Thursday, October 20, 2011

Pain and Promise

Recently I had to be seen by a hand surgeon related to some pain I was having in my right hand. The surgeon was able to determine I was in the early stages of developing a "trigger finger." That is a condition characterized by an inflammation around the tendon which inhibits the easy movement of the fingers. Over time if left untreated the finger at the site of the inflammation gets stuck which then requires you to physically pull on it to get it unstuck, causing more pain and inflammation. I was hoping the surgeon would recommend some sort of non-invasive remedy that would take care of the pain. However, he instead suggested an injection into my hand (palm side) of an anti-inflammatory medication which was guaranteed to reduce the swelling, pain, and restore normal movement. Needless to say I was not quick to agree knowing that the hand is a very sensitive part of the body. I tried to reason my way out of it in my mind as he sat patiently waiting for me decide. Finally I had to come to grips with the fact that the alternative was a continued deterioration which would lead to surgery. So, I opted for the pain of the injection based on the promise that my hand would get better.  We often have the same experience in our Christian walk. We  set our hopes on a particular outcome that we believe is God's will for us but sometimes get surprised when God does the opposite. I had such an experience not too long ago. I believed God had clearly opened a door for me which I excitedly pursued only to have the door as I perceived it slammed shut, bolted, and locked. It through me into a tailspin and I was deeply grieved. All the questions come bubbling to the surface, "I don't get it God, is this some kind of a cruel joke?" "Did I misinterpret your leading?" As a result one can go to a place of questioning the goodness of God. However, just as I had to trust the doctor that the pain from the injection would bring healing, so I have to trust God with the same. In fact pain and a promise are very Biblical. Remember Abraham? In Genesis 12 God gave Him numerous promises about "blessing all peoples of the earth through him."(Genesis 12:2-3) How exciting that must have been for Abraham! Even though God called him to leave his homeland, on some level Abraham was able to trust God given the promise that was to be fulfilled through him. But God threw Abraham a "curve ball" when he told him to sacrifice his only son, Isaac. (Genesis 22) In the midst of the emotional pain Abraham was experiencing, he may have wondered whether experiencing the pain of the death of his only son was worth it for the fulfillment of the promise. Ultimately, Abraham decided to trust God and of course the rest is history.  Isaac was saved and Abraham did indeed become the father of many nations (Jew and Gentile) and through his lineage, came Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. In Christ we see the repetition of the pain and promise to us. Through the pain of Jesus' sacrifice came the promise of hope, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. Some folks wonder if God could have found a better way than for Jesus to suffer as He did? Yes, God could but pain was necessary for us to appreciate the healing. The healing of the rift between God and humanity because of sin and the healing of our souls as we are conformed to the image of Christ. The hand doctor told me if my hand did not feel any better in about a month, I could come back for a second injection which should do the trick. (I am praying that's not the case) The good news is "Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." (2 Peter 3:18a) And in my moments of despair when I am tempted to question the goodness of God, His word speaks comfort to my wounded soul, "For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) "I will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands." (Isaiah 49:15b-16) italics mine. Somehow having something engraved on the palms of one's hands is far more painful than my injection but Oh the promises that follow! 
Be Blessed!
Pastor Sheree

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Faith, Love and Deeds

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes or food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if not accompanied by action is dead." (James 2:14-17) These are some powerful words from James but very relevant for us today. I was able to witness faith in action this week. There are some trees near our home that need to be cut down. My husband made some phone calls to various local companies to get some estimates for the tree removal. Two companies came out to give us a price. In the meantime a brother in our congregation mentioned the name of a Christian man he knew that was very good and could probably give us a cheaper estimate. My husband made several calls to this person and left messages without any response. I couldn't understand why a fellow believer would not return our calls or even leave a message to indicate his availability. I thought for sure that God wanted the Christian man to do the work. One of the other companies called to lower their estimate and was anxiously waiting for a response from us. We were ready to call the company back when a customer came to my husband's job. He was looking for a part to repair a burner for a boiler at the home of an elderly woman who had been without heat or hot water for two days. The customer stated that his wife was a home health caregiver and discovered the elderly woman's problem a few days ago. The customer who was an auto mechanic attempted to help the elderly woman but broke a hose in the process. My husband's business did not have the needed part but my husband recommended that he contact the local oil companies. Sadly, no oil company would help this man. He reported back to my husband what had happened and added that this elderly woman had no money. In response my husband offered his assistance, having been in the oil burner service business for 29 years. He happened to have a used burner in our shed at home and arranged to meet the man at the elderly woman's home after work. After ensuring the the burner was still in working order, he went to the elderly woman's home, installed it, and got the burner up and running. Before my husband parted company with this auto mechanic he mentioned about our tree situation. In response, the mechanic stated that he also had a tree removal business and was willing to come and do the job for a very reasonable price. We received this as a blessing from the Lord and it became clear to me why the delay in the tree removal process. God calls us to be witnesses and faithful in showing His love to the world. It is very easy to become too comfortable in our Christianity or to adopt an attitude of, "Well, I feel sorry for that person" or "What a shame, I hope they get some help soon. It's a good thing it's not winter yet!" James calls for faith in action but John goes even further and speaks of the very heart of God which is love in action, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18) Let us remain faithful to our Savior who calls us to, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' (italics mine) There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:30-31) 
Blessings In Christ,
Pastor Sheree