Three Taverns Church


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Be The Loving Memory People Never Forget

As I was leaving my chiropractor’s office yesterday the doctor asked me, “So, you’re feeling better?”

“Oh yeah,” I said, “When I came home last night my two youngest kids ran to the door to meet me. We wrestled around on the ground for a few minutes…we had an awesome time.”

Then I paused for maybe half a heartbeat and, starting to tear up, I said, “Not to get all emotional in your office, but I didn’t realize until just now that it’s been almost six weeks since they’ve run to the door to see me. Ever since I got that herniated disc I haven’t been able to play with them, and they kind of just quit being interested in me when I came home. But now Dad is back (no pun intended) and I could see how excited they were to play with me again!”

Oftentimes when things go wrong in our lives, it’s a long, slow decline into pain and suffering. Moments of shock and trauma are thankfully rare; it’s much more common to wake up one day having forgotten how good things used to be. In my story above I had forgotten that my kids and I used to wrestle and laugh together, and I’d only been injured six weeks! I have friends and family who have been hurting a much longer time. Their slide into suffering was so slow that these days they don’t even realize how much they are hurting; they’ve forgotten what “normal” feels like.

How many of us know someone living in an abusive relationship who thinks it’s “normal” to be emotionally or physically abused? How many of us know someone slaving away for an awful boss because he assumes, “That’s the way it is,” or know a homeless woman who thinks she’ll be on the streets forever, for the exact same reason? How many of us know a family member who’s given up the struggle against age and physical illness because the pain has been present for so long?

Do you want to help people remember what “normal” really means, to recognize life when they see it?

Be the loving memory people never forget.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, be the love that will open her eyes to just how wonderful human companionship is supposed to be!

If you know someone in a job he hates (or someone dying for any job), be the love that helps him re-discover his hopes and dreams, and the purpose he was put here for!

If you know someone in the final stages of life who has given up, be the love that reminds her of all the good things in life, and the hope she can have in the future.

Be the love that becomes someone’s most treasured memory, something they will never forget.


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Everyday Ecclesiastes: Chasing After The Wind

wheat

“I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.”
Ecclesiastes 1:14, NRSV

You know these words are true, but you pretend otherwise. Why do you believe the lie which you know is a lie?

You are not your body; your physical form will one day die. If you are over 18 your body has already begun to wither, and yet you toil and slave to maintain it. You say you do it to be healthy; you feign joy in the process, but you know that’s not true. It’s all about your ego and your belief that you are your body.

You are not your psycho-social roles. Your being cannot be summed up in words like Mother, Brother, Employee, Christian, or Friend. These are only small parts of who you are, barely real, constantly changing. Within a generation or two, no one will remember you or your accomplishments. What is remembered, if anything, will be more legend than fact. Yet you live as if these roles and deeds were real, were really you, and you invest tremendous time, energy, and resources to maintain that which you know is false.

If you can, turn off your radio, television, laptop, tablet and phone long enough to think about what I’m saying. Go sit in a public place and watch people. Not for entertainment, but to be present and witness their hurrying, scurrying lives. You’ll see your own pointless, frenetic activity reflected in them. This time of year is perfect for this sort of thing: Go to a mall and watch people trying to make themselves happy through forced consumerism.

Am I saying that you shouldn’t work, or raise a family? Am I saying ‘do nothing’? No.

I’m saying you need to constantly remind yourself of the vanity of your life; continually acknowledge the fact that your life and your deeds will one day vanish like the fog in a breeze. See this fact, sit with it, and let go of your psychological hold on those things which are not real. Stop identifying with form. Stop pretending to be the role you are playing. Play the role, but know that you are playing a role.

“Everything that confronts (you) is vanity, since the same fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to those who sacrifice and those who do not sacrifice.”
Ecclesiastes 9:1-2, NRSV


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Good Or God?

FaithHopeLove

Is “good” good because it’s inherently good, or because God says it’s good?

It’s a question C.S. Lewis raises in his book “Reflections On The Psalms”, and I think our answer to this question has significant implications towards the way we see the world and the way we live our lives.

If “good” is only good because God declared it so, it’s possible that what we consider “evil” might instead have been named “good” by God. Instead of extolling the virtues of faith, hope and love, Christians today might laud hate, anger, and selfishness. Perhaps the “holiest” among us would be sociopaths and psychopaths. It’s really not a far stretch to imagine a world like this, if God is the one who declares and defines “good”. This leads to relativistic world views where what is “good” is defined by what we believe “good” to be. It means each system of belief can define for itself what is “good”. It means you can justify hurting people who don’t follow your system of belief because they are against what is “good” according to your worldview (think: ISIS).

On the other hand, if “good” is good because it’s inherently good, then it is good independent (if such a thing were possible) from God. This means that even if there were no God (if such a thing were possible) then those things we consider “good” would still be good. It also means that any “god” or system of belief which espouses anything other than what is inherently “good” must be wrong, but we are not released to attack those who follow such beliefs lest we risk contradicting what is “good” ourselves. If “good” is good regardless of God, then it never changes; it is eternal. Who I believe God to be today will not influence what is “good” if “good” is independent from God.

I think this is why the Bible says things like, “God is love.” It is not possible to separate the Creator from the Created, but if it were, love would be the preeminent virtue of what is “good” in this world. And because love is inherently “good” regardless of which faith system I fall into, God must be love because love is inherently good, and God cannot be “evil”.

If I follow this thought down the rabbit hole a bit further, I see that by affirming the inherent “goodness” of certain things I must simultaneously relinquish my monopoly on God. If “good” is good independent of God, then those people who fall outside my belief system, even those who don’t follow my God (or should we say ‘MY god’), may still be “good”.


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“Why Do Bad Things Happen To Good People?”

When people ask this question, what I think they mean is: “Why is this bad thing happening to me?”

We don’t stress much when bad things happen to “bad people”, or when good things happen to “good people”. It’s the sense that a bad thing has happened to us (and of course we always “good”) that bothers us so much.

Below are a handful of theories we have on why bad things happen to good people:

  • It gives us a chance to love one another: This isn’t really a reason why bad things happen to good people; it’s really more of a result of the tragedy. God, or the Universe, or whoever doesn’t cause bad things to happen just so we can love one another. But we do get the chance to love one another in the midst of tragedy, and that is a tremendous gift.
  • There are really no “good” people: This theory seeks to strike at the heart of our dilemma by arguing that because there are no “good” people (consistent with Scripture), bad things only ever happen to “bad people”. That may be true, but it sure as hell doesn’t make us feel any better! Even if we agree with Jesus that “no one is good, but God alone”, we still want to know why we have to endure pain and suffering.
  • Everything belongs to God, so we don’t get a say: Another theological argument that fails to address real human pain and suffering (and you wonder why I don’t care about theology!), this theory tries to argue that because God created Creation, everything in Creation is His. Thus the clay (that’s us) has no right to say to the Potter, “What makest thou?” This argument would work great except for a few minor flaws: 1) I’m an American and I always get a say in my self-determination; 2) God created me with free will, so He must want me to have a say; 3) If God didn’t care about human pain and suffering why did He bother to send His Son for us?
  • There is no God: Getting angry at God for the tragedies of life, and denying He exists as a response, is about as mature and thoughtful as my toddler falling and scraping his knee, then popping up and denying the existence of gravity.
  • God isn’t loving, so I don’t want anything to do with Him: This theory is at least more honest than the previous one. People who reject God because of human suffering don’t deny His existence; they just don’t want to be in a relationship with a Being they perceive to be a Tyrant.

I actually love that last theory because it gives me the perfect segue to what I think is the real answer to our question. People shouldn’t want to be in any kind of relationship with the Tyrant who’s responsible for human suffering. The only problem is, his name isn’t Yahweh. It’s Satan.

I believe that bad things happen to good people because of Satan’s treachery in the Garden of Eden and the resulting Fall of Man. Bad things happen to good people because that’s just the way the world is.

What seems to be the Biblical truth: Even though bad things happen to good people because of The Fall, God can and will be glorified in the aftermath.

Whenever I encounter tough questions like the one we’re discussing today, I’m always reassured when I find stories in the Bible of people who struggled with the same question. It makes me feel less of a fool (or at least a unique fool) and it gives me hope that there is hope to be found. In the case of today’s question, one need look no further than the story of Lazarus.

I’m going to zoom right in to John 11:32-44 because I think that’s where the answer to our question lies:

Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”

Pause here, because we’re about to hear our “question of the day” from Jesus’ contemporaries. That’s right! We’re going to hear 1st century Palestinian Jews ask each other, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

Bam! There it is! When we ask, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” we already know the answer is, “Because that’s the way the world is.” We’re not kids. We understand natural consequences, life and death, etc. When we ask our question, we’re really asking why God lets bad things happen. Right? If God is really all-knowing and all-powerful and all-present, why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening to good people? And that’s what the Jews surrounding Jesus were asking as well: “This Jesus fellow supposedly opened the eyes of a blind guy. If he’s so great and powerful, why didn’t he stop his friend from dying? Maybe he’s not who we thought he was after all…”

And so our crisis of faith begins.

But the story isn’t over yet, and God isn’t done explaining His side of the story.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”  So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me.  I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
Bam! Again! There it is. Beautiful.
When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.”  The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Bad things happen to good people because that’s the way the world is. But despite the brokenness of our world God comes to the rescue and repeatedly uses the terrible things that happen as opportunities to heal us so that we can come to know Him and love Him.

Is this easy for us to accept? No. Do we like this answer? Not really. We’d much rather the world be about rainbows and lollipops than rape and murder. But does this answer give us hope? Yes, definitely. The answer, and our only real source of hope, is Jesus.

In the midst of suffering we can have hope because God can use our pain, if we let Him.

What is one thing amazing thing that could come out of your current struggles?