Hold On For One More Day… and Forever - Purity 918
Purity 918 12/19/2022 Purity 918 Podcast
Purity 918 on YouTube:
Today’s photo of the late afternoon clouds set ablaze by the setting sun over the fields along Waite Rd comes to us from yours truly as I took several shots of the marvel of creation before me as I was out walking my canine friend, Harley, in the aftermath of the Friday’s snow storm, on Saturday afternoon. By sunset time on Saturday, the plows had cleared the roads but there was still a hush over the land as it seemed like the heavens were recovering from the down pour of snow and the Lord was blessing us with a magnificent light show to encourage us that we “made it” and we could rejoice that life, and He, was still good.
Well, it’s Monday again and even though you may wonder if there will ever be an end of the regular routine of “working” we can be assured of two things on this second to last Monday morning of December 2022:
1. Things will change
2. God is good
As much as we may feel hassled with our regular routines of work or taking care of our responsibilities at home, with the passage of time we could very well long for the days we are struggling to get through today.
I recall the burdens of caring for my children on a continuous basis, with them in my presence, when I wasn’t working, from the time they woke up to the time they went to sleep, and now I live with two adults who I barely see.
Just this past Sunday, I was reflecting with the Cincotti’s on how I no longer go to the school assemblies and Christmas concerts that were attended out of obligation but were also a comfort that marked the season and the aging of all the kids from year to year as they progressively moved ever closer to graduation and “no more “homework” and no more “books”, and presumably “no more teacher’s dirty looks”, as we may not have quite realized that school would be out “forever” someday.
Likewise, as we go forward in time and space, our professional lives are gaining years and will someday come to an end. Although, I find it hard to imagine, apparently the routine and purpose that we serve in making our ends meet at our “day jobs” can be so much a part of our lives that we will one day miss “working,” This really is a thing and the corroborating statistical evidence that supports it is that many people die very shortly after retirement.
This weekend as I was musing over the coming Christmas holiday weekend and the passage of another year, I started to get anxious in considering the questions of the future as I contemplating what would happen with my family and my professional career in the days, months, and years ahead. I got suddenly anxious for a moment when I realized that I had positively no idea what our kids would do or even where my wife and I would be in 5 years, and could only imagine a lot of changes between here and that relatively short distance down the road. With so many possibilities before us, I was hard pressed to think of something that wouldn’t change or of something I could control.
I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t “hold on” to anything, necessarily. My wife and I made a life long commitment to one another in our marriage so I found comfort in that, God willing, we could be one another’s “constant”, that even though we are not currently residing under the same roof 24/7, we have agreed that we would be “together” come what may. I have found the love of my life in TammyLyn and holding her in my arms and in my imagination as my life travelling companion gave me a lot of peace. As much as it is up to us, we have agreed to count on each other. I have gotten more than I could have dreamed with TammyLyn as my wife.
But, you never know how long we will be together and the more we love something or someone the more we can be anxious over the possibility of losing them. But the good news is that I was walking and talking with God long before I ever met TammyLyn and I credit Him with bringing this me far in life and for bringing her into my life.
That second thing we could be sure of, other than that things will change, is that God is good. Now if you notice, especially considering we are in the Christmas Season, the “Emanuel” season, maybe I should have said “God is with us” rather than just “God is good” but the thing is that while I know that God is omnipresence, somehow paradoxically everywhere at once, I know that His presence, His abiding presence, His manifest presence, in our lives has a lot to do with us and how we interact with Him.
God is good, for sure. God is omnipresent, for sure. But I haven’t always enjoyed His presence or wanted to invite Him into my life Out of ignorance, confusion, or rebellion, I thought He didn’t exist or didn’t care about me, or I didn’t want Him to. But He does exist and He does care about everyone of us. That is in itself sort of amazing, I mean there is just so many of us!
But we do know He cares and we should know He cares about us, especially this time of year, because He sent Jesus into the earth to live a sinless life, to pay for our sin debt, and to welcome us into His kingdom.
Regardless of “our relationship status”, God is our constant and when we make peace with Him through putting our faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can have a “constant assurance” of His goodness and presence in our lives.
In the ever changing world, we need something we can hold on to. While we may have lots of family, friends, or loved ones, the winds of change are going to blow and from year to year we just don’t know who will remain in our company. But when you are connected to God, the Constant One, you never have to fear being alone or where the days, weeks, months, and years will take you.
In Christ, God is with us. And on the path of Christian Discipleship, we can walk and talk with Him every day! That’s what our life of faith is supposed to be all about, the fruit of the Spirit growing in our lives, because we decide to follow Him and never leave His presence.
So, I know how the uncertainty of life, Christmas this weekend, and the changing years ahead of us can utterly freak us out and make feel “groundless”. But we have a “constant’. We have an eternal companion in God and we can cast all fear invthe presence of His perfect love for us and face the day with confidence knowing that in this groundless world, we have a Rock to stand and build our present and future upon.
So take a breath and remember, although things may change, God is good and if you choose to, He can be with you all the days of your life. So keep on walking and talking with Him.
Today’s Bible verse comes to us from “The NLT Bible Promise Book for Men”.
This morning’s meditation verse is:
Psalm 42:4-6 (NLT2)
4 My heart is breaking as I remember how it used to be…5 Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again— my Savior and
6 my God! …
Today’s verse reminds us that when our heart is breaking as we contemplate the “good old days” to put our hope in God and to praise our Savior and our Lord.
As, I indicated in the first part of the message, even I who like to think that I have learned how to navigate through life in relative peace and joy, can run into anxiousness and teeter on the edgy of heartbreak as I consider the days behind me and the uncertainty of the days ahead.
Let’s face it, while it is awesome to accumulate “life experience” the draw back is that we leave our youth behind and become schooled in the impermanent way of the world.
To echo the sentiments of Old Father O’Hara from “Gone with the Wind” we might see that nothing in this world lasts. As a plantation owner, O’Hara stressed the importance of Land: because he saw the earth beneath his feet as “the only thing in the world that amounts to anything, for 'Tis the only thing in this world that lasts, 'Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for - worth dying for.” (https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/margaret_mitchell_157605) To see the civilization of the South forever changed by the Civil War, broke his heart and possibly his mind, as he undoubtedly wanted to live in the prosperity of former days.
Remembering the “good old days” can really break our hearts when we ground our identity in times, seasons, relationships, or things that fade away.
And Thus today’s verse, encourages the broken hearted to remember our God and Savior whose kingdom will never fade away. The remedy for those broken hearted over remembering the way things were is to focus on and to praise God, the one who is good and eternal.
So, it’s Monday so do what you have to do, but if you feel low, focus on the One on high and praise Him for He last forever with us.
As always, I invite all to go to mt4christ.org where I always share insights from prominent Christian theologians and counselors to assist my brothers and sisters in Christ with their walk.
Today we continue sharing from Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “Discipleship”, also known as “The Cost of Discipleship”
As always, I share this information for educational purposes and encourage all to purchase Bonhoeffer’s books for your own private study and to support his work. This resource is available on many websites for less than $20.00.
The Church of Jesus Christ and Discipleship
The Visible Church-Community, Concludes
Christians are to remain in the world, not because of the God-given goodness of the world, nor even because of their responsibility for the course the world takes. They are to remain in the world solely for the sake of the body of the Christ who became incarnate—for the sake of the church-community. They are to remain in the world in order to engage the world in a frontal assault. Let them “live out their vocation in this world” in order that their “unworldliness” might become fully visible. But this can take place only through visible membership in the church-community. The world must be contradicted within the world. That is why Christ became a human being and died in the midst of his enemies. It is for this reason—and this reason alone!—that slaves are to remain slaves, and Christians are to remain subject to authority.
This is also entirely consistent with what Luther, in those decisive years after leaving the monastery, has to say about a secular vocation. He did not repudiate the very lofty standards set by monastic life, but that obedience to the command of Jesus was understood as an achievement of individuals. Luther did not attack the “unworldliness” of monastic life, but the fact that within the confines of the monastery this estrangement from the world had been turned into a new spiritual conformity to this world. This, to Luther, was the most insidious perversion of the gospel. The “unworldliness” of the Christian life is meant to take place in the midst of this world. Its place is the church-community which must practice it in its daily living. That is what Luther thought. And that is why Christians ought to carry out their Christian life in the midst of their secular vocation. That is why they ought to die to the world in the midst of their worldly calling. The value of the secular vocation for Christians is that it allows them to live in the world by God’s goodness and to engage more fervently in the fight against the things of this world. Luther did not return to the world based on a “more positive assessment” of this world, or even by abandoning the expectation of the earliest church that Christ’s return was imminent. His return rather was meant as a protest and criticism of the secularization of Christianity within the monastic life. By calling Christians back into the world, Luther in fact calls them to become unworldly in the true sense. This actually proved to be his own experience. Luther’s call to return into the world always was a call to become a part of the visible church-community of the incarnate Lord. And the same is also true of Paul.
It is, therefore, also evident that in living out their secular vocations, Christians come to experience very definite limits, and that in certain cases the call into a secular vocation must of necessity be followed by the call to leave that worldly vocation. This is entirely in keeping with both Luther’s and Paul’s thinking on the matter. What defines these limits is our very belonging to the visible community of Christ. The limits are reached wherever there is a clash between the space the body of Christ claims and occupies in this world for worship, offices, and the civic life of its members, and the world’s own claim for space. That this state of affairs has been reached becomes at the same time evident in two ways. First, it becomes necessary for members of the church-community to make a visible and public confession of faith in Christ. Second, it becomes necessary for the world either wisely to withdraw or to resort to violence. This is the point where Christians are drawn into public suffering. They who died with Christ in baptism and whose secret sufferings with Christ had thus far not been noticed by the world are now publicly dismissed from their profession in this world. They join their Lord in a visible community of suffering [Leidensgemeinschaft]. They now need even more the full fellowship and support of brothers and sisters in the church-community.
But it is not always the world which expels Christians from their professional life. Even as early as the first few centuries of the church, certain professions were considered incompatible with being a member of the Christian community. Actors who had to portray pagan gods and heroes, teachers who were forced to teach pagan mythologies in pagan schools, gladiators who had to take human life for entertainment’s sake, soldiers who carried the sword, police officers and judges—they all had to leave their pagan professions if they wanted to be baptized. Later the church—or rather the world!—managed to give Christians permission again to take up most of these professions. Rejections were from now on more and more enacted by the world rather than the church-community.
But the older this world grows, and the more sharply the struggle between Christ and Antichrist grows, the more thorough also become the world’s efforts to rid itself of the Christians. To the first Christians the world still granted a space in which they were able to feed and clothe themselves from the fruits of their own labor. A world that has become entirely anti-Christian, however, can no longer grant Christians even this private sphere in which they pursue their professional work and earn their daily bread. It feels compelled to force Christians to deny their Lord in exchange for every piece of bread they want to eat. In the end, Christians are thus left with no other choices but to escape from the world or to go to prison. But when they have been deprived of their last inch of space here on earth, the end will be near.
The body of Christ is thus deeply involved in all areas of life in this world. And yet there are certain points where the complete separation remains visible, and must become even more visible. However, whether in the world or separated from it, Christians in either case seek to obey the same word: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed into a new form (μεταμορφοῦσθε) by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God” (Rom. 12:2). There is a way of living in conformity with this world while being in it, but there is also a way of creating for oneself the spiritual ‘world’ of the monastery. There is an illegitimate way of remaining in the world, just as there is an illegitimate way of escaping from it. In either case we become conformed to the world. But the community of Christ has a ‘form’ that is different from that of the world. The community is called to be ever increasingly transformed into this form. It is, in fact, the form of Christ himself. He came into the world and in infinite mercy bore us and accepted us. And yet he did not become conformed to the world but was actually rejected and cast out by it. He was not of this world. If it engages the world properly, the visible church-community will always more closely assume the form of its suffering Lord.
Christians must therefore be aware that “the time has grown short. In addition, I hold that from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none; and those who mourn as though they were not mourning; and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing; and those who buy as though they had no possessions; and those who make use of this world take care not to misuse it. For what is of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties” (1 Cor. 7:29–32a). This describes the life of Christ’s community in the world. Christians live just like other people. They marry, they mourn and they rejoice, they buy and they make use of the world for their daily needs. But whatever they possess, they possess only through Christ, and in Christ, and for the sake of Christ, and are thus not bound by it. They possess it as though they did not possess it. They do not set their heart on their possessions, and thus they remain entirely free. This is why they are able to make use of the world and why they ought not to escape from it (1 Cor. 5:10). But since they are free, they are also able to abandon the world whenever it prevents them from following their Lord. They marry; the apostle, however, thinks it is more beneficial if they remain unmarried provided this can be done in faith (1 Cor. 7:7, 33–40). They buy and engage in commerce, but they do this only to provide for their daily needs. They do not store up treasures for themselves nor set their hearts on them. Christians work since they are called not to be idle. But their work is, of course, for them not an end in itself. The idea of work simply for work’s sake is foreign to the New Testament. Everyone ought to provide for themselves through their labor. And each ought to earn enough to be able to share something with other Christians (1 Thess. 4:11f.; 2 Thess. 3:11f.; Eph. 4:28). Christians ought to remain independent of “those on the outside,” that is, the pagans (1 Thess. 4:12). In this they follow the example of Paul himself, who took special pride in earning his daily bread by the work of his own hands, and thus even maintaining his independence from the church communities he had founded (2 Thess. 3:8; 1 Cor. 9:15). Paul insists on this independence, hoping that it will prove that his preaching is not motivated by the desire for financial gain. All work is done in service to the church-community. The commandment to work is accompanied by another commandment: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Christians know: “Of course, there is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it; but if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these. But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires” (1 Tim. 6:6–9). Christians make use of the things of this world as things “that perish with use” (Col. 2:22). And they do so with thanksgiving and prayer to the creator of all the goodness of creation (1 Tim. 4:4). But all the while they are nonetheless free. They can cope with being well fed and with going hungry, with having plenty and with being in need. “I can do all things through the one who empowers me, Christ” (Phil. 4:12f.).
Christians are in the world and they need the world; they are fleshly; for the sake of their fleshly nature, Christ came into the world. They do worldly things. They marry, but their marriage will look different from that of the world. Their marriage will be “in the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:39). It will be sanctified through being in the service of the body of Christ, and it will be subject to the discipline of prayer and abstinence (1 Cor. 7:5). In this, Christian marriage will become a parable of Christ’s self-sacrificial love for his church-community. Indeed, their marriage will itself be a part of the body of Christ. It will be church (Eph. 5:32). Christians buy and sell, they are engaged in trade and commerce. But even this they will practice in a different way than the pagans. Not only will they refrain from taking unfair advantage of one another (1 Thess. 4:6), but they will even do what must seem incomprehensible to the world, namely, to prefer to be taken advantage of and to suffer injustice rather than to insist on their rights before a pagan court of law over “things that are only of temporary significance.” If it is unavoidable, they will settle their disputes within the church-community, before their own tribunals (1 Cor. 6:1–8).
The Christian community thus lives its own life in the midst of this world, continually bearing witness in all it is and does that “the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor. 7:31), that the time has grown short (1 Cor. 7:23), and that the Lord is near (Phil. 4:5). That prospect is cause for great joy to the church-community (Phil. 4:4). The world becomes too confining; all its hopes and dreams are set on the Lord’s return. The community members still walk in the flesh. But their eyes are turned to heaven, from whence shall return the one whom they await. Here on earth, the church-community lives in a foreign land. It is a colony of strangers far away from home, a community of foreigners enjoying the hospitality of the host country in which they live, obeying its laws, and honoring its authorities. With gratitude it makes use of what is needed to sustain the body and other areas of earthly life. In all things the church-community proves itself to be honorable, just, chaste, gentle, quiet, and willing to serve. It demonstrates the love of its Lord to all people, but “especially for those of the family of faith” (Gal. 6:10; 2 Peter 1:7). In suffering it is patient and joyful, taking pride in its tribulation. It lives its own life subject to a foreign authority and foreign justice. It prays for all earthly authority, thus rendering this authority the best service it can offer (1 Tim. 2:1). But it is merely passing through its host country. At any moment it may receive the signal to move on. Then it will break camp, leaving behind all worldly friends and relatives, and following only the voice of the one who has called it. It leaves the foreign country and moves onward toward its heavenly home.
Christians are poor and suffering, hungry and thirsty, gentle, compassionate and peaceable, persecuted and scorned by the world. Yet it is for their sake alone that the world is still preserved. They shield the world from God’s judgment of wrath. They suffer so that the world can still live under God’s forbearance. They are strangers and sojourners on this earth (Heb. 11:13; 13:14; 1 Peter 1:1). They set their minds on things that are above, not on things that are of the earth (Col. 3:2). For their true life has not yet been revealed; it is still hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). Here on earth, they only see the opposite of what they are to become. What is visible here is nothing but their dying—their hidden, daily dying to their old self, and their public dying before the world. They are still hidden even from themselves. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. As a visible church-community, their own identity remains completely invisible to them. They look only to their Lord. He is in heaven, and their life for which they are waiting is in him. But when Christ, their life, reveals himself, then they will also be revealed with him in glory (Col. 3:4).
They wander this earth, but their life lies in heaven;
powerless though they be, their weakness protects the world.
While turmoil rages around them, they taste only peace;
poor though they be, they possess what gives them joy.
Suffer though they may, they remain joyful;
They seem to have died to the natural senses,
and instead live the internal life of faith.
When Christ, their life, will be revealed,
when someday he will show himself in glory,
then together with him as princes of the earth,
they will appear in glory while the world gazes in wonder.
Then shall they reign in triumph with him,
as glorious lights adorn the heavens.
Openly then shall joy burst forth.
—Chr. Fr. Richter
This is the community of those who have been called out of this world, the ecclesia, Christ’s body on earth, the followers and disciples of Jesus.
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Encouragement for the Path of Christian Discipleship