We Don’t Get Old In A Vacuum


NURSING HOME SERMONS

Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people.                   Genesis 25:8

Speaking of living a long time, did you notice the days are getting longer? Yes, the Spring Dandelions are poking their sunny yellow heads out of every lawn, around the base of trees and along the roads. As a matter of fact, an elderly friend of mine doesn’t like them in her lawn so she went out and began pulling them up. In the process, she managed to give herself a case of tendonitis and pulled her hamstring. OUCH

While I certainly understand that getting outside and moving around more freely is absolutely the best part of spring and summer, it gets easier to overdo it as we age. Fresh air, exercise, and sunshine are so elemental in feeling “good” about life and I love to work on my lawn, prune the trees and plant flowers. But I have also discovered that being sixty-four is much closer to sixty-five than I’d like to admit.

This week I bought a new trimmer and a mower and headed out to the yard to get caught up on the tall grass. I sat down after a half-hour. It wasn’t just because I ran out of gas or grass. I was just plain tired. My hands hurt and my muscles were sore and weak. It could be that I didn’t get enough exercise last winter but this is a new thing, this tiredness.

I went in the house to my desk and sat at my computer, wondering about how I could overcome this weariness. In my Bible I found several verses that were encouraging.

Gospel according to Matthew 11:28-29 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

The Prophet Jeremiah 31:25I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”

The author of Hebrews 12:12-13 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”

That doesn’t talk about my ‘process of aging’ though. At that moment, I wanted encouragement about the process of getting older, I’m sure you understand about the effort of just getting up in the morning sometimes being overwhelming. I’m beginning to learn a lot about life as I pass sixty, but I also forget stuff.

As a matter of fact, George Burns said “By the time you’re eighty years old you’ve learned everything. You only have to remember it.”  I understand it now. I love to laugh with George Burns but I often forget his jokes. By the way, he was almost as old as Methuselah when he passed away!

Charles R Swindoll’s book “Job” was published in 2004. Chuck explained about the Job’s struggles, and how he overcame them. In this book, Swindoll also remarked on a not to surprising thing: old-agers need encouragement too.

Sometimes it feels like folks over sixty are left out of life and forgotten. It seems like they are left out of the mainstream, they aren’t involved in the lives of their kids and grandkids. I have some advice for all of us who are have older friends and family around us, those who are already elders and also for those who care for them.

It is a two-way stream. My advice is to constantly remember each other. Take care of each other. Love each other. If your friend or relative is away, write to them. Call them. Text them. Keep up a running dialogue. Continue to nurture your relationship and begin new conversations instead of always talking about the good old days. There are many reasons – and they are two-way reasons. We learn from the aged and they thrive through us!

Age is not kind to the human body or to the cultivation of relationships. I admit no one else can make an individual be fulfilled and feel satisfied, but we can certainly help along the way. We need to consciously bring kids and elders into contact with each other.

Children bring that sense of constant newness to our hearts and memories. They are fresh, impulsive and bright like little flowers blooming. Research shows that the laughter of a child refreshes our thoughts. When we lighten up, we feel a little more positive and optimistic, more hopeful and engaged. We become friendlier, more resourceful, more attractive, more alive.

And now—a little advice to you who are feeling overlooked and forgotten. There’s a Jewish proverb that says, “For the ignorant, old age is as winter; for the learned, it is a harvest.” As age stacks up, we will find that because we have kept yourself alert and alive, we’ll continue to see life through new eyes.

Swindoll says we need to “Step up! Laugh! Stay engaged in life! Don’t succumb to feeling bad for your situation!”

As soon as you feel too old to do something, try to find a way to do it or find something new to do. Play a new game, find a new friend and explore your relationship together. When you feel critical, say something kind – in a kindly way. You feed your heart when you are nice to someone else. As soon as you feel neglected or lonely – reach out to another person. Send a cheery note to a friend. Stay in communication with those you love and be honest about your feelings.

“Have a GREAT day!”

Define Character


Character is what defines you as a human being.

It’s what people see in you.  It’s what people will say about you when you turn your back or after you pass away.  Character is one of the most important things you have.  Do you invest in yours?  Do people see your faith in what you do? Is your character reflected in you service to God?  Remember, when you die, Jesus will say, “Welcome brother/sister; job well done” or “I never knew you!”

Character is something that you hold fast to inside, and that people see in you on the outside. More importantly, it is something that God sees in you always.

Romans 5:3-5 – “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

Romans 5:3-5 shows us that in suffering true character is formed which pushes us to hope because we have God’s love “poured into our hearts”.   

Galatians 5:22-23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Character is shown in how you respond in any situation. Your actions can speak louder than words. You and I have to be on guard against the devil, so that when adversity comes our way we can still exhibit the fruits of the spirit in word and deed. How can we shine for Jesus, if we reveal darkness through our actions in the world?

Colossians 3:12-15 – “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.  And be thankful.”

Your character defines how you live your life.Your character is your judge. How do you treat those near you?  Do you truly love them or retaliate against them? Focus on the future… eternity.

1 John 4:8 – “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

The poor man who walks with Jesus, can rejoice in his passing.

Proverbs 28:6 – “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than a rich man who is crooked in his ways.”

 

You make provision for your flesh and the world when you sin.

Romans 13:14 – “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”

Matthew 12:35 – “The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

Are you a blessing to those around you or are you a ‘stumbling block’?

Matthew 23:25-26 – “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  You blind Pharisee!  First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

You may fool men with fake “character”, but you can’t fool God. He’s knows our hearts and our intentions.   

Titus 1:15-16 – “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.  They profess to know God, but they deny Him by their works.  They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

You may say you believe in God, but your actions and words, will prove if you do or do not.

Acts 20:36-38 – “And when he (Paul) had said these things, he knelt down and prayed with them all. And there was much weeping on the part of all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, being sorrowful most of all because of the word he had spoken, that they would not see his face again. And they accompanied him to the ship.”

Most of all, character is something that you hold fast on the inside, not just what people see on the outside.  More importantly, it is something that God always sees in you. You can see your own character through Him.

Is That a Crown of Glory on Your Head?


“Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.” Proverbs 16:20

I was downtown yesterday at the Fall Festival and a lady I saw had beautiful white hair, and she was so pretty and active! But the interesting thing is –  no, the INTRIGUING thing  – about her hair is that it was purple on the ends. She had this sweet halo of purple that exactly matched her outfit! I thought to myself, I want to do that-but then I realized I don’t have all white hair-it is kind of grey, and black, and red, and brown, and white! But oh well. I sure admired her hair!

This led me to think about my hair. The Bible says that your wisdom makes your silver hair a complement – but it could be an insult, or a crown. If you have wisdom to match your gray hair, then the hair color and your wisdom complement each other. If you have more gray hair than wisdom; the Proverbs say your hair is visible evidence you are a fool.  But if you have developed wisdom, then your silver hair is a crown of glory, for it declares a godly life, lived well.

“Respect your elders” is a common expression and an important Bible commandment. We are supposed to show special honor to those who are older than ourselves. The Ojibwe, our neighbors at LCO; say that our elders are always to be honored and cared for…Our Father said it this way, in Leviticus 19: 32 “‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Clearly, we should respect those who have hair that is their crown of glory! Yesterday I sat with a 92 year-old great-grandma at a funeral, and while we waited outside in the cemetery she shared fascinating anecdotes about her life with me, while she held my hand. I was intrigued and interested by her stories about her marriage and her life, and her hand warmed my own, cold one. Her white hair literally gleamed in the sunlight above her snapping blue eyes as we sat there.

In the King James Bible it refers to grey hair as “hoary” or aged. A “hoary head” is gray or white hair, where aging has replaced the hair color of youth with gray or white in Isaiah 46:4. You may have noticed that the hair of our Presidents often turns grey in only four years of their being in office. Perhaps, graying hair is just related to stress and worry?! Hoary in the Bible means anything white or gray. And such hair color on old men is considered a beautiful thing. “The glory of young men is their strength; (it says in Proverbs 20:29), and the beauty of old men is the gray head”.  (I think we have to imagine that guys with bald heads are really gray.)

But remember that both old men and women are to be respected. This is God’s ordinance. In Isaiah 3:5 it says the community of an ungodly and wicked generation, despises their old people. “Let us not be that generation” is my prayer. Proverbs 23:22 says-“Though age will reduce a mother or father’s abilities, they is still to be honored”. The Gospels in the New Testament commands that older men and women should be respected: don’t you love that quote from Timothy’s first letter:

I Tim 5:1-2 5 Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.”

Gray or white hair on an older person should be a badge of honor – a crown of glory! It is a change that God has ordained in our hair color that indicates age, maturity, and experience. American women are sometimes ashamed of their hair color, but I think aging should mean greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and godly example. Now, some may say that this is not always the case, so Solomon, the Wise limited the proverb to those who actually seek these virtues.

But God did not limit our respect to those who are the examples, He says the elders should be treated with respect, cared for and uplifted. Jesus made a point of how widows, children, the handicapped and the ill should not be neglected but they should be cared for by their community. He didn’t say they had to be the smartest or the best members of the community-he said we should care for each other and pay respect to each other, especially the aged.

Think about the silver hair of the old couple Zacharias and Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-7)? They were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless. What glorious silver crowns they had! And what did God do for them? He gave them John the Baptist, the precursor to Christ!

Simeon was an old man, whose goal was to see The Christ (Luke 2:25-35). The old widow Anna, presented herself to the Lord in holy and sober worship (Luke 2:36-38). Paul, near death, did not “count his assets” but rather he took the time to describe his faithful life (II Tim 4:6-8).

For a father to be a great father; he should train his children in the fear of the Lord as seen in Ephesians 6:4. Every one of our children and grandchildren is another opportunity for you to build a family tree in the kingdom of God. And today we hope they will honor your gray head as a crown of glory for the investment in their souls.

The Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified appearance has head and hairs white like wool, as white as snow in Revelations 1:14. It is definitely a crown of glory to Him, for He is the Ancient of Days and Everlasting Father though He is absolutely ageless in Revelations 1:18!

So I think I would love to show off my “own crown of glory”, through aging and gaining greater wisdom, holiness, love of Christ, and a godly example. What a joy it is to have made it to where I am in my life-and I hope you feel the same way! I thank God for your presence here today, not just the young – but the elders, because it shows we are on a path to gaining that shining solver crown! Maybe mine will have a light tint of Purple!

Let us pray together:

Heavenly Father, We love you deeply. You have brought us here today to share our love for You in song and scripture. You are so wonderful, so marvelous, so good to each of us. We lift our voices in praise for your infinite and generous mercy and grace for us.

Even as we struggle with the aches and pains of aging, even as we find it harder to reach out to You; we have faith that you will continue to be with us in our souls, and in our memories.

Father we ask for healing and strength for those of us who are ill or struggling. We ask for comfort and safety for those of us who are simply waiting and resting here at Water’s Edge. We especially ask for wisdom, discerning, love and gentleness for those who care for the residents here in the nursing home, in the hospital and in the offices of the Medical campus. Bless their hands and hearts Father that they would hear your guidance as they work here each day. We ask for that silver Crown of Glory, to be ours as we seek your heavenly Kingdom. Fill us with wisdom, love, grace and mercy so that we can know holiness here on earth.

Thank you Father for your Holy Presence here at Water’s Edge today.

We pray through the Holy Name of Christ Jesus. Amen.


Recently my husband went for a walk and discovered two tiny hatchling sparrows on the lawn. He called me and we tried to find the nest from which they had fallen. Sadly we could not find it and left them there hoping that the sparrow might find them and help them. Later I found a laundry basket that would protect them from big predators but allow the mother to come to their aid. I went to bed expecting them to be dead in the morning. The next day Ron got me up and said “Come see,”! They were not only alive but there was another tiny guy next to them with a piece of the nest. We gathered them up and put them and their nest in the tree. They survived the night weakly but no mother came to their aid. The next day we took them inside and my grandson fed them hummingbird nectar mixed with fish flakes on the end of a toothpick. When I got up the next day one was missing but following his peeping I found him fluttering around on the floor of the garage.

I scooped him up and brought all three of them to the kitchen; their little gaping mouths are hungry all the time! I am reminded of new Christians who hungrily cry for the Word of God and occasionally fall weakly from their nest struggling to survive on their own. As Christ followers grow stronger, we can reach out and feed those who fallen and are lost, hungry and thirsty. We all need to lift our hungry hearts to the Lord and cry for His guidance and care. Isaiah 40:31 says, ”but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Hustling Along to Death


This morning I came to consciousness in a hurry. Literally, I was already rushing to be awake with thoughts crowding up into my mind. The “I gottas” – those things that just have to be finished right away in my life bubbled up and filled my head. As I rolled over and stretched I began to catagorize and prioritize, popping the bubbles on those things I “gotta do” and the thought penetrated my mind that none of this stuff has any long term implications! So then I hacked away at the little stuff and focussed on ‘important’ stuff and that voice that comes from deep inside us said to me: “Andi, you are hustling along to death.” Bam. Slam.

I am unemployed and my days are filled up to the top with reports to gather, bills to pay, a budget to stick to, letters to write, appointments to get to, laundry, dog baths, house cleaning projects, Christmas preparations, committees and my kids. Somehow I thought that if I were not at the hardware store working forty plus hours a week that my life would slow down to a crawl and I would be bored. I should have listened to those folks that are retired saying that they don’t have enough time to do the things that they want to do. I just have more freedom to do ‘stuff’. Do I even sit down and rest with my house guest, Cecy, (who must think I am nuts to work so hard).

Yesterday those “I gottas” gave me a monstrous headache. I realized during the day that I forgot to make a payroll payment last month to the IRS and felt humiliated and foolish. “It is so simple,” I mentally slapped myself, “how could you forget?”Perhaps because I was preparing a detailed report for the bank, one for my company and one for the IRS. I was budgeting our business and my personal life. I was struggling to pull together minutia from 2009 to satisfy a potential lawsuit by an insurance company and saved us thousands of dollars. I was preparing six sermons for the Christmas season and trying to juggle the details of the Advent season. I was trying to find health and life insurance. I was trying to find a job- submitting applications, looking for interviews and working on my resume. Still, in my heart, there was no excuse for this simple committment to never be late with a payment and I whipped myself for my mistake.

The Lord did one of those “what about this” moments while I was starting to punish myself again. He showed me the Patriarchs in the Old Testament. Did Moses rush across the desert for forty years? Did Noah hurry to build the Ark? Did Abraham or David run around tending flocks? I don’t remember any of the prophets rushing and hustling along though history. I know that Jesus rested regularly. He and His disciples retreated to fast and pray even as He walked the road to Jerusalem and death. He came back from the grave to rise and rejoin His Father and He watches over me thousands of years later. “But Lord,” I ask, “will you do this stuff for me then, can you clear my schedule?” and His answer is, “Do you really need to do it?”

I am almost 59 years old. I am in such a hurry all the time that I don’t have time to exercise and eat. I am like the rat in a maze, scrambling through the twisting corners looking for something I can’t quite identify. I have always been in a hurry to finish stuff, to accomplish, to do things ‘just right’. My wiring is probably screwed up in my head. I am always going to rest right as soon as I get the projects all done, working 16+ hours a day. Peace? That is only when I pray and rest in Him. He takes away my sin of self absorbtion. I realized long ago that I am not a particularly comtemplative person but the Lord gave me capacity and ability. When I use my drive and allow Him to steer, I am okay.

“Lord, you are above wonder, beyond awe and past my comprehension. I am humbled by your majesty and by your merciful love for me. I ask that you quiet my brain and show me those things that You want me to do. Lift me from my pit of sin. Protect me from the hustle and bustle of the world and fix my focus on heavenly things. I lay my life at the foot of your throne, I raise my hands empty for Your service. I trust that you will take me, haughty and conceited as I am. Break me and reform me to your Will, because I love you with all of my heart and I desire to serve You only, not the world. I praise and worship You, Father and plead in the name of Jesus Christ my Savior and advocate. Amen.”

Lady In Purple


I have been reading alot lately about a lady in purple from Asia Minor who met the Apostle Paul and his companions, and converted to Christianity along with her family in one day. It makes me vaguely unhappy because it took me so long to find myself in Christ and she was enabled so quickly. I really had to struggle along for years! Maybe I am stupider, I mean that kindly. I mean that I just didn’t hear, wasn’t listening, was listening to myself, was listening to others…whatever. I didn’t hear that voice from the vacuum in my head.

Lydia was a businesswoman who sold purple dye or fabricsfrom Thyrateira in what is now Turkey http://www.bible-history.com/maps/romanempire/Thayatira.html   who was visiting or at least living temporarily in Phillipi- a city at least several hundred miles away. That’s quite a ways if you are walking or riding a camel (even if you are on a ship!) I spent hours looking at maps, google earth and geographical trying to understand why she would be selling her wares with her family so far from home. Paul was hauled off to prison and beaten visciously shortly thereafter, that should have caused her to run but she stayed and he went back to visit with her when he was released. Strong lady.

It is a crazy world!

Velvet Elvis: Are you rich in Christ?


How rich are you? Is money everything? Isn’t it easy to say that Christians are rich in the Holy Spirit and money doesn’t mean anything to us? Flows right off your lips doesn’t it? Last week one of my friends asked me what we are going to do now that I don’t work at the Co-op. I said we would get by; we live pretty close to the bone anyhow and now we will just tighten up the old budget. She gave me the look that said “big talk, don’t believe you…” Well, it is true. We have seen poverty in its many forms. Things are not important if you have shelter, clothing, food and family…oh, yeah and one more thing. What would that be? Jesus is the foundation of all riches in this life. Raise your hand if you agree.

I was just perusing the internet and ran across an older article about Rob Bell, the former Pastor of Mars Church and more recently author of a book called “Love Wins”. At age 34, Rob Bell took his message national in 2005 with “Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith,” as his first book. The title is inspired by the actual black velvet painting of Elvis he has tucked away in his basement. He said that whoever “painted” that picture was creating a work of art for a time and a place but that time and place have now passed. Bell says Christianity is a lot like that painting: it is not static and artists paint a new one for each new generation.

So Rob Bell is equating the Christian faith with what most of us would consider a cheap and worthless painting? His simile is that perhaps old fashioned faith it had value in its time period but then loses value to a new generation. Is Bell rich? Mr. Bell, I says to myself, I says, “Mr. Bell, you don’t believe in the Bible. You have built your church on shifting sands; you and it are going to collapse under your own weight.”

In another post I found he wanders back to the Bible and get philosophical about who Jesus is when Bell says, “For many people the message of Jesus was presented as an individual message of salvation for their own  individual sin: “Jesus died for you.” I affirm that wholeheartedly, but in the scriptures, its scope goes in the opposite direction. It begins with the Jesus who dies on the cross and rises from the dead. But as the New Testament  progresses,  you have writers saying that “by his shed blood he is reconciling everything in heaven and on earth.” Peter says in Acts, “He will return to restore everything.” So it is a giant thing that God is doing here and not just the forgiveness of individuals. It is the reconciliation of all things. It is the putting back together of the whole universe how God originally intended it to be. One way to look at it is that the message is an invitation into God’s giant, global universal purposes that “I” actually get to be a part of.””

Somehow I feel like when Bell said this he lost the main theme of the New Testament and I think he is lost out there somewhere.
Colossians 1:6-12 is talking to individuals and to each of us personally; Paul was speaking to the individual Christians of Colossa. Paul is writing this due to an assault on the believers in Colossa. Many different heretical teachings were being thrust upon this new church and they were confused about the identity of Jesus the Christ. Paul exhorts them to return to their roots, remembering the joy of knowing Christ because He first knew them, not just as an amorphous group but one on one, as individuals.

I found a later post on BeliefNet.com where Bell said; “I don’t follow Jesus because I think Christianity is the best religion. I follow Jesus because he leads me into ultimate reality. He teaches me to live in tune with how reality is. When Jesus said, “No one comes to the Father except through me,” he was saying that his way, his words, his life is our connection to how things truly are at the deepest levels of existence. For Jesus then, the point of religion is to help us connect with ultimate reality, God. I love the way Paul puts it in the book of Colossians: These religious acts and rituals are shadows of the reality. “The reality…is found in Christ.””

I would not dispute his reasoning here. In Colossians 2:5 Paul says “For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how disciplined you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. 6So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, 7 rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. 8 See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

So I was thinking about Bell’s revelation that reality is found in Christ. Whoa! Surprise! He talks about religious acts and rituals and that they are shadows of the reality of Christ. My heart tells me that communion is not an empty religious act or ritual. As we take communion today go ahead and ask Jesus if His sacrifice is worth remembering now and then. I’ll have to read his book to see if baptism is an empty ritual, perhaps marriages and funerals are archaic too. Bell is the son of a Federal Judge, a water skiing instructor and rock band member before he went to Fuller Seminary in California. He said that he didn’t do so well in classes for preaching because he tried different methods to get the message out. No disrespect intended but his credentials are a little thin. Of course Rev. Billy Graham was a farm boy with little to commend him when he started preaching Christ crucified and about how his faith was grounded and anchored in the Bible.

Bell also more recently wrote “Love Wins” and quit his pastoring position at Mars church to reach a wider audience with his love
message. Mr. Bell says that one of the most controversial issues of faith is the afterlife. He asks if a loving God send people to eternal torment forever. Bell says he is putting hell on trial-he says that eternal life doesn’t start when we die. His book asks if Gandhi is in hell because he wasn’t Christian, or whether only those who accept Jesus can go to heaven. That takes you back to your childhood doesn’t it; wasn’t that a kind of question you asked of your parents?

Well, what do you think, is Gandhi in hell? Have you considered it? Mahatma Gandhi once said: “A man who was completely
innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
Who is he talking about? Jesus Christ. Do you think he understands the man Jesus? There remains doubt about if he knows Christ as Savior…and I would dare to say only God knows the answer to that.

Ghandi also said : “Thus if I could not accept Christianity either as a perfect, or the greatest religion, neither was I then convinced of Hinduism being such. Hindu defects were pressingly visible to me. If untouchability could be a part of Hinduism, it could but be a rotten part or an excrescence. I could not understand the raison d’être of a multitude of sects and castes. What was the meaning of saying that the Vedas were the inspired Word of God? If they were inspired, why not also the Bible and the Koran? As Christian friends were endeavouring to convert me, so were Muslim friends.” Christian Universalism is the belief that God is all Sovereign, loving, powerful, wise, just, and ultimately rules over everything. It includes the belief that salvation is only by faith in God and was finalized by Jesus Christ “who gave Himself a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:6). The definition of Christian Universalism includes the belief that God “will have all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Some folks have taken the step to believe that all religions are the same and equal. No religious group wants to believe that God might have communicated to some other group and not to them personally. That would be letting go. Jesus the Christ tells us to let go and hang on to Him. The Bible tells us throughout the written history of mankind that God was represented here on earth by one Christ who was born, killed, rose and sits on the right hand of God the Father. I have faith that this is right.

In his book (which I will not read) Rob Bell is apparently saying that Jesus is right, Buddha is right, Brahma is right, Confucius was right, Muhammad was right and Lord Krishna is right. How about you? What do you think? Who do you think is right? Do you choose Jesus Christ? Mr. Bell’s supporters says he is a poet and artist with a unique way of communicating. I find myself very uncomfortable with his offering theological questions and then being unable to make cogent intelligent responses beyond tweets and colorful big stage productions.

Consider Colossians 2:3, “In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

In Philemon 6: “That the fellowship of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.”

Hebrews 1:3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

2 Corinthians 4:4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

Can you hear the voice of God calling out to us not to listen to the voices that draw us away from Jesus the Christ? Rob Bell and his
followers are not Satan but they are clearly misled into believing that Jesus Christ does not make a difference and have a presence in our daily existence. Have you experienced Jesus the Christ? I believe that folks like Bell have fixed their eyes on fallen angels, not on the Son of God. Do not believe for a minute that He is not here with us right now, almost visible because of our faith. This former hardware store clerk will stand nose to nose with the former water ski instructor and say, “I don’t think so
Mister.”

A collector who spent $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market in 1991 for a dismal painting because he liked the frame found himself the
possessor of a first printing of the Declaration of Independence. It is expected to bring $800,000 to $1 million at auction. A man found an interesting picture last year in a Nashville thrift store and paid $2.48 for it. The 1823 copy of the Declaration of Independence sold at auction for $477,650. That describes some Christians. They seem to think that Jesus is hanging around, but
they just don’t realize what He’s worth. They don’t realize the fortune that they have in Jesus Christ. My dear friends, let’s not forget the supreme treasure we have that is Christ!

Reading: John 12:31-32 “31 Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. 32
And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

The Blessing of Loss, Sermon September 2010


This is a sermon I gave last year, abbreviated a little for space. We were still recovering emotionally from Ara’s accident and I was feeling very reflective about losses and how they affect your life.

I have been reading JoAnn Lyon’s book, the Ultimate Blessing, in her chapter about the blessing of loss. Last week I talked about the blessing of holiness, what it is, why we need it and how we can find it in the chaos of this world. God calls us to be holy and expects us to be holy but we can’t get there without loss. Ecclesiastes reminds us that we are born to die, that is our lot in life. How can we face our mortality without a sense of sorrow or fear? Yes, the reality is that all things will end; we may lose our jobs, our spouses, our friends, our favorite hunting dog. You might miss the kids when they go off to school for the day or for a semester. Your best friend, your confidant, may move to another town and you experience a sense of grief or sorrow. The stock market may crash and you might lose a million bucks. How can you face the losses in this life? In 2005 in some of my darkest hours I found this poem by Elizabeth Bishop, called: “One Art”

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

–Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

As you grow older you lose your memory, not the one with the kids laughing and the best birthday party you ever had, but the shorter memories like where you were just going, what was on your short shopping list and that last thought you had that was so good. But the loss is not terrible, just irritating. Sometimes I wish I could forget those events that dig down deep and hurt so badly but they seem to be stuck in my soul. They are terrible and painful but I have learned and important lesson on how to cope with them. I have learned the hard way to lay everything down as an offering to the Lord, to depend on Jesus and let the Holy Spirit teach me daily how to deal with my life.

When we are faced with loss, no matter what kind of loss, we have to make choices. We have to choose first of all, how we are going to deal with the loneliness, fear, anger, grief and gnawing pain of loss. Some folks may choose to make it into a public issue, a drama like Shakespeare. Young people can empathize with Romeo and Juliet, the drama of lost young love and death.  The loss here was to the families who lost their children and who had to learn a new sense of right and wrong. The young couple wouldn’t come back, they have gone on, but the parents have to continue to get up and face the day for years to come.

In our personal lives, how can we develop a good attitude toward pain and suffering?  By being in a right relationship with God and most of all, choosing his offer of comfort over our desire for drama. There are promises of help for God’s people in times of suffering

Psalms 46:1-3  1 God is our refuge and strength,  an ever-present help in trouble.  2Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,  3though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Consider the emotions Jesus went through in Matthew 26:39: “39Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Could any of us say that we have suffered as Jesus suffered?  But Jesus showed us that we must let God rule in our hearts and in our lives. Accept God’s kingship in your life and accept His guidance. Jesus was fully obedient to His Father, laying down His life as He was called to do. Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” We need to focus on a daily life that is as pure as we are able in this distorted and evil world. 

Listen to Lamentations 3:19-26   19 I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  20 I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. 21 Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: 22Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”  25 The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; 26 it is good to wait quietly  for the salvation of the LORD.

We trust in Him who is our Savior, He who sacrificed so much for us. We try to emulate Him in our lives. “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Said Mark Twain.  Our lives may not seem so clearly laid out and easy to respond to the call from God, the issues can be confusing and hard to see.   That’s why we need friendships and a
community to help us. In community we also need to remember that others may also be experiencing a sense of loss. Friends and counselors can help us sort out issues to make them easier to handle. In Galatians 6:2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” Fear not, He says in  Isaiah 41:10

So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Healing after any loss takes time. Losing financial security, a home, a family member, or developing a serious illness such as
cancer all require changes and loses. 1 Peter 5:7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Try to relax into the fear and let time heal some of the pain. The following prayer might provide you with a way to ask God to bless and heal those grieving from any loss, that they may find wholeness in the midst of their pain: “God, You wept as Lazarus was laid into the tomb, yet You also gave him new life. Grant us new life, too, as we journey through losses like a cancer diagnosis or loss of spouse. Hold our hand no matter how rocky the path, and remind us, no matter how badly we feel, remind us that we are Your beloved children, with whom You are well pleased. Heal me, Lord if you will, in body, mind, and spirit, and make me whole again in You. Amen.”

Grief takes time and energy as an individual heals from a loss. With prayer, you can invite God on the journey through grief to wholeness and rely on God’s power and presence to heal, guard, and bless all who mourn. 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 a chapter
called: The God of All Comfort 3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. 6If 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 sufferings we suffer. 7And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.”

Grieving a loss takes time, but there may be joys along the way, such as a remission of cancer, a new relationship, and new healing within a grieving family. The following prayer thanks God for new life in the midst of grief.  Grieving the loss of a loved one, job, or period in one’s life is normal. The following prayers —prayer for grieving a death, blessing for healing from loss, prayer for tears, and thanksgiving for new life — invite God into your grieving process.

      In this case it is also important to know that we are not victims, and that maybe we cannot avoid feeling pain due to our loss, but that suffering is optional. We choose to suffer. We need to recognize our part in the loss and then we can give our loss, worry, or struggle to God. We can lay it on His altar, to repent and ask for His guidance. We need to know that sometimes people appear in or leave from our lives and it gives us new opportunities. These times can be a gift, a blessing. They help us recognize the things we need to change and work on in ourselves.  If we decide to accept 100 percent of the responsibility and abstain from reacting or blaming, we can really find ourselves and discover how truly powerful we are. Sometimes losses help us find our real inner core, the strength that God gave us to rely on. Then we realize we can change our lives without depending on anything or anybody outside of ourselves.

The Native Americans realized at some point that the power of the invading force of Europeans was more than they could resist. Although some didn’t grasp the huge advancing body of people, others realized that their way of life was coming to an end and just gave up. The pain and sorrow was too much, they were walking around dead like sleep walkers.  Others suffered the loss of their culture by drinking alcohol to drown out the pain. Some gave up their lives in quick suicide and despair. Others turned to God and found solace in submission. I found this Native American prayer called:

PRAYER FOR THE WHITE MAN

“And now, Grandfather, I ask you to bless the White Man. Heneeds your Wisdom, your guidance. You see, for so long, he has tried to destroy my people, and only feels comfortable when given power. Bless them, show them the peace we understand, teach them humility. For I fear they will someday destroy themselves and their children, As they have done so Mother Earth. I plead, I cry. After all, They are my Brothers.”

And then I found this Pueblo Indian Blessing:

“Hold on to what is good even if it is a handful of earth. Hold on to what you believe even if it is a tree which stands by itself. Hold
on to what you must do even if it is a long way from here. Hold on to life even when it is easier letting go. Hold on to my hand even when I have gone away from you.”

Yes, even loss can be a blessing sometimes. You don’t learn much from basking in the easy days but you learn much about yourself and others when the tough times force you to think. Remember to relax, take a deep breath and stand straight and tall. Let God direct you on your path to happiness and you will find joy lurking there. Amen.

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Living a life of Joyfulness


I have found that in my life those people who are truly happy are those who are not constantly focussed on their own trials and tribulations but looking outward trying to solve issues in the world around them.

There is, of course, a balance that we have to strike between looking within and watching without ourselves. Listening, constantly listening to the voice that prompts moral behavior and direction makes life a cleaner safer place.

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