Remember When?

At worship on Sunday morning, I was asked to remember the time I first fell in love with Christ. My heart immediately went back to April 17th, 1964. I understood that Christ loved me enough to die for me, and wanted to love Him back with all of my heart. My journey took me away from His precious love for a long time, and I recalled that dark time as well yesterday as I found myself unable to pray or write. It was a terrible state very like hell. Hell is separation from God, and I had a bitter taste of that yesterday as I wallowed and whined in my own self pity.

I’m thankful my separation from God was only for a day, and I thank Him for reminding me of the time when we first fell in love. I found myself thinking of other times I had fallen in love. There were three, but I could only recall specific moments and dates for one. I know that’s because I’ve only experienced true love once. The memories brought both sadness and joy. I loved reliving those sweet moments of finding love, but my heart filled with excruciating pain as I thought of losing it. It was a taste of hell just as the love had been a taste of heaven. I don’t know if I will ever find true love again. I’m not sure if I can have that level of love more than once in this life. I am positive I don’t want my heart to go through that level of pain ever again, but I know God will help me sort it all out.

At the end of the service on Sunday, the invitation was to think again about that time I fell in love and accepted Christ’s love as my own. I do remember when, and I thank God that I have His love forever. Recalling the pain of losing love was a sobering reminder that I am the only one who can end my relationship with Christ. I know I can turn from Him because I’ve done that before, and I do not plan to ever do that again. My day away from Him yesterday was interminable as I found myself back in that terrible desert of separation.

God taught a beautiful lesson and brought much healing with the simple exercise of remembering when. Remembering when I met and fell in love with Him put all things into perspective. I marvel at how He gave me just what I needed just when I needed it. His love transcends and transforms in ways I cannot begin to understand, but I truly appreciate that love and the love He allowed me to experience while on this journey. There is joy as I remember my salvation, and that is beautiful hope in Psalm 51. I wasn’t surprised when He placed that particular psalm in my path this morning.

Hear God’s love and healing in verses 10-12. I pray I will have a willing and obedient spirit as His love leads me in His direction.

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
 And renew a steadfast spirit within me.

Do not cast me away from Your presence 
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of Your salvation
 And sustain me with a willing spirit.”NASB

Cry Out to God

I have alluded to the service for Andy several times in my posts this week, so Pastor John graciously agreed to share his notes so I could pass along the healing words that helped me so very much as I searched for answers this week. For those of you also seeking to understand why, I pray you find comfort in these words. This brief post is but a very small shadow of the powerful service. I wish you could hear the message of truth and forgiveness spoken with love from the heart of Andy’s and my dear friend.

December 18, 2012

John Alden Tagliarini

(Taken from the service for Andrew Ivor “Andy” Parris)

“Why?” Moses asked, “O Lord, why does Your anger burn against Your people whom You have brought out from the land of Egypt?” (Exodus 32:11 NASB)

The psalmist asked, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1 NASB)

We have to ask, “Why God?”

We have to ask, “Why, Andy, did you take your own life?”

And, we have to admit to no satisfying answers.

In fact, the only answer I can find here is to encourage you – in whatever trials you are going through – I encourage you to know that suicide is not the answer. Call someone, call out to God!

We usually acknowledge our lack of vocabulary as we try to address circumstances such as these. Then, without sufficient words, we continue speaking as if the sound of our voices might somehow sooth our souls and prompt some insight regarding the meaning of it all. My sense is that God is grieving with us. His anger is kindled over the evil results of our deeds.

God gives life. God desires that we enjoy abundant life. Yet, God also gives free will. The consequences of our choices sometimes leave scars. Jesus bears just such scars. His hands, His feet, His side, His brow show the results of evil running its course. Yet, God forgave, and He forgives! This is the only grace I can offer this afternoon, God’s love.

Someday, God will bring into His world the fulness of abundant life which He began in Christ Jesus. Until that day, let us find ways to affirm life, to accept others, to listen deeply and to stand firm against all that destroys the life God intended. Let us trust God to heal our hurt, to love and to forgive.

Speaking as we have of love and life and suffering and pain, God reminded me of the picture painted by the prophet Isaiah of the suffering of our Lord. Though stark, Isaiah’s words are laced with hope. It is the hope that God heals us through the suffering of our redeemer. It is the hope that Jesus bears our sins away.

Let us hear the word of the Lord.

Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
 And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
 He was crushed for our iniquities; 
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, 
Each of us has turned to his own way;
 But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all 
To fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
 Yet He did not open His mouth; 
Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
 So He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:4-7 NASB)

As a result of the anguish of His soul,
 He will see it and be satisfied;
 By His knowledge the Righteous One, 
My Servant, will justify the many,
 As He will bear their iniquities.” (Isaiah 53:11 NASB)

In Christ Jesus, God bears our sins away and offers forgiveness and love and comfort.

With the psalmist, we ask, “Why?” The psalmist answered his own question with honest trust in his God. He said, “O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer; And by night, but I have no rest. Yet You are holy, O You who are enthroned upon the praises of Israel. In You our fathers trusted; They trusted and You delivered them. To You they cried out and were delivered; In You they trusted and were not disappointed” (Psalm 22:2-5 NASB)

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7 NASB)

Whenever God’s people are hurting or are in trouble, they call out to Him for deliverance. The people of Israel experienced times when it felt as though all the blessings of God, all the good work of growth in the Promised Land after Exodus from Egypt was wasted, and that God had rejected them. Yet, the people called upon God. They prayed that God would shine His face upon them in renewed blessings.

Hear some verses from just such a psalm of petition.

Oh, give ear, Shepherd of Israel,
 You who lead Joseph like a flock; you who are enthroned above the cherubim, shine forth!” (Psalm 80:1 NASB)

..stir up Your power 
And come to save us!” (Psalm 80:2b NASB)

You have fed them with the bread of tears,
 And You have made them to drink tears in large measure.” (Psalm 80:5 NASB)

We cry out to God today. “O Lord of hosts, restore us; Cause Your face to shine upon us, and we will be saved” (Psalm 80:19 NASB)

We have an affirmation of faith, penned by the shepherd David in Psalm 23.

The Lord is my shepherd,
 I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures; 
He leads me beside quiet waters.

He restores my soul;
 He guides me in the paths of righteousness
 For His name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
 I fear no evil, for You are with me; 
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
 You have anointed my head with oil;
 My cup overflows.

Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life,
 And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. “ (Psalm 23 NASB)