Sunday, November 25, 2007

To Be or Not to Be - that is the Question

We live in a world that is fraught with pitfalls and lurking dangers everywhere. Not only in a physical sense but also in a personal, relational sense and our natural reaction is to become protective of ourselves, trying to minimize the opportunity for painful experiences – to keep ourselves from being hurt by others.

Webster’s defines vulnerable as “capable of being physically or emotionally wounded, open to attack or danger.”
That certainly sounds like something to avoid at all cost.
That has the sound of ‘victim’ in its definition, something none of us want to be.
And so we learn to avoid putting ourselves in a vulnerable situation.

However, In putting up the protective walls that keep us from being vulnerable we also keep people out…we are not as accessible, we are not as willingly available for someone who is needy , someone who needs a helping hand to encourage or help them along the way .
We even prefer to give to missions overseas…because then there is no danger of us becoming entangled with the person we are ‘helping’.

But is this how God wants us to be? Is this part of the victorious life we are called to?

Some years ago… before my life-saver spell check … I was looking to my heavy Webster to confirm my spelling of ‘vulnerable’.
I found it…but my eyes caught on a word several entries down from ‘vulnerable’.
The word was … ‘vulnerary’

I had never heard of the word…and I suspect you haven’t either. It is not a word that is commonly used.

The meaning of vulnerary is “used for the healing or treating of wounds”.

There is a beautiful description of the heavenly city in Rev. 22:2 that says, “In the midst of the street of it and on either side of the river was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits and yielded her fruit every month and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.”

I see this verse as a break-through verse… where eternal things break through to be used for earthly purposes. God calls us a “tree planted by the waters of life that gives forth his fruit in his season, his leaf also shall not wither and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper!” (Ps. 1:3)

There is no room for being the ‘victim’ in any situation if we are a child of the Father !
We are called, not to be vulnerable, but vulnerary !!!
Not self-centered but other-centered… not focused on our own wounds but looking to heal those of others.

And in the reaching out to heal others… we ourselves walk in health. It’s just the way it works in God’s kingdom.

To be vulnerable, or to be vulnerary…that is the question !!

Which will you choose?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Put to Shame

All too often we suffer from tunnel vision.
All we see is life’s circumstances from our own narrow point of view and we judge and complain and worry and panic.
God is so patient with us and so gracious in wanting us to broaden our view to leave room for His marvellous intervention and purposes.

He has taken care to record for us real life characters and their life situations. Characters that are just like us, who felt the same emotions and worried the same worries and fears.
We tend to read these stories from God’s point of view backwards and say, “Well, yes, I could trust God under those circumstances too,”
But if we step back and take an unbiased view while standing in the characters' shoes we may realize that they had no more reason to ‘believe’ the miraculous was going to change their lives than we do.

Take for example the woman from Zerephath.

Zerephath was located in Sidon, in the land of the Gentiles. There lived a widow woman whose name we do not know.
She lived alone with her son and at the time she is introduced to us in I Kings 17, she was living in very difficult times.
Not only did she live alone having lost her husband but she had a beloved son for whom she was struggling to provide . I’m sure she tried to keep her fears hidden from him, assuring him all would be well, careful to keep her anxious heart hidden behind a cheerful countenance.
As a true mother, she more and more often did without herself to make sure her son would not go hungry. How easy it was to say, “Oh, I’m not hungry, why don’t you finish up the last piece?”

She lay awake at night, worrying… knowing that the bin of flour was dangerously close to being totally empty and the jar of oil was almost used up.
What should she do?
There was no one to borrow from…her neighbours had barely enough for themselves. She had no family that would take her and her son in. No one needed or wanted two more mouths to feed in time of famine.
Her stomach twisted into anxious knots as she realized she had no options, her hope was gone.

She thought about the neighbouring people she had heard about, the Israelites. It was said that they had a God who was able to do wondrous things on behalf of His people. How wonderful it would be to have a God like that! But He was not her God, she was a Gentile and He was the God of the Jews.

Finally, the day came that she had dreaded for so long. There was nothing more she could do. There was only enough flour and oil to make one last small cake.
Today was the day that she and her son would have their last meal and then there was nothing to do but wait until starvation took their lives. She only hoped her son would die first so that he would not be left alone. Her heart was heavy and her eyes blurred with tears as she went outside the city limits to gather a few sticks to make a fire to cook their last meagre meal.

She was just outside the city gates looking for her firewood when someone called out to her. She looked up and saw a strange man who had stopped to address her.
She was curious. She recognized him as being a Jew, one who served the mighty God.
She looked at him expectantly and when Elijah saw that he had her attention, he asked her for a drink of water.
Without a word she turned to go to fetch it. But the stranger wanted more. He called to her again, “And could you please also bring me some bread?”

Her heart lurched!
Sadly she replied, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have any bread. All I have is a handful of flour and a tiny bit of oil. These sticks you see in my hand are to make a fire to cook my one last cake, so my son and I can eat it and die.”

Elijah felt the stirring of the Spirit within him and he was moved with compassion for the woman…. He said, “Do not fear…go and make your son and yourself a cake but please make one for me first.”

The woman looked at Elijah. What part of no flour and oil left did he not understand? Something in his face, his eyes gazing so intently into hers calmed her fearful heart and a peace came upon her. Why not do as this man of God was asking her to do?

Perhaps she thought, what difference does one cake make ? My son and I are going to die anyway; I may as well give my last cake to this man of God with the eyes that look right through me.

But what was this man saying? To her incredulity, Elijah told her that her flour would not be used up nor would her jar of oil run out until the day that his Lord God would send rain upon the earth and the famine would be over.

The widow woman can put many of us to shame. She did not know this God of the Jews. She did not know this strange prophet who was hungry and asking for her last bit of food. How did she know he was telling her the truth?
But she believed and went and made the cake and brought it to him.
I wonder if she doubted when she went back into her kitchen, wondering if truly there would be enough flour and oil left for a cake for herself and her son?

Wonder of wonders !! there was ! I’m sure the cakes she made for her son and herself that day
tasted better than any she had ever made. And if her son asked for more he could have more !! And she no longer needed to sacrifice her meal for him.
No matter how many cakes she made the flour bin , just as Elijah had said, did not diminish and the oil jar always had enough oil for one more cake !!!
And so it was until the famine was over !!!

Can you imagine the joy in the widow’s heart and the awe she felt to think that this God of the Israelites, knew where she , a nameless Gentile widow woman lived, and He cared enough to send His great prophet to her to save her and her son from starvation??

We have her mentioned by Jesus, in Luke 4:26. Jesus angers the leaders in the synagogue by pointing out that there were many widows in Israel during the time of the famine…but no prophet was sent to them because of their unbelief but a prophet was sent to a Gentile widow who had more faith than God’s own people.

Let us learn from this story that God preserved for us, a story that is meant to encourage us that no matter how black things look or how hopeless, there is always God--- who is never at a loss to provide for the needs of His people. And surely He is aware of our circumstances and our needs.

If the Gentile woman who only knew of God through hearsay could trust His prophet.. how much more reason do we have to trust God in and through our most difficult circumstances.
Let us not be put to shame along with the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.

Friday, November 16, 2007

By Chance or by Design?

“An Amazing Book”

Reading the story of Joseph one day, a couple of details caught my attention -- the fact that no sin is recorded for Joseph and he was sold for pieces of silver. It struck me that both details were also true of Jesus. So I put on my thinking cap and looked closer to see how many other details Joseph and Jesus shared.
I found 51....
What do you think? Is this by chance or design????

1. both were descendants of Abraham
Matt. 1:2 -------------------- Matt. 1:17

2. both names start with the same letter
J- oseph -------------------- J- esus

3. both were ‘first born’ of their mothers
Gen. 30:22-24 ------------------Matt.1:23

4. 12 brothers/tribes - Joseph -------12 disciples – Jesus
see Numbers 1:20-42 – there are 12 names designating the 12
tribes, counting Joseph would make 13,
Jesus had 12 disciples , counting Jesus would make 13

5. both were beloved of their fathers
Gen. 37:3 ---------------------- Matt. 3:17

6. both had divine callings on their life
Gen. 37:9,10 --------------------Matt. 2:5,6

7. both belittled/doubted by their brothers
Gen. 3:7,19 ---------------------- John 7:3,5

8. both wore a ‘special’ coat
Gen.37:3 ------------------------ John 19:23,24

9. their ‘own’ sought to kill them
Gen.37:20 -----------------------Matt.12:14, John 7:19

10. both were taken into Egypt
Gen. 37:28 ---------------------- Matt.2:13,14

11. both were sold for pieces of silver
Gen. 37:28 ---------------------- Matt.26:15

12. both were betrayed by one of the twelve closest to them
Gen. 37:22,27 --------------------Matt. 26:14

13. both were separated by ‘death’ from their father because
of the sin of others
Gen. 37:35 --------------------Matt. 27:46 , Is. 53:6

14. both were ‘restored’ to their father
Gen. 46:29 -------------------- John 20:17(16:28) John17:11

15. both left ‘glory’ to be humbled as a servant
Gen. 39:1,4,13 --------------------Matt.20;28 , Matt.12:18

16. the blood of a kid covered the sins of their ‘brothers’ before the father
Gen.37:31,32 --------------------Lev.4:22-24

17. both were falsely accused and brought before the courts
Gen. 39:18,19 --------------------John 18:12,13

18. Joseph has no sin ascribed to him, Jesus had no sin
------------------------------ I John 3:5

19. both were despised for giving a negative report
Gen. 37:2 --------------------Matt.21:13,14, Matt.23:27

20. both left their homeland
Gen. 37:28 --------------------I John 17:5

21. both were destined to ‘rule’ over their family
Gen. 37:10 --------------------Matt.2:6

22. both saved both Jews and Gentiles
Gen. 41:57 --------------------Romans 9:24

23. both rode through the streets lined by people who worshipped them
Gen. 41:43 --------------------Matt.21:9-11

24. both were tempted
Gen. 39:7 --------------------Matt.4:1

25. both were given Gentile brides
Gen. 41:45 --------------------Rev. 21:2,9

26. both recognized that what was intended for evil God turned for good
Gen. 50:20 --------------------Heb. 12:2

27. Joseph had two sons, Jesus had two flocks -- the younger one given the inheritance
(Gen. 48:19 --------------------Gal. 4:21-31, John 10:16
( the New Covenant inherits what the Old Covenant could not receive)

28. both ‘tested’ their brothers / disciples
Gen. 42 --------------------Mark 8:27-30

29. both had strong trust in God
Gen, 41:51,39:2,41:16, 40:8 ------------ Luke 9:35

30. both wept
Gen. 42:24,43:30,45:2------------------ John 11:35

31. both forgave their brothers
Gen. 45:15, 50:17,21 --------------------Luke 6:37

32. both spoke the word of God to the people
Gen. 40:8 -------------------- John 12:49,50

33. both hid their identity
Gen. 4:23 --------------------Luke 24:16, John 8:59

34. both began their ‘ministry’ at age 30
Gen. 41:46 -------------------- Luke 3:23

35. both submitted to being mistreated – example of meekness
Gen. 39:20,21,Gen.39:4-----------Is. 42:2,Is. 53, I Peter 2:22,23

36. neither were accepted in his ‘own’ country
Gen. 37:19,20 --------------------John 1:11

37. both died in a foreign land
Gen. 50:26 --------------------John 19:30.17:12
Joseph died in Egypt ( a type of the world)
Jesus died in the world having left His home in glory)

38. both went to a far away place to prepare a place for their people
Gen. 45:9-11 --------------------John 14:2,3

39. both multiplied bread
Gen. 41:49 -------------------- Matt. 15:37

40. Joseph gave bread for life – Jesus IS the bread of life
Gen. 41:57 --------------------John 6:35

41. both provided salvation
Gen. 42:2 --------------------John 3:16

42. both were rulers
Gen. 45:8 --------------------Matt.2:6

43. both suffered unjustly
Gen.42:21,Ps.105:18 --------------------Is. 53:5

44. both were buried with the rich
Gen. 50:26 --------------------Is.53:9, John 19:38-42

45. neither remained in their grave
Ex. 13:19 - John 21:14

46. both prophesied of things to come
Gen. 40:12,13 --------------------Matt. 24:24,25

47. both in recognizing their ‘mission’ were reprimanded by their parents
Gen. 37:10 --------------------Luke 2:48

48. both were shepherds - feeding their 'flocks'
Gen. 37:2 --------------------John 10:14

49. both were stripped of their tunics
Gen. 37:23 --------------------Matt. 27:28

50. Joseph was in prison with two criminals , one was set free
Jesus was crucified with two criminals , one was set free
Gen. 40:2,3 --------------------Matt.27:38, Luke 23:42,43

51. both prophesied concerning themselves – their future
Gen. 37:9 --------------------John 2:9

52. both were tested by God
Psalm 105:19----------------- Luke 4:1

53. both had a 'special' cup to drink from
Gen. 42:2...............................Matt. 20:22

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Enoch - a Man of Few Words

There is a man in the Old Testament that has always fascinated me.
There is very little said about him but what is said begs our attention.

The man’s name is Enoch and we read about him in a few short verses in Genesis 5:19-14.

We are given very few facts about his life.
We are told his father’ name was Jared.
We are told that Enoch was 65 years old when his first born son was born. This son was Methuselah who is remembered to this day for his long life...969 years.
We are told that Enoch had other sons and daughters but we are not given their names.
We are told that Enoch’s sojourn on earth was a total of 365 years.

Not a lot of information as to what kind of a life he lived or what he did,
but there are two more pieces of added detail that make this man intriguing.

It says that Enoch walked with God for 300 years.

Reading between the lines we realize that something must have happened when Enoch was 65 that changed his life. All we know that happened that year is that he became a father. Could it be that becoming a father was such an incredible experience to him that his thoughts and mind turned to God? We don’t know …we just know from that year forward to the day he left this earth he walked with God.

Then we are given the amazing fact that one day God simply ‘took him’ and he was never seen again - he vanished off the face of this earth.

Can you imagine the confusion and alarm in his household when he does not come home at the expected time?
I imagine the servants would have been sent out to look for him and though they searched long and hard, they found no sign of their master.
He had simply disappeared.
When the servants finally returned empty handed …I would think his children would have gone out themselves to look for him, following familiar pathways, looking for him in all his favourite places.
How long would it have taken them to realize that God had taken their husband, father and grandfather? Did they grieve or were they simply in awe?

Did they think about what had made their father different? Did they talk about how Enoch had 'walked with God' ?

We are given one further clue about Enoch in the New Testament.

“By faith Enoch was translated so that he did not see death and was not found because God had translated him for before his translation he had this testimony that he pleased God.” (Heb.11:5)

Aww… here we are told why God took Enoch….it was because of Enoch’s faith in God.
Enoch was known as a man who trusted God.
It was his unfailing trust in God that pleased God so much he ‘took him’ -- translated him from the dimension of this world to the dimension of the world beyond --- without Enoch ever tasting death.
I think about Enoch walking with God every day ...every day more precious than the day before...and one day God just says, "I'm just going to take you home with me today."
Because of Enoch's faith??

Hebrews 11:6 says “Without faith it is impossible to please God…”

There is only one thing we can give God that pleases Him… our trust in Him.
The more we trust Him the more we walk with Him… the more we walk with Him the more we trust Him… the more we trust Him…the more we please Him in all we do.

Trust comes with knowing someone …. How did Enoch learn to know God?
Did he meet someone who knew someone who had known Adam and Eve?
Or did he read the evidence in creation (Rom 2:20) and learn to know the character of God and His trustworthiness?
Did he look at his own son and feeling the tenderness and love in his heart realize that God had to be even more tender-hearted and full of love toward His children?
I wonder …what were his life circumstances, his daily trials that tested his trust in God - and yet could not shake him?

Enoch – a man about whom we have recorded only a few words, and not one word that he himself spoke ….but oh… what an example he has set before us.

To trust God, to please God, to walk with God.

What higher aspiration could we possible have???

Monday, November 12, 2007

Lest We Forget

Remembrance Day, a holiday in Canada today.
The words that come to mind on this day are the words that have come to be recognized as the words that symbolize everything this day stands for.

Lest we Forget !

Would it surprise you to know that God authored those words many, many years ago?

In Deut. 4 Moses says, “Now , O Israel , Listen….”
He is reminding God’s people of all that that has been given them – the privelges they enjoy because of the Lord their God.
He exclaims in vs. 7 and 8…….

“What great nation is there that has God so near to it as the Lord our God is to us for whatsoever reason we may call upon Him? And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day? “

Then he warns them “Only take heed to yourself and diligently keep yourself…..
He reminds them in vs. 9 to remember the things they have seen, the things that they have experienced and to remember to pass on their memories to their children and their grandchildren.

"Lest you forget !!!” (4:9)

He warns them of the dangers that will come upon them if they forget the covenant of their God and they begin to serve other gods.
He warns them that when their children and grandchildren grow old in the land and they have forgotten the law of their God and made for themselves other gods…then they will provoke God to wrath.
Again he says….

“ Lest you forget!!!” (4:23)

He warns them again in 6:12 , to remember that it was their God. that brought them out of bondage into freedom. And he reminds them to make sure that they teach their children that it was God who gave them the wealth and freedom that they enjoy. “

“Lest you forget !!” (6:12)

So today, on Remembrance Day… Let us not Forget ! …. to whom we owe our allegiance and our gratitude and our thanksgiving and our worship… and let us not forget to teach our children and our grandchildren what a great God we serve !!!

“Lest we forget !!”

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Earth-side Views

Sometimes things happen that are unexpected.
Things that turn our world upside down.
That make us wonder if life will ever be the same again.
Things that cause agony of soul and mind.
Things that are difficult to accept and make us cry “Why?”

But I believe every heart wrenching “Why?” needs to be answered with Moses’ words…”Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen 18:25)

Of course! God makes no mistakes. He is ever seeking the best for His children.
Bottom line…. No matter what…. We can trust Him in every situation, no matter how dark it looks from our earth-side view.

Sometimes we are given a glimpse of Him working through or in a very difficult life situation and we need to tuck these glimpses into our heart and let them be seeds that grow into a harvest of trust in our Father God !

Let me share one of my glimpses.

I have a friend. named*Sherrie.
She grew up with a mother who was distant and rather cold. I was always very uncomfortable in her company.
Sherrie tried all her life to please her mother but never felt she even came close.

Then her mother began to show signs of Alzheimer’s and was eventually positively diagnosed.
It was like a death blow at first as I am sure it is for all families who have to deal with the ‘mental’ loss of a loved one.
Sherrie struggled with the changes that had to be made and to learn what she could of this horrific disease. She had to try to deal with the unusual behaviours of her mother and even the practical aspects of simply ensuring her safety and finally having to find a home for her that would give compassionate care.

But then Sherrie noticed something happening.
Their relationship began to change.
One day Sherrie commented to me in amazement, “I finally have the mother that I have always wanted.”
When the disease robbed Sherrie’s mother of most of her memory, it seems she ‘forgot’ what had made her so hard and bitter all her life and she became the most gentle, caring soul.
She began to trust Sherrie and cling to her as the only stable thing in her life.
To the very end she always recognized Sherrie - even when she recognized no one else.

One weekend I travelled with Sherrie and her mother to a family event some hours drive away. I went with them to stay with Sherrie’s mother when she needed rest and Sherrie could not be there.
At one point I was walking Sherrie’s mother back to our hotel room, and she was struggling to grasp where she was and why.
Even five minutes she would ask, “And who are you?” I would reply that I was Sherrie’s friend and Sherrie had asked me to take care of her. “Oh, good, “was her repeated and relieved reply, “If Sherrie knows, then it is good.”
She also kept asking where we were going… she didn’t remember the hotel room she had left a short time ago.
Finally, we got back and I was feeling such compassion for her mental struggle to make sense of what was going on. I opened the door to our room and said, “There we are back... Now you can rest…you don’t have to think anymore.”
Sherrie’s mother had always had a keen sense of humour and even Alzheimer’s could not rob her of it. She replied dryly, “Good, because I have nothing left to think with!”

On the drive back home we stopped to do a little window shopping in a quaint little town. Sherrie and her mom were very fast walkers and I was usually a few feet behind, struggling to keep up.
We had to cross a street at one point and half way across Sherrie’s mother suddenly stopped and asked, her voice full of alarm, “Where is Julie?”
This woman who could not remember my name…who asked every five minutes why I was there …. In a flash moment of compassion expressed a concern for my safely, remembering even my name. It was gone again in the next minute, but I remember the ‘gift’ she gave me in that moment.
To show compassion or express concern was totally uncharacteristic of her throughout her life. But in her last years Alzheimer’s freed a side of her that no one ever guessed was there.

Sherrie called me when her mother was dying and we stood together at her bedside when the Lord called her home. It was a beautiful and treasured experience.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Out of Silence

Joseph and the good times in Egypt were distant memories.
A story told to children at bedtime.
Life had been reduced to repetitive, back breaking slave labour.
Making endless bricks from morning until night, day after day under the burning hot sun.
Life had lost its joy and its meaning.
Even their God had turned His face away from them.
Their cries were met with silence.
Futility had settled into their souls.
Generation after generation nothing changed.
400 years has passed since their God has last spoken
400 years of silence.

Then suddenly, the heavens opened! God responded to their cries and raised up Moses, their deliverer !!
God’s voice was once again heard ! He took them out of Egypt, out of bondage, drowned their enemy in the sea !!
He set them free !! Free ! They had forgotten what it felt like.
Oh the rejoicing, the celebrating that now filled their days.
Then wonder adding to wonder Moses told them that they were going to build a tabernacle – a dwelling place for God.
The God who had been silent for 400 years was now going to dwell among them ??
How eagerly they gathered together what they would need to build the tabernacle. Everything Moses called for the people brought, joyfully and willingly until they had to be told to stop – there was more than enough to build God’s house.

But time went on and people forgot ! How short is man’s memory.
Once again , man chose bondage over freedom , sin over righteousness and their own gods over the One who dwelt among them.

And once again God turned His face away and stopped speaking to them.
For another 400 years.

Then God raised up John the Baptist who called the people back to repentance….and He raised up His own Son to set His people free.
To take them out of bondage, out of the grasp of the Enemy and into His sweet Presence.
Again God said, “I will dwell among you !”
John 1:14 “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory and the glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth.”

And again, God wanted a tabernacle built for Him to live in. This time , not of physical materials but out of flesh – His believers, His own children – the called-out ones out of Egypt.
“In whom you also are builded together for a habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22)

Though we are builded together, as many members, into the ‘body’ of Christ we are also individually a temple of God’s Spirit. (Rom.12:5, I Cor. 6:15)

You and I are clay vessels into whom God has poured His Spirit.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us.” (II Cor. 4:7)

Are you aware of the treasure you carry within you ?
Do you share it with those around you?
Do you honour God in how you keep His taberncle? Is it a place worthy to be the dwelling place of the Most High?
Are you still celebrating with joy the fact that God broke His silence to speak through His Son?
Do you hear His voice? Are you eagerly listening for it ? With a heart soft toward obedience?