A Stone’s Throw Away

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“He walked away, about a stone’s, and knelt down and prayed”

Luke 22:41

Who knows what Jesus is thinking at this precise moment as he entered the Garden? His disciples waited for Jesus and scripture states that he proceeded ahead of them— “a stone’s throw.”

We often share in the sorrows of the people closest to us, and Jesus wants His disciples to follow him. And they do, but not all the way. They came close, but were oblivious to the full nature of the pain that was beginning for Jesus. They slept while he agonized. He was for the first time perhaps, needing someone close.

Many of us will make the same trip to the garden. Soon every believer makes the trip to ‘Gethsemane,’ but not as mere observers. It is a distinct place of testing and of sorrow. And each will experience it for themselves. “The servant is not above his master.”

But Jesus is close— he completely understands what it means to be alone with sorrow. The believer can lean on Jesus as the pain continues. He sends his “Comforter” to each, as he escorts us through this time. He comes in grace, and is completely kind. He truly is just a stone’s throw away.

“God is our refuge and strength,
    always ready to help in times of trouble.”

Psalm 46:1

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‘A Drowning Kind of Despair’

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“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life.

   2 Corinthians 1:8

“…we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties.”

John Piper

It is my ‘deliberateness’, and not my impulsiveness that scares me.   I know ‘despair’.  I know what it is like to be ‘backed into a corner’ and then feel the empty desperation of being lost.  But you must understand, there can be a weird seductiveness to ‘being lost’, a ‘strange sort of nobility’, a twisted honor, when it comes to despair.

Piper talks about the ‘dark certainties’ of knowing you are lost.  Now this really seems rather bizarre, that people could do this intentionally, without duress.  But I’m afraid to tell you that it happens all the time.  Despair is chosen over the option of life. This is the ‘lostness’ of the race of Adam.

Pop culture has given us words, albeit in a rather simplistic form.  I just happened to think right now of an old AC/DC  song, ‘Highway to Hell‘.  The lyrics are pretty basic, very simple, but the lead singer seems to really have a chronically, decided dedication to being one of the irretrievably lost.  He formats a ‘certain glory’ to being part of the damned.  This is a simplistic approach to the next stop– a more advanced case of stark-white despair, suicide. (We can call this ‘spiritual hubris,’ or even, “sex, drugs, and rock-n-rollism.”)

In examining the striated world of despair, we come to the interesting place where our foolishness combined with our arrogance produces a decision to be lost.  Of course, our fear of God must be extracted from the situation.  But for the eager candidate for despair, this is not an insurmountable problem.

Escaping this ‘drowning despair’ we must first dethrone our right to personal sovereignty.  And secondly, we need to grab the concept that God’s grace has an ultimate power that supersedes our notions of a ‘deserved’ love.  (It is completely undeserved).  We must believe that somehow, someway God chooses us out of a pile, a pile of the worst and ugliest.  And somehow, He delights in doing this, and after all, He is the Lord.

We are meant to be the people of redemptive hope. 

Because of our problems, our addictions, we must clearly renounce our evil folly of despair.  These are the issues that make us vulnerable.  There is a seductiveness to ‘giving up’ and taking up the sin of despair.  There can be a ‘weird romance’ that lures those who ‘walk out lostness’.  We are pulled into a vortex of an exotic melancholy with a dash of fatalism, which makes it reasonable and weirdly heroic in some perverse way.

But is it not even more heroic to live in hope?

“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?  Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and 6 my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you.”

Psalm 42:5-6

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Wolves at the Door

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Be very careful!

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” 

 Matthew  7:15, NIV

I use my channel changer and I flip through the enormous darkness that exists in the world.  Jesus clearly warns His flock of the cold, hard realities of deception and deceitfulness they face.  Trickery abounds and things simply are not what they seem to be.

Darkness has an dark grasp on so many. The devil’s cunning is his ability to adapt to each person’s weakness. Deception has worked well for him for thousands of years. But understand: Lucifer is alive and well and he is prowling planet Earth.

There should be an alertness for the reality of deception. Sometimes, some sheep will not really be sheep. Our senses are not always trained to look for counterfeit Christians.  We get confused by the outside (it looks like wool to me).  But it’s a lie.  The wolf has deliberately taken on the attire of a believer.

What better place for him to ‘minister’ his evil than through a cold and lazy institutional church?

Jesus alerts us to what is really taking place. (Oh, how He wants us to discern!)  I think every believer should have a holy skepticism of outward displays of faith.  This is not cynicism or negativity; but rather it is a cautious faith– one in which we can discern the realities of a world that routinely destroys people. The first generation Church understood the reality of evil and what it would do when it’s unleashed.

“The first step on the way to victory is to recognize the enemy.” 

Corrie Ten Boom

“…they are ferocious wolves,” (v. 15). 

Ferocious” in verse 15 is a sobering word.  When I read it, I think of my home in Alaska with its wilderness and its wolves and brown bears; or maybe the grasslands of the ‘Serengeti’ with its lions or leopards.   A dangerous carnivore is often hidden by its camouflage.  Ferocity is a ‘predator’ word, a word that intensifies the danger. Satan can patiently stalk for days, and maybe months, and then he springs his trap and ambushes its victims.

wolf-sheeps-clothingWe can become accustomed to an ideal of love and peace in our walks, we are often disturbed and perhaps pulled off-balance by this disturbing revelation of evil.  Jesus tells us that we must possess an understanding of two things: 1) Deception is quite possible for the real believer, that in 2000 years the darkness is still potent. 2) The world is still contested but Jesus is Victor! Living in close proximity to Jesus will protect us in the dark.

We shouldn’t be anxious but trust Him in the matter of the safety of our very souls.

“Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.”

Luke 10:3, NLT

Do you know what wolves do to lambs? But yet Jesus still sends them. They might surround us, but we are His own.

“How comfortable it is to have One, day and night, before the throne to control the charge of our enemy, and the despondencies of our souls”

–Samuel Charnock

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