Spiritual Musings

Grace to Forget Oneself

He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. John 1:27, NIV

To be posthumously remembered as a disciple comes with accolades and praise. But the real, everyday life of a disciple is anything but prestigious. A disciple does more than learn the ways, teachings, and philosophy of his master. If the master says leave your nets, your job, and follow me, you do just that. If the master says leave your family and go on a missionary journey, you do just that. If the master says forget about the rules, go break the law and fetch me some grain on the Sabbath Day to fix the rumble in my tummy, you do just that. If the master says he’s got to leave for good, and you need to bear the risk of being stoned to death or crucified upside down, you do just that.

There is no glamor in being a disciple. A disciple in Jesus’ time was one who followed a master and did his bidding. The master had the right to ask pretty much anything of his disciple. Anything. That is, anything except the tasks of a slave. Menial tasks like untying the laces of a dirty pair of sandals and washing the dusty feet of the master was the job of a slave, not a disciple.

But there is more to the difference between a disciple and a slave. A slave is owned by the master; he has no choice but to do whatever the master asks of him. Whether the master asks the slave to take of his shoes or to die for him, the slave has no choice but to obey. The disciple, on the other hand, chooses to—wants to, of his own free will—obey the master. The slave does what he does without questioning the master; the disciples does what he does with understanding of and belief in the master.

When John the Baptist said he was unworthy of even untying Jesus’ sandals, he was saying Jesus is all that matters. Who I am–disciple, slave, or nobody—is of little significance. What matters is that I point the way to Jesus.

William Barclay says it best: “[John the Baptist] is the great example of the man prepared to obliterate himself in order that Jesus Christ may be seen. He was only, as he saw it, a finger-post pointing to Christ. God give us grace to forget ourselves and to remember only Christ.”

When you forget yourself in your love for Christ, everything about you points others to Christ. That’s being a disciple.

Feature image by Danique Photography on Unsplash

Reading Life Between the Lines, Spiritual Musings

measuring life with potato chips and cheesecake

My first few months of missionary life in Nepal were awful. I felt trapped, imprisoned and deprived of necessities like heat in my home, television sitcoms, hot showers, high speed interne, and people who used deodorant. But most of all I was outraged that there was no potato chips or cheesecake. Unable to imagine six years without potato chips and cheesecake, I was an extremely grumpy servant of the Lord.

And then one frigidly cold Friday night, wearing three pairs of woolen socks and wrapped in a thick blanket, I read about Polycarp – A disciple of Apostle John, he was arrested when the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was persecuting Christians. During the trial, Polycarp was told that the only way to get his freedom was to give up Christ. In response, Polycarp said Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did my any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? Polycarp’s allegiance to his Lord cost him his life. His was bound like a sacrificial lamb and set on fire.  While the flames rose around him, Polycarp looked up into the heavens and said I give You thanks that You have counted me worthy of this day and this hour.

Polycarp made me look and feel like a selfish, whiny crybaby. I gave myself a good mental spanking and vowed to make the most of my six years. The result – I’d go back for another six years if I could! And I’ll always remember that by the second year there was both potato chips AND cheesecake in Nepal!

devotion, Previously Published

telling it like it is

Texts: Matt. 4:18–22; 10:24, 25; Mark 3:13, 14; 8:34, 35; Luke 14:25, 26

Jesus lived in a time where stories were used very specifically. A story wasn’t just something you read to put a child (or an adult) to sleep. Stories were used to derive a legal conclusion; teach a moral lesson; illustrate an idea in philosophy or in faith; or to share a wondrous or miraculous event. And these stories were told in three different styles: as in a dream and something that does not really take place in the physical world; as a real event but related as a metaphor, using symbols; or as a real event but related in an exaggerated manner to emphasis certain points.

In making His call to discipleship (Luke 14:26, 27, 33), Jesus goes all out on the story-telling tactic of exaggeration and draws a mental picture of a disciple —The man is standing at the doorway of his house, a new disciple ready to embark on a journey. To publicly display his total, 100% commitment to follow this radical man Jesus, he’s called the leaders of his community to bear witness of what he is about to do. The neighbors are there and so is the press. This is important because it is BIG and because it doesn’t happen often–The man writes off his parents forever; he is now dead to them. He gives his wife and children his permission; he blesses them into a new life without him. He executes his new will and testament; He donates all his things except the clothes on his back and the extra set in his satchel to Goodwill. And then as a final salute to his calling, the man calls to his neighbors to pick up the heavy cross made especially for him and strap it to his back. That cross, he claims, will remain on his back throughout his discipling journey! 

This severely exaggerated story of Jesus can scare the average Christian. It’s as though Christ is calling us to be suicide bombers—Forget yourself, your family, your job, your life—just strap a bomb to yourself and die for the cause, if that’s what it takes! Not many of us can commit like this so we end up feeling like we’d never live up to Jesus’ expectations of a disciple and therefore, we might as well give up right now.

What we need to do is to remember that Jesus was trying to make a point. He wanted there to be no doubt about the level of commitment He expected, the magnitude of the call, and the power of the Spirit that He had to offer each of us to be His disciple. Let’s convert the story-telling technique of exaggeration of Jesus into plain, today’s language to understand what Jesus was saying:

The urgency of the call. When Jesus called his disciples (Matthew 4:19) Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men there had to be something in His voice, in His body language, in His demeanor that expressed urgency. We know this was probably true because of what the disciples did: Immediately they left their nets and followed Him (v 20). This does not mean that they stopped being fishermen and husbands. There are numerous references in the Bible to their occupation and their homes after this call; they continued living like regular people and carried out their society and family responsibilities. But the key point is that the moment they said YES to Jesus, they put Him FIRST and everything else second.

When Jesus calls us to be disciples, the time to answer is NOW. The lifestyle of stewardship demands an immediate response. Besides, if Jesus didn’t think we were ready to be His disciples, He wouldn’t bother calling.

The prerequisite of the call. When He called them to be fishers of men in Matthew 4, Jesus had no intention of sending them in pairs at that very moment. That call was to walk with Him, learn from Him, abide in Him—until such a time came that He was ready to send them (Mark 3:13, 14).

The prerequisite then is to learn at His feet before following at His heel. Jesus is not a one with illogical expectations: When we’re called to be disciples, our creator God personally trains and equips us for the task. We need to remember that we are merely tools placed in His hands. We have nothing to fear.

The side effects of the call. This is the most amazing perk of accepting the call to discipleship—When the disciples recognized the urgency of the call and made it their priority, they were immediately placed in a training program of emulation of Christ. And in doing so, they experienced awesome side-effects—a) Cross-bearing (putting Christ above self, family, job, culture and everything) was a joyous, willing, and voluntary act; b) Witnessing was a natural way of life!

When we are true disciples, what was once difficult is now a piece of cake. What was once a burden is now the farthest thing on our minds. This is not because of our own strengths but because in imitating Jesus, we’re becoming more and more like Him each day.

So, what Jesus was really saying is that a true life of discipleship requires Him alone as Lord of our hearts and lives. He’s not calling us to a one-time zealous act of martyrdom; He’s calling us to a life-long expression and reflection of His love. The result: Everyone around us will yearn to be disciples too!


What are the privileges that come with being a disciple? (John 15:7-16)

Think of phrases that describe discipleship (Eg. growing in the image of Christ). Consider scenarios in your church where you can use these phrases to encourage Christian growth.