Spiritual Musings

To wind down and reconnect with God

Leon’s Lawn

It was the drought of 1999

Leon wasn’t much of a gardener. Plastic flowers thrust into the soil were proof. But his lawn was his pride. He mowed that lawn once a week, every Thursday at 6 pm, and watered it every day. It was the best lawn  in the neighborhood.

Then came the mandatory water restrictions. No one was allowed to water their gardens. Neighbors wondered what Leon would do.

Miss Sally, the diplomatic, empathetic member on the Home Owner’s Association board was delegated to visit Leon to ensure he did not violate the restriction.

“What are you going to do, Leon?” Miss Sally asked with genuine concern.

“I’m going to pray,” Leon said

“That’s good, but you may want to consider mowing your lawn less frequently to keep it from burning from all the sun and not enough water,” Miss Sally gently suggested.

“Can’t do that,” Leon responded, “Been mowing my lawn every Thursday, Spring and Summer, since I moved here 40 years ago.”

Thursday came. 6 p.m. There were many eyes peering out the window. Leon’s garage door opened, and out he came pushing his mower. He stopped, looked heavenwards into the blistering sun, and raised his arms up high. After praying, Leon proceeded to mow.

Every week, it was the same. Every Thursday Leon prayed, then he mowed—but he never watered his lawn.

The neighbors watched and talked about it.

And throughout that drought of 1999 Leon’s lawn stayed green.

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a study on christ’s priesthood

(This is a Bible Study written for small group leaders and previously published by Adult Bible Study Guide)

STEP 1—MOTIVATE. Help your class members answer this question: “Why is this lesson important to me?”

Franck Kabele, a 35-year-old preacher shared a revelation he received with his congregation. He told them that he believed he could walk on water just like Jesus if he had enough faith. To demonstrate this, he invited them to join him on a beach in Gabon, West Africa so they could be eyewitnesses to this divine fete. With the intention to walk across the Komo estuary (which takes 20 minutes to travel across by boat), he stepped into the water. Within seconds, the water passed over his head and he was never seen again. (DailyRecord.co.uk, August 30, 2006)

Ask the class: What is it about human nature that urges us to attempt to be God? What is the difference between being God and being Christ-like? How does this human trait get in the way of letting God be God in our life?

STEP 2—EXPLORE! Help your class members answer this question: “What do I need to know from God’s Word?”

Commentary (Read Hebrews 1:1-3; Revelation 1:13; Psalm 110)

Helpless and Hopeless. Every time David tried to control his life without the help of God, he failed. And every time he failed, he fell to his knees in recognition of his unworthiness and God’s power and grace.

Beloved of God, King David represents each of us. Because we can’t escape our sinful nature, we have a need for a priestly mediator.

Consider This: Randomly read passages from the Psalms. Meditate on the bi-polar behavior of the sinful heart, the vacillation of emotions and needs. Then give praise to God for Jesus the Mediator.

Revelation and Reconciliation. Christians—born in sin, living in the constant awareness of this sinful world—have two basic, spiritual needs: to know God and to be with God. Constrained by this sinful world, we learn quickly that life is more manageable when we know who God is and what His purpose is for us. Unaware of our inadequacies, we yearn for ways to be with God.

So God, in his love and mercy gave us His Son—someone who understands both parties 100%, someone who can mediate and straighten out the problems and misunderstandings that exist between God and us.

Consider This: God’s plan for Jesus to be Mediator is the most efficient solution to the sin problems that take place between the Fall of Man and the Second Coming. Could there have been any other way for Jesus to be Mediator and Priest without His death? Explain.

Jesus, Customized Savior. The role Jesus plays on our earthly journey is so multi-faceted. Writers of the Scripture, inspired by divinity, have used metaphors to describe the function of Jesus to enable us to appreciate and apply Jesus’ presence in our daily living—Jesus is described as the shepherd, the door, the light, the vine, the cornerstone, etc.

The Bible uses more than 100 names/titles to describe Jesus. The meaning His life hold for us is beyond our fathoming; His role as priest and mediator will be appreciated in its fullness only when we see and understand God’s divine government in heaven.

Consider This: Have the class think of other metaphors that symbolize the intimate, concerning, priestly role that Jesus plays in our lives. (The metaphors don’t necessarily have to be biblical; they may have modern implications) Ask how the many titles and functions of Christ help them keep the faith?

STEP 3—PRACTICE! Help your class members find the answer to the following question: “How can I practice the information I just learned?”

Thought Questions:

What would your prayer life be like if you didn’t have Jesus as your priest and mediator? What would your prayer be lacking? Do you think that works would play a bigger role in salvation without a mediator? Explain.

To be someone’s advocate is relatively risk-free; but to be someone’s savior is a commitment beyond death! How does Jesus’ death as Savior make Him the most competent priest and mediator you could have? How does Jesus’ title “Priest” affect your relationship with Him.

Application Questions:

  • Talk to a lawyer about the pros and cons of his job. Compare your findings with what Jesus does as a mediator. Share this with someone in your family.
  • How can volunteering in a social service activity (such as tutoring a child) help convey the attitude of Christ as a mediator to someone? What other kinds of interactions could help us be mediators like Jesus?

Witnessing: Help your class connect their community projects with Christ-like attitudes and behaviors. Help them see how they can be “mediators” for the church.

Consider This: Jesus came to show us how we can access divine power for meaningful life on earth. Our interactions with people give us opportunities to be a Christ-like mediator. Encourage your class to match their spiritual gifts with opportunities of mediation (e.g. spiritual gift of listening enables one to be a problem-solver)

STEP 4—APPLY! Help your class answer this question, “With God’s help, what can I do with what I have learned from this lesson?”

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 2: 5,6, NASB)

During the second century Irenaeus of Lyons taught that Jesus was offered as a ransom to the Devil to free people’s souls. The Devil, however, was defeated because he did not know that Jesus was God himself!

For hundreds of years, this theory was adopted by the Christian world until Anselm of Canterbury pointed out that Irenaeus’ theory assumed that the Devil had far too much power. Instead, Anselm said that Jesus’ life was paid to God and not to the Devil!

What a more poignant picture that makes—Jesus’s life given as ransom to God in exchange for MY eternal life!

  • A ransom is required to free the hostages. Sometimes, a hostage exchange is demanded to guarantee the transaction. How is Jesus’ death more than a “hostage exchange?”
  • What are the benefits of having a Savior who is superior to anything or anyone else? How can His superiority motivate you in your life? What is your potential if you maximize the use of His superiority?
  • Compile verses about the power of Jesus as Savior and Priest as a gift to a neighbor or friend. Or email your friends a verse a week about the power of Jesus.
  • How can you actively bring Christ as a mediator into the workplace and thereby be a witness of your Christian lifestyle? What role can prayer play in this endeavor?

God in a Fortune Cookie

Leave your country, your family, and your father’s home for a land that I will show you Genesis 12:1

charles-deluvio-492790-unsplash

Photo by Charles Deluvio

When our family received a call to go to Nepal as missionaries, I said no. It was the worst possible time–My career that was perched for great possibilities would die; my son’s intensive piano lessons that were preparing him for a career in composition would be jeopardized; my daughter’s academic goals would be crushed; and my husband would be unmarketable when we returned. It simply did not make sense. And I said no.

But God knew better. His persistence grew stronger with my every objection. The signs I got would have put Gideon, Moses and Joseph to shame. Yet I refused. And then one Sabbath morning, away from home in the pre-google days, my husband and I opened the Yellow Pages to find a church to attend. There were over 20 of them. So we randomly picked a church and began our drive. Less than 3 minutes on the road, I spotted a church and suggested we attend that one instead of the one we had picked. Roy refused (his Germanic genes do not allow changes in plans). Five minutes later, I saw another church; Roy refused. Another ten minutes went by and there was another church. Roy refused. We were now late for service.

By the time we got to the church, the sermon had already begun. And I was furious with Roy. Just as we sat down, the minister said, “Faith is about setting out on a journey without all the answers to your questions.” Roy nudged me in ribs. My response was silence, but I could not help but scribble the quote in my Bible. The trip back to the hotel was long and silent. I chose to nap that afternoon to blot out the strangeness of us attending that particular church and hearing that particular message. I woke up late in the evening, hungry and miserable, feeling trapped in our hotel room. We ordered in Chinese and ate in silence. The meal ended and I broke open my fortune cookie. It said: “You will go to a strange and far away land.”

In that moment I imagined God smile and say “Checkmate.” I knew I had lost. Six years later, after our mission term, life was just as I had predicted–my career took a dive. My son’s music career never happened. My daughter didn’t end up in an Ivy League school. My husband did not find a job comparable to his strengths and experience. Yet we gained more than we lost.

Our journey of faith that began with that fortune cookie took us into an experience of complete trust in God and nothing else. We survived political strife, physical hardships, poor health, emotional trials and dangerous conditions. Every day was an adrenaline rush of miracles, a continual supply of blessings. When I was able to give up my vision for myself and obey God’s call instead, God’s plans became my plans, His desires my desires. And in Him, I have found joy abundant even in the worst of times.

family chronicles

Who am I, LORD God, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? 1 Chronicles 17:16

Suppose you were to lose everything you held dear, how would you feel? What would you cling to if all that had once been tangible in your life was no more? The Israelites often found themselves in a similar situation. Their history was filled with much disappointment and discouragement. Their story alternates episodes of hope with that despair.  The book of Chronicles finds them at the end of half a century of captivity. During this time they lost more than their freedom; they lost their sense of identity. At such a milestone, the book of Chronicles urges them to remember their glorious past, to recollect the best of times. The narrative is an effort to help the Israelites get in touch with who they were in God’s plan.

Do you see the similarities between the Israelites and us? Are we at a time in our lives when we need to remember our “glorious” past? Like the Israelite, we too are a race of hope. Although our past has its interludes of disheartenment, we have many stories that beget hope in our present. Forgetting where the Lord has led us will only jeopardize our future.

Maybe it’s a good idea to chronicle our miracles, struggles, and joyous events. And periodically, re-read the stories at family gatherings to strengthen our hope in Christ, to see where we fit into God’s divine plan.

just a little is sometimes all it takes

Question: Suppose Americans cut down the amount of meat they eat by 10% and replace the 10% with grains and soybeans, how many starving people do you think the money saved would feed?

Answer: 60 million people. (Americans eat a lot! The per capita consumption of peanut butter alone in the US and Canada is five pounds annually)

Something to think about: Giving back a little goes a long way. Tithing is about sharing blessings. 10% is really not much when you think about the 90% you have left. But what a difference the 10% can make!

“Bring the full amount of your tithes to the Temple, so that there will be plenty of food there. Put me to the test and you will see that I will open the windows of heaven and pour out on you in abundance all kinds of good thing.” Malachi 3:10

 

measuring life with potato chips and cheesecake

My first few months of missionary life in Nepal were awful. I felt trapped, imprisoned and deprived of necessities like heat in my home, television sitcoms, hot showers, high speed interne, and people who used deodorant. But most of all I was outraged that there was no potato chips or cheesecake. Unable to imagine six years without potato chips and cheesecake, I was an extremely grumpy servant of the Lord.

And then one frigidly cold Friday night, wearing three pairs of woolen socks and wrapped in a thick blanket, I read about Polycarp – A disciple of Apostle John, he was arrested when the Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, was persecuting Christians. During the trial, Polycarp was told that the only way to get his freedom was to give up Christ. In response, Polycarp said Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He never did my any injury; how then can I blaspheme my King and my Savior? Polycarp’s allegiance to his Lord cost him his life. His was bound like a sacrificial lamb and set on fire.  While the flames rose around him, Polycarp looked up into the heavens and said I give You thanks that You have counted me worthy of this day and this hour.

Polycarp made me look and feel like a selfish, whiny crybaby. I gave myself a good mental spanking and vowed to make the most of my six years. The result – I’d go back for another six years if I could! And I’ll always remember that by the second year there was both potato chips AND cheesecake in Nepal!

jenny and the judges

What happened, when I was 14, to the family that lived behind our home and how my mother reacted to the whole drama taught me a lesson in Christian living.

The family consisted of a single mother and her two daughters, Mary and Jenny. Mary was quiet, complacent and obedient. Jenny was head-strong, opinionated, and a bit on the wild side. It seemed like almost every day Jenny got into trouble for something or the other . . . It wasn’t like she broke the law, but she’d be sassy with the young pastor, talk back to the elders in our community, sneak out of vespers, come home late at night, wear revealing dresses.

One summer whisperings began: What was up with the billowy dresses Jenny was wearing these days? How come she stopped playing volleyball with the rest of the girls? Why was she putting on so much weight around her waist? And the story quickly grew as speculations, fabrications and wild imaginations concocted all kinds of scenarios. Being 14, I thrived for the next episode of Jenny and Her Bastard Child. So I asked my mother, the community socialite, to mingle and bring home the dirt. My mother looked at me, eyes filled with pain and disappointment. She said It doesn’t matter what the story is. What matters is that we are Jenny’s friends no matter what. It’s not our place to judge.

A few weeks later, Jenny was in the hospital having her baby. There was no baby shower, no gifts, no visitors. The only people there, besides Jenny’s mother and her sister, was my mother and I. Awkwardly, I stood while my mother held the baby girl. And Jenny cried as told us her story: She said she was married to a guy from Mauritius, but that he had to leave because his visa ran out. And that he promised to return.

As we walked home I asked my mother if she believed that ridiculous story. She gave me the same look and said, Even if the human in us doesn’t believe the story, we should accept her story as the truth. It’s not our place to judge.

From then on came the righteous moral blows from the community—She was not allowed to participate in church; she was ignored at community events; she was used as an example of what happens to bad teens. She couldn’t even get a job! It seemed like everyone wanted her gone. That is, everyone, except my mother. She was always there for Jenny, to help her, to defend her, to be her friend unconditionally. On the sidelines, I watched my mother and recognized the essence of Christ-likeness.

A year went by, two years, and then three. And, of course, there was no sign of the mysterious Mauritian husband. Jenny continued to struggle, shunned by her community. Then one summer day, out of nowhere, the Mauritian arrived with his own bizarre story—a clerical mix-up in immigration had sent him to prison and there had been no way for him to contact Jenny.

The happy, reunited family left for Mauritius as quickly as they could. And they never returned home. I waited for someone in the community to admit they had been wrong. Instead they justified their actions: What else could we do with no proof of a husband?

My mother’s response: We could have chosen to be like Jesus!