HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

Celebrations of meaningful life events is common in our culture, and I expect in many cultures that differ from ours in various respects.  We celebrate events that are exciting, which are blessings to us, which have consequences and expectations that reach far into the future.  Consider birthday parties, for example. 

Birthday party and balloons (C)
Birthday balloons 

Being the intrepid dog lovers that we are, we even celebrate the birthday of our canine family members.  Here is a party when our beloved Goldie, a retired racing greyhound, was the Birthday Princess and, standing next to her, was her sister, Sweetie, wearing a snazzy party hat.

Doggie party

Today is the 32nd anniversary of my marriage to my husband, Bill.  It is a date that we celebrate because of the love we have for each other and because November 27, 1986 marked a wonderful change in our lives, and in the lives of our children.  Both of us had been married previously so the marriage was between us as husband and wife as well as between us as parents of the children.  (We avoid the step-child/step-parent designation.  We both share in the children as if they were our own to the best extent possible.)

We thank God every day for the love that He has given to us in the form of our spouse.  And we thank God that He is part of our marriage. 

Triangle for marriage illustration

We often praise God for when we draw closer to each other, we are closer to God as well.  And, when we are closer to God through worship, our Bible reading, study, and fellowship with others, we are drawn closer to our Christian marriage partner.

We are in the midst of the “holiday season” in which we celebrated Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S., at least).  As a matter of note, we were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1986, signifying our thanks to the Lord for His hand in bringing us together.   Now that we have finished the Thanksgiving turkey, we turn our attention to the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christmas Day. 

The heavenly host celebrated Jesus’ birth with their choir anthem to the shepherds.  The magi celebrated in worship when they delivered their gifts to Him.  But there is no directive that we are to celebrate His birth.

We remember events that may not be exciting or happy but are events which mark a change in our life or future.  Consider the remembrance of major surgery, or the marking of the date that a parent or spouse died.  These remembrances are not usually considered celebrations in the party-like sense, but they are things that we recall because of the effect that they had on our lives.

There is such an event described in Scripture.  Indeed, it is something that the Lord expressly directed His disciples to do, to celebrate, to remember.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”

Luke 22:19-20

Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with His disciples the night he was betrayed into the hands of the soldiers. He knew what was immediately ahead of Him, what suffering and humiliation He was going to endure.  He knew that the disciples would abandon Him and that He would be scorned, beaten and crucified.  He also knew that He was innocent of any wrong-doing.  He had lived a perfect life (which  we cannot live) and He was going to die a hideous death (a death that we deserved because of our sins).  He was going to die so we could live. 

That is a celebration that we have every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Beloved, celebrate the wondrous things in your life – anniversaries, birthdays, births, weddings, and the list goes one.  Remember the difficult times in your life – deaths, illnesses, divorce, and the list goes on.

Above all, celebrate and remember what the Savior has done for you, no matter if everything is bright and rosy in your world or if everything is dull and gray.  The Savior has given you life, abundant life now and eternal life hereafter, if you believe in His name and claim Him as your Savior.  Honor Him and remember His sacrifice for you. 

Listen as the hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is presented on the album Hymns in the Vineyard by Vineyard Music.

Keep your eyes upon Jesus, and He will be near you no matter what this world throws at you.  Celebrate His presence and you will find His peace even in times of hardship and difficulty.

Father, thank You for bringing us together in marriage, and thank You for being with us through various trials, surgeries, and difficulties that the past 32 years have brought.  Thank You too for Your gracious loving hand on the family and on each of the children and grandchildren, for which we praise Your Holy Name.  I pray that these words would be of encouragement and that You would be glorified.

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.

 

QUESTION — IS IT A POT OR PAN?

 

Often we have questions that seem insurmountable about things are so weighty that our head feels like exploding, but in hindsight the questions seemed irrelevant and trivial at best.  

Take, for example, the question “What is the difference between kitchen pots and kitchen pans?” 

pot-and-pan
A frying PAN and a stock POT.

One is supposedly a pot and the other is a pan.  So, which is which?  What, pray tell, is the difference?

According to Wonderopolis, a pot can correctly be called a pan, but a pan can’t correctly be called a pot. So if you ask a chef for a pan, you could get either a pot or a pan. However, if you ask for a pot and a chef hands you a pan, the chef would be wrong!  Is this really worth pondering at length?   And then there is the pot that can be used as a pan or is it a pan that can be used as a pot? 

pot-or-pan
I fry in this non-stick coated pan and I cook sauces in this pot. So is it a “potpan”?

For a non-chef kind of cook (like me), my response (I am afraid to admit) would be “who really cares?”  Isn’t that a tempest in a [tea]pot or pan? (Pardon the partial pun!)

But then there are other questions that are far more important, but even then we don’t always have an answer for difficult life questions that confront us. 

  • “What do I do for my career?” 
  • “Is this the right person for me to marry?”
  • “Is my church feeding me from Scripture or is it merely giving me warm, cozy thoughts to contemplate?”
  • “When I volunteer at the mission, am I doing it in service to my own ego or in service to my Lord?”

We can search counselors’ thoughts and life coaches’ theories but they fall short – well-meaning but insufficient. 

We can turn to Scripture and read until our eyes are blurry but sometimes even then the answer eludes us. 

Or, we can turn to prayer – and then commune with the One who loves us and who sent His Son to secure our salvation. This One does know the answer to even the hardest of questions, because He is sovereign.  I Timothy 6:15-16.  In fact, He knew the answer to the questions we were going to ask even before we were born! Psalm 139.

We still may not know the answer to the problem facing us, but if we know God as our Father who loves us and gave His son for our eternal life with Him, we can rest in His grace and sovereignty.

I married immediately after college graduation and then worked to put my husband through seminary.  Eleven years and two children later, I began attending law school, not only because my husband said I should, but because I believed that the Lord was directing me to this career.  After MUCH prayer, I applied, quite confident that I would be told that I was too old, I had two small children, and I was too stupid. I rather thought I would go through the motions and do everything I needed to do in application to the school and then God would close that door and I would be done with the “you should go to law school” comments from my husband and various co-workers. 

When the phone call came advising me that I had secured the one open spot to begin school in two weeks, September 1980, I was stunned.  I quit my job, and two weeks later found myself purchasing enormous books (none of which had pictures!).  I was terrified but determined to do this because it was clear the Lord had directed me to this path.

Three months later, my husband told me our marriage was not worth working on and he left the apartment.  Three months after that he left the church, the city and the state. I seriously began questioning whether I had misunderstood God’s plan.  I could not believe that He would have me in school with two preschool children, no means of financial support, no family close by to assist.

The children and I moved to federal housing and I completed my education through tears and questions about how we were going to live.  Needless to say, things were not easy for us and we did not have everything that our greedy little hearts ever wanted.  But when I began to falter and fears overtook my heart, the Lord would send someone or something to encourage me and remind me that He is God and in control and He had us in His Hands.  He did not give me answers, He gave me Himself and that was more than enough.

A quick glance at the First Century Christians belies the interpretation of Scripture that God will give us only good times in this world if we merely believe in Jesus. Simply put, Nero did not provide a good time for Christians!  Nope, can’t find any “prosperity gospel” there!  But, even during those horrific days, the Christians praised God and believed His promise of eternal life if they persevered and relied on Him. 

Jesus says in Matthew 6:31-33: 

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.  But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Jesus here is not promising all the goodies that this world has to offer.  No, He is telling his disciples that they should rest in God – seek first God and His righteousness … then everything else will fall in line according to God’s purpose. 

The details of life may be messy and hard and we may not know the answer to our questions now.  We may not understand the situation we are in, but we can remember that we are not God … we are temporal, mortal, dust.  He is omniscient, omnipotent.  He is not limited by time, indeed He created time for our benefit.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. 

“For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.”

Psalm 90:4 ESV

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Hebrews 13:8 ESV

So, while we don’t know the answer to the questions we have, we do know the end result of our struggle is secured. God has given us Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone, and His Holy Spirit is our resident Counselor.  Our everlasting life and our presence with Him is satisfaction of our only real need.

Crazy questions may abound in our world.  But for the question that is the most important one of all, the question that transcends the here and now, the question that defeats mortality and the evil in this world, we can know the answer.  

The all important question is —  Where will you spend eternity?

For those in Christ, that answer is “With Him now and forever more.”     Matthew 25:36-40 and John 6:37-40. 

Praise His Holy Name!

Thank you Father for granting mercy and grace by sending Your Son to die the death that we deserve so that we can have eternal life with You.  Thank You for providing the answer to the only question that needs to be asked.  We praise Your holy name.