Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Harrassed & Helpless

[From July 3, 2012]

"When (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd."
(Matthew 9:36)

Harassed & helpless.  That's what Jesus saw when he looked at the crowds of people who gathered around him.  Harassed & Helpless.  Of course, there wasn't any particular person harassing them, per se.  they were being overwhelmed by life.  By their physical health.  By their economic condition.  By their social standing.  There was an inner turmoil in the lives of so many... and they were helpless to change it.

So despite the fact that Jesus (and the Disciples) was often tired when he met them, he could see through their condition to their heart.  They needed God's peace & healing.  They needed a shepherd to look after them.

We within the church so often forget what it's like to be "without a shepherd."  We take for granted the reservoir of amazing grace & unending love that God bestows upon us daily.  It's available to everyone, but we, as Christians, know we can draw upon that to help get us through.  We also forget that "nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus."  That's comforting!  So instead of trying to get people to "come to church," we need to start introducing them to The Great Shepherd.  That will go a long way to helping alleviate their feelings of being harassed & helpless.

You cover my head

[From June 28, 2012]

"O LORD, my Lord, my strong deliverer, you have covered my head in the day of battle."
(Psalm 140:7)

I have just finished watching the 2nd season of the medieval series, "Game of Thrones."  The final episodes had an epic battle.  Land & sea forces.  Flaming arrows.  Flashing swords.  Catapults.  Rocks.  Boiling oil. The whole nine yards.

The sea forces came to shore via smaller row boats.  Once on land, the soldiers flipped their boats & carried it over their heads to protect them from the flying arrows, rocks, oil, etc.  It enabled them to approach the castle and begin their assault.  That "shield" was invaluable to those soldiers.  Individual shields & helmets also helped protect a soldiers' head - a very important component of staying alive in battle!

Psalm 140, attributed to David, was written by a soldier.  David was intimately familiar with the intricacies of battle.  He would have known the  importance of head protection.  And that's why he attributed that component to the LORD.  "You have covered my head in the day of battle."  God doesn't prevent us from having to face "battles" in life.  But He does give us vital protection in the midst of our struggles.  Amen to that!

"Mediums & Wizards"

[From June 26, 2012]

"Now Samuel had died, and all Israel had mourned for him and buried him in Ramah, his own city.  Saul had expelled the mediums and wizards from the land."
(1 Samuel 28:3)

The occult. 
Christianity has been at odds with those who "consult the dead," perform seances, and seek to tap into any form of spirituality that is not God-centered.  "JUST SAY NO!" has been the rallying cry for centuries.  How curious, then, to find a passage in the OT that's steeped in the occult.

1 Samuel 28 tells the story of the time King Saul consulted a medium.  "Oh yah, but Saul was a whackjob by then.  He was spiritually unstable!"  True.  True.  But he had cast out all "mediums and wizards" from Israel ("As it should be!" you're saying to yourself, right?  Right.).  But the prophet Samuel had died.  And try as he might, Saul couldn't hear a word from the LORD - no matter what he tried.

So Saul went "outside the box" in his desperation.  Sure, God wasn't speaking to him because he'd abandoned the Lord.  But that didn't stop  Saul from trying.  He tracked down a medium-in-hiding (who was very reluctant to practice her "craft," for fear of government reprisal!) and convinced her that she wouldn't be punished for  "services rendered."

Now, if we were writing this story, here's where we'd insert some kind of "gotcha" scene. Saul, that God-forsaken king, would get caught in his pathetic attempt to coerce a word from the LORD, and would be soundly scolded for even thinking about the occult as a means of communication with God.

That kind of happened.  But not really.  Saul got busted, all right!  His undercover deception was exposed.  But the medium still did her part!  She brought back a spirit from the grave.  Not just any spirit, though... SHE BROUGHT BACK THE PROPHET SAMUEL HIMSELF!  Samuel's message to Saul was less than encouraging.  Samuel told him that he and his sons would be joining him in the afterlife tomorrow (gulp!).  But it makes me wonder... what are we to make of this story?

As Christians, we believe that Jesus has conquered death.  By his resurrection, life eternal is possible.  We have nothing to fear.  We're told to avoid the occult at all costs.  And rightly so.  We don't want to expose ourselves to any evil influences that we don't have to.  And yet, this story seems to be saying that God is God - even over the occult!  God can use an "evil" method to bring a divine message.  Should we seek out unconventional forms of communication?  Probably not.  But let us remember that God can speak to us in MANY different ways and through many different people.  Let us keep our hearts focused on Him!