• Going to the Deep Places with God January 4, 2016

    2015 has drawn to a close. Much has occurred, both good and evil. Moments of inspiration and goodness have interspersed a steady barrage of wickedness and violence. Americans have watched in horror as terrorists have committed heinous acts of cruelty upon innocent civilians in traditionally safe venues such as Paris and San Bernardino. Americans have also been shocked at the civil unrest and violence perpetrated between citizens and police. Racial divide is fragmenting America. Wars rage in the Middle East as well as in numerous countries in Africa and Asia. Perhaps the most virulent attacks have come not on traditional battlefields but in peoples’ hearts. Christian values are not only being rejected, but they are being attacked, mocked, and criminalized.

    In such a time, Christians must turn their attention to Christ. He is not unaware of our circumstances nor is He without answers. When Jesus walked on the earth it seemed as if He was always dealing with a crisis of some sort. The eighth chapter of Luke provides a classic example of this. Jesus was ministering to the multitudes. People sensed He had answers as well as power that they had not experienced with other teachers or leaders, so they thronged to Him. The crowds were pressing upon Him so tightly that Jesus’ own family could not get near Him (Luke 8:19).

    Jesus, being fully human, realized it was time for Him and His disciples to get some rest. He had His disciples get into a boat and set sail for the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee (Luke 8:22). This region was inhabited by Gentiles who would not have been looking for a Messiah like the Jews living around Capernaum were. It seemed like a perfect place to escape the crowds. Unfortunately a storm arose that threatened to capsize the boat (Luke 8:23). Surely this scenario should bring comfort to those weary ministers who seem to go from one crisis to the next! Jesus was so weary, even a life-threatening storm could not awaken Him! However, once His disciples woke Him, Jesus rebuked the storm with such authority that it immediately grew calm.

    Upon arriving at their vacation getaway, they were met by a madman possessed by a legion (6,000) of demons (Luke 8:26-39). By the time Jesus had set that tormented soul free, 2,000 pigs had drowned in the sea and the local villagers were begging Jesus to depart. So they set sail once again. Upon landing on the shore of their next destination they were immediately swarmed by people in need (Luke 8:40).

    A local official immediately approached Jesus and begged Him to come and heal his only daughter before she died (Luke 8:41-42). Before Jesus could go with him, a woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve years furtively touched Him and was healed. Jesus stopped to discover who had touched Him and, while still talking with the woman, messengers came saying the little girl who had been deathly ill had died (Luke 8:49).

    For anyone who has ever been a pastor, reading this account sounds eerily familiar! There are seasons of ministry that seem to bombard us with one crisis after the next. You begin to wonder if you should answer your phone, for it only brings additional bad news. Such seems to be the current condition of our world. Crises abound. Hurting, suffering, confused people are everywhere. The needs are enormous. What does one do? Where do you begin?

    Two things are important to notice in Luke’s account. First, Jesus let His disciples be with Him and to see the enormous hurt among the multitudes. One of the most important things Christians can do is to view their world from Christ’s perspective. Jesus never focused on crowds. He always saw individuals. If your heart has been heavy as you recently watched the news or considered the magnitude of human despair, it may well be that God has been sharing His heart with you. Prayer consists of God laying His heart over your heart.

    Second, notice what Jesus did with Peter, James, and John. He took those three disciples with Him into the dead girl’s bedroom. Jesus put out all of the mourners and naysayers and had only the parents and the three disciples with Him when He raised the girl from the dead (Luke 8:51). Why didn’t Jesus take all twelve disciples with Him when He prepared to do such an incredible miracle? It might seem as if Jesus was playing favorites, only letting three of the twelve witness the stupendous miracle. Of course, God is entitled to have favorites if He chooses to!

    But it would seem that God is always seeking to take His disciples into deeper places with Him. Jesus knew which of His disciples were ready for a deeper experience of God’s power. Not all were yet prepared. Judas would never be in that place. Perhaps Thomas was still doubtful. But Peter, James, and John had hearts that were open to a deeper work of God. James would eventually be an early leader in the Church as well as its first martyr. Peter would be a key leader. John would have a tremendous ministry throughout the first century. Jesus knew that for these men to become the spiritual leaders God intended, they would need their walk with God to go to a deeper place. So He took them there.

    As we enter 2016 with all of its problems, I sense that God wants to take many of His disciples into a deeper place. Not all are prepared to go. Some will remain with the skeptics and doubters. But a few will be prepared to enter the room of the dead and behold Christ accomplishing spectacular things.

    What we must remember is that, as frightening as it might be to enter into the unknown with Christ, it is far more dangerous to remain safely settled in to the place of comfort that we already know. If Christ has a deeper place for us to go, we must determine to go there! For, it costs others for us to remain in the same place with God. We cannot give to others what we do not have ourselves. Therefore we must seek all that Christ has for us, so we have more to share with others.

    In 2016, don’t be content with more of the same. Hunger to go to the next place Christ has for you. Prepare your heart and mind so when Jesus is looking for a handful of disciples to go to a profoundly deep and powerful place with Him, He sees you are ready to be one of the inner circle. Throughout this year you will be exposed to numerous hurting, discouraged, frightened people. Make sure you are fully prepared to provide them the healing and comfort they desperately need. May 2016 truly be your finest year yet in your service of Christ.