Maywood Spiritual Friends: Inside Information
John 3.31-32 are very important, even though they are often overlooked in such a rich chapter of the Bible as John 3. Here is what is said, “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies” (John 3.31-32).
The Gospel of John makes clear the fact that Jesus is the only one who has come to earth with “inside information” about heaven. Dr. Frank Laubach (see articles in the blog about Dr. Laubach) found 48 instances where Jesus indicate his mission was to be a revealer of the truths of heaven. Astute Bible readers will notice that I left verse 32 incomplete. The remainder of the verse and the next one says, “and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true” (John 3.32b and 33).
The Gospel of John is a compilation of instances in the life of Jesus where these verses are lived out. On one hand there are people who believe that Jesus has true insight from heaven about what is really real in life. They make the choice to listen to him and to follow his directions. The other side refuses to believe that Jesus could have such “inside information.” The see him as a threat to the world order as they know it. Ultimately, they are the one’s who see to it that Jesus goes to the cross.
I told the group about Jesus’ “inside information” for a few minutes. Then, I asked the question – almost like a “pop quiz.”
Peter was the first to respond. He said, “Humility is what God wants me to know. I can’t stay sober if I am not humble enough to ‘set my own best thinking on a shelf.’”
Lena turned to Peter and asked, “Why is humility so important to staying sober?”
“If you have another good idea, it will always trick you,” Peter said. “The people I know who stay sober are willing to take direction. They are through with their own thoughts and are willing to be told what is the next right thing – often by their sponsor.”
While Lena and Peter were talking, I remembered a key verse from Jeremiah. “The heart is more deceitful than all else. And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17.9). I know the truth of this verse in my own life all too well. Being around people who are working toward sobriety is a tremendous reminder that I, too, need to often “set my own best thoughts on a shelf” and do the next right thing led by the Holy Spirit.
I looked around the group and asked, “Who else wants to tell us what sort of ‘inside information’ have you learned from Jesus?”
Ricky said what we all expected. He said, “I know God is love. Look at First Corinthians 13 and John 13.34-35. In this crazy world we desperately need God’s love. We need to know he loves us. We also need to love others. The fact that God loves me, makes love most important.”
Mike C. was next and didn’t need any prompting from me to share what Jesus had revealed to him. He said, “Here it is. Our purpose is about relationships. You need to concentrate more on the person than the problem.”
“That’s good,” Mike H. said. “It is so easy to see people as problems. I hate it when people see me as a problem to be avoided. I know my sense of humor can rile people us at times, but I just like to have fun. I don’t want people to get turned off from me because I have a loud mouth and like to laugh a lot. I really wish they would just get to know me as a person.”
Katie lightly punched Mike H. in the arm and said, “We like you Mike. Craziness and all.” Katie kept on talking and said, “Jesus has taught me so much. One of the best things he has told me is that I can pray for myself.”
Katie reminded me of something that I frequently face. Many people don’t think they can pray for themselves, because they think it is selfish. One of the most important lessons Jesus has for us is that God is intimately interested in us.
Just think. Jesus came to earth and walked with a small group of ordinary people. He talked with them and even put up with their petty issues. This is “inside information” from heaven that we need to know. God is like Jesus showed us. He is interested in every aspect of our lives. He wants to talk with us about every issue of life. Mike C. is right. People are not problems – especially to God. They are persons whom he loves profoundly.
Peter interrupted my mental digression and said, “Prayer is huge for me.” Peter is the assistant manager of a recovery house. He has many stressful situations each day as he works with thirty men who live in close quarters with one another. He said, “I have to pray before serious conversations. After speaking with someone, I think and know that they were not my words. I needed help to say what was right and God gave me the right words to help someone stay sober, sane, happy or functional.”
After Peter, it was Johnny’s turn. Johnny took us down another path, but one that is well know to the entire group. He said, “This world is evil. I thought I was a good person. Jesus showed me that I am not good. I have ulterior motives. I may help lots of people, but I do it so I can feel good, not because I am a good guy.”
Johnny sent my mind traveling, once again. I thought of the large number of people that Johnny has helped, since I have know him. I feel that all of us like to be appreciated. I certainly do. I also feel that Johnny is a little tough on himself. I imagine Jesus taking him by the hand and saying, “Great job Johnny. I love you and I love how you show my love to people by what you do.”
In a previous meeting Miranda asked group to pray for her before a very busy and important week of work. What insights Jesus gave her revealed that God is interested in our work, not just when we do church work. Miranda said, “I have never put too much stock in physical signs. When I began this job, I was very nervous and anxious. As I was driving one of the 600 miles I had to travel, I saw three crosses. I felt Jesus was telling me it was going to be alright.”
Johnny broke into Miranda’s description of her work. He said with great humor, “Yeah, Miranda took pictures and sent a text to me.”
I said, “I saw the pictures, too. I saw the crosses and a box full of tiny colored wires that someone had to put in order and make the system work. How did it work, Miranda?”
She said, “It worked great. Way beyond great!”
I said, “That shouldn’t hurt your place in the company where you work?”
She said, “You’re right. This the biggest job I’ve been on and it worked better than I could ever imagine.”
It was Vivian’s turn to speak. Mike C. gave her a drum roll on the table top. The whole group turned to Vivian. She was the quietest of the group, but one of the most insightful. She said, “I am praying for answers about personal issues. God talks to me and I listen to him. I am sure he is going to give me an answer.”
Johnny said, “I’ve got one more thing. Vivian, you just reminded me of God talking to us. I was walking one night and God told me to look down and pick up what was on the ground. I did and picked up something that looked just like a cross. It reminded me of his love for me in the middle of a tough time.”
I have abbreviated a conversation among spiritual friends. As always, I learned some valuable insights from them. Like Peter, I need to “put my head on the shelf” and do the next right thing led by the Spirit. I need to heed Mike Cs. thoughts and see people as persons, not as problems to be solved or avoided. Most of all, I never want to forget that Jesus is the best representation of God that there is or ever will be. I need to devote my time and energy to learning each day from Jesus about what is most important in life and then do the next right thing led by the Holy Spirit.