Master Chef

My father was a master chef, even though he made noodles, tomato soup, and Malt-o-Meal. Even today, years after his death, the world is still tasting the results of his recipes.

No, not the noodles and tomato soup and Malt-o-Meal. Those were good, but only to a seven-year-old daddy’s girl. The kind of recipes I’m talking about were recipes made over thirty years of quiet, but very intense, love. Ingredient by ingredient, my father stirred together moments that effect the world even today. My father was a master chef.

This is about what I learned from my father, the master chef.

A master chef is patient. Nearly every chef has had the experience of making something delicious, only to find that an ignorant taster thinks it’s just “okay” or doesn’t even like it. A master chef has to be patient. He has to recognize that the taster may have to acquire taste-buds, and that acquiring tastebuds can take a long time. He has to believe in the taster, educate the taster, and keep encouraging the taster to stretch her palette.

My father was very patient with me. Even though I was about as spiritually developed as a can of spam, he encouraged and prayed for filet mignon spirituality. He didn’t see the result of his hard work, but, several years after his death, I began to trust in Christ with the flavorful depth he was hoping I would.

A master chef is precise. He plans carefully for his meal. Every ingredient is there for a reason, each quantity deliberate. A master chef doesn’t guess; he knows.

My father planned carefully for his eternity. He crafted his life around Christ, and the inner-workings of his days reflected that. His job as a computer programmer served missionaries and clergy. His unglamorous willingness to do laundry, dishes, and vacuum encouraged me to see the same sort of servant-heart for a husband. His quiet visits to the elderly made him a star in their books. He lived his life by the blueprint of God’s Word.

A master chef is consistent. He doesn’t produce a masterpiece one night and a flop the next. Although it may appear effortless to his customers, a master chef works tirelessly to ensure each meal is like the previous in quality and regularity.

Probably my father’s greatest likeness to a master chef was his consistency. Day after day after day after day, he served at work, at home, and through our church. My father was reliable and trustworthy. He could be depended on to serve even when he was tired or it was raining or cold or dark. My father cared a great deal more about people than he cared about circumstances that might prevent him from helping them.

The noodles, tomato soup, and Malt-O-Meal all had their place in a young girl’s heart. But the legacy of love my father left was the greatest masterpiece of all. His commitment (patience), passion (precision), and integrity (consistency) in His walk with Christ can’t really be explained by the metaphor I’ve chosen of a master chef. The only way to really know what my father is like is to taste the recipes he left behind.

. . no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw-each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:11b-14, ESV)

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Published in: on March 25, 2014 at 2:48 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Leap for Joy

On Ray Comfort’s facebook page yesterday, someone asked him, “How can we best cope with the criticism and abuse thrown upon us because of the stand we take for Christ and the Word of God?”

He replied, “When I get abused for being a Christian or for a stand on righteousness, I rejoice and leap for joy. It takes some effort, but I do it no matter how I feel. Try it the next time the world or some rotten circumstance comes against you… physically leap for joy (it will make you smile):

“‘Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you, and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of Man’s sake. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy! For indeed, your reward is great in Heaven, for in like manner their fathers did to the prophets.'” (Luke 6:22-23)

This passage was also part of my daily reading this morning.

From Ben’s Pen

Published in: on February 19, 2014 at 10:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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brokenness . . thanks

Out of true brokenness truly healed by God comes true thanks.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3, NIV)

Published in: on January 6, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Total depravity . . fully lean

The point of knowing my total depravity is to realize I must fully lean on Christ.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10, NIV)

Published in: on November 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Climbs & Slides & More to Life than This

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

Have you ever seen the battery operated toys that have stairs and slide and little figures that climb the stairs, roll down the slide, and then do it all over again?

Penguin Race

I have one of these toys.  Mine has little pirates and a parrot, and the principle is the same: they climb, climb, climb, and then slide, slide, slide, and then climb, climb, climb again, and then slide, slide, slide again.

The little characters have special rollers for “feet”, designed for their endless journey.  Climb, climb, climb . . slide, slide, slide.  Climb, climb, climb . . slide, slide, slide.

Sound familiar?

It is the near exact habit of most of our lives.  It might look different in different people and at different times, but the climbing and sliding are always there.

For you, the latest might be a climb, climb, climb . . or it might be a slide, slide, slide  . . but the same two principles are there.  You’re climbing.  Or you’re sliding.

The same for me.

Up, up, up the stairs.  Down, down, down the slide.

There is nothing–not one thing–I can do to get off the never-ending cycle.

Some call it “good luck” and “bad luck”.  Others call it “karma”.  And others call it “fate”.  It’s what goes our way versus what doesn’t.

It is a prison of ups and downs.

A familiar prison, a mindless prison, and maybe even a comforting prison.  But a prison nonetheless.  It’s a cycle I can’t break free from.

Outside my realm is a mighty war going on between Good and evil, Life and death, Grace and consequence.

Inside my realm, I am prisoner of the effects of the sin I can’t escape and the mercy I don’t understand.

Slide, slide, slide.  Climb, climb, climb.

I am passive to my responsibility in this war because I either see myself as acted upon, carried along by what I cannot control . . or I delude myself into believing I’m on my own exciting journey that I control, and not the endless cycle of climbs and slides I find myself bound to abide by.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

Apart from Christ, all I can look forward to in this life is to be carried along day to day by the chutes of frightening sin I’ve had my own hand in constructing, and to be lifted up by the extravagances of baffling grace I can’t possibly understand.

I get a great evaluation at work–climb, climb, climb.

I puncture my tire on a curb when I don’t have the money to spare on it–slide, slide.

I have a boyfriend–climb, climb, climb, climb.

I lose my retainers and worry my front teeth are getting pushed out of alignment–slide, slide.

Cheerios are on sale–climb.

My friends don’t respond to my facebook post–slide.

But it’s not just the small climbs and slides.  It’s the sky-scraping climbs and breakneck slides, too.

All of my life and everything in it, it’s all just a climb or a slide; it’s all just a dance or a dirge; it‘s all an equally meaningless cycle without

Christ.

Some people mistakenly think the point of Christianity is to get more climbs-per-slide ratio.  That isn’t it at all.

It’s to be free from the cycle.

It’s to get off the track.

And it’s to get feet–real feet–instead of rollers.

Whatever climbs or slides come my way in this life, Christ enables me to turn them into eternally-mattering landscapes in His Kingdom.

What was once a climb only enacted upon me, scooting my rollers up one step at a time . . becomes an opportunity for me to scale a snowy-topped mountain of Hallelujahs for God.  Each mountain becomes a reminder of my delight in who He is.  Each mountain becomes a glimpse of what my joy in Him will be like one day.

And what was once a slide being rushed upon me, forcing my rollers to spin wildly . . becomes an opportunity for me to claim a shadowy valley for God.  I learn to have faith in who God is regardless of what sin has done to His world.  And so each valley becomes a reminder of my grief over the effects of sin and my eagerness for my King.  Each valley becomes a glimpse of what my existence would be like without Him.

I choose for Christ to set me free from the endless track of stairs and slides of this life.  I choose to journey the mountains and valleys between me and my King.  I choose to live a life that matters–not just so long as the switch to this world is turned on, but for all eternity.

I choose Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1, NIV)

Published in: on September 22, 2013 at 11:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Have you ever been broken by God?

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I don’t know for sure about you, but I resist being broken.

I’ve never broken a bone that I know of except for maybe a rib, but one of the most painful experiences I had as a child was a time when astonishingly I did not break a bone.

I was in a park on a playground, and I’d guess I was about 8 or so.  I was fascinated by the teeter-totter, and I wondered how the mechanism worked that tilted it up and down.

I don’t remember how exactly it happened, but I went over to the teeter-totter to check out the axis.  While I was sticking my hand in to see how the mechanism worked, two kids got on either side of the teeter-totter and started using it.

It was one of the most extreme pains I’ve had.  The weight of the teeter-totter bearing down on my arm was so agonizing I could not even find my voice to tell the children to stop.  I’m sure it all took place in a matter of a few seconds, but I found my voice and in what seemed to me to be a dazed murmur asked them to get off the ride.

They got off, in surprise, and I pulled my arm out.  I was in shock about what had happened as I held my throbbing arm out.

Since then, I’ve rarely put my hand in any kind of mechanism again without seriously thinking about it first (I’m reluctant to get something out of the garbage disposal).

The idea of God breaking us is not one I think any of us can honestly say we are comfortable with.  For one thing, many believers still don’t fully trust that God is love, and so when they (and most of the time I am included here) think of Him breaking them in their lives, they think secretly of some ill-purpose or ill-will.

I would assert that we try very hard not to be broken by God.  Have you ever been listening to a sermon that was convicting, and found a way to distract yourself?  Have you ever been reading a book that was too uncomfortable about radical devotion to God, and found something else to do?  Have you ever felt God convicting you of a sin and been too fearful to face the consequences?

We are masters at resisting God’s breaking.  At 3:00 in the morning, if God is working on your heart, you can not only read a book, but you can turn on the TV, surf the internet, play a video game, or chat on Facebook.  Some people are even able to work from home and answer emails or write new proposals during the uncomfortable time.

The goal for us seems in whatever way possible to resist God’s breaking of us.

And for reasons that seem very valid to us.  God’s breaking of our hearts can be far more painful than the time my arm was caught in a seesaw.

But why would God want us to break?  If He doesn’t desire to be mean to us–He doesn’t enjoy kicking us around the way a criminal might kick a dog around–and He doesn’t seek as an end result for our sorrow, then why would He cause something so terrible to happen to us such as breaking?

Here are a few reasons I can think of.  You might add your own.

  • Salvation.  The most obvious reason is salvation.  Many people feel broken before salvation, though some (because they were a small child or because they had already gone through a breaking time previously, or for another reason) may not experience this breaking pre-salvation, but post.  After months of feeling broken, God in His grace brought me to His salvation in a time of healing.  God knows how each of us work.  Many come to Him in broken-hearted repentance.  (For me, much of this repentance came after inviting Christ into my life.  I was on a journey to confessing [and admitting] all of my sin before God, a journey I’m still working on, fearful that He wouldn’t forgive me if He really knew me.  But I did come with the mindset of already knowing I was a sinner, and having known that for years.)
  • Confession to evaporate guilt.  There are two ways to look at this: God is cruel or God wants you to be free of entanglements and burdens.  The entanglement and burden of unconfessed sin is huge.  If you are too afraid to give God a sin because you think if you “acknowledge” it He’ll stop loving you (personal experience here), then you carry a weight that God doesn’t intend you to carry as His child.  And He will increase the pressure and pain of that weight until you give it to Him, so you can walk free.
  • Confession to evaporate denial.  Sometimes, it’s easy to not give certain sins to God, mainly if we want to keep doing them (again, spoken from experience).  Rather than looking at God as someone who is all to overjoyed to punish you for your sin, realize that He wants you to walk a life that is a witness to others, and that He is working to bring about your sanctification (the purity of your walk before Him).
  • Eternal perspective.  It is so, so easy to hear the message of Christ drowned out by the so-called ‘goodies’ of this world.  I find myself struggling to resist looking at magazine covers as I walk through the grocery store aisles; distracted by bulletin boards that idolatrize materialism and physical beauty; and overwhelmed at times by the plethora of possessions one can own in their lifetime–each with the personal, very intimate, and totally deceitful promise of a and then I lived happily ever after claim.  Other times we feel inundated by work or relationship demands, sexual cravings, physical needs, retirement concerns, etc.  The list is nearly endless.  And in all this, the eternal perspective we should have is forgotten or put on a back burner.  When God breaks us from these things, what happens?  We are able to focus on the delight of Him, and to truly draw others into His Presence.
  • Passion.  Becoming dull for God can begin to happen in a single moment.  One choice can cause us to stumble and fall out of fellowship with Him.  In this time, we are not only on a self-destructive path for ourselves, but we do warfare against the precious testimony we have toward the world.  God wants to create in us a zealous, earnest passion for the lost, for His Truth, and for His everlasting love.
  • HumilityWe can get to where we think we are the coolest Christians on the block.  God breaking us reminds us to have an eye out for the broken.  When we are standing proud with our chest puffed out, showcasing the ‘metals’ we think we’ve earned in our Christian walk, we nearly always ignore the needs of the lost around us.  God wants us to remember the lost, including the ‘undesirable’ lost.  And not just to throw money at them or pity them, but to reach out and share the Good News of Jesus Christ with them!
  • Dependence on God.  It’s hard to believe, but sometimes in our Christian walk, we can think we are soo special that God could scarcely do without us, rather than that we cannot do without Him!  Ever been there?  I have.  When God breaks us, it isn’t an act of trying to force us to see Him as boss, but a gracious kindness to remind us that He is our Life.  When we stray from dependence on God, we become dependent on things that serve as ‘mini-idols’ in our lives, like our relationships, our career, our plans, etc.
  • Bravery.  When we have an area in our life that we feel we can’t achieve victory over, God can give us the courage to have victory by breaking us of our love for that wrong thing or or the fear holding us back from doing the right thing.  God can break us of our fear of sharing our testimony, witnessing to people on the street, etc., or our love of materialism, forgiving those who have hurt us most, etc.–by destroying the false hope we have in doing something wrong and destroying the false fear we have in doing something right.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

I am so afraid of being broken.  I am so afraid of suffering.  If you’re like me, you probably are, too.  But there are times in my Christian walk when I’ve prayed for God to break me.  In fact, one Christian song we sing, Hosanna (Hillsong United), invites God to do just this with the line,

Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

We may artificially request for God to break us and be shocked by the very real answer He gives us.  True brokenness is terribly painful and we struggle to accept it, even from the hand of our Rescuer.  But think about the verse from the Psalm, and these other Scriptures, and you and I will see a bright torch of Hope in our brokenness.

“Son of man, groan before the people! Groan before them with bitter anguish and a broken heart.” (God, Ezekiel 21:6, NLT)

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. (David, Psalm 34:18, NLT)

My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken. (Job, Job 17:11, NLT)

“I am a woman with a broken heart. I haven’t had any wine or beer; I’ve been pouring out my heart before the LORD.” (Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:15b, HCSB)

He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. (David, Psalm 147:3, NLT)

I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart. (David, Psalm 38:8, NIV)

Ezekiel (whom God commanded to groan), David, Job, and Hannah all followed God.  They had hearts that sought Him.  Job is a man whom God said about him,

“There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” (Job 1:8b, NIV)

Surely Job had a life that we should look carefully at to learn what a follower of Jesus might expect to experience in this world.  (By the way, “blameless” does not mean “sinless” but that he followed God exceptionally and was forgiven of his sin.  In Job, he refers to sin he has had in the past, and indeed he sins against God in his anger/doubt towards Him.)

What do we find?  Job had a time of intense grief, questioning, doubt, struggling, and terror.  God broke him.  And in this, Job discovered the wonder of God.

What about Hannah?  She wanted children, probably more than just about anything.  Maybe even more than she wanted a relationship with God.  But she came to God in great brokenness, laying her grief at His feet, and she rested in whatever answer He would give her.  Then, when God did give her a child, she did something that seems almost unthinkably hard–she gave her first child to Him, to live in the temple.  She got to see her child, the boy she’d so longed for, once a year.  And how did God honor her for giving over what she most wanted to Him?  He gave her sons and daughters to raise, and the baby she dedicated became perhaps the greatest Old Testament judge during the time before the kings.

And David?  David lived a life of soaring highs and terrible lows before God.  After he became trapped in sexual sin, he killed men, including the husband of the woman he had violated.  He became terribly broken (see Psalm 51).  God forgave him, and in his beautiful, broken Psalm about his sin (Psalm 51), we find these words:

Restore to me the joy of your salvation

and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,

so that sinners will turn back to you.

Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,

you who are God my Savior,

and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

Open my lips, Lord,

and my mouth will declare your praise.

You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;

you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit;

a broken and contrite heart

you, God, will not despise. (Psalm 51:12-18, NIV)

David knew something that many kings who came after him didn’t: only the Messiah could truly take away sin.  No matter how wealthy David was, or however mighty a warrior he was, or however talented with musical instruments, nothing and no one but God could take away his sin.

In summary, there are many reasons why God might break a person.  For a lost person, the reason is always for the purpose of salvation.  For the saved person, God sanctifies us through times of brokenness.  Resisting His brokenness as a lost person is to resist Eternal Life.  And resisting His brokenness as a believer is to resist His work to purify your life and testimony here on earth.

In a time of brokenness, however deep and fearful and even hopeless it may seem, remember that God’s ultimate desire is not for you to remain in this brokenness, but for you to be saved by it (if you are lost) or for you to experience His delight more deeply and draw the lost to Him (if you are already saved).

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Solomon, Proverbs 17:22)

A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed. (Solomon, Proverbs 15:13, ESV)

Although this blog might seem like a detached commentary on the pain of brokenness, it is far from it.  I write this during a time of very personal and painful brokenness in my life.  I am not fully out of the feeling of having my arm caught in a seesaw yet.  I still feel the new wound of brokenness and I still have an unsettling, restless angst of, What if it does not go away?  I don’t know who said this first, nor is that really important, but I hold to the line, God does not waste our pain.  Whether you are a believer or not, God isn’t bringing suffering on you because He enjoys tormenting you.  Rather, He longs for you to be saved, or, if you are saved, to know Him better.

Although much of my heart still wants to resist the experience of breaking in my life, and though I still at times feel like a wild animal struggling to be tamed, I believe in, I hold to, and I desire to cling with white-knuckled grasp to the love of Christ.  I know that times of breaking are not senseless, needless, or for the purpose of my destruction, but rather to bring my heart closer to God, to bring my will in dearer alignment to His, and so that I may “rest on His unchanging grace” (Edward Mote, hymn On Christ the Solid Rock).

And one more Scripture each for unbelievers and for believers going through a time of brokenness.

Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:3-9, NIV)

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU,” (Hebrews 13:5, NASB)

Two important questions, two important answers

Romans asks two of the most important questions a believer in Christ can ever ask.

  • The first asks if anything can separate us from Christ.
  • The second asks if bad circumstances mean Christ has separated us from His love.

The first question is a fear that someone or something can cut the believer’s bond to Christ.  The second question comes from a fear that bad troubles in this life may mean Christ has decided to cut the bond to His believers . . . perhaps because He has forgotten about us?  Romans shows God as actively aware of where we are, and fully engaged in saving us.

Do you ever feel like life is a roller coaster without a seat belt?  Do you ever find yourself struggling to find the safety bar that seems to be missing from the ride?  Do you ever fear you are going to “fall out”–go bankrupt, get a divorce, lose the respect of your kids, fall out of favor with your friends, lose your job . . etc?  If we look at God as another relationship we can “lose”, the coaster of life becomes sheer terror, nothing but dread and anticipation as the ride ascends and fear and horror with every plunge.

What about God’s gifts?  Do you ever secretly fear He’s holding back on you?  Do you ever think that maybe God doesn’t really have what’s best for you?  Have you ever heard someone say “I know what’s best for you” when they clearly didn’t?  Do you sometimes wonder if this is maybe so with God?  That maybe He’s more invested in your righteousness than His love for you?  Do you ever feel confused or frightened about what you think God has in store for you?  If we look at God as a “withholder” of good, the coaster of life becomes a ride of dread, anxiety, heartburn, and high blood pressure, with the whole focus of life being what happens after the ride (Heaven) rather than God’s work now.

But thanks to God, we don’t have to ask these questions.  He gives us the answers–clearly–in Romans 8.  If you are seeking answers to what feel like impossible questions, check out His love for His people (anyone who repents and turns to Christ for forgiveness and a new life) in Romans.  Life doesn’t have to be a panic.  We can live in the exhilarating rush of His love, and be carried by the peace in His Word through the plunges.  But if we want to do so, we have to know how He answers our questions, and we have to believe Him when He gives us the answers.  And the only way we can do that is by faith as we open the Word of God.

For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory.

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:29-39, NLT)

Dying bird

On my way to a Christian bookstore in an outdoor shopping center, I nearly stepped on a bird on the outside rug in the doorway.  Since I have bad posture, I often look down when I walk, and I saw the bird before stepping on him.

Though he was alive, it was just barely.  He was lying on the ground heaving, a wide-eyed look of confusion in the eye I could see.  His body was contorted.  He was truly miserable.

I was afraid he was going to get stepped on in the doorway, but I didn’t want to move him.  I was afraid he would die in my hand.  One of the workers came with a plastic bag and moved him to the mulched bush area.  I wished I’d had Ben with me.  I’d have had him kill the bird and put it out of its terror.

It was a little bird.  A plain colored bird.  I don’t know what had happened to him.  He must have had one kind of sickness or another.  His condition was only desperate from his standpoint.  From my standpoint, his fate was sealed.  I knew there was nothing any passers-by could do for him to make him all better.  From his viewpoint, he was struggling.  From my viewpoint, he was doomed to die.

In more similarity that we would like to admit, you and I are like that bird.  Our sin nature distorts us, and from the moment of conception we are already poisoned with sin’s doom.  We heave from sin our whole lives and, whether we realize it or not, we lie at God’s doorstep, helpless should He walk out and trample us.

People who truly glimpse their sin nature are sometimes led to suicidal thoughts, wanting to put themselves out of their own misery.  But we cannot put to death the soul, and therein lies the pain and the eternality of sin.  We are inflicted with an illness that does not age when we age; we are injured by a wound that never stops scarring us.  We are doomed to sin; to keep sinning; it is all we can do.

Like that little bird I saw, most of us don’t realize or don’t accept how serious the situation is.  We think if we rest awhile in the pleasures of this world, that we may revive.  If we improve family relationships, build more friendships, enlarge our fan club, or get that promotion at work we’ve been wanting . . that the plight of our soul will somehow be delayed, or improved, or that at least we’ll be distracted from it.  Like that little bird, we are too weak-minded to understand what is truly happening to us, too gullible to Satan’s lies to believe our fate, and too self-important to stop trying.

God reveals something fascinating about Himself in Scripture, something that many of us have heard so many times that we have forgotten to look at it for what it is.  He tells us this:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 10:29, ESV)

Here Jesus teaches us:

  • God keeps up with two-for-a-penny sparrows.
  • God wants to be identified as our Father.

Just as the bird I saw that day did not escape the notice of God—in fact, God was aware of that bird lying on the mat outside the bookstore long before I approached—we do not escape the notice of God, either.  And because of who He is, He wants us to have fellowship with Him.  As He sees when even the sparrow—a bird abundant and nearly worthless in Jesus’ day—took its last breath, so He sees the state of death that sin has left us in.

Rather than passively watch, He is active.  With the sparrow, He actively chooses when to give it its last breath.

Years ago, many people used to believe “god” had created the earth with something rather like a wind-up mechanism, wound it up, and let it go.  Certainly God could have created sparrows, let them loose, and then gone off to do something else, or even passively watched.

But don’t you find it fascinating that He does not use what we call “natural processes” to determine when even a common bird dies?  He does not leave it up to chance, survival of the fittest, or even the breaking down of the bird’s body.  No, He actively chooses when that bird will take its last breath.

In the same way—though it may not be comfortable to think about—God actively chooses when we will take our last breaths.  The date of our deaths does not come as a surprise.

This knowledge alone doesn’t come too much further than one of the stories of ancient Greek mythology.   According to the mythology, there were deities assigned to the “cutting of the thread” of life.  Then, and only then, did a person die.

This knowledge alone is not comforting.  That God has assigned our deaths isn’t really anything to draw us to Him, other than that we might want to appease Him so that He gives us a longer lifespan, like the ancient Greeks tried to do with their gods.

But the second knowledge was said by Jesus to draw us to Him: He not only chooses when we receive our last breath from His hand, He also intervenes with Fatherhood.

To believe an omniscient God can control your living and dying is almost a given.

To believe an omniscient God wants to be your Father is another story.

We are like the bird fallen on a sidewalk, waiting to be trampled on.  But that’s not where our story ends.  We are remembered by God, despite our sin, and He offers each one of forgiveness and priceless worth through the sacrifice of His Son.  He gives us the right to call Him Father, and He does so out of the love of who He is.

“Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”  (Jesus, quoted in Matthew 10:29, ESV)

The secret of being so happy

Maybe you ask, what is the secret of being so happy in such a hard situation?

Forgiveness and a change of attitude. When we forgive, we become free and we become messengers of peace and reconciliation and goodness. And whoever stings us, we can take into our embrace and love them. And in this dark and evil time, we can live full of love and full of peace and full of joy and shine like the stars! Glory be to His Name.

–Pastor Saeed Abedeni, writing a letter on scraps of newspaper to his wife after beatings and torture and weeks in solitary confinement in Evin Prison, one of the worst prisons in Iran

http://savesaeed.org/

Sign the petition.  But don’t stop there.

Start praying.

You will free the captives from prison, releasing those who sit in dark dungeons. (Isaiah 42:7b, NLT)

No More Night

No More NightNo More Pain

No More Tears.  Never Crying Again.

And praises to the great I AM.

We will live in the light of the Risen Lamb.

No More Night, Walt Harrah

From the moment we begin to understand this things, we discover two vines, woven together, so tightly they cannot be unwound.

Grief.  Joy.

All around us, all the time.

But one day–no more.

They will be separated forever.  Those who have not believed in Jesus will be separated forever by the grief of their sin.  Those who have believed in Jesus will be close to Him forever in eternal joy.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life. All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children. (Revelation 21:1-7, NLT)

Published in: on February 23, 2013 at 3:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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