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Forsaking the Flowery Beds

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John 14:1-13

 

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in Goda; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would knowa my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.(John 14) [1]

What medicine do you give a “troubled heart”?  When a person is heartsick it is a terrible thing.  There is a vital muscle there that keeps us alive physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially.  It is incredibly strong and at the same time, incredibly fragile.  The “heart” of a person can be tender or oversensitive to slights.  It can be easily given to take offense at the words and actions of others.  Some have mean spirited natures that are unforgiving and judgmental.  Others are distant and cool.  They withdraw to avoid hurt.  They refuse to become involved in anything.  They have had a bad experience and are trying to put it behind them and so they feel that the distance that they create means that they are dealing with the hurt when it is only an indication that they are still being controlled by the negative past.  Some are fearful and timid, others hopeless and perpetually hurting.  Did you find yourself somewhere in that list?  I’m not describing something unfamiliar to us just cataloguing the common response patterns of people who choose to face life in their own wisdom and strength independent of God.

What are your troubles today?  What are the things that “disturb” your heart?  I repeat Christ’s words today spoken to calm the troubled hearts of the disciples as they contemplated the loss of their teacher.  I repeat them as spiritual admonition personally for us as if they were spoken directly to us.  They are for our encouragement and your peace today.

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in Goda; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.

·         God’s provisions are for the journey.  They are not meant to remove the journey from the journey or to make life into anything else but what life is.  You see you can’t go camping at the Delta.  It takes the camp out of camping.  I understand that a stay at a 5 star hotel is the definition that some people have of camping. 

Sixteen Steps to Build a Campfire

1. Split dead limb into fragments and shave one fragment into slivers.

2. Bandage left thumb.

3. Chop other fragments into smaller fragments

4. Bandage left foot.

5. Make structure of slivers (include those embedded in hand)

6. Light Match

7. Light Match

8. Repeat "a Scout is cheerful" and light match.

9. Apply match to slivers, add wood fragments, and blow gently into base of fire.

10. Apply burn ointment to nose.

11. When fire is burning, collect more wood.

12. Upon discovering that fire has gone out while out searching for more wood, soak wood from can labeled "kerosene."

13. Treat face and arms for second-degree burns.

14. Relabel can to read "gasoline."

15. When fire is burning well, add all remaining firewood.

16. When thunder storm has passed, repeat steps.

·         From a spiritual perspective,  life is a lot like camping.  It’s a lot more like trying to build a fire with wet wood and then it is using a remote control to ignite a propane fireplace.  It seems to me that we devote a lot more of our time and energies keeping warm and dry and feeding our faces. 

·         You see things “camping” that you never see otherwiseIf you want life to be a succession of stays in a 5 star hotel you’ll miss this perspective.  The real scenery is often found off the well beaten trails.  There are those who despair of the struggle that life presents because they have an unreal expectation.  They want it to be pain-free.  They want to walk on level ground, stone and stumble free.  They want to stay young forever.  They don’t want death to knock on their door.  They don’t care what other doors it knocks on as long as it is someone else’s. 

They don’t get bitter or question God at the tragic losses of other people or the misfortune that others suffer.  They don’t really care so much about the way that God treats the world as they do about their own welfare.  If they were really concerned about the hungry or the homeless they would stop blaming God and feed someone or offer a person a place to stay for the night.

When things go askew for them though, that is another matter.  They question God, get bitter and run away.  I remember one man in a former church.  I felt that he was a person who understood life from a spiritual perspective.  He got mad at God and stopped coming to church because he was praying for a different job and he didn’t get it.  Get over it!  So life doesn’t go as you wish it went.  This is the journey not the destination. 

·         When God looked for a chosen people, he found tent-dwellers, people who could pull up stakes quickly and move.  He found Abraham and the first thing that he did was to relocate him.  He didn’t look for city dwellers, people who exist to support the city.  It’s hard to get out of the city at times and harder to get the city out of you.  He looked for people who were able to carry their home on their backs.  And the record of his choosing and dealing with those people was the record of their journey to a promised land.  In type we are those people of faith that God is still leading through this place to a promised land.  And like them we are always looking for a 5 star hotel or the way back to Egypt.

·         So much of spiritual truth is geared toward “tent dwellers”, people who are willing to be moved.  It deals with the building of a person who can manage life and find it’s beauty swelling above the pain that it can bring at times.  It is never meant to take us out of the tent and out of the wilderness or to help us find a life of ease here and now.

So I think that in these words of encouragement given to his disciples, he spoke very real words that were not cheap and did not trivialize their very real pain because you see they were campers, tent dwellers people of faith homeless in this world.  What he said to them made perfect sense and gave them what they needed to hear.

I find there are times when I hesitate to speak these words to people in pain because they don’t take the pain away.  I feel that I somehow have disrespected their pain.  But in the well worn words there is timeless truth that has guided many weary pilgrims through incredible hardships and they are somewhere ahead of us.  They have traded their tents for a custom built mansion or room in the Father’s realm.  I have a place waiting there especially for me.  There will be chairs that allow my feet to touch the floor when I sit in them. 

And so for their spiritual/emotional ills and their encouragement, Jesus gave them:

1.   A Promise True to Character.

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

ð     Lots of room in the Father’s house

ð     I’m going to prepare your place

ð     I will come back to get you

The promise related to things to come in the next life.  I believe that we are sadly missing if we pack our bags and sit waiting for Christ to come to us or death to bring us to Him.  We are not fit to die until we are fit to live here and now as God intends for us to live.  

There is life that we are promised – abundant life – in the here and now.  It is life preoccupied with the things that concern God, the things that are close to His heart.  As we pursue His purposes we find the “spill-over” to be personal fulfillment, peace, happiness.  We are forever frustrated if chase the end result.

His call to us today is not a call to seek our own good but one that we all know which is to deny oneself. 

·         You see, anyone can make a promise

·         Everyone breaks a promise now and then.  We know that, we make them everyday and many of us break them every day.  Anything from a promised call, a bill that needs to be paid, a visit that needs to be made.  Sometimes inadvertently we raise people’s expectations and then fail to deliver.  This makes us “promise-breakers”.  We smudge our intentions with the words, “I will try . . .” to do this or that.  Jesus said,

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.’ 34 But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. [2]

We recognize it immediately when people fail to deliver what they promise to us but we are much more merciful with our own failures.  “We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions.”  When we fall short we excuse ourselves because we meant well.  Others who likewise struggle with the same human nature are not given the same leeway that we give ourselves.

·         A person’s character determines the value of their promise. Character is not a pre-requisite for “promise-making” but it certainly is for “promise-keeping”.

So what’s the point?  If you trust other words, you will be prone to disappointment and discouragement.  The good and the bad, the reality of living a life in the here and now with the scriptures as our guide is the only thing that can ultimately sustain us.

As well intentioned as we may consider ourselves to be the truth is that we all fail at some point to keep our promises.

Jesus never created heightened expectations as spiritual bait to lure his followers.  He painted things exactly as they would be.

·         “in this world you will have trouble”

·         “if they hated me they will hate you”

·         “love not the world”

·         “let him deny himself, take up his cross”

and the list goes on and on.  He was not prone to making false promises.  I think that the most reassuring words that the disciples heard in the midst of the promise were:

“. . . if it were not so, I would have told you.”

We ultimately return to the unfailing truths of scripture.  Regardless of whether or not we want to hear them at any given point, regardless of how many times they have been thoughtlessly parroted and ill-timed, regardless of how over-used they may sound they represent the only reliable source of guidance that will keep us from walking in circles as we try to find our way through life.

He next offered them:

2.   A Pathway True to Form

 

 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

·         A pathway is not always the straightest distance between two points.  You can’t just give person directions to heaven and say find your way there.  What it requires is following Jesus – you really can’t get there without following Him and He is not going to take you over the most direct path.

He doesn’t say, “Go this way and turn right at the corner where the German Shepherd is sitting.”  He says, “Follow me.”

·         Sometimes the pathway takes you away from your destination.  Reg Horsman and I walked to Money Cove while we were on Grand Manan Island last week.  It was one of those places that my Dad always wanted to take me to when I was a boy.  Life being nothing more than what life is, we never made it.  There were no trails then.  It required a march through the middle of the woods.

After I left the island, my Dad was given charge of a summer project group whose mandate was to cut trails along the exterior of the island.  I had never walked them before and knowing what trails can sometimes be I was a little hesitant to try.

The map told us that it was a 4.5 kilometer hike along the cliffs beginning at The Whistle Light.  Elaine and Linda came along for the first hour or so and turned back at Indian Beach.  The scenery was spectacular.  There were frequent opportunities to stand on the cliffs and look down to the beach far below.

Shortly after the ladies left us we were on the highest point before reaching Money Cove.  I remember Reg drawing my attention to some people working around a dory on the beach, probably 300 feet down and away then away from us.  We watched them for a few minutes and then resumed our hike.  About an hour later we found ourselves on the seawall at Money Cove.  I looked and saw someone dulsing out of a small dory.  It was the same person that we had watched from the cliff face high above.  It took an hour to walk around and down to this place that we had viewed an hour previously.

We could have found a more direct route but often the most direct routes are the most deadly.  There are those today who race into peril looking for the most direct routes, the shortcuts.  They sacrifice a future for a few fleeting seconds of pleasure.

·         The Christian follows a “person” not a path.  The pathway for the Christian is in follower-ship.  It’s allowing for the Lord to guide you his way not yours.  It may look at times as if you’re walking directly away from your goals and aspirations.  To get safely to the seawall at Money Cove we had to turn our backs and walk directly away from our objective.  In a spiritual sense this has often been my experience.  God wants to know if I am willing to accept His timing and so turn my back on my wishes.  When He knows that we are willing to turn our backs and walk away then He knows that we are ready and true followers.

Jesus is the way brothers and sisters.

25 There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. [3] (Prov. 16)

Don’t trust your instincts as you try to find your way – trust Him.

And then Jesus offers his disciples:

3.   A Portrait True to Life

 7 If you really knew me, you would knowa my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” 9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

·         Jesus is the portrait of God. 

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.[4]

You are not going to find anything out about God that you do not see in Christ.  The way that you see Christ react to sinners is the way that God himself would react to sinners.  If Christ showed mercy then God the father will show mercy.

·         The way that Jesus dealt with people is the way that God deals with people.  Want to find out about how God feels about sinners – look at the way Jesus treated them.  Look at his compassion for the woman taken in adultery.  See the respect with which he treated the woman at the well.  Look at what happened because he dared to allow love to speak true and clear and see how this love melts the walls that separate man from God.

Want to know how God feels about impotent religiosity, look at the way that he interacted with the Pharisees.  Read the parable of the unforgiving debtor to see the wrath of God unleashed against the forgiven man who in turn would not forgive.  This is how God feels about those who would project their own righteousness ahead of the blood stained cross upon which He sacrificed himself for a lost and dying world.

There will be no surprises when you stand before God.  You have already seen him in the pages of scripture.  He is the image, the spitting image of the Father.

Now you may have found some hope or promise or encouragement today – I certainly hope so.  But I suspect that as happens many times, the meaning is lost to a degree to city dwellers.  I really believe that God is looking for people who can learn to travel lightly and follow him quickly.

Various sources claim that Jesse James' favorite hymn was "Am I A Soldier Of the Cross."

The words to the hymn were written by Isaac Watts (1674 - 1748), a theologian who also penned the lines "How doth the little busy bee/ Improve each shining hour..." for a children's poem "against idleness and mischief."

It asks the question plainly.  Are you a soldier of the cross or merely a student of it?  Can you get the flowery bed of ease off your back and fall in line behind the Master?

Am I a soldier of the cross,

A follower of the Lamb,
And shall I fear to own His cause

Or blush to speak His Name?

Must I be carried to the skies

On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize

And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face,

Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace

To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight if I would reign;
Increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
Supported by Thy Word.

Thy saints in all this glorious war
Shall conquer, though they die;
They see the triumph from afar,
By faith’s discerning eye

When that illustrious day shall rise,
And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through skies,
The glory shall be Thine.


----

a Or You trust in God

a Some early manuscripts If you really have known me, you will know

[1]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

a Or You trust in God

[2]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

[3]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

a Some early manuscripts If you really have known me, you will know

[4]The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids

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