September 21, 2022
One of the most profound Christian concepts, yet so simple it can be expressed in just two words, is "But God." It is a succinct way of expressing the idea that God, the Creator, can and will intervene in the lives of humankind - a profound and wonderful concept, yet one that is so simple, we sometimes take it quite for granted. It is the fundamental idea that the promises of the Bible were made by a being that not only talks a good talk, but is also willing to act on them. These simple words are often found at the pivot point of the dramatic stories of the Bible. In fact the NIV version of the Bible contains 60 verses that include the phrase, "But God ..." such as: I Corinthians 2:10 "but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit..." And the NIV version of the Bible also contains another 65 verses that include the phrase, "But the Lord ..." such as:
2 Timothy 4:17 ""But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength ..." If you think about it, many testimonies have a story line that is essentially, "I was lost, or needed help, etc. but God saved, or helped, or encouraged, or comforted, etc, me." It is the phrase, "but God," that makes all the difference - without God's intervention, the story has a very different ending. There is a wonderful book by the theologian, Francis A. Schaeffer, entitled, "How Should We Then Live?" The phrase comes from one of the watchman passages in Ezekiel 33, and it is a way of asking "So What?" If we apply it here, it is like asking, if we believe in a God who can and is willing to intervene in our daily lives, "how should we then live?" How should that belief alter the way we live our lives? Many of you were around 23 years ago and will recall that back then, many people were freaking out over what was then the upcoming change from 1999 to the new year of 2000 - so called Y2K. While it may be hard to imagine looking back on it with the advantage of 20/20 hindsight, back then the news outlets were broadcasting doomsday scenarios on a regular basis. Some computer systems, that abbreviated the year with only two digits, could not handle the jump from 99 to 00. It was imagined by some, that certain portions of our civilization would come to a grinding halt, like Cinderella's carriage, at the stroke of midnight. About that time I was invited to speak at a local church men's breakfast. I was specifically asked, what should they do about Y2K? My answer was: to update their computer systems and stop panicking. As Christians they should be setting the example to others around them. For one of the "But the Lord" verses, I alluded to above, is found in Judges 6:23.
Judges 6:23 "But the Lord said to him, 'Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.'"
I went on to remind them that each of us lives in a world full of people, who have not read the Bible. They do not know our God. In a very real sense, we are the only Bible some of these people will ever "read." By that I mean, what they know about God, comes only from what they observe in the way we lead our lives; and very specifically, how we respond to crises! Do we act like we know a God, who can intervene, or, are we panicked when we encounter a problem bigger than ourselves? Many years ago I was part of a small church, that traditionally invited Christian artists to put on programs during Holy Week. One year as we were getting ready to start the service / program / concert, and the church was beginning to fill up, the Christian artist discovered that her music was missing. It turned out that it was in the trunk of a car that had been taken to run an errand. It was due to return any minute, but the artist was afraid that it would not arrive on time. Now, I was the designated master of ceremonies that night, responsible for introducing the artist. I told her that there was no need to panic, because I would simply ad-lib a long intro, until I saw the person come in who had her music. But, she was visibly shaken! Even though my long intro was timed perfectly to allow the music to arrive before the artist had to actually begin her portion of the service, her ministry was significantly weakened by her display of panic. When she told the audience to "trust the Lord," it did not have the same conviction as it would have had, if she had remained calm. The truth of the matter is, that you can make or break your testimony, by how you respond in a time of crisis. Jesus is recorded as saying:
John 20:21 "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me. I am sending you."
Your Brother In Christ, Warren Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons United Church of Colchester