When I was in eighth grade my church gave me a brand new black Bible with red-colored edges and my name embossed in gold on the cover. It smelled fresh, and crackled when first opened. I felt a special connection with this Bible.
I tried many times to read that Bible, from page one to the end, like a book “ought” to be read. But frustration grew as I got bogged down in Leviticus, and then completely stalled out in Numbers. So most of the pages of that Bible remained clean, but I was vaguely glad to have it on my shelf.
When I was seventeen someone gave me a New Testament in a fresh new version that was very easy to read. I had met some lively, enthused college-age kids who saw the Bible as a book full of life and light.
A friend gave me today this quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the pastor and martyr who stood up to Hitler. What he is saying here is exactly what I have been experiencing since the death of my daughter, Eva, in June. These thoughts are a precious blessing to me today. I think a lot of people would be helped with this understanding. Worth sharing. Bonhoeffer writes…
“There is nothing that can replace the absence of someone dear to us, and one should not even attempt to do so. One must simply hold out and endure it. At first that sounds very hard, but at the same time it is also a great comfort. For to the extent the emptiness truly remains unfilled one remains connected to the other person through it. It is wrong to say that God fills the emptiness. God in no way fills it but much more leaves it precisely unfilled and thus helps us preserve — even in pain — the authentic relationship. Furthermore, the more beautiful and full the remembrances, the more difficult the separation. But gratitude transforms the torment of memory into silent joy. One bears what was lovely in the past not as a thorn but as a precious gift deep within, a hidden treasure of which one can always be certain.”
[Bonhoeffer wrote this from his prison cell to Renate and Eberhard Bethge on Christmas Eve, 1943, fifteen months before his own death by execution. Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 8, Letters and Papers from Prison (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2009), letter no. 89, page 238.]
Occasionally, in this life, we face treachery, as we did sixteen years ago on September 11, 2001 when airliners were turned into weapons by treacherous men carrying out a treacherous plan. Psalm 25 says “they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse.” Today we may pray with the psalmist: “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.”
[This text adapted from a message originally given the weekend after 9/11/2001 at Elmbrook Church.]
Psalm 25 begins with these words:
To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;
in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.
No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse
On some days evil men with evil intent wantonly destroy scores of people. Unthinkable. Shameful. Diabolical.
There is a word for this: treachery. But what do you do on the other side of the terrorist’s attack? What can we say in the face of pure treachery?
Confederate statues are quickly emerging as the focus in the national strife we are in. There is a great danger here. Symbols are important, but not as important as what they symbolize, frequently requiring interpretation. 500 years ago Martin Luther was deeply troubled when he heard about crowds tearing down statues in Wittenberg because
The violent clash in the beautiful city of Charlottesville should prompt us to think through and insist on basic moral leadership at all levels in our society. The alternative is unthinkable. Some thoughts…
- Our society needs moral leadership now.
- Moral leadership is not a function of public relations.
- Moral leadership must use words to clearly identify evils and virtues where they exist.
- Moral leadership must be more than words; it cannot be reduced to slogans or catchphrases.
- Moral leadership takes action.
In the upcoming weeks we will expand on the ideas in I Want to Believe: Finding Your Way in an Age of Many Faiths.
In I Want to Believe, Mel Lawrenz ignites a latent desire in all of us–the desire to believe in something bigger than ourselves. Lawrenz takes an honest dive into topics that are true areas of tension–doubt, rebirth, faith and action, and the essence of Christian faith. A fresh and engaging style draws readers into an unexpected conversation in which they receive concrete, concise descriptions of Christian faith in principle and in real life, and are shown contrasts with other faith alternatives. The chapters are skillful interweavings of narrative, illustration, and biblical reflection. Throughout the book, readers are assured that doubts are part of believing and that hardships in life do not contradict faith. For believers and seekers alike, I Want to Believe will fan the flame of faith and affirm the quest for believing.
Oh, Eva, Eva, my sweet daughter. I so want to talk to you, and I so want to talk to other people about you. My heart is torn and empty and full–all at the same time. How can that be? I know that you fell into the arms of your loving heavenly Father when you died 14 days ago, though how I wish it were my arms. Maybe it’s okay that I write a few words to you, and maybe it’s okay that I let other people hear what I want to say. I don’t want to brag about you, which you would not have approved of. I want to shout out about the joy you brought to me and Mom and Christopher and so many others.
[Download PDF of A Prayer for Easter, Resurrection Day]
On this day we rejoice in the glory of resurrection.
The tomb is empty.
Death could not hold the Lord Jesus. His body saw no decay. His enemies did not win. The earth could not contain him.
We are emboldened by the power of resurrection.
We are encouraged by the hope of resurrection.
We are enlightened by the truth of resurrection.
So help us, dear God, to have a daily expectation that we will encounter the living Lord Jesus wherever we live.
Help us to live in submission.
And empower us to bring this message of resurrection into every dark and desperate corner of this world.
In the name of the resurrected Lord Jesus.
[from Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God]
[download a PDF “printable prayer” version here]
In the days leading up to Easter we want to contemplate and understand more fully the suffering death of the Lord Jesus whereby we are forgiven and his glorious resurrection whereby we are empowered to live.
A temporary ban on refugees being admitted to the U.S. has put the spotlight on their plight. Few of us know what it is to lose our homes, our friends, our land, our belongings, and any sense of security. To lose identity, and dignity. Let us pray for the refugees—men and women, boys and girls—wandering the earth…
A PRAYER FOR THE POOR AND DOWNTRODDEN (from Prayers for Our Lives: 95 Lifelines to God)
[download a PDF of this prayer here]
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
Gracious Lord in heaven,
When we consider the misery and suffering of so many millions of people in the world today, we are overwhelmed
[from Whole Church]
Occasionally I go to Bob and Win’s house to have them pray for me. I feel greedy doing so, because I know that even without that request, Bob and Win pray for me every day. And I mean pray. They talk to God the Father and Jesus and the Holy Spirit; they pour out their hearts. That has to be one of the main reasons they are the compassionate, generous people they are. They look at other people, and they see, with a precise vision, their real need. And they see the grace of God all around.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
You have invited us to give you thanks, and this is what we wish to do. We are living in a time of great anxiety, but you have offered us a way out of anxiety. We long to know your loving care.
There is a view of leadership today that is disappointingly simplistic: merely getting people to do things. Many are successful in their efforts. They can get people to give money, attend large meetings, vote a certain way, develop a group identity, even to sacrifice. These are good things, but are not the apex of what Christian leaders are called to do.
A higher view of leadership includes higher purposes. This leadership aims at great aspirations, brilliant ideas, and high ideals. It aims at the betterment of people—their character and dignity, not just their pocketbook and status. It is committed to transformation. This is spiritual leadership—spiritual because it is empowered by the Spirit of God and its ends are spiritual vitality and growth. And the amazing thing is that God uses us even in our brokenness and sinfulness to lead people toward this transformation.
A sucker is born every minute. Supposedly P. T. Barnum, the ultimate circus showman, said this, though no one can prove it. All I know is this: I just don’t want to be one.
And yet, in this political circus in which we find ourselves, millions of people are being played as suckers. But it does not have to be.