Saturday, May 28, 2016

Luau: Let’s Celebrate Our Joy in the Lord!

Wishing all readers a safe and blessed Memorial Day weekend, honoring our troops who died defending our freedom, thanking them for their sacrifice, and remembering that Jesus Christ Himself paid the ultimate price to win the victory over sin, death and hell, and rising from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 57) to give all who trust Him eternal life!

As we officially begin the summer season of celebrations and holidays, may you enjoy this repost from the archives about the traditions of the the Hawaiian custom of the luau, which is a popular summer party theme. Much of the symbolism of this ceremonial feast has a parallel in Christian beliefs.   

In Christ we have great reason to celebrate, no matter what our circumstances, because we have joy in the Lord (Psalm.32:11; Isaiah. 61:10; Matthew. 25:21,23) and the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah.8:10). Even while chained in a cold, gloomy prison cell for preaching the Gospel, the apostle Paul was so filled with joy that he said to Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice! (Philippians 4:4) 

The luau is held not only to celebrate, but also as an occasion to show hospitality to those outside our immediate circle of family and close friends. Scripture tells us to be hospitable even to strangers, because we may be entertaining angels without even knowing it! (Hebrews 13:2). When Abraham offered a feast to three strangers who dropped in, it turned out to be the LORD and two angels, and he was blessed by the news that Sarah would give birth to a son in her old age, giving rise to a great nation (Genesis 18). 

In ancient times in Hawaii, men and woman ate their meals separately, and women were not allowed to eat foods that were served only to men on special occasions. However, in 1819, King Kamehameha did away with these religious laws and taboos (Romans 14:2-3) and ate with all the women during the luau, with everyone enjoying the special dishes formerly given only to men. 

This reminds me that Jesus Christ, Who is King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), for all who trust Him are equal and all one in Him (Galatians 3: 26-28). Regardless of sex, race, nationality, or religious upbringing, all those who place their trust Him will take part in His marriage supper, which will be the most amazing celebration of all time! (Revelation 19:9)  

To honor the guests of the luau, the host gives each one a lei, which is a garland or wreath given as a symbol of affection. It can be any series of objects strung together, like a necklace of beads, but it is usually made of fresh natural plants such as flowers, leaves, vines, fern fronds, nuts, and seeds. 

On May 1 of every year, Hawaiians celebrate "Lei Day," so named in 1927 by poet Don Blanding. Since World War II, it has been the modern custom in Hawaii to give a lei with a kiss. The apostle Paul four times in his letters tells believers to greet one another with a holy kiss (Romans 16:16; 1 Corinthians 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:26).  But the traditional custom is to give a lei by bowing slightly and raising it above the heart as a sign of love, allowing the person to take it, because raising the hands above another's head, or touching their face or head, is considered disrespectful. 

This reminds me of the apostle Paul’s encouragement for us to submit ourselves to one another (Ephesians 5:1) and to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another (Romans 12:10). Even in relationships where one person has rightful authority over another, such as parent to child, boss to employee, or teacher to student, we should still consider the needs of the other person over our own. If we brag or boast or lord our authority over someone, God will bring us down, but if we have a servant’s heart toward others, God will lift us up (Matthew 23:12). 

Hawaiians honor leis and what they represent by never throwing them away casually. If they cannot return leis to the place they were gathered, they return them to the earth by hanging them in a tree, burying, or burning them. Because a lei symbolizes the love of the giver, to toss one in the trash would be a sign of disrespect or ingratitude. Many types of lei can be left in a window to dry, allowing the natural fragrance to fill the room.  

As we celebrate Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who went home to the Lord before us, especially those who lost their lives for our freedom in self-sacrificing love, reminding us of Christ’s ultimate sacrifice (John 10:15,17; 15:13; 1 John 3:16). I am thankful for the Godly legacy left me by those who went before me, and their memory lingers on like a sweet-smelling fragrance.  

Although we typically think of a lei as a flower garland, more loosely defined, a lei is any series of objects strung together. In Hawaii, children, family and sweethearts are poetically referred to as "lei." Paul describes the church as we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another (Romans 12: 5). So we, as members of the church or body of Christ, can be thought of as a lei, bound together in love as a family.  

Each of us is like a flower, different, but more beautiful and fragrant to God when we come to together in unity of spirit than we would be separately. Throughout the book of Acts, we hear of Christians in the early church acting together with one accord, accomplishing far more to spread the Gospel than they could if each were to act separately (Acts 1:14;2:1,46; 4:24; 5:12,7:57, etc.). 

The Haku lei is a type of lei crafted by braiding three cords together. Haku mele means to braid a song. A song composed out of affection for an individual is considered a lei, because it is words and notes strung together in love. Paul encourages Christian believers to speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). 

The three cords of the Haku lei remind me of Solomon’s wisdom that a threefold cord is not quickly broken (Ecclesiastes 4:12), meaning that friends who are united in their faith in God strengthen and build up one another through trials and temptations (Galatians 6:2; Proverbs 27:17). 

The threefold cord is also reminiscent of the Trinity (Matthew 3:16-17). Christ is the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). When our heart believes in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), the Holy Spirit enters us (2 Corinthians 1:22) to teach us about Jesus Christ, Who is the only Way to God the Father (John 14:6).  

So as we enjoy holiday celebrations this weekend and throughout the summer, may we remember the legacy of those who went before us and encourage fellow believers. May we celebrate our joy in the Lord, show hospitality and love to one another, and be united in Christ, like flowers woven together in a threefold lei!
© 2014 Laurie Collett
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Saturday, May 21, 2016


Photo by Kenny Louie 2012

As I was walking toward our front door about two weeks ago, I noticed three long, thin, dried up oleander leaves lying on the walkway in a distinct formation. As regular readers of this blog know, I am intrigued by patterns of three, in Scripture and in nature, as reflections of the Trinity (Matthew 28:19). So these leaves caught my eye, especially since they were aligned to form the Roman numeral for “9” – one leaf vertically by itself, to the left of two leaves crossed in an “X” pattern, the three leaves clearly displaying “IX.”

Odd, I thought, and wondered if God might be sending me a message, although I had no idea what it could be, until I stepped inside the house and turned around to shut the door. At that point, I was viewing the leaves upside down from my original vantage point, so I now saw them as “XI,” or the Roman numeral for “11.”

9-11: the telephone number to call in case of emergency. Since September 11, 2001, these numbers have always evoked even more dire warnings of terrorism, death, and destruction. I also felt that the oleander leaves spelling out 9-11 may have had additional significance. The oleander is a beautiful evergreen tree with colorful, attractive blossoms, but all parts of the plant are highly poisonous. What seems attractive at first glance is often not what is best for us (Proverbs 23:31-32; 31:30; 1 John 2:16).

So I thought God was sending me a warning, but about what? I had a sense of restlessness in my spirit, and although I prayed about it, I had no clear answer. But God, Who is not the author of confusion but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33; Isaiah 26:3) kept getting my attention with various other references to warnings.

At a Bible study one night at our church, the Pastor’s message was about those who disobeyed God’s law and pursued their own will instead, at their own peril. Because they did not “observe to do” His commandments, He removed His blessings and allowed curses instead (Deuteronomy 5:32; 6:25; 27:8-26; 28).  

God’s Word serves to “admonish,” or warn us (1 Corinthians 10:1-14) by giving us examples of those who disobeyed God and succumbed to idolatry, meaning not just worshiping statues, but having anything stand between us and our relationship with God. The devil can trap us and destroy our testimony and ministry (1 Peter 5:8) even when we are saved and want to fulfill God’s perfect plan for our life (Jeremiah 29:11; 33:3). However, Satan’s power is limited by what God allows (Job 1:10), and once saved, we can never lose our salvation (John 10:28-29; Romans 8:39).

Later that week I heard a Charles Stanley sermon about listening for God’s voice so that we can hear Him and obey. Most often He speaks to us through our reading or hearing of His Word (Psalm 119:105), which can correct, instruct, and encourage us (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 4:2-4),

If we take time to be still (Psalm 46:10), He may speak to us in our quiet time (Jeremiah 29:12-14), or even through dreams (Daniel 2:19; 7:13; Matthew 2:12,22; etc.) or nature (Psalm 19:1). Sometimes God speaks to us through fellow Christians who warn us of behavior that displeases God (1 Corinthians 4:14; Colossians 1:28; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).

When Dr. Stanley said that sometimes God wants to give us a warning, that surely caught my attention! He related an incident in his own life when he was a seminary student and had planned to spend the summer working in his church’s missions’ office. One day he tripped, hitting his head, and he felt God was sending him a warning. He became restless in his desire to know what God had planned for his life, when one day in prayer He clearly felt God telling him not to work in the missions’ office that summer, but to vacation in a small town in the mountains instead.

At first he dismissed this idea, thinking it was just his own selfish desire to relax over the summer rather than providing needed service to his church. But he also clearly felt God asking him to trust and obey Him (1 Samuel 15:22; Isaiah 50:10). So he did, and the first week he was there, the church where he had visited asked him if he could fill in the following week by preaching for the pastor who was unexpectedly called out of town. After he had preached there several times, the church invited him to be their new pastor and was even willing to wait for him to complete his final year at seminary!

He ultimately accepted the position; the church grew; and his ministry expanded astronomically to the point that his sermons and messages are now broadcast on television, radio, and online around the world. None of this would have happened, and he would have fallen short of this amazing plan God had for his life (Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14), had he not listened to and followed God’s call to do something that made no earthly sense at the time (Isaiah 55:9).

God often works that way, with miraculous results when we obey! Servants poured water into pots at Christ’s command and watched it drawn forth as the best wine (John 2:7-10), and armies marched silently around Jericho and then saw the walls come tumbling down at the sound of the trumpet! (Joshua 6:1-11)

In my own quiet time, I had been asking for God’s guidance about financial issues, and how to balance these with time and resources to be spent in ministry and in fulfilling His perfect plan. Soon I sensed that the warning God had for me was in that vein, that our earthly life is but a vapor (James 4:14), and that it will soon be the time when we can no longer use it to serve Him (John 9:4).

He does not want us to waste our mental energy on worry (Philippians 4:6), for perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18), and we can cast our cares on Him (1 Peter 5:7). Rather, He wants us to find joy in Him and in our salvation (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 21:1; 35:9; 51:12). Every day is a gift from Him, and He wants us to rejoice in it (Psalm 118:24), for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14).

As we left our house one morning a few days later, we heard sirens, then spotted an ambulance at a neighbor’s house, followed by two police cars, and soon thereafter by a medical examiner’s car and hearse. This neighbor had worked very hard for many years to take an early retirement. He had purchased the vacant lot next to his property, built his dream house there to live in, and gave the house where he had been living to his son, so that he could watch his grandchildren grow up.

But he had lived there only a few short months when he unexpectedly died in his sleep, and he could no longer enjoy all that he had worked so hard to achieve.

So now I feel I understand the warning – our time here is short; we can’t take our earthly possessions with us; and only those rewards we have stored up in Heaven will have eternal value (Luke 12:15-34). Work is necessary to provide for our families (2 Thessalonians 3:10), but overemphasis on wealth, albeit admired by the world, is a distraction that can keep us from God’s best (Proverbs 23:4-5). 

Sadly, I don’t know whether or not our neighbor was saved, and now the opportunity is forever gone to witness to him. I’m ashamed that I never took the time to knock on his door and tell him that we are saved only by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). But it’s not too late to give his widow a copy of God’s Word, a plan of salvation, and an invitation to visit our church.

May we always heed God’s warnings before it is too late, for the night is fast approaching when no man can work. The numbers 9-11 in my special warning may have had yet another meaning: if we commit our lives to God, He will give us more time to serve Him in joy, peace and love. 

Proverbs 9:11: For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.

© 2016 Laurie Collett
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