When our 3 boys were young they always seemed to be as hungry as bears coming out of their dens at the end of a long winter. “How long to dinner?” was a daily question, and Barb always did a masterful job of making our few dollars stretch so that no one went hungry, and more than that, that we were always filled to the full.
One of the favorite meals was home made macaroni & cheese with bits of ham throughout, all baked into a 9″ by 13″ (23cm by 33cm) glass casserole dish. Side dishes were always a green vegetable like green beans or broccoli, and always with applesauce. It was one of those meals Barb could prepare ahead of time in the glass baking dish, cover with clear plastic wrap that clings so well, and set it in the refrigerator until ready to heat up.
One such evening as we sat around the table like a pack of wolves surrounding our prey of macaroni & cheese, the light caught the top of the food in a way that seemed to make it sparkle – I thought I must be really hungry to be seeing macaroni & cheese with sparkles! But then Barb saw it too from her end of the table. She immediately called out “STOP”, extending her hands to stop one of the boys first fork full of food. “Did I take the plastic wrap off the dish before I put it in the oven? Oh no! I don’t think I did.”
Like forensic scientists examining the evidence, we leaned closely over the casserole to examine the sparkles. What appeared to be shards of glass littered the top of the macaroni & cheese, but were soft and flexible, much to Barb’s horror and embarrassment. She being one to see the world cut and dried immediately went to worst case scenario – thinking she was about to poison her family, that she has never done anything like this before, numerous and profuse apologies, thinking out loud about having to throw the whole thing out and what to feed us all…
I stepped in, being a more ‘big picture’ type of person and pulled her and dinner back from the brink. Whatever had been clinging to the top of the casserole was now melted away, and we could remove the top layer of food and eat the rest. That is what we did, and the Sparkles on the Casserole Incident became the stuff of family legend.
Always smooth sailing?
The dinner was delicious of course, but we had to make our way through the ‘poison’ on the top layer to get to the meal. Our walk with the Lord is like that in many ways – we expect answered prayer to mean everything works out smoothly, calmly, like a yummy spiritual macaroni & cheese meal; What a banquet the Father made for us. But usually there are potentially hazardous things that accompany the answered prayer which are up to us to avoid.
The gospel culture most of us were raised in presents the smooth sailing version of faith. But that doesn’t line up with scripture nor our experiences, and that often leaves us confused as to whether God is really in what we are doing. We think if it is God why aren’t things going better? That reveals we have been taught incorrectly.
Jesus is of course our example, and though we marvel at Him feeding a multitude or raising the dead, the path to our salvation required Him to go to the cross. In John 21:15-19 immediately after Jesus asks Peter to ‘Feed my sheep’ He also tells Peter the means by which he would die a martyr’s death. When Jesus appeared to Saul of Tarsus outside Damascus and called him to preach to the Gentiles, the Lord also told him the things he would suffer* if he chose to accept the call on his life. *Acts 9:16
On a smaller scale which is to say for you and me, we turn to II Peter 1:3-4 which says “…Through which are given to us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these you might become a partaker of the divine nature…”
The gospel we have been taught has been only the first part of this verse – exceeding great and precious promises have been given to us – and if we focus on that alone it leads to the erroneous sort of faith that turns God into the One who fixes our mistakes and if we have enough faith everything in life will just smooth out one day.
The second half of that verse however says ‘that you might be a partaker of the divine nature’. In other words, we look at promises as God keeping His Word to us, but He looks at the promises He gives us as a means for us to become more like Him. Jesus learned obedience through the things He suffered. Peter was told when he was old others would take him where he didn’t want to go. Paul was told what he would suffer IF he chose Jesus. (Hebrews 5:8; John 21:18, Acts 9:16)
We see the promise as an answer, He sees the promise as a means to grow us. The delicious macaroni & cheese IS there, but first you have to get through the jagged things on top that if not handled correctly, could hurt you.
That is why the observation was made that it is through ‘faith and patience* we inherit the promises’- there is no microwave action available to rush the answer; if you want the answer you need to grow in Christ. You need to think as the Father and Lord do, to use the promise as a means to be more Christ-like. *Hebrews 6:12
In the early 1980′s some friends of ours named Dennis and Jeanne were about to leave the USA with their 4 children to become missionaries in the nation of Panama, eventually to live among the Choco Indians of the Darien’ jungle.
As friends gathered around to lay hands on them to send them forth into ministry, several prophecies came forth, including one that mentioned angels would be active in their ministry. While everyone was excited like little school children about the word that angels would be active, a friend noticed Dennis was not excited at all, but was just sitting there quietly. He asked if he was excited that angels would be active. Dennis replied, “No. Because that means we’re going to be in situations that need them.”
Everyone there saw the promise and went ooh and aah over the idea of having angels involved with them. But Dennis saw the rest of the word and therefore received deeper revelation about why there would be angels. Great and precious promises, yes. That we might be partakes of His divine nature. Yes – both work together if we allow. I
Examine your heart
Grace is always conditional. You give a 16 year old the car keys, that’s grace. You want the kid and car back by 11, that’s the condition of grace. You have people in to your home for house church, that’s grace. Stay out of rooms where the door is closed and remember you are a guest in someone’s house, that is the requirement. You get hired over 10 others for a job, that’s grace. You showing up and working hard and doing what is required, that’s the condition. Salvation offered is grace. If you want it you must come through Jesus Christ. Whatever God promises to us (grace), He has an expectation we will use that promise as a means to partake in His nature.
Many people go round and round over the same lesson because they refuse to do the 2nd half of that verse. Examine yourself, your life, your life experience – do you see patterns repeating themselves? Examine (now) how you can grow in Christ. Look at the fruit of the spirit of Galatians 5 and judge yourself if you are living those while you wait for the fulfillment of the promise. You will find if you are filled with and focus with being Christ like in the midst of ‘faith and patience’, instead of being fearful and doubting, you’ll find peace and assurance saturating your soul. Being a believer in Jesus is easy. Being a disciple of Jesus will cost you your life as you knew it.
Another incident from the lives of John & Barb next week, until then, blessings,