“Promise me son”

“Woman behold your son”
John 19:26

September 4 that year so long ago was a date I will never forget. It happens to be the birthday of my younger sister but that is not what I recall so vividly. In late August the specialist had told me, my brother, sister and mother that my 81 year old Dad only had a year or so to live. The others said they could not tell Dad the news and so I was elected to do it.

On September 1 we had brought him down from his cottage by ambulance as he had gone into third degree heart block and was completely disoriented. He did not know any of us the first couple of days. When I walked into his room that dark September 4 he looked with recognition at me. I asked him if he knew who I was and he responded that he did. Then I asked him if he knew where he was and he responded that he was in the hospital but did not know how he got there. Briefly I told him what had happened at the cottage days earlier.

I knew I had to pass on the unhappy news to him right then. I took his gnarled right hand in mine and sought to explain as simply and gently as possible what his medical status really was. I indicated the disease had spread beyond surgical intervention and that no aggressive chemotherapy could be administered as his heart was too weak.

My father instantly got the message. His left hand came across and grabbed my wrist. He looked at me and began to say over and over, “Promise me son, promise me son.” I did not have the slightest idea what he was talking about so I asked him what he wanted from me.

His statement caused me to realise that this would be a defining moment in my life. What he said was, “Promise me son that when I am gone you will take care of your mother.” You could have knocked me over with a feather. My Dad had gone from what I had said about his situation to immediately thinking of his wife and what would happen to her in his absence.

Apparently he was not going to let his own death stand in the way of caring for his beloved wife. He would make certain she was in loving hands when his time with her was done. That day my Dad acted like Jesus did at the cross. In the Gospel story we see Jesus, about to die on the cross, committing his mother into the care of one of his disciples.

Do you see how remarkable Jesus is in caring for His own people? Even His death on the cross would not stop Him from fulfilling His responsibilities to His mother. If Jesus was so meticulous in the details of Mary’s care can you not trust Him to see to all your needs today? He rose from the dead in order to guarantee the benefits He bought for His people. If you belong to Jesus you will never find that He leaves you in the lurch.

Jesus cares for His own much better than any of us can care for our own loved ones. If you belong to Him His love will follow you all the way through life until you reach your home in heaven. Jesus promised to keep His people and rest assured He will.

Finishing Well

“I have finished the race”
2 Timothy 4:7 (NIV)

It is an appropriate matter to reflect on our past performance in life. Taking stock is always a worthwhile activity. To examine where we are, how we got there, and where we want to be, is the mark of a progressive thinking person.

Being stuck in the past can keep the best of people from improving their lot in life. For too many people, when they come to later life, there is a feeling of regret that more was not accomplished with their opportunities. The remarkable person who is quoted in our verse today is none other than the apostle Paul.

Paul is in the home stretch of life and knows he does not have much time left. Therefore it is remarkable to read the verses that follow this one. Paul appears to be busy right up to the end as he calls for certain individuals to come to him and help him in his ministry. He desires certain books to be brought that will aid him in the final days.

There are marks of organization, a desire to still accomplish things, and the great concern to “finish well”. I have the greatest admiration for Paul as he seeks to keep occupied right to the last moment.

There is a striking resemblance between Paul and our Lord. Even when Jesus was being crucified He was still accomplishing things on behalf of others. His own dreadful situation did not deter Him from doing significant things for the people around Him. For example as the hammer was being used to fix Him on the cross Jesus repeatedly prayed that His executioners would be forgiven.

Then Jesus somehow caught the attention of one of the criminals who were crucified with Him. God caused the man to see past the apparent weakness of Jesus and His situation to recognize our Lord’s true character and ministry. When he asked Jesus for help (Luke 23:39-43) Jesus assured him that he would be in heaven with Him that very day. How could Jesus organize such an amazing thing from such a position of disadvantage? He could because He is God.

Then, while hanging on the cross, Jesus arranges for the care of His mother now that He would no longer be there for her. (John 19:26-27) Jesus also caused a prophecy about His execution to be fulfilled by telling the soldiers of His thirst (John 19:28-29). Right up to the very final hour of His life Jesus was productive and benefitting others.

If we are followers of Jesus we should not let anything stop us from being useful in the work of living for our great Saviour until we cross the finish line. We need to follow the example of Paul because he followed the example of Jesus.

The Blessing of Tears

“…we sat and wept”
Psalm 137:1

There are those who think that we Canadians are too much like our British ancestors because we seek to “keep a stiff upper lip” in the face of adversity. Whether or not that is true may never been known. However, there are a lot of people in pain who work hard to keep from crying over their sad situation.

Is it right to fight the tears and always put on a brave front when out in public? What is it about crying that makes so many people desire to avoid it? Some people can recall that in childhood they were rewarded if they kept from crying when given an injection at the doctor’s office. Others remember hearing the statement, “Only babies cry.” Some people at least, have been programmed not to weep whatever the situation. We tend to regard as brave those who fight back their emotions at the graveside, and other scenes of sorrow.

What is behind our culture’s idea that the best way forward in trials is to keep our emotions in check, at least in public? Other cultures are not embarrassed by a display of emotions so why should we? Perhaps one reason for keeping our emotions in check is how uncomfortable it makes other people feel to see us weep. So, for the sake of others we refrain from what really comes naturally.

God gave us the faculty of tears and we should use them when appropriate. People in pain need to rise above the notion that tears are for sissies. We all have reasons at times for tears and it is a great benefit to release our emotions in this way. It also helps those around us to share with us the sorrow of the situation.

When we read about tears in Psalm 137 the Psalmist is grieving over the enforced captivity and exile he and his people are enduring. He says that they have hung up their harps and can no longer sing because of the destruction of their homeland. Sorrow is all they can feel at the cruel situation they are in.

In various portions of Scripture the people of God weep and do so for many reasons. They weep because others mock their faith since it appears that God has left them (Psalm 42:3). Others wept because of loneliness (Psalm 39:12). Some wept over the suffering in this world (Ecclesiastes 4:1).

Even our Lord wept at times when confronted with the city that rejected Him (Luke 19:41) and at the grave of a beloved Lazarus (John 11:35). There was no hesitation on our Lord’s part about weeping in sorrowful contexts.

A most remarkable promise is given to God’s people concerning the time when tears will no longer be known by us. In Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4; we are told that a time will come when God shall permanently remove tears from our lives as He gently wipes them away. It is certainly a fascinating picture of our Creator soothing those who are sorrowful and replacing the tears with joy.

I trust that my readers are looking forward to the great day in the house of God when the family will be gathered home and we shall sit down and feast. Weeping may endure for a night but joy is coming in the morning Psalm 30:5

The Annoying Jesus

“So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath,
the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 
In his defense Jesus said to them, 
‘My Father is always at his work to this very day,
and I too am working.’
For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; 
not only was he breaking the Sabbath,
but he was even calling God his own Father,
making himself equal with God.”
John 5:16-18 (NIV)

“Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, 
‘Stand up in front of everyone.’ 
Then Jesus asked them, ‘Which is lawful on the Sabbath:
to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?’ 
But they remained silent.
He looked around at them in anger and,
deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts,
said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ 
He stretched it out,
and his hand was completely restored.’”
Mark 3:3-5 (NIV)

We talk about people “rubbing us the wrong way”. We mean they annoy us for some reason or other. Some people tolerate annoying people very well. Others get easily upset at people who act or speak in a distracting manner.

One group of Jewish religious leaders our Lord upset frequently were the Pharisees. They explained the laws of the Torah to the common people. One commandment they explained in minute detail was the command to keep the Sabbath day holy (Exodus 20:8). The Pharisees had a long list of rules that must be observed in order to keep the Sabbath holy. For example, they taught that an egg laid on the Sabbath could not be eaten as the hen laboured to lay the egg on the Sabbath thus polluting the egg. But the Pharisees provided a loophole. You could sell the egg!

The Master was willing to violate one of these “rules” if it meant that good would come from His action. In our verses today Jesus is in a synagogue on the Sabbath. The ever vigilant Pharisees paid close attention to annoying Jesus to see if He would violate the Sabbath. Sure enough, He called on a man present whose hand was withered to come up to the front where everyone could easily see what He was about to do. How annoying can a person get?

Before healing the man Jesus asked the question if it was appropriate to do good on the Sabbath. The answer was obvious to everyone, so Jesus did something good and healed the man’s hand. The Pharisees slinked away to join with the Herodians in plotting how to eliminate the irreverent enemy.

Jesus would not go out of His way to annoy the Pharisees, but on the other hand would not let them get in the way of blessing people on the Sabbath. Is it not wonderful that our Good Shepherd is willing able and ready to bless us His people any time and anywhere? Just as Jesus came to where the man was with the deformed hand in order to bless him, He comes to us with the needed help every day of the week.

Today look for Him. Hear Him call your name. Be assured He desires the very best for you and shall use His sovereign will to bless you today just as He did good to the man with the deformed hand many years ago. He is the same Saviour today as He has always been.

Yesterday, today, forever, Jesus is the same,
All may change, but Jesus never, glory to His name!
Glory to His name! Glory to His name!
All may change, but Jesus never, glory to His name!

“You are his father?”

“I never knew you. Away from me”
Matthew 7:23

An old saying goes like this, “It’s not what you know but who you know.” I think there is some truth to it. I recall being at a fundraising banquet in the summer of 2010 for the Haiti earthquake relief. I had several guests with me and we had a fine meal and lots of information about the disaster in Haiti in January 2010.

One of the speakers was an advanced care paramedic who happened to be my oldest son. The reason he was speaking was that he and his family had been doing medical work in Haiti at a relief mission when the earthquake struck. He had some amazing stories to tell us about the terror, the suffering, the frustrations, and the victories of that tragic time.

After the evening’s program was done I spoke to some of the people there that I had not met before. During the conversation with one person the fact that I was the father of the featured speaker got out. As soon as they realized who I was they suddenly became very excited about speaking with me. I was instantly an important person because of my relationship to the speaker of the evening.

This individual had been working with my son for a number of years in Burlington and knew of his reputation there and also what he had done in Haiti. In fact 16-18 paramedics from their service had gone down to Haiti to work alongside my son a week or so after the quake. Everyone really liked my son so they instantly liked me. So it is not so much what you know as it is who you know.

It is the same with Jesus and our relationship with Him. You may not be familiar with the books of the Bible, you may not be able to recite from memory the names of the apostles, maybe you cannot state the ten commandments. That is not what is important. It is not what you know that matters in Christianity, it is Who you know that counts.

According to the verses prior to our verse for today, Jesus is speaking about the coming judgment and the fact there will be some there who are horrified that Jesus does not know them. From what Jesus tells us there will be some who have preached in His name, some who have exorcised demons and done miracles who thought they were heaven bound. Jesus will inform some of these people that they were really never known by Him.

What Jesus means by Him not “knowing” them is that He never truly participated in their lives. Jesus is saying that they were never truly connected to Him. When the Psalmist says in Psalm 1:6 —

“The Lord knows the way of the righteous”

— he means that God is actively involved with the lives of His people.

To be known by God is to have Him intervening in your life in numerous ways. God comforts you when you are sorrowful; He disciplines you when you stray from His way; He keeps you from too heavy a burden to bear in life; He speaks to you through the Bible, providence, sermons, other believers, and so on.

Do you know God? Or more importantly does God know you? It is not what you know, it is Who you know.