Saturday, December 29, 2018

Mission Accomplished?

I had a dream in which I was shopping with my husband and my late father. The layout of this huge department store was similar to an IKEA in that there was a very convoluted path through a vast array of displays and merchandise. If you wanted to purchase anything, you had to take a ticket and pay for it at the cashier, not visible and seemingly miles away.

Unlike IKEA, however, the store building itself was amazingly majestic and resembled a historic bank building in downtown Tampa where we live, with towering granite pillars and elegant marble floors. Surprisingly, however, embedded into the flooring at various intervals were small, shiny mosaics in the likeness of different Pokemon cartoon characters.

An announcement came over the loudspeakers that closing time was fast approaching. We had become so caught up in the experience of this unusual place that we had forgotten why we came there, which was to purchase a baby gift! We decided that my husband and father would attempt to find a suitable gift while I would return to where we had spotted a couch my husband and I wanted to buy, so that I could get the ticket and meet them at the register before it was too late.

They indicated where I should go and took off in the opposite direction. As I ran toward the furniture department I suddenly realized that in my haste, I had dropped the coat I was carrying, and I rushed back to try to find it, to no avail. Even worse, now I had totally lost my bearings, I had no idea where I was, and the store was deserted, with no one to ask for help.

It seemed that there was only one way I could go, which was downward toward the center of the store, even though I sensed that I needed to be upward near the periphery. I ended up in the central court, where a sparkling three-tiered fountain was overflowing into a lavish pool lined with shining gold tiles.

When I awoke, I had mixed emotions of regret over not accomplishing my mission, and yet relief to have found the refreshing fountain. I might have forgotten about the dream, had it not been for an experience the following day of seeing the movie “Mary Poppins Returns” with my family. A preview before the main feature was of the latest Pokemon movie, reminding me of the strange mosaics embedded in the floor in my dream. In the Mary Poppins movie itself, much of the action took place in a London bank building very similar to the setting of my dream.

From the opening scene of the movie I found myself smiling and was encouraged by the positive themes of remembering our blessings no matter how dire the circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Psalm 68:19; 103:2); believing that all things are possible (Matthew 19:26) and can work together for good (Romans 8:28); and knowing that we can be reunited with loved ones who have stepped out into eternity (2 Corinthians 5:8).

It is not a Christian film, so there were no explicit references to the Biblical basis for these convictions, but the symbolism and allusions were there for the viewer who was aware of these. Most encouraging of all was the repeated reminder to “Look up!” which of course brought to my mind that the Christian should be eagerly awaiting Christ’s second return (Luke 21:28)! And also that our help comes from above (Psalm 121:1), from the Father of lights (James 1:17).

But back to the symbolism of the dream. Traveling through the twists and turns of the building, seldom being able to see what was right around the bend, was a suitable metaphor for our earthly journey. I was with my late father, who represents the past that we cannot change, and my husband, who is the central person in my present reality. Yet our purpose in coming to the store was to purchase a baby gift, preparing for the unknown future, as it was unclear to me who the parents were or when the baby would be born.

Sadly, the dream ended with mission unaccomplished, leading me to consider the obstacles that hinder us (Hebrews 12:1) from fulfilling the unique purpose God has intended for each of us since before the beginning of time (Ephesians 2:10). 

The setting in what appeared to be a bank building may have been a warning not to get caught up in the world system, now governed by Satan (Ephesians 2:2), with its emphasis on earthly riches, power and status (Matthew 6:24), and its spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:12). We must be on the lookout, because the devil himself is prowling about like a roaring lion eager to devour us (1 Peter 5:8).

In fanciful contrast to the austere architecture were the cartoon characters inlaid as mosaics in the marble floors. The preview for the Pokemon movie also reminded me of today’s disturbing trend toward virtual reality, as people spend exorbitant amounts of time interacting with technology instead of with one another. This is an effective strategy of Satan, as it distracts from meaningful relationships and conversations (Luke 10:38-42) through which we can be an effective witness of salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).

Another trap that Satan sets for us is to become absorbed with creature comforts, which appeal to the lust of the flesh (Galatians 5:16; 1 John 2:16). My desire to purchase a sofa in the dream may have reflected the danger of being a “couch potato,” getting too lazy and comfortable (Romans 12:11) to be an effective warrior for the Lord (2 Timothy 2:1-4).

In the dream I lost my coat and had to retrace my steps to try to find it, only to lose time without regaining the coat. At the moment we are saved (Ephesians 2:8-9), Christ clothes us in His robe of perfect righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10), but if we willfully sin or rebel against Him we act as if we are attempting to remove His protective, cleansing, holy garment.

The loudspeaker in the dream announced that time was running out. Surely in our own earthly lives time is our greatest asset, and its loss or waste our deadliest foe (James 4:14; Job 14:1). As the End Times draw nearer and our own allotted days on earth draw to a close, it is vitally important that we redeem the time (Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5). May we use these precious moments to draw souls to Christ by witnessing (Matthew 28:18-20) of the need for faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven!

My father and husband chose the right path by seeking a baby gift, symbolizing preparing the way for souls to be born again (John 3:3-8) and to be nurtured as new babes in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1). I didn’t know the identity of the baby in the dream, and it may be that witnessing online or in public, living a Godly life, or praying for strangers may lead people to the Lord even if we don’t know who they are in this life. It also reminds me of the gifts brought by the Magi to the young Child Jesus (Matthew 2:11), and that wise men still seek Him and honor Him with gifts of their time, talent and treasure.

Yet I found myself on a different path, backsliding away from the intended goal. Thankfully, when I could go no further down that wrong road, I was in the presence of a beautiful, refreshing fountain. Jesus Christ Himself is the Living Water, the Fountain Who forever cleanses us and quenches our thirst (John 4:10-13; 7:38; Revelation 7:17).  The fountain was three-tiered, for in Jesus is the fullness of the Triune Godhead bodily, God the Father, God the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Colossians 2:9).

Once we are truly saved by trusting Him as our Lord and Savior, He is ours and we are His, no matter how far we go astray (John 10:27-29; Romans 8:35-39). Heaven will be our home, replete with streets of gold (Revelation 21:20) and the Lamb seated on His throne, sparkling like a jewel with halos of rainbow light (Revelation 4:2-3).

But how sad it would be to leave this earth without His mission for us being accomplished, and to miss out on heavenly rewards (1 Corinthians 3:10-15) He longs to give us! As this year ends, and if He grants us a new beginning (Lamentations 3:22-23) by bringing us into the New Year, may we resist the wiles of the devil (James 4:7), set aside earthly distractions, redeem the time, and devote our whole being to serving Him!

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, December 22, 2018

No Room for Him

Each time I read the Christmas story, I marvel that the Son of God, the promised Messiah, left His throne in Heaven and came to us in human flesh (John 1:14) to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). Yet the birth of Jesus Christ, Lord of Lords, and King of Kings (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), happened in the most lowly of circumstances. He was not born in the comforts of a royal palace, but in a cold and drafty stable, among the odors of barnyard animals, laid in the scratchy hay of a feeding trough (Luke 2:7).

Why? Because there was no room for Him and His parents in the inn (Luke 2:7). Each time I read that, I cringe to think what it means to have no room for the Saviour. What blessings did the innkeeper miss because he did not joyfully relinquish his best room to the Holy Child? What blessings did God’s chosen people miss because they did not recognize or receive Christ, their Deliverer? (John 1:11-12; 5:43)

What blessings will our nation lose because we no longer have room for Him in our schools, our courtrooms, and our public squares? Even those churches will be held accountable that no longer have room for Him and His Word. Instead, they are devoted to preaching a prosperity or social gospel, to false doctrine (Matthew 7:15; Ephesians 4:14; 2 Peter 2:1), to entertainment, to ostentation, and to social networking, all in the name of building their numbers while falling away from the One Sure Foundation (Luke 6:48-49; 1 Corinthians 3:10-11).

What blessings did I miss in those many long years before I was born again (John 3:3-8) by turning away from my sins and believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ as the only Way to Heaven? (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6). Before I was saved, my life was strangely empty, yet so filled with pursuing wealth, status, and other worldly treasure that I had no room for Him. What blessings am I missing now when worldly distractions (Hebrews 12:1) take up valuable space in my heart -- space that should be completely dedicated to Him?

So many today are like the fool whose chief concern is that he has no room to store his great accumulation of stuff, and decides to build a bigger storehouse for it all, failing to realize that he can’t take it with him (Luke 12:15-21). When death comes knocking, he who has the most toys does not win, but only he who has Christ living in his heart (2 Corinthians 1:22). All others will slip into eternity only to spend it in hell (Luke 16:22-26), forever separated from the God Who would have saved them had they found room for Him (Acts 2:21; Romans 10:13).

But yesterday, as I reread that there was no room for Jesus in the inn, I realized something new to me -- that was a good thing! With God, there are no accidents and no surprises, for He works all circumstances together for the good of those who love Him, to His glory (Romans 8:28). Jesus was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-6) to fulfill the prophecies that the Christ, the Deliverer and Ruler of Israel, would be born there (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:4-6).

The town was packed out because Caesar commanded that all who hailed from there should return to be taxed (Luke 2:1-5). But had God the Father wanted His Son to be born in the best room Bethlehem had to offer, surely that would have happened, despite the overwhelming crowds and the modest means of His earthly parents (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:27; Matthew 19:26).

But how would that have changed the course of history? Had Jesus been born in the privacy of a secluded, comfortable room tucked away in an inn, how would the shepherds have worshipped Him?

In those days, shepherds were on the lowest rung of society – outcasts and vagabonds who traveled about with their sheep, and not above stealing one another’s animals, food or possessions if they could get away with it. That was one reason why they had to keep watch over their flocks by night (Luke 2:8) Like all of us, they were sinners (Romans 3:23), but unlike many, they admitted their sins and longed for the change of heart only a Saviour can bring.

No wonder they were terrified when the angel of the Lord appeared to them (Luke 2:9). Yet the angel came not to condemn them, but to bring them the great news that their Saviour was born! (Luke 2:10-11) How like Jesus, Who came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10), to send His first birth announcement to lowly sinners who knew they needed Him!

Immediately the shepherds made peace with one another and agreed to leave everything behind and to rush off to worship the Son of God (Luke 2:15-16). The angel had told them they would recognize their Lord, for He would be wrapped in swaddling clothes, laying in a manger (Luke 2:12).

True, the angel could have said, “He’s at the inn on Main Street, second floor, first door on the left.” But how would even one shepherd have made it past the innkeeper, let alone the whole throng of shepherds visited by the multitude of the angelic host? Even if they had, how would they all have fit in a small room?

No, it took an open, vast, unguarded space for the King of glory to be adored by all those who wanted to fall down before Him. We tend to think of the stable as a small but cozy wooden enclosure, but it most likely would have been built into a cave on the side of a hill. The mouth of the cave would have been open, allowing the hillside and adjoining fields to be filled with hordes of shepherds worshipping Him.

Not only were the shepherds the first souls to be born again, but they were the first missionaries! After they witnessed the Child with their own eyes and found room for Him in their hearts, they told everyone who would listen what the angel had told them, that Jesus was their Saviour, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11,17)

As a result, many considered this testimony and no doubt were born again themselves (v. 18). The shepherds' testimony was a confirmation to Mary (v. 19), strengthening her for the difficult journey she faced mothering the Son of God, and their praise and faithfulness brought glory to God (v. 20).

So, had there been room for Jesus and His earthly parents in the inn, many would not have known of Him at that time, because there would have been no room for the shepherds to worship Him!

Later, Jesus continued to have the problem of “no room,” because news of His teachings and miracles caused great throngs of people to crowd around Him (Matthew 5:1; 13:2; 14:14-21; 21:9). Often, there was “no room” for those desperate for His healing word or touch, yet that often emboldened those in need.

The woman with the issue of blood fought her way through the crowds, risking being condemned as unclean, just to touch the hem of His garment (Luke 8:43-48). The friends of the man with palsy cut a hole through the roof of the house where Jesus was, having no doubt that He would help their sick friend (Mark 2:1-12). In every case, Jesus rewarded the faith of those who would not accept “no room” as their final answer.

God is not stingy in doling out blessings. Instead, He loves to shower blessings on His children, answering our prayers exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20; 1 Timothy 1:14). If we seek Him first, He heaps good things on us until we have no room to store them up inside, and they overflow to all those blessed to be in our path (Luke 6:38; 12:29-32).

May His Living Water flow through us like a river nourishing the parched soil around us! May His Light shine through us so that it cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:15), but illuminates the lives of all we meet! May we give Him all the room in our heart, so that we have no room for worldly cares or sorrows, and not enough room to contain all the joy and peace He gives us!

© 2014 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs