Sunday, March 29, 2020

Earth Dust vs. Heavenly Glory

man standing on top of rock mountain during golden hour
photo Joshua Earle

We are in a world crisis that is unprecedented. The circumstances and restrictions of our lives today, we could not have  imagined as little as a few weeks ago. 

I want to share a story -- one that is true, but perhaps a little funny. Maybe it happened 'for such a time - or lesson-  as this'. 

Many years ago now,  Vic and I were driving home from Whistler.  
It was a lovely day and I was content,  just relaxing and admiring the majestic scenery.  Rather absent-mindedly,  my eyes shifted to glance at  a  white pick-up truck some distance in front of us.  I did a double-take! 
As I focused, I reacted in horror ! .
Painted on the truck,  in fine detail ,  was a graphic,  in shaded-colour life-like painting of a naked lady.  
I was extremely offended and I commented to Vic .. "WHO in the world would DO THAT ?"   He gave me a puzzled glance and said, "Do what?" 
 I said .. "Paint a naked lady on their truck .. LOOK !"  
 He looked .. glanced  back at me and said .. "What are you talking about !"  
 Husbands... they can be sooo frustrating at times ! 
 I pointed and said .. "Look, that naked lady painted on the truck !"  
 Now puzzled, he replied,  "I don't see any naked lady." 
 Well,...  I didn't know what to do .. It was in plain sight, what was his problem!?
 But no matter how much I pointed, or explained , he just didn't seem to see it .. or else he was taunting me, purposely just not acknowledging it ..   
I was losing my patience and I said somewhat sarcastically ... "Drive up closer .. so you can see better!" 
 Well, he sped up until we pulled up close  and the painted details of the naked lady become so clear that I thought .. 'He'll HAVE to admit seeing it now !"  ..... 
 When, suddenly ...  in a split second...
The 'naked lady' crumbled into nothing more than splattered dirt on the truck.  
 I was left speechless.... embarrassed ... and bewildered.  How could it have been so vivid in my eyes when really what I so clearly saw, was not there at all! 

How often we view the things of this life with eyes like mine --  we see with an earthly view and see so clearly the things around us but do not realize that they are a mirage painted with the colours and brushes of an earth-focused reality.   

BIBLICAL EXAMPLES 
1. Joseph -- earth-dust view -- Gen. 40:23 --  Joseph was put in prison unjustly ... then he had a glimmer of hope when he interpreted two fellow-prisoners' dreams and they promised to remember him to Pharaoh ...  but Joseph waited and nothing happened... his hope must have died within him .. Was he to stay in prison for the rest of his life?
 YET .. God had another view  -- In HIS time , Joseph would be second only to Pharaoh himself and Joseph would save his people as well as Egypt.  

2. Naomi -- earth-dust view -- she had spent the last years in a foreign country .. lost her husband and her two sons ... what was left ?  nothing ...  except to go back 'home' , but she knew there was nothing awaiting her there ... her life was 'bitter' and empty of all promises .... Ruth 1:20,21   

YET .. God had another view ..  ... through her daughter-in-law, Ruth, he blessed Naomi beyond what she could have thought or imagined ... and linked her, through Ruth, to the genealogy of Jesus!!   

3. the Shunammite woman  -  earth-dust view ...  Elisha's prayer blesses her with a long-awaited son ... then that son dies ! ( II Kings 4:28)  ..  It was  her worst fears  come true ... She had from the beginning been afraid that the promises of the prophet would prove false -- be a lie to her in some way ... and now her son was dead !  

YET ... God had another view.... No problem raising the boy from the dead ... and through that miracle she would find favor with the king and contrary to custom she would be given her property back plus all the profits it had yielded in her absence.  (Her story is found in II Kings 4:8-37 and II Kings 8:1-8 ) 

4. Jesus'  disciples  --   earth-dust view ... (Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-14)  A great crowd of people followed Jesus and His disciples and listened to Him teach all day .. and brought Him their sick to heal ...  but now it was evening.  It was supper-time 
When Jesus didn't want the people to go away hungry and told His disciples to feed the people, His disciples earth-dust view was quite vivid !  How were they to feed so many with NO food to feed them with ? They had nothing except one little boy's lunch ... barely enough to feed the little boy !!!  - they were in a dessert place and even if they went to buy food ...  it would take some time and they could not possibly afford to buy enough!!  
.
YET .. God had another view ...  5 loaves and 2 fishes were more than enough .... and Jesus multiplied the food --- a miracle that fed everyone - 5000 men and women and children -  with 12 baskets left over !  Proof that Jesus was the promised Messiah!

GOD HAS NOT CHANGED
God has not changed.  No matter how vivid our earth-dust view is .. no matter how hopeless a situation looks, no matter how hard it is to see a good solution or outcome .. God has another view ...  and God has a way and a plan to bring good out of anything we encounter in life and always His promises will stand. 
Whether our earth-dust view is personal or global ,  we can trust God that He will never fail  - that He will always be as faithful in our lives as He was in the biblical examples He recorded for us to learn from. 

WHAT IS REALLY REAL?
II Cor. 4:18... while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.

The things of this earth are so real to us -- we see them, we touch them, we feel them, we experience them.  Yet Paul reminds us they will all suddenly,  melt away ... He says in I Peter 3:19 that as a thief in the night .. suddenly one day ... "the heavens will pass away with a great noise and the elements will melt with fervent heat .. both the earth and the works are are in it will be burned up." 
  Just like 'my naked lady' melted into dust so also will the things of this earth crumble into nothing.   

 THE BEST IS YET TO COME   
But  the reality that will then be opened to our eyes will be soooooo incredible that we will never look back  longing for the things we once knew on this earth. 

I like how the Living Translation words Isaiah 65:17 “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.
Just like my naked lady was very real to me for a time... after she crumbled into dust she really meant nothing to me any more !  and I think that is what is expressed in this verse.  It isn't that we will 'forget' in the sense of losing our memory . It is that we will not ever wish for it back again!  
Then our eyes will be opened to see the realty that  is even now our true identity as a citizen of glory .. of God's eternal Kingdom !!  

BECAUSE WE KNOW WHAT IS TO COME 
Oh .. let us turn our eyes upon Jesus .. and let the things of this earth grow strangely dim as we look into His wondrous face .... 

HE is our Shepherd, 
our Refuge, 
the Rock under our feet 
and our Promise of Hope and Eternity !  
We lift our eyes to that promise that  ALL THINGS will be become new ... all things will be turned from pain to joy and we will live forever with our God --  seeing Him face to face with His name written on our foreheads. (Rev. 22: 4) 

If you have not read it recently read the beautiful 'end of our  earthly story' in Revelation 22. 

***
No matter what happens around me , my hope is in the One True God ... 
I am on the Lord's side !!  How about you?

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Hope For the Best

pink-petaled flowers
Christine Wehrmeier - photographer

We hope for an early spring
We hope this virus will be short lived.  
We hope that everyone will have enough TP..  
We hope that we will win the lottery ...  
We hope that our pain will be less tomorrow ... 
We hope our cake will turn out .... 
We hope tomorrow is a sunny day 
We hope our kids come to visit 

HOPE - the word 
How often  we use the word in conversation or even in our thought...
We use the word when we want to communicate something  that we 'wish'  will happen or come to pass but we are not sure it will really happen. There is an element of doubt or the unknown. 
Perhaps without really realizing it we allow a measure of that same uncertainty to colour the  NT scripture verses that speak of things we 'hope' for. 

 The Greek word translated 'hope' in our scripture, in the verses that refer to something we have been given in Christ   has a much deeper meaning than how we use or understand the English word  'hope' .  
The Greek word 'hope' means something that is a 'done-deal'  - something we can expect  with confidence because it has already been sent out  with our name on it'.   It is ours, it has been secured, it has been accomplished in full !  
The 'hope' may not yet be fully realized but it is with patience and confidence that we wait for it to come! 

HOPE THAT CAN DISAPPOINT 

I feel so bad for the high school graduating classes of this year .. For 12 years they have looked forward to this celebration.  The girls have their dresses, the parties have been planned - and now they are so unexpectedly cancelled ... Their hopes are so dashed !  Something they counted on, believed in has vanished in a day. The disappointment is sharp! 

The athletes who have trained for so many years -- their one focus of life , their one goal, their one hoped for achievement to win a metal at the games ...  Their hopes too are dashed with the cancellation of the games they never doubted would happen.  All the years of focus on one goal is for naught.  It has dissolved in their faces.through something they had no control over. 

Are we afraid that the things scripture tells us is our 'hope' will also disappoint ?  

HOPE ALWAYS REFERS TO SOMETHING GOOD 

Have you noticed that 'hope' is always connected with something good?  Even in our 'wishing' use of the word we always use  the word to 'hope' for something good.  We never use the word to refer to something we dread or fear will happen. 
  God is good ... always good ... and our 'hope'  in Him always concerns things that are beyond good!  They are VERY good !  
What we hope for is often the thing we cling to, the thing that motivates us to keep going, to keep hanging on, to give us a purpose for living.  How confident we are in what we hope for defines how confidently we do our daily life.

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS GOD HAS GIVEN US TO HOPE IN?
Tit_1:2  in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, 
We have the 'hope'  --- the done-deal --  of eternal life ...  whatever this earthly life throws at us, our 'hope' of eternal life is solid and secure -  something we can cling to with assurance, because God cannot lie !  

Tit_2:13  looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, 
Jesus IS coming back ...  nothing can stop Him, nothing can prevent Him ,  for us we KNOW the best is yet to come and we WILL meet Him in the air when He comes back .. Let people doubt, let people scoff,  I know that know my 'hope' is solid ,  I know He is coming back.  

Heb_10:23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 

The gospel we believe is true ... it does not matter how science (so called)  contradicts it, how man's wisdom twists it,  how many call it foolish  ---  we HAVE the hope that it is true, that it will hold us up to STAND without wavering because the One who gave us our HOPE is faithful! 

Heb_6:19  This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 

'This hope'  here in this verse refers to the privilege we have of entering the very Presence of God -- into the Holy of Holies --  God is our refuge and living in His Presence is the 'anchor of our soul' ....   The world's events, the uncertainty of the times, NOTHING in this life can take away our 'hope' that we have been called into the very Presence of God --- that place that in the OT Tabernacle/Temple only the High Priest could enter one day of the year.   Our 'hope' is that that is our 'home' , our refuge, our place of safety and peace.   

LET HOPE BE YOUR ENCOURAGEMENT
When you have your quiet times in God's Word,  note the verses that speak of our 'hope' and let that 'hope' word settle into your hearts and minds as a solid thing - a promised thing - a reality beyond the frail promises of this world.. because 'hope' is good things given to us by a God who cannot lie and who is forever faithful ! 

TO THINK ABOUT
  • What 'hope' promise is your favorite ?  Which one is your go-to anchor ?
  • How does what you 'hope'  determine how you live and how you react to things that happen around you  -- such as this coronavirus crisis ?

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Just Like Sheep

white sheep on green grass field near lake during daytime

Not only does God speak to us in a way we can understand, but He created nature in such a way that it is full of pictures and examples to make God's ways very clear to us. 

This morning, my husband and I were watching a nature show on our kitchen TV as we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast .  The program focused on monkeys, who always fascinate me.  One monkey had a pet kitten that it was dragging around by the tail or rather roughly cuddled.  The kitten could easily have run away but the 'friendship' seemed to go both ways.  If the monkey had both hands busy in getting food, the kitten sat nearby and watched.   It was rather cute to see.  
But then the monkey walked through a chest deep swampy river and he held both arms above his head, the kitten clutched tightly in one hand, making sure it was above water at all times.   Then he dumped the kitten on the shore and before the monkey climbed out of the water he began to wash himself.   

My thoughts raced ......  and I realized in a flash of insight that all animals either keep themselves clean or  for some another animal will help groom/clean them .  
All animals - except one. 
The sheep.  
Interesting that the sheep is the animal that God created to be the 'picture' of His people.  "We are the sheep of His pasture."  Psalm 100:3.  

We know that sheep need a Shepherd and  that sheep need a lot of care.... but I had never recognized this truth --  That sheep are the only animal unable to clean themselves.  They are afraid of water, and they cannot lick themselves.  
And no other animal is able to clean them.   They need someone higher and wiser -- their Shepherd -- to clean and keep them clean. 
Isn't that a perfect picture of us ?   We cannot 'clean' ourselves, not can we look to each other to clean us.  We need someone Higher and Wiser -  our Shepherd -  to clean us from our sin and iniquity.   Only God can forgive us through the sacrifice of the Perfect God/Man.
In Exekiel 36:25, speaking prophetically of the New Covenant He says .....   "Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. 

We don't need to be theologians to understand God.  We just need to be observers of the 'picture book'  He created around us to illustrate and make clear His word so that we not only understand Him but also ourselves in relationship to Him. 


Friday, January 24, 2020

Before We Call


Key, Car Keys, Keychain, Metal, Door Key

I had an appointment this week, and I was watching the clock to make sure I had just enough time to get to the meeting place I had agreed to with my brother.  We were going to meet at my closest freeway exit as he traveled past on his way home up country. 

It was time to go ... and I hesitated on what jacket I should wear.  I took my heavier jacket and then, deciding that it had warmed up considerably I decided on my lighter jacket instead.   Before I hung up my heavier jacket I did something that I really had no reason for doing.
I put my hand in one of the jacket's many pockets and to my utter surprise my hand closed around my car keys!
I did not remember putting them in my pocket - I always put them back into my purse.
Had I not found them by accident, I would have searched my purse... and then, the house, not knowing where in the world I could have left them.  My husband was not home, so I could not have borrowed his.
Had I not found my keys, I would have missed my rendezvous.

What immediately came to mind was a scripture verse...
Isaiah 64:24 "....Before they call, I will answer...."

I was spared that panicky feeling in not finding my keys where I expected them to be...and then not knowing where to look for them.   I found them even before I knew they were 'missing'.
God truly answered before I called out to Him for help.

I offered up a grateful  'thank-you!' to the Lord for His goodness. 
But as I pondered how God had answered before I called....I wondered ... How often does God answer before I call and I don't even notice? 
Maybe that is why God usually waits until we DO call.  Until we are desperate and call out to Him for help, too often God's answer/intervention is ignored or dismissed as co-incidence.

God's heart is expressed in His heart-cry ... "O that men would praise the Lord for His goodness and his wonderful works to the children of men!"  Psalm 107:31
Is God looking for praise to fill His own need?  No, God wants us to acknowledge His Presence,  and goodness because it is good for US .. The more we recognize and acknowledge Him the closer we grow in fellowship and the more we depend on Him - which pleases Him because then He can pour out more goodness upon us, on whom He has poured out His love !

What if we flip the 'take-for-granted' that we are so good at!  ...
What if  instead of taking for granted that we can take care of ourselves, until we hit a crisis-moment that will move us to call out for God's help ... what if we  take-for-granted that God is in the moments of our day .. helping, intervening, managing details in such a way to make our day as 'perfect as possible' ?   
Would our day play out differently ?  Would it change our attitudes?   Would it make the day a delight?   Would we have more God-stories to share in conversation ?

Truly... God is not a far-off God but one who desires to be intimately involved in our lives -- He just waits to be invited and noticed !