Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for March, 2014

X-ray Vision

Spying seems to have become a way of life nowadays.  One never knows who is snooping, and why.  Do we want the government or others to know what we are writing, whom we are talking to, where we travel, and even what we are thinking?  On the other hand, do we want a doctor to “pry” with his x-ray, ultrasound, MRI or CT scan to see what’s wrong with us? 

When Jesus appeared to the apostle John many years after he had returned to heaven, it was a fearsome sight.  Among other features of his glorious appearance, “his eyes were like blazing fire” (Revelation 1:14)  Later, this image is repeated as he says to one of the seven churches, “I am he who searches hearts and minds.”  How do we feel about Jesus knowing everything about us? 

In chapters 2-3, seven churches get their grade reports from Jesus himself.  He introduces each one with the words, “I know…”  Five of the churches first receive commendation for what they have done right.  Things like their hard work, endurance in the face of suffering, love and obedience.

Then, to five of the churches he delivers the bad news and what will happen if they don’t change their ways.  These are the kinds of issues Jesus considers as very serious:

–Lack of love for God and one another (2:4-5)
–Tolerance of sexual immorality and of false teaching (2:14, 20-23)
–Complacency, pride, and a self-sufficient attitude (3:17)

In other words, they were losing their distinctive and becoming like the non-Christians around them.  How many of us who call ourselves “Christians” find ourselves in this list? 

In each case, the remedy is prescribed
     Turn from our wrong ways! 
     Come to Jesus!
     And remain faithful to the end!
 

Then the rewards are promised—privileges and rewards for the winners in this earthly struggle:  secure admission and citizenship in God’s heavenly kingdom with such things fruit from the Tree of Life, gold medals (literally, laurel wreaths as awarded to Olympic champions), and even the privilege of sitting with Jesus on his throne! (3:21) 

O LORD, you have examined my heart
     and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
     and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
     even before I say it, LORD.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
     too great for me to understand!
 

(Psalm 139:1-6)

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A Ride through the City

Yesterday my husband and I went our for our weekly coffee date.  After enjoying a caramel latte in a panda-themed coffee shop (standing out like a sore thumb in a place full of college students feverishly cramming for finals), we decided to go home by jeepney instead of walking as we had come. 

Jeepney, Quezon City

Now, my husband knows this confusing city, and he has memorized the route of almost every jeepney line. I have absolutely no understanding of them and the layout of this city is a puzzle to me!  With the convoluted route we took (with detours around a construction zone and then avoiding a Catholic church having mass), it would have been totally disorienting if I had been on my own.  But with him beside me, knowing the turf and where we would eventually end up, I could relax and enjoy the ride. 

And I did.  Peering through the open sides of the vehicle, I saw…

–groups of kids playing games with their flip-flops

–sidewalk displays of DVDs, cellphone accessories, clothing, etc.

–Muslim women swathed in yards of fabric

–a park full of people leisurely enjoying their Sunday afternoon

–slum areas with laundry hanging out the windows

–open-air fruit markets displaying marangs, mangosteens, durians…

–the Jade Dragon (Chinese) Hotel

–three young ladies sharing one small umbrella when the first raindrops began to fall.

I arrived home half-soaked but satisfied with a rich afternoon’s experience, warmly secure in the companionship of one who knew the way and could be depended on to care for me.

Life is scary, and getting scarier.  The only way to go is with the one Friend who knows the way, cares infinitely for us, and can be depended on to get us safely Home.  He is Jesus Christ, and the destination is heaven.  I’m on my way.  It might be a wild ride, but I want to hang onto him and find joy in the journey.

 

Roots and Wings

Two metaphors represent our hopes for our children as well as for ourselves:  roots and wings.  We need both!  And both are found most beautifully in the Lord.

Roots—Who I am, where I belong, who I connect to.

Let your roots grow down into [Christ], and let your lives be built on him. (Colossians 2:7 NLT)

Wings—What I was made to be, growing, developing, achieving my potential.

But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.
They will soar high on wings like eagles.
They will run and not grow weary.
They will walk and not faint.  (Isaiah 40:31 NLT)

Under Construction

Every day we walk past a house that used to look pretty sad.  But someone had a plan, money, and patience.  As grand structures began to rise behind that wall, we could tell that something major is going on.  Little by little, it’s beginning to resemble the grand and beautiful plan that is now posted outside the gate.

House under construction

I am like that house.  I belong to an Owner who has taken possession of me and is working on me patiently over the long haul until I will someday be just like His blueprint for my life.  While my physical body is showing the effects of age, my spirit is being renewed to be more like Jesus as I submit to His Inner Beauty Treatments.

I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.  (Philippians 1:6)

Just do it, or just say no?

Due to my lack of artistic ability, I’ll have to ask you to draw the mental picture.  Imagine a guy with a small creature sitting on each shoulder. One is whispering in his right ear, “Just say no!”  while the one on the left side urges, “Just do it!”  Both of these have been popular slogans.  So are they both to be heeded?  What do they mean, anyway?  What are we doing?  And what are we saying “no” to? 

According to Wikipedia, “Just Say No” was an advertising campaign during the 1980s and early 1990s, to discourage children from engaging in illegal drug use.  Eventually, this also expanded the realm of “Just Say No” to violence and premarital sex.

So how about the origin of “Just do it”?  It sounds like what a mom would say to her kids about the daily chores, and I must confess I probably did this lots of times when mine were young.  But the truth is much more interesting.  On a video clip, Dan Wieden of Nike laughingly tells how he was inspired by the last words of a notorious spree-killer, Gary Gilmore, who was executed in Utah in 1977!  (His actual words were “Let’s do it.”)

Back to our guy with the little creatures whispering conflicting messages in his ears.  I hope he thinks long and hard about what it is he’s thinking of doing, who it is that’s urging him to do it and who says not to do it–and why.  When the “still small voice” urges us do what is right, the siren calls around us can easily drown it out.  Who are we listening to?

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.  It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.  (Titus 2:12-14)

The Gift of Tears

Tears don’t come easily for me.  My indignation rises when I hear of  godlessness and injustice, but do my deeply held convictions really grip my heart?  So I was thrilled the other day when God granted me the gift of tears.  I had just been thinking about the travesty of unborn babies being ripped apart for the convenience of their mothers and/or the insistence of family members and for the sake of abortionists’ greed in accordance with our society’s high value of sexual license.   Then unexpectedly I found my tears mingling with the dishwater there at the sink, sobbing at the fate of those precious children!  Thank you, Lord, for giving me tears!

Lord, please give me tears often to cry…

…for my brothers and sisters imprisoned and tortured for your sake.

…for women and children in slavery, exploited by cruel, greedy, and lustful men.

…for hearts so hard as to do these things to others.

…for unborn children bring torn limb from limb every day.

…for people longing for the freedom I take for granted.

…for my self-centeredness.

…for the cold, hungry and homeless.

…for those who have never known the true love of a mother, or father.

…for the poverty of my love for you and others.

…for those existing day by day with no hope of heaven to give meaning to their lives.

Your kingdom come
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

When Math Doesn’t Add Up

Here are some amazing spiritual math and science facts:

1 + 1 + 1 = 3   when it’s the Trinity.  God is three in one!  No, we can’t figure it out but God is not limited by the math He invented for us to make sense of our  little world.  I delight in worshiping a God who is great beyond my understanding Smile.

2 wrongs don’t make 1 right.  It’s not like multiplying two negative numbers which gives us a positive. 
For example, 1 unintended pregnancy + 1 abortion does NOT equal one “right.”  (No one has the “right” to kill a baby—including his/her mother!)

Gravity (physical law) always pulls us down.  But glory lifts us upward. Our body is temporal; it has to stay on this earth whether we’re alive or dead.   Our spirit can receive God’s never-ending life that give us supernatural power during this life and eternal hope beyond the grave—a life with no limits, only pure joy. 

The second law of thermodynamics says (in layman’s terms) that things inevitably run down.  But God’s kingdom is gaining power and increasing. I’ve been enjoying the book of Acts in the Bible, the story of the irrepressible power of God’s message to spread all over the world and change lives.  God is building His kingdom, and neither human or superhuman powers can stop it until finally a trumpet will sound and the announcement will be made:

“The kingdom of the world has become
     the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah,
          and he will rule as king forever and ever.”
                 (Revelation 11:15)

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