God’s Hospital–the Church Collects Sinners

The following excerpt is from the devotional book, “Living the Message,” by Eugene H. Peterson.  This pastor-professor is probably the person I want to grow up to be like; he has a gentleness and eloquence that is seldom seen–and highly respected.
Dr. Peterson died in 2018.
Author of many books, and his great translation of the Bible, titled “The Message” is regarded by many as a masterpiece of the English language. 
Additionally, he has recently focused on the pastor, and on the many issues, a pastor might face.  He understands being a servant of the Gospel and the Church. 
I encourage you to read his stuff.  

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“When Christian believers gather in churches, everything that can go wrong sooner or later does.  Outsiders, on observing this, conclude there is nothing to this religious business, except perhaps, business…and a distant one at that.  Insiders see it much differently.”

“Just as a hospital gathers the sick under one roof and labels them as such, the Church collects sinners.” 

“Many people outside are just as sick as the ones inside, but their illnesses are either undiagnosed or disguised.  It is similar with sinners outside the church.”

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 Some other quotes by Eugene Peterson:

  • “All the persons of faith I know are sinners, doubters, uneven performers. We are secure not because we are sure of ourselves but because we trust that God is sure of us.”
  • “When we submit our lives to what we read in scripture, we find that we are not being led to see God in our stories but our stories in God’s. God is the larger context and plot in which our stories find themselves. “
  • “When we sin and mess up our lives, we find that God doesn’t go off and leave us- he enters into our trouble and saves us.”
  • “American religion is conspicuous for its messianically pretentious energy, its embarrassingly banal prose, and its impatiently hustling ambition.”
More Eugene Peterson Quotes…
 
 
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Are You Suffering Intelligently?

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

“For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.”

James 1:2-4, NLT

There are many different points where our Lord connects to us through our desperation. Our sorrow and confusion can be how God ‘wires us’ for additional contact— in some kind of weird and cosmic way, my pain becomes His ‘copper wire.’ This often is how He touches my heart as He flows through it.

It is helpful to see our issues in this way. 

There is a current that must work through us, making contact and ultimately creating a circuit. What I mean by this is that it seems we have to experience pain, in order to know His presence.  Only if you know that a brother has struggled, do you become aware that a pearl of tremendous wisdom (and love) is now accompanying him.

We must be aware that our distress allows us access to His ‘careful’ grace. Our trials, properly received, endow us with special and supplemental power.

When it gets dark, light becomes exceptional.  In a book by Stephen Lawhead, (I think it was “the Silver Hand.”) we see a man, the hero take up stones that have been infused with the creative power of the universe.  Standing on the walls of a besieged stronghold, the desperate hero throws the stones down on the attackers.  And as each stone smashes into the ground it releases a part of a song, which destroys the enemy and defeats those strong in the darkness. (Silly story.)

His Spirit infuses Himself into our hearts. 

He has imparted something in us that is both precious and powerful.  He works through the pain and struggles that we encounter.  These are terribly ugly, no question.  But it is through these we plug into something real and eternal. I suppose when the tragedy finally brings real life it’s a most precious thing. We treasure all this for it comes at such an exorbitant price.

Pain indeed has a purpose, but oh, so many times it seems to only hurt.

But yet, that is our calling. I certainly know that life is seldom easy and our choices are even harder. I recently read that Queen Victoria, as just a teen fiercely opposed her future coronation as the sovereign of England. She grew sullen, and rebellious and would continually frustrate her teachers.

Only once when Victoria was shown a lineage that showed her and revealed her place in England’s future as queen.  She became uncharacteristically quiet and she responded with an astonishing simple awareness, “I will be good.” From that moment everything changed for her.

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We want to avoid suffering, death, sin, ashes. But we live in a world crushed and broken and torn, a world God Himself visited to redeem. We receive his poured-out life, and being allowed the high privilege of suffering with Him, may then pour ourselves out for others.

Elizabeth Elliot

 

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Getting Past Your Past

Shame

“For the kind of sorrow God wants us to experience leads us away from sin and results in salvation. There’s no regret for that kind of sorrow. But worldly sorrow, which lacks repentance, results in spiritual death.” 

2 Corinthians 7:10, NLT

“You will have mercy on us again; 
 You will conquer our sins.
 You will throw away all our sins
 into the deepest part of the sea.”  

Micah 7:19, NCV

 
My own past has been particularly brutal and ugly. I’ve done many evil things in my life that I am ashamed of. Regret and sorrow over my sins frequently trouble me. But I always come back to see my sins covered by His blood.
 
I’d probably go insane if all I could do is see my sin without a Savior.

“Properly remembering our past sins with shame will deter us from repeating them and help us receive God’s saving grace.  When we recall our failures through the lens of Christ’s mercy, God produces in us ongoing repentance and deepening humility.” 

–Robert D. Jones

I have walked in self-hatred for many years.  I know all about loathing, fear, and paranoia over my evilness.  These things have handicapped me spiritually, and hating yourself is a terrible way to live.  My struggles with guilt and regret have deepened my sense of despair and depression.  I find that I am ashamed of my shame.

I have included in this post the lyrics to Bob Bennett’s song “Lord of the Past”.  He is a gifted songwriter and an exceptional guitar player.  (I can’t find it on Youtube.com).  If you’re like me, you will find that you resonate with those who have been assaulted by the past. We now speak a common language, and we understand each other. 

LORD OF THE PAST
Bob Bennett
© 1989 Matters Of The Heart Music (ASCAP)  

Every harsh word spoken
Every promise ever broken to me
Total recall of data in the memory
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
(You can redeem these things so far away)
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of the Past
(Be the Lord of my Past)
Oh how I want you to
Be the Lord of the Past

All the chances I let slip by
All the dreams that I let die in vain
Afraid of failure and afraid of pain
Every tear that has washed my face
Every moment of disgrace that I have known
Every time I’ve ever felt alone

Well I picked up all these pieces
And I built a strong deception
And I locked myself inside of it
For my own protection
And I sit alone inside myself
And curse my company
For this thing that has kept me alive for so long
Is now killing me.
And as sure as the sin rose this morning,
The man in the moon hides his face tonight.
And I lay myself down on my bed
And I pray this prayer inside my head

  Lord of the here and now
Lord of the come what may
I want to believe somehow
That you can heal these wounds of yesterday
So now I’m asking you
To do what you want to do
Be the Lord of my Past
You can do anything
Be the Lord of the Past
I know that you can find a way
To heal every yesterday of my life
Be the Lord of the Past.

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Setting Yourself on Fire

Difficulty and pain sometimes come from others, and challenges to the Lordship of Jesus often come from our unique circumstances.

But what if it was something we’ve done?

I remember the classic picture of a Buddhist monk who sat in the middle of a street. He was serene as he soaked himself with gasoline, and lit himself on fire as a protest against a war he believed was wrong and evil. He burned himself in front of the cameras.

All too often we’re pretty much responsible for our own self-immolation. It is we (and we alone) that set ourselves ablaze. Sin affects our minds and hearts. We set ourselves on fire.

When we sin– when we walk in ‘known’ disobedience we always put ourselves in an awful place. We love it but learn to hate it too. But we continue to do it regardless of the awful death that ensues.

God promises to forgive us. Out of our ashes, He keeps bringing us life and hope.

You can be forgiven. You can find life again, even if you’re fully responsible for the evil we’ve done to yourself. Yes, we all sin, and yes we walk in our own personal rebellion. But Jesus knows it all. These awful things we’ve all done can be forgiven.

As a man and a preacher of the Gospel, I realize that I often choose to sin. In spite of all I know and teach I realize that I can live in the ashes of my own making. As one who also struggles with bipolar, I understand that I’m even more susceptible to doing awful things. I understand that I choose darkness even though others will call me “a man of God.”

As you read this I’m praying that you find His forgiveness and mercy. You’ve come a long way it seems, but you must see His blood that was ‘released’ from His veins and arteries for you.

He desperately loves you–even if you’ve set yourself on fire, and sit in the ashes of your doing.

“To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.

Isaiah 61:3

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