Christianity 201

October 28, 2013

Tightrope Walking Without a Net

Mark Batterson mentions this story in his book All In and then it was posted on Ralph Howe’s blog. I decided at that point I was meant to share this. I thought of calling it, Leaving Yourself No Backup Plan. So often in the Christian life, we “step out in faith,” (imagine big air quotes) while at the same time, we have a backup plan in case the move/investment/job change/church plant doesn’t work.

On February 19, 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernan Cortes set sail for Mexico with an entourage of 11 ships, 13 horses, 110 sailors, and 553 soldiers. The indigenous population upon his arrival was approximately five million. From a purely mathematical standpoint, the odds were stacked against him by a ratio of 7,541 to 1. Two previous expeditions had failed to even establish a settlement in the New World, yet Cortes conquered much of the South American continent.

What Cortes is reported to have done after landing is an epic tale of mystic proportions. He issued an order that turned his mission into an all-or-nothing proposition: “Burn the ships!” As he crew watched their fleet of ships burn and sink, they came to terms with the fact that retreat was not an option. And if you can compartmentalize the moral conundrum of colonization, there is a lesson to be learned. Nine times out of ten, failure is responding to Plan B when Plan A gets to risky, too costly, or too difficult. That’s why most people are living their Plan B. They didn’t burn the ships. I prefer to be a Plan A person. Plan A people don’t have a Plan B.

1 Kings 19:21 “So Elisha left him and went back. He took his yoke of oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he set out to follow Elijah and become his servant (and eventually his successor).”

Elisha was a Plan A person . He burnt the ships. He removed any possibility of turning back to his old ways if things got too difficult, to uncomfortable, or too costly. Burning the plowing equipment meant he could not go back to his old way of life because he destroyed the time machine that would take him back. It was the end of Elisha the farmer. It was the beginning of Elisha the prophet.

What do you need to burn to remove your Plan B?

That’s the simple message.  Want to go deeper on this?

Here’s today’s two-for-one special! Terry Broadwater did a teaching on this that he called Kill The Cow and Burn The Plow. (That’s ‘plough’ for everyone outside the US.) Here’s the first one-third of that text with a link at the bottom to finish reading.  I like how he ties this in to the calling of James and John.

I love to hunt, eat meat, and I’m almost a pyromaniac!!  So, “Kill the Cow and Burn the Plow” is a great subject for me to talk about!

Matt. 4:21-22 21 A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. And he called them to come, too. 22 They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind.

This is early in Jesus’ ministry and he’s inviting some guys to “follow him.”  James and John are fishermen, they are in a boat, repairing nets, with their father- it’s a family business, doing what fishermen do.  Note: They “left behind” the boat and their father!

Not a spontaneous decision… They’re ready to take the next step… THIS IS A BIG DEAL!!!  They were in the family fishing business: “Zebedee and Sons!”  This was not a causal decision!

1 Kings 19:19-21 19 So Elijah went and found Elisha son of Shaphat plowing a field. There were twelve teams of oxen in the field, and Elisha was plowing with the twelfth team. Elijah went over to him and threw his cloak across his shoulders and then walked away. 20 Elisha left the oxen standing there, ran after Elijah, and said to him, “First let me go and kiss my father and mother good-bye, and then I will go with you!”  Elijah replied, “Go on back, but think about what I have done to you.”  21 So Elisha returned to his oxen and slaughtered them. He used the wood from the plow to build a fire to roast their flesh. He passed around the meat to the townspeople, and they all ate. Then he went with Elijah as his assistant.

This is an OT story about an old prophet who has identified his replacement and is about to begin a process of mentoring him.  And the young “prophet-to-be” has to go all in!  Notice:

  • He kills the cows!
  • He burns the plow!
  • He has no intentions of “going back” to where he once was!  James and John “left some things behind”- Elisha “let it all go” up in smoke!

There is no such thing as casual Christianity!  There is a cost to follow: Luke 14:28 “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?”  You must calculate what it means to follow Jesus!!

…continue reading here…

June 29, 2011

Anyone Out There Totally in Love with God?

Today’s piece is from Jim Thornber, whose blog is actually named “Thinking Out Loud.”  (Great minds think out loud alike.)  Jim’s own story begins, “How does an Assemblies of God minister from Southern California find himself a monk in a Catholic-based community in Eureka Springs, AR?”  You can read that here.  This particular item appeared at his blog under the title I’m Still Calling the Shots in a series titled Scriptures That Bother Me.

You are not your own; you were bought at a price. 1 Cor. 6:19-20.

Every Tuesday morning, I get together at a local coffee shop with a group of men from First Baptist Church. We spend about an hour and a half studying, praying for needs, challenging each other in our relationship with Christ and generally drinking too much coffee. It is one of the highlights of my week.

The other morning as we were studying Crazy Love by Francis Chan, someone asked if we knew anyone who was totally in love with God. You know, a completely sold-out, every fiber of their being doing little more than living, breathing, talking, thinking about and obeying Christ type of person.

We all got silent for a few moments as we racked our brains trying to think of someone we knew who was totally and completely sold out and in love with God. As the silence lingered, I thought it rather humorous that none of us at the meeting thought anyone at the table fit that description. Even the two pastors who were there, yours truly being one of them, weren’t named by anyone else in the group as being totally in love with Christ. Well, that was humbling!

The first person who came to my mind was Mark Buntain, who visited my Bible college in the early 80’s. A missionary to India, Mark founded Calcutta Mercy Ministries, which reaches the poorest in India through schools, a homeless shelter, massive feeding programs, orphanages and a large church. I remember hearing him teach in the chapel at college, and I was struck with his sincerity, complete humility, and absolute dedication to the work Christ called him to.

When he finished speaking, he didn’t come down front and meet the students like most every other every other speaker did, listening to their compliments and signing autographs. Instead, Mark turned around and dropped to his knees at the choir pew and engaged in prayer. That image is still burned in my mind.

I remember watching him walk alone through campus, oblivious to all the students and the beautiful scenery as he talked out loud to God, praying and praising the Lord as walked. He had one thing on his mind as he walked, and it wasn’t how he appeared to the students; it was how he appeared before the Lord God his Savior. And, if you stopped him and engaged him in conversation, he didn’t make you feel like you were interrupting him. However, you knew you were in the presence of one who spent his every waking hour walking with God.

In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). If that is true, that we are not our own, then why can I only think of a few people who actually live that way? I know I don’t. Sure, I claim Jesus is my Lord, but too often I live with myself calling the shots. How often have I prayed for guidance in ministry, only to edit where I’ll go based on the geography or size of the church without even consulting God?

This idea that I am not my own, that I was purchased by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus, has been haunting me for a week, if only because I know the price that was paid and how I repay that price by leading my own life at my own convenience.

It is time I seriously consider making God the True Lord of my entire life. Maybe then, the next time someone asks if they know anyone completely and truly in love with and sold out to God, I might just come to someone’s mind.

~Jim Thornber