„Eine Religion, in der Erfolg und Segen deckungsgleiche Größen sind, hat der Welt nichts zu sagen, denn was solch eine Religion sagen könnte, sagt die Welt sich bereits selbst.“
Martin Schleske (Der Klang, S 59)
“A religion, in which success and blessing cover the same space, has nothing to say to the world, because what such a religion could say, the world is telling itself already.”
Martin Schleske is a German violin maker. His book “The Sound of Life’s Unspeakable Beauty” (Der Klang) will be released in English in April 2020
I was taken aback by my physical and emotional reaction to what I saw. I had known all along it was coming, but when the day arrived, I got sick to my stomach and felt teary. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I stepped out of the house last week early Monday morning and looked up to see what the building crew had done. Part of my house was missing. (You can read here about how last year’s ice and snow caused our roof to partially collapse.)
What followed was a week of controlled chaos. A team of amazing builders worked quickly and precisely to beat a predicted rainstorm later in the week. The men worked hard, tore off old rafters, set new trusses, and cleaned up debris – always making sure that by the end of the day the section of the roof they had worked on was sealed.
I have never had to face the loss of a home or experience substantial damage to it, and I must admit that I have taken the roof over my head for granted. When I saw it partially gone I suddenly realized how dependent I have been on my comfort. I started to pray and asked the Lord to make my anxiety go away. I suddenly remembered the story in Mark 4:36-41 where Jesus calms the storm.
Jesus had been teaching His disciples through many parables during the day. Then, as evening set in, He invited them on a journey to learn one more lesson. I wonder if they felt a windstorm coming. I wonder if the trees were bending already and the leaves were rustling as Jesus asked His disciples to take Him across the lake. I wonder if the disciples looked at the sky and then looked at each other, shrugging their shoulders and then still pressed past the crowds into the boat. The story tells us that some time later, while they were on the lake, a great windstorm arose, and the waves crashed into the boat. The disciples became afraid and looked for their Master. They found Him asleep in the stern on a cushion.
In my prayer, I told the Lord about the impending storm at the end of the week and my worries about what a mess it would be if water got into the house. I imagined myself in the boat trying to wake Jesus up. I could almost feel my knees getting wet from kneeling in the wooden vessel in some fishy smelling water. I imagined myself rousing the Lord, trying to shake His holy feet and shoulders. “Can’t you see? Don’t you care?” My prayers felt like helpless questions rather than a naming and claiming session. I heard Him speak to his disciples,
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The problem with my faith is that I confuse it with my feelings. I get scared, worried, confused, depressed, anxious, and impatient when I focus on what could happen. The enemy swoops in and feeds the fire of my emotions. But when I go to Jesus my feelings calm, and I become confident in who He is. I wonder if at the root of Jesus’ question was the fact that the disciples were focused on what they were feeling, “Why are you so afraid?” Maybe He was reminding them of what He had been explaining to them all day.
“Put your faith in Me!”
While construction is still in full force, while water still got in this week, while parts of our ceilings didn’t hold up, and while we are still taking care of our family in the middle of the chaos, Jesus remains Who He said He is. While my faith still is under construction, being tested and worked out, the Lord asks me to confidently trust Him. I do well to remind myself and my feelings about the things He said about Himself. Faith is an “assurance and a conviction of things I can not see.” (Hebrews 11:1). When I remember the the God of my faith, my feelings usually don’t lag too far behind.
“Lord, I get it wrong so many times. Please help me to look up, toward You, and and not down toward my feelings. You are the One Who Calms the Storm and knows what I need. You always will provide for the things I need. Thank You for being so patient with me.”
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, he who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
(Pictures and devotional, Heidi Viars, 2019)
“From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of this inner sanctum by the Spirit of God. At the far-in hidden center of man’s being is a bush fitted to be the dwelling place of the Triune God. There God planned to rest and glow with mortal and spiritual fire. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribable wonderful privilege and must now dwell there alone. For so intimately private is the place that no creature can intrude; no one can enter but Christ; and He will only enter by invitation of faith.”
(Man: The Dwelling Place of God)
What I can’t do, LORD, do for me
When weakness is my only strength
In faintness be my Energy
In battle, LORD, be my defense.
What I don’t know, teach through Your Word
Keep me from earthly wisdom’s bait
Help me trust Scriptures where You’re heard
Lean on Your Spirit while I wait.
What I can’t see, through plank-filled eyes
Illuminate for me today
See others’ specks through grace not pride
Remove my blinders in the way.
What I can’t be, LORD, be in me.
Transform my heart, my soul, my mind
Burn dross and my impurity
Until my silver is refined.
What I owe You, I cannot pay
Can’t be nor do the things I should
In Christ You made for me a way:
He paid for what I never could.
“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those
who are being sanctified.”
(Pictures and Poetry, Heidi Viars, 2019)
Please check out Bill Sweeney’s latest blog post. You will be encouraged.
Most people don’t think of breathing as a luxury, after all, even the poorest among us can breathe. They wouldn’t be among us otherwise. Luxury: a condition of abundance or great ease and comfort. After almost twenty-three years with ALS, which greatly affects my ability to breathe, I believe the above definition of luxury perfectly…
I am sitting here in the middle of summer, bogged down by winter.
In early spring our roof partially collapsed from the weight of ice and snow.
We noticed our dilemma in the middle of April after the snow finally melted. Since then we have been busy with insurance adjusters, structural engineers, desk adjusters, and eventually a builder. All have come to the same conclusion, namely that a complete tear-off is necessary before more snow comes. This process includes the removal of the entire roof structure. Shingles, decking, rafters, fascia boards, and gutters all have to go. At this point we hope we don’t have to remove insulation, ceiling joists and ceilings. Our insurance claim for the de- and reconstruction of the roof has moved from a regular desk adjuster to one who handles catastrophes.
The term deconstruction was recently used by a Christian who examined his faith by taking it apart and ultimately rejecting it. The word comes out of philosophy and was popularized by a scholar named Jacques Derrida. According to Wikipedia, “Deconstruction denotes the pursuing of the meaning of a text to the point of exposing the supposed contradictions and internal oppositions upon which it is founded—supposedly showing that those foundations are irreducibly complex, unstable, or impossible.” While carefully considering and critically thinking about a text are important, deconstruction’s teardown of meaning seems to me a catastrophic endeavor.
I am eager for my contractor to get here and take down our roof. I am even more eager to get it put back together. There are many concerns I have. Are long periods of rain causing damage while the roof is gone? What about all the debris? Will the ceilings stay intact? Can we stay here while the construction is going on? How long will it take?
What is far more concerning than the deconstruction and reconstruction of my house is the deconstruction of the Christian faith and Scriptures that some are performing. In the case of my roof, we hired someone who knows much more about construction than we do. Our builder knows how to read an engineer’s report, about weight distribution, and knows his math. He has a measuring tape and knows how to use his tools. When it comes to faith, we have a Master Builder who is able to answer our doubts and questions. He invites us to reason with Him and come to Him with lament when the world doesn’t make sense. Tearing down faith without consulting and trusting the One Who knows us might leave us without a roof over our soul and eventually out in the cold.
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
“And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
The other day my teenage daughter came to me with a photo of her when she was a toddler. Because we adopted her when she was older, I didn’t know her back then. She told me what she remembered about the photo and the circumstances. It made us chuckle at the changes that have taken place between then and now.
I am reminded of this conversation as I am processing the news of a well known ex-pastor who renounced his faith. Many years ago his message on dating had swept through Christian circles like a wildfire. Today, he has apologized for the message of that book and has changed his mind on Jesus altogether.
I must admit it scares me a little. When those who made undeniable commitments to relationships, spouses, and their faith suddenly walk away, what is one to think and do?
The fact is that humans change. From the time we are conceived to the time we leave this earth we are in the constant process of change. Good and bad. Beside the physical changes that occur, we become different friends, spouses, parents, and different followers of Christ. I am not the child I used to be, nor the wife I was 30 years ago, nor the mother I was to my babies. I am also not the Christian I was when I first gave my heart to Jesus.
As Christians we are to look to the One who doesn’t change and His unchanging Word. He has chosen to pour out His eternal, unchanging message through imperfect, changing vessels. While we are encouraged in the Word to be Holy as God is Holy so that the love of God can be seen, we must also understand our depravity before God without Jesus.
The Gospel does not change. It was set in place before God created man and always will be the only means by which we can approach His throne for all Eternity. The messengers change. The message does not.
When I grow in the knowledge of such amazing news and in the understanding of my depravity, the Gospel becomes greater. The awareness of God’s grace to me becomes an ever-increasing gift. This awareness of God’s unchanging love toward me may continue to change me toward more Christlikeness. However, I must let humility do its changing work.
While we may become frustrated with the changes in our lives and the people around us, we can be assured that God and His Gospel do not change.
God is not human, that he should lie,
not a human being, that he should change his mind.
Does he speak and then not act?
Does he promise and not fulfill?
“Lord, everything around me seems to change continually.
Please keep me from making idols of flawed ideas and feeble people.
Keep me steadfastly chasing after Christ and Your Word, which stand forever.”