Sunday, April 29, 2007

Another Observation

I read more in John 14 and had another observation. When Jesus was asked questions, His answers were always crafted perfectly for the listener. If His listeners were Pharisees, His answers often did not address the question asked directly. Rather, He would hit the heart-issue at hand rather than the obvious retort. Conversely, when He addressed His disciples, His answers were almost always direct.

For instance, when He was asked by His disciples how to pray, He replied with the Lord's prayer. In John 14, Thomas asked Jesus, "Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?" To which Jesus replied, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me."

Quick Observation

I just started reading John 14 for encouragement, and for some reason, I wasn't able to concentrate on the beginning of the chapter. So, my gaze shifted to the verse immediately above 14:1, and I was so shocked/amused I began to laugh. It reads like this:

[Jesus to Peter]
"Jesus answered, 'Will you lay your life down for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.'"

How odd is that?! Jesus had just told Peter that he would deny Him three times, then Jesus said (effectively), "Don't worry!" How counter that is to human nature! I'm sure Peter was crestfallen, and yet, he was told to trust in God. Wow. That is absolutely incredible.

The implication is that God realizes the kind of pain we go through, and yet He tells us to simply trust in Him. At first glance, this would seem to be nothing more than a crass platitude. Yet, these words were spoken by the omniscient and immutable King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future'" (Jer. 29:11). In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is recorded as giving Peter consolation (regarding the future) in spite of Jesus' awareness of Peter's imminent failure:

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers" (Matt. 22:31-32).

When Jesus said "when you have turned back," He implied that Peter would fall. Yet, He also prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail. Believe it or not, it didn't. Jesus knew this would be the case when He commanded Peter to strengthen his brothers (the Church) after returning.

Peter went on to be one of the boldest proclaimers of the Gospel this world has ever known. He went from the timid denier of Christ, to the rock that Jesus said He would build His church on. Peter went on to die a martyr's death on a cross, where he hung upside-down in order to avoid dishonoring the Lord in His death. What a remarkable transformation!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

What did Paul struggle with?

I never did write about the item that I alluded to in the last post, so I'm going to write about that now.

I feel that God has called me to encourage the body of Christ. More than that, I feel that God wants me to stir up my brothers and sisters to draw near to God. I think that my spiritual gift is teaching, so it goes together pretty well with my desire to encourage others to follow God closely. Yet, at times, I find this call to be a rather frustrating one.

Specifically, when I receive something from the Lord and eagerly wish to share it, I find myself becoming disappointed when it is not received with understanding or even a hint of zeal. I think, "C'mon! This is good stuff! Why don't you understand?! Jeepers creepers!" And yet, I know that this is not God's modus operandi in dealing with people. He is slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness. His mercies are new every morning. But to me, nothing is so frustrating as longing for fellow believers to be mature and yet still seeing glaring immaturities. Paul apparently had to deal with it:

Galatians 4:19-20
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you--but I could wish to be present with you now and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you.

Romans 13:11-14
The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.

But there is wonderful news: God is faithful. *Long sigh* How wonderful!

Philippians 1:6
For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

What a blessed hope. I pray that all of you who read this will be able to comprehend how high, how wide, and how deep the Lord's love is for you.

Grace and peace be yours in abundance.

A Post

This is the first time that I have written in this blog in quite a long time. Mostly because I have a very difficult time consistently putting out writing. Today, I felt the urge to write about something that I probably wouldn't want to be disseminated. However, I believe that very people will ever read this (if any). Yet, it is burning in my heart, so I will go ahead and write it.

Lately, I have never felt stronger that God has a higher calling on my life. The call has always been there, but I suppose I have, at times, pressed the "mute" button on God's voice. Yet, as time passes, I find that my desire for worldly pleasures is decreasing while my desire for God is growing. I am not saying that I am anything special, it's just that I don't have the same desires for worldly pursuits as a lot of Christian folks my age do. As my mother put it, "Others may, you cannot."

Initially, this realization led to some consternation. Why can't I have a wonderful Christian wife like the rest of my friends? Why can't I enjoy immature PG-13 movies with impunity like the rest of the Christians? Why do I have to languish while everyone goes about their lives with apparent ease? The result of this ignorance was a life of unbelief. Now, I was ostensibly seeking after God, but in my heart, I was discontented with the Lord. This lack of contentment combined with the root problem of unbelief led to a very dry period in my walk with the Lord. In His mercy, the Lord did not allow me to stumble beyond recovery. But boy, it was a rough period. It reminds me of Asaph's experience:

From Psalm 73
[The wicked] say, "How does God know? And is there knowledge with the Most High?" Behold, these are the wicked; and always at ease, they have increased in wealth. Surely in vain I have kept my heart pure and washed my hands in innocence; for I have been stricken all day long and chastened every morning.

Isn't that interesting? It seems that the times we fall into the most severe unbelief is when we are focused on ourselves or our surroundings instead of looking to the Lord. We look at the wind and the waves instead of looking into Jesus' eyes. We drown because we doubt. Yet, God is able to keep us from stumbling:

Later in Psalm 73
When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God; then I perceived their end. Surely You set them in slippery places;You cast them down to destruction. How they are destroyed in a moment! They are utterly swept away by sudden terrors!

And further on
When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within,then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works.