Archive for July 2009

To Number Our Days

July 25, 2009

So teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Return, O Lord! How long?
Have pity on your servants!
Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love,
that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us,
and for as many years as we have seen evil.
Let your work be shown to your servants,
and your glorious power to their children.
Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us,
and establish the work of our hands upon us;
yes, establish the work of our hands!
     ( Psalm 90:12-17)

I was surprised at a milestone birthday of late.  It was not the unexpected gathering of happy family and friends who greeted me with the joyful cry “Surprise”, that did it, no,  it was my unexpected reaction to turning fifty that was so surprising to me.  I was surprised that it affected me so deeply, that I mourned my passing days so painfully.  Perhaps a confluence of events–Phil Busbee’s sudden death, fractured friendships, disillusionments,  the graduations of some I have watched grow up–these were  tributaries to the flooding of a river of memories.  I was surprised by all the grief I felt, and that this river overflowed its banks.

But blessed are those who mourn.  For it is a good thing to number our days and grieve before the LORD our losses .  It is a good thing to clearly see the time fleeing, and  the futility of our efforts apart from Him.  It is a good thing to return to Him in reverential fear.  It is very good to hear His voice above the flood of regret, saying “I am your portion, and your exceeding great reward.”   Faith answers, ” You maintain my lot, the lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.”

I have been studying the life of Abraham lately.   I am captured again by the One who sees the things that don’t exist as if they did, and identifying deeply with the one who believed the Promise unwaveringly, yet faltered in following consistently.  (Did he just say, “Tell them you are my sister”–again? And did I just fall myself into the fell snare of the fear of man–yet again?  Why was I so intimidated by mere man who has only breath,  and did not tremble before  You, oh Lord? ) 

I have been so encouraged to observe how the ominipotent God of the universe condescended to shape the faith of this humble man, patiently bore with his inconsistencies, and led him inexorably to the Test of all Tests.  And though Abraham stumbled Abimelech’s household by his half-truths which were wholly lies, yet he edified  the Father’s household of faith forever with  his fearsome obedience of death to self.  In this prophetic act,  God’s work of redemption was shown to His servant Abraham, and His glorious power to that man’s child.   Isaac’s faith, though shaken in that terrible moment of  trusting  immolation, was established by that ram caught in the thicket. So it was written in God’s book forever, an example for us all to follow.  “We must make our own way to the region of obedience, and scale our own Golgotha.  And the children walk with us”.*  What will they see us do on the mountain that rises in the distance?

Though my Lord has made the way as difficult as possible, and I am excellent at evading the challenges, I have numbered my days, and I cry out to Him yet again, “How long?”  But I will set my face like flint, as my brother and Savior have done.  I will make myself again a living sacrifice, giving Him everyday everything that gets in the way of obedience.

 Then You, only You,  will establish the work of my hands, oh Lord.  For the glory of your Name! 

 

*I have done this study of Abraham with the book of Romans and the help of Alistair Begg’s wonderful series “Venturing in Faith, A Study in the Life of Abraham.”  I have a haunting feeling rereading this that this might be Beggs’ own wonderful phrase here.  You can download his beautiful sermon for free, and let me know if I stole it from him, at http://www.truthforlife.org/site/News2?abbr=lst&page=NewsArticle&id=9212&news_iv_ctrl=1102 .   

I highly recommend this ministry.  Mr. Begg has a wonderful storytelling gift, a passionate desire for Jesus and clarity into His truth; and a lilting Scottish brogue that helps it all go down easily. He is the only radio preacher  my prodigal #1 can stand to listen to.  She’ll even remind me when he’s on, and helpfully tune him in.  For all  that,  I am a loyal listener, and supporter of the ministry.

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Do, in Remembrance: Phillip Busbee, June 27, 2009

July 3, 2009
Communion

Image by pastorbuhro via Flickr

“…they visited Phillip… and said, “We would see Jesus” ( John 12:20)

I think the best thing you can say about any Christ-follower is that being done with visiting him, you just want to see Jesus.  That is the way of the very best teachers of the Word: they make you hungry for more of Him, you want to go apart yourself, and get out your Bible again. You want to see Jesus. That was how Pastor Phil made you feel. There was no boasting with him, his loveliness was all of the Lord.  You could clearly see how he had been with Jesus.  He died peacefully last Saturday.

But  he died  in pieces.  The infection  fiercely took hold, and was relentless. It took his legs first, and when I heard that, I said to the Lord, “Just leave the rest of him. Please spare his life and leave his fine mind and great heart.  Go ahead and take his legs if you must, leave an even more broken vessel, oh, but leave the rest of him here, oh have mercy on your people oh God.”

The Lord paid no heed to my pleas, to my abandonment issues surfacing  yet again; He ignored my cries for stability and security, saying tenderly to me “hold lightly to the things you can see, and tightly to the things you can’t'”, as He took Phil to be with Himself.  To be with Him in glory, laughing and leaping and praising God face to face, eating the  leaves of the trees there that  are so much better than insulin.

The tender mercies of the Lord are different than mine. I felt the Lord speak to me the other day that He did leave Phil’s heart and mind.  They are impressed upon my own, preserved in the notes I keep of every sermon he preached,  that I do look at again and again, tucked in the pages of my Bible.  Especially the last sermon he preached four days before they amputated his legs.  “Who Do They Say He Is?”,  on John 19.  Like a man  who knew his time was short, he opened with the most important issue of all, the one forever forced on the sin-sick soul in Communion.  The bread and the wine were presented, and he reminded us that it is not a table spread before us, but a trial we come to.  The question the terrified Pilate asked– “Who are you?”–   must be answered by us over and over  again. Phil said, “We come to the cross, we smell again, see again, feel the pain again and say,  Jesus, don’t let me forget! Who You ARE!  You made your way to the Father’s will, you ask us to do the same.”

So will we do these things to remember Him.

I feel the anguish now in those words I quickly scrawled that I did not feel then, but I knew even then a drama was taking place.  I have never before taken notes on a communion  preamble.  I cannot think, as I read those words now, that Phillip Busbee was not unaware of what the Father was asking of Him.   He had left the hospital to deliver his message. He was in a wheelchair again.  He was weakening again. He captured so movingly the turmoil and chaos of the trial  of the Son of Man because I think he knew the verdict of the Father on his own life, and Phil  was used to yielding to Him. He was a man who so often was with Jesus, and had learned through the trials of his life to say “yes” to Him. That is why the Son of Man’s Word shone so clearly through him.

So I will follow Phil, the way he  followed Christ.   The way he led us to Jesus. The way he said, and like his Master, it cost him everything he had to say it, “Not my will, Father,  but Your will  be done.”

And here is a beautiful song. Worship your King, as Phil does now in glory, and serve Him wholly, as Phil did on earth.