Follow the Leader – part 1

Have you ever played the game called “Follow the Leader?”

Image result for follow the leader

In this game, one person is the leader, and the other participants have to follow the leader wherever he goes.  No matter what that leader does, the followers have to copy them.

Well, I have a dog who refuses to “Follow the Leader.”  Rather than following my lead, he prefers to lead himself.  He’ll follow me when I’m going out, BECAUSE HE WANTS TO GO OUT.  But when he’s ready to go back into the house, he grabs the leash in his big mouth and starts pulling.

And, I must admit, I let him pull me back.  I figure, if he’s ready to go back in, then so am I!  This walk is over.

Jesus repeatedly told His disciples to follow Him.  Jesus’s disciples were expected to leave their homes, their families, their stuff, their livelihoods, whatever they were attached to … and follow Him.  God expects us to choose to follow His plans, rather than our own. “Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”” (Matthew 16:24)

As modern-day Christians (“Christ-followers”), Jesus is still calling us to Follow Him.  He is supposed to be the leader, and we are supposed to follow Him.

Heart check: Are you following Jesus – or yourself?  In what ways do you need to change the path that you’re on, letting go of pulling your own leash, and choosing instead to faithfully follow your good Leader, Jesus?

TWIG

Patience.

Please rejoice with me at the miracle that has been happening in my heart. God is developing PATIENCE in me from the inside out.

I have been teaching English online for VIPKID for almost a year now, and the most frequent feedback that I receive from the parents is this: The teacher is patient. What did you say? Patient?  Who? Me?  This is nothing short of a miracle!


Ever since I was young, I have been terribly impatient and critical.  I have always had very high expectations for myself — as well as those around me.  I expected everything to be done perfectly and quickly.

In recent years, though, God has been chipping away at my perfectionist tendencies, teaching me about the incredible beauty of grace.  God has used the wisdom of his Word, mixed with some painful trials, and seasoned with some gracious women in my life, to sand away that impatience bit by bit.

Do any of you also struggle to be patient? I don’t just mean being patient when you’re on a time constraint — not just patient with the slow driver in front of you, not just patient when your kids are taking too long to get in the car — but patient with people who are driving you crazy!  The long-suffering kind of patience.

How can I be patient with the customer service lady when she refuses to give me a well-deserved refund?

How can I be patient with my husband when he just cannot seem to understand (and agree with!) what I’m saying?

How can I be patient with my children when I’ve explained the same math concept to them a hundred different ways?

Let’s look together at a passage of scripture that might help us.  (Matthew 18:23-35)

“Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants. When he began to settle, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents [1 talent = 20 years’ wages]. And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the master of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.
But when that same servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii [1 denari = 1 day’s wages], and seizing him, he began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay what you owe.’ So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ He refused and went and put him in prison until he should pay the debt.
When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their master all that had taken place. Then his master summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt.
So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”
Dear friends, I lived like I could pay God back if I just tried hard enough and did enough good things.  I was wrong. Until we recognize that we owe a debt that is SO BIG that we are unable to ever repay it, we will keep working hard to repay God — and we will keep expecting others to work hard to repay US — and we will keep being angry with them when they don’t.
Jesus has already paid in full the price for our sin through His death on the cross.  Because of His perfect & sinless life, and because of His unique place as the God-man, Jesus is the only one able to pay for our sin.  The Bible tells us that, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. “(Romans 6:23)
But, Jesus’s payment is not credited to our account unless we receive it, through faith in Jesus.  God’s part: Give the Gift.  Our part: Receive the Gift.
“[Jesus] was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. “(John 1:10-13)
How am I able to be patient with others?  Because God is patient with me!

Till I Found You

Image result for the few the proud the marines

From my earliest memories, I was a teacher’s pet.  I loved the feeling of answering my teacher’s questions and hearing, “Good job, Kim.  You’re so smart.”  I loved receiving the end-of-year awards, walking with pride across the stage.  I wanted desperately to be admired, to be important, to be valued.

As I grew older, I found my approval in boys.  When I was 13, I had my first boyfriend.  He was just the first in an unending series of boys, one after another, who I thought could fill a void in my life.  Boys made me feel pretty, attractive and valued.

I see now that that void was never meant to be filled by any man or the praises of any man.  I see now that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how good my grades were, or how high my ACT score was – it was never enough.  I could never score high enough to be “enough.”  There was always someone quicker, someone smarter, someone better.  No matter how much of myself I’d give away, no matter how hard I tried to please the guy I was with at any given moment – it was never enough.  There was always someone prettier, someone funnier, someone better.

Till I found Jesus.  Jesus loved me just the way I was, and He loves me now for just who I am.  I don’t have to try harder, do more, or be better.  I don’t have to “make Him like me.”  God has already demonstrated His immense love for me, in that while I was STILL a sinner, He sent His own son, Jesus Christ, to die for me. (Romans 5:8).  Jesus deeply values me, paying the price for my sins by His own death on the cross.

This, friends, is love.  This is love.  This is true love.  This is love without conditions.  This is love that truly is unending, unfailing and forever.  It began before I was born, and it will continue even after I’ve left this earth.

And do you know what’s even more incredible?  This love isn’t just available to me. It’s available to YOU.

You don’t have to be the smartest or the prettiest.  You don’t have to be better at all.  This love isn’t only available to “the few, the proud, the Marines.” It’s available to you.

Jesus doesn’t just love ME, friend.  He loves YOU.  And He longs for you to love Him back.

I’ll leave you with a song by Phil Wickham that has me in tears, “Till I Found You.”

Counting your Blessings

“Count your blessings, name them one by one.  Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”

When my oldest two children were preschoolers, we’d drive around town in our Toyota van singing along with catchy Christian children’s songs, like this one.  This idea of “counting my blessings” has further been encouraged by the current gratitude journal craze, where I’m encouraged to number out the blessings of my day.

So, I begin.  “Thank you, God, for mymany blessings …”

1. Jesus

2. Bill

3. Emily

4. Nick

5. Noelle

6. Daniel

But, wait, there’s something missing from this list … or, rather, someone missing.  In fact, two names are missing from this list.

Where are my two babies who died before they were born?  Where is my “baby #1,” miscarried just months after we were married?  Where is my son, Tommy, born still 20 years ago today?  Why aren’t their names on this list?  Why is it so easy for me to skip over their names when I’m counting my blessings? I know that the scriptures tell me to “rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18a). So, what should I do?

I choose to make myself look up with eyes open wide for God’s hand carrying me through each day. I choose to look ahead, looking forward to the coming rewards like Moses who “considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” (Hebrews 11:26).  Like Hebrews 11:6, “without faith it is impossible to please [God], for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.”

These coming rewards may take the form of earthly blessings, like Job being blessed with more cattle and more children after he’d lost them all.  Or they may take the form of heavenly rewards, like those referred to in 1 Corinthians 3:14.  Or they may take the form of greater faith and confidence in God, like James 1:2-3, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”  We may not “count it all joy” for the trials, so much as finding joy for the result of them.

I, for one, know that my faith has grown deeper and stronger because of Tommy’s untimely death. That baby’s short life — and painful death — began a new trajectory in my life.  I wanted Heaven to be real more desperately than ever before.  I watched for God’s hand in my daily life more than ever before.  I searched the scriptures because they were bread for my soul, like never before.

Look up, look forward and look back.  God is with you.  Look for him.  Keep your eyes wide open and see Him work!  God is keeping count of your tears in a bottle. (Psalm 56:8 ESV).  He has not forgotten you.  “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.” (Isaiah 49:15-16a ESV)

Let me leave you with two songs.  “Counting Every Blessing” by Rend Collective; and “Blessings” by Laura Story

For more, check out my website at www.AChildofPromise.org