Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Doldrums—A Poem

Written a couple years back, but still describes my life at times:

The Doldrums

Sailing, full on,
Fair winds, making way,
The tiller sure and solid.

And then...the wind is gone,
The sails hang limp,
The tiller is dead and lifeless...

Oh, how I remember,
Oh, how I yearn for fresh wind!
For the wind on my face.

All that I can do is wait.........
There is no way to move,
And no where else to go.

I must stay alert, ready, expectant.
Wind will come again,
And I must not abandon ship.

Come, fresh wind...
Fill my sails again...
Fill me again.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Real Commission—John 20:21,22,23

This is the Real Commission. The Great Commission, as it's been tagged, is in Matt. 28:18-19, where Jesus gives His authority to His disciples to, as they are going, literally, teaching others and baptizing them. Everyone agrees that even though these words were spoken directly to only His disciples, they apply to all of us as the church.

In Matt. 10:1, Jesus uses the same language, and speaks to the same disciples, giving them His authority over the enemy, to cast out demons and heal the sick. Somehow, we don't agree that these words apply to us, even though, again, same words and same audience. We pick and choose and excuse away things that make us uncomfortable or that we don't know what to do.

And then we come to John 20: 21,22,23 (and I write it out like that for easy remembering! 20 21 22 23). Jesus appears after the resurrection in the room where the disciples have locked themselves into out of fear, and surprisingly says, "Peace be with you." That alone should be a shock if we hadn't already read the story. These are the guys who slept while He prayed, stood by while He was under arrest and trial, and abandoned Him out of fear, now locked away. We should expect anything but "Peace" from Jesus' lips. At best, rather peeved! At worst, ready to destroy these men who He'd counted on. But in the very same breath, He says something startling, "As the Father has sent me, so I send you."

What did the Father send Jesus to do? There can be a lot of answers, but can we sum it up as: to rescue us? Jesus was sent to redeem us out of slavery, in His own words, to set prisoners free, give sight to the blind, heal the sick, to be the sacrifice which pays the death penalty for us. It's a rescue mission. So what is He sending us to do? A rescue mission. A mission from God. The highest possible mission, the very one that Jesus Himself is on! He hands to US! Well, He hands to His disciples, the same one in Matt. 28 and Matt. 10 (without Judas, of course.). So if you receive Matt. 28 as belonging to everyone, you must receive John 20 as belonging to us as well. We have been sent on a mission from God. The mission from God. To rescue the world. As crazy as that sounds.

Now, we come to verse 22. He breathes on them, "Receive the Holy Spirit." What do we get with the Holy Spirit? Most everyone I've asked answers immediately, Power. So He's sent us on The Mission from God, and has now given us power to carry it out. We are able to do the mission He's sent us on.

It gets weird now. Verse 23 is one that most of us have ignored or explained away. Bible scholars in every footnote that I've seen say that this doesn't apply to us, that it merely reflects the truth of what God says that we can explain to others. "If you forgive sins, they are forgiven. If you withhold forgiveness, they are withheld." Now the reason we've dodged this is that we know that we cannot possibly forgive sins, since even the Pharisees noted that 'only God can forgive sins'. So it must mean something else, right?

John called Jesus The Word in the first chapter. The Very One Who Speaks God. Who wrote The Word. Is it fair to assume that He knows how to say what He wants to say? That He is capable with words, vocabulary, figures of speech? You better say yes. Then isn't it fairly easy to suggest that Jesus is able to say what He means? And mean what He says? When He wants to be obscure, He explains Himself later. So what can He possibly mean that we can forgive sins? Authority. Remember back in Matt. 28 and Matt. 10? He gave His authority, to His disciples and to us. What is the greatest mark of that authority? To heal? To cast out demons? No, even Jesus Himself said it was the power to forgive.

He has given us that authority. Rest on that a moment. It's unsettling, isn't it?

Let's review: He's sent us on The Mission of God, He's given us power with the Holy Spirit, and now gives us His authority...effectively to act on His behalf, to be God to the world around us. What do we do with that? What would you do if you could be God for a day? A week? The rest of your lifetime?

I'm sad to think that we've minimized ourselves, that we've chosen to live in small worlds of eating and drinking and sex and tv and work and a vacation now and then, when we've been given what Jesus had, and so must surely we should be doing what Jesus did. We've settled for the easy path, allowed the scholars to convince us that it's true, and the enemy keeps us blinded.

The next verses with Thomas clearly are right where we are, right now, even as we read this: His mission, power, and authority given to us run headlong into doubt, unbelief, disbelief. We are confused, convicted, challenged, and we tend to just shut down, it's too much to take. We need to fight for the truth.

Jesus knows exactly what He's saying. Do we?