HOPE for the HAPLESS

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


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You Don’t Know What You’re Asking.

what askingJesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking.” [Mark 10:38a]

James and John thought they could handle whatever Jesus handled. So do you and me and every single person who has ever lived. Some of us are just less foolish about asking for it out loud. But that doesn’t mean that we aren’t asking.

Just a little recognition and praise for all our hard work and dedication. Just a little pay-back for all our efforts and willingness to do without. Just a little of that much deserved thank-you for not being like so many others who don’t have time for God and their fellow-man!

Others might let it all go to their head, but not us … no we would be markedly humble in receiving what was due us. We would handle it with as much grace as Jesus Himself! Or so we think. And so we ask … even if it is only ever in our heart-of-hearts.

But then, we rarely know what we are asking do we? The things we so often want are precisely the things that are no good for us. Would we really want recognition for our work … all of it … not just the good stuff? Do we really want payback for all that we really deserve?

In an effort to be fair, would we be just as willing to give up what we have for all the extra we’ve enjoyed, just as quickly as we clamour to be repaid for the little we’ve done without? And are we really any different from anyone else? No. We, like they, can’t handle what we are asking for.

But Jesus can. And that is why we walk with Him every year to the garden and the cross and the tomb. He was willing to take the credit for all our sin, even though He had none of His own. He was ready to suffer all the divine payback for our transgressions even though it was His own Law being transgressed. He was happy to do without comfort, or honour, or peace, or support … walking the last painful steps to His death all alone … so that you and I might never have to receive what we actually ask for.

We may not know what we are asking, but He has always known how to answer … for our eternal good!

May you receive all that He asked for you this blessed Easter season.


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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]

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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The Cross Marks the Spot

ImageIn Dealey Plaza, Dallas, there painted in the middle of Elm street is an unassuming “x”. If you were not acquainted with American history you might be forgiven for walking past it not knowing what it means. But if you were passingly familiar with November 22 1963, the Texas School Book Depository, or Lee Harvey Oswald then you might stop and ponder for a moment the terrible significance of those two crossed lines of paint. They mark the exact spot where 50 years ago President John F. Kennedy was assassinated before horrified spectators and a stunned world.

Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that tragic event. While he was not the first leader assassinated in office, nor will he, sadly, be the last; for 50 years his death has been seen by many as something different. What might have been if only he hadn’t died so young, so untimely? How would our world be different today? Would it have changed US relations with Russia or China? Would Vietnam have played out differently? Would there be less division and distrust between government and her people, due in large part, some argue, to those who followed in his office? Putting aside all the lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the president’s death, most people do agree that on that November day 50 years ago the United States lost their innocence. Lost, in a very palpable way, their idealism that everything would only ever get better as time went on.

It is a pall that many people still struggle under today … and for good reason. I’m not sure that anyone still holds to the idea that things are only getting better. We just seem to go from one bad thing to another. One tragedy to another. Once disaster to another. One weak or corrupt leader to another. But then again, not even JFK was without his certain public shortcomings. And so, even if he had avoided that spot marked to this day on the pavement in Dealey Plaza, I don’t think it would have changed the world we live in. At least not significantly. The world was broken 50 years ago, and it is broken now, and not even a man like JFK can change it.

But there is one man who saved it. On another fateful day long long ago in an event equally profound and seemingly tragic, a popular young leader was killed in his prime. Witnessed again, by horrified spectators and a stunned world. If you were not acquainted with Biblical history you might be forgiven for walking past the signs of that cross not fully knowing what it means.

cross SilhouetteYet in those ubiquitous symbols of the Christian faith, looming large at the front and on the top of every church, etched and embossed in book upon book, wrought in silver and gold and hung on bedroom walls, and countless necks … in that unassuming cross rests the memory of an event (THE event) of world-changing significance. Scholars and pundits have argued at great length as to the significance of that event. And there are of course, all kinds of lingering conspiracy theories surrounding the events. But in that death of Jesus Christ on a cross outside of Jerusalem the world forever changed. Not through innocence lost, rather innocence restored. Paid for in the innocent blood and willing sacrifice of a great leader for His beloved people. The world changed, yet not for the death of idealism, but in the birth of hope, and faith, and love.

Jesus our king made his way through the streets of Jerusalem that fateful day, but not as an unwitting victim. He did it knowing full well what lay ahead. And He went up anyway, to deliver us from darkness to His own kingdom. He redeemed this world from death and destruction. Defeated the ancient enemies of mankind – sin, death and the devil. He gave us a future that will not only be better, but the very best. And the cross, marks the spot where it all happened. It is tragic when a leader is stolen from his people. And so we grieve with those who still grieve the events of November 22, 1963. But it is glorious when the rightful king lays down His life that His people might live in peace and security after Him. And in that everlasting promise we rejoice, in the face of all that this world may yet take from us.


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Marked Men (and Women)

toleranceI will admit it freely … the book of Revelation is one of my favourites in the Bible. Who doesn’t like seven-headed, ten-horned beasts and buckets full of plagues pouring out death and destruction over the face of the globe? It is the stuff of big budget Hollywood blockbusters.

But it is also the stuff of everyday life here in this sin-broken world. It is a profound and deep commentary of not only how things are, but where they are going. Take, for instance, the part about the mark of the beast from Rev. 13: “Also it causes all, both small and great, both rich and poor, both free and slave, to be marked on the right hand or the forehead, so that no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark, that is, the name of the beast or the number of its name.”

Now many might look at such a thing and launch into grand conspiracy theories of world governments, secret economic cabals, the world-wide-web, and microchip technology; but I think there is a much simpler way to understand the mark of the beast … Tolerance.

Let me explain. Tolerance is a counterfeit virtue. It is the pale shadow of the real virtue of compassion. Just as God has marked His own (with compassion and for compassion), so too will the devil mark those he seeks to claim. And he will do it with tolerance. For tolerance is that which sweeps all sin under the rug. “I’m OK you are OK we are all OK and everyone should be OK with that.” Tolerance is a breeding ground for every dark and perverted affront to humanity. Tolerance is today’s open door to tomorrows moral atrocities. Tolerance accepts anything. Tolerance celebrates everything … except not being tolerant. Tolerance is completely intolerant of such exclusiveness as right and wrong, good and bad, hurtful and helpful.

And just like the prophecy from Revelation, unless you are marked by Tolerance there is no longer any room for you in our culture. Unless you are fully supporting of everything, and refuse to stand against anything there is no place for you anymore. The recent news has been awash in one story after another showing this is no joke. Entrepreneurs run out of business, employees are losing their jobs because they believe in traditional marriage. [Link Link Link] Religious communities told they must pay for things they find morally reprehensible. [Link] Christian schools facing open hostility for wanting to train lawyers who might also be Christian and hold to Christian ideals. [Link] Christians (and to a lesser degree other religions) told there is no place for them in the public square … you can be a Christian in your own home, so long as you never talk about it, show pride in it, or live your life according to its principles). [Link] But then again, Christians being told they are not allowed to teach their faith even in their own homes. [Link Link]

There is no tolerance in today’s public square for the person who does not firmly and publicly bear the devilish mark of Tolerance. No place for their beliefs, no place for their participation in public debate, no place for their livelihood. No place for them.

But the beast will not have his way. The world, though awash in death and destruction and the trampling of so much in the name of tolerance, will be saved … is being saved. For Revelation shows us that no matter how strong or pervasive this counterfeit mark becomes in the hands of the devil and his beast, it is still only a counterfeit and will never come close to the true mark with which God has sealed His own … The mark of compassion. For compassion is a true virtue. One that does not cover over sin, but still cares for the sinner. Compassion values all human life, defends all human beings … even those who are different, belligerent, or out-rightly opposed. Unlike Tolerance which can ONLY demand, threaten and make claims against others, Compassion never demands but rather it offers, it pays, it sacrifices.

For God in His great Compassion, sent His Son into the world, because He could not tolerate sin and its consequences any longer. And in that great compassion He offered Himself up for those who were not like Him. He payed for their sins and did not love them any less for all that it cost Him. He sacrificed His own life for those who cannot tolerate anything He has to say. In that life-changing compassion He marked us with the sign of all compassion – the cross – and promised to be with us to the bitter end. Defending us from the tyranny of tolerance, protecting us from the evils of this world, and bringing us safely to His heavenly home … not because He tolerates us … but because He has compassion for us.

(Rev 7:3-4) “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.” And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel. (Rev 14:1) Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads.

We are marked by compassion and we are marked for compassion. And so we, in turn, seek not to be more tolerant but more compassionate. Gently holding our ground, praying for our friends and neighbours and ideological opponents. Opposing those things which are hurtful, no matter how many people want to do them. Holding out the truths of right and wrong, good and evil … especially for those who are not like ourselves. Because, not even we intolerant Christians want to see anyone left for the seven-headed, ten-horned beast and his bitter death and destruction (no matter how cool a movie it might make).


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Everyday Fools

Here is an uncredited article that ran on the Canadian Lutheran Online site … so I will claim it as my own.

(It really is mine, they just changed the picture to protect my identity!)  Even though I am including it below, I would encourage you to read it on the original site, as it is not only that good … but there is also loads of great content over there that you don’t want to miss.

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” So wrote the ever-observant Mark Twain with his trademark wit and wisdom … and more than a grain of truth.

April Fools’ Day is celebrated in the Western world on April 1 every year. It’s a day marked by jokes and hoaxes of varying sophistication on friends, family members, teachers, neighbours, work associates, etc. It can be a lot of fun—depending on which side of the joke you find yourself. I’ve always thought a day devoted to fools and foolishness is great as long as I am not the fool in question.

I can’t remember how many April Fools’ Days I spent as a child hunkered down and hoping not to get “caught” by someone’s prank or seen as foolish. Whether you are pranked or not, it’s no way to spend a beautiful spring day much less your whole life. Yet sadly, many Christians do just that day in and day out.

“It’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than to open it and leave no doubt” (Mark Twain).

How many Christians firmly shut their mouths and hope to get by without being noticed? How many guard their tongues and lives in case they say or do the wrong thing and be thought of as foolish? And why? Because, for many, what Christians have to say and the hope in which we live is simply foolish! Have no doubt about that.

You, dear Christian, put your trust in

  • a God whose glory was the cross.
  • A Saviour who suffers.
  • A God whose power is made perfect in weakness.
  • The author of Life who died and was buried.
  • An omnipotent being who binds Himself to words, water, and bread and wine.
  • A Lord and King who doesn’t reward works or merit, but repentance and trust.
  • A God who calls to Himself not the fortunate or famous, but the fallible and foolish.

Such things can only seem foolish to others, but they are no joke.

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.’ Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe” (1 Corinthians 1:18-21).

“Let us be thankful for the fools. But for them the rest of us could not succeed” (Mark Twain)

On this April Fools’ Day, lift up your head and give thanks for foolishness of God by which you are saved.

Rejoice in the Divine prank God pulled on sin, death, and the devil on the first Good Friday. Without it we would be lost.

Join in the joke by which death is swallowed up by life, and Satan, who once made damnable fools of us by a tree in a garden, is overcome by the tree of the cross.

Gladly count yourself as a fool in Christ, not just today, but every day.

As Mark Twain said: “Ah, well, I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God’s fool.”


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Christ Set His Face

Text:   Luke 9:51-62

To Tune of #425 (LSB) “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” [Hamburg – LM]

Hymn Text by Ken Maher

1. Christ set His face to Calv’ry high,

When time came to be lifted up.

With resolve He would not decry

to down bitter dregs of that cup.

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2. Foxes have holes and birds have nests,

by His care they ne’er suffer loss

For His own Son there’s no such rest

But lay His head upon the cross.

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3. Love for Father, duty of Son

by such concerns He’s only led.

Buried is sin, and the day won

When He’s abandoned, left for dead.

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4. All for fam’ly, for you, for me

Stretches out hand, not once looking back.

For this purpose all things He sees,

And in this gift we nothing lack.

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5. When I set my face to His cross,

See again through my Saviour’s eyes;

May I come to count all as loss

But that my Lord for me did die!



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He Turned Not Aside

Here’s a little something just in time for Palm Sunday …

Text by Ken Maher ©2010

Based on Numbers 22:1-34, Luke 19:29-40

To Tune of #442 (LSB) “All Glory, Laud, and Honor” [76 76 D]

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1. A lowly beast of burden upon the road once trod.

God’s anger there before it in holy angel shod.

Unwitting was poor Balaam, the sword before him bared.

Unkind, the hand that lashed out when his own life was spared.

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2. Once from the road it wandered into the field aside.

Once to the wall it pressed in, the master’s foot to bind.

When no more room was left it, upon the road it lay,

For love’s great burden led it to spare his life that day.

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3. A second beast of burden, foretold to us by them.

God’s anger still unanswered in old Jerusalem.

Full seeing is this Jesus, the price that must be paid.

Yet gentle are the hands upon that donkey laid.

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4. For love again the burden, He will not turn aside.

His Hand and foot so gentle upon the cross must bind.

A life again will lay down, ‘neath wrath and curse and scorn.

Unfair the anger’s target, yet gladly it is born.

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5. Oh, Lord, so quickly kindled our anger does lash out.

Your sacrifice free given casts all our pride to rout.

Forgive our misplaced incense, that would Your love decry

And turn us from our danger with full and open eye.

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6. Lord Jesus hear our praises to You the servant king.

Again our sins upon you, we gladly now will bring.

E’en now You bear them in love, as once you did back then,

So let our glad Hosanna’s uplift in bold AMEN!