Saturday, December 13, 2014

When Your Strength is Sapped

"The Lord will judge his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone."
Deuteronomy 32:36

     Have you ever been at your wit's end? The arsenal's empty, the shelves are bare, your resources are depleted entirely. You've exhausted your efforts and yourself in the process.

     When my youngest was little, she desperately wanted to learn to ride her bike sans training wheels. Since I was home most often with her, the task fell to me. Crippled over like Rumplestiltskin, I went up the sidewalk and down the sidewalk, holding bike and child erect, until I could go no more. My exasperated daughter threw her bike down and declared, "I'm never going to learn how to ride this bike!"

     Her dad came home from work and, after hearing our sad story, tried the task once with her and she caught on!

     The Lord, I believe, waits until we are at the end of our rope to show us that His rope has no end. It is when we have thrown up our hands in despair that His hands can take over.

     Give Him the praise and glory He so deserves for we worship a loving, compassionate God who is slow to anger and abiding in love. When your strength is gone, He will carry you.

Killing With Kindness

"Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.'"
Romans 12: 19 & 20

     Being a follower of Christ is hardest when we have to lay aside our natural responses to things of this world. It makes us sputter in unconsummated rage and feelings of injustice.

     A person whom your daughter "loves" flies into a rage and leaves bruises on her neck and arms. How do you feel? How should you react? "Who does he think he is?" you fume, "How dare he do this to MY child!" A natural response, yes? And yet we are told in the verses above, essentially, to kill him with kindness. Instead of throttling this person, you are to invite him to dinner.
   
     The Bible says this will be like heaping burning coals on his head. I imagine that to mean he will be cloaked in shame - and so he should be. Even your enemies are afforded God's loving mercy. Even in their clouded eleventh hour, God hopes the errant person will be won over by Christian love. If God can love this enemy, so should I.

     Even Jesus did not retaliate against his executioners but was silent as a sheep awaiting slaughter. And He was innocent! We are not. "While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."

     Okay, so let's say you follow through and have this guy over for dinner; what's in it for you? The apostle Paul's verses in Romans are a quote from Proverbs 25: 21 & 22, but he omitted the ending: "...and the Lord will reward you." Pleasing God should be my agenda because it will have everlasting affect. Seeking revenge may feel good for the moment, but will ultimately cause more sin and grief.

     Father knows best. Listen to Him.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

A Worldwide Celebration

"Suddenly, a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.'"
Luke 2: 13, 14

     I was reading an advent devotional when this portion stood out:

     "The night Christ was born was the most monumental and awe-inspiring event in human history. God was revealed by his Son on earth so that we could learn from him and ultimately have eternal life through him. There has not been an event in history before or after
Christ's birth that resulted in so many people celebrating."
 
     Angels filled the night sky above the starstruck shepherds on that long ago night in Bethlehem. Excitedly, these lowly men became the very first witnesses who spread the word to anyone who had the wisdom to listen: The Messiah has arrived!
 
     Recently, my father died. It's so strange to me when I ponder the finality of his being gone! No longer do I hear his voice or see him in his recliner. His blue eyes are forever closed. Where did he go? It's all so mysterious! Where exactly is heaven? How did he get there? It's as if there is a great chasm fixed between God's home and ours.
 
     Here's where the celebration comes in: God, laying his glory aside, crossed over the chasm himself in the form of a baby so he could show us the way back. Almost like a Lewis and Clark expedition! Jesus traced out the trail, frankly telling us, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No man comes unto the Father except through me." (John 14:6) In my mind's eye, I can see him, wearing a khaki shirt and a pith helmet, hacking down overgrowth with a machete, looking over his shoulder to see if I am following safely. "C'mon! Follow me!" he says.
 
     Around the world, Christmas celebrations take place. When you see lights, trees and stars, join in the revelry. God is with us! Hurray!

Dare to be Different

"For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."
Philippians 2:21

     When I was a youngster in Sunday School, we'd always sing, "Come into my heart, Lord Jesus." As then, my prayer today is for him to take the wheel as I step aside, but this verse reminds me that my interests must follow. How do I spend my days? Do I use my gifts and abilities to honor him or do my thoughts only turn to him at mealtime or close of day?

     God is able to do so much more with me if I truly and totally surrender all. I don't want to be like everybody else, going his/her own way and placing their own interests above all else. I want to be different. I guess that's what is meant when God commands us to be holy as He is holy. Dare to be a unique creation in Christ, with the help of God.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Don't Sleep Through This

"O little town of Bethlehem,
How still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep,
The silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The Everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears
Of all the years
Are met in thee tonight."
     The little town of Bethlehem was packed to the gills with weary travelers that first Christmas night. Like Joseph and Mary, many came to be registered for the census. Busy with the cares of life, how many realized what miracle took place in the stable down the street? God came to earth in the vulnerable form of an infant, the long-awaited Messiah! The exuberant shepherds spread the word after they'd seen Jesus, anxious to share this great news. How many folks listened and allowed this news to change their lives? Or perhaps it was business as usual the next day.

     Christmas was the first coming of Christ; there will be a second one. "They will see the Son of Man coming on the cloud of the sky, with power and great glory...No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father...Therefore, keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." (Matthew 24: 30, 36, 42)

     We WILL see. Our Lord WILL come. Just as the first advent of Jesus was predicted and those prophecies came to perfect fruition, you can bet your bottom dollar these predictions of his powerful return will also come true. Wake up! Keep watch! Emulate the jubilant shepherds and spread the news. Don't sleep through this.

What's the Use?

"Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun...I know that everything God does will endure forever."
Ecclesiastes 2:11, 3:14

"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain."
Psalm 127:1

     What do I do with my hands? It would be less easier to list what I do NOT do with my hands! They are a blur of activity all day long! I make the bed, brush the teeth, prepare the meal, drive the car, run the vacuum. I would be unable to keep my job if I lost the use of my hands.

     But what am I really accomplishing that has lasting value? Tomorrow, the bed needs to be made again, the teeth need cleaning, more meals are demanded. What's the use?

     It's only when I weave my heart and soul into these daily activities that they take on an eternal glow. I can thank the good Lord that I have a bed, some teeth, a car, a job. Interaction with my co-workers, when rooted in love, can have lasting impact for the kingdom of God. Only then will the mundane become an investment.

     Let the Lord build your house and the foundation will be strong, the windows will gleam and you will find meaning in your days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

When Jesus is All That You Have, He's All That You Need

"Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?"
Genesis 41:38

     I got to thinking about Joseph, son of Jacob and Rachel of the Old Testament. He had a dream that he'd be a leader, one to whom even his family would bow. In jealous hatred, his brothers sold him to a band of traveling traders who took him to Egypt, where he became a slave. Falsely, he was accused of an adulterous act and thrown into prison for many years. Throughout all this, God is with him, granting him the ability to interpret dreams which eventually frees him and he becomes Prime Minister of Egypt.

     How did he stay strong in his faith? He's living in a heathen nation so there are no church dinners or Bible studies. In fact, there's not even a Bible yet since Moses, author of the first five books, has not been born yet. All Joseph has are his distant childhood memories and prayer. Yet, he thrives, even in prison.

     This demonstrates to me that the Spirit of God is:
  • powerful
  • consistent
  • faithful
     Perhaps you're in a place in your life where you're new to the area or unable to study your Bible or you're having trouble getting involved in a church. I am not downplaying the need for fellowship with other Christians or pouring over the Scriptures, but remember, you are never powerless, abandoned or alone as long as the Spirit dwells within you. His grace really is sufficient for ALL our needs.

     So, thrive! Live life abundantly. He is with you always, even to the end of the age.