Thursday, June 7, 2012

The best & worst of times...

June 7, 2012

The best & worst of times...

One of the first big novels that I remember reading was by Charles Dickens called "A Tale of Two Cities". It depicts the difficulties of peasants and the events leading up to French Revolution. The beginning of the novel has some of the most famous literary lines ever penned: "It was the best of times; it was the worst of times..." It seems to me from a pastoral point of view, those lines are always appropriate as it's always the best of times and the worst of times depending on who I'm visiting with. The Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write in Romans 12:15 "Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep." This time of year as the school year draws to a close, there is much rejoicing as students, teachers and parents are giddy with excitment that school is nearly over, graduation celebrations and summer vacation plans are being made. It usually starts in mid-May with college & seminary students finishing their final exams. They begin to see the light of day with joy instead of dread having burned the mid-night oil to cram for that last exam or write that last paper. College & seminary semesters concluding are the first wave that spreads to local schools and you can sense this anticipation building all around you and the count down begins as your children tell you how many days are left as you take them to school. On May 27th we recognized both our college and high school graduating seniors for this milestone in their lives and expressed our pride in them. It is a great time of year seeing caps and gowns and school colors on display. It's a great opportunity for ministry with baccalaureate services hosted by students and parents to honor God and be reminded of His grace to these graduating seniors. Last year I had the priviledge of speaking at C. Milton Wright's baccalaureate service and challenging the graduates on their future and sharing the Gospel with them. For several years our student minister Wally Yocum has been involved with the baccalaureate at Bel Air High School and this year was the primary speaker & I know he honored the Lord as he challenged those at that service.

It is this time of year when one begins to hear of wedding plans and I've recent occasion to discuss wedding plans with a couple seeking guidance as they prepare to start their new life together. What a joy to share God's designs and plans for marriage and to reflect on the blessings of my own marriage anniversary and my rich life with Cheryl. Hearing of the joy of couples in their engagements, seeing people propose in inventive ways like when the "kiss cam" is panning the stadium at Camden Yards; it is truly the best of times and it is appropriate to rejoice with those who rejoice. Sunday May 27th was also Memorial Day weekend to remember those who’ve paid for freedom with their lives. On the other hand for many others, it is the worst of times. Recent cancer diagnosis, phone calls jarring friends and family awake in the night with news of a calamity where someone fell and was injured, planning funerals for those who've had loved ones pass whether it was expected or suddenly never gets easier. Learning of new financial crises both nationally and in our own families seems to be more and more common place. I'm ministering to a man near death's door who as far as I know does not know Christ. I am broken for him and desiring fervently that he give his life to Christ before he steps into eternity. I covet your prayers for this man who faces an eternity in Hell apart from repentance and faith in Christ. Truly, it is the worst of times for many as well and we are to weep with those who weep.

Such is the nature of life with the good, bad and downright ugly. How do we deal with the roller coaster of life? First I would say we need to remember "on Christ the solid rock I stand all other ground is sinking sand." Good times come and go, hardships come and go but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith (Heb. 12:2)! Secondly lean on your church family. The family of faith, the family of God here at Calvary continues to amaze me as part of God's provision for His saints to minister and care for one another. In that same Romans 12 passage I mentioned earlier, Paul quickly outlines in verses 9-21 a number of practical ways for Christians to care for one another. Jesus said to His disciples the love we show for one another is a powerful tool to witness to the lost world around us. Last week I saw two excellent examples as people volunteered to cook for and feed a family after a funeral service. I also saw another group of people cook for and care for the pastors of our Susquehanna Association when Calvary hosted the monthly meeting for pastors and their wives. That little song with the phrase "I'm so glad I'm a part of the family of God" rolls in my soul seeing the people of God who make up the family of God caring for one another. I called one of our precious widows and asked her to reach out to another widow and her reply was one of gratitude that I would trust her with that assignment! Deacons are caring for sick, ministering to widows, helping folks in financial distress; Christians are intentionally acting with kindness.

Let me encourage you in these, the best of times & the worst of times to continue to be faithful to minister to and be sensitive to those who rejoice and those who mourn. Sometimes I’m so caught up in the distress of life that I don’t feel much like celebrating with those who rejoice but we are commanded to enjoy those times of celebration. One of the greatest things we can do is to pray earnestly for each other especially in those times that are the worst of times. Drop a card in the mail to someone struggling to encourage them. Take them a meal, clean house for them, serve them in some way. I’ve have seen and experienced how serving someone else in distress is a great cure for your soul as you walk through the worst of times in your life. God uses that to help you heal as you focus on the needs of others. I’ve often shared with my kids if we think we have it bad, just look around and we’ll find someone in much worse condition than we are to care for. Jesus showed us how to rejoice at the wedding of Cana Galilee, celebrating with those who celebrated. He also mourned and wept at the tomb of Lazarus. In both situations Jesus served others and expects us to follow His lead and do the same.

Finally, from a policeman’s point of view, be careful out there. The heightened activity of celebrations and vacations seems to cause people to throw caution to the wind in their haste to get to the celebration or get to the vacation spot. Just yesterday I saw two close calls of near accidents with cars and people in a hurry. We used to say in law enforcement: “It’s better to be late than turn up dead.” The lake, the beach, the pool, the mountains, wherever you are going will still be there so take your time and be safe. As we walk through the best of times and the worst of times, I want to encourage us to do it together as the family of faith; but reach out to those around us and maybe that will be what God uses to reach them for His kingdom. Living out the best of times and the worst of times, from my little corner of the world to yours…

Pastor Ralph Green
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Posted via email from Pastor Ralph

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