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Reflections on the Possibility of Being Blown to Kingdom Come

May 23rd, 2009
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abc_blackwater22_070928_sshI have a friend who is serving in our armed forces and he offered this meditation on his blog site recently. I’ll avoid identifying him, since that is a somewhat sensitive issue when you are where he is, doing what he is doing. Here are his thoughts on the possibility of being blown, literally, to bits and pieces. A word of encouragement to us all in whatever challenging situation we find ourselves in, no matter what it is: sickness, job loss, bad news from the doctor, etc. Here then is his post:

On Ascension Day this year, I found myself staring at two unidentified pieces of ordinance. I was laying on my stomach looking for something when I discovered them less than a meter away from my face. They were not supposed to be there and I did not expect to find them. It could have made for a very bad day because they had been violently disturbed moments before I saw them. I am being intentionally vague, but I am sure that you get the idea.

They turned out to be inert (“not dangerous” for you civilians). They could have just as easily been live rounds or some kind of improvised explosive device. I was fairly certain that they were just inert when I saw them, but you really want to be more than “fairly certain” in that kind of situation. Looking back, there was that split second before my army training kicked in where I thought about being “blown to kingdom come”. I have to chuckle at the irony of thinking of that phrase on that particular day in the church year.

I guess a Christian who is also a soldier at war thinks about the heavenly kingdom a lot… regardless of his duties or situation. It is always in the back of his mind that the only constant about war is that it can be incredibly indiscriminate and random. My Ascension Day experience was like that: random. Why me? Why inert? The mind can spin rather easily about such questions.

I think that a lot of the stress comes from the powerlessness of these kinds of random situations (which happen just as often–if not more often–back in the States.) It seems more intense here because it is compounded by the isolation of being away from home, from the church, and from her gifts. The combination can be a real test of faith and endurance.

Lots of things start to dip: sleep, energy, cognitive function, and even prayer. It is really easy for peaceful meditations on God’s Word to turn into fits of frustration and exhaustion. The devil pounces on this opportunity and throws your wretched sinfulness in your face. It can be a real battle. You start to really understand the psalmist when he says:

I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying;
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.

You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old,
the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search:
“Will the Lord spurn forever,
and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at an end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”

Boy can I relate! Here I will interrupt the psalmist to speak about Christ. In the Creed we confess that, at the conclusion of His saving work on earth, Christ ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. Christ spoke this very truth on the night of His arrest.

This doctrine was affirmed by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost when he preached, “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” [Acts 2:32-35]

It is there at the Father’s right hand that the glorified Christ intercedes on our behalf as our Mediator and Great High Priest. It is because of Christ, Our King and Deliverer, that we have reason to rejoice. By recounting His marvelous deeds, this bleak psalm turns in verse 10 and brightens for us at this point where the psalmist recalls the God who delivered Israel out of the land of Egypt. Pay close attention to a familiar, creedal term used in the first phrase in this transition from despair and frustration to hope and faith. It is hard to miss the Christological imagery here.

Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph.

When the waters saw you, O God,
when the waters saw you, they were afraid;
indeed, the deep trembled.
The clouds poured out water;
the skies gave forth thunder;
your arrows flashed on every side.
The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind;
your lightnings lighted up the world;
the earth trembled and shook.
Your way was through the sea,
your path through the great waters;
yet your footprints were unseen.
You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Amen and Amen.

In the dark, isolated times we turn by faith to the one who sits at the right hand of the Most High and remember the deeds of the Lord. These deeds of deliverance and of salvation. We look to Jesus Christ… incarnate, crucified, buried, resurrected, and now ascended.

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Categories: Encouragement
  1. Joanne
    May 24th, 2009 at 17:55 | #1

    I see Christ in this psalm, 77, with God’s right hand/arm and in God’s way. Luther often commented on how he found that the psalms were filled with Christ. God, the Rock of salvation is in psalm 95, waiting for Peter to remember it.

    Then, this notion of randomness. Maybe if God doesn’t care, like for insignifcant things such as blades of grass or the birds of the air, barn swallows. But for those creatures he made in his image, random is not even a remote possibility.

    Thirty years ago, I was in a grizzly auto accident. Head went through a windshield. Clumps of hair stuck to glass, chin/lips sliced through, bloody-pulp expected to die. Horrifying, gut-wrenching to behold, but quite pleasant to experience. It was the most beautiful, calm, peaceful experience of my life so far. People in distress leaned into the car and tried to soothe me, and I couldn’t imagine why. I lived, but tried for years to get that wonderful feeling back again.

    All this only to say that blessed is the death of those who die in the Lord. For today you will be in Paradise with Me. Today, I was thinking about Moses not being alowed into the Promised Land and what a bummer that was (how unfair). Only to quickly remember that going to the real paradise was a much better deal. DUH!

    Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. If we live, we live unto the Lord, and if we die we die unto the Lord.

    God sends us warriors to protect us from Satan’s bullies. May God’s angels sit on your shoulders day in and day out to bring you safely home to family and friends.

  2. The Author
    May 25th, 2009 at 12:12 | #2

    Joanne,

    When I said “random”, I meant that these events only seem “random” from our perspective of course. To our mind they are random in the sense that we do not fully understand their cause or purpose. [1 Cor 13:12]

    It is good to see them as “random” from our point of view while still holding to the fact that God uses all things for our good. [Rom 8:28]

    This is a “both/and” rather than an “either/or”. Things are beyond our understand AND God is in control. There can be no greater confort when things our beyond our ability or comprehension.

    Your comment at the end about our ultimate destination is especially true. I whole-heartedly agree. It echos the statements of the apostle in Phil 1:21-24.

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