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Archive for December, 2010

Believing

 

As Luke is trying to produce an orderly account of the beginning of Christianity, part of it is in establishing that God did it.  Similar to how the writer of Genesis handles the account of creation; it is not as much his intent to prove, in order to persuade the unbeliever, as much as to proclaim in order to assure the believer.

The writer of Genesis establishes in just one verse the state of things at the time of creation.  “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”.  It is a bleak picture, but by the end of the chapter the picture has changed, and the believer comes away with one thing; the assurance that ‘God did it’.

Luke paints a similar picture in his first chapter.  We know that Elizabeth will have a son, but Luke makes it clear that she has never been able to in spite of repeated unsuccessful efforts.  Likewise, we know that Mary will have a son, but Luke makes it clear that she has never tried to have one – she shouldn’t have one.  So once again the believer comes away with one thing; ‘God did it’.

Luke knew – God knew – that our believing would need help.  Much like a fire that needs wood on a regular basis; without it, it can be reduced to a few smoldering embers buried beneath a pile of ash.  Our believing needs help; without it, it can get buried beneath the bleakness of life. 

So no matter how formless, empty and dark your world may be; no matter how many unsuccessful efforts there have been to change them, be reminded this Christmas season when you think of the birth of Jesus, that God specializes in impossible situations.  Be assured in your own situation that ‘God can do it’.

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Chances are you’ve built a campfire or two.  You start with small stuff to get it going and then add more and bigger pieces of wood.  Before long you can have a pretty good fire.  In the course of an evening, you might add wood several times to keep a good fire.  As long as you add, it will stay blazing.

Have you ever noticed by morning, when the fire is gone, that if you stir around in the ashes there are usually enough coals left to get another fire going?  Add a few sticks, then a few pieces of wood and before you know it, you’ve got a good morning campfire.

Has there ever been a time in your life when all that was left of your believing was a few smoldering coals buried beneath the ashes of a fire that once burned hot for God?  Has your ‘believing God’ died down to a ‘believing in God’?

I read recently that there are certain times in people’s lives that they are more mindful of God than normal.  I don’t remember the entire list, but the birth of a child was there; a tragic event like 9/11 was pretty high on the list.  But #1 was the Christmas season.

When I first had the thought of writing this, I thought of it from the perspective of what we can do – need to do – to get our fires burning for God again.  But I thought when I saw these statistics that it is not just all on us.  God Himself comes to stir.  He uses these times to stir around in the ashes that are left of our believing.  He exposes the embers – fans them – hoping to rekindle our fire.

My prayer this morning, as it is now in the heart of the Christmas season, is that while there is this stirring, some would be compelled to keep a fire.  To do so, one must simply add wood on a regular basis.  It is really just that simple.  The word of God is our wood.  It is like a consuming fire.  Add enough and you will burn for God.

 

 

 

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You’ve seen the bag of liquid hanging by the hospital bed. It is set to dispense – drip by drip – the fluids a body needs while being cared for. I thought of this in relation to a blogging friend of mine. Every day, she posts something simple that she gets from reading God’s word. Drip by drip, day by day she is getting the vital nutrients which her spirit needs. Little by little, as she stays connected to this source of life, His life – His nature – flows into and becomes her life – her nature.

It is exactly what Jesus was saying in John 15. He is the vine; we are the branches. Apart from Him we can do nothing. When we remain connected, drip by drip, His life flows into ours.

Below is part of her post – the one I was reading when I had this thought. (My favorite, which I printed and read from time to time, is ‘Wind and Wave Obey’)

“And they watched Him closely, whether He would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse Him.” Mark 3:2

“How could the amazing truth that Jesus would restore this man’s withered hand completely escape their notice? How much do I miss when I get into critical mode?”

Drip . . . drip . . . drip, and over time we are changed.

Post-script: I have developed a habit of looking up the proper definitions to words that come to mind when I write. This morning, after having looked over this piece I had written the day before, I wrote the following line in my journal. ‘You have instilled in me, not only an appreciation for Your word, but an awareness that little by little, drip by drip, we are changed by it’.

Webster’s definition of the word ‘instill’ is, ‘to infuse slowly into the mind or feelings; to put in drop by drop’.

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Personally, I would much rather go around them. Wouldn’t we all? But then there is this thing called ‘life’. Every where I turn lately, there seems to be . . . ‘life’. There is good, but bad just seems to not be willing to let go – to not get out of the way.

Paul’s comment to the believers in Antioch struck me. Not just that we must go ‘through’ hardships, but that we must go through them ‘to enter the kingdom of God’. I like the part of God’s kingdom that is free of hardships. They are like front door blessings – blessings that everybody sees and associates as ‘God’s blessings’. But Paul is talking about another kind of blessing – another part of the kingdom of God that is not seen. They are more like ‘back door’ blessings.

These blessings and part of the kingdom of God are found when we, with the help of God, go through our hardships. It is like a trailer I was pulling one time. One of the 4 wheels was a little too low on grease and burned up. The wheel was still there – it endured the haul – but the hub was burned out. The other 3, with the right amount of grease, didn’t even get warm.

It is possible in our hardships to enter the kingdom of God and relatively speaking, not even get warm. (Well maybe a little) But that is what Paul is referring to; and in chapter 16 he demonstrates it. Amidst all the good that happened in the chapter, he also experiences the bad of being thrown in prison. He was put in the inner cell and his feet were fastened with stocks. (Hardships are like that; they can lock you up.)

But through prayer, Paul entered the kingdom of God. Before his hub got hot he added the grease of prayer. He wrestled with God until he gained God’s perspective. Once he did, he was able to sing. Afterwards, the doors and chains that locked him up opened and fell off.

The Lord may not always cause the doors and chains of our lives to open and fall off as He did with Paul; but, at a minimum, He can keep our hub from burning up. As I am learning about most things lately, it is not just all or none; we can enter a little, or a little more, or a lot. We can keep from burning up. We can keep from getting warm. In some cases . . . we can enter enough to sing.

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