When I work on brochures and other publications for IPM, I look through a lot of pictures and try to pick the best ones for the documents we put out. One of our board members, Pastor Jonathan Tillman, has spent a lot of time studying photography and gave us some hints last year about how to take better pictures. He said one thing that has stuck with me, and I have seen the best pictures that come into IPM have this feature.
Take a look at the picture of the two girls. Imagine three lines running from left to right, cutting the picture into thirds: top, bottom, middle. If you try to keep the main subjects of the picture (the girls faces) in the top third or bottom third, you will make the picture more interesting and usable in publications.
Now imagine three lines running from top to bottom, cutting the picture into thirds. Try to place the action or people in the photo in either the left third or the right third. In the case of the girls’ picture (as with many other photographs), one face is on the left and one is in the middle. This is better than centering the picture on their faces.
Think about the pictures you take. If you are taking a picture and thinking about where the faces are ending up in it, you will be more likely to take pictures that will be effective in the publications IPM sends out.
When you take a well-balanced picture you help the person making the document in many ways. It will also help you to think through what you are doing and do it well (1 Corinthians 10:31). By considering your picture-taking and gaining simple skills in that area, you will increase the impact of your prayer letters. That’s worth thinking about!
…whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.
I think what takes my mind away from this kind of discipleship is my misapplication of the two stories in the text that the Lord Jesus gave to explain what He wants his disciples to do. I usually take them to mean that I need to have "all my ducks in a row" before starting any work for the Lord. But that seems to go against Christ's own application of these stories in Luke 14:33.
Let's take a look at what Christ said about Luke 14:33-type discipleship:
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish. Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
The tower-building example reminds me of something that happened several years ago while my family and I were living in the Middle East. A barber in our neighborhood had a robust business in a simple shop. He was friendly and courteous and never lacked for customers.
One day, while seated in his chair with a cape wrapped around my neck, shielding my shirt from the little hairs falling all over the place, my friend the barber began telling me of his plans to update the premises.
“I am going to do a complete remodel job,” he told me excitedly. “I want to make this a place my children will be proud of!” Then he told me all the many (expensive) improvements he had in mind.
“Keep it simple,” I told my friend. “Your customers are happy with the place as it is. No need to go into debt to remake this place.” But he didn’t want to hear that. He had big plans!
The barber shop closed for a week for the remodel. One week turned into two, and then three. It looked like he may never reopen the place. This whole situation brought shame, that all-important social factor of the East, into the mix.
My friend was slow to show his face in the area. One day, I saw him outside of his house and asked him how things were going. “I have a few relatives that may lend me money,” he replied nervously. “If I get that, everything will be ok.”
This is the picture Christ is painting in His first example. Starting a work you cannot finish is a bad idea. The second story takes a different angle of attack, but leaves the listener with the same feeling: I must avoid the shame of not finishing my work, of not winning my battles.
Now with that idea in place, Luke 14:33 makes a powerful and straightforward statement. The only way to avoid the shame of unfinished construction and failed warfare is to leave off self-dependence and draw upon the Lord’s resources. Whilst trusting myself, my strength, my reasoning I am not trusting Him. I am not being a disciple. I am leaving my spiritual work undone.
Christ WANTS us to be disciples. This passage in Luke 14 clears up what discipleship isn’t so that we are freed up to BE DISCIPLES!
Are you a disciple like this? Are you finding all you need in The Lord? You can! I can! And we can be disciples who make disciples everywhere. That is Great Commission living.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
I try to imagine Jesus being led to Calvary: cross on His shoulders, wounds on His back, blood covering his body. It is terrible to think on. Yet, Jesus wants me to join Him?
Some did join him on crosses that day. Imagine one of them with me: being taken from his prison cell, his arms fastened to a cross, walking after Jesus to Golgotha.
What if he were to look back to those he recently shared his prison room with? What if he were to say one word of parting, one soul-revealing sentence? Is there any way he could frame the words, “Hey, listen! When I finish with this crucifixion, do you want to have lunch? Maybe tomorrow?”
No! Impossible! Foolish to even ask such a thing! The cross is going to consume him. There will be nothing left for afterward! He won’t make any plans with his friends. He won’t entertain other activities. He won’t even worry about his normal eating habits. The cross changes everything. Consumes everything.
That is part of what Christ is saying about discipleship. A disciple doesn’t wonder what he will do when his service to the Lord is completed. It never is! His following after Christ consumes all his resources and leads him rather to be concerned with that service, that purposed self-death, than anything else.
This is helpful because it places a focus on Christ at the center of our thinking about discipleship. We will know our discipleship is ended when, after walking before us so long, His pace slows, and he receives us into his arms. That must be our only plan through what lies ahead if we are to be disciples.
Are you a disciple like this?
Luke 14:26 reads
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
I have heard that this verse means that Jesus intends our love for Him to be so strong, that all other loves are like hatred in comparison. While that may be a good description of what Christ said, I have a hard time finding it actionable. The nagging question I am left with is, “How do I know when I have done this?” How can we know that we hate those we love, in the way the Lord describes here?
I have found practical help in understanding this directive in an Old Testament account that uses the English word hate to describe a marriage relationship. The story of Jacob and his wives gives us a narrative that reveals how God sees our relationships with others. I think that it helps us understand our relationship with Him also.
Genesis 29:30 tells us that
“…he (Jacob) loved also Rachel more than Leah….”
That seems to be a reasonable statement describing an unreasonable marriage situation. While we may find it difficult to understand why a father would marry both of his daughters to the same man, or how the heir to the Abrahamic Covenant could entangle his lineage in such a twisting family tree, we immediately understand the sentiment. Jacob loves Rachel more than Leah. She was the original object of his affection. Marriage to Leah doesn’t change that.
Amazingly, though, Jacob and Leah seem to get on passably well. He may love Rachel more, but
he is not seen abusing Leah. They live together, have children together, travel together. Jacob seems mildly interested in making her happy (Genesis 30:16).
So it is surprising, to me at least, when God describes Jacob’s relationship with Leah as based on hatred.
…when the Lord saw that Leah was hated…
What is obvious to God becomes apparent to us when these relationships are subjected to perilous extremities. Jacob takes his family back to his family’s land and is confronted by his brother, Esau, and 400 men with him. It is hard to imagine a worse situation for Jacob and his family. Under this pressure, his response reveals his heart.
And Jacob lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, Esau came, and with him four hundred men. And he divided the children unto Leah, and unto Rachel, and unto the two handmaids. And he put the handmaids and their children foremost, and Leah and her children after, and Rachel and Joseph hindermost.
The one he loves gets as far away from the vengeance of Esau as Jacob can get her. Everyone from Leah on out is serving as buffer for Rachel and Joseph.
“If I can only save one of them,” Jacob might have thought, “let it be the one I love.” Leah must have felt hated at that moment
What we couldn’t see under normal circumstances becomes evident under pressure. The same could be said of us.
The Lord wants to be in the place of Rachel in our hearts. Everyone else needs to be in Leah’s place or further out. When the swords start swinging – when time constraints bear down on us, when financial limits stretch our plans, when there is only so much of “us” to go around – our relationship with the Lord must be the one we protect the most fiercely.
The truth is (and I don’t enjoy saying this), if Jesus is not our Rachel, He is our Leah, or Bilhah, or Zilpah. Put closer to the swords of our enemies. Hated.
He knows this all the time (even though we only see it sometimes), and demands that those who follow Him enshrine Him in their hearts. Like Jacob did with Rachel.
A lot of us have Jesus in Leah’s place. We have a good relationship with Him most of the time – attending church, reading the Bible, praying at times, giving tithes and offerings – but when we are pressed, we hang on to something else. Our true love.
I can always tell when Jesus is my Rachel – the one I think about, reorder my life for, talk to others about. Jesus wants us to be disciples who make disciples that all love Him like this. Is that you? Are you a disciple, based on Luke 14:26?
You can be! I can too! We must, if we want to please Him. Let’s be disciples like this and lead others to the same relationship with our wonderful Lord.
The Lord is at work in IPM. I am excited about what He is doing all around the world, and I am glad I have a part in it. Throughout my time in this ministry, I have seen that God answers prayer. The attacks from the enemy are no match for the overcoming victory of a Christian’s faith in God’s promises. Those working with IPM are uniquely poised to make a great impact on this world for God’s glory, and I am thankful to be a part of this family of believers.