Monday, September 28, 2009

The Grass That Suffers: Intolerable Ignorance

The Grass that Suffers: Intolerable Ignorance

Bits & Pieces reports: “Years ago, a large statue of Christ was erected high in the Andes on the border between Argentina and Chile. Called "Christ of the Andes," the statue symbolizes a pledge between the two countries that as long as the statue stands, there will be peace between Chile and Argentina. Shortly after the statue was erected, the Chileans began to protest that they had been slighted -- the statue had its back turned to Chile. Just when tempers were at their highest in Chile, a Chilean newspaperman saved the day. In an editorial that not only satisfied the people but made them laugh, he simply said, ‘The people of Argentina need more watching over than the Chileans (June 25, 1992).’”

Sometimes it seems that the people who should be the most at peace with one another, experience the greatest degree of struggle. Family members struggle for supremacy over each other. Fellow Christians worship with one another on Sundays, and tear each other apart the rest of the week. Like neighboring countries prone to conflict, we need Jesus to watch over us and keep the peace.
Far from the saintly icons we see in stained glass, Jesus’ disciples were not immune from petty squabbles. Mark chapter 8 relates Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. The Matthew version (16:13-20) adds Jesus’ praise, and seeming elevation of Peter’s status among the disciples. After that, Jesus invited only his favorites, Peter, James, and John to the Mount of Transfiguration, leaving the other disciples at the foot of the mountain. It is no wonder, then, that in Mark 9 Jesus finds the disciples arguing about who is the greatest.

Arguments always begin with ignorance. This was true for the disciples, and it is true for us. First, they did not realize that “God shows no favoritism (Acts 10:34 NLT).” Second they could not understand Jesus’ mission. In Mark 9:31-32 Jesus “said to them, ‘The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but three days later he will rise from the dead.’ They didn’t understand what he was saying, however, and they were afraid to ask him what he meant.”

They didn’t understand—but they didn’t really want to understand, either. How often I have engaged in argument when I didn’t really want to understand! I needed to learn from St. Francis, who prayed, “O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to…to be understood, as to understand.” Instead, even when a lightbulb went off in my head and I realized I was wrong, I continued arguing my point, just so I could win! I’m sure you’ve done the same.

Petty arguments always arise out of ignorance. Next week, we’ll continue in Mark’s story to find out the parts that denial and pride have to play in our disagreements. The next time you’re in an argument, instead of trying to win, try to understand. God will bless you for it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aaron's 14th birthday

Today is my son Aaron's 14th birthday. Happy birthday, Aaron!!!

Here are a couple of pictures from our family meal at the local Mexican restaurant, El Vaquero, in Palmyra. Above, you can see from his posture that Aaron thought the Mariachi band and sombrero were hilarious but embarrassing (which is exactly what it's intended to be). Below, Lydia shows that she likes the sombrero much more than Aaron did.

In Memory of Ashley Turlington

Those of you who frequently read my blog may remember my blog entry in November, asking you to pray for Ashley Turlington. I met Ashley when she fell from a horse and hit the pavement in front of my house. Along with some others who stopped to help, her boyfriend and I treated her for shock and took care of her until the rescue squad came. He and I weren't sure she would survive the fall, but miraculously, she only suffered from a concussion and various cuts and bruises.

That had been their third date. My wife and I said at the time that the experience would either drive them apart or cement them together. It wasn't long before they were engaged. I was doing premarital counseling, and they had asked me to perform their wedding in Puerto Rico.

Last Friday morning, on her way to meet us for a premarital counseling breakfast, Ashley fell asleep at the wheel. Her car went off an embankment, and she was killed instantly.

Ashley was a vibrant, vivacious young lady, only 24 years old. She was a strong Christian, and had dreams of doing missions work overseas. She wanted to work with victims of human trafficking. She was a student at Liberty University. Ashley touched people's lives in Florida, as well as in Virginia. She will be greatly missed.

When tragedies like this happen, people have a lot of questions. They wonder why God would allow someone so young to die? Someone with so promising a future. Someone who was engaged to be married. Why would God rescue her in November, only to allow her to die now?

There is no end to the questions we could ask. In the end, the faithful must learn a lesson from Job 1:20-21

At this [suffering], Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised."

If we come into the world naked, and depart from the world naked, then each day we live, each person we touch, each experience we have is a blessing. God owes us nothing. All we have, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health--we have because of God. We are blessed to be part of God's plan, for 100 years or 24 years or 2 minutes. The length is not as important as the quality of life lived.

God owes us nothing, but because we are so blessed, we owe God our praise. "May the name of the LORD be praised," Job said. Ashley lived in such a way that every day praised the Lord. Though it was short, her life was full. May God bring blessing to her, and to her friends and family as they remember her.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Pursuing Wisdom - God's Abundant Grace

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been talking about the pursuit of wisdom. What kind of person pursues wisdom? What are the qualities you must have, if you are to be successful in your hunt? First, we saw that you have to demonstrate a love for God, more than anything else in the world. Next, you need to pay attention to the traditions and advice you have received from previous generations. Also, humility is important, lest when you gain wisdom you think of yourself more highly than you ought. Finally, you must recognize God as the source of all things. Only when you have done this can you begin to pursue the wisdom that God offers.

Then, we saw how God offered Solomon a blank check. “Ask for whatever you want,” God said. Rather than asking for fame or money, he asked for wisdom, to lead God’s people. James 5:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Today, I want to conclude this series by sharing God’s abundant grace. This whole time we’ve been talking about our pursuit of wisdom. The grace is this: Wisdom pursues you! It searches you out!

Proverbs 1:20-23 says, “Wisdom calls out in the street; she raises her voice in the public squares. She cries out above the commotion; she speaks at the entrance of the city gates: "How long, foolish ones, will you love ignorance? [How long] will [you] mockers enjoy mocking and [you] fools hate knowledge? If you turn to my discipline, then I will pour out my spirit on you and teach you my words.”

Wisdom isn’t just something that you hunt after—it’s something that hunts after you! What encouragement to know that God’s wisdom pursues us! God doesn’t leave us floundering and wondering and lost. He wants us to have what we need.

And then, God’s abundant grace provides even what we haven’t asked for. When Solomon asked for wisdom more than riches or fame, God answered, “Moreover, I will give you what you have not asked for—both wealth and honor—so that in your lifetime you will have no equal among kings. And if you walk in obedience to me and keep my decrees and commands as David your father did, I will give you a long life (1 Kings 3:13-14)."

Romans 5:8 shows that just as He did with Solomon, God gives us above and beyond what we could ask for: “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us!” What a blessing to know that the wisdom and salvation of God are available to us. They are ours for the asking. Will you ask for these gifts today?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Pursuing Widsom - Blank Check

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, "Ask for whatever you want me to give you (1 Kings 3:5).

What if a generous benefactor told you that he wanted to bless you with a special gift that you should expect in the mail soon? What if the next day in the mailbox you found an envelope with a signed, blank check and a note that read, “Write the check yourself.” You wouldn’t want to presume too much on your benefactor’s generosity by writing a check that was too large, but you also wouldn’t want to insult your patron by writing a check that was too small. What kind of check would you write for yourself?

Solomon encountered the same kind of conundrum when God told him to ask for whatever he wanted. He could have asked for anything—for fame or wealth or the death of his enemies. What would you ask for?

Many people would ask for fame. Today in the Word (October 1990, pg. 11) says, “The boxer Muhammad Ali was known as ‘the champ,’ arguably the most famous athlete of his generation. He was on top, and his entourage of trainers and various helpers shared the adulation with him. But the party ended, leaving many of Ali's loyal followers disillusioned--and in some cases, destitute. Ali himself, now halting in speech and uncertain in movement, says "I had the world, and it wasn't nothin'." Would you ask for fame, if God offered you a blank check?

Many would ask for wealth. One of the richest people I ever knew had a house that boasted every comfort imaginable, including an indoor movie theater, school-size playground for his one child, and golden doorknobs throughout the house. His garages were full of vehicles. He had a beautiful wife, overflowing bank accounts, and empty guest suites in his mansion. Not only was he one of the wealthiest people I ever knew—he was also one of the loneliest, and most empty. Would you ask for wealth, if God offered you a blank check?

King Solomon asked for wisdom to rule God’s people. God responded, "Since you have asked for this and not for long life or wealth for yourself, nor have asked for the death of your enemies but for discernment in administering justice, I will do what you have asked. I will give you a wise and discerning heart, so that there will never have been anyone like you, nor will there ever be (1 Kings 3:11-12).”

What do you want, more than anything else? Your desires reveal your heart. What kind of heart does God find in you? James 5:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” If God offered you a blank check, what would you do with it? What kind of check would you write?