Saturday, October 16, 2010

Things Look Rosey for the Reds in 2011

I can't wait for pitchers and catchers to report to Spring Training!

For twenty years, Reds fans have been saying, "We need pitching!" No more!
This is a roster that should remain largely intact and poised to make another run, especially in a National League Central division that doesn't appear to be super strong heading into 2011.

The Reds have rarely had a deeper rotation and will head into next season with more quality starting pitchers than available spots. Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto, Travis Wood, Mike Leake and Homer Bailey are all back and Sam LeCure and Matt Maloney will be trying to get their way in.

Aroldis Chapman made a huge splash as a reliever late this season but the club hasn't determined if he'll be a starter next year. If he does, it could be the development of a future ace.

In the bullpen, closer Francisco Cordero, setup man Nick Masset and Logan Ondrusek are among those coming back. 
And there's a similar surfeit of riches among position players:
Among position players, Joey Votto will be coming off of his MVP caliber season and a huge bump in salary. He's first-time arbitration eligible and work will be done to sign him to a multiyear contract. Brandon Phillips and Scott Rolen are already signed for next season. Jay Bruce, who hit 25 home runs, is also a possible arbitration guy as a Super 2. 
Read the whole thing...and if you're a Reds fan, savor!

Pitchers and catchers report on February 13.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Separation of Church and State

Whenever we drive out of town, my wife, Ann, and I have the same routine: She drives and I read to her. The custom began when we realized early in our relationship that she liked driving long distances more than I do and that, unlike her, I can read in the car without getting sick.

Some might call it kismet. I just call it a good deal. Ann and I both get to do what we enjoy doing while driving and, together, we "read" a bonus book beyond whatever we may individually be reading at the time.

We started out reading magazine and newspaper articles. But in recent years, we've switched to reading books. With frequent visits to see our family members, who are an hour's drive from where we live these days, we've been able to work our ways more quickly through some great books. We just finished T.J. Stiles' biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, The First Tycoon, and have just moved onto Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War.

Philbrick attempts to revise the revisionists' take on the Pilgrim settlers of Massachusetts. He tries to move beyond the simplistic interpretations that have prevailed in the past: first, the virtuous and religious Pilgrims who got along well with the Native Americans they encountered and with whom they celebrated the first Thanksgiving; then, the rapacious, bloodthirsty Europeans who viewed the Native Americans as subhuman obstacles. Neither version of events fits with the facts, Philbrick says, though each contains elements of the more complicated truth.

I may write in more detail about the book later. But for now, I'd like to share a few lines that really caught my attention as we read Mayflower on the way back from a workout and grocery shopping foray this evening. Philbrick is discussing the Mayflower Compact, the famed document about which every elementary school student learns--or at least, learned for years and should still be learning today, if we intend to turn out citizens actually capable of making sound decisions when they vote or watch the television news. The Compact was the first governing document produced by European settlers in the Americas. Along with the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, it is among the most important political document produced here.

Just over half the Mayflower settlers were Pilgrims, meaning that in a vote by males (the only ones who got a vote in this seventeenth century outpost), they could get their way. But their pastor, who remained in Holland as a large portion of his flock headed for the New World, had emphasized the importance of working together with those who didn't share the Pilgrims' faith. Pastor John Robinson's advice, codified in the Compact signed by forty-one male colonists (nine did not sign, many probably owing to illness), acted, in a way, as a model for subsequent developments. Robinson, in a farewell letter written to the Pilgrims from their exile home in Leiden, Holland, where they had lived for some years following emigration from England, did not envisage a theocracy, but a civil government, separated from the Church.

But, take a look at Philbrick's interesting account and reflections:
Before they landed, it was essential that they all sign a formal and binding agreement of some sort. Over the course of the next day, they hammered out what has come to be known as the Mayflower Compact.

It is deeply ironic that the document many consider to mark the beginning of what would one day become the United States came from a people who had more in common with a cult than a democratic society. It was true that Pastor Robinson had been elected by the congregation. But once he'd been chosen, Robinson's power and position had never been in doubt. More a benevolent dictator than a democratically elected official, Robinson had shrewdly and compassionately nurtured the spiritual well-being of his congregation. And yet, even though they had existed in a theocratic bubble of their own devising, the Pilgrims recognized the dangers of mixing temporal and spiritual authority. One of the reasons they had been forced to leave England was that King James had used the ecclesiastical courts to impose his own religious beliefs. In Holland, they had enjoyed the benefits of a society in which the division between church and state had been, for the most part, rigorously maintained. They could not help but absorb some decidedly Dutch ways of looking at the world... was John Robinson who pointed [the Pilgrims in Massachusetts] in the direction they ultimately followed. In his farewell letter, Robinson had anticipated the need to create a government based on civil consent rather than divine decree. With so many Strangers [the term the Separatists like the Pilgrims used for those who didn't share their beliefs] in their midst, there was no other way. They must "become a body politic, using amongst yourselves civil government," i.e., they must all agree to submit to the laws drawn up by their duly elected officials. Just as a spiritual covenant had marked the beginning of their congregation in Leiden, a civil covenant would provide the basis for a secular government in America...
What Robinson foresaw as he said goodbye to his congregants is that while his flock might well remain separated from others in belief, societies in which not all share those beliefs must find ways to function together in a civil society.

Many Christians in American today call for the revival of the United States as a "Christian nation." But even a look at this small slice of US history demonstrates that the Pilgrims' idea of what constituted a Christian community or society differs from what many in the modern US would identify as "Christian." In other words, when you go back to American beginnings, you find that the Pilgrims, among the first European Christians to settle here, didn't want to force their faith down others' throats. The Pilgrims were Biblically pious and utterly intent on following God as they saw fit. And yet, contrary to the laws that prevailed in England, they decided to establish a secular government in which all (at least all white males at that time) could be involved. Like the Dutch among whom they had lived before coming to America, they even made marriage a civil, rather than a religious, ceremony.

I'm a Lutheran Christian filled with an evangelical passion. Evangelical comes from a word found in the Greek in which the New Testament was written, euangelion. It means good news, also rendered in English as gospel. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I want to share the good news about God so loving the world that God the Father gave Jesus, God the Son. to die and rise for fallen humanity and so that all who believe in Jesus will not die, but live with God for eternity.

I want to share my faith in Jesus through words and actions. I want to care for my neighbor, pray for my neighbor, and, when the times present themselves, ask my neighbor to join me in following Jesus. But like Jesus, I have no desire to impose the Christian good news or my faith in Jesus on others. Like Jesus, I want to persuade others of Jesus' Lordship, doing so, as a Christian, in the confidence that my meager efforts will only bear fruit if God the Holy Spirit is involved. True faith comes not through civil coercion (which is why state churches, such as those that exist in Europe, are disastrous for the witness and ministries of the Church), but through Spirit-powered persuasion.

Like the Pilgrims, I want to work and live together in communities and in a country where there are people who disagree with me. And like the Pilgrims, I have no desire to impose the beliefs that flow from my faith onto the laws of our country. My faith will inevitably inform my internal deliberations over public issues, but I want to live in a civil society. The separation of Church and State has largely served the inhabitants of this continent well for centuries now. It has also given evangelical Christians like me the freedom to share the Christian faith and so to see millions persuaded by reason, compassion, and prayer to follow Christ.

Pastor Robinson's advice may have been rooted in pure pragmatism. But, it turns out that the separation of Church and State is a win for both Church and State.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Honey Hush"

I love this early-2000s cover of a song from the 50s by Paul McCartney. David Gilmour of Pink Floyd is on guitar. The song appears on McCartney's Run, Devil, Run collection, composed of songs that were important to him in the 50s, along with tunes of a similar style which Macca wrote just for the project. My guess is that this was a very therapeutic endeavor for McCartney, going back to his musical roots shortly after the death of his first wife, Linda.

The outrageous misogyny of Honey Hush takes on a particular amusing irony when performed by McCartney, whose marriage to Linda McCartney was, by nearly all accounts I've read, a happy and sane one.

The Forgotten Christians

They're Palestinians.
It is presumably because all organized Christian activity among Palestinians is non-political and non-violent that the community hardly ever hits the Western headlines; suicide bombers sell more copy than people who congregate for Bible study...

...Christians find themselves under the hammer of the Israeli occupation to no less an extent than Muslims, yet America—supposedly a Christian country—stands idly by because its most politically influential Christians have decided that Palestinian Christians are acceptable collateral damage in their apocalyptic quest. “To be a Christian from the land of Christ is an honor,” says Abbas, a Palestinian Christian whose family lived in Jerusalem for many generations until the purge of 1948. “To be expelled from that land is an injury, and these Zionist Christians in America add insult.” Abbas is one of the handful of Palestinian Christians that could be described as Evangelical, belonging to a group that appears to be distantly related to the Plymouth Brethren. Cherishing the role of devil’s advocate, I had to ask him, “Is the State of Israel not in fact the fulfillment of God’s promise and a necessary step in the second coming of Christ?” Abbas looked at me briefly and laughed. “You’re kidding, right? You know what they do to our people and our land. If I thought that was part of God’s plan, I’d be an atheist in a second.” 
Read the whole thing. I don't agree with everything in the article. But it presents food for thought, prayer, and perhaps, action.

(Thanks to my son for alerting me to this piece by linking to it over on Facebook.)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

UP to Christ, OUT to Our Neighbors

This morning, thought of this from my quote file. It's one of my favorites:
“The Church is the only organization in the world that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.” ~ Archbishop William Temple.
One of Martin Luther's favorite passages of Scripture, a building block of his important ideas on "the priesthood of all believers," says this to all Christians:
" are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
I love this passage! In it, Peter says that through Christ, Christians are blessed to be "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, God's own people..." But the exalted status that list describes is not about being better than others or having some sort of cosmic bragging rights! Christians are saints and sinners at the same time, saved from sin and death only by the grace of God that comes to us through faith in Jesus Christ. And so, there isn't a scintilla of arrogance in the status Peter claims that Christians enjoy.

How can I say that?

Did you notice a simple three-word phrase? The phrase, "in order that"? We are "a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation," Peter says, "IN ORDER THAT." Those three words tell us what God's purpose in making us part of "God's own people": "in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

The status that Christians enjoy with God is pure gift, something we never could earn, attain, achieve, or bargain for. God has acted for the human race in Christ. In response to God's grace, Christians repudiate their sin and believe in Christ and, as a consequence, our status before God and the human race is transformed. BUT GOD DOESN'T WORK THAT TRANSFORMATION FOR US ALONE!

The Church, or as the Bible also calls it, "the body of Christ," is an organization that does not exist primarily for its members. Its members already confess that we have received benefits beyond all imagining: We confess that God died on a cross and then God rose from the dead again to buy us out of slavery to sin and death. All who believe in Christ and are baptized have those eternal privileges! Our possession of them has nothing to do with our intrinsic value, beyond the value that an omnipotent, righteous, infinite God has placed on us.

God doesn't call Christians to our privileged position to sit back smugly on our "blessed assurance."

God has given us our privileged status "in order that":
  • We will tell others about Jesus
  • We will serve others in Jesus' Name
  • We will advocate justice for the hurting and despised in Jesus' Name
  • We will make disciples of all nations
  • We will teach others all that Christ has taught
  • We will call the world to repent--to turn from sin and futility--and to believe in Jesus--to receive forgiveness, life, purpose, and joy
Being a Christian is not about being comfortable or smug. It's about living in gratitude for Christ's shed blood and His resurrection from the dead.

In Christ, we know that God has our back. God has taken care of us. Now the God Who gave Himself "for you," has commissioned us to live a "for you" life for those outside the fellowship of the Church, those outside of a relationship with Christ, those who desperately need to know the will of God, the power of God, and the incredible grace of God.

May God help us to live in such constant certainty of His provision for us that we can focus where God frees us to focus:
UP to Christ
OUT to our neighbor
“The Church is the only organization in the world that exists primarily for the benefit of those who are not its members.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Should Church-Affliated Institutions Repudiate Christ, the Bible, and the Truth About Sin, Repentance, Faith, and Grace?

Leaving out for now any concern regarding the specific sin of intimate same-sex relationships, the video below is disturbing.

Taken from a presentation held during freshman orientation at a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Gustavus Adolphus College, both atheism and sexual intimacy outside of marriage are commended. Both notions, of course, are contrary to the teaching of Scripture.

It also conveys the curious idea that we human beings are the hapless victims of sexuality, the idea that our biology must inevitably force us to express our particular sexual impulses.

Really? We're animals driven by instinctive forces and not human beings with the capacity to make decisions?

Are Christians then mere automatons, rather than Spirit-filled people given the power to God to live as loving, responsible human beings? If we're instinct-driven automatons, then what's that whole confession of sin thing about?

Granted, not all students who choose to attend a Christian college or university are Christians. But if non-Christians do come to such Christian institutions, they should be forewarned that those institutions are built on the Gospel, the teachings of Scripture, and the Lordship of Jesus. It should be made clear to them that those building blocks will inform every course, every administrative decision, and the total social life of the institution.

While the Gustavus Adolphus orientation presentation commendably attempts to address the horrors of bigotry and name-calling, it also commends sinful behavior and, in the case of atheism, spiritually dangerous behavior.

It conveys the notion that sexual promiscuity of all types and atheism are intrinsic impulses we cannot and should not resist. I agree that faith doesn't come naturally to us as human beings. Adhering to God's will doesn't either. But, God's words to Cain in the Old Testament, apply to us as well: "...Sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it." The orientation doesn't commend mastery of sin and its temptations, but acquiescence to whatever impulses may be driving us, irrespective of the will of God.

Sin isn't to be commended; it is to be mastered. Of course, we can't do this on our own. We are born into sin, each of us born with common sinful inclinations and some that may be more peculiar to ourselves, what I call our "sins of specialization." Some may be tempted by the inclination to get rich at others' expense, for example, while others aren't even be moved by such inclinations. Some may have to battle to resist the temptation to take God's Name in vain, while others find the appeal of cursing and the general misuse of the gift of language indecipherable. It appears that we human beings then, have sins which we, either by heredity or socialization, find more appealing than others. Our peculiarities in this regard are something we all appear to have in common.

But as we humbly appeal to the power and goodness of the God we know in Jesus Christ, sin can be mastered. Temptation can be resisted. Jesus relied on God and God's Word during His wilderness temptations. We can rely on God and God's Word, too.

In today's edition of Our Daily Bread, Joe Stowell tells the story of a man who was tempted by (and often fell into the sin of) looking at online pornography (remember that teaches that lust for persons to whom we are not covenanted in marriage is as sinful as fornication or adultery itself):
A man once wrote to me about his lengthy battle with pornography—a disheartening cycle that punctuated seasons of victory with crushing forays back into an online world of empty lust. Finally, he found that putting a visible reminder of Jesus in the corner of his computer screen helped him achieve lasting victory. That constant reminder of the One who set him free caused the offensive Web sites to lose their appeal. The man wasn’t tapping into some gigabyte good-luck charm. He was giving himself a simple reminder of the teaching of Colossians 3 where Paul says, “put to death . . . fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness” (v.5).

When we turn our eyes toward Jesus, He becomes a powerful reminder that our old life “died, and [our] life is hidden with Christ in God” (v.3).
In Galatians 5:19-25, the Bible says:
Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
None of us is perfect. Christians sin. That's why we repent. That's why I repent daily...often hourly...for my sins. The Holy Spirit comes to those who lay their lives before Christ enables Jesus Followers to fight temptation each day, not to surrender to our temptations.

But those who sin unrepentantly are telling God to go away, a request that God will respectfully fulfill.

And those who turn God down are throwing away their lives, severing themselves from the God Who gives life and meaning to this life.

God loves us and wants to give us life. God makes that life available to all people through repentance for sin and faith in Jesus Christ.

That teaching may be suppressed, repressed, or ignored at other academic institutions, of course. All people and institutions have the freedom to ignore Christ and the Bible.

But at a Christian institution, it seems to me, even while respecting the beliefs of others and not expecting acquiescence from its student body to Christian belief, that the Lordship of Jesus and the teachings of Scripture will always be held up.

Church-affiliated institutions should be unapologetic in their advocacy of the Lordship of Christ, the authority of Scripture, the necessity of Christ for salvation, the truth about sin and God's grace for sinners, and belief in the existence of God.

Lutherans love to sing, "Lift high the cross!" Why should Lutheran colleges and universities then, put the cross away and instead commend the life style of, "Lift high whatever boat you want to float"?

Does the important principle of academic freedom mandate that the teachings of Scripture be dissed and condemned at a church-related college?

Does this example of political correctness and heedlessness of Scripture's teachings cause any ELCA member to think twice about support ELCA-related colleges and universities in any way?

At the very least, I think, it should incite all ELCA Lutherans like me, who love the Church and want what's best for it, to redouble their efforts to reform the Church, to stand firm for the Lordship of Jesus, the authority of Scripture and the truth of the Lutheran Confessions, and above all, to pray without ceasing that God will spiritually renew the Church, turning it from all its errors and heresies.

The world needs the God revealed in Jesus. It should be a given that at least Christians and the Church would realize that.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

In Christ, We Can Always Be Thankful!

[This was shared during worship with the people and guests of Saint Matthew Lutheran Church in Logan, Ohio, earlier today.]

2 Timothy 2:8-15
This past week, my wife, Ann learned, that a good friend of hers passed away suddenly. Cindy and Ann were part of a group of five women who worked together at an elementary school in our former community. Even after one friend, Nancy, retired, Cindy moved, and later, Ann moved, the five still got together regularly for dinner, conversation, and lots of laughter.

We went to the funeral visitation on Friday. Ann and another member of the group, Janie, approached Cindy’s family—her mother, her sons and her son's wives, her in-laws, and finally, Cindy’s husband. They all knew about the group of five which was symbolized by a flower arrangement at the funeral home: four red roses and a single white one in the middle. Cindy’s husband, Tom, grabbed hold of Ann and Janie, and they wept together. Tom acknowledged that he’d wished he could have had Cindy with him longer here. But then he said, “She’s with Jesus now and she has no more pain.” Then he asked Janie and Ann individually, “You do know that, don’t you?”

Christians grieve. But they also understand something that the apostle Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14. You can find the passage on page 684 of the pew Bibles. Please read it along with me silently:
But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep [Paul is talking about those Christians who have died], lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.
For the person with faith in Jesus Christ, it’s possible to honestly mourn, yet still be grateful to God for all of God’s blessings, especially for the hope of life beyond death. That’s why Paul says this just a few verses later, in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18:
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
When our trust is in Jesus Christ, we always have reason to be thankful.

With that in mind, please pull out the Celebrate inserts for today and look at our second lesson, 2 Timothy 2:8-14.

As we pointed out last Sunday, the book from which the lesson comes is a letter written by the apostle Paul, who was imprisoned, to a young pastor named Timothy. Paul was imprisoned for confessing that Jesus is the King of kings and the only God of the universe. Paul starts out with these words:
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, a descendant of David—that is my gospel, for which I suffer hardship, even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But the word of God is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, so that they may also obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
We may be chained by many things in life—scorned for trusting in Jesus Christ above all things, tortured by disease, spurned or bullied by classmates, hounded by debt, hurt as a consequence of past decisions we’ve made, subjected to economic reversals, dogged by feelings of inferiority, encumbered by the reality of our own sins.

But no matter what we’re dealing with, God’s Word—the Word that reveals God’s will for human beings and the Word about Jesus, the Word made flesh, Who died and rose so that all who trust in Him will live with God forever—that Word of God has never been chained!

In Isaiah 55, God tells the people of Israel (and us):
…as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth…so shall My Word that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. 
God’s Word is perfect and powerful and cannot be constrained, held down, or limited by anybody or anything.

One of my favorite incidents in the Bible happens when the Israelites, God’s people, are in the wilderness between Egypt and the land God promised them. The people are whining about not having any meat to eat. Moses goes to God and asks for meat. God says that He’ll give this whiny bunch so much meat that they’ll get sick of the stuff. But Moses is skeptical. God angrily asks Moses, “Is the Lord’s power limited? Now you shall see whether my word will come true for you or not.” We can be thankful that God’s Word is unchained, bringing us blessings even when our faith is weak.

Our second lesson continues with a series of sayings that were apparently well known to, maybe even sung by, the early Church. Let’s quickly look at each phrase, starting at verse 11.

“If we have died with him, we will also live with him.” The Word of God calls for all of us to die—that is, to allow the life of sin into which we are born to no longer be in control of us. We let that old life die so that Christ can give us new lives that begin in this world and will be perfected in eternity. This is an ongoing process that begins when we are baptized. Each day, the Christian is called to submit the old self living inside of us to God in daily repentance and renewal, so that each day the new self—the person Jesus died and rose to make us—can rise to a life made ever new by God’s love and power. This is another reason to thank God every day.

The first part of verse 12 says, “If we endure, we will also reign with him…” Jesus has promised that His followers will reign with Him over eternity. But only if we endure: only if we keep trusting when the world has turned away from Christ; only if we keep repenting when we fall into sin; only if we keep trusting that Jesus’ death on the cross was even for us. Eternity belongs to those who keep fighting the good fight of faith, who keep trusting in Jesus. This is another reason to thank God.

The second part of verse 12 says, “If we deny him, he will also deny us.” Since Jesus is God, He could easily force us to trust in Him and follow Him, making us little machines that have no choice in the matter. But as the only of God’s creatures made in God’s image, we are the only beings in creation who have the right to tell God, “No, we would rather be our own gods, thank you very much.” God gives us this freedom because it’s only when we have the freedom to say no to His love that our saying the yes of faith has any meaning. But Jesus has issued a solemn warning, “I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God and whoever denies me before others will be denied before the angels of God.” We can also thank God that, in spite of our sins and imperfections, Jesus gives us access to the blessings God wants to give to everyone, but forces on no one.

In verse 13, Paul says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” To me, this is the thing for which you and I can be most thankful. Faith—trust—in the God we cannot see does not come naturally to us. Our old selves don’t die without a fight. Even people who believe in Jesus deeply sometimes find themselves believing in other things more than they believe in Jesus—whether it’s in their common sense, their impulse to go along to get along, their desire for security, the push of their emotions, the pull of their biology, the influence of friends and culture. God understands. God is faithful even when we are faithless. God is faithful even when our doubts are shouts and our faith in Christ is a mere whisper in our hearts.

When faith becomes too hard, some people give up. Behind one of the 6000+ doors on which I knocked back when we were getting my former church started, was a man who had stopped attending worship anywhere, although he had grown up in a church. I asked him why that was. “I love the Lord,” he told me. “But right now, other things are more important to me.” This man was consciously extinguishing his own weakened faith by cutting himself off from the only fellowship created by Jesus Christ to foster and sustain a relationship with Him.

A better model for us is the man who asked Jesus to heal his demon-possessed boy. Jesus told him that all things can be done for the one who believes. “I believe,” the desperate father replied, “help my unbelief.” Jesus answered the man’s prayers because God is faithful even when our faith is running on empty. We can thank God for that, too!

Years ago, I read the story of a missionary couple who had retired. They headed home to the States from Africa on a big passenger liner. Also onboard was a famous military hero. Through the whole trip, the missionary husband felt a little sorry for himself. As they boarded the ship, the military hero received accolades, while the missionary couple was ignored. That continued through the whole trip. Every night, there were banquets and toasts for the military hero; but the missionary couple who had given most of their lives in service to Christ and to the people of a small African village were ignored. The missionary husband consoled himself with the thought that when they arrived home, they would be appreciated for their faithfulness to Christ.

But when they docked in New York Harbor, there were a boisterous welcome and a key to the city for the military hero. No one even met the missionary couple. The man was discouraged. But his wife, knowing what was going on in her husband’s mind, looked at him and reminded him, “It’s okay, sweetheart; we’re not home yet.”

Life can be tough. It can be even tougher for those with faith in Christ. The devil and much of the world target the faithful for temptations, tests, and unkindness. The tragedies of life can seem to put everything we believe about the goodness and power of God under suspicion. But, we’re not home yet; heaven is our real home.

Until we reach that place, we who follow Christ can be thankful for so many things:
  • forgiven sin, 
  • the promise of eternity, 
  • the rewards God gives to enduring faith, 
  • the willingness of Christ to claim us in spite of our imperfections, and 
  • the character of God Who will always be faithful to us, even when we are faithless. 
We can be thankful that God’s Word which announces and creates these blessings can never be chained. God is good and whether we live or we die, we can always be thankful for that!