This morning we went for a walk around the block with our two-year-old grandson. On the way, he picked a handful of dandelions.
It reminded me of a photo we have of my sister and me doing the same thing and presenting them to our mom who oohed and aahed over them. She actually did appreciate the cheerful flowers which we normally consider weeds. But more than that, she appreciated the “love gift” of her two little girls.
What I do for the Lord is so small and inadequate. (Remember the widow who gave two tiny coins.) But when it’s done to please Him, he delights in it. Like maybe washing the dishes for the family, taking time to read to a child or play a game with them, offering to run an errand for someone, or…
More than anything, I long to hear the Lord’s words someday: “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
My recurring nightmare is about school. Classes are beginning and I either haven’t yet registered or have misplaced my books or failed to do my homework or can’t find my classroom. It seems there’s always something to worry about, whether in dreams or in real life, which is the fodder for those dreams.
When I was in elementary school, I used to lie awake worrying. For the life of me, I can’t remember what I worried about! But when I shared it with my mom, she gave me a Bible verse that has stuck with me all these years: Casting all your cares on him for he cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). David said much the same when his life was in danger: Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall (Psalm 55:22, NLT). I love these verses and the beautiful songs that they have inspired. I first heard the former on a children’s recording, and the latter is set in Mendelssohn’s oratorio “Elijah.” For all ages and all styles, this reassurance of God’s care is our comfort.
Last night at supper we discussed with our grandchildren (two of which are twins) the birth of twins in the Bible:
Me: When Jacob was born after Esau, what was he doing? (Expected answer: Holding Esau’s heel.)
Simeon: Making soup!
I guess he skipped ahead a few years in his thought process. But it got me to thinking again about the role of the firstborn in the Bible.
Of course, we know that the firstborn got twice the inheritance, and (at least in some cases) a more special blessing. But when it comes right down to it, it seems that non-firstborns may figure more prominently in salvation history and generally in the Old Testament stories. We know that none of the following was a firstborn:
Abel or Seth
As the firstborn in my family, I would love to think of the firstborn being blessed. But I’m more intrigued by the way God turns things topsy-turvy, laying his blessing on men and women “after His own heart”—those who are “friends of God,” regardless of birth order—and a lot of other things.
In a local newspaper today were printed responses to the question, “Things you can’t live without even when money is tight”. This is what they said:
Jeep (for safe winter driving)
What would I have said? Would my response have been pleasing to the Lord? Think of Paul sitting in prison as he wrote to the Philippians (esp. chapter 3). What did he consider non-negotiable? It surely wasn’t creature comforts, tangible toys, fleeting pleasures. Rather, it was the invisible…
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Cor. 4:18 (NIV)
An important task of a Bible translator is to accurately translate similar terms. And when the receptor language lacks its own terminology for important theological concepts, it’s all the more important for the translator to understand what those Greek or Hebrew terms mean in order to render the ideas precisely.
“Grace” and “mercy” are two of these which are so similar that, in some languages, it’s hard to find ways to distinguish them. We’ve all heard the helpful definitions of “getting what (good) you don’t deserve” and “not getting what (bad) you do deserve. Here’s another thought or two:
Maybe there’s an aspect of “grace” that focuses more on the giver—his kindness, compassion, riches and generosity.
And maybe there’s an aspect of “mercy” that focuses more on the recipient—his need, his guilt, his helplessness.
In Christ, we have both!
A verse that has puzzled me is Hebrews 11:39-40. “All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us.” (NLT)
Why do all the heroes mentioned in that chapter have to wait for us before they can “receive all that God promised” and “reach perfection”? Two images come to mind:
A family celebration where the father wants to wait till everyone is present before bringing out the cake and blowing out the candles.
But a relay race seems even more appropriate in the context (the next verses, 12:1-2—following an unfortunate chapter break). The people listed in chapter 11 have finished their part and handed off the baton to us. Now it’s our turn to “strip off every weight” and “run with endurance, keeping our eyes on Jesus.” The race won’t really be finished until the last runner has crossed the finish line. That’s when we’ll all receive our team trophy and “reach perfection” together. Are we cheering each other on? Are we listening to the encouragement of others along the way and keeping our eyes on our Champion there ahead of us? In the end, it will be well worth it all.
“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus; life’s trials will seem so small when we see Christ. One glimpse of His dear face all sorrows will erase. So bravely run the race till we see Christ. (by Esther Kerr Rusthoi)”
Two metaphors come together in Ephesians 3:17 in an interesting way.
Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. (NLT)
First, try to picture Christ “making his home in your heart.” Think of him coming in (without knocking, of course), kicking off his shoes, raiding the fridge for a snack, and making himself comfortable in your favorite chair. Does this idea make me gasp with horror or with delight? Does He find me running to meet him with my arms open wide or scrambling to hide the stuff he shouldn’t see? I think I would do the former; I can hardly wait to see Him! But when He makes Himself at home, He will call the shots. Am I really ready for that? (A great resource for exploring this whole idea is My Heart Christ’s Home by Robert Boyd Munger.)
Second, picture your “roots growing down into God’s love.” Now the situation reverses and we’re the one entering into Christ! I am stable, strong and secure in God’s limitless love.
Lord, please remind me of this when I am again tempted to feel rootless and homeless. You are in me and I am in You