I Want to Be in that Number

“Blessed are they who do His commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” -Revelation 22:14

The origins of this black spiritual are unclear, but it was popularized when Louis Armstrong recorded it in 1938.  In the New Orleans tradition of a “jazz funeral”  it is often used as a dirge to accompany the casket to the grave.  Our month on saints would not be complete without giving it a listen.  Imagine yourself entering God’s heavenly kingdom as one of company of saints!  Don’t you want to be in that number?

 

 

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Churches Need to Repent, too

As part of our Fanning the Flame process, my husband, our Pastor, has asked the church council to do the exercise I described earlier:  pray and meditate, making a list of sins and repenting.  There’s a little twist for them as leaders, however.  In addition to their personal sins, they are to consider the sins we have committed as a church.

One of the council members told me she is having a hard time with this. ” I can easily think of things I’ve done wrong”, she said, “but what has the church done wrong over the years?”

If you read Chapters 2 and 3 of the book of Revelation, you will find that Jesus rebukes the churches for things like this:

  • Losing their fervor for good works
  • Listening to false teachers
  • Putting a stumbling block in the way of some who might believe
  • Practicing or allowing sexual immorality among the members
  • Depending upon themselves instead of God
  • Doing good works for the wrong reasons
  • Being “lukewarm” instead of passionate about following Christ

In the same chapters, Christ commends these churches for many things, but he still tells them they need to repent (hmmm…. back to Luther’s first Thesis again.)  Hopefully this exercise will raise our consciousness as a congregation.  Have we been too preoccupied with ourselves?  Have we focused on maintenance instead of spreading the Gospel to those around us?  Have we given sacrificially?  Have we ignored bad behavior instead of lovingly correcting it?  Our church is made up of people, and people are sinful.  There’s no getting around it.  We need to repent and allow God to change us into the church he wants us to be.

“Remember therefore from where you have fallen;  repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place unless you repent.”  Revelation 2:5

The Song of Christian Unity

“God has prepared for Himself one great song of praise throughout eternity, and those who enter the community of God join in this song. It is the song that the “morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy” at the creation of the world. (Job 38:7). It is the victory song of the children of Israel after passing through the Red Sea, the Magnificat of Mary after the annunciation, the song of Paul and Silas in the night of prison, the song of the singers on the sea of glass after their rescue, the “song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb” (Rev. 15:3) It is the song of the heavenly fellowship.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Christian Community

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Encouraging Words

“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope.  For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.” 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I just got home from a funeral.  Yes, the man was elderly.  Yes, he was suffering.  Still, he was a father and grandfather, he had family and friends.  People will grieve his death, and that’s okay.  The Bible doesn’t tell us not to grieve, but it does tell us that as Christians, we will grieve differently than the rest of the world. Because of the resurrection, we grieve the loss of our loved one now, but not without the hope that we will be with them in Christ at some point in the future.

When our daughter, Kate, was fifteen she went to Germany for a year as an exchange student.  To be separated from our child for a year seemed like a long time.  We were discouraged from making a lot of phone calls because she needed to adjust to her new environment.  It was hard.  I missed her.  However, I knew she was having an amazing experience and that in time, we would be reunited.  That took some of the “sting” out of our separation.

For Christians, death has lost it’s sting (1 Cor. 15:55) for some of the same reasons. Right now Art, the man who died is in the presence of God.  I know it’s a wonderful experience.  In the Book of Revelation the apostle John tell us:

“He (God) will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore because the former things have passed away.”

His Christian family and friends will see him again, and share in his joy. Because of the resurrection, our separation is not permanent. “… Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Cor. 15:56

Switched On

I’m reading a memoir by John Elder Robison who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a type of autism at the age of forty.  He describes undergoing an experimental treatment called TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) which gave him (temporarily) the ability to see feelings in others, a quality missing from his life due to his disability.  Instead of taking everything others said literally, he began to notice sarcasm, depression, hurt feelings, etc..  Looking back on his life he says, “I now recognize that many of the events went wrong because I failed to understand someone else’s feelings. … When I remember things I said or did, I cringe and wish I could go back in time and undo my blunders…Knowing what I did wrong is not enough to undo a lifetime of learned behavior, and my tendency to behave the same way is still strong.  Yet I’m doing my best to change.”  He described his experience as being “Switched On”, the title of his book.

 When we are spiritually reborn, a similar phenomenon occurs.  Just as John became aware of his lack of empathy, we become aware of our sinful nature.  However, like John recognizing our problem doesn’t mean we can reverse what we’ve already done or even eliminate it in the future.  It just means we now see (somewhat) what’s going on.

 I believe in the days of the second coming, we’ll be “switched on” completely.  1 Corinthians 13:12 says,

 “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then, face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

 Right now, we’re all like John Robison when it comes to sin.  It is so much a part of us and every other person in the world, we fail to see how deeply it mars our lives.  When we’re resurrected in the last day, we’ll understand what made so much go wrong in our lives and in our world; we’ll also see ourselves and others in a new way:  without that veil of sin that distorts everything.  We’ll be disheartened by how we behaved, the sins we committed without even understanding what we were doing.

The good news for Christians is we’ll also see Christ as He really is:  our king, our master, our savior.  At that moment our dismay will be replaced by joy because 

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither shall there be mourning or crying nor pain …” Revelation 21:4

 I look forward to being “switched on” when Jesus comes again.  I hope you do, too!