Today, the ladies’ class discussed one of the most fascinating single verses of scripture we’ve arrived at to date.
Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again. The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him. Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of me, but for your sakes. John 12:27-30
I still remember the instant in December 1997 when I went from not believing there even was a God outside of anyone’s immagination to being so sure he was actually in my car with me and had just changed my radio station that my whole life took an INSTANT 180 degree turn that hasn’t changed direction since. My response to this God that day was, “Alright, you’re there. Now what?” (Real reverent, I know. LOL)
It has occurred to me more than once over the years that the biggest miracle that day was not my radio station changing, but rather that my heart was changed. Had I arrived at that day with the same heart that led me to disbelieve in God in the first place, I would have done just what the Jews in John 12 did – explained it away – looked for a natural explanation like the weather – dismissed it as too much pizza the night before or a good imagination. I doubt if I would have called the angels out, since they were just as much a figment of the imagination as God was.
This fascinates me. So many times I have heard people (even said it myself):
1) Why doesn’t God just speak from heaven? Then I’ll believe, or
2) People back then were really gullible and didn’t know all that we do today about science and things.
The problem with both of those is, they weren’t any more gullible than people today. They resorted to exactly the same explanations we do, and I/they/you most likely wouldn’t believe it if God spoke from heaven anyway. Jesus put it fairly strongly when he suggested that if someone wouldn’t believe the scriptures that had already been given, they wouldn’t believe if someone was even raised from the dead. Still just as true 2000 years later as it was the day he spoke those words.
I remember Khoa, an exchange student who stayed with one of the families at my church for the year. The country he was from is fairly atheistic, and so for that year he came to church with his American family kind of like an observer/scientist. Then one day in the spring, there was a day when something happened at church that was totally arranged and orchestrated by God. He was in the room, I was in the room. Everyone who had any concept of God knew that God had showed up that day and that his presence had filled the room in a way that even we knew was special. No one was unaffected — except Khoa. Another lady asked him if he had noticed anything different, and he just looked back with a blank stare. She said to him, “You just saw God.” Well, I beg to differ, but I don’t think he did. I think he saw someone talking to the air and a bunch of other people standing around with their eyes closed. Thankfully, God soon opened the door for some serious discussions, and he did go home believing in this God that people had been telling him about all year.
This afternoon listening to the radio, Ravi Zacharias told about a non-theistic Buddhist mathematics professor who in courtroom testimony gave the odds of evolution actually happening totally based on natural processes as in the 10:40,000 exponent neighborhood. In other words, though he didn’t attribute anything to any kind of invisible God, he certainly wasn’t willing to chalk up to chance and natural selection something that is clearly totally outside the realm of reasonable probability – our universe. Fascinating that when asked how he explained the existence of life on earth he said that this world must have been seeded by another extraterrestrial civilzation.
Who has the greater faith?
Ravi made an excellent point in conclusion. It’s not the believer in God who is demonstrating a will to believe against all evidence. The resurrectiton of Jesus from the dead is one of those things that happened in history and can be looked at historically and rationally. Someone who believes that he was raised from the dead, especially someone who once did not believe, is not doing so AGAINST rational evidence but in concert with it. On the other hand, sometimes it is the unbeliever who is demonstrating a will to disbelieve despite all evidence to the contrary. This is really crystal clear in the verse above. The Jews who attributed the voice of God to natural processes – the thunder – had just seen Jesus restore sight to a blind man (John 9), and raise another man from the dead who had been in the ground four days (John 11), and had just been welcomed into Jerusalem as the King and Messiah of Israel – the one who had been prophesied to come for hundreds of years – and when he spoke of his coming death on the cross, God the Father spoke audibly from heaven to demonstrate his approval, and they said it sounded like the thunder. They didn’t deny that these things had happened. They denied that they — and Jesus — were from God.
Okay, so sometimes my lesson illustrations leave a little something to be desired. Tonight, I thought I was right on the money. The text tonight was Micah 6:6-8 –
Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,
or with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good;
and what doth the LORD require of thee,
but to do justly,
and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with thy God?
So I needed to define terms some with the girls, and we’re discussing what this thing called mercy is. The discussion was pretty lame, but a couple of them had some good ideas. To move things along, I said that mercy is like when you’re in big trouble with your mom. You KNOW you’ve messed up bad this time, and you DESERVE what you know is coming. But instead of punishing you, she comes up and gives you a hug.
Silence and blank stares.
One of the girls piped up with the fact that this wasn’t something that was part of her experience. This got a chorus of agreement. That got me wondering where that illustration even came from. Is it something I remember from my own childhood, or something I know I’ve done with my daughter? I don’t really remember. It must be in my heart somewhere in order for it to have come out like that, though.
I pulled it out by saying that if our own mothers have never had mercy on us like that, it’s still exactly what God has done for us by sending Jesus Christ. But for a minute there, I was wondering if it were going to be a total loss.
So is this experience so foreign? Has none of us who are mothers ever had mercy on our kids instead of requiring sacrifice? Do none of us who are children have memories of receiving mercy from our parents? If they give us our first picture of what God is like, what does that say about how we view God?by beakennedy
Verily, verily, I say unto you,
He that believeth on me,
the works that I do shall he do also;
and greater works than these shall he do;
because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name,
that will I do,
that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name,
I will do it. (John 14:12-14)
This is a bold statement Jesus makes here. And who really ~~ I mean REALLY ~~ believes it? Me? Greater works than Jesus? Anything I ask? I’m often surprised at how much unbelief there still is in the corners of my heart. But once in a while . . .
. . . once in a while I get such a vision of God and his glory that I ask for things that only God can do. And surprise, surprise! He does! It’s very strange to think that he actually listens to someone like me. I don’t know why on earth he would, but that’s what the gospel is about. Right? Coming back into fellowship and, yes, even friendship with God so that my heart wants what he wants, and I can truly ask for anything.
Tonight one of the TEAM is lying in a hospital in Cape Verde pretty banged up. Tonight I asked for something only God can do because I think his glory is at stake if his word is hindered from going out. Could someone else be raised up? Sure. But I sure would like to see the devil snatch defeat from the jaws of victory again, just like he did at the cross.by beakennedy
1. One book that changed your life:
Toss up between Romans and Hebrews.
2. One book that you’ve read more than once:
Honey From Stone: A Naturalist’s Search for God, Chet Raymo.
3. One book you’d want on a desert island:
If I couldn’t have the whole Bible, I’d settle for The Gospel of John.
4. One book that made you laugh:
When I Was 7 and 8 (by my daughter).
5. One book that made you cry:
A Sorrow In Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh, Alan W. Eckert
6. One book that you wish had been written:
7. One book that you wish had never been written:
The Woman’s Bible, Elizabeth Cady Stanton
8. One book you’re currently reading:
Treasures from Heaven in the Stuff of Earth, Babbie Mason.
9. One book you’ve been meaning to read:
A Brief History of Time, Stephen Hawking (It’s been on the shelf for a year now. Probably by the time I get to it it will be old news.)
The question on my mind for several years now. The Mali proverb: “If you help a man, you have helped one person. If you help a woman, you help a whole family.” How to put flesh and bones and an answer on that question . . .
And on the sabbath we went out of the city by a riverside, where prayer was wont to be made; and we sat down, and spake unto the women which resorted thither. And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. And when she was baptized, and her household . . .by beakennedy