Monday, March 26, 2012

Thou Shall Love the Lord Thy God with all Thy Mind

 There’s a Stirring # 7
           If you give a baby Gerber’s baby food, that is cute. If you had to give me Gerber’s, that would be a tragedy. Something catastrophic would have occurred.
            If you are a new Christian, you need to be on Gerber’s spiritual baby food. If you have been in Christ for a while and still need Gerber’s, something is wrong.
            We have too many Christians in pews today who are still feeding on Gerber’s baby food. This is not good.
            First, let’s build a bridge back to something we talked about two weeks ago. If you remember, the Preacher channeled Jesus and said, to paraphrase, “If you are going to fear somebody, fear God.”
            So how did he apply this? He applied it by going to the heart of the matter; whose opinion did those early Christians value?
            Why is it we Americans typically don't care what people in New Guinea think about us? Are they any less human?
            Why is it that we Texas Rangers fans do not care what St. Louis Cardinals’ fans think about us? Are they any less human?
            In both cases, we understand that the citizens of New Guinea and citizens of St. Louis are human. However, we assign credibility to people. The higher the credibility, the more we care about their opinions.
            If I like you, if I fear you, or if I respect you, if I know you, or if I want to know you, chances are I want you to have a high opinion of me; I certainly have a high opinion of you. I want to know what you think, how you dress, what movies you like, and more. Your opinion matters.
            That is another way of saying that your word matters. Back then, the Christians in Hebrews were concerned about the word of various people or groups. They were not concerned enough about the word of God.
            They got that wrong. Here is how he phrased it, 12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Hebrews 4:12–13.)
            Don't worry about Shriners’ word (or anyone else’s), he would tell us today, let’s concern ourselves with God’s Word.
            The Christians in Hebrews were not doing that; they were too busy listening to the word of somebody they respected, feared, or revered more than God.
            After attempting to explain the greatness of Jesus, the preacher writes, 5:11 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. 12 In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! 13 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.
            6:  1 Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, 2 instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. 3 And God permitting, we will do so.

            In 5:11, “slow to learn” literally means lazy. This is interesting. Laziness is certainly talked about the Bible.  Ever heard the seven deadly sins?
            Back in the dark ages, monks compiled the list of sins they considered particularly deadly to one’s spiritual health. On that list were sins such as pride, envy, gluttony, and laziness.
            I am certainly not a big fan of laziness. None of us are. This preacher is not a fan of spiritual laziness. And so that's what this passage is about. He is attacking the problem of spiritual laziness.
            The word he uses for the term we translate “slow to learn,” is the same word he will use in chapter six verse eleven, which many translations term “laziness.”
            The Preacher is attacking the problem of spiritual laziness. These Christians are drifting away and they have become spiritually lazy. He attacks that problem.
            That got me thinking, what are signs of spiritual laziness today? If you made a list of the symptoms of spiritual laziness, what would you put on it? I've got some for you:
            What about not spending time reading or studying the Bible?
                        What is the difference between a pagan who lives a moral life and does not spend time growing closer to Jesus and a Christian who behaves well but does not spend time growing closer to Jesus?
            What about coming to worship or Bible class without a Bible?
                         It seems to me pretty obvious: for one to study the Bible one needs the Bible. (I personally consider a cell phone that has the Bible translations to be a Bible. I am referring to function, not appearance.)
            What about listening to a sermon or Bible class without ever opening up a Bible?
                        Is this not the spectator mentality?
            What about limiting the Bible we study?
                        I am blessed at my church to be able to preach out of any book of the Bible. If it is located in the Bible, it is fair game. Do you realize how many preachers cannot do what I do? They cannot preach out of the Bible.
                        And what about Bible classes? Isn’t it an irony that some churches frown upon studying the Bible in Bible classes?

            I am attempting to say this in love. These Christians in Hebrews were losing their faith; if you don’t have your faith, what do you have? Therefore, the Preacher addresses their laziness when it comes to interfacing with the word of God.
            Their spiritual laziness was caused by a lack of respect for God and for his Word. They are not growing in Christ because they don’t care what God says.
            Let me offer you one final translation of Heb. 5:11. It is from the God’s Word Translation, and I like it a lot: We have a lot to explain about this. But since you have become too lazy to pay attention, explaining it to you is hard. [GW]

This preacher of Hebrews has a two-pronged solution to spiritual laziness:
            1. He chews them out for what they are doing wrong.
2. He challenges them to do right.
            Christianity, from the beginning, has been a religion that has been taught. We Grow in God’s Word to Grow in God.
            To put it another way, let’s devote ourselves to seek God’s approval and God’s values, and let’s allow our spiritual family (the church) to affirm us.
            There is a lot to faith and to being formed into the image of Christ. Last year in Revelation, our church talked about worship. Growing in Christ is not just memorizing facts about Him. It is worshipping Him. It is communing with Him. It is praying to the Father through Him. It is putting into practice what we read about Him. But somebody’s word is going to be heard, respected and obeyed. And it had better be God’s.
            WITH THAT RESPECT IN MIND, we go to scripture—all of it—and we dig in. We hear, and we obey. And that leads to growing up.
            This preacher says in Hebrews, “If you respected God and fed on His Word, you would be at a different place now.”
            Make no mistake—this preacher goes on the attack. So let's pause here. He is telling them, “I want to go deep with you, but you are spiritually lazy.”
            What do you think he is going to do at that point? What would some churches today do at this point if they had his problem? What would some preachers do today?
            Well, I can tell you, at some churches they have had this problem. And I have had a chance to assess through the years the manner in which these churches have dealt with this challenge.
            Some churches say, “Let's take Christians who have been in Christ for ten, twenty, thirty years, and let's continue to give them Gerber baby food. We will make our Sunday assembly a therapy session. We will have a Christianized version of social psychology. Anything that is of depth biblically, we will chew it up for them and then pass it along like Mama birds feeding their babies.”
            They will tell their preachers to quit preaching 30 minutes, and get them to preach only 20 minutes-max. (The exception is those churches in the evangelical world, who expect their preachers to preach 45 minutes–or even more!) Basically what leadership is saying is, “Let's give sermonettes for Christianetts.”
            Some churches say, “Let's find out what the secular people of our community are thinking, and let's organize our entire worship service around the data that we find.” So every song has the non-Christian in mind, every prayer has the non-Christian in mind, every sermon has the non-Christian in mind, and the entire assembly, which in the New Testament was for the Christians, is built for the non-Christians.
            Now, I am not against our recognition of the non-Christian. Paul said as much in first Corinthians chapter fourteen. Nor am I opposed to an occasional sermon series with the young Christian in mind. Yet, it is critical to recognize that this writer, after lamenting how these Christians had been drinking spiritual milk, proceeds to give them spiritual meat. We cannot neglect the periodic need to offer meat to our assemblies.
            Consequently, let me address one more trend in modern Christian worship–the pep rally. A lot of churches today organize their assemblies as spiritual pep rallies.
            I don't want to diminish the role of emotion in the Christian assembly. Indeed, in many cases, I am sure there is not enough allowance for emotion. That should be addressed in an appropriate text. Here, the message is: never forget the role of substance.
            Think of athletic teams. Is emotion important? Definitely. Do teams have pep rallies? Yes, mainly in high school and college. However, assess the amount of time these teams spend in intense workouts and in mental study. The comparison between the pep rallies and the intense work reveals a heavy emphasis on the commitment and the mental aspect of these athletic pursuits.             
            At the professional level, the amount of work is heavily skewed toward the mental side. Much less is done with the emotional facets, or with the physical aspects either.
            In the church, balance is important. And in this passage, the preacher emphasizes the importance of the commitment of the will and mind in the pursuit of what God is trying to teach his people.
            We love God with all our heart, strength, soul, and mind. We grow in Christ. We grow up in Christ.
            My last day of my first semester of college, I was eating lunch with a fellow counselor from Camp Deer Run, and she introduced me to a girl from another state. We hit it off great.
            My counselor friend left and this girl and I talked, and we talked for three or four hours. We had a connection there. It went on into the next semester.
            I, however, had this unspoken uncertainty, and she did too. We were from different states and different cultures, so we had some hesitation on both of our parts to going farther.
            I went home during spring break and was talking about this with a mentor. He advised me, “Mark, relationships grow, and relationships die, but relationships never stay the same. I never forgot that.
            Apparently she didn’t either, because when I got back from Spring Break, I found out she was engaged, to a guy she had gotten to know on a Spring Break Campaign.
            Okay, that is an extreme, but the principle holds true: relationships grow stronger or weaker, but they do not remain the same. This principle applies to our relationship with Jesus—and to out Heavenly Father.
            Either, I am growing closer in my relationship to God, or I am distancing myself. Our relationship is not remaining the same.
            You and I can choose to grow closer to God. We can cultivate habits that will lead to this. One place to begin is by diving into the word of God.


Monday, March 19, 2012

The God Who Feels Our Pain–Heb. 4:14-5.10

There's a Stirring # 6

            One of my heroes from history is General George C. Marshall. He was a general in the United States Army in World War II. He was an interesting fellow. He served as commanding general John Pershing's military aid during World War I.
            After the war, advancement in the Army was very slow. Yet, Marshall anticipated that another great war was coming. Just in case he was able to advance, he decided to keep with him a little black book. In this little black book, he would jot down the names of different men who grabbed his attention. These were names of men whom he saw as potentially great leaders in the Army. Were he to ever maintain a position of leadership, he would be armed with those names, from which he would select those to serve under him.
            As you well know, the United States did enter World War II. By the end, Marshall had offered such impeccable leadership qualities, such an incredible ability to organize, such character and deep integrity, that president Franklin Roosevelt named him to serve in a position we would now call Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In essence, Marshall became Roosevelt's right-hand man.
            As the war was beginning, Marshall looked in his book and selected a man whom he had been watching. This man did not have a very high rank in the United States army. Numerous others held superior ranks. Yet, Marshall identified marvelous qualities in this individual, and so he summoned this man to Washington to help Marshal formulate war plans in the early stages of this massive endeavor.
            This gentleman proved so able, Marshall encouraged Roosevelt, Churchill, and other allied leaders to name him as the commander of all Allied forces in Africa in 1942. The individual named a general, and served well.
            In 1943, it became time to name the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe. The mission of this commander was to organize and lead the forces across the English Channel onto the shores of France for a massive invasion. (Later, this invasion would be called the “D-Day” invasion.) It was well known in leadership circles that whoever was named the supreme commander would definitely be an important figure in history.
            If you are in the army, you can think of nothing higher, no greater honor, than to be named a commander. Early on, it was clear that the best man for this job was General Marshall. Later he would reveal that he had indeed wished to serve in that capacity. Nevertheless, Marshall had so much integrity, he refused to lobby for the position.
            Instead, he decided to remove any influence and allow the president to make his own decision. Marshall seemed slated to fulfill his personal dream, but he had only one problem. He was so good at what he did for President Roosevelt, he became so indispensable, the president could not bear the thought of Marshall leaving him.
            Consequently, Roosevelt did not select Marshall to be the supreme commander. Instead, he selected the man that Marshall had groomed and mentored, one whom Marshall had named in his little black book years before. Roosevelt selected the man whom Marshall had recommended as commander of the forces in Africa—Roosevelt selected Dwight Eisenhower.
            Obviously, this proved to be a wise decision. The Allies were successful in their invasion, and, in early 1945, Germany surrendered. Of course, Eisenhower moved on to bigger and better things. Still, without George Marshall's mentoring and influence, Dwight Eisenhower would have never been elected president of the United States, in November 1952.
            Here is the part of the story I want to emphasize. As he was running for the presidency, Eisenhower had to deal with all sorts of domestic issues that were prevalent in that campaign. One of them was this: a senator from Wisconsin named Joseph McCarthy.
            In 1952, McCarthy was making wild accusations that various people in the United States were communists. These included some who served in the United States military and the United States government. Most charges were false; indeed, McCarthy would ultimately prove to be unscrupulous. Still, the ultimate truth did not deter a number of U.S. citizens from believing McCarthy. (Most U.S. senators publicly supported him, including John F. Kennedy—elected in 1952.)
            One of the men that McCarthy accused of being a communist was George C. Marshall. He denounced Marshall for “betraying” the United States during his mission to China after the Second World War. In retrospect, McCarthy’s charges were heresy—totally untrue.
            (Later, McCarthy’s flawed character would destroy his life; he would die in disgrace in 1957. Even before his death, he would be totally discredited and would become an outcast to his peers. But that was still come.)
            Like some Americans in 1952, Eisenhower was irate at McCarthy's charges. As a candidate, Eisenhower decided to rebut McCarthy’s accusation of his mentor-General Marshall-in McCarthy's home state of Wisconsin, with McCarthy present on the dais.            
            Eisenhower wrote a defense of Marshall into his speech. Eisenhower's advisers saw the speech and grew alarmed. They secretly met together. Afterwards, meeting with Eisenhower, they, in effect, told him, “Listen, you are in Joseph McCarthy's home state of Wisconsin. McCarthy will be there. Wisconsin is a critical state in this election. If you lose Wisconsin, it could unleash an avalanche of events that could cost you the presidency. You cannot say these words with McCarthy present. This would be a public embarrassment to him.”
            Eisenhower had a decision to make. He thought about it long and hard. On the one hand, he wanted to defend his mentor. Indeed, he wished to defend the man who more than anyone else, was responsible for his being in such an envied position. On the other hand, he wanted to win the election. He knew that if he defended the one who helped him so much, he might not become president. Consequently, Eisenhower decided to remove the passage that was potentially offensive to McCarthy.
            Eisenhower would go on to win the 1952 presidential election. He would serve two terms as president. However, years later, he would write that one of his most personally disappointing acts was the removal of his defense of Marshall from his 1952 Milwaukee speech. He regretted betraying a friend who had meant so much to him.
Betraying the Mentor--Jesus
            I tell that story because in this book of Hebrews, you have Christians, who have been saved by Jesus, mentored by Jesus, and blessed by Jesus. In a moment when these Christians can stand by Jesus Christ and defend Him against the charges made by their culture, they hesitate.
            They begin considering all they could potentially lose if they defend Jesus. They could lose their jobs, maybe some relationships, maybe property, and maybe even their own lives. So, they betray Him.
            Now, whether it be the case of Dwight Eisenhower, or the case of the Christians in Hebrews, it is easy to stand back as a third party and say, “How awful!”
            We don't like betrayal, especially the betrayal of mentor and benefactor. We don’t like to watch people betray others who have blessed their lives. That is one reason why Hebrews challenges us so.
            This preacher is preaching a sermon to these Christians and he is pleading, “Gang, what you are doing is unthinkable. You don't need to run away from Jesus; you need to run toward Jesus. You should be publicly defending Him… and standing up for Him. You certainly need not be giving up.”
Last week, we talk about how this Preacher tried to motivate the Christians by talking about the Heavenly Father and his word. The preacher was strong with them. He said to them, human beings will face God in one of two ways:
1. Guilty of unfaithfulness before God the Judge (Heb. 4:12-13) or . . .

            2. With confidence because of Jesus serving as helper and mediator (4:14-16).
            He's saying, “Jesus has been our mediator, our helper; he has run alongside of us.”
            Look over to Hebrews chapter two. As we have previously seen, verse 17 tells us, 17 For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every way so he could be their merciful and faithful high priest in service to God. Then Jesus could die in their place to take away their sins. 18 And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted. NCV
            So you have this God-figure who is so holy, and he is remote. You also have another God-figure who is infinitely approachable. He has been tempted in every way that we have, yet he has not sinned. Note this, 14We have a great high priest, who has gone into heaven, and he is Jesus the Son of God. That is why we must hold on to what we have said about him. 15Jesus understands every weakness of ours, because he was tempted in every way that we are. But he did not sin! (Heb. 4:14-15.) CEV
            This preacher picks up on the earlier theme and builds on it—Jesus is the great high priest who can sympathize with our weaknesses. I think Jesus faced every basic temptation that we have faced.
            Now, because of the context, what I think the Preacher is talking about here is the temptation to leave the community. Jesus knows what it is like to try to follow God, and have everybody around you (even his own family—see Mark chapter 3:21) tell you that you're crazy. Jesus knows what it is to have people persecute you. Jesus knows what it is to be marginalized—placed by the “in-group” over to the side. Jesus knows the temptation to betray God’s community and bail out on God’s people.
            Consequently, … whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help (Heb. 4:16.) CEV
            If you wish to live like the majority, be afraid on the “in-group’s” judgment. However, if you wish to live like Jesus, you receive the privilege of entering into the throne room of God—with confidence.
            Anytime we pray, we are proceeding into the throne room of God. However, the Preacher here is not talking about individual prayer. You know whom he is talking about? Those in the Christian assembly. He's talking to people who do not want to assemble. He uses these very same phrases in Heb. 10:19, when he talks about the Christians assembling together. He refers to the throne room of God again in chapter twelve when he talks about the assembly of Christians.
            Know this: whenever God's people assemble together, they can pray with confidence because of Jesus Christ. Together, collectively, they are going into the throne room of God. That is why it is a big deal when Christians pray together.
            When I'm by myself, it is easy for me to pray, because I'm going to express things important to me. It is a lot harder for me in an assembly to listen to pray in our behalf. I am so self-centered. When you start mentioning your Aunt Bertha in prayer, I have no clue who she is; therefore, in my flesh, my mind starts to wander.
            This preacher from Hebrews tells me, “Mark, watch out about that; when someone is going before the Father in prayer, all of your into the throne room of God. This person is praying for all of you—through Jesus. Hence, I cannot take these communal prayers for granted.
            The incarnation has consequences. Public prayer is a holy event.           
            I have this mentor, this friend whom I am called to honor. Because of this friend, I, individually, and, I, along with you, am offered the chance to go into the presence of the awesome Heavenly Father.
            There are blessings to having Jesus as a high priest. His ministry is truly one of mentoring, and I would even describe it as friendship.
            The website SHAREFAITH tells the story of Irish born Joseph M. Scriven (1819-1896), who was twenty five years old, in love and engaged to be married. The day before his wedding, his fiancĂ© died in a tragic drowning accident.             Heartbroken, moved to Canada to start a new life. Working as a teacher, he fell in love again and became engaged to Eliza Roche. Once again, Joseph's hopes and dreams were shattered when Eliza became ill and died before the wedding.
            I am sure these events greatly distressed Joseph; however, his faith in God sustained him. We know this because during the period of Eliza’s death, Joseph received word from Ireland that his mother was ill. He could not go to be with her, so he wrote a letter of comfort and enclosed one of his poems entitled What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
            Later, a tune was added to this poem. Many of us have sung the hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus.
            Now, I cannot prove this, but I believe this to be true; when the Joseph Scriven wrote his poem to his mother, he was thinking of Hebrews 4:14-16.
            How do you properly fear the Heavenly Father?
            Last week, we talked about how the author of Hebrews amplified a statement of Jesus. To paraphrase Jesus’ statement, “If you must fear someone, fear God.” Let me show you how our passage today clarifies Jesus’ statement even more.
            Years ago, I heard Tom Nelson talk about what our prayer lives would be like without Jesus. He pointed to the Wizard of Oz for an illustration.
            Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, and the Tin Woodsman wanted to see the Wizard. They make it to the Emerald City and what is the Wizard’s initial response? Is it a warm welcome? No, the Wizard is a remote figure. He says things like, “Get out of here! We don't want you round here!” Finally, the heroic quartet enters into the Great One’s presence.
            The Wizard has his flame going, and he is very intimidating, “What do you want!”
            They're all scared. The Scarecrow can hardly stand. The Cowardly Lion jumps out the window. It is a terrible thing to be in the presence of the great Oz.
            Nelson offers that story as a symbol of what prayer would be like before this God of consuming fire—were it not for Jesus. However, with God becoming human, we can go into the presence of the Heavenly Father—with confidence.
Look to Jesus for Cues on How to Fear the Father
How did the Son of God fear the Heavenly Father. Check out chapter five of Hebrews: 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:7-10.) ESV
            Did you notice the word “reverence” in verse seven? That is the same word you find in Heb. 12:28, except there we typically translate it as the word “fear”: 28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire. NLT
            I can take it by faith that there is a man who knows everything we know, a God who became a human being, who understood the tension of fearing God. He knew how to treat this spiritual Being who is holy and set apart—the Heavenly Father. Yet he is someone who deserves our love and deserves us to live for him. That person is Jesus Christ.
1.What does it mean that Jesus learned obedience from what he suffered?
            Two questions surface in Heb. 5:7-10. Did you notice it says Jesus learned obedience? What does that mean? I'm not sure, but I think it means Jesus knew what it was to grow and mature as a man. It is a hard thing to mature as a man, especially mature spiritually. It is really hard to be God in Heaven and then become a human being on earth.
            Imagine transitioning from having spiritual beings worshipping you to having human beings despising you. Verse seven offers us a real key here: 7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.
            I think here he's talking of Gethsemane. We tend to think Jesus knew exactly everything that was going to happen–every detail. Every part of the cross was programmed. However, as one has preached, Jesus was not following a completely revealed script. Jesus never says, “Okay this is Act three, scene two. Let’s get on with it and go to glory.”
2. What does it mean that Jesus was made perfect?
            There was something Jesus had to experience from a human standpoint, and he did. It was the process of learning to obey his Heavenly Father.
            Now, what does it mean that Jesus was made perfect? Normally this word means, “complete” or “mature.” Jesus completed the maturation process at age thirty-three. Then he was ready to complete his mission.
            I believe this is the call of the Holy Spirit to these Christians in Hebrews: “You guys need to withstand the hostility. You need to put up with people who say, ‘Get away from us.’ You put up with that. You need to keep on believing. I know it hurts, but you can trust your life with Jesus.”
            His illustration is… Jesus, because Jesus entrusted his life to the Heavenly Father. He stayed in his relationship with the Father even though people were trying to marginalize him. Even though there were people acting hostile toward him, he endured in his relationship with his Heavenly Father. Jesus stayed faithful.
            Probably a lot of people in Hebrews thought the same as we do when everything seems to go wrong. When things go well, it is easy to believe that God is pleased with us. But when things go badly, we tend to wonder, “Have I done something wrong?”
            What God was trying to tell them, and what God is trying to tell us, is: “If you are trying to follow me, and things go south, that does not mean you are living the wrong way. Things went south for Jesus, and Jesus was living the perfect life before me. You can trust me even in the midst of bad situations.”
            It’s as if God the Father had a graduation ceremony for God the Son, and the Father said to the Son, “Congratulations, you graduated with a perfect 4.0.” And with that, Jesus became our High Priest.
            Let me end by pointing this out, we have a lot of things to go wrong in our lives, and we always will. Sometimes, life is not fair. I
            I saw an episode of NIGHTLINE a few years ago. It was about this kid named Dillon, who had this illness called “Fragile X” disease. This is a disease where a gene goes bad, and basically a child suffers a mental retardation. He looks normal, but he is mentally impaired. Dillon, as you might imagine, had trouble fitting in school.
            Kids can be so cruel. One boy flippantly told Dillon, “Hey I want to come see you.” Dillon’s parents told him not to get excited, but he could not help himself.
            The boy was to arrive at Dillon’s home at three o’clock. At one o’clock, Dillon goes to the window and stands, near the front door. It is two hours until arrival, yet Dillon is standing and waiting; he is so excited. Three o’clock arrives, and his friend has not come. Time slowly passes. Five o'clock. Six o'clock. Darkness arrives. The day is basically over, and Dillon is still standing at the window. The little boy never shows up.
            You listen to that story, and it's easy to think “Oh God. Why do you let that happen?” Especially to someone like this child; why would God let him be hurt?
            But our Lord says, “You know what, I know what it's like to be betrayed by friends. In the most vulnerable moment in my life, my friends left me. I had to die basically alone.”
            You may be sitting there thinking, “I love God, and I like the church; I like going to church, but I got people around me who are always trying to get me to do something else. Try to convince me to be with them. They try making me feel different.”
            Jesus says, “I understand. When I was here on this earth, people hurled insults at me because they did not like what I was about. And some of them spit at me. I know what you're going through.”
            Someone else may be thinking, “Boy God, I got cancer, and the pain just wiping me out. I cannot deal with the pain anymore here.”
            Jesus says, “I understand. When the Romans tried to figure out how to execute criminals, they wanted to find the most painful way possible. They tried burning people alive and that didn't work because people died too quickly; they tried boiling people in oil, and that didn’t work like they wanted. Finally, they decided, ‘If we nail somebody to a tree, we can inflict upon them the optimal amount of physical pain. We can torture them because they will not die instantly. This will prolong the agony.’ So they crucified me. I know; pain is bad.”
            What we need to understand is no matter how bad our experiences are for us, our Lord's experience trumps ours.
            Tom Nelson, again, spoke about C. S. Lewis. Lewis served in World War I. He never liked it when one of his commanders would be a sitting behind a barricade, sipping tea, and issuing the order, “Go get them boys.”
            No, the commanders who inspired were the ones who crawled out of foxholes and said, “Follow me, men.”
            Jesus Christ never said, “Go get them, church.” No, Jesus Christ has always said, “Follow me.”