Thursday, April 22, 2010


I am always surprised by how God works. I was gone for a week and scheduled one of our pastors to speak in my absence. I was startled by the news he had not preached due to some unavoidable circumstances, but, in fact, another staff pastor had spoken. I wondered what were the circumstances that could have prompted such a change. I later heard from several sources that the message was well-presented and a family visiting for the first time remarked to me that the sermon topic—a message on “Dealing with Depression”--- was just what she and her husband needed to hear.

I always marvel at how God works. When given a chance to be reflective, I have to ask myself, “Why are you surprised?” God has a sovereign way of dealing with matters that seen in retrospect astounds me. In my best planning and most deliberate efforts I cannot foresee what circumstances will eventuate and what kinds of things will need to take place to bring resolution in unplanned crisis and conflict.

I almost always—there’s that word again, “always”---fall prey to the temptation to sift through circumstances as they unfold and almost predictably allow myself to be carried away by the drama and a strong sense of a need to “fix “ what’s wrong. That is a recipe for disaster. First, of all, my best judgment pales in comparison to the wisdom of God. Secondly, painfully aware of my inadequate resources I am often overwhelmed in the moment by the magnitude of the need. All too often—not always--- thankfully”, I default to “fix it” mode and all the related worry and anxiety that accompany such frivolous work.

I am always reminded in the aftermath of such crises how God has to be my first point of reference. I need to literally resolve to seek the wisdom of His Word and rest in the power of prayer, affirming my total dependency upon a sovereign God who knows the end from the beginning.

In Luke 18:2ff Jesus told a parable about a woman who was in crisis and was seeking justice. She kept going to the judge—the appropriate source for resolution—without immediate results. In the end, however, justice was rendered. The opening verse of this passage reports that Jesus told this story to his disciples “to show them hat they should always pray and not give up”.

In the end—In God’s timing and in God’s way—He always acts, always in concert with His sovereign will and purpose. When something as simple as a speaker “crisis” prompting last-minute change occurs on a Sunday morning I can be confident God will “fix it”. That is His job, not mine. Why am I “always” surprised?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

living in the afterglow

It is fun to revel in the memories of a great basketball game. My wife is always surprised at the itensity of enthusiasm men can express when rehearsing an athletic context, not unlike the recent NCAA Men's basketball finals between Butler and Duke. Come on...what a game! Butler had two last second opportunities to create its own "Hoosiers II" story...but missed it by a hair, losing in the end by two points. That is worthy of lots of discussion and revisiting by my friends who love basketball as much as I do.

Of course, over a week has passed now and the lustre of that context has dimmed as the demands of everyday real life set in. There is nothing about that game, extraordinary as it was, that is life-changing for me. It was a pleasant, almost mystical, interruption in my daily life and gave me a few hours of real excitement and happiness.

It would be a tragedy to treat Resurrection Sunday the same way. Wow! What an exciting service! Great music! A full house at church! (Good food, too) And then we gather with friends and rehearse what we remember about the day, exchange our favorite memories of the day...and for a few days we live in the afterglow of its emotion and pathos.

I have determined to revisit my hope anchored in the resurrection daily, if necessary. I suppose for me it is easier than most. As a Hospice chaplain I am almost daily confronted with the dying. Into rooms of suffering, disease and death I enter with a message of hope pulsating within my heart--hope in Christ because He rose from the dead and promsied those who believe in Him, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." John 11:25,26.

This verse ends with these words--"Do you believe this?"

It's the question I leave with you. Living in the afterglow will last only as long as the emotion of the moment. But the long-term efficacy of the truth of the resurrection can resonate within our hearts daily when we have trusted in Christ for our salvation.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

What is "good" about Good Friday?

Of all the semantical mysteries encountered by "wordmiths" who view this day in history from a secular vantage point, this has to be at the top of the list. How can Christians observe the brutal execution of their "founder" and call the remembrance of that of that bloodletting "Good Friday"?

Paul writes in I Corinthians 1:18, "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

The "good" in Good Friday is impossible to see with eyes that have not been opened to the unbridled sinfuness of man, Jesus' atoning work on the cross for man's sins, and a loving God reaching out to fallen man. "But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were stioll sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8.

On Good Friday (and countless other days as well) I will grieve the costliness of my salvation--what it cost the Father to send His Son to stand in my place--take my sin upon Himself, bear my punishment on the cross, suffering excruciating death to pay sin's penalty--for me.

But I will rejoice, as well. I am the grateful recipient of God's grace...and that is "good: for me...and for all who place their faith and trust in Christ's atoning work on the cross.