Man of Sorrows

Weeping

Some people want to ignore and turn a blind eye from the pain and difficulties of life. “Faith,” they call it. “Just have faith” they chide.

But the Saviour whose eyes knew tears and whose heart felt the pain of loss, is also the One who, in love, sympathizes with, and feels our infirmities. While the Bible never states that Jesus laughed, or hints that He ever smiled, He is called the Man of Sorrows, acquainted with grief (Isaiah 53:3).

Faith isn’t a positive attitude. Faith is a trust that the God who remembers that we are but dust, frail and weak, still cares for us, upholds us, and stands beside us, never failing through all the obstacles, pitfalls, and losses we feel and experience.

If it wasn’t for our trials, there would be no value in faith.

Jesus wept (John 11:35).

Rapture

Bride and Groom

by Pastor Isaac Mathembe, Kangundo, Kenya

The Bible is clear, Jesus Christ is coming for His bride the Church. Many people or rather ministers of the gospel would ask this question, are you ready? The question I ask is how ready are we supposed to be? As you meditate on that, let me compare the Jewish tradition on marriage and the marriage of the Church by Christ the bridegroom.

According to Jewish custom, the first part of the marriage occurred when the contract was drawn up. The marriage contract often included a dowry. This parallels the act of faith that occurs when we trust Jesus to be our Saviour. The dowry is His life, which was used to purchase us from sin. In the Jewish custom before leaving his future bride’s home, the groom would tell her, “I go to prepare a place for you and I will return again to get you.”

During the time the bride waited, she prepared for his return. She went through purification ceremonies and she kept a light burning in the window in case her bridegroom returned in the middle of the night unexpectedly. As the bride of Christ awaiting His return, we should be preparing ourselves. Our lights should be brightly shinning in the darkness of this world as we anticipate His return.

No engraved invitations were sent out for the actual wedding ceremony because the groom’s father was the one who scheduled the date. The ceremony could not proceed until it had his approval. When everything was ready and the time came for the wedding to take place, the groom returned to the bride’s house unannounced, she came out to meet him and they both went to his father’s house.

The bride and the groom returned to his Father’s house amid great rejoicing and invited all of their friends to a festive wedding supper.

Revelation 22:7 “Behold,I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

 

The Work of Ministry

pancake

Ken and his wife moved into the home directly across the street from the church building. They were excited to be so close to a church and quickly got involved in the congregation.

After a few months Ken began calling me at least once a week. He had an unusual knack for calling just as I sat down for dinner. The conversation always went the same direction.

“Pastor, I was thinking today that the church needs to have a Bible study for women during the day.”

I’d tell Ken that I’d consider his suggestion and see what we could make of it.

He might call about starting an early morning Bible study for men, or a clothing distribution for the homeless, or a shuttle service for the elderly.

One evening he called, again just as I get dinner on the table. “Pastor, I was thinking today that our church needs to start a pancake breakfast each month for the men.”

This time I replied differently. “Ken, that’s a wonderful idea. When are you going to start it?”

It was the last time Ken ever called me and he never came back to church.

If you have an idea for the work of ministry, then start it, do it, and keep it going.

And Christ Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastor-teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12).

Rebuilding a LEGO Life – Ecclesiastes

Several Christmases ago, my son received a large LEGO Star Wars set. I don’t know how many thousands of pieces it had, but it was enough to make me look at it and wonder who was going to put it together. Fortunately Daniel is great at puzzles and went right to work on his new toy.

In a matter of hours, it was all finished. He was so proud of it. I applauded him, patted him on the back, and let him know how well he had done with such a difficult task. He “flew” the ship around the room once and then landed it on the coffee table. It sat there for several weeks … untouched.

Some people live like Daniel’s toy spaceship. Life becomes a trophy or a showpiece that sits on the table gathering dust. They look back at past achievements, pat themselves on the back, yet never consider what their lives were truly about.

Sometimes we need to take all the pieces of our lives apart and rebuild them in a new way. New life. New purpose. New life begins in Jesus.

To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under Heaven:  a time to break down, and a time to build up (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 3).

Something Really Bad is Going to Happen

Fright

As we made the 35 minute drive into Portland for church this morning, an amazing thing took place. I noticed that we were hitting every traffic light along the way green.

“Hey! Do you guys want to know something really cool?” I asked my internet reading wife and music listening son.

From the backseat came the usual “Meh.” I’m not quite sure what that means, but I think it’s the new way teenagers say, “Yeah, I’m so excited. Tell me about it Dad!”

So I pointed out the traffic lights. Now my son was really engaged. “You know what that means? When a bunch of good things happen all in a row, it means something really bad is going to happen.”

As someone once opined, what can you do with teenagers? You can’t kill them and you can’t send them back where they came from.

Throughout the rest of the day I carefully waited for the really bad thing to happen … and it did!

My wife went to dinner with her son. When she came home … do you have your handkerchief ready? … she brought me back only one piece of chocolate lava cake! Oh the misery.

Things happen. Each day things happen. Some we smile at and name “good.” Other things make us wince and we call them “bad.” All-in-all, what do we really have to complain about?

God makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45).

A Stiff Neck

stiff neck

Jerry arrived at Bible study tonight not feeling so well. He’d been sick for a while, and was sporting a stiff neck. He sat in the chair, barely able to turn his upper body. I imagined taking hold of his head and gently twisting it to relieve his pain.

As I watched him, I thought of the many times God called the Israelites a “stiff-necked people.” God’s descriptive name-calling began in Exodus 32:9, when He sent Moses down from atop Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments and it continued into the New Testament (Acts 7:51).

God’s solution to Israel’s stiff-necks was a change of heart. Circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and be stiff-necked no longer (Deuteronomy 10:16).

A stiff-neck is like hardened clay: a gentle twist and it shatters, but the more a piece of clay is worked in the warm hands of the potter, the softer the clay becomes.

A little stubbornness, in some areas of life, can be a good thing, but when it comes to a relationship with God, He keeps working and shaping you in His hands. Maybe He offers a gentle twist now and then when we become a bit stiff, but even if we break in His hands, remember that He is both Potter and Healer.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart – these, O God, You will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Just Hold On

Just Hold On

I received the Bible from my pastor. Since becoming a pastor myself, this Bible has always stayed on my pulpit. It never leaves.

One Sunday night I opened this Bible to preach my sermon and found a small yellow piece of paper jutting out from the sacred pages. I turned to find a sticky note with penciled writing: “God must have a lot trust in you to give you so many difficulties.”

Today we hear a lot about how we need to “hold onto God.” Frankly, if my spiritual life was about me holding on, I’d have fallen headlong into the Abyss long, long ago. Not only is my grip weak, but my load seems all too heavy at times. Keep from losing my salvation??? I can’t even keep from losing my car keys and socks.

Thankfully, God doesn’t ask me to hold on to Him because He holds onto me. His arms never tire and His grip never fails. The weight of this world doesn’t burden Him. He never falls asleep, has to let go to take care of something else, or gives up on me.

Jesus said of His followers: I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

The Discomfort of Mr Macaroni

slow food pasta art work

In the first five minutes of the day, Dr DL Moody repeated himself several times: “Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.” Mr Macaroni boiled at hearing the motto. He had always been something of a limp noodle, but he was doubting his choice of employment. All his life he’d found it difficult to make decisions, and once he did make one, he felt deep regrets about his choices. When the clock struck 5, Macaroni was ready to get sauced.

Now please don’t get me wrong. Despite his constant indecision, Mr Macaroni was as true as a man could be. He was no impasta when it came to living, but his new job as a dental assistant was leaving him feeling a bit al dente.

He quickly exited the office on his way to the Meat Ball where he had a date with his sweetheart, a beautiful Italian gal named Penne. All dressed up, he straightened his little bow tie and slicked back his blonde angel hair against his head.

As he stepped from the sidewalk into the street, humming “On top of Old Smokey all covered with cheese,” Mr Macaroni was still steaming. He failed to notice the motorcycle with gleaming chrome twin-forks racing right toward him. He never knew what hit him and instantly pasta way.

A moment later Mr Macaroni opened his eyes. Before him were the golden arches and beyond was the dazzling White Castle he’d always heard about. As he passed beneath the arches, Macaroni was greeted by a choir of French guys singing, “Welcome to the realm of Burger King and Dairy Queen.”

A stout fellow calling himself Big Mac approached and laid a whopper of a story on him. It was something about Mr Macaroni being dead and now forever in the presence of the King. “If you’ll lettuce, tomater my friends and I will take you in-and-out through the kingdom.” It all gave Mr Macaroni the shakes.

He hadn’t been at ease with people like this back when he was alive, now an eternity with them was unbearable. He knew he wasn’t made for a place like this. He hadn’t wanted anything to do with the king while he was alive and he didn’t want it now. He longed to have it his way and he wasn’t lovin’ it here one bit. Mr Macaroni wondered to himself, “Why did the king bring me here if I didn’t want him back when I was living?

If you don’t enjoy the King and His Kingdom today, what makes you think you’ll enjoy eternity with Him?

In My Father’s house are many mansions; it if were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3).

Kamba Wisdom – Proverbs

Hakuna Matata

We sat late into the night laughing together. Isaac shared proverbs from his native Kamba culture and I had to try and figure out what they meant.

U wi kivetani nduthekaa ula wi iko

The translation is:  one in the woodpile does not laugh at one in the fire. In other words, don’t laugh at the trouble of another person because it may happen to you next.

One day I shared the American proverb, Time is money. In a culture where the Swahili hakuna matata (no worries) is the rule of thumb, my proverb didn’t make much sense.

Then we went to the bank. After waiting over an hour to see a teller, Isaac laughed and repeated my earlier proverb: Time is money. Time is valuable, so don’t waste it doing things slowly. It made perfect sense to him.

A proverb is a wise saying. The Bible has an entire collection of these in a section called … wait for it … Proverbs! It’s a collection wise and pithy sayings of King Solomon and the ancient Israelites. As you read them, you’ll find some of them have been adopted by American culture.

A favorite from my childhood is, A lazy man sleeps soundly but grows hungry (Proverbs 19:15, The Living Bible).

God’s wisdom is different than man’s wisdom. He sees things from a different, heavenly perspective. What man thinks is smart and wise, God laughs at and calls foolishness.

First Corinthians 1:30 calls Jesus the wisdom of God. He gave up Heaven to become a helpless Baby. He set aside His glory to become a Man. He laid away His kingly robes to become a Servant. He surrendered His life to become the Sacrifice for sinners. He died so others would live.

Laughable to men; unfathomable Wisdom of God in action.

Embraced Again

hard candies

My great-grandfather’s name was Rudolph Losli. As kids, we assumed that he had been named after the famous flying reindeer because of the large strawberry birthmark covering his his nose.

I remember going to his home and always being treated. Next to his grey vinyl reclining chair sat a bowl of fancy hard candies seldom seen any longer. There were too many shapes and colors for a small child to choose from.

The real treat would be when he’d take me into the kitchen and pull out the block of Swiss cheese from the refrigerator. He’d sit in his chair, I’d climb upon one of his legs, and with his pocket knife he’d cut a slice of my favorite cheese. Nearly 50 years later, I think back with fondness on those times.

Sadly, the Bible says nothing about flying reindeer, hard candies, Swiss cheese, or even great-grandfathers. It does mention small children being brought to Jesus, who took them up in His arms, put His hands on them, and blessed them (Mark 10:16).

As those children grew, I wonder how many remembered back to the time when Jesus held them? How many others thought back with longing for Him to embrace them again?

Now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face (1 Corinthians 13:12).