Tuesday, November 30, 2010

How He Meets Needs, part 3

On the receiving end.

As we celebrated Joshua's 14th birthday last week, I have been reflecting on his life through the pages of his photo album. And I realized, with gratefulness, that the second 7 years of his life did not bring nearly as many trips to the hospital as his first 7 years did! He is no longer a lao pengyou (old friend) of the staff at the Tianjin Children's Hospital.

The second time that Joshua broke his arm (just before he turned 6) turned out to be a huge blessing for us to be on the receiving end of the Body of Christ at work. All it took was a phone call.

I heard the horrible thump from the balcony where Joshua had fallen from his bedroom windowsill and knew that his arm was badly broken by how disfigured it looked moments later...

I quickly called a friend, who I knew was out to dinner with a group of friends, and three of them jumped in a taxi and were here within 15 minutes (not waiting for their dinner to arrive). One of them stayed with CJ and Jordan, and the other two took Joshua and me to the Orthopedic Hospital and helped us with all of the paperwork.

The X rays showed that Joshua's arm was broken in two places, and my friends advised me to take him to the Beijing United Hospital where he would be given anesthesia before setting his arm and putting it in a cast. From past experience, I knew that Joshua would not do well without anesthesia, so it was not a difficult decision to make! These friends helped me to find a driver to take us to Beijing (about two hours away), and one friend rode with us, while two stayed overnight with CJ and Jordan.

Meanwhile, Charly was camping with friends (husbands of these women who were helping me) on the Great Wall, about three hours away. I was able to reach him through their cell phones, and they helped to make arrangements for a driver to take him directly to Beijing United Hospital. Amazingly, he arrived just minutes after we did at the Emergency Room.

What would we have done without these friends helping us?

God is good, and He provides exactly the kind of help that we need.
Thankful for the way that He designed the Body to work.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

How He Meets Needs, part 2

Some of the ways that God meets needs are big and dramatic, like the ways God used Joseph, Esther, and Nehemiah in His plan for His people. And some of the ways that He mulitplies what little we have to offer, like the widow and the feeding of the 5000, are truly miraculous. And when God meets certain needs through His divine hand and through Jesus our Messiah, we know that these provisions cannot be equaled by anything else.

And then there are the more ordinary kinds of needs met in the more ordinary kinds of ways.

What seems small to us here on earth though may cause angels to rejoice in heaven. (Like the story of widow who gave two small coins to the temple treasury in Luke 21.)

We may not feel like a puzzle piece fitting perfectly into a specially designed place for us within God's big picture. We may feel that we are plugging away at what seems to be relatively insignificant. But I believe that God is pleased when He sees His people being faithful and generous in small ways, and sees them seeking glory not for themselves, but for Him alone.

God is not impressed with the size of the gift we bring, but He is interested in the heart of the giver.

This morning I was reading the passage in Exodus 35-36 about the building of the Tent of Meeting under Moses. Some people were gifted with skill, ability, and knowledge of all kinds of crafts; some were gifted in knowing how to carry out the work; and others were gifted in teaching artistic skills to others. All of these people came together to do the work that God had commanded, and the rest of the people brought in the supplies that were needed.

This is one time when the Israelites got it right!

"Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: 'No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.' And so the people were restrained from bringing more because what they had already brought was more than enough to do all the work." (Exodus 36: 6-7)

The Body was working in the way God intended. The needs for building the Tent of Meeting were met, not by a miraculous way, but by everyone giving what they had...in special abilities and in needed resources. And what they had to offer was more than enough!

What is God asking us to give to Him, from our abilities and from our resources?
What needs has He impressed upon our hearts and has He prepared specifically for us?

"Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things, at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: 'He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.' Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God." (2 Corinthians 9:6-11)

May we be willing to be used in the more "ordinary" kinds of ways that God meets needs, as we look to Him as our supplier and the giver of all grace. May His generosity flow through us, and result in thanksgiving to God!

Friday, November 26, 2010

How He Meets Needs

God's creativity knows no bounds. For as many needs as there are in the world, He has as many ways to meet them. Sometimes He raises up people to be in the right place at the right time who respond to His call, sometimes He multiplies people's limited resources that are offered to Him with an open hand, and sometimes He bypasses humans altogether to do something only He can do.

I am inspired by stories of Bible characters who fit perfectly with a specific calling. We can see that their lives up to certain point had all been a time of preparation for this specific moment or situation. Like a puzzle piece being placed in the exact spot to complete the puzzle.

Joseph, with plenty of reasons to have a resentful and bitter heart, instead extended mercy and forgiveness to his brothers during the time of severe drought when he was in a position of power in Egypt. Even though his brothers had intended to harm him, God had intended all of Joseph's mistreatment for good, for the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20 is one of my favorites.) There was clearly a higher purpose in what Joseph had suffered. And God was able to use him to meet the need of His people because Joseph's life had remained open to Him.

Esther, selected to become the Queen of Persia because of her outward beauty, stepped out bravely because of her inner courage and faith to speak to the king and uncover Hamaan's evil plot, in order to save the Jewish people from annihilation. She was willing to sacrifice her very life to do what she believed God was asking of her and had specifically created her for.

Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the king in Babylon during the time of the Israelites' exile there, received news of the dismal situation in Jerusalem and wept. Then God placed on his heart His plan for rebuilding the city wall, and gave Nehemiah the vision and leadership skills to accomplish the task in an amazingly short period of time, in the midst of great opposition.

And so, the Israelites were saved from the drought during Joseph's time and moved to a safe place in Egypt, where their numbers increased greatly over the next 400 years. They were protected again years later through Esther's act of courage, who was "born for such a time as this." And the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt so the Israelites could be protected from their enemies after their return from captivity in Babylon. These needs were met by people God raised up for specific purposes. They each recognized the need and God's specific call on their lives, and they responded in obedience.

I also love stories in the Bible that demonstrate how God used what people had and multiplied it. The story of the widow and Elijah is one of my favorites. She only had enough flour and oil to make on last loaf before she and her son would die. The prophet Elijah appeared at her door and asked her to first make a loaf for him. She obeyed, and as a result, her supply of flour and oil did not run out until the famine was over. (1 Kings 17)

Many years later, when Jesus' disciples realized that the time was late and the multitudes who had come to hear Jesus had no food, they wanted to send them all away. But Jesus asked them to take stock of what they had. Only five loaves and two fish. But it was enough. Enough to feed 5000 men (plus women and children) with 12 basketfuls leftover. The miracle of multiplication. (Luke 9)

Maybe even more than how I love the way God uses people and what they have to offer, I love the way He sometimes shows people a need and then meets the need Himself because there is no other way.

In the very beginning, God created Adam and gave him the task of naming all the animals. No helper was found that was suitable for Adam. So, Adam must have recognized his need for a companion. God then caused him to fall into a deep sleep, and He made a woman. From one of Adam's ribs she was formed. The perfect match for man.

And in the end, Revelation 5 tells of a scroll with seven seals. "But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or look inside. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals." (v. 3-5)

The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang:
"You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God and they will reign on the earth." (v. 9-10)

Then thousands upon thousands of angels sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and praise!" (v. 12)

Then every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth sang:
"To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever." (v. 13)

Jesus, the Lamb who was slain, is the only one who is worthy. The only one who is able.
And Jesus is the only answer to our greatest need for salvation.
Because of His obedience and how He responded to the specific call on His life, He will receive all praise and honor and glory and power forever. Amen.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Do We Care?

"Go throughout the city of Jerusalem and put a mark on the foreheads of those who grieve and lament over all the detestable things that are done in it." (Ezekiel 9:4)

God had plans to destroy those in the city who did not have the mark.

Reading this passage yesterday sparked a debate between CJ and Joshua of whether this vision actually happened or whether it had more of a symbolic meaning. An hour later, the friendly but heated debate ended with both sides agreeing that either way, the more important question was: what does God want to say to us through these words?

Would we receive the mark?

Do we really care?

Do our hearts break when we see or hear God's name dishonored? When we become aware of acts of injustice? Do we grieve and lament or have our hearts become calloused? Have we "conformed to the standards of the nations around us" as God accused the Israelites in Ezekiel 11:12?

How prone we are to harden our hearts. How wonderful the promise later in that same chapter:

"I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God." (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

How we need the Spirit to change our hearts from stone to flesh. How we need His ongoing work in our lives so that our hearts continue to care, to grieve, and to lament as God's does.

I love the scene in The Chronicles of Narnia when Aslan breathes on those whom the witch has turned into statues, and with His breath they miraculously return to life.

May we experience His breath of life daily. May we be marked as ones who truly care, the way that God cares.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It is Measured

Last week as my migraine pain got worse and worse, I wondered if it would ever stop.

It did. There was a limit.

My pain is carefully measured by God. It will not be too much.

"Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3: 22-23)

"We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don't give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies." (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

"In His kindness God called you to His eternal glory by means of Jesus Christ. After you have suffered a little while, He will restore, support, and strengthen you, and He will place you on a firm foundation. All power is His forever and ever. Amen." (1 Peter 5:10-11)

Our family has been struck recently through reading the book of Jeremiah, that God's judgment of the nations was carefully measured out. His justice was perfect in every case. Some evil nations were completely destroyed, but Israel would always have a surviving remnant, because of God's faithfulness to His covenant. God is just, and He is merciful.

This week I was also impacted through a study in the book of Revelation, that God allows Satan a measured amount of authority on the earth for a set time. Even while Satan seems to reign, God is ultimately still in control. And He is able to use even the worst of all evils for an even greater good.

The cross is the ultimate and complete demonstration of God's justice and His mercy. It was the full wrath of God poured out on Jesus, the Sinless One, so that we could receive His measureless mercy.

"It is easy to look at the cross and conclude that this was the worst miscarriage of human justice in the history of the world. And it was. It was an evil act, perpetrated by the hands of wicked men. But that is not the full story. The crucifixion of Christ was also the greatest act of divine justice ever carried out. It was done in full accord with "the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God." (Acts 2:23)--and for the highest of purposes: the death of Christ secured the salvation of untold numbers and opened the way for God to forgive sin without compromising His own perfectly holy standard." (The Murder of Jesus by John MacArthur)

God carefully measures out each person's pain and is able to use it for His ultimate good. God measures out judgment rightly in every individual case. And God has measured out the exact amount of Satan's authority on this earth. We are assured that God will be victorious in the end. And so will we, as we are on His side and He has counted us among the conquerors.

All power is His forever and ever. Amen.

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