Die to Live

Posted: December 20, 2020 in Uncategorized

“When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?””
‭‭John‬ ‭11:4, 25-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬

1849, Copenhagen, a small book appeared on a bookstore shelf, “The Sickness Unto Death”, by Soren Kierkegaard. Some mystics, like A. W. Tozer, take the complex and make it simple. That is a gift, the common man can read “The Pursuit of God” and apply it to their walk with God. Other mystics, I consider Kierkegaard to be one, take the simple and reveal the unrealzed complexity in terms that self-select the reader. The common man isn’t going to be ordering Kierkegaard. That doesn’t diminish his importance to the church, I believe this little book describes the wonder of the God-man relationship and the futility of man to define himself better than most if not all the writers I’ve read.

“Father in Heaven! Hold not our sins up against us but hold us up against our sins so that the thought of You when it wakens in our soul, and each time it wakens, should not remind us of what we have committed but of what You did forgive, not of how we went astray but of how You did save us!”

Soren Kierkegaard

Every one of us can identify with this prayer. Soren loved the Lord passionately, life is a serious matter, each moment is what matters. The past and future count for nothing. This moment is what you have. The story of Lazarus, John 11, is the foundation of Kierkegaard’s discourse, “The Sickness Unto Death.” The real story is not the physical resurrection of Lazarus. That, in fact, can be viewed as a negative. Poor Lazarus must die twice! No, the real story is in a spiritual resurrection, the unfolding work of grace. Soren argues, men live to die, Christians die to live. Life apart from Christ is a series of disappointments, an impossible quest to find and know oneself. We are designed for and defined by relationship with our Creator.

“The despair of ‘wanting to be oneself’ is really that of wanting to be the self one is in one’s own self, instead of a self whose specifications and identity are the outcome of one’s relationship with God.”

Our journey is dynamic, ever changing. We discover new possibilities every day we submit to God. Our debt, our offense, was paid at the cross. The resurrection ushered in a new covenant, our salvation sealed by the Holy Spirit. Now grace perfects itself in the consecrated life. Embrace Him, in the end Christ is all that matters.

Good News

Posted: October 6, 2020 in Meditations

“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns!'” Isaiah 52:7

Christians possess the best message on the planet.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:16,17

Our world is a mess and the world knows it. Man’s cruelty churns unabated. Power institutions, economic systems, sacred values: all tremble at the threat of rebellion, spurred by dissatisfaction, a yearning for a better world, heaven on earth. Something is afoot, the world changes. A cacophony of dissonant messages distills to one question, “What is the meaning of life?”

If there is no God and if we must define our own significance, perhaps we take ourselves too seriously. We exist, we die, we cease to exist, nothing changes. Albert Camus said, The absurd is born of this confrontation between the human need and the unreasonable silence of the world.” We cannot find adequate meaning for the ache in our being apart from the divine. The silence tortures us concurrent to to the buffets of life. Chekhov, in his play “The Three Sisters”, says, I think man ought to have faith, or else, his life is empty, empty…. You’ve got to know what you’re living for or else it’s all nonsense and waste.” Henrik Ibsen, the playwright, said, “If you take away the life illusion of the average man, you take away his happiness as well.”

“Most people, if they really learn how to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never keep their promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some foreign country, or first take up some subject that excites us, are longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning can really satisfy. I am not speaking of what would ordinarily be called unsuccessful marriages or trips and so on; I am speaking of the best possible ones. There is always something we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, that just fades away in the reality. The spouse may be a good spouse, the scenery has been excellent, it has turned out to be a good job, but “It” has evaded us.” C.S. Lewis

Why do we exist? For the Christian, we are created by and for God. We are not ends in ourselves. We do not define ourselves, he defines us. Our sin collectively defines the world’s mess. Our sin individually informs our ache, our dissatisfaction. Our good news offers reconciliation and redemption. It offers hope to meaning and purposed living. Our good news centers in the person, Jesus Christ, the incredible story of God taking on flesh, living and dying that we might be reconciled to the Great God, infinite goodness. “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Psalm 34:8 Tell your story. Why do you serve the risen Christ? He lives within your heart. Be his instrument. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

Holy Passion

Posted: October 5, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord. That person will be like a bush in the wastelands; they will not see prosperity when it comes. They will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” Jeremiah 17:5,6

“A mind not to be changed by place or time. The mind is its own place, and itself can make a heav’n of hell, a hell of heav’n.” John Milton

My capacity for evil lurks, never far, always near. I have walked with God imperfectly for half a century. Sin obliterates with the cunning of a snake. It crushed dear friends, destroyed marriages, shattered families, killed faith. I know sin. My own anger burned with murder, my eyes burned with lust, my words spoke death. I am no better than the feral pig that grows tusks and a bristled hide. Apart from God, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Jeremiah 17:9

“He that has light within his own clear breast may sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day: but he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts benighted walks under the mid-day sun; himself his own dungeon.” John Milton

A hero fell, I cannot adequately communicate the grief, the confusion, the horror I felt yesterday when I read my email. A Pastor betrayed his God, his calling, his church, his community; a betrayal I still cannot grasp. Perhaps I assume dynamic men and women are impervious to the frailties I confront everyday. I never saw his demise coming. The last time I heard this brother preach he brought me to tears, the altars filled with the penitent, elders prayed, the music played. Now I stare at a wasteland of devastated victims and broken saints. I grieve the wickedness of secret sin exposed.

“Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in the secret place.” Psalm 51:5,6

“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God.” Psalm 42:1,2

Don’t resort to haughty spiritual pride. Resist self-serving anger at someone else’s sin. Run from a shallow pious nod to the aggrieved. Sin harbors no respect for man’s goodness. What to do? Where to go? Run hard to the Savior. Recognize the weakness of the flesh. Exchange unruly passions for holy passion. St. Augustine said, ” I plunged into the lovely things you created. You were with me, but I was not with you. You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me: I drew breath and now I pant for you. I have tasted you, now I hunger and thirst for more. You touched me and now I burned for your peace.” A candle of righteousness has been temporarily snuffed. You and I must shine brighter for all to see. God remains faithful and true and we are his instruments of healing and hope.

‘Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” Psalm 30:4,5

Pray for my fallen brother, his family, his siblings, his parents. Pray for the victims of his sin and their families. Pray for the young pastors in the ungodly firestorm of this affront, for the elders, for the congregation. Revive us, Lord. Heal us. Make us holy even as you are holy. Holy Spirit, fall upon every one of us to the everlasting glory of our Great God. In Jesus name, amen.

Max And Audrey

Posted: October 3, 2020 in Meditations

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.”

Philippians 4:8,9

Max bent over the coffin to kiss his Audrey one last time. The lid closed. I heard a groan, the pained gasp of love separated, it was Max. I wept openly. I couldn’t bear the audible agony of my hero, Max Ephraim. It was tough enough saying goodbye to a woman who loved me like a son. The kindness, the gentleness, the generosity of these two giants in the kingdom of God never dims in my heart. How I loved them, words fail to describe the eternal benefit of their love to me. Their example buttresses my devotion to Christ, how I conduct my life.

Max and Audrey had nine children. I fell for number eight, a vivacious spitfire named Lois, Teddy to her friends. I’m sure the discerning eye of both fell on this invading rooster but I never felt it. It’s hard to describe the siblings. Each one lived bigger than life: brilliant, ebullient, ridiculously accepting. I never received a curt word from anyone except Lois. Isn’t that how it goes? After dating for eighteen months, the dating relationship ended. I’m from Wisconsin, the Ephraims from Illinois. Normally, that ends the story, but normal never described the Ephraims.

I felt the acute pain of love lost—she broke up with me, just the worst on so many levels. But life moves on and so did I. I worked every summer for my Uncle Richard who owned investment properties throughout the state of Wisconsin. I worked a project in Wittenburg when the phone rang, it was Audrey Ephraim. Her sixteen year old son was going through a difficult time. She asked, “If you have work for my son, would you consider taking him on for the summer?” The answer, “Yes, I would love to have James work with us.” James worked hard, a real joy; for me it was a blessing to return a small portion of the love Max and Audrey poured into me. That summer cemented my place in the Ephraim extended family for the rest of their lives.

Audrey never forgot that summer with her son James. Their interest in my life never abated. I remember my last encounter with Max and Audrey over a supper. Audrey hugged me and said, “The boy I wished was my son.” Those words meant everything to me. This godly woman, mother of nine, loved me.

Max, perhaps the most amazing man I ever met, went on to glory a few years later. I drove two hundred miles to pay my respects to a great man. Memories, so many memories swept over me. I remembered a moment at Maranatha Chapel in Evergreen Park. I just finished a lengthy discussion with a remorseful alcoholic man at the altar after church. Everybody but Max had gone home. Max put his hands on my shoulders and said, “Phil, that same man may come to the altar a hundred times and on the hundred and first time, the miracle will happen.” In short, Max taught me, “Never give up on anyone. With God, all things are possible.” The Apostle Paul wrote, “Whatever you have learned or received from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. Max and Audrey, your legacy lives on in me. Until my dying breath, I will do my best to pass on the love and wisdom you invested in me.

The Man In The Water

Posted: October 2, 2020 in Uncategorized

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay one’s life down for one’s friends.”

John 15:13,14

Two days ago Lynn and I pulled into Mattoon, Illinois, a classic rural mid western town, big enough for a Cracker Barrel and a Denny’s, small enough for not much else. Corn fields and I 57 defined its borders. We parked and went into the Honey Bee Diner for breakfast, a great choice for big appetites and friendly people. The town wears the strain of hard times, people are older, the population shrinking. “So this is Mattoon”, I thought.

On January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into a bridge spanning the Potomac River. Its wreckage slid into the ice choked water. Only the tail section remained afloat, six survivors clung to jagged edges. Crowds gathered, cameramen videoed, a nation watched a rescue unfold. A helicopter dropped flotation jackets, then a rope ladder. A man grabbed the life jackets and passed them on. He then grabbed the rope and passed it on. The routine repeated itself until all but one person was safe, the selfless man in the water. The helicopter went back to rescue him but he was gone, drowned. That man was Arland D. Williams, age 46, father of two, born and raised in Mattoon, Illinois.

“So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.”

New York Times

Arland chose, he acted. The world marveled at his selfless courage. They saw a spark of the divine that everyone craves but few experience. “Love the Lord with all your heart, Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31 Who is your neighbor? Do you choose to love the men, women, and children in your life sphere? Are you choosing to share life? Are you presenting the message of the gospel that gives life in words and deeds? God chooses ordinary people. God chose you, he chose me; we are the messengers.

“The people of the land practice extortion and commit robbery; they oppress the poor and needy and mistreat the foreigner, denying them justice. I looked for someone among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found no one.”

Ezekiel 22:29,30

Who will stand in the gap? Heavenly opportunities avail themselves everyday. The extraordinary is born out of the ordinary. No one knew the man in the water, yet Arland Williams saved five lives. Today we must choose how to conduct our lives. I choose to serve the Great God and I choose to love my neighbor as myself. In the end, Christ is all that matters.

Love Jesus

Posted: September 30, 2020 in Uncategorized

The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with his justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.

Isaiah 33:5-6

“The fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure.” What is the fear of the Lord? E.J. Young says the fear of the Lord is “the complete and entire devotion of the whole man to the Lord.” Nothing remains untouched in the man who fears God. Every fiber of his being lives to honor God. Out of that devotion emanates the life, the wisdom, the knowledge of God himself.

I adore my Grandpa Sheveland. 42 years have passed since Grandpa’s death and yet not a day passes without thoughts of him. The legacy of Clarence Sheveland lives in everything I do. Heroes do that sort of thing in boys. We want to be just like them. His pet names are my pet names. His passions are my passions: every flower bed a memorial, every mantlepiece a testament to the man who shaped my life.

Clarence lived a simple life, raised six kids with his wife Ruth, never had much money. But a humble two bedroom home stood proud, the backdoor beckoned all, “Come on in.” The gardens pristine, the lawn lush; a white picket fence traced sentinels of black walnut trees. Norman Rockwell had nothing on Grandpa’s house, pure Americana bathed in love. None of these wonderful things explain the man. They are simply markers of the driving force in Grandpa’s life, Jesus Christ. He loved his Lord with a whole heart, the fear of God the key to real treasure, a love that moved a young boy. That same love consumes and drives the mature grandson a half century later.

The little boy didn’t appreciate Grandpa’s fervent prayers. Phillip thought they were too long. Homemade bread, apple butter, and hot cocoa graced the kitchen table. Grandma read from “The Daily Bread”, then Grandpa prayed, and prayed. My stomach growled, my nose twitched,; I kept peeking at that bread, fifteen minutes an eternity. But I sure loved those hugs and hearty laughs. And the touch of his hand, love emanated from those fingers. I lived for his hand in mine, the caress of my curly mop, the squeeze of approval on my shoulder.

“There is enough in Christ for my necessities. There is more in Christ than I shall ever know–perhaps more than I shall understand even in heaven.”

Charles Spurgeon

Those prayers became the center of our conversation when I was twenty two. Grandpa Sheveland’s health was failing, he would pass the following Spring. He sat on the couch. I took the recliner rocker. We talked about the voice of God, miracles, the power of prayer. He put flesh to the Word of God. I witnessed the profound faith of a humble man in whom God poured a reservoir of wisdom and knowledge. He gestured at the photographs of all the grandkids displayed on the shelves of two built-ins. “I pray for everyone of you. Love Jesus.” I don’t remember anything after those two words. “Love Jesus” encapsulates Clarence Sheveland’s life. I pray those words encapsulate mine as well because in the end, Christ is all that matters.


Posted: September 29, 2020 in Meditations

Alliene, I never knew her. My father and grandfather drove out to a flat open plain in western Kansas. I was a young boy, the significance of this afternoon would not strike me for a long time. The cemetery, stark by most standards, seemed out of place. Where were the trees, lush grass, grand markers, pithy epitaphs? Instead, the sun scorched dry grass in oppressive heat. The men talked, I didn’t listen, not until they stopped at a spot marked by a rock. For the first time I knew I had an aunt I would never meet, her name, Alliene.

My grandparents were young, Grandpa Brown, a tall handsome Methodist pastor, my grandmother, a godly mother of two boys and a girl. 1934 was tough times. The Dust Bowl ate up millions of acres across the Great Plains. The nation still reeled amidst the Great Depression. Dillinger, Bonnie and Clyde: all met their end in 1934. But tough times also create opportunity for the gospel message, my grandpa faithfully preached hope to many who desperately needed it.

Glenn was six, Alliene four, John a mere six months. Alliene came into the house from play, she had a fierce headache. Grandma recalled that day in her journal, fevers spiked during the day, seemed like measles coming on. Grandma wrote, “About noon she asked, ‘Mama, aren’t you going to get any dinner, I’m hungry.’ So, I made her a cocoa eggnog and she drank several little glasses of that in the afternoon. Her fever seems to get higher. I wonder what she has? She got so sleepy and begged for me to put her to bed and let her go to sleep. She did go into a deep sleep right in my arms before I could get her to bed. She is real cold now and Bob has gone after the doctor. Presently she clenched her little teeth tightly together and her arms stiffened as tho she were going into a convulsion. I laid her back down, holding her in my arms. Just as Bob stepped back into the door, her sweet pure spirit left her. Ohh, my precious little darling. Gone, gone forever. So suddenly. It was just 8 PM. I can’t write how I feel.”

The journal remained silent for two months, no entries. I cannot imagine the grief of two young parents. How does anyone make sense of the death of a child? We don’t. In that moment all we can know is this, we belong to God. On May 26, 1934, Grandma picked up her pen and wrote, “As I left the empty house and walked in the yard, the most blessed peace, almost joy filled my heart as the thought came to me, ‘Yes, she is gone, she is gone forever to be with God, forever safe from danger and Satan’s snares. What a blessed assurance. Oh heavenly Father, grant that our loved ones may all leave as sweet a fragrance when they go as Alliene did.'”

My little girl is now twenty, her name, Elizabeth Alliene. She carries the name of a special little girl I never knew. Elizabeth belongs to God, each of us does. Whether we live to be a hundred or only stay upon this sod for four short years, our lives are not our own. And what shall we do with the gift of life while we have it? “Oh heavenly Father, grant that our loved ones may all leave as sweet a fragrance when they go as Alliene did.”

Give It All to Jesus

Posted: September 28, 2020 in Uncategorized

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

Ephesians 4:31,32

My heart pounded, my mind raced. Tears poured down my face. The chaotic flow of horror, terror, and brokenness surged over me. This storm driven riptide of rogue waves overwhelmed all perspective. The agony of betrayal, the anger: I wanted retribution and a place to run all at the same time. Have you been there? Has your world crashed? Been betrayed? Slandered? What to do? How do I respond? I have gone to the dark side of my soul. I have nurtured that hurt. I know the root of bitterness. I cultivated it like a rare orchid. My heart shriveled, love died, the presence of God drifted to a place I could not see or cared to pursue. I needed a miracle.

Pain, we all carry the scars of deep wounds. Memories flash uninvited, the lump in the throat returns, the eyes moisten. Some pain never departs this side of heaven. My Grandpa Brown never got over the loss of his two children. I wouldn’t either. But he didn’t carry bitterness, nor did he carry a spirit of resignation. Why? He knew a God who loved him, who loved his wife, who loved his children, especially the two who left him too early. “God is good, blessed be the name of the Lord.” My grandfather understood without having to understand, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”” Isaiah 55:8,9 But what of abuse, slander, and worse? The heart of man is evil, it knows no bounds. Surely I am justified. This man or woman deserves my hate. That hate will destroy you as surely as your imagination destroys the object of your hate. Run!! As fast as you can to Jesus. Unload that junk, that morass of pain. It may take a thousand trips, dump it. Only then can you find freedom, the freedom to love, the freedom to live.

Martin Luther King said, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Hate drives the present BLM movement. And the hate will destroy its own. Only a voice of forgiveness and reconciliation will move the wounded hearts of men and women. Jesus said, You have heard it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48

Today, I pray the moment any hurt surfaces, I pray over difficult relationships. I pray for everything I can imagine in their lives. I pray for breakthrough, I pray for blessing. I pray for the divine purposes to be lived out in the lives of individuals that would be so easy to hate. Why? No longer do I do it because Jesus told me to. I pray because I know God grows a love in me for those who wished me harm. “In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. Perfect love drives out fear.” 1 John 4:17,18. The flesh cannot conjure this love, it comes directly from the heart of God. Don’t own the hurt, the bitterness, the anger, the malice. Give it all to Jesus. Live in freedom, live in Christ’s love.


Posted: September 25, 2020 in Meditations

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Philippians 4:8,9

Jay Cooke, born in the frontier town of Sandusky, Ohio, 1821, excelled in life. At age 14, Jay served as head clerk at a Sandusky dry goods store. He comfortably supported himself at Seymour & Bool in St Louis at age 16. Cooke moved to Philadelphia at age 18 to take a position at an investment bank, E.W. Clarke & Co. He became a full partner in 1842 at the age of 21. The bank prospered on railroads and the Mexican War, experience that would benefit Cooke later in life. He retired in 1858 a rich man, just 37 years old.

Who was the man behind the banker? That is our story, Jay Cooke’s faith. Thomas H. Stockton, a Methodist minister in Philadelphia, profoundly influenced Cooke’s life. Jay spent thousands of dollars distributing Mr. Stockton’s sermons and tracts. The nation needed Jesus, the stripped down gospel, not a liturgical remote religion. Jay Cooke taught Bible classes, something he would continue to do the rest of his life. When the walk to Stockton’s church proved too far for his wife, Cooke joined a local Episcopalian church. From that point forward Cooke called himself a “low church” Episcopalian.

In 1861 Jason Cooke established his own financial house, Jay Cooke and Co.. Two months later the Civil War commenced. An avowed abolitionist, Cooke embraced the Union cause. When his friend Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury, called on him to help raise support for the war effort, Cooke went all in. By the end of the Civil War, Jay Cooke & Co. transacted a staggering 3 billion dollars in war bonds. Jay Cooke & Co. stood tall, the most formidable banking force in the country.

Jay Cooke lived his life by the vow of Jacob in Genesis 28:22, “and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” When Cooke established his banking house, he instructed his clerk to create an OPJ account (old patriarch Jacob). One tenth of all commissions went into the account. Cooke tithed again off of his personal income. When people asked how he could give away so much money, Jay Cooke said, “It doesn’t cost me anything; it is the Lord’s money I give.”

In 1873 the unthinkable happened. Jay Cooke lost everything. Skyrocketing costs and delays on the North Pacific Railroad bankrupted Jay Cooke & Co. and himself. Cooke liquidated everything: the homes, furnishings, the vaunted art collection. He went back to work. In four years Cooke paid every creditor back in full. Through it all Jay Cooke never wavered. Integrity demanded the best out of him. He refused to shirk his creditors and his generous heart never abated. A shrewd investment in the Horn Silver Mine in Utah made Cooke a wealthy man again. He repurchased his old homes, a remarkable testament to a more remarkable man.

Jay Cooke died in 1905, a revered man. A century later churches up and down the East Coast stand, all built by Cooke money. A statue stands on the windswept hills of Duluth, Minnesota. Jay Cooke sits on a bench, the seat next to him empty. If a young person could sit in that empty spot and Jay could turn to talk, what would the mighty Jay Cooke say? I think I know. It would start this way, “Do you know my best friend Jesus?” And the conversation would close with these words, “In the end, Christ is all that matters.”

Christ Alone

Posted: September 24, 2020 in Uncategorized

In Christ alone my hope is found He is my light, my strength, my song This Cornerstone, this solid Ground Firm through the fiercest drought and storm What heights of love, what depths of peace When fears are stilled, when strivings cease My Comforter, my All in All Here in the love of Christ I stand

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.”

Matthew 16:24

A new Supreme Court nominee will be announced this Saturday by President Trump. Amy Coney Barrett, one of the presumed favorites, quickly became a lightening rod of opposition because of her abiding faith in Christ. In 2017, during her confirmation hearing to fill a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh District, Senator Dianne Feinstein said, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that is a concern.” Those fears arose out of Amy’s 2006 graduation speech, “No matter how exciting any career is, what is it really worth if you don’t make it part of a bigger life project to know love and serve the God who made you?” Why would Dianne fear a religion that promotes “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? James Woods, the actor, answered that question yesterday, “They loathe Christians primarily because the Bible is unequivocal about abortion, homosexuality, and pederasty.” The State is threatened by a perceived pretender to its throne.

My pastor on the East Coast, Mike Ruel, posted Matthew 16:24 this morning. “Deny yourself, take up your cross, follow Christ.” The Christian choice tolerates no middle ground. Christ demands all or nothing. The Christian life births out of total surrender. We have no rights, no leverage, before Holy God. Lost in the warp of sin, we possess no means to cure sin’s horrific effects. Christ alone is our hope. The verses of an old hymn encapsulate our surrender to Jesus. “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live. All to Jesus, I surrender, humbly at His feet I bow. Worldly pleasures all forsaken, Take me, Jesus, take me now. All to Jesus I surrender, make me Savior wholly Thine. May the Holy Spirit fill me, may I know Thy power divine.”

“In those days Israel had no king, everyone did as they saw fit.”

Judges 21:25

What do we do as human beings in our sin? We assume the role of God. We choose right from wrong and we don’t take kindly to others challenging our choices. The Bible provokes society precisely because it confronts us with our sin. Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you because of me.” Matthew 5:11 The world Jesus lived in condemned him with hate. Do we Christians presume a different fate for ourselves? So how do we respond? I answer with a question, “How did Jesus respond?”

“When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Luke 24;33,34

Never lose sight of the face of God in any human being regardless of the warp of sin. Resist your instinct to close your heart when hurt. Never stop loving, never stop praying. Embrace the redemptive power of the gospel. Take up your cross knowing “the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4 Like Paul, proclaim, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes.” We serve the Great God, infinite goodness. Love with his love again and again and again. In the end, Christ is all that matters.