I am a creature of habit. I do things at a certain time. I put things is certain places. A crooked picture on the wall bothers me. Obviously I like order, certainty, things that can be counted on. But we live in a disordered, and uncertain world. The Psalmist faced this disorder over and over. They often cried out for help in the midst of things that were going awry. But they came back time and again to what they knew was solid. “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.”(Psalm13:5) We try as best we can to make our solid places and safe havens in our world, but there is truly only one place, one person that is solid and unchanging. “In you, LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me; turn your ear to me and save me. Be my rock of refuge, to which I can always go;…”(Psalm71:1-3) Our ultimate hope is in God alone. He will not fail us.
We hear so much these days about gun violence. 30+ people killed in random shootings just a couple of weeks ago. There are renewed calls for gun control. These tragedies have been in places of employment, in shopping malls, and even in churches. They are horrible, and leave many individual devastations in their wake. One article pointed out, however, that statistically each of us has a very low probability of being involved in such an incident. I’m not sure how comforting that is, but the article did say that we can’t live our lives in fear. We have responsibilities, and normal patterns of life with work, shopping, entertainment, and so forth. We can’t and shouldn’t curtail these activities out of fear. Above all we believe in our God who is a part of us at all times, our God who cares about every soul of the victims and even of the shooters. He has allowed sinful mankind to make choices, and at times those choices are used in very wrong ways. Yet He is not absent. He is present to calm our fears, to comfort the bereaved, and He alone is the One with power to touch hearts and overcome hate. Some aspects of gun control are important, but our main concern, and the focus of our prayers, is for God to change sinful hearts, including our own. And above all that He would shorten the days until Christ’s return.(Mark 13:20) He alone will bring the peace we all want.
There is a song sung by one of the prominent men’s Gospel quartets that talks about the conditions of our times. The chorus ends with the line, “but I’ve read the back of the book and we win”. We don’t need a singing group to tell us about our times. The news glares at us from every newspaper and broadcast. We live in the midst of it. Yesterday I wrote about the work of our God in the creation and redemption of mankind. That is the work of our gracious Father God to bring people – you and me – to a place of peace and harmony with Himself. He has worked for us over centuries of time. He has promised never to leave or forsake us, and to complete the good purpose He has for our lives. In the difficulties of our days and the tragedies we hear about daily, yet there is hope. We are strengthened to continue day by day with our eyes fixed on the promise of our Lord, and the evidence we have seen in our Redeemer. We have the greatest reason for hope.
We had a great worship service yesterday celebrating our Lord’s resurrection. Church was full. We sang great hymns, heard a fine message, gathered around the altar to share the Holy Sacrament, and declared again He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! But today Monday. We have a week before us of routine work, some pleasant tasks, some not so pleasant. The week may contain some illness, or a funeral service, as ours did last week. So as great as our service was yesterday, we are back in the midst of life today. But that is just the point of all that yesterday’s service proclaimed. Our Lord knows who we are and all we face in day to day life in a broken world. God sent His only begotten Son into this world to bring us life, not just for one special day but for every day. “I have come”, Jesus said, “that you may have life, and have it to the full.”(John 10:10) In the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave the power of sin, death, and the devil have been broken. Through faith in His name we have life. Today is Monday. The Lord is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!
“This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it.”(Psalm 118:24) I don’t know what you have planned for today, or whether you circumstances are good or bad. Even so this verse sets the tone for our days. Whether good or bad we are assured that the Lord is not far off. He is a part of our days with wisdom, guidance, strength, and help. This Psalm is also part of the messianic psalms. Just two verses before this one is the verse Jesus applied to Himself when talking to the Jewish leaders. “The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone.” Jesus is our Chief Corner Stone in all times and in all situations. He is the Rock on which we stand and in whom we have hope. You may want to take time to read all of Psalm 118. It is certainly a good one for each day.
“I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.”(Psalm 18:1-3) David gives us a wonderful prayer of trust in this Psalm. He is clear in saying that life is a struggle. There are many battles and enemies to the point where he feels overwhelmed, but the Lord is always there, bringing him through to life. This is our trust in all times, and all conditions. Life in our fallen world is not easy. There are many things that try to separate us from our trust in the Lord. Circumstances don’t turn out as we would like, or even as we can understand. Yet, God is there. He is our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer. He is worthy of our praise in all times, and our praise turn the eyes of our heart to Him.
We don’t have to look far to know that we are in a broken world. The trials and pains of life come to all of us. It is how we deal with them that matters. And I must readily admit that I don’t always deal with them in the right way. I am not a good patient when I face some pain. I took a fall last week that wrenched my back. It is painful when I move and have to use a walker to get around. I don’t like not being able to get up and go. Which leads to frustration, etc. etc. etc. I said I’m not a good patient. I often wake up with the verse of some song playing in my mind. This morning it was a reminder that I needed. It was an Easter song highlighting the events of the cross and empty tomb. “Then came the morning.”
Then came the morning
shadows vanished before the sun
death had lost and life had won
the morning had come.
This is the assurance we have. This is the message of the Gospel. God has come to share our burdens and to redeem us from the power of sin, death, and the devil. We have that assurance in the empty tomb. The morning has come, and with that truth we have the assurance that it will come for each us. I’m still not a good patient, but whatever I go through today is not the final word. My present pain will ease up, but more importantly we live the daily hope that in Christ all things shall be made new. Including our broken bodies.
A great hymn and one of my favorites is Great Is Thy Faithfulness. It was written in the 1920s by Thomas Chisholm as a testament to God’s faithfulness through his very ordinary life. One doesn’t need to be rescued from life-threatening danger or see God’s miraculous provision in the direst of financial crises to truly know the faithfulness of the Lord. God remains faithful day in and day out in the largest and smallest of circumstances. “Chisholm explained toward the end of his life, ‘My income has not been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. Although I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care, for which I am filled with astonishing gratefulness.’”* One of the lines in Chisholm’s hymn says that we “have strength for today and great hope for tomorrow”. Whatever you have planned for this day, whatever tasks you face, the Lord is with you. “The Lord’s mercies are new every morning great is Your faithfulness. ‘the Lord is my portion,’says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him!'” (Lamentations 3:22-24)
*Some information was taken from a Bill Gaither website – gaither .com
Yesterday we looked at the statement, seeing is believing. My son-in-law wrote to say that the reverse of that statement is the real truth. Believing is seeing. And it certainly is. When we begin to see life through the eyes of faith things start to make sense. We don’t have all the answers, but we believe in a God, our God, who truly cares about us. We believe in our God who has come among us to share all parts of human life. We believe that God’s Son has given His life to redeem our lives from the power of sin. We believe in the depth of His love that has a purpose for all that happens. Because we believe we see our life as one piece of a very large picture the Lord is putting together, a picture that will be gloriously beautiful. Because we believe we can look to Him in hope. Believing is seeing the hand of God near and active in all the events of our days. Let us bow before Him in worship.
We like to think that we are capable of doing what needs to be done, and for the most part we are. We have talents and abilities. We solve many problems as they come along in our days. However, as smoothly as things go along for a while, something always seems to crop up reminding us that we are not always in control. Be it a computer glitch, a sudden illness that puts one in the hospital, or even an unexpected death, things happen that we can’t change. The Lord, in His grace, uses these times to remind us to look beyond ourselves, check our priorities, set aside our pride, or a variety of other lessons aimed at focusing our attention upon Him for strength, wisdom, and guidance. No, we do not have the ultimate control of our lives. There is One far greater than we who does. And His nature is pure love and grace. We continually look in trust to Him.