Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

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Our Perfect Ruler

How appropriate that, on the morning of the presidential inauguration, my Bible should fall open to Isaiah 33:22:  “The LORD is our judge, our lawgiver and our king.”  Some claim that this verse was the inspiration for our founding fathers to set up the three branches of government to provide checks and balances on one another. 

Our government needs checks and balances because human wisdom is limited. But God’s wisdom is perfect.  He knows and sees through all space and time.     We need checks and balances because humans are corruptible. But God always does what is right by his own absolutely holy standards, and his goodness and compassion are infinite and unfailing.

But Isaiah’s point is that God, as Supreme Ruler, doesn’t need checks and balances.  He is our Perfect Ruler!  Though the full force of God’s kingdom is still veiled at the present time, we look forward to the day when he will rule unchallenged. 

The Lord is our LAWGIVER. He alone determines what is right and wrong, based on his perfect character. 

The Lord is our KING.  He enforces his own just standards and rules in splendor over his whole creation, from the farthest galaxy to the most intricate living cell. And one of these days every individual will kneel before him, voluntarily or not, and will acknowledge him as the Sovereign Ruler over all.

The Lord is our JUDGE.  He knows not only the deeds but also the secret motives of each one.  He also understands our needs and weaknesses because he has walked on earth and rubbed shoulders with us.  He will bring about justice, ultimately vindicating the innocent and punishing the guilty.  But more than that, he is the one who has come around to our side of the judge’s bench and paid the consequences for our offences so that he can then render the verdict of acquittal for those who accept this gracious gift!

What a wonderful God—all we need in one perfect Ruler!

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Doorkeepers

In the country where I live, every business, office, bank, and school  has at least one security guard at the door to keep out “unauthorized persons” and examine everyone’s bags for weapons. 

God’s Temple in Jerusalem also had gatekeepers and, judging from the space given to them in 1 Chronicles 26, this was an important responsibility.  They guarded the five gates plus the storehouse and the courtyard.  Their responsibilities included guarding the treasures kept inside the Temple and also keeping “unclean” things out of the Temple and its courts.  In New Testament times, this would include Gentiles, who were only allowed into the outermost court.  And even then, Jesus zealously expelled those who turned that area into a place to turn a profit.  Other examples of defilement of the Temple were when Herod the Great affixed there the Roman eagle emblem and when Antiochus Epiphanes erected a statue of Zeus in the Temple and sacrificed a pig on the altar.  Where were the temple guards at that time? 

But when I read the Bible, I want to know how it might apply to me.  Here are some thoughts:

–My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who lives in me (I Cor. 3:16 & 6:19).  Nothing unclean should be allowed to enter, nothing unworthy of sharing that space with God. 

–The main “gates” into this temple are my eyes and ears.  What am I looking at?  Reading?  Listening to? Thinking about?  Are these things pure and worthy of the One who lives inside me?

A child’s song says “O be careful, little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love” and “O be careful, little ears what you hear” for the same reason!  Here’s a link to that song, by the way: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwOzGC8Wr8k 

I want my body to be a worthy dwelling for God.  I don’t want to grieve Him by introducing disgusting or worthless things into the place reserved for Him.

God’s Musicians

clip_image002This morning our pastor told us of a new believer he was baptizing. He asked her how she came to faith, assuming it was through his preaching.  But she said no, it was because of the music she’d  heard as she passed by and then was drawn in.  Of that she was quite insistent. 

This reinforced what I had just read in the book of 1 Chronicles.  In the midst of lists of names, I found a beautiful surprise–a whole chapter (ch. 25) about the Temple musicians and their important work!  David himself and the army commanders appointed several hundred of them to praise the Lord with music every morning and evening with their voices and skillfully crafted instruments.  Just imagine how beautiful that must have been!  Wouldn’t I love to have been one of that group! 

One day I will be—around the throne of God, joined with millions of God’s people from all tribes and languages, from all times since the beginning of the earth.  No one will be singing off key, no hoarse voices, no arguments about worship styles, no wandering minds—just pure, passionate, perfect praise to the One who so well deserves it! 

As I play my piano every day just between me and the Lord, I pray that someone passing by will be blessed.  I believe God doesn’t waste anything.  Either way,  I like to think that I’m rehearsing for my part in that heavenly concert.

Before and After

Many years ago, a certain cosmetic company displayed before-and-after pictures that looked pretty impressive.  On a whim, curious to see how beautiful they could make me look, I presented myself for one of these free makeovers one day while my husband and I were in a mall.

He still has vivid memories of what I looked when I emerged from that place, expressed with phrases like “wicked woman.” “ghastly,” “gave me the creeps.” I didn’t look like his wife! After looking in the mirror, I agreed–it did look horrible.  Making a beeline to the nearest restroom, I washed it all off! 

We find in the Bible several people whom their friends scarcely recognized after Jesus had done his work on them—but, unlike my “makeover,” the results of these encounters were wonderful transformations.

A man born blind, normally seen begging in the streets, suddenly shows up with normal sight.  The neighbors debate about whether this is the same man they knew or a different one.  He excitedly tells them he’s the same man, healed by a man called Jesus.

A man lame from birth, normally found begging at the Temple gate, suddenly shows up inside the temple jumping around and praising God, to the total astonishment of the whole crowd of worshipers.  He had been healed by Peter and John in the power of Jesus.

Saul, who had been terrorizing Christ-followers with imprisonment and murder, suddenly shows up in a Damascus synagogue preaching that “Jesus is the Son of God!”  Astounded worshipers gasped, “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers?” But Saul had met Jesus and had been totally turned around.

A dinner guest the other day had the rest of us spellbound as she described the changed lives of the most unlikely people who had come into possession of the Bible in their own language and had been reading it insatiably.  From despair to hope, from a deviant to normal, from fearful to fulfilled, through bereavement, shark attack, and other tragedies, they have been transformed by the power of God.

When I look in the mirror, I see signs of aging.  But my main concern is that my spirit is becoming more and more like Christ as the Holy Spirit is changing me.  (2 Cor. 3:18) 

Are you ready for a makeover from the inside out?  If the Holy Spirit is the one doing beautifying you, you won’t want to wash it off!

Here’s the link for “When Jesus Comes”—a beautiful song about what happens when Jesus comes into a life.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k8-ixOyO0TM

Chosen

Some of my painful childhood memories are when the class would choose sides for a ball game.  I would be chosen last—and rightfully so since I had no ability for that sort of thing, nor (to be honest) any interest in it.  Still, it gets to you after a while.

Ironically, the one time I was appointed as a team captain, I got to choose the most athletic people I could for my side—only to discover that this was not going to be an athletic contest but a contest to see who could eat the most healthy breakfasts for a week!  (We lost Sad smile.)

Being chosen to be on someone’s team, or to be someone’s spouse or friend, gives us a feeling of worth, of being loved and valued.  And the higher the status of the one doing the choosing, perhaps the higher is the privilege of the one chosen. 

That’s why I revel in the realization that I have been chosen by the Creator, King of the Universe, the one-and-only God to be His beloved child.  Not just a group thing where he bid for the whole lot and got me thrown in.  But before I was born, He planned my life, determined who I would be, and chose me to belong to Him forever!  (Psalm 139)

Loved with everlasting love, led by grace that love to know;
Spirit breathing from above, thou hast taught me it is so!
O this full and perfect peace! O this transport all divine!
In a love which cannot cease, I am His, and He is mine.

Heav’n above is softer blue, earth around is sweeter green!
Something lives in every hue Christless eyes have never seen;
Birds with gladder songs o’erflow, flowers with deeper beauties shine,
Since I know, as now I know, I am His, and He is mine.

Things that once were wild alarms cannot now disturb my rest;
Closed in everlasting arms, pillowed on the loving breast.
O to lie forever here, doubt and care and self resign,
While He whispers in my ear, I am His, and He is mine.

His forever, only His; who the Lord and me shall part?
Ah, with what a rest of bliss Christ can fill the loving heart!
Heav’n and earth may fade and flee, firstborn light in gloom decline;
But while God and I shall be, I am His, and He is mine.

(Written by James Mountain)

What to Do with a Treasure?

 

I love beautiful and sparkly things!  A treasure chest full of jewels excites my imagination.  Just imagine finding such a thing.  What would you do with it? 

Put it away unopened?                                          Treasure_chest_color

Open it once in a while, glance at the contents and then stick it back on the shelf?

Take it out often, lift out one piece at a time, and examine it in the light from all angles, appreciating and admiring the brilliance of the jewels and the intricacy of their settings?

Put on a piece and wear it, letting its beauty complement your own and allowing others to share in the pleasure of viewing such magnificence?

Okay, I don’t have a treasure like that.  But I do have a better one—a Book that contains the secrets of life, joy, wisdom, peace, and much more! 

So what do I do with it?

Do I just keep it unopened somewhere in the cupboard?

Do I open it once in a while, glance at the contents, then stick it back on the shelf and go my merry way?

Do I pick it up often, read a bit at a time (or a whole chunk), and examine it carefully in the light of the Holy Spirit’s teaching within me, growing in love for the One who crafted this treasure and getting to know Him better through what it reveals about Him?

Do I “wear it” by letting it shape who I am and what I do, how I think and act?  Are others encouraged and drawn to the Artist through the display of His beauty in me?

“Your instructions are more valuable to me than millions in gold and silver.”  (Psalm 119:72)

A Settler or a Sojourner?

If you would ask me where my home is, I would have to scratch my head. When we were in the US for eight months last year, we joked that we were living out of our car and suitcases.  But here on the other side of the world, we don’t really feel at home either.  We look different, sound different, eat differently and think differently than the people of this country.

A more important question is whether we who have transferred our citizenship to heaven look, sound, and think the same as the people around us whose only home is this world.  If I am a settler, I will try to assimilate.  I will spend my time, energy and resources acquiring things that I think I will enhance my happiness here.  And some of those “things” may include intangibles like acceptance, pleasure, and power. 

On the other hand, if I am a sojourner, I won’t set my heart on those things but on preparing for my Real Home.  I will be patient in trials, content with less-than-ideal situations, and hopeful for the future even when the headlines spell doom.  If this is my mentality, I will be in good company:

Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land …. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. …confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.  (Hebrews 11:8-10 NLT)

Moses chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin and …to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward,…. not fearing the king’s anger…because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible. (Hebrews 11.25-27)

Paul: Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.  (2 Corinthians 4:17-18)  Read also Romans 8:18-25.

Here’s the link to a beautiful “Sojourner’s Song” by Buddy Greene: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=73-6P09xaAE

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