Exodus 34:10

The Lord said to Moses, “All the people among whom you live shall see the work of the Lord.”

Mark 6:2–3

Many who heard him were astounded. They said, “Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?”

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It is a great privilege to be a servant of God: one through whom God works. Sometimes those such persons, such as Moses and Jesus, are outstanding in their accomplishments. Moses holds out his staff and the Red Sea is parted and the children of Israel travel safely through to their freedom. Jesus heals a man born blind so that the people could see the work of God (cf. John 9:3).

But you don’t have to lead a nation, heal the blind, or raise the dead, to be one in whom the work of God is displayed. A more careful look at the healing of the blind man (John 9) reveals that he is not only the one healed, but the one in whom the work of God is revealed. That, of course, is a great privilege as well. To be healed, helped, blessed, redeemed is to be one in whom the work of God is revealed.

The only question in this regard is: Who gets the credit? When the blessing comes, the disease is healed, the impossible situation handled, the forgiveness received: does the glory go to God?

People were astonished when they saw Jesus teaching; he was a nobody in their eyes, but his teaching and miracles pointed beyond himself. Moses needed Aaron to speak in his behalf, and a staff as his symbol of power and authority. To some extent, it is better to be weak and less charismatic if you are to be one in whom the works of God are clearly seen. That might give hope to us all. Common folk who give God the glory are those in whom the work of God is revealed.

Jeremiah 3:12–13

I am merciful, says the Lord; I will not be angry forever. Only acknowledge your guilt, that you have rebelled against the Lord your God.

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.

One of the "Painted Churches" near Schulenburg, Texas

One of the “Painted Churches” near Schulenburg, Texas

Some things are easy to do: Saying thanks to God in times of plenty for his blessings and gifts; Doing a good deed for a nice person whom we know and like; Forgiving a friend who is genuinely sorry and aware of how he has hurt you; Acknowledging God’s awesome majestic glory at the site of a beautiful sunset: these are all easy to do.

But what about the not-so-nice neighbor who is in need? What of forgiving a close family member who never admits her wrong? In times of scarcity and suffering, thanking God is not so easy. We are more inclined to fret and complain.

God stands as a stark contrast to our situationally-based thankfulness, forgiveness, kindness, and mercy. For him it is not a matter of coming through when the path is easy or forgiving only the sincerely sorry. God showers blessings on the just and the unjust. Even while we were sinners, Christ died for us.

But God has a hope deep in his being. He is yearning and hoping that you and I will acknowledge our guilt, confess our sins, repent and believe the Good News of his grace and love. Nothing else will satisfy him. We can never do enough to make up for our sins, repay him for his mercy and benefits. We can only repent, believe, and praise his holy name.

God is patient. He delights in our repentance and rejoices when one sinner repents. When we sing the songs of redemption that is music to his ears!

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believed in him should not perish but have eternal life.

Robert E Dolan October 1, 1926 - August 26, 2015

Robert E Dolan
October 1, 1926 – August 26, 2015

We got the sad and unexpected news yesterday: Diane’s dad had died probably sometime on Wednesday. He was 88 years old. Dad was a true gentleman. He always looked out for the needs of women and children. He was courteous and thoughtful. He held the door for people, dropped people off at the door, was keenly aware of potential dangers especially to children, and always had a solicitous attitude…except when his temper got the better part of him. That didn’t happen often, but it was at least a part of his personality.

Most often he was smiling, planning some fun escapade, or practical joke, playing pinochle, joking with the residents and staff at the Lutheran Senior Services apartment where he lived. He was quite independent and often enjoyed trips and outings that were organized there. More than anything, however, he loved his family. The photo above was taken at the reception following the funeral for his wife who died June 19, 2013. They had been married more than 60 years.

Memories of him with our children are very precious. He made something like a Flintstonemobile for them to play on when we visited, complete with tree-trunk wheels and rope steering. He loved little babies and came and spent time with us in Arkansas after our fourth child was born – taking over for Diane’s mom who had spent a week or more with us before he came. He would “steal” our boys’ plates or a morsel of food at the dinner table, or play croquet while he barbequed chicken. He had three wonderful daughters – Diane being the middle-born, Debbie, the oldest, and Gail the youngest. He took Diane to see Stan Musial play at the old Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis, instilling a love for baseball and the St. Louis Cardinals in her.

He could look into your eyes with a look that revealed an intensity of faith, values, belief, and conviction that said, “Don’t you ever do that again!” He served in the US Army in WWII, and was on a ship ready to invade Japan right before the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He was a faithful member of Immanuel Lutheran Church in St. Charles, MO for many years, sending their three girls to the Christian Day School there through 8th grade. He did projects around the church and school, having served as a Trustee there. He loved his family deeply and was very proud of each of them for their own particular accomplishments.

His death hit me harder even than my own dad’s death (which we had seen coming for 7 months prior, some 30 years ago).

As good as he was, honorable, faithful, loving, and a man of conviction, he nevertheless needed a Savior – which he would never deny. He wanted to have Holy Communion more often at the LSS chapel where he lived. He was a regular at the weekly worship services there. He read Portals of Prayer or Living Hope daily – proud of his daughter Diane who regularly contributes devotions for the latter publication. The truth offered in each of those devotions, springs from the profound message of John 3:16. He believed in Jesus, and for that we are deeply thankful. For through faith in Jesus he now lives, and is with Jesus.

We will gather as a family for a memorial service later next month. We will sing hymns, read Scripture, pray, and rejoice in the hope of the resurrection and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. One thing will surely not happen – which I have not seen in person, but could certainly believe. We will not witness him slamming closed the hymnal because he can’t sing the tune or provide the harmony he loved if the organist varied from the standard four-part accompaniment!

Proverbs 14:31

Those who oppress the poor insult their maker.

Galatians 4:14 (NIV)

[Paul wrote] Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself.

 
Several years ago as Diane and I were on our way home we drove through an intersection we saw a woman who was begging for money. It was late and dark. She was alone. She appeared to be about 40 years old. Oftentimes when we see people like that we will say a prayer for them. Sometimes we simply pass on  by. That night, even after we had turned the corner and gone a couple of blocks I felt compelled to turn around. Diane was in total agreement: we needed to see what she needed.

When we went back we discovered that she was not alone; she had a dog. And she was asking for money for dog food. We asked several times whether we could provide anything else: food or a place to stay. No, just money for dog food.

I then did something I’ve been doing for some time since. I asked her to tell me her name. “Kathy” was her reply. Kathy: that was the name of my sister who at the age of 8 had died nearly 40 years earlier. I had to take a breath, shake my head, and imagine: this woman could have been my sister, had she lived.

I don’t always stop and help people who are begging on the street corner. I get aggravated by those guys who hang out at intersections accosting people for money for some supposed charity. I’m sure I have been taken by some scamsters to whom I’ve given money along the way. But when I think of Kathy I am reminded that we are more closely related to the poor than we might imagine.

If we insult the maker of the poor when we abuse them, then we may honor their maker when we love and respect them. That’s not always easy. But when I think of Kathy, I am inclined to make the effort. If that is so, how much more motivation is it to give to when we realize that our gifts to the poor honor God and are received by Jesus himself as tokens of our love for him?

2 Chronicles 18:4

Inquire first for the word of the Lord.

Mark 4:20

These are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit.

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W.C. Fields was famously an atheist. He owned several theology books, and near the time of his death was reportedly caught reading his Bible. When asked about why he was reading the Bible, he said, “Looking for loopholes.” The price evil pays to good is the effort to justify itself, or find a way to call itself good.

In the story recorded in 2 Chronicles 18, kings Ahab and Jehoshaphat are conspiring to go to war against Ramoth-gilead. Before they fully agree to go, Jehoshaphat requests that Ahab, “Inquire first for the word of the Lord.” Sadly, however, there were false prophets urging them to go to war. But Micaiah refused to agree with them. He revealed the true word of God, saying that they would be defeated if they went to war against Ramoth-gilead. He was ignored, however, and Ahab was ultimately killed in the battle.

If we are willing to listen to the true word of God – neither looking for loopholes, nor seeking justification for the things we want to do – we will not be mislead. In fact, we will bear God-honoring fruit. Such is our calling as God’s people: not to seek out favorite words that allow us to do as we please, but to honor God with our lives by bearing fruits of righteousness, grace, peace, and love. If we truly do inquire first for the word of the Lord, hear God’s true word, and let that word shape our hearts and lives we will bear fruit that honors him. That is far better than looking for loopholes or finding pet passages for self-serving beliefs.

Lamentations 3:25

The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.

1 Peter 2:3

Indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

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There is a delightful encounter from CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, in which Aslan (the Christ figure in the allegorical children’s tale) is described.

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

Randy Alcorn has taken up the challenge of defending the goodness of God in his book, If God Is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil. The Lewis quote and Alcorn’s book team up to highlight a truth well worth more intentional consideration: God is good. God’s nature is not just holy and righteous. You can be those and yet uncaring and unkind. The goodness of God, however, brings great benefit to those who trust him and seek his favor.

One might be good a golf, crossword puzzles, or real estate negotiations. But the goodness of God goes to his nature and being. God isn’t just good at running the universe or answering prayer. He is good in his essence. For that we may be very thankful and quite confident in times of challenge and times of deliverance.

Isaiah 40:29

He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

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These two verses are at least challenging, if not completely out of reach for most people. Paul was certainly an incredible servant of the Gospel. His life and commitment to the mission of God testifies to the truth revealed to Ananias (the man who came to Paul and healed him from his blindness, cf. Acts 9:10-19). When Ananias was told to go heal Paul from his blindness God reveals Paul’s future to Ananias: “this man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before Gentiles and kings and the people of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name” (Acts 9:15-16).

Paul lived out the prophecy of God – that hard path of pain, suffering, hardship, persecution, and insults. And he was content with all that. He had learned that in his weakness God was strongly at work in him. He learned that Christ and his mission was worthy of even the most severe suffering. 

But that’s Paul, not David, Tom, Sarah, Daryn, or [insert your name here], right?!? Truly that is the case. Paul was a singularly significant servant of Jesus Christ. He embraced the truth of Isaiah’s testimony. God gives power to the weak, and strength to the powerless. Perhaps, however, that is exactly where we can be more like Paul than we might imagine. We are powerless to live a life like Paul. We are too weak to take on years of missionary journeys and the rigors of foreign mission efforts.

Into that weakness God pours strength, grace, power and mercy. In those places of failure and hopelessness God’s love, forgiveness, and redemption finds a sweet repose. If we did not need a Savior, salvation, and rescue from sin and Satan, Isaiah’s words would be meaningless. But we who are able to acknowledge our need may rejoice in God’s provision. Thanks be to God!

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