On several occasions Jesus remarked to His followers, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”(Luke 17:6) And there were several people who displayed that kind of faith. The woman who said if only I touch the hem of His robe I will be healed.(Mark 5:28) The Centurion who wouldn’t allow Jesus to come to his house but only asked Him to say the word to heal his servant.(Matthew 8:8) The Canaanite woman who said that she only needed a crumb of the Lord’s mercy to heal her daughter.(Matthew 15:27) I’m realizing something more and more, that I don’t even have that mustard seed faith apart from Him. With every prayer I pray, with every intercession I make for another, I am totally dependent upon His grace. I truly don’t know how to pray as I ought.(Romans 8:26) So prayer begin by kneeling before Jesus for His mercy, and trusting one’s self to His grace. Apart from this I have nothing.
Yesterday we looked at the statement, seeing is believing. My son-in-law wrote to say that the reverse of that statement is the real truth. Believing is seeing. And it certainly is. When we begin to see life through the eyes of faith things start to make sense. We don’t have all the answers, but we believe in a God, our God, who truly cares about us. We believe in our God who has come among us to share all parts of human life. We believe that God’s Son has given His life to redeem our lives from the power of sin. We believe in the depth of His love that has a purpose for all that happens. Because we believe we see our life as one piece of a very large picture the Lord is putting together, a picture that will be gloriously beautiful. Because we believe we can look to Him in hope. Believing is seeing the hand of God near and active in all the events of our days. Let us bow before Him in worship.
Peter Jackson is the Hollywood director who did the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He is now doing a documentary about the First World War, but doing it from a very human and personal perspective. He remarked, “I was interested in the food they ate, how they slept, and what they did on leave”. We are surrounded by so many big events – political figures in Washington, media personalities, the royal family in Britain, and so on. We can forget that they are people who eat, and sleep, and like to do certain things to relax. These same people have hopes and plans, needs and fear, just as you and I do. And they also have the need, whether they are aware of it or not, for the Lord to complete and satisfy the deepest part of their being. We may pity them, or complain about what they do, or just be fascinated by their lives. Maybe we would do better to realize that they really are humans like us, and offer a brief pray for God’s grace to reach fully into their lives.
A Scottish pastor by the name of George Matheson experienced a time of extreme mental distress. It was in this time that the words of this hymn were brought to his mind.
O Love that wilt not let me go,
I rest my weary soul in thee;
I give thee back the life I owe,
That in thine ocean depths its flow
May richer, fuller be.
That is what I was saying yesterday about the depth of love God has for each of us. It is not a feeling we can manufacture. It is not something we can earn or in any way deserve. It is the very nature of God to whom we can humbly come. It is a love that changes us drawing us deeper into all the Lord intends for our good. It is a love that has been demonstrated in the most extreme way on a Roman cross.
O Cross that liftest up my head,
I dare not ask to fly from thee;
I lay in dust life’s glory dead,
And from the ground there blossoms red
Life that shall endless be.
Know that that love is there for you today.
Why do we talk about relationships and values as we have been this week? It is not that God is going to zap us with a lightening bolt if we don’t strictly follow His ways. God is love, and He loves each of us more than we can possibly understand. It is because of His love that He has given us values by which He calls us to live. He created us. We are His idea, made in His image. The values He has given in His Word, the Bible, simply tells the way in which we find the best life He desires for us. So when we talk about gender issues, sexual morality, basically those things outlined in the ten commandments and the Sermon on the Mount, we are not setting laws, things we must do to be right with God. Rather, we are saying that God, in His love, designed the way of life in which we would find the greatest satisfaction and joy in life, and would come more deeply into a relationship with Him. In love God always seeks to give us His best.
I’m old. I can get nostalgic for “the good old days” which weren’t all that good, but there were a few things we knew that I’m afraid have been lost. Further, we are in a modern era and we are not going back to any pristine age in the past. There wasn’t any. But maybe we can learn some lessons, and make some corrections in things we do now. Corrections? That means looking at our own attitudes and beliefs to see where we have maybe lost some values that were in place in past years. If such are found, it may mean that we make choices to do some things differently in our own lives. Perhaps this should start with our attitude toward sexual relationships and marriage. I know there have always been problems in this area, but we have not had a time when the large majority of society has accepted cohabitation and sex outside of marriage as a normal lifestyle. This is all part of the thoughts on relationships I’ve been writing about this week. Marriage is a covenant bond established between a man and a woman that forms the only proper foundation for the intimacy of sex. Without this our present world has already proven that the path leads to heartache, disease, and even violence all too often. Maybe we should rethink some of the older values, and make some choices to do things differently.
Another article that caught my attention this week that I think fits in with yesterday’s message about putting personal contact above mechanization and expediency. The report said that “nationwide about 20% of school-aged children have a diagnosable mental illness, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.” The report want on to say that this percentage was mirrored in Frederick County Maryland where we live, and that affect children’s ability to learn. Now Frederick County is a nice suburban county in central Maryland. Yet 20% of their students have problems requiring to school system to hire psychologist to deal with the issues. It is apparent even in the elementary grades, and points to traumas of one kind or another suffered by the children in their earliest years. The bottom line of the article was that what the kids really needed to help them heal were solid meaningful adult relationships. So many things have happened to harm family relationships that the kids are suffering. Not the least of which is the much weaker influence of the church particularly among younger generations of parents. Without the foundation of faith in Christ strengthening values from the beginning of a marriage the whole resulting family is left adrift, and all suffer. A good relationship with others, and solid values for raising children, must begin with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 20% of children with mental problems? Really? Isn’t it time we looked at our true need rather than just hiring more psychologists.
On one of the Jewish festival day Jesus went into the Temple in Jerusalem. He found tables of money changers, and those who sold animals for the sacrificial offerings. He became angry, overturned the tables, knotted cords into a whip and drove the merchants out. (John 2:13f) What He found in the Temple court was a gross misuse of God’s sanctuary, a place intended for prayer and worship. He was not offended for Himself. He didn’t hate the merchants. They were the very people he came to save. He was angry because they were misusing the very gift His Father had given them for their good. That is what I was saying in yesterday’s message. When Christians oppose certain behaviors or lifestyles that are being accepted today it is not hate. We do not hate people. We weep because they are missing the good God wants for them. It is why Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem.(Luke 13:34) I know human life is a very complex thing. I certainly don’t have all the answers. But I know that God created human life in a way intended to provide their best life. We are called to love and to serve all people, but to oppose those things that harm God’s good purpose we truly desire for all. We love the sinner, but hate the sin. Something modern society doesn’t understand.
I’ve read a couple of articles in the last few weeks about new schools for elementary education. One was in Europe and one in Island. The schools, Kindergarten through grade five, were built around a gender neutral concept. Children all wore identical style uniforms. Gender was not mentioned. Girls were encouraged to do traditional boys activities and visa versa. Teachers worked hard to erase all forms of gender distinction. I also understand this is being advocated in many grade schools in our country. I may offend some by writing this, but that concept is pure evil. It is a direct contradiction of God’s holy design. “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”(Genesis 1:27) Male and female, separate and distinct, both unique, both beautiful, but each with a God ordained purpose, together in a complementary relationship forming the very image of their Creator. To destroy that complementary distinction is to destroy the image God desires us to see. That is the means the devil is using in our days to destroy God’s good plan for mankind. I’m not saying the teachers are evil. We are not against anyone. We seek to love and serve all people. But we cannot accept all philosophies of life as equally right. We must stand firm in the truth of how our Lord calls us to live.
Yesterday I had to have one of those imaging test that the doctor ordered. Technology has developed the e-ray, MRI, CT scan, PETs and other tests to be able to look inside the body without actually having to open us up. If something amiss is detected the doctors begins using their other techniques to fix the problem. When you think about it that’s what our Lord is doing with us all the time. He sees us on the inside to the deepest parts of our heart. He detects clearly those things that are not according to His perfect desire for our best good. He, the Great Physician, sets about fixing them. Like a very wise doctor He doesn’t do everything all at once, but over time and through HIs word, and the circumstance He allows into life, He removes the old and brings forth the new. We rejoice that modern medicine has given doctors the many means of healing our diseases. But the far greater rejoicing is in the Great Physician who heals the very deepest of our needs and give us life.