Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for August, 2013

When People Decide What Is Right

Speaking of sordid stories—the current headlines have nothing on the final chapters of the book of Judges which I read recently with growing loathing.  The “disclaimer” says, “In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” (17:6 & 21:25)  Since they had already turned away from God in favor of pagan gods, these are the sorts of things that seemed “right” to them:

Abimelech killed 69 of his half-brothers and convinced the people of Shechem to make him their king solely on the grounds that he was their relative.  The whistle-blower went unheeded.  After three years, the citizens finally caught on that they’d made a poor choice.  Abimelech cared only for himself and for power, not for them.  But when they resisted, Abimelech slaughtered them all and demolished their city. (He met his end when a woman dropped a big stone on his head.)  (Judges chapter 9)

Micah stole 1100 pieces of silver from his mom.  When she found out, she blessed him (!) and dedicated that silver to be made into an idol for him to worship!  He made other religious trapping to go with it and even hired his own priest to serve his manmade religion—concluding that the Lord would bless him for it. (Chapter 17)

An unnamed man went to retrieve his runaway concubine.  On the way back home, they overnighted in the territory of Benjamin.  That night they were thronged by a gang of perverts who gang-raped the woman and left her dead.  The man rounded up an army from all over Israel to take revenge on the Benjaminites, who refused to hand over the culprits.  After three bloody battles, 40,000 of the Israelites were dead and 25,100 of the Benjaminites—all but 600 of them. Then, feeling sorry for their “cousins” whom they had almost wiped out, the Israelites sat down and wept and then took more drastic measures to procure wives for them.  (Chapters 19-21)

That’s enough!  Enough to make one sick!  These are the kinds of things that happen when people do what they think is right.  Are we any different today?  Should we be surprised at how low society stoops when they have turned their backs on God?

One more story, though.  After all the sordid stories of Judges, I turned the page and breathed a sigh of relief!  There is Ruth, a bright spot of faithfulness and hope in the midst of all that darkness.  God was still at work, preparing the way for the Savior who would be Ruth’s descendant. Interestingly, it was a foreigner (she was a Moabite) who showed this unfaithful nation the faithfulness of God.

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A Real Hero

Antoinette Tuff is my heroine today.  And she gives all the glory to God, who gave her wisdom and courage to talk a gunman out of carrying out his plans to shoot up a school full of elementary kids.  One tool she used was her own story of weakness, loss and need.

Another hero is Gideon whose story I’ve been reading again (Judges chapters 6-8).  These same two things stand out in his experience:  his doubts and fears, and then his obedience and effectiveness in saving his people. 

His fear: 
–Threshing wheat in a wine vat to hide it from the marauding enemy. 
–Waiting for the cover of night to carry out God’s order to demolish idols worshipped by his townspeople.

His doubt: 
–When God appeared to him to commission him (addressing him as “mighty warrior”!), Gideon asked for a sign of confirmation, which God graciously provided by burning up his meal and then vanishing! (6:20-21)

–But that wasn’t enough.  He still needed confirmation.  So God arranged for a wet fleece on dry ground and then vice versa (6:36-40). 

Then God threw in one extra confirmation for good measure.  He sent Gideon to eavesdrop on a couple of enemy soldiers discussing a strange dream which they concluded  meant that Gideon was going to defeat their whole army!  (I wonder how they knew about him by name?!?)

God is so patient with those who really want to please and obey Him!

The tools:
–Personnel:  Just 300 people, whittled down from an original 32,000! (7:1-8)
–Weapons:  Trumpets, torches in clay jars, and their voices! (7:15-22) 

God’s strategy:

–As the noise and light show by Gideon’s men commenced (with the weapons listed above), God caused the enemy army to panic and kill one another!

What power!  What irony!  I love God’s battle strategies!  (For more, read the books of Exodus through 2 Chronicles.)

I also love the fact that God uses imperfect people who have doubts and fears and yet are committed to obey God to be used for His purposes, and to be sure He gets the glory!  I’m one of those.  So is Antoinette Tuff.

All Tribes and People and Tongues

The other day we watched the annual parade in the city where we live, celebrating the ethnic diversity of its inhabitants. What a dazzling array of ethnic costumes and dance!  And the pride in the the cultures they represented!  

Dancers 2 photos

Do you suppose that in heaven, when “people from every tribe and language and people and nation” are assembled, we’ll all forget our languages and national origins and cultures and just all blend into one another?  Or will each be given opportunities to praise God in our own language, dressed in our cultural finery and performing in our unique way?  What a program that would be!  What fun, and what glory!  I’m looking forward to it Smile.

Sinfully Sweet Tomatoes?

Sinfully sweet tomatoes

What is sinful about sweet tomatoes?  Now, the fruit that Adam and Eve ate may be called “sinfully sweet” because God had forbidden it.  But tomatoes?  Did God say not to eat sweet tomatoes?  (My husband might say so in jest, since raw tomatoes are definitely not one of his favorite foods.)

We did a quick search of current usage of “sinful” on the Internet, yielding these results, among others:

Sinful Colors—a line of fingernail polish. 

A certain kind of wine:  “Delicious!  So good it must be sinful.”

A recipe:  “Wow, I don’t know if banana bread can get any better than this!          Every bite was the ideal combination of sweet and salty! Sinful…fantastically sinful…”

What makes something sinful?  Is the advertiser trying to imply —
–that sin is fun?
–that God doesn’t want us to do enjoyable things? 

Either of these messages is blasphemous to the character of God who loves us, knows what is best for us, and gives us all good things to enjoy.  It also perpetuates Satan’s lie in the garden that sin is fun, tasty, and cool.  (After all, you’ll be like God!)

So if God provides you with sweet tomatoes, rich chocolate desserts or yummy banana bread—eat moderately and enjoy Smile.  It’s not a sin!  On the other hand, if something is truly sinful (offensive to God), it’s better to make tracks in the other direction!  Let’s not make the mistake of associating sin with enjoyment.

Angel Appearances

A few days ago a startling headline appeared in the secular news:  ‘Angel’ priest visits Missouri accident scene.  You can read the article here: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/08/07/angel-crash-missouri/2630227/ 

Who doesn’t love these accounts of God breaking through the gauze curtain and letting people like us see something truly amazing?

Speaking of angels–The story of Balaam and his donkey is both funny and amazing.  He’s riding along on a dubious errand when all of a sudden the donkey starts taking evasive maneuvers.  Balaam’s foot gets crushed against a wall, and then the donkey just lies down and refuses to go any farther.  Balaam is so upset as he beats the donkey, that he doesn’t seem to notice that the donkey is actually speaking!  Listen in on their conversation and see if you can keep a straight face:

     “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.
      “You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”
      “But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”
     “No,” Balaam admitted.
Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.  (Numbers 22, especially verses 21-31,  NLT)

It’s fascinating that an angel can look like an ordinary person or an intimidating warrior—or be totally invisible.  I am comforted by reminders that God intervenes in the affairs of ordinary life and reminds us that it’s not ordinary, after all!  He is there and He cares!

My Friend, Brother, King

A line of a favorite song says, “You’re my Friend and You are my Brother, even though You are a King.”

Paradoxes fascinate me, especially when when I struggle to get a glimpse into the mysterious nature of God. 

I imagine falling to my knees before Him in awe, and then climbing into His lap and snuggle with His arms wrapped around me!  This is my God, my King, my Father, my Friend!  The One I can both worship and confide in, the One who is infinite and yet lives with me and in me. 

Yet I still belong to you; you hold my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel, leading me to a glorious destiny.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
I desire you more than anything on earth.
My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
he is mine forever.  (Psalm 73:23-26 NLT)

The World a Chessboard

The other day at a mall we saw hundreds of chessboards set up and young contestants arriving in yellow-and-white t-shirts.  Chess is a game I don’t care for, personally, because it takes too much thinking.  I prefer more relaxing activities in my free time. 

But I did ponder a similarity between chess and real life—the lives of people and nations.  Both are serious, intense.  People and nations, like chess players, are out to promote themselves and their interests at the expense of others. 

Now just imagine a dog or toddler coming along and dumping over the whole board with its strategically placed pieces.  Poof! It’s all gone—unless someone was recording every move. 

The time will come when God will swipe his arm across the chessboard of the world, in one fell swoop dismantling nations, rulers, resources, plans, pride, programs, powers, intrigue, intelligence, human wisdom and achievement.  Then He will set up His own glorious Kingdom, where He will reign unopposed with perfect justice, goodness, power, and wisdom.  His subjects will be those who have gladly accepted His sovereignty over their lives.  I’m so thankful to be one of those! 

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

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