A child who was afraid in a dark and stormy night was reminded by her parents that God is always with her, to which she replied that on a night like this she wanted somebody with skin on. We are created to need each other; even in the perfect environment of Eden God said that it is not good for man to be alone.
In a fallen, broken world, it is even more important to care for each other. There are even scientific studies that show that people who have caring connections with others are heathier than those who don't, even with similar physiological test results. When we are facing tough situations in our lives, the first step to recognize our limitations. The apostle Paul learned to be grateful for an unspecified physical disability that made him aware of his need to depend on God rather than himself. When we learn to ask, He can work through us, lift us up and use us to in turn help each other. When we are lost on an unfamiliar road, the best help is a caring "tour guide", someone who's been there, done that. I find that I can relate in a special way to widows since John's passing. A friend with hearing loss is led to opportunities to work with children with hearing problems.
God is the ultimate guide! He offers us strength not only from a position of great power, but He also knows what we experience from the inside--knowing humanity not only as our Creator, but as our brother who has been here, done it all, and suffered more than any of us can imagine on our very worst days. But the suffering was a necessary step on the road to the Resurrection, the ultimate victory.
We've asking some hard questions the last few weeks; learning more about ourselves, each other, and God. This is the path we find in Hebrews 11:6: we can know that He IS, and that He rewards those who truly seek Him.
Friday, October 25, 2013
Bad Stuff happens. We may never on this earth know all the reasons, but we see it all around us. Even in Scripture, we find great stories of God's power, and also disasters. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, very often we do it to each other (I'm convinced that we are responsible for each other!). Sometimes we get in the way of the universe we live in. There are spiritual powers out there that do not have our best interests in mind; evil is real. We like to read about the "happy things" in the Bible, but there are a surprising number of unhappy things and unhappy people. An amazing number of the Psalms are God's servants asking "Why, God??" or "When are you going to fix this, God?" This tells us that we can ask God the hard questions, and complain; and that God can handle our frustrations and pain. After all, He knows what we are thinking better than we do ourselves. And He may tell us to do something about it, but we need to be sure we are doing what He calls to do, not what we may want.
"Instinctively, we want to clean up our feelings in our prayers, but perhaps we have it all backwards. Perhaps we should strive to take all our worst feelings to God ... I see the cursing psalms as an important model for how to deal with evil and injustice. I should not try to suppress my reaction or horror and outrage at evil. Nor should I try to take justice in my own hands. Rather I should deliver those feelings, stripped bare, to God. As the books of Job, Jeremiah, and Habakkuk clearly show, God has a high threshhold of tolerance for what is appropriate to say in a prayer. God can "handle" my unsuppressed rage. I may well find that my vindictive feelings need God's correction--but only by taking those feelings to God will I have that opportunity for correction and healing." *
The Bad Stuff is not the end of the story. God heals! Our bodies heal, the natural world heals. Societies can heal. Jesus and the early Church performed healing miracles as a demonstration of the power of God, but His miracle of healing has always been part of His creation. I have just now experienced an example of this. Ten days ago, I was on my way to work and was sideswiped by a car that suddenly veered into my lane. My airbag went off, and my face and neck became a painful, bloody mess. As of today, all there is left is one small bruise on a cheekbone and a small bump on my neck. Healing is a paradox; all medical practice is simply intervening in a way that enables God's healing process. We not only heal physically, but mentally and spiritually as well if we get out of our own way. Even societies and cultures can heal if they are willing to give up whatever is unhealthy. I've heard televangelists say that God wants us healed, and we just need enough faith. It's not that simple: God made the healing process, but healing in this world is never permanent. If it were, Abraham would still be alive! The final stage of healing, if we allow it, happens not in this world but in the next.
* Philip Yancey, Prayer, p173
Thursday, October 17, 2013
The Lion of Judah is one of the most striking Messianic symbols in the Old Testament .In Revelation 5, he is identified with the Lamb of God. He is a figure of power, not under man's control. C.S. Lewis, in the Chronicles of Narnia, uses a Lion, Aslan, as an image of the Messiah. All through the books, Aslan is described as “good ”, but not “safe”--after all, he is “not a tame lion.” One writer on Lewis expands this concept to our understanding of God: “When the realization of the finiteness that makes up humanity hits, the proper response should be one of thankfulness that God cannot be tamed or called at personal bidding. If the characters in The Chronicles of Narnia had been allowed to control Aslan and have him do all the things they thought best at the time, Narnia might be a very different place.”*
When we are tempted to judge God, we need to remember that He is much more complex than we can imagine. He has placed us in a world that Lewis describes as ““Enemy-occupied territory”-that's what this world is.” ** Life on this earth is not perfect; we don't necessarily get what we want, even though there are promises that prayer will be heard. However, we are not at the planning level. We cannot know the long-term implications of what we want, but He does.
Prayer is not an easy concept. Our prayers may conflict with those of others; they may conflict with His nature, they may conflict with His ultimate plans. He has given us the challenge of facing the reality of Evil. Because we live in territory occupied by the Enemy, we cannot expect everyone else to have our best interests at heart. We live in a place that has its own rules, which we can learn to use but do not control. We are all responsible for each other, and we often fail or others fail us. There will come a point when we will all be faced with the responsibility for how our lives have affected each other. Meanwhile, He has created us with challenges beyond our human strength, both for good and for evil. The ability to use our potentials properly is available, but we have to ask and be willing to accept His sovereignty. He is not tame and under our control; He is not safe—we will be challenged to our limits; but He is Good—in a wider sense than we can understand on this Earth.*Raven Richardson, Temple University Colloquium on C.S. Lewis, 2004
**C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
This past Sunday I had a great experience.
In fact I had three of them!
The singing was great and I truly enjoyed preaching on the topic of WHY!
But the best part of the morning happened after the benediction. I snuck to the back of the room during the closing prayer and eagerly awaited the opportunity to shake some hands, give some hugs, and say goodby to our congregation. That is when it happened.
The first lady told me that she was the guest of her friend,
and had really understood the service.
The next lady told me that a member of her family
had invited her to come and worship.
Then a great gentleman on his first visit told me he would see me again.
Acts chapter Two tells us the early church "worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity— all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their fellowship those who were being saved"
My experience this past Sunday was right out of Acts Two, and I loved it!
See you Sunday for "WHY" sermon three.
WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE?
See you there,
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Peek-A-Boo is the first game we play with our babies--they learn that Mommy's still there even if they can't see her. As children grow, they often cry when they're separated from their parents, but most kids learn that a parent will come back and it's OK not to cry about it. Like so many situations we face, there is a line between clueless neglect and helicopter parenting. When I was growing up, my folks had foster children, usually one baby at a time. Many of them had parents that would dump them off with different people for random periods of time, not realizing that even a baby does know whether or not they are with someone they know. I recall one little girl who woke up screaming every night until she had been with us long enough to expect the same place and same people. On the other hand, I recall a family picnic where one of the moms kept up an annoying constant running nag at her 10-yr old.We all have people in our lives that we care about but don't see every day. With Facebook and all the other side effects of technology, we can keep in touch with all sorts of people in all sorts of places. Today I got some very nice birthday messages from people that I haven't seen in some years, who live in all sorts of faraway places. But even if I don't see them every day, I know that they exist, they care about me, and I could call on them for whatever if necessary. One thing that is amazing is that historians and archeologists have found letters from every historical period between people that are often distant from each other. We send letters and messages in the faith that the person at the other end will be there and happy to hear from us.
We have never lived in a world without God. We may not sense His immediate presence every moment, but we see His handiwork, we know what He has done. We may not even realize that He is there. He wants us our faith to grow even if we don't "feel" Him. In this imperfect world, feelings are not necessarily a good guide to reality. Think about how many things we know to be real that we don't see, but we have seen their effect and have reliable information. After Mother Teresa's death, it was found that she had long periods where she did not "feel" God, but she knew what He had called her to do and she did it. We have plenty of information about what He does want us to do, and we learn that it works. And we can see Him in other people whom we are serving.We are told that there will come a time that we will see Him in way that we cannot now imagine--and whether that will be joy or horror is up to us. If we do accept His Lordship, we will see Him and the answers to all His promises. If we reject His authority, we will never see Him again--and that will be an emptiness we cannot now comprehend.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
On Sunday I shared the need for additional teachers to help us begin our new curriculum in November. Ten of you have stepped up! We are almost to our goal of twelve. This will give us the option to run multiple tracks with age diversity. This will be great for children and teachers alike. Our goal is four teams of three teachers, each serving one Sunday per month.
The old saying, "Many hands make light work" is still true. Our plan is to have Nursery, pre-school thru first grade, and second thru sixth grade. Seventh grade and above will remain in the Celebration.
We will begin the new Zondervan curriculum titled "The Story." This study will take our children through the major Bible stories in 31 lessons. We will have age appropriate lessons in Kids Connection, and take home handouts for further study with parents.
We will continue to meet together for Celebration, and then dismiss the children before the message. This allows our children to sing and celebrate with their friends and family while having an age appropriate message all their own.
I want to thank everyone who has stepped up. I am excited to begin training a new generation of teachers. If you would like to join this new team please let me know! There is still time!
Blessing to each of you!
Text or call me @ 909-855-9695