Not Our Way

There is a verse in Job that disturbs me.  It is when God grants Satan permission to afflict Job. "Very well, then, he is in your hands but you must spare his life."  As Christians, we like to believe that we are somehow exempt from certain types of evil.  Last week, our own Carol Davis had a coworker murdered on her way home.  It is unnerving to realize how vunerable we really are.
We like to think as Christians we have an inside to the mind and will of God and we do.  But perhaps not to the degree we like to imagine.  As the apostle Paul said, "We are looking through dark glass."  God reveals himself to us in his grace but we must remember God is incomprehensible.  As God put it, "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways."  Isaiah 55:8 KJV
We are dependent upon the mercy of God.  We cannot fathom him or correctly interpret him.  We are left trusting him and that is the message of Job.  Even though God allow Satan certain liberties, it had to be granted.  God oversees all things including the hair count on your head.  God is sovereign and he will not allow anything to happen that is not within his will including the freedom of men.
So what do I do when I face a world bigger than me and cannot always fathom the ways of God?  I remember the words of Paul when he said, "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful, he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."  I Corinthians 10:13
Not that we are talking about temptation and not troubles.  There are tragedies in this life that will bowl us over.  We are designed to handle the death of loved ones and the horror of evil men.  There are times in our lives where we will be taken to our knees.  That is to be expected.  Life is hard.  But when we are tempted in those times to doubt God and to become bitter, God will provide us a way through it. 
So don’t lament too long the unfairness and cruelty of life.  Rather seek God for the strength and guidance to stand up to it.  Even when you cannot see the purpose or understand the reason, he will give you the peace and patience to trust him and be made better for it.  We cannot understand the mind of God but we know enough to trust him completely.
Pray for Carol in the loss of her friend and the fear it creates.

On Saturday

Between Good Friday and Easter, we have a lost day.  I have selected a portion from Lucado’s He Chose the Nails to give us a perspective on how to view this day.

"John didn’t know on that Friday what you and I now know. He didn’t know that Friday’s tragedy would be Sunday’s triumph. John would later confess that he “did not yet understand from the Scriptures that Jesus must rise from the dead” (John 20:9).

That’s why what he did on Saturday is so important.

We don’t know anything about this day; we have no passage to read, no knowledge to share. All we know is this: When Sunday came, John was still present. When Mary Magdalene came looking for him, she found him.

Jesus was dead. The Master’s body was lifeless. John’s friend and future were buried. But John had not left. Why? Was he waiting for the resurrection? No. As far as he knew, the lips were forever silent and the hands forever still. He wasn’t expecting a Sunday surprise. Then why was he here?

You’d think he would have left. Who was to say that the men who crucified Christ wouldn’t come after him? The crowds were pleased with one crucifixion; the religious leaders might have called for more. Why didn’t John get out of town?

Perhaps the answer was pragmatic; perhaps he was taking care of Jesus’ mother. Or perhaps he didn’t have anywhere else to go. Could be he didn’t have any money or energy or direction … or all of the above.

Or maybe he lingered because he loved Jesus.

To others, Jesus was a miracle worker. To others, Jesus was a master teacher. To others, Jesus was the hope of Israel. But to John, he was all of these and more. To John, Jesus was a friend.

He Chose the NailsYou don’t abandon a friend not even when that friend is dead. John stayed close to Jesus.

He had a habit of doing this. He was close to Jesus in the upper room. He was close to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. He was at the foot of the cross at the crucifixion, and he was a quick walk from the tomb at the burial.

Did he understand Jesus? No.

Was he glad Jesus did what he did? No.

But did he leave Jesus? No.

What about you? When you’re in John’s position, what do you do? When it’s Saturday in your life, how do you react? When you are somewhere between yesterday’s tragedy and tomorrow’s triumph, what do you do? Do you leave God or do you linger near him?

John chose to linger. And because he lingered on Saturday, he was around on Sunday to see the miracle."

Let us linger today.  I will see you tomorrow on a brighter day.  Remember Sunrise Service at the Presbyterian Church at 6:30 am with breakfast at the church at 7:00 am. 

Good Friday

Rick Renner is a writer who finds the words Good Friday ironic.  They are good only for us.  For Christ it was quite different.

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar,
he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.
John 19:30

The Cross of Jesus Christ is the most precious emblem to those of us who call Jesus the Lord of our lives. We love the Cross and cherish it because of the price that was paid 2,000 years ago when Jesus died for our sins. The Cross represents our forgiveness, our freedom, our redemption. We love it so much that we adorn our churches and homes with crosses, and women even wear them around their necks. But when the pure Lamb of God hung on that Cross we deem so precious – naked, beaten, and bleeding profusely before a watching world – it was a ghastly sight. Indeed, it was the most horrendous moment in human history.

No death was more scandalous than death on a cross. Such a death was dreadful and hideous, designed to discredit and tarnish the memory of the one dying. Blood drenched Jesus’ torso, pouring from His head and brow, running like rivers from the deeply torn flesh in His hands and feet. The effect of the scourging that Jesus had received in Pilate’s palace began to take its toll as His body swelled up and became horribly discolored. His eyes were matted with the blood that poured from the wounds in His brow – wounds caused by the crown of thorns that bore down into His skull as the soldiers pushed it hard upon His head. The whole scene was ugly, unsightly, repulsive, sickening, vile, foul, and revolting.

In the Jewish world, nakedness was a particularly profound shame. Because the body was made in the image of God, the Jewish people believed it was a great dishonor to display a naked body. So as if Jesus’ suffering had not already been enough, He experienced the ultimate act of degradation and shame as He hung on the Cross, naked and exposed before all those who watched the unfolding drama.

Approximately 700 years earlier, the prophet Isaiah correctly prophesied Jesus’ appearance on the Cross. In Isaiah 52:14, the prophet wrote with a sense of horror, “As many were astonished at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men.” In Isaiah 53:2, Isaiah continued, “…He has no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.”

Jesus had been put through horrendous forms of torture and had been atrociously abused and battered. As a result, “…His face and His whole appearance were marred more than any man’s and His form beyond that of the sons of men…” (Isaiah 52:14 AMP). In the New International Version, this verse is translated to say, “…His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness.…”

In Isaiah 53:3-5, Isaiah continued to vividly describe Jesus’ sacrifice. He wrote, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”

Today is Good Friday.  We will remember what the day was like for Jesus at noon today in our Good Friday service.  If you cannot make it, please take a moment of silence to remember what this day was like for Jesus.  It is not pleasant but it is true.


Beyond Hope

There is a condition in this life that is to be avoided at all costs.  I see it every so often.  It is when a person becomes so despondent that they believe they and their life are beyond hope.  It is then they commit the most feared act of giving up.  They fulfill their own prophecy and become their worst fear.

"We were saved in this hope but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one hope for what he sees."  Romans 8:24

For some reason I don’t understand, we believe that we can live this life with everything the way it should be.  We are dissatisfied when every detail of life isn’t as it should be.  We learn to live a life of subtle discontent.  We tell ourselves that we are just pushing for perfection and reaching for excellence.  What we are doing is setting ourselves up for disaster.  When real trouble comes, we have to believe we failed or something went terribly wrong because life shouldn’t be this way.

"If we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently."  Romans 8:25

We are not called to a life of perfection.  We are called to serve in a life of imperfection.  Remember, light in the darkness?  So as believers, we must learn to live a life of hope.  Learning to hope for what has not yet occurred and being patient for its fulfillment.  We are content with what we have and learn to live with the imperfections of life.  How?

By learning to draw nearer to the Lord with those imperfections.

"To this end we both labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially those who believe."  I Timothy 4:10

Let me offer a few suggestions today on learning how to live with hope in an imperfect world:

  1. Examine in the scriptures examples of those who lived in hope.
  2. Accept that some of the things you hope for will occur while others won’t.
  3. Think more about heaven.
  4. Continue to hope for good things.

What are you hoping for today?  What about tomorrow?  Keep doing it and don’t give up.  This life isn’t perfect but it is worth the effort.  And don’t hope by yourself.  Hope doesn’t work that way.  Share with others your hopes and listen to theirs.  And lean up Christ who is your hope.  You see, he is the one who gives hope.  Ask him!

Men Rules

Sorry, working a little late and couldn’t pass these up.  Ladies, these are true.  Sorry, we are men.

  1. Ask for what you want. Subtle hints do not work! Strong hints do not work! Obvious hints do not work! Just say it!
  2. We don’t remember dates. . . .Period!!
  3. Most guys own three pairs of shoes – tops. What makes you think we’d be any good at choosing which pair, out of thirty, would look good with your dress?
  4. Yes and No are perfectly acceptable answers to almost every question.
  5. Come to us with a problem only if you want help solving it. That’s what we do. Sympathy is what your girlfriends are for.

Enjoy.  Michael

Today’s Portion

We had a staff retreat today if you call it a retreat.  We go off the church campus so we can spend some uninterrupted time planning for the future.  It is a daunting task since you dealing with such finite minds.  Preparation pays off in the long run but it is not everything.  I am reminded of a verse in Exodus where Moses defines the provisions of God and men.

A day’s portion every day.  Exodus 16:4

It is said that the twenty-four hours should be divided thus: Eight hours for work, eight for rest, eight for recreation, food, etc. There should be a counterpart of this in Christian living. Each day there should be a portion for work, a portion for restful meditation and sitting before the Lord, and a portion for the gathering of God’s manna.

Each day brings its own work. – God has created us for good works, and has prepared our pathway, so that we may come to them one by one. He has apportioned to each one some office to fulfill, some service to render, some function in the spiritual body of our Lord. It is comforting to know that we have not to scheme for ourselves, but to look up for guidance into the Divine plan.  Even when you retreat.

Each day brings its own difficulties. – God spreads them over our days, giving each day only what we can sustain.  As F.B. Meyer put it long ago, "The servant might be startled were he told that he would have to carry the coals, which it has taken two horses and a great cart to bring to her master’s door; but she will be comforted by being reminded that they will be borne upstairs only a coal scuttle full at a time."  I wonder how many of you know what a coal scuttle is?  Email me if you do.

Each day brings its own supply. – No Israelite could point to his store of manna and congratulate himself that he was proof against any famine that might befall. The lesson of daily trust for daily bread was constantly being enforced; for as the day came the manna fell. Those who followed the cloud were always certain of their sustenance. Where the cloud brooded the manna fell. Whatever any day may bring there always will be within reach of you, lying ready prepared on the sands of the desert, just what you require. Go and collect it; there will be no lack.

Planning is of little value if I do not take care of today’s work.  My attention to duty increases my ability to dream and to grow. 


Chalk It Up

When things go bad, what do you chalk it up to?  Bad luck?  Satan’s attacks?  Do you ever chalk it up to God?  The book of Job gives us an insight to the spiritual world we would not have otherwise.  Here we find Satan engaged in a struggle with God and Job is the centerpiece.

The Lord said to Satan, "Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself you may not lay a finger."  Job 1:12

Set aside the question of how Satan can even speak to God, this text is troubling.  On one hand it speaks of the limitations placed on the forces of evil.  They cannot run in reckless abandon but are constrained by God.  This gives comfort.  On the other hand God allows those forces access to us and that is no small thing.  We can see what  happens when Satan is not resisted.  Murder, mayhem and violence rule and we can suffer the consequences.

In a way, it like the economic markets.  There is great profit and so blessings to be made when everyone plays fair and wisdom is used in making decisions.  It is the greed and malice of a few who put everyone else in jeopardy.  Loan institutions who were irresponsible for a quick buck have left a whirlwind of foreclosures and bankruptcies on our doorsteps. 

It’s a catch 22.  We need the markets but we fear them.  They can bless us and they can hurt us.  But so can the rest of life.  Maybe that is the lesson of Job.  This is a dangerous world with forces acting on us that we do not understand.  Yet it is a wonderful world filled with so many good things and people if we will just look. 

And the miracle is that when evil forces play havoc then the wonderful people emerge.  In the midst of pain and suffering, we can find a strength and integrity we didn’t know lives within us.  The light is never brighter then on the darkest night.  Jesus is never know more than in those painful times.

So take life for what it is.  A struggle that can make you better or bitter.  It can bring out the best in you or the worst in you.  God will hold back the forces just enough to let you decide.  So whatever the news today, the choice is yours.  God has made His.  Satan has chosen.  The rest is up to you.

Keep Jim Bode in your prayers.  They are concerned about clots in the legs right now.  Ron is home and doing well.  Phil is slowly improving.  This is Holy Week so I pray you find the time to think upon Christ and find some peace in His presence.


Blessed be the Name of the Lord

I use it all the time at the graveside.  "The Lord has given.  The Lord has taken away.  Blessed be the name of the Lord."  Job 1:21  I used it this past week.  It is an odd sounding statement.  It speaks of the blessings that the Lord gives to us and then the apparent decision of God to take those things away.  At first glance, God appears capricious.  He gives us things and then he takes them away.

How could Job then call for us to give a blessing to the Name of the Lord?  It is a good question because it is what I ask people to do all the time in the middle of their suffering.  I ask them to trust the Lord.  It is a hard thing to do when it seems God is allowing a lot of things to be taken away from you.

What we miss is that Job is giving a description of life and then the answer to it.  Life is a series of things gained and things lost.  It is successes and failures.  Good and bad.  Every mature adult understands that inevitability.  Job is not so much concerned with who we lay blame to as he is that we see the only thing consistent in the process.  It is the name and office of the Lord.  It is the person of Christ.

God doesn’t change.  He is as devoted to us when we enjoy success as when we suffer setbacks.  He is concerned with our spiritual condition and eternal future, not just seasonal successes and failures.  That is hard for us because we are seasonal people.  We live in the moment and too quickly forget all the blessings of God.  Sort of ‘What have you done for me lately, Lord’ attitude.

Job offers an approach to life that can sustain you in the worst of times.  (Job should know)  Job determined that everything would be used to bring honor to his Lord.  The good things.  The bad things.  He would not curse his God.  He would not take his life.  He would wait and trust and speak of God’s goodness. 

That is why you and I still talk about this man of God.  What are people saying about you.  See you tomorrow at Palm Sunday.


It’s The Economy Stupid

It is being sounded from every station and rooftop.  The dollar is slipping.  Foreclosures abound and gas prices are soaring.  Few are those who are not feeling the pinch.  The president will try to reassure everyone this morning while gold hits an all-time high.  What a way to begin the morning.

So I thought it might be helpful to hear from a higher source than television pundits. 

"The silver is mine and the gold is mine, says the Lord of Hosts."  Haggai 2:8

God takes a definite interest in the affairs of men and reminds us of the illusion that we are in control.  If we were, things wouldn’t turn south of us so often.  We just think we are in control.

"God is able to make all grace abound to you so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  2 Corinthians 9:8

We may not be able to live in the luxury we are accustomed to experiencing but by no means are we incapable of doing the good works God asks of us.  God assures us that if we are faithful in doing his good work, he will be faithful in providing the resources physical and spiritual to do so.

So take the news with a grain of salt.  Adjust your lifestyle and focus more on those things close to home.  And keep doing the good thing.  The Great Economist knows what is going on.


%d bloggers like this: