Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- The Fifth Meditation


Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s focus: Almighty


A throne was there in heaven, and on the throne sat one whose appearance sparkled like jasper and carnelian . . . From the throne came flashes of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. Seven flaming torches burned in front of the throne . . . (and) four living creatures . . . do not stop exclaiming: "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come (Revelation 4:2-8).

            For seven fear-filled years, the Midianites spread terror across Israel. Bands of marauders ravaged villages, slaughtered men, women, and children, and stole their possessions. Israelites lived like hunted animals, hiding in caves and along cliffs. Gideon was one of those Israelites. Then one day, as he threshed his meager wheat harvest, an angel called to him, “The Lord is with you, O champion” (Judges 6:12).

            But Gideon answered, “If the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us?” A moment later he added, “And where are the miracles we’ve heard about all our lives?”

            It’s easy for me to point a finger at Gideon and marvel that anyone could think the days of God’s miracles were over. Yet, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought, “God answered my prayers in the past, but how can I be sure He will do it again? God took care of us before, but will He do it now?”
 
            Like Gideon, I believe in the almighty God of the past, but I’m not so convinced He’s the same God of the now – or the future.
 
            What nonsense. If you remember the text in Judges, Gideon, along with three hundred men armed with nothing more than clay pots, torches and their faith, won a miraculous victory for Israel. (See Judges 6 and 7).


            What are our Midianites? Chronic Illness? Unemployment? Divorce? Terrible loneliness? If faith teaches us anything, it’s this: God is never limited by time or resources. What He opens, none can close. What He shuts, none can open. God is our Almighty Father. Compassionate. Involved. He knows the number of hairs on our heads, the thoughts in our hearts, and our words before they cross our lips. A sparrow won’t fall to the ground without His knowledge – and you and I are of much greater value to God than a sparrow (Matthew 10:29-31). And even if our prayers go unanswered, sometimes for decades, the truth remains: God is good. All the time, and in all circumstances. He will never leave us alone, but will walk beside us even through our storms.

            It’s easy to recite Creeds and believe in past answers to prayer. But when the doctor’s report takes our breath away, when floods engulf our homes, when fires consume our livelihood – the words of the Creed, “I believe in . . . the Father almighty,” can be an unyielding rock and a declaration of victory for those who trust Him – even to the jaws of death.
 
            Gideon believed the days of God’s mighty works were over. Let’s not make the same mistake. Our God and Father is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Prayer: Lord, I need You. Be my shield and companion, my strength and tireless resource. Be my comfort and guide. I lose focus when life’s storms shake my faith, when windstorms uproot my confidence in Your might and mercy. Send Your Holy Spirit into my heart and nurture my trust in Your everlasting power and love. Amen.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Latest YouTube study in 1 Peter -- lesson 25

There is a reason the Holy Spirit warns us against complacency. Against spiritual sleepiness. Because our infernal enemy never sleeps. He always probes our weaknesses, tests our defenses, distracts our attention from the spiritual war around us. We look at this war in lesson 25. You can find it here: http://youtu.be/9DVwtW9JJGA

Friday, January 9, 2015

Lesson 24 in 1 Peter uploaded to YouTube

Sometimes one of the hardest things to believe is that God cares for us. That He 'really' cares for us. We look at that question in lesson 24 in my YouTube through 1 Peter: http://youtu.be/XOZknkD7Sgw



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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

I Believe -- Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- the Fourth Meditation


 This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)
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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: The Father


[Jesus] came to what was His own, but His own people did not accept Him. But to those who did accept Him He gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God (John 1:11-13).



            Sixty years. That's how long it's been since my father abandoned me. The day is tattooed into my memory. I remember where I sat and what I was doing when Mom told me Daddy would never be coming home.

            My father was never there when I had problems with school, or friends, or when I started dating. He never attended my school plays or high school football games. He never showed up at my Boy Scout award ceremonies, never saw me graduate high school or college, get married, and raise children. When I searched for him years later, he wrote back a scathing reply and ordered me to leave him alone.

            As my four-year-old mind tried to absorb Mom’s words that somber day in 1954, I didn't know my heavenly Father was there, sitting on the couch with me. I didn’t know He embraced me as I walked to Dad's closet, took his wallet, and hid it, hoping to force him to stay with us. I didn’t know God stood beside me during my teen years when I got snared in a revolving door of drugs, sexual sins, brawls and thefts. I didn’t know He wept with me as I sobbed on my sister’s shoulder, "I never had a father. I never had a father."


            “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty.”


            There are times no other words speak more powerfully to my emotions than “God, the Father.” Sometimes I sense Him so near I can feel His warmth. When I meet Him in prayer, I can feel Him draw me into His arms. If I listen carefully, I hear Him whisper, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”

            What do you think about when you think about God as your Father? Perhaps your relationship mirrors mine. Maybe it was better, or much worse. Whatever the memory, of one thing we can be certain: Golgotha’s hill proves for all time and into eternity, “Even if my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me in” (Psalm 27:10).  Through Isaiah God promised, “Can a mother forget her infant, be without tenderness for the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you. See, upon the palms of My hands I have written your name; your walls are ever before Me” (Isaiah 49:15-16).

            As we recite those simple words of the Creed – The Father – we remind ourselves the God of the universe is our Father.

            Why do we sometimes doubt that?


Prayer: (From Psalm 103): Lord, You are compassionate and abounding in love. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is Your love for those who fear You. For the sake of Christ’s sacrifice, You remove our transgressions from us as far as east is from west. As a father has compassion on his children, so You have compassion on those who call to You for mercy. Have mercy on us, Father. We are Your people, born by faith in the atoning blood of Your Son, Jesus. Amen.


 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Lesson 23 in 1 Peter now uploaded to YouTube

St. Peter has much to say about servant leadership. We look at it in lesson 23 of our study. You can view it here: http://youtu.be/8wJXTpc4h4g
 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

God of the Old, God of the New


I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:6}
Is the God of the Old Testament different from the God of the New Testament? To hear some people, even in the Church, you would think He is.

God’s judgment of sin seems to overflow the pages of the Old Testament. You can open it almost at random, especially the prophets, or the historical books like Kings or Chronicles, and find unmistakable evidence of God’s wrath against rebellion and evil. But unless you land on the book of Revelation, or isolated passages in the gospels, Acts, or the epistles, the God pictured in the New Testament seems tame by comparison.

But God, as C.S. Lewis observed, is not a tame lion.

Because of what seems a difference in God’s character in both testaments, a heresy called Marcionism developed in the second-century church. Marcion, a church leader, believed the wrathful Old Testament God was different than the all-forgiving God of the New Testament. Marcion also rejected the Old Testament scriptures as unworthy to be included in the Christian bible.

The Church, however, rejected Marcion’s teaching as false and dangerous to the faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (paragraph 123) says this about the Marcion heresy: Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void . . . . 

While a superficial reading of Scripture can suggest an inconsistency in God’s character between both testaments, the inconsistency evaporates on closer examination. God is the same God of mercy, love, judgment, and wrath in both eras. For example, Ananias’ and Sapphira’s deaths because they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5) is not dissimilar from the deaths of Nadab and Abihu who ‘offered strange fire” on God’s altar (Leviticus 10). The reason for King Herod’s death (Acts 12) is not much different from the reason God killed the Judean King Ahab (1 Kings 22). God struck Elymas the magician with blindness (Acts 13), and did the same to the mob surrounding Lot’s house (Genesis 19). God brought judgment on Israel because of her sins (e.g. 2 Chronicles 36), and God warns His church against turning from Him (Revelation 2-3), and He will bring global destruction on a world of unrepentant sinners (Revelation 4-18).

The reason people confuse the pictures of God in both testaments is often rooted in the amount of material available to form an accurate understanding of God’s unchanging nature.

The New Testament covers the span of about 60 years, but the Old Testament encompasses a period of 1400 years. That difference alone allows the writers of Sacred Scripture much more time to demonstrate the fullness of God’s character. Further, the Old Testament is comprised of 73 books. The New Testament has only 27. The Old Testament has 1,074 chapters, the New Testament only 260. The Old Testament has more than 25,000 verses, the New Testament a little less than 8,000 verses. But the differences in the quantity of material in both testaments should not surprise us. The Old Testament is the story of a people. The New Testament is a story of a person.

The Holy Spirit tells us: In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. (Hebrews 1:1-2)  In his letter to the church at Corinth, St. Paul underscores the importance of familiarity with the Old Testament to help us understand the New Covenant: These things happened as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil things, as they did. And do not become idolaters, as some of them did . . . . Let us not indulge in immorality as some of them did . . . . Do not grumble as some of them did, and suffered death by the destroyer. These things happened to them as an example, and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:6-11)

Little wonder that St. Augustine commented: The New Testament lies hidden in the Old, and the Old Testament is unveiled in the New.

God’s character has not changed, and neither has His modus operandi. The Holy Spirit tells us: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And He tells us through the prophet Malachi: “For I, the Lord, do not change(Malachi 3:6).

God’s love, mercy, and compassion extend from Genesis and into the 21st century. Equally important – and we ought not to minimize this eternal reality – God’s holiness, justice, and wrath toward sin also extend across the same period of time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Seven Words

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.
--John Newton

 
On this day 42 years ago I said seven words that changed my life. “God, I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

Christmas Eve. 1972. I was 22 years old.

Back then I knew nothing about theology. I knew nothing about the Sacraments. I knew nothing even about the Scriptures. What I did know, after reading Hal Lindsay’s book of Bible Prophecy, The Late Great Planet Earth, was Jesus is the Messiah God promised to Israel and to the world.

Jesus. The lamb of God who would take away our sins. Even my sins. Even the worst and the darkest of my many sins.

Seven words. “God, I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

No mouthing words about sin, or a promise of repentance, or a plea for mercy, or a hope for forgiveness. Just, “I believe.”

But what I did not say with my mouth, God heard in my heart – which said to Him, “From this moment I’m going to live for you. With your help, I'm going to walk a holy life. With your help I'm going to serve you for the rest of my life.”

Without even thinking to punctuate my words with action, I got up off my knees, walked to my chest of drawers, grabbed the plastic bag of marijuana and emptied it into the toilet. Then I went to my footlocker, grabbed the porn magazines, and threw them into the dumpster behind my barracks.

On Christmas Eve in 1972 God gave me the most wonderful Christmas gift I could have ever received. He gave me His gift of eternal salvation. He made me a new child in Christ. Old things passed away. Everything became new.

And on Christmas Eve in 1972, I gave God the best gift I could ever have given Him. I gave him my life.

Forty-two years later, it still ranks as the best thing I have ever done in my life.

Happy Birthday, Jesus.

 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Simple Christmas Message

So my wife and I are driving south along I-85, scanning the radio stations for something worthwhile to listen to on a Sunday afternoon. And we came across a preacher – a Baptist, we learned at the end of his message – we came across him in the middle of his sermon. From the way he spoke – his vocabulary and his manner of delivery – I conjured an image of many of the preachers Nancy and I sat under during our three decades in evangelical churches.  There was nothing erudite about his delivery, or for that matter, what he said. But, oh! He captured our attention.

“Thank God for Jesus.”  He repeated that phrase again and again during the several minutes we listened to him.

He reminded his congregation, “Jesus came as a baby and lived 33 years so that He he could die for your sins and my sins.  Thank God for Jesus.”

“He was glad to do what He did because of His great love for you and me.  Thank God for Jesus.” Then he asked his congregation, “Do you thank God for Jesus?”

Nancy and I heard a few voices in the congregation call out, ‘Amen,” and “Yes, we do.”

Then he said, speaking out of what I recognized was chapter 16 of St. Matthew’s gospel, “Jesus said to the people, ‘Who do you say that I  am?  And some said Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  And then Jesus looked at His disciples and said: ‘But who do YOU say that I am?”

The preacher paused a moment and then continued to paraphrase from the text: “Peter said, you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  And Jesus said to him, “You are blessed, Simon, son of John, because flesh and blood did not reveal that to you, but my Father in heaven revealed it to you.”

“Thank God for Jesus,” the preacher said again. And then to his congregation he asked, “Has God revealed who Jesus is to you? Are you a child of God? Is Jesus your Lord?”

He continued, “Do you know of Jesus because your preacher told you about Jesus?  Do you know about Jesus because your parents told you about Jesus? Or do you know Jesus because God told you about Jesus?”

“Do you thank God for Jesus?”

A few moments later, his simple sermon ended.

We turned off the radio and talked about what we’d just heard.  The preacher, simple as his message seemed to be, reminded me of what the very erudite St. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth: “And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.”  (1 Corinthians 2:1-2).

This Christmas, as we open the gifts set for us under the tree, Oh, may God help us reflect on the gift He gave us: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life.  (John 3:16)

And, please God, help us say from our hearts, “Thank God for Jesus.”

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fire Insurance


Jesus asked Peter, "Do you love me?" (John 21:15)

I’ve heard the argument many times. Perhaps you have, too. It goes something like this: “People buy insurance for their life, auto, home, health. So, in case there is a God and an eternal judgment, why not believe in Jesus and get eternal insurance for the soul?"

Not only have I heard that argument before, I am ashamed to admit, I have also used it as a reasonable reason to ‘come to Jesus.’ But after more than 40 years of walking with Christ and watching one Christian after another turn from the straight and narrow way, I realize that if we ‘come to Jesus’ for 'fire' insurance, we will not stay with Jesus over the long haul. Life is full of too many complications, disappointments, suffering, and sorrows for people to remain satisfied with their ‘fire’ insurance policy, if that is the only reason they pay the premiums of obedience. And Satan is always ready to offer an alternative policy. He always has a boat standing by to take us to Tarshish (a reference to Jonah, if you missed it).

No. The hope of eternal fire insurance holds no one very long. I have learned during my 42 years living for Christ we must come to Him for a completely different reason than ‘fire’ insurance. We ought to come – we must come – because we are terribly sorry for our sins, for the people we have hurt, for our hypocrisies and compromises and pride and selfishness. 

We must come because Jesus is the only One – the only One – who can wash away each of those sins with His blood. We should come because He loves us. We should come because we want to love Him.

If we come for those reasons – His forgiveness, His love, His mercy, His compassion – if we come for those reasons, we are much more likely to stay with Jesus over the long haul, through all of life’s complications, disappointments, suffering, and sorrows.

Oh, Holy God – open the eyes of our hearts and draw us to your great and all-fulfilling love.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

I Believe -- Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- the Third Meditation


This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)

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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: One God 

 
"Error, indeed, is never set forth in its naked deformity, lest, being thus exposed, it should at once be detected. But it is craftily decked out in on attractive dress, so as, by its outward form, to make it appear to the inexperienced  . . . more true than truth itself." Irenaeus Against Heresies 1.2

But if I should be delayed, you should know how to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15).
 
Less than two decades after the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven, heresy crept into the Church. The first theological challenge occurred when Pharisees who had become believers demanded of the Gentile converts that they be circumcised and “observe the Law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5)

This caused a great deal of dissension and confusion in the Church, and so, to settle the issue, the apostles convened a council in Jerusalem to discuss the matter. After considering both sides of the theological aisle, Peter, James, Paul, and the other apostles and elders came to a decision that they then promulgated throughout the Church.

The 15th chapter of the book of Acts lays the foundation for the next 2000 years of how God would guide His Church regarding faith and morals – and that guidance would come through Church leadership (see 1 Timothy 3:15).

Note what the apostles said in verses 24-27 of chapter 15 (NASB): “Since we have heard that some of our number to whom we gave no instruction have disturbed you with their words, unsettling your souls, it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, . . . Judas and Silas, who themselves will also report” the doctrinal decision of the Church leadership in Jerusalem.

In other words, the apostles declared that those who required circumcision of the converts had no authority to do so. Further, they had no authority to teach doctrine since they had not been sent by the Church leadership.

This is a crucial point. 

The circumcision question was only the first of many heretical challenges to crop up during the next twenty centuries. Arianism raised its horns in the fourth century. Arius was a church presbyter who taught others Jesus was created by the Father, and therefore inferior to the Father. Such teaching caused dissension and confusion in the Body of Christ, and so to settle the question of Christ’s deity and the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, the Church convened a council in Nicea in 325 A.D. After considering both sides of the theological arguments, the Church determined Arius in error and promulgated the Nicene Creed, which became the official Church position regarding Christ’s deity.

Nearly sixty years later, the Second Ecumenical Council in 381 A.D. affirmed the deity of Jesus and, in response to yet another heresy (this one formulated by Macedonius, who denied the deity of the Holy Spirit), promulgated the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed which officially declared orthodox Christian faith regarding the Holy Spirit and the Trinity. 

So what does all this history have to do with the statement within the Creed, “I believe in one God”? 

In early 2014 my wife and I had lunch with a young man, a member of the Jehovah Witness faith group. Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus was created by the Father and, therefore, inferior to the Father – just like Arius taught in the fourth century.

I asked him if he had ever heard of Arianism. He had not.

Then he told us something so disturbing, I do not think I will soon forget it. He said he used to be Catholic and was raised in a Catholic home – but it was a home in which his family was ignorant of Church history. It was also a home in which none of the adults thought it important or necessary to read and study the Scriptures.

When as a young person he met members of the Jehovah Witness group, he began to study the Bible with them. Soon, he joined their fellowship –not only he, but both of his parents, three siblings, several aunts, uncles and other members of his family. They had all been Catholics, but Catholics ignorant of the richness, the depth, and the history of the faith dating back to the Apostles.

And so, an entire family was lost to the Church. 

When we recite the Nicene Creed and proclaim, “I believe in one God . . .” we can be certain our belief in “One-God-Yet-Three-Persons” is absolute and unalterable truth because the Church, founded on the Apostles, and affirmed by successive Church councils through the millennia, has definitively and authoritatively proclaimed that truth. 

Unless we settle in our hearts the question about who God has chosen to authoritatively teach doctrinal truth, we will always be at risk of being swept up in the latest – or the oldest –heresies.

Prayer: Oh, God, You are truth itself. Guide our hearts and our minds by your Holy Spirit into greater understanding of, and confidence in, the truth You delivered to us through the Church. Protect us, Holy Spirit, from darkness masquerading as light. Amen.

 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Lesson 19 in 1 Peter now online


The desires of the flesh, of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life will be the undoing of any Christian, regardless of position or spiritual maturity. This is one of the things we look at in Lesson 19. You can view it here:  (click the word 'here')

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hush. It Will Be Alright -- Revisited

They have Moses and the Prophets . . . (Luke 16:29)

The other day I wrote an essay while in the valley of disappointment with God. In that essay I said I often think, especially lately, how good it would be if God would take a seat in my living room and tell me, “Hush. It will be alright” You can read the essay here.
But even as I wrote the essay, The Holy Spirit asked me why I think I need the Father to come into my living room and take a chair. After all, He left me the Scriptures of the prophets and apostles. They tell me all I need to know about God’s feelings toward me. They tell me often enough – “ Hush. It will be alright.” Of the hundreds of God’s promises I remember from 40 years of reading the Scriptures, here are some that filtered into my mind even as I contemplated the essay:

Behold I have engraved you in the palms of my hands. Your walls are always before me. (Isaiah 49:16);

I know the plans that I have for you, plans for your good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11);

I have seen your affliction. I am aware of your suffering. (Exodus 3:7);

I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jeremiah 31:3);

God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28);

What He opens, none can shut. What He shuts, none can open. (Revelation 3:7)

But as despondency settled over me, I argued with the Holy Spirit, telling Him how nice it would be, nonetheless, if the Father would take a seat in my living room.
Two nights later I opened my Bible to the place I’d left off the night before. Luke 16. It starts off with the parable of the dishonest manager, moves into a brief interchange between Jesus and some Pharisees, and a quick verse about divorce. Then the Lord brings us the lesson of the Rich Man and Lazarus.

The Rich Man lived in sumptuous splendor within his mansion. Meanwhile, the beggar Lazarus sat outside the man’s gate, covered with sores and begging for crumbs. Neighborhood dogs roamed by to lick his weeping wounds.
In time, both died. Lazarus went to Abraham’s bosom (a picture of paradise) while the Rich Man was in torment in hell. Here is part of their conversation:

[The Rich Man] said, “Then, father [Abraham], I beg you to send [Lazarus] to my father’s house— for I have five brothers—that he may warn them, so that they will not also come into this place of torment.” Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.” He said, “No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.”   He said to him, “If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”’
As soon as I read that last clause, ‘neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead,” the Holy Spirit changed a few words in my mind:

“Richard,” the Holy Spirit said to me, “you have Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the words of Jesus. If you do not listen to them, neither will you be convinced even if the Father takes a seat in your living room.”
Ouch.

I closed the Bible and repented for pouting. And for finding fault with God. And for insisting on seeing a fulfillment of my dreams, and not His. My hopes, and not His.
Life’s circumstances often make it easy to succumb to doubt and to pouting. But the Holy Spirit always reminds us – if we will listen – we do not need to fret and worry and stew about any of those circumstances. Moses, the prophets, the apostles, and the words of Jesus assure us again and again – and again, God is righteous in all His ways and kind in all His deeds. (Psalm 145:17)

And we can cast all our broken dreams and shattered hopes on Him, because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:7)
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You can find my YouTube Bible study through 1 Peter if you click here.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hush. It Will be Alright



 For you I wait all the day (Psalm 25:5)
 
I heard her before I jogged around the corner. A long, slow, desolate cry.  Blonde pig-tails, blue jeans, a long sleeve pullover shirt. She couldn’t have been older than four. She sulked in her driveway as Dad unloaded groceries from the van. He called gently for her to come inside.

“I dontwannacomein. I wanna stay here.”  She said something else but her woeful sobs swallowed her words.  As I neared, she turned in my direction and started walking toward Dad. Maybe she felt embarrassed because I heard her crying. Or perhaps she was nervous to be around a strange man. 

I continued running along the sidewalk and soon turned another corner toward home. But my thoughts remained behind with that precious little girl. I let her image play again in my mind. Rosy face, tears rolling down her cheeks. She reminded me of my own children decades ago. And memories returned to me of the days when their tears fell down their cheeks. I used to kneel in front of them, pull them close and hold them tightly, wipe their tears and tell them, “Hush. It will be alright.”

Hush. 

It will be alright.

But now, after all these years, I wonder if it will be alright. It does little good to make believe my doubts don’t exist. God knows what I think before the words even cross my lips.

The days of pulling our children close to ourselves and wiping their tears and telling them it will be alright are gone for Nancy and me. They are no longer four-year-olds. They’re in their thirties. Two of the three live on the other side of the country.

And sometimes I wonder how my Father in heaven feels when He hears my cries.  How He feels when He sees my tears. I wonder if He wants to kneel in front of me, pull me close to Himself, hold me tight, wipe my tears and say, “Hush. It will be alright.”

I wonder those things because so many times, especially since some of my dreams and my deepest hopes have withered and died before my eyes, and I let loose mournful tears on my wife’s shoulder . . . . I wonder how He feels toward me when I don’t feel His presence with me. And all I have left is my belief in the God described by the Bible as One who does hear my prayers, who does hear my sobs, and who does hold me to Himself – even though I cannot sense it.

But oh, how I wish, sometimes so desperately wish, I did not have to walk so often by faith. Oh, how I wish I could once – just once -- catch a glimpse of His face. And hear Him say, “Hush. It will be alright.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I Believe: Forty Meditations on the Nicene Creed -- Second Meditation



This is the next of the forty meditations. You can find the book on Amazon. Follow this link here. (Also available on Kindle)
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Creed Statement: I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Today’s Focus: I BELIEVE

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence rely not; In all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

            I had heard about the rappelling tower. Its reputation loomed larger than life weeks before my arrival in San Antonio for military training. I stood in line with two dozen others and stared soberly at the fifty-three foot rickety wooden structure. My palms start to sweat when I stand on a chair.

            "Pick up the rope in front of you." The sergeant’s bark broke into my thoughts.
 
            With a series of twists and jerks, he demonstrated how to wrap the rope around, under and behind our waists and thighs to form a saddle. Then he marched us to the ladder and we climbed toward the clouds. Clumps of dirt fell from the boots of those ahead of me.
 
            When the last straggler took her place on the platform, the sergeant asked, "Who's afraid of heights?"

            I raised my hand, hoping he’d send me back down the ladder. I was wrong.
 
            "You’re first," he said.
 
            With the proverbial patience of Job, the sergeant fastened a rope through the "D" ring and guided it around to my back. My stomach churned as I stepped toward the ledge. Like a robot, I obeyed the sergeant’s instructions and grabbed the line in front of me with my left hand and the line behind me with my right. The tail end fell what seemed five miles to the ground.
 
            Sweat dripped from my forehead as I leaned back into space. Resigned to my fate, I let out a few inches of rope. In a moment, I was perpendicular to the tower wall, fifty-three very long feet above the Texas soil.
 
            "Jump!" the sergeant commanded.
 
            I pushed away from the wall and plummeted toward earth until I gripped the rope and stopped my descent. Euphoria swelled in my chest when I realized I was still alive. I pushed again and fell another twenty feet. One more shove and I landed gently on the dirt.
 
            Sometimes my struggle with confidence in God’s power, presence, and love is a little like my struggle with that monstrous fifty-three foot tower. Biblical faith is more than intellectual assent to God’s existence. It is God-centered and births an active, risk-taking confidence that proclaims, “I will trust God no matter where He leads and no matter what He tells me to do.”

            Just as I needed to believe the rope would hold me, I need to believe God will not leave me hanging in space – or let me fall. And though I might wonder if the Father really knows how far it is to the bottom, I’ve also experienced what the Psalmist learned, "Those whose steps are guided by the Lord, whose way God approves, may stumble, but they will never fall, for the Lord holds their hand" (Psalm 37:23-24).
 
            That’s one of the things the Creed helps us remember – not only what we believe, but in Whom we believe. No wonder you and I can trust Him, even if He asks us to lean into His arms and dangle fifty-three feet above the ground.


Prayer: Lord, I believe in You. Increase my faith. I trust in You. Strengthen my trust. I love You. Let me love You more and more. (Pope Clement XI)