He’s Just Around the Corner

2014-4-7Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.” [John 11:25-26 (NLT)]

Dear Lord, console those who mourn and fill them with hope. Wipe their tears and help them find comfort in both their faith and memories. Reassure them that life for the believer does not end at death but will continue forever in your loving presence. Guide the bereaved through their grief and bring them to a place where they again will have laughter and joy in their lives.

I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life! Your ancestors ate manna in the wilderness, but they all died. Anyone who eats the bread from heaven, however, will never die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever; and this bread, which I will offer so the world may live, is my flesh. [John 6:47-51 (NLT)]

“Death is Nothing at All”
[Henry Scott Holland, Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral]

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way which you always used.
Put no difference in your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without affect, without the trace of a shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolutely unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?
I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just around the corner.
All is well.

Any Complaints This Sunday?

In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy. [1 Timothy 2:8 (NLT)]

“Where’s the complaint box?” was the loud question as the woman angrily made her way to the information table in the back of the church. Apparently this woman didn’t like the volume or choice of music, the worship leader, the attire of the band or much else about the service. I’m sure every ounce of Christian self-control was used by the church secretary who received the brunt of her complaint.

Having homes in several locations, I worship at three different churches; each vastly different from the others. The music varies from contemporary Christian rock to traditional hymns to rock ‘n roll oldies and tropical music, often with rewritten Christian lyrics. One has a plain sanctuary, with a large window looking out at the mountains. There is no pulpit, cross or altar but there is a large baptismal pool. One church has a traditional sanctuary with pulpit, choir loft, cross, altar, stained glass windows and a small baptismal font. One has no church building at all. Services are conducted in the band shell at a city park. There are folding chairs instead of pews. Because it is public property, no cross or altar is allowed but well-behaved dogs are always welcome; the baptismal font is the ocean! One church follows a traditional liturgy and uses a hymnal while another has no prayer book and projects song lyrics on a screen. Services range from orderly and reserved to downright raucous at times. One church offers home-made cookies to first-time visitors; at another we greet each other with “You look marvelous!” One pastor wears casual street clothes, one wears vestments, and the third wears Hawaiian shirts and sandals.

Before we complain about our churches, pastors or worship leaders, let’s ask ourselves what we expect from our worship experience. Why do we go to church? Is it a place for God to serve us or a place for us to serve Him? Is it a place to offer praise and thanksgiving or a place to be praised and thanked? Is it a place to receive instruction and encouragement or a place to be entertained? Is it a place to strengthen our bond with fellow Christians or a social club? Do we want messages that shine a light on our failings and challenge us to strengthen our faith or do we want “feel good” messages that sugar-coat Christianity and make us feel “holier than thou”? Do we want to leave church feeling good about ourselves or good about God?

As dissimilar as the churches I attend are, they have one similarity: the presence of the Holy Spirit during worship. I may not always appreciate the music and I may not always like the day’s message, but I always come away renewed by the Holy Spirit.

There is a difference between going to a service “for the worship” and going to a service “to worship the Lord.” The distinction appears to be a minor one, but it may imply the difference between the worship of God and the worship of music! [Sinclair B. Ferguson, from “A Heart for God”]

Instead, be filled with the Holy Spirit, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, and making music to the Lord in your hearts. And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Ephesians 5:18b-20 (NLT)]

We Can Learn from Our Troubles

My brothers and sisters, be very happy when you are tested in different ways. You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance. Endure until your testing is over. Then you will be mature and complete, and you won’t need anything. [James 1:2-4 (GW)]

Lord, I’ve got a problem; I need your direction. Help me find the words I need; show me what I should do. As I pray, however, I realize that you’ve already answered me. You gave me what I need to know today in the lessons you taught me in the dark moments of yesterday. You taught me well and those experiences will guide me through this problem. Thank you, Lord, for the troubling and challenging times of my life. They have prepared and strengthened me for the trials of today and the tougher challenges of tomorrow. Thank you, God, for giving me guidance; may I be wise enough to follow your advice!

If any of you needs wisdom to know what you should do, you should ask God, and he will give it to you. God is generous to everyone and doesn’t find fault with them. [James 1:5 (GW)]

WWJD?

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that. [Ephesians 5:1-2 (MSG)

Several years ago, silicone wristbands with the letters “WWJD” were popular, as were t-shirts and bumper stickers with the same message. An acronym for the phrase, “What would Jesus do?” these WWJD articles became popular among members of Christian youth groups. Although the items can still be purchased, they are no longer the fad they were more than a decade ago. The question, however, is not a fad; it is one we need to ask ourselves regularly. The answer to “What would Jesus do?” should be the determining factor whenever we make a decision.

In your lives you must think and act like Christ Jesus. [Philippians 2:5 NCV]

 

Don’t Get Caught

lionsStay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. [1 Peter 5:8-9a (NLT)]

While in Tanzania, I was transfixed while watching a group of lionesses stalk zebras as the herd drank from a stream. Although the lions were concealed in the tall grass, periodically the herd would spook and run a few feet away from the water. The cool water, however, was too tempting and their thirst would bring them right back again. Meanwhile, the lions patiently watched and waited, gradually moving closer to the animals. We didn’t wait to see how this scenario ended but I have no doubt that eventually the lions got one of the zebras, perhaps a smaller weaker one or one who wandered away from the herd. The lions patiently watched for the zebra who lingered just a little bit longer for one last sip, the one who thought he wouldn’t get caught. If they weren’t successful that afternoon, the lions would be back at the watering hole the next day, vigilantly waiting to spring into action when opportunity arose.

Satan is equally as persevering and watchful as those lions. We must stay strong and alert, close to other Christians, be aware of temptation and never think we are invulnerable from Satan’s attack.

 

 

Time for an “I” Exam

God, examine me and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any bad thing in me. Lead me on the road to everlasting life. [Psalm 139:23-24 (NCV)]

Note to self: The Psalmist doesn’t ask God to examine anyone else’s heart or to fix anyone else’s soul, just his! Lord, keep me from expecting you to fix other people when I’m the one in need of repair.

Create in me a pure heart, God, and make my spirit right again. Psalm 51:10 (NCV)