Our Hidden Suffering

Timothy Keller, author of Walking With God Through Pain, asks an insightful question for all Christians – are you living for God’s glory? If we make God our accomplice in achieving the life we desire, we will resent suffering and demand that He remove it. If, however, we believe, by faith, that we exist first to display His glory, then suffering can find purpose and we will endure it. But, who is watching? Before whom are we to glorify Him?

He proposes a hypothetical situation where for 24 hours everything a person thought, did, or said would be broadcast, seen by a billion people around the world.  “Would it make a difference in how you lived?”  The answer is obvious. Of course, it would. No matter how virtuous one is, regardless of devotion, knowing that billion pairs of eyes and ear are attuned to our lives would invariably change us.

Christian, the eyes of God and the angels are on us. Our lives, lived in worship and faith, will glorify Him even IF NO ONE in the world sees or knows what we do!  I often quote this passage as an encouragement to faithful, steady service. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, NIV)

Do you know to what that ‘therefore’ refers? 
Yes, it is the “faith chapter,” the 11th of Hebrews.

There we walk the hallway of time remembering people who did great exploits for God: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Samson. Their faith makes great sermon material and Sunday School lessons, doesn’t it? 

But, we tend to gloss over the closing verses in the same passage. “But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (Hebrews 11:35-40, NLT)

The inspired writer’s point was to make it clear that “faith” does not always guarantee a visible outcome. We are setting ourselves up for disillusionment if we attempt to create direct cause and effect to justify pain or suffering. We like to say that “This happened to me so that God would accomplish that result.” When we can connect deep suffering, martyrdom, and sacrifice with a measurable advance of God’s rule it helps to bear it. Our faith must go deeper accepting that from our limited perspective sometimes pain and suffering is just that, period!  Faith is the willingness to say, “Thy will be done” and to trust that our God will bring glory to Himself, in Heaven or on earth.

Are you in a time of hidden hardship?
Does your soul ache, your tears fall in secret in the night?
Have you committed yourself to worship, serve, and love God and found the path littered with stumbling stones? 
Is the pain sometimes near unbearable? 

God sees. God knows.
Pray for faith that does not falter, for patient endurance, focused primarily on the joy of giving Him glory – be that here on earth or before the angels of Heaven!

Here is a word from the Word.  Meditate on it and take strength today.  “However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.” (1 Peter 4:16, NIV) “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (1 Peter 4:19, NIV)

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Alabaster Box  is a song telling the story of a woman Jesus forgave of many sins who poured fragrance oil on His feet in adoration.

She was judged, misunderstood. The song imagines her response. It is a worshipful, moving song. I hope you will take a few minutes to listen inspired to pour out your life as a gift to Him, even if misunderstood, judged, or overlooked.

(CeCe Winans ALABASTER BOX) 

The room grew still
As she made her way to Jesus
She stumbles through the tears
That made her blind
She felt such pain
Some spoke in anger
Heard folks whisper
There’s no place here for her kind

Still on she came
Through the shame that flushed her face
Until at last she knelt before His feet
And though she spoke no words
Ev’rything she said was heard
And she poured her love for the Master
From her box of alabaster

I’ve come to pour
My praise on Him like oil
from Mary’s alabaster box
Don’t be angry
If I wash His feet with my tears
And I dry them with my hair
You weren’t there the night He found me
You did not feel what I felt
When He wrapped His love all around me
And you don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box

I can’t forget
The way life used to be
I was a pris’ner
To the sin that had me bound
I spent my days
Poured my life without measure
Into a little treasure box
I thought I found
Until the day when Jesus came to me
And healed my soul

With the wonder of His touch
So now I’m giving back to Him
All the praise He’s worthy of
I’ve been forgiven and that’s why
I love Him so much
I’ve come to pour
My praise on Him like oil
From Mary’s alabaster box

Don’t be angry
If I wash His feet with my tears
And dry them with my hair
You weren’t there when my Jesus found me
You did not feel what I felt
When He wrapped His loving arms around me
And you don’t know the cost of the oil
Oh you don’t know the cost of my praise
You don’t know the cost of the oil
In my alabaster box.”

Janice Lyn Sjostrand © 2004 Little Pooky’s Music (Admin. by Pure Psalms Music, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Oh God, why?

Faith has taken a beating in 2020!  How can life become so difficult for so many so quickly?  How can I live in the peace of God when circumstances overwhelm me? IF your faith is bruised and bloodied by doubts and fears, don’t feel like you are just weak, or that your experience is unique.  Look at the words to this old hymn, “O Worship the King” – “Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail; in Thee do we trust, nor find Thee to fail. Thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end. Our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.”  Obviously the writer was reflecting on life known by thousands.  And, yes, we are fragile creatures, aren’t we?

The Psalms, the hymnal/prayer book of the Bible, invites us to lament, to mourn when life is difficult. “O Lord, how long will you forget me? Forever? How long will you look the other way? How long must I struggle with anguish in my soul, with sorrow in my heart every day?” (Psalm 13:1-2, NLT) “O Lord, why do you stand so far away? Why do you hide when I am in trouble?” (Psalm 10:1, NLT)  There we find the truth that when we feel beaten and bruised in our faith, it is not a sin in the eyes of God.  But, must we wallow in the grief, wrapping ourselves in the sad comfort of misery?  No, we are invited to life and Light.

I love the 73rd Psalm. I have read it a thousand times when my faith wavered, making it a prayer to turn my eyes from the darkness of despair to the dawn of hope. The writer says that he watched people who were godless, who cared nothing for the ways of the Lord, and it seemed that they were living the good life! “They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They aren’t troubled like other people or plagued with problems like everyone else.” (Psalm 73:4-5, NLT) 

The result of his comparing of his life to others was a heart full of envy, a mind that began to doubt the goodness of God as he became increasingly convinced of the unfairness of it all. Honestly, can you admit that you have felt that way, wondering why their marriage is so sweet and yours such a struggle, why their health is so vibrant and you struggle with chronic pain, why it looks like money grows on trees for him and you have to pinch pennies every day?  

The Psalmist shows us how he found faith again. He says …  “I went into your sanctuary, O God, and I finally understood …  Whom have I in heaven but you? I desire you more than anything on earth. My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.” (Psalm 73:17, 25-26, NLT) 

At this moment you may not wish to hear this, but I will say it anyway. Lasting satisfaction will never be found in another thing, a new location, or more money. Remember the 10th Commandment? “Thou shalt not covet.”  Stop comparing, longing to have what she has, and look up.  Tell God, even it feels like He’s far away, “I need You to help me refocus my hope in You.”

When our emotions scream for relief,  when our vision narrows down to “right here, right now”  we can make a different choice. We can find a place alone and patiently trust, wait, and hope for the embrace of grace. We can offer what Scripture calls the “sacrifice of praise”  not insincerely babbling prayer words, but seeking to offer genuine worship, thanking God for life and breath.  In Christ, each of can know the promise of Eternal Life which cannot be stolen by any foe – demon or person here on earth.  Are you at least willing to look up? Are you willing to take a day of silence before Him?

Friend, can you believe me when I tell you that there is a grace that is found ONLY in the dark? The resolving verses of Psalm 73 are beautiful. You and I CAN find the same sweet joy IF we will get real with God, let the Spirit give us new vision, and be willing to live in faith.  Read these words aloud – “You’re all I want in heaven! You’re all I want on earth! When my skin sags and my bones get brittle, God is rock-firm and faithful. Look! Those who left you are falling apart! Deserters, they’ll never be heard from again. But I’m in the very presence of God— oh, how refreshing it is! I’ve made Lord God my home. God, I’m telling the world what you do!” (Psalm 73:25-28, The Message)

This word from the Word may be a testimony you read after overcoming doubts OR it may be a call to hold onto faith in the middle of the fight. Regardless, it God’s Word, a call to a life that hopes in Him.

Don’t worry about the wicked. Don’t envy those who do wrong.
For like grass, they soon fade away. Like springtime flowers, they soon wither.

Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you. He will make your innocence as clear as the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.

Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes.

Stop your anger! Turn from your rage!

Do not envy others— it only leads to harm.
For the wicked will be destroyed, but those who trust in the Lord will possess the land.
In a little while, the wicked will disappear. Though you look for them, they will be gone.
Those who are gentle and lowly will possess the land;
they will live in prosperous security.” (Psalm 37:1-11, NLT)

Lord, keep us in your grace embrace, renewing our faith in troubled times. Amen.

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O Come To The Altar
(an invitation song … from Elevation Worship)

Are you hurting and broken within
Overwhelmed by the weight of your sin
Jesus is calling
Have you come to the end of yourself
Do you thirst for a drink from the well
Jesus is calling

O come to the altar
The Father’s arms are open wide
Forgiveness was bought with
The precious blood of Jesus Christ
Leave behind your regrets and mistakes
Come today there’s no reason to wait
Jesus is calling

Bring your sorrows and trade them for joy
From the ashes a new life is born
Jesus is calling

Oh what a Savior
Isn’t he wonderful
Sing alleluia Christ is risen
Bow down before him
For he is Lord of all
Sing alleluia Christ is risen
Bear your cross as you wait for the crown
Tell the world of the treasure you’ve found

Chris Brown | Mack Brock | Steven Furtick | Wade Joye © 2015 Music by Elevation Worship Publishing (Admin. by Essential Music Publishing LLC)

CCLI License # 810055

He wasn’t a bad person

A text arrived on my phone about a mutual friend (I’ll call him G.) who constantly pushed the limits, broke the rules, and resisted authority of every kind.  Tragically he died when he was much too young, his death the result of a long string of poor choices. “He wasn’t a bad person” the correspondent insisted. It is not up to me to be his judge, but I have enough discernment to determine that many of the things he did were certainly wrong, causing pain and ultimately ending his life.  He was smart, could be charming, but lacked courage, honesty, insight, and selflessness that are part of good character. G. lacked the character to take advantage of his competence.

We live in a world that tends to admire ‘success’ borne of competence without considering the necessity of a solid character in support. How often are we dazzled by a person’s abilities and choose to ignore even the glaring and obvious sins? “Oh, Jerry, she’s just human.” True enough, we all are ‘just human’ and prone to fail from time to time. However, character matters and we need to value it.

There are stories too numerous to tell about people who climb to great heights as a result of their skill, their intelligence, their personality, their competence and then they tumble into failure, wrecked as the life they have built collapses because there is no foundation to support the structure. Let me hasten to add, I am not talking about being ‘perfect.’ We all have our own unique set of temptations and sins that result from what the Bible calls the ‘sinful nature,’ that grow out of the way were raised, and that shaped by our life experience.  The question is, will we work on developing character right alongside of building competence?

Character formation begins with spiritual renewal. Jesus called it being ‘born again.’  The phrase is much maligned by some, but it is the key to character. “Jesus replied, “I assure you, unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God.” “What do you mean?” exclaimed Nicodemus. “How can an old man go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?” Jesus replied, “The truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven.” (John 3:3-6, NLT)  We cannot live with consistent evidence of spiritual life – love, joy, peace  – unless we are alive in the Spirit. Have you invited God to own your life, to pour life into you so that character can begin to form inside out?

There must be honest reflection, a willingness to see failure and deal with it.  Change is hard. Many of us, when we see the cracks in character, tend to say, “that’s just who I am, how I am wired.’  Greed, materialism, laziness, selfishness, lustfulness … are allowed to exist because we will not admit that we must change. The Bible calls this ‘confession.’  Yes, we can make a joke out of it, but true confession is an indispensable part of transformation.

AA teaches, wisely so, that the path to sobriety runs through honest reflection.  Take a look at the first of the 12 steps – We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.  It does not stop there, because true confession also connects to God’s power. The second step says We came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

In building character, there is hard work to be done. Christian, there is an unintended consequence to the message of grace, one that results from an incomplete grasp of the Gospel. Some believe that because Jesus loves us and has made us righteous in the eyes of God that there is no need to do the work of becoming the person God desires. Cheap grace it has been called.  

When we experience God’s grace as a result of honest confession, the next choice is to be holy. One of the ways the Bible talks about that is dying to Self.  That is every bit as painful as it sounds. Old ways die hard. But, change is possible when we pray for strength and do the work!

Character is sustained by practice of the daily disciplines.  Today’s victory does not win tomorrow’s battle!  In the first six months of 2020, I carefully monitored my caloric intake and gradually shed about 25 pounds. It is a healthy accomplishment. Will I keep it off? I surely can, but I must continue to make the choices that made it happen. Our Christian life is certainly the work of the Spirit in us.  It is a deception to think that we can save ourselves, that we can make ourselves acceptable to God.

What does Paul declare? “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10, NIV)  God saves us and calls us to ‘good works’ that He has planned.

James reminds us that character is strengthened under pressure. “For 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 strong in character and ready for anything.” (James 1:3-4, NLT)  If we lean into the Lord, praying for the Spirit to keep us, we emerge with a strong character, and anticipate a rich eternal reward. God blesses the people who patiently endure testing. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” (James 1:12, NLT)

Let’s pray for true character that reveals the beauty of Jesus in us; people who love, who are forgiving, who are selfless, who serve faithfully, who meet challenges with courage, who deal honestly with failure, who refuse to pretend, who are pure in heart!  Yes, Christian, character matters.

Here is a word from the Word. May God, the Spirit, make it live in us. “Through (His grace and mercy, God) has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:4-11, NIV)

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Beautiful Things

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change
At all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found
Could a garden come up from this ground
At all

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found
In You

You make me new You are making me new
You make me new You are making me new

Lisa Gungor | Michael Gungor © 2009 worshiptogether.com songs (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Life left you bitter?

Disappointed?  Many feel that and not always without reason.  A pastor friend posted this morning that he is 33 but as a result of the stresses of ministry feels 40! My guess is that he is dealing with missed expectations at some level. Another person talked with me about his heart’s yearning for real connections in a world that left him feeling alone too often. I ached for his discouraged heart. Yes, I know disappointment, too.  Have I been blessed? Amazingly so and for that I am grateful.  Would I like some parts of my experience in this world be to different? I do.  As we look into a new week, let’s talk about finding encouragement, about living beyond just determination, finding God’s joy.

Dealing with our disappointment begins by gaining perspective! Sometimes what we are feeling is something awful that we ought to mourn.  Sometimes it is just the merely unpleasant that we need to set aside without a thought. A diagnosis of cancer is on a whole other plane than getting a poorly prepared dinner at a restaurant.

We are truly foolish, perhaps even childish, if we allow ourselves to endlessly complain about life’s little inconveniences, letting ourselves become miserable over ordinary issues. When real troubles come, our marriage becomes troubled, our children rebel, our boss turns into a tyrant, our body betrays us – these are reasons to mourn and seek God’s provision!  Jesus reminds us that when life breaks our heart and we look us, we will be  “embraced by the One most dear to you.” (Matthew 5.4)

As we wrestle with those things that chronically cause us to feel loss, to be disappointed, we must resist the temptation to turn into an angry, bitter person. The tragedy of disappointment is compounded when we turn ugly and defensive, concluding that the whole world is against us, that people are terrible, or worse; that God has forgotten us. Some of the most dangerous words can be “everybody” and “all the time.” Such sweeping generalizations make us blind to the truth and deaf to the Spirit’s voice.

Some respond to their disappointment by deadening their emotions, an awful choice really!  If we kill our heart, we may numb the pain but we also lose the gifts of love and joy.  Too many people, once past the optimism of youth, settle into a kind of self-protective disengagement refusing to risk by loving anyone, never praying for the ‘impossible,’ pushing through one day after another eyes to the ground, in grim duty. That’s not the life God intended for anyone of us. A heart that is silenced may save us from disappointment, but at what cost to our humanity?

There is a positive choice we can make, God helping us. It is humility!   The Spirit asks us to dethrone Self, to become a servant, not an abjectly miserable non—person, but one who lives without that crippling entitlement that makes so many miserable in our time. that allows us to forgive. One aspect of forgiveness is the willing to releasing another person from our desire that they act in ways of which we approve or in ways that please us.  Is that hard to do when you know you have done your best, given our utmost, without appreciation. Yes it can! 

And, IF we develop an offended spirit – ‘how dare he respond like that?’  or ‘who does she think she is, anyway?’  the demons will sit on our shoulder and whisper to us about just how noble we have been and how little others care!  There is no good thing that comes from self-pity, from the feeling “I deserve more or better.”  I hasten to add that forgiveness IS NOT forcing ourselves to think: “Ah, forget it. It doesn’t matter.” When a spouse, a friend, a child, a co-worker fails us, breaks our heart, rejects us, or harms us — it does matter!

The better choice is to surrender our disappointment, our anger, to God. That kind of forgiveness that releases whatever ‘debt’ that we are owed to Him, allows God to act and HE will bring justice – perhaps now, most assuredly in eternity.  Jesus taught us that our willing to surrender offenses to us, frees us to receive God’s forgiveness.  He said –“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors….But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Matthew 6:12, 15 

Reinhold Neibuhr’s Serenity Prayer is one we all need to pray, often.

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him forever in the next. Amen.

On this Monday morning, let me encourage you to HOPE. Here’s a word from the Word for the disappointed. Isaiah 40:30-31 reminds us that:

“Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary,  they will walk and not be faint.”

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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

(The hymn that points a disappointed heart to worship,
Knowing the unfailing promise of God)

Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee
Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not

As Thou hast been Thou forever wilt be
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me

Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above
Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide
Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan © Words: Public Domain

Like the moon?

I remember driving along the highway a few years ago and seeing a billboard with large letters – GODISNOWHERE.  Like most people, the first thing I read as my brain decoded the letters was “God is nowhere.”  I thought some group that opposed religion was advertising, but as I got closer I saw that the smaller letters at the bottom pointed a website sponsored by a Christian group.  With that information, I re-read the line this way- “God is now here!” The context changed the message.

In my daily work I encounter increasing numbers of people who have concluded either that God is a myth or that the deity is beyond our knowing, no where to be found by ordinary human beings. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this statement – “If God loves us, why is all of this happening in the world?”  The question is about the ancient problem of evil. Why does a good God allow such suffering? Is He unable to stop it? Is He playing games with us? Is He remote and uncaring?  The full answer to those questions is long and complicated, and involves faith. A short answer is this. God is both good and all powerful and He has given humanity the gift of choice. The Bible tells the story of the Fall –  that creation became enslaved to evil when God’s way was set aside for Self-will. We are born into a world where “all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory.”  And, we must be rescued from evil’s grip.

God, at the Cross, identified Himself with the suffering and made a Way for us to be restored to our place in His family, to know His love, to be made good again, in spite of the evil world in which we live. Yes, God is now here! This is the core message of our Christian faith. AND, when we come to Him through faith in Christ Jesus, He makes us spiritually alive, defeating the curse of sin and inviting us into a divine conspiracy (love that phrase though not original with me) to transform our world as His agents, filled with the Spirit’s life.

Leaving the difficult philosophical argument about evil’s existence behind, let me pose a practical question: 

What statement about God is made by your daily actions?  When people ‘read’ you do they conclude “God is nowhere,” or that “God is now here?”  

Those who know Christ Jesus as Savior are being changed but their ability to choose remains. Each day we have the choice to live under God’s reign or to choose to go our own way.  Our actions, though they may seem insignificant to us, are consequential, moving us and others toward God or away from Him. We cannot stand still nor remain neutral.

Jesus says to us “Don’t hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:15-16, NLT)  When we love, the light shines. When we seek to treat others with fairness and justice, the light shines. When we live joyfully, the light shines. When we commit ourselves to excellence, the light shines. When we are generous in spirit and forgiving of the offenses of others, the light shines.  … You can add your statement to that list.  Being a Light-bearer is the privilege of all who love Jesus. It’s no easy thing, this life of following Jesus and letting the Light shine. It can be costly and we will fail in spite of our best intentions. That is why none other than the Apostle Paul reminds us that “this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.” (2 Corinthians 4:7, NLT)


Christian, our first choice each day is humble reliance on the grace of God shown us in Christ Jesus. We do not shine His Light brightly because we are smart or beautiful. We shine because we are FULL OF THE SPIRIT.  The radiance we have is a reflected one, much like that rock we call the moon shines, but not of its own energy.  It only reflects the light of the Sun.

We, too, reflect God’s glory, but only as we choose to “Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT)

Would you join me in a commitment to live so that others know that “God is now here!”?  Let’s be so full of the Love of God that the rich abundance Jesus promised makes the Gospel the thing of beauty that it is. Let’s pray to live so as to be known as people who belong to Jesus, full of His grace and goodness, with daily actions that reveal a deep love of God and others!

As you head into your day, meditate on this word from the Word. Go, reflect His Light into a world that is dark.   “Now, the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom. And all of us have had that veil removed so that we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like him and reflect his glory even more.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18, NLT)

____________
Shine, Jesus, Shine
(This is the prayer of my heart)

Lord the light of Your love is shining|
In the midst of the darkness shining
Jesus Light of the world shine upon us
Set us free by the truth You now bring us
Shine on me shine on me

Shine Jesus shine
Fill this land
With the Father’s glory
Blaze Spirit blaze
Set our hearts on fire
Flow river flow
Flood the nations
With grace and mercy
Send forth Your word Lord
And let there be light

Lord I come to Your awesome presence
From the shadows into Your radiance
By the blood I may enter Your brightness
Search me try me consume all my darkness
Shine on me shine on me

As we gaze on Your kingly brightness
So our faces display Your likeness
Ever changing from glory to glory
Mirrored here may our lives tell Your story
Shine on me shine on me

Graham Kendrick © 1987 Make Way Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

How do you think?

We “think” but we are largely unaware just how much of what and how we think is shaped by influences that are unseen. A huge industry (the most profitable) is built around building a virtual image of you. Where you go, what you buy, what you watch, the clicks you make on the Internet are all being collected and analyzed by computers programmed to get to know you. That information is then sold to companies or other organizations that will provide you with experiences that are tailored to your interests, your values, and your habits. Gradually, your networks on FaceBook™, your home page on Amazon™, your Google™ searches are truly ‘all about you.’  

On one level, that is a great thing, isn’t it? You get offered products that interest you without sifting through a lot of other things. You find friends among people who are like you. Your searches turn up stories that fit your worldview. But, there is also a gradual loss of perspective as you see the world through an ever-narrowing lens and start to think that what you think is the ‘correct way’ because almost all of the people with whom you are interacting think like you do.

(If this interests you watch The Social Dilemma on Netflix.)

Christian, how we need discernment and wisdom!
I am not talking about seeing the nonsense of the latest crack-pot conspiracy theory. I am talking about being able to stay Christ-focused, a person who lives the True Gospel, not one of the many corrupted “Gospels” that are competing for your heart and mind.

I love Paul’s prayer, using it often for my own life and for those I serve as a pastor. He prays “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit a of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe.”  (Ephesians 1:17)

He does not pray that God will make them politically savvy, that God will give them great business opportunities, or that they will enjoy perpetual youth and prosperity! These are so often the not so subtle messages attached to “Jesus” in this day. Jesus becomes a means of building our ‘kingdom,’ making life work better for us. Jesus supposedly endorses certain candidates. Jesus supposedly likes a certain kind of economic system. Jesus is our holy good luck charm to make our troubles disappear. IF we are in a church that preaches those false Gospels, if we surround ourselves with people who repeat them to us, they become ‘true,’ except that they are not!

The Gospel is about reconciling humanity to God, about opening up our minds to the eternal, and about calling us to the pursuit of the knowledge of the Holy One. Oh that God would make us discerning so that we would reject the ‘fake news’ of twisted preaching and begin to understand His invitation to know His love, His power, and the delight of belonging to Him – come Hell or high water.  Is your true life found in knowing Jesus Christ; who is “God come in flesh”, the Savior of the World, our Risen Lord, and Coming King?  Or, are you taken by ‘high sounding philosophy’ of human potential, success, prosperity, pleasure, or power?

Can you join Paul in this aspiration? “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, (the Greek word in the first text is skubalon  which meant “poop!”) that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:8-11, NIV)

John, when an old man, saw the ravages that smooth-talking teachers were bringing to the Church. They came denying that Jesus was the God, Incarnate. They, like thousands since then, used the language of Christianity, but turned the meanings inside out. The old man, an elder, who loved deeply, warned them and us with uncompromising words. “There are a lot of smooth-talking charlatans loose in the world who refuse to believe that Jesus Christ was truly human, a flesh-and-blood human being. Give them their true title: Deceiver! Antichrist! And be very careful around them so you don’t lose out on what we’ve worked so diligently in together; I want you to get every reward you have coming to you. Anyone who gets so progressive in his thinking that he walks out on the teaching of Christ, walks out on God. But whoever stays with the teaching, stays faithful to both the Father and the Son.” (2 John 7-9, The Message)

There is a rich life to be found in faith’s acceptance of Christ as Lord.
When we adore Him, revere His sacrifice on the Cross, and form today’s decisions in the light of Eternity, our minds are transformed. We begin to see the emptiness of the ‘fake’ Gospels. We see beyond the political chaos. We throw away endless speculations about Prophetic timelines. And we become full of the beauty of the Lord, fruitful in the life of the Spirit – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22)  If these are not the predominant qualities in your thoughts and actions, it’s time to find Jesus again.

Here is a word from the Word. “I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is he is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers.” (Ephesians 1:17-18, The Message)

___________

My Life Is In Your Hands

(The Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir makes this declaration!)

You don’t have to worry
And don’t you be afraid
Joy comes in the morning
Troubles they don’t last always
For there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say

(Oh) I know that I can make it
I know that I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands

With Jesus I can take it
With Him I know I can stand
No matter what may come my way
My life is in Your hands

So when your tests and trials
They seem to get you down
And all your friends and loved ones
Are nowhere to be found
Remember there’s a friend named Jesus
Who will wipe your tears away
And if your heart is broken
Just lift your hands and say

My life is in Your hands

Kirk Franklin © 1996 Lilly Mack Music (Admin. by Capitol CMG Publishing)

CCLI License # 810055

Exciting and Fulfilling!

Much of life is what I call ‘doing the dailies,’ all the things that must be done. We care for our homes, our cars, our bodies, our souls because if we don’t – things get messy. Yesterday I drove by the house our family lived in 55 years ago. It was once a beautiful place, nicely maintained lawns surrounding a stately Federal style home.  Now it is in a state of decay, obviously neglected. What I saw was an obvious result of years of letting things go undone.

The writer of the Proverb says “I walked by the field of a lazy person, the vineyard of one lacking sense. I saw that it was overgrown with thorns. It was covered with weeds, and its walls were broken down. Then, as I looked and thought about it, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest— and poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber.” (Proverbs 24:30-34, NLT)  

Before you object to this thought reminding me that Christians are “saved by grace not by works” I will hasten to add that I am not talking about trying to work your way into a right relationship with God or prove to Him or others how good you are!  The heart of Christianity is the love of Christ Jesus shown to us while we were still rebelling against Him.  We focus on Him, receiving His love and loving Him in return.

This love, however, is not divorced from everyday life. There is an old phrase, much used among evangelical Christians, one I have repeated a thousand times over the years:  “It’s not about religion, it’s a relationship.”  That’s true yet it misses the point somewhat. That word, religion, isn’t a dirty one. It comes from a Latin word that meant to ‘bind, to bundle.’  

IF we truly love Jesus we most definitely will make a practice of living a way that reflects the commitment we have made, that we have bound ourselves in love to Him.  God says that loving Him is illustrated by marriage.  A man and a woman develop an interest in each other that turns into desire which leads them to choose to make a commitment. They share vows in the presence of friends and family, before the Lord. With their relationship there comes a “religion” (a binding) to “have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part, according to God’s holy law, and this is my solemn vow.”  Honoring those vows lays a foundation for fulfillment.

Yes, the relationship must come first. We cannot ‘work’ our way into God’s favor by just acting like a Christian!  We give ourselves, in full faith that responds to His invitation, to Him. Our passion is to know Him, and being loved, to live in love. Much of the time, that is not grandiose or glorious efforts; it is expressed in the daily choice to love, to serve, to truth, to forgive, to share the needs of others, to be good in the face of evil. Yes, think of marriage once again.

No marriage can be sustained by expensive gifts, great sex, or grand vacations.  (OK, I heard somebody say, “How about we try that?”)  Real love is expressed in the daily choice to care for our spouse, to give encouragement, to serve her. That need not be grim duty. There can be real delight in those ordinary moments of making a shared life.

The most exciting and fulfilling Christian experience cannot be based on chasing some glorious worship experience or looking for an exciting preacher to stir the soul.  We choose to serve Jesus, for love’s sake, and in ‘doing the dailies’  we discover a depth of intimacy that is solid, stable, and leads us to joy. Are you building your spiritual house, caring for it with prayer, worship, meditation, and yes; making the choices to prioritize Him even when it is tough to do so?  Or, have you settled to drift along, letting things go, the decay gradually settling in?

The word from the Word today is a text I love. I have used The Message, a contemporary paraphrase of  Scripture, to aid in grasping the way that His love and our response are woven together to find God’s best!  Let it become a word of hope and challenge for you today. “It’s in Christ that you, once you heard the truth and believed it (this Message of your salvation), found yourselves home free—signed, sealed, and delivered by the Holy Spirit. This signet from God is the first installment on what’s coming, a reminder that we’ll get everything God has planned for us, a praising and glorious life. …

I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life he has for his followers, oh, the utter extravagance of his work in us who trust him—endless energy, boundless strength! ” (Ephesians 1:13-14,17-19, The Message)
________

The Power Of Your Love

Lord I come to You

Let my heart be changed renewed
Flowing from the grace
That I found in You
And Lord I’ve come to know
The weaknesses I see in me
Will be stripped away
By the pow’r of Your love

Hold me close
Let Your love surround me
Bring me near
Draw me to Your side
And as I wait
I’ll rise up like the eagle
And I will soar with You
Your Spirit leads me on
In the pow’r of Your love

Lord unveil my eyes
Let me see You face to face
The knowledge of Your love
As You live in me
Lord renew my mind
As Your will unfolds in my life
In living ev’ry day
By the pow’r of Your love

Geoff Bullock © 1992 Geoff Bullock Music (Admin. by Music Services, Inc.)

CCLI License # 810055

Just Talkin’?

A couple of years ago  NBA player, Kyrie Irving, told an interviewer that the earth is flat. His comments became a sensation, reported widely. In a later interview, he stepped back a bit. “I’m just interested in that kind of stuff. I like conspiracy theories. I like to talk about it.” He also realized the power of his celebrity, especially among the young, and admitted that some ideas were best discussed in private conversations. I don’t know Mr. Irving nor do I have any idea how seriously he takes his ideas about the shape of the earth, but I can say with confidence that it is a proven fact that the earth is round. Suggesting otherwise might be ‘interesting’ but there is no truth in it.

So, what’s my point this morning? Christian, we need to anchor our lives in the TRUTH. We risk looking silly or worse, becoming deceived, when we spend too much time ‘just talkin’ about things that are perhaps interesting but that have no foundation in fact. There are hundreds of ‘teachers’ who speak, publish books, and write blogs that are speculations about the future or theories about evil in the present. They claim that they are basing their message on the Scripture but the reality is that it is the thinnest thread of connection to texts taken wildly out of context. A ‘faith’ that is built on isolated texts is not only dangerous, it dishonors the Lord.

Paul told Timothy that his message must be anchored in the truth. We need to take this warning to heart. “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene.” (2 Timothy 2, ESV)

Few doctrines are more abused than the Second Coming of Christ. Jesus promised that He would return. The New Testament writers are clear that He will bring God’s Kingdom. From that basis, hundreds of false teachers, from the earliest days of Christianity to the present, have spun theories about times and dates. These teachers tend to gain more traction in times of crisis and during social upheaval. 

In 1843, when America was debating slavery and going through a difficult economic situation, a preacher named  William Miller founded an end-times movement – Millerism. He declared that the Second Coming would happen sometime between 1843-1844. A spectacular meteor shower seemed to confirm his theories to those who were ‘true believers.’  On March 21, 1844 Miller’s predictions ran into the truth; Christ did not appear. A few of his devotees attempted to set another date of Oct 22, 1844.  When that date came and went, it was reported that  “The world made merry over the old Prophet’s predicament. The taunts and jeers of the ‘scoffers’ were well-nigh unbearable.”

Many of Miller’s ideas survived in the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses movement which has set numerous dates for the return of Christ over the last century.  In my life-time, we had Harold Camping who set a firm date for 1994. He was wrong! Few remember the sensation in Bible-believing churches caused by the little book by Edgar C. Whisenant, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture will take place in 1988.  When September, 1988 came and went, he actually re-published a revision for 1989… and people bought it!

All of this has happened again and again in spite of Jesus’ own declaration that no one knows the day of His return and His instruction for Believers to be diligent in the work of the Lord. Christian, beware of the latest ‘best-seller’ that is just ‘so interesting’ in which some teachers claim to be unveiling some ‘new’ truth, some previously unknown interpretation of the prophets. These are distractions from the business of the Kingdom, ways to escape life’s tedium, nothing more.

The real excitement of the Christian life is not found in speculative ideas about the future, nor is it in long debates over commas and periods in the Scripture. The Holy Spirit lives in us, empowers us, and allows us to participate in the amazing and supernatural work of seeing ordinary human beings turned into God’s children, those ‘dead in sins’ becoming ‘alive in Christ.’ 

We have the privilege of sharing real hope, that goes beyond finding momentary pleasure, a life of joy and peace. There is far more fulfillment in feeding a hungry person, teaching a child to love God, holding up a despairing person than will ever be found in ‘just talkin’ about speculative ‘doctrines.’

Here is a wonderful word from the Word.  God says He invests His inestimable treasure in us, ordinary clay pots! Now that’s worth getting excited about. “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:1-9, NIV)

Let’s keep the faith, live in hope, and serve in love – until the Kingdom comes!

_______________

Build My Life

(A great song that points us to real faith in the Builder)

Worthy of ev’ry song we could ever sing
Worthy of all the praise we could ever bring
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You

Jesus the name above ev’ry other name
Jesus the only one who could ever save
Worthy of ev’ry breath we could ever breathe
We live for You We live for You

Holy there is no one like You
There is none besides You
Open up my eyes in wonder and show me who You are
And fill me with Your heart
And lead me in Your love to those around me

I will build my life upon Your love
It is a firm foundation
I will put my trust in You alone
And I will not be shaken

Brett Younker | Karl Martin | Kirby Elizabeth Kaple | Matt Redman | Pat Barrett © 2016 Martin, Karl Andrew (Admin. by Arkyard Music Services Limited) Kaple Music (Admin. by Bethel Music Publishing) Bethel Music Publishing

CCLI License # 810055

Clear eyes?

My smartphone holds hundreds of pictures. I see  the sunlight streaming through the trees and pull over to the side of the road to capture the sight, often sharing those pictures on Facebook. (You knew that, right?)  Last night, during our children’s ministry at Faith Discovery, the laughter and smiles of kids at play in this troubled world was a delight to me. Yes, I pulled out my phone to snap some pictures.  Sight is a precious gift, isn’t it? Our eyes are a gift of the Creator. I cannot even imagine the loss felt by those whose sight fails.  

Insight is every bit as important as eyesight. Insight is a kind of vision; what we ‘see’ with our mind, our view of life, of the future, of our purpose in the plan of the Lord. In this season in America when controversy is overwhelming so many of us, having the ability to see beyond the ‘smoke and mirrors’ is desperately needed. In recent weeks, a recurrent prayer in my life has been for clear vision!  Jesus spoke of those who see yet are blind. “For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’” (Matthew 13:15, NIV)

My desire is to see as God sees, to understand the spiritual needs that the true cause of the division in our nation. I am convinced that reconciliation and a way forward cannot come without healing of the soul of the nation.  Even Christians are being tricked like the audience at a magic show!  A magician cannot actually defy gravity or make things appear out of thin air. He uses diversion and distraction to get his audience to ‘see’ something other than what actually happens.  He makes them believe a ‘lie.’  Satan is playing his tricks on us, distracting us, diverting our attention to lesser matters.  The true need of humanity is to be reconciled to God, to be made alive to the Spirit, and thus to find the life our Father purposed for us.  Are we being played by the Deceiver? Too many of us are!

Faith is critical to spiritual sight. When we come to Jesus (not to church membership, not to some self-help program masquerading as renewal), accepting His grace and forgiveness in faith, He promises that He will “open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’” (Acts 26:18, NIV)  When we faithfully trust Him, coming earnestly like a child to Him, He opens our eyes (spiritual) to those things that cannot be perceived apart from the Spirit working in us. That gift of vision gives ‘big picture context’ to our lives, helping us to see the ‘why’ that informs the ‘what.’ 

Thus enlightened we can see over the edge of time and into eternity.  When our true hope is our home in Heaven, we will begin to invest each day differently.  It is said that those who plant trees believe in the next generation. True, right? Trees do not grow quickly.  An oak planted in the back yard will be a shade tree only for your children! If a we want to enjoy something right now, we plant flowers.  Petunias will grow quickly into flowering gardens. 

Is your vision shaped by eternal values, inspired by the Spirit, drawn into existence by faith?  Have you excused yourself from pursuing a God-shaped vision because you believe it is easier to just settle for your present reality?   I love this quote –  “The daily grind of life is hard on visions. Life is now. Bills are now. Crisis is now. Vision is later. It is easy, therefore, to lose sight of the main thing, to sacrifice the best for the good. All of us run the risk of allowing secondary issues to rob us of the joy of seeing our visions come to completion. Distractions slowly kill the vision.” (Visioneering, Andy Stanley, Multnomah, 1999)

Vision begins with humility that is willing to acknowledge the need for healing.
Will we kneel and pray for insight, for our eyes to be opened?
Will we allow the Lord to help us to see, to correct our vision, and to draw us to lives that please Him and bless others?

Here’s a word from the Word. “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. And also buy white garments so you will not be shamed by your nakedness. And buy ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. I am the one who corrects and disciplines everyone I love. Be diligent and turn from your indifference. “Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.”  (Revelation 3, NLT)

Lord, help us to see. Amen.

_____________

If We Could See Beyond Today

(a dated presentation of this song by George Beverly Shea, but the message is wonderfully true, still!)

If we could see beyond today as God can see
If all the clouds should roll away
The shadows flee
O’er present griefs we would not fret
Each sorrow we would soon forget
For many joys are waiting yet
for you and me

If we could know beyond today as God doth know
Why dearest treasures pass away and tears must flow
And why the darkness leads to light
Why dreary days will soon grow bright
Some day life’s wrongs will be made right
Faith tells us so

If we could see if we could know we often say
But God in love a veil doth throw across our way
We cannot see what lies before
And so we cling to Him the more
He leads us ‘til this life
Is o’er Trust and obey
Norman John Clayton

© 1938 Curb Wordspring Music (Admin. by W.C.M. Music Corp.) CCLI License # 810055

Remember and LIVE!

9/11/01 – I still remember the spot in the church sanctuary where I was sitting in a meeting of pastors when I was called to the phone. My son’s panicked voice told me that something awful was happening in NYC. The ‘awful’ turned into the unimaginable as that day went on and we learned about the tragic loss of 3000 lives. America changed! I remember with deep emotions to this day. 

“A day that will live in infamy” was what President Franklin D. Roosevelt called 12/7/1941, the day that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. It was a defining day for people in my grandparents’ generation. America entered World War 2 and lives were put upside down for the next 4 years.

My parents’ generation can tell you where they were on 11/22/1963 – the day when America’s young President, John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Dallas, TX. His untimely death started an era of social upheaval in America that stretched through the remaining part of that decade. 

Americans need to ponder these memories, and more, while we live through the year that is 2020, looking for lessons, learning resilience. This year, I believe, will be seen in the future as one that changed our nation much like those days mentioned a moment ago. How will we choose to respond? Will our choices be reactionary and costly, or will we choose to be proactive, seeking positive changes?  

Keep this in mind –  our memories lay the foundation on which the future rests.  Memories shape us – in faith, in values, and can provoke reactions – good and bad in us.
We cannot live in the past but we must remember.

Let me shift focus today to the act of worship that unites Christians, a perpetual moment of memory instituted by Jesus. On the night before He went to the Cross, He sat at Passover dinner with His disciples and when He passed the Cup and the Bread He said –“Do this in remembrance of me!”   As we share Communion, it is to take us back to the Cross when everything changed for humanity. We were reconciled to God, our Father/Creator, restored to eternal life. We must never forget the wonderful gift of our salvation.

How easily we fall into the familiar patterns, hearing the words, taking the bread and the cup, without really remembering. Let’s come together at that moment expecting an encounter with the Presence of the Lord, inviting our heart and mind to be touched by the Mystery of faith, changed. Christians interpret the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of Communion somewhat differently, but we can all agree that it a critically important part of our faith that ought to be entered into with reverence. 

How many times have we heard these words? “So anyone who eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord unworthily is guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. … if you eat the bread or drink the cup without honoring the body of Christ, you are eating and drinking God’s judgment upon yourself.” (1 Corinthians 11:27, 29, NLT)  If slip into unthinking ritual, without faith and love for that which should bless, we insult the grace and love of God.  Oh, Lord, help us to remember, to worship, and to receive what You prepare for us.

Do you remember?  “When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:14-20, NIV)

When we hold the Bread and Cup, we look back, we look up, then we look forward. We renew our faith in the Covenant of Grace, that gift that transforms us from death to life, from sinner to saint.

I remember, will you?
The blessed body of Jesus, broken for me! 
The precious life of Jesus offered for me! 

As much as we love the new and the novel, we cannot, we must not ever forget the ancient, yet ever new, story of amazing love.

____________________

And Can It Be

(Worship with this amazing hymn of remembering!)

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood
Died He for me who caused His pain
For me who Him to death pursued

Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

He left His Father’s throne above
So free so infinite His grace
Emptied Himself of all but love
And bled for Adam’s helpless race

‘Tis mercy all immense and free
For O my God it found out me

Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

No condemnation now I dread
Jesus and all in Him is mine
Alive in Him my living Head
And clothed in righteousness divine

Bold I approach th’eternal throne
And claim the crown through Christ my own

Amazing love how can it be
That Thou my God shouldst die for me

Charles Wesley © Words: Public Domain