God Sees

“I could never myself believe in God, if it were not for the cross. The only God I believe in is the one Nietzsche ridiculed as ‘God on the Cross.’ In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples and stood respectfully before the statue of Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world. But each time after a while I have had to turn away. And in imagination I have turned instead to that lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn-pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness. That is the God for me! He laid aside his immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us” (John Stott, Bread and Wine).

I’m thankful for the God who sees and knows and cares. I’m thankful that we have a High Priest who is able to sympathize with our pain and weakness and suffering, having been tempted in every way that we are yet did not sin.

I’m thankful that Jesus doesn’t just feel bad for us, leaving two people feeling bad, but is actually able to do something about it. He actually did something about it.

Jesus is making all things new. For every Ahmaud Arbery and Geroge Floyd, Jesus is making all things new.

One day, hate will be a verb used only in the past tense.

One day, people from every color, race, ethnicity, tribe, language, and nation will gather around the throne of God to worship Jesus, bound together as family by His blood shed for all of them.

I’m saddened that injustice runs rampant in this world and that people of color who should have been going home to their families won’t ever be coming home because of injustice, but I have a hope.

It’s not a vague wishful thinking kind of hope but a certain and stedfast hope based on the promises of the God of all hope. One day all that is wrong will be made right.

Forgive me for my own prejudices in any form. Forgive me when I was silent and should have spoken out. Forgive me when I chose to look the other way and pretend it didn’t happen or didn’t exist.

I thank You that You forgave Your murderers while they were in the very act of murdering You, showing that the greatest power on earth is that of grace and mercy through forgiveness.

Help Your children to seek righteousness and justice every day for all those created in Your image. May your Kingdom come, may Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, for Yours is the Kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

The Story of My Life

Ah, yes. The common phenomenon referred to as “getting a song stuck in your head.” It happens to me ALL. THE. TIME.

Actually, I have music playing in my head pretty much 24/7. Even in those moments when I’m supposed to be super serious and quiet and still, you can bet there’s a song (probably inappropriate for the situation) playing in my brain.

I can also almost 100% guarantee you that the songs that most often get stuck in my head are usually the ones that annoy me the most. And no, singing the song out loud does NOT help.

Still, I’d rather have a bad song stuck in my head than to have no appreciation for music at all. Think of how much better life is with music. I can tell you that my life has a soundtrack and certain songs can bring back almost flashbulb-type memories of where I was and what I was doing when I first heard the song.

Just about nothing else has that kind of ability to trigger memories for me. So out of curiosity, what song is it that stirs up memories for you? Or am I just weird that way?

Breton Fisherman’s Prayer

I had previously heard of the Breton Fisherman’s prayer, which goes along these lines: “O God, Thy sea is so great and my boat is so small.”

I wasn’t aware until very recently that these words come from a poem. I found the poem to be very appropriate for the times we find ourselves in with the metaphor of the overwhelming waves and wind of the sea aptly capturing the fearful nature of the present days.

Here’s the poem in full:

“Thy sea, O God, so great
My boat so small.
It cannot be that any happy fate
Will me befall
Save as Thy goodness opens paths for me
Through the consuming vastness of the sea.

Thy winds, O God, so strong,
So slight my sail.
How could I curb and bit them on the long
And saltry trail,
Unless Thy love were mightier than the wrath
Of all the tempests that beset my path?

Thy world, O God, so fierce,
And I so frail.
Yet, though its arrows threaten oft to pierce
My fragile mail,
Cities of refuge rise where dangers cease,
Sweet silences abound, and all is peace” (Winfred Ernest Garrison).

Am I Humble?

“Humility is poverty of spirit and meekness. Humility inspires an attitude of listening and of seeking out those who can give good counsel. Humility welcomes correction. A humble person is not proud or arrogant. Humility is not a denial of my value as a human being but rather seeing myself in relationship to God. Humility results from being in a state of gratitude rather than envy, resentment, or bitterness. Do I boast about myself? Do I respect others? Do I listen with attention and a readiness to learn? Do I resent good advice? Do I accept correction with gratitude? Or do I defend myself even when I am in the wrong?

Patience is calmly bearing or enduring delay, disappointment, pain, and sorrow. It is a deep confidence in God’s providence and the willingness to persevere even in the face of loss and failure. Clement speaks of patience as an ‘interiorized monasticism.’ It is not resignation but the awareness that truly Christ is risen from the dead and is with us moment to moment, no matter where we go or what we are enduring” (Jim Forest, Confession: Doorway to Forgiveness).

Am I humble? Here are some questions that I probably need to ask myself:

  1. Do I always feel the need to defend myself when I perceive that I am being attacked?
  2. Do I always have to be proven right as well as making sure the others be proven wrong?
  3. Does it matter when I am not praised for doing what is right?
  4. In a conversation, do I always seem to talk about myself more than the other person?
  5. Can I trust the Lord to defend my reputation or do I feel I must defend it myself?

There are probably more questions I could ask myself to make sure that I am truly seeking to be humble in the biblical sense of the word.

I still remember the definition that humility isn’t thinking less of myself and always deferring praise but thinking less of myself. Jesus was the ultimate example of humility the way He was always 100% committed to and focused on His Father’s will at all times in all places. During His trial and crucifixion He never once defended Himself but left it to His Father.

I can think of no better example for humility than Philippians 2:5-11. That is true humility.

Summer is Back

Even though there are something like 28 days until Summer officially returns, I believe it has made an early appearance. At least that’s what my sweat glands tell me.

I was walking around Franklin this evening noticing how very warm I felt. Not so much a warm and fuzzy feeling. More warm and sweaty.

I saw people walking around wearing jackets in the heat. I try not to judge but I wonder if these people need more iron in their diets. How can you be wearing a jacket when I’m perspiring to death over here?

Anyway, I’ll take the sunshine over the rain. I’ll even take the excessive warm temperatures– at least for a little while. After they hit 90 and above for a couple of weeks, I retain the right to complain.

As you all know, my favorite season is fall where the temperatures are usually not blazing hot or freezing cold. More like somewhere in the middle.

I like the breeze to have just a hint of frost in it and the air to have a dash of crispness. Of course fall for me means that all my favorite holidays are just around the corner– Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.

I’m not a fan of sweating (and I’m sure the people upwind of me aren’t either), but I’ll take being hot over being room temperature any day.

Can a Church Go Out of Business?

I was listening to a podcast of the Brant and Sherry Oddcast while I was working from home when Brant posed a very interesting question that has been on my mind a lot lately: can a church go out of business?

I say no.

First of all, the church isn’t a business. It’s not a brick and mortar building or a location or an event that takes place once or twice a week.

The church is a community of the people of God who together make an invisible God visible to the world by displaying His grace and mercy and love.

That can never go out of business.

The church may lose its building and possessions, but as long as the people of God remain committed to community centered around the gospel of Jesus Christ, then the real church will survive.

But when the people of God lose their focus and their mission, then they cease to be the church. When they become just another social justice organization or charitable group, then they might as well all go home and give to the existing local charities.

But when God’s people gather in God’s name to do God’s work in God’s way, that’s when the power comes. That’s when they can do more together than they ever could apart. That’s when Jesus said they would do greater works than He did (see John 14:12).

Even if there are only a few gathered together in the name of Jesus, it is still Church. It only takes two or more.

I read the New Testament and see a very different kind of church than I see in most American cities. I see where each member participated and shared as God led instead of sitting passively in rows being spoon-fed by a dynamic preacher.

Maybe this time of COVID-19 will be the catalyst to bring about the return of the true New Testament Church where we remember and reclaim the promises that we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and a kingdom and priests (Revelation 5:10). We may not all be paid ministers, but we all have a ministry and a testimony and a calling.

Church is family. As I heard it said, even if the family business goes under, they don’t stop being a family. So we as a people of God adopted by Jesus can never stop being the family of God.