Tag Archives: Heidelberg Catechism

Cracking the Case

I needed more razor blades. Being on Sabbatical and not in our home town, we went to the nearest store. There I found the brand of blades I use. They were packaged differently, with the container of blades encased in a bigger, hard plastic case. But why should that matter? They were the right blades.

All was well…

Until I needed to use them. When it came time to open the bigger, hard plastic case, the trouble began. There was no way to open it. I’m not kidding! There was what appeared to be a little switch that could serve as a lock but it wouldn’t move. So I got out my trusty little knife and pried – and pried – and pried. Nothing changed. Being in a motel, I had few other resources so I banged the case on the counter-top by the sink. Nothing but a loud noise – not even a crack in the plastic. After a few more bangs – each harder and louder but with no results – I gave up. I was mystified. Access to guns and drugs appeared to be easier than access to these blades! The old blade currently in my razor would have to work another day or two until we arrived at my sister and brother-in-law’s home. There we’d find a way to ‘crack the case.’ Long story short – after chuckling with us about the crazy case, my brother-in-law took it out to his garage and cracked open the case with his hacksaw.

I’m still not sure why razor blades had to be placed in such a secure case. But I do know no one was going to get at them without tremendous effort. They were securely sealed – which brings to mind our security in Christ. We, too, are securely sealed. No switches, no knives, no banging; nothing can get to us. Suddenly I realize that being locked out had a message for me: “When the case can’t be cracked, give thanks for the seal.”

Paul preached it forcefully. “Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor. 1:21-22) “You too heard the word of truth in Christ, which is the good news of your salvation. You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit because you believed in Christ.” (Eph. 1:13 CEB) “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” (Eph. 4:30) We are sealed, held fast, protected. No one and nothing can get to us but through the hands of Jesus. We can’t be cracked – give thanks for the seal!

The Heidelberg Catechism confesses it beautifully:

What do you believe when you say “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth?” That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who out of nothing created heaven and earth with all that is in them, who also upholds and governs them by his eternal counsel and providence, is for the sake of Christ his Son my God and my Father. I trust in him so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul. Moreover, whatever adversity he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father.”            “What do you understand by the providence of God? The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”

Give thanks for the seal. We can’t be cracked. No one, nothing can crack His case around us. Not knives, not counter-tops, not hacksaws. As Jesus said, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.” (Jn. 10:27)

 

 

 

When the case can’t be c thanks for the seal.”

In the Midst of the Chaos

It was one of those wild Sundays. Worship went well and no one knew what all went on behind the scenes. That’s because God is good and honors our best efforts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to set the stage.

As usual, the worship orders were set, the music rehearsed, and the media presentations prepared. But as the Worship Team began to rehearse prior to the service, something went wrong with the technical equipment and we concluded there would be no multimedia for the opening song set.

We had a choice to make: panic or calm. Not to be unglued, our Worship Leader quickly pulled out familiar songs for the opening set, and in the process moved one of the originally planned opening songs to just after the sermon – in hopes things would be up and running by then. Our pre-service prayer was filled with pleas for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in the midst of the chaos. We knew Jesus would be our glue.

Many things happened during that service, two of which are important to know here. First, the worship went off smoothly, no one missed a beat or note, and people sang from the depths of their hearts. The glue held it together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

Second, by sermon time the technical equipment was working again, so following the sermon we could invite people to sing the number that was moved, Potters Song. A visitor to the service was deeply moved by the song and following the service asked for prayer. Her life was in chaos and she sincerely wanted Jesus to take control. So we prayed. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

I was once again in awe of Jesus. Think about it. If there had not been a tech glitch, Potters Song would not have been placed at the very end and been such a powerful plea for submission. If our Worship Leader had not been so sensitive to the Spirit, we would have canceled singing Potters Song. If our media tech had not been able to get the system up and running, we would not have sung the song. If, if, if…but Jesus! Jesus holds it all together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

As He so often does, Jesus took our chaos and held it all together, and took our visitor’s chaos and held it all together. In fact, I believe God created our chaos to lift up her chaos so she could experience Jesus’ healing touch in the midst of her chaos. As the apostle Paul emphatically wrote, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) And the Heidelberg Catechism powerfully confesses, “Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” It all happened by His fatherly hand! God created the chaos of the morning so Jesus could heal the chaos of one woman’s life – and in the process heal ours as well.

I’m still in awe of Jesus, in whom all things hold together. Your life either is, or will sometime again be in chaos. Don’t come unglued. Rather, “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.” You’ll be in awe of Jesus.

 

Fifty Years

Last week I wrote that this week’s blog would focus on identifying and uprooting the weeds in our lives. But I ran into some interference. This past weekend I had the pure joy of participating in the 50th reunion of my high school graduating class. What a fabulous time. And it has led to many reflections.

The first is that life has changed. Things are different now than they were in 1967. For example the 1967 year end Dow Jones Industrial Average was 905. The average cost of new house was $14,250.00, average income was $7,300.00, gas cost 28-33 cents per gallon, a new car $2,750.00 and the Federal Minimum Wage increased to $1.40 an hour. And check out the average professional athlete salaries: NFL – 25,000, NBA – 20,000, and the MLB – 19, 000. Life has changed.

Then, too, when we herd the word ‘text’ we thought of a schoolbook. A Facebook meant mug shots of potential criminals. Twitter was most likely the name of a bird. A laptop was the place where kids sat to get love from grandma & grandma. And if you had a blue tooth it meant a trip to the dentist. Life has changed.

Second, as we dedicated some time to memorializing those of our classmates who have passed from this life I felt a renewed sense of gratitude for life itself.

A third reflection has to do with our shared history. The preacher, in Ecclesiastes 3 said there is a time to be born and a time to die and neither is of our own choosing. So we classmates were brought together by our date of birth and place of residence, neither of our own choosing, and yet were bound together forever. We were peers, friends, sometimes competitors. We learned together, worked together, played together, laughed together, cried together, and grew together. Friendships were forged, memories made, and bonds built. Our lives were deeply intertwined – all because the Lord of history many years ago merged our lives and histories into one. So for two nights we came together – not to complain about where or when we were born or gripe about how life has treated us, but to get reacquainted and to celebrate and share how, though apart, we have lived out our common history throughout the years and to rejoice in how far we’ve come and where we are.

The Psalmist expresses my feelings well: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6) Much has changed in my life over the years. Much has happened over the years – much wonderful much painful. But I am still given the gift of life. And I have a a long history not only with great family, friends and untold numbers of acquaintances, but with God. I can complain about things that have happened or about how life has treated me, or I can rejoice in how far I’ve come and where I am. I choose the latter. No matter what has happened or will happen, I have a delightful inheritance. I know who and whose I am. “I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” (Heidelberg Catechism #1) Now that’s worth celebrating and sharing every day.

Halos That Fall

When it comes to success – to quote Jackie Gleason – “How sweet it is!” (I know, I’ve just dated myself!) We all love the feelings and adulations that accompany success. The warm glow of the success halo makes us feel good and valued. Even if a certain success genuinely humbles us, we still covet that feeling. It’s hard to feel good and grateful without also feeling proud. And perhaps some pride is good – it can be a great motivator.

Yet it is not without due cause that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “pride goes before the fall.” When the head swells with pride or sways with success, the halo of success quickly drops around our necks where it waits to hang us. As someone aptly said “A halo need only drop six inches to become a noose.”

Perhaps you have had some successes, and have many reasons for a healthy pride. Congratulations. But beware – with each success you raise the bar of expectations; and as expectations rise so does the potential for failure and disappointment. And you will, at some point in time, fail or come up short. Realize this does not need to be a tragedy – tremendous monuments have risen from the ashes of failure. But that’s another blog for another time.

My point is this: do not gloat in glory nor dwell in disappointment – do not over-celebrate success nor over-grieve failure. Instead, be grateful in both cases. In success, be grateful to God for allowing us the privilege; in failure, be thankful for His love which is not dependent on our success. The Heidelberg Catechism explains it this way when defining God’s providence (questions 27 & 28):

27 Q. What do you understand by the providence of God?

A. Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.

28 Q. How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?

A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing will separate us from his love. All creatures are so completely in his hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.

Perhaps that’s why Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!” If we heed his divine advice, our haloes will never hang us!

(Halo picture from  https://images.sharefaith.com/images/3/f0103406aa/img_mouseover3.jpg  )

Why I Like Road Construction

I live in Michigan. As some have said, we have 2 seasons – winter and road construction!

That’s because the winters, with all the plowing and salting, lead to potholes and road deterioration. Deterioration leads to road repair and construction. To be honest, I complain, probably too frequently, about the inconvenience of the construction. Yet I’ve come to realize I do like the construction. Why? First, because I always like the new, improved completed road. But also because it reminds me of a biblical truth: our lives are always under construction.

This means that we will experience nasty potholes, brokenness, pain, repairs, and detours. None of us relish such times. Yet I believe we need to value them. My faith has taught me that such times are the growth times of my life. My faith reminds me that God has loving control over our lives. Think about King David. He shares a great insight in Psalm 31:15: “My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me.” “My times are in your hands.” David was convinced that far from being removed from the events of his life, God was, in fact, intimately involved in them. ‘Times’ are events that we do not plan – they just occur; they are the potholes, brokenness, pain, repairs, and detours – those critical moments or events in our life which we did not create but which ultimately determine the course of our life. David was turning over the resolution of these times, these events, to God. “I entrust my life to your sovereign disposition. It’s up to you what becomes of me. And that’s okay!”  I love how David put it: ‘My times – Your hands.”

Now we cannot control the ‘times’ of our lives but we can control our response to them. ‘My times – Your hands.” As Leslie Brandt paraphrases Psalm 31: “There is no place to go, nothing to cling to. I can only come back to You and cast myself on Your loving mercy. You are my God…From this point on I will dedicate my hours and my days into Your loving hands. I seek only Your guidance and strength to carry out Your purposes. Restore me, O God, to your program and design for my life.” ‘My times – Your hands.”

What would it mean for you to affirm this conviction? ‘My times – Your hands.” How would it change your response to this current ‘time’ in your life? Can you say with Paul, who wrote Timothy (2 Tim. 1:12): “…I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day?” ‘My times – Your hands.” Can you, in the depths of your soul, share the conviction of the Heidelberg Catechism that “I trust in (God) so completely that I have no doubt that he will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; that Moreover, whatever adversity he sends upon me in this troubled life he will turn to my good, for he is able to do it, being almighty God, and is determined to do it, being a faithful Father?” Are you absolutely convinced of “The almighty and ever-present power of God whereby he still upholds, as it were by his own hand, heaven and earth together with all creatures, and rules in such a way that leaves and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and unfruitful years, food and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, and everything else, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand?”  ‘My times – Your hands.” Do you believe that?

Think of Jesus. On the cross, breathing His last, He quoted Ps. 31:5 – “…Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father into your hands I commit my spirit.’” As Jesus placed himself in God’s hands, so we must place ourselves in Jesus’ hands. As God said (Is. 43:13) “No one can deliver you out of my hand” so Jesus said (John 10:27-30): My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Think about Jesus’ hands.

In his hands ordinary drinking water turns into the most expensive of wines. In his hands handicaps become stepping-stones to the miracles of God. In his hands 5 loaves and two fish can feed a multitude. In his hands storms are but channels of safe passage and paths to peace. In his hands those soiled with sin are cleansed. In his hands lame legs leap for joy. In his hands deaf ears become avenues of sound. In his hands blind eyes become corridors of light. In his hands death becomes but a prelude to life. Jesus’ hands make all the difference. ‘My times – Your hands.” We can embrace the words of Paul (Rom. 8:28 MSG), “That’s why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

I do complain, probably too frequently, about the inconvenience of the construction in my life. But that’s my humanness. In my heart, I like road construction. It reminds me that God is at work – He’s truly not finished with me yet. He loves me enough to do the necessary repair and construction. And I have a hunch I’ll like the new, improved completed construction!