Friday, May 10, 2019

How Stupid are We ?

boy and girl answering questions on white paper
 "Let me help you"

I was reading Isaiah 28 and was captured by the words and thoughts of God expressed in verses 23-29.
My husband and I over breakfast talked about the gifting some people have - amazing abilities to play musical instruments or have some outstanding gifting in the field of art or science.

But reading this passage it made me realize that our tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably with those who seem 'divinely' gifted, is  really wrong.  Every one of us is divinely enabled and gifted to do life in our own uniquely designed way.

God speaks almost in a condescending sarcasm to bring this point home to us .  Sometimes that is the only way 'we get it' , isn't it ?

God says, "Listen to me .. lend me your ear ... hear what I am saying ... " 
When God repeats something three times , it must be important, - we need to pay attention!

God says, "The farmer that wants to plant seed, is he so stupid that he just keeps on plowing without knowing when to stop? Does he just keep turning the soil over and over ?" The obvious answer is 'no'.
God points out that the farmer knows when the soil is ready for the seed, and then he spreads the seed ,  each kind of seed in its 'appointed' place. A field of cummin, a field of wheat, a field of barley or a field of rye.
Everything done in a right order.
So how does man know to do this?   Is it not because God Himself gave him the enabling gift that itself teaches him?

God's goes on to point out the skills the farmer uses to harvest his crop. Does he thresh the black cummin with a threshing sledge?  No, of course not. It would be s stupid farmer who did not use the right instrument or tool  for the job needing to be done. 

I wonder ....  do you think that when we try to emulate someone else, when we try to copy what we admire in someone else, that we are, like the farmer using the wrong tool for the job?   Is that why we so often feel like we just don't measure up ?   Why we feel we are so 'less than' or we feel so inept at doing life and cannot find that satisfying place of worth?

We are so prone to value only the 'big' things --  monetary wealth, movie star fame,  CEO of a company, someone with university degrees,  a violin virtuoso ...  or a well-known musician or singer,  a brain surgeon, or scientist.
But if you examine anyone who fits in that list you will soon find that no one could ever reach the pinnacle of achievement or fame  without a whole lot of help from people who have other gifts and abilities.
Take for example the violin virtuoso,  what did they need to become who they are?
 A limited list would include,

  • a God-given gift 
  • someone skilled in crafting the instrument
  • care-givers who recognized and encouraged their gift, who made room for it by providing the finances needed 
  • teachers 
  • merchants who provided the necessities of life -- food, clothing etc.  - which of course includes the farmers, labourers, manufacturers who provide the merchants 
  • concert venues -- people who organize them 
  • people to provide means of travel to said concert invitations  and accommodation 
  • reporters, journalists who talk about their gift/ability to create awareness 
  • people who enjoy and attend their concerts or buy their recordings
I'm sure you get the picture  ...  No man is an island, and no person stands alone. No one is unimportant. - no one unneeded. 
I believe that only doing what God has gifted and enabled you to do will give you the satisfaction and contentment with life that everyone seeks.   If God calls you to be a bricklayer, you will  be much happier being the best bricklayer you can be than trying to fit yourself into the role of a real estate agent or banker or wishing you could have been a world famous surgeon.  

The bible is full of character stories - men and women and children - rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, righteous or not ... Yet looking at each of their stories we see how they either fulfilled God's purpose for them, or what happened when they decided to define their own purpose.  In every case only following God's purpose allowed  them to achieve their highest fulfillment!  

I love Wednesday mornings in our church -- when the women of Morning Break come together for fellowship, bible study and prayer.   We always enjoy coffee and goodies.  Behind the scenes, there is a young woman who every week gathers up the dirty cups and dishes and washes them  and puts them away.   No one really pays any attention to her service but if she didn't do it , we would soon not be able to enjoy our coffee and goodies because everything would be a dirty mess.   I love to go out of my way to thank the ones who do the behind the scenes ministries that are so important but too easily ignored.  
I wonder if that isn't how God looks down on us ... Does He seek out those that serve Him in little ways that no one notices ?  I believe He does !  On judgment day we are going to see what God meant by "the last shall be first"!!   Those who quietly served here will be openly rewarded there ... 

And so they should be , should they not?

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Sin Evidences in Broken Relationships

Love in any language warms our hearts , doesn't it ?

This morning I opened my Bible to Isaiah 59:1,2  which says ... 
"Behold , the Lord's hand is not shortened, that I cannot save, 
nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. 
But your iniquities have separated you from your God
 and your sins have hidden His face from you."

As I read and pondered those verses,  a thought struck me  -- 
 'Sin can be measured by broken relationships'.  
 I realized that every sin affects a relationship,  with God and/or  another person. 
Is there a sin that does not evidence itself in broken relationship ?  I can not think of one. 

Perhaps the strongest proof text is  I John 2:10,  that states there is no sin in the one who walks in love.  Therefore the converse is also true -  sin lurks in the absence of love.   
God is love and when our words or actions are not motivated by love, we hide or separate ourselves from each other and also from  God. 
As Jesus said, all the commandments are summed up in 'love' -- that we "love God and love our neighbor." 

Understanding the Hebrew word for love gives us a wonderful definition of what 'love' lived out is.  Looking at the letters of the Hebrew word for love we see the following meaning -  "love is to give - it connects the giver and the receiver -- until they become as one".   
Isn't that what Jesus also said?  "Love thy neighbor as yourself?"     
So  agape love is to give to another until it is the same as giving to oneself. 
We have just celebrated the greatest sacrifice  ever made to restore relationship between us and God - sin separated us, but Jesus' love restored us! 

But to go back to my original thought that sin always results, or evidences,  in broken relationship.  
If I am upset with my husband and think angry thoughts , even if I say nothing to him,  he feels it and there is a 'brokenness' in our relationship. - whether or not I feel justified in my feelings.  
If I have an unthankful attitude,  it will show in my criticism or complaining and again I have affected my  relationships with others.   
If I am rude to a salesperson who does not meet my expectations of service,   I have broken a relationship. 
I think you can make your own list .... 
If there is a break in relationship, we cannot deny that sin is present. 
A broken relationship with another person also affects our relationship with God, as do our 'secret' sins. 

If there is  a broken relationship between us and someone -- be it big or small -- and we come to God in prayer ... then let us remember what He says in Matthew 5:24 , and "as much as depends on you"(Romans 12:18) restore our relationships. 

"Leave your gift (prayer) there before the altar, and go your way. 
First be reconciled to your brother,
 and then come and offer your gift (prayer)." 

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Life Conquers Death

tomb stone surrounded by flowers

God's creation is full of the promise that YES, life is stronger than death!
We are not alarmed at the death of winter, knowing that spring will burst forth with joy !
We endure the darkness of night, waiting for the morning sun to arise with glorious light.
Hope is ingrained in us - death cannot be the end.  We cling to that hope by planting flowers in graveyards filled with crosses that symbolize that ultimate victory of resurrection Sunday.

Hope - expectation - faith -  We believe ! And because we believe we do not sink into despair.

Again it is the time of year when we reflect on that Day above all Days  -  Resurrection Sunday !  What was intended by evil to be the ultimate in defining DEATH, instead unfolded  in victorious, eternal  LIFE! 

BUT ...  we celebrate this day as those who have read the book, as those who look with the knowing of hindsight. We know death's hold on Good Friday was weak - we know  Jesus - our God, our Saviour -  arose having conquered death, not only for Himself but for you and me.   We have read and know all the promises that are ours through faith in Jesus. 

BUT .. what if we had been one of those who stood beneath Jesus' cross on that Friday and grieved to a depth we cannot fathom. Grieved not just the death of someone they loved, but grieved the death of all their hope that the Messiah had finally come to set them free!  But no, He was dead and so were all their hopes.  Had they been deceived?  They awoke  to a world that was dark, their hearts empty, their minds too distraught and dead in profound shock and sorrow  to even think .. "what now?"
Yes, Jesus had told them He would rise again, but they did not understand.  What they knew was that Jesus was dead ...  it was over ... they had hoped in vain.

I try to imagine their joy when the resurrection words were spoken - first to one, then another and another , spreading like the morning rays of the sun. 
Think of when you laid a loved one to rest ... you walked with bowed head from the grave ... you awake with the weight of grief heavy upon your heart .. and then .. the phone rings and someone tells you your loved one is alive and well !!    Could you even contain the responding emotion ?  Maybe disbelief is the cushion that gives your mind time to absorb such incredible news. 
Just like Jesus' loved ones ...  disbelief ... then a glimmer of hope...  then finally that exploding joy that focuses on only one reality ... JESUS IS ALIVE !! 

As we remember...   may our hearts fill with that pure joy of what Jesus did for us !
 He rose ... He conquered death that we might live .. .not just in this earthly life but forever more -- in His presence ! 
Let us rejoice  - not in His death -  but in His LIFE !!!!  In HIM we too have LIFE eternal.   

"If  Christ be not risen, then our faith is in vain ...  
if He did not rise, then we also will not rise from the dead ... 
if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most pitiable ...  
taken from I Cor. 15:13-20

Thursday, April 18, 2019

The Cross of Good Friday

Cross In A Cemetery

The Cross is probably one of the most readily recognized symbols. Yet for many people it is so familiar that it has lost the ability to connect people with the emotional event that changed history.
Two thousand years ago,  the cross was the torture instrument that killed the Son of God who came to earth to reveal God's love for mankind.

I think of that day.  I think of what it must have been like for the people who witnessed it.  For those who loved Jesus, His family, His followers, it must have been agony to watch - what thoughts, emotions whirled over and over in their bewildered minds and hearts. 

But then there were also the chief priests, the scribes, the elders who watched with cold hearts and mocking voices.  It is hard to imagine how these religious leaders could be so hard, so cruel that they  could take pleasure in the suffering of Jesus.  Finally, they had won - Jesus would trouble them no more!
They said mockingly, "If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross and we will believe Him."    Will those words come back to haunt them on judgment day?  Jesus DID come down from the cross and LIVED .... but did they believe?   No.

There were those who simply walked by, with only a turn of the head to look upon the one suffering on the cross and blasphemed Him, mocking that Jesus had said He would destroy the temple and build it up in three days !  How ridiculous...

I look at the Roman centurion who stood and watched and was so moved he cried out ...  "Truly this was the Son of God!"    I wonder,  when Jesus rose from the dead did this centurion seek out the disciples of Jesus and became a believer ?  I like to think that he did.

We are once again remembering Good Friday - believers and non-believers are reminded of that historical day.
 Everyone has a response ...
-- a shrugging of the shoulders and dismissing it as something irrelevant to them
--  a passing  regret that a good man was condemned to a torturous death
--  a thankfulness for a holiday from work
--  a mocking that people have lifted this Man up to be God - and created a religion around Him
--  a tug at their heart and a wondering thought  -  could this be the Son of God? What does it mean?
--  a humble recognition and deep thankfulness and profound gratitude that this One on the cross came from heaven - God in human flesh -  to suffer for mankind, to offer to every man the gift of forgiveness and eternal life.

What will be your response ? 
Do you hear Jesus ask, as you lift your eyes to His cross .....

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?  
Behold and see ..."  
Lam. 1:12