Friday, July 25, 2008

The Thought That Counts

It's the thought that counts!

How often we hear that phrase or laughingly pass it over our own lips.

The phrase echoed twice in my heart yesterday !

Earlier in the week, Vic and I passed a farmer’s corn stand beside the road and planned to stop there on our way home with the intent of enjoying corn on the cob for dinner.

Of course we forgot!!

So yesterday when I went shopping with my daughter , I asked her to stop on the way home so I could buy some of the corn.
Late afternoon, my husband called me to say he was leaving work…. Did I need anything from the store? I told him I had been to the grocery store but didn’t find any good oranges and would love some. He said he’d stop and buy some.
I happened to be outside when he came home within the hour. He opened the car door and said.. “What was I supposed to bring?”
I answered with a smile , “Oranges.”
He groaned and replied, “Well, I brought corn!!”

Seeing I now had a goodly supply of freshly picked corn cobs I decided to run some over to my friend across the street.
I told her my corn story and she laughed and told me a story in return.
That morning she had awakened and found that her husband had left early for work without their customary good bye kiss. She text messaged him reprimanding him for leaving without so much as a good bye or a kiss !!
He texted back…”But I took out the garbage!”

It’s the thought that counts! We are so quick to say it , but are we so quick to receive it?

Do we stop long enough when someone misses the mark we set for them to consider that what was in their heart was everything we could hope for ?

Aren’t you glad that God does not judge us on our failures? Or even on our successes ?

No, with Him it is always the thought that counts. He judges the heart.

That is a blessed thing if our hearts are right before Him, but if we think we can hide from Him what the thoughts and intentions of our heart are … there is no where to hide.

King David wisely admonished his son Solomon to serve God with a loyal heart and a willing mind. As long as he did, the Lord would always be with him.

Then with fatherly wisdom - gleaned from his own experience - he warned Solomon that there was no point in trying to hide anything from God because… “ …the LORD searches all hearts and understands all the intent of the thoughts..” (I Chron.28:9)

As King David had learned, to know that with God it is the thought that counts, is either a man's comfort or his fear.


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Is It Nothing to You ?

We a had a friend named Clyde who died of a sudden heart attack several years ago as he stood whistling at his work bench.
Clyde was born and raised in India and while his family was not Christian he was sent to the British school to get a better education.

He told of a large painting that hung in a prominent place in the corridor of the school building. Every day he walked past that painting, and always his eyes were drawn to it.

It was a painting of Jesus ..... and underneath were the words....
"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?"
Poignant words from Lam. 1:12

Clyde said that those words tugged at his heart until he could ignore them no longer and he declared "No, it is NOT nothing to me... I accept the sacrifice of Jesus for me ! I want to follow Him!"

The words from Lamentations often flash across my mind..

When I see people rushing about so encumbered with the cares of this world.
When I see the carelessness of people concerned with petty things.
When I hear Jesus' name so disrespectfully used.

When I see a cross hanging from a gold chain around some one's neck, I have learned not to take for granted that they are wearing it to declare their faith. I will often ask, "Does your cross mean anything to you ?" Often the answer is "No, its just something I like the shape of." Sometimes the eyes light up at the question and the answer is in the affirmative.

Perhaps you stumbled on this post and have never considered what Jesus did for you. He was God, yet He humbled Himself to take on human flesh and walk this earth as a Man. He lay down His life, suffering the death of a common criminal. It was YOUR sin that put Him there... His love for you that held Him there !
Is it nothing to you ? Do you simply pass by?

Perhaps you have been a Christian all your life, and Jesus' sacrifice - His cross - has become 'common place' to you. Something you take for granted.
Can you go through your day and never once look up in thanksgiving? Has it become nothing to you also? Do you leave Him standing at your door knocking as you pass by, busy with the things of your day?

Jesus stands with His arms outstretched in love to you ... wanting you to know Him, wanting to be the most important Person in your life... How often does He speak and you turn away ? How often do you simply not hear ?

"Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?"


Saturday, July 19, 2008

Under New Management

In my travels yesterday, I passed a restaurant that had a huge sign outside announcing,

“Under New Management!”

I was not familiar with the old , therefore I had no reference point on which to judge the new.
But I wondered…….. What changes would come to the ‘under new management’ restaurant?
Would the d├ęcor change? The atmosphere? The staff? The service? The food menu? The presentation? The prices?

And as I was thinking there flashed through my mind the analogy to a human life… “Under new Management”.

I thought of Mary Magdalene, a friend of Jesus when He physically walked this earth.
We don’t know a lot about her… but we can easily read between the lines.
She belonged to a well-known, financially secure family in Bethany. She had a brother named Lazarus and a sister named Martha.

We are not told what went wrong in her life, what caused her to become involved with the darkness to the point where she was possessed with seven demons. We know her past only because of one small inserted detail in reference to her - “out of whom came seven demons”. (Luke 8:2)

We can only imagine what her early life was like - what horrors of torment seven demons possessing her body would have inflicted upon her. Did they drive her from her home or did Lazarus and Martha try to keep her hidden. How did Mary -and her family- deal with the shame and fear and evil that ruled her life?

Then came the day that Mary met Jesus ! A glorious day in which a few authoritative words from Jesus set her marvellously free !! She was suddenly “Under new management” !!
And what a difference it made.

We see Mary among those who followed Jesus as He went from every city to every village teaching about the kingdom of God. (Luke 8:1,2)

We see Mary taking a pound of very costly oil of spikenard anointing the feet of Jesus and wiping his feet with her hair ….filling the house with fragrance. When Judas Iscariot expressed his annoyance that the oil had not been sold and giving to the poor, Jesus , knowing he was a thief , rebuked him saying…. “Let her alone.” (John 12:7)

We see Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus drinking in every word He spoke, oblivious to the practical needs of the guests in her home. When her sister Martha complained that Mary was not helping her…. Jesus gently rebuked Martha . He acknowledged that Martha was troubling herself with much serving, but praised Mary for having chosen the good part that would not be taken away from her. (Luke 10:42)

We also see Mary at the crucifixion scene ….watching from afar. (Matt. 27:55,56) Was she watching from afar because her heart was breaking to the point she could not bear to watch and yet could not walk away?

We also see Mary watching to see where they laid Him … so that the next morning she and other women could return to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared for His body.
Mark carefully records that it was Mary Magdalene who was the first to see Jesus after His resurrection , and she was the one to told the others. ( Mark 16:9)

‘Under new management’ for Mary meant the difference between life and death… between being ruled by darkness or blessed by Light….. being hated or being loved !
Jesus said “He who is forgiven much ,loves much!” We see this truth reflected in the life of Mary. She loved Jesus with a whole heart and basked in His love for her. Her life had but one focus… to be close to the One who spoke words of love and life and freedom.

You and I also have experienced coming ‘under new management’ when we passed from from the kingdom of the evil one to the Kingdom of God.
When we were born again our lives were gloriously changed because now we are under the ‘management’ of the Holy Spirit. Are we like Mary ? Are we so filled with gratitude and love toward the One who has freed us to live in the glory of His love and light that we care for little else ?

Do we “walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God? “ (Col. 1:10)
Do we continually “give thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light?” (Col. 1:12)

Have you been thankful today that you no longer serve the god of this world.. but that you are "under new management" ? Grateful that “He has delivered (you) from the power of darkness and translated (you) into the kingdom of the Son of His love” ? (Col.1:13)

And do people notice under whose 'management' you are ?


Friday, July 11, 2008

Secret of Contentment

I love the old Amish saying ... "Too soon old and too late smart!"
It is true , isn't it ? We learn best by experience and experience takes time.

One of the things I have learned is that it is the simple pleasures of the day that fill my heart with contentment and love toward God.
And is it not true that when we have come to the place in our lives where we take the time to 'stop and smell the roses' we have come to the place where contentment dwells.

The simple things that gave me pleasure today are .....
the little wild bunny outside my window.....
The Robin going about his Creator's business - keeping the earth's 'population' of bugs and worms under control !

I watch him. He is already busy early morning and works until dark at night .

I observered and learned from him.
Distractions hardly disturb his concentration on the task at hand.
He listens, eagerly , his head cocked.... and then bounces over to grab the grub that unfortunately made some discernable sound.

I also noticed that his pleasure never diminishes as he goes about his work. Each time the sound of a bug or worm triggers the quick reaction of his beak, it is like the first time !

I have also marveled at his seemingly endless energy . He never loses that look of being completely engaged in his activity and couldn't think of a thing he'd rather be doing.

The Robin taught me a lesson today...... Am I so engaged in my Father's business that distractions hardly disturb me? Am I so eager to do His will that I can't think of anything I would rather be doing? Am I tireless in my pursuit of Him ?

Then I took pleasure in this Klamath Weed (I think hardly apropriately named) that I found growing beside the gravel back alley that I walk along to my daughter's house. It's beauty caught my eye though it was growing at the edge of a neglected, overgrown garden.

We sometimes grow weary, do we not? And wonder if there is a purpose in our being planted where we are? All around us is pain and sorrow and heartache and trouble. But what an opportunity to show the love and glory of our Lord in contrast.

And I was amazed at the large fuchia bud in my hanging basket !!

How beautiful and varied are the wonders of God's creation.
Has our great and wonderful God not given us so much to enjoy and treasure and learn from ?
What did you notice in His world today ?

Psa 69:30 "I will praise the name of God with a song, And will magnify Him with thanksgiving."

Monday, July 7, 2008

Fear of the Unchangeable

How often something in a book will grab your emotions and not let go. That part of the book is stored in your memory bank and the emotions are easily pulled up again when you encounter a memory trigger.
I remember one such book I read as a child.

It was a story about a young boy growing up on a large farm. He was a gentle, sensitive boy, but rather a disappointment to his ‘manly’ father. I remember the father as a hard, almost cruel man…. OK.. in my child’s mind he WAS cruel and I so felt the boy’s pain that he could not measure up to his father’s expectations.
His father owned a large sheep farm and the boy so wanted a lamb for his very own pet. But his father had no use for pets and said to raise a lamb as a pet was a waste of a good animal. Even his mother’s intervention could not move the father’s cold decision.
Then one day the father called his son before he left for school and curtly asked the boy if he still wanted a lamb.
The boy’s heart leaped in hope as he answered in the affirmative. “Well,” said the father as he got dressed to go out, “a ewe gave birth somewhere in the woods and I have no time to look for the lamb. If you go find it you can have it .”
The boy’s heart dropped… “But it will be dark by the time I get home from school. Could I not wait until tomorrow, its Saturday.”
“The lamb will be dead by then,” answered his father shortly, then gave him a sharp glance. “You aren’t afraid of the dark, are you?”
The boy gulped… it was his greatest fear.

His heart wrenched …. How much he wanted the little lamb but the fear of the dark woods was so strong he could taste it.

Finally the day was over and he came home from school, still wavering between his fear of the dark and his fear of the lamb dying or eaten by a wild animal before he could find it.

In the end he faced his fear of the dark and found the lamb, its weak bleating guiding him to it. He brought the lamb home earning his father’s unspoken approval.

Pictured in this child’s story in a very profound truth.

We all have fears… and it has been truthfully stated that fear is the greatest motivator of obedience. We obey that which we fear and we fear most to disobey that which is unchangeable.

The boy’s fear of the dark was strong , but it was fear of the unknown – the unknown is changeable.
His fear of the lamb dying was stronger because it involved an unchangeable truth. The lamb alone in the woods could not survive, and if it died so also died his dream of a pet lamb. His greater fear demanded obedience over the lesser fear.

Fear and obedience go together. Not many people disobey the laws of fire. ‘Hot’ is one of the first warnings taught to young children. It is important to understand the characteristics of that which is unchangeable. Not understanding can be the difference between life and death.

We are commanded to “Fear God.” (I Pe.2:17)
He is unchanging … "For I am the LORD, I do not change.” (Mal.3;6)

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.” (Ps. 111:10)

When Abraham raised his knife in obedience to kill his own son God spoke to him and said, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Gen. 22:12)

What did God mean? By Abraham’s obedience to God to the extent of being willing to sacrifice his only son… he showed whom he feared more than anyone else… and it was God’s unchanging character that he feared - but also trusted !

It has been said , “The man who fears to disobey God , fears no man.”
Man is changeable…. God is not !
The consequences of a lifestyle of disobedience to God are sure… there will be no reprieve…. But those who fear God and obey Him, are secure in His love !

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What are you Holding?

Except for a very few years of my life, my calendar planning has always been governed by the rhythm of the school year.
Since my daughter and son-in-love are both teachers and my two granddaughters are both in school, there is no way of getting around it – so much of what we plan and what we do depends on school scheduling , whether it is a Pro-D Day (day off for kids- professional day for teachers) spring break, Christmas break or SUMMER HOLIDAYS.

It is again summer holidays.

Immediately, what comes to mind are long, sun drenched days when people plan vacations, lazy days at the beach or the lake, camping , outdoor activites - whatever is the pleasure of choice. Beautiful memories are built and treasured around summer holidays !

But !
With the summer fun I see good things set aside. I see churches emptying, bible studies, prayer meetings, Sunday School put on summer hold.

I’m really NOT suggesting people should not withdraw from day to day activities to refresh, renew and spend valuable time with family or friends. We all need that to stay strong in body, mind and soul and in our relationships.
But I remember when churches first began to accommodate people's shift in focus in the summer and gave up trying to keep Sunday School and church programs going. I remember being so puzzled as a child -- and asking "Is God not important in the summertime?"

As I thought about this recently, the first verse from I John came to mind and it pictured for me the different ways people relate to God and how major a role He plays in their lives.

The first line of the verse is “That which was from the beginning”
How many people never go beyond this realization. They are vaguely aware that somewhere there was a beginning.. and acknowledge that God was there… but there is little conscious effort of going beyond that point.
The people in Noah’s time would fit here. Self-indulgence and pleasure for the moment had long removed any thought of God beyond the very distant “once upon a time” concept of Him.

The next line says “that which we have heard”
There are those who have heard of God, who know Him through the words of others. These people relate to God from a distance, doing the religious things as a duty or habit but never experiencing a personal relationship.
Job , before he was tested, was one of these kind of people - by his own admission.
Job 42:5 "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear…”

The verse continues with “That which we have seen with our eyes”
God is coming closer into ‘personal’ view. We have all watched our young children busy at play. We call and we know they hear us …but their eyes and attention remain focused on their play. We call them by name, “Johnny, LOOK at me!”
We are far more attentive to what we are hearing AND seeing !
Job moved to this level after God said, “Look at me, Job!” and Job looked and listened and exclaimed… "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear…But now my eye sees You.”

Do we stay there or do we follow the progression of I John 1:1 ? The next step is “That which we have looked upon!”
Do you see? Something happens between “seeing” and “looking upon”. There is a getting up from where we were and walking over to take a closer look.
We are now engaged mind and emotion….examining …. Interested!!
Perhaps we could use Zacchaeus as an example here. He quite literally was not content to see Jesus from afar. He climbed up a tree so that he could get a good look… quite literally “to look upon” Jesus. He felt the stirring in his heart that this was no ordinary man !

Then comes the last step ! “and our hands have handled”
We have now reached out and taken something. It is in our hands!! We are hearing, seeing , touching , feeling – other things have been put down, forgotten – what is in our hands is most important. This is where relationship happens, as Zacchaeus found out. To his delight, Jesus looked up and I’m sure with a smile that melted Zaccaeus’s heart, said, “Come down, Zaccaeus, I must come to your house today and sit at your table.”

That is where I want to be! No matter how busy my life is , how much joy God’s world gives me , I want to keep Him in my hands and heart…. I want to give Him first place…. I want Him to know that He is always welcome at my table.

The verse ends with defining the subject…. "The Word of Life"…. The Word of God made life for us --- Jesus!
How much time will you give Him this summer ?