The night before He went to the cross, the Savior of the world stood up from the head of the table. Wrapped in a towel, the King knelt before His subjects and washed their feet. The Teacher taught His students to serve in both word and deed (John 13). The Creator served His creation.
And it is our loving privilege to serve Him in return. As Joshua in the Old Testament and Anna in the New Testament (Luke 2:37) we serve the Lord with prayer and fasting. As the Christians throughout the world and during all times, when we feed or clothe or comfort the least of these, we serve Christ (Matthew 25). And as the apostles, when we disciple, teach, and study, we are pouring out our service to the Servant King (Philippians 2:17).
One of the great beauties of the Scripture is that it is an invitation to spend time with God, learning about Him, and being instructed by Him. Even before Christ, the commands of God's Word are structured with our relationship in mind.
The fourth of the ten commandments is a command to spend time with God. One day in seven is holy, the world and things of the world are to be set aside in favor of God and His things. David speaks of rising early, even in the middle of the night, to seek the presence of God (Psalm 119:148). Jesus follows this example in times of isolated prayer and communion with God (Mark 1:35).
And we are invited into this intimate fellowship with God today, to spend time with our Lord and Savior.
"Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away!" -- Song of Solomon 2:13
Haha! Since Jesus went back to heaven, we can't touch God and He doesn't touch us. So you may be thinking here is one way God doesn't express or receive love -- physical touch. And we certainly have to dig a bit harder into the Scriptures to see how God physically touches our lives. But how we touch our Lord is simple. Matthew 25 is a poetic passage about how our interactions with others links us to Christ. When we hug our spouse when they don't deserve it or kiss our children (even though they are being little pills today) or lay a comforting hand on those who simply need to know someone cares -- we touch Christ.
In return, our Savior touches us the same way. When our friend gives us a hug (even though we are being a little pill today) -- that's God. Or our kids kisses us goodbye, even though we just yelled at them for something they didn't do -- God is there. And when our spouse rubs our back even though we just took last cup of coffee -- our Lord is reaching out to touch us using human hands.
God, undeniably, expresses His love toward us in the form of gifts. In fact, if we were to list all God's gifts we would be here until Christ returns. The sunshine, the raindrops, and the world that flourishes under both (Matthew 5:45). Riches, wealth, and our heritage (Ecclesiastes 5:19). The ability to eat, drink, and work (Ecclesiastes 3:13). Every spiritual blessing, the Holy Spirit, eternal life, and gifts to serve (Ephesians 1:3, Acts 8:20, Romans 6:23, and 1 Peter 4:10). The Lord is indeed the giver of all good things.
And yet, God humbles Himself to accept back from us what He has already given (1 Chronicles 29:14). The Almighty encourages you and me to express our love for Christ in the form of gifts! He desires to hear our gifts of joy and praise (Psalm 27:6), smell our sacrifices of skill and service (Philippians 4:18), and receive our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8-10). How great is our God's patience and love that He would receive our unworthy presents with pleasure!
We've all seen the books on love languages. But what is God's love language? Words of affirmation? Gifts? Physical touch? Quality time? Acts of service?
The Psalms make a strong case for words as God's love language. As a book, it is 150 chapters of written words in the format of songs and poetry.
"I will praise You with my whole heart; Before the gods I will sing praises to You." -- Psalm 138:1
These chapters discuss and direct our words toward God in personal worship and corporate adoration.
"Oh come, let us worship and bow down; Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker." -- Psalm 95:6
And the Psalms records numerous declarations made for the benefit of others.
"I will speak of Your testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed." -- Psalm 119:46
The Psalms demonstrate that God receives and desires to hear our love through our words those written, those spoken, even those thought.
The air smelled fresh. A cool breeze brushed the damp desert sand. I was out running, and the ants were working hard underneath my feet. As I danced over the diligent ants, I realized as long as I was looking at the ants I was missing out on so much more. The golden storm clouds, the vibrant cactus blossoms, and everything else outside the feet square feet in front of me was lost as long as I focused on the ants.
How often do we do this in life and to God? We hone in on our personal situations. Our thoughts, our energy concern only our suffering, loss or even, our successes and loves. But it's "me", all the time.
If all we are looking at is our own pathways is it surprising that we grow bored or discouraged? Or hopeless? That we doubt God's love or presence or strength? Or that we drift away from our Savior? But when we look up, we see the glory of God -- His person and work. We experience the truth of God's working in the lives of those around us, and before us. Instead of trying to make ourselves a life, we grow closer to the Author of Life. That's worth looking for.
So, no more ants for a while -- let's look up.
I'm still stuck on toothpaste -- excuse my preoccupation (and the terrible pun). But even in the small things, thankfulness tells us the truth. First, about ourselves, we are reliant on God and we need others. Second, about God, He is good and enjoys blessing us and providing for us in creative and wonderful ways. Third, is the truth about reality, God is working in our lives, individually, speaking to us and loving us every day.
Ingratitude, which often looks like entitlement or indifference, tells us lies. It says it's not good enough, God's not good enough, there's nothing to be happy about. Ingratitude tells us that God doesn't care, isn't there, or can't intervene in our circumstances. Failure to pick out the blessings God inserts into our days strips us of one of the tangible ways we see the hand and purposes of God.
All that from toothpaste? God -- You are amazing!
Ever been traveling and forgotten your toothpaste? I have...this week in fact and I was inordinately grateful for the hotel's toothpaste stock. I was also reminded that God is the source of all good things in our lives (even when He uses someone else to provide the toothpaste) and I was challenged. I tell others thank you, a lot. I told the lady at the front desk thank for you the toothpaste. When someone opens a door for me or does something for me at work -- I automatically say thank you. If someone helps me over the phone or email, I tell them thank you. But the God of the Universe...how often do I tell Him thank you? For the sun? The air-conditioning? The fact that I got up this morning able to move, breathe, and serve Him?
So, thank you God. Every good thing that I have is from You and it reminds how wonderful You are. You even provide forgotten toothpaste.
Ps. Please forgive my tardiness with this post.
A sweet smell flew on the breeze and stirred a rustle among the aspen trees. I looked around the mountain path and thought, "A taste of heaven." Just a taste -- for it has not entered into the mind of man what God has prepared for those who love Him (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Yet later that same, long week, I began to wonder what good does it do to think about heaven surrounded by "earth" in all its sin and fallenness? How is thinking about heaven helpful? And I came up with three things (but I am sure you can come up with more :0):
1. Proper perspective. Heaven is eternal -- all our circumstances here are temporary, good, bad or indifferent. But people's souls and service to God will last forever.
2. Renewed hope. We have a sure hope in heaven. We who believe and follow Christ will be with Him in glory, in beauty, in perfection forever. Now that is hope!
3. Continued joy. Our fatigue, our pain, our sorrow, our illness, our struggles with sin will come to an end soon. And that end is not oblivion, it is in fellowship with our God and Savior who loves us and who we are blessed to love in return.
Those truths are just a taste of heaven!
Happy Friday All :0)
[E]ach one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. -- 1 Corinthians 3:13 (NKJV)
The bare, twisted metal frame told the story. A home once stood here. Fire had stripped away the walls, incinerated the roof, and left only skeletal remains of appliances and beds. This devastation wasn't from a mere house fire. It was a forest fire.
207 homes destroyed. Over 6,000 acres engulfed in flames. As it threatened schools and businesses with searing heat, the McBride Fire in Ruidoso, NM garnered national attention.
A month later, my disaster relief team sifted through the ash. Glass vases had melded to their flower beads. Canning jars were contorted lumps of glass and metal. Aluminum, liquefied in the inferno, formed shiny puddles. Up from the rumble, knife blades poked through without handles, just like the inlay in a steel ring was eaten by fire. After eight houses, it became obvious what survives fire and it's not much.
Between earth and heaven there is a fire. This fire will demonstrate clearly if we spent our lives on what was worthy of our Savior. On the Day we stand before Jesus Christ, He will sift through the ashes of our lives. What pleases Him will enter eternity with us. What does not honor God will evaporate.
If our character looks like Jesus, the fire will prove it. If we seek God in Bible study, fasting, and prayer -- those moments will remain. If we serve the Lord, love and disciple others, those works will survive. If our priorities reflect God's, we will invest our talents and resources as good stewards and this fire will vindicate us.
As we look forward to that Day, it is not with fear but rather with anticipation. We are building things that will survive fire.
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.