Adversity and True Strength

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Life is a series of reflections

on us.

What have we,

What will we,

do

for others to enjoy an abundant life?

Isaiah 48:10

See, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tested you in the furnace of adversity.

Luke 6:22-23

Blessed are you when people hate you, and when they exclude you, revile you, and defame you on account of the Son of Man. Rejoice on that day and leap for joy, for surely your reward is great in heaven; for that is what their ancestors did to the prophets.

Words of Grace For Today

This life may be terrible and even horrendous, but it will be all right in heaven, so this is all right, too, right?

What doesn’t kill you, makes you strong, right?

Too often these rather stupid simplifications of valid ideas are used as excuses to allow psychological or physical violence and abuse to continue. The truth is there are scars from many things that do not make one stronger.

Perhaps the worse use of these is to justify that some people can enjoy great wealth, privilege, and comfort, while others struggle to stay alive, and others die very ignoble deaths, all in order to make the ‘chosen’ few able to be wealthy, privileged, and comfortable.

God did not make creation for us to live in a while and then escape from it’s injustices to heaven. God made all of creation, saw the accomplished work of creating, and said, “It is Good!”

Life for all people is designed to be GOOD!

GOOD does not mean without pain or suffering evil, for then there is also no possibility to love and experience joy. Pain and suffering – and – love and joy are part and parcel of the kind of life God created us for.

We live and love and experience joy. Some day the people we love will suffer and die. We will then also suffer and experience pain.

And it is all Good.

It is true that those who enjoy wealth, privilege, and comforts now at the expense of others being able to live abundant lives will, for eternity, suffer their choices to be blind and deaf to what they do to others.

It is also true that those who suffer and know only pain, will for eternity be released from that horrible kind of experience and they will know joy forever.

Our lives here and now are not to simply accept all suffering and pain as necessary. It is to work as hard as we can to mitigate and minimize all pain and suffering, to provide an abundant life for everyone!

That’s a life full and long of hard, dedicated work of love, not the sentimental kind of love, the real kind of love that puts one into action and pulls one to sacrifice so that others can live well.

What makes us strong, truly strong, is to know that even as we suffer and are in pain God walks with us, still creating, still seeing all that God does through us, and God says, “It is Good.”

Therefore we know that already today all will be well, all will be well, all manner of things will be well.

Promise, Resilience OR FEAR!

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

What Do We See?

The Disappearing Light and Danger of Darkness?

Cold Water Filled with Dangerous Ice?

OR

The Promise of a New Day Coming in the Light of the Morning, and

Clear Water of the Summer, (both months if we’re lucky :-)?

Genesis 9:9-10-11

As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.

Colossians 1:21-2

You who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him.

Words of Grace For Today

God’s great works are really two-fold. First God sets things right between us and God. Second God promises that the future is in God’s hands and God will not destroy us … at least not by flood waters.

If you have ever been in a flood, or threatened for months by continually rising waters cutting you off from the rest of the world, then you will know the fear that is inherent in even coming close to being in a flood. That fear does not go away with the receding waters. It remains, always. There are many other disasters that have the similar effect on our ability to live fear-free.

Fear paralyzes us, reduces us to instinctual beings without the ability to reason or think: we fight, freeze, or flee.

Living in constant fear, or in fear that recurs without warming constantly throughout our days, diminishes life, sometimes to a small sliver of life. Fear robs us of abundant life. Fear robs those around us of abundant life … as they deal with our fears.

The complete lack of fear, on the other hand, leaves us unmotivated to work hard, as if life will just unfold for us. The difference is the quantity and quality of fear. The first stymies us and reduces us. The second reminds us of reality and invigorates us. Where the first kind of fear leaves off and the other begins is not a constant. It varies according to our resilience.

There is one ‘disaster’ that all of us face, which nothing can take away from us: we will all die. This fear is a constant in all of us.

Knowing that God sets things right between us and God, and trusting the promises that God is with us and will not destroy us, gives us a resilience that is out-of-this-world solid … and living with which enables us to enjoy life abundant … through even the toughest times, including through Covid 19.

By Grace … Still Why Us?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

There are fault-lines everywhere,

no more than in each of us.

Why then does God bless us with Grace?

2 Samuel 7:18

Then King David went in and sat before the Lord, and said, ‘Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far?

1 Corinthians 15:10

By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace towards me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Words of Grace For Today

To live is good!

To live blessed by God is wonderful!

To live aware that all the good one can do is not from one own self, but possible only by the Holy Spirit working in and through one is most wonderful!

To live aware that God has brought us thus far by grace, making us what we are is to live with gratitude… and that is awesomely wonderful.

Being aware of God’s blessings and grace does not relieve us of the necessities of working hard. This awareness drives us to work even harder to play our small parts in God’s Kingdom come for all people.

Hard work is sweet and wonderful, when one works for God’s purposes: to bring the blessings of God’s Kingdom to all people. Some would say it is the sweetest, most wonderful sweat of all life.

Even with such Grace prodigiously poured over us, we must wonder, God, ‘Why us?!’

Help us Lord! We are so far from your kingdom even though you have brought it here long ago.

Awful Awesome

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Everything about Creation

is Awesome

Because Our Creator Strikes Awful Awe into Our Hearts!

Psalm 19:9

The fear of the Lord is pure, enduring for ever; the ordinances of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.

Colossians 3:16

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.

Words of Grace For Today

The beginning of wisdom is the fear and love of the Lord.

The fear of the Lord … that’s a gift that God gives us, which keeps us mindful of how great God is and how miserable we sinners are.

The Fear of the Lord is one side of faith … the Love of the Lord is the complementary side of faith.

Our response to all God gives us is simple: awe …

and every day the Holy Spirit enables us to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in us.

That is not us dwelling in the Word, which is another misguided effort on our part to reach God.

It is surrendering everything we are, to let God use everything about us to do God’s will and work in this wonderfully awesome world.

That is cause to sing for joy to God.

Hallelujah!

White Mountain of God’s Grace

Friday, April 16, 2021

White Mountain Surrounded by Lush Forest?

OR

an ash dump?

Inglorious As They Are

Ashes Remind Us

How Undeserving We Are

And

How Gracious God Is To All People.

Deuteronomy 18:10-12

No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practises divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Ephesians 5:9-11

For the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Words of Grace For Today

For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you.

Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

Good old judgment of others who practice different beliefs, followed by exiling them.

The quality that is unacceptable of the practices that are of darkness and such abhorrent practices is that they seek to claim control of what cannot be controlled.

While these practices named in Deuteronomy are unacceptable and abhorrent practices, because they deny that we are dependent on God alone for everything, we ‘good’ Christians in the church have all sorts of practices by which we try to control what cannot be controlled, and thus to control other people with rewards for compliance and punishments for non-compliance with our ill-informed claims of what is ‘right’ and ‘good’.

Should we exile all the people from the church who practice the dark arts of controlling what cannot be controlled, that is: trying to control God’s will for creation and us people in it? Were we to do that I’m quite sure that there would only be left one person, the one devilish person who evaded being exiled by others by being the exiler of all others.

In other words: we all deserve condemnation.

Thanks be to God that God is gracious.

God is gracious to all people, even those who practice abhorrent dark practices.

Our response, so much healthier for all, is to be grateful, rather than judgmental.

Yet we so often choose to ‘get rid of the trouble makers’. Thus our churches are not filled with sinners. Instead they are mostly empty, and those that come are mostly judgmental sinners.

God have mercy on us all!

Complaints or Blessings?

Thursday, April 15, 2021

What Do We See?

Ice One Cannot Safely Walk On

or

Beauty Rarely Found?

Psalm 5:12

For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover them with favour as with a shield.

Acts 13:52

The disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Words of Grace For Today

Covid 19 presses challenges on us all, unequally.

The homeless and outcasts in Canada are recognized as deserving homes and inclusion, so thankfully an effort is made to provide for them. They receive safe places to live and eat if for no other reason because not to do so would lead to an outbreak among them that could not be contained and would spread to us all. At least this care is provided in the cities … well sort of … in some cities.

Immigrants who live multi-generationally with many people to a housing unit, many people to a bedroom, are now and again provided separate housing in hotels for those who must self isolate or quarantine themselves … again for our protection.

Pastors gather to discuss their ministries … and it becomes mostly a ‘bitch’ session, complaints of how difficult life is for them and their families, though most retain full pay and adequate work, and none lack for the necessities of life, even in Covid 19 times. Humour creeps into the conversation lessening the dark tone of complaints. Yet where is their overwhelming sense of gratitude? How does one inspire people to remember how blessed they are?

How often Scriptures record gratitude and thankfulness as the most appropriate and life giving response to all of life, all that appears to be good and all that appears to be bad.

For God covers the righteous with favour as with a shield, and in the face of great threat to their lives for being Christian still the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

How then will we live this day?

Full of complaints, self-righteously expecting more from life?

Or

Filled with joy and gratitude, no matter the challenges that come our way?

Choosing to Be ‘in Love’

Sunday, April 11, 2021

no matter how long the shadows

old age or illness cast across our paths

God intends for us to remain ‘in love’

with God, God’s people, and God’s creation.

Psalm 62:11

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this: that power belongs to God.

Matthew 6:21

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Words of Grace For Today

I never understood young men who spent so much time working on their old trucks or muscle cars, fixing, tweaking, and adding 8 track tapes and speakers to them. (That dates me if nothing else does!)

I had to get old to read that whatever one spends a great deal of effort and time at, one falls in love with. So those young men, who invested so much time in their vehicles, fell in love with them, which brought them to spend even more time with them, until they did things that were not reasonable or logical or purposeful. They were continuing beyond all that into the realm of love.

Who would of thunk?

Thus it is that we humans assign value to things in our lives, which in and of themselves have no more than utilitarian value, if that, simply because we invest time working on them.

I can only imagine that someone who spends a lot of time accumulating wealth, power, or fame ‘falls in love’ with that as well.

What we treasure, owns our hearts, and brings us to do things that are not reasonable or logical or purposeful.

So it is in God’s creation. We humans, like the rest of the universe, operate on the principals of love.

This is God’s love permeating through the entire universe.

There is no power equal to the power of love, to heal, to give life, to give hope, to sustain life.

Once God has spoken God’s love to us and we have heard it once or twice we come to know and trust that power belongs to God, the real power that holds the universe together and gives us our very life and breath.

We can also, by investing our time and effort into things and projects and ideas that do not give life to us and others, ‘fall in love’ with evil and destructive forces that rob us and the world around us of life.

God intends, though, that we invest our lives (every bit of time and energy we have) into providing God’s care and unconditional love to other people. Thus we ‘fall in love’ with God’s creation and God’s people.

Then our hearts are found invested in the treasure that God created for us to live for: people, and people of all kinds.

When we live for other people, life never gets dull or boring, and we remain ‘in love’ with God and God’s creation, no matter how old we get. No matter how old or tired, or ill, we remain fully alive and in love.

What a life!

Fleeting Sunshine on Smoke or Light of Life

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Much of life is fleeting as sunshine on smoke.

God’s blessings are sure and forever.

Psalm 71:9

Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent.

2 Corinthians 4:16

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

Words of Grace For Today

What used to take little effort and next to no time or thought, now takes great effort and forging onward through pain, dealing with lack of clear sight, and being exhausted way too soon each day.

Fear makes it worse.

There is almost no resolution.

‘If you have your health that is everything.’

It’s a nice sentiment, though the truth is more clearly ‘if you do not have your health, then nothing else can compensate for that. Life is a finite experience, and without health (as old age takes if from us piece by piece) that finite experience becomes smaller and shorter and smaller and shorter and then will soon end.

Our real comfort is that God does not ‘unbless’ us as we get old and ill.

Even as our bodies and minds seem to waste away, God renews our faith and trust, and thus we are able to continue on, blessing others with all we have left in life, of life itself.

Anything else is a mirage.

Threats and ‘Paddles’

Friday, April 9, 2021

We may think we are up a creek without a paddle,

Doch,

God provides all the ‘paddle’ we need:

God’s blessings and claim that we are God’s own

Isaiah 43:1

Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

Romans 8:31

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

Words of Grace For Today

The challenges of our days can overwhelm us.

The challenges of Covid 19 can overwhelm us.

Other people’s lack of compliance with restrictions in place to protect us all from Covid 19 and it’s debilitating long term effects can not overwhelm us, it can maim us for life, or kill us.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us?

We may be terribly afraid of what can happen to us, or what others will try to do to us, even when we have done nothing to warrant such threats to ourselves.

While we may seek security in all sorts of manners and means, there is only one real source of security, no matter our circumstances, no matter how luxurious our ‘boat’ through the waters of life and Covid 19 may appear to be: Our only true security is God’s blessing and claiming us.

What does God say?

Thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

We can relax, think clearly, plan and work as best we can, be thankful and generous with all we have, even our lives … for we can trust that we are in God’s hands.

God Gives, We Receive, We Give

Tuesday, April6, 2021

Nothing is Perfect.

God Provides for Us In All Circumstances.

We Can Share All That Is

With Others.

Job 5:11

He sets on high those who are lowly, and those who mourn are lifted to safety.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God.

Words of Grace For Today

As we receive from God, we are given the ability to give to others.

God provides for those most in need.

We can provide for those most in need.

The world works out to be a wonderful place to be alive in.

Thanks be to God.