Patience Please!

Patience

Patience is more than endurance. A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, and He stretches and strains, and every now and again the saint says — “I cannot stand any more.” God does not heed, He goes on stretching till His purpose is in sight, then He lets fly. Trust yourself in God’s hands. For what have you need of patience just now? Maintain your relationship to Jesus Christ by the patience of faith.    

—Oswald Chambers (My Utmost for His Highest, May 8th)

Patience is a virtue that I’m sorely lacking in lately.  For nearly three months I’ve been recovering from total knee replacement surgery, a highly invasive procedure.  Given that I was in pretty good physical condition going into the surgery, I imagined that three months down the road I would be nearly recovered.  Wrong!  I’m still dealing with swelling, stiffness, and muscle spasms around my knee.  I attend three torturous physical therapy sessions per week, where my therapist stretches and strains my knee until I can’t stand any more. Then she does it again…and again, sometimes bringing tears to my eyes. Learning patience can be a bitter pill to swallow.

The Oswald Chamber passage quoted at the head of this entry got me thinking about patience.  I recognize that I have a problem with patience.  So, as I so often try to do, I turn to the pages of the Bible for guidance.  The scriptures have a multitude of great examples of patience.  I can’t mention them all, but here are a few I find inspiring.

In Genesis chapter 17, God promised Abram (Abraham) he would be the “Father of many nations.”  In Abraham’s era, the inability to have children was considered a punishment from God.  Abraham and Sarah’s first child Isaac was born after Sarah was at least 90 years old and Abraham was 100.  Nevertheless, Abraham believed God’s promise.

Jacob served Rachel’s father Laban for 14 years in order to be allowed to take Rachel as his wife!

Moses led the Children of Israel from captivity as slaves in Egypt.  He subsequently wandered 40 years in the desert wilderness with his disobedient people and was finally told by God that he would not be allowed to enter the Promised Land.  All the same, he remained faithful to God.

King David wanted to honor God by building a temple to house the Arc of the Covenant.  However, in 1 Chronicles chapter 17 the prophet Nathan reveals to David that God has ordained that David’s son Solomon will build the temple.  Despite having the means to proceed by himself, David accepts Nathan’s revelation and refrains from building it.

Acts chapter 16 describes Paul and Silas being in prison for preaching the Gospel in the Greek city of Philippi. What are they doing at midnight?  They’re not rattling their chains; they’re praying and singing hymns to God.  Now that’s patience!  Paul and Silas were following the advice of Psalm 27:14, that says, “Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” Of course their patience paid off. An earthquake shook the prison and loosed their chains.  On that amazing night, Paul and Silas ended up preaching the Gospel to their jailer and his whole family, who, we are told, were all saved.

Despite being fine examples, these remarkable acts of patience all pale in comparison to God’s great patience with you and me, and we can thank Him for it. 2 Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Thanks be to God who is patient with me and you as we plod along towards our final destinations. As Philippians 2:17 says, God has given me a chance to work out my own salvation “with fear and trembling.” To this I would add, “…even when I deserve his punishment.”   What a patient and loving Father we have.  May we all strive to follow his example!

 

Enduring Truths for Recent Grads

Divine Simplicity

Graduate [2]A couple of years ago I wrote an article  for my newspaper column with some advice for recent grads.  It has become one of the most popular pieces I ever wrote. I received dozens of emails thanking me for writing it.    Therefore, I decided to  republish it annually around graduation time.  I hope some of you might find it useful.  You can view the original article in The Tribune-Democrat news at this link:  http://goo.gl/LtN72

For those who are graduating high school this year and beginning the long transition into adulthood, I’d like to offer you a gift. Here are five enduring truths I’ve learned. They will help you through life’s journey.

Choices

“If you decide to just go with the flow, you’ll end up where the flow goes, which is usually downhill, often leading to a big pile of sludge and a life of unhappiness. You’ll end up doing what everyone else is doing.” ―…

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Easter 2017: He is risen!

Jesus at tomb with Mary Magdalene

Jesus at the tomb with Mary Magdalene

Matthew 28 (ESV) – He Is Risen

28 Now after the Sabbath, as the first day of the week began to dawn, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary came to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat on it. His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow. And the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.

But the angel answered and said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for He is risen, as He said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. And go quickly and tell His disciples that He is risen from the dead, and indeed He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him. Behold, I have told you.”

So they went out quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to bring His disciples word.

The Women Worship the Risen Lord

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him. 10

My Lenten Journey

Labyrinth

I thank God for my Lenten journey this year.  I’ve learned so much already. It began with a total knee replacement surgery on February 28, which was Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove Tuesday is the first Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.  It officially ends the season of Epiphany and is the vigil for the beginning of Lent. 

The surgery went well, but there were complications that nearly landed me in the intensive care unit.  Consequently, I suffered three days of migraines and severe nausea, which left me exhausted and unable to eat. My anticipated three-day hospital stay for surgery ended up being six days instead.

Among the lessons and reminders of my journey, it was comforting to see so many caring people on the hospital staff. It reassured me that there are still many good and loving people in our society, despite all the violence and hatred we see every evening on the news. 

It has given me insight into the pain and suffering so many handicapped and elderly people endure every day. I have to use a walker and my physical therapy has, at times, been torturous.

I’ve been so happy and encouraged to see how concerned and eager to assist our eldest grandson (age 9) is. It’s a sure sign that the hard work of his parents is paying of.

It has reminded me how blessed I am to have a loving wife and a marriage that has endured 40 years.  Marriage is a lot of work, but the rewards of persevering are tremendous. 

It has helped me begin some very healthy lifestyle changes. I’m an active person who enjoys exercise. At present, I won’t be able to do any serious exercising for several more weeks. I’ve had to closely watch what I eat and drink while incapacitated–something I should have been doing all along.

But most of all, it’s reminded me that, no matter how much I try,  I can’t handle everything by myself. How comforting it is to have a loving God to help me with every aspect of my life.  We’re only 12 days into the 40 days of Lent and I pray the lessons will keep coming as I recover at home and dig deeper into the scriptures.

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless his holy name.
Bless the
Lord, O my soul,
and do not forget all his benefits

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the Pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,
who satisfies you with good as long as you live
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:1-5

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
give heed to my sighing.
Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
O
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch. Psalm 5:1-3

How sweet are your words to my taste,
   sweeter than honey to my mouth!
Through your precepts I get understanding;
   therefore I hate every false way.
Your word is a lamp to my feet
   and a light to my path. Psalm 119:103–105

Take a Lenten Journey

lenten-journey-2

Tomorrow, Ash Wednesday, marks the beginning of the season of Lent.  For many Christians, Lent is little more than a period of 40 days on the church calendar.  But for others, it is a solemn time of preparation and reflection looking forward to Easter, the most holy day of the Christian faith on which we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and his victory over death and sin.

If you’re a Christian for whom Lent has no special significance, I challenge you to take a Lenten journey beginning tomorrow. The journey doesn’t have to be anything extravagant—I’m not suggesting that you give up coffee or chocolate for 40 days (although that might not be a bad idea).   I recommend simply beginning each day during Lent by spending a half hour reading scripture, praying and reflecting (something I hope you’re already doing) on Christ’s final journey to the cross.  You might begin by reading a brief Lenten Primer, which was written a few years ago. It’s located at this link:  http://visitor.stcdio.org/primer-season/

After reading the Primer, I suggest using a Lenten devotional to guide you on your journey.  The devotional will provide a reading for each day of Lent. There are many good ones available online at no cost.  If you have trouble choosing one, here are a couple of suggestions. The Bible Gateway website is offering a Lenten devotional focusing on the writing of renowned German Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Because Bonhoeffer resisted the Nazi regime, he was incarcerated in a concentration camp.  He was executed near the end of World War II.  You can sign up at this link to have each daily devotion emailed to you:

https://www.biblegateway.com/landing/easter/?utm_source=bg&utm_medium=alert&utm_campaign=easter

The Lutheran Hour Ministries is also offering a Lenten devotional.  You can find it online at this link beginning March 1https://www.lhm.org/lent/dailydevotions.asp

Starting this year, let Lent become a special church season for you!

Almighty and Everlasting God,
You have given the human race
Jesus Christ our Savior as a model of humility.
He fulfilled Your Will by becoming Man
and giving His life on the Cross.
Help us to bear witness to You
By following His example of suffering
and make us worthy to share in His Resurrection.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son.
Amen.

A New Beginning

new-years-resolution

The New Year has arrived and for many it’s a time for making resolutions and new beginnings—trying to set aside bad habits and/or adopt new, beneficial routines. Unfortunately, for most people it’s nearly impossible to succeed in such endeavors. 

A Forbes Magazine article published in January 2013 reported on a study conducted at the University of Scranton. It indicated that only about 8 percent of people who make New Year’s resolutions achieve their goals. Looking at this a different way, 92 percent fail!

Despite the slim chance of succeeding, many will continue to make New Year’s resolutions year after year.  I confess that I’m guilty.  Last year I made a resolution to lose 10 pounds—I now have only have 15 pounds to go (sigh).

The Bible is full of promises and stories about new beginnings. (all citations ESV)

  • Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
  • Ezekiel 36:26 – “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.”
  • John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
  • 2 Corinthians 5:17 – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
  • Ephesians 4:22-24 – “…the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
  • 1 Peter 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
  • Revelation 21:5 – “And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true’.”

Fortunately for us all, God makes new beginnings and he never fails if we will simply let him do His work.  His greatest new beginning was foretold in the Old Testament, described in the Gospels, and recounted in the Epistles. It was God’s gift of His son Jesus to save us from our sins.

Christ’s salvation of mankind was completed over 2,000 years ago through Jesus’ crucifixion. His resurrection from the dead on the third day is evidence of Jesus’ victory over Sin and Death.

Jesus died to cleanse all mankind from their sins.  For those who don’t already know him, that salvation is like a beautifully wrapped present sitting beneath a Christmas tree.  The present has no owner until someone opens it, takes what is inside, and makes it their own.

St. Paul describes how to do this in his epistle to the Romans. There is no long list of do’s and don’ts.  God’s plan of salvation is beautiful in its simplicity, requiring only confession and sincere belief.

“…because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”  Romans 10:9-10

Martin Luther wrote about what it means to be “justified” before god, saying that justification is a “… righteousness that God gives freely by His grace to people who don’t have righteousness of their own.”  Even though those who have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation will continue to sin, because of Christ’s sacrifice they remain righteous in the eyes of God.

It is my hope that you have already received this free gift.  If not, however, please consider making it your own today!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace there
will be no end, on the throne of David and over his
kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice
and with righteousness from this time forth and  
forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

                                                                                            Isaiah 9:6-7

A Message of Hope – Christmas Eve 2016

christmas-2017

“Oh come let us adore him!”

“My dear friends, on this Christmas . . . let us seek, in the Babe of Bethlehem, the One who came to us in order to bear with us everything that weighs heavily upon us. . . . God Himself has built a bridge from Himself to us! A dawn from on high has visited us!”

Rev. Martin Niemoller
Dachau Concentration Camp, Germany
Christmas Eve, 1944

Isaiah 9:1-7    For to Us a Child Is Born

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

2 The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
You have multiplied the nation;
    you have increased its joy;
they rejoice before you
    as with joy at the harvest,
    as they are glad when they divide the spoil.
For the yoke of his burden,
    and the staff for his shoulder,
    the rod of his oppressor,
    you have broken as on the day of Midian.
For every boot of the tramping warrior in battle tumult
    and every garment rolled in blood
    will be burned as fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[d] his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called[e]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Click for a Christmas message from the Archbishop of the Anglican Church in North America:      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSs4Nk1RlOw&feature=youtu.be