I recently saw a new version of the movie “Emma” and cannot get it out of my mind. Why? Maybe because it reminds me of myself in some ways.
Here is a young woman who enjoys the security of a loving family and whose basic needs have always been met. She is interested in people. She finds herself “interfering” (though with the best of intentions) in their lives and then is chagrined at some of the consequences. She makes premature judgments about people’s character. All the while, she takes a most worthy man for granted until the thought of losing him opens her eyes to the treasure that he is. She hurts people unthinkingly and is reprimanded—and then repents and seeks to mend the damage. She is humiliated and humbled. She feels unworthy of love, yet she comes to be loved by the one who knows her best and knows all her faults, yet sees her heart and loves her dearly.
Sometimes I feel that way when I mess up. As much as I strive to do what is right and loving, my old nature slips a hurtful word through my lips, or a critical thought or attitude clouds my mind. I am humiliated and humbled. I feel myself unworthy of love. Yet my husband and my God reaffirm their unconditional love to me and I go on to live another day, learning and growing, knowing that God is indeed at work in my life. I can hardly wait till the day when I fall into His loving arms and thank Him for that love and all His care and attention to make me what He wants me to be.
In the Temple of Jesus’ day stood two barriers that could be crossed only on pain of death. Both of these were demolished at the moment the Lord Jesus surrendered His life on the cross.
God’s Holy Presence was concealed by a “curtain” which scholars indicate was more like a twelve-inch-thick wall. But then God ripped that barrier, flinging open the doors and inviting us to freely enjoy His presence (Hebrews 10:21-22) . This correlates closely with the theme in Ephesians of all things in heaven and on earth being united in Jesus Christ. (See my March 28 posting.)
There was also a wall in the Temple courts cordoning off the area restricted to Jews. We are told that a dire warning was posted there forbidding Gentiles from entering. They could only come into the outermost court. This wall is likely the historical basis for the figurative “wall of hostility” which Paul says Jesus broke down by means of his death on the cross (Ephesians 2:14). This correlates closely with the other important theme in Ephesians of Jews and Gentiles being united in Christ.
So the barriers are down. We are free! Free to enjoy God in His very Presence, and free to love and accept all who trust Christ, regardless of race, culture, and denominational details. We struggle with these here on earth, but imagine how it will be in heaven when we will enjoy perfect unity with our Father and all our siblings!
I remember from childhood the stories of two boy kings of Judah with similar names—Joash and Josiah. They were seven and eight years old, respectively, when they were crowned. Both served God in their early years and both commissioned renovations of the Temple. But there the similarity ends.
When Joash’s godly mentors were off the scene, he and his officials made a deliberate decision to turn away from God and worship idols instead! And when God sent Joash’s own cousin Zechariah to reprimand him, he had him killed right in the Temple courtyard. What went wrong?
Josiah, almost 200 years later, was the son of a very wicked king, but Josiah “began to seek the God of his ancestor David” and served Him with all his heart throughout his life. What went right?
As a mother of three, I thank God that each of my sons has made the decision to follow the Lord with all his heart. And as the grandmother of ten (and still counting!), I pray that each of them will choose to do the same. Oh, Lord, turn our hearts to You and keep us faithful!
In my closet hangs an “elderly” aqua top that I cannot part with. Here’s the story. Many years ago I needed a plain short-sleeved aqua top to go with a certain split skirt that I could wear for riding a motorcycle to church in various villages from week to week. (We’d hire a motorcycle to take the two of us, but sometimes others would ride along, as many as 5 passengers besides the driver!)
I prayed about what I needed and headed for the bins in the nearest store where hundreds of tops were thrown willy-nilly. And guess what—it was there! Exactly what I needed—right size, color and style.
It’s fun to see how my Father provides my clothes. I think He smiles, too, when he sees me find the surprises He’s tucked away for me.
Oh, I also have to mention that last week, I needed a new pair of black dress shoes as I noticed that mine were pinching my toes. But before I could get to a shoe store, someone asked us to take bags of clothing to a second-hand store. And in one of those bags were the perfect black shoes for me.
On the other hand, I’m frustrated in this nomadic life when I can’t find a certain sweater or nightgown or piece of jewelry that I “knew” I’d packed in a certain place. Lord, please help me to be content with what You provide, not to fret about what I don’t have (or can’t find), and to keep focused on what is important to you.
Why do you worry about clothing? Think about how the flowers of the field grow; they do not work or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was clothed like one of these! And if this is how God clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won’t he clothe you even more, you people of little faith? So then, don’t worry saying, …‘What will we wear?’ For the unconverted pursue these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:28-33 NET)
The Bible is full of small things that God loves and uses:
Gideon’s army of 300.
Faith like a mustard seed.
A young shepherd who defeated a giant warrior.
Short-lived wildflowers. (Like the Texas bluebonnets we saw recently.)
A young prince and his sidekick who routed an enemy camp.
A poor widow’s offering of a few pennies.
Faithfulness in small things.
Five loaves and two fish.
“Nothing can hinder the LORD. He can win a battle whether he has many warriors or only a few!” (1 Samuel 14:6)
Have you noticed how unpredictable God is? Take for example the experiences of Moses and Elijah with God in the same place: Mount Sinai, also called Horeb.
Moses met God there in thunder, lightning, thick clouds, trumpet crescendo, smoke, fire, and earthquake (Exodus 19:16-20).
Elijah met God in the same place. Not in a violent windstorm, earthquake or fire, as he may have expected—but in a “the sound of a gentle whisper” (1 Kings 19:11-12, NLT).
What are some implications of this as I think how God relates to me?
I should not take another person’s experiences with God as the norm.
I can delight in a God who is creative and who cares enough about me to fashion his work in, for, and through me in an individual way.
Years ago I had a strange dream: A clock whose hands were not anchored down. They were moving, but their movements were out of control, meaningless. To me, this was a vivid illustration of the meaninglessness of a life not centered and anchored in Christ.
But rooted & grounded in God, who is unchanging, the movements of my life (with all its changes) are meaningful & orchestrated.
Whenever I leave a familiar and secure environment to travel to a different place, a switch occurs in my mind. It’s a letting go of all those things in which I find security—friends, routines, resources—and reaffirming my dependence on the Lord who is my true Friend and Resource for whatever may lie ahead.
The Bible contains other metaphors for the stability we have in Christ:
Rock: Ps. 18:2; 31:2
Anchor: Heb. 6:19
Foundation: Is. 33:6; 1 Cor. 3:11
Roots: Eph. 3:16-17