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David Burchett Christian Blog and Commentary

David Burchett

David Burchett's weblog

I am so grateful to be the father of three wonderful sons. I am grateful as I watch my sons being great dads to our grandchildren. But Father's Day also reminds me how much I miss my Dad.

I thought of him as I watched the news today. The current climate in Washington and the selfish agendas of our “representatives” would have driven him nuts. I could almost hear him ranting about the politicians and how we just need someone with common sense in our Nation’s Capital. He earned the right to rant. He was one of the incredible men and women who served our country during World War II. The flag from his military funeral is one of my proudest possessions.

I find myself becoming more like my Dad every day. I dialed up a couple of his favorite songs that I have on iTunes as a musical version of comfort food. The first song was particularly appropriate in the context of today’s news. The world seems to be in a deadly free fall and in previous years I would have been beside myself with frustration and concern. But today I listened to one of my Dad’s favorite songs and felt comfort wash over my soul. The song is called “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow” and it was written in 1950 by a traveling preacher named Ara Stanphill. This is a song of trust written during a time of agony and doubt in his life. Stanphill’s wife battled addiction and left him for other men. You could imagine the gossip that flew in that era when a preacher’s wife left to live a life of sin. Yet Stanphill forgave her, tried to reconcile and remained true to his vows. But he was human and he suffered depression and grief. He wondered why God would allow such a fate for a man dedicated to His service. One day he was feeling sorry for himself as he drove. In the book Turn Your Radio On author Ace Collins relates the struggle that Stanphill faced. In the depths of his sadness he began to hum a tune and the next thing he knew he was singing a song. He sang about not knowing what was in the future but knowing that God was with him every step of the way. He rushed to his piano when he arrived at his office and jotted down the words.  I remember hearing Faron Young sing these lyrics on a scratchy vinyl record with my Dad.

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to grey.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what is ahead.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

I believe those words. I don’t know why some things happen. I am often angry, frustrated and deeply concerned about what is going on in Washington and around the world. But at the end of the day I put my hope not in politics but in Jesus. I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand. And then I listened to what I would guess was my Dad’s favorite song. He would sing along loudly and I remember that I also inherited my Dad’s lack of singing talent. But his heart believed the words that Red Foley and the Sunshine Boys sang.

There will be peace in the valley for me, some day
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow, my Lord,
no trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me

My Dad is experiencing that today. No more sadness, no sorrow, no troubles. So in the midst of craziness and confusion I hold on to the hope that my Dad believed. I know who holds tomorrow. I know there will be peace in the valley for me some day and that I will see him again. More and more I understand the words that C.S.Lewis wrote.

“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”

That is what Jesus was saying as He comforted His followers with these words recorded in the Gospel of John.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.”

So today I choose to trust God for today and sing this little chorus.

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand

But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

When I saw my dad for the last time I did not say goodbye. Instead I said “see you later” because I know who holds today, tomorrow and forever.

Dave Burchett is the author of "Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace" and
"When Bad Christians Happen to Good People".

 

The Slow Rot of Sin

I used to be quick to jump on Christians who failed morally. How could they claim to be a Christian and do something like that? I wondered how they got to such a low point in their journey.

Perhaps a bit of insight came from a Texas storm. Strong winds toppled a 50-foot-tall tree in a friend’s backyard. But strong winds are a part of every spring in Texas. Why did this particular storm fell a mature tree? The answer came as my friend cut up the fallen tree—it had completely rotted inside. There was no way to tell when you looked at the tree. The bark covered the decay and the leaves were still green and pretty. But inside the tree was dying. It finally reached a point where there was not enough strength left in its core to withstand another storm.

Old rotting stump in the green forest

The example from nature is a metaphor for how we can topple as Christians and completely surprise those around us. We wear masks. We look good. We say the right things. We stay busy doing Christian things. We are more concerned about appearance than honest spiritual health. They is no way to tell by looking that the slow rot of sin is decaying our judgment and relationship with Jesus.

Tree experts will tell you that often a small wound in a tree left unattended will allow fungus to enter and begin the destructive process. If the wound had been treated, the disease could have been halted with little or no damage.

That is again a metaphor for what happens in our souls. Most of us are a little or a lot wounded by life and others. Perhaps pride or fear or simply not knowing what to do causes us to ignore the wound in our souls. And that opening allows the slow decay of unresolved sin that leads to a fall.

The illustration reminded me of the Scripture where Jesus railed against the “self-righteous” religious leaders:

“What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence! You blind Pharisee! First wash the inside of the cup and the dish, and then the outside will become clean, too” (Matthew 23, NLT).

I know me. I know that I must seek the illuminating light of the Holy Spirit to help me see the filth and greed and self-indulgence that lies within or I could fall with a sickening thud as well. I know that forgiveness and redemption are available to everyone but I also know the terrible consequences of sin. When a Christian fails morally they pay a terrible price and so do those they have hurt.

Pray for those who fail and don’t write them off as “less of a Christian”. I would ask you to look in the mirror. If you see what I see you will extend grace to those who fail. What I see in the mirror is a person who was saved only by grace. I see a person who is capable of failing if I do not lean wholly on that grace every day. A person who does not want to hurt the heart or cause of Jesus because I am so grateful for His amazing grace. I like the way The Message translates Paul’s words to the Galatians:

“If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day’s out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ’s law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived (Galatians 6, The Message).

Author of Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace

I have watched with sadness as Twitter trolls have destroyed or severely damaged people and institutions. Sometimes the venom is directed at those who simply have a sincere difference of opinion on moral issues. Nothing seems to generate more glee than a Christian leader or institution failing.

Without fail the hypocrite word is used with smug satisfaction.

And it is true. Let me make this personal since I can only speak honestly for me. I am a hypocrite. I do not consistently live up to the teachings of Jesus. I fail. I sin. That is why I need a Savior and not a self-help course. I am confident not in my holiness but in the holiness of Jesus. I remember hearing a pastor say that “we all sin and fall short of the glory of God. But that doesn’t keep us from comparing distances.”

That is exactly what I used to do and still do when I forget why Jesus found it necessary to die for me! I was comparing distances between my own sinful judgement and comments about other people against what I was hearing about another person or place. I condemned without knowing anything about that person’s wounds or struggles. I would self-righteously note that at least I haven’t said something that offensive or done that bad thing! I am not as bad as them!

So what?

God’s Word says I am condemned when I judge, idolize, lie and covet. It doesn’t matter whether it is less offensive than another person’s actions. Whether I fall a millimeter short or miles short is meaningless. I have fallen short. I am a desperate sinner in need of a Savior. Today I asked for the Holy Spirit to examine my heart. I am not responsible for the comments of others. I am accountable for my comments and thoughts before the One who went to Cross to win my forgiveness.

Earlier in this space I wrote about a familiar passage from the Gospel of John. I wondered how Jesus might respond to today’s condemning cyber-mobs. Here is a modern version of a well known story.

A crowd soon gathered, and He (Jesus) sat down and taught them. As He was speaking, the teachers of politically correct speech brought a woman who had been caught in the act of hateful speech. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the very act of intolerance and hate speech. We say she should be fired, disgraced, and shunned. What do you say?”

They were trying to trap Him into saying something they could use against Him, but Jesus stooped down and looked at the device in His hand. They kept demanding an answer, so He typed a message that appeared on every device in the crowd simultaneously. They read the message on their screen.  “All right, but let the one who has never unfairly judged another and who has never said an ugly untruth about another send the first Tweet!” Then he looked down and typed something else.

When the accusers read this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

“No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Remember that every person is precious in My sight and that I loved them enough to endure the Cross. Go and sin no more.”

Forgive me for taking liberties with such an amazing text. But I think it brings it home for us that I (and you) are just like that mob who dragged the woman to Jesus.

Lord Jesus,

Forgive me for my judgement of others. Forgive me for my ugly thoughts. Forgive me for my mean comments about those you love dearly.  And thank you for still loving me in spite of the ugly reality of my own sin. I fall on your grace today. Please remind me to use these gifts of communication only to edify, encourage and inspire.

Thank you for loving me. Help me to love others in the power of Your Amazing Grace.

Amen

(Read an excerpt from Stay:Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace)

 

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