You know how the moon appears larger when it is low on the horizon? There are a few times each year when the full moon is visible low on the horizon straight out our back yard. When that happens, I grab my binoculars, and go out on the deck, kneel down by the railing, and rest the binoculars on the rail, steadying them to get a good look at the moon. The binoculars aren’t as good as a telescope, but they still give me a clear view of the moon’s craters. You can also see lunar mountains on the curvature of the moon. It is amazing. I love it.
I’ll reveal to you a little bit about myself here. Even though I love it, I can’t just stare at the moon endlessly. I look for maybe 20-30 seconds, and then I have to turn away. Know why? Because it freaks me out. I start thinking about how big the moon is. And how far away it is. And then I start thinking about the vastness of our solar system, and the universe, and I start to get the goosebumps. And I have to turn away.
So that night, I came inside, and I started telling my family about the moon, how I was partly freaked out, partly in awe and wonder. I asked if any of them wanted to take a look. And you know how they responded? They started making fun of me. They brought up another topic that really freaks me out. You know what that is? With this other thing, I almost can’t look at it at all. With the moon, at least I want to look at it, and I can for a while. But with this other thing, I have to turn away almost immediately. Blood? Gore? Bad injuries in football games? Nope. I can look at all that no problem. You know what gets me? Pictures and video of sunken ships like the Titanic.
Just thinking about it gives me the chills. It’s so freaky! This giant man-made boat way down at the bottom of the even bigger ocean…just sitting there, dead, rusting, dark. I don’t know what it is about shipwrecks, but they bring out a fear in me.
What do you fear?
Sometimes our fears come out in our dreams.
Ever experience that? I have dreams a lot at night. Always have throughout my whole life. Recently I had one, and it was very vivid. Can you guess what a pastor would have bad dreams about? Preaching and realizing all you have on is your underwear? Close. It wasn’t that, but it was about a worship service. This worship service was its own kind of shipwreck. Everything that could go wrong was going wrong. People participating were forgetting what do to. There were long awkward pauses. It was embarrassing. Still in the dream, after the worship service was over, I was talking with someone about it. The conversation was about how I was going to have to address all the problems that went wrong in the worship service. That would mean bringing it up to people who participated in the service! I really hate confronting people, even if it is the tiniest hint that they are doing something wrong. And it all came out in my dreams. So there you have it. My neuroses. My fears. Partly, I meant this to be humorous, but fear is all too real. Again I ask, what do you fear?
Turn to John 14:15-31, where Jesus addresses fear. This is the final sermon in our Advent series examining our longings, to see if they are in line with what God desires for us. The first week we looked at how our primary longing, the longing by which all other longings are measured, should be a longing for Jesus. From there we looked at dark longing, envy, and how Asaph in Psalm 73 reminds us that the antidote to envy is the truth that God is enough for us. Last week, though it wasn’t on the blog, we had another member of our teaching team, Emerald Peters, help us examine our longings for home and family, and how they, too, must find their fulfillment in the fact that the way, truth and life is in knowing Jesus and him alone. Emerald preached from John 14:1-14, and now this week we are looking at the second half of that chapter. So it makes sense that what we are studying today will be very connected to what we studied last week in John 14:1-14. Before continuing with this post, go ahead and read what Jesus has to say about our longings for peace, stability and security.
Perhaps you noticed that Jesus makes some promises in this chapter, promises I find quite encouraging. Think about when someone makes you a promise. In our day and age it seems that there is a growing skepticism of promises. Politicians make promises to get our votes, but many do not keep those promises. When people marry, they make promises on their wedding day, and in the USA marriage promises or vows are regularly broken. So we can grow to believe that promises are unimportant. “Show me action,” we say. There is a lot of truth to that, right? We want actions that line up with words. We don’t want empty promises. We want people who fulfill their promises.
So it is quite important to remember who is making these promises in John 14. It is Jesus. He’s not some politician that just wants to sound good. He’s not an unfaithful spouse. He’s not an absentee parent. He’s not a boss that keeps delaying a promised raise. He is God, who is the truth, as he mentions earlier in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus not only makes his promises, he keeps them. Even though it might be difficult to imagine, especially if we have had people regularly make and then fail to keep their promises to us, Jesus is different. We can trust in him. He will keep his promises.
He starts with a promise right off the bat in verses 15-17 that reminds me of IFTTT. It stands for “IF This Then That,” and it is a phone app that automates your phone. For example, how many of you have had the experience of hearing the garbage truck at your neighbor’s house, and the realization hits you, “I forgot to take out the trash! Now it will build up for another week…and that will be get really stinky!” To avoid that, IFTTT helped me create an automated reminder about trash day. If it is Thursday at 5 pm, then IFTTT will send me a text message reminding me to take out the trash. If this, then that. Jesus’ promise is like that. Notice how it starts with the word “if.” If you do this, then he promises he will respond in a very specific way. So what does he want us to do, and what will his promise be? Check back in to the next post as we look at it further.