Death. Then Life. Through The Light.


Whenever I don’t have a chapter book or novel to read, I flip to a selection in Eugene Peterson’s “As Kingfishers Catch Fire.” It’s a collection of one pastor’s encouraging sermons from over 30 years in the pulpit. 

There is a chapter entitled “Father, Glorify Thy Name” which includes many truths. These words articulate Jesus’ shortest prayer, recorded in the Gospel of John: “Father, bring glory to your name.” (John 12:28, NLT).
It may be a short prayer, but it is a powerful prayer. Peterson says praying, for us as it was for Jesus, is like breathing. “If we are to live, we all have to do it… it is woven into the fabric of life.”


I believe this is a season when we will all rise, but only as we first kneel.


Many have found a new voice of prayer during this season. That is wonderful! I even saw a news clip from MSNBC where the host asked his guest, Pastor T.D. Jakes, to offer a prayer for the Nation. I was a TV news anchor and reporter at one time and under “normal” circumstances that would never happen. Yet here we are! For 30 seconds as the pastor prayed, news anchor Craig Melvin bowed his head and affirmed the petition with his own “Amen.” Isn’t that encouraging? God is gracious. Many are lifting an eye towards heaven and seeking God’s peace, His calm, His healing, His protection. Keep it up! Thank you for breathing. Thank you for praying.

I believe this is a season when we will all rise, but only as we first kneel. I can’t help but recall an often quoted scripture from the Old Testament: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV).

And the glory of God? Paradoxically, it’s not more. It’s less. Peterson says Jesus redefines glory. “The glory with which Jesus is glorified is not inspirational… It is not glamorous.” It is not a beautiful sunrise, although through our eyes it is. No, in God’s eyes, it is first an agonizing cross. “Obscurity, rejection, a sacrificial life, an obedient death.”

Seeds must die and be buried before there is new life. It might be said that the world is dying right now. There is irony in seeing gorgeous spring cherry blossoms and daffodils and redbuds in full bloom as we suffer through a physical, virus-driven fall and winter for humankind. Yet there will be a morning when our life will spring forth again! We can trust the Creator to be glorified in the new life that always follows death.

Peterson notes that the Son must die so that the Son, and the Father, and the Spirit, are glorified. Will you join me in earnestly praying that we will all see the Glory of God during this season?  Jesus describes it this way:

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:24‭-‬25, MSG).

We are to let go of our life – we are to die – so that we might save it and live.

Jesus’ final words in this scene? “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.” (John 12:35‭, NLT)

We can trust the Light to shine. We can! Light is key in the cycle of death to germination to regeneration to birth. In the Light, we will all find life.

One final note on the importance of light, from the book of Revelation where John describes heaven: “The City doesn’t need sun or moon for light. God’s Glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp!” (Revelation 21:23, MSG).

A simple, yet powerful prayer for this season? “Shine on, Jesus! Shine!”




(c) 2020. Rich Ronald.

_____

As Kingfishers Catch Fire, by Eugene H. Peterson, (c) 2017, WaterBrook.










Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

There is freedom in praise!

There’s a new song many churches are singing today during their worship services. It’s called “Raise a Hallelujah” by Bethel Music.

For some of us it’s easy to praise God and sing “Hallelujah,” right? You’re going on vacation. It’s summer. The bills are paid. The kids are behaving. Life is good.

But there are others (most of us?) who are just not feeling it. There is pain. There is disappointment. Life is one big slog each and every day. How do we sing in the middle of the storm? How do we even manage a smile when we are feeling defeated?

The answer is this: We can praise God by the power of the Holy Spirit who is in every Believer.

There’s something amazing that happens when we praise God… especially when we offer a praise to God when it’s hard to do so. And we don’t have to have a beautiful singing voice. It might be as simple as viewing an amazing sunset and exclaiming, “Wow, God!”

I believe praise releases God’s love and grace and power and provision in our lives. You may have heard the story of two disciples of Jesus. They were in prison, locked in chains, because they had been sharing the Good News. But they didn’t let shackles hold them back.

Along about midnight, Paul and Silas were at prayer and singing a robust hymn to God. The other prisoners couldn’t believe their ears. Then, without warning, a huge earthquake! The jailhouse tottered, every door flew open, all the prisoners were loose. Acts 16: 25-26 (MSG)

There’s something about praise that sets us free. No matter what is holding you captive, bring it to the Lord in praise.

Let me encourage you to sing, to pray, to exclaim or even lament in the middle of your storm. Tell God how much you love Him. Tell God how much you trust Him.

And believe Him to bring you His freedom and His joy!

Raise a Hallelujah? Yes!

© Rich Ronald. 2019.

Tasting Pizza for the First Time

pizza_edit
Pizza Time! Can’t you just taste how good it is?

Have you ever seen that TV show where that guy eats all that weird food from all over the world? Or are you old enough to remember the kid who wouldn’t try the new breakfast cereal until his little brother did?

I put off tasting pizza for my entire childhood. Why? Because its main ingredient was tomato sauce. And because my dad didn’t like tomatoes, I didn’t like tomatoes. Therefore,  I hated pizza. Without ever trying it!

My big sisters were worried that I couldn’t be a normal teenager without liking pizza. So, in the days leading up to my 13th birthday, they encouraged me to give it try.  “Try it. You’ll like it,” was another advertising slogan from my growing-up era.  I gave pizza a taste.  Guess what? I liked it!

Have you ever heard of the scripture from the Bible that says “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalm 34:8).

How do we taste and experience God’s goodness and unfailing love?

Through prayer.

Oak Hills Church Minister Max Lucado is preaching a series of sermons on prayer.  From yesterday’s teaching on the goodness of God and connecting with Him in prayer: “He throws open the pantry of His heart. He has a feast of His kindness at His table. Taste the goodness of the Lord.”

Do we put off praying to God or giving Him a certain problem or situation because we think our problems are too small for God?  Or too big for God? Or perhaps because we are embarrassed by our situation? Or because we think it is ours to deal with, not God’s?

If our situations and problems trouble us, they trouble God.

May I tell you that God will be there for you and is delighted to hear from you? Part of the very nature of God is that He loves to be our problem solver.  His solution is always the right one.

Everything God does is right —  the trademark on all his works is love.

God’s there, listening for all who pray,  for all who pray and mean it.

He does what’s best for those who fear him — hears them call out, and saves them.

God sticks by all who love him.

Psalm 145:17-20a (The Message)

There’s another Bible verse that says “Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father.” (James 1:17).

So, taste the goodness of the Lord today through prayer. And you will see how much He loves you.

(c) 2013. Rich Ronald.

Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Isaac

Isaac was almost the Bible’s first human sacrifice. But God honored his father’s faith and all of Israel was spared.

A devotional look at eleven Biblical dads and what we can learn from them.

The next in the line of the three great fathers of the Hebrew faith is Isaac… son of Abraham and Sarah.  Named Isaac, which means “laughter,” because the two were so old when they conceived.

Now the Word says in Genesis 22 that God chose to test Abraham.  God told him to take his son Isaac and sacrifice him as a burnt offering.  Are you kidding me?  What kind of God would ask a man to do that?  As we learned, Abraham was a trusting man. He believed that God knew what He was doing. And God did…

I’ve often been curious about this story.

They arrived at the place to which God had directed him. Abraham built an altar. He laid out the wood. Then he tied up Isaac and laid him on the wood. Abraham reached out and took the knife to kill his son. (Genesis 22:9-10, The Message).

Of course, an angel stops him and God provides a ram, stuck in the thicket, for the sacrifice.  Abraham trusted. God delivered. Blow the shofar! This story is where the ram’s horn originates and I’m guessing Isaac might have given it a blast or two with a huge smile on his face since his life was spared.  And in his place, a sacrifice. A ram. A lamb? Jesus again? Yes, another example of our Messiah in the Old Testament!

Continue reading Lessons from the Fathers’ Hearts: Isaac