Here lies the monument to all my choices and the choices of my ancestors.
The celebration of God’s choice is prepared for the resurrection.
Here lies the monument to all my choices and the choices of my ancestors.
The celebration of God’s choice is prepared for the resurrection.
This week, I would like to share a Guest column by J.S. A friend who wanted to share the following story.
I was lying across the design table. I was one of a team of four doing a full-scale drawing of a new Corvette. As part of a job shop, we were seeing if the engine would fit in the engine compartment.
We had to lie on the table to do the drawings, because we were each doing a different part of the car. While there, I was actually daydreaming about going out afterwards and having that first drink, knowing that it would not be the only drink.
I always had alcohol in the car wherever I went. I would have a pint that was open under the driver’s seat and an unopened pint under the passenger’s seat. I also had a fifth in the trunk so I didn’t run out. I was loaded.
I should have been stopped by the police and given a ticket or been taken to jail, but I wasn’t. I deserved to be though. By the grace of God, I never had an accident, not even any close calls. It is a miracle that I was never even stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol. Eventually I was fired from that job for being drunk on the job.
My drinking, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that I was bipolar and had gone undiagnosed for years. It had gotten so bad that I was growling at people. It wasn’t funny. If only I could go back and erase that or make it right, but of course that is not possible.
Another job I had was as a technical illustrator, and I had a bad morning, so I went down to the bar and had two quintuples (10 shots of alcohol) and then topped it off with a double. Afterwards, I went back to work, but of course I was useless the rest of the day.
I was married at the time, and it was a loveless marriage. I loved her but she did not reciprocate. She said the only reason she married me was to get away from home. When I got angry, I would take one of my World War II daggers and hack the walls, making an awful mess of it.
I had another job working in the Ford Motor Company on the technical illustration team. Scientists and engineers would produce rough sketches, and we had to turn them into professional drawings and lettering. I often worked overtime on the part-time job. When we worked overtime, the company would pay for us to eat out. I would drink my dinner. I would have liked to have been hired there, but I know that my drinking stopped me.
I have had so many jobs that I cannot remember all of them. I was always fired from the jobs or quit over the way I was treated. It wasn’t that I was treated badly, I just couldn’t get along with anybody and was drunk all the time. I even went to sleep with a bottle of liquor in hand.
My drinking started when I was 22 years old and had continued for years. I remember having the thought, “I’m 22 now, I guess I should start drinking and smoking.” That was a dumb decision.
Earlier when I was a teenager, I had been involved somewhat in church and had enjoyed participating in First Baptist Church in Ypsilanti, Michigan. I had played the part of the tribune in a play called the Robe and even made my own costume.
Years later when I was living with my mother, I decided to check the church out again. It was a different pastor, but he spent a lot of time with me. I put him through the wringer because I was still drinking, though not as heavily as before … and he always forgave me. He would come and see me and I would be sloshed. The pastor would talk me through it, and I would stop drinking for a while until there was another crisis of some sort. But eventually something happened.
In 1974, one night in late October, It suddenly dawned on me that I had not had a drink in weeks. Not only had I not had a drink, but I didn’t want one even though the house was full of booze. I stopped smoking cigars at about the same time.
I even had had incidents at the house. I would be misbehaving somehow and the police would come and take me to the nearby psychiatric hospital, because basically I was crazy. This one night, when it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a drink, I couldn’t get over the fact that I didn’t even want a drink. I took every bottle of hooch that was in the house and poured it down the drain. That was a lot of alcohol going down the drain. In those days, the liquor would have been worth about $100, quite a bit for that time.
I maintain that I didn’t quit: the Lord took it away from me. It had controlled me.
On a hot day in summer, I would sometimes have 1 bottle of beer usually just part of the bottle and not the whole bottle. The rest would be left on the table. It was not like when I was drinking the hard stuff. I am no longer compelled like I used to be, by the grace of God, I was saved from myself.
I’ve been sober since 1988. I know He took out insurance for me, because now if I ever get a whiff of hard alcohol, I gag.
Sometime later, after I had been seeing a Dr. Longacre for depression for a long time, I mentioned to her what I was dealing with, and she diagnosed me as having bipolar disorder. After the diagnosis, I began being medicated to counter the disorder. The Lord worked through the psychiatrist at community mental health to keep me stable and restore my emotions. It took about 7 years to maintain an effective balance. I take the medicine regularly so that I do not return to being looney.
My mother is now dead, but I wish she could see that I am now sober and sane. While I have hurt many people over the years and wish I could undo all the damage, I cannot. As I was reminded recently by my pastor, I cannot go back, but I can go forward and make a difference in the days ahead for the glory of God, though I am one of the least of His subjects.
…and here is a glimpse of God’s mysterious ways of protecting us:
I was getting off work one Monday, and had the impulse to go to a music shop in town. I didn’t know why since I had been there just two days before. As I was pulling into the parking lot, a tie rod broke, making it so I could not steer the car. If I had not been just creeping along pulling into the parking lot, I would have been driving 70 miles an hour down the freeway. The car had to be hauled away by a tow truck and the manager of the store was so helpful that he drove me home a significant distance. Surely that was divine intervention as I remember wondering, “Why am I going to the store, I was just there two days ago.” Then this happened. God was watching out for me.
A couple days ago, I was encouraged by something a brother in Israel-Palestine said:
How do your people lament?
The Great Lakes Initiative Leadership Institute in partnership with Duke Divinity School’s Center for Reconciliation invited me to Kampala, Uganda, to share what we at Musalaha have learned about reconciliation in the Israeli-Palestinian context. More than 150 African leaders from countries surrounding Lake Victoria attended this conference and for some of them it was the first time meeting a Palestinian Christian. An interesting aspect of this was their perception of all Arabs as being Muslim. It was also intriguing for me to understand how these African leaders are grappling with the issues of land and how they found several articles in the book The Land Cries Out relevant to their contexts. Other than being encouraged by how relevant our Curriculum of Reconciliation was to their local situations, I was also challenged by what they shared.
After a session on the prophet Jeremiah, we sat down to eat. One of the leaders and his wife asked me how our people lament. This question struck me, it is not something that I think about often, but I knew exactly what she meant. This is something that we have not done adequately or addressed enough in our society. We grieve when there is tragedy or great loss, but we don’t ask ourselves how we lament over the fact that there is no peace in our land, a hardness of heart among our peoples, and an unwillingness to reconcile.
Reflecting on the life of the prophet Jeremiah, several thoughts come to mind, especially as someone laboring for reconciliation. We become discouraged when a portion of the body of the Messiah doesn’t see the essential importance of reconciliation. It is like during the times of Jeremiah with people not heeding the warnings and looking to stand the tests of time. How many times do we see the hardening of hearts, embracing a victim mentality, and blaming the other without self-examination and repentance? We are living the consequences of a lack of reconciliation. It is a high price our society is paying for the enmity and hostility that we have towards each other.
Our African brothers and sisters have much to teach us about lamentation in light of the major genocides some of them have experienced. Lamenting for our people and having the willingness to change the course is something that we have not invested much in.
Prophets who suffered personal difficulty for the discredit of their work, also had to suffer for the grief and consequences their society brought on itself for not taking their warnings seriously. Taking a stand and lamenting comes at a high price. We want to remain in our comfort zones, be fearful of change, and have doubts of what will happen in the future.
Despite these hardships, we can learn from Jeremiah’s lesson of a future and a hope as demonstrated in his teaching about the New Covenant in chapter 31 and his act of buying a field in Jeremiah 32. We have a God who is constantly working through our history and his grace is new every day. We are excited that this hope was demonstrated in the recent successful events of Musalaha.
By Salim J. Munayer, Ph.D
Some thoughts came to mind after reading this:
In Jeremiah’s writing Lamentations: He insists in the middle of the book that God’s mercies are new every morning. Towards the end of the book, Jeremiah says, “The Lord’s anointed, our very life breath, was caught in their traps. We thought that under his shadow we would live among the nations.” (Lamentations 4:20 NIV) In other words, the Lord’s Messiah, the Spirit of our face, was caught in their dungeons. … This is a messianic prophecy of Jesus & His crucifixion. Indeed, the Jews thought that He would be their protector among the nations, their strong king who would defeat the nations. Instead, there was an apparent defeat when Jesus marched to the Golgotha, to Calvary, to the place of the skull. Jesus came not to kill his enemies, but to be handed over by and killed by his enemies. Indeed, we were all those enemies.
We have met the enemy, and it is us. It is not some other nation. The enemy is not some pagan land or lord. We ourselves are the enemies of God.
Later, in Zechariah, again there is the mention of this enmity. It is an enmity which was first mentioned in Genesis 3:15 when the Lord prophesied that the seed of woman would crush underfoot the seed of the serpent after much hostility. This Seed of woman, this Seed of Abraham, this Seed of David would choke out the weeds of the world because greater is HE who is among us than the one who is in the world. The particular lament in Zechariah 12:10ff is this, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. On that day the weeping in Jerusalem will be as great as the weeping of Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, each clan by itself, with their wives by themselves: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives, the clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives, and all the rest of the clans and their wives.”
What do we see here? We see Jesus high and lifted up, all men (and women) of every family are being drawn to him, just as Jesus Himself prophesied in the Good News according to John. The seed fell and died and was buried. Then there sprung up a fount of mourning at Pentecost as those who had been in the crowds at Passover mourned at what they had done to their Lord: they had rejected Him, they had sought to trample Him underfoot and let the birds snatch him. But God is greater! Fifty days later, a jubilee of days later there was released in Zion great mourning as the Spirit was poured out and languages of many nations were spoken and Jews, Cretans, and Arabs from one end of the inhabited world to the other, gathered, heard the Word, and believed on the Lord Jesus, were baptized and repented. We know at least a remnant of 3,000 believed that day. More later. …
We cannot detail all the spread of the Good News in the New Testament accounts of the early church. However, this theme of Lamentation gets picked up again in Revelation 1:4-8 John writes, “to the seven churches in Asia: grace to you and peace from the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth.
To the one who loves us and released us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power forever and ever
Behold, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even every one who pierced him,
and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over him.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, the one who is and the one who was and the one who is coming, the All-Powerful.” (LEB)
Here it is not only Israel that will mourn, but all families of the earth. The very ones who would be blessed through Abraham’s seed. When people see, hear, and perceive Jesus, they will mourn, abandoning sin, and clinging unto the Savior. We all killed Jesus. It was because of our sins, the sins of all nations, that Jesus bled and died upon the cross. Your sins & my sins put Him there, as the Lord suffered on our behalf. Twice the Lord is called the one who was, is, and is coming. God is the same Yesterday, Today, and Forever, even Jesus our King, the All-Mighty. Revelation is essentially the story of how this prophecy is fulfilled: how God brings about morning and some degree (however slight) of repentance among the nations.
This repentance is accompanied by mourning and lamentation at what our sins have done to the Lord.
So what does this have to do with Salim’s words from Musalaha. Musalaha is all about reconciliation. Indeed, this is what Christian Ministry is all about: Reconciliation to God and reconciliation to one another. In another word: Love.
We are reminded of the man who came to Jesus and said, “Judge between me & my brother: decide who will get the inheritance.” Musalaha works betweens the brothers who are sons of Abraham: Jews and Arabs-who occupy the strip of land between the “great sea” and the “dead sea” between the river in the North and the River of Egypt. Today these two brothers fight among themselves about who should “inherit” the Land. I am sure that Abraham would want them to get along. Even more, Jesus steps above and beyond the conflict over land and says that this is not why he came. He came to reconcile the brothers in the land not to divide it between them. The sword that Jesus brings is His word which pierces our hearts when we hear how we have pierced His Heart with our fighting and wrangling and malice. Jesus cuts through out façade of pride and prejudice. He cuts across all cultural and social boundaries. You are either for Him or against Him. Then, when you have decided to follow Him, He gathers you in to His fold.
Oh, how we should mourn those who are outside of the flock of God!! How we should cry for those who are homeless, not only with regard to a roof, but have no eternal dwelling yet! How we must lament those who are not clothed with Christ! How we should weep and wail over those who are blind to the mercy and glory of God. Many have been baptized with water, some claim to be baptized with fire and the Spirit, a few are severely baptized with blood, but what is needed in this hour is a baptism of tears. Oh that we would be plunged into weeping, never to emerge, until souls are saved and lives are changed. Until there is peace in Jerusalem, no more a modern sodom, but a Heavenly City.
Because Musalaha has the same mission as we have, I encourage you to help them out if you want to see peace in the middle east.
PRAY that peoples will mourn over their alienation from God even though they live in the land of promise.
PRAY that nations will mourn over their assault on the throne of God by claiming rights of life and death of the unborn and the poor.
CONFESS the times you have been bitter or resentful in your heart. CONFESS the times you have clung to anything, any property, and object, any cherished relationship more than you cherished Jesus. PRAY that Jesus would be exalted in your land and in your relationships in the earth, just as you want Jesus honored in your relationship with God.
Now I will speak to another group of readers: those who are set on being hostile towards God, the haters of God. Do you really think you can cling even to your tomb forever? Tombs are transitory places, more transitory than your own body, for as soon as you die, you may well be forgotten and never praised or admired again. You say, “This is why I want to be cremated!” Do you think that this will burn away the impurity of your sins? Do you think by hiding your flesh in earthly flames you can hide from the coming wrath of God? Do not hate God, turn, and run to His arms. Now He is not eager to crush you but is wanting to embrace you if you will but turn back like a wandering child who comes home to his or her father. God will not hold you off in the pig sty … he wants you to come to Him. Do you think you are too defiled and that you love your sin too much? You will love the Lord even more as you get acquainted with Him. He will extend His Hand and lift you up though you are weary and fallen in the mud.
The Father is searching for his separated sons and daughters. He wants a reunion. Not merely in the land of Canaan, in the coming New Heavens and New Earth, where there will be no more crying or mourning or sickness or death or pain. Then, the piercing will have passed. The comfort will be complete. Those who have faith will be forgiven.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus.