Saturday, December 30, 2017

Quilting the Pieces Together

Photo by Francis.arquesa 2014

I dreamed that my family and I are touring the French countryside, accompanied by a young blonde girl, wearing her hair in a braid, whom I didn’t recognize. In the dream, we have just visited an ancient chateau and are walking along the bank of the surrounding moat. I find a fossil that contains what look like four black teeth, and I cry out excitedly to my husband, who is an avid fossil collector. But he doesn’t share my enthusiasm, and dismisses my find, saying “Oh, that’s just old building material.”

We come to a tree which has been uprooted and is lying on its side, the dead roots pointing backward along our path and the black, bare branches pointing forward, like a giant sea fan stranded on the beach. However, most of the trunk seems to still be connected to the earth by vines overgrowing it.

The young girl asks me about the bed coverings we had seen in the castle, all pieced together.

“You mean quilts?” I ask in surprise. “Haven’t you seen a quilt before? You and I need to have a long talk about quilting!”

I explain how I had once started to make a quilt, but I hadn’t spoken to anyone who knew how to do it, so I had to learn by trial and error rather than benefiting from the experience of others. I had chosen to use hexagonal quilt blocks instead of squares, which made my task even more difficult. Undeterred, she says she wants to make a theme quilt, based on the subject of painted cities.

We meet up with our son, who is acting as our tour guide, at the visitor center, and we ask him if we can go back along the bank to explore further. He says no; we have to move on to our next destination.

As I awoke and contemplated the meaning of the dream, I realized that a fossil is a preserved record and memento of the distant past. To dwell in the past is a danger, if we attempt to treasure it in itself, rather than realizing that the lessons learned and experiences we had there are just building material for our present life. In the dream, my son warned me that we can’t revisit our past experiences, because it’s time to move on to our next destination.

The fossil in the dream took the form of teeth, which in Scripture are often equated with violence, aggression or insatiable greed (Deuteronomy 32:24; Job 16:9; 41:14; Psalm 35:16; 37:12; 124:6; Proverbs 30:14; Isaiah 41:15; Lamentations 2:16; Daniel 7:5,7; Zechariah 9:7). The fossil teeth were black, suggesting that God can use even the darkest experiences such as these, whether we were victim or perpetrator, to shape us more into the character of Jesus (Philippians 3:10), working all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

There were four teeth in the fossil, and the first mention of the number four in the Bible references the fourth day of Creation, in which God made the sun, moon and stars not only as light sources, but to indicate and measure the passage of time and to give us the four seasons  (Genesis 1:14-19). These measurements really have personal meaning to us only to mark past events, for we are not promised tomorrow (James 4:14), and only God knows how many years or even minutes our future on earth holds (Luke 12:20).

The uprooted dead tree we encountered also suggests the contrasts between the past, for the roots were pointing backward, and the future, with the bare branches pointing forward, indicating a general direction but no details, for our future is unknown except to God (Jeremiah 29:11). But the only part of this tree still connected to the earth and showing signs of life was the trunk, symbolizing the present in which we must live (Psalm 118:24; 2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 3:13). As the saying goes, “Yesterday is history; tomorrow is a mystery; today is a gift, which is why we call it the present.”

Jesus warned us not to worry about the future (Matthew 6:25-34), but instead to ask Him for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3), which He will provide just as He provided daily manna for the Israelites on their wilderness journey (Exodus 16:15-34). Although we are not to dwell in the past, or to let Satan rub our noses in our past mistakes, we should constantly remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness.

If we remember that He is faithful and just to forgive our sins (1 John 1:9), Satan cannot use these as a weapon against us. The prophet Samuel took a special stone and named it Ebenezer to remind the people of the LORD’s great help against their enemies (1 Samuel 7:12).

In the dream, we were walking along the bank of the moat, which was used in ancient times to separate, distance, and protect the castle and its inhabitants from invaders in the world. Similarly, Scripture warns us to keep ourselves separate from the world, by being decently different in our speech, lifestyle and dress, and to be holy as God is holy (Romans 12:1;1 John 2:15; 1 Peter 1:15-16).

Although I didn’t recognize her in the dream, I realize now that the young blonde girl with the braid represents my former self, and that she resembled me as a teenager. Even as a child, I loved collecting and preserving memorabilia. The art of quilting seems to symbolize how our life is pieced together from memories and building blocks of experience, and the quilt I had started making in real life was made from cloth hexagons, which I embroidered to reference places I had visited and important life events.

But I never actually finished the quilt, which is fitting, because my life still continues as a work in progress, praise God! He is piecing it together like a fine tapestry. At times I only see the rough seams, tangled threads, and knots on the reverse side of the quilt. But when I see Him in glory, He will show me the right side of the beautifully fashioned work of art He designed!

As I had attempted to preserve my past memories through quilting, I had done it on my own, without first seeking Godly counsel. Learning from the life experiences of fellow Christians, with their wisdom and advice set in a Biblical context (Proverbs 27:17; Hebrews 10:25), is one of the great benefits of being part of the church, or body of Christ (Romans 7:4; 12:5). Of course I had not done that when I began the quilt, as I was still unsaved and full of prideful self-righteousness, listening neither to Christians nor to God Himself.

It is interesting that I chose the hexagon as the pattern for my quilt blocks, as six is the number of man (Revelation 13:18). The more traditional four-sided, square quilt block reminds me of the term foursquare, which occurs in God’s directions for making holy items for His service, like the altar (Exodus 27:1; 37:25, etc.) and the breastplate (Exodus 39:9). It also describes the court in Ezekiel’s vision (Ezekiel 40:47) and the holy city of New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:16).

Why did the girl, representing me before I was saved, want to make her quilt on the theme of painted cities? “Painted” in Scripture generally refers to worldly adornment for purposes of seduction or ungodly pride, as in the evil queen Jezebel painting her face (2 Kings 9:30), and the rebellious nation of Israel painting her face or eyes to please false gods that could not save nor even love her (Jeremiah 4:30; Ezekiel 23:40).

The prophet Jeremiah warns the king of Judah that his city will be destroyed because of the wrongdoing of the people, but that in contrast, God will build a beautiful, spacious house of cedar painted in vermilion, a brilliant red pigment (Jeremiah 22:14), looking ahead to the shed blood of Christ that saves us from all our sins (Matthew 26:28; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:22).

If we follow the world and its idols, our lives and cities will be in shambles. But if we are saved by our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), and if we trust Him to design and create the quilt of our lives, He will work in us a beautiful and miraculous masterpiece!

© 2017 Laurie Collett


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Birth of Jesus: Trinity Incarnate

As we have seen in earlier posts, God prescribed patterns of worship in the Old Testament, including feasts, to reflect His Trinity. Thousands of years later, New Testament worship continued to honor God’s Triune nature as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Worship of God the Son began when Jesus was in Mary’s womb and continued through His infancy and early childhood. Patterns of three continued to be evident in this early worship and in the circumstances surrounding Christ’s birth.

When Jesus Christ left His heavenly throne, He wrapped Himself in flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14) so that we could behold His glory. As foretold in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 9 23-24), man was not to glory in his own wisdom, power, or wealth, but in God’s love, judgment, and righteousness. In the person of Jesus Christ, and in Him alone, were these three sources of glory fulfilled.

Before Jesus was born, three persons (Zacharias, Mary, and Joseph) crucial to His earthly life were visited by an angel who revealed their special roles in the birth of the Messiah. The angel Gabriel appeared to the old priest Zacharias to tell him that Elizabeth, his barren and aged wife, would give birth to John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for the chosen Messiah (Luke 1:7-19).

Then Gabriel appeared to the virgin Mary to tell her that God had chosen her to give birth to the promised Savior, conceived by the Holy Ghost (Luke 1:26-35). The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him that Mary had conceived the Messiah by the Holy Spirit, and that he should marry her as planned (Matthew 1:20-21).

Even before Jesus was born, the first worship service of three congregants (Mary, Elizabeth, and John) honoring Him took place! Jesus later said that wherever two or three were gathered in His name, God was in their midst (Matthew 18:20), and this was literally the case on this occasion!

This happy meeting occurred when Mary arrived at the home of her cousin Elizabeth, and the Holy Spirit allowed both women and the unborn John the Baptist to recognize the unborn Jesus as their Lord and Savior. John was filled with the Holy Ghost while still in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:15), and when Mary entered the room, John leaped for joy to be in the presence of Jesus! (Luke 1:41-45). At the same moment, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and she proclaimed aloud that Mary and her unborn Babe – her Lord -- were blessed indeed.

Mary responded with a hymn of praise (known as the Magnificat) inspired by the Holy Spirit, exalting God and His Son, the Messiah Who would deliver them (Luke 1:46-55), The Bible does not say that Mary sang this hymn, but because of its poetic format, I believe it is reasonable to assume that she sang it, just as the Psalms were sung to praise God. This first praise and worship service honoring Jesus therefore incorporated three expressions of praise: dance, spoken praise (prayer), and song!

At and shortly after Jesus’ birth, He was worshipped by three groups of beings: the angels, the shepherds, and the wise men. The glory of God lit up the heavens, the angel of the Lord announced His birth, and a multitude of angels sang sweet anthems of praise and adoration (Luke 2:8-14).

The glory of God described here may have been one of three reappearances of the Shechinah Glory (the glory of God that filled the Old Testament tabernacle; Exodus 40:34-38) surrounding the birth of Jesus. At the time of His birth, the brilliance of God’s glory shone in the heavens surrounding the angel of the Lord (Luke 2:9), in the star of Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-12) and in the person of Jesus Himself (John 1:14).

When the apostle John refers to man beholding the glory of God dwelling among us (John 1:14), the word for “dwell” is similar to the word in Exodus 40 referring to the tabernacle, thus strengthening the reference to the Shechinah Glory filling the Old Testament tabernacle and then tabernacling among us as the fully divine Man. That prophecy was foretold by Isaiah 9:2 and revealed more completely in the Transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-36; 1 Peter 16:18).

The shepherds, who in that culture were considered to be vagabonds of ill-repute, represent saved sinners who repented (abandoned what they were doing once they heard the Good News), ran to worship Him, and witnessed to others of what they had seen (Luke 2:15-17-18).

The wise men (Matthew 2:1-12), who were the most learned scholars of their day in the fields of astronomy, science, and philosophy, sought and found Truth not in their parchments and scrolls, but in a young Child Who knew all things.

The three gifts brought by the wise men to worship and honor Jesus were gold, frankincense, and myrrh, representing His three roles in our salvation. Gold is the most precious metal, fit for the King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16); frankincense the most costly spice, suited to burn in worship of the great High Priest after the order of Melchisidec (Hebrews 5:6, 10); and myrrh is used to anoint the dead (John 19:39), representing that He came to die as the perfect, sinless Sacrifice (Hebrews 10:12-14) to pay our sin debt.

Included in the wise people who worshipped the young child Jesus were not only these kingly scholars, but also Simeon (Luke 2: 25-35) and Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36-38), as these faithful Jews recognized Him as the promised Messiah Who would deliver their people. May we too have their wisdom to seek God, find Him, and give our lives to Him!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives