I was struck by her prayer. In this tiny, remote church without electricity or sound system or other amenities, the offering had just been taken. And as the pastor lifted the baskets heavenward, she said, “We don’t get tired of giving You thanks because You never get tired of giving to us.”
“Thanksgiving” is still almost two months away, but I want to start celebrating it today. Not with turkey (or roasted chicken, in our case) but with a true heart of thanks. Not in stuffing myself but in service to God and others.
Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18
Imagine yourself living in Jerusalem during the last days before Nebuchadnezzar and his armies wiped it out. As your world rushes toward oblivion, what is going on in this nation?
–Idol worship, with its immoral practices, is rampant .
–Crime and violence are everywhere. (Ezekiel 7:23)
–God’s holy place is the site of blasphemous practices. (Ezekiel 8)
–Preachers assure the people that God won’t punish sin. (Ezekiel 13:8-10)
–Parents are sacrificing their children. (2 Chron. 28:3 & 33:6)
–Bearers of God’s warnings are mocked and silenced.
What parts of this are not happening again today? As our nation and the whole world hurtles headlong toward certain catastrophe, how do we live?
Do we stick our heads in the sand? Do we shrug our shoulders? Do we drown it all out with false assurances? Do we commit to being faithful to God regardless of the consequences? Do we “stand up and raise [y]our heads, because [y]our redemption is drawing near”? (Luke 21:28)
Is God still in control? Yes! It’s all written in the book of Daniel. All present (and future) human governments will be demolished as those in the past have been, and will be replaced by God’s glorious and eternal kingdom. And the good news is that know I’ll be part of that! You can be, too .
Years ago (before cellphones) we lived in a remote location and communicated by single side band radio. At times when we wanted the other party to know we’d keep our radio on and be available for further messages, we’d say “We’re standing by.”
What does it mean to “stand by” in your dialect of English? (It’s fascinating to study how words and phrases change as they are borrowed from one language to another.)
The meaning of this phrase in my American English is represented by these definitions that I found on the Internet:
–to wait and remain ready.
–to be ready to be used if necessary. During the fireworks display, the fire department trucks stood by, in case something went up in flames.
However, In the country where I live, one might see a sign that says “Bawal mag-istambay dito” (Don’t stand-by here) at a sidewalk café or a street corner. In other words, “No loitering.”
The difference between these two uses of the phrase is not so much about what can be seen on the outside (both look inactive) but about mindset—either alert or passive. Which is mine as I go through life? Am I just getting by, killing time? Or am I prepared, watching for opportunities to serve and available when I’m needed?
Years ago our son played the part of Papa Panov, a shoe maker, in a Christmas play. God had promised him that on this day, the Christ Child would pay him a visit. All day long he waited but his expected Guest didn’t show up. Then it was revealed to him that Christ had actually visited him in the form of several people to whom he had shown kindness that day.
Others who didn’t recognize Jesus among them were Mary Magdalene and the two men on the road to Emmaus on that first Resurrection Day. Why? They’d known Him intimately, and he was right there before them. Did his resurrected body look that different from the one they had known? Did their fears and tears blind their eyes?
Like the children in the Narnia books, I long for a glimpse of Aslan. That’s what I love about those books—where is Aslan now? When will he show up? What will he look like? Like a huge lion or like a kitty-cat as he did once in “The Horse and His Boy”?
This is the gold in the grime of my everyday life. Lord, help me to recognize You!
And I—in righteousness I will see your face;
when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness. (Psalm 17:15)
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Did you ever play “password”? Each word on the list is obscured by red marks so you can’t read it. That is, until you insert the list into the blue plastic sheath. Then the red screen neutralizes the marks and reveals the true shape of the original words.
Take this as a picture of a human being marred by sin. But when that one is “in Christ” and covered by His blood, all that God sees is what He originally intended that person to be. No more ugly defacing sin—only Christ’s righteousness!
Nick Vujicic, a man who was born without arms and legs, is a living exhibit of what Jesus said of the man born blind in John 9:2-3: “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.” And of the terminal illness of Lazarus in John 11:4: “It happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” What most people today would call a tragedy (and would have even tried to abort) is instead being used as a showcase for God’s glory and power.
So next time I experience some frustration, inconvenience, pain, or much worse—Lord, help me to remember that You intend to show Your power and character and glory through me. Help me not to dishonor You by complaining, resisting, or giving up.
Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours. …For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever. (2 Corinthians 4:11, 16-17, TEV)
She must have been 4 or 5 years old, standing on the pew between her dad and mom as we all worshipped. Her dad was totally focused on God as he prayed and sang. But the girl’s focus was on her dad, wide-eyed, studying his face intently as he was oblivious of her. And when we sang, she sang too—with gusto. Obviously she had learned from her parents not only the words of this song but also their wholehearted worship. This vignette says so much to me about being a worthy parent and also about the kind of childlikeness that Jesus commends.
Here’s a song I appreciate, entitled “Lover of the Children.” (Sorry I forgot to get the name of the author which is in my book at home.)
Walkin’ in the sunshine, laughin’ in the rain;
Lover of the children, make me young again.
Climbing in the treetops, running down the shore;
Lover of the children, make me young once more.
Vigorous and daring, teachable and mild;
Love of the children, make me like a child.
Trusting to your goodness, walking where you lead;
Lover of the children, make me young indeed.
Make me young enough to know that alone I dare not go
through the darkness of the night.
Make me young enough to see that your love will never let me go.
Make me open to surprise,
put wonder in my eyes,
make my vision clear and bright.
Make me willing to be led and to follow where you bid me go.
Fearing not tomorrow, trusting you today;
Lover of the children, make me young, I pray.
Zero. Rest. Margin. What do they have in common? Space. We need it.
In a busy life, I cherish the weekends. Saturday is a “free” day when I can enjoy a cup of coffee with my sister, a walk with my husband, time in the kitchen to do something creative (if the mood strikes), a session at the piano to play and/or sing, a phone call to my mom or kids. Sunday is also special—a day for worship and rest without feeling guilty.
Thank you, Lord, for building rest into Your plan for the rhythm of our lives.
Now, let’s enjoy our weekend
Jeremiah has a lot to say about peace. He pens the word “shalom” 31 times in the book that bears his name. But it’s mostly about false hopes of false peace based on false prophets’ promises of peace for people rebelling against God, refusing to listen to Him, and plotting against their neighbors (6:10, 14; 9:8; 23:16-17 et al.).
Of course they hoped for peace, especially protection from the threatening Babylonian and Egyptian superpowers (e.g. 14:19) which were playing tug-of-war over them. But what God promises them instead is destruction and devastation. In fact, this is what happened and is mourned by the same writer in his book of Lamentations which mentions “shalom” only once: “Peace has been stripped away!” (3:17)
In the end there is hope—but only under God’s conditions. After all the judgment and devastation, God will heal, restore peace, rebuild the ruined nation, cleanse his people of their sins and forgive their rebellion. This is the only positive reference to peace in the book:
“Nevertheless, the time will come when I will heal Jerusalem’s wounds and give it prosperity and true peace. I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and rebuild their towns. I will cleanse them of their sins against me and forgive all their sins of rebellion. Then this city will bring me joy, glory, and honor before all the nations of the earth! The people of the world will see all the good I do for my people, and they will tremble with awe at the peace and prosperity I provide for them.” (Jeremiah 33:6-9)
When I read about the people of that day, I want to shake those deluded peace-dreamers awake and help them get a grip on the source of true peace. But no, they had to suffer excruciatingly for their willful blindness. How about us today? I pray God will have mercy on us, opening our eyes to see the way to true peace. And most of all, I look forward to the rule of the Prince of Peace on this earth.
Your kingdom come! Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven! Amen!!!