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.
[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.
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.
Peter Marshall, the Scottish-American pastor who was also Chaplain to the United States Senate, offered this prayer about prayer in the 1940’s:
Lord, teach us to pray. Some of us are not skilled in the art of prayer. As we draw near to thee in thought, our spirits long for thy Spirit, and reach out for thee, longing to feel thee near. We know not how to express the deepest emotions that lie hidden in our hearts.
Your kingdom come, your will be done . . .
The second part of the Lord’s Prayer, this manifesto of theism, says, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (v. 10). If you pray that, then you are saying, “I believe God is a ruling king. He is leader over what he has created, he has a plan, and he knows how it all is supposed to work, so that means that he knows how my life is supposed to work. When I am confused or feel strung out or discouraged or feel like giving up, he is the Protector and the ruling Sovereign.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name . . .
The Lord’s Prayer begins simply: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (v. 9). Now you could say nothing more than that and have a belief system that fills in the deep cracks and fissures of atheism or materialism. Four truths: There is a God, He is personal and benevolent, He is above and apart from this finite world, and He is great and worthy of adoration.
Given the uncertainty of our times, it is crucial that we have a full and deep connection with Jesus Christ. People are wondering…
- What does being a follower of Jesus mean today?
- How can I find an inner peace when there is so much noise in the world?
- Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?
- Can I feel safe because of the power of God?
- Our culture is changing so much, what does stay the same?
- How exactly does Jesus make forgiveness possible in my life?
- What does the cross of Jesus mean for real life today?
- Did Jesus really rise from the dead? And what difference does it make?
The apostle Paul said: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Great things happen when multitudes of people want to know Christ in that way!
Knowing Him is a set of daily readings in a paperback book or Kindle ebook for the three weeks leading up to Easter. Day 1 is Sunday, March 27, and the last day is Sunday, April 16. (Pastors and church leaders… consider sharing this with your congregation for a unifying spiritual growth experience.)
This three-week devotional includes mediations on the last week of Jesus’ life on earth, reflections on the meaning of salvation, forgiveness, reconciliation, and more, and special readings about the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. There is always more for us to learn and understand about the crucified and risen Jesus! He is our only real hope.
NOTE: For a limited time Amazon has Knowing Him at under $10. Today is the best day to order your copy HERE.
Books can change lives. What better gift to give someone you care about? Here are some book recommendations for Christmas giving in 2015. Christ has come!
FREE DOWNLOADABLE CHRISTMAS GIFT BOOKMARK -> HERE
The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, Timothy Keller
What’s So Amazing About Grace, Philip Yancey
A Time for Dignity: Crisis and Faith Today, Mel Lawrenz
How to Understand the Bible: A Simple Guide, Mel Lawrenz
College Edition of How to Understand the Bible, Mel Lawrenz
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Laura Hillenbrand
The NIV Zondervan Study Bible (brand new), D. A. Carson, editor
Faith Through Aging Eyes (devotional thoughts for senior adults), Roselyn Aronson Staples