Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for November, 2011

And Your Assignment Is…

Today I listened in on an argument between God and Moses.  It went something like this (see Exodus 3-4).  God’s parts are in all caps.  Note the first person pronouns used by both speakers.

I HAVE SEEN THE MISERY OF MY PEOPLE…SO I HAVE COME DOWN TO RESCUE THEM.  NOW GO!  I’M SENDING YOU TO PHARAOH.

            But who am I to go to Pharaoh?

I WILL BE WITH YOU.

            But who shall I tell the Israelites is sending me?

I AM WHO I AM

            But what if they don’t believe me?

I AM GIVING YOU MIRACLES TO CONVINCE THEM.

            But I can’t speak well.

I MADE YOUR MOUTH AND WILL HELP YOU SPEAK.

            Please send someone else!

(Angrily)  I’LL SEND YOUR BROTHER WITH YOU AND WILL HELP YOU BOTH. 

Two thoughts come to mind:

1.  When God has a job to do, he equips and sends a person to do it.  Where else in the Bible does this happen? 

2.  What does He have for me to do today?  If it’s an “impossible” job, how am I responding? 

3.  Am I focusing on my inadequacies (note Moses’ personal pronouns) or on God’s power (notice the God’s personal pronouns)?

And God Just Laughs

I suspect God has a good bit of humor tucked between the verses of the Bible that you and I never see.  But some of them are more obvious, several of which are in the gospel of John.  One is the interrogation of the formerly blind man by the Pharisees.  The man calmly answers their questions and tells his story—for a while.  Then it turns interesting as they begin to lose their cool and the man starts needling them with the plain and simple truth which they refuse to accept.  (If you want to read this story again, you’ll find it in John chapter 9.) 

Another bit of humor is in John 7:41-42 where the crowds are trying to figure out whether Jesus is the Messiah or not.  One side very logically argues that since Jesus was from Galilee, and since the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, Jesus simply couldn’t be the Messiah!  And Jesus didn’t bother to correct them. 

How many times do we also fail in our understanding—either because we don’t know all the facts or because we don’t want to believe?  I love it that God calls us to believe, not to understand everything.  That will come later.  I am looking forward to an eternity of learning amazing things!  And I trust there will be no papers or tests—ugh!

Where’s My Inheritance?

I can identify with the Old Testament Levites.

You will never find “Levi” on a map that shows the distribution of the land among the tribes of Israel.  They didn’t get any!   Instead, God said that He Himself, and the privilege of serving Him, would be their inheritance, or special possession.  (Numbers 18:23b-32; Joshua 13:33 & 18:7)

Another way in which the Levites were different is that they were supported by the tithes of the other people as they devoted themselves to God’s service.  And they, in turn, were to give God a tithe of what they received.

My husband and I own no property—no land, house or even car.  I must admit that occasionally I feel disenfranchised.  But in my saner moments I appreciate the freedom this really gives.  And I give thanks for the special privilege of having none other than God Himself—and the privilege of serving Him full-time—as my special possession.  And like the Levites, we give thanks for the support of God’s people and also give a share of that back to the Lord.

Wrestling with Fear

After Jacob met God face to face, he could face his worst fear. 

For 20 years he had been living as a fugitive from his brother Esau whom he had cheated out of what was most precious to him.  And now Jacob’s welcome with his father-in-law Laban was wearing out.  What drama!  Now let’s see how God turns this messy plot into His master plan:

–God tells Jacob to pack up and go home (31:3).

–God warns Laban not to harm Jacob (31:29).

–God sends “some angels” to meet Jacob as he travels on the next day (32:1).  Wow, what was that about?  We aren’t told that they said or did anything.

–When Jacob hears that Esau is coming to meet him with 400 men, Jacob tells God how terrified he is, reminds God of His promises, and begs for protection.

–God comes to Jacob as an adversary (as if he needed another one!)—a “man” who wrestled with him—and then blessed him (Genesis 32:24-31)! 

The next morning, those worst fears evaporated as God changed the heart of Esau and the two brothers were reunited in a tearful embrace. 

What does this say to me about facing my fears?

Heaven on Earth

In the book of Revelation, the scene repeatedly shifts back and forth between earth and heaven.  On earth it’s going from bad to worse.  Meanwhile in heaven, God is on His brilliant throne, surrounded by the praise of all different kinds of enthusiastic worshippers.

Till the climax of history when at last heaven comes to the renewed earth and God makes his home among men and women. He will live with us His people, personally wiping the tears from our eyes (21:3-4) and shining the light of Himself on us.  We will see His face, be marked with His name and reign with Him forever (22:4-5).  God and people, so long estranged, will be together again.  Earth and heaven, long separated, will be one. 

Joy to the world! 

How Do I Smell? Like Doom or Perfume?

Durian is a famous/infamous fruit that grows in the region where we live.  It grows about the size of a football and is covered with hard spikes.  But its greatest distinction is its smell.  It smells so strongly that it is banned in some buildings, airplanes, etc.  Most people would say that it smells horrible—like rotting onions.  But now that I have learned to love the taste of durian, I also love its smell!  People here fall generally into two groups:  durian-haters and durian-lovers Smile.

Durian (2)

This is what comes to mind when I read 2 Corinthians 2:15-16:

Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. (NLT)

Do I smell like doom or perfume?   I hope my life gives off a distinctive Christ-like smell so it truly represents Him.  Those who are offended by Christ may be offended by me, but I pray it will be only for the right reasons.  But more importantly, I pray that those who are being saved will be attracted to Him through me.

Let the beauty of Jesus be seen in me,
All His passion and purity.
Oh thou Spirit divine, all my nature refine
Till the beauty of Jesus be seen in me. 

Letting Go to Grow

What is more exciting than seeing a child take his first steps to a parent who waits with outstretched arms?  But before he can do that, he has to let go of his security anchor before he can learn, practice, and grow!  The same is true of learning to swim or ride a bike.

And where is the parent?  Very near—holding on, cheering, encouraging, assuring, challenging, ready to catch the child if he falls.  (The photo is one of our sons and his daughter.)

Snapshot 8 (11-9-2011 3-06 PM)

Now pan over to the scene of Peter walking on the water to his Lord.  If he wanted to walk on water, he had to leave the boat behind (even though the boat wasn’t feeling too secure right then in that storm!).   And Jesus was there to pick him up when he fell.  (By the way, there’s a great book with a long title:  “If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat” by John Ortberg.)

Launching out like that is always hard for me.  I value security.  But I need to value even higher my obedience to God, trusting him to hold me up as I venture with Him into the unknown.  Am I ready to go on an adventure with God?  When will it be?  Where are we going?  Oops, I can’t ask that, can I?

Retire or Revitalize?

As we begin our ninth term of service in an Asian country, it’s time for a “vision check.”  How far does my vision extend?  Where is the finish line?  Is it at a place called “retirement” or at the time when I am called away from this earth to meet the Lord?  (Mind you, I’m not THAT old yet, but people do ask about our plans.)

First of all, maybe I should start from that end and work backward.  When I see Jesus face to face, I want more than anything to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

In order for that to happen, what shall I do?  Do I start checking out, phasing out, flaking out, disengaging?  Or do I gear up and give it all I’ve got till I get a definite message from on high that it’s time to do something different?   I need to keep reminding myself that God’s call on my life can’t be compared to his plan for others who go on to different things for one reason or another—or, on the other hand, to others a generation older than me who are still going full steam ahead. 

Moses, Caleb and Joshua are examples of lives lived to the fullest right up to the end.  Their greatest years were arguably their last ones.  And can you imagine the apostle Paul enjoying his last years in retirement in a Roman villa?  No, but a Roman prison instead!  Not ordering more pink lemonade but asking for more parchment on which to write God’s words to people like you and me!  Not playing but praying—wrestling in prayer for hundreds of believers he knew, loved, and poured his life into, even while in prison. 

Now, what was that about retirement?  I don’t know.  I have a feeling that my attention should be on growing, reaching out, and giving all I’ve got for the long haul.  As Paul said,

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”             (NET Bible) 

Or as I saw once on a T-shirt: 

“Keep on working for the Lord.  The salary isn’t much but the rewards are out of this world!”

Serenity in Stress

If Psalm 37 had a title, I would propose “The Future of the Godly and the Wicked.”  It starts right out with “Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of [them]” because they won’t last long.

What to do instead of being obsessed and upset with all the evil around us?  What follows are four parallel commands, each focusing on God, and promising rewards.

Trust in Yahweh and do good.
Then you will live safely in the land and prosper.
Take delight in Yahweh,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
Commit everything you do to Yahweh.
Trust him, and he will help you
6  [and vindicate you].
Be still in the presence of Yahweh,
and wait patiently for him to act.

When life crowds in with its demands and concerns, I want to pause and remember these four key words:  trust…delight…commit…be still!

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