Friday, February 20, 2015

Something to Think About...

Sometimes I wonder about John 14:13. It seems like a carte blanche - ask-whatever-you- want-in-Jesus'-name-and-He'll-give-it-to-you type of deal.
I've heard the qualifiers to this verse - you can't ask for bad things and link your request with the name of Jesus because bad things and Jesus are incompatible. And I get that. Truly.
But still, sometimes I look at that verse and others that are similar and wonder... Unfortunately, at times like that a phrase from one of Mark Twain's works invariably goes flitting (unbidden) through my mind: if prayer works then "Why can't Miss Watson fat up?" Odd, the politically incorrect quotes that stick to one's childhood mind like mud sticks to monster truck tires...
At any rate, I was thinking about John 14:13 the other night and I decided to read it in The Message. "From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I'm doing, I'll do it."
Along the lines of Who I AM...
And along the lines of what I am doing....
The first is easy. I can relate to it. For example, I can't imagine my 19 year-old niece going to her mother and asking permission to get drunk this weekend and spend the night in a hotel with her boyfriend. Her mother's character (if not her demeanor upon receiving such a request) would cause a question like that to die an unnatural death before it even saw the light of day. IN short, her mother would kill her if she even hinted at such a request and she knows it. It would go against everything her mom stands for.
But then there is the second part: along the lines of what I [Jesus] am doing...
God has an agenda.
Peter found that out. When Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was, Peter moved to the head of the class with his famous answer: you are the Son of the living God. (Matt. 16:15-18) He had the "Who I AM" part down pat.
But then he sank to the bottom of the class just a few short verses later. In Matthew 16:21-23 Jesus explained how He would have to suffer in Jerusalem and even be executed before rising again.
Apparently Peter heard the words "suffer" and "die" and he reacted logically... as in the way we would react.
Surely God wouldn't send the Messiah - the One they had been waiting for throughout thousands of years - only to have him die before he even reached the age of 50!!!! Why, he'd only had his ministry going for a paltry 3 years!!!
And surely God wouldn't let the bad guys kill His only son!!! That doesn't make any sense!!
And then, surely, Peter was not going to lose his beloved Master and teacher so soon! No way! I mean, he still had a lot to learn! Besides, Peter was no coward and the fact is that a disciple stands up for his master, watches out for him, and if necessary even wields a sword for him!! (John 18:10)
And we would almost certainly be right there with Peter, saying, "Yes! Absolutely! Lord, Peter's right! Don't you worry - you aren't going to suffer and then be killed like a common criminal, not on our watch!"
And today we'd probably get down on our knees and hastily back up our words with fervent prayer: Heavenly Father, help us to protect Your Son - we know You don't want Him to be cut down in the middle of His ministry by evil men so we're asking, God, don't let this happen!!!"
Only the problem was that God's plan - i.e., "what he was doing" according to The Message - was for Jesus to go to the cross and be killed by evil men. Which meant that it was actually the Devil who was cheering on Peter's natural (logical) reasoning process in this instance and not God.
Sometimes it is God's plan to miraculously open the jail cell and let His servants go free. (Acts. 16:25-29; Acts 12:8-15) Sometimes, however, it is in keeping with His plan to let His servants suffer and die. (Mark 6:22-28)
The key to asking and then receiving whatever we request in Jesus' name lies in knowing both the character of Jesus and also what He is doing in any given situation, ministry, and/or person's life.
Sometimes we can look at a situation and say clearly, "This is the work of the enemy and we need to ask God to block it!" Other times maybe we can look at a situation and say, "This looks like the work of the enemy but above all that, I can see good that God is working out in this situation so I'm going to ask for __________ to be strengthened, for God's will to be done, and for Romans 8:28 to be clearly manifested." At other times, we may need to really pray and ask God to open our eyes, because even if we have His person (character) right, we may still be fooled as to what His current agenda is and we could easily find ourselves fruitlessly praying and/or actually trying to work against Jesus' plan.
To put it bluntly, sometimes it is in keeping with His overall purpose for the bad guys to "win" and the "good" guys to lose... for a season.. while here on earth.
In fact, sometimes His redemptive purposes require it.
"From now on, whatever you request along the lines of who I am and what I'm doing, I'll do it." John 14:13, The Message.   (See also I John 5:14 NASB)

Something to think about during this season of Lent.

"Libya's 21 Christian Martyrs:  'With Their Blood They Are Unifying Egypt'"
Christianity Today  Feb. 18, 2015

Monday, February 2, 2015


This morning I was thinking about what it means to abide/dwell in Christ (John 15:4-5). While I was turning that over in my mind, Gracie was snuggled next to me in the chair, her head resting on my knee and her entire body covered by a small blanket. Buddie, our Rat Terrier/Pomeranian mix, was lying on the couch next to us and everything was peaceful.
Suddenly our dogs in the backyard started barking as they do about a hundred times a day. Heidi and Buster alert over anything and everything: a squirrel in the backyard (Heavens!!!!). The neighbor's dog who is about 20 pounds overweight and mostly blind and can only lumber down the road for a bit before getting worn out. (Wow! What a threat!) The meter man in his fluorescent vest. (Now THERE's a real danger!!!!) And then there's the garbage truck, kids on bikes, and David, Phil, or I pulling into the driveway. (Wow!!! It's THEM again! Who would have thought????? We haven't seen THEM for at least an hour or two... Maybe more!!!! And they came back!!!!!)
Buddie can't stand it when the big dogs begin to bark. He becomes frantic, jumping off the couch, adding his voice to the melee, running back and forth between me and the front door like, "Don't you know what's going on??? Don't you even care????" He just can't resist it no matter how many times it pans out to be... nothing... once again.... You'd think he'd wise up but he doesn't.
But little Gracie? She stays put. If the commotion becomes too bad, I may see the shape of her little head raise up under her blanket but that is as far as it goes. It doesn't take long before her little head is nestled on my knee again and she is as still and as warm as she can be.
And. oh. so. loved.
I actually delight to have her snuggle next to me and am amazed at how wise she is. When Buddie is beside himself over nothing, it's as if Gracie lifts her little head and weighs the pros and cons: do I want to go out into the freezing cold to run around in pointless circles for about 15 minutes, yapping my head off just because Buddie, Heidi, and Buster are doing it? Or do I want to stay here next to my master for as long as I can, warm, well-fed, protected, and loved?
And she usually opts to stay in spite of the pull to do otherwise.
And I think that is a picture of what it means to abide in Jesus and to allow Him and His word to abide in me - not alerting over flash-in-the-pan-stuff when we have the opportunity to spend time in His word and to snuggle down in His love.