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The Hammer or the Hatchet – A Sermon on Romans 8:28-39

pexels-photo-4205987The Hammer or the Hatchet
Romans 8:28-39

Jesus, Son, Savior

May the mercy and love of God, our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ empower you to reach out to others, knowing it will work for good, and it can’t separate you from God.

 

The Wrong Tool…sort of?

Yesterday a picture from the past brought up a lesson I learned the hard way.  My dad had taught me the lesson growing up, but let’s just say I did not listen as well as I should have.

A simple lesson, “make sure you have the right tools to do the job.”

Every year when I went camping, I forgot one tool, the hammer to pound the ground stakes of our camper into the hard ground. And every year, it would take a while for me to do it with a hatchet. It would eventually get done, but the hatchet is made to chop, not pound. This is the business end of a hatchet, not that end.

I had the wrong tool, the job still got done, but…

As I endured this week, I started wondering more and more about whether I use the reading from Romans 8 the right way…

You see, the passage does the job for two tasks, but I think, it was made to be used as a hatchet, Romans 8:28-39 should free the church to minister to this broken world. Even as it offers comfort, it should be empowering us to provide warmth and light to this broken world.

As a Hammer

So if you notice, this hatchet has this end, so you can use it as a hammer. It is kinda dangerous to use it this way, especially for a klutz like me. Or anyone standing in the immediate area!  Hammers are used for securing something in place; to stop it from falling again.

I usually use verse 28 to bring comfort to people who are broken, who are struggling with sin and personal failure. Hey, let God pick you up. God will work this out – He has promised to do so – right here…

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.

Similarly, I have used verse 38 to bring comfort to those who are struggling, to those who wonder if what has happened means God isn’t with them.

I assure them, nothing can separate you from God. You are His, and the Lord is with you!
This is all true, and it works, but like using the wrong side of the hatchet, there is a danger here. A danger that we just hear those messages find comfort in them, and do nothing else.

Yes, God will work this out, and yes, I am safe with Him.  Therefore, it is time to go sit by the pool and have a beer! Or go binge-watch another 2 seasons of a favorite show!

If all we get out of these passages is that, I did not preach the passage correctly. I just picked you up and nailed you in place.

As a Hatchet

A camping hatchet has another job. You use it to cut up kindling and split small pieces of wood to use to build a fire. Something that you can sit down next to, invite some neighbors from other campsites nearby and talk and have a good time. The hatchet is a tool to build a place of community, a place that is inviting and encouraging.

So too, does this passage serve a different purpose than just comforting broken people. It frees them from the brokenness to serve others. It treats us like the kindling, bringing us together to warm and show Christ’s light to the world!

Bob, you screwed up and dropped a few words you should not have. Go apologize, and see how God will use it.

Tom, you have no idea how God will work through you – things are too crazy and unknown! Don’t worry, go do it and rejoice. Even if you screw up, you can not mess it up so bad that God will toss you away. Nothing in all creation can cause that!

The gospel in this passage goes beyond comfort, it should empower you to serve alongside Jesus in mission even more than ever. Hear again part of the passage that lies in the middle, that gets overlooked,

Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. 38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.

It is the church, being the church, loving, encouraging, comforting, and drawing people into a relationship with God – even to the point of martyrdom, that is the context for these words about God.

God still loves us. Even when we screw up. Even when we have to lay down our lives. Or lay down our pride, which may be harder!

This chapter is full of that message

You’ve sinned, it’s covered. There is no condemnation in Christ, get up, and get ready to serve.

You are so broken you don’t know how to pray, don’t worry, the Holy Spirit interprets the pain in your heart

You’ve screwed it up? God will make it work out

Your oppressed, beaten, at the end of your wits, and losing your mind? Keep going, nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.

Get the message, the Lord is with you, working in your life, and He’s not leaving you.

Even in you face death, or covid19,

Yesterday in devotions, we look at a passage from Jude. It told us what we can do, even amid hardship, even as the world falls apart. It is this,

21  And keep in step with God’s love, as you wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to show how kind he is by giving you eternal life. 22  Be helpful to all who may have doubts. 23  Rescue any who need to be saved, as you would rescue someone from a fire. Then with fear in your own hearts, have mercy on everyone who needs it. Jude 1:20-23 (CEV)

My friends, let God pick you up, and believe He will use all your lives to make a difference.  Know that all you encounter will result in good. Serve with Jesus, knowing that nothing, not even the hardest times you can encounter, not even the most oppressive times Satan can throw at you, can separate you from God’s love.

This victory is yours because Jesus won it at the cross. So let’s pray.

Making Sense of It All

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the day:

9 In fact, we felt sure that we were going to die. But this made us stop trusting in ourselves and start trusting God, who raises the dead to life. 2 Corinthians 1:9 (CEV)

Each Commandment makes sense only when you see it in the light of love. Take the first, for example: “You shall have no other gods before me.” Why? Because God is an egotist? No, because God is a lover. What lover wants half the heart of his beloved? Also God is a realist. He knows that false gods simply cannot make us happy, however many times we are deceived into believing and acting as if they could. Love, of course, seeks the beloved’s happiness. It is God’s love of us, not self-love, that is behind His jealousy.

I have had a number of people ask me how I, as a pastor, cope with all that is going on in these days. I have pause for a moment because what I know is going on in people’s lives, I can’t always share. Matter of fact, that is too often the story.

I have my challenges, but they are nothing compared to those that people are experiencing. In the midst of that experience, I am trying to help them experience something else. What I want is for them to experience the love of God, which I know I can’t explain clearly enough.  There are no words for it, but that love sustains us through the most broken parts of our lives.

So perhaps it is good for people to ask me how I am coping. By being honest with the fact that I could not cope without God holding me up, perhaps they can know His comfort as well. Perhaps they can see, in the midst of my struggles, that God doesn’t give up on us, that He will comfort us,

This works into Kreeft’s observation about God’s jealousy, about the idea that He isn’t jealous for His sake, but for ours. God wants what is best for us, and being smarter than us (what an understatement) He longs for what is best for us. As Kreeft indicates, it is love, and a desire for our joy, that drives the jealousy of God

That is why Jesus hung on a cross for us.  It is why he spent years teaching and mentoring people like John and James, “the sons of Thunder”. It is why Jesus is not only merciful to sinners but is patient with us as well. And it is why He sens and equips apostles and pastors and missionaries and teachers to train us to serve others. As they train us like Paul did, training us by example.

Even when that example was tiring, frustrating, painful, and heart-rending. Because you, child of the King, need to know He is there for you in those times. If God was with Paul, and with me, certainly He will be there for you, for He loves you.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 45.

 

 

Why Do We See Scripture Reading as a Duty, Not a Blessing?

photoDevotional Thought of the Day:
2  You’re blessed when you follow his directions, doing your best to find him. 3  That’s right—you don’t go off on your own; you walk straight along the road he set.
Psalm 119:2-3 (MSG)

Let us use texts of Scripture as fuel for our heart’s fire, they are live coals; let us attend sermons, but above all, let us be much alone with Jesus.

When I made you a present of that Life of Jesus, I wrote in it this inscription: “May you seek Christ. May you find Christ. May you love Christ.” These are three very distinct steps. Have you at least tried to live the first one?

I have often struggled to find the words to encourage people (and pastors) to meditate on Scripture.

To treat it more than a textbook, or a self-improvement novel, or something they have to do, in order to be better believers, to be loved by God.

I would love to blame it on the enlightenment, or modernism and the need to rationalize and have a purpose for everything we do. But we, conservative or progressive, high church or low church, all seem to be willing to forgo spiritual disciplines like prayer and meditation on the words through which God reveals Himself to us.

It is too easy when trying to encourage people to spend time contemplating God and His love, to resort to tactics which can produce guilt or shame. It is challenging to help someone see the blessing of spending time, no, cherishing the time that comes when we slow down and hear the word of God, describing how we are loved by the Word of God.

Notice that the translation doesn’t say go and find your blessing? It simply acknowledges you are, when you follow the directions to find Him and do. He’s not that far off, even today amid a pandemic.  Spurgeon says we need to be alone with Jesus, he gets the blessing that it is!  St. Josemaria urges us to find Jesus, with the same concept. Not because we have a duty too, but because of the blessing.

This is our time of refuge, our time of peace, it is the time where we are loved and affirmed, and our hearts set on fire, our passion for God grows because we realize how passionate He is about us. It is the time of restoration, a time where we spend intimately with God, a time we need to survive, to take a time out, to breathe, to regain hope, to be healed, to realize that God is even dealing with our sin.

All that and more happens when a believer finds Jesus, right were they are. When they spend time savoring the message of Scripture when they don’t just read it to read it, but let it soak deep inside them.

I can only but urge you to do so, to spend time with God as He reveals Himself to you… and how He is you God, and you are His beloved people.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Escriva, Josemaria. The Way . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Really God? You Have to Remind Me of this today?

dscf1215-copy-copyDevotional Thought of the Day:

It’s better to go to a funeral than to attend a feast; funerals remind us that we all must die.  Ecc. 7:2 CEV

Blessed is he who keeps the moment of death ever before his eyes and prepares for it every day.

I guess God likes a sense of irony.

Tomorrow I go under the knife.

Just cataract surgery, but still, it is surgery.

Read through the Bible in a year, and the reading I come to the day before surgery deals with death!  So did the book report I had to deal ith last night, chapter after chapter of dying to self that as awesome, but also passages that told us to desire death

Not what I want to think about, at least that is my first reaction.

But why not?

We need to think about death for a number of reasons, that are practical, and spiritual.

1.  So we learn to value the life we have.
To often we take life for granted, we don’t think about making the most of it, we just let it slide by. Especially in these days of isolation. We can see God at work in every day of our lives, working in relationships good and bad

2.  So we leave things somewhat in order, as a blessing to others.
It can be things as simple as your favorite songs for your funeral.  Or where money is stashed and other issues of that note.  (Of course, now I have to think of all this stuff) Wills, testaments, advanced directives, all that messy stuff.  But it is even messier if you don’t do it.

3.  Not taking even for granted, or the gifts that assure us of our eternity.
Living life fearing deaeth is no fun… I spent nearly half my life living in fear of dying. THat’s what happens when you have Marfans and you think about it. Working as a hospice chaplain, and seeing many people pass away has led to the point where I am not as afraid of dying.
But what I am talking about is being excited about seeing God face to face. NOt just the benefits of less back pain, and less trauma, and no more dang surgeries. But see God, who loves us so much, and being welcomed into His presence, and sharing in the glory and love of God, Father, son and Holy Spirit. That is more than exciting, that should leave us in awe,

Kempis’s thought is that we should think about heaven, so that we behave better in this life. Not quite fear driven, but somewhere between fear and reward driven behavior modification. That might work, but works better is to live life, thinking about the glory and love of God. Of letting the thought of that love, that care fill your life. That will change you far deeper than mere intellect. It will change your soul, and you will desire to see others find that place of rest, that place of pace.

So making me think of death… it’s not that bad.  Actually, it is a huge blessing.

Now, thinking of them slicing my eye open, to replace the lens… ugh!

Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, 1996), 46.

A Bad Way to Start a Day

white and black sunken ship

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought of the Day:

2 Nothing makes sense!
Everything is nonsense.
I have seen it all—
nothing makes sense!
3 What is there to show
for all of our hard work
here on this earth?
4 People come, and people go,
but still the world
never changes.
Ecc 1:2-4  (CEV_

12 But the Scriptures teach that if we piled together all the works of all the monks, no matter how precious and dazzling they might appear, they would not be as noble and good as if God were to pick up a straw

Heaven too is a gift and a glory, not a payment. All talk of merit and law and obedience—necessary as it is on earth—will disappear in Heaven, except perhaps as a joke.

There are days when one wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. Then there are days when one wakes up, finds out the bed is upstairs still, and that somehow they have woken up at the bottom of the stairs. (though the idea is figurative, the body aches make one wonder if it is reality!)

And the day proceeds to get worse.

Devotions do not always help, as you see clearly in the first two readings above.  One thinks, well we’ve escaped the tedious nature of Job, only to come across Solomon in a grand funk. His heart isn’t soaring; in fact, it seems like it is plunging into the abyss.  Luther doesn’t help as his cry indicates everything mankind does for God is about as meaningful as picking up a dried weed.

So how do we keep going? How do we handle the pervasive emptiness and meaninglessness of life that seems our destiny under COVID?  We can’t keep up with the changes, we struggle to make things work, workplaces are shutting down, or reducing hours of valuable employees…

This brings us to the third quote…

I think some of us, no matter how well we know scripture, still feel like we have to be valuable to the world to be valuable to God.  That our value, our success, our ability to please everyone in life directly affects whether we matter to God. That our view our perception of our value to our families and workplaces isn’t accurate is another story. We simply believe that our perceived value here is reflective of how God does not care.

Our minds, our theological knowledge, may agree and confess that we get to heaven by grace, but our hearts and souls are breaking at the same time – and they feel otherwise.

We are, in a way, right, our merit, our value is not enough to meet a standard to enter heaven.  That is if there was such a standard.

There is no such standard.

Heaven is a gift, given by One who values us and loves us more profoundly than we can perceive. It is a glorious thing this love, the desire of God to have us as HIs companions, as His beloved children.

That is where our value comes from, the fact we are loved, that we are treasured by God Almighty.  So treasured that God gave up His Son to show all creation what He knows of us. That we are worth saving.

Even when we get up on the wrong side of the bed….or at the foot of the stairs.

God is with you… when things seem the worse.. cry out to him. AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 438.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 34.

Another Day, Another Struggle, but that is why there is Hope.

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
2  Our LORD, how long must I beg for your help before you listen? How long before you save us from all this violence? 3  Why do you make me watch such terrible injustice? Why do you allow violence, lawlessness, crime, and cruelty to spread everywhere? 4  Laws cannot be enforced; justice is always the loser; criminals crowd out honest people and twist the laws around. 5  Look and be amazed at what’s happening among the nations! Even if you were told, you would never believe what’s taking place now. Habakkuk 1:2-5 (CEV)

We still stumble daily and transgress because we live in the world among people who sorely vex us and give us occasion for impatience, wrath, vengeance, etc.
87 Besides, Satan is at our backs, besieging us on every side and, as we have heard, directing his attacks against all the previous petitions, so that it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict.
88 Here again there is great need to call upon God and pray, “Dear Father, forgive us our debts.” Not that he does not forgive sin even without and before our prayer; and he gave us the Gospel, in which there is nothing but forgiveness, before we prayed or even thought of it. But the point here is for us to recognize and accept this forgiveness.

223      Along the way to personal sanctity we can at times get the impression that we are going backwards instead of forwards, that we are getting worse instead of better. As long as there is interior struggle this pessimistic thought is only an illusion, a deception to be rejected as false. Persevere and don’t worry. If you fight with tenacity you are making progress and are growing in sanctity.

I came across the Luther quote this morning, and it resonated with me.

We stumble and sin far too often. We want to use other people for the reason, but it is still our weakness that allows us to sin. Luther was right, it is not possible always to stand firm in such a ceaseless conflict. Every fall seems highlighted by Satan, emphasized to cause us to grow in despair, and even to doubt God’s presence and work in our lives.

My reaction to the passage from Habakkuk is that I don’t have ot look out into the world to see the brokenness he describes. He could be looking at me, prophetically. Maybe at you as well. I resonate deeply with the question of why do we have ot watch this all?  Why do we have to see the sin and brokenness in the world, and then realize it is just a reflection of our own lives?

I missed out on other things in those passages, and it took St Josemaria to see what I was missing.

It is the impression that I am going backward, not necessarily reality.  It is a deception of Satan, much as he did when he took Peter’s eyes off of Jesus while he was strolling on the waves. (I just realize the winds and waves weren’t the issue to be scared of – drowning was!)  St Josemaria urges us to keep struggling, don’t worry about the progress,  for the struggle is proof of it.

The struggle is proof of God at work in us.

God is still doing what He promised Habakkuk – He is at work, and if we look at Him and see it, we should collapse in awe. God is at work, and even the passage from Luther notes that –  we need to recognize and accept the forgiveness God already provided. He forgave us already! He took care of it!

I didn’t see that beforehand but reminded of His promise, I remember He is there. Perhaps that too is understandable, for God says, “Even if you were told, you would never believe what is taking place now…”  We just have to trust Him that He is at the world, and depend on His view, for He is at work in us.

Mercifully, lovingly, compassionately comforting and healing broken sinners like you and me.

Even before we cry out, “Lord have mercy on me, a poor sinner!” God has, and our healing is beginning and guaranteed to be completed!

AMEN!

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 432.E

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Want to Overcome Sin? Start with this…

20170124_103703Devotional Thought of the Day:
1 [By David.] With all my heart I praise the LORD, and with all that I am I praise his holy name! 2 With all my heart I praise the LORD! I will never forget how kind he has been. Psalm 103:1–2 (CEV)

We were told in the Second Commandment, “You shall not take God’s name in vain.” Thereby we are required to praise the holy name and pray or call upon it in every need. For to call upon it is nothing else than to pray.

It is just as true to say that every snowflake is a gift of God as it is true to say that every cent in a father’s inheritance is a gift to his children. It is just as true to say that every leaf on every tree is a work of art made by the divine Artist with the intention that we see it, know it, love it, and rejoice in it, as it is true to say that every word in a lover’s letter to his beloved is meant to be seen, known, loved, and enjoyed.

33 What are you so proud of?—Every impulse that moves you comes from Him. Act accordingly.

Sin is a huge issue in our lives.

We can not deny it. We can’t really hide it either.

It leaves us broken and shattered.

It leaves us avoiding people, some because we resent them because of some sin they committed against us. Some people we want to avoid because we feel so guilty, so ashamed, and being in their presence brings those feelings crashing down upon us.

As we look at the commands, there is one that sticks out to me, one that can be quickly dealt with, and as it is, we find the grace to deal with the others.

Luther talks about it, the commandment to not use God’s name in vain. Luther points out that means we sin when we should use it when we should cry out to Him for help,  and do not use it. When our vanity causes the Lord’s name to be misused.

Imagine not eating because you don’t want to spend the money you have in the bank. I imagine going barefoot on a hike in the mountains because you don’t want to scuff up your new boots. There is a logic that simply doesn’t make sense to these imaginations, that still doesn’t make sense when God pleads with us to call upon Him, to cast our burdens upon Him, to let Him heal us.

You want to stop living in the dark shadows of sin?  Cry out to God, call upon Him, don’t leave His name unused, for that is as wrong as using it wrongly.

What happens then, as you begin to converse with God, is that you realize how much He is doing, you start to look for how He encourages you! You see it in the care he takes with the color of a leaf, or the smile of a child, you being to see His artistry in everything, and realize that this artistry is at work in your life as well.  As St. Josemaria describes we begin to understand the good things in our lives are there because the Holy Spirit is guiding and empowering us in them, providing the impulse that drives our work

That beauty, that wonder is what leads the Psalmist to praise God, to exclaim in wonder at God’s kindness, at His mercy and love.  Our praise is always generated from seeing God at work in our lives.  Even in the hard times, even when we have to confess our sin, or lay some burden down at His feet.

This is what happens when we stop using His name in a way that it shouldn’t be used… but call out to Him, even if that cry is as simple and profound as,

Lord have mercy one me a sinner…

He hears, and He answers… and we begin to dwell in peace.

Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord the Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. (Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press, 1959), 420.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 20.

Escriva, Josemaria. The Forge . Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

The Place Where The Left and The Right Find the Same Blessing…that they are both in the wrong

Good News BibleDevotional Thought of the Day

17 If you had not helped me, LORD, I would soon have gone to the land of silence. 
18 When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your love and kept me steady. 19 And when I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.  Psalm 94:17-19 CEV

The perfect example of God’s love transcending our “right” vs. “left” separations is the sacrament of reconciliation (“confession”). When a “conservative” enters that holy place he suddenly becomes a “bleeding heart liberal”, for he knows that our only hope is not truth and justice but mercy and compassion. And the “liberal” suddenly wants the authority of the Church to be infallible, dogmatic and absolute when the priest pronounces that his sins are forgiven.

I had to think through Peter Kreeft’s words this morning.

In the midst of this broken, divided world, we struggle. We look for answers, and as we do some fall to the right and some to the left. Which divides us more, causes division, and it breaks us down.

We see this today,  in the midst of the pain and anxiety that is taking over our world.

In the midst of this, Kreeft finds the place where we have to deal with our own error and our own sin to be the place of the miraculous – the conservative crying for mercy, and the liberal crying for something to depend upon that is inflexible and cannot change.

For there, they both find the mercy of God.

And they both need it.

Desperately.

And as they find the God who draws them to Himself, as He declared the mercy one doesn’t want, and the other doesn’t think they need,

There they can find unity, as the pastor or priest assures them of God’s love, as the words are  heard, and you realize that God has helped us, saving us from silence, hold us when we stumbled,

We have all sinned, we have all been narcissistic. and Jesus died for all of us.

There is where we find unity, as we are all forgiven and cleansed.

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 223.

A Different Approach to Grief.

man wearing jacket standing on wooden docks leading to body of water

Photo by Wouter de Jong on Pexels.com

Devotional Thought for our Day:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD,  to sing praises to the Most High! 2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning, your faithfulness in the evening, accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp, and the melody of a lyre.
4 You thrill me, LORD, with all you have done for me! I sing for joy because of what you have done. 5 O LORD, what great works you do!  And how deep are your thoughts.  Psalm 92:1-5 NLT

Our griefs cannot mar the melody of our praise, we reckon them to be the bass part of our life’s song, “He hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad.”

As you look at the Psalms, the early ones are through of trials. You see problems with the government in chapter 2, you see the brokenness caused by sin in 22 and 51, you see dealing with grief throughout and despair throughout the Psalms..

You also see worship, and it almost always comes after a lot of grief, and pain.  I even heard one pastor say that the Psalms end in worship even as they start in the complaint.

As I meditated on this, this morning, I realized we have made a crucial error. The quote from Psalm 92 made this point, and Spurgeon hammered it home.

Grief and trial are not what precedes worship.  In the middle of them, we find worship.  Worship that realizes the faithfulness of God requires that we see Him faithful to us in the midst of suffering. If there is no challenge, no pain, no sin, or resentment to deal with, there is no need for Jesus.

God meets us there, in the midst of our brokenness, in the midst of our pain, even in the midst of guilt and shame.

It is there the grief is realized to be the bass line – and often the volume of a teenager’s stereo’s bassline. But it still resounds with praise and awe. THis is lament.

He is there, with you…

 

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

When Life Seems Like the Titanic, or worse.

pexels-photo-2056194

Devotional Thought for the day

I belong to God, and I worship him. Last night he sent an angel 24 to tell me, “Paul, don’t be afraid! You will stand trial before the Emperor. And because of you, God will save the lives of everyone on the ship.” 25 Cheer up! I am sure that God will do exactly what he promised. 26 But we will first be shipwrecked on some island.  Acts 27:23-26 CEV

Christians have been making Peter’s mistake ever since, trusting in Caesar and chariots and horses and treaties and nukes and antinukes rather than in the love of God, the love on the Cross. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it, all the chariots and horsemen, even the horsemen of the apocalypse.

Noah was so shut in that no evil could reach him. Floods did but lift him heavenward, and winds did but waft him on his way. Outside of the ark all was ruin, but inside all was rest and peace. Without Christ we perish, but in Christ Jesus there is perfect safety.

We go on to say: “Let your will be done in heaven and on earth.” We say this not so that God might do what he wishes, but that we should be able to do what God wishes

I do not know how I would react, if I was one of the sailors or passengers on the ship with Paul. Yeah, we’ll be safe – all of us – but the ship will be wrecked. I imagine that even Noah was a bit anxious as the floods lifted him higher than some planes normally fly.

It is no wonder that we want to trust our weapons, our country, and our ability to fight back. For how do we find peace in times of oppression, in times where we are persecuted and attacked.

Many communities are facing this – those who find that nothing has changed in the death of George Floyd, or David Dorn. Those whose streets are filled with plywood rather than windows, those who cannot even find a home, because they are refugees. Some places where seniors dwell together still live in great fear of COVID 19. We all live in fear, and turn to something, anything for protection. Just about everyone I have met is stressed, worried, and focused on surviving today.

I wish we could all have the faith of Paul, who not only was ready for the shipwreck but to testify in front of Nero.

Please understand, we advocate for justice – even when we have to ask forgiveness for the injustice we actually committed.

At the same time, we need even more to trust in the Lord, for whether our boat is lifted by the floodwaters, or crushed against the rocks, He is with us.

We need to be aware that the power that raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, (Eph. 1:19-20) and that power is the love of God.  That is why Kreeft makes the comment. This love is infinitely more powerful than and totally in control of all the forces that crucify it,” 

Even if crucified, even if killed, our life is there, hidden in Christ (Col. 3:1-4) and the power of death has already been defeated. That knowledge, that trust in God should empower us to work for justice, even as we do so peacefully, aware that He is stronger than the world.

So as Paul said, “Cheer up!  Just a shipwreck ahead of you, and then a trial, but God will deliver exactly what is promised!”

Your salvation and mine. ANd the presence of God in this midst of the storm…. the God who loves you.

Lord, help us to depend on you as Paul did. Even thru the shipwrecks, and the trials, through the persecutions and oppression, and even our own death. Lord may Your will be cone in our lives… and help our seeing that cheer us up.

AMEN!

Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com

 

Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 212–213.

C. H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening: Daily Readings (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1896).

Tertullian, Cyprian, and Origen, On the Lord’s Prayer, ed. John Behr, trans. Alistair Stewart-Sykes, Popular Patristics Series, Number 29 (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2004), 75.

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