Wednesday, January 31, 2007

God is Patient

We know our God is a patient ( longsuffering) God because He tells us He is . In Exodus 34:6 when the Lord passed before Moses He said, “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious , longsuffering …..” Romans 15:5 says, “Now may the God of patience….” And in Psalm 86:15, David exclaims , “You , O Lord are a God full of compassion … and long suffering.”.
In I Peter 3:20 we read of the longsuffering or patience of God when He waited 120 years before pouring out His wrath on the disobedient. Why was He patient? Because He was waiting for Noah to build the ark so that He could save eight people..

The reluctant missionary , Jonah, after he is spit up out of the whale finally goes to warn the Ninevites that in 40 days they would be destroyed. When God responds to the Ninevites' repentance with mercy , Jonah becomes angry . He excuses his anger by declaring that he knew it was a waste of time to go warn the Ninevites because he knew God was slow to anger (patient) and would forgive them.

So we know that God is a God of patience because we read about it in the pages of our bible.
But what if we had no bible .. what if we had never heard of the One True God, could we still know that the Creator of our world is a God of patience?
Romans 1:20 tells us that God’s attributes or characteristics are revealed in the things He has made and are evident for all to see. Evidence of God’s nature is hidden in His creation. ( Isn’t it interesting that we call God’s creation ‘nature’ , but then forget whose Nature it reveals?)
Looking at the world we live in do we see evidence that would convince us that God is patient?

Consider the Japanese Peony. It takes 3-5 years before it blooms, then it only blooms for 3 days a year.
What about the tiny Kurinji flower that grows in the southern Western Ghats in India. Just once every 12 years the hills erupt in an explosion of blue and purple kurinji flowers drawing thousands of tourists to see the spectacular sight.
Then there is the Century plant , varying in height from 15-40 feet , which supposedly blooms once every 100 years, - but actually it can bloom once anywhere from 20 -80 years. Would you have the patience to plant a flower in your garden and wait 80 years for it to bloom ?
Do these flowers not indicate that the God who created them is a God of patience?

I grew up on a farm and I remember watching one of my cats sitting in the pasture , waiting absolutely motionless for ages , waiting for a little field mouse to pop up out of its tiny home. Again , a display of patience.
I have watched the robin sit on its 4 blue eggs, patiently , day in and day out . Does it even know what it is waiting for? But while it sits it is proclaiming to us that its Creator is patient.

Throughout the cold of winter, plants lie dormant , gophers, ground squirrels and bear hibernate, patiently waiting for the winter to pass .

In some parts of our globe the summer is short .. only a few weeks duration. The rest of the year nature waits , patiently, for that small growing window in which to spring to life before the long winter closes in again.
Does that not show that our God is a patient God?

We too are called to emulate our Father God , to be patient – as He is patient . “Therefore , as the elect of God holy and beloved put on…longsuffering..” ( Col. 3:12)
Are we exercising ourselves to be more patient? Hebrews 12:12 encourages us, “ … but imitate those who thorough faith and patience inherit the promises.”

Next time you go for a walk in God’s nature… look for the ‘brushstrokes on His canvas’ that reveal His characteristics.

Monday, January 29, 2007

God - Creator

During the years my husband and I owned a drapery/interior decorating business , I really enjoyed doing display suites. The pleasure of taking a neutral empty shell and having the freedom to create it into something that had life and beauty was a privilege.
After I had done a few , people began to call and say , “Oh , I saw a suite you did, I recognized it right away as something you would do.” At first I took their remarks as a complement , but then I began to think that I was maybe too narrow, too predictable - all my suites must look the same if they were so recognizable as my work.
W hen I was offered the job of decorating a house that would serve as the display home for a large complex , I decided that this time I would really step outside my creative box. I would be so different in style and color and furnishings that no one would recognize it as mine. The Victorian style was really in vogue at that time and because it was my favorite look I tended to go in that direction. This time I went contemporary with an African jungle theme accent and chose colours in the warm golds and browns and greens.
When I was finished I was happy with the results and very confident that no one would recognize it as mine.
It was not more than a day or two after the show suite was open that I got a phone call from a lady I hardly knew. She asked if I had done the show suite – and gave the address of the one I had just completed. I was speechless when she remarked that she had recognized my work and just wanted to complement me on a job well done. I hung up , but any pleasure I might have felt from her praise was totally obliterated by the fact that I had failed miserably in my attempt to be ‘different’.
The next few days I was obsessed with the notion that I must be very unimaginative and restricted in my creativity that I could only accomplish ‘my’ look.
But then, finally, the thought dawned on me that it was perhaps not so much a failure on my part but evidence of something that was peculiar to creative people.
I thought of Robert Bateman and realized that no matter how many times he changed the subject of his painting, there was something that made people recognize it as his. I worked for several years as alterationist for a high end fashion shop that sold clothing lines of well known designers. Even though they came out with new lines , spring and fall, there was always something that made the garments easily identified with their designer.
I came to the conclusion that when we create, we put something of ourselves into the creation . It is impossible not to, and that is what people recognize.

Have you ever wondered why we love to create? Whether it is painting , sewing , decorating our home, setting a table , building something with wood , taking ordinary things and fashioning them into something unique , or putting fresh flowers into a vase.… we all enjoy making something that pleases the eye.
Did you ever stop to think when you stepped back to appraise what your hands had done that you were imitating the God that made you ? We take for granted that we resemble our earthly parents in some characteristic or ability but we don’t often stop to think that we also ‘take after’ our Heavenly Father.
We are made in His image.. that means that we have the capacity to know Him… and to know Him we have to be able to relate to the characteristics of God.. and have the ability to imitate Him. Isn’t it amazing to stop and think that we love to create because it is something God enjoys doing and He gave us the ability so we could share His pleasure?

When we read the Genesis account of God’s creation .. we can identify with God when He looks with pleasure at what He has made and declares “It is good !” Obviously God’s effort was flawless … God is good and therefore His handiwork could not be otherwise, but I think there is a greater reason why He declared it to be good.
God did not intend to simply create a beautiful world that would be a suitable dwelling place for man. God also wanted man to continually have the opportunity to observe His invisible attributes in the visible physical things He created. God declared His finished work ‘good’ because he had accomplished His purpose.
God is the ultimate Creator, perfect in all His ways, and as such it would be impossible for Him to create anything that did not reflect who He was.
Is that not what scripture tells us was His intent??
Romans 1:19, 20 says , “ Because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, that they are without excuse…” Anyone, great or small can understand who God is by simply looking at what He has made. God’s creation is a picture so easy to understand that no one will ever be able to stand before God and say , ‘ I had no opportunity to know You ’.

That paints our physical world with an amazing brush - God’s creation – a canvas on which He painted a picture of Himself .

Sunday, January 28, 2007

How Big is Your God ?

There is a story recorded in I Kings 20 about a King of Syria by the name of Ben-Hadad.

It appears that one day King Ben-Hadad became restless and wanted the challenge of a battle.
He concocts a plan to provoke King Ahab of Israel into a confrontation but before he throws the first punch he makes sure he has lots of backup – no less than 32 kings. Assuring himself of their support , he sends messengers to Ahab saying, “Thus says Ben-Hadad… all your silver and your gold are mine as are your loveliest wives and children.”
Of course we would expect King Ahab to send the messengers packing with a resounding “NO WAY!” reply back to the King of Syria. But either King Ahab was not at all fond of his family or he was terrified of the King of Syria. The answer he sends back is, “As you wish, my gold, my silver , my wives and my children are yours.”
Seeing that the King of Israel did not take his bait, Ben-Hadad ups the ante hoping that he will goad the king into action with his next message, “You shall send me your gold and silver and your wives and children, but I am also sending my servants to you in twenty-four hours and they will search your house and the houses of your servants and whatever strikes their fancy they shall take ..”
This time the King Ahab's ire is aroused and he calls for his advisors who counsel him not to listen to Ben-Hadad’s demands.
King Ahab, taking their advice , sends back a message to Ben-Hadad. “Your first request I will honour, but I will not consent to anything else.”
The King of Syria on hearing King Ahab’s refusal to comply with his second request, rises up and boastfully declares that when he is through with Samaria there will not even be a handful for dust left for each of his supporters!
Tit for tat , the king of Israel retorts , “Let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off,” implying that he himself would be the victor.
When the news comes back to the King of Syria and the 32 kings still drinking at the command post, the king commands his servants to prepare for battle..

Meanwhile, a prophet suddenly approaches King Ahab with a message , “Thus says the Lord, Have you seen all this great multitude ? Behold , I will deliver them into your hand today … and you shall know that I am the Lord!!”
Ahab has a question, “By whom will you deliver us?” The Lord replies, “By the young leaders of the provinces.” Ahab questions again , “But who will organize this army ?” God gives him a short answer, “You.”
Ahab gathers together the 232 young leaders of the provinces plus the rest of the army totaling 7,000 – a small band compared to the mighty army of the Syrians.

Back at the Syrian compound the over confident king of Syria and his friends are still drinking. They are interupted by a guard who comes in to inform them that the Israeli army is coming! Ben-Hadad laughs and flippantly answers , “If they come in peace.. take them alive… if they come out for war ..take them alive .”
But the drunk Syrians have underestimated the small Samaritan army and are forced to flee with the Israelites in pursuit. There was a great slaughter but the King of Syria escapes with his cavalry.

Once more the prophet comes to King Ahab and tells him to strengthen his army and prepare because in spring the King of Syria would again come against him in battle.

Puzzling over their defeat, the Syrians come up with a plausible explanation . They tell King Ben Hadad that the reason they lost was because the God of the Israelis is a god of the hills but not of the valleys ,therefore, if they attacked them on the plain it would be an easy victory for them. The king accepts their explanation and regroups , forming as big an army as he had before.

Just as the word of God predicted, in the spring the Syrian army once again comes out against Israel.. King Ahab musters together his army but they look like two little flocks of goats encamped before the great Syrian army that fills the countryside.
God again sends a message to the king of Israel , “Thus says the Lord, Because the Syrians have said, 'The Lord is God of the hills but He is not God of the valleys’ , Therefore I will deliver this multitude into your hand and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
The Israelites win the battle killing 100,000 Syrians in one day, and when the remaining army tries to escape a wall falls on them and kills 27,000 more. Ben-Hadad flees back home and hides in an inner chamber

I love the accounts of the bible stories because we are told not only the historical events of long ago - but we are also given a glimpse into God’s involvement -His thoughts and judgments in the situation. The best way to learn to know someone is to watch what they do as well as what they say. And so when I read the Old Testament I look for God’s actions and reactions in His dealings with man in the circumstances of his life.

The point I want to draw out of this story is the mistake the Syrians made. They did not doubt that the God of the Israelites existed., they just made Him too small.
They limited His power by saying that he was god over the hills but not over the valleys.
God would not allow the heathen to mock Him .
Moses understood this about God . When God was ready in His anger to destroy the disobedient people of Israel, Moses argued that if the Lord were to do that the nations would have cause to say that the God of the Israelites was weak - too weak to fulfill the promise He had made to bring them into the promised land. In response to Moses’ argument God turned away from His wrath and forgave the people. ( Num.14:15,20)

We may think the Syrians foolish in thinking God to be the God of the hills but not the plains. But wait … are we not also guilty ?
Do we not sometimes believe God in one area of our life and then limit Him in another?
We believe that God could perform miracles here … but not there.
We believe that God may answer this prayer but not that one.
Do we not sometimes let God be Lord on ‘Sunday’ but not on ‘Monday’ ? Over our relationships but not our money ? Over our spoken words but not our thoughts?

I challenge you today to search your own heart and life… is God truly God over your hills as well as your valleys?
Is your God big enough to be Lord over every part of your life?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Never Give Up !

Some years ago, my husband and I, along with some friends, went on a day hike at Manning Park.
The hiking trail we chose proved to be somewhat disappointing… it went on and on without the usual view points or interesting change of scenery that most mountain trails offer. We kept hoping it would get better but each time we followed the trail around a bend anticipating some change in the landscape we were let down. It seemed this hiking trail had nothing to offer except more of what we have already seen.
Finally we admitted we had had enough…. there was no point in going on. But before we started back we stopped to enjoy a rest break with something to eat and drink. As we sat talking and munching on our goodies, I gazed up the path at yet another switchback up ahead. I remarked I’d like to know what was around the next bend. My comment brought a response of groans… “just more of the same we’ve been looking at for the last two hours.” But I was suddenly curious…. so I suggested that the two fastest hikers in our group, my husband and girlfriend just run up the trail a little ways further just to see what was there… if there was something of interest then they should shout and the rest of us would come after them. To my surprise they agreed.
Vic and Lori were gone less than five minutes when we heard enthusiastic shouts.. and we realized they must have found something .. So we followed.

We turned the first bend and I saw another just up ahead. As I approached the last turn I heard a muffled roar that became louder...and louder...
and then………………..!
I don’t know if I can adequately describe what assaulted my senses … but it is the closest I have ever come to understanding what the Israelites felt when God came down on Mt. Sinai .
The side of the trail suddenly dropped off , opening to our view a deep valley appropriately named Despair Pass, on the other side of which was spread a mountain range dominated by the rugged majestic peaks of Mt. Hozomeen. Deep in the valley lay Thunder Lake.
Breathtaking as the view was , what made the experience surreal was the wind.
It was unrelenting , whipping up through the valley and sweeping its powerful blast across the slope on which we could not stand upright without danger of being knocked down . But even more than the power it unleashed was the sound that sent thrills of fear through us. It sounded the way I would imagine God’s voice thundering His wrath against a sinful world. We sat for a long time trying to absorb the experience, imprinting it on our memory.
The contrast of a long , boring hike and then to be unexpectedly thrust into a vortex of sight and sound was something we will never forget… as well as the memory that had we turned back five minutes too soon we would have missed it !
The lesson of that hike has stayed with all of us, never give up!

Isn’t life often like that? How much have we missed because we gave up too soon?
Maybe you have been praying for a long time for a wayward loved one… and nothing has happened.. You wonder if your prayers are even being heard.. Don’t give up ! The answer may be just around the next bend !
Maybe you have a secret heart desire that you have expressed only in prayer… don’t give up… the answer may be closer than you know.
Maybe you are in a difficult situation, or dead end job….. don’t give up ! Give it your best… the opportunity you are waiting for may be just around the corner.
Maybe you are feeling that you contribute nothing of value in the daily humdrum of your life or you feel unappreciated…. keep going , you don’t know what may be waiting for you when you least expect it.

Throughout scripture we are being cheered on to fight the good fight , to keep going and not give up !!
Jesus, encourages us in Luke 18:1 to “always pray and not to lose heart.” !!
And again in Matt. 10:22 Jesus warns that though His believers will be hated and persecuted… He promises that if we don’t give until the end “we will be saved!”
Should we grow weary in doing good, Gal. 6:9 spurs us on with God’s promise that if we don’t give up “we shall reap” what we have sowed.
When we are disheartened in our Christian walk, Hebrews 12:3 reminds us to consider what Jesus endured for us…. “lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” Don’t give up !!
We have the promises of God, who cannot lie , that if we persevere and not turn back, “ we will receive the crown of life “ James 1:12

In Philippians 3:14 , it is easy to envision the apostle Paul as a hiker….. He says, “ One thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead…I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God…”
May that also be our declaration today !

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dreams of Heaven (part 2)

Rebecca Ruter Springer was an American who went on a two year tour of Europe to improve her health. While there in 1870 she became very ill and lay in a coma for several days, during which she had a vision or dream of heaven. She describes her dream in wondrous detail in her book Intra Muros ( my dream of heaven).
I love the book. I bought a copy years ago and it inspired me to envision what heaven will be like.
She speaks of the mansions prepared for each person… hers had perfect roses strewn over the floor…yet when she walked on them they were not crushed. She could walk into the beautiful lake …the water a perfect temperature.. she did not get wet and she found to her amazement that she was able to breath underwater. She describes how , even when she was underwater, she heard the rippling melodious sounds of the bells coming from all directions and harmonizing as they came together…. calling her to worship, her favorite time of day.
The fruit hanging on the fruit trees was ripe for her to enjoy .. she could just reach up and pick it any time, enjoying the sweet taste , the juice running over her hand and down her dress but leaving no sticky residue or stain.
She adds a disclaimer in her account of the dream that she does not mean for it to be used as ‘doctrine’ but as a comfort and inspiration.

The apostle Paul writes about his vision of paradise (II Cor. 12:2) …. but he was not able to repeat the indescribable things he heard and saw.
I am so curious to know what he experienced there and I have sometimes wondered why God doesn’t give us more details of what it will be like… but maybe He delights in keeping it as a wonderful surprise. Don’t we love planning surprises for our loved ones? Maybe that is a God-characteristic… and He gives us just enough to whet our appetites and stir up our desire to be there !!

My granddaughters and I have had many good conversations about God and heaven , a favorite subject of theirs since they were very young.
When my youngest granddaughter , Elora , was four years old she informed me one day that she had had a dream about heaven.
She said , “You and Opa and I went to heaven to celebrate God’s birthday. Some of the people there did not have angel clothes and I told God that my Nanna could sew them clothes. There was a sewing machine there and God said, ‘That would be good for Nanna.’
Then He healed your hands , Nanna, so that you could sew. And then you made clothes, just like the angels wear, for all the people who didn’t have any !” .

At first I was a little disappointed to think that perhaps I would have to work in heaven !! But then I realized that sewing in heaven would be a delight – the machine would never break down, the thread would never break, I would never make a mistake… and sewing angel clothes would definitely be a job I would love !!
( at the time she had the dream, I was in a very severe Rheumatoid Arthritis flare and could not use my hands)

Having just recently started my blog, I had been praying, hoping that God could perhaps use it to bless someone, ... but I was feeling some trepidation thinking about what I had started !

Then a few days later my older granddaughter , Elise, told about a dream she had.
She said, “I dreamed that I went to heaven… but heaven was at Nanna’s house.”
Her mother asked her if she saw Jesus there.. She replied , “Yes, but He was typing on the computer.”

I do know that heaven will definitely be better than my house… so don’t worry !! You won’t be coming here when you die!
But I do think about that now … Jesus sitting in my computer chair with me…. and I pray that He inspires my thoughts.

We went to a funeral today for a man named John ( from my husband’s side of the family).
We learned that John had told his family he did not think he would live to see his 90th birthday which was only a couple of months away. He told them about a vivid dream that he had had. In this dream he had been sitting on a bed talking to his son.
(This son , while still a teenager, died of leukemia many years ago.)
Shortly after he spoke of this dream, John had a stroke and died , at peace - and leaving a wonderful heritage for his family who all spoke of a father, grandfather and great grandfather whose life reflected his love for God and others.

I don’t believe that dreams about heaven, our own or someone else’s should be taken as presenting literal facts to cement our concept of heaven… but simply to open the door to let our imagination fly out on wings far beyond the limits of this world as we know it.
This isn’t a dream but I’ll share it anyway because I loved it when I heard it… I was listening to a scientist speak and he explained that our physical eyes are limited to seeing only a small portion of the color spectrum. He said he believed that in heaven we will be able to see the complete spectrum , which means we will see many more colors than we see here… colors we could not imagine. He also spoke of us being able to hear colors and see sounds.

Oh… how exciting it will all be !! Much as I love my life here…. I love knowing that as I get older… the best is yet to come ! I am but getting closer to LIFE as I have never experienced here !!

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” I Corinthians 2:9

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Heaven on Earth?

If you knew with absolute certainty that at some point over the next few years you would either win the world’s largest lottery or be caught in an earthquake measuring 9.5 on the Richter scale… how consumed would your thoughts be planning for these events? I would guess your answer would be ‘quite a lot’.

We all know that at some point in our life we will pass through death’s door ( guaranteed!! ) and we will begin our eternity ! We know there are two possible destinations, heaven or hell. If I ask you how consumed you are with thinking about or planning for this event , I would guess that your answer would range from ‘not much’ to ‘as little as possible ‘ or ‘not at all’.

People spend more time and effort planning for their retirement or even for a summer two week holiday , than they do thinking about their eternity and I am sometimes puzzled by this common mind-set. I am inclined to think it is partly because ‘our death’ is not something we like to think about , but I wonder if the biggest deterrent is simply that we know so little about it. When is the last time you heard a sermon on heaven? I was trying to remember the last time I heard one and I really can’t remember ….it was a very long time ago.

So why don’t we talk about heaven? Because we are too comfortable in this life? Or feel there are still things we need or want to do? I agree with the apostle Paul… “I am twixt and between… to go be with the Lord is awesome ! but I am still needed here.” The really neat thing is …. that even if my time here is prolonged , my eternity will not be shortened by one iota of a second !!

When I was a child my idea of heaven was a place that was rather misty filled with fluffy white clouds. One each cloud sat a person strumming a harp. Because of the mist and because I thought we were a ‘spirit being’ , I didn’t really think we could see each other and even if we could we would not recognize anyone.
That picture has no resemblence to what the bible tells us heaven will be like.

When we are specially enthralled with something we describe it as ‘heaven on earth ‘! I don’t know where that expression came from but do you know that it is actually accurate??? Heaven really will be on earth!!
The bible is actually very clear… In Revelation 21 we read the beautiful words of John’s vision describing the new heaven and the new earth that God will create. The heaven referred to here is not God’s domain where He dwells, but the stratosphere above our earth.
We read in II Peter 3:7 that the heavens and earth we know today will be destroyed by fire in the day of judgment, but we also read in Psalm 104:5 that the foundations of the earth will remain forever. On the foundations of the cleansed old earth, God will create a new earth on which His bride (true believers) will live forever !!

Does that not change how we think about heaven? It will not be an airy-fairy existence in some foreign place we cannot relate to, it will be practical , realistic , truly HEAVEN on EARTH !!

We all recognize how wonderfully perfect God created this world , so suited to our needs and desires! Man has lived on this earth for 6000 years, and it is still able to provide for his physical needs and challenge his curiosity and quest for knowledge. Scientists are finding today that they have just begun to discover how intricately and ingeniously our world has been designed. God did not make it ‘adequate’ He made it beyond our comprehension ! And we are told in God’s Word that the next life will be so incredibly beyond this life that we will never look back . In Isaiah 65:17 God declares , “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind."

Of course the best part of eternity will be that we see God face to face and live in His presence … all things having been restored to perfection. He will be our Light and our delight ! There will be no more doubt, no more sorrow or pain or disappointment… God will be dwelling with us… literally.

In eternity we will be ourselves! as much as we are who we are today. I will be me and you will be you … and we will recognize each other and delight in each other’s company.
We will be busy and productive and all the things in this life will have prepared us for our life there.
If an athlete’s goal is to compete in the Olympics as a discus thrower but his coach trains him as a bobsledder, he will arrive at the Olympics totally unprepared to compete in his event. So also it would be futile for God to ‘train’ us in this life if His plans and purposes for us in the next life are totally unrelated.
I believe that when we get to ‘heaven’ we will be amazed at how ‘easily ‘ we fit in , how totally suited to us it is. Yes, it will be ‘supernatural’ compared to this life, but I don’t think anyone would argue with the fact that the way we live in 2007 is ‘supernatural’ to how people lived in 1907 , a mere one hundred years ago.

You may ask , what about the people who have already left this life… where are they? If they were believers, they are with the Lord in a paradise resort… waiting for the culmination of all things , when death and evil will be forever banished from God’s presence and the new City will come down to the new earth fully prepared as our dwelling place. Did Jesus not promise His disciples that He would prepare mansions for them to live in?

I get excited when I think of what it will be like living in the ‘perfect ‘ world…. We so often hear people say, ‘only in a perfect world’ in a tone that belies the fact that a perfect world is possible !! But it is !!! Everyone of us will be alive and well, one day rejoicing in the delights that await us ,- if we have accepted the free invitation to be a citizen of God’s kingdom, if we are faithful and persevere to the end !!

Have you made your reservations, is your ticket stamped ‘valid’ ? Are you in training to be prepared to enjoy all that is awaiting you ?

(tomorrow’s blog – my granddaughters’ dreams of heaven )

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Treasure - Fort Knox and Our Heart

Fort Knox is so securely guarded that it is known as one of the most impregnable places on earth. Nothing was spared to make it secure. The vault is build with concrete walls and protected by a door that weights 24.6 tons ! - 16,000 cubic feet of granite, 4,200 cubic yards of concrete, 750 tons of reinforced steel, and 670 tons of structural steel went into the building of it.
Proverbs 4:23 admonishes us to guard our hearts with that same kind of diligence.
Can taking a closer look at Fort Knox teach us about our heart? I found that it indeed can !

Fort Knox is not guarded because of the vault itself. If the vault was full only of itself, there would be no need to protect it from thieves.So also our heart… if it is full of itself, we have nothing of value to guard – in fact , Proverbs 28:26 says “He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool”.
So just as Fort Knox is guarded because of what it contains… so also our heart needs to be guarded because of what it holds.
We all know that the treasure Fort Knox guards is the largest cache of gold anywhere in the world, worth more than 6 billion dollars. But what is the treasure worth guarding so diligently in our hearts? If you read Prov. 4:23 in context, the treasure we are to guard with all diligence is the word of God. King David recognizing the value of God’s word, said, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee!”
While Fort Knox contains worldly treasure, our heart, according to Prov. 4:23, contains the very issues of life. Matt. 12:35 says, “A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”
If someone found a way to break into Fort Knox and substitute the gold for fool’s gold… the guards would be relieved of their duty and the massive door simply left open.
So also someone who fills his heart with anything other than the truth of God , will have nothing to show but fool’s gold. Prov. 12:23 says, “the heart of fools proclaimeth foolishness.” But the one who fills his heart with God’s truth will have wisdom teach his mouth .(Prov. 16:23)

No gold is ever removed from Fort Knox… except for a tiny amount needed to test for purity during an audit.
I love the verse in Prov. 23:23 where it says, “Buy the truth and sell it not!”
Every time we discover a nugget of God’s truth we need to buy it , hide it in our heart, and refuse to sell it !
As the bible prophesied would happen, knowledge is increasing at an incredible rate. Here is an interesting quote by sociologist Robert Bellah.
"I have heard it said that the world's knowledge doubles every two years, and I am not prepared to doubt it, though I don't know how that is quantified. But of this I am sure: the world's meaning is not doubling every two years. Indeed we might be tempted to argue that the more information, the less meaning."
How true !! To accept anything contrary to the truth of God means that we take one of our ‘gold’ nuggets and sell it for ‘fool’s gold’. Does God speak outside of the pages of the Bible? Yes, of course, but if we hear God’s voice in our heart or through another person or through the written page, we must test it for purity against the proven ‘gold’ of God’s written word.
Prov. 30:5 says, “Every word of God is pure.”

There are absolutely no visitors permitted into Fort Knox, and no exceptions are ever made.
So also your heart is your own privately held domain and no other person can ever gain access. Only you determine what you will store there as your treasure.
Even Jesus must have your permission to enter in. In Rev. 3:20 Jesus is outside the heart, knocking. He says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock - if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in….”

Until recently the value of the US currency was based on the gold standard, a monetary system in which the value of all currency is based on a weight of gold. The value is ideally fixed and is not subject to change. Any currency could be redeemed for actual gold in the US until 1971 and after 1976 the US government no longer set the gold value of a dollar.
The US now uses fiat money – it’s value is not related to anything.
Until recently , the bible was recognized as the gold standard of truth. Governments, laws of the land, schools , moral and ethical standards were all based on the value of God’s truth , which is truly ‘ideally fixed and not subject to change.”
But today there is a very strong shift away from God’s truth as revealed in scripture and a much broader base of acceptable belief has been substituted. More and more people are accepting truth based on no standard at all - except the personal preference of each person.
History really does repeat itself for there was a time when Israel did not have a king and every man set his own standard of right and wrong. (Judges 21:25)
It is interesting to note that every fiat system throughout history has collapsed in value.
In Isaiah 40:8 it tells us that God’s word will stand forever ! He will have the last laugh when the wisdom of this world collapses !

Even though the gold in Fort Knox is no longer used as a standard for currency value, it is still considered a valuable holding because it is an internationally recognized commodity that cannot be legislated or manipulated by interested countries!
So also God’s word cannot be legislated nor manipulated .. much as man may try.
Jesus says God’s word is unchangable as He declares in Matt. 5:18 “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law…”

In an ever changing and increasingly evil world, where there is little left that can be trusted , we can still find security if we diligently guard the treasure of God’s truth in our heart.
A treasure that causes us to proclaim with King David,

“My heart standeth in awe of Thy Word !!” (Ps. 119:161)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Faith... How do you spell it?

'Faith' is a word that is so basic to our Christian walk that we take it for granted to the point that maybe we forget what it really means .
Faith … it is spelled T…R…U…S…T ! Biblical faith is simple , childlike trust.
Is it enough to mouth the words “In God we Trust”? God declares in Is. 29:13 “ …this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me" There is more to trusting God than a simple acknowledgment. Our trust in Him must come from our hearts … and it must change our life.

1. If we trust God we will be guided by Him…. “Trust in the Lord with all your hearts and lean not on your own understanding" (Prov. 3:5) Someone about to traverse through dangerous, unfamiliar territory would be foolish to trust himself to find his way. God has given us a road map, His Word, to guide us through this life.
In bible times a well trained servant girl would need no verbal instructions , she would be guided by her mistress’s eyes. In Psalm 32:8 God says, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way that you should go .. I will guide you with my eye.” The more we trust Him, the more eagerly we will study His Word to know His directions.

2. If we trust God , He will be our authority , we will not believe anything contrary to His Word - … One day I was grocery shopping in Safeway and I overheard two childish voices arguing in the next aisle. “Jesus is good !” declared one voice. “No!” argued the other emphatically, “He is bad!” Back and forth went the heated words. Curious , I pushed my cart up the aisle and around the corner . I saw two little boys , about 5 years old, one was white and one was East Indian. Both boys had total trust in the authority of their parents and that what they had been taught was true.
If we trust God we will believe that what He says . Science , man’s attempt at truth, must constantly be updated and today’s discoveries often contradict what was declared true yesterday. God’s truth has yet to be found in error… His every word is true. “Forever O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89

3. If we trust God we will be at peace . A king once offered a prize to the artist who could best portray ‘peace’ in a painting. Many artists competed for the prize. Everyone thought that a painting of a lake, it’s surface a mirror reflecting the fluffy white clouds in a blue sky was a picture of perfect peace. But the king awarded the prize to a painting that depicted a rugged mountain under an angry stormy sky , a flash of lightning cutting across the dark sky. A rushing waterfall tumbled over the rocky cliff. Behind the waterfall , out of a crack in a stone grew a bush in which a mother bird sat on her nest, perfectly still and peaceful.
Peace is not the absence of a storm, true peace is finding a calm place in the midst of the storm around us.
Isaiah 26:3 “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.”

4. If we trust God we will not worry or fret about the circumstances of our life or the trials that upset us…God says we should not be anxious about anything "because He cares for us. "( I Peter 5:7) And we know that He will work all things together for good. ( Romans 8:28 ).
For me the hardest time to trust God is when I get into a situation as a result of my own carelessness .
This summer my husband and I we were traveling from Dawson Creek to Jasper Park. In between there are long stretches of highway between towns with very little traffic. We had planned to fill up in Grand Cache but for some reason we were distracted and we forgot !! When we realized our mistake , we hoped for a miracle to make it to the next town. But we ran out of gas with about 37 km. to go. Our hearts sank because we could think of no easy solution to our predicament…
My husband and I held hands and prayed , asking God to help us.. He did…
A white pick up truck came toward us, pulled over and out stepped a Serbian immigrant who worked for an oil company in Edmonton. Hearing we had run out of gas he cheerfully declared , “I have some !” He took a tank out of the back of his pick up and proceeded to pour the gas into our tank. My husband said we just needed enough to get to the gas station, but he just smiled and kept pouring , saying the gas had been sitting for awhile and he wanted to get rid of it.
He gave us over half a tank of gas and refused to take a penny for it.
Our trust in God was rewarded, and what looked like an insurmountable problem worked out for good. Not only did we receive free gas but we remember the Serbian man with fondness and pray for him and his family.

5. If we trust God we will fear Him. We all trust the laws of gravity.. but we also fear them because we know that disobeying them will be to our hurt. No one , unless he has a death wish, will jump out of an airplane without a parachute, no one purposely steps off a roof without a ladder, or drops a glass heirloom vase on the floor.
God never changes, His character is forever the same, His word is everlasting. Psalm 2:12 says ,”Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him !” God is a loving heavenly Father to all who put their trust in Him, but He is also a holy God who hates sin and evil.

Placing our trust in God is without question the wisest , safest , most rewarding thing we can do….
“In God we Trust” - with all our hearts!

"Well Done!"

“Well done, thou good and faithful servant!” (Mat.. 25:21)
How I yearn to hear those words one day when I come face to face with God.

Acknowledging someone with a word of praise or appreciation is a gift we offer one another that makes us feel loved , accepted and validated. Though we thrive under the praise of man, his words are often undeserved or hypocritically given.
God’s praise will be pure and true and when we receive His praise it will stir our emotions as no earthly praise ever could.

Though we all long to earn God’s praise, I think most of us doubt we have anything worthy of praise to offer Him.
We compare our efforts to men and women who have accomplished great and wonderful things in God’s kingdom - people who have won countless souls to Christ, or have large successful ministries, or have written inspiring books or used their musical gifts or artistic abilities to bless thousands.
I used to feel envious of people who had such obvious gifts and talents with which they could so effectively serve God.
I lived a simple life , did ordinary things. How could I serve the Lord in a way that would cause Him to say , “Well done!”

Then, as I studied the scriptures, I began to realize that I had it all wrong… I was confusing the world’s standard with God’s standard and the two were very different. The world divides people into the haves and the have-nots, the gifted and the not-so-gifted, the intellectuals and the handicapped, the elite and the common. But in God’s Kingdom - God being no respecter of persons - every person has equal opportunity to please Him and to find themselves worthy of His praise.

What is it that God is looking for ?
We see in His-story is that God chooses ordinary people even for extraordinary tasks or purposes.
David , a little shepherd boy became King, Mary, an innocent maiden became the mother of Jesus, twelve uneducated fishermen became the disciples of Jesus, Gideon, a shy young man from an insignificant family was called to be the deliverer of his people. That God looks for the humble and the lowly is confirmed in I Corinthians 1:26 it says…”For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called…”

But not all of us can be kings or leaders , nor do most of us want to, so serving God in some prominent place is not the prerequisite to receiving His praise.
What God is looking for is simply our faith , our trust in Him. Heb. 11:6 tells us that without faith there is nothing man can do that will please God.

A quick look through scripture confirms to us that faith is what God is looking for.
Abraham is called the friend of God and the father of all who live by faith in God. Gal. 3:6,7 tells us Abraham was called righteous, not because of his deeds or accomplishments but because of his faith in God.

There is story told in Matt.15:21-28 of a Greek woman. She did not live by the laws and commandments of the Jewish people and being a heathen she was looked on with contempt by any self-respecting Jew.
But she had heard of Jesus, and was willing - at personal risk- to get close enough to Him to beg for the deliverance of her daughter.
She tried to get Jesus attention by crying out to Him. The disciples, who were disgusted with her, asked Jesus to send her away.
Jesus told the woman that He had not been sent to anyone other than the children of Israel, and seemed to insult her by saying the it was not proper to give the children’s bread to dogs.
The fact that Jesus implied that she was a ‘dog’ did not trouble her. She knew her place but her faith found a way, and she cried out that even dogs are allowed to eat the crumbs that fall from the table. Jesus , of course knowing her heart, exclaimed for all to hear “Woman , how great is your faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was made whole .
What pleased Jesus about this woman? Her unshakable trust in Him.

If you do a study of the miracles Jesus did in the lives of the people who came to Him, you will find not one instance where Jesus commended anyone on their status in life or accomplishments but rather rewards them for their faith in Him.

The faith chapter , Hebrews 11, lists people who found God’s praise…. all of them because of their faith.

God is totally self-sufficient… to Him belongs all power…His are the cattle on a thousand hills… all the silver and gold are His… He has riches in glory we cannot fathom…He created the universe and holds it in His hand. What gain is it to God if we return to Him what He gave us? Our life, our strength , our abilities, our possessions and resources are all gifts from Him. What on earth can we give Him that He does not already own ? What can we do that He could not do better Himself ?
Nothing !! Except for the one thing that God values more than gold but cannot have - unless we give it to Him…. Our trust !

Do you trust Him?

Saturday, January 20, 2007


In the wee hours of yesterday morning I discovered two night prowlers… and since I also stand guilty by association ….I guess that makes three of us !
We were each in our own homes but we were ‘connected’. We were all up at 3:00 am. and all of us were at our computers. One girl, I have never met but we have connected through our blogs; the other one was an old childhood friend that I have stayed in contact with through e-mail.
None of us saw each other, none of us spoke to each other… and yet I was able to discover what they were doing. One posted a comment on my blog, the other sent me an e-mail both displaying times sent.
Have you ever considered how much of new technology is focused on making it easier to be interconnected, not only with family and friends but with people we would otherwise never know? The whole world is truly becoming one ‘neighbourhood’.
Just to put things in perspective ,I was six years old when I was shown a strange black thing on the wall in my grandparents’ house that would allow me to talk to someone I could not see. What a long way we have come since then !!!

My husband heard a report on TV yesterday that someone compiling information on 911 found that when he mapped out where the bodies were, most of them were found in groups. The finding surprised him !
Man was created to be social…. babies that are not spoken to or held, simply die.
Interconnectedness – that was God’s idea…. “It is not good for man to be alone!”
We were created for fellowship… with God and with each other. There is purpose and pleasure in being connected.
Think of your most treasured memories… do they not involve other people?

We all value the people who are constant in our life… family and friends… but have you ever considered that everyone who touches your life changes you in some way? As you also change those you touch throughout each day ? Even the people who you may only meet once. Our life journey is one of movement – changing and building – one moment at a time. I will never pass by this moment again, but I take something of this moment with me into the next.

Just as a butterfly flapping his wings in Africa begins the weather pattern that causes the storms we experience here, so also a seemingly insignificant interaction with someone you met can change far more than you would ever imagine. I once read of a study that followed the ripple effect started by one person smiling at a stranger.

Life is busy and time is of the essence… our 'to-do' list at the end of a day is still longer than our ‘done’ list…. and so we focus on the big picture and miss the small things that are often the most important.

Let me illustrate with a personal experience.

I had just spent a hectic day at work and was anxious to get home where I still had a list of things to do before I could relax. But even before I could go home I had to stop at our bank. I waited impatiently in line and finally made it to the teller. The bank teller did not even look at me and was curt and impolite. My immediate thought reaction was….”I’ve had a hard day and I am in a hurry… you could at least be courteous doing your job.. I shouldn’t have to come in here and put up with a rude employee!”
Then I caught myself and prayed, “Lord, help me not to react…. but give me Your wisdom to respond with Your love.”
A thought crossed my mind and I spoke it out without thinking….. I said to the girl, “Do you have a headache?” For the first time she looked at me and said, “Oh, I have had such a headache all day !” I sympathized with her and we talked for a couple of minutes as she finished my transactions…. I watched the tension in her face ease and we even shared a laugh. As I was leaving the bank, I turned back to see her greet the next customer in line with a smile.

We so easily forget what power we have – especially as Christians – to speak into someone’s life. It may seem insignificant, it may be only a smile, or a kind word , a hug, or a quick helping hand, or an e-mail, but we can make a difference in someone’s day. And in the paradox that is our reality today in a world increasingly rushed and stressed, we are also becoming increasingly interconnected. We have so many opportunities to pause a moment here and there in our busy days to reach out to each other and to a lost and hurting world --- every man our neighbor.

Galatioans 5:14
“For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Friday, January 19, 2007

Without Fault or Wrinkle

On Oct. 30th, 1994 I lost a close girlfriend of over 20 years to cancer.
On November 30th my loved mother-in-law died of a sudden heart attack.
On January 6th, a dear aunt passed away unexpectedly.
So in the space of two months I lost three women who were important in my life and I learned a lot about sorrow and grief and also comfort.

It is at the grief stricken or difficult times of our life that we re-evaluate. Our thoughts are forced down paths they have not previously gone... and we come to ponder things we have not had reason to ponder before. And sometimes we come to thought-provoking conclusions.

One of my observations was that something happens at a funeral service, in the eulogies and the tributes and memories that are shared. It seems that death filters away all the negative aspects of the person's personality or character and all that shines forth is a picture of a person without fault or wrinkle. The picture is not a false picture, the flaws have just been blotted out !

I pondered about why it is that we are so willing after a person is gone to remember only the good.
Then I realized that there was a prophetic aspect to this human tendancy.
It is a picture of what it will be like for us, God's children, when we stand before His judgement throne. When we stand before Him on that great day, the blood of Jesus will have blotted out all of our sin, all of our faults, and all that will shine forth for all to see will be the righteous deeds that we have done in His name and the beauty that He was able to create in us and through us. Isn't that a comforting and encouraging thought? Should that not inspire us to work harder to be formed in His image and work for the reward that is eternal?

Another thing I experienced was that as I listened to the things that were being said and as I myself reflected on the lives of each of these three women , I began to wish that I could have the opportunity to know them again. People shared things about them that I hadn't known, or just hadn't seemed important enough for me to discover when they were alive..... and now when it suddenly was important to me... it was too late.There were things I wish I had asked them and hadn't. And I wished I had spent much more time with them when I had the chance.

The thought came to me as I struggled with my regrets that an infinitely greater regret to me would be if on that day that I will see my God face to face I would suddenly realize that there was so much about Him I never bothered to learn, so much I missed because I was too busy with other things. I want to be able to say when I look into His face, "Oh God, you are just as I have always known you !!"
I want to know that when I pass over the timeline that stretches the barrier between this life and the next that I have been diligent in getting to know everything about God. I want to know that I walked as intimately as I could in my relationship with Him. What is more important in this life but to know the One with Whom we will spend all eternity ?!!

God has given us this incredible invitation to be in relationship with Him, can we give Him less than the best of our time and dilegence and not live to regret it?

Jeremiah 9:24
" ... but let him that glorieth , glory in this... That he understandeth and knoweth me... "

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Scrapbooks in Heaven?

Even in this modern age of magical inventions when memories are conveniently stored on CD’s and DVD’s, scrapbooking is still alive ... and has even had a resurgence.
There is something warm and personal about a scrapbook that cold disks cannot copy.
Scrapbooks are filled with bits of valuable information, drawings, recipes, pictures, articles, newspaper clippings, photos – anything that we wish to preserve for ourselves or posterity.
We scrapbook to record memories of the things and people we love…. important family events, vacations, weddings, birthdays, or anniversaries.
Look at someone’s scrapbook and you know where their heart is !

The desire to preserve the memory of something we value or love is not new to our generation.
From as far back as in the time of Aristotle and Cicero we have historical records of people saving scraps of information in notebooks.
Going back even further, before books were common and paper plentiful, people found other ways to preserve a memory. We can go all the way back to the Israelites and find that God commanded them to ‘scrapbook’ memories. Lacking paper they used what was available … stones .
In Joshua 4:5-9, God commands the Israelites to pile up stones so that there would be a visual memory trigger of what had just happened -- the miraculous crossing of the Jordan. Whenever their children and children's children would pass by and stop to look at the stones asking what they meant, they could describe to them the important event that had taken place . Thereby the stories telling of God's greatness would not be lost but would be passed on to future generations !

So we know that scrapbooking is a very old passtime or hobby with a purpose.
But did you know that God Himself has a ‘scrapbook’?
Amazing as that is, it is even more amazing to consider what He values enough to preserve in it. Do you have an idea what it would be? I am sure you would not guess what it is.
An entry is made in the heavenly scrapbook --- whenever those who fear the Lord speak about Him !! God loves to hear His children talk about Him to one another.
What does that say about the 'Father' heart of God ?! - or are you unconvinced ??
Let God’s Word assure you that it is indeed true !!

Malachi 3:16 “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another; and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.”

On how many pages does your name appear in God’s scrapbook??
Will He make an entry about you today??

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Transformed !

In the early eighties I was working as head of the alteration department for Eatons.
A woman, by the name of Loretta( not her real name) , worked in one of the other departments in the store. She was a woman devoid of any natural beauty. She was not thin, she was boney !! Her facial features were sharp and angular with a narrow chin jutting out to a point. Her long nose curved down almost touching her thin lips. Her hard to control hair was fine and thin, permed to a dry frizz and dyed an unnatural blonde . Her voice was irritating and high pitched, and her cackling laugh would turn heads in her direction. She had lived a hard life and it showed.

One day I was sitting in the staff room diagonally across the table from her. As I idly watched her conversing , listening to her coarse language , watching the smoke curl from her cigarette, a strong dislike rose up in my heart. As a Christian , I knew I was called to love everyone, but when it came to Loretta - I found it very difficult to find it in my heart to even try.I felt guilty for my strong negative emotions but I tried to justify them by telling myself that it was an honest judgment on my part… I was just hating sin and the effects of sin.
I put Loretta and my feelings about her out of my mind.

At that time I was in the habit of rising early enough so that I could have some time to read my bible and pray before I went to work.
One Saturday morning I was on my knees beside the living room sofa , bringing to God the concerns on my heart. Since I had heard Amy Grant’s song “My Father’s Eyes” my prayer had been that God would teach me to see people as He saw them. And in that morning prayer my heart’s cry was repeated , “Lord, let me see people as You see them….”
Immediately as the words were spoken in prayer….. there flashed into my mind a dream that I had dreamed that night. I had had no recollection of any dream until that precise moment.

I had dreamed that I was sitting in the staff room alone, except for one other person. Loretta. She was sitting on the sofa using the staff room phone . As I sat watching her a wondrous thing happened before my eyes - a soft, heavenly light shone down over her, causing her hair to look like spun gold, her features softened and her countenance changed , a beautiful smile crossed her face and I thought in surprise …. “ Why, she is beautiful !”
In the flash of time that I remembered my dream the Lord spoke to me and said, “That is how I see her !”
I wept and asked his forgiveness for judging her so harshly , and prayed that I could show her His love.

I never forgot what the Lord taught me…. It is not that God overlooks people’s sin or that He wants us to accept people as they are ! No, rather what He wants is that we see with His eyes, seeing past their sin and human frailties, recognizing what God could do in them and through them.
Every human being is offered an invitation to become a citizen of God’s Kingdom,… every person is offered the undeserved merit of God’s forgiveness, everyone has the potential to be beautiful in God’s sight.
He can take the vilest sinner and shine His glory through them. We need to see people - not for what they are… but for what they can be !! How better to convince them of God’s love for them than to show them God’s love for them through us.

II Corinthians 3:18 “But we all….. beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory..."

Monday, January 15, 2007

An Audience with The King

One bible story I never tire of is the story of the Shunammite woman.
While we are told she was a great woman we are not given her identity, her name remains unknown - perhaps so that we can put our own name into the personal message of her life.

The story begins with the Shunammite woman’s interest in Elisha who she recognizes as a holy man of God , and takes it upon herself to minister to his needs. Feeding him at her table when he passes by is not enough and having first received permission from her husband , she renovates a room in her home for his exclusive use whenever he has need of it.
Feeling grateful for the woman’s kindness and generosity toward him, Elisha wants to reward her in some way. He sends his servant Gahazi to ask her if she has any request to be put before the king or the captain of the army. She is obviously a selfless woman of integrity and a woman of few words. She simply replies that she is content.
But Elisha pursues the question with Gahazi, “What then can we do for her?”
Gahazi , perhaps more observant than Elisha in practical matters, offers a suggestion as to where her need may lie. “She has no children and her husband is old.”
Elisha immediately recognizes in his spirit what God wants to do for this woman and when the woman comes in response to his call, Elisha simply informs her that in a year’s time she will be holding a son in her arms.
Obviously taken aback and wanting to avoid disappointment she gently rebukes Elisha not to deceive her with her a lie.
But in a year’s time she does indeed have a son, just as Elisha had said.
One day when the child was old enough to be out in the fields visiting his father , he complains about a pain in his head. His father commands one of his workers to carry the lad to his mother, who cradles him in her arms until he dies.
Most women would have begun wailing and carrying on and alerted the whole community to the tragedy that had befallen her. But the Shunammite woman was not like other women. In her mind there was no question of what her plan of action needed to be. She carries the lad upstairs to Elisha’s room , lays him on the bed and goes out closing the door behind her.

Then she goes out to the field to speak with her husband. We would expect her to tell him that their son had died but no, instead she requests that she be allowed to take one of the servants and a donkey that she may go visit the man of God.
Her husband is puzzled as to her purpose seeing it is not a holy day , but when she simply assures him all will be well, he grants her permission. It seems he does not even ask after his son.
Instructing the servant to hurry as fast as he can go, the Shunammite woman goes to meet Elisha. Finding him, she greets him with a rebuke… “Did I ask you for a son? Did
I not tell you not to deceive to me?”

Elisha is troubled and sends Gahazi ahead to try to revive the child but he comes back saying that he could not awaken him. Elisha goes himself to the boy and praying to God feels the life coming back into the child. The mother is called , she expresses her gratitude to Elisha and embraces her son to her bosom.
And there the story recorded in II Kings 4:8-37 ends.

As far as we know she never tells anyone what happened that day.
I imagine her husband coming home tired and hungry that evening , sitting down to eat the meal prepared for him and asking his wife if she found the man of God.
She quietly answers, “Oh yes.!”
Then I’m sure at some point he would have asked how his son was and her reply again simply …”Oh, he’s fine!”

I used to wonder what was the purpose of her son dying and Elisha raising him up again a few hours later. What was accomplished, other than inflicting pain in a mother’s heart? People could not even give God glory for the miracle because as far as we are told no one even knew.

Then one day I continued reading II Kings after the Shunammite’s story ended and read through chapters 5 and 6 and 7 and came to chapter 8. To my surprise here the story of the Shunammite woman continued.
We are told of Elisha going to see the Shunammite woman one day and telling her that God was going to send a famine in the land for seven years and she should take her household and go live in the land of the Philistines. . ( it is an interesting side note that when Elisha raised the boy from the dead he sneezed seven times – the duration of the famine)
The woman , whose husband seems to have died by this time, took Elisha’s advice.
At the end of the seven years , the famine being over, she returned to her home and found that her house and land were occupied .

The law of the land gave full legal rights to the property to the new occupants, and because she was a woman alone the Shunammite widow had no authority to reclaim it.
Her resourcefulness did not fail her and she determined to bring her complain before the king. It was a desperate plan offering virtually no hope of success. Her chances of even gaining an audience with the king let alone a resolution in her favor were nill, lessened even further by the fact that she was a woman .
( Do you remember years before Elisha asked her if she needed to be spoken for before the King?)

Meanwhile, unbeknownst to her, Gahazi happens to be in audience with the King. It seems the king had heard about Elisha and wanted to hear first hand all about the great things Elisha had done. It just so happened that Gahazi was telling the story of Elisha raising the Shunammite’s son from the dead when , I'm sure to everyone's surprise! - the woman and her son walk in. Gahazi exclaims to the king,” O King, here she is and her son who was brought back to life.” The king demands of the woman if what Gahazi has told him is indeed true. He is so intrigued with her story and hearing of her present plight, does what is unheard of. He assigns an officer to her case to make sure that not only is her home and land returned to her but also any income derived from the land while she was away .

I find it interesting and not without significance that the ending of this story is tucked away a few chapters removed from the rest. So much happens in our life that seems left unexplained. Many things happen for which we never feel we have closure.
How often have we in the midst of a trial or tragedy asked the question of God , “Why?” I’m sure the Shunammite woman wondered why for many years. It seemed cruel that God would kill her son simply to raise him up again a few hours later. There seemed to be no logical purpose. But the end of the story was not yet known....
God, knowing the future and being infinitely wise , was providing for the woman’s needs years in advance. Except for the death of her son and the miracle of him being restored to life, she would have come back to her former home and property , found it no longer hers and forced to live out the rest of her years in poverty, unable to provide for herself and her son.

I challenge you !! When your days seem fraught with uncertainty and pain and pointless in purpose, leaving you asking ‘Why?’ ..-- Remember the Shunammite woman !
and wait for the end of the story, before you judge .

And never forget that you have an open invitation to meet with the King of Kings!!

And remember ……
What God works into today holds the provision for tomorrow’s need.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Angels -- For Real ??

I just finished rereading “It Must Have Been a Miracle” by Kelsey Tyler, a collection of true stories of everyday lives touched by a miracle. Many of the inspiring stories involve angels.
The bible is clear, not only about the reality of angels, but that they can on occasion appear in us in human form.
According to scripture, people have entertained angels without even being aware of it. (Heb. 13:20) Angels were sent to bring God’s messages to His people, as we see in several bible stories such as the angel appearing to Hagar ( Gen. 16) to tell her to return to Sarah , her mistress, or the story of shy Gideon , being told by an angel that he was called to save his people. And lest we think it was only Old Testament occurrences, we have New Testament stories of angels too, such as the angel coming to free Peter from prison. ( Act. 12:7-11)

I know meeting angels on our daily path is not a usual occurrence , nor are we to look for them or worship them , but I do believe that they are still on duty today and when called to do so can break through the physical laws that separate us from the spiritual world.

I can’t say that I have entertained angels personally --except for one experience that may have involved an angel … I will let you be the judge.

Beginning in May of 1997 I began to be troubled with attacks – a very sudden onset of severe heart attack-like chest pain sending me to emergency. The attacks were diagnosed as pericarditus and though the cause was unknown the doctors told me that pericarditus was a rare occurrence and even more rare to reoccur. But they continued to plague my life.

In July of 1998 I had an attack that landed me in emergency in a hospital close to where we were having bible study that night.
The emergency doctor on duty was Dr. Koo . I was glad she was a woman because I’m always more comfortable with women doctors. The nurses suggested morphine to manage the pain but she ordered Toridol intravenously, which thankfully worked.
When the pain had somewhat subsided , she was standing by my bedside and said, “I think what you have is Lupus, I will give you a note to give to your doctor.”
I felt drawn to her and I asked her if she was taking any new patients.
She smiled, averted her eyes and said, “Well, I’m not really from here.”

Later that week, I made an appointment with my family physician and gave her the note. She read it and said, “You don’t have Lupus.!” Then she stopped, reconsidered and said, “Well, let’s run the tests, anyway.” The tests came back positive.

I had in the meantime read up on Lupus.. because other than the word being familiar I did not know much about the disease. One thing I learned is that it is very difficult to diagnose and for most people it can be 5-10 years before they know what is wrong with them. I don’t like hospitals, and tests and all that goes with it, so I was very grateful to Dr. Koo for sparing me the journey.
Wanting to express my gratitude to her, I called the hospital to see if I could find out how to contact her. I was transferred to the hospital records department and I explained I had been in emergency , told the receptionist the date and told her I wished to get in touch with Dr. Koo the doctor on call that night. The lady was very friendly and said , “Oh , yes, of course, just let me look at our records.”
There was a moment of silence and then she said, “Uh.. can you call back in an hour?” Her voice sounded nervous and I thought maybe an emergency had distracted her. I agreed, of course, and hung up.
I called back in an hour and the same lady answered the phone. I barely had time to tell her my name when she interrupted me, her words tumbling over each other and her voice sounding strained. She spoke very quickly as if to convey to me that she wanted my call to be over.
She said, “Yes, Dr. Koo was in emergency that night.. but we have no idea where she came from and we have no idea where she went.”
I was stunned, as much by her admission as by the facts.

Was Dr. Koo a doctor in the flesh? Or an angel? I do not know , but I do know that God put her there at a specific time, for a specific purpose - to assure me that He was in control and that I could trust Him no matter what I was going through.

We all love to hear about God’s miraculous interventions , but have you ever noticed that they don’t come in the middle of a perfect day when everything is going according to plan?? God’s miracles always come in a time of need or hardship or in our most terrifying moments. I know none of us wish for ‘hard times’ but our comfort in them is to know that God is close.
He always knows what we need and He is willing and able to take us through the deepest trial.

Friday, January 12, 2007

A Morning Sermon

I wonder how many of us realize the significant symbolism in our daily ritual of getting dressed.
Did you ever consider the fact that wearing clothes is not ‘natural’? Human beings are the only species on earth to wear clothes and God did not create Adam and Eve with a wardrobe. They were naked , and quite happy to be that way.
Until…… they sinned.
I have wondered what made Adam and Eve , after they disobeyed God, think that covering themselves would somehow hide their shame before God. I can only believe that it is an instinct that God placed into the consciousness of man. Never having been taught to do so, we see our young children trying to cover or hide when they know they have done something forbidden. Evil and crime are most often committed under cover of darkness.
Sin cannot enter God’s presence and without a covering , man - having sinned- would never again have been able to stand before God. His wrath would have consumed him. In God’s mercy He gave us the instinctive desire to be covered to make us aware of our need of forgiveness.

Adam and Eve tried to make their own covering with leaves but their human efforts were futile. Only with the shedding of blood is there an effective covering.
When God made a covering for Adam and Eve he killed an animal and made them coats from the skin. Can you imagine the horror Adam and Eve must have felt to see God kill an animal, when they had never experienced any death or violence? It was the foreshadowing of the ultimate, only effective, necessary violent sacrifice of the perfect Lamb. ( Heb. 9 :22 – ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission’)
Every morning , after 6 thousand years , we still ‘cover’ ourselves because of sin. A daily symbolic reminder that if Jesus had not shed His blood for us we would be forever separated from God.

There are other symbolic spiritual applications related to our clothes.

1> Clothes make us ‘beautiful’. - We ,as Christians, spiritually ‘put on Christ’,( Gal. 3:27) which is the beauty that God sees when He looks at us.
2> Clothes need to be cleaned, - they get dirty and we all have loads of weekly laundry to prove it !. - I John 1:9 speaks of God’s ‘laundry room’ – ‘if we confess our sins , He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to CLEANSE us from all unrighteousness.’
3> Our clothing is often the first thing people notice about us. - When people first meet us do they see Jesus in us? Are they impressed that there is something ‘different’ about us?
4> Just as our clothing covers the embarrassing parts of our body so also the covering of Christ’s sacrifice hides the embarrassing sin that we all commit and wish God didn’t have to see. He doesn’t if we allow Him to put it – forever out of sight - with the forgiveness Jesus’ death paid for. (Rom. 4:7)
5> Our clothing needs to fit ! . - Even so the covering of Christ’s sacrifice is personally fitted to each person’s need.
6> Our clothing is personal and reflects our unique individuality. - Putting on Christ does not take away our own personality but enhances it.
7> Our clothing is protection from the elements. - our spiritual covering protects us , not only from Satan – our enemy- but also from the wrath of God (John 3:36).
8> Our clothing identifies us as belonging to a specific culture.. different peoples of the world have a unique style of dress. - Jesus’ covering identifies us as belonging to the Kingdom of heaven.
9> How we love to find an expensive outfit marked down to a price we can afford !! - Our spiritual covering is marked down from a price we could never afford to being FREE!

So you see … even on very busy days … we can preach a sermon to ourselves by the simple act of getting dressed.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

My Desires

I read of a grandmother shopping with her young grandson. When she asked him if he was ready to go home, he replied, “Not yet, Grandma, I might find something I want to need .”
We may smile , but don’t we all mix up our needs and our wants?

Psalm 37:4 says “….. He shall give you the desires of your heart”.
Wow! sounds like a blank check and many people take their ‘want list’ and run to present it to God.
They come away disappointed because they missed two things.

First of all, there is a pre-condition …”Delight thyself in the Lord..” He must be our greatest desire ! Delighting ourselves in the Lord means that we ‘ renew our minds’ , substituting His ways for our ways, His thinking for our thinking, His priorities instead of ours. It will change who we are.
The second thing they miss is that God does not promise to give us everything we want ! He says He will give us the very DESIRES of our heart. We will want what He wants…. and when our requests fall in line with His will, they are granted, every one !

I John 5:14-15 explains it so clearly.
1> ask according to His will
2> then we KNOW that we have been heard
3> if we are heard, He WILL grant our request.

So then, the promise of Ps. 37:4 is that if we are close to God He will give us the desires of our heart. With what confidence we can then wait for God to fulfill those desires.

We do grow somewhat wiser as we grow older . Hopefully we grow much wiser in the things of the Lord.
I have learned that if a desire for something comes out of my own heart… the fulfillment of that desire rarely satisfies the anticipated joy and often is sadly disappointing. So I have learned to wait , holding my desires loosely - if the desire is in line with God’s will, then I know He will fulfill it in a way I could not have foreseen and beyond my expectations.

Some months before this last Christmas season, I had a strong desire to give a gift that would make a difference in someone’s life, to fill a real need. I had a few ideas but money was tight and they did not work out. So I watched and waited and left it in God’s hands. Nothing came up… and it was now two days before Christmas. I had pretty much decided that it wasn’t going to happen and I had either missed a clue or just been too negligent in my efforts.

My husband and I had done a ‘favor’ job for some people that we had not seen for several years and we delivered the finished product to them just before Christmas. In our conversation we learned that they are personally involved in an outreach project in a village in Uganda, which is funded and overseen by the private school their children attend. They have made several trips to the village and are going again. The lady spoke highly of the work being done there and we were fascinated.
When we handed her the bill for our work she took one look at it and objected that we had not charged enough. We insisted it was adequate and did not want any more. We argued good naturedly for a bit , then she walked into the other room and came back with a check. She said, “Here is your money… but what I am going to do is send a cow in your name to a very poor family living in the Uganda village..” The cow would change the whole family’s life from abject poverty to being able to meet their basic needs. I was thrilled.
Not only was the cow sent but we are now also sponsoring a child and her family living in that village.
The really neat thing is that these people are going down to the village this May to deliver their daughter who is going to work there for three months. We will be able to have such a close connection to our sponsored child.
God truly does all things well, if only we trust Him!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The One who Speaks

I always enjoy the bible story found in I Sam. 5. One morning the Philistines find their god , Dagon, fallen on his face in his house , so they carefully set him up again only to find him down again the next morning minus his head and his hands. Not a very powerful god!! He could not even call for help when he needed it !!

That is what sets our God apart from all other gods. He SPEAKS !! Isaiah 52:6b “…I am He who speaks..” Isn’t it incredible that the God who created all we see , to Whom belongs all power in this universe (Psalm 62:11) would stoop down to speak to you or me??
Speaking , using words, is vital to building a relationship. And that is the invitation of our God… to be in relationship with Him. No other god offers that!!

What a privilege we have … but why do we not hear Him more clearly? I know God does not often speak with an audible voice, but He can !
( I have a book called “A Mighty Tempest” by Michelle and Rachelle Hamilton . If you haven’t read it, find a copy. It is the autobiographical account of a mother and daughter who go on vacation together .The daughter goes out alone in a bunca , gets into trouble and is swept out to sea. I won’t give away the story ,but facing death she encounters God in a very tangible way… Incredible story , and so inspiring !! )
We may not ever hear the audible voice of God but we can all hear Him speak !! Jesus say, “My sheep HEAR my voice” (John 10:27) , so the question is not whether or not God speaks - the question is why don’t we hear Him??

I think there are several reasons, some of which may be:
1. We don’t believe that He speaks !
I get a monthly e-magazine from Gary Gilley, pastor/author . He comes right out and says that God does not speak personally to anyone and if people say that He does they have had too much pizza. Reading my bible proves to me that God speaks !!
2. We aren’t listening.
If you are a parent you know how hard it is to get your children to ‘listen’ to you. They are experts at simply tuning you out, especially when they think what you are saying is not in their best interests !! And we are like that too, sometimes we are so busy listening everywhere else that God is simply ‘tuned out’. To hear God we must first BELIEVE that He speaks , and then we must LISTEN for His voice.
3. Our reception is poor.
We recently moved up on a mountain and the only disappointment I have had is that it is very difficult to get a radio sign. There is too much in the way - the mountain itself, interference, static. I think that is our biggest problem in hearing God. There is too much in the way. The noise of this world overrides the still, small voice of God and we can’t hear. Spending time in God’s Word clears away the ‘static’ of this world's twisted thinking. God’s Word washes us (Eph.5:26,27) and tunes our hearts to hear His voice.
4. We are not still.
“Be still and know …” Ps. 46:10) How often do we first line up all our trusted Dagons and only when they fall over do we turn to God. Whether our life is calm or chaotic we need to stay still, patient and trusting, confident that He will speak.

Even when we are listening sometimes we miss God for the simple reason that we allow our doubt to steal His voice. Haven’t we all been there? It is so easy to tell ourselves it couldn’t have been God, it was a coincidence or our own thoughts or imagination. And yes, we all know people who have mistakenly believed God spoke to them .
Are there safeguards to know whether or not it was God’s voice we heard ?
The most sure standard of testing God’s voice is the bible itself. God will never contradict Himself and anything He says will line up with scripture. A young man I know said that God told him to leave his wife because God wanted him to be married to someone else…. not much discernment needed here. That was not God’s voice.
I pay close attention to co-incidences. Oswald Chambers says that 'God is the God of co-incidence' – how often do co-incidences catch our attention? Someone may come to mind that I have not seen for years, and then that same day they call or I meet them somewhere. Is that not a God-thing?
God so often speaks to me through the simple things in my day … nature… music…someone who calls or visits or e-mails….I love to study the bible characters in how they communicated with God and I love to read the stories of godly men and women. We can learn so much from one another … but in the end we must each build our own personal relationship with God. We learn to know His voice through experience… the more we communicate with Him… the more time we spend in His Word.. the more clear His voice becomes.

Can I share one personal experience?
One day I was home alone busy sewing in my workroom. It was very quiet except for the sound of my machine and I was lost in my thoughts. Suddenly , a thought flashed across my mind, “Go outside!” The thought was so ‘loud’ I got up without questioning it and was walking toward the door before I stopped and thought, “What am I doing? I have no reason to go outside.” But the feeling of urgency was still there so I went outside perplexed as to what I would do. Once outside , I heard a commotion going on on the far side of our property behind an old outbuilding. As I walked toward it to investigate, I picked up a stick just in case I would need to defend myself. I came around the hen house and came face to face with a snarling coyote and my hissing mother cat guarding her kittens. The coyote ran away as soon as he saw me . A few more minutes and my mother cat and her 5 kittens would have been dead. Does God care about the things we care about ?? Most definitely.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

A Secret Name

Think about someone you love… I’m sure their ‘name’ immediately flashed across your mind, didn’t it? Our name identifies us…it sets us apart gives us our own unique place in an intimidating world.
Naming a child is one of the most important things parents do, often taking months to find just the right name. This name will take on the color of the character and personality of the child as they grow up. If the person lives an honorable life he is said to have a ‘good name’. The converse is also true.... who doesn’t associate evil with the name of Hitler?
Sometimes our loved ones – family or friends - give us a pet name or a nickname that indicates that we have a special bond or relationship with them, a name no one else uses to address us.
Our name on a card or gift or over our place of business speaks to us that we have worth, that we are recognized. It is a basic human need to feel that we have significance, and it is not without our name that we can achieve it. Though we change and discard many things in our lives very few people ever change their given name , even though we had no voice in choosing it. Someone else decided what we would be called.

Did you know that every believer will one day be given a new name by Jesus? If we consider it an honor to carry the name our parents choose for us how much greater an honor will it be to be given a special name chosen by God?
In Rev. 2:17 Jesus makes a promise to those who stay faithful until the end. He promises “I will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” He will give you and me a secret name…a name known only to God and to us. Does it surprise you that there will be secrets in heaven? Isn’t sharing a secret a sign of intimacy? Even young children understand very quickly that there is a built-in mystique to be able to say .”I’ll tell you a secret.”

I no longer remember where I read it but the following story touched me so deeply I never forgot it.

A missionary dedicated his life to bring the gospel to a primitive tribe deep in the jungles and far from civilization. He encountered the expected problems of first learning an unknown, unwritten language and then struggling to express the things of God so these primitive people could understand. In this village lived an old man who was drawn to the missionary but resisted his teaching. It seemed unfathomable to him that there was a God who had died to save him , when all his life he had felt ostracized by the members of his own tribe. He finally came to the missionary one day and said that he was ready to accept this God and prayed a prayer of faith. His countenance changed and he became kinder and more loving , even forgiving those who had mistreated him. He had only been a Christian for a short time when he became very ill and faced death. The missionary assured him that God was waiting to receive him into heaven but the old man struggled with fear that God would not recognize him when he came to heaven’s door.
In this village there was an ancient tribal custom . When a child was born their mother whispered a secret name into their ear. Only after they were grown was this name repeated.. by the mother whispering it once more into their ear. Never was this name spoken aloud. No one was ever to know this secret name, except for one very special friend and it was the highest possible honor to be told someone’s secret name. The old man had never told anyone.
Seeing the old man was nearing the last moments of his life, the missionary knelt beside him, praying. Suddenly the dying man’s eye’s opened . A glad astonished cry escaped from his lips and his face shone with an unearthly light. His last words were clear and jubilant, “Jesus ! He knows my secret name ! He is calling me by my secret name!”

Two things touch me in this story. The first is that it illustrates the gentleness of God in stooping down to relate to us at our level.
The second is the mystery of where the tribal custom of a secret name came from. These were primitive people who had never been out of the jungle. They had no access to culture or learning outside of what was verbally passed down to them from their ancestors. Yet, here was this custom that had been practiced for generations. Could it be possible that God somehow inspired this custom so one day one old man could understand his worth before God? I am always awed at how great our God is. As much as the world has to offer… it pales into obscurity in contrast to what God has planned for each of His children.

Isaiah 64:4 For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen,… what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Sky Pilot

One beautiful summer day , more than several years ago, my husband and I climbed to the peak of Mt. Outram, an 8,000 ft. B.C. mountain. Standing on a mountain peak always reminds me of the verse in Amos 4:13 , “For, lo, he that formeth the mountains….. treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name.…” It is easy to believe that the mountain tops is where God walks because the hustle and bustle of the world is so far away..… the silence is profound… there is not another human being within sight nor any evidence that he even exists. Your senses are heightened and your mind is clear. It is intoxicating to breath the fresh mountain air.

When finally we reached the summit of Mt. Outram that August day , after a good 7 hours of climbing, we stood on the desolate rocky area that defined the highest point of the mountain. Very little vegetation grew here, in fact, the last couple of hours of climbing comprised of rock scrambling. But my eye was immediately drawn to the only bit of colour on this grey expanse. A brilliant , beautiful blue flower. I was amazed to find such a lovely thing growing here and I went over to examine it more closely… It was so pretty I was sure it must have a sweet scent and I bent down to smell. Immediately , I pulled back in disgust…. “Oh, “ I exclaimed to my husband.. "a skunk sprayed directly on this flower.” My husband insisted no skunks lived in that high altitude, I was just as adamant that it had obviously been there. Later, when we were back home I searched our wild flower books to find out about this amazing flower. I finally found it… ‘ Sky Pilot, a blue flower growing in high altitudes identified by its unmistakable skunk smell’.

I never forgot this little flower, although I have never seen one since , and I still value the lessons it taught me.

1. It taught me about how God judges worth. The flower’s beauty seemed almost a waste… There was no one to appreciate it’s offering… no one except God. I know some people who live their life in comparative obscurity … people who never seem to be appreciated… they work behind the scenes, out of the limelight, - their life seems to lack significance as this world measures significance. Yet they have value and worth in God’s eyes… they are part of His eternal plan.

2. It taught me to look for beauty in the desolate times of life. Sometimes this life does not seem worth living.. All around is nothing but the grey cold of life’s harshness. Difficult circumstances, unbearable grief, insurmountable obstacles , endless drudgery…. yet if we look for God’s gifts we will find them all around us ..His love is eternal and His tenderness and wisdom unfailing.

3. It taught me about faithfulness. The Sky Pilot did not ask question its purpose or position in life. It just bloomed where it was planted. And so we too serve God by being faithful where we find ourselves… whether or not anyone notices, whether or not we have answers for all our questions.

4. It taught me about God’s care and about His protection. Because the Sky Pilot has a very short growing season in a very harsh environment its very survival is in peril. But God placed His hand of protection over it … He gave it the offensive scent of a skunk so no animal looking for food would be tempted to nibble on this delicate morsel. It made me wonder if some of the things that ‘stink’ in our life are in reality the protection of God over us. Does He bring some things into our life to protect us from some evil that would otherwise destroy us?

5. And lastly the Sky Pilot is blue , the color of heaven. It taught me that we can bring a bit of heaven into this dark world by simply blooming in our place and reflecting the glory of the One whose face we behold. II Cor. 3:18

Friday, January 5, 2007

Graveyards and Genealogies

I love to stroll through graveyards or study genealogies. It is not that I have a morbid fascination with death…but rather that I have a deep interest in life stories. Graveyards and genealogies point out that there is an end to every life story…at some point the last chapter is written and the book is closed. Then only the question remains… what message is left for those who remember??
When I wander through a graveyard I read the tombstones searching for a clue concerning the life of the person whose name is now etched in stone. I may glean the fact that they were a wife or a mother , whether they died in their youth , in childbirth, or in old age, sometimes there may be a phrase added beneath their name , or perhaps a favorite scripture verse or saying. Sometimes the stone is overgrown with moss and I wonder , is there no one who remembers them?

Just as I search for clues on a tombstone I have also sometimes found things of interest in a genealogy list.
Years before Jabez became a household name through Wilkerson’s book, I had discovered him tucked away in the middle of the genealogy recorded in I Chronicles 4.
There are several things that strike me about Jabez that are still a message to us…. thousands of years later.
First Jabez seems to be pulled out of obscurity… we are not even told who his parents are…even though the brief mention of him is sandwiched in the midst of a list of begats. He seems to come from an unknown or insignificant family , perhaps even a family from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ judging from the fact that he is said to be more honorable than his brethren. And to add to the picture of a less than ideal family we are told that his mother named him Jabez ( meaning- born in pain) because she bore him in sorrow. Jabez could have joined his brethren in their worthless pursuits but Jabez desired to be different. He could have lived his life in self-absorption. He could have determined to give as he got…to get even , to demand what he deserved, to get back what he had been denied. But instead Jabez chooses the opposite , and shines bright enough to warrant a special place in God’s His-story…
Jabez obviously had a sensitive heart. He wanted to rise above the sorrow covering his life and asked that God keep him from evil so that he would not live in regret. I believe that Jabez was someone who used his name as a reminder not to bring sorrow or pain into the lives of others.
The fact that we are told God answered his prayer communicates to us that Jabez pleased God in his request and in his life.

The message that Jabez leaves for us is that it doesn’t matter how unprivileged we are at birth or what life deals us in terms of sorrow or hardship … we can rise above it and make our life count in the eyes of God and cause our life to be a blessing to those around us. And a very special encouragement Jabez leaves for us is that God truly is not a respecter of persons… He does hear and answer the prayers of anyone seeking Him.

When I get to heaven Jabez is one of the people I want to look up and have a conversation with. I want to know all about his life …what did he do, where did he live, who did he marry , how many children did he have… what did he think about, and how did he know God. All I have now is the dust jacket from the book of his life.. but one day I will hear the whole story.