Monday, February 25, 2013

Persistence Pays Off

This is one persistent junco.  My feeders were empty this morning, and here he was, waiting patiently, with a look (may I call it that?) of, "Hey!  The feeders are empty.  I'm waiting."  And wait he did.  I looked out my kitchen window several more times, and there he was.  Still waiting.  Still patient. But, not moving for love nor money.

He reminded me of that wonderful parable Jesus offers on persistence in prayer.  It's from Luke 18:1-8: 

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Interesting, isn't it?  Jesus selected a just judge--you would expect the judge to do the right thing.  He's sworn to uphold the law and does so willingly.  But Jesus picks a judge who, while sworn to uphold the law, has a bad attitude.  He doesn't fear God and is unconcerned how people react to him.  He probably is not the most popular guy in town.  But he is the judge and this widow, who has been wronged, comes to him, seeking justice.  She persists because justice must be meted out to her adversary and she won't rest until that's done.  It's only fair:  if someone wrongs you, then that person needs to feel the heavy hand of the law and needs then to make amends.  We don't know what this "adversary" of hers did, but it was grievous enough to warrant her coming multiple times, seeking a hearing from the judge and demanding a ruling.

In fact, whatever this adversary did is so grievous that the judge worries that if he delays too much longer,  she will assault him--a sure sign of the desperation of this woman.  She's not just being difficult; she has been wounded by a wrong and in her pain, she may take it out on the judge.  He's not giving in because he wants her to have justice--he's giving in because she is desperate and unpredictable in her current state.  A just judge would take pity on her and try to right the wrong as quickly as he could; this unjust judge is seeking to save his skin.  So, he does the right thing for the wrong reason.  But he still acts, even if we scorn his rather selfish motive.

Contrast this judge to our Heavenly Judge:  He hears the cries of His chosen.  He hears our  pain, our wounded and wronged hearts, and seeks to mete out justice quickly and fairly.  Why?  Delaying justice empowers the sinner, who scoffs at the laws of God anyway, and without a quick resolution, the sinner may commit even more grievous sins.  As for the wronged, a strike upon our cheek is a blow to our Father's face, and He does not want us to suffer any more than we do.  

So, back to our wee junco.  A grievous act of neglect had been committed.  We are not at the heights of summer, where, if the feeders are empty, a bird can just flit off and nibble elsewhere.  We are in the depths of winter--the ground is covered in snow, the winds blow cold and hard and food is scarce.  The junco was not too dissimilar to the widow:  his plea was not at all unreasonable, as he faced the adversary called Winter.  He wanted a kind of "justice"--a full feeder to keep him warm in these harsh days.  His resolve to patiently and persistently wait made me, still in jammies, go out in the snow and grab the feeders to fill them. When I grabbed them, he didn't fly away.  He stayed in the tree until I returned with them filled.  Interestingly enough, the feeder was soon filled with finches, and our junco didn't dine alone.  

Then it struck me:  our Heavenly Father answers our pleas not only to show His utter kindness, but to show others He is faithful to those who call on His name.  Our persistence--showing our confidence in His mercy--leads to our answered prayers becoming full feeders of His grace in our lives.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

God is in the Details

Jesus noticed the little things of life.  In Mark 12:41, He watched the crowd as they put their money into the temple treasury.  He saw the wealthy putting in large amounts.  He could have then just walked away--the money clinked as it hit the other coins and that would have been that.  But He tarried, and a poor widow made her way to the box.  He saw exactly what she put in:  "two very small copper coins."  Worth ever so little, but these wee coins caught the Savior's attention.  Why?  Why does He notices such little things?  Why does He comment on how not even a sparrow, which costs very little, will not fall to the ground without His Father's notice?  Why does He honor even a simple cup of cold water, given to a little one, and deems it worthy of a reward?
The little things are so easily overlooked.  Yet, they speak volumes of our Father's care.  These pictures are of snow forming into crystals.  Why?  As the water in the form of ice remains on the ground, it grabs water molecules from the air, and the small crystals start growing.  They grow so much, we can start to see their structure:  they look like branches of a pine tree.  Look at the edges and you can see the wee trees of ice.  Beautiful, delicate and easily overlooked.

The longer the ice crystals are exposed to the air, the larger they grow.  But they start small, almost imperceptible.  Our first hint of the beauty to come is how we see mini-rainbows in the snow--glinting in the sun, and looking like tiny diamonds scattered across the white raiment of winter.  But as time goes on, the crystals not only grow but reflect more and more light and dazzle us with their rainbow display.

God and His care is in the details all around us:  the smile of a baby, the diamonds in the snow and the whispers of love He sends to you and me.  The longer we are in His Presence, the more we grow, reflecting His light and making the winter snow a thing of beauty.  His work in us starts small, and may be almost imperceptible, but He is faithful: "For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." (Phil. 1:6). 

His beauty is growing in us, as long as we stay in the light of His love.  Be patient.  Look at a sparrow, catch the beauty of the snow, and remember:  He is watching everything, down to the finest details:  "He who keeps you will not slumber."  (Psalm 121:3).  We are worth so much to Him. 

Prayer:  Father of Lights:  I don't always see the work You are doing in me, but beautiful things take time.  The longer I am in You, the more I will reflect You.  Help me to keep my eye on the little things and not forget that You see them too.  I may be small, but in You, I am mighty.  In Your Son's precious name, Amen.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Learning Satan's Tricks From a Hawk

"Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you." James 4:7
We are all familiar with that verse from the New Testament.  But I have gained a new insight from Satan's playbook by watching our Sharp-shinned hawk who loves to visit our bird feeder these days, looking for prey.  Here he is, atop the tree and the feeders are near the base of the tree.  Not so subtle, huh?  He is there and every bird knows it, so the birds have been staying away lately.
He sat rather motionless, but his presence is unmistakable.  Even though it was a dark day, and even if you have poor eyesight, his form does not, in any way, resemble a tree branch.  So, how is this like Satan?  He is always on the lookout for prey.  In the book of Job, when the Lord inquires of Satan where he has been, Satan replies, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." (Job 1: 7)  Sounds like our hawk:  it flies all over our area, keeping an eye out for prey...ever restless, ever on the hunt.

Sometimes it is obvious that evil is afoot--we say, "Oh, I can't do that" or "I will not go there."  We know that sin is present, and seeking to lure us in.  Satan's form doesn't blend into the landscape at all.  He as big as life and twice as ugly.  We know he's there, just waiting for us, and even though visiting the "feeder" is tempting, we resist, going elsewhere and leaving him well enough alone.

Now, our hawk decided to up the ante, and approach the tree in a more stealthy fashion.  I am assuming his meals staying away disturbed him.  A predator's gotta eat, right?  So, here he is a week later:

Now, this gets interesting.  He is in the tree--right smack dab in the middle of it.  Actually, if hawks could spit, he's spitting distance from the feeders.  He sat there for a long time, waiting and watching, hoping that the gnarled arms of the branches would obscure his form and leave him invisible.  

Hmmm...not too dissimilar from Satan's tactics.  If he can't get us at the obvious level of temptation, he "flutters" off--there is always another day.   

The birds returned once the hawk left, feeling it was safe to return.  So, he again shows up, more hidden, more blended in to the landscape.  We return, avoiding the obvious dangers and succumbing to the idea that if we can't see sin and its nasty form, it isn't there and we are safe.  No, not so.  Satan has just blended in a lot better, so we feel we are safe, and go back to our feeder (our daily lives) blissfully unaware he is there. 

Was Jesus tempted again by Satan, after His ordeal in the desert before He began His ministry?  Look what the Gospel of Luke says, "When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time."  (4:13)  So, once the hoopla was over, can't you just picture Satan "flying" away, landing on a distant tree branch, watching and waiting until a time when he can either subtly go after Jesus--in Peter's words as he tried to dissuade Jesus from going to Jerusalem to be crucified--or more overtly, as when the crowd was screaming at Pilate to crucify Him?  On the tree or in the tree, Satan never let up on Jesus.  

We are no different:  "All men will hate you because of Me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved." (Matthew 10:22)  It's a simple truth:  Satan is always restless, always on the hunt.  But we can resist him.  Take a page out of Jesus' playbook:  use the Word and Satan will flee.  Truth is the greatest weapon against his wiles.

Prayer:  Precious Jesus:  I don't want to walk around always fearful of Satan--that is a kind of bondage that he loves.  But Your Word says that "perfect [mature] love drives out all fear."  My greatest weapon is growing in the knowledge of Your truth and being obedient to Your ways.  Thank you for walking with me!  In Your mighty Name. amen. 
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