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Lent Day 12: If/ Then

Remember the “if, then” clauses from elementary school. If you do x, then y will happen. I remember studying this in grammar class. I recall drawing lines from a list of “if” sentences to correspond with the “then” conclusion. Jesus must have picked up on this rule in his schooling. He tends to give the disciples and Pharisees a lot of “if, then” examples. Toward the end of John 5 Jesus is having quite a conversation with the Pharisees about their allegiance. His crescendo is v.40: “How can you believe when you seek glory from one another and do not seek glory from God?”

This is a great statement by Jesus, but I have a problem with it. Everything in me wants to be praised and recognized by others. I want to do something great and have people pat me on the back telling me how wonderful I am. I want the spotlight, I want my name in lights, I want people to desire to be like me. I guess that is why Jesus’ words in John 5 are so troubling to me. What Jesus tells us here is that seeking glory from others is the opposite of belief. If we truly believe the Gospel then we realize that we are loved no matter what. There is no need to seek glory because we have the ultimate love and approval from the only voice that truly matters.

Jesus’ hope for us is that we will choose belief over glory. He is familiar with the decision and he knows it is a hard one to make. When Satan came to him and told him to jump from the temple, he was asking Jesus to choose glory over belief. Satan was trying to convince Jesus that glory was the goal. Jesus knew it was an empty promise, I often forget.

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Lent Day 11: Why Are You So Afraid?

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) Those are two of my favorite questions that Jesus asks in the Gospels. Simple, to the point, not easily misinterpreted. Jesus first statement in verse 35, “Let’s go across to the other side”, sheds a little light on why he asks these two questions. Jesus flat out told his friends that they were going to the other side of the lake, yet a little later a big storm shows up! So big that the water from the waves is splashing into the boat and the fellas are freaking out. They grab the buckets and frantically attempt to get water out of the boat. They’re yelling commands that most of us wouldn’t understand, “Starboard, it’s hitting the panel, watch the hull” – Sea talk.   Meanwhile their friend Jesus is asleep in the front of the boat. Now this seems rather odd to me since they are in the middle of a huge storm, but these are the facts. So we’ve got the panic guys dishing out water with buckets, and I don’t know about you, but if it’s me that’s on the working end of the bucket, about every third bucket is going on the guy asleep. Who does he think he is!!! So one of the guys throws down his bucket, wakes up Jesus, grabs him by the robe and says, “There’s a storm out there, we’re drowning, don’t you care!”

I love this next part of the story. Jesus gets up, rubs the sleepy out of his eyes, looks his friend in the face, looks at the other guys, walks to the middle of the boat, holds out his hand and says, “Quiet, be still! And it does! The wind quits blowing, the waves cease and immediately it’s completely calm. Can’t you just picture it?   His friends are soaking wet, holding buckets, in absolute awe.

Although Jesus told these guys that they were going to the other side, when chaos hit they didn’t believe.   Moments after he told them, essentially, that he was going to take care of them, they were yelling, “DON’T YOU CARE!” In the midst of the storm and the fear they forgot Jesus first words to them, “Let’s go to the other side”, he had already promised that he will take them there.   He doesn’t promise that there will be no storms, he promises that they will make it through. But their panic and fear had short-circuited their brains. It blinded them to what they had witnessed in the very recent past. It kept them from remembering the miracles this very Lord who was in the boat with them had already performed. In their fear, they saw only the pain that could quickly follow.

Fear makes us react irrationally at times, it shuts down our brain and it blinds us to the possibilities in the boat, situation, crisis, whatever we have in front of us. How often in our storms and trials do we forget His promise to us? We get caught up in the craziness and stay there. We live in the moment of the storm, and yet He has promised that He will rescue us and take us to the other side.

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Lent Day 5: Read the Gospels

(If you are wondering why we are 6 days into Lent but its only Day 5 it is because Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent.)

After my car ride with my buddy Stu that revealed my lack of practical belief that God could do much of anything, I received a clear directive from the Lord: Read the 4 Gospels slowly and stop each time the themes of faith, belief and unbelief came up.   Keep a journal and write about each of these stopping points.   Seemed easy enough. On the morning I began this trek through the Gospels I read Psalms 37. “Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (v.3) With this commitment to read through the Gospels I realized a voyage was beginning, a journey to cultivate faithfulness.

The way I began to “cultivate faithfulness” was to read Chapter 1 of each book (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) on different days and stop to journal each time I ran across the words “faith”, “belief”, or “unbelief”. After that I went to Chapter 2 of each book and so on. There was no time goal…it was private time with The Father. Each day, when He lead me to a story or statement about belief/unbelief, I’d stop and note what I was hearing and feeling. Often it would take two or three days to get through a single chapter. This did not bode well with my internal wiring. My nature is more about results than relaxation. Somehow though, there was no hurry to complete the task, and learning about faith became more important than checking a chapter off the list.

As you think about your own areas of unbelief consider internal tapes that may be playing in your head.  What do you tell yourself over and over throughout the day, most likely in your subconscious, that is simply not true.  I am too _____, I will never _____, the Lord won’t ever heal ________.  If you are having a hard time identifying an area of unbelief in your life ask a friend or spouse.  Chances are they can see it.