Posted in A Great Irony, Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, Personal Relationships, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues, The Meaning of Life

I CAN ONLY IMAGINE

Life is a funny thing. For many of us, we can look around and find a host of people, to compare to ourselves, who seem to face nothing of the rejection that we have experienced. However, at the same time, we can look around at others, who when we consider their plight in life, we just want to fall on the ground and thank God for sparing us their heartache, and then cry for them.

Personally, I have been married for forty-three years to a person who delights in others. She is warm and friendly, and many people over the years have expressed how much they wait for and enjoy her hugs. She loves to care for children, even though because of her partial disability due to back surgery, it is very difficult physically to care for them they way that she would prefer.

For many years it has been my privilege to observe the concern my wife has for people, and her willingness to give herself to those that others would deplore and avoid. It’s a strange thing, that the most common reaction that people have, who have experienced the kind of life as my wife, is to become hateful and try to avoid others as much as possible. On the other hand some try to gain the acceptance of others at any cost, that is, without really caring and giving of themselves to them. I have observed all three kinds of people many times in my lifetime.

I have had the good fortune, under the sovereign design of Almighty God, to enjoy the loving protection and care of two very loving and giving parents. My mother lost her own mom when she was barely four, and spent almost a year searching for her. My father possesses the manor, wisdom, and grace of sheriff Andy Taylor. Therefore, I cannot imagine what life is like to be brought up in a home, having been sent to my grandmother because my father didn’t want me.

My wife’s grandmother was a very godly and loving woman, who herself met with betrayal, rejection, and trials that no sane person would choose to face. However, in time she returned her granddaughter to her daughter-in-law so she could be with her mom. Her stepfather was very abusive and brought her up as though she was in the military and not a family.

Rejection defines my wife’s existence during her formative years. I cannot imagine what it would be like to have my grandmother tell me my real dad is not the man, who is married to my mom. I would like to be able to say that abuse ended with my wife’s childhood, but that would misrepresent her life.

We all begin with the inclination to be selfish, hateful, jealous, spiteful, gossipy, and judgmental because we are all part of a fallen and sinful race – the human race. We begin innocent in the sense that we are born naive, and then we have to grow into an intelligent and discerning human being. The heart of every boy and girl learns from their parents, family members, peers, and culture as a whole, how to act and react to their environment.

The heart of each person begins soft and hardens over time, to some extent. For this reason the bible says, “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…” (Hebrews 3:7, 8a) Some people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ and harden their hearts to the truth of His salvation. They refuse to accept the call to be saved from their own sins, being too self-righteous to accept the fact that they sin. Others, by the grace of God, turn from their sins, regardless of the suffering they have faced throughout the course of their lives, and turn to Jesus Christ as the Bible reveals Him.

Last night my wife, a friend, and I went to see, I CAN ONLY IMAGINE. Sitting their and observing the life of Bart Millard, I could only think about my own wife. During the eighties we went to visit her birth dad, whom she forgave for abandonment, and who never tried to contact her. As if feeling rejected for her whole life up to that point were not enough, she was rejected yet again.

Because of the love of Christ, my wife forgave even her stepdad, and has only said good things about him to me since that time. She honors him as a military man, having given himself to the service of his country for many years.

It is all too easy to become bitter because of difficult circumstances we face. It is also possible to respond in a positive way to the evils that befall us. We can pick our self up from trials and send our life in a new direction. I have witnessed numerous people make such decisions, as in the case of drug addicts. There is, however, a vast difference between picking up one self and being picked up by Jesus Christ.

It is one thing to be brought up in a Christian home, with all the advantages that such an environment brings, and still another to respond in faith to Him amidst all the pain and suffering that a wicked world can provide. It is one thing to see Jesus through the lens of our own perceived goodness, and still another to see Jesus through the lens of our own wicked reactions to the evils of this present world. For this reason Jesus said to a religious leader, who was consumed with his own goodness, who was judging Jesus for having kept company with a street woman.

“Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave Me no water for My feet, but she has wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. “You gave Me no kiss; but she, since the time I came in, has not ceased to kiss My feet. “You did not anoint My head with oil, but she anointed My feet with perfume. “For this reason I say to you, her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little.” (Mark 7:44-47)

Those who TRULY love much have been forgiven for much, because they have recognized the depth of their own vile and sinful soul, and found forgiveness, grace, mercy, and love at the cross of Jesus Christ.

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In the heart of a person that has been rejected through neglect, and abused physically and emotionally by the one that should exemplify sacrificial love and respect, there is an absence of belief in the ability of others to love them.

Only God in Christ can fix it!

 

 

 

Posted in Knowing Jesus, MY JOURNEY WITH CHRIST, The Journey Back, The journey begins, The Journey Continues

DO YOU LOVE JESUS MORE THAN THESE

Jesus did not seek to impart love as it is measured by earthly standards. The love that God desires must first be received from Him by faith in the matchless work and person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Sinful men in their own strength cannot even exercise acceptable faith without God’s impute. For this reason, twelve men who followed Jesus largely in their own strength for 3 years, denied Him during His greatest hour of need. However, though they fell away in the garden, they soon returned to the savior of their souls.

Feed-My-SheepAt that time Jesus restored them to the fullness of their faith, with the responsibility of being sent out as Apostles.

“So when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me more than these?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Tend My lambs.” He said to him again a second time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.” He said to him, “Shepherd My sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, [son] of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” (John 21:15-17)

On all three occasions Jesus called Peter by his  Simon birth name, meaning unstable one, do you love me. Jesus used two different Greek words. On the first two occasions He used the word, agapaó; this word is a word denoting the truest, deepest, and most sincere love. It is a love born out of self-sacrifice. On both occasions, Peter (The immovable rock) responded with the word, phileó, a word of warm affection, characterized by tender, heartfelt consideration and kinship. This was a good word but a love not at all at the level of the word Jesus used.

Peter had taken a serious fall in denying Jesus. Three times He denied that he knew Jesus, and the last time he took an oath and used cursed words to say he did not know Jesus (Matthew 26:74). When the rooster crowed at that moment, as Jesus predicted, Peter went out and wept bitterly or (violently).

When I was a youngster and living on the streets of Brooklyn, New York, in the sixties, it was not uncommon to hear the roaring of an engine as a foolish teenager raced down the block. On one particular occasion, after the roar, one block over, their was a screech and a loud thud. I ran between the houses and came out on the street to see a woman, probably in her fifties, come out of her house and scream, “You killed my mother.” Even now it makes me want to cry. It was the scream of a person in the deepest kind of pain, at the loss of a person, of the closest relation, forever, without any hope of recovery.

Peter was going to need some serious encouragement and restoration, if he were to do the work to which he had been called. Jesus asked him the third time, do you Phileo me, or do you even have fond affection for Me? Peter was grieved that Jesus would even question his affection. Peter responded once again, you know I Phileo You. Peter had confidence in his affection, but he was not proud anymore in his ability to follow through with agapao action. It is this kind of humility, which allows a person to flee to Christ for help, to receive the imparted resurrection life of Christ, to meet the greatest temptations, persecutions, and suffering in order to be faithful to Him.

In conclusion,  the phrase Jesus used in John 21:15, “more than these” was meant to remind Peter of his words at the last supper, “Even though all may fall away because of You, I will never fall away.” It is always foolish to compare ourselves with others, and think more highly of ourselves. Jesus wanted to bring this lesson home to ensure that Peter would fulfill his calling as an Apostle and not with foolish pride in himself.

To fall away from Jesus is bad, and such an attitude and action should be avoided at all costs. However, should it take place, take heart because the restoration that Jesus will impart will make you a better, humbler, and more immovable Christian than you were before.

Always be encouraged in the transforming love of Christ!

Thoughts like these can be found in my book, THE JESUS YOU NEED TO KNOW

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Available on Amazon, kindle, and eBook

There is nothing worth knowing better than the person, work, love, and righteousness of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.