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Monday, May 9, 2011

Beautiful Things

where is Jesus? For those who have been Christians for a majority of their life this question has no doubt come up once or twice.  Maybe not in that form but it has certainly come up one way or another.  Maybe it is a feeling of abandonment, or a feeling that God has lost concern for ones life, like He no longer needs to work in ones life, or we just don't feel God anymore.  In other words: a spiritual dry spot.  Where is Jesus? why cant i fell Him anymore? Does He not work in me anymore?  Has He left me? And don't get me wrong, these are honest, pure questions that deserve an answer or two.  I am not here to say that i have those answers or to point to someone who does but here are my thoughts:

John 21:1-14
"Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias.a It happened this way: 2Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
6He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. 8The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.b 9When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.”
11Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead." 

 It was last Sunday that i was reminded of this verse. Immediately as the sermon was going on i took out the only piece of paper i could find , which happened to be a blue mountain ridge aca prep pass, and started writing down my ideas in the scrawl i like to call my hand writing.  Anyways, what i found interesting was the attitude of the disciples.  After being out all night at sea with absolutely no luck at catching any fish they listen to a stranger of all people.  Pause right there.  Put yourself in that position.  When i did this i realized that i would not listen to someone who was standing on the shore, for my prides sake. i would say something like
              "hey man, i dont know about you but i have been out here ALL night and i haven't caught a single thing.  I dont think throwing my net out to the other side will help me out here."  But what amazes me is that the disciples actually did go to the other side of the boat.  but now the question is why.  What made them listen? I spent a lot of time thinking about this question and after a while i realized that i was over thinking this one.  I think that it was simply because they tried everything else: they were failures, as far as fishing concerns, and they were at the rock bottom ( keep it in perspective here, i dont mean to be over dramatic.) there are two things that happened at that time
        1) they swallowed their pride and
        2) they realized they could not catch any fish on their own so they listened to a total stranger.
It was not until then that they found success.  And further more it was not until the miracle that they just witnessed that they realized that this mysterious man was, in fact, Jesus.  Here is where we find two major biblical motifs:
losing one's pride in order to follow Jesus and remembering God's works in order to recognize Him and grow in faith. The first theme is one i have talked about before and is crucial in order to follow Jesus. I will not spend much time on this fact other than the idea that there is nothing good inside of us and therefore we must lose ourselves.  What i do want to focus on is the latter of the two.  The remembrance of God's works.  This is one thing that we are often told to do yet never honestly take it to heart.  One psalm comes to mind that frames this beautifully: Psalm 77

I cried out to God for help;
   I cried out to God to hear me.
2 When I was in distress, I sought the Lord;
   at night I stretched out untiring hands,
   and I would not be comforted.
 3 I remembered you, God, and I groaned;
   I meditated, and my spirit grew faint.[b]
4 You kept my eyes from closing;
   I was too troubled to speak.
5 I thought about the former days,
   the years of long ago;
6 I remembered my songs in the night.
   My heart meditated and my spirit asked:
 7 “Will the Lord reject forever?
   Will he never show his favor again?
8 Has his unfailing love vanished forever?
   Has his promise failed for all time?
9 Has God forgotten to be merciful?
   Has he in anger withheld his compassion?”
 10 Then I thought, “To this I will appeal:
   the years when the Most High stretched out his right hand.
11 I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
   yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
12 I will consider all your works
   and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
 13 Your ways, God, are holy.
   What god is as great as our God?
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
   you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
   the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
 16 The waters saw you, God,
   the waters saw you and writhed;
   the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
   the heavens resounded with thunder;
   your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
   your lightning lit up the world;
   the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
   your way through the mighty waters,
   though your footprints were not seen.
 20 You led your people like a flock
   by the hand of Moses and Aaron

Notice the language used in the half before the bolded phrase and then notice the change in the use of language after the bolded phrase.  Asaph is clearly troubled in the first half.  When one is not able to sleep and not able to speak there must be a problem. a serious one.  But what i found specifically intriguing is that the moment he remembers the works and miracles that God has done not one mention of his troubles appears again.  He gets lost in his worship.  He found Jesus, well saying that isn’t technically correct seeing that it was before Christ’s time so technically he found God.  Anyways, that is the point I want to make:  We often don’t see Jesus working in our lives because we don’t choose to and we don’t listen and when we do it is in the time of total failure like we see with the disciples.  We see this is psalm 105:5 “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced” and in 1st chronicles 16:12. 
            With that I wish to offer you one last thing:  do not view these spiritual dry spots as strictly bad.  Yes, it is God’s desire for us to grow but sometimes it is necessary for Him to first show us our need.  Any circumstance in which allows us to see our need of Christ, be this a spiritual dry spot or something else, consider it part of His will.  They key to moving past this is that found in Luke: Swallow ones pride, listen, and then remember.  By doing so we really do see that Jesus has not left us, nor will He ever.  It is us who has left.  We have become blind to what He is doing.  Open your eyes and maybe, just maybe, God’s beauty and work will be shown to you again.  Here is an interesting article that goes along with this:

“A man sat at a metro station in Washington DC and started to play the violin; it was a cold January morning. He played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time, since it was rush hour, it was calculated that thousands of people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
Three minutes went by and a middle aged man noticed there was musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried up to meet his schedule.
A minute later, the violinist received his first dollar tip: a woman threw the money in the till and without stopping continued to walk.
A few minutes later, someone leaned against the wall to listen to him, but the man looked at his watch and started to walk again. Clearly he was late for work.
The one who paid the most attention was a 3 year old boy. His mother tagged him along, hurried but the kid stopped to look at the violinist. Finally the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk turning his head all the time This action was repeated by several other children. All the parents, without exception, forced them to move on.
In the 45 minutes the musician played, only 6 people stopped and stayed for a while. About 20 gave him money but continued to walk their normal pace. He collected $32. When he finished playing and silence took over, no one noticed it. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written with a violin worth 3.5 million dollars.
Two days before his playing in the subway, Joshua Bell sold out at a theater in Boston and the seats averaged $100.
Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and priorities of people. The outlines were: in a commonplace environment at an inappropriate hour: Do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize the talent in an unexpected context?
One of the possible conclusions from this experience could be:
If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world playing the best music ever written, how many other beautiful things are we missing?”
That is the truth… how many things from God are we missing?

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