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Monday, June 9, 2014

True Confession: I Want Your Glory

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not yield my glory to another
 or my praise to idols.” – Isaiah 42:8 NIV

This morning I went for a walk for exercise and while listening to a song from Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir (one of my favorites by the way), I got a revelation that was rather disturbing to me.  I know the gospel is supposed to be disturbing, at least if you allow it to get in you.  But I was extremely uncomfortable with this one in particular because it was something that I already knew intellectually, but I realized in this moment that it had not really penetrated my heart.  The song was called “Helpless” and it’s about the fact that we can’t do anything without Jesus.  I have said this in the past and thought that I meant it.  But today I wasn’t so sure I meant it.  And to make matters worse, if I’m really honest, I don’t even know how to mean it.  Because I don’t want to be helpless, and yet, Scripture tells us that helpless is the place to be if you really want God, because helpless is the truth. 
            But what is also true is that my perception of what it means to be helpless is not something I aspire to.  I take pride in my ability to be capable and independent.  As a matter of fact, that is when I feel most equipped to help others, when I feel like I am adequate because of my own strength and ability.  But in God’s eyes, that means nothing because any strength and ability I have comes from Him.  I have nothing on my own.  I am truly helpless.  But I don’t want to be.  And therein lies the rub.  Therein lies the sin.   Because my heart’s desire is to do the things that I purpose in my heart in order to receive the glory that belongs to God alone.  And I’m afraid that I just might spend my life trying to fight a losing battle:  to steal God’s glory. 
            It’s pretty subtle how it creeps in.  Maybe it’s a twinge of pride when you see someone doing something you feel you can do better.  Or maybe it’s fishing for a compliment on something you did.  Or maybe it is the anger you feel when someone overlooks your contribution to something.  Maybe you just can’t stand not being good at something. Or maybe you are like me and feel like you didn’t do much work for something, so you should never speak about it too often because God is the one who did this amazing thing in your life, but all you can say is, God did it, not me.  So you downplay it.  That’s if you mention it at all. 
            Someone asked me how I was feeling recently and I said bored.  Then they began to rattle off an entire list of things that I did just in the last four months and asked how in the world I could be bored.  And I realized in that moment that I felt bored because I didn’t plan any of it.  So I didn’t feel like I did anything.  So I was bored because my planning and seeking after goals makes me feel accomplished.  It makes me feel like I am doing something in this life.  It makes me feel like I would deserve the praise for what I do.  It gives me grounds to give advice to others who might want to do what I do.  Afterall, it’s pretty boring to tell somebody to seek and trust God more.  That’s a short conversation.  It’s better if I can give you a series of tasks to complete in order to get the results you want.  And then, of course, you can let God co-sign. But you will get the glory for it in the end.  Which might be what you want.
            But truthfully, when God directs my life, I can get a little bored.  Not because I’m not doing stuff, but because God is allowing me to come face-to-face with the condition of my heart.  I want His glory.  I want people to see me instead of Him.  And so I become a hater when God takes over and my plans go by the wayside.  And I don’t point to Him in a truthful way, but in a false humility that is masked in remaining quiet about what God is doing.  And in our attention-seeking-personality-driven society, it feels contrary to admit that this is even a problem.  Everybody wants a name that means something.  Your credit record is about the power of our name financially.  We have website addresses that are our names.  We talk constantly about branding ourselves.  But our true brand is nothingness.  At least without God.  With God, we are amazing! But as a person who confesses Jesus Christ as my Lord, I have to recognize that my life is not my own.  Even when I want it to be. 
            There is a time to feel a sense of pride about an accomplishment.  I certainly don’t think God robs us of those opportunities in life.  I’m not talking about those moments. I’m talking about something deeper.  Something that lies within us and manifests when we least expect it.  Something that is easily masked by religious activity and good deeds.  Something that can eat away at us spiritually and we not even know it.  And this is why I had to confess it.  Because I want to be intimate with God.  And I need to be made aware of those things that keep me from getting closer to Him, even though those things will never keep Him from me.  This is a hindrance from my end of this relationship.  And I don’t want it to be there anymore now that I’m aware of it.  And God already knew it was there.  And that’s comforting.  Because He loves me anyway.  It doesn’t stop God from loving me, or from choosing me, or from using me.  And Him bringing this to my attention is not so that I can now create a list of ways to try harder and do better.  It is simply to confess and let God change my heart.  So, I now invite God into these moments in my life where this might be an issue and ask Him to have mercy on me and show me a new way to handle it.  Maybe then I won’t feel so bored when God is a work because I will be able to join in with Him with a new attitude instead of being a hater because I didn’t come up with the plan.  At least I hope. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

That You May Propser


“Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” – 3 John1:2 KJV

If you and I are friends and we were corresponding via email today, I may open my email to you with some type of greeting that speaks about my hope for things going well in your life.  Maybe I'll say, "Hope all is well with you!".  Or maybe, "I pray that things are well for you and the family." Or maybe, "Peace and blessings to you!", or something to that effect.  In either case, it is simply my greeting to you, my friend, communicating my hope for things going well in your life at that moment.  If, because of my position in the church, you take that as a pronouncement of divine blessing and justification for you to pursue the accumulation of wealth, then you may be taking my greeting a little too far.  But, hey, maybe that's what you needed to hear.  And that was just the encouragement you needed to go after what you want in this life.  More power to you.  

Greeting his friend, Gaius,  is what the Apostle John was doing in his 3rd letter in the Bible when he penned the scripture above.  It was a standard ancient greeting that was actually a prayer that all in the person's life would be well.  Today, so many prosperity gospel preachers take this scripture and preach a sermon about how this scripture justifies the believer's pursuit of health and wealth. Somehow, "I pray all is well with you" became "God wants us to be healthy and rich!"  How did that happen?   

I don't know where that started.  But I pray for it to end.  This upcoming week, I will be participating a a conference on this very issue in the church worldwide.  Christian leaders from around the globe who have taken a public position on the issue of prosperity theology in some form, will be gathering in Sao Paulo, Brazil to discuss this very topic.  We will be talking about the prosperity gospel movement and its' implications on the churchs' teaching on work, injustice, poverty, suffering and other areas.  I was invited to attend because of an article I wrote for PRISM Magazine a few months ago entitled, "The Bankrupt Theology of the Prosperity Gospel.":

http://issuu.com/prismmagazine/docs/prism-winter-2014/43

I must admit, I have no idea what to expect from this trip, which makes me a little nervous.  Will it be a bunch of church leaders from around the world shouting at one another, some in favor of this particular theology, others against it?  Will be be a big sing-a-long with us all holding hands and talking about how much we love Jesus?  Will we all be converted to prosperity preachers at the end?  God only knows. I'm having a hard time still believing that I got invited, let alone having something to contribute to this important conversation.  

In preparing for this trip, I had to reflect on what I actually believe about God and prosperity.  Where do my beliefs come from? Do I think that God wants everybody to be rich?  No, I don't.  Do I think God wants everybody to be the picture of health?  No, I don't.  At least not on earth.  I believe that these things are true in the afterlife, but down here, there are some things we need to wrestle with as we progress towards the return of Jesus.  I know that theologically, those are loaded statements.  And I probably won't do any of them true justice in a short blog post.  But seriously, if we think that God wants EVERYBODY who believes in Him to be rich, why weren't the apostles?  Are we more beloved than they?  If everyone was supposed to be the picture of perfect health, what do we do with passages of scripture like John 9:1-3?

"As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Or 2 Corinthians 12:7-9?

"Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

We always want a reason for things when life seems unfair.  Oftentimes, because we want to know how to prevent pain and suffering from happening to us. It is so much easier to deal with stuff when we believe that we can come up with a formula to prevent it or replicate it.  If I give 10% of my money to church; go to church every Sunday; pray twice a day; tell somebody about Jesus; stay away from smoking, drinking, fornication, lying, stealing, and any other "sin" I can think of, God will give me the good life I want without pain and suffering.  That is often preached as the formula for "abundant life".  That is, if you have enough faith.  Because there are a lot of people who follow this formula, and something happens that was supposed to be avoided and they are told that they must not have enough faith.  Maybe they just don't believe enough.  And this is the problem I have with the prosperity gospel.  It creates formulas for obtaining things from God, which, to me, goes against the gospel of grace.  How can we preach Jesus and the prosperity gospel at the same time?   Jesus talked about how much those who follow him would suffer and have to sacrifice, yet would find life in the middle of those things.  It may or may not be material. The prosperity gospel asks people to sacrifice financially in order to obtain material blessings from God.  It says that the demonstration of God "favoring you" is material wealth.  There are so many things wrong with that, to me, that I couldn't even begin to address it here.  

But I am traveling to learn, as well as to share.  There will be those among us who believe in this particular theology and preach it.  Maybe they can give me some insight into how they can with a clear conscience, look people in the eye and tell them that God is going to give them money or heal their disease, without hearing that from God.  And then require that the people give them money in order to make it come true.  Does anybody else have a problem with that?  Am I flying solo on this?  Well, I'm about to find out.  I am a first hand witness to what God can do through a person's financial life.  I also know what God can do in a person's health.  But I know that it is God's prerogative to choose who God will and will not heal or make rich.  There do exist some healthy, rich atheists in this world.  Did they sacrifice to God to make that happen?  Probably not. There are also some faithful, sickly, impoverished people as well.  Is God not with them? 

So what do we do with this?  I guess I'm about to find out. I would like to be both firm and open. I'll be sure to write a post-trip reflection and give you an update.  And if the prosperity preachers convert me, please send a PayPal offering to me at shaylear@gmail.com.  I'm sure you'll be blessed! :-) 
 



Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Inside Information


"Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them." - Matthew 5:1

It's been a full week of my attempt to practice being less busy for Lent.  Some days are good.  Some days not so much.  But I am aware.  And that awareness is helping me to see better.  I feel more empowered regarding my time.  I realized that I don't have to function on other people's schedule.  I know that might sound like a no brainer to some but for whatever reason, I had been functioning more on other people's schedule.  Something powerful happens when you have a chance to get away from the crowd and focus on Jesus a little more.  You see things differently.  He gets to teach you things. No matter how long you have been walking with him, Jesus can always show you something new.  But it may not happen in the crowd.

I know that there are lots of churches and ministries that thrive on crowds.  Megachurches with thousands of members; ministers with millions of followers and TV evangelists with millions of "partners".  But to me, there is something special about that personal time with Jesus that I just don't get in the crowd.  Maybe it has more to do with the introverted part of my personality (I'm about 55/45 extrovert to introvert).  For the extroverts of the world they may find joy and revelation in the crowd.  I invite strong extroverts to tell me if that's true.  But even the strong extroverts I know still like their "special time" alone with Jesus. 

Being a follower of Jesus, you will be called away at times to just be with him.  Away from the noise and demands of the crowd and just alone with Jesus.  I love in Scripture when it tells us that Jesus saw crowds and went away.  It's like the complete opposite of what we think is the way to "do ministry" today.  People want a big crowd.  Lots of followers.  But making disciples rarely happens in a crowd.  It's hard to get those special impartations in a crowd.  Following this first passage in the 5th chapter of Matthew is Jesus' famous Beatitude sermon.  That sermon was not given to the crowd. We might take that for granted now since the bible is so widely published.  But that wasn't for the masses.  It was for those who came away with him.  They got some really important inside information about how to handle life. 

I know that the time I spend with God alone in precious to me.  And staying busy with stuff gets me away from that time and then I miss it.  But if we are truly following Jesus, we have to move away from the crowd when he does. In that time comes the insight you will need to get you through whatever you are facing now and in the future. So whatever you gave up for Lent, or even if you didn't participate, take some time away to learn more about God.  You won't regret it.  You need it. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The One About Lent


"Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry." - Luke 4:1-2

Today is March 5, 2014.  Apart from being the birthday of the woman who gave birth to me (Happy Birthday Mommy), this year it is the start of Lent.  It's that time of year when people all over the world vow to stop smoking, drinking, eating sweets, cursing, or whatever else people give up to honor the season leading up to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.  For the past two years, I haven't given up anything for Lent.  I hadn't felt compelled to do it.  And maybe that makes me a bad Christian.  But I realized that the "stuff" that I was giving up for 40 days was stuff that I probably shouldn't be doing anyway.  But for 40 days a year, I give it up and then on day 41, I'm right back at it again.  So I didn't want to keep doing that. That's not the actual purpose of this season.  Do you know the meaning of the season of Lent, for real?

Lent is part of the Christian calendar.  Throughout the year, there are certain seasons that (some) Christians observe to have a spiritual focus.  I like the Christian calendar, and I started linking my devotions to it last year.  It can force you to read passages of scripture that normally get overlooked. It can bring some discipline to your devotional life.  It can help you connect with God and the bigger purpose of what it means to follow Christ.  It's been helpful to me.  The seasons are:  Advent (early December-December 24th), Christmas (12 Days from December 25th-January 5th, which is where we get the 12 days of Christmas song from), Epiphany (January 6th-Ash Wednesday), Lent (40 days until the start of Passion Week), Eastertide (50 days from Easter Sunday to Pentecost), Pentecost (goes until the start of Advent again).  Lent represents the 40 days in the wilderness Jesus spent prior to the start of his ministry. We sacrifice something because he did. As his followers, Christians are (supposedly) seeking to relate to God intimately, like Christ did. And the Holy Spirit was the one who led Jesus into the wilderness. 

So this Lenten season,. I am asking myself, where is the Holy Spirit leading me?  And when I go to the place that I am being led, what will I be hungry for when the time is done?  In my normal lent sacrifice, I would give up something and hunger for it at the end of the 40 days.  Giving up sweets?  On day 41, I'm having a chocolate chip cookie.  Giving up alcohol?  Hand me a martini on day 41.  So I end up still hungering for the same thing I gave up.  No transformation. No change.  Nothing is really different.  Maybe I shed a few pounds, but they'll probably be back.  So how do we practice Lent for real?  Like sacrifice something that you won't actually hunger for again, so that you draw closer to God, who is what we are really hungry for.  That doesn't happen by simply saying no to something.  You have to say yes to something else.  Like time with God.  For every craving you get for the thing you sacrifice, maybe you have a scripture that you meditate on or a prayer you utter in those moments to remind yourself of your true hunger: intimacy with God.  I think my sacrifice this year is my busy schedule.  I've been led to many opportunities and chances to further my career and do many good things.  But in turn, my time with God has diminished.  That's not ok. So, I'm going to try to give up being busy this year for Lent.  Let' see if I'll hunger for a busy schedule again after it's done.  So if I say not to an invitation, don't take it personal.  I'm trying something new for Lent. 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Faith vs. Fear


Faith vs. Fear

“Have the faith to be happy, healthy and in control of your life.”  - AARP Advertisement

The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd.” Hebrews 11:1-2 The Message

                I was on a website and came across this statement from AARP in an advertisement.  No, they are not paying me to advertise for them.  But they can just take this as a freebee from me.  But I found it interesting in light of a conversation I had with a friend earlier today about faith vs. fear.  Fear is the opposite of faith.  And the majority of us, let’s face it, function from a place of fear, not faith.  Even when it is disguised as being “responsible”. It’s really just our attempt to control the outcomes of our lives.  And the more things we put in place to control the outcomes of our lives, the less we are demonstrating faith in this area. 

                Of course, I find this most evident in working with money and people. There is so much uncertainty when it comes to financial planning. Yet, it makes people feel more in control of their lives when they have a plan.  Even though, that plan can be interrupted at any point in time by God’s plan, we feel better about our lives when we are taking steps to “take control” of our lives in some way.  And admittedly, I wrestle with this.  Especially when the title on my business card is “Senior Financial Planner”.  How ironic.  I should change it to “Senior Financial Guesser” because I have no idea if this stuff is going to go according to plan. I’m not God.  And sometimes, we have to take steps that seem a little outrageous and irresponsible in demonstration of where our true faith lies.  Not recklessly.  But faithfully.  And I know that is a fine line.  Some people say they are living in faith, when actually they are just lazy and irresponsible. God only knows the difference. 

                Is it faith to purchase insurance?  Is it faith to project out a retirement plan?  Is it faith to have an emergency fund?  Is it faith to prepare a will?  I guess it depends.  We have to start from a place of truth in order to plan anything in order for our plans to be created in faith.  Because planning can also be faith.  But only if it is not conceived in fear.  I also know that fear is a great sales strategy.  If I make you fearful of something happening, I might have exactly the right product to sell you to ease your fear.  Then I have put you in position to make your purchase out of fear of the unknown.  It’s exploitive.  And I have done it.  Forgive me.  I was young. 

                So what is true?  How do we create financial plans from truth and faith instead of lies and fear?  Well, lets start with at least one truth:  You are going to die.  Your life is limited on this planet.  There is nothing you can do about it.  Not admitting it, won’t make it less true.  Steven Covey (R.I.P.) said that one of the habits of highly effective people is to begin with the end in mind.  On this planet (I’m not talking about eternity because you won’t need money there), your end is death.  Let’s start there and work backwards.  What would you have a desire to accomplish before you die?  What is in your heart to do?  You are closer to finding the truth of how to manage your money faithfully if you begin recognizing that you do not know how much time you have to live.  Are you working in a job that represents your faith or your fear?  Are you spending your time with people based on your faith or your fear?  Are you hoarding your money based on faith or fear? What legacy do you want to leave? 

How many passages of scripture actually deal with this issue of faith and fear?  I can think of a few off the top of my head in the New Testament alone (Matthew 25, Hebrews 11, Romans 8). Have I ever even talked to God about this in my prayer time?  The bible also says that, “Without faith, it is impossible to please God” Hebrews 11:6.  So you have to start with faith to even get on God’s good side, so to speak. Without faith, the implications of this scripture is that God is not pleased.  Because if we don’t have faith, we don’t know God.  It takes faith to even be in relationship with God.  To be able to trust and believe in what you cannot see takes faith.  But it could also be fear.  Maybe I am just afraid that there is a God, so I just say I believe, when I don’t. Or maybe, I just need a get-out-of-hell free card, so I do just enough to look like I am demonstrating faith, but it’s really fear. Only God knows.  But God does know.     

                I know that my way of engaging clients has changed in the last few years, as God has forced me to come face to faith* with this truth.  I had a lot of plans, but most of them were fear based and disguised as responsibility. Faith has more to do with what you are willing to let go of, not what you hold on to in your life.  Maybe if we stop trying to control our lives, we will somehow start living.  Wait, I think that’s a scripture, right? “Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.”, said Jesus in Luke 17:33.   Maybe he was onto something. 

                So I get why AARP would have an ad like that.  They are going after the church crowd. Specifically the African-American church crown, who historically has not been great at things like financial planning and insurance protection.  But I think they need to take out the control piece of the ad.  Trying to gain control of your life is truthfully the opposite of faith.  Here’s how I would re-write the ad:  “Have the faith to trust God for all things.  And buy insurance from us.”  That’s probably closer to the truth in my most humble opinion.   

·         BTW- That was originally typo, but I thought it was more appropriate to leave it. 

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Saturday


Saturday

The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, ‘After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.

The Saturday after the resurrection had to be hard.  It was a day of mourning.  It’s the in-between day.  The day after the crucifixion and the day before resurrection . . . you hope.  You remember that Jesus said that after three days, he would be resurrected, but maybe you are not so sure about that on Saturday.  On Saturday, you are just hoping what he said was true.  If you even remember.  Sometimes, we forget what God said when we are in between Friday and Sunday.  Between crucifixion and resurrection.  But your enemies didn’t forget.
            The chief priests and the Pharisees didn’t forget that Jesus said that he would rise again on the third day.  Even though they were the ones who got him crucified, they really didn’t forget about what Jesus said.  And I’m guessing, they needed to cover their bases.  So they sealed the tomb and put an armed guard in front to prevent what they thought would be a fraudulent attempt of his disciples to steal Jesus’ body to act like he rose from the dead.  So they made the tomb as secure as they knew how. 
            I want to stay here for a moment. I’m not going to get into the resurrection yet. Today is Saturday and if I am a disciple, I don’t know if what Jesus said about raising up on the third day is true yet.  I might not even remember what he said because I am in such mourning and shock over how his death went down.  I might be thinking, what was it all for?  I just spent three years of my life following this dude and now he’s dead.  I thought he was a king.  I thought he was going to rule.  How is he dead?  What am I supposed to do now? 
            I think we all have times in our lives that feel like Saturday.  More often than we might desire.  You have a promise from God, but it doesn’t look good.  There is nothing that would give you any indication that this thing will actually come to pass. It’s Saturday.  And to top it off, your enemies have done everything to make sure that this thing doesn’t happen.  They have killed your hopes and sealed the tomb.  And just to make sure no funny business happens, there is a guard outside of the tomb.  They have made the tomb for your hope as secure as they know how. 
            The only thing we can cling to in these moments is what God said.  The only hope we have is in God not being a liar and the power of God being stronger than anything we could ever think of, including any work of an enemy.  I know that in certain areas of my life, its Saturday.  God said something, but it looks like this thing is dead and buried and there is no hope for it ever happening. Even my enemies have seemed to take extra steps to make sure that these things stay buried.  But my hope is in what will happen on Sunday.  I fight to remember those words, and have to have faith that Sunday is coming. 
            Maybe you feel like its Saturday for you.  And your enemies know the word that was spoken and have sought permission to make sure your hope stays dead and buried.  But trust and believe in what you have already heard.  Saturday won’t last forever.  Believe in Sunday.  Believe in the resurrection of whatever your hope is.  If you got a word, it is true.  Enemies are doing everything they know how to keep the reality of Friday and Saturday alive and the truth of what happens on Sunday buried in the tomb.  And isn’t it just like God to make sure you know that whatever He has spoken will be undoubtedly something that only God could do?  After everything is done that is known how to do, there can only be one reason why a resurrection happens.  It is God’s doing.  God will ensure that no one gets the glory but Him.  Our lives are lived to glorify God.  And that means we have to go through some Saturdays.  Even when its hard.  But trust and believe that Sunday is coming. 
           

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Intentions

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Good Intentions

Then Jesus told them, “This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written:
“‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.” Peter replied, “Even if all fall away on account of you, I never will.” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”
But Peter declared, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the other disciples said the same.” Matthew 26:31-35 NIV

            Well, we have made it to Good Friday.  The very day on which Jesus Christ was hung on a cross and died, all to make sure we have a relationship with God. That’s a very simplistic way to put it, but you get the idea.  It is a good Friday, only because we know about Sunday.  If we were living during the actual events, it may not have been such a good Friday.  It would have been awful, actually.  It would have been the day that you watched your teacher, mentor, friend and Lord get beaten, bloodied, bruised and nailed to a tree for all to see and treated like a criminal. All the while, you know that he did nothing wrong.  You watched him love people in a way that was amazing.  You saw him perform miracles that blew your mind.  You watched as he stood up to the bully religious leaders in the towns and put them in their place.  This is your homie.  Your friend.  Your confidant.  And to top it off, you are one of the ones that he chose to spend the last three years of his life with.  He chose you.  Such an honor.  This is the man you think you would give your life for, basically because you know he would do the same.  As a matter of fact, he is going to give his life for you.  But at this moment, you are not ready to do the same.  You just think you are. 
            When Jesus held the Passover meal with his disciples, he knew them better than they knew themselves.  He knew that when the time to be crucified was to come, his buddies would be nowhere to be found.  He knew that he was going to be lonely.  He knew that this was something he had to do alone.  But the disciples didn’t know that.  I think maybe it is because they could not fathom what Jesus was talking about when he kept telling them that he was going to die.  Maybe they figured that Jesus could escape death, like he did when he was about to be stoned before and just slipped through the crowd.  Maybe they figured that nobody could get past their entourage of disciples who thought they were pretty tough.  Maybe they thought they were so down for the cause that they could take a stoning like a champ.  But could they have ever imagined that the man who walked on water, gave sight to the blind and cast out demons could ever be taken down by anybody?  I don’t think they were ready to see that.  It’s hard to watch someone you admire, love and respect go through a completely vulnerable moment.  Sometimes it’s too much.  You can’t bear to watch.  And this is what happened to the disciples.  They couldn’t bear to watch.  So they abandoned Jesus in his final hours, just like he knew they would.
            I don’t think any of them would have thought that they would leave Jesus for any reason.  They had no reason to. They had stuck with him through so much already.   What could have possibly made them abandon him now?  In our minds, we are a lot tougher than we are in reality.  In my mind I can take a lot.  I can gear myself up to handle anything I can imagine.  But then the rubber meets the road, and the truth of who I am comes out.  And I’m not as tough as I think I am.  I’m not as loyal as I think I am.  I’m not as committed as I think I am.  Even though I want to be.  I have every intention of being the best everything I can be in life.  Even the best Christian.  In my head, if there was ever a time when I would have to defend my faith before a firing squad or under severe persecution, I think I’d be all about it.  I love Jesus.  I could not see myself denying my faith in Him.  But I’ve never been in that situation before, so the truth is I don’t know.  Even though I have seen Jesus’ miracles in my life, the power of believing in him, I don’t know if I would ever deny him.  I just hope I wouldn’t.  But there is no guarantee. 
            I think we need to approach our faith with a little more humility than we do.  I hear people talk all the time about not being ashamed of Jesus and standing up for the Word.  But truthfully, what I normally see is people standing up for their own ideas of morality, not for Jesus.  The person of Jesus, when the rubber meets the road, is what we need to be able to stand for. Not just our ideas of what that means.  I mean the man Jesus, who was innocent of any crime and is being persecuted for you.  The one who is your hero, but is completely vulnerable right now.  Can you even look at that?  Can you just be there for him in this moment?  His original disciples couldn’t.  What makes you think you are any better?  Why are you so tough?  You haven’t even seen what they saw and somehow you think you won’t abandon Jesus when times get tough?  I hope I’m not that arrogant.  I know it’s in me to walk away.  But I also know that it’s in Jesus to forgive me for it.  Walking away won’t destroy me, but it will make me feel bad. But I can’t let it keep me from moving forward.  All of the disciples, with the exception of John walked away from the cross.  But they all came back to Jesus.  I find it interesting that John was the only disciple not to be martyred.  I wonder if his ability to see the cross up close and personal gave him a pass on being martyred later.  I’m just speculating. Don’t preach that. But have some humility when it comes to saying that you won't deny Jesus.  Jesus already knows if you will or not.  Peter was adamant about his commitment.  But he was also recorded as having denied Jesus three times.  I wouldn't be so adamant if I were you.  Just say, "Lord, you know." And in time, I'm sure you'll have a chance to really prove it.