We have such a treasure in God's Word. Many have tried over the centuries to discredit the Bible, but it remains as God's trustworthy and true revelation to us. His enduring communication of love and faithfulness.
I came across this poem by John Clifford that expresses it well:
Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith's door
And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
When looking in, I saw upon the floor,
Old hammers worn with beating years of time.
"How many anvils have you had," said I,
"To wear and batter these hammers so?"
"Just one," said he; then with a twinkling eye,
"The anvil wears the hammers out, you know."
And so, I thought, the anvil of God's Word,
For ages, skeptic blows have beat upon;
Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
The anvil is unharmed - the hammers gone.
As a follow up to last Sunday's message, this quote from N.T. Wright hits it on the mark. Rejoice!
"The cross is not a defeat, but a victory. It is the dramatic reassertion of the fact that God’s love is sovereign, that the rulers of the world do not have the last word, that the kingdom of God has defeated the kingdom of Satan, that the kingdoms of the world have now become, in principle, the kingdom of our God, and of his Messiah: and he shall reign for ever and ever."
Sometimes a simple mental image can stick with you better than a thousand words. I like this one from Mother Teresa:
"Your work on behalf of God’s kingdom will be better carried out if you know how he wants you to carry it out, but you will have no way of knowing that, other than by obedience to his word. Submit to it, just like ivy. Ivy cannot live if it does not hold fast to something; you will not grow or live in holiness unless you hold fast to obedience."
These words from Martin Luther King Jr. are still needed today, and they are our calling as followers of Jesus.
"I'm concerned about a better world. I'm concerned about justice; I'm concerned about brotherhood; I'm concerned about truth. And when one is concerned about that, he can never advocate violence. For through violence you may murder a murderer, but you can't murder murder. Through violence you may murder a liar, but you can't establish truth. Through violence you may murder a hater, but you can't murder hate through violence. Darkness cannot put out darkness; only light can do that."
The love of Christ is radical. Sometimes I under-estimate how distinctive the changes are for those who choose to follow Jesus. Indeed, the early Christians had a solid grasp of what constituted real faith. In a time when our world is deeply divided, we have a chance to show a different way.
Consider the following quote from Justin Martyr:
"We who formerly treasured money and possessions more than anything else now hand over everything we have to a treasury for all and share it with everyone who needs it. We who formerly hated and murdered one another and did not even share our hearth with those of a different tribe because of their customs, now, after Christ’s appearance, live together and share the same table. Now we pray for our enemies and try to win those who hate us unjustly so that they too may live in accordance with Christ’s wonderful teachings, that they too may enter into the expectation, that they too may receive the same good things that we will receive from God, the ruler of the universe."
I've always been a little wary of limiting something like thanksgiving to a specific weekend of the year. The Scriptures are clear again and again that we are to be thankful always.
In that light, let's keep it going with this thought from Henri Nouwen.
"Gratitude is not a simple emotion or an obvious attitude. It is a difficult discipline to constantly reclaim my whole past as the concrete way in which God has led me to this moment and is sending me into the future. It is hard precisely because it challenges me to face the painful moments – experiences of rejection and abandonment, feelings of loss and failure – and gradually to discover in them the pruning hands of God purifying my heart for deeper love, stronger hope, and broader faith."
God loves you!
I came across this quote from Frederick Buechner recently and I think it is a good reminder for us as we continue to reflect on the events of Easter.
"Inspection stickers used to have printed on the back, “Drive carefully: the life you save may be your own.” That is the wisdom of men in a nutshell. What God says, on the other hand, is, “The life you save is the life you lose.” In other words, the life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself; and only a life given away for love’s sake is a life worth living. To bring this point home, God shows us a man who gave his life away to the extent of dying a national disgrace without a penny in the bank or a friend to his name. In terms of men’s wisdom, he was a perfect fool, and anybody who thinks he can follow him without making something like the same kind of fool of himself is laboring not under a cross but a delusion."
As we approach Easter, let's focus on our wonderful Saviour and the price he paid for us.
"The image Jesus left with the world, the cross, the most common image in the Christian religion, is proof that God cares about our suffering and pain. He died of it. Today the image is coated with gold and worn around the necks of beautiful girls, a symbol of how far we can stray from the reality of history. But it stands, unique among all religions of the world. Many of them have gods. But only one has a God who cared enough to become a man and to die." ~Philip Yancey
Our hope is founded on Jesus Christ. As we approach Easter we celebrate what he has done for us. His resurrection points to our glorious future. The following quote from C.S. Lewis was an encouragement to me today, as we look forward to Spring in Manitoba, to live in anticipation of that glory.
"I believe that God really has dived down into the bottom of creation, and has come up bringing the whole redeemed nature on his shoulders. The miracles that have already happened are, of course, as Scripture so often says, the first fruits of that cosmic summer which is presently coming on. Christ has risen, and so we shall rise… To be sure, it feels wintry enough still: but often in the very early spring it feels like that. Two thousand years are only a day or two by this scale. A man really ought to say, “The Resurrection happened two thousand years ago” in the same spirit in which he says, “I saw a crocus yesterday.”
- C.S. Lewis
Here's an excerpt from Frances J. Roberts' "Come Away My Beloved", and perhaps it will encourage you if you're facing a challenge or worry. She writes in first person from God's perspective.
"You are never alone, for I am at your right hand. Never despair, for I am watching over and caring for you. Be not anxious. What seems to you to be at present a difficult situation is all part of My planning, and I am working out the details of circumstances so that I may bless you and reveal Myself to you in a new way.
As I have opened your eyes to see, so shall I open your ears to hear...and you will know Me as your dearest Friend and as your truest Comforter.
No darkness will hide the shining of My face, for I shall be to you as a bright star in the night sky. Never let your faith waver. reach out your hand, and you shall touch the hem of My garment."
Pastor Ward Parkinson