Saturday, August 18, 2012
Earlier in the summer, we went to the Millennium Theater in Lancaster, PA, and saw their production, "Jonah." The Theater is well-known for quality performances and usually plays to sold-out audiences.
We had good seats and enjoyed the colorful, musical play showing the story of the famous prophet who was swallowed by a great fish. The most impressive and touching aspect of the story, however, was when Jonah preached a message of repentance to the people of Nineveh -- and they repented. Seeing their repentance actually portrayed by actors on the stage made the whole thing come alive in a way I'd never quite imagined.
Sometimes I read verses on the pages of scripture and fail to imagine the deeper impact of what really happened. When I saw that deeper impact fleshed out on stage, I began to weep. I'd never before actually imagined all those hundred thousand plus people as individuals who so quickly repented of their sins and turned to God. This huge number of people turned to God within a period of less than forty days. To think of that many people who were known for evil hearing the gospel, repenting and turning to God is a miracle of vast proportions.
When I saw individuals on the stage -- men and women from all walks of life -- turning to God in record numbers and in record time, I was overwhelmed. Because, this was not a fairy tale and this was not an exaggeration -- this was what really happened to a vast city of people and those people are in heaven today because of one man who preached the gospel to them. That one man, Jonah, was a reluctant witness, but in the end, he obeyed God and God used him to bring glory to His Holy Name.
Besides the fact that when God touches people's hearts, great revival can occur, it also shows me that God can use anyone to fulfill His will. We don't have to be perfect Christians -- we just have to be obedient Christians to be used to accomplish great things for Christ.
God says, "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice..." 1 Samuel 15:22
Saturday, August 11, 2012
"When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him" Isaiah 59:19
I snapped this photo in North Carolina a week after heavy rains from a hurricane flooded the banks of the adjacent river and inundated the park with several feet of swirling water. This park would host no picnics, ballgames or outdoor weddings for many weeks -- or even months.
We can all expect to encounter floods on the journey of life, but how in the world can you expect to find indwelling joy and peace a Christian is suppose to have in the midst of that flood??
Do you often feel like your life is being flooded with problems? Sometimes it seems like life hands out one blow after another. One problem doesn't get resolved before another problem is nipping at its heels. Sometimes we just feel like we're drowning.
My 93-year-old mother fell two years ago while working in her yard and broke a hip. Her life is not now nor will it ever be the same again. She feels as if a flood has crushed life as she knew it. Each day is a struggle for her and she is not a happy camper. How can she be expected to have joy in the final stages of her journey when she can barely navigate her walker and her failing memory is a constant worry to her?
Flood waters can be devastating. They can ruin homes and vehicles and cause loss of life. Flood waters can also be beneficial -- as in the annual flooding of the Nile River and its spread of rich soil into nearby fields and the flooding of deserts resulting in miles of lush green and colorful flowers.
Even though my own life has been only mildly dampened by recent problems, difficulties flooding the lives of family and friends (and don't forget the swirl of pandemonium flooding the entire world) have splashed over me to such an extent I'm sometimes gasping for breath and looking around for a boat to lift me from the rising tide as well. How can I cultivate an attitude of peace and joy when I'm surrounded by waves of suffering?
In her book, "Jesus Calling," Sarah Young writes as if God is speaking to us, saying: "Though many things feel random and wrong, remember that I am sovereign over everything. I can fit everything into a pattern for good, but only to the extent that you trust Me. Every problem can teach you something, transforming you little by little into the masterpiece I created you to be."
Numerous scriptures remind us that God is the ultimate Life Guard and His purpose for allowing flood waters in our lives is not to stand back and watch us drown. Nor does He want us to flail about in the rising depths, sputtering and gasping for breath in defeat. He longs for us to rest in Him -- trusting Him to keep us afloat and bring us to the safety of dry land. "...He drew me out of many waters...the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me" Psalm 18:16, 19
I'll be the first to admit I don't have all the answers to cultivating peace and joy when our journey takes us through the flood. But, the sovereign God who created you and me and every inch of floodwater has a plan for every soggy minute we must endure before we're back on dry land. I won't pretend it's easy -- in fact, you can be sure it is often unbelievably hard, but God does have a plan and, believe it or not, getting wet now and then is the best way to grow fruit for His glory. Let Him splash joy and peace into your life in His way and His time.
"Shout with joy to God, all the earth! Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious! Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power...' He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot...For you, O God, tested us; you refined us like silver...we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance...God has surely listened and heard my voice in prayer. Praise be to God" from Psalm 66.
Thursday, August 2, 2012
"And the world is passing away, and the lust of it;
but he who does the will of God abides forever" 1 John 2:17
Here's the view from a window at our timeshare in New Bern, North Carolina, where we stayed a couple years ago. As I gaze across the lake's surface, it's still smoothness is much like a mirror, reflecting every tree, building and blade of grass. Slight movements of wind cause the reflected scene to pulse with life. It has a surreal appearance -- sort of like a second reality that mirrors the first. You almost wonder -- what is real and what is the reflection?
In some ways, the impermanence of the world we live in is like the reflected scene captured in the water's surface. It looks so real yet, it's not substantial or lasting, it's easily marred and not something to be counted on to last. The real scene above the reflection is solid, lasting, something to be counted on -- like heaven.
This then is a "picture" of heaven and earth. While we are living in this world and consider it to be so solid and real, it's merely a reflection of the greater reality which awaits us in heaven. While the world as we know it is easily marred and not something to be counted on to last, Heaven is solid and real and eternal.
One of the really strange things with the picture I've described is that the world-system would have us believe the very opposite of the reality I've just stated. The world-system, i.e. Satan and his cohorts, would have us believe that Heaven is the ethereal, non-substantial place and that the world is the solid, earth under your feet reality to be counted upon.
You may be sure that Satan wants you to live in the Reflection. He wants your hopes and dreams and all your work to be poured into something that is as impermanent as a reflection on the water's surface.
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him" 1 John 2:15