I felt it before I saw it. I can't describe how or why, but I felt it. As I opened my front door the hair on my neck and arms stood on end, my heart rate spiked, my breath was sapped from my lungs. Right there, a few feet from our front door, in the middle of the otherwise untouched snow of our front yard, someone had carved a 12-foot by 12-foot swastika. I wasn't prepped to see that symbol. I knew something was off, but I wasn't prepped for the depth of that. I closed the door, prayed, asked the Lord for courage and clarity, and then stepped out into the cold night, fairly certain that whoever had wanted to leave that message was probably still around.
Do they need admonishment? May I give it humbly, lovingly and boldly. Do they need encouragement? May I give it faithfully, fervently and fearlessly. Do they need help? May I give it gently, helpfully and empathetically
Like most of you (I presume) I sat aghast yesterday as I saw the scenes unfolding in Washington DC, and in particular, the scenes of rioters overtaking the US Capitol. As someone who is strangely as steeped in decades of US exceptionalism as the rest of you even though I didn’t grow up here, it was stark and troubling. We expect to see scenes like this on our screens from far flung places that don’t have the experience and “sophistication" of generations of democratic experience. It felt like a movie, a far-fetched one with really bad acting. And yet, it wasn’t a movie. It was a mirror.
It turns out that when your time in the Word is always focused on public use, it can actually wear away at the private devotion that you so deeply desire. One of my big fears as a pastor is that I would appear more attentive to God and more attuned to His Spirit in public than I truly am in private. I am taking some days off next week to restart some of that private work.
Friends, we, like Joseph's brothers are sojourners in a strange land, looking for food, hanging on for hope, and occasionally getting the surprise of our lives as we see the redemptive purposes of God being revealed.
Do not quarrel on the way.
On the shields of the Greeks, Neptune was depicted; on the shields of the Trojans, Minerva; because in them they put their confidence, and in their protection deemed themselves secure.… Now, Christ is the insignia of our shields.
What if, the things that happen in our lives aren't actually just for or even about us? What if they exist so that we would know God more, and share the blessing of that knowledge of God with others? This removes the temptation for both pride and bitterness. It lifts our gaze above the dictatorial edicts of a life that is turned in on itself, a life of "why me?" and "why not me?" It creates a life of magnificent self-forgetfulness where every thing that befalls or blesses us serves as an opportunity to both know and to share God.
The short term hope for Israel was that the cup of God's wrath was going to be given to their enemies to drink. The hope for us today is that the cup of God's wrath was handed to our King Jesus. Our hope lies in the fact that even though He knew the terrible cost of drinking from that cup, He drank it dry.