Bit & Pieces, Odds & Ends…16

A craftsman is someone who does accurate, skilled work with tools. He values his tools. He uses them, but never abuses them. He uses them correctly and properly. He repairs them if they are damaged and keeps them in good repair. He cleans them after each use and stores them properly. After all, his reputation is based on the quality of work he is able to do with those tools.
If I am letting God use me as His tool, will He treat me any differently.
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There is no record that Jesus ever hurried or worried. If I am successful in becoming more like Him I will do less of both. He said "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew ll:28-30)This is for saved people as well as lost people.
     Come reminds me that I must take some initiative. I must take action to go to Him.          
     Me tells me I must go to Jesus, not some church or religious leader.
     Give indicates that rest is a free gift and cannot be earned.
     Rest includes the ability to not fret, worry or fear.
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      I have asked God to "show me your face." I have said to Him "Help me to know you more fully."
     His reply seems to be "Why should I? The knowledge you already have of me is not being consistently and effectively shared with others. Are you asking for your own comfort and gratification or so that you may be a better witness?"
     Isaiah saw God in a new and glorious way (Isaiah 6:1-9) But God's revelation of Himself has a purpose beyond Isaiah's spiritual growth. God was preparing him for a mission.
     God knew Isaiah would obey. Do I have a core of disobedience that keeps God from further revealing himself to me?

Christians and Social Media

Has Twitter replaced prayer? Has Facebook replaced intimacy with God? Have cell phones replaced prayer closets?

The attraction of social networking comes from the fact that we all want to feel needed and need to feel wanted. We are comforted when we believe (accurately or not) someone is interested in what we like, where we go and what we do.

We want to “reach out and touch” across the city, state, nation and world. Our sense of worth is enhanced if we have a lot of “friends.” We value the fact that we can express our feelings, fears and victories to people who are significant to us. We hope they read our messages, understand our feelings and respond with sympathy and support.

For the Christian an intimate relationship with God provides all this and more. We can reach out to Him from any place, any time, across any distance. Prayer is that 24-7, no-limit, instantly received Tweet to the best friend we can ever have. We are never in a “no-service” area.

Our spiritual Facebook includes the friend that loves us like a brother and has the love and power to solve our problems. When our need for earthly relationships becomes greater than our need for God we are missing the joy, peace and power that Jesus, our best Friend, died to provide for us.

When Strangers Visit My Church

They don't want to know about our preacher.
They don't really care about our teachers.
They're not concerned about our parking lot.
They don't care how many elders we've got.
The don't care about the size of our choir.
They don't ask "How tall is your spire?"
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

They don't care about our preacher's degree,
Or if the donuts and coffee are free.
They don't care about our building's size,
Or if our deacons are gals or guys.
They don't care about our recreation,
Or our theology of creation.
They just want to know, "Do you love me?"

So when they come to visit us here
We must meet them with a smile or a tear.
Quietly, sincerely without a fuss,
Let them know they're important to us.
A pat on the back. A "We're glad you're here."
Will help us make it completely clear,
That without any doubt, we love them.

God’s Firm Grip

Recently received this from David Martin. He gave me permission to use it.

Well, it finally happened.  Violette, our granddaughter, took her first steps.  They were halting and unsure, but still independent.  She was so proud of her little self.  Even though she has a few dozen independent steps under her diaper, she still needs our assistance almost 100% of the time to get around on her own two feet.

As I was making the umpteenth lap around the house yesterday holding her chubby little hands, I realized that the death-grip she had on my fingers was not at all necessary.  I had a firm grasp on her hands that would not allow her to fall.  But that did not lessen the need she felt to hang on tightly to my forefingers.

All too often that is how I treat God.  I think I must hang on to Him with all my might, grasping his hands as tightly as possible.  My ability to hang on to God with my strength is so insignificant as to be worthless.  It is His grasp on my hands that keeps me from falling.  

Isaiah 41:13  For I, the Lord your God, hold your right hand;  it is I who say to you, "Fear not, I am the one who helps you." 

His children can rest in the fact that it is El Shaddi, God Almighty, who holds our hands to keep us safe and upright.  How thankful I am that I am in His hands.     



Do You Love Me?

When Peter said "I'm going fishing"(John 21:3), he was planning to return to his previous, before-Jesus way of life. He needed to be doing something while he sorted out the full meaning of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. He had earlier declared he would follow Jesus, but now there was no Jesus to follow.                  

Then Jesus appeared on the lake shore and asked "Peter, do you love me more than these?"(John 21:15.) Jesus already knew the answer, but He wanted Peter to do a self-examination concerning his love for the Master. 

"Do you love me more than these"...more than the life of a fisherman, more than family, more than boats and possessions? Was his love for Jesus greater than his love for the totality of all else? Jesus earlier taught a love that required "heart, soul and mind." (Matt. 2:37) Did Peter have it?

We are asked the same question each day. Each morning as we face sixteen active hours of our lives we have to decide if we love Him to that extent. If we answer "Yes", He then challenges us to prove it by being light and salt to the world.

Why should we be light? So others can see Jesus. Why do we want them to see Jesus? So together we can glorify God. 

Each day we plan our routine by saying something such as "I'm going to work" or "I have to run some errands." And it is good to have constructive ways to fill our time. God does not call most of us to make our earthly living through full-time "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15) activities.

But engaging in the necessary patterns of life must not mean "God, you wait here until I get my tasks done. Then I'll be back and we can talk some more." We must constantly be aware of his question "Do you love me more than these?"

An affirmative answer will produce a life that is holy,set apart for His glory. Before we can successfully feed His sheep we must become like the Good Shepherd.

Friendship

Our human nature causes us to seek friends and companions on the basis of our own needs. We choose to be with people who will support us, make us feel good and encourage us. We build relationships in which we can be comfortable and enjoy ourselves. However, in making relationship choices we are to look at the pattern set by Christ and seek to be led by the Spirit.

Christ chose to form relationships with certain people, but his choices were based on their needs, not his. He went into the homes of publicans and sinners because they needed him and his message. He met at night with Nicodemus because Nicodemus needed answers. He chose to remain at the well in Samaria because a woman needed spiritual insights.

We need to be continually in prayer about our relationship choices. If we are in close daily contact with Christ He will become our companion and friend. This will free us to reach out to others on the basis of their needs.

This is part of what Paul had in mind when he said that our life should be a living sacrifice to the Father. He was calling us to surrender our desires, priorities and time on the altar of redemptive, supportive relationships. Then we will be free to encourage and comfort others in the same way Christ helps us.

Jesus calls us to be consecrated servants, not comfortable sponges. He set the pattern we are to follow when he said he came “to look for….people who are lost.” (Luke 19:10 CEV)

A Visit To The Grand Canyon

When we visit the Grand Canyon we approach it with some degree of reverence and look cautiously into it’s depths. We are impressed with the beauty, majesty, size and age.  We realize we are engaging only a small part of the canyon with only a small part of ourselves. After a short visit we walk away, get in our car and move on.

But that is not experiencing the Grand Canyon. We don’t go to the bottom and allow ourselves to be surrounded by it.  We don’t permit all our senses to become attuned to its sounds, colors, scent and sights. We don’t explore the side canyons and hidden pockets of splendor. We don’t sit still in the deepest recesses and view the animals and wild flowers. We don’t return throughout the year to view the seasonal changes.

If we really wanted to know the Canyon intimately we would read books about it and hire a guide for each visit. We would physically discipline ourselves to become strong enough to hike from one end to the other. We would stay there for days at a time.

But we don’t. And as a result of our look-over-the-edge-and-move-on visits we know it about like we know God.

We hurry into and out of God’s presence, perhaps impressed with a limited sense of his wisdom, majesty, beauty, size and power. We commit a small part of ourselves to peer cautiously into his Word, all the time knowing there is more. We stop short of a full sensory encounter then walk away content or even feel a little proud of our efforts.

We do not take the time and make the effort to experience God. We do not immerse ourselves and surround ourselves with Him. We refuse to explore the lesser-known facets of his personality.  We do not develop the stamina and self-discipline necessary to know his heart. Expecting immediate answers and solutions, we visit Him and then move on before some of his most beautiful, valuable truths can be received. We do not allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide. We may feel his presence for a few minutes but we don’t become intimate with him.  We approach God with a tourist mentality.

How can we correct this? We must make forming an intimate relationship with him the number-one priority of our lives. This will require a commitment of our time. Such relationships can not be rushed. We must establish regular times of prayer and Bible study, disciplining ourselves to concentrate of spiritual matters. The joys of experiencing God are available only to those who long for more than a quick, easy, occasional visit.

Relationship or Religion

In our relationship with God true Christianity does not begin as a religion. Christianity begins as a relationship. And it must remain that way.

Religion includes theories, dos, don’ts, rules, rituals and methods of worship. While these are not inherently wrong, religion can become a complicating factor in establishing and maintaining our relationship with our Savior.

The relationship God desires with us involves two minds revealing themselves to each other and becoming intimately acquainted.  It is the sharing of strengths and desires in a conscious effort to know and be known. It is giving and taking so we can become more capable and happy.

The initial contact between us and Jesus may eventually lead us into a religion, but it begins as a relationship. And that relationship must continue to be paramount. We must be vigilant to prevent the requirements of religion from interfering in our relationship with Jesus. If this happens Christianity can be a good place to hide from God.

We must never give more time, loyalty and energy to the religion than to the relationship. If we allow the relationship to grow cold and distant, then the religion becomes meaningless, powerless and unattractive.

And, of course, the relationship is based on love, first God’s love for us and then our love for Him. It is a perfect love offered to us freely and eternally.

Jesus’ Hidden Pleasure

I think that just before Jesus performed a miracle he often had a slight smile on his face…a hidden smile of anticipation. After all, He was about to do something good for someone He loved. He was about to give the joy of life or sight or health to an undeserving individual whose life would never again be the same.

He was a little like the small boy in the classroom  whose teacher was about to unwrap the Christmas present he had given her. He believes it is the best present she would receive. He knows she will love it. As she starts to unwrap it he squirms in anticipation at his seat. He can hardly wait to do something nice for someone he loves.

Jesus was eager to provide healing for all those who came to Him. I think he really enjoyed it each time He restored health to them. We will never know how much energy each act of healing cost Jesus (Mark 5:30) but I will always believe He liked doing them.