I was signing a card for my nephew’s seventh birthday yesterday. It has a maze on the front (don’t tell him because he hasn’t seen it yet!), and inside the maze was blown up for the background print. The problem was the inside maze was enlarged so big that you couldn’t see the beginning or the end.
That is what living life without God is like. It’s a maze but you don’t know where you began or where you are going. So you wander around finding lots of dead ends, and even when you seem to be going the right way…it could be the wrong way because…where were we going again?
But in the maze of life God makes all the difference. He is the starting point: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” (Jeremiah 1:5), and He is the ending point, “I will ransom you from the power of the grave…” (Hosea 13:14) and “thus we shall always be with the Lord.” (1 Thessalonians 4:17)
Sure, life still has messes and dead ends and crazy U-turns, but in Jesus life has peace and purpose and unbelievable joy because the maze is passing away and the allure of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever (1 John 2:17).
At church this morning, I visualized the bronze snake in Exodus being raised up – just like Jesus was. God is and has been giving us clues throughout human history on how to escape this trap of sin and death and hell.
Maybe God feels like me sometimes when I plan an escape room. I make clues and think, “Oh, I’m sure they’ll get this.”
And sometimes they get it right away, but often it takes much longer than I expected.
Maybe God feels like that – “Surely, they will understand this! Jesus is total fulfillment of the sacrificial system. He is the only Son, the Son of promise, slain – like Abraham’s son. Jesus Christ is the ultimate completion of the bronze snake.”
The snake was the embodiment of the curse. Jesus became the curse for us. Those who looked toward to the snake were healed. Those who believe in Jesus are spiritually healed. The snake was the only way to be saved. Jesus is the only way to be right with God. Now that’s a clue.
Lord, help us take it.
How long has it been since you did a science experiment?
I didn’t mean to do one, but I was taking a bath and noticed a strange shadow on the bottom of the tub. It looked like curly yarn (and I am not in the habit of knitting in the powder room). Then, I saw it – there was a hair floating on the surface of the water; and as it broke the surface tension, it cast a much bigger shadow than I would have ever expected.
One hair made a difference.
And if it could make a difference, how much more could God use you to make a difference?
Your voice may be quiet. Your gifts may be small. Your influence may be limited. But even a single hair casts a shadow.
I saw an article a few weeks ago that proclaimed it had found the secret to what all 3-year-olds want for Christmas. I didn’t read it because that is not a secret! Everyone knows what 3-year-olds want for Christmas.
Leave off the expensive tech and toys because everyone three (or maybe four) and under is just as happy with the wrapping paper and the plastic mold the toy came in. Their Christmas is complete if they get sugar and shiny things.
Actually, that is what most people want – things that taste good and look good. But the best gifts don’t always meet those criteria. Getting a fancy watch that tracks your elevation change is a “great gift” but sock are “boring”. But which one will last longer? Which gift will be the most useful? Which one says “I love you” – the expensive gift you could give to anyone or the one that the person knew to get you because they’ve watch your socks grow more and more holes over the last year?
We seem to do this a lot with God’s gifts. We pray for the big, shiny things even while taking the “socks” for granted. Sometimes we even grow angry because the sweet gifts of life go to someone else. Other times we get discouraged because we aren’t getting what we want. So quickly we forget that even during the hard times: we never ran out of socks.
So here’s to 2021, the year we learn to be grateful for socks!
Today we celebrate that day when the Creator entered the world as part of creation. We rejoice that the King became a peasant. We remember God Almighty lay helpless, cradled in the arms of a virgin. We commemorate the day God was born. The One Who formed time and placed His world inside it – joined us within its confines.
These concepts boggle the mind and stir the heart into ceaseless worship -- because Christmas has eternal purpose.
Man was made for God, to have relationship with Him forever. But we are rebels who are at war with the Creator. We have refused His loving instructions and we are estranged. All rebels against God will die. It is the only just penalty for refusing the One Who makes and gives life. Every human is born with the seal of death on his forehead as one who has rejected the Life (John 14:6).
All lived under this curse. Mankind appeared unsalvageable.
But what if Someone Who never did any wrong – Who had a perfect relationship with God – died in their place? Could that Perfect Sacrifice take the punishment for men? Could infinite perfection cover all finite sins?
At Christmas God said, Yes. Mankind can be saved. But I’ve got to do it -- personally. And all who believe in Me will have everlasting life and will not come into judgment but will pass from death into life (John 5:24).
Our annual missions fair for our Awana club is always a bit chaotic. Each club chooses their own exotic (or less exotic) country to research. This year I was struck by the idea that each continent has its own missionaries…even Antarctica.
The internet informs me that about 5,000 people live there during summer but only about 1,000 hearty souls tough out winter at the bottom of the world.
That’s not a lot of people. But surely at least one knows Jesus as Savior and Lord. That person is Antarctica’s missionary – because they are the one who is there. We all live in our own “Antarcticas” – small populations where at least one person knows Jesus as King and Redeemer. That person is me or you. And we are their missionary -- because we are the ones who are here.
Your “Antarctica” probably has a smaller population than the really one and is probably geographically smaller (and warmer). But it needs a missionary. It needs you.
[Insert Your Name Here] is a missionary to “Antarctica”.
“Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” – John 4:35
Looking out over Israel, how could Jesus know the field was ripe for harvest? Looking out over America, how could He know that my field and your field are ripe for harvest?
Because: God is the answer to every cry of the human heart. We do not need more money or education. We do not need a new skin color or a new sex. And we do not need human approval or acceptance. We need God come down in human form. We need Jesus.
To all who are unloved – God is Love (1 John 4:16).
To all who are exploited – Jesus is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11).
To all who are purposeless – God is Purpose Giver (Ephesians 2:10).
To all who are bitter – God is Merciful God (Deuteronomy 4:31).
To all who are scared – Jesus is Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Therefore, our fields are ripe for harvest.
“What is it doing?” I squinted from the car, spying on a nondescript parking lot bird. It had climbed up into the Jeep’s grill next to me until only its tail feathers stuck out. Duh! It was eating all the dead bugs off the front of the car. Yuck!
Not even two feet away were live bugs in the grass and bushes. Lazy? Yes. But smart – those dead bugs are easier to “catch” and eat – the same nutrition in a fraction of the time. This was prudent bird-brain using his time wisely. A prudent Christian does the same.
Even if we live 100 years – life is short. Every decision to do (or not do) something uses or saves part of your life. Is that movie, TV series, or book worth the investment of time? What about this hobby, craft or project? More often than not, the answer is: No or not really.
My bird friend was redeeming his time. I don’t know what else he was planning to do with his time (besides eat more :0). But I can think of many things I could do if I could glean more time. I think I need to go find those dead bugs!
“…redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” – Ephesians 5:16
Olympic athletes spend their lives in training. Every minute dedicated to their goal of competing in the Olympics. Eat to victory. Sleep for triumph. Run, stretch, practice for gold. An earthly crown…that this year was not even awarded.
Does my life reflect that level of devotion to my heavenly crown? That crown, as Joni Eareckson Tada pointed out, is the only thing I will be able to give my Savior.
“When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction:” – Proverbs 24:3
Up near Bandelier National Monument is a burned out ranger’s cabin. The wooden portions were eaten by a fire long ago, and the stone chimney is slowly being “reclaimed by nature” as one photographer put it.
That cabin is like our Christian life. Our faith stands in danger of being “reclaimed” by our fleshly nature unless it is actively and consistently built up. The storms of our culture are beating down on our little cabin. The floods of internal doubts and depression are pressuring our foundations. And the intensity of disapproval from those around us is deteriorating our roofs.
But praise God! He has provided us with tools for repair and revival, and using them every day redeems our cabin and protects us from being reclaimed. Through His word, prayer, meditation, memorization, fellowship and so on, God enables us to stand strong and unmoved and to grow in beauty and influence to those around us.
I think my cabin could use a new wreath on the front door…that says:
Neighbors and friends,
Come right on in.
This cabin is cozy,
As all can see.
It was made for the King,
And to His praise it sings.
Come with me as we grow in fellowship with each other and our Savior to whom belongs the Amazing Escape from sin and death and the Amazing Journey into glorious life.