The Journey of Faith

Which Road Will You Travel In Your Pain?

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John Donne, a 17th-century poet, experienced great pain. Because he married the daughter of a disapproving lord, he was fired from his job as assistant to Lord Chancellor, yanked from his wife, and locked in a dungeon. (This was when he wrote that succinct line of despair, “John Donne/ Anne Donne/ Undone.”) Later, he endured a long illness which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of this illness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant meditations on the subject. In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness which keeps him in bed forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets our attention; it forces us to look to God when otherwise we would just as well ignore Him. -Adapted from Philip Yancey, Where is God When it Hurts?

Jesus warned us that there will be suffering in this world.  Painful events seem to happen almost daily.  At one point in my life, I just stopped watching the first 15 minutes of the newscast because all the bad things happening in the world were summarized in that first segment of the broadcast.   As human beings living in a fallen world, we are aware suffering is something we all go through in life.  It’s inevitable.  It’s unavoidable. It’s just part of being alive.  What we want to explore in this post is “How do we find God in the midst of our suffering?”  Or maybe a better way to state it is, “How do we reconnect with God since God never moved or left us?”

To begin this journey into suffering, we need to lay out the roadmap.  There are at least three possible roads to travel when we are dealing with pain.

  • We can travel the road of denial, one of my favorite paths. Have joined me on this road? We tell ourselves this lie, “If I just pretend this isn’t happening, it will just go away.”
  • The second road most traveled are too tough it out.
  • And finally, we could learn to grow from the suffering on the road to refinement.

 The Road of Denial.

Often the most tempting and most comfortable option when it comes to dealing with most difficult situations in life is to bury your head in the sand and pray it goes away.  That’s one reason there is so much suffering in the world.  When we suppress our pain, it doesn’t go away; it just gets put aside for a little bit, and then we need to suppress it more and more.  Much like a severe health problem, it doesn’t get better just because we ignore it.  It is unhealthy and can emotionally kill us.

The Road of Tough It Out.

One of my favorite phrases is “Cowboy Up.” When it comes to the pain, we can just try our best to push through it, rub some dirt on it and move on.  However, we are still not dealing with the pain, we are just trying to be bigger than the pain.  That approach did not work when I had a broken wrist, and it doesn’t work with pain.  Eventually, the pain wears you down, breaks you down, and it wins.  The suffering is too great.

The Road of Refinement.

When I am going through pain one passage of Scripture stands out in mind, “Be Still and Know that I am God.”  That verse provides comfort in two ways. First, it reminds us to sit and find strength in the quiet presence of God.  Allow God to comfort, strengthen, and refine you in the trial you are facing.

Second, never lose sight of who God is.  In my worship time this week I listened to my favorite hymn, “How Firm A Foundation.”  My gift to you this week is to share some it with you.

Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,

For I am thy God and will still give thee aid,

I’ll strengthen thee, help thee and cause thee to stand,

Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

 

When through the deep waters I call thee to go,

The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow,

For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless,

And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

 

When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace all-sufficient shall be thy supply,

The flame shall not hurt thee: I only design,

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

In conclusion, this hymn points us to a few critical faith flashpoints.  God never forsakes us in our pain.  He is there to give us strength.  Through the fiery trials, God’s grace is all we need to see us through those tough times.  And finally, those moments of pain and trial as James states have a purpose, “My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4

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Devotional Message, The Journey of Faith

Are You Pushing God Away?

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The story has been told of a believer, Frederick Nolan, who was fleeing from his enemies during a time of persecution in North Africa. Pursued by them over hill and valley with no place to hide, he fell exhausted into a wayside cave, expecting his enemies to find him soon.

Awaiting his death, he saw a spider weaving a web. Within minutes, the little bug had spun a beautiful web across the mouth of the cave. The pursuers arrived and wondered if Nolan was hiding there, but on seeing the unbroken and unmangled piece of art, thought it impossible for him to have entered the cave without dismantling the web. And so, they went on. Having escaped, Nolan burst out and exclaimed:

“Where God is, a spider’s web is like a wall,

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”

Where God is not, a wall is like a spider’s web.”How often I wanted to gather your children together the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings! But you were not willing! (GWN) Luke 13:34b

Jesus Christ has shown himself more than willing, to receive and entertain any poor soul that comes to him, and put themselves under his Lordship. “How often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen gathereth her brood under her wings, with such care and tenderness!”

How willing are we to give up control?

I can’t speak for other sinners, but I personally like to be in perceived control of my life.  Now mind you I have not often done a great job with that control, but I still love the idea that I am in control.  Take a step back and look at the reason we sinners struggle with the above verse.  It summarizes a struggle we have with Jesus for control.  Jesus enlightens us with the divine truth here.  You are not protected, not under the wings of Jesus, because of one reason, our “unwillingness.”  God didn’t turn His back on us. It’s is just the opposite.  We reject His care.  People chose self-reliance.  Our strength is more appealing. Independence rules that day. The pull yourself up by your own bootstraps has led us to desire to do things our own way.   Consequently, we come running to God when our strength fails. This desire for control left the blood of Jesus on Israel’s head and covers ours as well. Jesus laments the choices humanity makes. You read that remorse in the verse above. Oh, how I wished you had taken a different path.  That you made wise choices. Would it be better for you if you trusted in the One who cares for you deeply?  Jesus cares for you.  His care led Jesus to give His life to save you from your sins.

As we face the tough choices and times in our lives today may God guide us.  May He encourage us to trust in Him. The Holy Spirit points us back to the power of the Cross “It is my desire to gather you, to protect you from the trials of life, and through the blood of Christ gives you eternal life.” So, often in the midst of life’s toughest moments, we feel alone, isolated, wondering where is God in all this?  Know that God is there.  Waiting to bring you under His protective wings, if you are willing to give up control. God stands ready to encourage, ready to protect. Are you listening, are you seeking, are you willing? Maybe we are not trusting that the spider web is God’s wall and seeing only the spider web?

Prayer: Dear heavenly Father gives us hearts ready and willing to receive that word of encouragement and the protection offered by you. In Jesus name. Amen.

Discipleship, The Journey of Faith

The Dangers of a Joyless Christianity

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There is a sense in some circles that being joyful is not a part of the Christian life. The tension is between reverence of God and the joyful expression that others may see as drawing attention to oneself.  I understand the delicate balance, but I also recognize that if what we do for the Lord does not give us joy and fulfillment how long can we survive the rigors of Christian service.

Is there a place for joy in Christian service?

George Bernard Shaw said, “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one: the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”  – Jon Johnston, Courage – You Can Stand Strong in the Face of Fear, SP Publications, 1990, p. 171.

Take this journey with me.  We will take this quote in sections because there is a wealth of wisdom contain it this paragraph.

“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…”

Joy is not something we can internally produce just like grace is not a natural concept to accept because both are birthed outside of our natural sinful human condition.  Joy is almost infused in us through the work of the Holy Spirit.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been called to carry out a great mission.  To announce the reign of Jesus Christ to the world “…as you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Matthew 10:7

We are a people called for a divine purpose, to get the message out to those far from God. The heart of our message has the power to turn cold, unrepentant hearts, alive and ablaze with zeal for God.  The good news is God has sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world to announce the forgiveness of sins through His death and resurrection. Jesus confronts the world lost in sin, while also comforting that same world with his offer of forgiveness and everlasting life.  Fellow travelers, you have the privilege to be ambassadors of reconciliation.  How can this not enliven your heart and give you a reason for celebration?  You have been set apart for a holy purpose and sent on a vital life-saving mission.

The alternative to embracing Joy.

“Christian joy is like that singing, yellow bird. One of the first effects of sin or doctrinal error is that we lose our joy in Christ. When your heart stops singing, that is a warning to watch your life and doctrine closely.”- Jim Johnstone

“…the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap, and being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

Our other choice in life is to go around miserable and to complain about what a horrible lot life has afflicted upon us.  The danger of doing ministry without allowing your joy to shine brightly is the witness it gives to a believing and unbelieving world.  Who wants to journey with people who appear not to enjoy the ride?  The love we have for God should overflow to people around us in our preaching, teaching, and service. That overflow is a joy.

The psalmist describes it this way, “Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.” Psalm 43:4. It is possible to lead with a quiet, reverent sense of awe at the wonders of God while also having a heart filled with exceeding joy over the love and grace of our Lord and Savior.  Ministry is not about us, it is always about Jesus.  Since ministry is about Jesus, understand the awesomeness of God while rejoicing in the joy of our salvation.

The Journey of Faith

The Danger of Hearing Half of the Salvation Story

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If you are like me you have heard the popular song but never stopped to ponder the lyrics of the song.  You get caught up in the haunting melody and soulful voice of the artist and don’t take the time to dissect the meaning of the words. The song I am referring to is “Take Me to Church” by Irish recording artist Hozier. This song was nominated for Song of the Year at the 2015 Grammy Awards.

In a review of the song by Plugged in writer Adam Holz makes this analysis,

http://www.pluggedin.com/about-us/adam-holz

Perhaps no song and no music video in recent memory better encapsulate our global culture’s confused, paradoxical stance on sexuality: It’s nothing, and it’s everything. On one hand, Hozier suggests that something so natural, so innocent, so universal as sex shouldn’t be taken seriously at all. On the other, he insists that our sexuality is so key to our identity as human beings that it’s transcendent and worthy of being incorporated into the very act of worship.”

Here are some of the lyrics to give you a sense of what the song is about:

My lover’s got humor

She’s the giggle at a funeral

Knows everybody’s disapproval

I should’ve worshiped her sooner

If the Heavens ever did speak

She is the last true mouthpiece

Every Sunday’s getting more bleak

A fresh poison each week

‘We were born sick, ‘ you heard them say it

My church offers no absolutes

She tells me ‘worship in the bedroom’

The only heaven I’ll be sent to

Is when I’m alone with you

I was born sick, but I love it

Command me to be well

Amen. Amen. Amen

Chorus

Take me to church

I’ll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies

I’ll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife

Offer me that deathless death

Good God, let me give you my life.

The writer seems to have had experience with the Church of God and came away feeling the full weight of the law. What is the law? It refers to the compilation of decrees found in the first five books of the Bible.   The Apostle Paul who at one time also was an enemy of the Church of Christ writes this in a letter to the Church in Rome, in Chapter 5, “The Law stepped in to amplify the failure…” The artist Hozier appears to be dealing with this sense of failure. You hear in the song the pain of not being able to live up to God’s standard of holiness and perfection.  So, what happens when our sinful life meets God’s perfection?  We feel the full weight of God’s wrath and judgment.  At that point, we have a choice, change the direction of our lives and turn to God through the power and work of the Holy Spirit in our life or dismiss the Church and God as being intolerant and lacking authenticity.

We can run away from God’s presence and go deeper into our current sinful lifestyle. By choosing that path we have to avoid all things God, all things holy, because to come into contact with the Divine only brings back those feelings of condemnation, guilt, and resentment.  That sense of conviction is the Law of God doing its work. God’s perfection is supposed to confront our sins.  And when purity meets sin it accuses us; it brings us to our knees until we acknowledge we are on the wrong path and we need something to save us, someone else to rescue us.

But, that is only half of God’s story.  Our proclamation of truth cannot leave people here.  If we stop here, we expose the wounds caused by the law of God but have done nothing to bind up the broken hearted.  We don’t offer a pathway to set the captives free. We are called to do more than to give people half the story.  The message of the Church is not designed only to accuse, only convict,  the gospel needs to point the hurting soul and people broken by their decisions in life to the answers the offer restoration and healing.  Faith directs individuals who feel hopelessness and condemnation by the guilt of their past to the love and grace of a loving Savior.   Paul finishes the story, “, …but where sin increased, grace multiplied even more.”  Grace rules through God’s righteousness imparted to us through Jesus death and resurrection.  Faith in this sacrifice leads the believer to eternal life.   Sin once ruled but through faith in Christ death has been swallowed by life.

Just as much as the law brings people to their knees to repent the gospel which is the Jesus’ work of saving the world through His death and rising to life again, leads them to their knees in praise.  Because just as the Law points out how deeply God hates the sin, the Gospel shows the depth of God’s love for us through the offering of his one and unique Son, Jesus Christ.  The more intense the depravity of our sin the more comprehensive God’s forgiveness in Christ.

You can the find the full review of the song “Take Me To Church here:

http://www.pluggedin.com/music-reviews/track/hozier-take-me-to-church/

 

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The Journey of Faith, Videos That Will Make you Think

A Muslim Woman Challenges Jesus to Prove Himself

From GodTV

Muslim Lady Challenges Jesus to Prove Himself
According to the Shi’a Muslim theocracy that rules Iran, anyone who abandons Islam is an apostate, and apostasy is punishable by death. Unwavering from this declaration, the government itself severely persecutes Christians. Because of the widespread persecution, Iran has moved up to number nine on the 2016 watch list of countries that persecute Christians.
Padina’s Story
It was in this hostile environment that Padina, a young Iranian woman, grew up. From an early age, Padina recited prayers, memorized the Quran before school, and learned to hate Christians. In fact, she was bolstered by the promise that killing a Christian guarantees a one-way ticket to Heaven.
Padina was a model Muslim; she followed all the rules, even cleansing and re-cleansing herself during prayers to ensure purity. But these rituals left her feeling hopeless and depressed.
In a recent interview with The Endless Love of Jesus Ministries, Padina revealed that after doctors diagnosed her mother with MS, she found herself trapped in a pit of despair. She told her mother that she planned to kill herself. Her mother pleaded with Padina to kill her as well. Padina hatched a desperate plan to kill both of them, and was bound and determined to complete it.
A Distant god
Though Padina had been completely devoted to Allah, Allah was nowhere to be found in her time of need. She felt “so distant from Allah.” Her mother’s sickness exposed the uncrossable abyss between herself and her god.
An Intimate God
One day, in the midst of her suicidal and homicidal plans, Padina stumbled across a Christian evangelical pastor on T.V. He encouraged desperate Iranians just like her find hope in the promise that “the Lord has a hope and a future” for them.
Cynical and unbelieving, Padina became furious when she discovered her mother praying the prayer of salvation on the phone with this pastor. A heated argument ensued, and Padina’s mother begged her to speak to the Christian pastor. Padina responded, “Jesus can do nothing. Jesus is nothing. I will not blaspheme Muhammad.”
Eventually, Padina did pick up the phone, only to tell the pastor, “I’m going to kill myself and your Jesus can do nothing for me.”
The Challenge
Undeterred, the pastor calmly responded with logic; “Allah has done nothing for you. Give Jesus a chance. You can always kill yourself next week.”
Padina was swayed by this logic; mostly because she wanted to call during live programming the next week to tell the pastor and the Christian audience that Jesus had done nothing. She even planned to kill herself while on the phone on live TV–her final sacrificial act for Allah.
Hope Comes in the Morning
The next morning, Padina was awakened by a sound; her mother was walking perfectly down the hall, as though she no longer suffered from MS. Padina immediately took her to the hospital only to have lab tests and an MRI confirm her suspicion: her mother had been healed less than 24 hours since her conversion.
For his own well-being, the stunned Muslim doctor questioned Padina: “Which Imam did you pray to?”
Padina’s reply?
Padina shocked herself as the words spilled out of her mouth: “It wasn’t an Imam; it was Jesus.” According to Padina, “When I said those words, my heart changed.”
Her Confession of Faith
Instead of killing herself on live TV the next week, Padina spoke directly to Jesus with this powerful confession of faith: “You are the living God. you cleansed me and filled me. I’ll give up my life for you.” What strength, what conviction in these awe-inspiring words!
Christian Underground Churches in Iran
Today, despite rampant persecution in Iran, over one million evangelical Christians flock to underground in-house churches to worship God. Reminiscent of the early Christian churches, these thriving, secret churches are filled with passionate believers who would–and do–risk everything for their faith.
According to Catholic Online, Iran’s evangelical population is the fastest-growing in the world. Ironically, the cruelty and rigidity of Iran’s Islamic regime spurs Iranians to seek freedom and complete surrender in Christianity–despite the risk of being punished as an apostate.

Today Padina and her (healthy!) mother are apostates, ministering to Iran’s underground church.
The Power of a Personal Savior
As you digest this powerful message, reflect on the truth that Padina’s transformation was only possible because of Jesus–her personal Savior. Christianity is the only world religion in which we, as broken sinners, can have an intimate relationship with our God–because a Savior has atoned for our sins.
Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection restored our relationship with God to what it was before Original Sin when Adam and Eve lived in communion with the Lord. We see the intimacy of this relationship in Genesis 2:7 when the Creator of the Universe “breathed into [man’s] nostrils the breath of life.”

What a blessing that through Jesus’s sacrifice, we can have a personal relationship with God–a mighty God who cares for us and can heal the sick. Padina and her mother craved God’s love, and through Jesus, they found it!

 

The Journey of Faith

Learning to Stroll Through Life

 

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A woman climbed on the bathroom scale after two weeks of butterless toast and chilly jogs around the park only to find the needle stuck on the same number. That is typical of how things had been going for her lately. She felt destined never to be happy. So what is your happiness quotation? Are you happy and content with your place in life? Can you honestly say that your life is fulfilling?

If happiness seems to elude us have, we diagnosed the reason why? In this post, I want to explore what factors affect our ability just to stroll through life. To elaborate at the heart of this carefree attitude is our understanding of happiness. Moreover, what factors are necessary for us to be happy? Are those factors bundled up in a long list of achievements or life’s ambition? Just for a moment dream with me. What were the goals you set out to do as a youth? Perhaps those goals, you laid out for yourself, look something like the list below:

Have enough money saved so I can retire and my wife? Take that trip we have been planning for years, once that the last child moves out that is.
Achieve that job promotion you have been working so many extra hours.
Earn the respect of your family and friends. After all the bets in high school were you would never amount to much.
We live lives searching for those things that will never give us the ability to have those slow walks on the beach. To life a carefree life and little concern. Unfortunately, the void is still there, the fulfillment we seek is never achieved. We search our whole lives for things that in the end just leaves an emptiness in our lives. The sad thing is we have invested our whole life running after things that never do what we thought they would. The money, the house, the cars, the career in the end just left us unable to take that carefree stroll. So why is that, what did we miss?

God has given us a sense of the eternal.

Our life could achieve so much more than the material things we made a priority. It should have an eternal purpose.

The wisdom of King Solomon gives us this insight.

What good comes to anyone who works so hard, all to gain a few possessions? I have seen the kinds of tasks God has given each of us to do to keep one busy, and I know God has made everything beautiful for its time. God has also placed in our minds a sense of eternity; we look back on the past and ponder over the future, yet we cannot understand the doings of God. Ecc 3:9-11

What gives us true contentment is an understanding that our life is eternal.   It is much richer than the things we accumulate, collect and do.  When we focus our hearts and minds to the purpose, God created us for we can stroll through life content, joyful and fulfilled.   We are living our life for His purpose not our own. So stroll in presence.

 

 

Stroll

The Journey of Faith

How To Live A Life That Matters?

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For those who know me now, this statement may shock you. I was a nerd growing up.

I was not one of the cool kids.

I didn’t fit in with the jocks.

Life is hard when you don’t fit in, when your individuality stands out, it means you attract criticism and people tend to make fun of you.  It was hard for me to hear the news that my musical icon died, Prince Rodgers Nelson. His purple highness made it cool to be different.  His music and lack of concern for what others thought about him inspired me.  He gave me the courage to chart my path, and search for and live a life of significance.  It is a basic need we all have.  How do I find meaning in my life?  When this life is over and someone who barely knew the real you is trying to summarize your life in 12 minutes those left to mourn you will ask the question, did his or her life make a difference?  Today, to honor a musical legend, Prince, I give you three simple things to consider that will give your life meaning.

People need transcendence.

If the summation of our lives is comprised only of the things we have accumulated, achieved, or accomplished, we are to be pitied above all creatures.  Once we are gone, those things are either divided among those who cared about us or given away to charity.  At some point in our lives, hopefully, before it is too late, we realize a need to know Jesus Christ in an intimate way.  Here is how the Apostle Paul describes that “I consider everything a loss in comparison with the superior value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have lost everything for him, but what I lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found in him. In Christ, I have a righteousness that is not my own, and that does not come from the Law but rather from the faithfulness of Christ. It is the righteousness of God that is based on faith.” Philippians 3

People are seeking significance.

Years ago “The Purpose-Driven Life” the best-selling hardcover book in the world (besides the Bible) with over 32,000,000 copies sold appealed to the fact that everyone wants a purpose in life.  One reviewer, Tim Callies, made this analysis of the book: “The Purpose Driven Life is premised on the teaching that only Christians can live with purpose. It follows, then, that unbelievers have no real meaning to their lives.”

For an excellent and more in-depth review, find the link here:

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/book-review-rick-warrens-the-purpose-driven-life

We all have a need for purpose – a reason to get out of bed in the morning. People desire more than just being a cog in the machine, a brick in the wall, or more than a number. The question people often ask “What are you going to be when you grow up?”  Then add, “ …and I hope you grow up soon.” From the wisdom of Solomon, Proverbs 16:4 says “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.” You are created for a purpose; your life was significance.

People need community.

We are never meant to live life alone.  In the garden of Eden, God created a helpmate for Adam. We need to connect with other people through meaningful relationships. “Christ distributes courage through the community; he dissipates doubts through fellowship. He never deposits all knowledge in one person but distributes pieces of the jigsaw puzzle to many. When you interlock your understanding with mine, and we share our discoveries, when we mix, mingle, confess and pray, Christ speaks.” Max Lucado.

These three factors will help us live a life that matters and leave a lasting legacy that gives glory to God the one who created that life that matters.

The Journey of Faith

Ease Their Pain

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28 Yet give attention to your servant’s prayer and his plea for mercy, O LORD my God. Hear the cry and the prayer that your servant is praying in your presence this day. 1 Kings 8:28

There was a line in the movie Field of Dreams; “They will come. They won’t even know why they are coming, but they will come, by the millions.” The stranger, the foreigner, the broken hearted, the oppressed, and the lost are searching for something. They used to come to church seeking it. They did not always know why they were coming. Not sure what they even hoped to find. Many were seeking a clear conscience and the proclamation of forgiveness; forgiveness for the bad decisions they made on their earthly journey. The broken relationships, the broken promises, the effects, and consequences of their sins. They are seeking someone to, as the movie points out, “ease their pain.” They are seeking something only God can give, forgiveness of their sins and a conscience free from blame, free from guilt, free from pain. They come seeking unconditional love and acceptance and they find that in our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Paul reminds us of his unconditional love for all, “Yet while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

People are turning to God in their spiritual need. A clear conscience is hard to find these days. There is more than enough guilt to go around. While many groups claim to have answers: doctors, politicians and the like, their so-called solutions never work the pain remains. We have to put aside these social theories of causation for societal breakdown, and consider the load of sin and guilt which human hearts carry! Eventually, guilt has its way with people. Alienation from others, and self, and eventually from God.

The conscience speaks and the word of judgment against sin are heard. Even those far from God know that something is wrong!

As Paul writes in Romans, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.”

People will come because the same law that torments our conscience when we sin, also torments the non-believer. The difference is we know about Christ’s forgiveness and they don’t. Our consciences are clear through the bread and the wine, the body and blood of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. For the non-believer, the promise of forgiveness of their sins continues to torment them day and night. So they will come to find relief, the relief that comes only through God’s forgiveness connected to Christ’s death and resurrection.

So what is special about God’s forgiveness?

First, of all it has been won through the perfect sacrifice of Jesus for sin. It was verified by the empty tomb and the risen Lord. The beauty of the life of Christ is that he had a specific purpose to be the one that carried God’s forgiveness to a sin-soaked world. Human forgiveness may restore relationships. But only God’s forgiveness restores life!

Secondly, God offers this forgiveness to a guilt-ridden world. This is the Gospel proclaimed in our churches and received with thanksgiving. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.” (1 Cor. 5:19)
Who is this forgiveness for? Jews only? Members of the church only? Outwardly righteous and pious people only? So many people think so. The Gospel is for anyone hurting from sin and calling on God through the power of the Holy Spirit. God heals the alienation, he binds up the broken hearted, he eases the pain, and through Jesus Christ no one turning to Him is denied. As the Scripture says, “He is a light to the Gentiles, and for the glory to your people Israel”, we, like Solomon, pray, “O Lord, forgive.” And you know the neat thing is for Jesus’ sake, God does just that. Amen

Congregational Life and Ministry, The Journey of Faith

Remembering A Strong-willed Woman

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My mother, Elma Haney was a proud and very strong will woman. Strong-willed is a kind nice way of saying whatever was on her mind, she would share with you. Now if you asked for that option that was your own fault. There were plenty of times she would give you the advice you did not solicit. On a side note for those who know me, that is where I get it from. I would love to say that is something I am working on but that would be untrue. Therefore, I will own that flaw and blame it on my mother.

As the day arrives each year that we have set aside to remember and give thanks to the unique way God used the spirit and heart of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr I thought now is a fitting time to share some unsolicited thoughts, a few of the lessons my mother shared with me.

Now keep the opening description in mind, she was a strong-willed woman. Unfortunately, she grew up at a time in our society where being a strong-willed at that time colored woman, was not a trait that was encouraged by society in the deep south where she grew up. As a matter of fact, her outspoken nature could have gotten her in really deep trouble. We would often ask her, “How in the world did you survive in that context?” I just figured she like Mary kept those thoughts close to her heart. Unlike Mary when she got the chance never stop letting those bottled up thoughts out on any and everyone who would listen.

As I reflect back on her life and witness, though, I understand with greater clarity why the things she valued in life were so much a part of her character. 1) She valued that fact that as a known African American woman she accomplished a lot of firsts. The first president of the Telephone Company’s employee union, first African American Trustee of Trinity Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge just to name a few. It was her way of letting the world know that you may limit what you think I can do, but God does not. She would often say nothing is too big for God. 2) She demanded high achievements from her children and grandchildren. I never appreciated why until later in life. However, she knew how hard her road had been and did not want us to let any opportunity get away instead she would encourage us to take advantage of what God placed before us. Her motto was never settled for what was given to us, but strive to be the very best. And 3) She celebrated every accomplishment. Whether is was me making the Marching Band at Southern Lab, home of the Mighty Kittens (yea I know not the toughest mascot name) or finishing third in a reading contest. We celebrated every accomplishment and every achievement. And when her grandkids started college, got their first job, finished confirmation or just got a base hit in a little league baseball game, grandma was on the phone with a big way to go.  She knew what Dr. King and others had worked so hard to achieve through the working of the Holy Spirit moving in the course of human history. God used this southern preacher to secure her freedom to be strong-will and opinionated. That now is passed down to her kids and grandkids so watch out the world.

Thank you, mom, for instilling your spirit, your heart for hurting people and your desire to cheer us to achieve great things. Your spirit lives on in us. To God be the Glory!

Bittersweet Memories