We had our morning flyover out here in Gascony Village today. You can hear them coming in the distance, then suddenly there they are – two geese flying in formation low over the house and the trees ! I think it’s more impressive than the military flyovers you see at sports events. We are blessed to have a God who is alive and active and involved in our lives !
The Next Few Sundays
I want to give you a sense of what will be happening on Sunday for the next three weeks. I’m really excited about what God has to say to us, and do in our lives, between now and the end of the month.
This Sunday, May 17
Bart Larson will be preaching this Sunday from Psalm 91 on dwelling and abiding in God’s presence in both good and bad times. Bart is a long-time friend of Emmanuel and serves as a hospice chaplain in the Jeff City area. Take a look at Psalm 91 before Sunday ; I know it will be a powerful and refreshing message from the Lord this Sunday. (I will be preaching at Crossroads Community Church in Nevada, Missouri.)
David Kiser’s Romans class for adults will meet at 9:00. My 301 class will not meet this Sunday. Our final session – to go over the SHAPE profiles – will be May 31st instead.
Sunday, May 24
We will finish up our series in Proverbs on “God’s Rx for Everyday Life” with a look at God’s Rx for our marriages. The Book of Proverbs doesn’t have a lot to say about marriage, but it does say enough to make us uncomfortable, to challenge us, and to help us ! I hope you will come on the 24th to get the script for that week !
During worship on the 24th, we will have a commissioning time for our missions team that will be leaving May 28 to serve the Lord in Jamaica.
Sunday, May 31
I’ll give a final message from God’s Word having to do with God’s purposes for the church. The 301 group will meet at 9:00. If you need copies of the material we’re using for our SHAPE profiles, please let me know before the 31st class.
If you are interested in being baptized, we will have an opportunity to have baptisms during worship on the 31st. Please let me know if you would like to be baptized on May 31.
Concerning the short-term missions team we’re sending to Jamaica, I was encouraged recently (and reminded of something I already knew to be true) while reading with my kids the story of John G. Paton, 19th-century missionary to the New Hebrides Islands (now Vanuatu). Paton wrote that it is a fixed truth that the more any church or congregation interests itself in reaching the lost abroad, the more it will be blessed and prospered at home. “One of the surest signs of life,” wrote the Christian Review journal of Paton’s day, “is the effort of a church to spread the Gospel beyond its own bounds.” Isn’t it true that as we give away to the Lord, He gives back to us – He prospers His church !
Our Battle with Illness
It seems that during recent years Emmanuel has had more than its share of struggle with physical illness. It’s an unusual journey we’ve had to make together, and some of it, I feel certain, is not unrelated to spiritual attack against the good work God wants to do in and through the church.
Physical illness is such a challenge because it affects the body, but also the emotions and the mind. There are many “why” questions ; there is a searching to understand what God’s plan is, and what He will accomplish through illness. Warren Wiersbe writes, “We are to love God with the mind as well as the heart (Luke 10:27). Christians should think the way God thinks and not the way the world thinks. The believer’s mind ought to be so saturated with divine truth that it can determine the divine perspective on every question, issue, or decision. A renewed mind is a mind alert to the world’s false philosophies and Satan’s subtle strategy. A renewed mind directs the believer to offer intelligent worship to the Lord” (Real Worship, p. 33).
So, I’ve tried this morning to jot down what in my mind (my intelligence) I know to be true about illness. Here are a few truths that help me turn to God as we bear together the struggles of illness :
1. Illness is used for God’s glory. The story of the man born blind (John 9) is one I return to often when I ask myself what God is doing through illness. Jesus said the man was not born blind because someone had done something wrong, but so that the “works of God might be displayed in him” (John 9:3). From personal experience, I can say that God does amazing things during a time of illness – everything from the small, daily provision of good gifts, to events that break through natural laws and could truly be classified as miraculous. Not everyone gets to see those glorious displays. Just as at the changing of water to wine in Cana, only the disciples of Jesus saw and understood what had just happened, so, too, sometimes the glories of God manifested through someone’s illness are known, or seen, only by a few.
2. Illness is temporary. It’s true that God does heal most of our illnesses in life. I’m just getting over an abscessed tooth which was followed by a sore throat. God has wired us to heal, and He has provided gifted caregivers who keep our physical bodies going for the most part. But, as a believer in Jesus Christ – the Risen One – I have the assurance that even if illness lasts a lifetime – or eventually claims my life – I belong to Him and have a resurrected, glorious body reserved for me ! He is redeeming all things, including my body. While on this earth, if I profess Him as my Lord, all of me belongs to Him – my mind, my emotions, my will, and my body. They are His to do with as He chooses.
3. The Lord goes through illness with us. One of the yearnings of our hearts, when someone we know is ill, is to go through the illness with them. We want to be at the doctor’s appointments with them ; we want to be by their side in the hospital waiting room. We don’t like that someone we love is hurting or fearful. Yet, the Lord actually is present with those who are ill and has a special love for them. At the shores of the Red Sea, cornered by Pharaoh’s army, Moses communicated these words from God to the Israelites : “The Lord will fight for you ; you need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14). He was present in the cloud and the fire which separated the Israelites from the attacks of the Egyptians. “I am waiting on Thee, Lord, to open the way” wrote J. Hudson Taylor, missionary to China. “When I thought how to understand this,” the psalmist wrote about his problem, “it was too painful for me … until I went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:16,17).
4. God teaches us through illness. One thing He has certainly promised to teach us is how to be better comforters – better caregivers – to each other. “He comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God !” (2 Cor 1:4). One of the interesting incidents I experienced during Diana’s illness was meeting up with a friend from years gone by at a wedding. I had not known that her parents had been seriously ill. When she told me about her experience with “caregiver burnout,” my eyes lit up ! “Oh, you understand !” I felt within myself. “You and I belong to the same club.” God comforts us and teaches us how to comfort others.
A prayer for those who are ill :
Jesus our Healer,
we place in your gentle hands those who are sick.
Ease their pain,
and heal the damage done to them
in body, mind or spirit.
Be present to them through the support of friends
and in the care of doctors and nurses,
and fill them with the warmth of your love
now and always.
Final thought : We do not worship God because of what He will do for us, but because of what He is to us.