Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for September, 2013

Why the Fish?

Have you seen those fish emblems on cars or jewelry and wondered “Why the fish?”  It’s a an ancient and meaningful symbol.  I was delighted to recently purchase one for myself, which I consider an ID of my relationship to Jesus Christ.  Here’s what Wikipedia says:

ΙΧΘΥΣ (Ichthys) is an acronym for “Ίησοῦς Χριστός, Θεοῦ Υἱός, Σωτήρ“, (Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr), which translates into English as “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior”.  The first letters of these words, when put together, spell “fish” in Greek!

Photo of fish necklace

  • Iota (i) is the first letter of Iēsous (Ἰησοῦς), Greek for “Jesus“.
  • Chi (ch) is the first letter of Christos (Χριστός), Greek for “anointed”.
  • Theta (th) is the first letter of Theou (Θεου), Greek for “God’s”, the genitive case of Θεóς, Theos, Greek for “God”.
  • Ypsilon (y) is the first letter of (h)yios[4] (Υἱός), Greek for “Son”.
  • Sigma (s) is the first letter of sōtēr (Σωτήρ), Greek for “Savior”.
According to tradition, ancient Christians, during their persecution by the Roman Empire in the first few centuries after Christ, used the fish symbol to mark meeting places and tombs, or to distinguish friends from foes.
According to one ancient story, when a Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.
Christianity Today, Elesha Coffman, “Ask The Expert”[2]

Do you suppose that soon Christ-followers will again be using the arcs to assess our personal safety as we maintain our loyalty to Him in an increasingly hostile world?

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

My Little Lunch

I wish I were an artist.  Here’s what I would draw:  A close-up of a boy shyly holding out a small basket, offering it to Jesus, who reaches out to receive it with a twinkle in His eye and a smile on his face.  He says, “Sonny, thank you for giving me your lunch.  But just wait till you see what I do with it!”   Later, he runs home shouting, “Mom, you know that lunch you sent with me?  You’ll never believe….!”

This reminds me of our granddaughter Emmeline who went home to heaven three months ago.  Late last year, she responded to a challenge:  What would you do if you received $50 and would seek to multiply it as Jesus did with the loaves and the fish? Emmeline responded with an essay saying that she would buy materials to make cards (which she loved to do), sell them, and send the money to a missionary family in need. She was then chosen as one to receive the money. In the next couple of months she had doubled her investment. 

Em w money loaves & fishes

As her health deteriorated and she was unable to keep up making all the cards, people from all over the world learned about her project and began sending money– usually one dollar bills, and a few 5s , 10s, and 20s and an occasional check—to put into her “Loaves and Fishes” fund.  By the time Emmeline was in the arms of Jesus, the fund had grown to $9,000.  She was just a conduit of God’s grace.  Those who gave and those who received were privileged and blessed. 

Yesterday I read through a bulletin which mentioned many different things God’s people are doing/offering around the world.  Any one of these might seem so inadequate compared to the great needs, but each one is an important part of one beautiful tapestry God is weaving now that we’ll see someday.

So today I give my little lunch, my loaves and fishes, as I answer some e-mails, make reports, mentor someone, help a neighbor…  I have no idea how God will use these things.  That will be seen in heaven.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

Which Mark?

I have a hard time making decisions, especially when faced with a menu.  I usually find out what my husband is having and then pick the same thing just so I won’t feel bad if his meal looks better than mine!  What if I make the wrong choice?  Well, the stakes aren’t too high in that case…

In the end, though—I’ve been reading the book of Revelation at the end of the Bible—a decision must be made.  Every person on earth will have to decide whether he will accept a mark on his forehead or hand (a chip, maybe) that identifies him as a subject of the world ruler (a.k.a. “the mark of the beast,” Rev. 13:16-17)—OR whether he will accept on his forehead the name of Jesus Christ and God the Father (Rev. 14:1; 22:4).  You must decide whose side you’re on! 

What are the implications of your choice?

If you go with the majority and accept the mark of the world ruler, you will …
–be able to buy, sell, and carry on the business of life for a while (13:17)
–experience eternal torment, with no rest forever (14:9-11)

If you refuse to confirm and and accept God’s name on your forehead, you will…
–be deprived of the necessities of life (no buying/selling) for a while (13:17)
–live joyfully in God’s bright presence forever (3:12; 14:1; 22:4)
–reign forever and ever with Him (22:4)

Which will you choose?  Will it be the temporary comfort or the lasting joy and pleasure?

The Indispensable Dress

When I was a girl browsing through a Sears or Penneys catalog, a phrase caught my attention:  “The Indispensable Dress” over a picture of a basic black sheath dress.  At the time, I didn’t know what “indispensable” meant; in fact, I thought it meant something like “undisposable”—you couldn’t throw it away!  Now I understand that this particular black dress was being touted as the basic piece of a perfect outfit.

black dress

The metaphor of a perfect outfit appears in one of Paul’s letters in the Bible:

As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  (Colossians 3:12-14 NIV)

More than any jewelry, belts, scarves, purses, etc., the characteristics of compassion, humility, gentleness, patience, and the others listed But the essential piece is love!  Without it, the others just don’t work.  It’s basic—the indispensable dress!

You know, I think I will put a sign on my closet “Above all, put on love!” to remind me every morning when I get dressed.

Preparing for Persecution

This noon as I perused the news, I came across several articles where Christians are being persecuted—physically, economically, and verbally—in all parts of the world including the United States.  And it’s predicted to get worse.  A choice must be made:  One can either give up the faith, give in to fear, or give oneself over in trust and loyalty to Christ no matter what

Then it was time for my husband and I to do our daily Greek review.  As we had stopped yesterday in the middle of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5, here is what “just happened” to be next:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for doing what God approves of.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to them.

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, lie, and say all kinds of evil things about you because of me. 

Rejoice and be glad because you have a great reward in heaven! 
                                                     (Matthew 5:10-12a, God’s Word translation)

May God give me and all His children commitment and courage to hang in there, endure suffering, and receive the blessing and reward that await at the end of the course.

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!

From Horror to Hope

I’m a bookworm, but I don’t buy, keep, or re-read books unless they’re very, very special.  Those that merit a permanent place on our bookshelves are the exceptions.  Today I want to share an exceptional book with you which my husband and I have just read together.  It is truly a keeper!

River Kwai2

Miracle on the River Kwai, by Ernest Gordon, is a story of grace in the worst possible of circumstances.  Under the most extreme duress, despair and hopelessness were transformed to faith in God, redemption, and selfless love for one another.  It began with a few POWs who sacrificially served and even laid down their lives to save others in what had been a dog-eat-dog environment, every man for himself.  The power of God changed lives long-term as they served, taught, shared and worshipped with one another for several years as the war raged on.  When they were finally released, one of the men said, “I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.  It was rough, all right.  But I learned an awful lot that I couldn’t have learned at the university or anywhere else.” 

When hard times come for me, I pray that God’s grace and power will do the same, shining through the darkness to refine my character in ways that may not be possible through peace time.

That Special Glow

They say that couples begin to look like each other the longer they are together.  Well, my husband and I definitely don’t, after 39 years of marriage.  But I would agree that people who hang around together tend to start thinking, talking, and acting like one another. If I hang around Jesus, will I start looking like Him as well as smelling like Him (cf. my last post)?

When Moses came down the mountain after talking with God in person, his face shone so brightly that he was forced to wear a veil for the sake of the people who were overcome by that light.  (Exodus 34:29-35)  When he went back to speak with the Lord, though, he removed the veil.

What a privilege Moses had, both to interface directly with God and then to represent Him to the Israelite people he was leading.  And amazingly, I have that same privilege! 

As all of us reflect the Lord’s glory with faces that are not covered with veils, we are being changed into his image with ever-increasing glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT)

As my last post dealt with the fragrance of Christ blessing the world through His people, here (one chapter later) we see the light of Christ doing the same.  The challenge for me is, do I let Him show?   Sun

Christ, the Transforming Light, touches this heart of mine,
Piercing the darkest night, making His glory shine.
Oh, to reflect His grace, causing the world to see
Love that will glow till others shall know Jesus revealed in me!  (by Gipsy Smith)

Heavenly Perfume

As we pass by a walled garden on the way to work, an exquisite fragrance reaches out and captivates me.  How I’d love to find the source and bottle it!  I try to peek over the high wall but can’t see anything particularly attractive.  I have no idea what that flower looks like, but its smell is tantalizing!

How do I smell to those passing by me every day?  Do I smell like Jesus?  How people perceive His fragrance might differ, though. 

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.”                (2 Corinthians 2:15-16)

It’s like the durian fruit so famous in the city where I live. Depending on your own make-up, it smells either heavenly or like garbage.  But those perceptions can change.  When we were first exposed to this fruit, brought as a gift by a neighbor, we had to keep it outside on the porch.  But by now, I actually enjoy its aroma.

Those who may at first be repelled by the “fragrance of Christ” might later on recognize just how sweet He is.  I pray it will be so!

Maranatha!  Come Lord Jesus!

Feeling Sheepish?

“Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay. Four hundred sheep fell 15 metres to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived. Shepherds from a nearby village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free. The loss to local farmers was estimated at $74,000.”  (Report from BBC, July 8, 2005)

Blindly following a leader has gotten lots of people into trouble, too. That’s why we need the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus who watches over us and has given His life to save us from the foolish consequences of our headstrong ways.  Will we follow Him or wander off to do our own thing—or follow “other sheep” into total ruin? 

“All of us, like sheep, have strayed away.
We have left God’s paths to follow our own.
Yet the LORD laid on him
the sins of us all.”  (Isaiah 53:6)

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