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.