Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for June, 2011

Pony Express Qualifications

The other day I picked up this poster in the original Pony Express station in the town where we’re staying now. 

Pony Express poster

The Pony Express operated in 1860-1861. In addition to the qualifications listed on the poster, we found the following on the Internet:  “[The riders] had to be of light weight, with a constitution of iron that they might ride through storms of hail, snow, ice and sleet, over snow-capped mountains, across burning sands of alkali desert, through terrific and torrential streams, past the deadly lurking savage foe, carrying mail always into the west and back to the east.”  Wow! 

I am struck by the similarity between this recruitment and God’s call to service, particularly overseas:

–Bringing “letters” —but God’s are much more important and urgent!

–Leaving the familiar, heading for the unfamiliar

–Commitment—others are depending on us

–Willing to risk death daily

–Excellence (expert riders; giving our best to the Master)

–Young (don’t wait till we’re worn out to serve the Lord)

–“Orphans preferred”—we must loosen our home ties

–A team effort.  None of these fellows could go the whole distance.  Each would go about 50 miles and then hand the mailbags off to the next one.

God’s Wonderful World

Last night I enjoyed a great cup of coffee, but it was too late in the evening to not affect my sleep.  While waiting to doze off, I took the opportunity to mentally review the content of Psalm 104 which I’d read that morning.

Our whole family memorized this psalm when the kids were little. It’s a guided tour of God’s wonderful creation—from astronomy (the skies) to geology and topography (the earth, mountains, etc.), hydrology (springs, streams, rain), botany (grass, trees, and cultivated plants), zoology (birds, goats, and hyraxes).  Then back to the cycles of life marked by the moon and the sun.  Then off to oceanography–the ocean with its vast variety of large and small creatures.

God’s glory is seen in the fact that he provides for all of these creatures, determines the length of their lives—and delights in all that he has made!  All of this evokes the highest praise from the epitome of creation—you and me!  I want to keep my eyes open to each detail of my Father’s artistry and loving care—like that orange lily lying by the back gate and the power of last night’s thunderstorm.

Who Is in the Driver’s Seat? Lessons from Daniel

The other day I heard that three friends in ministry in the country where I work missed by just 10 minutes being on a bus that collided head-on with a tanker truck.  Along with a prayer of thanks for sparing them, I acknowledge once more God’s sovereignty over the affairs of mankind.

This, I believe, is the theme of the book of Daniel, which I’ve been reading recently.  The very second verse of the book says that God gave Nebuchadnezzar victory over Judah and permitted him to take sacred objects from the Temple of God!

Even pagan kings like Nebuchadnezzar had to acknowledge God’s rule over the affairs of men, kings and kingdoms.  He saw a glimpse of this when he had three godly men thrown into a fire but evidently didn’t learn his lesson very well.  Because  in chapter 4, it is repeated several times that this king would have to learn the hard way that “the Most High rules over the kingdoms of the world and gives them to anyone he chooses.”  Darius also acknowledged this in 6:26 when he discovered Daniel alive after a night with the hungry lions!

The last half of the book, which predicts future events that God has determined also demonstrates God’s sovereignty.  This is a great comfort to me when I see the world falling apart around me.

Though earthquakes and tsunamis may come,

though terrorists may do their worst,

though the economy collapse,

though moral decay destroy our society,

though solar flares and other environmental conditions threaten,

“God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!”  He is still in control. He is working in all of these things to fulfill his perfect plan.  And I have the privilege to be a part of that!

Israel, My Beloved—another favorite book

A few weeks ago I shared with you my favorite book, Streiker’s Bride.  Today I’d like to tell you about another that ranks right up there with it.  Like Streiker’s Bride, it is an analogy that powerfully portrays spiritual truth.

Israel My Beloved, by Kay Arthur, is the story of Sarah, who symbolizes the nation of Israel/Judah.  It begins during the years recorded in Kings and 2 Chronicles when the nation left her real Husband and went chasing after false lovers, who later betrayed her.  Her sad story continues through the centuries and even millenia until the future return of her Husband to reclaim her and rule the earth.

Here are some reasons why I like this book so well, though it takes a while to get into it and to get used to the idea that the same woman lives for several thousand years:

–I learned a lot of history from Israel’s perspective—how they have been haunted and hunted, fleeing from one oppressor to another, never finding the rest and peace they so long for.  I am beginning to understand why many of them may be skeptical and bitter.

–God grieves as a bereft husband when his wife abandons him.  He will not force her to stay or to return.  I want to ponder more on how God allows Himself to be either grieved or delighted by my attitude and actions.

–God’s love for Israel and total commitment to ultimately fulfill his plans for her are powerfully expressed.  His plan will succeed in the end, no matter what people do.

Musings on a Dirty Window

Yesterday I cleaned a dirty window.  This morning as I sit here and see the sun shining through that window, I’m horrified.  What I thought was clean is really a mess of smears going every which way!  Gotta work on that some more today.  Apparently I’ll only know if it’s really clean is when I look at it again tomorrow morning in the sun’s pure light.

If the truth be told, I think I’m pretty good most of the time.  But when I read or see the story of Martin Luther, for example, who was tortured by his many sins (in a monastery!), I wonder what I’m missing.  Recently I read the book, “Respectable Sins” by Jerry Bridges.  It’s like the sun shining through a window pane to reveal those usually-overlooked (by me!) flaws which mar the beauty God intended to be seen in me.  God, please get out your Windex again.  I want your Son-shine to beam through with no distracting smears in the way.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.  Psalm 139:23-24 NLT

My Service and Its Effects

In 2 Corinthians I found three acts of service that have explicit results listed which benefit both people and God:

1:11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.

Service:  Praying for those taking the gospel.

Result #1:  God answers those prayers.

Result #2:  God will be thanked, especially by those who prayed and those who receive the gospel.

4:13-15 But we continue to preach …And as God’s grace reaches more and more people, there will be great thanksgiving, and God will receive more and more glory.

Service:  Going to take God’s grace to people.

Result #1:  People will overflow with thanksgiving to God.

Result #2:  God will be greatly glorified.

9:11b-13 And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem* will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ.

Service:  Giving to God’s people.

Result #1:  Their needs of our brothers & sisters will be met.

Result #2:  The recipients will thank and glorify God.

Result #3:  Our obedience to God will be evident.

After I did this study, I did a double take when I realized that the three acts of service happened to be the well-known “Pray, Give, Go” formula—only in a different order.  It’s kinda neat when things like this come out inductively rather than setting out first to “prove” something!

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