Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why Don't You Sing?

I enjoy watching the hummingbirds that come to drink of my flowers and my feeders on the patio. I hung the feeders for the pleasure of watching the beautiful birds they attract, but that I should learn life-lessons from them was unexpected.

I sat watching them the other day, and noted one bird tucking himself out of sight  in a corner, under the eaves,  obviously on guard watching for the other hummingbirds coming to drink at HIS feeding stations, There are more than one feeder,  but hummingbirds aren't into sharing.  I see them diving at one another and chasing each other away with their built-in swords pointing!

The only time I see any hummingbirds together is when a mother is teaching her young how and where to find food.  The rest of the time the only social interaction involves angerly chasing each other away from the feeders.
 Watching them I wondered if they feel emotions the way we do ... judging from their body language I have to conclude that they do.
It made me feel sad that such delicate, beautiful birds spend so much time fostering angry, greedy or other negative emotions against each other.

Then it occurred to me that hummingbirds don't sing - they have no song , just an angry snapping of their beaks when they want to warn someone that they better get out of their space!

I thought about the birds whose melodies wake me every morning, and I realized that every one of the little songsters are social birds that love one another and happily share food sources. The Western Tanagers, the Black-headed Chick-e-dees, the Juncos,, the Black-headed Grosbeaks, the warblers  all love one another and their joyful chorus bursts forth at the first flicker of morning light.  Every day they tirelessly sing the praise that God put into their little hearts.

Is 'unity' needful before we can have 'harmony' ?
Do angry feelings squelch the song in our heart?
Do you feel like singing when you are filled with angry feelings against someone - be they justified or not?   I know I don't.
It is a sobering thought  --  I don't want to be like the hummingbird.  I want God to hear my joyful praise every day - because I can't NOT express in song the joy He has put into my heart - the joy that overrules anger and hatred and greed.  Joy that is stirred into song, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts"~Rom. 5:5

Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; 
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Where are you, God?

Where is God ?
When the darkness ‘round me closes in,
When fear and anxiety drum my heart’s din,
When all goodness is squeezed from my life,
When pain and suffering slash like a knife,
I fall,
I fail,
I call out in vain….
My tears drop like the rain…
Oh God, were can you be?
The answer is soft,
“I’m too close to see!”
                         julie klassen,2016

I was thinking about how  far away God seems at the darkest times in our life. When we need Him the most, we grope in vain to find Him. 
Through my mind paraded bible heroes of  faith, and I realized how they too went through 'dark' times when God seemed to be far away.  Yet, in hindsight,  we know their stories from God's perspective  and can easily see that God was the closest to them in the worst times. He was working out what was needful for His highest purpose in their lives. 

I thought of Joseph, suffering in prison for a crime he did not commit - then, when hope finally came, it was dashed for two more long years.  He was forgotten - no family, no friends - where was God?  He was preparing Joseph for the 'moment' when he would step into the role of second-to-Pharaoh - ruler in the land. Through Joseph, God would save the people.  The telling of his story has captured the imagination of thousands of generations!    

I thought of Elijah, who stood alone against a wicked king and his even more evil queen who wrathfully threatened his life.  Elijah fled in fear ... where was God?  God was so close He was in the whisper. 

I thought of Naomi, who fled with her family to a foreign land, to escape the famine and then lost her husband as well as her two sons.  She returned home , empty and feeling forsaken by God, with a heathen daughter-in-law who insisted on going with her. Had He forsaken her?  Oh no, God was too close to see - He was walking alongside putting the details in place for Naomi to be blessed through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, to be the grandmother of King David and in the genealogy of Jesus. 

I thought of David whose psalms express his heart's cries when he felt abandoned, unable to find God.  Yet, we know, God was close ... looking upon David as a 'man after His own heart' - a king who pre-figured the coming King of kings, Jesus! 

I thought of Job, who cried out for God and wished for death, unable to bear the darkness of his lonely pain and suffering.  Where was God? Close ... very close.. about to speak to Job in audible voice. God knew this short time of testing in Job's life would be written about and be God-glorifying for millennia to come.

I thought of Esther, who faced a life and death situation - in her words, "If I perish, I perish."   Where was God?   Hovering very close, about to use Esther "for that moment of purpose" where she would save her people. 

I thought of Abraham, climbing the mountain with his beloved son, ready to sacrifice him according to God's command.   Where was God?  Oh, so very close - about to provide in  prophetic picture the supreme sacrifice He would make in the death of His own Son. 

I thought of Jesus Himself , at the moment of His full humanity, when He cried out .. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?"    Where was God?   Oh...   so very close !  His love, through His Son, reaching out to save the whole world. 

God recorded these stories of bible characters for us, so that we can be encouraged and strengthened - so that we can be inspired to deepen our faith, having the assurance that even as God did not abandon them, neither will He abandon us in our time of need but will draw  near to us...  so near that He is too close for us to see. 

Duet. 31:6 "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear, nor be afraid of them, for the Lord you God, He is the One, who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."

Heb. 13:5b,6 "... For He Himself has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you', so we may boldly say, ' The Lord is my helper, I will not fear, what can man do to me?' "

Malachi 3:6 .. "For I am the Lord, I do not change!" 

Monday, June 13, 2016

A Righteous Judge

There is a story in the news concerning a California court case in which, Judge Aaron Persky, handed down a very light sentence, outside of even the minimum sentence guidelines.  The accused rapist was given a mere six months instead of an expected sentence of four years.  The outcry was swift and angry calling for the recall of a judge that ruled unjustly with a bias of leniency for crimes against women.
Perhaps the judge himself was guilty of a promiscuous youth, perhaps he had no sisters or daughters, perhaps he grew up without a mother.  I tried to find some personal information about the man Aaron Persky but could not find anything. I did find an article written by someone  who also came up google-empty on Aaron Persky, a father of ten daughters who asked the question, "Judge Persky, do you have any daughters?"

We feel a deep sense of injustice when the innocent are not protected nor  the guilty punished.
We sit in the courtroom and are quick to judge those who pass sentence without any empathy or identification with the victim or pass a sentence that does not reflect the seriousness of the crime committed.

I was reading a passage in John 5 yesterday and verse 22 jumped out at me.
"For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son."
While the verse was a familiar one to me - it suddenly took on a deepened clarity of insight.

Why does the Father judge no one,  but give all judgement to Jesus?

We know that God is righteous and all He does is in perfect righteousness.

"The Lord is righteous in all His ways...." Ps. 145:17
"But the Lord shall endure forever. He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in uprightness." Ps. 8:7,8

God prepared His judgment throne, and then called Jesus to preside over the courtroom - because God the Father's righteousness could not do otherwise.

Jesus, because He walked in our flesh, because He identified with our humanity and our weaknesses, because He Himself experienced what we experience -  is a Judge that cannot be faulted.  No one standing before Jesus and receiving his sentence OR his reward will be able to find one word of rebuttal.

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad." II Cor. 5:10

As believers, what a comfort it is to know that the One before we shall stand knows and understands us intimately and when His eyes meet ours, they will be full of love!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

The Dark Shadow

                                                                                   photo by Luke Goodway

In a pleasant clearing, cushioned with a carpet of soft grass and  bathed in sunshine, sat a group of friends around a table.  Leaning toward one another, they  were focused intently on the conversation that completely absorbed their attention.
They were unaware of the Dark Shadow that lurked at the edge of the wastelands just beyond the grassy knoll on which they sat.  He seemed very interested in the group and was straining to hear what they were talking about.

One person, who seemed to be the leader, said, "Last month when we were together we spoke about how we needed to simplify our lives for the purpose of not giving the enemy room to distract us or take us away from our whole-hearted commitment to our Lord. So, what have you done?"

One person said, "We sold our large home and downsized. Now the financial pressures are so much less and my wife and I are more relaxed and free to help others."
Another said," I sold my motorcycle."   A gasp went up from one or two of the others around the table and one exclaimed,"Your motorcycle?  You love your motorcycle, I thought nothing would ever separate you from it !"
But with a smile he replied,"Yes, you are right. I did love my motorcycle, I loved it too much.  It was too tempting to go on road trips with my motorcycle friends, and I neglected my family.  Now, I  enjoy doing things we can all do together and I have noticed how much my boys' behavior has changed! And my wife is happier, I'm home to do those honey-do things and she no longer worries when I am out racing my motorcycle."
Another said, "I cut up my credit card .. life is so much easier living by the rule, 'If I don't have the cash, I can't afford it'. "
Another said, "I cancelled my club membership ... now I have time to go to the neighborhood bible study with my wife."
The leader smiled, "Very good !"

The Dark Shadow had crept closer to the group around the table, but when he, in anger, reached out to strike one of the people, he scowled and pulled back his arm as though he had hit a solid wall.  One person, glanced up and asked the others, "Did you feel something?"   They looked around, but saw nothing to alarm them. They returned to their conversation.
The leader continued ... "You have done well, in 'stopping the waters' so the enemy will not find ammunition to use against you.  But we must do more."
Eagerly, the group pressed forward ..."And what is that?"
The leader explained,"We must be diligent in our bible study, in prayer, in times of devotional quiet listening for what the Lord would say to us. Also, we must not neglect our meeting together, to strengthen, encourage one another and point one another to that 'tower' to which we can flee and find refuge.  If we stand together we need not fear the darkness nor the enemy that rules it. We stand in the Power of our Lord, and in His Strength we put our trust!  He has given us armor to wear so that we are at all times protected! We need to keep that armor polished and in good repair!"

Thoughtful heads nodded around the table, as they considered the wise words spoken.

The Dark Shadow was pacing, obviously angered, his fists clenched yet he had given up trying to strike them.  Another way - there must be another way !

If the group had been aware of the Dark Shadow, they would have been relieved to see him glide back into the wastelands surrounding them.   But the Dark Shadow was not giving up.

Not long after, an attractive young man approached the table and without greeting them said, "I couldn't help overhearing your conversation. Do you realize how foolish it is to put your trust in something/someone who can't help you, someone you can't even see?   Do you not know how powerful the Dark Shadow is and have you not heard how many have been destroyed  by his hand? "
The young man suddenly changed before them, and with his disguise stripped from him, they recognized him as the Dark Shadow himself.  While their hearts began to pound, and their eyes grew large, they did not waver.  "Ignore him!"  they said to one another.

Furious, the Dark Shadow called in his demons to bring influence to bear in high places, and letters were drafted - letters of intent: threats of a job loss, a difficult medical diagnosis, a called in loan, a false accusation, a relational crisis.
But all these did not cause anyone around the table to waver.

The rage of the Dark Shadow was escalating and he called in his armies to cause the table-group bodily harm.
The group rose from the table, their meeting ended, and they began to walk along the path that led to their individual homes.
The escalating roar of a motor alerted them, and even as they looked left and right to see where the vehicle was coming from,  they were suddenly frozen by fear as they saw a large military -type vehicle coming straight for them!
The leader called out for divine help!
And Divine Intervention was immediately sent .. The hand of an angel turned the vehicle just before it would have struck the group, and it lost control, crashing into a tree and tumbling over the edge of a cliff.  All was silent.
A cheer went up from the group, with words of thanksgiving to the Lord, in whom they trusted - to whom they belonged.
They went forth to be a witness wherever they went in their daily lives, causing the name of their Lord to be exalted and praised.

Hopefully, the above story sounded familiar to you, dear reader, because it is my paraphrase of II Chronicles. 32:1-23 in a more modern setting. While I took literary license, I believe that the Old Testament story is a picture for us today.  Satan cannot harm a believer ... we have a wall around us.  All he can do is deceive us,
 cause us to fear,
 or be confused.
 He is only a Dark Shadow.   If we have strengthened ourselves spiritually, we will recognize him and not be moved by 'his devices'. We will stand strong and unmovable in the Light of our Lord!

Just to show you how applicable this Old Testament story is to the life of a believer, look at the meaning of the names in the story.

King Hezekiah - means Yahweh Strengthens --  Jesus is our King and He strengthens His followers to be strong IN Him !

Lachish - where Hezekiah and his people were gathered.   Lachish means, impregnable or obstinate - What a safe place we have in the kingdom of God.  It is 'impregnable' by the enemy, and we can stand obstinate in not giving in to his shouts or threats.

The Milo -  was a tower or fortress in the city of David.  This reminds me of the verse in Prov. 18:10 that says, "The name of the Lord is a high tower, the righteous run to it and are safe!"  How safe we are when we abide in His Presence!

Sennacherib - means Sin , or Sin-god,  or Sin sends many brothers -- all descriptive of Satan, the god of this world, the god of sin, and the one who pulls others into his darkness.

Hezekiah and his people were of the tribe of Judah. Judah means 'praise' and are we not all called to live in praise and thanksgiving to the One to whom belongs all praise?

Be encouraged, my fellow-believers !  We need not fear the dark forces, nor the prince of darkness .. he is but a Shadow ...  Our Lord had/has victory over him !

"....The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil !" I John 3:8

And because Jesus had victory, we also have victory IN Him !

".....  I have written unto you young men, because you are strong and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the wicked one." I John 3:8