Archive for February, 2013|Monthly archive page

Glory

God’s glory shines brightest in darkness.

Sometimes, a believer’s unusual act of sacrifice and love stands out so sharply that a world that rejects or dismisses God can’t help but take notice.  At such moments, God is glorified.

Such acts are not only rare, they are against the wisdom of the world.

At a prayer gathering this week, a friend reminded us of the murder of a high school student in Taber, Alberta in 1999.  He was shot by another teenager just after the Columbine, Colorado killings.

The murdered boy’s father was Rev. Dale Lang, an Anglican minister in Taber. His response was not of this world: He and his wife forgave the killer.  Not only that, he reached out to the young killer, seeking to help him.

Years later, this act of forgiveness is burned into my memory and that of many others.  It forces me to examine my own heart.  Rev. Lang could forgive his son’s killer – am I able to forgive much smaller hurts?

Rev. Lang is a believer.  He did what Christ did long before him while dying on the cross.  As Jesus hung on the cross, he looked down at his tormentors and said: “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they’re doing.” (Luke 23:34)

Followers of Christ are called to live a life that is unnatural.  It is a life they can’t live by their own power or ability.

I know that well.  I am not sure I could do what Rev. Lang did.  Thankfully, I have never faced such a terrible decision.  But I also know that God is able to do through me what I can’t do myself.

It is wonderful when an act of forgiveness or kindness or sacrifice penetrates even the hardest heart and opens minds to the power of God.  And his glory.

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Faithful

Faithfulness is costly.

I think that’s why it sinks so low in our world of quick and superficial relationships.

I find it heart-warming to hear of a husband or wife caring selflessly for a spouse suffering from dementia or other debilitating disease.  Sometimes you read about cases like that in magazines or newspapers.

But increasingly in our society, relationships are short, lasting a few years – or maybe only a few weeks or months – before they end in anger and accusations.  Those involved are unwilling to overcome differences.

This rapid turnover in relationships has infiltrated the church.

We have become church consumers – picking and choosing from a smorgasbord of offerings.  We may prefer the worship singing at church A, but the preaching at church B.  Perhaps the friendliness of church C appeals to us more.

Since none of the churches appeals to all our wants, we flit from one to another.  We don’t stay long enough to sort out the problems that inevitably crop up in any group of human beings.

Of course, there are good spiritual and theological reasons why people choose one church over another.  But it seems to me that church-hopping has become more than that.

Not only do we jump from church to church, we often are unwilling to stick to a particular ministry in the church if it doesn’t yield instant results.  Most churches are crying out for volunteer help.

But faithfulness is important to God.

Jesus promised us that we would live through times of trouble (John 16:33).  Being a follower of Jesus would never be easy.  But that was not to be an excuse for giving up on God.

Jesus illustrated the importance of faithfulness in his parable of the three servants in Matthew 25.  The servants who obeyed their master’s command to work hard and invest his wealth were praised by their master with these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Some of the great Bible characters never saw success in their efforts.  The prophet Jeremiah, for example, was jailed and thrown into a well and yet continued preaching the words God gave him.

Why should we be faithful?

Because God is faithful to us.  No matter what our failures, he will never let us go once we put our faith in him.

Being faithful to God is one way of loving him.

Turning bad things into good

Is God able to turn bad things into good?  I believe he is.

Some Christians might object: How can he turn the death of my son or daughter into something good?  How can he make something good out of chronic pain that has blighted my life?

Those are tough questions to answer.

The only answer I can give is the well-known and often-quoted verse in Romans 8: “And we know than in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

That suggests to me that God works for my good in all things – good and bad.

It doesn’t mean that God inflicts pain and suffering on us.  But it indicates that God is able to use hard things for our ultimate welfare.

There is a great story that illustrates this in the Old Testament – the story of Joseph.

Joseph was the spoiled young son of Jacob and he lorded it over his older brothers, saying they would some day bow down to him.  They planned to kill him but then sold him to slave dealers, telling their father he was dead.

He went through great trials as a slave in Egypt, unjustly accused of trying to seduce his master’s wife and being thrown into prison.  It looked as if he was going to rot there.

But he was able to interpret dreams and he did so for the king of Egypt.  The king of Egypt reacted by making him the second most powerful man in the kingdom.

When Joseph’s brothers came to seek grain in Egypt during a famine, he revealed himself to them and they were terrified, expecting retribution.

But in an act of great mercy, Joseph told them that despite their evil intent, God had used the whole adventure for good.  He said “it was to save lives that God sent me here ahead of you.”

I may be unable to understand why bad things happen to me.

I can be sure, though, that God is working to change me as he changed Joseph.  And I can be sure that God has a plan for good and that I am part of it.

Thirst

Augustine, the great early Christian bishop and author, once wrote this famous sentence: “You have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

I love that comment.  For me, it explains so much of what I see around me.

Often, people say that there is a God-shaped void in each one of us that only God can fill.  What else can explain the general dissatisfaction in people’s hearts – even in the hearts of Christians?

I look at myself and I have to say that I often try to fill that void with things other than God.  God wants me to enjoy the things he has given me and the people around me.  The issue is whether I am replacing God with these good things.

I like the way Augustine begins his sentence: “You (God) have made us for yourself . . .”  If that is true – and I believe it is – we will only be fulfilled if our relationship with the Lord is strong.

The idea of the “restless heart” seems to fit me and my moods when I am focused too much on myself.

The apostle Paul made the great statement: “For me, to live is Christ . . .” (Philippians 1:21)  He spoke with confidence and assurance because God came first.  The things he did flowed naturally out of his close relationship with the Lord.

Of course, this desire for something more is not always due to our being far from God.  As some have said, this desert experience can be a time of preparation for the next important stage in our life with God.

David described this feeling in these words: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.” (Psalm 42:1)

David’s spirit was “downcast” as he says later in the psalm.  So it often is with the restless heart.

But that can be a good thing.  It is a sign that God is calling me.

If I respond by going to God, I will find the rest that Augustine talks about.