Friday, June 4, 2010

The Comforts of John

A few weeks ago for his bedtime story, Caleb picked a children's Bible.  We have one children's Bible that we absolutely LOVE (The Jesus Storybook Bible) and one we really don't care for.  He picked the one we aren't too fond of.  Then he proceeded to pick a story that I wouldn't choose for my 3 and 5 year olds: Cain and Abel.  Talk about a hard story to explain and ideas I don't really want my two little boys to have.  :)  At the end of the story, Caleb asked a couple of questions.  He asked Bryan, "Daddy, why wasn't Cain's sacrifice pleasing to God?"  I had always grown up thinking it was because Cain didn't give God his "first fruits" -- the best of his vegetables, but apparently the Bible doesn't actually say why his sacrifice was displeasing.  Bryan knows this from his seminary classes, and he told Caleb, "You know, Caleb, we don't really know why.  The Bible doesn't tell us."  Bryan could see Caleb processing this information, and he could tell it was unsettling to him.  Bryan continued, "But Caleb, you don't have to worry about whether or not something pleases God because we have the Bible which Cain and Abel didn't have.  It tells us what makes God happy.  We know what honors God."

Something about that statement -- that we know what honors God -- scared me a little.  I started to think, "Do I know what honors God?  For all my desperate desire to honor him in my grief, do I really know what does please Him?  What if I have it all wrong, and I'm making assumptions about what honors Him?  What if I've just settled on something that feels comfortable to me?  I like the idea that God would be honored by my faith, by my longing to please Him, by declaring His goodness to me.  But what if that's not it?  What if it's something harder than that?  What if God is not so compassionate and loving as I think but something more stern and exacting?  What if my sacrifice is ugly to Him like Cain's was?"  I kind of panicked inside, fearing that I don't know my God as well as I thought I did.  I resolved to start reading the book of John to try and learn about Jesus, about God, about what truly honors the God I serve.

So I did.  Though I've been consistently reading my Bible since I was eight years old and have read the whole thing at least 5 times, John struck me anew this time.  Sometimes my habit of reading the Bible can be pretty rote.  I grew up with Christianity, with Bible stories, with church.  It's all so familiar and such a part of my entire life that sometimes I'm a bit impervious to the words of Scripture.  They don't really sink in if I'm not careful to truly pay attention while I'm reading.  This time through, the words sunk in.  John has quickly become one of my favorite books of the Bible.  Not only is Jesus the Savior I thought and hoped He was, He is more.  He is deeply compassionate, kind, loving, gentle, righteous, sacrificing, and full of grace.  He is steadfast, wise, generous, and the bearer of true hope.  I am so glad I had my moment of panic because I am so glad to learn anew who this amazing God is that I love and serve.

And something I wasn't expecting happened in my reading of John.  I saw for the first time just how much Jesus talks about eternal life.  I haven't really paid that much attention in the past because it wasn't particularly important to me, but after Samuel's death, eternity in Heaven matters a lot.  I want to spend eternity with my baby boy, and I want Samuel with Jesus now.  I want Samuel to be whole and full of ultimate joy.  John has comforted me immensely in this regard.  Jesus talks over and over about eternal life.  It's not just his disciples who talk about it; it's my Savior Himself.  In my journal I started writing down all the verses that talk about rebirth, eternal life, and Heaven.  So far I have three pages, and I'm only through chapter six.

I am so grateful for a God who allows us to know Him, who tells us what honors and pleases Him and doesn't leave us guessing, who saves us by His grace and not by our merit or our good works.  He is a God I want to serve, a God I long to honor, a God I delight in loving, and a God I seek to know more and more as He grows and refines me.  He is a GOOD GOD I follow.


"They replied, 'What does God want us to do?'  Jesus told them, 'This is what God wants you to do: Believe in the one he has sent.'" John 6:28-29

"There is no judgment awaiting those who trust him."  John 3:18

"I assure you, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life.  They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life." John 5:24

"I am the bread of life.  No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again.  Those who believe in me will never thirst...And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given to me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day.   For it is my Father's will that all who see his Son and believe in Him should have eternal life -- that I should raise them at the last day."  John 6:35, 39

"Jesus replied, 'If you only knew the gift God has for you and who I am, you would ask me, and I would give you living water...but the water I give them takes away thirst altogether.  It becomes a perpetual spring within them, giving them eternal life." John 4:10

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