Hello friends, it’s week three of the blog series ”Tell Me a Story” and I am excited to introduce you to my bloggy friend Cheryl E. Smith. She blogs at Homespun Devotions. Her book, “Biblical Minimalism,” Is a pleasure to read.
If you missed last week’s featured author please click HERE.
“Cheryl Smith is the author of the book “Biblical Minimalism,” the story of her family’s journey from a life of abundance to a more abundant life. She is the author of the blogs Biblical Minimalism where she writes about minimalism from a Biblical perspective and Homespun Devotions where she writes devotionals and conducts “Inner Views.” She loves to spend time with her husband and son in the mountains, sing and play Bluegrass music, and write.”
Chapter One – For His Name’s Sake
“And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And He saith unto them, Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets and followed Him.” Matthew 4:18-20
A Minimal Life
A simple life calls to me. For a long time, I could not pinpoint why. Of course, I could identify the obvious benefits to living minimally — less stress, better health, a slower pace, and more time with the ones I love. But, as a Christian, I could discern that there was something deeper that consistently drew me to this way of life. I finally realized it is Him. It is Jesus Christ, the One Whose name I have taken as my own. It is for His name’s sake that I long to do this, and it is He Who gives me the will to lay aside the things of this world.
Jesus’ life was a life of minimalism in its purest, most authentic form. He was born in a borrowed stable and buried in a borrowed tomb. The life He lived between the two was lived selflessly and completely devoid of personal gain. Jesus didn’t focus on accumulating “stuff” down here because He knew this life is temporary, and His time on earth was short. He said, “I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day: the night cometh when no man can work.” John 9:4
He didn’t have closets full of clothing. He had what He needed, and that was enough. His earthly occupation was a carpenter; yet, He didn’t even own a home. Jesus lived with minimal necessities, and acquiring things held no interest for Him. He owed nothing. He traveled light.
Jesus’ entire focus was on the eternal and carrying out His Father’s will while here on earth. He prayed all night or rose early in the morning to pray. He ministered all day. He created this world, yet, nothing in it weighed Him down or enslaved Him to it. His focus was to leave behind a trail of Godly footprints that every, single one of us can trace and emulate.
As Jesus hung on the old, rugged cross, suspended between earth and Heaven, He owned nothing of this world’s goods. Even His clothing was stripped from Him and divided among the very Roman soldiers who were responsible for hammering the nails into His hands and feet. He left behind no house, no physical possessions, and no monetary inheritance for the loved ones who remained and mourned for Him.
Jesus’ goal was never to amass earthly treasures and bequeath them to His survivors, but to leave behind a spiritual legacy, and, oh, what a legacy, indeed! Because of Him and what He accomplished on that cross, you and I can draw near to God and have the assurance of an eternity in Heaven.
“For He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in His flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” Ephesians 2:14-17
Jesus never asks us to do anything that He was not willing to do. Ever. When He left home to begin His full-time ministry, He, too, had to leave people and things He dearly loved. He had to walk away from His past and life as He knew it and everything in it. He could afford no distractions. He could not live out His mission weighed down with possessions of this life. He needed to remain completely engaged in the purpose God sent Him here to fulfill.
Though His treasures were not laid upon earth, surely it must have affected Him to leave what He knew as familiar. He was 100% God, but He was also 100% human. He felt hurt as keenly as we do, yet, He did not allow His humanity to derail His Divinity.
He is our perfect example. Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we have not a high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus would not ask us to give our all, had He not been willing to first give His.
When He came to earth, He was God in the flesh and deserved royal treatment, yet, He willingly and of His Own accord laid down His rights. He said, “Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:26-28
Rather than live the life He deserved, He chose to live life as a servant. He was never too busy to meet the needs of others. He lived an unscheduled, unencumbered life. At any given time, He was available to go and heal and deliver and fulfill His Divine mission and calling.
I John 2:5,6 says, “But whoso keepeth His word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in Him. He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.”
To walk, even as He walked. Can you hear His call? It is intense, compelling, and impossible to refuse. His call is not a booming, bass, audible voice that thunders from the Heavens, but a deeply moving, inward tug — a gentle and firm pressure that relentlessly beckons, “Follow Me.”
Jesus’ disciples could do nothing other than to forsake all, in answer to that call, without a second thought or backward glance. Once they heard His call, life as they knew it would never be the same.
How can we tell Him “no” when our hearts yearn so fervently to please Him and align ourselves with His mindset and way of life? He loves us too much to leave us where we should no longer be. So, He calls. He beckons, and it is stronger than anything in us can refuse.
It is a call to the consecration of one’s self — a living sacrifice. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” Romans 12:1
D. L. Moody’s friend, Henry Varley once said, “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man, who is fully and wholly consecrated to Him.” When we respond to His call and put our all on the altar before God, when we fully and completely present our bodies a living sacrifice and tell God that we will do anything He asks, we can’t imagine what He will do with and for and through and in us.
Jesus’ call asks us to surrender all, to deny ourselves, to pick up the cross He designed specifically for us, and to follow Him from this point on, forever.
“Then said Jesus unto His disciples, if any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26
“And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after Me, cannot be My disciple.” Luke 14:27
I heard His call for the very first time at the age of ten while attending an old-time revival meeting with my parents and Papaw, my maternal grandfather, in Enid, Oklahoma. I will never forget the way I felt in response to that call, as I made my way to the front of that little church, knelt at the altar, and poured out my heart. I surrendered all to Him that night — that is, all that a ten-year-old is capable of surrendering. But, as we can all attest, life goes on; we mature and grow up, and along with that comes increased responsibilities and a whole lot more to deal with than we can even imagine at ten years old. Progressively throughout life, God has, at varying points, renewed that call to me, and each renewal has required a rededication of my life and a fresh, updated surrender of my will to His purpose.
As I look back upon those times of His call to a deeper rededication, I am amazed to observe how He always required the renewed offering of self as a living sacrifice to Him before He unveiled the next assignment, ministry endeavor, or mission. He always brought me to a place of surrender before He revealed the details of the next thing He was going to ask me to do. It’s funny how God’s call has a gentle, subtle way of softening our hearts and minds to something He wants us to do down the road.
In the Christian life, we often long for God to shine a light upon the next several steps of our assigned path, but if He did, why would we need faith? “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” II Corinthians 5:7.
For His Name’s Sake
“Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold and shall inherit everlasting life.” Matthew 19:27-29
As God began to prepare our hearts and minds to align with what it means to live a life of Biblical minimalism, we heard that familiar compelling call and met with yet another of these stirring times towards renewed dedication. God knew the minimizing and letting go of so many earthly things that had become too dear to my heart was not going to be easy. The fleshly, worldly-minded part of me would have to die, and that would require a new surrender and a fresh sacrifice.
Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly. Otherwise, it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
The call and “prying of my fingers” began unexpectedly one evening, as I was mowing the lawn. I can still smell the freshly mown grass on the back acre of our two-acre property. To this day, I can hear that still, small voice inside, asking the question that would shake the foundation of my comfortable, predictable world. “Would you be willing to leave here?”
God’s question planted the seed for deeper consecration in my heart. That seed grew and flourished and incessantly pushed its way into my thoughts over the course of the next few years. The fight within me grew ever more pronounced as I struggled to release my white-knuckled grasp on the illusion of being in control.
As I began to ponder His question that summer evening, memories washed over me. We had moved there when our only son, Zach, was just under one year old. He cut his teeth there, learned to walk, talk, and read there. Our homeschool journey began there on his first day of kindergarten. The subsequent school years found us seated together, side by side, in the very same place. For years, he ran over those two acres with his “pack” of dogs, and he literally grew up on that land. My eyes skimmed over it all and finally came to rest on the tan house with the green shutters situated on the north side. It hurt to even think of leaving the place that my hard-working husband, Kevin, had labored so hard to maintain and this life that we had built together, side-by-side, hand-in-hand.
As I looked around, my mind went back to the day we moved in and how barren the land was. It hit me that Kevin planted every tree, shrub, plant, and flower in that yard. How could God think I could leave the rose garden it had taken Kevin years to plant and nurture just for me right beneath our front porch? How could I walk away from such roots? We made thousands upon thousands of memories inside and outside that house. My hands robotically turned the wheel of the riding lawn mower as, time after time and row after row, I found myself in a wrestling match, fighting an inward battle between God’s question and my own will.
Moving would require us to forsake three of the eight things Jesus mentioned in Matthew 19:29 — the house we had called home for so many years; my sister, Debbie, and her family who lived about 57 miles from us; and the two acres of land surrounding our house. It would not only require the forsaking of house, sister, and land, but our motivation had to be driven by our desire to please, and mind, and follow Jesus. It is one thing to make self-seeking sacrifices or to follow some trendy fad or movement that happens to be popular, at the time. It is quite another to give up what is dear “for His name’s sake.”
I felt that if we were to forsake our house, land, and sister “for His name’s sake,” we would need to see clear evidence of a physical ministry or grand mission that He wanted us to fulfill. I waited, and waited, and waited some more, but no such revelation came.
Hebrews 11:8 says, “By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.” When God told Abraham to pick up and leave what was known, He didn’t include a “why,” nor did He tell him where he was going. Abraham had no precedent to look back upon and review God’s faithfulness to someone else. He stepped out in raw faith, just because God told him to go. The call was enough.
I began to see that if God asks us to forsake what is dear to us, His very command is the only “proof” or evidence we need. I realized that anytime He asks us to give up something, even when He doesn’t provide a reason as to why He is asking us to make the sacrifice, it is always, without fail, for His name’s sake.
Throughout our time of seeking God’s will and examining our motives, we felt a pressing need to downsize the number of our possessions. During all of this, a spiritual tug-of-war continually waged inside me. One day, I would feel like I was making progress in coming to a place of full surrender to God’s will, should He ask us to move. The next day, I was back to square one, digging in my heels and feeling like I could never consider doing such a thing. My trepidation about even the thought of making a geographical move had a lot to do with my upbringing.
I grew up in a Godly home with Christian parents who loved and wanted what was best for me. That did not, however, include an element of stability. We moved at least 47 times. This is no joke – Dad and I counted them one day, and those were just the addresses we could remember. So, though I was deeply loved while growing up, and Mom and Dad instilled a rock-solid spiritual foundation in the heart of me, the constant upheaval and moving from place to place created deep-seated insecurities that I still struggle with to this day. I loathe the thoughts of moving. I crave stability and “the same.”
Sometimes, “the same” is not in our best interest. Familiarity can become a rut, as we adamantly spin our wheels and strive to hold on to what we have and know. Fear of the unknown can have a paralyzing effect. It is often easier to stay where we are, no matter how miserable our circumstances, than to open our minds to the possibility that God has something better for us.
There came a day when God made it crystal clear that, indeed, we were to put our house, along with the two acres that surrounded it, on the market, and move away from all that was familiar to us, including family. Four months later, the house had sold, and God miraculously made a way for us to move to an area we dearly love and where we had vacationed for years. Though it was difficult to see beforehand, our surrender to His will brought about a tremendous release from bondage and ushered in enormous levels of positive change to our lives.
Responding to Jesus’ call to forsake can be difficult. But, when we reconcile such action as being for His name’s sake, how can we refuse? How can we justify refusing to surrender? How can we deny the One Who gave everything He had for us? He always has our best interests at heart, and He came so we could live an abundant life. Finding that involves being willing to allow Him to lead. It is a path with no regrets.”
Are you ready to read the rest? Please click on the book cover and come back and let me know how much you loved the book (smile).
Connect with Cheryl at Homespun Devotions.com
Watch the Book Trailer HERE
Next week’s featured author is Alex Cavanaugh.a Rafflecopter giveaway