Three Questions and Three Answers

Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?  –Luke 24:26

Michael Card, a Christian musician and author, has some amazing thoughts about the crucifixion.  This very articulate writer has 37 albums, 27 books, and over 19 #1 hits.  And yet his goal in life has always been to “simply and quietly teach the Bible.”  I love his writing; it’s powerful in his unique, close relationship with our Lord.  He wrote the delightful book, Joy in the Journey, from which the following quotes came as he explained his song-writing process for one piece in particular.  These words are profound, in my opinion.

The trappings of the crucifixion had always puzzled me.  Why was it necessary that a close friend betray Jesus?  Why the crown of thorns, that grim tribute to humor?  Why the cross–wasn’t there some other way for him to die?  I had been playing with those three questions, trying to make them sound lyrical, in other words trying to make them sound pretty.  But they aren’t pretty questions.

I had finished three verses of a song incorporating the questions.  I had planned to write one chorus which would answer all three.  That proved to be as impossible as the questions themselves.  So I did the only thing a committed seeker of the Truth could do:  I gave up and put them away in a drawer!

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  –Hebrews 12:2

Weeks after I gave up and put away my three song verses, I was awakened in the night with three separate choruses going through my mind, something that had never happened before and has never happened since.  To my trilogy of vain, cynical questions the Lord gave three unexpected answers:

Why did it have to be a friend?  Because only a friend comes close enough to cause such pain.

Why the thorny crown?  Because  in this life, the only kind of crown the world would give such a Lover is a crown of thorns.

Why did it have to be a cross?  Because the cross is the place for a thief.  And Jesus had come to steal the world’s heart away.

Now each time I listen to the song, I hear two separate voices:  my own pessimistic voice asking the meaningless why questions, and another gentler Voice speaking the wonderful answers.  –Michael Card

 

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Change the World

I read a great devotion from one of our local pastors in our newspaper’s “Minister’s Moments” recently, and have asked permission to share it in full (make sure you read to the very end). This is so true and helpful, especially in times like these.  He begins with a quote from another writer:

Part of the truth always includes our own shortcomings.  We do well to begin by confessing them.  When I confess my own sins, I tend to make peace, and when I confess the other person’s sins, I tend to make war. — Samuel M. Shoemaker

It is only natural to want to blame something or someone.  Holding people accountable rings hollow because it has been said so many times with no measurable change.  The finger pointing, telling others that they are responsible, the media is to blame and the list goes on, does not change the perception and action in our society.  Our public conversations don’t go anywhere but around and around with no real path toward a resolution.  My role in this?  I get silent and stew.

Then this prayer comes to mind and I add the emphasis in italics.  “Lord, make us (me) instrument(s) of your peace.  Where there is hatred, let us (me) sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.  Grant that we (I) may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.  For it is in giving that we (I) receive; it is in pardoning that we (I) are/am pardoned; and it is in dying that we (I) are/am born to eternal life” [quote from St. Francis of Assisi].

I realize this prayer is about me.  I am not going to pretend that love will solve all the ills of society.  I cannot change somebody’s life, but I can change mine.  What I can do is pay close attention to those around me.  Not to get others to do my will, but to seek to understand their fears, hopes, and dreams.  I don’t seek to explain their and my fears away; I acknowledge that their fear is real for all of us.

How will I turn the tide of fear and hostility?  I will work on living beyond the anxiety of this point in history.  I will acknowledge my own dread and hostility and not share it with others.  I will work on going in a different direction; I will go toward the hope, when faced with despair; I will move toward the light when in darkness; I can seek faith when in doubt; and when I am sad I will work on being open to joy.  I can seek understanding before explaining.  I will own the power of my own humanity and love.  For me, it is about affirming the dignity of every human being through the love of Christ.  This is how I choose to change the world and make peace for myself and for others.  — Rev. Doug Wasinger, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Buffalo Bulletin, 2/21/18

 

My Word

Today I’m sharing quotes from my “Word of the Year” journal; my word this year is “Joy!”

Sing a new song of praise to Him; play skillfully on the harp, and sing with joy.  For the word of the Lord holds true, and we can trust everything He does.  –Psalm 33:3-4 [NLT]

Sometime in our future there’s a party to end all parties.  The Lamb of God will invite us to a bash that rings out the old life forever and rings in a new unity with Him.  Hatred, fear, and pride will go suddenly stale, as we feast on love, joy, and praise.  What a day that will be!  Hallelujah!  —One Year Book of Psalms, 12/31

I’m not on top of the peak calling you to climb up where I am.  Rather I’m standing with you as we both look to the summit of this great mountain called the fear of God.  It’s a challenging climb upward, but also a joyous climb.  My prayer is that this book will help us both on our journey.  –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. ix

In contrast to servile fear, filial fear is the loving fear of a child toward his father.  Ferguson describes it as “that indefinable mixture of reverence, fear, pleasure, joy and awe which fills our hearts when we realize who God is and what He has done for us.”  –Jerry Bridges, The Joy of Fearing God, pg. 27

God does not give us overcoming life; He gives us life as we overcome.  The strain is the strength.  If there is no strain there is no strength.  Are you asking God to give you life and liberty and joy?  He cannot, unless you will accept the strain.  Immediately you face the strain, you will get the strength. –Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, 8/2

Sobering Words

I’m taking a short break from the photos of our trip to Amsterdam.  There are many outstanding quotes from my journals that I’d like to share this week.  First, insightful words from Compassion’s Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  I met Edouard Lassegue and his wife years ago when I was in Haiti for the first time; at the time he was the President of Compassion Haiti.

Now he very capably administers, counsels and directs a much larger region.  This man is kind, warm, humble, caring, energetic and especially passionate about helping children in need.  This is his recent update:

I want to thank you for your faithfulness in praying for and supporting Compassion’s work in Latin America and the Caribbean.  Your unwavering commitment in uplifting this region to God’s care is an affirmation of the power and solidarity of the global Church, which I believe is the main reason for the gains the region continues to experience.

Over the past decade, the Latin America and Caribbean Region has seen ongoing progress in many socioeconomic areas.  In fact, today, many economists attest that the majority of the countries in this region have been experiencing modest, but steady annual growth rates.  What’s more, these countries are also seeing declining extreme poverty rates with citizens generally becoming healthier and better educated.

These are encouraging highlights, but regrettably, they represent only half of the present situation.  Today, this region remains the most violent in the world, with one of the highest homicide rates ever.  Most of the clashes involve drug and gang activities, resulting in ruthless and barbaric murders.

Our region also faces natural disasters of all kinds, including flooding, hurricanes and earthquakes.  Haiti, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic continue their recovery efforts from hurricanes and tropical storms, while Mexico focuses on reconstruction from earthquake devastation.  Heavy rainfall in Colombia and Peru have brought about flooding and higher incidents of mosquito-borne illnesses.

But, in the midst of it all, I am so inspired by the dedication and courage of our church partners.  They do not complain; they do not back down.  That is why we count it a distinct privilege to walk alongside them in this vital ministry of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name.

So please don’t stoop praying for the Latin America and Caribbean Region.  Pray that the Church stays firm in the midst of the violence that surrounds them, serving as an example of Christ’s truth and love.  Pray for the safety of families and children–many of whom face the threat of violence every day in their normal day-to-day activities.  Pray for governments and local branches of authority, that they will “step up” and care for the people they profess to serve.

The troubles of the Latin America and Caribbean Region will not fade by just good intentions.  Real progress and peace will only come through a change of heart and mindset, and as followers of Christ, we know that is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you, again, for your prayerful support.  And may you be encouraged that all things are possible through God — and that includes a transformation in Latin America and the Caribbean.

In the spirit of the triune God, Edouard Lassegue, Vice President of the Latin America and Caribbean Region, Compassion International

Here is the link for my second visit with Josue, and with his younger brother that I also sponsored later.  If you would like to sponsor a child, click here and you can search a child from Latin America or the Caribbean!

Casting

I came across some interesting information online about the author of a book I had been reading — Andrew Murray.  The book is Waiting On God, and it’s really outstanding.  But what caught my eye was his use of my Word of the Year — “cast.”

In a letter to his parents, [Andrew] Murray wrote, “Your son has been born again…I have cast myself on Christ. –Christianity Today, online bio for Andrew Murray

This “casting of the self” became Murray’s life theme.  Sixty years of ministry in the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa, more than 200 books and tracts on Christian spirituality and ministry, extensive social work and the founding of educational institutions–all those were outward signs of the inward grace that Murray experienced by continually casting himself on Christ. –Ibid

See the mother bird come and stir up her nest, and with her beak push the timid birds over the precipice.  See how they flutter and fall and sink toward the depth.  She now how she “fluttereth over her young, spreading abroad her wings, taketh them, bearing them on her wings (Deut. 32:11),” so, as they ride upon her wings, brings them to a place of safety.  And so, she does once and again, each time casting them out over the precipice, and then again taking and carrying them.

He stirs up your nest.  He disappoints your hopes.  He brings down your confidence.  He makes you fear and tremble, as all your strength fails and you feel utterly weary and helpless.  And all the while He is spreading His strong wings for you to rest your weakness on, and offering His everlasting Creator-strength to work in you.  All He asks is that you sink down your weariness and wait on Him.  Allow Him in His Jehovah-strength to carry you as you ride upon the wings of His omnipotence.  –Andrew Murray, Waiting On God, pg. 85

 

 

Short Quotes

Here are some short quotes that are worth reading:

God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.  He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm. –William Cowper

When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.  –Psalm 94:19  (NLT)

When the heart is full, it brims over in some outward act of devotion.  –F. B. Meyer

God’s people are always strongest when their lives are characterized by joy and singing.  —One Year Book of Psalms, 8/5

 

Patience

I came across this first quote just shortly before the eclipse.  It was a good one to think about while I was watching the total eclipse.

It was now about midday, but darkness came over the whole countryside until three in the afternoon, for there was an eclipse of the sun.  The veil in the Temple sanctuary was split in two.  Then Jesus gave a great cry and said, “Father, I commend my spirit into your hands.”  And with these words, he died.  –Luke 3:44-46 (PHI)

This quote was very special to me when I sprained my wrist in the bike accident.  I always knew God was taking care of me.

May the Master take you by the hand and lead you along the path of God’s love and Christ’s endurance.  –2 Thessalonians 3:5 (MSG)

I have done my share of waiting and being patient in various situations throughout my life.  I can tell you that good things are worth the wait.

Come and listen to the testimony of one who can speak from experience of the pure and blessed outcome of patient waiting upon God…The word patience is derived from the Latin word for suffering.  It suggests the thought of being under the constraint of some power from which we would gladly be free.  At first, we submit against our will.  Experience teaches us that when it is vain to resist, patient endurance is our wisest course.  In waiting on God, it is of infinite consequence that we do not submit only because we are compelled to but because we lovingly and joyfully consent to be in the hands of our blessed Father.  Patience then becomes our highest blessedness and our highest grace.  It honors God, and gives Him time to have His way with us.  It is the highest expression of our faith in His goodness and faithfulness.  It brings the soul perfect rest in the assurance that God is carrying on His work.  It is the token of our full consent that God should deal with us in such a way and time as He thinks best.  True patience is the losing of our self-will in His perfect will…O soul, do not be impatient, whether it is in the exercise of prayer and worship that you find it difficult to wait; in the delay of definite requests or in the fulfillment of your heart’s desire for the revelation of God Himself in a deeper spiritual life!  –Andrew Murray, Waiting On God, pg. 55-58