Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Legacy Redeemed


When asked in a poll , “If you could live your life over, what would you do differently,” the number one answer was:
I would have done more things that would live on after my death. 
Rather than great wealth, or power or renown, there is a deep desire to leave something of lasting value to the generations that will follow us. For the Christian, a legacy of faith is the greatest gift we can bequeath to our loved ones. 
Supposing, however, we haven’t always lived a life of faith? Are there things in our past that disqualify us from leaving a legacy of eternal value? Let’s take a look at a story from the Old Testament and see what the Bible has to say.
The Children of Israel have wandered in the wilderness for forty years. Moses has died and Joshua has taken his place. The time has come for the Israelites to step into the Promised Land – the land the Lord has prepared for them. 
Before crossing over the Jordan river, Joshua sends two men ahead to spy out the land. Entering the city of Jericho, they “came into the house of a harlot whose name was Rahab and lodged there.” (Joshua 2:1)
The story is a familiar one. Rahab has heard about the great God of Israel, (“For the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” Joshua 2:11) and has the faith to believe He can save her and her family. She hides the spies from the king of Jericho, helping them to safety – and in return they agree to spare her and all her family from the coming destruction of the city. 
Miracles abound in this story, but the one thing that stands out as we consider the way the mistakes and failures of our past  may impact our legacy is the fact that a harlot played a key part in God’s plan. Rahab had not lived a perfect or even a good life up until this point, but she put her faith in the God she had heard so much about and saved not only herself but her entire family. She brought them with her to the Promised Land and laid the foundation for a legacy of faith. 
This isn’t the last place in scripture we see Rahab.  In the book of Matthew we find her name listed in the genealogy of Jesus. “And to Salmon was born Boaz by Rahab…”. 
In Hebrews 11 -the chapter known as the Hall of Faith – we find listed among such great heroes of the faith as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob , Joseph, and Moses this woman whose life once seemed so tarnished. 
“By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”
What a truly amazing legacy this faith-filled woman left for not just her family but for all of us. 
We can be encouraged, when we look at the life of Rahab, in knowing that the sins of our past will never disqualify us from living a life that will bless those who come behind us. When we turn to God and repent of our sins, His gift to us is forgiveness and a new beginning.  From that moment on we begin to build a legacy of priceless value for those we love. 
 “I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” III John 1:4

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Hopelessness


Hopelessness - surely one of the most frightening words we know. 

My 96 year old mother often tells of a time of hopelessness in her own family. It happened long before she was born - during a time of great financial struggle for the entire country. Her mother, my grandmother, had to go out to work to help support the family leaving her six month old infant girl in the care of a friend. 

While in the friend’s care, the baby scratched herself on the rusty old carriage where she was napping. What,  in our time  would have been a minor problem, quickly escalated into a life and death struggle as infection coursed through her tiny body. Without any effective medication, they could only watch with an overwhelming a sense of hopelessness as this precious little one slipped away.

We all, at one time or another, will find ourselves in a situation that seems hopeless. For the one who knows Jesus as Savior,  it is (as Pastor Doug reminded us) an opportunity for God to call us closer to Himself. We don’t have to think all is lost because we cannot control the circumstances in our lives. Instead we can learn to trust the One who controls all things. 

This hope is not a feeble-hearted wish.  It is confident expectation that God will do what He has promised.

We have this priceless gift to share with those who don’t know the Lord. When we speak to them about the eternal hope we have in Jesus, we wrap it in prayer placing it in thes hands of the One who gives life and hope to all who will receive it - by the power of His Spirit. 

“Prayer draws God’s heart into our lives. When you combine prayer and action, there is no hopeless situation.” (Pastor Doug)


"Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."  Romans 15:13

Friday, July 5, 2019

A Whisper



A Whisper


“Indeed these are the mere edges of His ways, and how small a whisper we hear of Him! But the thunder of His power, who can understand?” Job 27:14
This verse in Job ends a chapter in which he attempts to describe who God is. His conclusion is one we all must come to when we consider the greatness of God compared to our smallness – our minds simply cannot contain it. We see evidence of His glory and power all around us – majestic mountains, delicate flowers, a tiny hummingbird, a newborn baby, a beautiful sunrise, a storm-tossed sea – and know that we see only in part.
We see the miracle of a changed life or a body healed of an incurable disease and weep with gratitude. We find comfort within a heart that has been plagued by worry and fear knowing it was Spirit given and rejoice. Gratitude and praise to a God whose love is limitless and whose power is beyond our comprehension.
We struggle under the burden of guilt – an unending tape set on rewind resurrecting all the things that haunt us from our past. We remember all the ways we fell short, all the failures, all the wrong choices that brought pain to the ones we love most. When we find the strength and courage to confess it all once again, this God, who knows the hidden secrets of our hearts and what we will say before we have spoken a word, tells us He has forgotten. Miraculous mystery of redemption and grace.
We weep with those whose deepest prayers seem to have gone unanswered. We rage at injustice and question why. We battle with forces we cannot see and feel a quiet desperation, but for us, there is nowhere else to go. We turn to this mysterious God who calls us His children and promises to work all things together for our good. We turn with trusting heart and find a peace we cannot explain and a knowing that transcends all the mystery.
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever…” Deuteronomy 29:29
Our Heavenly Father has given us all we need for this earthly life we live in Him. He holds secrets He will reveal to us one day when we step into eternity. In that day we will know Him fully – in all His power and glory. Imagine the splendor when the whisper becomes a shout.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

It Will Be Well


She is described as a “prominent woman, but her name remains a mystery. The prophet Elisha often passed by her home on his travels. One day she invited him into her home for a meal establishing a pattern that continued for some time. Eventually, this gracious woman, persuaded her husband to build a little room for the prophet and his servant, Gehazi, so he would have a place to stay whenever he passed through their neighborhood.

Touched by her kindness, Elisha told Gehazi to ask the woman what he could do for her in return. She humbly refused his offer to mention her to the king or the captain of the army. She didn’t need to be known or applauded.

Gehazi pointed out that the woman and her husband, who was an old man, had no son. So Elisha called her to him and told her she would bear a son at that time next year. Almost too overwhelmed to believe such a promise she said, “No, my lord, O man of God, do not lie to your maidservant.”

Season followed season, and by the next year the Shunammite woman held a tiny son in her arms - a promise fulfilled.

One day, when he was older, the little boy went into the fields where his father was working with the harvesters.  While there he became very ill. One of the servants carried him back to his mother. She sat with him in her arms for a long time, but by noon her precious son had died. 

However, the story doesn’t end there. The grieving mother carried him up to the prophets’ chamber and tenderly laid him on the bed. Then she went to her husband and requested a servant and a donkey to take her to Elisha. When her husbanded questioned her, she replied, “It will be well.” That was all. “It will be well.”

We know the story ended with Elisha coming and this precious child being raised from the dead. Surely an astounding miracle, but my eyes stray from the wonder of a little boy brought back to life to the faith of his mother.

“It will be well.” In the face of everything that cried “hopeless,” she believed. Through the prophet Elisha God had spoken a promise to her, and she had taken Him at His word. She couldn’t have known how it would end. She simply trusted He would help her.  


I want to be like this nameless, faith-filled woman. Despite the circumstances, she rested firmly in the knowledge that God would make all things well. I love her faith. I love the One who sees us and promises to be with us no matter what comes into our lives - so that we too can say, “It will be well.”

Saturday, May 4, 2019

The Storms





When I was a little girl, one of our family’s favorite ways to spend a lazy, sunny Saturday afternoon consisted of driving to a nearby lake, renting a rowboat and doing some serious fishing. Mom sat contentedly taking in the scene, and my little sister and I dangled our hands in the water as Dad rowed us across the lake. 

One such afternoon, Dad decided to let Mom do a bit of the rowing. She gamely switched seats, awkwardly grabbed the oars and began to row.  My sister and I looked at each other as the boat took a rather circular path over the water. Dad called out instructions, but in spite of her best efforts Mom managed to row us right onto a large rock sticking out of the water. My little sister, eyes filled with terror, stood up and announced, “I’m getting out of here!”

Don’t we often feel that way when we’re in the middle of a frightening situation? When the storms of life come, and they come to all of us, our first thought is to find a way out. 

When the storms come, God uses them to bring us closer to Him and to make us more like Jesus.Some are inevitable, some come to test our faith and sometimes we are in need of discipline.  We cannot make it through the storms of life in our own strength. We must learn to surrender control to the One who loves us and holds all things in His hands. He has promised to work all things together for good. Our part is to surrender to His will and walk in obedience. 

Other times there may come to us a storm of someone else’s making - their actions causing them, and us, great grief and pain. We want desperately to fix the situation - to be the one who calms their storm and make things right. We cannot do what only God can do. He alone can change the heart. In this too, we learn to let Him have control.

When we submit to God’s will an amazing thing happens. We experience the inexplicable peace He has promised. We free Him to work in miraculous ways in our life and in the lives of those we love, and we draw ever closer to Him.

“Love divine has seen and counted
  Every tear It caused to fall,
  And a storm which Love appointed
  Was Its choicest give of all.” *

*from a talk by Elizabeth Elliot

"When you go through deep waters,
    I will be with you.
When you go through rivers of difficulty,
    you will not drown.
When you walk through the fire of oppression,
    you will not be burned up;
    the flames will not consume you.
           For I am the Lord, your God,
           the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." Isaiah 43: 2,3a

Blessings,
Linda


Friday, April 19, 2019

What Love Did


"From the very first day we were there, taking it all in - we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly this: the Infinite Life of God Himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it and now we're telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: we want you to enjoy this too. Your joy will double our joy!"  I John 1:1-4 (The Msg.)

In a day when truth seems as elusive as an early morning mist, subject to individual interpretation and the feelings of the moment - an honest word from someone who has seen and heard still stands.
These words from a man who shared three years of his life with Jesus Christ, that have remained with us across the centuries, plead with us to have ears to hear and an open heart.

John was not alone in his eye witness testimony. Many others saw the One who only days before had been put to death on a cross. Some wrote about it so that the world would know. How strange that we accept as truth countless historical accounts and yet view the evidence of Jesus' life, death and resurrection with skepticism. Perhaps some will give a nod to the truth that a man called Jesus did in fact exist, but what, then, will we do with Him?

On this day, we remember what Love did for us - for every single one of us.

"For this is how God loved the world . He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

The simplicity of truth very often trips us up. We cannot believe that something so profound can also be so simple. Surely there must be more to it than that, we think. Yet John, and countless believers from every walk of life for hundreds of years, testify to this one truth:

Jesus lived; He died; He rose again; He lives!

Blessings,
Linda





Friday, April 5, 2019

The Numbers Game




We live in a world of numbers.  Hold that thought for a minute while I take us back to a time long ago and far away.

My grandchildren look at me with wonder when I tell them we didn't have cell phones when I was growing up. They cannot imagine such a world. I sometimes find it hard to imagine myself. Wonder of wonders - we did.

However, I seem to have moved with surprising ease into a world where forgetting to take my cell phone with me brings on a mild panic attack. It began innocently enough with the desire to keep in touch with family and friends. After all, the grandkids are all on instagram and facebook. What could be easier than scrolling through my feed to see their posts?

Perhaps it begins that way for most of us, but somewhere along the way we become aware of such things as "likes" and "comments" and we find ourselves caught up in an unexpected contest. As a teenager it took the form of being in the "right" group. Who didn't want to be in the popular crowd (am I dating myself here)? The need for approval seems a bit obvious in that context, but I believe things haven't changed all that much.

Now our desire for approval has made its way to the internet. How many views will my youtube video get? Will it go viral? Will everybody like me? What about the post I wrote? Does it resonate with lots of people? Will it somehow make me "known"? If I get enough followers, will I be able to sell my work? If no-one responds, does it mean I'm a failure? On and on it goes.

I don't believe our need for approval is a bad thing. However, the places we go to find it can often lead on an endless cycle of trying and failing and trying again. All it takes is one unkind comment to send us spiraling into discouragement.

We were made to find our approval in the One who knows us better than anyone else. The One who sees into the very heart of us and loves us just the way we are. Incredibly, He loves us even when we aren't at our best.

When God looks at us He sees only one number - His one and only Son and through Him....me.

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them."I John 4:16

Blessings,
Linda
Photo by Mika Baumeister on Unsplash