Fickleness

Words matter. The words of Jesus matter most. We live in an age where there is a plethora of words in continual bombardment on our senses. But words become meaningless when people adopt a fickle attitude. Observe what happened to Jesus in a very short period of time.

“[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read.” [Luke 4:16 ESV] Synagogues were most likely started around the time when the Jews were freed from Babylonian capture. A synagogue could be started anywhere in town or country, where 10 or more respectable men of like mind wanted to gather to read the Torah, pray and sing praises to God. To the Jews, worship was a public affair and men were expected to participate. After Jesus had read the portion from Isaiah he sat down. It was expected and hence all were focused on him, to see what commentary he would bring to this reading. He spoke and “all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?'” [v. 22] It appears that they wanted to hear more but were puzzled by this this man who was raised and lived in their village who had no training religiously.

Jesus does say more. Luke tells us that “When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath.” [v. 28] As I read this account this morning, I was impressed with the word ‘fickle.’ By definition it is an adjective that describes people characterized by erratic changeableness or instability. A short talk by Jesus triggers a reversal of affections in the listeners, so much so that they intend to kill him.

One moment they were ready to lionize this apparent prophet who grew up in their midst and then the next they reject him. What triggered such reversal of attitude? They were men of tradition. They worship the tradition of having the Sacred Writings carefully stowed in the synagogue and each Sabbath, ceremoniously brought out to be read and then carefully put back in an ark. This was God’s word to them on how to have a relationship with him and those around them. They worshiped the tradition of worshipping God. Their fickleness shows up because they were not firmly governed by God’s word but rather by the traditions of the elders.

“… my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable …” [I Corinthians 15:58 ESV] Stand firm. In other words, God wants us to be firm in our affection, behavior, opinion and loyalty. The men of the synagogue in Nazareth were ready to kill Jesus based on their capricious emotions. They were ready to break both the Roman law and God’s Law based on a sudden whim. In their rage they carried Jesus to the edge of a cliff intending to toss him to his death, but God intervened and he walked away. “But passing through their midst, he went away. And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” [v. 30-32] The Scribes and Pharisees taught with a detached coldness and indifference. They taught tradition, depending on the authority of others. Jesus taught with fervency and majesty, teaching what his Father told him to teach and his words penetrated their hearts.

Fickleness describes a person that is not firm or steady in their affection, behavior, opinion or loyalty. May we be the opposite? Under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit may we be men that “… continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard …” [Colossians 1:23 ESV]

A tribute …

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And there it was—the star they had seen in the east! It led them until it came and stopped above the place where the child was.

We have an awesome God as our Savior. Our American traditional Thanksgiving pales compared with the humbling thanksgiving we feel as we consider once again the love of God that is demonstrated through Jesus. From heaven’s throne to a dingy stable; God sent a gift that never stops giving!

This has been a busy year. It has been a year of elation, sadness, grief and then profound peace, in that order. Elisha [oldest daughter 46] was diagnosed with throat cancer last April. After treatment of three rounds of chemo and 35 doses of radiation, she was declared clear. That was the elation. She was on the mend physically and mentally. Then in September they discovered that the cancer had aggressively invaded her body; brain, lungs and bones. That was the shocking sadness. One month after that she died last Monday morning [11/25]. Eight months from diagnoses to her death. That was the grief. But there is more. That is the beauty of being in relationship with Jesus. Grief is not the end.

Elisha died, we know, in Jesus’ arms. She was at home with Kathe and I during the last six weeks of her life. She had been in a great deal of pain and as she got sicker, it became a maddening balancing act of trying to manage the pain but not kill her with the drugs.  Even though some awful physical events were happening during the last few hours of her earthly life, she seemed to be at peace. A couple of minutes before she died she opened her eyes. Kathe stood up and closed her eyes and told her “Keep your eyes closed and just rest.” She did and simply quit breathing, not gasping or struggling at all. Her face was truly beautiful.

Her death was such a marvelous witness to God’s love and mercy. I [Kathe, my wife] tell everyone about it, especially my non-Christian friends at work.  Glen and I had continually prayed for her healing, but if not, then to take her home quickly.  It was very, very quick.   We believe God orchestrated it from the beginning and we are very grateful to Him for His mercy to her and us. Kathe and I have been at the bedside and watched two people in our immediate family die. One a Christ follower and one consistently rejected Jesus. The difference in their deaths is phenomenal. The pagan struggled and seemed to resist death. There was a sense of fear present. Elisha struggle also and then just surrendered. She knew where she was going and with Whom.

What about the profound peace in the face of this? Oddly, we are looking forward to this next chapter in our lives. It is a “God thing.” Elisha is missed and this is a time for us of having moments of grieving. But we also have the opportunity to bring witness to others of God’s amazing grace in our lives. People who do not know the Lord Jesus [and even some ‘lukewarm’ Christians] wonder at our calmness in the face of tragedy. I personally tell people that I feel content. Yes I said content. I am content because I know that Elisha is now healed in mind and body. She is no longer in raging pain that overwhelmed her mind and body. More than that, she is with Jesus. We will see her again. Those who spend their lives rejecting Jesus have a different ending. When a relative died she and I were there during his final hours. His death was so different from Elisha’s. His was fraught with fear because he consistently rejected the Savior’s call right up till the moment his heart stopped. He died without knowing where he was going and to whom he was going to meet. Elisha died peacefully.

That brings us back to thanksgiving. We have a new appreciation for what God initiated over 2000 years ago. Rejoice and be thankful. It is all about the greatest gift known to mankind. And His name is …   

Jesus

Name above all names

Beautiful Savior

Glorious Lord

Emmanuel

God is with us

Blessed Redeemer

Living Word

Jesus.