Monday, January 31, 2011

Awaiting the Eagles

"Where is heaven?" Silas asked at breakfast today.
"Heaven is where God is," I answered. "I don't know how to tell you where it is. But it is where God is."
"Is Jesus in heaven?"
"Yes, He is."
"How can I get to heaven?" he asked.
"It is Jesus's job to take us there."
"I think Jesus will send His eagles to come and get us, and they will take us to heaven," he assured me.
"Um, Jeff -- we've got a little Lord of the Rings theology going on here."

Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Send Relief

"And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.
Then one of them stood up and showed by the Spirit
that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world...
Then the disciples, each according to his own ability,
determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.
This they also did, and sent it to the elders
by the hands of Barnabas and Saul."
~Acts 11:27-30

I read this with my kids the other day. This is contrary to the 'wisdom' your financial planner might offer. Being responsible means providing for yourself, you know. Having a retirement. Planning ahead for emergencies, and not ever allowing a famine to interrupt your prosperity. The predicted famine was not only going to affect those in Judea. It was going to affect Antioch. But the response of the Antioch Christians to this news was to give away their own sustenance.

I heard conventional financial wisdom summed up the other day: Get all you can, and can all you get.
But Jesus said, "They will know you are Christians by your love."

"There is one who scatters, yet increases more;
and there is one who withholds more than is right,
but it leads to poverty.
The generous soul will be made rich,
and he who waters will also be watered himself."
~Proverbs 11:24,25

"He who trusts in his riches will fall,
but the righteous will flourish like foliage."
~Proverbs 11:28

Trusting in riches is such a snare. It comes in wearing the clothes of 'wisdom': "It wouldn't be wise to spend money right now. I don't have enough myself." But quite often, it's the soul grasping at an anchor that cannot hold.

My heart and mind fight this battle sometimes every moment. I often have to say to myself:
"Some trust in chariots, and some trust in horses.
But I will trust in the name of the Lord my God."
Sometimes I change the words:
some trust in bank accounts, and some trust in paychecks -- 
but I will trust in the name of the Lord my God.

And I reason with myself regularly: if God can't save me with less than what I have, He also can't save me with what I have. If He isn't worth trusting, my money is even less worthy of that trust. Sometimes no one knows the battle I just fought. Maybe it's been going on for days, but I feel such a sense of relief when I decide, "I will trust the Lord." And I pray, "Lord, You see the choice I'm making here. You know what I need. Please take care of me."

I have many times heard the believers in Jerusalem faulted because they tried out 'Christian communism', and failed. Did they fail? Or did they make a conscious choice to trust Him with their upkeep? They had many widows among them, and those who had something gave what they had. They cast their bread on the waters, so to speak, and after many days, the Lord sent it back to them by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. 'He who waters will be watered himself.'

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

A City For Them

Speaking of Israel, the Lord said,
"They shall come trembling like a bird from Egypt,
like a dove from the land of Assyria.
And I will let them dwell in their houses," says the Lord.
~Hosea 11:11

"These all died in faith, not having received the promises,
but having seen them afar off
were assured of them, embraced them
and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland.
And truly if they had called to mind that country
from which they had come out,
they would have had opportunity to return.
But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.
Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God,
for He has prepared a city for them."
~Hebrews 11:13-16

David said:
"Hear my prayer, O Lord, and give ear to my cry;
do not be silent at my tears;
for I am a stranger with You,
a sojourner, as all my fathers were."
~Psalm 39:12

"Therefore let us go forth to Him, outside the camp, bearing His reproach.
For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come."
~Hebrews 13:13,14

"Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem,
coming down out of heaven from God,
prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying,
'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men,
and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people.
God Himself will be with them and be their God.
And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes;
there shall be no more death,
nor sorrow,
nor crying.
There shall be no more pain,
for the former things have passed away."

~Revelation 21:2-4

I've been reading American revolutionary history with my children. It stirs our blood. Freedom from tyranny is such nobility. I'm a patriot, myself. I love my country. I've heard about 'The American Dream' my whole life. The American dream is the dream of a home and a homeland. Of the freedom to build and be without the stifling tyrant of an overlord exacting his due like a mobster. The freedom to pursue happiness, to be left alone to live in liberty.

How can anyone oppose that? Watching the dismantling of our foundations bothers me immensely. It grieves my heart. I read the Hosea verse this morning and found myself sighing at the promise He gave them: I will let them dwell in their houses. Vineyards, crops, a safe home. Oh, the simple bliss.

I went looking for the Hebrews passage about those who wandered as strangers because they were seeking a homeland, and how the Lord has prepared a city for them. My Bible cross-referenced me over to the Psalms passage. It leaps off the page that it was sobbed out to the Lord. Tears, human heritage, and not being at home here...

Back to Hebrews. 'Here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come.' Here, we have no continuing city. America, 'the last best hope of man on earth', is not a continuing city. Not a heavenly homeland. Not 'the one to come'. As sad as it is to see it decline-- our freedoms eroded, our foundations crumbling, I have citizenship in something better. Full citizenship. With dignity, and a home to dwell in, and gardening to do without weeds. Fellowship with my neighbors, my family all around me, and God living with us.

And, oh! John's vision.
He shall dwell with them.
They shall be His people.
He will be their God.
He shall wipe away every tear.
No more death.
No more sorrow.
No more crying.
No more pain.

Not only does He live with us, and comfort us for the pain and sorrow and death we've come out of, He sends it packing. No more walking around with death sitting on our hearts, with sorrow strangling our lungs, with tears leaking out when we get a chance to be still. It isn't just the tears He wipes away. He wipes out every reason for them. No secret misery to try to smile through. And no more pain. The former things have all passed away. I'm looking forward to pain and sorrow and death and crying being a 'former thing'.

O Lord, You know our longing for homes: to be settled in peace and security. We long to have a true homeland -- one where our citizenship is full. Where we can live in real safety, dwelling in our homes, planting our gardens, in harmony with every neighbor. Without drama, in full fellowship, with the government on the shoulders of Jesus. Thank You for Your promises. Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

With the Lord

I just read a little more sickening national history. Beastly. I am so disturbed. So I think about this:

"For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout,
with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God.
And the dead in Christ will rise first.
Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up
together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.
And thus we shall always be with the Lord.
Therefore comfort one another with these words."

~ 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17

Thus we shall always be with the Lord. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Catch us up. Meet us. Be with us. The reign of beasts has gone on long enough.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Like the Rain

"Let us know,
Let us pursue the knowledge of the Lord.
His going forth is established as the morning;
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth."
~Hosea 6:3

And don't we need Him like the earth needs the rain? The Lord's coming is described here as 'like the morning', and 'like the rain'. Both things men long for in this world. We long for morning to break, for daylight to come. And we long for rain.

My husband and I got to visit Israel almost a year ago. One of the first things our guide explained to us was their desperate need for rain. It was supposed to be the rainy season, but the rains had not fallen. It was hot, and dry, and everywhere we went, we had to make an effort to bring water. Without water, nothing lives.

Come to us, Lord, as the rain.
Rise on us like the morning.

Monday, January 17, 2011

At This Time

"The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham and said to him,
'Get out of your country and from your relatives,
and come to a land that I will show you.'
He moved to this land and God gave him no inheritance in it,
not even enough to set his foot on.
But even when Abraham had no child,
He promised to give it to him for a possession,
and to his descendants after him.
So Jacob went down to Egypt; and he died, he and all our fathers.
But when the time of the promise drew near which God had sworn to Abraham,
the people grew and multiplied in Egypt
till another king arose who did not know Joseph.
This man dealt treacherously with our people,
and oppressed our forefathers,
making them expose their babies, so that they might not live.
At this time Moses was born, and was well-pleasing to God."

~ From Acts 7

God asked Abraham: 'Come, follow Me.' And Abraham followed. A promise was given to Abraham, which Abraham believed (although at the time of the promise, Abraham did not even possess the means to receive the promise). He received no inheritance. Abraham's grandchildren and great-grandchildren had to flee their 'possession', which as yet was still not theirs, in order to get enough food to eat. They entered Egypt as guests, and stayed there over four hundred years.

But a king arose without any respect for Joseph. He did not know him. And Israel suffered. If I had been among them in these days, I would have brooded over the national decline. The loss of civil liberties. The horrible oppression. Surely God had forgotten them: it can't be His will that they be oppressed.

At this time Moses was born. The time of decline. The time of misery. The time of babies left to die. The time of beatings and forced labor. Do you ever wish you were born for another time? I do. Constantly. I don't like this time in history. I long for quietness and peace and security.

But it says that Moses was well-pleasing to God at this time. In this hour of treacherous oppression.

And before that, it said:
"When the time of the promise drew near
a king arose who did not know Joseph."

I am reminded of something Jesus said.
He described a whole lot of terror coming upon the world.
But then to His disciples He said,
"When you see all these things beginning, look up.
Your redemption draws near."

Look up.
Here at this time -- the time in which you are born, please Him well.
At this time.
In this treacherous hour.
The time of the promise draws near.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

And Doesn't Regret

I was having a conversation today about housekeeping and saving money with some ladies. Tricks and tips to spend less money or less time on certain tasks. It brought out the guilt we all feel over certain housekeeping tasks. You know: not recycling enough; not reusing enough; using paper products instead of cloth, not making your own bread, buying canned goods instead of canning them yourself. (Add your personal housekeeping splurge to that list.)

I admire women who seem instinctively to know how to spend the least amount of money on life. I hate wasting money. But when one lady confessed to years of feeling guilty over buying paper napkins, I started thinking again about my feelings towards some of the 'good stewardship' teaching I have heard over the years. Please don't misunderstand. I like saving money and I happen to use cloth napkins. I think 'being wise' is ideal.

But can I just say this pithy little saying? (Certainly not to condemn frugality, but just to point out that it is not necessarily godliness.)

Here it is: God is not a skinflint.

He is generous,
lavish in His gifts,
gives cheerfully,
heaping blessings and benefits on undeserving people.
And doesn't regret what He paid for it afterward.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

His Baby

 A thought about the prodigal:

He wasted everything he was entitled to by his position in the family. In his mind, he he had forfeited his position in the family. He was 'no longer a son'.

But in his father's mind, when he came home battered, he was his baby, found after a dreadful absence -- needing a bath and some new clothes. His father allowed no separation. He didn't even punish him. It was pure joy and acceptance from Daddy. Not a trial run of sonship (with all the responsibilities, and none of the privileges).

Jesus wants us to know the heart of God. We do not know the heart of God without seeing this in Him. The Father loves His children. He longs for their return. And when they come home, His arms are open.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Only Until

In Daniel 7, Daniel dreamed of a succession of beasts representing all the world-controlling powers of history.

A lion with eagle wings. (Have you watched the YouTube video of an eagle attacking young goats, flinging them off a cliff to kill them? Lions stalking and attacking their prey?)

A bear. (Accounts from the Lewis and Clark expedition of the grizzlies they saw could install the proper view of this stately animal.) A bear to whom they say, "Arise, devour much flesh!"

And a leopard... with bird wings... and four heads. The better to eat you with, my dear. And dominion was given to it.

And the fourth beast, Daniel doesn't even seem able to describe, just to say it was dreadful. Terrible. Exceedingly strong. With huge iron teeth. Devouring. Breaking in pieces. Trampling everything with its feet. Different from the rest, and having ten horns. One of the horns was a loud-mouthed jerk.

While the little horn mouthed off, Daniel watched thrones being set up, and the Ancient of Days took His seat. He watched a courtroom scene, and the Judge sat on a fiery flame of a throne. The books were opened. The little horn still wouldn't shut up. The beast is slain, its body destroyed, and given to the burning flame which came from before Him. All the other beasts were allowed to live, but had their power stripped from them.

"I was watching, and behold, One like the Son of Man,
coming with the clouds of heaven...
To Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away,
and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed."

Humans who control the world are beastly. There's a good reason so many people are anti-government. Governments are always run by people. And people have issues. Power issues. Corruption issues. Murdering-our-enemies issues. If you had to see in advance how world history would play out, you would be grieved in spirit, too. Troubled. Daniel was severely bothered. He asked what it meant.

"Those great beasts, which are four,
are four kings which arise out of the earth.
But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom
and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever."

Reading this today, I noticed that this was what the answer was. Even though Daniel probes for more information about that fourth beast, which so distressed him, the point of this vision is above. All those beastly kingdoms -- they do not remain.

Those governments arise out of the earth. It is amazing to me that of all the things that arise from the earth, a man to be King wasn't one of them. One of the beasts is given a man's heart, but all the kings that arise from the earth are animals. Only the Son of Man will rule as a man.

And the kingdom goes to the saints. Which would not be apparent by studying the details of the fourth beast. Because Daniel says, "the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them." Except that there is no period in the text. It continues: "until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom."

"He shall speak pompous words against the Most High,
shall persecute the saints of the Most High...
then the saints shall be given into his hand for a time...
But the court shall be seated, 
and they shall take away his dominion,
consume and destroy it forever.
Then the kingdom and dominion,
and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven,
shall be given to the people,
the saints of the Most High.
His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
and all dominions shall serve and obey Him."

I hear the Hallelujah chorus in my head every time I read about His dominion. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen.

It is so tempting to only see the dominion of the beast. But that animal is lumped in with all the other world powers by the angel explaining the vision. 'Four kings which arise.' But the saints receive the kingdom. The Son of Man gets it all. The beast is slain in the midst of his boasting. And all that trouble is only until.

And they lived happily ever after.

The end.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Of Keeping Thee Where Thou Art

"Do not say in thine heart that thou wilt or wilt not do,
but wait upon God until He makes known His way.
So long as that way is hidden it is clear that there is no need of action,
and that He accounts Himself responsible for all the results of keeping thee where thou art."

(From Streams in the Desert, October 19th)

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Meditation

"Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Let Israel now say...
Let the house of Aaron now say...
Let those who fear the Lord now say,
'His mercy endures forever.'

I called on the Lord in my distress;
The Lord answered me and set me in a broad place.
The Lord is on my side: I will not fear.
What can man do to me?
The Lord is for me among those who help me;
...It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.

...You pushed me violently, that I might fall,
But the Lord helped me.
The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation.

The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
The right hand of the Lord is exalted; the right hand of the Lord does valiantly.
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.
...He has not given me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness;
I will go through them, and I will praise the Lord.
This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter.

I will praise You, for You have answered me,
And have become my salvation.

The stone which the builders rejected  has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
This is the day the Lord has made; I will be glad and rejoice in it.

Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity.
Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!
We have blessed you from the house of the Lord.
God is the Lord, and He has given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar.
You are my God, and I will praise You.
You are my God, I will exalt You.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever."

~From Psalm 118

My attention was drawn to this psalm this morning as I read Acts 4 to my children. Peter quoted this in answer to the priests and Sadducees when they asked him in what power or by what name he healed a cripple.

Just a couple of verses above Peter's quoted verse, my eyes fell here: "This is the gate of the Lord, through which the righteous shall enter".
Jesus said: "I am the Door. No man comes to the Father but by Me."
The Good Shepherd.
The Door of the sheepfold.
The Way.
The Gate.

Just below that, it says: "I will praise You, for You have answered me, and have become my salvation." Jehovah's salvation.

Afterward, it says: "This was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it."
The day of salvation.
The day of the rejected stone.
The gate by which the righteous enter.
This was the Lord's doing.

"Save now."
They said that, didn't they?
"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!"
Jehovah is salvation.
He has become our salvation.
He came in the name of the Lord.

"God is the Lord, and He has given us light."
"I am the Light of the world."

"Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar."
"This is My body, which is broken for you..."
Behold, the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

The Lord is for us, among those who help us! In our distress, He answers us. He answered us with this salvation. I am set in a broad place. I am set in Christ. The Lord is on my side.

"It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man."
That is the central verse of the entire Bible. That is the central message of the entire Bible. Put your trust in the Lord. His right hand has done valiantly, and is exalted. Jesus Christ is at the right hand of  the Father.
He has done valiantly.
He has accomplished salvation.
He has become our salvation, and ever lives to make intercession for us.
That means He goes between us and God. He envelopes us in Himself, and stands for us.

We were pushed violently, that we might fall.
But the Lord helped us. He has become our salvation.

That's why the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tents of the righteous.
We shall not die, but live.
He has not given us over to death.
Walk through the gate of the Lord, the gate of righteousness.
He has become your salvation.

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
For His mercy endures forever.

Thank You, Jesus.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

And Light Dwells With Him

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever,
for wisdom and might are His.
And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings
and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
and knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
and light dwells with Him."

~Daniel 2:20-22