Monday, July 14, 2014

Face to Face With Jesus

(last night's glorious sunset)

    While I read a lot of books, I recommend comparatively few... but I recently read a book that I have put on my  'must read' short list.
    The book is called Face to Face With Jesus - by Samaa Habib with Brodie Thorne.
It is a the true story of Samaa Habib, the tenth and youngest child of a strict Muslim family in the Middle East. The story is captivating, inspiring, and makes you feel like you are reading a modern rendition of the book of Acts.
     The first chapter of the book tells of the horrific bombing of the church Samaa attended. Four bombs were planted by terrorists, Samaa standing right beside one of the bombs as it went off.  She was 'killed'.   You are left 'hanging' there as the story takes you back to the beginning of Samaa's life and then leads you back to the time of the church bombing.

     I hate to be a book spoiler so I will say no more, but if you want a good, true-life-experience, inspirational, can't put the book down,  kind of read I encourage you to read this book !

     If you aren't a reader, don't have time to read,  but you have an hour to spare to listen to her audio testimony, you can find a link here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Lesson from my Garden

If I hadn't seen this with my own eyes I would not have believed it !

As you can see in my photo there are two seed geranium plants growing side by side.
I bought them in spring from the same garden shop tray, all the same size and all equally healthy looking.  Obviously, they get the same amount of sun/rain and I water them if we have dry days back to back.   There is a reason I buy seed geraniums.   I don't have a green thumb so plants have to grow in spite of me, not because of me.  Seed geraniums are the most forgiving plant --  too dry, too wet, too much sun, too much shade they forgive it all and just do what they are supposed to do --BLOOM!  And I love them for that!

So this morning, not having taken note of them for a few days, I stopped, stood and stared - not really believing my own eyes!  Was it possible?  Why was one  plant huge and the other one so much smaller?    I puzzled over it for the rest of the morning.  Then, it came to me!  There WAS a logical reason.

The huge plant is situated so that the 'drip-through' of my hanging basket runs down to it and I fertilize my hanging basket regularly.  On the other hand, I  neglect the seed geraniums... since they are growing and blooming just fine,  or so I THOUGHT until this morning when I saw what they COULD have all been by now.

Immediately, I saw the vivid spiritual lesson.

Why do some believers grow in the faith faster than others?   Why do some people accept salvation and then struggle along and never reach a strong maturity in their spiritual journey,  never grow in their knowledge of God's ways,or  in their understanding of a personal relationship with Him, never seem to change in how they relate to others in actions or reactions.
They look 'fine' in the sense that they are quick to acknowledge that they are a believer, there are 'flowers blooming'   is fruit in their life, but when you compare them to the 'giants' of faith they suddenly look pretty puny.  What makes the difference?

I think the answer may be quite simple.   You have heard the expression 'location, location, location' ?  As a believer your 'location' is everything.
Do you situate yourself where God's word regularly 'drips/pours' into your life?
Do you pray 24/7 in conversation with God and not just run to Him when you have a need/want/request?
Do you surround yourself with fellow believers, letting them invest into your life? Do their faith/experiences/wisdom run-over into your life?  Do you let them encourage/inspire you?
Is gathering together with other believers to study God's Word and worship together something you do only when and if it is convenient and doesn't conflict with other priorities?
Are you careful what you fill your mind with?
Do you enjoy the things of the world and the environment/entertainment the world offers?  or do you seek out the godly things and places that please God?

Here are some scriptures that speak of  the 'location' we are to choose that will determine whether or not we will be a 'mega-Christian'  or a 'puny-Christian'.
Jude 21 -    Stay always within the boundaries where God's love can reach and bless you.
1Peter 2:2  -  As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,"
1Th 5:17  - Pray without ceasing, 
1Jn 2:15  -  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 
Heb 10:25 -  Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 
1Co 16:13  -  Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.  
2Ti 2:15  -  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 
Eph 4:15  - But,    speaking the truth in love, (you)  may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—
Php 4:8 -   Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Free Will - Love it ? or Hate it?

Have  you ever thought about how free will is like our computer ?   If it works, I love it... but if it crashes, freezes, loses my stuff or gets a bug or virus I hate it!

Don't we have the same attitude about 'free will' ?   If is serves our desires or purposes, we love to have it - but let anything go wrong and we are so quick to blame God with accusations and questions about why He allowed something or didn't do something to stop it.

I was taught a 'lesson' on my patio this week.  
I love sweet peas. My mom always grew them when I was growing up and to gather a bunch of the delicate, ever so fragrant blossoms to bring into the house was always my delight.
I don't have a green thumb, things grow in spite of me, not because of me!   Having tried to grow sweet peas before and failed, I had given up,  but this year I found a new seed that had a protective coating around it to help it sprout and grow.   I thought, for a couple of dollars, it was worth a try.   As you can see the seeds did sprout and I have some promising shoots.  
I have carefully tended them, watered them - not too much, not too little - fertilized them and knowing they need something to climb on, I leaned them on skewers and provided them with a garden mesh to wrap their tendrils on and climb, hopefully to the very top !  

The other day as I was tucking the mesh close to each shoot and gently encouraging the short tendrils to reach out for the mesh, I wondered.... is that what God does for us ?

My sweet peas have free will ... they can grow or not, bloom or not or they can just refuse to climb.  I can't MAKE them grow.   But what I can do is encourage them to grow , I can provide for them everything they could need.   I watch over them, every day checking to see if their tendrils are long enough yet to reach out. I hope every day that they have found my mesh.    I know how excited I will be the day I see them begin to twist and twirl their way up the mesh and then one day cover it with a profusion of blossoms.  

God has given man free will and in giving it He has to stand back and let man do what man will do.  He hovers, encourages, puts up props, blesses us with good things .... but He cannot - by His own will - force us to do contrary to our own wilful desires.  When men are evil, when bad things happen, it isn't God's fault -  its man flexing his free will muscles to his own hurt and the harm of others. When man makes bad choices/decisions we all pay the price and suffer the consequences but it is not God who caused it nor God's responsibility to stop man from doing what he wills.
How patient and gracious is our God - and so desirous of our free will offering of love and devotion to Him - that He puts up with us.   There is nothing He will not do to 'help' us grow the way He wants us to - the way that will permeate  the sweetness of Jesus' fragrance in us and through us for others to enjoy.

"Oh, Lord, let me be a 'sweet pea'  blooming in your kingdom."

PS...  When my sweet peas blossom , I will update this post !- I have faith, (I think!)  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Kind Justice

Some of you may have seen this story in the news recently.

 As I saw the video and read the story  , my thoughts led me to realize how often man will judge rightly on one level but question God's judgement on another.

I believe the reaction of most people to the story would include the following:
1.  to feel a love/appreciation for the cat!  As I said to my husband after seeing the story ..."That cat just bought himself life-insurance to live out his life in luxury!"
2. to feel sorry for the little boy...  who was  not only physically hurt, but  also had his sense of security and safety stolen from him.
3. to hope that justice will be done by the dog being put down (as it was)  The risk of the dog repeating his aggression against a child is simply too high !   What an animal does once will most probably be repeated.

If someone took the side of the dog, we would most certainly be aghast.   We might wonder why this dog would have this aggressive trait, and we might regret that he does,  but we would not be willing to give the dog another chance to harm another child.   The balancing scales of  justice would definitely dip on the weightier side of a child over an aggressive dog.
 Euthanizing the dog is justice --  protecting (preventing)  further victims is kind.

If the aggressive dog in our story was brought to trial by his 'peers' how would his lawyer plead his case?   Not guilty ?  Temporary insanity ?   A dog doing what comes naturally?   Every dog deserves a second chance?    Euthanasia a cruel and unusual punishment?

Many people see God in the Old Testament as a  God that advocated violence.
Is that really the true perspective?
In the fantasized court room described above where is the determining focus ?  On the innocent victim or on the one who is without question  guilty ?
On the guilty one, is it not ?

Are we often guilty of the same ?    We judge according to our own perspective and inclinations -  judging according to our own sinful nature, looking for reasons to excuse ourselves,  rather than focusing on God's wiser and infinitely greater sense of  righteous justice.
We consider ourselves good judges of what is right concerning the aggressive dog and would never accept the arguments of the dog-court ruled by  self-judgement,  and yet, how often do we question God's judgements?

There is a verse that so aptly describes God's heart intent  as He laid out Moses'  law that was to govern His nation of people.
1Ti 1:5  "Now the purpose of the commandment is love......."   
This purpose/character trait of God is echoed in Jesus words when He said that loving God and your neighbour was what the whole law was built  on ... Mat 22:40  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets." 
Paul  grasped the concept and repeated it here... Gal 5:14  For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF." 

God, as the Creator of man understands the heart/thoughts/ways of man and can make the judgements that will protect His people  but will also provide a strong deterrent for those who need boundaries to keep them from actions that would hurt , not only others, but themselves as well.
He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked but He will not risk the innocent for the sake of the guilty. He will never allow room for evil to grow to where it destroys  the good.
While we tend to stand in the 'here and now'  and judge according to our own selfish inclinations ,  God looks down the corridor of time and sees the far reaching consequences of man's actions and He judges  in favour of the ones whose hearts are open to Him .  Obedience to His commandments will ensure  that those who love Him will  live in safety under the blessings He desires to pour out upon them. Free will allows also for disobedience that God must deal with for the sake of the obedient.

Next time you read a story in your bible that speaks of God's judgement and you are tempted to think it harsh, - stop and consider --  examine it from God's perspective and find God's intent of 'kindness' in His  righteous judgements on those who have made wicked, willful  choices to disobey God's law of love.