Thursday, February 25, 2016

One Endless Discovery

A picture of inside the Nelson Cross Reference Guide to the Bible.
"And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh."
Ecclesiastes 12: 12

"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words
will by no means pass away."
Matthew 24: 35

"Today if you will  hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts..."
Hebrews 2: 7, 8

 My recurrent dream came again last night. I am taking a test I am in no way prepared for. In this case, it is a huge advanced math exam, with sines and co-sines and I have not prepared in the least for it. I will have to guess at every answer. There are 100 questions and I must get at least 50 of them in order to pass this course and thereby graduate.

Maybe because just yesterday I wrote of finishing off nursing school while pregnant with our first child thirty years ago, did this thought of tests enter my subconscious mind again. But I have had this dream, with different variants, over and over for years. I have not finished my degree and must pass this test in order to graduate and I find that I am not ready. What does it all mean?

I told my husband my dream again in the middle of the night. He said maybe it was me being too hard on myself, or something to that effect. But it makes me wonder. Each day I spend time with God in His Word and usually find time to pray to Him. Am I not preparing for my final exam?

The final exam will be on a day unannounced. There will be the sound of a trumpet, and suddenly I will be transported from the mundane, upsetting cares and worries of this life. I will be before Him who has eyes as a flame of fire. Though my sins are paid for and put away, I will give an account of my words and how I spent the time He gave me on this earth to get to know Him.

Even the Apostle Paul expressed doubt until the very end of his life. In I Corinthians 9: 24-27 he said:

"Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things, Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight, not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."

It was only in his last prison epistle, shortly before his head went into a basket, that Paul expressed confidence:

In I Timothy 4: 7-8, Paul wrote: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing."

I hope to be one who loves His appearing. But there are so many distractions today. I could totally be caught off guard. Then again, I think of how I have been blessed to be in a solid church where the Word is the focus. I have Bibles, commentaries, Greek and Hebrew dictionaries, the Nelson Cross Reference Guide to the Bible, which I cannot recommend more highly and  I also have wonderful online references, including my favorite, the Blue Letter Bible website.

Jesus gave us this somber warning in Luke 12: 48: " For to everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more."

And so I plug on in the Word. And the more I plug, the more treasures I find. Each day as I read, I like to find verses that stand out to me, and write them in my journal. Sometimes I will use the cross reference guide to look them up and find even more similar verses on that subject. One thing is for sure, I will never exhaust learning all there is to learn.

And suddenly, I realize, that is what my life is really all about: one endless discovery of knowing that which can't be known: the fathomless depths of His love for me, and not for me only, but the whole world. Chuck Missler once said that if you make Bible study your lifelong hobby, it will not be hard to get excited about spending time in the Word. I like that. Bible study, the more I get of it, becomes more and more desirable. Why? Because I have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious." I Peter 2:1-3

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Trading Gloom for Gladness

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither My ways are your ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall My word that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return to Me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it." Isaiah 55: 8-11

I am so glad that God's thoughts are not my thoughts. I am so glad that He altogether knows me, and still finds a way to love me. I was just thinking that this morning, how great is His patience and mercy and grace toward me to lift my head above the gloom on this earth.

The dark days of winter affect  me and it's easy for me to get overwhelmed with all the bad things that are happening in the world. I just finished a long book about Stalin's daughter and read a fictional book about a man with Alzheimer's. It was downright depressing to learn about the crimes of Stalin and his poor daughter who never seemed to be able to escape from his shadow, no matter how far she ran. The man with the Alzheimer's ended up killing himself by the end of the book.

Suddenly I realized that if I choose to dwell on sadness, there is always plenty of it to go around. Misery sure loves company. Though it felt like the furthest thing from what I wanted to do,  I began to pray yesterday, and I started to praise and thank God for everything, even the so called bad things in my life, and the things I do not understand.  The heavy burden on my back suddenly lifted.

I may not realize why God allowed certain hurtful situations in my life to go on for such a long time. That is OK. He does know the reason, and all I need to do is to keep on trusting Him day by day, minute by minute. One day life in this vale of tears will be over, and I will see Him face to face. My questions will be gone in an instant.

Out of many exhortations in the Word, yesterday I stumbled upon Jude 1:21 which says to "keep yourselves in the love of God." Now what an encouragement that is to a melancholic personality, to always remind myself that God absolutely loves me and proved it by dying  on the cross.  I realized that I had let myself slip further and further from that very thing. It was easy to read about others' misfortunes and get caught up in a kind of morbid curiosity about it all. It is kind of like getting hooked into soap operas, caught up with imaginary characters with no basis in reality.

The end result is sadness. On the other hand, if I dwell on the fact that the devil has been defeated once and for all, I begin to share in the results of Christ's victory over sin and hell and death. I keep telling myself that it really is true, no matter how bad things look, we have read the back of the book and we win if we are in Christ.

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." I Corinthians 15:26

"If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on the things above, not on the things on earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God." Colossians 3: 1-3.

It is not boring to think about Christ, if  someone thinks that. Christ is the most interesting and the happiest Person who ever walked the face of this earth, even though He bore all our sorrows. If I dwell on His patience with others, His giving of Himself, His focus on God's will rather than His own, it will eventually rub off on me so that I might have the great privilege of extending a tiny portion of His grace to  weary and battered souls who are desperate in the gloom. It is about letting others see Christ somehow through this body of flesh. It might be just a small glimpse, but that is what I want others to see. And on my final day on this side, I want to say what David said:

"As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake, with Thy likeness." Psalm 17:15

Sunday, February 7, 2016

What's Really Super about Today

Who has ascended into heaven

or descended? Who has gathered the

wind in his fists? Who has bound

the waters in a garment? Who has

established all the ends of the earth?

 What is His name, and what

is His Son's name, If you know?

Every word of God is pure: He is a
shield to those who put their trust in Him.   Proverbs 30: 4-5

Super Bowl Sunday is a national holiday anymore. This year, it's even more remarkable
because it is the 50th Super Bowl. Our TV seems to have broken down the other day but I am not  worried about missing the Super Bowl.

But really, what is so super about this day? What is so great about a couple of teams of guys dressing up in their armament and playing before a crowd of millions, if not billions of people? Yes, they are strong and talented athletes. But is that impressive to God? Have they or could they do what our Creator has done in making this creation? Is it worth the millions and billions of dollars of food and advertising that will be spent on this day?

I guess I am just a wet blanket.

But God, on the other hand, He is great. And the fact that He longs to be in close relationship with people like us is what makes today, and everyday super. The Proverb writer says He holds the winds in His fists, and binds the waters with a garment. A simple search on the Blue Letter Bible website on the words "how great" came up with these verses, among others:

Psalm 31:19 "Oh how great is Your goodness, Which You have laid up for those who fear You, Which you have prepared for those who trust in You. In the presence of the sons of men."

(One day, we will see His goodness and it will be beyond our imagination.)

Psalm 92:5 "Oh Lord, how great are Your works! Your thoughts are very deep!

Psalm 139:17-18a "How precious are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand...

Daniel 4:3 "How great are His signs, And how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And His dominion is from generation to generation."

When I am tempted to despair, it helps me so much to recall that God is great, and that He actually wants to share own His life with someone like me. I am personally acquainted with the God who made the universe. That is even more exciting than knowing the winning quarterback from today's game.