Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is It Well With Your Soul?

Today I studied a passage out of Isaiah that left me examining my life a bit. Isaiah 53 is a very familiar passage to me, but after spending a short amount of time digging into it I realized that my careless oversight of the magnitude of this passage shows my guilt in the very message this passage conveys! The first 3 verses show us how Jesus was viewed on this earth by people. It says that His physical attributes were not anything special to look at, and this was back in New Testament days! Can you imagine what people would think of Jesus today in our beauty driven society? Even within Christendom we are often guilty of passing judgment based on how a person looks. Jesus grew up among them in humility, nothing physically outstanding about Him. It says in verse 3 that he was despised and rejected by men and verse 4 says that “we hid, as it were, our faces from Him”. He was despised and yet we did not esteem Him. I have always just skirted past this passage because I figured it to refer to the people of the day. I wasn’t there when Jesus walked the Earth. It wasn’t me who hid my face, shunned Him, or despised Him. Yet, don’t we do that still? When we are going through a trial that in human terms is catastrophic, don’t we question God’s plan and His timing? Don’t we say things like “my faith is hanging by a thread” or “why won’t God answer my prayers and change things?” I know I’ve been very guilty of this. The next few verses go on to foretell the suffering that Jesus will endure on our behalf. He is beaten, mangled, marred beyond human recognition and then crucified in the most agonizing death a person could ever face. In this He not once tried to defend Himself. Not once did He cry to the people or the leaders to tell them they were making a mistake. He willingly chose to go through an agony that we will never have to experience. This is the truth that choked me up; Jesus was despised, shunned, and rejected by the very ones He was hanging on that cross to save. In my humanness, I would have jumped down from that cross and said forget it! They don’t even want this, why on earth should I go through it! But He didn’t come down. He knew better than we did what we need and want. He forgave us even in that moment for turning and “hiding our faces”. Psalm 22 also goes through an account of the sufferings of Christ at the crucifixion. Again, we see how man ridiculed and despised Jesus and the emotional and spiritual torment He went through, not to mention the appalling physical torture. What stood out to me though was verse 24. In Isaiah we see the phrase “we hid, as it were, our faces from Him”, but in Psalm we see the phrase “For He(God) has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted. Nor has He(God) hidden His face from Him(Jesus)”. I’m sure there is probably no theological connection here (or maybe there is and I just don’t know it), but it stood out to me. The human side of Jesus was experiencing not only physical death, but also an overwhelming rejection from the very ones He was dying to save. God saw fit to provide for His emotional needs here. I believe this one phrase in Psalm 22:24 show us that no matter what affliction we go through on this earth, God is enough to sustain our spirit, our emotions, and our faith. I think of Abraham often, when he was told to take his only son, the son of promise, up to the mountain and sacrifice him. In my mind, losing a child would be the hardest thing any of us could go through, so this piece of history has always troubled me. Yet, Abraham obeyed. When he decided to obey God, I don’t believe that he expected God to save his son. Let me clarify this…. I am sure that he hoped God would somehow step in, maybe even was praying just as Jesus did, “let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done”, however, I do not believe for a minute that Abraham would have threw his hands in the air and turned away from his faith in God had he been allowed to kill his son. What if God didn’t provide the ram? What if God let Abraham sacrifice his son, showing ultimate obedience to God? God surely would have provided him another son to fulfill His promise to Abraham, because it is not God’s nature to break promises. How often do we go through trials in our lives, sometimes for years with no end in sight? What trials are you facing right now? Have you been unemployed for years and can’t find a job? Are you facing the loss of a child like Abraham? Maybe you have friends or family who were hurt or killed in Japan? My question to you, and the one I have had to keep in front of me often, is will you still trust God if it never “works out”? If you lose that child, will you still trust God? Will you still have your faith? Or, will you “hide as it were, your face from Him” and despise your savior? The answer to this question will be reflected in how you handle the trial now. Just remember, God does not despise or abhor the affliction of the afflicted and He will not turn His face from you. He sees the big picture that we don’t. He knows the affect that this trial is going to have 20, 30, or 100 years down the road, and we can’t see that. Of course the trials aren’t fun, nor are they easy to deal with. We don’t see Jesus skipping and singing up the road to be crucified, nor are we expected to prance around and be abnormally happy. But we are expected to experience the joy of the Lord that comes from knowing our faith is being worked out, and we can have a peace that surpasses all understanding. That means, those who do not know God will not be able to comprehend how you can have such peace in the midst of such loss and devastation. This peace is what allowed Haratio Spafford to pen the famous hymn “It is Well with My Soul”. Spafford lost a 4 year old son, then lost all his wealth in the great Chicago fire, followed 2 years later by the loss of all 4 daughters in a shipwreck. As he was sailing to be with his grieving wife (who survived the wreck) he passed by the waters that took his daughters. It was in this place that he penned the words “when peace like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll. Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, it is well, it is well, with my soul”. ONLY GOD CAN PROVIDE THAT KIND OF PEACE! You can have this peace too, even in the midst of losing everything you hold dear in this life. Keep your face on Jesus. Do not hide your face from Him, do not despise Him.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

SYMC Reach Out, Don't Freak Out

We are at the Simply Youth Ministry Conference in Chicago this weekend (March 10-13,2011) and attended an evangelism break out session with Greg Stier and Jason Lamb this afternoon. It was a wonderful seminar full of applicable and practical ideas for outreach.

Although we use The Cause circle on an individual basis within Voices of Truth youth ministry at South Side Baptist Church, South Bend, IN we are going to put it on a global scale by putting the circle on one wall of the youth room and having the teens and staff write the names of those they are trying to reach with the Gospel in the circle. This way we can physically keep the lost in front of us, give opportunity for follow up conversations, encourage each other, and pray for one another.

If you have any questions about The Cause, Dare 2 Share, Jesus Christ and your relationship to and/or with Him please ask me.