Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Second Guessers Anonymous

To my consternation, I must admit that I have carried on a particular trait of my father’s – one that tended to frustrate the bejebbers out of me growing up. When I turn something over to someone else to get done, once that project is handled, I tend to throw cold water on their accomplishment by ‘second guessing’ what was done.
“Why didn’t you do it this way?” “Did you consider that when working on it?” “I probably would have handled it this way . . .”
I’ve turned the issue over to someone else to handle; if I didn’t consider them capable of handling it, I wouldn’t have done so in the first place; it relieves me of the burden . . . So why do I proceed to ‘second guess’ what they’ve done?
This same tendency often follows me into my dealings with God, as well. Such ‘second guessing’ of God was certainly evident at a recent gathering I attended.
A friend invited me to participate in a discussion of a ministry opportunity that God laid on his heart. My friend had spent months in study, meditation, and prayer to confirm God’s plan. So, he laid out where God was leading him to a few of us.
We started with a couple of hours of making lists, drawing charts, and listening to one guy say, “Have you considered . . .?” While another guy pointed out, “Perhaps it could be done like . . .” And still another chimed in, “You ought to look at . . .” And then one man stood up and said (basically): “Gentlemen – we need to shut up. It’s obvious that he has turned this over to God and that God has given him a plan. We need to put our agendas aside and support him. If it’s God’s plan, can we improve it?”
Whoa. My natural inclination would be to get offended and defensive. However, everyone in that room knew that he was right. He spoke out of love and he spoke the truth. And it was obvious that he had more faith in God’s ability to handle the issue than the rest of us put together.
We like to echo the sentiment “Let go and let God,” but what we often mean is “Give it to God – but be there to give God some guidance and assistance and be prepared to take over when things take a turn.” That’s second guessing. That’s a lack of faith.

Do you ask God for help?
Do you truly give Him your burdens and your hurts?
Is your God big enough to handle what you take to Him?
Do you really trust God with whatever issues you have?
Do you believe that God loves you and that He knows best?

I second guess others because I think I know the best way. I second guess others because I want them to do things my way. I second guess others because (deep down) I’m afraid they’ll screw it up.
But does any of that apply to God? Of course not.
There is absolutely no room for second guessing God. "I do have faith! Please help me to have even more." (Mark 9:24, CEV)

Trying to trust more,
Craig Hollingsworth

Thursday, April 23, 2009

A Friend of God

Several years ago, as a counselor at a youth retreat, I listened as the youth minister closed the weekend with an informal communion service. He began with words similar to words I had heard so many times before, “And on that night, Jesus met with several of his friends for a special dinner . . .”
I have no idea what he said after that because my mind went off into another world. I was simply overwhelmed with emotions as I contemplated what it must have been like to have been one of Jesus’ friends. What it must have been like to know the man; to have spent virtually every minute of every day for three years with him!
What would it have been like to warm my hands over the campfire with Jesus? What joy to have shared a good “belly laugh” with him as we walked beside the Sea of Galilee. Oh, to have felt his embrace as I returned from time away from him preaching the good news (Mark 6:30).
Did Jesus prefer dates or olives? When skipping stones on the Jordan, did Jesus throw with his left or his right hand? Did he speak with a Galilean accent as did Peter? What was his favorite color? Was he an early riser? What size sandal did he wear?

He was a man - like me - and his friends would have known these things (and more) about the man from Galilee.
The Gospel accounts are sprinkled with glimpses into the humanity of Jesus – those things that show that he was a man and experienced the same things in this life that we do. For example:
> He was born (Luke 2:6-7) and he died (Mark 15:37)
> He was circumcised as every good Jewish boy was (Luke 2:21)
> He learned and he grew – through adolescence and puberty (Luke 2:52)
> He was scolded by his mom (Luke 2:48)
> He had a family (Matt. 13:55, Mark 6:3)
> He experienced hunger (Mark 11:12, Matt. 4:2) and thirst (John 4:7, 19:28)
> He worked at a job (Mark 6:3)
> He was tempted (Matt. 4:1-11, Mark 1:13)
> He cried (John 11:35 - death of a friend, Luke 19:41) and experienced sorrow and anguish (Matt. 26:38). Yet he knew joy as well (John 15:11, 17:13)
> He dealt with stress (Luke 22:44) and disappointment (Matt. 23:37)
> He got tired and needed rest (Mark 4:38, John 4:6)
> He became angry (Matt. 16:23, 17:17, 21:12-13, Mark 3:5)
> He knew poverty (Luke 9:58, Matt. 8:20)
> He understood love (John 11:36, 15:12-13)
> He felt compassion (Matt. 9:36, 14:14, 15:32)
> He sang songs (Mark 14:26)
> He needed to pray (Matt. 14:23, 26:36)
> He was amazed (Matt. 8:10)

But why is it important that Jesus was a man and that he experienced the same things we do? Because a sacrifice had to be made to reconcile a lost world to God. And while that sacrifice had to be completely free from sin, it would have been too small a thing for a God who is totally incapable of sinning to be that sacrifice. Instead, a human body and soul had to be prepared (Heb. 10:5-10). “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” Heb. 2:17 (NIV).
Jesus is completely able to understand and sympathize with our weaknesses and infirmities because he went through every single thing that we have, yet he did so, as a 100% man, without sinning. (Heb. 4:15)
When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death - and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth - even those long ago dead and buried - will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” Phil. 2:7-11 (MSG)

What an incredible man! What an awesome Savior! What a glorious God!
We may often think that there were only a few men and women who had the inconceivably blessed opportunity on this earth to be friends of this man from Galilee.
But that is not the case.
Jesus calls us his friends. (John 15:15) And he makes it possible for us to know him better and better every day.
It may be a while before we know the color of Jesus’ eyes and whether he likes olives on His pizza, but we can learn more about his heart each day.
Are you investing in that friendship the same way Jesus has?

A friend of God,
Craig Hollingsworth

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

After Easter

Whew! Easter was certainly a busy day for us – We got the kids ready for church; attended an early worship service; served at a couple of other services; hauled everyone to the in-law’s for lunch, egg hunts, and visiting with extended family; went home to load up food and change cloths; went to my parents to prepare dinner and for more eating, egg hunting, and game playing; traveled back home; got everyone ready for bed; collapsed.
And then . . . as I was resting my head on my nice, soft pillow - I wondered about that very first “Easter” night. That had been a pretty hectic day, too.

The disciples were all in hiding, afraid that the same thing that had happened to Jesus on Friday would also happen to them. They had pinned all of their hopes for their future, and the future of their people, on Jesus.
But He was captured, tortured, and killed.
The disciples weren’t in an upper room together to pray for what direction the ‘ministry’ was to take next. I’m convinced that they were all huddled together in fear and despair and on the very brink of renouncing whatever vestiges of ‘faith’ remained. Every noise they heard sent shivers down their spines, bringing dread that soldiers were at the door.
It was all over.
Then Mary Magdalene and the other Mary reported that Jesus was not in His tomb. What!?! And then two disciples reported that they had actually encountered Jesus on their way down to Emmaus! How . . ?!
No one knew what to make of all of that.
And then - and then - Jesus appeared in body right there among them!
They saw Him crucified, dead, and buried. Yet – there He was! Alive!
Jesus ministered to them and then they watched as He physically ascended into heaven. He told them to go and minister to others in His Name.


Do you think those disciples just laid their heads on their pillows and peacefully dozed off that night? Can you even imagine what was going on in their minds on that night?
The excitement.
The fantastic joy.
The unbelievable realization that Jesus had conquered death; that He was alive and with the Father; that He was Who He said He was; and He did what He said He’d do.
The anticipation of what was to come. The adrenaline. The eagerness to let others know the Truth!
They had to feel like they were about to burst.

And do you know what? Jesus is just as alive today.
The ‘good news’ is just as good.
He is real. He is risen. He is God.
He has appeared to us. He is with us.
Easter wasn’t a ‘once and done.’ It isn’t a ‘once a year.’
Easter is eternal – it bridges the gap between death and Life. Every day. For all days.
Are you excited about that? Are you really excited?

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4

Happy to be made alive,
Craig Hollingsworth

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

To Be Continued

As He hung on the cross, His body beaten, bloody, and pierced, Jesus knew that death was at hand. He mustered the last bit of strength He had and pushed on the spike driven through His feet to raise Himself up enough to inhale a final breath. And with that last breath, He exhaled, “It is finished.”
That’s when the prince of this world began to gloat at what he perceived was a concession speech. While he had been a first-hand witness to Jesus’ pre-incarnate glory and majesty in eternities past, this was the moment he had longed for since he had fallen from heaven - ‘God’s people’ had rejected God’s very own Son.
Although Jesus had spent three years ‘campaigning’ throughout the land, Lucifer had likewise been hard at work. His efforts had resulted in the masses refusing to acknowledge Jesus, the religious leaders trying to discredit and marginalize Him, Jesus’ closest friends betraying or abandoning Him, and the government treating Jesus as a common criminal.
Yes - that ‘angel of light’ (see 1 Corinthians 11:14) was truly beaming at what he believed was the final capitulation of the battle. He believed Jesus was acknowledging that it was ‘The End.’

But – PRAISE GOD! – that’s not where the story ended.
The issues were much bigger than ‘popularity’ or pride or religious ‘dogma.’ The stakes were much higher than any created being (including Satan) could fathom. And the perfect plan that had been set in motion before the dawn of time was still unfolding.
No, what appeared to be a victory for the forces of darkness was actually the first phase of Satan’s defeat. While Satan was wallowing in his supposed victory, the story played on. It wasn’t ‘the end’ at all – at least not for Jesus.
And not for us, either.
Because God’s children are human beings - made of flesh and blood - the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could He die, and only by dying could He break the power of the devil, who had the power of death. Only in this way could He set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying. (Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)
‘Death’ couldn’t hold Jesus. It was no match for Him. He conquered death and rose victoriously in Life.
“Death is swallowed up in victory.
O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”
For sin is the sting that results in death . . .
But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death
through our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:54-57 NLT

Jesus’ statement “It is finished” was not a concession of defeat. It was a proclamation of victory. He was letting all creation know that on that cross, His mission was flawlessly completed.
And He was declaring for all eternity that the Life that flowed from His completed work was . . . TO BE CONTINUED.

I am the resurrection and the life.
Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.
Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die
John 11:25-26 NLT

A continuation,
Craig Hollingsworth