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Even in laughter the heart may be in pain, And the end of joy may be grief.
In the lobby of my church a sudden outburst of laughing will pound through my office walls. At times I will look out just to see what is so funny. And it is funny, what I see. There may be two or maybe ten who are all enjoying a good story or the end of some tease. But I know these people. There is the one who is still recovering from surgery and has burdens for her family and their faith. There is the one whose spouse is a broken person who brings so many burdens into the home and lives of the family. There is that person whose job is currently up in the air and the reality of the unknown is upon him. I see the parents laughing who have a wayward child and they are very concerned.
If I wanted to stop any of that laughter all I would need to do is pull one of them aside and inquire as to how is the situation, the burden. Laughing eyes will reflect the burden and pain that is just below the surface. Tears or anguished faces will appear and a softer, heavier voice will speak.
For all of us there are times of great laughter that hide the pain we suffer within. It is the reality of living in this broken, sinful age. We will hold in our arms a small baby and be filled with joy never knowing that the end will be grief. We will walk down an aisle to marry only for the end to be grief. We will start out our life in college and in the end is grief.
We must never forget that many things in this life bring joy. And we can enjoy them as such. But like the thorns of the rose so too do all things bringing joy. So we hold things that belong to this age lightly. Rejoicing in the times of joy and weeping with those who weep in grief. We gather together on Sunday to hold up fists of rebellion to the gods of this age as we declare by faith that God the Father “. . . raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Ephesians 1:20-21)
Jesus tells us that we will never taste the fullness of death, called the second death, if our hope is in Him alone. Peter tells us we are kept safe by God’s power so that even if we have grief and sorrow we shall never be lost. Paul tells us that by the great love of our heavenly Father we were forgiven and raised up with Jesus Christ in the heavenly places all because we are in union with His Son.
I need to remember this more each day.
And so do you.
Just read a powerfully written post by a young woman listening to her husband call hospice for her. We end this year in various life situations and if we are not careful we begin to think that ours is the greatest or most difficult. These little posts are to keep everything in perspective. Here is a bit of what she wrote:
So, there it is. My little body has grown tired of battle and treatment is no longer helping. But what I see, what I know, what I have is Jesus. He has still given me breath, and with it I pray I would live well and fade well. By degrees doing both, living and dying, as I have moments left to live. I get to draw my people close, kiss them and tenderly speak love over their lives. I get to pray into eternity my hopes and fears for the moments of my loves. I get to laugh and cry and wonder over heaven. I do not feel like I have the courage for this journey, but I have Jesus- and He will provide it. He has given me so much to be grateful for, and that gratitude, that wondering over His love will cover us all. And it will carry us- carry us in ways we cannot comprehend. It will be a new living and trusting for many in my community. Loving with a great big open hand to my story being the good story- even when it feels so broken.
And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a great multitude with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” And immediately he went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him.(Matthew 26:47-50 NASB)
Betrayal is evil and anyone who is breathing has felt the stab of pain that comes when all that they sought for and hope in turns to dust that blows away when a friend or beloved one turns their back on them. But what is a Christian to do? May I make the argument that though betrayal is evil, it is also good if considered in light of the gospel and with wisdom? Below are simply some thoughts that may help one who is betrayed grow and settle in the pain:
- Betrayal and such is good for the Christian because it reminds them that they have Jesus who shall never betray them. This alone is enough to bring joy to the soul, for all others may fail us but never shall our Lord and Savior. Let us sing therefore, even if it is with tears, let us sing!
- Betrayal is good for the Christian because it gives us a chance to contemplate the Cross more clearly. We were blasphemers and enemies of God. It was we who were helpless and ungodly. We are all betrayers at heart and in reality, yet Christ sought us and saved us. He, with the joy set before Him in His exaltation, took our betrayals upon His body and shed His blood to redeem us.
- Betrayal is one of the reasons that God has given us prayer. It is in prayer that we can sigh in full honesty before our Lord. We can pour out our complaints and our hurts to a Father who unendingly loves us. Because of Jesus we are able to be honest with God. There is nothing hidden from His sight. Because of Jesus we can run like children to our Father with boldness and confidence that He will welcome us, hear us, and give us grace.
- Betrayal is good because it helps us shake off the cloying aspects of this age that dull our senses and fools us into thinking that anything in this age will ultimately remain. We can lie on our tear-stained pillows and utter alongside King Solomon, “All is vanity under the sun.” And then we can give thanks to our Father and God who in His rich mercy made us alive together with Christ Jesus, which means we no longer belong under this sun.”
- Betrayal is good because we can use it as a tool to look beyond the hurt or discouragement and say with the Apostle John, “Yes Lord, come quickly.” For in betrayal we see the glory of the new heavens and earth where sorrow is turned to joy and our tears shall be wiped away by our Father Himself.
So, betrayal is evil, but it is also good.
Actually, what I will write here applies to just about anything, but parenting is the topic on my mind so parenting is what you get.
The challenge of a parent is to have faith. What you have when you get a baby is just that, a baby. Not fully formed, not mature, and not wise. And your task, if you are a Christian parent, is to raise them in the fear and admonition of the Lord. In other words, raise them in the awareness of who they are before their Creator, who they are before the Savior, and who they are in relation to the world.
But you must teach, discipline, and tickle with faith for you do not see yet what your child shall be. You keep before you the promises of God and you trust His ways are wise and right. And then you wake up each day and faithfully move forward. Forward through each little crisis and each big one. Forward through the highs and the lows that accompany every parent. And when you do this you are cultivating faithfulness.
Here are two mistakes I often see with younger parents: The first is they beat themselves up over a moment of unfaithfulness with regard to parenting, though their overall direction is faithfulness in their duties as parents. The second is worse, it is triumphing and focusing on a moment of faithfulness and ignoring the pattern of unfaithfulness in their duties as parents.
Moments of unfaithfulness will not destroy the deep furrows of faithful parenting. Instead they just remind you that you are a sinner saved by grace and you need to remember to show that grace to your less experienced sinner (the child).
However, it is easy for parents to fool themselves into thinking that because they were proper and faithful once this last week that somehow that undoes the month of consistent unfaithfulness that has also been present in the home. This is folly.
I am working on my sermon out of Matthew 6. A simple command to not store up treasure on this planet. Why? For thieves, moth and rust destroys. In other words it does not last. As I am working on trying to describe the futility of hoping in this age I thought of a photo series out of Boston.com that shows the serious effects of a drought in West and Central Africa. The images are stark, as they should be. My heart breaks for those pictures of the little ones. My mind went back to a time in seminary where I visited a neonatal unit in Los Angeles. A little premature baby had just been born from a crack addict. The little girl could have fit in my hand. All I wanted to do was take her home. I saw that day another brush stroke in the effects of sin and death in this world. This photo series shows another.
Look at the photo series and see that nothing lasts. Not only does rust and moth destroy but so does dust and drought. How do this images move you to think of money and why God has enriched you?
Summary of this Psalm: David is in danger of his life; and fearful and faint-hearted counselors are trying to get him to flee and find safety by running away. But David is full of unshaken faith in God. The result is that he rejects the counsel of the friends, believes that the Lord is still the sovereign King and speaks accordingly. He knows that God may try and test His servants, but He shall never forsake them. Therefore, David understands that it is not the righteous, but the wicked who truly should fear. (from The Book of Psalms, Perowne, p. 171)
Father, You are my refuge
A fortress that cannot be shaken
A stronghold that cannot be breached.
A hiding place that is truly hidden
From the searching eyes of my enemies.
I find that there are so many voices
To flee and not run
To wander and not focus my eyes upon Jesus
To trust in man, when man always fails
To give up when I know my Lord has won the battle.
Silence these calls to flee
Let your unfailing promises ring in my ears
And the glory of the bloody Cross stand before me
As I contemplate my Risen King.
Father, the foundations of our land are failing,
We stand on the precipice of failure
Good is now bad and bad is now good.
Lips are loosened that should be silent
While, mouths are closed that should be crying out as one in the wilderness
Father, may your Spirit open our eyes to your settled gaze
You who sit above the vain murmurings of man
You who test the hearts of man
Knowing what they don’t even know themselves
Seeing what only the Creator can see.
Let your wrath be kindled in due time
That judgment and justice might flow like a river
Sweeping all who love wickedness in the lake of your wrath.
Finally Father, cause your face to shine up your children
Let our sorrow be turned back to joy
Our burdens be fully lifted,
Our tears be wiped away.
Until that time, let us continue to proclaim in life and deed
That our Lord reigns
And in love.
Ever since I went to Cameroon and saw first hand what poverty looks and smell like I have thought about how I could help. The longer I stayed there the more obvious it was that aid that comes from the USA was simply being sucked up by those in power, corruption is a great evil. We could pour all the money in the world into Cameroon and the next day it would look the same.
The men who went with me on one of the trips all contributed to the freeing of a man who was essentially in slavery and then giving him a small tool kit that allowed him to make a living as a handyman. The last I heard he was doing well, but what I will never forget is the smile on his face when he realized he was free and had the means to provide for himself through honest labor. But once I got back home in the States the question arose, how can I help others like him when I don’t have a way to know who they are?
Allow me to introduce to you a wonderful site that is designed to help those who actually need the help and yet do it in a way that protects from those who steal. It is called Kiva. This organization help distribute microloans to people around the world. The money goes directly into the hands of the person through vetted groups who are on the ground in those countries. The money is then used to upgrade something in their business, buy more livestock, start up a small business and such. These are people who simply have no ability to gain this money due to poverty, but if they could have a loan then it allows them to actually begin to rise up out of great poverty.
Minimum cost to you is 25.00, in other words, the cost of pizza for a couple of people. They pay it back and as they do you can reinvest in another person, or get the money back for yourself. I just keep reinvesting. Currently I have a man in Lebanon who has a small auto repair business, a man in Tajikistan in animal sales (the man pictured), and a seller of house wares in Bolivia. All of them are paying me back and I have never had a loan default.
When Paul was questioned by the Apostles about the gospel he was preaching he was then sent back out to continue to preach that gospel, but they also said one other thing to him, “They only asked us to remember the poor– the very thing I also was eager to do.” (Galatians 2:10) Kiva is a simple way to remember them.
As we celebrate the risen Messiah today, we must us not forget the tens of millions who have never heard. Millions without any access to the gospel. People groups who have never heard the hope of forgiveness of sin found in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is the resurrection of Jesus that makes missions possible and gives mission-work meaning and purpose. We are not to be a people who merely believe in the resurrection, we are to be a people who proclaim the resurrection and all the fulness of the ramifications of it. We are a people of the resurrection going to people who do not know the resurrection. That is the call of Missio Dei Fellowship.