Making Sense of the Nonsense

birdGrief and anxiety can be so powerful that you can melt in the heat of their presence like a dip of ice cream on a 110-degree day.   When the trials and tragedies of life assault you, God can seem so distant that his voice is inaudible and His care and compassion inconspicuous.

When you feel like you’ve been bullied by misfortune and beaten down by fickle friends, you can be blinded by a pervasive sense of loneliness and a warped perspective on life.  This was the case with Asaph when he wrote Psalm 73:

My feet almost slipped; my feet almost slid out from under me. For I envied those who are proud, as I observed the prosperity of the wicked. For they suffer no pain. . . They mock and say evil things; they proudly threaten violence. They speak as if they rule in heaven, and lay claim to the earth.

Whenever you find that you are walking with Asaph down the path of misery, you need to recalibrate your compass.  Instead of focusing primarily on your internals, you need to take an eternal perspective on life.  This is what Asaph did to reorient his direction in life:

When I tried to make sense of all this nonsense, it was troubling to me. When I finally looked beyond myself and quite beating myself down. I looked up to God and I entered His temple, and then I understood the destiny of the wicked (my paraphrase of Psalm 73:16-17).

In times like these, God may seem to hide, but He is still present to present you with what you need.  “Sometimes God gives us a gentle push of courage; sometimes He mercifully numbs us so we don’t experience the full intensity of our pain; at other times He carries us when we cannot take another step on own (Bruce Carroll, Sometimes Miracles Hide).”

One of the more comforting sections of Scripture that may help when you are feeling the pain of lingering bruises is Psalm 121:

I look up at the vast size of the mountains—from where will my help come in times of trouble? The Eternal Creator of heaven and earth and these mountains will send the help I need. He holds you firmly in place; He will not let you fall. He who keeps you will never take His eyes off you and never drift off to sleep. What a relief! The One who watches over Israel never leaves for rest or sleep. The Eternal keeps you safe, so close to Him that His shadow is a cooling shade to you. Neither bright light of sun nor dim light of moon will harm you. The Eternal will keep you safe from all of life’s evils, from your first breath to the last breath you breathe, from this day and forever. ~The Voice

Rogers Nelson: the prince and the The Prince

prince-2ICP_o_tnRogers Nelson, known to his fans as Prince, was 57 years old when he died yesterday.   CNN reported that, “An outpouring of grief followed as fans paid tribute to the singer who masterfully blended rock, R&B, jazz, funk and pop.”

While Prince Rogers Nelson had many adoring fans, I was not one of them. I just did not like the pieces of music he produced.

I do, however, like peace and what a real Prince has to offer.  Isaiah called this person the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace.

Although Prince Rogers Nelson was honored because he sold over 100 million records worldwide, I prefer the Prince of Peace who was known for other reasons:

  • Jesus healed a leper (Mark 1:40-45).
  • Jesus healed the centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13).
  • Jesus opened the eyes of two blind men (Matthew 9:27-31).
  • Jesus fed at least five thousand people (Matthew 14:15-21).
  • Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-46).

I guess I have to agree with a statement found in Psalm 118:9: It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

The princes of this world have little to offer in comparison to the true Prince—the Prince of Peace.  When you get to know Him, you will begin to experience, “the effect of righteousness” and it  “will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.”  ~Isaiah 32:17

Who is Jesus?

easter01This is a momentous week in the life of the church.  Because it has been framed by two monumental events of history, it is the week traditionally referred to as “holy week.”

It’s a week that began with Palm Sunday, and it will end this Sunday with the celebration of Easter.  Palm Sunday is associated with the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, and Easter is the joyful recognition of His resurrection.

There’s a three word question that was asked by those who observed Jesus on Palm Sunday. As He rode a white donkey through the narrow and dusty streets of Jerusalem, they asked:  “Who is this?”

The Gospel of John presents a group of witnesses that offer a line of testimony that answers this question:

  • John testifies that Jesus turned water into wine at the marriage supper of Cana.
  • The nobleman gives a detailed account of how Jesus simply spoke and his dying son was healed.
  • The man who had been crippled for 38 years jumps in the air and clicks his heels together to show the miraculous manner in which Jesus healed him.
  • The little boy holds up an empty lunch pail and says: “It had just enough food for my dinner, but Jesus blessed it and there was enough to feed 5,000 people.”
  • The seasoned fishermen relive the moment when they thought their boat was going to sink and they were going to drown: “The Master appeared out of nowhere, walked on the waves, commanded the water to be still, and we were saved.”

After listening to all the testimony, a man rises and says:  “May I speak?  I think my evidence is conclusive.  You see, I was dead, but somehow I heard the clear and loud voice of Jesus:  ‘Lazarus come forth,’ and I shook off the chains of death.  I’m living proof of who Jesus is.”

Who is this?  Jesus is:

  • The Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.
  • The Bread of Life.
  • The Light of the world.
  • The Good Shepherd
  • The Way, the Truth, and the Life.
  • Resurrection and the life

Who is Jesus to you?

A Theology of Spitting

Even though the days of cane pole fishing have been replaced by high tech fishing gear, I can still remember fishing with those glorified sticks and a piece of string. Most of these memories include a short little pudgy man with a smiling face and big heart. Edgar was his name, and he was my Grandpa Lacy.

Grandpa and I would sit on the river bank by an old stone bridge and watch the muddy water gentle flow downstream. After baiting the hook, Grandpa would chuckle and say to me: “Before you toss your line out, make sure you spit on that fishin’ worm for good luck.”

Since I was just a kid who wanted to catch some fish, I eagerly spit on the worm; and, I did this with no thought to the origin or efficacy of this tradition. As I grew older, my curious mind would reminisce about the river bank days and the lore of spitting.

In biblical days, some people believed that spittle was representative of more than just good luck and catching fish—they believed it was a window to the soul. This could be one of the reasons that Jesus used His spittle when He performed some miracles like the one in John 9: “Jesus saw a man who had been blind from birth . . . He spat on the ground and made some mud with the saliva. He smeared the mud on the blind man’s eyes and said to him, “Go wash in the pool of Siloam.” So the blind man went away and washed, and came back seeing.”

In the Bible, blindness is symbolic of spiritual darkness. This man’s physical condition represented his spiritual need—his eyes were unseeing and his soul was blind. Jesus healed the one, so He could save the other.

When questioned by the religious authorities about his prior condition and his present and miraculous healing, the man simply said: “All I know is that I was blind and now I can see.” This man knew that the healing of his body and soul was more than good luck, it was the good Lord at work.

When Jesus began His public ministry, He went to the synagogue and read from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to tell them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read (Luke 4:18-21).”

Notice two of the phrases from above:
• He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and the regaining of sight to the blind
• The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him.

Jesus came to restore sight to the unseeing eyes and the blind souls of the people seated in the synagogue, to the blind man in John 9, and to you and me as well.

Praise God for His goodness, grace, and mercy!