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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand…" (Ephesians 6:11).

Recently I discovered a most amazing fact in my daughter's science text.  Among all the constellations, that one which is called "Orion" out-shines the rest.  Here is a grand-scale reminder by way of unmatched illustration to take up the whole armor of God and, having done all, to stand.  Marking his stance are Orion's brightest stars: Betelgeuse, his right shoulder, and Rigel, his left foot.  Clothing his stature are shield, belt, sword, and perhaps one could fancy his shining foot to be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Highlighting his sword is the Great Nebula, a glowing mass of gas and dust easily imagined to be stirred up by very active use of the sword! 

Should life's battles bewilder, look up.  The high hand of the God of heaven arbitrates upon earth, too.  For whatever must-needs of resolution, intervention, settlement, or judgment, the marching order is given—“Put on the full armor of God, Christian, so that you may be able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one and stand, stand, stand!”  Considering the weightiness of the shoes of the gospel of peace and the shield of faith, the word of God, truth, righteousness, and salvation, little wonder standing is about all we are able to do.

Does it seem a mysterious battle plan?  Where’s the action?  Where’re the blood, sweat, and tears?  Ah, but Jesus has already wept.  His sweat fell like great drops of blood.  His blood has already been shed in the battle against the dark rulers of this age and the wicked hosts in the heavenly places.  The dust is still settling, but all has been done; the fiery darts are still flying, but faith extinguishes the flaming mass of glowing darts of the evil one.  For today’s battles, the Bright and Morning Star marks our stance. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

“His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace…” (Revelation 1:15).

Here is a memory from eight years ago, well-worn but fitting still:

It began with accidentally spilled fish water on the carpet while the boys were changing the tank.  As we blotted that up, the toilet overflowed and four-year old Hannah slipped on the floor, soaking herself in toilet water.  While mopping the floor and bathing Hannah, the puppy had an accident in the other room.  Up to my elbows, I certainly was not thinking about the feet of Jesus. 

I am thinking now of the feet of Jesus, however.  May I never suppose His feet to skirt around life’s lowly messes.  Profoundly yet simply, His feet are compared to bronze, an ordinary metal for the commonest uses and the holiest places.  Cooking pots for the kitchen and coins for the dusty streets of commerce were made of bronze, and so were holy articles for the temple and the altar for the holy of holies.  Feet like bronze, not jeweled and guilded, belong to the One who says, “Follow Me,” and who then steps promptly onto soiled carpets and floors, into bath water, through the sanctifying fray of common moments, and up to the throne of God.  Onto, into, through, and upward—it is not easy to follow the way of those bronze-like feet, but when mine are callousing, His are glowing and sacred to be sure.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

"Quickly, make ready three measures of fine meal; knead it and make cakes" (Genesis 18:6).

I wonder what Sarah was doing when Abraham came running into the tent with this urgent instruction. Most likely she was in the midst of doing something and had planned her   day.  I do not imagine that her plans contained a clause saying, "In the event that the Lord and His angels should stop by...."   Yet they did stop by, and she was to bake cakes.  It was an ordinary task for an extraordinary moment. 

I do not know Sarah's initial response when she was interrupted, but we are told that as they were enjoying the meal, she was listening in the tent door and was blessed by what she heard.  It seems that Sarah was in no rush to resume her plans for the day.  Whatever she had been doing could wait, for perhaps she perceived the hand of the Lord in the hindrance of her work.  

I wonder how often upset plans are divine interruptions.  Should we trust God with the interruptions more than we trust ourselves with our plans, what blessings would we hear and what laughter we would know within ourselves because of the astounding things that the Lord says?   When plans are changed, keep an ear to the door; you just may hear the Lord.

“Then the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’” (Revelation 5:14).

The question has been asked, “If God knows what we are going to pray before we pray it, then why pray?”

Here is one answer I see in Revelation 5.  When we progress from knowing that God knows what we are going to pray to actually uttering the prayer, we exit the arguments of a skeptic and enter the high revelation of the Authority who proves Himself true.  Why pray?  Most simply, to converse with the God of heaven and earth.  When we pray we break camp and join the innumerable ranks of heaven; we lose our preferences and find what the Lamb loves; we forget all mortal esteem with matching vocabulary until heaven’s effluent speech becomes our tongue. 

Pray.  Cast your cares before the Lamb who redeemed you to God by His blood and has made you kings and priests to your God to reign in the earth.  Pray.  The prayers of the saints are golden bowls of incense held in the hands of heaven’s strange and living creatures and the twenty-four elders.  Pray.  Join the voices of many—of ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands— and of every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea, giving glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, resounding “AMEN!”.  Pray.  Hold tenacious this eternal worship from before, around, and in the midst of the throne.  Pray.  It is a new song.  It seems God’s purpose for prayer far exceeds ours.

“An empty stable stays clean, but no income comes from an empty stable” (Proverbs 14:4).

Generating income is often a messy venture.  Whether running a business in the home or running a home is your business, whether there are piles of professional papers or colored construction papers, pens or paint sets, one may say income is generated in the home if income is defined as anything that profits oneself or others.  An empty stable may stay clean, but neither man nor beast profit where hay and harness cannot be found. 

Running a home is my business and, yes, my “stable” is full and some of the stalls are messy.  The front stall is crowded with items waiting for the Salvation Army to pick up.  This is profitable for myself and others, but the children’s shoes strewn somewhere between the front door and the closet?  I see no profit here.  The laundry stall is heaped; the income is steady and the output profitable…plenty of hay in here, but now, where did I put my pitchfork?  I sure would like to find that thing.  In the meantime, stabled in the main stall is a basketball backboard that my boys are building.  I see the profit, but this animal is in the wrong stall!  “Saddle up, boys!  Get this doggie rollin’ and close the garage door behind you!”  If it profits others, it is positive income and the mess can wait; if it profits no one, it is negative income and the mess is, well, to be cleaned. 

I have posted this verse by my kitchen sink.  I need the reminder.  My stable is neither empty, nor does it stay clean, but profit for the Kingdom of God began in an inhabited and useful stable. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

“They were to serve before the Lord regularly…and in the way prescribed for them”

You don’t have to be a Levite for this list to sound familiar!  They were to care for:
            -the furnishings and all other household articles
            -the courtyard
            -the accounting
            -the supplies of flour, oil, spices, wine and incense
            -the mixing and baking
            -the setting of the table
            -the serving of the bread
            -the purification of all sacred things
            -the daily prayers and worship
-the performance of all the other duties at the house of God which have not been     mentioned 

Paying bills, pulling weeds, grocery shopping, and staying in step with the heart-beat of my family is so regular that it seems the only time it is noticed is when it is not done.  You who cook dinner most evenings, when was the last time family members said, “Heroic! You made dinner again!”  Maybe polishing the light bulbs would raise an eyebrow when they learn why their eyesight seems improved, though I didn’t notice any unusual brow activity after power washing the second story windows the other day.  My prompt, “Someone must have cleaned the outdoors today; it seems brighter than usual through these windows,” was missed.  So much for heroics, but then I’ve never seen a hero strap on a hose with a bottle of Windex attached at the nozzle.  

It seems God’s way for service doesn’t produce heroes, but saints; and saints are made in the fray.  You’ll find them rummaging through sock drawers trying to reunite missing mates, puzzling over a sudden food shortage, (is it world-wide or just in my pantry?), placing a “Please do not disturb the dust, I’m collecting samples” plaque on the knick-knack shelf, and nearly always you will find them picking up other people’s messes. 

Ho-hum?  No, not when you remember that God prepares work for His saints, and saints for His work.  Besides, you’ll also find them welcoming a visitor for a lengthy stay, thanking a gal who brought over fresh-baked cookies, taking dinner to a friend home from the hospital, and receiving “just because” flowers from a happy husband who noticed…and there is nothing ho-hum about that.  But flowers or not, let God’s every-day way produce not a ho-humming, but a Him-humming most regular saint, in you.