Thursday, September 3, 2020

Death and the Hereafter

footpath in surrounded by trees                                                                                                                                                                                  photo by Alessio Lin

A PERFECT WORLD 

A baby is tucked into a perfect world in his mother's womb. It is warm, comfortable... all needs are met.  His mother's heartbeat is a soothing rhythmic sound,  and his mother's voice becomes familiar. .  No desire or thought of another world to come, enters the baby's mind.. 
But IF the baby in the womb could see and understand the life to come outside the womb, would he be content to stay IN the womb?  Or would he struggle to be born before he was physically ready? 

We are like the baby in the womb.   This earth is our 'womb' and it is difficult to  visualize anything else. We love this earth and the life it offers and so we put off even thinking of a world to come.   Maybe that is a safeguard God built into our DNA so that we would be focused on fulfilling the purpose of our earthly sojourn rather than focusing on where we would rather be !!  The will to live is the strongest instinct God gave us, because this earthly life is important in relationship to the life to come. 

We will all live until we 'die'...Everyone's days are numbered.
Before we were born, our days were already numbered by God.  Our life is in His hand and we can trust God to sustain our life until the 'day' that He calls us home. ( see .. Psalm 139:16 ,  Job 14:5, Psalm 39:4)   

We don't like to talk about death.  And even what comes after is a subject rarely discussed. 
But it is a reality we will all one day face ...
 So ... I have attempted to share  here in this lesson,  some of the  understanding I have gleaned from my study of scripture, and hope that you will be left excited for what is to come for all of us ! 

Avoid the Uncomfortable 
The world has tried to dilute the fear of death and dying by finding new ways to refer to it.  How often I have heard .. "Oh, he is in a better place !" or "He is now playing golf"  Ior instead of referring to someone's death, the common word used today is 'passed' .. 

Even believers have tried to make it less distressing ....   We use terms like 'celebration of life'  or 'memorial' instead of funeral and we have eliminated the coffin from our services.    
While using more uplifting terms may lessen the impact ... it really is only a temporary reprieve in our feelings.   

My husband chuckles when he tells the story of a young girl in his childhood neighbourhood who one day came  running down the road as fast as she could .. shouting as she ran .. "Good news, Good news, my uncle died !!"   We smile because of course no one would call it 'good news' ...  and yet maybe she had it more right than wrong ??? 

We avoid talking about dying because it makes us uncomfortable.  
It makes us uncomfortable because we don't want to leave this earth and our loved ones...  but I think another reason it makes us uncomfortable is because intuitively we know 'dying' is contrary to life.. .  We want to live forever.and do everything we can to preserve our life. 

FOUR MIS-CONCEPTIONS  
 I think there are 4 misconceptions that affect how we think and feel about death and the hereafter. 

1. DEATH   Something to fear ?  
There is an interesting verse found in Hebrews 2:14,15  that explains that Jesus' death for us freed us from the fear of death !  
As believers we need have no fear of it !  Why ?  Because we will never die !  
Oh yes, our bodies will be cast off one day -- as one moves out of an old house into a new one, or as one casts off an old garment and puts on a new..  (see II Peter 1:14, II Cor. 5:14)

The PERSON  that you are will never die !!  Never !  Death is  not something we will CONSCIENTIOUSLY experience! 

We are so attached to our bodies that we strongly identify our PERSON with our body.  
No matter how much we would like a 'body-reno' as we get older, we cling to our bodies as though letting go of our body is letting go of life. And we always refer to someone who 'died' in third person -- HE died, SHE died .... It would be more correct to say ..  His body died, or Her body died, because the Person is very much alive. 

Look at Acts 7 that tells the story of the first martyr.  When Stephen was being stoned ...  he looked up and saw Jesus standing in heaven.  I'm sure for Stephen, time was totally seamless ...  He was in a body that was being stoned - then he simply stepped out of it and was immediately standing with Jesus in glory !   No death ... just 'absent from the body, present with the Lord' .. II Cor. 5:8
And note that it is the SAME person who is absenting from the body to be present with the Lord!  No process, no inbetween experience we call 'death'. 

So 'death' for you and me is not something to fear.  Death only involves the physical body.... and even that is temporary because when Jesus comes back and there is the resurrection,  our bodies will themselves be changed and we will wear them again !  Millenia before our time,   Job already understood this ... He believed he would die and his body decay but it would be resurrected again . (see Job 19:-26)

In the meantime - until the resurrection -  we will not be unclothed ... ( II Cor. 5:4)..... ..  but will have a 'spiritual'  body that will feel solid and comfortable and look like us -  'recognizable' to others who knew us. .   Moses and Elijah when they appeared on the Mt. of Transfiguration were instantly recognized for who they were.(Luke 9:28-36).  When Samual appeared to Saul and the witch of Endor, he was immediately recognized. (I Sam. 28:11,12) The rich man recognized Abraham and Lazarus. (see Luke 16:23)
And the martyrs in Rev. 6:10 identify one with another as a group and also are aware of what is happening on earth.  

When Jesus' rose from the dead in His resurrected body it was exactly like our 'forever' bodies will be. He is our example ...  as He was resurrected so also shall we be !   Our resurrected bodies will be physical flesh and bone. ( of course our bodies will be 'new and improved' with   super-natural abilities like being able to walk through walls , and travel  as fast as thought)   

Jesus conquered all negative aspects of death and we have nothing to fear when we hear the word !     see Heb. 2:15, Matt. 16:21, John 2:18-22, Luke 24:6, I Cor. 15:3-7

NOTE - I know grief is real and we deeply mourn the loss of  our loved ones.   Their gain IS our loss and we feel it ... yet .. we can take comfort knowing that we will join them one day soon.. The parting, though painful, is temporary. And death has lost all power over those who belong to Jesus. ( I Thess. 4:13) 


2, HEAVEN - NOT YET, PLEASE! 
We all use the word 'heaven' to describe where we will go when we step out of our 'tent'.(body) And I'm not saying we need to change that.  But the words we use do colour what we ultimately believe. 
How often have you heard someone say, "Yes, I want to go to heaven but not yet."   And if it was for a reason like the one stated by Paul ( Phillipians 1:23)  that would be commendable but I think if we are honest we have all had a list of what we wanted to experience before we went to heaven -- like get married, have kids, travel, be successful in our career...see our grandchildren... etc.  

So why,  if heaven is as perfect as we say it is, do we put off wanting to go?  I have been with several people before they passed and except for one person, the others - even though they were believers -  were afraid of death and had no idea what to expect after. 

I think there is a very valid reason why we want to put off living in heaven.  

Do you know that not one verse in scripture says that we go to heaven when we die?  
Why?  because we were not created for 'heaven' .  Heaven is where God lives, His throne room.    God created His angels to live in heaven as His servants ... but He created man to live on earth.  
(don't run away -- stay with me ... let me explain) 😊

Last week my husband and I watched a documentary - ( link found here. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nMAzchVWTis )  This is the most incredible photography of the undersea world.   It is beauty beyond astonishing... the creatures are unbelievably unique, the plant life stunning .. the colours and total effect is mind blowing!  Words cannot describe the creation of God deep under the ocean. It is like He pulled out all the stops on His creative mind and magnified in detail and design what we could never imagine!  

 And as fascinated as I was,   watching the wonders of the deep sea displayed on our TV screens , as much as I was in awe at its incredible beauty ... as much as my heart lifted in praise and worship to the God who created such wonders....  Would 
I want to live there?  COULD I live there? 
 No, because I was not created to live underground  -- I am not suited for life there.

When God created Adam and Eve, He could have created them in heaven - His Throne-room-  but no , He created an earth that He designed for them. . An environment that they could relate to and be comfortable in. Instead of man 'living' in heaven,  God came down to them ... (Gen. 3:8) 

When God revealed Himself in His glory on Mt Zion, the people were terrified and begged not to have to 'live' in that glory. They could not bear it. 
When Isaiah  -- in vision --saw the throne of God he cried out that he 'was undone'.  (Isaiah 6:1-4)  It was too overwhelming for him. 
I think we instinctively know that we are not 'suited'  to live in 'heaven' which is God's throne-room. 
With an oxygen tank we can for a time go down to the bottom of the sea but we cannot stay there.  I believe it is the same in God's throne room. 

So then where do we go when we die?   
Look at what Jesus said to His disciples in John 14:1-4 -- "I go to prepare a place for you!" 
Surely He did not mean that He had to renovate a corner of God's-heaven. 
"A place for you" ---  a place that was suited to us.  
And what did He say to the thief on the cross?  "You will be in paradise, with me..." Luke 23:43
 Jesus speaks about Paradise waiting for those who overcome..  REv. 2:7, 
 Paul says that he was caught up into Paradise ....  II Cor. 12:4 )

Paradise -- a perfect place prepared for us .. where we will live until the New Earth is created. 

Will we be with Jesus?  Oh yes, of course !!   And we will see God on His throne.  Distance and time are not a hindrance outside of our universe. 

I Cor. 2:9 says that we could not even imagine the wonderful things God has planned for us.  That verse is quoted by Paul from the Old Testament and speaks primarily to the wonders of the New Covenant that Jesus' death made possible for us to partake of,  but it also shows what God is like.  What awaits us when we step out of our physical body will astound, delight, thrill us beyond anything we have ever experienced here on this earth.  
AND it will be 'suited'  to us.   When our bodies die, the PERSON we are does not change at all!  We are who we are -- our mind, our emotions, our personality and character. We will not 'change'. 
We will know as we are known .. I Cor. 13:12.  The veil of our physical body will be gone and we will see and experience all the things that we are 'blinded' to here.  

3. THE NEW EARTH
I find that most people have only a vague idea of what our 'eternity' will be like. 
A lady (Christian , church goer ,all her life) recently commented that we will be ghosts floating around. . 
And yes, I agree, the Bible does not give us too many details of what it will be like.  I think that is because if God DID  give us too many details, we would just give up on this life and do whatever we could to leave this earthly life as quickly as possible !!  

The end of God's Book tells us enough so that we can understand what God has planned for us. 
When He destroys this earth ( II Peter 3:10-13)  He will create a new one.  
What will it be like?   It will be perfect -- I believe it will be like the Garden of Eden that God placed Adam and Eve in... only bigger!  and if possible even better.  
The New Earth will be a 'physical' place  - for lack of a better word -- and by physical I mean that it will be as real as this earth is. We have it backwards.  It is THIS earth that is the mirage and the New Earth the real and solid. ( see II Cor. 4:18)  
God created man to live on the earth that He designed for him !   I get so excited when I think of what it will be like living on the New Earth --  I believe it will be far more 'normal' than we expect!!  And I know we will be busy !!  With what?  I'm not sure but I know it will be fulfilling !   
God will be there with us -- He says He will come down to be with us -- just as He did with Adam and Eve...  
It will be perfect  -- beyond any perfection we might  imagine !  
We all have gifts, talents, passions .. .things we enjoy. That will not change so I believe our New Earth work will also take into consideration our gifts and talents and personality,  in a way that will be totally fulfilling to us! 
Relationships will continue and be important .. God created man to be in families, in friendships, and in fellowship with Him . None of that will change. While there will be no 'marriage' , spouses will be known and loved as they are here. 
Can you imagine the joy we will experience being with the people we have loved on earth, and knowing we will never have to part again?   I'm sure we will also make new friends .. and I am sooooo looking forward to meeting and talking with all the Bible characters. 

And ... this is only my idea ... but I believe that all the books that were written about all God did on this earth will be in a 'library' that we can go and read.... or better still we can watch the heaven-tube videos.   Won't that be so fun?   To be able to watch and see our earth events from God's perspective ?  How He manipulated and intervened and wove together lives and circumstance and details we thought were co-incidental?!  (one of my fav. verses John 21:25) 

4. THIS EARTH-LIFE 
Do we just fumble through this life  as best we can ... hoping that somehow we have done something that God will be pleased with? 
While learning to know God is key ... I think this life is more important than we realize in how it prepares us for an eternity with God. 

I believe that is something we do not consider often enough in terms of who we will be in eternity. 
I remember, as a teen,  trying to envision what I would be like when I was 40.  It was such a foreight concept to me, I thought I would be almost 'another person'  then, someone I could not relate to. 
And then I found to my surprise that I was still that 'teen' person, even when I was 40. 

I think it will be the same for us when we spend that first day in glory!  The biggest surprise will be how 'normal'  we are. And how easily we relate to the things around us. 

God never created us to struggle through life in a sin-destroyed earth.  God created man because He desired beings that would freely worship Hm in relationship with Him and each other in a 'perfect' world. 
But .. in the same way that we cannot achieve any goals in this life without education and maturity, so also we need to 'prepare' ourselves to live forever in perfect communion with God. 
We 'practice' here to learn what we will need to know to live fully in the life to come.  

When I was a child, I believed that when I died I would go sit on a cloud with my harp, praising God, whom I could not see .. nor could I see anyone else because of the cloudy mist around me ...  Where I got that Idea, I do not know, but how totally wrong I was.
Why do we think life will be so very 'different' in eternity ?  In many ways of course it will be - but not in ways that keep us from relating or understanding it. 
 It will be exciting .... And every one will personally be given to do what they are 'suited' to do.  
I know that we are going to be FAR too busy to ever be bored !   The gifting you have will finally be used in its ultimate purpose ....  what you love to do will be your delight !   I don't know exactly how we are going to be occupied but we will be busy !   

Isaiah 65:17 says "For behold I create new heavens and a new earth and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create....."  
"Be remembered or come to mind"  does not mean that it is 'wiped' from our memories, it means that we will never long for it or miss some aspect of it that we would like to experience again.   The new earth will be so incredible, that we will 'forget' this earth like we forget an old worn out garment that we have discarded. 

This life is like the school-years we all experienced.   We were fully engaged in everything that school entailed -- the studying, the exams, the friends,  the teachers, the holidays, the productions, the team sports ... etc.   As much as it was our LIFE .. we looked forward to graduating and entering the 'real world'.   
So also this life -- it is our 'schooling'  for when we step into the 'real world' that we were created for.   II Cor. 4:16-18

We have all packed to go on vacation.  The joke is that some pack everything but the kitchen sink.  The wise packer packs only what they will need at their vacation spot.  The song in our worship today .. "This world is not my home- I'm just a;passing thru".....  If we believe that, what are we packing?  Are we packing only what will be of benefit to us in eternity?  Only those things that have eternal value in God's Kingdom?   Heb. 12:1
And do we hold loosely the things that we need here on this earth only?  
May God give us discerning hearts and eyes that are fixed on things above.  

When we say 'The Best is yet to come !"  it is so very true !!   Nothing in this life can match what we will have in Paradise and on the New Earth .. forever and forever ...  ,  no more sorrow, no grief, no pain, no tears . -  joy unending and  face to face with Jesus !!   

""And I saw a new heaven and a new earth ...... and I heard a voice saying .. 'Behold the tabernacle of God is with men and He will dwell with them and they shall be His people and God Himself will be with them and be their God'."   Rev. 21 1-7


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Is Anyone Unlovable?

woman in black and purple dress sitting on sidewalk during daytime

I had one of those 'God-moments' last week that I will never forget. It changed me . 

The last day we were in Whistler I had a conversation with one of my granddaughters and she expressed her fear that she was not doing enough for God, that she was not making Him her first priority.  She is a very sensitive soul and everything in me wanted to encourage her and give her a stronger sense of security in God. 
 So I talked to her about how God's desire was that every human being should be saved. He grieves over everyone who rejects Him. (II Peter 3:8-10, Ez. 18:23)  And if it is true that God's will is that everyone be saved, we can know that He will always do EVERYTHING He can to draw someone to Himself.. Never will He push anyone away, never will He put someone down or turn away in disgust.(John 6:37)  So I told her that she could trust God that He was always working on her behalf,  helping her to become all that He wanted her to be.   That His focus was always on drawing her closer. 
He understands all  weaknesses, all  failings, all  shortcomings ..  God's focus on every human being He created is to do ALL He can to bring them to Himself. 
He loves everyone ... no matter how far they are from Him. 

A day or two later I was reading our local news and noted the story of the couple walking down a sidewalk in our city. The woman was carrying a large knife.  Someone called the police and they were quickly on scene.  The couple both ran when they saw the police.  The woman got away but the man was tackled and taken into custody with minor injuries. He was known to the police.   The photo revealed a man that I would not care to meet.  His eyes were dead...  My thought was that I was glad he was off the street and in custody!   
Instantly the Lord spoke to me and said ... "What did you just explain to your granddaughter?"
I was convicted  by my hypocrisy... and was immediately overwhelmed emotionally with the deepest compassion and empathy I have ever felt.   I knew it was the Lord's compassion , not my own.  I have not been able to forget that man's face and pray for him whenever I think of him.   Perhaps I am the only person who has ever prayed for him!  

Yes .. God's love is extended to EVERY person, no matter how vile we might think they are.  His grace is enough to forgive and restore every wasted life and EVERYONE is drawn by God's love.   To God's joy some respond to His love with joy .... yet others to His sorrow reject Him.  

A Promise to Abraham that includes you and me !
God made Abraham a promise that we find recorded in Gen. 12:3, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” This promise was not just to Abraham but to all His children. Note the inclusive words "all families of the earth". 
See Gal. 3:7 which tells us that all who put their faith in Jesus are the children of Abraham. 

Not only does God watch over His children,  blessing those who are kind to His children but He also sees those who curse them.  
BUT , His promise also was founded on the fact that God's plan was that His children should bless others !
  God desires that even as He loves the unlovable, so also He looks for His children to do the same.   
He is not looking for an opportunity to 'curse'  anyone.  Even when Jesus was suffering on the cross - having been cruelly treated by those who hated Him -  did He call for God to rain down His curses ?  No ... 
He cried out to His Father.. “Forgive them for they know not what they do”.
 It is never God’s pleasure to curse anyone. God is always looking for an opportunity to show His character of love, kindness, compassion, patience and mercy.    As long as  someone has life .. God is still extending His hand to them. What an incentive for us to pray for those who still do not know Him. 
  Only after death... are men judged for their choices.   (Heb. 9:27, see also John 12:48)
 As God's children we are to be the 'visible' love of God to those that do not know Him...  and I believe God yearns for us to love those that no one else does...  
Like my  local  criminal.   

TWO PHARAOHS 
It can be a bit of a struggle to understand that if God  loves everyone, and it is His will that everyone be saved , then why do people still perish?   

I love the fact that God always gives us examples to show how His principles work out practically. He never leaves anything hanging as a theory. 

 One of the first examples we have in scripture of God acting out the promise of blessing and cursing He gave to Abraham and all who put their faith in Him,  is found in the story of the two Pharaohs. 
Two Pharaohs – one who knew Joseph (Abraham’s great grandson) and one who did not, yet both are identified by their relationship to Joseph. (“Now there arose a new king over Egypt who did not know Joseph” Ex.1:8) 
Both were judged according to how they treated Joseph or Joseph’s descendants – one Pharaoh was blessed by God and the other one cursed.
 It is interesting that to both men God made Himself known clearly enough that it left the Pharaohs without excuse.  

The Power of God Revealed - that they might know the Lord is God
To both God revealed Himself in supernatural ways. 
To the first Pharaoh, He gave two prophetic dreams which served to turn Pharaoh's heart toward God and His servant Joseph. 
For the  second Pharaoh, dreams would never have been enough, so God gave him ten miraculous signs. . Each miracle revealed to Pharaoh the futility of the gods he worshiped. 

To both God sent a representative of His people. To the first - Joseph, to the second Moses.
 In both cases God had prepared the way to ensure their credibility. Joseph’s ability as a dream interpreter was proclaimed by the testimony of Pharaoh’s butler. 
Moses had been raised in Pharaoh’s own house! 
So both Pharaohs were aware that they were dealing with God’s people and their powerful God!
How they would respond was their own choice.  

Humility and Pride 
The Pharaoh who knew Joseph had a humble heart that reacted quickly and positively to God’s voice.  He made Joseph ruler over all his kingdom with full authority in all things, answering to no man other than Pharaoh himself. Always he acted in kindness to Joseph. He even  gave him his own daughter in marriage. He eagerly encouraged Joseph's family to Egypt and made them welcome, generously giving them  land to settle on.  
. As a result of this Pharaoh opening his heart to bless Joseph, he himself was also blessed. He was spared the horror of starvation that would have faced him and his people. Instead, he was blessed with fullness of bread and the opportunity to sell grain to the nations around him. And he enjoyed the grandsons that his daughter gave him. 

The other Pharaoh stands in sharp contrast.  He did not know Joseph but he showed a very contrary heart to his predecessor. 
This Pharaoh was filled with self-pride and from the beginning hardened his heart. He refused to listen to Moses and rebelled against the God that sent him. The very first words we have recorded out of Pharaoh’s mouth were “Who is the Lord that I should obey His voice ?” (Ex.5:2)
 Again and again he refused to bend before God. “And Pharaoh hardened his heart at this time also, neither would he let the people go. “ (Ex. 8:32) 
We see God’s patience. Instead of cursing him immediately, God gave him ten chances to change his mind. Ten times he showed Pharaoh His supernatural power proving to him that He was Lord, not the gods of Egypt. 
Only when there was no hope left, did God curse him - drowning him in the middle of the Red Sea. Only a man blinded by his foolish, prideful heart would race his chariot onto a miraculous path that was obviously provided by the hand of a powerful God intent on saving His people.

 Two Pharaohs… two reactions… two consequences – one blessed, one cursed. What can we learn from this scriptural account? Is it simply a story in the history of Israel or is there a lesson for us, even though thousands of years have passed ?
 This is what it teaches me. As a 'child of Abraham' I feel so protected under the watchful eye of my Father God that I need never fear what man may do to me. But it also teaches me I have a responsibility. As I go about in the world I am God's representative to be His voice, His hands and feet to minister to the people I meet. 

Who am I ? 
   Do I present a true picture of who God is to those I meet who do not know Him?   
Do I represent God's heart of love and compassion or do I want the wicked to be under God's curse?
 Do the words out of my mouth and my actions and reactions reflect the character of God?
 Do I extend to others God's heart of compassion and empathy or do I give them cause to harden  their hearts against God? 
When I see people who are ungodly or wicked do I have the heart of Jesus and ask that God give them one more chance to choose Him?  Do I stand in the gap  (Ez. 22:30) for them interceding for them before the throne of mercy and grace or do I walk away thinking they deserve the life-consequences they reaped by their own choices and decisions.. 

Things to think about, are they not?    


PRAYER  "Father, forgive us where we have been so quick to judge, so quick to turn away and ignore the ones who are despised.  We so easily forget that you see beyond what they have become and you see what they can yet be.  And you see them with enough value that you gave your life for them .  Help us  to see with your eyes, to feel with your heart. Help us to recognize the opportunities you give us to love the unlovable. We are so grateful for your love that drew us into your kingdom and may we not flaunt our citizenship as something to be prideful about but rather see it as an opportunity to be your heart to a needy world. 
Thank you that we have been forgiven...  and may we be quick to desire that same forgiveness for others.    As we go from this place open our hearts to love those around us ...not just those who love us !    We pray in Jesus' name ... who is our example and our help... amen."
****

Monday, July 6, 2020

A Wardrobe Check



Blonde woman looks in a closet, dressed in a red dress, stands in an old house, a simple home image.  royalty free stock photo

A Wardrobe Check --  We, as women, i'm sure all identify with the above photo ... We look into our closets and know that it is time to go through our wardrobe....  decide what to keep, what to repair, what to throw out,  what we have outgrown,  or what is simply out of style !  

Did you ever consider doing a spiritual wardrobe check ?  No?  Well,  let's do one together today. 
The bible speaks of several 'garments' that we wear ... some desirable, some not. 

Last week we looked at the Light that we are covered with.  It is a beautiful thing ... but what light does is make us easier to see ... we cannot hide !  Matt. 5:14-16
  
When we meet someone, one of the first things they notice is what we are wearing - our clothes create a  'first impression'.   So also in a spiritual sense,  our 'wardrobe' is more on display than we might be aware of.   People watching us are keenly aware of the 'garments' we are wearing. 
So it behoves us to take care that our spiritual wardrobe is up-to-date and flattering to who we are as daughters of the King!  

Is your spiritual wardrobe in good repair and up to date?
Lets  open our spiritual closets and examine the garments we have hanging there.   


1. . Garment of Salvation -- Is. 61:10 
Aww... the garment of salvation --  That is the first garment we hung in our closet.  It was given to us as a gift  --  a garment of distinction and one that identifies us as belonging to the Kingdom ... marking us as a daughter of the King -- a citizen of God's Kingdom. (Eph. 2:19, I Peter 1:4,5)  In Jesus parable of the wedding feast in Matt. 22:11-14 ,the man who was not wearing the appropriate wedding garment (the garment of salvation) was thrown out into outer darkness.  
So we will keep this garment  in our closet, and will be careful to continue to wear it every day !  

2. Garment of Righteousness  --  Is. 61:10 tells us we have a robe of righteousness. ( see also Job 29;14, Psalm 132:9 )    
A robe protects and covers what is underneath ...  and we are told in Re. 19;8 that our white raiments are our righteousness acts.   We need to take care to wear the 'robe of righteousness' so that  our life -- what we do, what we say -- will reflect the Kingdom we represent. Our robe of righteousness reminds us that we live by the law of love.  What we do with love in our hearts toward God and the people around us will never spot our robes. - I John 1:10 , We need to check our robe of righteousness to make sure it is unspotted and clean - Rev. 3:4 .. 

  If we are out to dinner with a group of people and we look down and notice that we have spilled ketchup down the front of our white blouse we are mortified.  We excuse ourselves and go to the washroom to try to clean it off -- often just making it worse.    
But we have a solution ... 
If we see there is a spot or two on our robe of righteousness, or the hem is dirty from walking where we shouldn't have gone,   we do have a spiritual cleaner ....  I John 1:9 ...  

4. Garment of Shame --   Job 8:22, Ps. 108:29 ,  Oh dear,  how come this garment is still hanging in our closet --  the garment of shame, or guilt or self-condemnation. . 
We try to keep it out of sight but we pull it out to wear when no one is around ... simply because we have had it a long time and it is comfortable like those old comfy pjs. 
But why?   Why should we keep the garment of shame when  Romans 8:1 tells us there is no longer any condemnation for those wearing the garment of salvation.  We are free and forgiven, our past sin will never be sent to us again as an invoice owing!  It is paid !!  in full !! 
Ps. 103:12 tells us we are forgiven -our sins removed far from us !  Eph. 1:7 tells us we are forgiven 'according to the riches of His grace" .  Do you really think you are the one who will out-sin His grace?? Hardly .. and then look at the beautiful passage in Is. 43:25,26 where God says He forgives for HIS sake, not ours ... and it tells us to 'state our case'  -- whatever it is and we will be forgiven !   
Throw this garment of shame out .. it has no place in our closet !!  

5. Garment of Praise -- Isaiah 61:3 --  Aww... this is a 'dress-up'  garment.  The prettiest in our closet.  How beautiful our Bridegroom thinks we are when we come dressed to praise Him !  This garment is made of lovely threads that will never show any wear .. this garment will stay beautiful no matter how often we wear it ...  So let's wear it every day !  Because do we not have much to praise our God for ?  Is He not worthy to be worshipped?  If we are wearing this garment the gates of the throne room are flung open and we are ushered into God's Presence. 
   Psalm 100:4 ... see also Ps. 99:1-5, Ps. 22:3

6. Garment of Sackcloth --  Ps. 69:11  We have all put on this garment at times in our life, have we not?   Sackcloth is the garment of sorrow and grief.  The garment we put on when life seems overwhelming and crushing.  We think of Job ...  we think of Jacob mourning for his 'lost' son Joseph, we think of Daniel wearing sackcloth sorrowing for the sins of his people .... 
I wish we could throw this garment out,  but as long as we are on this earthly sojourn there will be times of sorrow and grief.  But we need not wear this garment without any comfort.  In fact, the Holy Spirit is given to us as our "Comforter". ( John 14:16) 
see.  Psalm 86:17, I Thess. 4:13,  Ps. 119:76,  Ps. 9:9, Ps. 23:4,6 
So, we hang this garment back into our closet, but when we must wear it, let's remember that the comforting arm of God is around our shoulders. 

7. Garment of Violence -  Psalm 73:6   - What is this garment still doing in our closet .. hopefully we have all outgrown it !  What does this  garment look like?  Well,  it has various styles from a quick temper, to unforgiveness, to  hating someone,  to wishing harm on someone, to maybe even include discontent or worry, or impatience.  Colossians 3:8 ...  While this verse lists the features of this garment it also tells us in no uncertain terms what to do with it .... TAKE IT OFF and toss it to the curb !!   
It is not a  becoming garment and it is infested with deadly viruses.  
Matt. 5:43-48 describes a much better way to 'dress'.  
8.  Garment of Humility -  I Peter 5:5 --   Do you know how good you feel when your undergarments are new, and pretty and especially comfortable and make you shapely?   
They  make you feel good in whatever you wear over top, don't they ? 
 So it is with the garment of humility -- it is that inner humble spirit that makes beautiful anything we might 'wear' on the outside ... 
There is no garment more important for us to wear to reflect the image and beauty of Christ than the undergarment of humility ... it gives us that inner glow that is so attractive and invites people to come close. 
see also   I Peter 5:5, James 4:10 , Psalm 25:9,  I Tim. 2:9

9. Garment of Deception -  Zech 13:4 --  Sometimes people dress to give a desired impression but it isn't who they really are.   It is easy to tell if someone is comfortable in their 'garments' .. and so the spiritual garments also project our comfort or discomfort -- our authenticity or our attempt to impress..   
Do you have some garments in your closet that aren't really YOU .. but you have them in your closet anyway because someone else gave them to you, or convinced you to buy them? 
Sometimes deception isn't intentional ...  Sometimes it is simply that we don't want to offend -- we want to fit it .   When in the world we try to 'look' like the world .. when we are with Christians we try to 'look'  spiritual .   
There is an interesting commandment of God in Lev. 19:19,  Deut, 22:11 , Job 38:9 ..  where He forbids His people to wear 'mixed' garments.   Garments made of two kinds of yarn -- linen and wool for example.   Why would He command that ?  Maybe as a picture of the spiritual garments that are mixed -- We cannot serve two masters,  we cannot live in the world and in the Kingdom of God,  we cannot live by two standards,   
We must choose who we will serve ... Elijah challenged the people who were worshipping God on one hand and the gods of  Jersebal on the other. Elijah cried out to the people .. "How long will you halt between two opinions ..."    I Kings 18:21 and Joshua challenged the people of his time with the words ... "choose you this day whom you will serve .. " Joshua 24:14,15 

We need to throw this garment out ...  and exchange it for a 'sincere' garment -- the Greek word translated 'sincere' is the word that means 'without wax' ...  In sculptures if a statue had a flaw or chip they would fill it in with 'wax'  (deception) which of course did not stand the test of time ...  
see .. II Cor. 1:12,  Col 3:22

Okay .. what do you think ?  does your closet look better ?  
 There is  a beautiful verse found in Psalm 45:11 that is written to the woman's heart -- God sees us and desires our beauty ...  why ?  because He loves us !!

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

When God Hides His Face


When Darkness Seems to Hide God's Face

We are living in times where the future is very uncertain.  No one knows how 'normal' life will ever be again.  Uncertainty, isolation, separation from loved ones, loss of freedom , financial turmoil, etc have a tole on people's state of mind.  In a time like this it is easy to become anxious or depressed ......  and even to wonder where God is. 
What is it about the fear of being abandoned that has such strong motivating power in God’s creatures? 

In God's creation every detail was declared 'GOOD', because everything He created has in it some aspect of His character, or it teaches us how to live in relationship with Him, how we are to see ourselves or how we are to live this earthly life. 
God's creation is the movie of God's book ... the words becoming pictures.   And a picture is worth 10,000 words because it doesn't need pages and books to explain it, the picture not only communicates its messages clearly but it is also easy to store in our memories. (see Rom 1:20)

I want to share some of my thoughts on the subject of ,,,, 
When God Hides His Face.

  I watch amused  when I see a mother trying to coax a toddler away from some fascinating object or play .. to no avail … until she walks away calling “Bye-bye! I’m going !” and suddenly the fascination evaporates and the toddler hurries after his mother.  
We all smile when we see the little ducks waddling after their mother,  or chicks hiding under their mother's feathers.  Why do we smile?  Because we  understand their feeling of safety when their mother is near.  
So why is this such a strong emotion in both animal and human creatures?
The answer is because God wants us close to Him!  
and if we don't 'see Him' , He wants us to follow the example of His creatures, who are oft wiser than we are ! 

I had a angora goat for a pet who was every bit as stubborn as goats are reputed to be. She had a propensity to eat exactly the things she wasn’t supposed to. If I scolded her or tried to distract her I would either be simply ignored or bucked out of her way. But if I hid myself,  suddenly I would hear her bleating cry and her feet hurrying to find me.

One more example -- The shearwater is a very fascinating bird.
The chick hatches from an egg laid deep in an underground tunnel. After two months of brooding by its parents it hatches with a ferrous appetite. It takes both parents regularly bringing food back to the tunnel where the chick simply sits and lives for the return of its parents and the food they bring!
Then when the chick is almost ready to leave its cozy home the parents abandon the chick. It waits but no parents or food appear. The chick loses weight – excess weight that it had gained to sustain it during this time of abandonment leaving it just the right weight to be able to fly!
Finally , after days pass,  the chick becomes desperate enough to move to the entrance of its tunnel and then on a dark night it dares to leave its nest and somehow follows in the footsteps of its parents leading  to the ‘taking off’ place.
Exhausted from its journey, it stops at the edge of the cliff.  Now what?
The smell of the ocean is a strong lure…triggering the instinct to let go and spread its wings. The chick is chick no longer but soars above the ocean joining the adult flock of shearwater flying effortlessly above the waves.

I found 15 places in scripture that talk about God hiding His face. (Deut. 31:17, Deut 31:8, Deut 32:20, Ps 13:1, 27:9,30:7, 51:9 , 69:17, 102:2, 143:7, Exek. 39:29, Ezek. 39:23, Micah 3:4, Ex. 30:7, Isa. 54:8)
There are several reasons why God hides His face and what He wants our response to be and maybe my examples can help us to understand them.

The fear of God abandoning us is echoed by King David who cries out for God not to hide His face from him.  One reference is in Psalm 143:7,
 “Answer me speedily, O Lord,  my spirit fails !! Do not hide Your face from me.”

How do we know God is hiding His face toward us ?
It may be  when we feel 'alone' .. we do not sense Him with us ...  our doubt seems bigger than our faith ...  we wonder if God is even paying any attention to us ...  we feel discouraged and abandoned. 

 Reasons Why God Hides His Face

1. God Hides His face because of sin 
In Habakkuk 1:13 we read .. "You are of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness."  
God cannot look upon sin and hides His face.   Jesus on the cross, took upon Himself your sin and mine, and God turned His face away unable to look upon it. Jesus felt the same fear we feel when we feel God 'far away' . 
 When we are sinning - doing something we know is displeasing to God - we feel God move away , hide His face from us.  
And we judge Him in light of our human experience - punishment for those who do wrong.  
But is that God's reason for hiding His face?   He is ready to bring punishment upon us ?   Or... is He simply moving out of our sight to trigger that panic button that will send us flying after Him with repentance in our hearts, seeking forgiveness and restoration.  
I think of that verse in Matt. 23:37  where Jesus speaks these agonized words .. ."....I wanted to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing." 
God's heart is always toward motivating us to return to Him, to be forgiven, to turn from the sin that destroys us. In hiding His face, he is purposely creating a fear-shaped vacuum, to make us feel a sudden recognition that something is wrong -  just as we saw in each of my 'creature' examples. 

2. God Hides His Face Because We are not Listening 
Do we not all , as self-centered children want to do our own thing but at the same time want God to sit and watch .. blessing what we are doing?
God speaks to us but we are not listening …..just as my goat was deaf to my warning,  until He hides His face. As he says as in Micah 3:4 “Then shall they cry unto the LORD, but he will not hear them: he will even hide his face from them at that time, as they have behaved themselves ill in their doings. “
The people had disobeyed … had behaved badly … but did not feel any remorse,  so He said He would turn His face away…. Making them cry out to Him!
A child is quite content as long as his mother is in view….but when he is aware that she is gone then he cries out !!
Why then does God say that He will not respond to their cries (above scripture)  but will keep His face hidden from them?
A child’s first reaction to realizing his mother is gone is to simply cry out because he is suddenly afraid, but if his mother walks back into the room at his first cry , he will just continue to do what he was doing.
In the same way the first reaction of man is to cry out simply because maybe things are going so good anymore!! “you hide your face, and they are troubled” (Psalm 104:29) But if they do not acknowledge WHY God turned His face away, then if He turns His fact to them again, they will just continue to do what they were doing.
God does not immediately answer man’s cry allowing him time to contemplate what he has done… to recognize his sin and cry out in repentance ready to listen to what God has to say, as David asked the right questions in Psalm 88:14 “Lord, why do You cast off my soul? Why do You hide Your face from me?”
Is it only what we would call gross sin, that makes God hide His face?
Maybe not !
Could it not be that oft it is like the child not listening to his mother's instruction, or my goat in wanting to eat what it shouldn't.   God knows exactly where we 'begin' to take a step off the narrow way, and He wants to prevent us from being hurt.  So even before we are aware of anything .... maybe not even intentionally 'not listening' , He turns His face away so we will quickly recognize that we haven't been paying attention !

3. God Hides His Face to Make us Move 
How we love our comfort zones !   When everything is going well, it takes a lot to make us 'move'.
And we especially resist moving when we can't see where we are going.
And yet, how often in our faith journey, God wants us to 'move' because we trust His instruction to do so.  Like Abraham, whose faith so pleased God because he was obedient to God's voice telling him to leave his home and go where God would show him.

There are a couple of really neat application pictures in my shearwater story.
Those chicks were fat and comfortable. They could not have moved even IF they had tried.  They were too fat, too well fed.
And yet, was that not in the plan?   Why did the parent birds feed them so well until they were too fat to move?   Because the parents knew that the time was coming when except for this 'extra provision' they would not survive.
When the 'hard times' came, when the parents were gone, the extra fat was just the right amount to sustain them until they were desperate enough to 'move'.   And that was the whole purpose of the parents birds 'hiding their faces'.   They were not abandoning their chicks, they were motivating them to do what they were created to do. 
So with us too. We think life is great, everything is wonderful and THEN .. disaster strikes and we cray out "Why God??  Where are you ?"    We don't stop to consider that our time of affluence and comfort was given us 'for such a time as this' - to sustain us through a time of difficulty.  And the purpose of the 'difficulty' was to take us to where God wanted us to be.  In a closer relationship with Him, and to fulfill our God-given purpose.
  How often have you hear someone say … “And just when I thought everything was going sooo good !! everything fell apart!” Did they stop to consider that perhaps the blessings had been sent by God to prepare them for what was to come? To 'fatten' them up so that they would have the strength and resources to pass the coming test?

It is amazing to note that when the chick was finally desperate enough to move, it 'followed the footsteps its parents had left'.  How did it know?  how did it follow footsteps in the dark ?  Isn't that a perfect picture?  We oft feel like we are following God in the dark, yet He says that His word "is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. light on our path. " Psalm 119:105.  When do we need a light ?  Only in the dark, right ? 

 Look again at my life examples. In every one of them the purpose of the ‘face being hid’ was to stir up the child, the goat , the bird… to MOVE !! They needed to leave their ‘comfort zone’ .
Is that not often where we get stuck ? We like where we are and we don’t want to move? We love our comfort zone and prefer to stay there.
God’s still small voice is often not enough to move us - away from a habit, out of a situation, out of a relationship, into a ministry , from one level of maturity to the next. And so God hides His face ....  letting things get uncomfortable... not to punish, not to harm , but to bring safely under His wings.

4. God Hides His Face to Test Us 
I recently had a conversation with a friend whose prayers had not been answered as she wanted, and she blamed God and concluded He didn't care enough to answer her cry.
When God hides His face, our ensuing panic causes us to doubt. Questions fill our mind, everything from "Is God even real?"  to "Does God even care?"   Yet,  God turns His face away sometimes just to strengthen us to trust Him even when we don't 'see' Him.
I remember how it warmed my heart when I would hide from my goat.. and then hear her bleats calling out to me as she looked for me !  Nothing pleases God like our trust in Him, and that trust only grows as it is tested.
Will we trust Him even when we don't see Him? 
Learn to trust  that we will soar in His presence again ?  Even as the shearwater chick, exercised by hardship and courage, was once again reunited with its parents ,  so we, with the strength of tested faith walk knowing that God's face is ever turned to our good ..
David found this place with God ..  as he said ... "I foresaw the Lord always before my face, for He is at my right hand that I may not be shaken."  (Ps. 18:8, Acts 2:25) 
May not pestilence, or doubt, or temptation or any thing turn us away from seeking the face of God - may we stand strong, unmovable in our trust in God !   

5. God Hides His Face - Judgment is Coming 
There is also in scripture the warning that if people harden their hearts in rebellion against God, He will set His face against them in judgement as in 
 Lev. 20:6,”I will even set my face against that soul, and will cut him off from among his people.”

Rather than God taking pleasure in judgment, is He  not even here  extending one last effort to stop man from eternal destruction ?    We see Jonah sent out to an incredibly grossly wicked nation. His message is "You will be destroyed, in 40 days!"  Yet we know that the pronouncement of that dire judgement moved the people's hearts to cry out to God.  And we know in His mercy He  immediately turned His face back to them and forgave them. 
And in Isaish 54:8, God says .. "with a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you, says the Lord, your Redeemer."
Over and over again we see in the Bible stories how God allowed hardship and disaster to bring His people into a horrible place but then when they cried out to Him, He quickly came and saved them and put them again into a place of blessing . 
 Even when God proclaims that destruction is coming,  is it  that God is turning His face away  not  because He is determined to destroy, but rather extending one last chance for man to turn from his evil ways and escape the end torment of his rebellious heart.

GOD Will Hide His Face No More 
God brought destruction over the whole earth , destroying everyone and everything except Noah and all who were in the ark with him.  When Noah finally stepped out of the ark, God arched a rainbow in the sky and promised that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood.
There is a beautiful promise in Ezek. 39:29 that says... "And I will not hide My face from them anymore, for I shall have poured out My Spirit on (them) ..... "
We have the context of this verse in verse 23,  that explains that because of the iniquity of His people Israel,  He hid His face from them and allowed them to be utterly destroyed by their enemies - they all died by the sword.   Then God speaks of the coming New Covenant, that includes the Gentiles and He promises that He will never again hide His face for the purpose of totally destroying His people. 
So we know ...  we who live in the New Covenant, who have the Spirit of God poured out in us , do not have to fear that God will ever hide His face from us in wrath. 
God's heart is ever toward His children , and His desire is only that they live in close fellowship with Him.  

How wonderful our God is .. truly the perfect Father.   He is never afar off, but is intimately yearning to draw us ever closer into His presence. He invites  us to take refuge in Him , trusting in His character and His word .. knowing/believing that He will never leave us or forsake us - even if for a time He Hides His face so we will run after Him!   

Thursday, May 21, 2020

I am a Samaritan Woman

A Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus said to her … – Slide 5

I live in Samaria, am a Samaritan woman. .  I wish I could tell you I was a  loved and respected member of my village  but I can't.  My life has not been easy. 

I am standing in my doorway looking  to see how many people are out and about.  As I expected, not many.  Why?  It is noon, the hottest time of the day and people are staying inside trying to stay as cool and comfortable as possible.  
Which I would love to do as well ,   but my water jugs are empty.  I am thirsty and I need water for cooking and washing.   It is my time to go to the well to get my daily supply.
   
I go at noon for the simple reason that no one else does.   If I go in the cool of the day, like all the other women do .. and yes, getting water is definitely a woman's job -  then I have to face the scorn and mocking of the other women, and the whispers behind my back.  They know who I am ... they call me a 'loose woman' , immoral,  whose husbands can't be trusted around me.  But they don't understand, if they had lived my life, they might not be so quick to judge. 
Oh, I admit, I didn't make the best decisions in my life - but what else was I to do?  One thing led to another ... and I attracted the wrong kind of men who used me, abused me, rejected me and abandoned me.  Finally, I just determined to make  the best of what life allowed me. 

So ... I'm off  to the well alone in the heat of the day.  
 When the well comes into sight in the distance,  I see to my surprise that there is someone there. I have never seen another woman at the well at noon, this is very strange.   
 I come closer and , see that it isn't a woman at all but a man!  What is a man doing at the well?  Especially at this time of day.   Then as I come even closer, to my shock I recognize  that not only is it a man , but a JEW !   
Jews will take the long way round just to avoid walking through Sameria -- we are so hated by them -- and now a Jewish man  is sitting on our well?  

I hesitate some distance from the well, not sure what I should do.  Should I just ignore him and get my water?   A little hard to do considering he is sitting on the well's edge, I can hardly pretend not to see him.  
But  as I hesitate, he speaks to me !  Asks me to give him a drink .. 
, I look at him  and my immediate  thoughts tumble our of my mouth in a rush of questions .. "You are a man... and you speak to me, a woman??  And you are a Jew ...how is it you  speak to a Samaritan?? and you want ME to give YOU a drink?"   

I stand and look at him, not knowing how to take him.  What to think of him. 
 He is different from the men I usually associate with .. and not just because he is a Jew.   There is something that fascinates me, his eyes, his voice?   
There is nothing sexual in his demeanor .. I can't  put my finger on what is so very different about him. 
Responding to my questions he says "If you knew who I was you would ask ME for a drink and I would give you living water."   
Okay ,  now I am even more baffled...  This is a very strange conversation ... and not knowing how to respond I simply speak the obvious... "You have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep,  so where would you get this living water from? "  
 I begin to wonder if he is maybe  making himself a little more important than he should .. and I dare to chide him... "Are you greater than our father Jacob who dug this well and drank from it himself, and his sons and livestock?" 

He did not answer me directly but he says, "Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again but whoever drinks of the water I give him will never thirst again ... but it will bubble up into everlasting life!"

What strange words, I do not understand , yet something burns within me .. Who is this man?  Why are his words so strangely stirring? . A longing rises up within me and my words burst out of my mouth .. "Give me this water then, that I won't be thirsty and don't have to come here anymore to draw water!"   That would make my life so much easier !  

Again ,, he doesn't answer my request but he says .. "Go call your husband... " 
 My heart stands still ...  my husband?   ohhh ... suddenly I don't want to answer him; for some reason I want him to think well of me .. 
How should I answer ?   One thing I am known for is telling the truth -- but it isn't really so noble of me ... .. when you are at the bottom of society, there is nothing to gain by lying about anything - everyone is going to think the worst anyway .. so I just tell the truth -- it is simpler.   
But this man's question ... I must answer him so I admit ..  "i have no husband.. "  hoping he will leave it at that .. but no ...  he does not let me hide behind a partial answer. .  "You speak truth that you have no husband, but you have had 5 and the one you have now is not your husband."   

I am stunned ... How could he know ?   I have never seen him before, and since Jews do not associate with Samaritans it is impossible that he heard about me from someone else. 
  
I look into his face ... and suddenly, I know ...  "You, sir," , I say, "you are a  prophet."
and then he tells me about what true worship is and that it is going to change how and where we do now and will soon worship instead ... that true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth ... and God seeks those who worship him that way. . 

Now my reeling mind begins to put two and two together and  I wonder how great a man this truly is.  
 I don't want to offend him .. but I offer .....  "I know that when the Messiah comes He will tell us all things.. " 
To my great astonishment he answers me ... "I am He who speaks with you."

Time stands still around me, I am aware of nothing but the love I read in his face .... no man has ever looked at me like that... and never have I heard words like His. 
 
Then, at that exact  moment,  I am distracted by the sound of  footsteps and I see several men approach .. they are obviously coming to join the man at the will. ...  
What shall I do ?   Will these men be upset with me?  blame me for daring to speak to their friend or leader?   Me a woman, and a Samaritan speaking to a man ..  will I be in trouble? 
I look back at the man on the well ...  and see that He is looking at me with a gentle smile on His face.. Though he says not another word I suddenly  know what I need to do ... 
 
I forget my thirst, I forget my bucket .. I forget the burning sun ...I turn and run as fast as my legs will carry me  back into the village  ...  I approach the first group of men I see and breathlessly tell them that they need to come see a man that I met at the well.   I tell them that he might well be the Messiah, the Christ,  that has been expected for so long .. 
I am suddenly thankful that  I am known to tell the truth for I do not have to try to convince the men to believe me.  They are immediately interested and willingly follow me back to the well.  

Jesus,  as we now learn his name,  accepts our invitation -- actually we beg him- to come to our village.  We want to hear more of what He has to say.  He comes and stays for 2 days and what amazing two days they are !   

I will never be  the same again - our village will never be the same --  ... 
While I have  no idea of everything that will  yet happen, it is enough to know that I am free, forgiven and in love with Jesus ... 

You know what the neatest thing is?   Before when mothers would see me in the village they would point me out to their children and while I could not hear what the mothers whispered, I could easily guess ...and they would cross over to the other side of the street,  the children looking back  at me in horror from behind their mother's skirt.   But now ??   The mothers point me out to their children and tell them I am the woman who brought Jesus to the village!    You have no idea how that makes me feel ..  I can't stop smiling and I just want to hug everyone !!   

I never  guessed that a couple of thousand years later you would be reading my story ... I am so humbled ... but if my story can help you to know Jesus better, then I can't tell you how amazing that is !  and to Him be all the glory !!!  

*******************************
What can we take personally from this story ? 

When we study any scripture passage the most important thing to glean from it is  that which reveals God's character ... the more we know Him the more our faith will grow, and nothing pleases God as much as  His children learning to trust Him !!  

So what do we see about God's character in this story? 

He is no respecter of persons ... 
 We see expressed the truth of  Acts 10:34   that says God is no respecter of persons.  To God EVERY human being has equal value before Him.   That is a little hard to grasp in our world-standard thinking, isn't it ?    How can the worst murderer of children have as much value as Billy Graham?  Or the drug dealer or a pimp  have as much value as Fanny Crosby?
Yet of all the people Jesus could have reached out to, He choose the lowest of the low, a Samaritan,  a woman , and an immoral one.   The one most looked down on.  And we see no condescending attitude, no judgement, no criticism, only gentle love.  
So --  God's character --  He sees the 'value' in each person , He sees not who they are but who they were created to be !   AMAZING ...  He looks not to their past, but to their future.   
Therefore we know, that God will never turn away from us if we come to Him, no matter who we are or what we have done .. what a comfort - what a security.  
see .. Luke 18:13, Matt. 19:14,  Mark 2:16 

He does not allow cross-criticism 
When the disciples came back to find Jesus talking to a woman,  we are told what the disciples were thinking ... how they were judging the woman and the situation they walked into... yet Jesus, of course knowing their thoughts,  did not even address them.  Because God will not listen to people bringing accusations or criticism against another .. .God does not care what others think of you, the only thing that matters is what HE thinks of you ...  Just as when Martha brought accusation against her sister, Jesus did not receive it ...   Nor can the 'accuser of the brethren'   bring accusation against us .. He has been defeated at the cross and has no right to come before God any more !  
see ...   Rom. 14:4 , Rev. 12:10 

Laws,  society norms, man's judgments do not rule Him 
By all standards of moral and religious law, Jesus should have avoided the Samaritan woman, but He welcomed her into His presence.  
Religious rituals, sacrifices, fasting etc.  do not impress God, He will  do according to His perfect will and His will is always ruled by love. 
   He judges according to the heart and draws near to people in whom He sees a 'space'  waiting for Him to fill - those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth, not with ritual or religious works. 
see Psalm 51:17, Deut. 10:12, Amos 5:21-24, Hosea 6:6, James 1:27   

He is Safe 
It must have felt so strange to the Samaritan woman to speak to someone who did not judge her, even though He knew everything about her ! Jesus never condemned her, criticized her or made her feel that He looked down on her or considered her having no value. 
This is such an important insight into the heart of God ... 

Jesus said that the self-righteous don't need Him, but the sinners do and He compared Himself to a physician ... Why ?   
When you go to a physician because you are sick you do not hold back or pretend you are well.  You tell him all your symptoms -- that you have violent headaches, you are dizzy,  you have joint pain,  your stomach is upset and you are nauseous all the time.   And what does the doctor say?  Does he say , "That is absolutely terrible of you, go away and don't come back until you are feeling better !"    Of course not ..He will say .. "Okay, we'll run some tests , get to the bottom of what is troubling you and I can assure you I will help you get better !" 
While we don't expect condemnation from our doctor,  we tend to expect it from God when we try to  hide from Him our failings and shame. 
 
God will not invade our 'privacy' .. so He waits for us to be honest with Him -- then He reaches out for us and lovingly says... "Here, I can help you get better .. I have the cure!!"   No condemnation, only a loving willingness to help and to heal. 
Jesus was nothing but kind and loving to the Samaritan woman  because that is who He is, that is His character and so we can be assured He will be the same to us! 

What God Looks for 
In the story we see that what Jesus saw in the Samaritan woman was her honest heart , her quick response to trust  Him and her eagerness to tell others about Him.  
She wasn't perfect,  she wasn't qualified to meet any standard we would hold up,  yet God choose her for something that any one of us can offer Him... 
We don't have to be rich, or wise or strong -- or educated or hold a respected position in a career or ministry, in fact we need have ANY of the things the world would look for ...  no,  God looks for those who are simply willing to show Him their hearts, and be eager to worship Him in spirit and truth. 
Can we not all come to Him alongside the Samaritan woman?   Of course ...   and like her,  God can use us to make a difference in our world.  

I thought of how the Covid 19 is a picture of how we bring Jesus into a dark world ... we are 'infected' , then we touch someone close to us , and they become infected .. .and they reach out and touch those near them .. and then those go out and infect others ...  1 becomes 2, 2 become 4, 4 become 8, 8 become 16, 16 become 32, 32 become 64 ... and soon there is a spiritual PANDEMIC !!   May a tsunami of the Holy Spirit wash over us and may we be like the Samaritan woman to tell those around us how great God is !!   and infect others by how we 'live' - simply bringing to God an honest heart and sharing what He has given us ... It will be enough!! 

Friday, May 1, 2020

A HIDING PLACE





I found a set of these delightful wall ornaments some years ago and it was 'love at first sight'.  They were not expensive, but I think I would have bought them at any price. (almost!) 
I love the way animals find their 'cozy' places, where they can hide or have their young. 

We are all experiencing some degree of isolation because of the pandemic Covid 19 virus  we are trying to avoid.  We are 'hiding' in our homes where we feel comparatively safe. 
Isn't it instinctive to want to 'hide' ?  to be safe?  
We have a God-given need to hide from the  things that frighten us. We are uncomfortable if we feel exposed or vulnerable.  Why? It is a 'gift' from Him so we are motivated to seek our hiding places in Him. 
There are many scripture verses that speak to our need of a hiding place. 
One of my favorite verses is in Proverbs 18:10 which says , "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe."   Isn't that beautiful?  
What is the 'name of the Lord' ?  Names in the Bible are synonymous with character so what this verse is saying is the the character of Jesus/God is a very safe place.  Why ?  God's character cannot change - His promises are true yesterday, today and tomorrow !! 
 I love the mind imagery of a strong tower ... not  only is a tower strong (can't be easily knocked down)  but it is also 'high' -- out of reach of the dangers that prowl below. 
We might say ... 'okay, that's really nice, but what does that look like?" 

I found a beautiful verse that I think illustrates this for us. 
It is  found in Isaiah 32:2 and it says, 
"A man will be as a hiding place from the wind,
and a  cover from the tempest, 
As rivers of water in a dry place,
As the shadow of a great rock in a weary land."  

"A man" -- who is this  'man'?  The answer is in verse one that speaks of the coming King of Righteous that will reign .... This can only be a prophetic pointing to Jesus ... and what will He be but a 'hiding' place for those who put their trust in Him   
Let's look at this verse closer ....  

"A hiding place from the wind"  -  a wind can be cold, it can be destructive, it can blow things away or blow things in ...  Events, circumstances 'blow' into our life, they can be so destructive... though we try to stand the wind is strong and threatens to blow us over...   We need to find a place where the wind cannot touch us ... where we can 'hide' from the destruction and evil intended against us.  Can we find such a hiding place in Jesus?  Yes, of course... He says.. " These thing I have spoken to you, that IN ME you may have peace. In the world  you will have trouble but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world."  John 16:33 ..
Jesus has overcome (worked for our good) every trouble that could blow our way ... IN HIM we are safe ... no matter what ! 

 "Cover from the tempest' --  The Hebrew word translated 'cover' is more than just a cover - it also means 'secret'  .. so a full meaning of this phrase  is that this is a 'secret' hiding place from the 'tempest'. 
Hebrews 13:6 "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear .. what can man do to me?"  In a 'secret' hiding place we are really safe - because the enemy cannot find us .  If our hiding place is not secret... then we still feel vulnerable because we know we are not safely 'hidden'.  

A tempest is a flood or a violent storm.  We all have times in our life where we feel we are overwhelmed, the waves are just too high - we know we will be swept away with the storm that has hit us.  But Jesus promises a 'secret' place where we can hide even from the most violent storms of life.   Why? How?  By simply keeping our eyes on Him and putting our hand in His... If we, like Peter, look only on the waves under our feet, we will sink ..   We need to stay IN JESUS, knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that our hiding place in Him is 'secret' known only to Him and us. 

"Rivers of water in a dry place' -   Hunger is one thing, but thirst is another.  To be thirsty where there is no water is unbearable. And we know without water, our life will quickly be snuffed out. 
Yet, here is a hiding place when we find ourselves in a dry place where  there is no water in sight... we feel hopeless .. there are no answer, there is no relief !  Our throats are parched, our lips cracked. 
TAKE HEART! We have a hiding place beside rivers of water of life !   Does Jesus not say, "I am the water of life?"  (John 4:10, Rev. 22:17) 
  If you find ourselves in a dry place ... dip your cup in the river that flows crystal clear and drink all you want of the water of life.   

"A shadow of a great rock in a weary land" --  If you have ever found yourself somewhere where the hot sun is beating down on you, and you look for shade and find none, you know how it feels to long for a cool hiding place.  
 So also in life we have all found ourselves where the 'hot sun' of life has beat down on us for so long we are exhausted from the heat , long for relief, knowing we cannot go on for much longer ... but we look around and find no earthly answers that promise relief from our physical, mental or spiritual exhaustion.  
 Yet, we do have a hiding place .. Jesus, our Rock .. yes.. a GREAT Rock, provides the 'shade' we need .. .We can sit in His shadow, comforted by the relief that welcome shade provides.   The sun is still as hot as it ever was, but sitting in the 'shade' we do not suffer the heat.  We are in a secret hiding place, we will not be disturbed.  

 "Therefore thus says the Lord,

“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.He who believes in it will not be disturbed."  Isaiah 28:16

Do you need a hiding place?  It is waiting for you ..