What would you preach if you knew this was your last sermon?

15095492_10153829206287101_8742420856767006335_nOne of my friends died this past month. He and I were the same age. I spoke to him almost every week, in one form or another. Sometimes it was just me preaching to him over a plate of food. Sometimes it was exchanges of ‘hello, how’s it going’,  in passing on the street. Most often it was on a street bench, the front of the church stairs or in a strangers door way.
My friend was betrayed. Betrayed by a well-meaning, happy-go-lucky group of  family and friends who thought it would be fun and funny to hire a prostitute for him when he turned 21. The results a year later was a diagnosis of HIV. He never really recovered even though he lived for another 27years. He ran away from home, hit the streets and sunk deeper into hurt, pain and shame. Drinking whatever he could get his hands on with the vigour of a man who wanted to lose his life.

I know that some of  our conversations were exchanges of life~ meaningful, heart-wrenching, or belly laughing together at our sick sense of humour. Many were me assuring him that we were friends, people cared about him and he needed to get help from the grip of hurt, pain and shame that had completely overwhelmed his life.  He  was enslaved to hurt, pain and shame so that his only place of relief was found in an alcoholic daze. I picked him up off the street as he lay there in a puddle of blood more than once. I would clean him up, call for help and assure him that his life was worth more then a constant drunk could offer him. He would hide his precious half-full mouthwash bottle or call me whatever names he could think of while I asked him to empty his sleeves of bottles.

One of those times was the ‘last sermon’ he ever heard. I don’t know which one, or what I spoke to him. I hope it was something like Stephen’s last sermon, Acts 6,7.  Including the call of God to a guy like Abraham for a greater meaning in life then he currently had. A promise made to him by the God of great glory that will never know its completeness while he lives on this earth but by faith can have great assurance that God will supply a sacrifice greater than the one he can forfeit. This is all made sure by the steadfast love of a covenant keeping God. A God who is faithful to His word, always. I hope my words at the park bench outside the church, when he was too intoxicated to put his own words together, echoed of the same truth as Stephen speaking of Joseph who was deeply wronged by family members and in wrestling through tragedy after tragedy began to recognize God never left him or forsook him , but turned evil into good purposes for the saving of many. Or that, while we waited for the ambulance to show up I somehow, while he cursed me out for taking away his half full bottles of mouthwash , assured him there is a God who sees the affliction of his people and sends One to deliver. The Moses of old-  was only a fore shadow of the Christ who can set him free from the slavery to hurt, pain, shame and alcoholism. This is the same Christ who was crucified, put in a grave, rose with great victory over the very death that my friend was rushing headlong into.
My heart does not hold an assurance that my friend ever understood the depths of these truths. He shared with me, early in our relationship, that he understood he was angry at God and at himself. He knew and hoped in the forgiveness of Jesus coming but he wasn’t sure that there was forgiveness deep enough for him and where his life was headed. I prayed with him and for him. He always thanked me for that and called me his friend.

I pray that one of our conversations over the years, maybe even in the last ‘sermon’ he ever heard preached, he reached out in faith to a Saviour who pursued him even to death. If he did, he too in his last moments could exclaim with Stephen, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God.”

Thanks for reading

BRS

The Most Terrible of God’s Qualities [This is a Christmas Theme!]

Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
    his understanding is beyond measure.”
-Psalm 147:5

THE OMNISCIENCE OF GOD- God has complete and perfect knowledge of all things, including past, present, future and everythi_saw_that_goding actual and potential [Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:12-14, 46:10; Psalm 139:1-6; Job 42:2; Hebrews 4:13]                                 – from PAXnorth‘s Gospel Journey 101 FAITH Lesson 2:: GOD

God is simple.  The reformed theologians, and the puritans that followed, held that God is not simply a collection of divine attributes. He is the purest and completest of each attribute. To understand God as love is to understand Him as pure love, fully love. To understand God as Holy is to understand Him as wholly Holy, to the fullest purity of holiness that holiness can be. Each of the characteristics of God is complete in Him, both in its essence and its expression. “Where there is the greatest simplicity, there is the greatest unity; and where there is the greatest unity, there is the greatest power.” – Stephen Charnock, Existence and Attributes, 1840, as quoted from A Puritan Theology, pg62

Thinking on the characteristics of God I think that the pure, completeness of God’s knowing of all things- past, present and future- is to His enemies the most terrible of God’s qualities.   

It must be the most frustrating of all of God’s terrors to the devils, that God always and already knows the will and outcomes of His adversaries. That as the attack plan is being considered, organized….put into careful, hateful, and meticulously evil of places… God has already arrived with the contrivings of grace to bring about redemption. Even before Hell’s gates have been opened to unleash its hoards to have launched its arsenal – God has already planned the breaking of dawn!

This is a Christmas theme! Luke 1:78-79
God knows the depth of humanity’s brokenness.  From it’s beginning, to it’s end, and all the hurt in between.
God knows the plans that are in the heart of mankind. From global dominations, to personal dominations.
God knows the hopes that make up the daily lives of people. From good desires, to desires that will destroy.
God knows the needs of people. The desperation of all of time, of all the earth, in all cultures.
God knows the life of each one that He has given breath to. From Hitler, to Mother Theresa, to you and me.

God has seen it all before it unfolded. He set a plan in place before the foundations of the earth, so the Bible would tell us, Christianity would hold.
Omniscience:: This is the most terrible of God’s qualities:
– For thoughtful, desperate souls experiencing pain, it begs the same questions that Job’s own soul cried out- Why this….? Where are You…? Who is able to …..? What am I to do …..? How do I understand…..?
– For those who would consider themselves the enemies of God it will be the means of God’s right calling into account and bringing about the fullness of His justice.
– To those who hope to be let into heaven based upon our own good deeds, it remains the unnerving truth that God sees, knows the very nakedness of our souls.

But for those who have no other hope…. God’s Omniscience is the means of His redeeming! Yes, He knows. He doesn’t have to wait to see if we are able to clean up our own life, or heal our own wounds, or bring about the fullness of our own justice, or bring a needed sacrifice for every wrong deed that we have done or that has been done to us. Even while Adam and Eve stood in the garden in their uncomfortable state of fig-leaved coverings, trying to hide from God and each other- God calls out, “Where are you?”. He knows but like a good dad he longs for them to come to him in open repentance. Acknowledging what He already knows and will make a way to right the wrongs.
We are broken. We need a Saviour. A saving from God. A saving by God.
This is Christmas! He knows and He comes to save.

Joy to the World for the terrible All-knowing of our God!

BRS