Born to grow

It should be no secret to anyone who reads my little thoughts that the Gospel of John is my favorite book. It should be clear that when I say it is my favorite book I don’t just mean my favorite biblical book either. No, it is my favorite book of all time. Moreover, my favorite part is the prologue section (verses 1-18). There is so much depth, beauty, and theological truth in that one section that it captivates me every time I read it. I will be honest, and I am sure this does not happen to you, but sometimes I have a tendency to read my Bible and skip over things I am familiar with and while this does happen on occasion with John’s prologue I always go back and re-read it carefully because it draws me in.

As I have mentioned elsewhere the main point of this section is verse 12 because it sits right in the middle of the chiastic pattern. The beauty of it is highlighted by John 20:31 where John says that everything that has been written was written so that you might believe Jesus is the Christ and that in believing you might have life. The beauty is that Jesus just wants you to live and to be a child of God.

But as many as received Him to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believed in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. – John 1:12-13 (NKJV)

I have been following Christ for a long time now and I am still captivated by this simple idea that God loves me and wants to call me son. He does not have to but He wants to. He does not require me to do something to earn that sonship, He does not force it upon me, and He does not threaten to take it away. He just loves with a passion for me. I cannot escape that simple yet profound truth.

God’s great and wonderful love compels me to be different. Yes, Christ places commands upon me but His love compels me to comply. I do not do things differently because I must but because I desire to please the one I love. I desire to be better because He believes in me. I desire to grow, to live sacrificially, and to mature because the one who loves me sees me that way. The funny thing is that the more I grow and mature the more I realize I am not as good as I previously thought. The more I control my temper the more I realize I have much work to do. The more I give the more I realize I am not as giving as I desire to be. The more I love others the more I realize I do not express it enough. The more I become like Christ the more I realize I am still too Mike.

I catch glimpses of who I am to be but the picture is not clear. I daily confirm what Paul says in 1 Cor 13:12 that I see in dimly in a mirror. My prayer is that of the hymn Come, Jesus, Reign in Me “All foes cast out, let this poor heart Be filled with love divine; Securely fixed, no more to part. From this poor heart of mine.” And to be clear it is not a pressure or a feeling like I am not good enough but a desire to be more like Him who loves me. I desire to be that man. I desire to be that son.

The love of God should change you and if it does not you should question whether or not you understand that love. It would be like saying that you do not desire to be different for your spouse. Not that you have to change for them to want you or love you but because you are in a relationship with them you naturally want to be a better husband or wife. The love that exists between the two of you creates an environment where you can grow. If you do not think you have growing to do then I would suggest there is much growing to do. The relationship you have with God our Father does not only create the environment to allow for change but because the Holy Spirit indwells believers you also have the power to change. God gives us the desire, the environment, and the ability to change. All we need to do is walk it out in humble obedience. Trust me on this, the walk is worth it.

For perfect love I long have groaned,
I would be wholly Thine;
Yes, I would have the Lord enthroned
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, reign in me,
My heart Thy throne shall be;
Oh, tarry in Thy throne,
’Tis Thine, and Thine alone.

All foes cast out, let this poor heart
Be filled with love divine;
Securely fixed, no more to part
From this poor heart of mine.

Let perfect love my portion be,
To Thee my all resign;
O Holy One, come dwell in me,
And rule this heart of mine.

No earthly language can express
The love in Christ I find
’Tis boundless and it’s measureless,
In this poor heart of mine.

Come, Jesus, Reign in Me

H.R. Jeffery, 1885

Just a thought,

Mike

 

We don’t even know what we don’t know

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Jeremiah 33:3 Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’

I sometimes fancy myself pretty smart. I can tell you the overarching story from Genesis to Revelation making sure I hit all the high points along the way. I know the individual stories from Moses, Samson, David, Peter, Paul, and of course Jesus. I know about about how the Law is a representation of God’s love to a people. I can give a bunch of facts and so on that will make me think I am pretty smart. But when I sit down to pray and read the Bible I am left in total awe in the truest sense of the word.

I read the Bible and find myself thinking I am nothing but dust. I am just a speck of dust on a larger piece of dust floating around other dust particles. I am like the a person in the town from Horton Hears a Who. Who am I God that you are mindful of me? I cannot shake this idea that I am wholly unworthy to approach this Holy God. That the God of all the universe hears my prayers and that is the first thing to take notice of in this verse. God wants us to talk to Him. Although we are but dust God wants us to talk to and seek Him. He desires very much for you to pray. This should go without saying but that usually means it must be said. You would think that after reading the Bible we would understand that God desires a relationship with us. Verses like John 3:16, Romans 5:8, 1 John 4:10 spell it out in great detail that He wants us and has done everything He can to make a relationship. Yet somehow we still forget that. Somewhere between salvation and now we forget He desires relationship with us and that a relationship requires conversation.

He says in the next part of this verse “and I will answer you.” He not only hears but is attentive to our prayers, and there is a big difference between the two. I work from home and my daughter is homeschooled so I hear her a lot but I am not attentive to what she is saying it is just background noise. When it comes to God you are not background noise. They are not bothersome to Him and when you pray He does not need to stop what He is doing and give you His attention. His attention is already on you waiting for you to pray to Him.

That should make a big impact on us when we pray. When we pray we should have great confidence that God will answer but we don’t always have that confidence. I believe one of the reasons we lose heart is that we have incorrectly linked answering us with giving us what we want but these are two different things. We should not assume that every answer is a yes or even a no for that matter. Sometime the answer is later, sometimes the answer is ask again, and sometimes the answer is ask again but let me tell you something.

God says that He has great and mighty (or inaccessible) things to show us. He says that He knows things we don’t and more importantly that He knows things we don’t even know we don’t know. We have to remember that His ways are far beyond our ways. That’s tricky so let’s break that down a little.

There was a little girl who went to her dad one day and said “dad I realized I am a genius. Yeah he says how’s that? Well I can’t think of anything I don’t know.” Is that not you and I? Do we not falsely assume that because we can’t think of things we don’t know we must know it all? We even have that attitude when we admit that there are things we don’t know about. We assume some vast knowledge because we at least know we don’t know, but God is saying I know things you don’t even know you don’t know. He is saying there is so much you don’t even have access to not know about. That blows me away. I love to study so when I find out there are things I don’t know to know I want to know.

This goes right back into God telling us to ask again but He adds in some new information. All the sudden we don’t even want to ask for the thing we were asking for. In the light of this new information our old prayer seems childish and silly. Even at that we are still looking at a portion of the big picture maybe even a shadow of a portion.

It’s just like when we read the Bible. We read once and get one thing, then we re-read and all the sudden there is more, then more and so on. That is because the Word of God is living and alive. It is active and God hides things so you can grasp something else. It is not Gnosticism where there are hidden truths oohhh aaaahhh smoke and mirrors. No it is a loving and gentle Father who does not want to overwhelm His children. I don’t tell kids everything it would break them. I am working on a project for church that is going to donate needed items to BeLoved Atlanta which is a house for women who have left prostitution and sex trafficking. My daughter asked me what they did and why they needed stuff (she’s 11) so I told her these women were homeless and need things we take for granted. It’s the truth but there is more she is not ready to receive. So as a good dad I only give her what she can handle. Shouldn’t we assume God is a better dad than I and He protects us from so much more?  

Sometimes I find myself reading something in the Scriptures or praying and can’t believe I missed it all these years. Had I known this years ago I would have not been ready to walk in that truth. I would have had a hard time faithfully doing it. I was too immature to receive so God in His goodness and mercy let me gloss over it. Not that I was sinning but He wasn’t pressing it because there were more important things He was dealing with me on at the time.

So let us wrap this up nice and neat. God wants us to read His word and pray to Him, He wants to answer, and He has things to teach us. As we mature in our faith we should not take silence from God as punishment or even as a no. We should not be looking for yeses and no’s. Instead we should be looking to communicate and fellowship with Him. Prayer should not always be a gimmie list. Nothing wrong with asking but should we ask all the time? Should all our prayers be about asking for material things? Should we also pray that we can better know Him, understand His Word, understand ourselves better, help others, give more of ourselves to Him, and more? When we come to pray should we take some time to listen and not just talk? If we truly want to hear from Him maybe we need to speak less and listen?

Just a thought,

Mike