Month: October 2015

All Authority

Lenten Blossoms

John 19:10b-11a

“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power
either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”

I have trust issues. If you know me well at all, you know this is an understatement. Here’s another: I have problems with authority. These two problems—let’s be honest, sins—have caused me no end of trouble ALL. MY. LIFE.

Imagine the emotional turmoil that comes when I am asked to TRUST AUTHORITY. At this moment, that looks like trusting some very godly (not perfect, not faultless, not infallible, but godly) church leadership. It has me in a heart place that I think some of you will relate to, even if your circumstances are a bit different from mine.

Ultimately, I’ve been faced with the question of God’s sovereignty. I’m asked to believe what God says through Jesus in John 19:11, when He assures Pilate, “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given you from above.” That authority is also espoused in Romans 13:1, where Paul instructs believers to “be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”

The Bible doesn’t say that those authorities and leaders will do everything correctly, or justly. He doesn’t even guarantee that their hearts will be in the right place, or that their intentions will be pure. In fact, Scripture seems to suggest that our earthly leaders WILL fall short; they WILL fail. Some will even inflict harm intentionally. I’m reminded of (among others) Jeremiah’s account of Nebuchadnezzar, wherein this evil foreign king was used of God to deliver judgment against Judah for idolatry, unfaithfulness, and disobedience. In fact, in Jeremiah 25:9, God even refers to this ruler as “my servant.”

My point is this: If God can and does work all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28)…If He has used (and continues to use) evil kings and rulers to accomplish His good, perfect, and pleasing will…If He knows everything and sees everything—from the beginning to the end of time…

Well then surely He can and will take our failures and the failures of those earthly authorities, and redeem them for the Kingdom good. So the bottom line is that we are called to submit to authority, but all the while TRUSTING a perfect, holy, righteous, good, just, and sovereign God. May we trust in HIS authority today and every day.

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Vision

“When God gives a vision, God makes provision.”
Mark Batterson, The Circle Maker

This is a great saying to hold to. But there are times when it raises more questions than it answers.

First of all, what constitutes a vision? How sure do I need to be before I call a glimmer an inkling, an inkling a tugging, or a tugging a vision? Do I need to be absolutely confident, or can I have moments of ambivalence or even doubt? When I think about this, I think about my own ideas and “plans.” For instance, many of you know that I have a spare kidney that is up for grabs. The timing isn’t right at the moment for me to just give it away indiscriminately, but I have zero reservations that I want to do it someday. In the meantime, I know that I want to pursue a research agenda that will hopefully lead many others into a greater willingness to be living organ donors. There are some other ideas about which I am (sorry, Goose—WE—are) still fervently praying for guidance. Most prominently, we believe we might be called to adoption. We definitely believe that it is a GREAT thing; we just aren’t positive that it’s right for us. We aren’t convinced that it’s NOT for us—we just plain aren’t sure. So is it a vision? I have no earthly idea.

Secondly, how do we know if a vision is from God? Maybe we feel and believe VERY strongly about one thing or another, but upon further revelation, realize the vision isn’t GOD’S, but OURS. Or maybe it’s a vision that someone else has for us, but one that doesn’t represent God’s very best for our lives. In my case, what if there is something or someone other than God fueling my desire to pursue adoption? What if God knows that He can use me more mightily and effectively in some capacity other than that of an adoptive parent? He does know best, after all, and He has an eternal perspective far beyond this finite space and time that I’m living in.

So is it wrong to want clarity and assurance, to ask for enough guidance to know that I am at least on the right track? Do I step out in faith, or on the basis of an educated guess, and see if the provision follows? Who knows? But what I do know is this:

“We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.”
(Proverbs 16:9—NLT)

Let this promise bring you as much comfort and peace today as it brings me. Determine our steps, Lord.

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Peter

Garner State Park 12

John 21:15-17

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” 

John 21 tells the story of the miraculous catch of fish. Let me set the scene. Jesus has died and been resurrected. He has appeared to Mary Magdalene, the disciples, and Thomas. Then Peter and the others decide to do a little night fishing, at which time they catch nothing. In the morning, they see a stranger on the shore who instructs them to cast their nets out one more time. They do as they’re told and come up with a net full. At this point, they realize that this stranger is the Lord. Peter immediately jumps into the water and swims the 100 yards to Jesus. The others follow in the boat and the friends enjoy a nice breakfast together.

After breakfast, Jesus takes Peter aside and asks him three times to reaffirm his love. When many read this passage, they presume that Jesus is making Peter profess his love three times to make amends for the three times he had earlier denied him. But what many don’t realize is that, in this passage, Peter is not answering in the affirmative. Not really. You see, Jesus uses the word agape throughout the exchange. But in each of Peter’s replies, he uses the word phileo. Both mean love, but they are not synonymous. The latter describes a brotherly love shared among friends, whereas the former refers to an unconditional, sacrificial kind of love. So, in essence, Peter’s response to Jesus is more like a, “No. I really want to love you like that, but I don’t. I can’t.”

Jesus goes on to tell Peter that he will in fact be crucified for his faith. I used to think that Peter’s love for the Lord must have grown during the ensuing years, and that he was somehow transformed into one with a sacrificial love for his Savior. And maybe that is the case—it does happen. But I’ve recently become convinced that Peter already had an agape kind of love for Jesus. After all, when he recognized Jesus on the beach, he couldn’t even wait another minute or two to see Him face to face. He threw off all dignity and hurled himself headlong into the sea and toward his Lord. I think he loved Jesus with every fiber of his being.

He was just scared to say it out loud. He had espoused this love before when he had pledged his loyalty to Jesus just prior to His crucifixion. And when he failed, he became riddled with self-doubt. For many people, to hear straight from Jesus that their destiny was to be martyred for their faith would be the most frightening revelation imaginable. But I believe that, for Peter, this prophecy brought an uncanny sense of comfort and relief. Jesus restored Peter’s confidence by basically saying, “Peter, I know that you’re doubting yourself, and the conviction of your faith. But trust me. As surely as I foretold that you would thrice deny me, I am telling you now that your love and commitment to me are true. You can boldly proclaim your love for me—as agape—because you WILL remain faithful. You have my word.”

Oh the weight that must have been lifted off of his shoulders in that moment—freed from the burden of his past and commissioned for his future service. What a sweet, sweet time that must have been for him. And may you and I also embrace that same forgiveness, allowing God to use us in His service, confident that He has made and is still making us new in Christ Jesus.  

The Heavens Declare

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May 25, 2014…

Psalm 19:1-3

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.

Last night—amid tornado watches, severe thunderstorm warnings, and flash flood alerts—we sat on the balcony of our vacation condo, watching as the lightning in the sky flashed ever closer to us. First, it quietly lit up the sky in the distance in all directions. But soon, the bolts seemed to be right next to us and the crashing thunder shook the sky and the ground alike. A number of times, we simply uttered the word, “Wow!” The beauty and majesty were breathtaking.

It reminded me of a storm I watched from the window of my Air Force barracks in Monterey one Thanksgiving weekend many years ago. Then, in my younger years, I could afford to pull an all-nighter, sitting on my mini-fridge, just gazing out over the bay through the windows that spanned an entire wall of that room.

Now, a decade and a half and two kids later, we were forced inside by the need to check on sleeping children. And I was forced to look away from the bedroom window and close my eyes for fear of losing too much precious sleep. Nonetheless, I drifted off with a smile on my face as I contemplated the awe and wonder and power that God graciously chooses to display through the declarations of the heavens—not just for His glory, but also for our enjoyment. Oh, how He longs to bless us at every turn and in every circumstance.