I have three friends in Chile and just tonight I got word that one of them had his apartment damaged , even though he lives in Santiago and far away from the epicenter of that frightening earthquake - reportedly 100 times more powerful than the one in Haiti. Another one is in Canada and the third one we have had no news about him so far. So first Haiti, and now Chile. I wonder where next. Life can change so quickly in a few short seconds. That's why we must treasure our relationships, pray for each other and keep in contact. Also in that vein this week, outside of my immediate family, I had to challenge, in love, a senior member of the wider family. Very, very traumatic occasion. For both of us. But it had to be done. Hopefully the family, and each of us will be in a better place at the end of it all. Then in the news this week in my country, was the resignation of the head of an institution which had some responsibility in a very tragic affair last year, when seven young girls, who were wards of the state, died horribly in a fire. This person was " hounded" out of office by calls for her removal from various quarters who had nothing good to say about her tenure in office. Fortunately, to an extent, justice has been done, as several well written articles and even an editorial or two have come to her defense, and have framed the discussion in a more balanced manner. I thought that her detractors had been singularly ungracious and had acted without any compassion in pursuit of what they claim is justice on behalf of the girls, and the further protection of the nation's children. Also met, along with others, a high ranking state official, with great respect, to register complaints about the behaviour of some of this person's colleagues. The response was professional and very encouraging. Finally some time ago I watched the very popular television programme, for a short while, " Religious Hardtalk" hosted by Ian Boyne, a well respected journalist in his own right, and who is also a Pastor, doing " battle" with another popular journalist and columnist, Mark Wignal, who is an unrepentant atheist. Then today, the atheist, in a section of his column, sought to explain why he was of that disposition, as there were questions that he had about " God" that, in his view, could not be explained.
So in the midst of this personal, national and international angst, the Lord led me to read two powerful meditation. One about relationships and the other " Holy Foolishness". Then at the end of the service today, we sang one of my favourite hymns , and the favourite of another popular media person, who is not a Christian but loves this song, and with whom I did an interview on radio recently. So as I write I am hearing strains of , " Great is thy faithfulness ....." in my head and the wonderful assurance that " all I have needed, thy hands has provided" and even more importantly that " there is no shadow of turning with thee".
GENEROUS WITH HONOR CHRIS TIEGEN FEBRUARY 24
Honor one another above yourselves.
Romans 12: 10
Honoring one another is really the essence of Christian relationships. it grows from the conviction that every person, redeemed or not, was made in the image of God. That should give us a love for for even the least lovable person in the world, but it goes further for Christians. Every brother or sister in Christ is inhabited by the very Spirit of the living God. He may be hard to see sometimes, but He's there. Our relationships with other believers are on holy ground.
We don't usually approach them that way. We treat people casually because we don't see the sacredness of their redemption. We don't recognize them as building blocks of the temple that houses the Almighty. We don't perceive them as the literal body of Christ. We don't understand the intricacies of their creation - how specially designed they are. We forget that every single redeemed person, in body and in Spirit, is an expression of some aspect of God's character.
Once those implications dawn on us, we can't ever treat people the same. We begin to realize that our conversations are sacred, our hospitality is sacred, and our mutual service is sacred. We start to understand that God has built into the fabric of our relationships a capacity to reflect Himself. Our friendships become visible expressions of His hidden nature, and our broken relationships become tragedies against the image of God..........
And now the meditation that reminds us that sophisticated thinking and great intellectuals will never get us close to God. Only true humility and an acceptance of His mercy towards us, His creation, which comes by faith in Christ and His Passion on Good Friday, and which wonderful works are validated by His resurrection on Easter.
HOLY FOOLISHNESS CHRIS TIEGEN FEBRUARY 26
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1. Cor. 1: 18.
Think if how ridiculous it sounds. The only reason we can know God and go to heaven is because a radical teacher was executed two thousand years ago. Does that make any sense at all? Not on the surface, especially when we consider what a cross meant. It was the ancient version of an electric chair or a gas chamber, only much slower and more painful in accomplishing its purpose. the idea that we can have life only because a long-ago troublemaker made enough trouble to get Himself killed simply doesn't compute. It seems absolutely absurd.
But God has frequently worked in seemingly absurd ways, hasn't He? He once told a man to build an enormous boat in the middle of dry, elevated land. He once ordered a very old father to sacrifice his long-waited son, even though the sacrifice would wipe out every vestige of an ironclad promise. He picked an old exile to deliver a people from the world's most powerful nation, a young shepherd boy to defeat an enormous giant, and a small army to defeat a vast coalition using nothing but praise songs. If we are looking for a conventional deity to impress us only with lighting bolts and a thundering voice, we picked the wrong God. Our Father usually prefers to demonstrate His power in unlikely ways.
That's because He has inside information that we don't have. We had no idea that we needed a holy sacrifice to die in our place. We didn't know the enormity of the transaction that went on behind the scenes of the Cross. We didn't know the dead Savior would rise again. We only learned by revelation that something so absurd as his death could result in something so amazing as our life.
Never distance yourself from the foolishness of the Cross - or from the foolishness of the Christian faith in general. To the world it looks absurd, but to us it's the most powerful force in the universe. Unbelievers will one day be ashamed of the things they have laughed at, and we will one day be grateful for looking like fools. Always choose the foolishness of God over the wisdom of this world.
So let us pray for atheists and other non-believers. For relationships, those going well and those with problems, those near and those far away. For our children and for the children placed under our collective care. For those given power and authority by the state. For our countries. Haiti, Chile, Jamaica and others. For mercy from a Lord whose prophet declared:
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive all my thoughts......
Before a word is on my tongue
you know it completely Lord....
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Let us continue to brood deeply on the Cross of Christ as there is much to learn from that discipline, and conversely much to lose if we allow anything else to come between Jesus and the Cross and our understanding of the Christian faith. Amen