Tuesday, June 17, 2014

You've Not Responded to My Invitation...Why?

You are Cordially Invited to Attend a Banquet
Given in Your Honor by Our Host,
the Son of God,
Jesus Christ
Date: As Soon as You Reply in Prayer
Time: Now is the Day of Salvation
First Course:
In Your Heart
Second Course:
The Marriage Supper of the Lamb in Heaven
"The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!'
And let the one who hears say, 'Come!'
Let the one who is thirsty come;
& let the one who wishes,
take the free gift of the water of life.

Please Bring Your Heart, Soul, Strength & Mind
RSVP With Your Presence
You have received this invitation. Why haven't you responded? I, Jesus, have made you this offer and yet I haven't seen you at the Table. I have been looking for you. Perhaps we talk, or I see it in your eyes that you would like to sit down with Me, but you hold back, time and time again.

You come to church with a sadness in your eyes, and a inescapable burden in your heart. You hold back and when the service is over, you leave, not any less burdened than when you came in.

You carry My invitation in your head. You know about Me desiring to come into your heart and be your Lord and Savior. You know I died for you. You know how I love you. And yet...you hold back.

You see the Table spread out with abundance. You see the Bread of Life, My Body on the cross, broken and offered to you.

You see the cups of blood-red wine, filled to the brim with joy, for I shed My blood willingly for you.

You see the beautiful fruit of My Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, all just waiting for you to reach out and take them.
You see crystal pitchers filled to the top with the Water of Life--cool and refreshing, glinting as I, the Light of World, sparkles on it. 

You see grapes, lavishingly supplied from Me, the Vine, waiting for you.

The honey from the Rock is sweet to your soul.

You hear music sung by Me, soft and inviting, calling you. Yet...you hold back. You stare through the window and you stand on the outside, with the cold winds blowing at your back. You sigh, and walk away. You walk into the night, and soon the light from the Table is a small glow against a dark sky, as you look longingly over your shoulder.

Walk long enough, and soon, you can no longer see the glow.

Why won't you come?

Shame: You don't know what I have done--awful, neglectful, spiteful, inexcusable things. Every day the parade of the past bangs by my window, and I awake, once more, to the sound of accusation. By the end of each day, I can't remember the wording of that invitation. That's why I have not responded.

Guilt: I have broken the law. God's laws. Men's laws. I am a criminal. Who wants such a dirty guest showing up to such a beautiful Table? That's why I have not responded.

Anger: God has let me down one too many times. Unanswered prayers, broken lives, failures and defeats have made me question the Host. I know He wants me to come, but I would just sit and glare at Him. That's why I haven't responded.

Fatigue: I am burdened. I am tired. I would rather just rest. The thought of even walking into the Banquet Hall to join Him exhausts me. Let's face it: He won't notice if I don't show up. That's why I haven't responded.

Not Sure: I read about this, I listen to sermons, and yet, I don't get it. The Host dying for me? And yet, if I ask questions, I feel stupid. Everyone else seems to get it. I don't want to sit at the Table feeling stupid. That's why I haven't responded.

Too Much Commitment: Oh yes, I know what the invitation says, but all I see is being committed to something I am not sure I want to be committed to--I would have to give up my spiritual fast-food. I know it's not nourishing, but it's quick, easy and I don't want to struggle. That's why I haven't responded.

Don't Need to Come: I'm good--thanks anyway. I have my own little table, and I am content with what I have. I am in control and I don't wish to let that go. I'd have to sit with others, and I like being alone. No hurts, no disappointments, no complexity. Yes, I am hungry, but I have grown used to feeling that way. That's why I haven't responded.

Too Much to Give Up: I have a whole lot of food sitting at home. I know that if I come to the Table, I know I will have to give up those foods that I should not be eating. It's OK to flit in and out but to actually sit down and face the Host means I would have to be authentic in my faith. I grab a nibble from the Table, to keep up appearances, but I head back home, looking forward to what awaits me. I know it's wrong, but, I can't help myself.

I sent you the invitation, knowing all of this. Just coming into the Banquet Hall will be a walk of faith, especially dragging those chains so entangled around your feet. Climbing up in the chair, looking about the Table, gazing into My face...yes, it will be hard.

I am still inviting you.

Why? Because being away from the Table is even harder. Spiritually malnourished people are more susceptible to spiritual illness. They grow weaker and over time, lose hope. Come to the Table.

Is there anything I cannot forgive? Is there anyone I cannot redeem?

"Behold, the LORD'S hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear..." (Isaiah 59:1).

Is there anything that you will give up that this Table cannot supply? Aren't the things that you cling to losing their potency? If not now, they soon will, and you will be hungry.

Come to the Table.

The invitation is a standing one.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Water, Water Everywhere...

     I have always been around water.  I grew up on the California coast.  I lived in Santa Barbara, Santa Monica and even did a stint in Hawaii.  When I lived in LA, the ocean was only an hour away.  When I lived in northern California, it rained quite a bit and the marine fog would roll in from the San Francisco Bay in the evenings.  There was so much moisture in the air that the sidewalks would turn green from all of the mold growing in them.  Our house was near a greenbelt, where a stream flowed.
     I never started thinking about water until we moved to the high desert of Boise, Idaho.  We now live in the mountains, and although I can see the alpine line from my house, we are still in the high desert up here.   
     Every year, I see water in all its forms. In the summer, water is scarce.  All of the spring rivulets have dried up.  The foothills are dry and no snow sits atop Bogus Basin.
     In the late fall, we get rain. The cumulus clouds that form over the hills are magnificent.
     It snows with gusto in the winter.  We frequently get ice on the roads and pools of water freeze over.

     In the spring, we get tremendous thunderstorms, with rain and sometimes hail falling in abundance.  Our river runs high because of all the snow melting in the mountains.
     Water is a precious thing in the desert; the water for our house comes from a deep well, drilled into sandstone before we moved in.  This water has been collecting in the sandstone for thousands of years.  Without it, no water, no house.
     So, let's focus on water for a moment.  Water vapor is the gaseous form of water and it is invisible.  Yet it is everywhere, all around us in the air.  If the air is a bit humid, then we sense this moisture in the air.  If the air is exceedingly dry, we notice that too, as our skin dries out and we grow thirsty.    We mostly don't give water vapor a second thought.
     But, sometimes, it will manifest its presence.  We see water on the cool early morning grass--we call it dew.  On colder mornings, we see a white tint to the grass and upon closer inspection, we see water again--we call it frost.  If it warms up, the frost will melt into dew.  Where did this water come from?  It didn't rain...it came out of the water vapor that circulates in the air, and condenses into liquid water.
     But there's more.  When it gets cold in the mountains, and instead of it being bone-dry, we sometimes get an inversion and moisture is present abundantly in the air.
    Hoar or rime frost will then form on tree branches, fence posts and anywhere else it can gain a toe-hold.  The water from the air condenses out and forms frost at first and then with more moisture, the frost grows into larger and larger crystals, which look like ever-growing needles.  
 If the moisture continues, the crystals continue to grow.  The snow's surface starts looking like polar bear fur.
      Water vapor can be easily forgotten, until it manifests itself.  It is part of the atmosphere of our earth and part of the air we breathe.  In fact, on a cold day, we can see water vapor by exhaling and seeing that wee cloud in front of us. 
     God's creation has His signature on it.  Like any great work of art, we can learn about Him from what He created.  So, what does water teach us about Him?  Let's try to make a woefully inadequate but interesting analogy.
     God, like water vapor, is a subtle, invisible Presence.  He is close to us as our very breath.  Jesus is like the dew and the frost:  He "condensed" out of the Father's invisible Presence, and made God visible.  Jesus returned ("evaporated"--water as a liquid or solid returns back to water vapor) to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit is the water vapor we breathe in and gives us life--the very water vapor we breathe in has oxygen in it.  Without oxygen, without His Spirit--life is impossible.
     Bear with me a few more moments with this analogy.  What causes the water vapor to condense out and manifest itself?  The cold does.  When our lives drop in temperature and feel cold, lonely, isolated and alone, He condenses out and manifests Himself in our lives.  How?  By refreshing rain and by cool breezes.  He gives us hope when there is none and reminds us that He will never leave nor forsake us.
     When our lives heat up, look far out to the horizon for that small cloud that is forming.  There is enough cool air to condense out that water vapor and soon, that cloud will grow and bring rain. 
     One final point:  there is a condition that is called a "Triple Point."  This is a spot where, with the right combination of temperature and pressure, all three forms of water are co-existing and are visible.  Just above freezing, you can see ice floating in a river or lake, with water vapor condensing off the surface as fog.  So, water as a liquid, a solid and as a gas all dance together in the cold of winter.
     In the cold of our winter,the Son stays alongside us, the Holy Spirit buoys us up, and the Father hovers over us.  We have our "Triple Point" when the cold hits us.  

Monday, June 2, 2014

Enough Rain, Enough Sun

     We have had a long wet early spring, and cool temperatures. As a result, the wild flowers have spring up in abundance.  Wildflowers vary in what they need to grow.  Camas needs cool temperatures and running water.  Ours grow along a rivulet that runs down from our hillside:   
A little more warmth, but with soil that is still very moist, and voila!  You get phlox:

  A little warmer, with the soil still moist, and up come the longspur lupine:
We have more longspur lupine than I have seen in a long time.  The temperatures warm up still, the rain ceases and up comes the silver lupine:
We have lots of arrowleaf balsam roots (yellow), and mules ears (white)--they outlast many of the other wildflowers, because they can tolerate dryer soil and warmer temperatures:
     Given enough sun and moisture, and the hills yield wonderful results.  Add in even more water, less desert heat, and the hills give forth even more.
      So, observing spring this year, what have I learned?
      All the seeds are there, in the ground, year after year.  You would not even know they were there.  Yet, with the right amount of what they need, they will sprout and grow.  It's not just rain and sun that they need--it's the amount.  We do see wildflowers every year; how many will be determined by how much warmth and water is available.
     Wildflowers seem to require differing amounts of moisture and warmth.  As soon as the soil starts to dry out, the early sprouters--violets, phlox, triteleia, to name a few, will be gone.  The plants that can tolerate the ever-drying soil carry on, and soon, once the desert heat sets in with summer's entrance, the wildflowers are a pleasant memory.
      Spiritual application?  We all were created to receive the Son's warmth and the living water of His presence.  That is a basic need of all of us.  Many come to know Him, and yet, seem to never really grow.  The amount of time we spend in His word, and in His presence, will determine our abundance--pure and simple.  We will have dry spells to be sure, but a sure-fire way to revive is to seek Him out--no distractions, no competing voices--just sitting in His presence.
      Now, I spent this spring trying to chase down one wildflower that has just carpeted the hillsides--more than I have seen in a long time.  At first, I thought it was Queen Anne's lace--no.  It's called hoary cress or whitetop:

      It is considered a weed.  Oh, I know what a weed looks like--not very appealing.  But, does this look like a weed?    In our high desert mountain landscape, these plants spring up and make the hills beautiful.   They are considered weeds because they are very invasive.  And yes, this year, with the favorable conditions, the whitetop is everywhere, in huge numbers.  They don't seem to coexist with any other flowers.  You will find lupine growing along violets and arrowleaf balsam roots.   Phlox will tuck in near lupine.  But once the whitetop takes over, that's all you see.
     Spiritual application?  You bet:  if we not discerning about the whitetop in our world, it will take over and crowd everything else out.  It's beautiful, at first--how harmful can it be?  Quite harmful, to be sure: once there is enough of it, it will no longer share the hillside. 
     What is your whitetop?  At first, whatever it is seems harmful enough--but after awhile, it's all we think about, do or worry about.  Our whitetop will not share the hillside with Jesus--it will crowd Him out, and His voice will become harder to hear and follow.
     Keep in His word and in prayer.  Spot check for whitetop and enjoy the blessings of His spring in your life.  Struggling with sin?  Seek out others who can stand alongside with you, and pray for you.  Keep an attitude of gratitude.  Make a list of all the beautiful "wildflowers" in your life--family, friends, a starry night, a butterfly, a smile from a baby.
     Realize that your full potential will take time in Him.  These Nootka roses and other wild roses are the ancestors of the amazing roses we have today in our gardens.  Looking at this wee lovely rose, could you imagine such potential?  We can't but He can--trust the vision that He has of you and your future.
Finally, take a lesson from a mariposa lily:  these beauties spring up after every other wildflower is gone.  The heat is on, the soil is dry and yet here they are--swaying in the hot afternoon breezes with the wild grasses. 
Even in the heat of trial and tribulation, there is beauty.  Because, even in the heat of trial and tribulation, there is Jesus.
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