The Back Page – But If Not

The Back Page

But If Not

We all wish God would answer our prayers with a “Yes!” Whether for a job, relief from pain,
recovery of health, or finances, when we cry out to God, we hope he answers the way we ask. The same
when we seek God’s blessing on our church and its ministries. Here at Second Cape we want to know the
Lord and make him known. We wish our worship and work to be well-received.
Often God does answer in positive ways. But not always. Daniel’s three friends faced a crisis—they
had to choose between worshiping a golden image or being burned. The way Hananiah, Mishael, and
Azariah reacted to their crisis provides a pattern for when we face one of our own:
1) They committed to do what was right, regardless of consequences. Idolatry is always
wrong; they refused to bow.
2) They feared God more than man, and said so. They served the king well while they could,
but when he stepped outside of his sphere of authority they responded, “We have no need to
answer you in this matter.”
3) They never doubted that God could save them.
4) Since the king had pitted himself against God (“who is the god that will deliver you out of
my hands?”), they believed that God would save them.
5) But we never know for sure how God will answer. God is God. They did not allow their
faith to become presumption. So they added a terse “But if not (א֔ל ן֣ ָ הְֵו “,(we will not worship your
image anyway.
What maturity! Will we commit ourselves to practice truth despite any consequences of doing so?
Will we trust God’s ability and good-will, without presuming that we know how he will answer, or that
we can demand our own way? Will we seek his deliverance, “but if not” trust him anyway?
Chet Bitterman, a missionary in Columbia, was captured by revolutionaries in 1981. They demanded
that SIL leave their land. Christians around the world prayed for his release, many believing that God
would miraculously intervene. But Chet was executed.
Jesus prayed, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me. But if not,
your will be done.”

The Back Page – Good Night, Good Bye

The Back Page

Good Night, Good Bye

A father lying on his death bed asked to see his three adult sons one last time. After a few minutes of
rehearsing old family jokes to ease the awkwardness, the father turned to his eldest. “Son, I want you to
know how proud of you I am. You have been in my heart since before you were born. One of my greatest
joys has been to see you grow into the man you are. Not only a man, but a man of God. You love and lead
your family well. I remember all the fishing and hiking we have done together, and would love to get
back in the woods one last time. But that is not to be. God bless you, son. Good night for now. I’ll see you
in the morning.”
Looking at his second, the father continued. “You also, son. You are different from your older
brother, but I love you just as much. I am so proud of all of your study and learning. I confess I don’t
understand all you talk about sometimes, but know that you have not formed your ideas casually. I am
thankful that, having opened your heart to Christ as a boy, you have faithfully followed him. The church
where you teach Sunday School is so blessed to have you. Keep going, son. Wish I could sit in class
under your teaching one last time. Good night for now. I’ll see you in the morning.”
Then to his youngest. “It is hard to imagine how one man could be so blessed. God has given me
three sons whom I love with all my heart. Even though you have chosen to not follow Jesus Christ, as
have your brothers, I am just as proud of you as I am of them, and just as glad that you are my son. You
are a man who knows his mind and is not intimidated by others. You will no doubt succeed in whatever
you put your hand to. Wish I had additional time with you as well, so that we could enjoy some more
big-league sports together. Good bye, son. Your mother and I loved you very much.”
A pause.
With a catch and a tear the third blurted out, “Dad. Why do you say ‘Good Night’ to them but ‘Good
Bye’ to me?”
“You know why, son. Eternal life is not something anyone can earn for himself. Up till now you
have refused the one who can give it to you. This need not be ‘Good Bye’. The choice is yours.”

The Back Page – Friends

The Back Page

Friends

Friends are among our most valued assets.
There may be nothing wrong with having Facebook “friends,” but scripture envisioned something
deeper for those we call by this name. For people who attempt to uncritically accumulate as many FB
friends as possible, Proverbs cautions, “Some ‘friends’ pretend to be friends (or “A person of too many
friends comes to ruin”), but a true friend sticks closer than a brother.” A few faithful friends or a fickle
flock—which is better?
A (true) friend loves at all times. A (true) friend will risk rattling our cage—“Faithful are the wounds
of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.” What a blessing if we can say of the one God has
given us as a mate, “This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.”
Abraham was the friend of God. Yahweh used to speak with Moses face to face, just as a person
does with his friend. Jesus said, “A slave does not know what his master is doing. I have called you
friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Jesus wanted his
eleven (and us) to be in the know, along with him, on God’s doings, so that we could consciously
participate in and contribute to those doings.
Intimate friends mold us, and we them. “He who walks with the wise shall become wise, but a
companion of fools shall suffer harm.” So choose carefully.
Even though it is wise neither to try to be close friends with everyone, nor to become bosom-buddies
too quickly, we can at least start out by being friendly. That is, we can make it our practice to be
interested, cordial, and pro-active in making the other feel welcome in our presence. We can act that way
toward our neighbors, and toward all who come through our doors at Second Cape.
Now, most of us already have close friends here at church, and it is always good to chat with them
on Sunday mornings. No need to stop any of that! But at the same time, perhaps we could keep one eye
open for anyone who is new, and break the ice with a warm, “Hi, I don’t think I know you. My name
is….” Visitors will think, “What a friendly church!” And by being friendly in this way, who knows? we
may even in time earn a few new friends.