On Love

Let love for your fellow believers continue and be a fixed practice with you—never let it fail. (Hebrews 13:1)

God loved me when I was most unlovely, and He loved me before I loved Him. In turn, I want to radiate God’s love to others, no matter what they are like or how they treat me. But how does one do that?

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My Visual:  I see a thick steel cable stretching from the cross to the end of time. And I am walking on a platform beneath this cable, but I cannot fall off because I am harnessed and hooked onto the cable with a permanently sealed brass ring. Nothing can release me from God’s love or His covenant (Heb. 13:20-21). I may slip or stumble, but the cable from me to Him is strong. I will not fall. I am safe.

An obstacle in my path might try to prevent me from moving forward, but God can remove it for me. Or my brass ring might get tarnished and I’ll need to polish it with prayer. I may get distracted on my journey, but sometimes it’s okay to stop and look around and rest and see the beauty and the scenery around me. I get so focused on my goal that I forget to do that sometimes.

And now I see that I’m actually on a moving platform. It’s God’s job, God’s timing, and His decision as to when to move the platform forward and when to make it stop still—because my concern is not the end goal (I can’t see the end anyway because it stretches to eternity). For now, I have a job to do—rest when He says rest; keep alert when He moves me forward; look around and enjoy the scenery; fight the good fight, keep my spiritual armor on at all times.

Suddenly I see myriads of other cables—each person is hooked to his/her own, each on a separate platform. I can reach out and touch several people. One is on a steady platform, and we spur each other on to love and good works. Another one is afraid. Her platform is wobbly, disconnected, unstable, and she keeps looking down. I keep encouraging her to take the next step and to put her faith in the cable. Another one accuses me falsely of knocking her off-balance. I remind her to refocus on her own cable. Help me, Lord, to love well each one in my sphere of influence.

Let us continue to invest our lives in people even though we may not see immediate results. (Missionary Sam Goertz)

A Chance Encounter?

A friend of mine once challenged me to be on the lookout for God-sightings throughout my day. This one didn’t take much imagination on my part to see His footprint!

July 2007 Journal. Scott and I are attending managers’ meetings for Moody, and I had Bookstore 2some time to myself. I was praying that God would give me an opportunity to minister to someone this week, but little did I know that He’d planned something special for me this afternoon.

I wandered down the street and into a two-story bookshop, found a secluded corner and plopped down on a comfy couch to read. Before I got to page two in my book, a young couple sat down in the seats next to me. Within two sentences of greetings, she began to tell me that they’d just gotten word that she’s pregnant and that she was feeling both excitement and fear. She said she felt like she was in a dark place.

I asked her if she’d like me to pray with her, and she agreed. Immediately, God gave her a visual of Himself being in the dark room with her, and she no longer felt alone. The anxiety left her.

A chance encounter? Hardly. She said she’d been praying for an answer to her fear for the last 24 hours and hadn’t slept all last night. God heard her prayer—and mine.

Have you had a God-sighting lately?

 

A Mountaintop Experience–Glimpses into other worlds

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I don’t have an imagination large enough to picture what it must have been like for Moses to encounter God on Mt. Sinai or to enter into the experience of Peter, James, and John who saw a glimpse of God’s glory atop the Mount of Transfiguration or to identify with Isaiah who had a vision of the Lord “high and lifted up.” I have friends who report having seen angels and others who’ve had a near-death experience.

Why does God allow some people to see visions, to see the “other world,” to have a deeper sense and understanding of and insight into the spiritual dimension?

Wouldn’t  mountaintop experiences like these change a person forever? You might think after such an event: I’d never sin again, never doubt, never have another fear. But it’s not so. At some point we have to return to base camp and live in the earthly realm where we experience hurts and triggers.

There were a million Israelites on the journey through the wilderness, but God CHOSE only one through whom to communicate and commune. There were 12 disciples, but Jesus CHOSE only 3 to see His glory. Out of all the prophets, only one records an experience similar to Isaiah’s.

God CHOSE for me to grow up in a remote village on the continent of Africa and to answer His call on my life at an early age. But He did not choose to give me the gift of sight into the spirit realm. He chose me to minister to wounded and abused and hurting people—me!—who has experienced so little hurt in my life. Me—a vessel offered to God for His use. No special talents or gifts, just average in skill, intelligence and energy being used by God so that He gets the glory. I just have to be faithful.

Would I really want to have been in Moses’ shoes? To catch a glimpse of God’s glory but then have to follow through and lead a bunch of rebellious, griping, thirsty, murderous stiff-necked people through the heat of the desert? Would I be willing to follow Jesus to martyrdom like the apostles? Or grind through a life of rejection and abuse as a prophet? I will not envy the mountaintop experiences of these giants in the faith. God has given me what I need now and prepared me for what He wants in the future, and that is enough.

I want to be faithful for life, not to falter when my body fails me or my mind quits working. I want to be faithful till I draw my last breath, at which time I will be able to see at last into the spirit realm and experience the Lord in all His glory, high and lifted up. I’m happy to wait for my mountaintop experience.

What kind of experiences prepared you for your work for the kingdom?

Gifts to Men

When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men. (Ephesians 4:8)

When Jesus returned to heaven, He gave gifts to men. I’m not sure exactly what gifts the Apostle Paul was referring to, but it got me to thinking. When He chooses one person to have a good voice and another to excel at math, it’s a gift. As children, we wanted equal gifts, and we wanted what our peers had. As adults, we want what our family, friends, or neighbors have. We want life to be equal and fair. I suppose everybody struggles with this on some level.

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Imagine it’s Christmas morning and Jesus is handing out gifts. Are you jealous of what your brother or sister got? Why? Perhaps theirs is the thing you wanted and didn’t get or you didn’t like what you got.

But I look down at my gift and discover it’s tailored just for me. It’s exactly what I needed. It’s perfect for what I wanted. I’m delighted with His choice—because He knows me and He knows my heart. He created me, and He knows what will give me pleasure. But even more than that, He knows that I’ll use the gift that He’s given me to minister to others in order to bring Him glory. And in this way, my brothers and sisters can benefit from it. And then they share their gifts with me, and I benefit.

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Matthew 7:11)

Gary Chapman has made popular The Five Love Languages, one of which is “gift-giving.” Giving is not my first love language, so I would do well to observe how the Father does it. God is an extravagant gift-giver. I cannot give Him anything in return that would equal His gifts. Therefore, it is never an exchange of gifts (like we tend to do at Christmastime). I am the child handing Him a dandelion, when He has given me a botanical flower garden. He even made the wildflower that I’m offering to Him.

But . . . just as I delighted in receiving a dandelion from my [then] two-year-old Grandson Ben, offered in love and innocence, God delights in me when I offer to Him my gifts—not just in gratitude—but out of love. I choose to give Him my heart, and His heart melts, just as mine does when Ben or Jack give me something of themselves, like a picture for my bulletin board.

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Nativity by Ben Wallace, age 5

First Fruits

God evaluates my generosity by what I keep, not by what I give away. (Pastor Allen Jackson, WOC)

Back in fresh-organic-fruits-basket_1426-486.jpg2007, our church was beginning a capital stewardship campaign. After much prayer and asking God to unify Scott’s and my hearts, we each came up with the same amount to give. It felt very ambitious for us, but we trusted that God was able to help us fulfill our commitment. Next we had to decide how much to give in that morning’s offering. Scott suggested 10% of our pledge—the first fruits of our promise. Gulp. There went the money we’d been setting aside for our daughter’s wedding reception. But, in faith, we obeyed.

Journal 2007. I’d like to suggest to God how He can replace those funds for us, but I think He’ll figure out how to care for our needs without my help! And, so dear Father, in faith I write our check this morning with open hand and heart and trust You to bless it and multiply it and use it for Your kingdom.

I recall years ago when God asked Scott and me to give Him our roof-repair funds that we’d been saving up. It wasn’t until after we obeyed God’s prompting that Scott’s aunt offered to pay for a new roof for us. That experience was a faith-builder.

On the way to church this morning, I laughed out loud as I tuned into Irwin Lutzer’s sermon that began with, “Today I’d like to talk to you about giving a sacrifice to God that seems extraordinary.” It felt like God’s handprint of blessing on our decision. God’s timing is delightful.

Fast forward three months. I know God was smiling as He gifted us with in-laws who asked for the privilege of providing a reception for Cindy’s wedding.

It really is a waste of time to wrestle with God. When He says, DO or GIVE or GO, it’s much more productive to simply obey and move on and leave the results to Him. It’s like storing up treasure in heaven. I want as much in that heavenly bank as I can put into it for my retirement from this earth.

Trust and obey, for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.

On Sabbath Rest

Tell the Israelites, ‘Surely you must keep my Sabbaths, for it is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you’ (Exodus 31:13).

When I was a child, my parents had strict rules about what we were permitted to do on Sunday: No work, no traveling, no board games, no knitting, no lawn-mowing, no shopping, etc. etc. We were told that we were keeping the Sabbath day holy or “set apart” as a day of worship. But when I discovered that the fourth commandment actually referred to Friday sundown to Saturday sundown, I became quite confused.

And then I read this verse in Exodus that says the Sabbaths (plural) were intended for a sign between God and the Jews. Does this mean that, as a Gentile, I need to keep the Ten Commandments, minus one?

To confuse the matter even more, we’re told in Colossians 2:16 (NIV): Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day.

In 1989 when we moved into our house on 8th Street in Holland, Michigan, I noticed a drain in the center of the attached garage. One benefit of garage drains, we were told, was for Dutchmen to be able to wash their cars on Sunday without being seen by their neighbors. Apparently judgment was alive and well!

One day as I was pondering this subject, I came across this quote: “Rest is not something one does; it is Someone one knows” (Yashanet.com). Jesus is my Sabbath rest! That means that I can be in a perpetual state of rest. I don’t have to wait for Day #7 for a forced time of inactivity or cessation from work. My soul can be at rest 24-7 if I live by faith, obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, place my cares in God’s hands, and stay connected to Him. This removes the guilt of trying to figure out what is or what isn’t classified as work.

Is there a physical law of nature that says we benefit from a day of rest? Yes, of course. My body belongs to God, and I’m to take care of it in a healthy way, not abuse it or overwork it perpetually by choice or by drive or by emotion. Working for the kingdom can be stressful but peaceful. Resting can be hard work too. A forced rest due to a broken leg or a hospital stay can be less than peaceful. It’s the heart attitude that determines how well we rest.church-in-the-middle-of-the-field_1088-86

Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art.
I am finding out the greatness of thy loving heart.