Saturday, January 12, 2019

Invisible

Photo by M62 2007

After midweek evening service at church a few nights ago, I had an unforeseen encounter with an invisible obstacle. As we returned to our car in a neighboring parking lot, I tripped over a cement parking block that was, at least from my perspective, invisible as I stepped down off the curb. The street light illuminated the car from behind, casting a shadow over the parking block, which had discolored to match the color of the pavement, giving me no warning of its presence,

As my feet hit the block and propelled me forward and down, I slammed both knees against the cement and my jaw and chin against the hood of the car. My first thought was that all my teeth had been knocked out, and almost immediately thereafter I was sure I had shattered both kneecaps.

Thankfully my husband was there to lift me to my feet and go running for ice, and my pastor and church family surrounded me with love, concern, assistance and prayer. I could feel the power of those prayers, and my fear was soon transformed into relief and gratitude that I was not seriously injured and would be left with only a few minor scrapes and bruises.

Like this incident, so many threats we might face are unforeseen and invisible – a burglar lying in wait by our doorway, a giant iceberg looming beneath the ocean in the path of a speeding ship, even a cancer cell lurking in our blood stream. We may believe we are invincible because of our high tech security system, the seaworthiness of the vessel, or our usually excellent health.

We tend to forget that we are undeserving of these unearned benefits, but that they are gifts from God (James 1:17), and that He could remove them at any time in accordance with His perfect will (Job 1:21). Yet for His children, who are saved by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven, God works all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

How many times have we complained about some minor inconvenience, like being delayed at a traffic light, while being unaware that He is actually protecting us from an accident further down the road, invisible to our eyes yet clearly perceived by His perfect radar.

We worry about what is in our sights, as it distracts us from what may be far worse. We may think we see clearly because what we are looking at is well illuminated, as was the car in this incident, yet are we vigilant (1 Peter 5:8) about what is hidden in the shadows? Only God knows all things (Job 42:3; Psalm 139:6), past present and future, while we are blissfully unaware of many dangers threatening our physical safety, our emotional wellbeing, and our spiritual wholeness. Yet His unseen hand protects us from these and more (Exodus 32:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; 4:34).

As I thought of the force of the impact and the unforgiving nature of the surfaces my body fell against, I realized how miraculous it was that I walked away with only a little swelling and a few scratches. Thank you, Lord Jesus! Injury to my jaw could have silenced my teaching and singing ministries, and fracturing my knees could have ended our dance ministry. Yet God in His grace and strength empowered me (2 Corinthians 12:9) to resume singing and dancing the morning after I fell!

As I thanked and praised God for His protection, this portion of Psalm 91 came to mind:

Psalm 91:9 Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation;
10 There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling.
11 For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.
12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Similar passages recur in the Gospels (Matthew 4:6; Luke 4:11), emphasizing the importance of the angels, or ministering spirits, God sends to protect those who are or will become His children (Hebrews 1:13-14). In the Old Testament, angels sometimes appeared in the form of strong men (Genesis 18), and sometimes they were invisible to men yet perceived by animals (Numbers 22:21-34). But often our senses may be blinded to the spiritual warfare raging around us, with Satan and his demons seeking to devour us while angels protect us from this onslaught (Ephesians 6:12).

All of Psalm 91 describes various dangers against which God is our shield and refuge. As I was so dramatically reminded, His unseen angels can even hold us as we stumble, lessening the blow that Satan would deal us. We can’t see the prayers of saints who intercede for us, but we can feel their power (James 5:16) as they ascend to His throne (Revelation 5:8; 8:3-4) and radiate blessings back to us.

Dangers hidden from our limited perception may be invisible, but our God is invincible! His angels and the prayers of His saints may be invisible to us, but that does not diminish their effectiveness. Praise the Lord that He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent; that He loves us infinitely; and that no danger can threaten us unless He allows it for our ultimate good and His glory!


© 2019 Laurie Collett

 


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Make a Wish!



When I was a little girl, the best part of my birthday celebration was always blowing out the candles on the cake. Why? Because my parents always said “Make a wish!” and I believed that whatever I asked for in that moment would be mine.

But I attached a series of foolish superstitions to that belief. First, I had to make the wish silently – any wish spoken aloud would be null and void.

Second, it had to be the first wish that entered my mind after the magic words were spoken. I had to focus on a clear thought of what I actually wanted, and make sure that no extraneous idea entered my mind.

(It was like someone asking you not to think of a pink elephant – what is the first image your brain envisions, no matter how hard you try to stop it? Or like the scene in Ghostbusters where the monster who will destroy civilization takes on the form of the first thought that pops into the main character’s head – the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man).

Third, no one could speak between the invitation to “Make a wish!” and the completion of the entire ritual, meaning blowing out all the candles.

Fourth, every single candle had to be completely extinguished. Woe to the prankster who put candles that would relight on my cake! Their well-intentioned idea of a joke would result in my missing that year’s opportunity to wish for the single most important thing I wanted.

But, thankfully, decades later, I was saved by placing my faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). In Him, I have all I need (Philippians 4:19), and the unspeakable gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) of eternal, abundant life (John 3:16; 10:10). I no longer need superstition, ritual or wishful thinking, for I am saved by grace, not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9) I have the sure hope to be found only in our Saviour (Titus 2:13; 1 Peter 1:3).

Still, thinking about making a wish while blowing out birthday candles reminded me of times in the Bible where God granted a wish for one of His children – a limited-time opportunity of unlimited potential.

Jacob literally took matters into his hands and wrestled with God (in human form) all night, until He promised Jacob a blessing. That blessing led to God changing his name from Jacob (meaning supplanter) to Israel (meaning “of God”), for he became the father of the 12 tribes of Israel, God’s chosen people (Genesis 32:24-32).

God offered Solomon a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to ask for whatever he wished, and He promised to grant His request. Solomon could have asked for power, victory, or wealth, but instead he chose wisdom, so that he could be a good and just ruler of God’s chosen people. God answered Solomon’s prayer exceeding abundantly beyond what he could ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), making him not only the wisest man ever, but blessing him with riches and honor in addition (1 Kings 3:3-14).

God clearly values wisdom (Proverbs 4:5,7; 16:16) and is pleased when His children pray for it, so much so that He has promised to give it liberally to any of us who asks Him, without scolding us for needing it (James 1:5). He resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5), so when we realize our own insufficiency apart from Him, He delights in giving us wisdom.

He has already given us the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5) through His indwelling Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13-14), so if we yield to Him by dying to our sin nature (1 Corinthians 15:31; Romans 7:23-25), He will lead, guide and instruct us (John 14:16-17).

What a blessing to know that He will always answer “Yes!” to our prayer for wisdom, no matter how often we ask, and without requiring any rituals or conditions from us. Another prayer He will always answer “Yes!” is the prayer of a sinner asking to be saved (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13). How amazing that His unconditional gift of mercy, love and grace is free to all who ask!

And that brings me to the verse that has become part of my daily prayer, because I believe it is one of His most powerful promises. Jesus said:

If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. (John 15:7)

Really? We can ask for anything and we will receive it? Yes, but this is a conditional, not an unconditional, promise. We must abide in Christ, meaning that we are saved and that our heart is right with Him, free of unconfessed sin. We must be as closely intertwined with Him as the branches are with the true Vine (v. 1). If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we will bear much fruit, but without Him, we can do nothing (v. 5).

The second condition attached to this amazing promise is that His words must abide in us. Clearly we cannot abide in Him, and His words in us, unless we are daily, devotedly, faithfully spending time in His Word and in prayer (Acts 17:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:17). Hiding His Word in our heart keeps us from sin (Psalm 119:11), for we are cleansed by the washing of the Word (Ephesians 5:26). His Word delights us (Psalm 119:16), guides us as a Light to our path, and shows us His plan for our life (Psalm 119:105).

In other words, if we delight in God and His Word, He will give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4), because He is what we desire. So, claiming John 15:7, what should we wish for? 

If we abide in Him and His words in us, we will value heavenly things above material things, and we will not be tempted to ask for riches, power, success or other worldly rewards (Matthew 6:20-21). If we abide in Him and His words in us, we will have faith that He will work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28); joy in the Lord (Romans 5:11); and the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

These will keep us from the sins of unbelief (Mark 9:24) and discontentment (Philippians 4:10-13), so we will not be tempted to spend this promise foolishly in worrying over what He has already promised to provide (Matthew 6:8; 25-34). So what should born-again believers (John 3:3-8) in and on Christ who are internalizing His Word ask him for?

Lord, let me be in the center of your perfect will, which is the best blessing I could possibly have.

I believe this prayer acknowledges His infinite love (1 John 4:8), wisdom (Psalm 139:1-6) and power (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17,27)), wanting to do and able to do what is best for and with us, for only He has access to and control over all pieces of the puzzle. It recognizes that He is Lord of our life (Luke 1:38), and that He knows best how to bless us. Even Jesus yielded to the will of the Father, not only for His own life (Luke 22:42) but for the lives of all of us who have trusted Him (John 17).

Praise God that we don’t have to make a wish, follow childish superstitions, and hope in vain to have our deepest desires satisfied. God can and will grant the gift of salvation to every sinner who realizes he is lost and in need of a Saviour!  He can and will grant His child the blessing of being in the center of His perfect plan for our life if we abide in Him, and His words in us, and if we ask Him!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
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