Willing To Live

In modern America you can believe anything you want as long as you don’t take it too seriously. Muslims throughout the world are in the news almost every day because they are willing to die for their beliefs. Most Americans can’t fathom how it is possible that anyone would die for his beliefs because most folks fear death more than anything else. Our colonial fathers and mothers understood, but for the most part their distant children don’t get it.

The disciples of Christ expressed willingness to die for Him – Peter most vocally. People remember Peter’s denial of Jesus and think him a coward, but they forget he tried to live up to his promise. At the point of crisis, Peter went full beast mode, drew his sword, and sliced a dude’s ear off. It was dark and he probably wasn’t aiming for the ear: he was trying to waste that fool and be The Greatest Disciple, Jesus’ Bodyguard & Right-Hand Man. He’d made his decision to make a valiant stand, and just when his adrenaline was up in the red zone and he was ready to pound the next guy, Jesus yelled “NO!” And then He healed the evildoer’s ear.

It was so very deflating when Jesus wouldn’t let him fight. It took Peter from a place of ACTION to a place of helplessness. He just stood there, not knowing what to do or say, breathing hard, falling on the inside. When the rest of the disciples split, he ran too. Later that night, Peter would come to know himself better than he ever wanted to, and he got reduced even further. All because Jesus wouldn’t let him go out in a blaze of glory.

Jesus said, No, no, Peter. If you take this carnal approach, you’ll die by this carnal approach. I’m not having an armed revolt here, so no more slicing and dicing and strong-arming your way through this dark night. Just put the whole thing away – both the sword and your willingness to use it. Get rid of those trappings. I know you’d like to hurry up and die with Me but I’m not interested in your dying right now. I’d really have liked to have you PRAY for an hour with Me, instead of trying to fight and die here. Everything I’ve taught you is about LIVING, not dying. I want You to LIVE for Me, Peter.

Those Muslims I mentioned earlier, I get where they’re coming from, wanting to rush out and die for their false god. I used to have an attitude like poor prayerless Peter in the garden, full of zeal and holy indignation, whipping a sword out to slay any clueless, beleaguered soul who was out of line with the truth and didn’t relate to God the way I did. When I was young I thought myself so full of knowledge and power and wisdom I couldn’t even imagine I’d make it past 25 years, or at the most 30, because I was certain I’d be martyred by the unbelievers and the reprobate Jezebel church before that time. My view of myself did not square with my actual condition: I needed God and other people to help me discover that, and the process was ugly.

What Peter learned – what we have to learn – is that God calls us to LIVE FIRST. The call to live scares us because we know (if we’re honest) we aren’t up to the task of following in Jesus’ footsteps. We’d rather do almost anything other than having to live, because life in God is dependency, not natural strength and cunning. Prayer is humiliating to the flesh, having to ask for daily bread and defense from the power of the evil one. Peter was willing to die, but he wasn’t yet willing to live. Jesus knew that full well when He said beforehand, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

That’s why the call to life is so important, why we have to be awakened to the desire of the Holy Spirit to teach us how to live. Because the way of the natural man with all his striving works death in the situations around him, but one who lives for and unto God brings life and strength and healing to others, and glory to the God whose ways are not our ways.

It is Day 14,936.

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The Battle is for Time

It is Day number 14,935 in the sweltering coastlands, where the heat index has been around 100 degrees most of this week. I have been doing a lot of paperwork and trying to stay cool because the heat bothers my breathing, but today I went a little crazy and cleaned out the garage. Some old mattresses and other junk was making itself obvious in there, so the kids and I loaded it all up and went to the landfill, just to be free of it. (Also I have been finding snake poop in the garage and wanted to cut down on the number of his possible hiding places, because the idea of a big snake lurking under something in there or the adjacent laundry room oogs the girls totally out.) Anyway we came home and ate lunch and then Garrett and I mowed the grass. He helped with the parts of the yard that need the push-mower and I used the tractor.

I am trying to stay on my feet even at the times that I feel unwell, just because it is good to stay on your feet. Sitting is a kind of defeat these days. Overall though I think my lungs are improving.

Today I spoke with an acquaintance from long ago, a woman the Lord used to speak into my life around 25 years ago at Pinecrest Bible Training Center in Salisbury Center, New York: Mrs. Joanne Picataggi. She gave a prophetic utterance that – along with some other movings of God at the time – was pivotal in changing the direction of my life, especially as I considered the nature of God and the possibilities of my future. I wrote to Mr. Picataggi to thank the two of them for their continued service to God, and to let them know the impact their ministry had on me though I was only its beneficiary for a brief time.

It was nice to speak with her, though I came away with a task because she spoke of the sons of Zadok and a “new priesthood,” and now I have to read about these things. She said, “Zadok chose God, and then God chose him.” It was prophetic and spoke to the currents under the surface of the Body of Christ: God is about to move through those who have made time to listen and obey Him. I believe it was Walter Beuttler who said, “If you build God a house of devotion, He will build you a house of ministry.”

I was watching the Democratic National Convention the other night when Bernie Sanders was speaking, but I wasn’t paying much attention to what he was saying. I was looking at the crowd. The camera kept showing all these Millennial kids sobbing — both young women and men. I told Sikki, “This is how empty the kids are. Everything safe and secure in their world has been called into confusion and questioning. They’re looking for someone to follow.” The man in this instance was Bernie Sanders, and he was at that moment endorsing Hillary Clinton for President. He was violating his principles and the talking points of his “revolution.” And the poor kids were weeping not for him, but for themselves. They desperately want someone and something to believe in.

This dynamic – the backlash of the world’s empty promises and futility – is what God will use to bring them into His Kingdom. His instruments will be those who gave Him time. The battle right now is for our time. Time is critical right now in the Church. We have to give God our time. If we don’t, we won’t have anything to say when the hurting and wounded come knocking.

I was tempted in that last paragraph to say we must “sacrifice” our time, which just goes to show that I’m not right in my thinking. Because I’m not sacrificing when I give up nothing to attain everything. If to make room for Him I give up reading a novel, or scrolling Facebook, or watching psychological thrillers on Netflix, I’m not losing anything: I’m only gaining. Time with God is always the best time, always leaves me feeling full and whole and strong. It is where my heart is adjusted and I learn to hear.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. – Philippians 3:7