Gifts
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January 2022

Spoon Story

Spoon1Once upon a time there was a spoon. The silver smith put his mark on it and finished polishing it, adding it to the box as the last piece in the silverware set to be sent to the palace for the king. There the spoon was useful, being taken out and polished regularly to adorn the table at fancy parties and dinners for heads of state. Over time the spoon was nicked and taken out of rotation. It sat unused for the longest time. At last, one day it was grabbed by the king’s small niece who took it out into the garden to serve tea to her dolls. As she was cleaning up, she dropped the spoon by the vegetable garden. There it lay in the sun and rain until the gardener spotted it one day. Since it was tarnished and nicked, he used it to dig out stubborn weeds from around the lettuces. As winter came on the spoon ended up in the garden shed. There it sat, blackened and bent, until one day a youth spotted it and took a closer look. Using his apron, he rubbed the spoon until its silver began glow. Putting it in his pocket he decided to make a gift of it to his pregnant wife. By the fire in their tiny home, the youth applied polish and rubbed and worked until the spoon was nearly like new. On Christmas morning he presented it as the first gift to his newborn son. After feeding two generations of that family, it was once again consigned to tarnish in a drawer, where one day, not recognizing its worth, it was put in a bin to be donated to charity. It found new life at the jail, feeding those who were justly and unjustly imprisoned, including an old silver smith - a Christ-follower who refused to renounce his faith. As he turned the spoon over, he smiled, recognizing his own makers’ mark, and bowed his head to thank God for His provision, even in jail.

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.  ̶  2 Chronicles 16:9

We are that spoon. We are no longer our own because we have been bought at a price. So, whether our calling is ‘high’ such as serving a king, or ‘low’ such as serving a prisoner, either way we are serving the Lord. Over the course of our lives, we may be used in many different ways. Sometimes we may be called to use our expert talents, and sometimes we may be just an extra set of hands. But in any case, we yield our will, our hopes and our desires to the will of the Master. Daily, we must choose to be used by God in whatever capacity He needs. We cannot see the big picture. We may never know, on this side of Heaven, what our obedience resulted in. Our job is simply to trust the Lord with our lives and to do His good will, carrying out the good deeds He prepared in advance for us.

Although ‘living for the Lord and yielding our will’ is a simple concept, living it out day by day is very challenging. Daily, we need to crucify our ego and will and pick up our cross to follow Jesus. It’s hard to be inconvenienced for the Lord, to give up our money and ‘stuff’, to be available when needed, to be unappreciated by others, to be persecuted or mocked. It’s even harder when we can’t see the point or know what the plan is. But this is what we are called to. Myself, I wonder almost hourly if I’m up to it. I fail more than I succeed, but I succeed more than I used to, and there is evidence of progress.

PRAYER: Make me a tool in the Master’s hand, and let me never desire to be anything more. Amen.

Humbly yours,

Jen


Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God

Seek Ye FirstYou will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. -Jeremiah 29:13

There’s a lot in the Bible about seeking. Some of Jesus’ greatest parables are about seeking. Seeking is a very intentional act. Just ask those who seek out rare birds, rare coins or other collectibles.

My son recently sent me a photo of the china cabinet in a home where he spent Christmas. My husband only saw the cabinet, but what my son and I saw was the impressive multicolored collection of Fiestaware in that cabinet. Only a seeker-collector would appreciate the value of what, to others, would just be pretty (or pretty old) pitchers and plates.

Seeking is also the only way to find God, and ‘collect’ spiritual truths. Hard-hearted people will not turn to God. These people are so sure of themselves, their intellect, the correctness of their point of view, that they will not be open to anything that doesn’t fit their philosophy. Remember Pharaoh? Remember Nebuchadnezzar? Remember Pontius Pilate? Unless something happens to change them, they will never be open to the possibility of the supernatural, miraculous or Divine.

Seekers are open to options. They may be seeking in all the wrong places, but they are open to the wonderful mysteries of the Universe. I was this type of teenager. I was convinced there was more to life than just what we see, but I looked for it in eastern philosophies, tarot cards, astrology and crystals. And here’s the thing: because there IS more than just this plane of existence, and because it IS possible to know the future, and because spiritual energy is real, those philosophies are not total malarkey. But they are potentially dangerous, and God tells us to stay away from divination (even the name tells us we are treading too close to God’s sacred territory).

I eventually found my way to the Truth. And when I found Him, my soul leapt just like John the Baptist in Elizabeth’s womb. There is something about the Gospel and about the Truth of Jesus that calls out to us across time and space and rings true in that eternity that God has placed in our souls. When you find this Truth, you know that you know. And as the scales fall from your eyes, you see the same world in whole new way. For me it was like finding that particular puzzle piece that suddenly makes the colors and shapes of the other pieces fall together. The spiritual truths have been falling into place ever since. Christian musician Keith Green described it this way: “Like waking up from the longest dream. How real it seemed, until Your love broke through…”

If you’ve found the Truth, then your seeking isn’t over. Daily seek for God in his Word, seek for God through prayer, seek for God through your service to others. These are the ways we reap the blessings that God promises to us. If you know seekers who are still looking, share with them! You have the answer they're looking for. If you haven’t experienced faith as a relationship with the Truth, seek and you will find! Knock and the door will be opened to you. Seek God with your heart and soul and He will reveal himself to you and show you the way to Jesus and to the mysteries of His kingdom.

Finding Jesus and beginning an exciting, wonderous journey with Him is the most valuable find you fill ever make. It is more precious than pearls, gold, or any 1940s pottery or rare bird. Of course, you’ll still have time to add to those other collections, just remember to seek God’s kingdom first. (It's probably not under the bed.)

Blessings,

Jen


Don't Look Back

MountSodom061607
Lot's Wife on Mt. Sodom

17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”… 26 But Lot’s wife looked back, and she became a pillar of salt. --Genesis 19:17,26

New Year is generally a time of reflection. It’s a time to consider goals reached or not, decisions made, outcomes achieved and begin a plan for the coming year. Usually, I’m all for that kind of thinking. A little analysis can go a long way in helping to correct your course to a brighter future. But as I stand at the cliff edge of 2021, unlike Lot’s wife who just had to have one last peek, I am content to shake the dust off my sandals and make a fresh start into 2022.

Lot’s wife is a wonder to me. First of all, there she is still on Mount Sodom. I’m pretty sure that isn’t actually her, but it IS a mountain of salt, nonetheless. And why did she have to become a pillar of salt? Was it symbolic? Was it a punishment? Or was it just a consequence of whatever mechanism God used to rain down sulfur from the sky? If you read the story carefully, you see that they had all made it safely to the next town, so she wasn’t worried about her daughters’ safety. No, she disobediently looked back of her own accord.

God frequently reminds us that His ways are not our ways. We like to pause and reflect, tidy up loose ends, find ‘closure.’ But how many times does God and Jesus tell us to move on without a thought to the past?

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” --Luke 9:59-62

 

30 “It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. 31 On that day no one who is on the housetop, with possessions inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. 32 Remember Lot’s wife! -- Luke 17:30-32

 

18 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. -Isaiah 43:18

 

25 Let your eyes look straight ahead;
    fix your gaze directly before you.
26 Give careful thought to the paths for your feet
    and be steadfast in all your ways.
27 Do not turn to the right or the left;
    keep your foot from evil.

-Proverbs 4:25-27

Perhaps the lesson here is that although the past is defined as "gone by in time and no longer existing", it can still hold our imaginations captive. The past is something that should be forgotten, but unfortunately, a lot of people let it define them. When God calls us into His service, He wants the Holy Spirit to teach us, not lessons of the past. It’s too tempting to use lessons from the past as a roadmap to the future. This is the problem with ‘self-help’ – if your ‘self’ could have ‘helped’ you, you wouldn’t need the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to daily renew your mind and spirit. You wouldn’t need God’s mercy which is new every morning.

God has called us out of darkness into his wonderful light. We need to move forward in the light and not let the darkness of the past concern our thoughts. Maybe this is true more for looking back to our sinful, pre-saved lives and habits. Was Lot’s wife tempted to long for the rough, sin-filled life of Sodom? Remember how the Israelites longed for Egypt’s leeks and garlic even in the midst of God’s miracle exodus? Or maybe she just couldn’t trust God in the midst of the chaos.

If we continue following, He’ll continue leading, and the lessons we learn along the way will be just what He’s trying to teach us now. We won’t need a compass or a map.

Each day has enough trouble of its own. --Matthew 6:34

Maybe that is the real the takeaway for 2021.

Blessings,

Jen


The Five Kings of Christmas

Therefore when Jesus w One Kingas born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, lo! astrologers [lo! kings, or wise men,] came from the east to Jerusalem, and said [saying], Where is he, that is born [the] king of Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and we have come to worship him.

-- Matthew 2:1-2, Wycliffe Bible

Five Kings? But the Bible says there were three! Does it? Actually, we don’t really know how many Magi there were, just that they brought at least three gifts.  But nevertheless, assuming there were three, the Bible is very clear about the other two as well.

THE FALSE KING:

The first king is Herod, in title, the king of the Jews. There was all kind of controversy surrounding Herod and his rule. For one thing, he had collaborated with Mark Anthony and the Romans in their conquest of Judea. The Romans allowed him to rule over his people with whatever authority was left over. And here’s the other problem: Herod was not Judean. He was from Idumea (Edom), with its capital in Petra in what is now Jordan. He was ethnically an Arab whose family had converted to Judaism. And he installed High Priests who were also converts from other places. This, along with his lifestyle of debauchery made him an illegitimate king to the Pharisees and to many Jews. There is no question that he would have felt threatened by any challenge to his rule – in fact, he murdered his mother- and brother-in-law for that reason. With his extravagant lifestyle and expensive building projects paid for by unbearable taxes to solidify his power and status, Herod exemplifies worldly rulers.

THE WISE KINGS:

The ‘three kings’ were probably not kings at all, but Magi, or wise men, highly educated and skilled in reading the stars and interpreting omens. They consulted with kings and were ‘king makers’ using their skills to ‘read the future.’ They had read all the prophesies of the various religions and had maps of the stars. This was their ‘science.’ And when, one special day, a new star appeared that was not on any map, they were wise enough to realize something amazing and important was happening. Perhaps more importantly, they were willing to act on that belief. Preparing, packing up a caravan, and heading out for a long journey west with expensive gifts took perhaps two years or more. Their gifts represent their understanding of just who the Messiah was destined to be. Gold for a King, because Messiah would be born King of the Jews, and all mankind. Frankincense for a Priest, because Messiah would be the Great High Priest who would intercede between mankind and God Almighty. Myrrh for burial, because Messiah would not be just the Priest, but also the sacrifice that would take away the sins of the world. With their study and watching, and understanding of who Messiah would be, the Wise Kings exemplify seekers who, when they find the Truth, follow hard after it, despite the hardship, to worship God.

THE ONE TRUE KING:

Many Jews expected the Messiah to come and establish the Kingdom of God in Jerusalem and send the Romans packing. They longed for a righteous king to grant them freedom. Sadly, many missed the opportunity for True freedom that Jesus brought. In this world there will always be troubles, sadness, tragedies. God’s kingdom is not of this world, and the peace and freedom Jesus brought are also not of this world, they are grace and mercy that transcend our worldly cares. But a day is coming soon when Jesus will return, not as a babe, meek and mild in a lowly manger, but as the rightful King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now, he is our friend, our comforter, a peacemaker, a healer and a teacher. But when He comes again, He will bring the sword of God’s Justice and Truth. Check out Revelation 19:11-16 for a better description. The baby in the manger is easy to love, the passionate young rabbi who heals and speaks in parables about the kingdom of God is easy to follow. But we should never forget that He is yet a Mighty King, the Ruler of all Creation, who is Holy and Blameless. The sin of our world saddens, offends and angers Him. And one day He will come to bring God’s perfect justice and wipe away all evil. He came down to us, laying aside all His crowns and glory, becoming a sacrifice, paying our debt, just so we could be welcomed into such a wonderful place as that – the Kingdom of God, Heaven on earth.

They will wage war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will triumph over them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings—and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.” ~Revelation 17:14

Blessings,

Jen