Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jesus is Always With Us

When you serve as pastor you're usually around for the big events in people's lives. When a baby is born you get to be there to celebrate with the family. And to hold the baby, of course. When a loved one passes away you have the great honor and privilege of mourning with the family and offering the comfort that comes from God's word.

Yesterday was a first for me, though. I got to experience both extremes. In the morning I mourned with a family as they said goodbye to their mother. In the afternoon I got to celebrate the birth of a new baby girl with another family. Though both events were very different there was one constant--Jesus was there for both. In the morning, as we mourned the loss of a family member, we sought the presence of Jesus and appealed for His comfort and strength on behalf of the grieving family. We looked to His word for promises to soothe broken hearts and to give us hope.  In the afternoon, as we celebrated the birth of this precious little girl, we gave thanks to Jesus for His grace. We thanked Him for the health of both baby and mommy, we prayed for strength and patience in the days ahead, and we expressed our gratitude for His goodness.

Thinking about this later I was reminded once again of God's promise to us that He will never leave us nor forsake us. The Bible promises that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which is ours through Jesus. And my mind went to some verses of scripture as I was reminded that Jesus is always with us.

First, scripture reminds us that Jesus is with us in the beginning. In Psalm 139:13-16 David said, 
"For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother's womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully madeWonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret,intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them."  
David says that at the beginning of his life, even before the beginning, God was there. He was knitting David together, creating him, planning his life, setting the number of his days. What comfort we can take, what unspeakable joy we can have knowing that at the beginning of our days God was there. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God's workmanship, and that we've been created in Christ Jesus for good works. Then Paul says that God prepared these good works for us beforehand. Before I was a twinkle in my mama's eye God had planned my days. He was there at the very beginning.

Scripture reminds us that Jesus is with us at the end. In Psalm 23, David poetically speaks of God's presence and His goodness. And in perhaps the most well-known portion of this Psalm David declares,
"Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,  I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff,  they comfort me."
Even in the face of death David will fear no evil. Why is that? How could he be so courageous? Simple--he knew God was with him. So even in the face of death he could be comforted. In 2 Timothy 4:6-8 Paul said, 
" I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
As Paul faced the end of his life his confidence was not shaken. Rather, he welcomed what was to come. Why? Because he knew who was to come. Death was not a journey that Paul would take alone. Death did not have an unknown destination for Paul. That's true for us as well. Jesus is with us at the end.

Scripture reminds us that Jesus is with us right now. Finally, we glory in the truth that Jesus is with us right now. It's a blessing to look back and see His hand at work in the beginning. And our hearts are comforted knowing that though there will come a day when we face death, we will not face death alone. But what about right now? What about today?  Look at David's words in Psalm 139:2-3--

"You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and m lying down; you are familiar with all my ways." He knew that God knew everything about his life. How? God was with David. In every moment, in every situation, God was there with him. And the same is true for us. We can take comfort in the knowledge that no matter what life brings we don't have to face it alone. Jesus isn't just with us at the beginning of our lives and at the end of our lives; Jesus is with us every day, every moment. He is a very present help in times of trouble, He's promised to never leave us nor forsake us.
May we glory in this Savior who has promised to be with us forever; may we rest in these great and precious promises; and may we find our greatest joy in the presence of the one who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,
I write this in the hopes that all is well with you and your family. Last night you gave your acceptance speech at the DNC. I've not watched the speech but I've read the text and its for that reason I'm penning this blog. I've no delusions of grandeur here, no expectations that this will somehow find its way to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. My goal is to simply try to articulate a few policy differences I have with you.
Let me say from the outset that I do not believe you are a secret Muslim who intends to destroy America and institute Sharia law. I do not believe that you hate white people. I do not believe that you were born in Kenya. On the contrary there is much about you I admire and appreciate.
I appreciate the obvious affection you have for your family. Your wife and children matter to you, sir, and that is plain to everyone. Your affection for your family is a wonderful example to men everywhere. I think you love our nation just as I do and desire to see America succeed. Though we may have different ideas as to how to make that happen we both want our nation to be who she can be. I admire your willingness to publicly identify with Christianity. Though we would most certainly have our theological differences, you have stated on several occasions that your trust is in Christ. From a theological standpoint, that makes you my brother and I'm grateful to God for a leader who trusts in Christ as I do.
However, there are several disagreements I have with your policies. In your first campaign much political hay was made of your statement regarding a redistribution of wealth. Mr. President, certainly you can't be serious? Where in the Constitution do we find such an idea? If wealth is attained by illegal means then laws are in place to deal with those crimes. If they aren't strong enough, Congress can legislate tougher penalties. If, however, the chief motivation is a desire for financial equality then, Mr. President, we must acknowledge that such an end is simply unattainable through legislative means. How does one determine how much money another can have? How does one decide where the line is to be drawn? And what, Mr. President, gives me or you or anyone else the right to tell anyone else how much or how little they're allowed to have? Are not such restrictions contrary to the very nature of this great nation?
Second, I disagree with your position on abortion. Mr. President it is both uncivilized and unethical to allow a  person to decide to end the life of another simply for the sake of convenience. I would concede that there are instances where abortion may be the only option. If the life of the mother is in obvious and imminent peril then yes, I would support saving her life. But you know the statistics better than I, Mr. President. You know how rare such cases are. How, Mr. President, can we justify the killing of a fellow citizen? We speak of a woman's right to choose her own reproductive rights and that's true. But once a woman decides to engage in the act of intercourse--the process by which babies are conceived--can it not be argued that she has made that choice? Some would argue that abortion should be allowed in cases of rape or incest. Perhaps. But again, can we agree that such instances are certainly not the norm? Mr. President, arguments are often centered around when life begins. You've stated such questions are above your pay grade. I understand the sentiment behind the statement. But can't we agree that if abortion stops a heart from beating, if it causes brain function to cease, if it causes life to end, can't we agree that someone has died? By any medical definition, sir, those qualifications would point to death. Why then do we apply different standards to an unborn child? Why, if a baby in the mother's womb isn't a person, why are there federal laws protecting the eggs of endangered turtles? If a fetus isn't actually alive before birth then how can we prosecute those who destroy those eggs? After all, what have they actually killed?
Finally, I disagree with the inconsistent way in which you appeal to the Bible to support your positions. I've heard you mockingly refer to passages throughout the Pentateuch and ask the question, "Which of these verses should we use to make public policy?" That's a fair question, sir, but if you then use the teachings of Jesus to enforce why we must care for the least of these in our society, is that not inconsistent? If we can't use one portion of scripture to make policy decisions, how can we use another? If we appeal to one section of the New Testament to enforce social policies for the poor how can we ignore other sections of the New Testament when making an argument for social policies regarding marriage? The inconsistency is obvious and staggering.
Mr. President, I'm grateful for public servants. I'm grateful that you're working as hard as you can to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution. But I have serious and substantial disagreements with you. And that is why, Mr. President, you have my respect and you have my prayers. But you do not have my vote.


Randy Cox