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Archive for the ‘God’s Salvation’ Category

Cookie Ingredients Bake Cookies Christmas Time Bake

 

Lena was baking Christmas cookies when she realized her wedding ring was missing.

The family searched everywhere. No ring. Lena, of course, was heartsick. She had designed the ring herself—a band of white gold with seven small diamonds.

Years later when they renovated the kitchen and took up the old floor tile, the family again searched carefully. Still no ring.

One morning Lena was harvesting carrots from her garden when she pulled up a surprise. The carrot in her hand wore her wedding ring.

Lena surmised the ring had fallen into a pile of vegetable peelings in the kitchen sink and become part of their compost heap—sixteen years previously.

 

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_________________________

 

Petunia, an American Staffordshire terrier, somehow escaped her family’s Virginia farm in 2003. In spite of a vigilant search, they were not able to find their pet.

Imagine the family’s surprise, eight years later, to receive a phone call that their dog had been located. The woman who found Petunia took her to a vet who scanned her microchip and discovered the address of Petunia’s family. However, getting her home was a bit complicated. Petunia had wandered 3,000 miles—all the way to California.

 

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(Petunia)

 

_________________________

 

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(A scenic spot in Mark Twain National Forest)

 

In early May of 2009, three-year old Joshua Childers decided to take a hike in Mark Twain National Forest, not far from his home in southeastern Missouri. He was wearing sneakers, a T-shirt, and a pull-up diaper. It wasn’t long before Joshua was lost.

Joshua’s family notified authorities and for 52 heart-in-the-throat hours dozens of searchers combed through the underbrush, worried every moment the toddler would succumb to exposure in the wet and chilly weather, fall over a cliff or into a creek, or be attacked by mountain lion, bear, or snake. There were so many dangers to which a three-year old would be susceptible. And, of course, he had no food or water.

 

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(Southern Copperhead, one of five poisonous species in Missouri.)

 

After two days, searchers were beginning to lose hope of finding the boy alive. Finally one of the volunteers spotted Joshua huddled in a hollow near a creek bed. He wasn’t moving. The volunteer feared the worst but called out to the boy. Joshua sat up and grinned.

 

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Such stories receive much attention on social media, some even make it to the national news. Everybody loves a lost-and-found story. We find them satisfying, uplifting, and even resonating deep within our souls.

Why is that?

First, the impact of such stories is magnified by the importance of the lost items. If Lena’s ring had been costume jewelry, if Petunia had been a plastic toy dog or Joshua had been a doll, we would hardly react.

Second, we marvel at the odds. A ring found on a carrot? A dog found 3,000 miles away from home? A toddler found unharmed in a damp and chilly forest after 52 hours? The feel-good endorphins kick in when we hear such news.

Jesus told his own lost-and-found stories: the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son.

 

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(The Prodigal Son by Charles Joseph Lecointe)

 

The sheep was lost because he foolishly left the watchful care of the shepherd and went his own way. The coin was lost through no fault of its own. And the prodigal son willfully lost his way in life through self-centered pursuits.

Each story illustrates: It doesn’t matter to God how we got lost; every one of us is important to him. He longs to restore us to the place where we belong: in his care and keeping.

And that brings us to the third reason we like lost-and-found stories.

We were programmed to be found, and to experience a happy ending—at home in heaven—where we’ll find secure safety, joy beyond imagination, and everlasting peace.

 

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(“Our hearts were made for you, O Lord,

and they are restless until they rest in you”

–St. Augustine.)

 

That’s why Jesus came—to find each of us and restore us to our Heavenly Father, because we were lost (Luke 19:10). And just like Lena who polished her soil-encrusted wedding band until it shone, Jesus makes us new, shining like stars (Philippians 2:15).

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

I praise you, O God, that my soul has found rest in you. You are my rock of stability and fortress of protection; You are my salvation from all that would destroy me (Psalm 62:1-2).

“And should I wander off like a lost sheep—seek me! I’ll recognize the sound of your voice” (Psalm 119:176, MSG).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.littlethings.com; http://www.motleydogs.com; http://www.fs.usda.gov; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.wikimediacommons.org; http://www.pinterest.com.

 

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For a number of months, the pastoral staff of our church has been preaching from the gospel of Mark. Yesterday the text was chapter fifteen, the account of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion.

Pastor C. graphically described the flogging, the nailing of limbs to the cross, and the slow death by asphyxiation so we might better grasp the appalling circumstances of Jesus’ death and appreciate, at least in part, the supreme sacrifice he endured for us. Tears kept burning my eyes as I contemplated Jesus’ physical pain and emotional suffering—for me.

 

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Next Sunday, the sermon text will come from chapter sixteen of the same gospel—the description of astounding events surrounding Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, his escape from a sealed tomb, and his sudden appearance to a group of men in a locked room.  (Further details are described in the other gospels.) The wonder and splendor are in sharp contrast to the preceding horror.

 

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Now according to the traditional church calendar, such sermons in November are terribly out of sync. Usually we save the sobering remembrances of Christ’s crucifixion for Lent. And it’s Easter morning we celebrate “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” with euphoric joy.

But my husband, Steve, noted after church, “It might seem strange to some people that we’d focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection at this time of year, but actually, I see it as the perfect time. Next week is Thanksgiving Sunday.   And of all the things we have to be thankful for, nothing is more precious than Christ’s sacrifice in our place and his gift of eternal life.”

 

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So true, I thought and nodded in agreement. How dreadful my life would be if Jesus had not taken my sin upon himself and provided the God-enhanced life I’ve enjoyed all these years.

 

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“I also find it fascinating,” Steve continued, “that Mark fifteen would just happen to be the text for today. Pastor C. couldn’t have known months ago when he planned this series that a lot of people would be distraught and even angry about the presidential election. Other issues have folks divided too—from racial tension on the national level to family concerns on the personal level.

“But there is one central fact that should overshadow everything else and help us keep a proper perspective: Jesus’ death and resurrection and all the incredible implications.”

 

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Smart man, that Steve.

The crux* of our lives is the cross, because it put on display the wondrous love of our God and Savior (John 3:16) and his omnipotent power over sin and death (1 Corinthians 1:18).  All matters of our day-to-day lives are secondary — including disappointments, irritations, and frustrations.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Oh, Jesus, keep me mindful it was my sin you took upon yourself that dark Friday. Every selfish deed, every outburst of anger or hurtfulness, every unkind, impure, or prideful thought—you paid the price.

That price included torn flesh, spilled blood, and excruciating pain beyond my ability to imagine. Yet such unthinkable suffering resulted in hope and healing for me.

Remind me to let go of  petty irritations, and prideful self-centeredness, to live instead in continual gratitude, awe, and celebration of you, precious Savior!

 

 *In Latin, crux means cross.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.christiannews.com; http://www.desktopnexus.com; http://www.pinterest (2); http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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You, oh God, are resplendent with light

As if full of fire—

Blazing with power, dazzling in majesty,

Shimmering in an aura of glory (1).

 

You are the Father of lights

the Creator of sun, moon, and stars.

From the moment You spoke them into being,

the heavenly lights have never ceased to shine (2).

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Neither has your Light of Goodness

Ceased to shine upon your people.

You are loving and patient, generous and gracious,

Always seeking the brightest, highest good (3).

 

You are the Light of my Salvation,

Showing me the way to heaven through your Son, Jesus,

Guiding me home through the twists and turns of life,

The dark shadows of uncertainty and fear (4).

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You are the Light of Life,

Providing Son-lit days of peace, joy, and contentment

As I avail myself of your calming presence,

And celebrate your gifts (5).

 

You are the Light of Truth,

Who graciously shares his omniscient wisdom with his people.

Through your Word you expose falsehoods and evil.

You show me the best way to live—side by side with You (6).

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You are the Light of Holiness

Pure and perfect, completely separate from all else in the universe.

Through Jesus you already see me as perfect,

Yet day by day you are molding me to be holy, like you (7).

 

You are the Light of Blessing,

Making your face shine upon me

With grace, mercy, and compassion,

Lovingly exercising your power for my benefit (8).

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You provide the Light of the Knowledge of the Glory of God.

I find it when I seek your Son, Jesus.

His earthly life gives me a glimpse of your glory in human form–

A form I can more easily understand (9).

 

And now, you have made me a Child of the Light,

Called to reflect your glory to others,

Shining brighter, I pray, as the years pass,

Till the full light of day–inside heaven’s gates (10).

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I praise you, oh God, that your Light shattered the darkness

Of evil that first Easter morning—and for all time.

I praise you for the privilege of living in that Light,

Now and into eternity!

 

  1.  Psalm 76:4; Ezekiel 1:28
  2. James 1:17
  3. Psalm 89:15, 34:8-9
  4. Psalm 27:1; 23:4
  5. John 8:12, 14:27; Psalm 16:11; Hebrews 13:5
  6. Psalm 43:3; 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; Ecclesiastes 2:13
  7. Isaiah 5:20; Romans 13:12
  8. Numbers 6:24-26
  9. 2 Corinthians 4:6
  10. Philippians 2:15-16; Ephesians 5:13; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Proverbs 4:18

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Say the word, “blessing,” and what immediately comes to mind?

For me, it’s happy events and lovely gifts, engineered or bestowed by God out of his loving kindness.

But James, the brother of Jesus, saw a different side of blessing: “Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides” (James 1:2, MSG, italics added).

Tests and challenges as gifts?! Sounds a bit daft—until we consider:

 

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Take, for example…

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF WANT

Do you wish you had a bigger house? A newer car? Better furniture? Consider yourself blessed, that you’re not like King Solomon–the wealthiest person who ever lived. For all his striving to achieve and accumulate, Solomon discovered that when every desire is gratified, the end result is nothing but meaningless smoke (Ecclesiastes 1:2, MSG).

The blessing of want protects us from the pit of depression caused by self-indulgence.

The blessing of want fosters contentment, as we learn to enjoy and be grateful for what we already have.

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF DIFFICULTY

Difficulties provide a surprising number of positive opportunities. Here are ten:

  • To press in closer to God and trust him more completely.
  • To experience the adventure of God’s sufficiency (Philippians 4:13) as he enables us to endure—in ways we never thought possible.

 

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  • To see how God will bring beauty out of ashes (Isaiah 61:3).
  • To discover more of who God is.
  • To witness the fulfillment of his never-failing promises.
  • To present a sacrifice of praise to God, beginning with the affirmation that he has our best interests at heart—in spite of what we see.
  • To be prepared for greater usefulness for God (John 15:2), which fosters greater fulfillment and satisfaction in our spirits.

 

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  • To have a compelling story to share, as encouragement for others. Years ago I heard a speaker say, “With no test there is no testimony.” In the final analysis, I’d rather have the latter. You, too?
  • To become mature, complete, not lacking anything (James 1:4). That doesn’t happen without trials.  As Thomas Carlyle wrote:

 

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(“No pressure, no diamonds.”)

  • To love our Savior more passionately. Josif Trif, a pastor from Romania during the days of Communism, said, “If it weren’t for Communism, I would not have loved our Lord as much. I kissed the cross the Communists gave me” (1).

 

THE CRAZY BLESSING OF FAILURE

If failure served no purpose in our lives, God would not allow it to happen. But since he does, we can know that failure is either for our benefit or for God’s glory—often both.

Failure is the soil from which great success can grow, beginning with a crop of positive character traits, such as perseverance, humility, and greater reliance upon God.

 

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Out of failure comes experience; from experience comes greater wisdom; and wisdom leads to a godly life.

“How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied (Matthew 5:6, ISV)!

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Crazy as it sounds, I want to praise you, Father, for the blessings of challenges and tough times. Thank you for your loving attention that carries me through, transforming me and makes me a better version of myself.  I also praise you for the glorious promise that through trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain–“overwhelming victory is ours through Christ” (Romans 8:37, NLT)!

 

What crazy blessing have you experienced in the crucible of trouble, hardship, disappointment, or pain?  Please join the conversation below!

 

(1) His Imprint, My Expression, Kay Arthur, Harvest House, 1993, p. 135.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.imagesbuddy,com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.izquotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.harvesttotable.com.)

 

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(Based on the story of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11-24)

 

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Eliab plodded to the top of a familiar rise.  Just ahead he could see the flat rooftop of his ancestral home. Eliab’s heart began to drum in his ears, his face grew hot with shame, and sweat trickled down his back. Soon Eliab would face his father.

As he watched his feet take one step after another, thoughts circled around one question:

What would his father say?

Perhaps, “Get out of my sight! I no longer have two sons, only one.”

Perhaps, “Alright, Eliab, you may work in the fields and barn to pay back your debt. You may also sleep in the barn and take your meals with the other hired hands. Such flagrant waste of your inheritance must be recompensed.”

Eliab would soon know the response that would determine his fate.  He looked up once again to check his progress.  A man was running toward him down the road. What would cause him to be in such a hurry?

No sooner had the question formed in his mind than he recognized the bearing of the approaching figure. It was his father. Eliab’s knees grew weak, and not just from hunger. He collapsed to the ground in a heap, tears streaming down his face.

Quick steps approached; strong arms lifted Eliab up and grasped him in a tight embrace. He heard his father cry, “Oh, Eliab!” And together they wept.

 

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Moments passed and Eliab steeled himself for the speech he had prepared during his long journey.

“Father,” he choked, “I’ve sinned against God and I’ve sinned before you. I know I can no longer be considered your son, but…”

Eliab’s father wasn’t even listening. He turned to call out to his servants, “Get a clean set of clothes and new sandals. Bring the family signet ring. Then prepare the grain-fed heifer for roasting.   We are going to have the grandest celebration our village has ever seen! My son that was as good as dead to me is alive again!”

And with that, Eliab, caretaker of pigs, was lavishly honored because his father:

  • Forgave him for being so foolish, squandering his inheritance.
  • Restored his position in the family, symbolized by the specific request of shoes. (Family members wore shoes; slaves did not.)
  • Clothed him in fresh, clean robes.
  • Honored him with the signet ring, a symbol of authority.
  • Loved him, pure and simple.

 

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Now I’ve never been a caretaker of pigs. You probably haven’t been either. But I’ve certainly committed my own foolish acts of selfish rebellion. Maybe you have, too.

And yet, when we throw ourselves on God’s mercy, he

  • Forgives our sins and remembers them no more (Hebrews 8:12).
  • Adopts us into his family, making us his children (John 1:12-13).
  • Clothes us in the righteousness of Jesus (Isaiah 61:10), and God sees us as if we had never sinned (Colossians 1:21-22).
  • Honors us (Psalm 91:15)—with his presence and countless gifts. Someday we’ll receive a crown of glory that will never fade away (1 Peter 5:4).
  • Loves us, pure and simple, for now and always (Jeremiah 31:33).

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*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

How I thank you, Heavenly Father, for taking pity on me, as the father did in the story of the prodigal son.  You redeemed my life from the pig sty.  You forgive my sins–every one of them.  You have more than satisfied me with your goodness and faithful love.  Never do I want to lose the wonder of your love and grace!

(Psalm 103:1-5, 13)

Eliab means “to whom God is Father.”

(Art & photo credits:  www.childrenschapel.org; http://www.ncregister.som; http://www.susaneball.com; http://www.spiritualinspiration.tumblr.com.)

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In a desert land he found him,

in a barren and howling waste.

He shielded him and cared for him;

he guarded him as the apple of his eye

(Deuteronomy 32:10, italics added).

Notice the verbs: found, shielded, cared for, and guarded. Just as God watched over the Hebrew nation in the wilderness, God is surely watchful over each of us. See if these stories trigger memories of your own–when God found, shielded, cared for, and guarded you.

FOUND:

Growing up in a Christian home, I learned about Jesus before taking my first steps. At age four, after hearing the crucifixion story, I asked Jesus to be my Savior and constant Companion. Even as a preschooler, I understood my need for Someone to take the punishment I deserved for my naughtiness, so I could receive God’s gift of eternal life. If Jesus was willing to suffer and die in my place, how could I say, “no?”

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Praise God he seeks after lost sheep—even the little ones (Luke 15:4)!

Where did God find you?

 SHIELDED:

Numerous times over the years I have felt shielded from harm, including serious car accidents.

One time while approaching a stoplight, I hit a rain-slicked patch of city street, with cars in front of me and a bus to the right. My car began to slide and swerve; I started pumping the brakes. But there was no way to stop soon enough and avoid collision with the slowing line of vehicles ahead.

I took a chance and turned a bit to the right, hoping beyond hope there would be enough room for me to squeeze ahead of the bus, where the lane was open. Surely God intervened and created the needed space. (I think he also alerted the bus driver to apply his brakes and leave room for me!) My car did come to a safe stop, with room to spare.

God has shielded me in other important ways, too. He’s protected me from life-choices that would have led me down treacherous paths. He’s saved me from unhealthy relationships.

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Praise God he is our shield! We can trust in him, and receive the help we need (Psalm 28:7).

How has God shielded you?

CARED FOR:

I couldn’t find the dental insurance form I needed to drop off at Dr. H.’s office. Jeremy (our younger son and a middle schooler at the time) assisted me in a thorough search.  No form. While out on my walk, it suddenly occurred to me the form may have been gathered up with the newspaper. Sure enough, that’s where it was. Being Wednesday, those papers—and the dental form—should have been long gone in the recycling truck, but Jeremy was saving newsprint for his art teacher. God not only revealed to me the location of that form, but kept it safe, saving me the hassle of getting a new one and filling it all out again.

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Praise God for his loving attention, even in small matters like dental forms (1 Peter 5:7)!

How has God cared for you?

GUARDED:

One spring day in 1985, an elderly gentleman hit the gas pedal instead of the brake, at the stop sign on our corner. He drove his station wagon right through the garage wall. Several feet more to the right and he would have plowed into our daughter’s room, and she was playing there at the time. The driver was protected, too, sustaining only minor injuries.

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Praise God he guards us like an eagle, hovering over its young (Deuteronomy 32:11).

How has God guarded you?

THE APPLE OF HIS EYE:

The last phrase of Deuteronomy 32:10 explains why God is so attentive to his people. We are the apple of his eye. Some translations replace apple with pupil. God protects us as the pupil of his eye.

Just as our eyesight is precious to us, so we are precious to God.

As we’re careful to provide protective care for our eyes, shielding them from danger, for example, so God provides loving, protective care of us.

May we continually praise our God for all he is to us. First, he found us, and then became our attentive Shield, Provider, and Guard.

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(“You make me glad by your deeds, O Lord; I sing for joy at the works of your hands” — Psalm 92:4.)

 In the Comments below, please share your personal stories of how God found you, or how he has proved himself as your Shield, Provider, and Guard. Let’s celebrate together God’s powerful deeds on our behalf!

(Art and photo credits:  www.biblewalks.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.com; http://www.imagefriend.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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SunsRays

The exhibition of God’s glory

and the deepest joy of human souls

are one thing.

–Jonathan Edwards

(1703-1758, preacher, theologian, author)

 

Wooh—that’s a mouthful! I have to break that down into smaller bites.

God’s glory includes his splendor and majesty, infinite power and wisdom, creative genius and perfect engineering, absolute holiness and righteousness, and much more. God’s glory is, in part, the sum of his glorious attributes.

The exhibition of God’s glory is all around us in creation, and visible to all people (Isaiah 6:3, Psalm 97:6).

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But more profound:  God’s glory is made known to us in our hearts—to those who have asked Jesus to save us from the ultimate consequence of our sin, and to become Master of our destinies (2 Corinthians 4:6).

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How incredible that we can experience God’s glory here and now, although in a limited way. And how wonderful that the deepest joy of humans souls is a result of knowing him now—not just when we get to heaven.

Someday, though, we will witness the full revelation of his splendor, and that of his Son, Jesus. It’s beyond our wildest imaginings (1 Corinthians 2:9).

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Scripture does include a few glimpses, however. We see his:

  • Golden splendor and awesome majesty (Job 37:22)
  • Garment of light, wrapped around himself (Psalm 104:2a)
  • Clouds surrounding the throne (Daniel 7:13)
  • Belt of gold and gleaming, flaming eyes (Daniel 10:5-6)
  • Long robe with a golden sash across his chest, white hair, and blazing eyes (Revelation 1:13-16)

Charles Spurgeon eloquently expressed the glory of Jesus in a sermon, over 150 years ago. He proclaimed Christ…

 “…Radiant with splendor,

effulgent with light,

clothed with rainbows,

girded with clouds,

wrapped in lightning,

crowned with stars,

the sun beneath his feet.”

 

Doesn’t that give you holy goosebumps?

Yet there is more.

When he appears, we shall be like him (2 Thessalonians 2:14; 1 John 3:2).

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Can you imagine? We will share in the radiant splendor of our Savior. As if that wasn’t enough, we’ll finally be transformed into the holy and perfect beings we have always wanted to be.

And as we share in the glory of Jesus, we will enjoy incredible blessings that God has prepared. The following scriptures offer us tantalizing samples—to whet our appetites for what is to come:

  • There will be no need for sunlight; God will be our everlasting light. There will also be no more sorrow (Isaiah 60:19-20).
  • We will see Jesus face to face and finally have full understanding of all things (1 Corinthians 13:12-13).
  • We will bear the likeness of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:49).
  • We will reign with Jesus forever (Revelation 3:21; 22:5).
  • There will be no night and no impurity (Revelation 21:23-27).

Now, there are those who worry that heaven will involve a lot of cloud-sitting and harp-playing. Well, yes, there are clouds and harps.  (I, for one, am very glad for the harps–it’s my favorite instrument. And, I have to admit, there are some days when a bit of cloud-sitting and harp-playing sounds rather appealing!)

However, I agree with theologian, Albert Barnes. “To reign with Jesus” means we will share in Christ’s dominion of the universe, administering the affairs of all the worlds.” That sounds exciting and fulfilling (but mind-boggling) to me!

Such glimpses of our glorious future really are too much for my mind to absorb. But, oh how thankful I am that God has tucked them into his Word, to fill our hearts with expectation and hope.

Also worth contemplating is the eternal expanse of time we’ll enjoy God’s majesty and splendor. According to John Piper, heaven’s joys will actually increase as we discover more and more of God’s glory. “The end of increased pleasure in God will never come” (God’s Passion for His Glory, p. 37).

Then “the exhibition of God’s glory and the deepest joy of human souls” will indeed be one perfect, sublime, eternal thing.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord God of heaven and earth, my heart shouts praise in honor of your glory! I praise you for being a holy God, completely separate from all else in the universe. No one is your equal in power, wisdom, creativity, splendor, or love. No one else is perfect in all he does. Thank you for your Word, where we can glimpse your glory and your plans–for our glorious and joyous future with you.

(Photo & art credits:  www.beforethebeginning.net; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.honestytalk.wordpress.com; http://www.verseaday.com.)

 

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Jody Lee Collins

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(in)courage

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