I finally had a morning when I slept in well past sunrise. I’ve had mornings recently when my schedule would have allowed for it, but I still found myself awake before dawn. That wasn’t all bad as it allowed for some great sunrise photos, but I think I reached the point where sleep was more useful to me than some more photos. 🙂 When I did wake up, I came downstairs to pour my usual morning glass of ruby red grapefruit juice. As I looked at the drink I had just poured, I couldn’t figure out what was so different about it this morning until I realized it was coffee creamer and not grapefruit juice! After laughing at myself, I set the creamer aside and got the juice I wanted to start my day with.
I eventually used the creamer in my coffee after I finished my juice, then spent time checking email and catching up on social media posts. With a discipleship discussion scheduled for the afternoon in Dowagiac at the church I preach at once a month, I headed out late in the morning to stop by Lake Michigan on my way. Today’s photo was taken during that stop from under a shelter at Silver Beach in St Joseph, Michigan. It is hard to imagine that it won’t be long before it will be nearly impossible to get this shot without it being filled with people. Today’s below-freezing temperature and cold wind coming off the lake made it feel like spring and summer are a long way off, but the calendar says otherwise.
After the brief stop at the lake, I headed over to the North Wayne Mennonite Church where a wonderful couple led a discussion on the cycle of making disciples. Disciple making begins with understanding and accepting God’s call for all believers to make disciples. Most of us can quote what we call the “Great Commission”from Matthew 28, but what are we actually doing about it? Even when we understand our responsibility to make disciples, we have difficulty in crossing over the threshold of comfort and familiarity to help someone else be a follower of Jesus. The moment we step out of our comfort zone, we open ourselves up to difficulties and temptations that we may have never had to deal with before. It is in the midst of those challenges that we find ourselves with a choice to make. Most of us can only hold up under them for a limited amount of time, so we either have to run back to a place of safety and comfort or die to self and move forward. Being a disciple means that we are learning from and following Jesus, who left the ultimate comfort of heaven to consider our need and the will of His Father to be more important than life itself.
There is good news in this death to self, though. When we die to self, the gospel that is planted within us can be brought to life and bear much fruit. In the end, we make disciples not because we have the most skill or the catchiest slogan or the best marketing strategy; no, we make disciples because we choose to be crucified with Christ so that we no longer live but Christ lives in us and the power of the resurrected Christ draws those around us to Himself. At the end of the afternoon, I headed home and thought about how willing I am to be like Jesus, who described Himself as a kernel of wheat which must fall to the ground and be buried in order to be raised up and bear much fruit. Disciple making at its core is to be buried with Christ so that we are raised up with Him to produce much fruit within the kingdom of God.
As I reflect on the day, here are some thoughts/lessons that stand out to me:
- Sometimes the body wakes up before the mind does. It’s okay to laugh at yourself when that happens, but also remember that it can happen to others as well.
- When we are weary, the things we do aren’t always the things we want to do or even the things we should do.
- Understanding the reason for something not being right isn’t the same thing as accepting it. Understanding leads to change, acceptance leads to excuses.
- Appearances can be deceiving. Just because something looks or sounds nice, doesn’t mean that it is.
- If you are a disciple of Jesus, you will be making disciples.
- My obedience to God is the disciple-making standard I must live by. I don’t win by making more disciples than someone else, I win by being faithful to God’s calling.
- Jesus and His grace are the only standards I need measure myself by.
- If I’ve truly died to self, then it is Christ in me that completes any accomplishment of His will.