Friday, July 19, 2013

The Lord's Bathtub

This is not the usual place to find a frog:
     Yup.  It's a frog in my bathtub.  I wonder if his fellow frogs could see him, what would they say...
     "If you can get water to come out of that thing, you'd live like a king!"
     "Nice digs, but where are the plants?"
     "I like the minimalist architecture, but a rock here or there would be nice."
     "Kinda Zen.  But...How'd you get in?"
     "What are you thinking!  They have a CAT!"

     And yet, the frog seems content with his rather simple landscape.  He has one key advantage:  he has ME.  I will keep the cat from him; I will make sure he is secure while he is in my house.  Eventually, I will place him back into a more secure environment.  I will be careful in handling him, knowing that frogs cannot be handled roughly.  Finally, I care about him.  
     (Note:  this is not an informal resume for a position at the Humane Society.  With all the creatures that I come in contact with living in the mountains, each one has its place.  I want to make sure that I do my best to assist in keeping that order.  So, I just don't kill an "intruder"--I do my best to put it back where it belongs.  Though, lest I sound too self-righteous, I just killed an enormous wolf spider...he was outside even, but the horror of his size made me grab the bug spray.)
     Do you feel out of place?  Do people around you think you are nuts for following Christ?  Are you a frog in the "Lord's bathtub?"  Yes, it more "normal" to be part of the world around you, yet the Bible is all too clear about our new place in the world, once we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord: " You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God" (James 4:4).
    Whoa--those are strong words. We focus on being followers of Jesus and He even calls us friends: "I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you" (John 15:15). He calls us His children: "See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him" (1 John 3:1) enemy of God?  And why does James use the word "adulterous"?
     Think about it:  if you love someone other than the one you are married to, that is adultery.  If we are lusting for something we cannot have and denigrate the one we are with, we are trying to serve two masters, and eventually the more worldly one (the one that best fulfills our fleshly desires) will prevail, if we are not careful.
     Of course, we are out of place here in this world.  Christ died for us, brought us into a place of safely and love, and if we expect the world to applaud that, we are mistaken.  Jesus says quite simply:   "If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first" (John 15:18).  In fact, the hatred others bore Him led them to conspire for His death.
     We want to get along with the world so we can witness to Who Jesus is in our lives.  Paul himself says,
    "Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law.  To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings" (1 Cor. 9:19-23).  
     But, that "outta place feeling" is a consequence of our loyalty to Christ.
     Think of what following Him really means:  We have JESUS.  He watches over us.  He will make a way for us in an insecure environment. He knows we are fragile, and handles us gently. He cares for us, and someday, we will reside with Him in heaven.
     The "Lord's bathtub" is not where all the frogs hang out--as for me, it's the best place to be:  "But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served...But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:15).
     Now, I must go and make sure that wee frog is all right.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Days of Dry Rain

     This picture was taken in the spring.  These are called triteleias or triplet lilies. 
     Here's that same location:
     Quite a difference, huh?  Is it the sunlight and then the lack thereof?  No, Idaho has many days of sunlight, and even though it was a bit cloudy when I took the second picture, the sun had been shining all day. 
     In a word:  water. Water is a precious commodity in the high desert, and nothing illustrates that more than when we leave the rain of spring and enter into heat of summer.  Then we get something called "dry rain."  I had no idea what that was, and an elderly gentleman referred to it while we were talking one day, not long after I moved to Boise.  I asked, "What's that?" and he looked a bit surprised that I didn't know.  He explained that it's rain that falls from the sky but never hits the earth, due to the heat. 
     Those are exactly the conditions we have now:
     You can see the rain curtain but it is not hitting the earth.  We hit 100 degrees today and with that hot air rising, the rain doesn't stand a chance.  Compare that to just a few weeks ago, when we had a cool mass of air move in and the glorious rain fell:

     The massive amount of water in the air took the sunlight and rendered it as a rainbow.  The air was cool and the rain refreshed the earth.  The days of dry rain are upon us.  We get thunder and  lightning--all the trapping of a storm, but without that crucial element:  water. 
     I reflect on how this so corresponds to our walk with Jesus. We can feel His sunlight and warmth in our lives--we have accepted Him as Savior and know that He has forgiven our sins. With sins paid for, we are free to come to His Father.  Now, there are no walls, only open doors: "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, 'Abba, Father.'  So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir" (Galatians 4:4-7).  So, we are now part of God's family and we can bask in the light of His mercy and grace.
    But once our place in Him is secured by the work of His Son, we need to be walking every day in His Presence.  We need water every day--you can last maybe three days without it.  We need Him everyday.  We cannot walk abundantly without Him.  Our lives can start to slowly but surely shrivel up.
     Water is equally important to the Jewish people, due to the desert conditions that they faced throughout their history.  So, water in the Bible can mean judgment.  Look how God used an overabundance of rain to wipe sin from the earth; it is a judgment, but also a cleansing.  Perhaps another way to look at the flood is it was a global baptism, meant to wash away the sin of mankind, and the new life come forth from the ark.            
     Water was also used in a judging and cleansing way when the Red Sea parted for the Israelites, but then closed over and drowned Pharoah's army.  The water removed or cleansed away, as it were, the Egyptians' control from the lives of the people.
    Water was used to demonstrate God's provision. Moses struck a rock to bring forth water for the people as they wandered in the desert. Paul says ultimately that this rock was Christ: "They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." (1 Cor. 10:3-4). 
     Christ was struck for our sins.  The water that comes from Him is His Spirit.  We are filled and with that abundance and we are able to reach out and touch others:  “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them" (John 7:37-8).
     The "heat" of our sin, our attitudes and our disobedience will keep His refreshing rain at a distance.  Solution?  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).  
     Water is potent in a dry land.  His water is potent in a dry soul. We need His Spirit to be raining upon us. We, in turn, must be obedient. The dry rain in our lives needs the Living Water of Christ. Christ as Savior in my life is only the first step. I must walk daily with Him as He seeks to be Lord of my life. 
     Good news:  just as I was writing this, the dry rain actually fell to earth in a glorious shower.  I went outside and sat on my porch, reveling in the refreshing, cool air.  We all need to spend time on His porch, reveling in His refreshing, cooling Presence.  The heat will come, the land will dry up, but Christ is faithful:  "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full" (John 10:10).

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Look Into Jesus’ Mirror, and See How He Sees You!

 He sees you…as a person of value!  So, when He calls you, sing!
      Luke 1:46-55:  When the angel tells Mary of the Baby to be born to her, she sings!    She sings of how God remembers the humble, how blessed she truly is, how the lowly are lifted up, and how He remembers to be merciful to His people.  Praise is our way of acknowledging not only the Lord's goodness, but by verbalizing our gratitude, we are doubly blessed.
     Matthew 18:24:  Mary is, upon this news, faced with a devastating consequence:  her husband wants to quietly put her away.  The angel then comforts Joseph, knowing his heart, and his need to be reassured.  I am sure the song in Joseph's heart recovered, even though he still had a hard road to follow. 
     John 19:25-7:  When Jesus is dying on the cross, He directs the apostle John’s attention to Mary--she is now to be his mother--and Mary’s attention to John--he is now to be her son.  Jesus does not abandon us, and even at the darkest moments of our lives, He is still making provision for us.

He sees you as beautiful, even when the world sees only ashes…
     Luke 7:36-50:  This woman’s love for Jesus and her tears have never been forgotten.  The people around her disdained her…but Jesus commended her, and held her up as a woman of faith.  The sweet fragrance of the oil forever imprinted her in the hearts of the people who witnessed her kindness.  Every time they smelled that fragrance, they could reflect on Jesus' kind words, His sacrificial death and her kindness, even in the midst of scorn.

He sees your deepest needs, even if others have failed you!
      Luke 8:42-8:  The woman, because of her issuance of blood for  twelve years, was “ceremonially unclean”--meaning not only had the doctors failed her, the society disdained her.  But Jesus wanted to her to know, and those around her as well, that her act of faith healed her…physically, to be sure, but spiritually as well!  He commends her faith, for her simple act of reaching out and touching Him meant she knew Who He was and she acted accordingly.  Why do we acknowledge who He is, and then not act on it?

He wants us to focus on Him, even if it means questioning Him…
He will gently instruct us!
      Luke 10: 38-42:  Jesus wanted Martha to focus on Him, while He was at her home, so that she could learn this important lesson.  She didn't know it at the time, but keeping her eyes on Jesus would carry her and her sister, Mary, through a terrible time: the upcoming death of their brother Lazarus.
     John 11:17-44:  Lazarus then does indeed die.  Mary, the very one who had earlier sat at Jesus’ feet in adoration, now questions Jesus.  Even if we are in strong fellowship with Him, we still question Him.  Not only did He answer her, He showed her Who He was:  the very One Who will return Lazarus from the dead but then He Himself will rise. 
    Sometimes we need an explanation from God…but mostly, we need a revelation of WHO He is:  the Way, the Truth, the Life!  When you are hurting, don't ask "Why?"  Even if you receive the answer, the loss and the pain are still there.  Ask for God to show you the "How":  How to endure and keep praising Him, even in the midst of your pain.

He knows you even if it’s in a lonely spot, and you feel like an outcast…
He’s waiting for you!
      John 4:7-30:  This woman went to the well, in the heat of the day, by herself…and Who was there to help her discover who she was?  Jesus let her know that her sin was not just causing her to be rejected by society (going to get water in the heat of the day and being alone was a sure sign of her rejection) but her sin was keeping her from entering into fellowship with God.  He offered her water for her soul--her desire for intimacy had driven her from the very One Who could truly meet her need.
He sees our world--even if it is small--and He gives us significance!
      Luke 21:1-4:  The widow, giving all she had,  did not go unnoticed by Jesus.  He celebrated her generosity and faith, even if no on else did.  God sees those moments of love and sacrifice, and cherishes them. 

He greatly desires to calm those accusing voices, and to restore us to follow Him!
      Luke 8:1-3:  Mary Magdalene was a woman out of whom seven demons were driven… and she was one of His supporters and followers.  He replaced the voice of accusation with the Voice of affirmation.  Who are you listening to?   Ask Him to silence those voices that would drown out His voice that tells us of His love for us.

He is willing to give us more than we ask for…when we ask for crumbs,
He is willing to give Himself--the true Bread of life!
     Matthew 15:21-8:  This woman knew that she was not one of the chosen ones, yet she showed a humble but persistent faith by asking Jesus.  He meet her at her true need:  showing her that a faith in Him was what she desired.  She was willing to accept crumbs...but Jesus gives all of Himself to satisfy our hunger.  How then can we believe the lie that we are worthless?

He is there, even when no one is there for us--whether in our deepest pain, or in our greatest joy--and He is always seeking to roll away the stone!
      Luke 24:1-12:  Jesus emerged from the womb to be held by a woman, and He emerged from the tomb to be beheld by women--the “the least of these” in His culture.  This was a culture that demanded that the testimony of two women was equal to that of one man.  Notice that God in His infinite attention to detail made sure that there were multiple women going to the tomb that day.  He showed Himself to these women, and He stills shows Himself to us…for in Him, there is “neither male nor female…” (Gal. 3:28)  
     He are His children and He wants all of us to seek and find Him.  The stone is rolled away from the tomb...are we willing to look inside and trust what we see?

He is still answering prayer, and yes, sometimes we are surrounded by those who are dismissive of us, but…just keep listening to Jesus…
 Acts 12:5 & 12-17:  While prayer was being lifted for Peter’s release, guess who answered the door when a knock was heard?  Who gave the report of his release?  A young woman.  Who was then snubbed by the report?  The very same.  Yet…who was blessed by trusting what she had heard?  
   He doesn't dismiss us and even if we feel that we are "the least of these," He is there, wanting our hearts to hide in Him.  The old hymn puts it well:  "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey."
                                     Even through the clouds, His light comes through. 

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