First things first. We all know that expression, but applies in many areas of life. My little grandson wants to be doing this or that right away, but he hasn’t learned the basics needed to do this or that. It’s all part of growing up. We are still growing up, too. We wonder/complain at time why our Lord doesn’t do this, or change that, or why did He allow this to happen. But even with the Lord He has to deal with first things first. Maybe He needs to deal with some larger sin, or wrong attitude, or lack of understanding in us and others before He can change the outward thing concerning us. God deals with us as a good pastor even as Jesus did with the woman take in adultery.(John 8) There were probably many aspects of her life that needed to be changed, but He started by forgiving her sins and giving her a new path in life. Other things would follow. If God dealt with every wrong thing in us at once we would be crushed. He begins by declaring our forgiveness through the shed blood of His Son. In that we are set on a totally new path. Then, throughout our life He graciously touches those areas needing change. First things first.
I use a bulk e-mail program to send out most of my Good Morning messages. I set up the format a number of years ago when I began with them, and I have always called it Good Morning. I keep getting notices from them that they think I should change the look of my page and a new title. It seem that this generation thrives on change, and needs something new to keep their attention. Why? OK, I know all about outreach, and the need to meet people where they are. Have we become so dull that we need the glitz and glitter to keep us interested? Is it no longer possible to put the superficials aside, and truly look at the message conveyed? Do we no longer look to the past, to foundational truths, but only stuff on the surface that is more fun and pleasing? I’m probably being rather cynical this morning. I’m writing as one who is old and hasn’t changed his hair style in 70 years, but I do think, and sincerely hope, that it is possible that we can look more deeply at the world around us, examine solid truths from the past, seek guidance from a wisdom greater than our own, and have courage to make right changes as necessary.
We say that change is inevitable, and it is. Changes seem to be happening at a faster pace than ever before. This year tech companies come out with a newer and more expensive model to replace last year’s model that is still working well, but is now considered outdated. It happens in many areas of life, but is it all really for the good? Does this change really enhance our lives? And more importantly, does this change help us to grow more into the purpose for which God created us? The problem with change is that we tend to forget the foundations of wisdom and experience that were laid down in the past. Truth, God’s truth, is swept aside in order to build something present imagination assumes is better. Let’s not ignore the foundations for the sake of change. Jesus once remarked, “No one after drinking old wine wants the new, for they say, ‘The old is better.'”(Luke 5:39)
There are a couple of cheep ball point pens laying on my desk, the give away kind you find in a lot of businesses. I picked up one yesterday that had the Howard Johnson name and logo on it. That used to be a popular restaurant/motel chain, but has been out of business for years now. It was a mainstay that no longer exists. We can also think of the home improvement store Hechingers, more recently Radio Shack, and now Sear is closing stores. Things change. Anchors that we thought were firm in life are no longer there. Whether a business we’ve liked, a beloved family member, or even strength for a task we used to do easily, things change. There is sadness and we don’t like it, but it should cause us to hold more firmly to the One who does not change, Jesus Christ, the rock in the midst of all life. The Apostle Paul recognized the severity of this change, but said, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.”(II Corinthians 4:16) Regardless of what changes around us, or the clarity of our eye to see what is happening in the present, the Lord is near, and is working to renew all things, and bring them to their rightful place in His plan.
My wife and I read the New Testament after breakfast. We just started again in Matthew. After the genealogy in chapter one comes the birth account of our Lord. Something struck me yesterday morning with the Wise Men coming to Herod looking for Jesus, The King of the Jews. A simple remark, “Herod was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” Herod I can understand. But what has always caught my attention is “all Jerusalem with him”. Why was Jerusalem troubled? We can certainly see the people’s curiosity with this entourage of important men coming to town. Then thinking in a broader context, we see that wherever God enters life it is disturbing. Every place that Jesus went things changed. And we are not so sure we want to change. I’ve always thought there is more to suppressing name of Jesus than separation of church and state, or being fair to all faiths. Whether everyone believes that Jesus is the divine Son of God or not, there is something troubling about His name. He cannot be separated from His claim to divinity, to His Kingship. That is disturbing. If we only understood that the change God desires is always for our good. It is why He came among us. We should be able to say with St. Paul, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.”(Romans 1:16)
Learning to know God is uncomfortable! If we read the Scriptures for what it is, God’s holy Word, it makes us uncomfortable. The whole purpose of God coming among us was to change us. If we didn’t need changing, if we had been good people just as we are, then there was no real point in His going to such great lengths to make Himself one of us. But we do need changing. Our hearts are far from God, and our natural inclinations reject His truth. This has been true since the first time we listened to the serpent in the Garden. Isaiah wrote about his people, “They tell their spiritual leaders, ‘Don’t bother us with irrelevancies.’ They tell their preachers, ‘Don’t waste our time on impracticalities. Tell us what makes us feel better. Don’t bore us with obsolete religion. That stuff means nothing to us. Quit hounding us with The Holy One of Israel.’”(30:10-11 from The Message) In our natural state, we can never be of service to our Lord in His eternal Kingdom. He did come to change us, and that is not comfortable. It challenges our preconceived notions, and forces us to let go of things to which we cling. Making us comfortable or happy is never God’s purpose, but bringing us into the depth of His joy and peace is. This is a far greater blessing.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus entered Jerusalem to the shouts of “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” But five short days later many of the same crowd where shouting “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” We are changable creatures, humans! We follow to easily along with the crowd. We give in to pressure or pain. We don’t take enough time to think through our own convictions and stand by them. We are too afraid of the negative opinions of others. And so we change to what is the most comfortable or expedient at the moment. Oh, I know this is not true of all of us in all situations, but this Palm Sunday crowd in Jerusalem reminds us how easy it is to give in to feeling or pressure. Jesus calls us to take up our cross and follow Him. We seek to stand firm in His truth.
All the people at the Temple “were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”(Acts 3:10) A crippled beggar was healed at the entrance of the Temple in Jerusalem, and the people were amazed. We would be, too, but we really shouldn’t be. God is actively working around us and within in continually. Oh, yes, we want to pray a prayer, and see someone healed immediately. God does do this on occasion, but it is not His major work, nor is it a proof of His love and care. His care is shown by His daily activity in each life. Do not ever discount this. He is working in your circumstances for your good. He is changing your heart to look to Him, and trust Him more. You are not the same person you were a year or five years ago. God has worked a miracle to bring you closer to Himself. He guides you in thought, word, and action many times each day. This truly is a great miracle, and we should continually give Him praise.
Change is a fact of life, and the older I get the less I like it. When I learn my way around a computer program, with every button convenient and doing what I think it ought to do, some twenty-something computer geek comes along and updates everything. Oh well! Such is our computer age. It is all designed to keep me on my toes when I want to be sitting on my seat. There is One, however, that does not change. Hebrews 13:8 assures us that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Jesus is the solid rock in the midst of all of the changes of life, and he gives us the strength to deal with them. Further, as I am slowly learning, He uses many changes to help us mature in faith, use them for His glory, and as a witness to His grace to others. From the Rock on which we stand we proclaim God’s love to our changing world.
We are always amazed when we hear the statistics about the growth in human knowledge, or the pace of change in technology. World events move rapidly, and we have no control over any of it. Our own days are full of many activities, and at times it can feel like a Merry-go-Round running at triple speed. So, where is our rest? Where is the solid ground on which we can stand? Even thousands of years ago, the Psalmist seemed to have the same problem. He gave the answer, “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.”(62:1-2) This really is our only solid answer. We can take days off, and vacations, but we come back to the same world, the same pace. In the midst of all that is around us, and all that we have to do, God is there. He is unchanging, solid, caring, our source of hope, and peace. “Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. “(vs.5)