A Useful Vessel
When we returned home from our winter/spring travels in the end of April, I was delighted to see that my two tulips planted so lovingly with my granddaughter two and a half years ago were between three and four inches high, each sporting a small bud. For those of you who have a green thumb the size of a watermelon, you may wonder why I would even mention two small blooms in a blog. If you have read my writings in the past, you know that growing anything is a task outside of my wheelhouse and beyond my capabilities. Between the often harsh and unexpected weather in Colorado, my inability to keep vegetation of any sort alive, and the bunnies that, despite the dwarf plants I do produce, decide they make tasty meals, trying to raise anything herbaceous is pretty much a fruitless effort. This is why I really was beyond delighted, I was excited to see I had a couple little plant babies to tend to, and I was hoping for full blooms by the time I would head out on my next trip in the end of May.
I have one small watering pitcher in the house, but I remembered having a large watering can somewhere in the garage. If I could fill that and keep it on the porch, I’d be able to quickly water each morning without having to replenish the container each day. I did eventually locate the can, and because I had to pass through the kitchen to get back out to my little floral treasures, I stopped at the kitchen sink to do the filling. I set the watering can on the counter next to the sink, and I used the pull down faucet to fill it. This is a large can, so I was expecting that it might take a little while to get the water near the top. As I was doing this task, I was looking around and thinking about what other things I would need to accomplish since we had been out of our home for a couple months. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I realized what was occurring on the counter. While the pretty blue watering can had seemed functional, I failed to notice the huge crack in one side about one-third from the bottom. So while water was flowing into the container, it began to pour out, flooding the entire countertop. I fortunately caught the mishap before I had to don wading shoes and a safety vest. Aside from having to sop up all the water, there was actually an upside to this incident: my sink counter hasn’t been so clean!
Several times in the Bible, people who are followers and servants of God are referred to as vessels. According to Romans chapter 9, it is God as the potter who has the right and the control over who we will become and how we can be used in the kingdom. Believers are considered vessels for honorable use and vessels of mercy, which are created for glory, God’s glory. The greatest component of the equation is God: we are nothing without him, and it is only “in him [that] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28 ESV). 2 Timothy 2:20-21 states, “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” We are to strive to be honorable vessels for the Lord’s use. We each are made for a unique purpose and our contributions to the kingdom will be diverse, but one of the problems is that we are all leaky vessels to some degree, not perfect or perfectly useful on our own. It is only as we allow God in to cleanse and refine us that we can become useful vessels to accomplish his purposes here on earth for the good and glory of his kingdom.
I have decided to keep my permeable watering can and actually use it to continue to water my tulips. Yes, the water comes out from the crack in the side, but other than the occasional shoe shower I may receive, the can is doing its job and serving a purpose. Keeping and using it reminds me that while I am a leaky vessel too, I can continue to serve God to the best of my ability, empowered by his Holy Spirit and covered by his grace for the good and glory of his kingdom.
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My sister-in-law and her husband own a cozy home near Lake Ontario in upstate New York. It is an older house, but they have renovated and upgraded throughout their time of habitation. David and Brenda are very welcoming to family and friends hosting many in the spare bedrooms that lay adjacent on the upper level, on couches and floors in their family area, and even at times when company is plenty, in trailers in their backyard.
We have been privileged to stay with them on occasion, sometimes with four kids in tow, sometimes when just the two of us have come for a visit. One of the rooms open to guests is one they have named The Sports Room. Packed onto hanging shelves, in an old cupboard and on other pieces of furniture, and attached to the walls are many souvenirs, pictures, pennants, and other items primarily from David’s favorite sports teams. Neatly organized and visually appealing, this comfortable accommodation is a very interesting and inviting place to stay.
An encompassing term for such a collection is memorabilia. Memorabilia serve as reminders of special events, good times, and interesting information. They are collectibles and can include items that are of value, especially to those who are interested in the particular field or theme of the collection. Those who own such a compilation likely can give facts about most of the objects contained therein including dates and times and all the details of the circumstances surrounding their acquisition.
The root of the word memorabilia is, of course, the word memorable. The Sports Room reminded me of a collection all those who consider themselves believers in Jesus should have. It is not necessarily a physical assortment of keepsakes, but something that is stored in the heart and mind of the Lord’s followers: the recollection of all the great things God has done. The Lord speaks about ”remembering” many times in his Word. The fourth of God’s Ten Commandments instructs the people of Israel to “Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy… On it you shall not do any work… You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deuteronomy 5:12a, 14b, 15a, ESV). And further in Deuteronomy, “And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not… You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is to this day” (Deuteronomy 8:2a-b, 18, ESV). As a response to the safe return of the Ark of the Covenant, David directs all to sing and praise the Lord, writing into song, “Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered” (Psalm 105:5, ESV). Isaiah encourages God’s people by stating, “I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD, the praises of the LORD, according to all that the LORD has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love” (Isaiah 63:7, ESV). Remembering helps us to honor God, to walk in his ways, and to direct thanks and praise to him. It recalls how faithful God has been and brings confidence that just as he has held onto us and helped us in the past, he will continue to care and provide for us in the future. A collection of remembrances about what God has done is valuable beyond compare!
A Rose for Nick
The Sports Room may hold even more importance in David and Brenda’s life now. David shared many of his sports experiences with his son, Nick, their only child, who went home to be with the Lord in March. The room serves as a reminder of many special events and good times. Even more important are the memories of all the great things God has done, including the day he reached into Nick’s heart and life and saved him. Recalling and reflecting on God’s faithfulness, goodness, love, and care in the past gives David and Brenda confidence that he will hold on to them and walk them through whatever they face in the future. This collection of remembrances surely is valuable beyond compare.
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The Beauty Shines Through
Though the winters in our area can feature wide-ranging temperatures and nary a flake until the spring, the snow has seemed particularly scarce this year. So when we happened to have a decent snowfall over the weekend, I was drawn to the window to watch the white fluff dance in the air. Enough snow had already fallen to leave significant amounts on the ground, which also meant that there was a sizeable accumulation on those areas that would have to be shoveled away, especially since we were having company later that day. I was admiring the pretty snow-covered evergreens that were in my view and at the same time praying for our family to arrive safely, remaining aware of the possible hazard the roads had become. As all of these thoughts swirled in my head like the flurries outside, a question suddenly popped into my mind: “How could something that can cause heartache be so incredibly beautiful?” When there is snow, accidents can be numerous, in the mountains within hours of us, avalanches occur, and people literally get lost in blowing snow and are overcome with hypothermia due to frigid temperatures. Yet, there is no denying that there is something picturesque and lovely about fresh falling snow. The beauty of this winter wonder shines through.
An hour or so later, there was quite another scene to view. Our local television stations were carrying the memorial service of a fallen hero, a deputy who had lost his life in the line of duty protecting others in an investigation that had turned into a detrimental attack. Though other officers were injured, the swift action of this deputy saved lives, including that of a civilian. At thirty-four years of age, he left behind a wife and two young children, his parents, brothers and sisters, other family and friends, and his fellow officers. As I continued watching the emotional testimonies of representatives of local law enforcement, his family and the pastor along with the ceremonial protocol, my mind formed a new question, “Where is the beauty in this, Lord?” The Lord allowed a swift answer: this deputy was a believer, and the beauty was the testimony and legacy he had left for his wife, his children and all who had the blessing of attending and viewing his memorial. Wonderful, personal stories were shared about his fun and quirky personality, his determination, devotion, and commitment to his chosen profession, and his thriving, vibrant and constant love for and trust in his God. We joined thousands of people who lined his procession route in the bitter weather holding signs and waving flags to affirm his heroism and honor his bravery. Though certainly there was, is, and will be heartache for those whom he loved and who loved him, Jesus is using his loss to reach out and touch others with the truth of the Gospel. The beauty of a life well lived shines through.
My present Bible reading is nearing the end of the Gospel of Matthew. It is always hard for me to read the end of each of the Gospels. They show the ugly side of man and the heartache that accompanied the arrest, trial, contemptible treatment, and crucifixion of Jesus. My heart wants to cry out, “Where is the beauty, Lord?” But, his response is swift and sure: “My child, you are the beauty that has come from the heartache I endured on the cross. For it is in my death and resurrection that you have eternal life. You will be with me forever, you and all who trust in me for salvation.” His scars will always be there to remind us of the anguish he endured for us, but the beauty of his selfless act of love and grace will forever shine through!
“On that day the Lord their God will save them as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty,” (Zechariah 9:16-17, ESV).
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: We want to thank Deputy Micah Flick and his family for the incredible service he provided to our community. He is a hero whom we will continue to hold in our hearts. We are praying for his family and for those with whom he served.
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When I was two years old I spent a fair amount of time in the vicinity of a television, particularly because there was only one room in which we could congregate. Due to the fairly unremarkable shows back in those days, I would spend my time playing with my toys with the black and white screen as my background. There were, however, two exceptions: commercials that featured catchy jingles and The Mickey Mouse Club. As young as I was, I learned the theme song quickly and happily sang my own version – “M-I-C-‘CAKEY’- Y-M-O-U-S-E.” I believe I became the resident entertainer, at least during that particular moment in my life.
As so many families in the sixties, we continued our fascination with Disney watching Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. They were truly family-oriented shows with good messages that made us laugh and cry as we enjoyed them together. There was something magical and compelling about being whisked away to other times and places and joining in on exciting adventures without stepping out of your home. Somewhere in the midst of these years, I learned about Disneyland. At one point there was a coloring contest in which the grand prize was an all-expense paid vacation to the California park. Traveling distance was not in my parents’ wheelhouse, and so I really wanted to win that trip. But, my coloring skills not being as appealing as my childhood vocal ability, I did not get to go to Disneyland, but…
As fate would have it, we wound up living in Florida where we visited the Disney Magic Kingdom and the Disney MGM Studios Parks many times. (I also eventually got to go to my beloved Disneyland in California!) Attending a Disney Theme Park is truly a celebration! One place that we missed out on, however, was Epcot Center, Walt Disney’s “Experimental Prototype Community of the Future.” Walt’s original vision was to actually create a futuristic city, and the park’s initial offerings were tailored to the interests of adults.
We just had the blessing of visiting Epcot at the beginning of December 2017. With time and technology, many things have changed and displays and experimental presentations have been turned into rides and video games. Still, it was very educational and entertaining and well worth our trip and the cost. As I looked around and considered the imagination, creativity, and skill it has taken to design and build such a place of amusement, this one thought entered my mind, “All because a man could draw a mouse.” Everything in the Disney Parks has its origins in the work of an animator. Though Walt Disney himself had many more creative ideas and ventures, I wondered if he realized the direction his empire would take and all the technology that would come into being to make his dream a reality. Were his reasons for all that he accomplished selfless, or largely driven by the benefits for him and his progeny?
Motive aside, Disney’s ingenuity falls far short of a supremely creative being: our Creator God. One can find passages all throughout his Word that speak about his creativity. In fact, the very beginning, the very end and even the middle of the Bible relate the wonders of his works. In the book of Genesis we see how he created the world out of nothing, forming the water, the sky, and the land, night and day, light and darkness, and populating the world with creatures in each element. Psalm 104 is replete with descriptions of all that God did in creation and his ongoing work. Revelation contains a great summary of God’s creative power, stating, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created,” (Revelation 5:11, ESV).
At this time of year we focus on the birth of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, and how God sent him into the world to bring atonement for the sin of mankind. It was completely selfless for God to give his perfect Son as a sacrifice for us. While a man can imagine the direction of his future, God knew the future from before time began. It was “all because God could…” that he did the only thing that would save us. Everything he has given us and has done for us has its origins in who he is: a good, loving gracious and merciful God. Creative, yes, but genuinely altruistic as he watches over us, his most prized creation.
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In the Clouds
Cloud technology allows users to access computer stored information on a hi-tech device from anywhere in the world. Though I know I’ve used it from time to time, I also know that I really do not understand much about it, nor could I explain it to an inquiring soul. There is no visible evidence of what is happening as it is working, but the speed of data transfer is instantaneous and the results can be seen on screens of all sizes and types when the information is accessed. For me, it is aptly named, as the concept is just as far above my head as the clouds are in the sky. Kudos to the creators at Apple for this twenty-first century wonder.
Returning home from the studio late one evening, I happened to look up to view a cloud pattern that I have not often seen. Set against the light of the moon, these altocumulus clouds reminded me of another wonder. One day Jesus is going to return in the clouds, and not only that, those who have trusted in Him as Savior and Lord will rise to meet Him up in those clouds! This transfer will be instantaneous, but unlike Cloud technology, there will be a visible manifestation of the experience – we will see the magnificence of Jesus as we look into His beautiful face. The Apostle Paul explained it this way in his first book to the Thessalonians: “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words,” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 (ESV).
I do not often have significant dreams, but back in the early nineties I had an incredible dream that I will likely never forget. I dreamt about the rapture, and I remember looking at clouds in the sky and effortlessly being lifted upwards knowing that I was going to meet Jesus. Though I woke up before encountering the Lord, in the midst I felt perfect peace, all-encompassing love, and I realized that I had absolute knowledge of everything there is to know. For days I could think back on the dream and re-experience the accompanying exhilaration. The real event will be spectacular as all believers head toward the clouds to meet Jesus and live with him forever.
As awesome as technology has become, nothing will ever touch the power, imagination, and creativity of our God. Though I may access information that is mysteriously hanging around in a cloud, I look forward with great anticipation to a real trip to the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. It is an amazing thought that the God of the universe who is as far above me as the clouds are in the sky has made a way for this meeting. All praise to The Creator for this eternal wonder!
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Losing to Win
Do you sometimes feel like a big loser? This is not meant to be an offensive question, as I’m not referring to a horrible lack of self-esteem, nor is this making any reference to a once popular prime time television show where the big losers in the competition really were the big winners in life. I’m actually talking about the propensity to lose things on a regular basis. From keys, to eyeglasses, to wallets, to that favorite sweater that goes so well with the distressed jeans, I would make an educated guess that there are many who could reluctantly raise their hands (minus the watch that used to adorn the wrist) and say that, yes, I confess, I am a big loser!
And friends, I am a card-carrying member of the club, that is if I can find the card. It is such a frustrating tendency! I continually lose my reading glasses, my cell phone, my make-up case, and my car in almost any parking lot. There are definitely some standouts on the list too. Recently within a couple weeks, I happened to lose a box and two large individual number birthday candles for our very special family celebration, my car fob, a black satchel, two pairing knives, a pack of straw brushes that I was so excited to purchase while on a business trip, and two pieces of raw chicken that I had taken out of the fridge to make for dinner. Now, if you’re like me, if and when a lost item is found, it is like a major discovery of buried treasure. Happily, the fob was found in my terrycloth swim cover-up more than a week after it went missing. The knives actually turned up in the kitchen in places where I would have never put them (company helping to make meals). The brushes appeared in a suitcase that I had used on my trip, and I obviously had never removed them to begin with. I discovered the black satchel the other day in a spare bedroom closet more than a month after it disappeared, in another state! I literally rejoiced upon each of these finds. The mystery still remains, however, as to where the candles and the chicken pieces went. In regard to the chicken, I can only hope that somehow it was cooked and eaten by who knows who, it is in the proverbial black hole where I imagine all lost things wind up, or it is adequately buried somewhere like the aforementioned treasure.
Now, if the Apostle Paul were to be a part of this conversation, no doubt he would he would think back to his discussion of loss in the Bible. He rather encouraged being a loser for the sake of Christ. In Philippians chapter three, after reviewing many of his own admirable qualities that made him notable in the eyes of the Jewish people, he said the following, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith – that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead,” (Philippians 4:7-11, ESV). Paul was willing to give it all up to take hold of that which is so much more important, the righteousness that only comes from a relationship with God through Christ Jesus by faith. It is the only way to truly know, love, worship, serve, represent, and share Jesus Christ our Lord. Nothing in the entire world compares to that heavenly treasure! So, I have just thought of a great way to turn my penchant for losing “mere things” into a positive experience. Rather than becoming frustrated, if I use such a loss as a reminder of Paul’s exemplary words, my loss would actually become a win as I turn my focus on what I have gained by knowing Christ.
So, just a little bit ago in the middle of writing this newsletter, my husband came up to me and said, “Were you looking for these?” My sunglasses were in his hand, and he had found them on the floor of his car. I’m sure that the next time I ventured out on a sunny day I would have been frantically searching for them. My loss was averted, but it was still an opportunity to think about the gain I have in Christ. Thank you, Lord. And thanks, Hon for sparing me the search! Now, by any chance, have you seen a package of chicken?
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In the schedule that we presently keep, traveling from event to event and visiting almost every corner of the US to see family and friends, much planning and forethought takes place to insure we are booked in various venues and have somewhere to stay. My husband relishes plans that are made months in advance; me, not so much. I prefer flexibility, and I like to think that if something comes up four months from now I will have the ability to choose to participate, or not. This is especially relevant when one is bouncing back and forth like a ping-pong ball between the west and the east. It makes a great argument for having a trailer and frequenting Wal-Mart parking lots with no reservation needed, thus keeping things adaptable.
One who is very comfortable living in the present and not predisposed to sticking a toe into the ocean of the future is also unlikely to dream about what that future could hold. There is always so much taking place and so much to think about just to get through today! God has addressed this topic in various ways in his Word. On the one hand, He encourages us to ask for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11) and to not worry about tomorrow as, “Sufficient for the day is its own trouble,” (Matthew 6:34c, ESV). But, he has also warned in Proverbs, “Go to the ant, O sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise. Without having any chief, officer, or ruler, she prepares her bread in summer and gathers her food in harvest. How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man,” (Proverbs 6:6-11, ESV). And He says in Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint,” (Proverbs 29:18, ESV). Another Bible version states it like this: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” So, planning, and dreaming, and projecting vision are important parts of God’s desire for His people.
I had an opportunity to really consider the idea of dreams and vision when I attended church in Kernersville, NC about two months ago. Pastor Josh Stahl of Turning Point Church, Kernersville, shared five steps that are invaluable to those who desire to live a life of vision:
- Ask God for it: Spend time in prayer asking the Lord for guidance and direction in regard to your future and what plan and purpose He has for you.
- Write it down: The book of Habakkuk encourages, “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it,” (Habakkuk 2:2). This step is an affirmation that you will aim toward your vision and that it is a reachable goal.
- Speak it out: Speaking out a vision is further confirmation of the possibility that you will realize your dream. It is placing trust in God and having faith that what He has spoken to you is reality. God had Ezekiel the prophet speak to dry old bones and prophesy life and breath into them, which led to an army of living beings standing before him.
- Embrace it: Eleanor Roosevelt is credited for this statement, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” Accept what the Lord has spoken to you as an integral part of your tomorrows.
- Push toward it: After his conversion, the apostle Paul was constantly striving toward excellence and fulfillment of the goals that the Lord had laid out for His life. He never wavered in his belief and conviction that God would use him to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and our faith is borne out of the struggles and determination of Paul and the rest of the Lord’s first disciples.
I just saw a painted barn board sign that read:
“Good things are going to happen DREAM BIG LET THE JOURNEY BEGIN the best is yet to come”
Let your dreams take you into the future that God envisions for you. Be courageous, be confident, and dream away!
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I have such fond memories of my high school career. I became very involved in the music department, particularly in choir. As a result, I also participated in high school musicals way back before it became a real pop culture phenomenon. This led to a bit of involvement in the school’s drama program as well.
When I was a junior, some of my friends directed a student-led production of Alice in Wonderland. Having had some significant parts in the musicals, my best friend and I were recruited to play the most critical parts, Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Ok, so there were several more important roles, but we were in, and we pledged to put our amazing theatrical talents into these two quarreling characters. If you are not familiar with the story, the writer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, Lewis Carroll, included these subjects of a well-known nursery rhyme in the storyline of the second book. Both books were then transformed into the classic children’s stage play.
The battle that we had on stage must have affected my ability to remember most of the experience. But, two things about the play stand out in my mind. First, my best friend wound up being very sick (uh-huh) for the performances. As a result, our ridiculously talented pianist, a male, played Tweedledee to my Tweedledum. He did a fine job, and the only thing that stands out more in my mind than that switcheroo was what happened to our most integral prop.
If you recall the story or the nursery rhyme, these brothers have a scuffle over a rattle. Tweedledum accuses Tweedledee of spoiling his nice, new rattle, which in the twenty-first century means, “brother broke it.” In the manner of a western-themed duel, they agree to a battle over it. Well, before the curtain was opened, the rattle was strategically placed on the floor in front of us. Actors in their places, count down to curtain opening, anticipation, adrenalin rushing, and the curtain finally parted. Tweedledum’s famous line, “You spoiled my nice, new rattle,” is the impetus for the fight. But, when this Tweedledum looked down at the busted object, it wasn’t there. Surprise!!! In the excitement of the moment, neither my counterpart nor I noticed that the rattle had been whisked off the stage by the opening curtain. It was at this point that my theatrical prowess kicked in. In that split second, I acted shocked, because I was, but with great conviction I said, “You stole it; you stole my nice, new rattle!” Moment saved! The five seconds of ad lib screamed “Oscar!” Oh, what could have been?
Now, take a leap with me back even further to first century Jerusalem. Eleven very discouraged, extremely frightened men were hiding out after their leader was tried, convicted, and executed via crucifixion a day following the Passover celebration. His followers were in mourning, and a rich disciple with an unused tomb asked for His body. He and a leader in the Jewish ruling group prepared His body for burial. He was laid in the rich man’s grave.
Early on the first day of the week, some of His women followers came to the tomb to anoint His body with fragrant spices. There is mention of an earthquake in the Book of Matthew’s account. Three of the Gospels report the presence of angels. The Book of John focuses on Mary Magdalene’s visit to the tomb. One thing is common to all these historical documentations: “Surprise!!!” Jesus was not there – he was whisked up from the place where His body had been. The wrappings that had surrounded Him were left behind, but contrary to the story concocted by the cantankerous, confused and corrupt chief priests and Pharisees, no one stole the body. God the Father resurrected Jesus His Son! It happened just as Jesus had previously told His disciples that it would. And because of this, Peter says in his first letter, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice,”
(1 Peter 1:3-6a, ESV).
Mankind saved! This one unparalleled act screams, “Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen!”
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Oceans of Love
There is no debate that the Pacific Ocean is massive and impressive. It is the largest body of water on earth expanding more than sixty-two million square miles, and its deepest point is almost eleven thousand meters. It was named by Ferdinand Magellan, who in an attempt to circumnavigate the world, crossed through rough waters off of Cape Horn at the southern-most tip of South America, and then found the waters into which he next crossed to be peaceful, hence the name, “pacifico.”
I had the pleasure of visiting family in California during the holidays. I am by no means a scholar in geography, but it doesn’t call for genius to know that if one travels due west in the US that for travel to continue without interruption one must be in an amphibious vehicle or halt travel and switch to a plane or some type of water craft. Still, in the area where we were staying, I was amazed to see the body of blue on the left of the navigation screen, and because we don’t see the ocean from my bother’s home, it was an interesting discovery to realize just how close I was to the Pacific. Days later in San Diego, my son’s family and I took a walk along a cliff that hugged the ocean’s shore. It was overwhelming to look out over that great expanse of seemingly never-ending water with its mesmerizing, powerful waves crashing on the sand, and then to talk to its Creator to thank Him for such an amazing and awe-inspiring world He has given to us.
Something occurred to me in that moment: God’s love is even bigger, greater and more powerful than that ocean! And, just like my ignorance at the ocean’s close proximity, we can be unaware of the closeness of God and the genuine and generous love that He has for us. How much easier and better our lives would be if we were continually aware that our Father, Creator, Savior, and Friend was surrounding us with His unfathomable love. Paul says, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family- in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith – that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God,” (Ephesians 3:14-19, ESV).
I don’t know about you, but I can be very prone to focusing on tangible circumstances and surroundings, forgetting in the midst of my struggles that the Father’s loving arms are there to embrace me. God’s desire is that we would be aware of His presence every moment and allow His love rather than problems to overwhelm us. Though life will often cause us to encounter rough waters, we can swiftly cross into God’s “Ocean of love,” a certain place of peace. Just like Magellan, we will be able to say, “Ah, pacifico!”
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The Big Reveal
A few months ago we were delighted to hear from our youngest daughter and her husband that they are expecting their first child next March. As is the trend with today’s parents-to-be, they opted to find out their baby’s gender before birth. Katie had an ultrasound and a blood test done. Though the news was concealed inside an envelope, it was a little too simple to just open it up to know whom they will be welcoming into their family. So, the envelope with the precious information was passed off to a couple with remote acreage. They prepared an elaborate contraption that when hit would explode, shooting the appropriate colored chalk in the air (blue for boy, pink for girl) revealing the gender of the little one Katie is carrying. On the last Saturday of October, we had a celebration brunch with some family and friends and then headed out as a caravan to the said property for the Big Reveal.
Chase is licensed and experienced using a rifle, but it took him a couple times to correctly hit the target, which was about one hundred fifty feet away from him and all of us who were cheering him on. Waiting with great anticipation, many of us held cell phones to catch the “big reveal,” making it a bit hard to pay attention to all the details. When the rifle shot finally made contact with the disclosing mechanism, a small puff of grayish smoke appeared above the target site, leaving most of us a bit confused. Some noticed, however, that a pile of pink chalk had spilled out on the ground, causing them to shout, “It’s a girl!” Daddy-to-be wanted to get it right, however, so the property owner fixed the target, and a few minutes later we watched as a huge pink cloud appeared above the site, causing us all to clap and shout for the news that a baby girl would be born.
Of course, God needed no advanced procedures or technology to foretell the birth of His Son. The first pronouncement came hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth, as Isaiah states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given;” (Isaiah 9:6, ESV). The surrounding passage speaks of a great light shining and exceeding joy for the nation of Israel. Closer to the event, God sent the angel, Gabriel, to Mary to reveal that she was carrying His Son. No ultrasound was needed; no blood test was taken; no shot was fired at a faulty device. The almighty God sent His reliable messenger to the chosen mother to let her know that she would have the promised One, and to inform her, “and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31b-33, ESV). Though their conversation was quiet and private, God’s news exploded into the world. There was excitement and celebration when Mary visited her cousin, Elizabeth, and the baby boy she was carrying “leaped for joy.” And Mary glorified the Lord in her celebration of the baby who would be born to her for all mankind.
Jesus’ birth happened just as Mary was told. God employed angels once again to make the grand announcement. It was to shepherds in the field that the angel of the Lord appeared. Though the sight caused the shepherds to be afraid, there was no error or doubt regarding the message. “The angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” (Luke 2:10b-14, ESV). The shepherds responded by visiting Jesus and then proclaiming what they had been told by the angel. When they left, they too gave praise and glory to God for the baby boy who was born to be the Savior of the world.
I didn’t mention before that even with the most sophisticated testing to date, gender predictions can be wrong. But God’s accuracy rate is always 100%. Jesus was in fact born, lived a sinless life on earth for thirty-three years, and then died on a cruel tree to make atonement for the sin-stained world. We can rejoice continually because He was resurrected from the dead, and He lives forever to rule and reign. So let the angels sing and the blue chalk fly! ‘Tis the season to remember and celebrate the Big Reveal: “It’s a Boy!” And, He has been born for you.
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