By Gary Piper
One of my favorite summer time things to do is to sit around a campfire roasting marshmallows or cooking hotdogs. It’s truly amazing the variety of topics and conversations that arise as we all sit in a circle watching the flames rising into the night sky. It’s was always a challenge to see who would be the evening smoke eater. Not only do I cherish the conversations, the jokes, the campfire songs but I also cherish the time when our voices would fall silent and the snapping and crackling of the wood burning would serenade us.
I can’t provide any proof that Jesus and the disciples sat around a campfire at night while they traveled from one village to the next. In my imagination I can see the thirteen of them sitting by a fire discussing a number of different topics. I’d be willing to bet their conversations were not always serious in nature. Join me as I turn back to calendar and turn up our imagination and join Jesus and the Twelve around their campfire and listen in on their conversation.
As another day’s end approached, Jesus and the twelve settled in for another night on the road. After James had the campfire going and they had all settled down they ate their supper each one was enjoying the quietness of the evening.
“Master today I thought the Pharisees were going to have you stoned. Why do you provoke them? You teach us to love all people equally, yet you constantly call them hypocrites and deride them? Do we love them or not,” John asked, breaking the silence.
Jesus slowly turned his head to look at John, “I have come to confront all people with the Father’s truth for some the truth sets people at peace for others it sets them at odds with themselves and the Father. Sometimes at night when all the noise has died off I can hear the prayers of the Prophets of old praying for the Pharisees. Then my heart becomes heavy and troubled because God sent me as an answer to their prayers yet they remain blind to his revealing light. Do I love them you ask, very shortly I will die for them, and I will die by them.”
“You keep speaking of dying, and now you tell us the Pharisees are going to kill you. We don’t want you to die, we need you,” said John.
“John, my loving friend I have come into this world that I may give my life so all people will live and they will live eternally. Your vision is limited now but the time will come when it will be opened and you will behold that great and marvelous work that the Father is doing. The time is coming when you will need the powers of my Spirit more than you will need my physical presence. You must never live in the shadow of yourself doubt live only in the light of God.”
Jesus continued, “The Father commands us all to love all people that does not mean we should love what they do, love the sinner and despise the acts of sin. It is the acts of sin that lead to separation from God. The farther and farther one gets from God the brighter and more powerful the acts of sin become.”
“But why do the Pharisees seek to kill you, Lord?” Jude asked.
“Some people are comforted by the Spirit of God and others are confronted. When the Pharisees, and people like them are confronted with the truth, the truth becomes their enemy then they seek to destroy the truth. And in so doing the separation between them and God becomes more complete. In spite of what they do to you must pray for their salvation. Love them and if you cannot love them ask God to love them for you. Remember if people attack you because of the truth in you they are attacking me so I will be with you and you will be strengthened by the Father and the truth will become a greater part of your life no matter what happens to you,” Jesus finished and sat down. “Master if you die at the hands of the Pharisees I don’t know if I can love them or not. But I will try,” John replied with tears in his eyes.
“That’s all that is required of you then let God do the rest.”
“Master tell us about the future, what will the world be like,” Judas Iscariot asked as the little group sat around the campfire.
“Yes please Jesus, we know you have the vision of the ages can you share some of it with us, what will the people be like?” asked James.
“Why do you wonder about what is yet to happen,” Jesus questioned them?
“We are curious,” James replied.
“You must be careful with your curiosity about the future because the lure of what is to be can rob you of the here and now. One looks to the future for a better life and a better world, but a better life and a better world begin now. You can do nothing about the future unless you begin in the present,” Jesus responded.
“I am sorry Jesus if I gave you the impression I was not satisfied with the now because I am. I have been with you enough to know that the future belongs to God. But as I looked up at the stars I know they will still be there thousands of years from now and I wonder what kind of world will be looking back at these same stars,” Judas replied.
“Lord, doesn’t it make sense that sometimes when our spirits are down that if we think about the future and its possibilities God can bring comfort to us?” John asked.
“Indeed it can, John,” Jesus replied, “But the danger is in not living in the present. You cannot leave the present and live in future because then the present can never become the past. The circumstances of life must be dealt with in the present so they can become the past. You cannot and must not run away from the present. You must plan for your future and you must make goals for your life, but those plans begin in the present and those goals can only be accomplished as the present becomes the past.”
“Knowing the future might inspire us to work harder now, or might at least help us determine what we should be doing,” James interjected.
“James, there is some truth in what you say. But don’t confuse your plans and goals for the future they are only desires and possibilities. If I were to tell you that the world would end tomorrow what would you do?” Jesus asked him.
Searching for an answer James replied, “I don’t know.”
“The future belongs to God and those who work in the present and who are willing to become good stewards over what God has entrusted to them. The future holds many people who will respond with the talents God gives them to improve life. It also holds many people who will abuse those talents and will bring near world destruction and much human suffering. The work that I am entrusting to you will carry on and many will believe your words. Seek to build the Kingdom of God in yourselves now.”
Jesus continued, “Much of the future will be beyond your ability to understand because the lifestyles will drastically change. But the basic needs of people will not change. The things you learn now and apply to your lives will last forever.”
Jesus then waited for a few moments so everyone had enough time to think about what he had said. He wanted to tell them about the near future and what would happen to each of them but he knew that only the present would prepare them to live through difficulties they would face. Pausing again briefly he silently prayed that they would be granted strength, insight, and foresight.
“If the Father thinks you need to see events that may transpire in the future he will provide you with a vision for them, however many scriptures contain writings about the future, learn them, but trust in God because in him the future will end. I have given you much to think about this night. Judas, the man of the future will be a lot like you,” Jesus paused, “a lot like you.”
“Master?” Judas asked. “I understand that you are telling us to not worry about the future. But I am also concerned that our movement is not going anywhere. Your message is so important to our people yet you continue to talk about your death.”
“Judas, our work and our people are in God’s hand don’t worry, no one will ever defeat God he will reign victorious. The day will come when you will play a very important part in the future pray for strength,” Jesus finished and walked off to pray.