Grace in a Stolen Miracle- Scriptures from MESSAGE VERSION

Most all of us have heard the saying, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ I personally don’t believe there are atheists anywhere. God has implanted in every soul just enough light or awareness to know that somewhere, somehow God or even ‘a god’ exists. Paul writes in Romans 1:19-21: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is!” By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So no one has a good excuse.

What happened was this: people knew God perfectly well, but when they didn’t treat him like God, and refused to worship him, they trivialized themselves into silliness and confusion so that there was neither sense nor direction left in their lives. The reality of God is present to everyone everywhere but people, though they know God, choose not to honor God. Some people even worship or honor themselves, which is sort of what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden. And since the world we live in is one large foxhole you would be hard pressed to find anyone who doesn’t look for help outside of themselves.

From the Scriptures we learn there is something of God’s life in every part of creation. “Everything was created through him (the logos – universal divine reason); nothing—not one thing!—came into being without him.” John 1:3

In Acts 17 Paul is speaking to the philosophers in Athens. They wanted to believe in something and he explained to them that the ‘something’ was actually a ‘someone’. 22-23 “So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It is plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, to the god nobody knows. I’m here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know whom you’re dealing with.”

Somewhere there is a source of justice or people wouldn’t say, ‘it’s just not fair’. Some even ask how a ‘good God’ could allow evil? These are all questions pointing to a ‘higher power’.

1-2 “God’s glory is on tour in the skies,
God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.
Madame Day holds classes every morning,
Professor Night lectures each evening.” Psalm 19

“God has not left himself without some witness to his being, and his goodness.” Acts 14:17

Even astrologers searched the skies for the Messiah and thus found him before the religious leaders did. Expressions such as ‘knocking on wood’, ‘the man upstairs’, ‘oh my God’, ‘thank God’ or even ‘thank goodness’, are all tied to a sense of someone outside of ourselves.

And so I would like to suggest that the lady who touches Jesus’ garment in Luke 8 actually ‘steals’ a miracle provided to her by God’s grace. Perhaps ‘steal’ is a bit too strong; we might say that she clandestinely finds a way to God through her touch.

A friend of mine says that every person on earth has some point of contact with God in his or her life. For the woman in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus garment was that point of contact, getting just close enough to the ever-present grace of God. Here’s her story from vs. 43-45: “In the crowd that day there was a woman who for twelve years had been afflicted with hemorrhages. She had spent every penny she had on doctors but not one had been able to help her. She slipped in from behind and touched the edge of Jesus’ robe. At that very moment her hemorrhaging stopped. Jesus said, ‘Who touched me?’ When no one stepped forward, Peter said, ‘But Master, we’ve got crowds of people on our hands. Dozens have touched you.’”

God causes his sunshine and rain to fall upon the evil and good folk alike. Jesus referred to God’s care for everyone in the Sermon on the Mount. In William P. Young’s book, The Shack, Papa (God) says to the protagonist Mac, ‘God is particularly fond of you, you and everyone.’

For the woman in our story in Luke 8 the hem of Jesus’ garment was just enough. She made the effort to receive that which had been waiting for her, as orchestrated by God the Maestro. In Matthew 9:21 the words are recorded that she really wanted to touch this healer, this Messiah, and she wanted to do it discreetly, for her problem was probably a chronic menstrual bleeding which would have made her too unclean to touch Christ, the holy man. A point of contact. A miracle stolen. Or the grace of God just hanging there for the taking.

As a pastor there were many times I was asked to perform a marriage, a funeral or a baptism by people who were looking secretly for some good luck, a good start, some comfort, all being points of contact to touch the sky as it were. I suspect for many the motive was to get closer to God; and for many it was a matter of doing ‘the right thing’. But either way these were all points of contact. Sometimes a hospital visit for a non-believing patient, a telephone call, a prayer are points of contact. Who knows how the point of contact will bring life? Because life is what God is about and God is everywhere at every moment.

“Am I not a God near at hand”—God’s Decree—
“and not a God far off?
Can anyone hide out in a corner
where I can’t see him?”
God’s Decree.
“Am I not present everywhere,
whether seen or unseen?”
God’s Decree. Jeremiah 23:23-24

 

Now here’s the thing. Christians are the body of Christ, clothed with Christ at all levels of maturity but the grace belongs to our strong loving God. We may not even have faith enough but even that’s enough for it was the faithfulness of Jesus that impacted the lady. But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise.” Galatians 3: 25-27 

That’s what people touch, the unseen faithfulness of Christ at work in us. Sometimes we know it and sometimes not but God knows and loves so well.

And now, the rest of the story. This beautiful thief is ‘caught’. Not by the disciples. They are still learning the extent of the master’s grace. They are bewildered by Jesus’ question, ‘Who touched me?’ because everyone was jostling the disciples and Jesus, pressing in against the Messiah. But in the melee there was a secret desirous touch of an unclean woman. She wanted to remain anonymous but the miracle was so evident in her body and her life that she confesses to why she touched Jesus.

Now I think Jesus is thrilled that this ostracized woman would dare come close enough, risking her reputation, but her story is meant for every soul that thinks itself unworthy of God’s grace.

Sometimes I wonder if Christians might sense the pressing in of a neighbor or loved one or a social outcast who wouldn’t darken the doorway of a church. A word, a touch, a whispered prayer may just activate the power and grace that is all around us.

WHERE DOES IT HURT?

Recently I listened to a podcast from Renovaré, a great ministry/organization focused on Spiritual Formation. The podcast was a conversation with author Philip Yancey led by Nathan Foster.

Yancey has written a new book titled Fearfully and Wonderfully: ‘The marvel of bearing God’s image’. In the book he draws an analogy between pain in the human body and pain in the Body of Christ, the church community. His writing comes after working many years with Dr. Paul Brand, the late surgeon who specialised in treating leprosy in India. Leprosy is an infectious disease within the skin and peripheral nerves leading to a disastrous consequence for those, who because of this illness, cannot feel pain.

Pain is important because it’s real and it signals that something is wrong with the body. It can be physical or emotional and can include such discomforting feelings as anger, sadness, depression and much more.

Pain causes us to pay attention to our bodies. And for the Body of Christ, as the analogy goes, pain is a sign that something is wrong and needs to be addressed.

These days there seem to be a lot of division and hurt in the church over such issues as exclusivity and inclusivity, liberal and conservative, sexuality and doctrine. Rules, standards, grace and love are in conflict and people on all sides are hurting. I know this personally.

So let me continue the analogy by saying the church needs to know the pain is real and then go to the Great Physician who can diagnose the pain and help each of us to care for those in pain. Jesus told his disciples that the signal of a healthy community is loving one another. He prayed for us to be one even as he and the Father are one.

We are all in some fashion broken, sick, or lost but within the community, the Body, we can recognize and address those circumstances that underlie the pain. We need to stop being against each other and instead be with and for one another. Let’s listen to each other out of love. Let’s be attentive to the pain we often hide beneath a veneer of doctrinal faithfulness, social activism and success (just to name a few methods of denial).

Read the way the Apostle Paul puts it in 1Corinthians 12. ‘If one part of the body suffers then every part suffers with it.’

Maybe the question isn’t ‘What do you believe?’ but rather the one we often ask our children, “Where does it hurt?”

MICROSCOPES, TELESCOPES, AND HOROSCOPES

Humans have an endless desire for truth. We are curious. We are seekers. From the furthest reaches of our universe to the minutest movement of electrons we long for answers, answers that may well help research and progress.

We want to know the how, when and where truth is taking place that will make our lives, society and world a better place, a more flourishing environment. We develop theories, doctrines, religions and philosophies to help us not just with the ‘what’ of life but also with the why?

And this is all good ….to a point.

I think God has made us inquisitive. The sage writer of Ecclesiastes says that God put eternity in our hearts so that we will not be able to fathom all that God has done from the beginning to the end. So we will keep on searching to find truth.

But God has done something else. God has put all eternity into the person of God’s own Son, Jesus, so that though we might not be able to fathom everything about God we CAN know God intimately, know we are loved and valued by the Creator.

Oh, there are many days we don’t know if we are coming or going but to know Jesus, the Christ, is to know the heart of God, the essence of God’s love.

Which all brings me to a wonderful passage from the Bible. It’s one that gives us assurance of the intimate presence of God and providence of God for all God’s creation, believer or not.

Colossians 2:8-10 Watch out for people who try to dazzle you with big words and intellectual double-talk. They want to drag you off into endless arguments that never amount to anything. They spread their ideas through the empty traditions of human beings and the empty superstitions of spirit beings. But that’s not the way of Christ. Everything of God gets expressed in him, so you can see and hear him clearly. You don’t need a telescope, a microscope, or a horoscope to realize the fullness of Christ, and the emptiness of the universe without him. When you come to him, that fullness comes together for you, too. His power extends over everything.

Let those words have a place in your heart and mind. Stay close to the Christ who IS the WORD OF GOD who has come to us, died for us and lives for us.

 

WANTED: A MORAL COMPASS

Is there anyone out there who knows how to point our nation to a true moral north?

We seem to have lost our way. When all we care about is ‘self’ and ‘winning’ we have entered through the wide gate that leads to destruction.

Any leader with an ounce of decent morality would stand before this nation and at least say something like “We ALL bear some responsibility for the incendiary atmosphere that is choking the good life out of us. And ALL includes your President.”

I know there are agendas and issues and things like politics. Health care, jobs, lots of money in our pockets and being number one in the world and having the strongest defense all seem to be at some point on the compass but not true north.

But for the love of God (really) let’s all get down off our high horses of being ‘right’ and teach our children a better way to think and live. Please, someone, write me some names of political leaders in our nation who HAVE a moral compass, of pointing the way to what is right and wrong instead of blaming everybody else and making sure we have enough votes to WIN.

I need some role models to believe in. Do your children have leaders that are role models? Hold them close.

Jesus said, the way is narrow that leads to LIFE and few find it, or even look for it. People don’t want the ‘best’ way unless best means ‘me first’. We want the road to victory where our enemies lie strewn along the pathway. Enemies being people we don’t agree with.

Jesus once prayed to his Father that his followers would be ONE like Jesus and the Father were. My God, what happened to that unity? We have forsaken you for the almighty mammon. Someone, out there, please help us.

I am remembering: OUR HELP IS IN THE LORD WHO MADE HEAVEN AND EARTH.

YES, Abe Lincoln said that times like these drive us to our knees. Then on our knees let us go before the ONE TRUTH NORTH, to beg God’s forgiveness and help for the healing of this nation.

May God have mercy upon those who are victims right now, today, especially our Jewish kin who once again find themselves the target of hatred and violence. Please Yahweh, come to their aid and comfort. Grant HOPE to your people everywhere. Amen

 

 

 

LUCK, CHANCE AND ACCIDENT and THE CHRISTIAN

I used to be a strict Calvinist believing that God determines and wills everything that happens in this life. But I have come to understand that in life there is such a thing as accident and chance referred to by some as luck. Bad luck.

Wars, famines, disease, tsunamis, earthquakes, accidents and bad people cause things to happen that a loving Father would not ‘cause’. There’s a verse that I will paraphrase. Jesus is speaking to his disciples about bad things going on in the world and the danger they might be in for. It’s in Matthew 10. Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid of the planes that go off course or the bullet coming your way, or that illness that’s driving you mad. These things can torture you. They can kill the body but not the soul. The soul belongs to me. There is nothing that happens in your life by chance or designs where I am not involved with you. If you hurt I hurt. My image is in you and that image will not be destroyed.”

See, God can work in and through any circumstance in our lives to orchestrate some good, good according to God’s will. God’s will we might not understand while in our earthly bodies, but it is a will that is ultimately good. I think it is well to say that while we don’t understand God’s will, we understand the heart and purpose of God revealed in Jesus on the cross where he brings all God’s good purposes for humanity to fruition.

I have a good friend who died some years ago. His wife said that God had numbered all his days and my friend’s time had come. He suffered through cancer and died too young as many do. While the grief she felt was not a subject for theological debate nor was I going to argue with the Scripture she knew so well. Psalm 139. Though now I would suggest that the part of Psalm 139 about all our days being numbered might have been the Psalmist’s understanding of God’s sovereignty at that time.

When the disciples related to Jesus some tragic events where people were killed and they were wondering what those folks might have done wrong, Jesus replied to them that it was not their sin that caused the towers to fall but that the disciples should pay attention to their own lives and relationship to God. See Luke 13.

It was no one’s fault that a certain man was born blind but the disciples always wanted things explained and Jesus said it was nobody’s fault but in this instance Jesus healed the man and brought attention to the love of God. That love is not absent in other tragedies, no matter the belief, because Christ is there, crucified and taking that seeming separation, like his own on the cross, and bringing glory to bear on every situation. Wow I am sorry for that long sentence.

When I get onto an airplane I am taking very little chance with my life. But what chance there may be I will surrender to my God. I pray that when the time comes that I die or am dying I will surrender that to God. Perhaps with complaint but still in the presence of God. I will trust in the faithfulness of my Lord than in myself.

We all groan while on this earth. Some groaning is more evident than others. And when we see children suffering and dying we run to the Master to ask why this has to happen. There is a grief that only Christ can truly understand and redeem. He told his disciples that in this world they would have tribulation, problems untold, but that he had already overcome this travail through his own suffering and his presence.

There may even come a time when I want to forget God but now in my lucidity I want to pray that God never forgets me. And Christ is that assurance.

Yes, God does answer prayers and brings certain things to happen and prevents certain other circumstances. These answers are a constant reminder to us of God’s presence. And that is with our physical bodies. There are untold matters of healing of the soul and forgiveness of sin and reconciliation of the whole world to God that are worth celebrating too.

When God told Abraham to count the stars, if he could (Genesis 15), God was telling Abraham that the souls of all humanity would be blessed through what God was doing with Abe. That’s Good News.

So I want to make apology if my words in anyway seem to minimize God’s love or role in God’s creation. I rather want us to understand that this world turns WITH God, no matter how it seems. When I read of the unfathomable evil in this world I do not understand why it is allowed. But I trust the God who is able to overcome, and will do so for this world.

So let us go out and live, surely praying that God be with us, asking for help and thanking God that God so loved the world he gave his only Son. And if God gave us Jesus will God not give us everything we need to enter God’s Kingdom forever.

So if you are reading this and have experienced tragedy or know of suffering please be assured THAT NOT A SPARROW FALLS TO THE EARTH APART FROM THE PRESENCE OF GOD. And in the words of the old gospel hymn,” if his eye is on the sparrow then I know he’s watching me.”

One final anticipation of some protest. There are many passages in the Bible that indicate God as the cause of EVERYTHING. There is some of that perspective but we have to put them all together and use the minds and hearts God gave us to search God’s heart. Our spirits and God’s spirits can do this together.

Will anything ever separate us from the love of God? NOT A CHANCE.

CRACKS IN THE WALL

Well, NFL play is upon us. I am not a fan of football and in fact am reading a Christian doctor’s opinion that children should never play football again. But that’s for another time.

There is uproar coming in the days ahead, I suppose, over the ‘kneeling’ issue as pertains to players making their protest about injustice towards African-Americans

I have heard from many how this is most disrespectful to the country, the flag and our military. In light of the death of a great servant of our country, John McCain, I share his thoughts on the subject, “’That’s their right to do what they want as citizens,’ McCain told TMZ Sports when asked about the Dallas Cowboy players who took a knee then locked arms in solidarity before playing the Arizona Cardinals ..” Perhaps I digress. Probably it would be most respectful for people to shut off their cellphones, stop talking, eating and drinking and give their full attention to the honor of our nation.

This all begs the question. Is there, in any way, a problem in our nation with criminal justice bias towards African-American people?

I am writing as a white pastor who wants to address the cries of those in our community who feel that Jim Crow is still alive. The below reference is from Wikipedia:

In the early 1830s, the white actor Thomas Dartmouth “Daddy” Rice was propelled to stardom for performing minstrel routines as the fictional “Jim Crow,” a caricature of a clumsy, dimwitted black slave.

Now I want to share an illustration. That’s what pastors do.

A man hires a worker to repair some cracks in the wall of his home. Later he hires the same worker to come and repair more cracks that have appeared. Finally, and I am making this short, the worker says, ‘Sir, I can keep coming back and taking your money but the real problem here is your FOUNDATION. It needs repair. The cracks in your walls are due to ‘structural’ damage.’ (The end)

Some folks say there is no more racial oppression in our country. OK- let’s assume that in the worst sense that might be true. However let’s go back in time even as recently as 1981. The KKK lynched a black man. And most people are aware of times before that with issues of slavery, Jim Crow, civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr., etc.

Our current walls that appear to some to have cracks are built upon a damaged foundation. Trust me. It’s all recorded in history. And while the cracks may have been patched here and there they are still going to appear because the foundation, which is many hundreds of years old, is damaged. That may not be the fault of the current homeowner but it is nevertheless true.

We current owners of this home, and now stay with me, this household of faith, to which we all belong, need to walk around the foundation and check this out for ourselves. We need to admit there are problems that go deep.

Yes, in 2008 there was a congressional apology for the 246 years of slavery and subsequent Jim Crow era but with repentance there is always action to be taken; changing how to live now. We are still working on that by the grace of God. God’s forgiveness always leads to better lives.

I have been attentive to the words of the Pope recently who is receiving much negative sentiment because the church is not suggesting ways to stop the evil of child abuse. Now there is a foundation that needs to be repaired.

But back to my reason for writing this. Better lives, more loving lives, neighbor loving neighbor in tangible ways. Jesus told us many times that the strongest foundation for a good life was to listen to him and then PUT HIS WORDS INTO PRACTICE. You can find this in the Sermon on the Mount.

And please know that my writing and intention is all about JESUS, how to respect and honor him in all I do. Jesus tells us to love our enemies, not judge another person, and to look deeply into our human heart. There’s that foundation again. According to Jesus we are to address the disparities in life and make sure that those who know and feel themselves to be marginalized are brought back into the household. (Ok…I admit that there is a sermon in here somewhere).

If Americans, especially us Christians, are going to build a better foundation we need to address what is termed ‘racial bias’ which simply and profoundly means attitudes within us that perhaps are reactions or beliefs we grew up with, about African-American intelligence, ambition, honesty, violence, aggression, etc.

I think that’s what the protests are about and folks are asking how we are going to address that. In the town I grew up in there was an ‘anti-bias task force’ and I am sure we weren’t the only town to realize that bias exists. Perhaps there are injustices that need to be attended to. (And yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition.) I am not an expert in these areas but I am alive and well aware that this goes on in our society. In fact my own foundation could use some repair. I can be faulted for my own silence in addressing the foundation and the cracks.

So I am hopeful that the Evangelical community of Christians as well as our government can hear from the Black community and implement changes whether it be in our criminal justice system, our educational system or generally how we relate to our brothers and sisters of another color within our community.

I heard the President say that he would meet with leaders to consider pardons from prison. But I have not heard anything since that statement. I am sure there will be more ‘kneeling’. I don’t have a personal opinion about the ‘disrespect’ part but I know about protest. I protested the Vietnam War back in the day.

Anyway, the white folks need to invite the black folks to walk together through the house and see how best to repair the foundation. This is a wonderful country and part of what makes it so is that we can listen to and love one another and work together and live together. So in that spirit while conversations are going and injustices are corrected we can ask for a ‘moratorium’ on ‘kneeling’. Except in cases of prayer.

MIXING POLITICS AND RELIGION

Even in my Bible study group people say don’t mix politics with religion. Well, Jeff Sessions has gone and done it. And it’s gonna bite him and this administration. When you mess with God and God’s little children by quoting scripture as some kind of proof text for your behavior you are on a slippery slope south, and I don’t mean Virginia. What we sow we reap.

We, as a country of Christian values and morals, have now set a ‘made up law’ above Christ’s commands to love, and God’s command to take care of the poor strangers and immigrants among us. And the current regime cannot get out of this by blaming another political party. And to further aggravate God I read that the leader is using this FAMILY SEPARATION as a bargaining chip to get his way on things like THE WALL.

In my less than theological language I say this all sucks. I cannot keep silent living in a country that has such a terrible track record and history against people like native Americans, Africans, and immigrants who trying to find a way to life which is what we all want.

“Hey, he’s the head of a country, and I mean, he’s the strong head, don’t let anyone think anything different,” Trump told Fox News “He speaks and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.” The  leader of this nation has made it clear in humor and seriousness that he prefers the totalitarian way of rule over democracy. I believe him. Christians must stand up and say NO.

Jeff Sessions, Sarah Sanders and the whole administration can quote Romans 13 all they want but may they never forget that we as God’s people do not bow to the IDOL OF LAW. We stand against any laws that go against the will of God as the book of Daniel illustrations, as the early Apostle’s practiced against Rome, and as people throughout history have done perhaps best understood in the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD.

At the Southern Baptist Convention Jeff Session invoked God in his defense of making life more miserable for immigrants than that life already is. But the President elect of that body of religious people made something else clear:

“Greear in particular had urged the denomination to step back from politics, including this passage in his speech to the meeting on Monday, prior to his election:

“We believe that Jesus is the lord of the whole earth. He is the king of kings and he is the lord of lords. We believe that he, not any version of Caesar, is the Messiah. He is the Christ, the son of the living God, that salvation is found in him, not in the Republican platform or the Democratic platform, and that salvation did not come riding in on the wings of Air Force One. It came cradled in a manger.””

While I do not equate the actions of this present government with those of Nazi German  I do find the following quote most interesting:

  • Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord. (Mein Kampf)- Adolf Hitler.

Yes, we have all heard about safety, about laws and how we are a nation of laws. Maybe we need to read more about grace and love and caring for the ‘least’.

This government, if it has the will, can find a way to alleviate this situation, govern rightly and justly and if we are going to side with God then we had better make sure we understand who God is and whom Jesus died for.

Let our leader make the same effort for our neighbors to have peace as he is making with the worst totalitarian leader on the planet. (My opinion).

 

Exodus 12:49 and Leviticus 24:22 – “There shall be one law for the native and for the alien who resides among you.”

Exodus 22:21 – Moses gives God’s law:  “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien; for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

I urge you all to find a way to donate to groups/organizations who are helping with the refugee crisis because in truth you cannot have politics without religion.

Please let’s find a way for these little ones to be with their parents.

 

 

SPIRITUAL DOLDRUMS

It’s been a hard couple of days for me as has been the last month or so. I’m the spiritual doldrums. In nautical terms that the place near the equator where the winds are really too calm to fill the sails of a ship. For me it’s where I am not ‘feeling’ the wind of God’s Spirit. Cranky, tired, prayer-less, and sometimes just want to quit the whole faith thing.

Then I feel guilty as though I am not pleasing God by faith and actions. I want to crawl up with a good book, not necessarily the Bible, and just hide. Maybe you have known that feeling. Oh, I have a few good friends who are supportive, even loving me unconditionally but sometimes it’s not enough.

So I think, ‘what’s God’s take on me at the moment?’ That’s where Grace comes in. And by grace in these circumstances I don’t mean that I win the lottery or that things change a whole lot for me. Grace is something different.

Grace is God’s love for me when I was spiritually dead, lost, and out of touch with God. Jesus didn’t wait for me to ‘get it together’ before he went to the cross. I read in the Bible that Christ is even at this moment praying for me before God. (Romans 8) “Father,” I can just hear him, “here goes Gaffga again.” Then God’s loving action kicks in to remind me I am loved even when I am lost.

It’s like Mackenzie in THE SHACK saying to Jesus, “I feel so lost” and Jesus answers, “Don’t worry. I’m not lost.”

So today I am trusting Jesus to be the pioneer of faith. Yeah, I am way back in the procession following him but he won’t let me go. As people say, ‘it’s not my faith that saves me. It’s the faithfulness of Jesus.’ I remember that and I am held in hopefulness.

Listen, you don’t have to be an ‘on top of the world’ person to be a believer. Lots of people who follow Christ are depressed and even despondent at times. Like Job they don’t necessarily blame God but they don’t like life either. It’s good then when a friend comes along side to just ‘be’ there. Sometimes the silence is good. It’s in that silence that God can speak. Sometimes we just wait for a gentle wind to inflate our sails. That’s where we trust the faithfulness and love of Christ for us. It’s not a happy go lucky trust but rather a calm inner sense that God is ‘for us’. That God will work things to the good.

I was reading Charles Spurgeon the other day. Let me quote him here:

“May I therefore urge upon any who have no good thing about them- who fear that they have not even a good feeling, or anything whatever that can recommend them to God- that they will firmly believe that our gracious God is able and willing to take them without anything good to recommend them and to forgive them spontaneously, not because they are good, but because HE is good.”

So today I trust in the goodness of God. My trust is small but the faithfulness and love of God are great.

But that’s all I can write today. “Father into thy hands I commend my spirit.” That’s grace.

Parkland, Florida. Wednesday February 14, 2018

Remember how Jesus took the little children into his arms and blessed them? I believe that the same eternal Jesus is holding these children whose lives were shattered by gunfire on Wednesday. The question is not as some Christians phrase it, ‘Did they know Jesus?’ The question is ‘Does Jesus know them?’ The resounding answer from the heart of God is ‘Yes’.

And as much as these children are loved by their families, Jesus loves them even more. While God allows more freedom and destructive free will than we can understand, we can know that from the horror and sorrow of Jesus’ own death, he gently and often quietly moves into our horrors and sorrows. And as the one who took in himself our infirmities and sorrows he bears the pain with these children and their families as well as their friends.

And recall how Mary, the mother of God, ached at the death of her own child. Yes, the myriads of heaven’s angels, saints and the Holy Trinity through their prayers and presence are with those now whose grief is unbearable.

The Good Shepherd has found his sheep and none are lost. Because he lives, they too live.

But for now there are mournful tears in heaven.

 

 

WE WON’T BOW

In the Book of Acts the religious leaders are persecuting Jesus’ disciples. In Acts 4:29 they are praying they call out to God, “Please take note of the leaders’ threats against us’. They are praying with the implicit request that God punish these leaders. And they also ask for a boldness to continue to speak the truth about Jesus.

And so this is what I am doing, writing and praying right now. I believe that our ‘leader’ is threatening so many who want to live in faithfulness to God as revealed in God’s Word. I believe the character of God is not remotely being understood and lived out by our leader and his political allies.

The Bible speaks of humility, compassion, repentance, and care for the ‘least of these.’ Instead all I hear is boasting, arrogance, pride, self-serving political maneuvering and the making of an idol called ‘Make America Great Again.”

Greatness in the eyes of God is only achieved by compassion and faithfulness to the one and only God. Faithfulness is expressed by a desire to follow Christ and to love our neighbor. Here’s what God desires, according to God’s word: He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8) And I am so weary of our leader’s rhetoric, which has little or nothing to do with the above.

I know that Paul says Christians are to be submissive to the governing authorities. But Paul is discouraging open armed rebellion against Caesar. He is not saying we are to obey when the leaders are doing wrong to the good folks. (See Romans 13) Some Christians have wrongly interpreted this to mean that whatever the ‘mis-leader’ says, goes. Jesus said that we are to give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. He might have been referring to tax money but if I am not mistaken our money says that ‘in God we trust.’ Not the leader or any of his idols. Christian people say that better employment rates, more money and power is the way of the faithful American. And being pro-life. How about all life? Not just those precious lives in the womb but the ones who are trying to live on any side of the border.

There is an insidious evil to what I see going on and while I do not wish to return evil for evil I want to take my stand in the face of an idolatrous leader and say like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, ‘We won’t bow to your idols.’ And I pray to find ways to express my protest against leadership that would spend millions on parades, armaments, and walls while people in this world are starving to death wondering why.

I do not hear Jesus saying at the end of time, ‘Well done good and faithful servants. You were the most powerful, richest, and safest people on the face of the earth.’ That’s not in the Bible that I read.

I pray that God will take note of the threats of this leadership towards the poor, the abused, as well as decency and morality. I heard just today that the leader expressed sympathy and well wishes for the man who was fired or resigned for his alleged (some proven true) abuse of former spouses. May God take note of this as well.

So instead of Romans 13 about submission to authorities let’s take a look at Psalm 109, a particular favorite of mine. It is usually attributed to David and in verses 7-8 has the following: (the parenthetical is mine).

“When he is tried, let him be found guilty, and may his prayers condemn him. May his days (in office) be few and may another take his place of leadership.”

Now you may think me judgmental or even hypocritical since I deal with my own sins but I choose to lay my words before God and let God be my judge in these matters. But I cannot and will not bow to the idol of ‘make America great again.’ And I cannot follow a leader who proclaims that all human rights are given by the Creator alone (see prayer breakfast speech of Feb. 8th) when his regard for those human rights are minimal at best.

Two weeks ago I was in Haiti. Our leader called it a ‘shithole’. I had to stand before a congregation of Haitian believers, human beings who deserve respect and dignity, and apologize for the leader.

And where are the cahoneys of other leadership in our government who won’t stand and say no to the ‘leader’? Political power is an idol to which they bow.

In a time when Israel worshiped God and practiced idolatry they looked for “the day of the Lord” when God’s rule would defeat their enemies and bring peace and prosperity to the nation. But God told the idolatrous people that they had wronged God by treating the poor unjustly even as the nation’s leaders shouted their loud praises to God. And so Amos the prophet brings God’s message to the people: (from Amos 5:21-24)

“I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.

 

No. Lord God, please take note of this mess and my complicity in it. And let your people speak with boldness about the cause and compassion of Christ. Amen.