Outpacing the Sun

Well, summer is officially at an end. School starts here at Our Savior this Monday.

I’ve seen a few social media posts from various folks noting how they can’t wait for their kids to get back to school. I’ve seen others from people with children who are dreading the return. They dread it because they enjoy having the kids home all day. They enjoy the sights and sounds, as well as the more leisurely pace when it comes to obligatory things. I’d have to agree. And to be quite honest, the week leading into each new school year, I always get a little anxious. For one thing, I think this happens because my awake time has already begun to outpace the sun and I know that it’ll be the same for the kids. What I mean is that for most of the year, I’m already awake and working well before the sun rises and I’m still at it long after the sun sets. It isn’t this way in the summer, and it’s as if the sun knows it. Leading along with a gentler pace, there are times when the rising sun through our bedroom windows is the first thing I see when I open my eyes. And it is at the end of a reasonable day from the step of my front porch that I see the sun beaming a goodbye stream on the western horizon, telling me it’s later than I think and urging me to bed, but also reminding me that it’ll be sure to wake me when it’s time.

It’s when I think of the ramped up and overly-busy schedules combined with the shorter days of Fall and Winter that I begin to get restless. I wonder how I’m going to do it all. Sometimes I find myself doing something that I’d be willing to bet you do, too. I begin segmenting my life into forward-looking timeframes. “Only forty-eight more days until All Saints Day,” I’ll say. Or perhaps I’ll whisper, “Only fifty-five days until Christmas.” I’ll do this throughout the year, knowing that when I arrive at each particular point, I’m that much closer to a time when the pace will lessen and the sun will once again greet me in my bed rather than after the morning school bell.

But there’s something else that hovers in the midst of all of this. In fact, no matter the time of year, it’s always there. It’s a short, caressing Word from Jesus to an anxious heart of worry:

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matthew 6:34).

The Lord preached these words to a group of Christians—folks like you and me—living in the trenches of a life filled with plenty of things about which to be concerned. He preached them having already offered a powerful Gospel of love—a good Word that delivered into their hearts the message that He is their Savior, that He has them well in hand, and will never fail. And so when I hear these words echoing in my anxious skull, they almost always come out of my mouth in the way that Saint Paul enunciated them to the church at Philippi: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:6-7).

You know what’s happening here in the midst of my worrisome state? The Holy Spirit is prodding my flesh and bones to know and acknowledge that I have a God who loves me. The proof is resident in the giving of His Son into death for my sins. He will carry me through both the times of leisure and the times of challenge.

I have nothing to fear. Period.

I pray the same peace for you and your family, that God would give to you a tranquil heart whenever you find yourself facing an uneasy moment. Trust Him. He is sure to provide all that you require. And I dare say that in comparison to the fiery ball around which our planet spins day after day after day, there is a much better Son who has risen, and by this, His time among us never sets. He never disappears over the horizon. His face is always shining on us. And with that, no matter the time of year, we can go to bed in peace and awake again in the same joy we had when we closed our eyes.

This Is Really Not Cool

What a joy it was to receive the proclamation of the Gospel from Pastor Heckert yesterday, even by way of the video. I hope that all in attendance were able to hear it well, and that they were edified by the love of Christ proclaimed through Pastor Heckert to the body of believers.

I’ll admit that I was concerned as to how well the sound would work in a room full of people. Even though I’d already spent a lot of time working with the audio stream in the video, I just didn’t feel comfortable with it. And then the unthinkable…

When I arrived at the church yesterday morning—right around 6:15 a.m.—I went into the nave and did one more test drive of the sermon in order to adjust the TV’s equalizer even if only a little more and I discovered that the video file wasn’t working as before. Somehow the file on the thumb drive that I had plugged into the Blu-ray player had become corrupted, and so the image was jittery and the audio was the same. I don’t know what happened, but it was what it was.

Needless to say, I started to sweat because while my video camera is pretty decent—recording in HD—it’s no small thing to convert the HD MTS video files it creates into MPEG-2 files we can watch on a DVD or Blu-ray player—which is the technology I was working with. Not to mention I would need to boost the audio and do some processing to remove a strange hissing sound that came out in the recording while we were at Pastor Heckert’s house. With the acoustics of our church, the hissing sound made the video almost unwatchable.

But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this.

Even as I started to worry, I knew I’d need to get in gear and start the whole process all over again. And so I prayed. It was a short prayer, one I said as I jogged back to my office. I think it went something like this: “Heavenly Father, this is really not cool. You’re gonna need to intervene here—big time—because I can only make my computer process at certain speeds and I don’t have much time. I’m in a mess. Help. Please. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

With that, I got to work on it right away, and after about an hour and a half, I had a video that, in my opinion, was far better than the first. Imagine that. In other words, what had unfolded as a nightmarish scenario, God used for good, and from it I believe a better, more easily viewed/heard sermon video was produced.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).

You know, Saint Paul’s words above apply to more than just last-minute crunches like the one I described. These words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cut to the heart of who we are in the midst of a fallen world. There’s plenty out there to cause us worry—sickness, messy finances, broken relationships, you name it—but God has given us a promise that He will hear our prayers, and He will act according to His good and gracious will, all of which leads to our salvation. That’s what Paul means here. In the midst of a cold world, God’s holy will for our eternal future will produce a peace like a super-heated fire burning in the furnace of our souls. It will warm us to the knowledge of His ever-present love—to the knowledge that He will always have a care for us. And what is that peace? It is the peace proclaimed by the angels to the shepherds in Bethlehem—peace between God and man, peace located in the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world.

My prayer to God for you this day is that no matter the challenges you may be facing—big or small—trust your Savior. Pray to Him. He loves you, and He love to listen to you. And whatever He does to help, just know that it will be worked for your good according to His will. That’s a peaceful thought. Actually, it’s more than a thought. It’s a powerful knowledge and reality worked by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel message. Hear it often. Receive it with joy, knowing that you mean so much to your God.