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What is it about nice people that attract total idiots?Nice people are martyrs. Idiots are evangelists.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Sunday message.

One of the things that has been on my mind lately- especially since the message that pointed out the importance of praise- was our old hymn books.  You see, when we were just little- first, second grade- we used to look foreward to the day we were allowed to buy one of these white-clad hymn books that the adults had.  They were five dollars, i think, and held within them the great, joyous as well as tear-bringing, songs that lit up Sunday mornings at church.  Far better than the ones in the old dumpy missals we had.  It was an exciting, innocent joy, and brought us so much closer to Jesus in an age before we received confession, and got our first good look at the world by examining ourselves.  It was a symbol to others that when we went to church, we saw God.

My oft mentioned atheist opponant has said that his experience at church was "just as valid" as mine.  He says he just saw through it.  But it wasn't as valid as mine, and here's why- because, for whatever reason, he did NOT see God.  Despite what Paul says about His nature being manifest around us in creation, some people just don't see.  And even as Christians, sometimes we lose sight of God.  This week, I was taken through some of the reasons why that is.

Monday, I was sent to Collossians 1, where Jesus is described as " the image of the invisble God". (v15)  So why is God invisible?  God is described in James 1 as the "Father of lights; with Him there is no variation or shadow cast by turning."  In other words, He is pure Holy Light, and cannot be borne by the eyes of sinful man.  Even Moses was only allowed to see the back of His hand in passing.  In Exodus 33:
20But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”21Then the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by Me, and you shall stand there on the rock;22and it will come about, while My glory is passing by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by.23“Then I will take My hand away and you shall see My back, but My face shall not be seen.

So the fallen state of mortal man is the first thing that obscures our sight of God.

Tuesday I hit the chapter from which one of my favorite hymns from that old hymnal was based- Isaiah 60.  In this chapter, the prophet notes:

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.
2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;

Darkness, gloom- or as the hymn named it, the thick clouds.  Sometimes, when we need Him the most, God is obscured by our own sadness, depression- an inability to see Him through the murk we move through.  We can hide God from our senses when all we allow in is the gloaming we feel.

Wednesday came the great conversion of Saul in Acts 9.  Why could Saul not see Jesus on the road?  Because he had been temporarily struck blind (v9), and now would need help to get anywhere.  And Jesus did it this way because Saul was fighting so hard against Him.  "It is hard for you to kick against the goads", Jesus told him- a reference to the sharpened sticks used to drive foreward stubborn livestock.  God had great things in mind for Saul- but Saul wasn't interested, because he was blinded by HIS conception of what God wanted.  It was only when Saul was stripped of his preconceptions and saw how blinded he was, that he was able to truly see.  More the pity that some people like my atheist opponant won't have that eye-opening in the cards.

Thursday came Mark 12, and a telling verse falls between two famous stories.  The first of those was the discussion between Jesus and a scribe about the "first and greatest commandment".  The scribe proved that he not only knew the rote verse, but knew its deep meaning, to which Jesus told him "you are not far from the Kingdom of God." (v34).  The second was Jesus' rant at the other teachers, proud in their place, "who devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers" (v40).  In between that, as Jesus describes the relation between Himself and David, v37 says, "And the COMMON people heard him gladly".  What did common mean?  In this case, it meant not filled with pride of place like the teachers, who will "receive a greater condemnation".  Pride becomes the fourth thing obscuring God from our sight.

Friday brought me to the back end of Jeremiah's Lamentations.  Here we find a well-explained passage:
The joy of our heart has ceased;
Our dance has turned into mourning.
16 The crown has fallen from our head.
Woe to us, for we have sinned!
17 Because of this our heart is faint;
Because of these things our eyes grow dim...

Because our hearts are faint... We are losing our faith.  Tony Evans, in a sermon I heard saturday, spoke of how we lose in our walk the pre-eminence of the cross of Christ.  "You can possess an appliance,"  he explained,  "because of the purchase price that was paid.  But if the power in your house gets shut off, the appliance will just sit there and do you no good."  The Cross is our personal relationship with Christ- the one thing my opponant never saw- and it is the power with which our "appliances of faith" run.  Dr. Evans described church as a football game.  "You can have the place, and the time.  You can gather the people together, have a program all set up, everything ready to go.  But if the football isn't there, nothing can happen".  Somehow, some churches forget to bring the football.  What is the football?  God.  Who is supposed to bring it?  EVERYONE.

The final chapter this week, as it has been many of these messages, is one of judgement.  It comes from the final chapter of Joel- which has always been to me the most chilling of prophecies.  Here I shall post a rather lengthy section:

Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”
11 Assemble and come, all you nations,
And gather together all around.
Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O Lord.

12 “Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat;
For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.
13 Put in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe.
Come, go down;
For the winepress is full,
The vats overflow—
For their wickedness is great.”
14 Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision!
For the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.
15 The sun and moon will grow dark,
And the stars will diminish their brightness.
16 The Lord also will roar from Zion,
And utter His voice from Jerusalem;
The heavens and earth will shake;
But the Lord will be a shelter for His people,
And the strength of the children of Israel.
Those that rely on the facts of their eyes, the theories of science, "the sun and moon", will find in the end how dim their light was compared to that of God Almighty.  And it will NOT be a pleasant experience.  But those who were able to reach out through their fallen state, past their personal gloom, past their preconceptions and pride, and keep their faith, will find a shelter and a strength in the end.  This is why one of my favorite prayers is the one found in Mark 9:24:
With tears flowing, the child's father at once cried out, "I do believe! Help my unbelief!"

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