Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fullness of Time


[Photo of  a pregnant woman]

I suppose every mother can imagine the meaning of the phrase “In the fullness of time.” There is no “hurrying up” a baby’s birth. At seven months, a pregnant woman cannot say, “O.K. I’ve had it. Today’s the day I’m going to have the baby.”

Authors of scripture use that phrase from time to time. For example, note these words from Galatians 4:4:

“But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.”

But, you say, “I’m not pregnant, nor do I intend to be. What does this phrase have to do with me?”

I believe God waits with us for a specific time—the fullness of time, so to speak—to bring about the big events of our lives.

Like the tired pregnant woman, we often wish the trial or the long waiting period we are experiencing would end. But God, in His silence, appears to be waiting for some specific time and place and manner in which to answer our long and persistent prayers.

Scripture gives us many examples of the way He dealt with people after He put them through long periods of waiting when He could have come sooner and answered their prayers.

We see one example of this in Peter, the Disciple of Jesus. In his weakness, he disowned Jesus on the night before the crucifixion. He immediately repented and wept over his sin, but Jesus waited to set things right and commission Peter for further service.

Can you imagine how Peter must have felt when, with the other disciples, they beheld Jesus as He came to them after the resurrection in the upper room? Nothing in the text suggests that Jesus specifically addressed Peter in those visits. Did Peter wonder whether Jesus was still hurt and terribly grieved over his sin? Did he wonder whether his days of service to Christ were over, yet long for Jesus to speak his name?

We get a little more insight into Jesus’ approach to Peter when, on the seashore several days later He pulled Peter aside and asked Him the very personal questions about Peter’s commitment to Him as recorded in John 21:15-19. And not only did Jesus finally speak to Peter, He showed His love and call on Peter’s life by reinstating him and commissioning him as a leader in guiding the Early Church.

When we wait for God to come to us, we must believe He has a “fullness of time” which He has appointed. We should long to hear Him speak our name, to teach us what He wants us to have learned through the pain, and expect Him who has called us in the past to place a new assignment in our hands. What will He “birth” in us?



Monday, August 19, 2013



[Photo of a desert oasis]

The whole tribe of Israel, approximately two million people strong, had left Egypt by the miraculous hand of God. They had seen God defeat their Egyptian captors who had pursued them to the Red Sea, where God parted the waters for the Israelites and drowned their enemies with those same waters.

If you read Exodus 15, you see there the victorious song they sang, led by Moses and Miriam. They had bright hopes and a marvelous future in the Promised Land ahead of them. Yet, in verse 22, the story changes when God shows His people that He intends to test them before giving them this promise.

They finally found water after three days of thirsty travel. But, at Marah they could not drink because of the bitterness. That which should have refreshed them, would only have poisoned them. God directed Moses to find a piece of wood he could throw into the water to make it sweet so that they could drink. He “healed” the water.

After they had taken a drink, God shared with them His intention to test them in the wilderness. He also made a pact with them that He would “heal” them of all the diseases of Egypt if they would pay attention and obey His commands. Once He promised them this, they moved on and He brought them to an oasis in Elim of rich, verdant, lavish palm trees and springs of water.

This story reminds me of friends who have lived in the wilderness far longer than they could have ever imagined. The water they have had to drink tastes bitter and putrid. This story from Exodus reminds me to pray that God would send “healing” to these bitter waters while He assigns them to dwell in Marah, so that they witness God’s sustaining presence.

Of course, while they may have imagined that Marah was God’s place of blessing for them, they haven’t even begun to imagine that He has an Elim for them down the road.

Exodus 15: 27 says:

“They camped [at Elim] there near the water.”

This was not only a place to drink, it was a place to stay for a while.

When we pray for those, even ourselves, who may be traveling in the wilderness, we need to pray that God will sustain them in Marah with His healing waters, but ultimately that He will lead them to Elim, a place of abundance of His blessing where they can at last find camping ground!



Monday, August 12, 2013



[Photo of a wax-sealed envelope]

 “He anointed us, set his seal of ownership
on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as
a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”
 —1 Corinthians 1:22

When I was a teenager, I received a gift of a stamping kit for use on envelopes. The kit came complete with a stick of wax and two metal sealers. For me, it served as just a fun way to complete my friendly letters. In ages past, however, seals served as authentic means of verifying documents that came from important people.

In the Old Testament, we read of the Babylonian and Persian kings sealing documents in order to declare oath written within irrevocable. Once sealed, the decree had to remain in tact. For example, King Nebuchadnezzar signed such a decree and could not reverse the decision to place Daniel in the lions’ den.

In modern times, tags are used as seals, or a cattleman may brand a cow or horse signifying his ownership. The electric meter outside your house has a seal that indicates to the electric utility that no one has tampered with that meter.

In Bible times, a servant who chose to remain with his owner after the six year limit on his servitude, would be marked by a piercing of one ear. (see Exodus 21:2-6 and Deuteronomy 15:12-18). This would guarantee him as a servant of the owner for life.

The New Testament tells us, in the Scripture passage at the beginning of this blog post, that God has put His seal of ownership on us—His guarantee that we belong to Him. This seal remains secure forever.

If we have received the gift of salvation that God has offered to us through faith, placed our trust in His Son as our Savior, and answered His call to serve Him for life, He has declared that He cannot revoke this seal on us. In fact, God has given us a deposit—the presence of His Holy Spirit within us.

To experience this branding with God’s own seal requires nothing from us but our humble gratitude. His choice of us as His very own, though too wonderful to comprehend, began before the foundation of the world and came to completion through the accomplishment of Christ’s finished work on the cross of Calvary.

We belong to Him forever. Romans 11:29 gives us this assurance:

“…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.”

Imagine a beautifully sealed envelope with you inside being kept close to God’s heart until the very day that Christ opens the seal in Heaven. He wants us there in Heaven with Him, but He also wants to use us each day as a witness to this world of His glory.

We go forth each day as chosen vessels of His mercy, grace, and love. We carry the Good News of His Gospel to everyone who crosses our pathway. What joy we should feel that God has chosen us, sealed us, and desires to use us in His service.



Monday, August 5, 2013

In the Hands of the Expert Carpenter


[Photo of the hands of a carpenter working with a plane]

 “In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver,
but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and
some for ignoble. If a man cleanses himself from the latter,
he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy,
useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.”
 —2 Timothy: 2:20-21

I have several articles made of wood that were finely crafted. They are among my prized possessions because of their beauty, even though they each have a useful purpose as well.

I can imagine the carpenter beginning with a rough piece of wood in which he spied some beauty even before he started. As he sawed and chiseled, rubbed, and finished the piece, it took hours of delicate and expert work.

Imagine a fine violin, a carved piano leg, an exquisite jewelry box, and Indian canoe, each built for a “noble purpose.” But, think of what the piece of wood has been through to get to the place of beauty and purpose.

Can you see the floor under the carpenter’s bench, full of sawdust and wood shavings? The wood has gone through a complete transformation under the artistic hands of the master carpenter. He has cut out imperfections, chiseled away knots, and rubbed down and smoothed every inch to get rid of splinters. He has covered the piece with a carefully chosen finish.

We Christians resemble a piece of wood, carved and sanded by our Master. Theologians call the process I’m describing “sanctification.” God sanctifies those of us whom He has already called and justified. He has chosen us, not because of something He sees in us, but because He wants to fashion an instrument for His use out of our rough origins.

The process of sanctification, like the work of a carpenter, appears to us as torment and distress. Sometimes we think God has left more “shavings” on the floor than He has left of us to use. But He understands the process much better than we, and can see the finished product, an instrument for noble purposes—His purposes.

Trusting Him in this lifelong process of sanctification, and co-operating with His means to get us there will yield for Him the person He wants us to be. He will use us in noble and in ordinary ways to glorify Him, our Master Carpenter.