It Is Well with My Soul

I heard this song sung this morning on a TV church service. It reminded me of how God can bring peace to our hearts in the middle of really dark times. I remember singing this song when I was young ... at least younger ... and realize that time and age teaches us how true the message of this song really is.

It Is Well with My Soul

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control,
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

And, Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
even so, it is well with my soul.

Knowing Jesus gets us through the dark times ... He is what causes our soul to be alive in the middle of death ... so that we can say that it is well with my soul.

From Wikipedia via salguod's comments:

"It Is Well with My Soul" is a very influential hymn penned by hymnist Horatio Spafford and composed by Philip Bliss. This hymn was writ­ten af­ter two ma­jor trau­mas in Spaf­ford’s life. The first was the death of his only son, shortly followed by the great Chi­ca­go Fire of Oc­to­ber 1871, which ru­ined him fi­nan­cial­ly (he had been a weal­thy bus­i­ness­man). In 1873, while cross­ing the At­lan­tic, all four of Spaf­ford’s daugh­ters died in a col­li­sion with an­o­ther ship. Spaf­ford’s wife Anna sur­vived and sent him the now fa­mous tel­e­gram, “Saved alone.” Sev­er­al weeks lat­er, as Spaf­ford’s own ship passed near the spot where his daugh­ters died, the Ho­ly Spir­it in­spired these words. They speak to the eter­nal hope that all be­liev­ers have, no mat­ter what pain and grief be­fall them on earth."

'Each One' or 'Only One'

I recently had a discussion with someone about church culture and found myself asking this question:
Is the focus of our church experience on the pastor's pulpit ministry healthy or unhealthy?
I said that I thought it is unhealthy. Think about 1 Corinthians 14:26:
What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
An interesting scripture isn't it. I wonder, why does it say 'each one' if (generally speaking) teaching is limited to 'only one' in most churches? Do you find it interesting how so much of the evangelical church experience is built around the pulpit ministry of one person? Could it be that the growth of home church ministry is directly related to a fulfillment of the 1 Corinthians 14:26 scripture?

I think that in 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a lot of dysfunction in the church. Chapter 12 addresses the importance of spiritual gifts when they are used in the context of the entire body. It speaks to the idea of no gift being more important than an other ... and consequently no gift preeminent over another. Is it possible that the modern day pulpit ministry has become the antithesis of body ministry and is encouraging church to become a spectator activity?

Hope this doesn't offend anyone. I would be interested in having a discussion around some alternate views. You can read more of my views on this here and here.

Light Shining in Darkness

In the aftermath of the horrible mass shootings at Virginia Tech Patchouli quotes FOX News correspondent Lauren Green:
So where is God? He is in the prayer vigils. He is in the rivers of tears flowing from everyone affected. He is in the community coming together to offer support to the families. He is at work in the love and strength people are offering each other. God is with us.
The Apostle Paul somewhat echo's these comments when he talks about his own trials:
For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. (2 Corinthians 4:6-11)
Crisis, trials, hardship and suffering often brings out the best or worst in us. It amazes me how, as Paul puts it, light will shine out of the darkest places. Don't you just love the way Paul contrasts the attitudes of darkness and light. When darkness perplexes the Light in us does not despair. When darkness brings persecution the Light in us knows that He is with us. When darkness strikes us down the Light in us causes us to rise.

In my own painful journey I have had to deal with dark times of deaths, addictions and illnesses. I still often struggle with disappointment over health issues. Yet, in spite of my failings of faith, I still find that Light will arise in me ... it will lift me out of my despair and help me to see my life from a different perspective ... the Light will cause me to change and be more like Jesus ... yet this change often comes at a great price.

My prayer this Saturday for the families of Virgina Tech students is that Light will arise out of the ash heap of this tremendously sorrowful event. I join with many of you asking for His comfort and compassion to come through the community of faith in that college town. I pray that many would experience Emmanuel, God with us.

God's Will

Kelli has a great post about asking "why" questions. It reminded me about an experience I had a few years ago when I found myself fervently praying this religious prayer: "I ONLY WANT YOUR WILL GOD!" He surprised me by answering and saying something like this: "How long are you going to keep this up? When are you going to own up to the stuff in your heart? What do you want to do?"

That answer was so hard for me. It took courage for me to begin to own that stuff in my heart and to admit that I had a pretty good idea of what God, and more importantly I, wanted for my life. For years I had cowered behind silly prayers about "God's will" like that one I offered that day. Does this idea challenge you? Dealing with "heart stuff" is a challenging one. Consider this passage from Proverbs:
The plans of the heart belong to man, But the answer of the tongue is from the LORD. All the ways of a man are clean in his own sight, But the LORD weighs the motives. Commit your works to the LORD And your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:1-3)
Does it surprise you to hear that your heart plans belong to you? Does it challenge you to think that those plans in your heart can be an expression of God's will? So often we can get so wrapped up in our religious "Christian" ideas of "God's will" that we forget the kingdom of God is not so much about what we do but how we do it. The Apostle Paul put it this way:
Therefore do not let what is for you a good thing be spoken of as evil; for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. For he who in this way serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. (Romans 14:16-18)
God's will is so inclusive and is so greater than our religious ideas often lead us to believe. There is truly no delineation between the sacred and the secular. Each of us have a sacred call in, and of, our heart. Connecting with that heart call and desire takes a bit of courage. I pray that we each find the courage to make that connection.

Big On the Inside

Last Tuesday I spent my evening at one of our local jails. During this time I had a chance to share the scriptures with a dozen or so guys. I shared the story of two kings, Saul and David, from 1st Samuel. I focused in on how Saul seemed, to everyone (prophet Samuel included), to be God's anointed man for the job ... he was tall and good looking ... a NBA center of a man if there ever was one.

I told them how Saul's story begins to unravel right from the beginning as we see Saul hiding amongst the baggage. In the ensuing years we see how Saul was small on the inside. Though he had several encounters with God's Spirit he could not seem to get comfortable with living from the Spirit and gave into his darkside ... he was controlled by his fears, jealousies and insecurities.

In the middle of Saul's story David appears and is contrasted to Saul. He was just a young man when Samuel anointed him king over Israel. Samuel himself seemed ready to make another 'big man' king when God interrupted him:
When they entered, he looked at Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD'S anointed is before Him." But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." (1 Samuel 16:6-7)
What follows in this story is the story of a second man who, unlike Saul, is a man who is big on the inside. I told the guys about David - the story of a man after God's own heart ... a man who wrestles with bears and lions ... a man of courage ... big on the inside.

When I finished sharing several guys prayed with us and gave their hearts to Jesus. One of these guys, Ed, talked to me afterwards and told me that I got his attention when I spoke about being big on the inside - Ed is a little guy. I listened to Ed's heartbreaking story and told him that David's heart became big in the small things in life ... it took time for his heart to get ready to fight Goliath. I prayed with him then and have prayed for Ed a few times since then asking God to help Ed grow on the inside. Ed has a lot of challenges ahead of him. Please remember Ed when you pray.