In 1985 I was between churches – that sounds so elegant doesn’t it? Between churches? That means the new guys came into power and I was fired from my position of Campus Minister of a particular ministry at the University of Colorado in Boulder, thinking they could do it better now that I had spent nearly 2 years bringing that ministry to balance out of a very destructive ‘shepherding movement’ direction that almost killed it. (They closed the ministry within a few months after they fired me)
So I was ‘between churches’ and delivering pizzas for Domino’s Pizza just to put some food on the table and a roof over our heads. They asked me to go into management, and after much delay as I desperately wanted the Lord to open a church to pastor or anything in ministry, but needing to feed my young family, I agreed.
As a manager I was making more money than I ever had in my life, $50,000 in 1985, which is the same as $114,640 today according to www.dollartimes.com, but my heart was still with full time ministry. At the time the Vice President for the company for everything in the US west of the Mississippi River lived in Boulder, and he hand picked me to go into troubled stores to fix them and make them profitable again – which I did as God’s grace and wisdom was in me to do.
Then the day came when I had to either move up with them or move out. They offered me a supervisor position over 9 stores in the area, which would have actually been a pay cut, or become a franchisee in any of several other states. They suggested a 23 store franchise to start in Englewood, California, or in Seattle which was just opening up and would have been my territory, or even Anchorage, Alaska. Franchising with them meant income in the high 6 figures, if not low 7 figures figuring bonuses and other franchising opportunities.
I had a handicapped son who needed surgeries and special education, our 2nd son was born in 1982, and Barb was pregnant with our 3rd son at that time, so I could really better my family by franchising. Additionally, Barb and I both came from families that could be described as the ‘country club set’ – we had a lake house, an RV, my dad had an airplane, owned his own business and other real estate investments, and so on. Barb’s parents owned a department store in town and were well known in the area. That was the life we grew up with, the social circles we knew.
But when we came to the Lord as teenagers in love with each other and with Him, we went fully for Him – we said we would go anywhere and accept any challenge because of the excellency of knowing Him – and we meant it. Even as teenagers we had amazing experiences with Him because our hearts were fully with Him. If He said jump, we jumped without asking how high.
That was then…
We declined the offers for a supervisor position and franchising because even though they were about to fire me for declining their offers, we knew Jesus wanted us in Colorado at that moment in time. Let me make that clear – I gave up millions of dollars and lost my job because we knew in our hearts Jesus still wanted us there in Colorado, though I hadn’t a clue where my next job or church would come from. We had a mortgage, a car payment, all the usual financial commitments any young couple in their 20′s with 3 young boys have – and we turned it all down simply because we knew where Jesus wanted us. That’s how we’ve always lived.
and this is now…
But today I so often see people who say they want to obey God, but they have conditions in their heart that qualify that statement. They will move where He wants, but only if they feel safe with their bank account first. They will change jobs because He is leading elsewhere, but will only move when the details have been worked out. At what point did Christianity get to the point we made God our servant instead of us, His? That shift into spiritual neutral happens individually first, then as a culture.
Years ago when we lived in Colorado there was a couple who were going to retire, use their 40 acres of prime Colorado mountain land for a missionary and ministry training center, as well as offer a retreat for those in ministry. That was their retirement plan. There were prophecies confirming what was on their heart by men and women who knew nothing of their plans, showing their plans were born in their spirits of the Lord.
But one day, faced with a less than attractive business offer, he said to me, “If I sold my businesses and paid all the bills and set up the rest in a fund for our retirement, I would only have about $750,000 ($1,719,601 in today’s dollars) left over, and you can’t do anything for God with only 3/4 of a million dollars!”
Retirement seems to be a burden for many we’ve seen through the years – from medical professionals who talk of donating time to staffing clinics in needed places around the world, to doctors with skills to change the lives of children, to business people who talk of taking short terms trips to help fund digging wells or building church buildings – they end up buying an RV, remodeling the house, taking a cruise, babysitting the grandchildren, and never doing what God put on their hearts.
Somewhere along the way the call of God on their hearts that was so strong a couple years before, got laid aside in the name of comfort and having all the details in place before they were willing to make that move or take that trip with God. Life happened and they opted out.
While many focus on the Great Commission, and we see examples like Peter and John walking away from the ownership of their fishing business, and Matthew walking away from his profitable tax collection business, there were others who said they wanted to follow Jesus too. But as always, Jesus weighs the hearts, weighs the motives to see if they really had what it takes to back up the love they claimed for Him with their lips, with action.
1 man invited, 2 asked to follow Jesus
In Luke 9:57-62 three men wanted to follow Jesus. The first man Jesus never invited, he simply told Jesus he would follow Him wherever He went. Don’t spiritualize ‘I will follow you’, for in context the man meant he would literally follow Jesus and His merry band of disciples around, camping here and there, staying in homes when they could. All Jesus promised him was homelessness. Nothing would be nailed down for him. They would start the day very often not knowing where they would sleep that night. We don’t know what happened to the man.
But he was like the people above and so many more, who want all things figured out before they follow Jesus. Jesus just isn’t always like that folks.
The next man Jesus asked directly to follow Him. This man wanted to accept Jesus’ invitation, if he could just go home and bury his father. In that age, burying the father meant the disbursement of the will immediately – we could speculate therefore he wanted to be financially secure with an independent income before he would follow Jesus into a future of unknown sources of support.
But the outcome seems to have been a compromise between them – Jesus said, “Let the (spiritually) dead bury their (physically) dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.” Jesus at first said ‘come’, but upon hearing the conditions Jesus told him ‘go’. The man wasn’t in His perfect will, but rather His adjusted will based on what the man would give Him, living (presumably) off that independent income which was the stated condition upon which he would serve the Lord.
The last man is another one the Lord did not invite directly, like the first man he came on his own to Jesus with the statement “Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say goodbye to my family.” Again in that context, he would have been saying goodbye to his parents and most likely he would have been launched into ‘the ministry’ with some fanfare. Jesus’ response that anyone who puts his hand to the plow and then looks back (to his family with regret implied, a divided heart between extended family and God) is not even fit to be in the kingdom of God – forget the desire to follow Jesus – Jesus said such a man wasn’t even fit to be part of His Kingdom!
This series looks at ways people miss the Lord’s will. In modern times as in Jesus’ day as we’ve seen in Luke 9 above, many prefer the gospel of comfort, the gospel where all details are known before. When the Lord leads He doesn’t do so with a big neon light with a flashing arrow pointing ‘this way’, rather He suggests and reveals His will in the heart, and then steps back to see how we will respond. It is subtle – unless you are one of those white-hot in love with God people who tell Him they will go where He says, and have the character to prove that commitment in the heart by action – you may end up on a different path and be secure, but unfulfilled spiritually.
A series of small decisions in the life of Peter - And we’ll pick it up there next week, until then,