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Lose your life to find it.    (Matt. 10:38-40)

Die to live.    (Romans 6:3-5)

Leaders should behave like servants.    (Luke 22:26)

Rejoice when things are going wrong, in hard times.  (Romans 5:3)

Last is really first.   (Mark 9:35)

Love the haters.  (Matt. 5:44)

Being God’s servant is the only way to true freedom.  (I Peter 2:16)

When I’m weak, I’m actually strong.  (II Cor. 12:10)

Do you see the trend here?  Following Jesus feels as if we’re walking backwards; especially when we look around at the rest of the world and the way they’re walking and living their lives.   Living within the boundaries God sets, however, actually gives us freedom – to enjoy a better, guilt-free, peace-filled life.   It would be one thing to walk this way if we never saw the other way.  But every day we are surrounded by swarms of travelers going the other way, and often making it look better or easier or more fun or more logical.

God never said his way was logical.  In fact, the way of God, the message of Jesus dying for us on the cross, look foolish to those who don’t follow Him.

In my opinion, it all comes down to surrender and daily acknowledgment that I’m not in control and shouldn’t be.   When I try the world’s way it turns out to be a mess.    My 17-year-old nephew (I’ll call him Jordan) learned this the hard way.  For the last year and a half or so he spent time in juvenile detention and then a group home residential program for teens, working through some really bad choices he made and trying to unlearn his habit of manipulation and deceit.   His choices not only made it difficult for him but hurt his family.  We were all praying for God to set him free from what seemed something he couldn’t be free of on his own.

I sent Jordan an email last week and asked him what it feels like now compared to before he had that tough love experience, how he felt living in relationship with God now with nothing to hide, in honesty.  He thought about it a few days and then sent this reply,  (he gave me permission to post it)

“I took some time to think about my answer to your questions because I didn’t want to fall into old ruts. A couple of years ago, I would have written you a long, eloquent book with quoted scripture and lots of gooey “everything is just PERFECT!” junk.  But, it would have been an attempt to convince you and myself that everything was just peachy when the opposite was true.  So, to answer your question, I would say that being in relationship with God is a lot like having a brother who knows all of your secrets, who is literally inseparable from you. He’s someone that you run to when you need help, or when you just want to laugh, or cry, or any other myriad emotions.  And yet, though he is close like a brother, he is GOD, King of the universe, of everything that we as man are and are not capable of being aware of.  When I am close to Him, I feel close and intimate with this amazing God, though I tend to forget that He is as massive as He is. (something He is continually teaching me.)…

I wanted to add also, that God really used your email to draw me near to him. I had been going through a “rough patch” spiritually. I was pretty convinced that all I needed was God’s lead, and then I could do the rest.  As it turns out surrendering doesn’t mean just turning to the GPS for directions, it’s getting out of the drivers seat all together. After I read your email, I realized that I was going to have to answer based on memory because I wasn’t living close to God.  This morning, after much prayer and a long harder-than-necessary climb out of the drivers seat, I can say that I could write this email from the feelings of today.”

Isn’t that beautiful??  If you knew what a big deal it is for Jordan to be so open and truthful, how much he’s grown and changed, you’d be moved as much as I was when I first read his reply.  (That’s him in the picture)

He has learned something we all need to learn – following Jesus means living backwards from what our “self” tells us and what the world tells us.  To really get somewhere, we have to get out of the driver’s seat.  To be secure, we let go of everything in this life that we think gives us security.  To be rescued from a life out of control, we have to give up control.  When we do, we see that God is there, has been there the whole time, and He will never let go.  He wants us to live free lives – free in His love, forgiveness, and plans.

Do it.  Be willing to walk backwards so you can more forward with Jesus.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.  Romans 12:1-2  The Msg