Wednesday, January 21, 2015

God Revealed



Dear Christa—

There comes a time of testing in every life, and Abraham was no exception. But, this isn’t really a story about Abraham. It’s a story about God.

God told Abraham to take his son, the promised son, and sacrifice him.

To our world and culture, this seems crazy, and we wonder who in their right mind would even consider such a thing—even for God.

But, for the world and times in which Abraham lived, this did not seem strange. Common was the sacrifice of babies to the demon gods of the surrounding cultures. Babies, so many babies, sacrificed to Ishtar and Baal. Rare is the ancient culture where there is not evidence of human sacrifice.

So, Abraham gathered his son and the necessary articles needed for such a task and started out to the place where the deed would be done.

But, this is not a story about Abraham. This is a story about God—real God.

We admire Abraham for following such a request. We admire Isaac for his part in the situation. Their faith was great, but this is not a story about them. It is a story about God—a God far different from the demon gods, who required human sacrifices.

Just as Abraham raised his hand to slay Isaac, God sent an angel at that moment to stay his hand. And as Abraham lifted his eyes, he saw a ram in the thicket. God had indeed provided his own sacrifice, just as Abraham had believed.

And this act of God’s separates him from all the false ones of Abraham’s day.

God was not like the false gods. God never required a human sacrifice. Here is knowledge that a mere human sacrifice would not appease him. He was not that kind of God.

God would provide his own sacrifice in his own time, in his own way. He would sacrifice himself.

Today, the very thought of sacrificing our children is appalling, and it should be.

We do not serve that kind of God. He is not like the others.

—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, January 3, 2015

For Lot's Sake

Dear Christa—
God chose Abraham. And when God revealed himself as the one true God, Abraham chose God. A covenant was made, and from that time on, God had a relationship with Abraham that was significant.
The rest of the world seemed to be about doing their own things, worshiping their own gods—the fake ones—the ones that really placed the focus on people and their selfishness. But, it didn’t change that the world was still the creation of the One, True God. And, he was aware and took action within his world.
There came a time that God decided to bring judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, but before he did, he told Abraham of his intention. And Abraham’s reaction is where the story gets interesting.
As Abraham walked with God and learned of his intentions, his thoughts bent toward Lot, his own flesh and blood. Lot had been foolish in many ways, thinking he could mix the ways of the world and the ways of God. People of Sodom knew him, but they did not listen to him.
So, as Abraham walked with God, he inquired of the Lord if he would destroy the righteous with the unrighteous. Realizing he was pressing God, very God, he still pleaded for the salvation of his kinsman. Would God destroy it for the sake of 50 to 10, he asked. I notice in what way he asked his petition—honoring, yet pushing, for so great was his love for Lot. And, God promised he would not destroy it for the sake of 10 righteous people. Surely in the cities of the plains, there were 10 righteous people, but there were not.
Yet, as the angels pushed Lot and his family on their way, they told Lot they could not do what they’d come to do until he was gone. God would stay his hand for even this one wayward man. It appears he did it for the sake of Abraham.
What if I loved as great as Abraham? What if I boldly asked for too much, for beyond reason, for the undeserving? Are we not all undeserving?
What if I believed in God to that extent?
What if I expected God to act to that extent?
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Joy


Dear Christa—
Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, clicked the heels of her ruby red slippers and said, “There’s no place like home.”
As I pulled off my boot last night, out tumbled the puzzle piece that Jay and I had searched through 999 puzzle pieces to find.
Often, what we seek most is what we’ve already put our feet into.
As Mark preached on joy yesterday morning, it seemed to me that it really just shakes out to one word—contentment.
Why is it so easy to search for joy in all the wrong places?
We tend to think it lies across the street or in the next county or country. If only we had a different job, a different house, a different body, a different spouse—when all along we are dissatisfied with the choices we have made and the path God has planted us on.
Years ago I read a book titled Happiness is a Choice. I read it at a time that was very difficult. I didn’t have a job; there wasn’t enough money; and relationships were tense. All these years later, I don’t remember the specifics inside the cover, but I’ve always remembered the title.
Joy is not found in jobs, houses, money, or people. Mel has said that the happiest people she has ever known were the orphan children she met in the Dominican Republic on a missions trip with Heidi.
As Mark said yesterday, “When you pursue your own joy, you lose it.” And, “Abiding in Jesus is the restoration of fulfillment and fruitfulness.”
Real joy is found in a Savior who is only a breath away. I’m praying for a specific person to find Him this Christmas season. I’m praying she’ll look at her feet and discover that she has been standing in joy all along.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Monday, December 22, 2014

Things Forgotten


Dear Christa—
Chris said we’d been there once. I didn’t remember. I don’t remember seeing that at all. I think there are a lot of things that I intended to remember, but I don’t.
I intended to remember so many things. I wanted most to remember the most important things, but I think the daily things got in the way, and somehow when I was cooking dinner, doing the laundry, and cleaning house, I forgot or downright missed some of the important things.
I wonder if Mary, the mother of Jesus, ever did that. Did she get so busy with the other children, the regular doings of mothers, the interruptions that she laid aside the incarnation. Oh, she would never forget the angel, the wise men, the trip to Egypt; but as they settled in to daily life in Nazareth, did life overshadow the important things?
When he was 12, she didn’t notice his absence as they left Jerusalem. I doubt she was used to his having to be looked out for. When she and Joseph turned back, they found him in the temple, and he reminded her. He reminded her of the important thing—that he was the Son of God. Mary scolded him for not being with the others. She probably wondered what he’d eaten and where he’d slept. Did she notice that he was explaining the Scripture to the leaders?
Submitting, he followed them back to Nazareth, for it wasn’t his time. As she walked the dusty road, did she once again ponder the things of his birth? Did she begin to watch him now, like mothers watch and wonder about the future?
The daily robs us of the significant. There is so much that I didn’t want to forget, but I know that I have. Sometimes, it surprises me.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Spirit

Dear Christa—
Sometimes it’s hard to be in the Christmas spirit. I’ve heard it, I’ve read it on Face Book, I’ve felt it myself. The Christmas spirit—I wonder what that is, exactly…
Angels were singing. Wisemen were gazing at a star. Mary, like most new mothers, searched the face of a newborn child.
But, for most of the world, this day was like any other day. Rulers ruled. Workers worked. Priests—well, they did what priests do. Most people lived totally unaware that this was one of the greatest days in history.
I suppose it does have to do with awareness.
Maybe the Christmas spirit isn’t the clicking of glasses, the elation of music and presents. Maybe it isn’t even the smell of hot chocolate, the cookies, and pie. It isn’t at all what is or what isn’t under the tree. The handmade ornaments of small hands, the memories, or even the calm of late night.
Maybe it isn’t even the face of those you love best, or don’t love at all.
Just maybe the Christmas spirit is pondering the Light of the World and staring—and accepting—the Christ who touched the earth with his holy purpose. And because of his purpose, we have purpose—you and I.
Stare into his face because he’s staring at you—loving you.
Slip your heart in his and walk with him, trust in him.
It might be different from how many think of the Christmas spirit, but you will have it.
To give yourself to Jesus is the greatest day in your history.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Rocky Road


Dear Christa—

The saying in the fortune cookie said, “The road to glory will be rocky but fulfilling.” I laughed out loud, though there wasn’t anyone around to hear me. If there is one thing I’ve noticed as I get older it’s that there are rocky places for each of us. Rare are the days that there aren’t waves to rock our boat.
Now, is the advent season, when we wish we would take time—real serious time—to focus on the incarnation of Jesus, our Savior. So many things keep us distracted, but at least, let’s start out pondering the mysteries and incredulousness of those days so far removed from the here and now.
In a small village, not one to really even notice on the map of the world at that time, lived a man, a carpenter. Trained as a typical Jewish man of his day, I imagine him as an ordinary guy that any of us might know. Engaged to Mary, he probably thought things were looking up for him.
And they were…
Just not in the way he was anticipating.
There’s blessing in not looking too far ahead. Sometimes I think people plan too much today. Seniors, who don’t know what they want to do forever and ever, fret over the approaching graduation that’s a mere semester away. Yet, sometimes, all we need to do is to take the next step.
If Joseph and Mary’s world was going to be rocky, think about Jesus—stuck in human flesh. What happens when the Potter turns to clay? Did 33 years seem long or short for the Creator who’d never experienced time and space limitations? I don’t know.
Mary, bewildered, went to visit Elizabeth. Joseph, heartsick, decided to quietly end the engagement. On the edge of utter spectacular, the two people most affected in all the world probably spent many hours pondering where their road to glory would lead. We know the end of the story. We know that it was often rocky. We doubt they looked too far ahead because no one could imagine what was really going to take place.
The only truly important thing today is to know we’re on the road to Glory. Some days will be rocky. Some will be fulfilling. Today, I want to remember I can be on the road to Glory because Jesus left Glory. God Himself wrapped in a young woman’s womb. 
Amazing, unbelievable—when the Creator became the created.
—the parishioner who doesn’t do anything

Friday, November 28, 2014

Genesis to Now: Faith or Fear

Dear Christa—
All of Colorado went East this year for Thanksgiving. And, all of them were going fast. I know because they all passed me going across Kansas yesterday. Maybe they had farther to go than I did, or maybe they all got a later start, which is doubtful.
As I cruised at exactly 75 mph, I couldn’t help but think of the post Stefanie had put up of four-year-old Timber as the the boys were trying to retrieve a toy from under the couch: "The hammer was too short, the light saber was too long, and the wrench was too medium to reach it."

Why is life too often preceded by a “too”?
For Lot and Abram in Genesis, their flocks were too large for a land that was too small to handle them. So, Abram brought up the inevitable: they had to separate. He appears so generous when he offers Lot the choice of which way to go. Maybe it didn’t much matter to him where he was headed because he believed that God would be with him regardless where his flocks roamed.
It’s hard to just rest in God when we’re besought by “too.” But, Abram did.
Lot did not. He lifted his eyes and chose what he thought was the best for himself. In reality, he was not choosing the best after all. In the end he lost it all. The last we hear of Lot, he’s hiding in a cave, fearing the God who had saved him from destruction.
Whether we’re traveling too fast, too slow, or the rare occasion of too medium, we face a choice: we can either fear God or trust Him.