Monday, March 14, 2011

Lent is a time for reflection. A time for us to remember why Jesus had to die on the cross. There are churches where they do not talk about sin; it makes people feel bad about themselves. It is an unpleasant topic. And so they preach about “feel good” topics instead and the people leave the church feeling good about themselves and about the message.

The church I attend practices confession and absolution every Sunday. We confess our sins together corporately and there is usually a time for silence when we can reflect upon our sins. When I was growing up we would say: Oh almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto Thee all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended Thee and justly deserve Thy temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray Thee for Thy boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter suffering and death of Thy beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be merciful to me a poor sinful being. After the confession the Pastor announces our forgiveness through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We had a church member leave our congregation because she did not like to say she was a poor miserable sinner. She didn’t think she fit into that category. Now, I am going to say something and for some of you it may sound weird. I find comfort in knowing that I am a poor miserable sinner. No, I am not happy that I am a sinful being. But it is an explanation as to why I fall short, every moment of every day. I am a poor sinful being and I will mess up every day of my life. I will sin knowingly and unknowingly. I will try so hard not to sin and I will fail. I don’t have any grand elusions about myself and when I do it never works out the way I envision it will.

It is a lie straight from the pit of hell to tell someone that when you are a Christian you will not have problems with sin anymore. If that statement is true (which it is not) what would we need Jesus for? If something we can do on our own could save us…why would we need a Savior? There are so many people out there who are miserable because they cannot live the perfect life, no matter how hard they try, they fail. I KNOW I’m not perfect. God knows I’m not perfect. God knows that I could not save myself, no matter how much I wanted too. I do not need to save myself; Jesus saved me when He died for my sins. We should not treat sin lightly. I am not proud that I am a poor miserable sinner. But I find great comfort in knowing that God knows exactly how miserable I am and loves me anyways. I find solace in the knowledge, the blood of Jesus has redeemed me and because of Him I stand forgiven.

I love Psalm 139 and I would like to share it with you in two ways. One is right from scripture and the other is through a song. May you take the time to reflect upon the words. I know it is painful when we realize our sinfulness but it is not the end of the story. Jesus has paid the price for you and for me. We are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb.

1O LORD, you have searched me and known me! 2You know when I sit down and when I rise up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

3You search out my path and my lying down

and are acquainted with all my ways.

4Even before a word is on my tongue,

behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

5You hem me in, behind and before,

and lay your hand upon me.

6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is high; I cannot attain it.

7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?

Or where shall I flee from your presence?

8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!

If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

9If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

10even there your hand shall lead me,

and your right hand shall hold me.

11If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me,

and the light about me be night,"

12 even the darkness is not dark to you;

the night is bright as the day,

for darkness is as light with you.

13For you formed my inward parts;

you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.

14I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works;

my soul knows it very well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you,when I was being made in secret,

intricately woven in the depths of the earth.

16Your eyes saw my unformed substance;in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me,

when as yet there was none of them.

17How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!

How vast is the sum of them!

18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.

I awake, and I am still with you.

19Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!

O men of blood, depart from me!

20They speak against you with malicious intent;

your enemies take your name in vain!

21 Do I not hate those who hate you, O LORD?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I have been absent from my blog for a very long time.  I never meant to neglect it.  Sometimes life takes an unexpected twist and you find yourself on a path you never planned to take.  I have had several unexpected life upheavals take place and I will share bits and pieces of them in time.  I have struggled with my health for over three years now.  It is hard.  I have lost all parathyroid function.  My body no longer knows how to process calcium and vitamin D on its own.  I take medication to help my body absorb the calcium.  This very medication which keeps me from developing kidney stones depletes my body of magnesium and potassium.  So I take those supplements.  If my body does not receive enough of those vital nutrients my heart races.  I feel like a science experiment as we find the proper dosages to keep my body working effectively. 

My diagnoses is called hypoparathyroidism.  There are days where I feel normal.  There are days were I feel so exhausted it is an effort to complete the ordinary tasks of life.  There are times when anxious thoughts rob me of precious sleep and there are moments when depression hangs like a dark cloud over my day.  It is a challenge because there isn't a pattern to when I feel good and when I will struggle to get through the day.  Thankfully I have more good days than bad.

In the midst of learning to deal with my health limitations it became necessary for me to have a hysterectomy.  The surgery went fine but post surgery I lost a lot of blood.  It took me a few months for my body to recover from the trauma it went through.  In the midst of this we are building a home.  It is exciting to build a new home but if you have ever traveled that road it can be very stressful. 

My husband, Troy, has been a huge blessing through everything.  We have learned to take one day at a time.  God has brought us through all of the joys and sorrow of this past year.  He has never left our side.  We remain in His capable hands.  We do not know what tomorrow might bring, but we know God holds all of our tomorrows.  We have found comfort in God's word and received strength and nourishment in receiving the Lord's supper.  God has provided loving family and friends who have loved us through it all.  God has provided for all of our NEEDS every moment of every day.

During the season of Lent I am brought back to a memory from my childhood.  At the close of every Lenten service our congregation sang, "Abide with Me."  I love the words of this beautiful hymn.

I know each one of you have your struggles and have great burdens to bear as well.  May you find comfort in knowing the Lord has you in His most capable hands.  May God grant you peace, hope, and joy today and always.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Ash Wednesday

In worship services around the world many will hear the words, “Remember: you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Let’s take a peak at Webster and a few of the definitions of dust.

1. The ground; the earth’s surface.

2. The substance to which something, as the dead human, is ultimately reduced by disintegration or decay; earthly remains

3. British

a. ashes, refuse

b. Junk

4. a low or humble condition

5. anything worthless

Why would anyone want to be referred to as dust? Why do we need to be reminded, we are worthless?
Is there anything we can do to make ourselves right? Is there anyway we can make ourselves clean again? Unfortunately, the answer is NO there is nothing we can do. There is nothing we have to do. Only the blood of Jesus can cleanse us and make us whole. Only Jesus can lift us up out of the ashes and refuse of sin, we cannot do this on our own.
On our Church body’s website it states: “This ancient act is a gesture of repentance and a powerful reminder about the meaning of the day. Ashes can symbolize dust-to dustness and remind worshippers of the need for cleansing, scrubbing and purifying. If they are applied during an act of kneeling, the very posture of defeat and submission expresses humility before God.”

In order to understand what God has done for us, we need to remember we are poor miserable sinners, who deserve death and eternal damnation. No one would ever want to suffer eternally separated from God, if they truly understood what that meant. And yet, Jesus knew in order to keep us from what we deserve and have earned a thousand times each day. He had to take our place. Jesus suffered in agony on the cross for you and for me. We know the word crucifixion comes from the word excruciating, because of how much pain it inflicts upon the person sentenced to die. Physically the pain would be too much for anyone to bear but the greater anguish for Jesus was that He became separated from God. Jesus experienced the torment of hell when God the Father turned away from His Son. We do not know and understand how it happened. The great theologians cannot fully explain this mystery to us.

So as we kneel at the altar, and we are reminded we are worthless refuse who deserve to suffer Hell. We can joyfully remember we have been scrubbed, cleansed, and purified by the precious blood of Jesus.

In closing, I was going to share selected verses from Romans chapter 8. But I decided to share all of it. It takes awhile to read it but it is worth every moment.

May God fill you with His peace as we begin our Lenten Journey.
Romans 8

Life in the Spirit

1There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Heirs with Christ

12So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, "Abba! Father!" 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Future Glory

18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

God’s Everlasting Love

31What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written,"For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."

37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.