We don’t have to look far to know that we are in a broken world. The trials and pains of life come to all of us. It is how we deal with them that matters. And I must readily admit that I don’t always deal with them in the right way. I am not a good patient when I face some pain. I took a fall last week that wrenched my back. It is painful when I move and have to use a walker to get around. I don’t like not being able to get up and go. Which leads to frustration, etc. etc. etc. I said I’m not a good patient. I often wake up with the verse of some song playing in my mind. This morning it was a reminder that I needed. It was an Easter song highlighting the events of the cross and empty tomb. “Then came the morning.”
Then came the morning
shadows vanished before the sun
death had lost and life had won
the morning had come.
This is the assurance we have. This is the message of the Gospel. God has come to share our burdens and to redeem us from the power of sin, death, and the devil. We have that assurance in the empty tomb. The morning has come, and with that truth we have the assurance that it will come for each us. I’m still not a good patient, but whatever I go through today is not the final word. My present pain will ease up, but more importantly we live the daily hope that in Christ all things shall be made new. Including our broken bodies.
In the eighth chapter of St. Matthew there is the account of Jesus’ encounter with two demon possessed men. The demons, of course, recognized Him and begged to be sent into a nearby heard of swine when He cast them out. He did, and the swine rushed down the hillside and were drowned. When the town’s people heard of it, rather than rejoicing over the healing of the two men, and bring others to be healed as happened elsewhere, they begged Jesus to leave their district. Sometimes Jesus is too much! He is too disturbing of our way of life. People get caught up in their own plans, their own lifestyle. Jesus just upsets too much. It doesn’t make sense. This is why Jesus was always looking for humility, and the trusting faith of a child. Ones who were willing to put themselves in His hands even when it was disturbing and didn’t make sense. “To all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” (John 1:12) And that really is far better than anything we might let stand in the way.
A man and his wife were vacation in Indonesia. He was standing on the beach taking photos of a volcanic island off shore. Suddenly he saw a wall of water rolling in across the bay. He had to turn and flee inland to save his life. Things can happen in just that manner. Some shepherds were sitting around the evenings campfire guarding their flock on a normal day like hundreds of other days before it. Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to them announcing the birth a baby, a very special baby, in the nearby village of Bethlehem. The lives of the mother and father of that baby had been turned completely around by the announcement of that unexpected birth. And that child, the Lord Jesus Christ, when grown promised that He would be coming again suddenly and unexpectedly to complete God’s plan for mankind. How does one prepare for such sudden and unexpected events? I don’t know that there is a particular preparation for a tsunami, but a life lived in a humble and trusting relationship with the Lord is the daily preparation to which we are all called.
Most of Psalm 52 speaks of the evil people do and their rejection of the good God desires. Then it ends with these last two verses. “But as for me, I am like a green olive tree in the house of God; I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever. I will give You thanks forever, because You have done it, And I will wait on Your name, for it is good, in the presence of Your godly ones.”(vss.8-9) A few words often catches my attention. “But as for me…” I don’t know what you have before you this day. We all have our trials, and schedules, and demands. We all live in this broken world with it many uncertainties and fears. “But as for me … I trust in the lovingkindness of God forever and ever.” Lovingkindness is what we see when we look in the manger. The manger which we know is overshadowed by the cross. That is the lovingkindness of our God in giving us life and strength. Whatever it is that we must deal with today, we make our response “but as for me….”
A friend of mine who is a serious woodworker used to say that when he felt down or depressed it was time to go buy another woodworking tool. That always picked up his spirits. Well, I’m not sure that’s the best remedy, and it certainly is only temporary. We all have times of feeling down. It is often a matter of the direction in which our eyes are looking. Are we looking only at the problems, or to the One who is greater than all we might face. Take some time today and read Isaiah 40, especially vss. 21- 31. “Do you not know? Have you not heard? … Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth. … To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? … Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.” Draw your strength from the Lord today.
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.
We like to think that we are capable of doing what needs to be done, and for the most part we are. We have talents and abilities. We solve many problems as they come along in our days. However, as smoothly as things go along for a while, something always seems to crop up reminding us that we are not always in control. Be it a computer glitch, a sudden illness that puts one in the hospital, or even an unexpected death, things happen that we can’t change. The Lord, in His grace, uses these times to remind us to look beyond ourselves, check our priorities, set aside our pride, or a variety of other lessons aimed at focusing our attention upon Him for strength, wisdom, and guidance. No, we do not have the ultimate control of our lives. There is One far greater than we who does. And His nature is pure love and grace. We continually look in trust to Him.
I have said a number of time in the past that I am not an economist. I don’t understand many economic terms, and I really don’t like even having to manage my own money – strange guy that I am. But I do read the Business page in our local paper which does give some food for thought. You see, I’m in the habit of contrasting values, those of natural life compared to those the Lord seeks for our good. Too much of what we have accepted as good, right, normal, standard practice, and so forth is not at all what our Lord desires for us. I realize that I cannot and should not expect the world to follow God’s values, but where we see the contrast it should make us think. Perhaps it will draw us closer to what God established for our good. Now back to the Business page. Under the title “Shell-shocked investors worry when, where next the next bomb will drop”. Many speculative investors are seeing a number of markets drop simultaneously. “In the global nervous system connecting modern markets, the synapses are misfiring.” The speculative investment market is not where most of us live. I can leave it to you to think about some of the parallel verse that tell us not to worry or be anxious about material things. I only draw the contrast for us to think about where we do live. How we are called to trust our gracious Lord, not being anxious about God’s provision for tomorrow?
Americans are well grounded in their concept of freedom and rights. We cherish the freedoms granted in the Bill of Right in our Constitution, and rightly so. But I think this makes it a bit hard for us to think in Scriptural terms about our right relationship with the Lord. All of our Lord’s Apostles referred to themselves as slaves of Christ. We declare that we are free to do what we want, but the Lord’s Word says “you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body.”(I Corinthians 6:20) That price was the very blood of Jesus Christ. Both Testaments declare that God is our Maker. We were created by Him for His good purpose. Paul writing to the Philippian Church said, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”(2:10) Yes, we are thankful for our political freedoms, but we find our true freedom when we submit ourselves to the will of our Lord.
A few years ago we had a small boat. Out on an excursion we would pull into a cove, throw the anchor over, enjoy the scenery, and have lunch. The anchor would keep us from drifting or running aground. Anchors are very important, especially in foul weather. We have anchors for our faith, also. What we believe about our Lord is firmly held in the truth that has been delivered to us. Peter wrote, “We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.”(IIP.1:16) These eye witness accounts have been given to us in God’s Word. We have the promises of God given in both the Old and New Testaments, confirmed by the Holy Spirit, and witnessed to us by the lives of saints and martyrs over many generations. We have the truth confirmed in the grace of our own baptism, and we have seen the hand of God in many situations of our own lives. Life can be a choppy sea, but as the writer of Hebrews says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”(6:19)