…simple stories of everyday faith…

Journey To Christmas

Posted on December 26, 2017

His life had been nothing much to brag about. He had made more mistakes than he cared to remember. He often wondered why he even existed? Did his life really count? If so, then why didn’t he have anything to show for it? His friends numbered no more than the fingers on one hand and he hadn’t seen any of them in months. He never married and had no other family, so basically, he was alone in the world. Oh, he had a few treasures wrapped in the blanket that was slung over his shoulder. A drinking cup, a sling, his hunting knife, a fishing net and a small leather bag with some items Esther had given him. It wasn’t much, but it grew heavier every step that he took  over the rough terrain. He chose the more difficult, less traveled path for this journey. It was best if no one recognized him. He would just as soon his past stayed in the past. He laughed out loud. Who was he kidding? It seemed he had always taken the hard road in life. Speaking ,somewhat sarcastically, into the night air as if to smooth over his poor choices before his fellow travelers, who lived only in his mind, he said,”Why should I change now? Besides, I don’t know how to do things the easy way. That would be out of character for me.” Satisfied with his assessment concerning his pattern of living, he stopped and mumbled, “Yep. That’s about it. What do you say we sleep for the night under those rocks?”

Whenever he opened his blanket, revealing his belongings, his memories of Esther were awakened. And why shouldn’t they be? She was the only one who ever really loved him and cared for him. Raising him as her own from a young child to manhood. Never having a husband chosen for her and no children of her own, he became the child and then the man in her life. As he laid down, he thought of her faithfulness. Whenever the scrolls were opened, she was there hanging on every word and memorizing all she could. Then she would recite the stories about God to him at the end of each day. She believed that every person was created by God with a special purpose in life. Of course, being named after the famous Esther who saved her people from annihilation, gave her great incentive to believe that was possible. He often thought her special purpose was finding him when he was near death, washed up on the shore after his family’s boat was broken to pieces during a storm. His parents were never found.  Esther took him in as her own and from that day forth she lived her life for him. She taught him everything she knew and when she died he was barely old enough to live on his own. Because of what he learned from her, he survived. Now, nearly twenty years later, he knew his days were numbered and he wondered, had he missed his calling? His special purpose? Could God still find him useful for anything significant? Drying a tear, he confessed, “I have fallen short of Esther’s dreams for me. She had such high hopes. God must be shaking his head right now, thinking, “what a waste”.

Speaking to no one there, he said,” Well, I don’t know about anyone else, but I’m hungry!” So, he started a fire beside the rock he had claimed for the night and with net and knife in hand went down by the waterside in search of  fish.  He did pride himself in his ability to hunt, camp and fish well enough so he had never been to the point where he had to beg for food and on occasion he could help others who weren’t able to provide for themselves. He could start a camp fire with little of nothing. And even at his age he was strong and agile and could take care of himself against those who sought to harm him. Esther was a remarkable woman. Training him up in ways most men weren’t capable of doing. If only he could thank her for all she had done for him.

As the sun set low, he expected, at best, to return to his campsite with one small fish for his evening meal. Wading into the water a little further and then standing still and quiet, as if he were pretending to be a statue, he waited. Starting to lose patience, he glanced back toward his camp to see if his fire was still burning when he felt movement around his feet. Looking down, he hardly could believe his eyes! There were four large fish swimming around his feet! A swift movement of his net brought them up out of the water. He held them high and shouted, “Jehovah Jireh! My Provider! I asked for an evening meal and you gave me a morning meal and noon meal as well!  This has never happened before!” He stood for a moment in amazement, then off he went to clean and cook his prize. He was not a Jew by birth, but Esther had given him her family name and taught him that Jehovah God was his God as well and that he should show proper respect and honor to him always.”This is a good night”, he thought to himself, as he sat with his fish over the fire, anticipating the first bite.

Hearing the sound of a hoofed animal approaching, he called out, ” Who goes there?” A man’s voice answered back through the night air, “My wife and myself, on our way to my hometown to register for the census.” With one hand on his knife and the other searching the ground for a rock that would fit nicely in his sling, he called back,”Come near my fire so I can see you.” Knowing all too well that robbers were common in this area,he waited, muscles tensing and mentally  ready to spring into action if it should be necessary.  As they slowly walked into the flickering light of his campfire, he relaxed. It was obvious that they meant him no harm. Actually, they were somewhat of a pitiful sight. He noticed quickly the wife was great with child. Esther had taught him all about how a woman carries a child in the womb. Remembering how she described it, he predicted that this baby was about ready to enter the world!

Esther’s sweet voice echoed through the pages of his mind. “When God blesses you with plenty, share it with someone who has little.” He smiled and said to the ragged couple,”please, would you join me for this evening meal? I caught extra fish today! Looking relieved, the man replied,”That is very kind of you. Yes, we would love to join you. We have some bread, dried fruit and olives we can add to the meal!.” He gave thanks for the food and for company of the travelers. Ester had taught him to always be very attentive to the ways of those around him because, as she would often state, “We live in perilous times!” He found that lesson in living to be quite helpful a number of times, often alerting him to the dishonest, harmful intentions of others.. As they enjoyed the meal together he assessed the man and his wife and came to the conclusion that they were honest in what they had told him earlier. He also sensed they had not been married very long for they were not all that familiar with each other’s mannerisms. Which puzzled him because the wife was most certainly ready to deliver this baby and she was obviously very uncomfortable and ready to find more accommodating quarters. Regardless, they had faith that Jehovah would see them safely to their destination. Their faith reminded him much of Esther’s. Once he felt he could trust them, he apologized for not introducing himself and said, “I am Amos.” “I am Joseph,” the man replied,” and this is my wife, Mary.” “Amos is a good Jewish name!” Joseph said, as he and Mary began preparing to leave. I was given that name after the sheppard Prophet of old. Amos felt an uneasiness in the night air and something deep down told him to stay close to this couple. He had an eerie feeling, like there was some kind of evil struggle taking place out there in the blackness of the night. Amos spoke up just as the couple was ready to go,”Why don’t you stay here for the night? You are more than welcome, then you will be rested up for another day of travel.” Joseph and Mary conversed briefly, then Joseph replied, “We accept your gracious offer! The rest will do my wife good.” Without thinking, Joseph added,” the time is near for our son to be born.” Amos was puzzled,”how do you know this child is a boy? Oh! Thinking quickly, Joseph responded, Women have a way of knowing these things. To change the subject, he said,”we will sleep over there in front of the rocks, away from the fire a bit. Mary was feeling very warm today. Before Mary laid down to sleep, she walked over to Amos and for the first time spoke freely to him, expressing her gratitude for all he was doing for them and then she placed her hand on his shoulder, asking a blessing over him,” May the Lord of Heaven and Earth, reward you greatly for the kindness you you have shown us on this day.” Amos turned and attended the fire, not wanting to show his emotion. Mary was the first person to speak to him in that way since Esther had died.

The three of them settled in for the night.
With one last gaze at the night sky, before drifting off, Amos prayed silently,” Thank you Lord God for Esther. If not for her, I wouldn’t be alive today. And thank you for this couple from Nazareth to be my guests and keep me company. I ask your protection over them both and their child in the womb, till they reach Bethlehem.”

Before his eyes were closed, a movement in the nearby bushes alerted him. A quick glance at Joseph and Mary assured him they were already asleep. Taking his sling in one hand and his knife in the other, Amos quietly rolled out of the light of the campfire where his eyes could adjust to the darkness. He focused intently on the bushes where he had heard the stirring. He could faintly make out the silhouettes of two men moving toward Joseph and Mary. One man was holding a large stone over his shoulder and the other held out to his side what looked to be a long knife. Without making a sound, Amos reached to the ground, finding a stone to fit his sling. He stood and released it. The stone found it’s target, striking the first man in the side of his head! He groaned and feel to the ground. The second man turned to run as Amos threw another stone by hand, striking him in the middle of the back. The man staggered, dropped his knife, then caught his balance and disappeared into the night. The first man sprang to his feet and ran off the other direction. Joseph heard the commotion and awoke in time to see the men running off. “Robbers!” Amos said with disgust.” Then he asked Joseph,”is there any reason someone would not want you to reach Bethlehem or want to cause harm to you and your wife?” Shaking his head, Joseph responded,”Not that I am aware of, however, I will tell you this. “The child Mary is carrying is very important and must be protected at all cost.” Amos didn’t quite understand all that, but then, he supposed every child was important to their parents. The two agreed they would take turns keeping watch through the night. Amos said to Joseph,” I am traveling to the town just beyond Bethlehem. I will walk with you tomorrow, but a short distance ahead so I can alert you to any danger along the way. The two men shook hands. Joseph thought of how fortunate he and Mary were to have come across a man as trustworthy and capable as Amos.

Returning to the campsite, they found Mary still sleeping. Amos spoke softly, “She must be exhausted… She is so young.” Joseph nodded and replied,”Yes, but her unwavering faith and trust in the Lord God is well beyond her years. I am blessed to have her as my wife.” I learn much from her every day. I am humbled to have been chosen to be her husband. I will do whatever it takes to protect her and our child and provide for them as long as God allows me to live.” Amos was moved by the faith of this couple and their strong devotion to each other.

The bright morning sun brought promise of a new day away from the dangers of the night. Amos was on watch at sunrise so he gathered some berries to go with the food that Joseph and Mary had brought with them.

As Amos was putting the last of the fire out a poisonous viper suddenly emerged from the ashes, slithering directly toward Mary! “Joseph!” Amos cried out. With one strong swing of his walking stick Joseph slung the viper away from them. Amos quickly picked up the large stone the robber had dropped the night before and heaved it, crushing the viper’s head! Shaking, Mary asked,”Where did that come from?” “From out of the ashes!” Amos exclaimed, “I’ve never seen anything like that happen!” They were all silent for a few moments and Amos spoke up,”I think we need to keep moving until we reach Bethlehem.” “Mary, are you up to that?” Joseph asked. Mary nodded emotionally, in agreement.

A long day of travel would bring them to Bethlehem by nightfall. Not the best time to arrive in a town where you have no family or friends living there anymore to help you settle in, especially in Mary’s condition.
As they began their last day together, determined to reach Bethlehem, Amos felt a deep sense of responsibility to see this couple and their baby safely to Bethlehem. He believed there was some force much darker than anything he had experienced before trying to stop Mary from having this child. For the first time in his life he had a purpose that was worth dying for.

Amos walked ahead about twenty paces, but when there seemed to be no danger he would fall back and walk along side of Joseph and Mary. He knew them only one day, yet he felt he could trust them with anything. He shared with them how Esther had saved him from near death and taken him in, raising him and teaching him all she knew. Joseph in turn shared with Amos that Mary had become with child before they were married, so even though they knew this trip would be very difficult on Mary, it was somewhat of a relief to have left Nazareth, where they were looked down upon because of their situation.
The closer they were to Bethlehem, the more turbulent the atmosphere became. It was as if a mighty battle was taking place all around them. One they could not see or hear. Their legs became heavy as if someone was trying to pull them backwards. As the sun dropped out of sight, flickering lights came into view. “We are almost there”, said Amos, in hopes of encouraging Mary. “Joseph!” Cried Mary,”This baby is coming soon! You must find a room for me and someone to help with the birthing!” Amos ran toward Bethlehem. Yelling back,”I will find a place for you!”

Reluctantly, Amos met the couple at the edge of town and said to them, “Everything is full in town because of the census! No one will offer you any place to stay.” Mary began to weep. “There is a man, Amos added, not far up who said we could use his stable, down the hill behind his house. He has a lantern we can borrow and I found a woman who is warming some water for us and will give us some clean cloths. I’m so sorry I could not find a room.” Mary screamed! “There’s no time! Get me to the stable fast!” Amos led the couple to the stable then ran for the water and cloths and lantern. Arriving back at the stable he found Joseph cleaning a stall the best he could, looking frantic as he anticipated the arrival of the baby in such a dirty place. Mary was in much pain and Amos knew time was running out. Leaving the water and cloths by Mary’s side, he said reassuringly,”I will stand guard just outside the stable for the rest of the night… If you need anything, call me.”

The night air grew cold and the gentle breeze became gusts coming first from one direction and then another. to his left Amos heard a pack of wolves howling nearby that seemed to be drawing closer! To his right he heard a sound that he was certain came from a wild boar preparing to charge! He had two small stones in his sling and his knife in hand. He stood poised as a soldier on the front line of battle, ready for whatever comes next. Then suddenly the wind stopped and animals were silent. Amos held his breath, not knowing what to expect. Out of the silence came the most beautiful sound he had ever heard. The cry of a newborn baby! With his back against the post of the stable, he slide down to the ground and cried out,”Thank you Lord!” He listened to the sweet sounds of the baby and Joseph and Mary laughing and then crying and then laughing again. “It’s a boy, Amos!” Joseph shouted. “Imagine that!” Amos replied back with a laugh. “Come and see him, Amos.”Mary called out in a soft voice. “I’ll give you two some time. I’ll be there in a bit.”He answered emotionally.

Amos closed his eyes, remembering Esther’s words as she told him about when the great Esther of old was about to approach the King to ask him to save her people. Her grandfather said to her,”Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.” Now, for the first time, Amos felt he could claim those words as his own!

He was startled by the sounds of footsteps and men’s voices approaching the stable! “Who goes there?” Asked Amos. One of men spoke,”We are shepherds from the field just outside of town.” They stopped when they saw Amos facing them with a weapon in each hand. Another man spoke up,”An angel appeared to us in the sky proclaiming a Savior is born tonight in the city of David and we would find him lying in a manger. We have come to see him! Is he in there?” Mary cried out,” Let them come in. It’s OK” One by one, with great reverence, the shepherds entered the stable. It was the most awesome sight Amos had ever seen. Some of the shepherds knelt before the child, heads bowed. Others stood back with hands raised, praising God! Mary spotted an older man who had not entered the stable. She motioned for him to come to her. In a broken voice he said,”I am not worthy to be here.” Fixing her eyes upon the man, Mary said gently,”Because of this child, all people can be worthy. Come and touch him.” With tears streaming down his face the old man shuffled slowly through the straw toward Mary. He reached down and softly touched the baby. He turned and fell into the straw, sobbing. Amos stood by, taking it all in. Hardly believing what he was seeing. The shepherds left the stable, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard! Amos brought his small leather bag into the stable and knelt in the straw before Mary, Joseph and the baby. He pulled out a strip of cloth that Esther had written on her favorite words from the ancient Prophets. Amos searched the small writing until he found what he was looking for. He stood in the light of the lantern and proclaimed,” From the words of the prophet, Isaiah, For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given. He will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!”

Of course, this story of Amos is not found in the Bible. He lives only in my imagination. However, Joseph and Mary must have come in to contact with many people as they journeyed to Christmas. We know, as well, from the scripture that the angels of God were in a fierce battle with the forces of darkness as they attempted to kill the Christ child and stop the birth of Christ from taking place in Bethlehem. Glory be to God! For Satan was defeated and the prophecies of the birth of Christ stand fulfilled and the Christ child has become the Savior of the world! Hallelujah!

This Christmas season, just as Amos discovered his purpose in God’s sovereign plan, may we survey all the Lord has given us and the people he has placed in our lives and may we find that we also, have been born for such a time as this.

Merry Christmas! Bob

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The Thunderstorm Friend

Posted on May 7, 2015

It was late afternoon, when the old man was walking slowly on a narrow path through his garden, giving thanks to God for the colorful flowers that grew there and at the same time thanking Him for the beautiful friendships that had grown in his garden of life. Sensing that the wind was about to change from the south to the east, he turned to his garden and proclaimed, “Rain is comin!” A quick glance at the darkening western sky with thunderheads boiling high, gave him the confidence to add to his prophecy, “And a storm with it!” Filled with enthusiasm, he thought to himself,”It’s time to get my house in order.” Stopping often to catch his breath, he eventually made it up to his house.

After taking care of what needed to be done, he looked out of his window at the approaching thunderstorm. With excitement and anticipation he hurried, the best he could, to his porch where he could be as close as possible to this tremendous display of God’s reoccurring, creative power. A cool breeze drew him to his favorite chair. As he nestled down, lightening illuminated the sky and thunder shook the very foundation of his house! A smile of amazement, along with a feeling of awe, slightly mixed with fright, ushered in the anticipated adrenaline rush! Eyes wide, he awaited the first drop of rain….. There it was! A pitter…and then a patter, growing and intensifying rapidly! The old man braced himself. Without warning, sounding like a stampede of wild horses racing toward him, blankets of rain drenched everything in sight!… His thoughts leaped centuries into the past. He wondered what it might have been like for Noah and his family. Did they peer out of small openings at the top of the Ark to see the waters falling from the heavens and shooting up from the earth like had never been seen before? Then a horrible thought entered his mind. Did they hear the screams of people perishing as the raging flood waters took them down? What about their friends? Surely they had a few friends that didn’t dessert them? If so, they didn’t believe and they were lost…. As quickly as it came, the rain slowed it’s pace to a gentle rhythmic beat.

Now in a dreamy state, the man sat back to relax and just listen to God as long as natures melody would last. With the night air now filled with a freshness left behind by the rain, he spoke toward Heaven, as if he were addressing a great cloud of witnesses, “What a blessed man I am!” The rain reminded him of his friend who loved thunderstorms as much as he did. He began asking God to bless his friend by meeting the needs in his life and he thanked Him for causing their paths to cross. This was no ordinary friend. He only had one friend like this in all his years. Through the storms of life, this friend was there for him. Standing strong, as an anchor on a ship that is buffeted by violent winds. His friend had  been a constant in his chaotic life, providing a safe harbor in this turbulent world. One who he could come to whether he was happy or sad or anywhere in between. Some suggested that this person was an unlikely friend for him. But the old man just thanked God all the more for the privilege of loving one so rare. When others were judgmental, pointing fingers to blame and find fault, his friend stood ready to forgive, love and encourage. When the world caused him to feel small and useless, just talking to his friend gave him a renewed sense of self worth. Just thinking of his friend lifted his spirits. What joy it brought him to send his friend a happy birthday note or text him with an occasional,”How are you doing today?” Oh, if they only could be together now, side by side, witnessing this reminder of God’s activity on earth. It was like there was a chord attached between their hearts that could never be broken no matter how long or how far they were apart. When his friend’s heart ached, he hurt. When his friend was happy, he was satisfied. His friend had a way of speaking to him so honestly and openly about what was going on inside, not hiding it as some have a habit of doing. He was honored and humbled to be trusted in such a way. What a joy it was to lift up his friend to the throne of God in prayer and through faith, he knew that God was touching his friend’s life in some big or small way. They seemed to understand each other in such a simple and straight forwardness. No matter what events may befall either of them in the uncertainty of life, their hearts were inseparable…. The old man’s thoughts drifted back to when they first met. He admitted, they were an unlikely pair. Some would call it chance, but no, it was God. It was obvious that the Lord knew they needed each other in this world. The man felt sorry for those who would never know this kind of friendship.

As the last rain drop fell, he reflected on how he was a better person just by knowing his friend. Their friendship had energized his purpose in life and gave him confidence that the Lord could still use him. Circumstances had become such, that they seldom saw one another anymore, yet somehow, they were never really apart. In a feeble manner, the old man walked back into his house with the awareness that this was the last thunderstorm that he would ever witness on earth. He wondered what his friend was doing and was so thankful  they both knew Jesus and they would, one day, be serving the Lord together, forever. Surrounded by darkness, he offered up one last prayer. “Oh Lord, take care of my friend. Who will be here to encourage or just listen? Please send someone.” As he faded off, he whispered, ” God, if for nothing else… but to know the love… of such a friend… it was all worth it.”…

Perhaps you have such a friend. Or, do you long for a friendship like this? Possibly you once had this kind of friend, but they are gone now. Maybe you are this kind of friend to someone? I wonder if David and Jonathan, from the Old Testament, had a friendship like this? What about Ruth and Naomi? Or maybe Paul and one of his traveling companions?

Isn’t it true that friendships like this are nothing short of awesome? We may do some cultivating, but isn’t it our sovereign God, in His wisdom, who brings two people together in one place, at one moment, in one lifetime? In our little garden of life, how true is Proverbs, 17:17. “A friend loves at all times.” Think about it. We may disappoint or even let down a friend, but a true friend, no matter what we look like or what they know about us, will always love us unconditionally, even as they draw their last breath.

A few years ago a study was done on friendships, showing that most of us have many casual friends, but only a small percentage of people have more than one close, intimate friend. The kind of friend they could trust with anything. Sadly, the study also revealed that some people have never had one close, intimate friend in all their years of living. I can’t help but wonder, is that in part, because we are sometimes not willing to put our selves out there for some one who God has placed along our pathway? If that is so, then many blessings are missed.

There is one, who with His last breath, spoke with you on His mind. Dying on the the cross, Jesus spoke these last words. “It is finished.” What was finished? Everything that you and I need to have a relationship with the living God. Your redemption, my redemption. Forgiveness of our sins. Power to live beyond our weakness and even beyond our own strength. If we are only willing to put ourselves out there for the friend of all friends and accept what He has to offer us.

Jesus said in John, 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” We can apply this truth in  a number of ways in our own lives, can’t we? Recently as I was speaking to the residents of a local nursing home about the meaning of the cross, I asked this question,”Has anyone here ever had someone give up their life for them?” No one said anything for a few moments. Then slowly, a man toward the back of the room raised his hand. I asked him if he would like to share anything about that experience. He didn’t say much, except that it was during the war and that his friend took the hit for him. It was obviously very emotional for him to speak about what his friend did for him. We learn the full implication of John, 15:13 as we read on. Jesus begins to tell his followers that if they obey His commands and because He had revealed to them all that was important, “everything I have learned from my Father”, He now called them His friends and the cross was drawing nearer. Remember that the words Jesus spoke to His followers are timeless. If you are a true follower of Jesus, today, then He acknowledges  you as His friend for life. The Son of God calls you His friend! You can have no greater friend than this, for He has given His life for you and He has given new life to you. He is our Lord, yet He is our friend and to his followers He also gives the Holy Spirit, a spiritual cord, connecting us to Him. It’s a cord that can never be cut, no matter what dark forces attack us in this life.

Maybe you find that you are living in a somewhat friendless environment. Remember that Jesus knows what it’s like to be alone, deserted and hurting. Pray and ask Him to bring a good friend into your life. You may find that friend to be closer than you think. If you have a friend like the man in the story had, don’t forget to let them know how special they are to you. You never know how long you will have them.

… As the old man’s family was going through his house, they discovered that in every room, he had posted written prayers for his family and friends on the walls. It seems that when he first noticed  he was loosing his memory, he began writing out his prayers for the people who held a special place in his heart. Then he taped  them to the walls in his house so he wouldn’t forget any of the people he loved. During his last days, he would walk from room to room, reading those prayers. One of the man’s daughters discovered a  prayer that her father had written over and over and had placed it throughout the house. It began like this, “My Lord and my God, thank you for my thunderstorm friend.”

At the old man’s funeral and family visitation time, many came to express to the family and give thanks to God for how the man’s friendship  had touched their lives. The thunderstorm friend was there as well, testifying of how God had brought the two of them together. ” From the day we first met, my life has never been the same. He introduced me to Christ. He helped me see the potential that was within me. He encouraged me always. He was there in my darkest hours. It was like he was always thinking of me, always praying for me.”

What is the moral of this story? You decide how it applies to you. But, maybe it has something to do with not underestimating how God can use the friends that He places along our way, to give us encouragement and purpose in this life.

OK, enjoy the next thunderstorm!  (safely)  Giving thanks for your friends.

Bob

An Early Morning Walk

Posted on April 3, 2015

It was an uphill walk from town to where they buried him. Any other time, the sight of the field lilies would have caused her to stop and admire them. But not this morning. She found herself trying to make some sense of all that had transpired over the past week. He had been her best friend.  She had endured rude comments, scornful looks as well as jealousy and lies from those she once thought were her friends. ….But, it all was worth it…. In what short time she knew him, he had turned her life around and given her hope, for the first time. He had forgiven her and actually loved her just the way she was. He had loved her more than anyone ever had before. Unlike so many who said they loved her and then when they got what they were after, were gone. He simply loved her for who she was, never demanding anything in return. And now, she wanted to love others that same way. If he touched her at all, it was a gentle touch of friendship or the touch of healing or forgiveness or one of compassion, assuring her that he understood. He had taught her so much about God. Now, she had purpose in living.  She was even beginning to respect herself again. …Would it ever be the same with him gone?… Could it be?

It was easier to see the path now with the sun climbing above the horizon. Although, the warmth from it shining on her did little to remove the chill of grief and confusion that had set in over the past few days. Oddly, she found herself being thankful, at a time like this. She felt ashamed that she could be thankful for anything, when this was only the third day since he had died. But she couldn’t help it. He had taught her to give thanks in all circumstances. So, she thanked God for Joseph and Nicodemus, who had buried her friend in Joe’s new tomb. If they hadn’t come and taken him down from that awful place and given him a proper burial, his body would have been thrown out with all the unclaimed bodies at the edge of town. Now, she was thanking God for her friends, she referred to as her sisters, who were walking with her. She kept hearing his voice, “Blessed are you, when people insult you, persecute you and  falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad! Great is your reward in Heaven.” Oh, if only he was standing in front of them now, speaking, instead of just in her mind. After seeing what she had seen what was done to him, how could she rejoice and be glad?

As they drew closer to the the place where he was buried, she was thinking of how precious her sisters were to her. Her first real friends. They could not have made it through the last few days without each others support. Her thoughts danced from place to place. Her memories flashed back to the day she first met…. “Jesus” …. Suddenly she realized she had spoken his name out loud.  Her sisters stopped and turned to look at her and asked, “Are you OK? Do you want to go back?” “No!” She answered. “We have to do this,” glancing at the spices in their baskets. This was the first time she had spoken his name since his death. Just speaking his name,”Jesus”, sent a rush of peace over her. He had freed her from those hideous demons. Seven of them! She often wondered how she ever survived before she meet Jesus. Only by the grace of God was she here today. She had been a vessel for the demons to do with whatever they desired…. She shook her head, trying to forget that dark period of her life.  Jesus had miraculously brought her out of the darkness and into the light. And now, she was a new creation! Jesus had filled her heart and mind with good things that she had never enjoyed before and somehow, he had given her the strength and resolve to make it through whatever difficulties she would face.” Those terrible demons were out there somewhere, but they will never live here again!”

Her thoughts dashed back to the previous week. The air was alive with excitement and expectations.”We all felt that something amazing was about to happen. We didn’t understand everything Jesus had told us about the order of events that were going to take place, but that was OK because he could do anything! We believed he was the Messiah, the Son of the Living God! We had seen him heal the sick, even leapers and then we saw him raise the dead back to life! The men often spoke about a time when they were all on a boat together on the Sea of Galilee. A violent storm arose and with only a few words, Jesus turned the storm into peace and calmness. He saw through the plots of the religious teachers trying to trap him and find reason to turn him into the Roman authorities. He loved the children like no one I have ever  seen. He taught the men how to catch fish and he was teaching them to be fishers of men. …And, he saw into my heart. He knew me better than anyone. He was so good. All good. There was no bad in him. But now, he was dead. Why? How can it be?”

She couldn’t remember when she had slept last. Questions floated through her head like rain clouds that refused to open. She had heard the men vow to follow Jesus to their death. Why then, did they deny him and leave him alone in his darkest hour? She wondered what had hurt Jesus more, the physical torture he was put through or having his closest friends desert him at a time like that? How lonely it must have been for him. Why had she not run through the crowds, screaming at the top of her lungs, “You can’t do that to him! He’s my friend! He’s the Son of God!” Then at the cross, she stood back with the other women, just watching him die. …What could they have done anyway?” We all were waiting for him to call down the angels to take him from that bloody cross and crown him King”. …the image in her head of him being nailed to the sinners cross, brought her to the ground, striking her knee on a stone. As her sisters helped her up, pain shot through her body. But, this was nothing compared to what her friend went through, because of her.” Because of her?” She thought. “Where had that come from? Could it really be her fault that he died like that?”

As they entered the garden of the tombs, they began to talk. “Do you think someone will be there to help us move the stone?” One of the sisters turned to Mary, who had been walking a few steps behind them and said, “Mary, we are almost there.” The women shaded their eyes with one hand and looked up. Something was wrong! The stone was rolled away! Dropping their baskets, they ran to the tomb and found it empty. “Oh no!” They cried. “How could they do this?Why would they steal his body? Where could they have taken him?” From that point on, everything became a blur to her. The women ran the best they could to tell the disciples. Together, they quickly made their way back to the tomb. Arriving, they found it empty with only the linens inside, folded neatly. The disciples and the other women, trying to understand it all, began walking back to town. But Mary could not pull herself away. With her spirit in turmoil, she wept bitterly.  The Gardner was nearby. He asked her why she was crying? She explained what had happened and then He spoke to her again. This time He called her by name.”Mary.” She froze. She knew that voice! She turned to see Jesus, standing there in front of her! Alive! Struggling with disbelief, she fell at his feet. Her tears, flowing over the scars left from the nails. Jesus said to her,”Mary, do not hold on to me for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go! Tell the others that I am alive!”

Running with all her might and a with a joy she could not contain, she exclaimed, “I have seen the Lord, He is alive!”

From that moment on, Mary’s life would never be the same. She not only had been healed and freed by Jesus and walked and talked with Him, but now, she knew the Risen Lord!

This may not be exactly how it was for Mary Magdalene on that early walk on the first Easter morning. Regardless, once we meet Jesus, our lives are never the same. Can you relate to some aspect of Mary’s experience? One thing is certain. In Christ, we are freed and healed just as Mary was and we can walk with and talk with Jesus as well. His triumph over sin and death and Hell can give us victory in our lives everyday that we live, whatever we may face. Just as it was with Mary, Jesus can be our King, our Lord, our Savior. Hallelujah! He is Risen!

Take an early morning walk and listen for the Lord to speak to you.

Bob

Loneliness Anyone?

Posted on March 15, 2015

Loneliness was sad. He was not allowed in Paradise Garden. It was the most  beautiful place ever. But was he able to even catch a glimpse of this lush and pure and innocent natural resort that was almost Heaven on earth? No. Loneliness had to stay in his cave. Day after day after day he would dream of what it might be like if he could only get past those, those things that were guarding the entrance to the garden. Oh, he had tried sneaking in before, but the mysterious winged guards, who had eyesight more keen than that of an eagle, made it perfectly clear that he was not welcome and there was no dwelling place for him in the garden.  You see, it wasn’t as much the garden, as breath taking as it must have been, that he longed to see, as it was to be part of a family and what better  place to start than with the perfect couple that lived in the garden. One of the most intriguing things about the couple was there close and flawless relationship with their Father.

Then one day the unimaginable happened. The perfect couple was put out of Paradise Garden, because of something …. something they did,  and they would never, ever be allowed to return. As the man and woman ran in shame from the garden, they passed directly in front of isolation cave, which happened to be the home of loneliness. At that moment it became most obvious to loneliness that he now had an open invitation to be a part of this family. With one instantaneous, giant leap he landed soundly in the arms of the fleeing couple. The man and woman felt pain moving through their chests, for they had never experienced this emotion before. As they ran further and further from the garden, with every step, loneliness could feel the beating of their hearts. He said to himself,”This is where I want to spend all my days on earth. Near the heart.  He would dwell with the man and with the woman as long as  they should live and when they, in time, had children, loneliness would spend a lifetime with them as well. Loneliness was happy……

When was last time someone asked you how you were doing and you replied,” I’m feeling rather lonely and blue today?” Chances are, you haven’t responded with those words very often, if ever. It’s not usually something we talk about, but yet, we all know what loneliness feels like don’t we? “Lonely”, can refer to the state of being alone, with no one else around. It can also refer to a solitary place, such as where Jesus withdrew to in Mark, ch. 1 and in Luke ,ch. 5. We might visit a lonely island and then we may, from time to time, find ourselves driving on a lonely stretch of highway or walking down a lonely path. Each of these descriptive phrases can also be used at times in illustrating a particular period of our lives. But most often when we feel lonely it is because we miss someone we once knew or we long to be near someone we love. Or maybe when we are waiting for someone we haven’t met yet to come into our life. Loneliness is there when we have to go through something in life alone. It’s there when we can’t see the people we used to see or go to places we once went. It’s hard to explain that tearing apart of your heart, but yet, it’s a real hurt that flows from our chest throughout our whole body, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.

Loneliness is a peculiar emotion, isn’t it? We can be in a crowded room and still feel lonely. We can be in a sanctuary, worshiping the Lord with other believers when even there the sensation of loneliness can flood through us. Sometimes we may not even be aware that it has crept in and then suddenly,  we are singing a song or reading scripture or maybe standing beside a friend who turns and gives us a hug and we realize the Lord has just meet a need in our life. He has filled the cave where loneliness lives, with His presence, His truth, His light or with the love of someone who cares about us.  But it is so hard to put our finger on it. We can’t explain it. Where does it come from? Why is it there? It is an emotion that is elusive. We can’t say to it, “Go away!” You can try to ignore it or deny it, without success. No, loneliness has to be replaced by something that you long for deep down inside.

….. Loneliness stayed close to the heart of his new family and as they multiplied, he did the same. It was really quite remarkable how he adapted to every culture and people group on earth. And since no one could go back into Paradise Garden, everyone was fair game for loneliness. Oddly, he noticed, the longer time went on and the more people filled their lives with activities and things, the more room they had for him. This was quite puzzling ….

Do you think Loneliness has made a fairly accurate observation of us all? It is an interesting point he has brought up, huh?

We can’t see loneliness, but we see his reflection everyday. We see it in the eyes of the woman behind the counter. In the spirit of the child who doesn’t fit in at school. In the face of a mother as she watches her young child walk through the doors and disappear on the first day of school. We hear it in the voice of the man and the woman in prison. You may see the shadow of loneliness in the waitress, or your co worker, or your neighbor, or your boss. I have heard the sound of loneliness in a customer’s voice, who has recently lost her husband. It is obvious in the person who has lived alone for years. You can feel it in the college student, away from home for the first time and it is there in the father, giving away his daughter in marriage.

Tom was a friend of mine who lived alone in the later years of his life. I knew Tom for about thirty years. As time passed, due to brain tumors and surgeries, he had to put a great deal of thought into what he wanted to say, before he spoke.  His glasses were thick and his speech was slow. To the person who didn’t take the time to listen to Tom, they may have thought that he didn’t have much to offer. I found that because of the cautiousness in which Tom spoke, if I would be still and listen, what he had to say was quite insightful. Tom was very faithful in church attendance and involvement. He was in Sunday School and worship service every week. He would make all the fellowship meetings and was at choir rehearsal every Wednesday night and sang with the choir every Sunday morning. Tom didn’t sing on pitch, but he was always welcome in the choir. One night after choir practice, Tom and I were talking in the parking lot. He said, “Bob, I live a lonely life. But, when I sing with the choir, I don’t feel lonely. In the choir we are all a part of something bigger than any one of us. When I start feeling down, I use that as a reminder to spend time with my Lord, praying, reading my Bible or just listening for His voice. ” Tom went on to say that he thought Jesus allowed us to be lonely in this life so that we don’t forget how much we need Him. The last time I saw Tom, he was lying on a hospital bed that had been set up the middle of his living room.

At a Christmas party a few years ago, There were two teenagers who had been born with only a small percentage of their hearing. As we drove away, my wife, Becky, commented that it must be lonely, not being able to hear what people are saying around you or what they are laughing about.

I prayed with a woman once who struggled with memories from her past. She said it was so lonely not being able to talk about it with anyone. She longed for someone, who understood,  to come along side her.

I knew a man who, from childhood, had very low self esteem. Due to that he endured periods of incredible loneliness. He lived in denial that he had a problem.

We can’t escape loneliness. It is part of the world we live in.  It is common to think that no one understands what we are going through. Many times that is true. However, there is one who always understands. He has experienced more loneliness and hurt and temptation than we will ever know. He is working all things together to give us victory over all this stuff that can drag us down. He is the Lord, Jesus Christ, Our Savior and our God. If you are one who loves Him, then He is constantly doing this for you. Romans 8:28 is clear. If you are one who loves God, then you have been called according to His purpose and He is constantly working for good in your life. Even though we can’t escape it as long as we live on this earth, do you think God wants us to allow loneliness to have power over us? No He doesn’t! In John 10:10, Jesus said that he had come so that we may have life and life abundant or to the fullest. The Lord never will force Himself upon us nor will He force us to take what he has to offer us. But He is always there for us and what He has to offer us is always there for us to accept as well.

Of course, the Lord brings many people across our pathway to minimize the lonely feelings we encounter. But, there will always be a certain emptiness inside that can only be filled by the physical presence of God. Much like the perfect couple experienced with the Father while they lived in Paradise Garden, before the fall. Remarkably, through the Holy Spirit  we can know His presence here on earth. One day, we will no longer even know the meaning of the word, lonely, but until then God has left us a wonderful fruit to enjoy. We read about it in Galatians chapter five. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.” Ironically, if we give away this fruit to others, we will find for ourselves, whatever it is that our soul is longing for.

At times it may be tempting to crawl back in the cave where loneliness and all his cousins dwell, come out every now and then, smile and wave and then go back in. But that’s not the abundant life that our Lord desires for us. He died and was raised to life again so that we may know victory.

My prayer for you, is that if you have one or more of these dark caves in your life, that you will invite and allow God to transform them into lush orchards, overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit.

…… Down through the ages, Loneliness discovered that when someone invited Jesus to come and live in them, it didn’t leave a lot of room for him to roam. Then when that person died and went to Heaven, he had to go back into his cave. So, Loneliness had traveled 180 degrees. Once again he found that he was not allowed in Paradise.

OOOH! Doesn’t that fruit taste good! Have fun sharing it!

Bob

The Date

Posted on February 13, 2015

He had been planning it for weeks. This was going to be a very special night with his bride and he wanted everything to be perfect. He would prepare the main course himself. Careful to fix her favorite dish the way she would do it. He would walk out to the orchard and find just the right apple for her and then he would drive to the market and choose the best of the fruit and vegetables that she liked. Of course, on the way he would stop by to see the florist and look for something special to accent the romantic flare of the evening.  It all had to be a secret, though. He would surprise her by showing up at her place and they would have a night to remember!

The big day arrived. He began early in the morning working in the kitchen. Throughout the day he shuffled through photo’s, selecting the ones of places they had been together and of people you were very important to her. As he packed the picnic baskets, he dropped in a few extras. Fingernail polish, a hair brush, a small mirror and her favorite lotion. Pleased with all he had prepared for his bride, he knelt and prayed these words,”Dear Lord, thank you for this wonderful woman You have given me. I don’t deserve her or her love, but I am honored to be the one she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with. Amen.”

He arrived at her home and as he entered, baskets in hand, she acted as though it was nothing special, but he knew that inside she was delighted he was there. He proudly showed her everything that he had prepared for her. After dinner he pulled out the photos and held them up, one by one. When he came to special one, he laughed and said, ” Oh honey! Remember this? Wasn’t that the best time.” He reached over and held her hand as he came across a photo of someone whom she had loved very much. He quietly laid the photos aside, then in a determined but loving voice said to her,”Now, I’m gonna  do something for you that you like to do for yourself. Don’t say a word ’cause you can’t change my mind on this.” She was silent as he poured warm water into a bowl and began washing her hands and then her feet. Then gently he began painting her nails, first her fingers and then her toes. Bringing out the hairbrush, showing some emotion, he spoke softly,” I can’t do this as well as you, but don’t try to stop me.” After a few minutes he held up the mirror. Sounding a little surprised at his accomplishment, he said,” Not bad, huh? You are so beautiful!” Without another word, he finished by rubbing her arms and legs with lotion. After a few minutes of silent adoration, he read a poem he had written to express his love for her and then he kissed her goodnight.

As he was leaving the home, one of the night staff stopped and asked,”Mr. Allen, did your wife wake up tonight?” Trying hard to hide his disappointment, he hesitated briefly and then replied,”No… But I think she knew it was our anniversary. Take good care of my bride. I’m coming back for her!”…

I Corinthians, chapter 13, speaks of a love that is foreign to much of the world. It’s a love that gives itself away not expecting to receive any rewards. It’s a love that waits as long as it takes to receive a response and if the response never comes, it still loves. It’s a love that does not demand recognition. It’s a love that gives freely and is not contingent upon whether love is given back in the same measure. It’s a love that dances and sings when it discovers new opportunities to express itself . It’s a love that cuts the threads of selfishness so it’s heart can open up. It’s a love that does not give up. It’s a love that does not write down the faults of others and broadcast them about. It’s a love that refuses to become furious  when it doesn’t get it’s way. It’s a love that celebrates truth and light and will not allow it’s purpose to be compromised by the darkness. It’s a love you can count on when all other love leaves you forlorn. It’s a love that can break through barriers, tear down walls and at the same time be as gentle and tender as a mother with a newborn baby. It will not wait for a convenient time but will express itself deliberately even when it is unpopular to do so. It is a love that can awaken feelings that lie in slumber.  It is a love that will always see the beauty in you and declare your value in the face of a million votes cast against you! It is a love that will cross a raging sea in the darkest night just to reach you. It is a love that will climb up onto a cross to suffer and then breathe it’s last breath, just for you.

….. A heavy fog was setting in as he drove home.  By the time he reached his house he was feeling the effects of a full day. After brewing a cup of hot tea, he sat down with his devotion book and Bible. His dog wasted no time in finding a comfy spot on his lap. He began reading the devotion for the day, but he could not get the love chapter out of his mind, so he turned to I Corinthians ch. 13 instead. He read out loud. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking.” Before he could go any further, he paused for a prayer. “My God,  how much I have to learn about love. And I only have a lifetime in which to do it. Lord, please teach me to love others as You have loved me. Amen.”  He went on reading,”It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres…. Love never fails.”….

The Bible is clear. Love must accompany all that we do. Otherwise it is meaningless. This section of scripture ends with a reminder to us that these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. As believers, one day we will see the object of our faith. All of our hopes will become reality. But love will go on and on and on without end. The love of God is and always will be the reason for our very existence.  I guess the man in our story is right. We only  have a lifetime to learn how to love.

…. He awoke the next morning ready for a new day. He quickly checked the calender. ” Ahah!” He exclaimed. “Just what I thought. Twenty seven days until my brides birthday! I’ve got lots of planning to do. And then there is Valentines day. Oh, we are going to have so much fun!” Just then the phone rang. A woman on the other end spoke softly but with excitement in her voice, “Good morning Mr. Allen. I wanted to let you know that your wife is awake this morning and she is asking for you!” She went on, sounding somewhat puzzled.” And she is saying something about her fingernails and her hair?” Before the woman could finish, Mr. Allen said,”I’ll be right there! Thank you for calling me!”

For certain, the love spoken of here and that Jesus exemplified is not always easy for us to express and put into practice. But when we hold that kind of love up before us as a model and fix our eyes upon it as a goal for our daily lives, can life be anything but exciting, promising and rewarding?

Enjoy loving!

Bob

What is it???

Posted on February 8, 2015

From as far back as he could remember, he had always heard of it.  It was something that, for the most part, he just took for granted. It was never really close up. It was just out there. He guessed it had always been around and he supposed it always would be. He thought of it as mysterious and was somewhat leery of it. As he grew, be became aware that for some people, it was like a necessity in their life. He was somewhat puzzled over that assumption. His casual observation of it, delivered him to the  point of limited understanding on the matter. His concluding position for a number of years to come would be that it was a good thing for those who needed it. ” What kind of person needed it?” He wondered. After giving it much thought, he determined that those who had big problems were the ones who most needed it.  As he evaluated all of his thoughts concerning it, he didn’t feel like he would have much use for it in his own life. But as he approached manhood, he would encounter it over and over again. Then, when he was a young man in his early twenties, something happened that caused him to rethink all that had been settled in his mind as a boy. Unexpectedly, he became exposed to it! ……..

What is it?… It is living. It is colorful. It is very old but at the same time it is new. It’s like a big puzzle, made up of many small individual pieces . It is hated by some and loved by others. There are those who claim to have been hurt by it and yet others will testify that it has promoted healing for them. Some fear it and some are comforted by it.

What is it?… It is the same year after year but it’s rapidly changing. It is one, yet it is many. Some will do everything they can to stay away from it, while others will give up much to be near it and to watch what it does. At times it is very powerful. Other times, pitifully  weak. It was very expensive. Now it is free! Some will search for it in vain, while others will stumble over it.

What is it?… You can find it in the city and in the country as well. It can be seen growing in some of the most remote areas of the world. It can be damaged, beaten and struck down, but never destroyed. Despite it’s many blemishes, it is perfect. It once was contaminated but now it is pure! Some pass it by, claiming it is useless to them, while others view it as being essential for healthy living.

What is it? … It has a temporary shell, but is most effective when it breaks through it’s shell into the surrounding area. It is called by many names and yet it can be defined by one word. Some view it as being small and insignificant.  In truth, it’s presence is felt worldwide. Because of it, the world is a much safer place. When it is healthy, a small part of it can be planted with remarkable results.

What is it? … Sometimes it remains in one spot. However, it seems to have been designed to branch out. You may never see it climb, although when the son is close to the earth, it will rise. It’s origin is recorded in history. Not only has it survived for centuries, it has thrived! Many will observe it from a distance while some are brave enough to walk in it.

What is it? …  Now it is quite visible. One day it will not be seen. Then it will be seen again, but it will look different.

Well, I’ve given you a lot of clues here, so you have probably guessed “it”. What’s that you say?… YES! It is the “church.” Made up of multitudes of people commonly referred to as “Christians”, mentioned in the Bible one time in Acts,11:26, or “believers”, mentioned 49 times in the New Testament. Sinners who have been forgiven and saved. The Bible speaks of the church as the bride of Christ and as the redeemed of the ages, past, present and future. All those who have repented and been captured by the grace of God. Women, men and children who have been washed and purified in the crucified blood of Jesus.  Purchased by the greatest and only sufficient sacrifice ever offered. The sinless and perfect Lamb of God. His Son, Jesus Christ.. Rescued from the darkness, thanks to the mercy of God, and spared from the clutches of our own sin and Satan himself to rise in victory and become a new creation. A new creation that is peculiar to the world. A new creation that loves God and is committed to following Him and learning His ways. A new creation that attempts to love others as God has loved them. All this is not done because we, the church of God, feel like a new creation. No, it’s because of the faith and understanding that He has given us so we can trust our lives to Him, no matter how we feel, and stand strong on the promises He has given us through the Word. In II Corinthians, 5:17, He promises us that we ARE a new creation. Destined for great things, not because of who we are, but because of who He is!

The Scriptures inform us in the Book of Acts that the early church was persecuted. As a result the church began to spread around the world. That persecution has never stopped. Although most of the news media does not report it, today it continues to increase, year by year. However, we have another promise in II Corinthians, chapter 4, that assures us that no matter what happens to us in this life, we, the church, can never be destroyed and will never be abandoned by God. Jesus spoke of this as well.  We read in Matthew, 16:18, when Jesus was speaking to the Apostle, Peter, He said,”…On this rock I will build my church and not even the gates of Hades will overcome it.” What the Apostle, Paul, instructed the elders at Ephesus to do, as he was saying goodbye to them for the last time, may be good practice for us all, regardless if we are an overseer or if we consider ourselves just a brother or sister in Christ. Paul said to them in Acts, 20:28, ” Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which He bought with His own blood.

…….. He had always thought of it as a noun. An object in one place. To his surprise, he discovered that it was steadily being transformed into a verb! It was anything but an object in one place. It was always on the move. It would begin wherever it was at and branch out as far as it’s abilities and resources  could carry it. It would reach out to that which was unlovely, poor, broken in body and spirit. When all hope was gone, it would find ways to encourage and build back that which had been carelessly destroyed. When it would find that which was lost and had been thrown away, it would, by example, show how something could be saved and remade into a thing of great value. He also discovered that it had a unique ability to feed the hungry with a food more nutritious than anything grown on the earth.

Decades passed and now he was on the other end of life. One day, while crossing a river by walking on the large flat rocks that formed a waterfall, he stopped in the middle of the river. For a few minutes he just stood there, watching all that was being carried by the current around his feet and over the falls. Relating it to his life, remembering all that he could of what and who had touched his life from his beginning to the present time. He laughed.”How ironic,” he thought. As a young boy, he was often curious why people felt they needed ” it” in their life and what was so special about it? Now, he couldn’t imagine living a fulfilling life without it. And wasn’t it odd how he had stumbled across it those many years before? Walking on across the river, he continued thinking about it,” Do you suppose that it could have been planted in his pathway at a strategic point where he couldn’t miss it?” He smiled.

Lingering, to catch one more sunset, he reflected on how blessed he was to have found it years ago. More importantly, how thankful he was to now know in a personal way, the designer and creator of “it” and everything else.

What is it to you?

Bob

The Master Craftsman

Posted on January 25, 2015

Some have called him an artist. The Great Painter, who could take an empty page of existence and suddenly fill it with a breathtaking sunset using only a few strokes of his brush and able to mix colors so alive and rich that all attempts to duplicate them have fallen short. Others consider him a sculpture,  capable of bringing his subjects to life.  Without a doubt he was creator of the most beautiful objects in the world. Some knew him as a farmer, preparing the soil, planting, nurturing and harvesting all that is good and tasty. Still others will always see him as a craftsman. the Master Craftsman. For he mastered and worked wonders with everything he chose to put his mind and hands to. As we look back we regard him as one, but he was more than one. He was a potter, a mason. a carpenter, a silversmith, a designer and builder, a poet, a composer, a gardner and landscaper and the list goes on. He built vessels that could withstand  storms on a raging sea and dwellings with foundations that would  stand up to any weapon hurled at them and remain strong even when surrounded by all the shaded violence that the world could conjure up. It was obvious from the beginning that his creativity was unlimited as he dipped his hands into every medium. One of his favorite hobbys was to search for that which had been broken and battered, deliberately lost and written off as worthless. Then he would do his miraculous work of salvaging and restoring in plain view of all who followed his footsteps. Now, the short fall in assigning a title to a person, is that no single descriptive word or phrase can accurately nor completely describe any of us. However, for the purpose of this story I will refer to him as the Master Craftsman. In all that he did, his workmanship was unequaled. Even by today’s standards, he continues to stand alone in his field and his many remarkable attainments inspire others to rise above mediocrity.

Of course, as with anyone who is successful at what they do, there are those who will try to minimize their accomplishments, slander their name, doubt their capabilities and even deny their very existence in order to elevate themselves in the eyes of others. To the value of us all, the Master Craftsman was never swayed by the critics, skeptics and doubters who refused to acknowledge his unique abilities. Instead, with a keen awareness of truth and a commitment to excellence, this one of a kind artisan moved forward, executing his mission with an undying love. As time went on, his project activity was so widely spread that you could sense his presence just about anywhere.

One day, as he was resting, the Master pondered his accomplishments. He was well pleased with the results of his efforts, although, deep inside he knew that his greatest work was yet to be done.  He contemplated everything that it would entail. His emotions raged within him as he considered the great  personal cost that this work would demand of him. He was faced with a delima…. If he chose not to move forward with his plan, the heartbeat of all he had created previously would be lost forever…. If he did pursue it, for everything that would be bound up in this project to be effective, it would have to be given away to the people of the land. He was not so naive to assume that everyone would appreciate the sweat drops of blood that would be an integral part of this project. On the contrary, he was deeply saddened by the thought that some may refuse his gift, laugh and scoff and turn away…. But he was certain there would be a remnant who would believe in him, understanding the purpose of what he was about to do and with open hearts accept it as the perfect masterpiece, given away out of the Master Craftsman’s love for the people….. Consumed with compassion, he decided the people would be worth his sacrifice.

One early morning in the springtime when a rain shower was just ending, after gazing at a rainbow of promise, the Craftsman strolled through his garden and there he selected one tree from all the others. He watered it, nurtured it and guarded it until it grew strong and true. One day he said to the tree, “your wood will become famous and it will be able to support an enormous burden.”  Then he  went on a search for a particular metal that he would need for this project. When he had selected just the right metal for the job, he crafted three fragments of it down to a fine point at one end and cut the other end off leaving it thick and blunt. Then he set them aside until the proper time.

As with any fine artist or craftsman, a strong passion for what they do drives them to reveal their heart and soul as they pour themselves into every detail of their work. And so it was with this ingenious creator. To him, timing was everything.  The people were longing and waiting with anticipation to see what he was up to. The need was undeniably desperate. The Master Craftsman was aware more than anyone that what he was about to do had never successfully been done before and would never be done again. Oh, there were many temporary imitations, but once he had completed this work, they would be obsolete. He would have one chance and nothing less than perfection would be acceptable. The craftsman was about to present to the people a masterpiece so amazing, that all who dared to gaze upon it would experience at least a hint of the resolve, purpose and heartfelt love that stirred it’s creator in the beginning. The result would be a work of art that was priceless.

Being the author and perfecter of his greatest work, the Master was fully capable of completing every detail on his own. However, in his wisdom and in good faith, he chose to enlist others to play some of the important roles. “This,” he said,” will add a personal touch to my work so that my reason for doing this can be comprehended by everyone.”

Now, the Master Craftsman had a son who had always worked along side of his father. As a matter of fact, they were inseparable. The son was often quoted as saying,”I must be about my fathers work!” Much of the time, those who knew them well referred to the two of them as,”one”, for it was evident that they were of one spirit. One day, as the they were recounting all that they had done together and finalizing their plans for the masterpiece, the Craftsman said to his son, “I have considered all the options and there is only one way this will work. You alone will be the deliverer of this finest gift of all time. Although, for the people to accept it, you will have to live among them for a while. Actually, you will need to become one of them by being part of a family that lives in the land. There is a young couple who will be getting married soon. I have watched them closely and I am convinced that they will be the perfect family for you to stay with. As we speak, I am sending a messenger to inform them of your arrival. One more thing my son, you will have to finish this precious work on your own. I must stay here and watch over things, but we will be in touch daily. While you are living there, you will be put through many tests. You will be tempted in ways that no one person has ever been before. You will carry a burden heavier than any man has ever been able to carry. There will be dark opposition to our work as this world has never seen. And son, there will come a moment when you will ask me why I have forsaken you. Remember this always; when you hurt, I will hurt. When you are lonely, I will be lonely. But, when you rise to victory, we will be victorious together. You will know when our masterpiece is finished. After you have announced it’s completion to all the people and presented it to them as a free gift, then it will be time for you to come back here with me. In the years that follow, many of the men, women and children who accept the gift you offer them will be coming here to live with us. So, we must be busy preparing places for them to stay.”

Moved deeply with love, in a way that could only be defined through the ages of eternity, the Master Craftsman sent his Son away. The rest is divine history, written by the hand of God to offer to the world His greatest work. Giving us His only Son, Jesus,  who was perfect, blameless and without sin. He would take your sin and my sin upon Himself to become, The Lamb of God. Making us, when we accept this gift, holy and acceptable in the presence of The Father and The Son and The Spirit.

The Bible states in John 3:16 – 17 , ” For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” How easy is our part, huh? To believe, to trust, to accept. I don’t pretend to know what it was actually like for God to plan and bring to fulfillment all that was necessary for us to enjoy the gift of salvation, but at the same time, I never want to forget that my redemption was much more than a casual thought in the mind of God. The Bible is clear. From the time sin entered the picture, God began planning a way for you and I to escape the penalty and wrath of our sin and be delivered safely into the arms of Grace and Mercy. These verses in John, chapter 3, are so beautifully and simply worded that it can be easy to miss what the two words, “so loved”, encompass within the realm of God’s compassion for you and me.

If you can find a few quiet minutes alone, try this experiment. In your own handwriting, paraphrase John 3:16 something like this: For God so loved me, (insert your name here) that He gave His only Son, so that if I believe in Him, I will never perish but I will have everlasting life. Then pray. Thanking God for what He did to provide salvation for you and for the faith He gives you to believe and trust in His Word. Do you think, if you were the only person on earth that needed salvation,  God would have done all this just for you? The answer is YES! That’s how personal His love for us is. In chapter 14 of John, Jesus is promising that he is going to the Fathers house to prepare a place for us so that one day, where He is, we may also be. Can you imagine, knowing the abilities, workmanship and the creativity of God, what our home in Heaven will be like? Have fun dreaming about it and looking forward to your new home!

Oh by the way, for the sake of the story it is written in past tense, but let that fool you. The master Craftsman is still in business today. Creating, planing, designing, restoring and of course, a couple of His specialties; finding that which was lost and mending broken things. As a matter of fact, I just saw Him the other day in a prison, doing some of His great work of salvaging for that which, by popular vote, was believed to have been of little value.

What kind of work do you need The Master Craftsman to do for you today? Desire all that He has in His tool box for you.

Bob