Monday, May 27, 2013

Setting the Table


[Photo of a table setting]

They [The Israelites] spoke against God, saying,
“Can God spread a table in the desert?”
—Psalm 78:19 NIV

I know something about setting a table. After all, as a Junior High 4-H member, I earned a badge by giving a demonstration about how to set a table. Ever since that time, I find that I enjoy setting the table for guests more than just about any other preparation. I also like restaurants that use real tablecloths and cloth napkins, the kind of place that says, “We prepared for your visit.”

What does a beautiful table with lavish food represent, particularly in the Bible? I believe that most of all, it denotes a hospitable welcome.

In verses that speak of God and the table, we see that the guests are honored by the preparation. Even when we live among our enemies, as in Psalm 23, God says to them in effect, “Look who I love and honor.”

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. (Psalm 23:5).

As a result of the invitation to Christ’s table, we can delight in His lavish provision.

I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the banquet hall, and his banner over me is love. Strengthen me with raisins, refresh me with apples, for I am faint with love. (Song of Solomon 2:3-5).

Not only have I set a table, I have lived in the desert. Oh, not a desert with sand and heat. But, one of waiting for God, one of hospital corridors, one of surrounding enemies, and one of unfulfilled dreams.

In these places, I come with faith to God, and say, “Please, O Lord, spread me a table in this place.” And, He does!



Monday, May 20, 2013

Team Uniforms


[Photo of team uniforms]

You were taught, with regard to your
former way of life, to put off your old self… and
to put on the new self, created to be like God.

                                                                            —from Ephesians 4:22-24

When you think about being a Christian, have you ever considered yourself as part of a team? In Ephesians 4, the Apostle Paul writes about unity in the body of Christ. He instructs us that Christians should resemble their Lord and each other in certain ways.

Oh, yes, we are individuals, and the beauty of the Body of Christ comes from the myriad of differences we all bring to the family. However, Paul also points out that what characterizes us should be those habits and qualities of life that distinguish us from both our old ways and the ways of the world around us.

In order to be clear, Paul actually names some traits of the old wardrobe: darkness, spiritual ignorance, insensitivity, sensuality, impurity, greed and falsehood—to name a few. He goes on to describe the new clothes that Christians should wear: true righteousness, holiness, truthfulness, kindness, compassion and forgiveness—again, to name a few.

If strangers were to follow us around, or see us together on Sunday mornings, would they agree that we share many of the same characteristics they recognize from reading about Jesus? Have we “put off” our old rags and “put on” the uniform of godly traits that reveals to whose team we belong?

In thinking about team sports and the practice of wearing uniforms, I came across an article by Melville D. Jackson about the need to consider the importance of such attire. He says:

“The uniform is a unifying component in a team. The feeling of togetherness that a uniform fosters is also motivating to the team members. It is also important for creating a lasting first impression…

“The right color scheme helps to make team uniforms more prominent and attractive. This is probably one of the most important considerations when designing the clothing. The color scheme can make or mar a sportsman's pride. But, it is to be kept in mind that the colors should not distract from the game or the player. The color scheme should also be motivating to the players and be pleasing to the eye.” 1

One reason we wear the uniform of the team “Christian” is for the purpose of attracting others to Christ. We also need to feel the unity of the Body of Christ around us when we get together. In our struggles and in order to encourage us in our faith and godly living, we need the team.

Consider how Christ wants us, as His team players, to look. Take time to read Ephesians 4. Think of this chapter as a training manual about the behavioral clothes we wear. And then, proudly put on and display the uniform of godly traits that identifies you with the winning team

1 from an on-line article: Tips for Selecting Appropriate Team Uniforms.



Monday, May 13, 2013

Picked Out 1


[Photo of a diamond created from coal]

Oh, Lord! I was all picked over,
But you still picked me out.
You saw past the rough and dirty edges
To the potential in me.
I was as a piece of coal.
Nevertheless, you picked me up,
Blew me off,
And squeezed me!

I won’t lie:
The pressure was considerable,
And I did weep.
You said weeping endures for a night,
But joy comes in the morning.
During the long, dark, painful wintry night
In the midst of the long tunnel
I suffered silently.

And just when I thought it would never end,
The brilliant rays of the new day dawned,
And the light of day revealed a diamond that was
Multi faceted,
Surprisingly beautiful,
And desirable.
I give you all the glory.


1 from Ruffin, Clara. He’s Prepared My Heart for Harvest. Hartford, CT: Food for Thought Publishing, ©1998Photo of Clara Ruffin



Monday, May 6, 2013

It Takes All Kinds


[Photo of 1950s women's fashion]

I remember Cordelia as a woman from my childhood who attended my little country church. Cordelia stood out among the farm women in the congregation. Her trim figure displayed showy, colorful clothing topped off with large stylish hats as she sat in the pew Sunday after Sunday.

Cordelia’s husband wasn’t a farmer like most of the men of the congregation either. They lived in a tidy little ranch house at the edge of the small town nearby. Cordelia painted in oils, and had quite a reputation for her artistry. Yet, here she sat with her red fingernails, in her mink stoles that intrigued me with their beady eyes, and her just-so demeanor.

I wonder if the Early Church, in the book of Acts, had characters like Cordelia—just a little out of place style-wise, but perfectly at home in God’s house. I think I’ve found such a woman in Acts, chapter sixteen. Her name was Lydia, a Gentile from Thyatira in Asia. She was known as a “seller of purple.” She apparently had means, influence, and a large enough house to serve as the church meeting place in Philippi.

This woman, if not the first, must have been one of the first converts to Christianity in the continent of Europe. As soon as the Lord opened her heart, she and her household were baptized, and immediately she offered hospitality to the evangelistic team who had come to their region. Her life had been changed by her meeting with Jesus Christ through the ministry of Paul.

Sometimes Christians pre-judge others by outward appearance, by how they “fit it” and “look the part.” Galatians 2:6 makes it clear:

“God does not judge by external appearance.”

In 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord said to Samuel:

“The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Wouldn’t it be fun to find a Lydia right smack-dab in the middle of our church that doesn’t “look” like we might expect her to? Be alert! There probably is a one-of-a-kind, genuine, disciple there who doesn’t look the part (as we would see it). God may have some wonderful surprises ahead. He doesn’t see things the same way we do.