Monday, June 16, 2014

Junk to Treasure

The Treasure!
The day was a perfect June beauty, just the right temperature, with a whole morning in front of me to spend garage saleing with a friend. Neither one of us had to be back a certain time so we could sift through plenty of  piles of discards and rummage through tables laden with possible treasures.

The sale was a whole town event so skipping from garage to garage was easy and effortless. It wasn't even that far to where the car was parked, so we could relieve our arms of the purchases we were accruing, whenever needed. ...A bracelet here, a picture frame from that corner, children's books for the grand kids, a cat scratching pole for my friend who had just adopted two kittens the night before...

Three hours later we were tired, thirsty and weary.  We pulled out to the highway and headed for one more sale, the one another friend was manning for her step mom.  I knew her step mom was moving to a retirement village, so I figured things might be dated and probably not my style,  but it would be good to visit our friend.  I was surprised and delighted to find just the little table I needed for the front porch. I then contemplated whether I wanted a middle piece of luggage from the 3 tier set. I liked the pattern in the fabric and the size was perfect. After bargaining a price for just the one piece from the set, I toted it behind me to the car--my last purchase of the day.

Later at home, I sorted through the new/used stuff, and put the things away in their new places. As I carried the suitcase downstairs, I opened it to see what pockets, zippers and pouches it offered. Out tumbled an array of surprises. Feminine products, wash clothes, not just one or two but a stack, a pair of nylon knee highs and a women's duster with the round yoke in front and a polyester bold print. A couple of drawstring bags were folded on the bottom. How funny! No one had checked the inside before sitting it out for sale; I felt no need to see inside at the time of sale because I was sure the size was right and I was buying it from people I knew. Puts new meaning into "comes with a lot of baggage". Some people find treasure in others junk. I found junk in my treasure!

I called my friend right away and suggested looking inside the matching two pieces of luggage I had opted not to buy.  Perhaps there was something in them more valuable than wash clothes!  After all who hasn't stuck their hand in an off season jacket and discovered some money hidden in a pocket?

What about when God goes looking to buy people for his chosen possession? He might pull out one from the free box, not even worth a price. But a treasure to him. Or some gaudy trinket that no longer has purpose, might become a show piece in his art gallery.  Stained? His blood will make it like new.  Pieces that look in good shape, like my find, but have hidden junk inside- he will clean it out. Whatever shape we are in, he buys us with the blood of Jesus. What a peculiar assortment are we all among his treasured possessions

Thank you, Father,  for choosing me when I was junky, cleaning me up and making me your treasure. Shine your praises through me.

1 Peter 2:9
But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light;
Deuteronomy 14:2
for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.
Revelation 5:9
And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book Review-The Fight by Luke Wordley

While not a suspense novel, this story had page-turner allure that kept me up past my bedtime and delivered plenty of emotional hooks and faith-building punches. Set in London, this is a story of an at risk kid, Sam, whose life eventually intersects with a boxing trainer. Jerry, is passionate about using the sport to help kids like Sam find meaning, discipline and faith in God.

Life without a father and an alcoholic mother has left Sam angry, failing in school and hopeless. Jerry sees potential in Sam and knows the anger, or the 'fight', that courses through Sam's being, when harnessed, will one day make him a champion boxer.

Beyond praying with his fighters before a match, Jerry's Christian witness is subtle. However we learn of his struggles with faith, and his relationship with a God-fearing wife, as Jerry's story also unfolds. But just enough information is withheld to keep us in suspense about Jerry's background until the end of the book.

The road to healing and success for Sam has many setbacks. Jerry's faith is severely tested .Can the demons of their pasts be overcome?  I found the conclusion satisfying and I admire the author's ability to create a story of believable characters who demonstrate how God works in individuals to redeem their past, shape their future and work all things together for good.  God wrestles with the sinner's heart, before they even know him, and continues to refine them after they have accepted his salvation.  Find these signs of grace and love as you follow Sam and Jerry in The Fight.

The book is easy to read and would be suitable for middle school age youth, as well as teens and adults. While the book is about boxing, it isn't bogged down with technical jargon and will appeal to a non-sports reader.

I received a complimentary copy of the book for review purposes from Tyndale House.

Monday, June 9, 2014

For God so Loved the World

What was your Sunday morning takeaway?

The visiting pastor shared incredible stories of how God is bringing other people groups around the world to faith in Jesus Christ. What is happening now seems to be an accelerated move of our sovereign God. Perhaps the most challenging thing to me was a reality check of how my evangelical mindset will respond.  Those working with other cultures have learned that God doesn't stay within denominational boxes or theology boxes. Just as God wowed brother Peter's thinking on the rooftop of Joppa with a vision of  animals Peter considered unclean, so God asks us not to call impure what God has made clean.

The speaker said we are all culturally compromised by the good and the bad things that make up the culture world that we know best.  So what does contextualization look like, at least among the people he was focusing on today.
1. To be a follower of Jesus may mean that we don't expect believers to leave the culture they are familiar with. In fact, if they leave they will become alienated from their own people group and have no opportunity to share their new found faith.

2. Evangelism is best accomplished through bridge-building rather than confrontation. We start with our commonalities, learn from each other, become better listeners than debaters, and believe God to open up doors to share the truth of who Jesus is, in his way and time.

3. Allow a process for conversion. It may take some time to change a mindset, to trust and prove God's truth, and to let go of traditions.

4. Allow the Holy Spirit to lead. If God is sovereignly drawing people to himself by visions, dreams, revelation from the written Word, he can be counted on to guide our words and actions when sharing his love and the salvation he offers through his son.

So what about the different cultures I encounter closer to home?  People who don't have the privileges I have or who experience life from a different perspective than me. Do I judge and jump to conclusions about their decisions? Do I allow God to reveal himself, or do I think I have all his answers?

I have questions and much to learn, but maybe an answer to a prayer of mine was being applied to my heart today to the degree of change that God knows he can use to move me closer to his love-heart for the whole world.  ...I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened, that I may know the hope to which he called me, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great love for us who believe...