Archive for the ‘christian’ Category

Thanksgiving for the Social Order

October 29, 2018
hands-truthseeker08-pixabay Pixabay. Truthseeker08.

In light of recent events, this entry from the Common Book of Prayer seems appropriate …

O God, who created all peoples in your image, we thank you for the wonderful diversity of races and cultures in this world. Enrich our lives by ever-widening circles of fellowship, and show us your presence in those who differ most from us, until our knowledge of your love is made perfect in our love for all your children; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Singing to babies

October 26, 2018

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Jeremiah 18:6 He said, “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel.

As I was walking down the street, I was privileged to hear a mother singing to her baby – in what language, I do not know. It occurred to me that, in probably every culture, parents must sing to their children. That made me wonder, in what language does God sing to us?

Our language may constrain our ability to understand God, but God is not constrained by our language. He is not constrained by our own lack of words, for he is able to speak to us through his creation – even the stars and children, through the works of the hands of his image-bearers, through our imaginations and dreams, through stories and poetry, through our conscience and sub-conscience. He is able to talk, even sing to us, in all sorts of ways even we are not listening.

Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.

Psalm 8:2 Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

It is his song that we sing to our children for he gave us the gift of music. It is his love that we show when we take care of our children for he gave us the gift of compassion. It is his provision we give when we provide food and shelter for our children because he is the one who provides for us. Even if the gifts we share are not perfect, they are his gifts. This world may be broken, we may be broken, but God is able to make broken things whole and good things glorious.

Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

The love that we show may seem imperfect, but because it is his love we share then we cannot hide it. Even if we are incompetent or rebellious, we may distort but we cannot hide the glory of God. The lumbering train banging and screeching on ill-maintained railroad tracks cannot hide God’s transcendence made visible through his image-bearers. Even if we mistreat others, our misused gifts are nevertheless the gifts God has given.

2 Corinthians 9:6-9 Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”

Matthew 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

If we are aware of our own brokenness, we should not be surprised that our society as a whole is broken. If we can also admit that, within our brokenness, we are poor – that we need each other, that we need to be generous, mutually sharing our gifts with each other then we can all abound. It is within our mutual brokenness that we can be listening for God’s voice. Perhaps when we are listening to each other, particularly to those with whom we cannot understand and with whom we disagree, then we can hear God sing.

1 Corinthians 14:21 In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.”

Psalm 96:11-13 Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in  righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.

 

 

The Problem Isn’t Politics

October 12, 2018

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Photo: Pixabay, Victoria Borodinova

1 Samuel 8:4-7 So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.

 John 18:36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

In the times of the prophet Samuel, the nation of Israel looked at the problems they saw and they thought the problem was political – they thought that the answer was to get a king, like everyone else. In the times of Jesus of Nazareth, the Jews looked at the problems they saw and they thought that the problem was political – they thought that the answer was a king, a Messiah, to overthrow the Roman government. In both cases, the real solution was much more personal. The enemy is not “the other” – the enemy as so pithily stated by Pogo is “us.”

Our national political scene is fraught with fear of “the other.” Our major political parties have deep concerns about what will happen if the other side gets their way and both sides have engaged in the politics of fear of what will happen if the other side gets more power. Again, the problem is not “the other,” the problem is us.

For several decades, the combination of politics and technology have combined to increasingly polarize our national and personal discussions. Our increasingly precision political gerrymandering has combined with our social media technology to create a toxic mix. Physically we can isolate our political communities with precision gerrymandering. Electronically we can both isolate ourselves in like-minded online communities while at the same time hide ourselves in online personas where it is safer to criticize “the other” because we don’t have to meet “the other” face-to-face in community and spend the time getting to know “the other” as a neighbor long enough to understand and appreciate “the other” as a person.

As with the problems stated in the first paragraph, we are seeking a solution in the wrong place. Our problem has more to do with our increasingly isolated lives in combination with our human preference to find fault in someone else other than ourselves. If we try to solve the problem through political power, we will find ourselves constantly battling to force our way of thinking onto others who will respond in kind. There will be no peace.

The soluton to our current turmoil is not to be found in politics or power.  The solution is goodness … To Make America Good … without quibbling over whether it has ever been or not. We each must seek the common good, the good of all people, to treat each other, even those with whom we disagree, with respect and dignity.  We must learn to listen respectfully, to seek out the common interest, to make sure that we hear each other and build trust. Once we build trust than we can take actions that transcend politics and power and instead build trust and community. Societies built on community, trust, respect and goodness will not need as many laws.

Politics and power by themselves, not built on a foundation of goodness, decency, respect, and trust is building a house on a sand foundation that will not withstand a storm. If we do not stand together, if we do not mutually support one another, if we do not trust one another, if we cannot be decent with one another, if we do not seek each other’s good then we will ensure the continued destruction of community, creating problems that no government, no laws can fix. If we build walls within our country it matters not what walls are on the border. But a country united by the common good and willing to regard the common good of other nations will be stronger than a divided country with the strongest border walls because we will destroy each other first. Politics and power cannot build community, cannot build trust, cannot build respect, cannot build goodness.

A president once said that we should ask “not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country.” If t’s time to revisit that idea. It may be foolish of me, but I would rather be known to be good if not great, than to be great and not good.

 

 

Liturgy of Mobile Devices

November 6, 2017

Most of us struggle in some fashion with the distractions of cell phones/mobile devices. In fact, we can honestly admit that this technology, which has brought us a tsunami of social connectivity, is driving us more than we are driving the technology. Our normal urges for social connection, in a healthy environment, provide the glue to bind us in mutually nurturing relationships, but now, in a changing tecchnological culture which is developing more quickly than our wisdom, we are experiencing advances that are now being used to hijack and manipulate our urges. Furthermore, it is challenging as a society to develop an effective cohesive check on the rapidly developing technologies. So, how do we regain control? How do we change our unhealthy habits?

Usually, we do not just dispose of unhealthy habits, rather we replace the unhealthy ones with new ones. We replace one ritual (or liturgy) with a new one. I am proposing that there are a couple of levels of liturgies that are available for us to replace our unhealthy liturgies.

LITURGY OF THE DAY

While all our days look different from each other’s in many ways, the component of the day that I am looking at right now is the part where we interact with our technology. Various studies, such as the one’s mentioned here (http://www.aish.com/ci/s/Smartphones-Negative-Effects-A-Summary-of-Latest-Comprehensive-Research.html), show the effect of unabated use of cell phones, when we allow ourselves to be slaved to the demands of the device. Part of our task is to realize that we need to confront what has been called the tyranny of the urgent (https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6803033-tyranny-of-the-urgent) and thoughtfully consider what things are truly important versus those things we are perceiving as urgent and structure our days appropriately according to our thought out priorities. As we do that, we need to keep in mind the Great Commandments and we also need to humbly consider how we interact with God through the day and confront our perceived need for our control vs. our actual need to recognize God’s control. It is in that context that we may need to let others know that we are not always going to be instantly responding to notifications.

There are a few techniques that are available for cell phone app management. A couple are mentioned in the first article referenced above.

  • Silencing the phone: This can be done in hour before bedtime in order to not have the phone impact our sleep or at other times when we want to focus
  • Putting your cell phone away and out of sight (or in another room) at various times during the day (e.g. mealtimes, while meeting with friends)
  • Controlling your notifications on your apps. This can be done by turning off notification sounds, banners, etc.
  • Putting the notifications with banners on a secondary screen and planning what times of the day you will choose to look at those apps

LITURGY OF THE CALL TO PRAYER

With the liturgy of the day established, we have the context set for the next step. If we are receiving the emails for the daily prayers, we still may have the challenge of handling the very device that is distracting us from what we hold to be important to with things that we are perceiving as urgent. But now if we establish that the email containing the prayer is important compared to what we have perceived as the urgent notifications from the apps, we have the possibility of establishing a liturgy to counteract our old mindset.

There is one technique of managing the mobile device distraction by simply not using it. That is a valid strategy but a purely defensive one. However, we may be able to use the emailed prayer in an offensive strategy, and replace our liturgy of distractedness with a liturgy of focus. To create this new liturgy we can use a centering prayer (https://www.pcusa.org/resource/lectio-and-centering-prayer-conflict/). In the prayer emails sent out by Resurrection Brooklyn, the first two sentences are:

God is near because he loves you. Turn your hearts to him and find new life.

So one option is to use those sentences in our centering prayer. Whatever we decide to use, once we have a prayer set up that we always use then over time we can memorize it and use that prayer anytime, not only when we are intending to open the prayer email but whenever we pick up the phone, causing the phone to now be an object that calls us to prayer instead of being an object that causes distraction.

Remembering who is in control

August 23, 2017

Zech 4:6 – So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

Zech 8:10 – Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor.

I am reading the above passages this week. So now, as I hear the responses to the President’s speeches, I am reminded that the Lord is still in control and orchestrating our affairs. Zechariah was written as Israel was in exile and the Lord was reminding them that there is hope at the end of His discipline – He is able to draw all His people to Himself. Unlike Trump’s claim during the campaign, that he is the answer to all our country’s problems – God is reminding us here that He is the one in control, even if God has ordained Trump’s presidency.

Whether one agrees or disagrees with the statements made by the President, it is clear that, despite all our communication tools, there are groups in this country that do not know how to listen to each other. With insulting categorizations, quick responses and blanket statements thrown around, there is precious little communication (listening) actually happening. There are fears and doubts that are not being understood. There is healing of relationships that needs to occur. There is a need to understand that God is more than we can understand and is larger than our biased (whether we acknowledge it or not) agendas.

When “our side” is winning, we can become complacent – not bothering to hear what concerns others my have, and when “our side” is not winning, we can become aggressive – caring more about being heard than listening. In either case, the call is the old prescription, “to love our neighbor as ourself,” whether we don’t want to or need to. And for those of us who consider God to be on “our side,” we need to confess our brokenness, that we have not loved God or neighbor as we should, that we need to ask God how we can be used by Him to help bring healing to the land in which He placed us, and that we need to acknowledge that we need God’s intervention in our own lives as well as in the lives of those we disagree with.

The problems we see are bigger than the President, than Congress, than the Supreme Court, and bigger than the Constitution. The solution to the problems is not ultimately to be found in the laws we make, the culture we make, the schools we build or the walls we build. The problem is all of us – our sin. The solution is love and grace – taking the time to get uncomfortable and listening to those who are different, wrestling together with the messiness of all our situations and acknowledging that the fears and concerns of others are just as real as our own.

That said, the love and grace we need is from God. Once we have fully grasped just how much we ourselves need that love and grace, we can then share that with others in this broken world. Meanwhile we need to patiently wait for the time when He will complete His work in us.

Reconciling the nature of the God in the Old Testament and New Testament

February 23, 2016

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Photo: Flickr.com, Montezuma’s war, Photographer: llpo’s Sojourn

The Old Testament seems full of violence, not just man against man, but violence that God seems to promote and even participate in. This seems so antithetical to the way God seems to be portrayed in the New Testament, there exemplified by Jesus who seemed to focus more on serving and forgiving. How do we make sense of this? I think that there are two issues to be looked at:

1. The initial question comes from the way God initiatiates and commands violence in the Old Testament, particularly against seemingly innocent people, causing many of us to be uncomfortable or confused; how can the God who loves, cares for and nurtures us to the point of dying and suffering for us, be so violent against the people He wants to draw to Himself? Particulary, when the violence seems to be carried out against innocent people, it seems to contradict the sense of fairness and kindness we expect of God.

2. The first question leads to a more fundamental question. How do we reconcile that the God of love and peace in the we are familiar with in the New Testament with the God of wrath and violence we see in the Old Testament – is the nature and character of God the same in both testaments? It is this question we will look at first.

The nature and character of God

One of the first things to do reconcile these two seeming disparate points of view is to be more thorough examination of the revelation of God in both testaments. If we look carefully, we will discover that there is much in common between the two testaments:

The themes of love, grace and mercy run not only through the New Testament but through the Old Testament as well

Ex 34:6-7, Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.
Hos 11:8-9, My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused. I will not carry out my fierce anger nor will I devastate Ephraim again.
2 Samuel 24:14 David said to Gad, “I am in deep distress. Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great; but do not let me fall into human hands
Psalm 51:1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Isaiah 55:7 Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
Nehemiah 9:31 But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.
Hosea 6:6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.
Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

The themes of justice and wrath run not only through the Old Testament but through the New Testament as well

Luke 3:7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Matt 10:14-15 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly I tell you, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
Matt 10:34  “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.
Mark 9:42-48  “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell,where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’
Luke 18:7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?
John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
Romans 9:22 What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?

Understanding the context of violence

For those of us who are disposed to relate to God as our Father, our Friend, and our Shepherd, we become uncomfortable with the expressions of wrath and violence displayed by God, particularly in the Old Testament. Part of our discomfort is due to our incomplete understanding of God (which we just addressed and partly due to our lack of understanding of the context of the culture in Biblical times.

Violence is found not only in the Old Testament but in the New Testament as well

⦁ Revelation 19:11-21 Heavenly warrior defeats the beast.
⦁ Rev 16:1-21 seven bowls of wrath
⦁ Mark 9:43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out.

Malachi 2:16 “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “does violence to the one he should protect,” says the Lord Almighty. So be on your guard, and do not be unfaithful. In this verse, divorce is considered an act of violence. How little do we understand what other violence we commit with any of our sins.
Lex tolionus (Code of Hammurabi) – the concept of “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” is actually a counter-cultural idea that the MAXIMUM penalty for a transgression should be not greater than the transgression itself
Herem – devotion (to destruction)- The destruction of entire cities was necessary to eliminate the gross sins committed by a city. Part of that elimination of a corrupted culture was so that it wouldn’t contaminate the Israelites (as was proven in the later history of Israel, Deut 20:18) as simply a patient and forbearing God executing his delayed judgement. In the dream where God was informing Abraham of the future (Gen 15:12-16) captivity and release of the nation of his descendants, he also informed Abraham that the time of judgements against the Amalekites had not yet come but would come at the time when Abraham’s descendents would return to the Promised Land.

God gives people up to their sins

  • Genesis 18:20 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous
  • Pharoah who hardened his heart and then the Lord further hardened the Pharoah’s heart

Throughout scripture, there is a pattern in how judgement is carried out

  • God declares judgement for sin.
  • Warning is giving, and the opportunity to repent and avoid judgement is provided.
  • God’s judgement is carried through.

The deaths of innocents, the children

  • Throughout history, parents have always been the determinators for the welfare of their children – for good or for bad.
  • A declaration of war would have typically provided a warning period with opportunity for women, children and the elderly to flee.
  • The children killed in these episodes lived in a depraved environment with a miserable outlook for the future (a future that they may not have even experienced as a result of the culture of child sacrifice pursued by their parents).
  • Killing by the sword is a more merciful way to die, especially when compared with abandonment and starvation that would have resulted if only the adults were killed.
  • Death is not the end, and we can trust God to do what is right, not least of all with children who are not old enough to know any better

The sovereignty of God and other issues

God’s desire for justice for His children – While we need to be careful about how we ascribe our own feelings to God, there is a scriptural basis for our Heavenly Father’s passion for His childrena and a desire to seek justice on their behalf. Consider how an earthly father would respond if he saw his family being maliciously attacked by people who have no shame and whose intentions are purely evil.

God is God and we need to accept His authority not only when we don’t understand it but when His actions cause us consternation. We have had no voice in why He has chosen us to be His children and not chosen others. His thoughts are not our thoughts (Isa 55:8) and we need to have a humble spirit about what we do not understand. Think of the disciples reactions when they were in the boat and saw Jesus command the winds and waves to stop.

References

How could a loving God command acts of violence
Jesus and Old Testament vengeance
Old Testament Killer God

The heart of the Sabbath

February 17, 2016

Are we really ready to trust in God and rest in His provision for us. (John 5: 1-30, also Mark 2)

church-JesusHealing

How God longs for us to come to Him, to be healed from our sin and to rest in His provision for us. In this encounter with the invalid man, Jesus probes not only the heart of that man but also the hearts of the Pharisees and through this passage preserved for us to read – our hearts as well.

To the invalid man, he asks what could seem to be an unnecessary question, “Do you want to be healed?” We are apt to think, of course the man wants to be healed, isn’t that why he is there at the pool? But after all these years of waiting, is it still in his heart to desire healing, or after all this time, has he resigned his heart to never being healed or perhaps he has gotten to the point where he is used to being taken care of and may not want a real change in his life, would he rather be in a place where he would complain about his situation or would he rather be able to take responsibility for his life?

And there is also the question for us: are we ready for God to change us? If God were to heal us of a sickness in our body or our spirit: What vulnerabilities would we feel if the sickness or bitterness or whatever is troubling us is taken away? What changes would have to happen in our lives or what changes would have to happen in our attitudes if we no longer could hide behind our disability? What self-righteousness would we have to let go of to let other people see a change in me? Are we ready to trust Jesus to change us?

It seems that Jesus was also thinking of the Pharisees reactions when He instructed the invalid man to not just “get up and walk”, but to “get up, pick up his pallet and walk”. He knew that when the man would be seen carrying his pallet that the Pharisees would notice and would verbally protest about “working on Sabbath” but in their hearts they would also protest Jesus’ authority which would be validated by the healing. Taking the offense, Jesus further challenged them by not only clarifying His relationship with the Father but by also outrightly accusing them of not believing in Him.

That leaves questions for us: Are we putting our trust more in Scriptures than in the one who gave us the Scriptures? Are we seeking more to know about God or to know God Himself? Are we ready to trust Him, rest in Him and  accept His authority over us?

Grief in the midst of hope

February 11, 2016

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God You turn people back to dust, saying, “Return to dust, you mortals.” A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night. Yet you sweep people away in the sleep of death they are like the new grass of the morning: In the morning it springs up new, but by evening it is dry and withered. We are consumed by your anger and terrified by your indignation. You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. All our days pass away under your wrath; we finish our years with a moan. Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endure; yet the best of them are but trouble and sorrow Psalm 90:1-10

graves

We are foreigners in a fallen, broken world. It is with faith and hope that we look forward to the time that we go home and are fully healed and unencumbered by our bodies of sin and free of the need of daily penitence. But it is a great privilege we have in this world to not only be a witness of the love and the work of God but to be able to participate with Him in bringing His kingdom into this one. This privilege comes with a burden, though. The great love we receive from our Heavenly Father overflows in our lives as we share that love with all those around us – and that love experiences the pain of loss as our loved ones suffer the inevitable death that awaits all of us. Even though that death is a necessary precursor to our eventual healing and restoration to the God who loves us, it still hurts. It should hurt. It hurts in the same way that God was hurt by our rejection of Him beginning from the time of Adam and Eve and by the rejection experienced when the Son suffered and died and was separated for a time from the Father.

This is the pain we feel when we are separated from our loved ones, whether they leave prematurely or after a long life in this world. And though we look forward to the time when we can be reunited once again, in this world we experience the real loss and the real pain of separation. Even in the midst of hope there is grief. As we wait – we grieve and hope all at the same time.

Sometimes it’s a friend who leaves before us

On Glory’s shore

One more day of wondering of what the day will bring
Will it be a day with crying, some laughter or a song

Will it be a day with grief or sorrow, or overflowing joy
But we cannot worry for there’s never a way to know

And then maybe some tomorrow, I’ll wake on Glory’s shore
With no more tears of sorrow and no more cries of pain

And then one day in Glory, with joy I’ll shake your hand
For precious are the memories of the journeys that we shared

No more beers of sorrow will pour across our lips
No more furrows of worry will crease across our brow

No more silent worries, no more burdens we can’t bear
No more secret heartaches, no more fears we cannot share

For the one who’s shared our journey, shared our sorrows, laughs and joys
Is the one who’s shared His life with us and the one who’s brought us here

Sometimes our children are taken, sometimes very young, sometimes before they are born.

This Child of Ours

This child of ours we give to you
This little one we surrender
This tiny child we offer you
This helpless one so tender
This helpless one so tender

For ours is not to give and take
But merely hold awhile
It’s from your hand that we bring forth
Then return into your hands
Then return into your hands

What we conceive we dearly love
With bitter tears we grieve and lose
But we remember you also grieved
When from your Son you turned away
When from your Son you turned away

And it was yours to give and take
But you let go awhile
And from your Son you turned away
Then returned him to your hands
Then returned him to your hands

And we await the final day
When we shall finally see
The ones we lost beside you
And we shall cease our sorrowing
And we shall cease our sorrowing

It’s only for a little while
That we must bear our pain
The hands that brought us all forth
Shall restore us then in peace
Shall restore us then in peace

Sometimes our spouses are taken from us.

All in eternity

We wait for troubled waters to be finally stilled
We wait for dreams and wishes to be finally filled
We wait for some tomorrow when we shall finally be
All together, all is better in eternity

We had some fun and good times, with laughter as we’d fall
We had some small and big plans, our life was very full
We had our precious moments and memories so warm
Life together is life better, life in eternity

Side by side we labored, shouldered all we could bear
Side by side we wrestled, rested only in our prayer
Side by side encouraging each other as we’d go
Worked together, walked together towards eternity

I’ll miss your lilting smile that brightened up my day
I’ll miss your calming touches that kept me from going astray
I’ll miss your warm embraces, the joy you raised in me
Love together, love is better, love in eternity

Until I go to meet you on that eternal shore
Until I lay my burdens and my labors are no more
Until I greet you once again, my heart will ache for you
All together, all is better, all in eternity

Deeper

The shadows in the valley are deeper
The light of life
Who walked by my side
Is gone

I long for the arms that once held me
That made me feel warm
That comforted me
At night

The pain of my journey o’erwhelms me
Away and at home
I’m feeling alone
Right now

But the one who called you home
One day will call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

The death of my beloved goes deeper
It rips through my soul
It causes my heart
To weep

I long to hear the voice that once called me
That made me feel home
That filled my heart
With peace

I’m missing your love and your friendship
The joy of my life
That anchored me through
The storms

But the one who called you home
Will one day call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

The light in my life goes deeper
Through pain and death
I shall find my rest
And peace

I look to the day I will hold you
Forever again
Life with you again
In heaven

There’ll be joy to displace all the sadness
The pain and the hurt
The loneliness will
Be gone

But the one who called you home
Will one day call for me
And we’ll all meet beyond the vale
And we’ll walk on the mountain of joy

As our loved ones are at the brink of passing from this life to the next, what do they experience as they draw near to heaven?

The Sweetness of Death

The sweetness of death all around me
The sweet taste of death in the air
Is the sweet breath of Jesus who’s taking me home
And the pain that surrounds me is the pain he will bear

Through the pain of the sorrows around me
The incense of heaven comes near
And reminds me of home and that I’m not alone
And the soft hand of Jesus is drying my tears

As the shadows of heaven enfold me
And the mercy of Jesus draws near
The pains and cares of this world start to fade
While the comfort of heaven overwhelms all my tears

In our room full of shadows we see dark and light
Some things that pain us and some things delight
But as we pass through the portal and out of the night
We’ll see shadows of heaven transform into light

All the people I regarded so lightly
And the friends I have clung to so tightly
I must let them all go but I’ll pray that they’ll know
The God of all Comfort who calls through the night

What would our loved ones say, now that they in the unrestricted presence of Glory.

My Eyes Have Seen the Morning Star

I ran as to win the race of life
I ran to win those who were lost
I ran with patience to the Lord of Lords, the King
I ran, but now I rest my weary bones

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

The treasure that was in the earthen jar
Is now released from chains of grief and pain
My soul has found Jesus at the journey’s final end
I wait for you to join me with my Friend

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

The life we shared together did not end
But in a while more we’ll meet my friend
And while you wait gain wisdom and you’ll shine like heaven above
So run, until you rest your weary bones

My eyes have seen the Morning Star
My ears have heard the Living Word
My hands have touched the nail pierced palms
My soul’s found rest within His arms

In the meantime, in this broken, foreign land, let us keep focused on Him who sustains us.

The Flame

When the fortunes and the heartaches that befall us
Burn away and the Lord shall reappear
The real work of our lives will rise triumphant
And the work of the Lord will be complete

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

As the seasons of this life fly by our window
And the toils of our lives seem but a waste
When discouragement mounts high outside our doorway
We still can have the Hope that gives us peace

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

When our lives are filled with wealth that falls around us
And the things in our lives are working well
When the blessings in this world come to our doorstep
Let us hold onto the peace that can endure.

When the Flame has burned all things around us
And the fortunes and the heartaches disappear
When the testing of our lives has been completed
Will our flames still be burning bright and clear

There are no obstacles to God’s plans

February 7, 2016

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11Acts 27-28)

the-storm-4
Photo credit: gulfman1 via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND
 

Back when Paul was in Ephesus, he knew that he must go to Jerusalem and then to Rome, no matter the obstacles. When in Ptolemais, despite receiving ominous news that he would be imprisoned in Jerusalem, he would not be dissuaded from going. In Jerusalem, when he was taken into custody by the Romans, he used the opportunity to appeal his case to Caesar – and get to Rome that way. Then, when being transported to Rome by sea, in circumstances he could not control himself and was subject to the decisions made by the Roman soldiers, God would not be deterred by the decisions that were made and allowed the Romans and all their passengers to survive a storm and shipwreck. On top of that, Paul would even survive being bitten by a viper.

God plans for you – and the world – will not be deterred. We should not get discouraged when circumstances seem against us; not by the stop lights we encounter, not by accidents, not by people opposed to us. We need to understand that our plans might not be His plans – but would we not rather be subject to His plans than ours. If we find ourselves getting  frustrated for any reason, we should keep in mind, that His plans for us will happen anyway – but if our plans are not His plans then we should question our plans.

 

 

 

 

No longer a sacrifice

February 5, 2016

We do not even consider it sacrifice, when give of ourselves to those we love (Acts 21:7-14)

silhouette-father-son
The apostle Paul had it set in his mind and spirit that he was to return to Jerusalem despite danger he would face there – a danger even confirmed by his friends who were warned by the Holy Spirit that the danger was real. However, Paul was driven to do anything that God desired of him. There was no sacrifice that was too great when it came to serving the Lord who loved him. Paul’s response to the pleas for him to stay away from the pending danger in Jerusalem was, ” I am ready not only to be bound, but even to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”

I wrote the following poem to reflect that kind of spirit – the spirit that hopefully exists in my marriage and family and also in our relationship to God.

Was It Sacrifice

Was it sacrifice to have
More time to spend with you
More time to hear your stories
More time to see you through

Was is sacrifice to see
Your eyes so clear and bright
Your smile brighten up the day
Your face filled with delight

What was it that I gave up
What treasures did I lose
Whatever did I turn away
To have some more of you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
The things I could not hold
But to gain some treasured moments
And some precious time with you

Was it sacrifice to lose
Some time to be at work
Some time to make more money
Some time to get ahead

Was it sacrifice to spend time
On all our countless walks
On all our countless moments
On all our countless talks

What decisions did I make
What did I decide not to do
When instead of doing other things
Instead I spent time with you

Could you call it sacrifice to lose
the things I could not hold
But to gains some treasured moments
And some precious time with you.


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