Monday, January 30, 2017

The Anonymous Cooking Pot

It was one of those moments when I had to pull back and remind myself that being nameless is more valuable than taking credit. If you love people; if you ever meet needs or reach out to hurting people, you know what it is to be appreciated. And in those moments, I try to remember the pots in Zechariah... you don't know those pots? Let me introduce you:

"On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the Lord’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the Lord Almighty..." (Zech. 14:20-21).

A good Bible student might say, "But we're not going to be pots in Jerusalem," and he would be right. We won't be pots, but we will have Jesus' name written on our foreheads (Rev. 22:3-4).  People, bells, pots. It's all for Him, to Him, from Him.... Can you imagine? We will be set apart, designated, identified by the name of our Creator, Owner, Redeemer, Purchaser. That's our brand.

As I thought of Jesus' words, "your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10) I wondered if it's possible to live like that now--here on earth--as it will be in heaven? What if we, God's people, wore His name instead of their own? Lived His life instead of theirs?

What if it didn't matter who we were, by name, as much as who we represented? What if my life was designated, "HOLY TO THE LORD?"

Because it is.

"The body, however, is not meant for sexual immorality but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.... You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies." (1 Corinthians 6:13, 19-20)

If my life is His, my name and my body are His--does it really matter if people know who I am?Wouldn't it be better if people said, "Somebody helped me. I don't remember who, but they reminded me of Jesus." And the question that checks my heart is this: does it matter if they know my name? Does it matter if they get it right? Or did I love and serve in a way that God might receive the credit and glory?

If I can serve anonymously, if no one remembers who I am, but they think Jesus was nearby, I'm exactly where God wants me.

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.” Since we have that same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you to himself. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:7-18 NIV)

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Welcome Home

As I sat reading Jude 24-25 late one evening, I wondered what it will be to really, finally see Jesus. The passage says,  "To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy—to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen."

I thought about the smell and feel of a new car; the excitement of driving it off the lot and knowing it's mine. I remembered our wedding day--the jitters, the uncertainty, then the final, overwhelming confidence that this was the beginning of the rest of my life. Moving into a new home came with hopes, dreams, and unknowns. Yes, there would be work, but the thought was thrilling and joyful. Then there are indescribable joys: the birth of children, silent friendship, heartfelt, shared worship....

And it struck me that of all the good,exciting, new things I had experienced (or could think of), meeting Jesus was everything at the same time--without tarnish, without loss over time, without burden or care. I can try to imagine, but the reality is beyond human experience..

Then, to picture Jesus at the gate of Heaven, ready to welcome me in.... What does "great joy" look like for Jesus? Will He stand with His arms full in the air? An open smile on His face? Head thrown back in laughter? All this to welcome me?

In and through it all, He is the One who keeps me from stumbling; the One who brings me before His glorious presence. It is His righteousness, not mine--and because of that I can rest in His love, grace and power. My job is to take God at His Word; to rest, trust, believe, obey and persevere. He is the only God. Our Savior (did you notice it's collective?). He owns, He is, He deserves all glory. All power. All authority. And He has shown that glory, power and authority through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ--the "Ka-Pow!" that echoes from eternity past through eternity future.

But we do see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

In bringing many sons and daughters to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through what he suffered. Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters. He says,

“I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters;
    in the assembly I will sing your praises.”
And again,

“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,

“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:9-18 NIV)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fattened Hearts

We tried something new this year--after Thanksgiving we decided to clean out the cupboards (i.e. not to buy groceries) until Christmas. This may be standard practice for you, but we had amassed canned, dried and frozen goods at our house--things we "didn't prefer." Oh, were we excited for Christmas!

When the load from the store arrived, I had plenty of help--and there was a lot of celebrating as we filled the cupboards. It renewed my sense of how fasting from regular routines and behavior makes celebrations more enjoyable. God instituted feasting and celebrations--they're His idea. He loves a good party! But enjoyment, feasting and celebrating are magnified by moderation.

A few months ago I chewed on the verse, "You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter." (James 5:5). And I asked, "What does it mean to 'fatten your heart?'"

The cows in our barn are on a slaughter-fest. For many months they simply grazed in the pasture. But now, with a slaughter date fixed they get unlimited corn. Twice a day our daughter pours buckets of corn in the trough. They know when it's coming. Standing at the door, they bawl outrageously until she appears. Unbeknownst to them, the goal is to fatten them--quickly--for their doom.

With that picture in mind, we (Americans in particular) fatten our hearts daily. We belly up to the trough of pleasure, entertainment, food, leisure activity, achievement, etc. etc. And if the trough doesn't have what we want, we bawl exceedingly. It is our due! It is ours! But, oh, the consequences of a fattened heart.... Failing to see beyond the immediate pleasure, we rarely, if ever, sit back and look at the outcome.

As I watch young people indulging in leisure and desired activities, I wonder at the long-term effects of parenting and personal choices. Training does not happen in a year or two--it is a life-long process. And then I look at myself. I am no different. In looking at what I've been given, I wonder how my time--money, energy, thoughts, plans, conversation--could be better spent. How might I "put on the brakes" and train my heart to say no to pleasure and luxury? Am I looking ahead to days of celebration? Even more, am I seeing ahead to limited resources and the realities of our world? How I've lost awareness of poverty, need, hunger, nakedness, thirst, cold--the very real conditions of many in our world.

May this new year usher in, not prosperity of pleasure, but richness of life and awareness of God's good gifts, of His eternal working in my life and those around me.

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. (James 5:1-11 ESV)