IT’S A NOVEL WITH A MESSAGE: OUR UNITY IS IN CHRIST; NOT THE BALLOT BOX.
These last few weeks have been difficult, especially for Issy. The level of pressure she feels at work has become more severe. And this is already a difficult time because we are nearing the end of the Presidential campaign.
My stresses have a broader genesis, though. In addition to the campaign, I see the challenges Issy is facing. I see the deception the evil one is perpetrating on my bride, and I have to gauge when and where to speak up.
The evil one’s deception is so persistent and all-influencing. No wonder Paul makes it clear in the scriptures that the location of Spiritual Warfare is in our mind.[i]
“Baby,” I said to Issy, “It’s time to wake up.”
By the time she was awake, our coffee was made; I got up and brought her a cup. I tell you, I’m such a good husband. I didn’t realize it, but I apparently said that out loud. I thought I was only thinking it.
When I got back into bed, I noticed Issy looking at me with that look of, “Seriously, Jude?”
“Nah,” I decided, “She didn’t hear me.”
She started to read, “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others. . .”[ii]
December A.D. 29, Mission of the Seventy-Two
The last few weeks have been difficult for me. We are a band of a number of people, not just the twelve, but there are about a hundred of us. That number grows and shrinks with time.
Anyway, Jesus did something he has not done in the previous two-plus years I have been with him. He empowered seventy-two others, like he had empowered us twelve.
I don’t mind telling you, I was more than a little ticked off. After all, weren’t we the elite ones? You might even say we were the inner circle. And me, I had constant responsibility for the money bag, which I guarded more closely than any tax collector ever would.
“If we were special,” I remember thinking, “then why do we need the seventy-two? And why do we have to help manage them?”
I guess this was difficult for me because it made me feel like I wasn’t so special. And Jesus then made some odd rules for them, not the least of which was, “Do not take a purse or bag or sandals.”[iii]
I liked this because it meant I’d hold on to everyone’s money purse and figure out a way to pilfer some of it.
Fortunately, Jesus wasn’t talking to me about the money bag; after all, someone had to hold it and that was my job. I did enjoy a bit of sadistic glee, watching the faces of the seventy-two, though, when He told them to not take any money along. He was saying trust the people to do what is right. Of course, that’s foolish, because people never do what is right.
Nevertheless, I laughed at these seventy-two who were scared to death because they weren’t going to have any money and they had to trust people in the towns to give them food.
I was surprised though by two of our group, Justus and Matthias. They had both been with us since the beginning,[iv] and while everyone else was scared to death, they had an unrealistic enthusiasm. One of them said, “Yes, this is exciting, we will trust God.”
Of course, in my head I’m thinking, “What fools you two are! People are untrustworthy. You should be concerned like the other seventy.”
But the next few weeks, while the seventy-two were out, were not as difficult for Jesus as I would have expected. We twelve acted as district overseers going to and fro, where the seventy-two had gone, just to help them and take care of them as best we could.
Every time we returned to Jesus though, to give him our report, his attitude was very upbeat. About halfway through those few weeks He told us something which didn’t make sense until the seventy-two returned. Jesus said He saw the evil one shooting down from heaven as quickly as lightning falls from the sky.[v]
But when the seventy-two returned many of them were excited. They were different than when they left. A number of them said, and then all of them agreed, “Lord, even the demons submitted to Your Name!”[vi]
“Thank You for sending us out, Jesus,” they said.
These men’s joy was only eclipsed by Jesus’ joy. He was excited for these men and their ministry results. Jesus is always, humbly upbeat, but when the seventy-two returned, He was ecstatic! I don’t know what He knew that I didn’t, but it was weird. That’s all I can say.
Sunday, June 10th, Arlington VA
“These last few weeks have been a challenge, baby. Thank you for being my rock,” Issy said when she finished reading.
She continued, “I never saw these words, that ‘Jesus was full of joy.’[vii] But after reading them, Jude, I realize my real attitude is not fear. I’ve been going to work with fear, but that’s not really who I am in Christ. I am filled with joy, if for no other reason than because the Holy Spirit lives in me. But there is also the reality of the ministry I am doing each and every day. Now I understand why Jesus was filled with joy.”
“Wow. What a great break through, Issy,” I said to her.
“I agree, darling,” she said with a great sigh of relief. Then she snorted, “Whew! That only took three and a half weeks!”
“Thank You, Lord, for the problems,” she ushered up in prayer. “And the opportunity to obediently serve You in the midst of the things I dislike.”
We both chuckled and I kissed her forehead. She kissed my cheek gently, and then I kissed her lips, a little more than gently. But, we did make it to church on time.
While at church I saw Harold. He made a beeline for me and so I braced myself, not sure what was going to happen. But the closer he got the more I realized his attitude was cheerful, as opposed to, ‘I’m gonna beat you down.’ I snorted at my own wit.
We shook hands and gave our ‘good morning’ man-hug.
“Hi, Issy,” he said, and then he turned to me. “I found something that has helped me, Jude.” He kept talking but immediately became more passionate. “I still don’t like or understand why you work for that. . .”
I saw his wife gently touch his arm. He took a deep breath to slow down.
“I found Ephesians 5:20 which says we are to thank the Lord for everything. Actually G.W. and I were praying for you.” And then he reached over and grabbed his wife’s hand and G.W. smiled lovingly at him, and he corrected, “Honestly, Jude, G.W. and I were praying for me.”
I looked at her and she smiled.
“Jude, I literally said to the Lord. ‘Thank You for Jude working for the candidate he does.’”
He was so proud of himself that I couldn’t help chuckling a bit.
Then he looked at his wife again, a bit sheepishly and said, “I started off thanking the Lord for you and then my thanking morphed into thanking Him for your candidate, too.”
I just nodded and he continued, “I still think it’s the absolute wrong choice, but my attitude is completely different. I now have an attitude of. . .”
He looked around as if he didn’t want to be heard. “I now have an attitude of respect for your boss.”
He hit me on the shoulder and he and G.W. walked out.
“Will wonders ever cease?” Issy whispered.
Same Day, Atlanta GA
Right after church I pulled Clyde aside. “I still don’t have inroads into the other Religion Consultant, Clyde. Why not?”
I wanted to take his head off but his wife was there.
I was angry but being the great actress I am, I exchanged pleasantries with his wife and children, even kneeling down and playing with one of the brats.
“Clyde,” I whispered, “I am reaching out regularly to the one Chief of Staff and our relationship is growing well. But what is happening with the other campaign?”
“I’m meeting with the Prayer-Guy next week. He’s got the relationship which we will play off of.”
‘ARGHGHGHGHGH’ was all my mind could think as I walked to my office and glad-handed all the people I passed on my way.
Walking up my stairs to my office I groaned in anger at all the hands I had to shake after church. I was glad all my parishioners were behind me, but they were so insensitive to my needs. “Don’t those people know I am exhausted and had just given them everything I could, in my preaching? Someone once said, “Church would be great if we didn’t have to deal with people.” Oh, I couldn’t agree more.
As I got up to my office, the groan inside me returned, but there was that masculine purr again. And I thought, “But I do like their money.”
I mumbled it again, this time in a whisper, “I like their money.”
And when I mumbled it again, “I like their money,” and I could feel the grin on my face. I was actually a bit embarrassed.
[i] 2 Corinthians 10:5
[ii] Luke 10:1a
[iii] Luke 10:4a
[iv] Acts 1:21-23
[v] Luke 10:18
[vi] Luke 10:17
[vii] Luke 10:21a