It’s Not Without Risk

The last post contained three VERY key messages from our Father, straight to our hearts.  They are so important (and I am so slow and forgetful) that I just want to recap: 1) There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; 2) your flesh patterns (another word for coping mechanisms) are not who you are; and 3) your flesh (and mine) was never designed to work in the first place.

Now that I’ve covered lots of things that definitely aren’t found in abundant living (TRYING HARDER, fear, and self-sufficiency), it’s time to look at some things that are (I heard the collective sigh of relief from your side of the screen :)).  The first one I want to talk about is honesty.  I know it seems obvious, but is it really?

This week in our Bible study group we got to an interesting place in Jeremiah chapter 26.  In that chapter God tells Jeremiah to stand in the court of the Lord’s house, the temple in Jerusalem, and speak to ALL those who come to worship ALL the words He commands.  And then just for emphasis God says, “Do not omit a word!”  And yes, the NASB includes the exclamation point (verse 2).

Here is what God has Jeremiah say:

Jeremiah 26:4-6 (NASB) “And you will say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord, “If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you,  to listen to the words of My servants the prophets, whom I have been sending to you again and again, but you have not listened; then I will make this house like Shiloh, and this city I will make a curse to all the nations of the earth.”’”

And here is the response of all who heard the words from God:

Jeremiah 26:8 (NASB) “When Jeremiah finished speaking all that the Lord had commanded him to speak to all the people, the priests and the prophets and all the people seized him, saying, “You must die!”

Let’s just camp here for a minute.  Jeremiah faithfully gave the word of the Lord and the immediate response of the people was a call to kill him.   Can you imagine the look on Jeremiah’s face as they turned to grab him?  I am sure he was confident of what the Lord called him to say, but don’t you think that at that moment he must have quaked in his sandals just a little bit?

If this were a game of chess then in a natural sense we’d have to question Jeremiah’s next move.  He restated God’s first message to them (vv. 12-13) and then added:

Jeremiah 26:14-15 (NASB) “But as for me, behold, I am in your hands; do with me as is good and right in your sight.  Only know for certain that if you put me to death, you will bring innocent blood on yourselves, and on this city and on its inhabitants; for truly the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”

In a very difficult, stressful, life and death situation, Jeremiah fully placed his trust in the Lord (he said he was in their hands, but we know who he really trusted in, right?) and he spoke the truth.  He didn’t back down.  He didn’t soften the message.  He didn’t run.  He didn’t even burst into tears.  Even when his life was on the line he spoke the truth.

I can’t say that I’ve ever found myself in a life and death situation that depended on what I did or did not say, but I have been in plenty of VERY UNCOMFORTABLE situations where I was so worried about what was going to happen next (e.g. someone yell at me, someone get angry with me, someone not like me, etc.), that I either didn’t say what I was thinking at all or I didn’t say exactly what I was thinking in order to soften the message.

Let me bottom line it for you, I was not being truthful.  I was trying to protect myself and trying to control outcomes so that everything and everyone remained civil and polite.  But there was a war raging inside of me.

Not being honest about how you feel or what you really think (even if it is super ugly), is not abundant living.  It’s painful living.  When we do things to protect ourselves and control outcomes instead of trusting God, we are erecting walls around our hearts that keep Father God and those we love out.  Eventually there’s a price to be paid for it too – a cold heart.

Since I said we were going to start discussing what abundant living and reigning in life DO look like, let me turn my example around to say, honesty and transparency are hallmarks of abundant living and reigning in life.  But there’s risk involved, it can be dangerous to wear a tiara (or a crown in Jeremiah’s case).  It gives people the opportunity to do you harm, just like the people who wanted to kill Jeremiah.  But my trust isn’t in them, it’s in the Lord.  Every time I choose to be honest and transparent it demonstrates that trust and draws me closer to Him.  It opens my heart for intimacy with Him and others.

Could Someone Help Me Straighten My Tiara?

I laughed to myself after my last post because I started thinking about how this series really could have been positioned as letters of apology to my family.  I didn’t live Trying Hard and Fearful somewhere alone in a cave.  I did it right up front and center in my own home.

I really would like to say thank you to my poor husband who is my polar opposite, but has loved me and endured all my attempts to figure this walk out for over 26 years.  When I talked about ‘mothering’ fearfully, I did use that word specifically because parenting is a two-person process (really five if you are wise enough to include the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).  When our girls were little my husband was definitely a ‘let-them-touch-the-hot-stove-so-they-never-do-it-again’ kind of guy, while I was a ‘let’s-cordon-off-the-entire-kitchen-so-they-never-even-know-there-is-a-stove’ kind of girl.  It never occurred to me that God had put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden in the first place AND had actually pointed it out to Adam and Eve.  I am a slow learner.

Somehow God knew that if He paired us together our kids just might make it.  And they have more than made it.  They are all three beautiful miracles who love God and all have their unique expression of Him.  It is a testimony to God’s goodness and not to any formula I managed to concoct and adhere to.

So back to ways not to reign in life…I always think of tiaras when I think of reigning (Princess Diana and Princess Grace rocked the tiaras!).

My mom likes to say that I was born 40 years old.  She was referring to the fact that I seemed so mature and responsible for my age, almost adult-like.

Well, on the outside it made me a ‘good’ child, but on the inside it was a crushing weight.  Somewhere along the way I believed a lie that I was responsible for EVERYTHING.  How I got there is complicated, but let me just say that all the approval I got for being mature, responsible and good, launched me on a life of independence and self-sufficiency.

I learned very early on that if I didn’t do it, no one else would.  Sadly, I even believed this about God.  I lived thinking (not necessarily consciously) He wasn’t very good at His job so if anything good was going to happen in my life I would have to make it happen.  There are a 1000 ways this played out like killing myself to get straight A’s in school, working full-time in high school, going to the right college, and above all else NEVER asking for help.

It’s a very lonely existence being Superwoman.  No one ever asks if you need anything because you’ve trained them not to.  And when you do raise your hand (think of a drowning person weakly lifting their hand above the surface of the water), often there is no response because you have so distanced yourself from others.  True community and relationships are forged in a mutual dependency on one another and God.  I knew absolutely nothing about that.

There’s a reason the Bible tells us to ‘bear one another’s burdens.’  We can’t walk this journey alone.  We either won’t get very far or we will be crushed under the weight of it.

The funny thing is I did have relationships, but they were based on need.  Other people needing me.  I forged fast friendships based on some way I could help others.  But when it came to my needs I felt as if there were something wrong with either having them or sharing them.

Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 (NASB)“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

I thought that verse was just in there for the weak people.  I had no idea Jesus was talking to me and that in fact He had become my Sabbath rest.  I could actually cease striving for my own success because it was really all wrapped up in Him.

I didn’t get it until my good flesh stopped working for me.  I hit the wall.  Actually I hit the wall a bunch of times (maybe that explains my wonky eye???), but when I finally hit it and then could no longer pick myself back up it made me ask, “Why?”  Asking why and honestly being open to the answer was the beginning of a paradigm shift.

Bottom line:  Self-sufficiency is definitely another tiara-tilter and abundance-drainer!

And Then There Is Fear

Since this turned into something of a series on abundant life and reigning in life (see The Day After and Abundant Life?), it probably would have been helpful to title them consistently and add numbers.  I guess hindsight really is 20/20.  Thank you for your patience, I am learning as I go and really enjoying the process.

The process, I use that term loosely, but what I mean by that is sitting down and talking to the Lord about the things He is doing and has done in my life and asking Him to help me articulate them…as much for me as for anyone else.  So if it ever seems as if I am thinking out loud on the computer screen, I probably am.

My thoughts turned to abundant life and reigning in life as I reflected on the importance not only on the celebration of Resurrection Sunday, but celebration of the Resurrected life.  The truth is, as believers the cross represents the crucifixion of our old self (our human spirit that was dead to God), our burial, and our resurrection (us made alive together with Christ).  Shouldn’t our lives be different?  If ‘Christ in us, the hope of glory’ is true, well…that’s a total game changer, if we let it be.

Thinking about this it seemed the obvious place to start was with what abundant life is not, since that really is the part I am most familiar with :).  I think I made a good case in my last post for the idea that TRYING HARDER IS NOT ABUNDANT LIVING (is it true that when you use all caps it’s like raising your voice to your reader?  Please let me know because I want to scream that from the mountain tops)!  My life is an honest example of the truth in that statement.

Another honest example from my own life is that FEAR is not reigning in life.  The fact that I had so many of these to choose from (fear examples) made this post hard to write.  Fear based living could become a series within a series…or a book.  The easiest one to see is in how I mothered my girls.

Every decision I agonized over was based on the fear that if I made the wrong one their lives would be forever off-track, the perfect track, God’s track.  School was a big one for me.  I knew early on that homeschooling was not for us, but I didn’t feel public school was ‘safe’, so at great financial cost I insisted my kids go to Christian school for several years.  That way they would be in the right environment, with the right friends, learning the right Christian things to keep their lives on the right track.

It finally became financially obvious that we could no longer continue in Christian school, so we enrolled them in public school.  You know what?  In the beginning I felt very defeated by this, like I had failed and because of that the enemy had really gotten a victory.  However, it turned out to be the best thing we could have done for them (one more instance of lacking perspective).  Has it been perfect? No, but honestly the things we’ve faced in public school were not really any different from Christian school.  People are people wherever you go.

I am not advocating thoughtless, careless parenting, but at some point don’t you just have to trust that God is bigger than your mistakes?  I can’t protect them from every possible danger that can potentially come their way, but I can place my trust in the One who can.

While mothering has been a very pronounced example of how I’ve lived in fear, the truth is I’ve lived afraid of a lot of things.  Afraid that if I didn’t pray and read my Bible every day that I wouldn’t have God’s favor.  Afraid that if I made a mistake God wouldn’t love me, bless me, use me (fill in the blank).  Afraid that as a Christian I wasn’t representing God very well if my life wasn’t perfect (talk about carrying a huge weight – it’s a miracle I can even stand up straight any more).  Afraid that if I wasn’t doing enough for the Lord He might get angry.

What was I afraid would happen?  The absolute worst, whatever that was.

The apostle John had this to say about fear:

1 John 4:18 (NASB) – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.”

John was exactly right.  I had met Perfect Love, but I didn’t really trust Him to be Lord.  I walked around waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting the punishment I was sure I deserved for all the mistakes I was sure I was making.

But you know how the Lord handles our mistakes?  He confronts them with His love, not His wrath.  Two of the biggest mistake makers in the New Testament, Paul and Peter, prove this.  Paul was actually murdering followers of Christ and was on his way to kill even more when he met Jesus on the road to Damascus and you know what Jesus said to him?

Acts 9:4-6 (NASB) – “… and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am
Jesus whom you are persecuting, but get up and enter the
city, and it will be told you what you must do.”

Paul wasn’t even a believer at that point, but Jesus simply confronted him with a question.  A question that immediately revealed to Paul (then Saul) what was in his own heart and who Jesus was.  And then He told Paul what to do.

Then there is Peter.  The disciple who swore his willingness to die for Jesus (John 13) and then turned around and denied even knowing Him that same night (John 18).  Talk about a mistake!  How did Jesus handle it?

John 21:15-17 (NASB)“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

Jesus dealt with his mistake by asking him questions that caused Peter to think and then He gave him instructions.  Just like He did with Paul.  Their mistakes were confronted by Perfect Love, not punishment.

So, all that to say, living in fear is NOT reigning in life, but apparently living loved IS.

The Simple Truth

I have been thinking a lot lately about God’s Big Plan for my life.  I even wrote some of my thoughts in Surrendering ‘The Plan’.  The more I think about it the more convinced I am that ‘The Plan’ has less to do with outcomes and accomplishments FOR Him and more to do with being in intimate relationship WITH Him.  Simply knowing Him, believing Him, abiding in Him.

So I woke up this morning with this verse on my heart:

Genesis 5:24 (NASB) “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him.”

Enoch lived 365 years (which was a short life by pre-Flood standards) and this is how the Bible records his life.  A simple sentence about the life of a man whom God took Home.  The only other Biblical reference to Enoch is in the book of Jude (Jesus’ own earthly brother) verses 14 – 15:

Jude 1:14-15 (NASB) “14 It was also about these men that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, 15 to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.'”

How did Enoch know what to say?  Enoch walked with God, he communicated with Him, he spent time with Him, and from that relationship he spoke for God.

The book of Micah describes ‘The Plan’ this way:

Micah 6:8 (NASB)  “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

There are some ‘to do’s’ in this verse that God requires, but they seem pretty simple and straightforward – do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.  Three bullet points on ‘The Plan’.  Seems simple, I can really get onboard with those.

When the crowd followed Jesus after the feeding of the five thousand and asked Him what they were to do in order that they may ‘work the works of God’ (see John 6), Jesus replies:

John 6:29b (NASB) “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Wow!  That sounds really simple too.  It also sounds a lot like Abraham in Genesis:

Genesis 15:6 (NASB) “Then he (Abram) believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.”

Abraham was made right with God by simply believing Him. Amazing!

Then there is Jesus again, with Mary and Martha:

Luke 10:38-42 (NASB) “38 Now as they were traveling along, He entered a village; and a woman named Martha welcomed Him into her home. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who was seated at the Lord’s feet, listening to His word. 40 But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone? Then tell her to help me.’ 41 But the Lord answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; 42 but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.'”

According to Jesus, only one thing is necessary, spending time with Him, enjoying fellowship with Him, being with Him.

My point is simply this, I have exhausted myself with all of my ‘doings’ for God.  It seems to me, I am the one who has made serving God so difficult and so complicated.

‘The Plan’ God has for me (and dare I say all of us), from a Biblical perspective, appears to be a lot more simple and a lot less exhausting than I have made it out to be.  According to Jesus only one thing (not 500 things) is necessary and out of that the eternal fruit Jesus describes in John 15 will come.  The fruit of simply abiding in Him.

If it’s enough for God, why isn’t it enough for me?

Father, thank You for the simple truth that You desire relationship with me and out of that relationship You will accomplish Your purposes in my life.  Thank You for the freedom to let go of trying to figure it all out.  Thank You for rest.

When We Don’t Want to Hear

And then there are times we just DO. NOT. WANT. TO. HEAR…

Last night I was sitting in my warm car, once again thanking God that my sweet husband picked a vehicle for me with heated seats, watching my youngest daughter’s soccer practice.  It was the first practice of the season and all the kids were really excited.  Unfortunately, March in North Carolina can be very tricky weather-wise.  It had been beautiful and near eighty degrees over the weekend, but on Monday evening it was raining and about thirty-nine degrees.

I was secretly hoping that practice would be cancelled, but it wasn’t.  About thirty minutes into practice though I thought I heard thunder.  So I looked up at the field where about one hundred kids and adults were running around in the rain doing soccer drills, but no one else reacted to the sound.

I assumed I misheard since I have a history of not hearing things correctly (for a good laugh click here…apparently there is no such thing as Beached Whale Deficiency!).  I waited a few minutes and it happened again, but still no response from the field.  I started thinking about being a kid in the swimming pool during the summer and when we heard the first pop of thunder we all pretended NOT to hear so we wouldn’t have to get out of the pool.  I think a lot of kids and adults were having fun and just didn’t want to come off the field.

Then it got a lot louder and I knew that unfortunately I was going to have to be THAT parent who went out on the field and insisted practice stop.  The heated seats were really working against my desire to be a good parent.  Apparently a warm behind slows down your brain function.  Just as I was winning the battle over my warmth and had actually opened the car door, a tremendous flash of lightning lit up the sky like it was noon.  It was followed by a roar of thunder that shook the ground.  At that moment adults started yelling and kids started screaming and running towards the parking lot and I was saved from exiting my cocoon of warmth.

I was thinking about my post on mutilating an unripe avocado and how sometimes we just aren’t ready to hear the truth.  But honestly, there are also times we don’t want to hear it so we choose to ignore it.  That storm sent gentle rumblings warning those folks to get off the field, but there came a moment when it was not going to be ignored anymore and it announced itself loud and clear.  To ignore it any further would have been very dangerous.

There are times when we may not be ripe to understand something God is trying to say, but we can always choose to listen when He is speaking.  We can always ask Him for revelation.  Unlike us, He doesn’t turn a deaf ear when we, His  children, truly desire to talk to Him.  He wants us to know Him, He wants a deeper level of communication and relationship with us based on our dependency on Him.

The longer we choose to ignore the voice of the Lord, the harder it becomes to hear it.

Father, I can’t make myself ripe to receive truth, only You can do that.  But I humbly ask that You give me ears to hear You when You speak. 

Giving Up the Pit

Literally every day on this journey of unraveling grace, God reveals something to me He’s been trying to say for a long time.  The question I hear myself ask Him over and over again is, “Why didn’t I get this before?”  I mean really, I know some things take time, but 44 years (Yes, I should go read my own post about John the Beloved’s transformation…what can I say? I am slow!)?

So the other day I was cutting up an avocado.  A friend introduced me to them a year or so ago and I love them.  I love dicing them up in the skin, scooping them out, adding a little onion and salt and devouring them.  As I chose mine the other day, I made sure that it was the color I associate with ripeness and that when I squeezed it my finger and thumb sank into the skin a little bit without it feeling mushy.  From the outside it appeared good, ripe, ready to eat.

I took my knife and sliced all the way around the outside in a circle to make two halves.  I noticed it felt a little hard, but at that point I was undeterred.  Then I began to pull the two halves apart, but nothing happened.  I pulled harder and harder, still nothing.  The skin actually started coming off around the outside of the fruit (I did in fact verify it is a fruit since I usually don’t know these kinds of things), but the two halves were not separating.  They were clinging together like their lives depended on it.

Finally, I had to work my knife to pry them apart.  What I could see then was that the two halves that seemed so resistant to separation were not really clinging to each other, but the pit.  An avocado will practically give up the pit when it is fully ripe.  The pit will come out fairly easy and fairly clean, with little of the flesh stuck to it.

My not-yet-ripe avocado was a complete mess.  I practically had to use a hammer and chisel to get the pit out of the middle of that thing.  Almost half of the flesh of the avocado stuck to the pit when I finally got it out and by then I was thinking, I am kind of scared to eat this.  Anything that puts up this much of a fight has to be dangerous!

Well that message is true for me as well.  All these years that God has been whispering the love and truth of His grace to my spirit, my flesh has been clinging to my own “pit”.  I wasn’t ripe to receive the message.  He was speaking, loving, pursuing and I was unwilling to open myself up and allow my pit and my flesh to be exposed.  I was clinging to them as if my life depended on it!

In His time, however, when I was ripe, releasing that pit and exposing my true self has just seemed to happen.  There’s been no forcing, no chiseling, no hacking away.  It’s simply been a work of God and the natural response, because of who I am – a redeemed child of God – is to hand over that pit.

Some Things Are Just Hard

The book of Jeremiah has been a difficult study.  In fact, in five years I really can’t remember feeling this way about a study.  It seems like I am trudging through mud with a fifty pound pack on my back.  There is so much about it that is hard:  Jeremiah’s life is hard, the message is heavy, the message doesn’t change much over a very long period of time, and some of the specific things God says are just plain HARD.

What do you do with God telling Jeremiah not to pray for the people because He won’t listen?  What about the idea that people who obey God and speak His truth are sometimes beaten and put in prison?  What about when God says He will utterly destroy His own people?

God even tells His faithful servant that he is not to marry or have children because of what is coming on the land.  At that point it seems to me Jeremiah was totally without earthly comfort – no one to come home to at night, no one to have dinner with, no one to share his heart with, no children to enjoy, no promise of future descendants.  Jeremiah was left with absolutely nothing, but God.

Yesterday in class when we asked what has spoken personally to people the most during our study of Jeremiah everyone shared something different, but I heard echoing in their thoughts, “This is hard.”  But HARD doesn’t mean it hasn’t been good.  In all the difficulty I also heard God gently speaking to and encouraging every one right where they are, including me.

This theme of ‘Some Things Are Just Hard’ actually started the night before in our advanced discipleship class.  We had a very lively, three-hour discussion about suffering in the life of a believer in Jesus Christ.  Some very difficult Scriptures came up during that discussion as well.  For instance, God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in Exodus (repeated throughout chapters 7 – 14); God sending an evil spirit to torment King Saul (see 1 Samuel 16:14); and the story of Job and God’s role in it (particularly the first two chapters), just to name a few.

What I really appreciate about both of these discussions about ‘hard things’ is how God’s grace has changed how I handle them.  As a Bible study teacher I have always carried a burden and deep sense of responsibility to make sure no one leaves a class or a discussion confused or struggling or worse with some incorrect perception of God, or me for that matter.  It is finally dawning on me that I am not responsible for other people’s theology.  I don’t need to manage God’s reputation and as long as I am being obedient to Him, I don’t need to worry about mine.

It is so freeing to allow God’s Spirit to speak to people and not stress over what others think.  I love the freedom of saying, “I don’t know the answer to that.”  Or even if I disagree with them not feeling like I need to explain my position.  The Holy Spirit is our Instructor.

So what do I do with the ‘hard things’ in Scripture?  Take them to God.  I may not understand what I am reading, but I know God’s character and I trust Him to reveal it to me in His time.  Now I am learning to let Him reveal it to you too.

Thank You Father for the freedom of Your Grace!

The Transformation of a Son of Thunder

A few weeks ago I shared about a great listening activity a friend of mine led us in on our girls’ weekend getaway at Riverbend this year.  Just to recap here’s how that activity went down:  we listened to the entire book of First John from beginning to end without our Bibles in front of us, without paper to take notes on, without stopping and re-winding, without talking.  We just listened.  It only took about 15 or 20 minutes.  Then we listened to First John 3, but this time we had paper to jot down anything that seemed to jump out at us.  Then we listened to First John 3 one more time.  Once we had listened we discussed what spoke to our hearts.

First, Second and Third John were all written by John, brother of James, son of Zebedee, disciple of Jesus Christ.  He also authored the Gospel of John and the book of Revelation.  I am probably telling you things that you already know about him, but there’s a point, it’s not just about the facts.  All of these tremendous books of Scripture, God’s Word to us, were written fairly late in John’s life and fairly late in relationship to the other books of the New Testament.  Scholars believe that all five of these books were written between 85 AD and 95 AD.

Let’s do some quick math, if Jesus was crucified around 30 AD that means fifty-five to sixty-five years passed before John wrote a word.  So what was this first-hand witness to the life, crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ the Son of God doing all that time?

Mark 3:17 introduces us to John this way when Jesus first called him to be a disciple: “…and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder”);”

It is believed that John was the youngest of the disciples and possibly an adolescent at the time of his call.  Therefore, he may well have been under the age of twenty when Jesus died.  During Jesus’ time on earth Scripture records John, and his brother James, at one point wanting to call down fire from heaven on some folks who wouldn’t receive Jesus (Luke 9:51-56).  It also records how John, and his brother James, requested to be seated on the right and left of Jesus in heaven (bold move, don’t you think?) (Mark 10:35-37).  Sounds like Jesus had good reason to call them Sons of Thunder.

Back to our listening exercise on First John, the one thing that all of us in the group zeroed in on was how frequently the word “love” is used in that book.  In fact, the word “love” is a consistent theme in all three of John’s epistles, as well as his gospel.  While the word “love” is not as frequent in the book of Revelation, it IS the revelation of Jesus Christ, Love Himself.

So how did John go from being a Son of Thunder to a messenger of Love?  How did he move from desiring to penalize people for their lack of understanding and exalting himself with Jesus, to a man who wanted nothing more than for all to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you (all) may have life in His name” (John 20:31)?  And how did he become a man who refers to himself in the third person (not the first person, as in the principle character) as the disciple whom Jesus loved?

While Scripture doesn’t record the details of those fifty-five to sixty-five years of silence (or anonymity?) they really make me wonder.  I think Scripture says a lot by the facts it includes, but I think it also says a lot by what it clearly leaves out.  And it certainly leaves out a large portion of John’s life.  The only two things we know for certain are that he cared for Jesus’ mother Mary and he was active in the early church of Jerusalem after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  Beyond those two things we don’t really know what John was doing during that time, but we do know what God was doing.

He was lovingly transforming a Son of Thunder into a humble servant of Jesus Christ, into a man not only able to care for the condition of the flock, but a man entrusted with arguably the most powerful vision and message in all Scripture.  He was given the privilege of communicating The End of the story to those of us in the middle of the journey.

I’ve been asking myself, am I willing to live in obscurity for the purposes of God?  Am I willing to allow Him full access to every area of my life to do the transforming work that only He can do?  Just as importantly, am I willing to wait as long as it takes and let God do the work in me in His time?  (Let’s face it, we live in a culture that wants everything immediately…waiting fifty-five years for anything seems incredible if not impossible!)

Going back to the idea of Surrendering ‘The Plan’ from Monday’s post, am I willing to operate on a need-to-know basis and live moment by moment with Him?  Seeking only to know Him, allowing Him to bring me to the place only He can see?  As John stood at the foot of the cross I doubt he saw himself penning the book of Revelation or caring enough about young believers to write letters of love and warning to them.  Only a life of dependence on God, whether its years or decades, could produce such lasting fruit.