Friday, February 25, 2011

Comfort Overflows

 A hundred times or more I've read it. But this morning, I noticed it.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion
and God of all comfort,
who comforts us..."

Another version says 'the Father of mercies'. But the Father of compassion. Do you recognize God in that title?

So often, when we are devastated, we let Satan define Him for us. Or we let pain define Him for us. We let other people's sins and failures define Him for us.

'He wasn't kind -- God is not kind.'
'He isn't fair -- God isn't fair.'
'I'm suffering -- God doesn't care.'

But He is the Father of compassion.

It goes on to say a few verses later: "For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows."

Bless the Lord,
the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion,
the God of all comfort,
who also comforts us.

I don't understand all the whys. But I'm thankful for the comfort.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Grief and Mercy

One of the most precious scenes in the Gospels to me is the one where Jesus comes to His friends in their grief. Several times it says that Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary, and Lazarus.

And it tells us He didn't come when He heard Lazarus was sick. After Lazarus died, Jesus said to His disciples, "Nevertheless, let us go to him."

I love this story for its truth. For the real grief the sisters had. For the honest outbursts. And for Jesus' response to their grief.

It says when He saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.
And Jesus wept.

I have heard the people who invalidate grief say that He was weeping for their unbelief.
He was not!

The New Testament says to weep with those who weep. And it isn't over their lack of faith. It's what love does.

'Beloved, let us love one another.'
Love weeps, too.
It doesn't say, "Suck it up, wimp."
It brings out the tissues, and sits down to cry. 

We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses,
but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.
We can come to the throne of grace -- because He has grace.
He is grace.
He'll give mercy.

Our High Priest lets our sicknesses and our griefs and our pain touch Him. And I love Him for it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Because He Delights

The tombstone says: Perpetual Care

"Who is a God like You,
pardoning iniquity
and passing over the transgression
of the remnant of His heritage?
He does not retain His anger forever,
because He delights in mercy.
He will again have compassion on us,
and will subdue our iniquities.
You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea."
~Micah 7:18-19

Because He delights in mercy.

"He has shown you, O man,
what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly,
and to love mercy,
and to walk humbly with your God?"
~Micah 6:8

We ought to delight in it, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Coming in Unarmed

"Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise,
and apply your heart to my knowledge...
So that your trust may be in the Lord;
I have instructed you today, even you."
~Proverbs 22:17-19

"But the wisdom that is from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated,
full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality,
and without hypocrisy.
And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace
by them that make peace."
~James 3:18

Proverbs is so full of instruction in wisdom. It's full of relational advice, and moral advice, and financial advice. But these few verses stood out to me because they indicate that the whole point of listening to wisdom and hearing the wise, and applying your heart to knowledge is so that your trust may be in the Lord. Not in your wisdom.

I included the James verse because it is such a contrast to wordly wisdom. Wisdom from the Lord is pure. It's innocent. It's clean, first. But then it is peaceable. Not provoking. Inclined toward peace. It's gentle.

Wisdom from the Lord makes it past the security forces of the resistant because it comes in 'unarmed'. His kindness leads us to repentance. Does it speak the truth? Yes. But I think about how Nathan approached David in his sinful state. He came and told him a story about a lamb. David was tender-hearted about sheep. So Nathan got to his heart through sheep. And David was broken.

I was reading a news story the other day about the increased numbers of 'no-knock warrants' that have been issued lately. There was this sad story about the police breaking into a man's home in the middle of the night, guns drawn. The man, no doubt feeling himself the victim of a home invasion, came into the hall with a golf club, which the hyped-up law enforcement officers thought was a sword, so they shot him dead. I don't know what the offense was they wanted to arrest him for, but the approach to the arrest resulted in his execution without a trial. If they had knocked and spoken to him through the door, it's quite probable he would have come to the door and been arrested. But instead they busted the door down, came upon him in his sleep, and in his reasonable attempt to defend himself, they killed him. I think wisdom would have considered what the aim of the warrant was. If the aim is to apprehend the man, and not to kill him, a softer touch would have accomplished that.

Wisdom does not bust down the door with gun drawn, hyped up on adrenaline, likely to kill in misjudgment.

And that last line in James would seem to indicate that the kind of seed-spreading that results in righteous fruit is planted by peacemakers in peaceable ways.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Has Made Room

Some time back, in need of direction, I determined to search the entire book of Genesis and record every instance of God's guidance of His own, both overt and covert. It is an enlightening study, and one I recommend you try one day.

The overt instances include things like God saying to Abraham, "Get out of your country... and go to a land I will show you." And then there are His covert leadings. Looking at them now, they are clearly God's hand. Had I been on the ground living them, I would have been confused.

In Genesis 26 the Lord told Isaac, in the midst of a famine, not to go to Egypt, but to 'live in the land of which I shall tell you'. Isaac went to Abimelech king of the Philistines, in Gerar. Time passed.

Isaac prospered, and continued prospering until he was very prosperous. (Do you get the feeling it just snowballed?) So the Philistines envied him. And Abimelech said, "Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we."

So Isaac left. Isaac was a peaceable man.
He went to a valley in Gerar, and tried to live there.
"Also Isaac's servants dug in the valley,
and found a well of running water there.
But the herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with Isaac's herdsmen,
saying, 'The water is ours.'
So he called the name 'Quarrel', because they quarreled with him.
Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over that one also.
So he called its name 'Enmity'.
And he moved from there and dug another well,
and they did not quarrel over it.
So he called its name 'Spaciousness',
because he said, 'For now the Lord has made room for us,
and we shall be fruitful in the land.'"

And the Lord appeared to him and said,
"I am the God of your father Abraham; do not fear, for I am with you.
I will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham's sake."

Afterward Abimelech came to him with some officials of his.
Isaac said, "Why have you come to me, since you hate me
and have sent me away from you?"

But they said, "We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you...
You are now the blessed of the Lord."

The covert leading of the Lord:
'Go away.'
'You are too mighty for us.'
'It's our water.'
'For now the Lord has made room for us.'
'We have found water.'

Isaac had the Lord's overt direction about not going to Egypt. But the 'land of which I shall tell you' appears to have been communicated to him by means of conflict and water sources. Isaac just tried to follow His lead.

If the well had defenders, although Isaac and his men had labored to dig it, he left it to them and dug another. None of that land was Isaac's land. He had the promise, but not the possession. And he trusted the Lord to make room for him. Where there was not room, he did not stay.

But I love that after the Lord assured him that He was with him, and would bless him, there came along Abimelech who had told him to get out, telling him he was the blessed of the Lord, and the Lord was with him.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

We Must Through

"Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there;
and having persuaded the  multitudes,
they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city,
supposing him to be dead.
However, when the disciples gathered around him,
he rose up and went into the city...
And when they had preached the gospel... and made many disciples,
they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch,
strengthening the souls of the disciples,
exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying,
'We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.'"
~Acts 14:19-22

And doesn't it ring true when it comes out of his mouth? It is a comfort and encouragement to be exhorted to perseverance by those who have suffered themselves. He went to the very hometown of those who had stoned him to encourage the ones who lived there to continue in faith, through tribulation.

I don't know about you, but I get no comfort from the exhortations of the comfortable. From the corrections of the well-fed. When my friends from the tropics complain of rain at the beach, I do not sympathize. The trite assurances of "everything's going to be alright" from people who buy new clothes every week never mean much to me. But I listen very carefully to those whose pains I am familiar with. When I have watched them suffer, and I have seen them bleed, and they tell me there is hope, it has weight with me.

Friday, February 4, 2011

From All Things

"Therefore let it be known to you, brethren,
that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins;
and by Him everyone who believes
is justified from all things
from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses."
~Acts 13:38,39

From all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses. Everything.

Over the years, I have sometimes heard people say sadly that they could not accept God's forgiveness because their sins were so horrible. We recognize the validity of the law's judgment against us. And although we might feel justified over some of our sins, and our good deeds to pay society back for them, there are sins that no human conscience justifies. There is no sacrifice I can make that will right murder. There is no sacrifice I can make that will right adultery. Enslaving another human cannot be righted by the law. Under the law of Moses, those guilty of certain sins have no recourse. Death is all there is.

The thrilling news that comes to us in Jesus is that everyone who believes is justified from all things from which we could not be justified by the law of Moses.

Are you a witch?
Moses says you have to die.
Jesus says, "Believe and be clean."
Are you a prostitute?
Moses says 'die'.
Jesus says, "Believe and be clean."
Are you an adulterer?
Moses says stoning would suffice.
Jesus says, "Go, and sin no more."
Are you a Gentile?
Moses says you have to stay in the outer court, and never come any closer.
But Jesus broke down the dividing wall of separation, and made us one with Him, and gave the promise of the Holy Spirit to all of us who believe.

Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

His Work

"Honest weights and scales are the Lord's;
all the weights in the bag are His work."
~Proverbs 16:11

It is the work of God to trade honestly and fairly. He concerns Himself with our measuring tapes, our scales, our contract negotiations. I love that. I love that He loves fair dealing. He considers our deals to be His deals.

What tool have I got in my bag? Is it the Lord's tool? When I use the Lord's tools, I do the Lord's business. On the other hand, if the tools I work with are dishonest implements, all my work is dishonest work.