Why I am grieving

This post is about the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting. I know not everyone might be receptive to reading my thoughts, so I wanted to mention the subject immediately.

 

 

 

 

It was a tough weekend.

We actually experienced some wonderful things over the weekend. I won’t expound on those things now, as they are not my subject. But there were some great encouragements and fellowships experienced over the weekend, for which I am overwhelmed and thankful. We saw some prayers answered.

The reason it was a tough weekend was because of the impact that the school shooting on Friday had on me. Having a 6 year old little princess of my own drastically altered my perspective about this event. I can’t imagine.

Nor can I provide answers. I won’t humiliate myself by trying to give a rationale for why any child deserves what happened on Friday; why any family deserves to have a hole where a precious, innocent child was.

Nor will I turn to the infuriatingly irrational, “too-soon” subject matters that our media and many people are now discussing.

Gun control.

Mental hospital budgets.

The media and their role.

There will be a time and a place for discussing those things. It isn’t yet. Not for me.

My 2 girls were sleeping and I quietly snuck into their room and just watched them for a few minutes. How angelic they are when sleeping! How much I love them. And I put my hand on each of them and fervently prayed that they and their brother would be protected from evil such as our nation experienced this weekend. And I prayed for the families that have experienced the first-hand effects of that evil.

I didn’t want to lead worship yesterday. I didn’t want to be on stage. I wanted to grieve. Of course, I had to do what I had to do, and God granted me the grace and strength to do so. Yesterday was a blessing. But I am still, like many of you, grieving.

As I was thinking about it, I was reminded of when Jesus openly displayed sorrow in the face of death. I’m talking about the account of Lazarus.

John 11:32-36

32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

It is an interesting fact. Jesus wept. He was the resurrection and the life. Lazarus’ tomb had “zero” power over Jesus. And yet, he wept.

I’ve read more than a few theories of why he wept. For Lazarus; for Mary and Martha; for the Jews; for his own impending crucifixion.

I think that Jesus saw Mary weeping, as well as the Jews with her, and he was displaying sorrow at this life’s reality of suffering and death. He was fully man as well as fully God. It was honest, raw, heartfelt, sincere sorrow.

I remember the sorrow I felt when my grandfather passed away. Of course, I wouldn’t wish him back. But I wept like a small child that day.

Without getting into the theology of why I believe so, I do believe those precious souls are in a much (infinitely so) better place now. That’s an easy thing to say, as I can still hug my 6 year old today.

For now, it’s ok to weep. It’s ok to grieve. The explanations and finger-pointing can wait. Healing will come, but it will come slowly. Christ himself showed us that we can join others’ sadness with heartfelt sorrow. We can weep.

And we can pray that God will grant things that only He can grant, in measures that only He can grant them. Peace. Healing. Grace. Love.

 

Questions for Mary

“25 Questions For Mary”

From Max Lucado’s Book, “God Came Near.”

1. What was it like watching him pray?

2. How did he respond when he saw other kids giggling during the service at the synagogue?

3. When he saw a rainbow, did he ever mention a flood?

4. Did you ever feel awkward teaching him how he created the world?

5. When he saw a lamb being led to the slaughter, did he act differently?

6. Did you ever see him with a distant look on his face as if he were listening to someone you couldn’t hear?

7. How did he act at funerals?

8. Did the thought ever occur to you that the God to whom you were praying was asleep under your own roof?

9. Did you ever try to count the stars with him….and succeed?

10. Did he ever come home with a black eye?

11. How did he act when he got his first haircut?

12. Did he have any friend by the name of Judas?

13. Did he do well in school?

14. Did you ever scold him?

15. Did he ever have to ask a question about Scripture?

16. What do you think he thought when he saw a prostitute offering to the highest bidder the body he made?

17. Did he ever get angry when someone was dishonest with him?

18. Did you ever catch him pensively looking at the flesh on his own arm while holding a clod of dirt?

19. Did he ever wake up afraid?

20. Who was his best friend?

21. When someone referred to Satan, how did he act?

22. Did you ever accidentally call him Father?

23. What did he and his cousin John talk about as kids?

24. Did his brothers and sisters understand what was happening?

25. Did you ever think, That’s God eating my soup?Image

Grace which trains us

Titus 2:11-14

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people,  training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,  waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,  who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.

Grace is freely offered, it is poured out in love, it is all-sufficient for our every need.

Titus offers another descriptive quality of that grace to which we are so indebted to:

Grace is a trainer!

This sentence in Titus gives us three areas in which grace is constantly training us for.

1. To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions,

2. to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,

3. to live as waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.

1. To renounce ungodliness and worldly passions…

This invokes to me those of Christianity who have been asked to renounce Christ or face punishment, torture, or even death. Do we also realize that as Christians, the opposite demand has been made upon us? To renounce what we were? To execute and to put to death our past selves?

This isn’t something we can do on our own, as Paul tells us:

Romans 7:23-25

but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

But look what God did!

Romans 8:2-5

For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Therefore,

Galatians 2:20

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Let us let grace continually train us to renounce that which we were, on a daily basis!

Part 2 – Grace training us to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age coming in a day or two.

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What about love?

Philemon. One of the shortest books in the Bible. Only 25 verses. Certainly easy enough to sit down and read it in a few minutes, yet important and inspired, as it was included in the New Testament Canon. Why was this brief letter from Paul to Philemon deemed “worthy” of inclusion?

My Bible

A recent read through for me pointed something out that I had never seen before. There are several themes in Philemon – devotion to ministry, forgiveness; but it was a third theme that leaped off of the page to my heart. Paul mentions this theme twice but most notably here:

Philemon Verses 8 – 9a:

Accordingly, though I am bold enough in Christ to command you to do what is required, yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you…

The theme of “invoking our rights” seems to be coming up again and again in my personal life. Determining which hills, if any, are to die for.

Short story – Onesimus had served Paul well, and Paul was very fond of him. But Onesimus had wronged his former master prior to serving with Paul (this former master was Philemon), and Paul knew that peacemaking and reconciliation was in order.

Paul could’ve insisted, by the spiritual authority he possessed as an elder, that Philemon take back this person who had wronged him, Onesimus, and restored him to his former position with forgiveness. But Paul does not fall onto his spiritual authority to make a demand.

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

He could’ve made sure that Philemon would’ve listened and obeyed his instructions. He could’ve left nothing to chance.

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

He could’ve ordered that the person carrying the letter, Tychicus, stayed with Philemon, ensuring his compliance with Paul’s request, and returned to Paul to report on Philemon’s obedience.

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

Paul could’ve left no doubt. But instead, he gave Philemon an opportunity to grow and to arrive at the right decision, leaving it in the Spirit’s hands.

“Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

Wow. Think about that for a moment.

What if our church business meeting speakers would begin espousing their opinions and views with this statement- “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

What if, in the process of a possible church split, the 2 parties would begin their negotiations with this statement- “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

What if our deacons , elders, trustees, board members, and lay membership, in the midst of strife and conflict would begin with this statement- “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

What if our pastors and church leaders would approach church conflict from this angle – “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

What if, in the midst of a marriage that is falling apart, the 2 individuals would begin their conversations with this statement – “Yet for love’s sake I prefer to appeal to you.”

Modern church history is full of examples of people and leaders invoking spiritual authority to demand action and justice, and in some cases, this is rightfully so. Do not overlook that the scriptures often teaches us that appealing to love (and to other fruits of the spirit) is pleasing to God. That enduring persecution, not bucking it, produces godliness. It doesn’t mean we are supposed to become spiritual door-mats, ready to be walked over at all times.

It does mean that we should be sensitive in every situation, seeking to emulate our Savior as we engage and react to not only the world, but to fellow believers as well.

Love should be at the root of it all.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

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You might be a Southern Baptist if…

And I’m a southern Baptist! We just needed a fun post here.

And no, most of these aren’t even close to true, but it’s fun to read about the stereotypes (people actually think this stuff about us!) –

So with particular props to #4, #16 and #49, here goes!

You Might Be A Southern Baptist If:
1) You Consider Sunday lunch part of the service
2) You can successfully name all the major missions offerings but can’t find Habakkuk
3) You complain that the Church of Christ people purposely have church earlier so they can have the seats closest to the buffet
4) You have memorized Robert’s Rules of Order just because of business meetings
5) You feel guilty about throwing the bulletins away
6) You have more fun in business meetings than you do during the service
7) More adults sit on the front row during a children’s choir concert, than do on Sunday morning
9) Your building superintendent can fire your pastor
10) You need a committee to approve the potluck dinner
11) You consider dancing one of the seven deadly sins
12) You feel the urge to say “amen” after every song- even at the Children’s Choir Concert
13) You judge the quality of the sermon by the amount of sweat worked up by the preacher
14) Your definition of fellowship has something to do with food.
15) You believe that you are supposed to take a covered dish to heaven.
16) You have never sung the third verse of any hymn. (HAHA)
17) Your Pastor’s Pulpit has a clock right in front of him.
18) You got saved, or have guided someone to salvation at camp.
19) You don’t want to take a definite stand on Calvinism
20) You met your spouse at camp
21) Your preacher has a “Fried Chicken Belly”
22) You go as a messenger to the state or SBC convention, but dont actually vote and spend your time on leisure activities around the hotel
23) Your Church’s Sanctuary or Choir room smells like old books
24) You just can’t figure out what the KJV is saying
25) Your idea of putting a sermon together (for preachers) is to read a bunch of commentaries and find words to glue them
26) You have been hit by a older lady’s walker or cane because she thought you were getting her seat
27) You go to the Church’s sanctuary during the week and you find pillows, linens, blankets, and coloring books laying on the pews
28) Your last pastor got fired because he moved the pulpit 1/100th of an inch to the left
29) When you were little you were afraid of one of the deacons
30) Your pastor works 68 hours a week, but is only “part-time
31) Your bookshelf collection features all the books you used in college
32) You know that the words “we’ve never done it that way before” are the death toll to any new idea
33) You participated in RA’s, GA’s, AWANA, or Bible Drill while all your unchurched friends were in Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts
34) You know what a Committee of Three or a Committee on Committees is – bonus points if you’ve served on one of these committees
35) You thought Lottie Moon was a Biblical figure
36) You know how to pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag & the Bible
37) You have read Billy Graham’s biography
38) You hear “Just as I Am”, “Create in me a clean heart”, or any of those hymns and instantly stand up because you think it is decision time
39) Your church’s choir has 25 ladies and only 4 men
40) Your church had a Fish Fry / Lord’s Supper / Baptismal service.
41) You have ever asked you Pastor if Dogs go to Heaven?
42) You refer to Fried Chicken as “Baptist Bird”
43) The lady that cooks in the church: here name is either Millie, JoEllen, Gracie, or Marilyn
44) You have ever been given, or given to someone the “Right hand of Christian Fellowship”
45) You were a ventriloquist, clown, or a magician, and that was your ministry
46) Your preacher’s books include: “1001 Illustrations” , “Greatest Collection of Church Jokes”, etc.
47) Your Church’s secretary goes to the Assembly of God church (deny it, but you all know it is true)
48) Anyone who drinks or smokes or chews or dips is the Devil. By God.
49) Everything you know about illnesses & surgeries you learned in Wednesday prayer meeting
50) You think John the Baptist started the SBC
51) You think God’s presence is strongest on the back three pews
52) You think “Amazing Grace” is the national anthem
53) Your definition of fellowship has something to do with food
54) You ever wondered when Lottie Moon and Annie Armstrong would get paid off
55) You honestly believe that the Apostle Paul spoke King James English
56) You think worship music has to be loud
57) You think Jesus actually used Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers
58) You judge the quality of a service by its length
59) You ever wake up in the middle of the night craving fried chicken and interpret that feeling as a call to preach
60) You believe that you are supposed to take a covered dish to heaven
61) You have ever put an IOU in the offering plate
62) You think someone who says “Amen” while the preacher is preaching might be charismatic
63) You see that it’s 12:05 when the invitation starts and get excited b/c you’re getting out early that day
64) Your church moves the Sunday evening service up two hours so they can watch the Super Bowl on the projecters
65) Your mom text messages you in church because you are talking during the sermon

The thorn in my flesh

2 Corinthians 12:7-10

 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

For some reason, the last few days, I have been living over and over the historical failures of my life. Maybe it is because of the present calling that I cling to, and how drastically it contrasts to the long line of these shortcomings.

I’m not beating myself up over them too much, nor am I having a pity party. As I was thinking about these failures just now, my mind was instantly curious about Paul’s wording of this struggle which he had to deal with. We don’t know what this struggle was – whether it was a psychological struggle (such as intense grief or sorrow), a person who caused him much trouble, an actual physical condition (which many scholars believe), or even a matter of constant spiritual warfare, we can only guess.

Many times when we begin inching the closet door open, we expect to see the worst in each other. Don’t worry reader, my struggle is not with anything that you would need to notify law enforcement about. But it is a struggle that breaks me, and one that I would wish away from me, just like you would wish yours away. We all have these deep, innate struggles; these things that if publicly broadcasted about our life, would threaten to ruin us (and in many of our cases, would actually carry out that threat).

I think about one particular struggle. I believe 2 people are aware of it, though others have been indirectly affected. I ask the obvious questions – Why did my Creator instill this tendency toward sin in my life? Why is this sin so destructive in nature? Why can’t he just remove it from my life completely?

I look at Paul’s admission in 2 Corinthians. He didn’t tell us what the struggle was. But he, like many of us, also asked for it to be removed – three times – and the answer was no. Instead came this:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

The fact that we are corrupt, that we struggle daily if not hourly against the carnality of the human condition, outlines the overwhelming need and dependency we have upon our Savior. I’m reminded how Peter was going to sink, except that he cried out and was saved in a literal sense.

Matthew 14: 30-31

But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?

In a very real sense, this is what we must do. Under our own power and effort, sin is powerful and capable of enslaving our lives. It will drown us. Sin has no dominion over us, unless we are not under grace:

Romans 6:14

For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Just as Paul boasted in his weakness, and was even content in his weakness (2 Cor 12:9-10), let us also, with thanks, celebrate the only One who can rescue us from the curse. I don’t know what your thorn is any more than you know what mine is (are), but believers have this in common:

Romans 8:3-4

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

thorn