Archive for October, 2011
One of my favorite phrases is this: God is the great fixer. I believe that God is the fixer, healer, restorer of broken hearts, shattered relationships, and meaningless lives. There are wonderful stories you can read in the Bible of David, a man after God’s own heart, who battled anger, lust, and pride. Or of Peter, the man who preached the first sermon after Jesus died and was raised. This is the same Peter who two months earlier cried bitterly after he denied knowing Jesus. Have a Christian tell you the story of Legion, the Samaritan woman at the well, Bartimaeus, or the woman caught in adultery.
Today, I know alcoholics made sober, sexually immoral made pure, greedy people made generous, and angry people made sweet. I have seen broken marriages restored, wasted lives given meaning, and people with no hope find purpose. I have seen lonely people find belonging. I have seen the hungry fed, the sick healed, and orphans and widows become part of a family.
God is a great fixer.
But not always.
Read the story of Cain who murdered his brother and was driven from his family. Or the story of Saul whose arrogance and jealousy caused him to lose his family, his kingdom, and eventually to commit suicide. Learn about the rich young man who left Jesus sad because he valued his money more than God. Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God because they lied to Him.
And I know marriages that ended in divorce. I know bitter, angry, hateful people who have no hope. I know alcoholics who have destroyed relationships. I know people who have died all alone. These people knew about God and Jesus. They were not fixed.
So some people God fixes… some He doesn’t. What makes the difference?
It is a choice. Our choice. Every one of those people that God fixed were those that turned to God, cried out to God, begged God to enter their life and do whatever it took to be fixed. And He did.
Every one of those people that were not fixed rejected God, ignored God, turned away from God, or left God. Or they refused to do what God asked of them. So he didn’t fix them.
He can fix you. I know because He fixed me. It’s your choice.
The sex was good, the rival eliminated, the baby bump was beginning to show and the whispers and gossip were flying. Then with a point of an aged finger and words that must have caused his head and heart to quake, “you are that man” everyone knew.
From the smug smile that flashed, “I’ve got this under control”, to the horrible realization that he was an adulterer, murderer, deceiver, liar, and betrayer, his world was reduced to the cesspool of reality that he was drowning in.
At that moment only the answers to two questions mattered. What does God say you should do? Are you going to do it?
What appears to be a script for a movie or TV show is a story from ancient times, sadly acted out over and over in the centuries since.
David, second king of Israel, had it all and lost it when lust controlled him. It is then that he answers those two most fundamental of questions. His answer can be read in the 51st Psalm.
Have mercy upon me, Oh God, according to Your loving kindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
David betrayed God, asked for forgiveness and is granted it, yet David still suffered the consequences of that sin (two of his sons die). In spite of all this both the prophet Samuel and Luke describe David as a man after God’s own heart.
If there was forgiveness for David, then there is nothing you can do that God can’t forgive!
Those two questions remain for you to answer. What does God say you should do? and Are you going to do it?
Which of those two is the hardest to answer?
It’s said that the opening of a book is extremely important. The writer needs to engage his readers from the outset, filling them with a desire to read more.
When the apostle Matthew sat down to write the story of Jesus, I’m not sure that he was thinking about that. The first 14 verses of his book are a genealogy. This man was the father of that man, who was the father of some other guy. It’s not the most exciting reading for most of us.
As we read through this list of fathers and sons, there are four names that ought to catch our attention. Four women made this list: Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bath-Sheba. Over forty men are listed and only four women.
So these women must be especially righteous, especially virtuous women, right? They are included in the genealogy of Jesus, showing the people God used to bring His Son into the world. We would expect these women to be the examples of what women should be.
But that’s not the case. One of them dressed up as a prostitute and seduced her own father-in-law. One of them WAS a prostitute. Another committed adultery, got pregnant, and married the father of that child after her own husband was murdered. The other was fairly righteous, but she was also a foreigner. The Jews weren’t supposed to marry foreigners, so she shouldn’t even be on this list.
But these names are here. These women are remembered, while other women have been long forgotten. Matthew had his reasons, and I won’t pretend to know exactly what they were.
But I know that there is a lesson here: God can use anybody. Even when they’ve made mistakes. Even when they’ve been taken advantage of. Even when they don’t come from the right family. God can use anybody.
That message is fitting for the story of Jesus. Jesus came and made it possible for everyone to be acceptable to God. He broke down barriers, creating a new nation made up of people from every nation of this world. The story of Jesus is a story of inclusion.
I can be a part. You can be a part. Everyone who is willing to truly put their faith in Jesus can be a part.
We Christians often make the statement that the church is a hospital for sinners. We mean that to be a warm and inviting description for any of you who do not know Jesus. It is our attempt to say that we are not perfect, but forgiven. It is an effort to say that messy lives are welcome in our midst. It is our confession that we often have messy lives too. It is a plea for you to know that we are a place of hope for the hopeless, a community for the lonely, a place of healing for the broken, a place of joy for the heartsick, a people of peace in a world at war, and a church of purpose for the life without meaning.
But we are not just a hospital, we are also a wellness center. If we have given the impression that church is simply a place where everyone is broken, wounded, or hurting … then we have misled you. We are a place where people like this can come. If fact, many of us were like that when we first showed up. But we do not stay like that. Church is where healing happens. It is where broken lives are restored. It is where joy, peace, purpose, and hope can be found.
Yes, church is a place where critical care for spiritually wounded people takes place. And sometimes those of us in church find ourselves in need of emergency spiritual care. We still have struggles with living out our faith and we still battle with Satan. But most of us are in the wellness center, not the hospital. We are learning together how to live as healthy followers of Jesus. We are learning how to extend care to each other and to those who wish to join our community.
So in one of our churches, you will see people who are bleeding from the wounds inflicted by a hard world of sin and trouble. They are receiving emergency care. You will see people with bandages and wounds that are still healing. They are receiving ongoing care. But what you will see more than anything else is those of us with scars. We are healed. We are healthy. The scars are our reminder of the God who heals. It reminds us of how God saves. And they remind the wounded that they too will be healed. Just like we have been.
People love stories. They love to hear them. They love to tell them.
It seems to be natural. Have you ever met a child that didn’t like stories? That didn’t want to be read to at night?
It’s not surprising that so much of the Bible is made up of stories. Well, maybe it is surprising. When we think of what we’ll find in a religious book, we often expect some sort of rule book or owner’s manual, telling people exactly how to live. And some of the Bible could be described that way.
But it’s mostly stories. Stories of grand adventures. Stories of everyday life. Stories of miracles and stories of tragedies. Stories that make you want to stand up and cheer, as well as stories that make you want to boo the villain.
Reading these stories can be a bit like reading any other history book. Until we get to that special part where God invites us to be a part of the story. To add our story to the stories that we find written in the Bible. To jump into the flow of God’s story and ride it all the way to the end.
I love looking at the videos on this website. People tell their story in those videos, their story about how God made them part of His story. Like the stories in the Bible, these stories involve tragedy and victory, great happiness and deep pain. And the stories have happy endings, because God can take every story and make it end well.
You’ve got a story. It’s a unique story that’s being written every day. But your story needs an ending, a happy ending. And I know that the only way your story can end happily is if you make your story part of God’s story.