HOPE for the HAPLESS

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


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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!


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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.


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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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Listen …

ListenI will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. [Deuteronomy 18:18-19]

Who do you listen to? Is it the politician in the nice suit and fancy tie? The person in the official looking white lab coat? The trusted friend? The identified “expert” on the evening news?

Who do you listen to? And more to the point … why? Do you listen to the politician because he says what you want to hear? Do you listen to the doctor or scientist because they are obviously smart? Do you listen to your friend because they like you? What makes anyone an expert worth listening to?

We all listen to someone. Many someones. But the question remains, why?

Why are we quick to listen to some, but not to others? We all know that what a politician says before the election and what he says after the election are not usually the same. You don’t even have to go so far as to say they lie, to know that you can’t always count on good intentions. Smart people still make some pretty foolish mistakes. Doctors make poor life decisions. Scientists can be just as prone to superstition as anyone else. And no matter how smart a person is in certain things, no one is smart about everything. Just because someone likes you doesn’t mean you can trust them or that they will agree with you on important matters.

So who should you trust enough to listen to? Who has the power, the authority, the knowledge, the first-hand experience and the desire to do right by us? Who is worthy enough to be listened to in all things?

Jesus.

God and man together in one flesh. All the knowledge of heaven and all the experience of life in this world. Having been through it all, He didn’t change His tune when the polls turned against Him. Knowing the cross that lay before Him He went there for us anyway. Jesus, the only one truly smart about everything, for He is a first-hand witness of all history, and the holder of the future itself. But Jesus is also the friend of each and every sinner, trapped in good intentions and hollow words, puffed up in knowledge and disdaining those lesser, lover of self to the exclusion of others. Jesus is a true friend to all these and more, even to the point of being willing to lay down His life for them.

When He speaks, He speaks with all compassion, authority, and truth. He speaks only what He is willing to back up with His own life, death, and resurrection.

Give all the other voices their proper place and due, but give this voice your trust and your ears. Why wouldn’t you listen to Him? What He speaks is worth listening to!


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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!


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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]

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


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Painting a Different Picture

For some truly wonderful pictures of motherhood, might I suggest you visit the site of Katie m. Berggren http://kmberggren.com/

For some truly wonderful pictures of motherhood, might I suggest you visit the site of Katie m. Berggren

I don’t normally like to do this sort of thing, but someone I care about alerted me to this recent post over on Facebook. As it is a time sensitive issue, and as Facebook is notoriously difficult to comment on (in a meaningful way), I have decided to pursue the issue here.

I’m not sure if you have noticed, but the pro-abortion supporters have been working really hard lately at painting a different picture of themselves. The talking points of choice and women’s freedom are fading into the background as a new tactic begins to take the center stage. Abortion as the kind and loving option!

[Author’s note – following the links below will take you to stories that are emotionally disturbing. They do contain graphic and tragic content that is not for everyone …]

There was the young woman who so bravely (and out of love for others struggling with the shame and stigma of abortion) filmed her abortion to show how empowering and uplifting it can be. There was the couple in Britain who bravely and lovingly poisoned their unborn child so he wouldn’t have to suffer in life. It was after all the only thing a mother could do. And because it was such a hard decision to make you know it had to be the only right one to make.

And then there was this article, about a young woman bravely struggling with her decision to abort her baby [tomorrow] by writing an open letter to the child she is going to terminate. Sarah Burris who writes the article for Blue Nation Review, after accusing those who oppose abortion of thinking all women who get one are selfish, finishes with the summation: “The facts, and this woman’s story, paint a different picture.”

So, just what are the facts here? And what picture is being painted? Best go right to the source and see for ourselves. [Again, my apologies to those who will find this upsetting]

Little Thing:

I can feel you in there. I’ve got twice the appetite and half the energy. It breaks my heart that I don’t feel the enchantment that I’m supposed to feel. I am both sorry and not sorry.

I am sorry that this is goodbye. I’m sad that I’ll never get to meet you. You could have your father’s eyes and my nose and we could make our own traditions, be a family. But, Little Thing, we will meet again. I promise that the next time I see that little blue plus, the next time you are in the same reality as me, I will be ready for you.

Little Thing, I want you to be happy. More than I want good things for myself, I want the best things for the future. That’s why I can’t be your mother right now. I am still growing myself. It wouldn’t be fair to bring a new life into a world where I am still haunted by ghosts of the life I’ve lived. I want you to have all the things I didn’t have when I was a child. I want you to be better than I ever was and more magnificent than I ever could be. I can’t do to you what was done to me: Plant a seed made of love and spontaneity into a garden, and hope that it will grow on only dreams. Love and spontaneity are beautiful, but they have little merit. And while I have plenty of dreams to go around, dreams are not an effective enough tool for you to build a better tomorrow. I can’t bring you here. Not like this.

I love you, Little Thing, and I wish the circumstances were different. I promise I will see you again, and next time, you can call me Mom.

First, lets begin with the seeming confusion in the recipient of this letter. Is it a little thing or a person being addressed? One doesn’t usually write letters to things. But then again, one doesn’t normally go around talking about killing people next friday.

Next, consider that this woman states she wants the unborn to be happy, and that more than she wants good things for herself she wants the best things for the future … but whose future? Obviously not the little thing in question. She wants her child to have everything she didn’t have as a child, but since she can’t give her all that  her only recourse is to kill it instead. This, by  the way, is what Sarah Burris states is one of the main reasons for abortion – no money to raise a child. That and abusive partners. which I think may lead into the next point.

Next this young lady states that ghosts of the life she’s lived would cause too much harm to the child in question. So again, to avoid  the possible victimization of this person in the future the best solution is to kill them before it happens.

Once you get past the emotionalism of the words (which I don’t think you are supposed to do – remember if the person is agonizing over the decision then whatever they decide must be right) … once you get to the heart of what is being said … such words do indeed paint a picture, but one that is very dark and terrifying.

At best these words paint a picture of  someone who doesn’t really believe the humanity of the baby involved, but will play on the heart strings of those who do to show that abortion is not selfish (really?) and is in fact the only loving thing you can do sometimes.

At worst they show (perhaps even more fearfully) someone who does in their heart of hearts believe in the humanity of the child in question and simply doesn’t care. If you or I were to walk up to anyone on the street and say the things this mother says to her unborn child we would rightly be called sociopathic. Why is it criminal in one case and “brave and loving” in another?

I am not saying all this to attack the person struggling with her life and her decisions. I think she is struggling in large part because she, like so many other young women (and men) have been duped into thinking something that their hearts don’t really believe. I am saying all this in the hopes of getting past the brazen and deceptive picture some would like to paint of abortion, to the truths that lie behind the emotion.

Finally, I am writing all of this to ask you to join with me in praying for this young woman, and for her unborn child. Pray for a different understanding of love to guide her actions tomorrow. Pray that this young woman, and so many others like her would come to see that her life is in the hands of  the God who paid everything (even His own life on the cross) for her salvation because cost is never really a consideration when it is someone you truly love.  The very same God who has brought her through the harsh abuse of this cruel and calculating world by sacrificing not someone else but himself. Just as He did for that precious baby He has entrusted to her.