Saturday, July 28, 2018

Man Down!

In this dream, I am returning to my hotel room in a strange city at night. The only way I know how to get there is to take a narrow side street, but it is barricaded. Afraid I will get lost if I don’t go this way, I cautiously slip under the barricade and instantly regret it.

In the middle of the street is an open manhole, surrounded by a circle of firemen in fluorescent yellow and orange coats, each lying prostrate with his head facing and eyes peering into the manhole. A little girl stands outside the circle, clutching a small, gray mutt in her arms and yelling excitedly, over and over, “Daddy saved Scruffy!”

Her mother, huddled over her, is sobbing uncontrollably. The awful realization hits me that the mutt ran into the open manhole; and the father risked his life to deliver him, but now could not himself escape. Even worse, apparently he was tangled in some electrical wires, and if the firemen could not extricate him or if they crossed wires in the attempt, he would be electrocuted instantly or set on fire in an explosion.

Some of the wires they had partially freed were now stretched out of the manhole and into the street. To my horror, I realized that I had disturbed these by wandering too close to the scene and that I had endangered the man’s life even further.

I awoke in a cold sweat and began to think about the symbolism of the dream regarding the Gospel, and our reaction to it. God sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to pay for our sins, so that anyone who trusts in His death, burial and resurrection will have eternal life (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). He died for all (1 Corinthians 15:3), and He offers His freely given gift of salvation to all (Romans 10:13; Revelation 22:17). 

But some people are like the dog in the dream – oblivious to their own transgressions, and to what He has done to save them and what it means to them. They don’t know they will spend eternity in hell unless they trust Christ (Mark 9:45; John 3:18), so they have no reason to appreciate His sacrifice. And yet, ignorance is no excuse (Romans 1:20).

Some are like the little girl, happy to have her pet safe and sound but unaware that her father’s life was still in danger. Some Christians get excited about receiving God’s blessings but have little love for others who are not yet delivered from the pit of hell (John 13:3-8).

Like the wife weeping for her husband, who could die at any moment, some who are born again (John 3:3-35; 15:17) do earnestly grieve for their loved ones in danger of eternal damnation (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sadly, they are so consumed by this fear (Philippians 4:6) that they are ineffective in leading them to the Lord by witness, prayer, love, and showing a strong testimony of faith (Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 1:8; Colossians 4:12 James 5:16,20; 1 Peter 4:8).

Looking at my own role in the dream, I was in a strange city at night, symbolizing our earthly journey as we pass through this dark, foreign country until He takes us safely home (Hebrews 11:13). I knew there was only one way I could go to reach safety. He is the only Way to salvation (John 14:6), which can be entered only through the narrow gate (in the dream, squeezing under the barricade; Matthew 7:13).

But once there, I failed to help anyone who was in danger. In fact, I made the situation worse by tangling the wires that the firefighters had worked so hard to make straight (Isaiah 42:16). It saddens me to think how many times I inadvertently was a stumbling block, getting in the way of someone being saved, whether through careless words or behavior that is not Christ-like (Romans 14:13; 1 Corinthians 8:9). 

I wonder how many times evangelical missionaries lay the groundwork for salvation in their preaching to the lost, only to have an uncaring believer disrupt it by an offhand remark or an unloving attitude.

The firefighters in the dream represent those Christians who are on fire for the Lord (Luke 24:32), doing all they can through His power (Philippians 4:13) to rescue souls from the flames of hell. The firemen worked together (Acts 2:44-47), as a formation team positioned around the chasm of hell, to deliver the endangered soul. 

Yet so often Christians allow Satan to divide and conquer them (Proverbs 6:16-19), dissipating their collective power, rather than being like a building fitly framed together (Ephesians 2:19-22) so that the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church (Matthew 16:18).

Each of the firemen was face to the ground, symbolizing fervent prayer (James 5:16), which is essential if the church is to win souls to Christ. Each was fully suited up in his protective uniform, just as Christians should put on the whole armor of God daily (Ephesians 6:11-13) before they attempt soul-winning or even getting out of bed! And each of them was highly focused on the task at hand, letting God work through them rather than being distracted by the commotion and chaos all around them (Hebrews 12:1).

Ultimately, it is Christ Who alone has accomplished all that is needed for our salvation through His shed blood, perfect and sinless sacrifice, and completed work on the cross (John 19:30; Romans 3:25; Hebrews 10:10-14). He rose from the dead to conquer sin, death, and the devil and to give those who trust Him eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:24-27, 53-57). Only the Holy Spirit can convict unsaved souls of their sin and need for a Savior and work in their hearts for them to be born again (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).

But, praise God, He has given His children the awesome privilege and responsibility of leading souls to Him through verbal witness, lifestyle testimony of loving behavior, prayer for others to be saved, and working together as the church to reach the unsaved and encourage one another in soul-winning in our local communities and across the globe.

May we daily thank Him for His freely given gift of salvation, guard our own words and lifestyle so as not to hinder anyone from being saved, keep our eyes fixed on Him, and work together as His body to increase His kingdom!

© 2015 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs
Womanhood With Purpose
Adorned From Above
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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Planet Hugs

Photo by Edwin Soo 2012
A dream I had recently whisked me away to the fantasy destination of Planet Hugs. In this dream, I was on a sightseeing trip, walking through a large city, when off in the distance a large, globe-shaped structure seemed to be beckoning to me. It looked like an interesting place to visit, and what would be the harm in wandering in?

But once I was in the lobby, the imposing steel gates locked behind me. A polite but stern guard informed me that I should have read the sign posted on the door. The building was not open for tours, but only for filming of a reality TV show, and by entering I had in effect agreed to a contract to participate. Funny that I hadn’t seen any such sign, but being in the show sounded intriguing and might even make me rich and famous, I convinced myself.

“Planet Hugs,” hosted by Tim Gunn, appeared to be a cross between Project Runway and the Apprentice. We were assigned to teams, each with the mission to design, complete, and market a creative project. A woman on my team suggested a project of questionable taste that was not at all appealing to me, but Tim liked it, and he asked me to write up the proposal. I hesitantly agreed, wanting to be a team player and not wanting to be the first one fired, but disliking the project and not wanting to be associated with the woman’s ideas.

The woman immediately responded by ranting and raving, accusing me of stealing her plan and screaming nasty names at me, with others soon joining in the tirade. Tim suggested that the team cool down by taking off the rest of the evening and exploring Planet Hugs.

Although disturbed by the unsavory project and wounded by my team’s rejection of me, I was quickly distracted by all that Planet Hugs had to offer. The panoramic view of the surrounding city was breathtaking, as the entire top half of the globe was glass, supported only by thin ribs of steel. Brilliantly lit skyscrapers flashed like light sabers, and streets and rivers crisscrossed below in an electrifying array.

But the truly unique feature of Planet Hugs was the “floor.”  One could hardly call it that, as underfoot was a shifting sea of what felt like massage heads suspended in memory foam! After all the walking and emotional turmoil of this unusual adventure, it felt wonderful to lie down, to let my knotted muscles relax into that foam and feel the tension drift away.

At least initially. To my dismay, the gentle motion of the memory foam beneath me swelled in intensity until I was completely enveloped in smothering waves that covered even my head, suffocating me in what felt like a giant vat of dough being mechanically kneaded.

I awoke and sat up in a panic, but the sensations of air freely filling my lungs and the floor beside my bed firmly supporting my feet were a great relief. As I thought about the dream, I realized how easy and dangerous it is to be enticed by what the world seems to offer.

Seldom are there signs warning us to keep out, and if we get enticed by what lies within, the signs may be easy to ignore (Proverbs 1:10-19). The very name of Planet Hugs was a lie from Satan, the father of lies (John 8:44), as the pretense of kindly affection and bodily comfort was merely a disguise for verbal and physical attack.

Since the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), Satan has used three lures to draw us into sin and away from God’s plan: the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life (1 John 2:16). Planet Hugs seemed to offer a view out of this world, the constant availability of soothing massage, and the opportunity for fame and fortune, but all it delivered was strife, fear, and ultimately death (Romans 6:23).

We must therefore guard our feet against taking us into wicked places (Psalm 1:1), our minds against conforming to the world (Romans 12:2), and our hearts against any idol that would keep us from Him (Psalm 119:11; 141:4). We must be vigilant to avoid the devil’s attacks (1 Peter 5:8) by putting on the whole armor of God and recognizing that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual wickedness in high places (Ephesians 6:11-18).

If we are double-minded, trying to please and follow the world and God at the same time, we will be unstable in all our ways, tossed about in the churning waves of doubt and unbelief (James 1:6-8; Genesis 49:4). There is no stability in building our lives on the world’s promises, which are sinking sand leading only to destruction (Luke 6:48-49). Instead we must build our lives on the only sure foundation (Psalm 87:1), Jesus Christ Who is the Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4) and the precious Corner Stone (Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6-7).

Believers stand firmly on His promise of Heaven through faith in His death, burial and resurrection as the only Way (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; John 14:6), but even we must be careful to build wisely, and not foolishly, on that foundation. What we do to increase our standing in or acceptance by the world will burn up at His judgment like hay, wood, and stubble, but whatever we do to His glory with the desire to please Him and serve others will remain, like gold, silver and precious jewels withstanding the refiner’s fire (1 Corinthians 3:10-15).

We don’t need hugs from the world if we are firmly held in the loving, secure, double grip of Jesus Christ and God the Father! (John 10:28-29) May we keep on the right path (Psalm 119:105) leading to His perfect will for our lives!

© 2013 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives
children's ministry blogs
Adorned From Above
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Saturday, July 14, 2018

The Lone Guitar

Photo by Jason Jenkins 2013

After I sang at an open mic downtown, we were returning home when on the spur of the moment we decided to stop at a café near us where we had heard they were also having an open mic night. As we approached the building, a woman seemed to read our minds and invited us to the courtyard where a very talented musician was singing.

Later that evening I had the opportunity to sing my Christian lyrics to secular songs and to sing patriotic songs appropriate for Independence Day. I was thrilled that many stood, hand over heart, for the Star-Spangled Banner, and were attentive to and appreciative of my songs with a Gospel message. Singing about God and country energized me, especially in the open air on a warm summer night, with majestic oak trees in the distance.

Before I sang, a young guitarist got up and almost apologetically explained that he was part of a duet and that the pianist hadn’t been able to join him. Despite the absence of a clear melody and harmonies, his playing was beautiful and soulful, touching chords within my own heart. I wondered what it would have sounded like had his partner been with him, and then I realized that God knew exactly how it sounded.

If we take the time and open our hearts to notice, so often there is something beautiful to appreciate that God has placed there just for us – a flower peeking through a crack in the pavement, a butterfly floating across our path, a fleeting cloud resembling Jesus Himself. And yet moments like these are happening simultaneously for born-again believers (John 3:3-8) across the globe, for those who have been saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6).

Each of us does not experience what the others do, yet God knows, sees and orchestrates it all. He knows not only what the absent piano sounds like with the lone guitar, but what all the hymns of praise (Psalm 28:7; 40:3) and instrumental music (Psalm 150) and bird songs and thundering waterfalls sound like around the world. Even the rocks cannot keep silent from praising Him! (Luke 19:37-40).

Just as He knows all things past, present and future, and can be everywhere (Psalm 139), He can hear and appreciate all these jubilant sounds at once. We hear just an isolated strain, but He hears the majestic harmonies of the whole symphony He has written.

I believe that we should in general be discerning when hearing reports of near-death experiences, as many of these do not align with Scripture or later are discovered to be a hoax. Yet there was one that I read a few years ago that resonated with me, experienced by a born-again evangelist during cardiac arrest from which he was resuscitated. He described approaching Heaven and being amazed by all the wonderful praise songs he heard, different melodies and rhythms each sung by a different voice or choir, in various keys and languages (Isaiah 42:10; Psalm 150:6; Revelation 21:24), yet miraculously blending together harmoniously in a magnificent orchestral arrangement.

After I sang, a guitar virtuoso played a classical arrangement of "Starry, Starry Night" on an electric guitar, which was an amazing blessing and inspired me to write Christian lyrics to this tune. Twilight set in, and the tables and umbrellas became illuminated in twinkling colored lights, adding to the ambience of the music and gentle summer breeze. It was a magical effect, yet it reminded me that above us, stars and moon were becoming visible to others, but hidden from our sight. And even that view would pale next to the spectacle enjoyed by God Himself, Who alone can perceive all the glory of the universe He has created (Psalm 19:1; Genesis 1:1-18).

As the “Prince of Preachers,” Charles Spurgeon, wrote:

“Look up at the stars, see how the Lord flung them about by handfuls, and remember that all the stars that are visible to you are only sweepings of stardust by the door of God’s great house. There are an infinite number of bright worlds which our telescopes have never seen. He Who made all these things is great in power; therefore ask something great of Him when you come before Him in prayer.”

Praise the Lord for the glimpses of His beauty, creativity and power He affords to us each day as a foreshadowing of the unimaginable delights (Isaiah 64:4; 1 Corinthians 2:9) that await us in His Heaven! May we always be attuned to these and thankful that He has opened our eyes and ears (Matthew 13:16) to His glory and to the truth of His Word (John 17:17). May each of us sing or play our part with passion, devotion and dedication, knowing that the Lord will transform our joyful noise (Psalm 95:2; 100:1) into the music of Heaven!

© 2018 Laurie Collett