to imagine Him stopping to look the man in the eye. “Anyone who puts his hand to the plow and looks back isn’t fit for service in God’s kingdom,” He says.

Desires, obligations, and relationships hindering Christ’s purpose for our lives make us unfit for service. “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground,” Hosea 10.12 says. A lot of new ground has to be broken to sow righteousness and reap love’s benefits. And let’s be frank. Going with the flow and listening to others instead of hearing God’s voice make life easier. But living easy isn’t living better. If we desire the rewards of following Christ, we’ve got to let go of whatever holds us back to plow ahead.

A 1973 "Jesus rally." One wonders how many of the kids in this picture are still plowing ahead.

(Tomorrow: New and Improved)

Personal Postscript: So Have We Seen

As we have heard, so have we seen in the city of the LORD Almighty, in the city of our God: God makes her secure forever.

Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Like your name, O God, your praise reaches to the ends of the earth; your right hand is filled with righteousness.

Mount Zion rejoices, the villages of Judah are glad because of your judgments.

Walk about Zion, go around her, count her towers, consider well her ramparts, view her citadels, that you may tell of them to the next generation.

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end.

Psalm 48.8-14

Answered prayer. (Thank You.) 


Annette said...

I haven't cried for joy this much in all my life. I'm so grateful to live in a country that works together like ours does now (positive vibes). There is such gratitude in my heart for so many reasons, and this new, beloved President of ours is affecting the entire world already on so many levels! I've read comments, as I'm sure we all have all morning - tears streaming down my face - here are 3 of my favorites:

(as a woman who deeply loves an African AMERICAN man, this touched me deeply)

"Today...I do not feel like an African American Woman... I feel like a true AMERICAN woman. I am so impressed with the unity that I not only saw, but FELT. Love and the beauty of the spirit trumps ALL color and creed. When we all leave this earth, it is ashes to ashes and dust to dust....your soul has NO color. Now,.....let's get to work!!"

(This is a text message that is circulating, and describes perfectly the monumental results of our hopes and dreams for Barack Obama)

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack is running so our children can fly."

(And, finally, this brings joy to my heart as someone who loves to travel internationally, and has felt the increasing distrust and even, dare I say it, hatred over the past 8 years - here's to healing!)

"I am an India working in Saudi Arabia. I have been closely following this election rooting for Obama all the way.

It is indeed a great momentous occasion for the entire world.
This ushers in a new era - like a breath of fresh air. There is optimism in the air. There is faith in humankind.

This is big NO to disruptive , divisional and hate-mongering politics

This is a big YES to civility, intelligence, intellectual thinking, inclusiveness, We-are-all-one worldview.

This moment in USA's history really makes us feel a little jealous of the strength of the political process in USA which sadly is unimaginable in any part of the world today.

Kudos to all Americans. You have really and truly redeemed yourselves.
We really feel like next door neighbours who would like to welcome a new resident in our neighbourhood - with a basket of fruits and goodies !!."

(OK...just one more because it makes me happy)

"Our streets are filled with joyous people of every human tint. Something that was destroying our spirit has lifted. Bless us and our new president! What an acceptance speech! The entire world is celebrating. We took our country back. Let's do our best. Please, let's do our best. Congratulations President Obama! Hooray!"

God Bless Our New President!
(Thank you for letting me voice my joy - SMOOCH/BISES!)


Tim said...

Annette, your joy is shared by literally tens, maybe hundreds, of milllions of people worldwide--as today's news has shown.

Last night, following President-elect Obama's speech, the small group in my living room flipped over to French TV; it was following the election "live" into the daylight hours. An unfettered fête was in full swing. While the four anchors continued to talk, the staff and crew had spontaneously joined them on-set with bottles of Champagne and they made no effort to conceal their glee. (Nor should they have.)

One of the commentators said something that's stayed with me all day: "This is more than a victory over race. It's a victory over fear."

As someone whose partner, like yours, happens to be African-American, I completely share your personal identification with this monumental event in our nation's history. The instant the election was assured, Walt called from the newsroom, also crying for joy. "I never believed I would see this in my lifetime," he said, "and to be in Chicago, covering the story..." He couldn't finish his sentence. A couple seconds passed. "I need to get back to work. I'll see you at home." That's when I cried.

I think the true miracle of this election was how it transcended race here in the States, with both candidates rising above it and their supporters (for the most part) following suit. The issues were greater than color and, in a way, this historic moment is all the sweeter because of it. Americans voted for the best man, not a black man. It's amazing when you think about it.

And yet the rest of the world saw color first. They saw an America they believed no longer existed. A newspaper in London led with this headline: A GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND. We've made the leap; now we must live up to it.

If we're faithful, God's Word promises untold blessings. I pray we are.

Annette, dear, dear friend, thanks for you comment. It's always a great joy to see you here!