Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas is All About the Gifts !!

Christmas is all about the Gifts !! 
Okay, have I shocked you ?  Just when you got the message 'its NOT about the gifts' ?   
Hear me out and I think you will agree... Christmas IS about the gifts!  
The problem is not our focus on 'gifts' at Christmas time, it is focusing on the WRONG kind of gifts. 
Christmas gift giving is sometimes reduced to giving and receiving out of duty or  expectation, although much gift giving at this season of celebration is focused on giving to those who are needy, and giving to those we love in expectation of their appreciative and happy response!  

It is a special delight to watch someone open a gift you have chosen with thoughtful care and see their expression of surprise and happiness!   
Speaking as a grandmother,  I look forward all year to giving my grand girls those gifts that will cause them the greatest joy!  
It would be a great sorrow to me if my grand girls would either reject my gifts or not even bother to open them !   I cannot even imagine !   
And yet .. the very best gifts, the ones that Christmas IS all about, ARE often rejected or left unopened.  
That must leave the Gift Giver heart broken !   
I wrote a little acrostic, using the word Christmas to list the gifts that have been gift wrapped in Jesus and inscribed with our name.  
C -   Charity  - the greatest gift of Christmas is LOVE .. Not just the feelings of love, but an expression of love in action. The very 'giving' of God's only Son to come show us the way.  The Greek word for 'charity'  carries a meaning of 'love feast' and that is God's invitation -- to come to His love feast -  the invitation delivered in person by His Son! (John 3:16)
H -  Healing -  Jesus brought 'healing in His wings' --  our healing, spiritual, emotional, and physical.  (Acts 4:30)
R -  Righteousness -   Jesus gave to us His righteousness - to clothe us so we can come acceptable to God,  entering into His presence,  clean and holy !  (Rom. 5:17)
I -  Image  -  even as Jesus came in the image of God - so He gave us the gift of  His Spirit to change us, little by little to also be formed in the image of God -- to look like and walk even as Jesus did !  (II Cor. 3:18)
S - Salvation  -  Oh.. we long to be free - and Christmas brought us that freedom - Accepting this gift of Christmas saves us from our sin , from darkness, from the enemy and  eternal condemnation! (Acts 4:12)
T - Truth  -  what a gift this is !  To have, to hear, to know the TRUTH .. Jesus is the Truth and in Him is all Truth.  We have but to listen to His Words and accept them.
(John 8:32)
M - Mercy  -  what a beautiful gift this is.  When we are guilty or bowed down with care or sin,  instead of rebuking words we are gifted with mercy.  The gift of comfort, understanding, forgiveness and encouragement to walk worthy of Him.  (Heb. 4:16)
A -  Armour - The 'armour of God'  -  what a practical gift this is!  Providing the  protection, the enabling we need so we can live a victorious life in the midst of darkness and chaos and threat of the enemy!   (Eph. 6:11)
S - Supply - a gift that just keeps on giving.   God has gifted us with a supply for all our needs - everyday for the rest of our life!   The supply that never runs out, because it comes from God's personal heavenly riches !  (Phil. 4:19)

A beautiful aspect of Jesus' gifts to us are that they are meant to be shared, as scripture says.... "Freely you have received, freely give !"  (Matt. 10:8)

I wish you all a wonderfully blessed Christmas , and a New Year 'without lack' - 
May you enjoy every God-given gift and rejoice in sharing them with others !!   

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What Do You See?

What do you see ?   A dismal day, grey, overcast sky and a dead tree ?
Look again.

This morning I was sitting at the breakfast table gazing absent-mindedly out of the window at the above view.
The leaf-less tree suddenly focused my attention.
I noted how its branches at all pointing upward.
Pointing upward toward heaven ...  in worship to its Creator?

I thought of two of favourite verses about 'trees' ..
"Let the field be joyful and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord." 
Psa. 96:12 
"For you shall go out with joy. And be led out with peace. The mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."  
Isa. 55:12 

But the photo above is not the picture that readily comes to mind when I read those verses.
Those beautiful verses paint a mind picture of  a perfect day, blue skies, sun drenched vibrant colour and nature bursting with the green of fresh growth, leaves dancing in a softly blowing breeze.

But ... maybe that picture is not as deeply inspiring or challenging as the above photo.

When our  'life' is dismal, dark, lifeless in all the things important to us , when we are stripped of  the leaves of earthly joys or security,  are the arms of our heart still uplifted in worship?   Do we still cling to the promises of God, knowing that He is good?

I  thought of how the branches of the tree had grown rigid in position.  Because they have never taken any position other than to lift their branches upward, no other position is possible, no matter what the season or the storm or the wind against them.
Are we so rooted in our faith, that our heart has become 'rigid'  in our worship and trust in God, unable to turn our face away from His?
Look at the contrast between the leaf-less tree and the ever-green cedar trees beside it.
Do you see the the cedar trees revealing uplifted branches?   That is not what draws your attention, is it.
All you see is the 'adornment' of their beauty.
Are we not the same ?  When life is good and everything is going our way ... what do people tend to see but the 'adornment' of our life?

 When is it that those watching us  have the best opportunity to see our 'branches'  uplifted in worship to our God ?    Is it not in the 'dry' seasons of our life ?   When people would expect us to be bowed down with worry and the weight of our burdens ?

When our adornments are stripped away what is left ?   An uplifted heart to God, refusing to let go of what is most important to us ?
May it be our faith/trust in a life-giving God who can most be trusted in the 'winter' seasons of our life because we know in whom we have believed .. and know that life and light will once again bring the glorious 'spring' ...    in our earthly life but especially in the eternal life to come !

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lesson from a Blue Footed Booby

The Blue Footed Booby is  aptly named since its feet really are painted a vibrant blue!
The Boobies, though winged,  are birds that  are 'grounded' .  They do not fly.
They  mate for life,  but  the wife may at times encourage the attentions of another male.
The husband seems to overlook her indiscretion.
If he catches his wife keeping company with another male, he does not scold her nor does he commit any aggression against the intruding male.
However, he does NOT forget!
He remembers and he keeps a 'calendar'. He counts the days, and if his wife lays an egg that would have been  fertilized on the day he 'caught her in the act', he will take the egg and roll it to the cliff  and cast it down!  Raising Boobies not his own is not something he will consider !

In thinking about the strange behaviour of the husband regarding his wife's indiscretions, I realized that  it teaches us a very  visual  lesson !

God has hidden so many sermons into His creation and SEEING a sermon makes a longer lasting impression than simply HEARING a sermon.   God's creation-screen in vivid colour  versus a pulpit !

There is a scripture  that the male Booby brought to my mind.
2Co 10:5  "Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ."

We, as believers,  have committed our lives  to Christ vowing to be faithful to Him alone, in all our ways honouring Him.
Our hearts are sincere, our will is strong ... but ...  we must still struggle against  the weakness of the flesh!

How often a thought comes into our mind and we ignore it, brush it off as unimportant or just choose not to deal with it.
What if we learned from the Booby and made note of  the thought on the calendar of our mind.  
Then we could watch, be on guard to see what 'fruit' came of this 'thought'.  
As soon as we saw any evidence of  undesirable fruit being birthed from  our original thought,  we could roll it to the cliff and cast it down !

"When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin....." James 1:15

Like the Booby, we should refuse to 'raise'  fruit in our life that is unworthy of who we are in Christ.

Let's look at an example.

A young woman is shopping for a new outfit.  She has limited funds and is looking for the best bargain.
One outfit stands out from the rest -- it is perfect -- except for the price.  As she stands there admiring it, another shopper wanders by, stops at the same outfit, takes it off the rack and into the fitting room.  A short time later she walks to the cashier and pays for it in cash.
The young woman watches and thinks .. "Wow... must be nice to just buy whatever you want!"
She glances at her watch and realizes she must pick up the kids from school and get home to make supper.
Her husband comes home later that afternoon and remarks that the car needs new tires.   Could she cut back on groceries for the month so they would have enough to pay for the new tires?
She sighs, feeling the frustration of more skimping , but reluctantly agrees to do the best she can.  
That night she lays awake thinking about what it would be like to be married to someone who could provide her with more of what she would love to have!  Income to spend as she wished with money left over !  What a dream !
By morning she is grumpy and tired  -  snapping  at her husband and nagging at her kids to hurry up or they will  be late for school.  

She passes  through town on her way home and glances at a homeless woman pushing her shopping cart along the road side, looking for bottles and cans to sell for recycling.  
Our young woman's conscience is jolted !    She notes the 'time' of her original thought and realizes the fruit it has birthed.   Quickly, she casts it down, asks the Lord for forgiveness and turns her mind to the things that she has to be thankful for !
Her children and husband enjoy her cheerfulness and resourceful meal  around the dinner table that evening !

Obviously,  a simple and  fictitious scenario but it serves as an example of  how easy it is to allow a selfish or discontented thought  to bear fruit and bring us to a place that is no longer nice to live in.  
We are raising 'children'  of the flesh instead of enjoying the fruit of the Spirit !

Let us remember and guard our thoughts that they are thoughts that will make us more Christlike, more godly, casting down anything that is contrary !

Php 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Who Was the Sinful Woman ?

Peter Paul RUBENS; c. 1618; oil on canvas; the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg

In Luke 7 we have the following story.
Jesus was invited to the house of Simon, a Pharisee.  He accepted the invitation and the story begins with Jesus  reclining around the table with the other guests.
His feet would have been tucked up behind him, as He sat facing the table.
A woman slipped into the room ..   She was immediately noticed.
First,  because she was a woman coming into a room where only men were welcome.
Second,  she was known in the city as a sinful woman.
Being known as a sinful woman in those days would most probably have meant that she was a prostitute.
All eyes are on Jesus to see what He would do,  especially when the woman  let down her hair (uncovered it)  - a very immoral thing to do in the company of men!
Jesus continued the conversation as if He was oblivious to the woman kneeling behind Him.
She was weeping, washing His feet  with her tears, anointing them with fragrant oil and drying them with her hair.
The men were aghast that Jesus allowed the woman to touch Him.   They tried to make allowances for Him, judging Him even as they did so.  They thought, He can't be a prophet or He would know that this woman is a sinner.
Jesus, knowing their thoughts, answered them with an accusation of His own  ... "When I came into your house, Simon, you did not show me the courtesy of washing my feet, or greeting me with a kiss or anointing my head with oil...   but this woman has not stopped washing my feet with her tears, and kissing them  ... She is a woman of many sins, but they are forgiven her !  and the one who has had much forgiven, loves much !"
Turning to the woman He spoke  healing to her grieving soul ...  "Your sins are forgiven you. Your faith has saved you. Go in peace!"

Who is this sinful woman ?   Can we possibly know ?    Many say no .. some suggest she is Mary Magdaline but few offer any support or reason for their opinions.

I believe we are told who this woman is.

Look at John 11:1,2   Here John is telling the story about Lazarus, when he became sick.   He identifies him by the town he lives in, which is Bethany, and his two sisters Mary and Martha.
Then, he further identifies Mary.   He says that she is the one who anointed Jesus' feet and wiped them with her hair.
Many say that John is referring to the time Mary anointed Jesus for His burial, but at this point that was still in the future.   John is telling the story of Jesus in a chronological order of events, and it does not make sense that he would identify someone by an event that has not yet happened !   It only makes sense if he was referring to the past event  in Simon, the Pharisee's house.

If it was indeed Mary of Bethany, who was the sinful woman,  she takes on a whole new depth of character.  We now understand why we continually see her at Jesus' feet !   "She who was forgiven much, loved much!"
We see Mary, like Mary Magdalene  - two women freed from their past by Jesus.
We know Mary Magdalene's past only by the supplied detail in identification -- "out of whom went 7 devils" And Mary of Bethany is not named in the story of her first encounter with Jesus... only linked back by an identifying mention.
When we are forgiven,  our past is gone !   Jesus sees only what we become in Him !  Our testimony begins the day we are forgiven of our past !
Isn't that the most freeing thing ?   To not only be forgiven , but that we are no longer measured or limited by our past ?   We have truly  become new creatures... all things have become new !

It is interesting that every time we see Mary she is at Jesus' feet.
1. When she was at His feet in repentance for her sins.
2.  When she was at His feet in sorrow.
3. When she was at His feet learning.
4. When she was at His feet in service - anointing Him for burial.

Mary gives us cause to reflect in light of the example she is  to us.
Do we come to Jesus - knowing  that salvation and forgiveness is ONLY in Him ?
When life becomes brutal, when bad things happen, when we are broadsided by grief or  tragedy do we run, throwing ourselves at His feet for comfort ? or do we blame Him, turning away from the God we so desperately need ?
Do we seek truth at Jesus' feet ?   or do we listen to the voices of this world that are so eager to give us advice?
When we do our acts of service... are our eyes on Jesus?   Is our motive only to serve HIM .. or do we  seek self-gratification, reward, praise of men?

Mary is also an example to us in another way.
Three times she was accused , three times she humbly remains silent, three times Jesus Himself defends her!
1.  When Simon and his friends accuse her of being a sinful woman -- Jesus words are ... "She did what you did not... her sins are forgiven ..    she loves much!"
2.  Martha accused her of not doing her duty ...   Jesus defends her saying that she has chosen the best part, sitting at His feet!
3. Judas accuses her of wasting money , of misusing her resources.   Jesus tells them to leave Mary alone, she has done a good thing !

So often we look at Mary only as one of two sisters. We can hardly speak of Mary without completing the duo ,  Mary and Martha.
But I think looking at Mary on her own gives us much to think about, and find that she is someone who  is a wonderful example as a  life given in love and dedication to Jesus alone !


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Value of A Book

I have loved books for as long as I can remember .
Last Sunday afternoon we wandered through a  local crafts, antique Christmas fair and I stopped at a vendor's booth displaying a bookshelf of old books.
I picked up several -- just to look -- but I ended up buying this one because it had something that made it more valuable than just the merit of the book itself.
Yes, it was old and well worn by years of use.
As I held it I imagined how many children had listened wide-eyed as the stories were read to them, their favourite stories heard so many times they almost knew them by heart!
The book is big, with easy to read large print for the benefit of grandparents who were the ones with the  most time to read to their children.
It contains not only many sketches and black and white drawings but also a goodly number of colour plates.

But it wasn't for the above reasons that I wanted the book.
When I asked my husband for the cash to pay for it, his face reflected his question.."why do you want that old book?"   But being the dear he is, he paid and later when I explained to him the reason I wanted it, he understood.

On the fly page were these words ...   Douglas Hayens,  with love from his Grandmamma who wrote these stories for little people ...   Xmas 1910 

A personal note by the  author ?  THAT makes it valuable.  Knowing that 103 years ago the author personally held my copy  in her hands and gifted it to her grandson is very special to me and well worth the money I paid for the book.
Actually,  I didn't pay very much.  When I pointed out to the vendor  the fact that the book was signed by the author, he was surprised and commented that perhaps I had found the treasure of the day!

I thought of another book that I value more than any other book I have read or own.
It too is old... copies of it often sit on bookshelves and the owners do not recognize its worth, do not realize that it is a treasure!
The book , of course is the Bible . Every copy contains the living words of the author, written for His children. It has survived not only years or decades or even centuries but  thousands of years.
It is the best seller of all time!
How many people have read it or listened to it being read, their favourite passages learned by heart!

I found these words somewhere long ago  and wrote them on the fly page of my bible.

God's Word 
Century follows century, 
There it stands! 
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten . 
There it stands!
Dynasty succeeds dynasty. 
There it stands! 
It outlives, out lifts, out loves,
out reaches, out ranks, out runs 
ALL other books. 
Trust it, love it, obey it, 
and Eternal Life is yours! 
Dr. A.Z.Conrad

Friday, November 8, 2013

A Love Story of Unconditional Love = Part II

One of my favorite hymns is The Love of God, especially the words of the last verse.  No matter how many times I hear them or sing them, the picture they paint leaves me breathless with wonder !
 We stare in wonder at the love of Hosea.  He loved the unlovable.
He took Gomer out of a sinful life and gave her a respectable life.
When she left him to seek other men, we see  him do the unthinkable -- he continues to care for her, supply her with the things she has need of.
And his patience!   He waits, watching until finally Gomer can go no lower, she has reached bottom.
All we see is a yearning love, waiting for her to be ready to be rescued.
He goes to her, pours out his love  promising her he will be faithful to her forever.  

There is no love like God's love,  yet how clearly we see a picture of God's love in Hosea.
While God tells us that the love of Hosea for Gomer was  "just like the love of the Lord for the children of Israel...." (Hosea 3:1)  it is also a picture of God's love for His people today.
But ... that is the easy part of the 'Hosea' picture.

We so quickly click our tongues and shake our heads at the unfaithfulness of Israel and the foolishness of Gomer to refuse such perfect love,  but so often we judge most quickly what we are ourselves are  guilty of. (see Rom.2:3)  

If we  were to choose a woman of the bible that we  think we  are most like,  Gomer is not a woman we would readily choose !  In fact, most of us would not even consider her.
And yet ...   perhaps we are more like Gomer than we would care to admit.

God says the Israelites are like Gomer in that they "look to other gods and love the raisin cakes of the pagans." (Hos. 3:1)  
The Israelites looked to the nations around them and lusted after the things they had.
They wanted a god they could see. 
They wanted a life of comfort and ease. 
They wanted to fit in. 
They loved compromise - trying to have it all ! 
And God said .. ."Look at what you are doing !  Look how it looks from My point of view.  You are refusing a love that is pure and true and grasping at a love that isn't even real.    You reject my life giving manna, preferring the raison cakes that tantalize the taste buds but never satisfy.  You are playing the prostitute, selling yourself as if you are worthless ." 

 Sometimes it hurts to be honest, but most of us have to admit that our relationship with the Lord is not always 'hot'.  There are times we drift away, for one reason or another and become entangled in the things of the world.   We become lax in our devotion to the Lord and put the things of God on hold.  We lay down our cross,  in our weakness indulge the desires of our flesh. 
 How does it feel to God ?   He says we are as Gomer, the prostitute.   Unfaithful , foolish.
Do we  consider ourselves guilty of adultery when we make other things more important than God ?   

I have never in 48 years of marriage been even tempted to commit adultery against my husband and yet, have I done worse in having committed adultery against God ?  What a very sobering thought !    
Did God show Gomer as committing adultery against a perfect husband because He knew that would shock us into seeing how serious our sin against God is ?   
Would I be less likely to turn away from God for a season if I called it 'committing adultery' ?   

I have wondered ... WHY would Gomer go back to her former life - seemingly preferring it to the faithful love of a godly man. 
In thinking about it, trying to put myself in Gomer's sandals, I thought about how when we feel unworthy it is really hard to believe that someone else finds us worthy of their love.   Because we struggle to believe it, we sometimes finally  find it easier to believe it can't be real and walk away.   
If we struggle with feeling unworthy of God's love, - even if it be for a season -  I believe God put this book in the bible to show us what His love looks like.  No matter how unworthy we are, He will not withdraw His love.   He will love us still.  And He waits for us to turn to Him again when He receives us with open joyful arms, willing to forgive,  even our adultery against Him. 

I find it significant that the meaning for the name  Gomer is 'completed'.    Is that not what God's love does ? 
God's love reaches out to us when we are 'incomplete' and a mess. 
Then when we yield to His love,  He completes us in every way.
He  fills, satisfies, overwhelms us.
He gives us joy  and purpose.
He makes us the best that we can be.
He makes us whole!
His love for us  is the evidence that we  forever  belong  -  the daughters of the King, who , wonder of wonders, desires our beauty. 
   So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord, worship Him. 
Psa 45:11

Monday, November 4, 2013

A Love Story of Unconditional Love

She sat in her usual place and watched his approach.
It was nothing new to see a man approach her with intent to  solicit her services.
It was the women who avoided her, casting glances of disdain in her direction and willing their husbands to look the other way.
But there was something different about this man.
He was striding  purposely toward her, not casting furtive glances side to side  to make sure no one  was watching him.  His eyes were fastened with steady gaze on  her face but  instead of lust gleaming in his eyes there was something else.  Something she wasn't familiar with, but it stirred her deep within.
What did he want ?
She did not have to wait long.
He stood before her and respectfully addressed her by name.
It was not unusual that he would know her name, but what he asked of her was.
 "Gomer, I want you to be my wife and mother of my children.  I want to marry you and love you."
What kind of joke was this ?    Was he drunk?   Mad?    She could do nothing but stare at him, her mind racing ... Was she in danger?   Who was this man ?
But softly he spoke again repeating his question .... "Gomer, my name is Hosea and I want you to be my wife. Will you marry me?"
Really ?
She thought quickly ... what did she have to lose?   A roof over her head, food to eat, what could he do to her than what  other men had not already done..  over and over again.
She stood to her feet and nodded her assent.
He smiled and motioned her to follow him.
Strange, he didn't seem to be bothered by the open mouthed, stares of the people he passed as he led her away. their shock and disgust obvious.

As they walked through the city following the dusty road, Hosea,  considerate of her slower pace,  slowed his to match hers.
Casting furtive glances at the man a step or two ahead of her,  she wondered if she could ask the questions burning in her mind but decided to wait .   Finally, Hosea turned to her and said, "We stop here...   come,  let me show you your new home!"

It had been several weeks since Hosea had made her his wife and he had been nothing but gentle and kind to her, treating her with respect and never making any references to her former life or 'profession'.
Gomer was sure there was something she was missing.   No decent man would even think to marry her, what was Hosea's angle?   What did he want?
 Something just didn't make sense.  She felt a tension within her, she just could not accept that Hosea really did love her.  How could he?   She was a prostitute.  No man could love a prostitute! Was he simply using her as every other man in her life?
Time passed and she gave birth to three children.  It was a strange feeling to know that she was a mother and her heart stirred with love for her children  but she was tormented with thoughts of what they would think of their mother  when they heard the gossip of who she really was. Could she bear the love in their eyes turning to scorn ?  
Maybe it was better she just leave them and go back to her former life.
Yes, that was the only thing that would give her peace.

One day she simply left, with  money she took from the clay jar where Hosea kept his coins.
It was easy to fit back into the life she knew so well and understood.  
Then the day came when she could no longer ignore the fact that she was out of money and her clients were no longer paying enough for her to get by.   Younger women were more desirable.
What could she do ?   Beg?    Degrade herself even further ?  
Choking back her tears she raised her head and looked with some alarm at the door, her ears picking up a subtle rustling sound. She waited, listening , but heard nothing more. It was long after dusk, who would be at her door?    Half frightened, half curious, she crept to the door and slowly opened it a crack.   No one was there.  But wait, what was this ?   A large basket of supplies -  food, clothing , everything she needed !   Who could have left it ?
She glanced up and down the street trying to discern any shadows moving in the moonlight.  Nothing.
Gratefully, she took the basket inside and made herself the best meal she had had in some time.
The baskets came regularly, just at the time she was in need again.    Who could be supplying so generously for her?

Though her physical needs were being met,  Gomer sunk lower and lower into despondency.   Despair, sadness and isolation drove her into a very dark place.   The men no longer desired her, the women hated her, children  cast wide eyed glances in her direction, wondering what made her so bad that their parents made sure that they knew to avoid her !
What if whoever was sending the baskets decided enough was enough and stopped ?  Whatever would she do then ?
Just when she thought things could not get worse, she was sold as a slave subject to the wishes and demands of a hard-hearted man.

The day Hosea came to find her, she did not hear him enter the house, but she instantly recognized his voice.  She barely discerned his softly spoken words.  "Come Gomer, you are my wife, I forgive you,  I have redeemed you, I have bought you, you are mine but you shall not call me Master, you shall call me Husband!"

She stared into his love-filled eyes and melted.    It could not be possible but Hosea had come for her, to save her.   Could it be that he really loved her?     Her mind struggled but she could come up with no other answer, Hosea, her husband loved her. She had left him, played the harlot, committing adultery.. and yet he never stopped caring for her.  The baskets were an expression of his continued care even as she sought the attention of other men.
With a heart wrenching cry, she rose and placed her hand in his ! Hosea said... "I will love you and you will live with me until death do us part.  I will be faithful to you and you will be faithful to me."

This is an unusual love story about a man named Hosea and a woman named Gomer,  but it is much more than that.  While the story  has many layers of meaning,  there is one message  that speaks the deepest to me.  
Come back in a day or two to find out what it is. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Playing the Game of Life

 I was in Victoria shopping with my MGCC girl friends, and I stopped to rest.
Leaning over the railing, I looked down on a huge Monopoly game board painted on the floor below.
As I stood gazing down on it, watching people taking photos of each other on the board, my thoughts were inspired.

Some games have a short run of interest -  others, like Monopoly, survive from generation to generation.
I think the games that survive in popularity  are ones that most closely resemble aspects of the 'game' of  life.  Whether or not the connection is made, something about playing the game connects us to reality in a way that relieves the stress of it, at least for the duration of playing the board game.

I saw the corner block .. "Go to jail !"

 How often do we hear condemnation in the words of others -  sometimes intended , sometimes not --  sometimes deserved sometimes not.    In life just as in the game we dread hearing the words,  we try to avoid landing on that square.   We attempt to throw our dices so that they land face up with numbers favourable to us, yet how often where we land is beyond our control.

While people's words can be hurtful, how comforting to know that when we come to the Lord, He never says .. "go to jail" ..  but His words are inviting, comforting, edifying and strengthening.

"And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart for I am called by Your name , O Lord God of hosts. "  
Jer. 15:16

My attention was drawn to another square.

The command to 'go' .  From childhood on we are told where and when to go!   Someone else always has the control, it seems, to order our activities.   Someone always is ready to give advice on how we are to live, how we are to behave, how we are to act and react and how we are to plan and earn and spend.

As a child we look forward to being adults when  no one will have the right to tell  us to 'go' ...
As adults we look forward to retirement , thinking surely then no one will tell us to 'go' ..
But the truth is, we are never really free to do as we please, are we.
Someone once wisely said , "If you can't do what you like, then like what you do!"
So , then  the secret of life  is that while we are never 'free'  to do exactly as we would like , go where we want... we can however,  choose which voice we will listen to.

The only voice that will truly allow us to be free,  to be the best we can be .. to find contentment and joy in where we go ...  is of course the Voice of our Shepherd.
   My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.  John 10:27   
Isn't it nice when someone, instead of saying 'Go' , instead says .. "follow Me " ??

Ohhh ... the "Free Parking" corner-spot.
Is anything in life really 'free' ?

  The earliest known occurrence of the phrase "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch", is June 27,1948. 
It was the punch line to a joke in an article entitled "Economics in 8 Words". 
At that time you could still find 'free parking' ,  but as we girls experienced in Victoria, free parking is a thing of the past along with so many other things we need or desire.    
But the very best thing in life is  FREE and always will be. God has given the free gift of His Son through whom Salvation is freely offered to anyone who comes to Him.  He is our Cornerstone!  
  For the wages of sin is death, but the (free) gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. 
Rom. 6:23

The Community Chest square caught my eye, and I sadly noted that it was 'closed'. 
How often have we looked to community of this world for help -  monetary, physical, emotional support, friendship, protection --  but we found only a sign .. "closed'.   We were on our own.    
But in the true community of the Kingdom of God -- there is no closed sign . We have a heavenly treasure chest of supply that is always open. We can come any time to find what we need.  Help is always available.
"My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches    in glory by Jesus Christ !
Phil. 4:19 
  "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace,    that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need".  
Heb. 4:16

I remember the many, many times when we finally tired of the game, we put it all back in the box until the next time we pulled it out  to start a brand new game.  
Don't we sometimes wish that our life was like that ?   Some days wouldn't you just like to put it back in the box and start it again tomorrow?
But our life is like that monopoly game on the mall floor -- it is impossible to pack up. Our todays are built on yesterday and tomorrow is determined by how we live today.
And yet, there is something that is new each day, isn't there?
"Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.  They are new every morning, Great is your faithfulness !"   
Lam. 3:22,23

How thankful I am that we are not 'consumed' by the failures of this world, but we have One who never fails and in Him we live and trust and have our being !

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Victim Mentality

A secret garden enjoyed by a few who know how to find it. 

The people kept coming and Martha’s welcoming smile never left her face. She was the hostess of hostesses.  But this day,  running back and forth,  refilling endless cups and plates, her smile began to fade.   Hearing Jesus voice but not able to follow the conversation made her think of what she was missing out on -  how she would love to just sit down with everyone else and listen to Jesus’ words. 
 But no, she was the ‘servant’ of all – who would serve them if SHE didn’t ?   Was it really so much to ask that someone could at least OFFER to help? 

Mary !  where was Mary ??  oh yes.. right at Jesus feet totally oblivious to her sister’s need of help.   It just wasn’t fair , was it ?  
Her feet hurt, her arms ached,   she was tired.   Couldn’t Mary at least help a LITTLE?  
And didn’t Jesus even notice that Martha was alone in serving everyone ?   Did He not notice that Mary was not lending a helping hand ?  
Maybe if she just brought Jesus’ attention to her need .. He would ask Mary to help her. Serve Mary right to have to be reprimanded by Jesus Himself !  

When Martha finally  brought the situation to Jesus’ attention, she was so upset her words were harsh and her anger directed not only at Mary but at Jesus Himself  …”Don’t you care? Tell Mary to help me!”    
How did Jesus respond ?    He said ….   
“Oh Martha, you are so good at serving, but Mary has chosen the better part and I will not take it from her.”   
(Luke 10:38-42)

His younger brother had always been spoiled – the best loved son, the one who always got the bigger portion of meat…. the pampered treatment.  How many times had he, the elder – the first born ,  got in trouble for something that was his younger  brother’s fault?  
Then,  the ultimate !   His brother asks for his inheritance – not to invest.. oh no !  but to squander on riotous living, indulging the flesh.   Where did that leave him but to continue to do all the work himself..  labouring all day in the heat while his father longed for his prodigal son, standing at the road gazing into the distance.   The hurt burned within the elder brother’s heart ! 
Then one particularly hot and difficult day, when it was finally over and he could turn to home and food and rest,  what does he find but a party !!   And not just any party, no – it was in his brother’s HONOR !!    Celebrating what … that he had come home penniless and knew he would find a father with his hand out to replenish his empty pockets?? 
Heaping insult upon injury !!  How could this be !   Did his father really not have any love or even courtesy left for his elder son to even consider his feelings  ?    Did nothing matter to him except his love for  his younger son, no matter what he did ??  

When the elder son vents his anger to his father ….   What does the Father say in response?   “Son, everything I have has always been yours.  Come celebrate with us, for your brother who was dead is alive again.”   
(John 11:32)

Peter has just been told by Jesus that his death would not be a pleasant fall asleep, awaking in heaven kind of death.    His death would be by crucifixion.   Not an easy thing to hear.   A life of following Jesus and then dying a horrible, humiliating, torturous death?
Peter looked over and saw the loving exchange of glances between John and Jesus.  Why did Jesus have that special bond with John ?  What was it that John had that he obviously didn’t?    Hmm …   wonder if John will also die a horrible death ?    So Peter asked .. “What about John?  How will he die ?”  
And Jesus answered ….   “What’s that to you ?  You follow me .. Keep your eyes on me, not on someone else, judging them.” 
 (John 1:22)

Our pastor made a point in his last Sunday sermon on the life and temptations of Joseph,  “A victim mentality lowers immunity to temptation.”  
Contrary to the Joseph's immunity to temptation, we can see how the truth of the quote  is played out in the above scenarios.
The elder brother allowed that ‘seed’ to take root early in his life, resenting his brother , resenting the  unconditional love of his father,   resenting his brother going off doing what he willed while he was out slaving in the sun to save the farm. Always he was left wanting, the one doing without.   
Then when temptation came to hate his brother, to hate his father for throwing the party,  … he fell headlong into the temptation, refused his father's love and refused to even attend the dinner party -  he  allowed sin to rule in his emotions/thoughts and finally actions.

Martha started off delighted that Jesus came to visit !   She started off being happy to do what she was good at – serving !    But then she looked at what she was ‘missing out  on’  ..      everyone else  enjoying being waited on hand and foot and free to enjoy Jesus' company.   She was delegated to the lowest rank --servant in her own home!  
Wasn’t fair …  victim mentality….    And then temptation came knocking to point fingers at Mary and accuse her of not doing what she should be doing  … and so temptation found a resting place and conceived to bring forth Martha’s sin of turning away from her own gift and being critical of someone else's. 

Peter, considered himself sold out to Jesus,  boldly claiming that he would go/be anything for Jesus !  We know that his times of testing were coming but of course Peter had no idea at this point  Jesus still walking with them. But when Jesus told him of how he would die, it shook his confidence.   Why?   Why would he have to die a violent death ?   Was he being singled out for this?   Was he more deserving of it than the others ?    He looked over at John .. the one that Jesus seemed to favour or love the most …   what about HIM ??   
And in taking his eyes of Jesus and onto comparing himself with John and feeling like he was coming up short for some reason beyond his control… temptation  came …  and found a hook in him.    Until he could not keep the question back .. “What about him ?  How is HE going to die ?”   

I don’t think we realize how easily the ‘victim mentality’   presents itself in our thinking ..  or  what a short path it sometimes is from thought to sin.  First a thought, then handling of the thought,  emotion responding to the thoughts,  then  emotion acted out. 

When we look at Jesus’  responses in the examples above,  some might comment at His seeming lack of compassion to the person’s pain.    But if we look closer we see that in each instance, Jesus confirms the one coming to Him, but leaves no room for temptation to have any hook.

I remember when my daughter was little and would come to me in tears over some hurt and I would pick her up and   --  if the ‘wound’ did not need medical attention --  I would distract her …   excitedly pointing out something I knew she would like… and often the excitement in my voice would be enough for her to forget her tears and focus on what I was offering her.   
I see Jesus doing the same thing with us.  Not that He doesn’t recognize our hurt or doesn't want to gather us close , but He quickly draws our attention away from our pain to Himself .. because it is only in Him that we have the comfort, healing, answers that we need and seek.
We, as followers of Jesus are commanded to die to self.    In German the word for suicide is ‘selbstmort’ – the direct translation would be self-murder.    That’s what it feels like when we try to put our ‘flesh’  to death, doesn’t it ?  
The easiest way is to hide in Jesus --  to flee at the first stab of pain , the first hint of temptation … flee TO the arms of Jesus and find all we need there.  

One of my favourite verses … .”The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run to it and are safe!”   Pr. 18:10 ..    If we remember that ‘Name’  means ‘character’  then this verse holds a very secure promise of comfort.   The character of God is surely one we can trust in ,  He never changes and we are invited to run to Him in any and all circumstances and He promises we will be safe from all alarm !  

Sunday, September 15, 2013

"What Speaks To You?"

There is a commercial on TV that for some reason so grates on my nerves that as soon as I hear it come on I reach for the remote and hit 'Mute' !!
I have never listened long enough to find out what  the commercial is about,  all I know is that the words "What speaks to you..."   are delivered in an annoying  tone of voice  that keeps the words repeating in my  head no matter how hard I try to block them out !

I was thinking about this commercial the other day,  as the words yet again re-echoed in my head and I thought...  No matter how many times this commercial  has tried to make me listen  to its message,  it has never got past my 'quick on the draw' mute-button finger !
I suddenly was struck with the thought --- Am I that quick to 'mute' out the voice of the enemy ?  so quick to 'mute' any voice that tempts me to look, taste or feel something contrary to exercising or developing a godly character?

There are so many voices the 'speak to us'   throughout the day.
Voices that call, entice, invite, tempt, distract.
Some catch  our attention and we turn our ears willingly ... others cause a 'mute' response from our receptors and we effectively tune them out.

But how discerning are we in what we mute and what we allow 'to speak to us'  ?
What controls the 'mute' button in our will and mind ?

 What is our standard, our guide regarding distracting voices of the world ?
Do we think it is OK to listen if we do not act on it ?
Watch if we do not participate?
Touch if we do not partake?
Taste if we do not eat ?
Do we justify to avoid denying ourselves?
Give in so we need not exercise our self-control?
Lower our standards so we meet them easily ?

Are we sometimes quicker  to 'mute' God's voice than the world's ?

I thought about  bible examples ... the times God spoke  to Samuel, to Elijah, to Moses, to Daniel, to John, to Paul  ... all quick to hear and obey.
Not like the people of Israel who gathered at the bottom of Mt. Zion and cried out to God not to speak. They could not bear to hear Him, and asked Moses to 'mute' God's voice to them.
I thought about those who did not 'mute' the voice of the enemy -  Achan quick to listen to the voice that spoke to him -- "Take it, no one will know!"
Or Balaam quick to listen to the voice that promised monetary rewards and power.
Or Ananias and Sephara who listened to the enticing words of the enemy .. "Play it both ways .. look good on the outside but satisfy your greed."  Not muting the voice  cost them their lives.

I once had a pet goat who had an amazingly consistent 'mute'  button for all voices but mine.  No matter how softly I called her name, her head would jerk in my direction and she would rush to my side !

That is how I want to be ...  sensitive, listening for God's voice though it be but a whisper, but my finger on 'mute'  to the voice of the enemy.

"And when he brings out his own sheep , he goes before them, and the sheep follow him,
 for they know his voice. 
Yet they will by no means follow a stranger but will flee from him, 
for they do not know the voice of strangers." 
John 10:3,4 

Monday, August 26, 2013

" Struck Down, but Not Destroyed"

Some of us Mennonite Girls Can Cook, with our husbands,  enjoyed a very lovely dinner party last evening at Anneliese's lakeside cabin.
In the yard was a fruit tree that had been blown over by the forces of nature.  There were signs of healthier former days -- wood slats nailed to the truck to allow climbing the tree's heights , worn remnants of a rope tied to sturdy branches from which children once swung.
The tree no longer stood tall and proud.
Although the first thing noticed about the tree was that it was lying on its side , a closer look revealed that it was still bearing fruit !  Apples hung in abundance from its branches.
It was a tree that invited the photographer's eye  - it made for lovely staging  for a photo shoot.  The healthy, upright tree standing not far from it was hardly noticed.

The tree was a life picture.
Perhaps we once stood strong and tall, enjoying a wonderful life when  forces beyond our control blew us over!   It may have been the onset of an incurable disease, a handicap,  a permanent disability, crippling circumstances we cannot change.   Life never to be the same again .
Yet we have a choice, an opportunity.   We can still bear fruit !
We think of people like Nick Vujicic born without arms or legs who has been such a life changing inspiration to those who meet him. Or Joni Earekson Tada  who was 'blown down by a dive into a pool that crushed her body, paralysing it.  Though she is confined to a wheelchair, she is a household name , bearing much fruit as an author and in-demand speaker.  She bears much fruit.

We want to be with people like them, having our photos taken with them so we remember the way their story inspires us, the fruit of their lives becoming our comfort, our encouragement. We notice them, listening to their message in a way we never would if they were 'ordinary'. 

Have you ever noted  that when you read the stories of our bible heroes they bore 'fruit' through difficult life circumstances ?    

One of my favourite characters,  Joseph, suffered as a slave, was sold by his own brothers,  imprisoned and cruelly treated when he was falsely accused  -   yet thousands of years later we are enthralled by his story.  We love how he rose up BECAUSE of being 'blown down'  and became ruler of Egypt second only to Pharaoh himself. 
We could look at Hannah, or Ruth, or Moses, or King David - all of whom suffered circumstances of life that could have crushed them, but didn't !  Instead they became heroes of faith that drew others to stand in their shadow, learning from their example. 

It is easy to despair, to lose hope, to feel crushed, to focus on the fact that we have been 'blown over'  by life's circumstances we could not control.  But perhaps we can be like Anneliese's apple tree, like our favourites heroes of faith,  and let God  'use' our disability  to be what draws people near to hear the message we have to give. Our disabilities need not hinder our God-given purpose.
The choice is ours -  despair or carry on!   If we are rooted in Jesus, His  promise is that no matter what befalls us, our roots will hold.  He will make a way for us to "bear much fruit". (John 15:8) 

I love the passage in II Cor. 4:7-10 which says .....  
"We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed, 
we are perplexed but not in despair, 
persecuted but not forsaken, 
struck down but not destroyed
always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus 
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body !! "

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

All Roads Lead to Rome

                                                                                       photo by Greenery ,Melanie Batemen

      The saying  "All roads lead to Rome"  is  historical  in origin.  At one time all roads DID lead to Rome.   At the height of the Roman Empire, Rome was the centre of the known world.  All roads were built leading directly to Rome or linking with a road that did. 

      As a saying, "All roads lead to Rome",  survived the Roman Empire itself. It is  commonly recognized and used today as an idiom  meaning that while there may be many ways to do something it will end up with the same result.  

I was reading Psalm 84 - a beautiful Psalm in which David extols the delights of dwelling in the house of the Lord.  
Verse 5 is especially insightful as the central thought of the psalm... it says  "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, whose heart is set on pilgrimage."  
The Amp. bible as well as some other translations word it... "Blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways of Zion."   

Just like Rome was the centre of the Roman Empire,  so we also have a City in the Kingdom of God  - Zion or Heavenly Jerusalem.  Hebrews 12:22-24 speaks so beautifully of  the spiritual city to which we are all called to claim citizenship !   

One day, the city will be our physical reality on the new earth but until then our life is a journey - not just physically but more importantly, spiritually - a journey to an eternal  destination.

Our heart will determine whether or not we reach the destination we desire -- to spend eternity with God in joy and celebration and worship.

It is not enough to set up the 'city of God' as our destination -- we must build the highways of our heart leading to it.
As we travel through this physical life,  we are so often drawn aside in our journey to follow our own ways, seeking our own pleasures, trusting in the 'strength' or wisdom of this world and we build heart roads that twist in confusion leading nowhere.  
 Building highways is hard work -- but if our strength is in God , He Himself helps us and our pilgrimage will stay on course.   If we build all the highways of our heart to lead to God and His eternal city, then no matter what befalls us -  circumstances of pleasure  or tragedy,  life's joys or sorrows, success or failure -  the highways of our heart will always lead us back to God and to His word.  
We can never get 'lost'  if  our heart highways lead to the city in which He lives and where He desires us to dwell with Him.

Have you inspected your highway system lately?  Do you need to do some major heart highway construction or re-construction ? or does your heart pass inspection!

I pray with King David ...   "Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties" (or faulty highways)  Ps. 139:23 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Deep Calling Deep!

 One of my favourite places to be is Long Beach on our BC coast.
There is nothing that makes me feel as small and insignificant as the powerful, endless roar of the ocean waves as they come crashing onto the shore.

I was reading Psalm 42 today and was moved by the poetic words but even more by the message the words deposited into my mind and spirit.
This Psalm expresses  the agonizing cry of one overcome by life's  trouble and heartache.
"Deep calls unto deep" --  there is no help , only sorrow calling for more sorrow until the billowing waves pour over the sufferer  threatening to crush what is left of a fragile  life.
This Psalm is the WHY, O WHY ? cried by those who see their hopes and dreams lying dead at their feet.

Yet, no matter how deep the storm that rages,  no matter how powerful the emotional tsunami,  no matter how dark the horizon appears,  no matter how hopeless tomorrow looks ...  there is One who  is our Rock to cling to .
"Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me?  
Hope in God, 
for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."  
Ps. 42:5 
But that was not the verse that my heart focused on this morning.   Though I have read this Psalm many times I never really noticed the poignant sweetness of verse eight. 
It says .... 
"The Lord will command His lovingkindness in the daytime, 
and in the night His song shall be with me....  a prayer to the God of my life."    

When we are going through difficult trials of life, how often have we dreaded the coming night, knowing that fear and anxiety lurk there.  In the night when we are so aware of being alone, our troubled mind and aching heart keeps us awake. We see no answers to our need, find nothing to soothe our raging emotion. In the dark of night there is no light, only magnified shadows that terrify. 

But there is this ...  "In the night His song shall be with me... "

I find it significant that the Hebrew word for 'song'  here is in the feminine.   
Does that not immediately bring to the mind a mother singing to her infant?   
A child waking at night cries out and the listening mother, immediately  hears the cry and gathering the child to her bosom, she softly sings her lullaby.   The child's fears melt,   it nestles in the warmth of his mother's arms, comforted and safe.  What tender expression of love is the picture of a child being rocked to sleep by  his  mother's lullaby. 
That is what God is telling us here ...   No matter how dark our night, He is there to sing His lullaby over us - His lullaby becoming a prayer in our hearts,  birthing hope for the 'morrow!     All is well,  for He is our life!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Abraham Preaches the Gospel -- part 2

  In  Col 2:17 we read,  "which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ."
This verse is talking about the Old Testament things   that are a 'shadow'  but the 'substance' or real thing that is shadowed is of Jesus Christ.
 We understand that if we see a shadow of a tree -- the substance (or reality)  of the tree casting the shadow  is nearby. The tree is the 'real' thing and the 'shadow'  something that points to or indicates that  there is  a tree.

Therefore to understand  how the gospel is preached to or through Abraham we have to see the Old Testament story pieces as the 'shadow'  of the 'good thing'  it  shadows.

There are two important keys to keep in mind that unlock the mysteries of understanding how the things of the Old Testament point to the things of Jesus and the New Covenant.

ONE - The 'shadow'  that we see in the Old Testament is 'physical' or real in earthly terms,  but the 'substance' is real in the eternal spiritual sense. Because the 'shadow' is physical in earthly terms,  the shadow is oft more real to us than the real thing which being spiritual, is invisible to us.

TWO - A physical aspect of a shadow picture must  point to a spiritual reality.
An earthly physical shadow piece will never point to another physical piece. It  must always correspond to the spiritual reality it is pointing to.
This is also called 'types and antitypes'.   The type being the shadow or the thing that points and the antitype is the spiritual reality being pointed to.  (see Rom. 5:14 and I Peter 3:21 for use of these terms - though some translations have used other words such as symbolize instead of type or anti-type) 

So lets see if we can follow the pointing fingers of our Abraham/Melchezidek story and uncover a portrayal of the gospel story that would not yet be seen for thousands of years in the future.

The shadow pieces we are given are....

1. Melchizedek -- we are given strong hints in the NT about him -- Melchizedek was King of Salem and the High Priest of God - an usual duel role --  no one else except Jesus was both King and High Priest.  Another unique detail is that Melchizedek was not a priest from the tribe of Levi, from which all all the priests of the covenant of Moses were taken.   Neither was Jesus a High Priest from the tribe of Levi - hence we are told Jesus was a High Priest of the order of Melchizedek. So... we have strong indication that Melchizedek is pointing to Jesus.

2. Bread and Wine --  Here we are given more evidence to see Melchizedek as a shadow of Jesus.   Melchizedek brought bread and wine to his meeting with Abraham. We know the bread and wine of the Old Testament Passover was revealed by Jesus Himself to be symbolic of His death - the sacrifice of his flesh - broken for us and His  blood,  poured out as the offering to cover our sin bringing salvation to all who would believe on Him.

3. Abraham --   we know Abraham is the father of all who live by faith -- so Abraham points to all those who have put their faith in the sacrifice of Jesus .. and then receiving His blessing of salvation.

4. Sodom and Gomorrah -- Sodom and Gomorrah have always, even until today,  been synonymous with sin and worldliness so it is not a stretch to see that these cities point to the world lying in sin and wickedness. (II Peter 2:6)

5. The four Kings --   The four kings point to the enemy who seeks to overcome -  to take captive at his will.
We see here  our spiritual enemy pointed to,  the prince of this world who takes souls captive at his will to keep them for himself under his control.
(I Tim 2:26)

6. Kings of Sodom and Gomorrah --  These kings  represent the mirage of all  this world can offer -  power, riches, fame,  self-gratification.  Yet, at the first sign of trouble the "arm of flesh" or the security of this  world will desert us, disappointing our trust in it.  The world cannot save us, it will leave us defenceless and vulnerable to the enemy.

 7. The Tenth of the plunder  that Abraham offered to Melchizadek --   I have heard some suggest that is was the first example of paying the tithe and  we are to follow Abraham's  example ,  but that violates our rules of interpretation.
First -  something physical in the Old Testament shadow cannot point to  something physical in the New Covenant corresponding piece.. The pointing piece  is physical , the  piece pointed to must be spiritual. Therefore the physical tithe in the Old Testament shadow cannot be the tithe in the spiritual real thing.
Secondly - An important detail to note is that Abraham did not give a tenth of his own wealth or of his own possessions.   He offered something that did not belong to him.

So what then could this 'tithe'  point to as its spiritual corresponding piece ?
What can we 'give'   to the Lord that comes out of the world, yet does not belong to us ?  
Is it not the souls we win for Jesus ?    God says all the souls belong to Him (Ez 18:4) so when we 'rescue' someone from out of the world and bring them to the Lord ..   we bring to Jesus what never belonged to us.  (I Cor. 9:22)

In looking at these story pieces we can see that the shadow story pieces point to Jesus and the gospel message.  
God established His eternal covenant with Abraham promising that through Him all the world would be blessed. . (Gen. 12:3)
 How is all the world blessed through Abraham ?
 Abraham as the father of faith is pointing to his SEED , Jesus , who would bring in the covenant of faith -- the spiritual kingdom, with its doors open to every person -  gathering believers (faith children of Abraham) from  every nation under heaven.
God gave Abraham a 'sign'  that would show who was under the blessing of this covenant and who was not.  (Gen 17:7-14)  The sign was circumcision --  remember this is still before God gave the law through Moses so circumcision has  to do with Abraham, not the 'law', making it a piece of our gospel picture.
The shadow is physical circumcision -- anyone not circumcised was outside the blessing of the covenant and would be cut off !    The spiritual reality that this is pointing to , is the circumcision of our heart --  the 'circumcision' of our heart is the confirming sign that we are indeed children of Abraham - that we are under the blessings of the  spiritual covenant of faith.    (Col. 2:11)

Do you now see how the gospel was preached to and through Abraham? (and we could also have looked at the picture of Abraham offering his son, pointing to God offering His Son as the Lamb)   

 Do you realize the significance of this ?  
Imagine that someone gives you the seed of a maple tree and tells you to plant it and then mark out on the ground the exact shape and size of the shadow the future full grown tree would cast. Could you do it ?? Impossible , isn't it ?
And yet that is what God has done , over and over again ...  Marked out the shadow pointing in detail to the substance not yet a reality ... in fact being yet  thousands of years in the future.
What amazing proof God has provided for us and with what confidence can we  know that  our God is indeed all-mighty  and all-knowing to the nth detail.  We can trust that His every word is true !
Our God is an awesome God !

Friday, July 26, 2013

Abraham Preaches the Gospel

When Jesus walked this earth, He was a man but He was also God.   I sometimes  try to wrap my head around what it would have been like to literally sit at the 'human feet'  of God and hear the words of Truth flow from His mouth.
But we do have some of His words recorded for us and I think today maybe they are so familiar to us we take them for granted.
I'd like to draw your attention to something Jesus said and then 'unzip the file'  and reveal the depth and fullness of what He was teaching.
Several times, as in John 5:39,  Jesus makes reference to the fact that the Old Testament testifies and points to Himself  -  the gospel itself is hidden in the story accounts and in the prophetic words of the prophets.
One very direct reference is in Gal. 3:8 that states the gospel was preached to Abraham and also therefore reveals the gospel through Abraham to us.   Abraham's faith was credited to him as righteousness -- faith being the foundation of the New Covenant--  and because He is called the father of all who live by faith, all those who live by faith are blessed with him. (Rom 4:16)

But.. you may be puzzled, wondering .....   HOW does the gospel in/through Abraham testify of Jesus and the New Covenant or the church ?

Let me show you .....  

Turning back to Genesis 14 we have the story of Abraham and Melchizedek.  
The background setting is that in those days there were four  kings who joined together to make war against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The four kings prevailed in battle against the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah. Seeing that they were beaten, the kings of Sodom and Gomorrah fled for their lives leaving their cities vulnerable.  
The four kings invaded the cities, took captive  the  inhabitants along with all their possessions and departed, with prisoners and plunder, back to their own countries.
 At that time one of the  residents of Sodom was  Lot, Abraham's nephew, and he too with all he possessed was carried off into captivity.
One who managed to escape undetected,  had connections with Abraham and came running to tell him what had befallen his nephew.
Abraham immediately armed his servants and  intent on a full rescue mission  pursued the captors.
Abraham won the battle. He freed Lot along with all the other people taken in the raid and also retrieved all the stolen goods.
On his way back to Sodom , he encountered Melchizedek, the King of Salem. Melchizedek came with bread and wine and a blessing for Abraham.
 Abraham gave to Melchizedek a tenth of the spoil that he had retrieved from the enemy.

The grateful king of Sodom, perhaps ashamed of his cowardly flight in the face of defeat, then also came  to Abraham and as a reward offered him all the spoil, if he would but allow the people to return to their homes.
Abraham refused any gifts saying that he would keep nothing for himself, it was not his.  Therefore the people and their goods were returned to the cities from where they had been so violently taken.

Hmmm...   doesn't sound like the gospel story ?    Come back tomorrow for part two of my post.