Saturday, July 29, 2017

Ephemeral or Eternal?

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

On our recent trip to Ireland, one of the major highlights was the majestic Cliffs of Moher, an amazingly beautiful display of God’s handiwork (Psalm 19:1). Each new vista of rock formations abutting the azure sea was more breathtaking than the previous panorama. Yet I was also struck by the sporadic handfuls of wildflowers dotting the cliff faces, springing up defiantly from crevices in the limestone.

God only knows how they got there, thriving luxuriantly where there seemed to be no soil or water to nourish them. He provides for lilies of the field and clothes them in greater splendor than the richest kings (Matthew 6:28-33), even though they will soon fade and wither away, leaving no trace of their former beauty (Isaiah 40:7; James 1:11).

On the other hand, the cliffs seem eternal, immovable, unchanging, as Christians should be in their service to Christ (1 Corinthians 15:58). Yet God’s Word tells us that the earth and even its elements will burn up with a fervent heat, so that He can renovate all in preparation for new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:10-12; Isaiah 65:17; 66:22). Only God (Hebrews 13:8; Revelation 1:8), His Word (Isaiah 40:8), and man’s eternal soul will never pass away.

Every human being will live forever. Those who have trusted in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6) will have eternal life in Heaven with Him and with their loved ones who have trusted Him as their Lord and Savior (John 3:16; 14:1-3).

But those who pass into eternity rejecting Him will also live forever, but not in Heaven. Their fate is eternal torment, as intense as the searing heat of a fresh burn, yet one that never abates (Jude 1:7; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 16:19-31; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Our life here is but a vapor, just a few days, and so short that we are not promised tomorrow (Job 14:1; James 4:14). May those who do not yet know Him trust Him before that door slams shut, and may those of us who trust Him have boldness and wisdom to witness to them of His infinite love (1 John 4:8) and saving grace (Ephesians 2:8-9).

While we are here on earth, He will never leave nor forsake His children (Hebrews 13:5), and He will always provide for our physical needs (Psalm 37:25). Our Creator cares for even the weeds, nourishing them against all odds on a barren cliff, and without their having to work to clothe themselves (Matthew 6:28-33). He cares for the birds of the air (Matthew 10:29-31), and does He not care even more for each of us?

So why do we fret over our daily needs, and concern ourselves with the ephemeral, earthly cares and pleasures that vanish as quickly as the breath before our lips on a cold day? Should we not instead concern ourselves with the eternal? May we lay up treasures in Heaven (Matthew 6:19-21), which no one can steal from us and which nothing can destroy, and which we shall enjoy eternally!

The apostle Paul tells us that the good works we did with the right motive for the kingdom of God will emerge from His judgment fire more refined and pure, like gold, silver and precious stones, and that He will reward us for these. But those things we did grudgingly, or for money, pride, or for the praise of others, will burn up like wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:11-15).

This week we were reminded once again of the transience of our human existence, as two elderly sisters in Christ went home to be with the Lord. Their lives, like those of any of us, were ephemeral, yet their legacy of faithfulness is eternal. Despite enduring nearly constant hardships involving physical health, family, and finances, they were faithful to be in church whenever the doors were open and to serve to the best of their ability (1 Corinthians 4:2).

I can imagine Jesus Himself welcoming them with open arms and greeting them with “Well done, thou good and faithful servant – enter now into the joy of your Lord!” (Matthew 25:21, 23) That joy will last forever, and I believe will begin with having Jesus tell them of all the children they taught in Sunday School who since were saved, for they had planted the seed of His Word (Luke 8:5-15) and His love in their hearts!

In this life they had very little that the world would envy. Yet they had the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) and joy in their salvation (Psalm 51:12; Isaiah 61:10) that transcended all physical circumstances, and which are inaccessible until we are born again (John 3:3-8).

May those of us they left behind be inspired to follow their example, to serve joyfully and faithfully, and to work for eternal rewards, not ephemeral pleasures!

© 2017 Laurie Collett

Photo by Laurie Collett 2017

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Light in the Storm

Photo by Alvesgaspar2009

As my husband and I sat overlooking the beach while reading our morning devotionals, we could sense the storm brewing. The breeze was strengthening, allowing a pair of ospreys to soar effortlessly through the darkening sky. Waves lapping the shore began to chop and churn, and the usually pale blue, glassy sea became rough and darkened with deep purple blots like ink stains under the gathering clouds.

I spotted an unusual cloud formation that resembled a rocky cliff with a sharp drop-off, abutting what looked like an immense boulder. In the cleft between the boulder and the cliff was a human figure, huddled in a fetal position. Standing on the cliff was an angel with outstretched arms, as if protecting the person below.

As we watched the clouds change shape in the shifting winds, we witnessed an amazing transformation. The human figure looked up at the angel and straightened up, while still trapped between the cliff and the boulder. Although the angel began to recede into the distance, the sun’s rays, previously hidden, began to illuminate the human figure so that it shone brightly in the otherwise dark sky.

How often do we feel as if we’re trapped between a rock and a hard place? Like the psalmist David, who hid in caves as he fled for his life, we may feel like we’ve fallen into a pit (Psalm 40:2), a deep crevice flanked by impenetrable rock, and an impossibly long way up to safety. We can’t pull ourselves from it or climb out in our own strength, and we are reminded that God is our only hope (Psalm 38:15; 42:5,11; 71:5).

David wrote that the evils surrounding him and the consequences of his own sins were so great that he could not even look up, and his heart failed him. But God alone could save him through His tender mercies, loving kindness and truth, which continually preserved and delivered him (Psalm 40:11-17).

Praise God that He is our refuge in the storm, and that in our moments of deepest despair, He is with us, for He will never leave us nor forsake us! (Hebrews 13:5). He has not promised to remove us from our trials, for they accomplish His purpose for us in ways we cannot begin to understand, as they did with Job (Job 1:21).

God did not answer the apostle Paul’s repeated prayers to remove his thorn in the flesh, for His grace is sufficient in our trials and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). His ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9), and we can have faith in His infinite love, power and wisdom to always work all things together for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

While still trapped in the rocks, the human figure in the clouds looked up, straightened up, and shone brightly. When in trouble, we should look up to the heavens, for God is the source of our help (Psalm 121:1). We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus! He alone enables us to stand fast (1 Corinthians 16:13; Galatians 5:1; Philippians 1:27) and straight in the storm, and to shine brightly with His reflected light to be a beacon and encouragement to others (John 1:9; 8:12; Philippians 2:15).

Recently our Pastor has been preaching from Scripture verses that comfort us in times of trouble. There are no coincidences or accidents with God.

At the very time we were at the beach watching this majestic demonstration of His handiwork (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:20), His Word spoke to us through the devotionals we were reading. One of these referenced Iguazu Falls, a stunning chain of 275 waterfalls in South America, bordered by a wall on which is inscribed the words “God is always greater than all our troubles,” under Psalm 93:4: The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

The brightness of the human figure enfolded in the rocks also reminded me that in times of trouble, God hides (Psalm 32:7) and protects us within Himself, in His pavilion and in the secret of His tabernacle, and that He will set us upon a rock (Psalm 27:5). That Rock is the sure foundation (Luke 6:48; Matthew 16:18) of His Son Jesus Christ, Who saves and gives eternal life (John 3:16) to all who trust in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

May we trust in Christ alone, and in His mercy, for He is our Rock, salvation, defense, glory, strength and refuge! (Psalm 62:5-8; 59:16-17; 94:22)

His protection and guidance from our enemies, threats and dangers (Psalm 32:8) enables us through faith to lift our head above these trials, to seek His face, offer sacrifices of joy and sing praises to Him (Psalm 27:6-8). Praise God that He is our refuge, strength, and very present help in trouble, so that we have no reason to fear even if the earth crumbles, the mountains explode and are carried into the roaring sea (Psalm 46:1-3).

Even in our darkest storms, may His light shine through us so that we can be a beacon of hope to a lost and dying world!

© 2017 Laurie Collett