Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I am assured that all things work together for good (Romans 8:28)

Donnie Boyer Crotty was a great kid.  My son, Brian, remembers him when he was younger as being really hyper and really loud.  That was because Donnie was so full of a zeal for life and fun that joy simply could not be contained inside him.  He loved hugs...and baseball (he was a catcher)...and football...and everybody...and Jesus.  Donnie had a smile that could light up a room and he lit up many lives during his 15 years.

That's why all our hearts broke when he was accidentally run over by a Gator (ATV) at a football camp not quite three weeks ago.  Donnie's funeral was Monday of this week.

The entire squad of the local high school football team he played on was in attendance.  So were all the players and coaches of the area baseball team as well as the church youth group he was a part of.  During the funeral, the football player who drove the ATV apologized to everybody for all the pain he had caused, breaking down in sobs before the huge crowd of those paying last respects.

While Brodderick openly grieved in front of us all, a lady moved quickly to embrace him in his overwhelming sadness and guilt...the only woman who could possibly console him at such a moment...Donnie's mom, Susie.  She had been sitting by that stricken young man during the whole service.  Not knowing quite how to respond to such a display of unselfish empathy and forgiveness, the whole audience rose to their feet and applauded.  I was one of them.

Our family knows Susie as well as Donnie's dad, Don.  They came to our home fellowship group during a season of their lives when Don had difficult health issues.  We had the privilege of watching Don's health improve.  There was never a dull moment with the Crotty's in our group.  Susie was never shy about expressing her heart directly to God, even when she thought He was being unfair or unreasonable.

I know Susie has had some very raw, honest, and painfully hard moments with the Lord over the past three weeks.  But she is going to make it.  No, she will do more than "make it", she will make something out of it...something out of all the pain and suffering and anguish and loneliness...because she loves Jesus, too, just like Donnie does.

Today's Scripture can seem canned, cliche-ish, even callous unless it is seen in the light of how "a very present help in times of trouble" God is.  Romans 8:28 says, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Not some things or even most things.  All things.  Even the tragic death of an only son.  God works good out of all things.  Not that all things are good.  Not by any stretch of the imagination.  Some things are unspeakably evil, or in this case, almost unbearably tragic.  But God weaves good out of the drops of our hot tears.

Sadly, not all are the beneficiaries of this goodness.  It is only guaranteed to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.  But it is guaranteed to them.  That means all of us who are in Christ.

Tragedy will come to all of us.  It is inevitable in a fallen world.  When it comes, will we despair and give up hope?  Or will we watch for God to bring good out of it all?  He's already doing that with Donnie and his family.

A grieving mother has received strength to comfort a guilt-stricken young man sobbing before a funeral audience.  A whole city has been reminded of how frail and fragile life is and how we need to rush to embrace one another in love while there is still time.  And about 45 people at the funeral said they wanted this same Jesus that Donnie had.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

I am free from condemnation (Romans 8:1)

I am convinced that thousands upon thousands of God's saints would be set free instantly if they truly believed Romans 8:1:  "Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus."  Paul goes on to write, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death" (Romans 8:2).

The law of sin and of death stated simply is:  If you sin, you die.
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus stated simply is:  If you, by the Spirit of God, are in Christ Jesus, you are free!  You are alive!

This is a statement of truth...a fact of life in Jesus the Messiah:  If you are in Christ, you are alive and you are free forever from condemnation for your sin.  Period.

Recently I have taken two young men through The Steps to Freedom in Christ.  Both of them struggled to wrap their faith around this liberating concept.  Why?  One believed he had sinned too greatly and too frequently to be forgiven.  The other saw "signs" in nature that he was condemned. 

Since both of them were clearly in Christ, they could not be more alive, free and delivered from condemnation than they are right now.  But they battled with surfacing through the muck of their past to break through and gulp in the fresh air of joy.  Their guilt and shame were like quicksand dragging them down.  Maybe that's where you find yourself today...wishing you could break free into the truth.

Let me remind you:

God's word is true about you...regardless of how you may feel about what God says.
God's word is true about you...even if there are mysterious "signs" that point the opposite way.
God's word is true about matter how many times you have sinned.
God's word is true about spite of how bad your sins were.

Will you take God at His word?  He cannot lie.  Feelings can lie.  Signs can be false.  Guilt and shame can overwhelm us if we let it.  But God is throwing you a life preserver.  No, He is diving into the quicksand to pull you out.  Will you let Him?  You say your faith is small.  That's okay.  His arms are big. 

You can do it.  You can claim today that in Christ "I am free from condemnation."