Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for November, 2012

Pictures of God and Me

When our son Nathan was five years old, we played a game one evening, taking turns saying  “You’ll be ________ and I’ll be _______.”  The blanks were filled with two things that go together.  For example, You’ll be  Goldilocks and I’ll be Papa Bear.  Or You’ll be salt and I’ll be pepper. Nathan came up with this one:  “You’ll be Cinderella and I’ll be her go-cart!”  Hmmm…

But it does make me think of paired roles in Scripture that “picture” the close relationship between God and me.  I love these.  In love

God/Jesus is:                                         I am:

Shepherd                                                 His sheep

Fortress                                                   refugee hiding there

Mother bird                                               chick hiding under mom

Bridegroom                                              His bride

Father                                                       His child

Vine                                                          a branch depending on the Vine

Potter                                                       clay

Master                                                      His servant

Leader                                                      His follower

Creator                                                    creature

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When Jesus Calls

What happens when Jesus calls people to follow Him?  Here’s what I found in the book of Matthew:

The four fishermen walked away from the family business and followed him without question or delay.  (Mt 5:18-22)

Matthew immediately left his job (tax collecting) and went with Jesus. No guarantees, no contract, just complete surrender. (Mt. 9:9)

A religious teacher was ready to go with Jesus anywhere, but Jesus warned him that it would be a life of privation and rootlessness, humanly speaking.  We don’t know what he decided. (Mt. 8:19-22)

Another follower asked for a delay in order to attend to family obligations. (Mt 8:21-22)

Still another young man wanted to follow Jesus but valued his riches more—and sadly turned away. (Mt. 19:16-22)

Which of these people do you suppose had the most satisfying lives in the long run?  What would it cost you or me to make that kind of total commitment, never looking back, never holding back, no regrets?  Is it worth it?

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?* Is anything worth more than your soul?  (Mt 16:24-26)

God’s Kingdom—a place, people or event?

What do you suppose a person with no Bible knowledge might envision when hearing the phrase, “Seek the Kingdom of God.”  Maybe a knight on a white horse setting forth on a noble quest to find the ideal land where God rules in a splendid castle?  People who have been around the Bible and church have a general idea of what this phrase is supposed to mean, but isn’t there a way to say this more clearly?

In English dictionaries, the first sense of “kingdom” is a geographical area over which a king or queen rules.  And some dictionaries include the people who live there. 

So what is the Kingdom of God (or of heaven, which means the same thing)?  You may be surprised to realize that seldom, if ever, does it refer to a place.  Depending on the context, “kingdom of God/heaven” in the Bible refers either to
     a) the subjects of the King (people), or
     b) the rule of the King (an event), or His reign as we’d more naturally say. 

What if our Bibles had “reign” in the verses that speak of the latter, such as Luke 8:1:  “…proclaiming the Good News of the reigning of God.”  And where it refers to the subjects of the kingdom, what if our Bibles made that clear as well, such as in John 3:3:  “unless a person is born again, he cannot be part of that/those over which/whom God reigns.”  This might sound a bit awkward in English, but it’s how languages work in the country where we work.  And it’s accomplished by just changing the prefix on the word!  So a translator who is doing his/her job needs to study carefully to see what aspect of God’s rule is in focus each time it’s mentioned, and use the correct prefix.  And the words come to life! 

By the way, here’s a worthwhile post I read today about the reign of God in our lives: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/publiccatholic/2012/11/is-jesus-christ-is-king-the-lord-of-my-life-a-slogan-or-a-fact/

 

 

 

 

Justice for the Poor—Two Sides

In Exodus 23, I was intrigued to find two verses demonstrating the delicate balance of justice in regard to the poor:

Verse 3: …you must not show partiality to a to a poor man in his lawsuit.
Verse 6:  You must not turn away justice for your poor people in their lawsuits.

God’s standards of justice are the same for the rich and the poor, the nobody and the influential person.  A poor person isn’t automatically right just because he is poor.  Neither is a rich person to be favored based on his economic position and influence.  Our God sees us all as equals among His creation, each one having infinite worth and worthy of respect.  On the other hand, each of us is answerable to His righteous standards.

Manufacturer’s Instructions

A few days ago I was figuring out how to use an Audibible, a small player on which were loaded lots of songs and Scripture readings in a minority language to be used in areas where there is no electricity.  One part of the manufacturer’s instructions is particularly important if recharging the player from an electrical outlet instead of using the solar charger.  Using a negative instead of a positive charge, I was told, could ruin the player.  Fortunately, that information is in the User’s Manual.  I just hope whoever uses the Audibible reads and follows these directions!

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People are like that.  The first human was manufactured from earth—yes, handmade (that’s what “manufacture” literally means) by God.  And to Adam and his descendants (that’s us!) the Manufacturer has provided a User’s Manual.  If we follow the instructions, things will go well.  If we insist on doing it our own way instead, there’s going to be trouble. 

So why don’t people read the instructions?  Is it because of pride?  Stubborn independence?  Thinking that they know better than the manufacturer?  Why don’t people humbly listen and obey the instructions of the One who made them?  Same reasons, I suspect…  The results?  Just look around and see.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart;
     do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
     and he will show you which path to take.
Don’t be impressed with your own wisdom.
     Instead, fear the LORD and turn away from evil.
Then you will have healing for your body
     and strength for your bones.
Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything
     and your vats will overflow with good wine.  (Proverbs 3:5-10 NLT)

Teddy Bear Love

Ruthie, my teddy bear, was an important part of my young years, and the more I loved her, the faster she aged!

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Why did I love my teddy bear?  Surely not for her beauty.  Not for her abilities.  Not because she loved me.  Not for any advantages she could provide.  But just because she was mine!  (I didn’t love my sister’s teddy bear.)

I think that’s why God loves me—and you!

This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. 1 John 1:10 NLT

“Bask in the luxury of being fully understood and unconditionally loved.  Dare to see yourself as I see you: radiant in My righteousness, cleansed by My blood.  I view you as the one I created you to be, the one you will be in actuality when heaven becomes your home.  It is My Life within you that is changing you from glory to glory…” (from Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young)

What if…

Habakkuk is famous for his statement of hope in the the face of impending calamity .  First he describes the total devastation of all the staple foods of his land, then he switches the focus to his all-sufficient God and holds it there. 

Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength! 
(3:17-18)

How might we paraphrase this for our day?

Even though drought burns up the crops of the Midwest
and super hurricanes devastate coastal cities;
even though the stock market crashes, 
our jobs disappear and fuel grows scarce;
even though mysterious diseases run rampant
and nuclear war breaks out;
(and all the other horrible things we imagine and fear)—
yet I will rejoice in the LORD!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign LORD is my strength!

AMEN!!  Rainbow

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