Monday, May 20, 2019

When Times Were Good !

Have you ever wished you could go back in time when everything was 'better' ?  When your life was comfortable and you were happy and the future looked bright ?   Before your life fell apart? Before pain and suffering and tragedy changed everything ?

You are not alone.  I think most of us have been there at one time or another.
I was reading in Job yesterday  and realized that this is exactly what Job is wishing for in Chapter 29 of his book.

Look at his opening cry .  "Ohh I wish I were back where I used to be when times were so good!"

And he reminisces , listing all the things that defined him and his life - in the 'good old days'.

God was good, God was His trusted provider, protector, friendly Counselor. 
Job's children were all around him, his well-being was like cream under his feet. Even the rocks poured out affluence before him. 
He was respected everywhere he went.  The younger men did not dare show their faces  when Job sat at the gate - the older men stood to honor him, even the princes deferred to him. 
When Job opened his mouth and spoke, it blessed everyone who heard, and everyone marveled at the wisdom of his words. 
His righteousness was the standard to look up to. His judgments were just and true
He made God the most important focus in his life -  he lived by every word from His mouth. In fact it was more important to him than food (Job23:12).
Job was known for his philanthropy. His care for the poor, the blind and the lame was legendary.
He searched out the victims and freed them from the wicked who mistreated them.
He was secure, he was blessed beyond measure, he lived as a King. His God was with him.  Life was good and it could only get better - until the day he died ! 
Or .. so he believed.
We have all experienced it.   One morning begins as any other and we are totally unaware how drastically our life will change before the day ends. 
What a shock it must have been to Job when everything he thought was unshakable was shattered.  The loss of his servants, his flocks, his children, his health.   He fell from being the most respected to the most abhorred.  Even his wife saw only a hopelessly dark future.."curse God and die" was her advice. His friends accused him, "it must be your fault!"

What if Job had never been tested by God ?   What if Job's life had ended as it began?  Would we even know about him?  Perhaps not, except as a footnote in our bible as the example of  a perfectly blessed man.  What would we then have drawn from his life?  Proof that if we live godly lives we will be blessed and protected from all tribulations or life-sorrows?   
Then when hardships come, as they do to all of us, would we have been so shaken in our faith that we are left believing that we have been rejected by God?

Do you think Job was aware as he sat in sackcloth and ashes scraping his sores and mourning the death of his children that he was living out an example that would make his name a byword familiar on lips thousands of years later?
Would he have had any idea that the worst of his life was the best of his life if measured in terms of harvest value?   "Except a seed falls to the ground and dies... "

Job is our comfort when trials come our way.  Instead of letting our faith be shaken, our faith is our anchor. It will carry us through.  Look at Job's words -  interjected into his cries of despair  
 "But He knows the way that I take - 
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold!" (Job 23:10)

Are Job's words  echoed in I Peter 1:7 .... 

"In this you greatly rejoice, 
though now for a little while, if need be, 
you have been grieved by various trials
 that the genuineness of your faith , 
being much more precious than gold that perishes, 
though it is tested by fire, 
may be found to praise, honor and glory 
at the revelation of Jesus Christ,"

Friday, May 10, 2019

How Stupid are We ?

boy and girl answering questions on white paper
 "Let me help you"

I was reading Isaiah 28 and was captured by the words and thoughts of God expressed in verses 23-29.
My husband and I over breakfast talked about the gifting some people have - amazing abilities to play musical instruments or have some outstanding gifting in the field of art or science.

But reading this passage it made me realize that our tendency to compare ourselves unfavorably with those who seem 'divinely' gifted, is  really wrong.  Every one of us is divinely enabled and gifted to do life in our own uniquely designed way.

God speaks almost in a condescending sarcasm to bring this point home to us .  Sometimes that is the only way 'we get it' , isn't it ?

God says, "Listen to me .. lend me your ear ... hear what I am saying ... " 
When God repeats something three times , it must be important, - we need to pay attention!

God says, "The farmer that wants to plant seed, is he so stupid that he just keeps on plowing without knowing when to stop? Does he just keep turning the soil over and over ?" The obvious answer is 'no'.
God points out that the farmer knows when the soil is ready for the seed, and then he spreads the seed ,  each kind of seed in its 'appointed' place. A field of cummin, a field of wheat, a field of barley or a field of rye.
Everything done in a right order.
So how does man know to do this?   Is it not because God Himself gave him the enabling gift that itself teaches him?

God's goes on to point out the skills the farmer uses to harvest his crop. Does he thresh the black cummin with a threshing sledge?  No, of course not. It would be s stupid farmer who did not use the right instrument or tool  for the job needing to be done. 

I wonder ....  do you think that when we try to emulate someone else, when we try to copy what we admire in someone else, that we are, like the farmer using the wrong tool for the job?   Is that why we so often feel like we just don't measure up ?   Why we feel we are so 'less than' or we feel so inept at doing life and cannot find that satisfying place of worth?

We are so prone to value only the 'big' things --  monetary wealth, movie star fame,  CEO of a company, someone with university degrees,  a violin virtuoso ...  or a well-known musician or singer,  a brain surgeon, or scientist.
But if you examine anyone who fits in that list you will soon find that no one could ever reach the pinnacle of achievement or fame  without a whole lot of help from people who have other gifts and abilities.
Take for example the violin virtuoso,  what did they need to become who they are?
 A limited list would include,

  • a God-given gift 
  • someone skilled in crafting the instrument
  • care-givers who recognized and encouraged their gift, who made room for it by providing the finances needed 
  • teachers 
  • merchants who provided the necessities of life -- food, clothing etc.  - which of course includes the farmers, labourers, manufacturers who provide the merchants 
  • concert venues -- people who organize them 
  • people to provide means of travel to said concert invitations  and accommodation 
  • reporters, journalists who talk about their gift/ability to create awareness 
  • people who enjoy and attend their concerts or buy their recordings
I'm sure you get the picture  ...  No man is an island, and no person stands alone. No one is unimportant. - no one unneeded. 
I believe that only doing what God has gifted and enabled you to do will give you the satisfaction and contentment with life that everyone seeks.   If God calls you to be a bricklayer, you will  be much happier being the best bricklayer you can be than trying to fit yourself into the role of a real estate agent or banker or wishing you could have been a world famous surgeon.  

The bible is full of character stories - men and women and children - rich, poor, Jew, Gentile, righteous or not ... Yet looking at each of their stories we see how they either fulfilled God's purpose for them, or what happened when they decided to define their own purpose.  In every case only following God's purpose allowed  them to achieve their highest fulfillment!  

I love Wednesday mornings in our church -- when the women of Morning Break come together for fellowship, bible study and prayer.   We always enjoy coffee and goodies.  Behind the scenes, there is a young woman who every week gathers up the dirty cups and dishes and washes them  and puts them away.   No one really pays any attention to her service but if she didn't do it , we would soon not be able to enjoy our coffee and goodies because everything would be a dirty mess.   I love to go out of my way to thank the ones who do the behind the scenes ministries that are so important but too easily ignored.  
I wonder if that isn't how God looks down on us ... Does He seek out those that serve Him in little ways that no one notices ?  I believe He does !  On judgment day we are going to see what God meant by "the last shall be first"!!   Those who quietly served here will be openly rewarded there ... 

And so they should be , should they not?