Monday, January 30, 2017

Searching and Finding


[Photo of a boy looking through a pair of binoculars]

“God did this so that men would seek him and
perhaps reach out for him and find him,
though he is not far from each one of us.”
—Acts 17:27

What child doesn’t enjoy a good hunt? From Easter eggs to a game of “Hide and Seek,” children delight in the fun of searching and finding. Frustration only sets in when the pastime becomes too difficult. Even “Where’s Waldo” can become discouraging if the red and white stripe shirt and the big round glasses don’t appear in a reasonable amount of time.

God delights in lovingly creating a sort of “Hide and Seek” game for us. He wants us to seek Him, to hunt for clues that He has written all over creation, all over our lives, and in His written Word. He wants us to know the joy of finding Him. He has promised that if we earnestly seek Him, we will find Him. In Matthew 7:8, Jesus said:

For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

As another illustration of the sincere desire He looks for in seekers, Jesus told a two verse parable in Matthew 13:45-46:

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

He wants us to seek Him and He wants us to find Him. Searching reveals our earnest desire and finding reveals our greatest joy in Him.

From an old gospel hymn:

All my life long I had panted
   for a draught from some cool spring
That I hoped would quench the burning
   of the thirst I felt within.
Hallelujah! I have found Him Whom my soul
   so long has craved!
Jesus satisfied my longings;
   Through His blood I now am saved.1

Much like it would disappoint a parent to have a child look hard for something and never find it, God waits and watches us to see if, with the sincerity of a true seeker, we hunt for Him until we find Him. Oh the joy!


1 Williams, Clara Tear. “All My Life Long I Had Panted.” Hymns of Faith and Life. Winona Lake, Indiana: Light and Life Press, 1976.



Monday, January 23, 2017



[Photo of a girls with a pencil balanced on her nose]

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered,
“you are worried and upset about many
things, but only one thing is needed.
Mary has chosen what is better, and
it will not be taken away from her.”
—Luke 10:41-42

Trisha was one of those children: always attracted to the wrong things, but always busy. On one visit to her classroom, I observed her moving from pencil sharpener to sink, to closet, back to her desk to play with her crayons and erasers. She did all of this in just a few minutes. In the hallway one day, I watched her stop to stare at a piece of fuzz on the carpet! In my class, I required that she sit next to me in the front of the room, so that she could have a reasonable chance of paying attention.

Trisha usually kept quiet. Yet, her distractibility would keep everyone’s eyes on her. She seemed like such a happy child—but thoroughly happy for absolutely the wrong reasons. She allowed things to interfere with the place where her attention should focus. We can have this problem too.

Like me, have you sometimes sat down to meet with the Lord in the morning and before long found your mind on something else? Usually, when I get distracted at such times, I remember something I need to take care of in the kitchen, or an email I forgot to send. Or, worse yet, I worry about something that turns my mind away from the right things.

Jesus wants us to sit at His feet and listen to Him. As students ourselves, God justifiably wants us to give Him our complete and undivided attention. Where will our strength, wisdom, love, patience, and the true satisfaction of our needs come from if we neglect to focus on Him?

In Colossians 3:1-2, the Apostle Paul tells us that we have the responsibility:

“…to set our hearts on things above… to set our minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

If we have difficulty concentrating on His voice in the morning when we spend time alone with Him, how can we hope to hear God’s voice during the busy day ahead?



Monday, January 16, 2017

While Looking for Donkeys


[Drawing of Saul kneeling before Samuel]

Now the donkeys belonging to Saul’s
father Kish were lost, and Kish said to
his son Saul, “Take one of the servants
with you and go and look for the donkeys.”
—1 Samuel 9:3

The surprising event described in the Scripture above, in my own experience, might as well have read: “Now, while she was vacuuming the bedroom.”

In just such a setting, a life-changing phone call came to me from the music supervisor I did not know from a nearby town. A recently hired music teacher had resigned. They needed a long-term substitute. I later learned she had resigned because of the behavior of the unruly students.

I took the position on a temporary basis. Two months later, I had a full-time job. And, 26 years later, I retired from that same school system.

Scripture shows us many examples of the way God turns the lives of ordinary people in a new direction. Saul, the son of Kish, while looking for donkeys came upon the prophet Samuel, whom God had prepared. To Saul’s complete surprise, he received an invitation to dinner and a proposal to become the first king of Israel.

Another man, shepherding the flock of his father-in-law, was jolted out of a hum-drum day with the sight of a burning bush. Drawing near, he hear a call from God to help deliver the Israelites from servitude in Egypt and lead them through the wilderness for forty years. You can read this story of Moses beginning in Exodus 3.

Then, in Genesis 24, we read of Rebekah. She had a custom of drawing water at the well with the other women of her village during the evening. One evening, as she went about what she believed to be a normal “run” for the water, she met a man sent by the prophet Abraham to search for a wife for his son Isaac. God led this servant to her. The servant convinced Rebekah of God’s call and took her back to become part of the patriarchal family whose line eventually produced the Messiah.

We do well to consider the ways in which God has made critical “turns” in our lives. Most of these cannot be explained away as co-incidences. They happen as God’s sudden way of answering prayer, or introducing us to a new place in which to serve Him.

Whether or not we realize it, God prepares us over a long period of ordinary, routine days. He hears every prayer and has a way in which to answer. Sometimes He does so with an extraordinary occurrence. Other times, He answers with the word, “Wait!”

Have you prayed and prayed until you begin to think God has ignored your requests and that, for some reason, His answer must be “No!”? Instead of becoming discouraged, believe that God has you in His mind, and can turn your situation around with a remarkable twist in your daily life.

Trust Him to show you His direction in astonishing ways. And, have your heart ready to receive His surprise!



Monday, January 9, 2017

First Hand Knowledge


[Photo of a person watching TV]

“My ears had heard of you, but
now my eyes have seen you.”
—Job 42:5

Imagine that someone telephones you to report that you have won a cruise to the Mediterranean. The caller tells you that you will soon receive, in the mail, everything you need to know about this cruise.

Waiting and watching, one day you see a large envelope in your mailbox. You grab it with some excitement and anticipate that it contains the expected information. You run quickly inside and open the package only to find that you had actually won a DVD travelogue of exotic exploration. The brochure with the video invites you to put the DVD in your player, sit down in your favorite chair, and be whisked away to such exotic places as Barcelona, Dubrovnik, Naples, Rome, and Venice.

Your puzzlement is soon overcome by disappointment. Your “cruise” is purely imagination. This DVD excursion totally steals your enthusiasm for the prize you had awaited. You had wanted to breathe the salt air, feel the sun on your skin, and poke your toes into those advertised blue waters. Your dream did not include staying put in your living room and watching as someone else experienced the reality while you get to observe their cruise by way of the video.

It seems that some people experience the Christian life in this way. They feel satisfied “visiting” church, or hearing others talk about how Christ has blessed them. They may even consider themselves Christians because they have had enough Christian education to know the basics of the gospel.

Yet, I believe some people who claim to be Christian really only know Jesus second-hand. They do not know Him as a personal Friend, as the Savior from their sin, or as the Bread of Life that they feast on daily. They seem satisfied with a virtual Christian life—a DVD of the experience—and not the real experience itself.

Then, there are some of us who do know Christ, have met Him personally, have let life crowd in, and have forgotten to include Him in every aspect of our lives. We have left any real-life experience with Him. And, in its place, we have satisfied ourselves with a remembrance of a past blessing, or of a time of genuine closeness to Him.

The beginning of a new year makes a perfect time to reverse this trend of substitution. Consider the personal invitation of the God of Creation, through the writer of Hebrews, who says in Hebrews 10:22:

Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith

We should never allow ourselves to be satisfied with a mere second-hand knowledge of a God who is so great and wonderful. Let the prayer of Paul to the Ephesians speak to you of God’s will for you this new year, as found in Ephesians 1:17-19:

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparable great power for us who believe.

Let’s expect a year of the genuinely real experiences of knowing our Lord better. May we never settle for someone else’s story or decide to remain as bystanders in the Christian life.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Tune Up


[Photo of tuning a piano]

“Let us examine our ways and test
them, and let us return to the Lord.”
—Lamentations 3:40

Calendar milestones make good times to re-evaluate our love for God, our progress toward holiness, and our obedience to Christ and His Word. To get the New Year started right, we ought to perform a spiritual self-examination, or spiritual tune-up.

Having worked with musical instruments all my life, I recognize the importance of the “tune-up.” Every year or so, the piano needs a good going over to make sure every note perfectly sounds in relation to every other note. It’s also important to note that pianos and pipe organs go in and out of tune based on the temperature of the room in which they are housed. This is much like our spiritual lives, which can sometimes go in and out of tune in relation to the culture that surrounds us.

Those instruments that play with other instruments need tuning adjustments more often. Every good band and orchestra requires its players to “tune” before beginning each rehearsal and every performance. This means each musician must carefully listen with a concentrated focus, in order to modify the sound of each note in relationship to the notes played by the other instruments.

New Year’s makes a great time to spiritually “tune-up” our lives. As we take time to get alone and wait before God, it will necessitate our listening carefully in silence and a keen focusing of our minds and hearts before Him.

First of all, the Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 13:5-6, suggests:

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test.

Secondly, Paul suggests self-examination before we partake of the Sacrament of Holy Communion. In other words, before we “make spiritual music” alongside our brothers and sisters in the faith, Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 11:28:

A man (or woman) ought to examine himself (or herself) before he (or she) eats of the bread and drinks of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself (or herself).1

The great Methodist founder, John Wesley, believed in the concept of self-examination. In fact, he believed in this important activity so much so that he wrote a liturgical service in which he provided God’s people an opportunity to renew their covenants with God.

Wesley records in his Journal 2 the following at the end of this service in 1755:

…all the people stood up, in testimony of assent, to the number of about 1,800 persons.

The Journal entry closes with:

…such a night I scarce ever saw before.

The success of this liturgical service of self-examination resulted in the publication of a “Covenant Service” written in 1780, and used for many years on New Year’s Eve. This solemn act of commitment helped Christians of that generation begin each year with a “fresh slate” before the Lord.

Let’s purpose to assure that this New Year will offer us a time of reflection, renewal, and rededication for the days ahead. Let’s ask God to “tune” our hearts in relation to His heart and in harmony with those other Christians with whom we worship.


1 I’ve inserted the feminine pronouns parenthetically in recognition of the common pracice of the New Testatment Greek language of using male pronouns in general descriptions that apply to all human beings, namely “male-men” and “female-men.”
2 Bible, Ken, compiler, “John Wesley’s Covenant Service” in Wesley Hymns. Kansas City: Lillenas Publishing Co., 1982. Pp. A-2, A-3.