Glimpses of grace seen in the everyday

Posts tagged ‘commitment’

Love Song

High and holy
Sovereign, Savior
Creator, Sustainer
Comforter, Friend
You gave me life twice
You chose me forever
I’ll live for you.

My life is yours
You’re all I need
Please keep me true, trusting you
Rejoicing, thanking, growing, serving, glowing
Sharing your love with the world.

Perfect Love

God loves me.  What does that mean? What is love, other than fuzzy feelings?  My search led me to an article in a decades-old magazine entitled, “God’s Intensely Personal Love.”*  The author starts out with a beautifully complete dictionary definition (I don’t know what dictionary) of love.  The Scripture references after each point are given in the article to illustrate how perfect God’s love is on each of these counts:

“a strong personal attachment and ardent affection which includes three things:

1) sympathetic understanding…

Jesus sympathizes with our weaknesses, having been tempted and tried as we are.  Hebrews 4:15-16

God has compassion on us, keeping in mind that we’re merely human.          Psalm 103:13-14

2)  good will & benevolent, kind action…

God has good plans for His children, to give them a secure future.              Jeremiah 29:11

He will make an everlasting covenant with His people and never stop doing good for them. He enjoys doing good for them!  Jeremiah 32:40-41

He cares for us and invites us to turn over all our concerns to Him.  1 Peter 5:7

3)  delight & pleasure in the loved one”

God rejoices over His people like a groom rejoices over his bride.  Isaiah 62:5

He delights in us, quiets us with his love, and rejoices over us with singing.  Zephaniah 3:1

And then how does this apply to my own love to God?  Do I try to see from His perspective?  Am I motivated to serve Him from a pure heart?  Do I take pleasure in Him?  And then what about my love to others?  How does that compare with these criteria?  Lots to think about while drifting off to sleep.

                                                                                             *Disciple Journal magazine, Issue 4, article by Ruth Myers

Getting Tired of God?

Malachi (the last book of the Old Testament) was addressed to people who were getting tired of God.  Let’s try on their shoes and if they fit us today:

1.  We have not recognized how much God loves us.  (1:1-5)  This is foundational. All those that follow hinge on this one.

2.  We have disrespected the Lord by failing to give Him our BEST.  (1:6-14)

3.  We have not carefully and faithfully passed on God’s instruction to those we are responsible for (e.g. our children).  (2:1-9)

4.  We have not kept our commitments to God, to our marriage partners, and to others. (2:1-16)

5.  We say that evil is good and that God is pleased with evildoers (e.g. praying God’s blessing on abortionists) .  (2:17) 

6.  We don’t really trust God to provide for us if we give first to Him—so we don’t. (3:7-12) 

7.  We devalue serving God and instead prioritize our own desires and applaud those who prosper in their godless lifestyles  (3:13-15)

In the end, however, God says that everyone will see the difference between those who serve Him and those who do not:

–For those who rebel against God:  “The LORD Almighty says, “The day is coming when all proud and evil people will burn like straw. On that day they will burn up, and there will be nothing left of them.” (4:1 TEV)

–For those who love and obey God:  “But for you who obey me, my saving power will rise on you like the sun and bring healing like the sun’s rays. You will be as free and happy as calves let out of a stall.  On the day when I act, you will overcome the wicked, and they will be like dust under your feet.” (4:2-4 TEV)

Queen for Two Hours

As I fish my mini-Hershey bar out of my purse, I remember how it felt to be “Queen for Two Hours.” (Some of you may remember the TV show “Queen for a Day” from the early 60s.) A couple of days ago I was promoted to first class on a domestic flight!  I’d always wondered how it would feel to be boarded first into the front seats and then sip one’s drink while watching the ordinary people (“the unwashed masses” according to comedian Tim Hawkins coming through on their way to the nether regions of the plane (which is normally my own lot). 

Though I felt totally unworthy of the special treatment, I settled in to enjoy this experience for all it was worth.  As I sipped coffee and nibbled on chocolate, I pulled out my Bible and read once again the story of Queen Esther.  In this fascinating story, not one word is said about Esther enjoying the perks of her office.  Instead, she is honored for risking her life to save her people from certain genocide. 

Her cousin urged her to action:

Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?

Her reply: 

“Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.”

What might be the special purpose God has for me to fulfill in this life?  Or even in this day?  What will be the risks?  God, give me the wisdom and commitment to fulfill Your wise and wonderful plan for me no matter what it may cost me! 

P.S. To find out what happened, read the book of Esther yourself.  It’s a real page-turner!

Crawling off the Altar

I was sitting in a church in a remote part of the world where offerings included not only money but also whatever the members had to give.  A live chicken that was tied to the altar managed to get away in the middle of the service, to the delight of some little boys who ran to retrieve it.  Another Sunday in another church, a very recently caught fish on the altar.startled the congregation by actually jumping off the altar.  These “living sacrifices” were obviously not committed!

These events brought to mind Romans 12:1 and the saying I’ve heard somewhere:  “The problem with a living sacrifice is that it’s always crawling off the altar.”

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.  Romans 12:1

I confess that often I need to examine myself to see if I’m still on the altar.  Do I still demand or expect to determine my own way, my own choices in life?  Am I joyfully committed to whatever God has for me today?

Against All Odds

A favorite childhood memory is the Kids’ Bible Club my parents held every Wednesday for the dozen or so elementary kids in the rural community where we attended a one-room, K-8 school.  Mom taught us songs and Bible stories using flannelgraph, and we had a lively Scripture memorization program where I tried to keep ahead of my best friend, receiving a small prize for each group of verses successfully recited.

Our theme song was an adaptation for children (by Dad) of the hymn “Am I a Soldier of the Cross?” This song speaks of the expectations we might have as citizens of God’s kingdom while still in these alien lands.  Like a soldier in war, we can’t expect “flowery beds of ease” but must be prepared to “bear the toil, endure the pain” before we reach our final glorious victory. 

I need to keep reminding myself of this when facing my (trivial!) inconveniences or when thinking about what I might have to suffer for Christ’s sake someday.  I am challenged and chided by the example of Allied soldiers in a World War II documentary I’ve been watching.  These men faced incredible obstacles and impossible odds in their struggle to preserve freedom for me and many others, and they unselfishly gave their lives for that noble cause.  And by God’s grace, freedom prevailed.  How much more for the struggle I face today against both seen and unseen powers.  If God is with us, who can stand against us?  Am I committed enough to endure whatever it takes?

Am I a soldier of the cross,
   A follower of the Lamb?
And shall I fear to own His cause
   Or blush to speak His name?

Must I be carried to the skies
   On flowery beds of ease?
While others fought to win the prize,
   And sailed through bloody seas?

Are there no foes for me to face?
   Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
   To help me on to God?

Sure I must fight, if I would reign
   Increase my courage, Lord!
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
   Supported by Thy word.

Thy saints, in all this glorious war,
   Shall conquer, though they die;
They view the triumph from afar,
   And seize it with their eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise,
   And all Thy armies shine
In robes of victory through the skies,
   The glory shall be Thine.  (by Isaac Watts)

What Makes Happiness?

“The United Nations Human Development Index 2011 measures happiness in different countries based on factors such as income, education, health, life expectancy, economy, gender equality and sustainability.”  Norway, they say, is the happiest country.  The US is #4. (Source: CNN Travel website.)

Looking at the website, I don’t see the word “happiness.”  That seems to be an inference made by the CNN writer.  But assuming the viewpoint that these factors comprise happiness,what’s wrong here?  By these standards, Scrooge might have been a happy man, and definitely Bob Cratchit (father of Tiny Tim) would not be.  However, the reverse was actually true in that well-loved Christmas tale.

In this scheme, where are the following factors?

sense of purpose & fulfillment
solid loving relationships
a clean conscience
And greatest of all, faith and hope in our Creator and Savior

If you had to choose between the first list (health, wealth, long life) and this second list, which do you think would make you happier?  And do the more “developed” countries really have a corner on happiness?  Having lived in both, I think not.

Fifteen Years to Live

If I knew that I had 15 more years to live, how would I spend them?  That’s what King Hezekiah was told by God when he begged to be spared from a deadly disease.   (2 Kings 20:1-6)

Would my priorities change?  Would I use the first five or ten for myself, promising God the final years?  Or would I start now to pursue God with my all my heart, soul, and strength?  It’s an interesting question. 

But the truth is, I might have 30 more years or just a few days or hours.  The question at hand is how to use this one day I have.

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Retire or Revitalize?

As we begin our ninth term of service in an Asian country, it’s time for a “vision check.”  How far does my vision extend?  Where is the finish line?  Is it at a place called “retirement” or at the time when I am called away from this earth to meet the Lord?  (Mind you, I’m not THAT old yet, but people do ask about our plans.)

First of all, maybe I should start from that end and work backward.  When I see Jesus face to face, I want more than anything to hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” 

In order for that to happen, what shall I do?  Do I start checking out, phasing out, flaking out, disengaging?  Or do I gear up and give it all I’ve got till I get a definite message from on high that it’s time to do something different?   I need to keep reminding myself that God’s call on my life can’t be compared to his plan for others who go on to different things for one reason or another—or, on the other hand, to others a generation older than me who are still going full steam ahead. 

Moses, Caleb and Joshua are examples of lives lived to the fullest right up to the end.  Their greatest years were arguably their last ones.  And can you imagine the apostle Paul enjoying his last years in retirement in a Roman villa?  No, but a Roman prison instead!  Not ordering more pink lemonade but asking for more parchment on which to write God’s words to people like you and me!  Not playing but praying—wrestling in prayer for hundreds of believers he knew, loved, and poured his life into, even while in prison. 

Now, what was that about retirement?  I don’t know.  I have a feeling that my attention should be on growing, reaching out, and giving all I’ve got for the long haul.  As Paul said,

“I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith!”             (NET Bible) 

Or as I saw once on a T-shirt: 

“Keep on working for the Lord.  The salary isn’t much but the rewards are out of this world!”

Pony Express Qualifications

The other day I picked up this poster in the original Pony Express station in the town where we’re staying now. 

Pony Express poster

The Pony Express operated in 1860-1861. In addition to the qualifications listed on the poster, we found the following on the Internet:  “[The riders] had to be of light weight, with a constitution of iron that they might ride through storms of hail, snow, ice and sleet, over snow-capped mountains, across burning sands of alkali desert, through terrific and torrential streams, past the deadly lurking savage foe, carrying mail always into the west and back to the east.”  Wow! 

I am struck by the similarity between this recruitment and God’s call to service, particularly overseas:

–Bringing “letters” —but God’s are much more important and urgent!

–Leaving the familiar, heading for the unfamiliar

–Commitment—others are depending on us

–Willing to risk death daily

–Excellence (expert riders; giving our best to the Master)

–Young (don’t wait till we’re worn out to serve the Lord)

–“Orphans preferred”—we must loosen our home ties

–A team effort.  None of these fellows could go the whole distance.  Each would go about 50 miles and then hand the mailbags off to the next one.

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