Musing from Middle-Earth

Suppose that you live in Middle Earth and you’re an elf. But you’re not just any elf: you’re an elf with a secret. You know a secret that none of the orcs know:

You know that they can, all of them, be changed back into elves.

So you walk right up to a cannibalistic, cruel, disgusting orc and you say,

“You can be an elf again.”

What do you supposed the response would be?

Well, you could certainly be attacked. Most orcs wouldn’t want to change. And most of them would think you were out of your mind to be coming over to their war camp with such strange news.

But . . not all of them would feel this way. There would be a few who would actually question you to find out what you meant.

Suppose one asked you, “How do you know?”

And suppose you said, “Because I used to be an orc.”

.         .         .         .         .         .

This is what happens when saved sinners share the Gospel.

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Published in: on August 4, 2014 at 2:03 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Beyond Happy Meals

A plate of fresh shrimp fettuccine pasta.

As a little bitty kid, I learned to sign the MacDonald’s arches so that every time we passed a MacDonald’s I would entreat whoever was with me to stop.

The little baggie of fries, the small cheeseburger or squiggly shaped chicken nuggets, the Sprite, and–you know what’s coming–the *SURPRISE TOY*–all in a yellow cardboard box of colorful activities and punch-outs and complete with an arched M handle.

A Happy Meal.

I could never have believed there was a meal more wonderful than a Happy Meal as a kid.

If you’d told me about shrimp fettuccine served with an engagement ring, I just wouldn’t have understood.  To me, the plastic toy was worth far more than jewelry or a wedding.

You know what, though?  If I go to MacDonald’s today and get a Happy Meal, it’s just not the same.  For one thing, I don’t have any use for the toys anymore.  For another, the little servings of food just don’t fit me.  If I want to have the same feeling about Happy Meals as I had as a kid I discover I just can’t.  I’ve outgrown them.

Sometimes we outgrow things in our spiritual walk, too.  What was thrilling to us as new Christians might be, well, childish to us as more mature Christians.  The Bible teaches that we should be growing up, and the kind of sustenance we need should be changing as we grow.  (See 1 Corinthians 3:2)

One of the biggest mistakes we can make as we mature is to expect the ways God blesses us and grows us to stay constant.  A Happy Meal wouldn’t have suited me the night my husband proposed to me.  In the same way, we have to learn to let go of how we expect God to work in our lives so that He can work to mature us however He wants to work.

Maybe you have a longing for the Happy Meals of the past, and you don’t understand why God hasn’t been working in that way in your life for a long time.  Maybe you question whether God really loves you, or maybe you simply wonder what He is doing. Could it be that God is working with you in a different way than in the past, for the purpose of maturing you?

One thing is for sure–as we mature, we should be surrendering more and more of our lives to God.  Rarely (if ever) does anyone in the first moments of salvation have full understanding of what surrender looks like throughout the life of a Christian. As we grow, God may expect us to trust Him with less vision (and more faith) for what He’s doing.  Look in the lives of Noah, Abraham, Job, Moses, Joseph, Esther, and many others and you see the lives of real strugglers who learned to trust God even when they could not see the full picture.

The hope we have as believers is that we know God isn’t leading us to something worse than what we had before, but something far better.  We don’t have to clutch the Happy Meal with fear that God will never give us anything so good again.  We can let go, knowing an exquisite shrimp fettuccine meal is in our future–and even better still to come.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9b, NLT)

 

 

 

Published in: on May 31, 2014 at 8:48 am  Leave a Comment  
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A Carebear Necklace and Giving Homemade Gifts (that really look homemade)

Do you remember those gifts you used to make as a child for family?

little girl with  cutter make a christmas tree cookie

There was the endless supply of far-too-tiny potholders.  The gingerbread Christmas tree ornament.  The clay dog I made that I was told (allegedly) looked like a pig.  The paper rug.  The snowman out of a soup can.  The yo-yo mini-quilt.  (Really, I didn’t make that for anybody because I didn’t like it–home economics project–but my mom paid me $50 for it because she said it was like a $50 yo-yo vest in a boutique.  Ah, moms.).

And then there was the Care Bear necklace.

One day at my grandmother’s house when I was about five or six, she helped me make a necklace for my mother out of gold pipe cleaner and magazine pictures of Care Bears.  It really did turn out extraordinary, if I say so myself.  My mother wore it to church the next Sunday, which is further proof.  (Remembering that this is the same mom who paid me the $50 for the yo-yos.)

When we grow up, I think we forget a lot of times what a little homemade gift can mean–even if it doesn’t look like something that came out of a magazine, and even if it isn’t exactly what our family or friends would have made for themselves.

My father kept my embroidered blue-bunny-in-a-wagon pillow in his office for as long as he had an office–even though that little pillow looked like something that belonged in a nursery or nursing home (and even though the thread started to unravel).

Among my most treasured belongings are sketches my father did–I wish I’d saved every napkin and paper he ever drew on.

Homemade gifts don’t have to be snapshot-worthy or take the next 6 months to make.  But they can say, with childhood fervor, I love you (a lot).

. . love is kind . . (1 Corinthians 13:4b, NASB)

 

Published in: on April 23, 2014 at 6:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The best superhero power of all

Superheroes are really popular in our culture.  Superheroes that fly, shoot webs, sneak through unseen, super-speed in their cars, karate chop, boast incredible strength, read minds, control magnetic fields, see sound, shift shapes, teleport, wave magic wands, and freeze cities.

But the best, the very best, super power of all is reserved only for God.

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

cross light

To be so astonishingly pure, so unfathomably holy, so piercingly truthful, so outstandingly good, so unguessably merciful, so unmistakably just, so heart-poundingly generous, and so once-in-an-eternity sacrificial that you can destroy evil by the breath of your mouth–that is a job for God, and only God.

Awesome.

See, my servant will prosper;

he will be highly exalted.

But many were amazed when they saw him.

His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human,

and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man.

And he will startle many nations.

Kings will stand speechless in his presence.

For they will see what they had not been told;

they will understand what they had not heard about. (Prophesy about Jesus, Isaiah 52:13-15, NLT)

Published in: on March 31, 2014 at 7:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Fitting in . . um . .

Do you ever feel like you don’t quite exactly fit in?

Concept of speed - ecologic car

If so, you’re in good company with a long line of people in the Bible.

Noah couldn’t convince one person outside his own family that a flood was really coming to destroy the earth. Talk about lonely.

Abraham moved out of his home country and lived as a cautious stranger in other countries.

Lot lived in misery in a country full of sin.

Job could win an award for having some of the worst friends in history. They kept trying to tell him what was wrong with him while he was hurting and had lost his children.

David was stuck in a kingdom where the king kept trying to kill him. Now that’s what I call not fitting in.

Elisha had a bunch of teenagers making fun of him because he was bald. (I would never recommend making fun of a prophet, by the way. It didn’t go well for them.)

Jeremiah thought he was the last prophet on earth-and complained to God about it.

John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and wore camel hair. I know he lived a long time ago, but camel hair wasn’t the rave in magazines even back then.

John the Apostle lived the rest of his life in imprisonment on an island.

And you know who else did not fit in? Jesus.

Yes, Jesus Himself, the only perfect human who has ever lived, did not fit in. Jesus didn’t fit in not because He was odd or had bad habits, but because He is the Son of God. People didn’t want to recognize that. They ostracized Him, drove Him away from their gathering places, and eventually cried out for His death. Even though He healed the sick, encouraged the poor, helped the needy, and loved everyone, He was shut out of society. In His death, He was murdered outside the most popular city.

Fitting in isn’t important. Following God is. See, the people I mentioned who served God won’t be remembered in Heaven for any oddities they had. They’ll be remembered in Heaven because they trusted Jesus.

Being a Christian is almost like a guarantee against big-headedness and popularity. According to Jesus, people don’t like to hear the truth. Sometimes we think if we could fit in, we’d be really happy. But the reality is, we want to be loved, not popular. The whim of a crowd only satisfies for a moment; the love of God satisfied for eternity. Jesus knew this and, since He is God Himself, He set an example for us to follow, an example of placing love above popularity and truth above applause.

The next time you feel like you don’t fit in, if it’s because you believe in Jesus, remember that you’re in good company!

In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (Jesus, quoted in John 16:33b, NIV)

 

Uncaged

Meaning that He has the total power to set you free.

Escape

Meaning that, if you believe in Christ, you are fully free. Totally free. 100% free.

Meaning that no cage can hold you.

But knowing you have been set free-that can take a lifetime to realize. Understanding that no prison of any sort can ever lock you in is one of the most comforting thoughts I know. No hate, no sin, no failure, no malice, and no scheming can keep you shut out from Christ’s love. You are free. Absolutely. Immediately.

Romans 8 affirms it-as a Christ-follower, cannot be locked in anywhere by anything. Christ holds all the keys-and I mean all of them, even Death and Hades (see Revelation 1:18). He is the ultimate Keymaster. He has every key that’s ever been made, and He owns a key that opens every door that was made without a keyhole. (Think about that one!) With His blood He paid for you and me to be free and the door for us is

open

if we will allow Him to open the door.

Jesus, I want You to open the doors that are shut in my life. I want You to open the door for eternal life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Therefore, if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (John 8:26, HCSB)

Are “modern miracles” really miracles? Why don’t we see God work more miracles today?

We live in an age where the term “modern miracle” is common and we even hear “technological miracle”.  But what is a miracle, anyway?

Recently I had to get a round of antibiotics in my system.  Antibiotics can seem like a miracle–they start working right away, and, in many cases, the patient starts feeling better right away.  But is the antibiotic a miracle?

Ingenuous.  Life-saving.  But a miracle?  I don’t think so.

Antibiotics have side effects and the potential for allergic reactions.  Antibiotics tend to wipe out the good bacteria in our stomachs, which is why my doctor told me to take probiotics at the same time.  And for some people, antibiotics can be life-threatening instead of life-saving.  Antibiotics are a good part of modern medicine.  But they just don’t cut it for the qualification of a miracle.

All medicines and surgeries and assists we give when a patient is sick–even what we do for friends and family when they’re sick, like chicken noodle soup and flowers–please God if done with the heart of trying to help someone else.

Doctors, nurses, dentists, surgeons, psychiatrists, ophthalmologists, naturopaths, etc.–and the irreplaceable support of friends and family–all have their blessing–their huge blessing, if they are done with the motivation of sharing God’s love.

But what they can’t do is offer help with no side effects, pain-free, and a perfect cure.

{True miracles are when God Himself gives us His undiluted goodness.}

Naaman.  He was known for his leprosy, yet God washed the disease away in the Jordan River.  No side effects.  Pain-free.  And a perfect cure.

He’s not the only one.  The Israelites had shoes that didn’t wear out.  The widow had a jar that didn’t run out of oil.  The child breathed once more.  The dry bones became an army.  But all this was just a tiny taste of the miracles that would happen when God Himself walked the earth.

When evening came, people brought to him many who were possessed by demons. He drove out the spirits by speaking a command and healed everyone who was sick. (Matthew 8:16, ISV)

But here’s the question that so often comes up.  Why don’t we usually (and for some of us, ever) see miracles like this today?

Some point to God’s judgment of us.  Others point to our disbelief.  Others say we’re in a different era.

As for me, I don’t know why.  I don’t have the answer to the question.  But I do notice something.

It’s absolutely amazing that God still works.

God is working despite our evil, our disbelief, and the 2,000 years of rebellion that have gone on since His Son came and died for our sin.  Why He seems to work more through people now, I’m not sure.  But I’m so glad He chooses to work at all.  If our places were traded, I wouldn’t give gifts to a people who treated me like I am guilty of treating God.

I don’t think modern miracles are really miracles, but I do think they’re a gift from God.  I’m thankful for the wisdom God has given doctors to diagnose and treat many illnesses.  I pray for a growing wisdom, that illnesses like Lou Gehrig’s Disease become more treatable, and diseases like cancer are quickly cured for many.

But as long as we live in the world where we chose and choose sin, there will always be side effects, unexpected reactions, and death rates.  Every one of us will one day see God, and much of humanity won’t do it on this side of eternity.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for how God does choose to work.

And I’ll be praying for miracles–God’s one-of-a-kind goodness–to totally pour into our lives . . as much as we can hold on this side of eternity.

No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18, NIV)

Published in: on March 1, 2014 at 2:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The vegetarian piranha

In a world often so centered around violence, gore, and general unkindness canned and sold to the public . . there are remnants of God’s goodness and love everywhere for us to find . . even in places and situations we would not expect.

Like, say, the waters of the Amazon rainforest.

Where scientists have discovered the vegetarian piranha.

That’s right.

Vegetarian piranha.

He might look mean and vicious to you if you met him in the water, but that’s just because you’re confusing him with his cousin.  This decent little guy is a complete herbivore, no more dangerous to your flesh than a passing butterfly.  He spends his time nibbling on riverweed all day.

This new discovery reminds me that every bit of creation was once pure and totally wonderful.

And it reminds me that, one day, the new Heavens & the Earth will be like that.

Until then, God has left many reminders on earth for us to discover how the world once was.  He has left traces of His goodness all over for us to find, that we might recognize His fingerprint in everything really wonderful and place our faith in Him.

God wants everyone to experience the New Heavens & New Earth–and He’s graciously dropping clues everywhere so that we will be hungry, not for the things of this cursed, ruined world, but rather for the goodness that can only come from a relationship with Him.

God doesn’t want you or me to miss out on His goodness.  And while we will get tastes of it here, mere tastes are not what He ultimately desires for us.  He desires that we dwell in the everlasting goodness of a sinless world–a world filled with Him.

God wants so much for us to live in this goodness, that He willingly gave His precious, beloved Son to purify us from our evil.

We can’t live in a sinless world as we are now, because we are sinners–people who have chosen to go against God’s way.  The dread and evil in our world is the result of our choice.  If God gave sinners a new earth, it would quickly become as bad as this one.

God has allowed us to experience a taste of our decision to turn away from His love, to open our eyes to what we have done.  But He doesn’t force us to gorge forever in the cruelty and terror our sin always yields.  Rather, He leaves traces of His goodness everywhere to give us hope, hope in Him.

And not only does He leave traces of His goodness, but He has revealed the full measure of His goodness when He Himself came to earth.  He has paid the price for our sin so that we can leave it behind in this doomed world and, debt free, enter the new Heavens and new Earth that He has planned for those who love Him.

Thank you, vegetarian piranha, for reminding me of that.

But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight.

And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. (2 Peter 3:10-15a, NLT)

“Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore.” (Isaiah 65:17, NLT)

_____________________________________________

Credits: Vegetarian Piranha’s Teeth Point to Pre-Fall Perfection, written by Dr. Elizabeth Mitchell, http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2013/10/31/vegetarian-piranha

Published in: on November 3, 2013 at 8:55 pm  Leave a Comment  
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How DID I miss this one?

By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. (Psalm 33:6, NIV)

The Creator spoke, and the world existed.  He breathed and there were stars.

And God put breath in us . . but we wasted it.

Then the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person. (Genesis 2:7, NLT)

The very same Creator who breathed the constellations into existence would one day breathe the air He Himself had invented–but He would be breathing it not in Eden, but rather on the cursed land that resulted from humanity’s fall.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14, NIV)

This Creator of breath would breathe–first in a stable . . and at the end, on a cross.  Yes, the Creator of breath breathed His last.

With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. (Mark 15:37, NIV)

But the end was the beginning.

My pastor once talked about what it might have been like the first Easter Sunday in the tomb of Jesus.  Two angels, sent to the tomb, (my pastor supposed they might not have known why), perhaps behind the sealed rock, inside the tomb, inside the stillness.  And then, suddenly,

breathing.

As my pastor pointed out . .

Angels (maybe) do not breathe.  Maybe there was a marvelously startling terror in them to suddenly hear the breathing of Someone in a tomb that contained only the body of their God.

Can you imagine . . can you imagine what it might have been like for one of those angels to turn around?  To see the breathing LORD?

And though I heard that sermon over a year ago now, still, still I missed it until, in bed last night, I realized.

Then the man of lawlessness will be revealed, but the Lord Jesus will kill him with the breath of his mouth and destroy him by the splendor of his coming. (2 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

The breath from Christ’s mouth . . destroys the man of lawlessness.

Christ breathes again.

The very act of resurrection is the only victory required for the defeat of all evil.

In other words, no further action is needed for Hell to have met its match, for sin to be quenched, for Satan himself to be unraveled in defeat.

Jesus just needs to breathe.

And He already does.

Although it will be very real one day, Armageddon isn’t going to decide the fate of Heaven and earth.  Neither are events we have imagined, like aliens from other planets, global warming, nuclear bombs, homicidal maniacs, modern psychologists, the internet, or how many shoes we have in our closets (our obsession with materialism).

And it isn’t going to be decided by an imaginary superhero with bullet belts strapped down both sides of their body or by the latest CGI karate master or by whoever builds the biggest, smartest robot on the planet.

Only One, and One only, decides the fate of everything and everyone, and He doesn’t do it by any way that our movies think up.

He just breathes.

See, the Name of the Lord comes from afar,

with burning anger and dense clouds of smoke;

his lips are full of wrath,

and his tongue is a consuming fire.

His breath is like a rushing torrent,

rising up to the neck.

He shakes the nations in the sieve of destruction;

he places in the jaws of the peoples

a bit that leads them astray.

And you will sing

as on the night you celebrate a holy festival;

your hearts will rejoice

as when people playing pipes go up

to the mountain of the Lord,

to the Rock of Israel.

The Lord will cause people to hear his majestic voice

and will make them see his arm coming down

with raging anger and consuming fire,

with cloudburst, thunderstorm and hail. (Isaiah 30:27-30, NIV)

He just breathes.

And you know what?

He is already breathing.

He has already won.

The breath of life from the resurrection is the final say.

It already is!

Doesn’t that make you want to be on God’s side all the more?

This isn’t a battle like in some spaceship movie where two sides shoot laser beams at each other . . or a western where two enemies count ten paces, hands on their holsters . . or an action movie where machine guns and bombs and high-speed car chases decide the winner . . or a Medieval battle where two knights gallop forward on their steeds, swords drawn . . or a march across Middle Earth, elves on one side, orcs on the other . .

This is about one breath.

He will give justice to the poor and make fair decisions for the exploited. The earth will shake at the force of his word, and one breath from his mouth will destroy the wicked. (Isaiah 11:4, NLT)

Have you realized the power of the resurrection?

“Then at the command of the Lord,

at the blast of his breath,

the bottom of the sea could be seen,

and the foundations of the earth were laid bare.”

(2 Samuel 22:16, NLT)

And the following verse for everyone who believes in Jesus.

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me;

he drew me out of deep waters.”

(2 Samuel 22:17, NLT)

Published in: on August 22, 2013 at 8:38 pm  Leave a Comment  
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