The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Love

“I Hate Ants!”

O PreacherOur younger daughter posted this on Facebook today.  It’s well worth reading.  I’ll comment after . . .

Please Don’t Give Me a Christian Answer

Please Don’t Give Me a Christian Answer

June 30, 2016

“Jesus wept.” John 11:35 (NIV)

LYSA TERKEURST

I love Jesus. I love God. I love His Truth. I love people.

But I don’t love packaged Christian answers. Those that tie everything up in a nice neat bow. And make life a little too tidy.

Because there just isn’t anything tidy about some things that happen in our broken world. The senseless acts of violence we hear about continually in the news are awful and sad and so incredibly evil.

And God help me if I think I’m going to make things better by thinking up a clever Christian saying to add to all the dialogue. God certainly doesn’t need people like me — with limited perspectives, limited understanding and limited depth — trying to make sense of things that don’t make sense.

Is there a place for God’s truth in all this? Absolutely. But we must, must, must let God direct us. In His time. In His way. In His love.

And when things are awful we should just say, “This is awful.” When things don’t make sense, we can’t shy away from just saying, “This doesn’t make sense.” Because there is a difference between a wrong word at the wrong time and a right word at the right time.

When my sister died a horribly tragic death, it was because a doctor prescribed some medication no child should ever be given. And it set off a chain of events that eventually found my family standing over a pink rose-draped casket.

Weeping.

Hurting.

Needing time to wrestle with grief and anger and loss.

And it infuriated my raw soul when people tried to sweep up the shattered pieces of our life by saying things like, “Well, God just needed another angel in heaven.” It took the shards of my grief and twisted them even more deeply into my already broken heart.

I understand why they said things like this … they wanted to say something. To make it better. Their compassion compelled them to come close.

And I wanted them there. And then I didn’t.

Everything was a contradiction. I could be crying hysterically one minute and laughing the next. And then I’d feel so awful for daring to laugh that I wanted to cuss. And then sing a praise song. I wanted to shake my fist at God and then read His Scriptures for hours.

There’s just nothing tidy about all that.

But the thing I know now that I wish I knew then is that even Jesus understood what it was like to feel deeply human emotions like grief and heartache. We see this in John 11:32-35 when Jesus receives the news that his dear friend Lazarus has died, “When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother [Lazarus] would not have died.’ When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. ‘Where have you laid him?’ he asked. ‘Come and see, Lord,’ they replied. Jesus wept.”

Yes, Jesus wept and mourned with His loved ones in that devastatingly heartbreaking moment. And the fact that He can identify with my pain is so comforting to me.

You want to know the best thing someone said to me in the middle of my grief?

I was standing in the midst of all the tears falling down on black dresses and black suits on that grey funeral day. My heels were sinking into the grass. I was staring down at an ant pile. The ants were running like mad around a footprint that had squashed their home.

I was wondering if I stood in that pile and let them sting me a million times if maybe that pain would distract me from my soul pain. At least I knew how to soothe physical pain.

Suddenly, this little pigtailed girl skipped by me and exclaimed, “I hate ants.”

And that was hands-down the best thing anyone said that day.

Because she just entered in right where I was. Noticed where I was focused in that moment and just said something basic. Normal. Obvious.

Yes, there is a place for a solid Christian answer from well-intentioned friends. Absolutely. But then there’s also a place to weep with a hurting friend from the depths of your soul.

God help us to know the difference.

Dear Lord, thank You for being there in my darkest time. I know You are real and You are the only one who can bring comfort to seemingly impossible situations. Please help me speak Your truth to those around me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

– See more at: http://proverbs31.org/devotions/devo/please-dont-give-me-a-christian-answer/#sthash.rxElH0QU.dpuf

* * *
When someone’s mourning, we want to comfort.  Our heart outraces our brain, and too often we say something foolishly unbiblical like, “God needed another angel.”  We, of course, should comfort.  Of all people, we believers loved by God through Jesus should be the most prepared.  Usually, we think we should speak the most astute Bible verse to quickly start the healing process and somehow make sense of the suffering.  (If we’re pastors we feel especially pressured to speak the timely, golden word!)
Usually we mimic, as Lysa notes above, a packaged Christian answer that sounds to the hurter’s heart like, well, a packaged Christian answer, one size fits all.   More times that not, though, even if the packaged Christian answer is Scripture, it falls on a dazed mind and wounded heart.
When I’m struggling with my illness, Romans 8:28.29 comes to mind . . .
“And we know that for those who love God
all things work together for good,
for those who are called according to his purpose.
For those who he foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the image of his Son,
in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
In those moments, what’s meant to make sense of suffering rings hollow.  The Scripture is true, but it’s not what I need at that moment.  I need someone to embrace me close and help carry my burden.  I need someone to agree that this isn’t fair, that it makes no sense, and that we’re in this together.
And, if an ant pile lurks under foot, say, “I hate ants!”  And, if no ants are available, “I don’t understand either.”  That’s when we need lovers, not theologians.
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Blaming Christians

O PreacherI’m almost speechless.  Please read this article by David French from the “National Review.”  It’s his response to Jen Hatmaker’s viral Facebook page (link in article).

 we need the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of Christ-like love in us, even while we call sin what it is!

The Orlando Shooting Launches a War on Christianity

Somehow, Omar Mateen’s massacre has put American Christians on the defensive.
By David French — June 15, 2016
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What Do I Love When I Love God?

P.Allan“God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing – or should we say “seeing”? there are no tenses in God – the buzzing cloud of flies about the cross, the flayed back pressed against the uneven stake, the nails driven through the mesial nerves, the repeated incipient suffocation as the body droops, the repeated torture of back and arms as it is time after time, for breath’s sake, hitched up. If I may dare the biological image, God is a “host” who deliberately creates His own parasites; causes us to be that we may exploit and “take advantage of” Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Lewis’ words shut my mouth in silent wonder at the God of whom he writes.  I must read them again to drink in their fullness.  Yet, they are only a man’s words.  Remarkable to be sure.  But the author is merely one of us “superfluous creatures”.  How great, then, is God!  How unparalleled his love!

“This is love: not that we loved God,
but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
(1 John 4;10)

“In God there is no hunger that needs to be filled, only plenteousness that desires to give.”
C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

God is so far “other” than we, it’s beyond us to comprehend him fully.  We see him in Jesus, the God-Man.  Yet in power and wisdom and eternality and holiness and love, yes, in love, he is so “other” than we.  What is a being without hunger needing fulfillment?  What is One so profuse that his longing is to give and give again and still not be less than he is?

Jesus taught the greatest commandment is  to love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).  Why, when he doesn’t need my love?  Were I to love him fully, would such meager love be worthy?

How can I love such a God?  Yes, by believing and obeying and praising him.  But I am like the little boy with a few fish and loaves facing 5000 hungry souls.  Could my gift fill even a tiny place in a God who has no need to be filled?

And what is this God before whom all comparisons crumble?  Augustine, early church theologian, asked the question (Confessions, 397-398 A. D.) . . . .

But what do I love when I love my God? . . .

Not material beauty or beauty of a temporal order.

Not the brilliance of earthly light;

not the sweet melody of harmony and song;

not the fragrance of flowers, perfumes and spices;

not manna or honey;

not limbs such as the body delights to embrace.

It is not these that I love when I love my God.

And yet, when I love him, it is true that I love a light of a certain kind,
a voice, a perfume, a food, an embrace;

but they are of the kind that I love in my inner self,

when my soul is bathed in light that is not bound by space;

when it listens to sound that never dies away;

when it breathes a fragrance that is not borne away on the wind;

when it tastes food that is never consumed by the eating;

when it clings to an embrace
from which it is not severed by fulfillment of desire.

This is what I love when I love my God.

How great (for him a paltry word) he is! 
With my hands lifted and my mouth open,
Sing with the video and with me and worship our infinite, unfathomable God!

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