Micah, my grandson, came home with a message from his kindergarten teacher. “Mrs. Dowd wants to know if we want to donate any of my books to the classroom library.” Mom sorted through all of them and sent in those he OK’d for the cause.
When Micah’s dad picked him up after school, he said, “Dad, Mrs. Dowd wants to know if we are letting her borrow these books or if she can keep them.” Dad said, “She can keep them, Buddy.” After a short silence during the ride home, Micah said again, “Dad, Mrs. Dowd wants to know if we are letting her borrow these books or if she can keep them.” Puzzled by his second inquiry, Micah’s dad said again, “Yeah, Buddy, she can keep the books.” With relief, Micah said, “OK. Mrs. Dowd just wanted me to double–check.” Five–year olds process things literally.
This sweet story got me thinking about the way I process messages. I’m a slow learner. Sometimes, I need to hear a request or statement a few times before it sinks in. Just like Micah, I occasionally need to double–check or even triple–check to make sure I’m hearing what I’m supposed to hear. Nowhere in my life is this truer than in my study of the Word, and I don’t think I’m the only one. In fact, it’s the slow–simmering processing of a truth that gives it more meaning and helps it stick. It’s often after hearing it a second or third time that I finally experience that meaningful “Aha Moment.”
I’m in good company when it comes to being a slow learner. I read throughout the New Testament how Peter, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, struggled with his Rabbi’s teachings. The process of sorting through them wasn’t always pretty!
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” But he replied, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.” Jesus answered, “I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.” (Luke 22:31–34 NIV) Peter’s quick, no–holds–barred response was evidence that after three years of following Jesus, he still needed to process the demands of discipleship.
Peter did deny Jesus three times and went through the excruciating experience of watching Jesus be tortured, die on the cross, and buried in a borrowed grave. Three days following His death, the body was declared missing. Fast forward to the beach scene where Peter processes this turn of events in the best way he knows how—he goes fishing with his buddies. This is when Christ appears and gently and lovingly helps Peter triple–check all he’s been through. While he’s doing that, Jesus also cooks a hearty breakfast of fish and bread for the guys.
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. (John 21:15–17 NIV)
Commentators have discussed why Jesus triple–checked Peter’s answer. Yes, he denied Christ three times so it makes sense that he restate his devotion to Christ for each denial. Yes, there is something to be said for itemizing Peter’s earthly loves: his skill as a fisherman, his fishing tools, and his fishing buddies.
For all the slow learners of the world, I’d like to draw another possible conclusion. When I don’t quite get what the Lord is trying to tell me, He will use His Holy Spirit—working in me—to ask and ask and ask, until I get it. I relish the fact that God has all the time in the world and is willing to spend as much of it
as needed to help me get it right.
by Major Lauren Hodgson
No Room for Satan
Richard Wurmbrand spent 14 years in a Nazi concentration camp. He spent several years in solitary confinement, often tortured by brutal prison guards. One day, he said that he had learned something from the guards. He said, “As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine.”
How about you? Have you left a place for Satan, for sin, in your heart? If you have, do you think it pleases God? For you see, God has called us to live a holy life. Perhaps you think it sounds good for someone else, but you could never do it. You may say any or all of the following ideas to yourself:
- There is no way I could live a holy life! I am weak and unreliable.
- I have tried so many times and failed.
- Without a doubt, I could never be holy as God is holy!
You are right! It is not about what you can do on your own. It is about what you and I can do with our Lord’s help! With our Lord’s help, I can say with outright confidence that you can live a holy, clean, and Christ–centered life!
We all know, but we hate to admit that we have tried for so long to be holy and to live a clean and Christ–centered life from the outside in, but it has not worked. It won’t work that way because it’s backwards. True holiness is an inside job.
It begins on the inside. It is an inward transformation which works its way outward. There will be evidence on the outside of a person who has experienced this inward transformation through the continuing work of the Holy Spirit.
We do not need more rules. Instead, we need to keep falling in love with Jesus and give space to the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside out. We can then live a holy, clean, and Christ–centered life, which will help us to love God and people wholeheartedly.
Holiness and spiritual transformation will help us say, “I am sorry.” They help us to be truthful at all times. They safeguard our tongue and help our words to be encouraging and edifying to people around us. Our Lord’s transforming power will help us guard our hearts and minds.
Without a doubt, holiness can sound scary—it need not be. In Chuck Colson’s book, Loving God, he had this to say about holiness: “Holiness is the everyday business of every Christian. It evidences itself in the decisions we make and in the things we do, hour by hour, day by day.”
As we strive to live holy, clean, and Christ–centered lives, we will be able to say at the end of the day as Richard Wurmbrand said, “As they allowed no place for Jesus in their hearts, I decided I would leave not the smallest place for Satan in mine.”
by Major Marie Larrinaga