Monday, June 30, 2008

Letting Go

After a couple of weeks, I'm jumping back into the book of John. I'm in chapter 16, verse 5. This passage is so tough. Jesus is trying to get his disciples to understand that He is leaving, but that God is still with them. I love the word used for the Holy Spirit, it means a counselor or friend. Don't think of a professional counselor who is there for you because you pay them. Think of someone who desparately wants to be a part of your life, to stand by you, to support you, to listen and has great advice. That is the role of the Holy Spirit. He brings God's power and wisdom to us, and offers it freely.

The older I get, the more I realize that there is little secret to finding this wisdom. If we will honestly ask, and then trust what He gives us, then we are safe. I've seen it over and over and over. It doesn't require a spiritual giant, it just requires enough faith to let things be. It's that issue of dying to ourselves and letting God have charge of it. We often make it into this monumental task that is way harder than it needs to be.

I think we do that because we overestimate our own power and ability, and underestimate God's. If we see that God is completely in charge, and has all the power He needs, and that He really truly loves us; then it changes us. If we can realize that we really do not control anything, that all of our abilities are really shadows of His power, then we can take the responsibility off of ourselves to fix everything. The Bible never calls us to fix things. God is the one who does that. So why worry? He is strong, we are not. He is truly Loving, we are selfish. He has all we need, we really can't produce anything. We are in good hands. So, pray, let the Spirit pass on His wisdom, and follow.

We just have to keep practicing at it. Even when we fail, we are growing. Whatever you are facing right now that you are holding onto, keep letting God have it bit by bit. He will wait for you. Just keep trying to let it go and listen.

Second Reason I've Been Gone

After we got back from Destin, we had a week to turnaround and head off to Adventure Camp with our senior high group. Jon Duey brought his group, and God did some amazing stuff. If you'd like to see more pics, there is a growing file on our youth website. You can check it out here.

First Reason I've Been Gone

A few weeks ago, Jill and I took Alivia and Annie to Destin, FL to see the ocean. We spent a week, had a great time, got an awesome sunburn, and just hung out. I love my girls, and am always amazed at what an amazing mom Jill is.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Are We Blessed, or Just Missing It?

If we are going to follow Jesus, then it seems that we are going to get cross-ways with religious people some times. In John 16:1-4, He tells His guys that they are going to be kicked out of church, and eventually killed because of what they believe; and people are genuinely going to believe that they are helping God because of it.

No wonder they ran when Jesus was arrested. No wonder Peter was carrying a sword in the garden. I mean, somehow I have never put these warnings of Jesus together with the fact that they were going to see it come together in a few days. Jesus tells them its going to happen, and that they will have to work to keep from going astray, but I'm not sure that the pacifist, sacrificial language really had sunk in with them yet. Just the threat that they would die for Him.

Carrying on with yesterday's post, how much of this is applicable to our time in the U.S. today? Clearly, the warnings Jesus gave came true, and quickly. It happened to Peter and John, who were arrested and kicked out of the temple. No wonder John remembers this in his writings. It happened to Stephen, who was killed by the priests for blasphemy. It happened all through the early church, as Rome killed people for their faith. It has happened consistently throughout history, as someone in the church has been killed for what they believed in some part of the world. It happens today, in Sudan, Egypt, Liberia, Chad, and other countries in the Mideast. It is happening today in China, as pastors of secret house churches are arrested and disappear.

What of us? Are we expected to live in such a way as to be persecuted? Do we lack persecution because of God's blessings, or because of our lack of passion? I do not know. Any ideas?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

It's a Love / Hate Thing

What a turn around! Jesus is talking about us loving each other as His followers, and then in John 15:18-27 He turns the corner and starts talking about how other people will treat us outside of the Kingdom. They will hate us.

Jesus says that if we belong to the world (the system of living life that goes against God's plans), then they won't hate us. But if we follow Him, they will hate us. I have trouble with this. I'm not sure how many people hate me. I'm not sure how many people I upset for my decisions to love others, to be sacrificial, to be generous and kind and merciful.

Does that mean that I'm not following God? I believe I am, I chase after Him each day. But I'm not sure that my love upsets anyone to this level. Why? Is it that our culture still has some admiration for Christian virtues? Or is it that I have insulated myself with people who all follow Jesus, and because of that, I'm not rubbing shoulders with those who would be mad at me? I have a gut feeling it's the second issue.

What do you guys think? Does anyone hate you for how much you love God and others? What do you make of this passage? Read it, and let me know.

Monday, June 2, 2008

A Thorny Issue

Jesus is the vine, we are all branches growing off of Him. He feeds us, nourishes us, provides life for us, and keeps us growing. We just grow. That's the picture He paints in John 15, in the first 17 verses.

A couple of things I noticed this time through. God cuts all of the branches, no matter what. Some He cuts off and throws away, others He prunes. But He is going to cut us all. Hmmm.... What does that look and feel like in reality? What does it mean for Him to prune the branches that are healthy?

Then in the middle of this, He discusses loving one another, just like He loves us. What a call. He gives everything for us, and then expects us to do the same for everyone else. Man. That's a challenge. Just this morning, I had someone completely abuse the relationship I have with them. It's been going on for the last six years that I have known this person. It has happened again. I don't want to love them, I want to hit them. But, that isn't our call. And Christ ties these two ideas together.

If I am going to remain in Jesus, if I am going to be allowed to continue growing and thriving, if I am not going to be cut off and thrown away, then I have to love others. That's not always what I want to hear. But Jesus connects the two ideas right here. How do we obtain the love of God in our hearts? How do we get His joy? By loving Him. How do we love Him? By loving others. When we do this, for Him, then He will produce fruit in our lives. Things like peace, hope, joy, love, kindness, generosity, etc.

So, we love people. Not in our own strength, or even because we want to. We love them, because in doing so we love God. And we grow.