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"Anxiety is the rust of life, destroying its brightness and weakening its power. A childlike and abiding trust in Providence is the best preventive and remedy."
Redemption and Restoration in Real Life
I conclude this morning with a story about what happened since a tragic event that took place 9 months ago around Christmas time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. I share it because I think it makes a point about moving beyond the 'Who, Them?' To THEM!
The event was the shooting of several people in the church parking lot and building that left three dead and three wounded. The young man, who had done the shooting, killed himself after being shot by a security guard. Earlier that day, he had entered Youth with A Mission Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. His name was Matthew Murray, and he had been raised in a Christian home.
The tragedy shook the church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former pastor's, Ted Haggard, sexual sin. Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy.
In a recent Christianity Today article, it was told that after granting the interview to talk about that day and its after effects, it was revealed that Brady Boyd, the current Senior Minister, called Murray's parents and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where 'their son had passed away.' They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from do so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim's family, the Work's. They said yes.
After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with the Work's in Boyd's office. "What happened there in the two hours in my office ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long." Then they prayed together.
Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot Murray] was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."
The article concludes with these words from Boyd, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."
Several years ago one of the astronauts who walked on the moon was interviewed and asked, "What did you think about as you stood on the moon and looked back at the earth?" The astronaut replied, "I remembered how the spacecraft was built by the lowest bidder."
AN ARM AROUND ME--COMMUNION MEDITATION
Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play major league baseball. Breaking baseball’s color barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Players would stomp on his feet and kick him.
While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error. The fans began to ridicule him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans jeered. Then, shortstop Pee Wee Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.
We are sometimes like Jackie Robinson, full of shame. Sometimes, like Jackie, our shame is from nothing we've done. Sometimes our shame is from our own sin and guilt. And like Pee Wee Reese, Jesus comes and slips his arm around us, and bears our shame for us. ...
Shame is a spin-off from guilt. We may feel guilty for what we did, but we feel ashamed of who we are.
Dr. Les Parrott
Jesus calls us to be people who
Live in present-tense.
An average person¡¦s anxiety is focused on :
40% -- things that will never happen
30% -- things about the past that can’t be changed
12% -- things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10% -- about health, which gets worse with stress
8% -- about real problems that will be faced
Stop trying to grapple with the what ifs¨ and let God take care of it. You simply make that long term investment in God’s kingdom day by day.
While touring Italy, a man visited a cathedral that had been completed on the outside only. Once inside, the traveler found an artist kneeling before an enormous wall upon which he had just begun to create a mosaic. On some tables nearby were thousands of pieces of colored ceramic. Curious, the visitor asked the artist how he would ever finish such a large project. The artist answered that he knew how much he could accomplish in one day. Each morning, he marked off an area to be completed that day and didn’t worry about what remained outside that space. That was the best he could do; and if he faithfully did his best, one day the mosaic would be finished.
Today in the Word, September 5, 1995, p. 32.
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my father was both a loving and disciplining presence. I guess I would have to say that if there is anything I really remember about my dad is this, he possessed a presence unlike any other person in my life. To me he was always larger than life. He towered over me and just had a way of peering down at me that, depending upon the situation, could either rivet me to the spot in guilt or immediately cause me to reach out in search of his love. My dad had a smell about him that was uniquely him. There was always the faint odor of aftershave no matter what the time of day. This, mixed with the ever-present tinge of Chesterfield aroma, was always a sure sign that he had passed this way. Dad also had a unique way of clicking his teeth and clearing his throat. I knew that he was around and that my world was protected and safe when I heard those distinctively “dad” noises I had become so accustomed to. This was what made up the physical aura of my father.
There were other things about my dad that fleshed out his presence. The way he mixed his peas with his potatoes. The way he always used pepper on his food as well as the inevitable sneeze that followed. My dad wore argyle socks and very seldom wore shorts. He liked to walk barefoot in the grass while he sprinkled his precious lawn in the summer. Over the course of the years, image after image was plied upon his presence as I came to know the man in whose footsteps I knew I would some day walk. To some people his habits might have been annoying, even irritating. To me they were simply images of a man I was trying to know and conform to. Just like most boys, I wanted to be like my father when I grew up. I wanted to smell like him and sing like him. I wanted to drive a car like him and go to work like him. I swing a hammer a certain way today because that’s the way he swung it. I shave in the manner he shaved, first a swipe on the right, then the left, then under the chin and done. In this sense, dad over the course of sixteen or so years was shaping the purpose of a young man who had all of life in front of him.
As I grew older and more perceptive, I became more able in my study of the man. I began to observe his life as well as his presence. I saw his times of joy as well as his times of pain. When he lost his job I was only a little boy but I remember his deep sorrow followed by a stern commitment to make everything better. I saw his anger as well as his gentleness. The way he hugged my mom and kissed her even when we kids were around is an image I have carried with me to this day. When I left home at eighteen I was confident that I was on the way to becoming my “own man.” I didn’t find out until later that I was simply flexing my wings in pre-course to a flight that would bear a great similarity to the way my father had soared above me for years.
In the many years since I launched into my own flight as a man and a father, I can now reflect back and see the greatest lesson my dad taught me; that a man’s presence is a mixture of joy and pain. This is what makes him a man. This is what gives him purpose and value. Happiness is not all joy. Rather, it is having a purpose in life that is founded on the growth a man achieves when he builds on his misfortunes as well as his successes. The pain was as good as the joy. In fact, we can’t really know joy without the pain. To many Americans today even the suggestion that we conform to our suffering in order to know true happiness would be just plain foolishness. In a culture bent on a “no pain” attitude molded by the misguided belief that the end of all living is comfort and happiness, there is no room for such introspection. When we are confronted by trouble the first thought is to escape from it, not learn from it. Our purpose has become a purpose bent on escape from pain. The idea of embracing pain seems almost un-American. Nashville pastor Byron Yawn writes,
“Because of this distorted perception, we rarely stop to search for the ‘hand of God’ in the midst of our trouble. Seeking to understand God’s purposes in our pain is all but foreign. As a result, embracing pain’s role in our sanctification is usually the farthest thing from our minds.” (Preaching Now Vol. 1, No. 20. Tue 9/3/2002)
God has called each of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Like our fathers, that is an image of joy mixed with pain. There is now escaping it; this was His life and it is ours as well. His purpose was to glorify the Father in His suffering. Our greatest purpose is no different. May each of us be “counted worthy of his calling.” Embrace the pain and learn from it. Make this the cornerstone of your purpose as a believe in Christ Jesus our Lord.
THE EMPTY GIFT
"I was enjoying 1st grade to the fullest until one day in December when the little girl behind me set "it" on her desk. It was the tiniest Christmas present imaginable, less than an inch on each side with white glossy paper tied up with a sliver of red cellophane. Immediately I was captivated. I had never seen anything so exquisite. Day after day the tiny gift caught my eye, and my active imagination tried to guess what miniature treasure might be inside. It had to be something wondrous beyond description.
I longed for that object with all the power a 5-year-old can muster. Finally, I became convinced that it should be mine. I deserved it because I desired it. Since I rode an early bus to school, it was a simple matter to slip into the empty classroom one morning. My hands eagerly tore open the tiny present. Inside I found - nothing.
Staring at the destruction in my hand, anticipation dissolved into disappointment and confusion. Gradually my stunned mind grasped the fact that the little package had been nothing more than a hollow decoration. I sat at my desk with the empty paper and an empty feeling, sickened by the knowledge of my guilt.
Little did I know that morning that this scene would repeat itself many times in my life. As I grew up the world enticed me wi...
My first staff position in a church was as the Associate Pastor of The Kirk Community Church in Dunedin, Florida. I normally arrived at church early but on this particular morning my wife and I had arrived just a few minutes before the worship service was to begin. As my wife Christina unbuckled the baby from his car seat, I straightened my tie in the mirror and watched something which is really rather commonplace in a rather uncommon way.
I have seen people go in and out of church many times. That morning though, it was as though veil had been removed from things I had never before seen. It was one of those moments when something that has always been right in front finally comes into focus. Were I a painter, I would love to paint this image the way that it appeared to me that day. I paint a portrait of people walking as if unencumbered yet clearly overloaded with piles and piles of clutter on their shoulders.
It was as though God was allowing me to see the burdens that we carry with us every day and bring with us into the doors of the church every Sunday. It was as if He wanted me to know just how heavy and cumbersome those burdens are. As I watched the people filing into the church building from their sedans, trucks, and minivans, it occurred to me that each person carried his own invisible burden.
Some carried the burden of guilt for past sins. These people hoped that by regularly attending church they would convince God to forgive them. Some of them carried the burden of fear, depression, and anxiety. These people came to into the church hoping to find peace – even if only for an hour on Sunday morning. Whatever their burdens were, one thing became clear to me; most of us, all of us, carry burdens that we were not intended to carry alone.
As I sat watching all of these people, many of whom I knew well, making their way into the church that Sunday, I was struck with the sense that so many of us come to church and generally live out our Christian faith out of what is largely a sense of obligation rather than of love. We fill our lives with repetitious, albeit well intentioned, deeds in order to fulfill our obligations rather than living a life which flows from the love of God working in and through us.
Imagine the folly of a man who chooses day in and day out to hoard and heap burdens upon his shoulders which are not his to carry alone. Imagine the woman who works diligently to earn the forgiveness which she has already received.
Dear Saints of God, if we are ever to learn to live lives which are filled with the grace of God, if we are ever to live the grace-filled life, we must let go of obligation and embrace love. We do not do good works to earn God’s favor; we do good works because we have received His favor. Good works, duty, stoic obligation are not what is pleasing to God. While people tend to be mostly concerned with the outward appearance of things, God is concerned with our hearts. (I Samuel 16:7)
The most often visited internet site in the summer of 2001 was reported to be an interview with God. Some of you have sent me a copy of this. It’s an imaginary question-and-answer session with God. In June alone it had 2.4 million visitors log on, and all of this without advertising!
Human beings long for a conversation with God. We’re still looking for answers to the basic questions of life. The greatest longings in our heart are found in Jesus Christ. We want direction for our life. Jesus said, “I Am the Way.” We want to know what’s real. Jesus said, “I Am the Truth.” We constantly look for life. Jesus said, “I Am the Life.” How do I deal with my guilt? John said of Jesus that he was “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”