Marriage then and now…

I updated this blog that I sent out last year. The 48 things I love about Gloria remain the same. I added one more (in bold print) in honor of our 49th.

******

Marriage then . . . June 26, 1971, a date that will live in infamy -wait, that was Pearl Harbor. Let me start over: a date that will live forever in memory. A day when a 22-yr old woman (a beauty) and a 24-yr old guy (add any adjective or noun that is appropriate) said their vows to each other. Those vows did not announce how much they were in love on that day, but the vows were commitments made that they would, by God’s Immeasurable Grace, love each other “until they laid each other in the arms of God.”

Marriage now…June 26, 2019           

49 Things I Love About My Wife, GLORIA

G   od-lover, great (wonderful) grandma, giver, glad to help others, grateful when people help her, good cook, genuine servant, gold and diamonds are not important, glued to her marriage “until death do us part”

L oves her husband and kids and is loved by them, longs for meaningful conversation, loves to explore and take back roads, loses things but they usually turn up (just found car keys in coat pocket after 3 yrs), likes to stay up late but not get up early, lavish prayers said daily on behalf of her kids and grandkids, loyal to her marriage vows especially the “in sickness and in health” part

O pines (expresses an opinion) often, outdoor girl, oversees our plants and flowers, overlooks her husband’s faults, opens her home to the stranger and refugee, open-handed to those in need, oppressed by the computer, observes carefully whatsapp messages from kids about the grandkids, overwhelmed by the thought of selling our house and moving (but we did it, and made the move from West Chicago to Lancaster, Pa in early January)

R ank means nothing, raspberry lover (especially black raspberry pie), reads good books (especially about missions and biography), redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, regularly reflects on God’s Word, rather not do housework, really rather be hiking or kayaking, regrets living so far away from her new grandson in Switzerland, reads idiots guide to understand financial stuff, reaches out to people in need with offers to help in any way she can—she is a Christ-like servant

I nterested in just about everything having to do with her kids and grandkids, intelligent, incurious about sports (except baseball), inflexible in her convictions, initiates conversations with strangers and prayer with her husband

A   lways faithful, always supportive of her husband, asks a few questions once in awhile, an accomplished pianist and marimbist, appreciates working together on anything, always likes apple butter, an amazing ESL teacher, age has enhanced her beauty, a woman who fears the Lord

CHECK OUT 5 new episodes of the classic story Pilgrim’s Progress part 2 – click on the menu portion of any blog…

God Has a Greater Interest in Me, Than I Have in Myself…

I’m getting chemo right now and reading a portion of a book that I would like to share with you. The book was written by Thomas Brooks and is titled, “A Mute Christian under the Smarting Rod of God: Comfort for Suffering Saints,” originally published in 1659. Here it is:

You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself. The godly one gives himself up to God. The secret language of the soul is this,“Lord, here am I; do with me what You please, I give up myself to be at Your disposal.”

There was a good woman, who, when she was sick, being asked whether she were willing to live or die, answered, “Whichever God pleases. ”But, said one who stood by, “If God would refer it to you, which would you choose?” “Truly,” said she, “if God would refer it to me, I would even refer it right back to Him again.” This was a soul worth gold.

“Well,” says a gracious soul, “The ambitious man gives himself up to his honors, but I give up myself unto God. The voluptuous man gives himself up to his pleasures, but I give up myself to God. The covetous man gives himself up to his bags of money, but I give up myself to God. The wanton man gives himself up to his lust, but I give up myself to God. The drunkard gives himself up to his cups, but I give up myself to God. . . .The heretic gives up himself to his heretical opinions, but I give up myself to God.

Lord! Lay what burden You will upon me, only let Your everlasting arms be under me!” Strike, Lord, strike, and spare not; for I submit to Your will. You have a greater interest in me, than I have in myself; and therefore I give up myself unto You, and am willing to be at Your disposal, and am ready to receive whatever impression You shall stamp upon me. O blessed Lord! Have you not again and again said unto me, as once the king of Israel said to the king of Syria, “I am yours, and all that I have is yours” (1Kings 20:4).

God says, “I am yours, O soul, to save you!

My mercy is yours to pardon you-

My blood is yours to cleanse you!

My merits are yours to justify you!

My righteousness is yours to clothe you!

My Spirit is yours to lead you!

My grace is yours to enrich you!

My glory is yours to reward you!”

“And therefore,” says a gracious soul, “I cannot but make a resignation of myself unto You. Lord! Here I am, do with me as seems good in Your own eyes. I resign up myself to Your will.”

Amen!

The Night of Power

Perhaps you do not know that tonight (May 19 this year) is regarded by Muslims around the world as one of the most highly spiritual times of the year. It is called “The Night of Power” and it is believed that Allah hears prayers, forgives sin, and is more merciful than at any other time of the year. Surah 97:3 states that “The Night of Power is better than a thousand months.” The spiritual benefits that flow from Allah on this special night exceed 83.3 yrs. of normal worship!

Let us be mindful of this today as our Muslim friends and neighbors will be earnestly engaged in prayers for Allah’s mercy and forgiveness. Let us also be in prayer that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts to Jesus and to find in him the forgiveness and salvation for which their longing souls seek.

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

The Progression of Spiritual Digression… part 3

We have already seen that the first step in this Spiritual Digression (Hebrews 1-6) consists of drifting away through a lack of attention. “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.” (2:1) This appropriate counsel is for all believers at all times and not just for the Hebrews. Any digression in our spiritual lives usually begins almost imperceptibly—not as the result of catastrophic change, but through a lack of intentionality.

We have also seen that the second step in this process consists of turning way because of an unbelieving heart. “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” (3:12) The context of this section is the refusal of Israel to enter the promised land of Canaan because of their fear of the giants. Instead of trusting God and his promises, they became afraid, rebelled, maligned his motives, and wanted to go back to Egypt.

The final and ultimate step in this digression is the scariest of all; it consists in falling away from God’s grace. “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away, to be brought back to repentance. To their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (6:4-6) Wow! Arguably one of the more difficult passages to interpret.

Let’s look at our options. The NIV Application Commentary by George Guthrie (pp 226-230) is helpful here by listing some of the main interpretive theories.

The Pre-Christian Theory. Some believe that the text speaks of those coming out of Judaism (seekers within the Christian Community) who fall away before they are fully committed; like the seed falling on the path is snatched away before it can take root. The difficulty with this view is that the writer uses the language of full inclusion and participation, not just seeking.

The Hypothetical Theory. Some believe that the writer is using such graphic language to warn his readers of the danger that awaits them if they fall away. (6:6) In other words, the message is motivational and the writer is convinced they would never do such a thing. “Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are convinced of better thing in your case.” (6:9) This theory has merit and is a legitimate option.

The Lost Salvation Theory. There are some who feel that the proper interpretation is the simplest one—that the people being described are those who were genuine Christians, but who apostatized and lost their precious salvation, thereby becoming enemies of the gospel. Thus, they were Christians at one time and now they are no longer, and can never again be restored to the faith. While this option seems to fit the reality of the textual language, it fails to satisfy the test of compatibility with other Scriptures; “And this is the will of him who sent me that I should lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:39) Also, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” (John 10:27-30) Other passages to consider are Romans 5:9; 8:1; 8:29, 30: 8:37-39; Phil 1:6; 1 Peter 1:3-5; Hebrews 10:14.

The They Were Not of Us Theory. The final theory to consider is one that claims the people being described were never Christ-followers in the first place. In spite of outward appearances, they demonstrated a lack of saving faith by their failure to hold firm to their confession in Christ to the end. They were like those who left Egypt with Moses (both Israelite and Egyptian); covered by the blood at Passover, shared in the Red Sea Crossing, who appeared to be a part of the covenant community at Sinai—until they showed their true colors in the wilderness, ultimately refusing to trust God’s authority and hold fast to his Promises about the Land. The Apostle John called these people “antichrists” and described them like this: “They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.” (1 John 2:19)

This last interpretation is one that I think best captures the reality of the writer’s thought, while at the same time passing the test of compatibility with Scripture that teaches the perseverance of those who having saving faith. In other words, continuing in the faith (continuing to remain in the believing community) is a sign of saving faith. It is the theme of the very book of Hebrews itself. “For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” (Hebrews 3:14) This reflects the very words of Jesus, “But the one who perseveres (endures, holds out) to the end will be saved.” (Matt. 24:13)

I would like to make one last point. This passage about falling away from the faith should never be used as a tool of judgment to determine who is a true believer and who isn’t. Remember the parable Jesus told of the wheat and the tares growing together in the same field, and that they should be weeded out only by God in the day of Judgment? The reason is that we will usually get it wrong, because only the Lord knows those who are his. Not only that, but there will be occasions when true believers will drift away or turn away for a time, before the God of mercy who has begun a good work in them will bring them back to himself. In those intervening moments/months/years, these wandering ones do not need our judgment, as much as they need our prayers, our challenges, and our encouragement. Therefore, for anyone who claims to be a Christ-follower, Hebrews 6:1-6 should motivate us to make our calling and election sure and challenge us to persevere in the faith, knowing that it is those who continue to the end who will be saved.

God’s Comfort in Your Affliction…

What does it mean to experience the comfort of God when we are facing trouble or affliction? Think about that before we move on…. What does God’s comfort feel like to you? For me, as I have faced some dark times in my wrestling match with pancreatic cancer, God’s comfort has often come in the form of a freedom from fear through trusting in his providential care. God’s comfort has also shown itself by an awareness of his presence and the overwhelming sense of peace that such an awareness brings. It’s like my soul says, “God’s got this bro, go have a good meal.”

The Lord has also comforted me through the care and encouragement of others—their prayers, cards, letters, emails, texts, just letting me know they were thinking about me or praying for me. I remember when I was guest preaching at a church (back in the day when you could do that sort of thing) and a group of about 20 people gathered around me after the service to pray for me—guess my sermon was really bad (just kidding). They laid hands on me and prayed for my healing and spiritual well-being.

In another church, a smaller one, the entire congregation prayed for me just before I gave the benediction. I could give you example after example of how God has used others to comfort and encourage me—like many of you reading this post. Thus, when Paul in 2 Cor 1:4 calls God “the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles,” I understand what that means, because he has comforted me and continues to do so.

However, that is not all Paul says about God’s comfort. In v. 4, he continues “who comforts us in our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” This reminds me of Psalm 67, where the psalmist asks that God would bless and be gracious to him and his people, “so that your ways may be known on the earth and your salvation among all he nations.” God blesses us so that we can bring the blessings of the gospel to others.

And so it is with all of God’s gifts; they do not stop with us. We are to love others “as I have loved you;” we are to forgive one another as “God in Christ has forgiven you;” we are to be generous in the use of our wealth, because we “know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.” Therefore, God’s comfort is not designed to make us comfortable, but to make us a comfort to others, like some of the examples I gave above.

There is one more thing that Paul says about comfort in v. 6, “If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same suffering we suffer.” It seems like Paul is saying that whatever trouble or affliction he suffered, it would have an impact upon others in whom God was working to develop their faith. It all sounds very theoretical until you go through it and then it makes sense.

I remember that not too long after my diagnosis (which, by the way, was 3 years this past Good Friday) when I didn’t want a lot of people to know I had cancer. It was humbling to admit and it made me feel weak and vulnerable. It was my oldest daughter who sensed my hesitation and challenged me to let people know, so they could be praying for me. Then she said (at least this is what I remember), “Dad, we are going to be watching you, because how you handle all of this is going to set a pattern for your children and grandchildren.” The same thought was expressed to me by two other unrelated people in my church; the fact that they were watching how I was handling all this.

Wow! What a powerful thing to recognize that our afflictions do not take place in a vacuum. Other people are drawn in and are effected directly or indirectly by what we suffer. To personalize this—I know that I do not suffer alone (although sometimes I feel that way when I’m having a pity-party). There are more people than I can imagine who have been pulled into my world through kinship and friendship, and who are impacted by my affliction. And that is true for you as well. How you deal with your troubles can bring tremendous comfort to others whose faith is untested in certain areas.

It can be a great encouragement to their faith to see an example of someone who is not embittered against the Lord or constantly whinging about the hand they’ve been dealt. Instead, they see on display a very ordinary human being, simply trusting, hoping, and enduring because s/he believes that God is good, in control, and will never leave nor forsake. I guarantee that such an example will be of inestimable value in their spiritual development and will strengthen the muscles of their faith especially to have the privilege of praying for you during your affliction. Don’t be afraid of letting people know of your need, which is very humbling at first, but after awhile it becomes very freeing. Not only that, but God will bring you comfort and healing through those prayers. God’s comfort comes full circles back to you.

So, if you are suffering affliction today, may you experience the comfort that only the God of All-Comfort can give to you. May you also look for those within your sphere of influence whom you can comfort in some way, with the comfort you have received from God. Finally, may you recognize that though you wish for anonymity in your suffering, you are on display before family and friends, who will be greatly influenced by your simple faith and trust in the Father. Let them know how they can be praying for you and allow yourself to receive the comfort and blessing that it will bring.