Archives For May 2013

The Grand Renovation

May 28, 2013 — 1 Comment

The Jasper Hotel. The destination of the six travelers. But the building wasn’t made of Jasper nor beautiful by any means. When Diana and the others reach this hotel in the book, “At the Corner of 6th and North,” she describes the building as made of pure stone. Huge gray stones stacked on each other separated only by windows. Harvey questions it to by stating, “Looks like the Rock Hotel to me.”

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Ezekiel 36:26

stones

Calling the grand building “Jasper” was foreshadowing what the Lord already knew. He had great plans for them even though they knew nothing of them. The hotel represented each heart. Before Christ, our hearts are hard towards him. His words won’t penetrate, and we reject all we hear. But the owner of the hotel knows the future and has plans for the grand renovation.

When Diana finally believes, she’s taken to a room of brilliant colors, the plans fulfilled. What was once ugly and defiant is now indwelt by the Lord of Lights and conformed to his will and character. The old passes away. Behold, the new has come!

Have you noticed a difference in your heart?

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prison

He stumbled to the front gate, hands tied. It’d been eight long years in a cramped, cold cell. The scars on his back and sickly demeanor proof of his mistreatment. His crime had only been loving Jesus. The guard shoved him through the door and yanked on the rope until it released his bruised wrists.

The prisoner raised his aching head and met eyes with his faithful wife. She had thinned greatly as well, large bags under her tired eyes. He limped quickly to her. They embraced, first time in many years.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered in his ear. “I don’t know why God would allow this.”

He smiled and held her face. “I do.” His adversaries expected him to rot away in the dungeon. But the opposite was true.

His wife grinned back looking into the strongest eyes she’d ever seen. “What do you want to do first? What have you been longing to do? Anything!”

He grasped her hand and walked away from the prison with her. “I want to worship with you.”

Bless our God, O peoples;
let the sound of his praise be heard,
who has kept our soul among the living
and has not let our feet slip.
For you, O God, have tested us;
you have tried us as silver is tried.
You brought us into the net;
you laid a crushing burden on our backs;
you let men ride over our heads;
we went through fire and through water;
yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance.

 Psalm 66:8-12

He gazed down at the ocean below. Normally, the beauty of the water would transfix him. Never would he have imagined it would be his fate. The helicopter blades thudded above him like a firing squad. The cold clamp pinched around his neck shallowing his breaths. The weight of the anvil pulled at his head pinching nerves in his back. Nothing hurt though. Nothing mattered. The watery grave didn’t seem so bad.

He remembered the moment his life ended. The judge’s gavel fell. “For teaching 4-year-old Gavin to swear, I sentence you to death.”

He closed his eyes and prepared as best as possible for the fatal plunge. The guard grabbed his arms and cackled in his ear. “You think this is how we plan to end your life? Really? This is way too easy.”

The helicopter jerked to the left, speeding up. Land appeared over the horizon. His wrists tied behind his back now began to ache. Eyes fixed ahead. He’d been ready for death. He’d been prepared. But now he was afraid. Afraid of the unknown. They landed on a volcanic island still hot from a recent lava flow. The guard shoved him out of the vehicle. The weight of the anvil pulled his face into the blazing coals. Pain never before felt burned through his body like a raging furnace.

The man yelled at him above the roar of the blades. “Your punishment is not drowning. You will lay facedown here and slowly burn.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“No,” was all the criminal could muster before the helicopter lifted and left him there alone.

“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.” Matthew 18:5-6

sadThe intruding crash of crystal silenced the party. The hum of conversation hushed. The melodic sonata from the grand piano rudely interrupted. She didn’t raise her head. On her knees, she beheld the shattered pieces of glass strewn across the marble floor. Her eyes welled with tears as a knot formed in her throat. She was afraid. Afraid of the master.

He’d spent much time prepping the crew for this event. This celebration was to honor his father, the good man responsible for his wealth and status. The grand occasion was for his glory so perfection was required. Any error was to result in immediate termination. Everything was on the line.

Errors are what she did best. Forgotten chores, late arrivals, and broken dishes. He’d been gracious to her in the past, but this had to be it. There was no excuse. She’d ruined the party and deserved to be removed from service.

Slowly picking up the pieces, her head still hung low. She attempted to control her weeping as to save what face she had left. Then a hand reached for her. She recognized the well-manicured nails and olive-colored skin. She traced the hand upwards with her eyes and met the loving gaze of her master. Taking his hand, he helped her to her feet.

“Are you okay?” he whispered. She could only shrug.

Dignified women raised snobby noses at her. Well-dressed men snickered amongst themselves. A mocking atmosphere belittled the humiliated servant.

The master addressed the crowd. “I apologize for the mess. It was my fault. I bumped this poor lady. We will get this cleaned up right away and continue the celebration.”

He then turned to the shocked woman. In a soft voice, he calmed her. “I’ll make sure this is taken care of. Go and get another tray of drinks. You have a party to serve.”

To you I lift my eyes, oh You who are enthroned in the Heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their Master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our GOD till he has mercy upon us.

Psalm 123:1-2

jellyfish

Finding Nemo. As a father of two toddlers, most of the movies I watch now are animated and include talking animals. I’ve watched this film enough times to be able to quote the lovable characters.

One particular scene has slipped by dozens of times. But while reading the Scriptures one day, it popped back to mind. Marlin and Dori are trying to find the EAC (Eastern Australian Current). They receive instructions from a group of moonfish voiced by the great John Ratzenberger. Before they leave, they warn Dori to swim through the trench, not over it. She attempts to convince the desperate clown fish that through is better than over, but he ignores her warnings. The way over seems easier and less dangerous. But he was wrong! A large bloom of jellyfish surround them. Marlin escapes barely but Dori is nowhere to be seen. He rushes back in after her only to find the Regal Blue Tang fish floating lifeless. Ignoring the warnings almost cost the life of his dear friend.

“Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

Jesus said that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the only way to the Father. Nobody comes to the Father but through Him. But society says otherwise.
Be as good as possible and that will grant you acceptance.
If you mess up in this life, you’ll get a second chance.
You are God. Do what you want.

Millions of people live for these lies. They are passionate about their beliefs but passionately wrong. These false gospels feed our pride and sound so good. The way is wide open and inviting. But behind the deceitful masquerade lies a swarm of dangerous jellyfish ready to kill you.

But this death is no laughing matter. It’s separation from God forever. Eternal torment. But it can all be avoided by the narrow gate. The two fish in the movie didn’t die by their disobedience, but the opposite is true for those who ignore the words of Jesus Christ.

The Word of God is the lamp for our feet as we travel the road to paradise. Trust in Jesus Christ. “I am the door of the sheep.” Travel wisely and trust the One who died to pave the way for you. The narrow way leads to life. Life abundantly.

Last week at work, a pastor’s wife approached me at the counter. She proceeded to inform me that her husband had just been diagnosed with cancer a few days before. One night, during her quiet time with God, she had this conversation.
Her: Why God? This isn’t fair. This has been the worst week!
God: No, this has been the best week.
Her: (confused) What? How can this be the best week? My husband is dying!
God: Your husband was dying before. The enemy was unknown but still mightily at work. He was in trouble and you didn’t even know it. Now you know and you can fight it. This has been a good week because your husband was sick but now there’s hope.

She continued to tell me that since that conversation with the Lord, she hasn’t shed another tear. Their confidence in God’s wisdom and control has increased. She realized that even in the darkest of times, God is still good and caring for his people.

She ended with this. “Even though he has cancer, he still carries his song.”

“The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Exodus 15:2

recipe

She’d only been a pastry chef for a short time, but an opportunity of a lifetime arose. The city council asked her to bake a cake for the retirement party of the county sheriff. Hundreds of people would be attending, and the cake would be the grand finale. She couldn’t pass this up. This could be the big break she’d hoped for.
At the request of the council, a candy bar cake would be the dessert of choice. She’d never made one before, but it couldn’t be that hard. She scrounged up a recipe that seemed to be exactly what they requested. Since other desserts were being provided as well, only one cake was needed for the head table.
She was confident in her ability, but time was against her. She’d had a late start that morning and new she was going to be cutting it close. The ingredients were laid out before her. The butter, Milky Way bars, baking soda, buttermilk, all neatly organized on the counter. The recipe called for the candy bars to be melted completely, but she didn’t have time for that. They were still partly solid before she moved on to the next step.
The second hand on the clock continued to tick. She still had time. But the recipe seemed so long. Skipping some steps couldn’t hurt.
The flour, sugar, and buttermilk were to be gradually mixed together at a slow speed. That didn’t seem necessary. She mixed it all together at once on high. Instead of baking for 30 minutes, 25 minutes seemed sufficient. She finished early and beamed at her creation. The frosting glistened, the beautiful final touch.

The big day came, and she carried in her cake, head held high, chest puffed out. She set it down in front of the sheriff, his wife, and the other VIPs. She took out her silver plated cake knife and served the man a large luscious slice. His eyes gleamed as he stared at the chocolate dessert.
But one bite and the gleam disappeared. A forced smile crossed his face as he slowly chewed. Every eye was on the man anticipating his reaction.
“It’s good,” he choked. Her heart sank. A knot formed in her throat refusing her ability to swallow. He was struggling even more.Nervous glances were exchanged among the guests as his nodding became more exaggerated. He forced it down and whispered to his wife.
She stood and pointed to the dessert table across the room. “Dig in, everybody!”
The room closed in around the mortified chef. Her head hung low. Her chest deflated. Her big break just shattered before her. Dark glares hit her from all directions from the councilmen. Her one chance. Her big moment. Flubbed by skipped steps.

We as believers in Christ have been given a recipe for success. Being in the Lord’s will is the goal of most Christians. But we often wonder what it is.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Three key ingredients! Trust, humility, and submission. But in our arrogance, ignorance, or just plain rebellion, we skip steps. We trust only in areas out of our control. Or we submit only half of our lives. So many ways to avoid complete obedience.
And then we wonder why we are struggling with consequences. We don’t understand why we can’t see the Lord blessing us. The peace and joy promised to us is missing in action.

The author of the cake recipe gave the chef the proper ingredients and instructions. If followed, she is promised a beautiful and delicious dessert. The author of the Scriptures has given us the ingredients and instructions for a blessed and fulfilled life. But we must do our part.

Follow the instructions!!

And as an added bonus, here’s that recipe. http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/heavenly-candy-bar-cake-10000000701073/

Rags or Robes

May 1, 2013 — Leave a comment

hangers

Two men found themselves before God. Both trembled before his glory, but one mustered the strength to boast. “Father, I served you with every breath you gave me. Orphans were nourished, widows were protected, and my other cheek was turned daily. All that you commanded I upheld.”

The other man remained silent, head bowed, eyes closed. God asked him why he should be allowed in. He shook his head without looking up. “I don’t deserve to be speaking to you now. All that you commanded, I disobeyed. I ignored the orphan, disrespected the widow, and took revenge for myself. Only by your grace am I acceptable.”

God commanded each man to change clothes. Their new attire was behind separate curtains. The first man emerged raging in anger. Dirty and torn rags hung loosely off of his frame. The other appeared from behind his curtain dressed in a beautiful white robe.

“Why is he cleaned up and I’m dressed like a pauper?”

God ignored him and beamed at the man in white. “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share in your Master’s happiness.”

God than concentrated on the remaining person. With tears in his eyes, he addressed the man in rags. “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doer!”

“We are all infected and impure with sin. When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind” Isaiah 64:6

“She has been given the finest of pure white linen to wear. For the fine linen represents the good deeds of God’s holy people.” Revelation 19:8

God sees the heart behind the actions. The motives behind the obedience. He can discern between the “good” works of a sinner and a saint. Only God can send our actions through fire and know what will count as gain and what will count as loss. If you are counting on your good deeds to impress God and enter Heaven, know that they will never be enough. You will be dressed in rags in the end before the eyes of the most holy God. If you have trusted in Christ for forgiveness and redemption, know that only God can do good works through you. For Jesus said to the rich man, “Why do you call me good? For only God is good.” His righteousness will shine through you adorning you in radiant whites.

What clothes will you be wearing?