HOPE for the HAPLESS

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Romans 12:12


Leave a comment

So loved …

love“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”  [John 3:16-17]

Love is difficult. It is painful. Love often hurts the one who loves … but you wouldn’t want it any other way. Because that is part of what makes love so beautiful. It is the power behind those well-loved words of St. John “For God so loved the world …”

Yes, God the Father loves this world enough to give to the ungrateful, to supply the unthankful, and to bless those who will in turn horde and abuse, and complain that He hasn’t given enough.

God the Son loves this world enough to have lived and died for others – even those who mock and spit and hurl insults as His blood flows for them. He loved enough to be lifted up in public shame so no one else would have to.

God the Holy Spirit loves this world enough to limit himself to working through the Word and Sacraments for our surety, teaching and life of prayer. He loves enough to promise He will work through them, even when people would rather hear some other word (any other word), or ignore the plain words of their loving God.

God’s Love does not come easy. Indeed it comes at great cost to Him. But it comes precisely for that reason. God doesn’t do what He does to condemn the world. It stands condemned in its sin already. God does what He does to save the world through His Love. No matter what it costs.

And that is the kind of Love we Christians need to share. The love God shared first with us. In this world so quickly unraveling at the seams, and into lives being torn apart by the sin sweeping over them and our culture, we need to love as no one does anymore.

Our love must be ready to bear the cost of helping those in need, even those who do not appreciate the gift or thank the giver. Our love needs to be ready to stand firm and suffer for the right thing. To be made public a spectacle and the mockery of those who would sacrifice others to get their way. Our love must be willing to submit itself to the ways and means that God has provided, the truths that He has spoken. Content always and ever to teach, and pray, and hope in Christ.

Such a love is difficult. It is painful. It will cost those who love, but we wouldn’t have it any other way, for it is His way. And it is the kind of Love that will save this condemned world!

Advertisements


1 Comment

Buzzwords … or the “Love” Word?

Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. [1 John 3:18]

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are the buzzwords of our modern age. They are the words our culture has decided to use to show their understanding of love. Don’t believe me? Show yourself to be intolerant, or divisive in any way, and people will quickly tell you how unloving you are. The problem is not whether you are living up to these ideals, but that they really have nothing to do with true, real, or genuine love at all.

Tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness are just words. Words, which sound loving on the surface, but in reality promote attitudes and actions that are anything but. They are the very words that excuse inaction in the quest to simply “live and let live”. They are words that gloss over problems, sin, and real differences by saying “you have yours and I have mine”.

They are words that are designed to make it easy to feel like you are loving when in fact you are only being selfish. Most who champion such wordy ideals do so because they are happy to let you have what you want as long as they then get what they want.  That’s not love, it’s quid pro quo.

Tolerance, acceptance and inclusiveness are finely crafted words that allow us to protect grand hypothetical ideas … all the while ignoring real people in real need. Lowly people who are different from us. Dirty and dangerous people who are disagreeable to us. Angry and offensive people who might never think twice about helping us in return.

We are not called to love in word or in talk, but in deed and in truth. Real love is hard. Real love means doing, giving, and sometimes even suffering, for people we don’t always like very much. Love finds its value in people, not buzzwords. Love is lived out not in blazing emotions but in well-reasoned choices. Love does not ask us to give up and give in but to make difficult (and often unpopular) stands. Love never seeks out excuses or the easy way out, it fights for what it good and right and beneficial, not for the self nor some hypothetical, but for the other.

Love led Jesus not to tolerate our sin, but to pay for it with His own blood. Love moved Jesus to give up His life for those who would never accept Him. Being the recipients of that love in action we are now moved not to tolerate or accept or include, but to love. And love guides us to uphold everyone in our thoughts, prayers, and actions … not because it is easy (it is the hardest thing to do in truth) … but because God loved us first in Christ.


Leave a comment

Set Your Mind

set+your+mind+on+things+aboveFor you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. [Mark 8:33]

Life is a busy affair. On any given day your mind is probably sifting through a dozen or more important tasks, working its way through two or three pressing personal issues, and weighing at least a few ethical or societal issues impacting your life.

Do you mind if I add just one more thing to that already long list?

I am talking about setting your mind on the things of God, instead of just the things of man. It’s one that you already know should be there, but most of us just don’t often get around to. And that’s precisely the problem.

As the old saying goes, many of us have “Half a mind” to devote ourselves to that religious stuff. In other words, we are almost determined – we have good intentions – but never quite seem to get around to it. Our minds are too full of other concerns which always seem to take precedence. Prayer is important but the baby is crying now. Devotion is good, but not until after I run the errands. Worship is a priority, as long as something else doesn’t come up first.

But that’s the mistake. By spending all our time and mental focus on the things of man (the stuff of day-to-day living) we so easily lose the things of God. But by focusing first on the things of God you will find that so much of the things of man are already considered, weighed, or outright solved.

That’s what the season of Lent is all about. Pulling ourselves out of the things of man, which always seem so important, and setting our minds on the things of God which truly are important.

And the more you put your mind to the things of God … things like Law and Gospel, Morality and Christian Duty, Forgiveness and Salvation, Mercy and Compassion … The more you set your mind on such things the more the mind boggles.

Because very quickly you will come to see that through all these things lived out in Christ’s Life, Death, and Resurrection one thing becomes crystal clear – stunningly clear – God has only one thing on His mind …

… You.

Jesus obeyed every letter of the Law in the Spirit of the Law, for you. His absolute morality, the fullness of His Christian duty was all for you. The forgiveness He won on the cross – yours. The salvation earned just for you. Every last ounce of mercy and compassion had you in mind. It was all for you! And with that great truth in mind, the things of man don’t seem nearly so pressing or insurmountable anymore. Set your mind on the things of God, for His mind is set on you!


Leave a comment

Peace …

And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.     [Luke 2:21]

Sated by fine holiday feasting, and full of good will the heart often turns at this time of year to feelings of peace on earth. This year will be the year we finally solidify that elusive peace process in the middle east. This year the global community will finally make meaningful strides against violent extremism. This year I will finally get past my history with that particular person and heal that long broken relationship.

But it never seems to happen … That much sought after peace seems to flee ever farther away with each passing year. There is little or no peace to be seen, but bloodshed is everywhere.

The calendar year begins with bloodshed for us Christians too. Perhaps only a little blood, but a significant shedding of it none-the-less.

January 1st – eight days after His birth – Jesus is named and circumcised. He bears the name Jesus, as the angel insisted, because He will save His people from their sins. And how will He do that? Through the shedding of His own blood.

And while the circumcision itself may seem like such an inconsequential (never to the baby boy – you can be sure!) spilling of Jesus’ blood it is the first blood He will spill of so much more to come. This little bit of blood marks His resolution to stand fully in our place and be counted among us … no matter what the cost!

It is His first infant steps toward fulfilling all of the law on our behalf. A journey from blood to blood. A journey that will lead us through the seasons of this coming year all the way to the cross and beyond.

For where there will be peace first there must be blood. His holy, innocent blood. Blood that is willingly shed for those of us who cannot find peace on our own. For only His resolve for peace is strong enough to see it finally fulfilled.

May God grant you Christ’s peace in this coming year!

This is too cute not to share!

This is too cute not to share!


2 Comments

Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Here is a Hymn (still in the rough) that I have been working on. Let me know what you think.

Feel free to use it if you deem it worthy.

Gaze Up in Throes of Death

Text by Ken Maher ©2014 Based on Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-18
To Tune of # 702 (LSB) “My Faith Looks Up to Thee” [Olivet]

1

Gaze up in throes of death, poison seeps, stealing breath,

in dust they lie.

Bitter the words complain, casting on God their shame.

Slaves to their wants remain and for this die.

2

But God looks down in love and sets in bronze above

a shining light.

Gentle is sin reproved thus in faith hearts are moved

so bitter works removed with sin’s dark blight.

3

See also in our sin the devil seeks to win

our grov’ling soul.

Poison inflames the heart distrusting from the start

to play our given part, that servant role.

4

Gaze up with eyes of Faith see there God’s holy face,

thorns crown His head.

In the Lord’s sacrifice all dying may find life

the serpent has his bite and is crushed dead.

5

For God so loved us all He lifted death’s dark pall

cast on this world.

The one who died, now raised, is rightly to be praised

Oh, sinner lift thy gaze to life unfurled!

jesus-snake-cross-coin


Leave a comment

The Pregnant Pause

pregnant mary“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).  [Matthew 1:23]

Welcome to the great season of NOT CHRISTMAS!

Advent is that pregnant pause in the Christian’s road to holiday cheer. That makes it so very frustrating for many people … the world is already celebrating Christmas, why can’t we?

We can! We do! But not until the time has come. Don’t deliver the baby prematurely.

Advent is much like pregnancy. Pregnant parents really and truly are parents, but their parenting consists in mainly getting ready.  Remembering the family’s past, looking forward to the family’s future and making plans for the arrival. It is a reality that doesn’t always seem so real. In that way it too is a little frustrating. Why won’t the baby just come so they can all celebrate together? But before that little one (who is already there) comes in that new and exciting way, there are many questions to be asked and answered. How will this baby change their lives? Their home? Their hearts? These are not little questions. There is a reason why God gives new parents nine months to get used to the idea!

Advent is a reality that doesn’t always feel so real. In Advent we remember the Christ who came into our flesh, the Christ who comes even now in Word and Sacraments and the Christ who will come again in glory on the last day. It is a season full of preparation and planning. It is a time of “Yes” and “Not Yet.” and “Why won’t the baby hurry up and arrive so we can all celebrate together?” And that makes it a season that is all the more necessary for everyone.

Who is this child whose arrival we will celebrate? How does He change our lives? How will He? How can we share our home with Him? What adjustments do we need to make? What does it really mean that God is with us in Jesus Christ, this babe of Bethlehem? These are not little questions. But they are vital to understanding and celebrating this Christmas Child who is coming again.

It is not Christmas. Not yet. But the One to come is already here. Are you making the most of the time you have with Him now? As He is here for us now? But He is still coming. When He arrives will you be ready? Let the expectant joy of that saviour’s return grow and swell in your heart until His time is ready. There is so much wonder and miracle to see in the waiting and the preparing … don’t miss out on this pregnant pause in your rush to hold the baby. There will be plenty of time for that … just not yet.


Leave a comment

Standing on Guard

Canadian Soldiers“which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.”  [2 Timothy 1:12-14]

This month brings with it the annual day of remembrance. Poppies and solemn services, Reverie and Last Post. These will all be a little more poignant this year for us Canadians. In the past couple of weeks we have been shocked and saddened by the death of not one but two members of our armed forces, Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, right here on our own Canadian soil. Murdered simply because of their uniform. One can’t help but also think of the three  fallen RCMP officers from Moncton in this regard either.

Without making light of the pain their families and communities now bear, it is a powerful reminder that freedom always comes at a cost. A cost every soldier proudly says they are willing to pay when they take up the uniform. Make no mistake, this is not just about conflicting ideologies. At least, not because of any nationalistic or social/political/religious identity. (Although it is very obvious that  NOT all such identities are morally equivalent or “good” by any stretch of any definition!) It is a question of Good and Evil. The sanctity of life and the disregard for life. Evil is real, and evil never rests. It will not stop until all is enslaved once again. Eternal vigilance is not just the stuff of rhetoric and political speeches. It is the price that must sometimes be paid in blood. Thank God we have those brave souls who are willing to pay it!

But before our country remembers it’s fallen soldiers, the church has already done the same. All Saints day (November 1)  is our reminder (in part) of the lives lived and died under Christ as the price of that eternal freedom of God’s Kingdom.

Many of these soldiers of the cross never once picked up a gun, or marched off into battle (though many did), but all sacrificed, in their own way, for the sake of country, neighbour, family, and God. When they took up the uniform of the faith, Christ’s robes of righteousness, each confessed their willingness to pay the cost. All were willing to meet evil head on, in their communities, their homes, the lives of their friends and neighbours. Many fought for those they had never met, and likely never would this side of eternity – sending money and missionaries, providing aid and prayers for any and all affected by the high cost of evil in this world.

And facing that evil, they paid for it. They paid from their own comfort, their livelihoods, their reputations, the support of their friends and family. Some even paid with their lives. And more and more pay every year. It is open season on Christians in vast parts of our world … but just you watch … that won’t stop them from standing up and paying the price to love their friends and family, communities and countries, strangers and enemies. They know it is the cost of freedom.

Canadians have been entrusted with a freedom and openness that makes life for her citizens the envy of much of the world. It is the good deposit we are called to defend. Christians have an even greater deposit entrusted to them … the very Gospel of God … the Good News of free salvation in Christ for anyone and everyone regardless of nationality. So remember the sacrifices that allow you to be here today. Remember and stand guard for those who will come tomorrow. To live in service to freedom and to die in service to that freedom are always worthwhile. Just ask the families of our faithful men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, RCMP, and all first responders (Firefighters, Police, and EMT’s) who gladly do the same for us everyday. Just ask your Christian brothers and sisters around the world.

saints