Friday, October 13, 2017

Jesus Wept

          There are two phrases in the story of the raising of Lazarus from the dead that stand out.  Jesus tells an emotionally distraught Martha "I am the resurrection and the life."  It was, to Martha, a way back to Jesus.  He was the friend she knew as well as the God she loved.  The words were about to be a triumphal cry to be followed by "Loose him and let him go."  Paul would agree with our desire to know the power of God in our lives like that:  "That I might know Him in the power of His resurrection..."
          Paul's desire did not end there, though.  I want to know Him, he said, in the power of His resurrection and in the fellowship of suffering.  If we want to know Jesus better, we must see Him in both lights:  The ultimately victorious Lord and Savior who delivers us from the fear of death and as the friend who weeps outside a tomb.
          On one hand, Jesus is God of very God, whose victory is sure and whose deliverance is complete.  On the other hand, Jesus is one who gives up His rights and privileges as God, to be wrapped in flesh, become obedient to the will of God, taking the role of a servant all the way to death on a cross.
          The same incident in John 11 that tells us that Jesus is the resurrection and the life tells us that Jesus wept.  Before he wipes away our tears, he sheds his own.  He sits in the dust with us until he leads us in triumphal procession.  The author of the Book of Hebrews tells us that "we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses." 
          I stood at mom's dying bedside as she begged, "Please son, let me go..."  I have had friends die after long well-fought battles with cancer.  I have stood at funerals where loved ones looked for some reason to hope for their unsaved sibling.  I have wondered what God was doing.  I have thought, "Surely, this is too much for me."  Then, behind me, I heard my Savior plead, "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from me."  Whatever I have faced, or will face, is not worthy to be compared to what He faced.  If my prayer is not answered, I rest in the knowledge that in Christ's unanswered prayer is all my hope and rescue.
          The triumphal cry, "It is finished" will come soon for Him.  It will come soon too, for us.  So, I have found myself less and less seeking answers.  Instead, I seek His presence.  Even in the darkness of the valley of the shadow of death, The Shepherd is near. 
          Be near me, Lord Jesus,
          I ask Thee to stay
          Close by me forever and love me, I pray
          Bless all the dear children in Thy tender care
          And fit us for heaven to live with Thee there.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Meditation on the Lord's Prayer

Meditation on the Lord’s Prayer  (Matthew 5:9-13)
Our Father which art in heaven…
                What is the role of a Father?  How would God be the perfect example?
     Explain some ways your life could be different as you relied on your all-powerful, 
     all-compassionate Father.
Hallowed be Thy name…
                In what ways can people, by looking at you, see the holiness of God?
                How can you help others see the holiness of God?
Thy Kingdom come…
                Imagine what settledness earth will possess when the Prince of Peace is come.
                What peace can come to my mind and heart now as a subject of his kingdom?
Thy Will be done on earth as it is in heaven…
                How is God’s Will done in heaven?  What is the result? 
                How would God’s will done on earth look different from today?
                In what ways is pursuing the will of God better than pursuing my own will?
                How can I cultivate a desire for God’s will?
Give us today our daily bread
                How would daily dependence on God be a better benefit to us than a lump sum provision?
Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors
                What does this petition assume if we don’t forgive our debtors?
                How would a rich sense of forgiveness free us from our past?
Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil
                How are God’s guidance and his protection related?
                What kinds of temptations are you prone to?
                What are some of the sources of evil around us?

Thursday, July 13, 2017

D = S-M: How much suffering is too much?

If Frankl is right, that Despair equals Suffering minus Meaning, the culture has damaged the nature of man by removing "the image of God" from our definition.  But we have caused further damage.  We have raised our sense of expectation to the point of entitlement.  Frankl discussed suffering in the context of World War II and its atrocities.  Today, we have a lifestyle of plenty, but we still complain about our lot.
How do we view suffering?  My dad had Retinitis Pigmentosa and a hearing loss.  He worked two and three jobs when I was a kid, followed by job loss and disability.  I remember the sound of his voice, then the silence in the house on the day the state took his driver's license.  Bitterness did not mark his life, however.  He did not spend his time lamenting his loss and its unfairness.  We traveled, camped, maintained good friends, and went to church.  He and my mom gave us a normal home. 
So when Frankl refers to suffering, are we talking about real suffering or perception of suffering?  In our entitlement culture, what if suffering is working forty hours a week?  What if you don't have money for everything you want?  What if your relationships are not where you want them to be?  My car is a source of suffering.  By telling our generation that we deserve all these things, have we increased their suffering when life comes up short?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

D = S-M: Why is our culture depressed?

Viktor Frankl gave us useful mathematics for understanding despair.  In the midst of World War II, he noticed those who were able to persevere amid horrible suffering were those who could attach meaning to their lives and to their circumstances.  Despair increases, he said, when meaning is removed from suffering.
Is it possible that our culture suffers from a loss of meaning?  Secularism teaches us we are independent of meaning from God, we have to make our own.  The problem is that man is not capable of sustaining meaning on his own.  We are finite- whatever meaning we cast cannot last because we don't last.  We are also derivative- meaning is not inherent in us.  We are made in the image of God which means our meaning is attached to his.  When we deny God exists, we deny ourselves meaning.  Frankl saw that without a transcendent meaning, suffering becomes unbearable. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Does Donald Trump Have a Mandate?

          Donald Trump beat some incredible odds last night.  He spent far less money on the campaign than his opponent.  He had opponents in the Democrats, the media, the never-Trumpers, and the Republican establishment.  He even shot himself in the foot numerous times, but in the end, he won.  His campaign manager says he has a mandate.  But what is the mandate for?
          It is not for an unaccountable presidency.  He was not elected to say whatever he wants or do whatever he pleases.  He was not elected because he is abusive or racist or angry.  If he assumes he may continue along that path with impunity, his success will be short-lived.
          His election was the last gasp of constituents who were pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.  They were desirous of smaller federal government and worried about the erosion of our human, not civil, rights.  They wanted rule-of-law judges on the Supreme court.  They wanted to free our economy from the malaise of regulation and wayward social experimentation.
          It is not as if anyone believed he would do anything constructive in that direction.  But, it was a surety that the policies of Hillary Clinton would be effective steps in the wrong direction.  In this election, lip-service to those values was considered a higher good.  Effective work in the wrong direction is a greater evil.
          Donald Trump must be careful to discern the reasons for his election.  It was not his character or his rhetoric.  Continued divisiveness, anger, and abuse will cause great evil in the coming years.  Donald Trump was elected to repair the ruin of a progressive predecessor.  If he can do that, history may think better of him.

What We Must Do Now

1.      Repair the discourse.  No more empty abstractions or abusive language.  We attempt to explain real positions in concrete terms.  We object to policy not people.  We explain how opposition without erecting straw men or resorting to ad hominem attacks.  We show respect for people while disagreeing with their ideas.
2    2.     End big government, not because of its cost but because of its influence.  Progressivism has been obstructed momentarily.  Power must return to the states in areas like education and social/moral issues.  Power becomes unaccountable the farther it gets from home.
3    3.      Repair the nation’s respect for the election system.  Rumors of a rigged vote, bad machines, and dead people voting don’t help with public confidence.
4    4.      Repair the nation’s respect for justice.  The case in point is Hillary Clinton, the FBI and Justice Department, and the wikileaks revelations.  This is not political revenge.  It is bringing forth real evidence to exonerate or implicate.  The nation must have confidence in its justice system.  It must be free of political strategy.  Justice must be blind again.
      5.    The media was respected as the fourth branch of government.  It must return to a place of independence and respect and show itself to be trustworthy again.  No more collusion.
6    6.     Restore a respect for objective morals.  We must win the argument on abortion, gay marriage, and governmental limitations on the basis of a common ethic.  Otherwise, we just yell at each other.  This necessitates a restored understanding of the role of religion and morality in government.

Donald Trump has shown a great ability to destroy and tear down.  Building up, however, is a different skill.  If we cannot accomplish these goals, our nation will return to its progressive, downward spiral.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Caleb's Testimony

          Caleb is a walking testament to the faithfulness of God.  At eighty-five, he was still strong, still capable of trusting God to bring victory in the midst of a culture of unbelief.  He spent forty years wandering in the desert because the Israelites were afraid of the Anakites- the giants in the land.  Now, when he could be planning a well-deserved rest from his labors, he has bigger vision. 
          Caleb wants the city of the Giant.  The biggest, baddest of all those that Israel feared was targeted by the aged Caleb.  Caleb wanted his mountain, his city.  With God's help, he would take it so that it would never be a stumbling-block to Israel again.  May God give us that kind of courage in our day!
          Here are some lessons we can learn from Caleb:
1.  Let us not speak of a good and broad land as a land of fear and poverty.
2.  Let us not speak of our own abilities as the only possible source for our deliverance.
3.  Let us be strong and do exploits so that God's work might be commended to the next generations.