Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hope In Perseverance

            I was amazed when a Sunday School teacher taught my children to quote from memory Jer. 29:11.  When I was four all I remember memorizing was “God is love.”  Then thirty years later my kids were quoting this long verse.  This past week I saw this verse written in four different contexts—it seems everyone is claiming this verse for themselves now.
            It is a wonderful sentiment:  “‘I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.’”  We all derive strength and renewed hope from this verse.  But let’s look at it in its context.
            This promise is in the middle of a letter Jeremiah wrote to the discouraged exiles in Babylon.  These people had been through horror.  They had endured a siege on Jerusalem, with all its privations of no food or water for many months.  They had endured the fear that threatened to drown them knowing that any day this invading army would breach the walls and probably slaughter them and their children.  Then when the breach came they watched as many members of their families were in fact killed before their eyes.  The ones who died were the fortunate ones—the survivors lived to relive the nightmare every day as their captors put them in chains and made them walk hundreds of miles to a foreign country.  Now, in poverty, displaced to a foreign culture and language, they had to eek out some sort of “living”.
            Into this bleak, discouraging existence Jeremiah sends this message.  At first it seems to mock them—“plans for welfare and not calamity”?  This is faring well?  Where is the “future and hope” when your last image of your beloved home, Jerusalem, was seeing it go up in flames as soldiers ransacked the city and carried off anything of value?
            To gain hope from this message, those exiles had to go on to verses 12 through 14:  “‘Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.  I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord.” 
            Their situation did not change over night.  They did not immediately return to Israel and rebuild Jerusalem.  In fact, many of them never lived to return from exile.  Their children did, but seventy years would pass before that prophesy was fulfilled and most of the adults who went into captivity would die in exile. 
            In meditating on this scene, and trying to apply this promise that God has a future and a hope for me, I have gained much strength to persevere by seeing the context of this promise.  The difficult things in my life may not change immediately just because I quote Jer. 29:11.  But I am changed when I call upon the Lord and seek Him with all my heart.  When I search for Him in that way—He is always there.  I find Him, in the middle of my troubles.  And for today, until He changes those circumstances, I find hope.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Tide Is Turning

            When I look at my grandchildren, all fourteen of them, I am amazed at the treasure each of them is to me and to our family.  My oldest granddaughter, now nearly 20 years old, just sent me a text telling me she loved me.  And last night I taught my nearly two year old granddaughter how to do pat-a-cake via Skype.  How wealthy I am!
            For nearly forty years uncounted millions upon millions of babies have been unceremoniously assigned to the trash bins behind abortion clinics.  I cannot begin to put my mind around this, let alone my heart.  How impoverished we are as a nation.  We’ve been robbed of so many sons, daughters and grandchildren who would have enriched our lives. 
            But I have hope.  There are many young people who are getting it.  They are standing before the Supreme Court with “Life” taped across their mouths.  Others are standing before the Almighty daily crying out for abortion to end.  More and more babies are not being aborted because their mothers saw their images on an ultrasound.  States are beginning to limit the powers of abortion clinics and level the playing field for pregnancy resource centers.  Slowly, the tide is turning.  May this trend spread to other countries, especially to Israel where some estimate more babies have been slaughtered than there were Jews killed in the holocaust!
            Join me on this anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies to hit our nation, the date Roe vs. Wade was made into law, to cry out with new passion and fervency:  Oh God, forgive us—end abortion now.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Calling us twice.

            A wonderful article by Moshe Morrison in the January issue of Tikkun Newsletter cites seven times when God called someone by using their name twice.  These included Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Simon Peter, Saul (Paul) and Martha.  He points out that each of these except Martha were at key, pivotal moments in the history of the people of Israel or the Church.  Abraham’s call kept him from slaying Isaac and allowed Jehovah Jireh to be the fulfillment of the covenant.  Jacob was reassured that the move to Egypt was God’s idea.  Moses’ call began the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery.  When God called Samuel it was the beginning of the prophetic period of the First Testament.  Jesus called Simon, Simon to warn him of Satan’s plans to sift him but reassured him that He, Jesus, had prayed for him and charged him with strengthening his brothers—a commissioning of Peter as a leader in the early Church.  Saul’s call knocked him off his horse and forever changed him and the direction of the Gospel to include the Gentiles!
            The call to Martha doesn’t seem to carry the importance or weight of the other six, but on reflection, it is of critical importance.  Jesus invited Martha to join her sister, Mary, in sitting at his feet to learn from him and soak up his presence.  He called it “the good part” that would not be taken away from her.
            Jesus calls each of us into intimacy with himself.  He even warns us that there will be those who claim to do all sorts of miracles in his name who will be excluded from entering his rest because they never “knew” him.  It is not enough to just know about Jesus.  We must get to know him personally.  We must sit at his feet, behold his amazing beauty, drink in his worth.  Truly this qualifies as the “one thing” of Ps. 27:4. 
            Have you heard Jesus calling?  It could be one of the most life-changing moments of your life.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Desiring New Wine

            After Jesus called Levi to follow Him, Levi threw a huge party and invited all his pagan friends and fellow tax collectors.  Jesus was enjoying Himself at this big bash but the religious establishment was criticizing him for eating with those sinners.  In response, Jesus told the well known parable about putting new wine in old wine skins. 
            The new wine Jesus is talking about is Himself.  He is teaching His disciples that He won’t fit in the old religious structures.  So He is associating with people like Levi and his sinner friends because He is revealing the love of God in a whole new way.
            At the end of that parable Jesus added, in Luke 5:39:  “And no one, after drinking old wine wishes for new; for he says, ‘The old is good enough.’”
            What a strong rebuke!  He is saying that the Pharisees and their scribes are content with the old wine of living under the Law and doing the “religious thing.”  Because they are content with that old wine, they reject the new, Jesus Himself.
            My heart cry for this new year of 2012 is that I will thirst for the new wine Jesus has to offer for today.  His mercies are new every morning.  I want to be in a place, every day of this new year, where I love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and body.  If He wants to do something totally new in me this year, I want to be in a place where I recognize the new wine skin and allow Him to fill it with His new wine.  I want to be continually filled with Holy Spirit and if that makes me look foolish or out of place in this world—so be it.  Pleasing Him is the only thing that matters.