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Jun 25

…why am I still here?

One time, when Napoleon returned from battle, he was greeted by crowds cheering for him and singing his praises. His close associate, Marshall Ney, said to Napoleon, "Listen to them! This must be quite satisfying."

"Nonsense," Napoleon said with great wisdom. "With a small change in circumstances these same people would be shouting for me to go to the gallows."

I listened to a radio talk show last night. The guest was Victor Davis Hanson, a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford. He is one of my favorite writers and thinkers.

The discussion was about the Iraq war and whether or not it was winnable. Hanson said something I’ve been thinking about all morning. Maybe it wasn’t a new thought, but it felt like it.

He said that 70% of the American populace have no basic political ideology or loyalty to any political philosophy and therefore have views that are always changing. It’s not what they think, but how they feel. Hanson went on to say that the radical change in the opinions of a majority of Americans about the war had to do with perception. If there is a perception of victory, they will support it. If there is a perception of failure, they will bail.

I have never understood the fickleness of people in a variety of areas, including the war. After hearing Dr. Hanson’s explanation, there is a ring of truth in what he said…an "Ah" reaction to his comments.

It helps me understand a lot of things better…

I should have understood it before. The Scripture teaches it clearly.

Prior to John 6, one gets the impression that Jesus was a "rock star" with great crowds following him, praising him and hanging on to his every word. Then Jesus begins to reveal some details and John writes: "After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him."

Then Jesus says (and if you don’t see the pathos in what he says, you’ll miss it), "’Do you want to go away as well?’"

Peter replied, "’Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God’" (John 6:66-69).

And so, very quickly the ministry of Jesus went from majority to minority status.

I’ve been thinking about Jesus’ words (and also about what Hanson said). I had an awesome thought:

"I’m still here! Believe it or not, I’m still here!"

One of the hardest things about being a pastor is watching someone slip into the darkness. Even now, as I write this, I’m thinking of a number of people who were walking with Christ and serving him. Then I looked and they were gone. It breaks my heart. Of course, if they were his, they’ll come back and I ask God to do that for them every morning.

But it is still sad.

I think of Robert McQuilken’s prayer/poem, "Let Me Get Home Before The Dark" and I often pray for God to keep me from slipping into the darkness…to get Home before I run so far that I can’t get back. He promised that he wouldn’t let go.

It is, of course, insane that I should be "here" in the first place. If there had been a long list of appropriate candidates to do what I do, I wouldn’t even be on that list. I simply don’t know enough, am not good enough and am not bright enough. At first I thought God called me to do this because, while I was a sinner, I was a good bit better than most. I thought I was called to lead people into goodness, purity and faithfulness. That would, of course, be the goodness, purity and faithfulness that marked my own walk with Christ.

That was even more insane than the fact that I’m here in the first place.

(And for those of you who wonder why I’m still here and often thought that God was going to take me down, it’s insane that you’re here too.

I probably shouldn’t have said that…but it’s true and I feel better having said it.)

Then the question occurs: Why am I still here?

It’s the same reason Peter and the disciples couldn’t leave. It has to do with the truth.

It’s the propositional, theological and doctrinal truth of Jesus. Peter said that they had believed and had "come to know."

Me too. I’m still here because once truth is seen, it can’t be unseen. I’m not altogether happy with the truth and sometimes wish it weren’t true. Sometimes I think that I’ll try and buy into the dumb idea that truth is true to me and that there are different truths. That sounds so good, but it’s just not…uh…true. "Two plus two equals four" no matter how uncomfortable that makes me when I’m trying to balance my checkbook. Truth isn’t up for a vote. What’s true for you is true for me or it isn’t true for anybody.

I’ve been teaching the Bible for so long that I can hardly think a thought without thinking of a Biblical text. In fact, when I’m asked to speak for secular events, I have to start with a text and write the speech from that text. Then I remove any reference to the Scripture.

God came to our dark planet into our time and our space. When you realize that it is a fact, it does stuff to your head. Jesus was ticked at the religious people like us and liked the prostitutes, sinners and winebibbers. That’s a fact and a fact like that will cause somebody like me to wince. When a dead man gets out of his grave, you’re surprised, but the truth grabs you and never lets you go. Death met Jesus and death died. God doesn’t make suggestions…just commands. That will scare you to death because, once you know the facts and know you’re having trouble doing what he commands, you can’t change the commands.

And no matter how sinful I am, how much I want to run or how tired I get of all of this, it doesn’t matter. I stay because this stuff is true and whether or not I’m a good example of it, I still can’t leave anymore than I can set aside the multiplication tables when I can’t remember them. I’m irrelevant to the truth. The truth is true because it’s true. Its truth has nothing to do with what I do, what I think or how sinful I am.

It’s still true.

I’m here because of Biblical truth…but the truth is far more than that. Jesus said, "I am the truth" (John 14:6). I’m here because of him, the One who is the truth.

He’s a lot different than what I expected and, in fact, what I taught when I first knew him. He never does what he ought to do, to wit, squash me like a bug. He never turns me away and never says, "I’ve had enough of you." I’ve never been condemned, disvalued or demeaned by him. He has loved me when I was bad and when I was good, when I was "cussing and spitting" and when I was singing songs of praise. He has loved me, forgiven me, accepted me and walked with me when nobody else would.

So am I going to leave?

Are you a fruitcake?

Where am I going to go?

I’ll sometimes succeed and I’ll sometimes fail. I’ll follow him closely on occasion and, at other times, run off to do my own thing. Sometimes I’ll be bloodied, walk with a limp, or just be so tired that I don’t want to take another step. I’ll be sometimes sinful and sometimes faithful. I’ll want to leave and maybe even make plans to leave.

But I’m still here and will be until I die. So deal with it!

You will be too. He asked me to remind you and he told me to tell you to stop kicking against the goads. You’re just going to get a sore foot and, when you finish, you’ll still be here.

Deal with that too!

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