Fan or Follower 5

Mark 3:31-35

Over the holidays our small family gathers with members of our extended family, many of whom we see only a few times a year. Our children get to see their cousins, some of whom are about the same age and others who are older with children of their own. This usually results in the need to explain how we are all related – who is a cousin, who is a second cousin, who is a cousin once removed, and so on.

The terminology isn’t all that important. What is important is for all of us to know that we are a family, all connected in some way.

The same is true of our family of faith, our church family. There is a wide variety of ages and personalities, but we are all part of a family of believers, worshipers who gather to serve the kingdom of God.

We have been examining the family of Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah, a family of faith who lived out their faith in God. On Sunday we sang the song “The Family of God.” In that song we are reminded that we are part of a large family – not just the parents, brothers, sisters and cousins of our kinfolk. We are part of a much larger family of faith – all who believe and work for God.

In his ministry Jesus was visited by his mother and brothers. What did the crowd tell Jesus? What was Jesus’ response? Who are the brothers of Christ?

Being part of a family of faith, a much larger family than our blood relatives, involves sharing more than just a name or title. We can call ourselves “Christians,” telling the world that we are a fan of God and that we believe in Jesus. But to be a brother or sister in Christ requires that we show the love of God to those around us.

To be part of the family of God means more than simply gathering in God’s name. It means sharing what we have. It means offering sacrifices to benefit the needy and to give honor to God. As Jesus said, “Whoever does God’s will” are the ones who are the brothers and sisters of Christ. Doing the work of God is what it takes to be part of the family of God.

Are you a fan or a follower? Do you just believe in God? Are you a fan? Or are you a follower of God? Are you willing to do the work of God, loving others sacrificially, praising God through good works, and living by faith?

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to be a brother or sister of Christ?

Fan or Follower 4

Hebrews 13:15-16

I appreciate all the seasons of the year – the spring flowers, the summer heat, the autumn leaves and even the snow in winter. But when the weather gets cold and the snow covers the streets and makes them slick I want to wrap myself in a blanket and hibernate until May.

But I can’t do that. I need to shovel walks to keep people safe. I need to drive my children to school. I need to go to the store. I need to go to work. I need to go visit people in the hospital. I have to sacrifice my own comfort to help myself and others. And that is an act of love – denying my own desires, even if only briefly, to help others. It’s something we all must do.

Today’s passage from Hebrews talks about sacrifice. What does the author of Hebrews encourage us to do for God? What does he encourage us to do for others? Why is this good?

I see the weather as a reminder of life in general. Sometimes life is warm and wonderful and sometimes life is cold and treacherous, driving us inside, inside our own selves. But we need to brave the elements of life. We need to face the troubles and challenges of living so that we can do good for other people and for the kingdom of God.

It is so easy to feel defeated by the turmoil of life, to feel abandoned by God, and to think that the only way to make it is to be certain we take care of ourselves. But we need to trust that God is with us even in the darkest hours and the most troubled times. Even as we worry about the future we are called to offer praises to God for all of His mercy and love.

And even as we worry about our own happiness we are called on to share what we have with others. With such sacrifices God is pleased.

By being willing to share out of our meagerness, by being willing to give even when we feel we have too little, we are giving honor to God. In such acts we are praising the Lord who has given us all good things. By offering praise to God and by sharing with others we become true followers of our Lord, dedicated, loving and trusting children of our heavenly Father.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you share with others?

Fan or Follower 3

2 Corinthians 5:14-15

How do we love one another? How do we express love? Is love something that is natural and automatic in people?

The sensation of love is a natural part of who we are. It is an emotion and a drive inside of us that comes with life. But how to go about showing love may require guidance, an example to be followed.

Paul explains in this letter to the church at Corinth that how we should live and love comes from someone else. Who is it that shows us love and how we are to live? Whose love moves our hearts to love also?

It is the love of Jesus that is an example to us. It is the love and sacrifice of Christ that shows us what love is all about. We are all sinners, frail and flawed humans who are not worthy to be in the presence of God. Yet Jesus died, gave himself freely for us so that through his sacrifice we are forgiven of our sins and therefore made worthy to be in the presence of God.

And through the example of Christ’s love we have guidance in how we are to live and love. We are to live and love with a sacrificial love, willing to give of ourselves and our abilities to help others and to honor God. Abraham loved God so much that he was willing to give up the thing he loved most, his son Isaac. Isaac loved his father so much that he was willing to trust his father even to death.

And Jesus loved us and our heavenly Father so much that he also was willing to give up what he loved – his own life – so that we may benefit.

The uncertainty of life is still around us. A struggling economy and an uncertain political climate may make us each desire to focus completely on ourselves, to work to be certain we have our own needs met. But we are called to no longer live for ourselves but for Jesus. We are called to trust and obey our heavenly Father as Jesus did, and as Isaac trusted his earthly father.

In spite of the struggles we face ourselves we must be aware and considerate of others in need. We must remember to be sacrificial and giving in our life and mercy. If we are fans of God, then we believe in His love. If we are followers of God, then we will follow the examples of Christ in how we love.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you demonstrate your trust in your heavenly Father?

Fan or Follower 1

Genesis 22:6-12

As a parent there are times when my children do what they are told to do, but there are many times when they question why they have been asked to do this task or that task. Such resistance can be aggravating, but in general I realize that my children seldom question what I do.

They don’t ask if I know what I am doing as I work, or ask if I know where I am going when I drive. In the important things in life they trust that I know what I am doing and they trust that I am doing my best for all of us in our family.

As we continue examining the family of faith which began with Abram, we turn back from Isaac’s bride and go to Isaac as a child. Abraham and his wife Sarah have waited years and years to finally have a child. At last their faithfulness has paid off. But then God requires an act of faith from Abraham.

What has Abraham been asked to do? How does Isaac react to all of this? What is the end result?

This story is one of the ultimate examples of faith in God. Abraham was willing to give up the one thing he desired most, the one thing he had waited so long to receive. He was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac because he was a faithful believer in God.

But there was another faithful member of this family. Isaac asks about the sacrifice as they begin to leave, and his father assures him that God will provide. Then, even as Abraham binds his son, lays him on the wood and draws a knife, there is no indication that Isaac was questioning his father.

Just as Abraham was willing to make the sacrifice, Isaac, it would seem, was willing to be the sacrifice. Or at least he trusted that he would not be the sacrifice even when it appeared he was destined to die.

This attitude separates the believer from the faithful. With the Super Bowl approaching we can turn this comparison into a football analogy. Are you a fan or a follower? A fan is interested in a team. A follower is devoted to that team.

Abraham and Isaac were more than fans of God; they were followers. Abraham and Isaac not only believed in God, they were faithful to Him, trusting that God would provide for all their needs and protect them from heartache.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is your relationship to God – are you a fan or a follower?

Fan or Follower 2

Galatians 2:19-20

I suppose it is because we are ready to lay the groundwork for a second mission trip, but I have thought a lot about the orphanage in Port-au-Prince. I have thought of Hal and Chris who run the orphanage, and I think of other missionaries I know. At a recent pastoral gathering the topic of missionaries was discussed and so it is on my mind.

I admire these folks because these people have immersed themselves completely in serving God. Their very home is part of the mission work and part of the mission field. Every moment of their lives are dedicated to God’s work.

And that may be what Paul is referring to in today’s passage. What is his attitude toward the religious laws? How is Paul no longer alive?

Paul describes an incredible faith. It is the kind of faith that we need to adopt in our attitude toward serving God. If we are going to live as a family of faith under God then we need to die to our own lives and begin living for Christ.

We saw it in the lives and actions of Abraham and Isaac. We saw it in the decisions made by Rebekah. These people were willing to die to the life they knew so they could live in service of God.

But we can’t all become missionaries and we aren’t all called to be missionaries. How then do we reach this level of faithfulness? How do we become a follower and less of a fan?

We may not need to give up all we possess and all we desire. We may not need to give up the life we are accustomed to.

What we are called to give up is the attitude of how we live. If what we own possesses us – that is, it is so important we can not live without it – then we can not truly live for God. If our personal comforts and our own ambitions are too important to us, then we cannot live for God.

If other things are more important than God, then we are just fans of God and not followers of God. If we can not confess that God is more important than anything else, then we have not truly entered into that family of faith of whom Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah are members.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What can you do to become more of a follower of God?