A Declaration of Dependence

a-declaration-of-dependence[1]It’s easy to look at today’s headlines and wonder, “What in the world is going on?” We are certainly living in times of change. Many believe that the moral compass of America and much of the world has been permanently reset. It would seem that God is nowhere to be found in the thoughts of much of the world’s population.

July 4 is the day that America celebrates her Independence Day. In recent days, upon voting to leave the EU, many pundits declared that June 23 was Great Brittan’s independence day.  Others said that Great Brittan’s voters made a huge mistake. Time will tell. What happens in today’s newscast will not surprise God. What happens in tomorrow’s newscast will not surprise Him either. God knows the future, He was there in the past, and He is right here with us in the present. Are you living in an awareness of God’s presence today?

As we celebrate America’s independence today, I want to encourage you to turn your thoughts towards God. Where does God fit in your life? Is He an afterthought, or is He the Lord of your life? Here’s another way to look at it – is your life one of dependence upon God or independence from God?

When it comes to our relationship with God, we either live lives of dependency or lives of independence. What does God want for us? He wants us to live lives of dependency. Look at some of what the Bible tells us about depending on God:

5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

9 The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. (Proverbs 16:9)

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills.  From where does my help come? 2 My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1-2)

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that doing things our own way will lead us to ultimate satisfaction. But a life that is lived in independence from God is really a lesson in missing the ultimate point of life. God calls us to love Him more than anything else that the world has to offer. So, in this month where we celebrate our nation’s independence, how about also making a vow of dependency to the Lord?

In The Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson wrote these words, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

I’m so glad that we have a God who gave us these rights. But, even our founding fathers recognized that these rights, lived without dependency upon God were not enough. The Declaration of Independence closes with these words:

“With a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

May we live with a firm reliance upon God this and every month. May we live lives of dependency! As you celebrate your independence this month, celebrate your dependency too!

I encouraged the congregation of Woodbury Community Church to take time this week to write out a Declaration of Dependence on the Lord. Then I shared with them the declaration of dependence that I wrote. Here it is:

“I hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

 But, God, I also hold to these truths. My life when lived apart from You is a disaster. I need You.

 I am a sinner, who desperately needs Your grace. I am hopelessly lost without the salvation that is offered through Your Son, Jesus Christ.

 I am a Christian, who has been saved by grace. I am dependent on Your Holy Spirit for guidance as to how I should live my life, for conviction of sin, and for the courage to live for You and Your glory in this generation.

 If you are the Creator, and I believe with all of my heart that you are, then it stands to reason that I am among the created. I need you to help me understand Your plan for my life. I am dependent upon the wisdom that comes from knowing You and seeking first Your kingdom and Your glory.

 I need your eyes to help me see the world as You see it. I need Your compassion to help me love the world as You love the world. I need your provision to help me provide for my family and to help me provide for the needs of others.

 I need you every second of every minute of every hour of every day. Lord, I declare my dependence upon You. May you help me to live with the joy that comes from living the life that You have called me to. I need Your strength to live that life. I am Yours. I pledge my allegiance and my love to You.”

Below is the sermon that I preached yesterday at Woodbury Community Church, where I spoke on Psalm 34:4-10 and six gifts that living lives of dependency upon God gives us. The sound on the video doesn’t work for the first 30 seconds. I hope that this sermon is a blessing to you.


 

Fitbit + Little Free Library = Literary Workout

About a month before Father’s Day my wife asked me what I might enjoy for a gift. Feeling as out of shape as I have ever been in my life, I asked her if she might consider buying me a Fitbit.

When Father’s Day came my family had indeed purchased me a Fitbit Charge HR. Like so many who have had this little device, I found myself motivated to get in my 10,000 steps a day. The first couple of days I got my 10,000 steps in before breakfast! According to my Fitbit, I had walked over 70 miles in the first two weeks of having the device! That is a huge accomplishment for me. I’ve walked most of those miles by combining my new love of my Fitbit with another love of mine — visiting Little Free Libraries.

IMG_2768Those of you who know me know that I love my Little Free Library.  I wrote about the process of building it last year. There is hardly a day that goes by where I am not adding new books to my library. Over the past several months I have discovered that within a few miles of my house are at least eight Little Free Libraries. (You can find out more about this awesome movement here).

So, my daily walk now consists of visiting anywhere between two and six libraries. Today, I visited six libraries and it took me just over 10,000 steps. If you live in the Eden Prairie area, you too can get in a fun literary workout. I usually begin my workout with 5-6 books in my hand. By the time my workout is over I have made quick stops at several libraries and dropped off a number of books. It’s fun to see which books are still there the next day or two, and which have been checked out. This fun workout helps get me in shape and also promotes literacy and community in my neighborhood.

Homeward Hills BarnIf you want to try my Little Free Library workout, park your car at Homeward Hills Park in Eden Prairie. There is a library located on the Homeward Hills Park Barn wall closest to the basketball courts. Then you can make your way through the trail through the east of the barn and walk into the neighborhood on the other side of the trail. If you take your first left, you’ll be on Tree Farm Road, where you’ll come upon a great library with lots of great books for people of all ages.

You’ll have to walk back through Homeward Hills Park and go west on Homeward Hills Drive to find your next three libraries. The first one that you’ll come upon is on Tanglewood Drive. Take a left on Tanglewood from Homeward Hills, and you’ll find the library located on the right side of the street, about halfway up. Tanglewood is a horseshoe-shaped street and ends up back on Homeward Hills. Take a left and proceed all the way to Riverview Road, one of the prettiest streets in Eden Prairie.

When you get to Riverview, take a left and then another left onto Purdey Road. Purdey is a circle road, and you’ll find a library on that street. Work you way back to Riverview and take a right. There is another Little Free Library located at the corner of Riverview and Homeward Hills. By now, you have visited five libraries!

The final library is located on Chesholm Lane. I recommend walking Riverview all the way to Mooer Lane. Take a right on Mooer Lane and then a right on Silverwood Drive. Then take a right onto Chesholm Lane and you’ll find the last of the Little Free Libraries in the Homeward Hills neighborhood. From Chesholm it is a short walk back to Homeward Hills Park. See the map below, which is from the Little Free Library’s site.

For a longer workout, you could walk to the Little Free Library at the Staring Lake Park Outdoor Center, or to another Little Free Library located on Mount Curve Road near the Olympic Hills Golf Course Clubhouse. Visit all of these and you will have been to eight libraries within three miles of Homeward Hills Park.

To create a Little Free Library workout in your neck of the woods, visit the Little Free Library’s World Map and see what is near you! Happy walking and happy reading!

Little Free Library Map

 

 

 

 

A Country Life: A Collection of Poetry

A Country Life Front Cover ArtBack in August I published my Grandpa’s book of poetry entitled, A Country Life: A Collection of Poems. It’s a project that I’ve been working on for about a year. My Grandpa loved writing poems. He intended to someday publish his poetry, but he died before realizing that dream. I found a collection of his poems in an old file cabinet at my parent’s home. One folder contained several poems centered around the theme of country living. Grandpa had titled the folder, “A Country Life.”

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Grandpa wrote thousands of poems, including poems for two of our Presidents (Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter). One of his poems, celebrating Gerald Ford’s inauguration is located at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

For the next three days you can download his book for free for Kindle. Please take a moment to download the book as my gift to you. If you get a chance to read it, please consider leaving feedback on Amazon.

Here is the introduction that I wrote for the book. I hope this gives you a better idea of who my Grandpa was.

INTRODUCTION

Fishing with Grandpa and GrandmaIn many ways, I had an idyllic childhood. No child understands that when they are growing up. Idyllic doesn’t mean perfect, but I had a home that was surrounded with love. My parents celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary last year. They are very much in love, and never failed to demonstrate that love to my brothers, my sister and me. My grandparents on both sides lived near us. They loved their grandchildren, and poured that love into us with their time, their laughter, their gifts, and their stories.

As a child, my brothers and I spent a lot of time with my mother’s parents. Her mom, Helen, would eventually come to live with us when my Grandpa Art passed away. I was just a young boy when Grandpa died, but somehow I can’t get the memories out of my mind of afternoons spent around his television set watching the Chicago Cubs play baseball on WGN television. After the games we’d sit around his chair and listen to him tell us stories. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the afternoons spent at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Grandpa also loved the great outdoors. Feeding the ducks at the park and watching his grandsons fish were some of his favorite activities.

My Grandpa Art was a tool and die maker. He didn’t have much of an education. He earned his high school diploma as an adult, and went to night school to become a Doctor of Naprapathy, a system of treating disease that employed no medication but used the manipulation of muscles, joints and ligaments to stimulate the natural healing process. It was something in which he took a lot of pride. I think he loved helping others deal with pain, because he had so much of it in his life.

When he was just ten years old, my Grandpa’s mother died. Grandpa’s dad would marry again. He found a sweet woman who loved Grandpa and his siblings like they were her own. I’m not sure Grandpa ever got over losing his mother, but he loved his stepmother.

The pain in his life would come in waves. When he became a parent, before my mother was born, my grandparents lost their son, Teddy. It was during the Great Depression. My grandparents opened up their home to a family in need. The child in that family had meningitis. Soon, Teddy caught meningitis. He was just a little boy, so full of life, the apple of his parents’ eyes. He died in the hospital in just a few days.  Our English language has no words for a parent who has lost a child. It’s just too painful. It’s not the natural order of things. When a spouse dies we are a widow or widower. When a parent dies we are an orphan. But, when our children die we just grieve, and grieve and grieve. Teddy was my grandparents’ only child at the time.

Grandma and Grandpa with Mom and Aunt Marlene 2The Lord would see fit to give my grandparents two little girls in the convening years. Art’s daughters, Beatrice and Marlene were now his great delight. Eventually two young men, Gordon and Larry, stole his daughters’ hearts. God would also bless Grandpa with seven grandsons (Mark, Randy, Brian and Kevin Schulenburg and Steve, Dan and Andy Pearson) in whom he took great delight, and a granddaughter (Jenny Schulenburg) who was born after he died, and whom he will meet in heaven. I know he is going to love meeting Jenny in heaven someday. She shares many of his same passions and is quite a poet herself! One of the poems Grandpa wrote is called “Jennie.” Even though the poem “Jennie” is about his pet rabbit, I like to think it is a special gift from the Lord for a girl that never got to meet her Grandpa.

In his later years, Grandpa developed severe diabetes. He lost some toes and eventually a leg to the disease. Through all the pain he still had a twinkle in his eyes and a story on his tongue. A relative of mine recently saw some old family photos that I posted on Facebook. She commented, “I don’t ever remember a time that your grandpa wasn’t smiling. And, your grandma was just the sweetest! Loved them both so much.”

n514316325_715930_3287I don’t know when my Grandpa Art started writing poetry. It could be that he wrote poetry throughout his entire life. I think Grandpa’s poetry became a sort of therapy for him. Like me, he remembered his childhood as being idyllic. It was a simpler time. He grew up on a farm in Michigan with parents, brothers and sisters, and grandparents who loved him. This book is a compilation of poems that he wrote, intending to someday publish. I found the poems in a folder while preparing to move my parents out of my boyhood home and into their retirement home. He had put a title on the folder that contained the poetry – A Country Life.

In the pages that follow, you will see the memories of a boy growing up on a Michigan farm from around 1906-1926. I hope that Grandpa’s poems will inspire and encourage you. Beyond that, I hope that you will take delight in Grandpa’s God. He was above all things a man of faith. He loved Jesus with all of his heart. He loved his wife. He loved his daughters. He loved his sons-in-law. And he loved his grandchildren. It was his faith in Christ that was his beacon of light in the darkest of days, his compass on the journey of life, and his hope for eternity.

n514316325_715928_2035The pages herein contain the poems of a man who was continually in awe of the creative genius of God. The poems cover the beautiful themes of family, faith, discovery, nature, scrumptious food, boyhood adventures, busy towns, and sleepy meadows. Farmers, their wives, rascally sons, a hermit, pet rabbits and trusty horses all play prominent roles in the narrative of the poetry. Each poem tells a story of a time when the pace of life was simpler. Families were in tune with each other; not continually connected to electronic devices. Relationships with friends and neighbors mattered. Shared meals, piping hot coffee, hard work, and prayer were part of everyday life for the Swedish immigrants living on a farm near Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Some of Grandpa’s poems share the same title. Apparently, he wasn’t real creative when it came to titling his poems. So, if you see duplicate titles on poems, don’t fret, the content is different.

I hope that you will enjoy A Country Life, as much as I have. These poems have made a Grandpa, who passed away when I was just eleven years old, come back alive to me. The time that I have spent typing his poetry on my computer’s keyboard has felt like a gift to me. I feel like I have received a few more hours of Grandpa’s time, mixed with practical bits of homespun wisdom, charm, and delightful stories.

Enjoy . . . A Country Life.

Sincerely,

Brian Schulenburg

Art’s Third Grandson

24 Years Ago

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24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, my world.

24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, the most beautiful woman I know.

24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, patient, kind, and oh so wise.

24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, my favorite person to be around.

24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, a competitor who hates to lose.

24 years ago today, I married my best friend.

She was then, and is today, artistic, brilliant, creative, and fun.

24 years go today, I married my best friend.

And, today, I love her more than ever.

Happy Anniversary, to the love of my life. Cyndi, you have blessed me beyond measure, and I thank our God, who blessed me with you. You are a great wife, a fantastic mom, and my best friend always.

I love you!

A Time for Rest

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, King Solomon wrote:

1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

He then takes the next seven verses to talk about different seasons in our lives. As I write today, I find myself in a unique season of life. I am living in an intentional time of rest. And, I have to admit, I am not used to that. Woodbury Community Church, where I am blessed to serve as Senior Pastor, allows their pastor to take a three-month sabbatical every seven years. My sabbatical began on July 1st. The first month of my sabbatical is all about connecting with family, connecting with the Lord, experiencing rest, and trying new things. It’s also been a time of focusing on my health. A few weeks before my sabbatical began I started the online Bible Study course, The Lord’s Table at the Setting Captives Free’s web site. It’s been a great journey and I’ve lost 25 pounds so far. I took a break from my iPad, from social media, and other things that tend to take away from time doing the most important things. Our family spent time together in beautiful Colorado and at our home in Minnesota. I tried my hand at fly fishing, got rained out of a camping trip – and instead enjoyed a “camp-in,” went to a Colorado Rockies game, played a ton of mini-golf, connected with a cousin I hadn’t seen in years, went thrifting, ate out, climbed some beautiful rocks at a park in Colorado Springs, played some disc golf at a Colorado disc golf course, discovered the World Famous Penny Arcade – an incredible retro arcade in Manitou Springs, and I read paperback books – you know the kind with paper and binding and compelling covers with words that aren’t being read on a screen. I have also ridden lots of miles on bikes in Colorado and Minnesota.

Vintage Raleigh bike ride in Colorado Springs with Pike's Peak in background.

Vintage Raleigh bike ride in Colorado Springs with Pike’s Peak in background.

It’s been a relaxing, rejuvenating, and renewing month. 11659372_10153422110744293_2763759449985939105_nBy far, my favorite activity has been building a Little Free Library with my father-in-law. He did most of the work, using the skills that God gave him as a wonderful craftsman. The hours spent in his garage working with him on that project will forever be some of my favorite memories of life. That project has led to hours of painting and then a fun gardening project in our front yard with my precious wife. I have always wanted a Little Free Library. Now I go outside daily to see if anyone has visited our little library.

Our Little Free Library with landscaping

Our Little Free Library with landscaping

Back side of Little Free Library.

Back side of Little Free Library.

Side View of Little Free Library

Side View of Little Free Library

There is a time for everything. This month has allowed me to rest. There have been sweet conversations, devotional times, reconnecting with friends, Chicago Style Pizza at Minneapolis’ new Giordano’s Restaurant, and dates with my wife. Over the course of the next couple of months the rest will continue, but there will be visits to multiple churches in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Illinois and Minnesota. I’m looking forward to the next two months, but relishing in the season I am in right now.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, my family is calling me to play a game, and then I think I’ll start reading another paperback book.

How Important is Sharing Jesus’ Hope With Others to You?

SYATPLast night, I had a chance to speak to about 400 teenagers at a See You at the Pole Rally in Big Lake, MN. It was an awesome night. Dozens of students prayed to accept Jesus’ gift of salvation. Many of those who prayed had been invited to the event by friends.

A recent study showed that the majority of churchgoers never invite their unchurched friends or family members to church.

In his book, The Unchurched Next DoorDr. Thom Ranier points out that:

  1. Most people come to church because of a personal invitation.
  2. 7 out of 10 unchurched people have never been invited to church in their whole lives.
  3. The top “rational” reason adults seldom or never attend church is they don’t agree with organized religion or what they preach (24 percent).

Unchurched Next Door Here are some other sobering statistics:

 

  • “Eighty-two percent of the unchurched are at least somewhat likely to attend church if invited.” –Dr. Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
  • “Only two percent of church members invite an unchurched person to church. Ninety-eighty percent of church-goers never extend an invitation in a given year.” –Dr Thom Rainer, The Unchurched Next Door
  • “A study including more than 15,000 adults revealed that about two-thirds are willing to receive information about a local church from a family member and 56 percent from a friend or neighbor. The message is clear that the unchurched are open to conversations about church.” – Philip Nation, LifeWay Research
  • “Four percent of formerly churched adults are actively looking for a church to attend regularly (other than their previous church). Six percent would prefer to resume attending regularly in the same church they had attended. The largest group, 62 percent, is not actively looking but is open to the idea of attending church regularly again.”–Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “Clearly we can encourage Christians to pray that the unchurched would sense God calling them back, but God works through His people.” “The survey showed that many would respond to an invitation from a friend or acquaintance (41 percent), their children (25 percent) or an adult family member (25 percent).” –Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “The issue of affinity also surfaced in the responses. Thirty–five percent indicated that they would be inspired to attend church ‘if I knew there were people like me there.’” –Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research
  • “Much to the surprise of the ‘Chicken Little’ crowd, people are still going to church. And more people would attend if given one simple thing—an invitation.” – Philip Nation, LifeWay Research

– See more at: http://backtochurch.com/participate/resources/statistics#sthash.sabFBbjf.dpuf

Do you know what Jesus encouraged the disciples to do about those who were outside of the family of God? To pray.

In Matthew 9:35-38 we read,

35 And Jesus went throughout all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction. 36 When he saw the crowds,he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”

There is no question that we live in a day and age where the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are called to be his laborer. Jesus called His disciples to be people who make disciples. In His Great Commission, in Matthew 28:18-20, Jesus commanded us to go into all the world to make disciples.

18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

So, Jesus told the disciples to pray that the Lord of the harvest would send laborers into the harvest. Later He commanded His disciples to be those laborers, promising His presence when they would obey. So, why aren’t we inviting others to join in the family of faith?

If 98% of those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus won’t invite someone to church this year, what does that say about us? What does that say about who we believe Jesus to be?

Some might argue, inviting someone to church isn’t the same thing as making disciples. I agree. But, a disciple who seeks after Christ, will seek time with God’s people. In Hebrews 10:25, the author of Hebrews spoke the the importance of gathering together with other believers.

25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

In part of a larger teaching on the doctrine of salvation, the Apostle Paul shares these convicting words in Romans 10,

13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

You may worry about what your friend, co-worker, neighbor, family member, or stranger might say if you invite them to church. But, if faith comes from hearing and hearing through the word of Christ, isn’t it worth the risk to invite them to place where the hope of the Gospel of Christ is shared on a regular basis? Don’t you want your acquaintances to come to place where they are encouraged to call upon the name of the Lord?

Let’s commit together to be people who live the faith that we say that we believe. Let’s be people who believe that sharing Jesus’ hope with others is the most important thing that we can do this side of eternity.

Making disciples is a process that can only take place this side of heaven. 

CTStudd1Charles “C.T.” Studd, was born to a wealthy English home in 1860. His father, Edward, was converted under the preaching ministry of D. L. Moody. He too followed Christ, but not with passion. Jesus was low on his list of priorities. Studd became a phenomenal cricket player. He would represent England on the national team.

When Studd’s brother George became seriously ill, C. T. came face-to-face with the questions, “What is all the fame and flattery worth . . . when a man comes to face eternity?” He recognized that he had been living a carnal Christian life, he was a backslider, and he committed his life to serving God as a missionary. In coming to that decision he would express, “I know that cricket would not last, and honour would not last, and nothing in this world would last but it was worthwhile for the world to come.”

So convinced was Studd of the need for people to know Christ, that even with the incredible challenges of travel in the late 1800’s and the early part of the 20th Century, Studd served in China, India, and the Congo. Studd and his wife Priscilla would start Worldwide Evangelism Crusade which included mission work in South America, Central Asia, the Middle East and Africa. What an impact this man and his precious wife made!

Today, Studd is best known for a poem he wrote about what really matters. It’s a poem that my Grandpa Ray, a pastor, used to share with his grandchildren, and it’s called Only One Life, ‘Twill Soon Be Past. This poem captures the essence of what this blog post is all about. Invest your life in what Jesus is calling you to invest in. Don’t waste your life!

“Two little lines I heard one day,
Traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart,
And from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet,
And stand before His Judgement seat;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, the still small voice,
Gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave,
And to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, a few brief years,
Each with its burdens, hopes, and fears;
Each with its clays I must fulfill,
living for self or in His will;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

When this bright world would tempt me sore,
When Satan would a victory score;
When self would seek to have its way,
Then help me Lord with joy to say;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Give me Father, a purpose deep,
In joy or sorrow Thy word to keep;
Faithful and true what e’er the strife,
Pleasing Thee in my daily life;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Oh let my love with fervor burn,
And from the world now let me turn;
Living for Thee, and Thee alone,
Bringing Thee pleasure on Thy throne;
Only one life, “twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Only one life, yes only one,
Now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call,
I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life,’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last. ”

Only one life, ’twill soon be past,
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be,
If the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
– C.T Studd

Remnant Ministries produced this quality video of a call to action, from one of C. T. Studd’s sermons. Watch it and be inspired.

 

 

When Despair Strikes

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Do you feel like you are in despair? Ever find yourself in a situation where it feels like there is no hope – that you’ve come to the end of your rope and have no idea what to do next? When desperation strikes, where do you find your strength?

I had a chance to spend an extended time with the Lord after my recent surgery. I took a lot of time to read my Bible, good books, pray, and listen to some sermons. One of the themes that I continually heard over the course of that week was that

God uses our trials to draw us closer to him. Sometimes we need to come to a point of desperation before we will yield ourselves to God in expectation.

This morning, after another difficult night of sleep, my attention was turned towards the Psalms. In Psalm 119:81-82 we read

81 I am worn out waiting for your rescue,
    but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes are straining to see your promises come true.
    When will you comfort me? (Psalm 119:81-82 NLT)

Ever feel worn out waiting for the rescue of the Lord? Ever cry out, like the contemporary worship song, “I need you Jesus to come to my rescue! Where else can I turn?”

It doesn’t have to be a huge problem to bring us to this point. Sometimes, it’s a series of small things that just add up, and when we reach the tipping point, we either turn to Christ, because we realize that He is our only hope; or we continue in a cycle of choices that will take us further away from the joy and the hope that can only be found in Christ.

When Psalm 119 ends, we are introduced to a new series of Psalms. Beginning in Psalm 120, we see the Psalms of Ascent; a mini-songbook that the worshipers of Jehovah were to sing on their way to the temple. It was a way for worshipers to prepare to meet God. Step by step, the people would sing. They wouldn’t climb one step, until they had finished singing the song of ascent on the previous step.

When our family was in Israel in 2010, we visited the stairs of ascent that led to the temple. Here is picture of that spot.

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Stairs of Ascent at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

As the people sang the songs, they reflected on God’s ability to manage our troubles. I would say that their troubles caused them to seek out the only One who could truly help.

Look at these words from Psalm 120.

I took my troubles to the Lord;
    I cried out to him, and he answered my prayer. (Psalm 120:1)

How about these words from Psalm 121?

I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth! (Psalm 121:1-2)

Knowing that the temple was a place where the presence of the Lord was experienced in wonderful ways, the people shouted the following in Psalm 122:

I was glad when they said to me,
    “Let us go to the house of the Lord.” (Psalm 122:1)

Guess where the people focused their eyes in Psalm 123?

I lift my eyes to you,
    O God, enthroned in heaven. (Psalm 123:1)

Who helped the people in Psalm 124?

Our help is from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:8)

Step by step, the people sang of God’s faithfulness. They sang of the fact that God was the One in Whom they placed their trust.

Another step another declaration:

Those who trust in the Lord are as secure as Mount Zion;
    they will not be defeated but will endure forever. (Psalm 125:1)

Another step, another memory of God’s past care:

Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us!
    What joy! (Psalm 126:3)

The worshiper climbs, and as he or she does, the yielding of oneself to the expectation that it is God who protects is once again demonstrated.

Unless the Lord builds a house,
    the work of the builders is wasted.
Unless the Lord protects a city,
    guarding it with sentries will do no good. (Psalm 127:1)

By the next step, the pilgrim is reminded of the joy that comes from following God’s path.

How joyful are those who fear the Lord
    all who follow his ways! (Psalm 128:1)

The memory of God’s work in freeing His children from the bondage of sin is on the next step.

But the Lord is good;
    he has cut me free from the ropes of the ungodly. (Psalm 129:4)

The Apostle Paul asked the rhetorical question in the New Testament:

24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:24)

The answer of course, is the Lord. When sin so quickly entangles it is God who rescues us. When desperation strikes in any area of our lives we run to God.

The Jewish pilgrim, ascending those stairs continued to recognize that God was able in Psalm 130.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer. (Psalm 130:1-2)

One of the shortest Psalms spoke also of God’s faithfulness. The entirety of Psalm 131 is a declaration of dependence to the Lord.

Lord, my heart is not proud;
    my eyes are not haughty.
I don’t concern myself with matters too great
    or too awesome for me to grasp.
Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself,
    like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk.
    Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord
    now and always. (Psalm 131)

Three more steps remain. The anticipation of meeting with the Lord continues to grow.

Let us go to the sanctuary of the Lord;
    let us worship at the footstool of his throne. (Psalm 132:7)

Just two more steps. As the worshiper nears the temple, his focus turns on his fellowman. There is joy that comes when the people of God are seeking Him together.

How wonderful and pleasant it is
    when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1)

The problems seem a little smaller. Stress is replaced by satisfaction that God has things under control. Issues with brothers and sisters in Christ are minimized as life together, centered on the Lord is pursued.

The final step. One more song. Only this time, desperation has been replaced by hope. The Lord is praised, hands are lifted in worship, and God is remembered for Who He is, maker of heaven and earth. If God could do that, He can certainly handle our problems.

Oh, praise the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    you who serve at night in the house of the Lord.
Lift your hands toward the sanctuary,
    and praise the Lord.

May the Lord, who made heaven and earth,
    bless you from Jerusalem. (Psalm 134)

Those were the passages that I read early this morning. In the stress of a sleepless night, God gave me peace.

Yesterday, as I was driving to work, I heard this song on the radio. It’s Big Daddy Weave’s version of Rich Mullins’ classic song, Hold Me Jesus. In a way, this song, has been a type of song of ascent for me, ever since college. I love the way Rich wrote the words of this song. Hundreds of times over the past 25 years I’ve sung these words.

Hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

When despair strikes, remember who Jesus is!

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