Saturday, November 27, 2004

A Culture Committed to Distractions

OC wrote - "If I brood on the Cross of Christ, ... I become dominantly concentrated on Jesus Christ's interests."

We've just come back from a week-long trip to Southern California. It was a rather spontaneous trip to visit friends we knew in Papua New Guinea. The visit was good, catching up and just relaxing. Clif is a translator and passionate about his work. It's a joy to listen to him talk about translating the scriptures and teaching the people.
That was in rather stark contrast to his surroundings. He expressed a lot of restlessness and dissatisfaction with his environment there in a subburb of San Diego, and it's no wonder. He is now living in a culture committed to distractions.

For instance, we went to an enormous electronics store where you could buy any kind of gadget made on the planet or stroll through the building watching live tropical fish in huge tanks placed throughout the store. Distractions. All kinds of them and they do their job well.

When we were home - and very glad to be back in small-town Alberta - my husband commented on how focused our culture is on distractions. Even here in backwater AB, they are there in abundance and we get sucked into them without even resisting. The Christmas season is of course a prime time for it.

How much would our society change, I wonder, if we spent time focusing on the interests of Christ instead?
I think we would be far more people oriented rather than thing oriented, far more focused on things of eternity rather than on things that will rust and decay.

A good thing to ponder as we dive into December.


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Living There

Experience can change your mind.

When my husband and I moved to Saskatchewan, we thought we’d moved into a hair dryer. The wind that blew off the prairie that August was incessant, hot and dry. I remember standing on the back step of our tiny trailer, looking out at the flat stubble-covered land and thinking it was the ugliest, most desolate piece of country I’d ever seen. We lived there for three years and over that time I saw the land transformed as the seasons followed one after the other and my eyes grew accustomed to subtle changes. Then one day I stood on that same back step, looking out at a waving wheat field and realized how much I was going to miss watching the play of light, the continual shift of clouds and being able to see to forever.

When we first arrived in Papua New Guinea the people all looked alike. For a while I was nervous about going to the market because I was afraid I would not recognize the woman who worked for us and not buying vegetables from her would have been very rude. When we left Papua New Guinea I sat in the airport and watched the people I’d come to know. I picked out women from the south and men from the islands off the coast. That one was from Buka and that one from somewhere in the highlands. I wondered how I could ever have thought they all looked alike.

There was a time when I thought the Bible contained nothing but myths and rules. I thought it was designed to control people’s behaviour and restrict their will. Then I started reading it. I was amazed at the history, the wisdom, and most of all the portrait, painted in words, of a man whose life, though lived more than two thousand years ago, was having a dramatic affect on my own.

Experience changed my mind in Saskatchewan, in Papua New Guinea, and in consistent reading of the scriptures. I discovered that in order to know a place and a people, you have to live there, among them. In order to know God, you have to read His communication to you.
There was a group of people in ancient times who discovered this. They were called the Bereans. The apostle Paul visited them, teaching and preaching about the Messiah. The Bereans "examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true" (Acts 17:11).

God has given us a wonderful promise concerning the scriptures. He said – "As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth ... so is my word that goes out from my mouth; It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."

There is a way to claim that promise. Living there makes all the difference.

Saturday, November 13, 2004

How Much Will We Sacrifice?

OC asks - "How can we talk of making a sacrifice for God?"

Yet often our thoughts go in that bent. When we decided to leave the Yukon and go to Saskatchewan for Bible College, it meant selling the octagonal log home we had built on the banks of the Klondike River. We thought it would sell immediately. Titled land is hard to come by there and we had five acres. But all the people who'd said, "if you ever want to sell ..." seemed to have vanished. One month before we were due to leave it still hadn't sold. Then two weeks. Finally we decided to rent it and made an agreement with the new butcher in town. Two days before we were to leave Spence drove into town to mail away the last of our boxes, including all our kitchen utensils, pots, pans etc. He mailed them and went to drop off the key to our renter. The man said he was sorry but he'd just rented a place in town instead! Spence said he was in a daze, sitting in the truck wondering if he should go back to the post office and get our kitchen back. Then a friend walked by and told him to take Katie, our 5 yr.old to the park to see the floats, clowns etc. gathered there after the Discovery Days Parade. Spence said it was the last thing he wanted to do, but Katie begged and he relented, pulling into a parking spot in front of the park (a miracle in itself considering the number of people in town). When he got out a woman was standing on the sidewalk and said, "Oh, I'm really glad I ran into you. Art (her husband) thinks we should buy your house."
Spence found him (another miracle in that crowd), and he said he'd come by at five o'clock that evening to talk. He said he'd had a dream and he thought God was telling him to buy our property.
Five o'clock came and no Art. Five thirty came and went. At six o'clock Spence got down on his knees and prayed. He said he just let it all go and told God that it didn't matter what happened. "You are my God whether I stay here and look like a fool, or go to Bible College as planned. It's all up to You. Just show me what to do now." He opened his eyes and heard Art's truck coming up the drive. He walked into the house with a cheque in his hand.
Spence realized later he'd been thinking how great a sacrifice we were offering to God - giving up our home and property, prime real estate, for Jesus. Weren't we great?! Then the "sacrifice" that had seemed like such a jewel became more like something sticky he couldn't shake off of his hand. He just wanted to get rid of it. Then he realized how foolish it was to think of it as such a prize, such a sacrifice. It was nothing. There was nothing we could give God that had any value. Nothing we could do for Him that would make Him love us any more than He already did.
His gift of salvation and relationship is free. We don't have to pay Him back. We don't have to sacrifice. We just have to love Him in return. How great a God He is!
:)M

Friday, November 12, 2004

Doing the Shuffle

OC asks - "... can I stand inthe light of 1Corinthians 13, or do I have to shuffle?"

Another hard question. I had to memorize 1Cor. 13 once. Yes, the whole thing, word for word, commas included. I was taking a class at Briercrest Bible College and memorizing was a requirement. I scored 100% on the test but that was not the only benefit. I was leading a women's Bible study at the time, on the campus where my husband was also a student. The scripture had such a powerful affect I almost quit teaching. I realized I'd been doing it out of all the wrong motives. The only right motive being love. It was one of those times when the words of the Bible seared my heart and soul and left me changed forever. I had to re-evaluate everything, take a long honest look at what I was doing and why. It wasn't easy.
I think maybe I need to do it again.

How much do we really do out of the pure motive of love? When I think of my day, sometimes it seems like there isn't a lot in it that is driven by that motivation. When I think of the life of Christ I realize there was nothing he did that wasn't motivated by it. Gives a whole new slant to wwjd.

Praise God that in our weakness He is our strength. The wee bit of love we manage to give out is poured through us from His Spirit. Maybe that's the problem. We don't understand how much He is pouring into us, how much He wants to pour into us. All we have to do is be willing to let it flow and find places to let it pour out.

Then we would be able to stand in the light of the words of God and smile. Maybe even sing and dance a little. :)



Wednesday, November 10, 2004

A Long List of Fools

Hi everyone. Here's my Spur for the week.

A Long List of Fools
By Marcia Lee Laycock

Ah, well, I am a great and sublime fool. But then I am God's fool, and all His work must be contemplated with respect. - (Mark Twain, a Biography)

Mark Twain was in good company. There have been scores of men and women throughout history who could be called God’s fools. I could list them, but it would take many pages, many books. Their accomplishments in life would fill a hundred libraries. Some of these fools have made us laugh and cry. Some of them have given us life-saving medicines and work-saving inventions. Some of them have changed nations and stabilized governments. Some of them will forever remain unknown, yet they have given us life itself. Their accomplishments in the heavenly realm would no doubt fill even more libraries. All of them are worthy of respect.

But what about those who don’t look like achievers, but failures? What about those who live lifestyles we don’t agree with, or go by doctrines other than our own? What determines who is worthy of our respect?

I think Mark Twain had it right. Respect is due to all of God’s creatures, regardless of their position in life, regardless of their opinions and lifestyles. Every one of us is made in God’s image, made to glorify Him. Even those who choose not to do so are worthy of respect as creatures created in His image. Jesus set the example for this by his greatest of all acts of love. "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).

God doesn’t love me because I love Him. He loves me because I am His creation, His child. He loved those who spit at Him on the via Dolorosa. They were His sons and daughters. He loved those who hammered the nails into His hands. They were His soldiers. He even prayed for them, in the very throes of his torturous death. And He asks us to do the same. That’s part of the foolishness of Christianity. Indeed, it is its very foundation. Those who practice it will perhaps be called fools, and worse, but their obedience to God’s law of love is paramount.

Respect is due all men and women. And what is the chief sign of respect? That we share our hearts with one another; that we honour one another with our thoughts, our feelings, our hopes and dreams. When we do that, with open hearts, we may find we’re not so very different. We may find we are, in fact, all fools of one kind or another.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Seeing God through a Pinhole

OC writes - "...if I obey Jesus Christ in the haphazard circumstances, they become pinholes through which I see the face of God ..." (To read the full devotional go to www.gospelcom.net/rbc/utmost)

What an apt image. And how true. I remember when we returned from Papua New Guinea and received word that two of my daughter's friends had been adbucted from a home that was only a few doors away from where we had lived. The girl was gang-raped while the boy was tied to a tree and forced to watch. The horror of it shook me so deeply I found it hard to breath. It was one of those moments when, like a child whose parent has just let her fall, I turned in anger and confusion to rail at God. How could he let it happen? Why didn't he protect them? The thought of that quiet, gentle little 14 year-old going through such a nightmare was more than I could bear and still retain any idea of a loving Father-God.

But I did take a breath, and my heart did return to a normal rate and then I was able to pray. Then I was able to obey and trust. Then the shock and anger and confusion faded and I was left with that pinhole. It wasn't much, but it was enough. I could see that God was still there, still good.

And He was weeping.

Monday, November 01, 2004

The Grip of the Pierced Hand

OC says - He comes with the grip of the pierced hand of His Son, and says - "Enter into fellowship with Me; arise and shine." If through a broken heart God can bring His purposes to pass in the world, then thank Him for breaking your heart."

In our 'modern' age that last sentence is not acceptable. Outraged voices will cry out that God does not break our hearts. He's there for us. He wants to make us happy, to give us peace. A closer read of the Bible might tell us otherwise. Didn't He break Peter's heart when the cock crowed? Didn't He even tell him it would happen? Didn't He break his mother's heart by going to the cross? Didn't He break Mary and Martha's heart by delaying long enough to allow Lazarus to die?

It seems to be evidence that Oswald's premise is true - "God breaks up the private life of His saints and makes it a thoroughfare for the world on the one hand and for Himself on the other."

It's not about me. It's about Him. And if it takes a broken heart to accomplish his purposes, then He will do it. The key is in the character of God. He won't do it out of malice or anger or vengence. He will do it out of love, because He is the best for us and to reach Him, to know Him, to understand Him, we sometimes have to experience pain.

I don't like it any more than anyone else, but I pray I will have the courage of faith to accept it when it comes my way, knowing His grace is sufficient, His love is sure, His glory paramount.

Blessings on your day. Marci