Monthly Archives: September 2020

Grace – “The Lord’s Goodness in the Land of the Living”

“The Lord is my light and salvation; whom do I fear? The Lord is my life’s refuge; of whom am I afraid?  But I believe I shall enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living.” (Psalm 27: 1, 13)

This is a beautiful psalm, full of hope, joy and confidence, even in times of difficulty.  

Through this “light” (knowledge of God and our existence), “salvation” (God’s saving grace) and “refuge” (God’s protection), we will “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”  This is a promise for this life, here and now. 

Whatever the challenge – a demanding boss, a difficult colleague, an unreasonable customer, the loss of a job, a personal illness, the suffering or loss of a loved one, God’s saving grace is available to us in the present moment. 

Phillip Yancey in his book, What’s so Amazing about Grace? tells the story of a rock concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 1988, to celebrate the changes in South Africa.  For some reason the promoters scheduled opera singer, Jessye Norman as the closing act to sing, Amazing Grace.  For twelve hours various rock groups blasted the fans already high on booze and drugs. 

Yancey reports, “Finally the time comes for her to sing.  A single circle of light follows Norman, a majestic African-American woman wearing a flowing African dashiki, as she strolls on stage.  No backup band, no musical instruments, just Jessye.  The crowd stirs, restless. Few recognized the opera diva.  A voice yells for more [rock music]. Others take up the cry.  The scene is getting ugly.

“Alone, a capella, Norman begins to sing, very slowly:

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound

            That saved a wretch like me

            I once was lost but now am found—

            Was blind, but now I see.   

“A remarkable thing happens in Wembley Stadium that night.  Seventy thousand raucous fans fall silent before her aria of grace. By the time Norman reaches the second verse, ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved…, the soprano has the crowd in her hands. By the time she reaches the third verse, ‘Tis grace has brought me safe this far, And grace will lead me home,’ several thousand fans are singing along.

            When we’ve been there ten thousand years,

            Bright shining as the sun,

            We’ve no les days to sing God’s praise

            Than when we first begun.*

Jessye Norman later confessed she had no idea what power descended on Wembly Stadium that night.”  Yancey said, “I think I know.  The world thirsts for grace.  When grace descends, the world falls silent before it.” 

Might it not be “The goodness of the Lord in the land of the living?”

Do you see the goodness of the Lord, or is it obscured by the cares of daily life?

* View Jessye Norman on YouTube, Amazing Grace, Wembley Stadium, 1988

The Divine Power of Truth

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.”  (2 Cor. 10:3-5 NIV)

St Paul is talking about truth having divine power.  Truth, the knowledge of God, his word and work, has divine power.  It demolishes lies, deception, and all manner of error.  Since truth is from God, it is eternal and never fades or dies, in contrast to lies and deception which may last for a while, but are eventually discovered and proven false.

Truth on the other hand may lie dormant for a time, but is always discovered and demolishes the stronghold of lies.  Examples in our world today include such questions as when life begins, and what constitutes marriage.  If we discovered biological cells on another planet, the headlines would declare “Life Exists on Another Planet.” Yet, a human egg fertilized with a human sperm is not?  Genesis and all of nature declare that marriage is between a “male and female” who become one to “be fruitful and increase in number, fill the earth and subdue it,” but the wisdom of this world through our highest court says it is not?  Is our culture exchanging the “truth of God for a lie,” as Paul discusses in Romans 1:25?

When Pilate was trying to determine who Jesus was and whether he was a king, Jesus said the reason he was born and came into the world was “to testify to the truth.  Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”  Pilate, like many of our leaders today, not recognizing the embodiment of truth standing right in front of him, asked, “What is truth?”  (John 18:37-38)

History testifies to the power and lasting nature of truth. The Roman Empire oppressed and persecuted Christians for almost 300 years.  Yet historian Will Durant eloquently observes:

“There is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few Christians, scorned or oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trials with fierce tenacity, multiplying quietly, building order while their enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known.  Caesar and Christ had met in the arena, and Christ had won.” (Caesar and Christ, p. 652)

In recent memory we have seen regimes such as Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union seek to oppress and outlaw the truth of God, but instead the power and eternal nature of truth brought each of them crashing down.

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” (Jn. 8:32) May we never lose confidence in the power and eternal nature of truth against the lies of the world. 

Do you appreciate the power of truth?

“Do Not Be Afraid”

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deuteronomy 31:8)  

Moses made this statement to Joshua when he appointed him as his successor for taking the people of Israel across the Jordan River into the land of Canaan. Taking a people into a new land and removing the people who were previously there was indeed a formidable task and it was understandable that Joshua was experiencing fear and doubt.  Moses told Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”

Have you ever become fearful about whether you can handle a new task or situation that appears formidable?  The possibilities are many — taking on a new job whose scope and responsibilities appear to exceed your skills and experience; trying to restore a relationship that is broken; persuading a rebellious child to change his or her ways; providing ongoing care of a loved one; facing an illness involving suffering, disability or even death.  All of these circumstances can give rise to fear and doubt. 

After serving as an attorney for Mobil Corporation for most of my career, my last assignment involved overseeing our corporate policy and compliance for environmental, health and safety.  The entire staff was made up of engineers and technical people, taking me way out of my comfort zone.  There were times when our staff was challenged when attempting to bring certain compliance issues to the attention of senior management.  Although tempted by fear to back away from our findings, I prayed that the Lord would go before us.  Interestingly, on every occasion when this happened the senior management of our company supported our findings and ordered changes in how things were being done. 

When Jesus was calling Peter and Peter responded that he was a sinful man, Jesus said, “Don’t be afraid.”  When the angels approached Zechariah, Mary, Joseph and the shepherds, on each occasion they said, “Do not be afraid.”  At the Last Supper, Jesus said to all of the disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”

St. John Paul II opened his pontificate with the words, “Be not afraid!”  He went on to say, “These are not words said into a void.  They are simply the words of Christ himself.  Do not be afraid of God who became man!”

Are you moved by fear and doubt when facing adversity or do you ask the Lord to go before you?  Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

No Retirement from the Great Commission

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt. 28:19)

In these days of political correctness and division, it may be tempting to forgo opportunities to talk about our Christian faith with someone who is not Christian or a practicing Christian.  Yet, we are familiar with the Great Commission that Jesus gave to his disciples and followers stated above.

A few years ago, our family traveled to Lee’s Summit, Missouri to celebrate the 100th birthday of my wife’s mother, Mary Louise.  We had a wonderful celebration, with all of her children, some grand children and great grandchildren present to honor her life.  From teaching eight grades in a one room country school house in the 1930’s to taking care of elderly parents and other relatives until she herself was 82, her life was a witness to a deep faith in God filled with love and service to others.

Although her life in recent years was confined to an assisted living home where she and about 40 other residents lived, she had not forgotten the words of Jesus in the Great Commission in terms of reaching out to people and inviting them to church. 

In the course of our many conversations she mentioned that she had invited her friends Millie and Dodie to start attending church services that were held every Sunday at the home.  “Dodie had not been to church in 50 years,” she said.  “And Millie had not been for a long time either, but I got them going with me each week now.”  “I try to help them understand what the Bible says and means when I get the chance,” she added.

In Isaiah 49:6, the prophet says, “I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.”  At age 100, Mary Louise was still being a light to the people God put in her life.  She was still being faithful to God’s plan of working through us to be his presence and to bring his presence to the people and circumstances in her life. 

At 103, Mary Louise was welcomed into the arms of Jesus.  She never stopped sharing her faith.

 Are you talking about Jesus with the people in your life, or inviting them to church, a Christian event or other opportunity where they can meet Jesus and his Word?

Laser Tag and God’s Design for the Family

“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him, male and female he created them.  God blessed them, saying to them: ‘Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:27-28)

The family is the natural result of this creation and all that follows. God calls us to carry forward his design from generation to generation. This is a blessed calling, ordained by the one who created all that exists. It is filled with challenges and sacrifice, but can be balanced with deep love and unforgettable blessings.  Let me share one small example.

A few years ago, we were visiting two of our children’s families to attend the high school graduation of our oldest grandson.  Following a post-graduation party and dinner, we were sitting around visiting with the two families, including our grandson’s paternal grandparents, when his siblings and cousins came up with the idea that the two grandfathers should take the six of them to play laser tag. Not only were we to take them, we were to join them in the game.

My first reaction was to decline, but a huge lobbying campaign ensued by the six grandchildren, being egged on by their parents (our children) who all thought it was a hilarious idea. Suddenly I felt the nudge of that inner voice saying, “You should do this.” 

So here we were, two white haired septuagenarians and six teenagers, ages 12 to 18, driving in an eight passenger van to a local laser tag arcade. For those who have never had the experience, laser tag is a game where you put on a vest with four electronic targets located on the chest, back and both shoulders, along with a hand-held infrared laser gun.  You are put in a low light room with two levels and various structures to run around and hide behind while aiming your laser gun at another person’s target areas.  A hit on another person gives you 100 points and a hit on you subtracts 50 points and disables your gun for three seconds.  The person with the most points wins.

Both the kids and the white haired old guys had a blast! The old guys were quite proud of themselves and will long cherish the memory.  Hopefully the young folks, separated by two generations, will as well.

We may not think that laser tag has much to do with God’s design for family, but In this case, there was love in the request from the one generation, and love in the acceptance of the request by the generation once removed.  Upon arriving back at the house there was joy among all three generations by what had taken place.

God’s design for his creation was being lived out through three generations of family, ironically and humorously highlighted through a mundane game of laser tag.

Do you see God’s hand in the ordinary circumstances of your family?