Monday, February 22, 2010

Comfort as Manna from Heaven II

So I was thinking about that guy that gathered up too much manna. I think my first thought is to assume the worst of the guy. I mean, he is used for all eternity as the guy who disobeyed God, but really, we assume he is doing it from a selfish or unfaithful attitude. He probably was, but I guess I came face to face with how I am that guy.

I find that I rarely worry about me. I mean, I've been through some stuff and God has always taken care of me. But Scriptures say that the people were hungry. It's not like they were out hunting for one meal and then manna came down out of heaven the next. No, they went without for a while, so they could learn a)they have needs and b) they can't meet them. Imagine being a husband or a father and watching your family go hungry for a while. All of a sudden God does this incredible miracle and there is food everywhere. Does it seem a little more sympathetic now? Poor dad doesn't want to go through that anymore, so he tries to out-provide God. Of course, God has systems in place to prevent that.

How does this connect? I can trust God to provide for me, but I worry about my wife. I can trust that God will heal me but will she be OK? I have this stupid belief that I am actually the one providing for my wife. God uses me, primarily, to take care of her, but it is still him doing it.

I find it is easy to trust God for myself, but it takes a far greater amount of faith to trust him for the ones I love. Only after they are gone do I finally let go of the imaginary controls and say "God, they're yours." And he has never failed to answer back "Zack, they always were."

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Comfort as Manna from Heaven

I now have occasion to consider the way in which God comforts his children. And it seems there are some things to remember. Before we get into all of that we should look at a text that presents how God provides and our necessary response.

Exodus 16 (I'll be jumping around a bit)

4Then the LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not...

14And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. 15When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat. 16This is what the LORD has commanded: 'Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.'" 17And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19And Moses said to them, "Let no one leave any of it over till the morning." 20But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

As planners by nature, Leanne and I have been trying to plan our grief. As life slowly sinks in, as we slowly gather up the baby stuff and take it downstairs, as her belly still aches from the incisions and from the emptiness we work to ensure all of the support we need is in place to get through this as well as we can. Of course, we have been learning that there is no way to do that.

In reality, the simple task of going to work can seem utterly overwhelming. We cry when we think about "Wednesday." Not that Wednesday has any special task or painful memory associated with it. It's just that Wednesday is close enough for me to be scared about how I am going to get through it, and yet it is far enough away for me to struggle with planning around it.

God reveals both in history and in His revealed Word that he will provide for his children. They will not be forgotten. God does not forget that we are finite and creaturely. That we require daily provision for some of the most mundane things.

Some things I have learned about God's provision:
  1. God will provide, and he will provide exactly what you need, not what you think you need. In our case we need comfort and God promises he will provide that (2 Cor 7:6)
  2. He provides it daily. Sometimes minute by minute. All planning is not wrong, but when it comes to trying to bank up God's provision I think you'll find that your plans are thwarted. Why do you think the Israelites were unable to store up extra manna? God isn't against pantries, but he is against people trying to rely on themselves when he has explicitly told them to rely on him. My "Wednesday" is the issue I worry about when I don't have the faith to deal with today. When friends come over and our spirits are lifted the exact wrong thing to do would be to worry about how our spirits will be lifted in three days. God has enough strength to plan out three days from now, I don't nor am I supposed to. Take ever gift as it is given, when it is given.
  3. God's provision is sweet to the senses. Scripture writes that manna tasted like honey-cakes. God could have provided them a rice/bird-seed combo cracker that would have been gluten free and provided every necessary nutrient and tasted like cardboard, but he didn't. His provision tasted like the sweetest thing they had. If God is providing a moment of laughter or friendship then just go with it. Love it. Hold on to it as long as it is there. Don't feel guilty for being comforted.

Far from being done with learning about comfort I leave you all now. I've started a prayer journal. I got one of those fancy-schmancy moleskines from B&N and have been writing my prayer request on one side and God's provision on the other. God is good and he provides for his children.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph 3:20-21)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My prayer for my son

I wish I could write a poem, but I'm not a poet. I wish I could write a song, but I can't. What I feel right now is something that straight exposition cannot communicate. My heart aches, and I can't pen a reasonable-enough argument for it that you can't help but comprehend. This seems like something that only a song can communicate, so I will use someone else's.

Psalm 6

1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger,
Nor chasten me in Your wrath.
2Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
3And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But You, O LORD--how long?
4Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;
Save me because of Your lovingkindness.
5For there is no mention of You in death;
In Sheol who will give You thanks?
6I am weary with my sighing;
Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
7My eye has wasted away with grief;
It has become old because of all my adversaries.

I prayed verse 5 over and over again. I was on my knees while they were doing the C-Section. They offered to get me gowned up so I could be there, but I knew I had important work to do, work I could only do on my knees with my tears. I just wanted them to do their job while I did mine. I prayed: If he dies, who will praise you? Who will tell of your mighty deeds?

It seemed like a few minutes but it had actually been much longer. There is a peace that comes after a time. I think peace can either come through the belief that something good is going to happen or it can come from an exhausted submission. The latter is what I felt. I finished the 100th rendition of my prayer and then in my quiet misery, I softly spoke “I will. I will still praise you. No matter what.”

My cries grew louder as I began to pray “Lord, please save my son. Please take him in your loving arms. Please accept him.”

The stillbirth certificate reads: Athanasius Creed Skrip. Born 2/15/2010, 3:47am.

I couldn't remember which Psalm I was praying. I wanted to read it in full. A little bit of searching led me to the reference: Psalm 6.

I had forgotten how it ended.

8Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
9The LORD has heard my supplication,
The LORD receives my prayer.
10All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.

The Lord heard my prayer. He knows my heart. He saved my son. He didn't save him to a life of pain and fleshly struggles, but he saved him to Himself. I will see my son again, and I will never hear him cry.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Sin and Headship

As I'm about to become a daddy, I've been looking at my life and wondering how it is going to change. I mean there are all of the usual ways, diapers, crying, and no free-time, but I'm thinking more about how my role is going to change.

I've come to realize that my sin has a much larger impact now than it used to. This is not to say that God finds it any more or less repugnant than before but that my sin is going to directly impact the lives of those I've sworn to protect and provide for.

I see it affecting their lives in two ways: 1) As sin entered the world through one man (Rom 5:12) so any sin I allow to stay in my life will probably be passed down to my wife and child and 2) I am the head of my family as Christ is the head of the church (Eph 5:23-24), so my sin lies to my family about Christ's faithfulness to his church. Not only can sin impede or nullify my role as provider and protector, but it also ruins my witness of Christ's faithfulness.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A quick thought on peacemaking...

I've been thinking about reconciliation and peacemaking a fair bit recently and here is what I have.

Our unity (as Christians) is based in "One God, One Baptism, One Spirit, One Church (Eph 4:1-6)." What this means, is that our unity is based on the unity of God and can find no other foundation that will weather the storms of our lives. The kind of unity that we need is not found in having a similar socio-economic background or political standing. It is not found in the color of our skins or the color of our hair. The unity of the church, the only kind of unity that works, is unity that is based on the unity of the Trinitarian God.

Some implications of this follow:
  1. The first and foremost reconciliation we need to seek is reconciliation with God. It doesn't matter if you and Joe Schmoe are fighting because he did something to you, you need to seek his reconciliation to God as the primary goal (i.e., he needs to get saved).
  2. As our reconciliation is found in God, and God is Truth, no legitimate peacemaking can be found in compromise. The world tries to argue that everyone's opinion matters and that no one has the corner on Truth. While the latter would be true in a world devoid of Divine Self-Revelation (the Bible), this is not the case. If there is a person or group opposing God by opposing the Truth revealed in His word, then we are to seek their reconciliation with God but we CAN NOT make peace with them as long as they continue to err in their ways.
  3. The Kingdom of God is full of people that don't look like you, that is, it is diverse. We don't need to major in the minors, remember that all unity comes from the Gospel (Eph 2:11-22).

Of course, I'm not arguing for everyone to fight everyone else on every minor issue in Scripture. That would be counter-productive. But what I am saying, is that we are to be very sure of what the Gospel is, and as long as there is agreement there, then the other stuff can be worked out along the way.