What about John?

Category : choice, faith

One of my favorite stories in the Bible happens at the end of John.  Jesus has been resurrected.  The disciples know he’s truly God.  And they are all ecstatic.  When Jesus meets Peter and John (and a few other disciples) while they are fishing, Peter is so excited he jumps out of the boat and runs / swims to get to Jesus.

This is typical Peter – who does pretty much everything with action followed by thought.

Fortunately that’s not something God discourages.  In fact, it’s part of what makes Peter so much like you and me.  We often act and then only later say, “oh yeah, that third slice of cake probably wasn’t a good idea.”

When Peter finally gets to shore, Jesus asks him three times, “do you love me more than all the others.”  Peter says “yes” three times.  This is Jesus’ way of saying to Peter that he has been restored for denying Jesus three times.

Peter’s reward?

Jesus tells him that he’ll be executed as a martyr.  Now that’s probably not exactly what Peter wanted to hear.  Because as soon as Jesus says this, the Bible tells us that Peter looks around, and says, “what about John?”

Jesus’ response is simple, “who are you to question this?”

That’s a response that resonates with all of us.  Although probably painfully.  Frankly I don’t want to suffer.  And I don’t want to suffer alone.  And if I have to suffer alone I sure as heck want to know why!  But with God, we don’t really get all the answers to questions like that.  Our role, the role of the faithful, isn’t to question before we act, it’s to listen and then act.

God doesn’t mind our questions.  He often answers them (only a short time earlier Jesus let Thomas feel his wounds so that he would believe.)  But there are many times when God never fills us in on the details.  He never told Job why he had to suffer.  He never fully explains to Adam and Eve why eating of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was a bad idea.

Sometimes God wants us to be impulsive.  He wants us to jump out of the boat and walk on water (or swim through water).  But mostly he wants us to trust him enough to not ask, “what about John?”

healing a broken heart

1

Category : God, Romans, different, faith, hope, shame, trust

……….

My girlfriend has the most annoying cat known to man.  This is the type of cat who the minute you sit down jumps into your lap.  He’s the type of cat who can’t go five minutes without craving attention.  He’s the type of cat you almost always step on, because he’d rather be under foot (literally) than in another room.  I have never seen a cat who wants more human interaction.

We often joke that he’s “broken.”

But the sad reality is, he is broken.  He is what is sometimes called a “rescue cat.”  That’s a cat who was mistreated and been removed from a home.  In Ben’s case, he was abused as a kitten.  Mistreated in cruel ways.  And because of that he’s developed an unhealthy need for attention.

So what does Ben have to do with living out a life of faith?  Simple.  That cat is a reflection of many of us.

Many of us walk around broken.  We carry the wounds of abuse, sexual assault, cruelty and vindictiveness.  We are weighed down by those horrible acts.  And in response we turn to unhealthy fixations.  We may crave attention.  Crave validation.  Crave sex, drugs, or alcohol.  Anything to make the pain stop.  Even for a moment.

Yet we have something that Ben, the cat, can never experience.  We have a redeeming God who is actively trying to rework our lives to bring in new meaning.  We no longer have to be confined by our pain.  We can be set free.

Sometimes people will say, “all things work for good for those who believe.“  And they take that to mean that everything, no matter how horrible is God’s will.

It isn’t.

God doesn’t want you to suffer any more than he wants that Ben (the cat) to suffer.

What that phrase really means is that God can take your suffering and change the meaning.  Your pain can be used for something other than bondage.  It can be used as a platform for healing and growth.  I once heard Wess Stafford, President and CEO of Compassion International, speak.  He shared his experience of torture and abuse at the hands of people his parents trusted to take care of him.  How do you overcome that horror?

The truth is, on your own you can’t.  On your own you end up like Ben.  Broken.  But with God’s help, Wess’ story is one of redemption.  One of hope.  It’s about God being bigger than the most terrifying things in the world.  It’s about God redeeming a moment, and using it to touch millions of kids around the world.

That’s what that verse means.  That’s what it means when all things work for good.

We don’t have to remain broken.  We can ask God to redeem us, to change the meaning of our pain.  And you know what?  He will.

God and the Konami cheat code

Category : God, failure, faith, fear, hope, humor, sin

  

Sometimes it’s easy to get down on ourselves.  We blame ourselves for our sins, for our failures.  We start thinking that God can’t use us because we’re not perfect.  God offers us an infinite number of “do overs.”  But we need to be willing to go to him and accept that. 

When I think of that I’m reminded of this shirt:

 

Konami cheat code t-shirt

 Image courtasy ShirtADay

(For those of you who didn’t grow up playing video games this is known as the Konami cheat code, which gave you 30 lives in various video games.)

redemption: finding the way home

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Category : God, bible, sin, taking action

         

Like Darth Vader, the King of Tyre turned his gifts into his curse.  His looks, his wisdom and his wealth all turned against him.  All because he began to misuse them.  But he’s not the only one to do that, is he?  You’ve done it.  I know I’ve done it.  We all use our talents and gifts to abuse our power.  To manipulate people.  And to make ourselves feel better when we should be helping others.

Scientists have a term for this, it’s called “human nature.”

But God always calls us to something greater.  That’s what makes our sins so tragic – the very gifts God has given us to change the world, we use to destroy ourselves and other people.  When I screw up, and I realize it, I find it hard to turn back to God.  I know I should, but he feels so distant, and unreachable.  I tell myself, “I don’t deserve to talk to God right now.  I haven’t earned my way back.”  I feel like I need to make amends, to set things “right” before I can start talking with God again.

But that’s not what God wants.  He doesn’t want us to be punished, he wants us to be saved.

“As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” (Ezekiel 33:11)

That doesn’t sound like a God who wants us to suffer.  It sounds like a God who loves us a great deal and is heart broken when we fight against him.  It sounds like a God who just wants us to turn from our mistakes and embrace him.

I am constantly amazed at God’s patience.  No matter how many times we openly, and aggressively reject him, God is always willing to forgive us.  “If I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right….None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him.” (Ezekiel 33: 14-16)

It’s hard in our culture to accept things we don’t earn.  We want to earn things so we can prove our worth.  We want to show that we deserve to be here.  But neither our salvation nor our worth is something we earn.  They are both things that God gives to us.  Freely.  Simply because he loves us. 

All the King of Tyre had to do was tell God he was sorry, and turn away from his pride and arrogance.  But he couldn’t do that.  He had lost control of his greatest strengths and they had become his greatest liabilities.   He began to worship himself instead of God.  And that’s not how we’re designed to operate.  No matter how many times he was warned, he didn’t want to hear it.  

At least Darth Vader recognized his mistake, and repented.  And just like God often does, his weaknesses once again became his strengths, and he was able to save not only his son, but the galaxy.   

God wants to forgive us, we just have to be willing to ask.