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?

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.     



Thankful For What?

John 6 tells of a problem facing Jesus and the disciples. More than five thousand people needed to be fed. The only food the disciples could find was fives loaves of bread and two fish.

Jesus took that meager lunch and thanked God for it.

But what was there to be thankful for? Five loaves and two fish? To feed five thousand people? The problem was immense and the resources inadequate. Yet He took a few minutes to show appreciation to his Father. He had the attitude of “We don’t have much, but we are truly grateful for what you have provided and we’ll do the best we can with it!”

Then He had the disciples start giving the food to the people. Give them what? Five loaves and two fish divided 5,000 ways? No! They were to share all God had provided. 

God’s power was released by Jesus’ faith. The multitude got a meal and the disciples received a faith lesson. (In fact, that lesson may had been the primary motive for the entire episode.)

His followers could not visualize one small lunch becoming a seafood buffet for the crowd. To them a large problem and small resources equaled unmet needs. But their equation omitted God’s willingness and ability to help those in need. 

What about us? Do we find this lesson easy to understand in our minds, but difficult to incorporate into our lifestyle? Do we ignore God’s power when we consider how we can solve our big problems without limited resources?

We read Jesus’ words about moving mountains and we say “I’m going into the earth moving business!” Then we run head-on into problems like stubborn children, monthly bills, a distant spouse or an uncaring boss. And what do we do? We compare the size of the problem with the size of our resources and become discouraged.

God wants to help us every day with every problem. But his power will be limited in our lives if we do not demonstrate faith in his ability and desire to care for us.

Am I Willing To Wait?

As Christians, most of us have made some sort of dedication pledge giving our lives to God. We have given Him permission to send us and use as as He sees fit.

The servant’s attitude inherent in such a pledge often prompts us to be active in service to others. We act and give in order to relieve the suffering of others and aid in the spread of the gospel throughout the world.

We take seriously the message of the Good Samaritan parable. Our hands, feet, arms and legs are always available to be used by the Father. In moments of peak dedication we might even be willing to wash feet. 

Such activity gives us moments of satisfaction, knowing we are serving God by helping others. We revel in Christ’s words “unto one of the least of these” (Matthew 25:40). We build ministries on “Pure religion….before God…is this, to visit the fatherless and widows (James 1:27).

But are we willing to sit quietly and do nothing if that is what He directs? Are we content to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalms 46:10)? Do we allow God to give us times of restoration and relaxation so we will be able to serve more effectively later?

God knows when we need to be pulled aside and have our batteries recharged. He knows when we need to sit and study, rather than strive and serve. He knows there are times when we need to rest rather than minister. We need to accept his decision for us to “sit on the bench” until He puts us “back in the game.”

My Protector

I recently received this from my Sunday School teacher, David Martin and wanted to pass it along.
As I have shared with the class before, I am a world-class worrier. An anxiety expert. A virtuoso of vexation. While I have gotten better in this area over the years, it is still an on-going battle. So you can only imagine where my mind drifts during this pandemic. 

Last night I was engaged in another worry war. Coronavirus numbers grow. Quarantines abound. Even toilet paper is being hoarded, for crying out loud! These are target-rich times for all of us worry specialists. Wednesday night as I started to engage in a festival of foreboding, God led me to Psalm 35:1-3.

1 Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me;
    fight against those who fight against me!
2 Take hold of shield and buckler and rise for my help!
3 Draw the spear and javelin against my pursuers!
Say to my soul, “I am your salvation!”  ESV

When David wrote these verses he was most likely being pursued by Saul who wished to put David to death. Now, I have never been stalked by a spear-yielding Israeli king, but unfettered worry is an enemy that can cause physical, emotional, and mental harm.

What spoke to me in these verses was the power and action and aggressiveness. David is asking the Lord to fight his fight for him. He was crying out to JEHOVAH TSABA* to go toe-to-toe with his enemies. Whoever messes with David, is going to have to deal his Father. My Dad is bigger than your dad. 

David is pleading with God to bring his holy weapons to the fight. "Take hold of shield and buckler**/Draw spear and javelin." Just imagine the God of the universe taking hold of shields, spears, and javelins all on our behalf against our enemies. As Mr. T used to say, "I pity the fool."

My most thoughtful, well-reasoned, and insightful worry-reducing ploys and tricks pale in comparison to what God can bring to the fight.

When I read the last two lines, I wanted to shout it out loud.  David  acknowledged that God is his salvation. Not the Israelite army. Not his warriors. Not man-made weapons. But God alone.  Even David, a man after God's own heart, needed God to speak that reassurance to him.

Look at how David punctuates the last line. It is not a mere period, but an exclamation mark. It is meant to be shouted.  Celebrated. Declared from the mountain tops. God is our salvation!

Will this completely obliterate worry from my life? Not likely.  I have spent many years honing the craft of consternation. But Psalm 35:1-3 will certainly be a powerful tool in my battle against worry.

*JEHOVAH TSABA:  The Lord our Warrior
**A buckler is a small shield.

Musings #3

If we allow it, God will use our fears to move us deeper into our faith in Him. Or if we allow it, Satan will use our fears to move us into desperation away from the Father. Faith or desperation. The choice is ours.

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I have some difficult and unpleasant lessons to learn, but I have a wonderful Lord to lean on while I learn.

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My super hero has a cross, not a cape.

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Jesus left the ultimate comfort zone (heaven) to make the ultimate sacrifice (the cross) for me, the ultimate “he doesn’t deserve it.”

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Each morning when I ask God “What do you want me to do today” I need search no further than the life of Jesus for my answer.

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It is GRACE that causes God’s GREATNESS to become God’s GOODNESS that showers me with blessings I don’t deserve. It is MERCY that causes God’s MAGNIFICENCE to become God’s MIRACLES that protect me from receiving the punishment I do deserve.

Musings #2

 Monday morning I was visiting with a friend when he asked me “What did you do last weekend?”
  
 “Friday morning I went to the grocery store.”
 “So?”
 “I brought home some groceries"
  
 “Friday afternoon I went to see my optometrist.”
 “So?”
 “I can read small print again.”
  
 “Saturday morning I took my car to the mechanic.”
 “So?”
 “It doesn't make that funny squeak anymore.”
 
  “Sunday morning I went to church.”
 “So?”
Based on your last church visit, how would you have responded?
 

Satan says to us “Here are some things wrong with you. They will keep you from ever amounting to anything. You're worthless. You never will be able to improve."
 Self-improvement books say “This is what is wrong with you. Here are some ways you can improve.” (Then you are on your own.) 
 God says "I love you. I know there are some things wrong with you. But that's all right for now. Come sit beside me and let's visit for awhile. Let me hold you. We'll do the improvement stuff later.”
 
 

  Every morning God hands me a sack. It is labeled with my name and the date. In it are everything I will need to live that day the way God wants me to. He allows me the opportunity to put stuff in or take stuff out before I start the day. (Those put-in and take-out choices greatly influence how successful and pleasant that day will be.)
   
 In the evening God sits with me and we open the sack to see what is still there. Many of the things that started out in the sack are gone and some new things are there. Often God will ask me “Why did you take specific items out and what did you do with them.” Other times He will say “Will you explain why those new things are in there.”

  Sometimes the evening discussions about my sack are pleasant and other times they are very uncomfortable. But when we are done I always know He loves me.
 

Eating from Trash Cans

A woman had three sons, each of them married with children of their own. All three were scheduled to arrive at her house at 11:00 for lunch on Thanksgiving Day.

For days she carefully planned the menu. Most of Wednesday was spent cooking desserts. She put the turkey in the oven at 5:00 Thanksgiving morning.  The table was adorned with her best dishes and gleaming, polished silverware. By 10:45 everything was ready. She had done her best and she was pleased with her efforts.

Then she heard voices and strange noises from the area behind the house where the trash cans were stored. When she looked outside she could hardly believe her eyes. There were all three of her boys, along with their families, sitting in a circle around the trash containers. They were eating from the trash cans.

Using the can lids as serving trays they were eating potato and apple peels, carrot tops, and orange rinds. As she watched they scraped out what was left from the discarded vegetable cans and frozen food boxes.

She rushed outside, horrified at their behavior. “All of you come into the house this instant,” she cried.” This is crazy. I have a wonderful meal for you in there. Why would you want to eat garbage out here when I have turkey and mashed potatoes and hot rolls and apple pie on the table in the kitchen?”

The oldest boy replied “I’m sure you have a good meal inside, but we don’t deserve any better than this. We have neglected you lately and this is all we have a right to expect. It’s good enough for people like us.”

The middle son also refused. “This is really not so bad, Mom. If you’ve never tried it you don’t know what you’re missing. Would you like to join us?”

The third boy confirmed the decision to stay outside. “I’ve talked it over with my family and we don’t believe you really have anything any better inside. You can’t prepare a meal like you described. We think you are lying to us.”

The foolish, ungrateful  behavior of these children causes us to feel outraged. But we act in similar ways toward God when we refuse the banquet of blessings he has for us and accept, instead, the trash offered by the world.

God prepares a menu of blessings for us every day.  (Psalm 23). He knows we don’t deserve it but He continually offers us the best He has. Of course we don’t deserve his goodness, but He chooses to bless us anyway. To say He cannot bless us is to deny his power. To say He has not or will not bless us is to contradict his word. When we live in guilt, ignorance and denial we are as foolish as the three sons.

Who Is Going To Drive Your Car?

To win a contest a young American is taken to the south edge of Tokyo where he is given a set of car keys and an address. He is shown a car and told “Deliver this car to that address within the next hour and you will win $1,000,000. It can be done, but only if you take the most direct route.”

He now has four choices:

(1) Jump in the car and start driving, trusting to blind luck.

(2) Buy a city map in the lobby of a near-by hotel and start driving while reading it.

(3) Buy a map and hire a local citizen to give him instructions while he drives.

(4) Hire a driver from the taxi stand and let him do the work.

Throughout our lives we are on a perilous journey across unknown territory. The prize of “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) is offered to us by our heavenly Father.

We have four choices:

(1) Stumble through each day, hoping to do more good things than bad.

(2) Blunder along, occasionally reading the Bible in search of advice.

(3) Sometimes ask God for guidance as we use the Bible, but stay in control and make all our own decisions.

(4) Allow God to “take the wheel,” then sit back and enjoy the ride.

If we truly believe He loves us, and if we truly believe He is all-powerful and all-knowing,  why do we hesitate to give him control of our journey?