Back in the Box

I’ve been reading through the letters of John, asking God to show me a phrase or verse from each chapter that’s particularly meaningful to my life right now (this is called lectio divina). What popped out in chapter 2 of 1 John is this:

“… the world is passing away along with its desires …” 1 John 2:17a

Years ago I heard a story told by James Dobson. He talked about playing monopoly with his family — he was winning, and he got really excited as he accumulated more and more money and property. At the end of the game, everybody else got up to go to bed and he was left to clean up. All that cash, all those buildings, all those “things of the world” that he was so pumped up about …. they all just went back in the box. The “rush” he experienced from acquiring them didn’t last very long.

Since my husband retired, I’ve been putting a lot of things back in the box (in my case, the box is the trash!). We’re cleaning out a storage locker, sorting through files and pictures, and in many cases wondering, why did I keep this? Why do I have hundreds of pictures of places I’ve visited? Often I don’t remember where they were taken! Why do I have file folders of notes and papers I wrote in college? Will my children care about these? Why am I holding onto books I read 20 years ago, even if they were really meaningful to me at the time? Wouldn’t it be better to pass them on?

The things of the world are temporary, and that doesn’t just apply to money and buildings. Even the things we read, the knowledge we accumulate, the things we create — none of this will survive for very long once we’re gone. So …

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride in possessions–is not from the Father but if from the world.” 1 John 2:`5-16

Love what lasts — God and His Word.

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” Isaiah 40:8

For more about Lectio Divina see:

Philippians Chapter 1 — What Stands Out

And He Said This Plainly

Learning to Pray by James Martin, SJ–Book Review

Let Us Walk in the Light of the Lord

“Come, descendants of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord” (Isaiah 2:5)

Walking in the light of the Lord — what does that mean? When we walk in the light, we experience the presence of God in our daily lives; we understand and want to follow His ways and His plan for us; our eyes are not darkened by false idols or worldly philosophies. While researching this short phrase from the Bible, I came across this little song for children about walking in the light. I enjoyed it and hope you will, too.

Walking In the Light Of the Lord (action song) – GBA Children – YouTube

For more songs for children see these posts:

Jesus Loves Me

I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb

God is Love #2



Grow Through Surrender and Trust

“Is there no way of escape for us when in trouble or distress? Must we just plod wearily through it all, or look for no relief? I rejoice to answer that there is a glorious way of escape for every one of us, if we will but mount up on wings, and fly away from it all to God. All creatures that have wings can escape from every snare that is set for them, if only they will fly high enough; and the soul that uses its wings can always find a sure ‘way to escape’ from all that can hurt or trouble it. What then are these wings? Their secret is contained in the words ‘They that wait upon the Lord.’ The soul that waits upon the Lord is the soul that is entirely surrendered to Him, and that trusts Him perfectly. Therefore we might name our wings the wings of Surrender and Trust. If we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls ‘mounting up with wings as eagles; to the ‘heavenly places’ in Christ Jesus where earthly annoyances or sorrow have no power to disturb us.”

by Hannah Whitall Smith

Hannah Whitall Smith((February 7, 1832 – May 1, 1911) was a lay speaker and author in the Holiness movement. She and her husband were descended from prominent quakers. This quote, which is from my daily devotional is based upon these two verses:

“Oh, that I had wings like a dove! For then would I fly away, and be at rest!” Psalm 55:6

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles.” Isaiah: 40:31

For more of Hannah’s quotes see these posts:

Are You a Spiritual Person?

The Great Pope, Self

What Does Piety Look Like #2

Did You Call Dad?

One of my daughters was in an accident recently.  The road was a little icy, and a truck in front skidded, causing others to hit their brakes and pretty soon … there were quite a number of cars running off the road and spinning in circles!  Luckily nobody was hurt, but standing on the side of the road, Beth texted her sister, who lives in another state.  The first response she got back was, “oh no, did you call dad?” And she had. They laughed about it later — here they are, adults, one 40 and the other in her 30’s,  yet when trouble strikes, the first impulse is:  Call Dad!  He will comfort, he will be there for you, he will know just what to do.

The nice thing is, we all have a dad to call on.  Even if your biological dad is gone, not in the picture, or completely irresponsible, there is someone who can fill those dad shoes.  Someone you can always count on — God.  In the book of Isaiah, He says:

“fear not, for I am with you;  be not dismayed, for I am your God;  I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

Not only is God there for us, He cares for us with a fatherly compassion.  Thanks to the saving work of Jesus, we are His sons and daughters.  Listen to these verses from Galatians 4:4-7

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law to redeem those who were under the law so that we might receive adoption as sons.  And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’  So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

So don’t stress.  Whatever the problem, whatever the emergency, call God.  Call out to Him in prayer, because He is always there and waiting to listen and to help you.Make that your first thought.  He is your Abba, your Daddy.

For related posts see:

The Potter, Abba

God Will Take Care of You

O God Our Help

 

Arrival of the Jubilee

Remember the familiar scene of our Lord teaching in the synagogue in His hometown, Nazareth?  He turned to the book of Isaiah and read these words:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor;  He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind;  to set at liberty those who are oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

What we find in this statement by Jesus is the proclamation of Jubilee.  In a small synagogue of a small village, the Jubilee which had been ignored for centuries was now here, it was not time for its fulfillment.  In a very real sense we can say that Jesus Himself is the Jubilee.  While the shofar may not have been blown in ancient Israel, it sounds out daily in the lives of the followers of Christ.  It frees us what the things that oppress us.  It makes us strong in the face of adversity.  It promises us a secure future, a place in the Promised Land that God has prepared for us.  We live always and every day in Jubilee.

The sad thing is how very often we don’t experience that Jubilee.  How often we feel angry at God because we don’t get what we want here and now.  We get sick.  We lose our jobs.  Our children don’t turn out the way we hoped.  The people we vote for don’t get elected.  We feel rejected or ridiculed.  The list can go on and on.

Our eyes are blinded by our failure to look at the light that is Christ.  We peer into the darkness of this world, unable to find what we most want and so we miss what we have and what is true.  What is real can only be found in the light, not the darkness.  In the light, friends, it is now Jubilee, it is the year of the Lord’s favor.  We need only look to see that it is so.

For more on the Jubilee see:

Hoping for a Jubilee

Hoping for a Jubilee, part 2

 

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn–Book Review

A friend asked me to read this book, and I had to force myself to finish it.  The author is obviously a clever man, well-versed in the Bible and history, and therefore able to come up with many connections that seem “amazing” on the surface.  He relates a variety of prophecies from Isaiah, Ezekiel and Jeremiah to present day events starting with 9-11.  These are “harbingers” or omens of a coming judgement on the United States.

Do I agree that our country is going down sinful paths?  I do.  Do I believe that like other powerful societies ours will eventually end and that collapse may be brought about by our own pride and arrogance?  Very possibly.  What I don’t believe is that we need to discover exactly when and how it will happen by decoding secret information hidden in the Bible..  This smacks of Gnosticism, a heresy that obviously still persists.

There is no biblical reason to connect America with Israel.  The Bible is clear that the church has replaced Israel as the chosen people of God, not the United States or any other nation or ethnic group.  Scripture should now be read in light of that understanding.  We may like to think of the United States as a “Christian nation”  but in actuality that has never been the case.  Many of the first settlers did not come for religious freedom at all, and while some of the founding fathers were Christians, others weren’t.

In the final chapters of the novel, the main character is told by the prophet that he must “choose” his destiny before judgement day.  This goes against Lutheran belief that God chooses us.  In fact, the whole premise of the book, that we can repent and turn from our errors is wrong  The point of the entire Old Testament, is that the people of Israel couldn’t do this, not matter how hard they tried  Sin will always prevail in both national and personal life — that’s why we need a Savior.

I suppose, like some other books, it might be possible to simply enjoy The Harbinger as fiction, ignoring the glaring theological errors.  Fiction is not theology, after all.  In this case, however, the author specifically says in his introduction that while the form of his work is a story, the information contained is real.  It is not meant to be read as a fanciful or interesting tale.  Furthermore, in my estimation, it also fails as a novel.  It is repetitious, slow and has very little dramatic suspense or plot.

VERDICT:  No stars.  My advice is don’t bother to read this.

For see what Lutherans believe about the end times see:

Lutherans and the End Times

 

 

Trust the Process

We’re nearing the end of 2020 and what a rollercoaster ride it’s been! The virus with a restrictions and a whole new normal, rioting in our cities, turmoil over the election and more.  On a personal front, we welcomed a new grandson, found that our granddaughter, Hailey, is at risk for autism, and now my husband has announced he is retiring in April.  I turned 70 and have more aches and pains and trouble sleeping than ever.  I could really relate to this quote from my devotional:

“Though everything without fall into confusion, and though thy body be in pain and suffering, and thy soul in desolation and distress, yet let thy spirit be unmoved by it all, placid and serene, delighted in and with its God inwardly, and with His good pleasure outwardly.”

Gerhard Tersteegen

Most of the circumstances I listed are disturbing because the outcome is unknown.  How many people will die of the virus?  When will we find a vaccine?  Will our granddaughter learn to speak?  Will the church be able to find a new pastor and move forward?  Where will we go to church?  How much will the income reduction affect our lifestyle?  What unforeseen medical problems are lurking in our future?  You get the idea:   I could worry all day about these and other questions if I allowed myself to go there.  I know what a pastor friend of mine would tell me– trust the process.  All of these things are in God’s hands, and He has a plan that is good.  It may not be apparent to me now (in fact, it may not be apparent to me ever, in this life), but it is there.  I know this from my own experience, and I know it from this scriptural promise.

“… we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  Romans 8:28

Maybe 2020 has been a year of clarity for you;  maybe it’s been a year of confusion.  Wherever you find yourself, listen to this word from the prophet Isaiah:

” Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…”  Isaiah 6:4

Trust in God.  Trust the process.

 

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

 

Send Me

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here I am, send me.'” Isaiah 6:8

My husband and I watched a show on television recently.  One of the main characters, a detective, had a post-it note on the dash of her car with this verse from Isaiah.  When she was asked about it, she said, that was how she viewed her job.  When things were a mess and bad things happened, God sent her in to help. Wow!  Wouldn’t it be great if we all looked at our lives this way?

Martin Luther would certainly approve, because he believed that every Christian had a vocation — not just priests and nuns.  Here’s what he had to say:

“Every occupation has its own honor before God.  Ordinary work is a divine vocation or calling.  In our daily work no matter how important or mundane, we serve God by serving the neighbor and we also participate in God’s on-going providence for the human race.”

Think of it this way — we’re all on a mission from God, called to spread His love and His Gospel in the place where we’re been planted.   We can influence our environment in a good way or a bad way.  We can think of our work as boring and unimportant, or as a way to help and serve others.  When I worked at a hospital, buying inventory items, my boss had a sign placed in our warehouse that read:  “The supplies that go through these doors save lives.”  That helped me to understand that even if I was not a doctor or nurse, the work I did contributed to healing others. So did the work of every receiving clerk or warehouse employee.

Of course, there is also the work of simply being kind, respecting others, praying for our fellow workers, helping one another and so on.  Our occupation should not be unconnected from our spiritual life — it should be a place where we live out what we learn in church and Bible study every week.

You’ve been called.  Have you answered?

For more on Christian vocation see these posts:

What’s Your Vocation?

The Mission of the Layperson

Stewardship of Our Life

 

 

Incomplete Clarity

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

One thing that is clear (no pun intended) from this verse is, on this side of heaven, we will never have complete clarity.  Even when we pray, study, consult with others, our decisions will still be clouded by the values of our society, our own prejudices and our limited understanding of other people and of God.

If you have any doubt about this, read the book of Job.  Job was a righteous man by every measure. He was not only prosperous, he was righteous.  He feared God and turned away from evil.  He loved his children.  Then bad things started to happen.  His children were killed, his property was lost.  He was afflicted with boils.  Still, he remained faithful to God.  He just wanted clarity.  He wanted to know why.  He wanted to understand.

His friends, if you recall, believed they had clarity.  It looked like God was punishing Job– therefore, he had sinned.  Somewhere along the line he had done something wrong, and these problems were his just deserts.  Job maintains his innocence and begs, “Let the Almighty answer me!”(Job 31:35)

Here are some parts of God’s response:

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?  Tell me, if you have understanding?”  Job 38:4

 

“Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.” Job 40:2

In essence, God is saying, I am God and you are not. Job accedes saying,

“Behold I am of small account;  what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.”  Job 40:3

In Isaiah God tells us:

“… my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.”  Isaiah 55:8

We must be open to the reality that we won’t always make the right decision.  We won’t always understand. Our human viewpoints are circumscribed.  We can only trust that God, who works all things out to our good, will lead us back when we stray and use even our mistakes for His glory.