But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when he appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire…He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver. And He will purify the sons of Levi…that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness.
Malachi 3:2-3 [NASB]
I love handbells! I love playing them, teaching them, and listening to them. One of the boys in my children’s bell choir asked me how handbells were made. I explained to him that handbells are cast of pure bronze—a mixture of 80% copper and 20% tin. After being heated to approximately 2,150° F, the molten metal is poured into sand molds. After the bronze has hardened, the sand is broken away. The raw bell casing is roto-blasted to remove burnt-in molding sand and scale, then sent to the lathe department, where the rotating bell is cut, drilled and endlessly sanded until it is shining spotlessly and perfectly tuned.
The Bible tells us that we humans are in need of a similar refining process. Sin has transformed us into instruments that are rough, stained, and out of tune. Isaiah says that God refines us in the furnace of affliction [Isaiah 48:10]. Zechariah states that God’s people will be tried as gold is tried [Zech.13:9]. Job triumphantly proclaims, “He knows the way I take; when He has tried me, I will come forth as gold.” [Job 23:10 NAS] I don’t like to be spiritually cut or drilled, and the constant sanding of my character can be irritating, to say the least! However, God promises me that it will be worth it, and I’m going to hold Him to it!
Pure and holy I would be,
Worthy of Your love for me.
Teach me while Your light is clear;
Change me while my heart is near.
April 6, 2017
And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jessie, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.
And the spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1-2 [KJV]
I really like to garden, especially container gardening. I love flowers of all kinds, and try to keep pots of something growing year around. I was browsing my favorite nursery one November morning, taking advantage of the end of season sales, when I spotted a big begonia plant bursting with coral blooms. Shiny dark green foliage fanned out two feet high by four feet across. We are talking about a HUGE begonia plant, and the sign said: Final Sale/$10.
Ten dollars?? Needless to say, the plant went home with me and found a premiere place in my living room to spread its wings.
The next morning, however, I was saddened to see that a small portion of my new beauty was wilted – dead, actually. Either the trip home in the car or the presence of two curious cats separated a begonia branch from the main stem. The result was immediate death.
The Bible uses the concepts of stem, branch and root as a picture lesson in connectivity. In the Old Testament, the coming Messiah is called the BRANCH, as well as the stem and root of Jesse. When Jesus walked this earth, He portrayed Himself as the Vine, with we, His children, as the branches. Each section is connected together into a complete plant. Each segment imparts elements necessary to the life of the whole.
The same is true for the Christian. The depth of our faith experience depends on our connection with Jesus Christ. God alone provides the spiritual nourishment, strength and support that enable us to be a thriving bloom in the garden of the Lord.
March 23, 2017
The Lord Our Righteousness
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch,
and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.
In His days, Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely:
and this is His name whereby He shall be called,
THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Jeremiah 23:6-7 [KJV]
Have you ever tried to do something perfectly – without an error, mistake, gaffe, blunder, inaccuracy, blooper, faux pas, or fault? Was your task faultless? Unspoiled, flawless, perfect? Hm…don’t think I have ever accomplished a perfect anything, even though I really try, being the perfectionist type and all. When someone says, “Hey – you did your best, and that’s all anyone can do!” it really rubs me the wrong way. I should be able to do it perfectly… shouldn’t I?
One of my mother’s favorite scriptures was Matthew 5:48: Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. She got a lot of mileage out of that verse with her kids, and we in turn experienced endless failure. Be perfect? Me? My mother had a million suggestions about how this could be accomplished. I fell short on every single one of them. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to be perfect: it was, in fact, impossible for me to be so.
Today’s verses from Jeremiah proclaims that the Messiah would be called The LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS! In capital letters, no less! He is the Holy One, the sinless sacrifice, the perfect Son of God. That is why Matthew urges us to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” His sinless life covers our tattered rags with a beautiful robe of white. He is perfect. He is holy. He is our Savior.
Covered with His life, whiter than snow;
Fullness of His life then shall I know;
My life of scarlet, my sin and woe,
Covered with His life, whither than snow.
March 16, 2017
“…the angel said, “Do not be afraid. Look, I bring you news of great joy, a joy to be shared by all the people.
Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
Luke 2:10-11 [NJB]
From childhood, Clara wanted to be a lifeguard.. The minute she reached the age qualification, she took the classes, got her credentials, and obtained a job at a summer camp in the Blue Ridge. All of 15 years old, she split her time between lifeguarding at the camp lake, and working in the horse barn. On the first day of the last week of camp, the teen girls were in the lake taking their swim tests. There was a roped off section where the tests were being given, and the two lifeguards were inadvertently taking a break from watching, chatting with each other as the girls splashed around. Clara was not on duty that day; dressed in boots, jeans, and a long-sleeve shirt, she was on the way to the horse barn to begin her work. Walking past the lake, she noticed first the chitchatting lifeguards; her second glance over the lake as a whole brought into focus a 13-year-old girl actively drowning in the middle of the lake.
Instinct and training took over instantly. Clara took off on a run, jumping the wood fence, yelling as she went. Diving into the lake fully-clothed, she swam as hard as she could toward the drowning girl. It was the only time in her lifeguarding career that she was afraid she would not get there in time. That would have been catastrophic: Clara did not have any lifeguard equipment with her, and it could have taken forever for divers to find the child at the bottom of the murky lake. By God’s grace she reached the girl before she slipped back under again, and delivered her to the shore and the waiting staff. Clara was a hero at camp for the rest of that week. She was, however, much more than merely a hero. She was that child’s savior; without thought to her own peril, she gave everything she had to save a child who could not save herself.
The human race, drowning in the pitch-black ocean of sin, needed a strong arm and a mighty hand before they slipped away forever into eternal death. Salvation that had been promised in the Garden of Eden was now proclaimed by angels to shepherds on the hillside. Jesus Christ, the babe, the child, the man, is our Savior and Redeemer.
March 2, 2017
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His
shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor… Isaiah 9:6 [KJV]
Has there ever been a time in your life when you had an overwhelming need to talk to someone? I’m not talking about a morning coffee chat or a mind-blowing gossip session. I’m referring to a deep need for someone who will quietly listen while you open your heart and bare your soul. A good friend often fills this role in our lives—someone that has the discipline not to reveal to others what they have been told. Occasionally, however, there is the need for an individual who has the training to provide something more—advice, guidance, counsel.
The Hebrew word for the name Counselor, יצץ [yaw-ats’], means to advise; to deliberate or resolve; to counsel, determine; guide. We have available to us, 24/7, One whose very name indicates His ability and willingness to fulfill this role. The problem, of course, is that we cannot sit across from Him and weigh His words, His eyes, His body language; we are such visual creatures, needing the reassurance of that which we can see. There have been numerous times in my life when I, seething with frustration, yelled at Him rather than talked, wishing above all things that I had access to Jacob’s ladder and could march right up to His sacred realm and confront Him—eye to eye, mano-a- mano.
Several years ago, the movie The Prince of Egypt offered me a different perspective. In the film, Jethro – High Priest of Midian and Moses’ father-in- law – offers Moses some advice that applies to all of us as well. We often don’t have the wisdom and insight to deal with what life throws our way. Our vision becomes clouded with our own pain and frustration. That’s when we need to look at our lives a different way – through Heaven’s eyes.
A single thread in a tapestry
Through its color brightly shine
Can never see its purpose
In the pattern of the grand design
And the stone that sits on the very top
Of the mountain's mighty face
Does it think it's more important
Than the stones that form the base?
So how can you see what your life is worth
Or where your value lies?
You can never see through the eyes of man –
You must look at your life
Through heaven’s eyes.
February 16, 2017
Therefore says the Lord, See – I am laying a stone in Zion, a stone that has been tested,
a precious cornerstone as a sure foundation; he who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken.
Isaiah 28:16 [NAB]
I learned all about foundations when I was a small child, sitting in my little chair in Cradle Roll Class at church. Well, maybe not all about foundations, but I certainly was an expert comparing sand vs. rock. The foolish man (who wanted to be that?) built his house on the sand, and when the rains came, his house went SPLAT!! What a great time we had yelling out that word with the biggest clap we could muster! Ah, but the wise man built his house on the foundation of a rock. When the rains came down and the winds blew, his house stood firm. It was clear as a bell—even to a 4-year-old. Sand sinks. Big rocks just sit there!
A cornerstone, often bearing an inscription, is placed at the corner of a building uniting two intersecting walls. Symbolically, the building is “resting” on the strength of this corner. David claims that the stone was rejected by one group of builders, only to become the “head” corner stone. Isaiah indicates that the stone has been tested. The portion that draws me, however, is Isaiah’s promise that “he who puts his faith in it shall not be shaken.”
Building a life is a difficult task. It doesn’t get appreciably easier as we continue to mature. The winds of difficulty and the rain of unfulfilled expectations are always with us. However, if the backbone of our lives is deeply submerged in the Rock of Ages, the storms of life will buffet and blow, but we will stand firm.
O build on the Rock forever sure, the firm and true foundation.
Its hope is the hope that shall endure, the hope of our salvation.
We’ll build on the Rock, we’ll build on the Rock.
We’ll build on the Rock, on the solid Rock,
On Christ, the mighty Rock
February 9, 2017
Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him. Psalm 2:12 [KJV]
trust (trust) n. [MEtraust]
1. firm belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity
reliability, justice, etc. of another person or thing;
faith, reliance in the person or thing trusted.
Trust. Quite honestly, not my strong suit. I am, to a degree, far more acquainted with betrayal than with any level of trust. This begs the question: If I don’t trust most humans, whom I can both see and hear, how in the world do I trust God, whom I cannot.
Part of the answer, I believe, lies in intimacy. Many people are “there for you” when “being there”; means shopping, eating, gossiping, skiing, seeing the newest movie, or gathering for a backyard barbecue – anything that is light, fresh, fun and emotionally non-committal. It is the rare friend that is willing to “be there” when you are overburdened, exhausted and depressed—willing to just quietly sit and listen without reservation or judgment.
God is not found in the hustle and bustle or the gilt and glamour – what my father called flash and trash. Rather, He is a “still small voice,” whispering peace, breathing comfort, promising a love infused with honesty, integrity, reliability and justice.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to trust in Jesus,
I’ve learned to trust in God.
Through it all, through it all,
I’ve learned to depend upon His Word.
Am I “the righteous”?
January 29, 2017
God charts the road you take…
Psalm 1:6a [The Message]
The New American Standard translation of this verse is,
“For the Lord knows the way of the righteous…”
Am I “the righteous”?
Hmm….I hardly think so. I make far too many gaffes, indiscretions, mistakes, and just plain old sins to ever feel righteous. But God is, in fact, talking to me; and He is talking to you.
So often we have a tendency to feel alone in this world. In our darkest moments, our thoughts often run through the litany of no one listens, no one knows, no one cares. On a human level, that might possibly be true, but God is always there – listening, knowing, and deeply caring.
He is keeping a chart of our walk. Think how much easier it would be for Him to accomplish this task if we were walking right beside Him.
January 26, 2017
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. John 1:1-3 [NAS]
John begins his Gospel account with the astounding introduction of The Word. We learn four facts about this “Word” in the very first moments of communication:
The Word was in the beginning of all time
The Word was with God
The Word was God
The Word is the Creator of all things
Isn’t it fascinating that “The Word” was the creative force that “spoke” everything into existence? The Psalmist proclaimed: By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host. For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast. Psalm 33:6,9 [NAS]
How I wish I could somehow have been there – a tiny speck of cosmic dust, able to watch the amazing transformation of blackness and void into a fully functioning universe. What overwhelming joy that must have brought The Word.
As He spoke the words of creation, building up layer by layer the awesome beauty that flooded from His mind, The Word’s motivation was not for His own satisfaction. He was not triumphant that this shimmering world reflected His talent, His power, His creative imagination. No, the grin on His face that day was for you… for me… for all the children who would romp and play in their beautiful new home. The words of creation came from the depths of His heart—a heart overflowing with unconditional love.
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth…