(Originally posted on the website Continuum…)
I MANAGED to make it to church this morning. Over the last few years, attending church has become harder for me to accomplish for several and various reasons – none of which I wish to discuss in this entry. These reasons range from the very practical issues, such as not having decent clothes to wear because the laundry wasn’t done earlier in the week due to some unexpected crisis, to the deeply theological issues whose immensity and complexities sometimes befuddle my little brain. However, today I was able to put all of that aside and go to worship.
I am glad that I was there. It was good to sing and to hear other human voices singing. It was good to hear the Bible read. It was good to have a time of peace. It is always good to see Pastor B and to be reminded of his involvement in my life. The whole experience helped to organize my thoughts for this entry.
THE THEME of today’s entry started to take shape in my mind one day this past week as I was driving to work. It was one of those rare occasions when I tuned in my radio to a Christian station. I do not listen to those stations very much – for reasons which also will not be discussed in this entry. While listening this particular morning, I heard a contemporary version of an old hymn. It was not contemporary in the “pop” sense of contemporary. I am referring to the sense of “newness” or “currency” in the word contemporary. The song caught my attention. I found myself singing along. The whole song became centered on these lines in the third verse:
Ponder anew what the Almighty will do,
If with His love He befriend thee.
My thoughts began to radiate from this central theme.
WHEN I STOP to think about it, I can think of no topic so sublime to give one’s self up to in pondering than the love of God! The immediate Bible verse that comes to mind is John 3:16:
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
Many of us have most likely heard that verse countless times. Many have had it memorized from Sunday school classes early in their life. Many can quote it without blinking. For some of us, it proceeds from our mouths with as much ease as the next breath we are about to exhale.
Does a good understanding of the “meaning” of that verse come to us as easily? We all recognize its packaging easy enough. But do we take the time to unwrap it, examine it, taste it, bite into it and nourish ourselves on the depth of its meaning? Would our characters be “healthier” and our lives more stable and vibrant if we did?
“PONDER ANEW” the meaning of the love of God. Maybe it’s been some time since some of us have thought much about God or His love. It’s the beginning of a new year and a new millenium. Maybe it’s the most appropriate time for some of us to ponder the love of God.
In the above-mentioned Bible verse, the love of God is not described or explained. It is declared to be the purpose behind God’s involvement in this world in the act of giving His Son Jesus Christ. The full story is that God gave His Son in order that He might save the world from their sins. Jesus accomplished this by giving His own body up to a torturous death on a cross in the place of those who were guilty and worthy of death themselves. He once suffered for sins, “the just for the unjust,” the righteous for the guilty, the pure for the unholy, God for man, Jesus Christ for Sam Snyder.
There is an infinite world of contemplation to be had when pondering the love of God in such a personal way! Why in the world would God give His Son to die for me?? Think of Jesus Christ. Go beyond thinking about people you know who say that they are Christians. Don’t look at them right now. Look at Jesus Christ. Think of all the good that He did. Think of His reputation as a kind and compassionate man, a worker of miracles, a healer of the sick, a liberator of the possessed, a real man, yet much more than a man. Think of how He had been with His Father for all of eternity past. Think of His purity.
NOW THINK honestly about yourself. If you are not able to do that, think honestly about Sam Snyder. After all, this is his online journal that he has so blatantly unveiled before the whole world. Let him step forward and be examined. What is his character really like? Who is he when no one else is looking? What kind of sordid thoughts fancy his imagination? How many half-truths have come from his mouth? What is the real depth of his sincerity? Does he have any sincerity at all?
Let’s compare him to Jesus Christ! Has Sam Snyder ever created a world so complex and marvelous as Jesus Christ has? Has Sam Snyder ever raised the dead, or touched a leper to heal him, or fed 5,000 people from just a few loaves? Has Sam Snyder been entirely without even the slightest sin for all of his life? Has Sam Snyder loved not only his friends, but even his enemies to the point of willingly dying for them?
Looks like Sam Snyder falls far short of measuring up.
“PONDER ANEW” what it means to be “befriended” by Almighty God. Wow! The possibilities are infinite because the love of God is infinite. Indeed, as the Bible simply states, “God IS love.” It is His very nature. He is loving in all that He is and does. Think of having a friend who loves you so much that he is willing to give up his dearest possessions for your well being. Now think of this friend as one who has proven his love for you over and over and over again. Not only that, think of this friend as having all the resources necessary to provide for your well being. Think of a king who has the riches and authority to take up a pauper and make him a prince, allowing him to live in his castle as one of his own sons. Think of a physician who is not only wise enough to diagnose your disease, but also able to provide the cure you need – free of charge! Ponder these ideas and others like them. Multiply them by infinity. Then you will just begin to realize what it means to be befriended by God.
SO these have been some of my deeper ponderings of late. There are many, many things concerning God and religion that I cannot explain, many questions that I currently have no answers for, many knots that I cannot untangle (some which I refuse to try to untangle anymore). But one thing that I can say for sure is that God, the Father of Jesus Christ, is loving and generous. For many years now, He has not failed to somehow communicate to me that He loves me. In all of the hardships that I have endured, it is God and His love that has picked me back up off the floor, stood me back upon my feet, and helped me to take another step forward. It is not my sense of humor or my own raw will power that has sustained me. Rather, it is something in my heart that says, “There is more to this life than what you see. There are bigger purposes, designs and plans, which you cannot comprehend right now. Your pains are not the ‘ends’ but only the ‘means’ of bringing you to something larger, something more substantial, something permanent.” Therein is the essence of the continuum in my life. There are forces and influences, which are much larger than I am. There are plans, which are immensely broader than my narrow life, plans, which have their beginning in eternity. Yet, because God is love, because He has befriended me, because He is almighty, I have faith that these plans are His plans, designed with infinite and personal love. I have faith that His plans have included me and that my well being was not forgotten when He held His counsel and designed this world. I have faith that even my feeble life is being used for his purposes in this world, perhaps even in the writing of this entry today, perhaps as part of someone else’s continuum.
I’m glad I went to church today. I hope you are now as well.