Thursday, September 16, 2010

Worshiping in Grief

2 Samuel 12:20-23.

David has spent what seems to be an eternity praying to God for the life of his child. He fasted and prayed seeking God for the life of his sick child. But the day came when the child died. David's servants trembled in fear, because if David has shown such emotional trauma during the child's illness what will he do now that the child has died? But surprisingly when told of the child's death, David arises, washes himself, eats, and worships the Lord. When asked about this seemingly strange response to the child's death, David replies that he cannot now bring the child back, but David will one day go through death to be with the child.

It would appear that the Lord includes this story in the Bible to teach us concerning death and our response as God's children to the emotional trauma associated with death encounters. It appears that the following truths are being communicated through this story:

  1. We are permitted to beseech the Lord in prayer when scared and in a time of deep personal need. Never fail to take your burdens to the Lord when you are overwhelmed. There is freedom to pour out our hearts to the Lord in such moments of life.
  2. We are NOT permitted to question and blame the Lord when we are emotionally distraught. To do so is foolishness. We are not wise or good enough to question the God of heaven and earth. Emotional pain is not an excuse to do what is wrong.
  3. Emotional pain is not a reason to rebel against the Lord.
  4. When hurting we need to worship God. No matter what happens in life worship of the living and true God is the great healing agent.
  5. When grieving over death, do not refuse to live. Life is God's, and it is His gift to us. When life is hard, we must not refuse God's gift of life. Our lives are sacrifices unto God for His glory.
PERSONAL: I dread the day; that awful day looming before me. They say it will come; there is nothing more they can do. His life, which has seemed so insignificant and small to the world, is precious and a joy to me. When that day of his departure comes, I will no longer feel the gentle touch of his hand and uninhibited giggles and simple smile.

When he was born I wondered both at his handicap and how I would cope. The great question seemed to be - "What am I going to do with this little handicapped boy?" Now that the real risk is that he will not live with us many more years and every day brings the real possibility of his eminent departure, I now ask myself - "What will I do without him?"

And yet the mystery and majesty of life itself grips me with meaning and depth. God is the constant pillar upon Whom life is grounded and nourished. When the worst happens, the best remains. All is well!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eutychus and the Debilicrat

Eutychus, having grown up under Roman occupation, had two issues with modern day American politics. First, he was used to living under tyranny, so he knew quite a bit about it and seemed to have a "nose" for such things. Second, he had trouble understanding American politics and politicians. It seemed to him that American politicians campaigned one way, then they governed a different way when they got elected. Strange! Well, given the fact that it is harder to govern than to campaign, it seemed to Eutychus as he watched several election cycles that many times the politician acted differently when elected than when he was campaigning. It was as if the elected politician could say to the electorate, "You should have paid attention to what I am, not what I said during the campaign."

Well, one day, our 1st century hero transplanted to the modern time, met a Debilicrat, a long time member and faithful supporter of the Debilicratic Party, a political party of some note in the nation. Eutychus was glad to meet a Debilicrat, because he had some questions about how Debilicrats thought.

Eutychus: "Oh, hi, I'm Eutychus."

Debilicrat: "Hi, I'm Nostie Potossi."

Eutychus: "I understand you are a Debilicrat; is that true?"

Debilicrat: "Absolutely, one hundred percent; I am a Debilicrat through and through. I take my orders from the Debilicratic National Party. I change my views regularly to conform to what I am told by the Party."

Eutychus: "Wow, is that a lot?"

Debilicrat: "Every day, and sometimes several times a day. The wind changes a lot you know."

Eutychus: "I have a question: Doesn't a political party have values and truism that they embrace for political purposes? What are the values of the Debilicratic Party?"

Debilicrat: "It is simple - our beliefs are whatever gets us elected and keeps us in power."

Eutychus: "You mean you cannot state what you absolutely and unchangeably believe?"

Debilicrat: "Listen, it is a good gig. All you have do is tell the people you will give them paradise, and they will elect you. They never ask questions. For example, if we tell them we will give them money and jobs and houses and cars, they never ask, 'Who is going to pay for it?' It is amazing how gullible people are. If you tell them what they want to hear, they will vote you right in."

Eutychus: "But what if someone does ask the hard questions, like, 'Who will pay for all these amenities? How will the economic factors be affected? What about the value of hard work?"

Debilicrat: "You're Eutychus, the guy from the first century, right? You are new, so I will explain to you the infallible, never-failing, three-fold strategy of the Debilicratic Party. First, you tell the people the biggest goof-ball promise ever. Second, you use the media as outlets to distribute the promises (we have the media in our DNP pocket; they never criticize us or even ask hard questions. Ha! This is so easy!). And third, if someone asks, 'Who will pay for all these things?' you simply say 'The rich.' No one likes the 'rich', so it works every time. It is an infallible gig."

Eutychus: "But what do the rich think about it?"

Debilicrat: "Oh, we cut a deal with them behind closed doors. It's all done with 'smoke and mirrors'. And no one is the wiser."

Eutychus: "What if you spend more money as a government, than you have coming in? Then what?"

Debilicrat: "Just borrow, borrow, borrow, and let the generations to come pay for it. Ha! What a deal!"

Eutychus thought and thought. And he wondered how long this would last. Although he did not know much about politics and economics, he did use his brain (which is more than many do). And he didn't think this system would last long; perhaps soon the 21st century would go back to being like the 1st century.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Eutychus Signs Up for Class

Today we find our friend, Eutychus, signing up for his college classes this semester. He has been assigned to a counselor whose job it is to help Eutychus get set for school.

Counselor: "I have very pleased to tell you, Eutychus, that every student here at PCU (Politically Correct University) is given a computer when they matriculate."

Eutychus: "A computer! Really!" (Eutychus had wanted a computer since he arrived in the 21st century)

Counselor: "Well, yes, it is a computer. But candidly, it isn't a very good computer, but before long the internet virus' will eat the hardrive, so who cares?" (The counselor said this with a laugh)

Counselor: "Now, it is important to remember, Eutychus, that what matters here at PCU is that you do all your work on the computer. In fact, we want you to live on the computer, spend as much time as you can on the computer. Get information on the computer, make friends through the computer, be entertained on the computer, why if we could figure it out we would feed you through the computer. And concerning class - we don't care if you go to class or not. The professors put their lectures on our new academic software 'BlueBoard.' You can read the professor's lectures, take the tests, email and dialogue with other students, and even post your class attendance, all on the computer."

Eutychus: "But why should a student go to class? Why do you have classrooms or a campus at all? Why not just make the university an online school?"

Counselor: "What! We are not 'one of those schools'. Besides, online school would get most of the college administration fired. We can't have that."

Eutychus: "But you don't encourage class attendance and personal contact?"

Counselor: "Well...I'm not suppose to say this, but we here at PCU are trying to impress the accreditation group. And of course, with the use of computers we can lower our cost, and that makes more money for the university. And that is what it is all about."

Eutychus: "What is it all about?"

Counselor: "Making money!"

Eutychus: "I thought education was the issue?"

Counselor (laughing very loudly): "I can see you have a lot to learn in the 21st century academic environment.

A Gentle, Loving, and Wise Guide

Psalm 48:14, "For such is God, our God forever and ever; He will guide us until death."

Life is such a maze! The twists, turns and complicated paths quickly confuse and overwhelm us. But there is One who stands with the Christian always - the Lord God Himself! The precious Lord walks with us in the trails of trials. But He does more than this - He guides us also. He guides us with great wisdom and power; He leads us with a tender concern born of His sovereign grace and mercy. He can never abandon us, for we are His own. His heart is touched with our griefs and our despair; He feels the pain of our struggle. Yea, it is even by His own hand that we are led to and brought through the valleys of our deepest troubles. But all is done with wisdom and love. God never acts arbitrarily; He always leads with purpose and glory in mind. If not in time, surely in eternity, the wisdom and goodness of God's leadership will be validated.

Today, no matter what we face or endure, let us as God's people trust fully and confidently in the knowledge that our Lord will be our God forever, and He will guide us until death.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Vessels of Mercy

Romans 9:23, "He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy...".

One can hardly give a greater and more elaborate expression of what a Christian is than the one used in this verse - "vessels of mercy." The previous verse in this chapter from Romans says that sinners are vessels of wrath dwelling under the the dark shadow of the wrath of God because of sin. Ephesians 2:3 says of unregenerate sinners that we were "by nature children of wrath." How sad, but how true!

And yet Romans 9:22 speaks of the mercy of God giving birth to patience with sinners that we might, by Christ's atonement and God's saving grace, become vessels of mercy. Ephesians 1:8 speaks of the grace of God being "lavished" upon unsaved sinners.

God could judge sinners, and one day God will judge sinners. God could have judged us a long time ago. But wrath is not part of God's essential being; it is His right response against sin and sinners because of the justice of God. And yet, God, the merciful and compassionate God, longed to pour out His grace on us for His own glory. And that is what He did! He planned to be merciful, and in the redemptive work of Christ, applied by the Holy Spirit to the soul of man, God achieved mercy. Mercy elected sinners, mercy sent Christ in human flesh, mercy paid for sin on the cross, mercy conquered death at Christ's empty tomb, and mercy is preparing a home for God's people in heaven.

When I go to church tomorrow, I will try to preach on Romans 9:22-23. I pray that God will lift my heart to the stratosphere of gratitude and joy; may divine mercy buoy my heart that the name of God may be exalted above all. Because now and forever I remain - - - a vessel of mercy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Eutychus and the Bored Church Member

Eutychus loved church! He loved the Lord's Day and worshiping with other brothers and sisters in Christ. One of the best parts of church was the time to hear God's Word preached. He loved to think about the reality of the true and living God, and he loved to hear the Bible faithfully and sincerely preached. Somehow that always comforted him no matter what he was going through in life.

One day the pastor preached a message on the joy of knowing eternal bliss through Christ. The pastor did a great job exegeting the biblical text, and it was obvious that the truth of the God's Word spoke to the pastor's own heart. Eutychus was excited!

On the way out of the worship center to the foyer he ran into a member of the church leaving worship, and the man was yawning. Eutychus thought the man must have had a late night Saturday night, but the man replied, "No, it is just these boring sermons we get from the pastor." "Boring!" Exclaimed Eutychus! "What could be boring about hearing the greatest and most glorious destiny ever?", Eutychus queried. The man said, "Are you kidding? All this talk about God and the Bible text and eternal bliss in heaven is not relevant to my life. What I need is something practical and applicable." "Like what?", asked Eutychus. The man stared disdainfully at Eutychus and retorted " to get rid of negative feelings about yourself when you sin. Or, how wonderful I am and how God doesn't want me to have a bad day. At the very least pastor could tell us a few good jokes to make us laugh, or give an inspirational speech about human accomplishments." Eutychus almost laughed, because he thought the man was joking. A quick glance at the man's face told him that this bored church member was deadly serious.

Eutychus didn't really know what to say, so he just stood there dumbfounded. Finally the man left trying to avoid shaking the preacher's hand as the bored church member slinked towards the front door of the church. Eutychus wondered, "How can the most glorious God, His most glorious Revelation, the Bible, and the greatest news one could hear ever be boring? Some people are really strange."

Eutychus thought about the bored church member all week. He thought of some things that he wanted to tell this man. Eutychus was looking forward to the next Sunday, and he was hoping to see the bored church member again. When Sunday came Eutychus entered the worship center quickly making a broad glance around the sanctuary hoping to see the bored church member. But the man was no where to be seen. After church Eutychus asked a friend about the bored church member with whom he had talked the previous Sunday. Eutychus' friend replied, "Haven't you heard?" "No, what", asked Eutychus. The friend paused and said, "He died this week." Eutychus was stunned! And all he could think about as he left church that day was, "What is relevant now?"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time in a land call "Freedola" there lived a people called "Freedolians." Freedolians came in all sizes, shapes, and colors. They walked and talked differently; they even had different customs. There was no one way a Freedolian looked, but they all shared the same vision and dream of freedom. They understood what freedom was, and they worked together in unity to build and maintain the great freedom of Freedola.

The Freedolians were a hard working, happy lot. They considered work a blessing, and to build dreams and a community of free and happy people consumed their time and energy. They built homes, schools, churches, and a host of healthy and positive institutions to maintain and propagate their way of life. They had a government that was Freedolian in nature. Their laws encouraged freedom and respect for all Freedolians.

But other people started to come into Freedola. The "WeAreTheOnlyOneianS" (WATOOS) came to live in Freedola along with the "GiveAllToMeianS" (GATMS). The WATOOS and the GATMS did not appreciate Freedola, nor did they desire to perpetuate the goodness and joy of Freedola. The WATOOS wanted to change Freedola into a land of coerced conformity, and GATMS did not care as long as they had their desires and demands met. The Freedolians wanted to trust all people; they wanted to let all enjoy their freedoms and their happy land. But they forgot that only those who understood and supported the freedom of Freedola could perpetuate the joys and delights of their happy way of life. Only Freedolians could nourish Freedola.

Slowly but assuredly the Freedolians were outnumbered by the WATOOS and the GATMS. The government was eventually changed from the idyllic Freedolian vision. Soon freedoms eroded and anti-happy laws were passed. The important beliefs and laws that caused Freedola to live were thrown away and forgotten, replaced by restrictive laws and customs. Slowly the Freedolian way of life was lost. The sun now never shines in the land of Freedolia, and the colors of the flowers seemed to fade into indiscriminate gray. The smiles of the people were changed to looks of suspicion and doubt. And one day, before anyone knew it, Freedolia was gone never to return again.

Wisdom and our Coming Destiny

Psalm 90:12 "So teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom."

God's people walk a trail that is a trail of ever-growing wisdom. The longer we live the less our hearts imagine our soul treasure to be here on earth, and the more we are convinced that the fair and happy eternal land beyond the distant sunset is where our joy lies. Our eyes yearn to see, and our souls strain to know, the bliss and beauty of that land. Wisdom indeed!