January 11, 2018 Comfort and God’s Promise- Psalm 119:49-50, Matthew 6:34

SacredHeart

Remember your word to your servant, for you have given me hope. My comfort in my suffering is this:

Your promise preserves my life.  Psalm 119:49-50 (NIV)

Yesterday was one of those anniversaries that bring a great deal of sadness for me and my family. Every family has anniversaries like those. We remember the days when our worlds fell apart in the chaos and pain of tragic and unexpected loss. Everyone has those days that mark the points where life fell apart and from those points forward life is no longer the same.  We are reminded that life on this earth is not permanent and we are not guaranteed anything.

It is a comfort to know that doubt is part of faith. It is a comfort to know that God is big enough to handle our questions, our anger, our fear, and yes, even our doubts.

Those of us who are parents will remember when our children were toddlers, and they would rage against the boundaries- tantrums at bedtime, tantrums at bath time, tantrums when it’s time to get dressed. Toddlers are usually all about maintaining the status quo, with one curious exception- nobody looks forward to change more than a baby with a dirty diaper.

We get too comfortable in this world at times, but we shouldn’t be looking over our shoulder for bad things to happen. Jesus warns us about the worry wart attitude.

(Jesus said) :Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34 (NIV)

So what do we do when our world crashes down around us? We can become cynical and angry.  We can wallow about in doubt. We can try to run away.  The prophet Elijah feared for his life, freaked out, and ran away when Jezebel threatened to kill him (1 Kings 19:1-18.)

Yet God stayed with Elijah. God sent His angel to give Elijah food, comfort and rest. God spoke to Elijah- when the storm died down.

Our difficult anniversary days can be hard to face, especially when we relive pain or sorrow or loss- or a combination of all three. God is with us when we freak out, when we run, when we scream in anger, and when the storm is raging on, even though we may not feel His presence then.  And when the storm is over He speaks to us with comfort and solace and peace.

God’s promise preserves our lives, no matter what this world may throw at us.

August 7, 2017- The Truth Doesn’t Make Us Popular- Acts 17:10-15

truth

That very night the believers sent Paul and Silas off to Berea; and when they arrived, they went to the Jewish synagogue.  These Jews were more receptive than those in Thessalonica, for they welcomed the message very eagerly and examined the scriptures every day to see whether these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, including not a few Greek women and men of high standing.  But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God had been proclaimed by Paul in Berea as well, they came there too, to stir up and incite the crowds. Then the believers immediately sent Paul away to the coast, but Silas and Timothy remained behind. Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens; and after receiving instructions to have Silas and Timothy join him as soon as possible, they left him. – Acts 17:10-15 (NRSV)

The apostle Paul commended the Bereans for examining the Scriptures and not just blindly believing the message he brought to them. The Russian people have a proverb: “Trust, but verify.” People of faith should ask questions. An informed faith is a strong faith and a valid faith.  Jesus taught that we should build our house on a solid foundation and not on sand. Our faith has a solid foundation- Jesus Himself. We learn of Him all throughout the Bible, and we encounter Him in the world and through other people as we go out and do what He taught. This is the reason why worship and prayer and study and service all go together- our faith is not intended to be a blind faith, but a practical, dynamic and growing faith.

The difficult thing about telling the truth is that telling the truth doesn’t always make one popular. Usually truth telling has quite the opposite effect.  Throughout Scripture God’s prophets were treated rather nastily for telling the truth.  Jeremiah was consigned to a dirty cistern (Jeremiah 37:11-16) as a prison.  Daniel was thrown in the lion’s den to be eaten by lions (Daniel 6:10-20) for refusing to pray to an earthly king.  John the Baptist ended up with his head on a platter as a gift for Herod.  Going against the current ruler or saying bad things about the king wasn’t an activity to engage in, if you valued your hide.  Telling the truth and speaking out for what is right is not always a safe thing to do, even today.  Anyone who doubts that can test the theory. Agree with a woman when she comments that she has put on a few pounds, and watch the sparks fly.

Paul was no less popular to the old school Jews and Pharisees, who did not understand and did not want to believe Who Jesus was. They didn’t want to be told He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophets and of the Law.  The Pharisees and other old school Jews were looking for a grand military style king like David who would defeat the Romans and restore the Jewish state as their Messiah, not the Suffering Servant that Isaiah had foretold.

Paul himself had once been the Pharisee Saul, who was behind the persecution and killing of Christians until Jesus paid him a visit on the Damascus road. So it was likely that the Pharisees were even more incensed with Paul because they saw him not just as a heretic, but also as a traitor.

The truth is a threat to those in power, especially if their power is built on sustaining a lie. To admit that Jesus was the long-awaited Messiah meant that there was no longer any reason to submit to the religious authorities.  To admit that Jesus was God Himself and that God had revealed Himself to the whole of humanity and not just the Jewish people, was more than the Jewish leaders of the day could stand.

The Jewish leaders of Paul’s time couldn’t stand the thought of the truth that God is God of all- and that because of Jesus they could no longer assert an exclusive claim on God. God’s people were not just the direct descendants of Abraham, but all people are God’s people- the door had been opened.

Perhaps we have to face some unpopular truths today. Sometimes the truth revealed in Scripture can be hard to take, such as when we are called to forgive, or we are called to take a path we know is difficult and that we would rather not be on.

What parts of God’s truth are hard for us to accept? That He loves the unlovable?  That He calls us to sacrifice?  That sometimes the answer to our prayers is no?

God is Lord of all. No matter how we may be challenged, or how we might suffer, Jesus is walking with us.  He knows our disappointment, our pain, and our sorrows as well as our love and our joy.  In Him we can be confident when we tell the truth, even when it doesn’t contribute to our popularity.