Desperate for relief, Paul repeatedly pleaded with God to heal him. God's response wasn't "I'd love to but your faith is just too weak." And, it wasn't "You forgot to spin around and click your heels together three times." There was no "If you... then I..." Instead, God's response was no. Our Heavenly Father looked at Paul, the man He called to carry His message to the gentiles, and refused to heal him.
"So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, 'My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.' So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That's why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:10
God's promise to Paul was the same as it is for us today. He doesn't promise to change our circumstances. In fact, He may be planning to use those circumstances for good in our lives or the lives of those around us. Instead, he promises that His grace is sufficient--that He will be with us in the middle of those circumstances. God is not our cosmic vending machine. He doesn't do what we tell him. It's actually supposed to be the other way around. But He does love us, and He is with us every step of the way. Even Jesus, His own son, pleaded with Him to change His circumstances on His way to the cross.
Thank you, God, for saying no.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Isn't it true that all of Christianity hinges not on the Bible itself but rather on one specific event in history? Without the resurrection, Christianity falls apart. Christianity is really very different from any other world religion. Every other world religion is wrapped around a set of teachings or a message that was given. When the teacher died, the message was free to live on. But, the message of Jesus was in fact Jesus. He had backed his own message into a corner so that it really couldn't survive without him. When he died, there was really nowhere for Christianity to go.
He said things like "I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the father but through me." "The father and I are one." "Upon this rock I will build my church." When he was killed, it was clear that he wasn't building anything.
So how did the early church actually get started after he died? Anyone who denies the resurrection would have to answer this question and the answer can't be "the same way all of the other religions did it". His message simply doesn't allow for that. Did twelve guys make up a story about the resurrection and people all over Judea who wanted Jesus dead and/or watched him die suddenly buy it and hop on the bandwagon? Possible, yes... but not really probable. Bringing the dead back to life would have sounded just as crazy back then as it does today, right?
Or... did people really see a dead man walking?
Why do Christians get in a tizzy about people outside the church who are misbehaving? Who cares? For those outside the church, only one thing matters: getting them to Jesus. If they will come to Him, He will work on their behavior as a natural outcome of being in a relationship with Him. If we actually succeed in getting them to stop whatever it is they shouldn't be doing, they are no closer to salvation than they were before. In fact, we've accomplished nothing from an eternal perspective. Trying to get the lost world to conform to God's standard of holiness is a backward implementation of what we were called to do.
Jesus is the light of the world. Christians try desperately to get those in this dark world to act as if they’ve found the light even though they haven’t. We want them to be able to navigate correctly but they can’t because they’re still in the dark. So our solution is to become the “seeing eye dog”. We try to lead them where we want them to go without bothering to turn the light on for them. Maybe it makes more sense to give them light so they can actually see where they're going.