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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Because He Lives


     Because He lives, I can face tomorrow... When these words were written in 1971, times were tumultuous with unrest and denial of the existence of Lord our God, drugs, and rebellion reflected in an overthrow of a peace-loving land. The ‘streets of Mayberry’ seem to roll-up and become deserted. Now, almost sixty years later, the world again seems to deepen its precarious and hopeless living in chaos.
         The lyrics of Because He Lives, comfort and challenge us to hold on to hope through the faithful love of our Lord God and adds: Because He lives, all fear is gone.  1 John 4:18 proclaims: Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love.
         The first word of the title captures my attention.  Did your parents follow your, “Why”, with an emphatic, “Because I said so!”  Or was this implied with an unstated expectation delivered with body language?
         Bill and Gloria Gaither met as teachers in the same high school in Alexandria, Indiana.  They found Bill’s music and Gloria’s lyrical writing made a productive relationship.  This soon blossomed into a prolific husband and wife writing team.  
         Later Bill Gaither became the head of the English department after he earned a Master’s degree. Gloria also earned a master’s degree.  In songwriting, Bill wrote a musical setting with an idea in mind, and Gloria wrote the lyrics with his idea in mind. This method produced more than seven-hundred songs and sixty recordings.
         It was on New Year’s Eve one year, Gloria sat in the living room in fear and dread. The ‘God is dead’ belief filtered into the educational system, while drug abuse and racial tensions increased.  Bill was recovering from a bout with mononucleosis and Gloria was pregnant. Suddenly a gentle and calming peace filled her.  Gloria knew the calm and assurance came from the Lord.  After the birth of this expected child, Because He Lives, became a song we share. 
         The last two phrases of the chorus: Because I know, I know, He holds the future - And life is worth the living just because He lives!
         Often it is the darker times in our lives, God leads us into a deeper understanding. He teaches us to depend on Him for our very existence.
         Do you remember the time when you were a child and you had total trust in your parents?  What a gift and assurance! In our adult life, we still have this joy as God’s Children through Jesus Christ.  This dependence on our Lord God for our sustenance, joy and faith creates a deep peace each day.  Everything good in this life comes from Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, and rose to sit at the right hand of God.  He gives us the hope of forgiveness and belonging, Because He Lives.  We belong to the One Who holds this world in His Hands.
         Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live. When I am raised to life again, you will know that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.  John 14:19-20.  What a beautiful promise.  Our hearts fill with joy each new day!  I remember my Mother’s prayer each morning, “What do you have for me today, Lord? Expectant living, not dread, is ours when we belong to our Lord God and live for Him.
         Will life bring tears? Yes, yet in Christ Jesus, these tears are precious to Him.  You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book. Psalm 56:8. 
         Do our prayers matter? Yes, indeed! And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people.  Revelation 5:8.
            How do I begin to have faith and trust God?  How do I belong to Him alone?  Knowing God is Able, and He can do the impossible, and faithfully loves and forgives us. So our faith begins.  Because He IS!
         For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13. This verse describes faith and trust with humility and love in our hearts. It is learning our abilities and strengths come from God, and not in our own power, and we fall to our knees and praise our Lord.  Without Him, we are nothing.  When we succeed, we praise our Lord.  And we know...Because He Lives, I can face tomorrow
     Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things. Ecclesiastes 11:5.
     So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans  5:11.
     I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13.
     I ask you again, does God give you the Holy Spirit and work miracles among you because you obey the law? Of course not! It is because you believe the message you heard about Christ. Galatians 3:15.
     All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Ephesians 1:3.
     Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence. Ephesians 3:12.

      And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. James 2:23.


Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

It Took A Miracle...

    “It took a miracle to put the stars in place; it took a miracle to hang the world in space; But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole; It took a miracle of love and grace.”  
     The chorus of the hymn John Peterson wrote intrigues me.  In this era of science and reliance on reason coupled with sight, the presence of miracles is often not believed. Questions arise in my mind.  What is a miracle?  Why do miracles happen?  Who makes a miracle happen?  What does a miracle mean?
         I go to the miracle of the Bible, God’s Word, to find answers.  The Bible is written by many men through the ages and under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Word of God contains stories of the wonders of God’s Creation and man’s struggles to walk with God and without God. When we hold the Bible, we hold a miracle! A miracle telling of the miracles performed by God, Jesus, prophets, and the disciples that we might believe. 
         I read a Merriam-Webster definition of a miracle is… An extraordinary event manifesting divine intervention in human affairs; an extremely outstanding or unusual event, thing, or accomplishment.
         Often a miracle receives a shrug and labelled ‘a consequence’.  And life continues on for the person who lives in a series of consequences. God is the answer to consequence!
     Give thanks to him who alone does mighty miracles. His faithful love endures forever. Give thanks to him who made the heavens so skillfully. His faithful love endures forever.  Psalm 136:4-5.
         Recognizing God’s faithful love through His Works is a beginning to living an abundant rich life.  In all new beginnings we encounter each day as a new page. The first four words of God’s Word is truth – In the beginning …God!  The more we learn about God, the more we want to know. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. Lamentations 3:23.  Hymns and praise songs draw us to God’s love and the blessedness of worship in humbleness and joy.  Each hymn and praise song is a personal testimony of love and adoration telling of our Lord’s greatness.
         Why does a miracle happen? John tells us in the 20th Chapter of John, verses 29-31.  Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.” The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name.
            One minister said, Joshua 10:13, “The sun stood still.”  2 Kings 6:6, “The iron did float.”  Psalm 48:14, “This God is our God.” “The sun stood still…the iron did float…this God is our God.”  Nothing is too great for God. As A.W. Tozer said, “God possesses what no creature can: an incomprehensible plenitude of power--a potency that is absolute.” God says this in Jeremiah 32:27, “I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?”
     John Willard Peterson. Who is he?  He was born in 1921, in Lindsborg, Kansas. He was the youngest of seven children. His father died when John was four years old. At the age of twelve, he gave his heart to Jesus Christ. He loved God and music and desire was to serve God. He and two brothers formed a gospel group in 1940 and sang for evangelistic meetings.  During WWII, he flew planes carrying supplies over ‘the Hump’ into China from 1942-45.  The flights were often made at night, giving a grand view of the stars in the Heavens. On the return he flew low over the Himalayan passes and saw many poor villagers below. He recognized these are God’s Children. He prayed these villagers knew Jesus.
         As I read these words, I realized I am reading one of God’s ‘coincidences’. In 1947, I met J. Russell Morse, a missionary from Lisu land, where Tibet and China meet, near the Himalayan Mountains, with 10,000- 12,000 foot heights.  Later I met his three missionary sons, Eugene, Robert, and Eugene.  I saw photos of them walking and visitors these same villagers that John Peterson prayed for.
         During WWII, the world’s first strategic airlift began, bringing supplies to China.  Seven hundred of the rickety cargo airplanes crashed or were shot down.  One thousand two hundred airmen died during the three years.   
         J Russell Morse and his two older sons continued their missionary work, and were contacted by the Allied Armed forces to organize and supervise ground search and rescue operations of the pilots flying over that area.  Their knowledge of the people, languages and geography of the “Hump” area made them ideal to serve their country.  They were each awarded the Bronze Star for their service to their country. (https://asiastories.wordpress.com/category/bobby-morse/)
         J. Russell Morse had no idea how his desire to serve the Lord when he was a boy would be expanded to serving his country in God’s time. This expanded God’s presence across the Himalayan territory among the villagers. God’s protection is with us always.  J. Russell Morse quoted this scripture to us in 1947 in Christian Service Camp. Lo, and I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” Matthew 28:20. 
         What is God’s greatest miracle?  The last two lines of the song John Peterson wrote tell us - But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole; It took a miracle of love and grace.” How can a person’s life be changed to a loving, encouraging, trusting, faithful, and gentle person from an evil-minded person who thinks only of himself?  Humble yourself before the Lord, and He will lift you up in honor.” James 4:10
      When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them? Psalm 8:3-4.
      Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Isaiah 41:10.

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        So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” Hebrews 13:6, Psalm 18:46.



Comments? eacombs@att.net

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sweet Hour of Prayer


        Sweet Hour of Prayer – the sounds of the world dim…I only hear the rustle of angel wings as I sing the hymn, Sweet Hour of Prayer
         How often I have sung these words, not knowing the wisdom and comfort they contain. Each line speaks of heartache this world gives. The only release for grief and tears is a sweet hour of prayer, wrapping our hearts in God’s peace. Relief and sharing our burden comes only with the One who knows and cares.
         The words to Sweet Hour of Prayer came to William W. Walford, a blind man, 1772-1850.  Nothing is known of when or how he became blind. He was a lay preacher in a rural English church.  He often quoted scripture after scripture with accuracy. He was seventy years old, when a friend came to visit. William asked his friend, Thomas Salmon to write down the lyrics he had stored in his mind.
         After they were written hurriedly – Walford asked, “Will they do?”  Three years later Thomas Salmon came to the United States and shared these lyrics with the editor of the New York Observer, who published then in 1845.  Fifteen years later, a composer, William B. Bradley wrote the melody. William Walford died before he heard the music. He died before it was written.
         William Walford left a legacy of faith. He lived a life without physical sight yet his heart-sight was 20/20. Little did Walford know the lyrics he wrote would be used of God – in His Time. William Walford was able to retain large portions of the Bible in his mind, as well as verses and sermons.  Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember what we said the day before. Remembering God’s Words is a Gift. Living God’s Words is a Choice!
         Memories of Prayer for the young begin early. At our evening table, we held hands while my Dad prayed, Komm, Herr Jesu; sei du unser Gast und segne, was du uns bescheret hast. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.  (Plautt Dietch). Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest; And bless what you have bestowed.
         The most memorable for me was the Christmas Eve prayer time – with our Grandpa and Grandma Suderman plus Aunts and Uncles.  Curious, after a time I decided to do the unthinkable…I peeked. An indelible mind photo stays in my memory for more than 80 years. A circle of family kneeling and praying, one by one, according to age.  I felt a peace I had never known before. Later I learned my Grandma Anna Loewen Suderman prayed alone naming each of her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren by name, and those who come after (Nach Kommen).
         Walford wrote – Sweet Hour of Prayer! An hour? How can that be? Who could pray for an hour?  We don’t count the moments and minutes when we long for the precious presence of Jesus.  We pray.  Recently, my daughter, Anna, sent me a beautiful guide to prayer (apayne.com).  The areas of prayer include: What I thank God for today, Prayer requests for friends, those we work with and, leaders in Church and in the World, and praying for me and those close to me and my work.  When we pray scripture, God’s own Words, we see with our hearts, even as Walford did as he wrote the words of this Hymn.
            Sweet hour of prayer! sweet hour of prayer!
     That calls me from a world of care,
     And bids me at my Father's throne
     Make all my wants and wishes known.
     In seasons of distress and grief,
     My soul has often found relief
     And oft escaped the tempter's snare
     By thy return, sweet hour of prayer!
            There are verses for Hope, Strength, Guidance, and Thanksgiving in the Scripture.  Our Lord God meets our every need.  One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles.  Luke 6:12-13. 
         Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.”  He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed.  He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”  He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Matthew 26:36-40.  The pain on the cross was unbearable because of the weight of our sins. In this moment, He needed a Sweet Hour of Prayer with his Father, and ours!
    Jesus taught us to pray - Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.  And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:9-13
    For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.” Zephaniah 3:1
    Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” Matthew 26:41
    Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but you. Psalm 5:2
    But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me, and through each night I sing his songs, praying to God who gives me life.
    “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7
    Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.  Ephesians 6:18
    Pray without ceasing.  I Thessalonians 5:17
    The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. I Peter 4:7

      And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp, and they held gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. Revelation 5:8



Comments? eacombs@att.net