During his sermon at this years community Thanksgiving service the pastor, who is also a friend, referenced the passage in John 21 where Jesus asks Peter three times, "Do you love me?" You may have heard a dozen different teachings or sermons on this passage of scripture, but tonight as I was thinking about Thanksgiving, what I am thankful for and what God means to me, I thought about Jesus' question to Peter much differently. I suddenly allowed myself to imagine Jesus asking, "Mark, son of Wayne, do you love me?" What would I be able to say that would convince Jesus that I really do love Him. I started to evaluate how much time I really allow my thoughts to include Jesus; how often I read His Word; and how often I spend time in prayer. Add to that how well do I follow the teachings of Jesus and actually do them. As His disciple the scripture tells me that I'm supposed to act just like Him. I guess for me it all comes down to how much I allow Jesus to be in my life each day and how well I interact with Him.
I recently was listening to a man talk about how his dad and what defined his life. Among other things he talked about how his dad was dedicated to his faith and God because he always taught that we owed God one hour a week. The more this man spoke the more I began to realize that he was referring to attending church every week and going to confession. That is how the son knew that his dad "loved God." This greatly began to disturb me. I'm not being critical of this man. After all maybe that is what he was taught by his dad, or much worse by a pastor or priest. There have been a lot of church leaders throughout the years who have given people that impression. It's not hard to think about an entire generation, or maybe two, where a high percentage of men and women believe that they satisfy God because they attend church every week and that will keep Him happy. My friend, this cycle needs to be broken and I'm determined to do my part in helping to break it.
Imagine this exchange................
"Mark, son of Wayne, do you love me?
"Yes, Lord, You know I love you. I give you one hour every week."
Or, imagine this exchange between my earthly father...............
"Mark, I'm your dad, do you love me?
"Yes Dad, you know I love you. I call you every Father's Day and on your birthday."
Now I can imagine Jesus turning to the other disciples still eating breakfast that day and asking, "Where did we find this one?"
The Bible continually points to relationship. God wants to have a relationship with his creation. What decent father or mother wouldn't want relationship with their children? God is no different. If God took the time to "fearfully and wonderfully" make us, to use the words of King David, don't you think He wants us to come around more often and visit? If you have children and want to be a good parent, try giving them 1 hour a week out of the 168 available and tell me how that is working out for you. Try that with your spouse and let me know how long your marriage stays healthy, or if you aren't married how about giving one hour to a best friend or maybe another family member. I've talked to a lot of people over the years who are going through something difficult. I feel for them, but at the same time I often heard, "Well, I don't read my Bible like I should," or "my prayer life could be a lot better." Usually what that really means is, "I don't read my Bible and I really don't pray." This isn't rocket science this is simple common sense. When you have a solid relationship with God, He will help you through the stuff of life. Even in the most painful times a solid relationship with God will see you through.
I'm not going to tell you a formula for knowing that you've spent enough time with God. That is between you and Him. You will know, or God will let you know, when you are being a good steward of your time, talents and finances. All of that belongs to God anyway, so it's even silly to think we are giving Him a portion of our time or possessions. It's all God's anyway so He could just take it all back anytime He wants, but God isn't like that. He is patient, loving, caring and He wants to work with you on this.
My personal desire is to be aware of, think of, or acknowledge God every single hour of my day. Please don't think I am boasting, but I've reached a point in my life where I come pretty close to accomplishing that. I don't care if someone thinks I'm fanatic, when it comes to the Lord I want to go for it with everything I have. That doesn't mean that my life is all sunshine and roses, (borrowing there from Rocky Balboa) but I can tell you that in the difficult moments I know that FATHER has my back. There are things and situations that have occurred over the past year which ten years ago would have stressed or freaked me out and would have driven me to great anger or insane thoughts. Because of my relationship with the Lord now, however, I tend to realize much more easily that "this to shall pass."
It all comes down to a Man, who died on a cross so that we could be forgiven of our sins and have full access to the Father. That paved the way for relationship. Why don't you scroll down the blog, go to the "Think Tank;" feed the fish and ponder your relationship with the Father? Does it need to improve? Maybe some strengthening is due? Or.....maybe it's already in great shape. That would be fantastic.
Now, many blessing and thanks for coming by today. Until next time remember to stay RIGHT ON THE MARK!