Saturday, June 30, 2007

Three Words

This is a celebration long week-end for us in Canada
Canada Day!
We have so much to be thankful for. We have a great, God-given gift in our country and we are enjoying the fruit and rewards of it!!

My ‘noteworthy’ happy thoughts yesterday could be neatly catagorized under these three headings…..

I went to a new hairdresser yesterday to get my hair cut. She came highly recommended because she is doubly gifted…. not only does she have a gift in hairstyling, she also has a gift for listening to her client’s needs and wishes. I was happy with the results!
My granddaughter’s birthday is coming up soon and Vic and I have been discussing her gifts. Her latest passion is ‘rocks’. Collecting them, studying them, learning their names and characteristics. She has decided that she will be a gemologist!
So for her birthday we will be buying her gifts that pertain to her new hobby as well as a day trip to the Happy Prospector.

We are just entering the season for fresh fruit!
Oh, just the thought of freshly picked, juicy sweet fruit makes my mouth water! There is hardly any fruit I do not enjoy (except pears!) and the road side stands are always a temptation to me!
The farm that I grew up on had an orchard and I remember how much of the fruit us kids wasted, picking it while it was still green because we could not wait for the cherries, plums, apples to be ripe. And I love the berries, plump, juicy and so sweet!
Oh, the tantalizing flavor on the taste buds!
No summer celebration is complete without a visually beautiful, mouth-watering display of fresh fruit!

My granddaughters have just finished their school year. They had their awards day on Thursday and were excited to tell me about it yesterday.
Elise made the A honor roll, and Elora received a ribbon for placing second in the interschool high jump competition. Both of them were rewarded with good marks and praise on their report cards and can go into the summer with the satisfaction of having their year’s worthy efforts acknowledged.

In thinking about these three words - gifts, rewards and fruit - I thought about how important they also are in our spiritual life!

God is the giver of great gifts.
Not only did He give us the ultimate gift of salvation, - “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) - but He also gives to each one of us ‘gifts’ suited to our personalities to enable us to serve Him, to fulfill His purposes for our lives.
Just as we take pleasure in giving our granddaughter gifts to help her pursue her passion so also God delights in gifting us according to what we naturally love to do!! “Having then gifts differing according the grace that is given to us….” (Rom. 12:6)

Do you know that it is spiritual fruit season?? Galatians 5:22,”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…”
Did you ever think that God may be doing what I did as a child…testing your green fruit longing for it to be ripe?
“And at the season he sent to the husbandmen a servant, that he might receive from the husbandmen of the fruit of the vineyard…” (Mark 12:2)
If God sends someone into your life to test your fruit, will they find it ripe for picking? Will they find it sweet and nourishing to their soul? Or will it be still be hard and green, good for nothing but to be cast aside?

How we all love rewards, but while a gift is ‘unmerited’ , a reward is praise given for acknowledged effort.
One day soon our ‘school term’ will be over and Jesus will come and announce the biggest Awards Day this world has ever seen.
“And behold I come quickly and my reward is with me, to give every man according to his work.” (Rev. 22:12)

I challenge you, as you enjoy the festivities this week-end, be reminded of these three words, gifts, fruit, rewards,
and think about their spiritual relevancy in your life!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Are You Cuckoo?

I don’t hear it much anymore but when I was a child and someone said or did something that was considered outside the accepted norm we would say that they were cuckoo in the head.
I looked it up and found that it is still a valid expression. ‘Cuckoo head’ refers to someone who is silly, stupid, not quite with it – someone who doesn’t reason well.

I never understood why the poor cuckoo bird should be so insulted… until last night when we caught a nature show on TV documenting the intertwining lives of the cuckoo and the parrotbill.

The documentary focused on the birds’ season of breeding, nesting and raising their young.

The cuckoo is a heartless bird, taking advantage of others and has no inclination towards responsibility.
Rather than go to the trouble of building its own nest and accepting responsibility for its young, it simply waits until a parrotbill mother is off looking for food and then quickly lays an egg in her nest. The cuckoo egg is larger than the parrotbill’s eggs but if the color is fairly close she does not notice and incubates the cuckoo’s egg along with her own.
The cuckoo’s egg hatches first, giving it a head start in demanding to be fed.
However, the cuckoo chick is not content to share the food or the nest with the legitimate offspring of the parrotbill.
As soon as it is hatched it begins to push and strain against the other eggs to push them out of the nest.
If some eggs hatch before his task is complete, then the cuckoo bird cruelly pushes the newly hatched chicks out too. Of course they have no chance of survival out of the nest. The baby cuckoo is not called ‘little devil’ for nothing.
The mother parrotbill does make an effort to protect her babies by spreading her wings over the nest to keep them from being pushed out, but the ‘little devil’ does not give up until the nest is exclusively his.

The faithful mother parrotbill continues to feed the cuckoo bird as though it is her own. It does not take long until the cuckoo chick is larger than the parrotbill and the mother’s efforts to find enough food for her ravenous chick is exhausting work.
She continues to feed it even after it is out of the nest and could easily fend for itself. But the cuckoo ‘little devil’ is reluctant to fend for itself as long as its squawking brings the little parrotbill mother to its side, her beak full of food. But finally it becomes dissatisfied with the amount of food the parrotbill is able to provide and flies away.

The documentary stirred up strong emotions within me. I was so angry with the cuckoo bird and felt so sorry for the poor little parrotbill mother and her own sacrificed little brood.
She was the picture of sweetness and mother love, so faithful and diligent to make sure the impostor chick was well looked after. I would have been happy if she had abandoned the ‘little devil’ still in the nest and left him to die - he certainly deserved it!!

But then, as so often happens with lessons from God’s creation….I realized that here too was something God was showing us….and before I was too quick to condemn the cuckoo bird I needed to ask myself the question, “Am I cuckoo?”

The devil has indeed sown his seed into every human heart.
Mankind is self-focused, sinful creatures grasping to fulfill their own needs without concern for others.
Human nature demands what is not his and uses others to get what he wants.
God’s gifts are taken for granted and squandered on selfish pursuits.
There is no thankfulness toward God.
If things go wrong, God is blamed,
if things go right, God is forgotten.

I think mankind is undeniably cuckoo!!

Yet how like the parrotbill is God. Even though man kills and destroys the things God loves, He patiently reaches out in love and nourishes , feeds and cares for the good and the evil.
In the parrotbill we see the gentleness of God, the faithfulness of God and His mercy that endures so long!
Until the ‘cuckoo-man’ flies away, God woos and calls him unto Himself.
No man will ever stand before God and say, “You did not care for me!”

We have done nothing to deserve God's love!
We are indeed children of the devil, yet God chooses us and adopts us to be His own.

God’s own Son was pushed out of His Heavenly Nest to die on this earth in order to make ‘room’ for us to be His !!
God was amazingly willing to pay the price!!

Thinking of the picture of the parrotbill and the cuckoo - does it not fill you with humble gratitude for the unspeakable gift of God’s loving kindness towards us??

“How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of Your wings.
They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures…..”
(Psalm 26:7,8)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Set on a Hill

One evening, shortly after we moved to our present home, we were coming home after dark.
As we neared our freeway exit, I was looking out the car window gazing at our mountainside community in the distance. Its lights were brightly shining, making it clearly visible from a long way off.
We had moved from a very private property tucked away at the end of a dead end street. Even if the lights were on, it was hidden from view until we drove up the driveway.
Looking up at our new home, I suddenly had an uncomfortable feeling of being vulnerable and exposed.
I realized that there was nothing I could do about it….the builder and designer of the community had chosen to set it up on a mountain where it could not be hidden. Anyone choosing to live there had to accept that fact.

Suddenly, Jesus' words echoed in my mind. “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
(Matt. 5:14)
Jesus' words were suddenly illuminated in a way I had noticed before.

After working for years in a retail department store, the one message I would like to impress upon every Christian is …
”Be careful how you act. Be careful how you react. Be careful of the words you use! When you least expect it....You are being watched!”

I was continually baffled at how the non-Christian staff members always knew which customers were Christians and they watched them closely to see if their walk and talk matched their profession. It was almost as though there were inside informers whose sole job was to point out to non-believers which people professed to be Christians – for the purpose of giving cause to scoff at Christianity and mock God.
Does scripture itself not address this?
“By this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme…”
(II Sam. 12:14)
Paul repeats this sobering accusation in Romans 2:24 – “For ‘The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you’ as it is written.”

I suddenly saw why there is no such thing as a secret Christian --- Christians have nowhere to hide!!
Because the builder and designer of the Kingdom of God has ‘set it on a hill where it cannot be hidden’.
God’s light in you and me is shining out from a high place and cannot help but attract attention – as light shining in a dark world.
We are a people of light, set upon “Mt. Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem!!” (Heb. 12:22)

Someone once said, “When you take the name of Christian, God puts His reputation on the line.”
We have no where to hide. Our faith is a 24/7 lit-up display ……. Either we glorify God or we tarnish His reputation.
Either way we WILL be noticed!
"For you were once darkness but now you are light in the Lord.
Walk as children of light!!"
(Eph. 5:8)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A Woman Named Deborah

Do you ever read about the sketchy details given about a bible character and then let your imagination go, trying to fill in the blanks?
I do…
One such character is Deborah. She is only mentioned in Judges 4 and 5, but she has a very prominent place in history - she is the only woman who was ever a judge of Israel.
As well as being a judge, she is also named as a prophetess.

I searched the meagre facts we are given about her and reading deeply between the lines and following the path of logical conclusions as well as giving my active imagination some extra leash-length, this is how I visualize the woman named Deborah.

From the time she was a very young child, Deborah’s parents recognized that she was an unusual child. They often exchanged glances behind her back wondering what would become of this daughter of theirs.

She seemed to have ‘another world’ sense about her. From the time she was old enough to wander off by herself she would disappear for hours at a time – finally coming back home with a serene glow on her face. Her mother did not need to ask her where she had been. She knew what the answer would be.
“I was on the mountain listening to God.”

It did not take long for her siblings and the neighbourhood children to realize that if they needed advice or a mediator to solve their childish quarrels, Deborah was the one to ask. Her answers were wise beyond her years and she had an innate ability to cut to the heart of a matter and was a keen discerner of human nature.
As she grew older the adults too would seek her out to ask her advice and would be in awe of her council.
And so it came about that she found herself in the unsought for position as Judge of Israel.

Her parents had struggled with what to do about suitors for this independent daughter of theirs. Who would want to marry a girl who obviously knew her own mind and did not appear to need or want a husband ?
The problem was solved when Lapidoth asked for her hand. He was a quiet gentle man who was willing to live in the shadow of his wife. He was content to be her support and covering and love her for who she was, knowing that she would never fit into a conventional wife role.

It would not have been politically correct for a woman to be alone in her tent with another man, so Deborah solved the problem by sitting outside under a palm tree from where she judged the cases brought before her. The tree, of course, came to be known as The Palm Tree of Deborah.
She not only judged fairly with the wisdom of God, she also judged with a heart of compassion….referring to herself as a ‘mother of Israel’. (Judges 5:7)

Before the time she sat as judge and prophetess over Israel, Israel had lived in rebellion before God and God had for the past twenty years placed them under the dominance and oppression of Jabin, the king of Canaan.
The people lived in constant fear and the freeways were deserted. If the people needed to go anywhere they crept along the back paths, hoping they would not be seen.
Their social life was almost non-existent; they hid in the relative safety of their homes. (Judges 5:6,7)

But then Deborah sat as judge and prophetess and encouraged them with the word of God.
The people began to cry out to God to save them, and God’s ears are ever open to hear, wanting to rescue His people.

One day Deborah called for Berak and informed him that God had commanded him to gather together the men of Israel and march against Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army.
Berak was understandably nervous about challenging an army that had nine hundred chariots of iron. But something in him must have believed that Deborah had heard from God.
Just to make sure, though, he had a condition.
“I will do as you say, but only if you will go with me!”
Deborah’s sharp eyes looking into his made him drop his gaze in embarrassment. But she replied in a quiet voice.
“I will go with you…. But don’t think you will receive any honour from winning this battle. It will be a woman who will be given credit for the victory.”

I imagine Deborah going home that evening and telling Lapidoth that she is accompanying Barak into battle against Sisera in the morning.
I’m sure Lapidoth’s heart restricted with anxiety and fear for his wife’s safety but he searched her face and quietly asked, “Are you sure you have heard the voice of God?”
“Yes,” was Deborah’s reply. And Lapidoth gave her his blessing, “Then go … and go with God. I will await your safe return.”

Barak and his army were of course victorious over the mighty army of Sisera, but Sisera seeing his army being crushed before the Israeli footmen, ran.
He fled to the tent of Jael, whose husband – though he was an Israeli – had made friends with King Jabin. Jael saw her opportunity – perhaps she had never been in favour of her husband’s friendship with the enemy - and pretending to have Sisera's best interests at heart, gave him a drink of milk and covered him up so he could sleep.
He never knew how she betrayed him – never guessing that she would kill him even as he slept!

And so the word of God through Deborah was fulfilled and Israel once again lived in peace and freedom.

I have never had been in sympathy with the Women’s Liberation movement nor those who feel that women are subservient to men. History proves that women have stood in prominent places especially when they were called of God to do so.
God truly is no respecter of persons and will use a man or a woman to fulfill His purposes.
I have always been content to be a woman respecting the differences between the sexes as a God-given order – and therefore good! But I love to study the lives of woman who have had the courage to step ‘outside the box’ society built for them.
When God calls a woman to a specific purpose no mortal man can stand in her way!!

And how inspiring these women are who shine through the corridors of time to encourage us to dare to do exploits for our God!!

"I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me." (Phil. 4:13)

Friday, June 22, 2007

My Grandfather

In Deut. 6:7-10 God gives instruction to His people people to be diligent in teaching their children the things of God.
They are to talk about them when they are sitting in their house, or when they are walking on the streets, when they are lying down and when they get up. I think the idea is a 24/7 concept - that the passing on from adult to child is a never ending process.

God never gives a commandment that is impossible to obey... and while He admonishes the adults to teach even as they are living their daily lives, he gives them a helping hand in that He programmed into every child’s heart a ‘monkey see, monkey do’ tendency. This gives the ‘sponge’ advantage to both the teacher and the learner – the down side being that the ‘sponge’ is not always discerning as to what it absorbs.

There is a German expression that loses somewhat in the translation …it says “Lass eine gute spur zuruck” (Leave a good footprint behind)
I think we are often totally unaware of the ‘footprints’ we are leaving behind, or who will see them and follow in them. And so often it is not the footprints we purposefully and careful set down in the soft sands of life that are observed by others, but rather it is time and again the ones we never give a second thought.

I have been thinking a lot lately about my maternal grandfather who was born in 1899 in the Ukraine to a Mennonite family.
He died 22 years ago in 1985 when I was 38 years old.
I want to share some of my memories of him to encourage us – whatever our age- to remember that we have younger people watching us. We need to be careful to live such authentic exemplary lives that our footprints will lead others along the right path.

I had the privilege of growing up next door to my grandparents. We lived on adjoining farms and beside the fence dividing our cow pasture and Mom’s large garden was a long, well trodden path between our two homes. Some of my first memories include being carried by my Mom along the path to visit her parents. When I was old enough to go by myself I so clearly remember in the summer Mom’s dahlia bushes were taller than I was and it was a pretty walk to visit my grandparents.

I don’t believe my grandfather was ever aware that anyone was watching him…. he was first and foremost a very humble man – the true kind of humility that is totally unaware of itself. Many times, even as a child, I wanted to defend him….protect him because I sensed that he would never defend himself.
He was a quiet man, not given to many words, but simply who he was has left a deep imprint in who I am.

My best memories of him are childhood memories perhaps because of the fact that the time we spent together was spontaneous as I watched him do his day.
I remember running over, even as a young child, to help him feed the chickens and gather the eggs out of the several little chicken coups he had scattered on his farm. I remember how he enjoyed the fact that I could put my hand under one very ill-tempered hen and take her eggs out from under her. If Grandpa tried she would immediately and painfully peck his hand.

Grandpa never lost the ‘child’ within him. He was always very curious… (That’s where we get it from, Lovella !)
Every Christmas Day morning we kids would get up at the crack of dawn to see our gifts under the tree.
Without fail, a few minutes later, Grandpa – who had been watching to see the house lights come on – would be at the door to see what we got. He was almost as excited as we were.

When I was in high school my grandparents moved to a house in town within walking distance of my school. I would often go to their house after school and my father would pick me on his way home from work.
I can still see Grandpa eagerly waiting for me at the window and his first question would be, “Did you bring your history book?” He loved looking at my textbooks because he wanted to know what I was studying but mostly because his curiosity fueled his interest in history and world affairs. One of my deepest regrets was that he died before the Berlin wall came down… I know if he had still been alive and able to travel he would have been first in line to pick up one of the fallen stones. (His father’s family was from East Germany)

I don’t remember Grandpa ever ‘preaching’ to me but I knew how much he loved God. He was a deacon in our church and we had a custom that anyone could stand and pray at the close of the Sunday morning service. Most people who offered a prayer made it pretty short, but if my Grandpa got up my childish heart sank, knowing the already long church service would now go on for some time longer.
I also heard him pray at meal times and at all family gatherings. When he prayed he was oblivious to the world around him. He was talking to God and he had so much to say. He would talk to God about everything never aware of how much time went by.
Grandpa simply lived his faith and he left a deep spiritual impression on my life.

I knew I could count on him, he was strong and dependable and the love that shone from his soft brown eye spoke volumes. I don’t remember a lot of hugs but he loved to tease and would find little ways of showing his affection – sometimes just a silly poke or tickle.

I remember the day one summer my mother was helping my grandparents pick their raspberries and I was supposed to help too but it was very hot and as is so typical of kids (I was perhaps 10) I got tired of it very quickly. So I had been given permission to go ‘rest’ under a large tree in my grandparent’s front yard.
As I sat under this tree I was idly watching Grandpa’s big bull tied by a rope some distance from where I sat. I was quite used to cows but bulls made me a little nervous. As I watched this bull grazing I played with the thought of what I would do if the bull got loose from his rope.
As if he heard my thoughts, he lifted his head, looked straight at me and charged, the rope breaking without resistance as he pulled against it.
I, of course, did what kids do so well --- I screamed!!!!
I must have frightened the bull – or hurt his ears- because he veered off to the side just before he reached me and I saw Grandpa running toward me from the berry field.
It is the only time I ever saw Grandpa run!!
He captured the bull and assured me over and over again that the bull would stay in the barn and he would not tie it in the yard again.

As I mentioned before Grandpa was childlike in many ways. He loved to talk to himself. I remember picking berries in the row next to his and though he couldn’t see me I could hear him and I would listen to the two sided conversation he would have with himself, sometimes covering my mouth so I would not laugh out loud. I still smile at the memory and I can still hear his beloved voice!

My Grandpa did not have an easy life… he was born in the Ukraine.
He lost his parents to the typhoid fever epidemic of 1918 and almost lost his life as well.
He came to Canada with his young bride, whom he had married after she nursed him back to health, and farmed in Saskatchewan until 1948 when they moved to B.C.
He worked hard to make a living but never complained.
He was content with the simple things of life.

As he aged his hearing failed him and it was sad to see him withdraw from interactive conversation. He would just look at you with his expressive brown eyes when you spoke to him and you never knew whether he had heard you and had nothing to say or if he hadn’t heard what you said. He would never ask you to repeat yourself.

The one constant thing in his life was his faith, which never wavered. He loved to pray and he loved his bible, enjoying nothing more than to discuss doctrinal issues especially eschatology. I would many a night lay awake in bed and listen to the adult conversations going on in the kitchen – often discussions about how Grandpa thought world events would unfold before Jesus came back.

One of his greatest life-time sorrows was that his mother had lost her eyesight before he was born and had never seen his face. He spoke often of his excitement to meet her in heaven and enjoy the experience of his mother seeing him for the very first time!

He was so ready to meet his Lord and Savior and I look forward to seeing my Grandpa again one day !!
Until then, I am so thankful that I was blessed to know my Grandfather and that the footsteps he left for me to follow were good ones!
I treasure his memory.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Power of Facial Expressions

Have you ever stopped to think what a blessing, what a God-given gift, is the ability to express our emotions in facial expressions?

Reader’s Digest had an article about ‘smiling’ in its May edition entitled “The Power of the Smile”.
The article said that “while some people are born with happier temperaments, which set them up for success, others can become happier by being taught how to cultivate a genuine smile.”
University of Wisconsin neuroscientist discovered that ”Putting on a happy face not only helps us make friends, it translates into altered brain chemistry that makes us feel better.”

Many years ago I watch a documentary by David Suzuki. It was fascinating and I never forgot it.
The program followed the study of the relationship between facial expressions and emotions.
The specific question explored was how do babies learn to respond with appropriate emotions to life’s circumstances?
I think we have all observed the intense concentration with which a baby studies his mother’s face. It is much more than just an adoring gaze; the baby is learning how to do life!
The study had mothers with a scowl on their face engage their baby’s eyes. It did not take long for the baby to scrunch up its face and begin to howl. On the contrary if a mother’s smiling face was the object of her baby’s gaze, the child responded with a happy baby grin and delighted cooing.
The theory was that babies learn to connect emotions with the situation at hand by observing their mother’s facial reactions, then ‘copy and paste’ their mother’s expression to their own faces which allows them to actually ‘feel’ what their mother is feeling.
To test this theory, they did another experiment.
They put adults in a small room by themselves in front of a mirror. The adult was instructed to put on an angry expression and hold it for five minutes staring at themselves in the mirror.
The surprising conclusion was that very few could hold the expression for as long as five minutes. They were all shocked at the strength of the emotion that rose within them, even though they had no reason to be angry.
The opposite also held true. Those who stared at their smiling reflection found that corresponding happy emotions bubbled up within them.
The conclusion was that babies do learn how to respond to life by watching the facial expressions of their caregivers.
Did you ever wonder why , when you were already having a bad day , your baby or toddler would chose that time to be difficult? Had you looked at yourself in the mirror you would have had your answer.

It always gives me a satisfied ‘could have told you so’ feeling when science after a great deal of invested time, energy and money comes up with the answer they could have had simply by reading God’s word.
Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend.”
If two people interact and one person’s face has an angry expression it will ‘sharpen’ the other’s countenance into a like expression. Or a happy countenance will encourage the response of a happy expression.

Prov.15:13 declares that emotions ARE directly connected to facial expressions. “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance.“
How many times have you suddenly felt foolish realising that thinking some very happy thoughts had caused you to walk down the street with a silly grin on your face?!? And you only became aware of it when you wondered why everyone you passed smiled at you!!

While we recognize that facial expressions are vital to our emotional connection and communication with one another….we often do not follow the implications so far as to recognize that the same principles holds true in our spiritual relationship with God.

How you ‘see’ God’s face will result in how you ‘feel’ in your relationship with Him.

Prov. 16:15 says, “In the light of the king’s face is life!” In ancient royal courts when the King’s whim was the law, I’m sure there was great motivation to search out the King’s expressions. When the King was smiling everyone smiled in relief; their life was spared – at least for the time being!!
We do not have to 'guess' at what mood our God is in today and it is in our God’s loving gaze upon us that we find ‘life’.

Because we are prevented from physically seeing God’s face we don’t naturally translate God’s emotions into facial expressions. Think for example of God’s wrath. Have you ever tried to imagine how that would ‘look’ as an expression on His face?

King David knew. “They perish at the rebuke of Your countenance. “ (Psalm 80:16) Simply seeing God’s expression of wrath is terrifying enough to cause people to perish.

I am so thankful that God declares Himself a God of love to His children. We need not fear our Heavenly Father, but with the confidence of a child can look into His face, learning to be like Him.
Does simply observing Him cause us to feel ‘like emotions’ and consequently right actions?
It appears that it does according to I Cor.3:18 “But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

So often we try to be ‘good’ by our own efforts and how difficult we find that to be ! God ‘knowing we are but dust, and pitying us as a father pities his children' (Psalm 103:14) has given us an easier way.
Study God’s ‘face’ or character, and you will become what you are looking at.

King David learned, as God’s child, that “Mercy and truth go before Your face, blessed are the people…….who walk, O Lord, in the light of Your countenance”. (Prov.89:14,15)
David, looking into God’s face , saw His goodness and responded in kind. “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us any good?’ Lord, lift up the light of Your countenance upon us . You have put gladness in my heart!” (Psalm 4:6)

Is it not easy to be good when you are with someone who is Good, whose facial expression is one of approval and love?
How can we not respond with joy in our heart when we look into the face of our loving heavenly Father? “You have made him exceedingly glad with Your countenance.” (Psalm 21:6)

In that glorious moment when we first look into Jesus’ face and see displayed there all the expression of His character….will He be just like we learned to know Him?
And will He be able to look back at us and see that we have truly become like Him?

Rev. 1:16 “ He had in His right hand seven stars, out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword, and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength!”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

My Wings / God's Wings

Job was a very religious man. He did everything by the book, careful to observe every tradition and ordinance practiced by righteousness men. He even offered sacrifices on behalf on his children in case they had sinned.
In God’s view he was ”blameless and upright and one who feared God and shunned evil”.
(Job 1:1)
Yet it wasn’t enough!!

Often when Job is discussed the focus is on his troubles and pain and suffering, and we shake our head with wonder over what he had to endure.
Rarely does the discussion go far enough to look at Job’s evaluation of his experience.
We are relieved to see the 'happily ever after' ending to Job's story but we miss the fact that the restoration of monetary wealth and a quiver full of children are not the riches that Job valued for the rest of his life.
He gained something much more valuable through his trial of suffering.

In his own words in the last chapter of his story, Job says “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, BUT NOW my eye sees You...”
Before his suffering, Job believed in God but what he knew about God had come ‘second hand’ or by ‘word of mouth’ from other people – Job knew only what he had heard about God.
After his suffering he knew God from personal experience –‘first hand’. He had come to know God intimately, had heard His voice, had felt His presence, had seen His heart and wisdom and love!
When we are first introduced to Job we see that he lived in fear! (Job 3; 25)
When we leave Job his fears are gone… his faith in God had reached a higher plateau. He had discovered the truth expressed in I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…”.

None of us seek for or embrace the times of pain and suffering that come to all of us , but the richness those times bring to our relationship with God make them all worth while!

It is at those times when you have no where to turn but God that the before-thought-important things of this life are overshadowed by our suffering and we suddenly see the clarity of God in our life.
It is then that we experience the sweetness of His love and presence in a way we could never have imagined.

I used to be strong and healthy and had no thought that that would ever change. But it did.
There was a period of time for about a year where I thought my life as I had always known it was gone for good.
I had not yet been diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis or Lupus and my body was in full attack. I found the simple, take-for-granted activities of life difficult or impossible. The joints in my neck, shoulders, wrists, hands, knees, ankles, feet were so inflamed and swollen they pulled the collagen from my muscles and made getting up from a sitting position, turning over in bed, opening the fridge door , brushing my hair literally impossible to do.
And the pain was excruciating.
Yet, there was the sweetness of God’s reassuring presence that kept me in a quiet place of peace! It cannot be described!

That kind of peace does not come from ‘hearing’ about God. It comes only from experiencing Him.

My life was reduced to survival-mode – everything I wanted to do had to be first evaluated in terms of possibility and pain level.
I could only find a few minutes of relative pain-relief if I lay very still - except for the pain in my shoulders - no position alleviated the pain there.
One night before snatching a few minutes sleep ( the pain did not allow more than a few minutes at a time because any involuntary twitching would jar me awake from the jolt of pain) I realized that my shoulder pain was somewhat less. I remember thinking, 'I wonder what I did to make it hurt less?'
Falling sleep with that thought, I had a dream.

The next morning I laughingly told my husband that I knew why my shoulder was somewhat better. It was because I had cut off my wings!!
He looked at me with a quizzical look and waited for the explanation.
I told him my dream. I dreamt that I had cut off my wings and in my dream I had run my hand across the places where they had been and realized that I had done a good job of cutting them off right at the root!! I could barely feel where they had once been.

I was used to having ‘silly’ dreams and thought this one was just one more.

Later that morning Vic’s nephew called and said he had been praying for me and had a verse for me. The verse was in Malachi 4:2. “But to you who fear My name the Son of Righteousness shall arise with healing in His wings.”
Immediately I thought of my dream and realized that it was not ‘silly’ but had a message in it from God.
I saw the meaning.
As long as I trusted in my ‘own wings’ to bear the pain, to try to cope with the changed circumstances of my life, trusting in my own strength to bear it – it would be difficult to impossible, but if I cut off my own wings and trusted in the Wings of God to carry me I could trust in His strength to see me through!
I loved the picture.
And the theme of God’s wings continued. The next Sunday we sang a chorus where a line jumped out at me about ‘trusting under His wings’.
I began to see reference to God’s wings, the comfort we find there, the safety, the strength, the love – Everywhere! It became a secret code between God and me – His little surprise love notes to remind me that He was with me and would carry me through.

And of course God did!! He is always enough!!
I have learned that in the difficult times of life, no matter how deep our pain or suffering is, if we allow God to walk with us, the experience leaves no lingering bitterness in our soul…. Only the sweetness and joy of His presence
I can say with Job…”Now I know you, because I have seen you”.

No matter what your trial or sorrow is, no matter how big or small, look to God, let Him in and your experience will become one that you treasure.
This earthly life may promise only pain… but God promises overcoming joy !

Monday, June 18, 2007

The 'Goodly Words' of a Deer

Jill challenged me to research the references and significance of ‘deer’ in the scriptures. I never turn down a challenge without at least giving it a try so here are my thoughts on the subject.

Who can watch a deer in the wild and not be moved by its gentle , graceful beauty ?!

The very first reference to deer in the bible is in Gen. 49:21 in Jacob’s prophecy to his sons. About Naphtali he says, “He is a deer let loose, he gives goodly words.” (Gen. 49:21)
Naphtali means ‘my wrestling’ signifying a struggle in Naphtali’s life yet the blessing bestowed on him promises a prevailing victory and freedom!
Obviously to be like a deer is a good thing, and if a deer could talk, its words would be gentle and kind and full of goodness!

What does it mean to be like a deer?

It means to be sure footed !!
In Psalm 18:33 it says “He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places.”
A deer is so sure of foot, it fears not the high craigy places of its mountain home.
There is an interesting turn of phrase in Psalm 18:33 - “and sets me on my high places”.
A deer is so sure footed he does not look down when he runs ; his head is held high and he looks far ahead – as though he trusts something or someone else to ‘set’ his feet in secure places.
Is that not what God promises us?
Psalm 37:23 says “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way….”
Let us be like the deer --trusting that God is placing our feet in secure places…. Knowing that no matter what comes into our life, God is ordering our steps and we can keep our eyes lifted up – gazing into His face never fearing that our foot will slip!

Not only is the deer sure footed but it is a joy to watch it leap!
Isaiah 35:6 declares "the lame shall leap like a deer" in a time when God’s kingdom rules.
I love to watch a deer leap… seems to leap over gravity itself.
I have watched them bound up to a six foot fence , stop, look at it and then effortlessly elevate into the air over the fence and land ever so lightly on their feet on the other side!
Would that we could be like deer when obstacles block our life path. That we would stop, look, then trusting God to make a way through - simply allow His strength –in us- to lift us up and over the difficulty that threatens to overwhelm us or stop us in our tracks.

To be like a deer means to be loving.
To watch a mother doe with her fawns is a beautiful thing, and the bible uses the deer to speak of marital love.
In Prov. 5: 19 the words “as a loving deer and a graceful doe” refer to the satisfying love between a man and his wife.
Song of Solomon carries this theme in 2:9, comparing the woman’s lover to a stag. Has any king ever worn a crown as magnificent as the antlers of a buck? How regally he carries himself, every step proclaiming his royalty!
I smile when the young bucks walk across my back yard. Even when their antlers are barely showing they already hold their head with pride imitating the high stepping gait of a mature buck.
We are children of the most high….and proclaim our royalty best when we love one another – with respect and tenderness , recognizing that the love between a man and a woman is the picture God has chosen to picture His love for the body of Christ!

An important aspect of being a deer is its thirst and need of water.
In Psalm 42:1 David says, “As the deer pants for the water brook, so pants my soul for You, O God.”
Deer tend to feed near water and if they are sick they will lie near water, knowing it is the most important thing they need.
If forced to go without water for any length of time their thirst is intense and they will long for water, searching for it until they find it.

When we find ourselves in a dry place, do we know where to go? Do we seek the living water - the only thing that will quench our thirst? When we have not drunk deep enough of God’s life giving word, do we recognize our thirst and hurry to find fresh water like the deer? Or do we reach for other things to quench our thirst: the medicine cabinet, entertainment, the pursuit of financial gain, food, new toys, the remote control, sports, anything - except the One who alone has the ‘living water’ that will satisfy us?

The last verse in Song of Solomon speaks of the Shulamite woman’s longing for her love…. “Make haste my beloved and be like a gazelle or a young stag on the mountains of spices.”

Do we run like a deer, into the arms of God…ever seeking Him, longing for Him, thirsting for Him?

“Thank your, Lord, for your magnificent creation and especially for the deer that teaches us in such a beautiful way to trust You and seek You for all we need and desire!”

Friday, June 15, 2007

Need Some Good Advice?

We live in a fast paced society where books are on the shelf one day and outdated the next. Opinions change as fast as we can click channels or change magazine covers on our news stands.
And yet the book of Proverbs, though it was written thousands of years ago, has advice as relevant and up to date as the day it was written.
Check out the wisdom of the advice given under the following samplings of current headings.

The Latest Diet
Are you listening to the current debate on the carb versus protein diets? Are you wondering which way to lean?
Well, it seems too many carbs are not soooo good!

Prov. 25:16 “Have you found honey? Eat only as much as you need, lest you be filled with it and vomit!”
Prov. 25:27 - “It is not good to eat too much honey…”

Social Skills
Technology allows us more interaction with more people than ever before. Our social skills are important. Want some good advice?

Prov. 25:17 – “Withdraw your foot from your neighbour’s house, lest he be weary of you and so hate you.”
“He who has friends must show himself friendly…” Prov. 18:24
“He who passes by and meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a dog by the ears.”Prov. 26:17
“A man who isolates himself seeks his won desire, he rages against all wise judgment.” Prov. 18:1
“…where there is no talebearer, strife ceases.” Prov. 26:20

Animal Rights
Yes, the bible is on the side of the animal lovers!!

“A righteous man regards the life of his animal but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel. “ Prov. 12:10
“Be diligent to know the state of your flocks and attend to your herds..” Prov. 27:23

We are a society addicted to couch analogy. But Proverbs has some advice on the subject too.

“Hope deferred makes the heart sick…”Prov. 13:12
‘Modern’ researches have ‘discovered’ that the rise in teenage suicides is directly related to their lack of ‘hope’.
“Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression…” Prov. 12:25
Haven’t we heard a lot lately about the mental and physical health issues caused by worry and stress?

We recognize the importance of diplomacy in business or personal relationships. Seminars on how to “Resolve Relational Conflicts” abound.
Yet Proverbs has some straight forward proven-to-be-successful answers.

”A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Prov. 15:1
“By long forbearance a ruler is persuaded, and a gentle tongue breaks a bone.” (of contention) Prov. 25:15

On Seeking Advice
We all need advice on a daily basis, but do we ask for it when we need it? Do we seek advice from a wise source? And do we listen when we are given advice?

“Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established.” Prov. 15:22
“Every purpose is established by counsel, by wise counsel wage war.” Prov. 20:18
“Where there is no counsel the people fall, but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety.” Prov. 11:14
"He who gets wisom loves his own soul." Prov. 19:8

Lending Money
How many family relationships and friendships are damaged because of money.
Apparently this is an age old problem for which Proverbs gives obvious advice!

“My son, if you become surety for your friend…. You are snared!” Prov. 6:1,2
“The borrower is servant to the lender…” Prov. 22:7

Honesty in Business Dealings
“Buyer Beware!” is the catch phrase of modern society. We are constantly on guard against being conned or cheated or caught in a dishonest business transaction. Too often people simply look out for their own best interests, even if it means being less than forthright. Proverbs points out that God demands honesty in all our financial dealings with each other.

“Wealth gained by dishonesty will be diminished and he who gathers by labour will increase”. Prov. 13:11
“Diverse weights and diverse measures, They are both alike, an abomination to the Lord.” Prov. 20:10
“A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Prov. 11:1
“He who is greedy for gain troubles his own house, but he who hates bribes will live.” Prov. 15:27

Work Ethics
Proverbs extols the value of a good day’s work, of an employee being faithful and diligent and honest.

“Go to the ant, you sluggard! And consider her ways.” Prov. 6:1
“The hand of the diligent will rule, but the slothful will be put to forced labor.” Prov. 12:24

Moral Ethics
One of the most serious deteriations in our society is the whole idea of right and wrong. Moral ethics are becoming more and more a personal thing and the standard is constantly being lowered. But not according to Proverbs wisdom.

“He who speaks truth declares righteousness, but a false witness deceit.” Prov. 12:12
“Better is the poor who walks in his integrity, than on perverse in his ways though he is rich.” Prov. 28:6
“Whoever commits adultery with a woman lacks understanding, - he who does so destroys his own soul” Prov. 6:32
“Wine is a mocker, intoxicating drink arouses brawling and whoever is led astray by is not wise.” Prov. 20:1
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, loving favour rather than silver and gold.” Prov. 22:1

The Courts
More and more people are choosing to resolve their conflicts in the courts.
Yet Proverbs declares it is better to settle things privately.

“Do not go hastily to court for what will you do in the end when your neighbour has put you to shame? Debate your case with your neighbour himself ….” Prov. 25:8, 9
“It is not good to show partiality to the wicked or to overthrow the righteous in judgement.” Prov. 18:5

And On Overall Health
The advice on health issues today is endless, but Proverbs puts the finger of wisdom on the central things that contribute to our overall health. Listen to what it says….

"A merry heart does good like a medicene but a broken spirit dries the bones." Prov. 17:22
“My son, give attention to my words…. For they are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.” Prov. 4:20,22
“…The tongue of the wise promotes health……” also “Pleasant words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the bones.” Prov. 13:17, 16:24

And the final word that sums up all the wisdom of Proverbs….
“Fear the Lord and depart from evil, it will be health to your flesh and strength to your bones.” Prov. 3:8

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Profile of a Virtuous Woman

Proverbs 31 contains the oft quoted description of the virtuous wife.
The chapter credits are given to King Lemuel’s mother.

Who is King Lemuel?
The name is most probably one of Solomon’s aliases since this is the only time in scripture this name is mentioned and history records no king by that name. Lemuel means ‘belonging to God’. When Solomon was born, it is the only time we are told that “God loved” a baby and he was consequently named Jedidiah (loved of the Lord). This name is also never mentioned again. Chapter 30 of Proverbs is credited to Agur, son of Jekah - which would translate to “words of the wise from the son of obedience”.
The most reasonable consensus is that both Agur and Lemuel are fanciful names for Solomon along with ‘The Preacher'. Solomon never refers to himself as Solomon.

Accepting that, we would have to conclude that ‘King Lemuel’s’ mother is Bathsheba. Interesting, is it not?

I would think that the first 9 verses of chapter 31 are the words Bathsheba taught Solomon, but then I think the last part of the chapter describing the virtuous woman are once again reverting back to being Solomon’s words.
When it came to women Solomon put more stress on quantity than on quality so I doubt this description would be his observation from a marital position. So to me it seems most likely that Solomon was describing his mother – through the eyes of a loving and adoring son!

When I read the description of the virtuous woman it focuses on the things that she does. But I like to read between the lines and envision the kind of person she was.

The first thing observed about her is that “the heart of her husband safely trusts her”. I think that is the highest praise a wife can receive.
What is it that makes a husband feel secure? It is his wife’s respect for him. It has been said that a man will choose respect over love….while a woman will choose love over respect. Obviously, this virtuous wife respects her husband enabling him to excel in all he does. She continually has his well being in mind, yet she is an independent woman who thinks for herself.

The list of all the virtuous woman accomplishes is tiring even to think about but the sense given is that she does it all out of the joyful exuberance of boundless energy rather than out of drudgery or duty. Never once is there any hint of her complaining or feeling unappreciated.

The virtuous wife is a woman in control of her world and loving it!
She is the inventer of the word 'multitasking'. She juggles her business ventures with her other duties and it seems none of them suffer. She is well organized.
She is not one to waste her time…. She is not given to idle window shopping; when she goes to town she knows what she wants and gets it – be it wool or flax or real estate.
She manages her finances well and invests her profits wisely.
She is talented and creative, working with her hands and finding pleasure in the finished projects. She weaves fine linen and makes belts which she sells to the merchants.
She sees to the needs of her family, her staff and the poor in her community.
Yet, though all her focus is outward with everyone else’s needs in mind, she does not neglect herself. She still finds time to present herself as a fashion plate.

She is sought out for her wisdom and advice and is known for her kind and gentle ways.
She never seems to suffer from fatigue or stress nor becomes disgruntled with her life or upset with her children. They all think she is the greatest mom and her husband cannot stop singing her praises in his influential circles.
It appears that all who know her admire her – not from afar but from within the intimate circle of her caring heart.
Her outward beauty is outshone by her inner beauty that is lit by her love for God. And there is her secret….
“A woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised, Give her of the fruit of her hands and let her own words praise her in the gates.”

What a high example to follow!!
It seems impossible to attain even for us technologically advanced and enlightened women of our modern times. But her secret has not changed.
If we want what she had – an undeniably blessed life – it starts with our relationship with God.
“If we seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness then all these (other) things will be added unto us!!” (Matt. 6:33)

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Flood Alert Notice

Proverbs 22:3 “A prudent man foresees evil (or calamity) and hides himself. but the simple (or foolish) pass on and are punished.”

We received our “Flood Alert” notice today.

This year, because of an exceptionally heavy snow fall, there is fear of a repeat of the 1948 flood in the communities that live in the flood plains of the mighty Fraser River.
There have been advisories issued as to what precautions and preparations are prudent for those whose homes are in danger or for those who would be affected by secondary issues such as being stranded, or being without hydro or drinking water. .
I have watched and listened over the last few weeks and found that people’s reactions fall into four groups.

1> There are the people who take the threat very seriously and do all they can to be prepared.
I got into a conversation with a young lady who stood behind me in the line up waiting for a bank teller. She told me about her friend who has taken every precaution she could, to the extent that she has purchased polyurethane to wrap her house in. She has moved all her belongings to the top floor, including the motorcycle. All emergency supplies have been purchased. She is ready for the worst case scenario!

2> Then there are the people who listen to the warnings and consider the facts and decide to make bare minimum preparations. They buy some bottled water, stock up on a few staples, such as canned food and batteries and hope the flood doesn’t happen.
Their preparations may be enough, they may not.

3> Many people have decided they will just wait and see. If the flood begins to happen, they will go out and quickly get what they need. Waiting until the last minute may be too late, especially if too many other people had the same idea.

4> Lastly, there are the people who scoff at the whole possibility of a flood and refuse to take the threat seriously. They have no intention of taking any precautions, not even planning for emergency necessities.

It struck me how the reactions of people facing the threat of a disaster parallel the reactions of people facing certain death and eternity.
We don’t like to think of death. God has given us a will to live which is normal and good, but we all know that “it is appointed unto man once to die and after this the judgement” (Heb. 9:27)
No one lives forever on this earth. It is a fact no one can deny and yet the reactions vary.

1> There are the people who, recognizing the fact that death and eternity are a sure thing, search out what they must do to be ready and make all the necessary preparations. They make sure that they know their salvation is secured and that they are living in such a way that they are ready to face God at any moment. They, like the five wise virgins, have their lamps trimmed and have extra oil with them.

2> Then there are the people who recognize that one day their life here will end but they really don’t want to do more than the bare minimum to be prepared. They go to church fairly regularly and have a short list of things they do to appease their consciences hoping it will be enough.
The five foolish virgins also thought they had enough and by the time they realized their mistake it was too late.

3> There are also those who do not want to ‘cramp their style’ and while they know what they must do to be saved, decide that they will just wait until the last minute and then quickly make things right then.
But it is almost impossible to get ready in a crisis moment.
A friend of mine lost her brother this past month.
He owned businesses in two cities and sold one to use the cash flow to enlarge and upgrade the business in the other city. He was excited to carry out his plans. Four days after the sale was finalized he was killed in a car accident. He was not prepared for death and eternity.
Leaving things for the last minute is taking the ultimate risk ….. with all eternity at stake.

3> Then there are the ones who simply refuse to acknowledge the facts.
They deny the evidence proving that God and eternity are real and that one day they will answer to the Judge of all men. They prefer to believe that they can write their own reality to suit themselves; they will live and die on their own terms.

God has sent out his “Alert Notice!”

“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says;
Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion…..
Beware, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God….
exhort one another daily while it is called ‘today’ lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin..
For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, while it is said,
Today if you will hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
(Heb. 3:7-15)

What is YOUR reaction?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Coals of Fire

“If your enemy is hungry give him bread to eat, And if he is thirsty give him water to drink for so you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Prov. 25:21,22)

Paul quotes this verse from proverbs in Romans 12:19,20 saying, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves but rather give place to wrath for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine I will repay’, saith the Lord. Therefore if your enemy hungers feed him, if he thirst give him a drink for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.”

There are differences of opinion as to what ‘heaping coals of fire’ on someone’s head means.
I was taught that treating my enemy with kindness would somehow allow God to pronounce just punishment on the evil doer.
Some tell of an eastern custom that in the morning those who had let their fire go out in the night would run through the streets with a clay pot on their head and neighbours would fill it with burning coals for them to restart their fire.
Others tell of an Egyptian custom of people demonstrating their repentance by putting coals of fire on their head.
Yet others insist that neither of these claimed ancient customs have any validity, and are in fact untrue.

But we do not need to guess at the meaning or search out ancient customs when we can find the true meaning simply by searching the pages of scripture.

The first reference to burning coals of fire is found in Leviticus 16 when God instructed Moses on the rituals concerning the altar. To makes atonement for the people Aaron was to take a censer full of burning coals of fire from the altar and bring it before the Lord in the holy of holies , then sprinkle the coals with incense causing a cloud to rise up and cover the mercy seat in the holy of holies.
The burning coals of fire had to do with the sacrifice for sin and forgiveness.

This is confirmed in Isaiah 6:5 where Isaiah, when he sees the Lord, recognizes his sinful condition and cries out…“Woe is me for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips…” In response to his cry an angel flies to him having in his hand a coal of fire from the altar. The angel touches Isaiah’s mouth with it and declares that his “iniquity is taken away and his sin purged”.
Burning coals of fire have the purpose of cleansing from sin.
Therefore, to heap burning coals of fire on someone’s head is to bring them to repentance so that their sin may be forgiven.
When someone sins against us, it is not vengeance we are to seek but rather seek to ‘overcome evil' with good deeds that will make our enemy ashamed and burn his conscience, filling him with ‘godly sorrow that leads to repentance and salvation’. (II Cor. 7:10)

My parents and forefathers came from one of the Mennonite villages in the Ukraine.
There was a time where they lived in terror, never knowing when their lives would be in danger. They were at the mercy of bandits and marauding gangs who raided and killed at will with no authorities to stop them.
In one of these Mennonite villages, a man and his family were asleep in their beds one night when the father awoke to the sounds of someone on his roof.
Slipping outside in the dark, he found his fears confirmed.
Several young men were tearing his house apart.
He calmly went back inside and called his wife to prepare a meal.
When the table was set and the food prepared he went outside and called to the young men who had torn a good part of his roof off the house.
“You have worked hard. You must be hungry. Please come inside and partake of some refreshments.”
Hesitantly, the men came into the house and sat down at the table.
The man of the house calmly bowed his head and thanked the Lord for the food and asked him to bless those that sat around the table.
After the prayer, he filled the men’s plates and encouraged them to eat.
They picked up their forks and started to eat… but after a few minutes, without a word, got up from the table and went back outside.
The sounds resumed on the roof.
But this time their intent was different. They worked until they had restored all the damage they had done and then quietly left.
The kindness of the gentle godly couple had heaped coals of fire on their heads that burned repentance into their souls.

When someone insults us, or offends us in some way is our first reaction to want to retaliate - to strike back, to wish that they get what they deserve?
Or is our heart concern for their soul, and our desire to react in such a way as to bring them to feel sorrow and regret for their actions?
Do we yearn for them to be forgiven before God?

I remember a time I was put to shame by the example of my granddaughter.
Shortly after she started her kindergarten year, she began to tell me about a girl in her class named Danielle.
This girl was mean tempered, angry and had no friends.
Elise, who wanted everyone to be her friend could not understand why this girl was so difficult. She tried and tried to be her friend, to no avail.
Elise would tell me, "Nanna, we have to pray for Danielle."
And she herself would pray for her every day.
One day Elise was again telling me about Danielle and struggling to define her problem asked me, "What do you call it, when she, when she..." I understood what she meant and gave her the words, "has a broken spirit?"
"Yes, yes, that's it, " Elise said.
Always after that she asked me to pray for Danielle's broken spirit.
Elise would make Danielle cards and think of ways to be nice to her - she even asked to go shopping to buy Danielle a really nice present, which she choose with great care. But all of her efforts went unrewarded and Elise agonized all year over this child that rejected all her kind gestures.
Not once did Elise take her meaness personally, the meaner Danielle was the greater Elise's concern for her and the greater her struggle to understand her.
There were times when Elise was hopeful that finally her efforts were paying off but then they would be dashed once more.
The year ended with Danielle still being mean and angry. The coals of fire did not produce the desired result.
But I still think of her and hope that perhaps one day she will remember the little girl in kindergarten that would not give up being kind to her.
Watching Elise's childlike purity of heart and motives gave meaning to God's words, "A little child shall lead them". (Is. 11:6)

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Gospel according to Proverbs?

I think of the Bible as God’s house of Truth.
The books of the Bible are its windows.
Each book provides another view into God’s Truth, just as walking around your neighbour’s house and looking into the windows allows you to view the inside of the house from different angles.
All views together give you a complete understanding of what the ‘house’ looks like and what it contains.

Proverbs is typically thought of as a collection of wise sayings, practical advice for successful living.
But it is a 'window' into God’s ‘house of Truth’ , and therefore looking into Proverbs we will see the same truths we see looking into the other 'windows'.
If you were looking into the Proverbs window would you expect to be able to present the gospel message to the non-believer standing beside you?


Let’s see.

The first step toward salvation is recognizing that we have a choice to make.
God allows man to choose between good and evil, for Him or against Him.
“The curse of the Lord is on the house of the wicked, but He blesses the habitation of the just!" (Prov. 3:33)
Every man must make a choice. Even if he does not actively CHOOSE evil, it is the default decision. Each choice carries with it life-defining consequences.
“For the upright will dwell in the land… but the wicked will be cut off from the earth.” (Prov.2:21,22)

The first step toward God is ‘to humble ourselves’ (James 4:10), recognizing that we cannot be saved by our own works, salvation is only by God’s grace. For the grace of God that brings salvation….” (Titus 2:11)
Proverbs agrees.
“Surely He scorns the scornful, but gives GRACE to the humble.” (Prov.3:33,34)
In humbling ourselves we recognize our own unworthiness. We recognize that we have gone our own rebellious way. “There is a way which seems right to a man. But its end is the way of death.(Prov. 14:12)
We cry out to God acknowledging our sin before Him. “Who can say, ‘I have cleansed my heart, I am pure from my sin?’ “ (Prov. 20:9)

Filled with remorse , we obey God’s call to repentance.
We can confess our sin to a merciful and forgiving God. “He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper. But he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion.” (Prov. 28:13)

In coming to God we must believe that He is who He says He is and that He will hear us and accept us. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.” (Prov. 3:5-7)

There is only one way to reconciled to God, by accepting His free gift of salvation.
The sin debt we owe we can never pay off – our only hope is the free gift of God.
“The one who despises the word will be in DEBT to it, But the one who fears the commandment will be REWARDED!” (Prov. 13:13) "The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord are riches, honor and LIFE” (Prov. 22:4)
The one who refuses God is responsible to pay his debt, but the one who chooses God is ‘rewarded’ – a free gift.
Do the above Proverbs verses not remind you of Romans 3:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life,” ?
And in Prov. 3:35 we are told that “the wise shall inherit glory, but shame shall be the legacy of fools.”
See the parallel between this Prov. Verse and the verse in Romans 2:7,8, “…those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory… but to those who ,,,…obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.”

When we know that we have freely received the gift of God are encouraged to ‘grow the fruit of the Spirit’ in our life. If we do, our desire will be to share the good news with others. “Freely you have received, freely give.” (Matt. 10:8)
Prov. 11:30 also encourages us to do just that. “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life and he who wins souls is wise.”

God’s heart desire is for man to be saved, to be reconciled to Him….and this theme is repeated over and over again throughout scripture.
Is it surprising then, that Proverbs , the ‘how-to’ book for sucessful living, would include the gospel message?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

"Met a Fool Lately?"

In the seventies it was the era of mini skirts and high heels and wolf whistles.
I was leaving work one summer evening and when I pulled off the mall parking lot onto the street I saw a car pull up beside me with a young man at the wheel. I heard him whistle at me and I determined that I was not going to give him the satisfaction of me acknowledging his attention. We were stopped by a red light and he continued to whistle and tap his horn. I was embarrassed and pulled quickly into the turn as soon as the light turned green, careful to keep my face averted. He stayed abreast with my car and continued whistling.
I paid him no heed!
To my annoyance we were again stopped by a red light.
He rolled down his window and said something. When I still did not even glance in his direction, he stuck his head out and hollered, “HEY STUPID, YOUR LIGHTS!”
Turning beat red, and feeling extremely foolish I turned on my headlights.

A fool is defined in our English dictionary as “one who is deficient in judgment, sense or understanding, one who acts unwisely on a given occasion”.
The Hebrew word is stronger. It gives the meaning of “Stupid, wicked, vile person”.

We rarely hear someone described as a fool anymore. I would like to think the species has gone into extinction but I think the truth is that when we meet one we simply turn the other way.
And yet God has a lot to say about ‘fools’. The book of Proverbs dedicates 39 verses to the subject of a fool.
Do we know one when we see one? Are we careful to avoid the ways of a fool in our own life?

While it is embarrassing to be called a fool by a fellow human being… it would be infinitely worse to be called a fool by God.
According to the book of Proverbs who does God consider a fool?

King David, the father of the author of Proverbs defined the ultimate fool …“The fool has said in his heart, ‘there is no God’.” (Psalm 14:1) and this thought is echoed in Pro. 28:26 which says, “He that trusts in his own heart is a fool”.
A fool is someone who sets himself up as his own standard, blind in his own conceit and does not recognize wisdom when it is presented to him.
Prov.23:9 says, “Speak not in the ears of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of your words.”

A fool is also described as someone who has no discretion as to when to speak or when to keep silent. Prov. 29:11 says “A fool utters all his mind, but a wise man keeps it in till afterwards.” And also in Prov. 18:7 we read, “A fool’s mouth is his destruction and his lips are the snare of his soul”.

A fool is also described as one who is unteachable. There is no point in giving good advice or instruction to a fool. “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,” (Prov.12:15)
“A fool despises his father’s instruction.” (Prov.15:5)
A fool always thinks his way is the only way and no one can tell him what to do.
My brother is a builder who takes pride in his work and is known for his skill and knowledge. He recently hired a man to work for him. When my brother pointed out that he was not following the chalk line to align his boards in a straight line he responded, “I will not be told what to do, I know what I am doing.” And he quit. A fool?

There is interesting language used to describe fools. One such verse is in Prov. 17:24. It says, “Wisdom is before him that hath understanding, but the eyes of a fool are in the ends of the earth.”
On first reading the intended meaning escapes us. But think about it.
Have you as a parent ever sat a rebellious child down to explain why you are insisting on certain behaviour and his eyes are everywhere except on you? Do you, realizing he is not paying attention, not say “LOOK AT ME!” ?
That is what this verse is saying. That while a wise man focuses and pays attention to wisdom the eyes (and attention) of a fool are everywhere but where they should be.

Solomon also has an interesting turn of words to warn against trusting a fool. In Proverbs 26:6 he says, “He that sends a message by the hand of a fool cuts off the feet and drinks damage.” He is saying that to trust a fool with any of your business, even something as small as delivering a message, is to invite disaster upon yourself. A message given to a fool to deliver is so unlikely to be delivered with any compitance that you might as well cut off his feet…. Hiring a fool will cause your business to suffer and you will be judged by your messenger.

Proverbs describes a fool as someone who cannot be serious. Their focus in life is to do whatever it takes to attract attention, act foolishly, get into trouble, be the practical jokester - “It is as sport to a fool to do mischief...” (Prov. 10:23). He seems incapable of doing anything worthwhile. “Though you grind a fool in a mortar with a pestle along with crushed grain, yet his foolishness will not depart from him.” (Prov.27:22) The picture here is of grinding grain to separate the wheat from the chaff, but grinding a fool would present no hope of separating the chaff (foolishness) from him.

To give honour to a fool is like “snow in summer, and as rain in harvest “ (Prov. 26:1)
It is like “binding a stone in a sling, so is he that gives honour to a fool.” (Prov. 26:8).
It is dangerous to give honour to a fool, he will use it to his own and others’ hurt - just as a stone flung from a sling will injure someone in its path, or rain will destroy the cut grain.
He will be puffed up with himself, bragging and spouting worthless advice to anyone who will listen. He will be "perverse in his lips” (Prov. 19:1)

A fool is someone who “hides hatred with lying lips and slanders another” (Prov.10:18) and someone who “enters into contention and his mouth calls for strokes” (Prov. 18:6)
A fool stirs up trouble, encourages strife and conflict and attacks anyone in his way.

When we read about what a fool is like the language is so strong that we find it hard to even think of someone who fits the description but if we think about it, letting the words sink into our hearts we realize that maybe we are a little bit guilty ourselves, that perhaps at times we even see the foolish ways of a fool lurking in the shadows of our own mirror.
Perhaps we are not always quick to take advice, at times we think our opinion is more important than someone else’s, we talk before we think, we react with anger when we are criticized.

If we do recognize the shadow of foolishness in our own hearts, we know we are not ‘fools’, for fools cannot see the error of their ways.
“A wise man fears and departs from evil, but the fool rages and is self-confident.” (Prov.14:16)

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Wise Father's Advice

A Father’s Instruction

Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs as a legacy of wise advice to his children.
It is interesting to note that even though this book was written about three thousand years ago it is as up-to-date wise today as it was the day Solomon penned the words.

In the first chapter of Proverbs Solomon is addressing a young son who is just stepping out from the safety and protection of his parent’s home into the world outside.
Solomon’s heart desire was no different than that of godly parents today who want the best for their children, hoping that when they leave home they will build on the foundation they as parents have laid, that they will live by the moral and spiritual standards they have been taught.
”My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother.” (1:8)
It seems it was no different then than now… children tend to cast off the ‘wisdom’ of their parents and insist on making their own mistakes. They so often see their parents’ ‘rules’ as a pain and out of touch with reality instead of an “ornamental and beautifying chain about the neck”(1:9)

The wise father recognizes the appeal of the world and warns his children against the danger. There really is nothing new under the sun.
The lure of temptation was as inviting in Solomon’s day as it is in ours.
While his advice is relevant for our children today , it is also a good reminder for us as adults to recognize the deceptive glitz of the tempting offers of the world we live in.

The first pitfall is the fact that it is so alluring. See in verse 10 Solomon puts his finger on it… “If sinners ENTICE you”
It sounds good, it looks like fun, it feels harmless.
Lets try it, everyone is doing it.
A powerful ‘hook’ that entices and lures its vitims into the pit is the need we all have –the desire for acceptance, significance and security.
When a child is tempted to take drugs are these not the things offered him?
And even for us as adults do we not still want and need to feel included and valued? Think about the last time you were tempted to compromise your standards – did the temptation not involve to some degree the promise that these needs would be satisfied if you partook of the offered morsel or with held if you didn’t?

I remember a night we invited to a young Christan couple’s home to watch a movie in their new ‘media room’. The movie turned out to be filled with offensive language. Had we been at home the movie would have been quickly turned off and returned to the video store. But because we were in someone else’s home we did not feel it was our call to tell them what to watch or not watch, we did not want to offend them by being ‘holier than thou’. What they thought of us was important to us. So while we commented on the language we stayed and watched.
I wished we hadn’t -- and in talking to the couple some time later they felt too that the movie should simply have been turned off. Had we taken the initiative of saying the language in this movie was unacceptable they would have agreed and we would all have been spared being subjected to the violence against our spirits.

The second thing Solomon warns his son about - the empty promises of ‘wicked men’ is found in 1:13,14. Do not listen to those who say, “We shall find all kinds of precious wealth. We shall fill our houses with spoil: Throw in your lot with us. We shall all have one purse.”
Solomon warns his son against ‘get rich quick schemes’. Seems they had them even then. How often have your been tempted by someone to join in some activity that offers some reward or business deal that promises big dividends with little or no effort on your part?
All we have to do is listen to the news or daily conversation and we don’t have to listen long before we hear of someone’s hope of personal gain dashed .
We have all experienced the consequences of not heeding our modern adage, “Buyer beware!” or “If it sounds too good to be true , it probably is!”

It is surprising to read the intensity with which Solomon warns his son to stay away from violence….”My son do not walk in the way with them, keep your foot from their path, for their feet run to evil and they make haste to shed blood...”(vs.16) and they “lurk secretly for the innocent without cause.” (vs. 11)

What is there in human nature that is attracted to violence? It seems the difference over the generations and years is not in human nature but in the limits a given society will allow violence to be expressed.
I am always horrified when I walk up and down store aisles of computer games displays. I know the children today are all obsessed with playing them but it takes me a long time to find one I consider suitable or desirable to buy for my granddaughters.
We are surrounded by a ‘violent’ society. Solomon warned his son against following the ‘violent’ crowd, because they themselves will pay the price, they will be caught in their own violence. “They lay in wait for their own blood, they lurk secretly for their own lives … So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain, it takes away the life of its owner.” (vs18,19)
How do we keep our children innocent today? How do we as adults keep our eyes and ears from being inundated by ‘violence’?

Solomon understood all the things that appeal to not only young people but to human nature in general. So his instruction is good for all of us to think about.
His words are inspired not by man’s wisdom but God’s.
How remarkable is it that we have written out in practical words we can understand and apply to our daily lives , the wisdom of God.

If we choose to live by it then we will be a partaker of the promise in Prov.1:33.

“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, and will be secure without fear of evil”

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Poetry in Proverbs

I love studying my bible… It is the only book I know of that each time I pick it up I can see something new!! And yet what amazes me is that it has remained relevant for the last six thousand years when today we hardly have time to learn something before it is already outdated!

I love the wisdom in Proverbs and I decided I will in my next few posts focus on some of the themes that run through the book. Since it was written by the wisest man who ever lived… who received his wisdom from God Himself…. it should be a book that we consult often for our life choices and decisions, should it not?

The original language of the book was of course Hebrew which is naturally a poetic language.
In case you have never heard of the poetic patterns it employs or just need to be reminded I will use this post to refresh your memory and then tomorrow begin my posts on the themes of Proverbs.

Understanding the poetic patterns used especially in the book of Proverbs but not limited to it … is a tool in your hand to make the meaning more clear.
While in English we are used to poetry that is organized according to parallels in sounds (rhyme), in Hebrew poetry is arranged according to parallels in thought.

One thought parallel is called ‘antithetical parallelism’ which is simply the contrasting of two ideas – ‘anti’ meaning opposite and ‘thetical’ meaning laid down.
One idea is stated and then the opposite idea is stated along side, enhancing the reader’s understanding of the idea presented.
Often these two ideas are connected by the word ‘But’.
For example….
In Prov. 10:27 the statement is given “The fear of the Lord prolongs life.”
Then the ‘antithetical’ idea is expressed ….“but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”
Another example is in Prov. 11:1.
The statement is made… “A false balance is an abomination to the Lord”
Then the opposite laid down beside it, “But a just weight is His delight!”
Two opposite expressions used to drive home the meaning of the idea that God demands honesty in business!

Another thought parallel is called ‘synonymous parallelism’, which of course is restating the same idea using different words. The two thoughts are often connected by the word ‘and’.
For example….
In Prov. 22:17 the statement is made, “Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise.”
In case you aren’t clear as to the meaning let it be put another way…..
“And apply your mind to my knowledge.”
Another example in Prov. 8:21 states..”That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance.” Don’t get it? Then listen to it put this way….”And I will fill their treasures.”

A third thought parallel is called ‘synethetic parallelism’ which means making a statement and then adding to it a statement that expands the meaning. The second line gives you more information than you were given in the first line. ( 'syne' having the meaning of before and after and 'thetic' being laid down)
An example is in Prov. 3:30. “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due” is the first or before statement. The second or after statement adds more information… “if he has done you no harm.”
The first statement on its own is open ended but with the information given in the second statement there is a qualifier in place, “if’ the person has done you no harm.
Another example is in Prov.16:4. The before statement is “The Lord has made all things for himself”, then the after statement leaves no doubt as to how inclusive this statement is, “Yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”

The Hebrew language also used numbers in an expressive way to structure lists.
When we who speak English say ‘there were two, no maybe three’ it suggests a memory lapse and suggests uncertainty. In Hebrew it is used not to suggest uncertainty but rather the opposite as an emphasis of certainty!
And example is found in Prov. 30:21-23.
“Under three things the earth quakes and under four, it cannot bear up!” By stating there are three before stating there are four is to the Hebrew mind saying “This is important – there are FOUR things I am going to list!”

Next time you read Proverbs see if you can pick out these poetic patterns and if you are paying attention you will also find this poetic tactic used in other books of the bible.

Tomorrow - "Wise advice to a Son"

Monday, June 4, 2007

Did You Pass the Test?

My younger granddaughter got the highest mark from all the grade three classes in her school for a book report project that was one of their assignments. The detailing in her drawings and her written work was so exceptional that the principal came to her class to see her paper.
I was very proud of her.
It my pleasure to brag about the accomplishments of my granddaughters.

Do you know that it gives God pleasure to brag about His children? That He loves to show us off?
But just as my granddaughter had to work, had to be ‘tested’ before I could brag about her, so we also must be put into a place of testing to reveal what we are made of– to show ourselves worthy of God’s pleasure in showing us off’.

We all know the story of Job, we know the verses that tell us about rejoicing when trials and temptations come our way and we know that “blessed is the man who endures temptations” (James 1:12) but when you face a trial or temptation is your first thought the realization that you are facing an opportunity to please God? To give Him cause to brag about you and made Him proud of you??

There is tucked away in the pages of our bible the story of a family that God took pleasure in and held them up as an example.
We find the account in Jeremiah 35.

The story unfolds as follows…….

One day God told his prophet Jeremiah to go to a family by the name of Rachebites and give them a special invitation to come into the chambers of the house of the Lord. There Jeremiah was to serve them wine.

It was a great honour to receive this personal invitation from God’s highest prophet. I’m sure the family was excited to be singled out in this way and eagerly accepted Jeremiah’s invitation. And to add honour to honour Jeremiah himself would escort them.
So Jaazaniah with all his brothers and his sons and their families were taken to the house of the Lord and seated in one of the chambers.
Then Jeremiah placed a cup before each guest and served bowls of wine , encouraging them to drink and enjoy.

But there was a problem….
I can image the family members all covertly glancing at each other and looking to Jaazaniah for direction…. What were they to do?
They did not want to be rude and treat Jeremiah’s hospitality with contempt but on the other hand…….
Finally, they voiced their dilemma to Jeremiah.

“We cannot, we will not drink wine, for we have for generations obeyed the instruction of our forefather Jonadab son of Rechab, who commanded us not to drink wine nor to build houses to live in but to live in tents….nor to plant vineyards or grain. And we have obeyed him until now.”

Was it sin to drink wine or build houses or plant harvests? No, of course not. But the Rechabites had obeyed a higher commandment….God’s commandment to honour your father and mother.

God spoke to Jeremiah and said,” Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem… that they repeatedly refused to obey My instructions but look at these Rechabites who so faithfully obeyed their eathly father’s commands all these years.”

And God spoke doom and calamity against the people of Judah and Jerusalem but to the Rechabites He prounced blessing, saying, “Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done accourding to all that he commanded you, therefore , thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,’Jonabdab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before me forever!!” (Jer.35:18,19)

Next time you face a trial or temptation, remember the Rechabites, remember that God delights in finding cause to praise you and show you off as an example to others!
Does that not encourage you to get the very best mark you can on your ‘test’ ?

Friday, June 1, 2007

Love and Hate -- Go Together?

God is Love…. (I John 5:8)
Have you ever considered the question…. “Can you love without hating?”

Ten years ago I held my first granddaughter in my arms. My daughter was in the recovery room after an emergency caesarean and my son-in-law was busy making phone calls, so I had the privilege of having her all to myself for about half an hour.
I fell in love with her…. Oh, how I loved her!!
But I was surprised by the intensity of another emotion…. Hate!
As I looked into her precious little face as she lay helpless and trusting in my arms, her eyes looking up into mine…the strength of my love was in tension with hatred against anything that would harm her. I knew that I would fiercely defend her against the slightest threat to her well being.

Hate is a strong word – so strong that we are almost shocked when someone uses it other than to say they hate being stuck in traffic. The use of the word as a careless emphasis has somehow separated us from feeling the depths of emotion the word describes.
We have been told that it is wrong to hate…We teach our children not to use the word…. Have we forgotten that Ecc. 3:8 tells us “there is a time to hate”?

We are witnessing hate today to a degree of intensity that is unfamiliar to us … the hatred of the terrorists who are striking fear into the hearts of strong men. We have seen on our television screens children being taught to hate and to carry and use deadly weapons. We are seeing played out before us the evil power of hatred when it fills people’s hearts and minds.

We are made in the image of God --- emotions are from God.
He is an emotional God, we are an emotional people. What we do with our emotions is a choice, they will either find expression in righteousness or in unrighteousness.
Every emotion has its rightful place… even hate.

God is Love… there is no human love that can compare to the Love of God… and yet God hates.
Does He hate BECAUSE He loves?

Think about the things you love… and perhaps scale them according to how deep your love is. Is it not true that the more you love something the more you hate something else at the same time?
If it is a possession you love, you hate to lose it,
if it is a person you love you hate for them to be hurt,
if it is a lover – “hell hath no fury as a woman scorned”.

If we take that thought, (that love is held in tension by hate) further and apply it to God, would we find that because He loves with a love far above and beyond human love that His capacity to hate would also be as much greater?
It is a sobering thought, is it not?
A frightening one? (“At His wrath the earth will tremble, And the nations will not be able to abide His indignation” Jer. 10:10)

What does God hate?
Scripture tells us what God hates and remember that when God says He hates something it is not meant in a casual way but with the intensity of God-emotion.
He hates parents sacrificing their children. (Deut. 12:31)
He hates the worship of false gods – would that include anything we ‘worship’ above God such as money or possessions or our chosen form of entertainment, or anything contrary to God’s truth? (Deut 16:22, Jer. 44:4)
He hates the wicked, and those who love violence. (Psalm 11:5)
He hates divorce. (Mal. 2:16)
He hates religiosity, people going through the motions of being religious but their heart is elsewhere (Isaiah 1:14) He hates those who play church (Amos 5:21)
He hates a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, a false witness who speaks lies, and the one who sows discord among brethren. (Prov. 6:16-19)
He hates pride (Amos 6:8)
He hates those who think evil in their heart against their neighbour,
He hates those who do not keep their promises. (Zech. 8:17)
He hates ‘robbery’ for burnt offering - when our worship becomes a means by which we benefit personally. (Isaiah 61:8)
He hates the deeds of the Nicholatians (Rev. 2:6,15) - the sin of bringing worldly things into the church – destroying the ‘separateness’ of God’s people.

To think about God hating is not a pleasant feeling, is it? So we just prefer not to think about it. But have we done so to our own hurt?
Yes, God hates sin and yet died for the sinner… but as Osward Chambers said, those who refuse to separate themselves from their sin… will be destroyed with their sin.

Just as our children learn to hate the things we hate….. have we learned to hate the things our Heavenly Father hates?

Does He command us to hate?
Yes, He does…
He commands us to hate the things He hates.
“Hate evil…” (Amos 5:15)
He makes it clear…”You who love the Lord…HATE evil….” (Psalm 97:10)
And again “The fear of the Lord is to HATE evil..” (Prov.8:13)

What is evil ? Is evil not anything contrary to the truth, the goodness of God?
The more we love God, will we also hate more and more the things He hates?
Have you noticed that the things you hate are very easy to stay away from?
Are Christians weak today because they no longer hate the things God calls sin?

Hate is not a ‘nice’ thing to think about…
But let me present an aspect of God’s hate that is a balm to our fearful human hearts - it guarantees the safety of His child.
Knowing how intensely God hates evil and anything that would harm His kingdom …specifically His children, is that not also our security ?
Just as I hate anything that will harm my granddaughters and in an instant would put myself between them and harm’s way…. So we can also trust God to be ever watchful over us who “keep ourselves in the love of God” (Jude 21), who put our trust in Him.

The words of an old hymn by Thomas Whitfield say it so well, He will keep us “safe from all alarm”.
It's a wonderful fellowship
Such a joy divine
To just lean on the Savior's arms
Receive His peace of mind
It's a wonderful blessedness
Love beyond compare
To be safe from all alarm
And oh, my Savior's there
He's there!