Saturday, September 19, 2020

Misfit

 



In this dream I was trying to help a Native American woman escape from a commune. I had asked her to bring only her most important belongings when I came to get her, but I was shocked to find that she had a full-length, rigid “mummy” style sleeping bag and frame stuffed full of clothing, blankets, and other items she said she couldn’t live without.

Between the two of us, we could barely lift it, and I knew we would not be able to sneak away from the commune carrying it without being noticed and apprehended because we didn’t fit in.

In another scene in the dream I was in a large convention center, where I realized a reunion was taking place with school friends. I sat down at a table with one of my classmates, her daughter, and her daughter’s fiancé, who had already started eating.

They greeted me pleasantly but I felt as if I were intruding on their family gathering. High tea was being served, and plates of delectable-looking sandwiches and pastries were being passed over my head to the various guests. I didn’t know whether or not I had prepaid for the meal, so I excused myself.

When I got up from my seat, I realized to my dismay that I was wearing three blouses, one on top of the other, all in mismatched colors. Even worse, I was wearing one worn-out black sneaker and one elegant white high heel! And, as it turned out, I was supposed to give a talk at one of the breakout groups at the meeting!

As I half scurried, half limped down the hall, a woman confronted me. “Do you know your shoes don’t match?” she asked.

“Yes, I must have been in too much of a rush to get here, and now I have to give a presentation dressed like this,” I replied.

“Well, it should be entertaining, and maybe your talk will be as unconventional as your outfit,” she said. “Maybe I’ll come and listen.”

As I awoke, I wondered about the symbolism of the dream and was struck by the common theme of not fitting in, whether I was in a rural commune or a modern convention center. It reminded me that we should not get too caught up in the cares of this world, for we are just strangers passing through a foreign country (Hebrews 11:13; 1 Peter 2:11) on the all-too-brief journey (James 4:14) before we reach Heaven.

I am thankful that I am saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). His Word warns us to lay aside the burdens and weights (Hebrews 12:1) that would slow us down in the race He has set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24), just as the heavy, cumbersome sleeping bag full of worldly goods hindered escape from the commune and beginning on a new path.

The rigid “mummy” style of the sleeping bag was almost like a casket, reminding me that our weights can bury us alive, keeping us from the abundant, eternal life we have in Christ (John 3:16; 10:10). These weights are distinguished from sins, so they are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But accumulation of excessive possessions, even if a few are needed for daily existence, can be a form of idolatry, just as the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil (1 Timothy 6:10).

Jesus told His disciples not to carry extra clothes on their journey (Luke 9:3; 10:4; 22:35), in part because it would ease their journey, and in part to strengthen their faith in His unfailing, daily provision (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3).

In the convention center part of the dream, it appeared at first glance that I had totally disobeyed Jesus’s instruction, for I was wearing three different blouses at the same time! But thinking about it further, the three blouses may symbolize the three coverings born-again Christians should wear: the garment of salvation (Isaiah 61:10), the cloak of His righteousness (Job 29:14), and the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-18).

In the dream I didn’t fit in, either in a fashion sense or in the family gathering of my old friend. But God has commanded us to be set apart from the world (Psalm 4:3; Romans 1:1), holy (1 Peter 1:15-16), and decently different, not conforming to the world but being transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2) as it is washed in the Word (Ephesians 5:26).

At the school reunion, I had joined others without being invited and ended up regretting it. Jesus warned His followers not to take the best seats at gatherings, but to sit in the most lowly seat to avoid embarrassment (Luke 14:8-10). Far better to be invited to move up to the head table than to be asked to return to the cheap seats!

In this part of the dream, I didn’t know if my meal had been prepaid, which reminds me that we are faced with uncertainty every day about what expenses we will face and what the world will or won’t offer us. But praise God, His Son Jesus Christ has prepaid my sin debt in full! (Hebrews 10:10) He was the perfect, holy sacrifice (2 Corinthians 5:21; John 1:29) and ransom (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6) to purchase me from the slave market of sin (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), freeing me to live in abundant, eternal life with Him!

The two different shoes in the dream may represent the two natures that every child of God must deal with daily. The “old man” (Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22; Colossians 3:9) or sin nature in our flesh, drags us down, but the “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) yields to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our walk differs depending on which of these we follow.

When we walk in the flesh, following our carnal nature, we will sin and fall out of fellowship with God. But when we walk in the Spirit, we please and obey God and cannot sin (Romans 8:1-14), for He has elevated us to heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3,2:6) and washed us white as snow (Psalm 51:7; Isaiah 1:18). The daily battle (1 Corinthians 15:31) between these two opposing natures can be much more of a struggle than trying to walk fast wearing two very different shoes!

All the mismatched apparel in the dream also brought to mind the Apostle Paul’s desire to be all things to all people, so that he might win some to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:20-22). We may not please the fashion police if we have on a variety of clothes, but each person who sees us might see something that draws them to us and makes them more likely to listen to our witness. In the dream, it was the oddity of my attire that piqued the other woman’s curiosity and made her want to hear what I had to say.

Without compromising His faith, beliefs, or Christian walk, Paul always sought common ground with those he witnessed to about the Gospel of grace (Acts 20:24). At Mars Hill, Paul told the superstitious Romans that He knew the true God Whom they unwittingly called “the unknown God” (Acts 17:22-23).

When Paul was invited to a meal, he did not question whether the food had been offered to idols (1 Corinthians 10:25-27), and yet he tried never to be a stumbling block to a brother or sister weaker in the faith, who might feel that they had to adhere to certain dietary laws (1 Corinthians 8).
 
Praise God that He has preserved a remnant of believers and called out His church to be set apart and consecrated to His service! I don’t mind feeling like a misfit in this old sinful world, for one day I shall see my Lord and Savior face to face! Then I shall be as He is, in glorious fellowship with Him and with brothers and sisters in Christ throughout all time! 


© 2015 Laurie Collett
children's ministry blogs

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Are You Sure You’re Saved?


Minden Cathedral photo by TUBS 2010

What does it mean to be “saved?” Salvation, or receiving eternal life in Heaven, requires believing that Jesus Christ is God, the perfect, sinless Sacrifice Who died to pay our sin debt (John 1:29). Cults that deny His divinity fail this requirement.

It requires acknowledging that we are sinners deserving eternal death in hell, and repenting of our sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). This knocks out Satan and his minions who believe and know the Bible and know who Jesus is (James 2:19), but who feel their sins are justified because of their pride.

It requires believing the Gospel of Grace, putting our trust in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way (John 14:6) to Heaven (unlike Buddhists and others who believe in multiple paths to nirvana). Faith, no matter how intense or sincere, is saving faith only if it is faith in Christ and His completed work of salvation on Calvary’s cross.

It requires a personal relationship with Him, recognizing that we are sinners in need of a Savior and making Him Lord of our life. This eliminates those with a "head" knowledge of Who Christ is and what He did, without a heart relationship -- many professing Christians may fall into this category (Luke 13: 23-27). As our former pastor once said, the distance between being lost and being saved may be only 18 inches – the distance between the brain and the heart.

Romans 10:9 [I]f thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

Once saved, we are always saved, because:

When we are “born again” (John 3: 3-8) by confessing and turning away from sin, and by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as the only Way to Heaven, we are indwelled by and sealed with the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 1:13-14; Ephesians 2: 22).

We did nothing to merit or earn our salvation, and there is nothing we (or anyone or anything) can do to lose it or take it away, provided it was a genuine, heartfelt spiritual rebirth (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We are in the double grip of eternal security – Christ holding us tightly within His hand, which is held tightly within the Father’s hand (John 10:27-29).

No sin, past, present or future, and no trick or trap of Satan or his demons or of evil men – nothing --could cause us to lose our salvation (Romans 8:38-39).

When we are born again, we are a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is that we must die to truly live (1 Corinthians 15: 36-38). As we trust Christ as our Savior and turn away from our sins, we die daily to our flesh, that is, our sin nature, that would control us (Romans 6:6-14). We must fight this spiritual battle between our sin nature and the indwelling Holy Spirit by putting on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-17). The change that He began in us at the moment of salvation He will continue until He brings us home (Philippians 1:6).

Before the beginning of the world, God knew who would be saved by accepting His amazing offer of eternal life by grace through faith (Ephesians 1:3-15), yet the mystery is that He did so without taking away our free will to choose eternal life in Christ or to reject Him and suffer eternal death in hell. God makes no mistakes, and if we could lose our salvation, His foreknowledge would have been wrong. 

Romans 8 describes the domino effect of God’s foreknowledge: because of it, He has predestined believers to be like Christ, justified (made “just as if” we had never sinned), and glorified. Because of that, we are beyond condemnation: God is for us, so who can be against us? (Romans 8:29-37).

God saved us for a purpose, and each of us is fitted into His body as precisely as a stone block is fitted into a cathedral vault. If one could lose their salvation, the building would fall apart (Ephesians 2: 18-22).

Although we must daily fight the battle between sin, which ultimately results in death (Romans 6:23), and the new, abundant life we received at the moment of salvation through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ has won the war on our behalf. We know how it will all turn out; we can look forward not only to the Rapture but to His glorious appearing as we return to earth with Him to fight the Battle of Armageddon; and we can stand victorious on His promise of eternal life.

He has permanently conquered sin and death for all who trust in Him as Lord and Savior (1 Cor: 15:20-22; 55-57). Praise God for His amazing love, mercy and grace, allowing us to choose salvation through faith in His Son!  Praise God that He securely keeps that gift for us forever!


© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives




 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Labor Day Pains

 

Photo by Trollbackco 2014
To me, Labor Day always brings forth mixed emotions, as the joy of a three-day holiday may be tempered with discomfort, or even pain, over our labor. For young women who have just given birth or are anxiously awaiting delivery,  I’m sure Labor Day has a special significance for them this year!

Wishing all my readers a blessed Labor Day weekend, for those in the US, and a new start to the work and school year around the globe. May you enjoy this repost from the archives!

For people who have lost their job, there may be no Labor Day celebration, but instead the heartache of going without, and having faith stretched from one meal or rent payment to the next. For those blessed to be employed, there may be the aggravation of unappreciative employers or disgruntled customers, or the weariness of overwork on too little sleep.

Some may pour their whole being into their career, at the expense of family, social life, or even time for worshipping and serving God, only to feel the pain of being passed over for promotion by the rising star who captured the boss’ attention. Those who play by the rules, support the team, and pay their dues may be sorely disappointed when those in the favored clique, or those who outmaneuver their competition, advance unfairly, despite their lack of experience. Life in the working world is full of trouble and pain, and it seldom seems fair.

Thankfully, God isn’t fair either, because His grace gives believers what we don’t deserve (Ephesians 2:8-9), and His mercy keeps Him from giving us eternal punishment in hell, which our sins do deserve (Romans 6:23). No matter what our earthly situation, believers in Christ can find joy (Psalm 21:1;32:11; Isaiah 29:19; 61:10; Matthew 25:21; Romans 5:11; etc.) and peace (Philippians 4:7) in knowing that He is working all circumstances together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

We can endure the “labor pains” because He has appointed us to a specific occupation, to serve Him with the unique gifts, talents, and opportunities He has given us (1 Corinthians 12:4-6;28; Ephesians 4:11), and to glorify Him in all we do (1 Corinthians 10:31).. As the bumper sticker says, “Our Boss is a Jewish Carpenter” Who has empathy for our struggles (Hebrews 4:15) and supports us through trials and hardships (Philippians 4:13).

His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). He sees, honors and remembers work done for Him and will reward our labor, if not in this world, then in the next, where we can enjoy the rewards forever (1 Corinthians 3:9-14).

Best of all, He knows our sinful, wicked hearts (Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9-10), but He loves us anyway (Romans 5:8). We don’t have to prove our worth, for we have none on our own merits (Isaiah 64:6; John 15:5). He is not interested in our qualifications, but in our justification by His shed blood (Romans 4:25; 5:16-18). Once we commit our lives to Him, we are guaranteed payment of the richest treasure imaginable – life in His presence throughout eternity (John 3:16), no matter for how long or short a time we have been saved (Matthew 20:1-16).

So why is this life often full of pangs of disappointment, physical disability and sickness, and even Godly sorrow? (2 Corinthians 7:10) I believe it is because we long for His return and the blessed hope (Titus 2:13), meaning eager anticipation, of the Rapture, when He will wipe every tear from our eye (Revelation 21:4). Then we shall enjoy eternity with Him in glorified bodies that will never experience pain, sickness or aging (1 Corinthians 15:40-50).

In the meantime, His whole creation is going through labor pains (Romans 8:21-22), anxiously awaiting the day when all will be made new by His refining fire (2 Peter 3:10-12). We groan in our aging bodies (Romans 8:23), yet the quickening pace and intensity of these pangs brings us inevitably closer to that day when we can truly experience being a completely new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15).

Once we place our faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only way to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), we are born again (John 3:3-8). But on that day when all His children shall be changed and meet Him in the air, we shall live forever and be as He is (1 Corinthians 15:51-54). In the meantime, anticipation of this blessed event, and knowing that our labor for Him is not in vain (1 Corinthians 15:51-58) helps us endure and even embrace these Labor Day pains!  

© 2013 Laurie Collett





 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Two by One



Missionaries distributing food in COVID-19 pandemic

I dreamed that my husband Richard and I are seated at the round dining table in the kitchen of a small house we rent out in a rural area. He starts to make breakfast and sets out a loaf of bread and a box of cereal. But then he is interrupted by a phone call from Bill, the next door neighbor.

Richard says he has to leave because he wants to share the Gospel with Bill, and he thinks this would be a good time as Bill said he had some questions about the Bible. I offer to go with him, but Richard says that I should stay at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic. After Richard leaves I brew some tea and set it on the table, awaiting his return.

When I awaken, it is with a sense of longing and sadness that I was not able to be directly involved in this ministry opportunity, even though it was in a dream, and that I was instead left alone at home. It reminded me that Jesus sent out His disciples two by two to witness and spread the Good News of the Gospel (Mark 6:7).

In normal circumstances, that tradition has continued to the present day, and with good reason. Two or three witnesses are required to establish the truth of a matter (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2 Corinthians 13:1) and Jesus said that when two or more are gathered in His Name, He is in the midst of them (Matthew 18:20).

Two can support one another (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12) in their unified purpose of leading others to the Lord, of telling them how they can receive the gift of eternal life (John 3:16) by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

When I took part in weekly visitation at our former church, home visits were assigned to a married couple, or to two women visiting a single woman or family, or two men visiting a single man or family. This was not only for propriety, abstaining from even the appearance of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22), but to make those being visited feel more comfortable.

Usually one visitation partner would take the active role, leading the conversation, answering any questions, and sharing the Gospel as the Holy Spirit opened the door (John 14:16-17; 16:13). Meanwhile, the other partner would sometimes contribute to the flow of conversation as the Lord led (1 Corinthians 2:13; Ephesians 4:15), but often would just pray silently for the Spirit to soften the heart of the unsaved or backslidden person to move closer to the will of Jesus Christ for their life.

But that was in “normal” circumstances, in the pre-COVID-19 era that seems like ages ago, even though it has only been several months. Now, many such ministries have been stifled by the need for social distancing to avoid transmitting the virus, and home visits have become rare or nonexistent. The Gideons are no longer able to distribute Scriptures in person, and many missionaries have encountered restrictions on travel and in-person gatherings that have severely limited their ministries.

In the dream, my longing and sadness over having to stay at home I believe reflect the feelings I have over currently lacking in-person opportunities for ministry, such our dance ministry, teaching a ladies’ Bible study class, and singing in church. But one opportunity that still remains is that of the “silent partner” – the member of the visitation team who prays while the other witnesses.

We may not be able to go to the mission field ourselves, but we can still pray for those who go, and we can give out of our abundance (2 Corinthians 8:14), or even out of our want (Mark 12:44), to support missionaries, pastors, and fellow saints who all have a role in sharing the Gospel. We may not be able to go out two by two, but rather two by one, as each of us in isolation can still do our part to support the two (or more) that go.

Praying for fruit from these missions, and for our fellow-laborers in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:9), is no less important than actually doing the legwork, and I believe will also be rewarded when we see Christ face-to-face (1 Corinthians 13:12).

As I think about the other symbolism of the dream, I consider the bread and cereal my husband set on the breakfast table. Breakfast is a particularly important and enjoyable meal, because it follows an overnight fast. In many ways, the period of lockdown and isolation because of the pandemic has been an emotional and spiritual fast, as many of us are at least temporarily deprived of our usual activities and social interactions.

But periods of rest and spiritual renewal are often prescribed in the Bible, and often precede times of great revival, as in the case of the prophet Elijah (1 Kings 17). As we are still (Psalm 46:10) and wait upon the Lord (Psalm 37:9; 123:2, Isaiah 8:17; 40:31), we can trust that He is doing great things, and that He is preparing us for greater opportunities to serve Him, once all the elements are in place.

Meanwhile, we must pray for wisdom and His strength to empower us to do whatever we can in whatever setting He places us, for we are pilgrims in a foreign country (Hebrews 11:13), longing for our true home in Heaven. It seems fitting that the dream took place in a humble, rural rental home.

In the dream, the table reminded me of the communion table, which should also be preceded by self-examination and fasting (1 Corinthians 11:20-34). The bread, symbolizing Christ as the Bread of Life, had been set out by my husband, the spiritual head of the household. The cereal, which is grain broken in small pieces, I believe symbolizes the breaking of bread in the communion sacrament (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:24), and ultimately the body of Christ, broken for us (Matthew 26:26).

But the meal was put on hold while my husband went out to share the Gospel. In the interim, I brewed tea, perhaps symbolizing the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives when He infuses us with the Living Water (John 7:38; Jeremiah 2:13; 17:13). The tea plant must be crushed and heated before it can produce tea.

Jesus Christ was bruised and suffered to pay for our sins (Isaiah 53:5), and Gethsemane, the place He prayed for us before His crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46), means “olive press.” Just as an olive is crushed before it can yield its precious oil, so did Christ endure agony, shedding every drop of His precious blood (Matthew 26:28), so that all who trust Him could be anointed with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 1:22), often symbolized as oil in Scripture (1 Samuel 16:13; Isaiah 61:3).

Because I brewed the tea while awaiting my husband’s return, the symbolic elements of communion were ready, but the sacrament itself could not yet take place in his absence. It reminded me that the church, or bride of Christ (Revelation 21:2), is waiting for the Bridegroom’s return (Matthew 9:15) at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:51-58; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), to meet with us in the sky and to celebrate our eternal union at the Marriage Supper of the Lamb! (Revelation 19:9).

Like the ten wise virgins awaiting the Bridegroom, may we use the time wisely, keeping our lamps filled with the oil of the Spirit (Matthew 25:1-13), serving Christ in whatever ways He appoints to us, until His imminent return! 

© 2020 Laurie Collett