I don’t know about you but I have a love/hate relationship with the Bible.
Before you get all upset, let me explain. I love the Bible. It is God’s revelation of Himself to us, His story of redemption, His very Word to us. I read and study the Bible incessantly. I do this because it is the very Word of God. How else can I hear His voice? How else can I come to know Him except by His Word? Granted, He has revealed some things about Himself in nature, in humanity, in the world. But the primary means by which we may know God is the Bible. I love it.
I also “hate” it. I don’t mean hate as in hate hate. I mean hate as in it makes me very uncomfortable at times. God confronts me in my sin by His Word. He calls me to confession of sin and uses His Word to point out the darkness of my heart. The writer of Hebrews puts it this way,
“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12, NASB)
Here’s my point in all this.
I was reading this morning during my time with God…You know what, let me back up a second. I have spoken ad nauseum about all that has gone on in my family’s life over the past few years; there has been heartbreak and heartache, painful situations, tears and mourning and uncertainty. I recently, in a conversation with my dad, was talking about following the call of Jesus into ministry. Eight years ago I walked away from my law enforcement career to follow the call of the Master. My dad and I were talking the other day and I said this,
“Yeah, what a stupid decision that turned out to be. It’s caused us nothing but pain.”
Now, on its face, this is a ridiculous statement. There have been many times of joy, not the least of which is my wife and I marrying and having two beautiful children, meeting many people along the way, telling them about Jesus and many other things.
But we’re in the middle of a painful season and all we can see sometimes is the pain and discomfort. And then, this morning, I read this.
“As they were traveling on the road someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus told him, “Foxes have dens, and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Then he said to another, “Follow me.” “Lord,” he said, “first let me go bury my father.” But he told him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and spread the news of the kingdom of God.” Another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to those at my house.” But Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”” (Luke 9:57-61, CSB)
I was struck to silence and conviction and tears by the Word this morning. Not because Jesus is harsh and was mean to me but because His Word speaks directly to my heart and reveals my sin. Did you notice how many times Jesus, in this text, told someone to follow Him and they say ‘yes but…’
Yes but is not obedience. Yes but is not submission to our Master and Lord. Yes but is so us though, isn’t it? Jesus, I’ll do what you want me to do but….
Don’t ask me to actually witness to who You are and what You have done to anyone.
Don’t ask me to quit my job (that one hit me hard).
Don’t ask me to go there and do that.
Don’t ask me to move to somewhere where I know no one or away from my family.
In fact, Jesus, don’t ask me to do anything that is uncomfortable to me.
If our yes to Jesus is in any way a yes but, then it is not obedience. I’m struck by the obedience of Jesus to the will of the Father.
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8, NASB)
But God is gentle and kind with us. He gives us chance after chance to repent. Maybe this is you today; it certainly is me.
Don’t hold back from Jesus. Don’t give Jesus your ‘yes but.’ Don’t look back from the plow before you. I don’t know why Jesus calls you or me to do what we are doing or what we will do. But I know that we must do what our Master bids us to if we love Him. The truth is that if we give Jesus a yes but, what we’re really saying is, “You’re not worth it, Jesus.”
Faithfulness matters more than our comfort.
What is God calling you to do? What is He calling me to do? What is it in your life and my life that we say ‘yes but’ to? Jesus said if we love Him, we will obey His commands. Hey, it’s hard for me also.
Don’t look back.
Don’t be afraid.
Pray for me. I’ll pray for you; that in all our lives the great worth of following Jesus would be shown to the world in joy and sacrifice and love!
Soli Deo Gloria!
If you’re anything like me, you are prone to despair. If you’re anything like me, the sky seems to be falling at any given moment and it seems like the world is against you most of the time. If you’re anything like me, you get discouraged easily.
I really think that the large part of this is that we forget.
We forget what lies in the past and what is ahead. We forget it because the now seems so pressing and painful and well, so NOW…up in your face.
It’s easy to be overwhelmed when life just presses its proverbial thumb on you and grinds you into the dust.
I realized this morning that the reason I keep doing that, the reason I continually respond that way is because I forget. Allow me to explain…
As I’ve talked about ad nauseam recently, there have been some hard times for me and my family. I won’t belabor those points; you are welcome to go back and read former blog posts. But it happened again this week. I got turned down for three jobs, among other things that happened this week.
The hits just keep on coming. It’s like ground and pound.
The world, our flesh and Satan just absolutely pound us. And it’s not getting better and it’s not going to get better until Jesus returns.
This morning I got up and I was tired. I was physically tired because I hadn’t slept much. Stress and working at night and worry and stuff like that will do that. So I was tired. And I needed to hear from God. I needed to spend time with Him, to know things were going to be okay, that we were going to be okay, that I wasn’t going to lose my mind or my faith.
So I stumbled out of bed tired. I made some coffee and was just bleary. You know that feeling where you know you’re awake but everything feels fuzzy and weird like you’re actually dreaming? That was me. And man, I needed that coffee.
I poured my first cup of coffee and walked back to my office so that I could spend time in the Word and prayer. And my youngest daughter was standing in the hall to greet me. It wasn’t even daylight and she was already up. I was like…well, I won’t tell you what I said under my breath ‘cause it wasn’t repeatable.
Anyways, I changed her diaper and got her some milk and she sat down on the couch. I turned some cartoons on for her and thought, “Great, my morning is shot.” But then…and I can only think it was the Holy Spirit…I felt prompted to pray and read anyway. So I sat in the living room. Now, I practice daily Bible reading and prayer according to the Daily Office of the Anglican Church. I read whatever is in the lectionary reading for that day for my Scripture reading. So I prayed the opening prayer of confession along with the Pascha Nostrum (you’ll have to look it up). I opened to the prayer book to see what the lectionary reading was. The first reading was Psalm 103.
Remember, I had asked God to meet me in my need this morning. I needed a “word” from the LORD. Here is what I read. I’ll just put in the first five verses.
“Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all our iniquities,
Who heals all our diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” (NASB, emphasis mine)
Oh, how I needed to hear this today! Remember…there’s that word again. Remember that I have no control over the lectionary. I had no idea what I was going to be reading, only that I needed a touch of Abba’s hand. I needed encouragement.
Read that text again. Actually, read the entire psalm. But look at the first fiver verses again. Maybe you need to hear this today also. Maybe you’re going through something and you need a word.
You have forgotten.
Remember, my friend.
Forget none of His benefits.
And what are those benefits? Well, the Psalmist happily lists them for us.
1. He pardons our iniquities.
2. He heals all our diseases.
3. He redeems our life from the pit.
4. He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion.
5. He satisfies our years with good things.
I mean, what else do you need?!
If you’re like me, you can look at this and think, yeah but things are rough right now..how is that satisfying my years with good things? That’s a fair question. I think the answer is one of perspective. I’ll explain.
I had a friend who used to say that some people were “so heavenly minded, they were no earthly good.” While I understand what was meant by this, I think perspective means the precise opposite of this. If we keep in mind, if we remember, if we have the proper perspective, it is precisely because we are so heavenly minded that we are any earthly good.
Don’t be like me. Don’t forget.
Remember what God has done for us in Christ.
Remember what He is doing in us by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember what He will do for us in eternity.
Soli Deo Gloria!