by Joe and Shelby Greemore
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
– Francis of Assisi (1182-1226)
Scripture Reading: Mark 8:34-38
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” – Mark 8:34b
“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old. Seek what they sought.”
Follow My Lead
Our only son, Greyson, is learning to play the guitar. He’s two. His name literally means, “Son of the Gray-haired one,” which totally has a double meaning. In one sense, if he keeps wrestling his two big sisters into submission and dumping his food all over the carpet and sweet-talking the ladies like he sweet-talks his mama every day, he’s going to give me gray hairs. On the other hand, even if his antics put me in an early grave, he still has God in heaven, the great, gray-haired Deity who loves him as much as I do, times infinity, right? Now my son is learning follow my lead, putting his fingers where I put mine as I shift to hold the guitar while he plays.
Father to Son
Which makes me think of how I must look in God’s eyes, my fingers not quite big enough to get the job done alone, my legs not quite long enough or strong enough. Only God’s tune is not the same “A-D-G-A” that I’m teaching Greyson. It’s slightly more complex than the three simple, prescriptive progressions I am teaching my son.
God’s beloved Son, Jesus, says: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” As parents, we have a charge to teach our kids the principles of God’s word and show them how to love without completely misrepresenting the message – no small task! To my ears, the invitation sounds like, “Whoever wants to bring me pleasure must deny themselves pleasure.” Which is hard for me to hear, even harder for me to teach my son, and certainly difficult for me to help him unlearn years down the road when I realize that’s not what God meant at all.
It’s interesting how easily I transition from father to son, from teacher to student, from master to servant, kind of like how we live in this balance of being parents and having parents (ever try disciplining your kid at grandma’s house?), or of being adults but not really “those” adults…
Walking the Wilderness Way with Jesus
Just last week, Greyson was doing a puzzle alone and matter-of-factly informed me, “Daddy, it’s Greyson time.” Wouldn’t it be easy if Jesus sent us a text when we needed to stop and spend a moment in prayer? Or if he sent us a golden parchment whenever it was time to read the Bible? Or stop and help someone in need? Or tithe, or show mercy, or [fill in the blank]? The wilderness way is not so easy, yet it is incredibly simple: God invites us to live in the messiness of our discipleship.
To know God’s heart, we are invited to spend time with God. To love as God loves, we are counseled by Christ to practice ourselves in the art of loving with selfless abandon, even if our fingers aren’t long enough or our arms don’t quite reach or our hearts aren’t quite big enough. We are invited to “seek first the kingdom of God and God’s righteousness,” which doesn’t mean casting down our nets like Simon and Andrew, James or John, not leaving the accounting table like Matthew. Rather, perhaps it means living in holy wonder and daily pursuit of the awesome call to love God completely and creatively and to love our neighbor first. Denying myself doesn’t always mean not getting my needs met; instead, the opposite is true. God says taking the focus off my needs liberates me to experience the full freedom of God’s blessings. I think following Jesus’ lead is more about character and less about circumstance, more about helping and less about hurting, more about walking with Jesus and less about trying to find his footsteps.
Questions for Discussion
– What does it mean to ‘follow’ Jesus?
– What is one way I can deny myself this week?
– Why is it so tough to say no to self and follow Jesus?
Choose one ‘way to follow’ this week, and then talk about it with your family next Sunday afternoon.
As a family, sing “Wherever He Leads I’ll Go,” together.
“Take up thy cross and follow me,”
I heard my master say;
“I gave My life to ransom thee,
Surrender your all today.”
Wherever He leads I’ll go
Wherever He leads I’ll go,
I’ll follow my Christ who loves me so,
Wherever He leads I’ll go.
Cut out a cross from an 8 ½” x 11” piece of paper. Make one per family member.
Write, “Deny yourself and take up your cross and follow me,” as many times as possible around the edge.
Each person can write his/her name in the center, then fill in the empty space with ways he or she can “take up his cross.” Younger children can decorate the empty space.
Joe and Shelby Greemore are parents to Corbany, Addy, and Greyson. Joe pastors the First Baptist Church of Waterloo, Iowa.