Apr 28

We Win

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Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she

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Always with you--hands grasping

“A few years ago several friends and I threw a surprise birthday party for a dear friend who had experienced several difficulties over the past several years. She had lost dear family members and gone through a painful divorce. Each time I saw her she had a pained look on her face, but she did her best to be positive and not complain. We planned the party for months, and when the big night came we all crammed ourselves into a room at a local restaurant where she thought she would be dining with a friend. We had a huge birthday cake aflame with candles. When she came through that door and we all yelled, “Surprise!” and then sang happy birthday, tears flowed down her cheeks. It was a beautiful sight. The pain of recent years faded in this moment of glory. She knew she was loved, and she glowed.

That is the image we need to see when reading Colossians 3:4. On the day when Jesus takes us in his arms, our life will be celebrated. It may be at our moment of death, or it may be in this life, should he return before our earthly life ends. But that day will come. We can be certain. Not because of what we have done or deserved, but because Christ, who is our very life, gets the last word.

Till then, we must remind ourselves each day that we win. It makes all the difference. There is nothing we will face today—illness, loss, divorce, death—that will not be overcome in the final victory of Jesus. And this is not wishful thinking.

Jesus’ resurrection secured this reality. If he rose from the dead, can he not also subdue all creation in final victory? The whole of the cosmos—the cosmos he himself made—will fall back into his hands and under his reign. It is a certainty. He won, and because we are in him, we win.”

Soul Training– Reflect on or memorize Revelation 7:16-17 today.

“Never again will they hunger;

never again will they thirst.

The sun will not beat down on them,

nor any scorching heat.

For the Lamb at the center of the throne

will be their shepherd;

‘he will lead them to springs of living water.

‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’

 

Taken from Hidden in Christ by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2013 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com


Dr. James Bryan Smith (M.Div., Yale University Divinity School; DMin Fuller Seminary) is the Executive Director of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith is currently a theology professor at Friends University, in Wichita, Kansas, and an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. He is the author of eight books, most notably The Apprentice Series (InterVarsity Press), which continue to shape the work of the Apprentice Institute. Dr. Smith’s other titles include Devotional Classics (with Richard J. Foster), Embracing the Love of God, Room of Marvels, and Hidden in Christ.

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Feb 25

Communion in a Corral

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Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945 This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his

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Near Bamburg, Germany, Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945

This story about my father was written many years ago by Bob King, a World War II veteran. The Rev. Rowland A. Koskamp volunteered to be a chaplain in 1943 so that when the men in his congregation came home from war, he would understand what they had gone through. He was captured in France in December, 1943 when he stayed behind to assist some injured soldiers as his unit retreated. He was taken to a prisoner of war camp in Hammelburg, Germany. In April of 1945 the camp was liberated.  Because there were not enough trucks, most of the men began walking the 90 miles to Nurnberg accompanied by German troops. Here is Bob’s story.  

Rowland Koskamp was “every man’s preacher.” He was the sort of person who gave courage and confidence to his friends and all others who came into contact with him during our time as POW’s. He calmed the griper, supported the downer, let it be known that our present circumstance was only a temporary setback, and that there is a caring God who is concerned and offers eternity to those who call upon him.

Easter morning!  We were on our trek for about a week with early mornings on the road.  Usually we were placed in barns where we would spend the night.  Rowland had requested that Easter morning be spent at the same farm in which we had spent the night before so that those who wished to could attend an early morning worship service.

Those of us who wanted to attend a service were taken by the guards to a nearby corral. I was one of the last into the corral, and I was standing at the rear of the group. Just before Rowland’s first words, the German Colonel in charge of the group of 300 prisoners entered the corral, closed the gate and stood next to me.  He did not establish eye contact, and I thought that, perhaps, he had come for security purposes.

Rowland’s message was first about the meaning of Easter, the historical event and its meaning to Christians.  Then he delivered a powerful sermon on man’s inhumanity to man and the need for people to overcome petty human concerns and to serve God and one another.  The Colonel, standing beside me, was in nearly constant movement as he almost imperceptibly twitched and dug his toes into the mud of the corral.

Always a very innovative and thoughtful man, Rowland had saved his bread ration for a few days and had somehow obtained a bottle of wine in the war-torn countryside.  So after the sermon he led us in a communion service.  First after the words of institution, he passed part of a loaf of dark bread.  Each broke off a piece and passed the bread along. The Colonel accepted the bread from me, broke off a piece, and passed it along.  When all had been served, we took partook of the bread together.  Then the bottle of wine was passed and each of us, including the Colonel, took a sip and passed the bottle along.  To me it was an extremely meaningful time, especially as I shared the loaf and the wine with a man who was our enemy.

This deeply moving experience occurred on the last Sunday on earth for Rowland and the Colonel.  They were both killed the following Thursday by American B-17 fighter planes who, unaware of the movements of the liberated POW’s bombed a near-by railroad station.  The bodies of the chaplain and the colonel were found not far from each other.

Another soldier reported seeing the German colonel standing at attention during the bombing. An American chaplain was sent to secure the dog tags from the bodies of the dead and came to one that read Rowland A. Koskamp. He says he quickly dropped the tag, reached for the soldier’s shirt collar, saw his chaplain’s cross, and said a prayer for his wife and little daughter. My father was 29 when he died in service to his God and his country.  I was 3.

Although Rowland Koskamp is buried in France, his chaplain’s cross was sent to my mother.  She had it made into a ring which she wore it for dozens of years and then gave to me.  I also wore it for dozens of years. It now lives in the box that contains his bronze star and purple heart, a tarnished relic (in the religious sense of the word) of a life that was lived in the unshakable Kingdom of God here and coming, and the influence that sacrificed life had on hundreds of soldiers – and on the daughter he only knew as an infant.*

A Response to this story from James Bryan Smith

I really loved reading this moving story submitted by our dear fellow apprentice, Karen Bables.  I was deeply touched by the part about “enemies” taking communion together.  It reminded me anew how the Cross and Resurrection unites a community that cannot be divided.  As I wrote about in The Good and Beautiful Community, we are peculiar people because we are people in whom Christ dwells and delight, and that unity in Christ is the tie that binds us all in Christian love.  So often we struggle to stay together in our communities because of minor disagreements; we so easily divide over trivial differences of opinion.   This story reminded me that “in Christ there is no Jew nor Greek, barbarian or Scythian, German or American, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

 

Karen Bables is a wife, mother, and grandmother living in Holland, Michigan.  Recently retired, she now spends her time writing.  She blogs at www.livingasapprentices.com.

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Jan 21

Learning to Trust God at a Christian House Party

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I met a pastor from England whose own story beautifully illustrates what it means to trust God as our Father. I asked Carl how he came to be a Christian. He said that when he was growing up he seldom went to church. He was

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I met a pastor from England whose own story beautifully illustrates what it means to trust God as our Father.

I asked Carl how he came to be a Christian. He said that when he was growing up he seldom went to church. He was very close with his dad, though.

When he was fourteen, his father died in a tragic accident at work, which completely shattered Carl’s life. To numb his pain, he started getting into a lot of fights at school and soon was abusing alcohol. But nothing seemed to work.

When Carl was seventeen a friend invited him to what Carl thought was a party, complete with binge drinking, so he agreed.

It was actually a “Christian house party,” which is common in England and is more like a retreat. People go to a big home and hang out for a few days of conversation, worship and recreation. When he found out, it was too late to turn back. After the first two days he still felt bitter toward God.

But during a time of worship on the final day, Sunday morning, he heard a distinct voice that said, “I am your Father. Come to me.” Carl said he immediately began to sob, and for the first time since his father died his heart began to heal.

All of us have to face pain and difficulty, sometimes even tragedy.

As we come to know and draw close to the God Jesus knows, we find a new kind of strength to deal with our struggles. If we do not know God as our Abba Father, then we will never have the courage to face our problems.

But as we come to know the good and beautiful God that Jesus knows, our struggles take on a whole new meaning.

If God is truly good and is looking out for our good, then we can come to him with complete honesty. We can practice honesty when we pray – baring our soul and confronting those hurts that make us doubt God’s goodness by handing them over to him for healing.” 


Soul Training – Reflect on the following Bible passages:

Hebrews 4:16– “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” (NIV)

Ephesians 6:18– “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” (NIV)

 

Taken from The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith. Copyright(c) 2009 by James Bryan Smith. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, PO Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515. www.ivpress.com

**Featured Image Photo Credit: Embracing mistakes 1 by Matt Callow / CC BY-SA 2.0

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