COME AS A CHILD

What does it mean to come to Christ as a child?  To consider this question, we need to have a glimpse of what a child is like.

A child is inquisitive.  Always wanting to learn what is going on in the world around him.

boy meets dino

A child is daring, within limits of course.   Playing with a bubble car is fun and challenging as you catch the bubbles and watch them rise into the sky.

Bubbles - the bubble car entertains

A child loves challenges, like mastering the fear to go down the slide alone.

Boy on slide at playground

A child likes to be active.  Just follow a 3-year-old around one day and you will realize how much territory that child can cover.

child at playground gym
Campground play area in Texas campground.

 A child is trusting.  They don’t second-guess the reason people are telling him to do something.  They trust that they will be cared for, unless and until they are hurt in so doing; then the ability to trust someone is difficult to retrieve.

Trust - evan jumping in pool with daddy

A child has faith in the one who is caring for him.  Although they don’t know the word or its meaning, a child demonstrates devotion and loyalty, and the child seeks and returns love.

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.”

Mark 10:13-16

Matthew Henry says of this text:

That there must be something of the temper and disposition of little children found in all that Christ will own and bless. We must receive the kingdom of God as little children; that is, we must stand affected to Christ and his grace as little children do to their parents, nurses, and teachers. We must be inquisitive, as children, must learn as children (that is the learning age), and in learning must believe. (Oportet discentemcredere – A learner must believe.)  The mind of a child is white paper (tabula rose – a mere blank), you may write upon it what you will; such must our minds be to the pen of the blessed Spirit. Children are under government; so must we be.  Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? We must receive the kingdom of God as the child Samuel did, Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth. Little children depend upon their parents’ wisdom and care, are carried in their arms, go where they send them, and take what they provide for them; and thus must we receive the kingdom of God, with a humble resignation of ourselves to Jesus Christ, and an easy dependence upon him, both for strength and righteousness, for tuition, provision, and a portion.

Matthew Henry Commentary on Mark 10.

So, have you come to Christ as a child? 

Do you lean on Christ as a child leans on his parent, nurse or teacher? 

Are you inquisitive as you learn and believe Him? 

Is your mind open to the pen of the Holy Spirit as He writes on your mind and will? 

Have you humbly accepted and resigned yourself to Jesus Christ and His authority over you? 

Do you depend on Him for strength and righteousness? 

Do you depend upon Him for your provision and care, here and forevermore?

May we not be childish in our belief, but may we be childlike as we look to our Savior and give thanks for our Almighty Father.  While we begin as newborn babes in the faith, may we not remain children but, through the grace of our God and the work of the Holy Spirit, may we grow into mature Christians giving glory and honor to our Savior, Jesus Christ and to His Father, the Almighty God. 

Lord, thank You for letting me come to You as a child.  When I start to puff up into arrogant adulthood, let me see the error of my ways and return to my childlike dependence upon You and the guidance of Your Spirit.  May I grow up spiritually into a mature Christian who loves You and who is devoted to Your Son, my Savior and Lord, and may I know the sound of His voice through the Spirit as He guides and leads me along life’s treacherous ways.

 

ABANDONED

As we were driving through a neighboring town, we spotted a large retail complex with the high parking lot light, the mesh screens to keep the merchandise intact, with the promise of more goodies in the adjacent building.  On the property just next to this complex was this small building, that had clearly been abandoned some time earlier.

 Abandoned broken down building cropped

As we looked at it, I wondered what stories that building could tell, and what had happened to reduce it to crumbling timbers.   

Another example of abandonment that we saw on a trip through Colorado is this mining camp, high in the mountains of the Rocky Mountain Range. 

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains 2

 

A closer look at this site reveals that this camp was destroyed by the ravages of time and weather.  When it closed, nothing could save it from the destruction that comes with abandonment.

abandoned camp high in Colorado mountains

The problem is that buildings are not the only things that are affected by abandonment.  It is a sad and distasteful statement to make, but the reality is that people are abandoned on a regular basis.

Human relationships are frequently conditional, and often people are abandoned when they have done something that is distasteful to another, and that person abandons the relationship, walking away and leaving the first person alone and sometimes destitute.  Consider the wife who is told that her husband wants a divorce because she no longer pleases him.  He walks out, and she is emotionally, and often, physically and financially abandoned.

Or, consider the employee who has spent decades working for the benefit of the company, only to be told that his efforts are not longer required because technology has rendered his job obsolete.  He is abandoned by his employer and he finds himself without a meaningful job and, sometimes, without means to care for himself or his family.

While it seems the situation is stark and there is no refuge to which to turn, there is One who will not abandon His children – the Lord Jesus Christ.

When the Israelites were facing a severe challenge in the wilderness wanderings, Moses told them:

“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”

Deuteronomy 31:6

This comforting truth was brought from the Old Testament into the New Testament when the writer of Hebrews said:

“Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.“”

Hebrews 13:5

The Psalmist assured us, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that:

“For the LORD will not forsake his people; he will not abandon his heritage;”

Psalm 94:14

Jesus, Himself, told His disciples these comforting words taken from John 14:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”

Verses 16-18

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

Verses 26-27

What comfort and what encouragement, even if you feel abandoned by all others, Jesus has said that He will not leave His sheep, His children, as orphans.  Rather, He will send the Holy Spirit to be within each believer in Him.  The Holy Spirit will teach the believer all that he/she is to know.  The Holy Spirit will encourage and strengthen the believer so that there is no fear.  In place of fear there will be heavenly peace that is sent from Jesus Himself. 

Note, this is not a blank check so that you can get whatever material stuff you want! 

This is a free gift that will provide all the peace and comfort that you need, whenever you need it.  It will provide courage and strength to face whatever is ahead of you, even that which you don’t recognize today.  There is no reason to fear because your Lord and Savior is with you.

This is a free gift with no limit because your debt has been paid in full by the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary.  You are debt free. That does not mean that you will not sin any more, believers in Christ are not immune from the temptation to sin, but the Spirit gives us the strength to withstand sin.  And, if we yield to tht temptation, confession and repentance will restore us to the peaceful relationship we can have with our Lord.

Abandoned?  I personally know that it is a scary time, but you are not alone if you are in Christ Jesus.  It is not an easy time, and getting through the trial will probably take more time than you like, but God’s schedule is eternal and not limited to our minutes.  He can give you peace moment by moment, as He directs you to those who can assist with your needs.  While God is with you each moment of this trial, His renovation of your spirit and your outlook may take some time, but it is a transformation that is worth the wait!

Often, when something is abandoned, there is a remarkable new structure that is ultimately built exactly where the abandoned building had stood.  When we feel we are abandoned, God can take this time to rebuild and refortify us so that we can serve Him in a new way. 

Rest in the Lord, and let Him overwhelm you with His peace, as He prepares you for your next adventure in the life with Christ.

Father, I thank You that You are the master builder who can transform an abandoned individual into someone who lives for You and who loves Your Son.  Thank You for not leaving us as orphans in this hard land; and thank You for the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ, a peace that passes all understanding.

SWEET

Sweet.  This is a word that has recently gone through a metamorphosis of meaning.  It used to mean, almost exclusively, something that was sugary, lucious or candied.  But now it has taken on a somewhat different turn.

The Urban Dictionary now defines “sweet” as:

An intensive used to express satisfaction, acceptance, pleasure, excellence, exaltation, approval, awe, or reverence. When used individually, the level of satisfaction expressed is most often directly proportionate to the duration of the vowel sound.   

Compare:

“Mashed potatoes for dinner!  Sweet.”
“I just won a million dollars? SWEEEEEEET!”

This week, I opened the window on the porch and immediately I was surrounded by the sweet aroma of honeysuckle combined with the knock-out roses beneath the window.  I had seen the roses begin to bloom, but I lost track of time and did not expect to have such a wonderful surprise.

Roses outside window cropped

Sweet aroma – what a glorious gift.  That was SWEEEEET!

Scripture talks of sweet aromas, in both the Old and New Testaments. 

In the book of Genesis, God created the plants and trees, commanding the earth to bring forth vegetation, including plants yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit which contains their seed, each according to its kind. Genesis 1:11-12.  The beautiful blooms and scents of the flowering plants are all part of God’s magnificent creation that evokes each of the senses, including sight and smell.

In the book of Exodus, God directs that “fragrant incense” be used in His Tabernacle.  His worship was not to be unlovely or boring, notwithstanding the fact that they were in the wilderness.  It was to include beautiful furnishings, draperies, clothing and golden ornaments; and I was to be bathed in fragrant incense.

The Psalmist talks of the sacrifices that he would bring to God, and says:

“I will offer You burnt sacrifices of fat animals, With the sweet aroma of rams; I will offer bulls with goats. Selah”

Psalm 66:15 NKJV

The Psalmist also says that the Lord wants our thoughts and meditations to be sweet:

May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD.”

Psalm 104:34

I can have sweet meditations with the Lord only one way, when I am living in sweet communion with Him and have His Word in my heart.  

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

Psalm 119:103

The New Testament describes the sweet, fragrant offering that believers bring to God, through Jesus Christ:

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.  And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

Ephesians 5:1-2

Indeed, Paul tells, the Corinthians that we are the aroma of Christ to God and those around us:

“But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing,” 

2 Corinthians 2:14-15

Finally, we read of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to the Apostle John, the last book in the Holy Bible.  There we read that the prayers of the saints on earth are brought to God with sweet incense:

“And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.”

Revelation 5:8

“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.”

Revelation 8:3-4  

Here we are told that the prayers of the saints was the incense that rose before God.  Can you imagine the depth of the privilege of prayer?  The prayers of sinners who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb constitute the very incense in the temple of our God. Have we been praying diligently for God’s kingdom and for His children? 

So, Beloved, what kind of fragrance best describes you?  I don’t mean what perfume, cologne or after shave you use.  I mean, when you have an interaction with someone, what aroma do you leave with them?  Is it the smell of anger, hate, distrust, complaint, dissatisfaction?  Is it the stench of lies, abuse, deception, or arrogant pride?

Or is it the pleasing aroma that comes when the Spriit of God lives within the child of God?  Is it the aroma of a loving, kind and encouraging spirit?  Is it the sweet fragrance of God’s Word in action, giving aid to those in need and lending a hand to someone in pain? 

USED First rose of the summer

What scent do you spread when you walk through your world?

What do you smell when I pass by?

I pray it is the sweet-smelling fragrance of a heart and soul given to the Lord Jesus Christ, living for Him in witness to His great salvation and atonement for the Children of God.

Father, I pray that which the Psalmist prayed so long ago, may my meditation be sweet to You, Father, and may I be glad in the LORD Jesus Christ, my Savior and my King.

“DON’T DO IT!  UH UH -NO!”

It seems that we have recently focused on our canine children as illustrations of spiritual lessons for our daily lives.  Today is no exception as our MinPin doggie daughters, also known as “the girls”, have once again tried our patience.

We have tried to “train” the girls to stay put in one place while we are eating our meals.  The original intent of this routine was to stop them from barking while we are eating, and also to stop them from begging during the meal.  It has, for the most part, stopped the barking.  But, it has not been as successful with the begging.

Usually their “place” is the living room sofa as we are eating dinner in the dining room, in full site of them.  When we have finished our meal, we will say “you’re through” and they are to come bounding up to the table for a good girl treat, thankful to their parents that they are being so wonderfully rewarded.  That is what is supposed to happen.

Doggies ready to jump
Doggies ready to jump!

What actually happens is that they go to their “place” right away when we tell them to do so as we are sitting down to the table.  Then, when the wait is too long or if the aroma is especially exciting to them (such as the smell of bacon), they hop down and come over to the table where we are sitting.  At first, they would just run over and jump up at our side to tell us that they are there.  We, then, point to the sofa, say “Uh Uh – No, go back, place” and they run back, jumping up on the sofa and sitting as if they were good girls.

If we are engaged in serious conversation during dinner, they become stealth doggies.  They slide off the sofa and sneak through the kitchen so we don’t see them walking around.  Then they cut between us to get under the table in the hopes that something will have fallen through a crack.  We find out that one or both are under the table when we move our feet and hit something.  Then, we again, point to the sofa and say the dreaded words “Uh Uh – No, go back!”. 

I suspect that we are not the only ones that have this experience.  However, aside from the humorous smiles that their actions might induce, there is a parallel with my own life experiences and obedience, and it is not at all humorous.

As long ago as when the law was given to the Israelites, God said:

“So you shall keep my commandments and do them: I am the LORD.”

Leviticus 22:31

Again, in the wilderness they were told:

“You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him.”

Deuteronomy 13:4

God is serious about our being obedient to His commandments.  In fact, Jesus used obedience to His commandments as the test of our love for Him.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments. …  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

John 14:15, 21

In full recognition of the fact that we could not keep Jesus’ commandments through our own power, Jesus told His disciples that, after His resurrection and ascension into Heaven, the Holy Spirit would be sent to help them do that which He commanded them.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

John 14:26

Moreover, the Holy Spirit seals us in Christ. He is the surety, the guarantor of our salvation. 

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit,”

Ephesians 1:13

Indeed, one of the Holy Spirit’s assignments with respect to believers is to transform us into the image of our Lord and Savior. 

“For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”

Romans 8:29

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

Romans 12:2

When God has told me to stay in a difficult situation, I try to jump out of it, a classic definition of disobedience.  When I do, it is as if I hear the Holy Spirit saying “Don’t do it. Uh Uh – No!”.   Often I obey that voice and repent from my attempted jump of disobedience.  But, there are times when I disobey intentionally and then, too, I must repent of my arrogant disobedience and seek forgiveness, asking the Spirit to strengthen me so that I am able to resist temptation. 

God has given us His Word and His Spirit who indwells the believer in Jesus Christ.  The Spirit transforms us and renews our mind so that, as we are sanctified, we are conformed to the image of Jesus.  But that process is not linear. 

By that I mean, it is not a smooth road toward transformation.  We struggle and fail to obey the directives that are clearly given in Scripture and brought to our attention through the Holy Spirit.  Praise the Lord that when we have been disobedient, the Holy Spirit still is within us and He will tenderly guide you back into relationship with Him and with our Lord if you will confess your sin and repent. 

Next time you see your canine or Homo sapiens children disobeying your directive, stop and ponder whether there is something in your own life for which you need to confess and repent.  Is there some act of disobedience that you need to address?  Is the Holy Spirit saying “Uh Uh – No!”? 

The Psalmist knew the sweet fellowship with God that confession and repentance provides when he said:

Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit. For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah.  I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah”

Psalm 32:2-5

When David sinned, and kept silent, he was tormented day and night because of his guilt.  When he turned to God and confessed his sin, he was forgiven and he could say “Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity”.  Happy is the one who does not stand before God covered in the guilt of his sin. 

Doggies patiently waiting
Obedient doggies!

Praise God that the Spirit says “Uh Uh – No!” preventing us from sinning, but praise God also that when we fail to be obedient, we can be restored to full fellowship with Him through confession and repentance. 

Father, I praise You for Your Holy Spirit and for the work that He does in my life as He guides me and leads me in the path that I should take.  Thank You too that Your Spirit also stops me from disobeying and, when I do sin, that He leads me back into the fold.  I praise Your Holy Name.

TRYING TO UNDERSTAND

Cuddles, one of our two Miniature Pincher dogs, always seems to want to understand what is going on.  She will watch what we are doing and cock her head to the side, with her eyes piercing ours, as if she was trying all her best to know what is going on.  Perhaps she is thinking that her people are really goofy, I don’t know, but it seems as if her mental wheels are spinning when she focuses and looks at us like that, at least my humanizing of the canine would think like that!

Recently my husband was going to fix a leaking kitchen faucet.  He got all the materials together to do the job and then opened the cabinet under the sink.  In Cuddles’ mind, this was a perfect opportunity to help Daddy!

Cuddles helping daddy 1

You are not aware of the step of faith this is for her.  This cabinet houses the dreaded garbage disposal, and each time I turn it on, she will come running from wherever she is in the house and bark at it. When it stops, she walks off as if she had killed the monster that was threatening Mommy.  This time, though, she had Daddy with her, and she was proud to stand side by side with him.

Cuddles helping daddy 2

Getting into the nitty-gritty of the issue under sink, Daddy was leaning far forward, and Cuddles was standing close to him, with eyes forward as if she were inspecting or monitoring his actions.  Even a flash bulb would not divert her attention from Daddy and the cabinet.

Cuddles helping daddy 3

At this point, she really was trying to assist him because now her front paws were on the floor of the cabinet.  She was absorbed in trying to understand what he was doing.  But, she couldn’t help, and she did not know what was going on.  Her inquisitiveness had to yield because it was just beyond her ability to comprehend.

These pictures present a sort of image of me and God.  There have been times that I felt just like Cuddles.  I want to help, to do something, but I just can’t understand what needs to be done.  God is working in my life, but I don’t comprehend what I am supposed to do; I don’t know where He is leading, I don’t know why something painful happened. 

Can you relate?  Perhaps all is well, and you are not peering under the cabinet for answers now, but you have done so at some point in the past.  Or, perhaps you are now seeking answers as you are under the protection and guidance of your Heavenly Father, but you are wondering where He is leading you, or why your circumstances have changed.

Perhaps you are trying to understand why a dreaded disease has attacked your child or spouse, or yourself.  Perhaps you are trying to understand why a beloved family member was taken from you too soon, or why your dream job came crashing down when the company closed. 

There are too many scenarios to list, and each of us has to deal with situations and problems that come our way, seemingly with virtual regularity. 

But, Beloved, know that our Heavenly Father has written us a love letter, the Holy Bible.  It details what God’s plan is and how we are to live. 

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Deuteronomy 6:5

It tells of His provision of a Savior to atone for our sins so that we can have an abundant life now and eternal life with Him after death envelops our body. 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

And, God has given us His Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts which are dead in sin, Who then speaks to us and opens our eyes so that we can understand the Bible as we read it, and Who guides us in prayer.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26

Beloved, you don’t need to peer into the cabinet of the future in fear.  You don’t need to cock your head to the side and wonder what God has planned for you.  You don’t need to be in panic when something comes at you out of that cabinet, God has you in His hand and He is omniscient and omnipotent. 

There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.  This omnipotent God has said that if you seek Him, He will be found.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

Just as Cuddles tried to understand but could not, some things are simply beyond our capacity to understand; but even those difficult things are not outside God’s control or knowledge.  As a child of God, as a Christian, you are secure, and you are the child of the Omniscient, Omnipotent God of all creation.  Trust Him and obey His Word.  Him and He shall be found.

Father, thank You for giving us little animals who can remind us of eternal principles.  Thank You for Your Word, for Your Son, and for Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for salvation and for the promise of life eternal through Jesus Christ my Lord.  May these words be encouraging and of comfort to those who read them.

WHAT LIGHT? DID YOU SEE A LIGHT?

Jesus said:

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:14-16

Consider the following comparison.

1,  On November 3, 1871, the Yaquina Bay Lighthouse in Oregon was lit and its beam was first broadcast over the ocean.  The light was a single wick lantern which burned refined lard oil and its light was a steady white beam that was 161 feet above sea level.

Let the light shine light Oregon 2009 412

A plaque at this display, shown in the picture, gives more information about this lighthouse lamp.

Let the light shine sign Oregon 2009 411

2.  Years ago, we were driving in Florida from Orlando to Cape Canaveral.   At that time, there were still undeveloped areas along the highway.  There was a bit of cloud cover so not many stars were shining through. 

As a passenger, just sat gazing out over the seemingly empty space when I thought I saw a light.  I turned my head, but there was nothing there.  I looked out the right-hand window when my peripheral vision detected a light to the left.  Turning my head, again there was nothing visible.

My husband asked what was wrong since I was turning my head back and forth, and I said that I thought I saw a light, but there was nothing there.  I really thought I was going batty or, more likely, that my vision was on the blink! 

Just then, the light beamed again and both of us saw it and laughed as we realized it was a strobe light for aircraft guidance.

Do you see the difference?  Strobe lights are not like the lighthouse that shines its light throughout the night sky.  Strobe lights can best be described as “Now you see it, now you don’t.”

Jesus said that we are to be lights in the world.  But that light should not be “on again/ off again”..  Strobe lights are like that.  We are like that too.  Jesus addressed this type of person when He used an agricultural example and said:

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

Luke 6:43-45

Our actions don’t always match up with the words that we speak. 

We say that we love someone but then we spread gossip about them when we have the chance.  We say that we want to help others but then we are too busy to go the extra mile when the need arises.  We say that we are Christians, but we don’t attend church because “you know they are all hypocrites!”  We say we love Jesus, but then we hate our fellow Christians because they have different views than those we hold.  We say we love God, but then we curse using His name as an expletive when something happens that we don’t like.  We are strobe light Christians.

When we witness to the hairdresser and talk about all that we are doing for Jesus in the church and in the community, and then we criticize and condemn her for how she did our hair, the strobe light is dimmed.

When we put the decal on our car indicating that we love Jesus, the witness light is bright.  But the strobe is darkened when that same car cuts off others on the highway or when expletives are heard because of a slow start at the light.

Let us not be strobe light Christians.  Let us not dim the light with our pride, arrogance or lack of love.  As noted at the Yaquina Bay lighthouse (and with just a bit of editorial license), “Let YOUR Light Shine” for the Lord Jesus Christ.  

Father, I pray that I would not tarnish my own witness for You by inconsiderate actions, unkind words, or unloving attitudes.  I pray that You would forgive me, Lord, when I have put my own desires ahead of others, my own wants ahead of others’ needs, my own interests before Yours. 

 

 

SWEET MUSIC

Yesterday was beautiful – the weather was a bit cool but the sun was bright, the grass and flowers were shining in glory after being washed in abundant rain for several days in a row, and the birds were singing their sweet music throughout the backyard.

Also, the wind was a gentle breeze that sent the porch’s windchimes into a beautiful rhapsody.  

As I was looking at the yard and listening to the chimes’ gentle tones, I was praising the Lord for His gracious goodness and love in sending such a time in the midst of a hectic world.   It made me smile and made my heart resonate with the love that God has for us.

We went to our Bible study that evening and I mentioned the wind chimes in general conversation.  A dear friend asked if I had ever heard the “ice chimes”.  I had not, and she provided a picture that she had just received from near her summer home in Maine.

Lake in Maine with ice breaking up - chiming sounds echoing from the ice

She explained that the lake had frozen over during the winter months.  Indeed, it was so thick and strong you could walk (and some would drive) across it.  However, now the ice was melting.  And when this happens, often but not always, there will be a high-pitched sound, rather like tinkling little bells.  Some have described the sound as the tinkling sound of wind chimes, and thus the sound is named “ice bells.”  She continued to note that the sound was “absolutely beautiful”.

I researched the cause of this natural phenomenon and found that the ice thins as the weather becomes warmer and, at some point, it begins to crack.  When the ice sheets break up, the pieces of ice bump against each other, and the sound is created.

See the article entitled The Sounds of Ice from Margaret LeMone in Atmos News, February 16, 2012 for more information.

Here is a YouTube video from the Town of Dillon, Colorado, dated December 21, 2017 which depicts the lake with the sound of the ice chimes.

As I was thinking of this, it struck me how we think we are something special when we create wind chimes to catch the wind, that God gives us, so that we can hear the beautiful tones, that God grants through the gift of hearing. We often think of nature as being rather static, not really creative necessarily, just doing what it does so that we can live – a rather me-centered attitude.

Instead, we should open our eyes, open our ears, open our minds, and open our hearts so we can see the glory of God as it is revealed in His creation.  I know that Paul points out, eloquently, that nature has fallen because of our sin. 

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Romans 8:19-21

I cannot dispute the reality that creation is not, today, as it was in the Garden of Eden before the Fall.  However, even in its fallen state, some aspect of the glory of God is evident in His creation. 

Now, thanks to a comment made at the Bible study, when I am listening to the wind chimes while sitting on the porch, I can also recall the “ice chimes” that ring out to the glory of the Creator.  Note that God didn’t need me to make chimes – His chimes ring out by His hand.  He didn’t need me to teach the birds to sing, He imprints their song upon them and they raise their voices in witness to His goodness. He didn’t need me to teach the whales to sing, the bees to buzz or the hounds to “roo”.  What a marvelous creation we have spread before us, through God’s amazing hand.

“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16

Praise our glorious, wonderful God, and His Son who created all things through the power of His word.  

Father, I thank You for the beauty of Your creation.  There is so much of Your creation that I have not experienced and there is so much that is beyond my ability to comprehend, but I praise Your name for giving me such a marvelous world with ice chimes, singing birds, beautiful rainbows, glorious sunsets, and the list goes on with the best Gift of all, Your Son as my living Lord and Savior. 

WHAT DID YOU MEAN?

I have often heard that the English language is very difficult to learn.  There are so many “rules” which are “broken” so often that it almost makes the rule meaningless.  And so often, we use the same word to mean something quite different in two different situations.  For instance, one word can mean a vocal part or a brass instrument.

Recently, “Mr. Smith” agreed to accompany our church choir on a musical instrument.  The choir director mentioned this to another member, saying that “Mr. Smith” would be playing a baritone.  The response was “a baritone what?”  to which she said, “a baritone”.  The inquiry then was “a baritone saxophone? a baritone what?”  She responded: “a baritone baritone.”   After a frustrating conversation, it became clear that the choir director was speaking of an instrument and, although musically inclined, the church member had never heard of an instrument called by that name.

BARITONE
The baritone horn, or sometimes just called baritone, is a low-pitched brass instrument in the saxhorn familY.

If a man says he is a baratone, does that mean he is a brass instrument?  Of course not.  But, how often do we say the correct word and others hear that word but interpret it with a meaning very different than what we thought we conveyed with the word?

Jesus recognized this problem as the distinction between what Scripture says and how the Pharisees and Sadducees interpreted those same words.

“”You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults [whoever says Raca, which is a Greek word of contempt] his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Matthew 5:21-22

The Pharisees and Sadducees were repeating one of the Ten Commandments as expressed in the Old Testament without understanding the scope and intent of that commandment.  They were using the same words but meaning something much less than intended.

Another example relates to adultery.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Matthew 5:27-28

Again, same words but different and expanded meaning. 

The misunderstanding of the words expressed by God through Moses in the Old Testament was not a surprise to God and it was not something that only became apparent when Jesus came into His ministry.  The Prophet Isaiah said:

“And so the Lord says, “These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. Because of this, I will once again astound these hypocrites with amazing wonders. The wisdom of the wise will pass away, and the intelligence of the intelligent will disappear.””

Isaiah 29:13-14 NLT

When we speak of our God to our neighbors, we need to be clear about Who we are talking about.  Although He is the creator of the universe and all that is in it, He is not only the creator.  Although He is God, there are no other gods above Him.  We may have gods that we look to, gods such as money, fame, even family or health; but nothing is anything even approaching our God.

Beloved, the bumper sticker with all the symbols of other religions with the term “Co-Exist” cannot be the philosophy of the Christian.  We certainly recognize that others believe in gods.  But, those ideas are not the same as the one true God of Scripture, whose Son is Jesus Christ our Savior.

Be careful of what you say and how you say it.  Mean what you say and be ready to stand up for your faith.  Our world needs to see Christians who are committed and willing to say that God is the only God and Jesus Christ is His Son and the only way of salvation.

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6 ESV 

Father, thank You for sending Your Son to be my Savior.  I pray that I would be willing to stand and affirm this truth in witness to others and that Your Holy Spirit would give me the strength and grace to so witness to the glory and honor of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord.

YOU ARE IMPORTANT TO THE BODY!

Sometimes we feel insignificant and envious of those who seem to have it all together, who are out in front and proclaiming the Gospel message to hundreds of people.  We can’t do that.  We aren’t important enough to even be recognized.  We are too small, insignificant, unqualified, … we can’t!

Allow me to give you a modern parable for consideration.

fireplace fans at rest

In our family room, we have a wood burning stove in the fireplace.  We have central heat and air, so we don’t need the fireplace to stay warm in the winter.  It is more an ambiance setter, and I do so enjoy it. (The cow tea kettle provides steam for humidity when the fire is roaring.)

Several years ago, I saw an ad about fans that sit on the fireplace stove.  They don’t plug in, they simply sit there, as shown in this close-up.. 

fireplace fan

We purchased two of these fans and the first winter we had them, there was a power outage in our community.  We had a fire going in the fireplace and the heat chamber had built up sufficiently to power these little fans and their blades were spinning to beat the band.  They were going so fast that that they were complete blurs. 

fireplace fans generating heat

Because of their efforts, the heat from the fireplace was pushed out into the room and we were comfy notwithstanding the lack of power.

The little fans had a job to do.  They whirled their blades any time there was a fire in the wood stove, deriving their power from the heat in the stove’s chamber.  No electricity.  Most of the time, you could hardly feel the heat from the blades because the stove’s built in electric fan was running, and it was significantly stronger than those little fans.  But, when the power went out, the stove’s fan was silent, and all you could hear was the little fans spinning and doing their job.

Each of us has a job to do in the Body of Christ.  We may not be the one in the spotlight, we may not even be in the glow of the light, but we have a job to do and we will be accountable for doing that job to the best of our ability and to the Glory of God, who enables us to do the work through Christ our Lord.

The Apostle Paul said it this way to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians chapter 12:

“Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  

Verses 4-6

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and all were made to drink of one Spirit.”

Verses 12-13

“But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.”

Verses 18-20

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.

Verses:26-27

The Apostle Paul said it this way to the Ephesians:

There is one body and one Spirit–just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call– one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Ephesians 4:4-7

We are not all the same.   We cannot do everything.  But each Christian CAN do something for the Lord, even if it is small.  (Think of the fireplace fan.)   

Or, think of your little toe. You know, the toe that you keep stubbing against the furniture at the doorway of the room.  It doesn’t seem to accomplish nearly as much as the other parts of the body, but it has a job.

The little toe has many names. It is the little piggy if you are a toddler, the pinky toe if you are a bit genteel, or the fifth digit of the foot if you are a physician.  No matter what you call the little toe, it works in concert with the other toes and rest of the foot to get us where we need to go.  Podiatrist Dr. Bruce Pinker, with Progressive Foot Care in Nanuet, New York says that “the purpose of the pinky toe is to provide balance and propulsion.”

Dr. Aditi Gupta Jha, lead physician at the online consulting platform, JustDoc.com,​ agrees with Dr. Pinker’s assessment, saying:  “If [the fifth toe is] injured or has to be amputated, it can lead to falls from imbalance.” 

So, whether you are a small non-electric fan, that is hidden when the central heat comes on but which provides warmth when the power is out, or a little toe, that does its job even if it stands precariously close to the edge of your foot and close to the edge of the door frame, you have a job to do in the Body of Christ.  You may be a teacher, a deacon, an elder, a parent, a secretary, a lawyer, a doctor, a grandparent, a preacher or evangelist.  It matters not what occupation you have or what gift you have been given through God’s grace.  What matters is that you diligently use that gift with all your might for the glory of God. 

So, take your eyes off others.  Stop comparing yourself to them.  Quit ignoring the gifts that God has given you through His grace. 

Instead, turn your eyes upon Jesus.  If you want to compare, look at Him and realize you are a sinner, saved by His grace.  When we have a rightful image of ourselves, we will do whatever job there is for us to do, not because we are special or talented but because of the love and thankfulness we have for the grace, mercy and love bestowed upon us by God through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Listen to the hymn “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” as presented on October 5, 2012 at The Great Hymns of our Faith Concert which took place in Cape Town. This is one of the hymns that was featured, starring Loyiso Bala, Neville D and Ivan Siegelaar.

Father, Your grace, mercy and love are too much to comprehend when we think about the marvelous work that Jesus did on the cross and through His resurrection.  May I turn my eyes upon Jesus and live in His glory and light so that I can do the job that you have assigned to me and give glory to You, Almighty Father, through the power of Your Holy Spirit.