Saturday, March 30, 2013

What's it all About ?

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I followed the park trail up to the top of Thom Mt.   Someone had walked up before us and left a reminder of what day it was .. Good Friday.   The hand printed words on the cross say "Jesus Saves".

I was reminded of two other people walking and talking about Good Friday, although they didn't call it 'good'.
Cleopas and his companion walked quickly but with their heads down.  
Periods of silent thought were broken by the same conversation over  and over again.
Shock, bewilderment, disbelief, profound grief  poured into their words to each other.
Just a few days ago,  Jesus rode into Jerusalem worshipped by the crowds, now He was dead -  crucified !
How could that be ?   All their hopes dashed ! He was gone... leaving their world  suddenly  turned  upside down.
And now some women were saying the tomb was empty and they had been told by angels in a vision that Jesus was alive?   What was the meaning of that ? How could that be possible.?
They did not hear the sound of sandalled feet coming up behind them until someone came alongside  and fell into step with them.
The  Man walked in silence for a moment, listening, then asked... "What are you talking about ? and why are you so sad ?"
Amazed that someone could be so unaware of  the current events everyone was talking about, they asked, "Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem that has not heard of the things that have happened the last few days?"
The Man asked.. "What things?"
And the two began to give an account of the events as they had unfolded over the last days. They told the Man  about how Jesus had been a prophet who had spoken the word of God and done many miracles. But then the chief priests and rulers had unjustly condemned and crucified Him.   They told the Man   they  had   believed that Jesus was the Messiah and that He would have redeemed Israel! But how wrong they had been!
The Man listened until they were finished , then He began to speak --  He started at the beginning of the scriptures and taught them about all the things that had been pointing to Jesus. How, scattered like shining jewels,  prophecies concerning Him had been there for them to see.  
Like in Isaiah 53 that provided details such as the facts that He would be counted as a criminal,  yet be buried in a rich man's tomb. That He would be beaten and would suffer beyond belief and would die -- yet that was not the end!

Listening to the Man talk, the two companions' hearts began to burn with excitement and dawning understanding.  And then, at the end of their journey, when He entered their home  -  they recognized Him !  Jesus!  He WAS alive!!  Their world would never be the same again ...  and indeed... it was never the same again for anyone!!  

But how could they have so missed all the clues about who the coming Messiah would be? They knew the scriptures , they had heard them all their life.  And yet, not only they, but the teachers themselves had not understood.     Why ?   Because they had had preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be like.

They expected Him to some riding on a horse to make war against their enemies. 
But He came riding on a donkey to show He came in peace.    
They wanted a warrior.  He came as a servant. 
They expected Him to set up an earthly kingdom.  
But He came to set up a spiritual kingdom. 
They expected Him to come giving Israel  dominion over the Gentile nations.   
But He came to include the Gentiles in His plan of salvation. 
They expected Him to save them from the Romans.  
But He came to save all people from sin and death.  
They expected a man.   But He came as God with skin on !

If Jesus had met the expectations of man, instead of fulfilling God's plan
 you and I would still be lost in our sins.   

God's Plan is always the best !   
May you in your Easter celebrations remember the One who gave us so much!   His love for you and me is unfathomable.   

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Taught through a Dream

I have always been an avid dreamer and any detail of information that has ever entered my mind is readily available to be worked into some kind of logical or illogical sequence in my nightly  drama production.

Several nights ago as  I wove my dream scenes they tended very easily and quickly to drift to the bizarre, the frightening, the difficult and even logically impossible experiences.
But then at one point in my dream I suddenly realized that I had something  in my hand that had a unique function.
As soon as my dream drama turned upside down  into a threatening or frightening nightmare,  I would reach out and touch it with what I had in my hand and the dream would right itself immediately into something that made sense.
It happened over and over and I came to the place where even  the frightening turns in my dreams no longer disturbed me or  caused me to fear or dread.  I KNEW that all I had to do was 'touch' them with what I had in my hand and the dream would change,  leaving me emotionally calm.  .And so I faced each  nightmare with calm resolve, flipping it right side up with the touch of my finger instantly neutralizing its power to overwhelm me with fear.

When I awoke ... I thought about what I had experienced and realized that it presented an interesting picture of a spiritual truth.   My dream portrayed the reality of how we, as believers, can face the nightmares of life.
We all walk through the days and years of our lives and face unexpected circumstances or experiences that leave us overwhelmed with fear, with worry or anxiety.
We feel run over,  we feel out of control, we feel alone with no answers or nowhere to turn.  
Most often  our disturbing experiences are not life threatening - sometimes they are.
Sometimes we are frustrated sitting in rush hour traffic, knowing we will be late for an appointment     sometimes a tragedy changes our lives forever in a moment of time.

But we have something in our hand that has can turn our troubles right side up.   Turning them right side up doesn't change the circumstance but it takes the fear out of it, and puts us in a safe place.

What is the 'changer' we have in our hand ?
It is God's Truth, His Word on the subject or circumstance.

Your day is not off to a good start... You spilled your coffee cup, your two year old woke up crying, your husband complained of having egg sandwiches AGAIN in his lunch, you have a 9:30 o'clock appointment you are going to be late for if you sit any longer in this stalled traffic.  Your stress level is rising, a soundless scream forming in the pit of your stomach..... where is your 'wand' ?
Awww... there it is. Reach it out ...   and take a deep breath!
"In everything give thanks..... "  (I Thess. 5:18)
Coffee can be wiped up and another cup poured,   a child can be comforted, and a quiet apology and a kiss sooth a husband.   Thankful?  yes,   for a  child healthy enough to cry,  a  husband to make lunches for, the friend you are  meeting for lunch after your appointment,  your mother-in-law so willing to babysit, the tree bursting forth with spring pink blossoms  you wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't been sitting in traffic --    the list once started is hard to end.   A thankful heart is a happy heart -- the day turns right side up.

You are a young girl in college, in love with a fellow student.   He is everything you ever wanted!  You smile as you look down at the diamond on your left hand.  Then you frown ...  if only your parents could be happier for you !   If only your pastor had not expressed his reluctance to marry you.   You lay awake last night trying to put your own doubts out of mind.    So he isn't a Christian...   YET....   He promised to go to church with you after you were married.
The Truth ?    "Be not unequally yoked...  "   (II Cor. 6:14)
Yes... touch your situation with God's truth -- give the ring back.   The one God has chosen for you will share your faith. God's truth isn't given to spoil your happiness, but rather to ensure it.  How many women have married men thinking to convert them after marriage, and it just doesn't happen!

You can hardly bear the pain in your heart. Your grief over the loss of a loved washing wave after wave over raw emotions.  Unexpected bills have left you with financially worries.  How will you manage?  Will life ever be 'normal' again ?
Your 'wand'  ... where is it ?
 ".... lest you sorrow as those who have no hope."   We have 'comfort'  even in our sorrow, that there is life after death ... that we will see our loved ones again. Death has been conquered... the dead in Christ will rise again ... and we will be with Him forever !   (I Thess. 4:13-18)
"I will never leave you or forsake you ... "  (Heb. 13:5)  Isn't often the greatest fear in any situation that of being 'alone' ?   God knew how easily we were comforted by someone coming alongside that could help, that could walk us through whatever was before us.   Jesus promised, no matter what we are going through, we are not alone.  Not only is Jesus with us, to comfort, even to carry us.  but He has promised that "all things will work together for our good".  (Rom. 8:28) No matter what we go through it is not in vain, God has a plan and a purpose.
"My God shall supply all your need..." (Phil. 4:19)  That is a promise God gives to His children.  In time of need we look around us and perhaps see no way even God could meet our need.....  but we need to look at the second part of God's promise.   He isn't dependant on THIS world's supply,  He has promised to meet our need according to HIS RICHES ... a storehouse of provision untouched by thieves,  an economic recession, or your own ability or resources.  We can trust Him.

I could go on and weave situations of life we all deal with.  What is in your life today that you are struggling with ?  Have you considered what God's view of your situation is,  what His Word has to say about it?    How would taking God's truth and 'touching' it to your way of thinking, your perspective, your fears change how you feel? How would it change your choices, your decisions, your attitude?

"In ALL thy ways acknowledge HIM .. and He  WILL direct your paths."  Prov. 3:6
and one of my favourite verses ..
"The entrance of Your Word gives light.It gives understanding to the simple." Ps 119:130,131

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Today is St. Patrick's Day...  a day that does not appear on a list of Christian Holidays, nor does it have any particular significance to most people other than the fact it has to do with shamrocks and the colour green.
But to me it is a day that reminds me of how one person inspired by agape love (God-love)  can change his world leaving it a better place because his life touched it.

I have just finished a book called Hearts of Fire by Gracia Burnham that follows the lives of eight ordinary women who lived un-ordinary lives because they risked all to follow Jesus.  Their faith was costly to an extreme but they remained faithful.  To read of their experiences was a sobering exercise that left me wondering ...  Could I endure what they endured ?  My heart responded , "O Lord, make me like them!"

Today is a reminder to consider another man who lived an exemplary life of love and forgiveness. While many fables and untruths have been woven to create a somewhat fictional character , we do have a reliable account of who St. Patrick really was.
I hold in my hand  -  a book called "St. Patrick : The Real Story as told in his own words. The words written by St. Patrick in Latin have been translated into English by Jim McCormack.  
To have an account in his own words  is a treasure indeed,  considering that Patrick died in 460 AD.

Patrick says that he felt he must write his own account of his life ..."so that my fellow Christians and my relatives would know the sort of man I am and to be in no doubt as to what I have vowed my soul to."
Patrick's story is reminiscent of the life stories of  two bible characters , Joseph of the Old Testament  and Paul who wrote much of the New Testament.

Patrick was born in Britain , at that time still under Roman rule, into an influential and affluent family.   His father as well as his grandfather were ministers/deacons in the church.
Before he was sixteen, Patrick was kidnapped from his family's country estate.
He describes himself as a tongue-tied lad, with a poor education when he was captured and taken to a strange land, thrust among strangers and  forced into a life of servitude.

For two months Patrick was held by his captors, and suffered at their hands .   Then in Ireland Patrick was sold to a farmer who put him to work bringing animals to pasture. The long hours watching over his flocks gave him much time to think and reflect and it is here that he found his way to God and began to spend his lonely hours in prayer.  His love for God grew and his relationship with God became deep and intimate. In the woods out on the mountains he experienced such joy and lightness that rain, frost, snow or the darkness of night  could not dampen his spirit.   The Holy Spirit, he says,  took complete hold of him.  
He says there is one thing he is sure of .... "Before I was humbled, I was like a boulder buried deep in the bog. Then he who is powerful came, and in his mercy not only hauled me out but shouldered me up and set me on top of the fortifications.   Isn't it only right then that I shout out my thanks to the Lord for all his blessings, both those received in this life, as well as those yet to come in eternity - blessings beyond our wildest dreams?" 

He served the farmer, who treated him roughly and unkindly,  for six years.
Then one night Patrick heard a voice in his sleep, "You are doing the right thing in fasting; soon you'll be on your way back to your own country."    Then a bit later the message came ... "Look, your boat is waiting."    
Patrick was about 200 miles from a body of water,  had never travelled in that part of the country and knew not a soul.
But he was not deterred and ran away from the man who owned him, and in his own words.. "I went in the power of God, who led me in the right path every step of the way, so that I was afraid of nothing and at last found that boat."  

At first his request to board  was  refused,  though he assured the captain that he would work to earn his passage.  He turned, and walked away, praying as he went. But then one of the crew shouted to him to come back , there were people  who wanted him.
After three days on the water,  they reached dry land'... then wandered through a sort of wilderness for twenty-eight days.  
Their food ran out and everyone was faint with  hunger. Some men had already collapsed and left for dead at the side of the road.
When all hope seemed lost, the captain confronted Patrick and said...  "So what's the story, Christian?  If this God of yours is all you claim him to be, why don't you pray for us?   Here we are on the verge of starvation, with little chance of coming across other human beings in a place like this."    
Patrick boldly told them that they should turn in faith, with all their heart,  to the Lord God for nothing was beyond him.  If they would do that, Patrick told them , God would that very day give them all the food they needed !
And that is exactly what happened.   That same day a herd of pigs crossed their path right in front of them and several of them were killed. Their meat was cooked and enjoyed. For the next two days  the men ate, rested and regained their strength.   Patrick tells how their gratitude to God knew no bounds.
Ten days later, just when they food ran out, they reached civilisation.
Eventually,  he made his way back to his family in Britain.  Needless to say, they were over joyed to see him, and fervently implored him to never leave them again.

But one night, in a dream a man named Victor came to Patrick. He seemed to have arrived from Ireland with a number of letters.     One was headed .. "The Voice of the Irish". As Patrick read the words he thought he heard at that moment a crowd with the familiar accent of those who lived beside the Wood of Virgult all crying out begging him to come back and walk among them again.  
He says it broke his heart.

He writes how the six years of his captivity had stretched him beyond what he would have thought he could endure,   and  when he came back to Britain he was sadly betrayed by a friend and suffered because of an almost destroyed reputation. Yet,   he saw these experiences as needful for the Lord to prepare him for his life's work.
Despite the protests of his family, he resolved to turn his back on an easy life and return to Ireland as a missionary, to preach the gospel "even though this entailed putting up with abuse from unbelievers, hearing myself sneered at for being a foreigner, undergoing various sorts of persecutions,  even being put in shackles, as well as giving up my free-born status so that others might benefit."    Again and again the Lord saved his life - no less than twelve occasions, and rescued him from other treacherous situations.

Patrick returned to the people who had used and abused him with only love and forgiveness in his heart, pouring out his life to bring them the love of God.  He never left Ireland again,  serving the Lord He loved until his death.
Patrick was a humble man who wondered that God should choose such as  him to serve God as a missionary. Patrick insists that it was nothing in him -  but it was the Spirit of the Lord who enabled him, guided him and gave him the wisdom and grace to serve those who were lost.
So no one could say that he did anything for personal gain, he refused to take any money from anyone he served or helped.
The last words of Patrick's confession reads...
"And as regards these pages that have been written down in Ireland by Patrick, an uneducated sinner, my request to any believers and God-fearing persons who come across them, and are kind enough to read them, is this:   If what I have accomplished in life has been pleasing to God, in even a slight way, then let no one attribute this to me in my ignorance. On the contrary, let them be in no doubt that it was all simply due to the grace of God. And this is my Confession before I die. "   

Ireland was a pagan land before St. Patrick.   At the time of his death, it was pagan no longer.

Let us remember today, to thank the Lord for those who have gone before, leaving us such  great examples of lives well lived and worthy of the name Christian.    May we too  live in such a way that our words and deeds honour His name.