Saturday, June 27, 2015

Sure and Firm

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Heb. 13:8).

"Jesus Christ: yesterday and today the same, and forever" (my translation).

This line by the unknown author of Hebrews should be considered among the greatest in the New Testament.  You are able to memorize it and use it as an anchor and rock in a world, and personal world, of change.  In the words of the late Malcolm Muggeridge:

"Let us then as Christians rejoice that we see around us on every hand the decay of the institutions and instruments of power, see intimations of empires falling to pieces, money in total disarray, dictators and parliamentarians alike nonplussed by the confusion and conflicts which encompass them.  For it is precisely when every earthly hope has been explored and found wanting, when every possibility of help from earthly sources has been sought and is not forthcoming, when every recourse this world offers, moral as well as material, has been explored to no effect, when in the shivering cold the last faggot has been thrown on the fire and in the gathering darkness every glimmer of light has finally flickered out, it's then that Christ's hand reaches out sure and firm.  Then Christ's words bring their inexpressible comfort, then His light shines brightest, abolishing the darkness forever" (from The End of Christendom).

And in the words of the hymn: "Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changest not, abide with me."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Quality over Quantity

In the study of Holy Scripture opt for quality, not quantity.  Choose to read one verse very carefully, over the reading of many verses and chapters.  A Russian Orthodox Psalter (Book of Psalms) includes the following story about a man who lived in the fourth century.

"Pambo, being an illiterate man, went to one of the fathers who knew letters for the purpose of being taught a psalm.  And, having heard the first verse of the thirty-ninth psalm, 'I said I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue,' he departed without staying to hear the second verse, saying, 'This one will suffice if I can learn it in deed.'  And when the father who had given him the verse reproved him because he had not seen him for the space of six months, Pambo answered that he had not yet learned in deed the verse of the psalm.  After a considerable lapse of time, being asked by one of his friends whether he had made himself master of the verse, he answered thus, 'In all of nineteen years, I have only just succeeded in accomplishing it.'"

Less is more.  Simplify your study of Scripture, and you may just find your spiritual life enriched.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Flowers of Our Faith

When a Christian man died recently, I sent flowers to the funeral home where the service would be held.  I sent a red carnation and a red rose together in a simple vase.  Here's why.

"The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come" (Song 2:12).

Late on a Sunday afternoon I arrived at the nursing home to visit Eileen.  I am documenting what happened on that visit because it's going to be hard to beat.

First I stopped to say hello to Carol, the receptionist at the front desk.  She was putting the finishing touches on greeting cards she makes for her own use or sells for just two dollars each.  They're worth much more.  On the front of each one are bright, beautiful flowers.  She paints each and every one - no copies.  I marveled at the work and her talent.  I looked at all of them and then asked if I could borrow two of them to show Eileen.  I picked out the carnations and the roses.

Eileen was sitting on the edge of her bed as if waiting for me.  She enjoyed very much looking at the cards and hearing how Carol had painted them.  I suddenly realized that God had arranged something very special.

"Eileen," I said, "these flowers can teach us our faith!  Do you want to know how?"  She did of course.  "Let's start with the carnations.  They can remind us of the Incarnation, when God's Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit and became man for us."  We talked about that a bit more.  Then we looked at the roses again.  "Of what do they remind us?" I asked.  She correctly remembered that a rose is part of Luther's seal.  "That's right," I said, "but there's something even more!  Let's go find it together!"  So we began saying the Apostles' Creed slowly but surely until we came to the words: "The third day He rose again from the dead."

"There's the rose!" I exclaimed.

"There it is!" she said as excitedly as I.

We finished saying the creed.  We sang a hymn together and then, holding hands, prayed the Lord's Prayer.  Lastly I showed her a small crucifix and instructed her never to forget it.

"I'm going to go tell Carol what we did with her beautiful cards - and you helped me, Eileen!  It's because of my time with you that I have a new devotion to share with others!"

Four dollars later I left the nursing home with those two cards and a bright, beautiful way to teach others our holy Christian faith.