And when you’re on death row, you’re not really concerned with trivial pursuits, are you? Paul wasn’t dwelling on trivialities; he was dialed into eternities. That’s why it was particularly devastating for Demas to desert him. Because look at what Demas did: he loved this present world – its comfort, safety, and reputation – and in so doing ignored the next one. And Paul, who because he is on death row is dwelling on eternities more than at any other time in his life, knows something deadly: Demas has sacrificed what is eternal on the altar of what is trivial.
“Every time you think you’re the only honest person left, every time you think there are no good men or no good women left, God who is the One and Only whispers back: You’re NOT the only one. The One And Only has the ideal number of people to surround you, to advise you, to walk alongside you, to make you realize that there are a lot more trustworthy people than you realize because God is at work in every life on the planet!”
“The answer to this painfully large prayer is massively small: bread, water, and a bed. Elijah wants a snap answer, a quick fix, and God grants the start of a slow process – bread, water, bed. As if recovering hope can never be a matter of great leaps, but always involves small steps.”
“When God feels distant and you’re losing your religion, something else is going on. He’s like the sun. When it gets dark, that’s because the earth turns, not because anything happened with the sun, and it’s the same with God. We lose our religion when we turn, not when he does, and when we turn, our hands get busy making our own gods. The same gods who invariably, inevitably disappoint…”
This is the power of resurrection. Isaiah says, “see, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
This is the heart of God for his people. Jesus wants to make a river run through the wasteland of your life, because when the Spirit flows people get raised and get filled and get healed and get sober and their wastelands get soaked. A new thing!
We’ve seen a spiritual resurrection in Paul and a “fresh start” resurrection in Aeneas and now we’re about to see the full power of God come to rest over death…In Acts 9:37-38 we read, “about that time Tabitha became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. When the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, ‘Please come at once!’…
I have known for several years that on some level behavior precedes doubt.
In other words, we don’t arrive at our shadow of doubt by objective analysis of relevant facts; instead, most of us begin to act a certain way and then circle back around and develop some doubts to substantiate that behavior.
We don’t think our way into doubting. We (mis)behave our way into it.
I understand these people better than I want to admit. I know what it means to become so focused on the work and the politics and the systems and the next big book that’s going to tell us how to really do it right, that I can forget what Jesus is capable of and why he’s filled me with the Holy Spirit and what he’s called me to do. Somehow (I’m sure this is not the correct theological language), it seems like the Spirit leaks out. Or maybe I push him out. I know it has happened when I find myself telling God how big my storm is, rather than telling my storm how big my God is.
The central question for Abraham was never, “Are you circumcised?” The central question was, “Is your circumcision a reflection of walking blamelessly and faithfully before God?” The central question for the church, then, is, “In doing these things [baptism, accepting Jesus, or taking Communion] are they expressions of faithfulness and an awareness and a pursuit of the terms and conditions of a covenant relationship with God?” It is not, “Do you call yourself a Christian?” It is, “Do you live a life worthy of that name?”
Is anything too supernatural? Too mystical? Too great for God to do? Nope. Is it too hard for him to bend the laws of nature? Nope. He wrote them. You know what? You, too, have continual reminders in your life of not underestimating God. We have those reminders, items large and small, global and personal, to urge us not to underestimate God. To celebrate the ways in which he has the last laugh.
He is saying that those who get it will be the ones who realize we’re nothing by ourselves that what we want most from life won’t happen if we think we have to do it ourselves. It will happen when we let the One Who Is Enough serve us as Lord, and Messiah, and Friend.
Here is the part that has surprised me. Guess where God has led me to start with this cultivation for renewal in our church and world? Not where I would like to begin. I wish it began with those persons who get on my nerves. (Most of us have a few such persons in our lives – just as we are usually that in the lives of one or two others!) But I have come to realize that cultivation for renewal does not start with “them.” It begins with me. Cultivation for renewal starts with you and me.