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The Basin and Towel

with Indispensable Churches and Tending the Light

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loneliness

I John 5:4-5

This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

As Carole King and James Taylor once sang,

When you’re down and troubled
and you need a helping hand
and nothing, whoa nothing is going right.
Close your eyes and think of me
and soon I will be there
to brighten up even your darkest nights.

You just call out my name,
and you know wherever I am
I’ll come running,
to see you again.
Winter, spring, summer, or fall,
all you have to do is call
and I’ll be there, yeah, yeah, yeah.
You’ve got a friend.

Or if you’d rather, as Woody and Buzz Lightyear once sang:

You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got troubles, well I’ve got ’em too
There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for you
We stick together and we see it through
You’ve got a friend in me
You’ve got a friend in me

Like Carole and James, or like Woody and Buzz, I can walk beside you when you need me to.  All you have to do is call, and I’ll be at your side in prayer if not in presence.  I’ll be with you as you walk through the mess, if you need me to.  But I can’t beat the mess of the world for you – please don’t expect me to do that.  There’s only one that can, and you know that’s Jesus.

The First Commandment is “You shall have no other gods.”  Martin Luther asked What is does it mean to have a god?  His answer:  A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress.  There’s only One who can do that for you, and you know Who that is – the God who calls Himself Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  He’s the one that has already overcome the mess of the world for us.  He’s the one who has already given us the victory in His Son Jesus.  Trust that truth – trust Him! – and know that you’ve already won because Jesus has already won.

In the meantime, the world is still messy.  We live in the aftermath of the storm and the battle.  If you need help walking through it, Jesus is that Good Shepherd who won’t abandon you to your own devices, even if you walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  And if some earthly companionship will help, well – you just call out my name. . . . .

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1 John 3:1-3

 1 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (NIV)

The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ has lavished His love on you and me so greatly that He is delighted to call us His children!  So Jesus’ birth and life and death and resurrection are not just historical facts to be recited dryly and lifelessly; they are the means by which God lavishes His love on us!

I once heard someone say that “just because we confess that God is sovereign does not obligate Him to demonstrate His sovereignty to our satisfaction on a daily basis,” and the same is true of His love.  There are days in which I don’t know if I feel loved by God, because I don’t feel loved by much else.  Physical pains, emotional suffering, the temptations of the devil and the annoyances of the world all gang up on me sometimes.  I want God’s love to come shining through like a ray of sunshine, and it doesn’t (I don’t know if you’ve ever felt that way or not).  But wait – even on those dreary days I get to eat; I have a bed to climb out of or crawl into; sometimes I even get a phone call from a friend.  Such simple things, yet still signs of God’s great love.

So I have this thought / suggestion:  maybe there’s another pastor, a friend of yours you’ve been thinking about for a while.  Maybe that pastor has been going through some difficulties, or maybe you just haven’t talked in a while.  Why not pick up the phone some time yet today or this week and talk to him or her, just to say “I want you to know God loves you, and I’m here for you, too.”  Don’t be shy just because it’s been so long.

Oh, and if you’re the one who needs to here someone say those words, go ahead and call a friend and say “I need you to tell me that God loves me.”

Shammah

Shammah son of Agee the Hararite took his stand in a field of lentils.  And the Lord brought about a great victory, even though all the Israelites had fled.  (2 Samuel 23:11-12)

Sometimes being a pastor is a lonely job.  Some of it is the professional isolation – no matter how close you are to the people around you, you aren’t quite as close to them as some of them would like to think.  Boundaries need to be kept, after all, for everyone’s sake.  But it’s more than that.  Sometimes, don’t you wonder what it is you’re doing in this bean field all alone, “fighting the good fight” by yourself with nobody else around?  The “rest of the Israelites have fled” – some of them to follow the latest fad in church growth, others to seek out the mighty mega-churches, others to look for the latest technological improvement in contemporary worship.  Synod is restructuring and moving farther and farther away from the bean fields.  And here we are, taking our lonely stand in what amounts to a field of beans.

Yes, the Lord will bring about a great victory; but there are long stretches of time where I’m just worn out, aren’t you?  And someone comes along and says “keep fighting the good fight” and I just want to slap them, don’t you?  My hope and my trust and my joy are in Jesus – and that’s good, because some days I don’t see it in many other places.

On the bright side, the bean field I’m in is not a bad field at all, and the battle is not (thank God!) very intense here.  That leaves me freer than most of my ministry brothers and sisters to look up, cast a glance in their direction once in a while, give a shout or a wink or a nod of encouragement.  Sometimes I can take a break and go have lunch with them, or leave my bean field for a little while to meet them in theirs.  Maybe we can pick up swords together for a bit (or maybe just a paintbrush or a salad fork), and then go back to the fields.  But I hope our brief and all-too-infrequent times together at least say to them that there’s another Shammah nearby – you’re not in it alone.

God bless us everyone!

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