Saturday, November 24, 2018

New Life

Photo by Veledan 2005

I had a dream in which I was pregnant. My husband and I were staying at a lovely manor nestled in a forested country estate. In the dream, we were sleeping when the light of dawn shining through our window awakened me. I could hear God’s voice beckoning me to come outside and let Him speak to me through the beauty of His creation (Psalm 19:1).

Not wishing to disturb my slumbering husband, I quietly arose, got dressed, and tiptoed outdoors. Wispy fog shrouded the valley like a bridal veil, bejeweled with sparkling dew illuminated by the sun’s first rays. Off in the distance, at the edge of the forest, I spotted a fawn staring at me, her ears focused in my direction like antennae.

To my surprise, the fawn began advancing toward me, timidly at first, then transforming into a sleek panther charging past me at full speed with amazing muscular power and grace. Rather than fear, I felt only awe at her beauty, like that of an elegant Art Deco sculpture but with the locomotive force of the Orient Express.

As soon as she disappeared I spotted a huge black bear in the distance, standing upright on his hind legs in a menacing display of lethal strength. Yet as I stood transfixed, unable to move as he approached me, I was shocked that his bold, lumbering strides shortened and became almost playful. When he was within striking distance, he unexpectedly stretched out before me on all fours in a submissive bow, then nudged his head against my legs like a kitten wanting to be petted.

I stroked the velvety nape of his neck and was amazed at the metamorphosis from deadly predator to loving companion. As much as I wanted to remain outdoors and embrace all of God’s creation and creatures, I felt I should return to our room before my husband became alarmed at my absence. Once I crossed the threshold back inside the manor, I realized I had entered a different door from where I had exited the lodge, and that the cozy manor had grown into a palace.

Although I was traveling a circuitous and unknown route through the castle, I was propelled by an uplifting force that sped me past comfortable sitting rooms, well-appointed libraries and lavish foyers, and finally through an ornately decorated grand theatre where I was literally flying through the air, from the rear of the hall, over the mezzanines, across the proscenium and over the stage. Then I mysteriously found that I had arrived safely back to our room, where my husband was still sleeping.

As I awoke and considered the meaning of the dream, I recognized that the main theme was new life. In the dream I was pregnant, even though in reality I am well past childbearing age. It reminded me of one of my favorite verses:

Hebrews 11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

When I am going through difficult times, especially in the various ministries God has so graciously appointed to me, I find that the numbers 11-11 keep reappearing, as if God is reminding me of this verse and His faithfulness. 11-11 may appear as the cost of a purchase, the change received from a transaction, on the license plates of cars on the road or street addresses of houses I pass, or on a digital clock or recording counter.

These reminders are to have faith, not that I will have a baby, but that God will plant in me a new sense of purpose, a new ministry, a new desire to follow His perfect will (Romans 12:2). We are never too old to accept a new assignment from God (Joshua 13:1), provided we listen to His direction (Psalm 46:10), follow the Spirit’s guidance, and have faith that He will complete the perfect work He has started in us (1 Chronicles 28:20; Philippians 1:6; Hebrews 13:21).

The fawn who grew into a panther was an example of how God can grow us to suit His purpose for our life. The timid person with no natural talent for speaking or commanding authority, may like Moses become a bold ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20)and leader in God’s kingdom (Exodus 4:10-12).

Like the bear who turned from formidable to affectionate, God’s child who was once a brutish, mean bully can become tenderhearted through His grace, transforming from feared enemy to loving encourager. In the new heavens and new earth, we will have no need to fear wild animals, for none will cause any harm, and all will live together peaceably (Isaiah 11:6-9).
Saul of Tarsus, who devoted himself to persecuting, imprisoning, and even killing Christians (Acts 7:58-59; 8:1-3), became the apostle Paul after he encountered the Lord Jesus Christ on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6. As a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), he not only encouraged fellow Christians, but became a missionary, an evangelist to the Gentiles, a church planter, and author of about fifteen books of the New Testament, all through God’s grace.

The Lord Jesus Himself, Who will return to judge the world as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), in His earthly ministry was the epitome of meekness, or great power kept under restraint (Matthew 11:29; 21:5). He submitted to His Father’s will by suffering and dying on the cross (Luke 22:42), even though He could have called legions of angels (Matthew 26:53) and in His own power escaped that destiny (John 10:17-18).

In the dream I marveled at the beauty of the palace and all its marvelous rooms, reminding me that part of the new life I will have in Heaven will be the mansion that Lord Jesus is preparing just for me (John 14:1-3). I was able to travel at supernatural speed and even to fly, perhaps a metaphor of the amazing power of the Holy Spirit we have within us from the moment of salvation onward (Ephesians 1:13; 4:30).

As if we could fly, we can even be seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus while we walk this earth (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6). Once we have our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-57), we will be able to experience many new powers and abilities like that of Jesus in His glorified body, Who was able to suddenly appear in the middle of a locked room (John 20:26), and to appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31).

Of course, none of this is possible until we are saved by placing our faith in the death of Jesus Christ to pay for our sins, his burial, and His resurrection on the third day, proving that He is God (1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 1:4; 1 Timothy 1:16-17). Once we experience the new life of the second, spiritual birth (John 3:3-8), we are a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17). Praise the Lord, old things have passed away, and all things are become new!     

© 2018 Laurie Collett


Saturday, November 17, 2018

Give Thanks for the Giver!

With the Thanksgiving holiday begins the official Christmas shopping season, as stores vie for our attention and our dollars while we seek the perfect presents for our loved ones. No matter how much we try, some gifts fall short, and instead of the joyful surprise and appreciation we had hoped for, we hear a polite “Gee, you shouldn’t have,” or “It’s the thought that counts.”

Often we try to give our loved ones, especially our children, what we know they need instead of what they think they want. Classic books, educational software, warm mittens and socks get left behind under the piles of wrapping, while the child disappears into his room with the worldly video game given by a well-meaning family friend or relative. For an older son or daughter, a membership to a towing and roadside protection emergency service has a lot less appeal than a gift card to the mall, until that fateful night when their car breaks down on a dark, lonely road.

Hopefully as the child grows up he would realize that Mom and Dad gave gifts motivated by their deep love and caring, wanting to nurture him and to guide him along the right path. Better yet, he would be thankful not only for the gifts, but for the giver, realizing that he was blessed with loving parents who wanted to encourage their child to follow God’s perfect plan for his life.

It may be a lot to hope for such maturity in our children, especially if we ourselves are less than thankful for the gifts God gives us. Even when things are going well, we tend to gloss over God’s many blessings upon us. But God knows what we need even before we ask Him (Matthew 6:8). God is always faithful to provide for the physical needs of His children (Psalm 37:3, 25; Matthew 6:25-33).and showers them with good and perfect gifts (James 1:17). Even for those who do not recognize or love Him, He is the source of all blessing (Matthew 5:45).

In the Thanksgiving season, and whenever we take the time to reflect on God’s provision, it is easy to give thanks for what we perceive as blessings -– religious freedom, prosperity, good health, loving relationships, quality time with our family.

But do we faithfully thank God for those blessings that are harder to recognize? When we go through trials of sickness, financial loss, death of a loved one, rejection, divorce, do we give thanks? Our first reaction may be like that of Job -- to question God or to be angry with Him, even though we lack wisdom and He knows all (Job 38:1-4).

Yet the apostle Paul tells us to give thanks in EVERY thing, for this is the perfect will of God in Christ Jesus concerning us (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Paul is our role model not only of being thankful, but even joyful, in the midst of tribulation including persecution, punishment, imprisonment, deprivation, and physical infirmity (Philippians 4:4; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 11:23-30)

How is it possible to be thankful in trials? Clearly not in our flesh, but only through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. He teaches us that God is sovereign and all-powerful; that He loves His children infinitely (1 John 4:9); that it gives Him great pleasure to give His children good gifts (Matthew 7:11); and that He works all things together for good for those who love Him, who are the called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).

This side of glory, we cannot always understand or see the amazing ways that God is using tribulation in our life to accomplish His perfect will for us. We do know that trials can strengthen our faith in and dependence on God, can build our character by conforming us more and more to the image of His Son, and can give us the compassion and experience needed to help others going through similar circumstances (Romans 8:16-18; Philippians 3: 10-14).

As the infinitely good Father, God always gives us what we need, even if it is not what we think we want. We would not allow our children to gorge themselves on candy until they got sick, or to play with fire or broken glass, even though they might cry and even say hateful things in a vain attempt to change our mind. They lack the wisdom, experience, and perspective to know what is best for them, and we love them too much to allow them to get hurt.

Similarly, God will not answer prayers motivated by selfishness or lust or that are not in accordance with His will, for to do so would be harmful to our spiritual growth (James 4:3). Instead, as we find joy in our relationship with Him, He grants us the desires of our heart, for those desires become conformed to his perfect will for our lives (Psalm 37:4).

If we trust and love God, we can be thankful in all circumstances. The phrase “He really shouldn’t have,” truly applies with Him, because it is beyond our comprehension that the Creator of all things would willingly subject Himself to the suffering needed to pay for our sins in full (Colossians 1:12-29; 1 John 3:16).

With Him, the thought really does count, because He thought enough of us to give His only Son as the perfect sacrifice for our sins (Romans 8:32), so that all who repent and trust in His death, burial, and resurrection have eternal life (John 3:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14; Romans 1:1-6; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). How amazing that as Jesus faced the agony of crucifixion and the even more painful separation from His Holy Father as He took on our sins, He thought of us and prayed for us in the Garden of Gethsemane! (John 17)

At Thanksgiving and always, let us give thanks not only for all our blessings and in all our circumstances, but especially for the ultimate Giver Who is our Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer (Psalm 103:3-5; 104:1-15). He loves us enough to give His only Son to save us, to clothe us in His righteousness (Isaiah 61:10), and to give us eternal and abundant life in His presence (John 10:10).

As if that were not abundantly more than we could ever dream of (Ephesians 3:20), He adopted us as His children (Romans 8:14-17), made us joint heirs with Christ (Galatians 4:6-7), and appointed us as His ambassadors on earth (2 Corinthians 5:20) and joint rulers with Him in eternity!

It is not about what He gives us, but about Who He is. Thank you, God, that You are all we need!

© 2012 Laurie Collett
Reposted from the archives