Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Follow the Leader

I love the Scriptures.  I love when you come to a passage that you have read a thousand times and never "gotten it."  This happens a lot for me, I will humbly...and honestly...admit.  I love the moment when some clarification comes along and the passage opens up and a nugget of truth is revealed.  One of these passages for me was:

Joh 12:20-26  Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks.  (21)  So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus."  (22)  Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.  (23)  And Jesus answered them, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.  (24)  Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.  (25)  Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.  (26)  If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

This passage always had me scratching my head because it seems like horrible storytelling or Jesus just missed the opportunity in a big way.  What I mean is that thee Greeks come to Jerusalem to worship and they go to Philip, he sounds approachable.  they tell him they want to see Jesus.  Phillip takes their request to Andrew who takes it to the Lord.  Jesus answer then apparently shoots out some other direction like hew never heard the request that was made of him.  He starts talking about his own death and the fruit it will bear, he challenges his followers to do just that...follow him.  I can picture Andrew thinking "so...what should I tell Phillip to tell the Greeks?"  "Is that a yes or no?"

I know that the story is told just as it needs to be told and I know Jesus is not missing anything, so I was praying and asking God to show me how Jesus response is answering the question the Greeks brought to him.  Then, there it was.  Jesus came for the Jews.  Sure, he shared some crumbs that fell from the table to gentiles like these Greeks, but his ministry was to the Jew first.  The gospel has always been  God's promise for all the families of the earth and gives hope to all peoples and nations, but Jesus personal earthly ministry was primarily among the Jewish people.  

His answer then goes something like this.  "It is time for me to be glorified.  That is, to be seen and worshiped by everyone, just like these Greeks.  My glory will be seen amazingly in my suffering and death.  This is the most magnificent display of my glory.  But my death won't be alone, it will like a seed grow up and bear more fruit.  That fruit will also be willing to follow me in suffering and death. IT is those disciples who will be showing Jesus to the Greeks."  The Greeks will be killing Jesus "body" just like the Jews killed Jesus.  In both cases Jesus would be magnified.  

Are you a follower of Jesus Christ?  Really?  You realize that to follow Jesus is to chooses a road of suffering.  He did say "If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me."  You can't follow Jesus and seek a life of comfort and ease.  "You can't serve God and Mammon."  I think as modern Christians we hear words like that from Jesus and we wouldn't say it out loud but we think "oh yeah, watch me."  We think we can follow Jesus and serve our own desires.  

Here is the call, ringing from the keyboard of a convicted hypocrite...let us follow! Choose the road that requires self denial and crosses.  Let these things seem light and momentary as we 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Grapes of...Grace.

I'm afraid.  I'm also arrogant, so when I saw fear rising up in my six year old daughter (and not myself) I wanted to wage war against it, for her sake, in the word of God.  Let me explain my fear first.  Our church is about to break ground on a building project that is bigger than we can afford.  We have sought the Lord over six years and come to this place, but it almost unraveled at the last minute.  We were denied by our city Planning and Zoning Board.  We appealed to City Council because we felt we had met all the obligations.  The City found in our favor and has allowed us to proceed.  The following day I was confessing to several others that in a way I would have been relieved if the council had voted against us.  We would be back in the safe, comfortable, place of feeling in control.  I didn't recognize my fear.

I was distracted and alarmed instead by the fear my daughter had after my wife found and killed a black widow spider in our back yard.  Now our daughter thinks a spider is under every toy and under every sheet.  We have prayed and sought the Lord and talked about trusting him.  This is all the back story for the grapes, not of wrath but of grace.  I wanted to bless my daughter so I took her to Numbers 13 and we read how twelve spies went out from Israel to look over the promised land.  They found it to be a land flowing (just like the Lord had said) with milk and honey.  They found a cluster of grapes so large it took two men to carry it, and they named the place Eshcol (Bushel of Grapes).

As I continued reading to the response of the people I was already preparing to demonstrate for my daughter the necessity to trust in the Lord even if we are afraid.  The people had seen God's provision but were too afraid to lay hold of it.  But I was unable to get that far.  As I was reading, my two year old son came to me in his distress.  He had reached up onto the dining room table and had taken a grape from his sisters bowl and the grape was now lodged in his esophagus.  Back blows would not dislodge it, he was gasping, we called 911.  Five minutes passed in an eternity before the EMS and Ambulance arrived.  I held him on my lap trying to comfort and calm him as he gasped (successfully) for air in the back of that ambulance.  Then I heard those words from the man who had been instructing me through this process, "it's out."  I turned to see there on my shoulder the now dislodged grape resting there.  A block from the hospital I also saw the the provision of God in the form  of a grape.

My son is fine.  He had aspirated and had pneumonia but I am thankful the Dr.'s at the hospital identified this so we could be treating it.  Then my attention was focused on my own fear.  I was reminded that God is God.  I will not have the air to finish this sentence if God does not uphold me by the word of his power.  He exercises his authority over snow storms, and traffic lights, and black widow spiders, and banks, and grapes.  If you are walking with the Lord and in obedience to Him, "...be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."  He has caught me and my son and my church again and again and again.  I write this post largely because i never want to forget his immeasurable goodness to me.