The Hard Evidence of Love

November 28, 2017

Love is one of those words that is kind of abstract. You ask 100 people about what love is and you will likely get 70-80 different answers. I think that love, in its purest sense, is the determination to do what is best for the one loved.

But love is an idea, more than just a feeling, that has to take action. It has to make the choices that best serve the one loved.

In John 14, after Jesus introduces us to the wondrous promise that He will send the Holy Spirit, he makes some interesting comments.

You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here. (John 14.28-31)

When Jesus told the disciples that he was leaving for a while, it brought a significant fear to their hearts. Like a kid who is being told that his parents are leaving for a while, their immediate concern is for what is to become of them without Jesus there to lead, guide, and teach them. But he went on to promise His return in the person of the Holy Spirit.

He comes back to their reaction by trying to show them His own example. He said, “If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father.”(28) Why would they rejoice over that news? Because it’s what they knew, if they were at all thinking about His heart instead of their own, would bring Him joy—to be back in the presence of the Father.

Jesus is revealing what is going to come about so that their faith will be bolstered when it comes to pass.(29) He is aware that His time with them is coming to an end and there was not much opportunity left to give instruction. “The ruler of this world” that Jesus said was coming was surely the working of Satan to bring Jesus to the cross—despite the fact that he had no rightful claim upon Jesus as there was no sin in Him to condemn.(30)

Jesus explains that He is going to obey the Father’s plan out of love for the Father and for them… and us. He was going to do this hard work out of love.(31)

Jesus was determined to give evidence of His love for the Father and for all of us. He was determined to do what was best for us, to die the death we deserve that He most certainly did not.

It was going to be hard.

But Jesus was determined to produce the hard evidence of love.

What about us?

Will we do the hard things so that others may see the evidence of the love of Jesus in our lives?

As this chapter closes, I would challenge us all… “Rise, let us go from here.” But let us go out more concerned with the things that please His heart. Let us go out more concerned with the needs of others than our own.

Let us go out to give the hard evidence of love to those we meet.

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Bigger Hands

June 24, 2017

There are bigger hands at work here.

There is more to this than we can see.

As we travel on today and draw closer to our destination in the suburbs of Detroit, I know that there are a lot of parents and loved ones at home a little anxious about the admittedly dangerous reputation of the city we’re going to serve.

To be sure, the reputation comes from observable reality, but we’re not exactly street preaching on the legendary 8 Mile Road. But it’s a hard place. It’s a place with a lot of darkness and in desperate need of the penetrating light of the gospel of grace.

As we were making our final preparations for this adventure, a brother (thanks Steve!) shared this observation with me that has developed into this post.

He reminded me of one of my favorite accounts in the Scriptures—that of Elisha and his servant and a startling morning discovery. I encourage you to go and read it in 2 Kings 6.
The king of Syria had grown weary of his attack plans being fooled by someone warning his target, the king of Israel, of his plans. After searching his ranks for a spy, someone pointed out to him that there was a prophet of God that was warning the king of Israel of his evil plans. This dangerous king immediately sent an army to bring back that troublesome prophet, Elisha.

Elisha’s servant awoke early one morning and stepped outside to the terrifying sight of the entire city of Dothan surrounded by the Syrian army. Yes, the absurdity of sending an entire army after one prophet is significant, but the response of Elisha’s servant was understandable. He immediately did what most of us would do (and what some of us have indeed done when we thought about sending out kids to Detroit) – he freaked out.

Elisha, the prophet, who had a great and unique connection with God, said something strange to his servant:

He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6.16)

But as soon as he spoke these calming words to his servant, he prayed for him:

Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” (2 Kinds 6.17a)

Then God answered… and WOW what an answer…

…So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6.17b)

I am convinced that there is a spiritual reality around us to which only God can open our eyes. There are too many instances in Scripture that point to such things for me to ignore it and I am just spiritually aware enough to know that my understanding is limited and utterly incapable of fully comprehending all that God is doing around us.

As my buddy Steve well observed, God did not need a fiery army to protect his servant. He provided such and revealed it to him and his servant for their sake, not His own.

The story is fascinating, but it carries on with God striking the Syrian army with blindness at Elisha’s request and Elisha leading the blinded enemy army that had been sent to capture him right down to the capital and the king of Israel.

The king of Israel, recognizing the opportunity, at least has the sense to ask the prophet if he should eliminate this threat to his kingdom. Elisha gives counter-intuitive counsel:

“Set bread and water before them, that they may eat and drink and go to their master.” (2 Kings 6.22b)

You see, because of the intervening hand of God, the evil intended upon His servant Elisha and the people of Israel was turned away. The great result is seen in verse 23:

So he prepared for the them a great feast, and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. And the Syrians did not come again on raids into he land of Israel.

And so we come to a place that is not particularly hospitable to the gospel that we proclaim. We come to set before them the Bread of Life and the springs of living water. And we trust that, having come in obedience and desiring to serve in obedience, our God is with us. As the great worship song reminds us, the God of angel armies is right here by my side.

There are bigger hands at work here.

There is more to this than we can see.

Father, open our eyes to see Your hand at work… and let us join in.

“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.” (Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil)

Smarter men than I have wrangled long with this idea, but the words strike a chord of soundness despite their strange source.

A long obedience in the same direction…

When we consider these words through the lens of a follower of Jesus, it seems like the underscore of Jesus’ call to “deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Luke 9.23) He doesn’t just call us to embrace the hope of the gospel and in earnest obedience plunge into the waters of baptism only to come up and go on about life with a great cosmic advisor on speed dial when the sticky spots come along.

No, that thing to which we are called is a long obedience in the same direction—His direction. It is to follow Him every step of the way, to take the next step in obedience and the next and the next and the next and the next.

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