Monday, November 12, 2018

My Nice Brown Roll

 

[Cartoon of a mother giving a roll to your child]


“He makes grass grow for the cattle, and
plants for man to cultivate—bringing
forth food from the earth: wine that
gladdens the heart of man, oil to make his
face shine, and bread that sustains his heart.”
—Psalm 104:14-15

I still have one of my childhood books which didn’t get co-opted by my three younger siblings. The little stories were designed to teach children the attributes of God, and to teach them Christian behaviors.

The story I remember as my favorite from this book is titled, “Our Daily Bread.” The story tells about a little boy who thanks his mother for his nice brown roll. She rebukes him with the statement, “Don’t thank me, thank the miller.” When he runs to the miller, the miller tells him to thank the farmer. The farmer, in turn, sends the boy to thank the rain. The rain sends the boy to thank the sun. The sun sends the boy to thank God who made them. So, the little boy returns to the table and thanks God for his nice brown roll.1

As adults, we need these kind of reminders, too. We need to remember how God has made us dependent on Himself, as well as on other people and even the nature itself that God has created. If anything in the process fails its purpose, we would not have food to sustain us, and every other “good and perfect gift.” (James 1:17.)

God has created humans with specific abilities to to plant seeds, to harvest the crops, and to form businesses to process our foods. And, God provides the rain necessary to cause the crops to grow and enough sun to produce healthy foods. God has also created our bodies, which need the very good that He so graciously provides. Season after season, year after year, God’s hidden work blesses the soil, the seed, and the growth of our food.

Today, let me suggest that you pause for a moment, much as you might have done when learning this lesson as a child, and consider the magnificence of our loving, wonderful God who has made all things well. Thank Him for all the ways He sustains us and shows us His miraculous care.

______________________

1 Faris, Lillie. “Our Daily Bread.” Standard Bible Story Readers. Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Company, ©1925. p. 18.

 

 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Take By Force

 

[Graphic of a charging centurion]


“From the days of John the Baptist until now,
the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully
advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.”
—Matthew 11:12

Scripture gives us plenty of vivid examples of how Christians should persevere (Hebrews 10:36), how we must hold on to truth (1 John 2:20-21), and how we have been equipped with the armor for warfare against evil. (Ephesians 6).

Our theme verse at the beginning of this blog post urges us to seriously fight to advance in our life of faith. Often, when we talk about spiritual warfare, we have mental pictures of Christians duking it out with one another (Unfortunately, we can probably all cite examples of this!) However, the Scripture in Ephesians 6:11-12 tells us:

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

This battle we wage to forcefully take the Kingdom remains far too powerful for us alone. Christ has told us that we have the Holy Spirit within us to fight these battles in prayer against the forces of evil, for the Kingdom of Light, and for those who belong to it.

And, how do we pray with this kind of power? According to Ephesians 6:17, we take the “sword of the Spirit which is the word of God.” Praying portions from God’s written Word helps us forcefully take down the Enemy. In this Ephesians passage, the word “wrestle” occurs. Wrestling signifies perseverance and struggle.

In Genesis 32, we read the story of Jacob when he met God face to face. Jacob wrestled with Him all night long. This prevailing prayer allowed Jacob to receive the blessing of God and go on his way in victory.

All of us need the power in this present evil world to wrestle against sin and darkness, in our own lives, in the lives of our loved ones, in our churches, and in the greater culture. God wants us to forcefully claim the Kingdom He has purchased for us in His own battle against sin. Let us pray that we can take up the task and powerfully engage for Him.

 

 

Monday, October 29, 2018

Wedding Meal Tasting

 

[Photo of a couple at a food tasting]


“Blessed are those who are invited
to the wedding supper of the Lamb.”
—Revelation 19:9

Wow! I didn’t know just how involved it gets to sample and taste foods for a wedding dinner. In looking on the Internet, I found a large number of articles similar to the following:

  • “100 Things to Know About Wedding Tasting”

  • “Eleven Tips for Wedding Tasting”

  • “Questions to Ask When Attending Your Wedding Tasting”

  • “18 Tips to Get the Most from Your Wedding Tasting - On The Bride’s Side”

  • “Wedding Tasting Etiquette: 10 Things You Should Know”

  • “What to Expect at Your Caterer’s Tasting - Vibrant Table Catering”

Let me just say how crazy it all sounds to this woman who served homemade Jello® salads and homemade “fancy” sandwiches at her very own wedding reception!

However, I do see some parallels between preparing for current wedding dinners and preparing for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb mentioned in the Scripture passage at the top of this blog post. For one, the invited guests truly know the Bride and Groom.

Often in Scripture, we read the title for the church: “The Bride of Christ.” If you truly know the Groom and His Bride, you will find yourself included in this invitation to the heavenly wedding. Notice that I didn’t say, “If you know about the Groom and His Bride.” But rather, do you “truly know” them.

In fact, those already invited can taste the heavenly banquet now, while awaiting the joyous full table, the laughter, the tears of gratitude, and the true company of the righteous in Heaven.

Now, in the present—even as we await the future celebration in the Kingdom of God—we can enjoy our fellowship with other believers, our sampling of the words of Scripture, Holy Spirit-filled prayer and preaching, and pleasure from the gifts given to us by God. Only those who truly know the Bride and Groom and experience these blessings now will actually get a full helping of the rich stores awaiting us in eternity.

I particularly like the familiar old gospel hymn that uses the word “foretaste.”1

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
O what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, This is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, This is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Right now, we believers experience a foretaste of what will someday come to pass. How blessed we are when we belong to God through His precious Son.

______________________

1 Crosby, Fanny, Blessed Assurance. Gospel hymn. Public Domain.

 

 

Monday, October 22, 2018

Old Maid

 

[Photo of an Old Maid card]


“One of those listening [to Paul and Luke] was a
woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the
city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The
Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”
—Acts 16:14

Perhaps it was my sleep deprived addled brain, but I swear I saw the “Old Maid” driving a car this morning! What on earth would have brought back the memory of that old childhood card game? Okay. I guess the lady driving did resemble the woman in the photo found on the box and in the graphic above!

In those days, and for much of human history, a woman without a husband had the reputation as a bit of a “loser” in society—just as the person who chose her card and ended up with a graphic of her on that card became the loser of the game.

I can’t say for sure, but I think Lydia from the book of Acts had no husband—at least the Scripture doesn’t mention one. She had a successful business dealing with beautiful, imported cloth. It wouldn’t surprise me if she actually was the one who founded the group that met together on the Sabbath near the river that listened to Paul and Luke preach.

Not only did Lydia open her heart, but her home. And, in Acts 16:40, we read that a church met in her house sometime later. These meetings had great significance in the furtherance of the gospel. Lydia became the first Christian in Europe. And, the first church met in her house! Rather than living with a stigma of not having a husband or children, God allowed Lydia a significant place in His new church.

Do you know women who have never married, but have given Christ the totality of their lives and have done magnificent things for Him? While God has used many such women, the life of Corrie Ten Boom comes immediately to my mind. This Dutch watchmaker, in her early years, helped in the training of children. In her fifties, she hid Jews in her small bedroom’s closet. Eventually, she became a prisoner of war in Germany.

She suffered in three concentration camps, including Ravensbrüch, from which God miraculously allowed her release. From that life in concentration camps, Corrie became what she called a “Tramp for the Lord.” She traveled the world telling her story and sharing the gospel with thousands of people.

Maybe you are living a single life, and see yourself as the most unappealing “card” in the “deck of life.” Surrender that pain to God. Let Him show you what wonderful things He has planned for you.

Perhaps you know other single women who need to hear words of encouragement that tell how God calls them to serve Him in some unique way that only their unmarried state would allow. Be Christ’s voice to lift them up. They, along with all the other “cards,” belong in His hand and He will use them!

 

 

Monday, October 15, 2018

By Hap

 

[Drawing of Ruth gleaning in Boaz' fields]


“She gleaned in the field after the reapers:
and her hap was to light on the part
of the field belonging unto Boaz,
who was of the kindred of Elimelech.”
—Ruth 2:3 KJV

Sometimes the language of the King James Version of the Bible catches my attention in a way the modern translations don’t. When Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote his devotional book, Morning and Evening, he used the word “hap”—a word that was quite familiar at the time of his writing in the mid-1800s. It means “by happenstance,” or “taking place by coincidence, or chance.”

The unknown author of the Old Testament Book of Ruth tells the story about how Ruth, seemingly by chance, gleaned in the field of her mother-in-law’s relative Boaz. Here’s what Spurgeon wrote about the story:1

Ruth had gone forth with her mother’s blessing, under the care of her mother’s God, to humble but honourable toil, and the providence of God was guiding her every step. Little did she know that amid the sheaves she would find a husband, that he should make her the joint owner of all those broad acres, and that she a poor foreigner should become one of the progenitors of the great Messiah. God is very good to those who trust in Him, and often surprises them with unlooked for blessings.

If we stop to consider carefully the days of our own lives, most of us would see times when things that seemed “by hap” actually turned out to have occurred by the design of our Sovereign God. Along this vein, I read an account of the day Christian artist and author, Joni Eareckson Tada, had the diving accident that left her a quadriplegic for life.

Joni’s sister, Kathy, was at the beach with Joni. She stayed near the shore and suddenly felt a sharp pinch by a crab and screamed to Joni to watch for crabs. Because Joni didn’t respond, Kathy immediately went looking for her and ended up saving her from drowning. Kathy writes, speaking of God:2

From the big events in life down to the tiniest of details, he is great, he is sovereign, and he is in control.

When we are tempted to think that we have experienced a coincidence, we must remember that as God’s dearly loved children, our Heavenly Father sovereignly looks out for us, directs our ways, uses us in the lives of others, and yearns to have us honor Him with our thanksgiving for all that He so graciously does for us.

In the lives of those of us who belong to God through the Lord Jesus Christ, there simply is no such thing as “by hap”!

______________________

1 Spurgeon, Charles Haddon. Morning and Evening. McLean VA: MacDonald Publishing Company, Public Domain. p. 599.
2 Tada, Joni Eareckson. Pearls of Great Price. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing Company, 2006. Devotional for July 19.

 

 

Monday, October 8, 2018

Get Over Yourself

 

[Photo of an organist's hands on the organ keyboard]


“Humble yourselves therefore, under God’s mighty
hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
—1 Peter 5:6

Picture two brothers, ages five and seven, fascinated enough to come up close every Sunday during the Postlude to watch me play the organ. They liked the action of the pistons, the movement of my fingers, and especially the movement of my feet, as the music filled the sanctuary.

One Sunday, the older brother posed the question, “Do you ever make mistakes?”

Considering that his question provided a “teachable moment,” I said, “Sure I do.”

To which he responded, “I thought so!”

I’ve thought of that encounter quite a number of times over the years, as I tried to camouflage an errant note or two while I played.

Most of us have plenty of opportunities for God to humble us. Whether it’s a piece of toilet paper stuck to the bottom of our shoe, a wardrobe malfunction, or a “tied tongue” when speaking in public, we know how it feels to experience humiliation. Sometimes we even know why God has brought us down with an embarrassing event.

When we think too highly of ourselves, our Lord says in Isaiah 42:8:

“I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another.”

In so many words, God is saying, “Get over yourself!”

When we compare ourselves to others and boast, even to ourselves, about our imagined superiority, God, in His love and discipline, will allow us to suffer humiliation to remind us that we possess nothing He did not give us, even our well-honed skills. Again, in Isaiah 66:2, our Lord says:

“This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.”

God wants humble servants—grateful for all we are and have—not self-assured, boasting performers who feel superior to those around us. When we, in pride, carry out our work—or even our service to Him—we steal His glory. When we bow before Him in humility and thanksgiving, we lift Him up and reveal His glory!

We need to get over ourselves, but never over Him!

 

 

Monday, October 1, 2018

We Had Heard

 

[Photo of the road to Pikes Peak]


“As we have heard, so have we seen.”
—Psalm 48:8

I had heard about and seen pictures of Pikes Peak in Colorado for many years. In fact, I showed pictures to classes as I taught “America the Beautiful” written by Katherine Lee Bates from the top of that mountain. But, I had never seen it for myself. Then one summer my husband and I traveled to Colorado Springs and drove up the mountains to the Peak. I experienced something much broader and bigger than I imagined.

The winding, treacherous road, the clear air above the timber-line, the steep climbs, the breathtaking views from the summit, all gave me a much more vivid view of this great mountain.

In Scripture, we find several examples of persons experiencing the wonders of God for themselves that they may have only heard about before. In Psalm 48, the people recount the deliverances of the Lord in their past history. They exclaimed together:

“We had heard about God’s mighty acts. We heard the stories from childhood, but now, in our own time, we have actually seen them for ourselves.”

In the book of Job, we read the story of God’s servant whose life God allowed Satan to devastate. Job suffered great torture and never knew the reason. Yet, he didn’t give up on God. At the very end of his story in Job 42:5, Job confessed to God:

“My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

Job’s experience far outweighed the stories about God.

In 1 John 1:1, the Apostle describes what he and others had experienced of God:

“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.”

Here again, the early church gave great significance to the experience of seeing and knowing Christ.

Paul recognized the importance of a personal knowledge of God. In Philippians 3:10, he yearned:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Do we want to know Christ in this way, by experience? God invites us to come near, to know Him, to experience the way of life He offers, and to no longer live only on the encounters of others.