Sunday, April 29, 2007
During the years we walked in rebellion to God, we had some good friends, Hans and Rosetta, who had also turned away from their Christian upbringing. Hans had a wild streak in him and he loved the nightclub scene. He begged us to go partying with them and so we did. Rosetta and I never got past the first drink, and I don’t think she was ever more comfortable in those places than I was.
After several nights spent at a Vancouver night club, Vic and I looked at each other one early morning on our way home and asked ourselves if we had really had a good time. The answer for both of us was no, and we never went again, and consequently lost touch with our friends.
Even though we had abandoned our belief in God, we still sent our daughter Romay to Sunday school. We wanted her to make up her own mind about what she believed. Every Sunday I took her to my aunt and uncle’s house, who were so kind to take her to church with them for years.. Their daughter was the same age as Romay so they grew up as sisters. What I didn’t know until years later was that Romay had accepted Jesus as her Saviour, and prayed for us to be Christians too.
“A little child shall lead them.”
I need to mention one detail… just to show how God will use whatever He can. One of my favourite TV shows was Battlestar Galactica . When I watched it... the struggle between good and evil… it always awoke in me a desire to believe that God was true after all.
In 1977 Vic began to have anxiety attacks that continually got worse, until in 1979 he could no longer go to work and was virtually house bound. He had always been a very independent person, who thought he needed no one – he could take care of himself and what was his. Now everything was crumbling at his feet – but that is his story.
I wanted Vic to go for help but he refused and didn’t want anyone to know what was happening to him. So I lived a double life… at work I pretended nothing was wrong, and then when I got home I had to try to deal with someone who clung to me –literally for dear life. I did not know what to do, and did not know how to help him. He would not allow me to talk to friends or family. The situation became unbearable.
Then one day I came home from work and Vic told me that he had been watching Pat Robertson on TV, and wanted me to see the program. I watched, and thought it was all show, the fancy stage, the pin striped suits and the begging for money.
A few days later, he told me that he had prayed and turned his life back to God.
I thought, “Well, whatever helps him. He’ll come to his senses when he no longer needs a crutch.”
Perhaps a week later, Hans and Rosetta called unexpectedly one night and asked us to come over. To our surprise they had come back to the Lord and wanted us to know about it, and listen to a tape they had. I sat and listened to the three of them talking but I really wasn’t interested.
The tape was of Dr. Richard Eby who had fallen to his death from a window, had been revived and lived to tell of his out of body experience. What caught my attention was the vision he had had of hell. He described his experience with such detail and sincere, emotional conviction that I believed him.
I began to wonder … If there was a hell, if there was evil… there must also be the opposite… A God and a heaven.
But I was afraid, afraid of embracing the struggle again of trying to live the Christian life and failing.
Vic would not leave me alone, he was constantly begging me to join him in his renewed faith in God, and I was getting more and more annoyed and resistant to his ‘nagging’.
Then one Friday morning I was doing some things around the house before I had to leave for work – I was working the late shift, 12:30 to 9:00 pm. Vic suddenly came to me and said that he had invited the pastor of the church we had both attended growing up, to come to our house. I was upset – I didn’t like the pastor , I thought he was a hypocrite, and I thought Vic had totally gone over the top in pressuring me- now he expected me to talk to a pastor?!
Everything just culminated that morning, all the stress and tension of the last two years were suddenly too much and I had to get out. I was already dressed for work and I grabbed my purse and car keys and left, ignoring Vic’s pleas for me not to go.
I headed for the freeway and wanted to just keep driving, not knowing where nor caring. I decided I wasn’t even going to show up for work. I would call them with some excuse. All I knew was that I wanted to put as much distance as I could between me and everything I had to deal with at home.
Just before I got to the exit I would normally take on my way to work, the car started acting up… it was over heating. Great!!
Not wanting to be stranded somewhere I decided I might as well go to the mall, where I worked at Eatons.
I felt such agony of soul and wanting some escape I did what I had always done all my life, I looked for a book. Entering the book store, instead of heading for the novels, I went to the spiritual section, thinking maybe there was something that would help me...
As I stared at the shelves, not really even seeing the titles, one book stood out to me. I reached out and took it from the shelf. My mind was racing, crying out with unanswered questions.
I absentminded flipped through the book in my hand, and a strange thing happened.
Every time a question cried out in my mind, the answer appeared on the page was looking at. It happened again and again, the question, the random flipping of pages, the answer appearing as my eyes focused on the words that stood out in bold relief.
I thought, this is too weird, I better buy this book.
The book? 'Something More' by Catherine Marshall. (Later when I wanted to reread the answers to my questions, no matter how hard I searched I could not find them anywhere in the book.)
It was time for me to start work.
I went and tried to pretend everything was all right although I did my job on automatic pilot that day. Outwardly I seemed fine, no one indicated any concern, but inwardly my emotions and thoughts were crushingly painful.
Throughout the day, over and over again, an unfamiliar warm wave would wash over me, surrounding me with a ‘presence’ of peace and calm. I had never experienced anything like it before – but somehow I knew that it was God- every time it came I stood motionless until it passed.
(later I found out that Vic had called Rosetta shortly after I left that morning and had asked her to put my name on a prayer chain. She did, and I believe that every time someone prayed for me – I literally ‘felt’ God answering their prayers)
By the time I left the store to go home, I was in a much calmer state but my thoughts were still in confusion as to what I was going to do , and what was I to do about God?
If he was real…. I had to make a choice - serve Him or reject Him.
On my way home,- I know the exact spot it happened- the wave came again but this time with such power that the car was filled with it. Now I knew that it was God – it was unmistakable.
A Love so powerful and real I could touch it!
I was at a decision crisis in my life. I was very aware that perhaps this was my last chance, that if I let this opportunity pass it may never come again.
That frightened me but there was something else that held me back from yielding to this wonderful Presence and Power …. I had been taught that Christians had to witness, and witnessing involved street corners, and going up to someone and giving them the gospel and reciting memorized bible verses – everything in me cringed at the idea.
No sooner had the thought formed in my mind than I heard God speak….”You don’t have to do that.”
I did not question the Voice, my heart leaped in surprise and I asked, “I don’t?” The answer was clear, “No, you don’t, you don’t ever have to say a word.”
All my doubts and questions began to melt and I wanted, oh, how badly I wanted to yield to the Love that filled my car. But I was still afraid, afraid that I would accept this Loving God and then find it all disappear after a time and I would be disappointed again – I couldn’t handle that. I wanted a God that would consume my life – that would be big enough to keep me ever learning and growing.
I thought, "OK, I will wait...if this feeling stays with me until I get home, then I will yield myself, my life to God."
Again God’s voice spoke, “You don’t have to wait, You have already made your decision.”
I knew that I had – the Love that filled the car now filled me!
I cried out that if God could indeed be big enough to fill every moment of every day for the rest of my life and eternity, I wanted Him!!! Oh how I wanted Him!!!
I wanted to confess all my sins and I started to list them but God assured me they were all forgiven.
What joy, what excitement filled my being.
I literally felt that my mind had been replaced with a new disk of information – the old way of looking at things and thinking was gone - I had a new mind – how much sense everything made now, and my thoughts whirled trying to take it all in.
When I got home, Vic was waiting for me at the door and he didn’t have to ask how my day had been… he took one look at me and knew.
Since that day I have never looked back. I found the God I was looking for, One who is real, and True, and intimately concerned about me and involved in my daily life.
I smile now at the memory of how relieved I was when God told me I didn’t have to ‘witness’ for Him. I found that talking about Him was the thing I loved best - and I looked for opportunities to share about His goodness, His love, to my friends, my family, co-workers, customers or even strangers. But I never thought of it as ‘witnessing’, it was as natural as talking about anything else in my life that was important.
My journey did not end that June Friday in 1979, it was just beginning and it is still continuing today – and my heart’s cry that God be big enough to fill my every day has more than been answered.
Every child of God has a ‘journey’ story and every story is unique. God is a personal God and knows exactly how to reach each one of us. He knows what experiences, what circumstances will guide us to Him, and He uses them all.
I often hear Christians express their regret that they don’t have ‘a story’, but I truly believe that the stories that will have the greatest honour in heaven will be the ones that say “I loved God all my life”.
The rest of us will glorify God because He kept searching for us, when we stopped looking for Him.
Saturday, April 28, 2007
My first memory at nine months involves my conscience. It was May of 1948. I was with my parents in the back seat of a car sitting on my mother’s knee. There were people sitting in the front and they were looking backwards, talking and playing with me.
I enjoyed the attention … it made me feel happy!
Then suddenly, they turned back to face the front and changed their language.
I grew up in a Mennonite home and the custom was that adults spoke High German to their children but Low German to each other. I knew the difference and hearing the Low German sounds made me feel excluded and I did not like the feeling.
So I did what babies do… I fussed.
From the reaction of the adults, who seemed confused about why I was unhappy, I knew what I was doing was not right. I tried to stop, but did not know how… I remember clearly the helpless feeling I had – wanting to do what was right and not being able to do it. I wanted someone to MAKE me good.
I was taken to church when I was two weeks old and rarely missed a Sunday all the growing up years of my life.
Though I went to Sunday school faithfully, I was not made aware of the gospel message until I was eight years old.
A single lady in the church who liked me, often singling me out for attention, on one occasion lent me a story book. I could not read German yet, so my Mother read the book to me at bed time. I no longer remember the details of the story other than it was about a girl who through various experiences came to the realization of her need of salvation.
After several nights of reading, the story came to an end. My mother closed the book, said good night and left the room.
But I could not sleep. My heart was in turmoil and I was suffering from deep conviction of my sin. I knew I was just like the girl in the story.
Finally, I just burst into tears. My mother came back into the room and somewhat harshly asked what the matter was. Unable to express my need, I borrowed the words of the girl in the story….”Mien Hertz ist nicht rein.” (My heart is not clean!”)
Immediately my Mother’s attitude changed and she came and sat on my bed and led me to pray the sinner’s prayer and ask Jesus into my heart.
Oh, how wonderful I felt, and clean knowing my sins were all forgiven!!
The next morning, I awoke to my new world…. Everything was different… I was saved! I belonged to Jesus!!
Over the next years I struggled to keep my faith alive and to make Jesus the most important thing in my life. But it seemed to me, more and more that I must have something wrong… until by the time I was twenty ( two years after I was married and had my daughter) the doubts had grown to be bigger than my faith and I turned my back on following the Lord.
There were several factors that culminated in destroying my faith.
One root went all the way back to when I was very young. My parents, like so many others, delighted in the fun of teaching me that Santa Claus was real. I was intrigued with this wonderful mysterious man who appeared only at Christmas Time.
I still vividly remember the excitement that filled my little heart the day my father came home with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Guess who I saw in town today?” Of course, I couldn’t guess and finally he told me it was Santa Claus. I was enthralled to think that MY father had not only seen Santa Claus but had actually TALKED to him, and he had even asked about me by name. I keep pressing him to tell me over and over again every detail of what he looked like and what he had said,
Then I remember when I was five years old, it was again almost Christmas.
Every day I kept asking my Dad if he had seen Santa Claus yet.
I guess my mother got tired of listening to my questions and finally she burst out, “You are too old to believe in Santa Claus.”
I did not want to believe that she was saying what I thought I heard. But she continued to tell me that Santa Claus was only a fairy tale.
Not only did I feel extremely betrayed, but the thought that exploded in my head was, “Next they will tell me that God isn’t real either!”
I remember the pain of the cry of my heart, “No, No! It can’t be!! God IS real.”
But the seed had been sown and it grew.
I also remember praying one night for my grandparent’s sick dog, and finding the next day that he was better. Excited that God had answered my prayer I was told never to pray like that again because God didn’t answer those kinds of prayers.
I remember one day listening to Christian radio, that my Mom usually had on, and I heard three radio speakers, one after the other all use the same text. What puzzled me was that each one of them had a different view, a different meaning that they put to the passage.
I went to find my bible and look up the passage. When I read it, I couldn’t see ANY of their interpretations clearly fitting the words I read for myself .
My thought - ”Well, if the bible is that hard to understand that even the educated leaders can’t understand it, who am I to be able to understand it?”
I was also influenced by my school teachers. One teacher in particular who I greatly respected for his ‘wisdom’ and knowledge, was an atheist and though he didn’t come right out and say so he ‘taught’ out of his world view and my doubts grew.
I was a ferocious reader and I read about evolution and how the world and all that was in it came to be. I believed science was true… so I began to doubt my Sunday school stories.
From the time I was eight and accepted Jesus into my heart, I instinctively knew that a Christian had to be different…that his/her life had to show that Jesus was living within him.
But looking at the people in my life I saw over and over again that they had faith on Sunday but Monday was back to normal. Their faith did not reach into their practical living.
I remember being told that I could not read a particular book on Sunday but I could read it on Monday, that we could play sports on a week-day but not on Sunday.
I struggled trying to reconcile something being a sin on Sunday but not on Monday. I reasoned that if God declared something a sin…would it not also be a sin on Monday as well as Sunday? My doubts were watered.
There were a few people I knew, two sisters in particular who taught my DVBS summer school, that I knew had something I wanted.. faith in God that was real. The fact that they stood out as 'different', made me wonder if it was just because they were especially nice.
But the seeds they sowed into my heart did not die.
When I got married my husband was also struggling with his faith much the same as I was, and when he openly expressed his views contrary to the things of God, I resisted at first, but then I choose to ‘join him’.
I remember well the moment I turned away from God. I was lying in bed, struggling as I so often did in my thoughts and emotions trying to find the reality of God and faith and fit it into my world view. While I WANTED God to be real, more and more I was finding that my doubts were bigger than my faith.
At this particular moment I knew I was at a cross road, either I believe in God, or I declare that He does not exist, or at least that He was no longer interested in the human race.
I made my choice – God was not the God I had been taught to believe in – and I closed my heart’s door on Him.
I remember the rush of relief when I made my decision final. I know now, the sense of relief was God stepping away and letting me go! I was free!
From then on, began my search for Truth. I searched in many places including other religions and New Age teachings. I never embraced any of them…I just looked - trying to find something that would fill the void that my faith in God had once filled.
For ten years, I walked my own paths, defined my own truth, and wondered every time I looked at a tall majestic tree… Who could make a tree other than God?
And always my heart’s cry remained…. “God, if you are there, please reveal yourself to me, but I want to know who you REALLY are!”
To be continued (See Part 2) –“God waited and watched… until I found Him!”
Friday, April 27, 2007
When King Ahab died, Mesha took the opportunity to rebel and refused to pay the tribute to the new King, Joharam, son of Ahab.
Joharam was understandably reluctant to let this easy wealth slip through his fingers and he decided to go to battle against Mesha to teach him a lesson.
But he needed allies to ensure his victory.
So he sent a message to Jehoshophet, the king of Judah to ask if he would go with him to battle.
Jehoshophet immediately agreed saying, “I and my people and my horses are yours.”
The king of Edom also agreed to join his army with theirs and so King Joharam was confident that the three kings could easily subdue Mesha, the king of Moab.
They were an unlikely alliance.
King Joharam had learned his father’s evil ways while King Jehoshophet was a righteous king who followed after the ways of King David.
For some reason the three kings took a roundabout route on their way to Moab, and after seven days found they were out of water, for themselves, their men and their animals.
The King of Israel lamented that God had gathered the three kings together to hand them over to the Moabites.
But Jehoshophet was not willing to admit defeat before the battle had even been begun.
He asked, “Is there not a prophet of the Lord here that we may inquire of the Lord through him?”
The king of Israel replied that yes, there was a prophet in the area, Elisha.”
Jehoshophet knew Elisha and said, “Yes, he speaks the word of God.”
So the three kings went down to see Elisha.
When Elisha met with them he looked at the King of Israel and said, “What have I to do with you? Why don’t you inquire of the prophets of your father and mother?”
For Jehoram’s parents had worshipped false gods and had 400 false prophets to tell them what they wanted to hear.
Then Elisha said something very pertinent and interesting.
The word of God came through him saying, “If it were not for the fact that Jehoshephat is with you, I would not look at you, nor see you.”
Because of Jehoshephat, God gave Johoram victory against the Moabites; they did not even have to fight. God did it all.
You can read how the story ends in II Kings 3, but I would like to stop here because I think there is an amazing truth revealed that speaks to us today.
Jehoshephat was righteousness… The king of Israel was evil….. but because Jehoshephat brought him before the Lord, God granted him audience.
What is the applicable principle here?
We all know people who are unsaved, who are in the kingdom of darkness.
We know people who are out of fellowship with God.
We know people who for one reason or another are walking in sin or disobedience to the Lord.
They themselves will not approach the throne of God…if they did God would not hear them because of their unrepentant attitude toward the sin in their life.
I Peter 3:7 illustrates this truth in that it that warns husbands(I'm sure this includes wives too) to be nice to their wives or their prayers will be hindered.
I can never hear this verse without smiling at the memory of my little granddaughter paraphrasing this verse one day….
My daughter was spending the week-end at our house with her two girls, when my oldest granddaughter, Elise, was two -almost three.
Romay reprimanded Elise for something and when my daughter was out of ear shot, Elise confided to me with a frown, “I don’t want to hear my Mommy.”
I gently replied, “But you have to listen to your Mommy.”
Elise, ever the thinker, retorted, “Why?”
I explained, “Because Jesus says that children should listen to their Mommy.”
Elise retorted, “But that’s not fair!” She paused for a moment , then added, “Well, it makes sense!”
Later that same day, Vic was not doing something I had asked him to do and jokingly I told Elise to tell ChaCha (her pet name for him) to listen to Nanna.
Obediently she said, “ChaCha, you have to listen to Nanna.”
He asked with a smile, “Why do I have to listen to Nanna?”
Her answer was quick and to the point. “Because Jesus said you should listen to Nanna.”
We talk about intercessory prayer, but do we realize the power of it?
We can bring people before the throne who God would otherwise not ‘look at or see’.
We can bring them before the Lord, and because He knows us, we can ask on their behalf and God will hear and answer.
My husband was once working with a young man who confidently trusted his own self-reliance, and declared he needed no God. He could take care of himself.
My husband liked this young man and we prayed for him. We asked that God would pull the rug out from under him so that he would recognize his own vulnerability.
Day after day my husband began coming home with strange stories of what was happening to this young man.
One night in the middle of the night, for no reason at all, his guitar folded on itself and broke with a loud startling snap, causing him to sit up in bed his heart pounding with fear.
Another day a crow flew over him and dropped a steak bone on his head.
Yet another day, he had been driving a truckload of supplies into the states and his truck broke down, they would not allow him to cross the border and his day was spent trying to sort out the mishaps.
He admitted to my husband that he did not know what was happening, things like this had never happened to him before.
When he left the company a short time later, Vic gave him a bible which he gratefully accepted. We don’t know if he found the Lord, but we do know that God reached into his life to show him his need – because we brought him before God.
Is the story of Jehoshophet not an encouraging picture of the power of intercessory prayer?
One that spurs us on to bring as many people as we can before God so He can work in their hearts to bring them to Himself?
For God says in II Peter 3:9 that He is “not willing that any should perish.”
God is waiting for us to stand in the gap, bringing those before the throne who need salvation or forgiveness or God’s intervention in their lives…. God will hear us on their behalf and will answer.
James 5:16 “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”
Thursday, April 26, 2007
The two women are Abigail and Jezebel.
You could hardly imagine two women more dissimilar and yet both be remembered for the same reason.
I think even a quick glance would have made their differences apparent.
Abigail was a woman of calm beauty, full of grace and modest apparel. Her eyes warm and inviting , her smile welcoming and assuring. She exuded confidence and practical wisdom. Not only her own but also her husband’s servants came to her for advice because they could trust her to listen and respond with understanding.
She was loved and admired.
Jezebel ,in stark contrast to Abigail, was a woman of cold beauty. The kind that is emphasized by too much make-up and artificial enhancements. She dressed for shock effect and cared little what people thought of her. Her eyes were cold, her smile never reached them. She was manipulative and conniving, self-centered and cruel. Her servants served her with trembling hands, afraid of incurring her displeasure.
Both Abigail and Jezebel were married to wicked men, yet both looked out for the interests of their husbands.
Abigail’s husband we are told was “churlish and evil in his doings”. His name, Nabal, means ‘fool’, and he was aptly named, although he was a very wealthy man. When David and his men came to Carmel tired and hungry, David sent a message to Nabel reminding him of the protection he had provided for Nabel’s flocks and shepherds in the wilderness . David requested that he would now be so kind as to provide food for his hungry men. Nabal sent back a scathing reply saying, “Who is David ? and why should I give of my bread to someone I don’t know?”
David, of course, reacted in justified anger at being so humiliated and gathered his men with their swords to seek revenge against Nabal.
But someone warned Abigail of what Nabal had done and Abigail took things into her own hands. Without a word to her husband, she took provisions in hand and went out to meet David. She met him with calming words of wisdom, acknowledging that her husband was a fool. She assured David that had she seen his young man, she would have responded favourable to his request, and had indeed brought ample supplies with her. She begged David to accept her gifts and turn away from his intentions for revenge against Nabal.
David was impressed by Abigail’s wisdom, accepted her provisions and sent Abigail home in peace.
Jezebel was the wife of the King of Israel, whose name was Ahab.
Ahab was an evil king but he was spineless – Jezebel took advantage of his weakness to perpetrate her own evil intentions, as we are told she “stirred up” the wickedness of Ahab. When she observed Ahab one day in a sullen mood, she asked the reason why.
Ahab whined that he wanted their neighbour Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth refused to sell it to him. Jezebel replied, “Are you not the king? Go eat and drink wine, I will get your vineyard for you.”
So Jezebel plotted to trick Naboth into attending a banquet in his honor where two men instigated by Jezebel would come in and accuse him of blaspheming God and the king. The punishment? Death by stoning.
The plan was executed and when Jezebel’s servants came and told her that Naboth was dead, she went to her husband and told him to go and take possession of the vineyard, it was now his.
Both Abigail and Jezebel’s plans of actions, on behalf of their husbands, were successful in achieving their desired end but God was not finished yet.
When Abigail returned home and found her husband drunk she decided to say nothing to him that night. When in the morning Abigail told a somewhat sober Nabal what had transpired the day before, his heart failed him, he was turned to stone, and ten days later he died.
“God smote him”.
God’s eyes were also on Ahab, and God sent the prophet Elisha to Ahad to proclaim to his that God’s wrath was upon him ‘because he had sold himself to do evil in the sight of the Lord”.
He would bring evil upon Ahab’s house, and not one of his descendants would be left.
Ahab was filled with fear and lay in sackcloth and ashes, fasting and humbling himself before the Lord. God seeing his acts of humility , relented and declared that He would withhold the calamity until after Ahab’s death.
Though Ahab humbled himself before God, he did not change his ways and died under God’s judgement – he was ambushed and killed in battle by an arrow that found its way through the joints of his armour.
God also had a plan for both Abigail and Jezebel.
When David heard that God had judged Nabal, he immediately sent for Abigail to be his wife. Abigail graciously accepted David’s offer, and lived happily ever after (?) in the palace as one of King David’s wives, becoming the mother of one of his sons.
Jezebel was also named in Elisha’s warning. God had said,“The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.” And so it also happened. God made Jehu king, instead of Ahab’s son and when Jehu come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it.
She painted her face, dressed her hair and stood looking out of a window. Jehu looked up, saw her, and shouted, “Who in the house is on my side?”
Two eunuchs looked out at Jehu and he shouted at them to throw Jezebel down out of the window. They did so, and she fell to her death.
When Jehu later sent someone to bury the ‘cursed’ woman out of respect for the fact that she was a king’s daughter, they found nothing left of her except her skull, her feet and the palms of her hands.
Though time had passed since God’s judgment was spoken through Elisha, his prophecy had come true.
As I pondered the lives of these two women, I wondered what are we to learn from them? Why are we given this information about their lives?
I thought of a few reasons….
1. To show us how the events of a single day can drastically change our lives
2. To show us how God’s purposes weave in and through our lives, for good if we love Him, but for our destruction if we set ourselves against Him.
3. To encourage us to trust the Hand of God – His love, His righteousness, but also His judgement against sin and evil.
4. To teach us to know that human passions and characteristics do not change – even though these women lived thousands of years ago we still find it easy to identify with them.
5. To understand God - that He sees and watches over the lives and thoughts of men and no detail escapes His attention.
6. God’s heart is so merciful that He will give opportunity , even to wicked men, to repent.
7. God’s word, though it may be delayed, will come to pass.
I Sam. 25 – Abigail’s story
I Kings 21- Jezebel’s story
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Said the sparrow to the robin, “Friend, I think that it must be that they have no heavenly Father such as cares for you and me.” Elizabeth Cheny
Worry for some of us human beings is a way of life - it is the default response of our emotional make-up to any stimulus.
What makes us worry?
We are afraid of the unknown.
We are afraid that we will fail.
We are afraid that we may suffer.
We are afraid that things won’t turn out the way we want.
We are afraid that something bad will happen.
We are afraid for our loved ones’ safety or health or financial status.
We are afraid something may disturb our comfort zone.
We are afraid of what people may think of us.
The foundation or motivating factor of worry is fear.
God’s word tells us that ‘fear has torment’. (I John 4:18)
There is nothing like ‘worry’ to destroy our contentment, sap our strength, paralyze our ability to act, and put ulcers in our stomachs.
Worrying is not new to our generation… we come from a long line of worriers.
Abraham, our father of faith was a worrier.
He worried that God’s promise to give him a son would not come true. Ishmael is the result of his worries, and Ishmael’s descendents still trouble our world today. Abraham worried that the Egyptian king would desire Sarah’s beauty and kill him in order to take her. The result of his worries was a plague upon Pharaoh’s house, a reprimand to Abraham by Pharaoh, and Abraham being asked to leave Egypt. (Gen 12)
Job was a worrier.
Job 1:5 says, “So it was when the days of feasting had run their course, that Job would send and sanctify them and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all. For Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did regularly.”
He worried that perhaps his children had sinned. So just in case he sacrificed for them to cover their sins.
Then when he lost his wealth, his children, and his health Job proclaims, “For the thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me.”
In the thousands of years since Job have we much changed?
Our financial situations, our children and our health – do not most of our worries fit into those same categories?
So often in scripture when an angel or God Himself appears to someone in the bible His first words are “Fear not!”
If fear is the foundation of our worries, then the logical conclusion is that without fear we could not worry.
I am by nature a worrier, but I have learned to worry much less than I used to.
One day in reading my bible I came across a verse that suddenly had that ‘Holy Spirit enlightening’ that is so special.
The verse was in Lam. 3:23.
Lamentations is the book written by Jeremiah who is called the weeping prophet. It is a book written with tears and heaviness of heart… perhaps even worries. But here we find the verse that says that God’s mercies and compassions are new every morning.
New every morning.
That reminded me of the manna that the Israelites gathered in the desert – food from heaven. If they gathered more than they could eat the day they gathered it, the leftovers were rotten by the next morning.
Suddenly, what my mind was illuminated to understand was that when we worry about something that MAY happen tomorrow it is a very heavy burden that we cannot carry because we must carry it in our own strength. God has not given us His strength or mercy to deal with it. He is the great I AM. Ever present in the present – today… not tomorrow!
When our long arm of worry reaches into the future, it reaches into the dark, and darkness brings fear, and fear flips on the worry switch.
When I find myself starting to worry about something, I ask myself. “Does the thing I’m worrying about have anything to do with today?” If the answer is no, then I tell myself, “OK, then you can worry about it tomorrow… you have enough to cope with today.”
The Manna God gives us every morning is specifically fitted for that day... it is of absolutely no use if we try to use it for our ‘worries’ about tomorrow!!
How do we get rid of fear? The bible tells us.
“Perfect love casts out fear.” (I John 4:18)
Love? Not just any love, perfect love. Only God’s love is perfect …but if we completely trust in His love there will be no room for fear.
Selah! (Think on that!)
A small child does not worry – he has no fear – he trusts Mom and Dad will take care of it. Are we not to be like little children? Believing that there is nothing too big or too small that our Father will not take care of?
“Don’t worry!” is still something I need to be reminded of …as I have reminded myself in this post.
And remember – the greater your capacity to worry, the greater your capacity for faith!
Look at our examples of Abraham and Job!! Both went from worriers to great men of faith!
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” (I John 4:18)
"For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things......
"Take therefore no thought for the morrow; for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." (Matt.6:32,34)
Monday, April 23, 2007
In detail the picture is clear in my mind- just as I imagined it years ago, with my ear close to the radio trying to listen through the static to hear my favourite program.
I remember so vividly that, as my imagination provided the brush to paint the ‘moving pictures’ on my mind’s screen , I wished there was such a thing as a ‘box’ you could look into and actually ‘see’ the story unfold.
I had yet to see my first television set.
In the early 60’s I remember my teacher telling us about the marvels of this thing called a ‘computer’.
Trying to grasp the capabilities of this ‘monster’, I excitedly asked “You mean I can ask it any question and it will tell me the answer?”
I was laughingly told ‘well, yes, if you put the answer in first’.
My bubble burst. Of what use was it to have a machine that could only give you the answer to your question if you first told it the answer?
Of course, today I CAN ask my computer any question and it does tell me the answer without me telling it first!
Computers have changed the world… even in the last decade.
The ‘internet – World Wide Web” became available to the average household when my ten year-old granddaughter was born. I remember my son-in-law trying to download some files and telling us NOT to pick up the phone or his connection would be lost and he would have to start the tedious process all over again…beginning with waiting in line for access to the files he wanted to download!
I remember learning about bytes, then kilobytes and megabytes. Now we have gigabytes and terabytes (1000 gigabytes), petabytes (1000 terabytes) and waiting in line there are exabytes, zettabytes and yottabytes.
By 2010 the web’s information base will double every 11 hours.
The world’s body of knowledge doubled between 1800 and 1900. By 1940 it was doubling every 20 years, by 1970 every 7 years, by 2002 every 2 years and by 2015 it will be doubling every 35 days.
Is your brain elastic stretched to its limit yet????
There is a verse in Daniel that prophesies what signs will be evident in the end time.
“But you Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)
There was a time in the not very distant past that a person could learn all there was to know and if he continued to study could keep up with the new knowledge being added.
If you were able to travel back in time and find Abraham and take him with you on your return trip and dropped him off in time, say 150 years ago, he may have marvelled at some of the advances man had made but he could have quite comfortably settled into that world society.
But if you took him with you all the way to 2007, I think he would have thought the world had gone mad with sorcery and witchcraft – vehicles that drive without horses, doors that open because they ‘see’ you coming, people talking to people who aren’t there , anything you want or need is accessed by simply pushing a button, and on and on.
Can you even imagine his bewilderment?
In just the last century of human history there has been a wild explosion of knowledge.
I’m sure Daniel could never have imagined to what extent knowledge would increase when he wrote down the prophecy that God gave Him about the signs that would precede the end of this world.
The other sign given in Daniel's prophecy is that, “many shall run to and fro’
If we take that literally, jogging is a very recent activity of choice. If any of you are close to my age (past the 50 dividing line- smile) think back to your childhood. Can you imagine your parents or grandparents remarking “Well, I think I shall go for my run!” People then walked or ran because they had a purpose and a destination … they never went ‘to and fro’ for the ‘fun of it’.
But if we take a more serious interpretation – we see that world travel has increased unbelievably. We can go anywhere in the world – and do. If not by car, then transit bus, or train, or plane, or even space ship!!
Every year the American people spend 78 billion dollars on on-line travel alone!
Our world has indeed become very small – we can travel ‘to and fro’ with ease.
Daniel’s prophecy has come true.
But if these are such visual signs of the end, why do we not talk more about Jesus' soon return? The ‘end time’ teaching fervour of the seventies, eighties and nineties seems to have evaporated.
People have lost interest.
Is that not also a sign of the times? That people will be so preoccupied with the things of this life they will no longer be actively looking for his return? (II Peter 3:4)
How often do you think about Jesus coming back? Do you ever look up into the blue sky and wonder, ‘could it be today?’
One day there will be a loud trumpet blast like we have never heard before, the sky will open up to reveal Jesus in all His Kingly glory descending with His holy angels and we who are His, will rise up to meet Him.
What earthly excitement could ever come close to the exhilaration of that day?
We who are alive today could very well be the ones who will experience that Day!!
If we REALLY believed that would we live differently than we do?
Would our priorities change?
Would we truly look up with joy and excited anticipation??
“Now when these begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near!”
Sunday, April 22, 2007
When he said he didn't know if he wanted to go to church Sunday- sitting is hard- I just said,"We'll stay home tomorrow and you just rest...We'll find a TV service."
Well, we did.
I was up before Vic was and clicking through the TV channels hoping to find a good service, I caught a few minutes of Hour of Power. Schuller's guest was talking and when I realized who it was I found another channel where the service was just beginnning and I taped it.
Vic and I watched it together and we were really blessed. The service was a very moving one.
The guest was Robert Evel Kneivel who has become a born again Christian.
His testimony is a wonderful encouragement to those of us who have loved ones we are praying for.
Instead of posting the blog I had ready, I'll save that and will post a link to listen to Evel Kneivel's testimony instead! The website offers the worship service in three sections.
The song Miss America sings at the close of the service is beautiful!!
Maybe some of you caught the program today .... but in case you didn't here is the link.
Evel Kneivel on Hour of Power
Saturday, April 21, 2007
For us women, a mirror is crucial to our self-confidence – we would not think of going through our morning rituals without a mirror. And though men deny it- they too love to study themselves in front of the mirror, flexing their muscles or examining their hair line.
Mirrors have been in vogue since Adam and Eve first saw their reflection in the crystal clear water in the Garden of Eden.
But did you ever stop to think about the significance of mirrors in the Bible?
When God designed the furniture of the Tabernacle, the piece of furniture that stood inside the court between the altar and the tabernacle itself was the laver.
We read about the making of the laver in Ex. 38:8.
It was made by Bezaleel, who was a craftsman in whose heart God had put wisdom to know how to be a master in his trade. He built the laver out of the mirrors of the Israelite women who responded to Moses' request, "Let everyone who is of a willing heart, let him bring his offering to the Lord."
The gifts the people brought for the building of the Tabernacle - including the mirrors - were things they had brought with them out of Egypt.
We know very little about the laver’s size or design except that it was round and stood on a base and held water .
The priests, before they offered any sacrifice on the alter or before they entered the tabernacle building, were instructed to wash their hands and their feet; to neglect this ritual was at the risk of losing their life. (Ex. 30:18-21, 40:30-32)
What significance did this laver have? What was it a ‘shadow’ of?
We have a new testament verse in Eph. 5:26 where it says,in reference to the church, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.”
To the Jews this would have immediately brought to mind the picture of the laver and the ritualistic washings of the priests before they preformed any of their priestly duties.
When the priests bend down to wash in the laver they would have seen their reflection.
When we look into the word of God it is like a ‘mirror’ that reveals to us our sin, our shortcomings, where we fail in our pursuit of holiness.
We see ourselves the way we really are, not the way we would like to think we are.
God’s Word is a “discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart”. (Heb.4:12)
Jesus said to his disciples in John 15:3 , “Now you are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you.”
God in His mercy, though He reveals to us our sin, does so not to condemn us but that we might be ‘washed’ clean. His forgiveness is always extended to us.
That is why the laver has no dimensions given – and it is the only piece of furniture that does not have details given as to size and design.
God’s forgiveness has no limits and cannot be defined by man’s understanding.
When the priests were consecrated to their office of priesthood , they were ‘baptized’, washed all over – but then when they came to the tabernacle to do their service to God they only had to wash their hands and feet.
Do you remember when Jesus came to wash Peter’s feet, he protested and then proclaimed impulsively, “Well, if you are going to wash my feet , then wash me all over!”
And Jesus replied, “Those who are clean only need to wash their feet.”
Peter would have understood the reference to the priest’s ritual of washing in the laver.
The washing all over of the priest’s initiation into the priesthood parallels our new birth, when we are ‘immersed’ or baptized into the family of God.But even after we are saved we still need to be forgiven daily.
It is fascinating to note that God declares the washing in the laver would be an everlasting statute for the priests and down through the generations --- all the way to you and me.
Is that not a beautiful picture?
That when we come to God to pray or to bring our sacrifices of praise we need first to allow the Word of God to wash us, that we may come with unspotted garments before the throne.The laver of God’s forgiveness is big enough to wash away every sin of every human being ever created….. how sad that so many refuse to come and wash!
"How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word....Your Word have I hidden in my heart that I might not sin against You!"
Friday, April 20, 2007
I put ‘science’ in the same category as the weather. It changes a lot!!
But if you wait long enough it finally has no choice but to bow to the truth of God’s Word.
I have come across several examples recently where, once again, scientific research proves God is right after all!!
1. What causes our death? (excepting disease or accidents)
God has appointed a day for each of us when our physical life here will end.
Science has not agreed on that, considering the ages of people in the first chapters of Genesis to be fabled. It was not believed to be possible for a human body to live that long, the accepted truth being that though the body rejuvenates itself, this process becomes less effective over time and the body simply wears down to the point of death.
But… recent research shows that that is not the case. The body CAN indefinitely rejuvenate itself. What causes death is the pre-coded information in the DNA of each person. There is a day encrypted in our DNA that shall determine on which day we shall take our last breath.
God said “And as it is appointed unto men once to die….” (Hebrews 9:27)
In I Sam. 26:10 , David said, “Furthermore, As the Lord liveth…… his day shall come to die.”
2. God’s first words about man were “It is not good for man to be alone.”
In the wake of the Virginia massacre this truth was brought home again. The gunman, Seung-Hui Cho was a lonely man. In the midst of 26,000 students he was alone, not even known by the man who was his roommate for the last year. He sat in the back of the class, a hat over his face and did not participate.
God created man to be connected and interconnected one with another. To live contrary to God’s plan is to invite mental instability and emotional volatility.
God created man to be in the nucleus of a family, safe and secure and loved. We know that babies left to themselves without any human touch simply die. Human beings do not thrive when separated one from another.
3. Scientists’ insistence that the prehistoric earth is millions of years old has hit a snag. According to biological science, we have all came from a woman not too many thousands of years ago. Science has called this woman ‘Eve’, and originally thought her to be 200,000 years old but has been forced to drastically reduce her age in the light of the newly determined faster mutation rate of ‘mitochondrial DNA’.
I guess maybe the biblical account was right after all??
4.Evolution depends on the premise of the simple cell from which all complex organisms evolved , but as science is now enabled to delve deeper and deeper into the hidden aspects of the cell the ‘simple cell’ has become unbelievably intricate in design and purpose. There is a video of the Inner life of a simple cell It is an amazing thing to watch – to believe that that came about without intelligent design is so far fetched that anyone who believes it is, in God’s words, ‘a fool’.
I find it so delightfully comforting to know that God’s Word is still true and always will be. No human mind could possibly have written a book that transcends all time and has never, and will never, be proven to be mistaken or false in even the smallest detail!!
Our God truly is the Creator of all things and His wisdom begins where human wisdom ends.
“So shall I have an answer for him who reproaches me,
For I trust in Your Word!!” Ps. 119”42
Thursday, April 19, 2007
If you were looking for something that you had lost and God wrote you a letter and said, “Don’t look for it anymore, you will never find it”, would you keep on looking for it?
I think you would agree to do so would be somewhat foolish!!
And yet there is an active search going on today for something God has said will not be found.
The object of the search? The Ark of the Covenant.
Just Google the words ‘search for the Ark of the Covenant’ and you will see hundreds of sites dedicated to the zealous ongoing search for it.
Jeremiah 3, talks about the time to come when all nations will flow into God’s city Jerusalem and His people shall call Him ‘Father’. This prophecy is referring to the New Covenant or the church age.
In verse 16, God says that when this is taking place, “they will say no more, ‘the ark of the covenant of the Lord’. It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it nor shall it be made anymore.”
To me that is pretty conclusive – the Ark of the Covenant has disappeared, and it will stay disappeared!
What was the Ark of the Covenant?
The Ark of the Covenant was a beautifully crafted piece of furniture in the tabernacle that God designed and commanded Moses to build.
The chest was made of acacia wood and completely overlaid with gold. Its lid, made of pure gold, called the mercy seat, was securely held in place by a gold crown or border. At each end of the mercy seat were two cherubim also fashioned of gold with their wings stretched out over the mercy seat and their faces toward the mercy seat and facing each other.
In the ark were placed the stone tablets on which were written the commandments of the Law, Aaron’s rod that budded and the golden pot of Manna.
The Ark was hidden behind the veil in the Holy of Holies, which only the High Priest could enter once a year.
When it was moved with the tabernacle, it was first covered with the veil, then badgers’ skins and over the badgers’ skins was draped a blue cloth. It could not be touched – God commanded it be carried by poles that were slipped through rings on the sides. The reason it could not be touched is because we cannot 'touch' the salvation work that Jesus did! It is a gift of God that we can add nothing to.
To the people of Israel the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of God’s presence with them. It was God dwelling in their midst. As long as the Ark of the Covenant was with them, they knew they were safe under the watchful care of their God.
In Psalm 80:11 it says “You, who dwell between the cherubim, shine forth!”
It must have been an breath-taking sight when the burning sun shone through the veil onto the gold of the Ark of the Covenant, reflecting back onto the curtain, allowing the awe-struck people to see the ‘shadow’ of the Presence of God.
What did the Ark of the Covenant mean?
The Ark of the Covenant was the shadow of the Christ that was to come – Jesus. The gold that covered the acacia wood speaks only of Christ – the God-man. The wood (His flesh) covered over with His divine nature (gold).
Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law of God (Heb.10:7) but the Law could only condemn, therefore the Ark of the Covenant (Jesus) hid the law, and held up the mercy seat!
Jesus came to free us from the Law – mercy covers the condemnation of the Law. Mercy triumphs over judgement.
The crown that keeps the mercy seat in place is the perfect righteousness of Christ that secured for us God’s merciful forgiveness toward us who were condemned by the Law. (Gal.3:13)
Jesus was the Manna – the true Bread of Life (John 6:32,33), and Aaron’s rod ( a dead Branch) that budded symbolized the death and resurrection of Jesus.
The mercy seat (which in Hebrew means ‘covering’), was pure gold symbolizing Jesus divinity –Jesus revealed to us a God who showed mercy, “the propitiation (mercy seat) for our sins, but not for ours alone but also for the whole world!” (I John 2:2)
Romans 3:24,25, “Whom God has set forth to be a ‘mercy seat’ by His blood.”
On the Day of Atonement (Lev.16) the blood of the sin offering was sprinkled on the mercy seat to declare that God had accepted the death of the substitute lamb and was satisfied.
The two cherubim, with wings outstretched ready to execute judgment did not act – they gazed on the blood and saw that God’s justice had been satisfied. “Mercy and truth have met together. .Righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”(Psalm 85:10)
The two cherubim guarded the mercy seat where God dwelt between them. (Ex. 25:22) In Luke 4:10 when Satan is tempting Jesus he says, “for it is written, He shall give His angels charge over you…to keep you!”
When traveling - first the veil of the temple (Christ’s flesh) was put over the ark, then the covering of badgers’ skins which were strong and protective – no evil could touch him. Then finally the blue cloth covered the badger’s skins signifying that Jesus came down from heaven, to visibly dwell among men. The priests and the people never saw the ark nor the mercy seat – just as the people who saw Jesus when He physically walked this earth could only see the ‘man’ Christ Jesus. His human body hid His divinity.
On the Day of Atonement the high priest was commanded by God to fill a censor with incense and burn it in the Holy of Holies so that the cloud would cover the mercy seat.
In Ephesians 5:2 it talks about Christ who “loved us and gave Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling aroma.”
So we see that the Ark of the Covenant was a shadow God showed the Israelites to point to Jesus, the God-Man who was to come as the perfect lamb of God – to bring God’s Presence , His Holy Spirit, to dwell within the ‘temple’ of our bodies.
This is why the Ark of the Covenant will never be found.
Since the ‘good thing’ has come, the shadow is no longer needed. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” the veil in the temple rent in two- the veil that had effectively hidden the Ark of the Covenant from view and symbolically was a visual reminder of the separation between God and man. When the veil was torn, from top to bottom, the Holy of Holies was revealed – man could now freely enter God’s Presence.
The veil has never been replaced.
So also the Ark of the Covenant is gone…it shall not come to mind, - nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made any more.
The Ark has served the purpose of God, God’s Presence no longer dwells there – God by His Holy Spirit indwells His people, - and we have Jesus - who is our Redeemer, our Manna, our Mercy seat , our resurrected King .
"Oh, give thanks to the Lord for He is good!! For His mercy endures forever,
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods, For His mercy endures forever!
Oh, give thank to the Lord of Lords, for His mercy endures forever!!
To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever!!
Psalm 136……..”For His mercy endures forever!!!” FOREVER!!!
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
God is good, SO good that we often take Him for granted. Like spoiled children we take His gifts and neglect to say thank you!
When we are thankful, we connect emotionally and intimately with God.
God delights to dwell in a grateful heart.
I want to thank God this morning.
My computer crashed a few days ago and when I called a professional computer technician and explained what happened, he gave very little hope that any data could be retrieved without spending thousands of dollars.
I had not backed up my data….my fault, I know.
My first cry was upward, “Lord, can you help?”
And of course He could.
My computer savvy son-in-love patiently retrieved all my important files and transferred them to a new hard drive thinking perhaps that would solve my computer problems. But no, a new hard drive was not enough – the mother board was corrupt as the technician had guessed and the final word was that I needed a new computer.
So here I am with a new computer and a total of 560 GB of hard drive space that should do me for quite some time!! (smile)
"Thank you, Lord, for caring about my computer needs and working everything out for good!!"
On Saturday we got a letter from our sponsored child.
If you have read my post “My Desires” (Jan.11) you know the story of how a friend, insisting we had not charged her enough for a job we did for her, informed us that she was going to buy a cow – in our name - for a needy family in Uganda. A couple of months later we sponsored a girl named Sharon from Uganda (grade 2) who lives with her 4 siblings and mother. Her father died several years ago. In the letter we got from her on Saturday she enclosed a picture of herself and a cow and she said, “You have made my life very prestigious now because you gave me a cow!”
We were so happy that God worked it out for our sponsored family to have the cow !!
"Thank you , Lord, for blessing Sharon, and making her life easier."
On Sunday was my mother’s birthday. Rather than burden her with the stress of having everyone come to her home we decided we would meet at a restaurant for Sunday lunch. I took responsibility for making it happen but did not reserve the restaurant in time and when I called early Sunday morning they said they could not accommodate our family.
OK, now what! My heart sank. Everyone had been called and had made plans to meet at the designated place.
Again, my cry was upward and God heard.
My husband suggested trying the Rendezvous restaurant.
I called and they were very friendly and assured us we would be welcome.
The number of family members able to come kept growing – I thought at first we would be about 10 but by the time we got to the restaurant we were 17.
I told the maitre’de when we arrived that we were a few more than I had reserved for and he said, “No problem, I’ll give you the back room all to yourself.” It was lovely ! - much better than it ever could have been at the first restaurant of choice.
There is a verse that says, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps”. (Prov.16:9)
I am so grateful to God that INSPITE OF US, He guides us toward the very best.
"Thank you , Lord, that even birthday celebrations are important to you!"
I am also thankful for my new four legged grandchild ! Our kids got a Blue Merle Sheltie 7 ½ week old puppy. We have all fallen in love with its sweet tempered nature. It slept through the first night they had it and whimpers when it needs to go outside. I can see how good it is for my granddaughters to care for and love the puppy.
"Thank you, Lord, for giving us pets to love and learn from !"
As you go through today…look at the things and people and beauty around you as gifts God has given you. Count them… and make today a day of ‘thanks-giving’!
"Thank-you , Lord, for every person who is reading these words. I ask that you bless them in a special way today and may their hearts fill with gratitude for your love that never fails!!"
Monday, April 16, 2007
Saturday, April 14, 2007
While gifts by definition are free and unsolicited , they are always given for a reason or a purpose: a birthday, a special occasion, a holiday, or a ‘just because’- to express gratitude or friendship or sympathy.
We also promise gifts as an incentive.
“If you pick up your toys I’ll give you a sucker”,
“if you do your chores I’ll give you an allowance”,
“if you get on the honor roll we’ll go to Hawaii”,
“if you graduate from university I’ll buy you a car!!”
From the time our children are little we recognize the value of incentive gifts.
Being wise parents who understand our children, the promised incentives are ones we know will encourage them not to give up, to help them stick-to-it even when the going gets tough. We offer the gifts out of love and desire to see them to excel.
God says that if we , being evil parents know how to give good gifts to our children, how much more does He? (Matt. 7:11)
When Jesus gave His messages to the seven churches , He promised incentive gifts to all those who would persevere until the end !! You and I are included in these promises.
Have you recently thought about the things that Jesus is offering to those who stay true to Him, “To him that overcometh will I give….” ?
The first gift is the right “to eat of the tree of life .” The tree of life still stands in the paradise of God – we will see it and eat from it !!
When Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God evicted them from the garden to prevent them from eating of the Tree of Life – because this tree would have locked them into an eternity separated from God. So what is God promising us here?- That He will give us the fruit of this tree – ensuring us of an eternity in the presence of God, living in fellowship with Him!!
He also says He will not blot our name out of the book of life, it will remain a permanent entry signifying our eternal citizenship of heaven
Jesus also promises that “the second death will never hurt us”. Never again will we need to fear the danger of being separated from God – we will truly have eternal security !!
Another incentive gift is the promise of eating the hidden manna. Did you ever wonder what the manna called ‘angel food’ (Psalm 78:25), that God sent from heaven to feed His people in the wilderness, tasted like? I would love to taste it. The fact that He calls it ‘hidden’ gives the message it is not for everyone…just those for whom He has put it away – for those who overcome, whose who are worthy.
Food is always a great incentive to us , isn’t it? Every celebration, every special event centers around food – a banquet, a dinner, a basket of fruit, a cake, a box of chocolate, an ice-cream cone. We reward ourselves and each other with food. If we find satisfying our taste buds so enjoyable here….can you imagine what it will be like there? What heavenly things we will savor?
He also promises us a white stone. In the Roman courts at the time of Jesus, the person on trial standing before the judge to hear the verdict was given a white stone if he was acquitted, and a black stone if he was condemned. If we stay true to Jesus until the end ,He, as our judge, will give us the white stone signifying our forgiveness, and it will have our new name written on it – forever, throughout all eternity we will be declared pure and righteous!!
Jesus also promises us ‘power over the nations’. Does this mean we will sit in the judgment seat with Jesus when the heavenly courts are in session to declare God’s righteous judgments? He says He will give us permission to sit with Him in His throne, even as His Father granted Him permission to sit in His throne.
There is a wonderfully poetic promise of the morning star! Jesus declares that He Himself is the bright morning star. (Rev.22:16) Is this a promise that Jesus will be all our own, to spend intimate one-on-one time with, sitting at His feet, reveling in His love, never tiring of His voice?
If we endure until the end Jesus promises we will be given white raiment. We love to shop for that special garment befitting a special occasion – Jesus promises us a new ‘garment’ , heavenly raiment to wear as we enter eternity !! Can you imagine how beautiful it will be?
And Jesus says He will confess every victorious overcomer before the Father and the angels. Does your heart beat with anticipation of the thrill of that moment, when heaven rings with Jesus’ voice calling out your name to announce your arrival to the Father?
Jesus promises that He will make us a pillar in the temple of God.
He will write on it the name of God, and the name of the city of God – the New Jerusalem- , and also His own new name !!
An ancient Roman custom was to commemorate emperors or generals who had served their country well by erecting a pillar on which would be written their name, the name of the god under whom he served, the city he served and the honorable deeds for which he was remembered.
Jesus promises us that whatever we do in His name, will be commemorated forever – it will not be forgotten!
I think sometimes we are easily overwhelmed with the idea of what the new world will be like!
It is a little like someone promising me a 250 gb computer - with fast connection to the internet and all the latest software- back in 1965. I would not have understood what I was being offered, unable to grasp the magnitude of its potential. But today I find I absolutely amazing - beyond what I could have ever envisioned when I was a teenager.
I believe it will be with the same explosion of understanding and new awakened senses, that will make us gasp with delight when we take in our first view of the New Jerusalem.
I can’t wait to see the wonders that God has planned for us.
Let us renew our diligence to persevere, letting nothing distract us from our goal!
Hebrews 6:11,12 “And we desire that every one of you do shew the same diligence to the full assurance of hope unto the end, that ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Friday, April 13, 2007
While my forte was books and arithmetic, Miss Cooper loved organized team sports and doing well athletically was as important to her as book learning.
The weather permitting, she would often take us outside , divide us into two teams and referee a baseball game.
How I dreaded those times.
I was always one of the last to be chosen for a team, understandably so, because I was not a team asset ! I was not competitive and worst of all - I was afraid of the ball.
I remember one particular summer day we went outside to the baseball diamond and after enduring the humiliating groans of the team I was assigned to, I was told by Miss Cooper to play shortstop. My heart sank. I hated that position because it made me stand too close to where the ball was most often in play, but I obediently stood on my designated spot hoping against hope that I could avoid the ball , and that I would not be responsible for my team losing.
All went well, until Barry , who was the best batter of all, came up to the plate.
The pitch was thrown and I heard the loud resounding crack of the bat solidly connecting with the ball.
To my horror the ball was hurtling in my direction, straight toward me.
Time stood still!
My world fled away, leaving me all alone , standing on the brink of decision between life and death.
From afar off , I heard Miss Cooper scream my name to catch the ball. I was aware the batter had already determined he had hit a home run and was running for first base. I was vaguely conscious of voices shouting.
My heart was pounding with fear and adrenalin was surging through my body – I knew if I ducked out of the way I would face the critical words of Miss Cooper – and her disappointment in me. But I also knew it was impossible to catch the ball - it would hit me and I knew – kill me.
I could not move … The feared pain was certain –
the ball was still coming. There was no escape.
Then from somewhere inside me rose a conviction formulating a decision – ‘hold out your hands – if you die, you die, but at least you will have tried.”
So I held out my bare hands – I had no glove – and with my hands cupped I waited for the inevitable ……..
Then, suddenly! as quickly as my world had stopped, it righted itself.
Time began again.
I was still alive.
And wonder of wonders, to my amazed disbelief – the ball was firmly grasped in my two hands. My hands stung but I hardly noticed – my teacher and all my classmates erupted into the loudest cheering and screaming I had ever heard.
It was my moment !! I was the unexpected hero of the day, and I won the stunned admiration of Miss Cooper. “How in the world did you catch that?”
The memory is crystal clear in my mind – a childhood memory from a child’s perspective, but I think it illustrates a principle that is worth noting.
When we find ourselves in a position where we have to make a decision or a choice – especially in a pressure moment- our choice of action will reveal who we are and what the motivating truths are that drive us.
Disappointing my teacher was something I wanted to avoid at any cost – even if it meant putting my life on the line!!
I am still a people pleaser and it is still a motivation that is very strong in influencing my choices.
I used to have a favorite wall hanging with the words, “To your own highest convictions be true.” I thought the words were a lofty ideal I aspired to – I did not realize that being true to our highest convictions is what we do naturally when choices present themselves in our life.
I thought about bible characters that had to make choices and thought about why and how they choose the way they did.
I thought about Eve – Adam had told her what God had said, but the fruit was beautiful and the serpent convincing – Eve, having never suffered consequences, had never told a lie, did not know the serpent was deceitful, choose according to what was uppermost in her mind – what would satisfy her curiosity and desire.
I thought about Solomon who when asked by God to make a wish….did not ask for riches but asked for wisdom.
I thought about Abraham when he was told to sacrifice his only son, the promised son of his old age – he choose to obey God because His highest conviction was that he could trust God’s word more than he could trust his own judgment.
I thought about Ruth and Orpah - Ruth lay in the balance her love for her mother-in-law and the faith she had found in her God, against going back to her former life. She was willing to choose the unknown rather than go back. Her sister, Orpah’s highest conviction was holding on to what was familiar and secure, she choose to go back.
I thought about Saul when he was waiting for Samuel to come and officiate at the sacrifice – Saul knew only Samuel, as the high priest, was allowed to carry out the ritual according to God’s commands, but he was tired of waiting and he was after all the King – did that not give him authority ? So Saul chose to follow his own ideals and over rule God’s directive
– to his own hurt.
When everything that could go wrong did go wrong in the life of Job, and his wife told him to curse God and die - Job clung to his highest conviction, “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him!”
Observing the choices people make tells us more of what they are made of, of what rules their hearts than anything else because their choices are visual evidence of their convictions.
What is your highest conviction that determines the choices you make?
We could ask the big questions, like, “If faced with the decision to deny your faith or be persecuted or killed which would you choose?”
But we could also ask….
“If the moment demands a reaction… do you choose an angry biting retort , or a gentle soft answer?”
“If a situation presents itself for you to choose a self-serving option or a self-less one , which is your inclination?”
“How important is it to you that your life choices, or daily choices be pleasing before God?”
Questions to ponder…………………..
“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…" (Matt. 12:35)
“Let the peace of God rule in your hearts…..
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…….
“And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus….” (from Col. 3:15,16,17)
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
I invite you to experience an imaginary exercise with me…….
Image that suddenly your sense of touch is gone – you cannot feel whether you are touching anything or if anything is touching you – without a sense of touch you also lose your sensitivity to pain.
Then your hearing shuts off… your world has gone strangely silent.
Now your sense of taste is gone… not only can you not feel if there is food in your mouth , neither can you taste it.
Your sense of smell goes next, and then suddenly your vocal cords are paralyzed – you cannot call for help.
Finally, your sight also vanishes. You are blind – the world around you has disappeared into nothingness.
Try to grasp the reality of life confined within your body with no outside contact or communication possible.
Close your eyes for a moment and try to experience it.
What terrifying emotions whelmed up within you ?
Though you are cut off from the outside world, you are still YOU! You are not your eyes, or your ears, losing your senses is not life threatening in itself. You are still alive, just held captive in a very isolated place, leaving you feeling more claustrophobic and panic stricken than you could imagine possible – not unlike being shut up in a tiny house without any windows or doors.
When God created man He created him an eternal spiritual being …but for the time of his earthly sojourn He placed him inside a physical body that effectively puts him under ‘house arrest’. We are not aware that we are confined to a ‘house’, we are quite comfortable – as long as we have access to the world around us through our senses.
They are the windows and doors that let YOU ‘out’ and allow information and others ‘in’.
Everything we know came ‘in’ through our senses.
Everyone we love or hate we connected to through our senses.
Our understanding of who we are , of where we fit into our world, our beliefs, our standard of right and wrong came to us through our senses.
Did you ever wonder if we were cut off from your senses, what would happen to our sin nature? Would it still find expression? Or do our senses simply reveal who we really are?
It is the end of winter and the beginning of spring. With the warmth of the sun and the soft rain, we see thousands of dormant seeds that lay all winter hidden beneath the soil, spring up and grow - some into beautiful plants and some into ferocious weeds !
So also our ‘sin’ nature is dormant until it is given opportunity to spring up into action and reaction and interaction with others.
Our senses allow us to do that. – it is through ours senses that we learn what we are really like.
I John 1:16 says, “for all that is in the world ( that comes in through our senses) the lust of the flesh, the lust of our eyes, and the pride of life are not of the Father but is of the world”.
It is through the windows and doors of our senses that we fill our ‘house’.
And it is what we allow in and what we do with what we allow in that makes us choose either good or evil – to live our life for God or by default – for the father of lies.
Hebrews 5:14 says , “but solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their “SENSES” exercised to discern both good and evil. "
So God gave us our senses for the purpose of exercising ourselves to be godly. They are the 'gym equippment', by which we can grow strong and mature - able to recognize the things that are good and the things that are harmful.
We could compare keeping our souls pure to how diligent we are to keep harmful elements out of our homes.
Some days a wind blows up from valley below us and the not-so-pleasant farm smells waft up into our house. Our response is to close the windows and doors to keep the offensive smell outside.
We have screens on our windows so that when we want to let in the fresh cool breeze of a summer day, the bugs and flies are kept outside.
We lock our doors to keep thieves and robbers out of our home.
We have a roof on our home to keep out the inclement weather and provide protection from the blazing sun.
We take every precaution to keep ourselves and our families safe inside the walls of our homes.
God has placed you in a protective ‘house’ where you have the power to choose what will influence you. YOU sit as a judge inside your ‘house’, on the throne of your mind and you decided if something is ‘healthy’ or ‘safe’ or ‘desirable’. You decide what you will allow to enter your ‘soul’ through your sense of hearing or vision.
That TV show – is it’s immoral theme polluting your mind? Is the language befitting a godly person? What about that book or magazine you are reading… what is it doing to your thought life? What message does the music you listen to write on your spirit? The places you frequent, how you spend your time – is what comes in through your senses beneficial or is it harmful? Pleasing or displeasing to God?
When you walk into someone’s home and look around, you can see what they value and whether or not they keep their home clean.
While you cannot ‘look’ inside someone’s ‘body-house’ you can see what they have filled it with. All you have to do is listen to what comes out of their mouth. Luke 6:45 tells us “for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Do the words of your mouth edify the hearer? Are they kind words, true words, words of comfort and encouragement? Words that soothe troubled waters or words that stir up strife and anger? Words that speak of God's kingdom or the kingdom of the world?
What you have allowed ‘in’ is what determines what will come ‘out’.
The bible tells us what standard we should use to decide what to allow ‘in’ ….
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,
whatsoever things are honest,
whatsoever things are pure,
whatsoever things are lovely,
whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Phil.4:8)
Monday, April 9, 2007
I had not even heard that there was such an award so I had to do some research to find out what it was.
I guess the best way to explain it, for those of you who don’t know, is that it is an ‘in house’ , non-policed award given by bloggers to other bloggers of their choice who they deem worthy of recognition.
The participation rules are as follows;
1. If and only if , you get tagged, (nominated) , write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme, The Thinking blogger award.
3. Optional; Proudly display the Thinking Blogger award image with a link to the post that you wrote (there is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog)
Remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content and above all – blogs that really get you thinking! And remember each blog can only be nominated ONCE..
For what it is worth, I have always been a ‘thinker’ . My earliest memory (at nine months) involves my thoughts, so that being almost 60 years ago I smiled when I was finally – after all these years – given an award for ‘Thinking’.
We all love to be recognized or appreciated for something we do that is important to us . We feel validated when someone takes the time or initiative to tell us they noticed. Even very small children will respond to praise. It is a ‘God-button’ He gave us to help us strive for perfection. While ‘rewards’ or accolades we give to one another are an appreciated gesture and make us feel valued, they are but a childish foreshadowing of the eternal awards that will be handed out one day by God Himself.
What a ceremony of ceremonies that will be !!
Revelation 22:12 “And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me to give every man according as his work shall be.”
Being fairly new to the blogging world I have not found many blogs that I regularly read. So my field of choice is definitely not as wide as Carolanne’s 70. That is a lot of reading!!
The five I have chosen to nominate are as follows;
1. What matters Most It is because of Lovella’s encouragement that I started my blog, and I read her blog every day. Her posts are well written and she always has something of worth to say in an entertaining way, and loves to illustrate with photos. She makes you feel that you have truly stepped inside her home as a welcome guest. She has an interesting blend of memories, of daily life occurrences, of recipes and helpful hints all under girded by her faith in God and her desire to live her life in such a way that she is an example to her friends, family, and the blogging world.
NOTE- after I wrote this I found out someone else just nominated Lovella, so I will have to change this from a nomination to an 'honorable mention'!!
2. Reasons to be Thankful Today I am very happy for a technical loophole in the Thinking Blogger Award rules. I love to visit Carolanne’s blog – she portrays the events of her life in a way that is intimate and thoughtful and makes you feel you are a friend. Since she was tagged I would not have been able to tag her, but thankfully Carolanne has TWO blogs. Carolanne made a New Year’s resolution to record the things for which she was thankful every day, and set up a separate blog dedicated to this goal. She has been faithful and I find her ‘thankful list’ inspiring and thought provoking, reminding me that there is a ‘thankful’ side to everything that happens in my day. This site , as well as her other one, reveal her deep faith and love of God.
3. Jill’s World of Research, Reaction and Millinery Jill is someone with a characteristic I identify with – she loves to check things out and do the research. My impression of Jill is that she is larger than life- as evidenced by the large print she loves to use! (easy to see!) She did a 20 chapter posting on stories of people from her Dustin family roots. It was very thought provoking and fascinating to hear historical events told from a descendant’s point of view. She still has a couple of promised chapters to write – I am waiting!
4. Yokoso is Japanese for ‘welcome’ in Japan. The author of this blog, Demara, is someone who is open and honest and comes up with gems of thoughts sometimes hidden in her childlike sense of fun. Her blog is constantly changing visually with an interesting side bar with links to explore. Her desire to know God and understand Him are clearly evident.
5. Nathan's blog Nathan is a 14 year blogger who is obviously a thinker. I like to encourage young people , especially those who are not afraid to ‘think’ so I am pleased to nominate Nathan. His ‘Easter’ post includes a story he wrote that impressed me with the depth of thought and reasoned logic. Go Nathan!
So there you have it! "Once again , I thank you Carolanne for nominating me for the award – I appreciate it, especially coming from you!"
And as a PS to this post, I would like to remind you that telling someone you appreciate them or something they do is a ‘gift’ that takes such little effort to give in proportion to the pleasure it gives the recipient!! Give someone in your life an ‘award’ today !!
It is sometimes amazing how much more it says that the bare words the story is hung on.
I re-read the story yesterday of Mary and Martha and though I have read it many times I always find something new to think about.
Jesus had two purposes in His life – to show us how to live a godly life (He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked – I John 2:6) and also to show us the Father ( “..he that hath seen me has seen the Father “John 14:9)
And so while God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34) Jesus as a Man related to the people in His life the way we do… No one person can be intimate with every other person. . Jesus, as a Man, had special relationships. The disciples were specially chosen by Him, and John was the ‘beloved’ of the twelve, and there were those who were known as Jesus ‘friends’.
Three people who had a special relationship with Jesus were Martha, Mary and Lazareth – three siblings who obviously had already lost their parents and were living together. We are given the impression that we were fairly wealthy, because their home was big enough to entertain Jesus and His followers.
Lazerus would have been the provider and it seems he was well known and respected in the community. We are not told much about him. We know that he became ill and died, was buried for three days and then Jesus raised him from the dead. Because many of the Jews believed in Jesus when they saw He had the power to bring someone back from the grave, the jealous Pharisees became angry and plotted to kill Lazarus.
We see Lazarus sitting at his table eating with Jesus, but we lack any recorded communication from him, leaving us to think he must have been a man of few words. After his resurrection we are told that people came to ‘see’ him, not ‘talk’ with him.
Martha was probably the oldest of the three because it was at her invitation that Jesus came to their home.
Martha was an organizer with attention to detail, a server, one who was quick to assess a situation and come up with a plan of action. She was not one to be found with idle hands. She was given to hospitality and loved to entertain guests in her home. I’m sure an invitation to her home was readily accepted.
Martha wanted everything perfect and at times she may have overextended herself. Such was the situation when she found herself with more work than she could do alone, and asked Jesus to rebuke Mary for not helping her.
Jesus answer was given gently,“Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things, but you are missing the one thing that Mary has chosen, and it shall not be taken away from her.”
I believe if the tables had been turned and it would have been Mary who complained saying, “Jesus, I find Martha so annoying – with her banging dishes , and interrupting to ask if anyone wants another drink, and watching her continually moving about, I can’t concentrate on what you are saying. Can’t you tell her to sit down and be quiet?” - I think Jesus’ reply would have been, “Mary, Mary, you are so easily distracted by what is going on around you. Martha is serving others, I will not take that away from her.”
Martha’s gift was serving ( we are admonished to “serve one another”(Gal. 5:13) and “to be given to hospitality”(Rom. !2:13 and we all know that to be a good hostess so people feel comfortable and welcome in your home takes work. What Martha did wrong was to allow her ‘gift’ to make her resentful of others. Instead of serving with a joyful heart and listening at the same time, perhaps later asking Mary to fill what she missed - she was distracted by focusing on what others were doing.
After her brother had died and she heard that Jesus was finally coming to see them, she left the house filled with mourners, to go meet him. No one asked where she was going; they were probably so used to her continual busyness they did not even notice.
While Martha is often cast into a negative light, I don’t think we are justified in doing so.
In John 11:5 we read, “Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus.” Martha is mentioned first and Mary is not named. Jesus loved Martha …and enjoyed the hospitality in her home.
Not only was it Martha who went out to meet Jesus, it was Martha who came back to call Mary , telling her Jesus was calling for her.
Martha confirmed her faith in Jesus the Messiah when Jesus told her that He was the resurrection and the life and could raise people from the dead. Yet her practical side was strong and her reaction when Jesus asked the tomb stone to be moved away was a natural one –“But, Lord, he will stink!” Jesus needed to remind her of His power over death.
Mary was so different from her sister. Mary was a dreamer , emotional and romantic rather than practical.She could become so engrossed in the present moment that everything around her was tuned out.
She sat with the others at Jesus feet and listened, enraptured at His words – oblivious to the fact that Martha was overworked. I’m sure Martha tried to catch Mary’s eye to ask for help but Mary’s eyes were on Jesus.
Mary was insolable when her brother died, and the mourners who filled their house tried to comfort her. These Jews who did not move when Martha left the house were quick to respond when Mary got up and left the house – they followed her saying, “She is going to the grave to weep there.” When Mary threw herself at Jesus feet, Jesus looking down on her was overcome with compassion for her grief and “Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)
Once more, on the day before Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, we see Jesus in the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. Martha is again serving, Lazarus is sitting at the table with the other guests , and Mary, the emotional one, takes a bottle of very expensive perfume and pours it out on Jesus’ feet , wiping them with her hair. Jesus rebukes those who criticize her saying, ”Let her alone, against the day of my burying hath she kept this.”
This time we sense there was perfect harmony between the siblings….each doing what they were gifted to do. Martha happily serving, Lazarus, simply by being alive winning many Jews to faith in Jesus, and Mary, oblivious to what was going on around her, focused on expressing her love for Jesus in a demonstrative and personal way.
I often wish I could have known these three special friends of Jesus after Jesus resurrection. What did they do for the rest of their lives?
I am sure the conversations around their well laden and guest-filled table would have been fascinating and always focused on Jesus - the stories told over and over again.
What a wonderful lesson we can learn from these three. Though they were so different in their personalities, each held a different place in their relationship with Jesus, and each expressed their love for Him in a way that came natural to them.
What is important for each of us who read their story is to be encouraged by them to do what we do best with all our heart, learn from each other and rejoice that Jesus has called us His friends.
John 15:15 “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. Henceforth…. I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you !”