Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Gift ? or Gag Gift?

Two identical gift bags. One contains a useful gift, the other a gag gift.

I have never met anyone who does not get excited over a free gift or a good deal!
We are happy to be able to buy what we want or need, but if we can get a bargain we are over the top excited and eager to tell someone!

Why is it such a universal trait to be excited about a good deal? 

I believe it is written in our DNA make-up.  God has pre-programmed us with certain 'helps' to make it easier for us to live a fulfilling and productive life - to live in the way He created us to live. Even something as simple as appetite, a love of food !  God didn't want us to forget to eat and starve to death.

That we place a  high value on things we get free or at a bargain is another example of those helpful tendencies God put in all of us. 
 So that we would be able to value the free gift of salvation! Salvation - a gift so valuable that not  one of us could  begin to pay for it, not even if we worked for an eternity.

Like all of God's gifts to us, our love for freebies or bargains can be an asset or it can be our downfall. 

I needed thread for my embroidery machine and I found a wonderful 'bargain' on Amazon.  I was able to order forty spools of good quality thread for $34.00 including shipping.   Had I bought the same amount of thread at my local fabric store it would have cost me close to $400.00.  Of course, I'm thrilled with my bargain.

My granddaughter's friend , a single mom, is struggling to make ends meet.  She met a nice young man on line and thought he was a gentleman and trustworthy.  He was a business man and gave her a glowing report of his success.   He made her a tempting offer.  He promised if she gave him a few thousand dollars he could in a matter of a couple of weeks double or triple it.  She borrowed the money to give him, and ....  yes, he took the money and was gone.  The 'gift' was not as free as it looked, nor was it a bargain.  Instead of making her life easier, it became harder.

A friend of mine, who recently lost her husband, told me of her granddaughter who had gone to see a medium.  The medium, who had never met girl,  looked at her and immediately put her hand over her heart and said ... "Ohh .. you have had a loss! and purple amethyst is important to you."  - the birthstone of her grandfather. And she went on to tell her her grandfather was fine and was very happy where he was.
The sympathy felt so sincere ,  the message so comforting ...   BUT was it a free gift?  or was a gag gift - a trick gift. How could she know?

Often gifts and gags look equally tempting and appealing.  How do we tell the difference? Sometimes experience or common sense will enable us to make a wise choice ... but other times, how do we know which ones to accept and which ones to turn away from ?

We need someone who knows what is in the 'bag' before we open it.
 And, thankfully,  we have Someone who does, don't we?

We have a God who sent His Spirit to dwell within us,  who guides us through the maze of life choices. A God who gives us the wisdom we need to see beyond the 'pretty wrapping' of any 'free gift' offer. A God who knows what is good and what will cause us harm. Do we sometimes turn His voice off , and then, too late realize we made a mistake?

We also  have God's Word that is our handbook of instruction - how we are to live in a confusing world and make sense of it.  God's Word will keep us on the straight path and keep our eyes and ears open to discern the enemy's temptations and recognize his lies.
Keeping our focus on the Lord, and His word in our hearts and minds, will keep us from opening 'gag-gift' bags and will keep us in the blessings of His abundantly good 'gifts'.

Monday, July 9, 2018

A Thai Cave Parable

There is an ongoing captivating news story that has held the the world's attention for the last two weeks.

In Thailand, twelve boys and their coach were trapped in the depths of a cave, one-half mile from the surface and a mile and a half from the cave entrance.
Though it was monsoon season and the coach knew that cave conditions could suddenly change, he chose to listen to a contrary opinion, a weather report that did not call for heavy rain, and he decided it was safe to take the boys caving -  a post-game outing.
Anticipating the fun of a short day-adventure, the boys entered the many-tunneled cave. That day the unexpected happened, a sudden downpour and a flash flood quickly flowed into the cave blocking the only exit from the cave.
They were trapped  with no way of escape . Being familiar with the cave, they used the light from flashlights - whose batteries would soon die, leaving them in total darkness -  to find a shelf where they were high enough to stay dry.
The world outside watched the desperate attempts, of many volunteers, to find them, hoping against hope to find them alive.  Finally,  on the tenth day of intense searching, two English divers located them.
Incredible relief and joyful cheers reverberated around the world !
 But their ordeal was not yet over. Getting them out was not an easy task. One solution under consideration was that the boys would have to wait up to four months until the rainy season was over and the water receded enough for them to be able to escape safely.  Thankfully, another way of escape was found to bring the boys out in days, rather then months. The boys were taught the skills they needed to learn, and taught how to wear the gear to allow them to breathe underwater as scuba divers guided them out. At this time of writing,  four boys and their coach are still in the cave awaiting their turn.

I tuned in daily, watching, prayerfully hoping the boys would be found and rejoiced when they were all thirteen shown to  be alive.
As I followed the story,  I realized that it portrayed a parable of our spiritual earthly life.

Adam and Eve knew God's warning, but they chose to listen to a contrary voice and their fall caused a tsunami of sin that blocked man's relationship with God.  The people of the world sat in darkness, on an earthly shelf that allowed a measure of protection, but they longed to be rescued, to be taken out of the darkness.

I can hardly imagine the boys relief and joy when they realized that FINALLY they had been found - their fading hope now a reality.  When they saw the light of their rescuers, it must have been the most welcome sight !
So too, finally, when hope was dim,  our Saviour came , and the Light shone in the darkness of this world.

   “The people who sat in darkness saw a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”  

Joy unspeakable filled the hearts of God's people.  The world was watching and the news of the miracle spread quickly.

Though there was great rejoicing that the boys were found, their situation was still a dangerous one - they were still trapped in the cave.
So also we - even though we are found, even though we are saved  - we are still trapped in our earth-cave and we are oft confronted with danger and persecution and trials.
We will have to wait until, finally, death opens the tunnel that will allow us to escape this earth  - and into the heavenly life we look forward to.

But consider ...   once the boys were found, though they were still in the cave,  everything changed. Light shone in the darkness - they could SEE !   Doctors came  to evaluate their medical needs, food was brought in to restore their strength and renew their starving bodies. Blankets were brought in to warm them.  They were no longer alone, whatever they needed was brought to them and they were able to communicate with those from the outside.
So also with us.  Though Jesus came to set us free, we remain here on earth.
But everything has changed.  We are no longer alone, Jesus has promised to never leave us or forsake us Everything we need He will provide.  We no longer sit in darkness - we can SEE !
We are being watched by those outside the kingdom … “a cloud of witnesses”  who are cheering us on.  Our relationship with God is restored and we can communicate with Him in loving relationship.

The boys needed to learn new skills -- otherwise they would not be able to be brought out. They needed to learn to swim and scuba dive and mentally prepare so they would not panic when they became disoriented in murky water. They needed to become familiar with the equipment that they needed to wear.  They needed to trust their guides.
We too need to learn new skills if we are to persevere through the challenges of this earthly life.
We must learn to renew our mind, to embrace a  new way of living.
We need to learn to follow, even  in difficult life situations where we cannot see through the murky doubts that assail us.  .
We need to learn to trust even when we are afraid.
We need to put on the armor of God so that we will be equipped and be found strong  when death opens the tunnel,  ready for Jesus to lift us from this earthly life into His glorious Presence, where there is no pain or suffering or death  - but joy and pleasure for ever and ever !