They Walked With Him No More

“Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”  From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” John 6:60,66

Jesus had been doing some huge things in this chapter – healing diseases, walking on water, multiplying loaves and fish… and the crowds were pressing in. They couldn’t get enough. They were  asking, “What sign will You perform then, that we may see it and believe You? What work will You do?” (John 6:30). They saw miracles, had their fill of food and were ready for more.

But then Jesus started speaking some truth. He pointed out that there were spiritual things more important than physical – that He was the spiritual food and drink they needed, the very bread of life sent from heaven to save them. (v. 35-40). The Jews put much emphasis on the outside, physical form, so this was hard for them to take in. Feathers were ruffled.

Jesus knew there were those among the crowd who did not believe and would never believe. He spoke the truth perfectly. But still, “many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more.” (v. 66). Instead of running after them or becoming softer in His message, He turned to His remaining twelve and asked, “Do you also want to go away?” (v.66).

Ouch. Of course Jesus wasn’t trying to turn anyone away, but He most certainly wasn’t going to compromise any truth to make them stay.

We can present the gospel as beautifully and articulately as humanly possible, and people will still reject it. If Jesus Himself had people turn and walk away, we certainly should never be surprised by it. I imagine His face as they left, as He watched them go. He knew of course there was unbelief among them, but I think there still must have been great sadness in His eyes.

I imagine a crowd turning and leaving en masse when they became confused and offended. One person raises an objection, a fist in the air, and suddenly they all like sheep are “quarreling among themselves” (v 52) almost willfully misunderstanding His words. They too easily walk away from the man whom earlier they had been chasing down. It’s too hard, too unfamiliar for them. They go back to what they knew before.

Now think on the remaining twelve. He turns and asks “Well, what about you? Do you want to leave too?” He isn’t trying to polish His words or rephrase His message. He’s getting up and opening the door for anyone who may be ready to bolt.

Maybe the disciples were frozen. They had been given pieces of the puzzle, but it wasn’t complete yet. They didn’t fully understand what was to come. Jesus knew however, what was to come. If they couldn’t handle this situation, they certainly wouldn’t be able to stand by Him in the days to come.

But then something very encouraging happens. Simon Peter boldly chimes in and answers his Lord. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (v. 68)

Where would they go? Back to the legalism of the Jews? To the idolatry of serving other gods? To rejection of any religion?

Simon Peter chose to believe. Jesus had chosen him and now he was choosing Jesus right back.

When the crowds are turning their backs and walking away, Jesus turns to us and asks “And what about you?”

He leaves it entirely up to us. It’s both a beautiful and tragic thing.

“Let us be eager to leave what is familiar for what is true.” Francis Chan

Don’t Ask Me… Ask God

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Would you hit “send” on this one? I just couldn’t help myself.

I wanted to write more. I wanted to tell this lady that I understand this thirst and this searching, but running to a human to point you to another human is like taking a big trip around a cul-de-sac; it’s short and you just end up back where you started.

But this is where we are at. We bombard ourselves with what everyone else thinks before taking any consideration that God actually has better thoughts and truths than all of us put together. The amazing thing is that He wants to impart all of it to us. ‘m convinced our brains have been reprogrammed for quick results and human approval. We are losing that desire to sit quietly and listen to God’s voice through His Word. Not the ability… we all have that. The desire is lacking. We prefer someone else’s experiences over our own. We want someone else to define truth for us, to outline it in a way that makes sense. There’s nothing wrong with that of course, until it replaces our own genuine experience with God and His Word to us specifically.

We learn through experiences, but life can go sideways sometimes. We devour the latest books, but authors are just people like us. We get sidetracked by superficial and we begin to trust other things more than we trust His Word to us.

Want to find out what grace REALLY is? Open His Word. Grace is what God did for us, His unmerited love towards us. It’s all in there. If you keep seeking it out, you’ll see more and more of the big picture. You’ll see that faith is our response to His grace. You’ll see how it all fits together and how we are created to walk in ALL the truths of His Word as a whole, not just one virtue or concept at a time.

One person’s thoughts on grace may be good and interesting. How about we see what God Himself has to say about it as well?

I’ve had friends ask me “what does the Bible say about…” and I’m happy to offer my two cents. I’m happier to point them to the Word and let God reveal Himself to them. He is in there you guys. It may not seem like it, but give Him the time He deserves. It will be a challenge and it may not be as fun as the new book you just bought, but I promise you, it will be more. 

He is no respecter of persons.(Acts 10:34) He’ll show up. The very author of your faith will show up and show you what REAL grace tastes like. You can’t get it from a commentary or from someone else’s experiences.

The Bible isn’t obscure or too hard for us. (2 Peter 3:16) No degree needed. No extra knowledge necessary. Just an open heart and your attention.

Uncertainty is NOT the new truth. Being fuzzy on things isn’t the new humility. People are willing to kill for a lie and yet so few are willing to speak up for the truth.

Christians, please know the Word. Study it, stand up for it, and love it. It is all we have in the world that will not change. Let it be the first place we go with our questions – it’s a win/win situation. God will not fail to reveal Himself, not ever. It’s up to us whether we accept what He says.

Let the Word challenge you, let God paint a picture that is just for you. It will be better than anyone else’s you could ever seek out.

Time for some sifting and separating…

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“The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in our field? How then does it have tares?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’ But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, but at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.” Matthew 13:24-30

I had lunch the other day with a friend who is deeply involved in ministry with both children and adults. She is ‘out in the field’ you might say, every single day. She told me there’s a word that keeps coming to mind lately in her dealings with people both in and out of the church; Sifting.

Sifting… of tares from the wheat. Separating and isolating what is useful from what is not.

Like almost any other church or Christian school, we try to look like a uniform bunch of wheat from the outside, same shape, size and color. Take a closer look, though, and you’ll see that of course, it isn’t all wheat. As much as we try to make this field a bubble, it’s still just an open field.

Jesus says later in the parable that the field is the world (v. 38). In the world there is an enemy roaming about sowing tares among all this wheat. The unfortunate thing about these ‘tares’ is that they grow almost exactly like wheat in appearance. Even the workers of the field could not distinguish them from the good crop. The only way to deal with them was to wait until both had matured when there was a noticeable difference in appearance and then separate the two. Even then, the process was violent and time-consuming.

The words of the servant to his master resonate so much with me. “Um… sir? Did we not plant only good things here? What just happened that there are all these weeds popping up? This is unacceptable!”

Things sown in darkness will eventually come to light. The Master knows exactly what is going on. Just as the worker is ready to go ‘gather up’ the noxious weeds, the Master stops him. “No. Wait. You’ll do more harm than good if you pull them out now, for their roots are so intertwined, you’ll kill everything. Wait just a bit longer…” That poor guy. That probably wasn’t the answer he was looking for.

As we sat and talked more about this ‘sifting’ and what it meant, there was both an excitement and a dread about the whole thing. Excitement because nothing agitates me more than false ideas parading around as truth. It’s my thing, my hang-up, my niche, whatever you want to call it. I don’t even mind that there are weeds in the field of the world, but I cannot bear when they parade around as the real deal. Christians in name only who are joined at the hip with the world, feeding off of the latest pop-culture Christianity instead of God’s Word… I just cannot. Dread, because this sifting is going to involve people who, up until the end, had the appearance of wheat. The only place to go once bundled and tied up is into the fire. That’s a huge deal.

“Let them grow together… BUT…”

Things can’t and won’t “co-exist” like this forever. As I write this, there are ten of those cultural Christians telling their followers that it’s ALL GOOD. Love all, serve all, do whatever and accept whatever because that’s what Jesus did. I’ve read some whopper posts in the past couple of days. One told Christians to stop complaining about what the government is doing and start feeding the poor, because… Jesus or something. Someone announced today that she isn’t even sure if prayer works, but that we should all be praying just in case. These are the weeds people. They look right from a distance, but a closer look reveals they are from an entirely different seed.

“BUT… gather the wheat into my barn.

The separation will be made. The sifting will happen. Only God can do this, only He can untangle the roots and shake us free from everything that has tried to be a snare to us. This is good news for those of us who are like that field worker. We can rest. He knows just when and how to do it.

At the end of our lunch, we threw out the question to ourselves and to God… how do we do this? How do I remain “wheat” in a field of weeds? Why are certain untruths/injustices SO VERY AGITATING to me right now? What is our role in all of this?

I don’t have all those answers yet, but I’m grateful that we serve a God who will show me when I ask. He wants to reveal truth to us and equip us to use it. In the end, we get gathered into His big barn anyways, lets bring as much wheat as we can with us.

Call Up The Fire

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“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  (2 Timothy 1:6-7)

“Do not neglect the gift that is in you… meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them… continue in them…” (1 Timothy 4:14,15).

Stir up the gift that is in you… Do not neglect the gift that is in you…

Paul is writing to his “beloved son” Timothy who was trusted with ministering to the church in Ephesus. He encouraged Timothy to see to it that people weren’t deviating from the truth or getting involved in silly and useless arguments. He is reminding his young disciple that growth in the church and in the hearts of the people doesn’t just happen – they must be attentive and careful not to neglect what God has entrusted them with.

When Paul says “stir it up”, he is using a word that means “rekindle or fan the flame”.

A fire goes out when it’s deprived of oxygen. When it’s attended to however, the little embers can become something great. We all have some embers burning unseen under a pile of logs. They are the very dreams and thoughts of God Himself toward us. Amazing things that He placed in us as gifts and callings, the very best version of ourselves waiting to be awakened.

Sometimes though, it’s easier to just let the embers be. Calling up the fire can be frightening, especially when we don’t know what will happen.

We’d like to speak up for truth, but we don’t want to be made fun of. We have some exciting ideas, but they may not work out at all. Being “in the world” and not “of the world” is a fine line sometimes, what if we make a huge mistake?

Paul understood this. After he told Timothy to stir up his gifts, he reminded him of something very important: “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”  There is no shame in stirring up and attending to the gifts and dreams God has placed in your heart. How many amazing things never happen because we are simply too scared to blow on the fire a bit? We’re so afraid of starting a wildfire that we let our flame burn out completely. One of the greatest tricks of the enemy is to get us comfortable with the status quo. He doesn’t want us poking the logs. He wants our embers to burn out, and he is pretty good at placing fear and complacency in our hearts to make sure that happens.

God created each of us to fit our own unique mold. Our dreams, gifts and goals are different from anyone else’s. We waste a lot of time fretting about what everyone else is doing and trying to fit into someone else’s mold. What if we focused on what God has already placed inside us and gave those embers a little breath? Tip off a log or two and stir things up. Allow God to show you what your fire looks like.

The world is burning. It’s a destructive, awful kind of heat that promises to consume everything in it’s path if it isn’t fought. It will do us no good to sit back and hope it passes. It isn’t the most popular thing to say, but we are in a battle friends. It isn’t a new thing, God’s Word talks about it all the time and commands us to participate. We need to fight fire with fire. The good news? The fight is a good one, a worthwhile one. It requires maturity and conviction and a deep, abiding connection to Jesus. Whatever your gift, stir it up and do not neglect it. Be so genuinely who God created you to be that there is no room for anything else. Meditate on the gifts that are in you already. Find them, dig them up, and give them oxygen. This is how we are meant to operate! When we step out and embrace these things, fear of failure or the unknown has no place. We are able to do everything with power, love and in a sound mind.

That’s a pretty big deal. God’s power, His love, and a mind free from fear clears the path for our little embers to become something powerful!

Go poke an ember. Blow on it. See what God has in store.