Recently, while raking leaves in my front yard on a very cool day, I felt a sudden burst of warmth. When I took a step from where I was, the warmth disappeared. When I stepped back to the same spot, I felt warm again. It was an experience similar to feeling a warm spot while swimming in a lake or pool, but I didn't know why it was happening in my yard. I scanned my surroundings and found the source. The sun was reflecting off of one of our second floor windows and the beam was focused on the spot at which I was standing! As I enjoyed the warm feeling and was glad to find the source of the "mystery warmth", I found my thoughts directed to a spiritual truth much more profound.
In 2 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul discusses the ministry of Moses, the leader who represented Israel before God. When Moses would return from the tent in which he encountered God, he would cover his face because of the glory which emanated from it; a reflection of God's glory. Paul applies this to our own encounter with God because of our relationship with Jesus, and the glory which emanates from us because of the presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul writes, "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 2:18.
What does this have to do with the warm spot in my yard? Just as the window reflects and magnifies the sun to produce the warmth I experienced, so our lives reflect the glory of God's Son to the world around us. He uses us as channels of His love and grace to others. We are not the Son, but may people experience the warmth of the Son magnified through our lives!
May we all reflect the Son during this Christmas season.
My father and I shared a love of poetry. "Don't Quit" was one of his favorites and I still cherish it to this day, even though my Dad died over 40 years ago. The thoughts expressed in that poem have inspired me to keep going through some of life's toughest challenges. I believe the poem planted in my young heart an admiration for "survivors", those who persist through great difficulty.
Scripture affirms the importance of developing the character trait of perseverance; the determination to continue to trust God through all of the peaks and valleys of life. I am currently memorizing James 1:12, "Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him."
Sometimes the only thing we can do in life when times are tough is take the next step in front of us, the next breath, humbly asking God to get us through the current day. My experience is that God will give the strength to keep going, keep showing up for those we love, keep faithfully following His will. We may not feel we have much to show for it; we may feel like we are losing ground; we may feel like quitting. But God promises His presence in every moment of our lives even if we can't sense that He is there.
I don't know what you may be struggling with today, but let me encourage you to keep going: don't quit! Be encouraged by a few verses from the poem my Dad shared with me many years ago:
When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out-
The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It might be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Theologians and Bible students enjoy debating issues of eschatology - the doctrine of "end times" found in biblical prophecy. At times these discussions get heated and churches have divided over different interpretations of Scripture. Several years ago, an African pastor studying in the US witnessed one of these debates and responded afterwards with these profound words: "In Africa, we know two things: Jesus is coming back, and we must be ready!"
This pastor wisely summarized the heart of Jesus' teaching to His disciples about His promised return. First, Jesus provides comfort by assuring us that He will, in fact return! Second, He calls us to live out our faith in Him with focused expectation and dedication to His will while we wait for Him.
How often on a daily basis do we think about Jesus' return? How does the reality that He could return at any moment impact our decisions and priorities? If you're like me, not often enough! Perhaps 2000 years of waiting have dulled our sense of anticipation and caused us to doubt His word of promise! Let God energize your heart today by embracing the truth that Jesus will return to take us to the place in heaven He has prepared for us (John 14:1-6). And it could be today!
“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). These familiar words found in Ecclesiastes are helpful to reflect on as we move past summer and into the fall. At DVCC we spent the summer considering the entire book of Ecclesiastes and its central message that life in this broken world is “vapor”-illusory, frustrating, temporary, uncontrollable---“Hevel” in Hebrew. In response to that reality, the writer counsels us to enjoy the good gifts of God, to submit our hearts to Him, and to embrace the truth that God is in control of all things-including the changing seasons. That is the wise way through the “fog” of this life!
Changing seasons evoke a wide range of emotions within us: sadness, anticipation, anxiety, hope---much depends on the particular season of life we are in personally. The good news found in the Gospel is that no matter what season we find ourselves in, we can be confident that the unchanging, unrelenting love of God is always poured out on our lives! So as the leaves change and the air gets cooler, as we anticipate Thanksgiving, Christmas, and yes, a new year ahead, let’s remember together that “nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39b).
My intention was to focus this blog on introducing our summer sermon series, “Why Am I Here”- a Study of Ecclesiastes, but something happened this morning. I heard the news that a celebrity had taken his own life; the second public figure this week whose life ended so tragically. Hearing about a suicide always triggers deep emotions in me. I lost my Dad to suicide when I was 15. My brother-in-law took his life when he was 41. And over the years I’ve known others whose darkness became so deep that they took this step to try to end their pain. Then I heard on the news that suicide is on the rise in our country and I felt even more sadness. So I want to say this to anyone who reads this post and is feeling despair: there is hope! You may think there is no other choice but to take your life; you may feel that the world would be better off without you;….but that is not true. There is hope! You may not see it or feel it, but hope is still there. And that hope is Jesus! He loves you and wants you to call out to Him today. He says to you, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and over-burdened, and I will give you rest! Put on my yoke and learn from me. For I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30).
As I think about it, this blog really is about the basic message of Ecclesiastes after all—in this confusing, painful, disappointing world, our only ultimate hope is God!
We recently completed a sermon series focused on growing in Christ. We considered many aspects of what is called "sanctification", the process by which we become more like Jesus in our daily lives: active faith, obedience, responding to God's Word, bringing our whole selves to God - we focused on each of these. We also were reminded that the crucial foundation from which we live our lives is the reality that we are God's loved children through faith in Jesus. We don't earn that love, gain that love, or have to work to keep that love. It is God's grace driven love, extended to us freely and without reservation.
We ended this series with these powerful questions from Brennan Manning:
"Do you believe that the God of Jesus loves you beyond worthiness and unworthiness, beyond fidelity and infidelity -- that He loves you in the morning sun and in the evening rain -- that He loves you when your intellect denies it, your emotions refuse it, your whole being rejects it? Do you believe that God loves without condition or reservation and loves you this moment as you are and not as you should be?"
"To obey is better than sacrifice." (I Samuel 15:22) With these penetrating words, the prophet Samuel rebuked King Saul's failure to carry out God's specific commands. Without obedience, we cannot grow spiritually. This simple truth permeates both the Old and New Testaments.
Are you struggling to obey God in some area of your life? Is there something you have walled off from God's truth and are refusing to surrender to God? If so, you're not alone! Remember that God loves you more deeply than you can imagine, can be trusted more completely than you can comprehend, and is more powerful than your mind can conceive.
Remember that more than anything, God wants your heart - He wants you to come to Him in faith and lay whatever it is you are holding on to at His feet and say, "Yes" to His will. Remember that Jesus walked the ultimate path of obedience for you as He went to the cross, suffered and died, and then was raised from the dead so that we can have free access to God. 24/7. Go to Him today! (Hebrews 4:16)