We’ll Never Know

Recently my husband and I took a trip to South Carolina to meet our newest grandchild, Bradley.  We spent a lot of time driving and listening to music in the car.  One day, after hearing the song, Go Rest High On That Mountain, written by Vince Gill, my husband mused, “I wonder if Gill knew while he was composing this song, that it would become such a hit.” (It won the BMI Most Performed Song Award in 1997).  Well, I doubt if he did, because his reasons for writing it were deeply personal.  He began this eulogic song after the death of country music star, Keith Whitley (1989) and finished it after the death of his older brother in 1993.

As we each go about our lives, we’re constantly creating, sharing, and interacting with others.  We’ll never know how many of those things will turn out.  Something that seems insignificant to us and which we quickly forget, may have deep meaning in the life of another.(Try asking your grown up kids what they remember best about their childhood — you may be surprised!)  The teacher who inspires, the parent who provides a good example, the friend who genuinely listens, may be doing so without imagining the effect of their actions.  Often they are just using their gifts, following the calling that God has given them.  Right now, ” we see in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12).  Sometimes we are blessed to see the results of our work, but more often, it is uncertain.  What we can be certain of is this:

“…we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:20

Just as God’s Word will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:11), our lives have been ordered by Him, and cannot fail to fulfill His plan.  We don’t need to know the details, because we trust the One who is in charge.

For more on Go Rest High on That Mountain go to this post:

Go Rest High On That Mountain


Blessed Assurance

This month I’ve written about the many uncertainties in life;  but as Christians we have the “blessed assurance” of Christ’s atoning sacrifice and love. Composer Phoebe Palmer Knapp (1839-1908) played a melody to Fanny Crosby and asked, “What does this say to you?” Crosby replied that the tune said, “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!” and proceeded to recite the entire first stanza of the now-famous hymn. Knapp was one of several tune writers that worked with Fanny Crosby (1820-1915), a blind hymnist who began composing at the age of six.  She authored more than 8000 hymns and this is one of her most popular.

For another hymn by Fanny Crosby, see this post:

To God Be the Glory



The Twists and Turns of Life

My husband and I were looking back recently, thinking about how decisions we made affected the whole trajectory of our lives.  We could have married other people, and ended up living in  different places. We could have married sooner, while he was in the army.  In that case, he might have remained in the military.  He could have continued in graduate school and become a college professor instead of stopping after his Master’s degree to take a business position.  I could have gotten my Master’s in Library Science and become a librarian instead of a buyers.  We could have had children sooner, or not at all.  And so it goes.  Do we regret those roads not taken?  Would they have turned out better in some way for us?  Who knows?  For the most part we are satisfied that we have enjoyed a long marriage, raised children, had careers and served God.

Planning is certainly good, but we have to realize that life takes us to unexpected places.  We can map out where we want to go, but there is no guarantee that we will get there or that the timing will work out the way we imagine. There is simply too much uncertainty.  The Bible tells us:

Proverbs 19:21 21Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

God has a plan for us.  Yes, we can mess up and get lost for a while.  We can take wrong turns and have to head back.  However, if we’re paying attention to God’s leading and seeking His Will, we will eventually end up in the right spot.  The spot He wanted for us all along.

Uncertain Slavery

I just finished reading a book called Bullwhip Days.  It is a collection of the memories of former slaves, written as part of the Federal Writers Project in the 1930’s.  The people who were interviewed, in their own homes, were all quite elderly by this point.  The book records not only the events, but the emotions that arose from the condition of being owned, as a piece of property.

Surprisingly, some of the former slaves not only had good masters, they loved them.  They had a relationship that made them feel like part of the family, and they were well treated.  Some said they were happier and better cared for as slaves than they were after being freed.  This is not an attempt to justify slavery as an institution, because the big problem was this:  you could not be certain of remaining with your good master.  He might die.  He might accumulate so much debt that he lost his property (including the slaves) to bankruptcy.  He might become incapacitated and be replaced by an overseer or relative who was not so kind.  At best, remaining in a good situation was no sure thing.

The Bible tells us that, unfortunately all of us are slaves to something.

“For speaking loud boasts of folly, they (the unrighteous) entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error.  They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption.  For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.”  2 Peter 2:18-19

We can become slaves to addictions, to our social position, our jobs, our possessions, or even good things like our spouse or family.  These are not kind masters because we can never have enough, or do enough to be satisfied.  In addition, all of them are temporary and changeable. We may be contented for a time, but it will not last.

There is only one master who is kind, loving and permanent and that is God.

“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either sin, which leads to death, or of obedience that leads to righteousness? ”  Romans 6:16

Your relationship with God will not change.  He has your best interests at heart.  In the end, only He can satisfy.  Slavery is certain.  Just make sure you’re serving the right master.

For more on this topic:

Whose Slave Are You?


Most Certainly True

If you’ve read or been trained in the Lutheran Catechism, you’ll be familiar with the phrase, “this is most certainly true.”  It appears at the end of each of Luther’s explanations, a reminder that although most of life is uncertain, the things of the faith are not.  Recently my husband and I were vacationing near Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where we were visiting with our daughter and our grandchildren.  We attended a Presbyterian Church one Sunday and I loved their confession of sin, because what it told me is most certainly true:

 From the Westminster Confession of Faith 15.4 (Of Repentance Unto Life).                                                                                                                                                      No sin is so small that it does not deserve damnation.  Nor is any sin so great that it can bring damnation upon those who truly repent.

Romans 8:1

“There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

(If you’re unfamiliar with the Westminster Confession of Faith, it is a systematic exposition of Calvinism, written from a Puritan viewpoint. It was originally drafted to reform the Church of England and to unify the various Christian sects in England at that time.  It addresses a variety of church doctrines).

Often people feel uncertain about whether their sins are really forgiven.  Maybe they have trouble forgiving themselves; maybe they are afraid that something they have done is so bad, it just isn’t forgivable. Martin Luther himself suffered from this anxiety.  He confessed over and over again without feeling absolved.  On the other hand, some are convinced their sins are so small, they don’t need forgiveness.  They are “good” people, at least in comparison to others. Neither attitude is correct.  We all need forgiveness, and through the atonement of Christ, we can all receive forgiveness.  Of that you can be certain.

For more on forgiveness see  these posts:

The Opportunity of Forgiveness

Forgiveness for Ourselves

Forgiveness: It Does a Body Good


An Uncertain Life

William Cowper, born in 1731, was a hymn writer who was also a secular poet.  He led an uneasy, troubled life due to many emotional difficulties.  He suffered panic attacks and bouts of depression.  It was during a time of despair that he wrote one of his most well-known hymn, There is a Fountain Filled with Blood. It is based on Zechariah 13:1:

                                                                                                        “On that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity.”

Listen and enjoy this meditation on the saving blood of Christ.  In an uncertain life, you can be sure that the sacrifice of Jesus is sufficient.

A Quote by Madeleine L’Engle

“It’s a good thing to have all the props pulled out from under us occasionally. It gives us some sense of what is rock under our feet, and what is sand.” Madeleine L’Engle

Our Anchor

When I first starting working as a buyer, back in 1972, not only were there no desktop computers, there was no such thing as voicemail!  All of our records were manual copies, kept in a file cabinet.  I didn’t have a cell phone or a microwave.

While technology has improved immensely, I can’t say the same for my physical body.  I’m about thirty pounds heavier, I have to dye my hair to keep the gray away, and I have all sorts of aches and pains I never imagined!

A  Greek philosopher, Heraclitus once said “change is the only constant in life.”  That seems about right.  That’s one of the things that makes life uncertain — it’s impossible to predict what things will be like in thirty or forty years.  Our jobs may become obsolete.  Our health may fail.  Our best friend may move across the country.  There could be wars or climate change or natural disasters.  Who knows?

That’s what makes faith so important.  It gives our life an firm foundation because the truths and character of God are certain.  When everything else around us falls apart, those things remain the same.  In our Hebrews sermon series at church, the most recent sermon centered on this verse:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

There’s a big word for this — immutable.  In the book of Malachi, God Himself tells His people:

“”I am the LORD, and I do not change.”  Malachi 3:6

In other places in the Bible we are told that God’s love is steadfast and His mercy endures forever.  These are just different ways of telling us that we can trust God and rely upon His promises.  He knew us in the womb where He formed us, and He will love and care for us until the end of our earthly lives and beyond.  That’s the one thing we can count on.

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek. ”  Hebrews 19-20


For more posts about the unchanging nature of God follow these links:

A Parent Who Never Forgets

Mercy For Today by Jonathan Parnell– Book Review


In the Business of Saving Lives

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been watching a medical drama series, Code Black.  It centers on the lives of the people working in a very busy, urban emergency room.  In the final episode, one of the key characters, a doctor, says, “I’m in the business of saving lives.”  Then she adds that actually, all of us are, and she’s right.

That’s especially true for Christians.  The book of James says:

My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back,  remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”  James 5:19-20

Right now, due to the pandemic, we’re very focused on saving physical lives.  We’re willing to wear masks, practice social distancing, reschedule meetings (and even worship services) to Zoom or Facebook, put up plexiglass barriers and more, because we want to keep people safe.  We’re worried about not only our own health and the health of our loved ones, but the health of complete strangers.  That’s laudable, but wouldn’t it be nice if we were as concerned about the spiritual health of others?  Shouldn’t we all be in the business of saving lives, not just for today, but for eternity?

We’ve posted a lot this month about the uncertainty of life, and the need for faith.  None of us knows when our physical life will end. Yet people in our own communities and neighborhoods are in danger of eternal death — are we willing to tell them about Jesus to prevent this?

How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard?”  Romans 10:14

While we still have breath, it’s not too late.  Be in the business of saving lives.

Resist the Devil

Uncertain times provide the devil with a host of opportunities.  We tend to become depressed and discouraged.  We’re worried about what might happen next.  We begin to doubt.  Is God really at work?  Can we trust Him?  The book of James tells us:

”  Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. ”  James 4:7

What does it mean to resist the devil?  Well, for one thing, maintaining our spiritual disciplines, as I discussed in a previous post (Coping With Uncertainty), study the Bible, attend worship, celebrate the sacraments, pray, seek guidance from Christian leaders and friends.  Martin Luther, who was a musician and wrote many great hymns, had a strong belief in the power of music. Here’s his suggestion!

“The devil, the originator of sorrowful anxieties and restless troubles, flees before the sound of music almost as much as before the Word of God….Music is a gift and grace of God, not an invention of men. Thus it drives out the devil and makes people cheerful. Then one forgets all wrath, impurity, and other devices.”
Martin Luther

If you can’t sing in church these days, sing at home!  Hum your favorite hymn.  Dwell on the comforting words.  Sing with your children (my kids and I used to sing in the car all the time when they were little).  Turn on the radio.  Get out your LP’s (if you still have them), your CD’s or subscribe to Spotify.  Do whatever you need to do to put some music back into your life.  It will lift your spirits, focus your mind on God and foil the devil.

For more on music, see these posts:

Music as a Dynamic

Music as Prayer

Lutherans and Music

For more Martin Luther quotes on music, see these posts:

Why We Should Give Thanks for Music (according to Martin Luther)

Martin Luther on Music

Martin Luther on Music #2

For some inspiring music, check these out:

God Will Take Care of You

Just a Little Talk With Jesus

Built On A Rock