Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
Be Quiet Back There!
May we be so in awe of the glorious works of God in our lives, that we are found still, and quiet, enjoying the beauty of His Peace!
it was inevitable, on those family drives as children that a fight would ensue between my brother and sister, and sometimes, I would get involved.
Remember, back in the day before seatbelts and child seats? When there could be a real free-for all wrestling match as dad drove down the highway at seventy miles an hour?
As expected as the war of the backseat was, even more was another thing we heard just a few moments later.
Be still back there! Be quiet back there!
I could almost hear those words as I drove those same roads last week.
I think when we hear God urging us to be still, urging us to be quiet, it isn’t because he needs to concentrate to get us where we are going. It isn’t that he will somehow loose control of the journey when a pillow comes flying over the back seat. Or the sound of a siren on a video game makes him glance guiltily at the speedometer.
Even so, we as individuals, we as the church of God, need to spend some real time in quiet, some real time being still, some extensive time knowing that God is God, and that He is our refuge, our fortress.
For different reasons when we were children, we need to hear Jesus say, my friends, be quiet, be still back there.
In fact, they are the same reasons Martin Luther, and so many before and since him, need to hear those words as well….
What couldn’t we see? V. 8
In our world today, much like in Luther’s time, there were more than enough fights going on, just like in the backseat of our ’72 dodge dart.
Some of the fights are caused by external things, fights in the world that worry us, whether against enemies like ISIS, or that are more insidious, like Ebola. Some are fights within the church at large, just as Luther experienced in His day. Fights over doctrine, fights over traditions, fights over theology. And some are fights like St Paul noted, fights between our sinful nature and our new nature in Christ. Those internal fights between sin, and the desire to serve God. They are like David describes in the psalm, times where our lives are shaken like earthquakes, where everything seems to crumble, where we feel like we are being drowned in life. Where the world is in chaos, and the very strength of our country seems to crumble…
All these fights in the backseat on our journey towards heaven garner our attention, whether we are involved in the fight, or not. They cause us anxiety and fear, even if we aren’t involved, for like the kid in the middle between two siblings, we can’t help being involved.
And once involved, life overwhelms us.
It was at such a time, inspired by this very psalm, Luther found rest. Despite the hoards of Turks threatening to take over Europe, despite some religious leaders calling for his death, despite health issues, despite his own sin and psychological challenges… Luther found peace.
And so can we… if only we can manage to be still, to be quiet, to be in awe of the glorious works of the LORD.
Being Still… not about behavior…
As we were driving down roads in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, I saw things that I don’t remember seeing. Rivers and streams, small waterfalls, signs notifying us that moose and elk now wandered the woods. Even as William and I stood at the shore of Lake Ossipee, my senses were flooded with what I saw, what I heard. The wind rustling through thousands of trees, raindrops causing ripples on the stillest of waters.
What God creates in nature is so incredibly amazing! We need to see them, but even more we need to see God’s glorious works in our lives
Even before the psalm encourages stillness, it encourages us to look at the glorious works of God. Not the mountains and lakes, the forests and oceans, but what He does to bring peace to our world. To bring peace to our lives.
Promise after promise we’ve heard, we know that nothing can separate us from Him, that all things work for good, that even what is planned for evil, He defeats and causes it to be for our best interest.
When we trust Him, we know that we have a safe place, a fortress that cannot being overwhelmed, a sanctuary that will not be broken into, a refuge where the battles of the world can’t compare to the glory we know, to the peace that surrounds us.
We can’t know that peace when we are fighting, whether the fight is external, or internal. Whether we are being attacked by thousands of enemies, or we are like Peter, realizing we betrayed the Lord.
We need to hear Jesus’ words, “Peace be with you!”
Even more grace – He is Here, among us!
That peace comes with something more incredible. We hear the words though out the service, but today we hear them a little differently…
11 The LORD of Heaven’s Armies is here among us;
the God of Israel is our fortress.
Psalm 46:11 (NLT)
To hear this, to really hear this, results in the very same thing that we normally hear, that because He is hear among us, because God is our sanctuary, our refuge our fortress, we can have the rest from the wars that rage in the world, we can know the stillness and quietness that we need…
We can realize that He is our God…. The Lord God almighty is our God, and therefore we can rest in Him, and know the peace that passes all understanding, guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus!
Backseat Conversations on the Way to Heaven:
#4 Hand Me all Your Trash
† IHS †
May you always be quick to remember the grace, the mercy, love and peace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, as we journey to seeing them face to face!
A Pleasant Journey!
We have been looking at the largest Pastor Parker Parable. That the Journey Home to Heaven is like one of those long journeys of our youth, when we were crowded into the backseat of the family car.
We’ve overheard some of those conversations, remembering when we were urged “to get along back there,” and “That’s Not fair!’. And last week Deacon Michael urged us to consider what happens on those journeys, as we grow up, and eventually get to ride in the front seat.
Today, as we look at Paul describing His life in Christ, I want you to think back to those trips in the car. To remember pulling into the gas stations, where men would pump your gas, clean your windows, check your oil.
When that happened on our trips, as we stopped and Ray Child’s Esso, there was something my dad would always say to us……
No, not, “who has to go to the bathroom” No one would ever want kids or ladies to go into the restroom at that place….
What dad said was….
“Hand Me All your trash!”
It was time to clean the car, getting rid of all the trash, all the candy-wrappers, all the napkins, all the masterpieces colored in crayon, all the broken cheap toys,
Stopping for gas was the time to get the car taken care of, and for us, that meant emptying the backseat of all our trash.
The question is, when our Heavenly Father asks us to hand to Him all our trash…. Will we?
in order to answer that, we have to understand two things…what the trash is, and why it is a benefit to get all that crap out of our lives….
What’s in the Backseat!
It is amazing what we thought were treasures as children. Remember the little 2 piece balsa wood gliders? Or those growing up after me, the happy meal toys that would break before you ever made it home? The baseball cards and the gum that came in the packages. The Pez dispensers with the heads broken off them…
They would end up on the floor, forgotten, smashed, even cried over.
Until Dad asked for them, because they were trash.
Then they were worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. And we would make a fuss and a fit when our dad’s wanted to throw them out. We counted them as our treasures, irreplaceable things that just cluttered up the backseat.
In today’s epistle, Paul reveals that he saw things that he once thought were invaluable as the trash he needed to stop carrying around. Things that he would understand were trash, which needed to be tossed to the side.
Looking at the list, they don’t really seem all that trashy.
Wait, I need to clarify something. The translators got to the back seat before we did. It wasn’t trash that Paul considered this stuff. Anybody remember the old cloth diapers and what they would be filled with, when they were in the dirty diaper bag? Anybody remember what that bag was like, kept in the back seat on a hot day like we’ve been having? Yeah – that is what Paul called these things he had been so attached to in life
The translators use nicer words, refuse, trash, the old KJV had it more accurate when it said dung.
If I told you the stuff God would take away from you in life, most of you would come up with the idea of sin, or with the old Catechism answer, God removed “sin, satan and death” from our lives.
I am not sure we understand that Paul is talking about sin, when he mentioned that used to count on being born into the right family, into the right race. That he had all the boxes checked off that would see the community think he was a perfect kid. He went to the right schools, go incredible grades. Paul thought, without boasting, that he was living the perfect life. That he did what he was supposed to, even religiously did it.
Sounds like good stuff to me.
Then again, so did the now in 8 pieces balsa wood glider!
The reason these things were trash, or the filling of a diaper, wasn’t because they had no value. It is that they have absolutely no value if you trust in them. They are worthless to trust in, and too often, we do. When we say we can’t do without them, or that these things make us who we are, we have turned them into an idol.
Luther said it this way,
What does it mean to have a god? or, what is God? Answer: A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, The Large Catechism of Martin Luther.
All Paul was doing in counting these things as trash, was confessing that they had become idols, things in his life he trusted in, especially that he was good enough. He swore he was going to get to heaven because he was a good person, because he had all the boxes checked off, and he trusted in his own work.
Which is why, when Paul heard the gospel from Stephen, it was hard. All that he believed in, all that he trusted in,
We do the same thing. We find our value in all sorts of things. It might be in our bank account, or our financial status. We find our meaning in our job, the awards and diplomas and certificates we receive. We find what defines becoming our roles as parents, or grandparents, even our citizenship. These are the equivalents to what Paul found to be trash, because we allow them to define us, rather than God defining us.
That’s the key, we aren’t who we think we are,…..
We are who God knows we are.
Nothing in our Way!
Getting rid of the trash in our lives is about learning to see each other, and indeed ourselves, as God sees us.
As those who died with Jesus in baptism, and have been raised from the dead with Him. This is what Paul talks about, when he says,
For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9 and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith.
He goes on to say,
10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
Paul is crying out for a level of intimacy with God that leaves everything in the dust. To be so united with Christ that we become indistinguishable from Him. He lives in us, He shines through us, we are one with Him, as He promised we would be! Paul says this again, when he says,
“But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me.”
Compared to knowing Jesus, well, the other stuff belongs in the used diaper bag. Our relationship with Jesus defines everything we are, and what we can be. It has eternal value, there is nothing that will make life better now, and nothing else, no one else gives us a future and hope that is eternal.
He is the one in whom we find hope, it is in Him we find life, it is in Him we find the peace that passes all understanding, as He guards and protects our Hearts and Minds….
So when you come up, and feast with Him, let go of everything else, and realize that He holds on to you… so hold on to Him.