Tuesday, November 5, 2013

...Are Answered Prayers (a continuation of my Sabbath Post)

 “I will not leave you as orphans; I am coming to you. Yet a little time and the world will see me no longer, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. The one who has my commandments and keeps them—that one is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.” John 14

How is your walk with the Lord?  Do you feel his presence?  Do you feel his pleasure?  Do you hear his voice?  Is his joy in you and your joy being made complete?

No?  Join the crowd.  But before we just shake our cynical heads and plod on, shouldn’t we ask, why?  Jesus said these things were ours.  “Child, you are always with me, and everything I have belongs to you.”  And what does the Father have?  Everything.  What do we as his ungrateful children usually want from him?  Things.  Things we think we’ll make us happy.  Money, fame, power, order, comfort, peace, control, beauty, freedom, health, love.  Things.  Things we want to spend on our pleasures, to celebrate with our friends.  But what is it the Father wants to give us?

“And I will establish my covenant between me and you, and between your offspring after you, throughout their generations as an everlasting covenant to be as God for you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land in which you are living as an alien, all the land of Canaan, as an everlasting property. And I will be to them as God.” Gen 17

“And I will consecrate the tent of assembly and the altar, and Aaron and his sons I will consecrate to serve as priests for me. And I will dwell in the midst of the Israelites, and I will be their God. And they will know that I am Yahweh, their God, who brought them out from the land of Egypt in order to dwell in their midst. I am Yahweh their God.” Ex 29

“And I will give to them a heart to know me, that I am Yahweh, and they will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with the whole of their heart.” Jer 24

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

“and they will not make themselves unclean again with all of their transgressions, and they will be for me a people, and I will be for them as God,” declares the Lord Yahweh.” Ezek 14

“Thus says Yahweh of hosts: ‘Look! I am going to save my people from the land of the east, and from the land of the west, and I will bring them and they will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They will be my people and I will be their God in faithfulness and in righteousness.’” Zech 8

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How many times I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her own brood under her wings, and you were not willing!” Luke 13 

God wants to give us… GOD!  Himself!  Think of orphan stories like Annie, My Fair Lady, Oliver Twist, Cinderella, the main characters are not the heroes.  They are victims, they are damsels in distress, they are the forgotten, the forsaken, the abandoned, the hopeless.  The heroes are Daddy Warbucks, Higgins, Mr. Brownlow and Mrs. Maylie, the Prince.  They could have given the victims of our stories a handout, even a large one, a gift to help them along and little Annie and Eliza and Ollie and Cindy would have been no better off, or at least not better off for long.  It was only in giving their Selves that changed the story for the orphans!  Could each of the orphans used money and things?  Of course.  Would it have changed their lives, maybe, but probably not for the better.  It was only by taking them out of their shame and victimhood and bringing them into a new family, a new home, giving them a new honor a new Name, the hero’s name, which changed everything! 

Brothers and sisters, we don’t need God’s things.  Not even the gifts of the Spirit we think we need when we’re all spiritually and stuff.  We need the Father!  This is the spirit of adoption Romans 8 speaks of.  This is why being given a new heart, a new name, being placed in a new family, a new home is such good news! 

So what does this have to do with the dead church I told you about the other day?  Glad you asked.  Do you know why the Bible’s favorite animal metaphor for God’s people is sheep?  Neither do I but if I had to guess, I’d say it’s because they’re afraid.  Weak, fearful and dumb.  Cows are dumb too but they are powerful.  You have to respect their strength.  You can yoke them for work.  Oxen are symbols of servanthood.  Sheep, not so much.  You don’t yoke a sheep.  There’s another difference between cows and sheep.  Cows you herd, you drive them before you.  You grab the lead cow and make him go the way you want and the rest follow him. 

Sheep follow.  They learn the voice of the shepherd and they trust him.  It comes back to their fearfulness.  The shepherd reassures them.  When he is near, they feel comfortable.  They follow; they keep him in sight.  If he gets up and moves, they get up and move with him. 

Jesus fulfilled the law, right?  We are free, right?  Fully justified by faith in him and his finished work, right?  So did you ever wonder why he then turns around and says things like, “go and sin no more,”?  Why he gives new commands?  Do we now have a new law? 

“Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” 1John 2 

Jesus has work to do.  “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”  Jesus has better pastures for us.  Jesus has better streams for us.  Jesus has other sheep he wants to gather.  Lost sheep he wants to find.  Jesus knows there are wolves about.  Jesus knows winter comes and we need to shelter in new places.  We fear the unknown.  We like the comfort we have, even when it’s uncomfortable.  Known is more comfortable than unknown.  We even think we’re smart enough to know better than he does.  We don’t see him.  We hide behind locked doors.  We busy ourselves in work we know.  Things we think we do well.  The old ways of pursuing life. 

But Jesus is the Good Shepherd.  He finds us there.  He feeds us there and then he asks, “Do you love me?”  If the answer is yes, then he says things like, “feed my sheep.”  “Go and sin no more.”  “True religion is too look after widows and orphans and keep yourself from all impurity.”  We, like Philip plead with him to show us the Father and he dissolves our church.  Why?

Because He’s answering our prayer!

To Philip, he said, ““Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” John 14 

Do you want more of the Father?  More of the Son?  More of the Spirit?  Is this your desire?  Good!  Then follow him!  He is not here in the darkened tomb of your old life, your old way of doing things, this empty pasture, this bitter stream.  He has moved to better pastures, he is finding his sheep, he is feeding his sheep.  Do likewise and you will see him there!  Go and sin no more is not a command, it’s and invitation to join him on mission, to Come and See the place where he dwells!  Be where he is!  Do what you see him doing!  You will “discover” he is there. 

My church called itself a church of the church-damaged.  It was full of hurting people coming to get healed.  Jesus met us there and we enjoyed his fellowship, he healed us there and we rejoiced, he told us, “now, go and tell.  Go do the things you see me doing.  Take up your mat and walk!” And we wept because we didn’t want to leave the safety of the fold, the comfort of the crib, the dark, warm fellowship as we knew it.  We may have been judged, just as Israel was sometimes judged and found to be wandering far from the God who loved them.  A wife far from her husband.  A child far from their Father.  If we turn the home God gave us into a brothel or a leper colony, we shouldn’t be surprised if he burns it down.  But this is not the fury of wrath.  Jesus took all that for us!  This is the jealous rage of a righteous husband who wants his wife back and will not allow her to be abused or abuse any longer.  If all the patients in the ward are well but refuse to leave the hospital, he has to take drastic steps.  He scattered us, yes, so we would follow him again!  Our season in that place ended, winter was over and he invited us out to see the Spring!  To once again, hear his laughter and see his face!  I have better gifts than these, come and see!

“Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15

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