Thursday, March 8, 2012

Follow Him Today - In Your Imperfection

A Devotional by Margot Cioccio

Decided to follow Jesus... and took a step of faith.
John 15:1-8
 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.
   5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Perhaps it is because I am a day ahead on this post. Which is nice but there is something about the pressure of having to get something out that helps me bring these posts to birth. I find myself looking at the blank composition box and wondering which of the thoughts in my head is the thought that I should write about today. I have taken care of the dogs, read my bible and practiced my piano. I find myself now in front of my computer for a brief span of time before I leave for a day of lessons and teaching.

I was reading today about the dedication of Solomens temple and how God allowed him to build what David had seen and desired to build for the Lord. God had told David no,  as much as I love you, your hands are too bloody to build a temple. (My paraphrase of course). David was a man after God's own heart. Yet he failed at a number of things. His family was terribly dysfunctional with numerous wives and children vying for positon, favor and attention. There was the whole Bathsheba incident and David's plot to do away with her husband when she becomes pregnant due to their affair.   In the cover up a man is murdered - (well sent into the fiercest part of the battle at David's order.) He can't get himself out of a loop concerning his son Absalom, and his betrayal to the point of nearly forsaking those who were loyal to him. David strikes me as a pretty bi-polar kind of guy you read his great highs and see the amazing things he accomplished and then you see the dreadful low places reflected in some of the Psalms. He gets in trouble for trying to number the people and that causes many to die in a plague. He does not have how to worship God completely figured out. He tries to have the arc of the covenant moved on a cart but the oxen slip and a guy gets killed for trying to steady the arc.   Thankfully his story has not been white washed and we do see that he is an imperfect guy who God says is a man after God's heart.  David in all his imperfections loved the Lord. He was quick to repent when he would come to the realization that he had sinned. He was humble enough to admit his failures. He always turned back to God. He begins his journey with God as a shepherd boy and God takes him step by step to become the most loved and remembered king of Israel.

He was different then Saul his predecessor who was jealous, vengeful, quick to take matters into his own hands, quick to forsake God and look to the occult. David was there to witness the change in Saul from walking under Gods anointing to become a tormented man. David was able to play music that would bring relief to Saul. Saul became so paranoid and he could see Gods favor that had once rested on him now resting on David. He tried for years to kill David. David spent years in the wilderness with his band of rough guys running from Saul. He had many opportunities that he could have killed Saul and perhaps sped up his rise to power. He was a guy of integrity and he was not going to be responsible for the death of the king. So although he knew he had been chosen and anointed by God to be the next king, he waited for God to lift him into God's plans and purposes for his life.

Why Saul does not ever really see the error of his ways and repent when a small change of heart in God's direction could have made him a man after God's heart. It was not one big thing that lost him the kingdom. It was over and over his own decision to turn to his own devices rather than to look to God.
He was chosen for his great height and good looks. He looked like a king. David on the other hand is described as ruddy and red. His own family thinks so little of him that when Samuel comes to the house to have all the sons of the family come before him, they leave David out with the sheep.
Samuel gets to the end of the line and has to ask are there any more and the family kind of hems and haws and says well uhhh.... theres David.

We want to sterilize and clean up the stories. Look what we've done to the Christmas story we have make giving birth to a baby in a barn so squeeky clean that we take the marvel of the reality of it right out of the story.  We take our cleaned up versions an put the people involved on these noble lofty pedestals and then we make excuses for our selves to not ever being able to live up to their standards.
We tell our self, those people were some how special. They were regular Janes and Joes, just like you and I. Just like us every day they had choices, sometimes they made good choices sometimes bad.

Every day we must make the choice to pick up our cross, to die to our old carnal nature and follow Jesus. Like David, when we make a mess of things, we need to repent and turn back to God.  Sometimes we get the notion in our heads that we will wait till we are better before embarking on following the call of Jesus for our lives. We think if I just was a better person, who reads the bible and prays more, gets to church more often, remembers not to cuss, never yells at the kids or kicks the dog in frustration. Some day I will follow that dream God put in my heart, but not now because I don't measure up to some self imposed code of perfection. Jesus accepts you right where you are. He wants to know you and walk with you today. Unless you begin a journey you will not ever reach the desired destination. God calls us to do and be things that are far beyond our ability on our own to ever accomplish. Its starts with this little step of faith, and then another. After a while we are able to take bigger steps because we have built up a history with the Lord of his faithfulness in previous littler steps. While the present step of faith will always stretch us a little further, things that were once a big deal are done with ease.

I was talking to one of my 10 year old guitar students about adding some free expression to the end of another song. To in a sense, come up with his own chorus. He sat there completely stuck. I would show him examples and make up song idea after another. I told him I don't care if your song is about praising God for gummy worms just begin to let out the thoughts of your heart. I tried to tell him I was not always able to easily express the thoughts in my heart but now it is very easy. We talked about how if you want to be good at base ball you gotta play the game. You have to exercise, develop and practice using the things God has given you. 

I have to work and work to play the piano. I can do many things now that I could not do before. I will be able to do things in the future that are not even remotely possible now.  Back 3 or 4 years ago I had to decide to begin the journey to learn to play the piano. I've had to, along the way decided to stick with it even though it has taken longer and been much harder than I ever imagined.  We celebrate little victories along the way. Even on weeks when my practice time is very little as long as I don't give up and quilt I am still in motion on that journey.  Little by little, day by day I am changing and growing and one day I will arrive at my destination.   It is true of spiritual things as well. If you want to know the bible more, you begin by reading it and then you dig in and study this or that part. When I first came to Jesus, I knew nothing. I had come from a half agnostic and half occult family. I did not know the stories that every child from Sunday school knows. I did not know how to rightly divide the word and how to apply it to various situations. I did not know how to walk by faith, or how to pray. I was clueless but I began a journey with the Lord and along the way he has helped me clean up a lot of stuff, and he has taken me through great amounts of deliverance and healing in the process of becoming free in Him.  I made a decision to follow him day by day in my imperfections. I have come to realize that there is always more to work on and more to know of him. We reach milestones along the way and we can look back and remember when something that is easy to do now was once hard. We can look ahead and know that what is hard now will someday be easy.
Don't wait till you've got it all together to follow and walk with Jesus walk with him today in all of your imperfections, with all of your flaws and failures. If he has put a dream in your heart find some way to move towards it even if it seems totally impossible at this point. Keep your eyes on Jesus and he will lead you from here to there but every journey begins with a step of faith and then another and another.
Will you take the next step of faith to follow Him?
Dear Lord, Help us to overcome our doubts, our fears, the guilt of past failures. What ever holds us back from pursuing you, help us to begin. Help us look at what we can do today and to do that with you trusting you will show us the next step when the time is right. Help us to choose today to follow you and not continue to believe the lie that we will one day get it together and then follow you. Lord we choose today to believe and follow you. Today is the day of Salvation. Today if we hear your voice or feel you nudging us help us to take that step of faith into the unknown of your plans and purposes.  

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