Friday, May 29, 2015

Clothe Yourself

Clothe Yourself and Put On
Scripture is full of metaphors that help us to more fully understand God’s desire for us. There is an important concept, habit or discipline that can give us strength and confidence, and also humility. It is clothing ourselves or putting on Christ and His attributes. Although we can attempt to do this, I believe that it is the power of The Holy Spirit that allows us to be clothed in His Splendor, majesty, love, grace, compassion, gentleness or anything else that speaks of God’s character.

First I want to take us to Jesus’ final commands before His ascension into heaven after His resurrection. In Luke 24:49 He says, “I am going to send you what the Father has promised; but stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.” Jesus is speaking of the promised Holy Spirit, the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, who will guide you in all truth. The power of God comes to us through the Holy Spirit who is the third person or manifestation of God.  The Holy Spirit has existed with the Father and the Son from before time and creation. It is the Holy Spirit who hovered above the abyss and brought light and the oceans in Genesis. He has been working since the beginning to create, empower and guide mankind. In the OT the Spirit of God appeared intermittently to help. But in the New Testament, the Spirit was sent by God to bring us Christ, allowing us to be robed in God’s righteousness and strength. Psalm 45:2, “Clothe yourself with splendor and majesty. In your majesty ride forth victoriously on behalf of truth, humility and righteousness.” The Psalmist is speaking of the coming of Christ. Isaiah the Prophet in 52:1 said, “Clothe yourself with strength. Put on your garment of splendor.”  Speaking of Israel, the chosen people of God.

Paul frequently alluded to putting on the new self, “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light…rather clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14).  In his letter to the Colossians, he wrote, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as I forgave you.

Peter also spoke of this intentional act, “All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 3:34). Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty power that he may lift you up in due time…Cast all your cares on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:5-7). 

Once more back to the Psalms, “Your turn my wailing into dancing, you removed my sackcloth and clothed my with joy…that my heart might sing and be thankful.” (Psalm 30:11).  So God clothes us and admonishes us to clothe ourselves. What a wonderful gift God gives. This gift is made very clear in Proverbs 31, speaking of the ‘The Wife of Noble Character.’ “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

Perhaps Paul summarizes this discussion best in Ephesians 4:22-24, “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  And one more admonition, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come!” (2Cor 5:17).  This is it, the new life clothed and empowered by Christ through the Holy Spirit.  So what do we do? Put on Christ, clothe yourselves with Him and He will do it.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Normandy

Normandy France brings many memories to those who fought in WWII. It was horrific and yet the beginning of victory over the invading and occupying German Armies.  I want to share a piece of history from my own experiences there.

In 1967 I lived in Orleans, France for several months between my sophomore and junior years in college. I was fortunate to have a job as a bank cashier at Caisse d’Epargne in Orleans. I received this opportunity ironically through the friendship and connections of a German foreign exchange student who had stayed at our home in Milwaukee.  There I lived in an ancient 16th century home called a “Hotel Particulier.” The five story stone house was on a narrow 12-foot wide street in the old town across from a House of Pleasure. The latter is beside the point, except for a connection to WWII and the story I want to share. It turned out that my 4th story bedroom window was opposite that of several prostitutes. Although I never walked across the street, scouts honor, I had many long conversations with the girls to help improve my conversational French.

The American Army occupied France from 1945 right up to just weeks before I arrived in France. President Charles DE Galle did not want us there and kicked out the U.S. Army troops in 1967. This was a blow to the local economy in many ways I found out, particularly for the “working girls” across the street.  They had little traffic anymore and had lots of time to talk of the many generous Americans they met.

The President of the bank where I worked came from Normandy where his father still lived in their ancestral home. He invited me for a weekend to visit Normandy, which was an incredible experience. We stayed in his father’s house that it turns out was taken over as the German Army Headquarters for the Normandy invasion. It was a beautiful grey brick home of perhaps 6 bedrooms. I stayed in one with Louis XVIV period furniture.  After supper, M. Bouis, the owner, told me his story of the war. He pointed out a large pine tree in the backyard with an unexploded artillery shell still visibly stuck in it.  He told of how they had to flee the house. He had had just enough time to hide valuables in a trapdoor cellar under an oriental rug in the study where we were sitting. He lifted this same rug and the trapdoor. We proceeded down the ladder into darkness with a flashlight. I joined him there in an ancient and dusty wine cellar.  There he pulled a dust-covered bottle off the rack. He said it was a bottle of Calvados (apple brandy) bottled from his orchards in 1942 before the Normandy invasion. He had been keeping it for an occasion of meeting an American whom he could toast and thank for their liberation.

It was a very moving experience to toast the 120 proof clear yellow Calvados together. I told him of my own father’s Army service with the 32nd Division, fighting Rommel up through Africa into Italy, where he was seriously wounded at Monte Casino. There was a camaraderie established with this 85-year-old man that stays with me today. I did not find many other thankful French, and only did when I told them I was French Canadian, therefore explaining my somewhat strange accent. However, I will say, by this time in my stay I was quite fluent, even dreaming in French.

We walked the vast white graveyard crosses of Normandy sharing the awe of sacrifice together.  More toasts and thanks came as he introduced me to people in a restaurant as the son of a Liberator.


Let us never forget the sacrifices made that we might be free. Let us not let national pride keep us from holding our alliances close, as this world seems to be spinning into deeper and darker turmoil. Vive La France and God bless America.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Healing

Recently I have been teaching on rest. In the Psalms we can find wonderful admonitions to rest in God alone in Psalm 23 and 62.  It is hard for us to do this except with God’s help. We need to rest from life’s trials. In life we will be hurt, yet God brings healing to us. His promises of healing are dramatic and wonderful.

In Psalms we read in Ps 103 that God forgives all our sins and heals all of our diseases. I have written earlier about God’s miraculous healing on my body from a near fatal bout with tick borne diseases. God also speaks of healing in Psalm 30. Yet it seems in this psalm the healing deals with more than physical, but perhaps healing of the soul. “I will exalt you O Lord, for he lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me. O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me. O Lord, you brought me up from the grave, you spared me from going down into the pit.” (v.1-3). The depths are an expression of a universal human experience. Out of the muck and mire, darkness and pain of life, emotional and spiritual as well as physical.  The psalmist is even speaking of the grave or death. God does not want us to live in darkness, but in His light. For in Him there is no darkness but the light of life.

Clearly we all experience deep darkness often in grief from loss.  We are continually losing things and friends in life. Grief and mourning are difficult and even despairing at times. Yet, grieving is a process with stages that can lead us through pain and anger to bargaining, and to reinvestment in life. This is a slow and individual process that must be lived out.  Yet, “his favor lasts a lifetime weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (v.5).  When in grief it seems like this will never happen. I recall while facilitating a grief group called GriefShare, we encountered people angry with the thought that rejoicing or joy could even be used in the same sentence as weeping or grieving. In fact the logo of the group was, “From mourning to joy.” This is a theme in scripture of how God will work in our lives if we let him. This thought is perhaps no more stark than in James 1:2-4 where he says, “Consider it pure joy when you come into trials of diverse kinds, for the testing of your faith develops perseverance, which must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.”  This is hard teaching and during grief it is at best dissonant.

Back to Psalm 30:11, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, that my heart might sing to you and not be silent.”  What! You might say. He ends with. “O, Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever.”  God is faithful to lead us through the trial or grief. He will minister to our broken hearts and bring us healing.  It is the healing of our souls, broken or cracked in our loss. Our foundations are shaky, but God’s anchor holds.

The Prophet Isaiah brings the healing theme home as well.  God will bring the Israelites out of Egypt or Babylon, their exile. This exile of mourning of life and land lost. “When they cry out to the Lord because of their oppressors, he will send a savior and defender and he will rescue them. The Lord will strike Egypt with a plague, he will strike them and heal them. They will turn to the Lord, and he will respond to their pleas and heal them.” (v.19:21-22).  Then later in Isaiah 61 we read of the ministry of Christ Jesus, “He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…to comfort all who mourn and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crow of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”  Jesus Himself spoke these words in Luke 4 in the temple as the scroll was handed to Him. Jesus is still healing us in body, mind and spirit, that our lives may be fully devoted to him.



Thursday, May 21, 2015

God is in Control

God is in Control is the name of a worship song by Twila Paris.
This is no time for fear
This is the time for faith and determination
Don't lose the vision here carried away by the motion
Hold on to all that you hide in your heart
There is one thing that has always been true
It holds the world together

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control

History marches on
There is a bottom line drawn across the ages
Culture can make its plan oh, but the line never changes
No matter how the deception may fly
There is one thing that has always been true
It will be true forever

God is in control
We believe that His children will not be forsaken
God is in control
We will choose to remember and never be shaken
There is no power above or beside Him, we know
Oh, God is in control, oh God is in control

Many are the plans in a men’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails” (Proverbs 19:21).  It is good for me to know that God is in charge, that He directs my steps (Proverbs 20:24). If I seek the Lord, He will lead me. Yet, Scripture says that a horse needs a bridle to control it, and God’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him (Psalm 32:10). God wants us to trust in His Word for our good.  For the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace” (Romans 8:6).  The man whose sinful nature controls him is not pleasing to God.  Later in the same chapter Paul says, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).  God can control whoever and whatever He wants, but He also gives us free will to do what we want. I want to do what is pleasing to God.  How do I find it? It is in the Bible and His Holy Spirit illuminates it for us to know how to follow Him.

God fills us with His Holy Spirit as we trust in Him. He gives us the fruit of the Spirit that includes self-control. It is a gift and a discipline. We must be self-disciplined to seek after Him and His way for us. Job comes to learn how God controls “the clouds” and everything else. He learns that God is good and so we can trust Him to do His good in our lives. It is God’s will that we become sanctified and learn control over our own body and ways (1 Thessalonians 4:4).

I pray that I will continue to be “God-controlled” and that my dear friends will see and have courage to follow Him. His peace is perfect and not of the world, but of the Spirit.