Blessed Are They …

I have spent a lot of time over the years working as a hospice chaplain. It amazes me how many homes I go into where the family has little or no contact with organized religion. It is in those homes, though, where I am able to minister as a chaplain more than I can as a pastor. As a pastor, I am seen as a guardian of a particular denomination. As a chaplain, I come across as less threatening. As a pastor, I am seen as trying to persuade someone to my church. As a chaplain, I am seen as a person truly interested in someone’s spiritual well being. I have also recently read some good pieces of literature relating to hospice, dying and dignity. Let me share two of those with you today.

The first is by Gwendolyn London and is remarkably profound:

“We must realize that dying is a spiritual process with medical implications, not a medical process with spiritual implications.”

 

The second is a poem by Malcomb Goldsmith, from his book: In A Strange Land: People with Dementia and the Local Church

Blessed are they who understand,  my faltering steps and shaking hand

Blessed are they who know my ears today, must strain to catch the words they say

Blessed are they with cheery smile, who stop to chat for a little while

Blessed are those who never say, “You’ve told us that story twice today.”

Blessed are they who make it known, that I’m loved, respected and not alone.

 

And I would add, blessed are those who reach out to the dying, to bring the love and witness of Jesus Christ one last time to souls who need Him

 

Where Are You At?

Sounds like a funny title to a blog, doesn’t it? What do you mean, where am I at? Spiritually, emotionally, where are you right now? Let me give you a story to illustrate.

Imagine a day at the beach. The sun is shining, a cool off-shore breeze is blowing. Families are having fun. Suddenly, there’s a scream, “Help me! I’m drowning!” Waves of panic engulf the beach. The once-quiet sunbathers point wildly at a figure just beyond the breaking surf. A lifeguard races down the beach and swims toward the sinking person. Thrashing furiously, pair of hands suddenly reappears out of the deep. The drowning person is in an intense struggle between life and death.

Now let me ask you, do you identify with the drowning person, the trained lifeguard, or the powerless spectators? You are in at least one of those categories. Let me help you understand.

Right now, you may be overwhelmed by sorrow and you may be grasping, like a drowning person, for the answers to a multitude of “why” questions. Perhaps you are more like  the spectators, you are feeling grossly inadequate  as you try to assist a friend who is hurting. You may identify with the lifeguard, you have tried to help so many people and you are worn out, both from rescuing some and from the devastation at not being able to help others.

It is important to realize that in each of these states of mind, the answer is the same. We have to learn to lean on Jesus. Only He can save everyone. Only He has the answers to life’s questions. Only He can take broken, useless lives and make them whole again. Remember the old nursery rhyme?

Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall

Humpty Dumpty had a great fall

All the kings’s horses and all the king’s men

Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again

Thanks be to God that Jesus specializes in putting broken things back together. What we cannot do, He can. Not only can He put shattered lives back together, He can make them stronger and more beautiful than they were before. Give Him the pieces of your life today and watch what He can do with it. You won’t be disappointed.

 

Excerpt From A Heart Hungry to Worship (Free on Kindle this weekend)

The Holy Spirit has instructed Philip to make contact with the Ethiopian and he does so. Running alongside the chariot, he hears the eunuch reading from Isaiah. In those days, it was customary to read aloud, not silently when one read to their self. Philip asks him a simple question: “Do you understand what you are reading?” The English translation does not do justice to the original Greek wording. Philip’s question really asks the eunuch if what he is reading has any meaning for him, if what he is reading makes any sense.

The response is so telling! It is a response of frustration, discouragement and disappointment. “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” Despite his apparent regalia and retinue, no one in Jerusalem had taken the time to answer his questions. No one helped quench his thirst for the knowledge of the One True God. He had a copy of the Scriptures, but could not understand what the words meant. He could read them, he was an educated man fluent in languages, but the meaning, the import, and the supernatural impact of the words eluded him.

There is a reason why the Bible says that only those who are spiritual can understand spiritual things.[1] Until a person comes to submit their life to the Lord Jesus, the Bible depicts them as spiritually blind, unable to see or comprehend spiritual truths.[2] They need the Holy Spirit to open their spiritual eyes and illuminate their minds. Often, the Spirit uses believers, like Philip, in that process.

The Ethiopian invites Philip up into his chariot and asks him a question about the passage he is reading. “Who is the prophet referring to?” Without being able to identify the subject talked about, a person cannot make a proper interpretation. Philip begins introducing the Ethiopian to Jesus through this passage. The Book of Isaiah was tailor-made for a person like this Ethiopian. It’s in Isaiah that many prophecies of Jesus’ birth and reign are found.[3] It’s in Isaiah where one finds promises to eunuchs of their inclusion in God’s Holy Temple[4] alongside other worshippers of God. Isaiah described God Himself, high and lifted up, as having compassion on people who have wandered away from the truth; who are like sheep.[5]

Philip begins with the passage the Ethiopian is wrestling with and uses it as a springboard to tell the story of Jesus, God’s Messiah. As Philip expounds the meaning of what the Ethiopian was reading God’s Spirit illuminates his mind. Now, he realizes how a person is to worship God. Now, he realizes that it’s not at a Temple made by human hands but through faith in Jesus Christ that a person comes to approach God. As they pass by some water, he interrupts Philip to ask, “Is there anything that hinders me from being baptized right now?” He understands; he wants to identify with Jesus Christ and he desires to proclaim his newfound faith.

Water baptism was quite common in those days. In Judaism, it stood as a symbol for a Gentile’s repentance and conversion to Israel’s religion. In Christianity, it stands for each person’s repentance and as a symbol of his or her submission to Christ’s Lordship.

Philip baptizes the Ethiopian, which shows us an important picture. Philip, an olive skinned man, baptizes the Ethiopian, a black man, into the fellowship of the church. Philip, a former adherent to Judaism, and the Ethiopian, a former adherent to the religion of Meroe, become equal in standing before Christ. In Christ, racial barriers, national barriers, cultural barriers fall. Each person finds themselves equal at the foot of the Cross.


[1] 1 Corinthians 2:13-16

[2] 2 Corinthians 4:3-4

[3] Isaiah 7:14, 11:1-16

[4] Isaiah 56:3-8

[5] Isaiah 6:1-4, 53:6

Great Quotes From Ages Past #7

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite preachers – Jonathan Edwards

 

“Spiritual emotions result in Christian practice because their object is the loveliness of spiritual things, not our self-interest. People have a defective Christianity because they are seeking their own interests in it, not God’s. So they accept Christianity only to the extent that they think it serves their interests. By contrast, a person who accepts it for its own excellent and lovely nature, accepts everything which has that nature.”