For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
But I call God to witness against me—it was to spare you that I refrained from coming again to Corinth. Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, for you stand firm in your faith.—2 Corinthians 1:23–24
“I will defend and defend the belief that the deepest reality of human life that we must impress upon children is NOT that life is hard and death is inevitable and they need to get used to sadness and darkness and make the best of it. The deepest reality is joy. The prize hidden under the scratch-and-win card of life is a beauty so big that no happy ending in a story can even come close to approximating it. War is a horrific stain on the floor of an extravagant ballroom. Tears are temporary; laughter is eternal.
Pastor Sam Crabtree is Bethlehem's Executive Pastor and Lead Pastor for Life Training.
Preserve me, O God, for in you I take refuge. I say to the LORD, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from you. As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight. The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply; their drink offerings of blood I will not pour out or take their names on my lips. The LORD is my chosen portion and my cup; you hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish minister who was born about 1600. After teaching humanities at the University of Edinburgh for a season, he took a theology degree and became the pastor at Anworth in 1627. When the Episcopalians gained the power over the Scottish Church, Rutherford was imprisoned two years in Aberdeen for non-conformity. He survived to preach again and to serve on the Counsel that wrote the famous Westminster Confession.
I relished two hours with Joseph Tson in my office on Wednesday, January 31. Mr. Tson, who lives in his native land of Romania, is the president of the Romanian Missionary Society and president of Emmanuel Bible Institute in Oradea, Romania. When I heard he was in town I was very eager to have time with him because his writing on the “Theology of Martyrdom” had deeply moved me several years ago.
Paul was an extraordinary man. He knew how to rejoice when things went well. But, as the Lord said, even the gentiles rejoice when things go well. Nothing especially Christian about that. What is extraordinary about Paul is how unbelievably durable his joy was when things weren’t going well. For example: “I am overflowing with joy in all our affliction” (2 Corinthians 7:4). Or “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake” (Colossians 1:24).
- “During the 1980’s the Irish had half the incomes and purchasing power of the West Germans. Yet year after year [according to national polls], the Irish were happier.”
- “People on Forbes’s list of wealthiest Americans reported only slightly greater happiness than other Americans; 37% were less happy than the average American.”
“You all got an apartment for rent?”
At first I wasn't sure that's what he said. He was an old man walking along 18th Street across from our house. It was my turn to kick, so I was the closest to him. Home plate (dirt spot) is next to the back gate by the street, and we were playing kickball after supper. Abraham and I against Karsten and Benjamin. (Barnabas just ambles around the infield talking to himself.)
Abraham was on first and I was up to kick. “You all got an apartment for rent?” That's what he said, all right.
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Serve the Lord with fear . . .