I enjoyed an intense time of study and fellowship this past week. I spent most days (all day) in an intensive residence period with a small group of preachers from across the country examining the Exposition of Luke. Preachers from Georgia, Tennessee, Colorado, California, Oklahoma, Montana, and Arkansas built on preparatory research and reading of hundreds of pages as we learned from experienced professors/preachers/disciples. I attended an evening campus ministry interest meeting where a campus ministry discussed the challenges and joys of helping college students find meaning and salvation through Christ. On Sunday, I taught a Call for Fire session at Osceola, Arkansas, Church of Christ and preached the parable of the Good Samaritan. On Tuesday, I heard my friend Robert Perez speak about the parable of the Dishonest Judge after I led the songs “In His Presence” and “From Every Stormy Wind.” The latter song encouraged me while we sang. The last six weeks have been an emotional rollercoaster in which I have realized the truth of these words by Hugh Stowell about prayer:
“From ev’ry stormy wind that blows,
From ev’ry swelling tide of woes,
There is a calm a sure retreat;
Tis found beneath the mercy-seat.
There is a place where Jesus sheds
The oil of gladness on our heads,
A place than all besides more sweet;
It is the blood-bought mercy-seat.
There is a scene where spirits blend,
Where friend holds fellowship with friend;
Tho sundered far; by faith they meet
Around one common mercy-seat
Ah! There on eagle’s wings we soar,
And sin and sense molest no more,
And heav’n comes down our sous to great,
And glory crowns the mercy-seat.”
As I write, sleet and snow fall outside; a frigid stormy wind blows. My safety and warmth as I write reminds me of the confidence I gain as a disciple of Jesus when I praise, when I ask, when I confess, when I lament in prayer. This last week, my prayers ascended with others from our small community of scholars, reminding me that even when life seems lonely I am surrounded by caring brothers and sisters in Christ and cheered on a by “a great cloud of witnesses” who have gone before (Hebrews 12:1-3).
Sustainer of life, you are the God who stills the storm. We ask that you inspire faith and turn hearts towards you. Open doors of opportunity for your frustrated servants. Comfort us as we grieve. Protest as we travel and work. Reward our study with recognition of saving truth. Thank you for friends who encourage but also rebuke. They keep us strong. Thank you for your love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.