Missing you, Dad.

2994_1079459026852_2338201_nI can hardly comprehend the amount of time that has passed but, four years ago today my father, Rev. Mark Walz, beat us all to heaven and won the race I am so desperately trying to win. I miss you and love you Dad, so much. But I am reminded if your legacy every day and in everything I do and every where I go. Surely, death is not how it should be; we long for eternity.

 

“It’s there on the wedding day,
It’s there in the weeping by the graveside,
In the very breath we breathe
Your great Grace.”
 Grace.

“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:16)

August is the hardest month. It’s a month filled with countless broken memories for me that seem to continue to break every day. Ill never understand why sometimes God choose not to heal or to act. It’s the story of the messy middle. Redemption yet to come, the part where it doesn’t make any sense, the still waiting and hoping for restoration and for healing.

“In the darkest night of soul
There in the sweet songs of victory
Your Grace finds me.
Your great Grace”

 

time-management-clockSo many times I find myself waiting for something. Waiting on God. Waiting on a healing, waiting on a miracle, waiting on a restoration, on redemption, or for Jesus to just come back. But it is in these moments that while we are waiting we find His grace. His grace is enough to cover all our wounds and bring restoration into that moments. Why don’t you invite Jesus to come in to your broken moments and memories and cover you with His Grace?

 

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

“Sometimes we are waiting
In the sorrow we have tasted
But Joy will replace it
In the hands of our Redeemer,
Nothing is Wasted.”
I know that this earth is not our home, we live for eternity. I will see you again one day, dad, and until then may His great grace find me. May it find the prodigal. May it find the broken. May it find the hurt, the confused, the betrayed. May it find the ones who are not yet healed or restored. May His Great Grace find us all.
‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.’ (2 Corinthians 12:9) 
Song lyrics from “Your Grace Finds Me” by Matt Redman and “Nothing is Wasted” by Jason Gray.

Betrayal and Grace

Unedited, from March 30, 2013:

“What have you done?” Genesis 3:13

These are the words of the Lord our God after being betrayed in love and heart broken by the ones he loved the most, His prized possessions, Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had betrayed their loving creator by turning instead to the Enemy. God was deeply hurt, He was angry, he was betrayed.

Oh, the betrayal.

The Creator created us and gifted us free will so that we would freely love him. But this free will He gives us is not the permission to do whatever we want, but the opportunity to do would we should. And we should love. Yet, instead, we betray Him and reject His love. We spit in His face, tell Him that we’ve found another love and tell Him to leave us alone.

Why do we do that?! It’s because of our rebellious nature. The Enemy gives us thoughts in our mind that lead us from Him that we choose to believe, we forget to trust in God, our lover, and instead doubt His goodness, love, and omnipotence. Satan tells us “You can do whatever you what, you can do better than that. What kind of God is going to keep you from doing whatever you want to do? That’s no fun. Besides, you can love both God and man, anyway.”

However, our merciful God, the groom of the bride, the church, whom we are, has a heart quite unlike man. In the lowest point in our lives, at the most broken point in our relationship…God tells us that He will never leave us or forsake us. He will never abandon us or find another lover. We will seek us out, woo us back, and win us back to him. He will patiently endure and wait on us, no matter how far we run. He will pursue us with love until we come back to him.

“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Corinthians 13:7

This is the love we should have for one another, for those who betray us and hurt us, for those who reject us and leave us and forsake us.

This is grace. This is where grace overwhelms. Grace removes all doubt. His love never fails, never gives up, and never runs out. Let us cling to this love and ask for an outpouring of this love to us from the Father so that we may offer that same love and grace to those who betray us, even in the most broken and dead part of our relationship.

And remember, “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37), and God it is God’s heart to restore and reconcile, and He does and will.

Come Quickly, Spring: The Promise of Easter

Tulips in Park by Mark Walz
by Josh Kinney
photo credit: Josh Kinney

A sunset is a beautiful, gorgeous thing. But, just imagine with me, that as the sun goes down in the sky and everything gets darker, that the sun would never rise again. We would never again feel the warmth of the glowing ball on our skin or the reflection of the light on our cars. The sunset would be a very sad thing to watch were that true.

Or, imagine with me, that when the green colors of the spring and summer begin to fade to brown, the leaves wither and die, and the flowers shrivel up and fall to the ground in the oncoming cold of winter, that it would be the end of Spring and Summer forever, that it would be Winter always and, yes, as C.S. Lewis would put it, never Christmas.

What if new life never came? What if the cold and the dark were forever? What if rebellion won? What if truth died? What if relationships ended, never to be restored? What if death was it?

But we know it isn’t. Don’t we? It couldn’t be. It just can’t.

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” Psalm 51:12

The truth is we, as humans created in the image of God, crave new life. We crave restoration, redemption, and reconciliation. We need it.

The truth is, we know that the next day the sun rises again. Day after day, the sun sets and the sun rises. It is something that gives us great hope and we see it every day. We know that, when winter comes, three months later spring will come and the flowers will rise. We know too, that when the savior dies on that old rugged cross and the sky grows dark and all hope seems lost, three days later, He rises again.

The promise of Easter is that that life comes, death is not final, darkness never lasts, and that restoration, redemption, and resurrection is not only possible, it is inevitable. I believe that God has created us with a deep desire for restoration and redemption. That is why it is so horrible to experience the tidal wave of pain of a broken relationship. That is why we rejoice in weddings. That is why we grieve and cry and weep at funerals. That is why we rejoice and celebrate the new born life of a precious child. We crave life and we hate death. Death was never meant to be. Death was brought about as the result of sin in the original Garden.

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15:56

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

This is why it was devastating to our Lord God when death was brought into life. This is why our savior, Jesus, was angry at the tomb of his dear brother Lazarus. This is why, in John 11:35. “Jesus wept.

“When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within him. He said, ‘Where did you put him?’ ‘Master, come and see,’ they said. Now Jesus wept.” (John 11:33-35)

Death was never meant to be. We were never meant to die. But because of our sin, because of our failure, death becomes the reality.

We, as human, crave more than the acceptance of broken and dead relationships and love. We crave more than separation and rejection.

We crave reconciliation. We need it. But is reconciliation without forgiveness? What is redemption without suffering?

Tulips in Park by Mark Walz
credit: Mark Walz

I think that suffering is the university course that teaches us not only about the condition of our heart, but reveals to us the power of the sufficient sustaining grace of God. To me, suffering is like a seed in planted in the winter ground, and when Spring finally shows up, it bursts through the cold, hard ground and reaches for the sun while revealing a beautiful bloom of redemption.

Lot of us understand suffering. Well, so does our savior. Because he came to the earth and suffered just like us. He was mocked, betrayed, denied, hated, ignored, rejected, spit upon, beaten, flogged, pierced, and crucified.

Sometimes God calls us to this to “take up our cross” and suffer alongside of him. In fact, I would say that he calls all of us to suffer at some level. To suffer is to grow, like the seed planted in the ground. Suffering is, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer would put it, the Cost of Discipleship.

“If we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness by acting with responsibility and in freedom when the hour of danger comes, and by showing a real sympathy that springs, not from fear , but from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer. Mere waiting and looking on is not Christian behavior. The Christian is called to sympathy and action, not in the first place by his own sufferings, but by the sufferings of his brethren, for whose sake Christ suffered.”

― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Sometimes we find ourselves in that “waiting place”. It is a place where find our faith and hope being tested and stretched further than ever before. This waiting place is the place we find ourselves when we are waiting on restoration, waiting on redemption, waiting on resurrection, waiting on life, it is the darkness before the dawn. It is the Saturday before Resurrection Sunday (Easter); the waiting place.

I am so glad our savior willingly and humbly rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday knowing full well he would die on Friday. He embraced his suffering and this waiting place because he believed God was going to do what He said he would do. He submitted to this, because He loved us! “Nothing is impossible for God” (Luke 1:37) and that was never revealed to be truer when our Savior walked out of the grave. Christ waited on the cross and in the grave because He trusted God. So we too, suffer and wait on our promised restoration and promised redemption. For you “know with all your heart and soul that not one of all the good promises the LORD your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed” Joshua 23:14)

His grace disguised as pain, tears, emptiness of soul, loneliness, heartache, and endless waiting will bring you to a place of witnessing Him in ways you never imagined. This disguised grace, his healing from tears, and blessing from raindrops will reveal to you His constant presence, His awesome power, His perfect provision, His abundant peace, and sufficient grace. In the “waiting place” your faith is strengthened.

by Patrice Kinney
photo credit: Patrice Kinney

Just as Christ broke the bread and poured out the wine at the passover meal on Maundy Thursday, just as his body was broken and his blood was shed on Good Friday, so we are also called to be “broken and poured out”.

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26)

What should “broken and poured out” look like in your life?

Easter is the day when we celebrate the fact that, like the sun and the easter lily, the Son of God rose again. And just as the disciples did not have to say goodbye to Jesus when he died, just as we do not have to say goodbye to the sun when it sets or the flower when it falls, we never have to say goodbye to each other.  Restoration is real. And it’s real here on this earth because of the power of the cross! “And I will restore to you the years that the locust has eaten…”” Joel 2:25. Redemption is alive. Heaven is just on the other side of death, for those that belong to Christ.

The sun goes down, but the sunrise comes. The darkness arrives, but morning dawns. Winter comes, but spring will bloom. Heartache will surpise, but restoration is within reach. Death will strike, but it doesn’t have the final word.

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

Restoration is real. Our hope becomes faith because of the power of the empty cross and our risen savior.

His death is glorious. Spring is hopeful. The sunset is a beautiful, gorgeous thing.

“And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job…And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.” Job 42:10

Come quickly, Spring.

Sunrise by Mark Walz
“sunrise” photo credit: Mark Walz

In Helpless Trust

20130212-095441.jpg
helpless [ help-lis ]
adjective
1. unable to help oneself; weak or dependent
2. deprived of strength or power; powerless; incapacitated

trust [ truhst ]
noun
1. reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc., of a person or thing; confidence.
2. confident expectation of something; hope.

There comes a point in all of our lives where there is nothing left we can do anymore but trust God. We are totally helpless otherwise. It’s that hope in the powerless, the acknowledgment that we are weak and unable, and the full immersion in the confident expectation that greater things are yet to come. There is nothing else we can do but cry out in that precious to God, helpless trust, and know, regardless of circumstance, that “all things work together for the good of those that love God and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28).

“Things must happen not according to your knowledge, but rather above your own knowledge: immerse yourself in the abandonment of understanding and I will give you My understanding. Abandonment of understanding is real understanding; not knowing where you are going is the right way to know where you are going. My knowing makes you completely unknowing. Thus did Abraham depart from his home with out knowing [where or why]. He surrendered himself to My knowledge and let go of his own knowledge, and travelled the right path to the end. Behold, this is the way of the Cross; you cannot find it, I must rather lead you like a blind person.

Hence, it is not YOU, nor any human being, not any creature, but rather I, I Myself, who will trust you through My Spirit and Word concerning the path you must stick to. Not the work you choose for yourself, not the suffering you think up for yourself, but what comes quite contrary to your choosing, thinking, desiring, that is where you must follow, there I am calling, there you must be a pupil, there it is high time, your Teacher has come” (Martin Luther, Luther-Andachten, 243f.)

In helpless trust, we suffer. In helpless trust, we cry out. In helpless trust, we follow. In helpless trust, we accept and believe Jesus Christ and His offer of salvation and eternal life. In helpless trust, we wait. In helpless trust, we are healed. In helpless trust, we are restored.

Love Guards the Heart

God judges us by our hearts. Not our outward appearance (1 Sam. 16:7). So, it also makes sense that Scripture points to our hearts as the location of our conscience. Paul says in Romans 2:15 that the law is written on our hearts, everyone’s heart, even those who do not know God, because “their consciences bear witness” to God’s law. So, it is therefore so very dangerous to harden our hearts by extinguishing our conscience, by convincing ourselves it isn’t wrong to do something that is against God’s law.  It is so extremely dangerous to be telling ourselves we do not need to repent because it isn’t wrong or that we are going to “do it anyway” because we’ll receive forgiveness later.

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

God’s offer of forgiveness, mercy, and grace is such good news to us because we can be free from that silencing of our conscience (which I believe is written on our hearts). We can break free from that and have our hardened hearts removed and replaced with a heart of flesh (Ezk. 36:26). We need to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23) from anything that can harden it against God’s laws and the Spirit and keep us from feeling conviction of wrong-doing. When something unhealthy to your Christian walk tempts you, it is YOUR JOB (our job) to guard against it. That is your (our) responsibility and it requires daily and constant action on your (our) part. Recognize your unhealthy desires and wrongful motives or hardness of heart, and look to the word of God for the truth. (It’s sets you free, you know, John 8:32!)

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 14:23

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

We can find such joy and contentment from living life by living with the right intentions out of a clean and pure heart. Don’t harden your heart against God’s clear laws and what we know to be right and wrong. Your character comes from your heart, “For as one thinks in their heart, so are they” (Proverbs 23:7).

So, you must take responsibility for setting your heart on godly things and turning your heart towards God and his law. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:23). Invest your time, money, energy into things that please God. Seriously!

Don’t let your emotions, wants, or own desires turn you away from God’s laws and what you know is right and true. If you do this, then God will provide you with lasting contentment that only comes from when we set our hearts on him. Remember, Psalm 37:4 says “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”  That doesn’t mean He will give you whatever you desire, for “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Take delight in the Lord, and His commandments, keep to them, turn your heart away from selfish gain and worthless things and He will restore, rekindle, and reignite your desires in your heart for Him and his laws (Psalm 119:20).

“My soul is consumed with longing for your laws at all times.” Psalm 119:20