and the One who walks with me on it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Words of Life

       A little child grows up unnoticed in a dysfunctional home, into an outwardly ‘good’ but inwardly ‘soiled’ and sinful woman.  Despite the new life in Christ as a teen, she struggles for years in specific areas where it seems victory will never be found.  Into the midst of several backslidden times, and occasionally in the midst of sinful acts she hears the gentle voice of a man.  The things He says breaks her heart over and over again as she learns more about him: ‘I love you. You are mine. Be with me. I love you. Return to me. Come to me.  I love you.’  The man is Jesus, and I am that woman.

part of painting by Annibale Carracci
       Jesus spoke to another sinful woman- from a disreputable past in a place loathed by Jews.  The Samaritan woman is known typically as the woman at the well. (John 4)  Samaritans were a blend of Jew and non- Jew (Babylonians, Macedonians) who held to a mix of Judaism and idol worship and renounced their heritage several times when in fear of arriving governments.  This is why they were despised by most Jews.  Her past was littered with fornication.  She had three strikes against her: a woman*, a Samaritan, a sinner.

       The woman questions Jesus right from the start about her womanhood and being a Samaritan (v.9).  In the midst of all her faults Jesus brings words of life (v. 10), life available to her (v. 14).  After He exposes her sin (v. 18) the woman no longer sees Him just as a Jew, but as a prophet (v. 19). Then Jesus proceeds to tell her that external forms (sacrifices) of worship in external places are soon to be past, but God wants those who worship with their whole hearts in truth (v. 21-24).  After Jesus declares Himself, the woman believes in Jesus as Messiah/ Christ (v. 29).

       So we see that Jesus spoke words of life into this woman’s heart, in the depth of her sin and shame.  Jesus didn’t turn away because she was a woman, a Samaritan and a sinner, but He boldly spoke the words of life.  By doing this, He not only rescued her, but the town came out to hear Him and who knows how many were saved.  One woman He saved back then and 2000 years later using His words of life, He saved another… me. 

Oh Lord,
     For every time You didn’t turn away from me for my sin
     For every time You didn’t leave me because of my unfaithfulness to You
     For every time You spoke words of life into my heart
                    I am forever grateful!  Thank You Lord.

*There was a rabbinical precept: “Let no one talk with a woman in the street, no, not with his own wife” (Lightfoot, Hor, Hebr. iii. 287). 
Speaking to a woman publicly was especially beneath a rabbi’s dignity and his disciples considered Jesus a rabbi (v. 31 master = rabbi).

Friday, April 13, 2012

He’s Got His Eye on You

       Many of us go through our days not thinking about the Lord and the fact He sees what we are doing, hears what we are saying, and knows what we are thinking.  We might wonder of what importance humanity could be to the Lord that He watches every human all the time… and just how does He do that anyway?  There are some things we may never completely comprehend.  So, what is the purpose behind Him watching us?

For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him… 2Ch. 16:9
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Pr. 15:3
From the place of his habitation he looketh upon all the inhabitants of the earth.  Ps. 33:14
Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy;  Ps. 33:18

       The Lord is looking for those whose hearts are perfect (complete, friendly, whole) toward Him, who fear Him and hope in his kindness.  He also sees the good and evil in the earth, and I suppose one day He will utilize this information to make honest judgments in the end times.  So, the Lord has good reasons to watch us.  And though I didn’t look for scriptures, I would think He loves to watch us as His children just as we love to watch our children.  Isn’t it true that when they’re asleep, they look so innocent?  I wonder if He thinks the same.

I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.  Ps. 32:8
The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry.  Ps. 34:15

       God is not an ‘out there’ God, but an ‘Emmanuel’ or ‘God with us’ (Mt. ) God.  In other words, He wants to be an active part of our lives.  He wants to instruct, teach and guide us on the journey we walk and generally, all guides do better with their eyes open.  Plus, He wants to show Himself strong in our lives, and see when we are in need of Him.  Every good parent knows we need to keep our eyes on our children for reasons of love and security.  We want to see when they need us so we can respond.  God is our Father, 
(Ep. 1:2) and we can’t expect Him to be any different.

The Lord’s got His eye on you, and you are the apple (fig. little man, daughter) of His eye.
                                                                                                                  (Ps. 17:8)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A Dreaded Day

       Faiza sat in her dilapidated house, the hot African sun shining through the open window, watching her handsome, young son nap.  This was it, the time she most dreaded.  There was nothing left for her to sell and she only had two plantains and a little oil to fry up for one last meal.  Faiza, weak with hunger and tormented by her inability to feed her son Taji, went outside to gather sticks to burn so she could cook their last meal.  A deep sadness gripped her heart.  Where was the God she served?

       A stranger walked up to Faiza as she worked in the heat of the day and asked for some water to drink.  There was no harm in that, so she went to get the water.  As she walked away, he said, “Please give me some plantain.”  Faiza doesn’t say no, are you crazy, go away, or try next door, instead she states a fact, “I have only two plantains and some oil for frying which I plan to eat with my son before we die.  The stranger replies, “Don’t be afraid, make me some first, then take what’s left over and cook it for the two of you.” And then he claims the Lord will never allow their plantain and oil containers to be empty until the rain returns.  Faiza did as told.

See below for the real story*

       I have to ask myself if I would have done the same; give any portion of my son’s and my last meal to a man I didn’t even know (the widow’s lack of greeting or plea for help shows she didn’t know him).  What made her do as requested?  Perhaps her heart was open to Elijah’s faith in God concerning the food, or perhaps she knew a man would be coming as the word ‘commanded’ could indicate (although the word also means: appointed, established, instructed).  Of course, I guess at that point you have nothing to lose because you’re going to die anyway! 

       Still, for the time it took her to set the fire, and cook the food for the stranger, she must have wondered if she was doing the right thing.  Handing it to him would also cause her to question again.  Then she would have gone back and looked discouragingly at what was left, such a small amount for her and her precious son!  Sometimes we get discouraged at what we have and wonder where God is.  Other times we question if we should still be giving or serving because nothing good seems to come from it.

       At some point, if we are to find peace, we must decide to trust God and His plan/ promises/ provision for us.  It is not easy to do when faced with insurmountable odds, but I have discovered it is possible.  First, we have to remember who God is, and then we have to remember who we are in Him and believe that He will work things out for our good somehow. (Rom. ) As David said, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God… will be with thee; he will not fail thee… (1Ch. 28:20)

       The blessings will eventually come- maybe not just at the time we prefer!  God’s promise to the widow came true and while the famine continued her meal and oil never went dry.  He provided what she needed for her and her son.  But first, she had to step out in faith and give away a most precious resource believing God’s word over what her natural eyes were seeing.

Lord, help us to be that way!

*…get thee to Zarephath… I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee… when he came to the gate of the city, behold, the widow woman was there gathering of sticks: and he called to her, and said, Fetch me, I pray thee, a little water in a vessel, that I may drink… And as she was going to fetch it, he called to her, and said, Bring me, I pray thee, a morsel of bread in thine hand.
And she said, As the LORD thy God liveth, I have not a cake, but an handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse: and, behold, I am gathering two sticks, that I may go in and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it, and die. And Elijah said unto her, Fear not; go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after make for thee and for thy son. For thus saith the LORD God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the LORD sendeth rain upon the earth.
And she went and did according to the saying of Elijah: and she, and he, and her house, did eat many days. And the barrel of meal wasted not, neither did the cruse of oil fail, according to the word of the LORD, which he spake by Elijah. 1Kn. 17:9-16

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Strengthen the Hands

       His hand was aching and even though he switched the staff from hand to hand, he couldn’t help but feel the tension and cramps in the muscles of his shoulders as the rest of his body struggled with exhaustion.  Though he’d like to put the thing down for a bit, it caused a far bigger problem to do so.  This was a life and death matter!  As Moses held that staff up, his people would prevail in the war, but when he lowered it, the enemy prevailed.  Knowing this meant the death of more of his brothers must have put a huge mental and emotional strain on him as well.

And Moses said unto Joshua, Choose us out men, and go out, fight with Amalek: to morrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in mine hand. So Joshua did as Moses had said to him, and fought with Amalek: and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  Ex. 17:9-12

       It doesn’t record how long the battle took only that it went until sundown, so it could have been hours or almost the entire day!  At one point, Moses got tired and couldn’t keep the staff up any longer on his own, but the battle was not finished.  Could God have given Moses supernatural endurance, or helped him hold it longer?  Yes, but obviously He didn’t want to… because He didn’t.  So what was Moses to do?  Aaron and Hur, who climbed the hill with him, placed a stone as a seat and then stood on either side of Moses to help support his weary hands. 

       A lot of times we try to keep going under the strains and pressure of life, and we wonder why it’s so difficult, we feel like we aren’t going to make it and God feels so far away.  Could it be that we have too much pride to ask for assistance or support from others?  I remember being in the worst time of my life and calling my friends daily just to survive until the next day.  I also asked anyone willing- to pray for us.  These people helped me stay sane and reminded me that I am not alone.  Maybe they didn’t physically hold up my hands but they surely kept up the rest of me!

       In the same regard, we should be active in helping others to endure.  That means we should be willing to strengthen our brothers and sisters by whatever means available.  Prayers are good but are sometimes used as an easy way out. “Well, I prayed for them didn’t I?”  Words of encouragement can help, but I think sometimes just listening is the best thing we can do for someone.  Our time is perhaps the hardest to give up because we have ‘so many more important things to do’, and we just don’t want to take the time to listen, especially time and again.

       How long should we support one another? (support- to sustain; to keep from fainting or sinking; to support the courage or spirits)  Well, Aaron and Hur supported Moses until the enemy was overthrown; in other words, as long as it took.  Make no mistake, I’m not saying we should allow a person to continue wallowing in self pity and such, but not all problems are resolved in one or two sittings.  We need to stand together and when hands start trembling under the weight of this life, stand together and stay the hands!

Monday, April 09, 2012

His First Letter

       I can’t remember how old he was, but I remember the look on my son’s face when he received his very first letter mailed to our house in his name.  His eyes were big green orbs exploding with light and his smile reached from ear to ear as he grasped for the letter in my hand.  He was extremely excited and almost completely destroyed the card in his enthusiasm to open it.  Today, he still has his very first piece of mail, a birthday card from Grandma.

       When I was in the store the other day buying a birthday card for my Mom, I was speaking to a lady about how I’d almost forgotten to pick one up.  She was telling me how her Mom insisted her card be sent by mail even though they live in the same neighbourhood- and get there in time for her birthday… never late!  Some people might consider that fussy or spoiled (like me at first) but in reality I guess it is more special that way, and what’s wrong with making another person feel special- like my son with his birthday card.

       Making someone feel special doesn’t have to cost a lot, in fact, it may not cost any money at all!  A few ideas to make someone feel special: A note of encouragement perhaps even sent by mail, a photo they might enjoy, a few minutes of conversation when they look all alone, a hug just because, an offer to go for coffee, a balloon tied to their car, a silly song left on their answering machine, a phone call to see how they are doing.  There are many things we can do to let someone know they are important to this life. 

       Life is tough; almost all of us have been through difficult trials, so imagine how some encouragement, love or support could make all the difference in how, or if, a person makes it through.  There are times I chide myself for not encouraging more people.  There are a sea of faces that walk by me everyday, and so few I am able to encourage, make them feel special and valuable even though they are.  But, I’m going to try harder.

       Jesus always treated the common man with love, compassion and respect.  He never looked down on them for their flaws, didn’t bash them for their sins, He didn’t walk to the other side of the road to avoid them, or run from providing for them.  He didn’t talk about them behind their backs or laugh at them privately with His friends.  Whether they were considered important in society or of no importance at all, Jesus treated them with love and open arms.  He made the feel special and valuable.

       This is one area where we can easily follow in Jesus’ footsteps.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money or time, (although it can if we want it to) still, we can bring a smile to someone’s day, and maybe even shine some light in their dark places.  Many of us say we want to be like Jesus.  Well, this is an easy way we can show it!

Sunday, April 08, 2012

How Much Does Jesus Love You/ Me?

       Jesus didn’t defend Himself against the false witnesses. (Mt. 26:63) He could have done so as He proved more than once that He could stand against the Jewish leaders’ messed up theology like the time they tried to trap Him over the woman caught in adultery. (Jn. 8:3-9)

       Jesus didn’t try to prove who He was using scripture like He could have.  He could have proven His royal line. (Mt. 1; Lk. 3)  He could have proven the prophecies concerning His birth were all true.  He could have shown how all the scriptures lined up with His life, because He knew them all though He had never studied with the rabbis. (Jn. 7:15)

       Jesus didn’t disappear through the crowd like He did other times. (Jn. ; )  If He did it twice before, I’m sure He could have done it again on His last day.

       Jesus didn’t call out for legions of angels to help Him as He could. (Mt. 26:53) He said so in the garden to Peter who had just cut off the scribe’s ear.  In other words, He could have stopped the arrest proceedings, trial or sentence anytime He wanted.

       No one took Jesus’ life; He laid it down, freely. (Jn. ; 1Jn. ) Like I said, He could have escaped or called angels in to save Him, but He didn’t.  I think the most difficult part for me would have been dying as a criminal when I was innocent, yet Jesus allowed that to happen to Him.

       Jesus endured beatings and humiliation.  He suffered torture with blood pouring out of most parts of His body.  He allowed His character to be questioned and His life to be mocked.  All of this was endured as an innocent man. (1Pt. 2:22)

       Jesus gave up His life so we could live. (Mt. 20:28; Gal. 1:4) He bore our sins on the cross (1Pt. ; 2Cor. ) and redeemed us from the curse of the law. (Gal. 3:13) Now we can have eternal life with Him. (Rom. ) 

       Would you take another man’s griefs and sorrows?  Would you be despised, rejected, grieved, stricken, smitten, afflicted, wounded, bruised, chastised, whipped, and oppressed for him?  Would you bear another man’s guilt and receive his death sentence?  Jesus did (Is. 53:1-8) all for our sin.

How much does Jesus love us?

More than we can ever understand.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Jn. 3:16