Thursday, April 15, 2010

Our God is a Creator

Sermon: April 11, 2010

In Exodus 15:11 we have a wonderful statement that asks the question “Who is like you, O Lord…?” It is a rhetorical question affirming that there is no god like God, that there is no man like God, that there is no being like God. We have other statements that ask this question throughout the Bible. Who is comparable to The Lord? And the answer is, of course, no one. Our God is a God who is incomparable and yet, even though he is infinitely greater than us in every way, he reveals himself to us and shows himself to us so that we can, in some ways, understand who he is. I want us to be thinking of the question, “Who is God?” over the next couple of weeks.

Our text this morning is Isaiah 42:5-6 and Genesis 1:1-3. The first thing we find out when we open our Bibles to the first page is that our God is a God who creates. We learn that he created all things. We learn that he created the heavens and the earth, that he ordered the world and everything in it and that ultimately he created us and breathed life into us. In fact, this is one of the most fundamental claims of scripture and of our faith.

The word that the Hebrew writers use when the talk about God creating is the Hebrew word Bara. The interesting thing about this word is that whenever it is used as a verb, that is someone or something is creating, only God is the subject. Creation is only something that God can do. Story of scientists talking to God.

Not only is it creation something that only God can do but way in which creation is described is amazing to me. We get this picture in the first chapters of Genesis is not one of God who is working. This isn’t something that is incredibly hard for God to do, he just simply says something and then, poof, there it is. In Psalm 33:6 and 9 we have this incredible testimony that says “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. … For he spoke and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” We get this picture of a mighty King who simply has to speak, and his wishes are enacted.

And yet even though God simply has to speak to create and to have his wishes enacted he doesn’t just give the command and then watch, keeping a cooled, impersonal distance between himself and creation. He is intimately involved with his creation. We see that even though we don’t know exactly why God created everything it wasn’t just on some erratic impulse that he created the world and us. Proverbs 3:19-20 tells us that God founded the earth with wisdom and understanding. That it is through knowledge that he makes it rain and controls the seas. We get the same picture in Job, the 28th chapter when Job is talking about the creation of the world that God acted through wisdom. I think this is so cool when we consider what the chapters are talking about. God, this incomparable being, thought about the creation. He planned it. He accomplished it by his insight and by his wisdom. This wasn’t just an accident. We aren’t a random conglomeration of molecules but the creator of the universe thought about us, about our world, and he planned it for us.

The culmination of the creation story in Genesis is, of course, the creation of man. The story of Genesis begins with the creation of light and darkness, then the sky, and the seas and vegetation. The God begins to fill the things he has created. He creates the sun and moon to fill the sky, he creates fish and water creatures to fill the sea, and he creates land creatures to walk upon the ground that he has made. Finally, he creates man. Although the creation story uses the words create and made interchangeably in Isaiah 45:12 we get a little distinction. The prophet tells us that the heaven and earth was made but that God created man. Man is the only one that was created in the image of God. Man is the only part of creation that God gives a specific blessing and a charge to. Finally, God sets man over the rest of creation. Not to exploit or destroy it but to rule over it.

With the end of the creation story in Genesis we might get the idea that this is the extent of God’s creative activities. Some people think that the God we have is kind of like a watchmaker. Now, this is a good metaphor to some extent. It reminds us that we live in a universe that God himself built. It reminds us that our creator thought about it, he thought about us, and he planned it and built it especially for us. But it might give us the false impression that our God just set it in motion and sat back to watch. When we approach the world in this way we miss the fact that God is constantly at work in our created world.

Let us think about the rain that falls on the earth. When we think about the rain with our modern minds we think about how there are lakes and rivers and oceans. We know how evaporation works, how clouds for, and how wind currents move them around the earth. We know how when certain environmental conditions are correct those clouds begin to rain and we think to ourselves “It’s all natural.” In the Bible, in the very next chapter after God has finished the creation of chapter one, it tells us that He had not yet sent rain upon the world. All throughout scripture we are reminded that it is God who sends rain. Now we can say, well they didn’t know about modern science, but then we’ll have to throw out whole sections of the Bible!! Even Jesus in Matthew 5:45 says that God SENDS the rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Our God is a God who is constantly at work in his creation. God created the wind which dried up the flood, brought the locusts to Egypt, and parted the Red Sea. During the storm on the boat Jesus rebukes the wind which was causing the storm the he and the disciples were stuck in. He didn’t create everything and then leave it but he constantly sustains all that we have.

If we accept this idea the next question that I believe comes to mind is, what else does God create? There are so many verses that deal with God’s actions as a creator, what he has created, what he has blessed us with that it is hard to even begin to describe and understand every act of our generous creator. We have been focusing this morning on God as creator and we have looked at the most obvious results of that. The created world. But God created and creates other things. For instance, do we ever think about the fact that God created Israel? In Genesis 35 we have the renaming of Jacob. It is not Jacob who decides that he wants a new name but it is God who renames him. In Isaiah 43:1 God tells Israel not to fear because he created them, he formed them, and he has redeemed them.

Another thing that we might not consider God to have created is the church. In Matthew 16:18 it is Jesus who will build the church not man. In the book of Acts we are told in 2:47 that it wasn’t Peter or John or Andrew or James that added to the church but it was The Lord. Here in Moran this morning we remember when we come together as the church that we are part of something so much bigger than we are. It is so much bigger than the largest church in Abilene. It is bigger than the largest church in America. We here in Moran are unified with the Highland church in Abilene, the South 11th and Willis Church, the Livonia church in Michigan. We are one with them not because of something that we have done but because God has created us into one body of believers. We are part of that here in Moran this morning. We don’t know how that works or how God has done it exactly but we believe it. We believe that we are one body with all the other believers meeting around the world this day.

But how does all this relate to us? We see the biblical testimony, we recognize that only God can create, we see that God both created and he still creates today. What does it mean for us today to relate to a God who creates? This morning I began with a quote from Exodus chapter 15. In that chapter God has just delivered the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. God was in the process of creating the people of Israel. He was about to lead them to Mount Sinai where he was going to create a covenant with them. For us today God has made a covenant with us. And just as the Israelites were, we were slaves, not slaves in Egypt but slaves to sin. Paul asks the Galatians in his letter to them how, now that they are free, can they turn back to these things?

In Psalm 51 we find one other thing that God creates that we don’t usually think of. We find the Psalmist asking God to create in him a clean heart. This isn’t something that we can do. Just as we can’t create the nature, or humanity, or the wind, or the rain, just as we can’t create the body and unity of Christ we cannot create clean hearts for ourselves. Creation is an activity that only God can participate in. God wants to create clean hearts in us. God wants to create a new life for us and he wants to make us his children. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” When we are in Christ we are a new creation made with clean hearts by God. We have hope because our God is a God who creates.

Our God is a God who creates. He is not one who did so once and never again but he creates us new every day. He creates clean hearts for us and creates lives of freedom for us to live. Let us go forward today with confidence and hope knowing that our God is a creator.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cross Cultural Moment

I had a cross cultural moment today. I was at work and a man walked in saying that he was going to see Mrs. "Wyatt" in apartment 120. I asked him to sign in and he did while I looked up the apartment registry to see if he had the right room. One the registry it says that a Mrs. White lives in 120. I told him he had the wrong room number and quickly scanned the registry to see where Mrs. "Wyatt" lived. I couldn't find her and the man was getting impatient. He said that he knew where it was and that he was pretty sure it was 120. I told him that "She's not there, that's the apartment of Mrs. White." To which he responded "That's who I'm looking for, Mrs. Wyatt."

Ahh, the language barriers within our own countries.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Trial of John 5

Hello Family,

Here is the sermon I wrote and preached last Sunday. I had and audience of 6 and both of the other men of the congregation were out so I had to lead singing and the Lord's Supper as well. Hope you all enjoy and let me know what you think.

John 5:16-23

Good morning. During my years as an undergraduate student at ACU I was a political science major. Along with watching lots of news coverage and CSPAN I also really enjoyed the TV show Law and Order. I really liked watching the court room scenes in the last half of the show. Even though I knew that it wasn’t REALLY like this in real life I thought it was really neat. I enjoyed watching the lawyers sift through information that the police had gathered. I enjoyed watching them argue about what evidence could or could not be used in court before the judge. I enjoyed getting to watch both lawyers try and convince the jury of their point of view. Finally, I enjoyed watching the jury come out and deliver the verdict.

Chapter 5 of John reads like a courtroom scene to me. My text this morning is only on section of the chapter but I encourage you to read the whole thing in one sitting and see what kind of thoughts you have after this. In the first 15 verses of the chapter is like the first half an hour of Law and Order. There is a ‘crime’ that has been committed. What happened? A man has been healed on the Sabbath! The man is interrogated. Who did it? This man Jesus has committed the crime! These are questions that are being asked by those in the story.

In verses 16-18 we see the prosecutors outline their case against Jesus. They have two reasons for prosecuting Jesus in this case. He violated the Sabbath! He is making divine claims about himself!

Then in verses 19-47 we see Jesus make his defense of who he is and what he has done. This trial is not one that will just have consequences reaching far into the future but it is one which has consequences right here and right now in the present. Jesus talks about the judgment he brings and the life he brings in the here and now. Jesus very basically outlines his defense and then dramatically, he turns the tables on them.

Jesus develops his defense slowly from verse 19 on through verse 38 and then suddenly the whole tenor of the trial changes. Suddenly it is not Jesus who is on trial but the Jewish teachers of the law who he accuses. This doesn’t really make sense to us in our American sense of the judicial system. In the Jewish system of law when accusations were brought against someone it was a serious business. If someone was making false accusations though the accusers could suddenly find themselves on the defensive. That is what Jesus is doing here. He has been accused and he has brought forth his defense. Now he turns the questions on those who are questioning him.

He makes several accusations against them. He says that they search the scriptures because they believe that it is through them that they will have eternal life. And yet it is the scriptures that testify on Jesus’ behalf! They think that the law of Moses will save them and they reject the one to whom the law actually points them! They refuse to come to Jesus to have eternal life. Jesus next says that he does not accept glory from human beings but they do not accept the love of God. And because they do not accept the love of God they reject those who he has sent. They only accept those who look like them, believe like them, and act like them. In fact, they are so caught up in what they want that they would rather have glory from other people than have glory from God.

This is what Jesus is talking about when he says that he doesn’t accept praise from humans. He is only interested in glorifying the Father. This goes back to his relationship with the Father in which he opened his defense. He opened by saying that he can do nothing except that which he sees the Father doing. He says to them, how can they believe when they accept only glory that comes from one another and they do not seek the glory that comes from the one who alone is God?
This is the question for us today as we look at this trial of Jesus in John chapter 5. So many times when I read scripture I read myself into the position that I like to think I would have taken if I had lived with Jesus. I like to believe that I would have gotten it. That I wouldn’t have rejected him. That I would have been the faithful disciple. But I often come to the realization that I find the most appropriate place to read myself into is the disciples who doubt. Those who don’t want to give up everything to follow Jesus.

You see, this trial of Jesus that has been going has the aspect of asking who Jesus is. That’s true. He defends who he is, what his mission is, and appeals to testimony of others, like John the Baptist. But it is also a trial of who we are. Sometimes I think we forget what the Jews actually had at this time. They had the word of God. They had the law. They had the prophets and the writings. God had spoken to them in the past. They had the ability to figure out who Jesus was and they had the opportunity to believe in him.

Today we too have these things. We have the writings of the Old Testament and the New Testament. We have the gospels. We have the writings of Paul and of the apostles. God has spoken to us and we can figure out who he is. The great irony of this passage is that it is not really Jesus who is on trial but his accusers. This isn’t some trial that will only have consequences extremely far ahead in the future but one that has consequences here and now. Jesus says in vs 22 that the Father has given all judgment to him.

Now, I’ll admit this is a fairly confusing part about what John is saying in this gospel. Jesus himself says in 8:15 and in 12:47 that he comes to judge no one and he comes to save the world. In John chapter 3:19 Jesus is again talking about the kind of judgment that he brings. He says that the judgment is that the light has come into the world and people loved the darkness rather than the light. Even if Jesus comes to ‘judge no one’ his light coming into the world makes us decide if we are going to accept his light or if we are going to reject it.

Jesus is here offering us the light that gives life to men, everlasting water, he wants to reveal his glory in us. The question is are we going to believe in him. Are we going to accept the light coming into the world or are we going to continue to live in darkness. Sometimes the darkness we live in can take a surprising form. Sometimes the darkness we live in can be religious in nature. Can we, like the Jews, become so involved in all the ‘shoulds’ and ‘should nots’ that we lose sight of the one who saves us? Can we become so involved with what people think of us, even at church, that we lose sight of what God wants us to do and be satisfied in the glory he gives us? Can we get so bogged down in ‘religion’ that we lose sight of doing what is truly right?

This might seem like a sermon of judgment this week and in a sense it is. But it is also a message of hope. We take hope from the fact that Jesus was persecuted and tried while he was on earth. We take hope from the fact that we have others who will join us in this journey in living for Christ. We take hope from the fact that Jesus suffers with us in whatever trials come our way. Whether they be spiritual, social, physical, or emotional he is with us and we can trust in him. This trial is not one of condemnation and suffering but one of great joy! This is the good news! That light has come into the world and that light gives us life.

The trial of John 5 has so many different facets in it. Is it a trial about who Jesus is? Yes. Is it a trial about what we believe? Yes. Is it hope and encouragement for us who are going through trials hardships in this life? Yes. What does this trial mean to you? Where do you find yourself? Do we find ourselves being persecuted with Christ? Do we find ourselves among those genuinely seeking him? Or do we find ourselves seeing but not understanding like the teachers of the law.

Like Law and Order what will the verdict find? Only instead of Jesus being on trial it turns out that it is actually us. Will we accept the light of the world or will we continue to try and find acceptance and love in all the other things that our world throws at us? Just as the judgment that Jesus brings comes with him and not at some later date so to should our decision and our obedience to him. For some of us this might mean coming forward to be baptized. For others it might mean confessing and stopping a certain sin. For others it could mean giving a source or worry and anxiety up to Jesus. For others it might mean standing up for what we believe in instead of quietly standing aside. It might mean showing respect and submitting to others in a spirit of love. What will the verdict find?


Let us go out into the world today and this week fixing our eyes upon Jesus, who is the author and perfecter of our faith. Let us trust in him when we feel like we are being put on trial by the world.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Book Report

Hey everyone, sorry I haven't updated this in a while but I've been pretty busy with school and work here and I haven't had a lot of free time. Here is a book report I wrote last week on a book called "Longing for God" so I hope you enjoy it and it gives a little bit of a sense of what I'm doing here at ACU. It's not academic but it's a good representation of what we've been generally learning about in Spiritual Formation.

This book is about the ways that different kinds of people from different walks of life have sought after God. Christians throughout the centuries have desired to become more intimate with their creator and savior, desired to increase their knowledge of him and desired to lead the kind of life that he wants them to live. Just as there are different kinds of people there are multiple journeys or paths to God. This book highlights 7 of these and gives three or four examples of great Christians who have sought God along these paths. Many of these paths co-mingle with each other and none of them are mutually exclusive. The one thing that all these paths have in common with each other is that everyone on each of them, regardless of class, age, or walk of life, has a longing for God. This book aims to help people who have this longing but do not know how to pursue it by giving them concrete examples of some of the great Christian thinkers and writers that have gone on before.

The seven paths identified in this book are: The right ordering of our love for God, the spiritual life as journey, the recovery of knowledge of God lost in the fall, intimacy with Jesus Christ, the right ordering of our experiences with God, action and contemplation, and divine ascent. As pointed out above none of these paths are exclusive. It would be impossible to recover knowledge of God lost in the fall and not begin to become more intimate with Jesus. All of these paths borrow and take from each other but the emphasis of each one is different from the others. In each of these paths there are three or four examples of Christians who longed for God in this manner. Each chapter has a brief synopsis of their work and then a couple pages of reflection by the authors on their teachings which are followed by a short prayer inspired by the person.

This book tries to make relevant many of the great Christian thinkers and authors who have impacted the life of the church and other Christians in so many ways. Many of these thinkers may be known to lay people but they might have no knowledge of them other than their name. Thinkers like Augustine, John Wesley, Calvin, and St. John of the Cross have relevant messages for people today but too often people consider them unapproachable and distant. This book attempts to take their most important thoughts on how to order one’s life and pursue God and distill them into easily understandable and readable chapters. The book does this very well and the reflections by Foster and Beebe at the end of each chapter are also well written. In them they try and make the author’s thoughts and theories more applicable by showing how their own lives have been shaped and molded by them as well. Foster and Beebe also offer critique and criticism of some authors by showing that although they had many good things to say they are still human as well and fallible just like the rest of humanity.

Although the book entails all seven pathways to God it does not stop there. It also offers three appendixes which address relevant issues of Christian spiritual formation that were not addressed in the main chapters or the introduction or conclusion. These include pre-Christian influences on spirituality, women and spirituality, and the contribution of the Orthodox Church and Eastern Spirituality. These are also helpful as they seek to clarify different issues not presented in the book itself in the form of history and other examples.

Path one presents the journey to God as the process of organizing love into the correct order. The great thinkers of this path include Origen and Augustine. In this path seekers attempt to draw closer to God by ridding our lives of things that we love more than God and by exalting God to his proper place within our lives. This thought is incredibly important because it addresses one of the greatest sins and temptations of humanity, that of idolatry. Only by ordering our love and making sure that we place God above all others can we begin to grow and draw close to him.

Path two sees the spiritual life as that of a journey. This path presents our life not as a series of steps that we can simply do, but as something that we must journey through. Although all the paths have this aspect within them this is the path that sees the journey itself as the means to drawing closer to God. This path attempts to recognize that every choice and decision that one makes in life takes one towards one’s destination--hopefully toward God. This path is especially helpful for those that face big questions about life, themselves and situations they will face in life.

Path three tries to recover knowledge of God that has been lost in the fall. It is only through recovering this knowledge that people will be able to draw close to God and to really know what right is, what the truth is and to know our Creator. This is knowledge that humanity had before the fall and sin entered the world, and this path seeks to regain this knowledge to aid people in their spiritual life.

The fourth path sees Jesus Christ as the primary way that we long for God and become spiritually formed. Although the other paths would be loath to renounce that intimacy with Christ is important, this path sees it as the primary way to spiritual formation. Those who find this path appealing try to embody Christ in his struggles and his being in the world. The highest form of spirituality is not the cloistered monk or apophatic prayer but engagement with Christ in ministry to the world

The fifth path sees religious experience as the primary way to knowledge of God. In this view, although scripture, reason, and the church play a discerning role, religious experience can provide actual knowledge of God. This path seeks to engage God in a way that is both real to the soul and real to the body in religious experience. This path of spiritual formation puts the most emphasis on feeling the direct presence of God and letting him form oneself through these experiences.

Path six tries to view the world in a balance between action and contemplation. It tries not to put too much emphasis on actions and human effort nor does it put too much emphasis on contemplation and apophatic knowing of God. It sees these two extremes as both sides of the same coin. The world needs both Mary and Martha and it is for the Christian to learn to experience God through both of these ways.

Finally, the seventh path views spiritual formation as that of divine ascent. This path closely resembles the path of the journey. It could be described as climbing a mountain. Sometimes pilgrims need to stop, they become weak and wonder if they can go on. It is after these periods of doubt and emptiness that the pilgrim can climb over the next rise and see a whole new landscape and beauty of God that he has never imagined.

Each of these seven paths holds something of value to pilgrims journeying towards God. Different people approach God in different ways and at different times. It is likely one of these paths will appeal to a reader more strongly than others based on their circumstances in life and their attitude toward spiritual formation. None of these are more correct than the others and all lead us to God. Foster and Beebe’s work provides modern Christians with easily accessible examples of all seven of these spiritual paths and an easy point to jump into the waters of spiritual life and begin the journey of spiritual formation. An excellent read that will surely open the door to the spiritual life for those intimidated by it or simply searching for a place to begin.

Monday, August 3, 2009


Well, it was my birthday on Saturday. I want to say thank you to all of you who made it such a wonderful day. Thank you to Julie for calling, for Mom and Dad for all the books and the new shirts. Thank you to Laura who tried to call to wish me a happy birthday but couldn’t reach me. Sorry Laura, I dropped my phone in the dishwater and it didn’t start working till late in the evening (I’m at work right now but I’ll try and call you tomorrow, Tuesday). Thank you to the Garrets who had me over for lunch the next day and who had a cake and a card for me.

Most of all thank you to Janille. Thank you for the wonderful package you sent. For the cookies (they’re so good!!!), the card, my new belt, and for completing my Harry Potter collection with Tales of Beedle the Bard. For those of you who haven’t seen it I will try to describe the card. Janille made a wonderful ‘virtual party’ for me. The card had several pictures of my friends printed off a computer with party hats glued onto their heads. Each picture had a caption. The one with Jason yelling something was him singing happy birthday. Mykal did the cooking and so had a picture of him in the apron. Dusty was popping out of a closet to surprise me and so his picture was him making a weird face. Finally there was a picture of both of us and a special birthday message for me. Thank you so much Sweetheart it was wonderful!!

Thank you to all my friends, my family, and to Janille for making my birthday such a wonderful day. I was approaching it this year with a little bit of trepidation because it would be the first one I’ve celebrated alone. Thank you to everyone for making it so much better than I was expecting. I love you all.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Adventures Living Alone

It is been a while since I have had a post about me and my life so I thought this week I would give everyone an update. I have been living in my little house for about 2 months now. For anyone who has not seen it I have a living area with a small kitchen in the corner, a bedroom, a bath, and a closet. It is very cozy and I absolutely LOVE it. After living with roommates for the last 4 years of my life living on my own is an amazing blessing and reduces the amount of stress considerably. I cannot describe how much I enjoy cleaning up after ONLY myself. I know this might be hard to believe for some of the female members of my family but I actually do try and keep it fairly neat.

I have also acquired a futon, a couple of lamps, a rug, and a small coffee table. My living area now consists of more than a TV, my weight bench, and small kitchen table. It is really turning out to look quite homey and it is a very ‘comfortable’ room. I have not really done anything with my kitchen since I moved in. One of the interesting things that is both depressing in some ways, inspiring in others, and I think is gradually teaching me about myself is cooking alone. I am trying to compose my thoughts on this subject and hopefully will have a blog post about it in a couple weeks. I am still in the market for an office chair but I am hoping Office Max or Walmart might have some back to school sales closer to the start of the semester.

Over the last couples of months I have gotten into the basic routine of general living on my own. Outside the basic routine of simply cooking, cleaning, and going to work I have had the added joy and experience of dealing with, you guessed it, bills. Formerly an apartment dweller, whose rent included all utilities, this has been a bit new. When I was first setting up many of my utility accounts, electric, water, and internet, everyone but the water company did not believe I actually existed. Having never had a credit card, or a credit report, both the electric company and the internet company did not believe I was actually a real person. I had to fax numerous documents to both before they would even consider me for service. On top of that I found out yesterday that the electric company had switched account numbers on me after the first month. I had been paying my bill to the wrong account number!! There were late fees, the accumulation of 2 ½ months of electric bill, and the question of where all my money had gone. After spending almost an hour on hold, talking with a general customer service person and an account specialist I got the situation sorted out.

Today I am heading down to San Antonio to see Janille, celebrate the 4th of July, and have a long weekend with some great company. I have not forgotten about my promise for the 10 most ridiculous lines ever heard in a country song so maybe that will happen next week. I have also been thinking about a lot of other stuff lately so my 7 or 8 readers might be in for several posts not entirely about me over the next couple of weeks. I hope this post keeps you satisfied until something more exciting than boiling over my pasta happens to me >.<. Many thanks to Laura for mentioning me on her blog. I do not know if I will be able to live up to the praise she gave me but I will try.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Interesting Paradox and its Resolution

As I’ve gone through the Horace and Dott Coffman collection at work a large amount of time has been spent dealing with weddings and funerals. As I mentioned in my last blog post Horace either officiated or provided music for over 1600 weddings and 2200 funerals. Now, many people might think that the funerals, along with the accompanying obituaries, would be very depressing to read through. After all, what could be more depressing than realizing how many people, in just the Church of Christ in Lubbock, have died. The weddings, some might assume, would be very inspirational for this is a time of joy and happiness for those who are participating. I’ll admit this was my first reaction, especially as I sorted through hundreds of funerals.

As I continued in my work an interesting change has occurred in my feelings towards these two different events. No longer did I view the weddings as a release from the dour work of filing obituaries. No longer did I dread the next folder with the title “Funerals Performed in 19--.” Instead it was the weddings that inspired a strange melancholy.

My thinking, as my worked progressed, turned from thinking of the weddings a joyous union of two people into the perpetual question “Did John Smith and Jane Doe make it?” I know it’s extremely pessimistic of me but for some reason I couldn’t help but feel that every marriage I came across had ended in some sort of disaster. The funerals inspired a sense of hope. Within the pages of funeral programs, obituaries, and Horace’s notes were inspirational stories about lifelong Christians. Here were men and women who had remained faithful to God and served the church for decades. Here were men and women who had been married for 50, 60, and even 70 years. Here were inspirational stories about love, perseverance, faithfulness, joy in the face of suffering and thanksgiving at the passing of loved ones.

This was an interesting paradox, at least for me, because I knew that the wedding was a joyous occasion and despite my pessimistic misanthropy some, maybe even a majority, of these marriages had survived, prospered and even continue to thrive to this day. My general attitude toward the weddings changed yesterday when I made a pretty incredible discovery.

As I was going through another folder of wedding programs and notes I came across one that stopped me in my tracks. I had found the program for the marriage of a Ms. Diane Clutter and a Larry Stephens. Here was a wedding that I had first hand knowledge of! That I had grown up knowing and that has been a model of love, faithfulness, and charity every day of my life. I didn’t wonder if Diane Clutter and Larry Stephens had made it I KNEW. Despite the divorce rate, the broken homes we see around us, the single moms, abortions, and inconsiderate and insensitive people on both sides God has always and still raises up among us men and women to serve him and to be examples to younger generations. I’m so proud to say that two of these people are my parents.

It is my prayer that I too might be one of these people some day. That I might live as an example to others and that some day I might enter the Kingdom and hear the words “Well done, good and faithful servant.”