As Paul concluded his second letter to Timothy, he expressed some hurt. Demas had forsaken him. Alexander the coppersmith had caused him much harm. At one point, no one was willing to stand with Paul. Rejection, criticism, and abandonment hurt! The world is watching believers to see how we’re going to handle it all.
At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.
Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?
There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?
My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.
Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.
Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.
Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.
“O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary.” -Psalm 63:1-2
There is a longing deep in the soul to know God, to hear a revelation from His heart. We all long to meet with our Creator, to discover Him, to develop a familial relationship with Him. This deep longing, this intense thirst, can only be satisfied with a drop of His glory and a touch of His power. Yet so often we satisfy ourselves with shallow things. We cover the top of the cavern inside rather than coming to Christ for complete fulfillment.
David’s declaration pointed out that the world had no solution, nothing to offer that could bring any true fulfillment. So he would come to God. Our unfortunate plight is that we settle for the world’s temporary substitutes. We entertain ourselves and occupy our time the best we can so as to ignore the suffering soul inside. If we can simply quench our thirst for today… if we can just fulfill our souls for another hour in some way… and all the while, Jesus, the Living Water, waits to fill our cups to overflowing.
Like the woman Jesus met at the well, we often focus on water for today while the Lord of the universe offers us total satisfaction for all eternity in Him. Why don’t you visit Him today. Come to your Creator, come to Jesus, and ask for the living water that never fails to satisfy.
“Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me.” -Micah 7:8
When I was rather young, I went sledding down Bowling Green’s “Hospital Hill” one snowy day with my brother and my Dad. I was so excited about taking my first run on my own, but something went terribly wrong. there was a snowdrift covering a stump and I hit it head on. The sled went down, I went up (and what goes up must come down) and I hit the ground and lay flat on my back. My wind was gone, I felt I couldn’t breathe, and I was panicking. In moments my brother and my Dad were there to check on me. But the instant they saw that I would survive, their concern turned to jubilation. They laughed! They laughed hard! And I must admit, it was probably funny.
Others often take our calamity lightly. Our pain and our suffering, to us, is always immense. We see the world from a darkened valley while the masses look on from the cliffs and mountain peaks. Our enemies especially take advantage of every opportunity to rejoice in our tragedies. But for the Christian there is a great promise – our calamities are but for a moment. Micah, the contemporary of Isaiah, knew what would befall Israel in a matter of decades. He knew of their coming captivity and the suffering they would endure under slavery to Babylon.
The nations around Israel could rejoice at her defeat, but Micah, speaking under inspiration of God gave warning to the nations. Rejoice not! We have not been destroyed, we shall rise! Darkness is inevitable, it will consume half of every day. Falling is part of life. But Micah reminds us that for all of the failures of the children of God, there will be a rising in the end. For the darkness we endure here, there is the light of God’s presence and the revelation of His promises. The future is bright, our hope endures. As children of the King, we shall rise and reign! Take courage, be hopeful, the end is not yet!
The blog has been put on hold for a couple of weeks now, primarily because of all that my wife and I have been experiencing in our personal lives. Here’s a recounting of it…
On Monday evening, October 30, Angie left her ladies’ Connection Cafe meeting feeling well, but by the time we drove from the church to our house (just a couple of minutes) she was in terrible pain. We decided to go to the emergency room. Our beloved friends, Cory and Lachelle McCaig, came to sit from about 10:00 pm until 4:30 Tuesday morning while Angie was subjected to numerous tests, which found essentially nothing wrong.
On Tuesday morning, October 31, we went for a follow-up visit at her physician’s office and he became concerned about some possible internal bleeding. He decided to admit her to St. Mary’s hospital where he would perform a laproscopic procedure simply to explore any potential problems. He, like the emergency room physician, sought to rule out the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy. One he began the procedure, he discovered the worst scenario, an ectopic (tubal) pregnancy, which can be deadly.
The short, one-hour procedure turned into a two and one half hour operation with a large incision. I was so moved as I waited in the surgery waiting room as about two dozen members of our church surrounded me, waiting to hear that Angie had come through the surgery okay. We were delighted to hear that she would be just fine. The physician explained that she had sustained heavy internal bleeding and that her risk of possible death had been higher than he had anticipated.
Angie’s Dad brought her Mom down from St. Louis to help take care of her for a few days but her stay was interrupted by yet another family emergency. On Thursday, Angie’s grandmother suffered a heart attack and was in intensive care in Washington, Missouri. The family had hoped that she was improving, but in the middle of Thursday night, a call came alerting us that she had taken a turn for the worse. Angie’s Mom borrowed my car and drove through the night to be at her mother’s side. Ella Briggs (our daughter’s namesake) went home to heaven on Friday, November 3.
Later that afternoon, Angie and I loaded up our van and began the trip to St. Clair to attend the funeral, but wisdom along with some forceful but loving input from our family, prompted us to turn back and stay at home. Angie was recovering a little each day, but it may be a total of six weeks recovery time before she is completely healthy again. We’ve taken a much needed one night sabbatical to a nearby vacation spot and have attempted to settle back into a routine, with Angie returning to work on this past Monday, November 13.
The Sunday before all of this began, my text included Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose.” That Monday night, Angie testified at Connection Cafe that she had (at least we thought at the time) a miscarriage, but that God was faithfully teaching us to trust Him. It isn’t merely a cliche that “everything happens for a reason.” When you’re a believer, nothing is left to chance anymore. You realize that God has a sovereign plan that allows His children to endure some very difficult crises in life in order that we might enjoy “the fellowship of (Christ’s) sufferings.”
Since we learn how to be disciples through the tough stuff, what have I learned from all of this?
First, I’ve learned the importance of God’s timing. Had Angie not been persisent with her physician in his office, he would have sent her home where she may have bled to death. We’ve heard numerous testimonies from others who experienced the same trauma and were in grave danger. God rescued Angie just in time. On a similar note, I’ve learned the mysterious nature of God’s timing. Why would Angie’s grandmother pass away just after Angie’s surgery when her mother would have to make a midnight dash for Missouri and when Angie could not attend the funeral? All I can conlcude us that God is ultimately wise.
Second, I’ve learned the value of a loving church family, a fellowship of believers. I was surrounded in a waiting room by numerous friends and members of our spiritual family. Once home, people provided meals as well as company with their visits. We’ve experienced an outpouring of love and compassion for which we will be forever grateful. I’ve often heard others say, “I don’t see how people make it through things without a church family.” That statement was exemplified in our tragedy.
Third, I’ve learned what a beautiful and courageous woman I married! I sat in the surgery waiting room virtually helpless. I could do nothing to ensure her safety except to pray. I could do nothing to help her recover except play nurse and fetch water. Yet I watched as Angie handled the situation like a champ. Note that champions have weak moments, moments of curiosity about the activity of God and moments of emotional break-down. Tears rarely come from cowards. I’ve learned a new respect for her. While it was our baby that died so prematurely in a pregancy complication, it was her body that experienced such drastic trauma. I wish I could be half as strong as her!
More than anything, we’ve learned “in all things (to) give thanks unto God, for this is the will of God for (us) in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) At our former church, we used to have a responsive chant: “God is good… all the time… and all the time… God is good.” God really is good. We don’t always get what we expect or want, but God never ceases to be holy or loving. God has been glorified in our lives in so many ways in the last few weeks, all we can do is humbly give Him praise, cry our tears, and go on in faith that God will always be good!
“Then Jesus called his disciples unto him, and said, I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days, and have nothing to eat: and I will not send them away fasting, lest they faint in the way.” -Matthew 15:32
It is impossible for us to help everyone we want to help. Certainly Jesus felt this same frustration. Though He healed so many, He did not heal everyone in the world and though He fed thousands, He did not feed all the poor in His day. If we attempted to help everyone, we’d quickly bankrupt ourselves. There is a principle at work in the Lord’s life, however, that we would do well to follow. Jesus allowed His compassion to compel Him to take action, and we should do the same.
Our first problem is that we often feel nothing. We look at a world full of hurting people and its easy to become calloused to their pain. There are so many, after all. What could I do? Jesus connected emotionally with the suffering of the people He loved so much. He had compassion for them. He wept for His people, His heart ached over their lostness. We too must be able to look out on the lostness of humanity and feel a groaning in our hearts. Where there is no suffering in our souls for others, there will certainly be a shallow ministry.
Our second problem is that when we feel, we often do nothing. Of course we can’t help everyone, but we can help someone. We can’t fix all the problems of the world, but we can help to fix one. Often we feel that our giving, our praying, our lending a hand will be a mere drop in the bucket compared with the needs of the world around us. But real compassion compels us to take some kind of action. We cannot sit idly by. We may not save the world, but we might lead one soul to the Savior. We may not feed all the poor, but we can put food in the mouth of one hungry child.
Jesus was willing to feel. He refused to harden His heart toward pain. And Jesus was willing to act. He stepped into people’s lives and offered them a divine hand. Today, we have the privilege of offering Jesus Christ to the world. We can give, we can pray, we can tell, and we can lend a helping hand. In our world of suffering, we have the opportunity to be Jesus’ ministers to the hurting. Allow compassion to compel you today to take action, if but for a moment, if for only one soul. Make a difference today for just one someone.
“But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof.”—Romans 13:14
In the world before electricity, people used candles for more than mere decorations. When you use a lot of candles, especially the homemade kind, you need a snuffer. If you blow the candles out, you’ll spill precious wax and waste it, but a snuffer will put the candle out cleanly. How? By stealing the flame’s source of energy – oxygen.
Sin has a tendency to rage out of control when left unchecked in our lives, but Paul says to “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” and snuff the energy source of sin which is… Satan? No. The world? No. Suffering? No. It is self! “Make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. The desire for sin is already in our flesh. It grows in intensity unless we grow closer to Christ.
A man I have admired for some time, Dr. B. Gray Allison, has wisely stated that we must wake up every morning and put “self” on the cross and ask God to crucify it. Then concentrate on stealing away every opportunity for sin to run rampant in our lives. To use the words of the writer of Hebrews, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” is the beginning of real growth in a holy Christian.