Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Reflections on Lent

     One of the beauties of singing is that we eventually come to know both the melody and words by heart.  This morning as I woke up the hymn "Christ Arose" ran through my mind.  The words go like this:

 Low in the grave He lay, Jesus, my Savior,

Waiting the coming day, Jesus, my Lord!


Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes,

He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign.

He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose!

Vainly they watch His bed, Jesus, my Savior;

Vainly they seal the dead, Jesus, my Lord!

Death cannot keep his Prey, Jesus, my Savior;

He tore the bars away, Jesus, my Lord! 

     This hymn was written by Robert Lowry in 1874 and he based it on two Scriptures:  Mark 16:6 and I Corinthians 15:55.  This hymn expresses the fact that Jesus Christ rose from the grave and defeated death and sin for our sake.  Since we are entering the beginning of Lent today (forty days of reflection and prayer coming before Easter), it seems like a wonderful time to think on what God has done for us.

     In Paul's letter to the Church in Rome, he wrote these wonderful words of hope:  "But while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person - though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die - but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by His blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life" (Romans 5:6-10).

     Just considering this passage alone, it is amazing what God through Christ has done for us. We did not seek Him or want Him.  We were all caught up in sin, and yet, God sent His Son to be our sacrifice.  Christ brought peace with God (Romans 5:1) and a reconciliation with the Father.  Now we no longer face the wrath of God, but have the promise of eternal life when we place our faith in Jesus Christ.  Because Christ arose from the dead and lives, we also shall live in Him.  Death is not the final word for Christians.

     During this time of Lent, let us reflect on what Christ did for us.  I would challenge you to read through the book of Romans and think about the freedom we have in Christ. Then start singing those old faithful hymns like the one above that reminds us that our Lord rose from the grave for we also will rise from death if we put our faith in Him.  Selah!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Handling Differences Without Causing Division

     Growing up, our household ate mainly a beef diet with some pork and chicken mixed in occasionally.  We rarely ate seafood because we lived in the Midwest on a farm.  Fresh fish and other items were not readily available at the time.  It was not until later in life that I was introduced to different types of fish, shrimp and lobster.  However, I am still not overly fond of seafood as my husband is.  His mother made a fabulous oyster casserole for Thanksgiving every year which my better half loved.  In all our years of marriage, I have not tried to make it as I do not care for oysters.  On the other hand, I love asparagus and red beets which my husband dislikes intensely.  So what do we do?  We love one another and don't let our food choices upset the applecart!  By now, you are probably wondering where I am going with this information.  There is a big reason for this as there were food disputes in the Bible.

Turkey baked with bacon

     In his letter to the Corinthian Church, Paul had to deal with the many issues these Christians had to confront in a mainly pagan society.  One such problem was whether they could eat food offered to idols and not violate their Christian faith (I Corinthians 8:1-13).  Some had no problems with eating this food because they knew the idols were not real.  However, weaker brothers could be tripped up if they saw someone indulging in food that they knew had been consecrated to a false god.  Division arose and probably arguments ensued.  Paul clearly wanted there to be peace in the church.  His conclusion was to avoid eating meat offered to an idol if it would cause a brother to stumble (vs. 13).  Now, he DID NOT say that a person must avoid this when they were at home or with those who were not bothered by this.  In other words, use common sense and offer grace to those with whom you disagree.  This applies to the many issues we face today.

     In the middle of this pandemic we face, people are constantly disagreeing on whether or not to wear a mask or get a vaccine if one is available.  As I see it, Satan loves to stir up trouble and divide people both in the church and outside of it.  Once again, we must seek wisdom from God and not allow judgement to fall on a brother or sister for their beliefs.  We need to realize that circumstances are different for each person.  We are not all alike in age, physical well being, or genetic make-up.  God never put a label on us that says "One size fits all".  Therefore, we must show respect, grace and love for one another in the Body of Christ.

     Let me give an example.  During the time my husband practiced optometry, he had a patient present with the symptomless disease called glaucoma.  It is serious because it can destroy vision in one or both eyes.  He recommended a safe medication for the treatment of this disease, but the person didn't think it was necessary.  Each time the patient came in, the vision was worse in the eye that was untreated.  Eventually, this person went blind in that eye.  My husband did all he could to encourage this individual to follow through on using the medicine, but to no avail. The consequences here were permanent.

     Today, we are faced with many unknowns and lots of speculation.  Medicine is not a perfect science, so we learn as we go along.  Yet, we do know that for some this present virus is very dangerous especially if we have pre-existing conditions.  Therefore, we need to be cautious before making blanket pronouncements either of commendation or condemnation.  It causes division over something each person must decide for themselves.  Our job as believers is to share the Good News of salvation through Jesus Christ because we are citizens of heaven.  All else can become excess noise that drowns out the Spirit.

     Finally, let me close with this reminder from Paul's letter to the Philippians:  "So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interest of others "(Phil. 2:1-4).  

     In our household, I don't serve my husband asparagus or red beets, and he doesn't make me eat oyster casserole.  We honor one another out of love and respect.  Let us do the same in the Household of believers and defer to one another for quarreling and disputes do not glorify God, only sharing the Good News with others will!  Selah!


Friday, February 5, 2021

Afraid in the Storm

     Many years ago, my husband and I made a journey to Western Ontario for a fishing trip with his father, and mother.  The area was beautiful.  Nothing but tall pine trees and many lakes.  One particular day, we set out to fish on my father-in-law's favorite lake called "Kukukus" (meaning Elephant in the native language) .  From end to end, the lake covered 12
miles hence the name.   My father-in-law had been there so many times he no longer needed a guide from the fishing camp where we were staying.  He could readily navigate and used landmarks (fallen trees, rocks etc.) to get us from the docks out into the lake and back again.

     When we ventured out, the sun had been shining and it looked to be a beautiful day in the Canadian wilderness.  We decided to go out quite a distance into the lake from our docking area, so we stopped at a small island to enjoy some lunch.  The fishing had been good, but we began to observe some clouds starting to roll in around us.  Those that have traveled to Canada know that the weather can change abruptly even if the day begins clear and sunny.  Such was our fate that day.  It began to get darker and darker.  We decided to head back towards the docking area as the rain started to fall.

     Since we were far out, we knew it would take time to get back to safe haven so we had to decide if we wanted to shelter on an island or continue to get back.  Thunder grew louder and lightning was crackling across the sky.  The wind was picking up as was the rain.  My father-in-law kept a steady hand guiding our small fishing boat through the rough waters.  All I could do was pray that we would make it safely.  We had lifejackets in the boat but all of us were dressed for the cool summer weather with rain gear on top of our clothing.  It would be hard to stay afloat if we capsized.  The journey back seemed to take forever and with every crack of lightning we were reminded of the terrible power of storms.  When we pulled into the docking area, we made haste to unload and head for shelter until the worst part was over.  I remember telling my father-in-law who was a seasoned fisherman that I wasn't certain we would make it.  Surprisingly, he replied, "I wasn't certain we would make it either."  Certainly, God was with us in that storm as He is in every storm we face in life.

     In the Gospel of Matthew 8:23-27, we read the story of what happened to the disciples and our Lord as they traveled in a boat on the Sea of Galilee:  "And when He got into the boat, His disciples followed Him.  And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the wave; but He was asleep.  And they went and woke Him, saying 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing'.  And He said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?'  Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men marveled, saying, 'What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?'"  This picture was not unlike the one we experienced that day on Kukukus Lake.  Frightening storms can come upon us suddenly not just on a lake but also in our lives.  Jesus told His disciples this as He was preparing them for His coming crucifixion (John 16:33):  "I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world."

     There have been many times in my life when I have clung to this verse of assurance from Christ because we are not spared from the hardships of life.  The loss of a loved one, illness, losing a job can come to any believer that lives in this fallen world.  However, Jesus wants us to put our hand in His during those times when we are afraid.  He will walk us through it and give us a peace that this world cannot know or understand.  We need only call upon His name knowing that He has overcome the storms of life and so can we, by His grace.  

     That rough ride through the lightning and pelting rain will forever remain seared in my memory, but I know as surely as I am writing this that it was the Lord that saw us through the storm.  He is faithful when we are afraid.  We must put our trust in Him to see us through the tempests of life.  Selah!

Photo courtesy of Josh Mais photography