The Love Chapter

1 Corinthians 13

June 14

“Now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

“They” call 1 Corinthians 13 “the love chapter”.  It’s quoted from at most weddings.  So what is it talking about?  I don’t think it is a coincidence that Paul discusses love and speaking in tongues (a gift involving the ability to speak unique languages), in the same chapter.  Love is difficult to put into words.

In my work as a Funeral Director and Deputy Coroner, I am often at a loss for words.  I frequently have opportunity to speak with families when there is nothing to say.  Nothing that should be said, anyway.  That certainly doesn’t stop some people from trying.  I’ve heard people say all kinds of stuff to try to comfort the grieving.  Most of it, frankly, has no basis in scripture or reality.  Sometimes I wish I had a platitude and cliché bingo card I could pull out of my pocket and shout “BINGO!”.  About the only right thing to do in that situation is nothing at all. 

My father-in-law is a pastor and has served as Chaplain for a local fire department for a number of years and he recently commented during a sermon about how in most situations when the fire department is needed, if the crew showed up and just stood there people would say “Don’t just stand there, DO SOMETHING!” But when it comes to the work of a fire chaplain, the best approach is “Don’t do something, JUST STAND THERE!”  I liked that line.  I have stolen it and shared it with coworkers several times.  When a person has lost everything they don’t need a preacher, they need a presence.  To be able to just be present, is a gift.  (Do you see what I did there?).

As Christians, being confronted with a sudden and unexpected death is like being the pilot in charge of an airplane when the engines stall.  All that is really left at that point is faith, hope and love.  What words of comfort can you give when you know that a person did not have faith in Jesus Christ?  What chapter of systematic theology will you turn to for the family who has no hope in The coming Kingdom?

I said before, our dog is named Zippers due to her urge to chew on our coat zippers.  If we named our children using that method, one of my sons might have been named “Whacko”.  He has always liked to “whack” things with sticks.  When he was two years old we bought him a Sesame Street drum set for Christmas.

It was a pretty cool toy.  It came with a little stool to sit on.  It had a pedal for the bass drum.  It is hard to see in this picture, but there was even a tiny metal cymbal.  Man, did he love to whack that thing!

I honestly don’t know what ever happened to that drum set but I have a feeling it found its way to “a better place”.  The place where all the noisy toys end up.  You know the toys I’m talking about- the Jack in the boxes, the little microphones with the spring inside that toddlers yell…I mean sing into, the Fisher Price Pop “Corn Poppers” that aunts and uncles buy for their nephews as revenge for the year you wrapped up too many candy canes… We’ve all had noisy toys like that.             

Those noisy toys are exactly what I picture when I read 1 Corinthians Chapter 13.  To paraphrase, Paul says all of those gifts of the spirit we just talked about in the last chapter are great.  I’d really like for you to have ‘em, but in the end all that really matters is faith, hope and love.  Of those three qualities, if you only have room for one, choose love because when the rubber hits the road, what people need to know is that God loves them more than anyone has ever loved them.  All the rest is just noise.

-Brian Froehlich

Application questions:

  1. What is the noisiest toy you had as a child?
  2. What is the “noisiest” thing in your life right now?
  3. Have you ever had a friend who was just silently present with you when you needed them? 

The Weight of Sorrow

Matthew 11

Matthew 11 28.png

 

There is a destiny that makes us brothers:

None goes his way alone;

All that we send into the lives of others

Comes back into our own. —Markham

 

Today’s chapter is a solemn one for me. Jesus just finished the send-off of the 12 disciples out into the proving grounds and I imagine was watchful about the results. As word of the disciples broaden, John the Baptist hears about the Messiah’s latest turn of events and sends a question to Jesus in (verse 3): “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

 

This question intrigues me because of what it doesn’t ask. “Why won’t you help me? Do you not care that I sit suffering in this prison cell?” John the Baptist was the cousin, a dear friend, and a mentor of sorts who baptized Christ himself. He knew Jesus and Jesus knew John. They most likely grew up together. Jesus simply replied, (verse 4-6)  “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.

 

While this is a message of good report for the current gospel cause, what strikes me is what isn’t said to his friend. John would surely have known by this response that Jesus was referring to Old Testament prophecies like Isaiah 29:18-19, 35:5-6, or 61. These were the credentials of sorts that the coming Messiah would fulfill. Isaiah 61 is one of the most famous passages using phrases of comfort  like “ bind up the brokenhearted,” “proclaim freedom for captives,” and “release prisoners from darkness.” Yet, Jesus doesn’t convey any of THOSE phrases in the reply to John because he knew they couldn’t be upheld. Silence often speaks louder than words.

 

Have you ever had a friend or family member truly in sorrow and are unable to comfort them due in part to the schedule you must maintain? Maybe they were grieving a death, consequence, job loss, betrayal, or abandonment. You want nothing more than to stop everything and sit with them in their sorrow and to share the load. I have to believe this is what Christ wanted more than anything with John the Baptist, but his circumstances made this impossible and he ultimately knew that freeing John from prison was not the will of the Father. John was soon to die. Jesus sent a loving message of “omittance,” perhaps suggesting that he had not forgotten John, nor his sufferings. The tribute upon which Jesus bestows upon John in the next 14 verses following this makes me believe he was hurting for his brother. He wanted nothing more than to comfort, but his schedule and AGENDA would not allow.    

 

Jesus models a very important lesson here and later in Matthew 14 upon reaction to the terrible death of John the Baptist. SOMEtimes the best way to ease heartache is by getting back to work. Use your grief to empower your ministry. Rather than turning in on yourself and thinking “woe is me,” turn outward to serve and to love the crowds. It is ok to cry. It is ok to mourn for lost people or situations, but we must not let our emotions turn inward for long, lest it becomes pity. In our brokenness God is able to use us mightily. In desperation our dependence on Him will serve as a powerful testimony to a lost and dying world.

 

Is your heart broken today? Does life seem empty? Do you feel like giving up? Take hope in the example of Jesus. Take up whatever duties lie before you and dedicate them to God. Refuse the luxury of self-pity. Do something to lift the burdens of others and Jesus will strengthen you.

The final verses (28 – 30) of Matthew 11 confirm this truth. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

When you serve others you will find yourself.

 

-Julie Driskill

 

matthew 11 29

Though He Slay Me

Job 13 – 17

 job-13

Saturday, December 17

Today’s reading records my favorite verse of the book of Job:

 

“Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him ”  (Job 13:15)

 

Job lived this song. The Psalms plead this song.  Because of God’s sovereign care for us, every pain in this life is producing a glory that will last forever.  A Christian’s suffering should never be meaningless. Not only is all our affliction momentary, not only is all our affliction light in comparison to eternity and the glory there. But all of it is totally meaningful. Every second of our pain, from the fallen nature or fallen man, every second of your misery in the path of obedience is producing a peculiar glory.

Job’s trust in God was not based upon emotion.  It was based upon a complete belief in God as the One who knew what was best for him in all situations.  It was based upon a complete belief that whatever God put into his life, God was still to be trusted.  Job uttered these classic words after he had gone through the worst testing that anyone has possibly gone through.  He didn’t look to what was seen, and neither should we.

Shane Barnard of the Christian contemporary music group, Shane & Shane, understands this truth too. After the untimely death of his father, he and his family desperately looked to God for comfort. They clung to God’s word, and in their deepest moments of grief, they were led to worship. The song below, “Though You Slay Me,” was born in that experience.

 

I come, God, I come
I return to the Lord
The one who’s broken
The one who’s torn me apart
You strike down to bind me up
You say you do it all in love
That I might know you in your suffering

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

My heart and flesh may fail
The earth below give way
But with my eyes, with my eyes I’ll see the Lord
Lifted high on that day
Behold, the Lamb that was slain
And I’ll know every tear was worth it all

Though you slay me
Yet I will praise you
Though you take from me
I will bless your name
Though you ruin me
Still I will worship
Sing a song to the one who’s all I need

Though tonight I’m crying out
Let this cup pass from me now
You’re still more than I need
You’re enough for me
You’re enough for me

 

Therefore, do not lose heart. Take these truths and day by day focus on them. Preach them to yourself every morning. Get alone with God and preach his word into your mind until your heart sings with confidence that you are new and cared for. Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him!

-Julie Driskill

 

 

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