I have a wonderful sister who always answers the question “Who’s there” with “Hi, it’s me.” If I did not recognize her voice this could create a real identification problem because I know hundreds of “mes.” It is akin to responding to the question, “Where are you?” only to receive the response, “I’m here.” There are an infinite number of “heres” and God is in every single one of those “heres.”
At the burning bush God told Moses His name. “I am the I am.” It is the perfect name for a God who is. “I am here. I am there. I am everywhere.” You cannot go anywhere He is not. Poor old Jonah discovered that. God was even in the belly of the fish. Psalm 139 is so encouraging. “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hides not from thee; but the night shines as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee.”
It doesn’t matter how dark life can become. He sees. He is there. Horrible things happen to good people. Doing everything in life as good as we can does not guarantee our hearts will not be broken. But a day of reckoning will come. Justice will be served. Wrongs will be made right because the “I Am” was there and saw everything. If you ever feel abandoned and alone and wonder “Where is God?” The answer always is “I am here.”
30One of the great moments in American history occurred when Stephen Hopkins, the delegate from Rhode Island, signed the Declaration of Independence. His signature was very shaky because he suffered from palsy. When he finished signing he said, “My hand trembles, but my heart does not.” He had just taken a pledge of his “sacred honor.” This nation was founded by “real” men.
When we look at the cross, when we see the brutally mangled body of our Savior, when we realize He could have given up at any second, when we realize we get to live forever because of His love, can we do less than pledge our sacred honor to our heavenly Father and His Son? If Stephen Hopkins could so commit to the concept of a new kind of nation on earth, can we not so commit without trembling of heart to the idea of a universe without sin governed by its creator?
If you have an extra minute right now, please read II Corinthians 11. It is a chronicle of Paul’s beatings, shipwrecks, stonings and snake bite. He was an amazing super hero who knew his power was not in himself but in the one to whom he had committed his sacred honor. He wrote in II Timothy 1:12, “I am not ashamed. For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that Day.” Paul’s heart never trembled.
In the rotunda of our nation’s capitol building hangs John Trumbull’s famous painting depicting the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Very little of it is historically accurate. They were not assembled when they signed. The first signers did so on August 2 and it took several months before all forty-seven affixed their names to what was then signing a death sentence. Only a third of the country thought independence from England was a good idea. Washington most likely would have lost the war had it not been for the support of France. Had he lost the war those forty-seven were dead men walking and they knew it when they signed.
As I look at the picture I cannot help but make a comparison with Jesus’ twelve disciples. While the disciples did not sign anything they indeed committed themselves to following Jesus. However they, unlike the forty-seven signers of the Declaration, thought they were on the road to riches and power. Jesus was the Messiah. He was going to rule the world. The Roman Empire would fall and Jerusalem would be the capitol of the world. They would be well rewarded for being the first on board.
Forty-seven chose to die for a noble cause vs. twelve looking for the good life. Three years later, after being with Jesus, they were changed men. They too would sacrifice life for the love of right. This is an amazing story of what happens to people who commit to Jesus. He transforms us into the people we wish to be. If you want to be a person of sterling character, if you understand that character is destiny, make Jesus the Lord of your life and you too will have a cause so noble you would not hesitate to sacrifice life itself. Blessed is such a person.
Romans 5:7 has been on my mind most of today. Paul wrote, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” My younger son’s wife spent over seven hours today under the knife as surgeons ever so carefully removed a tumor from her brain. (The prognosis is very encouraging.)
Today’s events for our family caused me to make a mental list of those for whom I would gladly, without the slightest hesitation, die. I actually surprised myself in that my list is longer than I would have at first estimated. In the course of the exercise, while trying not to do so, I also made a list of those for whom I would never die. That is a very extensive list. Life is precious and should be guarded with diligence. One should never squander one’s greatest gift. And then I come back to Romans 5:7. Jesus, God’s only son, died for Herod, Pilate, the soldiers who stripped Him bare, beat Him to a pulp and drove nails into His flesh. “Father, forgive them”
In the course of several decades I have recounted this story over and over and pretended to understand. I don’t! I have acted as though my degree in theology made me privy to the mind of God. It did not! And now I, after all these years, am at a loss to understand God’s amazing love. If you understand I am envious of you, for I know that, even in heaven after a millennium of millenniums, I will never get it.
It will be 2021 before anyone once again hears London’s Big Ben chime over London. Restoration has begun and the worker’s hearing has to be protected from the bongs of the huge bell. The chiming is so loud there is a very real danger that the bonging would permanently deafen the laborers.
There is an interesting story about Moses in Exodus 34. He had been on the mountain with God and upon coming down his face glowed so brightly he had to veil it from the others.
And so there it is. The answer to today’s seeming lack of power in God’s modern church. Too much light, too much sound, too much of any good thing can damage us if we are not prepared and ready. Just as any good parent is careful with what gifts they give their children God is careful with us. No good parent gives a 16- year-old a 700 horse power Corvette. God wants us to do great things, but He also knows how much our egos and sense of self-importance can tolerate without our becoming totally narcissistic. With great power comes the need for even greater humility.
So what can we do to increase our effectiveness? Paul gives us a few good ideas in Ephesians 6, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” And how do we do that? Like all good things time is required. If we make sure we spend time with His word each day, the armor is added piece by piece. This isn’t rocket science. Everyone can do it.
Having spent this past weekend in a local hospital I woke up Monday morning about 1 A.M. with a tremendous appetite for a can of Pringles. If I had had my cell, I would have called my wife asking her to please please bring me some. Alas, I could not. Actually, I would not have called because merely knowing my request she would have gotten out of bed and immediately brought me a can. (Yeah, she would have!) Now comes the interesting part of the story. At 8 A.M. Tuesday she came into my room carrying a can of Pringles! Absolutely amazing.
While I do not have a great theological lesson to draw from this, I just wanted to quote a few famous lines from Psalm 23. “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (I have no enemies. But my what a grand table it is.)You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
I could fill pages of blessings but to do so would bore many people. (However, just one more story.) This morning my wife called drug and grocery stores all over our little city looking for clear Ensure. No one had any in stock. She mentioned it later today at our cancer clinic. A dietician overheard and said, “Wait just a moment.” She returned with the gift of fourteen cans. She said, “Next week I’ll have more for you!”
I have blessing guilt for I am totally aware that life is gruesome for so many people. “A life in Christ is a life of restfulness.” Steps to Christ. E. G. White.