Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Archive for December, 2014

The Cure for Seasickness

Our friend expressed his fear of getting a boat, especially when the water is choppy.  A fisherman responded, “Just keep your eyes on something that doesn’t move—a mountain, for example.  Then you’ll be fine.” 

I often feel seasick with all the changes going on around me—or just plain sick!  What is not changing?  When I have learned how to use one computer program, it’s time for a “new, improved” version!  When I have figured out how to use the latest kind of appliances in a public restroom, there’s a new way to make something turn on or come out of a dispenser or flush down!  When I have gotten used to the new structure in my organization—guess what!  We get a new one.  But just wait a year or two and it will change again.  I hope I’m learning to be flexible and go with the flow.

But those are not the important things.  Far more alarming are the shifting waves of cultural norms, what is good and what is bad.  Things that used to be wrong are now embraced with open arms by many and foisted on others.  And things that used to be good are mocked and even called “evil.”  Why?  Do right and wrong change?  Or is there no right or wrong after all?

Beyond all these changing waves stands a steady lighthouse or mountain.  It will not change and can help me stay sane if I keep my eyes fixed there.  Is it a coincidence that God compares Himself to a rock (Psalm 18:2), a fortress (Psalm 91:2), and an anchor (Hebrews 6:19)?

Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.  (James 1:6b-8)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, forever.  (Hebrews 13:8)

Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.  He never changes … (James 1:17)

I am the Lord your God and I never change.  (Malachi 3:6)

Jesus is the Rock:

That Precious Tiny Gift

If a very close loved one gives you a gift wrapped in a very small package, chances are it’s something very precious.  Over 2000 years ago the Creator and Father gave the world His most precious treasure wrapped in a very small package:  His Son in the form of a newborn baby.  His value was announced by angels and a star and acknowledged by a band of local Jewish shepherds, the lowest of their society—and then by a group of wealthy foreign scholars who had traveled for months just to trace down the newborn “King of the Jews.” 

Who was this baby that he commanded such attention by heavenly and earthy powers?  What can we say when the Creator of the universe visits his own  world semi-incognito in order to rescue them?  When the Infinite disguises Himself as a helpless baby?  Words fail.  That’s the wonder of the Incarnation—the mind-blowing truth that I struggle to grab hold of every Christmas season. 

Wrapped up in those strips of cloth was the fulfillment of all mankind’s hopes and dreams for love, joy, peace, purpose, justice, goodness, everlasting life, and more!  It was effected by the forgiveness made possible through that baby (now a man—the God-Man) voluntarily taking the punishment we so rightly deserved. This is God’s extravagant gift to humankind, which we celebrate this day. 

There are two things you can do with a gift: receive it or reject it.  To receive a costly gift implies a relationship with the giver.  The Creator and God of the universe extends to us the privilege of an intimate relationship with Him.

Or you can reject the gift.  Why do people reject precious gifts?  Maybe they don’t want to be tied down by a close relationship with the giver. Maybe they feel it would put them in an uncomfortable position of obligation.  Maybe they think they don’t need the gift. 

The gift of a relationship with God and His Son Jesus Christ is offered to you.  Have you accepted it?  Can you afford not to?

The Biggest Questions

Today on a blog, I found a series of questions that everyone asks sometime in their life.

  1. Who am I?
  2. Why am I here?
  3. Where am I going?
  4. What is true?
  5. What is it you are really willing to do to live your life? 
    Neil Thrussel’s blog, Best U Can B)

Also this morning, as I began reading the Gospel of John again, I wrote a suggestion at the top of the page for the sake of my granddaughter who will later receive this Bible, to watch for these key questions that arise repeatedly in this book:

Who is Jesus?
Where did he come from?
Where is he going?
(It also says a lot about truth.)

The answers were and are straightforward for anyone who believes Jesus’ own words about himself: 

Who is Jesus?  He is the Son of God who took on human nature in order to show humankind the face of God and then to take the punishment for our sins.

Where did he come from?  From heaven, born in Bethlehem as a human baby.

Where was he going?  Back to his Father.

Truth?  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Quite simple, but impossible for those who chose not to believe.  As it still is today.

Now what about me?  Based on my relationship with Jesus, my answers would be much like his:

Who am I?  A much-loved child of God, saved from the well-deserved punishment for my sins.

Where did I come from?  God specially designed me before the world was made, chose me to be his, and skillfully put me together in my mother’s womb (Ephesians 1:4; Psalm 139).

Where am I going?  I am a citizen of heaven, and that’s where I will be going when this life is over. 

What is absolute truth?  God and His word is the source and standard of all truth.

That leaves us with the last question in the blog quoted above: 
What is it you are really willing to do to live your life? 

Do you dare to risk everything on the premise that Jesus Christ is who he says he is?  This means total commitment.  It means assurance of God’s love and forgiveness, presence and power for each day no matter what the circumstances.  It means citizenship in heaven where you will retire someday and fulfill all the dreams you ever dared to dream—and more!  What could be more important than that?


Echoes of temptations

Imagine spending 40 days with no food out in the desert!  Would anyone voluntarily do this?  Well, Jesus did it as He prepared for the next 3 years of his life in the public. 

And in His weakened state, he was further assaulted by the devil who brought three propositions that seem quite attractive on the surface—that is, IF the end justifies the means.  After all, who wouldn’t want fame, power, wealth and the legitimate provision of their physical needs?  The price?  Twist the Scripture a little, shortcut the suffering of the cross, worship Satan…Whoa!  Worship Satan?  Yes, that was the deal. 

All of these temptations focused on selfish desires.  But Jesus warded each of them off by refocusing on God his Father. 

So Satan left him “for a while.”  So when did he come back?  I’m not sure exactly, but I see interesting echoes of the three temptations in other events of Jesus’ life. 

Temptation:  Turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger.
Jesus’ response:  “It is not by bread alone that a man will live, but by every word from the mouth of God.”
Echo:  As crowds streamed out of a town to listen to Jesus, his disciples urged him to eat something.  His reply:  “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”

Temptation:   Receive power to rule the world in exchange for worshiping Satan.
Jesus’ response:  “The Lord your God is the (only) one you will worship.”
Echo:  After he multiplied bread and fish to feed thousands, they wanted to make him king.  Jesus resisted, knowing that only in the Father’s predetermined time would his worldwide reign be fulfilled.

Temptation:   Do a daredevil stunt, assuming that angels would catch him.
Jesus’ response:  “Do not test the Lord your God!”
Echo:  When religious leaders demanded a miracle to prove Jesus’ power and identity as God, he refused.  While hanging on the cross and taunted to “Come down from that cross and save yourself!” he again refused, committed to accomplishing the salvation he came to provide for mankind by taking the just punishment for their sins.

Jesus was not out to do his own thing and promote Himself.  He came as God’s servant and mankind’s savior—humble and obedient to God alone.

Shall we do less?

Three no-no’s

What are the worst sins that Paul mentioned in his letter to the Christian believers at Philippi?  This letter of his is amazingly positive, especially given the fact that he writes it as he languishes in a dark, dank, dismal Roman dungeon for the crime of sharing his faith.  And the prohibitions contained in it are remarkable in their seeming triviality—at least, compared with the “heavy” sins mentioned in his letters to other churches.  Or are they?

The three things that Paul forbids these people to do are these:

–acting out of selfish or prideful motives (2:3,4)

–grumbling and arguing  (2:14)

–worrying (4:6)

All of us would have to confess that we’ve done these quite regularly.  Why would they be a big deal to God, anyway?  In each of these, our eyes are turned on ourselves and our own situation, rather than on God and on others. 

The antidotes follow:  Look at God and others instead of at ourselves.

Pride & selfish motives are countered by an attitude of service.  Paul reminds us repeatedly to be concerned about one another’s welfare above our own (2:3-4, 20-21).  In this, Jesus is our supreme example, who set aside his glory to lower Himself to the weakness of human existence and then still further to an ignominious death on a cross—all for our benefit. (2:5-11)

Grumbling is countered by serenity.  Paul shares how he (in prison!) has learned to be content in any and every situation, in good times and in unspeakably difficult circumstances.  He can manage this attitude through God’s strength.(4:11-13)

Worry is countered by awareness of God’s sufficiency.  Prayer about our every concern, along with thanks to God, will bring God’s peace to guard our minds from anxiety.  (4:6-7)

I Did It My Way

Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way” is the epitome of arrogance.  However, he is not the only one who boasts of refusing to kneel but doing life his own way. 

Take Adam, for example.  God said “Don’t.”  But he did—did it his way.  And the world came crashing down on him.  Paradise lost, pain begun.  A life of hard work, sorrow, bereavement, and death.

And then there’s King Saul.  God said “Wait,” but he did it his way and offered the sacrifice he wasn’t entitled to perform.  Again, God said “wipe out the wicked Amalekites and all their possessions.”   But Saul did it his way, (1 Samuel 15) figuring he knew better than God.  That cost him his kingdom.  From there on, he was a paranoid shell of a man until he committed suicide.

Judas made a pretense of following Jesus but did it his way, helping himself to the contents of the group’s purse that he carried.  And when the opportunity came, he chose to make a name for himself by betraying the Innocent Man and Son of God to death.  What did it get him?  A crushing weight of guilt that drove him to suicide.

What’s the alternative ?  Psalm 1 paints a stark contrast between doing life “my way” or God’s way:

Blessed is the person who does not
follow the advice of wicked people,
take the path of sinners,
or join the company of mockers.

2  Rather, he delights in the teachings of the LORD
and reflects on his teachings day and night.

3  He is like a tree planted beside streams—
a tree that produces fruit in season
and whose leaves do not wither.
He succeeds in everything he does.
4  Wicked people are not like that.
Instead, they are like husks that the wind blows away.
5 That is why wicked people will not be able to stand in the judgment
and sinners will not be able to stand where righteous people gather.
6 The LORD knows the way of righteous people,
but the way of wicked people will end.

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