Friday, May 31, 2013

In the Sifter

"Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift all of you as wheat.” Luke 22:31.  I still have a sifter in my pantry, but since the advent of pre-sifted flour, I rarely use it.  The purpose of this device, for you younger folks, is to separate the hard bits of flour or other dry ingredients, from the rest.  No one wants to bite into a cupcake and get a mouthful of flour or baking soda!

 In this particular verse, just before his crucifixion, Jesus is warning Peter, and the rest of the disciples, that Satan has approached God with the request to test or sift them, not unlike he did with Job. Judas has already been sifted, and is about to do Satan’s bidding.  The enemy is feeling fine indeed; one down, eleven to go. Peter is considered to be the voice the group, and we all know how he replied, swearing allegiance till death.  We also know how badly that turned out. Peter became a lump.

When flour is lumpy it’s usually caused my insufficient milling, stray chaff, or moisture.  In Peter’s case, Satan‘s goal was “not to change him into chaff, but to make him look like chaff, by covering the wheat of grace with the chaff of sin and corruption; to destroy the wheat, or to toss them to and fro as wheat is in a sieve; that is, to afflict and distress him; see Amos 9:9 by scattering him both from Christ, and from the other disciples; by filling him with doubts about Jesus being the Messiah and Redeemer: and by frightening him with the fears of enemies and of death.” (Gills Exposition of the Entire Bible).   This was the guy who had actually been with Jesus, and he was left in the sifter; what chance do we have? Well, crazy as it may seem the Bible tells us this, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2.  OK, so maybe not joy in the conventional sense, but every trial gives us an opportunity to become less lumpy.  Satan doesn’t bother the lumps he already owns, so that should make you feel special!

 Going back to the opening verse, Jesus follows it up with this one.   “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32.  Thank God, we have Jesus covering us in prayer, especially during those tough times in the sifter.  In addition, our new found “lump-less-ness” will give strength and encouragement to all those facing similar trials!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

God's Scales

Poor old Job, what did he ever do to deserve all the trials and sorrows he suffered through?  Has there ever been anyone as scrupulous in keeping a solid, balanced relationship with God, as this man?  In fact he went overboard, making it a regular custom to offer extra burnt sacrifices, just in case his children had sinned. Job, in this passage, realizes something is unbalanced as he runs through a mental checklist, asking God to put his life on the scales.  He never lusted after women; was never unjust or veered off the path of righteousness, and certainly held God in the highest esteem.

In the case of Job, the tragedies that befell him, were allowed by God.  If you recall the story, a group of angels came to present themselves to the Lord, one day, and Satan tagged along. God bragged on his man Job, but our crafty enemy convinced God to give him the authority to test him.  God agreed,  giving Satan the right to touch everything Job had, but not the man himself.  The rest of the tale of woe is sadly familiar to us.  He loses everything, children, flocks, and servants, but never his faith.  Finally, Job was subjected to sores in his own flesh, but still he held on, praising God through it all!!  His so-called friends, and even his wife told him to curse God and die - but he couldn’t and wouldn’t.  In the end, God intervened and restored to this precious man all that he had lost, and more.

 Let’s face it, there are times when we feel kind of like Job.  We’re living our lives in a god-pleasing way,  and whammo out of nowhere comes sickness, death, loss of employment, even a tornado.  Does that mean God is angry with us, and this is our punishment?  Take heart, if he wants to straighten you out, he will, but this is different.  Like Job, and countless others who have lived though trials, God has a blessing in store for the faithful.  His scale will not only tip in our favor, but in abundance.  Remember, no one gets through life unscathed, not even God’s own son.  “Honest scales and balances belong to the LORD; all the weights in the bag are of his making.” Proverbs 16:11.

This is my 300th blog!!  Woo Hoo!! Hope they are as much a blessing to you, as they are to me!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Spiritual Weeds

I have to admit, I’m going to miss the bright yellow wild mustard, and mini-daisies that have been growing in the field outside my kitchen window; but they are, after all, weeds. Today, the mighty John Deere tractor roared in and plowed them under. The farmer will soon spray herbicide on the brown earth, insuring that they won’t return.  Well, some of them won’t, but a few hardy ones will muster the strength to pop up, annoying said farmer!

It’s funny how we can get mighty used to the weeds in our own personal fields. as well.  Meaningless things that take up our time, and draw us away from purposeful, God-centered work. Just like those “pretty” weeds suck up the nutrients in the soil, keeping it from being productive, so too does idle and useless behavior.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about periods of rest, God knows we need that time,  but prolonged lethargy that can even lead to sin…the idle mind is the Devil’s playground after all!  Think back to King David, the apple of God’s eye, but he was lounging around the castle, when he should have been out on the battlefield, he saw Bathsheba and the rest is history.  Paul warned the Thessalonians when he wrote, “We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.” 2 Thess. 3:11.

From the get-go, in Genesis, God told Noah, and Adam before him, “ Now as for you, be productive and multiply; spread out over the land and multiply throughout it." Genesis 9: 7. He meant this not only in the reproductive sense, but also in the working of the ground, and tending His kingdom. So, how does your field look?  I know mine could use lots of cleaning up, and if I don’t do it, God will. “"Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots.” Matthew 15:13.  Let’s face it, we all have a great attachment to our “weeds”, but they don’t make for a bounteous harvest.  So, pull on your leather gloves, and get busy, your garden will thank you for it!  “So let's not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don't give up.” Galatians 6:9.

The Wall-less Church

On a beautiful Sunday in May, some family members including my 5 year old grand daughter, Ella, took a ride on this customized bus.  What fun to cruise through the Missouri countryside, right up-close to grazing cattle, tall leafy trees, and rock lined creeks.  Nature’s majesty was completely visible. Ella was having a blast, but finally, after thinking about it, she asked, “Where are the walls?”  On a regular school bus, walls are a necessity to keep the weather out, and the kids in.

 Walls, in general, are a good thing, but when it comes to the body of Christ, the church, they can get in the way.  The earliest Christians met wherever they could; in homes, on the temple porticoes, and under trees. If actual walls were in place, they never were meant to keep people out. It was, in fact, Jewish custom to welcome everyone into your home, doors were rarely locked. Remember this story? “A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume.” Luke 7:37.  Anyone could enter, even sinners, the church was accessible, and its activities were never hidden from onlookers.  The purpose was to encourage unbelievers to hear the gospel, enter and hopefully become believers.

Over the centuries, however, the church started the wall building process. Maybe it was motivated by fear, or the desire for exclusivity, but certain man-made requirements, customs and traditions like heavy bricks, were laid in place. As time went on, instead of being a place to gather, learn and worship the living God, it became more like an unapproachable, exclusive private club.  I think it’s time we step back, and ask God to show us his vision of the “wall-less” church.  We live in dangerous and godless times.  God isn’t welcome behind the walls of our government, schools and sadly even some churches.  In the future, God will say, “Enough is enough”, and close the doors and put up a wall himself. Let’s not leave anyone outside. When the master of the house has locked the door, it will be too late. You will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Lord, open the door for us!' But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' Luke 13:25.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

God's Waiting Room

While on one of my beloved photo road trips, I came across this barber shop.  The whole place was a museum of sorts dating back to the early 1970s.  Joe, the proprietor, was pleased to share the history of the place with me.  I doubt anything has changed inside those walls in over 40+ years, including this waiting area. You know I’m going somewhere with this, right?  God planted the word, “wait“, in my meditation garden, so I decided to dig around a bit.   I discovered that wait is used quite liberally ( 223 times) in scripture, both old and new testaments. Here are a two examples: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14. “But if we look forward to something we don't yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.” Romans 8:25. I have a love/hate relationship with these verses, because waiting is not my strong suit.

We’ve all had earthly waiting room experiences.  There are the anxious/fearful moments when we wait for medical test results. Exhilarating waits for a new grandchild to be born; anticipating waits for an airplane to arrive and fly you to Europe, or nervous waits to receive your driver’s license. Waits can be boring, scary, nerve-wracking or joyful, it all depends on what we’re waiting for.   Everyday is a waiting room experience. In our Christian lives we often wonder why we must wait , especially after we‘ve prayed about it.

OK, so what‘s with this waiting thing?  As I see it from my own life, and from the lives of biblical “waiters“, God has his reasons for waiting, and, no, exasperation is not one of them, but developing and preparing us are.  Remember Abraham and Sarah? God had promised them a child, and future generations through that child, but they had to wait. They were patient at first, but later jump started God’s perfect plan with their own, and we all know how that worked.

As difficult as it is, waiting develops patience, trust and a deeper understanding of God.  So, what should we be doing while we wait?  Be active, not passive. Do something with the time, other than thumb twiddling; read his book, encourage others waiting with you, keep busy working.  Look ahead and not around you; prepare for the future, after you leave the waiting room.   Let’s face it, waiting is a part of our life in Christ, get used to it and make it productive…you will be rewarded!   “…but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. Teach me Lord to wait!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Topsy Turvy

When something is upside down, inverted or out of its usual or natural state we often use the term topsy turvy to describe it. This picture I took of raindrops on a clothes line shows the trees in my yard in a topsy turvy position.  The trees show up in an inverted state because of a process known as refraction. Basically whenever light changes the media its traveling through, in this case from air to water, it refracts or bends.  Without getting into the physics of this phenomenon, suffice it to say that when light passes through the water things get topsy turvy.

 I like to think of this same thing happening when God employs his supernatural powers here on earth.  He is pure light, “This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all.” 1 John 1:15.  Heck, he created light, and water, rocks, sky, people, well, you get the picture. He is the LIGHT source.  When God’s light enters our environment, we humans stand and scratch our heads, because his actions seem to be upside down.

 Take for example this whole grace thing.  By the sin of one man, Adam, sin and death entered the world.  We all agree on that point.  Now, how would little, human you fix this problem? Work it out, punishment, eternal servitude, invoke the statute of limitations?  Those sound like right side up solutions, from our unrefracted viewpoint.  But no, that’s not what happened.  His light came into terra firma in the person of Jesus, and by this one man’s death, not only was sin forgiven, but spiritual death abolished!  That doesn’t make sense to us, especially since we did nothing to deserve it….it’s topsy turvy grace!

While researching refraction, I read that a number of scientists, over the years, have fitted themselves with refracting glasses.  They saw the world upside down, but crazy as it may seem, after a while the effect reversed, in fact when they took them off then the world was inverted!  “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts," says the LORD. "And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.” Isaiah 55:8.  Oh, how I long to put on a pair of those kind of glasses, and see what God wants me to see. Well the good news is, we can! Make it a habit to get into his word, it may see topsy turvy at first, but the more you the read and meditate, the more right side up He will become!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What a Difference an Act Makes!

All of us have had the opportunity to see a stage play, at one time or the other. Usually they are divided into 2 acts.  Act 1 introduces the characters, and builds the plot.  Then there is the intermission, where you muse on what will happen in the 2nd act, use the restrooms and eat snacks. As the curtain rises on the Act 2, there is a high level of anticipation as the actors bring the story to a crescendo, and finally draw it all together at the end.

Let’s try to think of the life of the church, in the book of Acts, in these same theatrical terms.  Act(s) 1 reminds us of the 3 years from the time Jesus began his public ministry, until his death, resurrection and ascension. Luke, the author, recalls the 4 gospels and the characters of the developing disciples. We also remember Jesus in action; training, teaching, healing, encouraging and preparing them for Act 2 when he would no longer be physically with them.  Naturally, like the play’s audience, they were uncertain, and afraid of their future in the next act. Jesus assures them, about what will come, by saying, “ I am telling you these things now while I am still with you. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” John 14: 25-26.

Fast forward to Jesus’ ascension, and this next period we will consider the intermission.  We find the eleven disciples congregating in the upper room, their lobby, wondering what to do next.  Without their leader, and before the arrival of the Advocate, all they could think to do was tidy up some loose ends, by choosing a replacement for Judas, and looking forlornly to the clouds. There is no script for them to follow during this time between the Acts. But, 50 days after the Passover, was the Jewish celebration of Pentecost. Jerusalem was once again brimming with devout people, bringing in an offering  from their first crop to God. Wasn’t that convenient.  God sure knows how to draw a crowd to witness his magnificence! And with this setting, the curtain goes up on Act 2.    “On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. And everyone present was filled with the Holy Spirit and began speaking in other languages, as the Holy Spirit gave them this ability.” Acts 2: 1-4.  Wow, step aside Andrew Lloyd Webber, talk about bringing it all together, the Holy Spirit takes center stage for all to see!  What an amazing difference.  Once frightened men boldly glorifying God in a way that everyone present could understand.  This was a finale worthy of a standing ovation, but in actuality, it was just the beginning.

Where do you find yourself in God’s production?  Still being spoon-fed in Act(s) 1, twiddling your thumbs in the lobby, or boldly empowered by the Holy Spirit in Act(s) 2?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Esther's Time

“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14.

The old testament book of Esther is one of my favorites.  It has something for everyone.  Romance, political intrigue, espionage, sexual and religious conflicts, and glimpses of royal lifestyles. It all begins with  King Xerxes being embarrassed, in front of his friends, by the actions of his Queen, Vashti.  Her behavior could not be condoned, so the search was on for her replacement. A royal decree went out to find a suitable, beautiful young virgin, one who would please the King. Esther was one of the loveliest damsels in all the kingdom, and the King chose her from all the “contestants“.  He set her up with maids, eunuchs, a year of beauty treatments and special food.  Talk about all-inclusive, this gig had everything!

Xerxes was not Jewish, in fact a Jewish woman would never have made the cut, but Esther had failed to tell them her nationality.  What ensues is amazing.  I won’t give away the details, because I want you to read them for yourselves, but suffice it to say that the Jews found themselves in a real “Kosher pickle“.  Esther was the inside woman, and her cousin Mordecai, whom I have quoted here, made it clear to her that she had a God-given opportunity to help her people.  But, even if she refused, God would get the job done. I strongly believe that God puts us all in situations where our actions can make a huge difference for his kingdom.  Are we aware of them?  How do we react? Esther trusted that God could use her effectively, do you feel the same?

The next time you feel that urging from God, remember that this could be your time at bat.  Don’t shirk away from His calling, instead, let him empower you for “such a time as this!”  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Fully Developed

When I was in grade school, our class sold flower and vegetable seeds as a fundraiser.  For some reason, maybe the pretty red color,  I bought a packet of radish seeds.  Every morning I’d run out to the garden to check for signs of growth.  My dad had told me it would take a couple of weeks, but I couldn’t wait.  As the green tops appeared, I’d scrape away the loose soil to spy on the tiny developing fruit. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer, and pulled one out.  I put it back, but alas, it died.  Once it was removed, and it’s root formation was disturbed, it failed.  I could hear my father saying, “I told you so”, so I didn’t tell him.

 So many times we want to rush things along, but God knows better.  Take the beautiful poppy.  Each spring I look for their hairy leaves and buds.  That little kid in me still wants to peek, by opening them up just a bit, but I wait.  Slowly, the beauty within pushes through, without my help, until the fully developed flouncy flower arrives.

Waiting is not an easy thing for most of us.  The apostle Paul knew what it felt like to  wait.  He had brought the gospel to so many people, but it was agonizing to watch them mature, he likened it to labor. “Oh, my dear children! I feel as if I'm going through labor pains for you again, and they will continue until Christ is fully developed in your lives.” Galatians 4:19.  A pregnant woman longs for the day when she holds her baby in her arms, but she doesn’t want that child to be born until his/her due date.  Like that mother, God is eagerly, but patiently is waiting for us to reach maturity in Christ.  Each of us develops on our own God-given time schedule, as long as we stay rooted.  Don’t get discouraged when you see others maturing more quickly, and whatever you do, Don’t peek!! .

Thursday, May 16, 2013

God For Strength

Why do you “go to church”?  Habit, fear of hell, family tradition/pressure, social acceptability?  Sadly, these are the reasons many people would give, if they were truthful about it.  One person told me they go because, “I’m weak, and human“.  I likened it to  taking vitamins everyday, it made sense. Then God shared this with me: If you went to a gym, worked out everyday, and took supplements, shouldn’t your physical body become stronger?  Hmm, that God, can’t argue with his logic. I think what the “weak” human was trying to say was, they had certain habits, vices, sins, call them what you will, that they didn’t want to part with, even though they knew God didn’t approve.  So, to offset the imbalance, they went to church, convincing themselves that, God would be so pleased to see them there, He would nod, wink his approval, and look the other way, letting them keep their weakness. Problem is, that’s not how God operates.  God doesn’t want us to stay weak and puny, He wants us to grow strong in Him.  Going to church should change us, if not it’s like going to the gym for an hour, standing, motionless, on the treadmill, and dusting off the dumb bells. Muscle mass doesn’t develop like that, and neither does our spiritual body.  It’s not easy to get up and exercise, or eat a healthy diet daily, you have to put yourself into it, but the results are worth it.  If you’re experiencing spiritual weakness, ask God to give you the desire to get into his word, and it will pump you up.  Our human weaknesses can, and must, be overcome, that‘s what really pleases God.  Those who make regular visits to his gym, will build spiritual muscle. Besides, who would willingly choose weakness over strength? “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:15

Friday, May 10, 2013

Words, Words, Words

Dr. Louann Brizendine, clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco states in ``The Female Brain" that ``A woman uses about 20,000 words per day while a man uses about 7,000." I’m sure that varies, I know that I’m married to verbal overachiever!  But I digress, the point I want to make today is,  we talk a lot, and the quantity of words isn't as important as the quality!!  Some of our words are silly and useless, others beneficial and encouraging while what remains can range from vindictive to loving, and everything in between.  

Jesus, when speaking to a group of Pharisees said this; “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  On occasion, we can plan for our words to be pleasing, but then there are the times we get cut off in traffic, or someone really ticks you off, and well, let’s just say, they’re not so sweet.  What’s inside us at the time comes out, be it good or bad.  Suppose it was possible to receive  a transcript of your daily conversations.  How many of those words would reflect the God nature that’s supposed to be alive within us?  Are you cringing yet?  I sure am!  God has given us his Holy Spirit to guide our communication, but are we allowing it to function fully on a daily basis? Keep that transcript in mind. “Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.” Ecclesiastes 5:2 Don’t worry, nobody is perfect, but we sure can improve, and God, through King David reminds us of that in this Psalm. “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dandelion Appreciation

Scrolling through Facebook the other day, one of my friends, sorry I’ve forgotten who, had posted this comment. They, and their 5 year old, had been driving by a huge field of puff-ball dandelions, when the child turned to his mother and said, “Wow, Mom, that‘s a lot of wishes!”  Leave it to an innocent youngster to see the beauty, and promise in what most of us would consider a bunch of pesky weeds.

God must have had a plan when he put these hardy plants on the earth.  In fact there is a page on FB you might want to check out, Dandelion Appreciation Day, which will be celebrated on May 11th, Really!!  Here is a quote I lifted from the site; "Used as medicinal and edible, the Dandelion is very nutritious, having more vitamins and minerals than most vegetables, it has a long history of use as a food in many countries. The young leaves are less bitter, and flowers are eaten raw in salads, all leaves also cooked or boiled as a pot herb, flowers are often dipped in batter and fried, dried roots are used as a coffee substitute. Herbal Wine is made from fermented flowers said by some to be very flavorful and medicinal." [Alternative Nature Online Herbal]  Of course, all we can think of is eradicating the noxious herb, and yet despite being dug up and doused with Round Up their cheery yellow heads reappear!

 I think the non-believing world considers Christians to be human dandelions.  Ever since Christ walked the world, they’ve been trying to get rid of us, but on we go.  I think the reason, for the persecution, lies in the fact that unbelievers have no idea of the value contained within Christianity, not unlike the dandelion. Take for example this promise; “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, (within reason, and God‘s will) and it will be done for you.” John 15:7. Talk about making a wish on a dandelion, God assures us that whatever we “wish” IT WILL BE DONE!! So let the doubters try to remove us, we, who love and serve God, are solidly rooted. Make a wish!!!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Legend of the Dogwood

I love the colors of spring, and the reappearance of flowers and flowering trees.  Red buds, forsythia, magnolia and the lovely dogwood. Many years ago, during this beautiful season, when life awakens from its long winter slumber, a legend arose concerning the dogwood and its blossoms. I thought today would be a perfect time to share it with you.

At the time of Our Lord’s Crucifixion, the dogwood used to have the size of the oak and other forest trees. Because the wood was so firm and strong and there were few trees in the Middle East that were very large, it was chosen to be the wood for the crosses used in crucifixions of criminals. Thus, the wood of the cross that would bear Our Lord and Savior was made from the dogwood tree. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose, however, greatly distressed the tree. Sensing this, the crucified Christ said to it: “Because of your compassion and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth, you shall be slender and bent and twisted and your blossoms shall be in the form of a cross. “On the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, and the center of the flower will resemble the cruel crown of thorns placed on My head, with bright red clusters once again recalling the blood I shed. Thus, all who see this will remember Me.”

 In our jaded age, most people don’t look for the Creator in creation, but back when this was written, they did.  The delicate flowers reminded them in a sweet, simple way of the glory of the cross. The next time you walk out your back door, or take a hike through the woods, look around you and see God. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” Romans 1:20.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Attaining Spiritual Maturity

My little grandson, Ian, is just 5 weeks old, at this point his tiny, immature body, and all its systems are still developing. He is very susceptible to common illnesses that barely affect his older siblings.  As “infant” Christians, we too can fall victim to spiritual “diseases“. These maladies include falling back on our old sinful natures, or being tricked into believing false teachings.  As a baby must be cared for, fed, and clothed by his parents, we too need to grow under the equipping influence of the Church.

Christ instituted ministries within the church family to assist in our maturation process. “Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ. Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” Ephesians 4:11-16.

It’s easy to think, that just because we attend church services, we are mature.  Wrong!  A baby doesn’t turn into an adult overnight, so too our spiritual development takes time, encouragement and obedience. If you keep catching a “bug” it’s time to check and see if your systems are at the maturity level God requires.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Seeing Through God's Eyes

As I looked out across the rain-saturated fields this morning, I found it hard to visualize them green and fruitful.  I knew that God’s promise of abundance was still in place, but all my humanness could see was barrenness. How quickly we can lose heart, and faith, when we believe only what our eyes show us.  Opening my Bible to the book of Romans, I began to read about Abraham.  God had promised, this man of faith, that he would be father to many nations. Despite the fact that he was 100 years old and his childless wife, Sarah, was well beyond her childbearing years, he believed God.  His eyes showed him only 2 dried-up, old bodies, but through his steadfast belief, God revealed to him his future. “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Romans 4:13.

 In bookkeeping terms, God took Abraham’s faith and credited to his “account” as righteousness.  The law only points out sin, but faith makes us right with God.  What do your eyes behold today;  Hopelessness, sickness, unhappy relationships, or soggy fields? Don’t believe them!  Let’s choose today to be strengthened in faith like Abraham, and ask God to show us the truth through his eyes.

“In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Romans 4:18-25.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Choose Wisely

I was listening to  Billy Joel’s, “Only the Good Die Young“, recently. The lyrics go like this.  “They say there's a heaven for those who will wait, Some say it's better but I say it ain't...I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, the sinners are much more fun, only the good die young…” Our culture wants people to believe that Hell is going to be a place where all the cool, fun people will gather.  Singing, partying, just a continuation of the good life they had on earth.

  The story of Lazarus and the rich man paints a much different picture. “"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died, and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died, and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' "But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' Luke 16:19-31. 

 The saddest part of this story is that the rich man was forced to see what he missed, every day, for eternity.  I think he could get used to the agony of Hell, but never the thought that he could only blame himself for missing out on paradise. Don’t buy into the party myth.  Remember, too, that those in Heaven will not be able to see those in Hell, even loved ones. Do you know any “rich men“, or are you a “rich man”? Choose wisely. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

God is Mindful of Us!

While messing around with my new macro lens this morning, I was amazed to see the clarity and minute details that it captured.  Microscopic dew drops, tiny insects and the myriad of hidden from the human eye minutiae of creation. It took my breath away to see a world of wonder that I had previously stepped on and ignored. In the pecking order of earthly creatures, we humans think quite highly of ourselves. We’re bigger and smarter, and didn’t the Bible say that we have dominion over everything?  It’s easy to see how mankind has gotten a pretty big head.

 But, let’s step back for a moment, and put human life in perspective. In comparison to the vastness of the universe we wouldn’t even be visible through a macro lens.  This theme has been repeated through out scripture, take for example King David’s query in Psalm 144:3. “O LORD, what are human beings that you should notice them, mere mortals that you should think about them?”

There will always be those who see God as mean, detached and constantly hurling down pain and suffering on man, but I disagree…strongly!!  Why He even became one of us to experience life from our perspective.  What other “god” is like our God?  And would an unfeeling deity give his human life in ransom for unimportant one?  I think not.  True, we may be dinky, when compared to the universe, but we are huge, and beautiful in his eyes

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Sweetly Fragrant

“It’s May, it’s May, the lovely month of May…” Ah yes, the sweetness of May, a month filled to the brim with hope.  Hope for garden-fresh produce, warm sunshiny days, summer vacation, bright clothing and flip-flops.  Sure, there may be a few cool, rainy days yet, but I feel so confident that they are behind us, I’ve packed away my dreary winter duds.

My condolences to all of you who suffer from hay fever and allergies, because one of the greatest joys of this season are the flowers and blooming plants.  Each balmy breeze is perfumed with the delicate scents of lilac, lily of the valley and apple blossom. If Heaven has a fragrance, this must be it! Last year I missed my lilacs, because we were in England, so they smell extraordinarily sweet today!  I’ve been watching their progress for some time now.  They set their buds quite early, and several times I feared the ice and frost would kill them. But this weekend they began to slowly open, releasing that inimitable perfume only when fully in bloom.  They won’t last long, so I greedily savor every deep sniff.  

You know, God says that we, as Christians, are a sweet fragrance. “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God.” 2 Corinthians 2:15.  Our lives, to all we come in contact with, should be like the light, subtle scent of lilacs, never heavy and overpowering, but lingering and unforgettable.  In such a way, people will be drawn to us, desiring to inhale the sweetness we exude, in a sin-stinky world.  Have you caught a whiff of yourself lately?  Is it pleasant and inviting, or fetid and offensive.  Today, let’s allow God to do everything he can to bring us to full, fragrant bloom.