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Soaked

September 18, 2013

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Sumac on a foundation stone from Bethlehem’s old sanctuary in my garden

God has not been subtle this week.

His message began Sunday morning in children’s Sunday school. Our text was I Kings 18, the story of God’s showdown with the idol Baal through Elijah. I was struck by two things: the human futility of expecting a water-saturated sacrifice to burn; and the public spectacle of God’s power when he incinerated the saturated sacrifice in front of Baal’s followers.

Feeling soaked? 

Sunday morning I felt sopping-wet inflamable.

Next came the sermon text: Psalm 98, which underlined the right response to God-given victory: public praise. In 1 Kings 18:39, “when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord he is God.”

Who will see this soaked sacrifice incinerated? And who will they praise?

I came home from church to find an email from Caryn Turner of Bethlehem’s Hope Keepers –a ministry to women caring for someone with a disability — recommending Pastor Jason Meyer’s sermon from 2 Corinthians 4: 7-16. Caryn closed with the text of a letter,  “Welcoming the Weak,”  Pastor Jason wrote for Bethlehem’s Disabilities Ministry. In it, he wrote,

God designs disability. Disability is designed to produce within us a desperate kind of dependence. It becomes both visible and visceral. Those with the disability desperately need God’s help. Parents of a disabled child live the disability with the child and desperately need God’s help. The church that lives the disability with its members needs God’s help. Dependence is multiplied, but God is rich in mercy so there is no shortage or shortfall. In this way, we all testify to the treasure of grace. Gospel grace is the best grace because life with a disability and with Jesus is infinitely better than a healthy body without him.

Soaked?

I couldn’t wait for the sermon to be published and with “sorrowful yet always rejoicing” (from 2 Corinthians 6:10) ringing, I went to the Internet to look up John Piper preaching on that text and spent a refreshing hour  before small group with this December 29, 2012 sermon, “Sorrowful Yet Always Rejoicing.”

Monday in the space of a couple of hours, Lisa Qualls wrote about Pastor Jason’s sermon in What Could be Good about Brokenness?, and Dorothy called me from the aisles of Target to tell me not to miss the sermon when it went up on the Internet.

Here’s a morsel from the end of Jason Meyer’s second point in the sermon, “God’s Power in Cracked Pots”:

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.– 2 Corinthians 3:8–9

We have to be able to give up control of our lives in order to let God define what life looks like. He ordains suffering, and thus if we define the good life as a life free from suffering, then we are not thinking God’s thoughts. The good life in this fallen world consists not in the absence of suffering, but the presence of resurrection life in the midst of suffering.

We should not be surprised when we suffer. This is a fallen world—it is bent and we are broken. This is an evil world because Satan is the god of this world. We should not be surprised by persecution. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. Our protection from persecution in this country could turn on a dime. Are you ready?

But does suffering only help others see the power of God through resurrection strength and life? I think there is far more. Suffering does not only help others see the power of the treasure; it helps us treasure the power at work in us. Look at what God is producing in you through suffering. Let me explain what I mean in point three: we need to see how suffering helps us keep in step with Christ, our treasure.

And an admonition for application:

Quit trying to polish your cracked pots. Quit trying to cover the cracks. Quit answering every question about how you are doing with answers like “Fine,” “Better than I deserve,” or “I’m doing okay.” We can be real. If it hurts, say it. Embrace weakness. Paul said he actually started boasting gladly of his weaknesses so that the power of Christ would rest upon him (2 Corinthians 12:9). If people think you are weak, you can boast in weakness instead of trying to bury them in your backyard. Someone sees a weakness, and we say, “that is nothing—you don’t know the half of it. I would be a basket case without Christ.”

That is the gospel truth: I would be a basket case without Christ. Jesus Christ is the power of God who can send miracle-fire from heaven and incinerate any altar. Sopping wet is no exception.

The question is, is it evident to people around us that we are soaked?

“I’m doing okay,” still comes as naturally to me as breathing. I need to practice,”You don’t know the half of it. I’d be a basket case without Christ.”

See? God did it in my life this week, through his Word and through His people: On my still-soaked altar, God has kindled hope.

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