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70 FUNERALS IN ONE DAY
During a forty-year ministry, I would guess that many pastors do seventy or more burials. But this wasn't over the full span of his ministry. In fact, it wasn't even a full year. In one day, Pastor Rinkart did burial rites for up to seventy people and did the same the next day and the next.
The year was 1637. He was the only pastor left in Eilenburg, Germany. This was the height of the Thirty-Years War that had start in 1618. By 1637 one army after another had pillaged the fields of Germany for nearly twenty years. Refugees fled to walled cities such as Eilenburg. Famine and plague ran rampant. In 1637 Pastor Rinkart buried nearly 4,500 people including many of his coworkers and his own dear wife.
Yet during this war that would bring such devastation, this same Pastor, Martin Rinkart, in the year 1630 wrote the words: "Nun danket alle Gott Mit Herzen, Mund und HĂ¤nden." What an example of the Apostle's words, "[W]e also rejoice in our sufferings" (Romans 5:3 NIV).
Now granted, the worst of the war came after he wrote those words, and I don't now how often he would have sung them during that dreadful year of 1637. And yet his faithful service throughout that year and onward certainly confesses a faith that was able to rejoice in suffering. How can we imitate that faith as we put into practice the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5?
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PAIN PASSES, BUT BEAUTY REMAINS
Pierre Auguste Renoir is a famous French artist who lived in the late 19th century to the early 20th century. He was known for his paintings, mostly depicting family life. But there was one disease that tormented this gifted artist -- he had arthritis that plagued him to the tip of his fingers. Every time he painted, each stroke of brush meant grimacing pain due to his arthritis. It took him quite a time to finish one painting, a masterful work of art. One of his friends pitifully consoled him to stop painting and shift his passion in arts and focus on his health, for it did seem a great struggle against pain whenever he held his brush and start another piece of art. But Renoir, with great display of passion, answered, "The Pain passes away but the Beauty remains."
I would say with Renoir that every time we face a brunt of painful experience, we must answer with pride on our faces, "The pain will pass away ultimately, but the beauty of character that it would produce in me will remain."
(From a sermon by Jofrey Bustamante, Let the Pain Remain! 7/25/2010)
SHOOT THE MOON
The other day I needed to take my mind off things, so I opened my computer and played a game of hearts. Now, like all card games, no matter how diligent you play, there's time when the unexpected happens, and you're hand turns to disaster. One sneaky move from an opponent and it's game over. However, like life, there are times when grace intercedes, giving us opportunity to play the perfect hand, and win the game.
I tried early on to play the perfect hand -- something called "shooting the moon;" but one opponent caught me off guard and, and my hand suffered incredibly. From that point, things didn't go quite the way I had hoped. In my frustration, I started to groan and fuss; and to be honest, I was ready to quit. Still, I decided not to give in.
I hoped my putrid game would find redemption. Just when I thought my chances of winning were six feet under, I came from behind, "shot the moon," and won the game. I thought, "You know,this silly game reiterated a good, life-lesson
There's times when it seems like we've been dealt the perfect hand; but then something happens that unexpectedly that sets us way back. Then, there's those times when we're seemingly dealt one crummy hand after another. It's in times like both of these when there's really not much we can do but groan with deep frustration in prayer, and place our hope in in God that he'll turn our groans to glory.
THE PARABLE OF THE FIG TREE
6 "Then Jesus told this story: 'A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. 7 Finally, he said to his gardener, 'I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.'
8 "The gardener answered, 'Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. 9 If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.'" Luke 13:6-9 NLT
Jesus tells a parable of the fig tree and its inability to produce fruit. Apparently, the gardener came back again and again to see if fruit was growing on the tree.
Unfortunately, there was none. Obviously, this story is symbolic of God coming to look for fruit to receive from His people. Jesus probably says this story in reference to God’s own people Israel whom He had given special attention to, but was not producing the fruit that He sought.
What kind of fruit does God look for from me? I assume He looks for the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the believer; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). It is both encouraging and troublesome to note that although the gardener in the story sought fruit from the tree, he did also give it, "special attention and plenty of fertilizer." I like receiving special attention from God. That sounds, well, special. To hear that the master Himself will give me special attention in helping me produce the fruit of the Spirit that He wants from me is very comforting and encouraging.
The troublesome part is what else He gives the tree in order to produce fruit. He gave it, "plenty of fertilizer." I often feel that I have plenty of fertilizer in my life, and I don’t find that all too encouraging. After all, what did they use as fertilizer in Jesus’ day? The same thing they use today. Manure. Poop.
I guess it just goes to show that God literally uses poop to bring out the fruit. Maybe I need to redefine those times when I feel like I am surrounded by poop. Perhaps I need to recognize that it is specifically in those times that I am actually receiving special attention from God Himself. Could it be that God is actually using that poop to refine me and draw out fruit from my life? I have a tendency to reject the poop in my life. I don’t like the smell of it. I don’t like the situation. I don’t like being surrounded by poop! It doesn’t matter if it is yours, mine, or anyone else’s! But what i...
1 Peter 4:12 “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.”
I have a doctor’s appointment this morning to see what is going on. I am tried all the time, can hardly move with pain and a host of other ailments. OK so I am surprised at the painful trial I am suffering. I started to exercise again and then I want to sleep all day. Hopefully the blood work will give some clues. All I know is and it brings me comfort that God knows what is going on. Is it spiritual or physical or a combination of both? Who cares? Have you ever been to the point to where you have been going through pain for so long that you just say “Who Cares”? So please pray today for God to impart His wisdom so I can at least get through the day.
Today in YOUR life there also is “Stuff” going on. Some of this stuff has been going on for days, months or even years. A lot of times we ask “Why” and a lot of times all we get is silence. But the longer we live this life the more we realize that God’s silence is not inactivity. It is just the opposite. When we pray there is a power unleashed in the heavens that we cannot comprehend. One prayer sets millions of events into action. You see one prayer doesn’t change just one life but millions of other people’s lives are changed too.
IDENTIFIES WITH OUR SUFFERING
His name was Joseph Damien, and you’ve probably heard his story before, but it bears repeating. A Belgian priest, he was sent in 1873 to minister to lepers in Hawaii. As soon as he arrived on Molokai, he began trying to build friendships with the residents of the leper colony, but they rejected him. He poured himself into this ministry, building a small chapel and holding worship services. But hardly anyone came.
After 12 long years, he gave up. While standing on the pier about to board the ship that would take him back to Belgium, he looked down at his hands. The white spots he saw could mean only one thing. He had contracted leprosy. So instead of going home, he returned to his work in the leper colony.
The news of the missionary’s disease spread through the community within hours, and soon the lepers--hundreds of them--had gathered outside his hut. They understood his pain and despair. The following Sunday when Damien arrived at the chapel, the small building was filled to overflowing. That was the beginning of a long and fruitful ministry.
What made the difference? Now the lepers knew that he understood their condition. There was no question about whether he cared or not.
In the same way, we have a God who has identified with our situation. Though without sin, our Savior experienced all the pain and frustration of earthly existence in order to bring us life.
[Adapted from Moments for Pastors by Robert Strand. New Leaf Press, 1994. Day 11.]
Lieutenant Andrew Moffatt
A great aunt of mine passed some of her wisdom on to me once, when I was in a bit of a spot, with a line that my Great Grandfather had passed onto her, the wisdom was, “Life is full of lots of disappointments.”
"It is a very difficult matter to understand when God permits affliction or loss to come into our lives. Our humanity wants to cry out, "Why me God? I love you and faithfully serve you. Why did you permit this sorrow to happen to me?" . . . one reason for affliction is to make us into instruments which will be of greater use to God. For example, a lump of iron ore is violently ripped from its comfortable place in the earth, shipped to a place far away, exposed to melting heat, poured out into a mold, squeezed by rollers, smashed and pounded in a forge, subjected to electric shock to bond other metals to it and later scraped against grindstones t...
The Sustaining Word of God
I will call her Hazel. Hazel was a gracious 87 year old woman of great faith. She has spent the last 8 years in a nursing facility for end-stage dementia. I would visit every Monday of every week as her hospice chaplain. My introduction stayed the same, mostly because she responded best to routine...routine was familiar even if my face and name was not. I would say as I walked through the doorway, "Hello Hazel, it sure is good to see you today, I have a special message to share with you". Her face would light up and her crippled hands would raise into the air, "ooooo, God bless, God bless, God bless!". On her lap layed her torn up Bible with its tattered cover, bent markers and stained pages. I always admired Hazel, the way she would turn those pages with arthritic hands. I cry with a sense of shame when I think about her. How often I have I complained about things I should of seen as a joy, an opportunity given as a gift from God. Yep, Hazel was one of a kind and I miss her very much. I could walk out of the room and then back in and I would have to introduce myself all over again. Hazel had 5 children and couldn’t remember their names. She had been married for 60 years and couldn’t share one memory. But what she could remember is whole passages from the Bible. She could tell you all about the stories of God and His love, grace and mercy. She would literally praise God outloud at the mention of Jesus’ name. I came to impart a message from God, some sense of hope. Instead, Hazel shown me what faith looks like, what grace feels like and what love is. Her body was giving way to disease, her mind was losing a sense of stability - but the Word of God sustained her through it all.
The Steinway piano has been preferred by keyboard masters such as Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Cliburn, and Liszt--and for good reason. It is a skillfully crafted instrument that produces phenomenal sound.
Steinway pianos are built today the same way they were 140 years ago when Henry Steinway started his business. Two hundred craftsmen and 12,000 parts are required to produce one of these magnificent instruments. Most crucial is the rim-bending process, where 18 layers of maple are bent around an iron press to create the shape of a Steinway grand. Five coats of lacquer are applied and hand-rubbed to give the piano its outer glow. The instrument then goes to the Pounder Room, where each key is tested 10,000 times to ensure quality and durability.
Followers of Jesus Christ are also being "handcrafted." We are pressed and formed and shaped to make us more like Him. We ...