Saturday, May 25, 2019

Just Passing Through

Photo by Nheyob 2014: God Feeds His People Manna in the Desert

I recently had a dream in which my husband and I were staying in a refugee camp for an unknown period of time. The facility was a rundown, dingy barracks with long corridors and large, drafty rooms in which many people were sitting on the floor.

We had heard that a pastor we knew, and his wife and daughter, would be arriving at the camp later that day, and that they were hoping that we could show them around and help them navigate the system. I suddenly realized that I was embarrassed to meet this family here, as they were always impeccably dressed, and I only had one pair of shoes – house slippers, actually, that were dirty and threadbare inside.

But then I remembered that there was a general store of sorts, where supplies might be handed out if needed. Because inventory was limited, you might or might not be given what you requested, and once you took an item, it would be a long time before you could ask for anything again.

I walked down the long hallway, noticing the drab green paint peeling off the moldy walls, and entered the room that served as the supply station. In the corner a large Middle Eastern family huddled together, each sitting on an old-fashioned suitcase that resembled some that my mother used to keep in her attic.

A grumpy old man, bald and with glasses, peered out from behind the counter. I asked if he had any women’s shoes in size 8. He disappeared and returned carrying a large pair of quilted fabric tubes, which he threw at me.

These could hardly be considered shoes, I thought in despair. The fabric exterior, in an odd print of purple, gray and brown, would soil and wear out almost instantly on the rough, damp cement flooring. The padded quilting would keep my feet hot and sweaty, and there was nothing to support or protect my feet. Even worse, I would surely trip and fall if I wore them, for they were nearly six inches longer than my foot!

I felt chagrined that my vanity and pride had led me to make such a foolish request, for at least my old slippers fit me and had a rubber sole that protected my feet. At least they were cool and comfortable, even if ugly. Even worse, I had wasted an opportunity to get something else that the pastor's family  might have needed, or perhaps the Middle Eastern family that seemed so dejected.

As I awoke and thought about the symbolism of the dream, I realized that in a sense, we are all refugees in a foreign land. Once we are born again (John 3:3-8) 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), earth is no longer our home.

We are just passing through, pilgrims headed homeward to Heaven (Hebrews 11:13-16; 1 Peter 2:11), where He is preparing mansions for us (John 14:1-3) in the glorious Holy City with streets of gold, gates of pearl, and walls of precious stones (Revelation 21). Compared to that infinite beauty and glory, this world is like a detention camp.

Abraham, patriarch of God’s chosen nation Israel, and ancestor of Jesus Himself, wandered through the wilderness for forty years along with his compatriots. They were refugees from the pagan land where Abraham was a man of wealth and power, yet they left it all behind as Abraham set out on a great journey of faith. God safely led them through the desert so that Abraham’s descendants would ultimately reach the Promised Land (Genesis 12:1-3; 13:1-3; 15:18-21; Deuteronomy 1; 27:3; Joshua 23:5; (Hebrews 11:8).

God provided for Hagar and Ishmael, Abraham’s illegitimate son, when Abraham’s wife Sarah banished them from her household. God guided them through the wilderness of Beersheba and Paran, promising to make Ishmael the father of a great nation (Genesis 21:8-21).

Once again the Hebrew people became refugees from Egyptian bondage, led by Moses out of Egypt as God parted the waters of the Red Sea for their safe passage and escape from the pursuing Egyptian army (Exodus 13-15; 1 Corinthians 10:1-2). Then He led them through the wilderness of Shur, showing them the way by the brilliance of His Shekinah Glory, providing manna for them to eat and sweet water to drink (Exodus 13-16).

The Old Testament describes cities of refuge (Numbers 35:6-28), where those who had inadvertently killed someone could flee and be safe from family members of the departed who wished to avenge the death of their loved one. We are all sinners deserving eternal punishment in hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23), yet once we have trusted Christ, He is our Refuge (Psalm 9:9; 91:9), in Whom we can hide and rest assured that we will not receive eternal death that our sins deserve.

Instead, He has clothed us with the white robe of His perfect righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10), so that when His Father looks at us, He sees the righteousness of His Son (Romans 3:22) rather than our sins. Instead of hell, our eternal destination is now Heaven. 

Even Mary, Joseph and Jesus were refugees, led by God through Joseph’s dream to flee Israel and to stay in Egypt until Jesus was old enough to escape the infanticide Herod had ordered (Matthew 2:13). If God provided for the Hebrews, the Holy Family, and others who were refugees, surely He will guide and protect us as we pass through this journey to our eternal home with Him!

While we are here on earth, He has appointed us to be His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20), spreading His Word, light (Philippians 2:15), truth, and love to a lost and dying world, and encouraging and uplifting one another by bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2). He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) and can apportion resources as He sees fit, yet He wants us to be good stewards (1 Peter 4:10) and to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:4; Romans 12:10; 15:1).

In the dream I was selfish, not wanting to appear shabby before my friends, having my priorities completely misplaced. I should have been thinking about how to make my friends, or others who appeared to have recently arrived, more comfortable in their unfamiliar, frightening, and distressing surroundings.

I should have been a good steward, waiting to use my opportunity to request an item on something they would need rather than on something I thought I wanted but couldn’t even use. I should have had faith that you can’t outgive God, and that He will provide all your ministry needs according to His riches in glory (Ephesians 3:16; Philippians 4:19).

As we wander through this earthly life, may we set our minds and hearts on heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6) where we are already seated with Christ! While we are still here, may we use our time, resources and talents wisely to do His work, spread His Word, and encourage one another!

© 2019 Laurie Collett


Saturday, May 18, 2019

Running from Death

Photo by Dr Richard Murray 2008
In this dream, I was walking through the corridors of a hospital, as I had a dreaded appointment to get a medical test result. The dim fluorescent lighting, antiseptic smell, and looks of sadness and worry on the faces of people I passed all added to the dark, heavy feeling of oppression. There were no windows to give any sense of time of day or location. Artificially pleasant voices over the loudspeaker, even when announcing “Code Blue” or other disasters, made me feel as if I were stranded and jet-lagged in an international airport. 

I entered the doctor’s office, a small cubicle lit only by an X-ray viewbox covered in chest films. In the corner sat a forlorn woman dressed plainly in black, hunched over, not lifting her eyes from her gnarled hands twisting nervously in her lap. The doctor, a handsome and distinguished man in an expensive tailored suit, offered me a chair, nodded toward the X-rays and began to explain the apparently dismal situation.

The news was not good, he said with a façade of compassion nearly undermining his professional authority. My heart was doomed to failure. But he had the solution to the problem and the cure for the disease, if I would put my trust in him. The answer was inside myself, and he could help unlock it.

What frightened me most was what he did not say. I wondered what would be the cost of his cure, in terms of time, money, pain and suffering.

Suddenly the woman in the corner sat bolt upright with a shudder. “I feel a very cold chill in this room,” she said.

With that I realized that the “doctor” was actually evil and death; that his “cure” was eternal misery and damnation; and that what he was offering was nothing but lies and hatred disguised as truth and good will.

I scrambled to my feet and ran out of the office as fast as I could, not once looking back. I tore through the tangled maze of dark hallways in search of the light, and as I ran faster, the light grew brighter and more intense. A refreshing breeze chased away the stale odor of sickness, and I felt my lungs expanding more fully and my heart beating stronger with every breath.

As I awoke from the dream I was surprised that I was not in a state of panic, as I had been with other dreams in which I was running away from danger. Instead, I was exhilarated, thrilled to be alive and running the race God had set before me.

Since the fall of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), every person is born with a terminal heart condition – namely our sin nature. The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), and if left to plot its own destiny, it will continually choose sinful thoughts and actions to fulfill lusts of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-17; Ephesians 2:3; 1 Peter 2:11; 4:2). This course of action may seem right to us, for we fail to realize that it leads to death and destruction (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25)

But the devil tries to convince us, with his lies cloaked in a thin veneer of truth, to follow our heart. If it feels right, it must be, he reasons. Why should we thwart desires so intense? Why would a kind, loving God not want us to have what we crave, and even what should be rightfully ours, were He not so demanding?  The devil promises everything – knowledge, happiness, fame, fortune, status – but all he delivers is delusion, sorrow, shame, and poverty of spirit – and ultimately death (John 8:44).

The devil’s way is not worth the cost, for what do we stand to profit if we enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season (Hebrews 11:25). or try to gain the world and lose our soul? (Matthew 16:26; Mark 8:36)

The only Great Physician is Jesus Christ. He is the Healer of our heart (Psalm 147:3), our balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 8:22). He cleanses our dying heart from its sin sickness and lets the blood of His righteousness course through our veins (Romans 3:23-26).

He alone has defeated death and hell (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14-15), so that we need not fear being separated for long from our loved ones who die in Christ (1 Corinthians 15:54-56). He will never forsake us nor leave us (Hebrews 13:5) in the valley of the shadow of death, but He will safely carry us through death to live with Him forever (Psalm 23:4).

The Light of His Word (Psalm 119:105) shows us the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Once we turn from our sin and allow Him to enter our heart through our faith in His death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven, He gives us eternal, abundant life (John 3:16; 10:10).

If we keep our eyes fixed on Him (Matthew 14:28-31), and not wandering back to the world of the devil’s temptations (James 4:7; Genesis 13:12-13), He will give us strength, speed and stamina to run the race (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1). Christ will keep our feet on the right path that leads to high and heavenly places (2 Samuel 22:34; Psalm 18:33), by way of spreading His Gospel of peace (Romans 10:15; Ephesians 6:15). 

His grace is sufficient, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). With each detour and setback our faith grows, for He proves Himself to be faithful (1 Corinthians 1:9: 10:13). 

Our hearts can be filled with joy and peace as we follow the course He has planned for us, knowing that as we cross the finish line, a great cloud of witnesses will be cheering us on (Hebrews 12:1). He Himself will wipe the sweat from our brow and every tear from our eyes (Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 7:17; 21:4) as He places the victor’s crown on our heads (James 1:12) and says, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”  (Matthew 25:21-23)

What a day that will be when we truly realize that Jesus has permanently defeated death and that we no longer need to run away from death, for we have run straight into His waiting arms!

© 2012 Laurie Collett 
Reposted from the archives