Saturday, April 28, 2012

Views of the Peak

Through His Word, God shows us His general plan for our lives, which includes abundant life here and now, and eternity with Him in Heaven if we have a personal relationship with His Son. Nothing the world has to offer can compare with that, and if we place our faith in anything else, it will lead to our destruction (John 10:10).

I had a beautiful dream of walking at sunset, as though God were leading me along a quiet path, winding up through a mountain pass, where He could show me a glimpse of what He intended for me. A refreshing, gentle wind brushed against my skin, and in the distance I could see a single, majestic, snow-capped mountain, dusky blue, but lit from behind by the rosy light of the setting sun.

I was truly content and filled with a sense of wonder at God’s love. But then I felt Him directing my gaze downward, to the side of the road, which surprised me as I was so drawn to the view of the peak above. Thankfully, I listened, as almost hidden in the lush, green vines carpeting the path were two miniature orchids, delicately floating in the breeze like dancers swaying in embroidered ball gowns of lavender and white. What an exquisite reminder that He attends to every detail in our lives!

I awoke feeling overwhelmed by His love, and realizing that we are blessed not only by our ultimate destiny in heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:4-7), but by so many expressions of love He places along our daily journey to bring us joy in Him as He rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17). If we race ahead with no thought to our surroundings, we may miss His subtle whispers of love that encourage and uplift us.

It would be a blessing if all my dreams were peaceful epiphanies like these, but there are lessons to be learned even from the more mundane and frantic dreams. The next night I again dreamed I saw a mountain peak, but the setting was very different. This time I was riding in a small car on the track of an amusement park ride, and the mountain peak was a poor representation of God’s natural creation. It was the focal point of the ride and the color scheme was similar, but it was a cheap imitation in plaster of Paris with flaking paint. At the base of the peak was a dark vortex of churning water that the car was meant to pass through to descend to the next part of the ride, ominous and foreboding as the final destination was hidden.

I felt so cheated as I looked up at the fake mountain, refusing to believe it was not what I had experienced before. Surely if I could look at it longer, it would somehow transform into the heavenly creation representing the glorious city on the hill (Psalm 48:1; Ezekiel 40:2; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 2:1-3). So I took matters into my own hands, grabbing the sides of the car and derailing it just before it was swept into the vortex. I struggled to push it back, away from the force of the whirlpool, only to find myself confronting oncoming traffic from the cars that were still on their preset course, and headed for a multi-car collision.

What a relief to awaken, and to realize that nothing the world has to offer can compare with God’s gifts of love and peace that satisfy us completely (Ephesians 3:14-17). Cheap imitations leave us hungry, frustrated, and unfulfilled, and spending more time with them only aggravates the emptiness rather than relieving it, because they keep us from spending time with Him (Matthew 6:19-24).

Why would we want to waste our time with man-made distractions when He speaks to us daily through His Word (Jeremiah 15:16; Luke 8:15; Colossians 3:16), His creation (Psalm 19:1), the counsel of brothers and sisters in Christ (Proverbs 27:9,17), and in so many other ways? It is far easier to keep ourselves out of worldly places where we should not go than to escape once we are there, as the momentum of others caught up in the same fate will pull us down, resulting in disaster (Proverbs 7:4-27; Exodus 23:33).

May we keep our eyes on the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24), our feet in high places (2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33; Habakkuk 3:19), and our life in Him (Acts 17:28) as He leads us safely on our journey, lavishing His love and joy on us along the path and preparing an amazing destiny for us in Heaven (1 Corinthians 2:9). He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Saturday, April 21, 2012

God’s Hand Writing

When the hand of God wrote in the Old Testament, it was on stone, and in the New Testament, it was on sand. Praise God for the difference!

All of the Bible is the Word of God, divinely inspired by the Holy Spirit and recorded by men God specifically chose for this purpose (2 Timothy 3:16). Many of the words of Jesus, Son of God and God Himself, are recorded in the Scripture, as are words of God speaking as the Trinity (Genesis 1) or as God the Father (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; Mark 1:11; 9:7; Luke 3:22; 9:35).

Yet there are special instances in the Bible where the hand of God actually wrote, and these would seem to have unique significance. The first time we are told of God writing, He uses His finger to engrave the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone, not once, but twice, which was necessary because Moses in his anger destroyed the first set of tablets (Exodus 31:18; 32:15-16, 19; 34:1).

The Ten Commandments, or the Law, cannot save anyone, but rather serve as a mirror reflecting man’s sin (James 1:22-25). We are all sinners (Romans 3:23), so no one (except for Jesus Himself; Hebrews 4:15) is capable of keeping these commandments perfectly. We sin not only against God, rebelling against the first four commandments (Exodus 20:1-11), but also against one another, breaking the remaining commandments, which follow in a hierarchy or logical progression.

The fifth commandment is a transitional commandment between loving God and loving our neighbor, as it commands us to honor our parents (Exodus 20:12), who represent our first authority figure and hence become a model of how we will relate to God. The next three commandments prohibit killing, committing adultery, and stealing (Exodus 20:13-15), which are sinful acts against our neighbor. The ninth commandment prohibits lying (Exodus 20:16), which is sinful speech; and the tenth commandment prohibits coveting, or craving something belonging to someone else (Exodus 20:17), which is sinful thought.

Jesus extended this logical progression even further by stating that even looking at a woman with lust is committing adultery in the heart (Matthew 5:28), and that anger is equivalent to murder in the heart (Matthew 5:22). This made it abundantly clear that no one can keep the Ten Commandments, because to keep them perfectly requires controlling not only one’s actions, but one’s words and even one’s thoughts and emotions.

The Law, written by God’s hand on tablets of stone, therefore represents God’s judgment – He judges man by this absolute standard and finds that we are all sinners deserving eternal punishment in hell. Only by the perfect sacrifice of His Son to pay our sin debt in full can sinful man be reconciled to holy God (2 Corinthians 5:18-20; Colossians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:17).

When God looks at those who put their faith in the death, burial and resurrection of His Son (1 Corinthians 15) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6), He sees not our sins, but the perfect righteousness of His Son (Romans 4:5-8). In an amazing and mysterious transaction, our sin was credited to Jesus’s account, and His righteousness was credited to our account. God’s judgment no longer will result in our eternal punishment in hell; instead, His grace offers us eternal and abundant life with Him in Heaven (Romans 5:10-21).

The second time we see God’s hand writing, it also delivers a message of judgment, written on the plaster of a stone wall in a royal banquet hall (Daniel 5). Belshazzar, the Chaldean king, was guilty of desecrating the sacred gold and silver vessels of God’s temple, allowing his princes, wives and concubines to drink from them as they toasted their pagan gods (v. 2-4). He was therefore committing idolatry (not to mention adultery and using precious objects his father stole from God’s temple), dishonoring God and honoring his own false gods.

He also committed the sin of pride (v. 22) and rebellion against God, even though he had seen the severe punishment God had given his father Nebuchadnezzar for stealing the sacred vessels, being prideful, and failing to acknowledge that it was God Who gave him all his power and glory (v. 18).

Daniel interprets the written message for Belshazzar: Daniel 5:26 MENE; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. 27 TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. 28 PERES; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.

Just as the Ten Commandments convey God’s judgment against all sinners, this message reveals God’s judgment against the king for the sins of pride, rebellion and idolatry, and should serve as a sober warning to all rulers who falsely think they obtained their power through their own merit instead of as a gift from God. As predicted, Belshazzar was murdered that very night, and Darius from Medes seized the Chaldean kingdom (v.30-31).

The third time we see God writing, the wording of the message is not revealed, yet the effect was similar: it made those who saw it aware of their sin. A woman caught in adultery is brought to Jesus by angry Pharisees, asking whether He agrees or disagrees that she should be put to death as commanded in the law of Moses (John 8:4-5). He almost seems to ignore them, yet begins writing with His finger in the sand (v. 6). Finally, He says, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her,” then continues to write on the ground. One by one, the accusers leave, convicted by their own guilty conscience (v. 6-9).

Unlike the Old Testament incidents of God writing, this incident shows Jesus writing not indelibly by etching the message into stone, but by tracing the words in the dirt where they could easily be blown away by the wind, covered by footprints, or washed away by the rain. His sacrifice on the cross allowed our judgment to be erased and gone forever. Man in his rebellion cannot escape God’s judgment, any more than Moses breaking the first set of tablets in anger meant that God would revoke the law He commanded His people to keep.

But Jesus’ own words reveal that He came not to judge or to condemn (John 8: 11,15), but to forgive, love, and pay our debt to God the Judge so that all who have faith in Him will have their sins forgiven, their judgment repealed, and their freedom assured for all eternity.

Romans 5:18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Who's Driving?

I had a dream in which I was a front seat passenger in a luxurious, comfortable car, traveling on a quiet, winding road at dusk. Although the car made hairpin turns as it navigated up through the mountains, along sheer cliffs with nothing but churning ocean below, I felt strangely serene and content, admiring the breathtaking scenery as I settled back into the plush upholstery. Gazing out from my open window I could feel a gentle sea breeze and see the constellation of Orion, and many other stars twinkling brighter as the night sky darkened.

I glanced over at the driver’s seat, then panicked because I could see no one there! Suddenly the joy of this journey disappeared, replaced by confusion and fear over having placed my trust in a driver I could not see.

Next I found myself desperately pedaling a rickety bicycle up the same road, but now I was terrified by the blackening night, and by the sheer drops into sure death if I misjudged the turns. I was wearing a new pair of sneakers, but the canvas had already started to unravel and loose cords were flapping against the bicycle spokes. If they got caught I was sure the bike would crash and send me hurtling off the precipice to a watery grave against the rocks below.

Mercifully, I awakened, and rather than writing off the dream to an overly spicy midnight snack, I wondered if it could hold a lesson for me. We walk by faith, not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7), and faith enables us to trust in what we cannot see (Hebrews 11:1). To find peace in the Christian life we must be willing to yield control to God, focusing on Him alone, and to let Him be in the driver’s seat (Isaiah 26:3). Our actions and even our words and thoughts should be yielded to the Holy Spirit Who indwells every believer at the moment of salvation (2 Corinthians 1:21-22), rather than letting sin control us (Romans 6:11-23).

We don’t always see or understand His plan, but we must trust that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6), and that He is safely conveying us through our perilous journey even when we can’t sense His presence. Only then can we experience the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:6-7), as we trust that He is working all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).

Jesus’ disciples lost heart in the stormy seas even though their Master was on board their frail boat, because He was sleeping and seemed to be indifferent to their plight. Little did they know that a mere rebuke from His lips would quiet the waves (Matthew 8: 23-26; Luke 8:22-25). When we lose sight of Who God is, and of His limitless power (Revelation 19:6) and love (1 John 4:8-10), our joy and peace at knowing Him may be threatened by our doubt and unbelief (Mark 9:23-24).

At times like these we may resort to our old ways, pridefully trusting in our own flesh to get us out of trouble rather than relying on Him (Romans 7:18), even though without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

In the dream, my own ability to pedal up that dangerous road in the dark was pitifully inadequate, whereas the car with no visible Driver offered safety, security, comfort, and peace. Although our own flesh is unable to withstand many physical struggles, it is even more worthless in the spiritual realm, which is where the greatest battles are fought, with eternal consequences (Ephesians 6:12).

Those bumper stickers saying “Jesus is my copilot” are eye-catching, but in my opinion, they miss the point. As I journey through life, I want Jesus to be the driver, not the copilot! Thankfully, He always will be, as long as we hand the keys over to Him.

© 2012 Laurie Collett

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Because Christ Is Risen!

What difference does it make that Christ rose from the dead? It makes all the difference for everyone and everything throughout eternity! It is the single most significant, paradigm-changing, earth-shattering event of all time.

Because He is risen, we can live with Him forever! The center of our Christian faith is knowing not only that Jesus, Son of God and God Himself, died on the cross to pay our sin debt, but that He rose again to give us eternal life. That is the heart of the Gospel, or Good News (1 Corinthians 15: 1-4). Christianity is unique among the religions because we serve a risen Savior! The leaders of all other religions are dead and there is no claim of their resurrection.

The list of appearances of the risen Christ is to dispel all doubt that He not only rose from the dead, but that He appeared in a resurrection body for more than 500 witnesses to see at different times and places (1 Corinthians 15:5-8; Acts 1:3).

The resurrection of Christ proves His deity (Romans 1:3). The resurrection of Christ completed the work God the Father sent Him to do; namely, as God the Son, to be the perfect, holy sacrifice that paid for our sins. When that was finished, He returned to His rightful place at the right hand of God the Father (Hebrews 1:1-3).

The resurrection of Christ is essential for us to have eternal life and for our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). It is evidence that when God looks at each of us as believers, He sees not our sins, but the pure holiness of His Son who gave us His righteousness by taking on our sins (Romans 4:24-25).

The resurrection of Christ is the proof that He is the righteous Judge to whom all must give an accounting one day (Acts 17:31)

The resurrection of Christ is the reason believers have hope (1 Peter 1:3-5). All believers in the resurrection who, through faith, have accepted Christ as their Savior, are saved and are eternally secure in their salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:33-39).

The resurrection of Christ is the reason believers can be confident in receiving glorified bodies at the Rapture and spending eternity with Christ (1 Thessalonians 4: 14-17).

Praise God that we serve a risen Savior! May the power of His resurrection inspire your daily life, secure your salvation, and guarantee your eternal destiny in Heaven as a child of the King! He died for you, and because He rose, you can live with Him forever! Trust Him today!

John 11:25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

© 2012 Laurie Collett