Wounds That Heal

Wounds That Heal

Hypochondriacs come in two varieties.  The first variety is so certain that something is deadly wrong that he continually shuttles back and forth to the doctor armed with a detailed litany of possible symptoms and probable diagnoses.  This type of hypochondriac consumes Dr. Koop’s Self-Care Advisor: The Essential Home Health Guide for You and Your Family and has dog-eared every page.   But the second variety of hypochondriac is quite the opposite.  Certain that something is deadly wrong, he copes through denial.  The last thing he wants is for a doctor to confirm what he knows is already true – that the worst possible diagnosis lurks just beneath the veneer of good health and common symptoms.  This type of hypochondriac fears diagnosis and treatment more than sickness and death.   He is more comfortable with his perceived sickness than with the prospect or process of healing and health.  For he knows that the physician must wound in order to heal.

For whether the sickness is unsoundness of body or mind, the physician must often wound in order to heal.  To access a sickness, a cancer, an or an infection, surgeons and wound care specialists must painfully penetrate the surface that seems sound in order to address the issues that lie buried in tissue and obscurity.  Both to diagnose and to treat, quite often the healer must first make a wound.   This is true of the Great Physician as well.  He wields the scalpel of His living and active word, “piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:13)  He must make deep cuts to lay bear the diseased areas of our lives.  Not for our destruction, but for our healing.   The OT prophet says it so poignantly,

Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up,  that we may live before him.  Hosea 6:1-2

But the irony is that the deepest wounds made for our healing, were made to another entirely.  For we read of Jesus in another OT prophet,

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.  Isaiah 53:4-5

God wounds to heal.   We can see this in the life of Jacob and his sons.  Jacob refused all comfort over the loss of Joseph and resolved never to lay aside the mourner’s clothes.  Meanwhile his sons buried, deep in their souls, guilt and sin against their brother and their father.  They seemed irredeemably enslaved in the grip of a decades-old sin and its consequences.  Yet God wounds to heal. His living and active scalpel is sharp and uncovers the disease of sin, slowly calcifying their hearts.  He lays bare their terminal condition in order to transplant their stony hearts with hearts of flesh.   What grief or sin have your buried deep in your soul, refusing to be comforted and refusing the conviction of God’s Word and Spirit?  God has not forgotten it neither have you.

Join us this Lord’s Day, May 20, as we as we examine the continuing story of Jacob as his sons as God brings them to crisis and conviction in order to bring healing and forgiveness. As we consider their story we will also see the character of this God who wounds us to heal us.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Skeptics Welcome

Skeptics Welcome

We live in an age of flourishing skepticism, particularly when it comes to religion.  Science is seen as the new arbiter of absolute truth and the “scientific-method” the only test of the believe-worthiness of any idea.  The incredible popularity of thinkers such as Stephen Hawking underscores this flowering of the enlightenment enthronement of human reason.  Hawking, who once quipped that “heaven [and the afterlife] were fairy-stories for people afraid of the dark,” nevertheless frequently left his own pay-grade in the narrow confines of mathematics and observable physics to declare metaphysical absolutes.  It was this dimension of his writing and thinking that made him a pop icon.

Many skeptics today view religion, in general, and Christianity, in particular, as afraid of rational inquiry and apologetic challenge.  From the view of the secularist, Christianity has circled the wagons, arrogantly assuming the “fairy tales” of the Bible are true while closing its eyes to all reason and evidence.   Yet nothing is further from the truth.  Real and vibrant Christianity hangs out a shingle that says, “Skeptics Welcome.”

Nowhere is this seen more dramatically than in the Biblical accounts of the resurrection.   No point of Christian doctrine has been more thoroughly assaulted by skeptics than the resurrection.  Yet every assault strengthens credibility.   When the accounts are critically examined, it seems God took great care to surround the crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus along with the subsequent discovery of the empty tomb with a vast body of evidence which can only be satisfactorily explained by Jesus’ resurrection.  In many respects, the empty tomb is a sign that reads “Skeptics Welcome.”  The stone was not rolled back to let Jesus out but to let skeptics in.

Join us this Lord’s Day, April 1, as we examine the account of the empty tomb from John 20 and consider an invitation to skeptics to examine and believe in the resurrection of Jesus.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Providence

Providence

In 1973 a quarter was very valuable.  As children, we were worked hard – taking out the trash, washing the pets, raking leaves – to earn the quarter that would give us purchasing power for the weekly bike trek to the 7-11.  The lure of that quarter was great — so great, indeed, that my sister once sold me to a neighbor for just that princely sum.

Mr. Bailey was a kind man and he drove a school bus.  On warm spring days I would help him wash his bus.  His driveway was steep and perfectly suited to the task.  It was my job to man the hose.   I would mount the front steps of the bus and turn the hose, full blast, on the seats and the floor.  The sheer ecstasy of hosing out the inside of a school bus was something only a seven year-old boy can fully appreciate.

As dinnertime approached, my sister came to collect me.  No doubt, to my sister, I was a tedious and trying lad.  When she arrived, Mr. Bailey made an unexpected proposal.  What if he kept me and gave her a quarter instead?  She did not hesitate.  She gladly accepted the quarter and left me with Mr. Bailey.  My sister certainly did not hate me, it was just that she was sure a quarter was worth more than a little brother.

For Joseph, things did not turn out quite that way.  Though the youngest son in his family, he was given the privilege and the status of a firstborn.  His father, Jacob, loved him above his eleven brothers and gave him a princely robe that stood constant witness to his father’s favoritism.  To make matters worse Joseph was careful to report his brother’s misdeeds to their father.  He shared with his brothers his dreams that he would one day rule over them.    His brothers hated him with murderous rage and at the first opportunity seized him and sold him into slavery in Egypt.  As often happens in Scripture, however, their evil action towards God’s chosen man becomes the very act which leads graciously to their salvation.  Remarkably, many years later, Joseph meets and forgives his brothers, recognizing that “what you meant for evil, God meant for good.”

But Joseph’s story is not a mere illustration that bad things sometimes work out, rather it is a picture of God’s promise of a savior in Jesus Christ.  It is this promise that forms the focal point of God’s Providence.  Join us this Lord’s Day, March 11, as we examine Genesis 37 and consider how the story of Joseph anticipates the unfolding of God’s promises to rescue and deliver us from our deadly enemy.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Setting the Stage

Setting the Stage

A good story teller strikes a careful balance between preparing the reader for the climax and surprising him when it comes.   In a gripping tale, we sense what will ultimately happen, yet remain riveted to the unfolding action and gasp in surprise when the expected occurs.  Skilled writers accomplish this through literary techniques such as foreshadowing and flashback.   Far from destroying interest or inducing boredom, setting the stage for the climax only heightens anticipation and along the way creates imagery and categories of thought through which we process the moment when all the strands of the plot are at last woven together.

No story creates this effect more powerfully than the story of the God who rescues and redeems men, women, boys and girls who appear hopelessly enslaved by sin and death.   As the Bible unfolds this epic, the stage is set through the stories of many men, women, boys and girls whose failures and victories create anticipation, imagery and categories of thought to understand the power of the moment when the central hero, Jesus, declares “It is finished.”

The story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis is one of these stories.  More space is given to the life of Joseph than to any of the patriarchs.  His story involves intrigue, deception, power, heroism, joy and tragedy.  In it we see trial and triumph, forgiveness and redemption.  Joseph’s life story sets the stage for the climactic moment when God saves the world, frees slaves from the deadliest of tyrants, and leads the weary into rest.

Join us this Lord’s Day, March 4, as we examine Genesis 37 and consider how the story of Joseph anticipates the unfolding of God’s promises to rescue and deliver us from our deadly enemy.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Preparation for Worship

Preparation for Worship

Churches love demographics.  Some sociographic statistics are helpful to enable a church to understand and engage its community, while other research may detail the habits, healthy and unhealthy, of the congregation itself.   Years ago, a church our family attended commissioned a detailed demographic study of its congregation and community.  A Lord’s Day was appointed to unveil the results of the study and to cast a vision for the next 5 years of congregational life.  I confess that the only statistics that stood out to me that day were 1) the average distance families lived from the church, contrasted with 2) the time it took them to get to church.   As a recovering mathematician, I immediately collated these stats and computed that the average rate of travel for families attending worship was 68.7 mph — a telling statistic that most worshippers arrived in their pews breathless and emotionally rumpled.

How prepared are you to enter God’s presence in worship?  Do you arrive to worship breathless and emotionally rumpled?  Or have you taken time to recognize that private, public and family worship demands prayerful and careful preparation?  Perhaps our frequent lack of preparation flows out of a  contemporary ambiguity about the purpose and nature of worship or simply from too little time spent worshipping.

We read little about the patriarch, Jacob’s private, family or public worship.  Time and time again, Jacob devises worldly schemes to respond to the crises du jour, but seeking the Lord in prayer and worship is rarely part of his modus operandi.   In Genesis 35, however, the Lord confronts Jacob and directs him to return to Bethel where He had appeared to Jacob as he fled his brother’s murderous rage.   But before Jacob can meet the Lord, he makes careful preparations, lest he find God’s wrath rather than His blessing at the “house of God.”

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 25, as we examine Genesis 35 and consider our preparation to meet the Lord in worship.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Gravity

Gravity

Gravity is important.  While we take it for granted, it effects almost every detail of our lives. In Physical Science we learned that the force of gravitational attraction between two celestial bodies is a product of their relative mass and their distance from one another.   Scientific observation has shown that proximity has an exponential effect while mass has only a multiplying effect.   Mathematically, however, the force of gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance and directly proportional to relative mass.  In plain English this means that being closer is more significant than being bigger.

While this is true for stars, planets and moons, it is even more painfully true in our relationships.  When conflict, estrangement and sin enter our relationships the gravity of brokenness is more powerful in close relationships than casual ones.   It is much easier to politely excuse or ignore the person at a relational distance when they offend us or are offended by us.  But when it is a parent, sibling, spouse or child, the seriousness of the offense looms large and casts a long shadow.

Solomon put it this way.  “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city” (Proverbs 18:19).  The prodigious size of the “Relationships” section in any book store and the number of afternoon TV programs devoted to relational guidance — funded by divorce lawyers — are potent witnesses to our cluelessness when it comes to reconciliation.   We look everywhere except the Bible for guidance, yet the persistent theme of Scripture is reconciliation.  Every relationship is fractured by sin and the only path to reconciliation is the gospel pattern of forgiveness, confession, and repentance.

In Genesis 33, Jacob returns home to dangerous uncertainty.  His brother’s last words were breathed out in murderous threat and they have not spoken for 20 years.   No relationship is more broken than theirs. But before Jacob is confronted by Esau, he is confronted by God.  Only after he is reconciled to God is he able to be reconciled with his brother.  Join us this Lord’s Day, February 11, as we examine Genesis 33 and consider what this story teaches us about reconciliation.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.

Tenacity

Tenacity

Motivational posters define Tenacity as “the ability to hang on when letting go appears most attractive.”  Nothing illustrates this more vividly than the experience of our British brethren during the early days of World War II when they stood seemingly alone against the might and fury of the Third Reich in the Blitz.  What seems so simple when quoted on a poster with a stirring image in a corporate boardroom is quite a different matter when the enemies are deadly and adversities devastating.

Speaking to his alma-mater, the Harrow School, in October, 1941 Winston Churchill distilled the lesson of Britain’s remarkable providential deliverance with iconic speech.

You cannot tell from appearances how things will go. Sometimes imagination makes things out far worse than they are; yet without imagination not much can be done. Those people who are imaginative see many more dangers than perhaps exist; certainly many more than will happen; but then they must also pray to be given that extra courage to carry this far-reaching imagination. But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period… surely from this period of ten months this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished…

Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer.

But what do we do when our enemy seems to be none other than the Lord, Himself?  When all the providences in our lives seem to be frowning providences, when the promises of God seem to go unfulfilled and prayers unanswered, or worse still when God seems silent.   Genesis 32 chronicles the return of Jacob to his homeland.  Leaving his in-laws in hostility, he returns home to the uncertainty of his offended brother whose parting words were breathed out in murderous threat.  He is between a rock and a hard place.  Yet the Lord has told him to go.

As Jacob contemplates what is ahead, he faces a new adversary – the Lord, himself.  Jacob wrestles with the Lord throughout the night.  He cannot prevail, but he refuses to let go, saying, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” Jacob is brash, yet tenacious. How tenacious are we when life seems to be a lot like wrestling with a God over whom we can never prevail?   How willing are we to hang on to Him when it seems easier to let go?

Join us this Lord’s Day, February 4, as we examine Genesis 32 and consider our response when God seems to be our adversary.  We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock.  Click here for directions.

Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.