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.