It seems like yesterday that my three children were running around the house learning to walk and talk for the first time. Now I have grandchildren doing that. I find myself asking, “How can this be? I was just getting used to being their father and now they are having children!” Most of us don’t take kindly to change, especially the change that moves loved ones out of a comfortable position in our lives. If you are like I am, you love your well-worn ruts and you want them to stay that way. Relationships make for the deepest and most comfortable ruts of all. There is a hurt that accompanies such a change, even though God planned for the change that I experienced to kick in sooneor later. But some of these changes are not planned, like the loss of a loved one through death or divorce, or the change in a relationship through serious health problems. It is at this point in our lives when we really begin to understand our vulnerability and our need for a tighter grasp on the Divine Hand. Our non-Christian friends often suggest to us that faith in God is for weak people. I used to be offended at that. Not anymore. I think they are right. It is for weak people. Their serious error, however, is in assuming that they are not weak. Weakness is a part of the human condition. Pity the person who has yet to discover that fact. It may come as a terrible blow. Especially if he has never learned to lean on the One who remains solidly intact when the ground breaks up under everything else. The Apostle Paul experienced the terrible vulnerability of weakness. That great man of God who appeared to be the model of spiritual strength was visited by a “thorn in the flesh” so painful and debilitating that he cried out three times to God for its removal. It never happened. But lest you get the idea that God wasn't paying attention, something even greater happened. He learned what it was like to be truly enveloped by the grace of God. He learned what God meant when He said, “My power is made perfect in weakness.” The result of this experience can be gleaned through Paul’s own words: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10).
Changes come. Loved ones in our lives leave, run away or are tragically removed. But God never leaves us. This universal promise and its experience is the glory of life and a major reason why everyone of us needs a
relationship with “the God of all comfort."
You probably haven’t heard about this from the national media who spend too much of their time dumping on the state of Israel, but Israelis may have found a new way to change the hearts and minds of their Arab neighbors. It seems that the Syrian civil war has gotten so out of hand that they can’t come up with enough hospitals to treat their wounded soldiers. Syria and Israel are formally at war, and the idea of Syrians being treated in an Israeli hospital once would have been unthinkable. But the brutality of the Syrian civil war has driven some 200 wounded Syrians in the past six months to seek help at the Israeli frontier on the Golan heights, according to the Israeli army. For one man in a hospital bed, who declined to be named for fear of retribution against his family back home, treatment in Israel has been a profoundly transforming experience. “I thank the Israeli army,” he said. “Two and a half years of revolution have changed my opinion of Israel. Look what Bashar Assad (Syria’s President) has done to his people. Everything he says is a lie. He spreads hatred of Israel, but Israel is a friend, not an enemy. The Israelis showed us their humanity.”
Many of the wounded who end up in Israel arrive unconscious and are jarred when they awaken in an Israeli hospital, surrounded by Israeli nurses and doctors, including Arab staff who speak their language. “At first they’re quite scared and closed, but after a few days of treatment they start to absorb that they’re being cared for by Israelis, and they become more receptive,” said Dr. Eyal Sela, who directs head and neck surgery at the Nahariya Hospital. The hospital’s director also added, “We’re helping people simply as human beings. There’s a human tragedy unfolding close by, and we’re moved by the opportunity to help.” He said he felt “privileged to help people who arrive with such serious wounds, when we know that in Syria there’s no chance they’ll get this level of treatment. At the human level, when you touch someone you’ve touched a whole world, and he will pass it on.”
What was it Jesus said? “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:44. Not only is this the godly thing to do but it just might be the most effective path toward world peace.
—Adapted from an article by Joel Greenberg in Jewish World Review
We have seen the consequences all too often: 1.5 million abortions each year, “drive-by” shootings occurring in every major city, and the assisted suicide trail blazed by the late Jack Kevorkian becoming a strong option in the minds of many of our leaders. From the beginning of life all the way through to a convenient and planned exit we are witnessing a drastic change in the basic ways in which we perceive life. If it is true, as we have often been taught, that “ideas produce consequences,” what are the ideas that have produced these sorry consequences? The answer isn’t difficult to figure out: “life is cheap,” accompanied by “life is an accident,” also followed by “life is purposeless.” To those of us who grew up in homes and institutions of faith it seems incredible that such ideas could have become so accepted by so many in such a short time. But this change hasn’t occurred overnight. It proceeded step by step following our rejection of the biggest idea of all: “Life is the gift of a loving God.” Once we turn our backs on “the God factor” everything begins to fall apart. That is the testimony of Scripture from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. We cannot ignore God and escapethe natural and unwelcome consequences that must follow. Unfortunately, we are dealing with a society that has never read Genesis, Revelation or anything in between. But God’s people should have, and if our nation is to escape the awful fate of Old Testament Israel, then we must be active and not passive in seeking to avert the final consequences which must surely come upon our culture of disbelief.
Let me suggest some things each of us needs to do:
1. Pray for our country. Don’t just complain about the way things are. Pray for your leaders (both Democrats and Republicans).
2. Support leaders who recognize that the real issues before us are spiritual, moral and ethical. Don’t fall for the old lie that a person’s private life and values have nothing to do with his qualifications for leadership.
3. Commit your personal private life and values to God. Let your Christian faith determine what you say and do in public. Become vulnerable in your open witness for God and trust that He will honor your openness. Remember, He has done it many, many times to many people before you came along.
In short, it is time to replace the popular ideas with some older ideas that have been tried and tested many times. Only then will you notice some different consequences.
Many years ago Sam bought his first automobile. It was a Buick. His friend Jim bought the same model at the same time. Sam had never owned a car before but was certain he knew what it was all about. He immediately took it out on the highway and “opened it up” to see what it would do. He did this regularly to impress his friends. He had never heard the word “maintenance” used before and therefore never serviced his car. Soon oil began to puddle wherever he parked and strange knocking sounds could be heard from his engine. He began to complain to Jim about the “lemon” he purchased and was amazed to hear Jim speak glowingly of his Buick. Finally, Jim asked Sam if he had read the owner’s manual, especially the chart on regular maintenance. Sam confessed that he had locked the manual in the glove compartment when he bought his car and stubbornly refused to admit that it could teach him anything he needed to know about cars.
These two men remind me of others I meet regularly. The “Sams” are always trying to get the most out of life but are without a clue about what to do when life breaks down. They stubbornly refuse to consult the owner’s manual (the Bible) as if they have nothing to learn from the designer. The “Jims” are humble and wise enough to realize they have been given something that requires great care and proper maintenance in order to work correctly. They continually consult the owner’s manual and find, to their delight, that there is a direct relationship between proper care and a product that works.
I don’t know how many different ways I can say this, but careful study and application of the Word of God Is not an option in the Christian life; it is the Christian life. Lives break down among church attenders as well as among non-attenders. The only difference is what is picked up and applied while there. We stress Home Bible studies as a way of life among Christians who were designed to be in fellowship while learning the essential building blocks of their faith. Join us this
week, won’t you?
Senior Pastor of Cactus Christian Fellowship