God

Shelter in THIS Place

I’m not gonna lie. I miss the days of endless chips and salsa brought to my table at a Mexican restaurant. I look forward to a future when the Happy Hour specials are back in force and I can sit across from (or even NEXT to!) a friend to enjoy them. But for the moment, we—like so many—have been ordered to SHELTER IN PLACE.

Huge caveat there, though, because this order (at least for us) doesn’t apply to “essential” products and services. And let’s be honest, the nature and extent of what we consider essential is an indictment against our society and our way of life. But that’s a topic for another day.

For today, I know there are many people who are a little anxious over being saddled with any restrictions on their personal freedoms. A word to the wise, though, from the wise, tells us that “the prudent see danger and take cover, but the simple keep going and suffer the consequences” (Proverbs 22:3). If that isn’t a poignant commentary on our time, I don’t know what is.

Consequences notwithstanding, the current conditions may have you sheltering in a tiny studio apartment, on a sprawling ranch, or somewhere in between. You may be quarantined with a large family or all alone, or again, somewhere in between. You may be lonely, overwhelmed, or stir-crazy. You may be working from home alongside three “coworkers” under the age of five. In any event, I want to share some encouragement with you today.

The Scriptures are jam-packed with verses reminding us that no matter our earthly living arrangements, GOD HIMSELF is our true shelter, our refuge, and our hope (see Psalm 34:8; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 59:16; Psalm 61:3; Psalm 62:8; Psalm 73:28a; Psalm 91:1; Proverbs 18:10; Nahum 1:7). To highlight just a few of these:

Psalm 46:1

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.”

Psalm 61:3

“For You have been my refuge, a tower of strength against the enemy.”

Psalm 73:28a

“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the LORD GOD my refuge.”

Psalm 91:1

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Proverbs 18:10

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe.

Nahum 1:7

“The LORD is good. A strong

hold in the day of trouble,
and He knows those who take refuge in Him.”

So then, let us affirm with Paul that “if we have food and covering, with these we shall be content.” Yes, wherever you find yourself—in body or in spirit—may you find shelter in THIS place.

 

 

Spirit of Sound Mind

Who am I to be weighing in on the global debate surrounding the Coronavirus?

  • True, I’m a doctor—but the philosophical kind.
  • I’m also a mother of two who takes pride in the value of “building up immunity” by allowing contact with the germs and dirt of this world.
  • And I’m a planner who has therefore thought of contingency plans for a range of crises, including those of pandemic proportions.
  • I’m a Christ-follower, and one who’s been chomping at the bit to get to heaven…like, my whole life…as in, I have to remind myself regularly that “to live is Christ” (Philippians 1:21)…as in, I believe so strongly that God has set eternity in the hearts of men (Ecclesiastes 3:11) that I felt it necessary to start a blog about it. I. LONG. FOR. HEAVEN. PERIOD. I also firmly believe that God is forever on His throne—and that includes now, today, and in the months from now. All that is to say, I have no cause or inclination toward fear or anxiety over the thought of death as a result of this virus.

So I suppose it could be argued that I have no business at all throwing my two cents in on the topic.

BUT….and this is a big but…

Between Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon of this past week, over the span of 24 hours, I experienced a drastic shift in perspective about the so-called “Christian” response to this virus.

It’s based on the ideas that we should be “wise as serpents and as innocent as doves,” (Matthew 10:16), that we should “look to the interests of others, and not only ourselves,” (Philippians 2:4), and that “God has given us a spirit of sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7), to name a few. But again, I’m NOT an epidemiologist. I’m NOT a virologist. I’m NOT a public health expert. So take what I have with a grain of salt…but hopefully with a grain of light, as well.

A couple of days ago, I’ll be honest with you, I didn’t quite get it. I felt like maybe we were all overreacting just a bit. I mean, I wasn’t out licking subway polls, but I thought, “Of course I’ll go to church,” and, “Gosh, I really want to see the ‘I Still Believe,’ movie coming out next week.” But a few things intervened that caused me to begin wrestling with those thoughts.

First of all, I saw the responses of my friends living literally all over the world—Italy, Poland, France, Australia…they were responses of proactive caution, not panic or hysteria, but also not complacency or (God forbid) arrogance. I also saw the responses of the epidemiologists—yes, plural epidemiologists—that I know personally, and read the accounts they shared about how responding earlier as opposed to later might well shorten the length of time that we need to take these more severe measures. Doing so might also keep health care facilities from becoming too overwhelmed to provide needed care for those who become very ill, and by extension may save lives. And finally, I saw the responses of my friends who were adopting the attitude that all of the closures and cancellations we’re now facing are somehow tantamount to “extra vacation.” Well, at that I felt like I was looking into a mirror at my own calloused heart—and I didn’t like what I saw. I was disgusted—not with them, but with myself—and praise God, I was repentant.

Of course, we Christians have freedom from fear—but does that mean we should flaunt it? Does it mean we should cavalierly take others’ lives and eternities’ into our own hands by hastening their suffering, or their deaths? “By no means!”, in the words of the Apostle Paul (Romans 6:2). If even one life or one soul can be saved by our actions, then isn’t that worth the inconvenience that comes from a little bit of social distancing and a few (okay, a lot of) changed plans?

You see, when my epidemiologist friends warn that school closures do not equal additional vacation, that this is not the time to visit the zoo, the museum, the park, the movie theater…not the time to have block parties or social gatherings of any size…I want to believe them. They are the experts, after all. Their math is far more reliable than mine will EVER be (says the qualitative researcher who only dabbles in statistics when it is ABSOLUTELY necessary). We MUST heed their warnings. We can’t wait to act until there’s “at least one confirmed case locally.” By then, it will be too late. Besides, if we stand with Moses in praying that God would “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90: 10-12), and recognize that their entirety is but a handbreadth (Psalm 39:5), then what’s a few weeks of “lost time”?

Please don’t get me wrong, I applaud the Christians of the early Church, who according to Dionysius,

“showed unbounded love and loyalty, never sparing themselves and thinking only of one another. Heedless of danger, they took charge of the sick, attending to their every need and
ministering to them in Christ….Many, in nursing and curing others,
transferred their death to themselves and died in their stead…”

And rest assured, if and when the local healthcare facilities call on laypersons to start doing field triage, I will be the first one to put myself in harm’s way for the sake of my neighbors. However, it seems that for the moment, the better part of wisdom and godliness is to help keep that demand under control in the first place, by practicing prudence (aka social distancing).

Certainly, as in Esther’s day, should we fail to act, “relief and deliverance…will arise from another place.” But who knows? Perhaps we have been brought to this place, to our positions, “for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

Lord, let not one death from this virus be on our hands—be it directly or indirectly. Guide us in your ways and give us YOUR wisdom. Amen.

 

The Perfect Match

God is good, all the time.
All the time, God is good.

You may have grown up hearing this in church. But now and then, we are given the opportunity to prove to ourselves and to others whether we truly believe it. Whether we believe that it is God who is ordering our steps, even when our own hearts have planned another course (Proverbs 16:9). Whether we believe that His thoughts and ways are truly higher than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9). Whether we believe that all of our days are ordained before one of them comes to be (Psalm 139:16). I can say today that my answer is yes.

Six months ago, I embarked on the process of becoming a living kidney donor, with a projected donation date of March 6 of this year. Yesterday, however, I learned that my transplant center has not yet found “a really great match.” This (combined with other logistical challenges) pushes my projected donation back to around Thanksgiving. I, not being one who is known for my patience, am not relishing the delay. But God…

You see, I recognize that God has ordained my March 6th…and my November 20th…not to mention every day before, between, and after. Who knows but that He has divine appointments scheduled for me throughout this season that I might miss if my timetable remained in place? I find it apropos that Lent begins today—as season wherein many choose to “give something up,” in solidarity with Christ for all He gave up for us through His death on the cross on our behalf. I’ve often said that God ordains seasons of Lent for me not based on a liturgical calendar, but based on His sovereignty. But this time, the two seem to line up perfectly. So I will give up these plans, and hopefully only for a season. And my prayer is that, on the day that God has ordained for my kidney donation, I will be able to say with Esther, “Who knows but that I have been brought here for just such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

I don’t know why God has decided that now is not the time for my donation. But I do know that God is not just the God of time, but the God of timing. And thanks to Beth Moore for that recent reminder. But in the waiting, would you join me in praying:

  • That God would identify not just a really great match for my kidney, but “the perfect match.”
  • That my recipient, their family and friends, and their transplant team would all be blessed in the process.
  • That my friends, family, community, church, and transplant team would be blessed in the process.
  • That I would notice and appreciate all of the opportunities God will surely give me to bless and minister to others in the meantime.
  • And that I would wait patiently on the Lord.

In Your Name and for Your Glory, Lord, let it be so.

Lenten Blossoms

Of Mist and Treasures

Have you ever heard the saying, “The days go by slowly, but the years go by fast”? I think some of the authors of Scripture had the same idea. David wrote in Psalm 144: 3-4, “Lord, what are human beings that you care for them, mere mortals that you think of them? They are like a breath; their days are like a fleeting shadow.” He echoed this in Psalm 62:9— “Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” And again in Psalm 39: 4-6, he pleaded,

“Show me, Lord, my life’s end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting my life is.
You have made my days a mere handbreadth;
the span of my years is as nothing before you.
Everyone is but a breath,
even those who seem secure.
Surely everyone goes around like a mere phantom;
in vain they rush about, heaping up wealth
without knowing whose it will finally be.”

And long before that, Moses—the man of God—prayed:

“Our days may come to seventy years,
or eighty, if our strength endures;
yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away….
Teach us to number our days,
that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
Psalm 90: 10-12

And if my life is but a vapor, let me do with it what Matthew advises in verses 19-21 of Chapter 6— “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” For my heart and my treasure to be in the right place, I believe my second kidney needs to be in its rightful place as well. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, recorded in Luke 12: 18-21:

“The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.
He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones,
and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself,
‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.
Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

Likewise, His brother James declared (4:13), “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.’ Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” 

I don’t want to hoard the life God has given me. I want to share it with as many people as I can in as many ways possible. And Lord willing, living kidney donation is one of those ways for me. And, while it may not be one of those ways for you, I feel quite strongly called and empowered to this act of compassion. So I have to try, because, again in the words of James (4: 17), “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.”

A breath…
A handbreadth…
A shadow…
A phantom…
A mist…
A vapor…

What will you do with yours?

 

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Love in Action

Romans 12:1-12 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy,
to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—
this is your true and proper worship…. Do not think of yourself more highly
than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment,
in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you….
In Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;
if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage,
then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere….
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves….
Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.”
 

There is a saying in the Mennonite church that asks, “If I have two coats, and my brother has none, and I do not give him one, am I not stealing from my brother?” This is a sobering challenge, and not just in terms of material goods. I first came across this saying as Mennonites I’ve met have “justified” their choice to donate a kidney, in particular. The fact of the matter is that, at any given moment, there are over 100,000 people awaiting life-saving kidney transplants. Deceased donor kidneys cannot meet this need. And so, there are some of us who feel called to donate—be it to someone we know, or to a stranger. I say “us” because, although I presently have two intact kidneys, I hope to donate one in March.

I’ve prayed over this decision for about eight years, I’ve sought wisdom and counsel literally from across the globe. While the vast majority support me wholeheartedly, a few remain who can’t understand why I would do this. As such, I’ve decided to answer that question, in a blog series I like to call, “The Gift of Life.” It will take a series of entries because I have SO. MANY. REASONS. They would never fit into a single entry. In fact, I struggled deciding where to start, before ultimately jumping in here—with faith in action. Certainly there are many more passages of Scripture, besides those presented here, which could attest to God’s desires regarding HOW we might love one another in action. Indeed, more will likely surface over these next couple of months. But just the two I’ll share today are chock full of guidance.

For instance, Romans 12:1 “urges” us to offer our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God? Why? As an act of true and proper worship in response to His great mercy—shown to us through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (Romans 5:8), and renewed unto us every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23). Verse 3 goes on to caution each of us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. And sometimes, I think it is this pride, this high opinion of ourselves, which prevents us from sacrificing on behalf of another. We arbitrarily assign value to not only our own lives, but to those of our family, our friends, our [fill in the blank]…. Are not all men (and women) created equal and endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? And yet many people will say, “Well, of course I would donate a kidney to my spouse, or my kids, or a close friend.” What does this say about our belief that all lives carry equal value?

Please don’t hear me say that if you do not choose the route of living kidney donation that you are somehow a bad person or a bad Christian. In fact, verses 5-8 suggest that we each have different gifts and callings on our lives. For some, that may be prophecy, for some faith, for some service, for some teaching, for some encouragement, for some generosity, for some leadership, for some mercy…. This list is surely not exhaustive, and we could likely add to it: …for some adoption, for some foster care, for some grief counseling, for some discernment, for some kidney donation, and on and on. Your gift may be something else, but the Scripture is clear that we should USE those gifts for the betterment of the body of Christ and the world around us, to “share with the Lord’s people who are in need” (v. 13). This is what it looks like to honor one another above ourselves (v. 10). And James echoes this sentiment in his letter…

James 2:14-17

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith
but has no deeds? Can such faith save them?
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food.
If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,”
but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So then, why kidney donation? Because it is an opportunity to live out the love of God in a world that needs Him—to put my love into action.

Until next time….

Expecting

I’ve been in church all my life, and have been a Christian for almost that long, but a few months ago, I began reading through the entire Bible for the very first time. One theme I’ve noticed so far is that the Bible is FULL of waiting.

  • Abraham waited 25 years for God to fulfill His promise of a son (Genesis 15-21).
  • Noah waited some 60-70 years for God to bring the promised flood (Genesis 6-7).
  • Joseph waited 22 years for his dreams to come true (Genesis 37-45).
  • Israel waited 430 years for God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:40).
  • Caleb waited 45 years to be given the land God had promised him as an inheritance for his faithfulness (Joshua 14:6-15).

….and so many more.

As we enter the season of Advent, we also find ourselves in a season of waiting, expecting, anticipating…but all with an air of uncertainty. What does God have in store for us? When? How will we know? I suspect many face these same questions this Advent season. I keep going back to a recent Scripture reading that says,

Not one of all the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed; every one was fulfilled.”
– Joshua 21:45

And again,

“Now I [Joshua] am about to go the way of all the earth. You know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed.
Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed.” – Joshua 23:14

What are those promises? Well, among others (and in no particular order):

  • “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” – Jeremiah 29:11
  • “He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
    – Philippians 1:6
  • “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
    – Philippians 4:19
  • “Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” – Psalm 37:4
  • “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
  • “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-8
  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
    in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
  • “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8:38-39

So I pray these promises over all of us, this month and on into the new year. May we each rest in the knowledge that our God is a God who KEEPS his promises. Every. Last. One.

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God Is Gracious

Exodus 34:6-7

“The LORD, the LORD God, is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in loving devotion and faithfulness, maintaining loving devotion to a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression,and sin. Yet He will by no means excuse the guilty; He will visit the iniquity of the fathers on their children and grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”

There once lived a man named Zane  —  which means “God is gracious.” But Zane must have been from about the third or fourth generation to be visited by the iniquity of the fathers. His list of offenses was great, such that he served prison time and ultimately disappeared from the public record.

Yet somewhere amidst his escapades, Zane fathered a child — a little girl — who he hadn’t the means to care for. Through the miracle of adoption, that little girl found a family, fell in love with Jesus, and met my dad. They got married and welcomed my sisters and me into the world. They introduced us all to Jesus, and now I have a son and daughter of my own who both know and love Jesus. I pray that we are just the beginning of a thousand generations to witness God’s forgiveness and loving devotion (Exodus 34:6-7). God IS gracious.

Fast forward 60-some years to today, when another baby — a boy — was born to a woman who was unable to care for him. Again, thanks to the miracle of adoption, he has been welcomed into a God-fearing, Jesus-loving family. Through loss and disappointment, they’ve waited and believed in God’s faithfulness. And He has delivered.

Most certainly, this little boy will be introduced to the Jesus who loves him and longs to save him. In an act of symbolic irony, his new parents have named him: Zane. God is gracious, indeed.

May we trust Him to prove gracious to us, no matter our circumstances. We can be assured that He is busy working all of these things together, for His glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

Let it be so, Lord!

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Privilege

Matthew 20: 9-12

“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’”

On this, the eve of my grandmother’s funeral, as many who knew her pray that she accepted God’s gift of salvation in her last days and moments here, it is not lost on me that there may be others who bear a certain resentment toward “deathbed conversions.” Like the workers hired first, we feel we have “borne the burden of the work…” Or, like the bitter other brother of the prodigal son, we might refuse to welcome him home because, ‘Look, all these years I have served you and never disobeyed a commandment of yours. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours returns from squandering your wealth with prostitutes, you kill the fattened calf for him!’” (Luke 15: 29-30). So we look to the thief on the cross with resentment and indignance, rather than with compassion and generosity.

Over the years, I’ve come to realize one reason for this. We are too busy seeing the sacrifices we’ve made for the Kingdom to recognize the many blessings that are ours in Christ. Think about it—the workers hired first thing in the morning and the responsible brother had one of the greatest privileges: security. They didn’t have to wonder if they would find work that day, or have food to eat, or a place to sleep. They were free from fear and uncertainty. Sure, they had to put in an honest day’s work, but even that is a privilege, is it not? Having faced unemployment and underemployment in my life, I can say that it is quite stressful, even if it’s just for a short time. And during that time, I worked as a day laborer, showing up at the temp agency as early as possible each morning, to try to beat the others to the line, so that I would have the best possible chance of being hired. I remember once when a one-day job turned into a week-long position, and I remember how relieved I was to know that I had work lined up for the rest of the week.

We have so many blessings as followers of Christ and as people who trust and rely on the One we know to be a good God. I couldn’t possibly list them all here, but as examples, consider the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7), grace that is sufficient for every challenge and trial we face (2 Corinthians 12:9), mercies that are new every morning (Lamentations 3:23)…and on and on. Indeed, as the prodigal’s father stated, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours” (Luke 15: 31). Following Him, and doing the work of the Kingdom, is not a burden, but a privilege. So when I think of the alternate reality in which I would have to fend for myself—rely on my own strength to save me, my own ability to provide for myself, and all the other burdens that accompany a life lived far from Him, I’m left with compassion and generosity for those who live that way. And the parable of the generous landowner tells us that God’s generosity knows no bounds—their blessing doesn’t diminish mine. Micah 7:18 tells us that God “delights to show mercy.” So let us go and do likewise (Luke 10:37).

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Tough Questions from Kids #1: Followers of Jesus

Matthew 4:18-20

“Jesus was walking by the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers. They were Simon (his other name was Peter) and Andrew, his brother. They were putting a net into the sea for they were fishermen.  Jesus said to them, ‘Follow Me. I will make you fish for men!’
At once they left their nets and followed Him.”

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One night recently, Tijge asked me, “How do you know if you’re a follower of Jesus?” Of course, after 3+ decades of being one, I know the answer. But I realized that I wasn’t quite sure how to answer it, as posed by a seven-year old. The reason is because, whatever our answer is, it places us somewhere along a precariously balanced continuum. On one end, we can find ourselves conveying a god who is consumed with judgment, to the exclusion of grace. “We know we are followers of Jesus if we obey His commands”—this seems simple, but perhaps too simple. Might it not leave a child (or anyone for that matter) always wondering, with each sin or failure, if they are really a follower of Jesus at all? On the other end of the spectrum, we might inadvertently portray a god whose grace altogether eclipses his sense of righteous judgment. “Say a prayer, accept Jesus as your savior, and that’s it!”—again, this may be too simple. Even Paul warned of the danger that can come when we manage to convince ourselves that we should sin all the more, so that God might have greater occasion to display His grace. In truth, the answer is somewhere between neither and both.

As I tried to think of how I might articulate this truth, I thought about how so many followers of God, and later Jesus, made a decision to follow—but then spent the rest of their lives learning how to do just that. A few examples from the Old Testament that come to mind are Gideon, David, and Jonah. In the Scriptures, we join the story of each at a place where they have pledged allegiance to the God of Israel. And yet, their lives are marked by ups and downs, failures and successes, sins and redemption.

The same can be said of many of our New Testament heroes, but one who holds a special place for me is Peter. Maybe that’s because he was headstrong and stubborn, as I tend to be—who knows? What I do know is this. Jesus called Peter to follow Him, and Peter immediately dropped what he was doing, and followed. But, if anyone was ever “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” (thank you, Winston Churchill), it was Peter. I mean, watch what he does throughout the New Testament.

  • He freaks out in the storm, walks on the water, doubts Jesus, starts to sink, cries out to Jesus for rescue…and then, much later (in Acts 12:6-7), he sleeps soundly in the face of impending death.
  • He’s too proud to let Jesus wash his feet, too tired to pray with Him in the Garden of Gethsemane—then cuts off a soldier’s ear, vows his allegiance, denies Christ three times, doubts his own ability to love Jesus sacrificially…then, much later (in 1 Peter 4:8), he tells fellow believers, “Above all, love each other deeply…” (aka, sacrificially!)
  • He starts out with brotherly (phileo) love for Jesus, and it gradually becomes an unconditional, sacrificial (agape) love. He starts out by accepting Christ as Savior, then accepting Him as Lord, and then becoming more and more like Him each day, ultimately giving his life for the sake of the Gospel.

It can all be summed up this way—Peter CHOSE to follow Jesus first, then learned HOW along the way. We will each do the same thing. We’ll walk on water, start to sink, call for help, grow in faith, walk on water for longer the next time…with the hope that eventually, we will sleep soundly in the face of death, knowing that an eternity with Jesus awaits us on the other side.

So how do you know if you’re a follower of Jesus? Well, it starts with a decision. But that decision ushers us into a lifelong journey of growing closer and closer to Jesus, ‘til He returns or calls us home.

Selah.

In THIS Day

John 11: 21-27

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give You whatever You ask Him.”

“Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. And everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she answered, “I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.”

Prayer is a funny thing—and it tends to confuse a lot of people. There’s this obvious dichotomy between praying for what we think we want, while knowing that God’s will is perfect, and that His vision is infinite. So I’ve found that I often pray like Martha—with a future focus. Now, sometimes I think Martha gets a bad rap, because of her OCD and all, and because of her tendency to try to boss Jesus around. But think about it. After Lazarus dies, Martha has no trouble at all believing that he will be resurrected with the saints at the last day. At this point, there’s no precedent for that. Jesus hasn’t even died yet, let alone risen from the dead—and yet she believes. She’s like Noah, believing for rain! But she doesn’t ask Jesus outright for what she really wants—her brother back. Somehow that’s too audacious to even want, much less ask for. But Jesus clearly wants her to ask, and He wants to give her what she desires most—in more ways than one.

I confess that I often find myself in her shoes—praying that God would redeem my circumstances in the end, that He would somehow reconcile my unfulfilled desires, and that He would ultimately use it all for His glory…someday. I guess that’s why my thought life often leads me to an imaginary distant future wherein He brings it all to pass. And because I know that His infinite wisdom and perfect will are so much greater than mine, I hesitate to tell Him what I really want now. But it’s in bearing my heart to Him that He gives me more of the Holy Spirit, which is after all Whom I truly desire.

It reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad a couple of years ago. I had already developed a deep desire to donate a kidney to someone in need, but I had recently begun to question whether I would be medically able to do it. I told my dad that, If I couldn’t do it, I would intensely grieve the lost opportunity. “Really?” He asked. “But you would know that it wasn’t God’s will.”

“I know,” I said. “And I believe that, I really do. But I would still be sad.” Telling him that let him know my heart, to draw closer to me, to counsel and comfort me. If I can share that honestly with my earthly and imperfect father, then why in the world shouldn’t I be able to honestly share my heart—however finite and imperfect it may be—with my perfect and all-powerful Heavenly Father?

Of course we can, and we should. Jesus Himself gives us this permission when He prays in the garden that the cup might somehow pass from Him. We can pray likewise if we pray with God’s promises in mind. One promise brings me particular comfort when I pray for what I think I want. It comes from Luke 11: 5-8.

Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose one of you goes to his friend at midnight and says,
‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine has come to me on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him.’

And the one inside answers, ‘Do not bother me. My door is already shut and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up to give you anything.’

I tell you, even though he will not get up to provide for him because of his friendship, yet because of the man’s persistence, he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

I don’t think I ever noticed before how this story ends—He will surely give you what you “need.” I think I’ve always thought of this passage as somehow saying that by my persistence, like that of a nagging child, I could wear down God’s resistance, causing Him to give me what I am asking for—even if He knows that it will bring with it a wasting disease (Psalm 106:13-15). But no—this passage promises that no matter what I pray for, no matter what I want, God will give me what I NEED.

Selah.

Thank you, God! Thank you that you can be trusted with every desire—trusted to do what is good, what is right. Thank you for the freedom to ask, not just for resurrection and redemption at the last day, but for resurrection, redemption, and abundance—in THIS day!

Amen.

P.S. Thanks to @jpokluda for the reminder, the challenge, and the permission to pray big!

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