Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for October, 2012

How Far Can We Go?

Since when is it “cool” and “progressive” to commit and tolerate sin?  Why are those who live within God’s laws viewed as weird?  Why are those who push the limits farther and farther admired and worshipped as heroes? 

To go back to my first question, I think the Garden of Eden would be the answer.  Eve certainly was persuaded that disobeying God would be the cool thing to do.  After all, she must have been so bored with exploring all the delights of paradise that God had provided for her enjoyment, with petting tigers and playing with bears, that there was nothing left to do but the one thing that God had forbidden.  But think of the consequences–not only to her but to all humankind!

Who are some others who defied God and paid dearly for it?

–Noah’s contemporaries: totally evil, corrupt, violent, & depraved. (Gen 6:5-13)  Drowned in a worldwide flood!

–The residents of Sodom & Gomorrah:  “extremely evil,” & “wicked.” (Gen 18:20)  Cremated by a heavenly holocaust!

–The nations of Israel and Judah, first tolerating and then indulging in the disgusting acts of their neighbors such as religious prostitution and child sacrifice. (Does this sound like anything in our culture?)  Finally, after centuries of patient warning and pleading, God had it “up to here,” and cruel nations were allowed to destroy them.

Psalm 1 contrasts the lives and destinies of those who honor God and those who mock Him:

1 Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
or stand around with sinners,
or join in with mockers.
2  But they delight in the law of the LORD,
meditating on it day and night.
3  They are like trees planted along the riverbank,
bearing fruit each season.
Their leaves never wither,
and they prosper in all they do.
4  But not the wicked!
They are like worthless chaff, scattered by the wind.
5  They will be condemned at the time of judgment.
Sinners will have no place among the godly.
6  For the LORD watches over the path of the godly,
but the path of the wicked leads to destruction.  (NLT)

A Quiet Place

We found a delightful place yesterday in a mountaintop garden to spend some time with God.  This beautiful song from the 60s describes it well:


There is a Quiet Place

There is a quiet place
Far from the rapid pace
Where God can soothe my troubled mind

Sheltered by tree and flow’r
There in my quiet hour
With Him my cares are left behind

Whether a garden small
Or on a mountain tall
New strength and courage there I find

Then from this quiet place
I go prepared to face
A new day with love for all mankind

by Ralph Carmichael, 1967


Treasure Hunt

I love to visit the display of precious stones at the Smithsonian museum.  What wonderful things God has hidden deep inside the earth for people to find!

Did you know there is a treasure hunt tucked into the dreary chapters of Job (chapter 28)?  Look at this!  At first it seems like an amazing description of mining for jewels in a very ancient setting.  But in verse 12 we find out what the real treasure is.  And not until the very end of this chapter do we find out where it can be found! 

Okay, ready, set, go.  Go mining with these guys and enjoy the whole hunt till you find the treasure at the end!  Smile

1 “People know where to mine silver
and how to refine gold.
2  They know where to dig iron from the earth
and how to smelt copper from rock.
3  They know how to shine light in the darkness
and explore the farthest regions of the earth
as they search in the dark for ore.
4  They sink a mine shaft into the earth
far from where anyone lives.
They descend on ropes, swinging back and forth.
5  Food is grown on the earth above,
but down below, the earth is melted as by fire.
6  Here the rocks contain precious lapis lazuli,
and the dust contains gold.
7  These are treasures no bird of prey can see,
no falcon’s eye observe.
8  No wild animal has walked upon these treasures;
no lion has ever set his paw there.
9  People know how to tear apart flinty rocks
and overturn the roots of mountains.
10  They cut tunnels in the rocks
and uncover precious stones.
11  They dam up the trickling streams
and bring to light the hidden treasures.
12  “But do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
13  No one knows where to find it,
for it is not found among the living.
14  ‘It is not here,’ says the ocean.
‘Nor is it here,’ says the sea.
15  It cannot be bought with gold.
It cannot be purchased with silver.
16  It’s worth more than all the gold of Ophir,
greater than precious onyx or lapis lazuli.
17  Wisdom is more valuable than gold and crystal.
It cannot be purchased with jewels mounted in fine gold.
18  Coral and jasper are worthless in trying to get it.
The price of wisdom is far above rubies.
19  Precious peridot from Ethiopia cannot be exchanged for it.
It’s worth more than the purest gold.
20 “But do people know where to find wisdom?
Where can they find understanding?
21  It is hidden from the eyes of all humanity.
Even the sharp-eyed birds in the sky cannot discover it.
22  Destruction and Death say,
‘We’ve heard only rumors of where wisdom can be found.’
23  “God alone understands the way to wisdom;
he knows where it can be found,
24  for he looks throughout the whole earth
and sees everything under the heavens.
25  He decided how hard the winds should blow
and how much rain should fall.
26  He made the laws for the rain
and laid out a path for the lightning.
27  Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it.
He set it in place and examined it thoroughly.
28  And this is what he says to all humanity:
The fear of the Lord is true wisdom;
to forsake evil is real understanding.’ ”

Divine Irony

Job is a drama in at least three acts.  An irony where poor Job, as well as his friends, are totally oblivious of the real drama behind the scenes.

First (after Job is introduced), Satan shows up in God’s throne room and makes a bet with God that he can make Job sin.  God consents, confident that his model child, will not fail.  (I wonder, would God bet on me?) 

Then the curtains close on the heavenly stage and our attention is redirected to the earthly stage where Job is hit with one tragedy after another.  He endures days and nights of grief and suffering along with wave after wave of harangue from his so-called “friends.”  Everyone is sure that they are right, and here’s why:

1.  Job’s perspective:  a)  He knows he hasn’t sinned.  b)  Good people are not supposed to suffer.  c)  God is in control of all that happens.

Job’s conclusion:  God is being unjust, so Job desperately seeks an audience with Him.

2.  Job’s friends’ perspective:  a) Job is suffering.  b) Suffering is always the punishment for sin, just as prosperity is always the reward for righteousness.  c)  God is just.

Their conclusion:  Job has sinned and needs to repent.

3.  God’s perspective:  a)  Job is the model of righteousness.  b) God is both just and wise, but not limited to human standards.  c) His purpose is beyond the knowledge of  the humans.  Then in chapters 38-41, God blows them all away from a whirlwind with a tour of His magnificent power in creation.  No answers for the questions they asked–just He Himself!!! 

In the third main part of this drama, Job gets the prize!  He has endured and won.  He receives restored health, double his original wealth, and another whole family, including 3 gorgeous daughters. 

But most of all, God is vindicated. 

How can this story help me when I look at what’s happening to me, those I care about, my nation, and the world around me?  In Job’s darkness, his expression of hope shines all the brighter:

But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.  (23:10)   Rainbow

Packing Light

“All I need for an overnight trip is my towel and flip-flops.  Put them in a bag and I’m complete!”  Words of contentment from a young man in a remote community.  On another occasion, an older woman of that community told us that she’s content as long as she has a toothbrush and a couple of other things (which I unfortunately forgot).  And me?  What-all do I consider essential? 

Contentment is focused three times in the letters of the New Testament.

Contentment enables us to focus on the tasks that God has for us to do.

Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything with the help of Christ who gives me the strength I need.  (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT Written from prison!)

Contentment protects us from sin. 

Yet true religion with contentment is great wealth. After all, we didn’t bring anything with us when we came into the world, and we certainly cannot carry anything with us when we die. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.  (1 Timothy 6:6-10)

Contentment is based on God’s presence and protection.  If God is with me, that’s all I need.

Stay away from the love of money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said,
“I will never fail you.
I will never forsake you.”
That is why we can say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper,
so I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?”  (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Truth-Driven Taxi Driver

Today I discovered a new brother—a taxi driver with a 2nd grade education who can’t speak English! 

We were starting home from speaking to a group of college students about the 2000-some language groups in the world that still have no part of God’s Word.  Our main text had been John 3:16 which focuses on God’s love and His gift of eternal life to whoever trusts in His Son.

And now, just minutes later, we were hearing that very thing from the mouth of our taxi driver!  He was doing his best to communicate with us in his language, which we could understand minimally and could speak even less.  But we caught enough to get the gist.   He wanted to be a “worker,” he said (probably meaning full-time ministry), but needs to drive a taxi to support his family.  So instead, he evangelizes his passengers Smile.  What amazing sweet fellowship we had with this newfound brother—across the lines of race, language, education and economic class.  But we are united by the most important thing—our faith in our Creator and Savior.  When we get to heaven, I want to introduce you to him! 

Reveling in His Love

I’m a pretty ordinary person, nothing special.  So what kind of a King would even notice me, one of his millions of subjects, much less single me out for special love and favor? How can I wrap my head around (pardon the trite idiom) the fact that the Creator and King of the Universe

–wants to be with me 
–delights in me
–smiles on me  Smile
–sings over me  Note
–lavishes me with good gifts  Gift with a bow
–tenderly cares for me & works out the details of my life?

Here’s where a switch to the Father metaphor helps.  As my Abba, I can more easily think of these intimate aspects of His concern for me.  How amazing to have the Sovereign of all time and space as my own Father!  How can I begin to grasp the paradox of His love for little ol’ me?

…may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. (Ephesians 3:18-19 NLT)

So beautiful I could…

Why do you suppose stores have signs warning people not to touch the fragile merchandise?  When we see an attractive trinket or cute animal, don’t we want to touch and hold it?  When we hear beautiful music, don’t we feel compelled to dance or sing along with it?  When we smell an exquisite fragrance, don’t we close our eyes and inhale deeply?  When we see or smell a tasty dish, don’t our mouths water?  When we see a sweet baby, don’t we have an impulse to squeeze its cheeks?  When we see a fuzzy blanket, don’t we long to cuddle in it?  And when we see a beautiful sunset, do we ever find ourselves beside ourselves for lack of a way to internalize its beauty?

We hear phrases like, “so cute I can’t stand it!” or “so beautiful I want to cry.”  (Not to mention the irresistible urge some people reportedly get to squeeze the toilet paper.Sarcastic smile)

God’s good gifts appeal to our senses, and He gave us those senses with which to enjoy His gifts.  Then just think what heaven must be like–infinitely more stupendous wonders to overwhelm us forever, and heightened senses with which to enjoy them. 

Thank you, God.  Smile 

God…richly provides us with all things for our enjoyment.  1 Timothy 6:17

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