Sunday, February 18, 2018

Build Bridges, Not Barriers

Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34, NIV, 
1st of Jesus’ last 7 words).
Luke’s research transformed his lifetime of tinkering medically with body mechanics. The Beloved Greek Physician sits firmly hunched over a writing table, quietly reading to himself: “I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning … so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).

Peeking over his shoulder, I note his greeting to Theophilus, a Roman official. This cultured Gentile doctor-scientist has met a magnetic little Hebrew that we know as the well-educated Christian Evangelist, Paul. Once known as Saul, Paul has serious health issues, but details remain sketchy at best. 

The two men have bonded beyond normal doctor--patient relations and Luke has become one of a few non-Jews converting to “The Way,” led by Paul the Jewish Evangelist. A Tentmaker, Paul is a man with a contagious faith. He currently serves as Luke’s mentor while Luke travels as Paul’s private physician and traveling companion.

The beloved Dr. Luke has found a resource for life much superior to his Greek heritage. Excited at finding unprecedented entree to primitive sources of this little known Way of Jesus; Luke anxiously shares with Theophilus his carefully researched subject. He has interviewed available eyewitnesses and overcome the challenges for presenting an accurate, historical, and objective account of this truly humanitarian message and ministry of the Palestinian Jesus.

Even those not convinced of Luke’s cause, appreciate his accuracy and eye for detail. Using minimal oils, Luke creates a sparsely painted portrait revealing both the unexpected death of Jesus and the apparent failure of his disciples. His details add color as he chronicles the extraordinary life of this Jew. a man in unique in dying on a Roman cross for non-criminal behavior, whose peerless life propagates a relational faith that challenges followers to forgive without being asked to forgive.

Luke reveals Roman soldiers gambling for the only valuable item Jesus owned; a seamless robe. He reveals authorities sneering at Jesus’ teachings. He reports eyewitnesses watching life’s forces painfully dribble from the tortured body of Jesus. People watched him endure deplorable humiliation in his suffering, climaxing in a cruel crescendo of anguish and death. Luke details for Theophilus the witnesses that heard him pray, “. . .Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34-46, NASV).

Jesus’s disciples could not have been any more surprised than the group of Hindu youth George Buttrick described. For the very first time; they heard an account of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you… do good to them that hate you.”

Commenting on this obvious contradiction in Jesus’ words, Buttrick wrote, “The signs of pardon in nature and human nature are cloudy and few: not by them can we be sure of pardon.”1

Human experience rises and falls like the roller coaster at Mall of America, while social scientists scrub away the “s” word and attempt to erase it from society’s vocabulary of communicable words. Experts compound the problem by converting individual and corporate failures into symptoms of the psyche, denying any possible existence of a problem once called sin. Now victims rather than offenders; we charge our medical-social community with the cure of our diagnosed “diseases” and they reciprocate by translating our offenses into psychiatric insights. This leaves us socially irresponsible and well intentioned--guilt-free. concepts of a failed psycho-socio therapy.

Meantime, our failed socio-psycho cure continues its assault. We struggle with flaws and imperfections whose existence we disown and deny but remain unable to cure or erase. At every turn, we stand nose to nose with poverty, pride, and prejudice, and perversions.  Tribal identities and ethnic groupings assault and violate one another and we expand our vocabularies to include ethnic cleansing and genocide as descriptive behaviors. Environmental pollution threatens the garden we once believed God created. We stand and declare corporately and individually school shootings “are not our fault!”

No longer able or willing to separate good from bad, right from wrong; wholesome and healthy living no longer appear as viable option for whole nations. With hope fleeing under the darkness of night, suicide provides a leading cause of death among our young and restless. As our world turns about in its frantic search for new meanings; we--the greatest nation in the world—find ourselves described as “the bluebird trying to sing its song while sitting on the dung heap.”2

The church stands with those attempting to push mediocrity aside and recover from a culture more concerned with making money than morals and manners. I loved my years as a pastor. I was privileged to watch high-achievers transition from school to career, from graduate study into professional service, and seeing them succeed. Yet, life always managed to find me and deliver a reality check that confronted me with the necessity of helping another human being escape from this success-oriented sewer of self-discovery.

I found that answers to humanity’s deepest needs come only with the healing one finds in rediscovering essential forgiveness as announced by Jesus from his cross.     His use of the word reveals him as one that lived as no other man ever lived. In speaking “forgiveness,” Jesus spoke as a Loyal Son conveying devotion to his beloved father. He spoke to God as no man ever spoke to God before--as a Son to his Heavenly Father. This unique bond between father and son reveals a deeply moving, beautiful and mystical relationship that reminds us of our own excited awe as expectant human fathers.

“I know I could get better if my daddy was here,” whispered six-year-old Paula from her hospital bed as she longed for dad’s comfort. When United Press heard this story of a young Pennsylvania girl dying of leukemia, they jumped on the airwaves and extended a hurry-up call for dad to come quickly from his work in Washington, D. C.

This God we wish we knew better was seen often in the lives of Old Testament prophets. When the time was right, Jesus taught us to pray to “our Father in heaven (cf. Hebrews 1:3). His life and ministry taught us, more than anything else that God is more anxious to get acquainted with us than we are with him. Through him, we learn to share our lives with God more openly. His suffering and final words on the cross prompt us to conclude that in him we have the clearest snapshot ever taken of God Almighty.

Gracie was a preschooler when she began thinking about God. In Kindergarten, she discovered “the everlasting arms” belonged to God rather than her father. Her Sunday school teacher revealed God as the great all-seeing eye; consequently Gracie demanded of dad: “What does God look like?” Dad scooped her up, wiped her nose, and showed her a window box of blooming Begonias. He reminded her they are as beautiful as they are because “God is in them.”                                           

Later, Gracie discovered child-care books that suggested that according to educational experts she and her brother should have become juvenile delinquents or gibbering idiots. Ike took money from the church collection plate and was so soundly spanked he could not sit for hours. When Gracie told a lie, she discovered it was an abomination to the Lord, not just a budding imagination.

Gracie recalled arriving early at a preaching engagement with her preacher-father. As they climbed the hill, dad startled staid New Englanders arriving early by announcing in his rich tenor voice, “For the Lord God Omnipotent Reigneth.”

Dad stopped, grinned broadly, and confided to little Susie. “You know the first thing I’m going to do when I get to heaven . . .? I’m going to stand up beside the Almighty and fling out a few stars to the Lord  … This,” wrote Grace Nies Fletcher, “is the way my father introduced me to my best friend, the Almighty.”3

As Gracie grew to adulthood, she enjoyed her relationship with her preacher-father, just as much as Jesus enjoyed Joseph, his surrogate father, carpenter. Like Jesus, Gracie grew into adulthood understanding a loving heavenly father.

Jesus faithfully built bridges during his earthly ministry by repeatedly sharing in the human issues of his earth-bound existence. When Peter later denied Jesus, Judas betrayed him, and the multitude disowned him; his consolation came from the heavenly Father whose will he had flawlessly pursued with the child-like devotion of a loving son. No one ever spoke to God quite like Jesus.

Consequently, Jesus accurately assessed our human inability to live only by the bread that feeds our bodies. He knew experimentally and experientially that we find real life only in the living bread that comes from the hand of God. Thus, Jesus modeled a role for us to imitate, but we must willingly take the risks of faith he recommended. He taught us by his example that it is our behavior that best reveals the kind of God we worship and not our words. Jesus taught us nothing that he did not first model; he talked nothing that he did not first practice. By walking and talking with God in his personal daily life, Jesus revealed how we can experience healthy and wholesome spirituality

Few of us can point out the faults of others without stepping out from behind the tree of our own failures. Not so with Jesus! Even his severest critics admitted he was a “good man,” an acceptable teacher, and that he lived as no one else ever lived. His word of forgiveness became as contemporary as the newspaper detailing how an eleven year-old killer now learns at fifteen how to set goals and study hard, in preparation for college.

“You’re making great progress,” the Judge concluded, “but you know you’re going to have to continue.” That same newspaper reported alleged drug sales, police extortion, and the obscenity of political mud-slinging with lobbyists and special interest groups parlaying fifteen million dollars into transforming “the stork of wisdom and truth” into the “degenerate mating of money and politics.”

“Father … forgive …” meant far more than faltering tongues repeat; for Jesus’ life displayed consistency of character that harmonized beliefs and behaviors into a symphony of moral wholeness. The life of Jesus dramatized the kind of God Jesus loved and served, a gracious and giving God who loves personally, powerfully, and sacrificially.

We cannot take Jesus seriously without discovering he neither condones nor condemns our world. To the contrary, he elevated life’s most powerful motive and initiated a singularly creative act of loving grace. He offers unequalled acceptance, intending to transform the weakest of characters into wholesome and healthy personalities fortified with rock-ribbed integrity, honor, and strength.            

Jewish wisdom suggests that as a man thinks within himself, “so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NASV). The preaching-teaching of Jesus grew out of the life he lived. He became an honored prophet-preacher-teacher by integrating his own integrity. Said another way, he practiced uprightness of character by walking the walk and talking the talk. Whether talking, or walking, or both; Jesus lived his beliefs and behaviors as one and the same.

No wonder the disciples found no pretense; for Jesus recognized the needs of others before satisfying his own. They saw him pursue private prayer with assiduous consistency. They heard him speak without respect of persons, recognizing neither master nor slave, neither superior nor inferior. They accompanied him, watching him live without compromise. They observed his submissiveness at all times, never detouring from life’s mission, and never allowing his ministry and mission to become sidetracked or derailed by selfish personal desires.

They relished his winsomeness as he lived life to its fullest, always integrating personality and practice into one powerful living package of human wholeness. They never saw Jesus become a victim. They never heard him indulge himself at the expense of another, or beg question of who he was with his heavenly Father. They saw him avoid ego-tripping with undeviating consistency. They recognized him as a superior model of everything he ever taught, and never detected any selfishness or mediocrity.

It was not by accident, or spoken loosely, that George Bernard Shaw left this choice word when he allegedly announced that the last Christian known among us died on a cross. As a man thinks, so is he. Yes, as a man thinks, he acts. As a man thinks, therefore, he forgives.

Forgiveness gives up lesser claims of recompense, revenge, and retaliation. It neither condones nor condemns. It forgoes justice when it could rightfully claim it. It shows mercy. It absolves unsparingly and forgets actively. Forgiveness differs from the revenge that often haunts humanity. Revenge calls for avenging; it extends broken relationships. Forgiveness repairs breaches and provides potential restoration and healing that can repair and eliminate ruptures. Forgiveness builds bridges rather than barriers.

Knowing the king faced possible death, the Chaplain urged Frederick Wilhelm, King of Prussia, to forgive his enemies. “Write to your Brother (unforgiveablest of beings), after I am dead” Frederick instructed his wife, saying, “that I forgave him.”

The Chaplain suggested Wilhelm extend his forgiveness without delay, but the king wisely replied, “No, after I am dead: that will be safer.”4 The king, like many of us, recognized the weakness of his humanity.

We judge others according to the thoughts of our own hearts, that being our natural human response. Jesus recalled a certain Pharisee who raised his eyes heavenward and thanked God he was not as other men. The man lacked any sense of personal failure, felt no need of forgiveness, and knew no reason to forgive another.

He thought he had it all and saw no internal failure; thus, he refused to confess any sin, failure, or weakness. He needed no forgiveness. Consequently, he believed he had no sin and lost his capacity for developing nobility and character.

Simultaneously, one of Jewish society’s least appreciated--a despicable Publican, could find nothing to his credit, in spite of his probable wealth and social position. He dropped his eyes earthward, whispering a choked, but honest, confession. He viewed himself honestly, for what he really was; he confessed his admitted failure and allowed its goading to lift him up the elevator of “GRACE,” God’s Relentless Actions Confronting Everyone. He had it all!

We find it easier to build protective barriers than to build bridges, because we tend to act as we think. We lack the nerve to openly commit serious sin, but we often approve inexcusable behavior with our silent consent. Thus, it comes as no surprise when Robert Dugan, then Director of Public Affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, tells us we should not be surprised at the increase of sex crimes.

As long as society willingly tolerates pornography, Dugan insisted, “including evangelical Christians … the incidence of rape, child molestation, and sex abuse will grow.”5      Few of us would actively commit a serious sexual sin, but we will not confront it. We allow sex in our media advertising because it sells. We capitalize on it in our journalism because it titillates a buying public.

We would never think of attacking another person with a butcher knife, but we do not think twice when shoving a trusting friend into the paper shredder of criticism. We deliberately dodge tasks that need doing, but we verbally whittle down to size people that annoy us by conscientiously completing their tasks.

Until God can change how we think; he cannot change how we behave. It was the death of Jesus that exposed us to the utter necessity of this thing we call forgiveness. Paul Scherer described three crosses on that hill outside of Jerusalem. On one, he found a thief experiencing death - grinning, hopeless, sterile, and taunting. On the opposite cross, he saw a thief experiencing a ray of light that Scherer describes as a ray of sunshine breaking through “to etch out of the shadows a face with a prayer on its lips and a brooding glory in its eyes.”

Between the two, and dividing them this way from that--as different as heaven is from hell; Scherer announces “the Word of God, at its uttermost become deed!”6

“IF” we agree that forgiveness is an essential word in our human vocabulary, we must be confronted by the necessity of Jesus’ mission. In speaking forgiveness; Jesus loved as no one of us ever loved. But, who of us needs his forgiveness? The Jewish people? The Roman soldiers? The Jewish leaders that savagely crucified him when unable to control him?

Converting the institution of traditional Jewish Religion into waste rather than worship, those established leaders destroyed the one-man good enough to brazenly challenge their self-serving system by going about doing “good” in the name of an omniscient God. They perjured themselves by perverting his message and his ministry. They could not pronounce a death sentence, but they could charge him with legal interference that required capital punishment via Rome. They could manipulate the legal system and deliver him into the hands of the Roman Commander; rather than punish him for what he was really guilty of … breaking Jewish tradition.

“Forgive them,” Jesus reminds us. “Forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34).

The rough-hewn cross given Jesus by the Romans, became the one thing truly his. But if the cross was his “alone,” humanity is not saved. If the cross was only “his” punishment, we are hardly worth saving.

Some of the Roman soldiers obviously acted out of circumstantial evidence, which was all they had, but they preferred to keep everything peaceful. They did not ask for this ignoble task of executing Jesus; they simply did their job. They preserved the justice demanded by rabbinical rabble-rousers although most of them would have gladly traded duty in Palestine for most any place else. This crossroads nation on the eastern Mediterranean was known as a hotbed for radicals and counter-revolutionaries and they were by providence in the right place at the wrong time.

Jewish ignorance, on the other hand, was judicial. God had made himself known among them from the days of the Exodus. When Moses led them away from Egypt’s slavery, they challenged him with their contemptuous complaints, claiming to be victims rather than victors. Rejecting the circumstances of their newly found freedom, they blamed God for the difficulties required for maintaining their freedom. They petulantly pouted, coveting the leeks and onions of former slave days and clamoring cravenly at the sight of giants in the Promised Land. Here and there; a prophet parted the clouds of God’s glory, but only a small remnant remained faithful to God’s covenant.

 When Socrates died, the world realized its poverty.  When Jesus died; the wealth of the world increased profoundly, for his death clarified humanity’s pretense as never before. It revealed sham and infamy within human nature that loosened irresponsibly to act out at will. Jesus, on the other hand, exposed the ultimate fact of true religion and revealed a kind God who calls humanity to the divine bargaining table.

The Christian faith reveals what no other does, a God who can forgive, and does forgive. Jesus did not tolerate the wrongs of humanity passively, as we often think. He confronted human behavior at its very worst, and chose to confront and endure its effrontery with the power of love and positive purity. He challenges our twenty-first century confronting us with an astounding truth, an ultimate fact: when we quit dealing with life God’s way, life quits holding together our way. Though other truths remain relative; this absolute truth deserves our serious consideration!

Like the Pharisee, our humanity rejoices because “I am not like other people.” It was the Publican--the sinner--rather than the Pharisee, the legally moral man, nonetheless, who experienced the hand of friendship from God. It was the Publican; the one that cast his eyes down and prayed, “Forgive …” my prejudice, ill will, gossip, self-righteousness and other trash that twists my life out of shape.

“Forgive me” that I may see others through eyes of love, understanding, and appreciation, rather than a heart filled with racial bigotry, ethnic superiority, and the greed that drives consumers to acquire at any cost.

When Merrell encountered a blocked prayer life; self-examination revealed behavior that called him to apologize. Calling each person he had wronged, Merrell confessed his wrong attitude and asked each for forgiveness. Able to pray once more, the Lord’s Prayer brought new meaning to Merrell and when called to speak at a Christian campus later, he shared his experience with the Dean of Students.

The Dean suggested Merrell lead the students in that same prayer. Prayers began in hushed tones but on reaching “Forgive us. . .” some students began weeping. Others never completed the prayer. In the months following, numerous reports came back detailing a reviving of faith. Prayer came alive in the lives of those students when they realized their refusal to forgive another destroyed the bridge over which they had to walk.

As Jesus spoke it, forgiveness opens the door of truth and unlocks our understanding. His word of forgiveness reveals God as The Reconciling Redeemer, the great forgiver. God works through the cross to make selfish people unselfish, treacherous people trustworthy, cruel people loving, foul people clean and suffering people healthy. Nothing else, short of another miracle, can do it and it all began at Calvary.

The cross stands like an exclamation point, being more than a mechanical liturgy. It extends a moral and spiritual invitation to us, inviting each of us to reconcile with one another by first becoming reconciled to God.

Eating meat and smoking cigarettes was contrary to his culture, but fifteen-year-old Mahatma Gandhi chose to begin the practice. He felt terribly guilty and alone as he committed these social “sins.” Finally; he surrendered them, signed his confession and vowed never to do them again. He took his written confession to his ailing father who watched his son’s progress with great pride.

“What will father say,” Gandhi wondered? This question resolved itself when he saw his father read his confession and watched his father’s face food with grief. “Oh, Father, Never again shall I do such things” cried young Gandhi.

Without looking at the weeping boy even once, the elder Gandhi slowly shredded the paper in his hands, scattered the fluttering pieces across the floor, and fell back on his cot with a groan. Gandhi later admitted that no punishment ever hurt as much as the pain he felt while watching his father’s tears rolling down his sunken cheeks. From that day forward, young Gandhi’s devotion to his father remained unchecked.7

When Gandhi later experienced the harsh bigotry separating the English-speaking world from his people of color, he suggested that pious Christians offered nothing “that the lives of men of other faiths had failed to give.”8 After reading the Bible about Jesus, Gandhi confided to another friend, “If Christians would really live the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian …”

Evidence suggests forgiveness abundantly meets a universal human need, restoring bridges and reduces barriers. Whether Jewish pride, Roman ignorance, or mass apathy; it no longer matters. Some of us still repeat that age-old question the lawyer used to justify himself when Jesus told of the Good Samaritan. ”And who is my neighbor?” Especially is this true when we are blinded to the reality of our own deeds.

A lady complained vigorously to her pastor about her many trials of life. As they visited, he noticed the embroidery she had laid aside. “My, this is an ugly piece of work,” he observed. “It is nothing but a tangle of threads.”

“But Pastor, you’re looking at it from the wrong side,” she observed, turning it over for him to inspect.

“That’s right,” he admitted, “and so it is with God. He tries to help us turn life right side up and see its true beauty.”

Looking at life on the wrong side always results in seeing the tangles. The cross calls us to turn life right side up and live it as we were meant to live. Love never promised more mercy than at the cross. Forgiveness never became more plentifully than at the cross. Selfishness never appeared more sinful than at the cross. In bearing his cross; Jesus blended divine compassion and human obedience into at-one-meant, and Easter resulted.

A clear picture of Easter reveals a loving God building a bridge for a failing humanity. Easter visualizes a good shepherd counting ninety-nine sheep but going out into the night to find one still-lost sheep. It points to a loving father that stands in his doorway scanning the horizon, yearning to fill his empty arms and aching heart with a restored relationship with his prodigal son. He longs daily for the day when “my boy” comes home and we can again live as family.

Easter painted “Amazing Grace” in detailed color as it searched among slave traders and guided a ship’s captain named Isaac Newton into harbor where he discovered beauty, peace, and delight he never before experienced, and never more beautifully expressed than in his classic hymn, “Amazing Grace.”

A small aircraft left Newport, N. H. February 12 at 1600 hours. For the engineer and two teachers this flight did not differ from any other. At 1619 hours, Concord airport called for “Winds Aloft,” but only silence answered. When nothing further came, a five-state alert sent the Civil Air Patrol, the Air Force, the Air National Guard, and others into a furious search and rescue action. The combined team systematically searched coastal waters and slogged through twenty-inch snows on land.

Weekend training missions became search parties, totaling five-hundred eighty-three sorties with eleven-hundred twenty flying hours, or one plane flying eight hours daily for one-hundred forty days. One hundred leads melted into oblivion, but five months later--in July--the body of the pilot washed ashore on Long Island Sound.

Somewhere over the Sound, perhaps in a sudden squall; aircraft Tri-pacer N2705P finished its course just minutes short of home. So it is with life. So it was with Jesus on his cross, so we thought. But through his death, we now know he spoke a clear word about God and a revealing word from God. It was a necessary word that we needed to hear.

Yes; even if it was only a word;, it was a word that spoke into existence the healing of broken promises, the restoration of shattered lives, and the transformation of squandered years into living joy. Roy Burkhart was right when he wrote, “If men could comprehend forgiveness, a generation of reborn men would evolve.”9

This one word from the cross provides the missing link in the divine chain and lifts us up-and-out of our abyss of hurts. Through this word we experience hope, happiness, and healing. Forgiveness brings beneficial acts of unprecedented love. It has resulted in an army of grateful men, women, boys, and girls across the centuries that have discovered failure needs never be final.

Finally: millions are living among us who have benefited enormously from this gracious and richly fulfilling life they currently live out in fulfillment of his word.
                  1 George Arthur Buttrick, So We Believe, So We Pray. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1951), p. 93.
              2 Op Cite, Menninger, p. 256.
              3 Golden Moments of Religious Inspiration, ed. by Ruth M. Elmquist. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1954), pp. 1926, “What Does God Look Like?” by Grace Nies Fletcher.
              4 Op Cite, Buttrick, p. 100.
              5 Donald E. Wildmon, The Case against Pornography. (Wheaton: Victor Books, A Division of Scripture Press Publications, Inc., 1986), p. 23.
              6 Paul Scherer. The Interpreters Bible, George Arthur Buttrick, Ed. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, Vol. 8, 1952), p. 406.
              7 Janette Eaton, Fighter Without a Sword. (New York: Wm. Morrow & Co., 1950), pp. 26-27.
              8 Gandhi's Autobiography. The Story of My Experiment with Truth” by M. K. Gandhi. (Washington: Public Affairs Press, 1948), p. 172.
              9  Roy Burkhart. The Secret of Life. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1950), p. 73.

I am
*From Conclusions From the Cross, Warner, 2002
Available as published at 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Easter is Coming

“It is a very funny thing about life,” concluded W. Somerset Maughan;; “ if you refuse to accept anything but the best you very often get it.” We live in  a new millennium that accepts almost anything and rejects almost nothing--except one’s right to be right.

This is quite different from orthodox Christianity, including the Church of God Reformation Movement, so-called, people that have experienced Easter as a spiritual Memorial Day—a Fourth of July birthday celebration all wrapped up in one neatly wrapped holiday package. Easter is recognized as the holiest of all days on the Christian Calendar. Non-Christians celebrate it as a secular holiday of intense marketing and anticipate their annual spring frolic at a warm beach, or an annual visit from their Easter Bunny. Even the most devout of Christians agreeably toss in egg hunts at the park for their children and encourage them to find the most eggs at their yearly hunt.

Some consider Easter only a memento, a legendary witness to a memorialized past. They respect it and insist that it deserves the esteem and veneration due all cultural wisdom of history. Others see Easter as no more than a dusty relic, a symbolic legend from a past that deserves nothing more than a quick click of the delete key.

Others of us respect the diversity of opinions but strongly wonder if Easter doesn’t call for a closer look. We believe if it has any contemporary relevancy whatsoever, we should at least download the seven last words of Jesus and reexamine them for any value they might offer our present age. To reject or ignore any such suggestions for improving our troubled times only further complicates our lives and that seems unnecessarily unreasonable!

One wag suggested, Easter is a time of the year when church members are insulted because the minister doesn’t recognize them from one year to the next. One minister went so far as to suggest that for us to find true meaning in Easter, we must experience a heaping hour of Palm Sunday and a walk in the shoes of Jesus  as he rode into Jerusalem. Finally, he suggested seasoning this with a dash gospel stories from that week’s events, all thoroughly mixed.

That recipe calls for gathering on Maundy Thursday and experiencing the Last Supper while sitting around the table with Jesus and his disciples. Stir these ingredients thoroughly. Pour in the events of that week Jesus was arrested and blend them into sixty minutes at the foot of the cross on Good Friday. Let this simmer thoroughly through Saturday evening.

Mix in a full ninety minutes of the new day of Easter morning. Don’t fail to worship and retell the story. And when you have stirred and sufficiently mixed these ingredients, serve them well-frosted with a liberal portion of Easter Day worship. Make sure you give others a good taste through sharing it joyfully.

Now I know that fads are just habits; they are practices, customs, and styles that come into being as if they were all there is and are gone tomorrow. Remember when streaking debuted? This whimsical levity quickly became a youthful fad. It stirred emotional ire among the elders, but it faded from view as quickly as it arrived. So: can you imagine going to a fine restaurant for dinner--and it happens -- just as the Maitre de arrives at your table.

Like the chilling breeze that causes your lady to reach for her shawl; it happens. You sense that something happened. You saw a blur from the corner of your eye--a shadow. It was over almost before you knew it happened. The Dining Room, however, throbbed with a sudden explosion of adrenalin. That caressing breeze danced through the candle-lighted shadows and left snippets of excited conversation erupting. Preoccupied patrons rippled like Maple leaves in the breeze. 

Whispers transitioned into psychological evaluations of the young. Couples quietly discoursed on the young and restless herd that tries so hard to cram all of life into the single moment we call now.  Describing it conjures up visions of a distressed and occasionally disruptive and thoroughly self-indulgent generation.

The question remains, did you see what you thought you saw? Left floating on the ether waves, it fades quickly. It passes into mindless oblivion, like the afterglow of a flashbulb exploding in the darkness of a photogenic moment. That is how I perceive Easter’s arrival –unexpected and quick but gone before anyone realized it arrived.

Hindsight suggests just maybe such events should have alerted everyone that something was afoot, especially on that Friday we call Good Friday. Yet; it was just another dingy, dismal day of Roman execution. No one was quite sure of anything at the time, although some obscure Jewish Prophets dreamed of such things.

Looking back, I can imagine the mushroom of gossip and rumors floating upward, not unlike that destructive cloud seen by the crew of the Eola Gay after it dropped its nuclear cargo over Hiroshima. The murky uncertainty that lifted over Jerusalem lacked the violence of Hiroshima’s holocaust, but it spread across the face of time just as quickly, and it turned a page in our history book.

Like every other day; few people saw any significant difference.  Only later, a fringe few recognized the cumulating events like a bad penny returning to the mint. The events of that week revealed behavior that has haunted history and left humanity preoccupied while other events took precedence.

Some only see Easter as a series of broken tokens and a few hallowed traditions. Yet, a myriad of Christians have found a vision reminiscent of the glasses worn by Timmy's Grandma, referred to in the introduction of the book from which this is excerpted. That expanded vision. when poked and prodded, caused people to eventually create some new time zones, redesign their old calendars, and reexamine human existence through lenses highly suggestive of a whole new dimension of life.

Our vision of Easter is that way.
This is

*from CONCLUSIONS FROM THE CROSS,  a self-published work of this writer

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Be an Encourager

Joseph lived on the island of Cyprus as a Hellenist Jew with a rich Hebrew tradition. He came from the priestly tribe of Levi, but he found the resurrection of Jesus so compelling and so persuasive that he joined the Jerusalem fellowship of that then new Jewish Sect--Followers of The Way. His new found faith in Jesus so inspired him that when a special need arose among his fellow followers of Jesus; he sold a piece of his property so he could contribute to the special offering taken on their behalf.

With such a sensitive faith, it was inevitable that Joseph would eventually come to the attention of the Apostles. It was difficult to overlook his authentic generosity, for he brought with him a contagious spirit. It enriched that small band of believers; and as people came to know him better, they recognized his potential for strong leadership.  Before long, his more intimate friends began greeting him with the name we know—Barnabas, “son of encouragement” (Acts 4:36-37).

Encouragement seemed to accompany Barnabas everywhere he went. With time, his leadership qualities became more obvious. When he risked his reputation to befriend and defend a new convert named Saul; it became increasingly obvious that Barnabas could look beyond a person’s past and recognize their great spiritual thirst.

Everyone had heard of Saul of Tarsus; after all, he was the arch enemy of this Jesus that set himself up as God. Followers of Jesus far and wide had heard the threats Saul breathed everywhere about exterminating this new sect of Jesus-followers. Barnabas, however, saw real value in the newly-converted Saul, who by this time was already proclaiming the story of Jesus, in spite of finding it necessary to escape Jerusalem by going over the wall at night hidden in a basket, aided by friends.

Barnabas saw in this brilliant and gifted young zealot qualities that The Almighty could use. He consequently dared to take Saul under his wing and introduce him to the Jerusalem Apostles (Acts 9:26-27). Controversy continued to pursue Saul, so friends took him to Caesarea and shipped him to Tarsus. Meanwhile, the church grew in period of peace.

When the Jerusalem church heard about the growth in Antioch, they sent Barnabas on a mission to Antioch. Upon arriving there; Barnabas, being a man full of the presence of God, became so successful in his mission that he quickly needed help. He could see needs he knew Saul could fill and so Barnabas returned to Tarsus and urgently recruited Saul to assist him in Antioch, and “for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers” (Acts 11:26).

This, however, brought conflict and stirred controversy in Antioch. There were those who remembered all too well that Saul had a terrorist reputation for opposing Followers of the Way. He had hunted them down as heretics. He had been become so controversial even as a follower of Jesus that it became necessary for him to return to Tarsus. After all; he had been the chief prosecutor of Christians--a most highly controversial personality, even after defending his newly-found faith in Christ with the same zeal with which he formerly persecuted the church. Suffering disciples simply found it too difficult to trust this untested, new convert.

The growth of the church in Antioch was enough to cause church leaders to send Barnabas to investigate and on arriving he found abundant evidence of God’s grace. He encouraged them, and quickly went to Tarsus searching for Saul. “So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers” (Acts 11:26).

Barnabas stayed the course. He mentored Saul. Between them, they bridged the gap between the former prosecutor and those formerly victimized. It went so well that church leaders sent Barnabas and Saul on the first Christian Missionary Journey to Cyprus. Eventually, the time came when Saul became the Apostle Paul and Barnabas and Paul trznsitioned into Paul and Barnabas.

The time did come when the two men quarreled because Barnabas insisted that Paul give John Mark a second chance, just as Barnabas had given Paul. Paul charged John Mark with desertion and in his disappointment he and Barnabas separated while Paul recruited a new companion--Silas. This proved compatible, even while singing at the midnight hour in jail, and soon Paul and Silas were evangelizing Europe.

Europe owes a debt of gratitude to Barnabas as the man who extended encouragement in launching Paul. Paul eventually added his own tribute to the gift of encouragement exhibited by Barnabas. Addressing Timothy, he wrote, “get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry” (2 Tim. 4:11).

Some contemporary Christians give Barnabas a day on the Christian calendar by celebrating June 11 in his honor. More widely celebrated among Christians of every spectrum is the memory of a grace-filled man that spent his entire life encouraging others--Barnabas, son of encouragement.

One thing we know for certain, whatever other gifting you may have; there is always a great need for more individual ”encouragers” of the stature of Barnabas.
This is

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Some Thoughts on Reformation

In 1996, I retired from pastoral ministry with the people denominated Church of God, Anderson. My wife had already retired in 1992 following her 17-year-stint in the fast food industry. By 1996 we had together served the church forty-five years, nine churches in seven states. 

Simultaneous with my retirement came the demise of the Gospel Trumpet publication (Vital Christianity, One Voice) after 115 years. She and I grew up as children of this theologically conservative evangelical holiness Movement that was part of the fractured family of Wesleyan holiness denominations, each with its own family history of “coming out” from the National Holiness Association resulting from the transitioning ministry of John/Charles Wesley within Anglicanism to outside of Anglicanism.

D. S. Warner had followed his wife in claiming the experience of sanctification as a so-called “second blessing”. He followed what he believed the voice of God leading him into a further reformation in which he flew under a flag of Christian unity and personal holiness of life style. John W. V. Smith recorded the first century of Warner’s followers in his significant centennial volume The Quest for Holiness and Unity, (Warner Press/1880).

Across the past twenty-one years, I have watched this self-identified Reformation Movement with increasing interest as it wrestled with its own identity crisis. It is far too early to attempt an assessment, but I remain an interested observer of the resulting transition. I have discussed facets of it with numerous peers; I have listened to the ground swell of a new generation of “reformers”, some saying the Reformation has denominationalized, others complaining the reformation is dead.

From all directions has come a repetitious phrase, “It is neither moving nor reforming.” Accompanying this has been a demand for renewal, reassessment, and reform. Some view the scene without hope and others have moved on with their own version of reformation, leaving us with their epitaph of heresy. My lifespan of ninety years at some level of involvement gives me what I believe is a reasonably accurate understanding of our “family history”. It is enough for me to know that I am no more than scratching the surface here.

Having said that, as I see it there are yet several alternatives and I would like to suggest three options:
                             (1) a dead reformation;
                                                                         (2) a lost denomination;
                                                                                                                                  (3) a reforming  Movement.
Our one-hundred thirty-eight years of Movemental history (1880-2018) evidences considerable soul searching throughout those years and a shift in our teaching and theological emphases.

Warner was struggling with his eschatology and Christ’s Second Coming. Believing at first that Christ’s coming was imminent; he took a hardline position against denominationalism and organization. Denominationalism belonged to Babylon and the Spirit of the Beast. He theoretically stepped outside of organized denominations and insisted that all Christians “come-out” upon receiving his “light on the church.”

There is strong evidence Warner was reevaluating his views regarding Christ’s return in his lifetime. Admittedly, many of us have transitioned and do not fully agree with Warner’s original views, nor did our pioneers all agree. Consequently, there are splinters out there, like the Evening Light folk of Guthrie, OK, the Restoration folk at Greenville, OH, and the Seventh Trumpet Movement of Lawton, OK, who fervently believe we have wandered from “ the truth” back into Babylonian pastures and rejoined the heretical herd of organized religion (denominations). Most of these folk want little to do with Anderson after about 1912-14 and they consider C. W. Naylor (et al), an outright heretic for challenging/changing Warner’s teaching.

 The obvious conclusion is “Anderson is a dead reformation!” They will pay the highest price possible for any and all pre-1912/14 original Warner Press Publications. Thereafter holds little, or no, value.

A second option is being bandied about, especially among Anderson adherents who are not well-grounded historically and fail to understand the various theological threads in our history. Space does not allow for a full discussion of this issue, but changes in our emphasis from reformation to institutionalization is obvious. Quite obvious is the fact that institutionalization has taken place.

Equally obvious is the truth that we do not know yet what to do with it and how to relate it with a proper interconnectedness. (Pictured left is Camp Meeting 1955, Grand Junction, MI).

We are today strongly institutionalized. We have our national/global church guided by Church of God Ministries (better known as Chog Ministries) (with considerable dissension and under current). We have a growing compliment of State Organizations and I have been a satisfied participant within the Church of God in Michigan for several decades. In addition; we have our self-governing body of local congregations whose interconnectedness we still struggle to understand and/or facilitate.

Much of the discussion today revolves around whether or not we as an institution constitute a “denomination” and there are strong opinions both pro and con. For those who believe we have simply assimilated back into the “denominational” world of what they perceive essentially as “Babylon”, the conclusion is obvious: we are neither moving nor reforming; we are a lost denomination in need of reviving.

There is a growing group today of older generations and new generation youngs who recognize that our emphasis/teachings have shifted from the harshness of Warner’s anti-Babylon come-outism originally espoused. There are increasing numbers of folk who believe today that it is okay to “tweak” those original teachings, that Warner, Fisher, et al did not necessarily have THE FINAL WORD on God’s Word, that not all the “final word” resides in Greenville, Ohio or Guthrie, OK. There are Spirit-led people around the Anderson Movement yet today who experience our teachings (Church of God Anderson, if you will) as more accurately reflecting the Reformation, Restoration, Renewal principles Warner, Fisher et al attempted to facilitate.   

Reformation is not a Movement headquartered in Anderson, IN; reformation is an ongoing refining process that has existed throughout the history of the church. The Church went through centuries of DARK AGES but Luther et company was not the first protest-ant reformation. There has been a process of refining in process from the days of Peter, James, John, and Paul. You find evidence of it through the centuries in what are today recognized as defining theological statements and historical creeds. You meet people like Peter Waldo, John Hus, Wycliffe , Luther, and Menno Simons. I am personally challenged by the likes of Balthasar Hubmaier and the later Lutheran Pietists, not to mention, John Wesley, Barton Stone, D. S. Warner et al.

Ordained in March 1952 in Dallas, TX, I have remained in this ministry, not because we were the biggest or even the best, but because it was herein that I found as full a biblical expression of God’s ONE CHURCH being facilitated as I could find anywhere. It called me to a high level of piety (holiness). It calls me yet today to the source of that message—Jesus being the reason for our (my) quest for unity and holiness. Consequently, I have discovered I have fellowship with “every blood washed one”. That today is global. It reaches from Argentina to St. Petersburg, Russia. It stretches across Africa and reaches into the Middle East. Moreover, not every Facebook friend carries a label of “Church of God, Anderson”.

In fact; it leaves me in the same boat that John Winebrenner found himself in when he got so excited about his “walk with Jesus” that he took the liberty (in Christ) of cooperating with certain Methodist preachers (of all people) to conduct  revival services. For that behavior, Winebrenner’s German Reformed brethren dis-fellowshipped him and it was among Winebrenner’s followship that D. S. Warner found light on the church by the grace of God.

We will NEVER FIND UNITY in our theologizing. The Anderson Church of God will never find its ultimate embodiment of God’s truth by trying to be distinctive so everyone else can enjoy our distinctiveness. WE WILL FIND UNITY by finding fellow followers of Jesus and uniting with them in purposeful cooperation and together working intentionally to tell the story of Jesus, then enlist and disciple everyone we can win to Jesus.

While you speculate your dead and lost reformations, I mean to go right on - intentionally enlisted in an already ongoing “Movement of Reform” - aka Reformation Movement.

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Love Finds Its Own Way

A young mother took her incorrigible eight-year-old to a psychiatrist because nothing suited her child; “nothing was right!”

Conversation quickly revealed the depths of the child’s bitterness from hearing her mother’s years of unwanted diatribe. The doctor listened patiently. Before long, he heard the agony of an unwanted child slowly confessing, “Nobody loves me!” 

After listening to her childish complaint; the doctor suggested, “Why, that isn’t true. I love you. I really do like you.”

The child, on hearing the doctor’s kind words of acceptance, quietly approached him and climbed up on his lap. While sitting there with tears streaming down her face, she kissed the old man. Returning home, the rebellious child made up with her mother and became a very different child at school.

Nothing heals like a dose of love. The doctor, by loving a bitter, incorrigible child, modeled a teaching that Jesus left for us. Through his medical practice, the doctor redirected the child’s misdirected focus and broke through her protective shield of enslaving self-centeredness. It is a lesson that I, like some of you, am still trying to more fully wrap myself around.

As Jesus approached the time of his betrayal, he offered one of his most significant commands. We view his statement in the light of his coming death, as we hear his pronouncement: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34 NASV, italics added).

Why are we so quick to condemn one another? Our harsh and unkind words often reveal more about us than the person we judge. What we see so often is something we find deep within, but lack the grace to admit.

During one of those terribly depressing days during America’s Civil War, President Lincoln frequently visited nearby hospitals around the area. On one of those days, a young man visited his wounded brother following a fierce and costly battle. As the young man exited his brother’s room, he accidently bumped headlong into Mr. Lincoln.

Accosting the President without recognition or apology, the hostile, hurting younger brother, filled with his own bitterness, rudely challenged Mr. Lincoln: “Can’t you get out of the way of a young gentleman?”

Without disclosing his identity, the kindly President asked, “Young man, what’s troubling you on the inside?” The President instinctively knew that something was eating at the inside of this young man; otherwise, he would not be so out of sorts with his whole world.

Self-centered living creates behaviors and attitudes that only love can cushion. Counselors and healers find self-centered living most often creating the greatest obstacles for living comfortably with one’s self, thereby making it difficult to relate with others.

People that withdraw inward, tend to wall-off others, except to blame. They do everything they can, except face the real problem--within. A good rule of thumb suggests that when we feel most out of sorts with others, a positive inward look offers the most promise for finding healing and health. Often times when we are the most unhappy, the healthiest (most healing) thing we can do is to stop where we are, step outside of ourselves, and find someone that needs our help.

That, in turn, fulfills one of the most important teachings ever spoken by Jesus--love your neighbor as yourself .. and ... I am Wayne at

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Metaxas and Luther

During the decade of the sixties I was appointed to read Holy Scripture in an Ecumenical Service in Fort Worth, TX. As fate would have it; that service was hosted by a Roman Catholic Church. Many times since then, I have pondered that unique experience and thanked God for the distinctive privilege. Through the years, I have continued to weigh the significance of the Protestant Reformation. I have now added to that cumulative experience Eric Metaxas and Martin Luther, the man said to rediscover God and change the world (MARTIN LUTHER / Eric Metaxas / Viking / NY / 2017).

What I found were 480 pages that can be readily read, and even understood, by both artisans in the Academy as well as most ordinary readers. Eric Metaxas, and a staff of editors, have artfully sorted fact from fiction and they offer readers from every level of reading skill a very readable  and authentic text—a superbly well-written book, with notes, bibliography, and index—every bit as good as Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce (earlier Metaxas offerings).

Metaxas reveals Luther as a highly complex man and he leaves us with an historical super hero of epic proportion; yet a humble man with an identifiable devotion to his Creator, a man with an unmistakable intellect, a man occasionally human enough to still be a German blockhead.

In Luther, we find a man that walked in common shoe leather, who by the grace of God left our common humanity a free marketplace where democratic ideas and ideals could thrive and take root in a new future. We see a man who desired above all to reform a Papal Institution from the inside out that he loved. Although he seemingly failed in that effort, he left that Institution redefined and changed by a transforming legacy of Scriptural authority and Scripture Reading with congregational participation, and expanded forms of worship and liturgy.

In helping the reader sort out numerous issues of faith, this author shines a spotlight that brightens our understanding of some of our faith’s most significant points of social and religious conflict during the Reformation, understand their historic value, and see the true worth of what Dr. Martin actually contributed to all of our lives.

Luther’s struggle with Rome reminds one of ancient Abraham artfully pleading with God over the destruction of Sodom (Genesis 18). Once Luther raised a dissenting voice in defense of Scripture’s authority over human institutions, there was no stopping place, no turning around, no changing course. He was on a journey whose end he could in no way measure. Wanting only to spotlight needed corrections, this humble monk was swept up in a tsunami of social, political, religious, even technological changes no one understood at the time and that we are still processing today.

Luther’s best intention of being helpful as a dedicated and loyal servant of the church quickly evaporated, as a quote quickly illustrates:
              The Church of Rome, formerly the most holy of all churches has become the most
              lawless den of thieves, the most shameless of brothels, the very kingdom of sin, death
              and hell so that not even the Anti-Christ, if he were to come, could devise any addition
              to its wickedness” (189).

The authority of the Scriptures as the Word of God, affirmation of the priesthood of Believers (as opposed to a segregated priesthood defining the church), the free church tradition, the right of dissent, separation of church and state; all find reaffirmation via the coalescing Reformation whose long roots ranged far and wide throughout history, from Wycliffe to Wesley. Luther, aided and abetted by an opportunistic printer that saw a chance to make a “quick buck” only provided the catalyst when he nailed his 95-Theses to the door of the Wittenburg Church for in-house academic debate.

Some books you read for pleasure, others you read for information, or perhaps other reasons. For me, this book is timely to the world my two grandsons have entered as young Christian adults-- not just to celebrate an event that happened five-hundred years ago, but to better understand the signs of the times in which we are now engaged.

The single-most important issue for me is the conflict of theocracy (religion united with absolute power). Luther sheds God’s light on conscience and dissent as well as truth divorced from power and the possibility of dissent (or another church).Metaxas suggests, “By freeing truth and the ideas of the Bible from the institution of the church, Luther enabled these things to enter the entirety of the secular world, such that every good agnostic and atheist today knows that caring for the poor and the marginalized is a measure of our humanity” (445).

“In the past, we lived in a world where might actually made right, where truth was the power of the sword. Or where there was no actual right, so that the appearance that might made right held sway completely. The Catholic church was in those days the Christian church, and in those days the church much like the Turks and the Ottoman Caliphate battled with guns, not with competing truth claims. So just as today radical Islamists may believe there is no truth but the sword—that they can enforce their views through torture and death—the church once did this too.

But today we live in a world where even if someone can do that, there are voices that will rise up and say that is wrong. We live in a world where even though someone might be right and know he is right, he also knows that to try to force his views is as bad as holding the wrong views. That is the revolution that is the father and mother of all other revolutions” (443 bold and italicized mine).

This is my primary take-away from Metaxas and Luther
*OFF THE RECORD WITH LUTHER records quotes and sayings from the Luther's dinner table. They kept student boarders whose quotes of Luther were oft-repeated and eventually published. This is an expanded translation of here-to-fore untranslated work, until this version by Charles Daudert with forward by Luther expert Dr. Paul Maier. More of this book later.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Life's Odd Moments

“That’s mine,” I heard my wife say softly.
That’s a piece of Essie’s old dress,” said another voice that sounded strangely like my Oklahoma mother-in-law.
“That was from my old brown suit.”
“Why, I’ve got more pieces in here than anybody!” the voices continued back and forth, as snitches of conversation drifted into my consciousness.

Like a softly bouncing ball, the bantering continued back and forth as Kitty and her mother studied the individual remnants that gave direction to what would soon be their newest quilt top. The two veterans sorted and matched from their seemingly-endless odds and ends of scrap, only remnants of discarded clothing and throw-a-way items of all description--all useless remnants. 

I am a non-quilter, having grown up in a home without quilters. My wife learned quilting as a child at her mother’s knee. She and her mother saw something potentially useful in every old scrap. Thus, they searched and sorted through a drawer full of quilt tops, scraps that I viewed as utterly useless. After their careful search, they selected those they thought most promising, stacked them nearby and purposefully stitched them into another well-blended quilt top, attractively patterned.

Mary had been a quality seamstress in her younger days, making most of her clothes while raising a large family. Now worn with the weariness of her years and deteriorating health; her visits with daughter Kitty extended into lengthy periods of convalescence. The two, mother and daughter consequently filled quiet days, and months, with conversation beside the quilting frames, needles in hands, making the most of Mary’s gradually diminishing health.

Mary’s original hand-stitched quilts were creative master pieces. She created them with, artistic skill and stitched them with love. She had started teaching her daughter even before she took her to the country school nearby. Years later, I wrapped up in sleep under the protective warmth of one or another of those quilts--the lovely wedding ring pattern given as a wedding gift decades ago being my favorite.

Quilt scraps are just that--useless bits of cloth, candidates for the trash bin. To me, they appear insignificant and without purpose; but in the eyes of an artistic seamstress, they form a living vision. Mixing multiplied shapes and forms, they take on creative designs. The journey may be ever so devious, from a favorite garment, or even the discard pile. Yet, when appreciated and properly viewed, artistically matched-and-stitched together, they revealed a new creation and launched a new life of touching people.

Such useless scraps become heritage gifts for family members, or special-occasion delights. Once useless, now transformed; they become family heirlooms, generational treasures whose value increases with each passing generation.

That long ago conversation between two of the most important people in my life yet causes me to pause and reflect on the people I’ve known, the places I’ve been, and the experiences I’ve shared—mostly good, a few bad. Seen individually, many seem insignificant--people without purpose--experiences without worth--useless scraps.

Yet when viewed creatively, and stitched artfully together, I observe a new wholeness--a refreshing collage that reflects a loving God--a Master Quilter. When he views, sorts, and reassembles our useless scraps, and creatively stitches them into a fine, new quilt top, it transforms life and creates new meaning, restores lost values, and promises reassuring comfort.

Could this be what Paul meant when he told the church at Rome, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose… ” (Rom. 8:28, NKJV)? If He is for us, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:28, 31b). For, as he suggests, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Will tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? “I am persuaded that none of these things shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (8:35-39).

We press forward blind and unthinking, viewing life’s difficult assignments and odd moments but seeing little treasure. Consequently, we lack appreciation for those unpleasant and seemingly-useless odds and ends that life has stitched together for us. Until ... quite unexpectedly, but by the grace of God, we catch a glimpse of a lovely quilt top--a potential blessing for someone.

And so with day‘s end approaching, in spite of my oddly-shaped, seemingly-useless scraps of life, I reaffirm my faith in God’s creative ability to match my odd assortment of diversity and variegated color and I take new hope in his compassionate caring,

Time and again: has he not revealed His proven ability to recycle them into a usability that can transform my life while blessing another? I am