Oust the Snakes

“Poison or not, the business end of a bull snake is not a happy place when its’ business is you.”  

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I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1—2

We are called to be Holy—set apart, separate from the world even while in it—Holy warriors. We cannot expect to be a light to the world if we are living in the deeds of darkness, we cannot expect to be blessed by a Holy God if we are not setting our hearts towards holiness and we cannot expect to find ourselves in the path of the Lord’s plan for us if the flesh is leading us down the path of sin.

So what’s the big deal, we’re covered by grace, we are free, what’s a little indulgence gonna hurt? I don’t know, maybe you should ask your kids.

I want to tell you a true story I hope makes the point.

Buddy the Bull Snake

This goes way back to when we were still on the Heyu—cow ranch. We had only been in the new house we had built after our honeymoon cottage burned down for a year or so, long enough for the ground under our front steps to settle and create a cavity—a perfect snake den it turns out. We had a five foot bull snake move into that cavity. Cool, no big deal, we had a Bull snake hanging around at the old Homestead house we had started in, maybe even the same one. We had named him Buddy because Donna would ask me now and then if I had seen my buddy lately.

Buddy liked to stretch out in the front yard to soak up the morning sun; this would give you quite a start if you came across him unexpectedly.  We didn’t worry about him too much because we figured he would keep the worse snakes—the rattlers— away. Just leave Buddy be, what’s one snake gonna hurt?

Well, the problem arose when our daughter Cally, was three or four years old, old enough to start roaming around outside the house some by herself. She would be outside playing and run into Buddy causing her to go into hysterics; she would then run away shrieking at the top of her lungs.  Apparently when you are only three feet tall a five foot snake is pretty scary.

Well, after hearing Cally scream bloody murder a few different times I decided Buddy had to go. So, the next time I heard Cally scream I donned my welding gloves, high boots and grabbed a rake and a five gallon bucket.  I found Buddy lying in the front yard right where Cally’s screams indicated he would be, I snagged him with the rake and dropped him into the bucket.  I quickly put the lid on the bucket and took Buddy for a walk.

I took him to the opposite corner of the forty acres our house sat on and released him in a swampy area where I figured he would find plenty to eat and have a nice life near the water.  Apparently all Buddy found there was other snakes who were looking to “have a nice life” because about a month later I heard that familiar scream again and ran out to find Cally running from a gathering of four bull snakes and the largest garter snake I had ever seen lounging around the front yard basking in the morning sun like vacationers on the beach.

Once again I put on my gloves and boots, grabbed a rake and a large cardboard box and went out to start scooping up snakes as they tried to make their way back to the den under the steps.  The only problem was the snakes were coming out of the box almost as fast as I was putting them in.  After I had scrambled enough to get three of them to stay in the box at the same time I shut the lid on the box while the remaining two disappeared under the steps.  I then threw the box of snakes into the back of my pickup and headed for the lower pasture a couple miles away down the back road, all the while I was cringing, imagining those snakes crawling into the cab with me, (I really don’t like snakes.)

Finally I got to where I planned to release them, far enough away that I knew they would not come “home”, and dumped them into the head of a large washout. One of the larger snakes decided he would rather come after me then go into the chasm, mouth open, fangs bared and hissing, so I ran back to the truck and high tailed it out of there.  Poison or not, the business end of a bull snake is not a happy place when its’ business is you.  I later dispatched the Garter snake with a shotgun and the remaining bull snake with a shovel and much dancing while he hissed and struck at me; no fun!  Snakes don’t make good “buddies”.

Thot’s

What’s one snake gonna hurt? You see, the trouble started when I allowed just one little ol’ snake to hang around.  I even began to think of him as a friend.

We’ve all been there; ‘What’s one gonna hurt?’  He’ll keep the others away.  So I have a couple of bad habits, I’m a big boy, I can handle it. What’s one hit gonna hurt, what’s crude comment gonna hurt, what’s one look gonna hurt—one drunken evening. I’s no big deal, so what if I fall short in this area? I’m only human, I’ve got to have some fun right? No one will care if I sleep around, no one will care if I steal a little from my employer—no one will know.

Here’s a question to ask yourself next time you are indulging; If Jesus was standing here next to me, would I still do this?

Or—’If my kids saw me doing this would they be okay with it, or would they run away screaming?”—innocence has a much different perspective. How about this question, “Would I be okay with it if my kids started doing this themselves?”

If you are not okay with your kids doing it, why would you expect your Father in heaven to be okay with you doing it? There’s something to ponder.

Why would you not be okay with your kids doing it? Why not drink yourself silly? Why not sleep with someone who hasn’t bothered to make a marriage commitment with you? Why not cheat and steal, cuss and lie, smoke and chew? Why would you not encourage your kids to do these things? Because you know they are harmful, you know they are hard habits to break and you want better for your kids—so does the Lord.

That’s why he gave us the commandments, not to ruin our fun but to keep us safe, to keep us free—because he loves us and has something so much better for us. He doesn’t want us playing with snakes, snakes are not nice and they always invite other snakes to move in with them.

Snakes always den up with other snakes and your heart is a fine place to den up—especially if the Lord has cleaned it out for them.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”  Mat 12:43-45

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Where was God when I was being hurt?

 

 

“. . . an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.”

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom 8:25Slide2

I want to ask the hard question, the one that we all ask from time to time and one that we all, as Christians have probably been asked by others—‘Where is God when I hurt, where was God when I was being hurt?’ Frankly, as a Pastor, that question sometimes scares the snot out of me because I am not sure I know the answer, or that the answer will be adequate to stay the anger that is directed at God that is causing that question to be asked in the first place. All I know is that God grieves over our hurts and he is not unaware of our sufferings.

And sometimes, in response to those suffering, that is the best answer—no answer, but to grieve and wonder with them, to give them space and license to weep and vent, recognizing and validating the hurt while clinging to the hope that in the end, whether we can see the end or not, will not disappoint us.

I probably won’t answer that question today either, but then, if we knew the answer, if we had immediate deliverance from all our trials, if we always saw the Lord standing beside us, it wouldn’t be called hope—would it.

The story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of two women whom Jesus had come to know very well—Mary and Martha, gives us some insight into this perplexing question. Jesus and the disciples stayed at their home when they were in the area and Martha, apparently a woman of some means, likely helped support Jesus and his followers as they to traveled around spreading the news of the Kingdom’s coming. You might recall the story of Martha bustling around serving while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus as he taught.

So when tragedy struck, their brother Lazarus falling deathly ill, they expected and believed that Jesus would be there to save the day—but he wasn’t.

I’ll give you the highlights here, for the whole story read John chapt. 11

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

. . .  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

. . .He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

. . . So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

. . .20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

. . . 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God. 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me,. . . 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

The Father Hears

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‘Lord, why weren’t you here, where were you when Lazarus was hurting? Where were you when we were crying out for you?’

Quite the story, honest and real if you look at the human drama being played out here around the miracle that often overshadows what I think is the greater lesson and the insight into the real emotions and empathy of a real God. Let’s just bite off a few pieces here and see what we can glean.

“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me”

This one spoke a lot to me as far as answering our question.

“I know that you always hear me.” I have to conclude that Jesus waited this long to come because his Father asked him to. Jesus was sorely grieved, groaning in his spirit both in anguish for his dear friends Mary and Martha but also, both in his humanness and as the Son of God, because of the pain of death his friend Lazarus had to endure—the pain he endured wondering; “Where is Jesus? Is he going to heal me before I die? Is he going to care for my sisters? Where is God?”

Jesus was aware of this anguish and he felt it deeply himself. But he knew his Father heard him, even while he wrestled in his flesh with not hurrying straight to Bethany. But even in this turmoil which he no doubt experienced amidst the potential for doubt and anguish, he was patient and obedient to his Father knowing that his Father always heard him.

I think there is a great lesson there, do we believe that the Father always hears us? He does. And we also know that Just as Jesus was interceding for his friends his Spirit is interceding for us—even in, and especially in our pain.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:26—27

Jesus is interceding for us with the same passion and compassion that he interceded for Mary, Martha and Lazarus with, an intercession even too deep for words. That is your hope.

Immanuel, God with us.

What Mary didn’t know was that Jesus was there. He is here with us even now, even in our darkest days. When all hope seems lost, when it has to be just too late, it is never too late, Jesus is there by his Spirit, the Father is there, grieving, groaning because of the pain we suffer and he calls us to be there for one another—to be his arms to hold, his hands to help and his heart to break, to  grieve with those who grieve, but he also calls us to bring the hope, to pray in the Spirit, on behalf of the Spirit.

Hear them

We need to display that heart of Jesus. One of the things I have learned in ministering to those who have been sexually abused is that an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.

They just need someone to hear them, to love them, to give them space to grieve, to be angry and to ask the hard questions without pat answers, indifference or judgments. Just be there, be there for the hurting, the abused, the sick, the dying and grieving, be Jesus so when they ask “where is Jesus” you can say; ‘right here, He sent me to you, and my spirit groans for you as I pray for your restoration and healing.’ And in that, I assure you, they will find comfort, that’s a promise from Jesus.

 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

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For me the bottom line is here, Jesus hurts when we hurt, his heart is totally devoted to and invested in us and in the end everything will indeed be okay, better than okay, if not in this life then most assuredly in the next. We have the resurrection and the life in our corner and we do not necessarily have to wait till resurrection day to see that power on display for we are more than conquerors—and that is our hope, and hope will not disappoint us.