Friday, September 25, 2009

#48 Beauty in Death?

Isaiah 61:1-3 NKJV "The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor;He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted…To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes.”

If we were to take a poll, each of us would likely have a favorite season of the year. While our summer in Michigan was mild and arguably more of an extended spring, we still had a few hotter days that reached into the 90’s. There is no doubt that we have winter here in Michigan and fall is the glorious prelude to the long winters.

If I were polled fall would be listed as my favorite season. There are several things I love about fall. Fall is the time where the evenings are a bit cooler and you can enjoy sitting around a fire singing, sharing, and just taking in the goodness of nature. There are fewer bugs also in the fall. The bugs go more dormant with the cooler temps and being outside without bugs is great. With the cooler evenings you can wear sweatshirts or a light jacket and it is just so refreshing to go for a walk in the fall. The sun is not blazing down upon you with sweat running in your eyes, and the air that you breathe is brisk and invigorating, not stuffy and heavy like the humid air of a hot, sunny day. Outdoor sports is also made more fun by these types of conditions.

While I love the aforementioned things a lot, my favorite part of fall is the changing of the leaves. It amazes me that even in the death of something God has brought us beauty. During the spring and summer we see mainly the green in leaves because the leaves have enough water and sunlight to mix with the chlorophyll to feed the trees. The shorter days of fall let the trees know to shed their leaves for winter’s long haul. The trees stop producing the green chlorophyll that facilitates making food and as the chlorophyll lessens and stops the leaves begin to display the reds, browns, oranges, and yellows that make the trees seem to be burning with intense color. People drive for hundreds of miles just to see the fall colors in certain areas because even though the leaves are dying there is an intense beauty there that seems to pour peace through our souls. Only God could and can bring beauty from death. I have attached a picture of one of my favorite fall scenes.

The gorgeous colors of fall remind us of the wonderful power of God. God has the amazing ability to take something bad and turn it around for His glory. He did it through Joseph in Genesis 50:20 and He promised it through Paul in Romans 8:28. God can take the tragedy and suffering of life and make something beautiful out of it. This is one of His specialties. Often times though it is hard to not blame God for loss in our lives, but when recognize that Satan is the one who brought sin and suffering into the world and we perpetuate it by our own sins then we know God is not to blame. It is my prayer that each time we find ourselves facing hard times in our lives that we will seek the face of God and ask Him to give us beauty for the ashes in our lives. In Bible times ashes served as a symbol of mourning and loss, but our theme text reminds us that Jesus longs to give us beauty in place of those ashes.

Why not step back from any trial you may be facing and ask the Lord to give you beauty in the place of your ashes of loss? Why not seek to let the Lord turn something tragic into something that will bring honor to Him? He has promised He will do it friends, why not let Him? Whatever your struggle may be today pray that you may given beauty in its place. However empty you may fill pray that the Lord will fill you with His love and His hope. You will not be disappointed. It may not happen right away, but eventually you will be able—with God’s help—to look back on the struggles of today and realize that God gave you beauty in the midst of your ashes of loss and heartache.

Dear Father in Heaven,

Today we need to feel Your presence and we need to feel Your arms around us. Dear Lord, I pray that no matter what the struggle is in this life that You will teach us to give it over to You fully that you may bring beauty from our ashes. Thank You for the promise that Jesus is coming soon and that we will be with You forever more where sin, death, and suffering have no place. Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.

Friday, September 18, 2009

#47 No Ability to Shine

Matthew 5:16 "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

I can recall going out once and buying some candles for something while I was overseas in Iraq. There on the base in Mosul, Iraq were several shops ran by local nationals from both Iraq and Turkey. They sold all sorts of stuff from movies to candles and from various beverages bottled in-country to super cheap electronics; cheap in price and manufacturing. These shops were a blend of strange, new things from the local culture and items made in China and around the Middle East. The shops also sold pre-paid calling cards for use with Iraqi cell phones that with a little work you could procure easily enough. There was even a shop on the base where you could have a suit custom made. I had two suits made while I was there and the Turkish tailors did a great job and had them back to me in about two weeks.

Back to my candles. I bought a box of candles to use for a ceremony at the chapel. When I got the candles out of the box and set them up I noticed something odd about them. They were all missing the wicks. So here I had a bunch of useless candles. In fact, without the wicks they were not even candles. They were just sticks of wax. Without the wick they had no ability to shine.

The Christian life is much like a candle. You see, Jesus comes to the door of our heart and He wants to come in (Revelation 3:20) and live within us. Jesus longs to change us from the inside out. He wants to empower us with the Holy Spirit that we might tell the world about Him and the sacrifice that He made on our behalf. Before Jesus comes into our lives we are like those wickless candles: we have no ability to truly shine. Without Jesus we are just bundles of clay that have little hope in life beyond the few years we can manage to live out here on earth. But with Jesus we are like candles that have not just one wick, but one that has multiple wicks. With Jesus in us we can fulfill the commission that He gave us to let our lights shine before men. Jesus wants us to shine that we might bring glory to the Father not ourselves. There is nothing good that comes from us unless Jesus puts it there in the first place. And it would do us well to recognize that like those candles without a wick were not really candles, if we are not shining our light before the world for Christ then we are not truly Christians. But when we let the Lord come into our hearts and turn us around we can and will shine for Him, and not only that, but we will have hope beyond this temporary life. When we are sold out to Jesus then we can have hope to know that we will live for Him through eternity because of what He is doing in our lives.

Today, I challenge you all to let the love of Christ come into your hearts in a renewed way. I challenge you to evaluate your walk in this life and to ask yourself if you are trying to shine without a wick. If you are, take the time just now to either make or renew your commitment to the Lord Jesus, and ask Him to equip you to shine for Him that the Lord might be glorified through your life.

Dear Father God,

As we come to You just now I pray that we recognize how awesome and mighty You are. Please teach us to let the Holy Spirit come into our hearts afresh each day. Please teach us to shine in such a way that our lives become something that glorifies You. Please forgive us our sins and make us more like Jesus today is my prayer in His holy name, Amen.

Friday, September 4, 2009

#46 Little Things

Matthew 6:33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you…”

One day I was needing to tow my small utility trailer to a church function. My family and I were invited to attend the International Pathfinder Camporee in Oshkosh, Wisconsin and I needed our little trailer in order to bring all of our gear. I packed everything into the trailer, covered it with a tarp, and we headed off to Wisconsin. I needed to make a short pit stop in town before we left and when we went by the store I decided that I should check the trailer and make sure all the connections were still in good order.

When I went back to check everything I looked down on the bumper of my Jeep. There on the small, black tread area of the bumper laid my keys that unlock the padlock and the drawbar for the hitch. The two keys are both very small and easy to misplace. I was amazed to look down and discover that I had left them lying on the bumper when I hitched up the trailer. I was even more amazed that they had made the ride 15 miles to town and seemingly had not moved an inch. I immediately lifted up praises to God for His greatness. You see, I am convinced that my guardian angel either held his hand on those keys or that he carried them the 15 miles to town and laid them on my bumper. Either way, God took care of something very small but it was something that made life a bit easier for me.

When I consider those keys it serves to remind me that God is concerned with aspect of my life. Not only does He take care of the big stuff, He cares for even the smallest of cares. I am of the opinion that too often we only “bother” God with the big things that life throws our way, but we try to take care of and deal with what we consider to be of little consequence. Too often we only want to use God as a spare tire or first aid kit, when in reality we should surrender every aspect of our lives to Him. Does this mean that we sit around and expect God to do everything for us? No, rather we recognize that it is only by God’s grace that we are able to do anything. It basically boils down to total dependence on God, and this dependence begins with our spirituality. When we understand that it is only by God’s grace that we can be saved through faith then we can lean on the everlasting arms of Jesus.

I would challenge each of you to examine your life and attempt to discover those areas where you are not leaning fully on Jesus. It is not a sign of weakness to depend on God. In fact it is just the opposite. It takes a lot of courage and strength to let go and let God. Why not pray for that courage and strength just now?

Dear Father God,

As we come to You in prayer we give You thanks, glory, and honor. Please forgive us where we have failed You, and please cleanse our hearts of evil just now. Lord, I thank You for caring about the little things of life, and I pray that You will give each of us the courage to surrender everything to You that You may have total control. We pray this now in Jesus’ name, Amen.