Monday, July 28, 2014

Hide and Seek


[Photo of a boy hiding in the bushes]

“‘You will seek me and find me when you
seek me with all your heart.
I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.”
—Jeremiah 29:13-14

“Ready or not, here I come!”

Most anyone who hears those words will remember playing Hide and Seek as a child. On warm summer evenings it was fun to play outside where you could find any manner of wonderful places to get out of sight while the person who was “it” counted to whatever number the group had set.

If you could stump the person looking you felt clever. But, if the search went on too long, you could get bored and wish they would hurry up and find you.

God shows us His mysterious Person by telling us to seek Him. He is not always evident. Yet, He wants us to seek until we find Him. The better we get to know Him, and the closer we stick to His Word, the easier it becomes to find Him.

It was no fun as a child to hide and have no one look for you. It was no fun to desire to play the game and have no one want to play with you. That never happens in this “seeking God” game of life.

God delights to be found. When we see Him in another person, when He answers a prayer for us, or when He brings us a wonderful surprise we know could only come from His hand, we know we have found Him.

The Prophet Isaiah writes these words in Isaiah 55:6:

Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.

God wants us to seek Him. He invites us to do so. He very much wants us to play this amazing “game.” But, we can only find Him when we live close to Him and search for Him. And, like children, the more we play this special “game,” the more often we will find Him.

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know You,
a heart to seek You,
wisdom to find You,
conduct pleasing to You,
faithful perseverance in waiting for You,
and a hope of finally embracing You.
—Thomas Aquinas



Monday, July 21, 2014

Family Ties


[Photo of three girls of different races]

“You received the spirit of sonship.
And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’”
—Romans 8:15

“For those God foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”
—Romans 8:29

You could see the shock on their faces. My friend, Carrie, had brought her sixth graders to my music class. She hesitated with her arm around me before she left the room and said, “You know, boys and girls, Mrs. Wilson and I are sisters.”

Now clearly these children had a hard time swallowing this information because of my white skin and Carrie’s brown skin. They looked at me and asked, “Really?” to which I affirmed her statement. Big pause. Then quickly, before she left, Carrie said with a smile and a twinkle in her eye, “Same Father!”

We laugh at such fun with the kids. But, the truth of God’s Word teaches that all who belong to God through the Lord Jesus Christ relate to each other as brothers and sisters in Him. We should carry the same family resemblance as our Father. Those around us should see the special “family ties” when we live and work and worship together.

How often do denominational differences, life-style, political preferences, and, sadly, even racial differences drive wedges between us as Christians. These unnecessary self-imposed barriers keep us from living out what God intended, as reflections of His mercy, grace, and love?

Carrie and I genuinely complimented each other when we worked together. She displayed the qualities of the extrovert and friend to all. While I displayed the qualities of the introvert, thoughtful, and logical one.

Together, we fit perfectly together just like pieces in some great puzzle that God has called together to complete His image in the world. We prayed together, encouraged one another, and, hopefully, gave those who knew our “family connection” a healthy picture of Christ’s work in our lives.

Remember, no matter what kind of natural, cultural, or other differences we may display, when Christ holds first place at the very center of our lives, Christians’ family ties should become evident to all who look at us from a watching world. Christ wants this kind of witness from our lives. As He states in John 13:35:

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”



Monday, July 14, 2014

The Mysterious Queen of Sheba


[Drawing of the Queen of Sheba]

“The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment
with this generation and condemn it; for she came
from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s
wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.”
—Matthew 12:42

This intriguing queen from a story in 1 Kings 10 not only was mentioned in the Old Testament, but also in Ethiopian legends as well. She was known as a searcher for truth, and had heard about Solomon’s fame and his relation to the name of the Lord. She traveled with a large caravan of camels loaded with spices, gold and precious stones to ply Solomon with her questions.

Solomon, traditionally known as the wisest man who ever lived, welcomed this Queen from the area we now know as Yemen. He answered all her questions, welcomed her into the royal palace, and entertained her at his table with all the attention of servants and cupbearers. She also accompanied Solomon to the temple where he made burnt offerings to the Lord and where she saw the worship of the one true God.

Anyone would have been impressed by the wealth and achievements of Solomon. But as recorded in 1 Kings 10:9, she responded to what she had seen by saying:

Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.

This woman, with her thirst for spiritual things, recognized the Lord God in all of Solomon’s blessings. She hungered for truth and found it. Jesus Himself acknowledged her recognition of truth, and condemned those from His generation who couldn’t see the legitimacy of His kingdom, even when the Truth walked among them.

Jesus welcomes all who truly seek truth. He who is “the way, the truth, and the life” is no respecter of persons. As He clearly said in Matthew 7:7-8:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

Just as King Solomon welcomed this questioning woman from a faraway land, Jesus waits to answer your questions and reveal Himself to you. Maybe it’s not so bad to have someone say to you, “Who do you think you are, the Queen of Sheba?”



Monday, July 7, 2014

Inky Blackness


[Drawing of the big fish vomiting Jonah up on shore]

“You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart
of the seas, and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers swept over me.”
—Jonah 2:3

Have you ever been in complete darkness? The closest most of us come to that is a tour of an underground cavern or walking in an unlighted tunnel at night. We might grasp for the wall to keep our equilibrium, but we do not know where we’ve been or where we’re going.

Jonah had a most unique experience with darkness. After disobeying God and being tossed into the sea by a boatload of reluctant sailors, a great fish swallowed him alive and he stayed in the belly of this fish for three days and three nights. What’s the difference in night and day in a place like that anyway?

God had Jonah where he could not escape. God must have known that was the only place where Jonah would wake up to the requests his God was making of him and recognize his responsibility to Him. In Jonah’s astounding prayer from the fish’s belly, as recorded in Jonah 2:9, he finally cried:

But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord.

Does God also have you in a place where He waits for you to “cry Uncle”? We know from this story that God takes advantage of the places and circumstances that will turn us to Him. I don’t believe God willingly creates circumstances like this, for Jeremiah said in Lamentations 3:33:

He does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.

You know the famous line parents often give when punishing a child: “This will hurt me more than it hurts you.” God sees your plight if you have found yourself in a dark place with no way out and not a clue what to do. He understands and has compassion on you. Be reminded of Jonah. Though he went through utter distress, God knew all along the circumstances He would use to get Jonah back on track with His plan.

God wants us to trust Him in the dark. He alone has the means to rescue us. He wants us to believe in His power and in His will to do just that!