Lead the Way

jesus walking

“They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.”  Mark 10:32

 This is the picture that has gripped me during Holy Week:

Jesus, striding up to Jerusalem, determined to carry out his mission….

which would involve betrayal, mocking, flogging, crucifixion and death.

He led the way.

Four times, Jesus told His disciples what was coming, except He always added the final part – resurrection — but they didn’t seem to hear it.

“The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.”  And the disciples were filled with grief.  Matthew 17:23

Jesus lost them at “they will kill him”.

The twelve were full of fear, perhaps wondering if death was also waiting for them in Jerusalem.


They did it scared.

I must remember, when I am astonished at being led down the road marked with suffering,

that it’s a place He’s been before….

and He knows the way.

I can do it scared.

“The cross is never the end.  It’s only partway through. The cross is necessary, but the cross is always accompanied by the resurrection and the victory that comes from the resurrection…..that’s always true.”  Experiencing the Cross, Henry Blackaby

Lead the Follower

It’s frustrating for leaders when followers don’t follow very well.

Moses was an A+ leader, but those stiff-necked Israelites were D- followers, at best.

They grumbled, they whined, they rebelled.

Leading is tough when you have to hogtie your tribe and drag them, kicking and screaming all the way.

Across a desert.

For forty years.


But what if we flip that thought:

It’s frustrating for followers when leaders don’t lead very well.

What if there are people who would be willing to step out in faith, if only there was someone to take them by the hand and say, “Let’s go!”?

How long before followers are expected to do a little leading?

Jesus’ first words to the disciples were, “Come, follow me.”

His last words were, “Go and make disciples.”

The best leaders still follow…..

and the best followers, lead.



Follow the Leader

calfI learned how to be a follower when I was about seven years old.  My older siblings were in 4-H and showed calves at the county fair every summer.  Part of their responsibilities in getting ready for show-time was to teach those calves how to be led around a ring in front of a judge.  The animals had to be taught the commands for walking forward, walking backward, stopping, and standing still.

Early in the summer, my sister would put the halter on her Shorthorn calf and they would go for long walks down the gravel country road.  My job was to walk behind the critter with a stick in my hand and whack her rear end if she stopped walking. (Clarification: I’m referring to the rear end of the calf, not my sister.)  Even though I had to watch my step, I remember thinking that it was kind of fun.  I got to spend an afternoon with my big sister and smack a cow every so often.  We would sing our hearts out walking down that back road.

“If you wanna be a Badger, then come along with me…”


“by the bright shining light, by the light of the moon…”


By the end of the summer, my services were no longer needed.  The bovine was adept at showing off her stuff.  My sister was pretty good, too.  One year her calf was awarded Reserved Grand Champion at the State Fair.

All this to say: while I’m learning the art of becoming a follower, I may need someone pulling me along, showing me which road to take and how to walk in it.  But I also may need someone coming behind me, making sure I don’t lag — prodding me with a loving whack.

Come After Me

Hudson has his own way of playing games.

Especially the one where Nonnie is down on her hands and knees and says, “Hudson, I’m gonna get you” with a slightly growly but not too scary voice.

He looks up with wide eyes, starts dancing back and forth on his toes and giggles.  At this point, he’s supposed to take off running so I can give chase all around the house.

But Hudson has his own rules.

As soon as I make a move, he runs straight at me.

The little guy doesn’t want to be chased, he wants to be “got”.

If I should do something as foolish as turn around so he can chase me, I look back at a frowning two year old.

Getting caught up in Nonnie’s arms with hugs and tickles is the best part, so why not cut right to it?

The key verse for our Lent study this year is,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)

Now I’m wondering if maybe Hudson has it right.

Jesus says, “Come after me”.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t want to be chased as much as He wants for us to be caught….

…in His wide open arms.

It is the best part.

Are You Following Me?


twitterIt’s so easy to be a follower these days.  With a touch of the Twitter app on my iphone, I can become a follower, just like that.  I can get a message (or 10) from Beth Moore and C. S. Lewis every day.  (I’m pretty sure someone else is tweeting on behalf of C. S. Lewis.)  If I were so inclined, I could become a follower of any number of celebrities, politicians and athletes. (I’m not so inclined.)  Curiously, this morning I discovered that I have one Twitter follower, which is interesting given the fact that I’ve never actually tweeted anything.

I hope all this “following” on social media isn’t watering down my understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  Jesus defined it this way: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  According to Jesus, this is a bigger commitment than checking in occasionally to get a pithy 140-character-or-less inspirational message.  There is no “unfollow” button to hit when things start to get uncomfortable.  Denying self and taking up a cross doesn’t get a lot of thumbs-up “likes”.

Perhaps it wasn’t that much different two thousand years ago.  There was no Facebook or Twitter, but people were still looking for a quick and easy route to eternal life.  The rich, young ruler in Mark 10 approached Jesus with the right posture (“he ran up to him and fell on his knees before him”), with genuine respect (“Good teacher”), with an insightful question (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”) and with impressive credentials (“all these I have kept since I was a boy”).  But instead of a pat on the back, Jesus challenged the wealthy young man with the concept of sacrifice. That’s where the conversation ended.  We don’t know how long the man considered Jesus’ invitation to sell his possessions and become a follower, but we do know he rose to his feet without another word and walked away sad.

Reading my tweets and liking me on Facebook and even following this blog doesn’t cost anything.  Being a follower of Jesus, however, does come with a cost, if it’s the real thing.

Are you following me?







How to Hook a Fisherman

10 tips for hooking a fisherman from Luke chapter 5:

1.  Go outside.  Jesus was walking down by the lake because He wanted to meet fishermen.  You can’t sit in your pew and expect people to come to you.  Venture beyond your usual circle and see who you run into.

2.  Start small.  The first thing Jesus asked Simon to do was to push the boat out a little from the shore.  Simon could do that.  Begin by asking people to do things you know they can do well.  It makes them feel good and validates their abilities.

3.  Hang out.  Jesus picked Simon’s boat because He wanted the fisherman to be within earshot of the sermon He was about to preach.  You don’t have to get in somebody’s face with the message.  Just get them in the vicinity.

4.  Stand out.  No one had ever preached a sermon in Simon’s boat before.  Jesus did something unusual and unforgettable.  Go ahead and surprise people with a word or an action that takes them off guard and makes them wonder what you’re up to.

5.  Expect a lot.  Although He started by simply asking Simon for a place to sit, Jesus had much bigger plans for the fisherman.  Suggest some outrageous possibilities.  People don’t mind being challenged to attempt great things.

6.  Use their language.  If Jesus had said, “Come with me and I’ll give you a great theological education,” there might not have been any takers down at the lakeshore.  But “fishers of men” — now that sounded interesting.  Use words people can relate to.

7.  Be generous.  Simon wasn’t too happy about taking his freshly cleaned nets back out into the deep waters.  Jesus assured Simon he would haul in a catch — but even on his best day, Simon never caught so many fish that his boats started to sink.  When you give more to people than you have to, it gets their attention.

8.  Reveal need.  When the fish started piling up, the nets broke and the boats started to go down.  Simon may have hit the jackpot, but it only revealed his inadequacies.  Whether a person’s security comes from money, power, comforts, or relationships, at some point everyone asks, “Is the best the world has to give, enough?”  Pose the question.

9.  Stay calm.  After the miraculous catch, Simon was pretty shook up.  He sensed that something was stirring beyond his comfort zone.  When Jesus comes calling, it can be a little unnerving for people.  A reassuring word such as “Don’t be afraid” is a good idea.

10.  Start with one.  Even though Jesus was in Simon’s boat and spoke directly to Simon, his brother Andrew was on hand along with their other two partners, James and John.  At the end of the day, all four men “pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”  Invite one person to follow, and he might bring all his friends with him.

Fish Guts

the-jesus-boat-at-the-sea-of-galilee-miki-karniJesus didn’t put an ad in the paper, “Seeking 12 men to follow me.”  He didn’t go to the synagogue school and ask to interview the top 12 students.  He didn’t stay in his hometown and gather up 12 of his childhood buddies.  He didn’t wait for people to come to him asking to be disciples.

Jesus went out to the lake shore because he wanted those kind of people.  Fishermen were hard-working and strong, patient and determined.  Fishing for a living took faith — they couldn’t see the fish under the surface but they had to believe they were down there.  They had no formal education, no qualifications for ministry — yet were well-trained by everyday life experiences.   Fishermen were robust, hardy souls who knew how to work together to pull in a catch.  And they were fun.

I wonder what Zebedee thought the day Jesus came down to the fishing boats and talked to his sons, James and John.  There they were, father and sons, sitting in the boat together getting the nets ready to cast out on the water.  And Jesus offered the boys a chance of a lifetime — tutelage under a real rabbi.  Such an opportunity for simple fishermen!  The Bible says, “…immediately James and John left the boat and their father and followed him.”  They climbed out, waded to shore and were gone.  Immediately.

Dear Zebedee, what did you think?  Were you happy to see your sons find their destiny?  Or were you ticked that they up and left the family business?  James, were you itching to do something else with your life and this was your ticket out?  John, did you know deep inside that you weren’t cut out to be a fisherman?  Did you both feel like there had to be more to life than fish guts?

I hope Zebedee’s sons stopped in and checked on their father whenever they passed through Galilee.

I hope the old man didn’t make his boys feel guilty for leaving home and changing careers.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”  James and John said, “Yes”.  Pretty gutsy.

Follow Me

follow meJesus said, “Follow me” 20 times in the gospels.

He says it to me every day.

He has to, because I need constant reminding who is the leader and who is the follower.

Some days, I attack my to-do lists and productivity goals with gusto.  I catch a few waking moments to let Jesus know what we’re going to be doing in the coming daylight hours.  I picture Him barely keeping up with me, breathless, but proud of all my many accomplishments.

Other days, I shuffle out of sleep and dawdle through the early morning.  I approach the day with sighs and groans and no particular plan.  I picture Jesus with a bored look on His face, kicking at rocks as He plods along behind me.

Of course, I’m wrong on both counts.  Whether I’m energized or empty, His place is always out in front, never bringing up the rear.  He leads, I follow.

So why aren’t we taught how to be good followers? Type in “leadership” in a search engine and up pops hundreds of leadership courses, leadership training programs and leadership development books.  A quick search for “followership” offers a shorter list.  Interestingly enough, Harvard offers a course entitled “Followership” with sections on Hitler and Jonestown, but not one mention of Jesus Christ.  Can’t say I’m surprised, even though Jesus was the only one who came right out and said, “Follow me” and then millions did for thousands of years.  Still do.

During this season of Lent, I’m going to dig into the word “follow”.  To whom did Jesus say those words?  How did they respond?  Why did some say yes and others say no?  What does following Jesus include?  What does being a follower cost?  What does it look like to be follower?

Care to follow?

25 Cents Worth, Please

I read something this morning that hit me as being so profound, I just have to share it. I came across this while doing some study on the verse, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” Luke 9:23

Credit for this quote goes to someone named Dr. Fred Craddock. I googled him (of course) and found he is a professor of theology at Emory University. After all the credentials were listed, the article said, “Often characterized as preaching with a style that is ‘folksy’, Craddock is a strong supporter of using humor in sermons.” I knew I liked this guy. Here’s what my friend Fred had to say to me this morning:

“We think giving our all to the Lord is like taking a $1,000 bill and laying it on the table – ‘Here’s my life, Lord, I’m giving it all.’  But the reality for most of us is that he sends us to the bank and has us cash in the $1,000 for quarters. We go through life putting out 25 cents here and 50 cents there. Listen to the neighbor kid’s troubles instead of saying, ‘Get lost.’ Go to a committee meeting. Give a cup of water to a shaky old man in a nursing home.

“Usually giving our life to Christ isn’t glorious. It’s done in all those little acts of love, 25 cents at a time. It would be easy to go out in a flash of glory; it’s harder to live the Christian life little by little over the long haul.”

So, denying myself may mean intentionally NOT making the big thousand dollar-type sacrifice, but faithfully unloading twenty-five-centers when no one is paying any attention. So, what does that look like played out in everyday life? How do we deny ourselves?