Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

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What Happened to Solomon?

Did you know that God gave a list of laws for kings?  Even more amazing is that one of the most famous kings of Israel broke every one of them!  (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)

DO NOT ACQUIRE MANY
War horses, especially from Egypt.  These were the armaments of that day, important for national security.
RATHER, strength and security are to be found in God alone.

Wives, source of pleasure and delight.
RATHER, the heart’s delight is to be found in God alone who gives His good gifts.

Wealth.
RATHER, God Himself is to be our treasure.  We look to Him for provision and honor.

DO
–Make a personal copy of the Scripture and read it every day!  In here we find all those things
Security:  You are my refuge and my shield; your word is my source of hope. (Psalm 119:114)
Pleasure:  How sweet your words taste to me; they are sweeter than honey.  (Psalm 119:103)
Treasure:  Your teachings are worth more to me than thousands of pieces of gold and silver. (Psalm 119:72)

So what happened to Solomon when he amassed warhorses from Egypt, collected 1000 wives & concubines from many foreign nations, and accumulated stupendous wealth?  You can read his sobering story in 1 Kings 10-11.

And after all these thousands of year, what person or nation hasn’t sought security, pleasure, and wealth?  But why be taken in by the fakes which go sour, don’t last, and just disappoint?  The real thing is found in only one place:  God.

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold,
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or land,
Yes, I’d rather be led by His nail-pierced hand.

Chorus:
Than to be the king of a vast domain
And be held in sin’s dread sway
I’d rather have Jesus than anything
This world affords today.

I’d rather have Jesus than worldly applause,
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame,
I’d rather be true to His holy name.

He’s fairer than lilies of rarest bloom,
He’s sweeter than honey from out the comb.
He’s all my hungering spirit needs
I’d rather have Jesus and let him lead.
(by George Beverly Shea)

Listen to the song here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u62uYEssk7o

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The Perfect Gift

gift box

I love finding the perfect gift for a loved one—something they’ll love and that tells them I care about them very much.  For my granddaughter it was a book about cats.  For my brother-in-law it was a package of caramel nut coffee. 

God gives gifts, too. He gives us life, breath, food and our basic needs every day.  But I’m thinking of the special abilities He gives His children to share with one another for each other’s benefit—commonly known as “spiritual gifts.”  Paul discusses these in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, but right in between those chapters is the real jewel, described as “the way of life that is best of all” (12:31), “the greatest of these” (13:13) and “your highest goal” (14:1).  This is LOVE! 

Love is contrasted with the spiritual gifts which are variously given to different ones of God’s children; love is to be practiced by all of us.  This famous “love chapter” divides nicely into three parts:

1.  The priority of love. It’s indispensable!  As a child, I saw an advertisement for “the indispensable dress.”  I had to ask my mom what that meant, thinking that maybe it meant “indisposable”.  She said it means that you can’t do without it!  Well, I’ve done okay without that dress, but God says that whatever other good things we may do are totally worthless without love.  That’s sobering.

2.  The properties of love are presented in beautiful poetry in the middle part of this chapter. And just so I can test and see if I’m really a loving person, here’s the checklist: 

–Am I patient & kind with people who get on my nerves?
–Am I envious of what I don’t have or boastful about what I have or can do?
–Am I arrogant, rude, or self-seeking—or do I give priority to others’ needs and  feelings?
–Am I irritable or do I hold grudges—or am I a channel of God’s grace?
–Do I delight in what is good and true, or am I focused on lies, evil and injustice?
–Do I bear, believe, hope and endure all things—not naïve but trusting God while sharing my life and love with others?

3.  The permanence of love.  All other spiritual gifts will end “when the perfect comes” and we’re home in heaven. We won’t need preachers, prophets, healing, etc. We will be complete and whole.  Our love for one another and for the Lord will then be perfect as we bask in the ecstasy of His immeasurable love for us. 

More Than the Eye Can See

eyes

Sleight-of-hand and trick photography have shaken our faith in the reliability of what we “see.” On the other hand, there’s so much we accept without seeing—from the tiniest workings of the human cell to the movements of the farthest stars which scientists only postulate. And there’s another world that intersects with ours which can be seen only by eyes that are supernaturally opened.  Here are some examples:

Balaam saw only a stubborn donkey who refused to budge down an apparently clear pathway. But when “the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes,” he saw the angel that had been visible to his donkey all along. (Numbers 22:21-34)

Hagar sat weeping in the desert waiting for herself and her son to die, when “God opened her eyes,” showed her well full of water, and promised to make a great nation of her son. (Genesis 21:19)

Elisha’s servant saw only the frightful enemy army surrounding the city. Then when “the Lord opened his eyes,” he saw the hillside was filled with horses and chariots of fire—God’s mighty army of protection! (2 Kings 6:14-17)

Two men were captivated by the words of a “stranger” who joined them on the way to Emmaus. Then “their eyes were opened” and they recognized it was Jesus!  (Luke 24:31)

After Saul (a.k.a.) Paul had been blinded on the road to Damascus, he regained his sight and was commissioned by Jesus to the Gentiles “to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light…and receive forgiveness for their sins.” (Acts 26:18)

And how about us?  Paul prays for the believers: “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know
–the hope to which he has called you,
–the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints,
–and his incomparably great power for us who believe. (Ephesians 1:18-19)

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

Just as surely as the inner workings of the cell are real, the things that God tells are true, and we can rely on them.  There is “a whole ‘nother world” out there beyond what we can see.  Let’s take off our blinders.

Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus
To reach out and touch Him and say that we love him.
Open our ears, Lord, and help us to listen
Open our eyes, Lord, we want to see Jesus!

What to Ask For

prayer2

“God bless (insert name).  Amen.”

When I pray for someone, sometimes I just don’t know what to say!  Especially for someone I haven’t heard from lately and am not updated on their circumstances.  And when someone asks how they can pray for me, I usually mention something I’m working on, a health issue or concern for a family member.  As important as these are, there must be more important things to ask for those I love.

Paul’s prayers are a great resource.  Here are the things he prays for the believers at Colossae and the things he asks them to pray for him:

  A complete understanding of what God wants to do in their lives (1:9)
  Spiritual wisdom from God (1:9)
  To live lives that will honor and please the Lord (1:10)
  To always be doing good, kind things for others (1:10)
  To learn to know God better and better (v. 10)
  To have patience and endurance through God’s power (1:11)
  To have joy (1:11)
  To be thankful for all things, especially spiritual blessings (1:12-14)
     a) Rescue from Satan’s kingdom of darkness
     b) Membership in Christ’s kingdom of light
     c) Freedom purchased by Christ’s blood
     d) Forgiveness of sins
  For opportunities to proclaim God’s message (4:3)
  That they will proclaim it clearly and fearlessly (4:4)

These are the things that really matter.  What do you suppose would happen if we’d start praying like this for one another?

Broken People

When one of my sons was little, he got noticeably upset when he heard a song by a Christian singer about “broken up people.”  We adults get so used to metaphor that we take it for granted, but he must have been visualizing a pretty gruesome sight.

But there could also be confusion when the same metaphor has two different meanings.  What do we mean by “broken” and “brokenness”?  I hear it used in a negative sense, as in this song and in phrases like “broken relationships,” “broken hearts,” and “a broken world.”  And in that word I hear dysfunction, wretchedness, grief, fragmentation, and despair.  That’s a bad thing.

On the other hand, I hear Christian pastors and teachers talking about “brokenness” but with a different meaning—something like humility, submission to God, and dependence on Him.  Like a horse whose self-will is broken and is now willing to let its master ride, or a house-broken dog that now takes delight in pleasing its owner rather than reverting to its native instincts to make a mess and destroy things.  And that’s a good thing.

So, where do I fit in all this?

–I pray that God will eradicate all remnants of pride in my heart and make me totally usable for His wonderful plans and purposes.  I want to delight in pleasing my Master, and that’s where I find my greatest fulfillment.  

–I pray for the gift of compassion for those with broken hearts and lives and that I might be an instrument in God’s hands of healing.  I want to be like a cracked clay pot with the glory of God shining through to bless and help others.

God…has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.* This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.
(2 Corinthians 4:7)

In the Courtroom

judge's gavelMysteries and detective stories have always intrigued me since childhood when I read every Nancy Drew (and yes, even Hardy Boys) book I could lay my hands on.  Recently I’ve watched a few reruns of Perry Mason, where the suspense of the courtroom pervades.  There’s always the all-powerful judge. And the heartless prosecutor and the very wise defense attorney. I don’t remember seeing a jury in these scenes, but that would be unnecessary because the case is always thrown out as soon as the real criminal is revealed.  And the innocent accused goes free. 

How is this like God’s courtroom where He presides as judge of all mankind?    There He is, the absolutely just—and yet compassionate—judge.  There is Satan, the heartless and vicious prosecutor.  There is Jesus—my attorney, my defender.  No jury needed.  And there I am, already convicted, no contest.  I am guilty and everyone knows it (Romans 3:23).  All that remains is the sentencing.  Satan pushes for the death sentence, which is what I really deserve (Romans 6:23).  But my Defense Attorney rises, shows His hands and feet, and declares that the death sentence has already been executed.  The righteous Judge then grants me a full pardon and I am free! 

Then what do I do?  Go my merry way and return to the behavior that got me into trouble in the first place?  No way!  Instead, like the blind man that Jesus healed, I get up and follow Him!  (Luke 18:43)  My life is no longer mine.  Jesus has bought it with his own blood, and now I am His! 

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.  (Romans 12:1-2)

Where has the music gone?

Where has the music gone?  I mean the kind we made ourselves.  When I was growing up in a tiny country church, we had “special music” every Sunday morning AND every Sunday evening.  My dad, the pastor, had to arrange for all of it, and I remember him calling up different ones asking them if they would sing.  Sometimes it was a couple, sometimes a ladies’ duet or trio, or a solo, and not infrequently it was some of us kids singing duets or trios.  This is how my sisters and I got started—singing with each other, with friends and later with our mom.  We had those old “Favorites” songbooks we’d pore through, finding just the right song to sing.  And if it coordinated with the sermon, all the better.

That church was too small for a choir, but in the next church Dad pastored, we had an occasional choir.  And in the next one, Mom started and maintained a choir which she directed. 

Music that we made was an important part of our worship.  Why? Well, here are some possible reasons:

–It allowed us to develop and use our giftings for the Lord, even if we were not professional quality.  (You know the saying, “If only the best birds sang, the forest would be silent.”)

–It got us involved serving in the church, feeling a part of it.  We were active, not passive.

–It familiarized us with songs beyond those in our hymnbooks, those not designed for congregational singing.  I have a wealth of songs in my mind and heart from childhood—hundreds and maybe thousands.

–Some of us learned to sing parts.  (Unfortunately that didn’t include me—I’ve always stuck to the melody.)

How many churches have “special music” nowadays?  Why?  Are we missing out on something?  Does this affect us spiritually?  What do you think?

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